Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Personalized SIGG Water Bottles and a FREE tee because you know me!

I just love the products at Greensender.com and recently they just open The Bottle Shop where you can custom-design and personalize a premium SIGG reusable water bottle. Using a high-tech laser-engraving process, Greensender engraves a name and art selections on to the bottle -- yielding a beautiful and vibrant personalized mark.

The bottles make a great Father's Day gift.  I just bought them as teacher gifts. Shh..don't tell them! They are great for any gift occasion and the entire family --- at the beach, camp, gym, pool, and more.  Always know which bottle is yours.  Want to get them for an entire team or company?  The Bottle Shop will work with your own art to make the perfect bottle for you!

Best of all, because you know me -- Green Luvin' (a.k.a. Melissa Goldberg), if your order before August 1st, you can get a free tee shirt. Just put "Friend of Melissa Goldberg" in the comments section at checkout and note size and men's or women's shirt and a tee will be added to your order free. Isn't nice knowing me?

Hey and why don't follow me on Twitter @Green_Luvin?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Local Food Movement comes to the White House: Obama Plants a Garden!

For months, numerous groups and individuals have been petitioning the new administration to be the symbol for all American's the follow -- to lead by example and plant an organic food garden at the White House. Well the dream is becoming an reality.  Tomorrow (March 20th, the first day of Spring), Michelle Obama will break ground on a new garden on the South Lawn of White House.

As reported by The Washington Times, the 1,100 square foot garden will include 55 kinds of vegetables, berries, herbs and two bee hives for honey that will be tended by a White House carpenter who is also a beekeeper. The list of produce was chosen by White House chefs and the harvested food will be used to feed the first family daily, for state dinners and other official events.

Better yet, the garden will be organic using only organic seedlings, soil and fertilizers.  The total estimated cost for all the materials...$200.  

As reported by the New York Times, the plots will be in raised beds fertilized with White House compost, crab meal from the Chesapeake Bay, lime and green sand. Ladybugs and praying mantises will help control harmful bugs. 

Don't we all wish we had this garden?

Alice Waters has been lobbying the White House for a garden since 1992. "It just tells you that this country cares about people's good health and about the care of the land," she said. "To have this sort of 'victory' garden, this message goes out that everyone can grow a garden and have free food."

“A real delicious heirloom tomato is one of the sweetest things that you’ll ever eat,” said Michelle Obama. “And my children know the difference, and that’s how I’ve been able to get them to try different things." 

I hope all American's will take this lead, plant and garden and find out what a real tomato taste like. 

Friday, February 6, 2009

Rated G(reen): the Best Environmental, Food and Health Movies

It is Oscar time and we are all trying to catch that last movie everyone has been talking about. Whether at the water-cooler at work, on twitter, Facebook or even across the dinner table, we all love to talk about movies. Of the dozens of nominees this year, it appears that only two have green/public health themes -- WALL.E and the documentary The Garden.  But over the past few years there have been plenty of films that are truly worth taking a look at.  The following are a list of films my husband and I have watched over the past year or so (love Netflix) that I think you should watch.  They are listed in no particular order, just put them in your queue and enjoy.  Movies are rated from 1-3 green thumbs (1 is a watch, 2 should watch, 3 MUST watch.)

Story of Stuff with Annie Leonord 
Throughout this 20-minute online film, activist Annie Leonard, the film’s narrator and an expert on the materials economy, examines the social, environmental and global costs of extraction, production, distribution, consumption and disposal. The “Story of Stuff” examines how economic policies of the post-World War II era ushered in notions of consumerism — and how those notions are still driving much of the U.S. and global economies today. It is definately worth watching and forwarding to all your friends.

What happens when you mix water with big business? Nothing good.  Flow shows when you combine the public health and private interest you get "pollution, scarcity, human suffering and corporate profit." Water is a $400 billion dollar global industry; the third largest behind electricity and oil. There are estimates that from five hundred thousand to seven million people get sick per year from drinking tap water. So you want to be freaked out?  You want to have horrible dreams?  Well this is the movie for you. Moving from the US to India, from small farms to "industrial" spring water, Flow will get you to look at your tap at lot differently, and will hopefully get you to make more conscious decisions about how you use water.  This movie was one of the things that got me to have my water tested in my home.

