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October 28, 2009

Due to the weather...

Due to the weather not being able to make up its mind, (be it warm or cold, dry or rainy) we've been quite ill.  So, I apologize for the delay in posts. 

Due to the weather, and the fact that it's autumn, I expected to see some vibrant colors outside now that I'm well.  I believe the peak for fall colors in my area is supposed to be the third week of October. 

Due to the weather/climate changing there is very little color.  Most trees are still green.  Those that aren't are either brown, a dull yellow, or have fallen off before their time. 

According to an article by Fox News, Foliage Spectators are claiming the leaves are "duller, not as sparkly."  In recent years more and more trees are turning from the dull green of late summer to the rust-brown of late fall with barely a hint of color in between. 

I walked 20 minutes along the beach before I could find anything vibrant.

I also received a link for Martha Stewart's blog post titled "This Year's Autumn Compared To Last."  She compares last year's photos taken around where she lives to this year's photos of the same places and at the same time of year.  There is definitely a drastic difference. 

So, what's going on?

According to Appalachian State University, there are 10 things that can affect fall color:
  1. Higher temperatures.  (ie. a general warming of the globe.  Let's call it "Global Warming.")
  2. Altered timing and/or amounts of precipitation.  (So, since there's more rain, there's less color.  Check out Early Warning Signs regarding global warming and precipitation.)
  3. Higher levels of carbon dioxide.  (CO2, which contributes to global warming.  This is where we come in and conserve energy.)
  4. Changes in cloud cover and light striking the trees.  (Again see Early Warning Signs.)
  5. Increases in the length of the growing season and displacement of the timing of leaf out and leaf fall.  (In layman's terms - warmer weather, the growing season, is getting longer, and the natural annual cycle of trees is getting out of sync.  Therefore, when fall comes, trees have to "hurry and catch up" by turning brown and falling quicker.)
  6. Higher levels of nitrogen inputs and acidic deposition to ecosystems from agricultural practices such as fertilizing and hog production.  (Check out "Meat" the Facts.) 
  7. Higher levels of air pollutants such as ozone.  (Visit Global Warming 101.)
  8. Migration of trees farther north to escape the heat.  (National Geographic talks about trees heading north.)
  9. Extirpation of trees that can't migtate for one reason or another.  (For example, a tree may only be able to reproduce by using a specific animal species to spread its seeds.  When that species is endangered, so is the tree.)
  10. Changes in competition due to greater pest loads or invasive exotic species.  (See how genetic engineering affects our environment.)
Will fall foliage one day be a thing of the past?  At the rate we're going, yes.  But it won't happen soon.  However, I'm sure we don't want our great grandchildren looking at photos of vibrant fall colors while we sit in rockers talking about the old days when autumn was beautiful.  Visit the Union of Concerned Scientists' Global Warming page and click on "Solutions" to find out more of what you can do. 

October 20, 2009

Best Energy Site For Kids.

In order to get your kids to help you with saving energy around the house, they need to know what to do and why.  I've searched all the "saving energy" sites out there for kids, and Energy Star Kids was the best.  Here's what it has to offer:
  1. "Your Planet Needs You" game.  After playing this game they will know a.) what energy is; b.) where it comes from; c.) what the different types are; d.) what could happen; e.) why we save energy; f.) and how they can help in their own room.  This section also features the "Quickest Ever Slide Show on Global Warming," which is very to the point. 
  2. "You Can Make Big Changes" activity.  This is a map of the typical child's room, say, maybe, ages 8-18.  It's full of electronics among other things.  You click on an area in the room and it shows you how to be more efficient with that specific device/area. 
  3. "Meet The Energy Stars."  This section is just cute.  It personifies energy saving appliances.  Each Energy Star appliance tells you their name, where they're from, and what their mission in life is. 
  4. "Word Bank."  Of course, since this site is educational, too, it comes complete with a dictionary of energy/global warming related vocabulary. 
  5. "Fun Facts."  This section gives good-to-know information that even most parents don't know about.  I personally thought some of this was pretty interesting. 
  6. "Parents and Teachers" resources and involvement.  For the classroom there are lesson plans, games and activities.  There are ways to show your school's partnership and participation.  For parents there are campaigns and pledges for you and the kids. 
  7. "The Lorax" activity.  This particular activity is just okay.  However, for those of you familiar with Dr. Seuss (who isn't?) you'll know that after reading his book, the Lorax, that he was well ahead of his time.  You must check out the "Lorax Project."  Students in schools everywhere are using this book - even high schools and colleges. 
Now that you know how to help your kids help you and the planet, there's no time like the present to show them.  Check out Energy Star Kids for yourself first if you want.  You'll be happy with it.  Your kids will walk away knowing more, and so will you. 

