Dear kind readers,
Green LA girl is coming to an end.
That is, the blog green LA girl is no longer going to be updated. The woman you might refer to as green LA girl — that would be me, Siel — will continue on living.
You’ve probably noticed that since about the middle of last year, the pace and energy of green LA girl has slowed quite a bit. During that time I switched careers from freelance writing to teaching, moved back to Santa Monica, and focused more on my creative writing — the stuff I neglected after getting my PhD in 2008 (and a bit before that too).
I’ve really enjoyed blogging here the last 6+ years, but my interests are — drifting. And to pursue those new interests, I have to let go of old ones.
Thanks to Nisha, April, and Sarah, who’ve helped keep this blog afloat the last few months. Thanks to everyone who came to the Blogger Beach Cleanup, green beauty party, and other green LA girl events. And thanks to all of you readers for your engagement and encouragement over the years.
For the time being, green LA girl will stay online. I may still occasionally update this blog with personal updates, but more likely, I’ll develop my new personal website that focuses more on my new interests. That site’s still very bare bones, but you can find it at sielju.com.
I hope you’ll keep in touch.
I met Heidi after the Grammy Greening Summit, where she excitedly talked to me about her new food company, Luko Foods, which she founded 9 months ago with best friend Nikki. Yes, a new food baby has been brought into the world and it’s delicious! :) Heidi’s contribution to Luko Foods is her fresh salsas, the thought of which leave my mouth watering at the thought of how fresh they are (made with ingredients from local farms, so the ingredients are extra fresh!).
Nikki’s contribution is a line of jams, including Orange Ginger Marmalade, Fig Balsamic (which is being served on the menu of Malibu Golf Club restaurant Malibu and Vines), Blueberry Lemon Lavender, and Strawberry heat (a spicy strawberry jam!).
Both of these former advertising professionals left their jobs, feeling disenchanted with having to conduct analyses of the marketing statistics of iPods and to design plans for pushing Dr. Pepper sodas into schools.
One day while discussing future plans, Nikki told Heidi that she was interested in selling jams she had been creating at a farmer’s market. Prior to this moment, Heidi had won 1st place in the 30th anniversary celebration of Los Angeles farmer’s markets for her salsa, which at the time was called ‘The Loco Local by Luko’ (her last name at the time, and the origin of the Luko Foods name brand). In that moment, they both saw an opportunity presenting itself to create an independent business, selling fresh, artisan, hand-crafted foods to the Los Angeles community.
Most of the ingredients in Luko Foods are locally grown –- They are building relationships with Los Angeles based food growers from who they get many (if not most) of the ingredients in their jams and salsas. Luko Foods currently sources their food from two farms – South Central Farmers and Marina Farms.
I asked if they are completely local and organic, and Nikki said that they are not yet so, since it is difficult to find local or organic makers of some of their ingredients, such as port wine for the Fig Balsamic spread. They also use spices in their foods, some of which have uncertain origins. They emphasized, however, that they are very open to learning, exploring options, and constantly improving the deliciousness, quality, and organic and local nature of their products.
We also had a conversation about their containers, which are printed with gorgeous, artistic labels. They told me that they have friends who have designed the art for their labels, which made them pause to reflect on all the support and input they have had from their community of friends and family. Nikki’s jams are packaged in glass jars, for which there is a bottle return policy: return your empty jar and get $1 back.
Heidi is currently packaging her salsas in plastic containers, because she wants to sell fresh salsa, which she wouldn’t be able to do if she packaged it in the Mason jars (you have to put the jars with its contents in boiling water to vacuum seal them). She said that she is interested in alternatives to plastic, but has not been able to find any thus far. If anyone has any ideas, feel free to comment on this article, or to connect directly with Luko Foods on their Facebook page.
When it comes down to it, I probably have three favorite facts about Luko Foods. Firstly, Heidi’s recipe is a modified version of her mother’s salsa recipe. This just made me happy, since I learned to cook fresh from my mother too. :) Secondly, Nikki’s jams are LOW SUGAR! Nikki told me that she compared her recipes to others online and realized she uses about half of the sugar called for by the standard jam recipe.
You can clearly taste the unique flavor of each of the fruits in her jams, which are very delicate and vibrant, since they are not weighed down by syrupy sweetness. She designs her recipes to let the fruit speak for itself. She made the point that people enjoy fresh oranges and blueberries plain –- they don’t dump spoonfuls of sugar on top, so there is no reason to do so in jam making. Her jams are very light and flavorful, without the heavy syrupy texture of others jams/marmalades I have tried.
My third favorite fact is one about which we had a huge conversation -– Luko Foods feels passionately about their products not just as a business, but as a way to power forward, invest in, dialogue about and support the food movement. As I mentioned in my Grammy Greening Summit article (and this is a point of discussion I shared with Heidi and Nikki), food is a central part of the green movement. If we are going to change our society to live more sustainably with the planet, we MUST change our eating methods and habits. Heidi and Nikki both emphatically stated how happy they are to be supporting and investing their time and energy into creation of fresh, local foods as an alternative to the corporate takeover of our food system.
Heidi and Nikki recently joined me in my home for a Luko Foods tasting, leaving me with full containers of all of their current products. :) I say current, because they work with seasonal foods, experimenting with new ingredients as they present themselves throughout the year, such as Heidi’s summertime Peach Piñata and seasonal blood orange salsa. They both agreed that it is more important to them to get ripe, fresh, seasonal ingredients than to get foods that have had a long shelf life, are out of season, genetically modified, or that have been shipped across the nation or world.
