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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

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Options for a Turkey-Free Thanksgiving Meal


What is the history of Thanksgiving and when did we all start celebrating? A short version of the story is as follows, in 1621 the pilgrims and Indians came together to share in the bounty of the earth. Following this the first recorded Thanksgiving observance wasn’t until 1671 and happened in Charlestown on June 29th.  Then in 1789 president George Washington declared the first Thanksgiving observance under the new national government. But it wasn’t until 1863 that President Abraham Lincoln announced the official fixed date to be the last Thursday of November. Just like that, the turkey holiday was born.

From the start, Thanksgiving has been a holiday surrounding the sharing of food and the giving of thanks. The iconic Thanksgiving food in today’s pop culture is perhaps the turkey.  Trying to keep environmental impact low however means excluding the holidays mascot from the table. Turkeys use up a lot of resources to raise, receive large amounts of antibiotics and have toxins in them. We all know that to lower our carbon foot print we want to consume foods that are at the base of the food chain, namely plant products. But unless you are already a committed vegetarian resisting that sumptuous bird in the middle of the table or envisioning Thanksgiving without it might be tricky. However, now-a-days there are many alternative turkey options to help you make that jump.

tofurky

The poster child of these options is Tofurky. Tofurky has been providing a turkey like alternative for non-meat eaters since 1995. But there are many other options on the market as well if Tofurky doesn’t do it for you. Some other brands Include Field Roast Grain Meat Company, Quorn’s and Gardein.

gardein roast

Many options can be found online or in stores like Whole Foods Market which sells the Gardein holiday roast 3.99 for a 6 oz serving (above).

veggie whole turkey

If a log shaped turkey substitute is not for you and you want to try something more closely resembling a turkey they’ve got that too. Vegetarian Plus makes a turkey shaped turkey substitute that you can even stuff with your own stuffing (above). It’s a bit pricey, Vegetarian Essentials is selling it at 69.99, but despite this they are sold out for the season.

apple turkey

But who says that you have to have a meat like turkey substitute for your table? You can have the iconic turkey on your table alongside your farmers market vegetables as a fun creative platter. This example above uses fresh farmers’ market organic apples sliced and fanned out in alternating colors to create a turkey around a center of dip. Here they have used caramel as a dip but you can easily switch that our for peanut, hazelnut or almond butter.

fruit turkey

Your alternative turkey options are almost limitless. Another fun idea I found features fresh halved strawberries and tangerine wedges (above). If vegetables are more your speed try a set up with carrots, celery and bell peppers. Don’t be afraid to break tradition and try something new.

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Sunday, November 16, 2014

How Saving the Environment Will Save Us All Money


iStock_000011097588_ExtraSmallSaving the environment is as easy or as difficult as one makes it. You can add simple tasks to your everyday routine, or you can go to school and get an online LLM in Environmental Law. You might have to initially spend money to save money and save the environment, but sometimes, it won’t cost you anything to make an impact. Check out these ways you can save money and the environment.

Wash Clothes in Cold Water
Heating water uses energy. Wash your clothes in cold water using your regular laundry detergent. If you’re not satisfied with the results, buy laundry detergent formulated for use in cold water. You will save more than $50 annually by not using hot water.

Stop Buying Print Newspapers
Printed newspapers have a large impact on the environment. Printing newspapers uses energy. Trucks use fuel when delivering the papers to distribution points or the stores where they’ll be sold. If you must hold a newspaper in your hands when reading about the day’s events, stop buying newspapers during the week. Just buy the Sunday paper. If you own a computer, stop buying print newspapers. Read the news online. If you own a Kindle, buy a subscription to your favorite newspaper and have the news delivered to your eBook reader every day.

Recycle or Refill Toner Cartridges
Many toner cartridges have a prepaid envelope addressed to the manufacturer in the box with the cartridge. Mail your empty cartridges back to the manufacturer for recycling. You will keep the plastic cartridges from ending up in a landfill. You can buy refill kits for your toner cartridges. The kits contain liquid toner, a syringe, and easy-to-follow instructions for refilling the cartridges. Using solid ink sticks is another way to save money and energy. Check your printer’s website to see if ink sticks are available for your device.

Package Your Own Lunches and Snacks
Many companies use too much packaging material for food products they sell. There’s a company selling a few slices of meat, crackers, and bits of cheese wrapped with a lot of plastic and paper. It’s convenient for busy people to grab a package and give it their child to bring to school for lunch — or bring it for themselves as a snack. You’re paying for a lot of food wrappers and very little food. Buy the ingredients individually and pack them in a reusable container.

