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The First Farmer

by The Green A-Team

Grassroots movements converge on Washington to urge the Obamas to appoint the nation’s First Farmer.

It wasn’t difficult for the first family to decide on a personal chef - Sam Kass has been preparing them local and organic meals since their Chicago days.  But now that the Obama’s every morsel is up for discussion, some feel that the food eaten by the President should come from his own land.

In response, three separate organizations have sprung up, all calling for one thing:  Turn the White House lawn into farmland.

The first, called the White House Organic Farm Project is touring it’s “topsy-turvy” bus around the nation teaching the code of the green thumb.

Another group called “Eat the View,” with its 1,600+ members are all buying up virtual plots of the First Lawn as donations.

Lastly, a local Illinois farm family created and attracted over 100 nominees for the position of First Farmer.  Out of 56,000 votes, three emerged and have been recommended directly to the President.

Get involved and visit these sites:

The WHO Farm Project

Eat the View

White House Farmer

Photo by Monroedb1.

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E-waste: Where do all the gadgets go?

by The Green A-Team

The International Consumer Electronics Show wrapped up in Las Vegas but what happens to these soon-to-be-obsolete electronic devices once their lifetime has expired?

Electronic waste, made up of discarded TV’s, computers, and cell phones, known as E-waste has swiftly risen to become the fastest growing component of our country’s waste stream.  In reality, the physical stuff of these magic machines consists mainly of lead, mercury, and cancer-causing dioxins that poison the people and habitats around them.

One such habitat can be found in the Guiyu region of China.  Here, nearly 80% of the world’s e-waste is shipped to be sorted, dismantled, and melted down to its valuable elements, including gold.  The result is the highest concentration of cancer and child lead poisoning in the world.

Ensure your e-waste isn’t contributing to this toxic scourge by checking out recycling brokers and accredited e-stewards the next time you’re ready to toss a used gadget.

For more on what to do with e-waste, check out some of these resources:

Electronic Waste - Guiyu, China

Regional Computer Recycling and Recovery (

E-Waste: Dark side of digital age (Wired)

Following the trail of toxic e-waste (60-Minutes)

Photo and slideshow by alistair.ruff.

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My dirty little Valentine

by The Green A-Team

When choosing gold jewelry for your Valentine this year, consider the dirty secrets of this so-called precious metal.

The world’s gold is in short supply and the amount collected in the last 500 yearsd could fill two Olympic sized swimming pools.  Within the last 50 years, the old wild west methods of panning and prospecting have been replaced by mountain leveling, open-pit mining that creates man made earth gashes that can be seen from space.

Having the least vital relevance to human existence, gold generates more waste per ounce than any other metal.  One ounce, the amount found in a typical wedding ring, requires the removal of more than 250 tons of rock and ore.  Cyanide is used to leach gold from the ore and the lead and mercury heavy waste slurry is commonly dumped into local water resources decimating fish, wildlife, and poisoning the food chain for generations.

If you really want to dazzle your Valentine this year, try buy from retailers like Tiffany & Co that are pushing mining standards higher.

For more facts and alternatives to dirty gold, check out some of these powerful images and links:

Women Gold Miners (Chocó, Colombia)

Chocó is a no man’s land. The large inaccessible rainforest jungle area in the western lowlands of Colombia is mainly inhabited by Afro Colombian population, descendents of African slaves. High presence of malaria, guerilla drug traffic routes, tropical deseases and only an irregular river transport makes this region virtually lost. Gold that is found in the jungle rivers of Chocó is the only hope for many although they never find what they dream about. Women goldminers work in a hot tropical humid climate, miring in the goldbearing mud, searching for the gold and platine dust. They will never give up their effort simply because there is no other way to live off. ©

Alternatives to Dirty Gold (

Jewelery retailers target ‘dirty gold’ (Marketplace)

Cleaning up dirty gold (Washington Post)

Photo by danielle_blue.

Slideshow by Jan Sochor.

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Give a tweet!
Twitter quenches the world’s clean water crisis

by The Green A-Team

How is Twitter helping to provide clean water to developing countries?

Still fuzzy on what Twitter is? If you can express it in 140 characters, you’re ready to “tweet” yourself into the micro-blogging community some 750 thousand strong.

