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Wednesday
Jan282009

High Fructose Corn Syrup - It's worse than you thought.

From a post by Janet on The Ethicurean:  www.ethicurean.com

That much-debated sweetener, high-fructose corn syrup, is going to need more than a pricey PR campaign to fix this one.

After one set of scientists found mercury — yes, everyone’s favorite brain-impairing element — in almost half of commercial HFCS, another bunch of scientists decided to get specific and tested 55 common consumer products that use HFCS. And guess what? Almost a third of them contain mercury.

How did the heavy metal get in there? In making HFCS — that “natural” sweetener, as the Corn Refiners Associaton likes to call it — caustic soda is one ingredient used to separate corn starch from the corn kernel. Apparently most caustic soda for years has been produced in industrial chlorine (chlor-alkali) plants, where it can be contaminated with mercury that it passes on to the HFCS, and then to consumers.

David Wallinga, M.D., and his co-authors of “Not So Sweet: Missing Mercury and High Fructose Corn Syrup,” are naming brand names in their report from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. At the top of the list: Quaker Oatmeal to Go, Jack Daniel’s Barbecue Sauce from Heinz, Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup, Kraft Original Barbecue Sauce, and Nutri-Grain Strawberry Cereal Bars. Oy!

And, although soft drinks, the über-users of HFCS, surprisingly weren’t the worst offenders, I’m betting Coca-Cola Classic (coming in at 12th) gets consumed in far higher dietary quantities than Oatmeal to Go.

That’s all bad enough, especially considering no level of mercury is considered safe and that it’s especially toxic to growing brains — that is, the brains of the people consuming the highest levels of HFCS (children) and the brains of babies in utero. (See the figures in the report.) Worse: People at the FDA and USDA knew about the presence of mercury in HFCS and did nothing about it.

According to a press release from the IATP, Renee Dufault, the lead author in the first study (”Mercury from chlor-alkali plants: measured concentrations in food product sugar,” published today in Environmental Health [PDF; abstract here]), was working at the FDA when the commercial HFCS was tested. The IATF release reports, “While the FDA had evidence that commercial HFCS was contaminated with mercury four years ago, the agency did not inform consumers, help change industry practice or conduct additional testing.”

I suppose we’ve already known the FDA is sweet on HFCS (and food from cloned cattle) and can’t find a pathogen when it’s actually looking for it. But if you can’t trust Mr. Quaker, whom can you trust?
Tuesday
Nov252008

$19,000 Electric Car Coming to US in May 2009: Introducing the Wheego Whip

Big Brother has called... If you would like to read this fancy article, you can by visiting here: http://www.treehugger.com/files/2008/11/19000-dollar-electric-car-on-sale-in-united-states-may-2009.php
Friday
Nov212008

GenGreen includes Pizza Fusion in its State of the Green Union report for Autumn 2008.

GenGreen is pleased to announce its State of the Green Union report for Autumn 2008. This special feature will be released seasonally and will not only highlight developing trends in the eco-sphere but will also provide information about local independent businesses and service providers demonstrating these trends across the country.

With economic issues affecting the prices and availability of food all across the country, more people are concerning themselves with how their food is grown, where it is produced and how it makes its way onto their tables. More than ever before, people are opting for locally sourced organic foods and seeking out restaurants and other food service providers that do the same. CSA’s and community gardens are popping up in cities and towns everywhere and people are getting their hands dirty for the good of the planet and each other. This is why we have chosen Organic Everything, Eat Local and Agritourism as the three greenest trends of Autumn 2008.

Organic Everything

Despite studies that allege organic food has no health benefits over conventionally grown food and steep prices increases over the last year, organically grown foods have continued to increase in popularity. A report released in 2006 titled, Organic on the Menu: Healthy Eating Trends in Foodservice, stated that “In the last ten years, demand for organic foods has doubled and is expected to more than double again in the next few years.”

While some people may claim that “you can’t taste the difference,” organic foods are grown within strict guidelines that make sure you and the environment are protected from potentially harmful agricultural methods like spraying chemical pesticides. An article that appeared in the Boston Globe earlier this year noted that “the organic market makes up nearly 3 percent of the overall food market, a share that has increased every year for the past decade” making organically produced foods a small but fast-growing segment of an otherwise sluggish food industry. Statistics like these just verify what you already know if you visit your local grocery on at least a semi-frequent basis: it’s getting easier to find an organic version of just about everything. Even beer.

