Friday, April 29, 2016

Meat-free Friday -- Spaghetti with Tomatoes and White Beans

Here's a tasty recipe adapted from MarthaStewart's website.  It's  quick and easy for a Friday night!  Don't forget to "Like" greenmomster on Facebook for recipes and other environmental news.


  • 1 lb spaghetti
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 can (15 oz.) white cannellini beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 2 cups flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 olive oil
  • 4 tsp jar garlic or 6 cloves, chopped
  • pinch of red pepper flakes, or more if you like it hot!
  • 1 lb cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • grated Parmesan cheese for serving
  1. Cook pasta.  Add beans during the last minute of cooking.  Drain, saving 1/2 cup pasta water.
  2. Saute parsley, lemon juice, and oil.  Add red pepper and garlic; saute about 1 minute.  Add tomatoes and a little bit of pasta water.  Cook until "saucy".
  3. Toss the parsley/tomato mixture, pasta, and remaining pasta water.  Serve with Parmesan cheese.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Mammal Monday -- Ranger Rick!

It's Mammal Monday and we're celebrating Ranger Rick, the raccoon mascot of the National Wildlife Federation!  Vienna VA is working to become the next Wildlife-Friendly Certified Community, which means that we'll have businesses, schools, churches, and homes throughout our town who have committed to making their property "wildlife friendly".

What does "wildlife-friendly" mean?  It means that your property has food, water, cover, and places for wildlife to raise their young.  It's that simple!  And "wildlife-friendly" doesn't necessarily mean "big".  Even a balcony garden can provide the four requirements for butterfly species -- plant milkweed (a larval plant, or a place to raise young) and native flowers (food and cover for butterflies) in flower pots, and put out some water, and you've got a habitat for monarchs!

Join the Town of Vienna and get your home or town certified Wildlife Friendly!  It makes Ranger Rick want to dance for joy!

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Earth Day Bioblitzin'

So what did you do for Earth Day?  Our family headed out to Sky Meadows State Park to participate in the big bioblitz!  What's a bioblitz?  It's a a set period of time (often 24 hours) when people go out to survey all of the plants and animals they can find in a certain geographic area.  We were surveying Sky Meadows State Park in VA as part of the VA statewide bioblitz, but you can find local bioblitz activities worldwide.  National Geographic's 2016 bioblitz will be held in May in Washington DC.

Bioblitz is a lot of fun and you don't have to be an expert -- the organizers will pair you with folks who can help you discover what's out there.  Even this early in spring, we saw several different types of butterflies, including zebra swallowtails!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Meat-free Friday -- Here's to Prince


No recipe this week -- instead, let's lift our glass to Prince and his commitment to going vegan.  PETA named him their Sexiest Vegetarian Celebrity in 2006,  In addition to his great musical talent, I think we can definitely name Prince as one of our "Celebrities Doing Green Stuff" for his vegetarian style.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Faith and science

For much of my life I've been active in my church and active in environmental issues.  Often, I was frustrated by folks who seemed to want to speak for me ... loudly.  I was told that to be a "good Christian" there were certain things I had to believe and science wasn't one of those things.  Conversely, my faith was often questioned by fellow science students.  I remember a student giving a presentation in a biology class I was teaching, saying "I'm a Christian, so I don't believe in evolution. But I'm going to tell you about it, because the professor wants me to."  That statement certainly livened things up in class!

Lately I've been noticing a change; I've seen science and religion coming together more frequently.  This mixing of disciplines is great news.  To me, the two have always gone hand-in-hand -- I love studying the complicated world that God created.  People of faith are starting to acknowledge that science and religion are not mutually exclusive.  They're noticing that "creation care" is also "people care" and that often, the people most impacted by environmental degradation are the poor and powerless.  .

