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November 26th, 2014
This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post
Thanksgiving is a favorite holiday for many. It’s a time to eat, indulge and spend uninterrupted time with family.
It’s also a time for reflection. A time to think about what we’re thankful for and a time to think about how the choices we make impact our families and the planet.
Although every day provides an opportunity for reflection and change, Thanksgiving stands out as the perfect day to kick off a few new habits that will effect the longevity of our planet. If each of us revamped our consumption and waste habits by slightly adjusting what’s already in place, the overall impact could be huge.
Here are a few tips for the Thanksgiving holiday that will reduce our carbon footprint and help keep the planet healthy for generations to come.
Shop locally this Thanksgiving and lend your support to the little local business rather than the big box stores. Go for holiday supplies that don’t need to travel far to get to your Thanksgiving table.
Organic food typically requires 30-50% less energy during production than it’s conventional counterpart. Make the shift this Thankgiving to a table with more organic food choices. Knowing that your food isn’t sprayed with pesticides, chemicals or genetically modified is enough reason to incorporate organic foods into your menu.
Turn the Heat Down
Watch your home heat up on its own as your Thanksgiving guests arrive and as the oven is turned on to warm the food. Rather than opening windows to cool off the space remember to set the thermostat a few degrees lower before the celebration begins.
Don’t Use Disposables
Make the switch to reusable napkins, skip the paper towels and pull out the good dishes this Thanksgiving. It’s a bit more effort at the end of the evening, but it’s worth it. Each person in the United States uses 749 pounds (340kg) of paper every year. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, the pulp and paper industry may contribute to more global and local environmental problems than any other industry in the world. The industry is the third largest industrial emitter of global warming pollution.
Reduce the Amount You Buy
Reducing is the first of the 3 Rs: reduce, reuse and recycle. When planning your Thanksgiving celebration try making some slight alterations to your shopping list. Give some extra thought as to whether or not you truly need those items on your list and reduce the amount of food and decorations if possible.
Compost Table Scraps
Did you know that a typical household throws away an estimated 474 pounds of food waste each year? That means about 1.5 lbs per person a day in the United States. Food scraps generated by all households in the U.S. could be piled on a football field more than five miles (26,400 feet) high. Compost those vegetable scraps and watch your garden thrive.
Fill Your Dishwasher Before Running
Fill your dishwasher to capacity before running a cycle. You’ll end up saving water, energy and detergent.
Green Your Turkey
A Cornell study shows it takes 14 units of fossil fuel to produce a serving of turkey. If you’re planning to have turkey try to make it a little greener by purchasing it from a local market or farm. If the turkey is traveling a long distance to get to your table that’s adding to your carbon footprint. Best option-skip the turkey!
Clean with Non-Toxic Cleaners
Make the switch to non-toxic cleaning products. When making the switch to green cleaning products replace products you’re currently using as they run out with a safer version. Take the time to research safer, non-toxic products and then make the switch.
According to USA Today, it’s predicted that 24.6 million passengers will fly on U.S. airlines domestically and internationally between November 21st and December 2nd this year. That’s a 1.5% increase from last year, or 31,000 more passengers on average a day. For many of us traveling is a long-standing tradition and needed to visit with our family. Use this handy calculator from The Nature Conservancy to help you calculate the amount of carbon you emit and offer ways of offsetting those emissions.
If your plan is to drive make sure your tires are fully inflated and your car has been properly serviced. This will help reduce your carbon emissions and improve your gas mileage.
P.S. If you liked this post you might enjoy our Groovy Green Livin Newsletter. Receive new posts and special opportunities delivered right to your inbox! Sign up HERE.
photo credit: Benjamin Chun via photopin cc
October 28th, 2014
We all know how confusing and time consuming it can be at the supermarket when we’re on a quest to find healthy, non-toxic food for our families. Going aisle to aisle reading labels and deciphering ingredients is an ongoing challenge for many of us.
Well get ready-there’s some exciting news on the food front!
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) just released Food Scores: Rate Your Plate, an easy-to-use food database and mobile app that will rate over 80,000 foods from about 1,500 brands in a simple, searchable, online format.
This scoring system factors in not only nutrition, but also ingredients of concern, such as food additives, and contaminants. It also estimates the degree to which foods have been processed.
EWG’s Food Scores is hoping to guide people to greener, healthier, and cleaner food choices. Users can find an overall score, from 1 (best) to 10 (worst), for every product in the food database.EWG’s product profiles include highly detailed information on how each food stacks up in terms of nutritional content and whether they contain questionable additives, such as nitrites or potassium bromate, or harmful contaminants, such as arsenic and mercury, and which foods have the lowest and highest processing concerns. They also identify meat and dairy products that are likely produced with antibiotics and hormones and highlight the fruits and vegetables that are likely to be contaminated with pesticide residues.
