Saturday, November 15, 2008

oh, and p.s.

The Abridged In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, by Michael Pollan (or, simple things you can do to eat more better)

Eat Food.
- Don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.
- Avoid foods containing ingredients that are A) unfamiliar, B) unpronounceable, C) more than five in number, or that include D) high fructose corn syrup.
- Avoid food products that make health claims.
- Shop the peripheries of the supermarket and stay out of the middle.
- Get out of the supermarket whenever possible.

Mostly Plants.
- Eat mostly plants, especially leaves.
- You are what what you eat eats too.
- If you have the space, buy a freezer.
- Eat like an omnivore.
- Eat well-grown food from healthy soils.
- Eat wild foods when you can.
- Be the kind of person who takes supplements.
- Eat more like the French. Or the Italians. Or the Japanese. Or the Indians. Or the Greeks.
- Regard non-traditional foods with skepticism.
- Don’t look for the magic bullet in the traditional diet.
- Have a glass of wine with dinner.

Not Too Much.
- Pay more, eat less.
- Eat meals.
- Do all your eating at a table.
- Don’t get your fuel from the same place your car does.
- Try not to eat alone.
- Consult your gut.
- Eat slowly.
- Cook and, if you can, plant a garden.

(content is probably copywrit so I'm sorry but I think it's awesome and you should totally read the whole book anyway)

Simple Things you can do to help the planet.

Blah blah blah compact florescent bulbs, blah blah blah drive less, blah blah blah turn your thermostat up in the summer and down in the winter, blah blah blah, conserve water, conserve electricity, save the polar bears, read this book, read that book, believe this politician, believe this actor…
It’s enough to drive you crazy, right? It would be enough for me, if I weren’t already a little nutso. So, here’s what I decided: only do what you can and don’t freak out about the rest. A little is more than a lot of other people are doing (thanks, Andy), so do your best and sleep better for it.

So let’s cut through all the nonsense and the b.s. and check out some simple things you can do (many of which I do, and which you may already do) to make the world a better place.

1) While you’re on the internet anyway (and I know you are), visit The Animal Rescue Site ( and click through the tabs at the top to help animals, the rain forest, improve literacy, improve child health, fight breast cancer, and fight hunger. You can sign up for e-mailed reminders (daily, week-daily, whatever-ly) from the left column. The site makes money from the sponsors and advertisers that pay per click so all you have to do is click. Also visit and play the game. Not only does it improve your vocabulary and brain function, but for each word you get right, they donate 20 grains of rice through the UN World Food Program to help end hunger.

2) If you live within drop-off distance of me, save the aluminum tabs and bottle caps from your cans and bottles. I know that the internet says no one is collecting these, but my friend who works for the Kidney Foundation says differently, so I give them to her and they either pile up in her basement to keep the ghosts and spiders at bay or they help pay for dialysis, so either way we’re doing some good.

3) Don’t buy bottled water. Often, municipal water actually has stricter standards and is cleaner than bottled water, and can be helped along by a pitcher or tap filter. If your local water is really gross or you must buy bottled for some other reason, try to reuse the bottles for at least a week and recycle them when you’re done. Also try to find bottled water that didn’t travel halfway around the world to get to you. Wegmans bottled water comes from Forestport, NY. If you can, buy a reusable bottle, but try to find recycled aluminum or nonpolycarbonate plastic if you choose this option (,,

4) Take your own bags to the store, the library, your mother’s house, everywhere (keep them in your trunk so they are there when you need them). Save your clean plastic bags and return them to grocery stores that accept them. Wegmans accepts all kinds of plastic bags, saran wraps, plastic wrapping, bread bags, newspaper bags, pretty much anything you can think of. See here or contact your local store for more information.

5) Donate, donate, donate.

6) Recycle, recycle, recycle.

7) When you recycle, save your plastic screw-on caps (peanut butter, soda bottles, nail polish remover, salad dressing, etc.) in a separate location and the beauty products company Aveda will recycle and reuse them ( Most garbage collection companies do not recycle this kind of plastic, so Aveda will be collecting them at their stores and salons in order to repurpose them into new Aveda packaging. Find an Aveda location near you: (when I contacted them, they said that local -Rochester- salons will start collecting caps in September, so call before you go).

8) Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. -Michael Pollan. Check out more advice from his book, “In Defense of Food” here:

9) Shop the perimeter of the grocery store. Avoid packaged and processed foods as much as possible.

10) Buy locally and/or organically, and buy what’s in season. Visit to find community supported agriculture, farmers markets, grocery stores and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area, or you may even feel called to grow some food of your own. You’d be surprised what you can grow in a 3’ x 6’ plot or a few containers on your front steps.

