E. coli and you

Have you ever watched Food, Inc.? I did recently and I learned something distressing about corn. Did you know that not only is corn in most of our people food, but it’s also the food of choice for factory farms? I did, but what I didn’t know is that it is even worse than I thought, in many ways. I already knew that grass-fed beef, dairy, and eggs are healthier for human beings (even though I don’t eat beef), in part because of higher levels of necessary Omega 3 essential fatty acids, but I didn’t know that because cows in particular have evolved to eat grass, feeding them corn has some pretty serious unintended consequences. It’s not just better for you to eat grass-fed beef, dairy, and eggs. It may end up being BAD for you to eat corn-fed – beef in particular.

I said this was about E. coli, which is a bacteria we find almost everywhere. Usually it’s harmless; occasionally it’s not. When it’s E. coli 0157:H7, however, it can be deadly. And that particular strain of E. coli is showing up in our food more and more often.

Why is this E. coli so different? The problem is that it can resist the acid in our stomachs, whereas most E. coli can’t. This E. coli initially comes from the GI tracts of feedlot cows, and when those cows are fed grains (usually corn), their normally alkaline stomachs become acidic. Thus the E. coli evolved to resist the acidity. When you factor in the filth in factory farms and the problem of waste in factory farms, you have a recipe (*cough*) for disaster. The fecal matter of these cows can contaminate the beef, the groundwater, and the crops nearby. Even better – this E. coli is so far antibiotic resistant.

So, what do we do? Well, I personally think we need to eat less beef, as a nation. I suspect not a lot of people will agree with me, but our extensive meat eating means we have to use corn and feedlots and factory farming to keep up. Then we use antibiotics to deal with the unsanitary conditions. Then we have end up breeding antibiotic resistant bacteria. On and on.

How do we combat this? What do you all think? Maybe there’s a way I haven’t yet thought of besides eating less meat – I’m certainly hard-pressed to think of it. It’s obviously the solution I’ve come up with for myself!

Posted in farms, food | Leave a comment

Greener cleaning this Saturday April 9 at River Forest Whole Foods

Hello! I’m back, and I have an announcement from Whole Foods in River Forest and the folks at Naturally It’s Clean. Do you want to try some healthier cleaning options? This Saturday, April 9, 2011 from 9-noon, you can bring in a bottle of conventional household cleaning product to the River Forest Whole Foods, and Naturally It’s Clean will give you a bottle of eco-friendly cleaner in trade, while supplies last. River Forest Whole Foods Market is at 7245 Lake St. and near the Harlem stop on the Green line. This is a good opportunity to try these products out. I’m going to try their Kitchen cleaner, so look for a post about it soon.

Hope you’ve all been well. Looking forward to warmer weather? I know I am.

Posted in consumer issues, events, Oak Park, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

No Wordless Wednesday – question for readers instead

No Wordless Wednesday this week, mostly because I haven’t had both time and inspiration converging. Instead I’d like to ask my readers what they’ve been thinking about, green-wise, now that fall is here and winter is coming. Growing food is not as prevalent in this area now, barring cold frames. We’ll be shoveling snow rather than pulling weeds.

So, what are you thinking about for winter? How to keep your heating bills down?

Posted in meta | 2 Comments

Product review – Poopbags.com poop bags

Never let it be said that we shy away from unpleasant topics here at greeninoakpark.com. When last we discussed greener solutions for pet waste, your humble author was at a loss as to the best way to deal with dog poop, but she seems to have found a reasonable option for now, and that’s the dog waste bags from poopbags.com.

They’re much better than plastic bags from the grocery store. Why? For one thing, they’re the right size, they’re thicker, and if you put the bags in a covered garbage can outside and then put that in with the garbage, there’s a lot less stink involved than with plastic grocery store bags. In our household, that’s the only reason to have plastic grocery bags at all, given that we have plenty of reusable bags, so hooray for decreased usage of plastic bags. For another, they’ll biodegrade eventually, and plastic bags won’t. They also are corn-based, and Maria of Green Home Experts here in Oak Park says that the more popular Bio Bags are petroleum-based. That might explain why they didn’t work out in the doggie dooley. (09/25/2010 correction: as you can see in the comment below, I must have misunderstood Maria, and BioBags are NOT petroleum-based. Oops, my mistake!)

Even better, they’re produced locally in Chicago.

Whether these will work in the doggie dooley remains to be seen, but the folks at poopbags.com seem to think so. I’ll certainly report back on that. You can get them online and at other various local locations, but if you’re in Oak Park, you can get them at Sirius Cooks on Harrison. Love that store.

Posted in companion animals, local businesses, product review, reducing waste | 2 Comments

Wordless Wedesday


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Work travel and legitimate carbon offsets

I have to travel for work in the near future, and one of those trips is to London. Going isn’t particularly optional, and I can’t exactly carpool or take the train to get to London, can I? What’s a crunchy greenie to do?

I could rationalize it by saying that I don’t fly very often, and I already know I’ll never be perfectly green. But air travel is pretty rough on the environment, significantly more so than driving a car. While the additional weight to carry me and my luggage on the plane isn’t going to add much to a flight that will go from Chicago to London whether I’m on it or not, it’s not the same as completely avoiding air travel. Or I could try to undo some of the damage with carbon offsets.

