Simple Tips (& Why) to Green Your Holidays!

Stores staying open all day on Thanksgiving, Black Friday hype, Christmas ads already blaring… enough! It’s STRESSING me out! And that is not healthy.

I want to relax and enjoy quality time with my family and friends. And I want the experiences to be healthy for me, them and light on environmental impact.

Two things I like to consider to help me be less stressed & promote health for my peeps and my (our) planet: 1. Greening Gifts
2. Greening the Menu

1. On Gifts (and avoiding the crazy, stressful shopping wars!) I’m steering clear of all that hub bub and instead will be home, warm and cozy, preparing my craft room to make my gifts. I love making things! It helps me unwind, plus I know I’m pouring love into the gift and so does the recipient. Win-win!

Not everyone is crafty or inclined to make gifts. But if you are! Here’s a blog with a few ideas I really like and maybe you will, too. 38 DIY Gifts People Actually Want

If you’re not crafty, no problem. You can of course still pour love into bought items, too. And there are plenty of resources out there to help you find the perfect gift for that special someone. It’s perfect because not only do they need the item, it is helpful to them, won’t make them sick and is also created in a way that doesn’t harm the environment. Perfect!

I realize some of us will still want to get out and shop for some great deals… have you heard of Small Business Saturday? A lot of Chicagoland businesses are participating and shopping local is really a great way to encourage local economic recovery!

2. On the Menu: Eating lower on the food chain is a great way to make a difference for your health and the planet. It’s easier than you think, too. Do you have to give up the Turkey? No!! But treating it more like a condiment and enjoying more of your favorite vegetable based sides is a great start. Also, everything doesn’t have to be organic, but I do look out for certain food additives to avoid as well as where and how the veggies or fruit are grown for health concerns.

[On meat: If I did eat meat I would want to buy it from a local farmer where I know the animal was cared for, ate the right foods and slaughtered in a manner that was ethical.]

What’s on my menu? Well, I’m not hosting….but this is what I am bringing
Roasted Brussels Sprouts in a Balsamic Reduction
Kale, Pumpkin Seed, Cranberry Salad
Apple, Turnip, Sweet Potato Saute

Final Greening Holidays tip from me to you… When making your list to give people this holiday season, it helps to consider the following:

  • WHAT will be the impact on the person I’m giving this gift to? Will it improve their live in a meaningful way?
  • WHERE does this gift come from? Is it locally crafted and supporting local economies?
  • WHO made it? Are they paid a living wage and have safe working conditions? WHO profits from me buying this gift? Does it enrich some corporation whose values I do/don’t support?
  • HOW was it made? How does the resource and manufacturing impact on the environment?
  • WHY? Why should I give this gift? What NEED does it fill?

It’s important to consider these questions so that not just at a personal level, but at a global level you are fully aware of the impacts of your gift-giving decisions.

Happy Holidays!

Wait, NINE Billion People?? World Population Day 7/11/2013

I recently received the following (slightly shortened) email. Sometimes, because there’s just not enough time to read them all, I delete mass emails like this. However, I found the title compelling enough to open and then, the message within even more interesting. There could be 9 Billion people on the planet before my time is up (given I live to be nice and old and past 2050). That’s alarming since we’re struggling now to balance food and water and other resources equitably for the 7 billion we have now. Read below and learn more about these challenges- truly upsetting.

BUT, what I liked most about this email is the hope it provides. Hope is a powerful motivator and clearly (below) there are many folks out there with hope that they can make a difference.

Danielle, author of the email, asks the readers to suggest other groups and names addressing the issues presented within- do you know anyone? I wrote back and suggested the Half the Sky Movement.

 

“Dear Stephenie,

Thursday, July 11th, is World Population Day.   The United Nations estimates that global population will swell to 9 billion by the year 2050.   Most of this growth will occur in urban areas and emerging economies in Asia,   Latin America, and sub-Saharan Africa. Cities such as Delhi, India; Sao   Paolo, Brazil; and Lagos, Nigeria will become the largest in the world, while   rural areas will lose inhabitants.

