By Marcie Barnes
You’ve probably heard plenty about how eating local and organic as much as possible is healthy for you and the planet. And it’s true. Although many organic (and local) products get a bad rap for being more expensive, it’s almost always related to the fact that the government subsidizes oil and corn (among other things) which make mass-produced, carb-filled foods cheaper. So, if you’re not a fan of the government skewing the free-market system, don’t continue to buy the mainstream, big-ag controlled products. Just thought I’d throw that out there on this day before we all give thanks for our food and blessings…
In that spirit, I’ve prepared a quick top five list of small things you can do in order to eat more green, be healthier, and support the health of Mother Earth:
5. Take smaller portions, and if you’re still hungry later, get seconds. This is a common tip for dieters but also a common-sense approach for not being wasteful (or even gluttonous). Throwing away food is an embarrassing thing that Americans do – literally on average each American throws away their body weight in food each year. This needs to stop.
4. Eat slowly and enjoy meals with friends, conversation, and perhaps a nice glass of wine or other favorite treat. Another common dieting tip is to chew slowly, but you also will do this naturally if you’re not eating alone or in a hurry. Make time for meals instead of relying on fast food or convenience foods and spend that time with people you enjoy being around. This way you consume less, but feel fuller and happier at the same time – win/win!
3. Make some of your meals vegan (if you’re not already) – Vegetarian is good too but I think it’s important to skip the meat-laden meals as much as possible – more on that in the next tip – and refresh your body with great, plant-based foods ideally once a day or more. Whitney Lauritsen (The Eco-Vegan Gal) has compiled a wonderful resource of recipes and videos at: http://ecoveganfood.blogspot.com if you need some ideas or inspiration.
2. Do not eat or purchase mainstream, factory-farmed or processed meat products – The current system by which most meat reaches your plate is horribly inefficient and consumes a staggering amount of oil (for transportation), water, feed and is also responsible for a lot of pollution, pesticide/fertilizer use, and general non-greenness. Not to mention there are well-documented issues with animal cruelty. Find places that sell local meats and eggs (farmer’s markets and Whole Foods stores are a good place to start) and cut down on the portions in order to justify the bump in price.
1. Do not throw away food - I am echoing the sentiment again – and here are some more tips – freeze leftovers before they go bad in your fridge. This is often very easy to do with produce as well, prep and freeze anything that might be sitting around before it goes bad. Also, when you do buy whole birds to like (like on turkey day) boil the carcass to make stock for soups, which you also can freeze. Also, I have a confesssion to make. I have been a vegetarian on and off my whole life, but I live with two boys (including my husband) who eat meat. Anytime there are leftovers that would otherwise end up in the trash – I eat them. I would much rather eat the protein and utilize it for my own body than have it end up rotting in the landfill. So from now on, you can call me a greenetarian
Here’s to a happy, healthy, and green Thanksgiving to you and yours!
By Marcie Barnes
I’ve heard an advertisement on my local radio station a few times lately that can be described easily as corporate-marketing-fatwashing at best (I made that up, but I think #fatwashing is a term we should be talking about). It’s a skim milk product that I won’t name. In the ad, they are touting the benefits of a low-fat beverage that has lots of calcium, etc. etc. you’ve heard it before.
Although fat is the highest in terms of calorie count by weight, I don’t believe the body stores fat as fat. Instead, it uses fats for cell repair/regeneration, in particular in relation to our vital organs. That’s pretty important stuff. This is also why I think there is an epidemic of psychological disorders in Westernized nations (to include depression) – because of the “low fat” diets that have been so popular for years. To clarify: I said I don’t believe the body stores the fat you eat, it stores the unused carbohydrates you eat as fat. Why do you think farmers feed their pigs and cows grain in order to fatten them up as quickly as possible for slaughter? If the fat we consume turns to fat, why aren’t farmers feeding their livestock….fat? If you’re overweight, there’s a very good chance your diet consists of too much sugar and other refined white carbs like flour. Think about it.
