Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Tis the Season..... On a lighter note

Soooooooo....I definitely don't want this blog to be all "Debbie Downer-ish". I've tried to make it clear that this is a no guilt sort of small information blog. Just trying to get the good green word out there. However, I am fully aware that sometimes it might feel like you wanna just say, "Oh that's just TOO much. I can't save the world and I'm tired and stressed and I've got my own issues". Oh, wait, that was me today. Eh-hem... Anyhow, I fully realize there are countless shades of green and I would love for everyone to pick just one shade and live by it. I can't even buy pencils for my son's first grade school supply list without making sure they are FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified (which ensures forest conservation while managing the environmental impact of logging among other things) Ok, so most people don't stand in Staples looking for the 'right' pencils to buy, but that's ok...they might just not know. That's where I come in, in a sort of "did you know?" sort of way.

I also am realizing location is huge too. My husband likes to say California made me who I am today. That just makes me laugh. But he has a point, and I think most of that has to do with access. I have 3 natural food stores within 2 square miles. I'm not kidding. I haven't stepped food in a regular grocery store in a very, very long time. My best friend Jody can attest to that. She's lived on both coasts for many years as an adult. We've talked about it simply being more difficult for her on the east coast to live the way she believes in.

So to keep this post light and since fall is my favorite season (oh how I MISS the leaves on the east coast) as we gear up for the holidays, I'm going to have something for everyone here. (Even for my friend Donna who just informed me she's not really on board with me :) ) Many of these ideas you can just browse, some you will be able to implement right away and others you can go all out, expend some energy and, WOW- will you feel damn good.

Lets start with a couple small ideas-- lots of these ideas have been used and shared among my friends.

* Purging and Donating- Thanksgiving Day weekend I go through my kids toys (with my kids) and tell them we need to give away 10 items each. I tell them since we are fortunate enough to have Santa come to our house we should give away some things to kids less fortunate. Kids who don't have as much during the rest of the year. Last year I brought them with me when we went to a woman's and children's shelter and donated them. To see where their old toys were going and know other children will love them and use them helped them to enjoy donating them.

* Halloween- As my kids get older and come home with more and more and more candy I have learned to strike a deal with them. First off I try to keep the house stocked with good treats that are less crappy during this time of year. Then I tell them they can pick out their favorite 10 or 15 pieces of candy and the rest they can trade in for a small toy of their choice. Now you may think I'm bribing my kids to not eat candy-- well, I am-- BUT-- they get to choose. They have autonomy here. They know they will only be allowed to eat 1 or maybe 2 pieces per day. Last year my son went with the toy and my daughter looked at me like I was crazy and kept her candy. By Thanksgiving the uneaten went in the trash, because she forgot all about it. I just can't stand having pounds of crap candy in the house, so we play lets make a deal.

* Holiday presents- Seriously, how many people do you buy for and have no idea what to get them, realize there is nothing they need, and just end up settling for some less than great gift just so they have something to open. I get it. I like presents too. I'm not saying stop completely, but there are better ways to spend your money if you're just going to buy to buy for someone who really doesn't need a thing.
Consider In short, these are gifts of livestock and training that help families all over the world improve their nutrition and generate income in sustainable ways. They have been around since 1974 and are truly a wonderful organization. One year we gave flocks of chicks to everyone for $20. Last year my great friend Catherine and her daughter, Simone, gave my kids a share in a llama and the book Beatrice's Goat (a great kids read explaining this charity). My kids got such a hoot of the printout of this llama that was given in their name to a family on the other side of the world to help their family!! This is a great idea for office gifts too-- get the whole office to create a theme and give charitable gifts this season. Do you really need another candle, body lotion or coffee mug?!?!
Consider The basis of this charitable organization is microfinance. Donate money for part of a loan for a woman to create a business. She pays the loan back and Kiva repays lenders. At that point you can donate it back to Kiva directly, re-lend it, or have it paid back via PayPal. I've watched my $25 be relent several times. It's also fun to see who and for what business your money is supporting.
For people searching for higher end gifts to give with a charitable undertone consider which supports Afghan, Kurdish and Pakistani women who have been widowed or disabled following decades of war in these countries. A gorgeous scarf made by an Afghan woman will cost about $125.

Other random ideas:

~ If you have paper grocery bags on hand (if you're not using reusable canvas ones yet!!), use them to wrap gifts!!! Don't buy wrapping paper! When we have them in the house we use them for all kids birthday party presents. Then my kids get to color, draw, and decorate the gifts and make them really personal and original. It's a great art and craft for 15 minutes of peace and quiet too.

~ Air freshener-- chemical free. Put 30 drops of pure lavender oil mixed with a few ounces of water in a spray bottle. Spray anywhere for a non toxic fresh smell. Spray on sheets for a calming affect for babies and kids too.

~ Game exchange or book exchange. If your child is having a large birthday party and if you're like me and don't think any child needs 20+ presents to open in one sitting consider doing a book exchange or game exchange. Each child brings a book or board game wrapped. You can do the whole sit in a circle, play music and pass them around and around until the music stops. Every child leaves with a "gift" and you don't need to make or spend money on goody bags. I just remind my son that the party is his present. (He still gets a couple presents from us and close family)

~ Go to This is fun and addicting!! Test your vocabulary-- for every answer you get right rice is donated through the World Food Program to end world hunger. You may just get smarter doing it.

~ For anyone who wants to go green by going blue visit
Save our big blue and be sure to check out the sustainable fish lists. A must
for sushi lovers too.

~ And for my east coast peeps check out Free range, grass fed, humanely treated cows to give you a great burger. Coming soon to CA!!

~ Finally-- to just peruse and learn and shop. Check out

If you can't find a way (or 10 ways) to be green here....
then stop reading my blog.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Franken-Fish -- G.E. Salmon for dinner?

Genetically engineered food: It's becoming a heated debate and a dividing issue. Ok, maybe not to the masses, but for anyone interested in their health and the state of food production, it is. I fully plan on tackling this issue in a detailed post, but due to a lack of time on my part to write and the short time line we have to act on this most recent issue I'm just posting some information.

Here's some information from the non-profit, Food and Water Watch:

We Have 15 Days to Stop GE Salmon From Being Approved
Tell President Obama to Stop GE Salmon.

My stomach turns at the thought of eating something that's considered an animal drug, but that's exactly what could end up on my plate if genetically engineered (GE) salmon are approved. We've got 15 days to stop the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) from approving GE salmon. Can you ask President Obama to stop FDA's approval of genetically engineered salmon?

Franken-Fish have won the race to be the first genetically engineered animal approved for human consumption. The aquaculture industry has genetically engineered a fish that grows at twice the normal rate, so they can get it to market sooner and make more money.

The scary thing is, the FDA doesn't do its own testing of genetically engineered animals, it relies on information provided by the company that wants approval. And because GE salmon are being considered as a new animal drug, the process isn't focused on what happens to people who eat genetically engineered animals. So on top of the health concerns posed by raising salmon in crowded factory fish farms that rely on antibiotics and other chemicals, the FDA could be adding the unknown risks of GE salmon to the mix.

The FDA is the same agency that's in charge of overseeing the egg industry, and we see how well they've done that job. The FDA does not have the capacity to ensure the safety of food that is not genetically engineered, they certainly should not be in charge of allowing the first GE animal into our food supply.

We've got just 15 days until the FDA takes formal steps to approve GE salmon, so it's up to us to demand that President Obama direct the FDA to reject this request.

Take action to stop this mutant fish from reaching your plate:

Thanks for taking action,
Sarah Alexander
Outreach Director
Food & Water Watch