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Category Archives: Food

  • Connecting Obesity, Hunger, Poverty, and the Environment

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    On Tuesday, July 17, the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition will present a webinar on “Obesity: Impacts on Public Health and Society.” Join online at www.barillacfn.com.

    By E.Q. Lam
    July 15, 2012 

    NEW YORK — How can we have one billion starving people in the world at the same time that an equal number of people are battling obesity?

    A new book—Eating Planet 2012, Nutrition Today: A Challenge for Mankind and for the Planet—connects these two urgent issues, along with health, culture, and sustainability, to the global food system.

    “Ultimately, you can’t consider one without considering the others,” says Samuel Fromartz, chief editor of the Food and Environmental Reporting Network, who served as moderator at a recent symposium held for the U.S. release of Eating Planet.

    The symposium featured a panel of policy and program experts, and Sierra Club Green Home was there to capture the thoughts of these leaders in the field.

    Agriculture can be the solution for most urgent problems today, providing proper nutrition as well as creating resilience against climate change, says Danielle Nierenberg, director of Nourishing the Planet, a project of the Worldwatch Institute.

    “Eating Planet holds important lessons for consumers, farmers, and politicians,” Nierenberg says.

    Topics discussed at the forum included better connections between rural farmers and urban residents, job creation through growing a better food industry, infrastructure needs, demanding better media coverage of not only celebrity chefs but agriculture, and private sector actors such as banks funding agriculture.

    Jonathan Bloom, author of American Wasteland, says the United States produces twice as much food as it needs, in terms of calories. He outlines the problem in this country in terms of abundance, beauty, and cost. The U.S. culture does not value food because it is available cheaply everywhere from gas stations to drugstores, he says, adding that items with blemishes are tossed aside. There are environmental costs to that, including lost water present in the food and waste contributing to landfills, which produce harmful methane gas.

    “That energy embedded in food is then squandered when we throw it away,” Bloom says. “… We are aiding climate change from our kitchen bins.”

    Stephanie Hanson, director of policy and outreach at One Acre Fund, an organization in Kenya helping small farmers, depicts the opposite problem with a story of a woman picking up kernels of maize off the floor at an event in order to take home and cook.

    Local programs in different parts of the world, from the U.S. classroom to SEWA, a network of self-employed women in India, were highlighted as current solutions that work to ease these urgent issues. The strategy should be to take a global idea and adapt it to provide a solution appropriate to the locale, Bloom says.

    “You can’t solve big problems in one swoop,” says Dan Morrison, founder of the philanthropic Citizen Effect. “You can’t solve the global water crisis, but you can install a well somewhere so women don’t have to spend all day going to fetch water and have time to start a small business.”

    The panelists agreed that American consumers can play a big role in bringing about solutions to food issues, by choosing not to buy from large companies with wasteful food packaging or unhealthy food, stopping the separation between philanthropy (in charity donations) and the rest of life, as well as getting politically active.

    “Money to charity is good, but your voice to politicians is worth thirty high-paid lobbyists in Washington,” says Kelly Hauser, a policy manager for the ONE Campaign to fight global AIDS and extreme poverty. “We really need to make our voices heard.”

    Eating Planet provides a collection of data, interviews, and—perhaps most importantly—potential solutions from a wide array of experts and sources. The book is the result of research by the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition in Italy in collaboration with the U.S.-based Worldwatch Institute.

    “Coming from a global food brand, Barilla, I hope we can think of these organizations as an ally,” says Brian Halweil, author and editor of publications such as Edible Manhattan.

    Eating Planet is available in hardcover as well as online at Amazon and iTunes for $3.99.

    For related article, see:
    Can Environmentally Friendly Agriculture Grow As We Grow?

    © 2012 SCGH, LLC. All rights reserved.

    by E.Q. Lam - July 15, 2012
  • Can Environmentally Friendly Agriculture Grow As We Grow?

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    By Neila Columbo
    July 12, 2012

    ASPEN, CO – What is more basic than food? Whether you are looking to solve the world’s environmental or economic woes, your plate is a good place to start.

    At the Aspen Environmental Forum, esteemed scientists assessed where our food systems are now, and how we can grow food production sustainably. There were some shocking assessments—for one, that the seemingly eco-friendly meat option of seafood is not actually as low-impact as is commonly believed.

    While discussing the state of fisheries in an afternoon session on oceans, Daniel Pauly, Professor at the Fisheries Centre of the University of British Columbia, warned that fishing damages marine ecosystems.

