Veggies Fresh from the Farm–Without Getting Dirty!

…well unless you want to…

Imagine receiving a weekly delivery of farm fresh vegetables, flowers, dairy and pasture grazed beef every week without getting one ounce of dirt on your hands…for those that agree that a little dirt won’t hurt you, there are ways to get your farming fix by helping to plant crops for your local farmer and with each delivery you’ll smile knowing you played a part in cultivating the delicious bounty before you.

This perfect balance of free veggies with or without dirt does exist, and it’s called Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) my friends!

Community farming initiatives started out in Japan and Chile in the early 1970s, with influence in the United States coming from the biodynamic agricultural traditions of post World War II Europe from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. The idea crossed the pond in 1986 and the idea of CSAs was born simultaneously at Indian Line Farm in Massachusetts and at the Temple-Wilton Community Farm in New Hampshire.

CSAs help to create a local, safe, and sustainable community. When people share in the harvest and even planting of their own food they feel a sense of pride. The benefits of owning a share in your local CSA is knowing exactly where your food is coming from, how it’s grown, and who the farmer is, minus the concerns of genetically modified organisms, cruel animal farming practices, and the contribution to fertilizer laden ecosystems from harsh over use. Because they are not government funded, the best part about CSAs is that all they need to thrive is involved members, farmers looking for community support, green thumbs and a good piece of land.

CSAs do have a few drawbacks just like anything else in this world. Shareholders must adjust to eating with the seasons and the inconsistencies of the harvest. Many CSAs will send out surveys asking what’s working and what families would like to see grown, but the farmers make the final call, and with any CSA, you take what you get.

But the thought of paying half the price of retail for locally grown produce, flowers and locally raised dairy and meat products outweighs any negative aspects in my opinion. If you keep track of how much you spend on average in the produce section or your local market each week–then multiply that by 26 you’ll have a figure to compare with what a six month share at your local CSA would be.

Great websites like Local Harvest and Sustainable Table can help you find local CSAs in your area, the farmers are more than happy for you to contact them regarding CSA product and pricing information.

Love your farmer–eat locally!

Posted by Amanda| follow me on Twitter

Become a Jedi of the Farmer’s Market

Now that spring has officially sprung itself here in our lovely state of Rhode Island my thoughts are drifting towards the 2010 farmer’s market season. I am a huge fan of the Aquidneck Growers’ Market; I get there early so that I can get first dibs on all the goodies while sipping on an icy cup of deliciousness from Custom House Coffee. Since buying locally is the biggest way to high five mother earth I thought I’d put together some tips and tactics in preparation for the upcoming season–to make sure you find the produce you are looking for.

Straight from the horses—or in this case farmer’s mouth

Don’t be afraid to talk to the person tending the booth—it is an amazing opportunity to speak with the people who grow it–they want to answer your questions! Ask where your food comes from, are they certified organic? If not ask why, I guarantee they’ll have a good reason…maybe they are a very small family run farm who practices sustainability because the price tag of organic just doesn’t add up…but hey…sustainable farming is great too!

If you don’t know how to cook parsnips, rutabagas, artichokes or that some squash blossoms are edible (and delicious when panko breaded and fried!), ask for suggestions on preparing them.

Make a list, no need to check it twice

Knowing what’s in season won’t be very hard to figure out while you are at the farmers market since it will be all around you…but doing a little recon before making any purchases will help you out in two ways.

  1. Do a little research for in-season produce and look at seasonal menus to help you figure out what you’d like to be looking for and what to do with your locally grown haul. Oranges and Avocados don’t grow in Rhode Island in May…but Asparagus does!
  2. Make a loop around and take in all the sights before buying (I like to grab a coffee and a blueberry muffin…grazing while I take in the sights) you’ll kick yourself if you find amazing looking basil two tables down…for half the price!

It always helps to have a few loose ideas in your head as to what you are going to do with your produce…often the grower will want to hear about that delicious blueberry trifle you made the week before, your feedback can help them sell to the next person who doesn’t know what they’d do with a pound of fresh berries.

