Friday, February 28, 2014

Meat-Free Friday–a winter Smorgasbord!

snow stripesThis week, I’m sending you to another locale for your meat-free Friday recipes.  Treehugger just posted 10 recipes for eating vegetarian in the winter – perfect!  Enjoy!  winter cardinal

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Palm Oil Update

There’s a fascinating article in Conservation about palm oil, orangutans, and the Melbourne zoo.  Here’s the video they’ve created to encourage Australians to push for food labeling:

This zoo is trying to not only entertain visitors, but also educate them about important conservation issues.  Want to help in the fight against the use of palm oil in popular food products?  (here’s a refresher if you’ve forgotten what it’s about).  The Union of Concerned Scientists is asking folks to share the graphic below to explain the issue to encourage eco-friendly purchasing: 

Share away!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Winter River Dance

About a week ago, we had over a foot of snow; then it warmed up and rained.  The temperatures were supposed to hit 60 degrees this weekend, so you can bet our family took advantage of the nice weather to survey our stream – Difficult Run in Great Falls VA.  The water was relatively (but not dangerously) high and running pretty quickly.  It definitely looked muddy, too, so we weren’t really sure what we would find.  We did our “river dance” four times for 60 seconds each.  We danced near the riffles (places where the water is not still and the invertebrates get lots of oxygen).  We danced deep20140222113832 and we danced shallow 20140222120046Unfortunately, all that dancing yielded lots of algae20140222114030 and only 29 invertebrates – we should have seen at least 200!  Our stream earned a score of 8, which means the health of the stream is a bit uncertain at this point -- at least it's not a 4 or 5, like some stretches of the stream we surveyed have been!  The good news is, we saw some creatures that generally like pretty clean water – caddisflies and stoneflies.  Despite dancing into the stream bed nearly 1 foot, we couldn’t find any of the many clams we found last count.  We’re looking forward to counting in warmer weather – who knows what spring will bring!

Remember that you too can “adopt” a stream and monitor for invertebrates.  If you live in Fairfax County VA, contact the Northern VA Soil and Water Conservation District.   Somewhere else in VA?  Contact Virginia Save Our Streams (VASOS).  Not in VA?  Check out the information from the Izaak Walton League of America.  It’s fun and you’ll learn a lot about the health of your local streams!
bugs bumber sticker
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Friday, February 21, 2014

Vegetarian Hoppin’ John!

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Here’s what’s for dinner at greenmomster house tonight!

Vegetarian Hoppin’ John

2 15 oz. cans of blackeyed peas, drained
1 small red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1 small green bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1 onion, coarsely chopped
1 package vegetarian ham (I like Litelife Smart Deli Baked Ham, but there are many other available brands), chopped into small squares
1 tsp salt (to taste)
2 tblsp olive oil
3 cups cooked brown rice
sour cream
salsa verde

1)  Heat olive oil in a pan.  Add green and red pepper and onion; saute until onion is almost translucent.  Add vegetarian ham and saute for about 2 more minutes.
2)  Add blackeyed peas and salt to the vegetable/ham mixture.  Cook for another 10 minutes on low heat.
3)  Serve over rice with sour cream and salsa.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The children are our future–NOT!

IMG_0196When it comes to environmental issues, I don’t believe “the children are our future.”  We are our children’s future – the decisions we make today determine the environment they’re going to inherit.  Thus, if we’re looking for catch-phrases, I think the one from the Great Law of the Iriquois Confederacy makes more sense, “"In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations."  So how’re we doing?

