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Monthly Archives: October 2012

We ALL Have a Right to Know

I’ve been purposely hanging back on the political front lately. It’s all a bit too much for me. It’s hard for me to even take it in – the division, the set-in-stone views and at times, outright hatred demonstrated by far too many.

But, I feel compelled to jump back into the mix to dispel some of the myths surrounding Proposition 37 and urge you to vote yes.

First, if you want more background on GMO’s, why they are a problem, what the issues are, and what’s at stake for our health and the health of our children, I highly recommend you watch the movie “Genetic Roulette“.

It is a full-length movie, worth your time to watch, but for a good digested version, here is a ten-minute summary.

For me, the supporters on the “yes” and “no” sides of a proposition are a clear signal of the way I want to vote. Here’s a little detail on each side.

It’s important to understand who the “No on 37” campaign actually is. The two largest contributors are Monsanto ($8.1 million) and Dupont ($4.9 million) – the same corporations that told us Agent Orange and DDT were safe. If you don’t know who Monsanto is (I affectionately call them “the devil’s company”) check out this. There are also the junk food companies helping to bankroll the opposition such as Cocoa Cola, Pepsi, Nestle and Kellogs. There are in fact ZERO donations from actual people to the No side– they are all contributions coming from multinational corporations.

On the yes side of the campaign are consumers, farmers, manufacturers, nurses, doctors and a lot of regular people (like me) who have contributed to the campaign. Proposition 37 started as a grassroots movement, with thousands of volunteers across the state. You can go here for a full list of supporters including the California Nurses Association, United Farm Workers, California Council of Churches, and the Sierra Club.

But, even so, the “no” campaign, with millions in funding, is making a dent with their deceptive advertising and at times, outright lies. Some of my close friends and family – and even one voter in my own household (who shall remain nameless but is not me) – have been sucked in by the well-funded “No on 37 campaign”. They have approached me with concerns. Here are some of those, along with my response.

1. Proposition 37 will increase food prices:

False – Adding a few words to labels costs nothing. Labeling DID NOT raise costs in 61 other countries (including  Europe, Japan, India and China) and won’t raise costs here. Read more about the costs of the proposition on this page of the CA Right to Know site.

2. Proposition 37 is poorly written and not strong enough.

False – Proposition 37 requires labeling for the genetically engineered foods that are most prevalent in the American diet – food on supermarket shelves. The goal is to maximize the amount of genetically engineered food that is labeled while keeping compliance easy and keeping Prop 37 within the reach of California law. The exemptions in the law are easy to explain and guided by common sense. Read the Truth about Exemptions.

Many have expressed concerns about the labeling of meat and dairy from farm animals. Proposition 37 is exactly in line with international standards, which state that these will be labeled if they come from genetically engineered animals. However, they are exempt if the animals ate genetically engineered feed but are not themselves genetically engineered. This exemption is common all around the world. It didn’t make sense for California’s law to be stricter than international standards

3. Proposition 37 will invite frivolous lawsuits:

False – According to independent legal analysis, Proposition 37 has been narrowly crafted in a way that provides “greater legal certainty” for businesses than other California consumer disclosure laws.  It won’t invite frivolous lawsuits.  What it will do is help California consumers make more informed choices about the food they eat.

If Proposition 37 passes, it will be a huge step toward the transparency we deserve in the food we buy. And it’s transparency for all – not just those people with enough disposable income to shop at Whole Foods. I believe it will also be part of a greater movement. Here is a great post on the California Right to Know site, where Michael Pollan (author of Food Rules, The Ominvore’s Dilemma and my go-to food expert) says “Proposition 37 is the litmus test for whether there is actually a food movement in this country.”

This is about our right to know what’s in our food and the right to choose for ourselves what we eat and feed our families. It’s also about standing up for that right and being part of a greater movement that will spread beyond our state. This is our chance. This is our food. This is our future.

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Who Moved my “Ness”?

