July 28th, 2009
It’s still summer, the perfect time to picnic, enjoy the wonderful weather, your homegrown tomatoes and a sustainable wine. Wineries are getting back to their roots as well as adding some new technology to produce not only fantastic wines, but in a way that reduces their carbon footprint and environmental impact. California wines are dominating the sustainable wine business and they are employing a lot of techniques to do so, and it’s not just about producing an organic or biodynamic wine. There’s a growing list of participants in the Sustainable Wine Growing Program and you’ll be pleased to find that some of your favorites are on that list. As you might suspect, not only do sustainable growing and business practices save the wineries money, but they’re also producing great wines. (more…)
Popularity: 6% [?]
May 21st, 2009
We’ve written many times in the past about CSAs– Community Supported Agricultural cooperatives. These are programs where community members support local farms by ordering their local produce in bulk. You can find hundreds of CSAs across the country at Local Harvest.
Well I had bemoaned for a long while the absence of a CSA in central Los Angeles. Can you imagine!? A city this big!? There were places to the North and South and, yes, they would deliver– but at a pretty steep price. Now there is a new CSA that is dishing out delicious fruits and veggies right at Fairfax High School at Fairfax and Melrose. Hurray! I went today and got a glorious bag bursting with grapefruit, oranges, peaches, cherries, spinach, cilantro, onions, broccoli, asparagus, tomatoes, and more. All for $25– take that Whole Foods! I am in organic food heaven.
The mastermind behind this new CSA is Sara Marie Paul, who is a dyed-in-the-wool organic vegan. You can get your order in to her by each Wednesday at 7PM but emailing here: Sara [@] CSACalifornia.org. (Also check out the CSA California website here.) Then you can pick up your food at Fairfax High on Thursday between 2-4PM. A portion of proceeds also benefit the development of the Fairfax High School Garden Project!
Popularity: 3% [?]
February 19th, 2009
Today we’re joined by green interior designer Frith Barbat, of Barbat Design. She shares some important insights on the effects of textile production on the environment and the impacts of chemicals in textiles on human health. Frith shows us how important it is to “dig under the covers” when it comes to textiles!
Your organic cotton sheets are kind to your skin and your conscience. And the organic process that grew the cotton was kind to the earth. But have you ever wondered what happened at the textile mill? Was the rest of the story organic? It’s a question few ask.
Textile mills process the cotton, linen, hemp, bamboo or wood fibers into yarn that is woven into fabric. There are over a dozen steps along the way that use copious amounts of water and chemicals. Some of the chemicals are benign, but most are not. There are heavy metals and organochlorines used in dyeing, phthalates used in printing, sulfuric acid used in fiber softening, formaldehyde, and PBDE fire-retardants, and others. Some of these have an immediate effect on the health of people and critters near the mill, but as these chemicals spread through waste water and volatile fumes, the larger ecosystem is affected as well. Once the fabric enters your home, the residual chemicals can abrade off, for you to inhale, ingest or absorb through your skin.
Virtually every human organ system is susceptible to damage by one or other of these chemicals - from benign skin irritation all the way up to cancer, leukemia, heart disease, sterility and miscarriage. Chemicals like PBDEs and phthalates are particularly disturbing. PBDEs accumulate in the environment, concentrating up the food chain in fatty tissue, where they mimic natural hormones in our bodies, causing birth defects, miscarriages, cancers, reproductive abnormalities, low numbers of boy babies being born, and low sperm counts - in humans, not just animals. Phthalates are used in printing inks and to soften plastics (often in toys). They are an animal carcinogen, and cause asthma, allergies and liver damage in humans. And scientists now suspect that low doses of phthalates can be toxic to fetuses, especially to the reproductive systems of male embryos. California has banned them in children’s toys, but they continue to be used to print textiles, including clothing and bed sheets.
Ask yourself - if you don’t want your child chewing on a toxic toy, what about sleeping on those cute printed bed sheets all night?
Cleaning up the milling process is hard both monetarily and mentally, but there are mills that have taken up that challenge. Textile production is the leading industrial polluter of water on the planet (second only to agriculture overall). In India alone, 425,000,000 gallons of untreated water is released from textile mills every day. Treating the water requires removing or neutralizing chemicals, restoring the correct pH, and cooling it, adding to the cost of the finished cloth. Standards that are safe and clean for the environment, mill-workers and you, from growing to processing to your home, are important. We can support these efforts by looking for and purchasing textiles that are third-party certified. GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard), Cradle to Cradle and SMART are good certifications to look for.
You’re more likely to find these on fabrics bought through a design professional, but don’t forget your purchasing power. Tell retailers what you want - be ahead of the curve!
Popularity: 3% [?]
February 10th, 2009
For fans of chocolate, this approaching Valentine’s Day offers an ideal excuse to purchase a seasonal box of chocolates or to savor something special made with chocolate, that magical elixir the Aztecs prized as much as gold.
But chocolate might prompt heartburn if a person knew the damage it can do to the environment and how workers—including children—are often exploited in its production. In addition to promoting deforestation, commercial chocolate production often involves the use of pesticides, this in one of the world’s most life-abundant and diverse regions. Of course, using pesticides harms much of that life, causing considerable damage.
