When the leader of the Weill Cornell Medical College asked for someone to organize a group of volunteers to help the New York City Green Festival stay green, Mackenzie Fagan raised her hand. She pulled together 20 members of her campus green group to spend the day at the Green Festival, sorting waste into compostables, recyclables, and landfill waste.
First, her group worked behind the scenes, at the Javits Center loading docks, sorting waste from the event floor, correcting errors, and preparing items to be shipped away. Second, the group moved to the event floor, helping attendees to self-sort their own trash into the appropriate bins. With all food-court utensils made from compostable materials, and all exhibitors devoted to reducing their own waste footprint, Mackenzie says she sees very little going into the “landfill” bin.
She says she’ll take what she learns at Green Festival back to campus, where green initiatives already include a robust recycling program.
Three years ago, on April 20, 2010, Lennox Yearwood lost a dear friend and mentor, the civil rights leader and icon Dr. Dorothy Irene Height. At his speech this afternoon at our New York City Green Festival, Rev. Yearwood invoked his mentor’s legacy, and reminded us all that climate change is “not just a green issue, it’s a civil rights and human rights issue.” And in so reminding us, Yearwood pointed out that today is the anniversary not just of Dr. Height’s passing, but also of the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill off the coast of Yearwood’s native Louisiana.
“Eleven men lost their lives in that explosion, and 4.9 million barrels of oil spilled into our Gulf of Mexico,” said Yearwood. “Our struggle against dirty energy is not just about equality, it’s actually about existence. We’re working for a clean energy future so our children can live.”
Along with deepwater drilling, Yearwood took aim at mountaintop removal coal mining, fracking, and tar-sands pipelines — all energy projects that combine both climate-change threats and clean-air and -water threats to local communites, often lower-income communities or communities of color. Yearwood reserved his strongest exhortations for immediate opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, the public comment period for which will end this coming week.
“Our top scientists tell us Keystone XL is ‘game over’ for the climate,” said Yearwood, referring to NASA scientist James Hansen, an outspoken advocate of climate action and opponent of Keystone XL, who recently left his job at NASA to devote himself to activism full-time. Yearwood compared Hansen’s climate expertise and diagnosis of “no KXL” to a doctor telling insisting to a patient to give up salt or die. “He’s not just telling you that, he’s going to the salt factory and trying to shut it down, he’s chaining himself to the salt trucks to keep them from getting to you. That’s how serious this is!”
In response to the seriousness of the threat, Yearwood exhorted his audience to take action now. He specifically called out two action steps you can take today, and we’re pleased to repeate them here — and point you to Green America resources that can help.
1) Comment on KXL before it’s too late. — Find an action on Green America’s Web site to beat the Tuesday, April 22 deadline.
2) Join the climate divestment movement. — Find resources to take action from the Green American.
It was a pleasure to meet Carolina Lara this morning at the New York City Green Festival.
Carolina is the founder of Amano Artisans, an eco-friendly jewelry company that maintains direct-trade ties with local artisans and jewelry-crafters in Carolina’s native Colombia. With a background in both architecture and fashion, Carolina brought her passion for design to her new fairly traded jewelry enterprise, when shed founded Amano Artisans in 2007 during one of her regular trips to Colombia. Previous trips showed her how often friends in the US would admire the jewelry she would bring back with her, so the idea for her business was born.
All of Amano Artisans’ products are hand-crafted in Colombia, some by individual artisans, others by cooperatives. One cooperative producing bracelets provides work for women whose husbands have been incarcerated, killed in war, or who have otherwise become single mothers. Another Colombian jewelry designer hires artisans whose communities have been displaced by war. And all of Amano Artisans’ jewelry is made from renewable materials, such as tagua (seeds from palm trees), reclaimed wood, dried orange peels, and acai seeds.
“Our goal is to create a powerful and thriving community of artisans where all the traditions and talents of Colombia are kept alive,” says Carolina.
Are artificial sweeteners bad for you? In the video below, I zoom in on four artificial sweeteners — saccharine, stevia, sugar alcohols and sucralose. I’ll tell you what the research says about their comparative health effects.
We’ll have more information on 11 different alternative and artificial sweeteners in the next issue of the Green American. Meanwhile, keep up with new green living tips by signing up for our free email newsletter at greenamerica.org.
Is Juice Bad for You? — We take a look at the health effects of juice. Is it a superfood or the equivalent of a soda?
