Tuesday, June 27, 2006

What to Eat?

We've been talking about food a lot on this blog lately, and there's a good reason for it: all of us think about food, both eating and buying it!

All the information out there might be confusing and contradictory. Well, I can't promise to help straighten it out, but there are two new books on the topic. These experts might help you wade through the information:

Marion Nestle's new book, What to Eat, takes an aisle by aisle look at what's out there and why. It also helps to decipher nuritional labels and whether or not you can trust an organic label (she says yes!).

In The Way We Eat, the ethicist Peter Singer and animal rights activist Jim Mason discuss different eating habits and what is better for you, the environment, and for the animals. This book may help you decide whether eating a plant-based diet makes sense for you.

This summer reading that might change the way you think about food!

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Local or organic? It's a false choice |By Samuel Fromartz |Grist Magazine | Arts and Minds | 18 May 2006

I try to buy local and organic when possible, but during the long, cold Boston winter it's tough! Then in the summer when produce abounds I often wonder whether it's better to eat the delicious, warmed by the sun strawberries from Ward's Berry Farm in Sharon (where the produce is very local but not organic) or buy the organic berries shipped in from California. This article from Grist
Local or organic? It's a false choice |
By Samuel Fromartz |
Grist Magazine | Arts and Minds | 18 May 2006
makes me realize that the larger job is swaying the majority toward both buying locally AND buying organic.

Amazon Organic Groceries

What do those three words have in common? Not much...until recently.

Amazon has now launched an online grocery service for bulk non-perishable goods. This is a move that takes direct aim at the customers of places like Sam's Club and Costco. Given the fact that Sam's Club(part of WalMart) is anti-union, offers low pay and poor benefits in addition to being a BigBox drive-to-only, environmentally unfriendly store, it might be better to buy through Amazon where at least the people paid to deliver it to you are paid fairly. On the otherhand, there's Costco which still has all the problems of being a bigbox store but it does pay workers fairly and give decent benefits.

My vote between Sam's Club, Costco and Amazon? None of the above.

The way to buy bulk is at your local co-op in bins not 80 individual packages put into one big package produced by one huge company and sold to you by another huge company.

The entire article follows:
Shopping outside the box

June 21, 2006
In an earlier column, I answered a reader's question regarding online grocery shopping with local supermarkets. Yes, it is possible to save money because online grocery services provide most of the same products as a grocery store, they feature sale items, offer their own coupons and many will even accept traditional grocery coupons.

Best of all, by avoiding walking in the store you limit impulse purchases, which can be the downfall of even the most disciplined grocery shopper. With the busy schedules of most families, online grocery shopping can save valuable time and even gasoline costs.

Now there is another interesting online grocery shopping option. Think of it as the warehouse club concept — online. Amazon has entered the online grocery shopping business by offering nonperishable items in bulk at bargain prices. I recently read an article about the great bargains provided by this service, so I had to check it out.

Amazon's grocery section states that they carry more than 10,000 nonperishable items, that their products have great everyday prices, and they are eligible for free Super Saver shipping. For comparison, a typical large supermarket has 25,000 to 35,000 items, but that includes perishable items as well as nonperishable items.

While I'm convinced that Amazon has a good selection, I am a skeptic whenever any store claims to have great "everyday" low prices. Therefore, I compared some of their common items' prices with items I purchase on a regular basis at my grocery store.

For example, Amazon sells standard size boxes of Kellogg's cereals 17.6 oz. in a four pack, at an average price of $3.68 per box. That same variety and size of cereal is currently selling for $2.50 per box at my store this week. I'm not sure buying four boxes at that price offers enough convenience to offset the higher "bulk" price!

However, any strategic shopper knows how to figure out the rules of a store to take a strategic approach to getting lower prices. Although Amazon does not accept traditional grocery coupons, they do have regular promotions. For example, their site is currently promoting a special promotion for Kraft and Planters products. If you buy $39 or more of selected Kraft or Planters products, you get $15 taken off your order immediately as an instant rebate with a coupon code provided by the site.

In that case, I could buy a 12-count case of Kraft Deluxe Macaroni and Cheese dinner 14 oz. boxes for $28.80 and a 15-count case of Balance nutrition bars for $11.54. I would qualify for free shipping and there would be no sales tax. After the $15 instant rebate was deducted, I would be paying $1.51 per box for the Kraft dinner and 48 cents for each nutrition bar, which are pretty good prices for those items. Therefore, if you are a shopper who likes the convenience of online shopping, and has the storage space to keep an inventory of your purchases, you may be able to find some grocery bargains on typical items from Amazon.com. Even so, I wouldn't order those items because I could probably find them at lower prices with coupons at my stores when they were on sale, without having to buy them in bulk quantities.

If you prefer organic foods, you may want to check out Amazon's organic grocery section. They feature many popular brands and also have promotional offers, such as instant rebates, on selected brands.

