Category Archives: Environment

Meatless Monday: Step Outside Your Food “Comfort Zone”

If you haven’t heard of Meatless Monday yet, it is a non-profit initiative in association with Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health. The goal of the initiative is to help reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet.

Meatless Monday has a simple premise: don’t eat meat on Monday and replace it with other sources of protein (beans, legumes, seeds, nuts, etc.). In addition to the many health and environmental benefits of going meatless, a diet without meat also allows the eater to try new foods.

Take for example, if you went out for lunch and looked at the menu of  your favorite restaurant. You may usually order the burger and fries, but now it’s Monday, so you’re looking for other options. Go ahead and try the vegetable wrap (filled with sprouts, avocado, tomato, lettuce and hummus), the black bean soup (topped with scallions and a little sour cream) or the penne primavera (broccoli, carrot, zucchini, squash, tomatoes, and spinach in a white wine sauce). You might find that foods you usually don’t try turn out to be very delicious and satisfying. It’s small steps like this that will help improve your health and open the doors to new foods and flavors. You may even begin to expand your diet to include international fare (Indian, Korean, Chinese, Afghan, etc.) that offers vegetarian options. So, step outside of your food “comfort zone” and seek out that new restaurant or try a new recipe at home! Eat something adventurous today!

Kids, Sodas & Schools

I’ve been reading the book Fat Land for a couple of months now and have learned some interesting facts about how soda became more prevalent in schools. In the mid-1990’s funding for sports teams and clubs had been cut and therefore with less funds, school administrators were looking for alternative ways to still be able to offer these programs to students.

Large soft drink companies began to sign contracts with schools that would offer the schools compensation in exchange for selling only a particular company’s product. The schools would get commissions, a yearly bonus payment (sometimes as high as $100,000), products and beverages to sell at fund raising events and marketing tools to aid in these events. Since budgets were stretched thin, this seemed like the ideal solution at the time.

Little did anyone realize that the consumption of soft drinks between 1989 and 1994 would jump drastically. “The USDA estimated that the proportion of adolescent boys and girls consuming soft drinks on any given day increased by 74 percent and 65 percent, respectively.” (page 49). Kids were now drinking soft drinks instead of drinking and eating nutrient rich foods. They were also were not lowering their caloric intake to compensate for all the soda. I wanted to post this today, because I just found out about PepsiCo’s pledge that by 2012, they will not be selling sugared soft drinks in primary and secondary schools worldwide. This is great news!

What do you think about Pepsi’s pledge?

My First Herb Garden—What should I grow?

My grandmother always loved gardening and I have such wonderful memories of helping pick squash, tomatoes, corn and cucumbers from the garden in the summer. Since this year will be my first foray into gardening, I thought I’d try a few simple herbs to get started (and maybe some tomatoes, too!). I love to cook with cilantro, basil and mint. But, I’d like to cook more with oregano, rosemary, and dill. I’m thinking of doing some potted herbs so that I can move them around outside and bring them indoors in the fall. There’s something wonderful about growing your own food and going outside to grab some ingredients for dinner—I can’t wait!

Given that I don’t have the greenest of thumbs (I’ve over watered a cactus before!), do you have any gardening suggestions? What should I grow?

Jamie Oliver: Teach Every Child About Food

If you’re interested in Jamie Oliver and his new show, Food Revolution, please check out his TED talk above. Learn how Jamie Oliver wants to teach every child about food and why it is so critical to do so. I just learned that 10% of what we spend on healthcare is because of obesity related diseases and that number is expected to double. We can start making a difference today in our own lives by cooking healthy meals and learning about food.

Are you doing anything in your own life to improve your health, educate others or fight obesity? Please share your story below.

Food Revolution & Tony Geraci

I don’t watch television much (except for The Office and a few other embarrassingly horrible reality shows), so when I get the chance to see a commercial for an upcoming show that ACTUALLY seemed good—I got very excited! So, I might be a little late in sharing this, but I was really happy to see Jamie Oliver being so passionate about wanting to make a change in the most unhealthy city in America: Huntington, West Virgina. I’m really looking forward to tuning in to his show Food Revolution on March 26th for the first episode. Check out the commercial below.

Now, on a more local note. Last fall, I had the privilege to attend TEDxMidAtlantic and hear Tony Geraci, The Director of Food and Nutrition Services in Baltimore City Schools, speak about what he is doing to make change right hear in Baltimore.

Check out below his inspiring talk from TEDxMidAtlantic last fall.

The Future of Food

I’ve been watching The Future of Food tonight on Hulu and its been very eye-opening to learn about the history of farming and how our food production has changed drastically in the past 50 years. Check it out to learn more about farm subsidies, patents, seeds, genetic engineering, genetic diversity, lawsuits, research and the agro-bio-tech industry. It’s insightful (and frightening!) to learn about how our main food crops (corn, soybeans, cotton, wheat, etc.) are grown and how large corporations have so much power over the farmers and researchers. You vote every time you purchase something at the grocery store or buy from farmer’s markets, CSA’s, etc.—think about it! How do you vote for your food?

