Archive for Food

Slow Money Farm Fest

I know it’s been a while since I posted last. I’m here again to tell you a little bit about my involvement with The Slow Money Northern California Chapter. First, you may be wondering what is Slow Money? The term Slow Money was coined to represent sustainable investments; investments that aren’t designed to destroy the planet for profit. It’s more important than ever to practice conscious investing and adhere to the triple bottom line – people, planet, profit.

The nonprofit, Slow Money is an organization that brings sustainable investments to sustainable food systems such as farm projects, food and byproduct waste management and local community food initiatives. It doesn’t actually do the investing, but rather sets up gatherings and showcases to bring investors to the entrepreneurs. It’s a great group of people and a growing movement.

Our latest gathering is the Northern California Slow Money Farm Fest with details below. I’m in charge of organizing the potluck dinner contest with prizes and all. If you are local, I suggest getting your tickets now as it will sell out. There are a lot of foodies up here and we all love to get down in they hay on the farm with some good food and cheer.

Hope to see you on the 25th!

Slow Money Farm Fest

February 25, 3pm-9pm, at Tara Firma Farms in Petaluma

Join Slow Money Northern California’s Farm Fest at Tara Firma Farms in Petaluma on February 25!  Learn more about how to support sustainable food systems, meet the Slow Money movers, and have lots of fun networking with entrepreneurs, investors and our local community!

From 3pm-9pm (rain or shine), you’ll:

  • Tour this locally owned and operated farm
  • Meet local entrepreneurs and learn how they enrich sustainable food systems
  • Talk with Slow Money founder Woody Tasch about our movement
  • Participate in a community potluck, enjoy live music
  • And have some down-on-the-farm fun!

Please bring a dish of homemade food to share (for 3-5 people).

Sign up now – space is limited!

Tara Firma Farms is located at 3796 I Street in Petaluma. The farm works in harmony with land and animals, offering delicious food that balances environmental, community and nutritional needs.

SlowMoney_FarmFest_Flyer


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Summer Cold Blues – Tips on Staying Healthy and Vibrant During the Summer

Summer Cold Blues – Tips on Staying Healthy and Vibrant During the Summer

By Julie Gengo

Summer is a time for enjoying the outdoors and experiencing new places. Unfortunately, the more places you venture to and people you meet, the greater your chances are of catching a dreaded summer cold. We’ll bet, the last thing on your agenda this summer is lying in bed, miserable while everyone else is having fun.

Here are some tips to keep your immune system up and summer cold blues at bay:

  • Get plenty of rest. The body needs sleep time to repair and rejuvenate the cells. If you are enjoying some late night parties, make sure you take a nap the next day. When the body is well-rested, it is in a better place to fight off summertime bugs.
  • Eat your veggies and fruits! Dark green and cruciferous vegetables provide the body with an abundance of nutrients, minerals, electrolytes and even protein. Summer fruits such as raspberries, blueberries and blackberries are great sources of anti-oxidants. Staying in tune with what you put into your mouth can make a world of difference for a fabulous summer.
  • Absorb some sunshine. The body produces vitamin D from the sun. Soaking in the sun for 10-15 minutes a day without sunscreen will ensure proper vitamin D absorption and give you a nice glow too. Use only mineral-based sunscreens that actually protect you without posing additional damage from harsh chemicals. Check out EWG’s 2010 Sunscreen Guide (http://www.ewg.org/2010sunscreen/) on safe sunscreens and make sure the chemicals in your sunscreen aren’t linked to cancer.
  • Move your body. Try not to just watch other people having fun. Get out and join in. Exercise oxygenates the cells and keeps them vibrant and healthy. Take advantage of extended sunlight and go for an evening swim or walk.
  • Make a batch of homemade green tea which is known to be an immune system booster.  Let it soak in the sun then place it over ice to make it authentic summertime iced tea.
  • Stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of purified water is a good way to keep your body flowing the way it should. Remember, when you are thirsty, you are probably already de-hydrated. Drink continuously throughout the day before you are thirsty. If you are drowning in water, try eating plenty of summertime fruits such as watermelon, cantaloupes, peaches, and plums as they are loaded with water and will do the trick.

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“This Compost” by Walt Whitman

Naturally Green Blog is celebrating National Poetry Month. What a better way than with a Walt Whitman poem. Enjoy!

This Compost

Behold this compost! behold it well!
Perhaps every mite has once form’d part of a sick person-Yet behold!
The grass of spring covers the prairies,
The bean bursts noislessly through the mould in the garden,
The delicate spear of the onion pierces upward,
The apple-buds cluster together on the apple-branches,
The resurrection of the wheat appears with pale visage out of its graves,
The tinge awakes over the willow-tree and the mulberry-tree,
The he-birds carol mornings and evenings, while the she-birds sit on their nests,
The young of poultry break through the hatch’d eggs,
The new-born of animals appear-the calf is dropt from the cow, the colt from the mare,
Out of its little hill faithfully rise the potato’s dark green leaves,
Out of its hill rises the yellow maize-stalk-the lilacs bloom in the door-yards,
The summer growth is innocent and disdainful above all those strata of sour dead.

