Wednesday, May 28, 2008

New Blog Name...Green Luvin'

So many of you must be thinking what happened to A Greeniac's World and why is this blog called Green Luvin'. Well, in today's corporate world, where everything is owned by someone, I have learned that "Greeniac" is trademarked.

A couple weeks ago I received letter from a lawyer for the "UNLAWFUL USE of Greeniac and Greeniacs." The lawyer represents, a social networking site on environmental issues. They own the trademark for Greeniac, Greeniacs, A Greeniac Nation is a Happy Nation, Greeniac Nation, Of course they also own,, and many other variations using the word Greeniac.

So therefore, my use of Greeniac in the title of my blog was a trademark infringement and I have to stop using it or they will start legal action.

So from now on, unless I find a better blog name, you will reading Green Luvin'.

Enjoy and stay green,


Guest Blogger: Farmer Shannon Hayes on Methane Production in Grassfed Livestock

Once again Shannon Hayes, a sustainable farmer in Upstate New York, has written an interesting article on Methane Production, Beef and Global Warming.

Methane Production in Grassfed Livestock: By Shannon Hayes

As debates about how to save the planet rage on, grass farmers are suddenly faced with an onslaught of questions about…believe it or not, cow burps and farts. Any of us who’ve sat quietly and milked our family cow can attest to the simple fact that, yes, grassfed cattle do belch quite a bit.

Enteric fermentation, the fermentation of forage in the rumen, is a natural part of the digestion process for ruminant animals such as cows, sheep, goats or buffalo. As Matthew Rales pointout in his excellent article in the Spring 2008 journal, Wise Traditions, rumen fermentation “is the process that gives us fats like conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), and bone building nutrients like vitamin K.”(1) Grassfed livestock belch more than factory-farmed animals because they have a higher amount of roughage in their diet, which comes from grasses, and less starch. Grainfed livestock have a higher percentage of starch, since much of their feed comes from corn (the production of which, as we know, is also responsible for a fair amount of greenhouse gas). The natural fermentation process is unnaturally suppressed in factory farmed livestock…but grainfed animals still burp and fart quite a bit. In addition, factory farming results in considerable carbon emissions owing to the fuel intensive production practices. Concentrated animal production can also cause very serious pollution problems.

Unfortunately, this natural process of emitting methane is causing a lot of folks to raise their arms in alarm, to forego their local grass-fed burgers, and to opt instead for a bowl of rice and veggies. 

Whoa! Stop right there….rice field methane emissions are a major source of atmospheric methane. Further, research is starting to indicate that vegetation is also a source of methane. Trees, too. On another note, those blessed wetlands that we regard as bastions of environmental health and wealth comprise 80% of all natural methane emissions (2). Still, human-made sources of methane exceed natural sources, and in the United States, the culprits are oil, coal and gas extraction, landfills, rice cultivation, biomass burning and, yes, ruminant livestock and waste treatment.

So what’s a hungry person to do? 

Well, first of all, get recycling, and buy fresh local food that doesn’t come in a lot of packaging. Can the tomatoes from your garden or farm stand so you don’t have to buy any from the store in the winter. Start riding your bike more and using your car less. In the United States, landfills and natural gas and petroleum systems are responsible for more methane emissions than ruminants. When you hop on your bicycle, make sure you strap a little cooler on the rack and pedal over to your local grass farmer to pick up some lamb chops and some burger for your grill tonight (and, while you’re at it, go ahead and pick up a copy of my cookbooks there too, -- they’re printed on recycled paper!). 

On her website, Jo Robinson reports on research that was conducted by Dr. Rita Schenck at the Institute for Environmental Research and Education which shows that, when we account for the carbon sequestration resulting from grazing animals (where well-managed pastures help to pull excess carbon out of the atmosphere), even with the increased enteric fermentation, the net result is still a reduction in greenhouse gases. Jo Robinson also reports on a study demonstrating that keeping ruminants on high quality pastures (using the management intensive grazing practices that most of our nation’s grassfarmers employ) can reduce ruminant methane emissions by as much as 20% (3)

To learn more about how your consumption of local grassfed meats can help save the planet, check out the article titled Moving the World Toward Sustainability in the Green Money Journal, where grazing advocate and environmentalist Allan Savory shows us how we could stop global warming within 15 years using Holistic Management and management intensive grazing practices (4)

Yes, despite their burps and farts, those grazing cattle, sheep and goats are still going to play a major role in saving the planet…so enjoy tonight’s cookout.

