Saturday, May 31, 2008
I had the good fortune recently of being invited by a dear friend, a travel agent, to share a week long trip to Kauai that she had won in an industry contest. Given that Seattle enjoyed the coldest, most miserable spring on record it was a real treat, despite the my guilt about our enormous carbon footprint (subject of a future blog). We hiked the Nepali Coast trail, traversed the gorgeous rim of Waimea Canyon, and picked our way along many a rocky seacoast. We kayaked the Wailua River and toured the National Tropical Botanical Gardens. It was fabulous. Everywhere there were chickens.
The chickens are important because Hawaii seems to lack local food. I’m planning to spend July through September eating food produced within 300 miles of my home in our glorious and abundant Pacific Northwestern climate. If I lived on Kauai, that distance would include pretty much the whole island, not to mention a great deal of ocean. And yet, sadly, there’s not much local food on offer and the seas are depleted. My friend at I shopped at several grocery stores along the route to stock our luxury condo (guilt alert). I planned to find good, regional food as I would do at home. How hard could this be? Hard, actually.
All the dairy food came from Wisconsin, New Hampshire, or California. Okay, dairy isn’t a tropical kind of food and I can understand importing cheese from the upper Midwest. I did my best and chose Tillamook Cheddar, not exactly local to the Sandwich Islands but from a 3oo-mile radius of Seattle anyway. Every vegetable I could find was grown in central valley of California; this supports my Cousin Barbara’s family ranch in Stockton but not the families of Lihue. Can’t these people raise spinach?
Then there were some real insults. The Maui potato chips were manufactured in Pleasanton, California. The strawberries and blueberries and most other fruit flew in from Mexico. Hardest of all, a carton of orange/pineapple juice I picked up was stamped Florida! The honest truth is that the only local food I could find was 99 cent mangoes (69 cents at Top Banana in Ballard) and 59-cent a pound pineapples.
Michener says the “boat plants”, the food staples that the Polynesians brought with them from Bora Bora included taro, a sturdy root that grows easily in the climate and feeds the hungry. For a thousand years the staple taro was grown by the Hawaiians until it was replaced briefly by the rice fields of the Asian immigrants. Those fields now support beef cattle. The Polynesians also brought the chickens who went native immediately.
“What about farmers’ markets?” you ask. There is one every weekday on this small island, called Sunshine Markets. Being a huge fan of such events, I dragged my friend to the Saturday market in the little town of Waimea. This turned out to involve six tiny stalls in a dirt parking lot of a school, with six cars backed up and tiny Asian women selling their produce on card tables. Of course, their leeks and tomatoes and papayas brought us great joy (especially the papayas), but the stock of the entire market might feed my boys and their friends for ten days if I stretch it.
In five years, when gas is $7.00 a gallon and only the super-rich can be tourists in Hawaii, the California-raised Safeway food will be prohibitive to the average Hawaiian. They are going to have to eat those chickens. The little Asian women will emerge as the power-house producers that they are. Taro and its fascinating derivative, poi, will come back in fashion. I was worried about the lovely people of Kauai not having local food to eat as we reach peak oil because the carbon footprint of groceries in Hawaii is huge. My prediction is, however, that the ancient Polynesians are going to keep on giving and those boat plants and animals will save the day.
In 2020, dinner will be chicken, poi, farmer’s market leeks and Chinese broccoli in papaya sauce. It’ll be great, especially the papaya sauce.
Thursday, May 29, 2008
- Cook food in a more energy-efficient microwave or toaster oven, instead of your conventional oven, to reduce energy use and your bills.
- Swap out red meat for eggs or chicken one day a week to reduce your carbon footprint and save some money. Why stop there...give up red meat entirely...or give up meat all together...or become a vegan!
- Go to CatalogChoice.org and request that your name be removed from catalog mailing lists. You’ll save trees and reduce your temptation to pull out the credit card.
- Instead of heading to the mall the next time you need an item of clothing, look online to see if there is an American-made equivalent for a reasonable price.
- Save money and the planet by visiting local thrift stores or consignment shops instead of the mall.
- Go through your own attic or basement – or those of your parents or grandparents – and see if you can find dishware, pots and pans, silverware or other items before buying new ones. That free item may also be made domestically.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
There are picnics in the park, outdoor concerts, and family gatherings at the lake. These are all wonderful ways to enjoy Creation! However, we must continue to be mindful of our impact on the earth.
