January 2010

One of the raddest things about eating organic fruits and vegetables is that there is no necessary cleaning involved.  Aside from a bit of soil and the occasional creepy-crawly, you can pick an apple or piece of celery right out of your shopping bag as you exit the market and get to chompin’.  However, for those of us with a very strict budget for food, or living in a colder climate where local organics are harder to procure, exceptions need to be made.  We have to make due with what we can, and so the questions surrounding pesticides on conventional produce arise. Is there actually a lot of pesticide residue on these grapes?  How much?  Are some foods safer than others, or is it just a big, mega-agricultural crap shoot?

Well, not so much.  The Environmental Work Group has compiled data from extensive tests performed by the FDA and the Department of Agriculture on which fruits and veggies retain the highest amount of pesticide and herbicide residue after being harvested, and published the results in their Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides .  To quote: “The Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides ranks pesticide contamination for 47 popular fruits and vegetables based on an analysis of 87,000 tests for pesticides on these foods, conducted from 2000 to 2007 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration. Nearly all the studies used to create the list test produce after it has been rinsed or peeled. Contamination was measured in six different ways and crops were ranked based on a composite score from all categories.”

The items with the highest contamination, referred to as The Dirty Dozen, are as follows:

  • Apples
  • Cherries
  • Grapes
  • Peaches
  • Nectarines
  • Pears
  • Lettuce
  • Strawberries
  • Bell peppers
  • Celery
  • Potatoes
  • Spinach

The rating scale ranges from 1 to 100, the highest number being the most contaminated.  We’re sorry, but the top three fruits are your favorites: peaches ranked in at an unfortunate 100 (as their porous skin absorbs quite a bit more), apples at a close 89, and strawberries at 82.  The top three veggies look a tad better, with bell peppers at 86, celery at 85 and spinach at 60 (due to the delicacy of their leaves).  You can find the full list of 47 here.

Yeah, pretty gross, but there are other options aside from shopping organic exclusively.  The Organic Consumer’s Association provides a handy list of fruits and veggies that offer the same nutrients as The Dozen that would work as suitable replacements, as well as some very useful tips, like choosing conventional apple juice over apples themselves as it has a comparatively low residue level, and easily growing nutritious sprouts in your home.

The bottom line for The Dirty Dozen: buy these items organic, or forget about it. Why mess around with even more cancer-causing agents than already surround us on a daily basis?

-Jeremy Pearson

Regardless of whether or not you are an ardent fan of President Obama or among his harshest critics, you would be hard pressed to deny this man’s undeniable gifts as an orator. Last night’s State of the Union Address saw Obama doing what he does best, making an eloquent speech that not only outlined numerous policies but included a  firm scolding of both  the Democrats and Republicans seated before him. The President even squeezed in a few well-placed zingers to punctuate certain points and to take the wind out of the sails of certain naysayers,  stating, “I know that there are those who disagree with the overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change.” as he addressed Environmental issues during his State of the Union Address.

Even with a peppering of comic relief, Obama’s discussing of his future approach towards clean energy left many environmentalist without a smile on their face. The State of the Environmental Union was a mixed bag at best. Here are the highlights, lowlights and “What?“ lights of the President’s speech, from an environmental perspective.

The Good:

“We should put more Americans to work building clean energy facilities–and give rebates to Americans who make their homes more energy-efficient–which supports clean energy jobs.” 

“…it means passing a comprehensive energy and climate bill with incentives that will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy in America. I am grateful to the House for passing such a bill last year,. And this year I am eager to help advance the bipartisan effort in the Senate.” 

President Obama smartly outlined  the importance of green energy through the lens of economic recovery. Touting Green Energy as an industry that could create jobs, and therefore an industry that should be encouraged,  Obama touches on how these changes could be implemented through tactics such as rebates to encourage energy efficiency among American Citizens. Obama’s praise of congress for passing the Clean Energy and Security Act in 2009 and gentle encouragement of both parties in the Senate to follow suit, highlights actual action that is being taken towards this environmentally responsible behavior. While the bill, which focuses on a cap and trade system wherein limits are set for greenhouse emissions, is supported by many environmentalists, it also has its fair share of critics, ranging from those who claim that the bill is not radical enough to those who believe that it is too radical. 

 I believe that at the very least, this shows that this administration is being proactive when it comes to addressing environmental issues, but what has myself and others worried is the amount of concessions that seem to be filtering into these policies under the guise of promoting bipartisan politics. Which brings us to…

The Not So Good:

“But to create more of these clean energy jobs, we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives” 

So far so good, I can get behind incentives and jobs and green energy, continue, Mr. President.

“And that means building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country. It means  making tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development.”

(Record screeching)… “Say what!?”, me.

(Enthusiastic applause)- Congress.

