Category Archives: food

BBQ with eco-style!

Summer is in full swing and there is nothing better than the smell of a barbecue on a warm day. Here are some tips on how to reduce your carbon footprint while still enjoying your barbecue.

Go meatless or buy local

Do something different and make veggie kabobs! Spice it up with a lentil burger or a veggie dog! Not up for a meatless dish? In that case, make sure you purchase local meat. Chicken is one of the best meat choices if you’re looking to reduce your carbon footprint. While you’re at it, see if you can find free-range meat and organic veggie options too. Can’t find free-range or local selections at your supermarket? Find some other options at Local Harvest!

Skip the paper plates

And styrofoam cups for that matter. Why not use your existing dishes instead? This is cheaper in the long run and you can even purchase a fun set of summer-themed plastic dishes! This includes reusable napkins! What’s more fun than that?!

Choose your grill wisely

A solar-powered grill is your best option if you want to host an environmentally friendly barbecue. Next up? A natural gas grill. Propane, electric and charcoal grills are the least eco-friendly options.

Greening cleaning

After everyone has eaten their last veggie dog, use environmentally friendly and natural cleaning products to clean the grill, tables and dishes. Here are some resources:

Seventh Generation cleaning products

EPA Environmental Preferable Purchasing

Non-toxic cleaning kit instructions

Repel insects naturally

According to  About.com there are many natural insect repellants that you can use in lieu of traditional products. However, these ingredients must be applied more often than store-bought repellants (at least every two hours). Eco-friendly insect repellants include the following:

  • Citronella Oil
  • Lemon Eucalyptus Oil
  • Cinnamon Oil
  • Castor Oil
  • Rosemary Oil
  • Lemongrass Oil
  • Cedar Oil
  • Peppermint Oil
  • Clove Oil
  • Geranium Oil

Have fun in the sun and happy  barbecuing!

My outcry against bags

I have a beef with bags, and the people who misuse them.

My mother thinks it’s cute that I get so mad because the cashier at the grocery store put the milk in its own separate plastic bag. She even thinks it’s cute when I tell her not to put her bananas in those useless produce bags at the grocery store. I mean, aren’t the bananas touting a protective yellow peel anyway?

My friends also think I’m crazy when I vent over the fact that the cashiers at Chipotle always try to put my burrito bowl in a sack. Seriously? Why do I need an entire sack for something that is already in a case? This goes the same for any restaurant (not to mention those heinous styrofoam leftover carriers).

What amazes me is that people think they need to put everything in separate bags. What further disgruntles me is those organizations that still use plastic bags, even though plastic bags could take anwhere from a year to more than 250 years to decompose. To me, this just seems like a flagrant diregard for the environment.

Stores like Wal-Mart have started selling “eco-friendly” bags, but I wonder how many people actually buy and use these bags to carry their groceries. Most people seem perfectly content with putting their bananas (which they have already bagged in produce bag) in another plastic bag. They leave the store with something like 20 new plastic bags in their cart, which they probably end up throwing away (although Wal-Mart offers to let you bring back your used plastic sacks for recycling).

So where am I left in this mess of bag? I am that annoying lady in front of you at Chipotle who specifically asks for the special “bag” person NOT to bag my stuff. I am the annoying girl in the self-checkout line of the grocery store who is either bagging my stuff into a tote bag or searching for paper sacks (they are usually hidden away somewhere). If I accompany you on a shopping trip, I might even re-allocate the contents of your plastic sacks and give one of the empty bags back to the cashier (who is surely scowling at me). No matter where I am, I usually draw annoyed looks and weird stares.

My solution

Stores need to stop carrying plastic sacks. They should give patrons their own reusable sacks that they can bring along to the grocery store. Most grocery stores already track their customers through some identification system already, so they would be able to easily track who has received a reusable sack from the store. No bag, no service. Or, no bag, then carry your stuff out by hand. If the patron needs new sacks, they can conveniently purchase them from the store. This would not only reduce consumption and waste, but it would also profit the company, who would no longer need to invest in those fleeting plastic bags.

