Welcome to Green Gal's blog, where you'll find stories, recipes, gardening updates, and green tips related to nature, adventure, placemaking, and food systems. This blog is written by a young woman entrepreneur who is also a beginning farmer-gardener and seasoned sustainability educator who loves to grow, cook, ferment, and eat local and ecologically happy food.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Comet the cause of megafaunal extinction in North America?

Lately, my favorite thing to watch on TV has been Ken Burn's National Parks: America's Best Idea series. Sometimes I'm lucky enough to catch it when it's actually on TV, but many days I end up watching it On Demand. Last night, the only episode On Demand was one I've already seen, so I scanned through the other History & Nature shows on the Comcast On Demand menu and saw that there was something from PBS Nova called "Megabeasts' Sudden Death." I opened it to read the description and was so incredibly excited! It was an episode about the new theory of what killed off the megafauna (like mammoth, mastodon, giant sloth) at the end of the Pleistocene epoch, right around the time of the last ice age. If you recall, I wrote an entire research paper on this subject for my English class earlier this year, so I was very eager to watch the show.
Short-faced bear and other animals, with mastodons in the background.

It focused on the new evidence that a comet is what caused the mass extinction, which I did read about while researching for my paper. The episode raises some interesting questions and the theory seems like it could be a valid potential cause for the extinctions. My paper focused on human-caused extinctions, so I didn't discuss the newly proposed comet theory extensively. Basically they've found concentrations of iridium, a very rare Earth mineral that is found in extraterrestrial matter like comets, in layers of sediment dating from the time of the extinctions around 13,000 years ago. A comet hitting Earth would have created deadly conditions: fires that would burn both the animals themselves and their available food source, blackened skies, "shock waves" of wind from the impact points (think nuclear explosion). The theory is similar to the theory of what killed the dinosaurs. No crater has been found to support this theory, but some scientists believe the comet may have exploded before impact, scattering the debris and leaving no trace of the impact on the landscape. It may have hit the giant glacier that covered most of North America. The evidence would have disappeared in that scenario as well.I was wondering what would have happened to the Clovis people, who had arrived in North America around that time. It is believed by some that these immigrants from the Asian continent (arriving via the Bering Land Bridge) were the cause, or at least a major factor, in the demise of the many large species of mammal living in North America. The animals were unaccustomed to humans, unwary of them, and so these tool-wielding men killed off the animals remarkably fast, devastating the ecosystems and wreaking havoc on species' survival. They certainly hunted some of these mammals, as is evidenced by kill sites where their famous Clovis points have been found lodged in the ribs of these great beasts. Evidence has not been found to suggest that they hunted short-faced bears or saber-toothed cats, which did go extinct, so something else must have caused them to die off. But what would have happened to these Clovis people if a comet struck? I recall reading that the Clovis culture disappeared from the record, leaving no trace after that point in North America. Some attribute that to the fact that their food source was too scarce, so they migrated south and continued their reckless killing spree on the megafauna of South America (which did appear to have happened). But couldn't they also have been killed off from the same comet-caused conditions that killed of their meat source? It seems that it would fit in with the theory. Some cultures following the Clovis appear to decline rather suddenly, like the Redstone people. They may have been the ones affected by the comet, if such a comet existed. After this period, many other Paleoindian cultures emerged, eventually developing into the Native Americans of more modern times.What about the other animals living in North America who survived? Grizzly bears, moose, bison...they weren't severely affected. In the case of the overkill theory, their survival can be attributed to them being immigrants themselves and thus wary of humans or that they weren't so large as to be easily hunted. But a comet would have damaged their species regardless of these factors.

Comet theory scientists also wonder if the comet conditions caused a resultant ice age that took place during this time. Climate has been considered a possible factor in the species' extinction, but perhaps the comet is what caused this climate change. It would help explain why these animals were affected by this particular time of climate change when in previous climate change instances they were not.

At this point, many people are skeptical of the comet theory. It definitely is intriguing, but further evidence will be necessary to really bring it to the level of validity that overkill and climate change have as potential causes of the megafaunal extinctions. I'm really glad I happened to find the program last night On Demand. NOVA has some great episodes. I will definitely be searching the NOVA website for more information on interesting topics.
Giant ground sloth.

