Monday, May 9, 2011

Dig Deep: Rehabilitation Through Gardening

Dig Deep: Rehabilitation Through Gardening

"They are the class participants of the Insight Garden Program (IGP) at San Quentin State Prison.

Having served over 800 prisoners over an eight-year period, the IGP rehabilitates men through the process of organic gardening. By connecting with nature, men also reconnect to themselves, their communities and the natural environment. It is based on the principles that nature can teach us everything we need to know, and that through connection to nature we can heal individually and collectively." Beth Waitkus

Friday, March 18, 2011

Pepsi vs. Coke Continues with 100% Bio-based Bottle | Sustainable Life Media

Pepsi vs. Coke Continues with 100% Bio-based Bottle | Sustainable Life Media

"Pepsi vs. Coke Continues with 100% Bio-based Bottle

March 15, 2011 - The Coke vs. Pepsi rivalry moved into the environmental arena today, as PepsiCo unveiled its response to Coca-Cola’s much-heralded PlantBottle.

Pepsi said its new “green” bottle is the world's first PET plastic bottle made entirely from plant-based, fully renewable resources. The bottle, which will go into pilot production in 2012, is said to be 100% recyclable with petroleum-based PET.

Coke’s PlantBottle, which hit store shelves in 2009, contains up to 30% bio-based material.

Combining biological and chemical processes, Pepsi said it has identified methods to create a molecular structure that is identical to petroleum-based PET (polyethylene terephthalate), which results in a bottle that looks and feels the same as existing PET beverage containers.

The bottle is made from bio-based raw materials, including switch grass, pine bark and corn husks. Pepsi said it will allow the company to significantly reduce its carbon footprint.

In the future, the company said it expects to broaden the renewable sources to include orange peels, potato peels, oat hulls and other agricultural byproducts from its foods business.

"PepsiCo is in a unique position, as one of the world's largest food and beverage businesses, to ultimately source agricultural byproducts from our foods business to manufacture a more environmentally-preferable bottle for our beverages business--a sustainable business model that we believe brings to life the essence of Performance with Purpose," said PepsiCo Chairman and CEO, Indra Nooyi.

Pepsi will pilot production of the new bottle in 2012. Upon successful completion of the pilot, the company intends to move directly to full-scale commercialization.
"By reducing reliance on petroleum-based materials and using its own agricultural scraps as feedstock for new bottles, this advancement should deliver a double win for the environment and PepsiCo," said Conrad Mackerron, Senior Program Director of As You Sow, a San Francisco-based foundation, which promotes corporate social responsibility through shareholder engagement."

Friday, March 11, 2011

Choosing organic milk could offset effects of climate change: Newcastle University study

The following is an article from Stone Hearth Newsletters:

Choosing organic milk could offset effects of climate change: Newcastle University study

Choosing organic milk could offset effects of climate change

IMAGE: This is Gillian Butler at Newcastle University's Nafferton Farm, Northumberland, with some of the farm's cows.

Click here for more information.

Wetter, cooler summers can have a detrimental effect on the milk we drink, according to new research published by Newcastle University.

Researchers found milk collected during a particularly poor UK summer and the following winter had significantly higher saturated fat content and far less beneficial fatty acids than in a more 'normal' year.

But they also discovered that switching to organic milk could help overcome these problems. Organic supermarket milk showed higher levels of nutritionally beneficial fatty acids compared with 'ordinary' milk regardless of the time of year or weather conditions.

The study, which is published in this month's Journal of Dairy Science (January 2011), leads on from previous research undertaken nearly three years ago which looked at the difference between organic and conventional milk at its source – on the farms.

"We wanted to check if what we found on farms also applies to milk available in the shops," said Gillian Butler, who led the study. "Surprisingly, the differences between organic and conventional milk were even more marked. Whereas on the farms the benefits of organic milk were proven in the summer but not the winter, in the supermarkets it is significantly better quality year round."

There was also greater consistency between organic suppliers, where the conventional milk brands were of variable quality.

