Wednesday, December 23, 2009

And a Merry Christmas to You, GP

My Dad informed me last night that a certain GP was so kind as to have his wife deliver a Christmas gift to my Dad for me. My parents will bring it up to Cleveland for me this weekend, so I’m yet sure what the gift is. While the from line on the gift states, “Fox News,” I am fairly certain that the benefactor of this gift is GP.

Fortunately and unfortunately, GP was not offended by my last blog entry in the slightest. My Dad tells me that while I may have won that battle, the war forges on. He says I have only thrown more fuel on GP’s fire. Yet, GP did tell me personally that he enjoys hearing both sides of the story. So I will continue to persist in hopes of swaying him eventually.

Anyway, since it seems that GP has given me a Christmas gift, I felt it appropriate to repay the favor. So I just sent him a lovely Christmas card from TerraPass, a organization that offsets carbon by sponsoring alternative power projects. The card represents a reduction of 500 pounds of CO2 – the average emissions from two week’s worth of driving.

While I had considered purchasing carbon offsetting for his vehicle for 2010, I realized that I would be broke in the end. If I wanted to offset all of GP’s vehicles (for GP is a Jay Leno in that he is the proud owner of about eight bazillion cars), I would need to take out a small loan.

But I did let GP know that he himself can purchase a yearly offset for his vehicles, and I encouraged him to do so. With the money spent on carbon offsetting, TerraPass funds three different project types: clean energy produced by wind power; farm power (which makes good use of animal wastes); and landfill gas capture (which reduces the impact of our own wastes).

So if you’re stuck looking for a last-minute Christmas gift for a family member or friend, consider purchasing a TerraPass.

Have a Merry Christmas everyone – especially you, GP!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Why PG Isn’t Green & Why GP Will Never Change My Opinion

My Dad has an overly persistent friend who finds it necessary to continue to defend the “greenness” of his employer - a large, multi-national corporation. What’s amazing here is not that my Dad has a friend, nor the fact that his friend enjoys antagonizing me; it’s that his friend seems to think that by continually sharing with me some articles from the company’s corporate newsletter that I will simply roll over and buy in to this greenwashing.

I’m not here to defame the company (from here on called “PG”) or insult the friend (from here on called “GP”). However, once and for all, I want to get the facts straight and put this issue to rest.

In this blog entry, I’m going to do an in-depth examination of several products sold by “PG”. These examinations clearly demonstrate that in no way are these products healthy for humans or the environment.

Clairol Herbal Essences Shampoo: Until recently, Herbal Essences claimed to offer users an organic experience. But there is not much about this product that is herbal or organic. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics,, states that Herbal Essences products contain more than a dozen synthetic petrochemicals and has a moderate toxicity rating. As you can see in the Cosmetics Database,, Clairol products contain ingredients that promote cancer, developmental/reproductive toxicity, allergies/immunotoxicity and more. Additionally, Clairol has NOT signed the Compact for Safe Cosmetics.

Febreze: An Environmental Working Group,, study that tested over 20 cleaners used in schools in California detected hundreds of air contaminants not listed as ingredients by manufacturers. The #3 offender revealed by the study: Febreze Hawaiian Air Effects,, which released 89 air contaminants, the third highest of any product tested. One of the chemicals in the products is linked to cancer, another to neurotoxicity. The study also revealed that a model classroom – using three certified green products – contained far less air pollution than the same classroom using three conventional cleaners.

Swiffer: I have a personal gripe with Swiffer. Everything about the Swiffer is environmentally unfriendly. You buy some cheaply-made mop, some disposable dry cloths and – if you’re really lazy – some disposable wet clothes, and get cleaning. Use the cloth one time and throw it away. Last year, Americans threw away 83,000 tons of disposable wipes – including Swiffer clothes. The Swiffer wet cloths leaves some funky film on your floor, which then transfers onto your feet, your shoes, in your bed, etc. This product just contributes to our “disposable society.” Use it once and throw it away. However, it comes back to the Benjamins ($$$). Ultimately, the more products we use, the more money the corporation makes. So I understand why they’re in favor of one-time-use products that pile up in our landfills.

