Friday, November 28, 2008

Leftover Turkey? Try My Turkey Pot Pie Recipe

Good Morning! Is your fridge stuffed with leftover food from Thanksgiving like mine is? In the past, we would eat some of it, but usually about two weeks from now, I'd be throwing a bit of it away. This year, I'm determined not to let that happen. I've talked about food waste before. In the U.S., we waste about 30% of the food produced in this country. If you consider all of the resources that went into making the food and all the energy that went into transporting that food, that is a heck of a lot of waste.

So I'm going to make sure that I use up the leftovers. I'll be making turkey, stuffing and cranberry sandwiches, turkey soup, potato pancakes, and my turkey pot pie. This recipe originally called to be done traditionally in pie crusts (which I still do on occasion) but an easier, very tasty way to do it is to make the filling and then ladle it over biscuits.

Turkey Pot Pie over Biscuits

  • 6 tbsp. butter
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp dried marjoram
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • 1 cup milk (I use 1% and it works fine)
  • 10 oz. hot water
  • 1 tsp. chicken bullion
  • 3 cups cubed turkey
  • 16 oz. partially cooked mixed vegetables
  • biscuits

1. Melt butter in large saucepan
2. Stir in flour, salt, marjoram and pepper - cook until smooth, stirring occassionally
3. Slowly stir in milk, then water
4. Add bullion
5. Bring to boil, reduce heat and stir constantly until it thickens
6. Add turkey and vegetables, cook for 20 minutes - make sure turkey and veg are cooked through
7. Serve over homemade or store bought split biscuits

I challenge you to get creative and figure out how to use up all your leftovers yesterday. Don't let any of them go to waste. Give them away if you need to.

And the picture above really has nothing to do with this particular post. It's just my cat, sitting at the table last night, waiting for dinner to start. She seemed rather surprised when my husband pushed her off the chair and sat there himself.

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Recipe for Sweet Potato Casserole

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. I thought I'd share my sweet potato casserole recipe today, just in case someone is still searching for one. It would be easy to use mostly organic ingredients in this, however, once you see the ingredients you'll realize that it isn't a low fat or low sugar recipe. That's why I only make this once a year.

Sweet Potato Casserole Recipe
  • 3 cups cold mashed sweet potatoes (prepared without milk or butter)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cups butter (softened)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 tbsp cold butter
  1. Beat sweet potatoes, milk, butter, eggs, salt and vanilla until smooth
  2. Transfer to a greased 2 quart baking dish
  3. Combine brown sugar, pecans and flour; cut in butter until crumbly - sprinkle over potato mixture
  4. Bake uncovered at 325 degrees for 40-50 minutes
I usually boil and mash the sweet potatoes the day before Thanksgiving. I put the casserole together Thanksgiving morning and put it in the fridge. I take it out and let it come to room temperature about an hour before the turkey is done. As soon as the turkey comes out of the oven, I pop it in to cook. By the time turkey is carved, regular potatoes are mashed and the table is completely ready to go, I pop it out of the oven. YUM!

If you've posted a favorite Thanksgiving recipe on your website, please put a link to it in the comments.
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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

My Thanksgiving Menu

I'm having a much smaller than usual Thanksgiving this year, but that doesn't mean I'm going to cook much less than I normally would. The leftovers never go to waste. Here's what will be on my table this year:

Turkey - a free range one from a local farm. I pick it up on Wednesday
Gravy - I cannot make gravy to save my life. My mom always swoops in right before serving the meal and whips it up
Stuffing - my mom and I have this awesome recipe that I'll never reveal the secret for mostly because it's kind of embarrassing
Mashed potatoes - yum
Sweet potato casserole - it's like starting dessert early
Green beans - just green beans - no fried onions or mushroom soup to drown them out
Cranberry sauce - the jellied kind in the can, and I'm not apologizing for it. My six year old will fill his plate with it
Rolls - dinner rolls and cheese stuffed rolls from a local bakery

Pumpkin pie - because it's the law
brownies and assorted cookies 

I'm also serving a Shiraz and a Sauvignon Blanc. Not what I read I should be serving with turkey, but I'd rather drink what I like, not what I'm supposed to.

I think my favorite part of it all is the perfect trio of a little turkey, a little stuffing and a little cranberry sauce all at once on my fork.

What's your favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal?
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Monday, November 24, 2008

10 Stocking Stuffer Ideas for Greens, Environmentalists, Hippies ...

Got a greenie in your life whose stocking you need to stuff, or do you just want some ideas for stocking stuffers that are less harmful on the earth? I've got a list of ideas for you. 