The National Environmental Education Foundation(NAEEF) recently released preliminary results of a national survey on environmental attitudes.  NAEEF plans to use the results of this survey to guide their work in achieving their goal of having 300 million Americans actively using environmental knowledge to ensure the well-being of the Earth and its people by 2022.  Although NAEEF managed to put a positive spin on the preliminary results, I found some of the numbers a bit concerning:
  • 77% of adults surveyed turn off a light when leaving a room….
  • 54% of adults surveyed look for the energy seal on products….
  • 60% of adults surveyed keep up with news about how the environment impacts health…
  • 61% of adults visited a park or nature center…
Which means
  • 23% of adults surveyed don’t turn off lights when leaving a room.
  • 46% of adults surveyed don’t look for the energy seal on products.
  • 40% of adults surveyed don’t keep up with news about how the environment impacts health.
  • 39% of adults surveyed haven’t visited a park or nature center.
Additionally, the press release reports that
  • 21% of the adults surveyed were aware that batteries are recyclable, but found it too difficult to recycle them properly.
  • 59% of the adults surveyed considered an environmentally conscious lifestyle to be too much work.
  • 61% of the adults surveyed consider an environmentally conscious lifestyle too expensive.
We’ve got some work to do, greenmomsters.  As we well know, kids don’t listen to what we say; they watch what we do.  Time to show them that we’re willing to protect their future!

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NAEEF Press Release:  New National Survey Findings are Good News for the Environment.  Accessed 2/9/2014 at

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Still Protecting those Precious Pangolins!

February 15, 2014 was World Pangolin Day!  This endangered species (photo is a small (species range from 3 1/2 to 70 lbs), scaly mammal found in southeast Asia and parts of Africa.  Also known as scaly anteaters, pangolins use their thick, strong claws and incredible sense of smell to find their primary food of ants and termites.  They are nocturnal and secretive.   The eight species of pangolins live in many different habitats including forests, thick brush, grasslands, and even cultivated areas.  All eight species of pangolin are protected under national and international law, and two of the species are listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.  It’s unclear how long pangolins live in the wild, but they’ve been known to live up to 20 years in captivity.  The major threats to pangolins are habitat loss and illegal hunting for their meat and scales (used in Asian medicine). 

So pangolins live on the other side of the world and we’ve never even seen one – why should greenmomsters give a flying flit about these animals?  Well, other than the fact that they’re incredibly cute, particularly when the young ride around on their mother’s backs near the base of their tails (photo, these species play a vital role in the balance of nature in their ecosystems.  As stated inWildlife Heroes (Scardina and Flocken, 2011), “Pangolins play a critical role in natural insect control, especially ants and termites, saving humans millions of dollars to pest damage and reducing the need for harmful chemical pesticides.  Additionally, pangolin burrows provide shelter for many species, such as rodents and reptiles.”
Want to help with pangolin conservation?  Learn more by joining the Pangolin SSC Facebook page at, or make a donation toward conservation at  For more information on pangolins, check out

Ground pangolin - overview  BBC Natural History UnitBe sure to check out this video from
Pangolin Conservation Support Initiative. 2012. Save Pangolins website. Accessed 10/7/12.
Pangolin Species Survival Commission. 2012. Pangolin SSC website. Accessed 10/7/12.
Scardina, J. and J. Flocken. 2011. Wildlife Heroes. Running Press Book Publishers, Philadelphia PA. 264 pp.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Feta and Spinach Frittata

20140123181838Here’s another great recipe from Michael Symon’s 5 in 5 – if you haven’t picked up this cookbook yet, you should!  Very easy and very tasty!

Michael Symon's 5 in 5: 5 Fresh Ingredients + 5 Minutes = 120 Fantastic Dinners
2 tblsp butter
4 cups fresh (1 frozen package – be sure to squeeze out excess water) spinach
salt and pepper to taste
8 large eggs
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

  1. Preheat broiler to 450 degrees
  2. Heat a large, non-stick, oven-proof skillet on the stove and melt the butter.  Add spinach and salt, stirring until the spinach is wilted.
  3. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs and cream.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Add egg mixture to spinach and cook, stirring, until eggs are still a little runny, but starting to firm up.
  5. Top with feta (I did half with feta and half without, for our non-feta eaters) and put under broiler for about 2 minutes (allow feta to soften).

