Friday, January 30, 2009
Before we get started with today's post, I have great news. A site called Empty Easel has picked up one of our articles and ... published it. It was originally submitted to us by a guest author, who wishes to remain anonymous, and Empty Easel thought it was worth sharing with their readers. If you'd like to see the article ... click HERE. OK ... on to today's topic:
This is the last Friday of the month ... in a new year ... with positive changes and hope in the air. While some might view change as a bad thing ... I, personally, embrace it. Change keeps everything fresh and exciting. It forces us to view life from a different angle and that's when we discover all kinds of wonderful things.
So ... I decided to make a small change to the monthly feature where I publish all the comments received. Starting today, I'm going to "pick and choose" comments that add information ... things that teach us more about living greener lives. I will, of course, continue to read every single comment and publish them with the articles they are attached to but ... for this monthly feature, which has grown and grown ... and become a very long post, I'll be selective.
So ... that being said ... here are the comments from the last month which I've deemed "Comments of Note". I hope you enjoy them!
Thank you to all of these commentators, as well as to everyone who left comments this month. So ... what do you think? Do you like the new format? Let me know by registering your vote on the poll which can be found in the side bar.
As always ... I would love to hear from you!!
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
According to the The Auto Channel, 147 million gallons of gas, each year, vaporize into the air due to loose, damaged or missing gas caps. Keep your fuel in the tank by making sure you screw the cap on tight.
It's time to get out those cosmetics and personal care products such as deodorants, shampoos, toothpastes and mouthwashes and check the labels. 1,4-Dioxane is a known eye and respiratory tract irritant. It is suspected of causing damage to the central nervous system, liver and kidneys. The State of California, under proposition 65, listed 1,4-Dioxane as a chemical known to cause cancer on January 1, 1988. Like many solvents, it forms contamination plumes in groundwater when released to the environment. Groundwater supplies have been adversely impacted in several areas. But you won't find 1,4-Dioxane on the label ... instead look for names that include: myreth, oleth, laureth, ceteareth (and any other "eth"), PEG, polyethylene, polyoxyethylene or oxynol.
Here's another good reason to look for products made out of recycled materials. According to the executive director of the Zero Waste Alliance, recycling aluminum uses 95% less energy than producing it from scratch. Recycling glass uses 31% less; newsprint, 45%; steel, 61%; and plastics, 57-71%.
Thinking of a new TV? Those with the Energy Star label are up to 30% more energy efficient than others.
Do you use flea collars on your pets? According to Pets for the Environment, they are a "source of constant toxic exposure for your pet and family. Instead, vacuum often and thoroughly, bathe your pet regularly, and ask your vet or local pet store about safer flea treatments and repellents." For more great Eco-friendly pet care tips, click HERE.
Pat yourselves on the back. Accordingly to a 16-month survey conducted in 2007 by the research firm Mintel, 36% of adults regularly buy green products. That's an improvement of 12% over previous studies.
Want to persuade your boss and co-workers to green up the office? Check out Ideal Bite's Top 10 Easiest Ways to Green your Office. They have a great list which can be printed out (on recycled paper, of course) and posted for all to see ... and hopefully act on.
Here's a great idea ... help our bird friends stay warm all winter. Instead of tossing out dryer lint, put it in your yard. Birds will collect it and use it to cozy up their nests.
Want to have a little fun? Host a green-cleaning party. Women's Voices for the Earth conceived the idea ... basically, people get together with glass jars and Eco-friendly ingredients and then ... they mix up everything from laundry detergent to furniture polish ... all environmentally safe. Check out their site womenandenvironment.org for information and party kits (which are for sale) ... or ... click HERE for their favorite recipes and design your own party.
Got the sniffles? Instead of using disposable tissues ... use a handkerchief.
According to the EPA, Americans toss out 2 million tons of "e-waste" each year. That includes approximately 130,000 computers. Instead of sending them to a landfill, consider these ideas:
- Donate computers and any peripherals to a nonprofit organization. Many will refurbish them for disadvantaged or disabled people.
- Check with stores like Staples for recycling programs ... some offer credit towards another purchase.
- Check with manufacturers ... some, like Dell and Apple, recycle their own brands for free. Others will take any brand when one of their own is purchased.
- Another idea ... turn them in to a local Computer Recycling shop where usable components will be turned into new products.