Some related articles:
- The end of an (ice) age (Oregon Daily Emerald)
- Comet theory collides with Clovis research, may explain disappearance of ancient people (University of Southern Carolina News)
- Comet theory proof found? (Canada.com)
- New Clovis-Age Comet Impact Theory (Space Daily.com)
- New Theory: Did a Prehistoric Comet 'Kill' North America? (Santa Barbara Newsroom)
- Diamonds May Offer Proof That a Comet Struck North America (Abazias.com)
- The Clovis Comet That Wasn’t? Mystery Deepens (Anthropology.net)
- The "black mat" theory (Newspaper Rock)
- End of the Big Beasts (NOVA)

Dire wolf and peccary.

Green Gal


"Every creature is better alive than dead, men and moose and pine trees, and he who understands it aright will rather preserve its life than destroy it."
-- Henry David Thoreau

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Energy Sources

My Human Geography class this year has been a very useful source (no pun intended!) of education regarding environmental issues. It has, of course, taught me a lot about the world in general, such as different aspects of culture, religion, ethnicity, political geography, political conflict and many other things. But in regards to the environment, I've learned about agricultural practices and have become aware of terms like environmental determinism (how the environment can influence culture and human activities) and possibilism (the concept that the environment does create a limit on human actions, but that humans can overcome some limitations and change the physical environment to fit their needs). With the study of agriculture came a look at the issues of agribusiness, genetically-modified crops, feedlots, grain-fed cattle, etc. Right now, we're learning about industry, development and energy resources.

Last week, we watched Morgan Spurlock's 30 Days episode on coal mining. Spurlock is the man who made Supersize Me and has a television show in which people spend thirty days doing something they've never done before. A Retired NFL Cornerback spent thirty days in a wheelchair, keeping his legs immobile to simulate paralysis. An avid hunter spent thirty days participating in PETA activities and spending time with animal rights groups. I've never seen the show aside from the episode we watched in class, but it was very interesting and eye-opening. Spurlock spent thirty days living with the Lusk family in West Virginia, Spurlock's home state.

Spurlock spent most of the thirty days working in a coal mine with Dale Lusk, learning how to plaster the walls, hold up the ceiling with wooden beams, shovel coal and deal with nasty coal ash all over his face after each day he was in the mine. The episode brought you right into the coal mine. When a fan shut off, the crew in the mine had to evacuate fast to avoid a possible explosion from the gases that can ignite from any sort of spark in the air when there is no circulation. On another day, Spurlock wore a respirator. Few miners wear them and he wanted to find out first-hand why not. It can prevent lung diseases like black lung, which are common issues that coal miners deal with after decades spent mining. Unfortuantely, it was practically impossible for him to breathe with the mask on, and heavy lifting and movement with the mask made it difficult to function. Spurlock took it off before the day was done. The filter on the mask was covered in black soot. All of that soot goes into the miners' lungs every hour of every day they spend mining. Most miners spend upwards of thirty years mining coal. There's always a risk of explosion or collapse, and the risk of lung disease is prevalent.

Something that surprised me was the coal miner's view of their job. They enjoyed mining, but were aware of and cared about the environmental destruction their job causes. It's one of the only good-paying jobs in their region and for most, their fathers were coal miners so they became coal miners, too. It's their home they're mining in, and they do care about their environment. Of course they wish there was something else they could be doing that wouldn't be damaging their land, but for now it's the only financially-beneficial job in the area.The show also talked about mountaintop removal mining. An anti-mining activist who had once been a miner himself spoke with Spurlock and showed him a mountain that had had its top removed by blasts and excavation of coal. It was devastating.

I had never really thought about what the miners themselves thought whenever I thought about the problems with coal. I just looked at coal mining as a bad news business and never thought more about it. The people working in the mines work there because their local economy centers on the coal industry; it's where the good-paying jobs are. They want there to be an alternative, but there isn't a cheap, efficient alternative out there, and there isn't another good-paying job for them to turn to, especially for those who've been mining their entire lives. It isn't the miners who are the problem. The problem is that we don't have an equally-cheap solution.

Spurlock interviewed one of the executives of the local coal company for some perspective, and he also talked about how there isn't an alternative. They're just supplying a demand for cheap electricity that the American people have obviously asked for with all this electricity we use up. Coal accounts for 50% of our nation's electricty usage and we have a lot of it. The abundant coal reserves aren't just going to be left alone. There's profit there and there will always be someone willing to mine it.