I am a
vegetarian [meatless greenetarian] (I do eat high-quality dairy – meaning milk products from organic, grass fed cows and eggs from local farms that let their chickens run wild and eat organic stuff) so I feel compelled to say that while I am essentially promoting a low-carb diet here, that doesn’t have to mean eating a lot of meat to compensate for the lack of carbs, either. My diet largely consists of vegetables, beans, nuts and whole grains. I always choose the full-fat version of dressing (or sour cream or whatnot) and use healthy oils such as olive and coconut liberally (yes, coconut oil is saturated – not all saturated fats are bad, either. Typically plant-based, non-processed fats and fats that come from animals that ate plants, or grass-fed, are healthy for you, and as discussed in my previous post, healthy for the planet as well). Plus, fats and oils help make you feel full in the same way meats and fiber do. And by the way, once you start eating this way on a regular basis, you won’t miss the other stuff after awhile, at least that’s been my experience. Try going cold turkey on the sugar, too – it can be as addictive as cocaine.
I’d like to also include a post by Tim Ferriss from a few years ago that gets into more backed-up detail about this important topic, mostly because I spent a long time looking for some nice, well-written links to include in this post (I found a few, and I hope you will take the time to enjoy them) however they were few and far-between. The proliferation of the “low-fat mantra” is widespread, and it was hard to find health articles that didn’t use the term “low-fat” or otherwise talk about fat with differentiating between the kinds that are good for you and the kinds that are not. What is annoying about this is that it is too easy to take that term at it’s base level (eat less fat) instead of considering that there are essential forms of fat that we need in our diet, and other more damaging ones that should be avoided.
So I’ll say it one more time (so I don’t become another one of those articles that leaves out the important part about which fats are good): plant-based, non-processed fats and fats that come from animals that ate plants, or grass-fed, are healthy for you, and the planet.
Corporate food marketing in America is currently fueled (literally) by government subsidies that make cheap carbs (mostly corn) way more attractive for them as profit-seeking machines. Conversely, high-quality ingredients such as un-processed plant-based fats are, well, too expensive for a society that is well-versed in spending their money on the cheapest food available along with the most expensive cars, houses, purses, shoes, etc, that they can find. Is junk food really cheaper? Please think about it, especially if you live in the nation with the highest health care costs in the world, and the highest proliferation of cheap food.
By Marcie Barnes
For those of you unfamiliar with the term “lifestyle design,” it was coined by bestselling author Timothy Ferriss about five years ago in tandem with the writing and release of his first book, The 4-Hour Workweek. You can read all about it on his blog. In short, Tim is all about choosing the most efficient paths in life that lead to health and happiness. And he’s done the research to back up everything he says, trust me.
Now those of you who know me are aware of the fact that I have been a volunteer member of Tim’s team since the very early days of 4-Hour Workweek. I actually stumbled across Tim and his book before it became a bestseller, and was fascinated and inspired by his personal case studies and writing. That said, I give a great deal of credit to Tim and his books (his most recent one, The 4-Hour Body, actually delves into more detail about why eating “green”, in particular, is also almost always the best choice for your health as well as for the health of the planet). Both books have certainly improved my life and have given me, in part, the insight and motivation to bring you this site — where we will delve more deeply into the world of green lifestyle design.
In this video, circa 2008, Tim addresses each of the major categories that we will also be addressing here — mostly conservation, food and transportation-related questions from our friends at treehugger. Most importantly, he talks about the kinds of choices we can make in our lives to be more “green” – without doing things like living totally off the grid and raising our own food. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course. But because, as Tim says, that would be completely unrealistic for most of us…and we agree.
Without further ado, I present to you Mr. Tim Ferriss on green lifestyle design:
By Marcie Barnes
Sharing what she learned after moving from NYC to Kansas.
In NYC she denounced climate denialists, in Kansas she has learned to understand their concerns. In NYC she talked about farmers, in Kansas she is learning to farm. Food connects to all of us, we cherish food.
Percentage of Americans who believe the globe is warming has risen to 83%, up from last year. We don’t like to believe things that don’t coordinate with our personal perception, we have been perceiving warm.
Research shows that there is only so much we can worry about at one time. The way to make information relevent, is to work within existing cares we already have, not something new.