Money talks…debit cards walk…

Please oh please do not get frustrated when the farmer forgets their credit card machine at home…unless you are at in indoor farmer’s market most of the time there is no electricity at such events. You’d think this was common sense…but since I’ve seen it—I had to put it out there…

Also don’t be afraid to use your cash to shop for bargains—it doesn’t hurt to ask especially if you are at the tail end of the day—if two items for $5 instead of $6.50 will work.

Tote along for the ride…

Since fresh produce hasn’t been dipped in wax or petrified to survive shipping thousands of miles it will absolutely bruise and damage easily. Collapsible market totes, boat tote bags and coolers will become your new bff and always go with you to the market. Damp paper towels or cheese cloth in water proof containers or baggies will protect herbs from wilting on your way home—and can be used in the refrigerator to help keep them a little longer. Chances are your farmer will have a few recommendations for storing, watering, and enjoying your purchases.

Do or do not…there is no try.” ~Master Yoda

Happy hunting–see you at the market!!

Here are a few great websites to help you along your journey:

Local Harvest

Epicurious’ seasonal map

Farmers Market online in season listing

Posted by Amanda| follow meow on Twitter

Live! from CEA’s Greener Gadgets in NYC

The Greener Gadgets Conference opens today in NYC at the McGraw-Hill Conference Center.  The conference will tackle all of the issues surrounding energy efficiency and sustainable design, from innovative advances in packaging and product manufacturing to end-of-life recycling solutions. It will also highlight ways in which electronics make a major impact by utilizing renewable energy in developing nations.

With panel discussions, networking and a design competition, the 2010 conference should be something to look forward to!

Green Life Smart Life founder Kim Lancaster will be speaking the “Green Living Begins at Home” panel with panelists like Sarah Krasley from Autodesk and moderator Sarah Rich from Dwell Magazine.  The panel description reads: Greening your life is an everyday process, starting with the place you begin every day. From building to remodeling, home automation to energy management, green living begins at home. Listen to experts discuss sustainable design strategies for urban and rural locations, creating plans for a home that is both high-tech and green.

I will be attending the event as both a blogger and moral support provider for Kim and hope to live blog and add updates & pictures throughout the show (especially during her panel at 10:40 am ET).

Check my Twitter feed for more up to the minute coverage as well: @ashleydano

iPhone applications helping you Go Green

If you don’t own an iPhone yourself, more than likely you know someone who does. I personally am one of the many people who do, along with some of my friends. As an iPhone user you are constantly going into your “App store” to see what there is for cool new apps to put on your phone. Recently, a good friend of mine mentioned that there are tons of eco-friendly apps to help you go green. After hearing this I went and did some research about these apps.

Applications for your iPhone are broken into two groups, ones you have to pay for and others that are free. Some of the paid for apps I found are called Eco Footprint and GreenTips, they cost .99 cents each. Eco Footprint is a program that allows you to calculate your ecological footprint based on your eating and travel habits. Once you find out your ecological footprint you can then share the results with your friends through email or Facebook.

The GreenTips application gives you easy ways to go green, save money, and save the planet. The tips they give you range from topics about being green at your school or dorm, how to save money on your energy bill, being a green pet owner, helping your community become greener, and many more.

As for the free apps, two I found are ClimateCounts and GreenLocals. ClimateCounts is an app that analyzes companies and based on their ranking scale you can see how well a company is addressing climate change. They rank companies in sectors on food products, apparel, airlines, hotels, toys, furniture, and more. This can help you make many daily purchasing decisions and support companies that are highly ranked when it comes to them addressing the climate change.

GreenLocals is an app that helps you find local green and sustainable businesses easy using your phones GPS to locate certified businesses near you. You can browse by different categories to find a certain business and it will also give you directions on how to get to this location. You can also submit your own business or rate and review one you found.

I only named two from each category but there are many more to choose from, so enjoy and go find an app that helps you go green!

Posted by Megan/ Follow me on Twitter

Pixels Versus Paper

An old friend back at the Forest Society brought an interesting subject to my attention last week…he asked if I’d seen any research lately on which is greener – eBooks or printed books…or as he called it the carbon footprints of paper versus pixels. The majority of the info that he’d found actually came from the paper industry…so as you can imagine of course they claim their research shows that paper has a smaller carbon footprint than pixels—this prompted me to go online and do a little digging just to see what those whom are interested in the subject have to say.