  1. Fair trade organic chocolates, coffees, teas or hot cocoas
  2. Gift certificates to used CD, DVD, or book stores
  3. Something handmade from EcoEtsy - they have jewelry, fashion, crafts - just about everything - all made from independent artists and crafters
  4. Packets of organic seeds for next spring's garden
  5. Burt's Bees Lip Balm
  6. Beeswax or soy candles
  7. Chicobags
  8. Bottle of organic wine
  9. Mp3, cell phone, PDA solar charger
  10. A reusable water bottle like Kleen Kanteen or Sigg
The most important thing to remember when filling a stocking is to make sure that none of the items are just filler. Try to make each item something the recipient will actually use. If the person whose stocking you're filling never burns candles, then don't put in beeswax or soy candles just because they are environmentally friendly. Any item, no matter how environmentally friendly made it is, becomes a waste of materials and energy if it never gets used.

Can you add to this list? What green item would you like to see in your stocking?

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Friday, November 21, 2008

We Need Strong Regulations On Genetically Engineered Crops

I'm not an expert on genetically engineered crops, but I know this, when something we put into our bodies is not natural, it takes a long time before we know what the effects of that not natural item will be. Things that were once thought perfectly safe (remember how partially hydrogenated oil laden margarine was SO much better than butter for you until it wasn't?) often end up not so safe. 

So when the USDA is considering the rules and regulations when it comes to Genetically Engineered Crops (GE's), it makes sense that they create strong rules that require lots of tests and studies on these crops by impartial parties. Not surprisingly though, the

USDA has released a proposed rule that would significantly weaken oversight of all genetically engineered crops, and which continue to allow companies to grow food crops engineered to produce drugs and industrial chemicals.

The USDA began this process over four years ago by promising stricter oversight. Unfortunately, improvements considered early on have been dismissed, and the proposed rule now has the same gaping holes as the policy it is replacing, and creates a few new ones, as well. For instance:

* USDA has created a huge loophole allowing biotech companies to assess their own crops to determine whether USDA should regulate them. And the criteria are open-ended, very subjective, and will certainly reduce USDA’s oversight of GE crops.

* The proposed rules could also allow companies to grow untested GE crops with no oversight whatsoever: “Over time, the range of GE organisms subject to oversight is expected to decrease…,” a move which USDA itself admits will make contamination of conventional/organic crops with untested GE material more likely.

* To add insult to injury, USDA has proposed to write into law its “Low Level Presence” policy, which excuses it from taking any action to remove untested GE crops from conventional or organic food, feed and seed. This contamination often occurs through cross-pollination or seed dispersal, and has cost farmers hundreds of millions of dollars in lost sales and lowered profits.

* USDA rejected options that would have banned outdoor cultivation of pharmaceutical-producing GE (food) crops, the only way to ensure that untested drugs don’t end up in our food, despite strong support from citizens and the food industry.

* USDA has refused to propose any controls on pesticide-promoting GE crops, despite increasing pesticide use and an epidemic of resistant weeds that have been fostered by these crops.

* Finally, USDA snuck in a last-minute “correction” that bars state or local regulation of GE crops more protective than its own weak rule. CFS strongly opposes such preemptive language that would bar local or state authorities from putting meaningful regulations or restrictions on GE crops in place that best suit their communities. This last-minute change should be cause to extend the public comment period.

The USDA is treading dangerous new ground here. The structure of the new proposal opens loopholes that can be exploited by biotech companies and expose consumers to more untested and unlabeled genetically engineered foods.

After denying requests for an extension to the short comment period given for the proposed rules, USDA’s comment period closes on Monday.
This information was taken from The True Food Now Network. If you click on the link, you will be taken to a petition that you can be signed and your name will be added and sent to the USDA to let them know that you expect them to act responsibly. Please take a minute to do so. 

Thanks to Derek Markham on Eat.Drink.Better who brought this to my attention this morning.
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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Blogging Roundup

Before I get into my blogging roundup, I wanted to know if you've heard about the Progressive Automotive X PRIZE? It's a private competition that is offering a 10 million dollar prize to a team that comes up with a vehicle that can 100 mpg or better. It's innovation through competition and the prize certainly is an incentive, isn't it? This, obviously is not my area of expertise, but it is an area of expertise for one of my friends from high school, Doug. He and his partner Bob have made it into "the first wave of teams that have made it past the first round of qualifications in the race to make a super-efficient and market-ready vehicle that gets at least 100 mpg." 

I wanted to say congratulations to team BDCOTSRUS and wish them good luck in the competition. With the mess that our automotive industry  in our country is in at the moment, I don't see any of the American car companies doing anything about innovation or improving fuel efficiency. It's reassuring to know that someone out there with a real incentive is working on this.

