Sunday, December 26, 2010

2010 Year in Review

This will probably be our final blog posting since the year is over, and the blog has served its purpose and run its course. We've made a few lists to summarize the year here.

Biggest Money-savings:
Aside from reducing consumption in general, big savings came from Day 8: Buying only used clothing (along with Day 126: Shopping Diet and Day 132: Minimalist Fashion), and Day 2: Free Over-the-Air TV and Day 37: Giving Up Cable.

Biggest Eco-impact:
Day 3: One Car or Two? and Day 33: One Car Family - This has also been a trying experience at times but we're still hanging in there.

Biggest Surprise:
Day 131: Homemade Microwave Popcorn and Day 94: Using a Mason Jar - Homemade popcorn tastes great and a mason jar is super-handy.

Biggest Disaster:
Day 38: Find a used cargo trike - It was too heavy to be practical in our hilly neighborhood.

Most popular postings:
Tony's Pee Week Series (Day 84, Day 83, Day 82)

Things that worked great and we will keep doing:

Day 4: Buy Local Milk
Day 7: Make Bread, Don't Buy It
Day 13: Composting
Day 16: Buying Local Ice Cream
Day 21: Cut Down on Junk Mail
Day 22: Buy Eco-Friendly Toilet Paper
Day 23: Use Cloth Napkins
Day 24: Buy Recycled Paper Towels
Day 30: Stop Wearing Nail Polish - I actually stopped wearing makeup altogether but somehow forgot to post about it.
Day 47: Organic Half-n-Half
Day 48: Do a Spin Class
Day 58: Wash Clothes in Cold Water - I forget sometimes; Tony forgets all of the time.
Day 59: Find a Way to Recycle #5 Plastic - I won't ship it anymore; I found a recycling center for it.
Day 60: Re-Use Glass Jars
Day 65: Not Wasting Food
Day 66: Dr. Bronner's Castile Soap
Day 67: Handkerchiefs instead of tissues
Day 79: Get Kids Involved with Food and Day 80: Pack Better Kid Lunches
Day 86: Eco-Toothpaste and Day 85: Eco-Deodorant
Day 81: Start a Garden, Day 87: Keep Planting Things, and Day 104: Keep a Garden -I wouldn't say this worked "great" but it was inexpensive and fun, and I enjoyed watching my "black thumb" attempts at growing stuff.
Day 35: Eco-Dishwashing detergent and Day 88: Dishwashing Detergent
Day 94: Keep a Mason Jar Handy
Day 95: Pick Up Trash
Day 102: Have a Car-Free Weekend
Day 106: Buy in Bulk
Day 109: Drink Local Beer
Day 14: Reduce Use of Meat and Day 114: Meatless Monday
Day 118: Reduce Consumption
Day 98: Support Local Farmers and Day 128: Farmer's Market
Day 126: Shopping Diet and Day 132: Minimalist Fashion
Day 133: Do Some Yoga
Day 134: Buy Local Eggs - It is harder than it sounds, but so worth it.
Day 139: Rake Leaves - I enjoyed this even if Tony prefers the lawn blower!
Day 143: Skip Black Friday

Things that didn't work out so well or were more trouble than they were worth:

Day 6: Tony's Shampoo Experiment
Day 19: Unsubscribe from all magazines -Rather than banning all magazines, we've settled on two that we like: Runner's World for Megan and New York for Tony.
Day 20: The 3/50 Project - It's a great project but we don't really spend that much each month, so technically we're not truly participating.
Day 27: Tony Running Barefoot
Day 18: Turn off the Freezer and Day 34: Trying to turn off the freezer
Day 36: Buy Carbon Offsets - Annie Leonard came to Elon and basically told me they were a waste.
Day 44: Use Human Power to Get Groceries - I'm lazy, what can I say.
Day 57: Wash my face with water heated in microwave - I just quit wearing makeup, so this isn't an issue.
Day 78: Smile More - Just kidding, I'll keep working on this.
Day 90: Save graywater for plants - This felt too disgusting and not worth it.
Day 92: Homemade beet lipstick - This was too mushy, smells bad, and is not portable.
Using Flattr for tips and Day 1: Using Adsense
Vinegar as Cleaning Agent - It's not that it was all that terrible, but it wasn't all that effective either.
Day 142: Tankless Water Heater &; Day 138: Energy Star Tax Credit
Day 144: Small Business Saturday - It turns out most small businesses don't actually take Amex.

Recipes & Cooking:

Day 10: Homemade Yogurt
Day 15: Homemade Apple Sauce
Day 32: Lentils
Day 43: Homemade Broth
Day 64: Homemade Granola
Whole Wheat Bread
Day 93: Eat Dandelions
Day 110: Sugar Snaps and Shiitakes
Day 111: Loca-Zania
Day 112: Blackberries
Day 113: Sweet Eggplant Zucchini Salad
Day 115: Simple Food
Day 120: Orzo Pasta Salad and Grilled Eggplant with Peanut Sauce
Day 122: Quick Zucchini "Pasta"
Day 123: Fingerling Potato Salad with Capers and Dill
Day 127: Blueberry-Cinnamon Muffins
Day 129: Scuppernong-Peach Salsa
Day 140: Collard Greens
Day 141: Pepper Steak

Things we learned about:

Day 89: How Processed Food is Made Pt 1 and Day 91: Part Two
Offshore Drilling
Day 105: Coal Ash and more coal ash
Day 106: Medical Waste Incineration
Day 107: Home Star Legislation
Day 108: The School Lunch Program
Day 100: Mountaintop Removal and More on Mountaintop Removal Mining
Day 121: Single Use Disposables
Genetically-Modified Foods
Day 137: Mechanically Separated Meat

Friday, December 24, 2010

Project 1969: The Cabin That Time Forgot

Throughout the past year, Megan and I have frequently discussed foregoing modern amenities in the name of "saving green" or "going green." However, during the past two days we have taken the experiment to another level and in a different direction.

Pilot Knob Inn, Cabin 1
About a week ago, the two of us were discussing our annual trip to Pilot Mountain and trying concoct ways to make it more "awesome." Last year, we braved an ice storm that had closed much of the state, hiked to the top of the mountain, did some rock climbing, and then cuddled up in a cozy tobacco barn-turned-log cabin. This year, with no snow in the forecast and less motivation to do the climbing, we were struggling to find some other way to make this holiday trip special. When I suggested that we leave behind our phones and laptops, Megan one-upped me by suggesting we should leave behind all technology. Within a few minutes, though, we realized that "no technology = no fun" and opted to choose an arbitrary year as our technology cutoff. 