One thing you may find difficult to express in 140 characters, however, is the dire need for clean water in countries outside our own.  Unsafe drinking water and lack of sanitation cause 80% of all the sickness and disease worldwide.  So how does a seemingly trivial web gadget help this planetary plight?

On February 12th, over 100 cities will be hosting Twestivals, bringing together Twitter communities to raise money and awareness for the non-profit organization called charity:water.  All donations will directly fund costly yet vital clean water bearing systems.

Because of the power Twitter has to connect, mobilize, and inform people, these Twestivals have turned a quirky phenomenon into a force for global change.

Join the Twestival in your city by clicking on the following links:

Anaheim Asheville Atlanta Augusta Austin Baltimore Baton Rouge Boca Raton Boston Calgary Charlotte Charlottesville Chicago Cleveland College Station TX Columbia MO Columbus OH Dallas Denver Des Moines Detroit Durham Edmonton Fargo Galveston Halifax Hampton Roads VA Honolulu Houston Indianapolis Ithaca Iowa City Kansas City Kelowna Lafayette Lakewood Las Vegas Los Angeles Madison Memphis Mexico City Miami Milwaukee Minneapolis Moncton Montclair Monterrey Montreal Nashville New Orleans New York Ottawa Philadelphia Phoenix Pittsburgh Portland Raleigh Richmond VA     Rochester San Diego San Francisco San Jose Santa Barbara Savannah Seattle Somers CT South Padre Springfield Tampa Toronto Traverse City Vancouver Washington Wichita Wilmington International Cities and South America

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White House Farmer Polling Results

by The Green A-Team

This just in from

Thank you for your outpouring of support for a White House Farmer – we received nearly 56,000 votes from all across the country in just 10 days!

This amazing grassroots effort has sent a huge wave of awareness across the nation.  You have spoken loud and clear — not only to encourage the new administration to make Michael Pollan’s call for a White House Farmer a reality — but also for the larger cause that we are working toward with our farms and with our forks, delicious food grown sustainably by farmers in our communities.

We offer our congratulations to all the nominees, and to farmers across the nation who steward the land and grow good food.  You are all winners, and we are grateful for the work you do.

The top three vote-getters in this poll were:

1. Claire Strader, Troy Community Farm, Madison, WI

2. Carrie Anne Little, Mother Earth Farm, Puyallup, WA

3. Margaret Lloyd, Home Farming, Davis, CA

Congratulations, Margaret!

Scroll down for more of Margaret’s fight to farm the White House lawn.

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*Special Report*
White House Farmer Nominee, Margaret Lloyd

by The Green A-Team

I just got off the phone with a brilliant young woman named Margaret Lloyd.  She’s a grad student at UC Davis going for her Masters in International Agricultural Development and Plant Pathology.

Why is she so significant at this very moment?

Today, January 31st, is the FINAL DAY of her campaign to become the official White House Farmer! Margaret is one of over 100 nominees selected to till, sow, and harvest 5 prime south-facing acres of the White House lawn at the start of this year’s growing season.

Here’s Margaret in her own words:

Q: How’s the campaign going?


Q: How did you become a nominee?  What kinds of things on campus have you been doing?


Q: Obviously you have farming experience but have you ever had 5 acres all to yourself?  What kinds of crops do you intend to grow?


Q: Do you think you’ll be able to fuel the farm with the crops you grow?


Q: What other challenges are you facing going into this?


Q: What do you have to say to the world in support of your campaign?


Our guest has been Margaret Lloyd, grad student of International Agriculture and Plant Pathology at UC Davis and nominee for White House Farmer.

There’s only a couple hours left to vote so log onto and vote for Margaret!

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The corn that’s killing us

by The Green A-Team

Is corn killing us?

The endless supply of junk food in our society creates untold amounts of waste and causes health problems like obesity and diabetes but it’s not simply sugar and fat doing the damage.  There’s a common ingredient found in almost everything sold on supermarket shelves from fatty beef to sugary soda - it’s corn.

Curt Ellis, one of the creators of the documentary film, King Corn.

Corn is the basis for fast food.  When we go to McDonald’s, the hamburger is fed corn, the soda is almost completely high-fructose corn syrup, and the french fries are fried in corn oil or soybean oil.

