July 2009


Sugarland aka Supermarket Photo By √oхέƒx™The modern world as lent us to wonderful inventions such as the jet plane, computers, and even ipods. However, this modern life has also included a change in the way we eat, thus the advent of packaged foods. Now I could go on for hours about how packaged and prepared foods are affecting our overall health and diet, but that is not he point of this entry. Yes, packaged food affects our bodies but it also affects our planet. The amount of energy and resources it takes to create such packaging is astounding, not to mention that most of it consists of plastic, which as we all know is damaging to the world around us.

However, recently the Green Movement has been changing the way food is packaged. Many companies are starting to introduce new materials such as recycled plastics as in Aveda Shampoos, whose bottles are made from 96% Post Consumer Recyclables. But there is also a move to produce compostable items, for example Whole Foods Market’s packaged bakery items now come in 100% biodegradable trays. These innovations are a great start for the industry.

No-Bakery Cake Cover Photo By Montgomery Cty Division of Solid Waste ServicesAnd its not just the food industry who want to see change. Consumers are actually demanding that companies reduce packaging or move to more Earth friendly ones. In a recent marketing poll, consumers stated that one of the most important item food companies should focus on is making packaging more environmentally friendly. Also, scoring high on the list was providing more healthy and fresh ingredients. It seems that consumer trends are leading to a healthy and more environmentally sound lifestyle, at least when it comes to foods.

We find this data particularly inspiring and hope to see more innovation among packaged food producers, as well as additional fresh ingredients. At least we can be satisfied with the knowledge that the American consumer is asking for these changes, because if the food companies will answer to anyone, it will be where the money is.

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Photo of Smores Bars Photo By foodistablogOne of the best things about summer is the good old fashioned camping trips. For children, and some fun loving adults their favorite camping activity is around the campfire, cooking delicious and sweet s’mores!  This summer, Global Exchange is promoting a new campaign: We Want More from Our S’mores! They are using the summer s’mores to help convince Hershey’s in to switch to Fair Trade chocolate. The chocolate industry is known for its labor abuses both in the farming and production of chocolate. Boycotting Hershey’s, which is the number one chocolate producer in the US, will bring awareness to Fair Trade in general and other smaller Fair Trade companies. This year’s goal is to register 1,500 names on a petition to send to Hershey’s headquarters.

Smores for All! Photo By cortneymartin82So how do you get involved?! Well Global Exchange is asking all Fair Traders to get involved by holding s’mores events to collect signatures. Anytime you hold a public event such as a festival, summer camp, BBQ, or even with with your family: make some s’mores and bring some awareness to the cause. Global Exchange has put together a nice checklist on how to put together an event as well as provide you with a mock flyer to post up and hand out. Once you have completed your event, please send the signatures to Global Exchange who is compiling them and sending them off to Hershey’s!

Even if you can not plan an actual event, please support Fair Trade chocolate when you are buying your s’mores supplies. Fair Trade chocolate is easier to find than you think. Check out companies such as Equal Exchange, Divine Chocolate, and Alter Eco. And for all the vegans out there, if you are looking for vegan marshmallows to complete your s’more, check out Sweet & Sara.

smores [girls camping trip] Photo By: woodleywonderworksAlso, for those that live in the San Francisco Bay Area, Global Exchange is hosting a Fair Trade S’mores Happy Hour! They ask you to bring your own s’mores ingredients, except for the chocolate, it will be provided for free. Along with the indulgence in campground favorites, there will also be free chocolate taste testing, pinatas, and live music. If you are in the area, come support and eat chocolate! It takes place this Wednesday, July 29th from 6:00-8:00 pm in Speedway Meadow at Golden Gate Park, San Francisco.

Please enjoy your summer camping and cookouts but be sure if you are making any s’mores to please use Fair Trade chocolate. And if you are serious about bringing change, consider hosting an event to gather signatures and bring awareness to the problems in the chocolate industry. Mmm….all this talk of s’mores has me salivating, I think I’ll go roast one at the park!

