Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Memorial Day is just about here, and summer is peaking around the corner. BBQs, tubing trips, baseball games, sleepovers, and pool parties (Hot Child in the City) are in your near future and you need a couple summer reminders. As you already know, I think everything in our environment, and all the actions we take are interconnected and affect our health and well-being and our wallet.

I came across this Top Ten List on the benefits of local food from Fox News (omg yes Fox News, everything is ok). You can find the full list here, but here are a few of my favorites:

1. Locally grown. Items at farmer’s markets have not “travelled” far. The carbon footprint to transport from nearby farms is teeny compared to what’s consumed over hundreds and thousands of miles by sea, air or long-distance trucking. Also, local produce is stacked in wooden crates, which avoids the environmentally polluting packaging, which protects produce from bruising or extends its time before perishing in long-distance transport.

2. Cleaner and safer. Farmer’s markets produce is grown organically or with far less use of chemicals. Produce sold in regular stores is full of toxic pesticides, fungicides, and other chemical fertilizers and sprays. Similarly, breads & baked goods aren’t pumped full of unhealthy preservatives that extend shelf life.

3. Keeps our communities healthy, too. The more we support local farmers who grow food in healthy ways, the more they–and their beautiful farmland–will flourish. Buying at local markets puts money directly into the pockets of local farmers and craftspeople rather than industrial conglomerates.

4. Free exercise. We can often walk or bike to the markets, getting free exercise. Besides, simply walking in the open air is a good way to get vitamin D.

Lastly, on biking and how it does a body good (which I’m sure you’re in the know about), D.C.’s Capital Bikeshare company released the results of its recent membership survey.  I admit I have a love affair with Capital Bikeshare; although its riders may be nuts, I appreciate what the company has accomplished (remember when I posted about Capital Bikeshare last year?). Riders saved an estimated $800 on transportation costs annually!  After obtaining a membership they were 76% more likely to ride to work.  Membership is still mostly within D.C., and now the company hopes to expand to areas like the Anacostia (Northeast D.C.) so that those neighborhoods can see the health benefits as well.  All communities should have access to safe and healthy transportation options.

Here is a summary of a few of the health benefits from the bikeshare survey: “Nearly 27 percent reported improved stamina after joining the system, 31.5 percent said their stress levels diminished, and 18.4 percent reported losing weight thanks to bicycle sharing. The numbers of members who consider themselves in good or excellent condition increased, while figures for those who consider themselves in poor, average, or fair health decreased.”  You can read the full article here.

Enjoy those tasty local foods, and bike/walk/public transit more. Cheers.

First of all, happy bike to work day, everyone! DC was pretty ideal for a ride today – although, personally, I think that more or less every day is a great day to bike to work.  It’s actually faster than getting around by car, saves a ton of money on gas, parking, and public transit fares, and best of all – no emissions.  That last bit, while I don’t harp on it ALL the time – is a pretty key point in light of some news today. I don’t usually talk climate – our meteorologist and climate expert El Nino more often covers that – but today is an exception.  Concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have officially reached 400 ppm, the highest they have been since the Pliocene Epoch (which ended 2.588 million years ago) – an age where the Arctic had virtually no ice caps and Earth’s surface in sum was significantly warmer. 

Image

CO2 levels as measured at Mauna Loa, HI. Concentration in ppm.

While much of the news media and public opinion portrays the causes of this as up for scientific debate, a study conducted by skepticalscience.com that reviewed over 12,000 scientific papers from 1991 – 2011 found that fully 97% of the worldwide scientific community considers this warming to be anthropogenic. 

Let me repeat that: 97% of published, peer-reviewed scientific papers agree that global warming is caused by humans.  This is such a big deal that even Barack Obama tweeted about it. 

It gets better – or worse.

Remember during this past campaign year, when then-Presidential candidate Mitt Romney said the following?

“My view is that we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet,” he said, according to CBS. “And the idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try to reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us.”

Well, Mitt – turns out there’s a saying about an ounce of prevention.  A United Nations report today indicated that during the past decade, losses from natural disasters have exceeded $2.5 trillion dollars worldwide.  Paying for the results of climate-related disasters cost the American taxpayer more in 2012 than any other non-defense, discretionary budget item – totaling around $100 billion.  Just during the past two years (2011 – 2012) there were more than twenty five climate related disasters (storms, heat waves, drought, and other extreme events) that cost upwards of $1 billion each.  

There’s a message in here, and it’s not that the world is ending.  The truth is, we can’t afford climate change.  Maybe not everyone is going to care about hundreds of species that may go extinct from the impacts of shifting temperatures and water patterns.  Maybe not everyone cares about the destruction of coral reefs from climate related ocean acidification or the loss of tropical islands such as the Pearl Cays or Kiribati.

But $2.5 trillion is hard to argue with – especially when 97% of experts agree that it’s our fault.  Maybe, just maybe, it’s finally time to do something about it.

Tomorrow, May 17th, is Bike to Work Day in DC! Those of you who registered can meet up at locations around the city to grab a free t-shirt, meet up with other bike commuters, and enjoy what should be a great day for a ride .  Even if you’re not “officially” participating, it’s May in DC and the weather is finally warm – so go ahead, get out, and enjoy your commute rather than sitting in traffic on in a cramped metro car. 