Table Sugar vs. High Fructose Corn Syrup — Is HFCS really that much worse for you?
We’ve all been delving deeply into sugar issues recently, working to prepare “Sickeningly Sweet,” the latest issue of our Green American magazine, all about the American sugar habit, and its effects on our bodies and our health.
For my part, I confess to being a little stunned at the amount of sugar Americans consume per capita, partially because I don’t tend to consume that much sugar myself. I don’t keep any sugar-boosted foods in my house — no soda pop, no sugary breakfast cereals, no sweet treats like boxed cookies or or ice cream, and no processed snacks with hidden sugars. I don’t even put sugar in my coffee, and if a recipe calls for a bit of sweetness, I’m likely to either leave the sugar out, or replace with a few drops of organic honey, maple syrup, or molasses.
Have you read Pulitzer-prizewinning journalist Michael Moss’s new book Salt, Sugar, and Fat? If not, I encourage you to consider it. Not to be all dramatic, but what I learned between the covers of this book changed my diet for good.
I’ve always tried to follow author Michael Pollan’s advice to “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” But I do tend to reach for sugary snacks when I’m under stress. As I mentioned in the inaugural blog post of the Green America editors’ series on sugar, what I learned from our research for the Green American magazine into the health impacts of fructose—the sweet ingredient in both table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup—scared me enough to cause me to limit my table sugar to the American Heart Association’s (AHA) recommended levels of six teaspoons (30 g) of added sugars per day for women. (Men get nine teaspoons, or 45 g.)
Moss let me know that what I was doing wasn’t enough. Let me explain….
Back in the 1970s, people started becoming concerned about the fat content in their food. So what did the processed food manufacturers do? They lowered the fat content and labeled their products “low fat” and “lite”—but they also quietly upped the salt and sugar levels to make up for it. And we fell for it.
They still do this today, writes Moss, and we’re still falling for it.
Moss went inside the processed food industry and uncovered how companies carefully manipulate the three unhealthy core ingredients in his book title to entice consumers into craving more, eating more, and buying more. “Any improvement to the nutritional profile of a product can in no way diminish its allure,” writes Moss, “and this has led to one of the industry’s most devious moves: lowering one bad-boy ingredient like fat while quietly adding more [of another, like] sugar to keep people hooked.”
In fact, he writes, “To make a new soda guaranteed to create a craving requires calculating what industry insiders call the ‘bliss point,’ or the precise amount of sugar or fat or salt that will send customers over the moon.”
No, it’s not their fault that we’re overeating—we have brains and willpower after all. But they slap labels on their “foods” like “Low Fat!” or “Lite!” or “Low-Sodium!” to make us believe they’ve given us a healthier version of their foods, but they haven’t. Once you start looking at the labels of your seemingly healthy snacks, you’ll most often find that if that granola bar is low in salt and fat, the sugar content is through the roof. If those pretzels are low in sugar and fat, their salt content goes a long way toward the 1500 mg (a bit under three-fourths of a teaspoon) you should have per day, if you’re following AHA guidelines.
I’m a busy working mom who tries to eat healthy and serve good food to my family when it’s my turn to cook. But it was then that I realized that limiting our fructose (table sugar or HFCS) isn’t enough. So I revamped my entire diet as a first step to revamping my entire family’s diet.
On the advice of a holistic nutritionist friend, I embarked on a three-day “cleanse” where I’d eat mostly vegetables and raw seeds for three days. The food was mind-numbingly boring, to be truthful, but I took it as a meditation on gratitude and focused on how lucky I was to have access to three square meals of healthy fare a day.
When the three days were over, I spent several weeks adding in tastier but still good food each day, all with an eye toward emphasizing vegetables and keeping my sugar, salt, and fat intake below AHA guidelines.
To my everlasting shock, I found that those three days of blah-but-good-for-me food had “reset” my palate.
The organic vinegar and olive oil salad dressing I’d previously found dull suddenly zinged with flavor. The brown rice I’d tolerated in the past took on a rich, nutty taste it never had before. I could tell that roasting vegetables brought out more of their natural sugars than steaming—a distinction I don’t think I could have made in the past. And when one of my daughters gave me a gummy bear out of her (respectably small) stash of Easter candy, I was surprised to find that one of my favorite sugary treats had turned unpleasantly sour.
Americans have grown so used to tasting salt- and sugar-overload, that that’s all we’re tuned for, and we’re truly missing a rainbow of flavors.
