Tuesday, November 29, 2016

So you slept through science class -- Going vegetarian!

"But how do you get your protein?" That's the most common question people ask when they hear that you're eating vegetarian, vegan, or just cutting back on meat.  This question illustrates two common misconceptions about our diets:

  • Most folks assume that they need WAY more protein in their diets than they actually do.  The Federal government's dietary guidelines recommend that an adult should have about 10% of their calories come from protein each day -- that's about 200 calories for most of us.  Examples would be 4 oz. of pork, 5 1/2 tablespoons of peanut butter, or 1 1/2 cups of black beans.  Take a look at these comparisons of what we eat and what is recommended.
  • People often assume that the only way to get protein is to eat animal products -- not true!  The molecular building blocks of protein are smaller molecules called amino acids.  There are 21 amino acids needed by your body to make protein (sources cite between 20 and 22 amino acids), and your body can manufacture all but 10 of these amino acids.  These remaining 10 are what we call "essential amino acids" -- you must acquire these amino acids through your diet.  Here's where the confusion lies -- many people think you must eat animal products to have a complete protein.  It turns out, there are plant-based ways to eat all the amino acids in one sitting.  You can eat soy-based protein, or combine certain foods, like rice and beans, to get the proper nutrition.  
Environmentally, you're encouraged to reduce meat consumption.  Whether that's a meat-free Friday, meatless Monday, going vegetarian, or going vegan, the environment thanks you.  If you do decide to go vegan, be sure to supplement with niacin and B vitamins.

Still thinking that meatless will make you weak and they'll be kicking sand in your face at the beach?  Then check out this recent article in the Chicago Tribune about elite athletes who are eating vegan diets.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Shop til you Drop!

Now that we've enjoyed Thanksgiving and thought about what we're thankful for, it's time for shopping!  Sometimes we shop for things we need, or things we've been saving up for and have wanted to a long time.  But a lot of times we buy things we didn't really need or want.  I'll admit it -- I've done it.  So let's go into this holiday buying season a little more conscious of what really makes us happy and how we can save resources along the way.  I thought this was the perfect time to show some comparisons of our spending, compiled by Miller and Spoolman in their textbook Living in the Environment (published in 2015 by Cengage Learning).  This info is compiled from the UN, the WHO, U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Office of Management and Budget, Earth Policy Institute, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, and World Bank.

First, we'll look at the estimated expenditures per year needed to do the following:

  • Reforest the earth -- $6 billion
  • Protect the tropical forests -- $8 billion
  • Stabilize water tables -- $10 billion
  • Deal with global HIV/AIDS -- $10 billion
  • Restore fisheries -- $13 billion
  • Protect topsoil on cropland -- $24 billion
  • Protect biodiversity -- $31 billion
  • Provide basic health care for all -- $33 billion
  • Provide clean drinking water and sewage treatment for all -- $37 billion
Seems like a lot of money.  But here's a little comparison on expenditures per year on items we buy everyday (from the same source);
  • U.S. dog food -- $39 billion
  • U.S. potato chips and similar snacks -- $22 billion
  • U.S. cosmetics -- $8 billion
Want to see what we're spending every second?  Check out Retail in Real-Time to see what Americans are purchasing.  

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Transcript of New York Times interview with the President-elect -- your thoughts?

It's definitely worth reading this transcript of the latest NYT interview with the President-elect.  On the environmental front, there's still a lot of mis-information being stated by the President elect.  A few items to note:
  1. the scientific consensus is that climate change is occurring and it is human-caused (the President-elect states that there's still some debate),
  2. the "scientist email" scandal was debunked long ago, 
  3. the reason we're buying renewable energy equipment from other countries is because our country has not encouraged this type of development -- as long as we drag our feet on this issue, we'll continue to buy from overseas, 
  4. yes, birds do get hit by wind turbines, but the number is tiny compared to the number of birds killed by domestic cats and CHANGES IN CLIMATE, 
  5. will the Paris treaty signatories hold our feet to the fire and enforce tariffs if the U.S. pulls out? President-elect says "no", this greenmomster hopes "yes", 
  6. the President-elect wants to focus on clean air and clean water, which is great, but don't be fooled -- many climate change deniers state that CO2 shouldn't be regulated because it is not a primary human health risk; that's a red herring. We're not encouraging limits on CO2, methane, HFCs because of risk to human health (lungs). We're encouraging limits on CO2, methane, HFCs because of what happens in our atmosphere -- their heat trapping potential and persistence in the atmosphere.

I'm glad the NYT printed the actual transcript of this meeting so that we can read and analyze the discussion -- anyone else see anything interesting?