"We were surprised to see obvious differences between the conventional brands, with the more expensive ones not necessarily better," said Mrs Butler. "Some brands - which promote their suppliers as wholesome and grazing on fresh pastures - actually sold milk that appeared to be from very intensive farms."

Low levels of omega-3 and polyunsaturated fatty acids were discovered in some of these brands, which are indicative of a diet low in fresh grass. These samples also showed evidence of the cows being supplemented with a saturated fat product derived from palm oil.

IMAGE: This is Gillian Butler with cows at Newcastle University's Nafferton Farm, Northumberland.

Click here for more information.

Mrs Butler puts the differences down to a lower reliance on grazing and fertiliser suppressing clover on conventional farms. "The results suggest greater uniformity of feeding practice on farms supplying organic milk since there were no brands which differed consistently in fat composition," she said. "This implies a fairly uniform approach to feeding practised across these suppliers."

Organic dairying standards prescribe a reliance on forage, especially grazing, and, in the absence of nitrogen fertiliser, tend to encourage swards of red and white clover, which have been shown to alter the fatty acid intake and composition of milk.

While protein, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and some mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids in milk are considered beneficial, saturated fatty acids are believed to have a negative effect on human health.

"We're always being told to cut down on the saturated fat we consume and switching to organic milk and dairy products provides a natural way to increase our intake of nutritionally desirable fatty acids, vitamins and antioxidants without increasing our intake of less desirable fatty acids," said Mrs Butler.

"By choosing organic milk you can cut saturated fats by 30-50 percent and still get the same intake of beneficial fatty acids, as the omega-3 levels are higher but omega-6 is not, which helps to improve the crucial ratio between the two."

While undertaking their research into the differences between organic and conventional milk, the researchers discovered the surprising link between milk quality and our changing climate. Their results suggest that if we continue to have wetter, cooler summers then farmers may have to rethink their current dairy practices.

There was a considerable difference between the milk bought in the first sampling period (July 2006 and January 2007) and corresponding times a year later. The second set of samples, following a particularly wet summer in 2007, was higher in saturated fat and lower in beneficial fatty acids.

"We didn't expect to find differences between the sampling periods," said Mrs Butler. "But this is likely to be down to the impact of the weather on availability and quality of forage."

In North East England, for example, the summer of 2007 was particularly wet, with approximately 30 per cent higher recorded rainfall and 12 per cent lower temperatures compared with 2006.

"These conditions may affect the cows' behaviour, reducing grazing intake and milk output," said Mrs Butler. "Farmers also often increase supplementation with concentrated feeds or conserved forage to maintain milk yields in these conditions."

During the region's main silage making period (late May until the end of July) rainfall in 2007 was three times higher than the previous year, which also made for poorer quality silage and therefore the need for greater supplementation to compensate in winter diets.

"If these weather patterns continue, both forage and dairy management will have to adapt to maintain current milk quality," said Mrs Butler. "The higher levels of beneficial fats in organic milk would more than compensate for the depression brought about by relatively poor weather conditions in the wet year."

The researchers, who are part of the University's Nafferton Ecological Farming Group and its Human Nutrition Centre, looked at the quality of milk in supermarkets across North East England at varying times of year over a two-year period.

They concluded that organic brands of milk available in supermarkets are higher in beneficial fatty acids such as CLA and omega-3 fatty acids in summer (as in their previous research) and winter (where previous research showed that the difference in the winter was not as noticeable).

Emma Hockridge, head of policy at the Soil Association, said: "This groundbreaking research proves for the first time that people buying organic milk will be benefitting from the higher levels of beneficial fatty acids in organic milk through the whole year."


Saturday, February 5, 2011


"The thought for today is SIMPLICITY.

To simplify is to invite  peacefulness into your life.

When we have lots of 'stuff' in our lives, it is hard to be peaceful.

Close your eyes and ask "How can I simplify my life, what can I let go of?"

