Say hello to great biceps…and a healthier kitchen

I know, I know, you LOVE your handy teflon coated non-stick pan. It makes the “over easy eggs” in the morning, well…so easy!   But  that quick flip comes at a potentially high toxic cost.  According to a report by the Environmental Working Group, “In two to five minutes on a conventional stove top, cookware coated with Teflon and other non-stick surfaces can exceed temperatures at which the coating breaks apart and emits toxic particles and gases…at least six toxic gases, including two carcinogens, two global pollutants, and MFA, a chemical lethal to humans at low doses.”

I say, no thank you!  I prefer my eggs with a little salt and peppa!

The truth is,  you can get a great non-stick surface on most stainless steel or cast iron pans by seasoning them yourself.  The process basically entails cleaning the pan,  coating it with oil,  and then heating it,  to form a carbon non-stick surface. Here are some detailed instructions.  I have seasoned my own cast iron pans and they work beautifully.

What to do with your Toxic Teffy?

  • Some cities will recycle them, so call and find out if you can put yours in the bin.
  • Call the manufacturer and ask if you can send it back (along with a sweet note about their responsibility to STOP making these mess makers in the first place!)
  • For really good quality pans, you might be able to have a local sandblaster remove the offending coating, leaving you with pristine pan ready to be properly seasoned.

So there you have it, turns out that sexy sculpted arms are not the only  benefit to using grandmas old cast iron!

“Manufactured Landscapes”

We just watched the excellent film “Manufactured Landscapes” by Jennifer Baichwal which features the work of Edward Burtynsky. His astonishing images are at once intensely beautiful and deeply disturbing, capturing landscapes altered through human activity. Landscapes scarred by extraction,transformed for production or covered with waste.  The film gives us a startling view of the enormous scale and far-reaching impacts of our ever-increasing mass production and consumption.   When describing his work Burtynsky explains,  “These images are meant as metaphors to the dilemma of our modern existence; they search for a dialogue between attraction and repulsion, seduction and fear. We are drawn by desire – a chance at good living, yet we are consciously or unconsciously aware that the world is suffering for our success. Our dependence on nature to provide the materials for our consumption and our concern for the health of our planet sets us into an uneasy contradiction. For me, these images function as reflecting pools of our times.”

 A potent reminder of the power or art to raise consciousness.

Occupy Our Food Supply

Today an alliance of food justice groups, environmental organizations and the Occupy movement are calling for a Global Day of Action to Occupy Our Food Supply.  It is a call to resist corporate takeover of our food supply and to create and support a sustainable healthy food system for all.  A recent op-ed piece  by Willie Nelson and Anne Lappe highlights the importance of this issue:

 Our food is under threat. It is felt by every family farmer who has lost their land and livelihood, every parent who can’t find affordable or healthy ingredients in their neighborhood, every person worried about food borne illnesses thanks to lobbyist-weakened food safety laws, every farm worker who faces toxic pesticides in the fields as part of a day’s work.

When our food is at risk we are all at risk.

Over the last thirty years, we have witnessed a massive consolidation of our food system. Never have so few corporations been responsible for more of our food chain. Of the 40,000 food items in a typical U.S. grocery store, more than half are now brought to us by just 10 corporations. Today, three companies process more than 70 percent of all U.S. beef, Tyson, Cargill and JBS. More than 90 percent of soybean seeds and 80 percent of corn seeds used in the United States are sold by just one companyMonsanto. Four companies are responsible for up to 90 percent of the global trade in grain. And one in four food dollars is spent at Walmart.

What does this matter for those of us who eat? Corporate control of our food system has led to the loss of millions of family farmers, the destruction of soil fertility, the pollution of our water, and health epidemics including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and even certain forms of cancer. More and more, the choices that determine the food on our shelves are made by corporations concerned less with protecting our health, our environment, or our jobs than with profit margins and executive bonuses.

This consolidation also fuels the influence of concentrated economic power in politics: Last year alone, the biggest food companies spent tens of millions lobbying on Capitol Hill with more than $37 million used in the fight against junk food marketing guidelines for kids.

 The wellbeing of much of our planet is now at the mercy of companies like Monsanto which created  DDT, Agent Orange, Roundup, Bovine Growth Hormone, and PCB’s, just to name a few.  Not very reassuring!   We must take back control. It is going to take more than buying organic and going vegetarian. In his excellent piece “Big Food Must Go”  Christopher D. Cook, author of Diet for a Dead Planet: Big Business and the Coming Food Crisis,  writes “to truly ‘occupy the food system’ we will need nothing less than a fundamental restructuring of the economics and policies that currently enable our corporate food system.”  This would include “a radical overhaul….of how our tax dollars are spent on food”  and reforming anti-trust laws “so these companies can’t control entire food and seed markets.” So let’s get going. The time is now. This IS urgent.


