GOING GREEN | Sunday, March 7, 2010


What’s in this issue ...
4 7 12 16
Getting serious
Betsy and Thad Howard’s road to energy efficiency started with a comprehensive TVA inspection

Expert advice
Quantum’s “green team” helps design more efficient homes


Green cabinets
Manufacturers target “silent poisons” in construction materials

Ten ideas to lessen your impact
Some easy ways to go green, from limiting water use to tracking energy use

The high cost of food waste
On the cover


Burpee rides gardening boom

Photo by Ben Fant/Special to The Commercial Appeal

Going Green is a special online publication of The Commercial Appeal. We welcome your comments and suggestions. Follow Going Green on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GoGreenMemphis. Editor: Roland Klose, 529-2776, klose@commercialappeal.com

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Sunday, March 7, 2010 | GOING GREEN


The Green Page
The Sierra Club Chickasaw Group’s executive committee meets at 6:30 p.m. March 8 at Prescott Memorial Baptist Church, 961 Getwell. Members are welcome. (901) 8294360, e-mail brannon.n@gmail.com. Wolf River Conservancy’s Dale Sanders leads members on a canoe trip on the upper Wolf on April 3. For more information, e-mail Sanders at fdales@aol.com. To join the group, call (901) 452-6500. Project Green Fork’s Spring Supper will be at 6 p.m. May 23 at Sekisui Midtown. The $75 fundraiser features sushi rolls inspired by Project Green Fork restaurants. For more information, go to projectgreenfork.org.

The Commercial Appeal file photo

Sekisui Midtown will host Project Green Fork’s Spring Supper.

Coalition for Livable Communities: The organization advocates healthy, vibrant and economically sustainable communities. livablememphis.org or (901) 725-8390. Friends for Our Riverfront: Formed in 2003, the group advocates improvement of the public space along the

Mississippi, as well as a clean and vibrant harbor. friendsforourriverfront.org or (901) 496-0736. Mid-South Peace and Justice Center: Works with low-income communities in Memphis to plan and plant community gardens, providing area residents with access to fresh produce. midsouthpeace.org or

(901) 725-4990. Sustainable Shelby: Launched by Shelby County government, Sustainable Shelby promotes environmentally and economically sound regional strategies for development. sustainableshelby.com or (901) 576-6601.
To submit items, e-mail klose@commercialappeal.com.


GOING GREEN | Sunday, March 7, 2010


Photos by Ben Fant/Special to The Commercial Appeal

Thad Howard got serious about energy efficiency after a TVA inspector did an energy audit on his home, and he realized how much he could save by making updates which included blowing in more insulation in the attic.

Getting serious
Energy audit pays off for Mud Island homeowners
By Jonathan Devin
Special to Going Green

When Betsy and Thad Howard moved to Memphis in 2004, they downsized and upsized at the same time. They bought a smaller house, but it came with a higher utility bill. They knew that their new home, a three-bedroom, two-story house on Mud

Island, could be improved for greater energy efficiency, but unlike their former home in Durham, N.C., they found that green building practices were few and far between. “We thought that there wasn’t as much of a culture here of doing energy-efficient building and we didn’t know the trade people here, so we didn’t know anyone who did these things,” Betsy said.

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But the numbers were unavoidable. In Durham, a bad month for utilities brought a bill of around $200. Here, an average winter month cost them more than $300. This year the Howards got serious about becoming more energyefficient. The couple participated in the Tennessee Valley Authority’s In-Home Energy Evaluation Program, which included a comprehensive inspection of their home, an audit of their current energy usage and physical improvements to their home. They started by getting educated. Betsy contacted TVA and set up a class on energy saving for First Congregational Church in Midtown. The Howards co-chair the church’s green committee. There they learned about IHEE and late last year, they started the process. Betsy worked for the Environmental Protection Agency for 20 years before the move, studying air quality issues, so some of the issues in the home were obvious to her. All of the windows on the north side of the home are single-pane because they were meant to be

Help keep heat from drafting into the attic by creating an insulated foam core box for your drop-down attic stairs.

