Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A New Year’s Resolution–Take a Hike!

firstday5When it comes to holidays, my favorites are Christmas, the 4th of July, and Thanksgiving.  Frankly, the New Year doesn’t even crack my list of top 10 holidays – New Years eve always seems forced and kind of boring.  But there are two things I DO love to do on New Years Day.  I like to eat blackeyed peas and greens for good luck (check out this blackeyed pea recipe and this recipe for greens), and I like to go for a hike at Sky Meadows State Park.  My DSC_0093family has enjoyed hiking at this park on New Years Day for several years now – sometimes the weather is warm, sometimes cold, sometimes snowy. We started in 2009:DSC_0001

It’s been a great way to start our year ever since!

newyears3All the Virginia State Parks host a First Day Hike, so if you’re in VA you might want to go to a park in your area.  But what if you’re not lucky enough to live in the Old Dominion?  Chins up!  You’ve got options!  The American Hiking Society sponsors First Day Hikes around the country.  This year over 400 hikes are offered in all 50 states!  Check out their website to find a hike neartracks1 you!

Happy New Year to all Greenmomsters!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas Greenmomsters!

Here’s wishing you a very merry Christmas and a happy last day of Hannukah!  Let’s take a quick look at some of the happy environmental news we encountered this year!

  • November brought us World Toilet Day!
  • And finally, there’s news on coal ash disposal.  On Dec. 19, 2014, the U.S. EPA released its final rule on disposal of coal ash from electric utilities.  The ash will be regulated under subtitle D of RCRA.  It will not be regulated as a hazardous waste, as it would have been under subtitle C.  Although the new rule isn't what many environmental groups had hoped for in their stockings, it’s a step in the right direction. 
Merry Christmas Greenmomsters!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Did they ask you to bring a side for Christmas?

Hatch Chile Corn PuddingHere’s a meat-free side to bring to the Christmas table – and it’s heavy enough to fill up the vegetarians at the gathering who are avoiding the meat!  (Photo and recipe from marthastewart.com)

Hatch Chile Corn Pudding

24 oz. frozen corn kernels, thawed and drained
1 tsp salt
3 scallions, sliced
1 14 oz. can Hatch green chiles, diced
3 tblsp flour
2 cups (8 oz.)Monterey Jack cheese, grated
2 large eggs
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 stick unsalted butter

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Puree 3 cups of corn in a food processor (if you have one, otherwise try a blender or just mash them up as best you can).  Transfer to a large bowl and stir in the remaining cup of corn, salt, scallions, chiles, flour, and 1/2 cup cheese.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and cream.  Stir in the corn mixture.
  3. Place butter in an 8 inch square baking dish and place in the oven until the butter is melted.  Pour corn mixture into the hot baking dish.  Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.
  4. Place the baking dish on a cookie sheet (to catch drips) and bake for 45 to 50 minutes.  Cool for 30 minutes before serving.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

“Seal” it with a kiss!

To ring in the arrival of winter, this week we have an arctic two-for-the-price-of-one deal.  Let’s take a look at two cold-weather-loving species that are protected under both the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) and the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  Both are threatened by the loss of Photo: Ringed seal just below the surfacesea ice due to climate change -- ringed seals (Phoca hispida)  (photo from Paul Nicklen athttp://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/ringed-seal/) and bearded seals (Erignathus barbatus),

The ringed seal is the smallest seal (averaging 110-150 lbs and 5 feet in length) in the arctic, feeding on fish and invertebrates.  They are generally solitary animals.  Females reach sexual maturity around 4 years, while males don’t mature until about age 7.   Gestation lasts about 9 months, and the females give birth in ice “lairs” that they build out of the thick ice in their habitat.  These small seals can live 25 to 40 years.  Seal fun fact:  these guys can dive for 45 minutes without a breath!