Onto the blogging roundup. Here's what I've been doing elsewhere over the past couple of weeks:
Does anyone else feel like time is passing super quickly lately? I feel like I just get my kids to school, sit down to work, and suddenly it's time to pick them up, and my work day is over. I'm not complaining - I get to do what I love and I've got plenty of clients right now. I'm just amazed at how the day flies. I've only got 2 1/2 hours till I need to pick the boys up today and my to-do list has barely been touched! Stumble Upon Toolbar

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Green Term of the Week - Green Fatigue

This is the one and only time that I will write this now cliched phrase on this blog, but here it goes. It isn't easy being green. I thought that in light of my close call with a green meltdown at the supermarket yesterday, I'd discuss a condition that has been named green fatigue.

If you do a search for green fatigue, you'll find several definitions. Green fatigue results from consumers being tired of being hit over the head with the green message in the news and by marketing companies. Green fatigue results from having had enough of the world is going to be destroyed by our habits message. Green fatigue results from people being wary of false green claims or "greenwashing."

I'm sure that many consumers get tired of all those things. But that wasn't my problem yesterday. My problem came from just being tired of trying to make the right green decision over and over in a short period of time. The grocery store will do that to you. I shop at a store that has many good options, but it still gets ridiculously paralyzing at times. Do I buy the organic eggs or save a $1 and buy the all natural, free range, unorganic eggs so I can put that dollar towards buying a different green product. It's little decisions like this, one right after the other, that can get to me. 

I suppose it all comes down to commitment. Pretty much like everything else that is important to me in my life. Family, marriage, faith, motherhood - it gets tough at times. And there are moments when I wonder if it's worth it. But those moments are fleeting and so was my green fatigue of yesterday. I'm sure it will return again - most likely at the grocery store. And I'll get all pouty and whiney and then I'll get over it.

Many things about living green aren't really that difficult. But some things are. It's like any thing else worth it in life. If it's important to you, you'll get over the fact that it can be difficult.
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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

10 Easy Ways to Be More Sustainable While Staying in a Hotel

My husband and I got away for the weekend. Just the two of us. We went to DC. I had been hoping to stay at Hotel Madera which is eco-friendly, doesn't charge a parking fee for hybrids, and serves free fair trade coffee each morning, but I waited too long to make the reservations and couldn't get a room. We ended up staying at a regular hotel. So how to do you make a regular hotel stay a little more sustainable? Here are ten easy ways:
  1. Bring your own travel coffee mugs. Some hotels offer in-room coffee makers, but you can't take the coffee mugs out of the room. Other hotels offer coffee in the lobby, but they have disposable coffee cups. If you have your own travel mugs, you can take advantage of the in-room coffee on the go and stay away from the disposables.
  2. Find out what the hotel's recycling policy on bottles is. If they don't have one, consider lugging your bottles home with your if it's convenient.
  3. If you use one of their complimentary products - like their hand cream or shampoo, take the rest of the bottle home with you and use it up. If you leave the open bottle, it will need to be thrown away. 
  4. Don't take what you didn't use. Sure, hotels factor in the cost of the shampoos, paper, pens and other complimentary items, but if you don't need them, don't take them just because you can. 
  5. If the hotel gives you the option of using your towels or other linens for more than one night, take the option.
  6. Turn the lights out when you leave the room.
  7. Unplug just like you would at home - unplug chargers for cell phones or mp3 players or other items. 
  8. If you're going to be gone from your room for a long period of time, adjust the thermostat if you're capable of doing so to save energy.
  9. You know those little shelves filled with brochures of local attractions in many lobbies? Only take what you really think you are going to use. And, if possible, return unused ones to the shelves.
  10. When you're done your stay, let the hotel management know that you noticed their efforts to be green and thank them, or politely suggest that one or two things that they could change, green-wise, that would make you more likely to stay with them again.
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(Almost) Giving Up the Green

Don't worry. I'm not giving up green. But I had one of those moments in the grocery store today when I just wanted to throw in the organic towel and head to the pop tart isle. The store that I shop at had a middle of the road type store brand that I thought was a good compromise on some items. Let me give you an example. Their "food you feel good about" pancake syrup is made with 2% real maple syrup, actual sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup, and all natural ingredients. This, I figure is a middle of the road option between the high fructose corn syrup maple flavored with who knows what and high priced real maple syrup. By phasing out this brand, I'm now left with the choice of crappy brown corn syrup or real maple syrup and 8 times the price (and my husband and kids don't like real maple syrup). 

