April 2008 - Posts

In honor of Earth Day, here are five every-day suggestions for earth-friendlier living, plus one plug for the green forums at Blogiversity.

  • Don’t dispose of non-biodegradable chemicals down the storm drain. In most municipalities, water that enters storm drains is not treated before being discharged.  What that means is any chemicals you put down the drain can re-enter the waterways to pollute groundwater, rivers, etc.  Contact your county or city waste utilities to find appropriate disposal methods for products like paint, paint thinner, motor oil, or lawn and garden chemicals.

  • Seek out alternatives to using landfills. Landfills threaten groundwater when rain filters through the decomposing debris and carries toxins away with it. Even seemingly innocuous materials like paper contribute to this when dioxins (leftover in the paper from the process of whitening or dying paper during its manufacture) or lead (still found in printing ink) come into play. One easy alternative: Make use of local recycling facilities.

  • Look for corn products that are labeled “non-GMO”. GMO corn threatens the biodiversity of corn overall when GMO genes cross-pollinate with more old-fashioned strains in neighboring areas. Biodiversity within single crops is crucial to preventing disasters like Ireland’s potato famine. The trend towards GMO crops is also suspected to be a factor in the recent dramatic decline of multiple pollinators such as bees and butterflies.

  • Shift away from factory-farmed meat, dairy, and eggs that rely on antibiotics and hormones. These substances, fed to livestock and poultry, make their way into run-off, ultimately polluting both soil and groundwater. Additionally, many leading biologists now link artificially high levels of estrogen in waterways to the declining reproductive abilities of various species of wildlife. Finally, these substances also make their way from the food you eat into your body, which in turn bears the burden of eliminating them.  Most, if not all, major American grocery chains now stock options free of added hormones and antibiotic.

  • Conserve energy and resources by using the simple everyday techniques popularized in the oil crisis of the late 1970s: Turn out the lights when you leave a room. Turn off the water while you brush your teeth. Turn down the thermostat on your hot water heater. Don’t use the extra rinse or hot air dry features on the dishwasher. Don’t stand in front of the fridge with the door open. Wash full loads of laundry and use a clothesline in place of the dryer. Combine errands in the car rather than making multiple short trips. Take a bike ride for those emergency runs to the grocery store.  If you find yourself in the position to do so, extend those habits into bigger leaps: Live near the places you shop, work and play. Consider a commuter carpool. Shop local. Invest in energy-efficient appliances. Buy green-energy credits if your utilities offer them.

 

And, as promised, the gratuitous plug!

  • If you are looking for others in the Blogiversity community who are thinking about similar things why not go check out the forums? The forums are a great place to share your knowledge, opinions, and questions on various topics--including... (wait for it...) greener living!


 

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What are you doing this Earth Day (April 22nd)? If you're interested in energy efficient building and remodeling, bio-appropriate landscaping, and other ways you can make your home, office, or yard more earth-friendly, you may be interested in checking out the Capital Region Green Products Fair and Trade Show that's scheduled to take place at the Leon County Civic Center. For more details, view the pdf included here.

Product Fair Flyer.pdf 

Already have plans for celebrating Earth Day 2008? Why not share them over at Blogiversity's Environmental forum?

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You can buy a pound of dried small red beans for around a buck. I do it all the time. But what do you do with them when you get them home? Here's an old stand-by for me.

After soaking and cooking the beans (use the directions on the bag if you don't know how), take about half out of the pan and freeze them for later use. That leaves about 3 cups in the pan.

In a separate pan, sauté one lonely clove of garlic in a couple tablespoons of olive oil for a second (or a minute). Add a small spoonful of "Italian Seasoning" or just use oregano and a couple big spoonfuls of chili powder (whatever type you like, but it should have cumin in it or this won't taste as good). Sauté all this another minute. Then add a small can of tomato sauce or two or three chopped tomatoes if they're in season and yummy. Cook all this for about ten minutes at a simmer. Add salt to taste (although this ups your ingredients, but who really counts salt? Or oil for that matter?) Add the beans you already cooked and cook all of this for another ten minutes. I like to eat this with jalapeño cornbread and (of course) rice. This makes enough for about three of four if you serve it with sides.

You might notice there's no meat involved. Try it that way first--you might like it that way and it's certainly lower in cholesterol (which makes it better for you). If you don't like it that way, I'm pretty sure sausage is the classic meat addendum to red beans.

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Play a Game, Fill a Bowl of Rice 

Do you know about freerice.com? If you don't, click on the image below and check it out! But be forewarned, it can be slightly addictive!

 Free Rice!

When I was in school, lengthy threads about the Free Rice game started showing up on a list serve frequented by my Applied Linguistics colleagues--I believe people thought of it sort of like a way to procrastinate, but without the usual levels of guilt. Procrastinating is "bad" but if you're  increasing your vocabulary, helping feed people, and theorizing about the corpus and programming behind it? Not so bad...

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Over at Blogiversity's Forums department people are talkin' green. Not green like moola but green like eco. I jumped in briefly on Writer Lady's post about the greening of her home. She encourages people to share resources they encounter over there on the forum where they can be passed along to others (and I certainly must second her on that). So I shared one thing I do that makes a green difference: I try to focus my grocery purchases around local foods when possible.

