Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Healthy Soil + Pasturing = Healthy Cows & Economic Opportunity

There's an inspiring story about Engelbert Farms from Organic Connections that is evidence of how you treat your soil and giving them opportunities for natural behaviors has a direct impact on animals and a farms' bottom line.  Even the Engelbert children are coming back to farm as a viable economic opportunity.  Read more here ...

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!! And a Happy New Year! 2011

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Cornucopia Institute Update: Learn about how your soy products are produced

Label reading, once again, becomes really important! Look for USDA Organic or non-hexane-produced to have less chemicals in your foods and the environment. And tofu or whole soybeans are minimally processed and are often your better ingredient bet. Here's a link to the Cornucopia Institute's full report.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Latest Update on Oxfam's Efforts in Haiti - Cholera Solutions

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Great holiday gift idea

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Solar is great! Just decentralize it and go urban instead of destroying deserts

Solar Gold: Mojave Desert Facing Ecosystem Collapse, Massive Extinctions from Robert Lundahl on Vimeo.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

NATIONAL ENERGY AWARENESS MONTH - The Smart Grid's Concerns and Solutions: Part 3

This is the final post of a 3-part series on the smart grid.  What it is and what it means for your family.

In Part 1 and Part 2 of this series we learned about what is the smart grid and how it can benefit you. Today's posting is about legitimate consumer concerns about the smart grid, which are largely related to smart meter installations.  Smart meters are a two-way communication device between your home and your utility company; through this two-way communication there are opportunities and concerns. Here are the main issues and some possible solutions  …
  • Privacy issues:  There are concerns about how much monitoring and control the utility will have of your home and its devices.  Solutions could include government privacy protections similar to credit card opt-in/out programs or like the restrictions placed on telephone companies.  For example, you could opt out of the utility controlling your household temperature but opt into selling power back to the utility from your plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV -- as was described in Part 2 of this series) or from solar panels on your roof.
  • Lack of choice: Currently, you are probably going to be assigned your utility and smart meter without the advantage of competition or the opportunity to say no.  Instead, you can advocate for provider and device choice, or perhaps no device at all (without penalty).  
  • EMF Exposure:  There are some public health concerns about exposing yourself to electromagnetic field (EMF) radiation from wireless smart meters, though some experts say the EMF from cell phones is much greater. Solutions include safety studies, the homeowner’s approval of where the device is installed, or taking advantage of meters hard-wired through fiber optic cables. 
  • Device costs: It would significantly add to your personal costs to buy the forthcoming new appliances and devices that are smart-meter compatible.  Currently, there are more personal energy savings with current energy-efficient appliances/devices and changing your energy usage behaviors, not counting PHEVs.
  • Job loss: With technology taking over, job losses are expected.  Solutions include job retraining or career-changing programs.

No matter how the concerns with smart meters are resolved, the other advantages are well worth it.  Let your city, lawmakers, and utility know what you think – and fast!  Because decisions about the smart grid and smart meters are rapidly being made.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

NATIONAL ENERGY AWARENESS MONTH - The Smart Grid Benefits Your Family: Part 2

This is the second in a 3-part series on the smart grid.  What it is and what it means for your family. 

Yesterday we talked about smart grid basics.  Today we're going to list some of the benefits for your family.

  • Breathe easier: With more renewable energy being used and less use of polluting coal and oil, we can expect cleaner air.
  • Cha-ching!  Cha-ching!: If you are able to install solar, wind, or geothermal power generation at your home and integrate it into your power usage through smart grid technology, then there may be the opportunity to also sell any extra power that you generate back to your utility.  You would also be able to view your power usage in real time online to adjust and program your usage to possibly save money.
  • Avoid pump sticker shock: As PHEV cars – Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles – start to rollout in the coming years, the forecast is that you would use smart-grid technology to charge your car at the best electric rates.  Excess energy in your car would be sold back to the utility also at the most profitable rate for you, with your car becoming a mini power plant.  And, the smart-grid interactivity would tell your car when it would be cheaper to use gasoline versus electricity. 90 cents a gallon would be great!
  • “I, Robot” appliances to go: As the smart grid becomes more ubiquitous, it is expected that smart-grid-certified appliances (like refrigerators, washers, and water heaters) and gadgets (i.e., phone rechargers) will be sold that would tap into the grid and adjust their energy usage to save you money.  Also called Plug-and-Play.

Tomorrow ... some smart grid concerns and potential solutions -- PART 3.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


This is the first in a 3-part series on the smart grid.  What it is and what it means for your family.

The word “smart” conjures up immediate images.  School, tests, witty friends, Fox TV’s “Are you smarter than a 5th grader?”, rich, fast, Einstein, grid.  And, for me, the 11 year old in the audition waiting room who tells me “My I.Q. is 149.”  Hmmm.  Wait, grid?