Then I get to the cracker isle, and I decide to look at the ingredients on the box of Triscuits. I've always thought Triscuits were a good choice. Whole wheat, oil, salt. That's it. No sugar, no partially hydrogenated oils. But the oil in Triscuits is palm oil. I've been reading a lot lately about the creation of palm oil is very bad for the planet.

Well, darn it. Sometimes, I just get overwhelmed with it all. I almost headed straight for the pop tarts. But I didn't.

I held off buying syrup. We'll just be syrupless until I decide what to do. I'm thinking this is going to force me to finally just make the rest of my family suck it up and start eating the healthier real syrup.

 I did buy the Triscuits. But I'm going to find out if I can find a better substitute for them before I buy them again. 

Another day in green-land. Still plugging along. Just wanted to let you know if sometimes you feel like throwing in the organic towel, you're not alone. 
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Top Five Things I Could Care Less About When it Comes to the Obama Family

Can I have a completely non-green rant here? I rarely stray from the topic of this blog, but I don't have any other forum in which to vent this.

First of all, please don't take this as a rant against Barack Obama or his family. It's a rant about the things that so many people in the media and the blogosphere are fixated on when it comes to them. And now I'm fixated on how stupid it is for others to be fixated on these things. Perhaps, if I can just rant it about it all here, I can move on. As we all should.

Here it goes:
  1. What kind of dog the Obamas choose. Who cares. It's a dog. The breed they choose is neither symbolic of them as a family or the president-elect's ability to lead our nation.
  2. Whether the Obamas send Malia and Sasha to pubic or private school. It's not my business. As the girls' parents, the Obamas should do what is best for their girls and their education. Their decision shouldn't be made in response to their pubic image or how it will effect the president-elect's educational policies. I don't care if they choose public or private as long as they are doing what is right as parents, not as politicians.
  3. If Malia and Sasha should wear their hair natural or not. Guess what. If parents want their children to portray a certain image, it's no concern of mine. It's not my business if my friends require their children to wear suits and dresses to church while I allow my boys to wear ripped jeans. Same rule applies here. It's parental privilige to have the children reflect the family. If their parents decide to have them look one way or the other, it's their decision. No one should judge them on this.
  4. How painful it's going to be for Barack Obama to give up his Blackberry. I have no idea if he cares about this or not, but many people seem to feel this is a huge deal. Here's a man whose campaign relied heavily on new media, a man who is connected to social media and e-mailing and Internet at his fingertips. But in a few months, he's going to be President of the United States, and there are certain security measures that need to be taken. You know there will be some college student somewhere cutting classes and throwing away his parents money while he spends day and night burrowed in his dorm room figuring out how to hack the president's blackberry. And really, do we need our president distracted by texting when he's on the phone with the Prime Minister of China? I don't think so.
  5. Whether Michelle Obama is channeling Coretta Scott King, Jackie O, or any other historically revered woman. Last week there were two pictures circulating that had some similarities between the late Mrs. King and the soon-to-be first lady. In both pictures, the women are sitting on the end of what seems to be a church pew. Both women have a child lying on their lap. People went all crazy/happy. Look how much Michelle Obama is like Mrs. King! Isn't it prophetic! Please. In the picture of Coretta Scott King, she's at her husband's funeral, obviously and understandably distraught. In the picture of Michelle Obama, she's at the convention (not actually in a church pew) looking understandably like she'd love to get this kid off her lap. The similarities between the two are really not that remarkable. And then there's the hoopla about Michelle Obama being the queen of the new Camelot. Sure she has a sense of style, and although I personally thought her dress the night of the election was unfortunate, I was glad to see that she didn't feel the need to wear a conservative suit, a string of pearls, and her hair in a french twist. She gets to have her own style and forge her own legacy - she doesn't need to be saddled with the standards of someone else's before she even becomes first lady.
So there you have it. The top five things I'm ready for everyone else to start caring less about so I can stop being annoyed by it all.

We can now return to our regularly scheduled greenness.
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Monday, November 17, 2008

Another Reason Why Banks are Failing

My bank was recently bought out. I don't think it had anything to do with the recent financial hubbub. I think it was an actual regular old buy out that had been in the works for a while. So far, I am highly unimpressed with the new bank. 

I went in to order new checks because with the changeover it wasn't possible to do it online. The kid behind the desk told me that we could just start over from check #1. I said, "Are you sure there won't be a problem with two of the same check number floating around out there even if they were written far apart from each other." He said, "I don't think so." I asked if he would check with a manager. 

Manager comes over and tells me, "Yes, that would be a problem." Doi. (My six year old has started saying doi and even though I haven't said it in at least 20 years, I've decided to add it back into my vocabulary.)