For a little over 10 years, the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) has proposed a new standard for building con struction focused on stronger energy efficiency and environmental standards. Known as the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, the USGBC’s LEED program has grown to include of 14,000 projects in the United States. The program itself is based on a rating system that allows new and renovated buildings to achieve certain degrees of LEED from ‘certified’ to ‘silver’ to ‘platinum’ depending on the number of criteria that are me t in six standard categories .

As with any new system, LEED has experienced its share of growing pains as it has gone through continual refinement to meet the nuances and challenges that are found throughout the vast array of building projects throughout the world. Recently, the USGBC released its most advanced latest revision, LEED 2009, which incorporates rules for a wide variety of circumstances and attempts to achieve a baseline focus on not just things such as energy efficient appliances, but the overall holistic lifestyle approach to the building design and its operations. Ensuring such things such as shower facilities for bikers and low maintenance landscaping, LEED has always been concerned with and understands that the user experience is also at the heart of an energy efficient building.

However, the strength and credibility of the LEED program has grown with the current economic crisis.  A number of Federal Government American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant applications have now required construction and building upgrades to achieve some level of LEED certification. Local and state governments are continually subsidizing and providing rebates for projects specifically certified by the LEED system.

However, many have been critical of the fact that LEED is not strong enough to meet the impending dangers of climate change. Perhaps in one of the most bold moves in the history of construction law for the state, Massachusetts is currently discussing a requirement that all construction projects, new or renovated, will often require some level of stringent energy efficient certification. Known as the ‘Stretch Energy Code”, all construction over 5,000 sq. ft., would inherently lower its total energy consumption an average of 40% when compared to current state code.

This isn’t good news to all. The Homebuilders Association views the measure as rash, potentially raising the cost of projects an additional $10,000 – money that the current economy can’t handle in the first place. The legitimate concerns call for a more nuanced approach, the respects all levels of sustainability, from environmental to economic.

Regardless of the specific actions taken, the news is promising as government policy, however slow, begins to catch up to the needs of the environment and the needs of the growing public concerned with our role in the world.

Its the end of July and the temperature gage is rising. The summer heat can really take its toll, especially inside a cramped apartment or muggy house. No matter if you live in an urban setting or out by the countryside the heat traps itself inside your humble abode. So what to do? Most Americans would run right over to their Central AC or window unit and crank up the air conditioning. But how necessary is this? Air conditioning is actually pretty unnatural for the body (imagine the shock of coming in from 100 degree heat down to 50 degrees). It just doesn’t add up that we have to carry around layers in the summer, just to survive the temperature changes from outside in.

Achoo Photo By Giles DouglasBeyond the annoyance, air conditioning also effects your health and what you are breathing in. Dust particles, pollen, and even bacteria are circulated through air conditioning units and can cause allergies, asthma attacks, and even the spread of illness. And on top of the health effects, air conditioning is very harmful for the environment. Not only do they use massive amounts of electricity that usually comes from not so green sources but the coolant is damaging to the ozone and a hazard material. So what is to be done about this? How do you survive the summer swelters without the use of air conditioning? Well today is your lucky day! We have compiled a short list of tips on how to keep your house cool without giving into the evil artificial cooling devices.

Caribbean ceiling fan Photo by exfordy1) Proper Use of Fans: To handle the summer heat we suggest you invest in some good fans. Although they use electricity, it is considerably less than central air or air conditioning. If your house has ceiling fans these are great to keep a room cool. But if you are not lucky enough to have this luxury it helps to face one window fan facing in and one facing out in the same room. This will create an air movement throughout the room and cool it down. You can also place a fan on the floor if there is a breeze coming in the room to move the breeze along.

I will follow you in the dark Photo By devinlynnx2) Lighting: One obvious trick when it comes to lighting is to turn off all lights when they are not necessary. Extra light just adds to the heat of the house, as do other electronics such as computers and TVs (however we are not suggesting you go without all entertainment). Also, if you are going to use lights be sure to use lower lighting such as lamps instead of the bright heat expressing kind. Fluorescent lighting is also very efficient and will keep the room overall cooler.