New Belgium Brewing Company

That’s right; micro-brewers dedicated to sustainable production practices are springing up all over the country. Take for instance, New Belgium Brewing in Fort Collins, Colorado. Colorado is overflowing with great brewing companies, but one would be remiss to ignore the incredible story of sustainability and philanthropy told by Fort Collins’ New Belgium Brewing Company. Armed with an amazing recipe of environmental and social responsibility mixed with employee-owned enthusiasm and selfless community involvement, its no wonder New Belgium produces some of the most delicious beers in the world. New Belgium’s beers range in flavor and style from the toasty Fat Tire Amber Ale to the zesty Mothership Wit Organic Wheat, and many intriguing small batches in between.  The New Belgium facility boasts progressive green design, with its own wastewater treatment process, on-site energy production using methane, and solar lighting. Lastly, but not least, Team Wonderbike, the brewery’s bicycling advocacy program has more than 10,000 members who have pledged to offset more than eight million car miles by riding their bikes. New Belgium beers have been spotted in fine restaurants and questionable taverns nationwide, and are available at most liquor stores. www.newbelgium.com

Eel River Breweing

Farther West in Humboldt County, California, Eel River Brewing is one of many small craft breweries that are proud to produce only 15 thousand barrels of beer annually. Eel River shuns the ideologies of mega-corporation breweries that only care about churning out millions of barrels of low-quality beer and instead focuses on living their motto; “Be natural. Drink naked.” Eel River was the first Humboldt County brewery to be certified organic and has won multiple awards at such prestigious events as the Great American Beer Festival and World Beer Championships. Eel River produces seven varieties of organic beer, including a Blonde Ale and Porter. www.eelriverbrewing.com

Otter Creek Brewing and Peak Organic Brewing Company

And lest we forget the Northern climates, Otter Creek Brewing in Middlebury, Vermont, and Peak Organic Brewing Company in Portland, Maine, have been producing certified organic brews since 1998- long before it was trendy in any way. The vision of both these breweries is simple: local, organic, collective, sustainable, and handcrafted, and they have been pioneers in realizing this vision since they opened. Several years ago, Otter Creek, which produces Wolaver’s Organic Ales, became the nation’s first brewery to switch their boiler fuel source from diesel to B20, effectively reducing CO2 emissions by 120,000 pounds per year. The Peak Organic Web site includes a neat feature where visitors can post images of their favorite “peak” experiences in the great outdoors. www.ottercreekbrewing.com and www.peakbrewing.com

Stone Mill Pale Ale from Anheuser-BuschAnd if you’re not in the mood to search out microbreweries, you’ll be pleased (or surprised) to learn that even beer giant Anheuser-Busch has been dabbling in the organic beer market producing Stone Mill Pale Ale, brewed with a combination of 100 percent organic Palisade, Tradition and Hallertau hops, and 100 percent organic Metcalf and Harrington barley malts harvested from small, family-owned organic farms. Stone Mill Pale Ale is brewed by Michelob Brewing Company at an organically certified brewery of Anheuser-Busch, Inc., located in Merrimack, N.H.   www.stonemillpaleale.com

Eat Local

Freshness and quality have always been invaluable elements for any chef or restaurateur. And for more and more chefs across the nation, finding the best ingredients also means reconnecting with local growers. Buying locally produced foods allows you to experience the seasonal diversity of your region, helps to maintain the local economy, and means that food spends less time in transport, allowing it to retain more of its nutritional value. Since the locavore lifestyle first started gaining attention in 2005, people have been taking a look at where their food comes from and questioning why food is being shipped in from distant (or even international) growers when there are small family farms in the next valley producing marvelous produce or meats. Restaurant chefs are no exception, and as a result, restaurants across the country have begun offering menus that are chock-full of locally and sustainably sourced goodies.

