Friday, December 9, 2011

Have Yourself A Sustainable Little Christmas

The other morning I boarded the bus to work and found my favorite seat.  The bus quickly became very crowded, as it usually does, and two women parked themselves right up against me.

Trying to avoid being hit by their designer handbags, I couldn't help but eavesdrop on their conversation.

One woman began to tell her friend about a colleague who had started a company that sold great sustainable gifts.

I immediately perked up and wasn't as offended by their bag nearly missing my head.

Her friend quickly interrupted her and said, "Now what exactly does 'sustainable' mean?"

I was horrified that this seemingly intelligent, well-dressed woman had no idea what 'sustainable' meant.  It’s not a hard word to understand.  But maybe it’s hard to know how to apply.  And then I thought, how many others don't know?

Webster’s defines sustainability as “a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged.”

My definition is along the lines of “ Has this gift's production made sure a tree is gone forever?” or “How long will this stay in our landfill?”

Materials like bamboo, cork, hemp and organic cottons are great choices for sustainable items such as clothing, flooring, and accessories.

Talking about sustainability around the holiday season is super important.  Each year we spend hundreds, if not thousands of dollars on token, mass-produced gifts for family and friends.  But do we stop to think about the resources it took to make those things?

This year, I found myself doing more of my shopping on sites like Etsy and eBay, or visiting the local, artisan holiday market.  Buying used or hand-crafted items is a much better, unique solution and way more sustainable.

As you shop this holiday season, consider these two questions for each gift you're looking at:

1) Do I (they) really need it?
2) What did it have to go through to get to me/them?

Sustainability can also include gifts that aren't physical objects, like saving a tiger or adopting a manatee.  There's nothing more sustainable than making a donation to an organization in your loved one's name.

And when you sit down to wrap those great, sustainable gifts, try and use recycled or re-used gift wrap.  Or wrap it in something else like an organic cotton dish towel or pillow case. (I've gone from someone who used to be offended if gift wrapping wasn't nice to someone who's bothered if it's there at all!)

Our precious Mother Earth is sustainable, but only if we sustain it.  Let's make the holiday season The Most Sustainable Time of the Year.  Happy Sustainability!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Seven Year Pen

When I was in 6th grade, there was a kid named Matt who always tipped back on his chair and chewed pens.  And as sure as the sun will rise, that pen always exploded in his mouth. He would always be leaving class to head to the boys room to clean up the blue mess left behind on his face.

I can only imagine how happy Bic or Papermate was by this act of constantly having to replace his exploded pen.

And I can only imagine the disappointment of Mother Earth that another pen was headed to the landfill.

Now that I'm married, I face a similar problem.  A husband who is a writer who keeps a pen/pen cap in his mouth and leaves mangled pieces of plastic all over the apartment.

But honestly, how often do we even think of these things?  It's a pen.  It's meant to have a short life.  And it's so small, how could it possibly matter if it ends up in the landfill?

But it does matter.

On average, Americans throw away 1,600,000,000 pens every year!

Did you just pull that pen out of your mouth?  I did.

But now there is a solution.  The Seven Year pen!

My friend recently introduced me to this gem of a pen and I'm in love with the idea.  I won't need to buy another pen till I'm...well...let's not go there.

I dare Matt to try and chew this pen...that would be a lot of ink to clean off his face!

And no pen caps...even better!  I won't be picking up mangled pieces of dead pen carcus. And think of the money you'll save.

You can get your Seven Year Pen on the Seltzer website.  I was very excited to see that Seltzer was carrying these pens as they have a lot of other cool, eco-friendly stationary stuff.  I love this site and I hope you will too!

Happy writing!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

An Apple A Day

Last night when I heard the news that Steve Jobs passed away, I became overwhelmed with sadness.  With all that is going on with Occupy Wall Street, it's rather strange that I would feel this way over a CEO of a large corporation.

But to me, Apple is more like family than big business.

My sophomore year of college I purchased my very first MacIntosh.  It was 1988 and I was one of only a few girls in my sorority house to have a computer.