My Food Life in 2009

Since it is almost 2010, I figured I would take some time to reflect back on something that has really impacted my life over the past year: food. I grew up eating LOTS of processed, fattening, sugary, convenient and over packaged foods. Some of my favorite foods included: candy bars, macaroni and cheese, lunch cakes and pizza. While, arguably I still enjoy some of these treats from time to time, and do indulge during the holidays (mmm…cookies), I still have managed to transform the way I eat this past year. Here’s how I’ve done that:

  • Education: I’ve read many books, including The Way We Eat—Why Our Food Choices Matter, Food Matters and The Omnivore’s Dilemma
  • Cooking: I cook all vegetarian and sometimes vegan. I rarely buy lunch out at work (maybe three times this past year)—I always cook in bulk and freeze the leftovers. I buy fresh foods and go to farmer’s markets when I can. I spend money on buying healthy, quality ingredients. You can’t eat well, without spending more money on the food you buy. Here’s a video from Good on that: http://www.good.is/post/how-much-do-we-spend-on-food The video above shows some advice for people just starting out and wanting to eat healthier.
  • Exercise: When I exercise, I feel better, and this is motivation to continue eating healthy and being conscious about my food choices.
  • Friends: There’s nothing better than being surrounded by friends while enjoying a healthy, home-cooked meal.

There’s always room for improvement (as with anything) in my eating habits and I’m conscious of that, but I wanted to share my story since I’ve come from a family where I knew very little about my food choices and the correlation between eating and health. It seems like an obvious relationship, but when we as a society start taking medications instead of looking at the root cause of our health issues, it seems we overlook this connection. While I’m still educating myself on how to eat local, gardening, cooking and the impact of my food choices, I feel I’ve come a long way. I feel healthier, look healthier and am 30 pounds lighter than I was a year and a half ago. I’m not about complicated rules or being so strict about my diet that I can’t enjoy eating—my goal is to improve my health and lessen the impact my food choices have on the environment. It’s simple.

How about you—have you changed your eating habits or made any other significant life changes in 2009?

Objectified: A Documentary Film by Gary Hustwit

I saw Objectified last night with my friend Lauren. The film was sponsored by SHAG (who’s hosting a lot of great events in 2010, too). Here’s the trailer for the film:

Here are a few notes that I jotted down while watching the film, that may spark some creativity or inspiration for you. (I apologize for those I didn’t write the names down for, if you were there please feel free to comment if you remember the individuals who said these quotes)

  • Every object tells a story, if you know how to read it. (Henry Ford)
  • We have too many unnecessary things everywhere.
  • On designing objects: My jobs about what’s going to happen, not what has happened. (Mark Newson)
  • Are the things we’re doing making a change?
  • On the objects we own: I like the idea of wearing in, rather than wearing out.
  • Why do objects have to be built to be permanent?
  • On the cars we own: You’re making a statement to yourself about yourself.
  • Democratic products. (ie. IKEA)
  • I create objects that are a physical interpretation of the digital world. (Karim Rashid)

There are 3 phases of design

  1. Look at object as a form
  2. Look at object as a cultural symbol
  3. Look at design in a contextual way

I enjoyed the film last night and it really got me thinking about our relationship to the objects in our lives and why we buy what we buy. If you’ve seen Objectified, what did you find interesting? And, if you haven’t seen it—what are you waiting for?

Food Matters

Food Matters by Mark BittmanBeing interested in food and how we eat as a society, I recently finished reading “Food Matters”, by Mark Bittman and wanted to share a few things thoughts on the book. What I liked about this book was the half education / half recipe layout—it makes it easy to find interesting content and works great for people like me who like to flip between pages and sections while reading. The beginning of the book talks about our over-consumption of food, some history of food consumption and some food politics pertaining to how we got to where we are today in regard to environmental and health problems—particularly in developed countries. Some interesting facts (the book is scattered with great diagrams and pull-quotes):

  • 60 billion animals are raised each year for food–10 animals for every human on earth. The only way to reduce factory farming is to demand less meat.
  • 7% of Americans’ calories come from soda.
  • Meat consumption would have to fall 3 oz. a day to stabilize greenhouse gasses produced by livestock.
  • Spinach has more than twice as much protein per calorie as a cheeseburger.
  • Your body can scarcely tell the difference between white flour and white sugar.

I recommend this book for the conscious eater who wants to be healthier and help reduce global warming and the detrimental effect of our eating habits on our environment. It’s very easy to eat healthier—Bittman offers simple suggestions such as – cutting back on simple carbohydrates, dramatically lowering meat and junk food consumption and eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, and legumes. This book is a great resource for someone just starting to learn how to cook healthier and offers simple education about food and recipes for anyone (meat and non-meat lovers alike). Have you read any good books about food lately?

Youghiogheny River Dam

This weekend, while in Addison, Pennsylvania, my friends and I drove to see the Youghiogheny River Dam right outside of Confluence, Pennsylvania. While the day was cloudy, we were still able to see the structure of the dam—rolled earth fill with impervious core. The dam was built in 1943 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as one of sixteen flood control projects in the Pittsburgh area. I was interested to learn that the dam is also important in helping dilute pollutants before they reach other rivers in the region by increased water movement. Here’s an aerial view of the dam:

Youghiogheny River Lake

Photo courtesy of: http://www.lrp.usace.army.mil/rec/lakes/youghiog.htm#stats

Here’s some photos from my trip:

Youghiogheny River Lake Dam

Concrete lined tunnel

Ducks at the Youghiogheny River Dam

Youghiogheny River Lake and Dam

Friends at the Youghiogheny River Dam

If you’re interested in visiting the Youghiogheny River Lake & Dam there’s lots of outdoor activities in the area, such as swimming, camping, fising, hiking trails, boating and much more.