Each year, the average American throws away 68 pounds of clothing (from Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association). Think reduce, reuse and recycle instead.
Replace one outside incandescent light ... yearly CO2 savings: 210 pounds. Lower your water heater temperature to 120 degrees Fahrenheit ... yearly CO2 savings: 214 pounds. Wash clothes in cold water ... yearly CO2 savings: 327 pounds. Source: Rocky Mountain Institute.
Interested in watching a short "green film"? Click HERE to watch dozens of them ... for free.
Here's a unique recycling idea ... put your used green tea bags in a glass jar in the refrigerator. Use them as cleansing pads in the morning. The bag helps exfoliate skin gently and tea has anti-inflammatory properties which will help to reduce puffy skin on the face.
Monday, January 26, 2009
As I promised you on Friday, today we have a guest author who shares her thoughts with us and offers hope for the health of our planet. Mary from Something About MaryC, has a wonderful blog. On Fridays she shares frugal tips ... they are always easy to do, creative and almost always green. If you've never been to her site, I suggest you stop over ... I'm sure you'll enjoy it! A big THANK YOU to Mary for this post. OK ... here we go:
One Small Step for Man, One Giant Leap for Mankind…
It was considered unlikely that a man could walk on the moon in 1959, the year I was born. By the summer of 1969, the USA had three men on the moon. What does this have to do with a Small Footprints Blog? In 1959, walking on the moon couldn't be done. Ten years later, it happened. I’m thinkin’ that cleaning up our planet could work the same way.
Today, in good old 2009, it seems a daunting task to reverse all the damage done over decades of disregard for the impact on our planet. It might even seem so large an endeavor that you say, ‘Why bother?’ Why should we work so hard to recycle when our neighbors aren’t recycling? Why should we drive less when there are thousands of other people still driving everywhere? Why bother composting when you can buy perfectly good compost at Home Depot? Why bother, I am just one person and one person isn’t going to change the world.
If you don’t believe me, just look back in time. One person can make a great deal of difference. Christopher Columbus, Abe Lincoln, Susan B. Anthony, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Neil Armstrong, Lance Armstrong, and now, President Barack Obama, just to name a few. (Don’t hate me because I can’t get past American History.)
What would happen if one person recycled ONE water bottle every day? The obvious result is 365 water bottles per year that wouldn’t make it to a landfill. In ten years, that would be 3650 water bottles that didn’t make it to a landfill. That’s pretty good.
But MaryC, you ask, what’s in this for Me? Some of you must have seen the “It’s all about ME” bumper sticker on my car, huh? Well, let’s examine the ME Factor to this equation.
What if you purchased a $20 stainless steel water bottle? You fill it with fresh water from the tap (filtered if you must) and didn’t recycle a single water bottle? Watch what happens:
You save $345 the first year if your paid $20 for the stainless bottle and you average $1 per bottle of water. In ten years you saved $3630. Could you use $3630? Hmmm, I ‘m thinkin’ yes.
If you are a family of four, and you recycle a water bottle each day for each family member, that’s 1460 bottles in one year and 14,600 in ten years that didn’t make it to a landfill.
If you purchase a $20 stainless steel water bottle for each family member, it gets better. You save $14,520 in ten years. You aren’t sending water bottles to the landfill which reduces the space needed for waste. There is no energy or resources used to make the plastic for the water bottle. The demand for plastic bottled water is reduced. The energy to recycle the water bottle is not used. And the energy used by you to save the earth is ZERO. You did nothing beyond getting a reusable water bottle and yet, look at how much it mattered to the earth AND your bottom line. Are you feelin’ me here?
I think we all sometimes get overwhelmed by the all or nothing mantra of some environmentalists. There are so many things and so much information that it gets confusing. Some changes are hard or inconvenient. Sometimes the world at large makes us feel guilty because we aren’t ‘green’ enough.
I am going to go out on a limb here and tell you this:
“Don’t should on yourself.”
Instead, do one thing. I know one thing seems like nothing but re-read the beginning of this post. See? One thing IS something. After you get comfy with one thing, give another thing a try. Keep picking one thing at a time until you are greener than Ed Begley, Jr.
Saving the planet doesn’t mean cleaning the whole thing in one day. It didn’t take one day to get here and it won’t take one day to go back. But one day is a beginning, a very fine place to start.