We need to utilize alternative energy sources, but they won't compare with the efficiency of coal if they aren't cheaper. If we were to stop mining coal, there'd be many people without jobs. Somehow we need to create jobs for them, perhaps in the alternative energy field. In the meantime, to protect the miners, the government should create stricter safety laws so miners aren't at such a risk from explosions, collapses and lung disease. The industry needs to take better care of its miners, too, and listen to their needs. Mountaintop removal especially needs to be stopped with government support. It's so irrevocably devastating for everyone in the surrounding area and is such visible destruction. It creates coal sludge (as does all mining) that can't go into the rivers because it is damaging to ecosystems and can end up in people's drinking water. We really need to stop relying so much on coal.

Today we talked about nuclear power. I didn't think I was for it before the discussion, but I'm most definitely against it now that I've learned more. Yucca Mountain? I'm glad I live on this side of Nevada--that's for sure!


On a related note...

In October, my Advanced Drama Class performed its annual AIDS Benefit. The show is free to the public, and all donations are given to UCSF AIDS Health Project.

The show features student-directed, student-performed vignettes that are basically movement pieces to different songs, each with a theme. Some do pertain to AIDS, but most relate to other current issues, like war, relationships, the environment, and, of course, there's always some comedy to liven the mood.

This year, I directed a piece relating to mountaintop removal coal mining, and was also in a piece relating to the environment. Of course I managed to participate in the two "green" pieces of the show; it's just what I do!

My piece focused on a young activist trying to stop a company from building a coal-mining plant on her favorite nearby mountaintop. The actor who played the activist was my close friend Jen. The antagonist, playing the company's president or spokesperson, was played by my other good friend Courtney. The piece was set to Eddie Vedder's "Rise" from the Into the Wild soundtrack. (That soundtrack is basically all I listen to on my iPod, along with the movie's score.)

Here are some photos from the performance:

Unfortunately, in the end of my piece the coal company won. A sign went up at the site of the future coal plant just as Jen was enjoying the serene vista from her special mountain. In the middle of the piece, I included a powerpoint with information about coal mining and encouraged the audience to visit EarthJustice.org to take action against mountaintop removal mining.

Green Gal


"In America today you can murder land for private profit. You can leave the corpse for all to see, and nobody calls the cops."
-- Paul Brooks,
The Pursuit of Wilderness, 1971

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Day, computers vs. paper & why I don't like the Internet

Happy Valentine's Day! May you enjoy a simple, resourceful and non-wasteful day of celebrating love and apprectiation for others. Pesticide-free flowers, organic free trade chocolate, soy candles and organic dinner? I would hope! We're going to my grandparent's house this evening to celebrate with them and my aunt and uncle. Not sure that every one of those ingredients will be involved in our Valentine's Day celebrations tonight, but at least my sister and I made recycled Valentine's Day cards with old magazines, tattered books and scratch paper :-)

On an entirely different note, I've been thinking lately about the greenwashing that's made its way into our minds to think that using the computer is a green alternative to using paper. In some ways, it can be. For large corporations and companies who use up so much paper in documents and reports, using the computer for emails and virtual files rather than printing everything is "greener" than using and later recycling thousands of pounds of paper. But there's a trade off: energy is used whenever a computer is in use. Does the preservation of trees and the energy saved that would have been required to recycle the paper offset the negative effects of using electricity sources like coal, natural gas and oil? I don't really know.

What about school assignments where teachers have us email them the assignment and there's no paper involved? Does that really save any energy? Does it cost more energy to do it that way? Everything we do on a computer requires energy. Every Google search. Every time we click on a new link. Every word we type is taking up energy. And a lot of time it's coal energy or some other form of energy that is not sustainable that's been used to power our Facebook chatter and blog posting.

A computer, when awake, uses about 120 watts of energy per hour. A computer monitor uses around 60 per hour. A laptop uses 15-45 watts per hour. These numbers are obviously going to depend on your specific computer model. (More information.) How much carbon dioxide or other emissions are released per wattage of energy used? I couldn't find that statistic online, so if anyone knows, please let me know.

I can't say for certain which is greener: sending your paper by email or printing it out. I'm not great with numbers, so I will just say what seems to me would be the better option...

Computers are made of non-biodegradable materials. There are always new models to buy, so you recycle your old one and upgrade. Recycling those materials takes energy. It takes energy to create a computer, far more energy than to make paper. Computers are highly complex devices, requiring so many different resources. There are so many ways a computer can have an error. You cannot build a computer from natural resources without turning them into other physical capital. You or I could not go into the woods, collect some resources and create a computer from scratch. We depend on industry for our computers.

