30 September 2008

zero waste, a girl can dream

If it can't be reduced, reused, repaired, rebuilt, refurbished, refinished, resold, recycled or composted, then it should be restricted, redesigned or removed from production.

Pete Seeger

from "If It Can't Be Reduced"
off his new album "At 89"
taken verbatim from a
Berkeley, CA city council resolution

more about our emptied oceans

It seems like a challenging task to demonstrate how vast our negative impact on the oceans is. Most obviously because, when we look out at an open sea, we can't see below the surface.

Randy Olson, documentarian and one-time marine biologist, shows us how depleted the oceans have become in a one minute video. He simply compares the observations of two ocean voyages 50 years apart. Pretty compelling stuff.

Read the NYT blog about it here.

Related post
fin, finito, bye bye fishies

29 September 2008

tracing the backstory of stuff

When we buy something new we usually know only a few elements of its backstory. We know where it is was "made" and where we are buying it. We might even know a little bit about what it's made from by the label. But the origin and impact of the materials and the process of making the product is mostly a mystery to us.

[Image: brianinsanfran]

There are few examples of transparency in the manufacturing of goods. Patagonia stands out as one company with a policy of openness. And while they are by today's standards a shining example of sustainability, they are not without their flaws. They bare all in the Footprint Chronicles, where the user can trace the backstory of a Patagonia product. The good and bad aspects of production are highlighted, as well as where the company thinks they need to improve. There's even an opportunity for you to let them know what you think about their efforts.

Read more about Becoming Better Backstory Detectives at WorldChanging.

You can get Patagonia products at Amazon, REI, and Patagonia.

28 September 2008

hot bread kitchen

I don't know how they do it, but this stuff is good. Hot Bread Kitchen, based in Long Island City, bakes up some delicious granola. It's not too sweet, with crunchy almonds and pepitas, plump raisins, and just the right amount of flavor. I just had some with juicy peaches from the farmer's market and almond milk. A great way to start a rainy Sunday, or any day really.

Hot Bread Kitchen also makes yummy crispy lavash breads topped with zaatar, sesame, or poppy seeds. They're great with cheese, hummus, or even naked.

I haven't tried their focaccia breads or corn tortillas, but I'm guessing they're just as great as the granola and lavash.

Of course, all of their ingredients are organic and local (or I wouldn't be telling you about them!).

Where can I get these tasty baked goods?
Hot Bread Kitchen, in keeping with the eat local philosophy, is [mostly] only available in NY. (Sorry to tease all of you outside NY!) You can find the purveyors of their goods on their site.

Hot Bread Kitchen, in addition to being a great bakery, is helping to preserve the culinary traditions of different cultures from around the world. At the heart of their business is support for women who've immigrated to the US -- empowering them through jobs and providing ESL classes.

27 September 2008

ecofest nyc 2008

Tomorrow at Lincoln Center's Damrosch Park, ECOFEST will kick off its 20th year of providing the public with free info on how to live a more sustainable lifestyle.

This year’s ECOFEST will include an eco-friendly fashion show, musical performances, product demonstrations and alternative energy vehicle displays.

ECOFEST is organized and produced by the West Side Cultural Center in New York.

Learn more and watch ECOFEST's public service announcement delivered by Pete Seeger (who I'm going to see today!).

26 September 2008

get a light, give a light

I love when I know a product is both useful and philanthropic. Like SunNight Solar's BOGO flashlight. It's solar-powered, water resistant, and durable. And for every flashlight purchased, one is given to someone in need in a developing nation.

Here are some technical specs:

  • Charges in 8-10 hours and provides 6-8 hours of illumination
  • Provides enough light to perform nighttime activities with 6 super bright LEDs
  • Powered by 3, standard NiCd AA, rechargeable, and replaceable batteries
  • Will last up to 1000 cycles of powering
  • Water resistant

Buy one, give one. You can get one in orange or pink.

25 September 2008

maggie's nuts and nellie's balls

Hey, keep it clean!
We're talking laundry here.

Maggie's Soap Nuts

Wait a minute. Nuts that clean laundry? Well, almost -- the nut in this case is actually the dried fruit of the Chinese soapberry tree. The fruit contains saponin, a natural cleaner that's been in use for millenia.

