Monday, March 31, 2008

Food Lingo

It can be hard to make informed food choices at the store amid all the "healthy" labels - organic, sustainable, fair trade, natural, free range, hormone free, etc. So what do they all really mean?

Organic- you are guaranteed that products labeled "USDA organic" are at least 95 percent free of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers and sewage sludge and that they haven’t been genetically modified or irradiated. No hormones or antibiotics are allowed; animals must be fed organically-grown feed and have access to the outdoors.

Sustainable- are crops that are raised in ways that don’t harm the environment, are humane to animals, and support farm workers and farming communities. Not all sustainable foods are organic — most come from small family farms which may not have the resources to get organic certification which is expensive and time-consuming.

Fair Trade - certifies that farmers in developing countries have received a fair price for products like coffee and chocolate which are grown in a sustainable way.

GMO - a genetically modified organism, is one whose genetic material has been deliberately altered. Genes are combined from different organisms and the resulting organism is said to be “genetically modified,” or “genetically engineered." The long term effects of these products are unknown.

Natural - “natural” is not regulated at all, however USDA guidelines state that: “A product containing no artificial ingredient or added color that is only minimally processed (a process which does not fundamentally alter the raw product) may be labeled ‘natural.’ The label must explain the use of the term (such as no added colorings or artificial ingredients; minimally processed).” Thus, natural products should have no artificial preservatives, chemical additives artificial sweeteners, no hydrogenated oils, no GMOs (genetically modified organisms) and no synthetics. They cannot be irradiated. This term certainly does not necessarily mean it is a healthy product, be sure to read the ingredients label - high fructose corn syrup is considered "natural" as it is made from corn.

Locally Grown - refers to crops produced no more than 150 miles from where they’re purchased. The emphasis is on seasonal, fresh produce, meats and dairy products however these crops may have been raised with pesticides.

Antibiotic-Free - an unregulated term which foods are labeled "no antibiotics administered" or "raised without antibiotics," which means animals were raised entirely without these substances. Concerns have been raised that antibiotic use in cattle causes antibiotic resistant bacteria to develop, threatening human health.

Hormone-Free - there are no regulations on this term, however all pork and chicken are raised hormone free as these substances are banned from use when raising pigs and chickens. Controversy surrounds the artificial hormone rBGH which increases milk production, it is banned in most countries due to concerns over its effects on humans and animals.

Free Range - chickens aren’t confined to cages and are granted access to the outdoors, however the USDA only requires limited outdoor time and conditions can still be crowded and dirty. There is no regulation for this term.

Grass-Fed - cattle raised largely on grass and hay are referred to as "grass-fed", however there are no government regulations or inspections required to use this term.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Cinnamon Maple Pancakes

Since it's Sunday - it's Pancake Day!

Cinnamon Maple Pancakes

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup unbleached flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
2 Tbsp. evaporated cane juice
3 tsp. Ener-G egg replacer mixed with 4 Tbsp. warm water (or 2 eggs)
2 cups soy milk
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 Tbsp. maple syrup
1 Tbsp. vanilla

In a bowl, combine flours, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and evaporated cane juice. In another bowl, combine egg replacer mix, soy milk, oil, syrup, and vanilla; stir into dry ingredients. Pour 2 Tbsp. of batter onto griddle preheated to 350 and cook until batter bubbles and pancakes begin to brown around edges. Flip and cook 2 minutes more. Enjoy!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Earth Hour

On March 29, 2008 at 8 p.m., join millions of people around the world in making a statement about climate change by turning off your lights for Earth Hour, an event created by the World Wildlife Fund. The aim of the campaign is to express that individual action on a mass scale can help change our planet for the better.

Last year Sydney, Australia started the movement, with Sydney icons like the Harbour Bridge and Opera House turning their lights off, and unique events such as weddings by candlelight, the world took notice. Last year's Earth Hour had the effect of taking 48,000 cars off the road for an hour. This year, on March 29, Earth Hour goes global, with cities and towns across the world going dark to take a stand against climate change. The Sears Tower, Golden Gate Bridge, and Alcatraz will be turning off their non-essential lights from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m., along with the cities of Denver, Honolulu, Chicago, Atlanta, San Francisco, Toronto, Montreal, Copenhagen, Dublin, Tel Aviv, and, of course, Sydney, among others.

