Getting Green in the 'Hood Tue, 15 Jul 2014 17:31:24 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Atrazine still polluting water; Texas tests show high levels Tue, 15 Jul 2014 17:31:24 +0000 BKessler GRN Reports

Atrazine, banned in Europe but freely used by agriculture in the US, has become notorious as the pesticide that causes frogs to change genders.

Exposed to Atrazine, even in tiny amounts, male frogs are feminized, proving that atrazine is capable of disrupting the endocrine system of amphibians. No wonder researchers are concerned about its possible effects on the human body and reproductive system. Already studies have linked Atrazine to reduced human fertility, increased birth defects and an elevated risk of breast and prostate cancer.

And the latest research by the EPA brings no consolation. The agencies survey of watersheds across the Midwest and in Texas and Louisiana found several sites with levels of Atrazine routinely registering above the safe believed level of 10 parts per billion.

Atrazine, 80 million pounds of which are dumped on US crop fields every year, continues to be the pesticide most commonly found in US groundwater, says Kerry Kriger, the professor behind Save the Frogs, a Berkeley, California-based advocacy.

Atrazine flyer

Poster by Save the

Kriger is sounding the alarm about these findings, which the EPA will use as it assesses whether to continue to allow Atrazine use. No EPA action is expected to happen until 2015, and no decision until 2016, but Kriger wants the public to press for quicker action.

“If you live in America, you are drinking and eating Atrazine,” he wrote to followers this month. “And if you think your government is working hard to protect you from Atrazine, you are wrong!”

A bit more about the findings of the “Atrazine Ecological Monitoring Program”: The EPA determined that 33 sites where it sampled the water exceeded the safe threshold for Atrazine when levels were averaged over one month’s time (4 of 8 sites in Iowa…..3 of 4 in Louisiana…..19 of 33 in Missouri…..5 of 11 in Nebraska….2 of 4 in Texas).
In Louisiana, Missouri and Nebraska, some of the concentrations of Atrazine averaged above 20 ppb and two sites in Nebraska registered about 30 ppb. Single day levels reached well over 100 up to 193 ppb in several locations across the states tested.

The monitoring report also found that levels had dropped in some areas and attributed that to crop rotations put in place to mitigate pesticide runoff.

Atrazine monitoring sites...

Sites in Texas, Louisiana and the Midwest exceeded safe levels for Atrazine. (EPA graphic)

Kriger called the data “extremely alarming,” noting that over 25% of the 938 water samples contained over 3 parts per billion [his threshold for safety because frogs have been shown to be affected at that level].

He’s calling for a ban of Atrazine because it has been well-documented to harm the reproductive systems of wildlife, specifically “every vertebrate on which it’s been tested” and turns up in tap water at harmful concentrations.

In addition, Kriger said banning Atrazine is unlikely to cause economic harm to American farmers, because the ban in Europe has not been economically damaging.

Kriger also has accused the EPA of dragging its feet by relying on just one study assuring the safety of Atrazine — the one done by the Syngenta, the maker of Atrazine — to bolster its continued approval of the chemical. Yet dozens of independent studies show the harmful effects of the pesticide.

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8 things to do with kale Tue, 15 Jul 2014 15:08:14 +0000 BKessler By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

People at the grocery store tend to ask me if I know what to do with kale. This has happened at least three times as I’m selecting a bunch for myself. Obviously no one is chasing me down in the gluten-free aisle with this question.

Why me? Sadly, I think I look especially at home in the greens in my sloggers and un-ironed hair. I’m probably sending off cues I don’t even realize that suggest I’ve done hard time with a pressure cooker and know my way around a salad spinner.

As we chat over the kale, I tell people that this power food is great roasted and that’s a great place to start. Just wash, coat the de-stemmed leaves with olive oil and bake at 325 or 350 degrees until the kale is dry and toasty, I enthuse, rapidly firing off instructions and affecting a benevolent Martha Stewart smile.

But there’s so much more to do with this Vitamin A-, C- and K-rich leafy green. (K for kale!) Here are 8 things to do with kale:


Kale Pepita Salad

6 cups of kale, chopped

¼ cup of rice wine vinegar

½ cup of orange juice

½ cup of organic canola or grapeseed oil (or slightly less)

¼ cup of crystallized ginger (comes in little pieces)

½ to 1 cup of dried cranberries (we soak them in the OJ for a bit first, when we remember)

½ to 1 cup of pepitas

½ cup of slivered almonds

Clean and chop the kale and set aside in a large bowl.

Whisk together the rice wine vinegar, orange juice and oil. Coat the kale with this dressing. Toss in the dried cranberries, pepitas and almonds, using more or less depending on your tastes. Chill for a few hours to blend flavors. Salad should keep for two days.

(This recipe was inspired by a kale salad sold at Central Market, which we can ill afford.)


Mushroom Kale Kugel

1 16 oz. package of gemelli noodles

2 TBSP butter or non-dairy butter (Earth Balance) or olive oil

1 medium onion, finely diced

1 pound of mushrooms, sliced

1 large bunch of kale, or slightly more, washed, de-stemmed and torn into pieces

1 TBSP fresh or dried thyme, chopped

3 eggs, beaten

1 ½ cups low fat cottage cheese

1 cup plain yogurt (full or non-fat)

Cook the noodles until they are al dente, about two minutes shy of the cooking instructions. Drain and set aside in a bowl.

Heat the butter or olive oil in a skillet. Add the onions and saute for about 10 minutes on medium-low (you want glassy onions, not browned). Add the mushrooms, saute until for 5-10 minutes. Stir in the kale and cook just a few minutes, until it turns bright green and wilts. Toss the vegetables with the noodles.