    “Industrial fishing has never been sustainable, it has always been using the capital rather than expanding it,” says Pauly.

    Dr. Sylvia Earle, iconic oceanographer and Explorer-in-Residence at National Geographic Society, stressed the importance of expanding protected marine reserves to ensure survival of fragile fish populations and the health of oceans. Currently only a tiny fraction of one percent of the ocean is in protected reserve, with just two percent under any form of protection.

    Underscoring the daunting challenges we face around agriculture, Jon Foley, who directs University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment, noted how essential it is to resolve the food issue.

    “If we do not get agriculture right, nothing else we talked about at this meeting will matter, at all, period, nothing. It is by far the biggest problem we face in the 21st century,” says Foley.

    In exploring the daunting question of how we will feed  7 billion people living in the world with expected doubling of food demand by 2050, Foley presented a plan developed at his institute and discussed how local small-scale agricultural innovation can be brought to global scale to double food production while decreasing overall environmental impacts.

    Dan Glickman, Executive Director of The Congressional Program at The Aspen Institute and Former US Secretary of Agriculture, emphasized the important factor consumers have in making judgments about food and influencing the global discussion.

    “The other side of the coin is what is the government doing on taxpayer programs, as 90 percent is for wheat, corn, cotton, rice and soy beans, which in a lot of cases is going to grow meat. So one foot is on the brake and one foot is on the accelerator, and the reason for that is politics…[thus] it is up to you all to influence this debate,” says Glickman.

    In case you thought Aspen Environmental Forum left any up-and-coming environmental topic unexplored, the four-day event continued with discussions on the limits of industrial expansion, how cities can cope with climate change, the work of the U.S. Military in clean energy development, and ocean preservation. Highlights from the 2012 Aspen Environment Forum are online.

    For related articles, see:
    Sustainable Seafood Guide: How to Save the Seas with Your Diet
    World Water Day: How Much Water Is on Your Plate?
    Global Warming is Now 

    © 2012 SCGH, LLC.

    by Neila Columbo - July 12, 2012

  • Queen of the Sun: What are the Bees Telling Us?

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    By Courtney Hayden
    June 10, 2012

    Queen of the Sun takes an international and spiritual approach to the global crisis of disappearing bee populations. It asks what the bees are trying to tell us, and it begins to uncover the answer.

    This visually beautiful, motivational, and sometimes-quirky documentary explores why bees are necessary both for the Earth and for human cultures. It posits that protecting bees protects the environment, and sustaining the environment in turn provides for humankind. The film suggests that we have lost our sense of wonder for nature, and forgotten the sacred nature of bees.

    Queen of the Sun investigates the ramifications of mass-scale agriculture and mobile beekeeping on bee populations.  If you are looking for an in-depth examination of American agricultural practices, this film is a must-see. Sprinkled throughout the disturbing statistics and alarming predictions are charming and hopeful “biodynamic” beekeepers, and they keep the documentary high-spirited despite its subject matter.

    Queen of the Sun is worth a view for anyone who wants to learn about the current state of bees, their importance as pollinators, and how they relate to American agriculture.

    Check in with Sierra Club Green Home for more reviews of environmental documentaries this coming week!

    For related articles, see:
    Food Gone Frankenstein: GMOs
    FRESH Look at Local Food
    Don’t Plastic Bag It: An Unlikely Environmentalist’s Journey


    © 2012 SCGH, LLC.

    by Courtney Hayden - June 10, 2012
  • Buddy’s Diet Matters, Too

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    By Kara A. DiCamillo

    Each month, we pet lovers are dishing out the dough for pet food and treats. While it might be tempting to go with the least expensive option, eating well is just as important for your pet’s wellbeing as it is for yours. Do know what is in your animal companion’s food? I didn’t know until my pooch’s upset stomach was upsetting me, and I decided to do some research.

    As I began to look up the ingredients in my dog’s food, I was amazed at the amount of byproducts used in conventional brands. Byproducts are reconstituted waste from the beef and poultry industries, such as the necks, feet, and intestines of livestock which are considered unfit for human consumption. Additionally, the first ingredient in many of the supermarket dog foods is corn, wheat, or soy, none of which are easily digestible. As it turns out, ground yellow corn was what was upsetting my dog’s stomach.