Do you have kids in school? Do you pack a lunch for them every single day? If not, they probably are buying what the school is serving. If so, you want to know what your kids are eating in school, well so did Amy Kalafa and Susan Rubin. These moms were fed up that their children were eating highly-processed food filled with additives and preservatives at school. Two Angry Moms, the film and the movement, address an issue of great concern to parents across the country. What is happening to the health of our children and how does school food factor in? The movie not only shows what is wrong with school food, it offers strategies for overcoming roadblocks and getting real food into school cafeterias. Kalafa and Rubin provide solutions to the problem that include the connection between the cafeteria and the classroom. The movie explores the roles the Federal government, corporate interests, school administration and parents play in feeding our school kids.  For additional watching head over to TED.ORG and watch Anne Cooper's talk on School Food.

If you're anything like me, you consider Michael Pollan something of a food guru. I hold The Omnivores Dilemma as the bible of the sustainable food movement. A core theme of Pollan's book is the impact industrial corn plays across the entirety of US, and now global, society. For those of you are interested in an introductory course on the corn, you must see this documentary by two college friends, Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis. A great visual into to corn industry and the American food system, "King Corn" should become required viewing for all schools across the country to teach children to eat better. For a more indept review of this movie read my post titled King Corn: We are what we eat.

Want to know what goes into making a building green and what can go wrong? Well so did the filmmakers of King Corn.  Set in South Boston, The Greening of Southie is about Boston’s first residential green building, and the skeptical workers who are asked to build it. From wheatboard cabinetry to recycled steel, bamboo flooring to dual-flush toilets, The Macallen Building is something different––a leader in the emerging field of environmentally friendly design. But Boston’s steel-toed union workers aren’t sure they like it. And when things on the building start to go wrong, the young developer has to keep the project from unraveling.  An interesting look on the contrast between the ever changing green movement and an insular community resistant to change. 

Killer at Large examines the startling details of the American obesity epidemic and why this issue has crossed from a public health crisis to a national security issue. The film starts with a clip from a press conference with Surgeon General Richard Carmona who when asked what is the most pressing issue Americans face today he planing states, “Obesity. Because obesity is a terror within. It is destroying our society from within and unless we do something about it, the magnitude of the dilemma will dwarf 9/11 or any other terrorist event you can point out. Where will our soldiers, sailors, and airmen come from? Where will our police and firemen come from if the youngsters today are on a trajectory that says they will be obese?” The movie provides a perspective on one of the most pressing health issue of our time and serves as a call to arms to take a stand and reverse this deadly trend – which is poised to cripple our nation’s health care system and bankrupt our economy within the next 20 years. Killer at Large will be available on DVD on March 31st, 2009.

If you are still debating if you should join a CSA then you must watch the documentary about John Peterson, a.k.a Farmer John, a midwest farmer whose life parallels the history of American farming in the late 20th century.  Peterson came from a family of farmers who struggled, like most farmers, to make ends meet. Peterson's father died when he was teenager, which forced him to be in charge of the farm. By the 1980's, when most farmers were trouble, so was Peterson who had to sell off most of his farm to make ends meet. Destitute and depressed, Peterson took time away from farming and returned in the '90s. Deciding to change his farm from a mono-culture, chemical dependent farm, to an organic farm and connect himself to the land, Peterson turned his farm into the one of the largest CSAs in the country.  Peterson is a truly unique individual and is interesting to watch.  To be honest, the movie is a bit slow, but is worth the time and effort to get through. 

Ok, now for the movie that will OUTRAGE YOU. This is one movie that will get you pissed off and probably make you call your Congressperson, Senator or whoever you want to rant to. Remember way back (last summer) when gas was $4 a gallon and looked to keep going up? When we all heard about how "the Electric Car was coming". Ford, Toyota, and GM said that a production ready electric car was only 5 or 10 years away. Well guess what? We already had a true electric car. Twelve years ago GM - the company that just got tens of billions of bailout money, launched the EV1, the world's first true production plug-in electric car. This film looks at the birth and untimely death of the EV1. This wonderful car required no petrochemical-based fuel and could be plugged in for recharging at home and at a number of so-called battery parks. The car was loved by just about everyone who owned it, including a number of celebrities. Who killed it? Watch this a prepare to get insanely mad.

