Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Don’t forget to share!

Sharing and educating others regarding environmental issues is an important part of conservation.  Many of us stay clear of sharing, because we don’t want to be “preachy”, but remember the best way to educate folks is to simply show them what you’re doing.  Hopefully, they’ll see that everyone can make green choices that fit his or her lifestyle.  In our neighborhood, we have the Sustainability Tour. IMG_20130915_123500_951 On the other side of the world, Grevy’s Zebra Trust shares by conducting tours of management areas for neighboring communities. On this blog, folks can share through guest blogs.  We’ve all got information that’s new and unique, so don’t be shy – share away!  Do you have any ideas you’d like to share?  Comment on this post to request to be a guest blogger!

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Sunday, March 23, 2014

4 reasons to re-think antimicrobial products

They’re everywhere – handsoaps, lotions, wipes, and dish soap that include anti-microbial products in their ingredients.  Often, we think that if we can just get rid of the various microbes on our skin and kitchen counters, we’ll be healthier.  The opposite may very well be true.  Here are some interesting facts about antibiotic and antimicrobial products:

  1. You’ll never get rid of all the bacteria and fungus, and you don’t want to.  Here’s a great clip from NPR’s Science Friday which explains this concept.
  2. Antibacterial products could lead to antibiotic resistance – the bacteria that can’t fight off the antibacterial products die; the ones with the right genetics just keep on multiplying.
  3. You could be messing with your hormones.  Several studies support the hypothesis that Triclosan, the chemical widely used in antibacterial and antifungal products, can affect thyroid hormone production. 
  4. Antimicrobials may affect agricultural systemsA new study at Duke University reports on a new test for detecting triclosan and other antimicrobials in biosolids which are used to fertilize agricultural fields.  Antimicrobials could kill off beneficial bacteria that help to get nitrogen into the soil.

Turns out, antimicrobial products are often no more effective in cleaning than simple soap and water.  Sure, if you’re going in for surgery you probably want to see those antimicrobials, but for daily life just single “Happy Birthday” and scrub away with regular soap!  Remember, Parsonage Soaps is a great place to get soap! 

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Cherednichenko, G. and R. Zhang, R. Bannister, V. Timofeyev, N. Li, E. Fritsch, W. Feng, G. Barrientos, N. Schebb, B. Hammock, K. Beam,  N. Chiamvimonvat, I. Pessah.  2012.  Triclosan impairs excitation-contraction coupling and Ca 2+ dynamics in striated muscle.  PNAS vol. 109, no. 35, pp. 14158-14163.

Veldhoen, N. and R. Skirrow, H. Osachoff, H. Wigmore, D. Clapson, M. Gunderson, G. Van Aggelen, C. Helbing.  2006.  The bactericidal agent triclosan modulates thyroid hormone-associated gene expression and disrupts postembryonic anuran development.  Aquatic Toxicology, vol. 80, issue 3, pp. 217-227.

Zorrilla, L. and E. Gibson, S. Jeffay, K. Crofton, W. Setzer, R. Cooper, T. Stoker.  2008.  The Effects of Triclosan on Puberty and Thyroid Hormones in Male Wistar Rats.  Toxicological Sciences, vol. 107, issue 1, pp. 56-64.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Even the carnivores won’t miss the meat!

This week’s recipe is tasty, REALLY tasty!  And it’s got a smoky flavor that will satisfy the meat-eaters in your family.  I found this recipe for Kale and Black-Eyed Peas with Smoky Grits in the Washington Post Food section.  I’m just passing along the link this week, because the recipe needs no changes – tasty, quick, and simple.  Enjoy! (photo:  Deb Lindsey for the Washington Post)

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Is Palm Oil Healthy for your Family?

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In past posts, we’ve discussed some of the environmental impacts of palm oil use around the world, including the negative impact to orangutan populationsRainforest Action Network is deeply involved in this topic and asked to “guest-blog” on the topic.  Greenmomster is happy to welcome guest blogger Ashley Schaeffer Yildiz! 
AshleySon (1)Is Palm Oil Healthy For Your Family? Dr. Weil Weighs In
by Ashley Schaeffer Yildiz, Rainforest Action Network
Now that we've added trans fats to the list of ingredients to look for - and avoid - in supermarket labels, and the FDA is poised to ban them from the food supply altogether, we're good, right?  Not so fast, warns Dr. Andrew Weil, America's leading expert in integrative medicine.  Conflict Palm Oil is often used to replace those artery-clogging trans fats. It makes a good substitute because palm oil, like partially hydrogenated oil, is solid at room temperature. But is it actually healthy?

