Green's blog

Are Frozen Dinners Worth the Convenience?

 

We live in a busy, fast-paced society where taking the time to prepare a delicious and healthy meal is not always possible. Pre-prepared foods and frozen dinners offer a quick and easy alternative, but at what price?

Most frozen meals are loaded with sugar, sodium, and preservatives with low vegetable and fiber content. Though we need sodium in our diet, about one teaspoon a day or 2300 milligrams, for fluid balance, muscle strength and nerve function, most of us get far more than that with our consumption of frozen and processed foods. We all are aware of the dangers of too much salt and sugar! The right kind of salt is important too. Click here for more information about salts.

Certain frozen dinner brands, and specific meals produced by those brands, are worse than others. Hot pockets, chicken potpies, and turkey and gravy dinners are among the worst. Usually organic frozen meals are better, but it’s important to take the time to read the labels carefully, as with all processed foods. Just because a product says “natural” doesn’t mean it is. Be on the lookout for salt’s various disguises like sodium alginate, sodium ascorbate, sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), and sodium benzoate, as well as added sugars under the name of high fructose corn syrup or even natural cane sugar and unhealthy fats.

As Oscar Wilde said, “everything in moderation including moderation”, so the occasional frozen dinner won’t hurt you. There is no substitute however, for a fresh, home cooked meal seasoned properly with healthy herbs, enhanced with a small amount sea salt, and prepared with love.

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Information compiled from: http://channels.isp.netscape.com/,
http://www.webmd.com/
 

Easy Green Tips for Kids!

It’s never too early for kids to make environmentally responsible practices a part of their daily life. For the future of the earth, kids must get involved. That’s how change happens. Below are simple, money-saving, kid-friendly ideas that make a difference.

 

  • Start recycling and encourage your friends to recycle too.
  • Start composting kitchen waste and encourage your friends to do so too.
  • Buy green school supplies – pencils, notebooks with recycled paper and reuse last year’s unfinished notebooks.
  • Walk, carpool or take a bus to school to cut down on carbon emissions.
  • Save water by turning it off when brushing your teeth.
  • Turn off the lights when you leave the room.
  • Turn off video games and computers when not in use. Better yet,cut down on video game time, which uses more energy than computers or tv. Play outside instead.
  • Use rechargeable batteries in your toys and buy well-made toys that last.
  • Plant a little garden – lettuce and radishes are quick, easy crops to grow.
  • Reduce use of throwaway cups, plates, utensils and use washable dishes and cloth napkins instead.
  • Use reusable, BPA-free water bottles instead of plastic ones.
  • Use a recyclable lunch bag and put your snacks in reusable containers rather than buying small, throwaway ones.
  • Celebrate Earth Day on April 22!

Click on the link below to watch a brief video created for children on the importance of recycling and the positive effects of doing so.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v0V-3E64ht0

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Turn Your Kitchen Waste into Gold!

One more Vitamix advantage that I neglected to mention in last week’s blog - When making a smoothie or juice drink in your Vitamix, the whole fruit is juiced, which includes the juice and the fiber. The fiber contains valuable nutrition that is missing in extracted juice, making your Vitamix drinks even more nutritious!


Several of my readers have asked me about composting.

Composting means recycling food waste or organic material to the soil, which is then broken down by natural bacteria and turned into compost or a dark, soil-like humus and an incredibly rich (and free) organic fertilizer! Compost adds nutrients to the soil and improves soil structure, eliminating the need for high nitrogen-based chemical fertilizers, and produces thriving, pest resistant plants. Compost is unbelievable fertilizer for your gardens and lawn.

Composting is just as important as recycling cans, bottles, papers, plastics or anything else. According to the EPA, “ In 2011 alone, more than 36 million tons of food waste was generated, with only four percent diverted from landfills and incinerators for composting.” When food is thrown away and goes into the landfill, it rots and emits methane - a potent greenhouse gas with 21 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.

You can compost all organic matter – kitchen waste including fruits, vegetables, coffee grounds, eggshells, and tea bags, (but avoid meat and dairy which turn rancid and attract scavengers and citrus which is toxic to the worms); grass clippings; and yard waste including leaves. Do not add weeds or chemically treated grass clippings.

I keep a compost bucket with a charcoal filter (to prevent odors from escaping) in my kitchen sink, which I then add to the compost pile in the backyard. You can buy compost bins online or from garden centers that cost approximately $30 – $100, but you can easily build your own. It takes about a year before the organic materials are broken down into compost and ready to add to your garden soil. Regularly turning the pile and occasionally adding a compost inoculant to help break down organic material speeds up the process, but isn’t necessary.