The food database also has a unique, interactive function that allows users to customize each product’s Nutrition Facts panel by their age, gender, and life stage, including pregnancy. Users can also limit their searches to find only certified organic, GMO-free, or gluten-free foods.
EWG also released its first full analysis of the more than 80,000 foods in the database. It represents a snapshot of products that carry a barcode in a typical grocery store, from bagged spinach to yogurt to tortilla chips. Overall, EWG found that only about 18 percent of products scored best (1-3.5), 57 percent scored in the middle range (4-7), and 25 percent scored worst (8-10).
While we know that Americans are eating too much sugar, EWG’s analysis shows how truly ubiquitous added sugar is across supermarket shelves. Nearly 60 percent of the foods in EWG’s database contain at least one form of added sugar, and in some food categories added sugar is shockingly pervasive. For example, EWG found that 92 percent of granola and trail mix bars in the database contain added sugars. In some cases, almost a third of the bar’s weight is sugar.
Other food categories with surprisingly high percentages of added sugar include stuffing mixes (100 percent), stuffing (96 percent), deli meats (74-98 percent, depending on type), salad dressings (86 percent), peanut and other nut butters (68 percent), and crackers (63 percent).
“We developed EWG’s Food Scores in recognition of two trends,” said Ken Cook, EWG’s president and cofounder. “First, Americans are becoming increasingly concerned about excessive amounts of sugar, salt, fat and other unhealthy ingredients in supermarket food. Second, they no longer trust big food companies or popular brands to put health before profits, not even the health of our kids. With EWG’s Food Scores, shoppers can quickly see what food companies are really putting into their food.”
EWG’s Food Scores is built on data gathered by LabelINSIGHT®, an independent product label database and analysis platform, which provides details on packaged foods that carry a barcode.
EWG’s Food Scores is available as a free mobile app for iPhone users. Click here to download the app. With the app, consumers are able to scan barcodes of products with their smartphones to get rating information while they are grocery shopping. They are able to compare a product’s score to that of similar products, right at their fingertips, and find comparable products with better scores.
“Whether they’re making a shopping list or using a smartphone to scan items in the store, EWG’s Food Scores will empower people to shop for healthier products and reward the companies that make them,” added Cook. “We feel confident that this tool will drive the marketplace towards greener, simpler and healthier products, just as hundreds of millions of product searches in EWG’s Skin Deep database have changed the market for cosmetics and personal care products.”
A big thank you to EWG for working hard on this much needed information. Food Scores: Rate Your Plate, will be a fantastic guide that we can use while shopping for our families. But remember, it’s only a guide. We still need to continue educating ourselves so we can make informed decisions at the market. We need to keep pressing for full transparency from food manufacturers when it comes to GMOs. This database is a great start, but we still have a long way to go.
Have you tried the app? Can’t wait to hear what you think.
photo credit: Brother O’Mara via photopin cc
July 31st, 2014
Tomatoes are a favorite in our home. This year we planted a few tomato plants in our garden. They were growing and thriving until the deer discovered them and decided to eat a few of the plants. There are plenty left, but I would love any suggestions on how to prevent this next year.
The remaining tomatoes aren’t quite ready to pick. We’re waiting impatiently. There’s nothing like fresh plum tomatoes straight off the vine.
Did you know that tomatoes aren’t vegetables? They are a citrus fruit.
Whether large or small, they pack a powerful punch by way of nutrients and health benefits. They are truly a super-food.
Here are the top 3 reasons to eat more tomatoes
Keep Cancer Away
The tomato’s beautiful red color comes from a phytochemical called lycopene. According to the American Cancer Society, studies have shown that risks for some types of cancer are lower in people with higher lycopene levels in their blood.
I was a bit surprised to learn that tomatoes that have been crushed and cooked appear to be a better source of lycopene than those eaten raw. Apparently mashing, pureeing and cooking releases more of the lycopene from the tomato, making it easier for our bodies to absorb.
Ward Off Heart Disease
A study by scientists at Tufts University found regularly eating lycopene, found in tomatoes, over many years can have a powerful positive effect on heart health. In another study a supplement of lycopene improved function of the the inner lining of blood vessels in volunteers with cardiovascular disease.
