Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Latest Carb'ument

Over break I ran across an article entitled (and subtitled) “Put Down the Cookies, Santa:  Scientists Say Carbs—Not Fat—Are The Biggest Problem with America’s Diet.” 

The ricocheted argument is back: Are carbohydrates on the naughty or nice list this year? Likewise, are fats getting the lump of coal or are an array of angels singing their praises? 

To see the article all for yourself (in its entirety), go to .

For the short version: coal goes to carbs, nice list goes to fats…well, sort of. You’ve got good and bad versions of both. Having watched "King Corn" and also having just driven to and through the Corn Belt this week, I’m reminded how corn-infused EVERYTHING is. I had a good friend in college who was allergic to corn and wheat (which is called “irony” in the
Midwest). It was then that I got my first glimmer of how invasive corn products are in the grocery store as we became label-readers: corn starch, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, corn oil, corn solids, monosodium glutamate (MSG), dextrose, corn-filler-fed meat... It's everywhere and in most everything.

I’ve had my own bouts of dieting/calorie counting/food & lifestyle changes.  The South Beach Diet, Mediterranean Diet, or the very similar Sonoma Diet win for me, largely because I've learned I don’t have a shut-off switch when it comes to yummy stuff like pizza, bread, French fries, and pasta (carb, carb, carb, and carb). Proteins and vegetables work well for me…you can eat a million of veggies given how low-cal they are. Two weeks off the carbs and I’m golden and can turn down the cookie tray (and even the Fritos)…if I’m inspired to be that much on my own bandwagon!  For me, I can see how eating the white starches and white sugars trigger the insulin and set my body into “fat storage” mode. Also, by eliminating prepackaged foods like packaged noodles and such, my blood pressure went way down due to steering clear from the sky-high sodium that’s in packaged products. I feel better when I’m eating fresher, healthier food!  And go figure…I have more energy too.

But, throwing the baby out with the bath water in never good. As a buddy told me (irate upon reading the above-mentioned article) fiber is found in complex carbs.  My pal reminded me that bad fats are just that--bad fats!   Fruits are good for you too--even though they are nature's sugar and carbs! 

However, a look around Wal-mart in middle America shows you that our middles are growing wider and wider. We have a TV/gaming-oriented society that would rather sit and couch potato in rather than hit the great outdoors (anyone read Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder?). Doing that and eating super-sized portions, is it a surprise that Type 2 diabetes and obesity are on the rise? According to one statistic I saw recently, approximately 30-35% of our population is obese, and another 35% or so are overweight and getting close.  No wonder Michelle Obama started her "Let's Move" campaign (, and foodies like Jamie Oliver and Chef Ann Cooper are trying desperately to get healthier food in schools.

I also see all of the above influencing the waste (not just “waist”) problem in America. Gone to a restaurant lately and seen the portions they offer up?  Compare them to the true portion size that we SHOULD be eating! Yikes!?!  Add in, if you DON”T eat it all up right there, lucky you can take it home in a polystyrene (aka: non-recyclable styrofoam) clamshell doggie bag, typically bagged up in a single-use plastic bag too. And where do they both end up? Landfills and waistlines = waste, waist, and waste.

So ‘tis the season for New Year’s Resolutions.
Based on fitness club commercials and the billions of dollars they spend post-holiday advertising (where memberships are at their highest, then dwindle about 4-6 weeks later with everyone’s failing willpower), health and fitness are on everyone’s minds this time of year.

Here we are--well past the holiday season, and Santa has moved on beyond the cookies.  Have you?  That gets us circling back to the "carb’ument"…to carb or not to carb? That IS the question.  Only you know for you. As for me, it goes back to the oldie but goodie: Eat less and exercise more. I’m going to work on greening my plate with loads of veggies, and wipe out the wasted calories of the "white stuff." But, I’m going to remember that those complex carbohydrates are fiber-filled and good in moderation. That and an exercise class with a partner in crime (to keep me honest with myself) will hopefully fill my plate, drop some numbers, increase some energy levels, and fulfill one of my New Year’s resolutions!
* * * *

For an additional read on Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" program and the controversy a healthy eating platform can bring when it comes to political warfare, read Fred Hiatt's Washington Post article from December 25th entitled "
How did obesity become a partisan fight?" .