Soap nuts contain no additional ingredients (just nuts!). And if used in cold water, they can be re-used multiple times before discarding (you can throw 'em in your compost pile!). Your box of nuts also includes a cotton wash sack and a pair of seed earrings made by Balinese artisans. Read all the FAQs about Maggie's Soap Nuts here.

Get a 50-load box of soap nuts here.

Eco-bonus: In suffering rural economies Soapberry trees are cut down and sold as lumber and firewood to feed hungry families. Maggie’s Pure Land reserves the Soapberry harvest years in advance, providing families with guaranteed income from living Soapberry trees.

Nellie's Dryerballs

I came across Nellie's Dryerballs on a website the other day and I can't keep my mind off of them. These nubby little things actually reduce dryer time by up to 25% while acting as a chemical-free fabric softener. They also reduce lint and wrinkles as they speed up the drying process. Oh, and they have a two-year manufacturer's guarantee. I need to get some of these!

UPDATE: I'm not sure I'd recommend these, now that I know they are made of PVC. I also don't know if I'd recommend tennis balls, because of the potential for residual smell on your clothes. But I just found these wool dryer balls on Apartment Therapy, and a DIY version here.

(Surprisingly, Maggie and Nellie are not in cahoots.)

sip, sip, aaah

There's something so comforting about a warm, spicy cup of tea on an overcast day. Right now I'm sipping one of my favorites, Red Chai Masala from Organic India. It's caffeine-free and has rooibos (aka, African red bush) tea, which I've read has more antioxidants than green tea.

Organic India has a whole line of Tulsi teas -- green, peppermint, honey chamomile, lemon ginger, and more -- that all contain Tulsi or holy basil. Tulsi is considered "The Queen of Herbs" in India for its healing properties, like immune system support and stress relief.

Organic India is dedicated to organic and sustainable farming practices and promoting healthy, conscious living. Learn more about their philosphies here.

You can get Tulsi tea here.

The position of human beings will improve to the extent that they behave with humility towards others.
~ Sri Ramana Maharshi

(Oh, I just sipped the last drop. Gonna brew some more!)

24 September 2008

pete seeger, this saturday at BBG

[Image: Annie Liebovitz]

Pete Seeger, legendary folk singer, activist, and lover of everyone on the planet, is headlining the Chile Pepper Fiesta this Saturday (9/27) at Brooklyn Botanic Garden. He'll be accompanied by his son, Tao Rodriguez-Seeger, and blues guitarist Guy Davis.

There's also a full day of activities planned, including more musical performances, cooking demonstrations, tastings, and tours. The $8 admission to the garden gets you access to all the fun.

Learn more about the Fiesta at BBG's site.

Learn more about Clearwater, the environmental advocacy group co-founded by Pete Seeger.

non-toxic non-stick

Nonstick pans are generally safe if you use them with care. But they do contain certain chemicals that, if the conditions are just right, can cause serious health problems.

When cooking with conventional nonstick, be sure to use plastic, wooden, or silicone utensils. Metal utensils create flaking, so chips can end up in your food. Also, according to Consumer Reports, flaking can lead to uneven heating, which in turn may elicit toxic fumes.

If polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE, or most commonly Teflon) is heated too high (over 500° F), the coating releases hazardous fumes. One of the chemicals used to make nonstick coating, called perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), has been linked to cancer and birth defects in animals and could also be dangerous to humans, according to Consumer Reports. PFOA is also found in the blood of 95% of the US population.

The fumes from overheated Teflon have been known to kill pet birds and produce flu-like symptoms in humans -- so be sure to keep your bird out of the kitchen, keep your kitchen well-ventilated, or replace your pans.

[Source: Environmental Working Group]

This is where Starfrit's Eco Chef Pans come in handy. They don't contain Teflon -- what gives them their nonsticking power is a chemical-free ceramic powder called Ceram-ECO. Made from natural resources, Ceram-ECO also retains heat better than Teflon. The Eco Chef Pans are also supposedly easy to clean (just don't put them in the dishwasher).

What makes these pans even more eco-friendly is that they're made from 99% recycled aluminum.

You can get a whole 9-piece set for $149.99 at Amazon.

[inspired by CNET]

green art supplies

What kid doesn't like to draw, color, paint, create? Wouldn't it be great to know that the art supplies your kid is using are not only non-toxic, but also have a low impact on the planet?