Environmentalism is not just about climate, grids, etc. it’s also about our relationship to the earth and our connections with others. We are stewards of God’s garden and are commanded to cultivate and care for it. We are intrinsically connected to, not separate from, our ecosystem.
The conventional farmer shopping at Wal-Mart knows a lot more about climate cycles, the environment, etc. than she does. Large-scale agribiz is the only form of farming that has grown over the last  years.
“If you are what you eat, and especially if you eat industrial food, as 99 percent of Americans do, what you are is ‘corn’.” – Michael Pollan
Our access to food is becoming a luxury, food prices are predicted to rise without even considering the effects of global warming. For people of faith, this should be unacceptable. 9/10 of the world’s calories now come from 10 food commodities.
On genetically modified organisms (GMOs) – All the big GMO seed companies started out as chemical companies. They take the sovergnty of seeds out of the hands of farmers and into the hands of corporations. Whoever controls the world’s seeds controls the world’s food supply. Monsanto has 647 biotech patents & are the largest GMO seed producer. They are feeding the animals & the gas tanks with biofuels – most of the big NGOs who support these companies are heavily invested in them. They will supply seeds for free to farmers in need but require them to sign contracts [and buy their chemicals]. GMO seeds are a manipulation of natural DNA processes. Those traits would never naturally occur [as opposed to cross-pollination, etc.]
However the GMO seeds can cross-pollinate with heirloom or organic crops and contaminate them (and vice-versa). The smallest farmers with the fewest resources are the ones being sued by these companies for raising seeds that have been patented (due to cross-pollenation/seed drift). Terminator seeds have been genetically modified to not reproduce. Crop will grow normally but the seed does not generate.
Study on GMOs’ impact on pregnant women (gylsophate) showed that it showed up in 100% of blood/umbilical cord samples because mothers ate meat that ate the GMO corn, etc.
The saving seed tradition that farmers have relied on has been ruined by these corporations. Reference: Genesis 29-31 God is the master of all nature. We can’t tackle climate change without tackling agriculture, must reach farmers. Take this back to your communities and make a difference, we have to try harder and do more.
Ballot initiative in California underway to label GMOs, spread the word to help them set a precedent. Obama supported labeling during campaign [Coalition asks for GM food labeling].
Start with what people love, people can meet in the middle with gardening/farming, don’t talk about politics. Don’t ambush with information. Community gardens reconnect people the source of their sustenance.
Stunned that there has not been more reporting around the fact that the Gates Foundation is heavily invested in Monsanto. Get this information out there. Do research and share the information.
Make the land we already have more efficient. There is a lot of research to show “we can feed the world” without GMOs. [Big Ag Won’t Feed the World].
By Marcie Barnes
A panel of three experts on the discrepancy between obesity and hunger, and the global food crisis.
Moderator: Marla Camp – publisher of Edible Austin Magazine.
Feeding the world with cheap calories has only exasperated health problems, etc. will explore solutions, collectively come up with imperatives to take back to use in our daily lives.
Miller: A lot more interest from people wanting to train for starting small farms, urban gardens, school gardens, etc. in the last 5 years. Works with international partners as well as local school systems. Has an international and local perspective on hunger.
Sitchler: FoodCorps was born out of a concern for the obesity epidemic in America. Goal of how to best address those issues. Great way to reach out to children is to engage them in schools, where some eat 3 meals a day. Engage children in school gardens, bring produce from local farms into schools.
Neu: Started the modern Meatless Monday – which actually started in WWI to conserve food and help feed war-ravaged areas. The modern incarnation started in 2003. Goal to get people to eat less meat due to health and environmental impacts. Spread virally through the internet and has been featured by celebrity chefs and on major outlets.
Nuggets from panel:
Reference to Bittman’s recent article on “Is Junk Food Really Cheaper?”
We’ve created an economy/policies that create cheap food that leads to obesity when those foods are readily available and cheap.