At the very least, stores and people should not needlessly bag items. Don’t put those bananas in the produce bag. Don’t put your milk or laundry detergent in a separate sack. Heck, don’t put these in a sack at all. They already have handles for you to carry them with.

Companies with a conscience

Stop. Close your eyes and think about the qualities of a successful company.

If you are like many environmentalists, these words may have came to mind: Profit. Exploitation. Pollution.

In today’s world it’s easy for us to get caught up in what is going wrong in in society, and in doing so, we forget to focus on the good. We forget to think about those companies who do their best to end exploitation and do good for the environment at the same time.

Here is what these “do-good” companies have realized: being a good sumaritan is actually good for your company.

Chipotle

Chipotle has all the ingredients (literally) for a successful business. They have a niche, they have a business sense, and they even top it off with tasty burritos.

But this product has a conscience. Chipotle’s menu consists of natural and organic ingredients.

The hallmarks of Food With Integrity include things like unprocessed, seasonal, family-farmed, sustainable, nutritious, naturally raised, added hormone free, organic, and artisanal. And, since embracing this philosophy, it’s had tremendous impact on how we run our restaurants and our business. It’s led us to serve more naturally raised meat than any other restaurant in the country, to push for more sustainable practices in produce farming, and to work with dairy suppliers to eliminate the use of added hormones from their operations. —Chipotle Web site.

Learn more about Chipotle’s Food With Integrity philosophy here.

Aveda

Aveda has a superb product and comparable prices to other designer hair and beauty manufacturers.

So what makes them stand out?

Aveda believes there is no responsible alternative to doing business other than through environmental sustainability. At Aveda, we also believe that profit and environmental responsibility will increasingly work together as more industries find out that “nature works” for both sustainability and the bottom-line. –Aveda Web site

Aveda uses 100 percent wind power to operate their manufacturing facilities. Aveda is also one of the largest purchasers of organic ingredients among beauty organizations. Aveda doesn’t stop there, however. They support responsible packaging, participate in charitable giving, and support the indigenous communities that help provide Aveda with its natural plant-based ingredients.

Organic valley

Organic Valley, the “Family of Farms,” is comprised of1,205 farmers from across the United States. Instead of the traditional company, where the wealth is distributed to only a few, each member of the Organic Valley cooperative shares the organization’s wealth.

Organic Valley prides itself in distributing food that is better for the environment and better for people.

A commitment to choosing local and regionally produced foods is a core value of the organic movement. In addition to fresher foods and reduced fossil fuel consumption, the profit from the sale of locally produced foods is more likely to find its way back into the community. Consumers and family farmers working together to support such local systems form a sustainable partnership. –Organic Valley Web site

And all this environmentalism has profitted the company. The sales of this $259-million cooperative jumped 25 percent in 2005. This is an above-average growth rate for even a conventional food company.

So, environmentalists and social advocates, do not despair! There IS good in the world! I feel a wind of change in here and I think I sense the dawn of a new kind of company — a company that gives back equally to what it takes. A company that truly cares about the world. A company with a conscience.

Boycott the meat industry

The United States Humane Society (USHS) recently documented gross abuse to dairy cattle at a slaughterhouse in California. Documented abuses to cattle included poking, prodding, kicking and dragging downed and sick cattle, and even forcing water through the animals’ noses and mouths.

To watch complete coverage of what they found, please visit the Humane Society‘s website.

This behavior is despicable and unacceptable.

The sad thing is that this happens more than you would think. I have read numerous investigations that have pointed to the same conclusions. For years, organizations such as PETA (which many people think is off its hinge) have been pointing to animal cruelty in our nation’s meat production plants, but it took a startling investigation such as this one (which has no doubt come to light because the meat from these sick cows was sent to school children and the elderly) to make people actually start caring about these types of mistreatments toward animals.

This video and the other videos on the USHS’s website make me sick to my stomach. Not because children ate the meat from these sickened cows (although that is horrible indeed), but because the workers at this industrial cow farm obviously think that it is okay to abuse and torture animals. To them, animals represent lower beings than the human race, and deserve to be treated as if they do not matter. What’s more, these animals represent no more than a couple of dollars to these people. This type of mentality makes me sick.