Green Art by Loew Cornell is a line of earth friendly art supplies, designed with kids in mind. The product ingredients include recycled and reclaimed materials, organic fabrics, and paint that's free from volatile organic compounds (VOCs) -- all packaged with less waste.

They even have an easel and a lap desk made from reclaimed wood.

On the Loew Cornell site, they have a bunch of eco-friendly art projects, like leaf prints, stick frames, and rock paintings. They have ready-to-create art kits, too, including a birdhouse, recycled plastic bead jewelry, and sun catchers.

You can get Green Art supplies at Michaels.

[via tiny D├ęcor]

23 September 2008

eco etsy finds

One of the great things about Etsy, crafty online marketplace, is that you get to deal directly with the artists who craft their wares. Many one-of-a-kind or limited edition items -- arts, crafts, jewelry, apparel, letterpress, even food -- are waiting to find a good home. You can also choose to buy locally, from artisans in your area.

Here's a little roundup of some of the eco-friendly goods available on Etsy.

Dollparts and Candy
Remade, Japanese-inspired clothing -- if you get one of their special garments, you can probably guarantee that you won't see anyone else wearing it.

Go West Prairie Cowgirl Shirt

Superscoop Icecream Denim Skirt

Cool chain knit necklaces made from New Zealand wool (so it does have to travel all the way from Auckland, if you're not in that neck of the woods) are a more eco-friendly alternative to metal chains. As Esther and Shelley of Toggle say: Enjoy some gilt without the guilt!

Soft Rocks Woollen Chain in Black with Jewels

Soft Rocks Woollen Chunky Chain in Deep Purple

Soft Rocks Chunky Chain in Silver

Danamarie Hosler is known for her knitimals, unique creatures made from various textiles -- wool, yarn, felt, &c. But I especially like these felt masks, just in time for Halloween (of course the kids will want to wear them all-year round... I see plenty of little boys dressed up like Batman in the middle of the summer around here).

The masks are hand-stitched, adorable, and you can get one for your favorite little monster for only $12 each. (They fit most adults, too!)

Red bird knitimal mask

Blue and yellow knitimal mask

One of VKnO's specialties is her "Windows of the Past - Pop Art Pendants." As she puts it in her profile: A unique and eye catching piece of art for you neck. The one-of-a-kind pendants are made from recycled aluminum cans and vintage magazine or newspaper clippings. Pretty clever stuff.

Just like the sun

Who said it's a dog's life


Map Greenwich London (of course I love this one, it's a map!)

naturaleza al descubierto
The gorgeous natural wood and plant materials in the jewelry by Marlon and Amy Solano are sustainably collected in Nicaragua. They accept custom orders, so if you're looking for a unique gift or wedding ring, naturaleza's beautiful jewelry could be for you.

La Malinche
organic seed earrings

nambaro wood ring with sterling silver inlay and band

coyol ring with tagua and jadeita inlay

22 September 2008

fin, finito, bye bye fishies

The oceans are being depleted of their onetime abundance. Overfishing is something we can all help stop if we want to save fish from extinction. There is a sobering article in GOOD magazine about the imminent global collapse of fishing. It is a must-read for anyone who eats fish. Some eye-opening highlights:

The end of fishing = global food (and economic) crisis

The demise of commercial fishing is beyond the limits of even our darkest environmental imaginations. And yet the evidence of the ocean’s diminishment is everywhere. Leaving aside the legitimate concerns of conservationists, the possibility of a broad fish collapse is harrowing for other reasons. At a time when we are mired in a global food crisis, nearly 1.5 billion people depend upon the sea as a source of food or income. The destabilizing effect of such a collapse would be tremendous, bringing communities and countries into conflict over a resource we once considered boundless. It is fair to say that the endgame has begun.

Government support for an unsustainable industry
Many experts think that governments have been too kind to the fishing industry. The European Union, China, Japan, and the United States spend as much as $20 billion a year to subsidize a $90 billion industry. The number of industrial-sized fishing boats in the world, which the U.N. estimates at 1.3 million, will have to be reduced by more than a third to reach sustainable levels of fishing (and some conservation organizations put the number at closer to half).