    So where do you begin when switching over to a food that is better for your pet? First, read the label so you know what your dog or cat is eating. Keep in mind that the first ingredient is the most important. The FDA requires that companies list the ingredients that are in pet food, and the first ingredient should either be meat or fish. After that the list should be vegetables, meal (not byproduct meal), and any other ingredients that are wholesome and that would appeal to you as well. Make sure that the ingredient list doesn’t contain artificial preservatives and colors.

    Thankfully, there are many all-natural, organic, and even holistic pet foods on the market now. Pet food that is labeled certified organic means that they have to meet the strict standards of the USDA. A wide variety can be found in pet stores such as Petco, and even a quick Google search shows a number of different brands. That said, remember that “all-natural” and “organic” are popular marketing terms these days. So just make sure to still turn the package over and read the ingredient list.

    You might want to go with a vegetarian option, which is completely doable. Many brands now offer vegetables as the main ingredient in their pet food. I read a post by Alicia Silverstone on her blog The Kind Life which featured the 100% plant-based diet she feeds her own dogs. While it is somewhat more time consuming than just dumping a scoop into a bowl, what is wonderful about her method is that you know every ingredient that your dog is ingesting. What is more, a vegetarian diet reduces your carbon emissions and your water footprint.

    Our dogs and cats rely on us and cannot choose what they eat. So make sure you read the labels and know what you are feeding your furry family members.

    For related articles, see:
    Tips to Turn Your Pet Into An Eco-Conscious Companion

    Environmentally Friendly Dog Waste Disposal

    © 2012 SCGH, LLC. 

    by Kara A. DiCamillo - May 11, 2012
  • The Journey of Your Cup of Joe

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    By Kavitha Pramod

    Most of us start our day with a nice, hot cup of coffee.  When taking that first aromatic sip, do you ever stop to wonder about the journey the humble coffee bean has taken to end up in your mug?  The process from the planting of a coffee bean to the coffee in your cup is a long and complicated journey that can be done in either a sustainable way, or an environmentally destructive way.

    The process starts with the simple planting of a coffee bean.  Coffee beans themselves are seeds that, if not dried and processed, will grow into a new coffee tree.  Approximately three to four years after being planted, the coffee plant will begin to bear fruit in the form of bright red cherries.  Each cherry contains the beans that will later be processed into coffee. When the cherries turn from a bright red to a deep, dark red they are ready to be harvested. In many countries, harvesting is still done by hand in an extremely long and involved process. In countries where it is feasible, the harvesting is usually done by machine.

    After they are harvested, the coffee cherries are processed by either a dry method or a wet method, depending on where the harvesting is taking place. In the dry method, the cherries are simply spread out in an area to dry. In the more complicated wet method, the cherries are put into water for the extra pulp to be removed, and after being further processed, the remaining beans are finally laid out to dry.

    After the harvesting process is complete, the beans are milled. First, any extra layers on the beans are removed. The beans are then polished and sorted before being exported to the country that is purchasing them. Once they reach the importing country, the beans are tasted for quality and then roasted. Finally, you (or the local café’s barista) grind them and put them into the coffee maker to pour into your cup. To see how this process happens in more detail, visit the National Coffee Association’s Ten Steps to Coffee.

    It is without doubt that coffee harvesting and production plays a very important role in the economies of many countries. While the process seems straightforward enough, there are unfortunately areas where environmentally destructive mass-production is replacing traditional coffee farming. According to the Rainforest Alliance, the areas where coffee plants normally grow are lush and leafy parts of the rainforest. These areas are also the primary habitat for many plant and animal species. During the 1970s, to increase coffee production, a process of mass-production was started where natural coffee plant habitats were stripped away and replaced with dense farms that were saturated with chemicals. This lead to a number of environmental problems and also began producing bland and flavorless coffee.

    In 1993, the Rainforest Alliance, an organization with the mission to preserve the biodiversity and sustainability of the world’s rainforests, stepped into the world of coffee growing. The Rainforest Alliance, along with some partner groups, emphasized the importance of areas where coffee plants naturally grow and that these areas are important for many forms of plant and animal wildlife. The Rainforest Alliance began a program to help farmers manage their coffee farms in a natural way to avoid stripping that land for massive farms. Any coffee that comes from these diverse and natural coffee farms is packaged with the Rainforest Alliance CertifiedTM seal of approval.