Paper has been around for a long, long time. It comes from trees, a natural resource, and it's biodegradable. You can conserve the amount of paper you use by being smart about how you use it (especially for school). There are no upgrades in paper. It's always just paper. Paper is a pretty simple concept. Yes, quality paper production isn't something everyone can do, so there is a level of dependence on industry for our paper. You can make paper at home to some extent. And paper is so ubiquitous you could avoid purchasing new paper for a long time before you'd run out if you conserved it carefully and didn't print long articles and reports.

Isn't one major aspect of conservation to simplify our lives? For those of us who conserve because we have a respect for nature (this should always be the purpose, but for many their purpose is to appease others who care or to fit in with the times or some other disillusioned purpose), simplification is a way for us to get closer to the natural processes of things. Paper is a lot closer to the natural world than a computer. Here's an article that has some more information on the matter.

While I love blogging and think Facebook is a great resource for staying connected to old friends, I think the computer is often used in a way that damages us. We lose ourselves in the Internet, we are sucked in and become addicted to checking email or playing computer games or chatting with people we see everyday. I was saying yesterday that certain movies (but also other things like books and stories from my parents and grandparents) upset me because it reminds me of how lost we have become in this world of technology. We feel we have to connect at all times to the entire world via the computer or television or our iPod or iPhone. We have to buy that new shiny gadget. We have to buy, buy, buy. We depend on others for our clothes and we fragment our thoughts by searching endlessly on the Internet and reading a thousand articles in rapid succession. We have seven conversations at once on Facebook and we think that makes us good multitaskers. We listen to music while we read and think that means we're skilled at reading. We divide our attention and never really give any attention to anything. I'm generalizing our population, but for many this is true and they don't even realize they're doing it. I know I'm going off on a tangent, but I think about this often.

Many days I want to just delete my Facebook and stop using the computer. But I myself am so trapped within the web of social networking that I have responsibilites involving Facebook. For the four clubs I run, I'm in charge of publicizing. Nowadays, publicizing means Facebook and emailing. I can't stop reading other people's statuses and conversations on Facebook because I don't want to miss something socially important. I look at other people's pictures and comment on their links. The network that's been created by Facebook is incredible and has such an interesting societal aspect: connecting to others, bringing things together and learning and interacting. But it doesn't make me feel good about myself to spend an hour on Facebook.

At least with blogging, I'm expressing some thoughts that may not have been expressed otherwise. But at the same time, I wish I could be true to myself and write this down in a notebook, rather than post it here hoping someone will read it. On Facebook I feel like I'm seeking attention when I post a status or a picture or a note. Isn't that the same thing I'm doing here? But no, I post things here because I want to remind others or teach others. It's the one place where I can talk about something and others will actually respond. My school population isn't really environmentally-inclined. There isn't much discussion there about this stuff, except for every other Friday at Environmental Club. But even then, I feel like I say a lot and it's absorbed by the club, but that we aren't really changing anything for our school. So to try and reach out to something, I blog about my observations and experiences and often people do read what I have to say.

But then I look outside and see the sun and my life that isn't being fully explored and realize how disconnected I really am from the world when I'm here posting something. In all honesty, I hate the Internet. It's a great resource and I enjoy utilizing it, but at the same time I hate it for what it's done to my generation and to myself.

Sorry to end on a rather pessimistic note, but I have to go outside and read now.

Green Gal

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Soup, The Secret of Roan Inish and The Secret Garden

Last night, my best friend Alexys and I made soup with organic carrots, onion, Russian kale, celery, potatoes, garlic, vegetable broth and all purpose seasoning. It was delicious!