Here are a few ideas with the ME Factor included to help you get motivated:
Plant a square foot or container garden (save on your grocery bill)
Use cloth napkins instead of paper ones (buy fewer paper products)
Buy or make your own environmentally friendly cleaners (makes breathing easier and cleaner water)
Walk places when you can (save on gas and car maintenance – added bonus of fat burning)
Use reusable containers for lunches (no more plastic bags to buy)
Try eating Vegan once or twice a week (veggies are cheaper than meat – bonus of fewer calories)
Dry a load of laundry on a clothesline each week (save on gas or electricity)
Cook in a crock pot or microwave. (use less power so save on utilities)
Turn down the thermostat and wear a sweater (save on gas for money to buy cozy sweaters)
Fix broken items instead of replacing them (save money by not replacing things unless necessary)
Borrow instead of buy tools (save money and storage space)
Use the Library instead of purchasing books (if you love reading, this savings alone could pay for college)
Bike to work when weather permits (save gas and wear & tear on your auto – bonus fat burner)
Shower with a friend (I had to see if you were paying attention)
Another big THANK YOU to Mary for this wonderful article. And as always ... I'd love to hear from you!
Friday, January 23, 2009
In the fall I made a trip to Chicago ... it's a really nice city and has a lot going for it. Chicago has a wonderful mass transit system ... it's user friendly and convenient. Since parking is expensive and limited in the downtown area, walking is encouraged ... the sidewalks are wide and clean. Many establishments make use of revolving doors which have been proven to be energy efficient. On the other hand, the high rise buildings, across the street from where I stayed, left their lights and computers on all night. The Chicago River and Lake Michigan show signs of pollution ... as does the city in general. This isn't unique to Chicago but is a condition of most large cities.
In truth, the biggest threats to our environment are large companies and governments who won't make "green" changes.
But still ... there must be evidence that we're on the right path! So I went in search of it. Sadly, there isn't much. That may be because we are at the forefront of this effort and it simply takes time for things to change.
According to an article dated April 28, 2006 by the Environmental News Network, a report by the American Lung Association showed that there has been significant air quality improvement in the last decade. The report "found real improvement in air quality over much of the United States, due in part to reduced emissions from power plants." Researchers looked at the number of days deemed to have unhealthy air from 2002 to 2004, and compared it with the numbers from 1996 to 1998.
In an article dated January 23, 2008, a study was released that "indicated that water quality in the Egyptian segment of the River Nile improved considerably in the months of October and November 2007, giving rise to hopes that drinking water quality for many of Egypt’s 80 million people may improve. " This improvement came about by preventing industrial establishments from discharging their waste into the Nile.
So, there is hope. But what about our individual efforts ... do they matter? When we use environmentally friendly cleaning products in our homes and can breathe easier ... it matters. When we recognize a savings in the cost of water and energy or re-purpose an item instead of buying new ... it matters. And it matters, not only because of the immediate benefits we realize ... but because of the message we send. When we refuse to buy a product packaged in plastic we tell the manufacturers that it matters. When we vote for the candidate who seems to want cleaner fuel and sustainability, we tell the world that it matters. We have a voice and it can be heard through our actions. And let's face it ... as consumers, that voice is powerful.
My answer to the question is ... yes, I am optimistic about the future of the planet. I'm also confident about our individual efforts and their contribution to a better world. It may take awhile to see big results ... but they'll come. We just have to continue on the path!
On Monday, a guest author is going to share her thoughts on the subject ... I hope you'll stop by.
As always ... I would love to hear from you!
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
The first thing to do, of course, is remove the source ... which works relatively well with garbage. Odors from diaper pails, clothes hampers and foods are not so easily removed. Parents using Eco-friendly diapers (disposables are not Eco-friendly) need to wash them. And washing one diaper at a time doesn't support our "only full loads", environmentally friendly washing practices ... not that new parents have time for washing one diaper at a time anyway. The same holds true for clothes ... gym outfits or dirty work clothes may smell but ... if there aren't enough clothes for a full load ... what do we do? Food odors are also hard to remove ... they seem to linger in the walls.
Perhaps air fresheners would work. You've seen the commercials ... a lovely woman sprays a fine mist into the air ... or plugs some little gadget into the wall ... and voila ... clean air, reminiscent of mountain breezes and spring. But wait ... are these products safe and good for the environment? According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, 12 out of 14 common air fresheners, of various forms (solids, sprays, etc.), including some marked "natural" or "unscented", contained hormone-disrupting chemicals known as phthalates (you can read their article HERE). Phthalates were not listed on the label. Additionally, many of these products are housed in earth unfriendly materials such as plastic.