For Apartment Dwellers


Some cities like San Francisco and London offer kitchen waste pick up service, but most cities don't. Don't despair, you can still compost. There are two fun options.

One is vermicomposting, or composting with worms. Vermicomposting involves buying a shallow worm container and lid (punch holes in the top and sides for drainage and ventilation), making a bed for the worms using torn newspaper mixed with leaves and potting soil, then adding kitchen waste (it works better if it is small pieces) and about 2000 red wriggler worms, sold at garden centers or ordered online through commercial growers. Leave the lid off so the worms will burrow underground; they are sensitive to light. In two to three months, your worms will produce dark, rich, nutritious worm castings or organic fertilizer, which your plants will love. 

A second option is bokashi bin composting. Bokashi means fermented organic matter in Japanese. This method uses a mixture of “effective microorganisms” in a medium like wheat bran. You simply add your food waste to the bin and then sprinkle the microorganism mixture on top. The microorganisms help to break down the scraps and when managed properly, there won’t be any smell. This system works fast – it makes compost in two weeks!

With both indoor systems, be careful not to compost too much food waste at once.

I never stop marveling at the beautiful rich soil transformed from my kitchen waste. It’s another one of nature’s miracles.  Get ready for spring and start composting now!

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Information compiled from www.bokashicomposting.com, www.howstuffworks.com, epa.gov and www.ecolocalizer.com

 

 

 

 

 

Vitamix Bliss!

 

My nephew and his adorable new bride inspired me to write a blog post with some simple recipes for the new Vitamix they received as a wedding gift.

If you don’t have a Vitamix, I highly recommend getting one. Though similar to a blender, it’s far more powerful with endless possibilities towards delicious healthy eating! You can make beverages, soups, dips and spreads, sauces, breads, desserts, baby food, dressings and marinades. The Vitamix is built to stand up to demanding commercial use and decades of use at home. With its ability to chop, blend, cream, purée and more, it’s the only appliance you need! Another advantage? It’s self-cleaning.

I use my Vitamix at least once a day for my morning smoothie and usually more. I’m not including a smoothie recipe here since everyone has his or her own personal preferences and there are so many online. I will say however, I find that smoothie supplements like chia seeds are easily ground up with a Vitamix.

Almond Milk

I love using homemade, completely additive-free almond milk as the liquid base for my smoothie, and with the Vitamix, it’s a breeze to make. Nut and seed milks are high in protein, contain the “right” fats and provide calcium. 

I cup almonds, soaked 12 hours or overnight
4 cups purified or filtered water

Rinse and drain soaked almonds. Place almonds and water in Vitamix and process on high until completely broken down. Place nut milk bag (or cheese cloth) into large pitcher or bowl, positioning so that the bag stays open. Pour nut milk mixture into bag, allowing liquid to drain through to container. Gently squeeze with hand to press all liquid through the mesh bag.

Compost the pulp or freeze for later use in inventive recipes. Have fun trying milk made from other nuts and seeds, or try blending different kinds. Each has its own unique flavor.


Peanut Butter

My husband smears peanut butter on everything – toast, crackers, apple slices, and celery. Freshly made, and without additives, it’s not only nutritious, but has a special taste.

Ingredients:

3 cups unsalted roasted peanuts

1. Place ingredients into the Vitamix container and secure lid.
2. Select Variable 1.
3. Turn machine on and quickly increase speed to Variable 10, then to High, using the tamper to press the ingredients into the blades.
4. In 1 minute you will hear a high-pitched chugging sound. Once the butter begins to flow freely through the blades, the motor sound will change and become low and laboring. Stop the machine.
5. Store in an airtight container.

Attention: Over processing will cause serious overheating to your machine. Try making other nut butters too!

Avocado Tortilla Soup

This soup can be made from start to finish in your Vitamix - you can’t get any easier or quicker than that!

Ingredients:

2 cups chicken broth
5 Roma tomatoes, quartered
1/3 bunch cilantro
1 garlic clove
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ avocado, peeled and pitted
½ lime, peeled
½ cup canned black beans, drained
½ cup canned corn, drained (You can use frozen too but thaw first.)
2 ounces tortilla chips, crushed

1. Place all ingredients except corn, beans, and tortilla chips into Vitamix container in the order listed and secure lid.
2. Select Variable 1.
3. Turn machine on and quickly increase speed to Variable 10, then to High.
4. Blend for 6 – 7 minutes or until heavy steam escapes from vented lid.
5. Reduce speed to Variable 2 and remove the lid plug.
6. Drop in corn, beans, and tortilla chips through the lid plug opening. Blend for additional 10 seconds.
7. Garnish with a tortilla chips, sour cream, and a sprig of cilantro.

