Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Make Everyday Earth Day

Earth Day celebrations took place worldwide just last week. And while it’s nice to celebrate the environment one day out of 365, we should try to incorporate these practices into our everyday lives. Whether we’re responding to an urgent email or sending a tweet to our followers, we’re constantly on our phones so why not use mobile apps to help us go green?

The Good Guide: Perfect for helping green shoppers, this app gives ratings to more than 200,000 products just by scanning the barcode. The rating combines health, environment and societal factors on a scale of 1-10. Health covers ingredients, health impacts and certifications. Environment includes resources use, environmental impact and transparency. Society measures the company’s social policy and how they resonate with consumers, workers and the overall community.

PaperKarma: Annoyed with junk mail? This app helps reduce junk mail. It’s simple: snap a picture of any unwanted mail through the app and PaperKarma notifies the publisher to take the user’s name and address off of their list. Easy, right?

JouleBug: A social app, launched by the City of Raleigh, rewards users for reducing energy waste. It helps make your everyday habits more sustainable at home, work and play. By giving you simple tips to increase your sustainability, you earn points and badges while saving money. You can compete with your friends through the LeaderBoard, track your impact and earn trophies. So save money and energy and have a little fun by giving this app a try!

You can get even your kids involved with these environmental educations apps and programs teaching them about sustainable design and renewable energy:

1.     Ansel and Clair: Little Green Island
This app does a good job of introducing ideas – students learn about environmental issues, specifically pollution, and have to find solutions to the problems.

2.     Enercities
An educational computer-game, Enercities emphasizes the importance of sustainable planning. Students have to strike a balance among economy, ecology, population growth and quality of life while learning about resource scarcity and green city planning.

Those bright little screens that tend to keep us indoors and distract us from nature can now be put to good use!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A History of Earth Day

As we celebrate the Earth and all of its beauty today, let’s take a moment to look back at a timeline of how this day came to be and the progress that has resulted:

1962: Rachel Carson publishes Silent Spring, the best seller that brought to light the potential dangers of widespread pesticide use bringing environmental issues to the public’s attention

1963: Senator Gaylord Nelson (served as the Wisconsin State governor before being elected to serve in the U.S. Senate in 1962) convinced and accompanied President Kennedy on a 5 day, 11 state conservation tour in order to raise awareness about environmental issues

1969: Chemical waste released into Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River causes it to catch on fire bringing to the forefront the damaging effects of industrial pollution

1969: Senator Nelson, inspired by the teach-ins held by Vietnam War protesters on U.S. college campuses, announces the idea for a large scale Earth Day – a grassroots demonstration

April 22, 1970: First Earth Day, 20 million Americans took to the streets, parks and auditoriums to protest and fight for environmental rights

1970: Environmental advocacy group Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) founded

December 1970: Congress authorized the creation of a new federal agency to tackle environmental issues, the United States Environmental Protection Agency

1971: Environmental activist group Greenpeace founded

1972-73: Congress passes the Clean Water Act (‘92) and the Endangered Species Act (‘93)

1990: Earth Day goes international with 141 countries participating

1995: President Bill Clinton awards Gaylord Nelson the Presidential Medal of Freedom (highest award given to a civilian) in honor of his environmental work

2000: The 30th anniversary of Earth Day was themed “clean energy” with hundreds of millions of participants in 184 countries

2010: In honor of the 40th anniversary of this historic day, a Climate Rally and Concert was held on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

Earth Day has grown into a worldwide event with over 180 countries participating. The combined effort of Senator Gaylord, his staff and the participants across the United States helped spring this day into action. We hope everyone takes a few minutes out of their day to commit to a pledge, no matter how small or large, and join the movement of a billion acts of green to continue environmental and sustainable practices throughout the year.

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