Do we just have to live with the odors ... walk around with our noses covered or pinched shut with clothes pins? Nope ... here are some ideas:
Make your own essential-oil-based spray. Combine 30-40 drops, total, of up to three of your favorite oils with 1 cup of water in a spray bottle (an earth-friendly one, of course). Shake well and spritz in clothes hampers, kitchen compost bins, etc.
Use diluted vinegar to wipe down the inside of garbage cans and diaper pails. If you soak diapers, pour a cup of vinegar into the soaking water.
Sprinkle baking soda into diaper pails and clothes hampers.
Sprinkle aromatic spices in hampers ... or to enhance a room, place spices in a bowl (just place them out of your child's reach) ... try cinnamon, ginger or cloves.
Put a few drops of essential oil or extracts (vanilla, almond, etc.) on a light bulb. When you turn on the light ... the room will become infused with fragrance.
Burn a fragrant soy candle. Soy candles don't pollute and they are environmentally friendly.
Put a cotton ball, soaked in your favorite essential oil into the vacuum bag ... it'll freshen the air as you clean.
Freshen your air with these environmentally safe ideas and you'll breathe easy for sure!
As always ... I'd love to hear from you!
Monday, January 19, 2009
Depending on the room and how it's used, most standard exhaust fans recirculate the air between 6 and 15 times an hour. That means that the air in the room is totally replaced once every ten minutes or less. What happens to the air? Most exhaust fans work by sucking air out of the house while pulling fresh air in from another vent.
These miracles of modern life ... these unsung heroes ... these little machines that we barely notice ... can be big energy wasters. Consider this ... the air that is being sucked up and returned to the great outdoors is usually, at this time of year, heated. And the air being drawn in ... isn't. In the summer, it's the opposite ... cooled air is sucked out while hot air is drawn in. Either way, it's inefficient and a waste of heating/cooling energy (not to mention money). And what about the energy used to run the fans? Sure, it may not be a great deal, but ... how often do we run it for ten minutes or less? Typically, especially in bathrooms, it is turned on and then forgotten until the next time "nature calls".
So here is today's easy tip ... turn off the exhaust fan. If your fan is controlled by a timer ... great ... set it for 10 minutes at the most (one complete recirculation should do the trick). If you don't have a timer, install one or ... set a kitchen timer or alarm to remind yourself to turn it off.
Rather than "exhausting" your energy consumption ... use an exhaust fan efficiently.
As always ... I would love to hear from you!
Friday, January 16, 2009
I'm always on the lookout for unique, green ideas. Our bloggy friend Kelli, from Thoughts of a Sober White Woman, has a regular feature called Eco-Friendly Friday. At the beginning of the year she talked about her rather unusual plans for 2009 ... her own special twist on Living Walls. I was fascinated! Her idea is brilliant ... creative, lovely and ... green. She has very kindly agreed to share her plans with us. A big THANK YOU to Kelli for this article. OK ... here we go:
Before I start this entry I would like to say thanks to a reduce footprints for asking me to write an article for her blog.
Again, I'd like to say a big THANK YOU to Kelli for sharing her creative ideas with us. As always ... I'd love to hear from you!
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
This is Reduce Footprint's 100th post. :)
It has been so much fun ... and I thank you all for participating in this wonderful green journey we're on. I can't wait to see what happens next! Until then ... here's a gift for you ... and some of the reasons why we walk gently ...
Monday, January 12, 2009
Technological Innovations That Will Help Us Change The World
It's 2009 and the world is starting to step up to the plate in an effort to go Green before it's too late. As we look to make a difference, technology will be a critical factor. Clean technology or "cleantech" is a new model for technology and businesses that offer both returns for investors and customers, while providing solutions to our global challenges.Cleantech uses new science to address the roots of ecological problems, while placing an emphasis on natural approaches such as in the use of biology.
Cleantech has several innovative start-ups that will look to make quite an impact on our futures. As we make changes in our daily lives, it's important for us to understand some of the options that will soon be available to us. Let's take a look into some of the best start-ups that may make an instant impact.
