Is it Easy Being Green?

My daily adventures in attempting an environmentally-friendly lifestyle

Beautiful green thing #8 November 8, 2010

Since it’s been so long since I last posted (no, this blog is not dead!), I thought it would be best to crank up the blog again with a beautiful green thing. Ever since the Gulf oil disaster, I’ve been generally in an eco-funk, feeling pretty down on the state of our world. But when I find out about something like the Windowfarms Project, it turns things around for me just enough that I remember the ability of the human mind to come up with innovative solutions, and the nature of humans to form community and work toward good.

The Windowfarms Project started out as a couple of women who wanted to grow food in their tiny NYC apartments. They came up with a way to grow food in an apartment window with hydroponics and used plastic bottles. The system worked, and they started sharing it with others while also creating a community where people could improve upon the system and continue to make it better. Just one year after posting the instructions on how to build a windowfarm, 13,000 people have downloaded them and are participating in their online community.

It might seem like a small thing to do–grow a little food in your home–but that’s really what it’s all about, isn’t it? Instead of waiting around for industry to move forward with urban agriculture efforts like large-scale vertical farming, the Windowfarms Project pioneers moved forward themselves. They took some steps to live healthier and lighter on the planet, and with the power of the Internet and community, grew an idea into a worldwide movement that helps get local, fresh produce to urban dwellers.

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Beautiful Green Thing #7 March 2, 2010

Filed under: beautiful green things,Green Foodie — isgreeneasy @ 12:24 pm
Tags: ,

To go along with the food theme of my last post, here’s a lovely little animated video that highlights the beauty of local food. A project for the 100 Mile Diet Society, the narrator visits several local food producers (as well as her own garden) to learn about and appreciate the ingredients she’s using to make a simple meal of pasta and salad in Vancouver, BC. It’s an adorable video with charming animation, but most importantly it shows the benefits and the connections that can be made when using local ingredients, getting to know who produces the food and sharing that beauty through a family meal.

 

No Impact Experiment, part 4: Food February 17, 2010

My fourth week of examining my impact was all about food. This week was the highlight so far, as I’m all about food–shopping, finding recipes, cooking, etc. Food is one of my great joys in life, so I didn’t mind giving my food choices a little more thought! The No Impact manual primarily stressed being a locavore, which is something I love to do, but can be a challenge in the middle of winter in anywhere except California. It can also be a stress on the wallet, even though I know supporting local businesses and farms is an important thing to do.

So, for this week I decided to visit (or re-visit) some great local outlets in the city and try to do all of my shopping that way. I started out going to a spot I love, Chicago’s Downtown Farmstand. This great little shop is full of local (within 250 miles), seasonal produce, as well as stuff like milk, jam, bread and spices. I managed to pick up several things, including some veggies and herbs.

Some of the selection at the Downtown Farmstand

Some of the selection at the Downtown Farmstand

No shortage of treats at the Farmstand

No shortage of treats at the Farmstand

What's in season

What’s in season

My next outing was to the Green Grocer, a store not too far from home that I always wish I visited more often. It’s a small shop, but has a great array of local and organic items. The staff is so welcoming there–it’s actually the first store where the owner introduced herself the first time I was there! I bought some local flour there that I’m really excited to try out.

Although I had been to the new French Market several times, I hadn’t done much actual shopping there. It’s only two blocks from home and it’s really a great resource I can be using more. So, I walked over and ended up with a beautiful array of produce.

What fun! I also finally went to the city’s new and only food co-op, the Dill Pickle Food Co-op, which I’m a member of but hadn’t been to since it opened a couple of months ago. I was very impressed–it was actually a bit crowded, but that’s a good thing. I bought a few things from their great bulk section. During the same outing I checked out the Logan Square Farmers Market, but the selection was pretty small so I left empty-handed. I look forward to going again in the spring though!

Meanwhile, I started looking into joining a CSA this year, which is something I’ve done before but missed out on last year. I’m determined to sign up for a CSA this year–it’s so much fun to open up the box each week and start figuring out what to do with some of the more unusual items!

