Running Skirts in The New York Times

  • October 17, 2011 9:21 am

So I started running lately to clear my head from writing etc. And I kept seeing all of these women running in skirts. At first I thought they were all going to play tennis. But…they had no rackets. Then I realized running skirts are a thing.

So I wrote an article about them for The New York Times. While it’s not my usual green focus, I did ask skirt designers about eco-fabrics. That part didn’t make it into the story. Apparently there is some recycled poly and more used for some running clothes, but since materials that wick away sweat and don’t chafe are crucial for marathoners, organic cotton isn’t high on the list.

What You Don’t Know: Cotton

  • August 23, 2011 9:05 pm

Can you believe it’s back to school/work/life season already?  Ugh. As cooler temperatures and new wardrobes (for some people, anyway) are on the horizon, it’s time to pause for a moment and think about what clothes are made of and what it entails to manufacture them. I found and continue to find the following facts about conventionally grown cotton shocking. They’re enough to send anyone straight to vintage/consignment/thrift shops. Second hand clothes are obviously a great way to reduce/reuse/recycle, but you’ll also likely be surprised by the gems you can find.  It might take some digging, but you’ll be rewarded with unique items and you’ll save money, too.

When buying new clothing, organic cotton is solid choice. Here are a few motivating facts excerpted from Planet Home about the cotton industry:

Conventional cotton often comes from genetically modified seeds and has been sprayed with pesticides, which is bad for farmers and the environment.  According to the Sustainable Cotton Project, cotton farming uses about 25 percent of the world’s insecticides and more than 10 percent of the pesticides.  These pesticides used on cotton happen to be among the world’s worst: Five of the nine most commonly used have been identified as possible human carcinogens.  Others are known to damage the nervous system and are suspected of disrupting the body’s hormonal system.

That said, organic isn’t the only thing to consider when it comes to sustainable fashion–not by a long shot. I explain further in this article I wrote recently about sustainable denim for The New York Times.

Meanwhile I’m personally just avoiding this whole change-your-wardrobe moment. My daughter could use a few items for school as she’s growing up up up, so I’ll fill her wardrobe in with hand-me-downs and maybe a few new things. I prefer to hold on to summer by avoiding wearing long sleeves for as long as possible, and to “shop my closet” when the weather forces me to. Amazing how much I’ve bought over the years that can be resurrected!

Recipe: Blueberry Ice Cream!

  • August 20, 2011 10:42 am

Glenny here!  Alexandra has been on vacation all week (I’m VERY jealous), so this week’s Saturday post is directly from me.  I decided to post a recipe, so got to thinking about do-it-yourself projects.  And about the shorter days and how the cicadas’ chirping announces autumn.  Although summer is waning, we can’t fret yet: the temperatures still merit an icy treat for dessert.  I ADORE ice cream and frankly, I believe that it can be enjoyed all year long.  There are so many variations that you simply can never be bored.  I was delighted with my birthday present from my father last year (a Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker), and have furiously been making concoctions ever since.  No more of that store-bought stuff for me, no siree.

Summer IS coming to an end, but its fruit is still going strong.  Here is a very easy and wonderful recipe for blueberry ice cream to celebrate the season.  (Many thanks to the NYTimes article last summer about egg-free ice creams.  It got me hooked on the lighter, more fruit-forward and refreshing version of a household favorite!).

Blueberries and Cream Ice Cream

1 1/2 cups blueberries

1/2 lemon

2 cups heavy cream

1/3 cup sugar, plus 2 tablespoons, as needed

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons vodka

1. Mash the blueberries with a fork or a potato masher until slightly chunky.  Try not to leave too many berries whole, when frozen they can be a little difficult to eat.  Drizzle with the juice of 1/2 a lemon and mix thoroughly.  Set aside.

2. Bring cream and sugar to a simmer in a medium saucepan.  Taste berries and if too tart, add 2 extra tablespoons sugar to the cream.  Stir occasionally until sugar is dissolved.  Transfer to a bowl and add salt and vodka.  Place in the refrigerator or an ice bath to chill.