ImageMost you know by now that I’m a regular bike commuter – something which I love, but which is not exactly free of certain perils.  Just two days ago, I was two blocks from my apartment when some #*((#*&&^ neighbor decided to creep up behind me, rev his engine, then swerve around me – coming within four inches of my right pedal and almost sideswiping a parked car in the process.  As he nearly knocked me over, he also saw fit to flip me the bird and yell, “Get out of the road!!” The best part?  We were in front of an elementary school and local park/playground. I seriously hope that there is some logical explanation for this behavior (maybe he really had to pee?), but sadly it isn’t the only time it’s happened.  

While we can’t eliminate all the a**holes in DC (oh, how I wish…), there are certain things you can do as a biker to minimize your risk of incidents. Here’s my (very short) list for those of you biking to work tomorrow, as well as some much more well developed resources:

(1) DC and Arlington County are very bike friendly places, but understand where you belong.  When you are a biker, you are considered a vehicle.  Let me repeat that for all of you, both bikers and drivers: bikes are considered vehicles. So, all you jerks who think we should be on sidewalks….do you drive your car on a sidewalk? No, you don’t.  We don’t ride our bikes there either.  But, for all of you crazy bikers, this means behaving the way that a car would.  Take up a whole lane- just do it, and let the aggravated folks behind you suck it up.  They are required by law to give three feet on all sides, and there’s nowhere in the city where you need to be going *that* fast.

(2) Pedal Predictably.  Signal when you’re about to turn. Don’t swerve between cars, as tempting as it is in heavy traffic. Stop completely for stop signs and red lights.  Check for pedestrians and turning cars. The usual.  It’s amazing how well people do this when they drive, but forget immediately once on a bike.  I know it’s tempting to just zip ahead of traffic, but that’s how most collisions occur – and if a car hits you, even if they’re the one who is wrong, you’re the one  getting hurt.

(3) Be proactive and be prepared.  This means make sure your bike is in good working order and not doing strange things like slipping gears that could cause you to move unpredictably in heavy traffic.  Check your tires and gears before you head out on the road.  Helmet and lights are a must.  Seriously – I’ve had several friends involved in collisions where a helmet saved their life.  Carry the things you might need for simple repairs on long rides.

For more details on any of these points, and to be a better biker, check out any of the following awesome resources.  The DC Metro Area is one of the worst places in the country for traffic, and it’s great to be a biker around here – just be sure to be safe and enjoy the ride!

Potomac Peddlers, List of DC, Maryland, and VA Bike Laws: http://www.potomacpedalers.org/?page=bikelaws

Bike Arlington, and Bike Arlington’s PDF Document on Bike Safety: http://www.bikearlington.com/

http://www.bikearlington.com/tasks/sites/bike/assets/File/Safe_Bicycling.pdf

Capital Bikeshare Bike Safety Resources:

http://www.capitalbikeshare.com/safety

It’s been a busy couple of weeks for all of us at Team Spinach, so apologies for the long hiatus.  For my part, travel to some exotic locations (Costa Rica & Nicaragua – photos to come) and some very not exotic locations (Nebraska & Ohio) interrupted my posting schedule.  But, we always manage to resurface, and I thought I’d kick off with some good news rather than a rant.

As you guys know, I have a serious thing for the Tesla Model S.  I mean – just look at it.

Image

This image is probably copyrighted, so I’ll just write here that clearly I didn’t take this picture. I also don’t own a Tesla, which is sad. SOMEDAY.

Well, chappies, it seems I am not the only one who has a thing for the Model S.  It’s been a banner week for the budding company, and despite some bad press from a highly shady NYTimes review (which the company rebutted), Tesla not only posted an unexpected profit in the first quarter of 2013 but has increased their estimated sales of the Model S from 20,000 to 21,000. Not only that, but Consumer Reports review of the car earned an astonishing score of 99 out of 100 in the latest review – the only point deducted for the fact that the car takes longer than 3 minutes to recharge on long drives.  In the first quarter of 2013, the Tesla Model S outsold similarly-priced gasoline guzzlers from German luxury car manufacturers Mercedes, Audi, and BMW.  

The success of Tesla is a huge PR boost for eco-friendly startups, which have been plagued in the press by highly-profiled failure stories of a few notable electric car manufacturers and alternative energy companies.  It’s been depressing to watch the faltering progress of a few companies be used by closed-minded individuals in the press and political forums to argue that environmentally innovative businesses don’t have a place in the mainstream or can’t compete with established companies (which is both false, and a logical fallacy.)  Tesla is bucking the naysayers and even exceeding the performance predicted by Wall Street.  What’s even better about Tesla is that they’re also changing the image of what an innovative, environmentally friendly product can look like.  It’s an American brand.  It’s a luxury car.  It’s a sweet ride that looks every bit as sexy as other high-end cars.  It doesn’t compromise on performance.

And that, my friends, is what environmental innovation should look like.  We can do it better, and it doesn’t mean giving up on the things we love.  It just means being more thoughtful about how we do them.