So - Doi!

Today, I finally get the checks. All 50 0f them. Not 250 or how many usually come in an order. 50 of them. But on top of the checks in the box is a pen from the bank wrapped in a far too large plastic box. So I've got a box wrapped plastic wrap that is holding a pen I don't need, the excessive plastic box that held the pen, a new plastic checkbook cover that I don't need and only 50 checks that I do need. And soon, I'll have to reorder because they only gave me 50 checks.

Who is the marketing genius behind this? Banks are failing. I would think they would want to instill confidence in their customers instead of looking stupid. But no, they send me an environmentally unfriendly box of far too few checks. Bad for the environment. Inconvenient for me.

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What Will You do on Buy Nothing Day?

Have you heard about Buy Nothing Day? It's a campaign aimed to get consumers to buy nothing for one whole day. Here in the U.S. that day is Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving that is traditionally the biggest shopping day of the year. In most of the rest of the world it's the following day.

The point of Buy Nothing Day is to get consumers to think about how their buying habits effect the environment. We consume our natural resources faster than the planet can replenish them. We are the worse offenders of this in the U.S. The majority of what we buy ends up in the trash. Landfills are full, the Pacific Ocean has a "continent-sized stew of toxic trash" swirling around in it. Our consumerist behaviors are destroying the planet. So many environmentalists are urging people to participate in Buy Nothing Day.

In the past two months, it seems that many people have been participating in a "Buy Nothing Season" as our consumer index plummets. In this economy, people have stopped spending. Good for the environment. Bad for the economy.

My husband and I had the opportunity to go away for the weekend. We spent Sunday morning lounging around our hotel room and watching TV. We jokingly call it living like the heathens. Usually on Sunday, we're in church all morning, but a couple of weekends a year we get away, and enjoy coffee and newspapers in bed. Wow, the news on every channel was about the economy. How bad it is. How much people aren't spending. How the government is handling it. How the merchants are already slashing their prices so low that you don't have to wait until the last minute to get good deals. There are amazing deals now.

So what do you do? Buy nothing and help the environment or take advantage of these great sales and help the economy?

I say neither. I don't have a problem with Buy Nothing Day, but really it's just symbolic. Most people, if they are going to abstain from buying on Black Friday, will still buy holiday gifts at some point throughout the season. So if you're crazy enough to go out there at 3AM the day after Thanksgiving (and you my fabulous friend I've had since kindergarten know I'm talking to you!) then have a blast. 

But have a list and stick to your list. Don't buy an item you weren't intending on buying just because it's 50% off. Don't feel responsible for single handedly reviving the economy. There are so many reasons the economy is crap right now. Buying stuff is not going to fix it. It didn't fix it when we all got those checks from the government. It only temporarily delayed the inevitable. 

Here's what I'm going to do. 
  • I'm not going to shop on Black Friday because I never shop that day. I don't enjoy it. 
  • I'm going to make a list of everyone I want to give gifts to. And I'm going to give them gifts. 
  • I'm going to try to give eco-friendly gifts where I can. 
  • I'm going to make a smaller pile under the tree for my boys because all of the little things I end up buying just to make their piles look better never get played with. 
  • I'm going to spend within my means and if the GNP plummets because of it, so be it.
  • I'm going to try to move away from the consumerism of the holiday and find meaningful ways to bring the birth of Jesus back to the forefront for my family.
  • I'm going to be patient with all of those (including my own family members) who aren't ready to be less consumeristic yet.
  • I'm going to give - give to Thanksgiving basket drives, and toys for less fortunate kids drives, and our local Wish Tree drive. 
What are you going to do on Buy Nothing Day? What are you going to do during this holiday season? 

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Friday, November 14, 2008

Mother Nature Network is Looking for College Interns

I haven't officially announced it yet, but I suppose I'm doing it right now. I'm going to be the food channel blogger over at the soon to be launched Mother Nature Network. It's a gig I'm very excited about, and I'll tell you all more about it another time.

For now, I want to let you know that the network is looking for some college interns to be video or blogging correspondents. I wrote about it on Sustainablog in Mother Nature (Network) is Looking for Interns. If you or someone you know is a U.S. college student and passionate about the environment, take a look at this please. Then pass it along to those you might know who would be interested in something like this.
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Make Sure There's Some Local Harvest on Your Thanksgiving Table

Anyone who has been through third grade can tell you that what the pilgrims were celebrating at the first Thanksgiving was the harvest. Those construction paper cornucopias that every 8 year old creates don't have green bean casseroles or sweet potato casseroles (YUM!) coming out of them. They have things like gourds and hard tri-color corn. Things that are rarely found on our Thanksgiving table today.

