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18 posts from July 2013

July 31, 2013

10 No-Meat Foods Every Active Person Needs

Ann Trason runs Western StatesAnn Trason is considered by many to be one of the top ultramarathon runners in history. With 20 world records set in courses from 50 to 100 miles in length, she has amassed one of the most venerated careers the sport has ever seen. Paula Edelson writes in her book A to Z of American Women in Sports (2002) that Trason "seems at times to possess superhuman strength."

That superhuman ability translates into one superhuman nutrition plan. We spoke with Ann recently by phone and asked for ten of her favorite vegetarian foods for active lifestyles. You don't have to be a running icon to try them, but substituting these choices into your daily diet will still put you on the high road toward good health.

1. Nut Butters: Great as a spread, or even as a snack from the jar. Try some organic sunflower butter — these seeds hold almost four times as much Vitamin E content per serving as do peanuts.

2. Avocados: These fruits are packed full of healthy fats. Slice one up on a sandwich for some extra flavor.

3. Quinoa: A staple in traditional Incan cuisine, quinoa is a source of "complete protein," meaning that it contains essential amino acids that our bodies can't produce naturally. Trason likes to throw in some quinoa with her salads for a nutrient-balanced meal.

Continue reading "10 No-Meat Foods Every Active Person Needs" »

July 30, 2013

5 Healthy Organic Foods With Bad Reputations

EggsDiets can range from the delicious to the downright bizarre (apple cider vinegar diet, anyone?). It only follows that advice on what not to eat seems just as widespread as what to eat. Unfortunately, many nutritious foods get a public shunning when the public mistakenly believes that their cons outweigh their pros. Lisa Sasson MS RD, clinical associate professor in the nutrition and food studies department at NYU, sees a similar trend among her own patients.

Lisa Sasson"There are a lot of [food] choices that people stay away from just because they think those foods are unhealthy," Sasson said in a recent phone interview.

We asked Sasson for her input on some top bad-rap foods that you can feel good about eating. It's no "cookie diet," but in moderation it's still pretty sweet.

1. Whole Eggs

"A lot of people don't eat eggs because they are full of cholesterol," Sasson says, explaining that many eaters stick with just the whites. "But whole eggs are very, very nutritious. You shouldn't have excessive amounts, but the yolks are full of vitamins and nutrients." She advises us to not think of it as an all-or-nothing choice. "To make an omelette, you could have two whites and one whole," she says. "I think eggs can play an important part in anyone's diet."

Continue reading "5 Healthy Organic Foods With Bad Reputations" »

July 29, 2013

Form Meets Function: 4 Surprising Tent Designs

Topeak BikamperWe put many things on our backs — responsibilities, packs, even entire sports teams. The last thing you need is your on-the-go home, your tent, to weigh you or the environment down. We've found four ingenious tent alternatives for your next outdoor adventure.

1. Topeak Bikamper

Those who eat, drink, and sleep biking can finally satisfy the last of the three with this one-person tent. Its inventiveness lies in its use of your bike's frame and front wheel in place of tent poles. The Bikamper rolled away in 2005 with both a IF Eurobike Award and a reddot design award for best of the best. Clocking in at a total weight of 3.59 lbs., you can carry it around and still have enough energy to gaze up and watch the starry night through one of its three mesh panels. MSRP: $229.95

Continue reading "Form Meets Function: 4 Surprising Tent Designs" »

July 24, 2013

Q&A: Urban Farmer Abeni Ramsey

Abeni RamsayAbeni Ramsey began growing food in her backyard so that she could feed her kids better fare than the Top Ramen sold at the corner store near her home in West Oakland, California, one of the nation’s largest food deserts. To buy fresh fruits and vegetables, the young, single mother had to travel to another town. But proximity was just the first hurdle. Produce didn’t come cheap — especially compared to a five-dollar case of instant noodles.

While biking through Oakland, Ramsey stumbled on City Slicker Farms, whose Backyard Garden Program gave her the tools she needed to begin growing her own produce. Today, Ramsey, who studied agricultural development at UC Davis, feeds her kids and her community, selling produce from her private farm, City Girl Farms, to local restaurants. In April, she opened Township, a farm-to-table restaurant in downtown Oakland, and relocated the City Girl Farmstore just next door.

Sierra magazine spoke to Ramsey about farming for apartment-dwellers, the real reason people don’t eat their veggies, and the need for diversity in the food movement.

