blog post feed en-us <![CDATA[Choosing the Right Beverage Is As Easy as Turning on the Tap. Except When It's Not]]>

I divide beverages into two categories:

Everything else

glass of water

1. We are water. Literally. So we need to be drinking a fair amount of it daily. I say in The Conscious Kitchen what many in the environmental movement – including writers on this website – say: drink tap water in reusable bottles. Unless there is something very wrong with your municipal water or you know your well water is contaminated, there is no reason to drink bottled water. Bottled water is a farce. It usually is the very municipal water you think you're avoiding by buying tap. So you're spending several dollars on something that is free – and less regulated than municipal water, I might add. A total rip off. And then there are all of the eco-implications and repercussions of the actual bottles. Think of the energy used to make those bottles, fill them with water, and then transport them all around. Sure, most places recycle the plastic most water bottles come in (PET #1) but many of those bottles wind up in the trash or in the gutter, not in the recycling bin. And they take 1,000 years to break down in a landfill. Spending money on something that is free and then drinking out of virgin plastic for maybe an hour that will then sit in a landfill for 1,000 years doesn't sound like good common conscious sense to me. So I don't do it.

Sat, 17 Jul 2010 10:04:00 EST
<![CDATA[The Shower Curtain Rod Laundry FAIL and Other Adventures in Urban Laundry Drying]]> Avoiding the clothes dryer in the city is tough but worth it, as my experience with indoor clothes drying racks, improvised clotheslines, broken shower rods, almost-mildewed bath towels and sudden rainstorms shows.]]> Thu, 01 Jul 2010 02:34:00 EST <![CDATA[How to Find Safe, Sustainable Fish]]>

Week 5 Challenge: Fish

The Issues
I write this post with a heavy heart. I cannot think of fish right now without thinking of the Gulf Coast oil disaster, including what that is doing to aquatic life and the fishing industry. Who knows at this point how wide reaching the repercussions will be. But it's devastating on just about every level.

Seafood has always been a tough topic for me. The wild versions are woefully contaminated, as our waterways are the runoff basin for all of the environmentally destructive activities we humans do (mercury from power plant emissions, PCBs that were banned so many years ago but still linger, hormone disruptors from the cosmetics we wash down the drain), and the farmed fish are very similar to factory-farmed animals. I would never willingly eat the crap they feed the fish – including hormones, antibiotics and dyes – so I don't eat the fish that eat it. To top it all off, eating locally – something I try to do a lot of – can be particularly difficult if your local waterways are known to be contaminated, which mine are. Further complicating things, 80 percent of the fish in the US is imported from Central America and Asia, where regulations are iffy. Their wild stuff tends to be fished in ecologically destructive ways, and the farmed stuff usually raised in what are essentially sewage pits. No thank you.

Knowing all this I have always had a hard time telling people who want to eat seafood what they can safely eat. I skirted the topic as much as possible in my first book, The Complete Organic Pregnancy, only talking about contaminants to avoid when pregnant. So I made seafood my own challenge to really tackle for The Conscious Kitchen. By and large I feel I succeeded. It wasn't easy (ask my editor!), but I'm more comfortable now than I have ever been with the seafood I eat. Overall it's still fraught, because we're still polluting and harvesting unsustainably, and we haven't cracked the code on the right ways to farm fish. If we could all eat the Spanish fish that Dan Barber highlighted in his Ted talk (right), that would be lovely, especially if it were local. But the sad fact remains that if you want to eat seafood consciously, you have some navigating to do. Here's how to do it.

Sat, 29 May 2010 10:04:00 EST
<![CDATA[How to Buy Ethically Raised, Organic Meats, Even at a Chain Supermarket]]> ]]> Mon, 03 May 2010 01:57:00 EST <![CDATA[When to Buy Organic Fruits and Vegetables, When to Buy Local]]>

So by now you've checked out what is – or isn't – in your crisper and fruit bowl (Week 1) and found the store, farmers' market, or CSA you'd like to be getting your fruits and vegetables from (Week 2). This week's challenge is to stock up – consistently – on the good stuff. And (you can do it!) to cook and eat it.

Pick your shopping day(s) and get going. In The Conscious Kitchen, I mention a bunch of online places where you can find out what's in season near you, or you can head to the farmers' market and see for yourself. Once there, stock up on the widest range of color you can find – green, red, orange, brown – to get all of the flavor and nutrients in. Spring is such a lovely moment for this – there will be new seasonal items rolling into markets weekly. Pea shoots and ramps, then asparagus, and before you know it: strawberries! Yum. But not all produce (even local produce) is created equal and not all venues will have the same range or variety.

Here's how to choose your fruits and vegetables at the where-to-shop spots discussed in Week Two of The Conscious Kitchen Challenge....

