As we close out the last issue of this newsletter for the year, we like to go back and review past issues to discover which stories generated the most interest, were clicked on most often, and generated the most feedback. Below you will find reprints of our most popular stories of 2018. We want to take this time to thank all of our readers, advertisers, and supporters for helping to make this year another great one. If you have a product you would like us to consider for review or have some exciting news to share, please contact us.
We wish you all a wonderful new year filled with all great things.
Vera Lawlor, a writer for Care2, offers up some fantastic advice as we move swiftly through the winter months. Backyard birds are important to our local environments and keeping them strong and healthy is essential and important advice follows.
THE FOLLOWING FOODS ARE NOT GOOD FOR WILD BIRDS
Bread is one of the biggest no-no’s when it comes to feeding backyard birds said Don Torino, president of the Bergen County Audubon Society, NJ. “Just because they eat bread, that doesn’t mean it’s healthy for them,” Torino said. “The problem is they fill up on bread and get really weak because it has no nutritional value for them.”
When eaten excessively, bread will cause health problems for birds, including malnutrition and obesity. This is particularly prominent among young waterfowl in urban and suburban areas where ducklings and goslings may be fed large amounts of bread. As a result, these young birds fail to get proper nutrients for healthy growth and can develop deformed wings—known as Angel Wing. Feeding bread to waterfowl is illegal in many states for the protection of the birds.
Salt or salty food like chips or crackers
According to the nonprofit Nature Forever birds differ greatly in their ability to cope with salty food and water. For example, seabirds are able to eat marine animals and drink seawater without a problem, while many songbirds can die if they take in large quantities of salt. Most backyard birds cannot cope with too much salt intake so it’s important not to offer them salty food.
“Salted peanuts are not a good choice for backyard birds,” Torino said. “People should choose unsalted or roasted peanuts instead. The same goes for other types of nuts.”
Moldy or stale food
While it’s true many molds are harmless, some can cause respiratory infections in birds. For this reason, avian experts recommend not feeding moldy or stale foods to backyard birds. It’s also important to remove any stale or moldy seed or other food from feeders.Stale food provides a breeding ground for salmonella bacteria, which can cause food poisoning and even death.
Torino said it’s important to keep bird feeders clean and he recommends periodically washing them with a 10 percent bleach solution. In addition, dropped seed should be raked up from under the feeders.
“It’s also a good idea to move the feeders around so all the droppings aren’t collecting in one place,” Torino said. “That helps to prevent avian diseases being passed around from one bird to another.”
Many birds are carnivorous, but avoid offering raw processed meat in any form, including ground meats or meat scraps. Meat can spoil quickly and will grow dangerous bacteria that can kill birds. Instead, offer fatty protein such as suet to give birds a nutritious and safe option.
Torino said that there are different grades of store-bought suet and he recommends steering clear of those that are packed with corn.
“The corn is just taking up space in the suet and the birds won’t eat it,” Torino said. “Instead choose suet with nuts and fruit.”
Cake, cookies and other dessert foods
You might not like to dump leftover cookies, donuts or cakes into the trash when the backyard birds would really enjoy them. However, these foods are full of processed ingredients and are not healthy for birds. According to the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife bakery goods can spoil, mold and draw rodents to the feeder and are not healthy for our native birds.
While it’s a myth that rice will expand and explode in a bird’s stomach, this is still not a good source of food for birds. Just as with bread, birds will fill up on rice, which does not have the nutrition they need to stay healthy.
Experts at the Humane Society of the United States caution against feeding foods that contain chocolate to birds. Chocolate contains theobromine and is toxic to birds just as it is to dogs and cats.
For more info on caring for birds in the winter months, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology offers a tip sheet on Winter Bird Feeding. Care2 was founded with a simple mission: to help make the world a better place. Based in Silicon Valley, they are the world’s largest social network for good. They are a community of over 40 million standing together, starting petitions and sharing stories that inspire action. For the past 19 years, Care2 has been a pioneer in online advocacy and they continue to focus on being on the forefront of creating technology that connects people to ways to make a difference in the world.
Snappy Salads, known for high-quality salads served quickly in an environmentally friendly manner and recipient of the first Green Business Certification from the City of Plano, Texas (2013), is on a mission to make you think twice before you grab for your next plastic straw.
Legislators and environmentalists across the country are calling for awareness around plastic straws and their detrimental effects on our landfills and coastlines. The no-plastic movement has grown steadily in recent years, gaining momentum following a viral video with over 21 million views that shows a sea turtle with a plastic straw wedged in its nose and the pain and suffering endured by the turtle during the attempts to remove it. (WARNING: This video contains graphic content.) As the biggest user of plastic straws, restaurants and bars are considering new ways to serve beverages. Locally, the grassroots campaign to phase out plastic straws is growing and Snappy Salads is leading the way.
