Friday, May 30, 2008

Energy Fair in Wisconsin, June 20-22

Don't miss the Midwest Energy Fair June 20 thorugh the 22nd in Custer Wisconsin.
Energy Fair Keynotes & Workshops

Friday, June 20 - Jason Walsh,
Green For All Jason Walsh serves as the National Policy Director for Green For All. Green For All's goal is to help build a green economy strong enough to lift people out of poverty. Jason was previously State Policy Director for The Workforce Alliance, a national coalition advocating for public policies that invest in the skills of America's workers, where he worked on a range of federal and state workforce development legislation, including the Green Jobs Act.

Saturday, June 21 - Jim Hightower
National radio commentator, writer, public speaker, and author of the forthcoming book, Swim Against The Current: Even A Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow, Jim Hightower has spent three decades battling the Powers That Be on behalf of the Powers That Ought To Be - consumers, working families, environmentalists, small businesses, and just-plain-folks.

Meet Jim, and sign up for his newsletter The Hightower Lowdown at his website.

Sunday, June 22 - Eco-Municipality Expert Torbjörn LahtiTorbjorn Lahti is the project director for Sustainable Robertsfors, a five-year sustainable community demonstration project. He was the project planner for Sweden's first eco-municipality, and is co-author of The Natural Step for Communities. Lahti will also present an extended workshop at the Energy Fair for individuals interested in a more in-depth study of eco-municipalities.

Interested in eco-municipalities? Purchase The Natural Step through the MREA Marketplace.

Duluth Hospital serves good food "organic" food

Duluth hospital serves good food

"We're starting to see the health-care profession is starting to take food nutrition seriously," Harvie said, beyond just having dieticians advise that people eat nutritiously. "They're trying to change the food system, the way our food is produced and distributed."As more hospitals demand organic and locally grown foods, suppliers are beginning to offer it, he said.Branovan has witnessed that happen.

Click here to go to the Duluth News Tribune article by Patrick Garmoe

Please leave a comment if you have stayed and St. Luke's and what you thought about the food.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Chickens in the City?

Today, Memorial Day, I broke a couple of my own rules. I shopped on a national holiday and I purchased a bunch of non-organic food. (We were going to have a cook-out with our neighbor, but it is raining. I am going to make bison burgers. Which I will post about some day to talk about the benefits of this type of meat.)
I went to Whole Foods Co-op at 4 p.m., but they had closed a 3 p.m. So I went to Super One Foods. I almost purchased some of the regular eggs, but they had some eggs in a see-three plastic egg crates that were "cage-free," so I purchased those instead. It bothered me that the egg crate is made of plastic. When I got home the crate said that it was made from recycled plastic.
Here is a chance for you to learn about the benefits of having chickens in your backyard for eggs.
A group of people in Duluth are trying to pass an ordinance allowing for the raising of chickens in the city limits of Duluth, MN.

"Duluth City Chickens: A group advocating for chicken raising in the city of Duluth,MN"

The mission of the "Duluth City Chickens" is to promote responsible urban agriculture by establishing clear legal guidelines for raising chickens within the city of Duluth.

Supporting language

As modern large-scale agriculture becomes unsustainable (due to the rising cost of fuel, the need to cut down on emissions of greenhouse gases, etc.) and as the safety of our food supply becomes less certain, people throughout the world are turning to urban agriculture (including the cultivation of vegetables and fruits, and the raising of poultry for eggs and meat) as a way to increase food self-sufficiency. By recognizing the advantages of ensuring that people living in urban areas have the legal right to raise their own food, it is in the best interests of the residents of Duluth that we establish clear guidelines for responsible urban agriculture.

Read more at Duluth City Chickens

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Cooking meat on Memorial Day?

Go ahead and celebrate Memorial Day with a cook-out on the grill. Then, next Monday, consider eating less meat.

I'm not saying Prof. Cricket needs to eat less meat. She is a canine after all. But I think Americans eat way too much meat. You will be healthier if you find other forms of protein; and so with the earth.