Finally, Amazon has a nice gourmet food section that featured some attractive gift baskets. Promotional offers for the gift baskets included a free $10 Amazon gift certificate with the purchase of a gift basket valued at $50 or more. If you needed to send a nice gift to a friend or client, and could take advantage of free shipping, you may find some nice quality bargains from Amazon.com.

If you discover some smart savings strategies and real bargains in Amazon's grocery section, I'd love to hear about them!

Stephanie Nelson shares her savings tips as a regular contributor on ABC News' "Good Morning America." You can find more of her savings tips in her book "The Greatest Secrets of the Coupon Mom" and visit www.couponmom.com. She can be reached at shoppingmomunitedmedia.com

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Eat your (local) veggies!

Today is the first day of summer. Happy Solstice!

For me, summer conjures up memories of lazy days at the beach, lots of outings to the park fountains, and especially wonderful summer food.

This is the season where everything is growing. Especially in New England, where we grow little food in the winter, I love to take advantage of the local food market to get the freshest fruits and vegetables that I will have all year. I do this at the farmer's markets!

Farmer's markets are great for a number of reasons: you get to meet the people who are growing your food and who love to do it. You can try a whole bunch of vegetables that never reach the conventional market. Did you know that brussel sprouts actually grow on a stalk? I didn't, until I bought one last summer!

Also, supporting local farmer's markets is good for the environment, too. Locally grown foods mean that less fossil fuels were used in transportation and packaging. While not all locally grown foods may be organic, many small farmers work hard to use little pesticides (it saves them money and keeps the farmers healthy), and many also use Integrated Pest Management as an optional environmentally-friendly growing practice.

Many small farmers are now being financially supported solely through farmer's markets and Community Supported Agriculture programs, because the huge agricultural industry has pushed them out of conventional super markets.

So find a local farmer's market today! There are over 100 in Massachusetts alone!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

She killed her TV with a fork!

This is from my friend Angela Mucci's blog. It's funny to read about the TV's destruction but what's fascinating is to read her story of how people reacted to her not having a TV. Where was she during TV Turnoff Week!

TV''S ??????????????????

When I was eighteen, I killed my television. My friend Kelly and I had been drinking, so naturally we had to destroy something. It was fun. We cut off the cord, stabbed it in the back with forks (if you do this at home, be sure to UNPLUG the T.V.) and drew things all over the screen. Then I threw it on the ground next to the dumpster behind my apartment.

I'll admit, I went through mild withdrawal during the first few T.V-less months. I was used to watching three or four shows at night, and at first I smoked cigarettes nervously, twitching my foot or pacing the floor.

Should I get another television? I wondered... No, I'll conduct an experiment, see what life is like without T.V....

Well, first I started to get more creative, and then televisions looked different to me. When I would see them hanging in corners of sub shops or flashing along restaurant walls, they appeared to be bizarre and even frightening. I liked watching movies, but commercials became either unbearable to watch, or they just looked hilarious in a kinda creepy way. Same thing with "the news." I turned T.V.s off whenever possible, and that is when I began to notice peoples strange devotion to television.

People really wanted me to have a television. I was repeatedly met with the same exact two questions when I said that I didnt have a T.V. "Do you want one?" People I barely knew were often willing to give me a T.V. And: "But what do you do?" One person asked me if I was "one of those religious freaks," and asked me if I thought rock and roll was "bad or something?" It wasnt a moral thing, I explained. T.V.s just freaked me out. It scared me the way I couldnt help but stare at them when I was forced to be around them. They seemed to suck my energy. Even when they were off, they seemed to be alive. I had am image of my mom, slumped down on the couch, hollow-eyed, staring the screen at 3 P.M. on beautiful Spring afternoons. My Dad, emotionlessly tuned in to the screen.

I didnt own a T.V. for six years. But then when my parents sold their Falmouth house a few years ago, they told my brother and I to take what we wanted from what they left behind. There was a huge T.V. and it was winter. "It would be nice to watch movies during the winter, I thought. So I took the T.V. home (My friend Rene' and I carried that beast of an awkwardly shaped T.V. one step at a time up three flights of stairs, having to drop it at every other step and laugh hysterically), and I bought a tiny D.V.D. player. I didnt get cable, but I loved watching movies in bed, especially when it was too cold to go outside.

I soon became addicted to two television shows, both of which are available on D.V.D: The Gilmore Girls and Twin Peaks. I wondered what would happen if Rory, star of The Gilmore Girls spent a day in the life of Laura Palmer, star of Twin Peaks. Or vice versa
Each teen would be wildly out of their element in their respective small town. Any ideas of how this switch would look? Stay tuned for my compare/contrast of the two oddly similar shows that have completely polarized ideas of life in a small town.

If you would like to contact Angela, her email is: angela.mucci@gmail.com

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Corporations

I find this only slightly humorous in that it is sadly true in more cases than not. I thought #4 was particularly appropriate given the topic of the potluck Sunday!

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Corporations

By Mickey Z.