If it's possible to love a machine, I was in love with my Mac.  Everyone loved her and she affectionately became known as "Polly."

Her unique font, user-friendly system and ultra-cool design made you want to run over and turn her on.

She came home with me on college breaks and eventually moved with me to Washington.

And then she became older.  She slowed down and eventually became obsolete.

There wasn't a love connection with my next computer.  A regular PC that didn't respond to me in the way Polly did.

But eventually, another Mac came back into my life.  The iMac. A beautiful, white, spaceship style that fit into our family like an old friend.

By this time, Apple products were also producing a small carbon footprint, improving their product's environmental performance by "designing them to use less material, ship with smaller packaging, be free of toxic substances used by others, and be as energy efficient and recyclable as possible."  It was a dream come true.

With that in mind, our Mac family began to grow with the addition of QTMcGee, my laptop, and Larue, my iPhone.

This blog was born on a Mac and continues to reproduce on one.  Apple products made a huge impact on my life and John's.  Movies, scripts, blogs and books have all been written and produced on our Macs.

We are forever indebted to Steve Jobs and his vision that helped our visions become realities.

My deepst sympathies to his family. Our thoughts...and Macs...are with you.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

RAPpers Delight

Right now, the biggest thing to hit the beach since Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon is rap.

No...I'm not talking about The Sugar Hill Gang grabbing surfboards or Grandmaster Flash taking the white lines highway to Santa Monica Pier.  I'm talking about RAP - the Rise Above Plastics movement.

Plastics threaten not only our planet but our oceans and marine life.  Thousands of marine life die each year from either ingesting plastics or getting tangled in them.  So The Surfrider Foundation went on a mission to "reduce the impacts of plastics in the marine environment by raising awareness about the dangers of plastic pollution and by advocating for a reduction of single-use plastics and the recycling of all plastics."

Are you re-thinking taking a drink from that plastic water bottle in your hand right now?

It's time to put down that bottle and grab your ceramic beer stein.

Yes...I said beer stein!  Because...


Raptoberfest will be giving you tips all month long on how you can lessen your plastic footprint.

But first, let's kick off Raptoberfest right!  Remember that beer stein I told you to get.  Do you have it?  Good.  But WAIT!  Don't fill it with beer (yet).  I'm starting to tease you, aren't I?

Take the stein to your favorite beach or park this Saturday for the One Foot At A Time plastic clean-up.  The goal is to pick up one square foot of plastic and then get creative. Click here to choose your template, print it out and create something wonderful from the plastics you've collected!  There will be prizes for the best piece of plastic art.

Check back because I'll be posting my masterpiece.  And then I'll properly dispose of it in the recycling bin.

OK...Now you can fill up your stein.  And perform rap songs.  Rise Above Plastic songs, that is.

See I am Wonder Mere
And I'd like to say hello

To the bag, to the cap, the toy and the straw
To the bottle and jello
But first
I gotta ban ban
The plastics from the beach
Say up jump the ocean
To the banned banned plastics

Take stock
You don't stop
Rock the clean-up that will make your planet rock

"Recycler's Delight"

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Back to Green School Shopping 101

I love back-to-school shopping!  Notebooks, folders, backpacks…it makes me want to be back in a small wooden desk smelling worksheets fresh off the ditto machine.  Of course, the ditto ink smell was probably the toxic equivalent of an elementary school BP oil spill.

Growing up, back-to-school shopping was a ritual.  We piled in the car and headed off to Bradlees and Caldor to get our supplies.  I can still remember my first Snoopy loose-leaf binder and my blue Trapper Keeper.  Come to think of it, I sniffed those too.

While my school supplies were more than likely filled with BPA and toxic substances, today’s school supplies are much eco-friendlier.  Kids have choices now.  And since our kids are going to be making decisions and running the world sooner than we think, this is the perfect time to step in and teach them which supplies are the right ones to sniff!

School supply shopping does not have to be a complicated word problem.  Instead, it can be a simpler multiple choice.

Here’s a little mnemonic device to shop SMART this back to school season:

Solar calculators and chargers are best.  Harness the sunshine!