Vitamin K and lycopene, both found in tomatoes and tomato products, help prevent bone loss. A serving of tomatoes provide 18% the daily value for vitamin K, which promotes bone health. Lycopene, a potent antioxidant found predominantly in tomatoes and tomato products, helps to prevent bone loss and osteoporosis.
Time to eat those tomatoes! Stick with organic tomatoes whenever you can.
What’s your favorite way to eat tomatoes? Mine: roasted with garlic and olive oil.
photo credit: Pieter Musterd via photopin cc and arbyreed via photopin cc
July 22nd, 2014
Non-GMO verified is NOT the same as organic.
Something to keep in mind the next time you head to the supermarket.
Over the past few years GMO labeling has come a long way …..but we have a long way to go.
Non-GMO Project Verified labels are popping up on more and more products on the shelves in our markets. I use this label more and more to find products that don’t contain GMOs and to support companies that label their products.
Sometimes a Non-GMO Project Verified label will appear along with other labels and other times it will stand alone.
Labeling, while so important, can also be very confusing. It’s time to clear up any confusion!
What is a Non-GMO Project Verified Label?
I generally find the Non-GMO Project Verified label at the bottom of a product. The label provides consumers with independent, third party assurance that the product contains no GMOs (products tested must contain less that .9percent GMOs, which allows for unintentional contamination). Yes, there could be unintentional contamination.
What is USDA Organic Certification?
In a nutshell, products with an organic certification are grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms, or ionizing radiation. Animals that produce meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products do not take antibiotics or growth hormones.
USDA certified products cannot intentionally contain GMOs. The USDA does not require testing for GMOs, so accidental contamination may occur.
So there you have it. A non-GMO label is only certifying that a product does not contain GMOs. An organic certification provides much more, including a certification that the product doesn’t contain GMOs. Both certifications leave a bit of wiggle room for unintentional GMO contamination. So yes, your food could contain GMOs even if there’s a non-GMO and/or organic certification.
Buy organic food whenever you can. A new study found substantially higher levels of antioxidants and lower levels of pesticides in organic fruits, vegetables and grains compared with conventionally grown produce. Look for the Non-GMO Verified label as another resource when shopping for cereals, snacks and other foods.
When you shop do you look for the Non-GMO Verified Label?
June 16th, 2014
The One Fruit to Eat Organic: Apples
Organic apples are a must.
Each year the Environmental Working Group (EWG) releases a list of 12 fruits and vegetables called the “Dirty Dozen”. For over 10 years EWG has published this annual guide to help people eat healthy and reduce their exposure to pesticides in produce. The Dirty Dozen™ list of produce lists the top 12 conventional fruits and veggies with the most pesticides. It’s a helpful guide when deciding where to spend your hard earned dollars on organic food.
EWG’s Dirty Dozen™ list of produce includes apples, strawberries, grapes, celery, peaches, spinach, sweet bell peppers, imported nectarines, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, imported snap peas and potatoes. Each of these foods showed high concentrations of pesticides when tested.
Why Chose Organic Apples? Apples at the Top of the Pesticide List
When we shop for produce we have many choices -one of the most difficult being whether to invest our hard earned dollars on organic fruits and veggies. While buying organic is always the better option, it can be cost prohibitive to buy everything organic.
Year after year apples have been at the top of the list as a fruit which is doused in pesticides. According to EWG, apples are the single most pesticide-contaminated produce item available at the supermarket.
We eat a lot of apples over here. Going through a dozen apples in a few days is nothing. I do my best to buy only organic apples for my family.
We are very picky about the type of apples we eat. My son loves organic Fuji apples and the rest of us will only eat Pink Lady. They’re hard to find year round at a farmer’s market or our local Whole Foods Market. The conventional version seems to always be available, but I’m not willing to go that route. I only buy organic apples.
Are there certain fruits and veggies you only buy organic?
photo credit: msr via photopin cc
February 25th, 2014
It’s National Pancake Week! Time to whip up a batch of your favorite pancakes in celebration.
The back story: the week leading up to Ash Wednesday was traditionally a time to purge your kitchen of all rich and dairy foods. A brilliant marketing major declared that this week would be National Pancake Week- since traditional pancakes are made from dairy products like butter, milk and eggs.
I have to be honest, every week in our house is National Pancake Week. We make a lot of pancakes over here. My kids love making them and I love mixing in secret ingredients such as flax seed, chia seeds and ground nuts.
In honor of this yummy celebration I’ve teamed up with Stonyfield to create some tasty pancakes with their delicious organic Greek yogurt.
My kids love to cook so they were ready to roll up their sleeves and help.
We had some extra time this morning before school so everyone could enjoy their pancakes.