So gather up your soy candles and join in this worldwide statement about global warming and turn off your lights at 8 p.m. for an hour. Visit for more info.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


Freecycle is a great way to recycle unwanted items from your home or to find something you're looking for without impacting the planet by buying a new product. What is Freecycle? "The Freecycle Network™ is made up of 4,302 groups with 4,729,000 members across the globe. It's a grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (& getting) stuff for free in their own towns. It's all about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills. As a result, we are currently keeping over 300 tons a day out of landfills! This amounts to four times the height of Mt. Everest in the past year alone, when stacked in garbage trucks! By giving freely with no strings attached, members of The Freecycle Network help instill a sense of generosity of spirit as they strengthen local community ties and promote environmental sustainability and reuse. People from all walks of life have joined together to turn trash into treasure." from

I personally have donated many items on the network and have received many great items from other members. What can you find on Freecycle? You name it and it's there - furniture, books, clothes, bikes, plants, coupons, cameras, pets, appliances, etc. To find your local Freecycle group, go to

Remember the 3Rs - reduce, reuse, recycle.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

It's easy being green . . .

1. Use your towels more than once. Hanging them up to dry after using them, means less energy to run the washer and dryer.

2. Pass on the ATM receipts. They are one of the top sources of litter and use up valuable paper resources.

3. Avoid single serve packages and items with excessive packaging to reduce the waste you produce.

4. Aim for waste-free packed lunches. Use a reusable drink container, silverware, and a cloth napkin. Instead of plastic sandwich bags, check out for reusable wrappers.

5. Send ecards and evites instead of paper ones. Check out for great cards and invitations.

Monday, March 24, 2008

10 Great Uses for Vinegar

1. Vinegar is a powerful antibacterial – killing 99% of bacteria according to some studies. Keep a clean spray bottle filled with straight 5 percent vinegar in your kitchen near your cutting board, and in your bathroom, and use them for cleaning. The smell of vinegar dissipates within a few hours. Straight vinegar is also great for cleaning the toilet rim. Just spray it on and wipe off.
2. Remove scaly mineral stains on glass. Just fill glass with vinegar and let sit. For glass shower doors soak a cloth with vinegar and lay on stain.
3. Fabric softener – pour a ¼ cup in the rinse cycle of your washer. This will also make towels more absorbent.
4. Clean brass - Dissolve 1 teaspoon of salt in 1 cup of white distilled vinegar and stir in flour until it becomes a paste. Apply paste to the metals and let it stand for about 15 minutes. Rinse with clean warm water and polish until dry.
5. Furniture polish – Mix ¼ vinegar and a few drops of olive oil. Dip a soft cloth in the vinegar and oil mixture, and wipe furniture.
6. Window cleaner - combine 1/4 cup vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon liquid soap or detergent, and 2 cups of water in a spray bottle and shake to blend.
7. Floor cleaner - Combine in a bucket - 1/8 cup Dr. Bronner’s Sal-Suds liquid soap, 1/2 cup white distilled vinegar and a splash of lemon juice for a clean fragrance.
8. Clean the microwave - Boil a solution of 1/4 cup of white distilled vinegar and 1 cup of water in the microwave. Will loosen splattered on food and deodorize.
9. Deodorize the kitchen drain - Pour a cup of white distilled vinegar down the drain once a week. Let stand 30 minutes and then flush with cold water.
10. Ant deterrent - Ant invasions can sometimes be deterred by washing countertops, cabinets and floors with white distilled vinegar.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Spiced Banana Pancakes

Happy Easter! Today we started the day with an Easter egg hunt and followed it with our Sunday morning tradition of pancakes. Today's pancakes were a super easy recipe for spiced banana pancakes.