In literature put out by International Paper titled Are Pixles Greener than Paper? they state Electric Data Centers (EDC) that power internet servers use 1.5% (enough to power 5.72 million homes) of the total energy purchased in the United States while the pulp and paper industry uses .7% (enough to power 2.76 million homes). They also say that the paper and pulp industry is one of the largest consumers of low-carbon and renewable energy with sixty percent of their energy coming from carbon-neutral sources, while the electronics industry purchases more than ninety percent of its energy off the grid and from fossil fueled sources. The consumption rate of data centers doubled in the U.S. from 2000 to 2006 and it is estimated that it will double again by 2011.

I took this report with a grain of salt since it was published by an international paper manufacturer, but they do bring up some good points when it comes to statistics on paper recycling versus electronics recycling…how many of you have wrapped something naughty up and stuck it in the trash because it’s just easier than taking said item to your local transfer station or waiting for the hazardous waste recycling days that seem to only come around once a year and of course the weekend that you are out of town—D’oh!

We all know paper is biodegradable, recyclable and reusable…but did you know that an estimated sixty percent of paper is recycled while only eighteen percent of electronics are e-cycled…with 1.84 million tons of electronic wast shipped to landfills in 2006 alone…I didn’t…YIKES!

On the other hand, according to Kris Kiler, the Founder and President of TypeLabs another way of looking at things from an eBook versus paper point of view is that 37 million pieces of paper thrown away each year do not get recycled, many retailers will even rip the cover off paperbacks to obtain credit for not selling the book—the rest goes in the garbage. There is also the gasoline used to get to the bookstore, for each gallon of fuel we use, we create 22 pounds of greenhouse gases and that doesn’t include modes of transportation that get the printed book to the retail outlet…

eBooks do need energy in order for you to read them, and yes there is an environmental impact of creating the device, driving to the store to pick it up—but you can use it over and over…the reuse of the device will most likely consume minimal energy when compared to the production and purchase of the paper book—and if you are able to purchase green energy from your local utility, you aren’t using an extreme amount of fossil fueled power to begin with. Those that are lucky enough to live within walking distance of the library (like me) have a lesser impact by borrowing books—but I’m sure my fellow bookworms like myself also own plenty of traditional dead tree books. The concept of Eco-Libraries is neat, but I’m not sure if I would really be jazzed about living in a world without the smell of old books…

So which do you prefer…pixels or paper…??

Posted by Amanda| follow me on Twitter

Paper towel challenged

While making lunch this afternoon (well if you count opening the can, pouring soup into bowl and heating for 3 minutes “making lunch”) I spilled a little of my soup on the counter. Immediately without looking up I grabbed for a paper towel, wiped up the spill and threw the towel away. The little hippie on my shoulder screamed at me for what I had just done. A mere tablespoon worth of liquid had spilled so why didn’t I just grab the sponge and clean it up the old fashioned way–well for one…this tree hugger is also a germophobe and sponges are known for being breeding grounds for bacteria!
In my head I began contemplating the great paper towel versus a sponge or dish towel debate. Quite the conundrum a germaphobic hippie…don’t get me started on how I feel about the shower curtain liner touching me…or friends whose toothbrushes are stored on the backs of toilets. Now there are certain things I must use paper towels for like patting down mapley deliciously smoked bacon on Sunday mornings, but mainly for picking up the more than occasional doo poo (I have two vindictive Mini Schnauzers who despise my social life and like to leave love notes in front of the kitchen door) or the freshly barfed up grass. But for the most part my large collection of bar mops and dishtowels should suffice–right? I mean as a child I didn’t die from my mothers and Grandmothers use of a dishcloth or dishtowels..right?

Now some of you are saying oh you aren’t a real tree hugger if you are using paper towels man…WRONG, first read my license plate — TREHGR — second, any educated person or forester will tell you that we need a healthy and sustainable forest product industry, yes folks that means hugging trees while they are standing up or laying down! We do need to harvest our forests to keep them vibrant and healthy. The key word is sustainability here, we have to find that balance within our homes.

