Monday, February 26, 2007

Paper or Plastic - What's a Green Girl to do?

As green consumer choices continue to permeate our shopping experience, my awareness is battling my conscience. Everytime I checkout at the grocery store and they ask the inevitable paper or plastic question, I am overcome with uncertainty not knowing what the right choice is. Unable to bear the guilt any longer, I ventured into the green blogosphere on a quest to find out once and for all what is best, paper or plastic? Sources like greenfeet and provide the following info:

*Plastic grocery bags consume 40% less energy to produce and generate 80% less solid waste than paper bags
*Plastic bags can take 1,000 years to decompose whereas paper bags take about a month
*According to the EPA, over 380 billion plastic bags, sacks and wraps are consumed in the U.S. each year
*According to The Wall Street Journal, the U.S. goes through 100 billion plastic shopping bags annually resulting in an estimated cost to retailers at $4 billion
*According to the American Forest and Paper Association, in 1999 the U.S. alone used 10 billion paper grocery bags, requiring 14 million trees to be cut down

Apparently I am not the only one feeling overwhelmed with the paper/plastic debacle. IKEA recently announced they will charge U.S. customers five cents for disposable plastic shopping bags in an effort to discourage the use of these bags. IKEA said the decision to stop giving away free bags to customers aimed to reduce the estimated 100 billion bags thrown away by all U.S. consumers each year. Treehugger reported that:
Proceeds of up to $1.75 million from the bag campaign will go to American Forests, the nation's oldest non-profit citizens conservation organization, to plant trees to restore forests and offset CO2 emissions. To help alter customer behavior and endorse environmentally responsible habits, IKEA will be selling its reusable 'Big Blue Bag' for 59c, reduced from 99c.

So what's a green girl to do? For better or worse, the answer lies in a high quality reusable bag. According to 1 Bag at a Time which has sold over 300,000 reusable bags:
Over the next 2 years, these bags will save 124,800,000 plastic bags, enough petroleum to drive a car 8,914,286 miles, and up to $21,216,000 in disposal costs (which is enough money to pay 455 full time teachers salaries).
In addition to 1 Bag at a Time, we also have our friends at Idealbite to help us keep our shopping stylish and hip. Check out b.happybags and blue lotus for the latest shopping bag fashions and for more information and resources.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Whole Foods - Go Big or Go Home

There are few stereotypes I like to promote, however living in Texas, there is no denying that we do things big! And in Austin, The Flagship Whole Foods store is no exception. It is not simply the 80,000 square feet, but the purely experiential aspect of the shopping experience. You can find literally thousands varieties of fruits or vegetables, enjoy dinner at the various food stations all with an impressive spread of prepared food, hang out at the raw food bar, and let us not forget the fair trade dark chocolate fountain as you peruse through the bakery section (which by the way has literally brought a tear to people's eye.) Don't think that the question of over consumption does not pass through this socially conscious collective of consumers, it continues to be a question in people's mind.

Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore's Dilemma and other skeptics criticize Whole Foods food for using their commitment to organic and natural products at the expense of local foods, regional producers and distributers and as a mere marketing ploy. Michael Pollan and John Mackey (CEO of Whole Foods) have had a lively debate that can be seen on John Mackey's blog.

Regardless, Michael Pollan agrees that Whole Foods has played an instrumental role in advancing the awareness of the organic movement, and Austinites agree. Whole Foods is a kind of golden child in Austin, and its customers are a loyal base that support and trust this company's commitment to supporting the local community and sustainable and organic business. Will this commitment and brand loyalty translate across borders? The company plans to open its first store in London in June . It will ideally showcase the same focus on cooking demonstrations, product samplings and in-house eateries that mingle thousands of the freshest and finest natural and organic offerings in every area of the store, with a focus on procuring foods from local growers, food artisans and manufacturers. And as they say in Texas, go big or go home! Whole Foods is leaving its nest, and it is up to the London consumers to empower themselves with the tools of awareness balanced by the convenience and organic shopping experience that Whole Foods is committed to delivering its customers.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Green Eating

While driving a hybrid Toyota Prius instead of a “regular” car saves the equivalent of just more than 1 ton of carbon dioxide a year, a vegan diet generates at least 1.5 fewer tons of carbon dioxide than does the average American diet. According to a University of Chicago study, adopting a vegan diet is more important than switching to a “greener” car in the fight against global warming.

Does that mean we all need to adopt a vegan/vegetarian diet? Well the die hards will say yes, but the bigger message is understanding the connection between the food we eat and the impact on the environment. In Michale Pollan's book The Omnivore's Dilemma he brings an important voice to how our food is being produced in the United States today, and how our food choices potentially can make a positive difference in the world. The vegetarian community is a passionate one - for good reason. But beyond the cruelty factor, there are numerous reasons that people choose to become vegetarian including the health benefits. Going green in our eating can no longer be denied as the gateway to health.