Sungevity provides faster, easier and more affordable Solar solutions for our homes. They educate us about solar energy, offer instant quotes & simplify purchasing by offering complete solar solutions online. The technology they use enables them to conduct a remote roof analysis without even visiting our home. This analysis determines the solar potential of our homes. Each solar system is personally designed using satellite and aerial images. Click here for the demo.
Bloo Solar develops and manufactures nano-structured ultra-thin film solar photovoltaic (PV) products, which will provide affordable and clean renewable energy. Their technology absorbs sunlight and converts it throughout the day, resulting in a dramatic increase in the total power output. Their products significantly reduce our dependence on coal, oil, gas, and nuclear power.
OptiSolar is developing one of the largest PV solar projects in the world. OptiSolar produces power directly from their large-scale solar farms. They'll use their manufacturing & innovative design to significantly reduce the cost of clean solar power. Their vision is "clean, low-cost energy from the sun - now, and for our children's future."
Eden Park Illumination is a lighting technology company that researches, develops and commercializes Micro plasma lamps, which are mercury-free flat panel devices. These light-emitting sheets are thin and inexpensive. The Micro Plasma display is below.
Oree develops next generation planar LED illumination, which is the first flat, thin and highly efficient light source in the world. This enables lighting companies and black light manufacturers to useOree's light engine to increase efficiency and significantly decrease the cost of LED systems.
The companies mentioned are just a few of many innovative companies that are up and coming in cleantech. It's important to note that growth in cleantech is not limited to energy. As technological advancements are made, look for focused cleantech approaches in 2009 and beyond. Recent advancements extend to recycling, water, biomass, architecture and energy efficiency. For a glimpse into the future of cleantech, I recommend taking a look at the Web Urbanist's amazing 7 Modern Wonders of Green Technology and 15 More Future Wonders of Green Tech.
Again ... a big THANK YOU to Brian for that wonderful piece. And as always ... I'd love to hear from you.
Friday, January 9, 2009
When they finally showed the entire piece (of course ... at the end of the program), it was a little different from their opening, "catch your attention" line. It turns out that the global economic crises is trickling down to all areas of our lives, including recycling. Evidently, there isn't much of a market for recycled materials right now. A recycling company in Oregon was featured ... the camera showed their warehouse with neatly stacked blocks of recycled aluminum and mountains of plastic. The owner said that they are having a hard time finding anyone to buy their product and if they run out of room, they'll have to send stuff to the landfill.
Here's the thing ... the economic downturn affects everything. It's not just recycling companies that are having a hard time finding a market for their products ... it's all companies. The smart recyclers will store as much as they can so that when things turn around (and they will), they'll be in the money.
So does this all mean that we give up our recycling efforts? NO WAY! We continue to recycle ... because it's the right thing to do. Perhaps that one company in Oregon won't have room for stuff ... but we have a lot of very creative people in this world ... people who wait for these kinds of opportunities. Yes ... this is an opportunity. It's an opportunity to collect recyclable materials and when the economy gets better, to sell those materials and cash in.
Here's something else we can do ... buy products which use recycled materials. In a previous post we talked about the power of purchases. In that article (which you can read HERE) the emphasis was on how we can influence the market by what we don't buy. In this case, we can influence the market by what we DO buy. Read the label and look for products and packaging with the greatest percentage of post-consumer recycled content. This ensures that the materials have been used before. Here are some examples; toilet paper, typing paper ... packaging such as aluminum and cardboard. Buy recycled items and the demand for recyclable materials will go up.
The "nightly news" may give us the events of the day ... but they do so in a manner which shocks us ... scares us ... and catches our attention. To me, telling us that our recycling efforts may be for naught is irresponsible. But we're smarter than that ... we know what's right! So keep recycling ... it's simply the right thing to do!
As always ... I would love to hear from you!
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Today we have a real treat … a guest author. When I read that our bloggy friend, IB from Idiot’s Stew, is a certified Master Recycler-Composter … well, I just knew that we could all benefit from him. This article lives up to everything I hoped it would be. Using his own experiences, he teaches how it's never too late to start living a green life ... and how easy it is to get started (or in this case, restarted). If you’ve never been over to Idiot’s Stew … you’re missing out. IB is a talented writer who talks about everything. His posts are full of honesty and humor … they make me think, laugh and sometimes bring a tear to my eye. I hope you’ll drop by his site and look around … and while you’re there, drop him a comment. OK … sit back … relax … and enjoy:
What Was I Thinking?
