California could become the first state in the country to ban plastic bags, hopefully making sights like this less common. Photo via Flickr: Katerha

California could become the first state in the country to ban plastic bags, hopefully making sights like this less common. Photo via Flickr: Katerha

Seeing as in my relatively young career as an environmental journalist, I’ve amassed enough reusable bags to last from now till eternity (canvas, hemp, jute, polypropylene, nylon, you name it!), I think I’m pretty well positioned for a plastic bag ban in California, which looks like it may actually happen.

Earlier this month, the state Assembly passed AB 1998, which would require grocery stores, drug stores, convenience stores, and liquor stores to provide reusable bags and charge at least 5 cents to customers in need of a disposable one. Now in the Senate, it was approved yesterday by the Senate Environmental Quality Committee by a 5-2 vote.

Next up: the Senate Appropriations Committee, where the fate of 19 billion plastic bags a year (that’s how many we use here in California; a mere 5 percent of them are recycled) will be decided.

I pray that it passes, if only to imagine the dumbfounded reaction of the lady I encountered yesterday in the checkout line of the supermarket. She asked for her purchase — a lone toothbrush — to be double bagged.

–Jennifer Grayson

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Since becoming a flexitarian, I’ve really come to rely on eggs as a main source of protein: They’re cheap, easy to prepare, and packed with heart disease–fighting nutrients. (Yolk-chuckers beware; your egg-white aversion may actually be hurting your health.)

Still, I can only eat so many eggs a week before I’m just all egged out; that, plus the discovery that my husband is allergic to eggs has put the kibosh on our standard frittata breakfasts.

Solution: Scrambled tofu. At $1.29 for a carton of tofu at Trader Joe’s, it’s about the budgetary equivalent of an omelet. Add a pinch of curry powder — which packs a powerful anti-inflammatory punch — and you’ve got a beautiful meal (great for breakfast, lunch, or dinner) that almost looks like the real thing

Turmeric Scrambled Tofu

Serves 2

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
1 14 oz. package firm or extra-firm organic tofu
1 generous teaspoon curry powder
salt and pepper, to taste

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add onions and cook 1-2 minutes until soft and translucent.

Remove tofu from package and drain off any excess water (no need to press tofu; just blot lightly with a towel). Crumble the block of tofu into the skillet with your hands, leaving some larger pieces for texture.

Add curry powder to skillet. With a wooden spoon, gently “scramble” tofu as you would eggs, until mixture is evenly yellow in color. Turn heat down to medium low and cook for an additional 5-7 minutes, scrambling occasionally. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Enjoy with multi-grain toast or eat healthy on the go: Wrap in a flour tortilla to make a delicious breakfast burrito.

–Jennifer Grayson

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[Watch video on YouTube]

Right now, we’re all focused on the immediate threat of the BP oil spill. After all, 60,000 barrels of crude a day are pretty tough to ignore. But there’s another, more insidious type of oil pollution threatening the future of our oceans, and that’s the accumulation of petroleum-based plastics.

You may have heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch — a massive floating landfill (roughly the size of Texas) in the Pacific Ocean comprised of 3.5 million tons of plastic trash — but that’s not the only one: There are four other patches, or gyres, spanning our globe.

Amazingly, there hasn’t been a whole lot of media coverage of these five gyres; maybe images of six-pack rings and plastic rope floating in the water aren’t as dramatic as, say, those of birds and other marine life drowning in thick oil. But that doesn’t mean this trash isn’t having as equally a detrimental effect: Forty-four percent of all seabird species have been documented with plastic in or around their bodies, leading to blockages, starvation, and even death.

This, from the new organization 5 Gyres, which is partnering with organizations like the Algalita Marine Research Foundation and the Surfrider Foundation to actively explore and document the plastic pollution in our oceans.

Want to see for yourself what an oceanic garbage patch looks like? Check out the video, above, from a 5 Gyres expedition to the North Atlantic Gyre earlier this year. Then, click here to find out ways to reduce your own plastic trash footprint.