Spiced Banana Pancakes

1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup unbleached white flour
2 Tbsp. evaporated cane juice
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground allspice
1 1/4 cups soy milk
2 bananas, peeled and sliced

Combine the flours, evaporated cane juice, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and allspice in a large bowl. In a blender combine the soy milk and banana slices and puree until smooth. Pour into the dry ingredients and mix. Ladle 3 Tbsp. of batter onto a griddle preheated to 350, cook until batter bubbles and pancakes begin to brown around edges. Flip and cook 2 minutes more.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Beach Clean Up

Yesterday my daughter and I participated in a beach clean up with her Girl Scout Troop. Last month we also did a beach clean up with a volunteer group to which we belong. Both times we found an alarming amount of fishing line, balloons, and other debris that can harm sea creatures, especially sea turtles. Our area has one of the largest concentration of sea turtle nesting sites in this country. Our county has been proactive in preventing sea turtle deaths by keeping lights out on the beach which can confuse turtles - instinct drives nesting, egg-laden female turtles and lure newly-hatched baby turtles from their nests on beaches towards the brightest horizon, ideally the waterline, but the bright lights of street lamps, illuminated parking lots, and buildings can disorient them towards artificial light sources. However the large amount of garbage found on the beaches can also contribute to sea turtle deaths. Discarded fishing line can become entangled around animals, balloons and plastic bags floating on the oceans surface can be mistaken for jellyfish a staple of the turtles diet. While we regularly participate in organized beach clean ups, we also do our part whenever we go to the beach. While wandering the beach searching for shells, we take two bags - one for sea treasures we find and the other for trash. At the end of the day the treasures come home and the trash is disposed of properly.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Eco Easter Eggs

For a fun experiment my daughter and I decided to color our eggs without the regular Easter egg dyes and to try a do-it-yourself alternative. We used free-range eggs from a friend's chicken farm which we hard-boiled. We used raspberries for pink, spinach for green, cumin for yellow, paprika for orange, and blueberries for blue. I used 1/2 a cup of berries or vegetables & 2 Tbsp. of herbs per cup of water. In a saucepan, bring the mixture to a boil and then add 2 Tbsp. white vinegar and simmer for 15 minutes. Submerge the eggs in the dye and allow to sit for 15 minutes or until your desired color is reached. Have fun experimenting with foods and spices in your home. :)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Nail Polish

Regular nail polishes contain a large amount of toxins that can stay in your system. The CDC found that every person they tested during a recent study had some level of these toxins in their systems - and women of childbearing age had the highest levels of all: due in particular to nail polish use. Fortunately there are several alternatives out there that do not contain toluene, formaldehyde, and phthalates, which have been linked to birth defects and cancer. Check out some of these great products:

PeaceKeeper Nail Paint –

Honeybee Gardens Nail Enamel –

Priti Nail Polish –

Anise Professional Nail Color –

Suncoat Water-Based Nail Polish –

Go Natural Nail Polish –

For more information on the safety of your nail polish and other cosmetics go to –

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Great Uses for Baking Soda

You don't need tons of toxic cleaners to get the job done. Check out all the cool things you can do with that box of baking soda in your pantry!

1.Clean fruits and veggies. Wash in a large bowl of cool water with 3 Tbsp. baking soda or clean firm fruits & veggies by scrubbing with baking soda sprinkled on a wet cloth, rinse with water.

2.Clean Formica with lemon juice & baking soda. Apply juice and leave on for a 30 minutes, then sprinkle with baking soda. Scrub with a cloth, rinse, and dry.

3.Use as a nonabrasive cleaner for sinks.

4.Open a clogged drain. Pour 1 cup baking soda down drain and then add 1 cup hot vinegar. After waiting 10 minutes, flush drain with a quart of very hot water.

5.Clean bathroom tub & sink with a paste of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide. Let paste sit for 10 minutes before rubbing.

6.Scrub the toilet bowl.

7.Clean crayon off walls. Gently scrub with baking soda on a wet sponge.

8.Shampoo carpet with ½ cup baking soda mixed with warm water.

9.Carpet deodorizer. ½ cup baking soda, ½ cup cornstarch, 15 drops of favorite essential oil. Use rosemary, pennyroyal, or citronella oil to kill fleas.

10.Stain remover for clothes. Make a paste of 4 Tbsp. of baking soda and ¼ cup warm water. Rub on spot and wash.