Applying caulk to crown molding around your ceiling can seal in heat that otherwise can escape into the attic. decorative. Entries to the house for the dryer vent and other pipes and hoses were made too big and not well-sealed. They called the number listed on TVA’s Web site and, through Memphis Light, Gas and Water

Division, were connected to a TVA representative who scheduled their inspection with Scott Little of Conservation Service Group. “We walked through the house with him and he showed us things and educated us,” Betsy said. The results of the inspection were eyeopening. The 20-year-old, 2,000square-foot home had at least 25 square feet of completely uninsulated attic space. Their crown molding was not sealed to the wallboard, allowing heated air to be siphoned through the cracks above and below, up into the attic. Their heating and air conditioning unit was sealed with tape instead of mastic, a putty-like substance which hardens into cement around the duct connections. After the audit, the Howards received a report detailing the changes needed, along with the estimated costs for improvement and energy savings so they could set priorities for their projects. The windows, they decided, would have to wait for now. On Feb. 11, Betsy’s birthday, a slew of TVA-


GOING GREEN | Sunday, March 7, 2010


Ben Fant/Special to The Commercial Appeal

Place insulating foam into holes and gaps where electrical cords, plumbing or air conditioning lines enter the house. approved contractors arrived with cases of caulk and blown insulation and started to work. Fortunately, some of the projects were fairly simple. The gas line in their fireplace was sealed with a fire-proof mortar. Loose ceiling supply registers were screwed tightly in place so that the air flows into the room, not between walls and floors. A wooden box cover was installed on top of the pull-down attic staircase to keep it from sucking heat up through it like a chimney. “The contractors don’t get their money until TVA inspects their work and says you’ve done quality work,” said Thad, who works for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. “They’re going to make sure that they do it right.” TVA spokesman Mike Bradley said the program, which started in May 2009, is taking off, albeit slowly. A total of 4,631 inhome evaluations have been conducted across TVA’s seven-state service area, 3,737 in Tennessee. Seventy-four power distributors have signed on. “We’re hoping for more (participants), and the program is still evolving,” Bradley said. Bradley said there is a separate weatherization program aimed at the less affluent and funded by federal stimulus money to

do much of the same kinds of work. TVA is training auditors for the program. But the IHEE is not without its financial benefits. As part of the program, the Howards paid $150 for the audit, which is refundable by TVA. Also TVA will pay them up to $500 for the first $1,000 they spend on improvements. Essentially, they will receive $650 back. The Howards may also qualify for a tax credit, good through 2010, of as much as $1,500 for approved materials at up to 30 percent of the cost. The Howards haven’t completed a billing cycle since the work in their home was finished, but Betsy says she can already tell that the house is warmer and less drafty. “When I take a nap I don’t have to crawl under as many blankets,” Betsy said. “I’m not wearing as many sweaters. I think when it will really pay off the most is this summer because our upstairs air conditioner couldn’t handle it.” “With all these incentives, it was like if we don’t do it now, why bother?” said Thad.
For information, go to tva.gov/ee/in_home_eval.htm.

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Dave Darnell/The Commercial Appeal

Quantum Showrooms owner Kevin Wright started the Green Team meetings to give Memphians ideas for making their homes more energy efficient.

Teaming up for savings
Experts help trim energy use, utility bills

By Suzanne Thompson
Special to Going Green

A $74 monthly utility bill for a 5,300-square-foot house seems like an impossibility, but it’s not, according to a local building expert. Walter Nelms, a mechanical engineer, cited the remarkably low power bill as an example of how Memphis homeowners can save money by acting to improve energy efficiency. Nelms is a member of a group of builders, contractors and architects — informally known as the Quantum Green Team — who meet once a month with interested citizens to dis-