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

5 Common Misconceptions about Endangered Species

zebra 2The Endangered Species Act has been in the news quite a bit lately.  The Washington Post ran an article today about the recovery progress of 5 listed species and a Congressional Working Group has released its report on the ESA.   Maybe there are ways that the law’s implementation could be improved, but it’s also time to take a look at 5 common misconceptions about endangered species: 

Misconception #1 -- Species have always gone extinct, so we don’t need to worry right now.  True, species have always gone extinct.  Scientists are not concerned about the fact of extinction; it’s the rate of extinction that is a concern.  The USFWS, in its pamphlet “Why Save Endangered Species?”, states “Biologists estimate that since the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620, more than 500 species, subspecies, and varieties of our Nation’s plants and animals have become extinct.”  Wow!  Current estimates of the current rate of species extinctions are 100 to 1000 times the natural rate which is estimated to be between 1 every year to 100 years.  That means that we’re living in a time of mass species extinction, comparable to the extinction of the dinosaurs.

Misconception #2 -- Losing a species won’t affect humans.     Species diversity is a critical element in ecosystem health.  “Species diversity” is how many different species are found in a habitat and in what proportion they’re found.  Some habitats have greater species diversity than others – think rainforest – but all habitats are healthiest when they contain as many different species as they can sustain.  Think of a habitat as a fishing net, with each species being piece of rope that connects to other pieces to form the net.  If one of the pieces of rope breaks and leaves a small hole, the net can probably be fixed and reused.  But what if half the net is torn?  It won’t be very useable.  The same thing happens in a natural habitat; remove too many species and the habitat ceases to function.  How many species can be lost, before the habitat doesn’t function?  No one knows – is it an experiment we’re willing to try?  The habitats around us provide many services such as medicinal and agricultural resources, clean water and air, and recreation.  Healthy habitats benefit humans – they’re a necessity, not a luxury.

Misconception #3 – Once a species is on the endangered species list, it never comes off.   Incorrect!  Protections under the U.S. Endangered Species Act have led to the recovery of several species or populations of species, including the gray whale, the bald eagle, the brown pelican, and the gray wolf.

Misconception #4 – Pollution is the greatest threat to biodiversity.  Actually, habitat loss is the greatest threat to biodiversity.  With 7 billion humans on the planet, we take up a lot of space and we’re changing a lot of habitat to new uses.

Misconception #5 – There’s nothing I can do to protect the Earth’s biodiversity.  In order to protect biodiversity and endangered species, we all have to make conscious choices about how we use resources.  Check out the “low hanging fruit” section as a start.  Visit to discover new ways of decreasing your carbon footprint.  Get involved in deciding how our country produces energy – research the issue and write to your political representatives.  One final thought from famous biologist E.O. Wilson,  “The one process now going on that will take millions of years to correct is the loss of genetic and species diversity by the destruction of natural habitats. This is the folly our descendants are least likely to forgive us.” (From Brainy Quote. Web.  12/31/11.  <>)

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Climate Change Preach-In

climatechange9Last night, my family and I attended one of the many churches participating in the National Preach-in on Climate Change, sponsored by Interfaith Power and Light.  Of course, the sermon had to set the stage regarding the seriousness of the issue, but it was a real downer.  Droughts, storms, species loss, nothing really surprising to anyone who’s been paying attention.  The second half of the sermon, though, was a call to action – basically, the question I always ask, “what’s a greenmomster to do?”  Since positive thought is more effective than negative thought in motivating folks, here are a few positive signs I’ve seen in the climate change arena right in my own area:

  • solar panels and geothermal power in some of the homes in my neighborhood
  • new construction in my town building to Energy Star and LEED standards
  • more and more folks at mainstream grocery stores (not just Whole Foods or coops) bringing their own bags
  • several new mass transit projects, including streetcars and extensions of the metro system
  • local groups like Fairfax Climate Watch and the Chesapeake Climate Action Network are providing guidance for folks who would like to become politically active on this issue