11.Rinse pool chlorine out of bathing suits in a sink of water with 1 Tbsp. baking soda.

12.Clean toothbrushes. Soak brushes in baking soda & warm water overnight.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Great Green Gifts

Enjoy the luck of the Irish today! Remember when it comes time to give gifts to friends and family you don't have to use your whole pot of gold to give something green :)

For the home lover - give a clean burning soy candle. Check out - Naked Candle Company

For the beauty queen - Peacekeeper Cause-Metics - all natural cosmetics whose company donates ALL its profits to women's health & human rights advocacy issues

For the kids - Xeko a fun, new animal trading card game that's driving kids wild. The cards which are printed with soy ink teach kids about animals from far of lands like Madagascar, Indonesia, and Coast Rica. The company has a wrapper recycling program and donates 4% of its sales to Conservation International.

For the sports lover - Sigg aluminum water bottles - these great refillable bottles allow you to quench your thirst without contributing to the mountains of plastic bottles we generate every day.

For the fashion plate - Check out Tees for Change. Their organic cotton or bamboo tees are printed with fun messages like - Laugh Often, Chase Dreams, Choose Happiness.

For the outdoor lover - Help them protect themselves from the sun while avoiding the harmful chemicals found in typical sunscreens with Caribbean Sol

For the brown bagger - keep tons of sandwich bags out of landfills with Wrap-N-Mat, a reusable sandwich wrap and mat.

For the pet lover - Give your pet treats so healthy and natural they're safe for you to eat from and for pet clean-ups check out Scoopies - biodegradable waste bags

For the shopper - a reusable bag. Eco-Bags have a variety of great bags to help you solve the paper or plastics debate - neither

Sunday, March 16, 2008

St. Patty's Day Pancakes

Today we had green shamrock pancakes in honor of tomorrow's holiday. I used our basic pancake recipe and added green food coloring to the liquid mixture before adding it to the dry ingredients. I shaped the shamrocks by pouring three touching circles of batter and a line of batter for a stem. Have a green St. Patty's ! :)

Saturday, March 15, 2008

10 Simple Tips to Living Greener

Living a greener life doesn't mean you have to change your entire lifestyle, just making a few simple changes can make a big impact.

1. BYOB - Bring your own bag. Next time you're confronted with the paper or plastic question say neither and hand over your reusable bag.
2. Use a refillable aluminum water bottle instead of purchasing single use water bottles.
3. Eat at least one vegetarian meal a week.
4. Shop your city's Farmers Market for locally grown produce.
5. Turn off lights and televisions when you leave the room.
6. Turn off the faucet while brushing your teeth.
7. Make your own household cleaners. Effective cleaners can be made with common household items like borax, white vinegar, baking soda, salt, hydrogen peroxide, and lemons.
8. Switch to an earth-friendly brand of laundry detergent.
9. Switch to compact fluorescent bulbs instead of standard incandescent light bulbs.
10. Remember the 3Rs - reduce, reuse, recycle.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Organic Make up

I found a great product recently at the local drugstore - Physicians Formula Organic Wear bronzer. It is part of their new line of make up which includes concealer, face powder, liquid bronzer, tinted moisturizer, bronzer, and blush. The products are 100% free of harsh chemicals, parabens, synthetic preservatives, GMOs (genetically modified organisms), synthetic colors, and synthetic fragrances. They are also 100% Cruelty Free and safe for vegans (however the brushes are made with goat hair). All the packaging, tubes, and compacts are recyclable. The compacts are made of an eco-conscious paper packaging which uses 93% less plastic than a traditional compact. All the products are EcoCert certified organic which is an internationally recognized organic certification that guarantees the genuine practice of environmental respect throughout the formulation and manufacturing of the product. The products are widely available at major retailers - Albertsons, CVS, Kmart, Target, Walgreens, Walmart - and are competitively priced compared to traditional cosmetics at $6.95 - $13.95.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Reusable Bags

Unless you've been living under a rock, you've seen reusable bags for sale at most grocery stores. Where you used to only see them for sale at health food stores and green grocers like Whole Foods, Wild Oats, and Trader Joes - now they are popping up at Publix, Target, and even Walmart. But why should you purchase a reusable bag?
1. Save oil and/or trees. In the US, about 12 million barrels of oil and 14 million trees go to producing plastic and paper bags each year.
2. Help keep sea creatures safe. They're one of the 12 most commonly found items in coastal cleanups. 3. Remember the 3Rs - REDUCE litter. REUSE your bag. RECYCLE - Most of the bags are made of recycled and recyclable materials.

