Dave DeSimone: Why he makes me want to be a better person

Have you ever met someone that instantly made you want to be a better person, to do more, to search out better ways of living? Dave DeSimone is just that kind of guy.  I had the pleasure of meeting him a few weeks ago at a restaurant where I waitress when he came in for his bon voyage dinner with his wonderfully supportive parents.  As his parents gushed about him and his upcoming journey, (he got to get a few sentences in there every now and again) I learned about Biking for Balance (B4B) – a nationwide, nonprofit cycling project focused on spreading environmental consciousness.

Dave loves exploring and has traveled across North America and throughout Europe and Southeast Asia.  He has wanted to do this cross country trek since March 2005, while looking at a road map and realizing just how much of America he hadn’t yet seen.  The opportunity to submerge himself in so many unique experiences with different people, terrains, subcultures, food, music, beliefs, history and knowledge excited him (reminds me of  the documentary television series Long Way Round/Long Way Down series that starred Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman). Taking him a little over three years to find the perfect timing, conquering obstacles such as finances, and after a break in schooling fell into place, Dave found the perfect cause worth riding for and he set out to fulfill his quest.

Dave and his friend, Nick, were leaving in two days to start a 3 month/5,000 mile trek from St. Augustine, FL to Seaside, OR (Check out his route here)  – traveling across 14 states in 14 weeks!!!  Along the way they would be raising awareness (and funds) for environmental issues and helping to support the Center for Environment and Population– a non-profit organization that focuses on how environmental issues such as biodiversity and climate change are linked to human population factors.

Visit the website (www.bikingforbalance.org) to check up on Dave and learn more about B4B. Read his blog and follow him along his journey. He invites anyone to join him along the way for a bike ride across your town or longer if you feel up to it, or even just to meet up for a drink.  If cycling isn’t your thing or he isn’t passing through your neck of the woods, you can also show support by emailing/texting him or making a donation to his cause.

I think everyone is starting to realize that their lifestyles need to be modified to protect our earth and that every little bit helps. Whether it is riding across the country on your bike to raise awareness, or doing something as simple as switching to paperless statements.  I might not be able to ride along with Dave but I will help by spreading his story to my little world.

Posted by: Becca

Abby’s Blog: Kids Helping the Earth, Growing a Garden

One of the really fun things I do with my mom is garden. We start with our seedlings in the spring and then plant them the first week of May (which was early this year since it has been super rainy and super cold). Our garden is an L-shape and it is 24′ long by 15′ long. This year we have 8 zucchini plants, 6 summer squash, 7 (now 6 heirloom tomato plants thanks to Mila (Ashley’s 17 week old lab puppy), 6 local mixed lettuces, 3 red lettuces, 4 broccoli, 4 cucumber, 8 basil, 1 rosemary, 1 thyme, 6 spring onions, 1 chive, 1 fennel, and 1 parsley.

I help by watering and weeding (and keeping Mila from digging in the garden). I also get to pick  the vegetables when they are ripe and I get to eat them!

You can build a garden anywhere, in a planter box, in your yard, a community park, or even at your school.

posted by Abby, age 6

Salty Brine Goes Green

One of southern Rhode Island’s busiest and most popular spots, especially in the summertime, is the village of Galilee in the town of Narragansett. Recreational and commercial fishing boats bring their bounty to the pier here every day. The Block Island Ferry shuttles travelers to and from the island from its dock here. Camping is available at nearby Fishermen’s Memorial State Park. And tiny Salty Brine State Beach, along with longtime local favorite restaurants like Champlin’s Seafood and George’s, regularly attracts a brisk volume of visitors.

It’s at the nexus of many of these attractions that a major green project is now underway. It’s causing huge parking and aesthetic issues and inconveniences this summer, which surely aren’t making merchants and visitors as happy as they’d like to be. But for Galilee’s long term, this is good news: Salty Brine Beach’s 37-year-old public bath house is being replaced with a new handicap-accessible, LEED Silver-certified, sustainable, energy-efficient facility. And it’s all going to be powered by a wind turbine and solar panels. (In case you’re curious, the wind power will be provided by a residential-size 10KW Bergey wind turbine on a 100-foot tower.)

The project is being coordinated by the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation’s Renewable Energy Fund and the state’s Department of Environmental Management, who view the upcoming 2,478-square-foot bath house not only as an upgrade to the previous facility but also as an educational tool for the public about green energy. 

