Tag Archives: sustainable

reading the fine print

There is much medical research that touts the benefits of eating a diet high in Omega 3s and DHA, especially during pregnancy. One of the best places to get your Omegas is through fish. Not only does eating fish help lower depression during and after pregnancy, but it is also shown to aid in eye and brain development of the baby. Okay. I’m on board. Time to eat my omegas.

Except…except…I don’t really like fish. I loved fish when we were sailing in the Caribbean and we hauled fresh tuna and mahi aboard for sushi and tuna tartare. But big game fish are off limits during pregnancy due to increased levels of mercury and other toxins. I’ve tried wild caught salmon, catfish, tilapia–yuck, yuck, yuck. So what about taking fish oil supplements? A recent study (which, for the life of me, I can’t find) argued that you have to actually eat the fish to get the benefits. Other studies now show that there is no correlation between enhanced levels of DHA and baby brain development. I say tomatoe, you say toematoe?

Regardless, eating fish is a healthy, low-fat way to get protein. I’m trying to make an active effort to get some canned tuna (ok as long as it isn’t albacore) or sardines in my diet a couple times a week.

open-face sardine melt on homemade whole wheat bread. Cabot, seriously sharp cheddar.

I was excited when I found this new brand of sardines in the grocery store: Wild Planet, wild sardines. The box and their website purports that they are “sustainably caught along the California coast.” Great. But then turn the box on its side and look at the fine print: “processed in Vietnam.”

Are you kidding me? They sustainably catch the fish off of California, ship it to Vietnam for processing, and then ship it halfway across the world to Philadelphia where it ends up on my plate? Sure, they may be practicing sustainable fishing methods, but Wild Planet is not practicing sustainable processing and delivery methods.

Don’t even get me started on the canned yellowfin tuna you can buy at Trader Joes.



I’ve been thinking about trash.

I’ve been thinking about trash lately. How much we make; where it goes; how to make less; what happens when it gets to its destination.

We save plastic shopping bags from the grocery store and use those as trash bags. When the space under the sink is filling up with plastic bags, we take canvas bags to the store. When we’re running out of plastic bags, we leave the canvas bags at home. When the trash needs to be emptied, we take it up to the marina trash room and dump it in a big trash barrel. Once a week a trash truck comes and takes the trash. Recycling? Nope. It’s 2011 and there still is no recycling at this marina.

But is there a way to reduce my plastic use. A few months ago I read a quote by a guy who was talking about the food industry’s tendency to wrap cheese in plastic. We are wrapping something with a shelf life of about 3 months with a wrapper that will last much, much longer. Why not wax paper? The same holds true for my trash bags. A lot of my trash is biodegradable: paper, food waste; yet I stuff it in plastic bags where its chance of biodegrading is slim to none.

How about using paper bags for trash bags? Well, all the wet trash (food scraps) would make the bag soggy leaving me with the great risk of dumping a bag load of trash on the marina dock before making it up to the trash room. Plastic bags for food waste? But that defeats the purpose. The biodegradable stuff would be wrapped in plastic.

Any ideas?

anybody want to play soccer in the desert?

A satellite image of Qatar. Lush soccer fields? Nope. It's a desert!

(Image courtesy of: School of Ocean and Earth Science, Southampton University, http://www.soton.ac.uk/~imw/Qatar-Sabkhas.htm)

I’ve been complaining, grumbling, and preaching from my soap box ever since FIFA announced that Qatar will host the 2022 World Cup. Hans (no doubt sick of my repeated proclamations) told me to write a blog posting (presumably to engage an audience larger than two).  Without further ado:

QATAR? The World Cup? Do you know how hot it gets in Qatar in June? The average high is 106 degrees! Am I upset that FIFA said no to the US as a host? Yes, of course. But my main gripe is the environmental implications of this choice. Qatar is a desert. Wikipedia describes Qatar as “a low, barren plain, covered with sand.”

  • How do you play soccer in a desert? To play soccer in the desert (unless they’ll be playing on sand, which I doubt), Qatar will have to import sod. Lots of sod. They’ll have to make water, lots of water, to hydrate the sod.

Perhaps I am misinformed. Look! Grass does grow in Qatar!

(Image courtesy of: School of Ocean and Earth Science, Southampton University, http://www.soton.ac.uk/~imw/Qatar-Sabkhas.htm)

  • How does a desert nation make water? Reverse osmosis. How does a desert nation run a r/o plant? Why, oil of course. Oh how convenient. Qatar is dripping in oil.
  • How will the players run up and down the field for 90+ minutes without dying of heat stroke? Simple. Air conditioning. Qatar has promised to build “open air air conditioned stadiums.” Yes. You read that correctly. It sounds like an oxymoron but that’s the plan. And how will they run the air conditioning? Oil.
  • Where will the players and fans stay? In hotels. And how will they stay cool? Air conditioning. Powered by…oil.
  • And how will all these people shower in the desert? Aha! Using that r/o water which is made in the r/o plant which is powered by oil.

Let me pause for a minute to let out a scream of frustration.

In a time when climate change and global warming are finally getting some mention in popular culture, this is a giant step backward. FIFA is basically giving the earth the middle finger and for whatever political and economic reasons, they have decided that Qatar, a desert nation, is the best place to hold the biggest international sporting event in the world.

Qatar, apparently, does not have much of an environmental conscience:

“Qatar has the highest per-capita carbon dioxide emissions, at 55.5 metric tons per person in 2005.” And, get this: “Major uses of energy in Qatar include air conditioning, natural gas processing, water desalination and electricity production.” (source: Wikipedia) Can you even imagine how high these figures will rise during the month-long World Cup?

Qatar playing host to the World Cup is akin to Arizona and New Mexico hosting the winter Olympics.

urban gardening, CSAs & community farms

May 1 is just around the corner.  Here in the northeast, people with land are getting their hands dirty on the weekends, planting their first seeds of the season. City-dwellers are looking forward to farmer’s markets and the first CSA delivery.  When will the rhubarb be ripe?!

I live in Philadelphia but dream of owning a piece of land large with enough space to grow veggies, have a couple hens and two goats.  In the meantime, I’m thinking of how to get my hands dirty in the city (and I don’t mean by riding SEPTA).  The easiest way is to get a plot at a community garden. The Spring Gardens (www.thespringgardens.org) is a large, volunteer-run space with 180 plots, but the website has a waiting list of 2 years.

Greens Grow Farm (www.greensgrow.org) is a large urban farm in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia that has a nursery, CSA and farm stand with a goal of providing sustainable, green business development in the city.  Since Greens Grow is a non-profit and has a large group of volunteers, I’ll call it a community farm.  Non-profit, day-to-day farm management is led by an experienced farmer and supported by volunteers. The farm has wider goals for the community such as education, hunger-reduction and bringing fresh food to neighbors.

I really like the idea of a community farm. But I’m wondering about combining CSAs and community farms–creating an urban farm collective.  My rough idea is this:

  1. assemble a group of interested, committed people
  2. form a non-profit
  3. write grants and more grants
  4. receive grants (!)
  5. get a plot of land from the City
  6. start farming

Each member can have their own plot, or we can have one large plot where we share the veggies. Chickens, goats, pigs? As long as we have enough committed members, I think animal husbandry and a small dairy operation could be part of the farm. If we got enough grant money, it is possible that we could hire a person to manage the farm on a part or full time basis, but I envision the bulk of the work coming from members of the farm.

I’ve googled community farm in different forms and have only found CSAs and community farms (like Green Grows).

What do you think? Could this be viable?