PG itself has claimed that Pringles are not potato chips. They are “potato crisps” – well, at least that’s what PG’s tax lawyers claim, So let’s quit pretending that some packaged product that we can’t even call a potato chip is actually healthy for us. Additionally, Pringles have been under fire on and off for the last several years as to whether they contain ingredients that cause cancer. The fact that they are not produced using organic potatoes (meaning potatoes are exposed to pesticides) and contain corn oil, cottonseed oil and sunflower oil (promote inflammation, which can lead to cancer) means that everything about them is not healthy for humans or the environment.

So GP, I will never will see it the way you do. You can keep sending me those happy corporate stories about how great your company is, but ultimately it is flawed – and humans and the environment are paying the price.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Why You Should Read “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” by Barbara Kingsolver

Selecting a copy of “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” (AVM) from an airport bookstore was serendipity. I was on my way to Phoenix for a conference and was just browsing before my flight. I had no intention of buying a book – I had a new one from the library in my satchel – but AVM called out to me. It only took one page in before I knew it was the right selection.

The premise of the book is Barbara Kingsolver (author of the Poisonwood Bible among others) and her family move from Phoenix to Appalachia and begin a quest to eat locally for one year. What they purchase that is not locally grown is minimal – think coffee, etc. They will grow all their own produce and make bread from local grain, dairy from local cows, etc.

It took me but one chapter before I had a list of about 10 names of people who I would recommend read this book. Now I’m almost finished with it, I can't think of very many people who wouldn't benefit from reading it.

Whether you’re a self-proclaimed greenie like me, or you’re looking to make simple changes to feel better about yourself and the world in which we live, this book will apply to you.

Here are “Green Kristine’s Top 10 Reasons Why You Should Read AVM”:
1. Find out how you can ethically, morally consume meat without feeling guilty
2. Find out why America as a society is becoming obese
3. Learn about the benefits of growing your own food
4. Find out why desert living isn't all it's cracked out to be
5. Learn simple ways to support your local economy
6. Read about adventures in cheese-making, Amish farmers and more
7. Find out why you should never eat tomatoes in February (unless you live in the South)
8. Learn how to eat local year-round
9. Pick up some simple recipes for seasonal cooking
10. Gather a list of countless resources to help you make some small changes

Have you read AVM? What did you think about the book? Share your thoughts below!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Sharing the Love for Green

Around my office, I’ve earned a reputation for being green. Sometimes I think I startle coworkers when I unexplainably grab pop bottles out of the trash to take to the recycling bin. Others have also had the misfortune of throwing away a pop bottle or piece of paper in front of me. I wear my emotions on my sleeves, so you can imagine the horror on my face when this transpires in front of me.

Because I think that these actions ultimately cause some coworkers to feel guilty, they often feel compelled to rationalize their actions: “It’s just a habit to throw paper away.” “I recycle at home, but I hate walking down to the kitchen at work just to recycle a plastic bottle.” Etcetera, etcetera.

While for some time I’ve been leading by example, I’ve decided that it’s time to ramp up my efforts around here. I started today by finding an empty box and donating it to a good-intentioned coworker for her personal paper recycling. I have the same system at my desk. I throw paper into it daily, and when it gets full, I carry it down to the recycling bin to empty it.

While I realize that this is just a small step, I hope that I can continue to impact changes like this throughout my office. Even if that means collecting boxes and distributing them to each and every coworker for their personal paper recycling.

Monday, August 24, 2009

How Does My Garden Grow?

This summer, I’ve been especially amazed by the size of the veggies from my garden. A 5.5 pound zucchini named Mammoth takes the cake, but I’ve also picked several other zucchini nearly the same size and huge tomatoes as well.

Normally when I see very large food items – think extra large chicken breasts, apples the size of melons – I’m turned off. That commercial chicken was probably injected with steroids and antibiotics, and the apples may have been grown in fertilizer-enhanced soil and sprayed with pesticides. All these things are very unhealthy and completely unnatural.

But I credit the large items growing in my garden to composting. I’ve talked about composting before, but I must reference the importance and simplicity of composting again, as I’ve seen its benefits of late. Composting is the most natural way to get important minerals and vitamins back into the soil. It’s especially important if you use the same patch of land for your garden year after year.