Make your child’s lunch using healthy, local and organic foods and pack it all up in a reusable lunch bag!

A reusable water bottle is key to keeping your child hydrated and away from sugary soft drinks.

Recycled products are best!  Look for backpacks, notebooks, pens and other supplies made out of recycled materials.

Thrift store shopping for new clothes.  Today’s thrift stores carry items that still have tags on them!  Don’t be afraid to venture in and take a look.

Your choices and actions will be picked up on by your kids.  Make sure you score an A+ for your kids…and the earth!

(The Ultimate Green Store is a great place to complete your one-stop shopping for "green" school supplies!)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Tales From The Shark Side

After years of being inundated with shark movies, Shark Week and being told how to save someone from a shark attack, now we are learning how to save sharks from humans.

Sharks have been swimming the world’s oceans for 400 million years.  They have survived mass extinction events but are now endangered because of us.  Sharks may be popular villains, but they are a vital part of the world’s ocean ecosystems.

Last weekend, I was volunteering for Oceana, which had a booth at Nautica’s New York City Triathlon in Central Park.

Oceana is a non-profit ocean conservation and advocacy organization created ten years ago by several foundations.  It merged with Ted Danson’s American Oceans Campaign to become the largest such group working hard to prevent collapse of fish populations, stop ocean pollution, protect sea turtles from extinction and other important causes.

At the Triathlon their focus was their Shark Campaign.  Oceana is pushing for shark finning bans, reduced shark bycatch (sharks caught in nets) and other forms of protection through policy, science and legal work.

Our goal was to accumulate 500 signatures to send to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration to help save sharks in the Gulf of Mexico.

We moved through the park like . . . sharks.  While we didn't attack anyone, we did keep moving, hungry for signatures, offering bracelets of support to those that signed our petition.

Soon it looked like I was gonna need a bigger clipboard.  I was being harpooned with one strange rejection after another.

One woman asked when the sharks had arrived in Mexico.  Um, I guess we weren’t clear we were talking about the Gulf of Mexico .

Others gave the simple “No…I’m good.”

“Yeah, but the sharks aren’t!” I wanted to say.

“I’m with the Ocean Conservancy, but no.”


“Sharks!  Not while I’m swimming,” one girl exclaimed.  “Dolphins, yes.  Whales, yes. Sharks, no way!”

They say the same about you, I thought.

One man started off sensible and then said that we should round up all the people who catch sharks and shoot them instead.  No thanks, Chief Brody.

My favorite response was “Call Spielberg.”  I just might, considering how much Jaws – which is one of my favorite movies – has hurt the image of sharks.

As Hooper said to Mayor Vaughn in Jaws: “I think you're going to ignore this particular problem, until it swims up and bites you on the ass!”

Despite everything, we made our goal of 500 signatures.  We didn’t bite anyone, but we did swim up to them.  To truly protect these important creatures, we are going to need an even bigger clipboard.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Big Brother After Shark

Like many Americans, I was obsessed with Shark Week last week.  My TV had not left the Discovery Channel, except for side trips to Showtime for Big Brother After Dark.

Last week, the Big Brother house was also affected by Shark Week, as the “Have Nots” were subjected to sardines and seaweed. 

While the contestants in the BB house are called “House Guests,” every time you set foot in the ocean, you’re a “house guest” of the sharks.  Thankfully, most of the time we’re welcome.  But should a hungry, confused Great White become “Head of Household, ” there could be a slight chance of being “evicted.”

In 2010 there were approximately 60 shark attacks, most of which did not end in death. If you consider the hundreds of people at your local beach on the hottest summer day and multiply that by the thousands of beaches worldwide, that number is pretty miniscule...especically since humans kill more than 70 million sharks worldwide every year.

While sharks may be one of the most-feared animals, they are an important part of our eco-system. In their role at the top of the food chain, they keep other fish populations healthy. They are powerful yet provide balance (like BB’s Jeff and Jordan).

These beautiful, majestic creatures are actually the ones in danger of being evicted.

