Category Archives: garden

Green Festival DC – Sustainability Show Off

Washington, D.C. 2013 Event Guide
See sustainability in action at the Green Festival DC.

We’re excited to be attending the upcoming Green Festival DC, at the DC Convention Center this coming weekend. It’s the ninth iteration of the festival which we’ve attended the last few years. What is the Green Festival? It’s a place to see and learn about sustainability from economic, cultural, and environmental perspectives. Like we often say here, there are many aspects to living with a sustainability mindset rather than one of blind consumption.

There’s yummy organic food and interesting speakers including iconic Ralph Nader. And a Green Kids Zone as well as an eco-fashion show. So the festival has something for almost everyone, with a focus on sustainability. There’s also lots of food samples, free Ford electric-car rides, and hundreds of vendors. We know from experience that the festival is fun and informative!

This year, there is an expanded emphasis on food, and who doesn’t like food? Food highlights include:

  • Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food and Water Watch and author of the best-selling book Foodopoly, who will speak about food policy
  • DC-based FRESHFARM Markets (FRESHFARM Markets FoodPrints Program) who will present special sessions on “Eating Healthy On A Budget”
  • An Organic Food Court and a Sustainable Beer & Wine Garden
  • Workshops on raising backyard chickens, composting, growing herbs and other sustainability topics.

According to its organizers, Green America and Global Exchange, tickets are $10 for a one day pass and $20 for a full weekend pass when purchased online at www.greenfestivals.org, or $15 and $25 at the door. (All tickets provide access to exhibit floor, all workshops/yoga classes, speakers and films.) And there is FREE admission for anyone who rides a bike to the event and parks with the Clif Bar bike valet, youth under eighteen, union members, volunteers and Green America and Global Exchange members.

Location: Walter E. Washington Convention Center, 801 Mount Vernon Place N.W. Hall A, in Washington, DC. Hour are Saturday, September 21st 10am – 6pm and Sunday, September 22nd 11am – 5pm.

The Mindful Consumer will be there, tweeting from @mindfulconsumer. Let us know if you’re going and we’ll try to meet you. Of course watch Twitter and this blog for our perspectives and announcements from the festival.

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What’s Growing? Urban Container Gardening

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My container garden bursting with delicious vegetables- only a 5×13 foot space 
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A deer cruising my backyard, wondering where the deer salad bar (aka my garden) is.

It is June, and we have been enjoying all our fresh vegetables from our local CSA  and lots growing in our garden. I am doing a container garden this year, as our backyard is a major deer thoroughfare, and I have yet to build the maximum security garden cages needed to protect my precious harvest from becoming a deer salad bar. Right now I am growing tomatoes, carrots, celery, plum, peas, basil, lavender, oregano, mint, Meyer lemon, lettuce, lemongrass, raspberry, strawberry; all in urban garden style containers on my patio in a 5 foot x 13 foot patio space. There is even a little fountain in there that adds pretty sounds and a nice visual effect. I am also growing 30 corn plants out in the “deer zone” and am hoping the netting will keep them away until I can put something more permanent. I was thinking of doing a “three sisters” garden out there where you plant corn, let it grow about a foot, plant beans and let them use the corn as a trellis, and plant squash. The beans give the corn nitrogen (corn is a heavy nitrogen feeder) and the squash leaves help retain moisture. It is an indigenous American gardening technique. Sounds like I need to get to the seed store!

Corn growing in preparation for my "three sisters" garden bed
Corn growing in preparation for my “three sisters” garden bed

So besides the corn, my entire garden is in containers- I use a “big bag bed” on a shipping crate, and various pots and containers to grow everything. I use my hanging plants above other plants, so as they drain, the plants below can get the water. For the gardener who may neglect their gardens, mine on the patio means I walk by it every time I go in the house, so I can keep an eye on it and remember to water, check for pests, and harvest anything that looks ready before the wildlife gets to it. Container gardens are also easier to weed, and it means less time bending over, and more control over the soil.  Although I am far from an expert gardener, through trial and error, a sense of whimsy, I’ve been able to grow some of my own food. My biggest advice for gardeners just starting out is to plant more than you think you’ll need (like the old timey farmer adage: one for the blackbird, one for the crow, one to wash away, and one to grow). The other tip is to have fun, enjoy yourself, and even one small pot with one tomato plant still has the spirit of a thousand gardens.

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Happy Green Year!

14472145-new-year-2013-on-the-beachIn this new year, about half of adults make resolutions; many of us have resolved to lose weight, exercise more, and otherwise make improvements in ourselves.

According to history.com, the practice of making resolutions began about 4000 years ago, with the ancient Babylonians. They figured resolutions to pay off debts and return borrowed equipment would help them fare better with the gods.