What happened to harnessing the awesome power of the wind? Nuclear power  has never been so directly addressed by President Obama as a viable option for renewable energy as it was last night.  There is much debate over the nuclear power’s qualifications as a renewable energy source, with critics pointing out that from the harnessing of uranium to the construction of nuclear power sites, that this form of energy is hardly carbon neutral. This mention coupled with the shout out to offshore drilling seem to paint a picture of a President willing to make concessions in order to encourage bipartisan participation on the creation of a economically beneficial green economy. 

Whether or not these concessions will result in an end that justifies the means remains to be seen. President Obama, in one short statement ,seems to have leaned even further towards the middle. These compromises may backfire-alienating eco-minded individuals wondering if the environment is really the best area to make compromises on and could also lead  republicans to believe that  they can make Obama bend to their insistences as fast as they can utter, “Tea Party!”

Despite the bitter sweetness of President Obama’s State of the Green Union, one can only hope that he knows what he is doing and that his gamble will pay off. Hopefully, the Green economy the President foresees will become a reality throughout the remainder of his term as Commander-in-Chief.. As he said, “The nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy. American must be that nation.”  The economy and the environment are both suffering and perhaps the president is correct, their futures are intertwined and the only way either can flourish is with the help of the other. As sad as it may be, if Green energy is not profitable it will not be embraced by the majority of American citizens or its politicians. 

-Meghan Hurley

The weather outside is well yeah, frightful!  Winter is in full effect with blizzards, ice storms, or just chilly nights. There is no better way to warm the body and soul than with a great cup of soup.  And even better if it’s all vegan! Our vegan recipe of the week is a great winter warmer and pretty simple to make. This week we have put together a winter favorite of ours, Potato Leek Soup. The soup works along side a sandwich, as the main course, or simply an appetizer and its perfect for those frigid days.

Vegan Potato Leek Soup

1 Cup of Organic Soy Milk or other vegan milk

2 Tbls Vegetable Oil

4 Cups Organic Vegetable Stock

1 Organic Leek, Chopped

2-3 Large Organic Yukon Gold Potatoes, Cubed

1 Organic Celery Stalk, Chopped

2 Tbls of Vegetable or Olive Oil

1 tsp Salt

1-2 tsp Pepper

1 bay Leaf

In a large saucepan sauté the oil, leeks, celery, and salt until the leeks and celery are soft. Next add in the potatoes and cook on low until all are soft (20 minutes). If you prefer you soup smooth, rather than chunky, you can blend or food process the veggies with half the vegetable broth before heating. In a large pot, add the soy milk, vegetable broth, bay leave, pepper and bring to a boil for a few minutes. Add in the vegetables and simmer on low to medium heat for 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve hot and garnish with fresh scallions.

The terrific campaign of Fair Trade the White House is bringing a new challenge to North America: the Fair Trade My Home campaign! We are asking all of you to declare your house a Fair Trade Home by May 8th, 2010: World Fair Trade Day.  You may be wondering, what exactly is a Fair Trade Home? According to the campaign a Fair Trade Home is defined by: ” A home that is committed to the purchase and use of fair trade goods…” So if you purchase and use items such as Fair Trade coffee, tea, rice, sports balls, or clothing you could certainly qualify! Or if you are looking for ways to bring more Fair Trade items into your world, now is the time to make the commitment!

The campaign is asking followers to post photos and video of themselves partaking in Fair Trade items/activities on the Fair Trade My Home Facebook site! So begin today, by making the pledge, purchasing Fair Trade, and posting your commitments on the Fair Trade My Home site! At AP we are very excited about this new campaign and have already committed ourselves to the Fair Trade My Home campaign. For ideas on how to make your life and home more fairly traded take a look at our article from earlier this year: Begin the New Year with a Dash of Fair Trade or search Transfair’s Where to Buy Fair Trade Certified.

So please, in honor of 2010 Fair Trade Day, make your pledge Fair Trade My Home today!!

Grab onto your 10 gallon hats, oil  enthusiasts, because the Earth’s oil supply may be a little nearer to being tapped than is being let on. A source at the International Energy Agency claims that the lack of supply  is being downplayed in order to bypass an inevitable buying frenzy that would occur if people and companies realized that their precious oil was a little more precious than they have been led to believe. This alleged high ranking official also claims that on top of being encouraged to downplay the speed of depletion of these oil supplies, they were also encouraged to play up the  likelihood of finding new reserves. Not shockingly, these claims are pinned on a pressure to not upset the good ol U.S. of  A.

