Monthly Archives: November 2009

Some thoughts and links


Not that you’re not already busy enough, but I’ve been reading some really interesting things lately that I think are both important and enriching. No obligation to read any of these things, but in case you have an interest in expanding your environmental repertoire, read on.

Most importantly: the climate talks at Copenhagen are less than a month away. This is SO important for the future of climate legislation and the health of the globe. I found this great site, called Hopenhagen, to educate about the conference and provide a few ways to take action to ensure that the US is posed to take the strongest possible stance against climate change.

Next, I loved what Majora Carter, founder of Sustainable South Bronx, had to say about climate change in this Grist Video. She called it an “extension of the civil rights movement.” How captivating.

For those already involved: What do you think about Adam Sacks’ article “We have met the deniers and they are us” Very provocative, infuriating, and most of all, scary.

I wrote to my ecology professor about this, and his answer was important, I think.

The article is largely because he finds it necessary to attack the small efforts people are making on climate change, while not really knowing the immense work being done worldwide to address it.  He is no doubt getting the attention he is seeking, but he is not helping us move forward in my opinion.  Driving his readers to guilt and frustration—which is what I believe his article does—is not a very effective way to intensify the needed response.

My immediate reaction was to call up on Google: “Global Warming: The Complete Briefing” — a book now in its 4th edition, by my friend and colleague John T. Houghton.  I suggest you do the same… Even checking out its description on (which will come up on Google) and looking over the reviews will remove most, and likely all of your frustration.

So, even though there is more that can be done, these negative words are not supporting or motivating, and therefore are not useful. (In my opinion, although I’d love to hear your thoughts.)

Finally, another thing on the mind is meat. It’s hard to think of the holidays without bringing images to mind of large family feasts. I was disappointed at Thanksgiving time, however, about the lack of conversation surrounding sustainable, local and organically-raised meats, instead of the supermarket, industrial variety. I think this season would be a great time to support a local farmer and take the time and few extra bucks to buy some of his or her meat for the holidays. What do you think? Here’s a list of some CSAs in the midwest that can get some of you started with this, called the Land Stewardship Project. (and here’s a national one)

Alright, I think that’s enough for now. I would love (and have wanted) to write more, but my school schedule has been very rigorous and exhausting lately! I had a great time celebrating thanksgiving with my family and friends and now the post-thanksgiving battle til winter break begins! (Hence, getting up at 5 to write a paper!)

Anyway, I hope all is well and sorry for being so intermittent.



Also, I recently rediscovered my first video project ever. Although I’m not so sure remembering to turn off the lights will cut it anymore, this is definitely still fun to look back on!

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College is Hard

Every year before school starts I daydream of getting back to Madison and attending classes, organizing my room, cuddling up at a coffeehouse to study, working out, and having fun with my friends.

But that’s never how it ends up!

Anyway, the point of this pointless post is that I’ll be back soon!

Like, tomorrow!

Don’t forget me,


Green Books Campaign: The Love-Powered Diet


This review is part of the Green Books campaign. Today 100 bloggers are reviewing 100 great books printed in an environmentally friendly way. Our goal is to encourage publishers to get greener and readers to take the environment into consideration when purchasing books. This campaign is organized by Eco-Libris, a green company working to green up the book industry by promoting the adoption of green practices, balancing out books by planting trees, and supporting green books. A full list of participating blogs and links to their reviews is available on Eco-Libris website.

Not expecting to take on a diet book as part of this campaign, I was pleasantly intrigued by the message of nutritionist and life coach Victoria Moran’s, “The Love Powered Diet: Eating for Freedom, Health and Joy.” The book is addressed to food addicts, who she defines as,

“any person of any body size who’s engaged in a longstanding battle with a knife and fork,”

as well as anyone who is interested in a more healthful, sustainable,  and happy life. Moran emphasizes the necessity for all readers to first love themselves in order to begin to see any effect from her diet or others, stating “It’s OK to feel beautiful right now. If you wait until you’re thin to feel beautiful, you may never get there.” Moran’s approach is to address how her diet-prone readers view both them self and food (as well as how they consume it) in order to “finally win the battle by giving up the fight.”