A recent study announced that red meat may be the cause of specific forms of cancer. Now I don't want to be the buzz kill to a good hamburger. The truth is, there is a range of diets and lifestyles all promoting healthier/organic ways of eating including: The Raw Foods Detox Diet, The 3 Season Diet and The Detox Diet just to name a few. The list can go on with the experts to support them. The days of denying the benefits of eating organically are slim and there are ways to still embrace meat within this manner. However, at the end of the day, it is about becoming conscious of our choices.

In my mind there is room for both Turducken (although an animal within an animal within an animal does seem extreme) and Tofurkey. And just like anything, before making a judgement regarding a certain lifestyle, it is best to educate ourselves to have a wider perspective and ultimately a better understanding to make more informed choices in our lives.

I realize this is a big statement and I am not pushing a vegetarian agenda. But when the connection between the food we consume and the impact that has on our environment becomes abundantly clear, it is important to take note.

While the vegan lifestyle is one option and describes a person that does not consume any animal products or by products, the vegetarian diet describes a person who does not consume meat, poultry, fish, or seafood. This grouping includes vegans and the various sub- categories of vegetarian; however, it generally implies someone who has less dietary restrictions than a vegan. While the vegan/vegetarian lifestyle is one alternative you can take, there are multiple ways to keep meat in your diets in an organic friendly way. If however you are curious to make the switch to the vegetarian lifestyle, The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine recommends the following tips for making the switch to a vegetarian diet:

1. Convenience foods cut cooking time. Supermarkets and natural foods stores stock a huge array of instant soups and main-dish vegetarian convenience items.
2. Ask for it! Even restaurants that don’t offer vegetarian entrĂ©es can usually whip up a meatless pasta or vegetable plate if you ask.
3. Order your next pizza without cheese but with a mountain of vegetable toppings.
Texturized vegetable protein (TVP) is fat-free, has a texture like ground beef, and is wonderful in tacos, chili, and sloppy joes. Look for it in the bulk food section of the grocery store.
4. The simplest dishes are often the most satisfying. Brown rice, gently seasoned with herbs and lemon and sprinkled with chopped nuts or sunflower seeds, is a perfect dish.
5. When traveling, pack plenty of vegetarian snacks like instant soups, fresh fruit, raw vegetables, trail mix, granola bars, and homemade oatmeal cookies. Fill a cooler with sandwiches and individual containers of juice and soymilk.

Monday, February 12, 2007

No More Wire Hangers!

Who knew Mommie Dearest was such an environmentalist when she so manically claimed no more wire hangers ever!! Typically, in the "green" world when we think of dry cleaners we think of the potential toxins of chemical cleaners and not the hangers. The fact is about 3.5 billion wire hangers escape from closets around the country and end up in landfills. Hanger Network has come up with an eco-friendly solution via eco-hangers which are made from 100% recyled paper so no trees are harmed and they are fully recyclable. It is a unique business model encouraging dry cleaners (who receive the eco-hangers for free in comparison to normally paying 8 cents a piece for wire hangers), as the main channel of distribution. Customers come home with their clothes on a a conveniently branded eco-hanger. While the company is currently only in test markets of New York and San Francisco, stay tuned for an eco-hanger dry cleaner near you!

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Al Gore, Oprah, and Green

When Al Gore and his documentary "An Incovenient Truth" were featured on Oprah back in December, it was clear that the "O" factor was hitting the green movemnet big. Being the loyal Oprah follower and green devotee, I watched the show which was basicallya plug for the DVD and ultimately Al Gore should he decide to position himself for future political endeavors (but I am not a politico, I will leave it to the experts to advise that effort). Well, with the recent announcement of Al Gore's nomination for the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, it is clear that the "O" factor amongst other influences has brought heightened awareness of the green movement and global warming.

Skeptics and opponents of Al Gore believe he is trying to "scare us green." It is a relevant point because when we see evidence that is shown in "An Inconvenient Truth," the steps to take action can seem paralyzing. And while fear may be an initial response, it is clear that the small changes make a big difference.

Perhaps we each need to embrace our inner "Oprah" and become impassioned and educated enough to spread the word that we can make a difference.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Aloe and Adidas

Prior to becoming a pilates teacher, I did not concern myself much with feet. Well in the world of pilates, feet are everything. It is the foundation from which your core muscles literally initiate from. In the world of a pilates teacher, you can read a person's entire posture and imbalances based on their feet. One of the first exercises that you learn in pilates is footwork on the reformer. While this exercise is not only important in teaching you awarenss of how you use your feet as connected to your core, it is amazing how disconnected people are to their feet. But this is another topic for another day.

I was working with a client the other day, and at the end of footwork, we always give them a stretch by pulling on their heels (note: this alone is a reason to try pilates just once!). Normally I am not phased by this action, but on this particular day I could not help but notice how soft her feet were. I did not say anything because frankly that is weird. As we moved through the workout, she was in the midst of a stretch where she had to grab her foot, and she actually made the comment how soft her feet were. Again, this is not a normal comment. After I confessed that I had passing thoughts of the same, she confessed her secret - aloe gel in her new addidas socks. Being the manic researcher I am, I ventured on an aloe quest.