We eventually settled on 1969. This was almost two generations ago, which meant we would be walking in the footsteps of our grandparents. It also was just a few years before Megan and I were born, so it is distant enough to be challenging but not impossible for us to imagine the lifestyle. It was also a pivotal year for technology. In July, men walked on the moon. In October, the first data packets were sent over DARPANet, the network that would later become the Internet.

We spent a week watching movies (Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?, Easy Rider, Midnight Cowboy) and listening to music (Led Zeppelin's first album, Jimi Hendrix) from the 1960s to set the mood. We wouldn't be able to watch or listen to any of these during the trip because we don't have an 8-track player or a record player or even a cassette player. We quickly discovered that even AM radio no longer offers the musical selection it once did. After doing a bit of research on the Web, relying heavily on Wikipedia and the 1969 Sears Wish Book, we left behind the following items that we would have normally taken:

  • iPad
  • mobile phones (smart phone and dumb phone - we left them in separate rooms so they wouldn't get into trouble)
  • GPS navigator
  • laptops
  • digital cameras
  • CD/DVD players
  • automatic door lock key fob
  • clothes with Thinsulate
  • digital watch
  • Bailey's Irish Cream (not invented until 1974!)
  • dark chocolate M&Ms (not invented until 2006)

While credit cards existed in 1968 (the predecessors to Visa and Mastercard appeared in 1958 and 1966), we opted to take only one and try really hard not to use it, relying instead on cash (invented 3000 years ago). A few other things that I packed that I felt were very appropriate for the 1960s included:

  • guitar
  • white cotton undershirts and briefs
  • thick wool socks
  • cotton/polyester blend sweatshirts (non-fleece)
  • Boggle
  • Yahtzee
  • wood pencils
  • Jiffy Pop popcorn (in the foil pan)
  • peanuts
  • beef jerky
  • buggy whip and oil lamp (just kidding)

We tried to find and purchase a 35mm camera for use on the trip. At Grandpappy's Antique Emporium, we found a few that dated back to the 1950s. However, I was not sure if these would take a modern 35mm cartridge. Trying again at Camera Corner, we discovered the only 35mm camera they had was a disposable one! Once out of its cardboard packaging, it looked and worked (only 27 exposures, simple flash, no LCD preview or photo review) much like the Kodak cameras of the late 60s so we felt this would meet the requirements of the project. Megan really wanted a typewriter but the only ones we found were about $25 and did not come with extra ribbon and we had no idea how to get a ribbon to fit. She thought about various strategies for re-inking an existing ribbon, but time was a'ticking.

While I have three watches, I rarely wear one since I can always check my iPhone for the time. Of the three, only two are analog and only one of those has a working battery. However, after watching Peter Fonda throws his watch to the ground before beginning his cross-country journey in Easy Rider, I opted to go without a timepiece for my own time-traveling adventure. Megan thought that not having watches made it fun when it was time for the free B&B breakfast, since there was only a one-hour window and missing it meant struggling to find a 1969-style breakfast in a pinch. Luckily, we made it both days.

Stopping to get fuel for the truck along the way, I insisted that Megan sit in the driver's seat while I did my best to play the role of the gas station attendant. I vaguely recall full service gas stations and enjoyed slowly checking the fluid levels, cleaning the windows, and addressing Megan as "Ma'am" a lot.

When we arrived at the cabin, one of the first things I did was stow the microwave and the VHS player into the closet. I left the color TV out, though it was useless since without a satellite receiver or VHS/DVD, it would have only worked with analog TV signals that are no longer broadcast.

Remarkably, we spent the rest of the weekend doing pretty much the same things that we would have done even if we weren't trying to get by on 1969 technology. We hiked. We made a fire. We drank wine. We talked. My hand would reach for an iPhone that wasn't there each time sat down at a restaurant. No check-ins to Foursquare. No updates to Facebook. Megan argued convincingly that my hand should be reaching for HER HAND when we sit down, instead of grasping my electronic pocket pal. Still, it was mildly odd to be so detached from the internet. Megan and I usually are quite quick to broadcast some interesting experience or photo with friends and family. Broadcasting in 1969 consisted of speaking loudly to the people in the same room, or maybe having a ham radio. Without the ability to instantly update her status or Google for some fact, Megan started a queue of things to do when she returned to her digital life. She kept a list of things she needed to look up, wrote her Facebook statuses in a journal with a pen, and attempted to timestamp each one. Of course, without a watch, that was an exercise in guessing.

As Megan pointed out, being as unplugged from the world as we were borders on irresponsible. To leave behind phones or to not check email daily is seen by many to be shirking duty to family and to work. ("What if there is an emergency!?!") However, by disconnecting from the world, I felt we connected with each other better. Without the distractions of the ever-present glowing rectangles, I could focus more intently on what Megan was saying to me. When Timothy Leary popularized the phrase, "Turn on, tune in, drop out," he was extolling psychedelic drugs as a way to remove oneself from society and to gain better knowledge of oneself. Forty years later, I think that simply pressing the OFF button might be a better alternative.

And now, Megan's list of "mosts" for your enjoyment.

Most Missed Item: contact lenses

Least Missed Item: cell phone

Most Annoying Thing to Try to Do in 1969 Style: operate the car as if it did not have automatic locks

Most Disappointing Thing: Jiffy Pop

Most Thrilling: walking around with giant wads of cash

Most Guaranteed to Make You Feel Poor: using a disposable camera

Note from Megan: Dude, in 2010 even Barbie dolls come with video cameras in them now. People looked at this expired, plastic cheapo camera like it had cooties when we handed it to them to take our picture. Actually, maybe we smelled like 1969 and that face they made was really about us. Oh, now I feel bad...

Thing We Most Need to Bring Back from 1969 into 2010: hot food served a la carte 

Note from Megan: An egg sandwich should be one egg on toast. It should cost $1.25. It should not be served on stale "ciabatta" with limp frisee and come with two crappy side dishes and cost $6.99.