Pizza Fusion in Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Pizza Fusion proves that the words “chain restaurant,” so often uttered in disappointment, don’t have to mean low quality food. Based out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Pizza Fusion proudly serves up delicious, gourmet pizza in its purest form - untainted by artificial additives, like preservatives, growth hormones, pesticides, nitrates and trans fats (just to name a few). While they’re famous for pizza, their 75% organic menu features an eclectic variety of gourmet sandwiches, salads, desserts, beer and wine. But the goodness doesn’t stop there. In the interests of holding up their strong environmental mission, Pizza Fusion seeks out local and environmentally conscious vendors and suppliers and educates the general public on the importance of sustainable living through ecological community service, consumer education and environmental mentoring, like their Organics 101 course for kids. Visit their website for locations nationwide www.pizzafusion.com.
Tuesday
Jul012008

How to throw a green party

Straight to the source

According to the Clean Air Council, every day 43,000 tons of food are thrown out in the United States, and each year Americans toss out enough paper and plastic cups, forks, and spoons to circle the equator 300 times. That's the bad news. The good news is that with a bit of creativity and a little know-how, you can throw a fun, festive affair without it taking a major toll on the environment.

FOOD

 

When planning an environmentally friendly party menu, leave your global appetite behind and think local. Shipping ingredients from another part of the world requires a tremendous amount of fuel. Look to your nearest farmers' market or CSA (community-supported agriculture) for in-season fruits and vegetables, as well as meat, eggs, and dairy products. They're fresher, taste better, and are oftentimes priced the lowest.

Sustainable eating
Beyond "local," there are a number of other labels and designations to keep in mind, including organic, biodynamic and sustainable. Organic food is regulated by the U.S.D.A. and must meet certain standards to be certified as such. While there is debate over the value of the U.S.D.A. organic label and how much it corresponds to the original goals of organic farming (which prioritize local and sustainable agriculture), you can assume that any food bearing the U.S.D.A. organic label is free from artificial pesticides and fertilizers.

Like organic, biodynamic farming eschews pesticides and fertilizers. It's also a sustainable, self-contained system in which everything on the farm is reused or recycled, with the goal of enriching the biodiversity of the land. There are a variety of ways to define sustainable agriculture, but in simplest terms, it aims to sustain rather than degrade the environment while also being economically viable. For more information on these labels, consult greenerchoices.org, a Web-based resource run by the Consumers Union.

Menu options
It can be a little overwhelming at first, but with a little thought and a bit of planning, creating a delicious, environmentally friendly menu is easy: With the right ingredients, you can turn almost any recipe into a green one.

If you're having a backyard barbecue, opt for grass-fed burgers and steaks, which typically require fewer pesticides, fossil fuels, and antibiotics than the corn-fed alternative. Hosting a wine and cheese party? Swap imported Brie for artisan cheese from a nearby farm, and pair it with wine from the same region.

For a Sunday brunch, think frittatas made with organic eggs, whatever veggies are in season, and cheeses, all sourced from your area. Alongside, serve locally baked pastries, rolls, and muffins, or make your own sweets with fresh fruit from the farmers' market. 

Tips and tricks
Use aluminum foil
Clean foil can be crumpled up and tossed into the recycling bin, making it a better option than plastic cling wrap. But, don't risk contaminating a load of recyclables: If your foil is covered in baked cheese and sauce, toss it in the trash.

Carry a tote
When you stock up on supplies, carry a reusable tote bag. Not only is it a less wasteful choice than plastic but it's stronger and helps you carry more.

DRINKS



As with food, with a little planning and some smart shopping, almost any drink can be a green one.

Cocktails
Serving a signature cocktail simplifies matters and allows you to take advantage of local, seasonal ingredients.In the summer months, pick up a seedless watermelon, then scoop out the flesh, freeze it on a baking sheet, and blend with vodka for a refreshing warm-weather treat. In fall, use a juicer to make fresh apple juice and whip up a batch of apple Martinis.