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Clue Into Climate ~ Curriculum Cache

      “The earth continues to get warmer, yet it’s feeling a lot colder outside. Over the past few weeks, subzero temperatures in Poland claimed 66 lives; snow arrived in Seattle well before the winter solstice, and fell heavily enough in Minneapolis to make the roof of the Metrodome collapse; and last week blizzards closed Europe’s busiest airports in London and Frankfurt for days, stranding holiday travelers. The snow and record cold have invaded the Eastern United States, with more bad weather predicted.
       All of this cold was met with perfect comic timing by the release of a World Meteorological Organization report showing that 2010 will probably be among the three warmest years on record, and 2001 through 2010 the warmest decade on record.
        How can we reconcile this? The not-so-obvious short answer is that the overall warming of the atmosphere is actually creating cold-weather extremes. Last winter, too, was exceptionally snowy and cold across the Eastern United States and Eurasia, as were seven of the previous nine winters.”                                                       
~ Quoted from Judah Cohen’s “Bundle Up, It’s Global Warming” article in the New York Times, published December 25th, 2010 (
In a winter such as this--in a warming world such as this--it definitely gets you thinking about the best way to teach about Climate Change to our global youth. (That same global youth that will be our leaders and decision makers in 15 year or so!)

Lucky for all of us, we don’t need to reinvent the wheel…or “climate change curriculum!!” The Internet comes to the rescue once again and will lead you to a great resource to use to teach about climate change. Click on the title above, or go to for everything you need. 
Aligning with both state and national science standards for grades 4-8, Clue into Climate hits these 4 major strands:
  • Increased Greenhouse Gases Contribute to Climate Change
  • Climate Change Affects Ecosystems and the Distributions of Organisms
  • Climate Change Affects the Water Cycle
  • Climate Changes Can be Mitigated by Using Renewable Energy Sources
For an added bonus... 
Also on this website, you can go to to find out about a "Journey of the Plastic Bottle." The video is eye-opening, giving detail about our "Garbage Super Highway"…also known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch!!! Plus, you will also find there are a bundle of other videos (& lesson plans associated with them) so you can incorporate all sorts or info about climate change, pollution, green eating, and other aspects of the environment into your classroom (or with your own eco-minded children at home.).

PS..Don’t forget to read Judah Cohen’s entire article at There, you’ll see the how the snow of Siberia plays a substanatial role in our winter weather worldwide.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Have Yourself a Merry Li'l Snowglobe

Everyone loves early Christmas gifts...especially mom's of 5 year-old boys.  And five-year-old boys love giving those early gifts in an "I just can't wait" manner!!

Yes, it's early, but I don't think it's going to matter.  One of my favorite gifts this year has been a hand-made gift from my preK'er...à la the creative genius of the PreK/Kindergarten crew at Eagle Cove School, my Maryland "Green" School.  Spearheaded by their fabulously-talented and creative teacher assistant, each child gave their parents a hand-wrapped gift, with a recycled-card, gift: a hand-crafted snow globe constructed nearly entirely of recyclables.  

To made this wonderful gift, it took an old baby food jar, past Christmas ornaments, and some well placed water, glitter, and glue gun glue.  To add to the "green-ness" of it all, they were packaged in a box constructed of remnants from the laminator and paper shreds from last week's newspaper advertisements.  A true keepsake in every sense of the word!!
And, when it's presented with the pride of a 5 year old who made it all by his most certainly can't be beat!!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

On The Road, December-Style

I feel a bit like I'm living a cross-over of Jack Kerouac's On The Road meets Bing Crosby's 1943 "I'll Be Home For Christmas:"  
 Packed car. 
"Have presents, will travel."  
GPS address locked and loaded, 
and off we go.

The map below isn't quite the route we took, but pretty darn close.  12.5 hours drive time and 6 states later, you get to see a lot of the landscape of our countryside.  The Appalachian Mountains, the rolling hills of Ohio and Pennsylvania, the flatland of the Midwest.  You also get to see the decorated tree in the arrival of "home."  (No doubt, the best part.)
On a trip like this, you realize the vastness of our country, yet you further realize how awe-inspiringly small it is in planetary-comparison to all of our oceans and continents.  You see the magnitude of the vistas and the beauty of December snow....and the pollution that settles upon it--by way of litter, fly-away plastic bags, and soot-particles that fall from factories and automobiles.  

Add in...a trip like this gives you a lot of captured time to think as you're taking in the landscape.  It's a gorgeous li'l world we have out there.  It's my Christmas wish that we, as a human race, all get it together and take care of it.

Seasons Greetings
Happy Holidays
Merry Christmas 
Feliz Navidad
Wonderful Winter Solstice
from the Green Team Gazette
Images from:

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree....

Tonight I watched the Maryland Public Television's rendition of the lighting of the National Christmas Tree from last week's December 9th, 2010. 

Being an hour away from DC, there have several years I've gotten a chance to meander down to DC's ellipse (just beyond the White House Lawn) to see the National Tree and all the individual state/territory trees.  It's an amazing sight, a massive tree.