I thought I ate healthy before this challenge, but now I’m eating super-healthy. And those sugary snacks I used to reach for when stressed? Mostly gone and hardly missed. Not that I won’t indulge once in a while (my mom’s cinnamon pull-apart bread cannot be denied), but I feel like it can truly be once in a while—not in the middle of every work day when I’m on a deadline.
In a nutshell, here’s what I did (This is not intended to be a comprehensive diet plan, so please consult your doctor or a nutritionist—or at least a good nutrition book from a reputable source—before radically shifting your own diet.):
- For three days, I went cold turkey off of added sugars and salt, sticking to a diet of mostly vegetables and high-protein seeds like chia and raw sunflower or pumpkin.
- I ate a high-protein breakfast (flax-seed granola with raisins and dried cranberries and rice milk), per the recommendation of Dr. Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist at the University of California-San Francisco who’s made a name for himself decrying the evils of fructose. Dr. Lustig says that the surest way to reduce ghrelin, the hormone that stimulates hunger, is to eat a breakfast that includes a lot of protein and little or no carbohydrates or sweets like cinnamon rolls.
- I limited myself to one snack and three meals a day.
- I limited healthy carbs, like brown rice or quinoa, to one serving a day.
- I drank at least eight 8-oz. glasses of water.
After the three days, I started adding in a few more carbs, fruits, and other healthy foods, with an eye to keeping my added sugar and sodium intake below AHA recommendations and still eating mostly vegetables. I also added in two small indulgences: an ounce of Fair Trade chocolate for dessert after dinner, and a glass of red wine before bedtime.
And you know what? Even when I was stressed, that ounce of chocolate is truly enough. Which is weird if you know how much I love chocolate, but there it is. I feel better, and I firmly believe this time, I’ve changed my relationship with sugar for good. Sure, I’ll indulge every once in a while, but it will truly be once in a while.
In a future blog, I’ll share some of our Green America staff’s best tips for detoxing from sugar, and we’ll have holistic nutritionist Tricia McCauley will be here to offer professional advice.
Meanwhile, here’s a link to a lovely sugar-lite treat from one of my favorite new healthy recipe bloggers, the Detoxinista, for Chocolate Peanut Butter Milkshakes—I used local, organic honey instead of maple syrup, because that’s what I had on hand. Do you have any favorite healthy and sugar-lite or -free treats or even recipes to share?
Green America is an endorser of the Good Jobs Green Jobs Conference:
We know that climate change is a reality. Hurricane Sandy and last year’s drought showed us what the impacts of climate change can do to our communities, to our economy and to our environment. Deficiencies in our water, energy and transportation systems, increasing food prices and water shortages showed that America is not ready to deal with the impacts of climate change.
We need to be ready. But, how do we get there?
The 2013 Good Jobs, Green Jobs Conference is the nation’s largest conversation about how to build a cleaner, more efficient American economy while also creating good jobs. This year’s Conference, Let’s Get to Work: Climate Change, Infrastructure and Innovation, is April 16-18 in Washington, D.C.
This innovative and unique event will bring together people from all walks of life – union members, environmentalists, business owners, community members and elected officials – to talk about how we can work together to prepare for and prevent the worst impacts of climate change.
You can register now here. Registration is only $225 for two full days of events and activities – from exciting keynote speakers, to dynamic plenary sessions, to thought-provoking workshops.
We can put people back to work building a cleaner, more efficient American economy … now. Modernizing our severally outdated electrical grid and water infrastructure; fixing our broken transportation system; and creating the innovative technologies; ideas and partnership that will allow corporate America to increase its sustainability while also growing profits – these are the things we can do now,
Let’s get to work on climate change, infrastructure and innovation. Be part of this conversation at the Good Jobs, Green Jobs 2013 National Conference to build the clean economy we need to address climate change. Register now.
P.S. You can book a hotel room at the site of the Conference – the Washington Hilton Hotel – at a special rate. Book your hotel room today!
What I learned from forty days and forty nights of sweet, sugar-free living.
The next issue of the Green American is on sugar — the health effects of sugar, genetically modified sugar, and fair trade sugar. Tracy, our Editor-in-Chief, asked me to do some foundational research on the health effects. What I found surprised me. It was actually much scarier than I had expected.
While buried in this horrifying research, I overheard two co-workers say they were giving up sweets for Lent. Freshly traumatized by studies linking sugar to metabolic syndrome, heart disease, and brain damage, I hopped on board.