Do you ever feel like you’ve lost your “ness”? You know, that twinkle in your eye, that spark inside, that thing that makes you, well you.

“Ness” is something I borrowed from the movie “You, Me and Dupree”, which is surprisingly touching for a critically-panned comedy. Personally, I love this movie. Owen Wilson is awesome. Here’s the clip where he introduces “ness”.

I was talking to my husband the other night, and I told him that I felt like somewhere along the way of life’s ups and downs, my “Allison-ness” got lost.

The next day, I read (and then shared) this quote on Facebook:

“You can only lose something that you have, but you cannot lose something that you are.” ― Eckhart Tolle

And I’ve been mulling it over in my head ever since.

I really want this to be true. If it is, it means my “ness” is in there somewhere, just waiting to be brought back up to the surface – so others can see it’s light.

For me, part of my “ness” was this feeling:

Maybe it was the naivety of youth, but I really did feel that if I worked hard enough, was a good enough person, and had fabulous shoes :), I could do just about anything I put my mind to.

But then, things happened on the path of life – it didn’t go according to plans. Over the course of just a few years, life got hard, and sometimes ugly, and sad. Rather than putting on my cape and fighting the good fight, I found myself tired, distrustful, and overwhelmed much of the time. On too many days, I climbed into my little protective shell and didn’t want to come out. My “ness” climbed in with me, into the safety of the shell.

By posting the quote on Facebook, I sparked an enlightening discussion with a good friend. This friend, Randy, was paralyzed in an accident years ago. He offered a different perspective. His accident, he said, caused a loss of not only something that he had, but also something that he was.

He lost something that most of us take for granted every day – the sensation of sand between our toes – of being physically and spiritually connected to the earth.  Although he has accepted it and built a wonderful life, he said that the loss will always be there. “It’s like a kind of death when you wake-up one day and you realize you can no longer remember what you were born with. It changes you.”

The discussion was much longer. We messaged back and forth most of the day. It was enlightening, affirming, and a snap-back-to-reality moment for me.

Our discussion also made me see this Eckhart Tolle quote in a whole new light. I think it is possible (through the aches, pains, and tragedies of life), to lose something that you are. You can lose it physically, which can lead to a more spiritual loss; or emotionally – like loss of innocence, loss of identity, loss of relentless optimism.

Randy’s insight on all of this was invaluable. I am so grateful to him. This the very best thing about Facebook – the ability to connect with some of my favorite people who I no longer get to see regularly.

One other piece of wisdom Randy shared is a recent interview he read with Neil Peart (for all the women reading this – he’s the lyricist/drummer from the the band Rush) about evolution in his philosophical viewpoint. Here’s one of the things Neil had to say:

“Wish Them Well [offers] a very mature response to the world that it took me a long time to learn. In a lot of our early stuff, my lyrical inspiration was anger, for sure. [laughs] There’s still a lot I’m angry about, a lot of human behavior that’s appalling and despicable, but you choose what you can fight against. I always thought if I could just put something in words perfectly enough, people would get the idea and it would change things. That’s a harmless conceit. With people too, you constantly think, “If I’m nice to people and treat them well, they’ll appreciate it and behave better. They won’t, but it’s still not a bad way to live.”

So maybe the answer is that your “ness” is still there. It’s just that, like all of us, it grows up. It doesn’t go away, but rather, changes and adapts to your circumstances and challenges.

I think the important thing is that even though it evolves, you must work to keep it shiny and bright, not let it get dulled by pain and loss. That way, your “ness” is a light coming out of you, rather than a darkness sucking in.

So I am climbing out of that shell, pulling my grown up “Allison-ness” along with me. It’s needs some buffing. It’s not very shiny yet, but I’m working on it.

If your “ness” has been lost along the way as well, I encourage you to find it inside, pull it up, and buff it out. Imagine lots of shiny, positive “nesses” out in the world. Would be an awesome thing.

And I will still be trying to inspire change – but maybe instead of the world, the grown-up Allison will settle on inspiring change within a circle of friends.