Our church is currently working towards a Green Faith Certification, and one of our tasks was to present an education series on environmental issues.  Today's class was especially interesting, because we showed a video presentation by Katherine Hayhoe.  Dr. Hayhoe is a climate scientist and evangelical Christian.  In her presentation, she does a great job of laying out the basics of climate science, as well as the relationship between science and religion.  Take 15 minutes and check out this talk:

Dr. Hayhoe isn't the only one out there talking about religion and science -- plenty of organizations are active in "creation care".  Green Faith is a non-demominational organization that includes Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Buddhist, and Islamic statements of faith.  The mission of  Interfaith Power and Light (IPL) "is to be faithful stewards of Creation by responding to global warming through the promotion of energy conservation, energy efficiency, and renewable energy."  Pope Francis'  Encyclical "Care for Our Common Home" made international news last year.  We even have local interfaith efforts, such as Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions (FACS) which recently held a workshop in my town that included local and state elected officials.

Now that we're seeing that faith and science can work well together, we can take the best of both worlds to take on big challenges  -- this is great news for the environmental movement!  Please share what your local congregation is doing!

Friday, April 15, 2016

Meat-free Friday -- Roasted beer and lime cauliflower tacos with cilantro coleslaw

Thug Kitchen is back on meat-free Friday and I'm providing you some cooking music, too!  This recipe is hot, hot, hot, but really tasty.  It comes from the Thug Kitchen cookbook (given to me by my kids).  By the way, this is a GREAT COOKBOOK if you're looking to eat more meat-free meals.  Here's the recipe, edited by me -- I doubled this recipe for a family of five and everything was eaten quickly!


  • 1 head cauliflower, chopped into small pieces
  • 3/4 cup beer
  • 1/4 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 tblsp lime juice
  • 1 1/2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tblsp of your go-to chipotle hot sauce (I used sriracha)
  • 1 to 2 cloves garlic (I used 2 tblsp jar garlic)
  • 1 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tblsp olive oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • 6 corn tortillas
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • quick lime and cilantro slaw
  • fire-roasted salsa
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  
  2. In a saucepan, heat beer, broth, lime juice, soy sauce, hot sauce, and garlic over medium heat.  Add cauliflower and simmer for about 2 minutes.
  3. Toss the spices, salt, and olive oil in a large bowl.  Add cauliflower and onion, stirring to coat. Spread on a baking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes.
  4. Make the tacos using cauliflower, avocado, and some slaw.  We added some salsa and sour cream to cut the heat.

Lime and Cilantro Slaw-- this is so good, you'll eat it as a side-dish!
  • 1/2 head green cabbage, chopped small
  • 1 small carrot, chopped small
  • 2 tblsp lime juice
  • 2 tblsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup chopped cilantro
  1. Combine lime juice, rice vinegar, olive oil, and salt.  Toss with green cabbage, carrot, and cilantro.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

So you slept through science class -- what's the Tragedy of the Commons?

Remember to "like" greenmomster on Facebook for all the latest environmental news and information!

Whether you slept through science class due to a lack of interest or an incredibly boring teacher (gasp!), sometimes it's good to catch up on the topics that you missed. I know I’m still trying to catch up on the classic books that I never read.  

In the latest installment of our science series, we're going to look at a concept called "The Tragedy of the Commons".  This concept is important to environmental management, because it addresses a characteristic of many environmental resources -- they're not owned by any one person or government.  Many environmental resources are part of what we call a "commons"; no one owns them, but lots of people have access to them.  The commons are often overused and under-managed.  Examples of commons include fisheries, parks, and the Earth's atmosphere.  Next week, we'll talk about "catch shares", which is a proposal for managing fisheries.

Check out these two helpful videos (from Don't Just Site There, Do Something! and Learn Liberty) to learn more about "The Tragedy of the Commons", and look forward to the next post on "catch shares"!


Monday, April 11, 2016

Mammal Monday -- rhinos!

Following up on last week's post about rhino relocations, this week's mammals are the black rhino and the white rhino!  As with many of these large African species, rhinos are threatened by habitat loss and illegal hunting.  Why should we care?  As the World Wildlife Fund's website states:

"In almost all rhino conservation areas, there are other valuable plants and animals. The protection of rhinos helps protect other species including elephants, buffalo, and small game. Rhinos contribute to economic growth and sustainable development through the tourism industry, which creates job opportunities and provides tangible benefits to local communities living alongside rhinos. Rhinos are one of the "Big 5" animals popular on African safaris and they are a popular tourism draw in places like the Eastern Himalayas."

