AP Photo: Charles Dharapak

The green blogosphere is all abuzz today over the fact that President Obama failed to mention global warming in last night’s State of the Union speech. I say, Who cares?

Nearly 50 percent of Americans now doubt the existence of man-made climate change. Bridge-builder that he is, the president has the sense to realize environmentalists are wasting an awful lot of time and energy screaming at the other side that we’re right.

Instead, we need to focus on all of the other eco efforts he did mention in his speech, like investments in clean energy technology, green jobs — even high-speed rail. Guess what all of those things would help fight?

You guessed it: global warming.

–Jennifer Grayson

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At left, modern bread wheat; on the right, einkorn. Photo via Flickr: Mark and Delwen

It seems like only yesterday I learned how to pronounce quinoa. Now, there’s a new ancient grain sure to have supermarket-goers sounding out syllables in the shopping aisle: einkorn. (Hint: Think German 101.)

First cultivated by hunter-gatherers some 12,000 years ago, einkorn boasts a boon of health benefits seemingly lost over the course of thousands of years of hybridization and breeding: It’s higher in protein, tocols (an antioxidant), and carotenoids than modern wheat species.

More importantly, it may be tolerated by those with wheat sensitivities, since it has lower levels of gluten than the wheat found in your typical loaf of Wonder Bread. (Note: Those with celiac disease should steer clear until einkorn undergoes more testing.)

Gluten intolerance seems to be all the rage these days: As Vogue reports this month, the GF market now totals in the billions, up 17 percent since 2007.

Want to give einkorn a try? Jovial makes an einkorn pasta that I spotted recently at Whole Foods. I may test it out for tonight’s Meatless Monday dinner.

–Jennifer Grayson

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Photo via Flickr: House GOP Leader

Health care repeal may have passed the House, but it doesn’t stand a chance of passing in the Senate. Still, that hasn’t stopped the Dems from growing a pair and launching an offensive against the GOP’s fruitless efforts. And rightfully so: Americans need to hear why, when so many families are struggling to keep a roof over their heads, Republicans are wasting our time standing up for bloated corporations and pharmaceutical companies.

We know repeal would mean leaving 50 million uninsured Americans high and dry; I say it would be bad news for the planet, too. Here’s why:

With health reform in place, insurance companies will be forced to insure everyone, which means they’ll have to focus more on preventive care to help keep costs in check (e.g., nutrition counseling costs a lot less in the long run than open heart surgery). If reform is revoked, however, our for-profit, quick-fix, waste-driven system will only get worse, including:

Pill pollution. Antibiotics, antidepressants, and sex hormones have already found their way into the drinking water of 41 million Americans. With people denied regular care for chronic conditions, we’ll continue to be a pill-popping nation.

Hospital waste. Hospitals produce 6,600 tons of waste every day. If Americans aren’t able to see their doctors before illnesses become complicated to treat, we’ll continue to see more surgeries, more hospitalizations, and more disposal plastic products as a result in our landfills.

Pesticide-laden commodity crops. You don’t have to have seen Food, Inc. to know that our food system is seriously f-d up, and that America’s agricultural policies are fueling our genetically modified, atrazine-doused, high fructose corn syrup–laden junk food habits. But without mandated coverage, we won’t be forced to connect the dots between ag policy and out-of-control health care costs. Insurance providers and Big Pharma can keep turning record profits, and cost-effective methods (like gasp! a healthy diet) to prevent chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer can continue to be tossed by the wayside.

–Jennifer Grayson

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The State of the Union address will always be near and dear to my heart; it’s when, 12 years ago, I shared my first kiss with my now-husband. (What can I say? Politics has always been a turn-on.) But it’s the buzz that Democrats and Republicans could be crossing party lines to sit together at next Tuesday’s speech that has me feeling particularly warm and fuzzy.

The gesture, an attempt to unite the country after the hostile political climate that preceded last week’s tragic shooting in Tucson, is largely symbolic. But it’s also one that could set us on the path to a united front for a whole host of important issues.

The most top-of-mind, of course, is gun control. But red and blue united could have profound implications for green, too: tackling the toxic chemicals in consumer products; catching up to China’s green tech revolution; boosting safety standards for offshore oil drilling. Aren’t these environmental issues we can all sit side-by-side on?

–Jennifer Grayson

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MLK Day meets Meatless Monday

January 17th, 2011

Martin Luther King Day. Meatless Monday. Seems like an odd pairing for a post, except that Dexter Scott King, the second son of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., is a longtime vegan:

From People magazine, where the younger King was once named one of its 50 Most Beautiful People:

As head of Atlanta’s Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, Dexter led his family’s three-month battle with the National Park Service over its plans to build a visitors’ center on land the Kings coveted for a museum…He attributes much of his vigor to a vegetarian diet (“It got me in touch with my energy”) and to a health-food store product: Dr. Hauschka’s facial cleanser (“I use it every day”).

Granted, that People article is from 1995, but Dexter King still holds his post as chairman of the board of directors for The King Center, and is, by all accounts, still a vegan. (I’m not so sure about the Dr. Hauschka cleanser.) Inspired by her son, the late Coretta Scott King was also a vegan for the last 15 years of her life.