October 18, 2009

New Food Pyramids

The one cautionary note about vegetarianism is that simply eliminating meat does not automatically produce a healthy diet.  You still need to pay attention to the quality and quantity of what you eat.  A healthy vegetarian diet focuses on whole foods like fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, and whole unprocessed grains, and limits processed and refined sugars and empty calories.  There is no shortage of vegetarian and vegan junk food out there.  Remember, the root word of vegetarian is "veg" not "junk."  Here are 2 pyramids here from VegSource to help you out. 



October 17, 2009

How to Save a Life.

This video is short and sweet.  It's perfect to drive home the point of energy conservation.  Take a quick watch and share with others.  Remember, any little thing you can do will make a big impact on our planet. 

October 16, 2009

For Just the Cost of a Cup of Coffee, You Can...

I don't think most people realize how important Fair Trade really is. They think, "If I had enough money I would give to charity... maybe send money to a poor family in a poor country." What is Sally Struthers always saying? " For the price of a cup of coffee a day, you can make a difference in a child's life." Now that is literally true. When you buy coffee (or anything produced in a poverty stricken country) that is Fairly Traded you will be making tremendous differences in the lives of many children and their families. 

Below is a series of clips brought to you by Oxfam.  Each one is a powerful message on how the current (unfair) trade system has its effects on those in poor countries, and how Fair Trade can help.

October 14, 2009

5 Ways to Conserve Energy in the Bathroom


1.  Install Low Flow Shower Heads.  They use less hot water, cost $10-$20 each, and deliver an invigorating shower.  This will save 300 pounds (136 kg) of CO2 per year for electrically heated water or 80 pounds (36 kg) for gas heated water.

2.  Put a Brick in the Holding Tank to conserve toilet water.  Less water will be used to fii it, therefore, less to flush.  Also, you can fill a jar with water to the jar's rim and put it in the tank. 

3.  Use an egg timer to conserve shower water.  Set this when you take showers to limit your time to 5-10 minutes. 

4.  Take a Shower Instead of a Bath.  A shower takes up to four times less energy than a bath. 

5.  Don't Leave the Water Running.  Most people know by now that when brushing your teeth you shouldn't leave the water running, and only turn it on when you need to rinse.  But, most don't always consider that an option when taking a shower.  Turn the water off when you lather your hair, then back on to rinse. 

This cool DIY bathroom conservation kit is very handy to have.

Also check out:

10 Ways to Conserve Energy in the Kitchen.

8 Reasons to conserve energy.

The best energy-related website for your children.

October 12, 2009

"Meat" the Facts

Many people think of vegetarians as people who care more about animals than they do people.  Not true.  Vegetarians value all living things equally.  This amazing video reveals a powerful message on what it means to go vegetarian.  Share this with others and spread the word.

Why We Don't Eat Meat.

Making the connection between what we consume and how it affects the world around us is perhaps the greatest discovery that you can make (or help someone make, if you're already a vegetarian). 

Connection #1: Environment -
  • Animal agriculture creates more methane and nitrous oxide omissions than any other industry in the world. 
  • If every American exchanged one meal of chicken per week for vegetarian foods, the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than half a million cars off of U.S. roads. 
  • Raising animals for food is the greatest contributor to deforestation and generates a catastrophic amount of land and water pollution. 
Connection #2: Cruelty to Animals -
  • The industry brutally slaughters over 10 billion farm animals each year for something that isn't good for the planet or necessary for our health. 

Connection #3: Your Health -

  • Your acne will disappear almost overnight.

  • Your eyes will be brighter.

  • Your body will feel stronger.

