Wal-Mart Throwing Away Ripe Produce

Ripe produce being thrown away

Wasted food irks me, a lot.  Not just because I enjoy eating and am equally tight about spending money, but because it’s just downright wasteful on so many levels.  From time to grow, fuel to harvest and transport to market, merchandising and selling at the store, when food is thrown out it costs a lot of people in a supply chain a lot of money.  A recent late night trip opened my eyes to what I’ve only heard about and seen on TV. Continue reading »

The Gun Markets of Pakistan

This is totally insane.  It’s sad that most people in the west never see this, and they should.

Your Help Is Needed To Help Win a $250k Grant From Pepsi To Complete a Community Skateplaza

A close friend of mine and local skateshop owner Andrew Po has been working with the city here to get a skateplaza built for nearly 8 years. The project is being built with zero tax-payer dollars and will be free for anyone to use. Through a small grant and lots of donations he’s helped the city secure enough money to break ground this past January and complete the first of three Phases for a late spring launch of part of the plaza. More money is needed to to continue phase II and III. This project has the full support of the mayor, city and residents, it just needs more funding. Continue reading »

An Open Letter To People Who Use Bike Paths

This is a guest post by Kendra Greaves, a professional aerialist, circus performer and avid biker who lives in and commutes around Philadelphia by bicycle.

Yay! It’s summertime. I’m so happy that you are outside biking, walking, running, rollerblading, walking with your kids, walking your dog…. whatever you might be doing. I have a few comments and suggestions to make everybody’s (mainly mine, I guess) journey more enjoyable.
Bike Path
First. This might seem simple, but for most people, this seems to be a concept unimaginable. Get out of the middle of the path. Not so hard, really. This counts no matter if you are biking or on foot. This is especially important if you have music blasting in your ears. If I am saying “on your left” over and over while I am stuck behind you on the narrow point on Kelly Drive where I can’t pass you, I’m going to eventually get pissed and ride up directly behind you and literally scream. I have had to do this a few times. It’s great you are running or biking slowly. Really. Your fat ass thanks you (but maybe you might want to not wear spandex just yet….). But if you are going at a snail’s pace and I have to get somewhere, or I am just sick of staring at your jiggling white thighs, I will scream at you until you hear me. Then I will most likely curse at you, and consider pushing you into the trees. Turn down your fucking music, or better yet, stay to the right of the path.

Which brings me to my second point. You are not from England, or Australia. I hear that South Jersey accent. I know you are from the tri-state area. So stay on the right side of the fucking path. Seriously. And when I glare at you because I barely miss hitting you, do not get mad at me. You know the rules of the road. Oh, wait…. you drive like an asshole too? My bad. I just assumed people who walk or drive can do it the proper way. I guess I was wrong.

That said – if there is a tiny narrow curve in the path (there are quite a few – some of them even have lines painted down the middle, and signs saying “go slow”), do not pass the person in front of you just yet. Because you can’t see who is coming in from the other side. Stay over as far as you can or you will probably get hit. You can wait an extra 8 seconds before you swerve out and potentially hit me, who is staying on the proper side and going slowly in tight areas. Because let’s face it, you aren’t going that fast anyway.

If I yell “on your left” and start to pass you, do not jump in front of me. You don’t have to move at all in fact. I have taken into account passing you by the time I tell you that I am. You’re fine.

Do not let your dog, horse, or small child lunge in front of my bike. If I do miss hitting them, I will narrowly miss them, and you will yell at me and get upset, and little Bobby will start to cry. Hold them. Hold their hand or their leash (leashes are for your dogs though, not your child). Get off your fucking Blackberry. Stop texting your friends. Pay attention to your kids. Otherwise they will wind up writing angry posts like this one in 25 years.

Please do not swing your fishing poles around. If one hits me again, I will take you and throw you into the river after I break your fishing pole over my thigh.

Do not walk three or four abreast. I don’t care how cool you and your friends are. You do not deserve to take up the entire path. It is not the Yellow Brick Road.