It has been a tough few weeks.  Between the Boston Marathon, Texas plant fire, poison-laced letters to a senator and the President, and your average local shenanigans that never make it on CNN because it’s not scary enough, it’s a lot to hear. I’m here to tell you that you can smile because more people are apparently caring about the environment and their health – our road-structured nation is actually driving less!

Bloomberg reported on a few new studies which have shown major increases in bicycle riding (did you know that D.C.’s bike share program broke a record for most bikes rented since its inception during this year’s Cherry Blossom festival – thank you tourists!), walking destinations, and a decrease in receipt of driver’s licenses. There are also your common contributing factors such as unemployment and high gas prices. A Frontier Group study published in April 2012 found the following:

From 2001 to 2009, 16- to 34-year-olds took 24 percent more bike trips and were 16 percent more likely to walk to their destinations. Meanwhile, from 2000 to 2010, the share of 14- to 34-year-olds without drivers’ licenses increased from 21 percent to 26 percent.

In summary, the 34 and younger crowd loves to live where they can walk, bike, or take public transportation (the Bloomberg article said that too).  I know in D.C. those are all top selling points for many homeowners and renters, as I’m sure it is for other cities too. Encourage your local decision makers to improve bike lanes and public transportation in your neighborhood so that you’re not always in a car.  I know it’s easier said then done, so at least think of all the tiny switches you can make in your daily routine to change up your long car habits. Check out Craigslist for bike ads, ask your neighbors and friends to do a walking or running group, or even better search online for your town’s bus schedule.  It could never hurt.  It will save you money, and exercise is always good for your health.

When you do go for a walk, here’s some proper form from the Mayo Clinic:

https://i2.wp.com/www.mayoclinic.com/images/image_popup/fsm7_walker.jpg

Hope you did your part for Earth Day this year. Cheers.

To our Spinach readers and web searchers – Happy Earth Day!  This month is my one-year anniversary with the Spinach blog and I will say it has been a happy one-year relationship.

Here is my Top 10 List of things you should do this Earth Day:

  1. Take your trash out and dump it in the closest park near your home
  2. Go for a very long drive, in a Land Rover
  3. Pour some hazardous chemicals in your street drain
  4. Cut down one tree for every year of your age
  5. Start a bonfire with random materials like Styrofoam, asbestos and tires
  6. Throw some grocery store plastic bags in the ocean or river near your house
  7. Make sure your house is being supplied by oil or coal power ONLY
  8.  Spray extra untested pesticides on your fruit and vegetables
  9. Sit idle all day, don’t even move to refill your soda, keep the soda bottle at your feet
  10. Put your newspapers , junk mail, and cardboard boxes in your regular trash; actually put those in the bonfire, see #5

I hope those gave you a laugh.  Continue to enjoy and appreciate the outdoors, use public transportation, and only use the energy you really need – you’ll find it will save you money and it will be better for your health! Have a great day!

Since it’s finally starting to be somewhere closer to spring here in the nation’s capital, I’m back to bike commuting.  It’s always a switch that is not without a few bumps in the road when I start biking again – forgetting things like bike lights, how to fit my work shoes in my bike bag, and this morning, showing up at work without my socks.  Oops.  I work in Georgetown, which has few options for affordable clothing (or, affordable anything, really) – the only one that is truly budget being H&M.  So – I wandered in looking for socks – and was met with something I was not expecting.  The store has definitely upped marketing for their line, “H&M CONSCIOUS,” marketing recent changes in their clothing-making process as serious upgrades in areas of ethical and sustainable fashion.  They’ve also got donation bins in the front of the store to collect used clothing and shoes, with the selling point that 95% of clothing that end up in landfills contain textiles and raw materials that could be re-used. They look kinda like this:

Image

Actually, they look exactly like this. Photo from http://about.hm.com/AboutSection/en/About/Sustainability.html

The re-branding of H&M has been met with a certain degree of skepticism, it seems.  H&M brands are one of the largest providers of bulk- and by definition budget – fashion.  That tends to be synonymous with cheap production practices, from labor to water use to sources of raw materials such as cotton.  However, the brand’s report from March 2013 showing their performance for the past year does boast some impressive stats.  They are the biggest user of certified organic cotton in the world and have been reducing the water and toxic chemical use in their production processes, saving 450 million gallons of water during 2012.  Their initiative also includes social justice measures to ensure fare wages, education, benefits, and equal opportunity for employees. 

Whether it’s greenwashing or real change probably depends on your perspective at this point – I’m sure some purists would love to see the changes happening more quickly and to more stringent standards.  However, I’ll come down on the side of applauding this move.  The public perception of ‘organic’ and ‘green’ brands- from household goods to food to fashion – has long been that they are overpriced alternatives with production standards too high for large corporations and price tags too high for the average consumer.  While many see the benefit, it seems to come with a high cost that is passed on to the buyer.  H&M is working to change that, showing that it is possible to have affordable products produced the right way.  It’s also great to see a retailer offering an opportunity for clothing to be donated or recycled in-store, keeping perfectly useable (or reusable) items out of landfills.  Let’s hope they continue to move in the right direction!