  • And you will just generally feel good, really good.

  • Not to mention you will lose weight.

Nobody wants to be unhealthy or raise children in a polluted world.  Most people would not knowingly choose cruelty over kindness.  By becoming a vegetarian you have the power to make positive change simply by eating in a different way. 

To help you in your journey to becoming a vegetarian the Veg Starter Kit is available for you to order; brought to you by Mercy For Animals.  And it's FREE!  However, if you want to start slow, you can check out Meatout Mondays, a weekly newsletter dedicated to helping you to "kick the meat habit."

October 10, 2009

8 Reasons to Conserve Energy

1.  Resource Depletion.  Fossil fuels and uranium are nonrenewable resources.  When we run out, we run out. 

2.  Resource Extraction Harm.  Uranium and coal mining are hazardous to miners' health and the environment.  Navajo and African uranium miners have extremely high cancer death rates. 

3.  Local Air Pollution.  From auto emmissions, coal-power plants, and wood and leaf burning kills about 55,000 people a year from asthma, emphysema, etc.  While large particle matter has been reduced and pollution is now less visible, microscopic small particle matter is very dangerous, because it penetrates deeper into the lungs. 

4.  Climate Change.  Increased heat deaths, droughts, floods, severe storms, land loss, spreading tropical diseases, and species loss are mainly caused from coal and gas CO2 emissions, methane, and CFCs. 

5.  Acid Rain.  Coal power plants and vehicles emit sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrous oxides (NOx).  These travel beyond the local area and are harmful to the health throughout whole regions.  When SO2 and NOx water vapor mix under certain conditions, sulfuric acid and nitric acid, known as acid rain, are formed.  This is very harmful to the lungs.  It kills fish in lakes, corrodes property (buildings, monuments, cars, etc.), harms the soil (releasing toxins), and harms trees and crops. 

6.  Stratospheric Ozone Depletion.  Nitrous Oxide (NO2), mainly from car driving, depletes the oxone layer, which sheilds against UV radiation that makes life on earth possible.  Recent studies suggest future ozone hole expansion from NO2 emmissions, from car driving, synthetic fertilizers, and coal burning. 

7.  Save Money.  Most energy efficiency measures save money in the long run, without lowering our comfort level or living standard.  Compact fluorescent bulbs, for instance, reduce electricity use by 75%; they last about 10 times longer and save $40-$50 over their lifetime.  Many energy efficiency and conservation measures are better investments than the stock market or bank interest. 

8.  Improve Health.  Some energy conservation measures improve your health, such as walking and bicycling to offset car-driving.  Eating lower on the food-chain is good for your health, and requires less energy and water than animal foods of the same nutrient value.  Raw produce has important cancer and disease fighting enzymes that are destroyed in the cooking process, and requires less energy to prepare. 

10 Ways to Conserve Energy in the Kitchen.

October 9, 2009

What if... We Made Trade Fair?

I found this video starring Chris Martin of Cold Play about Fair Trade.  I'll admit I got choked up while watching it.  Its two years old, so if you visit the website at the end of the video you will be redirected.  So, here's the real link.  When you get there, check out the interactive diagram.  Its a unique way of showing how the current (unfair) trade system works. 

Remember you can make a difference just in what you buy. 

P.S. The volume on this is low, so turn it up. 

October 8, 2009

10 Ways to Conserve Energy in the Kitchen

The little things we do will have significant effects on CO2 emmissions - the leading cause of the "greenhouse effect" known as global warming.  You can choose to do all within this list or some.  But make sure you do at least one.  And remember, the more you do the greater the effect.  Also, spread the word.  The more the merrier... and the healthier the planet. 


1.  Turn your refrigerator down.  Refrigerators account for about 20% of household electricity use.  Use a thermometer to set your refrigerator temperature as close to 37 degrees F (3 degrees C) and your freezer as close to 3 degrees F (-16 degrees C) as possible.  Make sure that its energy saver switch is turned on. 