As my wise friend Randy said,

“If it’s true that life is about the journey and not the destination, then our peace and happiness must be found in the effort and not the result.”

Wordless Wednesday: Gratitude

There is a hike I do regularly in an OC wilderness park called Whiting Ranch. At the top of the climb, there is a place called four corners. I always stop there and take in the view.

And then I say a little prayer of gratitude, for the day, the weather, the place where I live and most of all, legs strong enough to make the climb and enjoy this view.

Two legs to take me up here (no matter how thin, thick, muscled, wrinkled or tan) is a thing I normally take for granted, but every once in a while, I think it’s important to just stop and appreciate them. And be grateful.

Plastics by the Numbers

I get asked a lot about plastics. I think it’s because many people are confused about the different types of plastics, what is and is not recyclable, and what all those little numbers in triangles mean.

Plastics are a big problem. They are made from a non-renewable source (petroleum), can leach toxins into your food or drink, and some types are virtually unrecyclable.

In my ideal world, we wouldn’t use plastic at all. However, that’s pretty unrealistic so what’s the answer? I think it’s to use plastics more wisely and more sparingly. You can reduce your use of disposable plastic. You can also choose safer plastics, particularly for those items that are likely to come into contact with your mouth –  the most common way the chemicals in plastic enter our bodies.

The first step to choosing safer plastics is to understand what the numbers represent. So turn your plastic container over, check out the number inside the triangle, and read on to see what those numbers mean.

Safer plastics include:

  • #1 PETE or PET (polyethylene terephthalate)  – this plastic is used for most clear beverage bottles, such as water bottles, and two-liter soda bottles. It is one of the most commonly recycled plastics on the planet. The key here is to think about the No. 1 meaning “one-time use”. So don’t reuse single-use plastics. They can break down and release chemicals into your food or beverage when used repeatedly.
  • #2 HDPE (high-density polyethylene) – used to make most milk jugs, shampoo bottles, and laundry detergent bottles. Because No. 2 plastic has been found not to leach, many reusable water bottles are now made from this plastic rather than No. 7 as they were previously.
  • #4 LDPE (low-density polyethylene) – used in most plastic shopping bags, food storage bags, some cling wraps and some squeeze bottles.
  • #5 PP (polypropylene) – used in opaque, hard containers, including some baby bottles, cups and bowls, and reusable storage container (i.e. Tupperware). Drinking straws, yogurt containers, and cottage cheese containers are sometimes made with this. This plastic has a higher temperature limit than the others, so it is sometimes referred to as “food-grade plastic”.

Avoid These Plastics:

  • #3 PVC (polyvinyl chloride) – commonly called “vinyl” is used in commercial plastic wraps and salad dressing bottles, shower curtains, and believe it or not, kids toys, backpacks, lunch bags, and binders. PVC contains phthalate (softeners need to make the plastic bend) and they have been found to interfere with hormonal development. The production of and burning of PVC plastic releases dioxin, a known carcinogen, into the atmosphere. It’s bad for our health and bad for the environment.
  • #6 PS (polystyrene)  – used in Styrofoam cups, meat trays and “clam-shell”-type containers. No. 6 plastics can release potentially toxic materials (including styrene), especially when heated. Yep, that’s right, when heated. So that insulated Styrofoam coffee cup and the “to go” container that you put hot food in, well those don’t seem like such a good idea do they? Also, styrofoam is the largest contributor to ocean plastic pollution and is virtually unrecyclable.
  • #7 Other  – A wide-range of plastic containers are lumped into this category – basically any plastic not rated 1-6. The plastic to be concerned about in this category are the hard polycarbonate plastic bottles which contain bisphenol-A (BPA). No. 7 plastic is used in some reusable water bottles, baby bottles, and some metal can linings. Soft or cloudy colored plastic is not polycarbonate. Avoid polycarbonate, especially for children’s food and drinks. Trace amounts of BPA can migrate from these containers, particularly if used for hot food or liquids.