This morning, after returning from a walk to the bagel shop and reading "A Rose for Emily" by William Faulkner with my entire family, we watched The Secret of Roan Inish, one of my favorite movies of all time. I recently purchased it for $10 from our local Hollywood Video store that is going out of business. We had leftover soup during the movie, which was the perfect thing to be eating during the movie because of the homemade, countryside, old Irish lifestyle and feel of the movie.If you're never seen it, it's about a young Irish girl named Fiona who goes to live with her grandparents in the countryside three years after her entire family was forced to flee from their home of Roan Inish, or island of the seals. It's a tale of mysterious "Irish and Orcadian folklores of selkies" and the story centers around Fiona looking for her younger brother Jamie, who was lost the day they left Roan Inish. The setting is so beautiful and green and it's how I always picture Ireland in my mind, since I watched the movie for the first time when I was young. I definitely recommend watching it if you ever get the chance. It's a classic that never gets old, in my opinion. It makes me want to visit Ireland, and it makes me feel proud that I have Irish blood running through me. Another movie that I was reminded of while watching Roan Inish this morning is The Secret Garden (spoiler alert for that weblink's synopsis). That's another of my favorite movies--the kind I show to my close friends because it's so wonderful. Both movies have absolutely gorgeous videography and nature settings, and both have young girls as the main protagonist. The girls are similar in that their parents aren't in the picture (Mary's are dead; Fiona's mother is dead and her father lives in a city far from the countryside) and they're living with people other than their parents in a new place (although in Roan Inish, Fiona was raised on the island, so there is a sense of home for her there). Mary in The Secret Garden has a clear objective regarding the secret garden. Fiona has a clear objective in finding her brother and learning more about the ancient legends and stories of her people.

In each movie, there's a young boy close in age to the girls who helps them in reaching their objective. Dicken teaches Mary about the garden; Eamon helps Fiona throughout the story, keeping secrets for her and assisting her in various ways. There are mysterious dark-haired men who aren't in many scenes, but whose role is vital to the story (actually, both characters are played by the same actor, John Lynch)--Lord Craven in The Secret Garden and Tadhg in Roan Inish. Both movies have the word "secret" in their title. Both are based on novels. Roan Inish is based on The Secret of Ron Mor Skerry by Rosalie K. Fry, and The Secret Garden is based on a novel of the same title by Frances Hodgson Burnett. There are other similarities, but to say more might give away too much about the movies.Both are incredibly well-done movies that I love watching. They have a certain tone of times-past...one that makes me resentful toward this computer screen I'm watching and even the television on which I watch the movies. Eating homemade soup made a connection for me to those settings and to the earthiness of Ireland, the primordial, ancient lure that the green, green hillsides and crumbling walls have, especially, I suppose, on people with some Irish in them.
Alexys and I watching The Secret of Roan Inish this morning

Now I must relax on the couch with my tattered War and Peace (which I am more than half-way through after a year--hurrah!). After all, it is a three-day weekend and it's only 2:45 PM on Saturday.

Green Gal


"Every man and woman is born into the world to do something unique and something distinctive and if he or she does not do it, it will never be done."
-- Benjamin E. Mays

Friday, February 12, 2010

Your town's news at Patch.com

A few days ago, I was contacted by Marnette Federis, Editor of Pleasanton.Patch.com (which doesn't yet exist on the web). She's asked me (and my columist-writing, English-teaching, Credit Union-CEOing dad) to consider writing for a soon-to-be website all about Pleasanton, the town in which we live. She came across our blogs in her search for anyone in Pleasanton who can write. The website will be a compilation of articles, pictures, videos, announcements, etc. written by local writers (young people, real professional journalists, any kind of writers) all about Pleasanton. The subject of the writing is sort of up to the writers themselves, although there will be articles about sports, business, and local news just as there is in a traditional local paper, and the contributors will be paid per piece they submit.

Different from a newspaper, however, which is written by a set of journalists who are generally experienced in writing and most often not still in high school, Patch.com is an opportunity for any well-writing member of a community to have a place to publish their writing--and it's all online, which opens it up to things like video and increased interaction between writer and audience. There is, of course, selectivity in order to maintain a good standard of writing, but I've only ever had one article published and have never gone to school to study journalism--or even taken a journalism class, for that matter--and I've been asked to contribute. My blog is a place where Marnette can see how I write and what I like to write about (take note, writers--having a blog is an excellent way to make opportunities for yourself in the writing or journalism world). Like I said, contributors to this site are able to make their column or posts what they want it to be. Since I'm a teenager and I'm pretty involved in my community, I could see any potential posts I write being about activities that young people are participating in here in Pleasanton. Environmental awareness will probably find its way in there, too :-)

I'm very excited to learn more about the site as it is being developed and to have the opportunity to contribute to a website about the place that I've lived my entire life. PleasantonPatch will certainly not the be first of its kind on the web. Patch.com already has several websites for places in New Jersey, Connecticut and New York. Pleasanton's will be launched in April, but the nearby town of Danville's will be launched in a couple weeks. Other places in the area have websites in the works.

Marnette and me in Starbucks this afternoon after meeting and discussing the website. Of course my dad had to take a picture--he's a journalist!