GOING GREEN | Sunday, March 7, 2010


cuss ways to make homes Nelms said, converted to with new high-performore energy-efficient. a geothermal heating sysmance water heating sys“It’s free. We feed tem and four separate tems, about the size of a them, and we’re trying to temperature zones, and small microwave oven. educate them on how to now reports an average For each topic, Nelms lower their utility bills,” monthly utility bill of $74. breaks down the additionsaid Quantum owner al cost of using green The program at QuanKevin Wright. tum provides information building alternatives and Although Wright initiat- about foundations, framgives the time it takes for ed the meetings, Nelms, ing, windows, lighting, in- the improvement to pay who specializes in energy- sulation, comfort control for itself in energy savings. efficient home building, High-performance and hot water systems. now runs them. For instance, traditional lighting, a relatively mod“I’m here to proest investment, pays mote green building for itself within six practices, and how months and prothey apply to Memvides a 200 percent phis,” he said. return on investUsing thermal ment. imaging and other The greatest area testing methods, for improvement of Nelms’ company, energy efficiency is Engineered Comusually the duct fort, performs enerwork in a house, Jupiter Images where heating and gy assessments on houses to help ed“It’s possible, using all green building air- conditioning ucate homeowners practices, to have a utility bill that is leakage can be as on changes they can $37 per month,” Walter Nelms says. much as 30 percent, make to lower their Wright said. slab foundations are more utility bills. The Even making efficient than monolithic cost is between $100 and small changes, like caulkslabs, which are quicker $300. ing cracks around winand cheaper, but less resis- dows and doors, can save “No one can tell from tant to termite infiltration. people money on their just looking at the outHigh-performance winside of a house what utility bills. dows make a big differchanges need to be made But for the really big ence in energy efficiency, to correct energy leaksavings, the way to go is Nelms said, as up to 50 age,” he said. from the ground up, with The investment in envi- percent of energy transfer new construction. is through windows. ronmentally conscious “It’s possible, using all building and remodeling Imagine never running green building practices, isn’t just good for the plan- out of hot water. That asto have a utility bill that et. It also saves money. surance, along with a lifeis $37 per month,” Nelms One former client, time guarantee, comes said.

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Eco-friendly cabinets

Karen Pulfer Focht/The Commercial Appeal

Amy Baxter designs “green” kitchens for the shop Gallery Kitchens near Poplar and Perkins.

Manufacturers target VOCs in construction materials
By Suzanne Thompson
Special to Going Green

MOST PEOPLE NEVER REALIZE IT, but when they are in

their kitchens, they could be breathing in noxious fumes emitted by the finishing of their cabinetry.

These “silent poisons” are most often in such small proportions that they go undetected because the human body can usually tolerate a certain amount of such emissions. Usually, but not always.


GOING GREEN | Sunday, March 7, 2010


Amy Baxter, a kitchen designer for Gallery Kitchens, LLC, said she once had a client with severe asthma who almost couldn’t breathe in his kitchen that contained new cabinetry. In 1999, California enacted tough emissions standards that started a movement to regulate the amount of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), such as formaldehyde, contained in construction materials. Formaldehyde is an organic compound used in the production of resins and hardwood furniture finishing. Its fumes are harmful when inhaled in areas with poor ventilation. The Environmental Protection Agency carefully monitors formaldehyde emissions from cabinet finishes, and American manufacturers must ensure that their finishes contain no more than .30 parts per million of harmful emissions. Some cabinet manufacturers are making more efforts to reduce or eliminate the emissions and to build cabinetry in an environmentally friendly way. A number of factors other than the finishing

Formaldehye, frequently used in cabinet finishes, produces fumes that are harmful in areas with poor ventilation. “(Green cabinetry is) more
contents are considered when determining how green cabinetry is. Even the way the wood is grown and processed factors into the ratings. How green consumers want to go when building or remodeling is up to them, Baxter said. “It’s more of a finished product — a renewable resource that is also produced in a way that it is not emitting anything harmful into the home,” Baxter said. “If a customer wants 100 percent green, we can do it.” Cabinets can be termed eco-friendly if manufacturers use only the most organic finishing products on their exterior. Other cabinet makers can take the environmental element to a higher level by using only fast-growing woods such as Alder, which regrows from the stump, or Lyptus wood, a composite made from two types of eucalyptus. The ratings are based on a point system developed by agencies such as the U.S. Green Building Council, under which the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program operates. Baxter said Gallery Kitchens is the only company in the MidSouth that carries EcoFriendly Cabinetry, one line of cabinets that adheres to the strictest guidelines in producing products that are completely safe in all aspects of design. Consumers pay for a cleaner environment because the price is 70 percent to 80 percent higher than that of cabinets made with less rigid green practices. Signature Kitchens also carries cabinets from

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the government requirements, and these suppliers that use environmentally safe doggone China imports come in and manufacturing procedures, and they they are loaded with formaldehyde; they have been around for quite a while. don’t meet any of those One such supplier, requirements.” Vasco, carries a line of a finished product Although such called Quality Cabinets, product lines are which is 100 percent — a renewable available, Ranson said green, said Bob Ranson, resource that is also the demand for such who was, until recently, a vice president at produced in a way that cabinets is not that great locally. Signature Kitchens. it is not emitting “I’d say 10 percent “I like to say that would be a generous Quality was green before anything harmful into estimate.” green was cool,” he said. the home.” Ranson said the price While American-made point for Quality products are monitored AMY BAXTER Cabinets has remained and comply with EPA Gallery Kitchens, LLC in line with those of and other agency other labels. Like all standards, the same products, he said, prices standard does not hold can vary widely from true of imported manufacturer to cabinets, Ranson said. manufacturer, though cabinets made “That really burns me because our using green practices are generally highcabinet manufacturers go to great pains end products. to do this — to be green and to meet all

Cabinet makers can take the environmental element to a higher level by using only fast-growing woods such as Alder (left), which regrows from the stump, or Lyptus wood, a composite made from two types of eucalyptus (right).