When they first came to my home for the tasting, I tried the jams and salsas on a whole-wheat sourdough bread I had made. I have since experimented with a few different recipes. I LOVE both the Blueberry Lemon Lavendar and Orange Ginger Marmalade on plain yoghurt (mmm… parfait!). I had made a cashew cream (plain yoghurt, raw cashews and a little coconut oil in a food processer), which paired deliciously with the Fig Balsamic. I was given a jar of their Bacon Maj (Maj = everything opposite of jam). I don’t eat bacon, so I shared it with my students to give them a gourmet treat. I baked a raisin flatbread (1.5 cups sourdough starter, 1.5 cups whole-wheat flour, 1/2 cup raisins, sugar, salt and allspice/cinnamon, prepared and baked like a pizza crust), which I topped with honey cashew cream (cashew cream recipe above + honey and a little salt) and Bacon Maj. The kids loved it. :) I tried this combo with the Fig Balsamic, which was also delicious. I love the Strawberry Heat with a nice thick layer of pasture-raised butter on some of my homemade toast.
Nikki has some other recipes on her website that look delicious. Be sure to check them out. :)
If you want to meet these wonderful women in person, be sure to visit them on Sundays between 10am – 2 pm at the Melrose Place Farmer’s Market in West Hollywood. They are there come rain or shine! You can also order online, including beautifully prepared gift-baskets. See below for links to their websites and Facebook page.
All photos by Nisha
Image via Blog Downtown
I have become very involved in food issues, having realized that food production, vending, consumption, and other food related issues including waste and human health are fundamentally related to environmental health.
As I mentioned in my Grammy Greening Summit article, local growers are uniting with raw foodists who are in turn forming food coops to provide things like raw milk. These efforts are being spawned by the exponentially growing number of people who have come to realize how enormously detrimental “conventional” farming is on human and environmental health, while also discovering the superior potential of responsible, sustainable, live agriculture to augment the Earth’s ability to grow and regenerate, while still providing more than enough food for the world’s peoples.
As many of you know, in the United States, purchasing an industrially farmed, processed and packaged food item containing ingredients shipped several times across the globe and requiring laboratory work (in the form of pesticides and genetically modified seeds) is often far cheaper than purchasing a locally grown carrot or tomato from the neighborhood farmer’s market. Industrial agriculture is a primary contributor to global warming, behind automobile and factory exhaust, and highly processed foods resulting from the industrial agricultural process are a primary contributor to obesity, diabetes, heart problems and other illnesses. Over 80% of foods eaten by Americans contain genetically modified seeds, and the farming of soy is a primary contributor to the massive destruction of the Amazon rainforest. Food is traded as a commodity on stock exchanges, meaning that it is grown and sold to raise a profit for business people. Meanwhile, in the United States, we waste about enormous amounts of the food we produce.
In response, urban communities across the United States have started to grow their own food from organic and heirloom seed and have started to investigate these issues and how healthier alternatives can be created.
Siel has blogged extensively about the urban garden movement in Los Angeles (and related issues), including info about: signs of its growth; books, and more books; LA based environmental charter schools; yard sharing for those who don’t have land; guerilla gardening; dirt and its importance to our lives; points of personal change and advocacy; etc.
I am dedicating the rest of this post to things you can do and organizations you can follow, join, or donate to in Los Angeles, working hard on these related issues.
1.) First, to have immediate access to gardening and planting related grants, talks, events, classes, etc., join UC Davis cooperative extension Master Gardener program manager Yvonne Savio’s listserve (email ydsavio [at] ucdavis [dot] edu). Also, check out the UC Davis Extension webpage. If you want to learn urban vegetable gardening basics, sign up for the Victory Gardener program at a community garden near you (these classes take place ALL over the city).
2.) Check out the UC Davis list of LA based community gardens, or check the LA Community Garden Council website to find out where the community garden nearest you is located, and go volunteer there. You might be able to take home free veggies, fruits and herbs for your efforts.
4.) Check out the work of EnrichLA, an organization dedicated to putting a garden in every school in Los Angeles. They do GREAT work, so donate or volunteer at one of their sites if you can.
5.) Check out the trailer for the GMO Film (made by the creators of Dive! for which I posted the film trailer above), and donate to them if you can. They are working hard to create a film to raise awareness on the giant corporate takeover of the American food system, starting with the most ancient of human inheritances: seeds.
6.) Get involved with the campaigns to put an initiative on the upcoming November ballot to label GMOs (genetically modified organisms). Either donate to one of the two major campaigns (Labelgmos.org and Justlabelit.org). Labelgmos.org is doing a lot of work to recruit people to petition the public, so check their website for more info. Host a petitioning party and gather a bunch of signatures to put this issue on our ballot. Attend this Saturday’s SLOLA meeting, where labelgmos.org will be present and handing out free seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom (see info at bottom of this post). We have the right to know what is in our food!
7.) Subscribe to my blog, Local to Global Life Works, to learn more about these issues and how actions and decisions local to Los Angeles are connected to global trends and have global impact. I host events, post about events, etc. to keep you in the loop.
8.) Check out, support, volunteer for or donate to the work of the Los Angeles branch of one of America’s first peace and justice activism organizations, the American Friends Service Committee. One of the LA office’s main projects is maintaining four urban gardens (called Friends Peace Gardens) at high risk Los Angeles high schools to combat gang violence and to create access and awareness about healthy eating and fresh foods.
9.) Check out, support, volunteer for or donate to work of TreePeople, who have been active in LA for decades, and the new project 100 Seeds of Change through the Social Justice Learning Project, trying to bring urban gardening to South Los Angeles food deserts.
10.) Check out, support, volunteer for, donate to, or become a member of SLOLA – the Seed Library of Los Angeles ($10 lifetime membership), and attend their weekly meetings at the Venice Learning Garden. If you live closer to downtown LA or Pasadena, do not fret, because SLOLA is creating an eastern library branch. Feel free to email me for more information on this (namorandovida [at] gmail [dot] com).
If you have some free time this Sat., Mar. 17, be sure to stop by the Venice SLOLA meeting, since they are discussing a subject close to my heart – crop plants plants native to the Americas and their historic/cultural importance, with resources on how to obtain and care for their seeds. Plus, LabelGMOs.org is also sponsoring a distribution of seeds — free to SLOLA members — from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company. And at the close of the meeting, SLOLA’s ever-expanding seed library will open again for check out.