The word "patch" reminds me of a pumpkin patch or some little patch of a community garden. Just that word to me sounds local and familiar, and the website will be designed specifically for our community. Even though there are multiple Patch websites out there, ours will be distinctly our town's. This one will be just for Pleasanton, just for our little patch of land in the world.

Green Gal


"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thursday, February 11, 2010

End of the week roundup: Interesting articles

I always come across interesting articles that I want to share on my blog, but it always feels insubstantial to post just one link unless the topic is something that I have time to elaborate on for an entire post. So as a solution, I’ll post links to some of the most interesting posts/articles I’ve come across this week, along with some short quotes from the post.

Ancient Greenland gene map has a surprise by Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor on February 10

“The DNA gives strong hints about the man, nicknamed Inuk. "Brown eyes, brown skin, he had shovel-form front teeth," Eske Willerslev, who oversaw the study, told a telephone briefing. Such teeth are characteristic of East Asian and Native American populations.”

Herbs 101 by Progressive Pioneer on February 10

"I really do feel so empowered when I learn about simple things I can do to keep us healthy. I feel like there can often be a lot of fear in our culture about
taking your health into your own hands, but who else knows your body better than you? Or understands the subtleties of your children's health better than their own mama?”

Plastic in my food :( by Throwback at Trapper Creek on February 8

“What I didn't can, I froze in plastic freezer bags and containers. I had no idea that plastic wasn't ideal for food storage. It is handy, convenient and fairly inexpensive, if you don't count the replacement cost and throw away aspect of it.”

How to draw a Hippo by PawPrint (my younger sister) at Everything Hippo on February 6

"Break out the paper and the pencil, I'm gonna show you how to draw a hippo!"

Treehouse Talk: Pecha Kucha. by HUNTER-GATHERING: Wild & fresh food on February 6

"It was certainly a challenge to try to deliver a concise talk in 6 minutes 40 seconds, much harder than doing pulling off the 40 minute long talks I am used to. Twas a fantastic evening filled with yarns from many an adventurer: A man who took a flew a car to Mali, the youngest Briton to climb everest, Polar explorers, jungle trippers and even a pair who walked around the M25."

Well, there you have it. Five awesome posts from the past week.

Green Gal


"Only when the last tree has died and the last river been poisoned and the last fish been caught will we realise we cannot eat money."
-- Cree Indian Proverb

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

© Copyright 2010 Green Gal

Holiday green tip: Create recycled Valentine's Day cards

This Valentine's Day, show your love for the Earth while showing your love for friends and family: create a Valentine's Day card of recycled or reused materials or make your own to avoid purchasing a wasteful card from the store.

Whenever we purchase something that can otherwise be hand-made, we tell corporations that we support what they're doing and we increase demand for those products, when we otherwise could be decreasing our reliance on the corporate world. It increases the amount of trees cut down to make cards, the amount of plastic used to laminate those cards, quantities of ink used, transportation and fuel usage, and many other things that can be damaging to the environment in such a large-scale operation. Don't you wonder how many cards go unused and unpurchased every year? There are so many cards being produced for Hallmark, Walgreens, Walmart, Target--there's no way they're all used. Most of them are not recyclable.

Nice Hallmark cards can show someone that you care enough to spend money for a card and can seem like a better gesture than making a card yourself. It's become part of our culture to associate spending with appreciation or how much you care, and that's often not the case considering it's much easier to buy a card and sign it than you for you to come up with an idea, create a card, and write your own thoughts.

Sometimes, of course, it may not be appropriate to make a card, especially when it's for a professional or business reason. However, Valentine's Day is a time to show others how much you appreciate, care for, and love them. Creating a card is a great way to show that you care enough to take the time to make something special for them.

Even if you don't use recycled materials, you are at least reducing the demand (however slightly) for more unnecessary cards to be produced. You may be reducing the amount of gasoline burned to get the finished product to your Valentine (if you reuse, especially if it's something like a local paper you're reusing). Plus, decorating a card is a lot more fun than simply signing your name!

Some materials you could use to make your card:

- Newspaper/magazine: Find an article or picture in your used paper or magazine that relates to something your Valentine is interested in and use it as a decorative aspect of your card. Or, create a collage of pictures and words--you could even write your message this way. You would have otherwise just recycled the paper or magazine, so you might as well give it a second life as a Valentine!