Shark finning, trawler nets, high mercury levels and extinction are just some of the challenges facing sharks.

But you can help.  You have the "Power of Veto" and can take these sharks off the chopping block!

Oceana and Shark Savers are doing amazing work to help save sharks.  Visit their websites to find out how you can make a difference.  Sign a petition, know where your seafood comes from and stay away from shark fin soup (Big Brother’s Slop would be a better choice).

Taking these small steps can make a huge difference for these amazing creatures of the deep.  Sharks need us to build an alliance with them, so they can make it to the end.

Nothing comes between me and my sharks!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Journey to the Center of the Green Earth

I have been busy cleaning out my apartment.  It was definitely time to purge, so for a while there, there was literally nowhere to sit while I had bags, clothes, and a myriad of other crap lying over every flat surface.

Ironically, I threw very little in the trash and recycling bin.  Most things had another home to go to.

Once I had sorted the good, the bad and the ugly, I loaded up my granny cart (or, as John and I lovingly refer to it, "the cart that paid for itself" since it's saved us on many an occasion) with all sorts of stuff and began my way down the six flights of stairs and around the neighborhood unloading my stuff.

Here is my journey of how I kept things out of the landfill:

1. C-Town.  This was my favorite drop-off. 

I had been collecting our glass milk bottles to re-use for iced tea and impromptu vases. However, I'd collected so many (17 to be exact) that I no longer had room. It was time for them to head off into recycling-ville.

But as I lifted the lid off my recycling can, John shouted, "Wait!"

Apparently, we'd paid a deposit on those bottles and he wanted to return them to the store. 

I argued a bit with him asking if $.05 was worth the trip.

As it turns out, it was one time I was happy to be wrong as the deposit was not $.05 but rather $1.50!  I collected over $25 for my 17 bottles!  I stood in front of the cashier with a look that clearly frightened her. "Are you sure this is right?" I asked.  She assured me it was. 

 I continued happily on my way with "the cart that paid for itself" and made my way to the next stop.

2. Ventura.  Not the boulevard or the city.  The apartment building.  It's where the Wearable Collections box is.

Wearable Collections is a company I discovered in the NYC area that collects old clothes, bags, and shoes. The things that are in good condition are given to people in need. The stuff that is torn, ripped and headed for the landfill is turned into new fibers to make new things. The in-between stuff is made into rags.

 3. Goodwill.  I did have some household items that were ready for a new home.

4. The Animal Shelter.  Here is where I drop off old towels, sheets, and t-shirts. They are used to line the cages of the dogs and cats.  They are always at a shortage for this type of stuff and much appreciate the donation.

5. Aveda.  I was not shopping but rather dropping off all of the bottle caps I had collected. Well over 100 of them!

Since bottle caps can't be recycled, I collect them at home and at work and turn them over to Aveda who turns them into their bottles.  And sometimes, if you get a really nice salesperson, they'll give you a hand massage or a free sample of hand lotion as a thank you!

6. UPS.  My final stop was the UPS Store where I dropped off all those horrendous styrofoam peanuts I'd been saving from packages at work.  Those were the worst since they seem to fly around and get stuck everywhere.  I was happy to unload those.

I returned home and finished my delivery day by posting some stuff on eBay which turned out to be somewhat lucrative this time around!

The entire process probably took less than 45 minutes and was well worth it.  Not only did I keep a lot of things out of the landfill, but others will benefit from it.

So tell me...what can you keep out of the landfill this week?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Thar She Doesn't!

Every Father's Day season when I was growing up, Tom Carvel's raspy voice would come onto our television set and announce that it was time for Fudgie the Whale.  The ice cream cake.  "For a whale of a dad."

So I decided that the first humpback whale I saw in person I would name Fudgie.

John took me on a New York whale watching cruise for my birthday.  Arriving in Riis Landing in Rockaway singing "Rockaway Beach" by the Ramones, we were excited to embark on our three-hour tour (ok...we sang that song, too) to see all sorts of whales and dolphins.

Riis Landing is pretty desolate.  However, there is a very tiny stretch of beach that we found while waiting for our boat to leave that offers free kayaking lessons in the bay.