This is far and away one of the most well known of the food/green movies out there. If you have not seen this 30-day eating journey of Morgan Spurlock it is a must. Spurlock's month long McDonald's food festival explores the fast food industry's influence on the American consumer and how public health is put aside for corporate wealth. It is just another look at the obesity epidemic and how our industrial food industry is killing Americans. Prepare to throw-up in your mouth a little watching this movie. But also prepare to never, ever look at fast food the same way again.

Other movies which I have not seen yet but are on my list are Sustainable Table What's on Your Plate? (2007) Food, Inc. (2008), Bad Seed: The Truth About Our Food (2006) The World According To Monsanto (2008) and The Future of Food (2004).

All the above mentioned movies can be rented on Netflix or purchase on the films website. Check them out and let me know what you think. Also, if you are interested purchasing Two Angry Moms to screen at your child's school, the library or for a large group, Amy Kalafa (one angry mom) has offered a $10 discount for orders over $50. Use coupon code DD010 at check out.

Follow me on Twitter @Green_Luvin 

Monday, February 2, 2009

Drinking Water: Is it safe? That depends on who you talk to.

Everyone has the right to clean and accessible water, adequate for the health and well-being of the individual and family, and no one shall be deprived of such access or quality of water due to individual economic circumstance.

In 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations created and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The 30 articles defined THE inalienable rights for all people and all nations.  Today, there is a call to add one more article to the declaration. "Recognizing that over a billion people across the planet lack access to clean and potable water and that millions die each year as a result, it is imperative to add one more article to this historic declaration, the Right to Water." 

If you've been reading my blog you know that I tend to focus on food issues.  But for a moment I wanted to focus on water. Water is life.   This is the first of at least two parts that will deal with water issues.  This blog will look at the issue of clean water in America.  Clean water in America?  Really?  Isn't all the water that flows through our pipes and into our homes safe?

Well, if you are like me, water is probably something you tend to take for granted. You take showers, you wash your clothes, you reach for the tap in your sink and you're pretty confident that clean, potable water will be there for you. But for billions of people across the world water; finding it, transporting it, and making sure it's clean, is the single most important part of their lives. 
Even here in the United States, clean drinking water is a very important issue, and one that most people are not aware of. A recent study conducted at the Southern Nevada Water Authority (as reported New Scientist on January 11) surveyed drinking water for more than 28 million Americans.  The survey screened water from 19 US water utilities for 51 different compounds.  The analysis revealed widespread low level presence of pharmaceuticals and hormonally active chemicals including beta blockers, herbicides banned in Europe, mood stabilizing drugs, estrogen hormones, painkillers, tranquilizers, antibiotics, anticonvulsants, anti-inflammatory drugs, anti-cholesterol drugs and many more.  

No need to go to the doctor just drink lots of water to get your daily does of FDA prescribed drugs. Now the amount in the water is a million times less than medical doses but no one knows what the cumulative effect of drinking this contaminated water is.   

After reading this survey I decided to contact my local water company to find out the real story of MY water. What I learned was that our water is very safe for what is tested for. But my water company just like every other one in the US does not test for antibiotics or other pharmaceuticals.  It turns out that in the U.S., all water utilities follow only what is required by the Safe Water Drinking Act (remember that President Bush raised the limits on the amount of arsenic allowed in our drinking water, so I'd question the Federally approved levels.) 

Now I am no doctor or scientist but you have to think that drinking water with any levels of pharmaceuticals has got to be bad for our health.  

This is not new information to the EPA. There is an entire section on the EPA's website covering Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products (PPCPs) as pollutants which they refers to as "any product used by individuals for personal health or cosmetic reasons or used by agribusiness to enhance growth or health of livestock." According to the EPA "More research is needed to determine the extent of ecological harm and any role it may have in potential human health effects. To date, scientists have found no evidence of adverse human health effects from PPCPs in the environment." But rather then filtering it out, we will drink the contaminants until we like fish have genetic mutations.

So what can you do to make sure that water in your home is safe?  

Well you could put in a water filtration system like a reverse osmosis system but the system only filters the same contaminants that the local water authorities test for which are all within permissible ranges.  If you are not comfortable with government set levels that this is may be the way to go.  However, be forewarned, wastewater is a by-product of the reverse osmosis process. Better systems will make almost 4 gallons of water brine for every one-gallon purified, while lower grade systems can waste as much as 8 gallons of water per gallon purified.  