Look behind you and see if someone is approaching if you need to suddenly get to the left side of the path. Not so hard, but people never seem to do this. Likewise, if you suddenly must stop dead in your tracks, get over to the grass or something.

A few random bits I would also like to mention:

  • Spandex is not for everyone (I am repeating this because I feel strongly here)
  • Unless you are biking up Shurs Lane, keep your elbows straight when you bike. You look like and idiot. And you are going slow. It’s not helping you
  • Change your gears from time to time. I laugh at you when you are pedaling your ass off and not getting anywhere. If you don’t want to change gears, do what I do, and ride on a track frame
  • If you must listen to music, turn it down. Or just listen in your right ear
  • Wear a helmet

I’m sure that I can continue on here, but those are the major things that I would like to mention.

So please, be considerate so I can get back and forth between work and home without wanting to run someone over.

Environmentally-friendly entertainment?

I’m sitting here, watching the Borat movie on USA (don’t judge), and I saw an commercial for the National Geographic Channel‘s new show, “Hooked.”

I haven’t seen an episode yet, but by the commercial, it seems that it’s about fishing (duh).  And not any fishing, but virile man testosterone adventure fishing where they try to find large (and possibly exotic?) fish.

Do they throw them back?  That I don’t know.  But here’s what I think is weird about channels like National Geographic, Discovery and Animal Planet:

They broadcast really environmentally-unfriendly programming.

It’s not that I don’t watch “Deadliest Catch” and weep for crabs (because I also like to eat crabs), but I was really disturbed by the recent episode where we learned that if the boats don’t get to shore in time, the crabs die and are basically useless and dumped.  The futility and wastefulness of that made me uneasy.  I realize that overfishing is environmentally-irresponsible (I’m not saying that the captains on the show engage in this practice, only that, you know, it happens).

It was the logging show (“Ax Men?” I feel like there are two of these shows on different networks update: Ax Men is on the History Channel which is not necessarily pro-enviro, but it’s weird nonetheless) that really got me thinking about this.  I know that logging happens, I use paper, I print things at work… but I feel like it’s weird to have a show on a network that also showcases “green” programming and promotes environmentally-aware miniseries such as “Planet Earth.”

So what do you guys think?  Do you think the programming choices are weird?  Or is it just that these networks cater to all opinions, and chooses not to “force” environmentally-friendly programming on its viewers?  Is it irresponsible to broadcast a show focusing on logging (and getting the most work done to make the most money) without also letting the viewer in to the environmental impacts the practice might have?

Let me know in the comments.

Recycling Rundown

Nowadays you can recycle just about anything from yard waste to paper products to plastics.  Figuring out what materials your local curbside pick-up will accept is fairly easy with the help of the internet.

You can find your local recycling center by using this handy tool: Find a Recycling Center.

You can find out what items are picked up curb-side by using this handy tool: Who Picks Up My Recycling?

Once you establish what you can put out front on garbage day, remember to check every item before you toss in in with the trash.

Recycling Symbols:

Plastic containers are clearly labeled with  numbers 1-7.  Below find a brief overview of what each of these symbols mean.  Most curb-side recycling will collect all numbers except  6.

PETE 1 (Polyethylene Terephthalate)

Found in most single-use soft-drink and water bottles.  Also found in other household containers.

Recycled into fiber, carpet, and paneling.

HDPE 2 (High Density Polyethelene)

Found in motor-oil bottles, juice jugs, detergent bottles, and cereal box liners.

Recycled into other bottles, lumber, fencing, drain pipes, and floor tile.

PVC 3 (Poly Vinyl Carbonate)

Found in cleaning solution bottles, shampoo bottles, clear food containers, and sometimes windows and piping.

Recycled into lumber, mats, and highway fixtures.

LDPE 4 (Low Density Polyethelene)

Found in squeezable bottles, plastic bags, and carpets.

Recycled into garbage bags, bins, package padding, and floor tiles.

PP 5 (Polypropylene)

Found in medicine containers, some syrup or ketchup bottles, sipping straws.

Recycled into trays, pallets, and other plastic goods such as bins, wire covers, ice scrapers, etc.

