Thursday, June 23, 2016

Great American Campout!

Are you someone who would like to camp and hike, but you think that you don't know how, or you don't have the right gear?

Well, have no fear!  This weekend, we celebrate the Great American Campout, which is a great way to learn about enjoying the great outdoors.  Events are happening all around the U.S.; one of my favorites is at Sky Meadows State Park.  The various events around the country are a great way to learn about camping, or take part in a nature or history program.  Check out an event near you and enjoy the beautiful summer weather -- as the National Wildlife Federation reminds us, the body, mind, and spirit benefit from outdoor activities

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

It's Pollinators Week!

Happy Pollinator Week 2016!  9 years ago, the U.S. Senate designated this week to celebrate pollinators, and the rest is history!

Great Spangled Fritillary

I started Pollinator Week this year at a NABA 4th of July Butterfly Count at Sky Meadows State Park in Delaplane VA.  These butterfly counts are a great way to learn about your local butterflies and the role that they play in your local environment (their "niches").    I studied local butterfly ecology for my dissertation, and I got my start by attending the 4th of July butterfly counts -- the attendees are often experts and very willing to share their knowledge.

Butterflies aren't the only pollinators worth celebrating.  Other insects (including mosquitoes), birds, and even geckos and lemurs can pollinate plants.  Be sure to check out your local pollinators this week, and support their habitat by avoiding pesticides and planting pollinator-friendly plants.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Mammal Monday -- Bramble Cay melomys

Today's mammal is a kind of a bummer -- the first mammal believed to be extinct due to climate change. The Bramble Cay melomys (photo from is a tiny rodent native to a small island in the northern part of the Great Barrier reef.  As sea levels have risen over the past decade, due to La Nina and climate change, the habitat of the species has disappeared.  There's a slight chance that new populations may be found on Papua New Guinea, but things don't look too bright now.  For a great summary of the issue, check out this article from Huffington Post.

Proof positive that climate change should be front and center for everyone, including our policy-makers.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Meat-free Friday -- Watermelon and Feta Salad

It's finally summer and that means lots of great melon!  This recipe might sound a little odd, but it's really tasty!  It comes to us from our friends Howard and Trish -- Howard is my husband's biking buddy and time-trial coach.  The recipe doesn't have specific amounts, so just use your greenmomster kitchen skills and keep tasting as you cook.


  • 1 watermelon, cut into bite-sized chunks
  • 1 sweet onion, sliced
  • about 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • about 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  1. Combine watermelon, onion, and cheese
  2. Toss with balsamic vinegar

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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

So you slept through science class -- Catch Shares!

Earlier this year, I introduced "The Tragedy of the Commons" which explains some of the management problems associated with public goods.  One of those public goods is fisheries.  How do we effectively manage our fish resources?

The first question is, why should we care about fisheries?  Aren't there plenty of fish to go around?  According to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization, about 1/4 of all fish stocks are being exploited at a level that is not sustainable, while over 1/2 of all fish stocks are at the absolute highest sustainable level of harvest.  We have depleted many fisheries and are now moving on to others.  Here's an example -- the tilapia that you often see on restaurant menus wasn't always a popular fish; it only became more popular as other fish stocks became depleted.  Since roughly 1 billion people get their daily protein from fish, this is a big issue.

So yes, we should care about fisheries!  An easy was for the individual consumer to track his or her impact is by using the Seafood Watch app.  From a management standpoint, countries are now trying to use "catch shares" to help fishermen better manage the resource.  It's a single-species, economics-driven management system that holds some promise, by allowing fishermen to determine when and how they fish, but it is not without controversy.  While the environmental community would rather see an ecosystem-level management scheme for fisheries, the current push is for catch shares.  Here's how it works and why fishermen and environmental managers are concerned:

Friday, June 10, 2016

Crispy Cauliflower Cakes

This recipe comes directly from Cooking Light.  Easy and tasty -- enjoy! For more meat-free Friday recipes, be sure to "like" greenmomster on Facebook!

  • 12 ounces cauliflower florets
  • (10-ounce) peeled baking potato, cut into 4 wedges
  • large shallots, halved lengthwise
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 ounces fontina cheese, shredded (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs), lightly toasted
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 2 tablespoons light sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons canola mayonnaise (such as Hellmann's)
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh chives
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • garlic clove, minced
  • 4 cups baby arugula
  • 1/2 cup halved grape tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice


1. Preheat oven to 400°.
2. To prepare cakes, place cauliflower, potato, and shallots on a baking sheet. Drizzle 1 1/2 tablespoons oil over vegetables; toss. Bake at 400° for 35 minutes or until tender, stirring once. Place cauliflower mixture in a food processor; pulse 10 times or until chopped. Scrape mixture into a bowl. Add fontina, thyme, salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and egg, stirring well.
3. Combine panko and Parmigiano-Reggiano in a shallow dish. Using wet hands, shape cauliflower mixture into 8 (1-inch-thick) patties; dredge in panko mixture. Place patties on baking sheet. Bake at 400° for 25 minutes or until browned, turning once.
4. To prepare sauce, combine sour cream and next 5 ingredients (through garlic) in a small bowl.
5. To prepare salad, combine arugula, tomatoes, 2 teaspoons oil, and juice; toss well to coat. Place 1 cup arugula mixture on each of 4 plates; top with 2 cakes and 1 tablespoon herb sauce.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Happy World Oceans Day!