Q. How much of your own food do you grow?

A. Now that I live in East Oakland, I would say I probably grow most of the vegetables that we eat and we happen to live in produce-heavy household, so I would say maybe 30 percent. But all the produce is from fruit trees that are around our house, so I grow a significant amount of the fruit, and we collect significant amount of fruit. And we do have chickens in the winter. Before, when I was living in West Oakland, I had oats and chickens, as well as vegetables, and I didn‘t go to the grocery store. I only went for the meat. Actually we produced a decent amount of food. It was 50 percent then, and now it’s about 30 percent.

Q. Wait—you own chickens?

A. I do still have chickens. I had a rooster at one point, but I had a neighbor who complained about it. I had to get rid of it. And I had people complain about the goats, about the noise. It was too much farm for people to take. It’s weird. It’s just this fear around farm animals. We live in a neighborhood where dogs bark constantly. Almost every house keeps a dog. That’s really interesting to me — how people have become so unaccustomed to having livestock in the world. It’s not about noise in general. It’s about them not being used to that particular noise.

Q. You’re a single mother who’s managed to farm while raising kids, working, and attending college. Are you human? 

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July 23, 2013

4 Funky Fungi You Should Know About

Bridgeoporus nobilissmusOften overlooked and underappreciated, fungi are some of the most diverse and unique organisms out there. Responsible for breaking down organic matter, there are over 80,000 known species. We found four fun fungi that fall high on the funkiness spectrum.

Scientific Name: Bridgeoporus nobilissimus

Common Name: Noble Polypore or Fuzzy Sandozi

This endangered fungus forms some of the largest fruit bodies in the world, most commonly at the base of the noble fir trees in forests of the Pacific Northwest.

This fungus even held the record for the biggest fruiting body (the part of the fungus where spores are produced) in the Guiness Book of World Records, weighing in at 300 pounds.

Endemic (or native) to Oregon and Washington, conservation efforts are underway to save the fuzzy sandozi. The species is tricky in that the sporocarps (structures that store and release spores for reproduction) cannot be collected without harming it. There are only 10 known sites where this mushroom is found.

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July 22, 2013

John Muir's Giant Sequoia to Be Cloned

John Muir Giant SequoiaJohn Muir's beloved tree, a giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum), is dying. The 75-foot-tall tree, infested with two regional fungal diseases, is a measly 130 years old. Under healthy conditions sequoias can live for thousands of years.

In the early 1880s, after one of his trips to Yosemite, Muir brought the tree back and planted it at his home in Martinez, California, now the John Muir National Historic Site.

In an effort to save the tree and its connection to the famous naturalist, the park is having the Archangel Ancient Tree Archive in Copemish, Michigan, clone the tree from cuttings.

Approximately 400 cuttings from the original tree were sent to Archangel in April. Since then, the staff has been hard at work trying to save this living connection to John Muir.

Keith Park, horticulturist and preservation arborist at the John Muir National Historic Site, considers this an insurance policy. "I wouldn't want to wait too long and risk losing the tree," he said. 

For now, though, they are playing the waiting game. Archangel has had the cuttings for three months, and Tom Brodhagen, propagator with Archangel, described them as "healthy looking, green with pushed growth." The challenges of this project are the age of the original tree and the diseases that came with it, Brodhagen said.

"The fungal diseases are endemic to the region but we want to clean them up so they have a fresh start," Brodhagen said. If successfully planted, the saplings would eventually likely become infected with the same fungal diseases.

"On the face of it, it seems ridiculous to plant something that is doomed," Park said. "But from a historic preservation perspective, things ought to be the same or at least resemble John Muir's time here."

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July 19, 2013

Ask Mr. Green: Which Green Labels Can I Trust?

Mr. Green is Bob SchildgenHey Mr. Green,

Hypothetically, you walk into a store and there are four of the same type of product.  One is 100% natural, one is 100% sustainably sourced, one 100% biodegradable, and one 100% chemical free. What is the best product to buy?  Does it matter?  Are some labels better than others?