"Live simply, so others can simply live." -Traditional Quaker guidance

If we dare let go of our possessions and the will to control and dominate, we will cultivate a deeper spirit of peace within us because we can accept the present moment as a gift.

By simplifying our lives, dropping less important activities and 'things', we allow more time for what matters most.


I will write down three ways I can simplify my life and put at least one of them into practice today.  

I will give away something I have not used in the past year."

-Quote from Unity North

Friday, February 4, 2011

Thoughts on a Backyard Garden

Sustainable Horticulture

Please click the link above in yellow highlight for a great site to an article called Wasted Yards To Mini-Farms!

I have to say that one of my favorite gardens was a small garden in the back yard. Using the methods from a book called

"Square Foot Gardening" 

by Mel Bartholomew

I was delighted to learn that 
you can indeed 
grow more food in less space! 

He teaches how to plant certain vegetables with other vegetables for shade, as well as, to act as a natural bug repellent - fascinating! It was also so easy to plant and only 5 minutes a day to maintain.  

Here in Georgia it is no problem to have a summer garden and a fall garden within walking distance of your back yard.  I grew everything organically, picked fresh, no driving to the store, standing in line, lugging groceries in and out, and think about the tremendous amount of money saved on organic groceries not to mention the satisfaction of growing the food yourself!

Honestly,  I think that some people are concerned about what "their neighbors might think" and personally I will confess to not only having a small 12 foot by 12 foot garden 


also 3 laying hens housed in a 
Chicken Tractor in that same yard :-)  

The Chicken Tractor was lovely, easily pushed to a fresh patch of grass in the yard every evening, there was no smell and very little noise. (avoid roosters)  The two dogs were a lot louder and messier.  

Neighbors who want to talk about something are going to find something to talk about and then again their question may be "can you help me plant one" or "if you have any extra fresh brown eggs I would love to take those off your hands for you!"  

Cheers to sustainable living close to home...... in our very own yards!

Monday, January 31, 2011

What A Difference

"It is an amazing thing, the difference to one's powers of concentration a pair of comfortable shoes can make." Laurie R. King

In re-defining myself over the last several years, one thing that pushed me out of the "rat race" and into an all-out search for my place in this wonderful world baby spinach in the look of a 12 month old who is experiencing his first mouth full of baby spinach.  Can you see that?  Good!

In Georgia the summers are very hot and very humid. In downtown Atlanta it is even worse because of the pavement, concrete buildings and roads everywhere. Sadly, the  "acceptable dress code for women" even in the summer is: black clothes, gray clothes, white clothes, hose and high heals.  Every morning I looked like that baby trying to force down a spoon of spinach while getting dressed for work!  Not a pretty sight I assure you.

Honestly, all I could think about while on the job was cool cotton skirts, Born sandles and the urge to escape to the beach!

It is winter now and I am writing a new resume. I am happy with a pair of tennis shoes for walking and my Cowgirl boots for everything else.  They make me feel at home each time I slip them on and I am so comfortable that the endless life possibilities jump out from every angle.  My black blazer is going to the Goodwill today as I also realized that look was not for me either......

In shoes and in life if I am who I choose to be.......then I am choosing well.....I am choosing ME!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Caged in like a Chicken?

I have a dream and I am determined to align myself with an employer who does not ask me to
undermine my beliefs 40 hours a week in the workplace by surrounding myself in electrical currents with dozens of computers and lights while stuffed in off-gassing carpet-covered
walls called cubicles.

This job search for me has been "re-purposed" so to speak, first of all in regards to my body.

For instance.... My feet!

I was issued one set of these by my Creator forty-five years ago....

they are the only set that I will ever have

and they are half way used up now.

I love my feet though,
complete with one bunion
one recently broken toe....
most of all because......................

I use them for dancing......
...........and I no longer want to squish them into fancy pointy shoes to project a certain "professional image."
I love my skin and want to dress it in organic cottons...not man-made, chemical laden materials that give the "professional image."