Eating lower on the food chain continues Dr. King’s message of nonviolence — for the animals, obviously, but really, for all Americans: By lessening our dependence on petroleum-intensive animal agriculture, we also help ensure that we never again fight a senseless war for oil.

Happy birthday, Dr. King.

–Jennifer Grayson

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I don’t want to be one of those weird tree hugger moms who never lets her kid play with a toy (use your imagination, sweetie), but I have to admit: Those brightly colored, blinking light, hunk-of-plastic baby activity stations are a real pet peeve of mine. Aside from being generally tacky looking, they’re also nonrecyclable. And made from petroleum — something I’ve been making the extra effort to avoid since the BP oil spill.

But I’ve also got a whirling dervish of a daughter. So luckily, my husband spotted this Leka wood baby gym the other day at Ikea. At under $25, it’s an affordable, somewhat-eco alternative to cheap plastic. Granted, it doesn’t say on the website if the acrylic lacquer is low-VOC or water-based (it’s probably not), but the wood is actual plywood (no formaldehyde) and Ikea is working toward sustainable sourcing for all its wood.

Check out this cool modification to the Leka on Ohdeedoh — you won’t need to buy another toy until your babe’s out of Bumkins. Ikea run this weekend, anyone?

–Jennifer Grayson

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In light of the recent news that even dollar bills are contaminated with BPA, you’d think I’d be more vigilant than ever about exposure to the toxic chemical, swabbing myself down at the checkout line and swearing off cash forever (not that I had that much of it to begin with). In fact, it’s had almost the opposite effect: I kind of feel like we’re all screwed anyway, especially since the failure of the BPA ban amendment to the food safety bill. So I’ve been letting myself buy the occasional can of chopped tomatoes, and I’m still eating sardines. (I’m really playing with fire here.)

Still, I’m always excited when a new product in BPA-free packaging comes out, because that means that at least the market is responding to consumer demands.

Enter, new amber glass jars of Eden Organic tomatoes and pasta sauces. I’ve long relied on Eden for its BPA-free canned beans, but the company had yet to move on to tomatoes. It’s interesting that Eden went with amber glass (which protects the tomatoes from photo-oxidation) instead of BPA-free cans; I guess it decided the former was a better choice for its bottom line.

At $3.92 for a 25-ounce jar of crushed tomatoes, though, the price may be out of reach for most Americans. But it’s nice to know there’s now an option for those with the budget for their BPA-phobia.

My only question is: What about the lid? It only says on the website that the glass is BPA-free. Stay tuned.

Update: A spokesperson for the company confirmed that the lids on the amber glass jars are not completely BPA-free: The inside of the twist caps are finished with two coats of sealant, the first of which contains BPA. The second, which is the one that could potentially come in contact with the tomato product inside, does not. The risk of BPA contamination is also minimized by the area of air between the food and the inside of the cap. Eden tried, but was not able to find a viable alternative. Inventors, get to work!

–Jennifer Grayson

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Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is a strong supporter of Second Amendment rights. And solar power, as seen in this photo. Photo via Facebook

As we struggle to make sense of the senseless tragedy in Arizona, now seems as good a time as any to bring up the environmentalist stance on the Second Amendment. It would seem that being green would also mean being anti-gun, since the leftist agenda usually includes the two, but this is not always the case.

Ironically, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was gravely injured in Saturday’s shooting, is a strong supporter of the right to bear arms — and is even a gun owner herself. She is also an ardent advocate for solar energy. (Not surprising, considering Arizona is the sunniest state in the country.)

Hunters, too, often consider themselves conservationists, since their sport and/or livelihood depends on keeping natural lands intact for wildlife. In fact, much of the money for government conservation efforts comes from hunting licenses and taxes on firearms sales.

But hunting rifles in the woods are one thing; there’s no justification — green or otherwise — for a semi-automatic handgun at a shopping center in Tucson. Nor is there one for a “target” map as part of a political campaign.

My thoughts and prayers are with Congresswoman Giffords, the shooting victims, and their families.

–Jennifer Grayson

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Taco Bell‘s new Beefy Crunch Burrito probably isn’t the healthiest thing, but it’s pretty straightforward, right? Just a tortilla stuffed with ground beef, rice, nacho cheese, sour cream and a sprinkling of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos for that extra bit of pizzazz.

Think again. A closer look reveals that the fast-food nightmare contains no fewer than 150 ingredients. Just for fun, I thought I’d list them here for you here. Oh, and as an homage to the first chapter of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, I highlighted the ones made from corn in orange.