As we walked the beach, we saw lots and lots of seashells.  And lots and lots of trash.  I started to pick up some of the smaller plastic bags and caps that I knew were immediate threats to the marine life.  John helped, others watched.

Before we knew it, we were aboard our vessel heading out to sea.  Immediately the captain told us of reports of humpbacks in the area.  John nabbed a spot for us at the very end of the boat's bow and we let the sea air flow through our hair like Leonardo and Kate as we raced to the reported spot.

We were told to yell "Thar she blows!" should we be the one to spot Moby Dick first and were informed that there was a $250 prize for the best photo.  I wasn't sure how comfortable I was yelling like an 1800's whaler to a boat full of strangers, but hoped that what we would see would be so huge that I could yell, "I think we're going to need a bigger boat."

With my camera ready, I scoured the vast ocean.  I spotting ginormous freighters and several plastic bags, but no fins.  The bags left me feeling sick to my stomach.

By the time we got to the site, there were schools of bunker, which whales like to feed on, but no whales.  Turns out a humpback can hold its breath for up to an hour.  We waited and then moved on to the next spot.

We covered a lot of ground and our captain did his best to help us spot something but to no avail.  At one point, over a school of bunker, John saw a spray of water shooting out of the surface.  The captain steered the boat slowly over to investigate.  But again, no Fudgie.

Yet it was exciting to be a part of this incredible ecosystem.  We learned from the on-board naturalist that the reason the Atlantic is so dark is because it's one of the highest nutrient-rich waters on the planet.  This is why most of our seafood comes from the Atlantic as opposed to the Carribean waters, which lack nutrients, making them crystal clear.

Not seeing any whales just made us more determined to see them the next time we go. Which we will.

John and I agreed that the next time we do, we will be taking a trash bag with us and doing a bigger beach clean-up on Jamaica Bay.  We might even try our hand at kayaking. And we'll definitely be on the lookout for Fudgie, whose humpback whale song is still easier to understand than Tom Carvel.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Greendependence Day

America is celebrating her 235th birthday this year!  I don’t know about you, but I want to do everything I can to keep our country and our planet beautiful!  So this July, I pledge to celebrate this monumental birthday by doing the following:

1.  While searching for seashells at the beach, I’m also going to pick up some trash.

2.  When I go to a picnic, I’m going to bring something everyone will love – and less of it - so that no food will go to waste.  I will bring it in a reusable container and will use as many organic and local foods as possible.  Of course I’ll carry it over in a reusable bag!

3.  Wherever I go, I’m going to make sure that I recycle everything I possibly can.

4.  It’s important in this hot weather to stay hydrated so I’m going to carry my reusable bottle everywhere I go.

5.  I will stay away from disposable plates and utensils.

Let's Keep America Beautiful during her 235th Birthday month and have a wonderful and safe 4th of July!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Seasonal & Local

John and I decided that we really need to do more shopping at the farmer's market as the produce selection at the local grocery leaves little to be desired. 

During the summer months we're lucky because there is a small stand right on our corner.  But that doesn't open until the end of June.

Our other option is to trek down to Union Square which is challenging because of the crowds of people.

But recently, I discovered a small farmer's market 10 blocks from my apartment.  How I've been living here for two years and never realized this before is beyond me. 

On Saturday, John and I set out to visit this little gem.

We were very excited to arrive and find all of the amazing foods it had to offer. 

We went with the intention of buying ingredients to make gazpacho but we quickly learned that that wasn't going to happen as most of the ingredients still aren't in season. 

Our choices were limited as it is much smaller than the Union Square market however, it did the job. 

We bought asparagus, scallions, strawberries, kale and bread. 

I was mad at myself for having visited the Food Emporium the night before and buying non-organic potatoes and onions to make our breakfast when I could have purchased the local variety at the market.  I did buy organic peppers.  However, they were wrapped in plastic.  There's something wrong with that picture.  Below was our breakfast...

