Tag Archives: organic

5 Reasons to Attend Green Festival

Green Fest Banner NYCWhen we think of festivals, we oftentimes think of a community celebration – typically centered on music, food, or art. So it’s apropos that the “largest and longest-running sustainability and green living event” in America is the Green Festival®. Attendees enjoy music, food, and art as well as education and “green” products/services. Over the past 13 years it’s grown into more than a festival – it’s Festival Plus.

Green Festival visits five U.S. cities each year: New York City, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, Chicago, and San Francisco. Chicago’s Navy Per is the next stop, with more than 250 businesses showing their wares over three days. We’ve attended several times in Washington.

Here are the five reasons it’s worth going.

 1. Green Festival Exhibit Floor DCSustainable Stuff. I’m always amazed at the range of exhibitors and presentations as well as the quality of the food and products in the marketplace. On the exhibit floor, there’s everything from Ford showing its latest electric and hybrid cars to a small natural soap maker called The Fanciful Fox. You’ll see brands you know, such as Clif Bar, and many you don’t. We talked with some of the vendors who were still operating out of their homes. And there are many free samples!

2. Ideas. The event is also a great chance to learn new things about living sustainably. The upcoming Chicago event, for example, has almost 50 speakers – including authors, filmmakers, politicians, musicians, and scientists. Ralph Nader spoke at the Washington event. There were 83 speakers at the recent Los Angeles festival. Topics range from gardening to yoga to solar power.

GFCommunityAward3. Awards. Green Festival offers a Community Award at each location – a $5,000 grant awarded to a deserving local non-profit, chosen by the public on-site at the festival and online. Selected at the Washington D.C. event was The Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food and Agriculture, which is dedicated to creating a more equitable and sustainable local food system in the Washington, DC area.

4. Low Cost. Admission is reasonable and family friendly at only ten bucks per person (16 and under free, discounts to seniors and students). Volunteers enjoy free admission.

Kids Activities NYC5. Children and Adult Friendly. There’s a play area, puppet shows, dancing, plus plenty of products geared to children. And with kids (and adults like me) it’s always great to have a ready source of inexpensive and tasty food (some spicy!) nearby. Plus fashion shows, musical performances, and more for the grownups.

Green Festival is a fun way to learn more about sustainable living, through food, music, art, shopping, and discussions.


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!



Eco-Conscious Dog Ownership: Why Toys, Fetch, and Rescue Matter

Barley enjoying his Simply Fido tug toy

In May of 2010 Ron and I rescued a small chihuahua mix named Barley with an incredibly lovable and happy-go-luck personality (yes, I agree, not usually a chihuahua trait). Now we not only need to try and make eco-conscious choices in our lives, but also in the life of the four-legged member of the household.

The organic, holistic, raw-food, gluten-free, all natural choices of dog food is staggering. Does Barley care about grain-fed beef, or organic lamb? What about his toys? According to thebark.com, a site about modern dog culture, toys are not just fun luxuries for dogs- they are necessities for a healthy dog. They satisfy the instinctual need to chew, chase, fetch, baby, and destroy.

Consumeraffairs.com notes that there is currently NO regulatory control of pet toys in the United States. Problems regarding latex, lead, cadmium, chromium, and other toxic chemicals continue to surface and resurface in dog toys, sometimes with deadly results before they can be discovered.

Barley enjoys his reindeer tug toy from simplyfido.com , a company that makes organic, naturally dyed products and although the website is not incredibly informative, I loved the recycled packaging, organic materials, and Barley enjoys trying to engage anyone with a game of fetch or tug-of-war (did I tell you he is no ordinary chihuahua?)

Although Barley has not tried it, westpawdesign.com is another company that boasts eco-friendly, American made, and organic pet products. There are also green pet product stores like olivegreendog.com and local favorite barknatural.com that have lots of goodies for your pet that is healthier for your dog and your earth.

It is important to supervise play and be realistic about your shopping choices (just because your Fido doesn’t eat an organic food doesn’t mean he may not enjoy a few organic toys in his toy box).

The most important thing you can do to help an animal is rescue. Sites like petfinder.com have millions of different dogs (or cats, rabbits, horses, birds, pigs). It is a huge myth that the only way to find a purebred dog is through a breeder- spend 30 seconds on the Petfinder Web site and see that any type, age, size, temperament, and personality of dog is there- from purebred dogs to mutts, and puppies to seniors; more often with a much smaller adoption fee than the purchase price from a breeder. Rescue is common sense, and you will have a companion that will never forget that you saved his or her life: and that is mindful consumption.


Adventures in ‘Urban Farming’ By Someone Who Can’t Grow a Darn Thing

Gardening skills were unfortunately not hereditary in my case...

My mother grew a garden when I was little. I remember sneaking in to the garden and barely brushing off the dirt before I ate anything my little fingers could get a hold of. Strawberries, garlic, tomatoes, almonds, nectarines, potatoes, and many other amazing fruits and veggies sprouted from my mother’s garden in the middle of the hot California desert. We also had chickens who laid eggs for us, and I acutely understood how our food got to our plate.

Any plant who met my mother would never believe I was her child. I have killed so much grass, shrubs, flowers, houseplants, fruit trees, and vegetable plants throughout the year you might think the only reason I am a vegetarian is because I love to kill plants. I tried, believe me I did. Today one of my favorite plants is cut flowers, because they are eventually supposed to die, and I do not feel guilty that I could have prevented another plant homicide.

This springtime I decided to try my hand at urban farming. We live in the beautiful suburbs of Washington DC and are surrounded by very inspiring farmlands. I frequent the farmers markets, and know that purchasing local is one of the most mindful ways to help promote your fellow neighbors, cut energy waste, and is the healthiest way to eat. My mom suggested I grow something I like, so I decided to try my hand at potatoes. I bought potato grow bags on Amazon http://amzn.to/dwLAeM as I have no yard besides a small walkway between my town home and my car, and no place to put anything in to the ground.