I grew up with what is in modern times considered the traditional Thanksgiving dinner. A stuffed turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, jelled cranberry sauce from a can, Mrs. Paul's candied sweet potatoes (which my mom would do in the microwave and most years forget about and we'd find them the next day in the microwave), and rolls. All of these things bought at the grocery store, and most of them originating 100's, if not 1000's, of miles away.

The food on my Thanksgiving table doesn't really differ much from the food that was on my mom's. I've switched out the Mrs. Paul's for a sweet potato casserole and cook fresh green beans and serve them sans mushroom soup and onion rings. This year, although, I don't plan on disturbing my menu too much, I do plan on changing one thing. I'm buying as much of my food from local sources.

I can get a turkey from a local farm and my farmer's market stays open until the week before Thanksgiving so I'll be buying cranberries, green beans, my sweet potatoes and whatever else I can from local growers.

There are many people out there who are looking to the rules of the 100 mile diet (eating only food that is grown or raised with 100 miles of your home) for their Thanksgiving feast. I admire that. I really do. For me, and my family, that would mean changing too much of our menu. I'm not ready to do that.

But, whatever I can find that is local that fits in with my current menu, I'm going to try my best to get. It's better for the environment and it supports my local farmers. It also honors the spirit of Thanksgiving. See, those pilgrims and their Native American guests weren't celebrating with food shipped in from California. It was all local. It didn't even follow the rules of the 100 mile diet. It followed the reality of the 100 foot diet. Whatever they could grow in their own fields or raise on their own farms - that's what they ate.

What is grown in your region that you can put on your Thanksgiving table? Can you commit to buying it?
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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Women Leaders for Entrepreneurship, the Environment & Social Equity at Philadelphia's Greenable on Nov. 16

Below is the press release for Women Leaders for Entrepreneurship, the Environment and Social Equity that will be held this Sunday, Nov. 16 from 3-6 at Greenable (the fabulous green building supply store) in Philadelphia. It's being hosted by We Are Building Open Opportunity Structures Together (We Are BOOST), and I announced their event last month, too. 

After making the announcement, the organizers of this event inquired if I'd like to speak. I promptly ignored their request because I've never formally spoken in public on a green topic before. Then when I had gotten my courage up to maybe say yes, I checked my calendar and I was going to be out of town anyway. But I have a feeling that at some point, I'm going to have some involvement with We Are BOOST. Until then, I'll keep plugging their events. Here's the press release for this weekend's event:

November 2008 - Philadelphia PA - Patricia Gaylor has practiced green design in the northeast for over 25 years. After seeing many remodeling jobs start with the demolition and hauling away of tons of materials, she began to wonder how to create beautiful new spaces without making such an environmental impact. Reducing landfill waste and specifying materials that are renewable, recyclable or sustainable has been part of her design business for many years.

On Sunday, November 16, Gaylor joins a panel of leaders from a broad range fields where she will share her vast experience and knowledge with anyone interested in greening up their living, work, worship, or recreational spaces and places.

Women Leaders for Entrepreneurship, the Environment and Social Equity is being hosted by We Are Building Open Opportunity Structures Together (We Are BOOST) at the showroom of Greenable, one of Philadelphia's premier resource for interior and exterior green building products and services for residential and commercial projects. The forum will take place from 3pm until 6pm. Greenable is located at 126 Market Street in Philadelphia PA and the donation to attend is $15 per adult and $5 for children under 12 years of age and only $5 for college and university students with a valid student I.D.

"In an economy where home building and remodeling is suffering one of the worst slumps in decades, green building and remodeling are experiencing incredible growth. Recent surveys reveal that home buyers will pay a premium to purchase a green, energy efficient house. Coloring your business GREEN is a smart move in a sluggish economy!" says Gaylor, who was recently featured on Good Morning America.

Yvonne Haughton, founder and director of For My Daughter Library and Ali Shapiro, proprietor of Integrative Nutrition Counseling will lead a panel discussion and interactive question and answer session at Greenable.

Donation is $15 per adult and $5 for children under 12 years of age and college and university students with valid student I.D. A refreshments buffet of locally grown and harvested food will be prepared by Cosmic Catering and available to all who attend. Advanced registration is required, please call (206) 202-2883 or visit the calendar of events page at You may also email
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Real vs. Fake Christmas Trees - Which is Greener?

Yesterday, I passed by a lot that was being prepared to sell Christmas trees. Yep, it's time to start thinking about them.