Some say "A meat-eater on a bicycle leaves a bigger carbon footprint than a vegan in a Hummer!"Did you know...

-Animal agriculture produces more greenhouse gas emissions than automobiles. Cows raised for beef, in particular, emit massive amounts of nitrous oxide and methane.

-Animal waste and feed cropland dump more pollutants into our waterways than all other human activities combined.

-Meat-based diets require 10-20 times as much land as plant-based diets - nearly half of the world's grains & soybeans are fed to animals.

Meat Out Mondays
Eating meat is something many of us grew up believing was the best thing to do to get protein. It is hard a habit to break, and I am not asking Prof. Cricket to participate, but I use recipes from Meat Out Mondays. My favorite is sweet potatoes topped with black bean chili.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Your choices on Memorial Day

What will you be doing for Memorial Day weekend?

Will you travel?  
If you do travel, how much gas will you use.
If you don't travel, is it because of the price of gas?

Will you have a cookout?
What type of meat will you eat?  How do you think your choices of meat affect the environment?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Church members work together to prevent water pollution from the runoff of parking lot

With beautiful Lake Superior in the background members of the First United Methodist Church in Duluth, Minn. swept of the winter's collection of sand, gravel and salt.

Even the bags used to collect the debris were recycled.

This April members of the First United Methodist Church aka "The Coppertop," wore work clothes and brought brooms to the Sunday service. It was time to sweep the sand, silt and salt off the church's parking lot before the spring rains sweep away the grit thus adding it right into Lake Superior which, by the way, the city uses for drinking water.

The church's sustainability committee thought up the idea. The sustainability committee met and worked on a weekday evening to get a head start. The following Sunday members grabbed their brooms and joined in. A dinner was also provided. It was stressed that anyone could join at the dinner, you didn't have to participate in the sweeping.

The activity succeeded in stopping some pollution and demonstrated to the congregation that we are able to take steps on our own to help the environment. It was also an educational activity for anyone attending church or reading the church bulletin or newsletter.

Visit this site to learn more: Lake Superior Streams.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Clothesrack saves energy

Today was the first day of the year that I wanted to use the clothesline. It must really be spring in Duluth because when I went outside the neighbor was scraping paint of his house to prep it for paint. The flecks were flying, so I decided to put the clothes on a clothesrack inside to save some money and energy.

Leave a comment if you use a clothes rack inside of the dryer.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Tomorrow is Endangered Species Day, See Minnesota Endangered Species Day events

I picked up the paper today and looked at the photo of the polar bear. Polar bears will now be officially listed as an endangered species. To me this is different than the wolves, or the bison.  In many states humans purposely killed those species. I think it is sad, but some humans still don't feel bad about driving out a species that endangered their way of raising cattle.  Many ranchers hate wolves.  In he state of Wisconsin, many years ago, humans purposely killed as many as possible.

The bison were killed for sport.

What is different is that no one is purposely killing polar bears. There is no bounty. There is no group of sportsmen taking glee in killing. There is really no individual to point the finger at.

Reading the story on the front page made me feel hopeless. What can we do?

Read what No Impact Man has to say.

If you live in the southern part of Minnesota here are some events you could attend:

Friday, May 16, is Endangered Species Day.

Minnesota Endangered Species Day event

Upper Missouri River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge

US Fish and Wildlife Service

51 East 4st Street

Winona, MN


You can enjoy biking and canoeing and watch bald eagle or search for prairie birds and plants. The refuge is an angler’s paradise, waterfowl hunters dream and birdwatchers bounty. 

Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge

US Fish and Wildlife Service

3815 American Blvd. East

Bloomington, MN


Visit the refuge in the heart of the Twin Cities, where you can hike, bike, canoe and much more.  Learn about the 6 endangered, 4 threatened and 4 candidate species in Minnesota. 