Time to Make the Pancakes!
Enjoy! What’s your favorite ingredient to add to pancakes?
Organic Vanilla Greek Yogurt Pancakes
Author: Lori Popkewitz Alper Groovy Green Livin
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- ½ tsp. baking soda
- ¼ tsp. salt
- 1 cup nonfat vanilla Stonyfield Organic Greek Yogurt yogurt
- 2 eggs
- 2 Tbsp. coconut oil
- 1 tsp. chia seeds
- Extra milk (any type of milk is fine. I used rice milk)
- Cooking oil (preferably coconut oil or olive oil)
- Blueberries and maple syrup for topping
- Mix together in a bowl flour, baking soda, salt, yogurt, eggs, chia seeds and oil. If batter seems too think add milk to reach desired consistency.
- Heat a stainless steel or cast iron frying pan without oil for 2-3 minutes over medium heat.
- Add light layer of cooking oil to heated frying pan.
- Spoon batter into the heated frying pan in the shape of round cakes.
- Let cook until bubbles form on the top of the pancakes (generally takes 2-3 minutes).
- Flip and cook the pancakes until golden brown on the bottom side, about another 2-3 minutes.
- Serve pancakes hot, with organic maple syrup and blueberries.
This post was created in partnership with Stonyfield. All opinions are my own.
January 27th, 2014
See the Naked Juice in this photo? I’ve been drinking it for years. It’s green and made from a mixture of apple juice, mango, spirulina, broccoli, wheat grass and more. I thought it was so healthy. Boy was I wrong.
My kids also love Naked Juice. I was always so thrilled when they would beg for a Naked Juice at the market rather than a candy bar. How could I say no? All that fresh, “natural” juice in one spot. I practically yelled “YES”. I knew it wasn’t organic, but it did the job.
Unfortunately, all of that Naked Juice love has come to a screeching halt. No more Naked Juice for our family.
I wasn’t going to write about this since my friend Katy over at Non-Toxic Kids did such an eloquent job covering all the bases. But then I decided to try to reach a few more folks with this important information.
Let’s start at the very beginning. You may or may not know that Naked Juice is owned by PepsiCo, makers of Pepsi, Tostitos, Tropicana, Doritos and more.
A class-action lawsuit was filed against Naked Juice for using genetically-modified ingredients (GMOs) and synthetic substances in products that were marketed as “Non-GMO” and “All-Natural”.
Naked Juice denies it did anything wrong.
Naked Juice says: ‘Naked juice and smoothies will continue to be labeled “non-GMO,” and until there is more detailed regulatory guidance around the word “natural” ―we’ve chosen not to use “All Natural” on our packaging.’
So that’s a bit of good news. They’ve removed the misleading “All-Natural” claim from their products.
Here are few allegations from the lawsuit against Naked Juice:
- Although the juice was labeled “All Natural”, Naked juice was found to contain three synthetic ingredients: fructooligosaccharides, fibersol-2 and inulin.
- Naked Juice was labeling its products as “Non-GMO” when, in fact, it knowingly used genetically-modified ingredients in its products (genetically modified soy).
What we can take away from the Naked Juice lawsuit
- ‘All Natural’ is an unregulated term that means nothing. Remember that next time you see ‘All Natural‘ on a product. Products labeled ‘All Natural’ can contain GMOs. Until we have legal guidelines surrounding the use of this term there’s nothing to enforce.
- If Naked Juice did in fact use GMOs while labeling their products GMO-free that’s clearly deceptive and misleading-and certainly not a company I want to support.
This is yet another reason to buy organic products when you can. Organic is a regulated term and there are clear guidelines for products meeting the organic standard.
If you’re interested in learning more about GMOs join a free virtual conference, GMOs: What You Need to Know, from July 27-30 with Stacy Malkan and leading scientists, farmers, medical doctors, business leaders, advocates and wellness experts to learn about the genetic manipulation of our food system, how to avid GMOs and why this matters for the health of your family and future generations. Sign up for FREE HERE.
Is there a Naked Juice alternative?
My kids were pretty upset when I told them no more Naked Juice. They asked about Odwalla as an alternative.
Unfortunately, Odwalla is owned by The Coca Cola Company. PepsiCo, Nestle USA, The Coca-Cola Co. and General Mills, among many others, secretly donated millions of dollars to the GMA campaign to stop Washington Initiative 522, which would require the labeling of all products containing GMOs.
The best alternative: make your own smoothies from scratch.
I know it’s challenging, but do you try to stay away from products made by these companies when you’re at the store?
Photo credit: thisisbossi via photopin cc