In my entire life, there have only been two Christmases where I haven't had a real tree. We couldn't afford one our first year married so we had this tiny little borrowed table top artificial Christmas tree. The next year, we bought a real tree, some lights, and a few ornaments. Problem was, we absentmindedly bought white strings of lights (see picture), and couldn't afford to buy any others. So we went with it. The other time we had an artificial tree was when we went to my in-laws in Arizona for Christmas so we just put up a borrowed artificial tree at our house.

But now, with all the greening I've been doing around here lately, I started to wonder. Which is greener? A real tree or an artificial tree? I did a little research, and I found that there are arguments for both sides out there. But I was only swayed by one of them.

Pro Real Christmas Tree
  • Christmas trees are grown on tree farms - they are considered an agricultural product. They are sustainable, and for each tree that is cut, at least one more tree is planted.
  • Tree farms are usually planted on soil that doesn't support other types of agriculture. 
  • In the US there are about 1 million acres dedicated to tree farming. Each acre provides enough oxygen for 18 people. 
  • Tree farms reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the air and help counter-balance this global warming thing we keep hearing about.
  • Real trees are easily recycled*. Many communities offer curbside pick up in the weeks following Christmas and turn the trees into mulch.
  • Every state in the U.S. grows Christmas trees. It is possible to get a tree that is locally grown.
  • Unless you're allergic to them, real Christmas trees are better for your family's health once they are inside the home. Fake Christmas trees contain PVC.  "According to the Children's Health Environmental Coalition, the manufacture of PVC creates and disperses dioxins, which include the most toxic man-made chemical known. Released into air or water, dioxins enter the food chain, where they accumulate in fatty tissues of animals and humans, a potential risk for causing cancer, damaging immune functions and impairing children's development." (source -
  • Fake Christmas trees are not recyclable and will sit for hundreds of years in a landfill leaching PVC, lead and other contaminants into the soil.
Pro Fake Trees
  • Fake trees are reusable. If taken care of properly, fake trees can last decades.
  • No real trees are harmed in the making of an artificial tree.

That's about all there is for the pro fake. But there are artificial tree websites out there that can take those two facts and spin them into paragraphs of environmental benefits.

It's easy to conclude that I come down on the real tree side. The argument that no real trees are harmed in the making of an artificial tree makes no sense since real Christmas trees come from sustainable tree farms that are helpful to the environment.

And sure, a fake tree can be used for decades, but that's decades of chemicals and toxins floating around the air in your home, around your children and pets, that will ultimately end up in a landfill. Plus, they are usually made in some foreign country by factory workers who breath this stuff in constantly and get paid very little to do so. Then they need to be shipped half way around the world.

There are other pro/con reasons to have a fake Christmas tree - they are more cost effective, they don't shed needles, they can come pre-lit, etc. But for purely environmental reasons, real Christmas trees beat them hands down.

* If your community doesn't offer pick up of trees, you can go to the National Christmas Tree Association's website, input your zip code, and find out where you can take your tree for recycling.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Green Term of the Week - Food Miles

I've mentioned food miles on a few post before, but I've never had a full discussion about them. The term food miles refers to how far a food has to travel from where it is grown or raised to get on your plate. 

I first learned about food miles when I read Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I was beginning to green many things in my family's life, but I hadn't gotten to the food part of it yet. Reading Ms. Kingsolver's book made me realize that the food my family eats can have a large environmental impact. It's hard to believe that it's been less than a year since I read the book because thinking about how and where my food is raised or grown has become the norm.

In the U.S., the average grocery store’s produce travels nearly 1,500 miles between the farm where it was grown and your refrigerator. About 40% of our fruit is produced overseas and, even though broccoli is likely grown within 20 miles of the average American’s house, the broccoli we buy at the supermarket travels an average 1,800 miles to get there. Notably, 9% of our red meat comes from foreign countries, including locations as far away as Australia and New Zealand.

The issue with food miles is that a lot of fuel and energy are used when shipping food thousands of miles. The food is shipped by truck, plane, train or boat - all of which give off greenhouse gasses. 

Many people have incorporated as many local foods as they can in their diets to help keep their food miles down. I'm one of them. It's easy to do in the warmer months when the local crops are being harvested, but it's not so easy in the late fall, winter and early spring when the local pickin's get slim. And that's where I find myself right now.

My farmer's market closes the weekend before Thanksgiving. I intend to stock up on some things - some meat, the Jersey Fresh canned tomatoes, honey, and anything else I have the room to store. But there isn't a lot of room in my freezer so I won't be able to buy too much meat. Still, I'll do my best.

