Who Needs a Drink?

Depending on which way the cookie crumbled for you last night with the election, you could either use a drink in celebration or in sorrow. This article from Green America suggests that you make it organic!

Photo from Green Earth Cafe & Bakery

Organic Beer and Wine

If you consume alcoholic beverages, try organic beer or wine. They’re better for your health and the planet, and they taste good, too.

Historian Gregg Smith writes that fermented beverages have been nourishing body and enlivening spirit since the very dawn of civilization, dating at least as far back as when the ancient Mesopotamians began storing away “liquid bread” for later use. If you already consume alcoholic drinks, consider buying organic beer or wine for your social engagements and celebrations. There’s a growing number of refreshing offerings from the vine, the grain, and the orchard that contribute to restoring the environment, empowering workers, and protecting your health. Not only are organic beer and wine better for your body, but you may find they taste better than their non-organic counterparts, too.

Why Go Organic?

Choosing organic beverages means that the grapes, barley, hops, apples, and other ingredients used to make your fermented refreshment are spared the application of toxic insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, and fertilizers. These unhealthy chemical inputs pollute our water, air, and soil. Researchers at Cornell University estimate that at least 67 million birds die each year from pesticides sprayed on US fields. The number of fish killed is conservatively estimated at six to 14 million. And, many pesticides are toxic to humans, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. Not only does chemically intensive farming devastate ecosystems and harm human populations, it also contributes to the crisis in family-owned farms. The US lost an estimated 650,000 family farms in the last decade. Organic farming, on the other hand, is proving to be small-farmer friendly-most organic farms are less than 100 acres.

Chemical-free organic drinks often taste better, too. Just ask Andrew Myers, dining room manager at Washington, DC’s Restaurant Nora, America’s first certified organic restaurant. “I recommend organic wines and beers to our customers because of their excellent quality, not just because it’s the right thing to do,” says Myers.

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Green 101: Intro to Sustainability Week 6 – Agriculture & Water

This week’s focus on water and agriculture piqued my interest in the class once again. While I already had a basic understanding of how much excess farmland is used solely to grow crops for feeding livestock, I hadn’t actually given much thought to how that would affect food prices (spoiler alert: they go up!). Another lecture focused on how the Green Revolution resulted in increases in fertilizer, pesticide and herbicide use, irrigation and monoculture. Despite the detriments to the environment, all of the above increased yield (a good thing, considering how much the population has grown). Unfortunately, at this point we have become so dependent on Green Revolution techniques that we cannot go back to the “old ways” and continue to feed everyone at the current population rate (and with that numbers constantly rising….).

In fact farmers will have to us 45% more water in 2030, which we’re unlikely to have on hand (based on current availability and increased threat of drought due to climate change). There’s always the possibility of improvements in technology that will continue to increase our yield, despite using the same (or less than the current) amount of land and water – these technological advances are what have helped us in the past. Of course, these advances cost money, which will again cause food prices to go up. So, no matter what happens, food will continue to get more expensive (and may lean more and more towards the GMO-variety). All the more reason to grow your own!

An especially interesting concept in week 6 was the idea of embedded, or virtual, water.

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Eat Your Zipcode: Good Food on a Tight Budget

After  a whole lotta’ research, the Environmental Working Group created the free, downloadable guide – Good Food on a Tight Budget! A blurb from the Good Food website:

The Environmental Working Group’s guide to Good Food on a Tight Budget will help you fill your plate with delicious, healthy food—and save time and money.

This year, we’ve built upon what we’ve learned to create EWG’s Good Food on a Tight Budget. Our guide—the only one of its kind—lists the most nutritious, most economical and least polluted fruits, vegetables, proteins, grains and dairy items.

EWG reviewed government surveys and tests for nearly 1,200 foods. We looked at food prices, nutrients, pesticides, environmental pollutants and artificial ingredients and picked the top 100 or so foods that ranked best on balance.