The National Resources Defense Council, a national non-profit organization of environmental specialist, lawyers and scientist, recently compiled a  report that evaluates and ranks the States based on both  their vulnerability to gas price increases and by their efforts, or  lack thereof , to promote  clean energies.. The report is appropriately entitled, “ Fighting Oil Addiction: Ranking States Oil Vulnerability and Solutions for Change. This list serves to highlight the strengths and weaknesses in the United States when it comes to our oil dependence- it is not a cheat sheet on which states to mock in your upcoming Eco-friendly comedy routine. While Mississippi and Montana top the list as states most vulnerable to rising oil costs, and California and Massachusetts are ahead of the pack in the promotion of clean energy,  neither set of states should resign to hang their heads in shame or pump their fists in celebration just yet.  Simply put, this entire nation, every state,  needs to get jiggy with clean energy before it is too late (Watch out for Will Smith’s future summer smash hit single “Getting Jiggy With Clean Energy” in 2010!).

Whether or not you prescribe to the belief that oil is aplenty and that humans should drive distances more than five feet, or you are an ecological fiend who walks and bikes everywhere-even swimming to Europe last summer for the heck of it- you must be willing to consider a reality wherein there is no more oil for us to abuse or protest the use of. Instead of stockpiling cans of gas and waiting for the Apocalypse,  or looking down your nose at the heathens that still own automobiles and are disrespecting Mother Earth, we should work together to encourage legislation that promotes green energy. Vote for candidates who are not willing to hide behind an antiquated ideology that is based on a misguided belief that oil is abundant. Purchase cleaner energy sources when they are available. When- not if- oil becomes a scarce commodity we as a people should be prepared, not left chasing our tails trying to solve a problem in an instant that has been staring us in the face for decades.

The Boy Scouts perhaps said it best, Be Prepared, they also know how to start a fire with twigs, so they will come in handy come the end of days when our oil runs out. To avoid this bleak future wherein Boy Scouts are kings and we all live in our suddenly useless automobiles, focus on the solutions of these problems in the now. Until Time Travel is perfected, there is no time like the present. It should be every State and every persons obligation to push and fight for Clean Energy Solutions.

-Meghan Hurley

Roadtripping across the United States, CA to MA.  The Southern route.  Highway 10.  The sun splashes the evening sky with an appetizing palette of color, and after a long day’s drive through the desert, my girlfriend, Gina, and I are getting hungry.

Entering the megalopolis of Phoenix, AZ, we scour the internet for local vegan options but our initial searches come up short; Phoenix seems not to be much of a vegan-friendly town.  Nearly giving up, I follow a seemingly disconnected path of links into a remote area of the interwebs and come upon a little place called Green Vegetarian, technically in the city of Tempe.  Perhaps a good sign.  Confused as to whether that was a description of the restaurant or its actual name, we decide to try it.  It’s right off the 202, in true megalopolis fashion.

Passing a few corner-strip-malls in a low-lit neighborhood we initially drive right past it; turning back around, we see how easy it is to miss, tucked away in the far corner of a little shopping plaza.  The sign, in green, says “green RESTAURANT.”  Kinda funky, but our rumbling stomachs cannot be questioned.

Walking in is a pleasant surprise.  Warm, low-hanging lamps lit the deserty color scheme.  Rows of dynamic black and white photos line the walls, an installment from a local artist.  Small racks and shelves sell independent, eco-friendly foods, wares and local art, a touch of the corner store vibe but healthier.  The space is open and lively, filled with people of all ages and social persuasions.  And an extensive, ALL-VEGAN menu.  Not just vegetarian.  We can choose anything.  Amazing.  And the menu shows a dude on a bike.  Points.

Crab Puffs

The place bills itself as “New American Vegetarian.”  Perfect description.  The list of starters has dishes like Artichoke Gratine, Samosas, Spicy Peanut Tofu and Buffalo “Wings.”  Salads like Jerk Tofu and Ranchero.  Flatbread pizzas, pan-genre noodle/ricebowls and po-boy sammies.  A little something for everyone, or any mood you might be in.  They thought of everything.

We decide to start with the Crab Puffs, curious to see how they might approach a vegan crab imitation.  Delivered shortly by a friendly server, the flaky, crispy dough wraps artfully around the warm crabbiness inside.  I dip one in the sweetish red sauce provided and take a bite.  Very good; the mock crab meat and vegan cream cheese are perfectly melted together and deliver a mellow, satisfying taste without too much “fishiness.”  The dish only comes with four puffs; we could have eaten fourteen.

Meatball Po'boy

No sooner have we finished than our entrees are on hand.  We decide to stick with the sandwiches: Mum’s Meatball Po-boy with a side of fries and The Mexicali Burger (already missing home a bit) with a side of slaw.  Slightly lacking in fixings (lettuce, tomato, etc.), the Mexicali is decently sized and super tasty.  On paper, the combo of vegan mayo, spicy chipotle sauce, nacho cheese and hummus seemed like condiment overkill, but the result further confirms that Green Veg has a plan, and that plan is to destroy your tongue with flavor.  The slaw is made with tahini instead of mayo, which prevents it from being drippy and adds a complimentary tang.  Onto the Meatball: probably one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had.  The soy cheese melts perfectly over the tangy marinara, the ample, sandwich-size mock meatballs spiced perfectly with a proper consitency that stick together without being gummy, all on a soft sourdough roll.  It isn’t difficult to savor every single bite.  The fries are shoestring style, crispy and seasoned well; not my favorite kind of fry but great for those who prefer them that way.