The 1969 Thing That You Didn't Expect to See in 2010 But Actually There Are a Lot More Than You'd Think: pay phones

Thing That She Refused to Give Up for This Experiment Even Though It Didn't Exist So She Totally Cheated and She Doesn't Care What You Say: fleece 

Note from Megan: I mean, are you crazy? It's 20 degrees out and I'm not buying a whole new wardrobe for this cockamamy project. Please. Polyester was invented then, just not in this particular format. It's close. Cut me some slack.

Things That Were Technically Invented But We Still Didn't Use: credit cards, ATMs (1967), TaB cola, fast food, soft contacts (invented but not commercially available in the US until 1971), microwave (1946 but not commercially available until 70s).

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Day 144: Small Business Saturday

Register your American Express card for Small Business Saturday (11/27) and they'll give a $25 credit on your billing statement if you spend at least $25 at a small business. Way to support local businesses! Of course, you have to find a small business that actually takes Amex, but it doesn't hurt to try.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Day 143: Skip Black Friday

To me, Black Friday shopping means going to some hellish Big Box at 5am to stampede through the doors trying to beat other shoppers to some plastic gadget gizmo that I don't need and probably don't really want but have been brainwashed into thinking that I do, and have been advertised to believe is of great value to me and worth getting up at an ungodly hour for.


This Thanksgiving, give yourself a break and just hang out with your family and friends or your cat or whatever. Watch a movie, play board games, go for a run. But don't feed the shopping machine.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Day 142: Why is it so D@#* tough to get a tankless water heater?!?

A few days ago, Megan mentioned the Energy Star tax credit for tankless water heaters. I thought I'd share a few details from our experience in water heater shopping for those of you that might be considering this option.

A few weeks ago, Megan pointed out that there was a puddle of water under our hot water heater and I should "do something about it." I wasn't sure if this was a condensation or a slow leak that we hadn't noticed from before so I soaked up the spill, dried the floor with a fan, and went about my other chores for awhile. When I came back, there as a pancake-sized puddle again. I still couldn't tell where the leak was coming from, though, so I cleaned it up a second time. Checking on it a few minutes later, I noticed that the puddle in the back was a bit muddier and a small bit of rust-colored water was running down the back seam of the heater. As I stood up, I realized that the seam had actually ruptured near the top. A spray of dried mud was clearly visible on the wall behind the heater. I sighed realizing this meant buying a new hot water heater.

The water heater we had was 40-gallon, gas-powered, vented Rheem Fury that was installed when the house was constructed in 1991. In the spirit of "going green," I started searching the Energy Star options at both Sears and Home Depot. There was three replacement Kenmore models at Sears, ranging from $530 to $750.

Of course, Megan and I had been talking about tankless water heaters for awhile. The 30% tax rebate on tankless water heaters ends in December 2010, so we took this as a sign that it might be the right time to invest in this. While Consumer Reports noted that it would take 20 years to see a return on tankless models, I don't think they factored in the 30% tax rebate.

Checking Home Depot, I found the Rheem EcoSense ECO-200PVN. Home Depot offers Rheem models that deliver 5.3, 7.4, 8.4, and 9.5 gallons per minute. However, the 5.3 and 7.4 GPM models can raise the temperature of the water 45 degrees while the 8.4 and 9.5 GPM models can only raise it 35 degrees. The cost comparison shows how these factors counterbalance.

5.3 GPM, 45° = $860
7.4 GPM, 45° = $1200
8.4 GPM, 35° = $1000
9.5 GPM, 35° = $1200

I called Home Depot, was put on hold for about 15 minutes, and was eventually told that they didn't have any tankless units in stock but could order one. I'd also have to call a separate number (1-800-HOME-DEPOT) to arrange installation. This number turned out to be a computer that had trouble understanding me.

Since I really wanted hot water today, I tried calling some smaller places. At Carolina Supply, a guy named Jimmy gave me the scoop. Good news, first. They have the Rheem 7.4 GPM (RTG-74) on clearance for $675! Bad news, they could not do installs. I'd have to find a plumber for that. Calling Willie Saul & Son here in Alamance County, I found out they could do it. The guy I talked to there almost always installs Rinnai units. When I described where my current water heater was, though, we discovered that this was not going to work. The tankless systems require direct venting. This is a special dual-purpose pipe that brings air in from the outside and allows exhaust. (I imagine this is similar to a coaxial cable.) The cost of the piping is expensive and to run it through two-stories (and an attic) would be much more than I was willing to spend.

Ultimately, I had Willie Saul & Son Plumbing deliver and install a Rheem Fury 22V4036F1 (energy factor of 0.59) that was nearly identical to what we already had but twenty years newer. Based on someone's else water heater calculations, I think that the old unit had an energy factor of 0.49. Based on data from the California Energy Commisssion's Consumer Energy Center, I estimate the new unit will only save me an extra $27.5 per year.

So much for living in the green future...

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Day 141: Pepper Steak

Local grass-fed flank steak from Walters Unlimited and green peppers from our friends at Redbud. Absolutely delicious. I just winged it and didn't really use a recipe, but if you need one, I'll point you to "blogchef" who I am borrowing this picture from too. Man, I'm getting lazy on this blog...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Day 140: Collard Greens

It wouldn't be fall without collard greens. Here's the collard greens with bacon recipe I used. They were fabulous. Thank you Redbud Farm for providing. I used 1 bunch of collards and half a bunch of kale. Bumped up the bacon by a few slices...

(not my picture! Mine had the lighting all funky...)

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Day 139: Rake Leaves

I decided to rake the front yard on Friday instead of asking Tony to use the leaf blower. Couple of advantages here: I got to surprise him with the yard being done already, and I used human power rather than gas-powered leaf blower.

Benefits: It only took 40 minutes to do the entire front yard, and Claire enjoyed jumping in the piles. Plus it was a great upper body workout, so that makes up for my missed trip to the gym that morning... not to mention getting to spend some time outdoors.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Day 138: Energy Star Tax Credit

If you find yourself needing a new appliance in 2010, check out the Energy Star tax credits. These expire Dec 31, 2010.

We needed a new hot water heater this week, unfortunately the place in our house where the heater goes will not allow us to get a tankless one (needs some kind of special exhaust), and tankless is the only kind that meets the specs (Energy Factor ≥ 0.82 OR a thermal efficiency of at least 90%) to qualify for the tax credit, so we are out of luck again! (We missed out on the new house credit last year too for a bunch of silly reasons.)