Monday, November 21, 2016

Wading in the water... again

Yesterday was coooold, but it was time for our quarterly stream monitoring!  This time, we had a great group of volunteers, led by Dan Schwartz of the Northern Virginia Water and Soil Conservation District.  The results were typical -- Difficult Run in this area isn't dead, but it's not totally healthy either.  We still need to pay attention to urban stormwater runoff, both quantity and quality.

What did we find?  LOTS of netspinners, (photo credit:  Aquatic Insect of Central VA website)

Friday, November 18, 2016

Green Enchiladas!

This week's meat-free Friday recipe is adapted from a recipe I found in the September 2016 Southern Living.  The secret ingredient is collard greens!  If you haven't cooked with collard greens before, check out the video below for more info.  Very tasty!


  • 2 tblsp butter
  • about 1 pound of chopped collard greens 
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 tblsp chopped garlic from a jar (use less if it's fresh)
  • about 1/2 cup whipped cream cheese
  • 1/2 milk (I used skim)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 package Quorn meatless chicken tenders, defrosted
  • 2 15 oz. cans green chile enchilada sauce
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 12 corn tortillas
  • 1 small can Hatch diced chiles -- hot
  • cilantro for topping
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F degrees and coat a 13x9 baking pan lightly with cooking spray.
  2. Melt butter in a large pot.  Add collards, onion, and garlic and cook until collards are soft -- about 15 minutes.  
  3. Stir the cream cheese, milk, sugar, salt, pepper, and 1 cup of cheese into the collard mixture.  Stir until everything is melted and mixed thoroughly.  Remove from heat and add in Quorn tenders.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix together the enchilada sauce and sour cream.  Spoon 1 cup of this mixture into your baking pan.
  5. Spread the tortillas on a plate, cover with a wet paper towel, and microwave for about 1 minute.
  6. Into each tortilla, spread a spoonful of the collard mixture.  Roll up the tortilla and put it seam side down into the baking dish.  Continue to stack the tortillas side-by-side until the baking dish is filled with your 12 tortillas.  Cover the tortillas with enchilada sauce mixture, remaining 1 cup of cheddar cheese, the Hatch chiles, and the cilantro.  
  7. Bake for about 30 minutes.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Let's talk about climate change!

Yesterday, I attended an event called "Climate and Politics -- What's next for Virginia?"  Although everyone in the room understood the gravity of the current political situation, the discussion was very constructive.  One of the themes of the discussion was communication -- how do we communicate the science, the practical solutions, and the urgency of climate change?

Ed Maibach, Director of George Mason's Center for Climate Change Communication (4C) gave a fascinating presentation about climate change attitudes and communication.  He explained that research indicates that many U.S. citizens are aware of climate change and believe it's occurring, but that they're not acting or voting on the issue.  The next step is to figure out how to communicate climate change information in a way that encourages action.  George Mason's 4C is addressing the communication of basic climate information, as well as the fact that this scientific information has become very politicized.  One step they've taken is to team with Bob Inglis for outreach to conservative voters.

One of the most effective ways to transform knowledge into action is through "behavior modelling".  If people see other people taking action, the behavior seems more "normal," and people will follow along.  Sometimes, we see celebrities doing green stuff.  Athletes have jumped on board with #Sport4Climate.

The take-home message for greenmomsters is this:  we're the role models!  We need to be willing to educate, advocate, and model environmental behavior.  Not just for our kids.  We need to model for our friends, family, and coworkers.  Here's an interesting statistic from yesterday's presentation:

Yup, only 3 in 10 of us are speaking to our family and friends about climate change.  We need to start talking, not just to people with whom we agree, but with anyone who will listen.  The good news here is that we now have our marching orders.  Go out and start talking!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Phil's Cornbread and Black Bean, Kale, and Hominy Stew

Happy Veteran's Day to my favorite veterans -- my dad, husband, brother, and niece!  

In honor of my dad, today's meat-free recipe includes Phil's cornbread!  The soup recipe is adapted from the March 2013 issue of Cooking Light(I made this version a little more chunky, a little lighter on the spices).  Serve with Phil’s Cornbread – it’s what we’re eating tonight!
  • 11 oz jar of tomatillos, chopped very small
  • 4 tblsp olive oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • the equivalent of 2 jalapeno peppers, from jarred jalapenos
  • 4 tsp chopped garlic
  • 4 tsp ground cumin
  • 8 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 4 cans (15 oz each) black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 8 oz. bunches of kale, cleaned and chopped
  • 1 29 oz. can hominy, rinsed and drained
  • sour cream
  • shredded cheddar
  • cilantro

1)  Heat olive oil in a large pot.  Add onion and jalapeno, and saute for about 5 minutes.
2)  Add garlic and cumin; saute for about 2 more minutes
3)  Add tomatillos, broth, water, salt, red pepper, black beans, and kale.  Heat for about 10 minutes, or until the kale becomes tender.
4)  Add the hominy for about 5 minutes and serve warm.
5) Garnish with sour cream, cheddar, and cilantro.
Serves a hungry family of five, with a little bit for leftovers!