Vitamix's powerful motor actually cooks the soup!

 

Strawberry Yogurt Freeze

Ingredients:

1-cup non-fat, plain, vanilla or strawberry yogurt
1 pound frozen organic, unsweetened strawberries
1/3-cup sugar (Coconut or pure cane sugar) (Omit sugar if using flavored yogurt.)

1. Place all ingredients into the Vitamix container in the order listed and secure lid.
2. Select Variable 1.
3. Turn machine on and quickly increase speed to Variable 10, then to High.
4. Use tamper to press ingredients into the blades.
5. In about 30 – 60 seconds, the sound of the motor will change and four mounds should form in the mixture.
6. Stop machine. Do not over mix or melting will occur. Serve immediately.

Try experimenting with other frozen fruits and yogurt flavors!

The Vitamix is amazing and will change your eating habits. I suggest attending a demonstration to understand how it works and its possibilities. Most places that sell them offer demos frequently. Visit Vitamix.com for more wonderful recipes.

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Reboot Your New Year’s Resolutions!

Lately, I’ve been hearing about rebooting our abandoned New Year’s resolutions. It’s only February after all, and way too soon to let those good intentions fall by the way side. Hopefully your resolutions included adopting new green living habits, but if not, it’s never too late to add them.

What is the most important green thing you can do? Think.

➢ Think about unnecessary packaging when you buy something. Packaging represents about 65% of household trash.
➢ Think about where that product came from and under what conditions it was produced.
➢ Think about refusing those ubiquitous, non-biodegradable, petroleum-based plastic bags at the grocery store and bringing your own reusable ones instead. (In some areas of the country and in some countries they have been banned.)
➢ Think about bringing your own bags on all errands.
➢ Before you throw something away, think about whether it can be reused or given away.
➢ If not, think about our jam-packed landfills and the importance of recycling. According to Recycling Revolution, “The U.S. is the #1 trash-producing country in the world at 1609 pounds per person. This means that 5% of the world’s people generate 40% of the world’s waste.” There is good news however. Efforts to reduce, reuse and recycle are paying off and landfill demand is diminishing.
➢ Think about the seriousness of the record-breaking drought in parts of the country and what you can do to conserve water - turn off the water when you brush your teeth, shorten your showers and run your dishwasher only when full.
➢ Think about consolidating your errands, walking or taking public transportation in an effort to conserve energy.
➢ Think about turning off lights when you leave a room to conserve electricity.

In our busy, fast-paced lives we often don’t take the time to think through our daily habits. They become rote. It takes about three weeks to develop a new habit. Make these simple green tips your new routine. Then, take the time to think and learn about why the time is now to start living a greener life.

For more green tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Some information compiled from http://www.usi.edu/recycle/solid-waste-landfill-facts; http://postcom.org/eco/facts.about.landfills.htm.

Safely Protect Your Baby’s Soft, Sweet Skin

 

All new parents want the best for their baby, including the skin care products they use on their baby’s soft tender skin. Skin is our largest organ and it’s important to choose the safest and most non-irritating products.

Small, developing bodies are more susceptible to the dangers of toxins than adult bodies; their young organs are less capable of processing chemical additives, which can potentially cause damage or disease in the future. Because they are so small, they are more exposed to chemical contaminants in the air, water, food and personal care products than adults. Below are a few tips on how to choose the right products.

• Read the labels and avoid those hard-to-pronounce ingredients like Bronopol, DMDM hyhantoin and fragrances found in baby wipes, or BHA, boric acid and fragrances found in diaper creams. There are several safer and non-toxic or organic baby care products available, as well as lots of easy recipes online for making your own, like baby wipes for example.

• Save your baby the exposure to so many different ingredients (and yourself some money) by using fewer products. The fewer the better. Do you really need baby lotion, baby oil, baby powder (see the next tip on powder), baby bubble bath, baby shampoo, baby soap, baby wipes and diaper cream? It’s just marketing and cute packaging that makes us think we have to have a different product for each application.

• According to the consumer watchdog organization, Environmental Working Group, when it comes to baby powder, “skip it! Just like auto exhaust or secondhand smoke, tiny airborne particles can damage baby’s delicate, developing lungs. ”

Those same tips are true for skin care products for all ages! To check the toxicity level of the products you use for you and your baby, click here.