Yes.  “Smart grid” is now ready to enter celebrity status.  It’s a term you’ll likely hear more and more.   It is expected to alter how you think about power, and it will probably change your utility bill and affect your pocketbook. 

First, grid.  “The grid” is the infrastructure of our current power system – power lines, meters, control centers, energy sources, and utility companies. 

Second, smart grid.  This is an effort by the U.S. government and utility companies to upgrade our grid – make it smarter and more efficient, largely through technological upgrades and new transmission lines.   Federal stimulus money has been allocated to accelerate the smart grid’s development.  National Geographic recently did a beautiful graphic on where these upgrades are proposed to be - link.


The smart grid is expected to …

  •  Change things up: Solar, wind, and geothermal energy sources are expected to be integrated into the new smart grid system.  This is anticipated to help us reduce our carbon footprint and decrease coal and oil energy dependence.
  •  Keep the lights on: Ironically, one of the smart grid’s highlights is that it is meant to avoid power outages due to better sensing and re-routing of power loads.  Blackouts cost businesses money and can also be dangerous for security and health reasons.
  •  Take tech to a new level: Technology upgrades to the grid make power usage more efficient and allows power produced in non-peak hours to be stored for a day and time when it is needed.  This lessens the need to build more power plants.
  •  Have a built-in bodyguard:  The smart grid decentralizes power and, instead, makes a series of power networks that communicate with and help each other.  So, a major storm hitting a power plant 200 miles away from you wouldn’t bring the power down because local and regional power sources can now immediately make up the difference for you and for those 200 miles away.
  •  Produce less gunk: With even a five percent increase in the nation’s energy efficiency, the U.S. can eliminate fuel and greenhouse gas emissions from 53 million cars.

Tomorrow ... how your family benefits -- PART 2.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

‘Do good’ for your kid’s school and the planet

Teachers and administrators LOVE parent volunteers. Every year when my kids go back to school there seems to be an even longer list of volunteer opportunities. Most schools are time and cash crunched, so if I can help out then that’s great. Everyone benefits.

But what if you could help out AND do something good for the earth at the same time? Fact is, you can. And by helping out your environment, you also improve your child’s health, safety, and happiness. It’s a win-win. Plus, if everyone learns more about habitats and how to better take care of them (including within your own community), then you’ve also paid the planet and your family forward.

In the book The Mom’s Guide to Growing Your Family Green: Saving the Earth Begins at Home (St. Martin’s Press, $16.95), there is a wonderful blueprint on how to work with your child’s school to make a difference, along with pages of specific how-to’s and resources.

Here are some additional ideas:

  • In charge of finding more money? For fundraising, steer clear of junk food, candy, and wrapping paper. Instead, go for the green with positive-planet and health-loving impact. helps you create a recycling brigade to get money for your school, plus they have up-to-date companion curriculum series for teachers. Or try a community event; if you have musical-artist parents who would donate time and talent, then put together an at-school concert and sell tickets. If you want to sell products, has several ideas – flower bulbs, savings cards, live tree kits, and healthy food products.
  • Got a farmer in you? School gardens are on the rise, teaching your children about the cycle of life and, in turn, helping them improve their own. is a beautiful site to help you get going. Small space? Try’s Woolly School Garden program. Also, talk to your local nurseries about donating plants in exchange for parent newsletter exposure.
  • Want to tell a tale? All kids, and adults, like good stories. If you’ve got a bit of theater in you, donate time to read a book to a classroom. With older children, you can also have a bit of discussion afterwards about the story or have an activity related to the book. LOTS of book choices out there. Try Catfish Cookies by Barbara Higgins-Dover about river protection for 5-8 year olds, Compost Stew by Mary McKenna Siddals about how to start a compost for 4-8 year olds, and my favorite The Lorax by Dr. Seuss about conservation and choices for 4-12 year olds. At there are classroom resources for The Lorax.
  • Soft heart for animals? Great! Bring that depth of compassion to schoolchildren with a humane treatment for farm animals spin. has kid-friendly educational resources for teachers and volunteer presenters. This also segues into an opportunity to talk about eating a more herbivore diet for both health reasons and to take pressure off of our protein production; has resources available.
  • Talented in the art of persuasion? Another way to get your school some enrichment or improvement money is to dedicate time to finding and applying for grants. There are grants specific to environmentally oriented programs. gives grants for school programs that promote understanding of environmental issues. provides funds for school programs that emphasize solving problems with ecological knowledge. If you want to inspire kids to take care of the environment or their community, Nickelodeon has “The Big Help” campaign with a “Million Dollars for a Million Moves” grant program at More links to grant possibilities are on my home page at, many of which have early deadlines. Good luck!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Learning From Our Mistakes - Gulf Oil Spill