If you’ve never attended a SLOLA meeting or have questions about seed saving, you’re invited to come 15 minutes early for a “Seed Saving Basics” presentation.
Image via LA Farm Girl
If you want an organic meat burger — and you want it fast — stop by O! Burger in West Hollywood.
Yes, there are other options for eco-friendlier burgers in Los Angeles. Want a sumptuous, gourmet organic burger with a price tag to match? I recommend BLD. Willing to settle for “natural” instead of organic? Try Fresh East. Vegan? Head over to The Veggie Grill. Cool with carcinogens as long as they’re veg? Boca Burgers are cheap. Don’t give a shit about yourself or the planet? McDonald’s still has many locations all over SoCal.
But if you want a fast food burger made organic, O! Burger is the place. Really in a hurry? Order it online and pick it up.
Though the grass fed organic beef burger’s its raison d’etre, O! Burger has organic turkey burgers too and does offer a veggie burger — though I have to say the house veg burger isn’t the tastiest veg burger I’ve come across. The deal is healthy though, with a medley of spinach, corn, carrots, and peas — all under crisp cucumber slices.
But really, this place is great for your occasional meaty indulgence. Get your burger the way you want it — all organic sans hormones or antibiotics — salad style on greens or on a yummy bun — always in recyclable, compostable or biodegradable packaging.
Instead of the usual high fructose corn syrup sweetened coke, you can get natural sodas or kombucha. Don’t miss the chocolate chip peanut butter cookies!
O! Burger. 8593 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood. 310.854.034. 10:30 am – 9:30 pm daily.
Photo via OneGreenPlanet.org
This is for the traveler (occasional or frequent) trying to do at least the smallest amount of something to minimize impact on the environment. Yes, flying is a HUGE contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, but for many Angelenos with family, friends, work relations (not to mention travel fever) all over the country/world, flying is sometimes unavoidable…
While inventors figure out new modes of national and international travel, there are a few things you can do to minimize waste while traveling. Check out the tips below and also this article by the David Suzuki Foundation on environmental travel tips.
1. Refuse to eat airplane food. Firstly, it’s usually beyond overly-processed slop, with likely little to no nutritional value (if you even get a meal). Secondly, it comes wrapped in at least one if not multiple layers of plastic, which all get thrown away. When meal service comes by, just say no thank you.
Alternative: Pack your own meal ahead of time. If you are traveling domestically in the United States, you can pack fresh fruit for yourself, and any cooked/prepared foods (sandwiches, soup, etc.) This also saves you money on expensive food at the airport. Make sure to pack enough food to last you until you arrive at your destination (unless you have time to eat a sit down meal at the airport, to avoid to-go packaging waste). If traveling internationally, do not take any fresh produce. However, you can pack cooked foods. If it’s not too much to worry about, pack reusable cutlery.
2. Pack your own bottle, cup, and/or coffee mug for airline staff to pour drinks in. There is no need for a new plastic cup every time beverage service passes you by. You will get through airline security without a problem is there is NO LIQUID in your bottle. Once you are on the flight, ask the airline staff to pour your beverage into your cup. I have done this several times, without a problem. Be sure to carry your reusable cup around in your new destination to avoid getting drinks in single use containers.
Photo via BottleBill.org
3. Tired of exploding products in your suitcase? Do you buy new products once you reach your destination? Try this instead: squeeze all the air out of plastic bottles, and close the cap. Put all your bottles into one plastic bag. Squeeze the air out, and tie the bag closed. Put this bag into another bag with the ties facing the bottom of the second bag. Squeeze out the air and re-tie it. You should have no leaks with this method, though you are well protected if you do. Keep these bags with you throughout your whole trip, and maybe even set them aside when you return for future use.
4. If you are going across the state, or maybe just 1 city over, seriously consider taking a bus or a train round-trip. In LA, Metrolink is a GREAT way to connect to the whole Southern California region; you can put your bike on it for free, its cheaper than gas, and get you to the places you want to go as quickly as driving. Amtrak is more pricey and slower than driving, but if you are going far and have several days of travel time, it is definitely worth it.
Photo via LA Streets Blog
5. If you have to drive long distance, try to not rev the engine too hard (burns more gas), but gently push and release the accelerator. Try to maintain a single speed, to be easy on your engine. Again, pack enough food and drink for yourself to not have to get takeout with one use containers, or stop at sit down dine-in places.
6. If you have to drive, make an announcement on Facebook to see if anyone wants to make a trip with you (aka carpool), or check and post on Craigslist’s rideshare page to see if anyone is offering or needs a ride to your destination.
7. At hotels – try to run shower and sink water on the lowest setting possible. Make sure to see if they have a green cleaning option available (so your sheets/towels are not changed everyday). Pack your own soaps and products, so that you don’t have to open and waste the little plastic bottle convenience packs they give you. Make sure you always turn off the lights/heater/cooler when you are not in the room.
8. Do your research ahead of time – where are the local, sustainable restaurants located? Local bakeries?
9. Again, do your research ahead of time – how can you transport yourself without having to rent a car or take taxis everywhere? How can you get to your destination without a car? How can you get around the city without a car? Can you rent a bicycle for a few days?
10. Again, do your research ahead of time – what fruits and vegetables are in season in the place you are visiting? Try and order those things when you eat out.
11. For the last time, do your research ahead of time – what awesome environmental orgs are in the place you are visiting? Are there any community land trusts? Eco-villages? Bicycle coalitions? Urban gardens? Seed-saving organizations? If you are active on an issue in LA, can you link with an org doing similar work in a new place? Contact them ahead of time, if possible, to see if they are willing to meet with you or give you a tour of their facility. Coalition building is key in the environmental movement, and it’s always good to get new ideas from stuff going on in new places. :)
There are some really amazing things happening in Los Angeles with regard to green jobs and funneling employment opportunities into the green sector. This coming week, the Good Jobs, Green Jobs West conference is taking place in Los Angeles on Thu., Mar. 15 and Fri., Mar. 16. Admission for both days is $195.