Feel good about giving your baby the best possible start to life!

Information compiled from ewg.org.

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

 

 


 

Clean, Fresh Babies

 

I can’t think of a more special time in life than the anticipation of your first baby – pouring through baby development books, choosing a name, decorating the nursery, researching the best stroller and car seat, buying those adorable baby clothes, and thinking about the right laundry detergents that won’t irritate your baby’s soft newborn skin. Many new parents wonder if it is really necessary to buy a special detergent just for the baby?

The answer lies in what kind of detergent you use. If you use a detergent with dyes, perfumes, phosphates and optical brighteners, then yes. But if you use a ”clean” laundry soap, or one without toxic additives, you don’t have to spend the extra money and run a separate load for baby clothes.

Most conventional brands now make a non-toxic product. You can check out the safety of your favorite brands or find the safest ones by going to the Environmental Working Group website, a well-respected consumer watchdog organization. They analyzed over 2000 products and rated them according to concern for general ecotoxicity, biodegradation, and general systemic/organ effects.

Here are a few non-toxic laundry soaps I recommend.

Seventh Generation products are fantastic– they contain plant-derived cleaning agents, soil disperants and non-animal derived enzymes; they are naturally biodegradable, phosphate-free and hypoallergenic. Seventh Generation products consistently score the safest rating and they are a genuinely eco-responsible company.

I like supporting local companies and cottage industries. The Optimist Co, based right here in East Barnstable and run by a mother of two small children, makes wonderful laundry soap with 100% soap oil flake and no chemical detergent. You can’t get much purer than the laundry soap she makes right in her own kitchen! Shaklee, another eco-responsible company, offers a highly effective, chemical-free laundry soap as well, and for a soap that does it all, you can’t get much better than Dr. Bonner’s Pure Castille soap.

One other thing, forget fabric softener which is highly toxic full of harmful chemicals. It also breaks down the fire retardancy in infant clothing. Instead use dryer balls or add ¼ cup white vinegar to the rinse cycle.

Enjoy this wonderful time of life. It goes by way too quickly!

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com


Information compiled from : http://babyclothes.about.com/, http://www.mnn.com/lifestyle/responsible-living/stories/7-least-toxic-laundry-detergents

 

Recycling Batteries and Winter Bird Feeding

 

Continuing my series on subjects of interest to men, but obviously pertinent to all, below are two questions from a male reader.

Question: What can I do with old batteries? Is it necessary to recycle them? Alan C., Loon, NH

Answer: In 1997 Congress mandated a mercury phase-out plan for all types of batteries. Some people think since they no longer pose as great a threat to the environment as before, they can simply be thrown away with your trash. Some communities even recommend throwing them away.

Regardless of whether there is less mercury, it is important to recycle all single-use batteries - AA’s, AAA’s, C, D and 9-volt. The batteries still contain trace elements of mercury as well as other possibly toxic materials; they don’t biodegrade and they take up space in the landfill. Any batteries from earlier than 1997 contain 10 times the amount of mercury in newer batteries and should be taken to hazardous waste collection in your town.

How do you recycle them? Some towns accept single-use batteries as household hazardous waste and many battery companies like Batteries Plus will take spent, disposable batteries for recycling free of charge. Earth911.org is a great website for finding out how to recycle just about everything including batteries. Go to “Recycling Guides/Electronics/Single Use Batteries/Recycling Locator” and enter your zip code to find locators near you.

Rechargeable batteries from cell phones, MP3 players and laptops, contain potentially toxic heavy metals and should never be thrown away with your trash. Again, most communities have an outlet for recycling or disposal, but if not, go to
www.call2recycle.org/program-info/
. Hope this helps!


Question: I like to feed the birds. Any suggestions for bird food other than seed? How do you make seut? Alan C., Loon, NH

Answer: Bird feeding and bird watching are great entertainment, especially in winter! Peanut butter, cornmeal, meal worms and fruits and fruit seeds can be food for birds. Most kinds of beef fat, also called suet, can be safely fed to birds and is attractive especially to woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees, jays and starlings. Animal fat, a high-energy food, is easily digested and metabolized by many birds. Raw suet becomes rancid when temperatures are above freezing, so it should only be fed to birds in winter in a cold climate.

Below is an easy recipe from the Old Farmer’s Almanac for making your own suet.

