How to Be an Environmentalist without Being a Total Downer

Why don't more people care about the environment?
Why aren't more people anxiously engaged in addressing climate change?
Why are so many good smart people seemingly indifferent to the looming catastrophes?

We greenies muse about these questions now and then. And sometimes thinking about the apathy of others gets us really discouraged and stuck in a feeling of hopelessness (what's the use?). Green Bean shared with me an interesting article that explains that the green movement has a major PR problem, and that the solution is to never say "earth" or "planet" or "environment," to focus on people (not polar bears), to enlist celebrities, and to repeat, repeat, repeat.

Recently I've been reading Daniel Goleman's book Focus about the nature of attention, and his discussion of attention has an enlightening explanation about why are paralyzed by climate change. He gives two very compelling reasons why we are very ill-equipped to address "our slow-motion mass suicide as human systems degrade the global systems that support life on this planet."

Continue reading at The Green Phone Booth

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Why I Don't Use Tampons Anymore

I had no intention of ever writing about this. Menstruation isn't my favorite topic, and I am a rather private person. Even after I became one of those weirdly enthusiastic menstrual cup users, I still wasn't planning to publish a post about alternatives to conventional feminine products. It was when I read the troubling report Chem Fatale by Women's Voices for the Earth about the potential health effects of toxic chemicals in feminine care products that I decided I would write a post about my experience switching to eco-friendlier menstrual products. As the report points out, "products intended for use on or in an incredibly absorbent part of a woman's body are marketed and sold with little to no data assuring the ingredients they contain are safe." That's in part because tampons and pads are considered medical devices by the FDA, and "medical devices lack any government requirement to disclose ingredients to the consumer."

Unfortunately, according to the report Chem Fatale, studies have shown that many chemicals of concern can be present in tampons and pads.

Hazardous chemicals in tampons may include:

Easy-peasy DIY Trail Mix

A few months ago, my husband returned from a business trip with a  partially eaten bag of trail mix purchased in the airport. It was probably the healthiest option available in the airport convenience store. Snacking on the store-bought mix had given my husband a new appreciation for trail mix, and he told me he planned to stock up on bags of trail mix at the grocery store to keep with him at work for healthy snacking.

That I simply could not stomach. Making trail mix is far too easy to spend your money on the version at the grocery store. Plus the airport version included fake M&Ms and hydrogenated vegetable oil. Yuck. Even the mixes at Trader Joe's and Whole Foods often have added sugar and other unnecessary ingredients. I quickly whipped up a version using ingredients I already had on hand. If you make granola, or regularly purchase nuts and dried fruit, you already have everything you need to make your own trail mix.

DIY Trail Mix

2 parts nuts
1 part dried fruit
1 part chocolate chips
Measure and mix. Store in an air-tight container (I like to use a glass quart canning jar). Lasts for several weeks. 

Why should you bother making your own trail mix?

Two Things to Do Before You Spring Clean

Get Rid of Stuff

Before spring cleaning is the perfect time to ruthlessly eliminate clutter, since deep cleaning often involves moving lots of stuff around. And by clutter I mean stuff you own that you don't use, don't need, and maybe don't even want. I've seen a lot of spring cleaning checklists that include tossing clutter while cleaning out this or that. This would never work for me. If I were taking everything out of a drawer to wipe it out, and I stopped to consider whether I should keep or get rid of each item, I would never finish cleaning anything. Take the week before beginning spring cleaning to purge the contents of one room each day and get rid of as much as you can before you ever spray a cleaner or wipe down a surface.

100% Whole Grain Muffins with Applesauce

In my endless quest to amass a repertoire of healthy kid-friendly portable snacks, I stumbled upon this Healthy Applesauce Oat Muffin recipe on Mel's Kitchen Cafe. These muffins have turned into a huge hit at my house. They are perfect for a little breakfast snack or sweet snack any time of day. I now make the quadruple recipe because I am all about baking and freezing in bulk. Since they are whole grain they freeze and defrost very nicely.

I have modified the original recipe quite a bit. The first time I made it, I followed the recipe. They came out much too wet (little puddles under the cupcake liners) and excessively sweet, although still entirely edible. I imagine that what kind of applesauce you use, and how thick (versus watery) it is will affect how much applesauce it is appropriate to use. I use Trader Joe's organic unsweetened applesauce and found that decreasing it by a quarter worked well. I also cut the sugar by half (still plenty sweet!) and found that I could decrease the fat by a quarter. I also tend to be generous with the cinnamon and vanilla, with no ill effects. In addition, I let the batter sit for a bit after mixing to make sure the whole grains have plenty of time to absorb the liquid. I'm not sure this is strictly necessary, but I find this to be a good policy in general when dealing with whole grains (I do this with my whole grain pancakes).

How to Eat Less Meat

For the sake of the health of the planet and our family (not to mention the pocketbook), we are always looking for ways to lower our meat consumption. Here are some methods that have worked for my family.

Use meat as a seasoning rather than a main dish.

I could eat vegetarian (vegan would be much tougher) if I really wanted to. I could do it. But the truth is, I like a little meat. One of my favorite ways to enjoy the taste of meat while consuming less of it is to use meat as a seasoning rather than the main attraction of a meal. A perfect example is my delicious hearty lentil soup. This filling soup is mostly lentils and vegetables, but the few ounces of bacon plus chicken broth make this a very flavorful and hearty soup.


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