Stop the Low-Fat Mantra, Already!

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.

choices, what to do?

Photo credit goes to earl on Flickr:

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.

I am proud to be taking part in Blog Action Day OCT 16 2011

One source of our inspiraton…and what green lifestyle design means

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:

(This is a 30-minute long video. For a short synopsis, go here and for an even shorter one-minute clip with synopsis, go here.)

SXSW Eco: Let’s Stop Talking About Sustainability: How Our Current Vocabulary is Failing Us

By Marcie Barnes

Panelists: Andrew Hutson – Project Manager, Corporate Partnerships for Environmental Defense Fund; Gary Lawrence – VP and Chief Sustainability Officer, AECOM; Jeff Nesbit – Executive Director, Climate Nexus; John Rooks – President and Founder, The SOAP Group; Brooke Buchanan – Director of Communications for Sustainability, Wal-Mart.

Perspectives on how to approach different audiences with a different narrative.

Nuggets from the panel:

Words like sustainability cause people’s eyes to glaze over all the time. What do we need to be doing differently? We need to be able to have a conversation. No one will use the word ‘climate’ in Washington right now. Don’t lead with ideas that threaten people’s core beliefs, etc. People seek out ideas that conform to their core beliefs. If you hear something that challenges your core belief, you tune it out or look for it’s fault(s).

You have to tell the story in a compelling way to each audience. We’re passionate but talk about it in sterile terms.

To most people ‘sustainability’ means nothing. Needs to be communicated that it’s about outcomes for humans, not the environment. It’s a great word for companies, executives, etc. but not for regular people. They understand simpler things like clean air, clean water.

The language in the national security and the ‘fundamental’ audiences is vastly different from in the environmental movement.

Wal-Mart does not plan to rate all of their products on their sustainability scale, they are working on it but there are too many.

The word happiness matters, sustainability tends to be all about risk. People like us can make a difference in the future in our species. The language problem is critical, we have to focus on the things that drive people’s daily concerns.

Correlation between evolution denialists & climate denialists – do not talk science with them, should be more about “creation care.” Recycling creates jobs, etc.

“We don’t need to save the planet, the planet will survive, we need to save us.” – Nesbit

We’ve dropped the moral argument, we need to make that argument without finger-wagging.

Empathy is very important when communicating with people who “don’t understand.”

“For the Bible Tells Me So” recommended to watch on Netflix. Unconditional love trumps all in difficult situations.








SXSW Eco: Building a Better Climate Movement

By Marcie Barnes

Panelists: Courtney Hight – Co-Executive Director, Energy Action Coalition; John Pflueger – Principal Environmental Strategist for Dell; Tom Brookes – Managing Director, Energy Strategy Centre; Bee Moorhead – Director of Texas Interfaith Power and Light.

Nuggets from panel:

More and more companies are publishing corporate responsibility reports. The climate movement is not an official one with a flag and a logo, but a defacto one. From the corporate perspective [Dell] pays attention to what customers want and ask for.

It’s not clear whether or not there is a climate movement. What is it? A left-wing campaign? A common agenda for change? A lifestyle choice? A new economic narrative? Is the left wing really inherently badly organized?

It is perceived to be a left wing issue, in the faith community, the synthesis is between rules and love, between two ways of engaging the world. About how do we live with each other. There’s not a movement that’s effective.

The movement is very fragmented. We need business, personal , individual, massive projects that the governement will invest in, people with coal plants nearby are already part of climate change issues, regardless of political affiliation.

It looks like there is a a positive ramp-up over time in recent years – a positive curve. The people occupying wall street have been personally impacted, climate change is not an immediate personal experience for most, but there are those dying from coal plant emissions, mining side-effects, etc…people are pissed and seeing the massive grip of corporate control and they decide to go wall street, we need to connect to that and learn lessons from that.

Graphic: Key Components of the Climate Change Denial Machine – should the climate movement go up against each point in order to move forward?  None of the political agreements (Kyoto, etc.) are doing what they were intended to do. The debate in America is more intense but the rest of the world is also not “up to snuff.”

Addressing the real problem means addressing the money chain / corporate component and also making personal choices. It’s hard to pinpoint one bad guy in the climate movement (in comparison to pinpointing Wall Street, etc.) Campaign finance reform will be an important avenue. Our President is not talking about climate change, it has become a hush issue.

We need to organize better. On power – we’ve got to give the other side some space in order to start a conversation, not keep yelling at them.




SXSW Eco: God, Guns, and Greens: Forging Unlikely Allies in the Fight for Safe Food

By Marcie Barnes

Speaker: Simran Sethi – Associate Professor, University of Kansas and award-winning journalist and academic who teaches on sustainability, environmentalism, and social justice.

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 [30] 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].





SXSW Eco: Feast and Famine: The Global Food Paradox

By Marcie Barnes

A panel of three experts on the discrepancy between obesity and hunger, and the global food crisis.

Panelists: Peggy Neu – President of Monday Campaign: Kristen Sitchler – Garden Grants & Legal Manager of FoodCorps; Neil Miller – Farmers Around the World, Executive Director of World Farming Relief.

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.