Anyway, maybe one of you lucky readers can take advantage of this program.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Day 137: Avoid Mechanically-Separated "Meat"

As if this were even an option over here at Green V. Green. Well, this is more an excuse to blog about mechanically-separated "meat" than anything. Consider yourselves educated.

Have you ever read an ingredients label and seen an item called "mechanically-separated chicken" or "mechanically-separated pork"? This is how that item (I hesitate to call it food) is made.

First a machine vacuums every last piece of flesh or fat off the difficult bones, such as head bones or tiny foot bones. The result is turned into a paste:

This paste is soaked in ammonia to kill bacteria. Then, since it's lost its flavor, artificial flavors are re-introduced, and the mash is colored to not be pink anymore.

Here is the result:


Both of these are foods made and sold by Tyson (for example here and here). Just because it comes in a shiny plastic bag with a label on it of a company you recognize, doesn't mean the methods used to produce it aren't medieval.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Day 136: Visit Your Local Library

Telling me to make better use of the library is like telling a cat to take more naps. Oh, the torture. Well, if you INSIST. Yay!

New York Public Library

I love and adore libraries. I love to walk the stacks, I love to find mis-shelved books and put them back in their precise locations. I check out the special displays, I read the flyers posted at the front. On a recent trip to New York City, Tony and I spent one of our precious afternoons at the New York Public Library. I think I got my first library card when I was three. I am a total library junkie.

Here are a few tools that you might like to make your library experience more enjoyable.

(a) Use your library's online catalog before going over, just to make sure they have what you want.

(b) If you're on, you can use the Library Lookup tool to check to see if your local library has a book you are interested in. This bookmarklet will open in a small window and use the ISBN of the book you are interested in to see if your library catalog lists it.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Day 135: Down with Farmer's Market Scammers

I adore ALL the great vendors at our Elon Farmer's Market. I trust all of them and I think they're just the best thing that has happened to my kitchen since I learned how to chop properly.

Zucchini-Eggplant Salad

(Psst, Farmer's Market today! 3:00-6:00 - Elon Community Church grassy area on Williamson Ave.)

That said, there have been some disturbing reports in the news lately of scams going on at OTHER farmer's markets including last year at our Greensboro market, and last week in a Los Angeles market.

Planet Green has some good tips for making sure that you're getting what you mean to get at the farmer's market.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Day 134: Buy local eggs

If you think buying the $4 organic eggs at the grocery story absolve you from guilt associated with the horrific, filthy, inhumane conditions at the DeCoster-owned egg farms associated with the recent salmonella outbreak, I hate to break it to you, but its more complicated than that.

One of my favorite companies, Organic Valley, is under fire for the following photos that come from one of its suppliers in Wisconsin. Turns out, there are many paths to raising "organic" eggs, and these companies can cut corners too.

The problems arise when large brand names buy eggs from producers who are cutting corners. Then the large companies put their brand name on the eggs, and who knows what you're actually getting.

"The report found that the vast majority of farms that practiced the very highest standards—such as grazing hens on open pasture, rotating grazing areas, and even using mobile chicken houses to ensure fresh land—were small to medium sized enterprises. These farms typically market their eggs locally or regionally under their farm's brand name, mostly through farmer's markets, food cooperatives and/or independently owned natural and grocery stores. Some brands were also available regionally through larger chains like Whole Foods.

"Perhaps unsurprisingly, at the other end of the spectrum stores' own brand organic egg lines were the worst offenders when it came to conditions. The reports' authors point out that while organic consumers tend to expect transparency and information about where their eggs come from, by definition, own brand products tend to be anonymous—they also tend to be priced lower than premium organic brands."

Find a local, trusted supplier of eggs. Chickens are very trendy right now, people love raising chickens for eggs and meat. It's really not that hard to find someone to sell you some eggs. I've got 3 regular suppliers that I can choose from here in my small town. Supply will slow over winter, but they are still available.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Day 133: Do some yoga

I've recently been reading a lot about the history of yoga, and its track westward to North America and western Europe, how it's changed since its arrival, etc.

Yoga has the unfortunate problem of being rather expensive, as activities go. So perhaps it is not the (pocket/wallet) "greenest" of fitness and healthy-mind activities. But, if you search around your community, you may find that there are often less expensive places that offer yoga. Many studios have a "pay what you can" policy. Universities and community colleges offer yoga at extremely reasonable rates. Health clubs offer yoga. Even many churches and hospitals offer yoga. There is one hospital in our community that offers yoga for as little as $3 per class.

Yoga can offer numerous health and fitness benefits (body awareness, stress relief, flexibility), but I feel that one of its main strengths is in teaching and reinforcing mindfulness. Being aware of yourself and your choices is a critical skill that can often be overlooked in our over-consuming, over-anxious society. We can be so busy and make so many empty choices, yoga can almost feel like a relief. Yoga allows - and actually requires - us to be present on the mat, quiet and concentrating on only one thing at a time.

For those of you local to the Burlington, NC area, I'll give a shout out and hearty recommendation to Om Shanti Yoga. I have been enjoying their classes since August. What a great group of instructors and students.


Friday, September 24, 2010

Day 132: Minimalist Fashion, Redux

Like the fashion and shopping diets we wrote about earlier, Project 333 is designed to minimize an area of complexity in many of our lives: fashion. This clothing diet is designed to simplify - choose 33 items of clothing to wear over 3 months.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Day 131: Homemade Microwave Popcorn

Here's Tony's recipe for perfect microwave popcorn.

Homemade Microwave Popcorn

brown paper bag (recycled from the grocery store?)
1/3 cup popping corn
2t. olive oil

Put the olive oil and the popcorn in the bag. Staple it shut. Microwave for exactly 2 minutes or just a few seconds longer. Tony found that in our microwave 2:15 results in burning. Your mileage may vary.

Homemade Microwave Popcorn


(We like ours with melted butter from Homeland Creamery and salt!)

Homemade Microwave Popcorn

Common questions:
1. Does it have to be olive oil? Yes. Other oils have different heating temperatures. It will not work as well without olive oil.

2. Does the staple mess up the microwave since it's metal? No. It's such a small amount it has no effect.

Day 130: Recycle Used Planting Pots

Home Depot in our area has a recycle station for hard-to-recycle planters and pots.

Just save them up and drop them off the next time you go there. Since the recycling station is outside, you don't even have to tote them inside. Convenient.