Good Jobs, Green Jobs West is part of a series of conferences taking place nationally. The Los Angeles conference is partnering with the California Labor Federation, who is also hosting their Workforce & Economic Development conference, Unemployed in America: Causes, Consequences, Solutions, which takes place immediately before Good Jobs, Green Jobs from Tue., Mar. 13 – Thu., Mar.15. You can attend both conferences at the rate of $295, by registering with the California Labor Federation and indicating that you want to attend Good Jobs, Green Jobs West during the registration process. Be sure not to register separately, or the discounted rate will not apply.
Conference keynote speakers and plenary panelists include: Congressman Xavier Becerra, Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa, Teamsters general president James P. Hoffa, California Air Resources board chair Mary Nichols, California Labor Federation chief officer Art Pulaski, Californians for Clean Energy and Jobs co-chair Tom Steyer, Sierra Club national treasurer and past president Allison Chin, chairman of the BlueGreen Alliance’s Apollo Project Phil Angelides, and others.
We have many hard-working people and organizations to thank for this, including Green for All, the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE), Strategic Concepts in Organizing and Policy Education (SCOPE), the Apollo Alliance, our innovative Los Angeles labor unions, and, of course, the countless individuals involved in pushing for transition to a sustainable, green economy.
If you can’t attend the conference, but are interested in the subject matter, check out some of the above organizations. They do amazing work in Los Angeles, pushing forward green changes at the policy level. There are also other interesting green jobs movements afoot, such as the campaign for a Green New Deal.
I also highly recommend that you pick up a copy of Van Jones’ seminal book Green Collar Economy if you haven’t yet, since he has great ideas to rebuild a green, clean, prosperous America. You can also check out the website Green Collar Economy.
Lastly, if you can’t attend the Good Jobs, Green Jobs conference because you are looking for a green job, you might find one at Green Job Search.
Photos via Green Jobs, Good Jobs West
During my trip to EARTH University, we spent a day in the banana fields and at the packaging center. In the fields I was blown away when I saw how the bananeros harvest the bunches. One man uses a machete to separate the bunch from the tree, and another man hoists the 60 lb bunch onto his back and sprints across uneven terrain. He then nimbly chains the bunch onto the train that will take them to the packing plant.
There, workers spend 10 hours a day wielding knives at lightning speed. They inspect and separate the big bunch of bananas into the smaller banana hands that you pick up at Whole Foods.
While I was watching them work very hard, what I was really witnessing was the Whole Trade Guarantee in action. Whole Foods trusts Transfair USA, Rainforest Alliance, and Fair for Life to certify that suppliers have met criteria including quality, premium price to the producer, better wages and working conditions, and environmental sustainability.
According to Fair Trade USA, “Many of the developing worlds’ small farmers live in poverty, struggling to feed their families and to maintain ownership of their land. Hired workers are often denied basic employment rights and fair wages, unable to escape poverty no matter how hard they work.”
This is especially relevant to the banana industry because the companies that have dominated it have a dark history of treating workers unjustly, including knowingly exposing workers to toxic chemicals.
When workers and the environment are treated fairly, one could assume that the products will inevitably cost a little more. So how much are you willing to pay for the piece of mind that your bananas were not involved in the exploitation of innocent workers?
If you have extra pocket change, a dime to be exact, you could put it toward a good cause and potassium rich produce. I called several grocery stores and couldn’t find bananas more then ten cents a pound cheaper than the fair trade variety, so why choose cheaper? Sometimes when you get a deal, someone else is paying for it.
Apparently a lot of shoppers feel the same way. According to a recent press release by Fair Trade USA, it was announced that sales of fair trade certified products are up 75% in 2011 in the U.S. That means huge improvements in a lot of peoples lives, and is proof of what big changes a small amount of change can make.
Photos by April Gilbert
Question: I mostly drink soy or almond milk, but I have been having difficulty finding a drop-off recycling facility for either the tetrapaks or the waxed cardboard containers. Through Earth911, it mentioned that the recycling facilities in Burbank and Montebello (I live in Pasadena) would take drink boxes, but when I called, the representatives at both facilities said they would take neither tetrapaks nor the waxed cardboard containers.
I just realized that Whole Foods sells milk in reuseable glass bottles that people can bring back, but I couldn’t find such a thing for soy or almond milk.
Any suggestions (besides making my own)? Thanks, Anna
Answer: As with many eco-conundrums, there’s no magic bullet solution here. However, I’ve got a myriad of suggestions that could help you out — at least for the Tetrapaks.
First — Can I convince you to consider making your own almond milk? I have no idea how to make soy milk, but I do know making almond milk’s super simple — and will save you money and energy (from hauling those heavy Tetrapaks home) over time. The process consists of pouring water over raw almonds to soak over night — then blending them up in the morning. You can strain the resulting “milk,” but you don’t have to — just enjoy the extra fiber.
Second — Do you have friends in Santa Monica, West Hollywood, or other local cities that recycle Tetrapaks? If so, drop off your paks into their blue bins.
Third — Are you crafty? If so, look into reusing your Tetrapaks.
Readers — Feel free to weigh in with your own suggestions.
Always misplace your keys? There’s a green and chic cure for that, and it’s called hooknook.
The memory aid comes courtesy of flip & tumble, a modern eco company in the bay area, which invented the hooknook — a minimalist wall attachment that looks cute and does double duty as both a hook and a nook.
With a couple simple screws, I attached my hooknook right by my front door. Now, the hooknook always holds my keys — so I no longer have to spend minutes every day searching for them on my tables, my bags, my floor. In a pinch, the hooknook could be used to hold up my purse — though since I already have a spot for my purses, I only take advantage of the hooknook’s nookness.