GOING GREEN | Sunday, March 7, 2010


A better home for a better world
10 ways to conserve — with less pain
By Alyson Ward
McClatchy Newspapers

The word “green” has been part of our vocabulary for years. We know we need to reduce, reuse, recycle — but for most of us, there’s a disconnect between what we know and what we really do. It’s true: Going green isn’t always convenient. But it’s a lot easier than it used to be — and more affordable. In just the past two or three years, ecofriendly choices have become more accessible and less expensive, and going green is no longer just for the dedicated environmentalists and the

wealthy. We talked to Jennifer Schwab about the best ways to go green this year. Schwab is director of sustainability for Sierra Club Green Home, an online resource center that the Sierra Club set up to help people make their

homes more sustainable. (Find it at sierraclubgreen home.com.) With Schwab’s help, we’ve come up with ways you can help save energy, water and landfills this year — without a lot of pain. Here are 10 ways that you can make your home

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(and, therefore, your life) more eco-friendly and energy-efficient.

2. Track your energy use
Nothing makes you want to save energy like seeing the hard numbers. You can use a software program to analyze your home’s energy use — or even track it live online. Several programs are available to help you get a handle on your energy use.

and what you can do to make your numbers better.

1. Install a programmable thermostat
Heating and cooling account for about 55 percent of your energy use, according to TXU Energy in Dallas. The efficiency folks at Energy Star estimate that the average household could save $180 a year by switching to a programmable thermostat. How does a programmable thermostat work? You can set it to, say, turn the heat down at night while you’re sleeping, then warm back up in the morning. In the summer, you can set it to keep the air conditioner off during the day while you’re at work, then cool the house down by the time you get home. Programmable thermostats are sold at home-improvement stores; you can find a good one for less than $100. Energy Star has set up a guideline for how to program your thermostat so you’ll save money and energy. Go to energystar.gov.

3. Switch to renewable energy
You might not even have to change providers. Many traditional companies offer customers the option to use renewable energy. The rates are slightly higher, but the impact on your carbon footprint is amazing. The electricity that goes to your home doesn’t change; it still comes from the grid that lights us all up. But when you have renewable power, your money is designated for renewable energy. The more people who pay for wind instead of coal, the more of that big grid will be powered with wind instead of coal.

One we like: Microsoft Hohm, an application that launched last spring. It’s a free download, available at microsoft-hohm.com. The program asks you to enter information about your home, your appliances and your habits. Then it draws up a personalized energy report: You’ll find out what’s sucking up the most energy in your house

4. Invest in efficient appliances
You have no idea how much energy is sucked up by old, inefficient appliances. So if you replace an appliance this year, go with the Energy Star designation. Energy Star appliances require a lot less energy — which, in turn, requires a lot less money. An Energy Star refrigerator, for instance, uses at least 20 percent


GOING GREEN | Sunday, March 7, 2010


the difference. If your faucet doesn’t have a low-flow aerator, add one. Screwed onto the end of your faucet, it’ll reduce the flow of water — sometimes down to a half-gallon per minute. Meanwhile, it adds air to the flow so you won’t notice a reduction in water pressure. You can find a good aerator for less than $5. And consider a low-flow shower head. Since 1992, new shower heads sold in the United States can’t use more than 2.5 gallons per minute, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. But you can find low-flow shower heads that use 2 gallons, 1.5 gallons or even less. Most major showerhead companies make a low-flow option, and they’re getting better and more sophisticated. less energy than a standard fridge. Go to energystar.gov to find a buying guide for major appliances. Go around your windows and see if you can feel the spots where air is moving through. You can find sealants at your nearest home-improvement store for less than $5.

7. Rethink your garden
This spring, save water: Don’t plant tropical plants or flowers that require constant attention and watering. Instead, look for native plants to fill your garden. If you’re not sure what to plant, consult your local extension office.