PS 6 (Polystyrene)

Found in Styrofoam containers, Styrofoam cups, and other Styrofoam-like materials.

Difficult to recycle and non-biodegradable.  Avoid using PS 6 until better recycling programs are available.

7 (Miscellaneous Plastics)

Found in plastic items such as computer parts, 5-gallon jugs, and nylon.

Recycled into end-use products such as lumber and highway materials.

Number 7 plastics contain the group of plastics so often in the news for containing Bisphenal-A or BPA a type of Polycarbonate, or hard plastic.  Studies have shown that these types of plastics can leech hormones and other carcinogens into the environment making them dangerous for use around small chidren.  Many sites now list items that are specifically manufactured without the use of BPA.  One example of BPA-free children’s products can be found here.

10 Ways to be More Green

This Earth Day try some of these easy tips to be more eco-friendly in your daily life.

  • Eat More Vegetables! The Union of Concerned Scientists cites eating meat as the most eco-destructive activity in which humans take part.  The United Nations states that cattle-rearing generates more green-house gases than transportation.  If all Americans replaced just one meal per week with vegetarian food, the impact on the environment would be equivalent to taking more than a half-million cars off the road.
  • Eat Locally! As well as eating more vegetables, it’s important to eat locally.  An average dinner travels more than 1,500 miles from farm to your table. The environmental impact of this transportation is significant.  Check labels at the grocery store and opt for items that are grown close to where you live and choose items that are in season in your area.  Another option is to purchase fruits and vegetables from local farmers markets or co-ops.  Not sure where to go?  LocalHarvest.org has a list of local farmers markets across the US.

Find your Farmers Market

  • Ditch those plastic bottles! Using re-usable water bottles filled with tap or filtered water eliminates thousands of bottles that would otherwise end up in a landfill.  Sigg makes a sturdy and user friendly reusable water bottle.
  • Ditch those paper cups! Most coffee shops now offer reusable options for your morning latte.  Buy a reusable travel mug and refill it when you get coffee.  According to statistics from Starbucks, if just 50 customers at each Starbucks location used a reusable mug, it would save over 150,000 paper cups per day which translates to over 1.7 million pounds of paper waste each year.  At the very least don’t take a sleeve or allow your Barista to double-cup your beverage!
  • Use reusable take-out containers.  If your favorite restaurant gives you your doggie bag in Styrofoam, consider bringing a reusable container with you and bringing home your leftovers in your own ware.
  • Reusable Lunch Containers.  Ditch that brown-bag and opt for a reusable lunch container. Try Lock & Lock containers they are BPA free and they give back to the community via treeplanting campaigns, senior citizen  events, clean water actions, etc.
  • Bring Your Own Bag to the Store.  The easiest approach is to buy a reusable bag at the grocery store, they usually sell for around 99 cents.  Get one!  If you would like something a little more fashionable, try Environsax reusable bags.  They fold up into small pouches that can be easily stored in your purse/bag for use at the grocery store/mall/skate shop/etc.  I always carry one with me in my purse and use it every time I make a purchase.
  • Use a cloth hand towel in your kitchen/bathroom.  Replace your use of paper towels with a cloth towel.  Worried about germs?  Buy 7 of them and put out a new one each day.  This will save you money and reduce the amount of paper waste headed to the landfill.
  • Carpool/Walk/Ride a Bike. Think about where you need to go and how you can get there in the most efficient manner.  Carpool to work, arrange your errands so that they are completed in one day or in a small number of places.  Take public transportation where you can.  If your destination is within a mile from your home, consider walking or riding a bike.  Unsure how to get to your destination via the bus/bike/walking?  Use Google Maps – they have options for driving, walking, and public transportation!
  • Recycle. This seems so obvious, but only about 32% of waste was recycled in 2006.  Cities are constantly expanding recycling programs.  For example, my city recently spread their program to include all plastic types except PET#6.  That means that I can recycle PET#1,2,3,4,5,7,8,&9 in my curb-side pick-up.  Check with your local recycling program to see what types of plastic you can recycle each week!