On the other end of the spectrum, the bearded seal is the largest seal in the arctic, weighing in at a hefty 575 to 800 lbs!  These seals also have a lifespan of about 25 years and are thought to reach breeding age around 6 to 7 years.  These seals are divers, feeding on benthic creatures such as shrimp, cod, crab, octopus, and clams.     For a very cool video of the bearded seal, see this Arkive video!

Seals are an important indicator species regarding the arctic and the effects of climate change.  Just another reason to get involved – write those letters and reduce your carbon footprint!  Here’s a great idea from the Climate Mama blog – climate change holiday cards for our legislators!


National Geographic.  2012.  “Ringed seal (Phoca hispida)”  Accessed online 12/23/2012. http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/ringed-seal/

NOAA Fisheries Office of Protected Resources. 2012. “Bearded Seal (Erignathus barbatus)” December 21, 2012. Accessed online 12/22/2012.http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species/mammals/pinnipeds/beardedseal.htm

NOAA Fisheries Office of Protected Resources.  2012.  “Ringed Seal (Phoca hispida)”  December 21, 2012.  Accessed online 12/22/2012. http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species/mammals/pinnipeds/ringedseal.htm

Friday, December 12, 2014

It’s mango time!

IMG_20141211_173204_438Well actually, it’s never REALLY mango time where I live – we can’t grow them here – but it’s really nice to have a little taste of summer in the middle of winter!  I found this recipe on MarthaStewart.com and then altered it a bit.

Corn and Mango Tacos

1 small package frozen corn, thawed
1 15 oz. can hominy, drained and rinsed
1/3 lb cotija, or mild cheddar or monterey jack, cut into small cubes
juice from 3 limes (about 2 1/2 tblsp)
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
2 scallions, thinly sliced
12 tortillas
3 ripe mangos, cut into slices

  1. Combine corn, hominy, cheese, lime juice, cayenne, cilantro and scallions in a bowl.
  2. Heat tortillas in a microwave or fry them.  Fill with mango slices and corn salad.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Coal in your Christmas stocking

I’m guessing that most greenmomsters understand the effects of climate change and one of our biggest producers of CO2 – coal.  Here’s some background info, in case you need a review.  But what about our friends and acquaintances who still don’t “believe in” the man-made causes of climate change?  Is there any other reason to quit coal?  Here are three good reasons to cut our coal consumption and support EPA’s attempts at regulation.  I understand it won’t be easy; I get my electricity from a coal-fired power plant.  But just because it’s difficult, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be our goal.

  1. Coal ash – This bi-product of energy production has been the cause of several devastating spills around the country.  It’s a complicated issue, since there’s a lot of it, and we use it in building materials.  Here’s a quick rundown of the issue and why some think it should be handled as a hazardous waste. 

Cerulean Blues: A Personal Search for a Vanishing Songbird2.  Loss of biodiversity and contamination of watersheds – Have you heard of mountaintop removal coal mining?  It’s exactly what it sounds like.  We remove the tops of mountains to access the coal.  It’s efficient, but the impacts on water and biodiversity are devastating.  Check out Cerulean Blues by Katie Fallon for a look at the effects on one small migratory bird – the cerulean warbler.  (photo:  latimesblogs.latimes.com)

3.  The personal cost – From Clean Technica, “ Though solar power is still far from surpassing coal as America’s primary energy source, the number of people employed by the solar industry has surpassed the number of coal miners. The non-profit Solar Foundation estimates that The Price of Justice: A True Story of Greed and Corruptionthere are about 142,000 people in the U.S. workforce who spend “at least 50% of their time supporting solar-related activities,” according to Business Insider.” 