Do you want to help?  

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

America's identity

This morning, the news reported the results of a Quinnipiac poll that reported that more than 50% of respondents stated that "America has lost its identity." I must say, I heartily disagree with that statement.

I picked up my copy of the Washington Post the other day and noticed an article about environmental activists in countries like Honduras, Peru, and Costa Rica.  As the title of the article states, death is a constant companion for these citizens.  For many people in lesser developed countries, fighting for environmental justice can be deadly.  Frequently the activists are lower income or indigenous people.  Two-thirds of those killed for standing up for their rights live in Latin America.  Following is a graphic from the Washington Post article that gives you a feel for the danger involved in speaking out on environmental issues in Latin America.

But the violence isn't just occurring in Latin America.  Nobel prize winner Wangari Maathi wrote about her struggle to protect Kenya's forests in her book Unbowed, and many other unsung heroes fight to protect wildlife from poachers everyday.

As I was thinking about how fortunate we are to live in a country where speaking out doesn't usually endanger one's life, Professor Mark Osler of the University of St. Thomas posted a similar sentiment in his blog.  As a college professor and activist who regularly speaks out about clemency, he wrote about a recent visit to the White House:
"Yet, here is what is happening:  This afternoon I will walk into the White House compound.  I'll be given a blue pass with an "A" on it (if previous visits are any guide), and I'll talk to several administration officials -- the very ones I have criticized.  I'll be allowed to speak and be part of a discussion. And then I'll leave and be on my way.

No one is going to imprison me.  No one will threaten me.  No one will follow me furtively as I pass through Washington.  None of that.  All that will happen is that I will be heard, and hear from those with other views, right at the White House itself.  Perhaps they will convince me I am wrong (it is possible), or I will convince them.  And then I'll go home.

Isn't that just a stunning, wonderful thing?  Thank God for America -- world, this is how you do it!"

Similarly, we greenmomsters can write our elected officials about drilling off the coast of Virginia, write letters to the editor regarding the environmental injustice in Flint Michigan, organize with our faith communities to control the emission of greenhouse gases, speak out about stormwater management at town council meetings, teach neighbors about planting native plants, or participate in a rally against fracking on the Capital lawn.  We won't get arrested; our safety won't be threatened.  As Professor Osler said, isn't that just a stunning, wonderful thing?  

Because the American identity is alive and well, and allows for peaceful and civil freedom of speech, what reason do we have for not speaking out?

Monday, April 4, 2016

Mammal Monday -- Black Footed Ferrets!

A common myth about the Endangered Species Act is that, once they're listed, species never come off the list.  Thanks to the efforts of folks at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Smithsonian Institution, the black footed ferret may someday prove the myth wrong, just like the brown pelican, bald eagle, and American alligator have done before!  Black footed ferrets are a top predator in the North American prairie that feeds on prairie dogs.  Check out this video to learn more about black footed ferret recovery and reintroduction:

Friday, April 1, 2016

Foolish Things I've Done to Be Green!

It’s April Fools Day, so it's time for my annual compilation of Foolish Things I've Done to be Green!  It's my look back at some of the really foolish, yet very earnest, things I’ve tried in the name of planet protection.  I'll just keep adding to the list each year, and I’m sure I’ll have some new items for 2017!

Freezing my behind off at a "global warming" event -- I'll never figure out why people schedule climate change rallies in February.  Sure, those of us who understand climate change also understand there's a difference between "weather" (what happens in February) and "climate" (what happens in a decade of Februarys).  But planning climate change rallies in the middle of winter seems to play into the hands of climate change deniers.  Wouldn't it be better to plan these events in August? 

