Archive for the ‘food’ Category

Follow the Frog to Stop Deforestation

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

“You don’t have to go to the ends of the Earth to save the rainforest. Just Follow the Frog!” –Rainforest Alliance.

This past week, the Rainforest Alliance’s “Follow the Frog” campaign promo video went viral on YouTube. Although it was originally published on their YouTube channel in September 2012, it really gained ground this past week with over 3.5 million views.

So, why is this video getting this much traction? Four reasons: it’s brilliant, it’s hilarious, it spreads a positive message, and it calls us to action to stop rainforest destruction. Don’t believe me? TED shared the video on their website, and Nice & Serious, an “ethically driven creative agency”, examined the persuasive qualities of the video.

To backtrack a little bit, the Rainforest Alliance is a nonprofit conservation organization. They work to conserve biodiversity by protecting wildlife, curbing climate change, alleviating poverty, and transforming land-use practices, business practices, and consumer behavior.

“Products bearing the seal originate on—or contain ingredients sourced from—Rainforest Alliance Certified farms or forests,” according to their website. “These farms and forests are managed according to rigorous environmental, social and economic criteria designed to conserve wildlife; safeguard soils and waterways; protect workers, their families and local communities; and increase livelihoods in order to achieve true, long-term sustainability.”

Thus, products bearing the green frog seal are Rainforest Alliance Certified. Such products include coffee, tea, chocolate, fruit, flowers, paper, and even furniture. To find out what products are available near you, check out their product and brand locator.

 

So, how can you “Follow the Frog”?

  1. Watch the video (and share it!)
  2. Take the pledge
  3. Buy products with the frog seal
  4. Participate in Follow the Frog Week (September 15—21, 2014)
  5. Spread the word!

 

This is a guest post by Keen Communications intern Robyn Campbell.

Green Your Home This Spring

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

Green: A Great Color for the Home

It’s hard to believe, but spring is just around the corner. For many of us this means it’s time to begin knocking tasks off of spring cleaning to-do lists and gearing up for those home improvement projects you began realizing were long overdue while cooped up inside all winter. Whether you’re looking to remodel your bathroom, upgrade your kitchen tile, or turn your backyard into an oasis, The Cincinnati Home and Garden Show, held at the Duke Energy Convention Center, is the place to be. The show is open to the public today, March 5th through Sunday, March 9th.

This year will also feature a Go Green Cincinnati Show, presenting dozens of retailers offering sustainable products and services, helping residents of the Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky lead greener lives. While not everyone can afford to install solar panels on their roofs or invest in new, energy efficient appliances, there are plenty of ways to go green for little to no cost. Here are 10 easy tricks to add a little green to your life and your home.

Create your own low-cost compost bin  
Composting is a great way to make use of things that would normally end up in a landfill. You can throw all kinds of things into your compost bin which will, in turn, create natural and nutrient rich soil for flower beds, gardens, or even the grass in your yard.

Wash laundry in cold, rather than hot, water
Although using cold water can take a little longer to properly clean clothes, it will clean them just as well as hot water. According to Energy Star, almost 90% of the energy used by washing machines goes towards heating water.
Bonus Green Points: Line-dry clothes. Again, you’ll be saving money and energy, but the UV rays of the sun can help kill germs and bacteria too!

Shop at local Farmers Markets
One of the best and easiest ways to go green (in addition to helping your local economy) is to shop at local Farmers Markets. Your food is almost certainly guaranteed to be fresher, more nutritious, and more flavorful than items bought at a grocery store.

Unplug unused and rarely used appliances
Although it may not seem like it, many appliances that aren’t in use but are still plugged in continue sucking up energy. All kinds of appliances from toasters to televisions use “standby” power when they aren’t in use. If unplugging all those unused appliances seems like too much of an inconvenience, another option is to invest in a Smart Power Strip, which monitors electricity use and stops sending power to appliances that have been idle for a certain amount of time.

D.I.Y. cleaning supplies
Not only do most name brand cleaning supplies contain toxic chemicals, but they are expensive. With a handful of inexpensive and basic ingredients you can make a whole host of cleaners for the entire house.

Invest in energy efficient light bulbs.
Energy Efficient bulbs may have more of an upfront cost, but you’ll be saving in the long run and helping the environment. Even changing a few bulbs throughout your house can save you hundreds of dollars annually.