Coal mining is dangerous and dirty. Although it has been a way of life for many families for many generations, maybe it’s time to consider alternative jobs and job training. If you haven’t yet read it, you might want to check out this fascinating book on one player in the WV coal industry, The Price of Justice by Laurence Leamer.  For an in-depth look at some of the effects of coal mining on folks in West Virginia, consider watching Burning The Future:  Coal in America: 

Friday, December 5, 2014

Cabbage and Potato Soup

Believe it or not, this recipe is a hit with the kids!  It’s a filling, warm soup – perfect for the middle of winter, using lots of in-season items.DSC_0086

Cabbage and Potato Soup
1 small head of cabbage, coarsely chopped into 1 to 2 inch squares
6 yukon gold potatoes, peeled and chopped into 2 inch cubes
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
3 to 4 tablespoons butter
1/2  tablespoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 tablespoons fresh thyme (about 1 1/2 tablespoons if you’re using dried thyme)
4 cups vegetable broth
2 cups water


  1. Melt the butter in a large soup pot and saute the onion, potatoes, salt, and pepper for about 5 minutes
  2. Add vegetable broth and water; boil until the potato is just soft enough to mash.
  3. Using a hand potato masher, mash the potatoes in the soup until half the potatoes are mashed and half are still in chunks.  If you really like a smooth soup, instead of hand-mashing, use a blender to puree about half the soup.
  4. Add cabbage and thyme; cook until cabbage is soft.
  5. Makes about 4 servings.

Monday, December 1, 2014

I’m dreaming of a green Christmas!

2012Christmas22For all things green, be sure to "Like" greenmomster on Facebook!

It’s the first day of December, and once again we’re dreaming of a white Christmas (and we might get it on the East Coast tomorrow!), but what about a green Christmas?  Two years ago, greenmomster started posting some ideas for making your Christmas celebrations a little more eco-friendly.  Here are some old and new ideas for greening up the holiday!
noahbday11)  The wrapping!  Making Christmas gifts festive and fun to unwrap is part of the fun of giving the gifts.  Even the Grinch knew that taking the wrappings might put a damper on things as he left Who-ville:  “he packed up his sled, packed it up with their presents!  The ribbons!  The wrappings! The tags! And the tinsel!  The trimmings!  The trappings!” (XMAS FUN 2012).  But then again, according to Earth911, “wrapping paper and shopping bags alone account for about 4 million tons of trash annually in the U.S.”  None of us wants to be a Grinch, so how can we green up the wrappings?