Bottom line....I am very professional....but now I am also an educated consumer.

This summer my feet want to breathe in my lovely new 'Bourne' sandals,

that match my new tie-dyed 100% organic cotton skirt and blouse
that smells like fresh air because I air dried it on my balcony.

No thank you sir, I am not interested in squishing into nylon pantie hose,
sweaty-hot, high heeled shoes, followed by some yucky-feeling
business pant suit that inhibits air flow and
requires dry cleaning with toxic chemicals .

From this moment forward I just want to feel better myself....

breathe better and make better choices for my body

that are housed 50 hours in the work clothes and shoes I choose for myself.

I am a big girl now and I can decide how to dress modestly, professionally, in taste with clean, organic cottons that are a better choice for me and the environment.

I challenge anyone out there........does that make me less of a "professional"?

Absolutely not, it makes me a more comfortable , happy and healthy professional!

One recent temp job I worked for several weeks ....

I was no different than those poor caged chickens whose eggs we refuse to

buy from their growers!

Like the housed chickens ,

I too had a cage... was called cubicle.

Like the owned chickens I was told when to eat and rest at the same hour each day.

Like the over-crowded chickens, I was squished with co-workers but instead of wire..... we had off-gassing, carpet-covered cubicles complete with electrical racing currents that housed my computer and a computer on each side of me.

Like those frazzled chickens I spent each day raceing around ......feeling over-crowded and stressed out!

Like the suffocated chickens who's eggs we do not buy .......I had no natural light or fresh air for those 40 hours a week.

The chickens have "growers" ..... the cubicle-bound employees have "employers."

Like those chickens.....I was there to lay the "golden company egg "each day.The environment sucked...the environmental stress-level alone was unacceptable and I was not happy a single day I was producing the golden egg.....over and over and over again for the employer who put a roof over my head and grain in my dish.

Today I have a new vision for my life.

A sustantial-living vision where I complete my purpose in life in a healthy environment, along side other happy, minimally-stressed out humans who can eat when hungry, see the sun, and have access to fresh air and clean water throughout their day.

(Sustainable agriculture is a way of raising food that is healthy for consumers and animals, does not harm the environment, is humane for workers, - 37k - )

Yes, today I choose to be like the farm-raised cattle

who live out their purpose in life happy, healthy and well taken care of with only
"one really bad day!"

I no longer choose to exist like a caged chicken!
Today I make the choices meal at a time, one healthy choice at a time.....and definitely one lifestyle choice that consumes the carbon footprint of MY LIFE at 40 + hours a week.

Maybe it is a touch of mad cow disease gone happy?

Is it worth recycling?

Is it worth recycling?

We encounter it more often now ....sayings that remind us to pay attention to our actions: Tips remind customers that "every bag counts" and that customers can help protect the local environment by recycling their plastic grocery bags.

"We hear environmental messages every day about reducing, reusing, and recycling," said Melinda Barrett, Head of Environmental Affairs for Public Works. "But most people still don't fully understand the impact their actions have on the environment. For instance, plastics account for almost 3.5 tons of our state's trash per year."

I remember when I first arrived in

Santa Cruz, California

last year that I had to giggle

over the difference in the size of the

allotted tiny trash container


the allotted huge recycling container!

As a country girl , the closest thing I ever came to recycling was when we "recycled" a relative in the graveyard and said something about "ashes to ashes and dust to dust."

The youngun's clothes were "recycled" as our jeans were cut off at the end of the school year and turned into shorts. We recycled food as it was scraped off the plate and put in the refrigerator with the reminder that you would see it again tomorrow. Vegetable left overs, meat scraps and broths were always turned into home made soups.

My stay in California was short-lived


I came back to Georgia

seeing through a

new set of glasses


I am shocked over what I see.

In the California office where I worked....paper of any sort was never-ever thrown away.
At the end of each isle of cubicles were locker-sized, secured containers that you would place your paper into and it was picked up as needed by a recycling company twice a week.