Wafting Curtains Photo By Ctd 20053) Be Smart About Windows: One of the easiest ways to keep the sun from bearing down into your house is to hang thick and dark curtains, at least during the high sun hours. The less sun that makes its way into your house, the better! Keep your windows open during the cool parts of the day and be sure to close them if any warm air is circulating into the house. You’ll want to also keep the windows in the bathroom open when you are showering, this will help keep the warmth of the water out (or you could always opt for a cold one!). Also, a trick that helps keep our office cool is to create a cross breeze between windows, making sure opposite windows are open at the same time. This will exponentially keep the room cooler. 

Clothes line. Photo By stacy michelle4) Use less Appliances: It may seem really simple to say but do not use the oven, especially during the hot parts of the day! You will also want to avoid using the dryer during the summer months. Dryers emit a lot of heat into a household, plus there is a better green way to dry your laundry: hang a clothesline! Not only will you use less electricity and keep your house cooler, you will save money and have that fresh Summer smell to your clothes. If you must use the dryer, be sure your vents are clean and the best time to wash clothes is in the early morning or late at night, when the house will be its coolest. 

Photo of Stone Fruit Salad Photo By foodistablog5) Keep Cool with Food and Drinks: This summer cut back on warm foods, because really who wants the feel of warm soup on hot summer day? Switch to cool foods such as salads, sandwiches, and cool desserts. If you want some suggestions, check out our vegan recipes, there are plenty of salads and cool items on there: Raw Avocado Mousse is a favorite and will keep your body cool. Along with cool foods, you’ll want to keep cool with cold drinks. Its pretty obvious that warm drinks like coffee and tea bring your body temperature up, so switch to iced coffee and teas. Lemonade and fruit juices are also a refreshing way to keep the temperature down. Some people might say to avoid alcohol, but we just won’t take it that far, because we know a cold beer or iced sangria really hits the spot on a hot summer night. So we say drink away!

As many of you know by now, we at AP are proud of being vegan and promote the lifestyle constantly through our products and blog! The reasons for seriously considering a Vegan lifestyle are several, and perhaps its most controversial (and dare say misunderstood) facet is that of diet.  Arguments abound for the necessary inclusion of meat or other animal products in the human diet for optimum health.  Both facts and claims – from the presence of canine teeth in our mouths to certain nutrients only occurring in animal tissues – attempt to lend credence to the view that our bodies could not possibly have evolved to function correctly without a bit of bovine milk or some scavenged meat.  Of course, there is no all-inclusive truth about the history and structure of the human diet, and we are obviously capable of eating both plant and animal substances.  However, there is an established and increasingly strong body of research pointing at the Vegan diet as physiologically superior to other options.

Vegan Food Pyramid-AnimalSuffering.com

Vegan Food Pyramid-AnimalSuffering.com

 

Of highest concern to non-Vegans seems to be the issue of acquiring essential proteins solely from plant foods.  An unfounded myth circulates that the body’s need for proper amino acids and complete proteins can only be fulfilled, and in adequate amounts, with meat or dairy.  Nutrition expert Kathy Freston begs to differ. Apparently, the body requires only ten percent of its calories to come from protein and a varied plant-based diet will easily provide everything needed.  This is further supported by a study conducted by the American Dietetic Association:  “Research indicates that an assortment of plant foods eaten over the course of a day can provide all essential amino acids and ensure adequate nitrogen retention and use in healthy adults . . . [and] a meta-analysis of nitrogen balance studies found no significant difference in protein needs due to the source of dietary protein.” Lack of protein and where it comes from is not at all a medical issue compared to those that are inherently wedded to animal products, some of the worst being stroke, heart disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity.

It seems that a variety of medical studies are supporting a Vegan approach to dietary health regarding degenerative diseases.  Nutritionist and researcher Dr. T. Colin Campbell was the director of a study conducted over 20 years in China and Taiwan in conjunction with Cornell University, Oxford University and the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine. He then published the group’s findings in The China Study: Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and Long-Term Health.  The overarching result of the study’s findings were startlingly clear: “People who ate the most animal-based foods got the most chronic disease … People who ate the most plant-based foods were the healthiest and tended to avoid chronic disease.” What we regard as age-related illnesses that occur normally are quite the opposite; the study also found that 80 to 90% of all cancers, cardiovascular diseases, and other forms of degenerative illness can be prevented, at least until very old age, simply by adopting a plant-based diet.” The implications of such data on bodily function and the nature of its physiological design beg an anatomical review.