The hooknook’s made with 50% recycled polypropylene — and comes with its own hardware for hooking it up on your wall. The thing only costs $12 — and will save you hours of key searching time over the years.
Photo via SLOLA website
>> Big City Forum presents Fast Forward: Los Angeles on the Verge, featuring a panel of speakers that will harness creative methods for a lively discussion around livability, sustainability, community, and the politics of place in Los Angeles. Takes places tonight, Wed., Mar. 7 at 7 pm at the Armory Center for the Arts, 145 North Raymond Avenue, Pasadena. Cost: free.
>> What exactly is a ‘genetically modified seed’? What is ‘heirloom’? How do seed saving and local food growing relate to local and global peace? Who owns the future of food? Join the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) Friends Peace Dialogue, speakers Megan Bomba (SLOLA) and Deanna Marie Weakly (Master Gardener, founder of Skid Row Rooftop Garden), and green LA girl writer Nisha Namorando Vida to learn and dialogue on these questions this Thu., Mar. 8 from 7-8:30 pm at the AFSC headquarters, 634. S. Spring St., 3rd Floor, Los Angeles. Cost: free.
>> The G2 Gallery has begun a weekly screening of Ken Burns’s six-part documentary The National Parks: America’s Best Idea. The screenings provide a deeper understanding from a historical perspective of the people and places that shaped America’s national parks. The screenings will be held every Thu., Feb. 9 – Mar. 15 at 2 pm. Check out this week’s screening “Great Nature (1933–1945)”, on Thu., Mar. 8 at 2 pm, G2 Gallery, 1503 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice. Cost: $5. All proceeds will be donated to the World Wildlife Fund and the Sierra Club.
>> Santa Monica College is conducting its 10th annual Environmental and Urban Issues Speakers Series. Join Genevieve Bertone and other Santa Monica College faculty, staff, and students to learn how we are working on transportation, energy, food and other projects that make SMC more efficient and a better neighbor on Tue., Mar. 13 at 6:30 pm in HSS 263 on Santa Monica’s Main Campus (Map). Cost: free.
Photo via Big City Forum
>> Don’t pollute, or discarded plastics will turn into a monster and come after you! This short film shows a woman throw away a plastic bottle of sunscreen — only to have plastic objects collect into the shape of a menacing hand and come after her on the beach! (via NPR)
>> That’s just the latest in many funny videos that have come online in the last few years to draw attention to the problem of anti-plastic pollution. In case you missed it, Santa Monica nonprofit Heal the Bay released “The Majestic Plastic Bag,” a nature show spoof that follows the epic journey of a plastic bag from the store to the oceans.
This Innate flask lets you steep tea in an all stainless steel environment. The insulated flask is made of stainless steel, as is the removable tea infuser basket.
That said, the Innate flask isn’t totally plastic free. The top black portion’s made with plastic — though the plastic is BPA-free — so once you’re done steeping and start drinking, your hot tea will start touching plastic.
And sadly, the Innate flask’s got other downsides. The holes in the infuser are quite large — and will let through bits and pieces of most tisanes. The cup has no fill-line, which means I have to guesstimate how far I can fill up the cup. Not far enough, and the tea doesn’t actually get infused. Too far, and the cup runneth over when I put in the infuser. I am not good at guessimating, so this is a big problem for me. Last but not least — The cap, described as “leak-proof,” leaks — and I’ve burned my hands a few times as a result.
So I give the Innate flask a C. I still use it occasionally, but I’m not sure I’d recommend it. Libretea users — How does my experience compare to yours?
After reading all of the below, my general conclusion is that Tetrapaks are not particularly less sustainable than all the other packaging we use — but that a lot of the packaging we use is seriously unsustainable.
>> Tetrapak’s pluses: Less energy wasted on refrigeration, less food wasted on spoilage, less fuel wasted in transport compared to heavier packaging, less space taken up in landfills than other containers.
>> Tetrapak’s minuses: Even when recycled, tetrapak’s downcycled as a lot of the materials can’t be reused. All the paper fiber comes from trees, not recycled paper, because new fibers are needed to make the containers strong. The stuff’s rather complicated and arguably expensive to recycle.
>> Natural Life magazine has, IMHO, the most balanced take on the Tetrapak issue.
>> The popular green blog Treehugger has vocal bloggers on both sides of the issue, with one calling Tetrapak “the most elaborate greenwashing scheme ever,” and another dedicating a post to defending TetraPak. Treehugger also reports Tetrapak’s embraced FSC-certification for the paper portion of its packaging — in some European countries.
>> Green biz blog TriplePundit‘s also taken up the Tetrapak issue.
Do you use Tetrapak? Opt for it over other types of packaging? Why or why not?
Photo by Tetra Pak
Want to shop less and live more? Maybe reading about how companies entice you to buy stuff you don’t need will help you avoid their pull. Martin Lindstrom’s book “Brandwashed” could help you do just that. Martin, a guy often hired by major companies to convince people open wallets to products, shares his trade secrets in this book — arming readers with the knowledge to figure out when they’re being taken advantage of.
“Brandwashed” is full of both hilarious and shocking stories of how companies get people to buy. Sure, you may think you’re above all the ads that unrealistically promise everlasting love and fantastic sex — yours simply for buying a product. But did you know companies start grooming you for their goodies — while you’re still in utero? Some of the crazy tactics companies use — from stealth social marketing to skeevy online info mining — will likely shock you.
Buying unnecessary products means buying into more enviro damage — so greenies have a clear impetus to avoid such clandestine marketing ploys. But “Brandwashed” will open your eyes to even more reasons to avoid conventional products, to shop less, and to opt for eco-friendlier products on the occasions you do need to buy. Did you know, for example, that some conventional lip balm products actually contain ingredients that chap your lips? Or that Silk, when it started selling conventional soy milk, simply kept the same packaging while swapping out the word “organic” for “natural,” thereby fooling harried shoppers into buying their unorganic stuff?