1. Rales, Matthew. “An Inconvenient Cow: The Truth Behind the U.N.
Assault on Ruminant Livestock.” Wise Traditions, Vol. 9, no. 1, Spring
2008: 16-23.
3. DeRamus, H. A., T. C. Clement, D. D. Giampola, and P. C.
Dickison. "Methane Emissions of Beef Cattle on Forages: Efficiency of
Grazing Management Systems." J Environ Qual 32, no. 1 (2003): 269-77.
4. Savory, Allan and Christopher Peck, “Moving Our World Towards
Sustainability,” Green Money Journal, Spring 2008.

About Shannon Hayes
Shannon is the host of, and the author of The Farmer and the Grill and The Grassfed Gourmet. She holds a Ph.D. in sustainable agriculture and community development from Cornell University. Her family farm is Sap Bush Hollow, it is located in Upstate New York.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

What is Truvia?

Today our food is over-processed and contains artificial ingredients and sweeteners. Reading the ingredients labels on most foods in the supermarkets makes me feel illiterate, Dimonowhat? Polyglycolichuh?

Years ago everything contained sugar.  Then saccharin (Sweet'N Low) came into vogue as a "dietetic" alternative to plain cane or beet sugar--remember TaB?  Then, when that was found to cause cancer the big switch was to aspartame, (NutraSweet or Equal).  In 1999 sucralose was introduced to the market and the Splenda symbol appeared on every processed, low calorie food on the market--my husband, until recently used Splenda in his coffee everyday.

So when I heard that Cargill, the company that in March, CondeNast Portfolio listed as one of "The Toxic Ten" (one of the worst corporate polluters in America) and Coca Cola, who has basically put America on an intravenous (IV) line of high fructose corn syrup, were coming out with a new sweetener, you can bet I was a little skeptical.  Like we need another zero-calorie, chemical, no-value sweetener on the market.  

Well, this new sweetener is called Truvia. Truvia is made of rebiana, a sweetener derived from the leaves of stevia plant.  Native to South and Central America, stevia is grown for its sweet leaves.  The stevia extract turns out to be more than 300 times sweeter than sugar. Stevia leaves are harvested and dried, and are steeped in fresh water in a process similar to that of making tea. According to Cargill and Coke, Truvia is a natural sweetener. However, what the companies fail to explain is how the steeped leaves then get to the consumer in a bag looking like a table sweetener.  It must be processed in some way, no? So I am not sure how natural Truvia really is.

Cargill and Coke are currently waiting FDA approval to sell stevia as a sweetener. It is currently only allowed to be used as a supplement in the U.S. -- supplements are not regulated by the FDA, and as such are not widely accepted by the public.  Stevia has been used in Japan for over 100 years.

Wanting to know more about Truvia,  I jumped on the opportunity to listened in on a "webinar," (web conference call), with Coke and Cargill last week. The call included Leslie Curry, Regulatory and Scientific Affairs Director for Cargill Food and Ingredient Systems, Zanna McFerson, Business Director for Cargill Health & Nutrition and Dr. Rhona Applebaum, Vice President & Chief Scientific and Regulatory Officer for The Coca-Cola Company.  These were basically hired cheerleaders for Truvia.  

What did I learn from more than 30 minutes listening in?  Almost nothing.  Coke and Cargill have done safety studies on the use of rebiana.  The companies say that it is safe to eat. I'm dubious.  I do not think that any of these tests look at the actual amounts consumers consume. Coke and Cargill have big commercial hopes for Truvia beyond just liquid crack, I mean Coke. Think ice cream, yogurt, cookies, and more -- all hitting our sweet tooth cravings.  If these wonderful companies have their way, many Americans will be taking in stevia or Truvia in nearly every meal and snack they eat.  That impact of that amount of Truvia on the body can not really be determine without many years of studies.  

To find out more about stevia, I did some digging on the internet. I was curious as to why stevia was banned in the U.S and Europe as a sweetener but Japan has used it for decades. From my research, it appears that stevia is actually a better substitute from the chemical processed sweetners (asparatame and sucralose) on the market today.  More importantly, what I discovered about the politics behind this sugar-substitute was very interesting.  