–Jennifer Grayson

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WATCH: LA Get Off Oil Day

June 24th, 2010

It may not have drawn the 2 million-strong crowd witnessed at the Los Angeles Lakers Parade the day before, but the LA Get Off Oil Day rally was a huge success in its own right. Organized by Josh and Rebecca Tickell to celebrate the release of the award-winning documentary Fuel on DVD — not to mention protest the BP oil spill — the event was a veritable who’s who of the green world.

Check out the eco leaders, policymakers, and green celebs in attendance in the video, above, and get inspired to head to the next big rally for clean energy in New Orleans on June 28! (Or at least make a donation to the cause — click here to learn how.)

–Jennifer Grayson

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One of the paradoxes of modern life is that we think we’re so connected to everything via iPhones and Twitter and a blindingly paced 24/7 news cycle, but the amount of information is so vast that it’s sometimes hard to really feel connected.

Since the BP oil spill, I’ve been busy signing petitions to President Obama and writing relevant blog posts and sharing the latest Tony Hayward gaffe on Facebook, but at my core I feel wholly unsatisfied. I don’t feel like I’m really doing anything.

Evidently, I’m not the only one who feels this way. It wasn’t until I saw Rebecca Tickell speak at the Women of the Green Generation Conference and share her and her husband’s (Fuel director Josh Tickell) plans for oil spill protest rallies both here in Los Angeles and later this month in New Orleans that I realized: Oh, yeah. There are some issues that warrant more of a response than a Tweet from the comfort of my own couch.

And if the BP oil spill isn’t one of them, I don’t know what is.

So if you’re in Los Angeles tomorrow, consider stepping away from your laptop for a few hours and making your voice heard at LA Get Off Oil Day. And if you can travel (preferably in an eco-friendly way) to the June 29 protest in New Orleans, more green power to you.

–Jennifer Grayson

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Nearly a third of America's youth are too overweight to become one of the recruits you see here. Photo via Flickr: The US Army

Nearly a third of America's youth are too overweight to become one of the recruits you see here. Photo via Flickr: The US Army

It’s no secret that US agricultural policy (subsidizing commodity products like corn and soybeans that, in turn, are used to make cheap, processed food) is seriously harming the health of our citizens. Obesity rates have skyrocketed in the past several decades since these subsidies were implemented. The average American now eats 600 more calories a day than he did in 1970.

But what about the direct link between our ag policy and national security? An eye-popping column this week from The Washington Post discusses how our pool of qualified military applicants is growing smaller and smaller, due to the fact that the waistlines of our nation’s young adults are growing larger and larger.

This, from a new Mission: Readiness report entitled “Too Fat to Fight,” which cites that 27 percent of our nation’s youth are too overweight to serve in the armed forces.

From WaPo:

The report…calls this trend “a threat to national security” and notes that “being overweight is now by far the leading medical reason for rejection.” From 1995 to 2008, the study says, “The proportion of potential recruits who failed their physicals each year because they were overweight rose nearly 70 percent.”

Within just 10 years, the number of states reporting that 40 percent of their 18- to 24-year-olds are obese or overweight went from one (Kentucky) to 39. In three states — Kentucky, Mississippi and Alabama — more than 50 percent of the young adults were obese or overweight in 2008. To reach normal weight, the nation’s out-of-shape young adults would have to lose a collective 390 million pounds, according to the report.

Want to see for yourself how, exactly, we’re getting this obese? Check out this amazing post on, about the sugar content of some of America’s favorite beverages. (Spoiler: One Rockstar Energy Drink has the same amount of sugar as six Krispy Kreme doughnuts!).

–Jennifer Grayson

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Scrambling for a last-minute present for Father’s Day? I could offer up a host of green gift suggestions, like a Nalgene BPA-free reusable water bottle customized with a photo skin of you and your dad; or a six-pack of beer from his favorite sustainable brewery. Both are great, but here’s the thing: The most appreciated — not to mention sustainable — gift you can offer this Sunday isn’t something I can add to a Top 10 Eco-Friendly Father’s Day Gifts list.

No, it’s something harder to come by in the tech-crazed, never-stop-for-a-moment world we live in, and that’s time. Undistracted time. (With you, of course.)

That’s why I’m loving the Offlining campaign, which will officially launch this Father’s Day. Founders Mark DiMassimo and Eric Yaverbaum are urging fathers to go BlackBerry/iPhone/laptop-free for the day and spend a little old-fashioned quality time with their families.