Last night, I roasted our beautiful, local asparagus, the other plastic wrapped pepper and the left over scallions to create a delicious dinner. 

This was followed by my kale chips (kale, salt, pepper and a tablespoon of olive oil.  Mix together and put in a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes.  Delish!)

I capped off the evening with the most amazing strawberries.

Finally, when all the veggies had been cut up and devoured, the scraps went into our new composter (look for a future post about that!).

As John and I test out our ability to eat local and seasonal, I can hardly wait to see what this week's farmer's market holds for us!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

World Ocean Day

Iced coffee at the coffee shop
Includes:  coffee, plastic cup, plastic lid and straw

Lunch on the run 
Includes:  sandwich, potato salad, plastic utensils, plastic container and plastic bag

A beautiful seafood dinner
Includes:  garden salad, french-cut string beans, filet of fish stuffed with plastic bits

Hold on! 

Plastic bits?  That's a typo, right?

Well...not exactly.

The truth is, plastic never really goes away. It gets broken down into tiny particles that eventually find their way into the food chain (hence the beautiful seafood dinner).

Plastic has become a huge part of all our lives as you can see illustrated above.  So much so that we take for granted how much plastic we are actually using.  How long did it take you to consume that iced coffee?  Not as long as it's going to take to rid the planet of the cup, lid and straw. 

Laird Hamilton and Gabrielle Reece have created this video for World Ocean Day in association with the Plastic Pollution Coalition

Help keep our oceans clean...take one less piece of plastic today!   

Monday, June 6, 2011

And What Is So Fun As A Day In June

You say June, you might think wedding season and the summer solstice. 

I say June, I think Clearwater Festival, International Surf Day, Hands Across the Sand and, um, my birthday!

If you're around the Hudson Valley area, The Clearwater Festival on June 18th & 19th always promises to be a great time.  This year's theme is Great Hudson River Revival, "Clearwater Generations."   "It is inspired by Pete Seeger’s vision and Clearwater’s mission - to inspire, educate, and activate the next generation of environmental leaders."


Celebrate the great sport of surfing on International Surf Day - June 20th!  There are events taking place that whole weekend, including beach clean-ups!  Click on your part of the map to find an event near you! 

Hands Across the Sand will take place on June 25th!  Join people from all walks of life as they stand together to show their support for our coastlines and marine life.  Find an event in your area!

I'd love to hear what you participated in!  I'll see you at the beach!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Sunscreen City

Where’s the beach?

I've been chanting this phrase for weeks now in anticipation for the Memorial Day Weekend and it looks like it is going to be amazing weather!

Unfortunately, with my super fair skin, sunscreen is a must unless I want to look like a cooked lobster.  Not a good look for me.

So as we head off to the pools, lakes and oceans this weekend and summer, remember to bring along your sunscreen!

But be careful which sunscreen you choose to bring along.  Sunscreens contain many toxic chemicals that are not only bad for the ocean and the environment, but for you as well!

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has a great website which sheds the truth on sunscreens and also has some recommendations for better choices for you and your family.

My personal favorite is Smart Girls Who Surf products.  They're an eco-conscious company based out of Laguna Beach.  Their products are non-toxic and safe for marine life.  I used their sunscreen for the first time in the Bahamas a couple months ago and it worked well.

They also have a men's line called Surf-Vival!

So slather on that lotion and go catch some waves this weekend! 

And most importantly...have fun!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Burial at Sea

Ever since the end of the world on Saturday (oh wait...I'm still here), I've been thinking a little more about death.

I always figured that when I go, I would not only get to see my mom again, but I would get answers to all the questions I ever wanted to know, like "Who shot JFK?" or "Who wins on the next season of Survivor (since I won't be one)?"

The one thing I know now is what I want to become of my remains.

I want to be cremated and I want my ashes to be put into a man-made coral reef.

No...I'm not crazy.  This is a real thing.

See...I'm not a big fan of the creepy crawlies that live in the ground plus I'm claustraphobic, so traditional burial is out.  Not to mention all the formaldehyde and toxic substances from the coffin that leak into our ground and eventually end up in our water supply.