From JD to LLM in Environmental Law
If you’re serious about saving the environment, consider making it part of your career choice. After obtaining a Juris Doctor (JD) degree, attorneys may decide to specialize in Environmental Law. They can take courses in person or online, obtaining a general education in Environmental Law or focusing upon water resources, natural resources, land use, and climate change. Their expertise enables them to aid in stopping toxic waste from being dumped in landfills and pollutants from entering rivers, oceans, and other water sources.

Saving the environment is easy to carry out if everyone sets a goal for himself. Reduce: use less energy. Reuse what you can. Recycle when possible.

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Thursday, November 13, 2014

eco-business: can it drag us out of these dark times?


green conservation

We are living in dark, smog-filled times. In LA you’ll struggle to see the Hollywood sign through the pollution. A smog mask fashion show was recently held in China – to protect your lungs in style. Crop yields in India have been cut in half because of the toxic air.

These stories pollute the world every day – and they’re growing more frequent. And, if political activist and eco warrior Naomi Klein is to be believed, these times are only set to get darker.

Capitalism, according to Klein’s book This Changes Everything, is pushing the world’s eco systems into a perpetual state of decline. Businesses, trapped in a stalemate between commerce and ethics, simply refuse to cut their carbon footprint in any meaningful way.

They are, however, waking up to the fact that their actions have consequences. Major brands such as DuPont, Asda, B&Q and Tesco have all made commitments to cut carbon by a sizeable sum, although purely because it will save them cash. Indeed, consumers themselves are demanding better from companies. You simply need to turn on the telly to see ads proclaiming all-natural produce, organic goods and friendly to Mother Nature.

How accurate these claims are is open to dispute with most brands, but it does prove one thing – being eco-friendly makes business sense. These dark, smog-filled times might still surround you, but that doesn’t mean your business has to be a part of them. If you want to improve your PR with customers, try these tips.

eco lightbulbLower that footprint
Despite their indisputable improvements, renewable energy still has a long way to go before it can usurp fossil fuels. Before that time comes, improve your gas connections to allow it to flow more effectively.

Some gas companies even keep the environment specifically in mind, ensuring soil purification after pipes have been fitted and offsetting the damage done by planting trees and improving the state of the environment.

By partnering up with these companies, you can lower your carbon footprint and your bills.

Maintain your honesty
If there’s one thing a consumer hates, it’s being lied to. Remember the time you realized that Diet Coke didn’t really help you diet? Imagine that writ large, as so-called organic produce and natural ingredients follow the same factory made, smoke sputtering, carbon spreading process.

No matter what business you’re in, making good on your eco-claims is a must. Implement environmentally friendly strategies and make them transparently available to the public.

Especially for larger businesses, transparency is the only route to trust. Not only will this allow your company to push such a positive aspect of your company on consumers (and have the statistics to prove it), but it could lead to positive coverage from major green campaigners.

Ultimately, repurposing your business in the form of an eco-paradise won’t drag us out of these dark times. But it might just make the smog in your company that little bit thinner.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Please Pass the Gravy: an Easy Vegetarian Mushroom Gravy for Dressing Your Holiday Meal


veggie mushroom gravy

Our family holiday table isn’t about the green beans, the bread rolls, the baked yams or even the turkey that gets passed around the most; it’s the gravy. In fact, we pretty much pour that rich sauce on everything. But – is gravy an environmental friend or foe?

Typically, if you’re going to cook a turkey you can just save the drippings, thicken them with a bit of flour, add some stock and call it done. There are also many instant options on the market. If you are already consuming the meat it is good to not waste the dippings. Stock is usually made with water, vegetables and meat scraps like the bones which are also good to not waste.