5. Seal up your doors and windows
Especially if you have an older home, you’re likely to have some drafts and some air leaking in around your doors and windows.

6. Limit your home water use
If you install a few tools to help you use less water, you might not even notice

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Find one in your area at pickyourown.org/ countyextensionagent offices.htm.

10. Try your hand at composting
Yes, you can divert household waste from the trash and do something good for your garden. “Composting diverts so much unneeded waste from the landfill,” Schwab says. In the past few years, composting has gone a bit more mainstream — and it’s easy to find bins of all kinds (and at various prices) at homeimprovement stores. For composting basics, go to howtocompost.org. If you want to go highend, Schwab recommends the NatureMill composting bin (naturemill.com), which she uses in her own kitchen. The compact bins can be used outside, but they fit easily into a kitchen cabinet. You drop in food waste and the bin does the rest: the turning, the mixing, the maintaining of moisture. Every couple of weeks, a light tells you the compost is ready for emptying. “It’s a lot less involved than making your own” compost pile, Schwab says, and it looks good enough to leave out in the kitchen. (Warning: They’re not cheap — models range from about $300 to $400.)

8. Vow to use less plastic
Yes, plastic is easy, but it’s not always the greenest option. So use glass containers to store and heat food. Take your own bags to the grocery store to avoid taking home those filmy plastic bags that can’t go in the recycling bin. And commit to stop filling the fridge (and the trash) with water bottles. If you’re opposed to tap water, get a filtered pitcher or attach a filter to your kitchen faucet. If you like the convenience of bottled water, consider this instead: A company called Clear2O makes a water bottle with a built-in filter. You can fill it up anywhere and drink filtered, goodtasting water. It retails for $15.99 and is available at sporting-goods stores and some grocery stores, or go to clear2o.com.

9. Dispose of things responsibly
If recycling isn’t available at your residence, take your recyclables to a nearby

drop-off station. Memphis, for example, has five drop-off stations. (Call 576-6851 or go to memphiswaste.org for more information.) And learn, once and for all, where to take all that hazardous stuff that shouldn’t go to the landfill: batteries, motor oil, electronics and old compact fluorescent light bulbs. If it can be recycled, you can go online to find out where to drop it off. Go to earth911.com and use the search tool at the top of the page. Enter your ZIP code and type in what you want to get rid of — plastics, motor oil, yard waste, old computers — and you’ll get a list of dropoff stations and recycling centers for your area.


GOING GREEN | Sunday, March 7, 2010



Wasteful ways with food come at a cost
Dear Earth Talk: What are the environmental implications of all the food we throw away? Food waste is a huge issue in the United States, especially in light of the growing divide between the profligate rich and the hungry poor. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Loss Project, we throw away more than 25 percent — some 25.9 million tons — of all the food we produce for domestic sale and consumption. A 2004 University of Arizona study pegs the figure at closer to 50 percent, finding that Americans squander some $43 billion annually on wasted food. Lead researcher Timothy Jones reported that on average, U.S. households waste 14 percent of their food purchases. He estimates that a family of four tosses out $590 per year in meat, fruits, vegetables and grain products alone. Once this food gets to the landfill, it then generates methane, a greenhouse gas 23 times as potent as carbon dioxide in trapping heat within our atmosphere. Furthermore, researchers at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases concluded in a 2009 study that each year a quarter of U.S. water consumption and more than 300 million barrels of oil (4 percent of U.S. oil consumption) go into producing and distributing food that ultimately ends up in landfills. They add that per capita food waste has increased by half since 1974. But environmentalists are optimistic

Patrick Michael Mcleon, courtesy Flickr

A 2009 study suggests that per capita food waste in the United States has increased by half since 1974. that Americans can reduce their food waste. Restaurants and markets are finding outlets, such as soup kitchens, for food they would otherwise toss. Some communities pick up and centrally compost food waste from commercial and residential buildings and put the resulting nutrient-rich soil to use in municipal projects. And a few enterprising cities have waste-to-energy technologies that extract methane from landfills for use as fuel. The University of Arizona’s Jones suggests more careful purchase planning, including devising complete menus and grocery lists, and knowing what foods are lurking in the fridge and pantry that should be used before they go bad. And don’t forget that many foods can be frozen and enjoyed later.
Send questions to Earth Talk, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881 or e-mail earthtalk@emagazine.com.

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Seed giant courts bumper crop of backyard gardeners
By Debbie Arrington
The Sacramento Bee

Burpee mailed out almost 1.8 million of its signature Burpee Gardening catalogs in December.

