Monthly Archives: March 2011

Green Festival: October 1&2 – Be a Green Volunteer!

New York

October 1st & 2nd, 2011

Javits North – New LEED Certified Javits Building

Green Festival is excited to bring the largest sustainability event to the greatest city on the East Coast, Manhattan New York. This Green Festival New York debut will deliver both inspiring and pragmatic programming reflecting over 125 international, regional and local speakers presenting keynotes, workshops, sessions, demonstrations and talks. At Green Festival, New Yorkers will find the largest marketplace made up of over 300 screened, fair trade, social and environmentally responsible exhibitors. Great live music, weekend-long film festival, cutting edge fun kids program, extraordinary vegan, raw and vegetarian food vendors, top local organic beer makers and wine vintners and an eco-fashion runway round out the festivities. Join us for what is sure to become New York’s finest ‘Party with a Purpose’!

Be a Green Festival® Volunteer!

You’ll meet new people, have fun and support a great cause! Volunteers are a critical part of the Green Festival! The event would not be possible without you.

As a member of our amazing volunteer team at Green Festival, you are an essential part of the nation’s leading sustainability event educating and activating people to make choices for a just and sustainable world!

All are Welcome!

There is a job for every interest at the Green Festival.  Click here to see a list of Volunteer Job Descriptions.  Volunteers who are hearing impaired, deaf or handicapped are encouraged to volunteer.  Please see our detailed list of job descriptions.

If you have questions or concerns about what volunteer positions will fit your needs best, please e-mail

Volunteering with a Group

If you’d like to bring a group to volunteer, please contact to arrange a group volunteer reservation. Group slots fill quickly, so the earlier the better!

Volunteers Under Age 18

  • All volunteers must be 10 years and older. Volunteers aged 10 to 15 years must volunteer with a parent, guardian or adult over the age of 18.
  • All Volunteers under age 18, must have a volunteer waiver.  Visit the volunteer registration website for your city to download the waiver.

Volunteer Benefits

Volunteers are asked to commit to at least one 4.5 – 5 hour shift and receive:

  • Free access into the festival all weekend.
  • An exclusive organic cotton t-shirt
  • Free/optional memberships to Global Exchange and Green America (the co-founders of Green Festival) – new members only  Check the membership boxes when you register.
  • 10% discount at the Green America and Global Exchange stores.
  • Snacks, relaxation and a free coat check in the Volunteer Lounge.
  • An amazing networking opportunity and a fun, rewarding experience!

Volunteer Handbook

Though the handbook is updated with city-specific details a month before the event, the General Green Festival Volunteer Handbook is available here. Job descriptions can be found here.

Volunteer Registration

Volunteer registration opens in each city approximately 3 months before the Green Festival. If you are a former volunteer or receive our Volunteer Alerts, you will receive an email when registration is open in your city. Not yet on our list, Sign up for the Volunteer Alert Here!

Green Festival: 4 Ways to Avoid GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms)

Keep Monsanto Out of Your Home: 4 Ways to Avoid GMOs

Robyn Griggs Lawrence thumbnail

Robyn Griggs Lawrence, Editor at Large,

Mother Earth News, Natural Home and Herb Companion magazine

In the past month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has made several alarming decisions regarding Monsanto’s genetically modified Roundup Ready crops. Last month it granted non-regulated status to Roundup Ready alfalfa, This month it defied a court order that had prohibited farmers from planting Monsanto’s Roundup Ready sugar beets until a proper study of their environmental impact could be done. In the wake of all this, I’m looking for ways to keep Monsanto-tainted food off my family’s table.

A Month Without Monsanto, writer April Davila chronicles her difficulty in avoiding genetically modified crops such as soy, sugar beets, and cotton—which form the foundation of our diets. Davila reports that 70 to 80 percent of American processed foods contain genetically engineered ingredients and “a large percentage of the cotton in our clothes and homes begins in Monsanto’s labs.”