So, if you have already bought the meat products it isn’t any worse and is in fact better that you put all of it to use. Simple processing means that manufacturing costs are low and because stock doesn’t need to be refrigerated during transport this cuts down on emissions. The instant stuff is more processed but not excessively so, it too, has low transportation costs. It’s looking good for gravy, as a product made from sources that are not mono-purpose enjoying some gravy on your vegetables at the Thanksgiving table is not a horrible from the ecological perspective. But as always you can make gravy more environmentally friendly by making it yourself. But meats do have a heavy impact on our carbon footprint and water waste. Remember that more than 50 percent of our water footprint goes into the food we eat. So if you’re taking turkey off the menu this holiday season and opting for all veggies why not switch up your gravy choice too.

gravy ingredients

Mushroom gravy is a tasty option to its meat-based counterpart, as long as you like mushrooms that is. If you don’t, you can always switch them out for your own favorite vegetable or don’t include any veggie at all. (more…)

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Monday, November 10, 2014

The Do’s and Don’ts of a Green Thanksgiving


Thanksgiving leftovers

So you’re planning your Thanksgiving holiday – deciding what you’re doing, where you will be going and what you will eat. But here’s something else we should also be thinking about – how we can reduce our carbon footprint and environmental impact this Thanksgiving season. It’s hard to see how we can make a holiday sometimes identified with glutton and excess less wasteful, but we can. We just have to think a little outside of the box and see where we can make some changes or cut back; here are some simple do’s and don’ts.

  • How to travel: If you have to travel this thanksgiving, you can reduce your carbon emissions by changing how you travel. Do carpool together with other family members when you’re all going to the same place. Eco-friendly carAnd if you have to travel do travel by train when possible. Don’t have everyone drive separately unless unavoidable and try to avoid flying or commuting long distances in multiple vehicles.
  • How to decorate: Thanksgiving is autumn themed so when decorating you can simply bring some autumn into your home. Do use natural products like pumpkins, gourds, wheat, leaves, corn and mums. Decorating your table with produce you can cook and enjoy later is both functional as well as tasty. Fall leaves gathered from the yard or sidewalk can be arranged on the table and under plates to make a colorful statement. Best part is these items are all plant-based so they are compostable at the end or, in the case of the produce, can be consumed. Don’t spend money on mass produced decorations that you toss out each year.

veggie t-day

  • What to do about food: What you decided to enjoy for your Thanksgiving meal will have the most environmental impact. Do opt for a vegetarian or vegan Thanksgiving, removing the turkey all together. As we know, produce has far less environmental impact then meat. When buying your produce do buy locally grown or from farmers’ markets so your food isn’t being transported vast distances. And when you do go shopping do take your reusable bags with you.  If you have to have a turkey do get a heritage bird or an organic one. But be careful of imposters and remember that “free range” does not mean animals happily roaming throughout vast hills. Another do is to use all those leftovers in things like Thanksgiving leftover sandwiches; never toss good food out. Don’t over buy when at the grocery store and don’t cook too much. If you do end up with more leftovers then you can handle give it to a family member, coworker, friend or neighbor who you know will appreciate it.
  • How to set your table: This is where making a greener effort is less obvious. Do use what you already have. Don’t buy disposable plates and utensils; these use once and discard often plastic products are not good for the environment. There is no reason to go out and buy disposable plates with fall leaves on them when you have dishware at home. If you’re worried that you won’t have enough plates for everyone let your visiting family know to bring some and you’ll be covered. If you have to buy disposable do not buy plastic or Styrofoam products as these are the worst. Stick with paper (Marcal Small Steps) or look for compostable dinnerware and those made from recycled materials. Tip: for more upscale designer-like dinnerware options, we like Bambu, Birchware and VerTerra as earth-conscious choices. You can find them on Amazon.

With these simple tips anyone can have themselves a green-Thanksgiving. After all, our personal health and the earth we live on are perhaps the biggest things to be thankful for this season.
photo credit: (vegetarian thanksgiving) ohmyveggies.com/

related: more healthy eating articles on AlternativeConsumer

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Friday, November 7, 2014

Kickstarter: BloomBagz – the next big thing in eco-friendly container gardening


bloombagz on patioWe’re always on the lookout for products that promote sustainable living and growing your own is a concept we fully embrace. One new gardening product that checks off almost all our boxes is currently soliciting crowdfunding via a Kickstarter campaign. BloomBagz are soft shell container planters made from recycled plastic. The design utilizes the air-pruning and root trapping technology of these double layered, breathable fabric bags to provide improved growing results compared to traditional plastic and ceramic grow pots. The material and design of these containers ensure you don’t experience the root spiraling that’s frequent in hard non-breathable containers.

bloombagz colors

Another problem encountered by many amateur gardeners is over-watering. Many hard containers don’t provide proper drainage to prevent drowning, which results in root rot. BloomBagz (more…)

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Thursday, November 6, 2014

DIY herbal teas for the season: from your garden to the Thanksgiving table


herbal tea ingredients on cutting board

Manufacturing eight ounces of coffee requires 29 gallons of water whereas tea requires only seven. So if you’re using virtual water standards, this makes tea a much more environmentally friendly option. Perhaps this lower environmental impact (in addition to great flavor and health benefits) is another reason why tea has been gaining popularity. (I know, I can dream.) Teas can be herbal and consist of roses, lavender, mint, chamomile, dandelion and other spices. Or they can be white, green and black tea-leaf-based.