Recycling station at Home Depot

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Day 129: Scuppernong-Peach Salsa

Scuppernong grapes are the state fruit of North Carolina, and peaches are delicious and a nearly universal symbol of summertime, so I thought I'd combine them with some other summer veggies to produce a scuppernong-peach salsa.

Scuppernong-Peach salsa

1 large peach or 2 small ones, pitted and chopped
1 jalapeno, diced fine
1/2 onion, diced fine
8 large grape tomatoes or 2 small red tomatoes or one large tomato, chopped
handful cilantro leaves, minced
12 large scuppernong grapes, halved, seeded, then quartered
1 clove garlic, minced
sprinkle of cumin
salt and pepper
a sprinkle of lime juice or lemon juice if you've got it

I'd recommend a serrated knife for the grapes. The skins are a bit tough. Mix everything together and adjust to taste. For a perfect light lunch, spread some refried black beans on a whole wheat tortilla and top with salsa, then fold like a burrito.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Day 127: Blueberry-Cinnamon muffins

Blueberry Cinnamon muffins
Here's a great easy way to use up some fading blueberries.

2T brown sugar
1/4 cup oats
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 stick butter (1/4 cup)
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla
2 cups flour
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 cup fresh blueberries, rinsed

1. Mix the brown sugar, half the cinnamon, and the oats in a small bowl. This is the topping.

2. Cream the butter and sugar in a medium bowl. Add the eggs and the vanilla.

3. Mix the dry ingredients together in another bowl. (flour, soda, powder, salt, remaining 1/2 t. cinnamon).

4. Stir in sugar mixture and buttermilk, about 1/3 of each at a time. Alternate between them.

5. Fold in blueberries.

6. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full.

7. Top each muffin with a bit of the oat/brown sugar mixture.

8. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until the muffins are golden on top. You can do a toothpick test to see if they are done inside too.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Day 126: Shopping Diets

Here are two shopping diets I've seen recently. Perhaps there are more.

The New York times profiles the "Six Pieces" diet, in which you choose 6 clothing items and choose to accessorize those same 6 pieces for 30 days.

And there's the Uniform Project, in which a young fashion editor wears the same little black dress for one full year. Accessorized differently. Many of the accessories are available on places like etsy, and the dress and pattern(!) are available on the web site.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Day 125: Kellogg's, GMO and Organic Foods

Kellogg's is under pressure to stop using genetically modified ingredients in their already-crappy cereals. Their consumer specialist responded to the boycott recently with this statement (emphasis added):
Thank you for your comments regarding the use of biotechnology ingredients. Like you, we want only the best ingredients to go into our products.

Biotech ingredients are safe and have become common in the open market. Sixty to seventy percent of packaged foods in the U.S. include biotechnology crops. Even organic ingredients can contain biotech ingredients due to cross-pollination.

We use biotech ingredients based on the backing of groups including the World Health Organization, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and the American Medical Association that confirm there are no safety concerns.

You have placed trust in us to provide healthy, nutritious, and safe food. We will continue to evaluate our ingredients, suppliers and product formulas to give you the best products possible. Please be assured your concerns will be shared with our nutritionist and food developers here at Kellogg.

Today I let Kellogg's know that their reaction is totally unacceptable:

This message is a reaction to the statements made recently regarding the boycott of Kellogg's products, specifically to the consumer specialist's comments that genetically modified plants are already cross-pollinating nearby organic plants.

The attitude expressed by Kellogg's that this is a "so what" circumstance was extremely annoying to me. It points out again (as if we need more evidence of this!) that giant corporations are not looking out for my welfare or the welfare of the planet on which we all live, and ultimately, corporations are out to make a buck. And since this is America, apparently the only way a corporation will listen to citizens is if we talk in terms of consumption or dollars.

Therefore, I will be boycotting all Kellogg's products, including those from Kellogg Company subsidiaries (Keebler, Bear Naked, Morningstar Farms, and Kashi, etc etc), until Kellogg's commits to using non-genetically engineered ingredients and stops soiling the planet with their junky products.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Day 124: Books on Food and Eating Well

Treehugger has a NEW list of 7 books about eating well to follow their similar list from 2008 of 9 books about food.

I've read....
2008 list
  • 100 Mile Diet (recommended)
  • Omnivore's Dilemma (recommended)
  • In Defense of Food

2010 list
  • Food Matters
  • Food Rules

I haven't read....
2008 list
  • Food Security for the Faint of Heart
  • How to Cook Everything (I own Bittman's "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian" one though!)
  • The Oxford Companion to Food
  • The No-Nonsense Guide to World Food
  • Stuffed and Starved (Raj Patel also wrote The Value of Nothing, which I liked very much, and he is also coming to speak at Elon in September.)
  • Where Our Food Comes From

2010 list
  • Diet for a Hot Planet (read her mom's "original", Diet for a Small Planet, back in the day)
  • Edible
  • Empires of Food
  • Agricultural Urbanism

Guess I have some reading to do!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Day 123: Fingerling Potato Salad with Capers and Dill

Fingerling potato salad with dill and capers
This is not your grandma's potato salad. And this one is great for mayo-phobes.

Get yourself a pound of fingerling potatoes, cut them into bitesize pieces (roughly in quarters?), and put them in some boiling water for 20 minutes or so, until they're tender.

While the potatoes are cooking, chop 2T capers, 2 cloves of garlic, and several stalks of dill. Put these in a small bowl with some olive oil and a bit of wine vinegar. Whisk it together. This is your sauce.

When the potatoes are done, drain them, and then toss them gently in the sauce. Transfer to serving bowl and voila! Easiest potato salad ever.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Day 122: Quick Zucchini "Pasta" with Chunky Vegetable Sauce and Meatballs

This recipe has 3 parts: the zucchini strips, the meatballs (optional), and the chunky sauce.

For the zucchini strips, use a vegetable peeler to peel the zucchini on all sides, making long peels. When you get to the center core piece with the seeds in it, stop peeling, and reserve that for the sauce. One zucchini will make enough strips for 2 entree-sized portions.

Zucchini strips

For the sauce, you are going to chop whatever delicious veggies you have on hand and combine those with storebought pasta sauce. I used diced onion, eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms.

chopped eggplant, green and yellow peppers, and zucchini
Onions, eggplant, and peppers take longer so I added those first.

yellow tomatoes and sliced portabellas
I added my mushrooms and tomatoes last.