Maybe we don’t get warm and fuzzy feelings about saving all the creeping, flying and crawling bugs that abound in warm places, but if we thought about all the animals that rely on them for food, such as neon colored birds, monkeys, or even the aardvark, we might opt for organic or sustainably-grown chocolate.
Thankfully, as with so many food products these days, there are plenty of small-scale and artisan producers creating culinary works of art that offer a tantalizing array of flavors and combinations, while ensuring that workers and the earth aren’t exploited.
Herewith a sampling of earth-friendly edible gems that will warm your, er, heart:
Perhaps the greenest chocolate company in the States, haute chocolate creator Vosges, with boutiques in Chicago, New York and Las Vegas, uses 100% renewable energy—and that’s just for starters. From earth-friendly packaging to green shipping, the company takes seriously its commitment to the environment—and that’s even before it’s fired up the stove and begun crafting its prized confections.
It’s not everywhere a chocolate-hound can find organic peanut butter bonbons or Italian-inspired chocolates mixed with taleggio cheese or fennel pollen. To view the Vosges green policy, click here. Better yet, whether whimsical, hyper-creative creations for the new millennium or more traditional fare, click here to actually order the delectable stuff.
North of the Second City, Madison, Wisconsin, surrounded by scads of organic farms, boasts exalted chocolatier Gail Ambrosius and her luscious creations, including a dark chocolate salted caramel, raspberry truffle, and rose truffle, all featured at Chicago’s Eno, a wine, cheese and chocolate bar.
Ambrosius just returned from a trip to Costa Rica where she visited a 100% organic, fair trade chocolate farm. After tasting the chocolate, which possessed a fetching fruitiness, the confectioner brought back as much of the stuff as she could carry. And talk about your fresh: her latest batch was literally on the tree a week before she brought it home.
Acclaimed Terry’s Toffee protects the environment by offering Valentine’s toffee in beautiful, eminently reusable lacquer and fetching, sturdy hat-boxes. Handcrafted using traditional methods and quality ingredients, this delectable, buttery treat has been a favorite at the Academy Awards.
For those preferring their chocolate in liquid form, BREADBAR in Los Angeles offers a bowl of steamed hot organic chocolate, made using Master Chocolatier Patricia Tsai’s organic, single-estate cocoa beans. A second, seasonal enticement offers several slices of Cocoa Goji Berry Bread, Organic Hot Chocolate and a Chocolate spread.
A bit further north, San Luis Obispo’s Sweet Earth Chocolates views the environment and chocolate-making in much the same way as Vosges. The company provides ammunition for would-be cupids by offering a Vegan Heart Box containing chocolate hearts with peanut butter, vanilla caramel and chocolate caramel centers. Traditional heart-shaped boxes and a variety of other Valentine creations fly out of the fragrant kitchens of this über Earth-friendly company.
Finally, for those fortunate enough to live in New York City, Spoon’s decadent chocolate cake can be personalized and delivered to your Valentine’s Gotham City lair. Click here to see Spoon’s chocolate cake.
Popularity: 2% [?]
February 5th, 2009
Spring gardening season is not that far off! (Seriously East Coasters, hang on!) Today we are joined by Christy Wilhelmi, who is the driving force behind Gardenerd.com. Christy is an expert organic gardener and she often shares her green insights with us here at Low Impact Living. Today she has some great ideas for how to get your kids jazzed about gardening this spring. What better way to teach them environmental stewardship and have some fun in the process!?
Encourage kids to do something with their thumbs this spring besides playing Game Boy. Give them the chance to become a green thumb. Spring is a time of renewal and rebirth for people as well as plants. What better way to renew your relationship with nature and your children than to plant a food garden. For those who aren’t already growing some of their own food, you can use your children as an excuse to start now. Show them the way, or learn how to garden together. Here are a few quick veggies that provide nearly instant gratification and are kid-friendly crops to plant:
Radishes – the ultimate instant-gratification vegetable. They sprout in days and can be harvested in a very short time. Perfect for impatient little ones!
Lettuces – not only will you see sprouts emerge quickly (10 days or so) but you’ll be able to harvest the outside leaves in a little over a month from the time they sprout. You’ll have salads through spring and into summer.
Beets – okay , kids might not like beets, but they are really easy to grow, have virtually no pests or diseases, and bring a lot of color to the garden. Their red-veined leaves and stems might actually convince kids that beets are tasty, too.
Arugula – this green is a little more sophisticated in flavor, but much like radishes, it sprouts in days. Your kids may not like it but you will, so tell them that kids can grow grown-up vegetables to share.
Peas – nature’s snack food rarely makes it in from the garden. Peas take longer to germinate, but given a place to climb, they will thrive. Kids will enjoy watching peas reach for the sky, flower and form little tiny pea pods. Practice patience by waiting for the peas to plump up and then pick and eat them right in the garden. These are the things memories are made of!
For a list of other spring vegetables that can be planted soon, visit Christy’s previous post on spring garden planting Low Impact Living.com. And visit www.Gardenerd.com for more tips and tidbits about organic gardening.
Popularity: 3% [?]