At least one billion   people around the world do not get enough to eat. A nearly equal amount – 1.4   billion – are overweight, and can suffer from various health problems such as   diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. And more than 200 million women across the globe have an unmet need for   contraception, keeping them from planning how many children they want to have   and when. In addition, women farmers often lack access to land, credit, and   education making it harder for them to provide for their families. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that if women had the same access to these services as men, global malnutrition could be reduced by 12 to 17 percent.

But committed groups around the world are highlighting the   connections between population growth, gender, reproductive health,   agricultural production, and environmental sustainability and the need for   integrated, holistic approaches to nourish both people and the planet.

The 18 individuals and organizations below (in alphabetical order) are all taking action to prepare for the challenges presented by global population growth through research, advocacy, education, and community outreach.   What other groups are taking on these issues? Please let us know in the comments or email me.”

  1. Aspen Global Health and Development
  2. Cecile Richards
  3. Center for Environment and Population
  4. Debra Hauser
  5. The Earth Institute, Colombia University Center on   Globalization and Sustainable Development
  6. Every Mother Counts
  7. Family Care International (FCI)
  8. Global Fund for Women
  9. Hans Rosling
  10. International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF)
  11. Jane Goodall Institute
  12. Jill Sheffield
  13. Jon Foley
  14. Population Council
  15. Population Services International (PSI)
  16. Suzanne Ehlers
  17. Marie Stopes Foundation
  18. United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)

“Who would you add to this list? Please email me and let me know! Also, you can share the list by clicking HERE.

All The Best,

Danielle Nierenberg
Co-Founder, Food Tank
foodtank.org
Email: danielle@foodtank.org
Phone: 202-590-1037

I <3 Local Food from our (what's a?) CSA!

With all the rain lately, I find myself thinking of my childhood home, specifically the bathroom… You see, growing up, there hung these cross-stitch framed pieces in the bathroom. One said, April Showers bring May Flowers and the other, Save Water, Shower with a Friend and there was an image of 2 bunnies pulling a flower head over to have water shower from it onto their fuzzy bunny heads.  It’s silly, but I loved those pieces…not so sure if I’ll be showering with friends anytime soon…but…

What I am sure about is that April showers do bring May flowers and those flowers often turn into fruit, vegetables, herbs and other wonderfulness that farmers grow for us every year. And I am sure that sharing that food, once I get it from the Farmer with a friend is always much more satisfying than enjoying it alone!

And here we go- year 2 of Moraine Valley Community College participating in a CSA and year 2 of my friend Maura and me sharing the box of goods. So, what’s a “CSA anyway?” The acronym stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Small, food-producing farms (i.e., not industrial, mono-culture farms growing only one of corn, wheat, soy, canola, etc. to others for feed, processing, etc.) benefit from having capital on hand before the yield of the crop to ensure they have the funds for maintaining the soil, equipment, staff and so on to grow the food into saleable crops. Rather than going to the bank for a loan, many farmers have started offering this CSA as an option. Community members pay the farmer in advance of the crop. In exchange for their investment, they are guaranteed a set scheduled delivery of food from the farm as it matures. Sometimes this arrangement is referred to as buying a “share” of the crop or farm. More on the benefits for local economy, farmer independence, where to locate local CSAs or locally farmed food (ex., farmers markets or you-pick) can be found at LocalHarvest.org

For our CSA we get a box of different foods grown just down the road in St. Anne IL. It’s delivered to the College every week, with each week’s contents potentially different as it is dependent on the viability of the crops including weather, farming techniques, what was planted, what bugs are eating what, and on and on. Our Farmer practices organic and sustainable farming techniques, so dealing with Mother Nature is that much more challenging. Still, she has figured out the best way to manage pests, weeds and weather related challenges and is ready to deliver our very first box of the season!! I am so excited.

Each week we get an email update containing the musings of our Farmer- what’s happening at the farm; is there a new crop coming in; perhaps a deluge washed out the greens; or maybe the extra sunny days made the peppers come early… and then she includes what’s in the box. For giggles, here’s the first of the next 16 emails Maura and I and all the other CSA Members received:

***

Eggs: This is week 1, so both weekly egg shares and half shares pick up eggs this week.  For those of you who signed up for bi-weekly eggs, please only take eggs on the odd numbered weeks.  If your name is not on the list for eggs, please contact me, but do not take eggs.  I will take care of the problem next week.