Suet Cake

• 2 parts melted fat (bacon fat, suet, or lard)
• 2 parts yellow cornmeal
• 1 part peanut butter

Mix all ingredients together and cook for a few minutes. Pour into small containers (tuna fish cans are perfect), and refrigerate or freeze until needed. Mixture can also be stuffed into 1-inch holes drilled in small logs to hang from trees. The recipe can be made all year long as long as you accumulate fat. Fasten containers securely to trees or feeders. Enjoy!


Information compiled from: http://environment.about.com/od/recycling/a/batteryrecycle.htm
http://www.almanac.com/content/bird-food-recipe-suet
http://www.allaboutbirds.org/page.aspx?pid=1180

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.
 

Men, Ask Me Your Green Lifestyle Questions!

In an effort to reach a broader audience, I’m starting a series of posts pertinent to different groups - men, children, teens, new parents and grandparents. Most posts apply to everyone obviously, but it’s usually women who take the lead in making greener and healthier changes in the home and for the family. As Bella Abzug says, “Women will not simply be mainstreamed into the polluted stream. Women are changing the stream, making it clean and green and safe for all…” Or to quote Margaret Thatcher, “If you want something said, ask a man; if you want something done, ask a woman.”

The reality is it takes everyone’s commitment towards a more eco-friendly lifestyle to make positive changes for the environment.

So, I am starting my series with men. Below are questions asked from a male reader.

Question: “It's slippery outside on my front walk. What can I safely use besides salt to melt the ice? Any other choice besides ice melting pellets?”

Answer: Thanks for asking such an important question, especially with the polar vortex gripping most of the country! Slippery walks are dangerous.

Rock salt is the most common and the cheapest ice melt, but it is damaging to vegetation, polluting and corrosive. Calcium chloride, urea and blends also contain a lot of salt and pollute the soil. Generally products labeled “Pet-Safe” are safer for the environment, but make sure to read the label for salt additives. Avoid sodium chloride, the worst of all salts.

From my research, there are really no toxin-free ice melts. The least toxic products are the natural ones like sand, sawdust, wood shavings, kitty litter, or even fireplace ash that provide traction for walking on ice. They don’t actually melt the ice however. Their downside? They are messy - you definitely have to remove your shoes when you come indoors, which is a good idea anyway.

Question: “The leather on my tv chair is getting hard and cracked. What should I do about it?”

Answer: Good question. I know how important special chairs are. My husband loves his chair too! It’s best to keep leather chairs out of direct sun, which will bleach it and cause deterioration. Heat makes it dry and crack too. To maintain your leather chair, wipe it down regularly with a clean, dry cloth (avoid cleaning products not designed for leather specifically) and vacuum dust and debris from the crevices as you would an upholstered chair. Apply leather conditioner regularly to keep it soft and supple, but make sure you use a conditioner that won’t darken light leathers. For those cracks you mention, you can buff small scratches gently with a microfiber cloth until their appearance fades. And I’m sure you know, never let water stand on leather. Good luck.

Information compiled from: http://www.wikihow.com/Care-for-Leather-Furniture, Home Comforts, The Art and Science of Keeping House, by Cheryl Mendelson, http://grist.org/article/de-salt-of-the-earth/

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

The Green Garmento

‘Tis the season of non-stop holiday gatherings with family, friends and co-workers when we bring out the “party” clothes. Perhaps you spill some sticky holiday punch on your black velour pants or your husband’s tie dangles in the smoked bluefish pate and they need to be dry cleaned. I go to an environmentally friendly dry cleaner, one that uses a safer alternative to perchloroethylene or perc. (Eighty-five percent of dry cleaners use the solvent perc classified by the EPA as a toxic air contaminant and possible to probable human carcinogen.) I reuse some of the plastic bags the clothes are returned in when I travel and wrap nice pants or a dress in them. Or I return the bags to my cleaners for recycling. But, there are so many! I’ve always wondered about a better alternative to all that plastic! Well here it is…

It’s called the Green Garmento, an eco-friendly, recyclable, breathable laundry bag that can be a hamper, duffel to carry your clothes to the cleaner and a garment bag in which your dry cleaner can return your clothes instead of plastic! It holds 10 – 14 garments with a full-length side zipper for easy access. It is machine washable and has a clear window for an ID or a dry cleaning ticket. What’s more, it’s only $17 for two (or $9.99 for one) so that you can rotate them between home and the cleaners. The green garmento makes a perfect holiday gift and you can order it online at thegreengarmento.com.


There are an estimated 300 million pounds of single-use dry cleaning bags that unless recycled end up in landfills, leaching chemicals and threatening marine and wildlife, every year.  It’s time to make a change to safer and more eco-friendly dry cleaning , don’t you think?

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

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