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ITEM! People Buy Organic Because It’s Better for the Environment

I found myself incredulously watching a story on the local news the other night about how organic food is “no more nutritious” than other food (I’m wondering which Monsanto-esque company supported Stanford to conduct this research). Now millions of easily convinced consumers are going to ignore the importance of organic because they aren’t aware of the other benefits: How about the fact that organic food is grown without pesticides and has less of an impact on the environment (aka is more sustainable)? Now, I know that small news stations are always scrambling for hard-hitting stories, but it would have been great if the reporter took the time to interpret the findings for their viewers to understand (not just interview people on both sides)…instead of just adding to the half-informed media hype.

Luckily, journalists interested in all sides of the issue do exist – check out this great interview with Michael Pollan from the Bay-area KQED:

Michael Pollan Responds to Study Finding ‘No Significant Health Benefit’ to Organic Food

September 4, 2012, 2:41 pm • Posted by Jon Brooks

You may have heard the NPR story this morning about the meta-study from Stanford University, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, which  found “no significant health benefit” to organic food. As physician R Dena Bravata, the study’s co-author, told KQED Science’s Amy Standen today, when it comes to healthfulness, “there is, in general, not a robust evidence base for the difference between organic and conventional foods.”


A 2010 Nielsen study found 76 percent of respondents bought organic because they thought it was healthier. So this seemed to merit a call to the person who convinced me in the first place that it was okay to pay $4.00 for a head of cauliflower: local journalist, professor, and food advocate Michael Pollan, whose book The Omnivore’s Dilemma was a major influence in popularizing organic and locally produced food.

Edited transcript…

JON BROOKS: So is this meta-study a big deal?

MICHAEL POLLAN: I’m not sure it’s a big deal. The media’s playing it as if there were something new here, but this is not new research, it’s a meta-study [a review of previously conducted research], and I’ve seen the exact same data analyzed in a very different direction. A lot of it depends on how you manage your assumptions and statistical method.

I think we’re kind of erecting a straw man and then knocking it down, the straw man being that the whole point of organic food is that it’s more nutritious. The whole point of organic food is that it’s more environmentally sustainable. That’s the stronger and easier case to make.

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Eat Your Zipcode: Good Eggs

good eggs

Originally published at GOOD Magazine:

What would happen if some of the Bay Area’s top tech minds collaborated with some of its top foodies to produce an e-commerce site for local food? The result: Good Eggs, a new online platform that’s been dubbed an “Etsy for local food” and provides the tech infrastructure necessary to help farmers and artisans spend less time filling out spreadsheets and dealing with distributors and more time making their product, building a customer base, and closing deals. The goal is to help small-scale food production scale up by creating a new tech-oriented business model.

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Green 101: Upcoming Permaculture/Sustainability Classes pt 5

I’ve definitely gotten behind on sharing these classes, but decided to take some time to finally sift through all my Permie mailing lists to share the opportunities that haven’t already happened (and if its too late for some, at least you know for next year)! And to see what I’ve already posted for this year, click here.

And besides the classes/events listed below, check out Ithaca Freeskool, the Sustainable Living Project, Yestermorrow Design Build School and the Hog Island Audoban Camp (in Maine!) for continuous opportunities to learn this summer.

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Eat Your Zipcode: Clayton Food Co-op

From the Watertown Daily Times:

Clayton residents to open a food coop in May


CLAYTON — Residents are opening a food co-op in the Winged Bull Studio on James Street in May to provide community members with local produce seven days a week, all year round.

Lori Wilson Arnot, executive director of the Clayton Food Co-op, said she and the founding members of the co-op saw the need for an all-natural food store and got together over the winter to get the ball rolling.

“It’s come together pretty easily, actually. We have a few investors, and we’ll be applying for a Fresh Connect grant from the state Department of Agriculture,” she said.

The co-op plans to offer everything from fresh produce, baked goods, meat, dairy and honey to soaps and personal care items — most of which will be provided by local farmers and vendors.

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