Overfishing isn't the only problem, but it's the easiest to fix
We have imperiled what is perhaps the last wilderness on earth, for the simplest reason: We believed it was so vast it couldn’t be harmed. The signs of our folly are now too numerous to ignore. Massive, swirling gyres of plastic have formed in the North Pacific, as have toxic dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico, the Black Sea, the Baltic Sea, and dozens more places. Coastal pollution and construction is destroying critical wetland habitats worldwide. And the ocean itself is warming, a development that will have consequences we can hardly imagine. Amid these challenges, overfishing represents the most immediate threat and possibly the easiest problem to remedy.

We are all responsible
Because of our role as consumers, we’re no less culpable than fishermen for the state of the oceans. Global seafood consumption has doubled since 1973 and, just as its health benefits are becoming known, it seems clear that we will have to eat less fish, and that the fish we do eat will have to be smaller and lower on the food chain, where the effects of fishing are less pernicious. A cod caught by a bottom trawler carries with it a different set of environmental implications than a cod caught by a hook and line—and we ought to recognize and pay for the difference. And we would do well to contemplate, too, why it is that we become indignant at the thought of a world without wolves or elephants, yet stand idly by as bluefin tuna, for instance, are hunted into obsolescence. This animal, as grand as any we know, can live for 30 years, weigh as much as 1,200 pounds, and cross thousands of miles of ocean in a single year.

Please read the whole article.

You can do something!
  1. Follow the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Guide. They have a free downloadable (or mail order) pocket guide you can take with you to restaurants.

    --Some common fish to avoid: Atlantic halibut, Atlantic cod, Atlantic salmon, flounder, sole, monkfish, Chilean sea bass, trawl-caught haddock, skate*

  2. Tell your favorite restaurant or fishmonger to offer sustainable seafood

  3. Help the Director of the National Marine Fisheries Service make the right decision about shaping new commercial fishing regulations
*I realize this may be hard for many people to do, but if we don't change our actions now, these species will be fished into extinction. There are many viable (and delicious) alternatives, including: Arctic char, Pacific halibut, longline-caught Pacific cod, striped bass, tilapia, mackerel, U.S. Atlantic pole-caught Mahi Mahi, trap-caught lobster, plus farmed oysters, clams, mussels and more!

brooklyn harvest

It's the first day of Fall and it's already feeling a bit cooler. The kids are back in school, people are already donning boots and sweaters, and some are gearing up for harvest.

For those of us in the city, no upstate trip is required to enjoy some good ol' fashion pumpkin picking and harvest feasting. In Brooklyn, there are two harvest festivals next month.

The Gowanus Harvest Festival
Saturday, October 11 @ The Yard
Advanced tickets $10
Day of Show $12
Children under 5 Free

Brooklyn! Fall! Brews! Bounty! Yes, its that time of year again. The Yard is once again hosting a fall-themed celebration of Gowanus proportions.

Last year was an incredible success – over 1,000 people joined us at the banks of the canal to enjoy farm fresh food, live music, local vendors, pumpkin carving contests, pony rides, delicious brews and other triumphs of sustainable urban living.

This year, proceeds from the Gowanus Harvest Festival will be donated to Just Food.

So join us and enjoy the wonders of Autumn on Brooklyn’s most …charismatic… waterfront.

Red Hook Harvest Festival
Saturday, October 18 @ Added Value Farm
Annual festival featuring foods from local restaurants, live music and performances, kids' activities, pumpkin patch, raffle & contests, farmers' market, farm tours.

A bit from last year's festival description:
Join several thousand New Yorkers, young and old as we gather together to educate, motivate, inspire and create a more sustainable future for Red Hook and all of New York.

Explore the Red Hook Community Farm, New York City’s largest urban agricultural project and take a tour of the facility led by a member of Added Value’s youth leadership team. Purchase fresh fruits and vegetables from the Farm, RonnyBrook Dairy, Red Jacket Orchard, and Wilklow Family Orchards

Enjoy great local, seasonal fair produced by some of the finest restaurants in the City including The Good Fork, Restaurant ICI, Tini, Baked, and Rice. Press New York State apples into fresh cider, check out the livestock, pick a pumpkin and enter into your art into the craving competition, or pickle some string beans with Classie Parker.

