The Green Life:

« July 2008 | Main | September 2008 »

50 posts from August 2008

August 29, 2008

Slow Food Nation Thinkers

Marion Nestle, author of What to Eat and a professor of nutrition, food studies, and public health at NYU, lives in what she calls Junk Food City. More commonly known as Manhattan, the city has some competition for the title, but Nestle today used her experiences in the Big Apple to illustrate for attendees of a Slow Food Nation forum how she sees nutrition and public health connecting with waste and the environment.

In January, New York City passed legislation requiring all restaurants in the Big Apple to post calories on their menus. With full enforcement in effect since last month, Nestle knows that a blueberry-pomegranate smoothie sold on her street contains more than 1,100 calories, and a personal-sized pizza has more than 2,100 calories. Eat both, she said, and you've had more calories in one sitting than most people need in an entire day (Michael Phelps excluded).

Here's where the environment comes in: Nestle noticed (and the Economist recently reported) that when the calorie count became readily available, "it immediately stopped [many] restaurants from serving such large portions." That meant fewer calories per plate, she said, and less food going to waste.

Continue reading "Slow Food Nation Thinkers" »

Taste of Slow Food Nation

Slow Food Nation, a celebration of flavorful American foods from small-scale producers, took over San Francisco's Civic Center Plaza this morning. Hundreds of foodies, hungry downtown office workers, environmental activists, and others lined up at booths run by more than 50 California farmers and artisans to sample and purchase fresh organic peaches, handmade pickles, heirloom tomatoes, and dozens of other carefully cultivated foods around city hall's new "victory garden."

A few of our favorites so far:

Happy Girl Kitchen Co., an organic preserves company run by Todd and Jordan Champagne, serves up naturally crispy pickles, utterly un-Heinz ketchup, and a range of canned foods made with locally-grown produce.

Katz Vinegars of Napa Valley prepared a refreshing cucumber salad with Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc Vinegar for Slow Food Nation participants today. Find more artisanal vinegars and recipe ideas at katzandco.com.

Share your tips: What is your favorite food from your local farmers market? How do you prepare it?

Coming up: More from Slow Food Nation

Movie Review Friday -- Medicine Man

Escape to the movies with one of our Movie Friday selections. Each week we review a film with environmentally or socially-responsible themes that’s currently in theaters or available on DVD.

Seen a good eco-flick lately? Send us a review of 100 words or less and look for your review in the next Movie Friday!

Medicine Man (1992)

Available on DVD

Amidst the magnificent greenery of the Amazon, Dr. Rae Crane (Lorraine Bracco)--a Bronx-bred scientist with impressive credentials and scant field experience--is transformed from fish-out-of-water to impassioned jungle girl. The motifs are dated, but if you can get past Bracco's histrionics, the movie examines very real, serious threats to the Amazon and its indigenous inhabitants. The "Crocodile Dundee" to Bracco's damsel is Dr. Robert Campbell (Sean Connery), a cantankerous and eccentric scientist who thinks he's found a cure for cancer among the native flora and fauna. When I first watched this movie over sixteen years ago, I felt an overwhelming sadness which developed into a desire to advocate for the rainforest. During a more recent viewing, Bracco's overacting and a few exaggerated plot elements distracted me from strong emotion. Nevertheless, the rainforest still stole the show.

--Review by Della Watson

August 28, 2008

Bike Rack Art

Bike_rack_art_istock_000002949019xs He's no Lance Armstrong, but he's doing his part to put cycling in the spotlight. David Byrne, best known as the Talking Heads' front man, is leaving his artistic mark on New York City one bike rack at a time. Asked by the Department of Transportation to judge a creative bike rack contest, Byrne submitted a few of his own designs. The Byrne originals were installed, and the contest winners will debut in September.

While bike rack art certainly isn't confined to New York City (the image above was snapped in Fairbanks, Alaska) Byrne's high-profile involvement could boost urban cycling's cultural cachet. Janette Sadik-Khan, the city's transportation commissioner, welcomes Byrne's involvement in the contest. "The idea that it's cool to bike really helps," says Sadik-Khan. "The New York City Department of Transportation is not necessarily known for its cool reputation." With Byrne's original designs installed and the contest finalists announced, the Department of Transportation might just develop a reputation for good taste.

Are you an urban cyclist? Boost your cool with jewelry made from recycled bicycle parts and get hip to the latest bike fashion trends with tips from Cyclechic.

Green Your Drink -- Coasters

Give a toast to the environment with this week's tips for finding, making, and serving light-on-the-planet beverages.

Tip #4: Find your DIY style

Yesterday we rounded up ways to serve up drinks in glasses made from recycled windshields, bottles, or plain old second-hand cups. Today we're rolling up our sleeves and scrounging for materials that can be transformed into cool, green coasters--instead of being sent to the landfill. (If a DIY project requires too many never-used materials, it probably isn't green.) How about that stack of old magazines? Or the incomplete Scrabble set that since the death of Scrabulous has only made you misty-eyed? Paired with denim or curtain ties and some glue, they can become sturdy examples of reuse--and your creativity. For a list of non-toxic sealant and glaze makers, visit the not-for-profit Co-op America. For the less crafty among us, small picture frames (with the back stand removed) do the job just as well as more labor-intensive projects.