The overproduction of low quality corn as a commodity is a huge problem but there’s a lot you can do to combat it.  Buy locally produced vegetables, switch to grass fed beef, and avoid high-fructose corn syrup.  These easy steps will help you right the wrongs of the American food industry and live well.

For the full interview podcast with Curt Ellis, click here.

Photo by Joeri van Veen.

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Curt Ellis, Co-Creator of King Corn

by The Green A-Team

I’m speaking today with one of the creators of the documentary film, King Corn, he’s also a Food and Society Policy fellow with the Kellog Foundation.

Q: At the very beginning of the film you talk about how our generation is at risk of having a shorter life span based on the foods we eat, specifically regarding the omnipresence of corn in our diet.  Was there one thing in particular that really calcified this fear and got you off the coast and in the corn belt?

A: I think it was that announcement in a major medical journal.  Around that time I was graduating from college, that my generation, I’m in my 20s, my generation is likely to have a shorter life expectancy than my parents generation and that’s something that’s really never happened before and it’s a result of this incredible explosion of obesity.  The fact that obesity has doubled in the last 30 years in this country and now according to the CDC one in three kids is on a path to develop type-2 diabetes.  So we’re seeing this tremendous explosion of healthcare problems that really are being caused by the way we feed ourselves.

Q: Specifically, how is corn putting us at risk of a shorter life span?

A: Corn is the basis for fast food in our country.  When we go to McDonalds or Burger King and order a fast food meal, the hamburger is fed corn in confinement and as a result it’s higher in saturated fat than a grass fed cow would be; the soda is almost completely corn because of high-fructose corn syrup; and french fries are fried in corn oil or soybean oil and all those weird polysyllabic food ingredients like propylene glycol and citric acid, those are corn too.  So really what we’ve done is, in the last half-century, create an industrial food system that uses these highly processed commodities like corn and soybean to fuel a conversion from eating fresh food and nutritious food to eating these empty calories like high-fructose corn syrup.

Q: You and Ian looked like you guys were having a pretty good time throughout the film, was there ever a point where farm life seemed to be getting just a little too much for you guys?

A: Definitely!  We moved to Iowa with this expectation that we were gonna spend our first year out of college as farmers and I think we brought with us a lot of expectations as far as what that meant.  I remember a friend of us gave us work gloves because he imagined we’d be out digging in the soil with a shovel but the reality was completely different and it’s a sign of just how disconnected from agriculture most Americans have become.  For us, farming was not at all like gardening.  If you’re growing 1000 acres of corn or soybeans, it’s about driving giant tractors, spraying some pretty intense herbicides, injecting gaseous ammonia fertilizer into the field.  It was, to us, a totally different experience than we imagined.

Q: It’s all machines now.

A: You know, we didn’t touch the soil with our hands once in the course of growing 10,000 pounds of food and that, on a cultural level, was a real shock to us.  We have this incredible bounty coming from the land but very little interaction with it.

Disturbing.  In your interview with former Secretary of Agriculture, Earl Butz, seemed to be one of the most tense and poignant moments on screen.  Having served for 5 years in that position, Buts is depicted as having probably the greatest effect on the US farm program in history.  Has there been much change to the Farm Bill he created in 1973 that indicates that the overproduction of commodity corn is being addressed?

A: No, there’s been piece meal change over the last 40 years.  But the way our farm subsidy systems work today, like in the early 70s, channels an incredible amount of tax dollars to promote the production of a handful of commodities, the commodities that become the basis for fast food and processed food.  In the last 10 years, we’ve spent more than 50 billion dollars just on promoting corn production through federal subsidies.  And we’re not subsidizing fruits and vegetables, the kind of things we know are healthy for us so what we’ve done is tinker with the free market and create a new system in which fast food and processed food and processed commodities are artificially cheap and abundant.  And the foods we know are good for us, fresh fruits and vegetables, and the things we know are good for the land like conservation practices, those things have not received their fair share of subsidies.

Q: Are we gonna need some new sort of fast food chain of natural foods in order to combat this?  I mean, what can we do?