I also decided that we can be eating vegetarian a little more often, so the goal is to go from eating vegetarian 1/4 of the time to closer to 1/2 of the time. So far so good; I made a really yummy West African Peanut Soup and a spicy veggie chili.

As you can tell, doing this whole local thing took a fair amount of time and energy, but is it worth it? I think most of the time, yes. If it’s reducing my “foodprint,” that’s a big thing. Can I be exclusively a locavore? Not quite. But can I be a part-locavore? Definitely.

A few tools that I’m using:
The Eat Well Guide — great resource for finding local and sustainable food sources
NRDC seasonal food tool — tells you what foods are in season in your state
Seafood Watch regional guide — helps you stay informed about what types of seafood are more sustainable
Local Harvest CSA locator — find a CSA in your area

 

Sigg-nificant frustration October 30, 2009

Filed under: Green Foodie,plastic,reducing waste,water — isgreeneasy @ 5:20 pm
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I just went on my third trip to Whole Foods to attempt to exchange my old Sigg bottles with no success. It’s my own darn fault–I just can’t find bottle designs I’m happy with, so each time I’ve gone to return them, I’ve decided to hold out and hope for some better designs to come in. Why am I doing this? Well, in case you haven’t heard, a couple of months ago Sigg announced that their bottle liners have trace amounts of BPA in them. What’s worse is that they knew about this for a few years without telling the public. There was quite the hostile and disappointed response on the web from people who had put their faith in what they thought was an eco-minded company.

Some people have trashed their bottles, but the company has been offering a free exchange program so that people can return the old tainted bottles for bottles with the new “EcoCare” liner that is BPA-free. So, since I have four Sigg bottles I decided to go with the exchange rather than waste the investment I put into the bottles (they’re not cheap!). But now I guess I can’t quite do it; I think due to bitterness about the whole situation and ambivalence about continuing to use Sigg bottles. It’s disappointing (I trusted this product) and scary (what else am I being misled about?) when you think you’re doing the right thing for the environment and for your health, only to find out that that wasn’t as much the case as you thought. It’s hard enough trying to live green without feeling screwed over by the company that makes those stylish bottles!

This all goes back to my quest to get my husband (and myself to a lesser extent) off of plastic water bottles. About five years back, I would buy a case of water at Costco fairly regularly, and it was really bothering me. Not only was it wasteful, but there were pesky bacteria and leaching issues if we reused the bottles. I also didn’t want to be contributing to the crazy amounts of bottled water being consumed in the world. So, I bought several reusable bottles, filled them with water and kept them in the fridge so we’d always have water ready to go. It’s worked really well and has been totally worth the investment, even with this Sigg setback.

I’m sure I’ll pick out some bottles sometime soon and have my new and improved Siggs. But, I won’t feel quite as cool while using them, and I won’t be buying them anymore. There are a lot of other good options out there. They might not look as hip, but oh well.

 

Buying organic: a cheat sheet July 5, 2009

I am so loving all of the beautiful fresh produce available this time of year. I’ve been buying up fruits and veggies like they’re going out of style (actually, soon they will be–out of season anyway). But, this has also made my goal of buying everything organic a bit more challenging; some of the prices are hard to take.

So, I decided to learn more about what really are the most important things to buy organic, and what items I can get away with buying conventional and not feel like I’m poisoning myself. I had heard of the “Dirty Dozen” but could never remember what was on the list when I was at the store. Thanks to a handy pocket card I received from Green America, I now have the list with me when I shop, and hopefully soon I won’t need the cheat sheet anymore.

Here’s the list of what Green America claims are the most important produce items to buy organic:

  • apples
  • bell peppers
  • celery
  • cherries
  • imported grapes
  • nectaines
  • peaches
  • pears
  • potatoes
  • raspberries
  • spinach
  • strawberries
  • (A list put out by the Environmental Working Group I found includes lettuce, kale and carrots in place of raspberries, spinach and potatoes. Probably better just go with the list of 15.)