Man, I am really feeling the pressure now. I have committed myself to “guest- authoring” at Reduce Footprints and I realize, 4 days into the process, I have…nothing.
What was I thinking?
I have no right to write a post about “green” living. Oh sure, I am a certified Master Recycler-Composter. I KNOW about composting. I can make a worm bin out of a 20- gallon Rubbermaid tote in 5 minutes. I can separate recyclables quicker than the curb-side collection guy can even get out of his truck yet, sadly, have turned my back on my training and my commitment to living in harmony with nature, for the last 10 years.
It is true. I am not proud.
So here I am, sitting at this keyboard, with a dead-line fast approaching, and I am struggling with my guilt. For a decade, I have possessed the power to affect change for the better, and I have chosen to not. What is worse, I have contributed to the current situation with apathy so great it borders on malicious. I have shunned the environment because I couldn’t be bothered, because I was too busy, because I didn’t want to believe in global-warming, because it wasn’t trendy or cool, and for it, I am a tortured man. It serves me right. Today, I look at the world around me and I see the effects of global- warming on the weather, on food supplies, on people, and I know I can claim at least a part of the responsibility because I have been, “…part of the problem”. My behavior has been deplorable, despicable and unforgivable.
But mother-earth IS forgiving. I believe she loves me and only wants me to live in that state of harmony with her; align myself with her energies and do that which is needed to give back to her rather than live the recent parasitic life I have. And so, I am returning to organic gardening.
It is still cold and wet outside, but I’ll be headed down to the hardware store today to get some supplies. The first thing to do will be to build a 3-compartment compost bin (see plans here). There are plenty of semi-decomposed leaves and other yard debris left over from last fall and my neighbor has a horse, so I can start a compost pile immediately.
After the bin is up and the compost is cooking (see a recipe for compost here) my son and I will build a couple of raised garden beds. By this spring we will have our organic vegetable starts in the ground. We will mulch around them with our compost and fertilize with our worm-castings (how to build your own worm-bin here) and I will finally feel right. I will rest comfortably knowing that I have found my way back home to a balanced relationship with our planet: one that I will never abandon again. Maybe one man’s vegetable garden won’t be enough to reverse the ill-affects of millions living and treating our earth like we are rude house-guests, but it’s a start.
That’s what I’m thinking, anyway.
A big THANK YOU to IB for this post. As always ... I'd love to hear from you!
Monday, January 5, 2009
Before we get started on today's post, I have exciting news ... recently I was invited to write an article for Eazy Cheezy ... and it's being published today. It is a real honor to be asked to write for such a first class site. So if you have a few extra minutes, head over there and check it out. And a huge thank you to Eazy Cheezy for helping me spread the "green" word. OK ... on to today's subject:
Precisely at midnight on December 25th, advertisers stopped tempting us with tantalizing treats and set about convincing us that it is time to shape up. Turn on TV and you're sure to see a commercial for the latest exercise equipment ... home gyms, rubber bands and tubes designed to shape up our thighs, even bender balls which promise to give us firm abs. Enter a bookstore and you'll come face to face with the latest diet fad. There are powders and pills ... gym memberships ... exercise tights and shoes and leotards ... the list goes on and on. Those "before and after" commercials try to convince us that their system is the only system that will work ... and we must have it.
Unfortunately, it's a lot of stuff that costs a lot of money. And for most of us, it'll get shoved to the side or tossed out after the enthusiasm has worn off. Even if one is dedicated for longer than a month, the fact is that it's a lot of stuff ... stuff made out of less than eco-friendly materials ... stuff that may require the use of batteries or electricity ... stuff that ends up in our closets or worse ... a landfill. And that is especially sad when we have everything we need to get in shape ... without buying a thing. Here are a few ideas:
Walk! One of the easiest ways to improve one's health is to get out and walk. It's free ... no unusual equipment needs to be purchased ... no training required ... and it's totally earth friendly. Look for opportunities to walk instead of driving ... you'll prevent pollution, reduce gas consumption and get healthy. What a deal!
Take the stairs. I once lived in Phoenix, Arizona, for the summer (I know ... hottest part of the year ... call me crazy). There was a seven story parking garage near our apartment (we affectionately called it the "Purple Monster") and since doing much of anything during the day was just too stifling, we set our alarm for 3:00 am and hit the stairwell. We charged up seven flights of stairs to the open parking on the roof and then glided down the opposite set of stairs. As we got into better shape, we did more "reps" and even started jogging around the empty roof before walking home. So look around for opportunities to take the stairs ... guaranteed to set you on a road to fitness. And ... forgoing the elevator saves energy (while increasing yours).