The rain has gone on its journey out of Illinois, happily for we farmers.  I would like a little warmer weather than we have today, but just to see the sun shine is a real treat.  Because it has been so wet, we have been ditch digging most days to drain the fields of water.  For the most part the water has flowed nicely, but I have seen a bit of crop damage due to the wetness of the soil.  It is all part of farming, being at the mercy of nature, but it can still be discouraging.   Almost all of our greens turned yellow or purple from too much water around the roots.  Some of the peppers curled up and died.  But, most things are fine and will come out of it just fine.  And, fortunately, I have enough extra plants that I should be able to replant the areas that died off, so we really do not have a loss there, just in the greens department.

I was able to pick strawberries today.  Hoorah!  I was worried they would be ruined due to the wetness, but they are mostly fine.  I do ask that you wash them carefully prior to use to make sure all the dirt is gone.   For those of you who were spring CSA members, Mr. Gray Bunny relocated to the berry patch and is very happily snacking on our strawberries.  And, I thought I hated the meeses to pieces, but the darn bunnies on this farm have gotten my goat!

I have started a new blog where there are little missives and the beginning of a collection of recipes.  Please feel free to contribute to our recipe list with original recipes.  I will send out recipes from cookbooks, etc via email, but not in the blog.  Here is the link to it. http://blog.genesis-growers.com/

Your box

  • Strawberries – please wash them prior to eating
  • Turnip greens – these are young and tender and can therefore be eaten raw as well as cooked
  • Asparagus – I heard an idea for asparagus and tried it – Ymmm.  Wrap bacon around the individual spears and then roast or grill. What a treat!
  • Rhubarb
  • Kohlrabi
  • Radishes
  • Loose leaf Lettuce head
  • Basil – I picked several different varieties.  The Thai is great for an Asian twist.  Purple and lemon are nice in salads, and green is your typical basil

Vicki
Genesis Growers
8373 E 3000 S Rd
St Anne, Il  60964
815 953 1512
www.genesis-growers.com

***

I canNOT wait to get my hands on those fresh berries and the greens and the kohlrabi and… well, all of it! I know for sure that basil is getting chopped with the turnip greens & loose leaf lettuce and topped with hunks of roasted asparagus and radishes for a robust, flavoral dinner salad. I’ll make a vinagrette-0oo maybe with some of the strawberries!- and drizzle the salad that will accompany my rhubarb corn muffins. The kohlrabi, you ask? I’ll make that into pickles. Mmmm…what a yummy, summery dinner I have to look forward to this weekend! [FYI: these links are not my own recipes… I’ll probably use a few to inspire my own work]

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, and experienced myself, folks explain how local food is so fresh it’s really a different experience than grocery store food. Try it yourself and then tell me all about it on Facebook or email me @ sustainability@morainevalley.edu. Not sure where to start? Check out LocalHarvest.org to find your own amazing summer dinner fixins’…Happy Summer, y’all!

Public school swaps chicken nuggets for tofu, becomes first all-vegetarian cafeteria

WOW! This really goes beyond Meatless Monday. I would love to hear a response to this… could it be done at Moraine Valley? Or a local K12 school? Why or why not?

REPOST: By Elizabeth Chuck, Staff Writer, NBC News Braised black beans and plantains. Tofu roasted in Asian sesame sauce. Falafel and cucumber salad. These aren’t menu items from a high-end restaurant; they’re lunchtime grub for students at a Flushing, Queens, public school’s all-vegetarian cafeteria, the first in New York City to nix meat and believed to be one of the first public school in the nation to serve only vegetarian fare. … full article linked below

http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/05/01/17999627-nyc-public-school-swaps-chicken-nuggets-for-tofu-becomes-first-all-vegetarian-cafeteria?lite%3

Film Blog from Library full of Eco-Flicks!