The news in “Brandwashed” isn’t all doom and gloom for environmentalists. Sure, there’s a lot of greenwashing going on, and even more goods being marketed quite fantastically without even a nod to eco-friendly ideals. But one of the strongest form of marketing, according to “Brandwashed,” isn’t even done by companies. Instead, it’s done by individuals like yourself, through word of mouth.
Walk your green talk then talk about your walk — in an attractive, non-creepy, non-judgemental manner, of course — and you’ll be able to influence your neighbors into doing the same.
In a world of disposable everything, reusable stuff can seem skeevy — even when it’s not. Tell the world you use a reusable cup during your period, and you could get some uncomfortable looks — though honestly, with my readership, I get more curiously interested ones.
The reusable cup I wrote about? The Keeper. The lifetime of that thing? An impressive 10 years. Believe it or not, I’ve crossed that decade mark!
The Keeper’s been generally good to me. But to be honest, I haven’t used it exclusively. For me, the Keeper’s just cumbersome enough — in terms of size and comfort — that I only want to use it during the first couple days of my period. During those days, the Keeper is great, doing its job for way longer than a tampon and creating less mess to boot.
But on the lo-flo days, I often switch to skinny tampons or pantiliners. The rubber mold’s pretty thick and not particularly flexible — which makes the thing just annoying enough not to use.
Enter Lunette. This menstrual cup’s used just like the Keeper, but Lunette’s made with made with a thinner, softer, more flexible silicone — and has a slightly smaller circumference than the Keeper. That makes Lunette easier to insert and remove — and a lot more comfortable to use on a daily basis.
So far, I’m sold on Lunette. The one downside: While the Keeper’s website clearly states it can last 10 years, the Lunette’s site only makes vague promises about how it will “last for years.” I hope I’ll know when to let my Lunette go.
>> The City of Los Angeles wants to hear your ideas for solving our transportation challenges! LA/2B and the City of Los Angeles are hosting Mobility Think Lab Workshops and would love to hear from you! Attend the workshop in two locations this Sat. Mar. 3, either from 9:30-11:30 am at La Plaza de Cultura y Artes, 501 N. Main Street, Los Angeles, or from 1:30-3:30 pm at Pacoima Neighborhood Constituent Services Center, 13520 W. Van Nuys Blvd., Pacoima. If you can’t attend, voice your thoughts to Ideas.LA2B.org. Cost: free.
>>Join the LA County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC) for Tour de Taste and explore Ballona Creek, Culver City and beyond by bike! Learn about environmental and aesthetic enhancements that have been made to the Ballona Creek bike and pedestrian path and enjoy delicacies from fine restaurants in the area on Sun., Mar. 4. Registration opens at 9 am, tours begin at 10 am, leaving from Media Park at the corner of Culver Blvd & Venice Blvd in Culver City. Cost: $65 for LACBC members, $95 for non-members, and $120 for ticket plus LACBC membership.
>> Come tour the Los Angeles River (by foot and car) from Elysian Valley to Long Beach, with a stop for tacos in Boyle Heights and raspados in Bell this Sun., Mar. 4 from 9:30-4:30 pm. Cost: $25 for adults, $20 for kids, seniors and nonprofits. Pre-register online.
Image via Los Angeles Mobility Element
Raw chia pudding’s a favorite healthy snack of mine — and I’ve got both the super simple version and the complex but more delicious super-fruit version down. This month, I’ve added a new chia pudding recipe that’s still quick and easy but richer and superfoodier, thanks to raw superfood company Nutiva.
Nutiva offers organic hemp, coconut and chia to would-be superfoodies — and a simple recipe combines all three into a yummy, nutritious Chia Cereal. Here’s what it looks like:
And here’s how to make it, from the back of Nutiva’s Chia Seed package:
Nutiva Chia Cereal
2 Tbsp Nutiva Chia Seed
2 Tbsp Nutiva Hempseed
1 Tbsp Coconut Manna
6 oz. water or milk
Apple, banana, or berries
Honey or maple syrup
Make a delicious breakfast treat by soaking chia seeds for 5 minutes (I recommend soaking the seeds for at least a couple hours for a more pudding-like effect) in hot or cold liquid. Add sliced fruit, hempseed, and honey or syrup, and dig in!
Coconut Manna, by the way, is basically coconut oil pureed with coconut meat — for extra fiber, texture, and taste. Don’t be alarmed if most of the oil’s separated and floated to the top when you open the jar. That’s normal — just like it’s normal for the oil to float to the top of pure peanut butter. Stir and enjoy. I actually like to use Coconut Manna as butter on toast . It’s got a complex rich and creamy, somewhat peanut buttery taste. So simple and so delicious!
You can find Nutiva products at Whole Foods and other local natural food stores — as well as online on Nutiva’s web store.
If you’re a writer, you’ve probably had some long discussions about writing implements — and probably even have a favorite pen you “need” to write properly. I’m rather easygoing when it comes to the type of pen — I’ll take whatever’s handy — but I’m partial to eco-friendlier options.
Well now, picky eco-writers now have one online spot they can pick up all they need: Jetpens.com. This web store’s curated an environmentally conscious section, with everything from biodegradable pencil sharpeners to eco-friendly crayons to recycled pens.
Jetpens.com sent me a few pens to try out — and I was pleased with what I got. The store’s got the more easy-to-find goodies like the Pilot B2P Bottle to Pen I’ve reviewed before — but it’s also got eco-friendly liquid ink pens, twin-tip gray and black pens, and recycled fountain pens too.
My favorite, now that I’m teaching a lot and grading papers, is the Zebra SK-Sharbo pen. The thing’s actually two pens (one black, one red) and a mechanical pencil in one, all put in a clear recycled casing.
Yes, it’s true — many of Jetpens.com’s products come from far-off places like China and Japan. But I’m sure you already knew that most of the pens on the market now also come from far-off places — and aren’t as green.