Upon further research, I learned that while I always associated aloe with sunburn, the combination of amino acids and vitamin E give it a "wound healing" affect, which essentially makes the skin soft. But the real question on everyone's mind, was how does the aloe stay in the sock despite multiple washes? Evidently it all comes to the technology and Adidas has this niche covered. So while it could be branded as a brilliant marketing scheme, I saw/felt the results and feel this is a positive step in big brands embracing mother nature's healing powers in their products. And frankly, pilates teachers around the world thank them for it!!

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Embrace Your Inner Pig

According to chinese astrology, we officially embarked on The Year of the Yin Fire Pig which began on February 4, 2007 at 7:25 AM for the Solar Calendar and on February 18 for the Lunar Calendar. Feng Shui Practioner Yasha Jampolsky provides an overview of The Year of the Yin Fire Pig:

"Driven by love of gratification, the Fire Pig is especially energized and full of good will. This Fire Pig year will proceed with confidence and self assurance while bringing everyone a liberal dose of good fortune. This is bound to be a very good year for many with opportunities galore. As long as you don't get too carried away with the spirit of excitement, you can share in the generous festivities and money luck that the Fire Pig is famous for! The energy of the Fire Pig supports and rewards generously all individuals and groups involved in charitable activity. The message of the Fire Pig year will be heard loud and clear: 'We live in an abundant world! Through focused awareness and deliberate conscious effort we can eliminate in large the suffering of many.'"

So in short, live in gratitude every moment, embrace the opportunity to empower others , and be confident in your success as you manifest your destiny.

Oink out!

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Welcome to the Sisterhood

Should we all be so lucky to have those people in our lives who are the ultimate reminders of everything we hold true. Those people who are our pillars of strength. And most importantly, those people who make us laugh. For me, one such person is Gladys.

Beyond Gladys, I am also blessed to have a unique collection of friends called the "Soul Sisters." We met 10 years ago in Australia, all randomly moved to San Francisco, and now span the country. We are a diverse group of ladies all leading very unique and distinct lives. Despite our geographic diversity, we make a committment each year to come together for a reunion. I was privvy to host the ladies this time around, and per usual it was a timeless period of togetherness full of laughter, tears, and reminders of our most innocent and ideal selves. A few highlights: welcome to spa paige; low barometric pressure state; margarita migraines; toothpaste as facial cream?; purple bras; chickflick cherry; I'm not really a waitress red; espresso your style; what doozi day suzi; netflix vs. blockbuster; march of the penguins changed my life; inconvenient truth - did al gore get work done?; ultimate meal breakfast shot.

These weekends leave us all with a deep gratitude for the gift of friendship and that somehow the magic we feel when we are together will make a mark on our individual worlds as we spread the sister love. I will end this posting with highlights of an article crafted 7 years ago by writer/videographer extraordinaire Tina:

So Called "Soul Sisters" Scintillate Throughout the San Francisco Bay Area - April 13, 1999
SAN FRANCISCO - Maybe you've spotted them at a traffic light, dancing to the deafening sounds of Michael Jackson or Aretha Franklin. Perhaps you have been seated next to them a Sunday brunch, watching them read their horoscope out of every local newspaper. Better yet, maybe you have been so lucky to have met them personally, for rumor has it you will forever have good luck.

This aberrant group pf girlfriends call themselves the Soul Sisters and they are bewildering Bay Area residents in increasing numbers. "These girls have a refereshing and vitalizing sense about them; never have I seen such a fun, intelligent and efferevescent group of friends," states a seven year San Francisco resident (name not to be exposed). Another Bay Area resident comments, "The Sisters are very enigmatic. It is almost as if they carry a quality of prescience, a knowledge of actions or events before they happen." ...............Surprising enough, the Soul Sisters are your somewhat normal group of girlfriends who are actively aware of the simple relationship between all that is tangible and intangible. Sounds a little weird? Well, they hold what I want to call a "inner spiritual philiosophy" that is quite simple. The mind, body, and spirit together as one thrives on love, honesty, laughter, energy, curiosity, adventure, and most importantly, moment to moment happiness. These women have an insatiable appetite for fun and discovery. And as others will describe, "they know something others don't." Unfortunately, most people don't understand what this "something" is - to be awake to and aware of every experience, every feeling, every emotion, and every smile. In the world of these women, sunsets speak special languages and music is present in silence.

Beyond creating quite a name for themselves, the Soul Sisters have given San Francisco what any town can never have enough of - contagious laughter, audaciaous spirits, and best of all, the greatest example of the power and gift of true friendship; for imaginiation has no boundaies and play gives us freedom.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Green Religion

February 3rd marks a special day amongst many jewish people - Tu Bishvat, which literally means "the new year of trees." Who knew "green" ran so deep amongst my tribe:-) While I could dig deep into my vague jewish education, I think you will find this cartoon a bit more informative and entertaining.

The main activity on this minor jewish holiday is planting trees in open places in Israel. It is also customary to eat different types of fruit on this holiday. Evidently there are seven species specifically to embrace including: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, and dates.

So whether is is the seven species of fruits or Naturalpath's top power foods , try to incorporate more "fruit of the earth" this weekend - if not for your own health, for the sake of my 3 year old nephew Eli who is working tirelessly planting a tree today:-)