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Month: June 2013 (page 1 of 2)

Fresh, Tasty and Home Grown

Home Grown fruits, vegetables, and herbs always sound more delicious, cheaper and environmentally friendly. Take it to a large scale atmosphere like in a public restaurant and that makes it a fantastic idea. A front page picture in the Tampa Tribune recently showed me exactly how possible and workable this really is, not just for show and tell. It is possible to make a closer gap between the farm and the table. The idea was developed by Dave Smiles of Uriah’s Urban farms, he prefers to be called Farmer Dave. He developed the idea of providing their own greens and herbs within restaurant vicinity. Whether inside or on the rooftop, it promises a reduction in the waste of overbuying, a cut in costs, and the ability to grow specialized ingredients thus using fresher herbs and vegetables.

Depending on the type and size of the restaurant business, there are options to growing your own produce. Rooftops especially in favorable climate locations make really convenient herb gardens. When money and space are not a concern, indoor rooms can be converted into garden rooms consisting of vertical panels to create produce and herb supply. Earth Boxes have become very popular in homes and restaurants. An Earth Box is a maintenance-free growing system which controls soil conditions, eliminates guesswork, and more than doubles the yield of a conventional garden using less water, less fertilizer and virtually no effort. This is ideal for urban garden settings, since its compact and easily movable and portable. All these ideas pretty much have the same result and the environment benefits due to less transportation of food products and less of the earth being harvested for our food consumption. The technology that Smiles has developed started out as more decorative but then became productive as well.

The concept used in local restaurants in the Tampa Bay Area was previously used mainly just for show, but now serves both purposes. The method consists of 8-foot-tall metal panels with a grid system in which seedlings are planted then irrigated. Dripping water in a regulated sprinkler from the top of the panels, the moisture finds its way through gravity to the bottom of the growing squares. Different from a horizontal farm, water stays in the artificial vertical ecosystem, moving down into other plants. Artificial lamps on a motorized track move back and for the in front of the panels to provide the light each plant needs in order to grow. A new grid of plants is rotated usually about twice a week, each panel provides approximately two pounds of produce. There is a cost in the maintenance but the advantage of freshness and keeping our environment safe.

At the Pelagia Trattoria restaurant inside the Renaissance Tampa International Hotel, a 30-foot square screened growing house was built on the hotel’s roof, it also contains a vertical growing system installed by Urban Oasis Farm in Tampa. It is a hydroponic garden oasis. The hotel also grows herbs in containers in the patio downstairs, a good example of earth boxes. The larger operation on the rooftop makes more economic sense. For example, the kitchen alone spends $30,000 a year on lettuce, by using an easy way that is less labor intensive, romaine lettuce can be grown and reach harvest within 26 days, it saves so much money. The main goal is to be kind to the environment by using local products. Tasty and Fresh make for good business practice and profitable for the business owners.

Super Green Solutions: Long Island Gets a Little Greener

by Mary Redler

I get really excited when I learn about new ways to save earth's resources, clean up the environment or improve our food supply, so I'm absolutely thrilled to learn of the opening of Super Green Solutions at 3443 Merrick Road in Wantagh (CVS Shopping Center). Take a tour of the store to find lots of ways to make your home more earth friendly. Some are expected, and some are completely unexpected, like the machine that dehumidifies the air in your home and produces filtered drinking water. If your house is too damp and you're paying for bottled or filtered water, this gadget lets you take care of both problems with one solution.

Of course, there are the big ways to save energy, like installing solar panels on your roof. There is an initial out of pocket expense, but store owner Brian Metz explains that between LIPA rebates, tax credits, and the savings on your energy costs, your system can pay for itself in as little as two years.

There are also lots of little ways that you can save money and the environment. The simplest is to switch to LED bulbs in your existing light fixtures. They produce more light and less heat for about half the energy. Remember when compact fluorescent bulbs (those corkscrew-looking things) hit the market and they were going to save the environment because they last so long, use less energy, etc.? Well, if those were wonder-bulbs, LED's are miracle bulbs. Compact fluorescent bulbs lose some of their life every time you turn them on or off, making their actual life much shorter than advertised. LED bulbs aren't impacted by switching on and off, so they can actually last 17 years! And compact fluorescents contain mercury, which makes disposal hazardous. No such thing with LED's.