I'm much more of an ocean fan so I found a company that has constructed a coral reef out of, well, human ashes.

In a nutshell, The Neptune Society, takes your ashes and pours them into non-toxic molds which have been assembled into an eco-friendly man-made reef.  Your place in the reef is also marked by a bronze plaque with your name on it. 

So to all my friends out there, wouldn't it be nicer to visit me during a nice scuba dive in Miami?

Destination funeral anyone?

I have the peace of mind of knowing that I will spend eternity helping marine organisms thrive.

Maybe you could consider ending up in a coral reef.  Trust me -- it's not the end of the world.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Surfing for Change

I read about this surfer, Kyle Thiermann.  He created a short film about how to solve the plastic problem in 4 minutes.  I'll bet you can do it in 1!

As an added bonus...Jack Johnson (musician and surfer extrordinaire) has a cameo and sings at the end!


Monday, May 16, 2011

Bird Is The Word

Pretend today is Saturday (ahhh...wouldn't that be nice!).

May 14th was International Migratory Bird Day!  But hey...I'm willing to extend the salute for the rest of the month for the little birdies.

Here are some bird-lovin’ tips…

1)  Look for “Bird Friendly” marked packages of your favorite coffee. This simply means the coffee grew under trees used by migratory birds.  If your coffee is growing under that big yellow star in the sky (the sun), it’s exposed to more pests which means more bad chemicals in your morning cup of Joe.

2)  Ever wonder what “Cage-Free” and “Free Range” mean on your chicken products? Cage-free means that mama hen wasn’t in a cage.  However, it does not mean she was allowed to sing like Julie Andrews in the open green pasture. If you see the label “Free Range”, you can now start singing Freebird.  A company can only use this label if their farm has met the USDA’s free range poultry practice.

What chipper chicken choice will you make this week?


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Tuesday Night Cookbook Club

When I lived in LA, I had a little part-time job at The Grove, selling jewelry at one of the kiosks.  It was a fun job.  I got to meet all kinds of people and it became quite the social spot.  I quickly became friends with the other retailers and security guards.

One night as I was closing down, one of the guards approached me in a stealthy sort of way.

"Be here tomorrow morning. 6AM," he said. "Someone big is going to be giving a concert right over there," he said, as he pointed to a tiny alcove.

"Who?" I asked.

But he had already walked away.

I went home and told John.  We lived half a block from The Grove so we figured we'd be crazy not to check it out.  But then 6AM came very quickly and we rolled over, asking ourselves if it was worth it.

And then I jumped up and said "What?  Are we 80?  Let's go!"

We threw some clothes on and headed over to the tiny alcove.

Even at 6:15 AM, there were some people there.  I quickly grabbed my spot right in front of the stage.  We waited for almost an hour going through every rock star we could think of.  Rumors ran rampant.

And then finally, the rock star emerged.  It was better than we could've imagined.

It was Sheryl Crow.

I was already a huge Sheryl Crow fan, having sped down Santa Monica Boulevard numerous times blasting "All I Wanna Do" and I had closed every one of my Universal Studio Tours with "Soak Up The Sun."

But her music isn't the only reason I adore her.  She's also a big fan of the environment.

Her tours are eco-friendly, sporting bio diesel buses, recycling bins, energy-saving lightbulbs and biodegradable dinnerware.  She also is a recipient of last year's National Resources Defense Council's Forces for Nature award.

I was bursting at the seams with excitement.  She went on to give the most amazing concert to about 100 people who had been lucky enough to be "in the know."

She made comments how it was too early for a rock star to be giving a concert but that she was thrilled to be there.  I was so close that I could practically reach out and strum her guitar.  Although I was too close to catch her guitar picks as she threw them out into the crowd after the show.

I saw my security guard friend in the corner who gave me a wink which I returned with a big fat hug.

I had not seen Sheryl since that concert (though John saw her when she performed in Central Park a couple of years ago) when another opportunity arose last week.

She recently co-wrote a cookbook with her personal chef, Chuck White.  It's called If It Makes You Healthy.  She appeared at Williams Sonoma for a signing and John and I made sure we were there.