A: Well, there’s certain things consumers can do if you decide you don’t wanna feed your kids high fructose corn syrup it’s probably gonna make them healthier to not have too many empty calories in their diet but the bigger thing we can do is become policy advocates in however small a way.  One reason the farm subsidy program has stayed intact for the last 40 years and is working against us as consumers and against farmers, family farmers, one reason that program has stayed intact is because there has been no outcry from the public.  Most of us have just assumed that farm subsidies only apply to farmers or to the “farm states” but the reality is this is also a food bill, the farm bill is a food bill, and the way we grow food and the kind of food we promote affects our health down the line and affects what we see when we walk into the supermarket which right now is a whole lot of processed corn and soybeans.

Q: Have you continued your farming practices after this whole thing?

A: I haven’t.  I will admit, I’m part of a growing number of people in my generation who want to get back to the land in some way and it’s pretty important.  The typical farmer now is around 55 years of age so there’s about to be a tremendous turnover in who’s farming the land and what they’re growing.  So I’m off the farm for now and making films like King Corn and traveling around showing them to people.  My desire in the long run is to be a farmer and to not just grow commodities on a 2000 acre scale but also grow some food for direct consumption.

Q: Any more films of this nature that we can expect from you guys?

A: Yeah, we just finished a documentary about the first big green residential building in Boston.  It’s a film called the Greening of Southie and it’s basically the story of couple hundred blue collar jobs going green and I think in many ways it comes from the same place as King Corn which is this idea that we live in the most advanced country in the world but we pay almost no attention to the fundamental things - food and clothing and shelter - which at the end of the day, are still the most important things.  King Corn’s a film about where our food comes from and the Greening of Southie is a film about the buildings we live in.

Photo by Ian Cheney | Independent Lens | PBS

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City Spotlight: Brooklyn, NY

by The Green A-Team

US cities are growing, populations are exploding, and the environment is suffering.

In this City Spotlight, we travel to the New York City borough of Brooklyn.  Better known for its brownstones than green space, it’s home to the the country’s largest oil spill and faces challenges that all growing cities face.

Residents and legislators have had their hands full treating hazardous conditions caused by it’s man-made industrial waterways like the Newtown Creek. An estimated 30 million gallons of oil has been leaking into the soil and water around it since the 1950s.

Brooklyn Borough President, Marty Markowitz.

We have no choice.  This is the future.  It’s about our economy in the future.  It’s about our health in the future.  It’s about jobs in the future and we can’t allow the energy industry to get by us.

While your city may not be 2.5 million people crammed into 70 square miles like Brooklyn, increased awareness of your surroundings can secure safe living environments for your family and neighbors.

For more city spotlights, click here!

Listen here for our full interview with Marty Markowitz.

Photo by *Your Guide.

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Brooklyn Borough President, Marty Markowitz

by The Green A-Team

At the recent USGBC New York Chapter Gala,  Borough President Marty Markowitz took the time to address  a few things that are on the minds Brooklyn residents, small business owners, and the environmental community.  It was clear from his direct and sometimes gregarious responses that while every politician is subject to criticism, Borough President Markowitz certainly isn’t afraid to express his personal views.

Markowitz became involved in politics in the 1970s, by organizing tenant and senior citizen organizations in Flatbush, Brooklyn.  His role as a community leader got him elected to the State Senate in 1978, and spent over two decades as a New York State Senator for Brooklyn. During his time as a state senator, he was known for creating a series of oceanfront concerts and other festivals rather than drafting legislation.

Q: What’s Green about Brooklyn?

A: Well, listen, in fact if you look in New York City, the most environmentally active community in the city is Park Slope.  We lead the way, it’s true!  There’s no question about it.

Q: Can small business get help to clean up toxic industrial sites and move in safely?

A: The answer is yes but it’s going to require a partnership with State and Federal Government and as you know right now, finances are such in the State that are most challenging and I’m sorry to say that we’re on a cutting mode right now but once our economy becomes stronger it’s my hope that the Federal and State Governments will be eager participants and provide the resources to allow the city to clean up.  First up, we need that property, we need that land and it’s environmentally a necessity.  I can tell you that, for instance, there’s a business in Brooklyn, I think you know, Whole Foods, that is not able to really get going because of the toxic level of the property that they bought and that’s a shame for all of us, the jobs potentially that we’re losing not only there but other locations.