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Care About Sharks -- if you want healthy oceans

January Jones is Scared for Sharks from Oceana on Vimeo.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Spac-age bugs found in the compost this morning

New bug in the compost this morning.  These Green June Beetles are so iridescent that look like they're from space.  I'll tell you, opening up the compost once a week is like watching science in action!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Using Up Those Beets

My CSA likes to give me beets.  Here's my favorite salad recipe to use up 3 cups of them at a time:


Prepare ahead --
* 3 cups cooked, diced organic beets -- chilled
* 1 cup cooked, chopped organic leeks -- chilled

Combine beets and leeks with --
* 1 cup halve-sliced grapes (green or red)
* 1 cup diced organic cucumbers
* 1 cup basil/tomato-flavored crumbled feta cheese
* 3 tablespoons olive oil
* 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
* 2 tablespoons organic ground mustard seed
* 1 teaspoon salt
Pepper to taste

Serve chilled.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Jump in the car and go, go, go -- ways to kick the small screen habit this summer

We just got back from a mini trip to visit family in Arizona, and boy was it good to get away from video games, computers, and the TV to see some country on a road trip!

I've partnered with Milwaukee's MetroParent magazine to help to think of lots of ways you can kick the small screen habit with your kids this summer.  Read more here ...

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

How to Help the Oceans from Home

Read my guest blog post at The Green Parent ...

Monday, June 7, 2010

Look for ways to get your family into nature this summer

One of the ways you can get your family to have more appreciation for nature is by experiencing it. This summer look for opportunities to get outdoors, into science museums, and into the garden.

In years past we have frequented the California central coast -- hiking, exploring, enjoying the nature on the beach areas. This year, we're keeping it local.

Over the weekend, we met up with family and went to the Santa Monica Pier. Although we saw mostly people, not wildlife, the point was to be in the open air away from TV and video screens.

We were surprised at how much we enjoyed spending time at Muscle Beach, which is just next door. It's an exercise playground -- for adults and children alike.  Swings for all.  Ropes to climb.  Rings to swing on.  Bars to twist, climb, and balance on.  All atop the sand and near the sea.  The place brought out the inner child in everyone there -- no matter the age.

I encourage you to find local places like this where you live, even if it just means spending an hour throwing Frisbees at the nearby park.

Up next for us ... exploration of the stars at the Griffith Park Observatory ... stay tuned.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Why biodiversity is so important to you, your family, and the planet


Monday, April 5, 2010

How to: Avoid Weeds and Herbicides This Growing Season

As we move into the growing season, think about taking a different approach this year to your weeds. Avoid using herbicides. Why? More information is coming out about how herbicide chemicals affect our environment and our bodies -- negatively.

A study was published last fall by the Monell Center and the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in which it was found that testing of commonly used herbicide chemicals proved to be harmful on humans (the same results were not found in rodent testing). Common herbicides were found to block what is called T1R3, a nutrient tasting receptor in your body that triggers "the release of hormones involved in the regulation of glucose homeostasis and energy metabolism."

Says the study leaders "Compounds that either activate or block T1R3 receptors could have significant metabolic effects, potentially influencing diseases such as obesity, type II diabetes and metabolic syndrome."

Additionally, in August 2009 The New York Times ran a toxic waters special series on the safety of our drinking water.  One of the stories was about how weed killer = toxic water.

Why put your family at risk? Instead, check out these non-herbicide ways to control weeds this year -- as found at the Beyond Pesticides website.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Oxfam giving relief jobs to Haitians

Donate to Oxfam now!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Meeting Dr. Temple Grandin -- HBO's Upcoming Movie

Last Spring I was at a "Cooking for Solutions" event at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, learning about farming, fishing, and animal rights issues.  One of the panel sessions was on the "Humane Treatment of Farm Animals: Best Practices and New Directions" with Panelist Dr. Temple Grandin.  And her story is the focus of an upcoming HBO movie "Temple Grandin" on February 6.  Dr. Grandin has autism, which has given her challenges but also immense gifts that have been applied in the area of animal science.

At the Monterey event, I would say a majority of us were unaware of Grandin's autism.  She came across extremely assertive -- almost shockingly so -- and several us would turn heads and look at each other when she would make forceful statements early on into the presentation.  All of us had the look ... wouldn't want to get on her bad side.

However, as the afternoon progressed, it became increasingly apparent who was the most educated, articulate, and solution oriented on the subject of humane farm animal treatment.  And that was Dr. Grandin.  In fact, when the buzzer rang to end the discussion, no one wanted to end the panel's time.  We had all been convinced of humane solutions, even when scaling up, and wanted to know more, largely due to Dr. Grandin's immense passion for the subject.