We skimmed through the book, eager to try the recipes.

And then she appeared looking as healthy as ever.  She gave a brief interview for some unknown camera crew.  She talked about her sons and a chocolate mousse made with avocado!

We posed for a picture -- me, Sheryl, Chuck and John.  Sheryl looked at John, then turned to me and asked if I knew him.  I laughed and said I did.  Then she smiled.

I didn't get a guitar pick but I got my book signed - and a chance to briefly talk with one of my idols of music and the environment.

And I'll be sure to blast "If It Makes You Happy" while I get healthy!

Monday, April 18, 2011

A Dreamer and Doer for Earth Day

I have received the best present.

It's not my birthday and clearly it's not Christmas (though it's been chilly enough).

It's for Earth Day.

Earth Day is this Friday. In its 41st year, it's promoting "A Billion Acts of Green".

I knew that my Earth Day celebration would include heading over to Grand Central Station where there are many events going on, but in my wildest dreams, I didn't imagine that I'd be getting such a gift.

My sister called the other day. My nephew Robert came to her and told her he wanted to enter the Disney Dreamers and Doers contest. Central Florida children in grades K-12 can nominate themselves.  It is Disney's way of recognizing those "who demonstrate excellence in their schools and communities."

The children are judged on an essay so Melissa asked him what he wanted to write about.

Here is what he wrote:

"When I go to the beach, I walk with my sister and my aunt and we clean up all of the trash that people leave.  We sort and make a trash and recycle pile.  It is fun and other families walk by and say good job.  It also helps the Earth."

I had no idea the day I took him and his sister Theresa for a walk on the beach to collect seashells would turn into a beach clean-up - and that it would make such an impact on him.

Robert is one of three finalists in his school, but it doesn't matter to me whether he wins the contest.

He's already won.

And so have I.

And best of all - so has the Earth!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Eating With The Enemy

One of the saddest days of my life was when my boss's daughter quit Girl Scouts.

I'm sorry to say I wasn't sad because she was no longer earning patches, but because I would miss the coveted cookies.

Every spring, my boss would come in with that giant piece of paper.  You know the one...with all the colored rows where you check off that green box for Thin Mints.  (Of course in my house, it's never just one box of Thin Mints.  It's more like four . . . or eight. . . or ten.  Plus boxes and boxes of Tagalongs (now renamed Peanut Butter Patties).

Then that day would arrive when she'd walk in with her supersized duffle bag and start handing out the greatest cookies ever made.

They went straight home and into the freezer.  Because everyone knows that a Girl Scout cookie is best when frozen.  There's nothing like that first bite of the Tagalong...separating the peanut butter top from the cookie bottom in your mouth, letting the flavors mix together and...OK...I'll stop now.

John and I would savor each one and make them last for months.

Wait...who am I kidding?  John could polish off a box in a night!

Clearly, the cookies are not good for my waistline and I didn't kid myself they used any organic ingredients.  But I figured it's a once-a-year indulgence that brings me back to my childhood, when my sister and I sold them.  My mom would be up all night grouping the boxes for easy delivery. 

Unfortunately, there's another reason why I need to be worried about my cookies.


Orangutans are in danger.  And it's the Thin Mint's fault.

Apparently, the morsels of goodness are made with palm oil.

Most oil palm plantations are in Indonesia where deforestation, forest fires and hunters are the main cause of the decrease in organutans population.

But ironically, it's Girls Scouts to the rescue!

Madison Vorva and Rhiannon Tomtishen are two young Girl Scouts who are taking a stand against this.  They have been awarded the titles of Rainforest Heros by the Rainforest Action Network.  These two heroes are committee to convincing Girl Scouts USA to stop using palm oil in their cookies, via letter writing campaigns and presentations.

Girls Scouts USA claim that they can't make a cookie without the enemy.  But I won't eat a cookie with the enemy.

It's good that that famous order sheet won't be making its rounds in my office anymore.

And I won't go hunting for the sheet until the orangutans, not the palm oil, are protected.