Whisk the eggs, cottage cheese, sour cream together until smooth. Salt and pepper, if desired and pour over the noodles and vegetables.

Pour the mixture into a lightly oiled baking dish or baking crock. Cover and bake for 30 minutes at 350.

Uncover and cook for 10 more minutes to brown the top.

Tips: Be sure to dice the onions to within an inch of their life. The onion is meant to add nuance, not overwhelm.

This recipe could go vegan if you wanted to use a vegan yogurt and substitute Tofutti sour cream for the cottage cheese. The eggs could be replaced with egg replacer (funny how that works).


Roasted Kale

1 bunch of organic kale (look, you’re going to eat this whole batch, possibly on your own, so go organic)

Rinse, stem and tear the kale into palm-sized pieces. Pat it dry and place it in a bowl. Drizzle 1 – 1 ½ TBSPS of olive oil over the leaves. Stir or scrunch the leaves to evenly coat the kale. Spread it on a baking sheet. Bake at 325 or 350 degrees for 15 to 18 minutes. (You may have to experiment with the times, depending on how crispiness you like.)

kale casserole

Kale Casserole

1 Butternut squash, cubed

2 to 3 links of Tofurky Italian “sausage” links, sliced

1 bunch of kale

1 package of rigatoni or spiral noodles

1 cup of cream or half-and-half

1 cup of “No Chicken” broth

2 cups of Mozzarella cheese, shredded

½ cup goat cheese, crumbled

1 cup cubed plain or garlic croutons

Olive oil as needed

Roast the squash in olive oil on a cookie sheet at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Set aside.

Cook the rigatoni or spiral noodles according to package directions but for 2-3 minutes less so the noodles are al dente. Drain, rinse in cool water to stop cooking and set aside in a large bowl.

Slice the vegan sausage links in thin slices, saute in olive oil in a saucepan until lightly browned. Add the kale and cook until it is wilted, 4-5 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix the broth and cream together in a sauce pan and warm.

Toss all the squash, sausage, kale and croutons together with the pasta in the large bowl.

Mix in most of the mozzarella and goat cheese, reserve about ½ cup of the mozzarella.

Put the pasta mixture into a baking crock or large covered casserole cooker. Pour the cream sauce over the pasta. Toss. Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella over the top.

Bake at 375 for 25 minutes, or a bit more. You want the top to be slightly browned. (You can also cover this dish for part of the baking time, and uncover at the end to brown the top.)

Tip: For an extra crunchy crouton you can pour a TBSP of melted Earth Balance over the croutons before adding them to the rest of the casserole. Yes, this adds calories.
(This vegetarian recipe was inspired by a meat-inclusive one at You can go there and buy a t-shirt to express your love of kale.)


Kale Squash Quesadillas

½ Butternut squash, cubed

2 TBSPs olive oil

½ cup diced onion

½ tsp. chili powder

1 bunch of kale, stemmed and torn into pieces

8 – 10 small flour tortillas

2 cups Monterrey jack or cheddar cheese

Sour Cream


(Other possible adds: Sauteed mushrooms, shredded chicken, shredded vegan “chik’n”, black beans.)

Saute the squash and onion in olive oil in a large frying pan or skillet until both are soft and lightly browned. Sprinkle with chili powder.

Saute the kale in a skillet in olive oil, until it’s wilted.

Toss the kale and squash and onions together and arrange on a tortilla in an oil frying pan or quesadilla maker. Sprinkle cheese over the top. Cover with another tortilla. Close the lid, or if using a frying pan, lightly brown the tortilla on both sides and press the quesadilla together. Cut into quarters and serve with pico de gallo or avocado.


kale juice

Kale Power Juice

1 Granny Smith apple

1 cucumber

5-6 large leaves of kale

1 lemon, peeled and cut into quarters

½ piece of ginger, optional

1 celery stalk, optional

Get out your juicer and juice all ingredients, alternating apple, cuke, kale and lemon. Serve with a sprig of fresh mint. Mix this up in the morning and you’ve covered your vitamins for the day!


Tuscan Kale and White Bean Soup

2 TBSP olive oil

2 TBSP minced garlic, fresh (or cheat and get it from a jar)

1 medium onion, diced

1 box of No Chicken Broth

4-5 cups of kale, stemmed and chopped

1 can of diced tomatoes

2 cans of cannellini beans, drained

1 yellow crook neck squash, sliced and quartered

1 zucchini, sliced and quartered

Saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil until soft in a large saucepan, dutch oven or iron crock suitable for use on the stove top. Add the broth, tomatoes and kale to the onions. Heat to just bubbling. Lower heat and add the squash/zucchini. Cover and cook for 5-10 minutes on low until the kale and zucchini appear cooked. Add the beans, cook for a few more minutes to heat through. Serve with cornbread or pita bread.

This is a classic combination, warming in the winter, but light enough for summer. This recipe’s also vegan, made with the No Chicken Broth.

Kale sauteed

Sauteed Kale

1 bunch of kale

1 TBSP garlic

1 TBSP olive oil

1 TBSP water

Salt and Pepper to taste

Rinse, stem and slice kale into several pieces. There’s no need to chop it excessively. Saute the garlic in the olive oil and water, or if you want to go oil free, heat it in 2 TBSPs water, for a few minutes over low heat. Add the kale and stir and wet the kale until it has wilted. This makes a simple, nutrient-dense side dish that can be thrown together faster than you can repeat what Google has to say about this awesome veggie: “One cup of cooked kale has 206% of [the recommended daily allowance of] vitamin A, 134% of vitamin C, and a whopping 684% of vitamin K.”