While she found avoidance almost impossible, Davila’s attempts to go a month without Monsanto are worth a read. She also offers some great tips for those who want to take up the good fight and minimize the genetically modified organisms in their lives.

  1. Avoid processed foods, particularly the ubiquitous high fructose corn syrup.
  2. Consider going vegetarian, limiting your meat consumption, or buying grass-fed varieties. Over 60 percent of genetically modified corn goes to feed cattle on polluting concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) in America, Davila reports.
  3. Buy organic dairy products to avoid Monsanto’s recombinant bovine growth hormone.
  4. Buy organic cotton . Monsanto is a major player in the cotton industry.

*For more information or to check out more posts by Robyn Griggs Lawrence, visit Robyn’s Natural Home Living Blog on Mother Earth America’s 10 healthiest grocery stores

Keep in mind while reading this article that the list is based on similar sized grocery stories nationwide and number of “organic” products offered.

America’s 10 healthiest grocery stores

By Pamela PaulLet’s face it: Your weekly (or daily!) run to the grocery store is the foundation for your good health. So it’s thrilling news that the supermarket industry is on a health kick—these days you’ll likely find organic produce and “natural” packaged foods at almost any store you go to.

But which chains are outdoing themselves to deliver the freshest and healthiest foods to you? And which ones provide the best tools to help you make smart choices?

We asked six prominent health experts (meet our judges) to help us pick the top 10 healthiest grocery stores out of the nation’s largest chains. Here are the true standouts. Happy, healthy shopping!

#1: Whole Foods

279 stores in 38 states and Washington, D.C.

We figured this natural-foods chain would make the list, but who knew it would hands-down top it? “It’s the Rolls Royce of healthy eating,” says Kate Geagan, a nutritionist in Park City, Utah, and one of our judges. Whole Foods has the whole package—from an extraordinary selection of fresh conventional and organic fruit and vegetables to delicious prepared foods with healthy ingredients and clear labeling. (Most other stores offer mystery meals that may very well be loaded with butter.) And Whole Foods puts a premium on products that are grown or produced locally (read: superfresh).

There’s also hard-to-find grass-fed meats, ready-to-cook organic and free-range chicken, and a well-stocked selection of just-caught seafood. The desserts are pretty good for you: Every item in the bakery is free of artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, preservatives, and trans fats. Our judges also raved about Whole Foods’s snacks, singling out the store’s own dark chocolate, fresh-cut veggies, and nut and seed mixes. Alan Greene, MD, a Palo Alto, California–based pediatrician and one of our panelists sums it up best: “The store celebrates great, healthy food from start to finish.” 11 Ways to Pick Out Healthy Food

#2: Safeway

1,700-plus stores nationwide

Safeway is the traditional grocer you’re familiar with, but look closer and you’ll see a huge transformation going on. “They now have their own organic brands and a section of locally grown produce,” says judge Lisa Pawloski, PhD, chair of the department of global and community health at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. Besides those organic brands—O Organics for packaged goods (the biggest organic brand in the country) and Eating Right for prepared foods—many of the chain’s redesigned stores have a greatly expanded produce section.

Safeway’s specialty items like organic spices and packaged nuts make it a regular stop for judge Dr. Greene. Bonus: Its online Food Flex program analyzes shoppers’ purchases based on metrics like recommended sodium consumption, and then suggests healthier choices. “They’re a major pioneer in this area,” says panelist Christine Palumbo, a Chicago-based nutritionist. “It’s like having your own registered dietitian.” 10 Best Foods for Your Heart

#3: Harris Teeter

176 stores in the Southeast

This grocer boasts 600 varieties of fruit and veggies, with a good selection of organic and locally grown items, as well as hard-to-find nonfarm-raised seafood. But what catapulted it to third place is its breadth of healthy shopping tools.