Gardening grows on you. That’s one reason so many people discover the hobby later in life. Baby boomers are gravitating toward gardening as a way to exercise, unwind and spend time together. It’s one of a number of trends that converged in backyards across America last summer as more than 7 million families planted vegetable gardens for the first time, according to the National Gardening Association and other experts. Those newbies fueled a major boom for Burpee, the go-to seed source for generations. “It’s been a wonderful two years for us,” said Burpee owner George Ball. “We were at the right place at the right time. So many trends came together at once. It was a perfect storm for vegetable gardening.” Burpee saw its sales go up 20 percent to 25 percent in 2008 and again in 2009 — the biggest surge for the 134year-old Pennsylvania

company since 1973, itself a recession year. Spurred by the current economic downturn, many American families returned to gardening or tried it for the first time as a way to save money. Growing one’s own food also is a way to ensure its safety, another major concern. “But there’s this big background trend behind all that now,” said Ball, 57, an avid gardener himself. “We’re getting older. We have more time. We may finally have a home of our own and a backyard. We have space. We want to garden. That trend will continue even as the economy improves.” Burpee mailed out almost 1.8 million copies of its signature catalog in December; another 600,000 catalogs under its other nameplates are also arriving in mailboxes. As always in its catalogs, Burpee trumpets what’s new and unusual. “We scour the world looking for them,” Ball said. “We’re always trying to push the envelope. It’s not the same old seeds we offered 30 years ago.”


GOING GREEN | Sunday, March 7, 2010


Burpee keeps fresh every winter with a plethora of eyepopping, never-seen vegetables and flowers. Those new introductions — such as TieDye Tomatoes and RSVPeas — take five to six years to develop as hybrids. Some fruit trees take decades before they reach the catalog, which has 75 new introductions for 2010. “Gardeners want to know what’s new,” Ball said. “They want all that sweat to pay off every year with something they can’t find anywhere else. It’s a really big deal. It’s hard to find something exciting every single year.” Ball understands what gardeners want. For decades, the Burpee owner and chairman has seen fads come and go, but his brand has remained supreme. The main Burpee catalog is supplemented by two niche catalogs: The Cook’s Garden for gourmet veggies and Heronswood for rare perennials and weird plants. Ball has kept his company in step with modern trends while keeping the Burpee name synonymous with vegetable seed. Not only does it have the country’s top catalog, but it sells seeds in supermarket kiosks and home-improvement stores. The most popular sellers are the standards: zucchini, sunflowers and zinnias. “They’re easy” for gardeners, Ball said.

Jupiter Images

The USDA has revised its rules on access to pasture for organic dairies’ livestock.

USDA clarifies organic dairy rules
By Robin Shreeves
Mother Nature Network

When we buy organic milk or any other organic dairy product, we’d all like to think that the cows have happily and leisurely grazed in a pasture each day before making their way up to the barn to be milked. Unfortunately, because of the way the U.S. Department of Agriculture worded the rules for organically raised cows, that didn’t always have to be so. The former rule, which was amended last month, said that livestock must “have access” to pasture. Having access to a pasture doesn’t mean the same thing as actually grazing on pasture. Milk-producing livestock for some of the larger organic dairy companies technically had access to pasture, but they spent less time pasturing and more time in cramped conditions. In 2008, the Cornucopia Institute rated

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dairies on the living conditions of their livestock and found several of the larger dairy producers “ethically deficient.” These dairies included Horizon, one of the most recognizable organic labels, and Aurora, a dairy that packages its milk under private labels for stores such as Costco and Safeway. Because the USDA rule on having access to pasture was silent about the amount of time livestock should spend on pasture, many of the larger organic dairy companies could say they were doing nothing wrong. However, Cornucopia Institute’s report, along with cries of foul from other groups, got the USDA’s attention. On Feb. 12, the USDA clarified “the use of pasture in raising organic ruminants.” Here are some of the new rules that will go into effect on June 17. Animals must graze pasture during the grazing season, which must be at least 120 days per year. Animals must obtain a minimum of 30 percent dry matter intake from grazing pasture during the grazing season. Producers must have a pasture management plan and manage pasture as a crop to meet the feed requirements for the grazing animals and to protect soil and water quality. Livestock are exempt from the 30 percent dry matter intake requirements during the finish feeding period, not to exceed 120 days. Livestock must have access to pasture during the finishing phase.
Robin Shreeves blogs about finding ecofriendly food options at mnn.com/featuredblogs/sustainablefood.