I see the future as very bright, you know why?  America has no choice! We have no choice.  This is the future.  It’s about our economy in the future.  It’s about our health in the future.  It’s about jobs in the future.  And you know what, we in this nation better get on this curve because Japan and Korea and some of those Mid-East countries are already on the track and we can’t be left behind.  We already failed in the automobile industry and unless we grab that industry back, we’re gonna be further behind and we can’t allow the energy industry to get by us as well.  This is the future of America at stake so I’m convinced that we’ll make it happen.

Q: What are you thoughts on carbon tariffs?

A: I must tell you that I think we have to provide incentives to corporations to do what they have to do.  First you entice then and then you slap them so let’s see what more we can do to entice them before we slap them.  I always believe the first approach, the best approach, is to provide incentives and then if they don’t live up to their public responsibilities, then the hammer comes down.

Q: What’s happening with the Gowanus Canal?

A: Well, there’s some exciting things about the Gowanus Canal.  There are proposals, as you know, of Toll Brothers to build new housing there and I believe the key, by having more development around the Gowanus and having more residential units, it will really really put the pressure on Federal, State and City Govern to clean up the Gowanus Canal once and for all.

Q: Are you involved in the Newtown Creek cleanup efforts?

A: Newtown Creek is another area.  Riverkeeper and I have been very active, I’m part of the suit and there’s no question that Exxon/Mobil I believe, under Barack Obama and Congress, that we’ll have a much better opportunity to get the oil companies to clean up their garbage.  It’s the truth!  This is our shot, this is our chance.

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Alberta oil sands catastrophe pending:
Act now

by Rich Awn

Hey Americans!

Thought it would be helpful to direct your attention to this little letter put together by some freaked out Canadians about an industrial catastrophe that will nullify Quebec’s carbon reduction efforts.

As stated, if Enbridge is allowed to implement the “Trailbreaker Plan”, increase production and supply this pipeline that ends at the marinas of Portland, Maine, the emissions and massive holes in the ground will leave a tangible and indelible scar on the planet; it will distort and disfigure life as we know it.  This is real.

Submit your attention as a concerned neighbor and read about the players and the plans below.

Good Guys:


Environmental Defense

Forest Ethics

Bad Guys:

Enbridge (Trailbreaker Overview)

Photo by Arkaiyen.

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New shades of cosmetics:
Exclusive interview with Josie Maran

by The Green A-Team

Every day, millions of women attempt to change the course of nature with moisturizers, mascaras, and makeup.  But if they knew what they were rubbing into their skin, they might just let nature take its course.

A product is considered Green based on what it’s made of and how it’s made.  Conventional cosmetics, lacking in any FDA standards, have been putting woman at risk with products made with hormone-altering and cancer causing chemicals like phthalates, triclosan, parabens, and musks.

Josie Maran, world famous supermodel, actress, and creator of Josie Maran Cosmetics sees this not only as an occupational hazard, but a worldwide epidemic.

50% of what you put on your skin, you skin absorbs.  20% of the ingredients are harmful so if you’re putting those on your skin every day, you have a likely chance of harming your body.

Natural cosmetics contain safe, organic ingredients and with an average daily makeup wearer absorbing up to five pounds of product a year, a safe alternative couldn’t have come along any sooner.

For more of on Green cosmetics and our interview with Josie Maran, click here.

Photo by 殞落天使.

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Actress, model, green cosmetic leader Josie Maran

by The Green A-Team

Beauty is only skin deep but Josie Maran’s goes even deeper with her concern and contribution toward the health of women like her that are habitual wearers of cosmetics.

Whether it’s your modeling or acting job or simply your desire to feel more beutiful when you leave the house, the daily cosmetic consumer can avoid risk by using natuaral and organic products.

Our interview with Josie reveals her sincerity and belief in her product as well as insight on the larger industry and where we’re going as a country.

Q: How dangerous are conventional cosmetics really?

A: Conventional cosmetics are harmful because 60% of what you put on your skin, your skin absorbs.  20% of the ingredients are harmful so if you’re putting those on your skin every day, you have a likely chance of harming your body.