Combine your diced onion, 2T olive oil, 2 cloves garlic, salt and pepper in a large chef's pan or very large skillet. Saute the onions and garlic over medium heat, careful not to let your garlic turn brown. When the onions start to soften, add the rest of the veggies. Saute these for several minutes. Don't let them stick to the bottom of the pan. If they do, just add a tablespoon of water to the pan to loosen them up.

When the veggies are starting to get very soft and fragrant, add your pasta sauce and simmer.

Optional: meatballs! I used one pound of local, pastured ground beef, oats, 1 egg, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper. Form into 16 round balls (approx 1 ounce each) and cook at 350 for 20 minutes. Drop into the pasta sauce and simmer.

While the sauce is simmering, bring 2cups of water to a boil in a saucepan or microwave the water for 2 minutes until very hot. Drop the zucchini strips into the water to cook them. Let them stay in the hot water for 30-seconds to one minute. Arrange them on a plate and top with a large scoop of the sauce.

zucchini "pasta" with chunky vegetable sauce and a meatball

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Day 121: Single-Use Disposables

Seattle has taken a huge step towards zero-waste by banning wasteful single-use packaging from landfills. I'd love to see this sort of thing adopted in more places.

Here are some ideas for reducing your trash when you go out, if you live in the rest of the country where there are no rules and everything seems to go into the trash:
  • Bring home your compostables to your own compost bin.

  • Bring home your recyclables (#1 and #2 plastic bottles, #5 plastic yogurt tubs, cardboard, paperboard, glass bottles) and recycle them yourself.

  • Keep a cloth napkin or bandanna in your car or purse to use instead of a napkin. (I cannot tell you how handy this has been over these many months!)

  • When faced with two options and one has less packaging or trash than the other, choose the low-packaging alternative.

  • Communicate with the person serving you - ask for the item on a plate or in a cup rather than in disposables. Sometimes they will tell you they can't give it to you like that, and you might learn something about local rules or restaurant standards. You can put this information to use later. (Example: Starbucks in NYC refused to give us a muffin "to go" that was NOT in a paper bag. The bag was required. In order to get the item without a bag, we had to say "for here" and then leave the plate! Which then had to be washed... frustrating.)

  • Bring your own bags to the grocery. Bring your own mug to the coffee shop. Bring your own utensils (I am very forgetful of this one). Yes, we all forget. But the 5 times you remember will make you feel a lot better about "splurging" on a disposable mug the one time you forget.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Day 120: Orzo Salad and Grilled Eggplant with Peanut Sauce

Here are two super-quick recipes perfect for summer.


Orzo Salad
This recipe has three small parts: chopped fresh veggies and crumbled feta cheese, orzo (small rice-shaped pasta), and a dressing/sauce. I'll tell you how to make each part and you just mix them together in a big bowl, chill, and serve.

Ingredients & Method
1 cup of orzo pasta - bring water to boil, reduce heat and cook pasta for 8 minutes

Chopped seasonal veggies (I used one small zucchini, half a cucumber, two very small peppers, one tomato, and some kalamata olives, fresh basil leaves, all chopped), Feta cheese (4 ounces or a half-block, crumbled)

After the orzo cooks, drain completely and rinse in cold water. Add to bowl with veggies and feta.

For the dressing, whisk together 1/4 cup olive oil, 2T red wine vinegar, 1 t. dried chopped thyme (or fresh if you have it), 1 t. dried chopped dill (or fresh if you have it), salt and pepper.

Toss orzo and veggies in dressing. At this point if you like a bit of a creamier texture, you could add a tablespoon or two of mayonnaise or ranch dressing, that would be nice. Refrigerate or serve at room temperature.

Grilled Eggplant and Peanut Sauce
This recipe could not be any easier. You're going to grill some lightly-oiled eggplant on either an indoor or outdoor grill, and top it with some peanut-soy sauce.

Ingredients & Method
Cut 2 medium eggplants into rounds, about 1/2 inch thick. Baste each side with olive oil and set on grill to cook. Cook until tender but not mushy.


For the peanut sauce, you're going to mix 3 cloves of minced garlic, 2 t. sesame oil over low heat in a saucepan. Add 2 T. soy sauce, 1/2 cup natural peanut butter, 1 t. sugar, and 1/3 cup water in a pan over medium-low heat until creamy. If you need to add more water, add it 1 tablespoon at a time. You want a nice creamy sauce, not too chunky and not too watery.

Top each eggplant round with a dollop of sauce.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Day 119: Miracle Vinegar

I've put off doing a "use vinegar to clean your counters" posting because it seems like it's right up there with "change your lightbulbs". Yawn.

But hey, it's summer, and I'm running low on ideas. Today we finally ran out of regular cleaner for the counters so I broke down and mixed 1 part white vinegar with one part water, and put it in the spray bottle that had formerly held the "real" cleaner. Voila, cheapest cleanser ever.

Seemed to work fine except now I crave salad every time I go in the kitchen. One blog suggested adding oil of lemon eucalyptus or oil of lavender to curb the smell a bit. Yeah, let me just whip that out of my pantry. I don't know about you, but I don't just have $20 bottles of oil of lavender lying around. I'll make do with the salad dressing smell.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Day 118: Reduce

Yesterday I was shopping at the consignment furniture store, I noticed 2 really cute decorative signs with the words "reuse" and "recycle". All set to buy them for the kitchen, but I could not find the 3rd sign for "reduce". Appreciated the irony, and decided to not buy anything.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Day 117: Shut retail doors "accidentally" left open

You know the doors I'm talking about... the retail store doors "accidentally" left open on 100-degree days, spewing air conditioning out into the walkway so that you'll want to go into the store and cool off?

Well, it makes me sick to see it, so I just quietly shut the doors when I see them like that. (The Ann Taylor Loft at Alamance Crossing is the biggest offender locally.)

Now 9 stores in New York City have been fined for leaving their doors open during times of peak energy need.

Instead of waiting for the police to show up (don't they have better things to do?) why not just shut the door, or better yet, engage the manager in a little kindhearted banter about why they leave the doors open and waste so much money. Maybe the goods wouldn't need to cost so much if they were better stewards of our money.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Day 116: Have a Greener 4th of July

It seems like everyone is vacationing this time of year. Happy 4th of July and all that stuff.

Here's some tips for "greening" your 4th of July celebration.