The current blue spruce is a live tree, and has been there since 1978 & the Carter era.  At 42 feet tall, most certainly is a sight to behold. The tradition of lighting DC's national tree has been around since 1923 & Calvin Coolidge. In 2009, the lighting of the tree went  a "green," using LED (light-emitting diode) lights.  What does this mean?  According to
"LEDs Offer More Efficient Technology than Incandescent Lights and CFLs:
According to, LED bulbs are lit solely by the movement of electrons. Unlike incandescents, they have no filament that will burn out; and unlike CFLs, they contain no mercury or other toxic substances. Proponents say LEDs can last some 60 times longer than incandescents and 10 times longer than CFLs. And unlike incandescents, which generate a lot of waste heat, LEDs don’t get especially hot and use a much higher percentage of electricity for directly generating light."
And as for 2010 in the historic world of the National Christmas Tree...the timeline grows.  This year marks another notable eco-event.  Not only do the LED lights continue to illuminate the tree (and heck, these might even be the same type of lights on your tree at home!), but  it
"is the first year that custom ornaments are not being used on the National Christmas Tree. Today’s LED ornaments are not only energy efficient and long lasting; they’re also very beautiful--even during the day when they are not lit. They can enhance any holiday lighting design,” said Mary Beth Gotti, Manager of the GE Lighting Institute in Cleveland, Ohio. (quoted from
Of the 750 strings of lights, the 430 colorful sphere decorations and the 84 snowflakes (all LED), each ornament only uses about 2 watts of light, making the total tree power consumption about 7000 watts.  According to the National Tree website (see link above), incandescent lights of Christmases of yesteryear (or make that 2 yrs ago!) took the total wattage to well over 50,000 watts. That's a big difference!  LED is clearly the light at the end of the tunnel, illuminating the way to go!

So the timeline is marked....the history is noted...and the tree is green (in more ways than one).  Gives new meaning to the song...
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
Your branches green delight us.
They are green when summer days are bright;
They are green when winter snow is white.
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
Your branches green delight us!

Image from

Friday, December 10, 2010

Seeing With New Vision: Wind Vision 2010

"First, there is the power of the Wind, constantly exerted over the globe.... Here is an almost incalculable power at our disposal, yet how trifling the use we make of it! It only serves to turn a few mills, blow a few vessels across the ocean, and a few trivial ends besides. What a poor compliment do we pay to our indefatigable and energetic servant!" ~ Henry David Thoreau, from Paradise (To Be) Regained [1843]
Last weekend, my green partner in crime at Eagle Cove School went to "Wind Vision 2010: A Maryland Citizens' Conference for Offshore Wind Power" in Annapolis.

What is "Wind Vision?"  From their website ( it is:
WHAT: First-ever citizens' conference on offshore wind power in Maryland. Sponsored by the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, the National Wildlife Federation, the Maryland League of Conservation Voters, Environment Maryland, the Maryland Sierra Club, and the United Steelworkers.
WHY: Because federal and international leaders are moving way too slowly on clean energy. It’s time to make Maryland a wind power example to the world.
 From the 6 hour conference, here are my eco-cohort's notes/key points:
  • Just in case you still don’t “believe” that the world is warming … The warmer temperatures means that there is an excess of water vapor in the air. Last winter, we had the 3 highest snowfall events since 1850 ALL WITHIN A 6 WEEK PERIOD! And we had the hottest year on record in Maryland.
  • The Mid-Atlantic Bight is a coastal region that goes from North Carolina to Massachusetts. It is 600 miles long and covers 9 states.
  • If wind turbines were in place throughout the Bight they could produce 70% of the power used in the U.S.
  • A connector cable for the East Coast is being planned right now. It will be underground and be able to handle 6,000 megawatts. This system could easily be up-graded to carry more wattage.
  • After “Inconvenient Truth”, Al Gore gathered a group of scientists to discuss how long it would take this country to produce all its energy without fossil fuels. Their answer was 10 years.
  • This same thing was done at the beginning of WWII. In 1939, 2,000 warplanes were produced in this country. By 1946, we had produced 257,000 warplanes.
  • The same thing happened with putting a man on the moon.
  • It’s not a matter of technology; it’s a matter of will.
  • Today, 60% of our energy in Maryland comes from burning coal, 30% from the Calvert nuclear plant, and only 7% comes from renewable sources.

  • Based on both legislation by Gov. Martin O'Malley & Maryland's Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards [Maryland is 1 of 33 states to have one of these], Maryland's goal is to produce 20% of its electricity from renewable resources by 2022. The current projections are: 2% from solar, 2% from burning biomass, 2% from onshore wind, and 2% from offshore wind.  (Of course, by my GTG calculations, that math doesn't get us to 20%!)
So Maryland is taking the position as a leader among states.  By "greening the grid," more jobs and cleaner energy will come our way...2 rather important things for this congested, populated area in a time when CNN reports a near 10% unemployment nationwide based on November 2010's statistics.  Way to go, Maryland!  Based on the Space Race and WWII warplane production, clearly we all can do it....IF we put our mind to it. 