    I also came across a list of the fruits and veggies with the lowest amounts of pesticide residue. I’ll call these the “Discount Dozen”.

  • onions
  • avocado
  • sweet corn (frozen)
  • pineapples
  • mango
  • asparagus
  • sweet peas (frozen)
  • kiwi fruit
  • bananas
  • cabbage
  • broccoli
  • papaya
  • (The Environmental Working Group list also included eggplant, watermelon and surprisingly, tomatoes.)

    An obvious difference between the lists is that most of the items on the dirty list either have thin skin or no skin, while the items on the discount list have thicker skin that is removed. That’s an easy way to remember at least some of the foods. Environmental Working Group has a more in depth list of 47 fruits and vegetables and where they fall on the spectrum of pesticide residues.

    So far my only big change has been buying non-organic (but fair trade when I can) bananas. It’s good to know that if it’s not realistic to buy everything organic (as is the case for many of us) that there are options to help make buying all of that beautiful produce a little less stressful.

    Download your own cheat sheet from the Environmental Working Group. Happy shopping–and eating!

     

    Is it Easy Being Green’s first giveaway! May 30, 2009

    Filed under: Green Foodie — isgreeneasy @ 4:36 pm
    Tags: , , ,

    cookiesIn honor of my 20th post and 1,500th view I thought I would do a fun giveaway. Now unlike other high-powered blogs, I’m still a little indie blog. So, that means I don’t have any hot “swag” or “merch” to give away. I’m going to do a DIY giveaway of my favorite thing to make–cookies!

    I’m a big baker and cookies tend to be my speciality, so I thought why not make someone’s day with homemade cookies? I use all organic, quality ingredients, so you can be sure you’re getting a worthwhile prize.

    Here’s how it will work: just write a comment to this post telling me:

  • 1. your favorite kind of cookie (within reason for an amateur home baker to make)
    2. what you love about eating organic
    3. your e-mail address.
  • The winner will receive two dozen of your favorite cookies! The deadline to enter is June 13, 2009. You can only enter once, except you get an extra entry if you subscribe to my blog. Just say you subscribed (or already subscribe) in your comment. The winner will be chosen randomly in a non-high tech fahion. I’ll contact the winner to make arrangements to send the freshly baked goodness to your home. Good luck!

     

    Whole Foods, you had me at the first sample May 25, 2009

    Filed under: Green Chicago,Green Foodie,green shopping — isgreeneasy @ 6:40 pm
    Tags: ,

    There’s a new Whole Foods in town, and it’s bigger, more enticing and more fun than any Whole Foods I’ve ever been in. It’s the new Lincoln Park Whole Foods, and I had the chance to go to their sneak preview party last week. I gawked at the store while munching on way too many (in quantity and variety) samples–it was like a foodie Disneyland!

    Whole Foods definitely knows what they’re doing, and how to suck my dollars from my wallet as quickly as I can say “organic vegan gluten-free faux barbeque”. Fortunately at the sneak preview nothing was for sale, so I worked my way through the sushi, mushroom tamales, organic sangria, curry ice cream, chilli pepper truffles, Goose Island brews and deep dish pizza. I know, sounds like a bit much, but what can I say? Gladly, my stomach made it through just fine. Plus, I was glad to know my donation went to Common Threads.

    If you dare, it’s definitely worth visiting this store. I’ve already been back twice! I need to take it easy on the Whole Foods shopping though; I’m so easily manipulated by the good-smelling, fun music-playing, great-looking natural foods mecca!

    Salad bar extraordinaire

    Salad bar extraordinaire

    Bulk foods section includes a DIY trail mix station

    Bulk foods section includes a DIY trail mix station

    Cheese anyone?

    Cheese anyone?

    Really? A bar with Goose Island on tap.

    Really? A bar with Goose Island on tap.

    View from the parking lot level

    View from the parking lot level