With the lose definition of ‘thin’ as, “having a body that serves you well so you can live freely without wishing you weighed less,” Moran supposes that if you love yourself enough, you’ll treat yourself as someone who is lovable, attractive, and thin by choosing the right foods and listening to your body. She gives witty, informed, socially concerned, and specific means to accomplish this coveted view of eating. And better yet, in doing so, readers learn to eat correctly for his or her body’s ideal weight, and eventually to achieve this goal.

Although it is a diet book, hers is not solely focused on food. This book also has a humanitarian and progressive message to correlate with her theme of love and new attitude toward food. Printing her book as part of the Green Press Initiative, publisher Lantern Books explains its commitment to the environment by not using fiber from ancient forests or any chlorine at the expense of printing slightly more expensive books. But the eco-focus of her book does not end there.

Overall, Moran presents a very sustainable and important notion of food. First, she stipulates that food is valuable and required hard human work to get it to whatever conditions it is in now for you to eat it, so be thankful. Next, that since it is about to become part of your physical body, you should be choosy about which foods (and how much, and how often) you decide to eat. Pay attention to labels and decide whether the avoidance of highly processed, high sodium, fat, and sugary foods are worth a few extra dollars and preparation minutes at meal times.

Her description of foods in the love-powered diet, the ones that make it so eating becomes less of a battle, and the ones who transform food addicts to someone approaches a food with a “take it or leave it” mentality, includes all the ingredients above: a healthy mind, approach, and plate.

This food, “is generous, delicious, and aesthetically pleasing.  It promotes high-level health as well as normal weight, it is economical and provides plenty for everybody, it respects all life, and is environmentally sustainable.”

Talk about setting the standards high! Thankfully, Moran gives detailed direction to make this description come to life and realizes that no one can achieve this without occasional mistake and exception. But, as she says, “a love-powered meal can be an effortless donation to a most deserving planet,” and that is certainly something for which to strive.

Throughout this semester, I have struggled to combine my “fooducation,” with my actual practice, AND with my view of what and how I should be eating in order to maintain or lose weight. This book tied together all three of these concerns, and because of this balance, has much to give. It is empowering, inspiring, and addresses much more about dieting than the desire to be thin, and has fundamentally changed my answers to the questions of what, how, and why I eat.

Image Credit: Susan Newman.

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Natural House


DSCN1120 This week for ecology lab we traveled to a natural house made by Design Coalition Architects in Madison.

Aside from the goofy looking (but meticulously calculated) overhangs on the sides, it looked like a fairly traditional home. But, after our tour (3.5 hours and 6 pages of notes!) we were all assured that this house was very far from standard! This, hopefully is a fact about houses that will change in upcoming years.

The architects on this project really thought of everything. From the location (close to the city, family, and work for biking or public transportation), to the porous driveway (that allows water to percolate into the ground and reenter the groundwater instead of runoff or erode), to the to the high tech Air Core floor.

This house had so many inspirational ideas for builders or anyone looking to improve and upgrade their home.

I’ll start with the fact that nearly all household materials were recycled. Sinks, tiles, counter tops, roofing, cabinets, insulation, appliances, you name it. Even better, we didn’t even notice. It seems that recycled or “second-hand” has a bad connotation, but all this stuff looked pretty nice. Lou (the homeowner and architect), told us about the re-store which sells recycled materials such as the ones that can be found in this house. Another great source for green (non-toxic, sustainably made) household materials that I’ve heard of is Grow and Make. Although sites like Grow and Make can insure that its products are safe and chemical free, Lou couldn’t, so he’s found a sealant called, Safe Seal, to prevent any chemicals that might be in his recycled cabinets, for example, from escaping into the air or onto his plates!