Sherbune Refuge

US Fish and Wildlife Service

17076 293rd Avenue

Zimmerman, MN


The refuge is 50 miles northwest of the Twin Cities and has two scenic hiking trails.  Learn about the 6 endangered, 4 threatened and 4 candidate species in Minnesota.  

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Disposing of dog doo

Plastic does terrible things to the environment. It never biodegrades. I do use plastic, and I feel guilty if I don't re-use plastic bags. I even save the plastic bags that frozen vegetables come in, or new product are shipped in.

When I walk Prof. Cricket I bring these bags along and recycle them by using them to pick up her dog doo. My friend says I am very dedicated because I even bring the bag back home and dump the contents into the toilet instead of throwing it into a trash can which then sends it to the landfill to become mummified in plastic for thousands of years.

It is not good for the environment to leave dog doo out. (Read my earlier post.) But it is also not the best to send it to the landfill.

If you follow my lead on this, please be very careful that you don't get any leaves, grass or sticks into the toilet. And you have a greater risk of soiling your hands doing please wash your hands very carefully.

Mummifying our trash

Mummifying our trash
Landfills: protection by storage

When we talk about helping the environment often times we speak about recycling instead of “landfilling” our trash or garbage. This July, Rebecca and I started composting our food waste. Composting is a way of recycling nutrients back to the earth.
One of the display items we showed during our Green Team presentations this summer was a food waste collection container loaned by Western Lake Superior Sanitary District (WLSSD) for special occasions like weddings, picnics and graduations. It really isn’t that special. It is just a large plastic garbage can lined with a biodegradable plastic bag. The container is returned to WLSSD and the food scraps are composted.
This project prompted an excellent question for Prof. Cricket from an Iowa woman. She asked, “Why don’t food and yard waste return to the earth in a landfill when they do in a compost pile?”
To understand why landfills don’t compost our waste, Prof. Cricket will give a mini-lesson in the construction of a landfill.
Landfills are actually like condominiums or tombs for our garbage. In the old days we had dumps. Anything and everything was thrown into a pile. Some places burned the garbage and others covered it up.
The problem was that there were no safeguards in place. Poisons could leach out of the dumps and into our water. Dumps were stinky places and often breeding grounds for disease-carrying insects and rodents. Today landfills are constructed. A lengthy process including an environmental impact study in which many experts such as geologists, biologists, social scientists and engineers scrutinize the effect of the landfill on the natural and social environment.
Landfills are lined with clay and plastic to prevent leachate or garbage-juice from leaking out. They are actually designed to slow down decomposition. A series of tubes and pipes are included underneath, through and around the landfill. These pipes collect the leachate to treat it so that it doesn’t containment water. Some of the leachate turns to methane gas and is vented through the pipes.
Each day the garbage at a landfill is covered with soil, which helps prevent odors and pests. This process is repeated until a section or cell is full. One landfill has many cells. When it is full it is capped off with clay and soil. It still needs to be monitored for future years.

Prof. Cricket wonders, “If a steak bone with meat on it is thrown in our kitchen garbage can, then to our alley trash can; picked up by our garbage truck and then transported and dumped into a sanitary landfill, which is later sealed and capped, will there still be meat on the bone 15 years later?”
An Anthropology professor at the University of Arizona, William L. Rathje, conducted several archeological excavations on landfills in Arizona, California and Illinois. This was named, “The Garbage Project.” He said of landfills, “They are vast mummifiers.” His team found readable newspapers, hot-dogs and a T-bone with meat and fat on it.
This archeological projected showed that a well-designed and managed landfill slows biodegration of some organic garbage to a standstill. Some never did start to biodegrade.
According to the EPA Americans throw away 25 percent of the food we prepare. This amounts to 96 million pounds of food waste. It costs us $1 billion.So while today’s landfill is a way to protect our water supply from dangerous pollutants and also prevent disease-carrying vermin. They aren’t a very good way to return organic materials to the earth.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Dogs' use of outdoors as bathroom affects our water

This photo is

Until recently, the only reason I picked up Prof. Cricket's dog-doo was as a matter of courtesy for my neighbors. I thought it was unsightly, a hazard to people who might accidentally step on it. It wasn't until Marnie Lonsdale Duluth, Minn city employee and Project Lead, City Administrative Lead, Stormwater Plan Links came to visit my United Methodist Women's circle earlier this year that I realized that dog waste is a health hazard. It gets carried by runoff water into everyone's water supply hurting humans, lakes, rivers and aquatic life.

