Love Your Mother, Earth

04 . 17 . 11

Happy Earth Day, everyone (April 22)! Shaun and I will be spending the afternoon volunteering at the Balboa Park Earth Fair with Plant With Purpose, a non-governmental organization that uses environmental restoration to create sustainable economic development in the third world. Environmental degradation effects everyone, especially the poor. Plant With Purpose believes that restoring the relationship between people and the environment in areas plagued by deforestation and extractive international economic models is key to resolving many of the world’s social, economic, and environmental problems.

While Plant With Purpose’s work is exclusively international, I think their mission applies just as importantly here at home. If we can restore the relationship between the protection of the planet and human well-being then maybe reversing issues like global warming will become more of a priority.

Some of my colleagues in the environmental politics realm tend to look down upon the “little things add up to make a difference” hypothesis. While I agree that the gravity of the world’s fundamental environmental conditions cannot be alleviated by recycling or turning off the water when you brush your teeth, I do believe that these small behavioral changes can lead to greater and more impactful changes into the future. A person who has never run a day in their life isn’t about sign up for a Marathon on a whim, right? I can feel their scathing looks now. Time is running out! I know! But if it’s all or nothing, I’d rather have some than nothing at all.

Because I don’t expect you to sell your car, live without electricity, and forgo showering in the next week… here is a compiled list of things you can realistically start with today and carry on into the future to show your mother Earth you care every time you cook, eat, and clean up the mess you made after. 

1. Replace all plastics (cups, tupperware, baggies) with glass or wood. “Two classes of chemicals from plastic are of serious concern for human health: bisphenol-A or BPA, and additives used in the synthesis of plastics, which are known as phthalates. BPA is a basic building block of polycarbonate plastics, such as those used for bottled water, food packaging and other items. BPA is a synthetic estrogen and commonly used to strengthen plastic and line food cans.” Scientists have linked it, though not conclusively, to everything from breast cancer to obesity, from attention deficit disorder to genital abnormalities in boys and girls alike. I love mason jars for their versatility and ease of cleaning.

2. Ditch your non-stick cookware. According to tests commissioned by Environmental Working Group, in the two to five minutes that cookware coated with Teflon is heating on a conventional stovetop, temperatures can exceed to the point that the coating breaks apart and emits toxic particles and gases. At various temperatures these coatings can release at least six toxic gases, including two carcinogens.

3. Replace toxic chemical cleaners with natural alternatives. Ingesting ammonia, bleach, chlorine… no thank you. Check out Real Simple’s 66 All-Natural Cleaning Solutions article for more on how to use lemon, baking soda, vinegar, even vodka(!)  to clean and disinfect.

4. BYOB: Bring Your Own Bag. Preaching to the choir on this one I’m sure. But wait! I know those Whole Foods bags designed by Sheryl Crow are pretty, but recent research shows that after multiple uses, resuable bags have become breeding grounds for bacteria and food-borne illness. Use canvas and throw them in a hot wash with your dish towels every week. 

5. Look for the “9.” Check the numbered stickers on fruits and veggies. If they start with #9, your produce is organic, meaning it’s grown pesticide-free. Producing and distributing takes 5.5 gallons of fossil fuels per acre.

6. Better yet, BUY LOCAL! Supporting local farmers is one of the best things you can do for the community, and your health. Knowing where your food comes from and who it’s cultivated by connects you to the earth and the way you approach food in a whole new way. Conventional food production and distribution requires a tremendous amount of energy— yet for all the energy we put into our food system, we don’t get very much out. A 2002 study from the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health estimated that, using our current system, three calories of energy were needed to create one calorie of edible food.  Studies that include transporting food estimates that it takes an average of seven to ten calories of input energy to produce one calorie of food. Yikes! Check out my “8 reasons to eat local” here.

7. Fill your freezer with newspaper or frozen water bottles, and wait until leftovers are completely cooled before saving in the fridge. This reduces stress on the freezer to maintain a cold climate and reduces energy costs. Allowing leftovers to cool before putting them in the fridge also reduces energy use.

8. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and get creative. Overall reduction to the consumption of disposable goods means less trash in landfills and oceans, and more money for meaningful activities with friends and family. If you’re addicted to almond butter, think of all the glass jars you’d have to store leftovers, flours, and grains. Check with your local health food store if they’ll let you bring them into the store and fill with items from the bulk aisle. Have fun with it!


Here’s my go-to take on the infamous green smoothie. Perfect for mornings on the run and after a good workout.  Green, green, green… just in time for Earth Day. I play around with a variety of protein/spectrum powders. I like MediClear Plus, Nutribiotic, and Amazing Grass. What are your favorites?

  • 2-3 cups packed spinach or kale
  • 1 cup of frozen strawberries
  • 1/4 cup banana
  • 3/4 cup of plain pumpkin puree
  • 1 serving of protein/vitamin supplement
  • Almond milk or filtered water until you reach your desired consistency

Blend. Pour. Enjoy.