SXSW Eco: Eyes in the Field, Boots on the Ground: Citizen Science

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

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: 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. “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.”









SXSW Eco Session “Straight to the Point” Community Action, Safe Drinking Water, Ending the Coal Industry…

By Marcie Barnes

Experimental Data Visualization: Leveraging Personal and Community Action

Green Maps can take on different neighborhoods, different issues. Getting people outdoors in Stockholm, biodiversity in Singapore, etc. Can help map corporate social responsibility. Many tools you can repurpose for your community.

Sol Design Lab is creating solar charging stations for bikes, cell phones electric vehicles, etc. Mission: “to create interactive and inspiring solutions for urban sustainability, public art, and design.”

Using Carbon Financing to Provide Sustainable Access to Safe Drinking Water

“Environmental health is directly connected to human health…and social health” Lifestraw is a water filter that works by gravity so it is very clean. Since people are no longer boiling their water, there’s a tangible impact on the carbon market. It’s unique because it’s a way to adapt current regulation to allow for an innovative project.

No More Coal: The Business Case for Ending an Industry

(Gil Friend, CEO of Natural Logic Inc.) Coal from a business perspective purely (not health or environmental). The global subsidy to fossil fuels is range, so say 200 billion. The market value of global coal industry = $155B. If we shut this down and used the money saved on subsidies and shut down the mines, cleaned up all the rivers, air, etc. there would still be money left over. We have a society focused on just the bottom line.

The real costs of a gallon of gas are $15-$20/gallon when you consider subsidies, military, taxes, health effects. Subsidies on fossil = 6x the subsidies on clean energy. These are political decisions, not economic decisions. Nuclear subsidies at 140% the actual energy being produced. Transitions not easy – seeing some movement on wall street – different industries have different risk in terms of carbon, health, etc. Investment shifts are getting attention.

What do we do? Zero out subsidies. Have an “unusual” coalition to take down all subsidies which will shift the favor towards renewables. Demand transparency. Most subsidized companies do not disclose the subsidy amounts (or consider environmental impact, etc.) Get CFOs into the sustainability game. They own risk & value and need to be at the table. “Sometimes the invisible hand needs an invisible foot.”

Keep Austin Neutral – Austin’s Leadership in Climate Protection

They want to be the most livable city in the country. Sustainability is in the core of their city planning, and they are planning with climate change effects in mind. Plan to be using all renewable energy by 2020, have a 100% green vehicle fleet, Austin is the largest city in the country right now buying 100% renewable energy through wind power credits. In the press yesterday because of all this:


SXSW Eco Conference Tuesday Keynote

By Marcie Barnes

Alex Steffen is “one of the world’s leading voices on sustainability, social innovation and planetary futurism” according to his website. He is about to kick off SXSW Eco with the Tuesday keynote titled “Carbon Zero Cities, Unimagined Opportunities and the Risks of Thinking Small.”

3:10: “We are pursing things with great passion…that don’t add up to what we truly need.”

3:11: “If we continue on the path we’re on we have no chance of slowing [climate change] down.”

3:13: “We need to be thinking along the lines of 100% reduction by 2030.”

3:15: “How we measure our emissions has tended to distort the picture a bit.”

3:18: “We really want access to [things we want]…we want to live well” (We don’t have a deep stake in how that life gets delivered).

3:20: “Most emissions come from burning fossil fuels…I totally support clean energy…we simply don’t have the capacities at this moment.”

3:23: “Most of the energy we use is determind by the kinds of systems we live in…the cultures we live in.”

3:25: “Denser communities use less energy.”

3:28: “We’re learning that we can…really increase the amount of people living [in large cities]” [at a profit].

3:30: “People change how they live, what they want.”

3:31: “We need to create spaces where cars understand that they share the road.”

3:35: “Technology is becoming more and more ubiquitous…we can see thing around us in a way we never could before.”

3:38: “Delivery has a much lower footprint than [people going to the mall].”

3:41: “The goal is no longer dream homes, it’s dream neighborhoods.”

3:42: “Cars are a leading cause of a lot of our health problems.”

3:44: “Active lives have true benefits…for many commutes, a slightly longer walk is better than a drive…it’s time you would have spent dead.”

3:45: “Poverty is growing much faster in suburbia than in cities.”

3:48: “Passivhaus Design…dense building have all sorts of green benefits…passive solar homes…district systems…smart metering…”

3:50: “We’ve been buying and using in ways that have been absolutely silly…they would be better used by many people.”

3:54: “Sustainable design…can be boiled down to…the designer…many impacts can be designed away.”

3:55: “We need to change the way we see wealth…there are ineffective and effective forms of wealth.”

3:56: “Many of the things we need to do are impossible or actually illegal under local or state codes.”

4:01: “We are headed into a storm of forces, we want to be the people who help our cities…”

Welcome to! is launching next week from the SXSW Eco conference in Austin, TX. We are very excited to be kicking things off in a big way from big ole Texas, y’all…so go ahead and subscribe to stay right on top of things!

Our goal is to provide a high-quality Green Lifestyle Design news source for our readers that will include investigative eco-reporting from our staff as well as some fantastic, high-quality advice and opinion from some of the world’s best “green” bloggers and writers.

Yee haw!

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