The blog 43Things shares that, “a University of Washington study found 47 percent of the 100 million adult Americans who make resolutions give up on their goals after two months. This figure has grown to 80 percent in the past decade, according to recent research completed at the University of Minnesota.”

How can we keep resolutions? One of the Washington study’s lead researchers suggests:

  • Have a strong initial commitment to make a change.
  • Have coping strategies to deal with problems that will come up.
  • Keep track of your progress. The more monitoring you do and feedback you get, the better you will do.

Of course, there’s also an app for helping you keep resolutions.

And you are likely to fail when you are:

  • Not thinking about making resolutions until the last minute.
  • Reacting on New Year’s Eve and making your resolutions based on what’s bothering you or is on your mind at that time.
  • Framing your resolutions as absolutes by saying, “I will never do X again.”

What about green resolutions? None of these will change the world, but we can all help. I scoured the Internet for decent green resolutions, but none of the lists caught my attention. I’m not big on making resolutions – I try to live every day in a mindful way as much as I can. It’s better to do a little bit than nothing at all. So here is my reluctant list that I think is reasonable for about anyone to easily achieve in 2013:

  1. Grow something. Plant a tree or a tomato plant. It’s simple. Of course plant the big garden if you can; the food we grow ourselves is the best food we can eat.
  2. Educate yourself and others. Maybe you worry about climate change. Perhaps your passion is organic food or fighting GMOs. Learn something and teach others; you will benefit and so will others.
  3. Eat less meat. Better for the planet and for your health.
  4. Think of water as gold. Water is the key to our survival yet many of us take it for granted. Related to this – ditch bottled water because the plastic used for them is staggering.
  5. Buy less. What can be easier than not doing something?
  6. Of course, you have to buy some things. Buy fair trade and local. Go to the farmer’s markets and Join a CSA. And bring your own bags to the store!
  7. Read this blog.

Start whenever you want. Let others know what you’re doing. Let us know about your progress at themindfulconsumer [at] gmail [dot] com or on facebook.com/themindfulconsumer.

 

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Patch Up Your Relationship with Pumpkins

2012 pumpkin

This time of year pumpkin moves to the front of our collective consciousness, not only because of their inexorable association with Halloween and Thanksgiving, but because they just seem to be everywhere. From the pumpkin pies to pumpkin donuts and bagels, to the pumpkin iced lattes to pumpkin-scented candles, we are bombarded with these funny-looking orange spheroids until we are out of our gourds.

One media outlet shouts, “Pumpkin is the New Bacon” lamenting the growing ubiquity in food and drink.

Of course we also decorate with them. Many of us carve or paint pumpkins before displaying them on our front porches in a seasonal ritual, their toothy grins and triangle eyes flickering in the darkness of Halloween night. Pumpkins and gourds are in the Cucurbita family and thus are relatives of cucumbers, cantaloupes, squash, and watermelon.

According to the Cooperative Extension Service The University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, gourds were probably one of the first plants domesticated by humans and were used for utensils as early as 2400 B.C.E. And come in sizes up to more than 2,000 pounds. A man in Rhode Island grew on to 2009 pounds this year, according to the Pumpkin Nook. The smallest are generally decorative Jack-o-lantern pumpkins range from 10- to 25-pounds.

According to the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center at Iowa State University, in 2011, pumpkins valued at $113 million were harvested from 47,300 acres in six states: Illinois, California, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan. Most pumpkins end up in canned pumpkin pie mixes. Nestlé Food Company’s Libby’s® pumpkin processing plant cans more than 85 percent of the world’s pumpkin each year.

It turns out that pumpkin is pretty good for us to eat. Self Magazine says that pumpkin, cooked, boiled, drained, and without salt is low in Saturated Fat, and very low in Cholesterol and Sodium. It is also a good source of Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol), Thiamin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Iron, Magnesium and Phosphorus, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Riboflavin, Potassium, Copper and Manganese. Of course we often then add sugar, salt, eggs, and milk to pumpkin in our recipes.

You might be getting more than pumpkin when you get them, so know your source. Cucumber beetles, squash vine borers and squash bugs go after them. Says Planet Natural, bacterial wilt (spread by cucumber beetles), powdery mildew, downy mildew, and anthracnose are common plant diseases affecting pumpkins. Many pesticides are applied to fight these maladies. You can grow your own pumpkins organically, if you have the space; they can need 500 square feet for a single plant. At the very least, try to find your pumpkins at a local farm, rather than buying one shipped in from another state or county. After you finish carving and using the pumpkin, add it to the compost pile.

Think about that pumpkin

  1. Grow them yourself — or buy local and organic, if possible
  2. Eat the edible parts – they’re good for you
  3. Compost the parts you can’t otherwise use
  4. And this final tip from Sara — Do NOT put your wife in one’s shell!

 

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