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Green Test Drive, 2014 Honda Accord: You won’t believe this mileage Thu, 19 Jun 2014 02:05:21 +0000 BKessler By Clint Williams
GRN Reports

The first thing that hits you when you slide behind the wheel of the 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid and press the ignition is a dashboard display that reads:

Range 735 miles.

That is a long way. That is El Paso to Dallas without having to stop for gas.

2014-honda-accord-hybrid-sedan-eco-technologyThe all-new Accord Hybrid is a delightful family sedan that also gets extraordinarily delightful fuel economy.

The Accord Hybrid uses Honda’s new Earth Dreams Technology™ powertrain with a continuously variable transmission and a two-motor hybrid system blends electric-only, hybrid and engine drive modes to provide responsive and fuel-efficient performance in a wide range of driving situations. The EPA fuel economy estimates are nothing short of jaw dropping – 47 mpg overall with 50 mpg in city driving.

Your results may vary, as they say. Some tests have found the Accord Hybrid delivering fewer miles per gallon than the EPA estimate.

The Accord Hybrid, like it’s more traditional siblings, is a pleasant car to drive. Nice handling and acceleration. Comfortable ride. There is a reason the Accord is among America’s best selling cars.

Nifty technology isn’t confined to the gas/electric drivetrain. The safety equipment in the 2014 Accord Hybrid includes antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, active front head restraints, front seat side airbags, side curtain airbags, blind-spot monitoring and a rearview camera as standard. Higher trim levels also have lane-departure and forward-collision warning systems.

The LaneWatch blind-spot system uses the center console 8-inch screen to display a low and wide view of the passenger side of the car when you flick on the right turn signal. It’s a great feature that we hope will make its way to other automobiles.

The Accord Hybrid isn’t perfect. The gasoline engine is noisy when working hard – say driving up a steep mountain road.

But such quibbles haven’t kept the newest hybrid from landing atop several green car lists.

The sticker price on a top-of-the-line Touring edition was $35,695.

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Shop at your fave farmers market; help them win recognition Thu, 19 Jun 2014 01:27:57 +0000 BKessler GRN Reports

You may shop there already, but if you don’t, now would be a good time to support your local farmer’s market.

No Farms No Food NFNF-sticker-collageYou might win a hat, and the market could be recognized as one of the top 100 in the US.

The American Farmland Trust’s “I Love My Farmers Market Celebration” will reward shoppers who pledge to spend some of their food dollars at nearby farmer’s markets. Just log in with your pledge at the AFT site.

The program aims to help family farmers, many of whom are struggling to stay afloat financially and face pressure from development that’s swallowing up farmland every day.

So if you enjoy the fruits of summer, express your support for farmers by shopping direct.

You could win a “No Farms, No Food” hat. There will be drawing every week through Sept. 13, 2014 from among those who make pledges.

The Top 100 most mentioned farmers markets also will receive “No Farms, No Food” gear and will be recognized on the AFT website.

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Ohio red lights green energy Fri, 13 Jun 2014 20:24:13 +0000 BKessler By Barbara Kessler
GRN Reports

Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich has done the bidding of utility and fossil fuel companies, today signing a freeze of Ohio’s renewable energy standards.

The state now joins Indiana, the only other state in the US to rollback or freeze its renewable energy targets, in spiking, for now, its green power goals.

The Ohio standards, put into place in 2008, set benchmarks for the state to get 12.5 percent of its electricity from green sources, like wind and solar power, by 2025.

As renewable energy standards (RES) go, it wasn’t even aiming that high. Some US states, such as Iowa, which gets more than 20 percent of its power from wind, would meet that RES already.

The governor and supporters of the freeze, known as Senate Bill 310, say it will allow time to study the standards, and make sure ratepayers aren’t hurt by the coming changes.

But few observers are buying that friendly framing of the issue.

Opponents see this as cannon fire in the war between polluting and non-polluting businesses.

The RES may have cut into utility company profits, because a provision requires energy efficiency measures to help consumers. But it has swung open a door of opportunity for new energy companies and green energy suppliers.

One report, in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, quoted advocates for the RES saying it had brought $1 billion in investment to Ohio.

Companies such as Honda and religious groups concerned about carbon dioxide air pollution, fought to keep Ohio’s relatively mild RES.

Former Gov. Ted Strickland, who oversaw the creation of the 2008 RES, told Think Progress earlier that it was built with bipartisan support and a clause requiring that utilities help ratepayers use less energy.

“When I signed SB 221 into law it put consumers on a level playing field with the utility companies. It was legislation developed over months of bipartisan discussions about how to create jobs in an emerging industry and position Ohio as a national leader in the production of renewable energy. It has been working — jobs are being created, investments are being made, and rate-payers are saving money,” said Strickland, who’d participated in governor’s conferences on developing wind power.

Stickland knew what Iowa officials know, that adding solar and wind power, can help stabilize power sources, which ultimately has a stabilizing effect on electricity prices. Check Iowa. It’s true.

Yes, Ohio has coal workers (but actually fewer than 3,000 and many of those stand to be lost to mechanization) who stand to lose over time as the RES went into place.

But let’s call coal jobs the red herring they are. This move was driven not by outgoing fossil fuel jobs, but about powerful power providers.

And it stomps on budding arena of job growth. Green energy represents opportunities for an array of workers, from those qualified to operate utility-scale projects to construction and shop floor jobs with companies engaged in making more energy efficient homes and appliances (Whirlpool also opposed the freeze).

Perhaps one clear way to understand that this freeze is good for powerbrokers but bad for people  – did I mention the poll showing 70 perent of the public favored the RES? — is to hear the lament of the American Lung Association:

“By preventing any further clean energy progress, this legislation will now unnecessarily leave millions of Ohio citizens at risk from the negative health effects related to additional power plant emissions,” the association said in a statement.