Buying as much local food as you can will help keep your food miles down. It will also help to support the small, local farms in your area and contribute to keeping them around  a while longer. 
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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Book Review: Simply Green Parties

I wrote this book review for a writing gig that went south so I thought I'd post it here. With the holiday's coming up, I'm sure people are looking for ideas to make their festivities a little more eco-friendly. This book has some good ideas. Here's the review:

It’s easy to go overboard when planning a special event in your home, and going overboard can often lead to a party that is not environmentally friendly. Simply Green Parties by Danny Seo has “simple and resourceful ideas for throwing the perfect celebration, event, or get together.” The ideas in this book can help any host add eco-friendly elements to a party.

The book is divided into 6 party themes: Dining Under the Stars; A Twist on a Birthday Party; A Spring Baby Shower; Sizzling Summer Party; Your Housewarming Party; and Winter Warm Up. Seo gives ideas for environmentally friendly foods, d├ęcor, table settings, gifts and more. The ideas for each party can be interchanged easily, however, and used for any type of party being thrown.

In the Housewarming Party chapter, for instance, Seo suggests using discarded champagne corks as place card holders. To make the place card holder, run a sharp knife through the top third of the cork and place the card in incision. Or, use the same idea to identify foods in a buffet or on a cheese tray. Of course, this idea doesn’t need to be for a housewarming party only. It can be used anytime you need place cards or a way to identify foods at a party.

Other party ideas that caught my attention in this book are scooping the leftover hot coals from a grill into fireproof bowls and allowing guests to make s’mores with organic chocolates, creating birdbath wine coolers, and making eco-friendly wineglass ID tags that reuse paint chip cards.

There are also hints and tips on organic wines, making or choosing eco-friendly candles, helping your caterer go a bit more organic, and saving money when buying organic.

Like any book on party planning, readers can take the ideas that work for their party and that fit their style and leave the ideas that they don’t like. There were some ideas that I found unappealing – such as using Twizzlers as a replacement for drinking straws. But there were many ideas that I’ve already used a few times at gatherings in my home.

Each idea is accompanied by detailed instructions. There are full color photographs of finished items, projects, and dishes. Seo notes in “A Special Note to the Reader” that all of the props and materials used in the photographs were created with recycled, thrift shopped, and/or organic materials.

Simply Green Parties is published by Collins and retails for $19.95, and as should be with any book that encourages greenness, it’s printed on recycled paper.
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Monday, November 10, 2008

10 Easy Ways to Be More Sustainable in Your Home Office

We have two separate offices in our house. One for me and one for my husband because we both work from home. Physically, we could both fit in his office on the third floor, but it would be very disruptive to have us both in the same space. Plus, I'm a big ol' slob and he's not, so my mess would drive him insane. It often drives me insane.

Anyway, I try to be as environmentally responsible in my office as I can be, and I encourage my husband to do the same. Here are ten easy things that can be done that can make your home office more sustainable.
  1. Plug your computer, printer, speakers and anything else that goes together into one power strip with an off button. When not in use, just touch one button and you turn them all off, saving energy.
  2. Keep a recycling bin for papers right next to your trash can.
  3. Before papers hit the recycling bin - use both sides. I print a lot because I'm not very good at proofreading off a screen. I use the backs of papers (particularly the papers that get sent home from my boys' school) to print on because after proofreading, the papers just get put in the recycling bin.
  4. Buy the best recycled paper you can afford. 100% recycled paper is expensive, but paper with 30% post consumer content doesn't cost much more than virgin paper.
  5. Change the lightbulbs in your office to CFL's or better yet, LED's.
  6. Recycle your ink cartridges. Send them back to the manufacturer, donate them to a cause that is collecting them as a fundraiser, or drop them off at many office supply stores.
  7. Make sure that you properly dispose of e-waste (electronic waste). Electronic equipment that ends up in landfills wreaks havoc on the environment. Most counties have special e-waste collection days, many manufacturers are beginning to take back products, and still useful electronics should find new homes.
  8. Be wise with your office supplies. Reuse folders, save the rubberbands that come wrapped around flowers or newspapers to use in your office, live with a manual pencil sharpener instead of one that needs batteries or electricity. Every little bit helps.
  9. When you need a new piece of office furniture, try buying used first. Go to yard sales, a thrift store, or Craigslist. Or try Freecycle and perhaps you can get what you need for free. You may even want to try e-mailing friends and family to see if they have anything sitting unused that they would be willing to part with.
  10. Think about putting a plant in your office. Unless you've been able to go out and purchase all new eco-friendly furniture, carpeting, and paint for your walls, your office is probably full of toxins from carpets, the glue that holds together your particle board second hand bookshelf, even the ink from your printer. Care2 has a list of plants, such as English Ivy and Peace Lillies, that help remove bad stuff from the air.
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