Be kind to the earth, be kind to your body, love, forgive, and be happy.

  • Hello! Just found your beautiful blog, happy about that. I too believe that little changes can eventually collect to make one big change. I think that often skepticism = laziness, when it comes to issues like these. Green smoothies are my favourite for breakfast. I usually try to vary greens every day and add banana, mango or blueberries, sometimes with a little hemp protein.

  • Looks like an awesome smoothie—right up my alley with those ingredients, and the perfect color :)

    Thanks for the tips too–I’m all for doing every little thing I can to help out!

  • awesome post! and as always, love the pics :)

  • Love this! Definitely shall be passing it on :) Hope to see you this week! (!!!)

  • Sara

    Hi Kelsey — I applaud the idea of creating a safer home, and because there’s so much misinformation out there about the Teflon® brand, I’m not surprised that you are concerned. I’m a representative of DuPont though, and hope you’ll let me share some information with you and your readers so that everyone can make truly informed decisions.

    Regulatory agencies, consumer groups and health associations all have taken a close look at the Teflon® brand. This article highlights what they found — the bottom line is that you can use Teflon® non-stick without worry.

    http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/home-garden/kitchen/cookware-bakeware-cutlery/nonstick-pans-6-07/overview/0607_pans_ov_1.htm

    I’d truly be glad to share additional information about it if you are interested, and appreciate your consideration of this comment. Cheers, Sara.

  • Kelsey

    Sara,
    Thank you for taking the time to write. I’ve approved your comment so that other readers may have an opportunity to interact with you and the claim that the chemical Polytetrafluoroethylene (Teflon) is not dangerous for use in non-stick cookware. I have reviewed the consumer report, and take issue the claim that the small levels of PFOA exposure are acceptable for human health.

    Modern life is unfortunately incredibly toxic, so it is the accumulation of chemical exposures that put humans at risk for weakened immune environments to fight cell mutations that lead to diseases like Cancer. While it would certainly be impossible to eliminate all toxic threats, it is my personal belief that we should be actively seeking to reduce exposure in ways that are economically and socially feasible. BPA secretion in plastic water bottles was formerly addressed in the same manner as PFOAs today, but now extensive empirical evidence shows that repeated exposure increases associated health risk.

    Similarly, as the consumer report that you provide notes, abrasions to the Polytetrafluoroethylene will increase emissions of the chemical into our foods and, ultimately, our circulatory systems. With the inevitably of scratches and abrasions that come with frequent use, these are risks that can be easily remedied with alternative cookware.

    I compiled this list not (necessarily) an assault on the industries that contribute to environmental issues, but as a resource for readers to make decisions that are best for them and their families at this current point in time. With all due respect, DuPont Chemical has never had the interests of human health and safety at heart in the past. But I’d be happy to hear how you feel the corporate model has been making changes to better serve the environment and it’s customers.

  • Re: Teflon “safety” study linked by Sara from DuPont

    “Experts we consulted from government, industry, and environmental groups agree that the amounts of PFOA emitted by nonstick cookware probably don’t contribute much to your total PFOA exposure (the manufacture, use, and disposal of an array of products, including waterproof fabrics and electronic parts, can release PFOA into the environment). And research by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration suggests it’s very unlikely that significant amounts of PFOA migrate from pans into food.” [ emphasis mine ]

    That’s not exactly a resounding clang of support.

    I got a hand-me-down cast iron skillet a few years ago and can’t remember where my nonstick pans even ended up at this point.

  • This is really interesting, thanks for the great tips. I didn’t know that about the freezer, and I’ll start to wash my canvas grocery bags more often. :)

  • Jess

    We have cast iron cookware that we’ve had over 20 years (seriously, it lasts that long). I hated it. Partly because it was hard to clean, but mostly because it didn’t come in a pretty red color like some of the new non-stick cookware. Joke’s on me, because the Teflon started peeling off within a year of buying the set. Pretty red color or not, no way was I going to be having a side of Teflon with my eggs. Now I love the cast iron cookware, especially after reading this post :)

  • Thank you so much for this post. I TALK about being green, but the truth is that I don’t do anywhere near as much as I could. Thanks for inspiring me with some simple-to-do suggestions. I’m trying to work on lessening my use of plastic, but it’s really hard…I freeze a lot of meals, and I just haven’t found anything that keeps my food as fresh as freezer bags.

  • Austin

    While as a college student my housemates and I worship Teflon for its easy to clean properties, the evidence behind the toxic nature of PFOA’s has become irrefutable. It has been proven that PFOA breaks down into toxins when it is heated to more than 680 degrees, making it likely for harmful diseases such as cancer to spawn. DuPont argues that no one would cook at a level of 680 degrees, which is true; however, after multiple uses these PFOA’s begin to break down from consumer cleaning and extended use, causing the PFOA’s to become more likely to be absorbed by its user.