The Invertebrate Shuffle - One of our family traditions is stream monitoring (my kids told me that "spring break in the Bahamas" would be a much better tradition).  Fortunately, I've been training for this activity for over 30 years.  Stream monitoring requires doing the "invertebrate shuffle", which means twisting in the mud for a minute to loosen up all those invertebrates.  I excel at this activity!  I can even add an interpretive touch to the dance!  Sort of like these peacock spiders:

Earth shoes -- OK, they’re not really an environmental item, but this is where it all started for me in the ‘70s.  That “negative heel” was supposed to make me feel close to the earth, but it just gave me muscle strain.  If you really want to wear ugly shoes that scream “I’m crunchy!” just wear Birkenstocks like all of the other greenmomsters out there.

woodsyowl_desireeEnvironmental mascot – this is foolish, yet fun!  During all of my years of dancing, I was always a good technician, yet a lackluster performer.  This situation was due to the fact that I found being in front of an audience to be a little embarrassing.  A good mascot costume solves that problem – all of the fun of performing, with absolutely none of the recognition!  When I was asked to be the EPA “water drop” during 25th anniversary Earth Day celebrations on the Washington DC mall, I couldn’t turn them down.  Then came the pinnacle of my mascot career – Woodsy Owl!  So foolish, yet so much fun!  As Woodsy, I spread the environmental message AND joined in an aerobics demonstration, entertained little kids and the Secretary of Transportation, and danced with abandon in my yellow birdy feet at yet another Earth Day celebration.  To prove my mascot-prowess, I have an official photo of myself (Woodsy). This April, I'll be adding to my mascot resume -- Ranger Rick!  Look for me at Vienna VA's "Walk on the Hill!"

Coconut oil – I decided to decrease my body’s exposure to harmful chemicals found in cosmetics by substituting coconut oil for my usual face cream.  I looked absolutely fabulous, until every pore on my face became clogged, leaving me looking significantly younger.  And by significantly younger I mean I looked like the acne-plagued teenager I once was. 

Natural deodorant – Again, trying to lessen my chemical load.  Been there, done that, got the pit-stained t-shirt.

Visiting the Dismal Swamp after a major flood in August – I’m often referred to as the Julie McCoy of our family, planning all sorts of activities and trips.  One type of trip I love planning is the outdoorsy, environmentally-educational trip.  But there was one time when I ran the family’s Love Boat aground.  I read that the Dismal Swamp in southern Virginia was an absolutely beautiful place – I’ve seen pictures since our fateful trip, and indeed, it is a memorable spot.  But timing is everything in life.  I ignored our friends who mentioned that maybe “dismal” wasn’t a good name for a family vacation spot, maybe right after a major flood wasn’t the right timing, and maybe the mosquito population would be booming in the middle of August.  “Pshaw!” I said.  This was a natural area just waiting to be discovered by me and my family!  We loaded up my then 2 year old son in the hiking backpack and headed into the swamp!  Approximately 30 minutes later, we emerged with our tails between our legs, sweaty and swollen from mosquito bites.  Fortunately, we didn’t catch malaria, I didn’t turn our Love Boat excursion into Gilligan’s 3-hour tour, and there was a nearby reggae festival to help us forget our swamp sorrows.

Vegetarian dog food – Although eating lower on the food chain is better for the environment, my dogs do not care.  They were willing to starve themselves rather than help the environment.  They told me that it’s ok to eat meat for every meal, that we should always DRIVE to the dog park, and that climate change is a totally natural phenomenon.

Using a first-generation recycled plastic garbage bag – OK, the technology has gotten much better, and I do use these bags regularly now.  But sometimes it’s best not to be an “early adopter.”  I learned this lesson when the bag I was using while changing the guinea pig cage exploded all over the rec room.

Indoor composting – Need I say more?  Just because it says it’s a good idea on the internet, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.  I bought my composting bin, filled it with newspaper shreds and my worms that I’d bought off the internet, filled the compost bin with scraps and waited for my worms to work their magic!  Well, the magic was the appearance of hundreds of fruit flies filling my entire basement in a blinding cloud.  Just say no to indoor composting.

I just saw a combination bicycle/push mower that’s definitely going to be on someone’s foolish list next year.  
Anyone else have any foolish green adventures you’d like to share?