—Angela, in Ventura, California

You’re opening a big can of ugly green worms here, because so many products have such a complicated history, and green marketing claims have multiplied with blinding speed. All those 100% claims are darn squirrely, because they can be 100% of very little or nothing, and whether they’re 100% natural, sustainably sourced, biodegradable, or chemical-free depends on how you define the terms. "Biodegradable" is probably the most useless and irrelevant description, for the simple reason that not all things biodegrade equally in different settings, plus biodegradable plastics can contaminate other recycled plastics, rendering them useless. On top of this, biodegrading is not necessarily a good thing, because it can release carbon dioxide and methane.

"Natural" is the most deceptive of the terms. For example, I’m looking at a package from Trader Joe’s, which says “Natural Pork* Boneless Loin Chops. The big asterisk leads us to tiny print below that whispers “Minimally processed, no artificial ingredients.” Well duh. Most pork chops are minimally processed and don’t contain artificial ingredients. But the pigs themselves could well have been raised in polluting factories, fed chemically farmed grain, and shot up with antibiotics. (By the way, you can petition this company to stop carrying such meat, and also petition your congressional reps to enact a ban on unnecessary use of antibiotics on livestock at Food and Water Watch’s site.) 

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July 17, 2013

3 Easy DIY World Instruments

Pow wow drumMadonna once sang, “music makes the people come together.” If that’s the case, Daria Marmaluk Hajioannou has spent the last two decades bringing together children from all over the world. Winner of the 2009 Parents Choice Award, she has come up with ways to make instruments from unconventional items in order to allow children to reconnect with their cultural heritage.

Here are three DIY instruments you can make at home.

Pow-wow Drum and Beaters
This Native American instrument is a communal drum that numerous people can play. Talk about a jam session!

1) Large piece of fabric. Examples: Vinyl or fake skin
2) Wooden Dowels ( between 8-14 inches)
3) Electric tape
4) Decorations like feathers, yarn, and sharpies

1) Wrap one end of the dowels with electric tape.
2) Decorate the dowels with whatever materials and designs appeals to you. The beater is meant to reflect your personality.
3) Stretch the fabric to ensure better vibrations.
4) If possible, decorate your pow-wow drum too.

Continue reading "3 Easy DIY World Instruments" »

July 16, 2013

How to Be Environmentally Conscious After Death

Early morning fog on lakeIt's impossible to ignore feelings of veneration and kinship to the natural world when looking up at the seemingly infinite pinpricks of light scattered across boundless skies or when devoured by the still, wet air that lingers in the early morning hours.

Inspired by those feelings, we  researched a handful of environmentally conscious end-of-life arrangements worth noting.  

Connecting Life to Death

Promession, a method of ecological burial invented by biologist Susanne Wiigh-Mäsak, aims to create life out of death. An individual's remains are frozen with liquid nitrogen and vibrated until they shatter. The ash-like remains are then placed in a biodegradable coffin and buried shallowly. A shallow burial allows for a favorite tree or bush to be planted on top of the coffin. Over the course of six months to a year, the remains convert to soil, providing nutrients for the plant above. 

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July 15, 2013

Sowing "Seeds of Hope": An Interview with Jane Goodall

Jane GoodallJANE GOODALL may be the world's most famous primatologist — 50 years ago, she became the first to prove that nonhuman animals make tools — but lately she's been spending more time focusing on a life form less intelligent than the chimpanzees she studied in Tanzania. In fact, one that has no brains at all: plants.

Her newest book, Seeds of Hope: Wisdom and Wonder From the World of Plants, cowritten with Gayle Hudson, chronicles her lifelong love of all things leafy. In it, she writes: "There would be no chimpanzees without plants — nor human beings either" and confesses that she might never have started studying apes had she not, as a child, been obsessed with Africa's forests.

Goodall, now 79, runs the Jane Goodall Institute to protect chimpanzees' habitat, and Roots and Shoots to encourage children to become conservationists. She's also a U.N. Messenger of Peace and a Dame of the British Empire. We spoke to her to find out what compelled her to spend years writing a book about the botanical world.

You’re known for your work with primates. Why the newer focus on plants? 

The last book I did, Hope for Animals and their Worldwas about saving animals from extinction. I had a long section on plants but it got too long, so almost all of that was left out. I felt bad because I'd talked to so many botanists and they were so excited that Jane was going to put plants in her book. So I thought, OK, I’ll add to what I’ve done and it’ll be a booklet that perhaps we could sell in botanical gardens. That was the original idea.

Continue reading "Sowing "Seeds of Hope": An Interview with Jane Goodall" »

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