Q: How careful are you in making sure that the ingredients you’re using in your line of cosmetics are all natural or ogranic?

A: My mission was to create a line that was good quality and that was health.  That’s always been the most important thing for me, that I use non-toxic ingredients.

Q: Are you able to trace where the ingredients are coming from be it the coconuts used or the way the water is being process for the actual product.

A: I do as much as I can.  I’m not actually out there farming the products and so I have to put my trust in my labs. I do a lot of questioning, I go to the labs and look though everything so I do as much as I can to ensure that I’m getting quality ingredients and that they’re coming from sustainable sources as well.  It’s not just that they’re not toxic that they’re coming from a place that is employing women in their communities.

Q: What steps do you take to make sure the packaging is environmentally friendly?

A: I think that was my biggest impact on the industry is that my packaging is biodegradable, recyclable and that was something that I saw no one was doing out there.  Packaging is actually as harmful as the ingredients when you’re looking at the whole environment.  Nobody was doing it and it was really hard to find that kind of packaging but it’s much more popular now and packaging people are calling me all the time and I’m encouraging all companies to use sustainable packaging because it’s totally possible and it can look stylish too.

Q: Do you see big cosmetic manufacturers following in a similar path?

A: I think it’s a slow movement but I definitely think the customers are asking for it so I do see some change.  The big companies are using natural and orgainic a lot more than they used to.  I think you have to be careful about their marketing and make sure that when they say it, they mean it.  You can tell they’re looking into it more.

Q: How do you think the new Presidential administration is going to affect environmental issues going forward?

A: There’s a new feeling in the world of hope for change.  I think that it’s gonna open the door for asking questions and making changes so I think  the new Presidential election is going to be very positive for the environment.

Photo by curl.d.up.

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Slow food epidemic spreading at snail’s pace

by The Green A-Team

Fast food causes some of the biggest health and environmental problems today.

Will the Slow Food movement help?

The Slow Food idea began in Rome in 1986 out of protest against a new MacDonalds restaurant slated for construction.  The protest ballooned into what’s now a movement of 350,000 strong, keeping consistent with centuries of Italian culinary traditions stressing the highest in quality food, ancient organic farming methods, and regional offerings.

Today, slow food organizations, chapters, and restaurants are found in most major cities the world over.  The theme of education through tastings and the preservation of heritage through food seems to be catching on… not to mention, it’s good for you!

For slow food restaurants in your area, check out some of the following links:

Slow Food USA

Slow Food Nation

Slow Food LA

Slow Food Seattle

Slow Food San Francisco

Slow Food Asheville

Slow Food NYC

Photo by Alastair French.

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Gobble Green:
Sustainable Thanksgiving Spreads

by The Green A-Team

Greening up your holidays isn’t just a social statement anymore, it’s an economic necessity!

Thanksgiving is upon us and believe it or not, you can Green your turkey day without grossing out your guests.  Here are some simple steps to gobble  it up green:

1.)  As with any event that requires a bit of travel, carpool with your friends and family and consider public transportation where possible.  These services are generally extended during the holiday season.

2.)  Serve organic spirits!  Real cork in your wine or champagne in place of plastic stoppers or twistoff caps is better because cork is renewable and trees aren’t felled for it.

3.) We all know Thanksgiving is all about the sides and they are mostly vegetarian!  The meat and poultry industry contributes to the biggest carbon food print in the supermarket so if you can have more fun with veggies, you’ll be doing right by the planet.

and 4.) Don’t use paper or plastic flatware and if you must, make them be biodegradable.

I’m Rich Awn wishing you a happy Thanksgiving.  For more tips on a Green feast, check out some of the links below:

Thanksgiving Recipe Links (The Vegan Diet)

A slice of heritage with Thanksgiving (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Raising heritage breed turkeys (

Photo by Herbert Harper.

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Thomas Friedman:
The Earth is Hot, Flat, and Crowded

by The Green A-Team

According to New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, the world is flat… and hot and crowded.

Also a bestselling author, Thomas Friedman has traveled the road from Beirut to Jerusalem, he’s witnessed the towers of American life crumble with the World Trade Center on 9/11, and has come to the conclusion above all else that the world is hot, flat, and crowded.