2.  Check the gaskets around your refrigerator/freezer doors to make sure they are clean and sealed tightly. 

3.  Fill any unused space in the fridge with bottles of water.  Every time you open your fridge's door, cold air escapes, warm air rushes in, and as a consequence, energy will be needed to re-cool the air in the fridge.  This is wasteful.  Keeping your fridge well stocked is one simple way to prevent this.  Using bottles of water will serve in two ways:
  1. They reduce the volume of air needing re-cooling.
  2. They cool the air after the door closes.
4.  Move your fridge and freezer if necessary.  Placing them next to the cooker or boiler consumes much more energy than if they were standing on their own.  For example, if you put them in a hot cellar room where the room temperature is 85-95 degrees F (30-35 degrees C), energy use is almost double and causes an extra 352 pounds (160kg) of CO2 emissions for fridges per year and 704 pounds (320kg) for freezers.

5.  Defrost old fridges and freezers regularly.  Even better is to replace them with newer models, which all have automatic defrost cycles and are generally up to two times more energy-efficient than their predecessors. 

6.  Make sure your dishwasher is full when you run it. 

7.  Use the energy saving setting on your dishwasher, if available, to allow the dishes to air dry.  You can also turn off the drying cycle manually.  Not using heat in the drying cycle can save 20% of your dishwasher's total electricity use. 

8.  There is no need to set the temperature high on your dishwasher.  Nowadays detergents are so efficient that they get your dishes clean at low temperatures. 

9.  Cover your pots while cooking.  Doing so can save a lot of the energy needed for preparing the dish.  Even better are pressure cookers and steamers:  they can save around 70%!

10.  Select the most energy-efficient models when you replace your old appliances.  Look for the Energy Star Label - your assurance that the product saves energy and prevents pollution.  Buy the product that is sized to your typical needs - not the bigest one available.  Replacing a typical 1973 refrigerator with a new energy-efficient model, saves 1.4 tons of CO2 per year.   

October 6, 2009

The True Price of One Hamburger


It takes at least 12 pounds of grain to produce one pound of hamburger.  This could make 8 loaves of bread, or 24 plates of spaghetti.  Grain consumption by livestock is increasing twice as fast as grain consumption by people.  Cattle consumes 70% of all U.S. grain.

While not all hamburgers come from the rainforest, for every pound of rainforest beef, approximately 660 pounds of precious living matter is destroyed including 20-30 different plant species, over 100 insect species and dozens of birds, mammals and reptiles. 

It takes 2500 gallons of water to produce one pound of hamburger.  This could be used to grow more than 50 pounds of fruits and vegetables.  Half of all water consumed in the U.S. is used to grow feed and provide drinking water for cattle and other livestock. 


The VegPledge will help you do it.  Whether you want to start slow and gradually eliminate meat one day a week and work up to 7, or go "cold turkey" and eliminate all meat at once, you'll have all the help and resources you'll need with VegPledge to be successful. 

ATTENTION:  Due to the high "sceptical" volume of certain specifics in this post, I have posted Price of One Hamburger Revisited.

October 1, 2009

World Farm Animals Day (WFAD)

Each year, approximately 56 billion animals are killed in the world's factory farms and slaughterhouses to produce meat, eggs, and dairy.  World Farm Animals Day is dedicated to exposing, mourning, and memoralizing the needless suffering and death of cows, pigs, turkeys, chickens, and other innocent, sentient animals raised and slaughtered for food. 

The date, October 2nd, honors the birthday of Mahatma Ghandi, an outspoken advocate of non-violence towards animals. 

World Farm Animals Day observances are hosted by volunteers in communities in all 50 U.S. states and 2 dozen other countries.  Participants include animal advocacy groups, individual activists, and newcomers alike...anyone and everyone who cares about animals is encouraged to join them in this global outcry. 

Activities traditionally include vigils, marches, leafleting, tabling, and exhibiting.  More dramatic events include die-ins, cage-ins, and video rigs.  Activists encourage governors and mayors to issue special proclamations denouncing creulty to farmed animals. 

Visit the WFAD Action Center to find out how easy it is to get involved. 