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Today is World Oceans Day!  Why do we celebrate World Oceans Day?  Well let's find out from the day's sponsor, the UN:

  • To remind everyone of the major role the oceans have in everyday life.  They are the lungs of our planet, providing most of the oxygen we breathe.
  • To inform the public of the impact of human actions on the ocean.
  • To develop a worldwide movement of citizens for the ocean.
  • To mobilize and unite the world's population on a project for the sustainable management of the world's oceans. They are a major source of food and medicines and a critical part of the biosphere.
  • To celebrate together the beauty, the wealth and the promise of the ocean.

The oceans play an important role in human survival.  Although oceans cover over 70% of the Earth's surface, we've only explored about 10% of the entire ocean!  Oceans absorb carbon dioxide and regulate weather patterns. And they contain over 20 million tons of gold -- who knew!  

How can you help protect the ocean?  
  • Decrease your carbon footprint (drive less, insulate your house, eat less meat) -- the oceans can only absorb so much CO2 before we start to see negative effects from ocean acidification
  • When choosing to eat seafood, refer to the handy-dandy Seafood Watch tool to make more sustainable choices.
  • Protect your storm drains!  Don't let plastics and other trash head into the storm drain -- eventually it ends up in the sea.
  • Just say no to single use plastic bags.  They often end up in the ocean, and they're deadly to sea life.
  • Don't purchase items that exploit marine life, such as coral jewelry, tortoise shell or shark products.
  • Educate yourself about oceans and then get involved in protecting the oceans.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Mammal Monday -- giraffes!

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I was recently asked, if you could become any animal other than human, what would you become, and my answer is definitely "a giraffe!" One of my favorite memories from the zoo is feeding giraffes.  These huge animals, with their incredibly strong legs and large hooves (as big as dinner plates!), can be so gentle.  Feeding giraffes gives you an up-close look at these beautiful creatures – those 18-20 inch prehensile tongues (designed to work around the thorns of Acacia trees) are pretty impressive!
Check out this video to see that prehensile tongue in action!  And did you know that giraffes have the same number of cervical vertebrae (neck bones) as humans – 7?
Here are some more fun facts about giraffes, provided by the Giraffe Conservation Foundation:
  1. Giraffe gestation is about 15 months!  The calves will nurse for 9-12 months, but they can also eat solid food after about 4 months.
  2. Giraffes are ruminants, like cows – they can get nutrients from the cellulose in plants.
  3. No two giraffes have the same coat pattern – they’re like our fingerprints!
  4. Although giraffes can live to 25 years in the wild (longer in captivity), life isn’t a walk in the park for them. 50% of calves don’t survive their first year, due to predation by lions, hyenas, leopards, and wild dogs
  5. Giraffes only have to drink every few days.
  6. Giraffes have the biggest hearts of any land mammal!
Unfortunately, the current conservation news about giraffes isn’t all rosy.  An article in Scientific American reported that populations of giraffes have decreased by 40% in just the last 15 years.  This decline hasn’t been publicized in the news as much as the loss of other big mammals (think African elephant).  The IUCN Giraffe and Okapi Specialist Group will be pulling together data in the next few years in order to quantify the giraffe’s status and make conservation recommendations.  Want to get involved?  Check out the Giraffe Conservation Foundation’s website for ways to help.
Giraffe Conservation Foundation website.  Giraffe – the Facts. 2014. Web. July 1 2015 <>
J. Platt. Giraffes under threat: Populations down 40% in just 15 years.  Scientific American.  November 24, 2014.  Web.  1 July 2015.  <>

Friday, June 3, 2016

Meat-free Friday -- "Chik'n" on a stick!

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Sometimes you just feel like dinner on a stick, so this week's recipe is adapted from Lighten up, y'all.  Classic Southern Recipes mad Healthy and Wholesome by Virginia Willis.  I exchanged the main ingredient of chicken with a meat-free option, and it worked very nicely.  It's a family-pleasing recipe, perfect for a summer Friday!


  • 1 tblsp coarse kosher salt
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 packages Quorn chic'n tenders, defrosted
  • 2 cups panko bread crumbs
  • 2 tblsp canola oil
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1 tblsp dijon mustard
  • black pepper to taste

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine salt, 1 tsp paprika, 1/2 tsp onion powder, and 1/2 tsp garlic powder.  Add buttermilk and mix thoroughly.
  3. Add the chik'n tenders and marinate for 30 minutes (don't let it go too much longer)
  4. In a flat plate, combine the breadcrumbs and remaining paprika, onion powder, and garlic powder.  Add the 2 tblsp of oil and mix.  In a separate bowl, combine egg whites and mustard.
  5. Take the chik'n tenders out of the marinade and put on skewers.
  6. Dip the skewers into the egg mixture and then roll in the breadcrumb mixture.  
  7. Place on a rack and bake for about 25 minutes, rotating halfway through.