The green connection is that by cutting down on excessive transportation (and its requisite companion, storage) the food you buy leaves a smaller, to use some recently en vogue lingo, "carbon footprint." The most basic explanation is that driving food around in trucks requires fuel to move it and fuel to hold it at appropriately cool temperatures. Fuel, of course, is dirty in the environmental scheme of things. Then think about the global market... If driving lettuce from Alamosa to Tallahassee was bad, flying apples from New Zealand to Florida is really bad!

 But here at Five Alive, I want to talk about something else: The other reasons to buy more locally grown foods.

1. Local foods support local farms and thus local economies. 'Nuff said.

2. Local foods spend less time between farm and plate, making them more nutritious. Even the USDA agrees that fresher foods contain more nutrients because vitamins and enzymes degrade with time.

3. Local foods spend less time between farm and plate, making them taste better and look yummier. Along with the nutrients that fade away, flavors, textures, fragrances and colors also decline.

4. Local foods are seasonally appropriate foods. Around the world, many cultures think that eating with the seasons means providing your body with the best nutritional defenses for seasonal ailments.

5. Local foods introduce variety. It doesn't seem obvious at first that by tightening the radius of growing region you actually extend your options, but this is how it works for me: When I don't have to be creative with my food choices, I fall back on the same-old-same-old. When I eat local, I have to try new things because I can't always get my old stand-bys.

And here, point five intersects with point one. When local farms are thriving, they can diversify their plantings and livestock operations to include "specialties."  Heirloom tomatoes and goat cheese, count me in!

These five ways, plus the green one, are not the only reasons--I've heard people talk about the intangible benefits of having their kids "get" that milk comes from a cow before it comes from a carton, for instance. But these five (plus one!) are my personal motivations for keeping food local when I can.

For a more "third person" look at local food and other green good issues, you can find a broad intro in the article "Straightening Out a Broken Food Chain" over at Sustainability Puzzle! Have a look, it's easy and fun.

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Today at work a young family knocked on the door of our, for all intents and purposes, residential looking office. I greeted them and they wasted no time in stating their proposition. For ten or fifteen bucks, they would wash my car. I told them I'd have to pass, but I'd check around and see if anyone else wanted a car wash. First, I asked my boss. I expected him to decline the offer, so when he said yes I just stood in his door going, "Oh. Okay. Really?" I thought he was annoyed with me for interrupting him, but maybe he was just annoyed that I couldn't manage the details of the transaction for him. He pushed past me to go talk to the soon-to-be auto detail crew waiting on the deck. Soon he came back and asked the office if anyone else wanted their car washed. I said something like, "Yeah, but I don't have ten dollars for it." Then it was his turn to give me an incredulous "really?" So that's how it happened. He asked if I wanted it washed if he paid for it. I gave a resounding affirmative. My car and at least three others were washed. I didn't even realize how much it had been needed until my lunch break when I stepped out into the parking lot of glistening cars lined up. Oh my, those suds were a long time coming...

From a different perspective, the crowd at my office tend to have variously diverging views of the world and the order of things in it, most often coming to light when the conversation veers towards predictably controversial things like the upcoming presidential election or what my boss likes to call "women's rights." At times I think I see one particular co-worker take these differences of opinion to heart more than usual (which I secretly find endearing, but not in a condescending way of course). So car-washes all around followed by my boss' declaration that this is an appropriate way to help people out with charity rang out as one of those moments when everyone could, I think, detect the common ground of good intentions between disparate approaches.

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Last night my roommate announced he was going on a date tonight. After I asked him all the gossipy roommate questions (where, who, how'd you meet her, etc.) he started to qualify the date. "Well, it's not really a date... I mean... We're just going to meet for a drink after work..." I insisted that it was indeed a date. He said it was something called a "preliminary date, before the real date." I insisted it was in fact a first date. Our weird warring-broken-records conversation went on for awhile and I finally conceded that perhaps I have a looser definition of date. (After all, I call my weekly Scrabble night a Scrabble Date, or a scheduled hike a Hiking Date, or coffee with my friends a Coffee Date. In fact, me and my bff often throw around the phrase "friend date".)

But here's where it gets interesting. About fifteen minutes later I'm on the phone catching up with Andrew when he tells me about a date that he went on last week. And the same thing happens! After calling it a date and describing it to me (it was definitely a date!), he then gets cold feet and says it was more like a "pre-date". First it's a date, but under scrutiny it turns into, what, a lesser type of date? I started laughing and told Andrew to hold on while I hollered into that "Hey! Andrew goes on pre-dates too!"

So, weird coincidence aside, what is this all about? I suppose it's all semantics, but in my book the first date you go on with someone is called a first date. The second date is called a second date. All subsequent dates are called dates. I will admit that there are different types of first dates: The kind you are really excited about, and the kind you are going on to find out if you would be excited about dating the person in the future.

And so I can only assume the "preliminary date" is a specialized term to describe a first date when you don't have any idea what to expect. Still, if it goes well and you go out again, is it right to call the second date a first date? No! Never!

Anyway, I understand that I need to grow my vocabulary to get around this social reality. So, if one is first, two is second, and so on, what is the equivalent word for "point five" (as in a 0.5 )? Would that be a halved date?

 

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