DiMassimo and Yaverbaum are marketing gurus by trade, so it’s no surprise that the ads and e-cards promoting this No-Device Day and others to come are total genius. Check them out (above, and below):



Inspired to go beyond Father’s Day? Take the Offlining Pledge and commit to 10 no-device dinners between now and Thanksgiving Day 2010. I, for one, will be signing up, though no thumb-twisting will be involved: I’ve been BlackBerry-free since Earth Day.

–Jennifer Grayson

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Since the BP oil spill, I’ve become pretty much consumed trying to eliminate every last possible petroleum-based product from my daily routine. I know my actions aren’t going to stop the spill directly, but it feels good to know that I may be helping to reduce our reliance on oil in the long run. As Amanda Little, author of Power Trip, has said, we need to save what little oil we have left for “its best and highest use,” finding sustainable alternatives wherever possible.

To that end, today’s featured alternative is a totally nifty product called EcoCradle. You know those big pieces of polystyrene that are used to cushion the ends of furniture and electronics in shipping boxes? Well, instead of being made from petroleum, EcoCradle is manufactured (actually grown, using a living organism) from agricultural byproducts like cotton burrs and buckwheat hulls. The process uses a mere one-tenth of the energy required to make synthetic polystyrene.



When you’re done with EcoCradle, it can be tossed in your garden or compost pile. It can even go in the trash, since it’s designed to break down in an air-locked landfill.

One of my favorite companies, Steelcase (oh, how I love your vintage tanker desk), has just announced it will begin shipping its products with the EcoCradle packaging. If you have a company that ships using traditional polystyrene, you should consider the switch, too — EcoCradle can be made into any shape and size, and is currently cost-competitive with other foam and bubble wraps on the market.

–Jennifer Grayson

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If you have plans to be in Los Angeles tomorrow, you won’t want to miss the Women of the Green Generation Conference. Founded just one year ago by musician-with-a-vision Kris Wiley, Women of the Green Generation brings together LA-area women interested in starting or expanding their eco-driven businesses. The green networking group has proven such a hit, in fact, that it’s since attracted coverage on CNN, the LA Times, and numerous green lifestyle blogs.

The all-day event at the eco-luxe Evo South in downtown LA will give attendees the chance to check out a slew of sustainable products and services, get free mini spa treatments, do some green networking, and sit in on a number of thought-provoking panel discussions. Scheduled speakers include yours truly (I’ll be moderating a panel on environmentalism and the media), as well as:

Over 300 women and 50 green businesses are already expected to attend, so snap up your ticket before it’s too late (space is limited). Oh, and while it’s technically an event for women, men are welcome!

Hope to see you there!

–Jennifer Grayson

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Photo via Flickr: Ugg Boy

Photo via Flickr: Ugg Boy

Planning a trip this summer? You don’t have to go camping or splurge on a fancy eco resort to travel green: The Environmental Protection Agency has just released a helpful online database that allows you to search for hotels that have earned the Energy Star rating. Energy Star–labeled hotels perform in the top 25 percent of hotels nationwide, and use at least 35 percent less energy and emit 35 percent less greenhouse gases than other hotels.

I know — who would have thunk that the EPA would be doling out travel advice? But it makes sense to encourage Americans to support hotels that help reduce our nation’s dependence on fossil fuels — especially in light of the BP oil disaster.

And curbing energy consumption in the US hotel industry could have a tremendous impact: Reducing energy use by just 10 percent overall could help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 6 million tons a year.

A search of Energy Star–certified hotels in my area (Los Angeles) revealed only two chains by the airport and a Comfort Inn that’s not even in LA proper (not exactly suitable lodgings for out-of-town family), but hey — it’s a start.

In the meantime, if  you can’t find a green hotel option for your vacation destination, at least stick to a few energy-saving tips while you’re lounging about in your spa robe and slippers: Turn off the lights and adjust the thermostat when leaving your hotel room, open the curtains to take advantage of daylight, and reuse your towels in lieu of requesting fresh ones.

Already have a vacation spot in mind? Click here to search for an Energy Star hotel.

–Jennifer Grayson

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