11) If you buy nothing else organic, buy these five things: milk, potatoes, peanut butter, ketchup, and apples ( Also check out for a list of the most and least pesticide-contaminated fruits and vegetables, to help you decide what you feel you should buy organically. I keep a list in my coupon box, along with a list of what’s in season locally (;

12) Try to avoid meat and dairy products that were not humanely treated during their time on this planet. Hormone-free, antibiotic-free, free-range, pasture-raised, grass-fed animals are far happier and far healthier, and the products are far better for you than their factory-raised counterparts. For me, this means buying all my meats and eggs from Heiden Valley Farms (Rick Austin is at the public market every Saturday and takes orders by e-mail), or from Applegate Farms ( (sold at Lori’s and the Abundance Co-op and sometimes Wegmans), and buying organic milk. It also means that if I want to eat meat in public it can only be poultry, as they are the least horribly treated by conventional methods, and I end up bringing my own meat products to family gatherings -but I try to do it in a non-judgmental way.

13) The Monterey Bay Aquarium has designed the Seafood Watch program to raise consumer awareness about the importance of buying seafood from sustainable sources. When you buy seafood or select it from the menu, have this helpful guide handy to determine what to avoid:

14) Visit the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics ( and Skin Deep ( to find out about the ingredients in your beauty products. Remember, though, there are no governmental standards regarding “organic” cosmetics, and no final determination of how safe or unsafe phthalates and parabens etc. really are. You have to be the judge and decide whether you really want to put something you can’t pronounce onto your face and into your body. Burt’s Bees, Tom’s of Maine, Badger, Kiss My Face, Jason, Avalon Organics, Nature’s Gate, etc. are all available at many grocery stores.

15) Use more environmentally friendly cleaning, household and laundry products. Seventh Generation, Ecover and Method products are available at many places, and you would be surprised how much you can clean with just baking soda and vinegar. Bathroom tissue, paper towels, toothbrushes, baby wipes, garbage bags, all have “green” alternatives. Hang your clothes out on the line as weather permits -it’s greener, and sunlight kills dust mites! If your towels and jeans end up a little stiff, fluff them in the dryer on an air-only cycle for five minutes or so.

16) Do use compact fluorescents when appropriate (most varieties cannot be used in recessed or enclosed fixtures or on fixtures with dimmer switches). All Home Depot stores will accept CFL’s for recycling at the end of their useful life (

17) Do drive less and walk more when you can. If it’s impractical to bike or bus or carpool to work, at least try to save gas when you do drive ( and combine errands to take less trips. Check out to see what’s within walking distance of your home or place of business.

18) Do conserve when you can, do more with less, use less, reuse more, buy used when possible.

18) Visit your local library to borrow books instead of buying them new, and donate books that you have back to the library when you are done with them.

20) Remember that you can’t do it all, but whatever you can do, helps.

Further Reading, if you’re interested:
- It's Easy Being Green: A Handbook for Earth-Friendly Living, Crissy Trask
- The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan
- In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, Michael Pollan
- Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, Barbara Kingsolver
- Harvest for Hope: A Guide to Mindful Eating, Jane Goodall
- This Organic Life: Confessions of a Suburban Homesteader, Joan Dye Gussow
- All New Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space!, Mel Bartholomew
- How to Grow More Vegetables: and Fruits, Nuts, Berries, Grains, and Other Crops than you Ever Thought Possible on Less Land than you can Imagine: A Primer on the Life-Giving Grow Biointensive Method of Sustainable Horticulture, by John Jeavons
- The World Without Us, Alan Weisman
- Baking Soda: Over 500 Fabulous, Fun and Frugal Uses You’ve Probably Never Thought Of, Vicki Lansky
- Vinegar: Over 400 Various, Versatile, and Very Good Uses You’ve Probably Never Thought Of, Vicki Lansky

- Grist Environmental New and Commentary:
- Center for Food Safety:
- Organic Consumers Association:
- Mother Earth News, the original guide to living wisely:
- Kitchen Gardeners International:
- Environmental Working Group:
- The Old Farmer’s Almanac:
- Seventh Generation (, Method (, Ecover (
- Gaiam green living and organic products:
- Planet Green from the Discovery Channel:
- Kraft Foods simple recipes for busy lives:

And remember, I only nag because I care.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Yes, we can.

Yes. Yes, we did. This is our moment. This is a great moment, a great uplifting, a relieving refreshing reassuring referendum. Is it a referendum? It's not really a mandate. More of a mandate than the 51% Bush bragged about four years ago, certainly, but I wouldn't call it a landslide. I would definitely call it a statement. Only 46% of us were nutters this year, and America is ready for change. America is tired of Republican rule, deregulation, war, housing crises, economic disaster, and Bush. Not bush in general, but Bush specifically. After all, as I've said (been there, done that, have the bumper sticker on the freezer in our garage): The only Bush I trust is my own.