Lighting, exhaust and circulation fans, and hot water for showers and flushing toilets “will be provided on-site by a small, residential-scale wind turbine and solar hot water heaters on the roof of the building,” says the press release. “The building has been designed to maximize energy efficiency with its R30 building shell, energy-efficient lighting fixtures, lighting controls, faucets and low-energy hand dryers. Other measures, such as heating only half of the building for early spring and fall public use and maximizing the use of daylight, will enhance energy efficiency at the facility.”

Besides education, the public will get bathrooms, showers, an outdoor rinsing shower, a foot-wash, a snack bar with utilities for possible hot food concessions, and an upper-level lifeguard station. “The bath house deck with ramp, and a new shade structure and observation decks on the stone jetty that are connected by a boardwalk along the parking lot edge, will enhance public access and use of the facility,” continues the release. “Bike racks and additional parking spaces will also be provided.”

Compared to the minor mess that’s there now, this sounds awesome. Until the project is completed on Memorial Day 2010, however, we’ll have to deal with fences, port-a-johns, no showers and hardly any parking spots. It’s a small price to pay, though, for getting Rhode Islanders working and going green at the same time.

Trivia: Did you know that the beach was originally called Galilee State Beach, but renamed Salty Brine in 1990 after a beloved local radio personality of the same name? Sounds like this guy was quite the character!

Posted by Joe Paone

E-Waste – How to Combat this Growing Problem

As most business would be crippled without computers, businesses will often upgrade for performance reasons every couple years. But what happens to the old computers when their “tour of service” has come to an end? Truth is, most end up the landfill.

I found this company called All Green Electronics Recycling, a dull service electronic recycler and collector. They have the capacity to process up to 100 million pounds of electronic waste (e-waste) per year.

All Green Electronics Recycling has over 100 free drop off collection points throughout California, Nevada, Washington, Tennessee, North Carolina and Florida, and free pickup in 12 states.

Their goal is to take unusable electronics and ensure that none of the hazardous material ends up in a landfill. Whole e-scrap is shredded down to pieces which are less than 2 inches in diameter. They are then separated into products that can be sold, such as iron, copper, aluminum and plastic.

Now old office computers usually have a lot of private information on them. To ensure that your materials are totally destroyed, the All Green Electronics Recycling provides every client with a 100% data destruction guarantee.

Unfortunately they don’t pick up in Rhode Island – yet. But for you RI residents, visit the Rhode Island Resource Recovery. They offer free recycling of old electronics. And if they don’t accept it there, they can tell you where to go to responsibly discard of your old electronics.

Posted by: Lauren

NY mom takes on cupcakes but her message is lost in the delivery

The topic of kids eating healthy is a heated debate; I don’t think there is anyone out there saying they don’t agree that kids should eat healthy, but most of us also realize just like everything in life nothing is 100%. As a mom who strives for healthy eating in her own children, I fully realize the struggles we as parents face each and every day with trying to get our children to make healthy food choices.

I guess that’s why the headline of the lead story linked on wordpress at one point yesterday about a NYC mother who was waging a school against cupcakes caught my attention. The story was from the NY Times, their much tamer headline read “Mothers fight against junk food puts school on edge.” And starts with MeMe Roth, a publicist and an Upper West Side mother of two is getting really, really mad — “and I do not mean angry,” she clarified. “I mean mad, like crazy.” Ms. Roth is being driven mad by Public School 9, where her children are in second and fourth grades, and it seems that P.S. 9, in turn, is being driven mad by Ms. Roth.

Ok, so my editorial take on this paragraph pits me against Ms. Roth (as it did nearly all commenters to the story) of her being on her own agenda. I’d love to know what the take would have been if she had been wearing shorts and a t-shirt and her name was Jen and she was from Ohio and she said just said she was “mad”. But she wasn’t and she’s not and she says she’s “mad, like crazy” so the article continues: 

Ms. Roth, who runs a group called National Action Against Obesity, has no problem with the school lunches provided at the highly regarded elementary school on Columbus Avenue and 84th Street. What sets her off is the junk food served on special occasions: the cupcakes that come out for every birthday, the doughnuts her children were once given in gym, the sugary “Fun-Dip” packets that some parent provided the whole class on Valentine’s Day.

Okay Ms. Roth, you have my attention; your kids were given donuts in gym? They were handed “Fun-Dip” at school? Our school’s policy is no homemade treats no sugar filled snacks, so there are no cupcakes on birthdays. I admit I get miffed when my daughter asks me for something like “Fruit-by-the-Foot” because someone else brought it in and this apparently passes as “nutritious”. But it doesn’t get handed to her to make the decision of should she eat it or not. It is not necessarily condoned by her teachers.