Radiant Life Company sells a 14 stage Biocompatible Water system that filters everything, including pharmaceutical residues. The system will run you $1,595 plus shipping and then you need a plumber to install.  It includes a reverse osmosis system as one of the stages so I would assume the wastewater by-product would increase with each additional stage.

Or could just by a carbon filter like Brita to be on the safe side and drink the water from the tap.  

It is all up to personally choice and preference weighing the health and environmental effects -- wasting water or not contaminating your body. I wish it was not one or the other.

But what we really should do is force the EPA to make sure our water is free and clear of all contaminants.  We need to create petition to amend the Safe Water Drinking Act to require all water utilities to test and filter our drinking for pharmaceuticals.  

Anyone want to help me?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Guest Blogger: Leslie Hatfield of the Green Fork blog on the FDA and Mercury in High Fructose Corn Syrup

There are so many good green bloggers out there I wanted to introduce you to another blogger that I really enjoy reading. Leslie Hatfield is the freelance editor of the Green Fork blog and serves as media consultant for Eat Well, a NYC-based nonprofit program which promotes the sustainable food movement and helps people find good food through their online directory of farms, restaurants and other outlets of locally-grown food. Leslie has also contributed to Edible Chesapeake and The Ethicurean.  

"Our Melamine: There’s Mercury in High Fructose Corn Syrup, and the FDA Has Known for Years"

Maybe Jeremy Piven didn’t get mercury poisoning from fish at all — according to the results of this new study released by the Institute for Agriculture and Trace Policy (IATP), the actor may well have been sickened by soda or candy or anything that contains high fructose corn syrup, which, if you eat processed food in this country means, well, just about anything.

Foodies and nutritionists alike have been griping about high fructose corn syrup for years, and the industry has responded with an “astroturf” campaign and a level of secrecy generally reserved for the military officials or secret societies (see Corn Refiners’ Association president Audrae Erickson’s stonewalling performance in King Corn).

Of course, I wouldn’t want to show my hand either, if the making of my product could be described as undertaking a small “Manhattan Project” (see eye-glazing production info here). But as it turns out, the HFCS industry has been hiding some major skeletons in its closet — according to the IATP study (pdf), over 30% of products containing the substance tested positive for mercury.

What makes this news truly shocking is not just that the manufacturers of high fructose corn syrup would put consumers’ health at risk, but that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) knew about the mercury in the syrup and has been sitting on this information since 2005.

Here’s the connection, according to the IATP press release (pdf) announcing the study: The IATP study comes on the heels of another study, conducted in 2005 but only recently published by the scientific journal, Environmental Health, which revealed that nearly 50 percent of commercial HFCS samples tested positive for the heavy metal. Renee Dufault, who was working for the FDA at the time, was among the 2005 study’s authors.

Here’s how the mercury gets in there, according to Janet at the Ethicurean:
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.
And here’s more from the press release:
“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.”
And on why it matters:
“Mercury is toxic in all its forms,” said IATP’s David Wallinga, M.D., and a co-author in both studies. “Given how much high fructose corn syrup is consumed by children, it could be a significant additional source of mercury never before considered. We are calling for immediate changes by industry and the FDA to help stop this avoidable mercury contamination of the food supply.”
In China, heads might roll over a scandal like this one, at least if the country received global attention for its allowing corrupt health officials’ greasy palms come before, um, public health.

Of course, in this country, the FDA’s neck is safe. But what about the health of American consumers? Let’s see the Corn Refiner’s Association try to spin this one.
Originally posted on January 27th 2009 on the Green Fork blog.

Drum roll please:  The Corn Refiner's Association rebutal...as stated in a press release entitled HFCS Mercury Study Outdated; Based on Discontinued Technology, “This study appears to be based on outdated information of dubious significance. Our industry has used mercury-free versions of the two re-agents mentioned in the study, hydrochloric acid and caustic soda, for several years. These mercury-free re-agents perform important functions, including adjusting pH balances,” stated Audrae Erickson, President, Corn Refiners Association. “For more than 150 years, corn wet millers have been perfecting the process of refining corn to make safe ingredients for the American food supply.” The full press release can be read here.  

Not sure how that explains the results of the IATP study that found that nearly one in three of 55 brand-name foods bought off the shelves in 2008 contained mercury. The chemical was found most commonly in HFCS-containing dairy products, dressings and condiments.