    On the note of environmentalism, in 2007 “DuPont began paying for medical testing and health monitoring for tens of thousands of people in West Virginia and Ohio. Residents in several communities discovered that the company allowed PFOA to leak into the water supply and exposed them to contamination.”
    -Monica Sanders http://www.legalzoom.com/legal-headlines/corporate-lawsuits/teflon-controversy-dupont-teflon

    While Teflon is in no way the root of all evil in consumer safety and reliability, it’s one of the many contributors to modern chemical health risks many consumers face today. It’s our duty to press congress and the EPA for more strict regulations on chemical technologies so that we may discover a chemicals true properties and adverse effects before it hits the open market. We cannot control all of the health risks in our lives, but rather try and minimize our use of these things for the sakes of our lives and our children, college student or not.

    USA!

  • Great tips and practical list to eco-fy the home. p.s. Your photography is absolutely gorgeous!

    Re: Teflon, it is also linked to causing/increasing Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. A disease that took my grandmother’s life. As a family, we’ve done research because non-stick products are very user-friendly kitchen accessories. We were told using silicon products to flip & stir would protect from breaking the teflon, thus preventing toxins from cooking into food. Our take on it – better to be safe than sorry & avoid it altogether.

    Kelsey is right – this day and age it’s tough to rid your household of everything toxic. Doing one good thing might be doing another bad thing. It’s all about practicality and awareness. This list is simply that. Thanks for sharing!

  • Great post. I am so glad you posted all of these. With the advancement of technology and resources we seem to loose track of the basic and simple process of cooking and sustainable living. Cooking should not have to rely on teflon, or plastic bags that are produced by the millions. If we all take a little extra effort to be efficient, we could live in a much better place. Thanks again.

  • what a great freezer tip! and you’ve convinced me to use pumpkin more often.

    feel free to post your health food photos to: http://www.healthfreakfood.com

  • Great post — and thanks for the reminder to wash my grocery bags! (Never knew about filling the freezer tip though, makes sense though!)

  • i’m LOVING the photos!! :D :D and yes, good post. five stars!

  • sheila

    what a great blog. I check in from time to time & my fav so far is this post and the recipe on the quinua and egg.

  • Helen

    Delicious and also healthy! Love the Earth, love your health, love yourself! :)

  • I love your photos! They are just so beautiful!
    I wanted to let you know that I included this recipe on my recipe swap post this morning. Congratulations and have a great day!
    http://www.thecleaneatingmama.com/2011/04/break-fast.html
    xxoo
    Tasha – The Clean Eating Mama

  • Hello Happyolks,

    We’ve selected you as our Foodista Drink Blog of the Day for this April 27, 2011! Your blog (regarding Love Your Mother, Earth) will be featured on the Foodista homepage for 24 hours. Besides posting your link on the homepage, we will also post a couple shout outs on our Twitter and Facebook pages.

    Since you are now a part of the Foodista Featured Drink Blogger of The Day Community, we’ve created a special badge for you to display proudly on your blog sidebar. I couldn’t find your email on your blog to send you the access code for the special badge, but I want to make sure you get it if you are interested. Please send me an email and I’ll send it right away.

    We are really enjoying your blog and look forward to seeing your recipes, tips and techniques on Foodista! If you would not like to be recognized on Foodista please let me know and I will remove your blog from our queue.

    Cheers,

    Christine @ Foodista

  • AMEN!!!! Think Globally, Buy Locally! All are amazing points here. Thank you for sharing with everyone!

  • Great post. You reminded me that one of my New Year’s resolutions was to use less plastic and paper products. I have been using less paper (napkins and paper towels), and using cloth instead.

    I got in the habit of bringing my own bags to the grocery store while I was in France, and for anyone who thinks that bringing your own is inconvenient—it’s not. I prefer carrying one or two big bags to ten little plastic ones.

    I definitely need to invest in higher quality pans. I use one large cast iron pan often, but my smaller pans are non-stick hand me downs, so they need to go.

    I’m frustrated because I’ve heard so many conflicting opinions about cookware and food storage containers. I hate using plastic bags and saran wrap, but they are often the most convenient option. I think I’ll buy some freezeable, air-tight glass containers so I can use less plastic.

    I read through a long blog post on the subject of plastic food storage (http://gnowfglins.com/2010/01/21/q-a-bpa-free-freezer-storage/), and it seems there is no perfect solution. Even mason jar lids contain BPA! Ug! Yet another modern-day dilemma with no definitive answer.

  • This is a great post! I have been hearing a few comments about the potential for bacteria to grow in my reusable grocery bags … yuck!

    For BPA free mason jar lids try Tattler.
    http://www.reusablecanninglids.com/

  • Great post, Kelsey! We’ve been trying to replace all of our unsafe kitchenware with healthier products. Also, I love your smoothie recipe! I’ve been experimenting with a lot of different green smoothie recipes lately and they’ve all tasted terrible haha. This is the only one I’ve tried that I actually enjoyed. Thanks for sharing!

  • I love healthy green smoothies, this one looks absolutely delicious. Is it absolutely neccesary to add the vitamin/protein supplement?. Or better said, why we should add this supplements?

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