Over Memorial Day weekend I spent a glorious afternoon at Seattle’s Folklife music festival. There were great concerts and cool arts & crafts and…TONS of trash! In one instance I saw a concert end and as people moved to their next venue there was a trash-covered lawn in their wake—a sea of plastic bottles and disposable food containers.
While the main problem in this situation is littering, it occurred to me that even once all that trash was placed in the appropriate containers the problems of overconsumption and reliance on disposability remain.
The good news? Environmentally-friendly alternatives exist!!
It may take a while to get food vendors at local festivals to change to compostable alternatives (although the Mayor’s proposed foam food container ban should help!), but you can certainly make the switch when you plan your own picnic or buy goods for a family get-together.
The BEST way to go would be to use your regular dishware or the reusable containers you already own. But if you’re concerned about breakage or need to serve a large number of folks, look for compostable plates, bowls, cups, and “silver”ware at your local grocery store. PCC and Whole Foods have a variety of earth-friendly options, and I’ve even seen compostable tableware for sale at Staples, an office supply store. The simple, unwaxed paper plates you can find at almost any grocery or convenience store are also compostable—if you live in Seattle you can simply add those items to your yard & food waste collection cart!
As always, bring your own reusable water bottle along on hot days, and encourage your friends and family to do the same!
Enjoy the warm weather—just don’t forget to live lightly on the land.
Friday, May 23, 2008
But wouldn’t be great if we didn’t have toxics in our house in the first place? Exposure to toxic chemicals is one of the greatest threats to human health and the entirety of God’s creation. Children, the elderly, and women are particularly at risk. People of color and low-income communities are disproportionately exposed to environmental pollution. As people of faith, we are called to do our part to reduce our contribution to the excess of toxic chemicals in the world today.
The good news is that there are alternatives. Here in
Washington Toxics Coalition’s website is a great resource for families seeking to find safer children’s products.
Our partners at the National Council of Churches have put out a great resource on environmental health called “Mindful Living: Human Health, Pollution, and Toxics”. This publication gives congregations the tools to maintain the sanctity of our bodily temples and to ensure that the environment remains healthy for generations to come.
And of course, there is always Earth Ministry’s own “Caring for All Creation: In the Home” curriculum that guides congregations in developing healthy home habits that respect God’s beloved creation.
We have an opportunity to choose mercy and justice for all of God’s children by eliminating toxic health threats to those least able to protect themselves and to help restore creation.
In the Northwest, Earth Ministry Outreach Coordinator Beth Anderson is available to lead congregational workshops on toxics, environmental health, and faithful alternatives. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
When Earth Ministry started a blog, we knew it would be fun and hoped it would be well received - and indeed it has! But the fun doesn't end there. We have taken our venture into the cyberworld even further and have started an Earth Ministry Group and Cause page on Facebook!
If you have a facebook account, we invite you to join the Earth Ministry group and while you're at it, join our cause! By joining our online community, you make a statement to the world - people of faith care about all of God's creation, human and non-human.
You can even make a donation to support Earth Ministry through our Facebook Cause page! When you donate $35 or more ($20 for students and low-income), you become a member of Earth Ministry. One of the benefits of membership is a one-year subscription to our quarterly journal, Earth Letter.
We hope you will join us in spreading the word about the good work of Earth Ministry using your social networks in Facebook.
The Earth Ministry Staff
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
If we each do a little bit, together we can do a lot!
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
At first, I was a little nervous about taking the bus. I have a terrible sense of direction and bus routes were not exactly intuitive for me. However, when it’s the only way to get around, you learn quickly. Right now, I’d hardly call myself even an amateur, but I’ve certainly learned the routes that get me to the main spots.
For the most part, I don’t mind taking the bus. Instead of cursing my way through traffic, I can get on the bus, read a book, listen to music, or watch the scenery. I still get frustrated by longer commutes, late buses, or inconvenient transfers. However, a few weeks ago, I had a bus ride that far outweighed all the cons I’ve stacked up for taking the bus.
I was leaving the Olympic Sculpture Park and heading up the hill to the bus stop. Another woman was right behind me, as we both approached the stop to read the schedule for the next stop. She looked at me and asked if we were looking at the same schedule. We were and she asked me where I was headed. We continued talking and realized that we only lived a block from each other. I’m embarrassed to say, that I hadn’t met that many people in my neighborhood. We continued chatting, and the bus (which was very late after getting caught up with the Mariner’s crowd) showed up in what seemed like no time at all.