“We took the plunge three years ago and replaced plastic straws with paper ones,” said Chris Dahlander, founder of Snappy Salads. “We are always looking for ways that we can lower our impact on the environment and hope others will follow our lead.”
Snappy Salads started using paper straws in October 2014 and has since saved the world from 1.3 million plastic straws. “Snappy Salads is definitely leading the change in Texas,” said Ryan Conley of Direct Source, the company that supplies Snappy Salads.
According to The Last Plastic Straw, 500 million straws are used and discarded every day in the United States alone. That’s 175 billion a year filtering into landfills (environment) and littering our waterways and oceans. In the U.S. alone, there's enough straw litter waste to wrap the circumference of the earth 2.5 times a day, or fill Yankee Stadium over 9 times a year! On average, plastic straws are used for 20 minutes, but can take centuries to break down. Paper straws take around six months to break down.
Besides consumer preference, higher cost is a reason many businesses haven’t made the switch to paper straws. “Switching from plastic to paper straws did cost more but to us it was about doing the right thing,” said Dahlander. “And, if you just want to go without a straw altogether – that’s even better for the environment.”
Thinking about signing up for a CSA but want to learn more about the idea before you commit? For over 25 years, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) has become a popular way for consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer.
Here are the basics: a farmer offers a certain number of "shares" to the public. Typically the share consists of a box of vegetables, but other farm products may be included. Interested consumers purchase a share (aka a "membership" or a "subscription") and in return receive a box (bag, basket) of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season.
There are several advantages to joining your local CSA, here are a few:
You Know Where Your Food Comes From
In a CSA share your produce comes directly from your farmer so you know who is growing your food and how. If you have questions about their farming practices or values just ask! With this level of transparency, you can rest assured knowing your farmer cares about what matters to you.
Support Small Farming
By supporting small family farms you are guaranteeing that 100% of your money goes directly to the farmer to grow and harvest high quality food for you and others in your community
Most CSA farms strive for ecological diversity and a wide variety in crop production, so over the course of the season CSA farmers usually grow more types of vegetables than found at a grocery store. You’ll discover varieties that you might not otherwise find or buy, so get ready to enjoy your share of the season’s bounty including leeks, celeriac, edamame, garlic scapes, daikon, and many other diverse goodies!
Fresh is best! The time between harvest and consumption is reduced so you get fresher food that tastes better. Unlike industrial farmers who harvest for shipping and shelf-life, CSA farmers harvest for ripeness and flavor. Eating seasonally means every week you receive what the conditions were most fit to produce so you’re guaranteed to eat your veggies at their peak. Get ready for a culinary delight and adventure!
There are lots of exciting ways to enjoy your CSA share- including visits to the farm, u-picking, potluck dinners and community events. During the growing season there is always something fun to do with you and your family to celebrate local agriculture, enjoy good food and mingle with other CSA members.
Find a local CSA in your area, visit: http://www.localharvest.org/
You recycle your bottles and newspapers, you upcycle thrift store finds into decor treasures, and you reuse all your plastic bags. But do you upcycle your food scraps? We’re not talking compost here, we’re talking re-growing food from scraps you might have tossed. Turns out, several odds and ends you might have tossed can be re-grown into more food! Here’s a great list compiled by the folks at Organic Authority.
When your recipe only calls for the green part of the scallions, don’t toss the white end with the roots. Stick it in a glass jar with a little water and the greens will grow back. You can just snip off what you need as you go. This also works with leeks.
This delicious, aromatic herb is really just a grass and will grow well in a pot in a sunny spot. Take the root ends (after you’ve used the rest in a recipe) and put in a jar of water in a sunny spot. After a week or so, you’ll start to see roots appearing. Once the roots look healthy, transplant your lemongrass to a pot and let it grow. You can start harvesting when the stalks get to be a foot or more tall.
The next time you’re chopping a bunch of celery, save the root end! Place itin a shallow bowl of water, and after a few days, you should start to see roots and new leaves appear. As soon as you see these, you can plant the celery—leaving the leaves just above the soil. The plant will continue to grow, and soon you’ll have a whole new head of celery!
Did you know that ginger makes a beautiful (and useful) houseplant? If you’ve got a piece of fresh ginger going spare in your fridge, you can plant it in potting soil. Ginger is a root, and before long, you’ll notice a lovely plant sprouting from it. Once the plant is big enough, you can actually pull it up, whack off a piece of the root, and replant it whenever you need fresh ginger—or just enjoy your culinary houseplant.