Thu, 08 Apr 2010 08:53:00 EST
<![CDATA[How to Make Food Shopping Healthy]]>

Week 2 Challenge: Shopping

To procure conscious food, stack the odds in your favor. It takes an education to get the good stuff at a supermarket, but you have to work really hard to get the bad stuff at a farmers' market. If you join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm or grow (some of) your own food, it's literally impossible to get the bad stuff. So your challenge this week, if you choose to take it, is to back slowly away from the supermarket and attempt to up the ratio of food you buy outside supermarkets. If you only have supermarkets as an option, pick up a copy of The Conscious Kitchen. It will offer you the education needed to shop in them, and plenty of resources for locating farms and other options you might not know are truly just around the corner from you.

Places to Shop (Other than Supermarkets) for Conscious Food

farmers market shopping

There's no better way to get a wide variety of what's growing in season than to shop at a farmers' market. It's one stop shopping, much like a store. If you want organic and don't see the sign, ask questions to find out what, how much, and when farmers are spraying their crops. Many small farmers grow organically but are not certified, or only spray if absolutely necessary. More and more markets now have stalls for cheese, bread, prepared food, meat, eggs, and even soaps and lotions. Some markets have requirements regarding how the food at the stalls was raised and where it comes from. Others don't. Get to know the governing rules at your market. And always ask questions when shopping at these stalls. If you're interested in pastured eggs, find out if the quiche or baked goods contain them. If you want local cheese, find out where the cheese is from. Sometimes a local cheese shop sets up a stand and can sell any kind of cheese from any country. Be extra vigilant when buying meat and fish, even at a farmers' market. Animal treatment and feed varies from farm to farm, and local waters may not be safe to eat seafood from. I'll address meat and fish more in upcoming weeks. And remember, local junk food is still junk food – keep this in mind as you inhale those (delicious) cider donuts, or fried first-of-the-season asparagus. Whole foods are the most conscious choices at any farmers' market.

Challenge: Identify a farmers' market in your area using the "Get Local Info" tool on The Daily Green's homepage (or at Local Harvest) and make a plan to make your next shopping trip include a trip to the local farmers' market....

Tue, 23 Mar 2010 03:38:00 EST
<![CDATA[Food Ingredients: Can You Identify What They Are? Can You Even Pronounce Them?]]>
girl looking in kitchen cabinet

As a longtime The Daily Green blogger, on the occasion of the publication of my second book, The Conscious Kitchen, I’m using my "Ask An Organic Mom" space for the next 8 weeks – give or take – to invite you to join me on the Conscious Kitchen Challenge.

What does it mean to have a Conscious Kitchen? It's a little different for every person, but at its heart, it means knowing where your food comes from, what it is, and how good it is (or isn't) for you and for the environment. It also encompasses the energy it takes to cook, what you're cooking on and storing food in, and even how you clean up and handle waste.

We all know we need to be eating better foods – local, organic, local and organic, humanely raised meat, wild and well-caught fish, packaged foods containing five pronounceable ingredients or less – but they’re not always so easy to find. Or it’s not always so easy to motivate to find them. Think of this like you think of New Year’s resolutions. Choose your own personal goal – make it attainable for better success – and then together we’ll methodically get you there. Keep in mind that any conscious steps are better than no conscious steps – 10 percent is better than no percent.

Wed, 17 Mar 2010 01:41:00 EST
<![CDATA[Save You and Your Boss Some Money<br />5 Tips for Going Green at Work]]> 1. Bring your lunch
Pack good food (organic/local is preferable) in reusable containers (glass and stainless steel are preferable). Beyond contributing so much less to the already overwhelmed landfills, you will save money and your health. Don't forget to pack a (stainless steel) bottle of water, real utensils, and a cloth napkin. If you prefer to eat take out, try bringing reusable containers with you for your over-the-counter soup or salad or more.

2. Get involved
If your management isn't interested in making overall changes, you can still bring in a green cleaner for your desk, or put a bottle of eco dish detergent in the break room. Bring your own plate/cup/mug/bowl/utensils and store them in a desk drawer. People will notice and it might start a (good) trend. Start a green committee and together you can all advocate for going greener by doing gestures that will get people talking. Start a compost. If your company travels a lot, suggest people use a hybrid car service to get to the airport. Find an electronic waste recycling event and help facilitate the office to bring old stuff there. Put signs on office doors and bathroom doors reminding people to recycle and to shut off their computers at the end of the day....

Mon, 01 Feb 2010 09:58:00 EST
<![CDATA[5 More Tips for Going Green at Work]]> 1. Cleaning Products
Whether you're using an independent cleaning person or the building management has a staff in place, now is the time to switch cleaning products to greener versions to drastically reduce indoor air pollution and to avoid adding questionable chemical residue to our waterways. Obviously this is easier to do when you don't have to go through building management. But even if you can get a building to change one product to green, you'll really be making a difference.