Perhaps, it’s an odd way to meet my neighbors, but it makes perfect sense. Taking the bus not only reduces our carbon footprint, but can build community at the same time. My neighbor and I got off at the same stop and continued talking on our walk home from the bus stop. She told me about her children and I told her about Earth Ministry. Not only did I meet one of my neighbors, it was one of the quickest bus trips I’ve ever had.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
- See and Be Seen - use a headlight, wear bright clothes, and always keep your eye out for bad drivers.
- Don't get Doored - ride far enough to the left of parked cars so you won't get surprised by a sudden door in your face.
- Shun Sidewalks (I love riding on sidewalks when the street is narrow, oh well) - though riding on sidewalks is generally legal, cars won't see that you're about to enter traffic at an intersection and may turn right in front of you (ouch). If you insist on using the sidewalk, be sure to walk your bike across intersections.
- Keep Your Lane - swerving bicyclists are unpredictable and could result in car-bike collisions...be predictable and consistent.
- Watch for the right hook - cars often turn right without looking for a bicyclist coming up behind them (sadly, I've done this - I'm sorry Mr. Biker!). Make eye contact with the driver next to you at intersections or stop behind cars in line, don't ride up to the front using the bike lane.
- Use Care Passing - If you're forced to ride in the traffic lane because there's no room on the side of the road, be bold and assert your right to be there so that cars don't squeeze you out and cause you to lose control or, and this is my personal favorite, find a calmer street (but beware of people not expecting bikes on quiet back roads and zoning out at free-for-all intersections).
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Monday, May 12, 2008
We each took some time out of a busy Sunday afternoon to explore our connections to each other, to the whole of Creation, and to our God. In celebration of Pentecost, a day to recognize the many voices of the Spirit, I offered readings from some of our spiritual mothers in the Christian tradition.
I would like to share one of the readings we reflected on as we walked through the glorious grassland and forest to the edge of the bluff overlooking Puget Sound and then back through the fascinating trees and plant life—the following passage is from the writings of Hildegard of Bingen, a 12th century Christian mystic:
“I am Wisdom. Mine is the blast of the resounding Word through which all creation came to be, and I quickened all things with my breath so that not one of them is mortal in its kind; for I am Life. Indeed I am Life, whole and undivided -- not hewn from any stone, or budded from branches, or rooted in virile strength; but all that lives has its root in Me. For Wisdom is the root whose blossom is the resounding Word....
I flame above the beauty of the fields to signify the earth -- the matter from which humanity was made. I shine in the waters to indicate the soul, for, as water suffuses the whole earth, the soul pervades the whole body. I burn in the sun and the moon to denote Wisdom, and the stars are the innumerable words of Wisdom.
I am the Supreme and Fiery Force who kindles every living spark.... As I circled the whirling sphere with my upper wings (that is, with Wisdom), rightly I ordained it. And I am the fiery life of the Divine essence: I flame above the beauty of the fields; I shine in the waters; I burn in the sun, the moon, and the stars. And, with the airy wind, I quicken all things vitally by an unseen, all-sustaining life. For the air is alive in the green plants and the flowers; the waters flow as if they lived; the sun too lives in its light; and when the moon wanes it is rekindled by the light of the sun, as if it lived anew. Even the stars glisten in their light as if alive.”
The Holy Spirit as Caritas, St. Hildegard von Bingen,
translated by B. Newman
Friday, May 9, 2008
Seattle Public Utilities released its annual drinking water quality report this past week. If you cracked open the pages, I bet you would have found it quite the “quality” reading. Well, I might be exaggerating, but I did find a few details interesting.
First off, pictures always catch my attention quickest. In this case, it was a graph of growth of population and water consumption. Since 1990, the population that Seattle Public Utilities services has grown 15%. Despite predictions of a concurrent increase in water needs, the total amount of water supplied since 1990 has decreased by 17%. Way to conserve water,
After my distraction by the pictures and pretty colors, I actually spent a little time reading what the report found. Annually,
It may not be the page turner you're looking to read over your coffee, but as a concerned citizen we ought to know what's coming out of our faucet. You never know what might spark your interest when doing just a little reading.
Thursday, May 8, 2008
We all have our dirty little secrets, tucked away in the bowels of our basement, gathering dust in the garage, or sleeping quietly in our garden sheds. You know what I’m talking about. Household toxics.