June 9, 2006

What do trans-national corporate giants know that we don't? Do you ever wonder why CEOs have all that fun dwelling in decadent luxury while the rest of us live from paycheck to paycheck just to make ends meet? Of course you do.

Well, stop dreaming and read on...because here, for the first time ever, are the top seven secrets of America's most dynamic and successful corporations:

1. Say no to unions.
Avoid the annoying hassles and unnecessary costs of dealing with overtime pay, sick leave, OSHA rules, strike threats, and other labor related nuisances. Keep those union organizers away, hire temps, outsource jobs overseas; it's the American Way.

2. Cut labor costs.
Sweatshop: How does 15 cents an hour sound to you? No lunch break. No bathroom breaks. Remember, if your company doesn't hire that pre-teen girl in El Salvador, her family will starve. Have a heart.
Prisoners: Imagine a workforce that lives and sleeps at the work place. Think outside the box, but inside the cells. Prison labor...it's not just license plates anymore.
Slaves: The ultimate choice for maximum profit. Never mind the touchy-feely human rights talk. It's not our job to meddle in another sovereign nation's business. After all, if there's going to be indentured servitude, you can be damn sure your competitor won't be squeamish abut cashing in.

3. Exploit corporate welfare.
Here's how the commies at Public Citizen explain it: "Each year, U.S. taxpayers subsidize U.S. businesses to the tune of almost $125 billion, the equivalent of all the income tax paid by 60 million individuals and families. These corporations receive a wide range of favors: special corporate tax breaks; direct government subsidies to pay for advertising, research and training costs; and incentives to pursue overseas production and sales." Well...what are you waiting for?

4. Disregard environmental regulations.
Ask your shareholders how they feel about installing those expensive safeguards just to save a salamander or two. Besides, thanks to "greenwashing," it's not like anyone notices. Just because you're an oil company doesn't mean you can't sell yourself as a friend of the environment, right? Learn from Kraft. They creatively promoted their cereals as having "natural ingredients" when in fact, the corn they use is genetically engineered. Take-home message: Perception is reality.

5. Take advantage of the magic of public relations.
Toxic sludge has become bio-solids. Used is now pre-owned. McDonald's sells salads. Front groups, fake op-eds, third party testimonials...check out what PR Watch is bitching about if you're not sure what to do.

6. Make strategic campaign contributions.
Managing your bottom line is so much easier with a few members of Congress on your side. We live in a democracy; why not make it work for your company? Remember: Senators need vacations, too.

7. Donate lots of money to safe, generic charities.
Nothing says "hero" like a big fat check ostensibly earmarked for needy kids in some godforsaken corner of the globe. Don't forget to enlist a celebrity to keep the focus on your generosity and away from the conditions that create the need for charity in the first place.

As J. Paul Getty sez: "Formula for success: Rise early, work hard, strike oil." So what you are waiting for? This is truly the land of opportunity...

Mickey Z. is the author of several books, most recently 50 American Revolutions You're Not Supposed to Know (Disinformation Books). He can be found on the Web.
Authors Bio: Mickey Z. is the author of five books, most recently "50 American Revolutions You're Not Supposed to Know: Reclaiming American Patriotism" (Disinformation Books). He can be found on the Web at http://www.mickeyz.net.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Are you being Greenwashed?

Last weekend's potluck featured Jemilah Magnusson from The Green Life, a Boston-based environmental education organization. Jemilah spoke about Greenwashing, a method used by corporations and individuals to fool customers into thinking that they're buying environmentally friendly products and services.

According to The Green Life, the ten worst Greenwashers of 2005 were:

1. Ford Motor Company
2. BP
3. United States Forest Service
4. ChevronTexaco
5. General Motors
6. Nuclear Energy Institute
7. Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers
8. TruGreen ChemLawn
9. Xcel Energy
10. National Ski Areas Association

Find out more about these companies, and what you can do about it, at www.thegreenlife.org/dontbefooled.html

To get on the invitation list for future potlucks and other events, email us!

Friday, June 02, 2006

Go See An Inconvenient Truth

I saw An Inconvenient Truth, the movie with Al Gore, tonight. It was very good, and this is why you should see it:

If you are an environmentalist already:

This movie will re-energize you and help you remember the reason why you are working for the planet. For me, this movie so succinctly describes my passion for the environment. I'm rarin' to go... again!

If you are on the fence:
Al Gore does a great job of separating the science of global warming from the politics. While he is in the politics business, he relies on sound science to guide his reasons for why we have to stop global warming now.

If you've been meaning to get involved:
This is a great way to start. This movie will get your head in line with your well-meaning heart, and you will walk out of it wanting to get started!

If you're in solidarity but don't want to spend the bucks:
I think this is money well spent. If you see this movie on the opening weekend of where you are living, you are doing a great service to the fate of the movie's life (because much of the amount of advertising put in for a movie depends on the opening weekend's revenue). That means more people will hear about the movie and will have the opportunity to see it.

(Plus, it's either this or the Jennifer Aniston movie, which one is it going to be?)