2. Energy Initiatives
Change light bulbs to LEDs and compact fluorescents, put up signs reminding staff to pull the plug at the end of the day on things like coffee makers and microwaves, and to turn the power off on their computers. Standby times many computers equals energy hog. If your electric company offers green energy sources like wind power, switch to these....

Mon, 01 Feb 2010 09:57:00 EST
<![CDATA[My Blue Kid or How To Avoid Artificial Food Dyes]]> Tue, 05 Jan 2010 10:36:00 EST <![CDATA[This Organic Mom Fails: Buying Truly Safe Toys Is Impossible]]> Parents of older children may not be surprised to read this confession: as my daughter gets older, shopping for safe toys - holiday presents and otherwise - is getting harder. Even for an "expert" like me. I find this endlessly infuriating. And confusing.

This holiday season, I have been trying to follow my own advice as I do (pretty minimal) holiday shopping. I've asked the grandparents to buy her tickets to shows and classes. So in January, she'll start a dance class at a cute spot across the street. Great. She'll also go see some of her favorite kids' music with us (haven't listened to Elizabeth Mitchell yet? Do!).

In years past, I mainly curated whatever toys she was getting, based on what was developmentally appropriate and what she was most fond of playing with at friends' houses. I have tried to find safe, hard wood, preferably local(ish)ly made versions of things like train sets, doll houses, musical instruments, blocks, play fruits and veggies for her play kitchen, and more. Any of these items that are painted only come from certain companies, crosschecked on

Tue, 22 Dec 2009 07:37:00 EST
<![CDATA[Why Flame-Resistant Pajamas May Not Be the Best Choice for Baby]]>

I always know the weather is getting colder around the country when my email inbox fills with questions on safe pajamas for young'uns. This week I got a Facebook message from someone I knew in high school ("I'm so curious to know what you think about flame resistant sleepwear. Hope you're well! Xo") and an email from a mom who has a son in my daughter's preschool class (just wondering... what is the harm in the clothing that is treated. i am assuming that the chemicals that are used are considered harmful to children???? grandma just got pajamas and they say "flame resistant" on them.) So I knew it was time to write a pj post. Luckily my co-author on The Complete Organic Pregnancy, Deirdre Dolan, tackled the chemical side of the topic last September. So my post will be mainly how to....

Mon, 14 Dec 2009 08:59:00 EST
<![CDATA[10 Tips for Buying Toys and Alternative Gifts for Children]]> As much as I'd like to ignore holidays devoted entirely to acquiring stuff, I cannot. I live in the modern world. And my almost four-year-old - who isn't a stuff-ist, actually - would notice. So would other relatives and friends.

So here's my top ten list of what to think about and look out for when gathering holiday presents for any small family member or friend.

1. Give Without Giving Stuff
Can you gift items that aren't stuff? Tickets to shows or a series of classes are a personal favorite. We always ask the grandparents for these. They support local theatres and businesses, are a great shared experience, and, in the case of classes, are really a gift that keeps on giving, especially in a long winter when getting out to go to a class (soccer, dance, music, etc.) is a much needed break from being indoors at home. Bonus: tickets and classes do not clutter the house, they do not later become landfill fodder, and they do not contain potentially harmful chemicals you do not want your children playing with! (See 15 more ways to give without giving stuff.) ...

Sat, 12 Dec 2009 11:49:00 EST
<![CDATA[Babies Are Exposed to 100 or More Chemicals Before Birth]]> A new study enumerates prenatal exposure to potentially harmful chemicals. Here's what you can do to protect your child.]]> Wed, 02 Dec 2009 09:32:00 EST <![CDATA[H1N1 Vaccine: Pros and Cons]]> Normally this organic mom steers clear of the vaccine debate. We skirted it in The Complete Organic Pregnancy on purpose - parents need to discuss the issues (real and less real) with their doctors and trusted advisers, and to make educated decisions that are right for their families. That's what I do. But what's right for me might not be right for you.

I cannot tell you how many emails I've gotten in the past few weeks asking me what to do about the H1N1 vaccine, and I don't feel like I can ignore them all. These are from pregnant moms, parents, and even concerned grandparents from all walks of life. These are people who have never given their kids shots, people who have delayed vaccinations and never done flu shots, people who do give shots for deadly diseases but tend to think of flu shots as unnecessary. It's a real conundrum. And it's made that much worse by the media hype and misinformation. There's even a pediatrician in my neighborhood telling parents there's something in the H1N1 shot that has been linked to Gulf War Syndrome, and that we therefore don't know what might show up years down the line. The parent spreading that story didn't bother to ask what it was, or to see the studies her doctor was referring to, but was busily repeating it others, scaring/horrifying them. After a little independent research, I gather the doctor was referring to squalene, which isn't, as of this moment, allowed in vaccines in the United States and so isn't even an issue here....

Wed, 25 Nov 2009 01:40:00 EST