“This was a critical moment in the fight for public health in Ohio. Our strong clean energy standards could also have gone a long way in meeting newly released U.S. EPA rules on carbon emissions. Instead, we will take a big step backward.”

Where does Texas stand in all this? Its RPS for 5,000 Megawatts of windpower has been met and exceeded. Depending on your perspective that could be considered a great accomplishment or a failure to raise the bar. It’s a big state.

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Panera Bread promises to purge food dyes and additives Tue, 03 Jun 2014 17:04:18 +0000 BKessler GRN Reports:

Concerns about food additives have prompted Panera Bread to announce it will be removing these ingredients from its food by 2016.

TPanera imagehe St. Louis-based restaurant chain, which has already purged its menu of trans-fats and has been serving chicken raised without antibiotics for more than a decade (a policy later extended to include roasted turkey, ham and sausage) has 1,800 outlets across the U.S., including five in Austin and several more in Texas.

Going forward, Panera is pledging to serve only menu items with “clean” ingredients, meaning it will be ditching any MSG, artificial food dyes, flavorings and preservatives, and faux sweeteners in its supply chain.

“Panera was founded on the belief that quick food could be quality food,” said Ron Shaich, founder, chairman and CEO. “We started by baking bread from fresh dough each day in our cafes. That commitment led to others – like our early decision to remove artificial trans-fats, post calories on menu boards and invest in serving chicken raised without antibiotics. As we continue to make conscious choices about the food we source and serve, we realized it’s also important to share what we’ve accomplished and where we’re going.”

In addition to its clean ingredients guideline, the chain is promising transparency because it believes people have a right to know how and where their food has been sourced, the company announced June 3. It’s all part of a new food policy that Panera hopes will make it an industry leader.

“We believe simpler is better,” explained Scott Davis, Chief Concept Officer. “Panera is on a mission to help fix a broken food system. We have a long journey ahead, but we’re working closely with the nutrition community, industry experts, farmers, suppliers and others to make a difference. We’re pleased to publicly share our framework and intend to share progress over time.”

Panera Bread, which operates in 45 states and in Ontario, Canada under the Panera Bread®, Saint Louis Bread Co.® or Paradise Bakery & Cafe®, is making its pledge against a backdrop of increasing public discontent with artificial ingredients. Fake sugars have been linked to everything from cancer to weight gain. Artificial dyes have been associated with hyperactivity and investigated, but not confirmed, as an aggravating factor in autistic behavior.

Panera's mediterranean-veggie-sandwich-whole-portion.desktop

Panera’s vegetarian option, the Mediterranean veggie sandwich.

Another recent scofflaw involved the artificial ingredient commonly used in breads, the controversial and unpronounceable Azodicarbonamide. Panera Bread does not use this controversial ingredient, but many restaurants do.

Azodicarbonamide is a bleaching agent that helps fluff up breads. It’s also used to add air to foam items such as yoga mats and shoe soles. The Food and Drug Administration has approved Azodicarbonamide for foods, and it is widely used in baked goods. When all this hit the light of day in early 2014, it turned out that Subway, McDonald’s, Chik-a-fila, Wendy’s, Jack-in-the-Box and countless more restaurants and groceries were serving up bread made with this food additive. Even Dunkin Donuts’ croissants and danishes contained AZD. Subway has since said it’s removed AZD from its bread. (But again, Panera does not and has not used AZD.)

The negative health effects of AZD are unclear, though it’s banned in Europe because the World Health Organization found that it could induce asthma and other respiratory problems in people exposed to high amounts during its production. That left unclear whether it was dangerous to consume the small amounts used in bread, but it was sufficient indication for some flour producers, which quit using it.

The Daily Mail reported that Azodicarbonamide was banned in Europe because of the asthma connection and because studies in animals found it caused skin conditions, though “testing in humans remained inconclusive.”


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New EPA rule could reduce carbon emissions from coal plants by 30 percent Mon, 02 Jun 2014 17:43:12 +0000 BKessler GRN Reports:

The EPA today proposed the first mandatory carbon pollution limits for power plants, which could cut emissions by 30 percent by 2030.

Power plants are the single biggest source of carbon dioxide emissions, the main driver behind climate change and also a majority contributor to asthma and other negative health effects.

“Climate change, fueled by carbon pollution, supercharges risks to our health, our economy, and our way of life,” said EPA Administer Gina McCarthy in announcing the new rules, written after a lengthy public comment and assessment period.

The new Clean Power Plan Coal fired power plants will be an economic booster, while also safeguarding human health, McCarthy predicted.

“By leveraging cleaner energy sources and cutting energy waste, this plan will clean the air we breathe while helping slow climate change so we can leave a safe and healthy future for our kids. We don’t have to choose between a healthy economy and a healthy environment–our action will sharpen America’s competitive edge, spur innovation, and create jobs,” she said.

Power plants account for about one-third of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions – the gases causing climate change, according to the EPA, and while nitrogen, sulfur and other emissions have been regulated, carbon pollution has not been.

Over the last decade, the EPA has faced a series of court challenges to its plans to regulate greenhouse gases. But in 2007, the US Supreme Court ruled that GHGs did fall under the EPA’s purview. Recent rulings by federal courts have generally affirmed the EPA’s authority to regulate these gases. In April, the US Supreme Court again cleared the way for regulation of GHGs, voting the agency could legally try to reduce emissions from power plants in states that spew smog across state boundaries.