To further the vegan argument, plant based diets may actually be connected to our biology. According to Dr. Milton R. Mills, it is unmistakable that the human being is naturally herbivorous given a cursory assessment of the design of the body.  From the shape and size of our oral cavity and the carbohydrate-digestive enzymes in our saliva to our large intestine pointing to vitamin absorption and the fermentation of fibrous plant materials, it appears obvious that we have not evolved to require the intake of animal products and that our bodies, as compared with natural carnivore and omnivore species, are simply herbivorous.  This becomes even more clear when looking at tooth design.  The shape of the human canine has no practical masticating function and is a smaller holdover from behaviors of aggression and display common among other great apes, which is synchronous with our broad, flattened incisors and nodular molars, perfect for the processing of plant matter.  This is consistent with the structural configuration and needs of the rest of our digestive system.

Once more, the information above is not designed to deny that the human body can function with the regular intake of animal-based foods, only that it is most likely not the most optimal approach to eating.  This is only a casual survey of the prevalent issues and available information on a comparative Vegan diet. It is all a matter of personal choice, but we encourage you to do active research,  make your own decisions regarding the correct approach to a healthy, fulfilling mode of plant-based eating.  But one thing, if any, seems quite clear: Veganism as a dietary choice deserves serious consideration for anyone interested in maximizing their physiological health and potential. And as we like to say, perhaps a tad less intellectual: GO VEGAN! 🙂

-Jeremy Pearson

O beautiful for spacious skies, For amber waves of grain, For purple mountain majesties and… ever growing Urban Sprawl?

Urban Sprawl Photo By keepwaddling1
The outward spread of both city and suburban landscapes has become a harsh truth of modern life. While the lyrics to “America the Beautiful” have yet to be altered, the evidence of this sprawl is apparent to the most novice of Environmentalists. Driving through the suburbs, from state to state, coast to coast, one can not help but to note the formerly varying landscapes of the United States have taken on a more homogeneous aesthetic over the past half century or so. As strip malls and the chain stores spread their outreach, it is hard to know whether one is in the suburbs of New York state or California when parking lots and carbon copies of the same chain stores are all that are left to mark your surroundings. Even the suburban standby, of using regional coffee chains as a compass in deciding where the strip mall in question is likely located, such as: Coffee Shop A suggesting a Northeast area versus Coffee chain B suggesting a West Coast one, is becoming obsolete as these caffeinated chains spread their jittery wings to pepper the country with new, “convenient” locations.

Dead End in the Burbs Photo By √oхέƒx™

The ultimate staple of success in the U.S; the home in a quiet neighborhood with a large yard featuring a two car garage to house your families numerous vehicles, has become the main trapping of a modern life that encourages this sprawl. The reality of a life lived in the sprawl is one that entails longer commutes, often with one person per one vehicle sitting in traffic on a highway for long spans of time. In addition to, and largely because of these increased solitary vehicle commutes, pollution increases in these areas, which has serious impacts on the health of its citizens. Low air quality stimulates respiratory ailments. The lack of exercise, due to the lack of walk ways and bike ways available in these areas, which make driving a mandatory means of transportation, cause a rise in obesity and in turn, an increase the abundance of negative health effects that are associated with such weight increases. Not to mention the financial burden of needing to purchase new and larger slacks every few months or so. (Which may not be a problem when one can get a twelve pack of pants at their local Sprawl-Mart for the low, low price of $9.99.)

Deer Crossing Photo By shouldbecleaning

The improper allotment of land Urban Sprawl calls for leaves less and less area for natural environments to be maintained or developed. This burden weighs not only on the physical health of humans, with less space to be physically active, but the mental health as well, as decreased activity sees an increase in depression. Humans are not the only ones blue over these harmful uses of land, wild life is being squeezed out of modern America. Many species have become extinct and many of those who fight for survival must adapt the world we have created, even seeking food and shelter in our neighborhoods, invading the landscapes of our American dreams due to their dreams of survival. When one wonders why a coyote is wandering through their neighbor’s yard, the answer probably lies within the reality of Urban Sprawl. Wild animals would much rather be frolicking in the forest than running across our highways and sorting through our old issues of Life magazine as they search for food in a Hefty bag.