The plastic water bottles, yogurt cups, salad dressing bottles and aluminum cans all had there proper place in the recycling bins. We actually had real glass dishes to use for our coffee, snacks and lunches. The large sign above the sink reminded us all to clean up after ourselves and for the most part we did.

The landscaping outside of the office was xeriscaped
( - 50k)
with beautiful plants and flowers native to the area that needed very little watering and
less pesticides.

My yard will be xeriscaped one day as well. Does anyone else find it a little insane that we all have somehow ended up with huge grassy yards that the home owners hate to cut on their limited time off on the weekends? Does it make sense that we purposely place a substance in our care that needs watering when counties such as Cobb are trying to buy water from other sources? Why do we invest in grass that needs to be sprayed in poisons that leech into the ground and end up in the creeks, lakes and oceans? Don't forget our children and pets who run barefoot and roll around in these harmful pesticides as well! Why not choose the native bushes, flowers and trees to our own area that need less watering? I will someday have a huge "zen" area in my yard, complete with nice rocks, sand and yes some wooded rakes day. I will contently rest my toes in my pesticide free = poison free sand, sip a fresh cup of organic coffee and watch my poor neighbors mow their lawns over the weekend.

Now that I am back home in Georgia I have a stirring sensation that "if not me.....then who?" Who will ask others the question of why ... why is the office not recycling the products it uses on a daily basis?

At home I ask myself " if not at this inconvenient moment ...then when?" When will I take the time to rinse a wine bottle, or a cottage cheese container and place it in a box to recycle? When will it be easier to open the door and windows to allow the cool air into the house instead of flicking on the air conditioner?

Today...can I invest a little time to put the bucket into the tub to catch the heating water for my shower...rinse off....then turn off the shower while using the water in the bucket to lather with soap and shave before turning the shower water back on for a final rinse. I wonder how many gallons of fresh water I save by doing that? How much gas do I save? How much money will I save? If everyone in this apartment complex did that how much of an impact would it make?

When will it be more timely to sweat a little? Do I need to sleep under a sheet and comforter with the air conditioner on , or can I sleep in my birthday suit with only a sheet and still sleep throughout the night while using less energy? Why is there a light on in rooms that are not being used? Why not buy the energy saving light bulbs that give direct light and no heat , as opposed to the cheaper bulbs that use more electricity and heat up the room in the summer? Why can't I place a bowl in the bathroom and kitchen sink and make it a game to see how much water I can trap through hand washing, vegetable rinsing and hot water warming to pour into a small bucket and use that to flush the toilet when it is full? How many paper towels can I not purchase and use by using dish clothes and cheap white rags for wiping down spills? For that matter why do we flush after every little tee-tee instead of lowering the lid and flushing every other time? I just turned 45 and until this week this thought never crossed my puney mind.

For my sake, my children's sake, my grandchildren's can I possibly not afford to spend $2.00 on a recyclable shopping bag and actually use it over and over, as opposed to supporting more cheap plastic bags in the land fills and the oceans?

I can do that! Call me a California nutt wanna be....a hippy....a tree hugger......whatever.....but I am going to pay attention to how much of a carbon footprint

I am leaving on this beautiful earth that God himself put me and you and you and you in charge of being a steward over! "He who is faithful in a little will be given much" today.....I will make decisions that I can afford and I will afford to take the time to be more careful and do my share to make the world a healthier place to live.

Maybe tomorrow.......

I will have a plot of soil to grow an organic garden on.
Maybe next year .......
I will start the plans my own
earthship home that is solar powered!

Maybe next decade........
I will take my grand kids to see the whales and dolphins in Santa Cruz, California, without noticing one single tourist with a plastic shopping bag or a plastic bottle of water that will one day end up in the land fill or the ocean.
For today......I believe it is ALL worth recycling!

Using a lot less,

buying less

and choosing to buy more used,

re-purposing more,

while making better living choices for


my environment

and the people I want to grow old with.

:-) A recycled Crazy Cowgirl....