This holiday season, why not opt for a greener beverage and while you’re at it make it even greener by making it yourself? Here are three fun DIY herbal teas you can prepare as you gather for Thanksgiving. (I found the inspiration for these recipes at instructables.com: Lavender mint, orange chamomile and orange ginger.) If you don’t want to make purely herbal teas you can always add in some green or black tea leaves to your mix. What you will need for each tea is as follows and most if not all of these ingredients can be grown in your own backyard.

  • Lavender mint: Food quality lavender and mint, both of these can come from your garden as long as you haven’t used any chemicals or pesticides not fit for human consumption.
  • Orange chamomile: fresh orange peels and chamomile from your local grocery store. And when you’re done peeling those oranges don’t toss the fruit; oranges are a great source of vitamin C and a tasty snack.
  • Orange ginger: fresh orange peels and fresh ginger root. Fresh ginger is great in cooking and may settle upset tummies.

homemade herbal ginger tea

To start: you need to wash, dry and roughly or finely chop your orange peel and ginger. The ginger and orange peel can safely be dehydrated in the oven. Note: before dicing, preheat your over to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. (more…)

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Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Root Cellars: An Ancient Way to Extend the Life of Fruits and Vegetables


root vegetable stew

Back in the day before refrigeration, people built root cellars under the home, in the cellar or basement, or in a separate structure on the property. In fact, the first recorded root cellar was built approximately 40,000 years ago in Australia. Root cellars are used to keep root vegetables and hard-fruits fresh throughout the winter. But you don’t need to have a cellar to make yourself a root cellar. There are many cheap and easy up-cycling options on the internet; of course, those of us living in apartments may not be able to build our own but for those with a green thumb and a bit of garden space root cellars are a viable possibility.

The key elements needed to make your own root cellar are: cool temperatures, moisture and air circulation. Here are the basic requirements for each element.

  • Temperature: if storing cool season crops like carrots, a root cellar needs to stay below 45 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent spoilage. If you’re going to store warm season crops like tomatoes you need to keep it above 50 Fahrenheit. But the overall idea is to keep your cellar cool. Don’t forget that lower in the cellar will be cooler then the top half so keep warmer temperature produce at the top and cool season produce below.
  • Moisture: after temperature, humidity is the most important element of your root cellar. Your produce needs humidity to keep it from wilting. Having an open earthen floor will help with this but having a hygrometer is a must. To help with moisture you can store produce like potatoes in moist sawdust to help keep them hydrated.
  • Air circulation: is vital to help replenish oxygen, remove heat respiration and help with the buildup of ethylene gases. One inlet vent and one outlet vent is the minimum unless your storing in an open basement that already has good ventilation.

DIY root cellar old refrigerator

Apart from needing the place to set up your root cellar there are also the legalities to consider when building one. As you can imagine, building code officials may take issue with you burying a trash can or an old refrigerator in the backyard. But in some rural areas a root cellar is considered an agricultural shed and not subject to building permit requirements.

DIY root cellar pail buried

One popular DIY option is a sunken galvanized steel or plastic garbage pail. Holes are drilled into the pail and they are buried in the earth then covered with a bale of hay for insulation. For those who want to take a shot at building their own root cellar, Organic Gardening magazine has a how-to article on building a root cellar in your home.

root cellar

If your home already has a cellar or basement you can always set up a section for root storage. Potatoes stored at 38 degrees Celsius can keep for 8 months and onions at 32 will also last 8 months. Apples and carrots, which can also be kept for many months, are good starter crops as well. For those interested in the process of storing your own produce energy-free, check out Root Cellaring Natural Cold Storage of Fruits and Vegetables by Mike Bubel and Nancy Bubel (available on amazon.com) for the dos and don’ts of ‘cellaring‘.

Even though the concept is very old, a root cellar is still (more…)

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