Here’s what I’d learned about sugar’s effects on health: the research is pretty solid about sugar contributing to diabetes and metabolic syndrome. We all know it makes us fat and low energy — but there’s a growing body of evidence suggesting it’s a big villain in heart disease, may cause skin aging, and likely causes brain damage. Yes, brain damage.
I’ve been guilty of telling myself, “I work out, so I can eat whatever I want.” Turns out, that’s wrong. Turns out, that’s like saying, “I work out, so I can hit myself on the head with a hammer”– the health effects of sugar go way beyond weight gain and are often not reversible with exercise.
I’d given up chocolate for the period of Lent as a 6th grader and found that it not only cleared up my adolescent acne, but that the forty-day fast kicked my chocolate addiction. When it was over, I no longer felt a strong inclination to eat the stuff.
Could this sugar fast similarly free me from my sugar cravings? And what about the short-term health benefits? Online testimonials promised increased energy and feelings of wellness right away. I was pumped.
So Begins the Sugar Fast!
To prepare for my sugar fast, I made a set of rules:
Then I told everyone around me that I was giving up sugar for 40 days. This was actually a strategic decision. I figured my horrified revulsion of sugar would wane around day #20. Once the serious temptations started kicking in, I needed to know there were people who would judge me if I broke down.
So, How Did It Go?
I’m not going to lie. I did feel more healthy, but saying no to sugar for forty days was hard. Tracy found that after five days, her cravings were gone, and if you go on a sugar fast of any length, I hope you respond just like she did.
In my case, it was not easy. It was not easy for all forty days. I’m not going to belabor you with the the gory details of cookiecake dreams, resisting the delicious treats that coworkers brought in, or the amount of complaining my loved ones had to put up with.
Instead, I’m going to pass on some tricks I learned! The sugar fast was hard, but these five tricks are what got me through it:
Five Tips for Kicking Your Sugar Addiction!
1. Watch those labels and cook at home: There are some incredibly delicious, organic soups out there. To my great shock, a good number of them have added sugar in their ingredient list! A treacherous stroke from an unanticipated adversary!
I don’t know about you, but if I allow a limited amount of added sugar in my diet, it had better be in the form of gourmet chocolate or cheesecake — not soup. Get in the habit of reading ingredient labels and try to cook at home, where you can control how much sugar is in your food.
2. Create good habits — keep fruit on hand, and battle stress with exercising, not eating. Do you have a regular shopping route through the grocery store? Do what you can to modify your route so that you don’t even have to look at the sweets.
3. Get rid of the temptations — they will only bring you pain. There’s some great psych research suggesting that willpower is like a muscle — the more temptations we encounter, the harder it is to resist them.
Good habits and avoidance don’t require the same kind of effort that straight willpower does. Get rid of sugary things in your house. If it’s not within arm’s reach, it’s going to be a lot easier to resist.
4. Find a no-sugar buddy. Two other people at Green America gave up sugar for lent. “Solidarity was definitely key,” says Katie Gatlin, development and special events coordinator, “we had our little huddle of solidarity when [a coworker's] birthday cake came out. Missing out on cake would have been a lot harder otherwise.”
5. Notice and enjoy the benefits! Are you feeling high-energy? Did your cold go away in a day instead of a week?
My favorite benefit centered around re-discovery of fruit. I found that when I stopped bombarding my mouth with intensely sweet things, my taste buds seemed to change. Things like fruit and vegetables started tasting sweeter and more subtly delicious. Cantaloupe, sweet potatoes and sauteed onions became pretty amazing.
But What About…
I imagine I’ve left you with a lot of questions. Fortunately, the next issue of the magazine (which should arrive in your mailboxes in late April) is chock full of sugar information. Here’s what you’ll get:
- The Skinny on Alternative Sweeteners — we compare 11 artificial sweeteners from stevia to aspartame, and discuss the health impacts of each
- Sweet, Seductive, and Deadly — the health research for this article was what inspired my 40-day fast
- 9 Tips to help you kick the sugar habit
- How to buy GMO – free and fair trade sugar – if you’re going to buy sugar, make sure you know where it comes from
- Tracy’s story on her personal sugar fast
Not a member? You can subscribe here.
Meanwhile, we’ll continue blogging about sugar every Tuesday and Thursday this month. You can read Tracy’s blog on sugar and health here. Leave a comment or write to us at email@example.com! We’re looking forward to hearing your stories.
