Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Organic Food 101

Organic food has become a lucrative business with every grocery store trying to get a piece of the pie. Industry experts estimate that organic food sales were $28 billion in 2012 with expectations for continued growth. So what’s the benefit of buying organic? Is it more nutritious? Is it worth the extra cost?

First, let’s define what classifies a food as organic. According to the EPA, organically grown food is food grown and processed using no synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. Organic livestock must have access to the outdoors, be given organic feed and may not be given antibiotics, growth hormones or any animal-by-products.

Is it more nutritious? What are the benefits? A recent Stanford study shows little evidence to back the claim that organic foods are packed with more vitamins making them more nutritious. Although studies do show that organic foods contain higher antioxidants which have been linked to certain types of cancer prevention. There is also a decrease in negative health effects and issues associated with toxic residues that result from pesticide use. Consistent pesticide exposure has been shown to contribute to deficiencies in neurodevelopment, a factor in autism, ADHD and other neurological impairments in developing children. Eating organic produce and meat could potentially decrease this exposure.

Weighing the costs and benefits in choosing organic foods is up to each individual person. While those unbothered by pesticide use opt for the cheaper conventional items, others take a stand against industry farms fighting for removal of all pesticides. For more information please visit the USDA’s website here.

If you choose to buy organic, it is important to understand the labeling. The USDA issues three categories of labels:

-          100% organic: foods that do not contain any non-organic ingredients
-          Organic: Food containing 95% organic ingredients with the remaining 5% not containing growth hormones
-          Made with organic ingredients: Foods that have at least 70% organically produced ingredients (can contain up to 30% of nonorganic ingredients!)

So keep an eye out for buzz words and companies misleading use of the word ‘organic’, making sure it has a UDSA seal of approval. Keep in mind that organic is not synonymous with healthy; organic food can still be packed in bad fats, calories and sugar!

Be sure to check out upcoming blogs that will give in depth looks at which foods to buy organic, which to skip and recipes for in season produce!

While choosing organic may be important, it is also just as important to shop local in season produce. With asparagus being one of April’s peak in season produce, here’s a simple recipe from the local Durham Farmers' Market incorporating asparagus into an appetizer or side dish.

Fresh Asparagus Salad – (Chef Christy Quirk from Bull Street Gourmet & Market)


-          1 Bunch ASPARAGUS, Thinly Sliced
-          1 LEMON, Zested and Juiced
-          1 SHALLOT, Shaved (you may want less)
-          1/8t LAVENDER BUDS, Rubbed
-          Pinch SEA SALT
-          Pinch BLACK PEPPER, Freshly Ground
-          Pinch NUTMEG or MACE
-          Drizzle OLIVE OIL


Prepare a medium bowl. Combine all the flavoring/seasoning ingredients, mix well, then add the asparagus. May serve immediately or chill until use. 

This salad may also serve as a relish for sandwiches, grilled proteins, etc. 

As a side, welcome additions to the salad might include nuts, goat cheese, fresh tomatoes, or mushrooms.

For more local produce recipe ideas visit
Durham Farmers' Market

Picture source: K Sarah Designs Blog

Friday, March 28, 2014

Environmental Household Cleaning

Spring is in the air! And with it comes spring cleaning, so here is our next blog post with Eco-friendly spring cleaning tips. This time we will look into ways to clean our homes while staying green.

Many household cleaning supplies contribute to indoor air pollution and can actually be quite hazardous when they come in contact with skin, are inhaled, or are ingested. Chemicals from cleaning products can be released into the air and linger because of the limited airflow indoors, exposing you and your family for longer periods of time. Standard cleaning products are often petroleum-based and have negative effects that extend even beyond indoor pollution and personal health problems. They keep their potency long after they’ve gone down the drain, and can potentially pollute waterways and negatively affect vegetation and wildlife. Luckily, we have some alternatives that are natural and will help you to avoid negative toxic side effects. Natural based cleaning products are widely available and usually work just as well as the old standbys.  

It’s Easy Being Green: A Handbook for Earth-Friendly Living by Crissy Trask is a great resource for tips on how to clean green, from conserving water to using alternative cleaning products. Some of her helpful suggestions are:

·         Use old towels and t-shirts  as rags instead of paper towels

·         Fill a bucket with water and mix it with an all-purpose cleaner for general scrubbing, rather than  leave water running

·         Buy products in concentrate when available to use less packaging

·         Use oxygen or hydrogen-based bleaches instead of chlorine bleach and buy phosphate-free laundry detergent – companies that make products that do not use harmful chemicals include Country Save, Mountain Green, Method, Mrs.Meyers, and Seventh Generation.