Leading the way to reduce their impact on the environment, Whole Foods Market has announced that they plan to eliminate all disposable plastic grocery bags from their stores by Earth Day - April 22, 2008. Whole Foods says it hopes customers will bring their own reusable bags when shopping, but they will provide 100% recycled paper bags when needed. Kudos to Whole Foods!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Simple Shoes

In an effort to find a sneaker that fit my needs - sustainable and vegan, I found Simple Shoes on the internet. This great company uses safe, recycled, recyclable, and sustainable products to produce their shoes as well as being green in their production. Their shoes area made with hemp, organic cotton, PET (made from recycled plastic bottles), recycled tire treads, and water based glues. They are reasonably priced with prices starting at $45. And best of all, they are really cute and comfortable! Every time I wear mine, someone comments on how cute they are and they are more impressed when I explain how eco-friendly they are. Check them out at

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Mixed Berry Syrup

It's Sunday and despite the fact that my daughter and I camped out in a tent last night with temperatures in the 40s - my daughter informed me it's still Pancake Day. So we went with our basic pancakes, but I was feeling creative and inspired by the delicious Florida strawberries that are in season so I whipped up a delicious mixed berry syrup to go with them.

Mixed Berry Syrup

2 cups fresh organic strawberries, sliced in half
1/4 cup evaporated cane juice
1/4 cup cranberry and blueberry juice combo
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 Tbsp. lemon juice

Combine the evaporated cane juice, cornstarch, and lemon juice. Mix to remove any lumps. Add the strawberries and berry juice. Cook sauce at a low boil for 1 minute stirring constantly. Remove from heat and cool for 10 minutes.

*** I used Ocean Spray 100% Juice No Sugar Added Cranberry & Blueberry

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Go Veg

You might have noticed that all the recipes I've posted are either vegetarian or vegan. My daughter and I are both vegetarians and are semi-vegan. We have made these choices for ethical reasons - we both find the eating of animals cruel, however recent research shows our choice is also good for the planet. Sir Paul McCartney sums it up by saying, “If anyone wants to save the planet, all they have to do is just stop eating meat. That’s the single most important thing you could do. It’s staggering when you think about it. Vegetarianism takes care of so many things in one shot: ecology, famine, cruelty.”

What you eat can have a much bigger impact on the enviroment than what kind of car you drive. Livestock & manure methane directly release greenhouse gases equivalent to what's produced by 33 million cars! Feeding livestock also take a toll on the ecosystem - it takes 7 pounds of corn to add one pound of weight to cattle and growing the grains to feed the livestock uses a lot of fertilizer - 1 pound for every 3 pounds of cooked beef. Livestock also uses a lot of our precious drinking water, it takes 4500 gallons of water to produce 4oz of raw beef.

Give the planet a helping hand by choosing to go veg or by making at least one meal a week vegetarian.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Cinnamon Oat Pancakes

It's Pancake Day again. These delicious pancakes were created this morning with a creative use of what was in the pantry & refigerator. They are reminiscent of french toast in taste and texture.

Cinnamon Oat Pancakes

1 cup organic whole wheat flour
1/4 cup quick-cooking oats
3 Tbsp. ground flaxseeds
1 Tbsp. evaporated cane juice
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup soy milk
1 container So Delicious Cinnamon Bun soy yogurt
1 Tbsp. canola oil

Mix the flour, oats, flaxseeds, evaporated cane juice, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. In a seperate bowl combine yogurt, milk, and oil. Stir yogurt mixture into dry ingredients and mix completely. Pour 2 Tbsp. of batter onto griddle preheated to 350, cook until batter bubbles and pancakes begin to brown around edges. Flip and cook 2 minutes more.