In addition to understanding the numbers, you can also use plastics more safely by following these tips:

  • Don’t microwave in plastic containers. Heat can break down plastics and release chemical additives into your food and drink. Use ceramic or glass instead. Cover food in the microwave with a paper towel instead of plastic wrap.
  • Use plastic containers for cool liquids only, not hot.
  • Don’t reuse single-use plastics (the number one – PET plastics). They can break down and release plastics chemicals when used repeatedly.
  • Do not use old, scratched plastic containers. Exposures to plastics chemicals may be greater when the surface is worn down.
  • Wash plastics on the top rack of the dishwasher, farther from the heating element, or by hand.
  • When using an electric mixer, use a glass or metal bowl instead of plastic to avoid chipping bits of plastic into your food.
  • Use wooden cutting boards instead of plastic ones.
  • Pick a cotton shower curtain instead of vinyl.
  • Choose glass or BPA-free baby bottles with a clear silicone nipple.
  • Avoid plastic to mouth contact, especially for babies and kids. Give your baby natural teethers like frozen washcloths.
  • Look for toys made of natural materials, like wool, cotton, and uncoated wood.
  • To avoid PVC in school supplies, check out the Center for Health Environment and Justice’s (CHEJBack-to-School Guide to PVC-Free School Supplies, which lists the most common back-to-school supplies made out of toxic PVC and suggests safer PVC-free products in over 20 product categories.

Finally, when rethinking and reducing your plastic, remember to recycle any that you don’t need or don’t feel safe using any more. Keep in mind that No. 1 and No. 2 are almost universally recyclable. Other numbers depend upon your trash service provider.

If you are serviced by Waste Management in Orange County, you can go to this page of their website, select your service area, and bring up a list of the types of plastics they accept for recycling in your curbside bin. In my service area (County of Orange Unincorporated), Waste Management accepts plastics numbered 1-7 for recycling.

To simplify plastics recycling, here is the basic rule of thumb – if the plastic bottle has a neck that’s smaller than the body and has “alor2” symbol on the bottom, nearly every recycling program will accept it.

And due to recent changes in the recycling process, you can now leave your caps on the bottles when you recycle them. Yay, no more removing and trashing the caps prior to recycling!

Allie’s List: The Bagel Shack

This is the first installment of something I am calling “Allie’s List”, where I review local restaurants and businesses in terms of their “greeness”. I will look at things like food sourcing, packaging, waste, etc. I’m not saying it’s totally scientific – just one green girl’s opinion.

For my first post, I want to talk about a place called The Bagel Shack, which has three locations in Orange County – San Clemente, San Juan Capistrano and El Toro.

I stopped by the El Toro location a couple of weeks ago. After dropping my daughter off at practice early Saturday morning, I headed over to Home Depot to pick up some supplies for our weekend projects.

I was STARVING, and craving and egg and cheese bagel, when I looked across the parking lot and saw The Bagel Shack. Woo-hoo, I was so excited.

I was less excited when I walked up and saw a line out the door. But then I figured, hey, the place must be good if this many people are in line.

While I was waiting, I saw someone walk by me with a styrofoam cup. “Well, I’m not getting a drink (I already had my coffee in my reusable mug), so it’s okay.” I said to myself.

Then, another person walked by me with a styrofoam box with a bagel inside. “Well, I’m not getting it to-go so it’s okay.” I justified.

But then, one person after another after another walked by with a box of styrofoam with a bagel inside. Now I realized, THEY PUT EVERY SINGLE INDIVIDUAL BAGEL IN A STYROFOAM BOX – even for those customers who were eating in the restaurant.