Do chores. Have you ever noticed how physical it is to clean up a house or yard? Make your workout count double by cleaning up. Grab a rake and hit that yard full of leaves ... wash windows ... organize a garage ... sweep the deck ... change sheets on the bed. Reach, stretch and move ... you'll get a great workout ... and a clean space. And best of all ... using our own energy means we tread lightly on the earth.
Eat organic. Foods which have been grown using pesticides are simply not the healthiest option ... not for us ... not for the earth. The effects of pesticides are not well understood and in some cases completely unstudied. So, minimizing our exposure to them is important. If going totally organic is not possible, try going organic with the following fruits and vegetables which are considered the 10 worst for pesticide load by the Environmental Working Group (EWG). EWG is a not-for-profit environmental research organization dedicated to improving public health and protecting the environment by reducing pollution in air, water and food. For more information visit them at www.ewg.org.
- Sweet Bell Peppers
- Imported Grapes
Eat local and in season. Food that has to travel across the country or across the world loses much of it's nutritional value in the process. And while I haven't exactly studied the nutritional value of foods grown in a greenhouse ... I do know that they taste nothing like the vegetables grown on my patio in the summer. So I'm guessing that those tasteless tomatoes that one can find in the grocery stores in December ... aren't as nutritionally viable as we'd like. And all that travel in refrigerated trucks causes pollution and uses valuable resources. So eat local and in season.
Go meatless. Eating vegetables and a plant-based diet is healthy. Even if going totally "veg" is undesirable, try including a few meatless meals in your weekly menu. Your body will thank you ... the earth will thank you.
East less processed food. The more natural the food ... the better for you. Processed food is full of sodium, fat and sugar ... and a few other things that I don't recognize and can't pronounce. Let's face it ... if we need a degree if organic chemistry to understand the label .. we don't need it. The next time you're tempted to pick up a can of soup or a box of "helper", check the label ... I'll bet you find high sodium levels and fat. Think that "fat free" cake is any better? Think again ... most "fat free" products make up for the loss of flavor by kicking up the sugar. And anything that includes partially hydrogenated oil (which shows up in a lot of processed food) is really harmful. Here's a tip ... shop the perimeters of the grocery store and you'll eat healthier.
As always ... I'd love to hear from you!
Friday, January 2, 2009
Tofu, Rice and Vegetable Casserole Recipe
1 hour 20 min prep
1 cup long-grain rice, uncooked
2 tablespoons vegan margarine
1 medium onion, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder (to taste)
10 ounces frozen chopped spinach
1 lb frozen tofu
1 cup frozen corn
Braggs liquid aminos (optional)
- In a large saucepan over medium heat, brown the rice, stirring constantly; pour it into a greased or pan-sprayed 1-1/2-quart or larger oven-safe casserole.
- In the same saucepan, melt the margarine and add the onion and curry powder. Note that you might want to add a bit of tamari, Bragg's Liquid Aminos, or salt if you're using curry powder that does not contain salt.
- Cook until the onion's almost transparent, about 5 minutes, and then add the spinach, tofu, and corn; cook until all are thawed, breaking up the tofu with a spoon.
- When through, drain, pressing the liquid out of the vegetable/tofu mixture (or you can just squish it through your fingers, in which case, of course, cool it slightly beforehand).
- Reserve this liquid and add enough hot water to it to make 2 cups. In a separate container, heat this liquid to boiling.
- Stir the boiling liquid back into the vegetable/tofu mixture and bring it all to a boil.
- Remove it from the heat and stir it into the rice that's in the casserole dish.
- Cover and bake it at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until the rice is tender and all the liquid has been absorbed.
- Any kind of rice will work in this recipe ... I personally use brown rice. Just be sure to adjust the cooking times according to the directions for the type of rice you use.
- Instead of vegan margarine, one may use oil (olive or canola).
- If spinach is not available, try mong toi (malabar spinach) or any mild tasting green.
- If frozen corn is not available, try frozen peas or any other slightly sweet vegetable.
- I have tried this recipe both as written and using fresh, instead of frozen, ingredients. The texture is slightly different but the flavors are just as wonderful.