In his new book Hot, Flat and Crowded, he takes a look at America’s surprising loss of focus and national purpose since 9/11 and the global environmental crisis.  Friedman claims that if America can lead the world in energy innovation it will save the ailing planet and restore America’s reputation.

He calls this effort Code Green stressing urgency and action to replace our wasteful, inefficient energy practices with a strategy for a clean and conscientious energy solution.

For more on the work of Thomas Friedman, click here.

Photo by keso.

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Urban Farmers Almanac:
Predictions of Plenty in Times of Need

by The Green A-Team

One of the hottest topics in food is to go from farm to table.  But what if you live in the middle of a city?

Urban farming is not as strange as it may sound.  All over the world, city dwellers with roots in agricultural communities have taken to the rooftops and vacant lots to harvest they’re own crops, raise bees, and even livestock.

The East New York Farm United Community Center is one such urban agricultural oasis that thrives in one of the most economically depressed areas in the country.

Sarita Daftary, Youth Program Coordinator and Project Director.

“Before we even started our project, East New York had over 140 registered gardens. So what we really started to do was to support those gardens and use them as a resource for food production.  And we also added in the youth training component and leadership development.”

Success stories like 12 year old interns going on to start their own farms to senior citizens organizing farmers markets and helping to feed those in need are just two examples of the power of organized urban farming.

For more on East New York Farms and urban farming, visit the links below.

East New York Farms! Blog

Urban Agriculture Notes (

Urban Agricluture News

An Abbreviated List of References and Resource Guides (USDA)

Heavy Petal (Gardening: From a West Coast Urban Organic Perspective)

See below for the full slideshow of our trip to the East New York Farms.

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What’s your carbon FOOD print?

by The Green A-Team

By now you’ve identified your carbon footprint but what about your carbon food print?

According to Michael Pollan’s most recent open letter to the President-Elect, issues like food prices and antiquated agricultural standards are being ignored.

He says, “After cars, the food system uses more fossil fuel than any other sector of the economy - 19 percent.” Clearing land for crops, chemical fertilizers made from natural gas, pesticides made from petroleum, farm machinery emissions, modern food processing and packaging and transportation all add up to a food industry that takes 10 calories of fossil-fuel energy to produce one calorie of modern supermarket food.

The good news is that because of the two-headed crisis of food and energy in our country, Americans are more mindful of the food they’re purchasing, it’s safety, and healthfulness than ever before.  Support for reform from both sides of the aisle suggests the current agricultural machine is decidedly broken and the market for organic, local, and humane practices is thriving as never before.

For more on Michal Pollan and ways to combat the food energy crisis, click here.

Photo by ms4jah(still in indonesia)

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Come to garbage island:
Where your plastic is their food

by The Green A-Team

What mutating mass lurks 1000 miles off the coast of Hawaii and is reported to be the size of Texas?

More frightening than Captain Ahab’s worst nightmare, it’s garbage island.

The floating island of garbage, or Great Pacific Garbage Patch, is a freak occurrence caused by tidal flows converging in a remote part of the Pacific Ocean.  Buoys, plastic debris, and styrafoam spend years faring the high seas from as far off as the coast of Asia, tens of thousands of miles away.

The island of garbage is a highly concentrated whirlpool of plastic particles easily mistaken as food by fish and other organisms.  For every one piece of sea life in this region, there are 60 pieces of plastic.

The damage done by this mat of floating trash is even more significant as it’s disrupts the base of the ocean food chain, genetically interrupting generations upon generations of life underwater and on land.

For video footage of the floating island of garbage, click here.

Photo by Megan.

Special thanks to the newsmakers and researchers who risked life and limb filming their voyage:

Thomas Morton (VBS)

Joe Goodman (volunteer researcher)

Meredith Danluck (VBS)

Dr. Lorena M. Rios-Mendoza (Dept. of Chemistry at University of the Pacific)

Jake Burghart (VBS)

Captain Charlie Moore (Captain of the ORV Alguita)

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by The Green A-Team

At long last, the ORV Alguita enters the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

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Eating Your Way Back to Nature

by The Green A-Team

What’s the simplest and most enjoyable way for city dwellers to  get back to nature?

The answer… eating.