Jetpens.com also offers nice eco-notebooks made with FSC-certified paper. What are you writing with?
Hola from Costa Rica! I am writing from EARTH University where I am spending a week living as a student with a group sent by Whole Foods. EARTH is a tropical paradise with a mission: to prepare leaders with ethical values to contribute to the sustainable development of the tropics and to construct a prosperous and just society. They are reaching these ambitious goals in surprising and inspiring ways which I have been lucky enough to witness during my stay.
If EARTH University sounds familiar to you, you may have seen it on a banana label on the shelf of your neighborhood Whole Foods Market. In addition to bananas, Whole Foods supports the universities commercial enterprise by sourcing pineapples, tropical flowers, and coffee. (If you haven’t tried Costa Rican coffee, run, don’t walk to whole foods to buy some. It’s amazing!)
Profits support EARTH’s scholarship program, which is important because half of all students receive a full scholarship and an additional 30% receive a partial scholarship. The students come mostly from Latin American countries and don’t have the economic means to afford a college education. The goal is that the students return home after graduation and improve their communities with the knowledge they have gained at EARTH. It’s working because each EARTH grad creates roughly four jobs.
The curriculum is a combination of hands on learning and traditional classroom style. Each student starts and runs a business beginning in their second year, making them effective agricultural entrepreneurs. My condensed experience here has had me spending time in the banana fields, the packing plant, multiple gardens (most of the food in the cafeteria is grown on campus), and classrooms, including the soil lab, which was a crash course in the chemistry of what makes good soil.
More than just an institution of higher education, EARTH is deeply committed to the improvement of local communities. La Florita is the first carbon neutral community in Costa Rica, and possibly Latin America, because the university has committed to sharing its agricultural and environmental knowledge. Earlier today EARTH students and I helped install a bio-digester in a small farm which will help the environment by keeping pig waste from contaminating the local eco system, and also provide methane gas for the family to cook with, so they don’t have to cut down trees to use for firewood. Earth is innovating and implementing many more similar solutions that benefit the environment and communities.
Everyone here at EARTH has been exceptionally warm and welcoming. Not just the professors, staff, and students, but also the local sloth and iguana seem to say hola in their own way. The pura vida attitude is contagious. I am looking forward to my “graduation” even though it will be sad to leave this amazing place. When I return home I hope to improve my community by sharing the knowledge I have gained this week, just like a real EARTH graduate.
Photos by April Gilbert
Can the Grammys go green? The Grammys are working on reducing their impact on the environment by implementing a series of steps to minimize energy, food and packaging waste, and to raise public awareness on the need for individuals, events, and corporations to make changes now for a healthier future. Natural Resource Defense Council‘s helping The Grammys learn ways to implement these goals -– definitely a step in the right direction.
This year the Recording Academy (the institution behind the Grammys) organized the 2nd Annual Greening Summit: The Sound Of Social Change at the Conga Room at L.A. Live. The event was sponsored by Waste Management, and featured a panel focusing on “Corporate responsibility in sustainability and how industry insiders can use their collective power to drive change in greening.”
The panel of corporate executives representing four companies working on incorporating initiatives to lessen their impact on Earth’s ecosystems, and two companies focused on sustainability consulting featured Bridgette Bell, global sustainability manager for Yum! Brands (owners of Taco Bell, KFC and Pizza Hut); William Brent, executive vice president of Weber Shandwick’s Cleantech; Jennifer Miller DuBuisson, associate manager of global sustainability for Mattel; Michael J. O’Brien, vice president of corporate and product placement at Hyundai; and Tim Sexton, co-founder of environmental policy business association Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2). Greg Baldwin, executive director of Environmental Media Association, moderated the panel.
There are definitely two ways to interpret the success of this event, a la Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, due to the complexity of the issues surrounding corporate sustainability.
On the one hand, (cue Dr. Jekyll) the Greening Summit should be considered a success and a motivation for other companies around the globe, whether staffed by 5 or 500,000 people. It was also a bit of relief for those (like me) concerned about the impact of non-environmentally sustainable business practices on Earth’s health now and in the future.
The featured panelists concluded that being “green” is a movement and not just a trend, applying this conclusion both to change in the corporate realm and to observed patterns of consumer demand. Considering that each of the panelists represented companies through which pass billions of dollars, this was no small statement.
When asked if they see green practice in their business, each of the individuals presented various strategies that their companies are involved in to lessen ecological impact. For example, Mattel’s toy packaging is now made of sugar cane and they are using sustainably sourced fibers for their toys, Yum! is investing in making their eateries LEED certified, and Hyundai has implemented a zero-waste policy at its manufacturing facilities. Hyundai also has its own steel plant, designed to capture released gases to power the factory itself (a $6 billion investment).
In talking about green strategy, Sexton (E2 co-founder) mentioned that 10 years ago all companies had internet strategies; today there are no internet strategies, as these are fundamentally integrated into a company’s main business strategy. He sees green strategy as being of a similar vein. He also hearkened to the 60s, pointing out that today’s “green movement” is a result of many years of struggle for change.
With regard to “greenwashing,” Brent of Cleantech mentioned that his company’s clients are not interested in implementing strategies that will only market sustainability without having attainable results. Clients are looking for “green” strategies — like using internet conference technologies to replace air travel for business meetings — that can cut costs while saving the planet. He also mentioned growing consumer interest in the greening of businesses, visible through different forums such as carrotmob.org.
It was great to hear individuals in strong positions in the corporate sector talk passionately about wanting to move ahead with sustainability practices in their companies, until the day when their jobs are no longer needed. As a colleague of mine present at the event pointed out, it is good motivation for smaller and mid-sized businesses to see large corporations incorporate waste and eco-impact minimizing strategies into their business plans; if changes can be made on such a large scale, so can they on the smaller scale.