- Used tissue paper, wrapping paper, and other gift wrap items, like bows: They've already been used for one purpose, so now use them again--plus, they're colorful!

- Torn, worn, or otherwise unreadable old books: This makes for a unique, interesting, readable Valentine card. If you have a book that's literally falling apart at the bindings, take it apart and find some interesting passages in the book to use as a background for your card. Supplement with construction paper for structure and color.

- Draw a picture: Even if your artistic skills are negligible, drawing a picture is a great way to show someone how much you care and appreciate them.
This website has some more great ideas for recycled Valentine's Day cards, along with design ideas.


This was originally posted by Green Gal at AVHS Environmental Club blog on January 29. Here's a follow-up post with some more ideas. Our club will be making recycled Valentine's Day cards at our next meeting.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

What I've learned so far: Reading labels

This month, I've been trying to keep track of the foods I eat, where it comes from, whether its organic and what the ingredients are.

The first few days I was successful and logged everything, but I became less diligent and got behind. For most packaged products I've at least read the entire label and made a mental note of what comes from where.

Some things I've learned so far:

The olive oil that my family typically uses comes from Trader Joes and it's organic, but it's made in Spain. So this Saturday, I suggested to my mom that we buy some olive oil at the Farmers' Market. So we did! Now our olive oil is from Modesto, not Spain.

The Trio fruit, seed and nut bars that my mom loves are produced in China! The "Product of China" bit is difficult to see on the wrapper, and there's a mention of California, as that is where the company is based. It's definitely not where the bar is produced however, and there is no mention of China on their website. Quite misleading. Upset by this, my mom searched online and found a plethora of complaints about the bar's origins. The sesame seeds and rice malt they use in the bars comes from China, their cashews are from Vietnam, and the rest is from the U.S. My mom read this article about it in which they interviewed the president and what my mom remembers most is him saying that his goal is to become a competitor of Frito-Lays. I don't want to be eating food that is made by a company whose main purpose is competition, when there should be a certain level of regard for what's best for the people eating the food. I want my food to be beneficial, not some avenue by which a company can become a major competitor in the food industry. We will not be buying the company's products anymore. I'm sure the food is relatively safe and whatnot, but I don't like the idea of it, especially the amount of shipping it takes to get that bar into my hands.

My favorite Beckmann's Old World Bakery bread comes from Santa Cruz, only about 56 miles from where I live. It's so delicious--and wholesome!

The Earth Balance and Smart Balance Organic buttery spreads I use in place of butter (since I'm vegan & allergic to dairy!) both come from New Jersey. There's really not a great way to get around this long distance, considering few companies make quality "fake butter." My mom said she used to just use olive oil. I think I would definitely miss butter on my toast in the mornings, although I do enjoy potatoes by themselves and wouldn't miss butter on them. I will try olive oil and see how it works!

Trader Joes has a habit of putting "Monrovia, California" and letting me try to guess where the ingredients themselves came from.

Hohos aren't as good as I thought they were. I hardly EVER eat junk food (not to mention totally un-vegan food!) like that, but it was an 11:30 PM decision to buy them while at Safeway. My dad and I each had one. Not as satisfying as I had remembered...

I became reaquainted with my love for grape juice. It is delicious.

I am so fortunate to live in California, where most of the vegetables and fruits at the store are from California.

I created a new blog for you plant-lovers: Rooted.

Green Gal


I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in.
-- George Washington Carver

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Saturday morning food & dirt

For the third Saturday in a row, I visited our downtown Farmers' Market. My mom accompanied me today, and we bought a bunch of delicious food, including organic carrots, an organic onion, organic Russian kale, olive oil from Modesto, Beckmann's Old World Bakery french bread loaf from Santa Cruz, amazingly seasoned potatoes and chicken from RoliRoti, brussel sprouts from San Juan Bautista, organic strawberries and organic blackberries from Watsonville.Then my mom dropped me off at the local elementary school, where my Environmental Club is helping to create some gardens. I leveled out some new topsoil and then walked home.

So far it's been a lovely day! I have some homework to do today and some soup to make!

Green Gal


What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.
-- Jane Goodall

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: My Room

I was just looking through blogs and came across The Crunchy Wife via NatureWithMe and saw that The Crunchy Wife had posted a Wordless Wednesday post. I have seen these on many blogs and never really thought about posting my own until today.

Here are some photos I took in my room on January 24. I think my room well-reflects who I am and what my interests are... Take a look!

Green Gal

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