Public hearings on the new rules will be held this summer at these times and locations:

  • July 29, 2014, Atlanta, Georgia, at the Sam Nunn Atlanta Federal Center Main Tower Bridge Conference Area, Conference Room B, 61 Forsyth Street, SW, Atlanta, GA 30303.
  • July 29, 2014, Denver, Colorado, at EPA’s Region 8 Building, 1595 Wynkoop Street, Denver, Colorado 80202.
  • July 31, 2014, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania at the William S. Moorhead Federal Building, Room 1310, 1000 Liberty Avenue Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15222.
  • Sometime during the week of July 28, 2014 (details to come) Washington, DC.

All hearings will run from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. local time.

If the rule wins final approval and compliance by polluters, the EPA predicts that by 2030 it will:

  • Cut carbon emission from the power sector by 30 percent nationwide below 2005 levels, which is equal to the emissions from powering more than half the homes in the United States for one year
  • Cut particle pollution, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide by more than 25 percent as a co-benefit;
  • Avoid up to 6,600 premature deaths, up to 150,000 asthma attacks in children, and up to 490,000 missed work or school days—providing up to $93 billion in climate and public health benefits; and
  • Shrink electricity bills roughly 8 percent by increasing energy efficiency and reducing demand in the electricity system.





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Austin-based Whole Foods Market takes top place for seafood sustainability Fri, 30 May 2014 15:49:00 +0000 BKessler GRN Reports:

In 2008, when Greenpeace International conducted its first survey of how well grocers were doing in serving sustainable seafood all of the stores failed.

People knew that many species of fish were being overfished, risking fishery collapses and endangering ocean ecosystems (i.e., the food supply). Yet this information wasn’t being translated into action in the marketplace.

This year, for its 8th annual report, Carting Away the Oceans VIII, the environmental watchdog group was pleased to report that four grocery chains have achieved the top rating for serving sustainable species of fish and seafood. Many more grocery chains are not off the hook, but are doing much better in culling endangered fish from their supply chain.

Here’s the chart that will tell you where to shop (click to enlarge and link to the pdf):

Seafood Report Card by Greenpeace 2014As you can see, four stores received a “Good” rating from Greenpeace: Whole Foods, Safeway (which includes stores under the Safeway, Carrs, Genuardi’s, Pavilions, Randall’s, Tom Thumb, VONS brands); Wegmans (a chain confined to the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic) and Trader Joe’s.

In addition, several other stores received a “Pass” grade, meaning they’ve got mechanisms in place to avoid being an enemy of the oceans and they’re actively trying to avoid selling “red-listed” seafood. Their catches are mostly appropriate, but they have work to do. A few of these stores rated near  the top scorers, notably: Hy-Vee, Harris Teeter and Aldi.

Here are the high points Greenpeace called out in the 2014 report:

  • Wegmans has become the fourth grocery store to earn the “good” rating since Greenpeace began its industry rankings in 2008.
  • Newly-profiled Hy-Vee has entered the rankings in fifth place, an impressive performance for a first-time assessment.
  • Of the top five performing supermarkets on sustainable seafood, four have launched or will shortly launch private label sustainable canned tuna products (pole-and-line or FAD-free). Consumers can now find sustainable and affordable tuna at Whole Foods, Safeway, Trader Joe’s, Hy-Vee, and Walmart.
  • Kroger continues to sell the largest number of Red List species (which should not be sold due to environmental reasons)—setting a poor example for the industry.
  • Recent and upcoming industry buyouts could radically shake-up retailers’ sustainability performance. Grocery giant Kroger (ranked 21) acquired Harris Teeter (ranked 6) in late January 2014, which could be a loss for our oceans if Kroger replaces Harris Teeter’s seafood sourcing policy with its own. (In this report, Harris Teeter is profiled as a standalone store given its independent status for most of the preceding 12-month period.) SUPERVALU sold off a large quantity of its banners, including Albertson’s, which is now a sizeable entity in its own right (both are profiled separately in this report). The recent Safeway/Albertsons merger could spell problems for the oceans if 20th ranked Albertsons’ seafood policies and practices were to apply to 2nd ranked Safeway.
  • Ahold USA and Hy-Vee have joined the growing chorus of retailers calling for protection of part of the Bering Sea Canyons in Alaska—key fisheries with futures threatened by industrial fishing.
  • Five new grocers are profiled in this year’s report: Wakefern (ShopRite & PriceRite), Hy-Vee, WinCo, Save Mart, and Roundy’s. Consumers that shop at these stores will for the first time see how well they perform in the arena of sustainable seafood.

Greenpeace praised the top stores for not adding any Red Listed fish to their supplies, though it criticized even those with favorable overall reports for continuing to carry some of these species.

Seafood Report Card by Greenpeace 2014 detail

Red Listed fish and seafood includes species that are endangered, as well as those that are harvested in destructive ways, such as trawling the bottom of the ocean floor, which destroys coral, or with netting practices that needlessly kill many other marine species.

Whole Foods Market, for instance, continues to carry several Red Listed fish and added back Atlantic halibut this past year, a setback in Greenpeace’s view.

Salmon, fresh and wild caught USA

Buy Pacific salmon, not Atlantic salmon, which has been depleted and needs to recover.

Whole Foods has “dropped the sale of species that most other retailers still carry, employs a variety of mitigation tools that dampen the harm of carrying an unmitigated Red List product and participates in several fishery/aquaculture improvement projects.”

Still, it sells fourteen of the twenty-two Red List seafoods: Atlantic halibut, hoki, Chilean sea bass, Alaska pollock, Atlantic cod, Atlantic salmon, Atlantic sea scallops, bigeye tuna, Greenland halibut, monkfish, red snapper, swordfish, tropical shrimp, and yellowfin tuna.

Despite that rather glaring problem, Greenpeace lauded Whole Foods Markets for having “the strongest and most complex” seafood sourcing policy of any grocery retailer, and for working to mitigate the effects of carrying some Red Listed  fish. It had high praise for the chain’s virtually banning of unsustainable tuna practices at its 450 stores nationwide.