In the 1980's numerous companies in the U.S were interested in using stevia in their products. In 1991, the FDA banned the importation of stevia for use in foods.  According to numerous papers that I read, this was at the request of NutraSweet (owned by evil Monsanto who brought us Agent Orange, PCBs, genetically engineered seeds, sacchrin, aspartame, nuclear weapons, and human growth hormones in milk cattle).  The power of Monsanto kept stevia out of the country banning it for almost 20 years.  By the way, the FDA ignored published studies on the dangers of aspartame prior to its approval by the agency.  God bless the United States of Corporate America!

Now I do not trust any of these companies, Monsanto, Cargill or Coke, but from what I have read and heard, Truvia may not be all bad. Cargill and Coke are ramping up farming and production of stevia in South America and China. If Truvia is truly a natural zero calorie sweetener then it could become huge. We could see fields of stevia all over the world.  This could be good and bad.  It would bring money to some communities that need it, and it could also wreak environmental havoc due to poor farming practices.  According to the Truvia website, the plant will not be grown organically.  As stated, "While rebiana is natural and comes from a plant, it is not certified or grown organically at this time.  That could happen in the future, depending on consumer demand."  The idea is to have an "all-natural" zero-cal sweetener, and they are not growing it organically?  I don't get it.  Why not do it right from the beginning?  These are two companies that generate billions of dollars of year, and will probably have the exclusive rights to use this "wonder sweetener" and are not going to grow it organically?


Beyond that, this whole thing gets me wondering.  If stevia was blocked from our consumption by Monsanto nearly 20 years ago, and its better for us than chemicals like aspartame and saccharine, then what else has have we been denied for the almighty dollar?

Friday, May 16, 2008

Organic Booze?

My husband and I are not big drinkers but recently we both wanted a beer.  In trying to make our home, and lives greener we decided to try an organic beer.  On a recommendation from a Whole Foods employee, we bought Peaks Organic Amber Ale.  The beer was tasty and a great alternative to our favorite non-organic beer Sam Adams.  

It got me thinking about spirits such as vodka and gin, which we only have in the house for guests.  The first thing that always comes to mind when I think about how vodka is potatoes.  Now I do not think that much of today's vodka is make out of potatoes anymore but "hard" liquor is made out of some type of crop, a crop that is most likely over-farmed and covered with tons of pesticides degrading land and water.  

Well in today's Wall Street Journal, Joseph De Vila wrote an article entitled "Organic Liquor." De Vila did a taste test of 3 organic vodkas and 1 organic gin.  More important than his taste test is what Melkon Khosrovian, co-founder of distiller Modern Spirits, said in the piece about what is the point of drinking organic spirits. "It's about sustainable farming," he says, arguing that traditional farming involves pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, which can be harmful to farmers who come in contact with it and the ground used to grow the ingredients. "We would like to support farmers to move away from those processes," Mr. Khosrovian says.

Both Smirdoff and Absolut vodkas are made from grain, but grain from industrial farms.  Modern Spirits new TRU, certified organic vodka, is made from organic wheat. In addition, TRU comes in 100% recycled, recyclable or biodegradable packaging. And for every bottle sold, Modern Spirits plants new trees in tropical zones (where they are cut down in the greatest numbers) to pass on a better planet to the next generation of vodka drinkers.

Now since I have not have the opportunity to taste any of Modern Sprits organic vodkas or the other brands mentioned by De Vila (Orange V Vodka, Rain Vodka, and Juniper Green Organic London Dry Gin), I cannot attest to the taste.  But De Vila seemed to like them all.  I hope to try them in the future.

Have any of you tasted them?  I would love to hear what you think of organic beers and liquors. 

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Green in Paris

So I think I have used up my allotment of fossil fuels for at least the remainder of this year or more likely the next decade. Why? My husband surprised me with a birthday trip to Paris last weekend. 

American's have a love/hate relationship with the French. So of course as an American and a Greeniac, I had to do some hardcore observations of Parisian "green" habits and compare them to what we do here.  What I discovered from my four days in the "City of Lights" is as follows.

(1) Recycling
There is a recycling program in place in Paris, but I am not sure if the Parisians are interested in recycling. On some streets they have huge recycling bins for bottles and cans but most of them were covered with graffiti (which happens to be all over the city). In the parks, they do have recycling bags next to the the garbage bags but as you can see in the picture,  recyclables are also placed in the garbage bag. On a walking tour the Marias, I asked our tour guide about how well the Parisian recycle. She said they are horrible and during our tour she opened a recycling bin from an apartment building to show us what she meant. It was filled with recyclables and non-recyclables.

