pollan-cover2This is overdue but none the less I wanted to share a few thoughts from the lecture I attended with a good friend, (and graduate of the Tufts Nutrition Masters program) last Tuesday. I finished Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilema several months ago now, but many of the stories and messages from within the book have stayed with me, making a notable impact on the way my family and I eat and the way I think about food. The book’s a non-fiction page-turner, reminicent in some ways of Fast Food Nation, yet more eloquently written, more fascinating and uplifting as it focused more on positive aspects of eating. 

Michael was invited by Tufts to speak on his latest book, In Defense of Food. I can’t say I’ve read it yet, but I can’t wait to. It’s next in the queue of nutrition and foodie books, right after Bitman’s new one which I’m just about finished with (by the way, Bitman’s latest is quite reminicent of Pollan’s Omnivore’s). 
Pollan spoke clearly and easily, focusing on content from his latest book, leaning more towards following what we know to be true than on recent scientific knowledge about nutrients and food of which there is little of (this seemed to perturb some of the Nutrition school’s heavyweights who were sitting beside him on stage). He acknowleged that there is so much we don’t know about food today, but we can and should abide by what we know to be true. We know plants are good for us, and that today’s mainstream western diet is not; and he implied to rely less on meats and processed foods and more on natural plant based substances. He actually focused much of the talk on processed-non-food items, which to most of the audience was probably a no-brainer, however he hit it home by talking about how the food industry is incented to continually innovate (i.e. ‘process’) new substances, and how this has been to our demise. How bizarre it is that a 3 year old Twinkee never decays, and thinking about bringing our grandmothers or great grandmothers to the grocery store and how little of the food they’d actually recognize. He touched on some other topics which I really appreciated, such as considering the 7-year rotation farming style practiced by the Argentinians, finding foods with less than 5 ingredients, and looking in stores for foods that don’t promote themselves (ie produce isn’t packaged labeled with ‘low fat’ or ‘loaded with Omega 3!). He emphasized the importance of cooking and how lately it’s become a lost art. Given my passion for this, it really resonated. I couldn’t help but think about what ways we can try to bring cooking back into our family kitchens despite being busier than ever…
In the end he came over to the overflow room where we were seated and answered questions for our smaller audience which I really appreciated. I wasn’t called on, but what I really wanted to know, was where does locavore Michael Pollan, with just one night in Boston, choose to have dinner? I guess I’ll have to try to find out another time, maybe next month when he comes to West Roxbury for a book signing.

I can’t help but smile knowingly when in this day in age where we find ourselves in not only economic but also environmental dismay that we are reverting to the ways of old. We’ve progressed so rapidly over the past several decades, and yet now in a time economic and environmental crisis’s, we must stop to reflect and wonder how all that progress affected some of today’s troubles. Even as I listen to our new president discuss the multitude of economic challenges and all that needs to be done to reverse trends, I find myself relishing the fact that the American people are seemingly starting to act more cautiously, by starting to save once again, instead of spending on everything and anything that looks desirable in the instant. It’s unfathomable to me that for many years leading up to the current crisis, we were either close to or actually had a negative savings rate as a nation.  Maybe that’s because from an early age, the notion of saving was instilled in me. It was on my young 11th birthday that I started my first job, delivering the daily morning paper. Every Saturday dad would drive me to pick up my paycheck and then we’d head straight to the bank to deposit most or all of it – I remember the thrill of watching as the numbers increased in my little blue passport savings book. I can only conclude that we do not value saving in this American culture. That is, maybe not until now. The way we treat our environment is not all that different. Only recently has the environmental movement taken firmer hold and gone mainstream. In such, I have to wonder how can anyone with any knowledge of the waste we produce throw away another plastic bottle in their trash, when there is an opportunity to recycle it almost as easily. One small example: the average school child produces 67 pounds of waste from school lunches alone. A number of thoughtful steps can be taken to cut this waste down to at least half. Beyond this, there are a number of measures to be taken to promote environmental health which also promote individual health, such as choosing ‘clean’ non-chemical cleaning products for the home, eating less meat, and being more cognizant of our everyday household choices about using water, consolidating errand running, and using reusable canvas bags when we shop. 

Tonight I had the distinct pleasure of hearing Michael Pollan speak at Tufts. One theme that emerged was how by eating real whole foods, the way nature intended, we can emerge healthier human beings. That equates to less processed food-like substances like those Go-Gurt squeezable yogurts, and more things grown in the ground and on trees. It parallels my message about the environment and our economy. It’s quite simple, actually. Let’s go back to basics. Back to learning to save for when more challenging economic times emerge. Let’s go easier on our environment, so our earth is here for us for generations to come. Instead of relying so much on plastics and gas guzzlers, how about more goods made from natural organic materials such as wood and taking out our bicycles when we’re just running out to the corner for a gallon of milk.  Let’s learn to live simply and conserve as many of our ancestors did, and appreciate that which we have instead of longing for that which has yet to be realized. Progress has brought us so far, so fast, but not without consequence. Perhaps in this time of despair we can take some time to reflect on how we got here and all make small changes, either because we are forced or are just more thoughtful, and make this a better world to live in.