Golden Forest Photo By *MickyThis seemingly endless unfurling of Urban sprawl occurring in our nation is on the radar of even our most powerful of citizens, with President Obama recently asserting, “For too long federal policy has actually encouraged sprawl and congestion and pollution, rather than quality public transportation and smart sustainable development” and further stating, “And we’ve been keeping communities isolated when we should have been bringing them together.” Sentiments that are a clear call for change in our Nation’s Urban policy. These strong words will hopefully, for the sake of the preservation of our nation, heed aggressive action. For as cliché as it may sound, actions speak louder than words, no matter how eloquent and truthful those words may be.

The Town of Middleburg Photo By La Citta VitaOur actions as citizens of this country are equally as important as that of our leaders. We need to encourage our leaders to change, supporting candidates who will support the legislature we need to prevent future harm to our nation, those who will seek preservation of natural habitats and encourage the development of public transportation, walkways and bike ways. Financially we can shop locally and shut out super store giants that push out small business owners, those slacks may be dirt cheap, but at what cost to our fellow man and our environment? We can even make simple choices, such as walking places when it is possible, or car pooling when it is not.

We owe it to ourselves, to our spacious skies, to our amber waves of grain, to our purple mountain’s majesty….and to that coyote out back rummaging through your rubbish.

-Meghan Hurley

We went to the beach Photo By SanyamStudioWe are now in the middle of July and summer is finally here! Summer is the time for vacations, and in this modern era most of us tend to travel via jet plane. So you may be wondering with all the air travel, is this really environmentally sound? Ok, so we love to travel all over the world and take great pleasure in riding the skies, so we don’t want to sound anti-travel. But the truth is jet fuel is extremely toxic for the environment and puts off a tremendous amount of carbon emissions. So much so that it has been shown that going vegan or vegetarian for an entire year cuts as much carbon as skipping a 5 hour flight!!! As Planet Green reports “5 hours on a place going across the country has roughly the same impact as 8,765 hours of making green food decisions.”

Airplane over the Autobahn Photo By poolieThat being said it is really important to understand how much emissions your summer flight plans will cause. There are a few easy ways to do this including CNN’s Carbon Calculator that simply allows you to plug in your airport origin and destination. It will then spit out 3 facts for you: distance traveled, how many tons of CO2 produced, and how much of the rainforest it would take to absorb this pollution. For instance if you took a roundtrip flight from New York to San Francisco, you will have traveled 8310 km, produced 1.001 tons of CO2, and it would require 1.001 hectares of the rainforest a year to consume the CO2!  Although this calculator is very simple and does not take into account the size of plane, amount of people on board, and exact flight route: it is a quick and simple way to get an estimate of your impact when traveling. 

Corbett national park forest Photo by netlancer2006Now that you know how much you are polluting due to your travel plans, there is a couple things you can do about it! Purchasing carbon offsets is a great way to go, as they put your money towards funding a reduction in greenhouse gases. There are several companies that will do this for you including Climate Friendly, Atmofair, and Native Energy. If you want a breakdown of several companies comparing price and projects, check out this Carbon Emissions Survey. Be sure that you also consider radiative forcing when purchasing your carbon offset. Carbon offsets are a great way to make an impact while globetrotting, but are there alternatives to plane travel? You can choose to take a bus or train across the country, however these require time and patience. And you could carpool with several friends in an alternative fuel car or ride a bicycle! But if you are traveling overseas, besides sailing across the oceans there isn’t really an alternative at this moment. 

Enjoy the summer and all your globetrotting you may have planned. Just remember that every time you fly, you are adding to a rise in greenhouse gases. Be conscious of this factor and please do something about it! Either fly less (which we know is difficult) or purchase those carbon offsets, or better yet do both. Bon Voyage!

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