Next, Lou told us all about the amazing insulation and thick windows (tripple glazed) that help make it so the house requires very little energy to heat/cool. Most importantly, the insulation was completely non-toxic (made from recycled denim!) so we got to touch it too. I don’t think anyone would do that with fiberglass! This insulation, combined with straw-clay walls, contributes to a greater R-Value, or the measure of thermal resistance, of the house.


These walls, paired with the passive solar heating system utilized by the house helped Lou and his wife keep their energy bill nicely around $400 a YEAR.

Passive solar just means that they utilized the sun to moderate the temperature in their house. Lou explained this novel idea and I wasn’t sure whether to be dumbfounded at how genius it is, or just say “duh!” (why don’t we all do that?!). The house had large south-facing windows and tiny northern side ones. It placed rooms like the kitchen, living room, and bedroom (that need heat) next to these south windows, and uninhabited things like closets, stairs, and storage on the north side. Smart right? ($400/year smart!)

DSCN1123I could go on for quite some time with all the stuff I learned, but I’ll just throw in a few highlights:

1. The high-efficiency boiler (and tankless waterheater)

2. The low-flow water appliances

3. Rainwater Cisterns

4. PVC-free Plumbing

5. Nothing plastic!

6. Certified sustainably harvested wood (which is now sold commercially at Home Depot and Manards)

7. Natural cleaning products (some homemade)

8. Cork flooring upstairs

9. Vent roof (aids the passive solar system)

10. Framing that uses much less wood but is just as sturdy

The clear theme was sustainablility and “embedded energy.” Nothing was complicated, but everything was well-planned. Lou and his team took the time to ask important questions, and came out better in the end because of it.

How did this get to me? How long will it last? How close is this to its original form? What went into making this?

I loved his idea of sustainability too. They decided not to install a solar panel system, but they put all the wiring into the walls so that if the next person wanted to install it they could without tearing out the walls. He explained that to be really sustainable you have to think about what is good for you now as much as what will be good in the future. While solar isn’t necessary in Lou’s house now, there are contractors and engineers nationwide who are working to make solar more practical and affordable for other families. (Lake Eerie Electric comes to mind for families in Ohio or Michigan. Check them out!)

This house was an inspiration for my future house and gave me a better idea of sustainable thinking. The green and environment part of it was cool, but what struck me was how humanitarian the house was. It embodied community, concern for other workers, and learning… so it was just neat to see all the thought and true concern that went into a really cool finished product, instead of just a financial focus like we’re so used to seeing. The more I learn about the issues in our homes, buildings, ecosystems, cities… the more I appreciate the innovative ideas at places like Grow and Make, Lake Erie Electric, Grist and so many others who dedicate their careers to thinking of new, creative, sustainable ideas to help us all and improve this crazy world we all share.

Anyway, if you’re in Madison and have the opportunity to check out some Design Coalition projects, I would recommend it. Seems like those people have a lot to teach and I’m AMAZED at how much there is to learn!



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Planet Connect Project!

To my 14-19 year old audience:

Planet Connect, a social media site about environmental issues for high school students, is holding a really neat contest that I want everyone to know about.

If you and your friends come up with a new and creative idea of how to help the environment in your community or school, you could receive $1,000 and an environment-related internship! I think this is such a fun contest!

Some ideas I was thinking for my home town:

-New, fun environmental education for elementary schoolers

-Local foods in the cafeteria, or a local food bake sale (to educate people about the benefits of eating local and possibly highlight some CSAs nearby)

-Calculate the carbon footprint of an average person at your school, how you could reduce it, and find cool ways to educate

-A publicity campaign to tell people why it’s important to be involved with the environment and help out

-A short film to show at your school

The ideas are endless!

I know this isn’t like my usual posts, but I think it’s a good thing to get you thinking about something YOU can do, and in this case, potentially see a really cool reward for yourself and your city.

Happy brainstorming!


If you want to find out more, click here.

One last note, you have to act fast! The deadline is November 15!

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