Finding sweet success with Fair Trade flavors
By Siel Ju
Mother Nature Network

Here’s some sweet news for ice cream lovers: Ben & Jerry’s ice creams will soon all be Fair Trade sweetened and flavored. The popular ice cream company first dipped into the Fair Trade movement back in 2005, when it started using Fair Trade coffee, cocoa and vanilla for some of its flavors — ensuring that the producers of those ingredients got a fairer share of the profits from the ice cream. But the company kept using conventional sugar instead of Fair Tradecertified sugar in the ice creams with the Fair Trade logo. Now Ben & Jerry’s is ready to make a complete switch. The company is going to use Fair Trade sugar in all its ice creams — making pretty much every flavor eligible for Fair Trade certification — and also will switch away from conventional products for all ingredients available with Fair Trade certification. That means 11 ingredients in Ben & Jerry’s products — from sugar to coffee to banana to some nuts — will all be Fair Trade certified. The switch to Fair Trade will be complete by the end of 2013.
Siel Ju blogs about health, beauty and life at mnn.com/featured-blogs/greenliving.


GOING GREEN | Sunday, March 7, 2010


Shower products in the ONE line from Target come in a cardboard container that can be recycled, with a tin for traveling.

Ditch the bottles
Shower bars use less packaging
By Kim Ossi

Think about all the bottles you have in your shower right now. Likely the collection includes shampoo, conditioners, body washes and scrubs, facial scrubs, soap and masks. Now think about how many bottles you’ve just tossed in the trash because there’s no recycling bin in your bathroom. Make the decision to end the cycle now and stock up on the new ONE line of eco-friendly cleansing and moisturizing

products that has actually put some thought into packaging. The ONE line’s solid shampoo and conditioner bars ($6.99 each) are concentrated, with each shampoo bar equal to a 24-ounce bottle of liquid shampoo. The bar comes in one recyclable cardboard container and includes a tin for travel. The concentrated bars also are much lighter to ship to stores, reducing the carbon footprint of the product — and your own when you use it. You can lather up

with the shampoo bar, formulated with oatmeal and natural oils, in just three or four rubs over your wet hair. And then follow up with the solid conditioner bar to hydrate. Available in four scents, each is formulated for a different hair type. Also included in the ONE line: bar soap ($5.99), Bath Fizzers ($5.99), After Shower Skin Conditioner Bar ($6.49), Shea Body Butter ($9.99), Lotion Massage Bar ($9.99) and more. The ONE collection is available at all Target stores and online at Target.com.

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‘Compostable’ plastics on the way
By Sandy Bauers
The Philadelphia Inquirer

London researchers have come up with a new sugar-based polymer that they say could make food packaging and other disposable plastic items suitable for being composted at home along with the usual veggie peelings and other organic waste. Right now, most “compostable” plastics have to be sent to industrial-size facilities. And they’re often made from food crops such as corn, sugar beets and potatoes, creating ethical concerns in a world where many poor people go hungry and using food stocks for plastics might drive up prices. The degradable polymer is made from sugars known as “lignocellulosic biomass,” which come from fast-growing trees and grasses, or renewable biomass from agricultural or food waste, according to a press release from Imperial College London, where the team of engineering and physical sciences researchers is based.

Lead researcher Charlotte Williams said significant research is going into developing greener plastics — not only for environmental reasons, but also because of economic and supply considerations. About 7 percent of worldwide oil and gas resources are consumed in plastics manufacture, with worldwide production exceeding 150 million tons per year. For the plastic to be useful it had to be manufactured in large volumes and produced in a low-energy, low-water process, Williams said. In contrast, the leading biorenewable plastic, polylactide, is formed in a highenergy process requiring large volumes of water. In addition, when it reaches the end of its life polylactide must be degraded in a high-temperature industrial facility. The new polymer’s oxygen-rich sugars allow it to absorb water and degrade to harmless products — meaning it can be tossed on the home compost heap and used to feed the garden.

Just one thing
Rethink your toothbrush. Millions of plastic toothbrushes are disposed of in landfills every year. One company, Preserve, makes its toothbrushes from recycled yogurt cups and even lets you return them, in postage-paid envelopes, to the company to be made into recycled plastic park benches and other useful stuff. Learn more at preserveproducts.com.

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