  • GO to the Occupy our Food site facilitated by the Rainforest Action Network and see the list of events and actions that they are promoting including Occupying Cargill
  • GET POLITICAL  Contact your  representatives. Here is a list of them. Let them know that this is a crucial issue and that you expect them to do everything they can to create policies to support and promote a healthy and sustainable food system. Call back frequently!
  • Use your purchasing power. Stay informed and only buy products from companies with sustainable practices. Boycott huge agribusiness.
  • Support your local farmers. Buy your food from the farmers market and/or join a CSA. Here in Santa Barbara we are very lucky  to have many wonderful organic farmers growing a huge variety of food. Enjoy It!
  • Plant organic edibles. Support biodiversity and buy and grow heirlooms seeds. Island Seed and Feed is a great resource. Save and Share your Seeds.
  • Look into the Occupy Movement.  Read some of their declarations.   As Eric Holt- Gomez, Executive Director, Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy, writes recently in the Huffington Post,  “The food justice movement has no strategy to address the inter-institutional (i.e. structural) ways that inequity is produced in the food system. By openly protesting the excesses of capitalism, Occupy does address this structure. This is why the convergence of Occupy and the food justice movement is so potentially powerful — and why it is feared.”

There is a power in working together. We can take back our health.  In the words of Santa Barbara beloved farmer and educator Michael Ableman, “We need to focus on what we are for as much as what we are against; occupying our land, our soils with life and fertility, our communities with good food. We need to work to rebuild the real economy, the one based on seeds and sunlight and individuals and communities growing together.”

Photo found here

Say goodbye to styrofoam food containers…hopefully

I have pretty much trained myself to carry my beloved ceramic travel mug with me for the times when the desire for a latte is too strong to ignore, but  I still periodically succumb to the 7:00 pm,  there is no food in the fridge,  let’s get Thai take-out.  Much to my chagrin I usually fail to follow through on my best intentions to bring some sort of container from home to transport  those yummy Phad Thai noodles, which means they often end up  in some sort of styrofoam container.

Have a nice century...this could be polluting the planet for hundreds of years!

There may be help on the way!

A bill (SB 568) passed the California state Senate on Thursday which would prevent food vendors and restaurants from using containers made with polystyrene foam (commonly known as Styrofoam).

So what are the repercussions of  using these containers anyway?

Polystyrene foam is made from petroleum, a non-sustainable resource. It’s manufacture is heavily polluting. It uses benzene, a carcinogenic chemical in its production.  It’s main building block is styrene, a suspected neurotoxin and a substance which is classified as a possible human carcinogen  by the EPA. According to the Earth Resource Institute when we use it to contain our food, toxic chemicals leach into the food.  After its one time use,  it is either thrown away, or possibly recycled.  Styrofoam advocates tout this ability to be recycled as one of its great attributes, but the truth is that most styrofoam simply does not get recycled. The market for used styrofoam is very small mostly because its large volume per unit of weight makes it cost prohibitive to recycle.   This is especially true if it has been used for food packaging, which requires the added cost of cleaning in order to be recycled.  Here in Santa Barbara, recycling centers do not take styrofoam food containers.  So if it is not recycled it is thrown away. It either ends up in a landfill, or it becomes urban litter and marine debris.

 Polystyrene comprises 15% of storm drain litter  according to the CA Dept of Transportation and according to a study by So.CAl Coastal Water Quality research Project it is the 2nd most common type of beach debris.  Animals are commonly killed from choking on it or having their digestive tracks clogged after ingesting styrofoam.  Here is the big catch, Polystyrene foam does not biodegrade.  It can last thousands of years, if not longer, and we make a lot of it.   Approximately 166,135 tons were produced and sold in one year in California for packaging and food service according to the Ca Integrated Waste Management Board. While styrofoam does not biodegrade, it does break down. The smallest of these pieces are called styrene monomers. Research has indicated that styrene monomers are carcinogenic to mice.  Styrene monomers seem to be widespread in the worlds oceans.   Samples of ocean water taken in the Pacific by Nihon University contained styrene monomers along with other products of Styrofoam breakdown.   According to researchers from the University of California in Santa Cruz, styrofoam can pose a threat to marine life even at the molecular level.

Seems like  it is high time to get rid of it.

The California bill is headed to the assembly this month with a floor vote by the end of August.  Let’s hope it does not go the way of  the California plastic bag bill which had passed the assembly in 2010 and had the support of then Governor Schwarzenegger but ended up failing after heavy industry lobbying.  It might be helpful to let your representative know of your support for this bill before the final vote.

Solar Chandelier

Virtue of Blue is a chandelier by Jeroen Verhoeven. It is made with a hand-blown glass bulb surrounded by 502 butterflies cut from solar panels. The wings of the butterflies collect energy from the sun during the day to power the light they adorn.