Harris Teeter’s YourWellness For Life program, which was originally created to help employees choose the most nutritious foods, became available to customers in 2006. Part of that initiative is shelf tags that clearly show the nutrients in various foods (an “excellent source of fiber” label means the item contains 20% or more of the recommended daily intake; a “good source of fiber” lets you know there’s between 10% and 19% of the RDI). Plus, a Green Thumb Expert at every store gives hints on choosing and preparing produce. America’s Healthiest Superfoods for Women

#4: Trader Joe’s

300-plus stores in 23 states and Washington, D.C.

Shopping at Trader Joe’s is more like going to a specialty-foods store than a chain grocer—you’ll find healthy foods from around the world, all at surprisingly reasonable prices. What you won’t find: bad-for-you mainstream brands. The store’s impressive and delicious store-brand foods contain no artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives, and no MSG, trans fats or genetically modified ingredients. “My daughter loves their Omega Trek Mix With Omega-Fortified Cranberries, and now I do, too!” Palumbo says.

Pawloski is just as excited about their organic prepared meals. There are fun healthy surprises, too: instead of sugary cereals, they have good-news alternatives, like fruit-and nut-packed Triple Berry O’s. Why didn’t Trader Joe’s rank higher? The limited selection in most of its stores.

#5: Hannaford

165-plus stores in the Northeast

This chain is relatively small, but Whole Foods should look out$mdash;Hannaford is the largest certified-organic supermarket in the region, and in the past two years it has boosted its produce selection to provide more than 50 local and organic products from 200 farms close by. “It’s an impressive amount of local produce, which is not that easy in temperate New England,” Geagan notes.

But Hannaford’s commitment to healthy foods doesn’t stop there. Its Guiding Stars nutrition-label program makes it a snap to pick out the healthiest fresh and packaged fare: You’ll find one, two, or three stars—with three stars indicating the highest nutritional value—on nearly every item in the store. That means you don’t have to pore over the labels to decide which loaf of bread to buy.

#6: Albertsons

529 stores in the West, owned by SuperValu

Organic food can be expensive, but Albertsons’s house brand, Wild Harvest, typically costs 15% less than name-brand organic products. All Wild Harvest items—including whole wheat pastas, soy milk, cereals, meats, and poultry—eschew artificial preservatives, colorings, sweeteners, and flavorings; hydrogenated and cottonseed oils; and phosphates and chlorine.

Our judges loved the chain’s Healthy Eaters program, which lets kids tour the store with a registered dietitian. And this month, Albertsons introduces the Nutrition iQ program, which uses simple color-coded labels to highlight nutritional benefits. Dr. Oz’s Favorite Healthy Foods

#7: Food Lion

1,300 stores in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic

This megachain is owned by the same company as Hannaford and has taken some healthy cues from its smaller sister: It stocks organic fruits and vegetables (though not as many local items as the top chains), has its own natural-foods brand, Nature’s Place, and also uses the Guiding Stars nutrition-labeling system.

But it’s Food Lion’s boutique offshoot, Bloom (61 stores in North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland, and Virginia), that’s leading the way for the entire chain. “Their produce is fresh and smells wonderful,” Pawloski says. Bloom also boasts kiosks that provide nutrition info and healthy recipes that can be printed in-store. 25 Surprisingly Salty Processed Foods

#8: Publix

952 stores in the Southeast

Publix scores high for making healthy eating a family affair. Pregnant moms can sign up for the Publix Baby Club and receive coupons and a news­letter about infants’ developing needs. The Preschool Pals program for 2- to 4-year-olds provides kids with fun free CD-ROMs and emails that teach nutrition and safety. And its free FamilyStyle magazine has simple tips on cooking family dinners fast.