Donate old newspapers to animal shelters, old plastic bags to participating grocery stores, or buy/make your own reusable bags.
Animal shelters are a great place to drop off plastic bags and old newspapers. Lots of grocery stores take bag plastic bags to reuse or recycle; talk to your local grocery store to see if they accept donations. Or better yet, you can buy or make your own reusable bags and avoid the plastic ones altogether! Most patterns are simple enough for beginners to use and only take a few minutes to make!

Lighten the load
How many of us avoid the cluttered, black hole that is our car’s trunk? If you’re like me, the trunk of your car has slowly accumulated knick-knacks over time. Cleaning out your trunk (or the entire car, for some of us) will lighten the overall weight of your car, helping improve fuel efficiency. Improved fuel efficiency decreases the amount of gas you’ll need, so lighten the load in your car and you can lighten your weekly gas bill, too.

Caulk windows
This is a project that sounds much more daunting than it actually is, and will greatly improve the energy efficiency in your home. Something as simple as re-caulking your windows will only take a couple of hours and will help keep the warm air in during the winter and the cool air in during the summer. It’s a quick an easy project that will prove beneficial for any season.

Repurpose!
A little creativity will go a long way with this one. With a little craftiness and a good google search the options are limitless. Sites like Pinterest, Apartment Therapy, and DIY Network are all great places for inspiration. From old t-shirts to baby food jars, just because it’s served its original purpose doesn’t mean those objects can’t be repurposed for another use. Repurpose! Reuse! Recycle! It’s fun, easy, and all these small acts can make a huge difference for the environment!

The contributor for this article was Katie Butts, an intern for Keen Communications.

What’s the Most Important Thing Food Labels Should Tell Us?

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

The importance of food labels is a discussion that has been gaining importance over the past couple years. Voters agree that people have a right to know what they’re eating–if food is organic or if it contains genetically modified ingredients. While GMO labeling is at the center of the debates, there are other suggestions that many believe are worthy of noting on food labels.

Jonathan Foley, director of the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota has three things he would like to see labeled.

“First, deforestation, yes or no?” he says. In other words, were trees cut down to grow this food? This has been happening in Indonesia and Malaysia to make room for palm oil plantations. According to Foley, he can’t think of a “bigger hammer to the environment” than deforestation.

Second, Foley continues, “How much water did it take, and from where?” Farmers around the world have been draining rivers and underground aquifers to water their crops at the expense of the land. “And No. 3, how much fertilizer did it take, and did you manage to keep it from running off?” Fertilizer runoff from farms has choked lakes and estuaries from China to the Chesapeake Bay. It contaminates our water supplies and damages the ecosystems with its excessive nutrient levels.

Another opinion from Tracie McMillan,author of The American Way of Eating, only wants to know if the people working the farms were paid a fair living wage. McMillan went undercover and worked in the vegetable fields of California to investigate fair wages for her book.

It would be great to see food labels on a grade basis of how farmers and the land are treated, but it is also important to keep labels simple and easy to read. There are several issues that probably should be labeled on food that would greatly influence what food we buy and how production of food is treated. But for now, the food label debate is still ongoing.

What are some things you would like to see on food labels?

8 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Fruits & Veggies

Friday, October 25th, 2013

fruits_veggies

Caught up in the busy hours of life, it can be easy to forget food purchased from a store or local farmer’s market. Looking at a tomato gone bad or another withered fruit, we have to consider the wasted potential of our fruits and veggies. To help extend the life of our food products, here are some tips on how to take care of them. And remember, always try to eat local and seasonal!

1)     Freeze Lemon and Lime Juice. Lemons and limes aren’t terribly expensive and occasionally, you can get a handful of them for little to nothing. Keep a couple lemons or limes that you plan on using soon in the fridge. Take the remaining lemons or limes and squeeze the juice into an ice cube tray. The juice will last for months and can be used in several of your cooking exploits!

2)     Protect Your Veggies. Fruits like bananas and apples emit an ethylene gas that causes vegetables to ripen faster. Keep the trouble fruits in a container of their own.

3)     Line the Bottom of the Crisper Drawer. Use paper towels to line your crisper drawer. Paper towels will absorb the extra moisture, preventing your veggies from going bad prematurely.

 

 4)     If You Don’t Line the Crisper, Don’t Use the Crisper. By some, the crisper is known as the vegetable graveyard. It’s easy to forget about the crisper and not lining it with paper towels will only make it worse. Instead, put your veggies in a plastic baggy, or not, and set them on a shelf in the fridge where you can see them.