·         Make your own household cleaners – distilled white vinegar, baking soda, salt, club soda, lemons, and other household products can make effective cleaning products. The Mother Nature Network has recipes for homemade cleaning products here.

·         Wash clothes in cold water, only using warm or hot water for oily dirt and stains (These days, detergents are formulated to work just as well in cold water.)

Small changes of habits and an awareness of the products we use can make a big impact on both our household health and overall environment. Lots of little things can add up to a big impact! For a more thorough review of the effects of toxins cleaning products and environmentally friendly alternatives, visit the OrganicConsumers Association website.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Spring Cleaning: Cleaning Out Your Closet

With spring fast approaching, be on the lookout for a series of blog posts with Eco-friendly spring cleaning tips. To start out, let’s look at how to clean out your closet without adding to landfills.

Fast fashion is defined as a contemporary term describing a clothing chain’s ability to move designs from catwalk to stores quickly at a low price to customers. It brings an end to the two-season shopping; companies like Zara, H&M and Forever 21 can design, manufacture and get new styles into store shelves within a month. Although fast and cheap, our closets can’t keep up, forcing us to throw away the excess of it – approximately 70 pounds per person annually according to the Council for Textile Recycling. This translates into approximately 191 T-shirts per person, totaling 3.8 billion pounds of waste making our landfills pay the price.

Here’s the good news! More than 90% of this discarded fabric, worn or torn, is recyclable:

Resell them – If the tag is still on them or they’re in top condition, the clothes can be resold to consignment or vintage shops such as Plato’s Closet, a nationwide used clothing chain.

Donate – H&M has a recycling policy allowing for shoppers to exchange one shopping bag of clothing, no H&M label required, for a 15% discount on any item of their choice. The Salvation Army and Goodwill have over 2,300 centers and drop-off locations for your gently used goods. Dress for Success accepts women’s professional attire and Donate My Dress accepts formal and special occasion dress donations to others who need them.

Hand them down to younger kids in your family or to your friends.

SwapFind a local public clothes swap and exchange clothes with someone else, trading an unwanted item for a “new” item in your closet.

Recycle – Send your clothes directly to a textile recycler if your clothes are past their prime. In Wake County, your local Convenience Center will accept clothing and shoes.

No matter which option you pick, recycle the stuffed garbage bag full of unwanted clothing next time you clean out that overfilled closet.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Exploring Our Environment – University Events

One of the wonderful things about living in beautiful (and sometimes icy) North Carolina is that residents all across the state have access to tremendous cultural and educational centers through its colleges and universities. Many institutes of higher education are asking serious questions about our energy future and are hosting events that look at current environmental issues and innovative solutions. Universities in the Research Triangle area have several events coming up within the next few months that are sure to inspire and further the discussion about North Carolina’s renewable energy future and environmental concerns.

At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the UNC Institute for the Environment will be highlighting environmental and resource management issues. For a full view of their upcoming events visit their calendar here.

·         February 26 is the NC Clean Tech Summit that will be held at the Friday Center in Chapel Hill. It is a partnership of the UNC Kenan-Flager Business School Center for Sustainable Enterprise, Research Triangle Cleantech Cluster, Strata Solar, and the UNC Institute for the Environment.  It will highlight North Carolina’s role as a global leader in clean technology and address problems like renewable energy storage, how entrepreneurs can find funding in this field, smart grid technology, and how rural areas and small towns can benefit from clean tech development. This is an incredible opportunity to learn about the future of energy in the state. Registration is open to the public and anyone interested is encouraged to attend! Visit their website to register and view the agenda here.  

·         April 16 is UNC’s Campus Earth Week Keynote presentation This Blue Planet: Preserving and Sustaining a Healthy Earth with speaker Alexandra Cousteau. It is free and open to the public and will be at the Stone Center Auditorium. It starts at 6:00pm and shows the importance of conservation and sustainable management of water in order to preserve a healthy planet.


Sustainability at NC State University will also be hosting several events in the upcoming months. For a full listing, visit their website here.

·         March 19 and 20 is the 16th annual Water Resources Research Institute Conference focusing on Local Governments as Keystone Water Resources Managers. It will be held in the Jane S. McKimmon Center at NC State University. This symposium will explore the role local government plays in managing water resources in North Carolina. To register and learn more about this event visit their website here.

·         April 16 is the 2014 North Carolina Sea Grant Research Symposium on Investments and Opportunities. It will also be held at the McKimmon Center. This event is free and will focus on the research and extension efforts sponsored by North Carolina Sea Grant addressing current and emerging issues. Topics will include healthy costal ecosystems, sustainable coastal development, safe and sustainable seafood supply, and hazard resilience in coastal communities. Visit their webpage to learn more and register.