The store’s own brand, GreenWise, features fresh and packaged natural and organic foods. And like Food Lion, Publix has launched an offshoot store that focuses on natural and organic foods—Publix GreenWise Market (currently only in Florida). Our judges also couldn’t stop talking about Publix’s At Season’s Peak program, which points customers to the produce that’s most in season. “It helps shoppers choose food when it’s freshest and most nutritious,” says panelist Frances Largeman-Roth, Health’s senior food and nutrition editor. America’s Healthiest Mall Food

#9: Pathmark

141 stores in the Mid-Atlantic

Pathmark doesn’t make a big deal out of its commitment to buying from area farms and producers, but it is in fact the largest retailer of locally grown produce in the Northeast, stocking area finds like Long Island corn on the cob.

It also provides a welcome incentive to eat right: The company’s Live Better! Wellness Club includes discounts of up to 15% on fresh-cut fruit and veggies. And if you never know what the heck to make for dinner, here is a perk you’ll appreciate: You can go online and get creative and healthy menu ideas, courtesy of Pathmark’s resident registered dietitian, Jacqueline Gomes. America’s Top 10 Healthiest Fast Food Restaurants

#10: SuperTarget

239 stores in 21 states, primarily Texas and Florida

Tar-jay, a healthy grocer? Yep. These Targets with minimarkets offer good-news brands like Kashi, Quaker, Sahala Snacks, and Barbara’s, plus a limited amount of organic dairy items and produce. And you’ll also find inexpensive, high-quality house brands like Market Pantry (cooking staples, etc.) and the trans fat–free Archer Farms (which includes baked goods, appetizers, and snacks)—and this makes it easier for shoppers to stock up for less.

Mother Nature Network: What is the Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch?

What is the Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch?

A swirling sea of plastic bags, bottles and other debris is growing in the North Pacific, and now another one has been found in the Atlantic. But how did they get there? And is there anything we can do to clean them up?

By Russell McLendonWed, Feb 24 2010 at 11:00 AM EST 205 Comments
Not all garbage ends up at the dump. A river, sewer or beach can’t catch everything the rain washes away, either. In fact, Earth’s largest landfill isn’t on land at all.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch stretches for hundreds of miles across the North Pacific Ocean, forming a nebulous, floating junk yard on the high seas. It’s the poster child for a worldwide problem: plastic that begins in human hands yet ends up in the ocean, often inside animals’ stomachs or around their necks. This marine debris has sloshed into the public spotlight recently, thanks to growing media coverage as well as scientists and explorers who are increasingly visiting the North Pacific to see plastic pollution in action.
What’s it made of?
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch has sometimes been described as a “trash island,” but that’s a misconception, says Holly Bamford, director of NOAA’s Marine Debris Program. If only things were that simple.
“We could just go out there and scoop up an island,” Bamford says. “If it was one big mass, it would make our jobs a whole lot easier.”
Instead, it’s like a galaxy of garbage, populated by billions of smaller trash islands that may be hidden underwater or spread out over many miles. That can make it maddeningly difficult to study — Bamford says we still don’t know how big the garbage patch is, despite the oft-cited claim that it’s as big as Texas.
“You see these quotes that it’s the size of Texas, then it’s the size of France, and I even heard one description of it as a continent,” she says. “That alone should lend some concern that there’s not consistency in our idea of its size. It’s these hot spots, not one big mass. Maybe if you added them all up it’s the size of Texas, but we still don’t know. It could be bigger than Texas.”

While there’s still much we don’t understand about the garbage patch, we do know that most of it’s made of plastic. And that’s where the problems begin.