PB&J Tsoynami

Perhaps the most interesting and exciting course is our meal follow-up: the strange and beautiful Tsoynami dessert shake.  Essentially a large cup of vegan soft-serve ice cream with ingredients added, the Tsoynami menu is extensive and creative, combining a number of sweet toppings that blend together to make something between a milkshake and a sundae.  There are a number of scrumptious options, including a S’more and a wacky Captain Crunch concoction.  We decide on the PB&J, which is peanut butter, sugary whole strawberries and graham cracker chunks, all whipped together with the soft serve.  Yikes, it was satisfying.  We thought the price was a tad steep until we tried it and totally forgot the $4.50.

Our meal is so good from beginning to end that, even though full and finished, we linger at the table for awhile, not wanting to give up the welcoming atmosphere and secretly hoping we will impossibly get hungry again and try more of the offerings.  But alas, it is time to move on; we must make it to New Mexico before midnight.  The temperature is dropping and we’ll be pitching the tent by the light of the full moon.  Fortunately, Green Vegetarian is on our side, keeping our bellies comfy and our spirits high for the rest of the evening.

-Jeremy Pearson

Happy New Year!!! It is now a new year, a new decade, and possibly a new era? 2010 holds great potential for the promotion of Fair Trade! So when you are putting your new year’s resolutions into practice take a moment to think of the Fair Trade movement. 2008 was a great year for Fair Trade sales, as worldwide and in the US they were up across the board! And it seems 2009 looks about the same. For us in the movement, this is incredibly encouraging for the new year. We are excited to see where Fair Trade will go in the next decade.

You might now be asking yourself, in what ways can I help? We have put together a short list of ways you can help Fair Trade in the 2010. You may call it a Fair Trade New Year Resolution List or maybe just some ideas on how to do your part in the coming decade.

AP’s Fair Trade New Year Suggestions!

1) Organize 2010 with Fair Trade: That’s right! Start 2010 off right with the purchase of the first Fair Trade calendar. Not only are these great calendars aesthetically pleasing but they directly benefit the Fair Trade Resource Network and all their efforts throughout the year. The calendars feature 24 pages of winning and beautiful photos from Fair Trade producers, fun facts about Fair Trade, and a list of stores that carry fair trade products. Why not decorate your desk at work or at home with this lovely calendar? Hopefully you can turn others onto Fair Trade! And the best part is the calendars are now 40% off! Get em while their hot!!

2) Fair Trade your Staples: It is time to get serious and be conscientious of your purchases. There are so many Fair Trade products offered now, it is time to make sure every time you make a purchase for staples such as coffee, tea, bananas, rice, wine and cooking oil, you make sure they are Fair Trade. The food staples we use everyday are for the most part readily available Fair Trade. As you  fill your cabinet with every day items,promise yourself to stock every item Fair Trade for 2010. If you need help on what items are offered Fair Trade and where to find them, look no further than the Transfair website. Here you can search where to by Fair Trade, by product name. 

3) Give Fair Trade to Others: When your Dad’s birthday pops up or when Valentine’s Day rolls around, try and give the gift of Fair Trade. Either buy Fair Trade gift items for your friends and family or donate in their name to Fair Trade organizations. There are a number of great gift items out there including jewelery, clothing, handbags, teapots, etc. World of Good is a great website to find many Fair Trade gift ideas! Also, if you would rather give gifts such as wine, flowers, or chocolates, those are also available Fair Trade certified. Make sure you celebrate all your loved ones and the next few holidays with the seal of Fair Trade. 

4) Support your Local Fair Trade Shop: On top of Fair Trade producers, the retail market for Fair Trade is growing. More and more retail shops are sprouting up around the country that carry Fair Trade products specifically. Try your best to support these courageous and local businesses, especially during this recession. Ten Thousand Villages is a great company who has shops located all over the country! Their stores are chalk full of great Fair Trade items. Check your local listings or the Green America Greenpages for storefronts near you. 

5) Fair Trade Your Town: If you are passionate  about spreading Fair Trade, you might consider getting involved in your community for the new year. There is a wonderful movement pushing forth in the US called Fair Trade Towns. Currently there are only 12 Fair Trade Towns with many campaigns currently working toward becoming one, including our very own Boston. The Fair Trade Towns website will provide you will all the tools and guidelines to turning your city or town into an official Fair Trade haven. You can make a positive change in your community.

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