For many people, what comes to mind when asked if they recycle, is filling the green or blue plastic curbside containers with used plastic and papers. While it’s great so many municipalities have curbside recycling programs, it’s time we all start thinking outside the box in terms of what we can do to recycle other materials in our household. 

We moved to a new house within the last year. When we left our last place, I couldn’t bear to leave most of our curtains and window treatments behind. They weren’t especially lavish or expensive, but they were carefully chosen to match the decor and many hemmed by my mother to fit ‘just right’. I knew most would not fit our new home’s new windows as well, but I hoped the material could be reused somehow – after all  have a crafty mom who loves to sew, and I imagined new placemats, tablecloths, or new window treatments being derived from the old curtains. And now I’m sitting in my remodeled kitchen, admiring the red toile roman shades that mom stitched up from, yup, our old shower curtain (it didn’t match the new house either). We’ve accumulated quite a bit of ‘stuff’ over the last 5-8 years and hard a hard time letting go of much of the unneeded furniture, despite having moved 3 times. When we needed a few extra stools for the new kitchen peninsula, instead of buying more stools from the store, we turned two old (temporary – Ikea) bedside tables into stools that we could just pull in from the dining room when additional seating was needed. Come to think of it, those were stools that we had turned into night tables in the first place.
Some other ideas for recycling outside the box: 
1) Check the basement/attic – do you have something that can transition into what you need?
2) Craigslist.org – Always check the ‘free’ category first, then look for the other items you may be looking for, if you need a new piece of furniture
3) Kids craft projects – looking for something different to entertain the kids for a while? Try a collage with old magazine clippings, papers, and some crayons or markers. 
4) Glass jars that once contained jam or condiments can be great for leftovers, salad dressings, or even holding small toys such as small lego pieces (for older kids). Or save them up for the holidays and fill them with homemade candy and a pretty ribbon
5) Wrapping paper – my husband’s family taught me this, as they carefully unwrap gifts and set aside any paper that stays in tact for next year’s presents. This works especially well with nice presents, which now I don’t mind splurging for because I know I’ll get so much use out of it over and over
6) Freecycle – have something in your house that’s outdated that you’re replacing or upgrading? Don’t just trash the original, see if someone else can use it. Post a ‘curbside alert’ on Craigslist’s Free category, or try freecycle online and see if there’s an online community it your neighborhood.
Like anything, recycling is a mentality that once you start doing, becomes second nature. It’s a mindset, really, and I think, addictive!


Welcome! In 2009, I resolved to start a blog and to be more GREEN in my ways. Thus I find myself writing a blog about becoming more green, documenting musings, ideas, and real changes I’m making for me, my family, my community and mother Earth.

Disclaimer: I’m still a suburban working mom with a fairly laid back preppy style. I don’t strive to live perfectly green because I don’t think it’s possible (unless I were to make some major life changes like give up my job or house etc). But I do strongly believe we can all do our part to make the world a better place for our children, and that we can save money in the process. To me it’s easy – a WIN-WIN. This world has its challenges a plenty, and I’d hate to think I didn’t do my part to make life healthier, safer, and less taxing for my children. I’m not saying I don’t want them to work hard, but I do mean I don’t think they need to pay for our abuse of using too many non-recyclible materials, watch their health suffer because our generation didn’t bother to try to reduce emissions or reduce the widespread use of antibiotics and genetically modified corn-based diets in the meat we eat.
As a working mom, I strive for efficiency at home, because my time at home, and especially with my children is sacred and limited. I want to make the most of it. I will pay a little more for convenience sometimes, but not at the expense of our health or the environment. So for example, although it makes packing lunches easier, I’m trying not to purchase individual yogurt cups for my kids. It saves packaging and money if I fill my own plastic containers for the girls with plain yogurt and fresh or frozen fruit. (I’m not thrilled about using so much plastic, but that is another story for another time).
So what have I done lately that is green? I am the proud new owner of my own seltzer making machine from the Soda Club! My husband and I both have a weakness for seltzer. We don’t drink soda at home, but we love bubbly water. I was getting so tired of lugging 1 and 2 liter bottles into the house and starting to feel pretty guilty about all the wasted plastic, too. I remember thinking and saying to my husband that we need a solution to make our own seltzer at home, and then wah-lah, soon after I found a link on Tree Hugger to the Soda Club! The Soda Club sells a variety of carbonated beverage making appliances which are compact and affordable. We purchased a kit that included 2 rental and reusable CO tanks, bottles for storing the seltzer, and even a bunch of free samples for soda and seltzer flavors. Just as claimed, it’s easy to use and even kinda fun to make your own seltzer at home! I’m sure it will not be long before we’re seeing our return on this investment given all of the seltzer we were buying. And, I’m feeling pretty green! Yah!