September 28, 2009

Farm Animals: Organic vs. Conventional

Happy organic cows -

Unhappy, conventional, factory farm cows -

Happy organic chickens -

Unhappy, conventional, factory farm chickens -

Happy organic pigs -

Unhappy, conventional, factory farm pigs -

Happy organic turkeys -

Unhappy, conventional, factory farm turkeys -

Organic food animals are fed what they are supposed to be fed, and they live the way that is natural to them. If you have to eat meat, why would you want to eat something distressed and unhealthy?  Check out this page on Cruelty in the Animal Industry. 
Let your voice be heard,
Get the t-shirt.

You Are What You Eat? Actually, You Are What THEY Eat.

When many people think of farm animals, they picture cattle munching grass on rolling pastures, chickens pecking on the ground outside of picturesque red barns, and pigs gobbling down food at the trough. 

Over the last 50 years, the way food animals are raised and fed has changed dramatically - to the detriment of both animals and humans.  Many people are surprised to find that most of the food animals in the United States are no longer raised on farms at all.  Instead they come from crowded animal factories, also known as large confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs).

Just like other factories, animal factories are constantly searching for ways to shave their costs.  To save money, they've redefined what constitutes animal feed, with little consideration of what is best for the animals or for human health.  As a result, many of the ingredients used in feed these days are not the kind of food the animals are designed by nature to eat. 

 Just take a look at what's being fed to the animals you eat:
  •  Same Species Meat
  •  Diseased Animals
  • Feathers, Hair, Skin, Hooves, and Blood
  • Manure and Other Animal Waste
  • Plastics
  • Drugs and Chemicals
  • Unhealthy Amounts of Grains
Are these ingredients legal?  Unfortunately, yes.  Nevertheless, some raise human health concerns.  Others just indicate the low standards for animal feeds.  But all are symptoms of a system that has lost sight of the appropriate way to raise food animals. 

Same Species Meat, Diseased Animals, Feathers, Hair, Skin, Hooves and Blood:

The advent of "mad cow" disease (also known as bovine spongiform encephelopathy or BSE) raised international concern about the safety of feeding rendered cattle to cattle.  Since the discovery of mad cow disease in the US, the federal government has taken some action to restrict the parts of cattle that can be fed back to cattle. 

However, most animals are still allowed to eat meat from their own species.  Pig carcasses can be rendered and fed back to pigs, chicken carcasses can be rendered and fed back to chickens, and turkey carcasses can be rendered and fed back to turkeys.  Even cattle can still be fed cow blood and some other cow parts. 

Under current law, pigs, chickens, and turkeys that have been fed rendered cattle can be rendered and fed back to cattle - a loophole that may allow mad cow agents to infect healthy cattle. 

Animal feed legally can contain rendered road kill, dead horses, and euthanized cats and dogs. 

Rendered feathers, hair, skin, hooves, blood, and intestines can also be found in feed, often under catch-all categories like "animal protein products."

Manure and Other Animal Waste:

Feed for any food animal can contain cattle manure, swine waste, and poultry litter.  This waste may contain drugs such as anitbiotics and hormones that have passed unchanged through the animal's bodies. 

The poultry litter that is fed to cattle contains rendered cattle parts in the form of digested poultry feed and spilled poultry feed.  This is another loophole that may allow mad cow agents to infect healthy cattle. 

Animal waste used for feed is also allowed to contain dirt, rocks, sand, wood, and other such contaminants. 


Many animals need roughage to move food through their digestive systems.  But instead of using plant-based roughage, animal factories often turn to pellets made from plastics to compensate for the lack of natural fiber in the factory feed. 

Drugs and Chemicals:

Animals raised in humane conditions with appropriate space and food rarely require medical treatment.  But animals at animal factories often receive anitbiotics to promote faster growth and to compensate for crowded, stressful, and unsanitary living conditions.  An estimated 13.5 million pounds of antibiotics - the same classes of anitbiotics used in human medicine - are rountinely added to animal feed or water.  This routine, nontherapeutic use of antibiotics speeds the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which can infect humans as well as animals.  Antibiotic resistance is a pressing public health problem that costs the US economy billions of dollars each year. 

Some of the antimicrobials used to control parasites and promote growth in poultry contain arsenic, a known human carcinogen.  Arsenic can be found in meat or can contaiminate human water supplies through run-off from factory farms. 