 The next few paragraphs take a turn in scolding Ms. Roth’s approach, which I agree is doing more harm than good…I mean the woman “absconded with the sprinkles and syrups on a table where members were being served ice cream at an event at a local YMCA in 2007” and she’s against Girl Scout Cookies.

And all of this loses focus on Ms. Roth’s point that is in fact accurate, we have an obesity epidemic in this country, diabetes for children is growing at alarming rates. But there are other pieces that are missing from this story. What about physical exercise? What about limiting TV, video games and texting? What about parents setting an example that healthy living is more than about not eating junk food, but about eating fresh, local foods and about moving our bodies?

I did some research on Ms. Roth and found some other stories about her, including one where she admits to a journalist that she does not allow herself to eat until she has worked out, she never ever misses her daily run, and will not be interviewed someplace where food is present. She admits to going without food all day. This isn’t a fight against obesity; this has become her fight against food.

Ms. Roth is seemingly an intelligent woman, with a polished style and point to make. But her message is getting lost because “she” is getting in the way. People are taking sides for or against her and not for or against junk food. Her children were given “Fun Dip” and donuts in school! I’d be angry too. This is not about the messenger, this is about the message. We wouldn’t serve peanuts to a child with a tree nut allergy, why is it ok to serve donuts to overweight children?

Healthy living is not just about not eating junk food, but about eating food in its purest form as nature intended. Eating locally, eating organic, getting exercise are all part of the lifestyle that fight obesity. Ms. Roth needs to practice what she preaches so she can help people hear her message.

posted by KDL |  follow me on Twitter: newscaster

The Failure of Food Safety

Original post on Focus Organic

On June 3, Obama Foodorama reported yet another recall by an Oregon based firm of 30,000 lbs of beef that could be infected with E Coli which is in addition to the almost 300,000 lbs recalled last month.  The larger problem?  AG Secretary Tom Vilsak’s failure to name a new head of the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), the divison of the USDA that manages poultry, meat and eggs.   The USDA is infamous for appointing officials that are so close to the industry, they might as well register as lobbyists for Big Meat (but then, they couldn’t technically be qualified for the position) therefore turning this regulatory body of the US government into nothing more than a crappy label.  Sure, the USDA has been protecting the industry it is supposed to regulate for years as opposed to protecting consumer interest – but why are they having such a hard time naming a new head of FSIS? 

It’s all in the politics.  As Tom Laskawy of Civil Eats puts it,

The three candidates mentioned for the post so far, Michael Osterholm, Michael Taylor (though it’s unclear if he was really up for the job) and Mike Doyle (so many Mikes!) are all champions of what Marion Nestle likes to call “late-stage techno-fixes.” Or, as Obamafoodorama puts it, “Zap the crap!” But even worse, they are extremely closely tied to the industries they are meant to regulate — each of the three has at some point performed work for a regulated company or an industry group.  As a result, they have all provoked strong responses from consumer and sustainable food advocates which appear to have successfully punctured every trial balloon Vilsack has floated.

Of course, you could call it a victory for consumer activitsts – the very idea that the seat is still empty means they are having an impact.  But then, it’s also been reported that Vilsack has vetted several other food advocates like Caroline Smith DeWaal and Bill Marler and passed, knowing their appointments would cause massive protest from the meat industry.

So while they fight it out, food safety in this country has not gotten any better and doesn’t appear to be headed there any time soon.  As I sent the recall link out to the staff in my office, I reminded them to be careful and buy local.  The truth is, there is no easy way to eat completely healthy and sustainable because those in charge make it nearly impossible.  One of the easiest ways to ensure you are getting good quality meat, produce and dairy is to know exactly where it’s coming from, and even that isn’t perfect.  It’s our job as consumers to continue to investigate and shed light on the failures of these institutions that claim to have our best interests in mind.

Posted by: Ashley / follow me on Twitter

Top 10 Green Tweeters?

Huffington Post’s Waylon Lewis reminds us why Twitter (and TweetDeck) is so powerful and cool, and then proceeds to list his Top 10 green tweeters. Honestly, it’s a lot more than 10, but hey, who’s counting? He claims to be all jacked up on caffeine and adrenaline, so cut the man some slack.

Check them all out and don’t forget the GLSL feed!

Posted by: Joe P