(2) Reusables
My husband and I went in a few supermarkets (which I love to do whenever I travel abroad) and outdoor markets and I think I saw maybe 5 people using resusable bags. The worst was in the outdoor markets where you can buy fruits, vegetables, meats, cheese, bread, fish, flowers and much more. The biggest one we went to was in Versailles, and everything was put in a plastic bag. Many did bring there own reusable bag but those bags were then stuffed with plastic bags. It appeared to me that they may use more plastic bags than we use.

(3) Transportation
Paris is a very busy city with lot of traffic. But I would not say that they have any more traffic then New York City. They do drive smaller, and most likely, more efficient cars (I didn't see 1 hummer or SUV) and many people do ride bikes and take the subway. I think more people ride bikes in Paris then they do in Manhattan--but not as many as in Beijing. But the most ingenious thing that we observed in Paris was a bike rental system called Velib. The system began in July 2007, with 10,000 bikes, and now they are up to 20,000 bikes all over Paris. Riders can buy monthly, daily or hourly passes to rent bike stationed at more than 1,400 automated stations across the city. A bike can be rented from one station and returned to another. From what we saw, and from the doubling of the number of bikes in use, it appears that the Parisians love the system. My husband and I wished we had more time to try it out. Its funny, the first few days in Paris we weren't sure what these bikes were. Initially we thought they were motorized, then we didn't understand the rental system. By the time we figured out what was what it was it was time to go. I wonder if this would work in NYC.   

(4) Food
So those of you who read my blog know that I have an obsession with food.  Our trip there had some gastronomic highs--the picnic in Versaille and some lows--dinner at Chez Andre off the Champs-Elysées.   So of course I had to d find out where the French food comes from. Well I think this is a department that they really do better than we do. French farmer say no to GMOs--they even strike and riot to oppose them on a semi-regular basis. None of the fruits or vegetables grown in France are from genetically modified seeds. NONE! We can't say anything like that here. You can also find organic produce in Paris. We spoke to some butchers and they insisted that none of the meat is treated with antibiotics or hormones and that beef is grass-fed.  One of the butchers we spoke with even made a stink face when referring to grain fed beef.  I could not find anywhere on the internet to confirm or deny this so I have to take their word, for now. I did ask Shannon Hayes, a grass-fed beef farmer, of Sap Bush Farms and she said "It is my understanding is that not all meat in France is grass-fed. But a fair amount is. Quite often it depends on the breed - charolais beef, for example, is supposed to be exclusively raised on grass. When I was there I saw a lot of cattle grazed and fed in the barn - a model that is infinitely more sustainable than factory farms, but not, according to our strict definitions grass-fed. The meat is also much more likely to be raised on small farms, not from confinement facilities."

So what do I take from my trip to Paris.

1-  Thank you Lewis...I didn't thank you when I was there, but I'm thanking you now.
2- The food there was at times over rated, and at times sublime.  The baguettes in Versailles where the best I've ever had.
3- We might do a better job in recycling, and in moving towards a bag-less shopping experience, but I'm not sure.
4- The quality of the produce in Paris far surpasses what we have here.  I was thrilled by the freshness, the quality and the shopping experience.
5- Four days is just not enough time to be in Paris, but we missed our kids, and wanted to come home.

I'd love to hear about your "green" international observations.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Guest Blogger: Farmer Shannon Hayes on global warming, eating meat and the importance of the local farm movement

We have a guest blogger today, Shannon Hayes, a sustainable farmer in Upstate New York, who I wrote about a couple weeks back in my post entitled "Grass-Fed Meat." Shannon has a wealth of information on today's food issues and I thought you all might enjoy what she has to say about global warming, eating meat and the importance of the local farm movement.  I hope you find it has informative and timely as I did.   

Compare Apples to Apples When You’re Talking About Rib Eyes
By Shannon Hayes, farmer and host of

After decades of hunching over in shame around environmentalist vegetarians, small grass-based meat farmers were finally given a chance hold our heads high by investigative journalists and nutritional advocates like Jo Robinson, Michael Pollan and Sally Fallon. In the last 10 years, Grass-fed meats have been lauded for their health benefits, their contributions to local economies and animal welfare, and most especially, for their environmental benefits.