 5)     The Fridge isn’t for Everything. Some fruits and vegetables do better at room temperature. Keep your avocados, tomatoes, onions, peppers and sweet potatoes outside the fridge, either on the counter or in another cabinet.

 6)     Freeze Your Herbs. Most recipes calling for herbs only want a dash of herb, leaving the rest of your freshly picked herbs to be forgotten and shrivel up. Herbs are a special ingredient that deserve better. Extend the life of herbs by chopping them up, putting the pieces in an ice cube tray, and then mix them with olive oil. Freeze the mixture, and then put the cubes into a zip lock baggy.  The herbs should last a few months and you won’t need to use as much olive oil in your recipes!

7)     Refresh your Carrots. If your carrots are looking brown and limp, peel the brown skin off and soak the carrots in ice water for a couple hours. The carrots will look good as new and perfect for eating!

 8)     Wash Only What You Eat. After purchasing a bag of fruit, like grapes and raspberries, it’s tempting to wash them all. Because, who wants to keep washing fruit every single time? Doing so may be convenient, but the added moisture on fruit we don’t intend to eat right away invites mold and will spoil faster.

Wasted Food Sparks Social Experiment

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

Most of us were probably taught to finish all of our food so as not to let food go to waste. However, does this traditionally apply to grocery stores as well?

It’s been estimated that grocery stores in America throw out $50 billion worth of food annually, much of which is still edible and safe to eat upon being discarded. According to the National Resource Defense Council, supermarkets throw out about $2,300 worth of expired food daily. Now, just because something is expired doesn’t mean it isn’t edible. For some foods like meat and milk, the expiration date is one to be mindful of, but there are plenty of foods that are safe beyond their assigned date.

treasureBecause of the incredible amount of food being thrown out, Maximus Thaler, a man from Boston, has been dumpster diving behind supermarkets for years. While dumpster diving isn’t encouraged or legal in most places, Thaler has found thousands of dollars-worth of perfectly good food. Thaler has made plenty of dishes, including citrus salads, roasted purple potatoes, and pastas from the salvaged food. Thaler has opened an underground café where he uses salvaged food and customers may eat for free. Thaler wants to show society that it’s possible to feed hundreds of people without charging a dime. To find out more about Maximus Thaler’s project, please visit The Gleaners Kitchen.

What are some ways to save on food waste? How can you practice smarter consumption and decrease your waste output?

What to Expect From the USDA During the Government Shutdown

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

On day two of the government shutdown, it is still unclear to many what federal organizations will and will not be operating. Only organizations deemed necessary for the protection of life and property will be running through the shutdown. With that said, 59% of non-defense federal employees are exempt from furlough. The USDA is one organization that will continue to operate, with 87% of its 9,633 employees still able to work with pay.

The USDA is in charge of inspecting food quality and edibility, as well as protecting people and the environment from disasters such as bacterial outbreak leading to food illnesses. Some food inspections may be delayed, but general testing against E.Coli and Salmonella will continue.

So, if you’re worried about food safety and health and protection of property, the USDA and other major response teams will continue to operate and protect the quality of life, regardless of the government shutdown. Take comfort in knowing that our food will still be safe!

Ways to Celebrate National Wildflower Week INDOORS

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

This year, National Wildflower Week is from May 6 to May 12.

For those of us who suffer from seasonal allergies, the blooming of wildflowers is something to guard against rather than to celebrate. However, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center offers us some tips on how to enjoy Wildflower Week indoors, protected from those pesky allergens.

Van Gogh, 1888

 

Visit Local Art Museum

dare you to find an art museum anywhere in the world that doesn’t somewhere house artwork dedicated to the beauty flowers bring to our many landscapes. Stroll over to your local art museum and find these gems! And don’t just look at them. Read the placards that describe the artwork. Learn about the artist. Educate yourself on why these flowers are some of nature’s finest artwork!

 

Pick Up a Book

Just like artists devoting their craft to wildflowers, numerous authors have, as well. The most obvious example would be the slew of wildflower guides available on the book market today. Pick up a book, and learn something new! Here are a few worth checking out!

 

Have a Wildflower-themed Snack

There are a number of ways to construct an indoor snack that reminds you of the beauty there is outside. How about a mixed greens salad? Or for the grown-ups, mix yourself a mimosa or other flower-themed cocktail. You can even bake flower-themed cookies or cupcakes.