Wine and beer
For wine, think organic and biodynamic. If you're splurging on wine, go for Frog's Leap; if you're on a budget, try BonTerra. Local wine is another great option, as nowadays wine is produced in every state in the U.S.
When it comes to beer, local is also best — shipping Belgian beer to the U.S. requires a lot of fuel. Local brews eliminate that problem and add regional flavor to your menu. Look online to find breweries in your area; sites like brewpubzone.com list breweries by state.Nonalcoholic options
Aluminum is an easily recyclable material, so choose cans of soda instead of drinks in plastic bottles. (And, according to Environmental Defense, it takes 95 percent less energy to recycle an aluminum can than to create a new can from raw materials.)
Brew shade-grown, organic coffee (shade-grown coffee doesn't require cutting down trees and therefore doesn't deplete rain forests or disturb the habitats of birds and other species), offer organic herbal teas, and purchase water in glass bottles, which are easily recyclable. Even better, reuse old wine or beverage bottles to serve tap water, filtered if necessary.Tips and tricks
Make recycling easy
To ensure that your guests recycle, line decorative baskets with clear plastic shopping bags, label as recycling bins, and place near the trash can.


Clean green
Use naturally derived cleansers, like Method's cucumber-scented dish soap.


DECORATING  When it comes to decor, think like the TV spy MacGyver: Be resourceful and use things you already have in original ways.

Why run to the store to buy bags of decorations, disposable plates, and run-of-the-mill flowers when you can use items from your own kitchen and backyard to create unique and unexpected decorations?

Flowers
Create big, full arrangements with just one dozen red roses. Place a metal floral frog or water-soaked florist foam (available in the flower section of the supermarket) in a small bowl or vase and insert freshly cut roses randomly throughout.
Poke takeout chopsticks into red fruits and vegetables such as crab apples, radishes, radicchio, and even red-skinned potatoes, then push into the empty spaces to fill out the arrangement.As with food, when shopping for flowers, it's always best to look for local, organic options. Check your farmers' market to see what's available, and don't be afraid to swap something local and seasonal for the roses.Centerpieces and more
Purchase a baby tree from your local nursery, wrap the container with layers of burlap, and tie with a shiny ribbon. Place on a cake stand as a living centerpiece, and plant right after the party.
Place cards
Collect large leaves from the yard and write guests' names right on them with a nontoxic permanent ink pen.

Buffet
Slice a wine cork in half and insert a leftover paint chip. Write the names of the dishes you're serving on each paint chip and use to identify them on the buffet table. This idea also works for place cards. (If the corks wobble, use a knife to make the bottoms flat and even.)

Drinks
Repurpose glass vases into sangria jugs (or drink pitchers) and use real fruit as bottle stoppers.

Invites
E-vites are the greenest and most convenient way to go, but not the most personal. Instead, design a colorful invitation — scanning a handmade invite is the easiest — and send it out as a JPEG with a personalized e-mail note; follow up with a phone call.

If it's a formal occasion, think postconsumer recycled paper for the invitations: It's paper made from old paper, so you're helping to complete the recycling loop.

TABLEWARE



Bandannas can be repurposed as casual cloth napkins. If you don't have them all in one color, feel free to mix it up.

While reusable plates, cups and utensils are the greenest choice, they aren't always the most practical one, especially for large groups. Believe it or not, the phrase "eco-disposable" is not an oxymoron. In fact, it's becoming increasingly easy to find affordable environmentally friendly disposable tableware in mainstream stores.

Eco-disposable:
  • Whole Foods' 365 store brand has durable plates and bowls that look like sturdy paper ones but are actually made from renewable and biodegradable sugar cane.

  • For a bit of color, look for Recycline's plates and bowls in bright, bold colors like purple and lime green; they are made entirely of recycled plastic (from old yogurt cups) and are sturdy enough to be used several times.

  • Stock up on Cereplast forks, spoons and knives, which are made from a biodegradable bio-plastic consisting of 80 percent corn-based starch and 20 percent green fillers. If you compost, you can toss these utensils right into the bin and they'll break down in about three months.

  • Forget plastic straws. Greenhome sells some made from PLA, a corn-based bio-resin. They look and feel like plastic ones but are completely biodegradable.

  • Also look for plates, chopsticks, and other utensils made from bamboo, a fast-growing renewable and biodegradable resource.

  • Tips and tricks
    Don't buy, rent
    Instead of buying new supplies, you can rent chairs, tables, tablecloths, and even snow cone machines for very low prices.Repurpose
    Bandannas are a great reusable cloth napkin that won't break the bank (as pictured below).