Isn’t it gorgeous!!!!!!!   Currently on exhibit at the London, Uk gallery Blain/Southern. 

via:  mocoloco

How to Green your Easter Basket

Day-glo plastic grass and candy laden with artificial colors and high fructose corn syrup? No Way!   Here are a few ideas to keep you Easter gorgeously green…

  • Skip the Plastic.      Natural baskets are beautiful, and can be used for storage during the rest of the year.  Thrift stores are a great place to find them.  Decorate them with flowers and re-usable fabric ribbon. Line the basket with straw, wheat grass, shredded paper, or a pretty napkin.  You can also get creative and create your own “basket”   decorate old  boxes, or make this one out of paper.
  • Use  local, organic free range eggs  and dye them naturally.  Onion Skins, Beets, coffee and turmeric can all be used to create beautiful festive eggs. Here is a great tutorial. 
  • Conscious Candy   Want that classic chocolate bunny?  Make it organic and free trade.  A huge percentage of the chocolate on the market in every price range comes from cacao that is produced using child slave labor.  Make sure the chocolate you buy comes from a company that does not support these practices. It might be a little more expensive but just eat a little less.  Everyone will be healthier and happier. Check out these local Santa Barbara chocolatiers, Chocolate Maya and Chocolats du CaliBressan, or this online store which has a great selection of organic and free trade candy.
  • Green Gifts   Add a few little gifts that keep on giving after the sweets have been enjoyed.    Packets of flower seeds or  veggie starts in eggshell planters, are a lot of fun for kids to plant and watch grow, and they look really pretty in the basket. 

How do you make your green Easter baskets special?  We would love to hear!


Breathe a little Easier…with the help of these 12 plants

I recently tried a new workout that was really great. It was fun and went by quickly and I was the  perfect amount of sore the next day.  Much as I liked it, I can’t go back. You see it was a brand new studio, built with typical construction materials and new carpet. The “new room” smell was so strong,  it felt a bit like taking a toxic steam bath.  Every time the teacher reminded us to breathe deeply,  I sort of cringed.  The nasty effects of indoor air pollution are certainly cringe worthy.  Of course it is best to avoid toxic materials whenever you can, but indoor pollutants are introduced into our homes and workspaces in ways we don’t often recognize.  Common pollutants such as formaldehyde  are found in common items such as paper products, inks  and furnishings. Happily there may be some help in keeping our air clean and it is beautiful.

     While researching how to create breathable environments in space NASA began testing common houseplants as air cleaners.  In their study, various plants were put inside a sealed chamber into which chemical  toxins were injected.  After 24 hours, under these controlled conditions certain plants were found to remove up to 87% of the indoor air pollutants.
An increasing amount of corroborating research also indicates the benefit of live plants to improve indoor air quality.  In his own research,  Kamal Meattle used Areca Palms, Mother-in Law Tongue, an Money Plants in his office building. He found after adding the plants there was  a 34% reduction in respiratory problems, a 24% reduction in headaches and a 52% reduction in eye irritation amongst the employees who worked there. There was also a 15% drop in energy usage since the need for air conditioning equipment was reduced.   According to studies have shown that English Ivy placed in a container of moldy bread removed 60% of airborne mold in 6 hours and 78% was gone after 12 hours.

Here are a some of the top air cleaning houseplants:

1. Boston Fern
Boston Ferns are most effective at removing formaldehyde. Studies have also shown that they can remove heavy metals such as mercury and arsenic from the soil
2. Spider Plants
Removes carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide as well as formaldehyde
3.  Areca Palm
Removes formaldehyde and is a great air humidifier

4. Peace Lily

Very easy to grow with beautiful white blooms. Effective at removing benzene and trichloroethylene

5.  Philodendron

Excellent at removing formaldehyde

6. Snake Plants or Mother of Law Tongue

Removes benzene and  formaldehyde

7. Bamboo Palm

Removes benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene

8.  Dracaena

Removes formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene

9. Rubber Plant

Provides moisture, suppresses air based organisms and removes voc’s

10. Gerbera Daisy

Removes benzene

11. Chrysanthemum

Removes benzene

12. English Ivy

Removes benzene and airbased mold and feces

For more information read B.C. Wolverton’s ” How to Grow Fresh Air, 50 houseplants the purify your home or office” Wolverton is a scientist who originally worked on the air cleaning research at NASA,  and has continued work on air and water quality through his own company.    

Take Action

Since we often advocate contacting your representatives, here is a handy list of all of our government representatives from the local level here in Santa Barbara all the way to Washington.

City  Council of Santa Barbara

P.O. Box 1990 Santa Barbara, Ca 93102

Council Members and contact information found here

County Board of Supervisors

105 East Anapamu St    Santa Barbara, CA 93101

Boardmembers and contact information found here

State Of California

Das Williams, Assemblymember

101 West Anapamu St Suite A

Santa Barbara, CA 93101

(805) 564-1649             (916) 319-2035               Website

Tony Strickland,  Senator

225 East Carrillo Street Suite 302

Santa Barbara, CA 93101

(805) 965-0862                (916) 651-4019            Website


Lois Capps, Representative

1216 State Street Suite 403

Santa Barbara, Ca 93101

(805) 730-1710                   (202) 225-3601                 Website

Barbara Boxer, Senator

112 Hart Senate Office Building

Washington DC, 20510

(202) 224-3553         Website

Diane Feinstein, Senator

331 Hart Senate Office Building

Washington DC, 20510

(202) 224-3841         Website

Barack Obama

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW

Washington DC 20500

(202) 456-1111 comments

(202) 456-1414 switchboard

email              Website