Super Green Solutions has wind turbines that are sized appropriately for residential use, along with skylights and light fixtures that harness the power of the sun. They even have camping lanterns and cell phone chargers that run on solar power. If there is an "Inspector Gadget" type in your life, get them to Super Green Solutions, where futuristic and common sense meet. Learn more at or call Brian at 516-869-4955. They're having a ribbon-cutting ceremony and grand opening celebration this Thursday, June 27th, starting at 1 pm.

Soft as a Baby’s Bottom

The feel, smell and touch of baby (talcum powder) has always comforted me. It refreshes you skin and is oh so soft. I see how it lingers in the air and this brings concern for our health and the environment. Talc has been linked to several different kinds of cancer, including lung and ovarian cancer. Talc can contain asbestos in its natural form, all home use talc products used in the United States since the 1970’s have been asbestos free. Industrial asbestos exposure which is still frequented, can be linked to lung disease. This talc is not used for home or cosmetic purposes. Asbestos is a a useful material made of six different fibrous materials, all of which are minerals found in the earth. These minerals come from mines throughout the world, they are currently under major scrutiny for their negative impacts mostly related to our health due to its cancer causing properties. Talcum powder which is used for cosmetic purposes is no longer a real factor with asbestos, it’s the industrial version that still poses the risk.

Talcum powder is a substance made from talc, a mineral made up of the main elements magnesium, silicon, and oxygen. Used as a powder, it absorbs moisture well, and helps prevent friction, keeping skin dry and preventing rashes. It is used mostly as baby and adult powder and also in cosmetic products. Despite talc being a human hazard, its demand also has an environmental consequence. Talc is a mineral found in igneous and metamorphic rocks. It is also called soapstone and is a kind of mica. It is formed when rocks with magnesium in them are changed by erosion, also heat and water can cause weathering. Talc is mined using an open-pit surface mining. Mining companies choose this method to get rocks and minerals out of the ground because it is cheap and easy. This leaves disregard to how the process affects the environment and the health of our planet.

Talc is mined all over the world, the demand for its cosmetic uses is being met by illegal mining in animal sanctuaries. A particular destruction is centered around the Indian tiger’s habitat. There used to be more than 20,000 tigers in India, now there is barely 3000 of these great cats left, the truth is the Indian tiger is facing extinction. Some of the illegal mining operations that were being conducted by Britain’s leading cosmetic manufacturers have been sourcing talc in areas critical to the tiger’s survival. These operations were centered nearby Delhi in the Indian State of Rajasthan. The area is home to the Jamwa Ramgarh Wildlife Sanctuary and the neighboring Sariska Tiger Reserve. Using dynamite to blast the area for soapstone, wealthy mine owners are painting a dramatic disregard for nature and the surrounding area mostly the impoverished rural communities close by. Slurries of waste the size of tower blocks litter the landscape and large areas of forest have been depleted as trees are removed to make way for mining operations. Talc is a highly desirable and profitable ingredient, this allows for the world market to continue to grant licenses to mining operations despite the consequences.

Talc powder is really a great product, I myself love it. I researched and discovered that you can mix cornstarch and baking soda together and add a few drops of essential oils for fragrance to make up a nice powder alternative. As for baby’s bottom, you can try using cloth diapers, which allow the skin to breath thus causing less diaper rash. Cutting your and your family’s exposure to talc products will benefit your health and reduce the impact on the environment both equally.

Sweet — Ben & Jerry’s Commits to Shunning GMOs

Written by:  Lee Ann Rush

 About a decade ago, I had the pleasure of visiting the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream complex in South Burlington, Vermont.  A self-titled “ice cream-o-maniac,” since childhood, I loved the tour -- especially the hilarious Graveyard of Retired Flavors -- and probably enjoyed the experience even more than did my young son (now age 20).  Ben & Jerry’s, long a bastion of sustainability, social justice and environmentally-responsible business operation, was sold to Unilever in 2000, against the wishes of its founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield.  However, the company, now a wholly owned independent subsidiary of Unilever, still takes its social responsibility seriously and has a long history of supporting the labeling of products made with GMO ingredients dating back to 1993, when it fought for the labeling of products containing rBGH, the first genetically-engineered substance used in the American food system.