According to Dr. Weil, “Fresh palm fruit oil, sometimes called ‘red palm oil,’ is a nutritious and beneficial oil. However, it’s important not to confuse this raw oil with palm kernel oil, or the highly processed versions of crude palm oil that are commonly used as ingredients in the industrially produced packaged foods found in most Americans’ diets. These types of palm oil are unhealthy for the human body. And their irresponsible cultivation in tropical areas is unhealthy for the planet.”
Dr. Weil joins a chorus of voices expressing concern that, when it comes to replacing trans fats, we may be jumping out of the frying pan and into the deep fryer. The World Health Organization; the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute; the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases; and the USDA's Agricultural Research Service all recommend against consuming palm oil and other tropical oils because of their high content of artery-clogging saturated fats.
Beyond the health issue, environmentalists and human rights activists are concerned that the FDA ban on trans fats will lead to a repeat of the mistakes companies made ten years ago when the FDA mandated the labeling of trans fats. That mandate led to a 500% increase in demand for Conflict Palm Oil, which is produced in ways that cause large scale rainforest destruction and human rights abuses.  In fact, palm oil can now be found in roughly half the packaged food products sold in grocery stores. It is added to teething biscuits, baby formula, granola bars, peanut butter, crackers, you name it. When we feed our kids food that comes out of a bag, a box, or a package of any kind, chances are they're eating palm oil.

As a mom, I'm pleased to see the FDA taking steps to eliminate an ingredient from our food supply that is unhealthy for my family. But as a Palm Oil Campaigner for Rainforest Action Network, I know that replacing trans fats with Conflict Palm Oil won't do much for people's health and will cause dire consequences for the planet. In fact, not one of the nation's top 20 snack food manufacturers can verifiably ensure that their products do not contain Conflict Palm Oil. I know that my baby boy would never forgive me if I told him that the hidden ingredient in his teething biscuits were the reason he'd never be able to see an orangutan in the wild.
That's why I'm so passionate about our Conflict Palm Oil campaign to pressure the Snack Food 20* group of companies to eliminate Conflict Palm Oil from their products. And I'm pleased to report that it is working. A few months ago, palm oil mega-giant Wilmar International - which controls 45% of the global trade in palm oil - adopted a conflict-free palm oil policy. On Valentine's day, Kellogg released a strengthened palm oil purchasing commitment, joining industry peers Nestle, Unilever and Ferrero. But we're still waiting for several other kids' snack makers to step up to the plate, including Kraft, PepsiCo, Heinz, Campbell Soup, ConAgra Food and Cargill.
So, what can moms do to make a difference?

1) Keep reading labels. Palm Oil goes by many names, including Palm Kernel Oil, Palmitate and Glyceryl Stearate. You'll be amazed how ubiquitous it is, once you learn to recognize its many names.
2) Read RAN's Conflict Palm Oil report, which outlines the health, human and environmental impacts of this destructive product and lays out exactly what we are asking shoppers and companies to do to eliminate it.
3) Take action online to tell the Snack Food 20: Don't replace trans fats with Conflict Palm Oil.
Thanks to the support of RAN activists and allies, we are making progress and gaining traction. But we'll need to keep pushing to reach the tipping point. I am convinced that moms have the power to provide the added momentum we'll need to remove conflict palm oil from our food supply.

*The "Snack Food 20" group of companies are Campbell Soup Company; ConAgra Foods, Inc.; Dunkin' Brands Group, Inc.; General Mills, Inc.; Grupo Bimbo; Hillshire Brands Company; H.J. Heinz Company; Hormel Foods Corporation; Kellogg Company; Kraft Food Group, Inc.; Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Corp.; Mars Inc.; Mondelez International, Inc.; Nestle. S.A.; Nissin Foods Holdings Co., Ltd.; PepsiCo, Inc.; The Hershey Company; The J.M. Smucker Company; Toyo Suisan Kaisha, Ltd.; and Unilever.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Anu’s Chick Pea Curry

Many thanks to my husband’s co-worker for this tasty recipe!  Anu warns to watch out for the chili powder – it’s got some kick, so use sparingly!
Anu’s Recipe for Chana Masala (Indian chick pea curry)

1. Garbanzos Chick Peas Cans – 2 small (thoroughly washed)
2. Onions – 2 (finely chopped)
3. Tomatoes – 2 (finely chopped)

1. Coriander seeds (Indian spice called “Jeera”)
2. Turmeric Powder (Indian spice)
3. Green chili powder (Indian spice – be cautious as it is hot and spicy)
4. Chana Masala (Indian spice)
5. Salt


1. Add 4 tsp of vegetable oil in a pan and simmer for a minute.

2. Add a few Jeera seeds and let them turn brown.

3. Add chopped onions and fry until golden brown.

4. Add chopped tomatoes and stir for about 2-3 minutes.

5. To the above onion/tomato gravy, add:
a. Salt to taste
b. 1tsp turmeric powder
c. ¼ tsp green chilly powder
d. 4 tsp Chana masala.