“The company continues to offer the most sustainable canned tuna section of any major U.S. retailer, consisting mainly of a multitude of troll-caught albacore products and the company’s private label pole-caught skipjack. In fact, Whole Foods has recently released both a new pole-and-line skipjack and pole-and-line albacore product, giving further options to consumers when it comes to shelf-stable sustainability—with additional traceability to boot.
Finally, Whole Foods has eschewed selling conventionally sourced tuna storewide, steering clear of the problems associated with tuna companies such as Chicken of the Sea, Bumble Bee, and Starkist. This in turn means that shoppers at Whole Foods can be confident that their canned tuna purchases are in no way supporting destructive tuna fishing.”

Greenpeace also praised second-place Safeway for stepping up its game recently:

“Safeway made steady gains over the past year, closing the gap between itself and front-runner Whole Foods—to within six-hundredths of a point. Company leadership
demonstrated an interest and energy over the past year in further exploring ways to use its large size to have a likewise large impact on the oceans.”
Safeway and Kroger also won plaudits for going on record with their plans to not sell genetically modified salmon, when and if it comes to market.


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Drought — despite some relief — Texas may still suffer in 2014 Tue, 27 May 2014 22:42:18 +0000 BKessler By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

Drought is not dramatic. At least in the beginning. It’s far more lumbering than other disasters, presenting as a slow burn, crisping crops, hardening the ground, turning rangeland into desert.

US Drought Monitor for May 20, 2014At the National Drought Mitigation Center in Lincoln, Nebraska, the staffers sometimes joke that drought is the Rodney Dangerfield of disasters. It gets no respect.

On one level, that’s easy to understand. A hurricane or tornado pounds into town, shredding houses, exploding windows and turning timber into missiles commands attention.

Drought is the sleepy cousin, the anti-climatic, climatic event.

And yet, the US drought, in its fourth year, could greatly damage crops and sap municipal water supplies. Already, more than 30 small towns in Texas have been warned that they have water supplies for 90 days or less and could simply run dry.

Welcome rainfall over the Memorial Day weekend, which brought up to four inches of rain to parts of dry western Texas and Arkansas, and soaking rains of three to six inches across the Austin region, may help reservoirs recover, to an extent. News stories cheered the rains, with one report out of parched, remote Hale County in West Texas gleefully switching its Twitter feed from pictures of dust storms to real time updates on every fraction of an inch of rainfall that graced that rural area.

But the weekend rains, while helpful, will need to become a trend before this entrenched drought cycle ends.

Dozens of other effects and possible effects of the US drought are being reported, and may well continue:

  •  Reservoirs across the Southwest are alarmingly low, running about two-thirds of normal in Arizona, about half of normal in New Mexico and only about one-third of average levels in Nevada, according to the USDA. In Texas, the picture varies by region, but the Hill Country and Northern Plains have suffered significant losses with many reservoirs at half or even one-third of their conservation capacity. Buchanan Lake, for instance, was reported to have dropped to only about one-third, 311,460 acre feet, of its normal 860,607 acre feet capacity, according to the April Water Conditions report by the Texas Water Development Board.
  •  Hydroelectric power is waning Texas, with power from the Lower Colorado River Authority producing in 2013 only about one-quarter of the power it generated in 2011, a direct impact of lower water levels, according to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT).

Drought will affect crops, produce and prices

In anticipation of lighter allotments and stingy Mother Nature, produce growers in California have left an estimated 800,000 acres idle this year. That will affect their bottom line, prices at the grocery and the national economy. (Though a silver lining might be that the soil will get a rest.)

Across the Western US, the drought is affecting almost too many crops to name, but those that are taking a certain hit include winter wheat, almonds, avocados, cotton and all the water-intensive fruits and vegetables that won’t be planted in California’s Central Valley.

On the plains, ranchers who have been culling herds for three years may face another year of tough decisions as they weigh the economics of trucking in hay or reducing their headcount.

Ranchers and farmers in the southern plains saw some relief as rains fell over Memorial weekend. Still, experts say the drought, if it continues, will reshape the economic and actual landscape in 2014.

“We are seeing conditions that rival those we saw during the Dust bowl in the 30s,” said Brian Fuchs, a climatologist at the National Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC) in an interview with GRN on May 22.

While the dust events, which these days are called haboobs, have increased, especially in the winter months this past year, they’re not as bad as the massive rolling black clouds that devastated farms in the 1930s, Fuchs said.

Still, their incidence at all is an ominous indicator.

“Even with our changes in farming and tilling practices and the erosion controls that we have in place, drought can still override those and we are seeing some of those [dust bowl] conditions.”

Specifically, Fuchs was referring to parts of western Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas, where dry conditions, exacerbated by dry winds and summer heat, have created dust storms capable of stripping top soil and compounding drought’s insult.

Only time will tell how badly ranchers and crop producers suffer in 2014, Fuchs said.

Despite receiving some relief in the past few days (mainly in Texas), the area remains many inches behind in rainfall overall for the year. The Texas panhandle was rated as being in “exceptional drought,” the most severe category on the May 20 US Drought Monitor map. That means its hydrology (aquifers and streams) and ecology (natural and crop vegetation) have been significantly harmed and will take time to repair.

Drought is stealthly and has a long tail

Overall about 38 percent of the contiguous US was gripped by drought according to that most recent US Drought Monitor map. The weekend rains provided some easing, and the next map is expected to show improvement.

But with 28 percent of the country listed experiencing “severe” drought or worse (“extreme” or “exceptional”), the long dry spell will continue to pinch crops and livelihoods, even in areas where farmers have been growing mountains of produce, if not effortlessly, then efficiently.