So what’s a greenmomster to do?  First, educate yourself on the issue of climate change -- there are many great websites and blogs on the topic.  Then, take action!  The sermon yesterday had lots of great suggestions.  If you’d like ideas for simple ways to take action, check out the “Low Hanging Fruit” section of this blog.  Climate Mama blog also often has great ideas for action.  Finally, become politically active – write your elected officials and tell them this issue really matters to you.  You could even attend a rally!  Fighting climate change doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom, but, as mentioned in yesterday’s sermon,  it will take action and it has to happen now.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Super simple spaghetti

20140113181507Here’s the perfect meat-free Friday meal – super easy and super tasty.  The pasta recipe is adapted from Michael Symon’s 5 in 5.  Saute some kale and red bell peppers in olive oil and garlic for the perfect side dish!  Michael Symon's 5 in 5: 5 Fresh Ingredients + 5 Minutes = 120 Fantastic Dinners

salt and pepper to taste
1 lb dried spaghetti
1/4 cup olive oil
about 4 tsp minced garlic from a jar (you could use 8 fresh cloves, too)
1 tblsp red pepper flakes
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tblsp butter

  1. Cook pasta and reserve 1 cup of cooking water.
  2. Saute olive oil and garlic about 3 minutes.  Add red pepper flakes and reserved pasta water.  Bring the mixture to a simmer.
  3. Add the cooked spaghetti to the pan and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Remove from heat and mix in the parmesan, parsley, and butter.
Serve with kale on the side – enjoy!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Saving the magical monarch

sammybutterflyI love butterflies!  I studied butterfly ecology for my dissertation and eagerly await every spring when these insects reappear in my garden.  One of the most popular butterfly species is the monarch (Danaus plexippus).  I’ve written posts about why monarch butterflies are cooler than British monarchs and other fun facts about monarch.  That’s why the news about the monarch butterflies, reported in the 1/30/14 issue of the Washington Post, really got my attention.  Joshua Partlow’s article reported that monarch butterflies covered only 1.6 acres of forest in their wintering grounds in central Mexico, down from a 20 year high of 45 acres.  Threats to the monarch occur in Canada, the U.S., and Mexico – herbicide use in the agricultural fields of the U.S. and Canada and illegal logging in Mexico.   Although monarchs rebounded from a similar crash in the 1930s, scientists are very concerned about the population of monarchs known for their 5 generation migration through North America.  Karen Oberhauser, a monarch researcher at the University of Minnesota was quoted in the article as saying, “I am deeply saddened by the terrible news….To preserve the monarch migration, we need a groundswell of conservation.”  Well greenmomsters, I know a call to action when I hear one.  Here are some actions you can take today to help save monarchs in our area:

  • Create a Monarch Waystation!  Plant LOTS of milkweed and nectar plants in your yard.  It’ll provide habitat where female monarchs can lay eggs.
  • Try tagging monarchs!  It’s a fun way to learn more about the monarchs and their migration.
  • Read about the migration!  Four Wings and a Prayer, by Sue Halpern is a great book about the migration.
  • Support Monarch Watch!  This organization helps to educate the public, support research, and protect the habitat of monarch butterflies.
  • Support the Xerces Society, which has programs to protect western overwintering sites and restore breeding sites in the U.S.
  • Support the World Wildlife Fund in their efforts to preserve overwintering grounds in Mexico through community-based conservation.
  • Write to the President and your congressional representatives to tell them about your concern for monarchs!  President Obama will be visiting Mexico in February – let’s get this issue on his agenda.

Let’s make sure our grandchildren can witness the incredible monarch migration!


Partlow, J.  2014.  Monarch butterflies wintering in Mexico cover smallest area in 20 years.  Washington Post, 1/30/2014.