Unlike most other trash, plastic isn’t biodegradable — i.e., the microbes that break down other substances don’t recognize plastic as food, leaving it to float there forever. Sunlight does eventually “photodegrade” the bonds in plastic polymers, reducing it to smaller and smaller pieces, but that just makes matters worse. The plastic still never goes away; it just becomes microscopic and may be eaten by tiny marine organisms, entering the food chain.
About 80 percent of debris in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch comes from land, much of which is plastic bags, bottles and various other consumer products. Free-floating fishing nets make up another 10 percent of all marine litter, or about 705,000 tons, according to U.N. estimates. The rest comes largely from recreational boaters, offshore oil rigs and large cargo ships, which drop about 10,000 steel shipping containers into the sea each year, full of things like hockey gloves, computer monitors, resin pellets and LEGOs. But despite such diversity — and plenty of metal, glass and rubber in the garbage patch — the majority of material is still plastic, since most everything else sinks or biodegrades before it gets there.
How is it formed?
Earth has five or six major oceanic gyres — huge spirals of seawater formed by colliding currents — but one of the largest is the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, filling most of the space between Japan and California. The upper part of this gyre, a few hundred miles north of Hawaii, is where warm water from the South Pacific crashes into cooler water from the north. Known as the North Pacific Subtropical Convergence Zone, this is also where the trash collects.
Bamford refers to the convergence zone as a “trash superhighway” because it ferries plastic rubbish along an elongated, east-west corridor that links two spinning eddies known as the Eastern Garbage Patch and the Western Garbage Patch. The whole system collectively makes up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
It may take several years for debris to reach this area, depending on its origin. Plastic can be washed from the interiors of continents to the sea via sewers, streams and rivers, or it might simply wash away from the coast. Either way, it can be a six- or seven-year journey before it’s spinning around in the garbage patch. On the other hand, fishing nets and shipping containers often fall right in with the rest of the trash. One of the most famous such debris spills came in 1992, when 28,000 rubber ducks fell overboard in the Pacific Ocean. The ducks continue to turn up on beaches around the world to this day.
What’s the problem?
Marine debris threatens environmental health in several ways. Here are the main ones:
Entanglement: The growing number of abandoned plastic fishing nets is one of the greatest dangers from marine debris, Bamford says. The nets entangle seals, sea turtles and other animals in a phenomenon known as “ghost fishing,” often drowning them. With more fishermen from developing countries now using plastic for its low cost and high durability, many abandoned nets can continue fishing on their own for months or years. One of the most controversial types are bottom-set gill nets, which are buoyed by floats and anchored to the sea floor, sometimes stretching for thousands of feet.
Virtually any marine life can be endangered by plastic, but sea turtles seem especially susceptible. In addition to being entangled by fishing nets, they often swallow plastic bags, mistaking them for jellyfish, their main prey. They can also get caught up in a variety of other objects, such as this snapping turtle that grew up constricted by a plastic ring around its body.
Small surface debris: Plastic resin pellets are another common piece of marine debris; the tiny, industrial-use granules are shipped in bulk around the world, melted down at manufacturing sites and remolded into commercial plastics. Being so small and plentiful, they can easily get lost along the way, washing through the watershed with other plastics and into the sea. They tend to float there and eventually photodegrade, but that takes many years. In the meantime, they wreak havoc with sea birds such as the short-tailed albatross.
Albatross parents leave their chicks on land in Pacific islands to go scour the ocean surface for food, namely protein-rich fish eggs. These are small dots bobbing just below the surface, and look unfortunately similar to resin pellets. Well-meaning albatrosses scoop up these pellets — along with other floating trash such as cigarette lighters — and return to feed the indigestible plastic to their chicks, which eventually die of starvation or ruptured organs. Decaying albatross chicks are frequently found with stomachs full of plastic debris (see photo above).
Photodegradation: As sunlight breaks down floating debris, the surface water thickens with suspended plastic bits. This is bad for a couple of reasons. First, Bamford says, is plastic’s “inherent toxicity”: It often contains colorants and chemicals like bisphenol-A, which studies have linked to various environmental and health problems, and these toxins may leach out into the seawater. Plastic has also been shown to absorb pre-existing organic pollutants like PCBs from the surrounding seawater, which can enter the food chain — along with BPA and other inherent toxins — if the plastic bits are accidentally ingested by marine life.
What can we do?
The discoverer of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, Capt. Charles Moore, once said a cleanup effort “would bankrupt any country and kill wildlife in the nets as it went.”
“He makes a really good point there,” Bamford says. “It’s very difficult.”
Still, NOAA conducts flyovers to study the garbage patch, and two research teams recently sailed there to collect debris and water samples. Scientists from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography held a press conference after returning from their three-week voyage in 2009, describing the amount of trash as “shocking.” They found large and small items as well as a vast underwater haze of photodegraded plastic flakes, and are now analyzing their samples to figure out how the plastic interacts with its marine environment.
Meanwhile, the international Project Kaisei team also recently spent time in the garbage patch, studying its contents in hopes of eventually recycling them or turning them into fuel. And “adventure ecologist” David de Rothschild is pushing on with plans to sail around the garbage patch in a boat made entirely of recycled plastics, taking a test voyage earlier this month after a long delay due to construction trouble. Called “Plastiki,” the ship is intended to highlight the connection between plastic trash on land and plastic trash at sea — an increasingly evident link, thanks not only to media attention for the Pacific patch, but also the recent discovery of a similar patch in the North Atlantic.
Ultimately, more plastic recycling and wider use of biodegradable materials is the best hope for controlling these garbage patches, Bamford says, but that’s an uphill battle.
“We need to turn off the taps at the source. We need to educate people on the proper disposal of things that do not break up, like plastics,” she says. “Opportunities for recycling have to increase, but, you know, some people buy three bottles of water a day. As a society, we have to get better at reusing what we buy.”
More information
To learn more about garbage patches in the Pacific Ocean and elsewhere, check out these related articles from MNN:
Editor’s note: This article has been updated from its original version, which first appeared June 9, 2009.
Photos courtesy NOAA