Composting it’s also nature’s way of recycling. Before I learned any better, I figured that food scraps tossed into my regular kitchen trash bag would just disintegrate at the landfill. But because the food is locked into a trash bag and crammed into a heaping pile with other trash, it pretty much just sits there…for a long time. (And to be honest, thinking about everything in a trash bag disintegrating back into the ground really freaks me out.)

I’ve had people ask me – is it better to throw produce scraps away or put them down the garbage disposal? My answer: Neither. Start a compost pile and send those nutrients back into the earth. Spread the compost in garden and around your flower beds in the fall. Give the earth a little something back for all its given you!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

How to Eat Local Year-Round

In my last blog entry, I mentioned the benefits of eating locally grown produce. I failed to mention that eating locally grown foods in general is best – this includes dairy, meat, etc. The less distance food has to travel from the source to your plate, the better for you and the environment.

Anyway, back to the point of this entry: How can I eat locally grown foods year-round? My answer…Learn to love your freezer!

Now that our garden is in full swing, our freezer is growing crowded by the day.

Here are some things I’ve prepared and frozen:
- tray of roasted vegetable lasagna (veggie from the garden, tomatoes used to make sauce)
- pesto (basil from the garden, other herbs from CSA)
- eggplant, breaded and fried, for parmesan
- tomato sauce
- zucchini bread
- blueberries (picked in August)
- strawberries (picked in June)

I have to admit that I’ve spent many nights this summer prepping and cooking these veggies for consumption either now or this winter. In fact, I mentioned to Dan recently that in our next house, I want a great view out of the window over my kitchen sink because I feel like all I do anymore is clean dishes and stare out that window.

While the amount of veggies we sometimes have seems overwhelming, I’ve decided to freeze whatever can’t be used now. (I’ve also tried pickling, but I’ve failed miserably two years in a row. More to come on this topic…)

Like I said in the last blog entry – while you may not have a large garden or may not be a member of a CSA, take advantage of fresh, seasonal produce. Purchase extra seasonal fruit and veggies now, and freeze them for consumption during the winter months. I promise that while it might seem a pain to do double the prepping and cooking now, you’ll be happy you did it come winter.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Feeling Good about Eating (Very) Local

Last night as Dan and I sat eating our halloumi kabobs for dinner, I realized that every vegetable on our plate came directly from our own garden. The only items on the plate that weren’t grown in our backyard were the halloumi cheese and couscous.

I’m proud to admit that on the majority of nights in our house this summer, most of the food we’ve eaten has been grown in our backyard or on a farm nearby. While we have a large garden ourselves, we’re also members of a community supported agriculture (CSA) initiative, Lakewood Earth and Food (LEAF) Community.

To show you how it can be done, here's our menu from this week:
Monday – Calzones (sauce made from tomatoes from the garden); salads (tomatoes, cucumbers from our garden; lettuce from CSA)
Tuesday – summer squash gratin (zucchini, yellow squash, tomato and basil from our garden); small baguette
Wednesday – roasted vegetable and black enchiladas (peppers, zucchini and squash from our garden)
Thursday – halloumi kabobs (zucchini, squash, peppers, tomatoes from our garden)

Eating locally grown foods has wonderful benefits. Here are a few:
It’s good for the soul: For me, working in the soil is relaxing, refreshing and stress-reducing.
It’s better for your health: Local vegetables are picked at the peak of ripeness, meaning your body receives the most nutrients available. When veggies are picked under-ripe and transported hundreds of thousands of miles, they don’t have a chance to naturally develop the best nutrients your body needs.
It tastes better: You decide which tastes better - a tomato picked off the vine on a hot August day and served for dinner that night vs. a tomato covered in some waxy film that has been touched by hundreds at a large, chain grocery store.

While we all don’t have the chance to eat locally every night of the week, I urge you to take advantage of local produce during the summer. Go pick berries with your friends and family, take a trip to your local Farmer’s Market; buy the locally grown produce available in your grocery store. Give it a try and see if you feel better – physically and mentally – about the choices you’ve made.