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Thursday, November 10, 2016

What now?

I'm in my 50s and this election was not my first rodeo.  I've voted for Republicans and Democrats.  My first professional job was at U.S. EPA under the Reagan/Watt administration.  I've cheered environmental protection made by local and Federal government officials regardless of party.  I've written about privately-owned companies and private citizens doing "green stuff".I've encouraged students to use science to guide their environmental behavior.   I've worked with people of many different backgrounds and opinions to protect the environment, including environmental scientists, hunters, vegans, business owners, military personnel, religious leaders, and civil servants.  The ability to discuss different opinions and support compromise is one of the things that makes this country great.

But this time it's different.

I now have to figure out a way to continue to work toward environmental goals without compromising my principles.  I can find common ground with the new administration in fighting for the disenfranchised.  Oftentimes, the people who are most negatively affected by environmental damage are the poor and voiceless.  A transition to clean fuel must also include support for workers who will change careers into the new clean energy economy.

But there are two very important ways that I will not support the new administration.  First off, our President-elect and Vice President-elect have very plainly stated that they wish to increase oil and gas production and stop any progress on slowing climate change.  This short-sighted goal means disaster for our planet.  I will vigorously oppose any action toward this goal.

Second, there's no way around it -- our new President-elect is a racist.  I hope that, as I am working to find areas of compromise, it is always clear that I in no way agree with his racist view of the country I love.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Perfect Fall Pozole!

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Here’s a way for vegetarians to enjoy pozole!  It’s super-tasty, so you may want to double the recipe.  This recipe is adapted from one from Michael Lomonaco on the Today Show.

  • 2 packages Quorn chik’n tenders, defrosted
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 red bell peppers, chopped
  • 2 tblsp ground cumin
  • 2 tblsp garlic
  • 2 small cans Hatch green chiles
  • 1 can Rotel (tomatoes and chiles)
  • 2 quarts veggie broth (add more if you need more liquid)
  • 1 28 ounce can hominy
  • sour cream

  1. Heat oil in a large pot.  Add chik’n with salt and pepper to taste; cook until very slightly browned.
  2. Add onions and red pepper and cook until onions are soft.
  3. Add cumin, garlic, chiles, and Rotel – mix well.
  4. Pour in veggie broth and allow the mixture to boil.
  5. Lower heat, add hominy, and warm through.
  6. Serve topped with sour cream, if desired.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

There's an app for that!

Lately I've been trying a few new apps that I thought might come in handy as I try to live more sustainably.  Here's what I've found:

  • Beat the Microbead app:  Sometimes I'm wandering through the cosmetics section of a store, hoping for a miracle, and I wonder, "does this product have microbeads in it?"  This app allows you to find out pretty easily -- all you have to do is scan the barcode of the product to find out if it has microbeads.  Unfortunately, many of the products I've scanned are not yet in the database, but the app also provides the terms to look for when trying to avoid microbeads.
  • iNaturalist app:  This helpful app puts field guides at your fingertips, allows you to log your recent sightings, lets you share information with fellow greenmomsters, and more!  
  • Seafood Watch app:  I love this app!  It's "your guide to sustainable seafood"!  You can take a quick glance at your phone while you're standing at the fish counter, and quickly determine what's a sustainable purchase!  It even allows you to search for Seafood Watch partners in your local area.
Looking for sustainable seafood?  There's an app for that!

  • Sustainable Palm Oil Shopping App:  Another of my favorite apps while shopping!  This tool allows you to search the products you're thinking about buying to determine their Sustainable Palm Oil Rating -- so helpful!  Products are grouped by food and drink, snacks, breakfast, pet, etc.
  • National Geographic National Parks App:  Planning to visit a national park in the near future?  Then this app might come in handy.  It includes basic park information, maps, and camping and lodging info for 27 of the most popular national parks.  Not really any info that you couldn't get online, but it's nice to be able to access quickly through your phone.
Visiting Zion NP?  There's an app for that!

  • Ducks Unlimited App:  This app provides info on waterfowl migrations, allows you to keep your own birding journal, and provides a site for posting photos.  But the most valuable tool for me is the bird ID.  On this app, you can identify and learn about various waterfowl using pictures and audio.
Have you found any helpful apps?  Please share!

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