I think the corn has just spun off the cob.  

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Guest Blogger: Dennis Pacheco of ChelseaGreen.com on Eating Local or Risk Death?

We have a guest blogger today.  Dennis Pacheco is Web Content Coordinator for ChelseaGreen.com, the Web site of premier sustainability publisher Chelsea Green Publishing. Their books include Sharing the Harvest and Fresh Food from Small Spaces, and they distribute contra-farmer Joel Salatin's books (Everything I Want to Do Is Illegal and others). 

Readers of the Green Luvin' blog probably don't need another inducement to "eat local." Like Chelsea Green's audience, you're probably hip to the whole concept: support local farmers, enrich your community, connect directly with your food, avoid GMO as much as possible (Although they are difficult, if not impossible, to avoid entirely—soy products, anyone?), cut carbon emissions and reduce demand for our dwindling supplies of dirty fossil fuels, etc., etc. But just in case you're having trouble making the case with some of your less sustainability-minded friends, here's a good one: don't get really sick and possibly die.

You hear news reports all the time about Salmonella outbreaks in spinach or some other product that probably originated halfway around the country or halfway around the world, but what exactly is it?

While not always fatal, it's also not pleasant.

From CDC.gov:

Salmonellosis is an infection with bacteria called Salmonella. Most persons infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection. The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days, and most persons recover without treatment. However, in some persons, the diarrhea may be so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalized. In these patients, the Salmonella infection may spread from the intestines to the blood stream, and then to other body sites and can cause death unless the person is treated promptly with antibiotics. The elderly, infants, and those with impaired immune systems are more likely to have a severe illness.

Last Friday, the New York Times reported on the latest headline-grabbing outbreak, this time from peanut butter that originated from a plant in Georgia.

From the New York Times:

For the nation’s grocery shoppers, the list of foods that might contain salmonella-tainted peanut butter has grown so quickly that keeping up seems daunting. 

There are boxes of Valentine’s candy, frozen cookie dough and dog biscuits, chicken satay, peanut butter cups and stuffed celery. 

Many of the products are sold as supermarket brands or under lesser-known national labels, but the list also has some of the more popular snacks on the shelf, like Little Debbie sandwich crackers, Famous Amos cookies and energy snacks from Clif Bar and NutriSystems. 

The Food and Drug Administration has listed almost 130 products that have been recalled, but federal officials say the list is likely to grow as the investigation continues. The large and varied list of products points up the many layers involved in producing packaged foods.

“I don’t think we can determine how many more” products will be recalled, Stephen F. Sundlof, director of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition at the food and drug agency, told reporters on Wednesday.

Out of 486 cases of salmonella illness reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 6 people have died and 107 have been hospitalized. The most recent person sickened fell ill on Jan 8. Since it takes up to three weeks for cases to be reported to the disease agency, more are expected.

Consumers who have packages of food made with peanut products should check with the manufacturer by Web site or telephone and consult the F.D.A. recall list at fda.gov. Anyone who is not sure about a product should not eat it, federal officials said.


The plant also produced peanut paste, a more concentrated product used in candy, crackers and many other kinds of foods. Tracking how the paste travels through the food supply can be challenging, because several companies can be involved in making the final food. For example, one manufacturer might coat the paste in chocolate and make a peanut butter cup, which is then sold to another company that mixes it into ice cream that may or may not also contain peanut butter. A grocery chain might buy that ice cream and sell it under a private label.

Volume, wide distribution and a complicated supply chain are not the only issues. Salmonella can survive for a long time in a closed container of peanut butter.

“The piece that hasn’t come out yet is that peanut butter isn’t like spinach or ground beef because it has a really long shelf life,” said Caroline Smith DeWaal, food safety director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

So remember: eat local. Contribute to the local economy, make an impact on CO2 emissions, avoid GM foods, and greatly reduce the risk of suffering a pretty lousy fate at the hands of an industrial food supply contaminant.

Read the whole Times article here.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Martin Luther King and a 7-Year-Old: Same Dream, Different World

I think this image speaks for itself...


What can you do to make this world a better place? Let me know and I will Twitter about each response as they come it. Or you can just send me a message on Twitter.  You can follow me on Twitter at @Green_Luvin.