If there’s one thing that makes the cramped conditions and lack of open spaces of city life worth the high cost of living, it surely must be the food.  International merchants, master restauranteurs, and local producers all converge in American cities to connect, and conduct business with a cultured and diverse consumer base.

Anna Lappe, bestselling author and co-founder of the Small Planet Institute, shares her thoughts on the future of food at a recent Sustainability Roundtable Discussion at the Mini Rooftop series in New York City.

As agriculture begins to turn back it’s clock to methods more conducive to sustainability, city dwellers will have more opportunities to dig into the freshest of what urban markets can bring.  So while there may not be much dirt to farm in the concrete jungle, know where your food is coming from and how it can transport you back to nature.

For more on sustainable agriculture and the full interview with Anna Lappe, click here.

Photo by Patrick Boland.

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Scrap Your Car for a Bike at the Tour de Fat

by The Green A-Team

Forget about trading in your SUV for a Prius, how about scrapping it altogether in place of a bike?

Gas, as we know, is virtually a luxury item these days, and even still the reality of ditching ones car is more achievable for some than for others.  But excuses won’t be stopping the Tour de Fat.  The Tour de Fat is a rambling carnival of two-wheel toting cyclers advocating bike-for-car swap outs accross the country this Fall.

What you’re likely to find at one of these peaceful demonstrations are bicycles of all shapes, colors, and configurations, live local bands, and hordes of cyclers who fearlessly gather by the thousands in the name of pedal power.

You can burn at least 300 calories an hour or about 25 per mile which requires a good amount of fuel in the form of food, or in this case, beer.  The New Belgium Brewing Company is the primary sponsor of the Tour de Fat pumping a steady stream of fermented hops and good spirits throughout this multi-city tour.

For some essential commuter cycling tips and more on the Tour de Fat, read on.

Photo by fastboy.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Word of the Day: Fair Trade

by The Green A-Team

Word of the day - fair trade.  How is this organized social movement promoting sustainability?

Fair trade is a market based approach to empowering developing countries to produce a wide variety of goods in an environmentally friendly manner.

Notable goods include coffee, sugar, bananas, wine, and honey.  Much like labels that carry with them a trusted slogan like “made in the USA,” products that are certified as “fair trade” have concrete and relevant value with exceptional quality.

Mainstream agricultural producers have formed a virtual monopoly.  Their goods can be mass produced, sold, and shipped at the lowest cost possible undercutting smaller farmers that operate more sustainable practices.

Fair trade organizations are responsible for getting the little guy in the big game and raising awareness to promote change in international trade.

Buy fair trade and visit the following websites for more information:

Fair Trade Federation

Fair Trade Certified

Fair Trade Labelling Organizations International

CRS Fair Trade Resources

Co-op America: Economic Action for a Just Planet

Photo by crsfairtrade.

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Drugged Drinking Water

by The Green A-Team

Are we being drugged by our drinking water?

According to the latest results from an investigation conducted by the Associated Press, 24 major metropolitan ares from Southern California to Northern New Jersey have tested positive for traces of prescription drugs in the drinking water.

This is being caused by drugs entering the watershed through sewers and landfills. Samples taken from reservoirs serving at least 41 million Americans are showing everything from anti-pshychotics to sex hormones streaming right from our tap.

While short term effects may go unnoticed, what’s troubling scientists are the long term human health consequences.   As aquatic life adapts, genetic mutations travel up the food chain and ultimately effect us.

While studies are ongoing it would be wise to think twice before flushing expired prescription drugs down the toilet.

For more on drugs and the environment, click here.

Photo by Carly & Art.

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August Audio

by The Green A-Team

August 1st - Fly the Eco Friendly Skies

August 4th - Olympic Update: Green Games Still a Smoggy Grey

August 5th - Superhero Series Presents: Morgan Freeman

August 8th - Home Tours: Conservation on the Commode

August 12th - Green City Spotlight: Albuquerque, New York, Grand Rapids

August 20th - Word of the Day: Upcycling

August 21st - Worst Polluters: US Department of Defense

August 22nd - Greenwashing 101

August 27th - A Laser Focus on Greenhouse Gas: Debate Destroying Data Emerges

August 29th - Back to School Blues and Greens

Photo by dream_sister.

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