But before we talk about California, we need to look at the reasons the US is drought-stricken.

First, the country has been in a dry cycle that’s many climatologists say was worsened by the record heat delivered by climate change, particularly in 2012, the hottest year on record overall.

This natural and recurring dry cycle, based on winds and ocean temperatures in the Pacific, the feeder area for precipitation in the Plains, is called La Niña.

Some meteorologists are predicting that the US will move into the countervailing cycle, known as El Niño, which would bring wetter weather.

But if that doesn’t happen, the four-year drought could continue its slow-motion wreckage. The fact that Fuchs even mentioned the Anasazi, the long-ago inhabitants of the US Southwest who abandoned their pueblo cities when the climate dried up, ending their cultivation of the land, suggests that climatologists have been considering worst case scenarios.

This current dry cycle, because of its duration and severity, will have lasting impacts that cannot be overcome with even one rainy season. Aquifers that have sunk to new lows – such as parts of the Ogallala in the Southern range of the aquifer – and streams and rivers that have run dry will not bounce back immediately. First, the rains will soak only the topsoil, or even run off because the ground has become hard and unreceptive.

“What happens is when you have multi-year events like this, you’re not replenishing it (the aquifer). You’re not recharging to the degree of what your withdrawals have been,” Fuchs explained.

On a brighter note, other drought cycles, such as those in the 1950s and 1930s, were difficult, but the land and the farmers recovered.

But before you take much comfort in that last thought, remember there are more people than ever drawing on the natural groundwater, reservoirs, rivers and melting snow than ever before.

That’s really problem No. 2 as Fuchs explains it. Too many people sucking on too many straws cramming into the water supplies.

Take California. The current drought there has virtually the entire state into the severe, extreme or exceptional drought categories. But it’s not that different from what happened in the 1970s when low snowpack and inadequate rainfall resulted in two years of serious drought.

“The big difference is there’s 23 million more people in California than there were in the mid-70s and so you’ve added that many more straws into that cup of available water and you have to manage with that in mind,” he said.

California’s system, indeed most water systems across the entire South – even Atlanta had a water crisis in 2008 – were built for smaller projected populations.

Agriculture, to feed growing US and world population, also sips deeply on its straw. One study found that agriculture in two key areas, the High Plains and California’s Central Valley, accounted for more than 50 percent of the depletion of groundwater supplies in the US since 1900.

Water-intensive crops like corn, which have expanded over the decades into arid areas as US farmers follow the subsidies that make this a lucrative crop, also take a toll.

But each region faces individual factors that affect its water vulnerability. Some cities are over-reliant on the shrinking Colorado River system. Others, such as Los Angeles, have sprawled into megalopolises, despite being dependent on water piped in from hundreds of miles away.   Now that LA’s source region also is suffering, the water scarcity issue is stalking the entire Golden State.

For the Western half of the US, where these issues are most acute, there are plenty of reasons to practice better water conservation, Fuchs said.

People should take a page from desert residents who’ve installed xeriscape or drought-tolerant landscaping. They also can make water do double duty with gray water use, watering outdoor plants with bath or wash water.

If they can afford it, they should install low-flow toilets and showers, take shorter showers, never leave faucets running and only run full loads of dirty dishes and laundry, he said.

“If you save a couple gallons per person per day and you multiply that by millions of people that’s a lot of water, and that just helps to conserve more for later.”

Copyright © 2014 Green Right Now | Distributed by Noofangle Media

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McKibben takes Obama to task on climate action Wed, 21 May 2014 18:52:26 +0000 BKessler GRN Reports

Environmentalist Bill McKibben, by way of inviting everyone to a mass climate action demonstration in New York on Sept. 20-21, had withering words for the world’s leaders, who he says are failing to take urgent action against climate change.

Haboob or dust storm in Idaho. As drought continues, these natural phenomena can increase, shearing the top soil and worsening the drought. (Photo: Famartin, Wikimedia Commons0

Haboob or dust storm in Idaho. As drought continues, these natural phenomena can increase, shearing the top soil and worsening the drought. (Photo: Famartin, Wikimedia Commons

In a piece in the June 5  Rolling Stone magazine, McKibben calls out President Obama for a statement he made to The New Yorker earlier this year.

Obama, waxing pragmatic about his administration’s accomplishments and shortcomings, said: “At the end of the day, we’re part of a long-running story. We just try to get our paragraph right.” And “I think we are fortunate at the moment that we do not face a crisis of the scale and scope that Lincoln or FDR faced.”

To environmentalists the last half of that statement is like fingernails on chalkboard. No crisis? What about the CLIMATE CRISIS? Remember Hurricane Sandy, the vanishing Arctic and that little drought thing that’s blanketing half the country eating California for breakfast? Heard about that nagging carbon dioxide calculator that just popped the 400 ppm mark, pushing us into atmospheric territory that humans have never experienced?

McKibben must have done a slow burn when he read that. But he responds reasonably in the RS piece, and tells Obama that his “paragraph” is shot full of holes when it comes to climate action:

We do, though; we face a crisis as great as any president has ever encountered. Here’s how his paragraph looks so far: Since he took office, summer sea ice in the Arctic has mostly disappeared, and at the South Pole, scientists in May made clear that the process of massive melt is now fully under way, with 10 feet of sea-level rise in the offing. Scientists have discovered the depth of changes in ocean chemistry: that seawater is 30 percent more acidic than just four decades ago, and it’s already causing trouble for creatures at the bottom of the marine food chain. America has weathered the hottest year in its history, 2012, which saw a drought so deep that the corn harvest largely failed. At the moment, one of the biggest states in Obama’s union, California, is caught in a drought deeper than any time since Europeans arrived. Hell, a few blocks south of the U.N. buildings, Hurricane Sandy turned the Lower East Side of New York into a branch of the East River. And that’s just the United States. The world’s scientists earlier this spring issued a 32-volume report explaining exactly how much worse it’s going to get, which is, to summarize, a lot worse even than they’d thought before. It’s not that the scientists are alarmists – it’s that the science is alarming. Here’s how one Princeton scientist summarized the situation for reporters: “We’re all sitting ducks.”