Tortilla: Enriched Bleached Wheat Flour (Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine, Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Water, Ground Corn treated with Lime, Vegetable Oil (contains one or more of the following: Corn Oil, Soybean Oil) with TBHQ and Citric Acid (to preserve freshness), contains 2% or less of the following: Salt, Calcium Propionate and Potassium Sorbate (to preserve freshness), Furmaric Acid, Dough Conditioner.
Nacho Cheese Sauce: Cheese Whey, Nonfat Milk, Canola Oil, Modified Food Starch, Cheddar Cheese (Cultured Milk, Salt, Enzymes), Natural Flavor, Maltodextrin, Salt, Jalapeño Puree, Sodium Phosphate, Sodium Caseinate, Vinegar, Autolyzed Yeast Extract, Lactic Acid, Sodium Citrate, Color Added (Including FD&C Yellow #6), Citric Acid, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate.
Seasoned Ground Beef: Beef, Water, Seasoning [Isolated Oat Product, Salt, Chili Pepper, Onion Powder, Tomato Powder, Oats (Wheat), Soy Lecithin, Sugar, Spices, Maltodextrin, Soybean Oil (Anti-dusting Agent), Garlic Powder, Autolyzed Yeast Extract, Citric Acid, Caramel Color, Cocoa Powder (Processed With Alkali), Silicon Dioxide, Natural Flavors, Yeast, Modified Corn Starch, Natural Smoke Flavor], Salt, Sodium Phosphates.
Fritos Flamin’ Hot Flavor Corn Chips: Corn, Vegetable Oil (contains One or More of the Following: Corn, Soybean, Sunflower, or Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil), Cheddar Cheese (Cultured Milk, Salt, Enzymes), Salt, Buttermilk Solids, Wheat Flour, Whey Protein Concentrate, Romano Cheese from Cow’s Milk (Cultured Milk, Salt, Enzymes), Tomato Powder, Monosodium Glutamate, Onion Powder, Whey, Garlic Powder, Dextrose, Sugar, Disodium Phosphate, Lactic Acid, Natural Flavor, Spice, Citric Acid, Parmesan Cheese (Cultured Milk, Salt, Enzymes), Artificial Colors (including Yellow 6, Red 40), Disodium Inosinate, and Disodium Guanylate.
Reduced Fat Sour Cream: Cream, Milk, Modified Corn Starch, Nonfat Dry Milk, Maltodextrin, Carrageenan, Locust Bean Gum, Lactic Acid, Gelatin, Guar Gum, Mono And Diglycerides, Citric Acid, Sodium Phosphate, Vitamin A, Potassium Sorbate (A Preservative), And Natural And Artificial Flavor.
Rice: Water, Seasoning: Salt, Maltodextrin, Tomato Powder, Potassium Chloride, Natural Flavor (With Autolyzed Yeast Extract, Maltodextrin, High Oleic Sunflower Oil, Disodium Inosinate, Disodium Guanylate, Sunflower Lecithin), Spices, Dehydrated Onions, Dehydrated Tomatoes, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, Paprika [Color], Citric Acid, Dehydrated Green Bell Peppers, Dehydrated Red Bell Peppers, Extractive of Paprika [Color], Disodium Inosinate, Disodium Guanylate, Garlic Extractives (Contains Modified Corn Starch, Corn Starch), Onion Extractives (Contains Modified Corn Starch, Dextrin, Corn Starch), Less Than 2% Silicon Dioxide Added To Prevent Caking. Rice (Raw): Enriched Precooked Parboiled Long Grain Rice [Rice, Niacin, Ferric Orthophosphate (Iron), Thiamine Mononitrate (Thiamine), Folic Acid]. Oil: High-Oleic Low-Linolenic Canola Oil, TBHQ (To Protect Flavor), Dimethylpolysiloxane (An Antifoaming Agent).

Michelle Obama can talk about her anti-obesity initiative all she wants, but until her husband decides to do something about corn subsidies, Americans don’t stand a chance.

–Jennifer Grayson

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Photo via Flickr: Vivian Chen

The obesity epidemic in America has hit a new crisis point. According to a new study from Wayne State University, almost a third of 9-month-olds — and 34 percent of 2-year-olds — are obese or overweight. Think chunky babies are cute? They might not agree once they get a little bit older: The results of the study showed that starting out pudgy puts kids on a path to stay that way.

From LiveScience:

Of kids who were normal weight at 9 months old, 75 percent were still normal weight at 2 years. But kids who were at-risk at nine months had only a 50 percent chance of being normal weight at age 2. More than 28 percent of at-risk kids ended up obese by their second birthday.

Obese 9-month-olds showed an even starker pattern. Only 37.6 percent were normal weight at age 2. Just over 18 percent did improve to the at-risk category, but 43.9 percent remained obese.

The solution, according to the lead author of a similar study published earlier last year? Breastfeed. Exclusively. The CDC agrees.

That answer doesn’t surprise me. Before my daughter was born, we kept receiving “free gifts” of infant formula in the mail (evidently I had gotten on some mailing list with a few of my pregnancy mag subscriptions). The ingredients in some of them were shocking: Corn syrup solids. Soybean oil. (Both genetically modified, by the way.) How parents think these can be the building blocks for a brand-new life, I don’t know.

And then there’s the story of when I saw a mom on a New York City subway train yelling at her toddler to “Drink your juice.” The “juice” was a bottle of Sprite.

–Jennifer Grayson

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