…Until recently. A study released by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization started a buzz in November of 2006 suggesting that livestock production is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than all forms of transportation combined. According to a story in the New York Times, in 2007, PETA commissioned a hummer and outfitted it with a driver wearing a chicken suit to travel around to environmental rallies, proclaiming meat as the number one cause of global warming. And this month, a story in Environmental Science and Technology reports on a new study which suggests that, rather than eating locally, we should just remove red meat and dairy from our diet once per week and replace it with chicken, fish or eggs, and have at least one day per week entirely meat-free. The result? Customers ordinarily seeking beef are suddenly asking for turkey burgers and chicken sausage; or they are dropping meat from their diets all together.

That’s pretty grim news for my family. Three generations of us garner a living from our small grass-based farm tucked up in the northern foothills of the Appalachian mountain chain. We’ve managed to build an exclusively local market for our products, making us an integral part of our rural economy. We’ve also managed to bring three additional farms back into viable agricultural production with the help of folks dedicated to buying locally. 

…Which leads to the next piece of news being circulated: that these “small dietary shifts” of giving up meat can accomplish the same greenhouse gas reduction as eating locally. The subtext here seriously stings: “Forget about those looney meat farmers in the hills, don’t fret about canning local tomatoes, and return your faith to the conventional supermarket. Just buy less red meat and go vegetarian once per week..” As a grass-based meat farmer, I’ve got a beef with that -- not to mention a serious steak in the matter (in this case, a rib eye, which I plan to lay across my grill later today).

Truth be told, these studies aren’t wrong. They aren’t exactly right, either, but I’ll get to that in a second. When we are looking at the industrial model of factory farming, of pumping grains into animals, there are serious ecological reasons to forego the red meats. “The main issue,” explains animal scientist Dr. James Hayes “is the conversion factor. When you feed grain to fish, you have a conversion factor of about 1.25 to 1.” That means that for every 1 ¼ pounds of grain product you feed to a fish, you’ll have a pound of weight gain. “The conversion for chicken is 2 pounds of feed per pound of gain on the bird. Pork is 4 pounds per pound of gain. And when you get to the ruminants, it skyrockets. Lamb requires 8 pounds of feed for a pound of weight gain, and beef requires 9 pounds of feed per pound of gain.” Grain production is extremely taxing on the environment, particularly in light of the chemical fertilizers, the nitrous oxide emissions, and the fossil fuel-intensive farming practices.

But here’s where there are gaps in the analysis: Ruminants are not designed to eat grain. Beef and lamb from grassfed farms do not eat grain. Grassfed dairy products are not fed grain. Ruminants can live off what our fields naturally produce – they harvest perennial grasses which do not need to be seeded every year, and they return nutrients to the soil. In a pinch, they can also eat things like straw and corn stalks – which means they have the magical capacity to convert crop production waste into food. Conventional factory-farmed red meats are bad for the environment. Grass-fed red meats are not. Most grass farms use no chemical inputs; and since the animals harvest the feed themselves by grazing, very few fossil fuels are required to produce the meat. In fact, grass-fed meats play an integral role in our carbon solution.

In 2005, the USDA released a report showing that properly managed pastures store 2 to 3 times more carbon in their soils than fields that were left unmanaged, used for hay, or left un-harvested. Another study released by the University of Iowa in 2002 showed that grazed pastures were the ideal land use for storing carbon. This means that properly grazing animals helps to reverse the greenhouse effect. Allan Savory, founder of the Center for Holistic management, has done calculations suggesting that we could actually reverse global warming by grazing cattle and using them to build soil organic matter. His work emphasizes, however, that this is only done through good grazing practices. Poor grazing practices have long been the culprits of desertification and environmental degradation. There is a difference; and the only way to identify sound practices is know your local farmer.

But in the crunching of their carbon calculations, the anti-red-meat advocates overlook another huge element in the push to buy locally. Food security is a big one. As we hit peak oil, it will get harder and harder to transport those non-local food products to the folks that need them. Isn’t it wiser to have a secure local food system in place? And then, of course, there are the issues of viable local economies, made vibrant by independent businesses, beautified by open farmland, and hopeful by families whose children can find a livelihood near home, rather than far away. And then, finally, there are the simple principles of non-exploitation and social justice that are embodied by the local food movement. This means paying us farmers honest wages for our work, which in turn enables us to steward the land responsibly, and create great tasting food…especially that rib eye, which I’ll be grilling up for lunch.
About Shannon Hayes
Shannon is the host of, and the author of The Farmer and the Grill and The Grassfed Gourmet. She holds a Ph.D. in sustainable agriculture and community development from Cornell University. Her family farm is Sap Bush Hollow, it is located in Upstate New York.