    If you are wondering what you can do to make sure that the coffee you are drinking was produced sustainably, here are some steps you can take. In addition to following Sierra Club Green Home‘s suggestions to Green Your Caffeine, you can look for the Rainforest Alliance label on your coffee packages. You can also inquire at your favorite café about its coffee source, and whether it is grown sustainably. Recently, Caribou Coffee made news by becoming the first large-scale coffee chain to switch to 100% Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee. In doing so, they have set an excellent example for all other major coffee chains.

    We all know that coffee plays an important part in our morning rituals. By being aware of where this familiar drink comes from, we can take steps to support the sustainable development and management of coffee farms around the world.
    For related article, see:
    Green Your Caffeine

    © 2012 SCGH, LLC.

    by Kavitha Pramod - April 27, 2012
  • Shrimp Cocktail with a Side of Endangered Species

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    By Heather-Leigh Logan

    With summer coming up, it can be hard to deny the allure of a refreshing shrimp cocktail to complement your afternoon BBQ. Shrimp is now as accessible as chicken nuggets thanks to Popeyes’ $3.99 bucket of popcorn shrimp, and Red Lobster proudly promotes their endless shrimp offer.  So where is this “endless supply” of shrimp coming from?

    Sierra Club Green Home traveled to Sonora, Mexico to investigate the fisheries that provide America’s favorite seafood. We found that shrimp is quickly becoming one of the most environmentally and socially destructive parts of our diet. But how is this so? Where is it coming from, and why should we care? Most importantly, what can we do about it?

    Sierra Club Green Home reveals the hidden consequences of how shrimp ends up on our plate, and how we can help turn the tide by only eating seafood that was harvested responsibly.

    Getting to the Source of the Shrimp

    There are two sources for where we get our shrimp: wild-caught and farm-raised. Wild-caught shrimp fisheries employ harmful fishing practices such as bottom trawling (dragging nets along the seafloor) to catch this fish.  This method not only destroys the bottom of the sea, it also produces the highest rate of bycatch out of any fishing method. Bycatch, the non-target species that are thrown back into the sea, make up to 84% of the total catch in shrimp fisheries, according to a study by Lorayne Meltzer.

    Bycatch includes endangered animals, juveniles, and commercial species targeted by the local small-scale fisheries. Most of these creatures are thrown back into the ocean dead or dying before they have matured and produced offspring. This poses a very real threat to the viability of these species and the livelihoods of the surrounding fishing communities.

    For every pound of shrimp we eat, anywhere from 3 to 15 pounds of fish are discarded. That means that a six-ounce shrimp cocktail comes with pounds of dead sea turtles, juvenile fish, and other marine life.

    Up until the 1980s, wild-caught methods were the exclusive source of fish production. Within a few short decades, fish farming has grown to become the oceanic equivalent of factory farming, and now supplies over half of the fish we eat globally. Ninety percent of our shrimp supply comes from developing countries, and most of it is farm-raised. Unfortunately, shrimp farming has its own set of pitfalls. These “farms” are disrupting natural ecosystems and speeding up global warming, just for starters.

    Rainforests of the Sea

    In 2007, scientists released a statement warning that if mangroves continue to disappear at the current rate, they will be completely wiped out with 100 years. Shrimp farming is now the number one cause of mangrove deforestation worldwide. This is because mangroves are situated in prime locations for these fish farms: estuaries. In an effort to attract foreign investment, the IMF, World Bank, and local government leaders in Indian, African, and Asian countries have allowed for the privatization of these mangrove estuaries, enabling shrimp farmers to move into the area and clearcut mangrove forests.

    Mangroves normally act as a carbon sink, but when cut down, they become a carbon source. They release the carbon stored in their roots at a rate of 50 times faster than it was sequestered, contributing heavily to global warming. This, coupled with the fuel used to ship the fish internationally, means that shrimping now produces ten times more carbon emissions than beef.

    Over time, these farms deposit pollution into the surrounding waters and disrupt natural tidal flows, block creeks, acidify soil, and introduce farmed species that may displace native species in local ecosystems. The salt can also leach into the aquifer below, salinizing the local fresh water supply and the surrounding lands local agricultural trades depend on. The high-density growing conditions accelerate the pond’s ruin.

    With the typical shrimp pond in Asia (where we import most of this farmed fish from), the pond can produce seafood for anywhere from 3-15 years before it becomes so overrun with pollution, disease, and shrimp waste that it must be abandoned for a new location. However, the devastating effects on the community and environmental health last decades after the pond has been abandoned.