 

Advocate for Endangered Flowers

Yes, flowers show up on endangered species lists, too! Learn which flowers indigenous to your area have become endangered, and write local officials expressing your concern for conserving these botanical beauties!

 

Start a Recycling Plan

These days, it’s no secret that at the center of any conservation plan is a sustained devotion to minimizing waste. Even a simple recycling bin for your home or office will show your appreciation for the wildflowers blooming in our gardens and parks.

 

Click here to see wildflower guides available from Menasha Ridge Press and Wilderness Press!

Grow Your Yoga in the Month of May

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

GrowYourYoga Slider

For any yogis out there, Moksha Yoga is running the Grow Your Yoga campaign during the month of May. You can sign up with a $10 minimum donation, with all the money made this year being donated to the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust. Each week the program presents a new challenge for both on and off your mat.

If you’re looking for a jump start on the program, the first week’s off-mat challenge is to Be Healthy. It is suggested that you eat a vegan or vegetarian diet, but if you can’t do that, at least purchase your meats conscientiously from a local, organic butcher. I say this is a great practice to carry on far after the challenge is up!

To keep up with the rest of the program’s challenges, and to learn more about the prizes you can win by completing each challenge, please visit GrowYourYoga.ca and sign up!

If you want a very funny explanation of the program in video form, starring Woody Harrelson (played by Edward Norton), check it out on YouTube!
ednorton

Meals that are easy on your wallet and your environment

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

With today’s economy, many American’s are finding they are pinching pennies. So what could you do to help the environment and save a few bucks? Cut meat out of a few days of your diet! I know it doesn’t sound too appealing for any meat-lovers out there, but meat is one of the more expensive food items in a carnivore’s diet. Since fall is almost upon us, I thought I’d share some links to some fall-like recipes that are flavorful and won’t break the bank.

First, we have a wheat-berry and black bean chili. This hearty, healthy soup costs about $3 per serving to make and will leave you feeling full and satisfied.

I love Mexican food, so this next recipe is a great meatless meal for me! This cheese enchilada with red chile sauce is a spicy yet inexpensive alternative to a more pricey chicken or beef enchilada.

Want pizza but can’t afford to go out for some? Try this spinach and sun dried tomato stuffed pizza instead. It’s sure to satisfy the pizza-lover within!

A FABULOUS website I recently discovered is BUDGET BYTES. Beth provides some actually good food recipes that cost very little money. She also has a really helpful list of items you should keep on hand at all times. Great for a beginner!

Recycling & composting in the modern age

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

I have been recycling for what seems like my whole life and stressing the importance of recycling to others along the way. It was only recently that I considered composting, and in my research to begin that process, I came across many very interesting and helpful articles and organizations. I want to be the best recycler and composter that I can be, and I want you to do the same!

The Mother Nature Network has offered some great advice on things you should definitely not compost or recycle. You’d be surprised at what should NOT go into your bins. Some things are common sense while others answer those long asked questions: I can just throw this in there and they’ll take care of it, right? Everything from motor oil and batteries to printed papers and pizza boxes is covered, with suggestions for what to do with those non-traditional recyclable materials. I know I’ll be printing this list off and taping it to the top of my recycling bin at home!

In addition, I have often found myself wondering how to properly dispose of cooking oil/grease from my kitchen. I knew that flushing it down the sink was most likely not the proper way (imagine how fatty foods clog our arteries–just imagine what repeated flushing down the drains does to the pipes in your home and through the city!), so I did a little digging. Am I able to just throw the grease in the trash in a sealed container? That didn’t seem right to me, but, it appears to be one solution. Another solution is to take your grease to a local restaurant (one that offers collection) for a larger-scale removal. However, the most sustainable solution to getting rid of your cooking oil/grease is to partner up with a local restaurant where you can take your grease and have them donate their grease to the Alternative Fuel Foundation. The AFF ‘recycles’ cooking oil and grease from restaurants and turns it into clean-burning bio-fuel! You can read more about the benefits of bio-fuel at their website. Very cool, and very green!

There are tons of organizations and companies that are recycling in creative ways, collecting hazardous materials, other recyclable materials such as light bulbs, batteries, motor oil, etc. throughout our communities. An example of just that is GLOBAL RECYCLE, a small company based out of New Orleans that is working to better the community with their local recycling program. The best thing you can do for yourself is to get in contact with someone knowledgeable on the subject: I plan to see if our local green grocer, Park + Vine, collects cooking grease. I’m sure that they can teach me all kinds of things about this, composting, and much more!