In Haiti, the local rice costs 2x what the rice imported from America costs due to Haiti being forced to reduce their rice tariffs, and US rice farmers were receive huge subsidies, which have been increasing each year. After the earthquake in Haiti, President Clinton made a public apology for his policies which he acknowledged ruined their rice economy in order to help the US farmers. We need to look more towards production of fruits and vegetables in America and not to compete with farmers in countries where they need those kinds of calories.
Statistics on FoodCorp’s first year – built 20 new school gardens, 49 revitalized, delivered 1600 lbs. of produce to families in need, started thousands of programs. The communities are receptive. Kids are thrilled to get outside and have a “salad party.”
Policy issues regarding school gardens vary by location, FoodCorp finds it is often a misunderstanding that they can work through, barriers can be removed at the local level in many cases.
Kids are taught to give back to the community, grow a row for the Food Bank, sharing through community gardens, etc.
How to challenge the issue of subsidies – the farm bill, surveys are showing that a slight majority of people want the subsidies cut. It is a very complicated issue, it would be hard to pull out subsidies all at once and watch the farm economies in rural America tank. Perhaps we should subsidize healthy foods instead.
The American Agriculture Alliance (industry-funded) is publicly against Meatless Monday, etc. – which means they are making a difference. The US Farmers & Ranchers Association want to change the perception of farmers and big ag. We don’t want to put these companies out of business but influence they way they operate, shift their paradigms.
Cargill’s new “natural turkey” is a product of what consumers want but within the USDA guidelines they are still barn-kept, corn-fed.
By Marcie Barnes
A panel of four experts who use citizen science to gather information and educate the public.
Panelists: Sandra Henderson – National Ecological Observatory Network, Boulder, CO; Anne Haywood of National Geographic’s Bioblitz Program; Travis Gallo of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center; Janice Dickinson, a Cornell Professor.
Henderson: What is citizen science? Programs where individuals or networks of individuals collecting data outside of their “regular job”. They are hobbyists, love learning, are concerned, want to be involved. She directs www.budburst.org.
Haywood: Bioblitz started 6 years ago with the National Parks Service. Focus on building awareness around the parks and biodiversity. Also work with Project Noah – a smartphone app that allows people to explore nature and document via pictures, ask a scientist to identify something you do not know. Fieldscope is a GIS mapping tool to document nature findings.
Gallo: Texasinvasives.org is a place for people to document invasive species in Texas. Citizens get outside and collect data – instead of a paper (typical) datasheet they are easily trained via the streamlined online datasheet and portal – helps with spelling of species names, etc. Getting a better understanding of where invasive species are being problematic. A sense of stewardship is built among the citizen scientists whether they collect data or start a program in their community to address invasive species.
Dickinson: The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has a new project in beta that is crowdsourcing sustainability called yardmap. They can draw a map on top of a satellite image and add objects (plants, rain barrels, solar panels, etc.) to the map. Focused on changing environmental stewardship and bird habitats – as well as things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint. Also how to attract certain species to your yard (map). Help spread the contagious nature of sustainable practices.
Nuggets from Panel:
Project budburst helps track global warming effects by seeing when plants start to bloom, etc.
National Geographic helping a team in Mongolia to look for the tomb of Ghengis Khan via GIS and data collection from citizen scientists.
Texas invasive species data being used for land management, protecting endangered species, influencing policymakers via solid data.
The Cornell Lab has been tracking things such as acid rain and mercury effects on birds, species declines, create a state-of-the-birds report that is presented to policy makers. There is a deficit of people to analyze the complicated data sets, youth needed to go into the field of ecology to help with the statistical data analysis.
“Get people outside with a purpose” – one citizen got a grant (on her own) to work with 6th graders – to get them out and report data to their community.
Some blame technology for keeping people inside, these applications are using technology to get people outside.
Technology can be a hurdle because often the people interested are of the older demographic, but they overcome it. The iPhone makes it easier.
Darwin, Thoreau, Jefferson and others left a legacy of curiousity about nature, and were citizen scientists in their time.
citsci.org “create your own projects where trained volunteers and scientists together answer local, regional, and global questions, inform natural resource management decisions, advance scientific understanding, and improve environmental education.”