    It is not simply the physical destruction of estuarine and mangrove ecosystems that is detrimental to local communities, but also the loss of access to a public resource. In Let Them Eat Shrimp, author Kennedy Warne notes that mangroves are not merely trees to those who live around them, but also supermarkets, lumberyards, pharmacies, and even fuel stations. For some villages, as much as 75% of their income comes directly from mangroves. Without these wetlands, villagers lose their livelihoods, their food source, and their heritage.

    How We Can Help

    There is no denying that our seafood-eating habits are changing lives and ecosystems across the globe. You can follow Sierra Club Green Home’s sustainable seafood guide for simple steps to make the most sustainable and socially responsible diet choices. If you are not ready to make the move away from shrimp entirely, there are shrimp sources that are more sustainable than their conventional counterparts.

    Tips for Eating Shrimp Responsibly:

    • Look for third-party approval. Look for products that have been certified sustainable from programs such as the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). Monterey Bay’s Seafood Watch Program makes a portable pocket guide that you can print out or download on your phone. It shows the best choice species, good alternatives, and species to avoid.
    • Buy local, buy American. The United States has more stringent fishing and farming standards than our foreign counterparts.
    • Choose closed system U.S. farms. These are a better choice for farmed fish as they are usually operated in recirculating large tanks, minimizing pollution and water waste.
    • Avoid imported shrimp. Ninety percent of U.S. shrimp is imported from Asia and South America. Most of these imports come from open system fish farms, often grown in dredged ponds within mangrove estuaries. 
    • Best Choice Species: Pink Shrimp from Oregon
    • Eat shrimp less frequently. Try replacing the standard protein sources on your plate with grains and greens. One cup of quinoa has the same amount of protein as a three ounce standard serving of shrimp (~18 grams). 



    For related articles, see:
    Sustainable Seafood Guide: How to Save the Seas with Your Diet
    Success for Sustainable Sushi Smartphone App
    Chef Mary Sue Milliken on Sustainable Seafood (VIDEO)

    © 2012 SCGH, LLC.

    by Heather-Leigh Logan - April 27, 2012

  • 7 Simple Celebrations for Earth Day

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    By Kara A. DiCamillio
    April 21, 2012

    Earth Day is a great opportunity to appreciate the planet that provides for us all year long. Sierra Club Green Home has seven simple things you can do for the environment this weekend, and hopefully you will incorporate them into your daily life as well!

    1)    Attend a clean-up in your community. This weekend there are clean-ups going on all around the country. A simple Web search can help you find one in your city or town. If by chance you cannot find one, don’t hesitate to pick up that stray piece of trash that might be blowing down the road.

    2)    Conserve water. We use a good amount of water through simple everyday tasks such as brushing our teeth, taking showers, and washing the dishes. There is also the amount of water used to produce our food and other products. Try to track how much water you use in one day, and look for areas where you can reduce your water footprint.

    3)    Green your transportation. Do you live in a community where you could walk or ride your bike for some of your commuting and errands? This weekend, try at least once to make use your bike, your feet, or public transit. In fact, you can earn some bucks by skipping driving some days and renting your car out using GetAround or RelayRides.

    4)    Hang your laundry out to dry. While washing machines and dryers are now being manufactured to conserve energy, they are still to blame for high energy bills. Hanging your laundry on the line as opposed to tossing it in the dryer can conserve a huge amount of energy. Besides, there is nothing like the smell of freshly laundered sheets that have been hanging on the line for the day.

    5)    Purchase local food. With the warm weather setting in, there are tons of vegetables available at farmers markets around the country. At some farmers markets, you can even find meat, cheese, honey, and just about anything else you need for a delicious, local meal. This weekend, try and support your farmers by purchasing food grown in your area. Even some grocery stores carry local goods, so ask around and see what you can find.

    6)    Bring your own mug. Are you the person that hits up the local coffee shop each day? Next time, bring your own mug and prevent some waste. If you keep it in the car (or bike basket) along with your reusable bags, you will not have a problem remembering it. Many coffee shops also offer a discount if you bring your own mug.

    7)    Get outside. What better way to appreciate your surroundings than to get outside? This weekend is the perfect time to start a garden for the summer months. Or maybe take your family hiking, biking, or bird-watching to breathe some fresh air!