Here is a photo of my organic soil (9.99), two potato grow bags (17.99), and dug in the dirt are some seedling organic Adirondack Blue Potatoes and Yellow Banana Fingerling Potatoes (14.89).

Here are the potato grow bags all filled with dirt, potato seedlings and my hopeful ambitions.

I watered, grew, facebooked, and admired my potatoes all the way. As I dug through my findings after four months of passing the pesticide riddled bags of potatoes in the grocery store for $2.99. Although my findings weren’t as big as I imagined, they were mine. I succeeded in making something grow. After $42. 87, and a large bowl of potatoes, what I learned is that food is made from love of Earth, not love of profit. I loved every minute of it, and it helped me connect to the process of food, which is anything but fast, and delivered in a greasy bag through a window.

I couldn’t believe it when something actually sprouted from the ground. A miracle on my front porch!

I learned that even people like me, with no experience in plant success could grow food. I learned that growing food is hard work, and tastes delicious. Next time you head down to your farmers market, and when you buy something from a farmer who took the effort and time to bring food to your table, say thank you. Even if you’re like me: grab a potato, some dirt, and try it yourself!

Harvest time!

Book Review: Wake Up and Smell the Planet

This 175-page book is full of ideas for “Greening Your Day” by being more mindful of our daily choices. Created by the editors of Grist.org, the blog covering environmental news and providing commentary on climate change as it applies to daily life. The book goes through the day chronologically, showing ways we can make decisions that have less of a negative affect on the planet. It’s an easy read with some sprinkling of humor. The statistics and assertions are not referenced, so the book reads more like a printed blog. But Grist is credible, having been around writing about this stuff since 1999. A long time ago in Internet time! The book, by the way, was published way back in 2007. Its contents remain relevant, although perhaps the planet smells somewhat worse today.


Organic Cotton

What is organic cotton? What is the benefit of something being organic if I’m not going to eat it?  According to the Organic Trade Association conventionally grown cotton uses 25% of the insecticides and 10% of the pesticides used in the world. Not only does organic cotton need to be grown without genetically modified seeds, and without pesticides, but with an articulate knowledge to effectively weed and fertilize without chemicals. Although consumer interest for organic cotton increases 50% each year and producers cannot keep up with demand, not every farmer is choosing an organic route.  According to the International Trade Commission, many farmers cannot front the costs of changing their farms to organic cotton, which takes three years, plus costly certification and inspection. The crops are more labor intensive and are marketed to a smaller group than conventional cotton.

Although organic cotton production is on the rise, it is up to us, as mindful consumers to use the knowledge of organic cotton’s great benefit, and purchase when possible. If consumers consistently purchase organic cotton, the demand will continue to increase and we will be showing with our soft, luxurious organic cotton sheets (or shirts, or diapers, or stationary, or cotton balls) that we are sparing the environment millions of tons of pesticide that will inevitably get in our water, our land, and effect the local wildlife, not to mention the workers who spend hours in close proximity.

I am reminded of some of the first Mindful Consumers; the patriots in the Revolutionary War. They were protesting British goods by spinning and weaving their own cloth instead of purchasing it from England as they had done before. Although not as beautiful or intricate as English cloth, when the Americans wore their “home-spun” clothing they were making a bold statement about how they felt, and where their loyalties stood. Now, we do not have to sacrifice quality to wear our loyalties on our sleeves (pun intended). What you wear makes a statement about who you are, and tonight I will sleep a little bit better on my organic sheets.


Five Ways to Be Green For Less

Green has become synonymous with more expensive. Here are five ways to be more green for less money.

1. Paperless billing. Today, while newspapers are floundering across the country online informational sites continue to grow. Today we pay our bills, check up on our friends and family, watch TV, and get recipes online. Switch over your bills to paperless billing. Not only do some companies reward you for not having to send you a paper bill in the mail every month, but we are using less paper, less energy, and making less waste every month.

2. Free Ads. Nothing tops the strange satisfaction of getting something for free. With websites like Craigs List, Freecycle.org, and local newspaper ads, there are plenty of resources for items in good condition that are absolutely free of charge. You’ll also be surprised how easily it is for you to give away things you no longer need anymore. Instead of tossing your old dining room table, list it for free and give someone else the chance to be as mindful as you are.

3. Make your own. While organic whole wheat bread may push five dollars a loaf at your local health food store, it costs just a fraction of that amount to make it at home. Not only will it make the house smell amazing but your family members might be so impressed they won’t even miss going out to a restaurant instead. Making smart food choices does not mean throwing away every box of mac and cheese hiding in the house, but incorporating healthier items too.

4. Antique. Getting complimented on decor does not have to mean maxing out credit cards at the local furniture and home decoration store. Thrift stores, vintage shops, antique dealers and consignment stores are great resources of home decor at a fraction of the new price. Not only is buying a piece of furniture from an antique shop going to cost you less money but it will be better manufactured. You will also be supporting local businesses instead of giant furniture stores who import their products overseas. I always get more compliments on my antique pieces rather than my new ones. Vintage is very popular right now, and mixing and matching is the key to a nice home design, and a greener attitude.

5. Be Romantic. I know what you’re thinking: romance is expensive. Things like a candlelit dinner, a walk at sunset and showering together are not only romantic, they’re green! Snuggle up in winter and turn down that thermostat just a few degrees. Making dinners at home warm up the house as well as the heart. Watching a movie together on the couch is a fraction of the cost of going to see a movie, plus the food is healthier and you won’t need to drive to get there.

Green doesn’t have to be expensive. Let us know your ideas for doing green on the cheap.