We hear less these days about carbon offsets because it seems that so many selling them are not actually doing anything to offset greenhouse gas emissions. They’re just taking the money. Supposedly there are some legit companies out there, but I’m not sure who they are. There are also, from what I hear, watchdog organizations that have lists of legit companies, so if I find any of those, maybe I can go that route.

So, readers, what would you do? Do you think I’m worrying about this too much? Do you know of any carbon offset watchdog organizations, ones that you trust?

Posted in climate change, energy usage, transportation | Leave a comment

What I could have preserved this weekend – but didn’t

As is usual for a Saturday, we went to the Oak Park Farmers Market, and yesterday we went to the Forest Park Farmers Market and bought some of the season’s last Mirai sweet corn.

I saw all sorts of things I could preserve. Apple season is in full swing, so I could have bought a bunch for dehydrating and/or making into jam or jelly. Instead, we bought only a bagful – for eating now. I could have had more blueberries for jam, and I could have bought tons of tomatoes for sauce and salsa.

But lately I’ve realized that it’s very easy for me to pile on too much, especially during weekends, and I really do need weekends to recover from the work week. I could spend the entire weekend making sauce and jam and what have you and not get a real weekend. In fact, I’ve done this several times lately, but it’s because I want to have this food over the winter and to cut down on the amount of pre-canned food that comes from far away. Besides that, it just tastes so much better.

Instead, all I’m going to do is freeze most of the Mirai sweet corn and freeze a few more bell peppers.

All the same, while I enjoy doing things for myself, I wish I could wave a magic wand and have it all preserved. I need a Preservation Fairy. Anyone know where I can get one of those?

Posted in eating in season, farmers markets, food, food preservation, local food, philosophy | 1 Comment

A green dream world

So what would a green, sustainable society look like… if we didn’t have to alter our lifestyles too much?

– Cars and trucks would run on sustainable, clean-burning, cleanly produced, alternative fuels such as algae-produced fuel, and those fuels would be cheap and not require too much in the way of food to eat
– Plastics would be made of compostable bioplastics instead of petroleum
– Because we could power vehicles cheaply and cleanly, we wouldn’t contribute to greenhouse gases or peak oil by eating foods that aren’t local, so we could choose non-local foods, or local foods simply because they taste better
– Technology would aid the mass production of food in a clean, sustainable way, with no toxic waste, no decimation of the soil, etc.
– Solar panels and/or wind turbines that produce all of a house or office building’s energy needs and not just some would come standard
– Most of the items we buy, plastic or not, would come from renewable and sustainably produced resources, and the items would biodegrade in a reasonable amount of time or get recycled easily

Do I think we can attain all of these, and keep our lifestyles the same? Probably not. Maybe I should ask for world peace, living wages for all, and a pony while I’m at it? The last two are particularly unrealistic, given the state of technology today. It takes a lot of roof real estate to get enough solar panels for all the needs of even a house, and wind turbines are often unrealistic on a small scale.

Can we achieve some of those things? I hope so. I think alternative fuel for cars and wide use of bioplastics might happen, maybe soon, even though I’m a little skeptical because of the environmental impact of growing enough corn and potatoes to fulfill the American plastic habit. In the meantime, many fewer cars on the road because of viable mass transit, intercity and intracity, really appeals to me.

Unfortunately, I think that real change is likely to affect the lifestyle to which we are accustomed, in most cases. One reason I don’t eat meat is because of the environmental impact – it takes lots more space, water, and resources to produce meat than it does anything plant-based. Americans eat a lot of meat, and cutting down is either unappealing or even unthinkable to many. We don’t currently have viable mass transit in most of the country, but in many uncrowded places, even viable mass transit won’t be nearly as convenient as a car. It also takes a lot of work to cut down on food miles, costs a lot of money to install solar panels, and is often quite expensive to buy items that aren’t made overseas. And right now we don’t have the circumstances that would make those considerations unnecessary.

But it’s nice to dream, isn’t it?

Have anything to add to the list? Let me know in the comments.

Posted in alternative energy, conservation, consumer issues, energy usage, food, local food, philosophy, reducing waste, solar panels | Leave a comment

Wordless Wednesday


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Pathetic Potato Production

Hi, I’m back at the end of a rather allergenic weekend, perhaps with some alliteration for the win? It certainly wasn’t my potato growing for the win. :( Picture forthcoming later in the week, maybe on Wednesday, but suffice it to say that my yield could fit in my 2 cup Pyrex measuring cup. Maybe 1 cup, even.

What went wrong? Well, I have a theory that I over-watered early on. That can cause rot and that in turn can cause poor yield. The plants themselves were healthy for most of that time, but they sure didn’t make many taters.

However, I will continue undaunted because believe it or not, it’s hard to daunt me. I have a plan for the unfinished back of the basement that includes more seed potatoes, the same garbage can, and some soil. It gets cold back there in the winter, so I’m not entirely sure of what I’ll be able to do. But no one ever learned by staying in their comfort zone, right?

Potatoes aren’t the only thing going back there either, and we’ll have to see how the other things do as well.

Posted in container gardening, food, gardening, potatoes, small spaces | 1 Comment