Household toxics can include old household cleaners (drain and oven cleaners); lawn and garden products (snail bait, pesticides, fertilizer); oil-based paints and stains; automotive products (antifreeze, engine additives, motor oil); pool and spa supplies; mercury-containing fluorescent light bulbs, and batteries of all kinds.
I know, I know, some of these date from the previous home owner or were needed for a specific project. But now they’re sitting there, nearly but not quite empty, and you’d really like to do a spring cleaning. Whatever you do, don’t throw it in the garbage!
These household toxics must be disposed of properly, for the health of our communities and the Earth. The good news is that in Seattle/King County, there are lots of options for safe disposal.
Households Hazards Line: 1-888-869-4233
South Household Hazardous Waste Facility:
Open Thurs-Sat, 10am-4pm. No appointment needed.
North Facility: make appointment through Household Hazards Line.
Open Thurs-Sun, 9am-5pm. No appointment needed.
In the next few weeks, the mobile Household Hazardous Wastemobile will be collecting waste free of charge in these two communities:
May 16-18 –
Nationally, you can look up toxic waste disposal locations through your city or county government, or by going to Earth 911’s website and entering in the item you need to dispose of and your zip code in the search box at the top of the page.
Stay tuned for future blog postings on what happens to your items once you drop them off at the Hazardous Waste Facility, alternative products that are available, and other exciting information about household toxics!
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
As the spring grows redolent with late cherry and apple blossoms, and the tulips fade while irises appear I think about the bountiful blessing of our local agriculture: the wonderful asparagus already in our kitchens, the fabulous tomatoes we will soon see at the farmer’s markets. I’m tired of food from Peru and China, or some processing plant in the Rust Belt. I’m longing for fresh; my spirit needs the sustenance and my body needs the anti-oxidants.
Because I do everything Sustainable Ballard tells me to do, last year in August I took the 100-mile challenge and for one whole month ate only foods grown within the Northwest region. Here’s what happened:
- My food budget dropped by 25%; I don’t know why but local was cheaper for my pocketbook.
- I lost five pounds, not that you’d notice.
- The two EarthCorps internationals living with me (both from South America) hardly paid attention because it turns out that this is how they had eaten their entire lives.
- My then 17 year-old son hated it: local food means no processed food, no pizza, and no chips. He complained every day. Tough!
This year, we have a young man from Namibia living with us, and he likes meat and pizza and food more to Brian’s taste. Also, like most young people from the south, he’s an avocado-a-day man. So this year, I’m going to have a hard time telling the both boys my plan: three months, 300 miles.
That’s right. Sustainable Ballard got me going. Then we at Earth Ministry worked on the Local Farms/Healthy Kids legislation this year and I learned all over again why local food is better for so many reasons. If it was only that local food is cheaper, healthier, and good for the local economy and the environment and is more fair and just to local workers, I might not be so in love with it. It’s the beauty and delight and fun and neighborliness of local food, it’s the thrill of twenty versions of lettuces or cucumbers that you would never see in a big store. It’s the flower ladies from Southeast Asia; the buskers signing their hearts out while you select oysters from Shelton or cheese from Linden. It is knowing your producer is also a concert cellist or has a kid at Oxford. It’s full-catastrophe living and it makes me happy.
So I’m initiating our own private regional foods 3-month challenge this summer: July, August, and September (take that, Sustainable Ballard!). We at 1806 are going to eat regional, not local food, because it is more honest. It lets us have wheat and bread and veggies from Yakima, salmon from BC and shrimp from Oregon. That’s why we extended the jurisdiction to the whole region, which still keeps our foodprint pretty darn small. It still means no bananas, rice, and processed food besides ice cream from Tillamook Oregon. Iggy won’t get his avocadoes, and my poor Brian will have forgo his pizza-a-day habit and eat, God help him, a vegetable.
We will all be healthier, closer to the source of food and of life. I will take in less fat and the boys will take in more nutrients. Our wonderful local producers will get our business and chat with us about their lives. We will eat what the seasons offer and no more. You, cherished reader, will hear stories about local farms, good meals, major rebellions in the household, and the dogs’ waist measurements.
We’ll do this in July, August, and September. Ask your own household about it. Join us! Make comments on the blog. Decrease your food-print and your waistlines while connecting with the beauty of our region and God’s gifts from Creation. I must be getting old, because this is my idea of a really good time.