These are only a few of the great events that are taking place on college campuses in the Triangle and throughout the state. Members of the public are encouraged to come and take advantage of the great opportunities and resources local universities can provide!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

A greener new year!

Happy New Year!!! With the holidays coming to a close, it's time to pack up decorations, put away the sweets and take down the tree...

It's a new year - make a resolution! (Studies show that if you just make ONE resolution, you are more likely to keep it.)

  • Not sure what to do with your holiday tree? Most cities offer curbside pickup. Or if you live in a coastal area, you may be able to help with sand dune restoration. My local tiger rescue also accepts trees to give the big cats something fun to play with! Learn more online:
  • Kick off a healthier 2014 and pledge to eat local, eat more veggies or grow your own. Start by shopping more local farmer's markets or go to
  • If you find yourself with some burned-out light strings, don't toss them, recycle them! Search Earth 911 for info:
  • Be sure to store your holiday decorations in containers with some padding to keep them from breaking. It's better to re-use than re-buy! 
  • Did you get new electronics this year? Maybe a tablet or laptop... Be sure to recycle or donate old ones! Check out for info on where to responsibly recycle your items.
  • Depending on where you live in NC, you may be able to place a call for curbside pick up of your old appliances or electronics or take it to a local recycling center for proper disposal. I have small electronics recycling here at NC State. There are also companies who recycle computers for free or at a low cost. Locally, GEEP in RTP manages recycling, and you can also find statewide requirements here:

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Green up your holidays!

It's the holidays - time for big spending, perhaps a little overindulging and definitely a lot of wastefulness if we aren't careful.

Here are a few do-good ideas for holiday gifting:
While you're making a list and checking it twice, why not give gifts that give twice? Charitable giving can can do a world of good! Keep your gift local by making a donation to your local food bank or homeless shelter in your recipient's name. Support education during the holidays by donating books or supplies in a friend's or your child's name to a local school or library. Make your holiday meals with as many locally grown and/or organic foods as possible! If you're giving or receiving new electronics this year, be sure to recycle or donate old ones! Check out for more info. How do you reduce waste? Gift reusable bags. Purchase recycled paper gift wrap. Reuse holiday cards into nifty gift tags. Wrap with newsprint, paper bags or old maps! Gift wrap with recycled paper or a scarf. Reuse a gift bag, even if it's NOT a holiday bag! Give the gift of time to someone you care about. Conversation shared over lunch or a visit to a museum are always great gifts.

Some waste facts that may surprise you:
  • Waste fact #1: Nationwide, between Thanksgiving & Christmas, we throw away a MILLION EXTRA TONS of waste each WEEK.
  • Waste fact #2: In Raleigh, in an average week, 3,000 tons of waste is discarded. During those six weeks it jumps up to 3,750 tons!
  • Waste fact #3: 1.9 billion holiday cards are sent every year, filling a football field 10 stories high. Harvesting almost 300,000 trees!
  • Waste fact #4: During the holidays, at least 28 billion pounds of edible food are wasted each year - almost 100 pounds per person.
  • Waste fact #5: Half of the paper America consumes is used to wrap & decorate consumer products.
If each American household wrapped just three gifts in reused materials, enough paper would be saved to cover 45,000 football fields. Join with NC GreenPower this holiday season and pledge to cut back on waste. You can also go online and offset your holiday lights through our My NC GreenPower fundraising campaign!

As we approach the end of the year, we ask that you please consider making a one-time or monthly donation online, or give to NC GreenPower on behalf of a loved one using our gift cards. While shopping online, you can also connect with GoodSearch, and they will donate a portion of your purchase to us on your behalf!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Happy 10th birthday, NC GreenPower!

I don't know about you, but I sure do remember my 10th birthday... I thought - WOW! I'm turning double-digits - and thought I was SO very grown up.

NC GreenPower celebrates our 10th birthday this month, and we are so excited to share this with you! To celebrate, we have been posting a lot of our ten year history on our social media sites. We also have Throwback Thursday where we post photos of past project dedications. (Twitter  /  Facebook)

On Thursday, October 17 at 11:30am, we will be giving away 225 small trees from Lichtin Plaza at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Raleigh – free for anyone to take home and plant as a way to reduce their carbon footprint. 

It's one tree per person, and we'll be out there until we run out of trees!

2 E South Street, Raleigh - map it here.
Walk, run, bike, drive by or take the bus!