Secondly, this makes me sick because these type of animal factories are driven by our disgusting market for mass-produced food. This system of mass produced food is not only unsafe for the humans that consume the food (with mistreatment of animals, use of unnatural pesticides and fertilizers, use of growth hormones, and the introduction of genetically modified foods), but it is inhumane, and I would argue, unethical, as much of the food that workers try so hard to mass produce is thrown away somewhere along the line from animal/plant to human mouth.

I urge anyone reading this blog to take action against this cruelty in any or all of the following ways:

1. Protest against the mass-production of meat and the cruelty of animals at these mass-production plants by refusing to eat meat of unknown source. I am banning all grocery store meat. If you are unaware of how to buy ethically raised meat, the Local Harvest website allows you to find local farms, read about them, and purchase directly through the farmers.

Purchasing your food directly from the farmer ensures that you will be able to monitor how the animals are raised. Buying locally is also better for the environment, as it reduces pollution due to transportation of food.

2. Do not eat genetically modified food. If you shop at a grocery store, try sticking to those products that are USDA certified organic. These products will have the USDA organic green seal on their packaging. For produce, use this key if you are uncertain about how your food was grown:

  • Conventionally grown produce will have a four-digit PLU code (a banana, for instance would have a 4011 on its label.)
  • Organically grown produce will have a five-digit code starting in “9.” (An organic banana will have a PLU code of 94011.)
  • Genetically modified produce will have a five-digit code starting in “8.” (A genetically modified banana will have a PLU code of 84011.)

3. Write your congressman/congresswoman to tell them how you feel about this issue.

4. Support future endeavors by the USHS by donating to the USHS Investigations Fund.

5. Spread the word about this investigation to your friends who may not know that these kinds of things are going on in our supposed “civilized” society.

6. Write your own blog discussing the issue. The more people who are talking about it, the more difference we can make.

If this kind of mistreatment of animals does not make you feel sick, I question that you have a soul. Please do the right thing and join me in my protest of these types of atrocities. Just doing one of the above suggestions can make a difference. Thank you!

Building a society of dependence: Welcome to the 21st century

Thousands of years ago, men and women would spend hours each day simply to provide food for their families. Surviving was a full-time job. Today, our lives are radically different from our ancestors. But it seems that survival is a little different than it used to be. Today survival is about sitting in front of a computer for eight hours and falling asleep to the television. Hunting and gathering have been replaced with a weekly trip to the local Wal-Mart or Hy-Vee stores. It seems as if our lives have become a lot simpler. Or have they become increasingly more complex and less fulfilling?

I’m sure our ancestors had their share of turmoil. It was no doubt difficult fighting the elements and finding your own food. But they had something that we don’t: a true sense of self-dependence. How many of us today can say the same? Do you know where your milk comes from? Your meat? Your daughter’s Barbie doll? By simplifying life, we have lost one of the most fulfilling parts of being a human. We have lost our self dependence.

I walk around a Wal-Mart Supercenter food aisle, and feel utter disgust as I watch people push each other and bulk up on things like chocolate chip cookies, bacon, and potato chips. ‘Do they have any idea what ingredients comprise these products?’ I wonder.

Don’t get me wrong: the people themselves do not disgust me. They are simply products of their time. I am disgusted by what our society has become. We are so detached from our natural world: dirt has become concrete, flowers have become plastic, and potatoes have transformed into greasy chips (with 0 trans fat, of course). It seems that with a blink of the eye we have turned very real, very beautiful things into a superficial universe of product. We are driven by the need to consume, the need to collect things; for the person with the largest collection is the best. That is what our society has told us, and that is our new dependence.

We wander around junk-filled aisles, trying to fulfill our desire for happiness. We buy clothing in the bulk, trade in our cars for the newest, shiniest new release, and charge that stereo system with surround sound (that we can’t really afford) to one of our ten credit cards. At the end of the day we have the feeling of fulfillment, but as we wake up we are reminded of our unfulfilled existence in this world. We feel helpless. We feel cornered. We feel alone. We have no self worth.