On the other hand, (and out comes Mr. Hyde) there were several shortcomings to this event that demonstrate areas in which serious challenges to true human symbiosis with the earth remain (is symbiosis our ultimate, collective goal? I think so, do you?).
A Waste Management (WM) manager opened the event with a very scripted talk about WM’s sustainability practices. At one point she talked about how our generation is the first ever to be in a position to leave the Earth better than we found it. This unhistorical comment is emblematic of some of the underlying problems within how “sustainability” is framed today, which leads to serious limitations in how “sustainability strategies” become formulated and implemented in businesses.
It is a historical truth that Native American peoples held the Earth in stewardship, until colonization of the Americas meant that American land was transfered from Native stewardship to land ownership by British (and other) colonists, followed by industrialization (which inherently requires natural resource consumption), the post-Great Depression transition from family farming to industrial agriclture, and real estate sprawl. The beauty that John Muir saw in Yosemite was so because of how the Native American peoples worked with forests and ecosystems; their impact on our ecosystems is still visible in today’s remaining wild spaces.
Destruction of native ways of living and subsequent transition to an industrialized, mass production and consumption society is a fundamental reason for the massive problems we face globally today, whether considering the burning of the Amazon for soy, cattle and sugar, the razing of Appalachian mountain tops for coal, or the transformation of our world’s rivers into manufacturing corridors. No matter how you phrase it, Barbies are unnecessary tolls on the Earth, and are simply not ‘eco-friendly’, even if packaged in sugar cane plastic (the ‘eco-friendliness’ of which is itself dubious).
Hyper-processing raw materials (wood, petroleum, corn, sugar cane, iron, etc.) into products with only temporary purpose for humans and limited ability to healthily reintegrate with the Earth cannot be sustainable; it presents a huge toll on the Earth from material extraction and sourcing, the building of factories, toxic outputs from product creation, waste generated by product packaging (and other marketing efforts), and waste generated by the product after it is discarded by human consumers.
Even if there are some native peoples in different parts of the world who did not go out of their way to steward the Earth (or who maybe engaged in damaging practices like slash and burn), their impact was miniscule compared to that of modern industrial practices.
The point is, there have been many generations before ours that left the Earth in a better way than they found it; our generation is the first to face the threats of human induced climate change and mass extinction in a way so pervasive that we are being forced to rethink what it means to “live with the Earth” because of how ill the planet and its people are becoming due to irresponsible use of land and Earth’s resources.
Concerns such as these lie at the root of the “green” movement, which is in turn inspiring many people to invest in local economies, goods and services, while cutting unnecessary consumption out of their lives (nevermind the pathetic state of our economy, generally speaking). It might just be that companies that produce unnecessary goods have to face this reality and start considering how to restructure the goods and services they provide in a more holistic manner – for the benefit of consumers and the futures of their own children and grandchildren.
This event also made me realize how intrinsic food production is to the sustainability movement. Local growers are uniting with raw foodists who are in turn forming food coops to provide things like raw milk. These efforts are being spawned by the exponentially growing number of people who have come to realize how enormously detrimental “conventional” farming is on human and environmental health, while also discovering the superior potential of responsible, sustainable, live agriculture to augment the Earth’s ability to grow and regenerate, while still providing more than enough food for the world’s peoples.
My food epiphany came to me during the question and answer period (which was very short-lived). An audience member representing the Clean Agency asked the Yum! Brands rep (Bell) if Yum’s transition to sustainability included sourcing food from sustainable and organic food growers and farms that use humane practices to raise animals for meat consumption. Bell responded by saying that another department handles food matters. Prior to the q&a, Bell had mentioned that Yum!’s goal is to feed the whole world, meaning that the primary purpose for the existence of Yum! is to give lots of food to lots of people. Industrial agriculture is a primary contributor to global warming, behind automobile and factory exhaust – a fact that a global sustainability executive should know. If Yum! is not looking at alternative sourcing of its food ingredients, then by existing, it is ultimately choosing to be a significant cause of environmental degradation, regardless of measures taken by its stores to “green.”
At that point, I also realized that the panelists seemed to be blurring the difference between implementing sustainability practices to satisfy consumer demand versus creating company sustainability policies based on a prioritization of environmental health. I decided to ask the panel a question about what training they have had that qualifies them to be sustainability experts. A Local to Global volunteer filmed their response (see video below). What do you think of their responses?
My final Mr. Hyde criticism is to emphasize that the Greening Summit lacked any connection whatsoever to organizations contracted by the Recording Academy to build sustainability into the Grammys. There were no introductory or concluding remarks from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the nonprofit advising the Recording Academy on how to plan a more sustainable celebration, and I was unable to meet any NRDC staff. The food served was the standard continental breakfast fare of cantaloupe, pastries and cheap coffee. The only Grammy/Greening Summit connection seemed to be the event’s location at L.A. Live, which uses enormous amounts of energy and water 24/7.
Criticism can be constructed either as means to degrade something, or as an opportunity to make something (like a movement!) stronger by pointing out flaws and weak spots.
The Mr. Hyde criticisms presented here were not written to disparage efforts made thus far in the corporate sector, but instead to challenge green LA girl readers, the corporate sector and the global community toward increasingly innovative thinking — and NOW!
The Greening Summit panel clearly consisted of a group of powerful individuals who are excellent at their jobs, want to care about the planet and its people, are pioneering the drive in the corporate sector to think about human impact on the planet, and seemed to be coming from internal places of honesty and passion. While the work they are doing is crucial, there is just so much more that needs to be done right now by all individuals and businesses throughout the globe.
Through efforts to “green” the Grammys and by organizing the Greening Summit (more photos here from the event), the Recording Academy clearly seems to be interested in opening dialogue and spurring education on how to green businesses. As an inherently cultural institution, they also seem to be interested in inspiring cultural change toward sustainability.
So what are your thoughts on these issues? Let’s keep this dialogue going.
Photo by Nisha Namorando Vida