    For related article, see:
    Five Tips for Living Local 

    © 2012 SCGH, LLC.

    by Kara A. DiCamillo - April 21, 2012
  • Healthy Lunches Without Waste or BPA

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    Guest blog by Sandra Ann Harris, EcoLunchBoxes

    What’s for lunch? Let’s hope it is not plastic, lead, vinyl, or anything else that is leaching toxins into the environment. As for the delicious, nutritious lunches you pack, they should fill up your tummy – not the garbage can.

    Every day a mountain of trash is thrown away at lunchtime, creating environmental problems and health hazards and wasting hundreds of dollars for every family packing a lunch.

    School trash cans nationwide are overflowing with plastic water bottles, granola bar wrappers, plastic chip baggies, juice boxes, cheesestick wrappers, plastic utensils, plastic yogurt cups, plastic ziplock baggies.

    The results of a waste-free lunch study by ECOlunchbox show that an average family using throw-aways and pre-packaged foods for lunch spend much more each year than a family that buys food in bulk and packs lunches in reusable lunchware. Yet so often these days we can’t be sure our lunchboxes are nontoxic and waste-free.

    How to pack waste-free lunches:

    Common Mistakes

    • Reusing throwaways like single-use plastic baggies. Baggies are hard to clean and thoroughly dry, so bacteria can proliferate;
    • Relying on plastic packaging and containers; and
    • Choosing lunchware that’s not dishwasher safe and machine washable. It must be easy to keep your lunchware clean so you can keep using it safely for a long time.


    …to your health

    Scientific studies show a link between toxins found in plastic containers and packaging and numerous negative health consequences including breast and prostate cancer, infertility, early puberty in girls, type-2 diabetes, obesity, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

    A study published in the July 2011 issue of Environmental Health Perspectives found that hundreds of types of plastics leach hormone-disrupting toxins such as BPA (bisphenol-A) and phthalates.

    “Our kids are exposed to this chemical in canned goods served at school lunches and at home, in water bottles, in lunch containers and leftover food containers at home,” writes Katy Farber, founder of Non-Toxic Kids. “Parents can limit their children’s exposure to this chemical, and it’s potentially worrisome replacements in plastic, by using stainless steel, cloth, and glass containers for school lunches and in the home.”

    …to your wallet

    Not only is making the switch to reusable lunchware a healthy choice for people and the planet, it is also an easy way for families to save money.

    Americans waste a lot of money buying throw-aways. Parents of school-age students typically spend about $183 each year on throw-away packaging such as plastic baggies, yogurt cups, juice boxes, paper napkins, water bottles, plastic utensils, and chip bags, according to a study by ECOlunchbox. Switching to reusable lunchware can save about $130 per person per year!

    …to the Earth

    An estimated 38 percent of students in the United States pack a lunch each day, according to data from the U.S. Census. That’s 19.1 million students packing a lunch 180 school days each year, resulting in 18 billion pieces of trash discarded nationwide each year!

    “There are many safer options on the market and these items are affordable, reusable and better for the environment too,” writes Sommer Poquette, blog author of Green and Clean Mom. “It’s important to be educated and make wiser choices once the red flag has been raised!”

    When you look at the financial and environmental costs, it becomes obvious that switching to a litterless lunch makes a lot of sense.

    Learn More

    Ecolunchboxes.com – learn more about plastics safety at lunchtime and other waste-free lunch facts

    Non Toxic Kids - for this most recent article about the FDA’s upcoming decision about banning BPA in food packaging (from the Breast Cancer Fund):

    Waste Busters Program – tips, resources and downloads are available through this program by the Contra Costa Solid Waste Authority that promotes waste reduction in schools.

    Eco LunchBox Quiz – to learn more about how eco your lunchbox is.

    Wastefreelunches.org – learn more about waste-free lunches and how to start a program at your school.

    How-to Videos – that show how to make a reusable snack sack and a reusable sandwich wrap.  These activities make great school or scouting projects and provide a fun way to teach about no-waste lunches.

    For related articles, see:
    The “Rubber Ducky” Chemical: Phthalates
    Bottles and Sippy Cups
    Raising Healthy Children

    Sandra Ann Harris lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband, two school-age children, four chickens, and Hobow, her terrier puppy. She is the founder and president of ECOlunchbox.

    © 2012 SCGH, LLC.

    by SCGH - April 16, 2012
  • Grow Your Garden Up with this Tower

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    By Kara A. DiCamillio

    Now that spring has arrived and the weather is getting warmer, it is growing season for many of us. With the cost of food increasing each time we hit the grocery store, a major benefit to growing your own food is saving money. There are also health benefits to consuming the freshest food available, and the freshest is that grown in your home. However, for many of us, especially city-dwellers, space is definitely an issue when it comes to sowing our own seeds.