3. When cold, pour into your ice cream machine.  Add your mashed blueberries and churn for about 15 minutes, or until starting to thicken.  Make sure to read and follow the manufacturer’s directions for your specific machine. Transfer to a container and freeze until solid, about 2 hours.   Let your ice cream sit at room temperature for a few minutes before serving.

This is the most simple form of this recipe, but try adding your own spin.  Perhaps a dash of cinnamon or a few sprigs of mint?  The more the you play, the happier you’ll be!


What You Don’t Know: Fish Is The Most Confusing Topic Ever

  • May 10, 2011 10:03 am

Recently there has been a lot of chatter in the news about the safety of our seafood.  Some of the growing concern is due to the nuclear disaster in Japan – how is radiation effecting what we’re eating?  As reported in The New York Times, the esteemed Le Bernardin chef Eric Ripert has outfitted his kitchen with a radiation detector (!).  That said, Bloomberg Businessweek reports that spokespeople from the FDA say there is no realistic threat to Northern Pacific fish.

It’s hard to know what to do with such wildly disparate information, except not eat wild fish until we know more.

I realize this flies in the face of what I suggested in The Conscious Kitchen: that the best fish to eat is well-caught and wild, despite the fact that our waterways are the runoff for every single thing we have done wrong, environmentally speaking.

Unfortunately farmed isn’t a choice to turn to in tough times. The New York Times just reported on the factory farming of tilapia, nicknamed “aquatic chicken” because it “breeds easily and tastes bland.” Not very enticing. These fish are factory farmed–just like their feathered bretheren–and gain weight easily from their largely corn and soy based diets. That corn and soy is usually heavily sprayed and often genetically modified. If fish aren’t eating the aquatic plants they should, their nutritional value to us human predators diminishes rapidly.  “A portion of tilapia has 135 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids, a portion of salmon has over 2,000 milligrams.”  Hmmm. What’s the point?

These issues are deeply confusing, even upsetting. As environmental issues–and oil gushing into places like the Gulf–come up, as species are overfished, then (somewhat) replenished, as changes happen, my approach changes. I start by eating what I said I eat in The Conscious Kitchen: well caught wild that I’ve double checked with a group that tracks contaminants in seafood is still my first choice if and when I want to eat fish (which, admittedly, isn’t often). I always stay informed and talk to my fishmonger, and suggest you do, too.

A few thoughts on purchasing fish from The Conscious Kitchen:

WILD

The main environmental issues for wild seafood, ocean or fresh-water, are sustainability and harvesting methods (how the fish was caught).  A number of species are currently drastically overfished – cod has long been the poster child of a depleted fish, so much so that there have been cod fishing bans from the Northwest Atlantic to the Baltic Sea.  Sharks, bluefin tuna, and many kinds of West Coast rockfish also are overfished, according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch.  What’s been depleted can sometimes be renewed, so check online for the latest information.  With regard to how fish are being caught, some methods are environmentally friendlier than others.  To learn more about these, go to FishOnline.org/information/methods.

FARMED

The main environmental issues for farmed fish and seafood – pollution and sustainability – are tightly linked to personal health concerns.  Many fish farms, domestic and abroad, use feed that’s similar to the gunk that factory-farmed animals are fed, including antibiotics and hormones, plus dyes (this is what makes farmed salmon as pink as its wild counterpart), and other undesirable additives.  In 2009, a neurologist from the University of Louisville issued a warning in a paper published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease saying that farmed fish that were fed cow by-products could even be at risk for mad cow disease.

Some farmed seafood is actually fed wild, sometimes overfished fish.  Ironic.  This further depletes the waterways and makes the finished product high in environmental toxins like PCBs.  There are even well-meaning farmers attempting to raise so called “organic” shrimp who also raise purer farmed fish to feed their purer farmed shrimp.  That sounds like an unanswerable riddle for the carbon footprint crunchers!

Another Tip:

When you’re in front of a fish counter or looking at a restaurant menu, if you don’t have a safe seafood card in your wallet, whip out your phone!  Text the Blue Ocean Institute‘s handy Fish-Phone – 30644 – with the word “fish” and the species you’re looking to get information on, and they text you right back with environmental and health information, giving your choices a Red, Yellow, or Green light.