Here are some of Grandin's quotes and comments --

  • Speaking of cows and pigs and how they develop fear of humans when inhumanely kept and raised -- "Animals afraid of people produce less milk and less piglets."  In fact, one of the other panelists, Marcus Benedetti, said about cows that "the longer an animal can live more comfortably, the better milk [it] produces for a longer period of time."
  • She spoke about how there should be a scoring system for handling and slaughtering animals -- a simple auditing system -- "Slaughter houses are easier to deal with than farmers because slaughter houses are highly regulated and used to standards.  We must have reasonable standards depending on each region."  She said that some regions have needs and conditions which other regions do not -- thus the by-region regulations.
  • Grandin said there needs to be a new eco label when it comes to animal products and have this label based on a triple-check sysytem of 1) internal audits, 2) third-party verification, and 3) custom audits from buyers and a random basis --  "[If the producers have] clear guidelines, then they will actually do it."  Areas of Grandin's particular concern were lame animals, body conditions, dirty animals, lesions, swellings, bald spots, lumps, sick animals that don't get treated, chemical levels, lice, and pastures that have less than 75% vegetation.
  • She also felt strongly that the behavior of animals tells us a lot about how to tell if animals are humanely treated, noting that when you see irregular behavior it is a sign of maltreatment.  

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Will Solar and Wind Power Gain Major Traction ... well, it Depends on Coal

Copenhagen Over, Now What?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Support Oxfam in Haiti Relief and Rebuild

Although there are many reputable organizations that are helping Haiti during this emergency time, I would like recommend Oxfam as an organization I feel would be an excellent choice in giving of your donations to help this crisis because the organization is not only attending to immediate needs like water and sanitation but also has a sustainable plan for country's future.

  1. Cancel foreign debt
  2. Focus economic aid support on Haitian farmers and small businesses -- this can make Haitians less dependent on food and product imports and also ensure that monies are not disproportionately ending up in the hands of the few Haitian wealthy
  3. "Ensure poor areas benefit from cash grants to speed economic recovery" such as microloans and also paying the local people to clean up and rebuild their own communities
  4. Help in rebuilding the government through "support for civil society and the Haitian government, including 'ministries in a box' ... large tents containing the basic tools, such as telephones, desks and chairs, which are needed for a government department to operate."
  5. "Build back better, e.g. earthquake-proof buildings and alternative fuel sources to reduce deforestation."
You can donate by going to  Thanks!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

After the earthquake: Haiti's deforestation needs attention

From the Christian Science Monitor -- 1/20/10 
Ever since a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit Haiti a week ago -- the most powerful to strike in 200 years -- stories of the extraordinary damage and suffering wrought by the disaster have [rightfully] dominated airwaves and front pages around the country.  The coverage and the outpouring of aid that followed have, for the time being, focused international attention on the country's poverty and vulnerability to disasters just like this, hopefully to lasting effect.
But somewhat overshadowed in all this activity is one of Haiti's longer term, but nonetheless serious, problems.
The island nation suffers from one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world. This is troubling for a number of reasons. The loss of nearly all its trees promises to amplify how dramatically earthquakes, hurricanes, and other periodic natural occurrences impact Haitians, to say nothing of deforestation's impoverishing legacy of erosion and climate change on local scale (less moisture). Without trees holding the soil in place, a heavy rain — let alone a hurricane or an earthquake — can easily cause mudslides on the island's steep slopes.
Haiti and the Dominican Republic share the same island in the Caribbean — Hispaniola. Both countries are at the same latitude and, generally speaking, the same climatic conditions prevail.
But one country, the Dominican Republic, has lush forests. The other, Haiti, is almost completely brown and bare. The stark difference is visible from high above — one side green and full of foliage, the other bare.
Here's a photo from NASA and another from a National Geographic story in the 1980s.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

"Recycled" School Books Plant Trees

Want to save money on school expenses and still go green?   Start with textbooks.  You can either purchase them used from a retailer like (sometimes only $.04 + shipping but can often take two weeks to receive) or through a private textbook loaner like (which has a variety of faster shipping options).

The great thing about a book loaner -- which we might just call book "recycler" -- is that the book gets used over and over.  Just like a library system on a mass scale but with shipping costs.

With the cost of textbooks being sky high, not only do both of these options save you tons of money but they also reuse resources, and this keep books out of waste recycling efforts longer (which additionally saves on resources and emissions).

The book loaner is the best option because it will loan out the book to MANY.  However, if you purchase the book used, unless you personally find a way to sell it to someone else who has a use for it, you'll probably toss it into the recycling bin after you have re-used it.

Another bonus, in the case of book loaner, the company has partnered with American Forests to plant a tree for each order.  You even get to choose where it is planted.  American Forests is rated 4-star on Charity Navigator -- a very good rating.