    Container gardens are a good option, and Tower Garden is a good option as well. Tower Garden is a vertical, aeroponic growing system that allows you to grow vegetables, fruits, herbs, and flowers. There are a few basic steps you need to take to grow and maintain the Tower Garden. It is compact, so all you need is a deck, terrace, or sunny spot. And did we mention that no weeding is required?

    The Basic Tower Garden can grow up to 20 plants at one time, and the Extension Kit can be used to add about eight more. The Basic kit comes with plant food and starter seeds. Harvesting time varies depending on what you are growing, but the company claims that many plants can be harvested after three weeks.

    The Tower Garden uses aeroponics. Sound like something out of a sci-fi novel? According to Tower Garden’s website, “aeroponics is the process of growing plants in an air or mist environment without the use of soil. It uses both water and air.”

    At the base of the Tower Garden is a 20-gallon storage tank which holds water in addition to a nutrient solution called “Tower Tonic” (included in your purchase). Inside the tank is a small pump, which is used to pump the water and nutrients up to the top of the tower through a hose where it then drips down through the center part of the tower. According to NASA, the aeroponic growing process cuts growing time in half, which means you can plant seeds and have fresh food continually throughout the season.

    The Basic Tower Garden system is $499 (payment plans are available) and comes with a slew of things to help get you growing. You can also see the Tower Garden on display at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago and Whole Foods in Philadelphia!

    For related artice, please see:
    A Container Garden For Any Space 

    © 2012 SCGH, LLC.

    by Kara A. DiCamillo - April 15, 2012
  • Los Angeles Youth Plant Seeds of Sustainbility and Social Justice

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    By Courtney Hayden

    Youth in East Los Angeles are fighting an uphill battle through poverty and violence, and it is no surprise that many students do not succeed in traditional school settings. The Los Angeles Youth Built Charter School (LA CAUSA) is dedicated to the betterment of such students and their home communities in East LA. Thanks largely to program director Tony Bautista, issues of food justice, green business, bicycle advocacy, and renewable energy are central to the school’s approach to improving lives of youth and increasing community health.

    Bautista initially designed and taught sustainable programs as free summer classes. After receiving an award through the California Endowment fund, student-led sustainability blossomed into two programs: Paloma and Roots.  Paloma, meaning dove in Spanish, stands for People’s Affordable, Local, Organic Market Alternations.  This hands-on education is designed entirely around studying food availability. Students have directed their efforts towards changing fresh produce availability in corner stores.

    Why corner stores? These small shops are the closest and most abundant source of food in East Los Angeles. Unfortunately, the students are unearthing a tough reality: these stores rarely carry fresh food.  The only vegetables that are available are canned, and are priced much higher than in traditional grocery stores. So do residents drive to the next neighborhood for fresh vegetables? In reality, many living in East Los Angeles do not have access to a car and do not have the time to bus long distances.

    PALOMA does more than identify the problem; students are taking an active role in creating solutions. Edith’s Market, at South Ford and Fifth, received a free storage unit for fresh veggies from LA CAUSA. The students even provided complimentary energy assessments in hopes that the store would adopt more earth-friendly practices.  Currently, students are working with business owners to bring a constant flow of fresh veggies into the store. Through PALOMA, youth are taking back control of the health and sustainability of their communities.

    In addition to PALOMA, Tony Bautista has introduced a group called Roots. In this program, students plant and care for gardens at local elementary schools. Every garden is a source of fresh food for the children attending the school! Gardening is done with a focus on reducing water consumption. In the coming weeks, students will begin installing drip systems.  This program gives LA CAUSA students a chance to become educators and teach children about the importance of local and in-season foods.

    “Our program is student-led. It’s most powerful to see what students can do when given tools,” says Bautista.

    His passion and dedication to youth and sustainability is inspiring. The Charter Schools environmental program is a source of pride for Los Angeles. It is proving that sustainability and green living can improve lives everywhere.

    Sierra Club Green Home knows the importance of healthy, sustainable communities and encourages local readers to get involved!

    For related article, see:
    Sustainability and Social Justice: Melding in 2012?
    Where’s the Environmental Justice?


    © 2012 SCGH, LLC.

    by Courtney Hayden - April 14, 2012

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