Hint: charcoal is out, barbequed meat is out, fireworks are out, and party decorations are out. Man, talk about a buzzkill. Well, now wait, I didn't hear anything about beer, so bring out the local keg or growler and let's get this party started!

On the other hand, those of you who are running in a July 4th 5k race (raise your hand!) know that drinking a bunch of beer is no way to grab that elusive Personal Record in this 90-degree-heat. So pass the ice water...

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Day 115: Simple Food

Summer is great for enjoying simple foods: beans picked right out of the garden, blackberries, tomatoes. The flavors are so good there is no need to dress anything up with all kinds of crazy sauces or drown them in fancy trimmings.

Here's a lovely salad that we had tonight using stuff from the garden and farmer's market.

Grilled Chicken Salad

Grilled chicken from the farmer's market (marinated for 5 minutes in balsamic vinegar, sliced into medallions), greens and carrots from the grocery store, tomatoes from the garden, cucumber from the farmer's market. Delish and so simple. Just let the summertime flavors speak for themselves.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Day 114: Meatless Monday

Meatless Monday is a global campaign to get folks to stop eating meat on Mondays. The campaign is based on the fact that reducing meat by 15% (or one-seventh) can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, save money, and may even make you healthier overall.

This particular Meatless Monday coincides nicely with a fresh UN report on the impact of eating dairy and meat:
Agriculture, particularly meat and dairy products, accounts for 70% of global freshwater consumption, 38% of the total land use and 19% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions...

Come on, one day a week is a piece of (vegetarian) cake.

Here are some meatless recipes to get you started:
Sweet Zucchini-Eggplant Salad
Ginger-Garlic Sugar Snaps and Shiitakes

Sunday, June 20, 2010

More on mining, make that 'moron mining'

And Rand Paul is the moron. We've posted about mountaintop removal many times here on Green v Green.

It is an issue near and dear to my heart because it is intractable and complex and heart-wrenching. On the one hand you have the environmental cost of this incredibly destructive type of mining. On the other hand, we are basically trapped here in NC into using coal mined in this manner. Even as I sit here today typing this message, my laptop is running on power generated from mountaintop removal. Powering down and lightening our load on the grid is a TOP priority here in our house.

So when Rand Paul attempts to "simplify" this issue by brushing it off, saying "I don't think anyone's going to be missing a hill or two" about mountaintop removal mining in KY (where he's running for Senate), I am incensed. Here are before and after pictures of the Rape of Appalachia. Disgusting. This comes days after Paul called it "un-American" to force BP to pay for its damages in the Gulf of Mexico. This guy is an environmental train wreck.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Day 113: Sweet Eggplant-Zucchini Salad

So last week I wrote that it wasn't quite tomato season yet. Well, it is now! Here's something to use up some of those beautiful tomatoes and eggplants we're seeing all over the gardens and farmer's markets now.

This is a twist on the traditional summertime eggplant-zucchini ratatouille (the French version) or caponata (the Italian version). I got the inspiration from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. (Many of you might recognize him from his New York Times articles about food or even from Runner's World magazine bits about fitness nutrition.)

Sweet Eggplant-Zucchini Salad

Zucchini-Eggplant Salad

All the veggies in this recipe came from Redbud Farm (at the Elon farmer's market) except the jalapeno and the mint, which came from my very own garden!

Market Ingredients:
1 eggplant, chopped into 1" pieces (rosa bianca eggplant is shown in the picture)
1 yellow zucchini, chopped (not a squash)
1 green zucchini, chopped
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
1 jalapeno or other hot pepper, minced very fine
2 tomatoes, chopped (I had extra cherry tomatoes too so I added those)
1 handful of mint leaves, minced

Ingredients from the pantry:
3 TB olive oil, divided
1 tsp cinnamon
1 TB lemon juice
salt and pepper

1. Heat 2T olive oil over medium heat in a stainless steel skillet. Add the eggplant and sprinkle some salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes or until eggplant is soft. Remove eggplant from pan into bowl.

2. Add zucchini to hot pan with 1T olive oil. Cook for 2 minutes, then add onion and jalapeno. Cook for a few minutes until onions begin to get soft. Add 1 teaspoon cinnamon.

3. Add the tomatoes. Simmer for a few minutes to blend the flavors. Add some salt and pepper and the lemon juice. When everything looks good, add the eggplant back in. Toss in the mint leaves and stir to mix everything. Make sure all the pieces are nice and soft, and that the flavors are mixed throughout.

4. Serve over small toasts (toasted baguette, sliced) or with fresh mozzarella pieces.

Zucchini-Eggplant Salad

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Day 112: Blackberries

I feel like words can not do this justice. Today on the way back from checking out the new Shallow Ford park on Gerringer Mill Rd., I stopped at the Gibsonville Farmer's market. A woman named Debbie was selling quarts of blackberries for $5.

I went immediately to Lowe's and picked up a pint of Homeland Creamery ice cream.

Pulled a few sprigs of cinnamon basil and mint from the garden outside, and here was my lunch. Don't tell the kids.

Vanilla ice cream with blackberries

Friday, June 4, 2010

Day 111: Quick and easy loca-zagna

Loca-zagna: It's an all-local (ok, mostly local) and seasonal QUICK lasagna dinner.

This lasagna has farmer's market ingredients purchased at the Elon Community Church farmer's market (every Thursday 3:00-6:30pm) and from one farm directly (Asgard).

Local lasagna

I bought greens from Redbud Farm, eggs from Asgard farm, ricotta and mozzarella from Calico Farmstead Cheese, and goat meat from, well, I can't remember because Tony bought this and paid cash so I have no receipt. It might have been T5 and it was 2 booths down from Redbud. Anyway, it was from the farmer's market. You can buy this all in one place, combine with some pantry staples, and end up with dinner in less than an hour.

Market ingredients:
4 cups wilted chopped greens, drained well and squeezed
1 lb ricotta cheese
1 egg
3 cloves garlic, minced (divided)*
1 handful parsley leaves, chopped fine
1 lb goat meat
1 small handful fresh chopped oregano
1/2 pound mozzarella, shredded with a hand-grater

Pantry ingredients:
8-10 whole wheat lasagna noodles, or as many as you need to make 2 layers in a 9x12 pan
1 jar spaghetti sauce (no, it's not tomato season quite yet)

1. Boil water and cook the lasagna noodles according to package directions.

2. While the noodles are cooking, chop and steam your greens, or wilt them in a saute pan until they are tender. Squeeze out all the moisture. You want them as dry as possible.