I am not saying in any way you should ban paper towels or toilet paper use in your home (I need more than two squares unlike Sheryl Crow!) but be more conscious of your usage. If you have the ability to start a compost pile please do it and then you can enjoy the game of how little waste you throw out each week. Food scraps can be turned into free dirt for your own homes, friends and neighbors. Those paper towels will biodegrade nicely as long as you haven’t been using them to bleach your sink!

We should all remember that first we must reduce before we reuse and recycling should be our next option because there is no place called away where we can magically throw things.

That being said I’ve realized that even the green can get a little greener, and it will help my wallet not be so lean as well — have you noticed the high price for something you’ll only throw away?! I’ve challenged myself to use less and only when the situation calls for it, I challenge you all to do the same and get comfortable with being uncomfortable!

To help you get your creative reduction juices flowing visit some of my favorite places:
Paper Towel Alternatives
Paper Towel Challenge!

Posted by: Amanda

Yoga Breathes New Life into Stale Culture

As our consciousness expands, modern man is more open to exploring ancient ways of living.  Through increased awareness, we’re realizing that new is not necessarily better and that if something has persisted through thousands of years, then perhaps there’s some benefit in it.  This is the natural shift of man, an endless pendulum that swings between light and darkness, between both progress and regressions in enlightenment.

Adorno and Horkheimer hit the nail on the head when they noted society fluctuating between two extremes.  Here we begin to see the point.  The point is a swelling “manipulative nature of culture” that creates and fosters a pseudo sense of self. 

In no area is this manipulation greater than with what lies within us. The modern man is a master manipulator of himself.  Through the ego, rarely ostracized but rather accepted as one’s own conscious self, we have tricked ourselves into believing that we are always in control

Corporations have also found a profitable niche here by catering to desperate dieting fads and overpriced cookie-cutter health clubs. And thus we have a culture that packages an identity that feeds into the modern ego. 

The ego, desperately in need of structure and control, has sacrificed us to mass assembly line thinking.  With little exception we all more or less think the same way, a theory evidenced in our shared attitudes.  Perhaps in no other time in history have we been more disconnected from our authentic selves. 

Enter Yoga.

Yoga, an ancient art form rooted in spirituality, has channeled to the forefront of culture through a resurging interest in esoteric new-age thinking.  While most “new-age” trends are vacuous of any genuine philosophy, yoga is an exception. 

Wrongly stereotyped as a woman’s fitness routine, yoga is comparable in mind and body benefits to martial art forms such as Tai Chi.  Both require an immense amount of focus and discipline and are much harder than they seem.  However, I noticed a new trend on the rise, something referred to as “Hot Yoga”.

Though I recently traded in a useless gym membership for a few effective hours of boxing at a local dive gym, I’m always on the look out for new challenges. Having tried yoga at an Indian spirituality retreat years ago, I was interested to give it another go.  I was more curious about what this “hot” factor was.

Guzzling bucket loads of water as suggested, I showed up for a “hot yoga” class only to find about a 900-1000 square foot room packed with both men and women and set to a scorching 105°F with 40% humidity.  Ninety minutes and 26 poses later, I pooled together what was left of me and stumbled out of the room.  It was total torture the first time around but it was fantastic.

The only downside to “hot yoga” is the ripe smell of sweat and the lack of ventilation in the facility.  To avoid the yoga studio smells and encourage yoga studio sanitation, studios would do well to leave a gap between sessions and switch on a fan or air purifier between classes. Considering the level of extended deep breathing within moments of starting the session, it only makes sense to ensure filtered air through an air cleaner.

But going through the poses, you’re forced to let go of your need for control.  It’s a much more personal experience putting you in touch with your self as you recognize your own limits and work to push beyond them.  Void of meat-market attitudes, cacophonous music, and idle chatter usually found in large chain health clubs, hot yoga is without a doubt a complete meditation.  With sweat dripping from brow to ankle, it takes the will of a saint to remain in pose and to resist the urge to leave.  The ultimate result is a challenge of not just the body but also of the mind as you struggle to quiet it and master your own ego.

Hot Yoga Trends is brought to you by Shireen Qudosi