Sitsgirls: Play With Playdough: Edible Fun For Kids

Here is a far more environmental and money saver to playdough! Why bother spending a bundle of money on “PlayDough” when you can make your own, edible kind at home with your kids!

Play With Playdough: Edible Fun For Kids

Written by Francesca in Cooking, Style, Tips and Tricks

I am so addicted to color!

Anything bright and cheery makes me so happy and always catches my wandering eye.

If you love color too, you will adore these divine cookies. They feed both your tummy and your need for a little vivid eye candy! Their name “Play dough cookies” gives you a great feel for what the dough looks like.

rainbow2 Play With Playdough: Edible Fun For Kids

They are a breeze to make.

Just take four small pieces of dough and roll it all into one uniform ball like this:

rainbow3 Play With Playdough: Edible Fun For Kids

Think back to when you were in kindergarten and would make play dough snakes. Grab inspiration from that, and roll it lengthwise– creating a 12 inch rope. Coil, and place on a baking sheet.

In 8 minutes, your cookies will be done!

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Aren’t they pretty!

The colors are so bright. They are sure to cheer up any gloomy day!

rainbow4 Play With Playdough: Edible Fun For Kids

Play Dough Cookies

3/4 C butter
3 ounces cream cheese
1 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 t vanilla extract
2 and 3/4 C flour
1 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
assorted food coloring (gel or paste works best)

1. In a bowl cream butter, cream cheese and sugar until fluffy. Add egg and vanilla. Beat until smooth.

2. In a bowl combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Add dry ingredients to the creamed mixture. Stir until soft dough forms. Divide dough into Fourths. Tint each with a different food coloring. Wrap in plastic and chill for two hours. (I stuck it in the freezer for 15 minutes because I hate to wait!)

3. Preheat oven to 350. Shape colors into 3/4 inch balls. For each cookie place one pink, one orange, one green, and one blue ball together and roll to make one giant ball. Roll into a 12 inch long snake, and then starting at one end coil roll to make a cookie. Place cookies 2 to 3 inches apart on greased cookie sheet to allow for spreading.

4. Bake for 8 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool and store in an airtight container. Enjoy!

Landing page photo credit: Makeitandloveit