Unhealthy Amounts of Grain:

One last surprise.  While grain may sound like a healthful food, the excessive quantities fed to some animals are not.  This is especially true for cattle, which are natural grass eaters.  Their digestive systems are not designed to handle the large amounts of corn they receive at feedlots.  As a result of the corn-rich diet, feedlot cattle can suffer significant health problems, including excessively acidic digestive systems and liver abscesses.  Grain-induced health problems, in turn, ramp up the need for drugs. 

 Want to Change What Animals are Fed?

The rise in animal factories over the last 50 years has led to a system that is out of control.  Mad cow disease, increased liver abscesses, and the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria are just some examples of the damage that comes from unwise and often inhumane approaches to raising food animals. 

As a consumer armed with information, you have the power to promote a modern approach to raising animals that is both productive and healthful.  You can help to effect change by supporting systems and producers that feed animals the food they were meant to eat. 

What You Can Do:
  • Select certified organic meats, eggs, and dairy and those clearly labeled as using only vegetarian animal feed.
  • Purchase meats, eggs, and dairy products from local farmers on the farm, at farmers markets, or by buying a share from a local farmer as part of a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. 
  • Choose grass-fed and grass-finished beef and dairy products and pasture-raised pork, poultry, and egg products.
  • Avoid factory farmed animal products altogether by choosing plant-based foods (go vegan). 
In pictures - Farm animals: organic vs. conventional.

What is organic?

What's the difference between genetic engineering and organic?

Is your favorite food safe?  A grocery store guide to buying the right brands.

The best video on organic agriculture ever!  Don't worry; it's short and sweet.

Let your voice be heard for organic.

September 21, 2009

Is Your Favorite Food Safe?

Greenpeace has put together The True Food Shopping List.  

What is it?  It is a list of food manufacturers who are committed to NOT using genetically engineered (GE) foods and a list of manufaturers who most likely use GE ingredients.  It starts out as a list of vague everyday categories, but when you click on one, you receive the 2 lists of the "good" and the "bad". 

The reason:  As we have learned so far there isn't a federal mandate to label GE foods.  Not knowing makes it hard to be comfortable with what you are buying.  The True Food Shopping List eliminates any guess work.  Though it's not 100% thorough, yet, you can begin now in making informed buying decisions.  And every time Greenpeace receives more information they update the List.   

I'm glad I read it.  I was surprised to see my favorite bread and cereal on the "bad" list.  However, I also saw the perfect alternatives on the "good" list.  Check it out.  (When you do, be sure to keep clicking "next" at the bottom so you can see all product categories.)

A Solution to High Organic Prices

Buying Certified Organic produce and products at your local supermarket can be both expensive and limiting, especially when they don't carry what you want or need.  Fortunately, you can buy directly from an organic farm by subscribing to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).  Subscribers can pick up every week, or bi-monthly, a box of organic produce from a pick up area in their neighborhood (ie: library, mall, your home, etc.).  Cost of membership varies by farm and region. 

What is Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)?

CSA is a partnership of mutual commitment between a farm and a community of supporters which provides a direct link between the production and consumption of food.  Supporters cover a farm's yearly operating budget by purchasing a share of the season's harvest.  CSA members make a commitment to support the farm throughout the season, and assume the costs, risks, and bounty of growing food along with the farmer or grower.  Members help pay for seeds, fertilizer, water, equipment maintenance, labor, etc.  In return, the farm provides, to the best of its ability, a healthy supply of seasonal fresh produce throughout the growing season.  Becoming a member creates a responsible relationship between people and the food they eat, the land on which it is grown and those who grow it. 

This mutually supportive relationalship between local farmers, growers and community members help create an economically stable farm operation in which members are assured the highest quality produce, often at below retail prices.  In return, farmers and growers are guaranteed a reliable market for a diverse selection of crops. 

CSA reflects an innovative and resourceful strategy to connect local farmers with local consumers; develop a regional food supply and strong local economy; maintain a sense of community; encourage land stewardship; and honor the knowledge and experience of growers and producers working with small to medium farms. 

There are over 1000 CSA farms across the US and Canada.
To find a CSA (or even a Farmer's Market) in your area, visit Local Harvest's website.


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