3. In a medium bowl, mix half the garlic, chopped parsley, 1 egg, the ricotta, and the greens. This will be a fairly dry and crumbly mixture.

4. In a large skillet, brown the goat meat. Near the end of cooking, mix in the rest of the minced garlic and the chopped oregano leaves. Remove meat from heat once it is done.

5. Drain the noodles once they are done cooking.

6. Once the noodles are done, the meat is done, and the ricotta mixture is mixed, you are ready to assemble the lasagna. Open the jar of sauce and spread just enough to barely cover the bottom of the lasagna pan. (This is a very thin layer, maybe 1/2 cup at the most, just to keep the noodles from sticking.) Place your first layer of noodles in the pan. Cover with one half of the ricotta mixture, then half the goat meat mixture, then half the remaining sauce.

7. Repeat the layers: noodles, ricotta, meat, sauce. Top with shredded mozzarella.

8. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes. Enjoy.

Don't forget to re-use your sauce jar for coffee.

*Note about garlic. Many of you might be saying, how'd she buy garlic at the farmer's market?? Well, Redbud farm had these things that looked like leeks or vidalia spring onions, but they were garlic. I minced them up and used them in cooking. One thing to note, they dry out quickly; they're not quite as moist as an onion. So if you cut it to use half, use the other half quickly or it will get too dried out to use.

On Less Packaging

We've covered packaging and buying in bulk before, but in case you want another round of commentary on this timely topic (oil in the gulf helps fuel our addiction to plastic and California is considering banning free plastic bags in the checkout line), here's an article from HuffPo Green on Living without Waste.

Buying Groceries in Bulk

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Day 110: Sugar Snaps and Shiitakes at the Farmer's Market

The farmers markets are in full swing. This week my mom and dad brought down sugar snaps and shiitakes from my step-sister's farm in Virginia Beach.

Shiitake Mushrooms

Sugar Snap Peas

Here's what I made with them.

Ginger Sugar Snaps and Shiitake Brown Rice

Shiitake Mushroom Brown Rice
1 T olive oil
8 shiitake mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
3 green onions, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup brown rice
2 T soy sauce
2 cups vegetable broth

Heat olive oil on medium heat in the bottom of a medium-sized saucepan. Add the mushrooms, onions, and garlic and saute for one or two minutes until the garlic begins to turn golden. Stir frequently, and do not let the garlic get too brown.

Add the soy sauce first, stir. Then add the brown rice, stir. Then add the broth. Stir to mix everything, then cover with the lid and reduce heat to low. Simmer on low until rice is done, at least 40 minutes. Do not let rice stick to bottom of pan.

(While the rice is cooking, prepare your ingredients for snap peas, below.)

When the rice is completely done, turn off the heat, move it to the back burner and keep the lid on until the peas are done.

Garlic Sugar Snap Peas

1 pound sugar snap peas, washed and stems removed
3 cloves garlic, minced
2" piece of ginger, peeled and minced
1/4 onion, minced
1 T olive oil

This recipe will only take a few minutes to cook, so save it for last. Heat the oil on medium in a stainless steel saute pan. Add the garlic, onion, and ginger, saute for one or two minutes until the garlic is just beginning to turn golden. Add the sugar snaps and salt and pepper. Saute the peas for 2 minutes, turning over in the pan periodically.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Day 109: Drink Local Beer

(Also known as the "twist my arm" posting.)

I am not a big drinker, and certainly not a big beer drinker. I don't know much about beer at all from a technical standpoint, although I admit to making my own beer once from a Mister Beer kit that I bought on a late-night television infomercial.

Nowadays, if I'm going to drink a beer, say while sitting in a comfy chair outdoors while the kids play in the yard and the breeze is blowing, I'll make it a local one. Here is a list of craft breweries in NC.

On Customer Preference

We are dealing with a medical waste incinerator here in Alamance County called Stericycle.

There are several local activists trying to get the pollutant outputs from this facility more closely monitored, and some residents are ultimately trying to close the facility entirely. There is a hearing with state regulators on this issue next week.

One of the arguments against this facility is that most of the waste that is burned could be sent to a different facility (also owned by the same company and currently underutilized) called an autoclave. Autoclaving is a different process that produces much less pollution than a traditional incinerator.

Why would a company choose NOT to send their waste to a facility that they own, that is underused, and that produces a lot less pollution? I was sent this blurb today, originally on the web page of the industry group CHWMEG (a waste industry non-profit that helps companies in the garbage business) regarding the Haw River Stericycle facility:

The Haw River facility receives pharmaceutical, hospital, medical, infectious, and a limited amount of Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) waste .... Regular medical waste could be treated in an autoclave, but generators who prefer treatment by incineration send the waste to the Haw River facility." [emphasis added]

It seems like customer "preference" will be a key issue in this debate.

First we ask the company to stop burning crap that doesn't need to be burned. (NOTE: Paper?!? Really?!? Since when is paper medical waste?!? Even confidential documents could be shredded and burned. PVC? Plastic? None of this should be burned.)

"But the customer wants it" says the company.

Then we could attempt to reduce customer demand through education (and we should!), but if customers come from 23 other states, they might have an "out of sight, out of mind" mentality about polluting little ol' Haw River, so far away.

So we're at an impasse.

The job of a state regulator in this case is to see the Big Picture and disallow pollution when a company and customer see no incentive to reduce pollution themselves.

We see what happens when regulators stop regulating: the BP oil spill, the Massey Big Branch explosion. Those are just two from the past month.

I hope to put together some convincing arguments before Tuesday when we have the public forum on this incinerator.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Day 108: Support better school lunches

Slow Food USA is sponsoring a "Time For Lunch" Campaign where you can contact your US senator to support legislation to ensure better (healthier, more delicious, wholesome) school lunches for kids.

Right now, Congress leaves school lunch programs with only $1 per meal to pay for food. (The rest of the $2.68 goes toward overhead.) This is inadequate and leaves school lunch programs struggling to serve healthy foods. They end up taking "the cheapest choice" instead of "the better choice". Cheap food is often highly processed, unhealthy junk. On top of that, many schools supplement their food budgets by selling junk from vending machines!

On the home page of Slow Food's campaign site "Time For Lunch", they have a really easy "email your senator" form. You fill in your zip code and customize the message, and voila.