Replacing your current habits with only one of these can significantly improve your impact on the environment.  Try it out and I am sure you can find ways to decrease the amount of resources that you consume each day.

The Obama Dog.

I am more than disappointed that the First Family did not opt for a shelter/rescue dog to join them in the Whitehouse.

According to the Associated Press, the Obamas are in a “gray area” because the dog they adopted was returned to its breeder before finding its way to the Whitehouse.  In my opinion, that area is not gray.  They were given a dog as a gift from the Kennedys and the Kennedys got the dog from a breeder.

The press is arguing that it was from a reputable breeder (as opposed to a puppy mill) which is true, but I would argue that even reputable breeders are creating an excess of animals.  There are around 3 million dogs euthanized in shelters every year.  3 Million!  Out of those 25% are purebred, single-breed dogs.

Right now on Petfinder there are a number of purebred Portuguese Water Dogs listed in DC shelters.  Those are just the dogs listed on the site.  Rescue groups and other animal welfare organizations have more dogs ready to be adopted.

I find it unacceptable that the Obamas chose to use their daughter’s allergy as their excuse for not adopting from a shelter.  I feel that it sets a bad example for the rest of the public and uses a weak excuse as a reason not to act responsibly. It is absolutely possible to find not only a hypo-allergenic, but a purebred dog in a shelter or from a rescue organization.

Oprah was able to find her companion in a Chicago-area shelter, it’s a shame the Obamas could not follow suit.

Looking for a dog or other pet?  Try Petfinder.com, the largest online listing of shelter/rescued animals.

Want more information on adopting a dog?  Try The Humane Society of the United States for material.

What’s Up With Water Bottles?

I’m sure you’ve seen it, the crunchy-looking thirty-something coming back from yoga sipping on an aluminum water bottle as she gets into her Prius.

Pretentious? Perhaps. Trendy? Sure. Necessary? Absolutely.

According to the Chicago Sun Times, it takes over 1.5 million barrels of oil to manufacture the plastic bottles that supply Americans with bottled water for just one year. That amount of oil is equivalent to the amount needed to fuel 100,000 cars.

Making matters worse, out of the billions of bottles consumed, only about 20% are recycled, with the rest making their way to landfills or even worse, to the world’s oceans.

Earth 911 makes an interesting argument by pointing out that if everyone in New York City alone gave up water bottles for just one week, they would reduce the number of bottles headed to a landfill by 24 million. Giving up plastic water bottles for a year would reduce the number of water bottles headed to a landfill by over 1.3 billion bottles.

But water in bottles is so much better/healthier/cleaner than my local tap water, isn’t it?

Probably not. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC),  out of more than 100 brands of bottled water tested, the overall quality was “spotty” with a third containing contaminants. Tap water, on the other hand is a tightly regulated alternative. If you don’t like the ‘taste’ of your tap water, you can easily use a filter.

Water bottles have become such a source of wasted resources that some stores have refused to stock them.  Food Fight Grocery, an all-vegan grocery store in Portland, Oregon, recently stopped carrying bottled water.  Instead, the owners opted for a more eco-friendly alternative, Food Fight Aluminum Water Bottles.  They allow customers to refill them in the store at any time.

Purchasing a reusable water bottle such as the trendy Sigg bottles available here, is a great alternative to consuming water in disposable plastic bottles. You can refill it with tap or filtered water and can drink with a clear conscience, knowing that you did not contribute to the wasted energy or resources that go into the plastic water bottle industry.

5 Super-Easy Ways to Lower the Amount of Cholesterol You Eat

This is a guest post by Sarah of Living Vegan:

According to William Roberts, MD (Baylor Cardiovascular Institute, Baylor University Medical Center), a well-renowned cardiology expert, the most significant risk factor for heart disease is the lifetime presence of a blood cholesterol level above 150.  In fact, the Framingham Heart Study further illustrates this conclusion.