Mix all the spices with onion/tomato gravy.

6. Add chick peas.

7. Add 1-2 cups of water. (Tip: add water to the gravy for desired consistency)

8. Simmer and cook for about 10 minutes with occasional stirring.

9. Garnish with Coriander leaves.

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Monday, March 10, 2014

Precious Pachyderms

Who doesn’t love elephants?  At greenmomster, we’ve had several posts about elephants:

We’ve also listed many ways you can help in elephant conservation, including:

Now there are two new ways to learn more about the issue of elephant poaching and ways you can help in elephant conservation:

  1. The Diane Rehm radio show just had an informative hour on elephant conservation.  
  2. CBS Sunday morning just presented a great program on the fight against elephant poaching in Africa.


Take some time; read and watch.  Then decide how you’re going to help out.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Sammy’s favorite–pasta with peas and "bacon"!

20140306175354Here’s my son’s favorite dinner – I’m guessing it will be a hit at your house too.  Quick and easy!

1 lb. rotelle or penne pasta
about 14 slices of Morningstar farms veggie bacon strips
3 tblsp olive oil
1 chopped onion
2 tsp bottled minced garlic
2 tblsp fresh thyme
1 package frozen peas
2 tsp butter
3/4 cup half and half
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

1)  Cook pasta and drain. 
2)  Cook "bacon."  Here's what I do:  First put the strips on a microwave-safe plate and microwave on 1/2 power for 5 minutes, then flip the strips and microwave 3 minutes on high.  "Bacon" should be crispy.  Break it up into little pieces.
3)  Heat olive oil in a skillet.  Add onions, garlic, and thyme and saute until onions are soft.  Add in green peas and cook until the peas are warm.  
4)  Add half & half to the pea mixture and cook for about 2 minutes.  
5)  Add butter, salt, and pepper to pea mixture and cook until butter melts.
6)  Pour pea mixture over pasta and toss.
7)  Add crumbled bacon and parmesan (or save parmesan for individuals to add, in case you’ve got folks who don’t like cheese), and toss again


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

No more dryer sheets!

If you’ve been wishing you could get rid of all those dryer sheets, but you absolutely hate static in your clothes, here’s a neat product to try.  I tested out the Method dryer-activated fabric softener and it works like a charm!  A few spritzes into the clothes in the dryer and no more static – yay!  Method is a company that tries to go a little greener with its cleaning products.  I have good luck with many of the products, but was especially pleased with this fabric softener.  Greenmomster’s disclaimer:  I received zip, nada, zilch for this endorsement.  I just liked the product and thought you might want to remove a few dryer sheets from the planet.

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Sunday, March 2, 2014

Should we still eat low on the food chain?

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Greenmomster has posted several articles on the green aspects of eating low on the food chain (going vegetarian).  Lately, though, some folks have been making the news with talks and papers on low impact meat production and consumption.  Even NPR has been publicizing these studies!  Gasp!  Could it be that greenmomster was WRONG?  Well, let’s take a closer look. 

A TED talk by Allan Savory discussed how to avoid desertification by using grazing animals.  An article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences discussed cutting greenhouse gases on the supply side (more efficient land use in meat production; more industrialization of farming) rather than trying to change the consumption side (getting folks to eat less meat through carbon taxes).   Both of these presentations address public policy and how to decrease climate change; they make two assumptions:  1)  folks will continue to demand meat, and 2)  the demand will increase as income increases.  Both of these presentations have valuable information on the possible policy implications of their research.  Both should be studied by policy makers to ensure we get the result – decreasing greenhouse gases from agricultural production – that we want to see.  The studies don’t address individual choices. 

Greenmomster’s goal is to educate folks to make the most practical environmental decisions at an individual level.  The short answer to the question, “Should we still eat low on the food chain?” is Yes!  As you can see from the graphic below, eating low on the food chain leads to the least resource intensive diet.  While the studies referenced above address how public policy might address greenhouse gases from food production, at an individual level, it’s greenest just to reduce your meat consumption.  Unless you live in an extremely cold climate where the growing season is too short to supply enough local food for the year, eating as little meat as possible is still the greenest alternative.  image

Campbell, N.A. and J.B. Reece, M.R. Taylor, E.J. Simon, J.L. Dickey.  2008.  Biology, Concepts and Connections, 6th Edition.  Pearson, Benjamin Cummings, San Francisco.  p. 754.
Havlik, P., et al. 2014.  Climate Change Mitigation Through Livestock System Transitions.  PNAS published ahead of print February 24, 2014, doi:10.1073/pnas.1308044111.