Organic Authority is a trusted ally and the web‘s leading resource for all things… delicious and organic! Come chill in their kitchen as they test-drive tried-and-true mouthwatering recipes and chat about the organic lifestyle. From the most mojo-rific of foods, juicy of spirits to your eco chic entertaining table, energetic health and the most scrumptiously delicious beauty, they’ve made it their job and passion to cover organics from the inside out, the outside in and all the way around. At OrganicAuthority you‘ll discover how to grow your first apartment herb garden, how to host a summer BBQ your friends will rave about for seasons to come, which natural deodorants actually work, and so much more. www.organicauthority.com
Green America launched its "Skip the Slip, CVS" campaign urging the pharmacy giant to improve its paper receipt practices to keep pace with other leading retailers. CVS is one of the largest retailers in the country and issues some of the longest receipts to customers. The chain's receipts contain the toxin Bisphenol-S (BPS), and its millions of paper receipts contribute to deforestation and pollution.
In response to consumer pressure and attention from late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel regarding CVS' long receipts, CVS introduced electronic receipts in its stores but failed to adequately promote the option to customers. Few CVS customers have switched because only CVS ExtraCare members have access to digital receipts, which they must request in store with a cashier. CVS' paper receipts continue to be over a foot long and toxic.
As Green America published in its recently updated report, roughly 93 percent of paper receipts are coated with Bisphenol-A (BPA) or Bisphenol-S (BPS), known endocrine-disruptors. The total mass of BPA on a receipt is 250 to 1,000 times greater than the amount of BPA found in a can of food or in plastic baby bottles. Retail employees are at greater risk, as workers who make regular contact with receipts have over 30 percent more BPA or BPS in their bodies. Additionally, paper receipt production in the U.S. consumes an estimated 10 million trees, 21 billion gallons of water, and emits 12 billion pounds of CO2 each year.
"CVS has a well-known reputation for its lengthy paper receipts," said Beth Porter, Green America's Climate & Recycling director. "But what is less often discussed are that the millions of receipts it issues each year waste natural resources and pose health risks. CVS could be an industry leader on this issue if it switches to non-toxic receipts and fixes its restricted access to digital receipts. Currently, CVS is coming up short."
"We're mobilizing thousands of customers that visit CVS' 9,800 stores to urge the company to improve practices to protect worker health and follow through on its digital receipt program," said Todd Larsen, executive co-director of Consumer and Corporate Engagement at Green America. "As a company that is in the business of providing customers with products to protect and enhance their health, CVS has an obligation to move off of toxic paper receipts and make it easy for customers to get digital receipts."
Consumers can sign the petition calling on CVS to replace its BPS-coated paper receipts with a phenol-free option and to offer digital receipts to all customers.
The story of honey is older than history itself. An 8,000-year-old cave painting1 in Spain depicts honey harvesting, and we know it's been used for food, medicine and more by cultures all over the world since.
But honey isn't about humans. It's the natural product made from bees—one of our planet's most important animals. Honey bees visit millions of blossoms in their lifetimes, making pollination of plants possible and collecting nectar to bring back to the hive.
Lucky for us, bees make more honey than their colony needs, and beekeepers remove the excess and bottle it. Just like they've been doing since the beginning of time.
Since September is National Honey Month, we thought it would be a good time to take this honey quiz from the National Honey Board to see just how much we all know about nature’s finest work.
1. How many flowers must honey bees tap to make one pound of honey?
2. How far does a hive of bees fly to bring you one pound of honey?
3. How much honey does the average worker honey bee make in her lifetime?
4. How fast does a honey bee fly?
5. How much honey would it take to fuel a bee's flight around the world?
6. What is mead?
7. How long have bees been producing honey from flowering plants?
8. What Scottish liqueur is made with honey?
9. How many sides does each honeycomb cell have?
10. What is the U.S. per capita consumption of honey?
11. What state is known as the beehive state?
12. How many wings does a honey bee have?
13. How many beekeepers are there in the United States?
14. How many honey-producing colonies of bees are there in the United States?
15. How many flowers does a honey bee visit during one collection trip?
16. How do honey bees communicate with one another?
17. What does "super" mean to a beekeeper?
1. Two million. 2. Over 55,000 miles. 3. 1/12 teaspoon. 4. About 15 miles per hour. 5. About one ounce. 6. Honey wine. 7. 10-20 million years. 8. Drambuie. 9. Six. 10. On average, each person consumes about 1.3 pounds per year. 11. Utah. 12. Four. 13. USDA has estimated that there are between 139,600 and 212,000 beekeepers in the United States. Most are hobbyists with less than 25 hives. 14. The USDA estimates that there are approximately 2.68 million honey producing colonies. This estimate is based on beekeepers who managed five or more colonies in 2010. 15 50-100. 16. "Dancing." Honey bees do a dance which alerts other bees where nectar and pollen was located. The dance explains direction and distance. Bees also communicate with pheromones. 17. The super is the hive box in which honey is stored.
1Ullmann, Fritz (2003). Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry. John Wiley & Sons
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