  • If you want to wrap gifts in wrapping paper, why not try recycled paper?  And follow your mom and grandma’s lead – reuse that wrapping paper!
  • You can always wrap gifts in tissue paper (I use the tissue paper that’s stuck into dry cleaned clothes), fabric, or even the comics.
  • Reuseable gift bags can be used year after year (I have some bags that have been through at least 5 Christmases).
DSC_00012)  The tree!  OK, it’s the age-old debate – should we use a fresh tree?  artificial?  tree in a pot to be planted later?  A few thoughts, then you make your own decision:
  • Artificial trees – Here’s a fun fact from Earth911, “a U.S.-based toilet bowl brush manufacturer, the Addis Brush Company, created an artificial tree from brush bristles in the 1930s, acting as the prototype for modern artificial trees.”  I’ll remember that tidbit, as I relax next to my beautiful fake tree that I enjoy year after year.  Here’s the big con to artificial trees – most are made of non-recyclable, non-biodegradable metal and PVC.  Thus, when you throw them away, they’ll sit in the landfill for many generations to come.  Since my family keeps their artificial trees for decades (my mother has had her artificial tree for nearly 50 years), I’m not losing sleep over this con.  A more troublesome issue with artificial trees --  most are produced overseas and must be shipped to the U.S. – think fossil fuels and pollution in production and shipping  (Earth911 2012).  If you’ve decided on a fake tree,GoodHousekeeping has some recommendations regarding brands to try. 
  • Real trees – Most experts agree that this is the more eco-friendly option.  Over 30 million Christmas trees are sold in the U.S. each year, and 93% of those trees are recycled into mulch (Earth911 2012).  Additionally, Earth911 (2012) reports that a single farmed tree absorbs more than 1 ton of CO2 in its lifetime!  The cons?  Since Christmas trees are an agricultural product, we can expect application of pesticides, fertilizers, and herbicides, unless they’re grown organically.  Additionally, if you don’t live in an area where conifers grow naturally, add the cost of tree transport into your eco-footprint calculation (Earth911 2012).  If you do get a real tree, just say no to the plastic mesh wrapping.
  • Real LIVE trees – The most eco-friendly option.  Buy a live, potted tree, which you can keep in your house for about 1 – 1 1/2 weeks and then plant outdoors after the holidays.
3) The cards!  I come from a proud line of Christmas card senders and Christmas letter writers.  So how can we green up this annual tradition?
  • Send cards and letters online.  Friends and family can read about your adventures in the past year, and then save, print, or delete!
  • Try one of the eco-friendly card companies, using soy inks and recycled paper.  One of my favorites is Minted!
  • Send cards that support a green organization, such as the cards made by the National Wildlife Association or World Wildlife Fund.
DSC_00744)  The gifts!  There are actually fun green gifts that don’t lead to forced smiles and insincere “thank yous!” 
  • For the animal lovers in your family!  Through many organizations, you can symbolically “adopt” an animal, and receive a plush toy, certificate of adoption, and a poster or photograph.  Young children get a toy and wildlife organizations get badly needed financial support.  Some of the programs I’ve enjoyed in the past include theNational Zoo’s “Adopt a Species”, National Wildlife Federation’s Adoption CenterAdopt a Lemur from Duke U., and World Wildlife Fund’s Species Adoptions
  • Do you have a bike?  By giving bikes to not just the kids, but also the adults in the family, you’ll be encouraging the option of green transportation for local trips (plus you might lose a few of those Christmas cookie pounds!)
  • How about a new set of non-teflon coated cookware?  Have you been wanting to upgrade your cooking utensils?  By trading up for pots and pans that AREN’T coated in teflon, you’ll be reducing your family’s exposure to many harmful chemicals.
  • Got an avid gardener in the family, or do you want to become one?  Christmas is the perfect time to set someone up for a successful butterfly or vegetable garden in 2013 – garden tools, seeds, composting equipment, even rainbarrels are gifts that your family can enjoy throughout the year.  Birdfeeders and bird baths are a nice addition to any garden.  If you really want to go all out, how about beekeeping equipment?
  • Lifelong learning!  Gift certificates for classes are a waste-free gift that can be enjoyed throughout the year.  Be it cooking, archery, knitting, photography, or architecture classes – you know they’ll love it! 
  • How about a gift that lets the receiver enjoy the great outdoors?  Camping equipment was my gift at my last birthday!  Not into camping?  Think “roughing it” is a black and white TV?  Then how about binoculars or a field guide for an aspiring bird or butterfly watcher, or a camera for the budding nature photographer?
  • How about non-toxic soaps and shampoos from eco-friendly companies?  Many manufacturers now make these products, but some of my favorites are The Body Shop, Aveda, and the Parsonage.
  • Got someone in your family that enjoys camping or cabins?  Virginia State Parks offer gift certificates that can be used for camping, cabins, parking, and picnic shelter rentals.  Don’t live near VA?  You can always give an annual pass for national parks and federal recreational lands.  Need trip inspiration?  Check out this post on Bryce National Park.
Want more great ideas on how to green your holidays?  Check outEarthEasy’s tips for green gift giving, wrapping, and lighting.
From the greenmomster’s house to yours, we wish you a very merry and GREEN holiday season!2012Christmas37
Earth911.  2012.  Facts About Recycling Wrapping Paper.  Accessed 11/29/12.
EarthEasty.  2012.  How to have a ‘green’ Christmas.  Accessed 11/29/12.http://eartheasy.com/give_sustainchristmas.htm
GoodHousekeeping.  2012.  Getting an Artificial Christmas Tree!  Choose This Type.  You’ll save resources and reduce risk of toxins.  Accessed 11/29/12.  http://www.thedailygreen.com/going-green/tips/artificial-christmas-trees-buy-american
XMAS FUN.  2012.  How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss.  Accessed 11/29/12.http://xmasfun.com/stories/Grinch/Text.asp