The study monitored 5,000 people in Framingham, Massachusetts beginning in 1948.  It considered risk factors for heart disease including cholesterol levels, obesity, diabetes, smoking, etc.  Throughout the forty-year study, no person whose blood cholesterol was less than 150 suffered from a heart attack.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the average cholesterol level for adults in the US is 199.  People who eat a plant-based (vegan) diet have an average cholesterol level of 128.

Lowering the amount of cholesterol you consume is easier than you would think.  Consider this, cholesterol is only found in animal products.  Plant-based foods do not contain cholesterol.

While you may not be ready to give up all animal products entirely, here are 5 super-easy substitutions you can make that will have a significant impact on the overall amount of cholesterol you consume.

1. Egg Substitutes.  While eggs are often touted as “incredible” they contain 6 grams of fat, 86 calories and a whopping 257 mg of cholesterol per egg.  It is incredibly easy to replace eggs in most recipes, thereby eliminating that source of cholesterol.

  • Ener-G Egg Replacer is a commercial product that works in just about any recipe calling for eggs.  You simply mix 1.5 tsp of this flavorless powder with 2 Tablespoons of water for each egg in the recipe.  This is especially good in baking since it does not carry it’s own flavor and efficiently binds and leavens cakes and other confections.
  • Mashed bananas are another great egg replacer, but do carry a banana flavor into the recipe.  This is ideal for some recipes, such as banana bread, fruit muffins, and pancakes but will give other recipes, such as vanilla cake, a weird banana flavor.

2. Veggie Burgers.   Long gone are the days of cardboard-tasting veggie burgers.  Today, the selection of faux burgers in most grocery store freezers is unsurpassed, with most grocers carrying several dozen varieties and flavors.  Try a couple until you find one you like. Beef-based burgers contain upwards of 600 calories and 100 mg of cholesterol each.  With 100 calories and 0 mg of cholesterol, the veggie burger is a far superior choice when you are looking for ways to eat healthier. Feeling particularly adventurous?  Try a SmartDog in place of your hotdog!

3. Sandwiches.  Replacing just one ingredient in your favorite sandwich with a plant-based product can significantly reduce the amount of cholesterol you will consume.  For example

  • Opt for extra lettuce and tomato and less cheese and meat.\
  • Use avocado in place of mayonnaise.
  • Use Follow Your Heart Vegenaise in place of mayonnaise.  It’s creamy, rich, savory, and studies show the main ingredient, grapeseed oil, works to lower LDL (bad cholesterol) levels and raise HDL (good choleserol) levels.  It’s win-win.
  • Try vegetarian lunch meat.  Just as the number of high-quality veggie burgers has increased over the past  few years, the number of faux lunch meats has increased as well.  My personal picks include Tofurkey Hickory Smoked turkey slices and Yves Meatless Bologna slices.
  • Try a vegetarian cheese.  In the produce section of most grocery stores, you can find a wide selection of cholesterol-free, dairy-free cheeses.  Try a few varieties until you find one that you love!

4. Try Soymilk.  Silk Soymilk is the most innocuous soymilk on the market today.  While it does not mimic the taste of cow’s milk, it provides a smooth, creamy beverage that can be used in any recipe (it’s also great in coffee or tea!).  Silk is most widely available in Plain, Vanilla, and Chocolate.  Their newest advertising campaign touts that “It only takes one taste” and I whole-heartedly believe them!  Try it in your next recipe and I truly believe that you will not notice the difference.

5. Eat more vegetables! Increasing the portions of vegetables on your plate at every meal will inherently lower the amount of cholesterol you will consume.  Try a new vegetable side dish (there are thousands available online, simply Google “vegetarian side dish”) once a week or increase the amount of vegetables you are used to making.  If you have a small salad every night with dinner, double your portion, the same goes for a side of asparagus, broccoli, beans, etc.

Utilizing just one of these suggestions will be a first step in reducing the amount of cholesterol that you consume.  Eating more plant-based foods is healthier for you and can significantly reduce or even possibly eliminate your risk for heart attack.  A great cook book to keep you on track is Delicious Food for a Healthy Heart: Over 120 Cholesterol-Free, Low-Fat, Quick & Easy Recipes.