Calling all shareowners! Spring is the time when the majority of shareholder meetings are held and investors need to vote on key issues facing corporate management. As an investor in direct company stock, you are a part owner of the company and have the responsibility to vote on a wide range of issues facing the company(ies) in which you invest.
When your proxy ballot arrives in the mail – be sure to respond! Inside you may find the opportunity to vote on shareholder concerns you didn’t realize were being raised with the company. There may be votes on issues addressing the environment, energy and climate, worker safety, home mortgage policies, recycling, and the corporation’s political contributions and lobbying – among other pressing issues.
An excellent resource for learning about the key shareholder resolutions this season is the 2013 ProxyPreview produced by As You Sow. This is a great compendium of the resolutions put forward, including background information, identification of the resolution filers, and explanations of the importance of the resolutions. The Proxy Preview is a must-read for both new investors and experienced proxy voters.
Our Lists highlight a select number of important resolutions in need of support in order to improve corporate policies and practices. The resolutions on our Lists begin facing votes in April – so view them now to see if we highlight companies in which you own stock. The issues we address affect:
Thank you for voting on the social, environmental, and corporate governance issues that Corporate America needs to address now – your vote is important!
Several weeks ago, the Green American editorial staff started researching an issue theme centered on sugar. With the labor abuse in the sugar industry and the fact that much of the sugar sold in the US comes from genetically modified sugar beets, we thought we’d have plenty of social and environmental problems to cover. We knew that science has long been establishing links between sugar and obesity and type 2 diabetes. But what we were surprised to discover was just how serious of an impact sugar is having on human health.
So we shifted our focus to look more closely at those health impacts in the April/May 2013 issue of the Green American, and the results were much worse than we’d expected.
America has a sugar problem, says Dr. Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist at the University of California-San Francisco, in part because “our brains light up for sugar the way they do for cocaine.”
The American Heart Association recommends that women eat only 30 grams (6 teaspoons) and men consume 45 grams (9 teaspoons) of added sugars per day for good health. However, here in the US, the average person eats over 108 grams—or 22 teaspoons—of added sugars per day.
What is this sugar overload doing?
It might not surprise many of you that study after study has linked consumption of sugar—or, more accurately, the sweet fructose in sugar—to “metabolic syndrome,” a set of risk factors that together increase the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol problems, and stroke.
But new studies are coming out that pinpoint fructose as a primary cause of type 2 diabetes and a possible cause of Alzheimer’s (a link so strong the scientists who uncovered it are calling the brain disease “type 3 diabetes”) and cancer. Add in the fact that much of the sugar on US store shelves comes from genetically modified sugar beets, and there are just too many potential risks associated with sugar consumption to ignore. (For more on the risks of genetically modified organisms, see select articles from our “Frankenfood” issue of the Green American.)
For more details on these links, see the upcoming issue of the Green American, “Sickeningly Sweet,” which should hit your mailboxes at the end of the month. (To subscribe, click here.)
The links are so frightening that Green America associate editor Martha van Gelder and I decided to get sugar out of our lives.
I know I have a sugar problem. Whenever I’m under stress, I tend to eat, and more often than not, I reach for sugar—probably thanks to the number of warm and comforting childhood memories I have around sweet food. There’s my mother’s chocolate chip cookies and pull-apart caramel bread. My grandmother’s apricot rolls and hard-as-a-rock-but-oh-so-good Christmas Bread. My aunt in Honduras making me a cinnamon, sugar, and milk concoction called poleada when I got homesick on a long visit in my teens. Summertime popsicles and winter hot chocolate. The list goes on and on.
So I’m starting slow, reading labels and limiting myself to the AHA’s recommended 30 grams of added sugar for women. Martha went cold turkey off of sugar. And online editor Andrew Korfhage has never been a big sugar eater, but he’s careful to make his overall diet as local, organic, and Fair Trade as possible., to avoid genetically modified organisms and avoid exploiting workers around the world. He also uses one of the best-option sugar substitutes we identified in the Green American: local and organic honey.
Every Tuesday and Thursday this month, Martha, Andrew, and I will be blogging about the social, environmental, and health problems associated with sugar and our attempts to limit it in our diets. (Or detox from it, in my case.) We may even have a couple of experts, including a holistic nutritionist, join us to offer advice.
What’s your relationship with sugar? Hate it? Consume it in moderation? Or do you, like me, have a sugar problem? What tips do you have to limit the amount of sugar in your diet?