The Moraine Valley library has several themed blogs, which anyone can find them on its homepage. Of particular interest to me lately is the Film Blog series posted by Moraine Valley Librarian, Sarah Ando. Sarah has been reviewing several films on food, carbon & climate change. Check it out!

Or if you’re interested in personal liberty and freedoms of expression,  Librarian, Troy Swanson has a really interesting piece on Bassem Youssef of Egypt and his fight for free speech.

Librarian Jen Kolan wrote about “a breakthrough in hydrogen fuel production” and its potential impact on how we might fuel our vehicles in the near future. Jen also directs readers to more books and resources that can be found in the Library to learn more on the topic.

I share all this to highlight the Library, the great resources within (including the Librarians!) and to also show how integrated sustainability topics are in our current events, in research and in the Moraine Valley culture. Check out the blog to learn more or peruse the Center for Sustainability website to find out what Moraine Valley is addressing to ensure a sustainable today and tomorrow.

Food labels, what do they really mean?

I sometimes find myself in the grocery store saying, “What the heck does cage-free mean, anyway?” And then, what does free-range, farm-raised, etc… I have a clue, but probably not 100% of the correct information. Well, now there’s a great resource for me to reference when I get confused. I thought I’d share it with the readers of this blog, too.

This is the green blog, right? So what does food have to do with being green or sustainability? A lot. We need to eat, there’s no denying that. However, with every choice we make when considering “What’s for dinner?” (or any other meal) there is a direct impact on carbon emissions, land use, water use, clean air, waste and equally importantly – your health.  This label resource will also help you understand the impacts your diet may have on your health and your environment. We all know to eat less fat and high fiber. Eat some fruit and so on. But really, what do we know about what foods to choose if we also want to take care of the planet? Which is something we all need to consider, since our food- be it beef, greens, fish or tacos- comes from the planet. Without it being healthy- clean water and air, plentiful healthy soil- we will not be able to grow the food we need to survive.

Check out this link. What do you think about it? Does it influence your future food choices? Did you already know these things? This is only one of many really useful resources out there on food. If you want to know more or have a conversation or check out a book, article, etc. Stop by the Center for Sustainability in L242 or drop a line at sustainability@morainevalley.edu.

Don’t forget your protection, not poison, when enjoying the summer!

Summers in the sun is great! But sunburns are not good at all. They are dangerous, cause aging, spots, wrinkles and sometimes cancer! Sure, we know that. And we know, well just use sunscreen silly. Right? Well it’s not so easy does it actually. A recent study of 500 different sunscreens found only 8% to actually be safe- meaning not expose you or loved ones to potential harmful cancer causing chemicals!!!

Here’s an excerpt, then read the whole article here and find a good sunscreen here:

The fourth annual Sunscreen Guide by Environmental Working Group (EWG) gives low marks to the current crop of sunscreen products, with a few notable exceptions. EWG researchers recommend only 39, or 8 percent, of 500 beach and sport sunscreens on the market this season.

Full report here: http://www.ewg.org/2010sunscreen

The reason? A surge in exaggerated SPF claims (SPFs greater than 50) and recent developments in understanding the possible hazards of some sunscreen ingredients, in particular, new government data linking a form of vitamin A used in sunscreens to accelerated growth of skin tumors and lesions.

Please pass this on and share with others so we can all enjoy summer in the sun safely.

AThanksgiving to New Years Day, household waste increases by more than 25 %.

8 Easy Green Thanksgiving Tips

(repost by S Presseller, 11/20/2009) originally by Lauren Hasler

The holiday season is officially in full-swing, and Thanksgiving marks the beginning of big family dinners, extensive gift shopping and elaborate decorations.

But the season isn’t all turkey, stuffing and pie. According to RecycleWorks, from Thanksgiving to New Years Day, household waste increases by more than 25 percent.

So, start off your holiday season on the green foot by making a few small, eco-friendly changes this Turkey Day. It’s easy to get the entire family involved, have fun and decrease the burden on your wallet as well.

click here to learn more: http://earth911.com/blog/2009/11/16/8-easy-green-thanksgiving-tips/