"But wild animals poop in the woods in nature," you may say. This is true, but we human's have more pet population in a small land area compared to the population of animals in the wild. It is estimated that 40 percent of Americans own a dog. In Duluth it is estimated that 125 dogs live within a square mile.

Your dog's business is everyone's business
I am embarrassed to admit that I never saw the need to pick up dog doo in my own yard if I didn't feel like it. I thought it was my yard and my dog's business was no one else's business. I thought that the rain dissolved it and it "biodegraded" and returned to the land. I was wrong. Bacteria from pet droppings ends up in the water supply.

This spring I was walking Prof. Cricket when I met an elderly couple who were so upset by the the piles of dog doo in front of their house that they had shovels and were flinging the excrement onto the street. This was actually making the situation worse. Cars were driving over the excrement and it was taken by the water of the melting snow straight to the storm sewers and into Lake Superior.

It is important to pick up the dog doo to prevent contamination of water. But if you read Prof. Cricket's previous post about mummifying our garbage in landfills, you might wonder whether or not the dog doo biodegrades even if you use biodegradable bags. Biodegradable material relies on microbial action for degradation. Microbes require moisture, oxygen and elevated temperature for survival. Landfills are designed to exclude moisture and compaction reduces oxygen. A majority of dog waste bags end up in landfills. A brand named Mutt Mitt labels itself "degradable" and says, Mutt Mitts include additional degradants and will degrade even in a landfill.

Flushable bags
Some bags are designed to be flushed down the toliet. I would double check with the city or the person in charge of your spectic system before doing this. Here are some companies that sell flushable bags: The Flushable Bag™ and Handicapped Pets

Dog doo composters
If you live in suburbia you can even purchase an underground doggie doo composter. Check outDoggie Dooley , Pet D Posit or a City Farmer site

Different cities handle this question in other ways. Here are the options in Duluth: • flushed down the toilet (be sure to pick out rocks and sticks first) • put in the trash or • buried in your own yard. If you want to bury pet waste, make sure it is in a hole at least 6 inches deep, away from vegetable gardens and water sources, and in permeable soil (not clay). Do not add it to compost piles.

Honey Bees on Strike!?

Cartoon creator Mike Adams 
Why are the honey bees disappearing?

Monday, May 12, 2008

Can you be an environmentalist AND a tidy housekeeper?

I used to find it hard to be both an environmentalist and a clean, tidy housekeeper, but I am getting better.

It is so hard for me to throw away items that I think could be reused. The best way I have found to get around this is to do not bring "stuff" into the house in the first place. Maybe President Bush wouldn't agree with me, but I have cut down on shopping. If I don't bring it home, it can't clutter up my home or pollute the environment when I decided I don't need it anymore.

When I do shop, I try to keep the money going back into the local economy and have the least amount of environmental impact.

I am getting much better than I used to be. If a person is clean and organized in the first place it is so much easier to consume less and locate items you need. Two sites that have helped me get a handle on this are :

Go ahead and eat out, just avoid disposable dishes

My husband and I don 't eat out that often, but last night we were both really hungry and he was craving a hamburger. He wanted a Wendy's burger. I am trying not to create a demand for mass marketed beef products. He told me if we went to Wendy's I could order a salad. He was correct. But I knew that it would be served on a disposable dish with disposable utensils.

We ended up going to Perkins. He got his hamburger. I order my salad.
It has been ages since we have been out to eat. We both got what we wanted. We didn't use any disposable dishes. I did NOT push my "no non-grass-fed beef" beliefs on my husband, and we left the young woman, (who is probably working he way through college) a nice tip.