By the way, styrofoam (the technical term is Polystyrene) is pretty much the worst packaging on the planet. I could go on and on about how awful it is. Here are just a few of the problems:

  • Once in the marine environment polystyrene kills marine wildlife because it mimics food but causes starvation or choking if ingested.  Polystyrene food packaging contributes disproportionally to oceanic plastic pollution.  Over 80% of this plastic pollution comes from urban litter.*
  • No polystyrene food packaging is recycled anywhere in California, although the plastic industry has attempted to recycle polystyrene transport packaging (at a cost of thousands of dollars per ton).  Most curbside recycling programs in California do not accept any polystyrene plastic resin because it contaminates recycling and is too easily accidentally littered in transportation. *
  • Polystyrene food packaging is extremely costly to local governments, some of whom are required by law to achieve “zero” trash litter in impaired waterways.  Litter clean-up costs billions, and yet is still ineffective. Polystyrene litter must be stopped at its source.*

For me, my complete ban of styrofoam started after my kids and I participated in a beach cleanup where we literally cleaned up tiny pieces of styrofoam from our local beaches for almost an entire day. And we just scratched the surface. The tiny pieces of styrofoam went on and on and on.

Right then and there, we pledged to never, ever, ever…use styrofoam again.

So there I was in line at The Bagel Shack and I was shocked – I could not believe it. I mean, how easy is it to just wrap a bagel up in some paper and send the person on their way? Really, a styrofoam box for EVERY SINGLE BAGEL? Why on earth is that necessary?

So, I did the only thing I could, I turned around and left – hungry and depressed.

And then, I found them on Twitter and sent them a quick tweet to let them know how I felt.

And now, two weeks later, they still have not answered me.

So that friends, is why The Bagel Shack – no matter how good their bagels may taste – is on the “bad” side of Allie’s List.

I wish that they weren’t because the bagels look quite tasty. But to me, nothing served in a styrofoam box, no matter how mouth-watering, is worth eating.

So Bagel Shack, please clean up your act. Start wrapping your bagels in paper (non-toxic, biodegradable, safe for food contact) and get back to me. Because those bagels really did smell so good…

* Information taken from website of Californian’s Against Waste.

Wordless Wednesday: ABC Green Home

The ABC (Affordable, Buildable, Certified) Green Home was unveiled to the press today at the OC Great Park.

I got to preview this one-of-a-kind home and it’s a beauty.

For the full story, check out my post over at OCFamily.com.

Happy Wednesday!

Farmers’ Market Report: Foothill Ranch

Opening in July of this year, the Foothill Ranch Farmers’ Market is one of Orange County’s newest Markets.

Market manager Flo Mudge, a Foothill Ranch resident, is the creator and organizer behind the weekly event. She’s a familiar face at Orange County markets, selling her handmade preserves and confections through her company Edible Creations.

More than twenty vendors regularly set up shop from 3 to 7 p.m. Thursdays in the Towne Centre Drive shopping center in Foothill Ranch (in the same parking lot at the Regal movie theater).

I brought my son along with me, which was a good thing. We filled up all of my Chico bags with good stuff.

There is more than just local, organic produce. There is also bread from RTR Bakery, grass-fed beef from 5 Bar Beef, milk and dairy products from Rockview Farms, hummus and pita bread from Baba Foods, almonds and almond butter from Hopkins Ag, chips and salsa from Chili Boys, gelato from Dolce Gelato, banana bread from Aloha Grindz, and cookies from Turlio Cookie Company (the Peanut Cake were my son’s favorite).

All of the vendors had samples of their products so you can “try before you buy”. We sampled lots of tasty things and came home with all of this:

I cooked up a few of the veggies for dinner and was very happy with the freshness and quality. The Aloha Grindz banana bread is delicious. I can’t wait to munch on the almonds, chips and salsa, and pita and hummus this weekend.

And the nice gentleman at the RTR bakery booth insisted that the bread I bought pairs best with red wine. So, what could I do, I had to oblige him.

I have to say, the man knows his bread.

For more information on this new Orange County market, follow Foothill Ranch Certified Farmers’ Market on their Facebook page. A lineup of vendors for each Thursday is also posted on this page of LakeForestPatch site.