Explore the practicality of solar power, harvesting the wind, collecting rain water and making your own bio-fuel by learning from greening organizations such as: Tri-State Bio Diesel, The Cloud Institute, Community Wind, The Water Resources Group, Solar One, and the Brooklyn Greenway, Just Food.

What is a harvest festival?

Experience the harvest near you

2 orgs that offer abundance to those in need

[Event info via Brooklyn Based]

welcome back, nau!

While they're not open for business unusual -- as they put it on their site -- until mid-October, my favorite eco-friendly activewear company has revealed some of their latest designs. I'm so excited for the return of Nau!

I believe they had designed some of these items before they closed shop earlier this year. Apparently, and thankfully, they had fans within their own industry that helped launch Nau 2.0. West Coast apparel company Horny Toad picked up Nau in June. Read more about the acquisition here.

Check out more of the Fall 2008 sneak preview designs here.

[via Treehugger]

foraging with the wildman

We gathered a small feast of wild edibles this past Saturday in Prospect Park on our latest foraging tour -- this time with "Wildman" Steve Brill. Both the content of his tour and his conduct explain the alias.

Before he even collected our $15 "suggested donation," he was hocking his wares (field guides, a cookbook, magnifying lenses). From the wadded up piece of paper he pulled from his cargo pants' pocket, he took attendance. He phoned the stragglers.

He put his daughter, the aptly named Violet, in the care of over 20 patient tour participants as he brought his merchandise back to the car. "Has anyone seen my daughter?" he uttered more than once as we waited in Grand Army Plaza.

After about 25 minutes, he announced the start of the tour. He played us the "Brill-a-phone" -- a pseudo wind instrument created by clapping his hands in front of his open, hollowed-out mouth (somewhat akin to blowing on the top of an empty bottle).

Wildman Steve Brill

Despite The Wildman's idiosyncrasies, it was an enjoyable day. The sun shone warmly, but the shade provided relief. I learned more about the edible plants around me. Sampled some new wild food and took home enough to be able to enhance some meals.

The root vegetable of the burdock plant, known as "gobo" in Japanese cuisine, will be a good addition to some vegetable soup I'm making. As will the goutweed or bishop's elder, with it's mostly celery, partly parsley flavor.

Root of burdock (Arctium) on the plant

Root of burdock (Arctium) on my table

Goutweed or bishop's elder (Aegopodium podagraria)

I'll make a "lemonade" with the staghorn sumac I picked (with the help of a tall tour mate).

Staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina)

I pulled a sassafras sapling from the ground -- its root makes a nice tea.

Pulling sassafras

Sassafras root

The wood sorrel (Oxalis), bright and lemony, will be a tasty addition to a salad or a sandwich. I didn't pick enough of it, but the lamb's quarters (Chenopodium album) would be a nice salad green or spinach alternative (it's high in vitamins A and C, calcium, folate, fiber, and protein).

I can make a dressing with grated garlic mustard root.

Root of garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata)

We sampled some hackberries -- the dried, brown ones taste a bit like the candy coating of an M&M. We also ate some foxtail grass seeds. Just gently twist the head of the grass over your palm for a mild little treat. A word of warning for pet owners: I've read that the seeds are toxic for dogs.

Hackberries (Celtis)

Foxtail grass (Alopecurus L.)

I tried a bit of black walnut, and my boyfriend and I came back the next day to collect some. We only found a couple, but the tree is full of them. Maybe in a week they'll have fallen. When you do collect them, be sure to remove the husk before bringing them home -- they tend to become infested with bugs.

Lots of nuts up in that black walnut tree (Juglans nigra)

Black walnut husks

A Monarch butterfly we spied at the end of the tour

While we did collect quite a few wild edibles, I was happy to see many farmer's market stands still open so late in the afternoon. My dogs were barking at this point, so my boyfriend gathered a few things while I sat on the curb. When we got home, we used the field garlic in an heirloom tomato salad.

Field garlic (Allium oleraceum)

Grand Army Plaza greenmarket

Related reading

The Wild Vegetarian Cookbook by "Wildman" Steve Brill

Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants in Wild (and Not So Wild) Places by Steve Brill

Take a tour with the Wildman

Related posts

exploring, gathering
yesterday's brooklyn foraging tour [with Leda Meredith]
stalking the wild asparagus