It’s an awesome take-down, and yes, Rolling Stone, you can read the rest of the McKibben rebuttal here:
The protest in NYC is aimed at all of the world’s leaders, who McKibben (among others) accuse of failing to lead on climate action.

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Where’s the local, greener beef? It’s about to get taxed in Texas Tue, 20 May 2014 00:16:39 +0000 BKessler  GRN Reports:

We’ve seen lots of shenanigans this spring as big established interests nibble away at the small producers threatening the status quo. Oklahoma, for instance, just placed a tax on homeowners who put up solar panels. Elected officials supported the utility company rationale that this surcharge was necessary to hook up the independent energy producers; but that thinking ignores the fact that local rooftop solar panels contribute to the power supply and make it more resilient.
Texas Long Horn Cow PROMO
Now shift your attention to Texas, where the beef industry has apparently persuaded officials to take a similar swipe at ranchers.

Officials are proposing to double the $1 per head beef tax that ranchers already pay to the federal government for what’s known as the “check off” program. This $1 multiplied across each cow raised $11 million from Texas farmers and ranchers last year, according to the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance.

So now the state of Texas wants its own dollar per head.

And while the tax does not seem like a lot for each rancher, it adds up, and more importantly, the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance (FARFA) believes its not a good use of ranchers’ money:

“The money goes into the pockets of Big Beef industry groups, who use it to pay for ads like “Beef: it’s what’s for dinner.” Theoretically, that’s supposed to improve farmers’ sales. But it doesn’t.

“The beef they’re advertising is what’s sold in the grocery stores, which can come from anywhere — and often comes from other countries, such as Brazil and Mexico. And even as hundreds of millions have been spent on these ads, per capita consumption of beef has decreased.

It’s companies like Tyson and Cargill and the grocery store chains who really benefit from the checkoff, while farmers and ranchers are forced to pay the bill. Now, they want to add a state level checkoff and double that tax.”

But smaller or family-owned producers who don’t think this approach benefits them, can register their “no” vote against the Texas tax by voting on it. All cattle owners are eligible to fill out a ballot at their nearest Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service offices.

Cattle owners must vote, however between June 2-6, 2014. Anyone who owned cattle, even one cow or steer, in the last year can vote; that includes 4-H’ers who just have to have their parents sign too if they’re under 16.

Ballots also may be mailed in, between May 19 – June 2.

It’s no wonder the FARFA has put out an alert on this development, voting occurs during a narrow window.

For more info see the Alliance’s website.

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Seed saving — a path to self-renewing gardens Fri, 16 May 2014 01:33:23 +0000 BKessler By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

We keep bumping up against a new trend in gardening that should be of interest to active gardeners, especially frugal ones (which is almost all of them!), and that is the old art of saving seeds.

Kale, bolting

Kale, beginning to flower.

Believe it or not, this is so trendy, college students are starting to do this. They’ve set up a seed vault at University of California-Santa Cruz, where I was recently speaking to a food activist. The students want to help save our diversity of foods from the corporations that bent on diminishing it. Big industrial growers are happy to serve up three types of potatoes, two varieties of tomatoes, one type of avocado and a single variety of beans. That’s a tiny fraction of what’s available. You can find out a lot more about saving heirloom varieties at the website for Seed Savers, a group devoted to preserving the varieties our ancestors, even our grandparents, enjoyed. And you can get instructions on saving seeds from that horticulture powerhouse, Texas A&M. Here’s the link. You do need to know what you’re doing.

But saving diversity is just one goal of seed saving. Another reason to save the seeds your plants make is to save dollars.

As a blog from the Sustainable Food Center in Austin notes: “Many plants reseed themselves–we like to plant basil (summer) and cilantro (winter) in the same bed-they share space and grow again and again in alternating seasons from the previous season’s seeds.”

Nifty, huh? But beyond perennial herb beds, the SFC recommends letting some of your plants complete their full growing cycle. After all, you still get to pick the fruit. This has dual benefits as well. The plants get to make seeds, which you can collect and save. At the same time, the plants are feeding pollinators, even birds, depending on the plant. So you’re helping keep the bounty of nature in good supply.

Kale, washed

Yes, we remembered to eat most of the kale before it went to seed!

This spring I let my kale flower and go to seed. I felt a little embarrassed about it almost, like I was letting wild things occur in what should be a neat garden. But I am glad, in hindsight, because I believe it helped the bees I saw feeding on the yellow blooms. This was a wacky weather spring when many plants held off on blooming, so I like to think my little March contribution made a different to the pollinators.

Saving your seeds can also help you better select for the fruits and vegetables you really love. This year I’ve grown a German pink tomato, an heirloom, from seeds. I would not have been able to find this plant at any nursery. A few plant houses carry German heirloom tomatoes, but I doubt they have this variety. So I am experimenting to see if I can take this plant through its entire cycle, from seeds in tiny indoor pots to transplants in the garden to — cross my fingers — full fruiting plants.

In this case, I won’t have to let the plants bloom and spread seed; but I will try to save some seeds from the fruit.

Whatever your plan, consider saving diversity. Variety can be the spice of life.

Copyright © 2014 Green Right Now | Distributed by Noofangle Media


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