Share your tips and ideas: Have you made coasters from materials found at home? Tell us how!

August 27, 2008

If a Cow Eats Chocolate. . .

Cows_istock_000006247383xsmall Are American cows becoming junk food addicts? As corn prices soar, some meat producers are supplementing their herd's grub with cheaper foods, such as potato chips and M&M's, reports the Wall Street Journal. Adding an odd twist to a complicated issue, the cows' new diet could be another example of the biofuel effect. Sierra magazine details the recent backlash against biofuel, as developing countries and corporate giants blame U.S. subsidies for corn ethanol for increased food prices worldwide. While the big shots work it out, do your part by keeping in mind that cows are naturally adapted to eat grass, not corn or candy. Look for meat with the American Grassfed Association's certification and lower your carbon footprint by limiting the amount of beef (M&M-fed or otherwise) in your own diet.

Green Your Drink -- Glassware

Wine_bottles Give a toast to the environment with this week's tips for finding (and making) light-on-the-planet beverages.

Tip #3:
Keep it in the loop

Drinks made with organic, local, and seasonal ingredients can get even greener if served in recycled glassware. Sure, nixing single-use plastic cups is a step in the enviro direction, but why stop there when eco-minded designers now give you such chic alternatives? The Wisconsin-based Green Glass company offers simple, colorful wine glasses, goblets, and tumblers made of reclaimed and recycled wine and beer bottles, and Uncommon Goods sells beer glasses handmade in Colombia from recycled car windshields. Of course, you needn't get fancy to go green. Mix-and-match glassware from second-hand stores still does the job for hipsters and savers alike.

Share your tips: How did you assemble your glass set? Tell us about your best thrift store finds and favorite green designs.

August 26, 2008

Underwater Logging in Ghana

Submerged_tree_istock_000005305036x Forget doubloon-heavy shipwrecks--trees are the new sunken treasure. The harvesting of submerged trees in Ghana's Lake Volta could reduce reliance on the country's tropical forests, which are currently being logged at the rate of 1.9 percent per year.

Robert Bamfo, the head of Climate Change at Ghana's Forestry Commission, announced recently that the salvaging of rot-resistant hardwoods such as ebony, wawa, and odum would commence in October. The underwater logging project will be carried out by CSR Developments, a Canadian company. CSR predicts that the project will employ 400 people and provide Ghana with more than $100 million in foreign earnings each year.

Over forty years ago, the construction of the Akosombo hydroelectric dam gave Ghana one of the world's largest man-made lakes, and the tree trunks protruding from the water served as a reminder of Lake Volta's previous life as a forest. Until recently, the trees were viewed as nothing more than a hazard to watercrafts. These days, in the eyes of some environmentalists and entrepreneurs, the flooded forest looks like gold.

Green Your School

Vintage_school_istock_00000367553_2 Does your cafeteria lack recycling receptacles? Are the library's light bulbs stuck in a pre-CLF time warp? Give your school a green makeover this fall. By convincing your teachers and fellow students to help reduce education's environmental footprint, you could help your middle or high school win up to $1500 through dosomething.org's Increase Your Green Competition. Energy-saving initiatives must be student-led; the competition begins October 13th and registration has already begun. Go Big Green!

Preparing for college? Sierra magazine's annual Cool Schools issue will help you find the greenest universities.

Green Your Drink -- Ice

Give a toast to the environment with this week's tips for finding (and making) light-on-the-planet beverages.

Tip #2: Stock up on the cold stuff

The dog days of summer call for ice by the bucket. But relying on a refrigerator's automatic ice maker--which uses heaters and extra energy--can supersize the environmental impact of your drinks. Making ice in trays, on the other hand, requires little more energy than what's already being used to drop the freezer's temperature. Of course, letting chilled air tumble out of the freezer when you open the door to grab cubes can also waste energy, but it uses less energy in the long run than auto ice makers, according to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy. To minimize energy use and keep the convenience of ready-made ice, make several trays of ice before a party and keep the cubes in an ice bucket on the counter as you serve up drinks. Want to save more? Consider a top-mounted freezer: side-by-side fridge and freezer models use up to 30 percent more energy.

Update: Several commenters have asked about the efficiency of bottom-mounted freezers. According to Energy Star, refrigerators with freezers at the top generally use less energy than those with freezers at the bottom (472 kilowatt-hours per year versus 551 kilowatt-hours per year). Both use less energy than typical side-by-side models.

User comments or postings reflect the opinions of the responsible contributor only, and do not reflect the viewpoint of the Sierra Club. The Sierra Club does not endorse or guarantee the accuracy of any posting. The Sierra Club accepts no obligation to review every posting, but reserves the right (but not the obligation) to delete postings that may be considered offensive, illegal or inappropriate.

Up to Top

Sierra Club® and "Explore, enjoy and protect the planet"® are registered trademarks of the Sierra Club. © 2009 Sierra Club.
The Sierra Club Seal is a registered copyright, service mark, and trademark of the Sierra Club.