Given my abiding love for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, I was happy to learn that the company has made a commitment to switch to using only non-GMO ingredients in its products by the end of the year 2013.  Currently, roughly 80% of the ingredients Ben & Jerry’s uses in its North American production are non-GMO, and 26 of its approximately 80 flavors contain no GMO ingredients; all Ben & Jerry’s products manufactured in Europe (where labeling of GMOs is required in some countries) are already GMO-free.  According to company Global Director of Social Missions Rob Michalak, “We want to play a role in increasing demand for conventional non-GMO ingredients and non-GMO foods … to help create a robust non-GMO agriculture sector.  The whole consumer right to know issue increased our momentum … to become non-GMO by origin and let people know that.”

Also a staunch supporter of mandatory labeling of all GMO products, unlike many other corporate-owned brands, Ben & Jerry’s will introduce new packaging that contains its “GMO free” message in 2014.  The Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG) wishes that more companies would emulate Ben & Jerry’s:  “We’re used to seeing Ben & Jerry’s as a leader when it comes to consumer and environmental protection … but the company [has also] distinguish[ed] their position from [that of] their parent company … in favor[ing] consumers’ right to know.  This kind of bold, pro-consumer move will give a huge boost to our efforts to pass GMO Right to Know legislation in Vermont.”   High praise for a company owned by one of the world’s food processing behemoths, but well-deserved praise it is.  Ben & Jerry’s has set an example that other food companies would do well to follow.  And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go out for a pint of Cherry Garcia.

Three Cheers for the Home Team (Better Luck Next Time)!

By:  Lee Ann Rush

I live on Long Island.  Many people who aren’t familiar with this part of the country think that Long Island (no, we don’t pronounce it “Lawn Guyland” where I come from!) is nothing more than a paved-over extension of New York City, with traffic-jammed highways, too many shopping malls, and an uber-wealthy enclave of movie stars and Wall Street tycoons in the area everyone knows as The Hamptons.  In actuality, Long Island was, until several decades ago, primarily farmland, and Suffolk County (the eastern and larger of the two non-NYC counties that comprise Long Island – Nassau is the other) leads the entire state of New York in terms of the total value of its agricultural products.  Suffolk is one of the state’s top agricultural counties -- and its major producer of flowers, pumpkins and sod -- and has also become a major player in the wine industry, boasting 76 of New York’s 374 wineries, most of which are located on the East End’s scenic North Fork.

Given the importance of local agriculture to the Long Island way of life, I was thrilled to learn that New York might actually become the first state in the country to require labeling of genetically modified foods.  After many years of debate regarding the safety of GMOs, several states, including California, Connecticut and Maine,  have introduced bills mandating such labeling, but none have passed thus far.  Last month, New York State Senator Kenneth LaValle, whose district is located in Suffolk County, and his State Assembly counterpart Linda Rosenthal of Manhattan, sponsored legislation that would require all GMOs to be labeled.  According to Senator LaValle, “Consumers have a right to know what’s in their food.  Essentially, if a foodstuff is produced using genetic engineering, this must be indicated on its label.”  Interestingly, the New York State Farm Bureau opposes LaValle’s measure, arguing that it isn’t necessary:  “Policies should be based on sound science, and the science so far is that GMO foods are safe. Labeling would imply that (they) are not,” countered Steve Ammerman of the Farm Bureau.


Well, there’s semi-good news and bad news.  The good news is that Connecticut has just become the first state to pass a bill requiring the labeling of GMOs. However, the Connecticut law contains a “compromise” requirement that four other states, at least one of which borders Connecticut, must pass similar legislation, and that hasn’t happened.  Sadly, the “bad guys” have won again in New York, where last-minute lobbying by representatives of Monsanto and DuPont contributed to the demise of its GMO labeling bill.  I once again think of Pete Seeger and the plaintive refrain from his song Where Have All the Flowers Gone:  “Oh, when will they ever learn?  When will they ever learn?”

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