Let's hope Gov. O'Malley energy initiatives & leadership goals for renewable energy production will "blow" Maryland toward a grand success, and not just be "hot air." 

For more on Maryland's 2022 intentions, check out the news article at

Dance With Wind

Wind is the fate we are facing
Wind is the life we are touching every second
Wind is the love we don’t understand but feel
Wind is the bridge we cannot see but feel
Wind is wind is wind is wind is wind
Wind is the rope we to ourselves not to be free
Wind is……… Wind is…………. Wind is…………
Driving into human imagination unknowingly

~ by Nyein Way

Mid Atlantic Bight image from

Saturday, December 4, 2010

"Retail Philanthropy:" Gifts That Keep Giving

In this holiday season, even if you are a die hard eco-warrior with many-a-good-intention to cut back the giving of "stuff," sometimes you just can't help it.  There are people in your life who you love, and (especially if they are li'l ones), the holidays are synonymous with wish lists and wants.

One way to combat the consumption and commercialism of Christmas is to give gifts that give back.  Here are some of my favorite ones:  (At check out, enter code: EAGLECOVE1011)......... Eagle Cove School and CynerGreen have partnered to create a school fundraising site. There, all items are Earth-friendly, and 20% of each purchase goes to support Eagle Cove School, a Maryland Green School in Pasadena, Maryland. As a great aside, if you'd like to create a similar eco fundraising site for your school/organization, go to  A lot of schools know about "Box Tops For Education."  You've seen those li'l pink box tops all over your pantry items.  Well, now there is a whole "eBox Top" marketplace.  By starting your online shopping spree at the site above, you can link into a number of well-known stores (big box, boutique, and beyond)...then your school can earn electronic "eBox Tops"--which equals more money down the line for your organization.  To find out more about the stores involved, go to .  If your school isn't signed up and you aren't sure who to support, "Eagle Cove School," is ALWAYS a great options!  At "A Little Green House," you can take advantage of both eco-friendly finds and creations by Maryland artisans while doing your gift-shopping.  In addition to that, local companies and non-profit organizations (of your choice) can benefit from your purchase by receiving 25% of your sales.  Currently, you can choose between 11 Chesapeake Bay & Annapolis area nonprofits to support including the Annapolis Opera, the Cheasapeake Bay Environmental CenterMaryland State Firemen's Association, or St. Andrews UM Day School.   If toys are what you are in pursuit of, "Careful Planet Toy's" is an online toy store that might be for you.  All items are made of recycled, biodegradable, and sustainably-safe materials. Their vendors operate in an "ecologically conscious" way...from manufacturing to packaging.  They carry items from companies such as Bioviva Games, Eco Angles, Green Toys, ImagiPLAY, Late for the Sky, Maple Landmark, miYim, Sabamba Bikes, Schylling, and Sprig Toys.  Uptown Liz is a company that was created after the founder's sister died of breast cancer at the young age of 28.  The mission of the company:  to "promote products from companies whose proceeds directly give back to charitable organizations.  You can shop on this one-of-a-kind Web site by charitable cause or product category." There, you'll find "art, clothing, jewelry, house wares, beauty and eco-friendly products (just to name a few) that benefit charities all over the world."  You will find a lot of cool items there
  At Tattered Cover, as a "Tattered Cover Gives Back" member, 1% of your pre-tax sale goes to one of 2-dozen+ Denver-area non-profit partners.  Partners include the Blair-Caldwell African American Research LibraryThe Children's Museum of Denver Literacy ProgramsColorado Public Radio, KCFR/KVODThe Colorado Symphony OrchestraDenver Urban GardensHabitat for Humanity of Metro Denver, among many more

    So as you are shopping, especially if you are like me and would rather do it from the comfort of your own computer rather than going out in the world to wrestle the traffic and the havoc, these are some great places to start!  Shop with a purpose to make the season doubly meaningful.

    December's GTG Newletter Has Hit the Stands

    Hot off the presses.... December's Green Team Gazette Newsletter is out!

    Given it's the season of giving, this month's GTG is dedicated to helping you encourage your youngsters to think a little lighter on the side of consumption and packaging, by encouraging the 3R's.

    This month's highlights include:
    • Marvy Multiplication (with a "Landfill & Trash" slant)
    • Re-Thinking the Grinch (and link it to Annie Leonard's "The Story of Stuff")
    • Reduce, Reuse, and Wrap It Up (creative wrapping ideas with leftover items)
    • From Landfill-Lover to Eco-Warrior Board Game (a "Chutes and Ladder's" Style of slippery slides to total transformation!)