    Prevent waste
    If you use a caterer, bring your serving dishes to them. This way, they can avoid using disposable trays and platters.

    PARTY FUN



    No matter how old your guests, it's fun to incorporate activities that come with a tasty treat.



    Pinata
    First, blow up a balloon (use natural latex balloons, which are biodegradable), then cut newspaper into long strips, coat both sides with white craft glue, and use to cover the entire surface of the balloon. Allow the glue to dry completely, then pop the balloon.

    Cut out a small flap and fill the inside of the pinata with grown-up treats such as gift cards, mini bottles of alcohol, and beauty product samples. Tape the flap shut and add a layer of glued newspaper to seal it up. Use a heavy-duty piece of tape (duct tape works well) to adhere a line cord or sturdy ribbon so you can hang the pi�ata from a tree branch, then use double-stick tape to wrap the outside with leaves from the yard.

    S'mores
    Send your guests out into the woods to gather twigs and branches to help light a fire. Bring out a big bowl full of marshmallows, organic chocolates, and graham crackers. Guests can use the twigs they collected to make skewers and toast their s'mores. (Use a manual pencil sharpener to sharpen the branches.)

    For a minty version, add a small drop of real peppermint essential oil to toasted marshmallows. (Fireplace ashes are safe to spread across the lawn. Just wait until they've cooled completely and scatter.)

    - E. Haley




    Thursday
    May012008

    Pesticide Free Wine Please

    This article from the great folks at EuroActiv.com details the findings of a recent study conducted in Europe. The results of the study indicate the presence of an average of more than four pesticides per bottle of conventional wine. Dig what they had to say.....

    Study finds pesticide residues in wine





    A study by the European Pesticides Action Network (PAN) reveals that wines on sale in the EU may contain residues of up to 10 different pesticides potentially harmful to human health. But manufacturers argue that the quantities are so tiny that drinking wine poses no health risk.

    "Grapes are among the most contaminated food products on sale in the EU and receive a higher dose of synthetic pesticides than almost any other crop," argues the environmental NGO in a report analysing pesticide residues in wine, published on Wednesday (26 March).

    The study covered 40 bottles of wine - 34 conventional and six organic ones - purchased inside the EU. According to the results, the 34 bottles of conventional wine together contained 148 pesticide residues. All 34 bottles contained from one to ten pesticides, bringing the average per bottle to more than four. Of the six bottles of organic wine tested, one sample contained a low concentration of a possibly carcinogenic pesticide.

    According to PAN Europe, the "contamination of wines is a direct result of over-reliance on pesticides in grape production". The group argues that the presence of pesticides in European wines is a "growing problem" as grape farmers abandon traditional pest control methods to adopt more hazardous synthetic pesticides. According to Elliot Cannell of PAN Europe, this trend has a direct impact on the quality of wines produced in Europe as pesticides used to grow food crops "can and do end up in food products".

    Responding to the report, the European Crop Protection Association (ECPA), which represents pesticide manufacturers, highlighted that all the residues found were authorised for use in the EU. In addition, ECPA underlined that the levels of residue were found "in such minute quantities" that they "are not even remotely close to [reaching] any level of concern". ECPA compared the proportion to the part per billion level or the equivalent of "one drop of water in an Olympic-sized swimming pool". The association also deplored that the PAN report did not test other elements such as copper or sulphur, which are both used in organic vinificulture.

    "Drinking wine poses no health risk for European consumers with respect to pesticide residues [...] Both the use of pesticides and monitoring of residues are very carefully controlled by independent scientists. Maximum residue levels are set well below levels that could cause a risk to humans, to build in a substantial safety margin," said ECPA Director General Friedhelm Schmider.

    In 2006, the European Commission proposed external tightening the existing pesticide usage and authorisation rules in Europe as public concerns over the health and environmental impact of the so-called plant protection products continue to grow. So far, the Commission has rejected demands by Parliament to extend an existing list of substances banned from use in the production of pesticides. The EU 27's agriculture ministers are set to debate the matter in April and are expected to reach a political agreement by 19 May 2008.

    Published: Thursday 27 March 2008