So. We finally got our asses in gear and our heads out of said asses and figured out that the best option for this country is a man who is a member or the reality-based community, one who does not call his wife a trollop and a slut (at least, not within hearing of a recording news camera), one who is not eighty billion years old, one who didn't show his complete contempt for the women of America with his vice presidential pick, one who understands the value of science and technology and of scientific inquiry, one whose vision for America does not rely on derisive air quote and shoulder hunched cackling.

I am sadly amused that so many people are genuinely scared, that so many people are so ignorant and ill-informed that they are certain some demon/ Muslim/ socialist/ communist/ black/ vegetarian/ baby mama/ terrorist fist bump agenda has taken the helm of America and will drive us straight to hell in a pack of nabs. To you I say, don't worry! He doesn't take office until January 20th! That's plenty of time for your esteemed and well-spoken George W. Bush to slide through a bunch of last minute appointments and rulings and enactments that are sure to make women beholden to men (because, after all, it is 1806, right?) and suck the environment further down the carbon-lined tubes of doom.

Of course, I (and my ilk) was so terrified of the prospect of a McCain/Palin administration that I literally made myself sick and was forced to watch the election results come in through a blur of generic menthol cold medicine, with a generic allergy medicine chaser. Yes, this election was about fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of change, fear of staying the same, fear of a charismatic black man who has dared to be open and honest about his past, fear of a "Washington outsider" painfully proud of her ignorance, fear of a creaky old man who will decide who gets to marry whom and will make all of your child-birthing decisions the business of the government and will ensure that your children receive a sound Christian "education" in public secular schools -but he'll let you keep your guns, so who cares, right?

I am cautiously optimistic. I wonder how many people voted for Obama because of who he is vs. people who voted for him because of who he is not (John McCain/ George Bush). I wonder how many of his supporters truly understand his platforms and his stance on the issues. Of course, the majority of his opponents don't know them either -they only know what they were forwarded in an e-mail. And if it's got big block letters and three different fonts, it must be true, right? Extra points if you can use "socialist," "terrorist," "Muslim," and "inexperienced" in the same e-mail, and if you can misspell Obama's name, all the better!

I can't imagine being more disappointed in Obama than I have been for the past eight years, so I'm of the mind that anything has got to be better than the Bush administration's disasterous anti-science anti-women anti-sense policies.

I want to include here a segment of an e-mail I got from the editors of Free Inquiry Magazine, because I think it's well-worded and has excellent points:

In order that the ideals of democracy may be extended further, we offer some basic, humanistic ethical principles and goals that we hope the nation can achieve in the coming years. Even as they confront an economic crisis of massive proportions, we call on President Obama and the new Congress to base their actions on the following principles:

* Renewal of regulation for the protection of the public. The unlimited free market has been discredited. Virtually every other democratic society displays a mixed economy with robust public and private sectors. America needs to learn from this example.
* Universal health care. We view health care as a human right. Every major democracy except the United States has universal health care. While preserving a significant private component, it is time to enact legislation that ensures that every American is covered.
* The right to privacy. Every person should have the personal freedom to pursue his or her values and style of life, so long as he or she does not prohibit others from exercising like rights
* Equal access. Every person, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, or class, should have the opportunity to realize his or her goals without being hampered by discrimination.
* Equality of concern. All individuals should (a) be considered as equal before the law; (b) have the same right to education, whether poor or rich; and (c) enjoy the opportunity to pursue gainful employment.
* Civil liberties. In a free and open democratic society, any effort to censor or restrict free expression must be impermissible. This encompasses the right of each individual to believe in and practice a chosen religion—but also the right of dissent and nonbelief.
* Separation of church and state. The United States needs to adhere to the First Amendment. We call upon President Obama to rise above his campaign rhetoric on this issue and end public support for faith-based charities as a violation of the First Amendment.
* Commitment to developing alternative energy sources. We need to refocus national policy based on an energy mantra that exhorts us to go green, green, green! in place of drill, drill, drill.
* Restoring respect for U.S. leadership in world affairs. The war in Iraq needs to be resolved by the new administration as soon as possible. Ideally, this should include some form of truth commission that would investigate key members of the previous administration for their roles in taking the nation to war on false pretenses, establishing an illegal doctrine of preemptive warfare, and instituting such repellent practices as torture and indefinite detention. America should refocus its foreign policy and commit to using first diplomacy rather than military force as it seeks to resolve conflicts peacefully in cooperation with others in the world.
—Paul Kurtz and Tom Flynn, editors of FREE INQUIRY MAGAZINE, Center for Inquiry

Yes, I'm happy. Yes, I'm optimistic. Yes, I look to the future with a sense of hope. Yes, the phrase “President Obama” sends a friendly shiver down my spine. Yes, I have a dance that ends with a "terrorist fist bump" and I will perform it upon request. Feel free to join in as you are inspired. Because, as you know, yes we can. And we so fucking did.