-Walt Whitman, from the poem “This Compost”

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What Is Your Business Doing For The Planet? By Julie Gengo


Believe it or not this is Earth Day’s 40th anniversary. Of course everyday is Earth Day around here. Thankfully this is not a Hallmark holiday (if it is, I wonder if their cards are made sustainably?) but rather a day to reflect and energize on preserving this planet. So maybe you are doing your part but what about local and global businesses? To my surprise, many have already taken the initiative by reducing their energy consumption amongst other things that lead to CO2 (and other warming gases) reduction. I subscribe to the Environmental Leader daily newsletter which does a great job at filling me in on who is doing what. Maybe most of these companies aren’t making changes for altruistic reasons but rather changes that will save them a ton of money while saving tons of emissions along the way. I can certainly live with that.

One of my goals is to help companies become more sustainable whether by helping them revamp their building energy usage or working with them to green their supply chain. The first thing to do is to take simple steps like changing light bulbs and turning off computers and equipment. According to sustainability specialists, spending a little bit of money up front can save you millions in just a few years.

In SoCal, we have a fast-food restaurant chain called Rubio’s Mexican Grill and I am happy to report that they are one of the emerging businesses who, without mandate of any kind, are doing a tremendous job at reducing their carbon footprint in all aspects of their business. The food is pretty good as well. Go Rubio’s! Check out their eco site and learn more. From hosting local beach clean-ups to, implementing recycling programs to serving sustainable food, Rubio’s is an excellent example of a company that is giving back to the planet with the best interest of the community in mind.

Here is one area where they are making an impact:

Environmentally-Friendly Packaging & Printing
“With an eye towards a greener tomorrow, we plan to eliminate Styrofoam packaging and implement eco-friendly packaging. In several of our restaurants, we are currently testing eco-friendly take-out packaging, with the goal of a 2011 system-wide introduction. In addition, we are exploring compostable plates and take-out bags. In the mean time, it is our hope that our guests will act responsibly and recycle plastic bags rather than dispose of them in the trash. Some of the changes we have already made to improve packaging and printing include:

* Reusable Rubio’s a-Go-Go® Catering bags
* Conversion to Bottle Box™ salad bowls in May 2010. These bowls are made entirely from recycled plastic bottles and are 100% recyclable.
* Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI)-certified paper cups
* Conversion to bio-plastic (compostable) beer cups
* Compostable bleach-free napkins
* Paper menus made from Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified paper and 10% recycled materials

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Expo West – Exploring the World of “Natural” Products by Julie Gengo

Expo West is the premiere showcase for the natural food products industry. Included in that mix are nutraceuticals (natural supplements whose ingredients are derived from food), bottled healthy beverages such as coconut waters, bio-degradable dental products, clean candy, supplements disguised as candy, safe cleaning products, non-toxic cosmetics, spa products, organic beer and wine (my favorite), natural candles and more food that you can sample in one day. It is truly overwhelming and endless. In the three days of the event it is probably impossible to visit every booth. I’ve never done it. Approximately 56,000 people attended this year and I’m sure all walked away with a few handfuls of samples.

I strolled down the isles with my daughter Blu on the first day and on day two, Mike D’Ascanio – founder and CEO of Earth-List.com – whom I assist in outreach and business development. Bringing kids to this event is not uncommon and some of the youth-oriented vendors actually appreciate their feedback. My daughter freely gave her opinion and also managed to get samples that were only supposed to be for retailers. One of her best captures was a very “stylie” SIGG bottle. Yes they are now BPA free and the company is back on track to getting citizens off of the notion the water in plastic bottles is a safe and a healthy way of drinking water. If you want more information on water in plastic bottles I recommend seeing the documentary film, Tapped.

One of the coolest things about Expo West is seeing how many reusable bags you can collect. My daughter managed to get the coolest one from a company called Blue Q who makes reusable bags completely from recycled content. So that’s nothing new but these bags really stand out due to their artistic designs and integrity. They actually pay artists to do their thing. Imagine that? They also gave us a “Free Hugs” coin purse and we love that too!

While some of the companies are massive and you can tell by the size of their displays, location and how much food they serve, others are relatively new to the business and their stories are impressive. Better Life, a green cleaning products company, who began on the notion that cleaning products need to be safe for the environment, safe for the consumer and performance oriented. The co-founders and their families were tired of cleaning up after the mess left behind after cleaning up using conventional cleaners. They hired a chemist and stuck to the motto “Clean Happens” and made it happen.

Right across the isle was seasoned eco-hipster-way-of-life cleaning product line, Method. Their message: “Method Creates Products For People Against Dirty is not only catchy but proves that sustainability can also be “cool” (my favorite word in this blog post). Their new laundry detergent line is so cool from a design perspective that it fits right in with their primary retail outlet – Target’s – new fashion and decor addition, Liberty of London. Visit their website and be entertained with retro-pop jazz music against a colorful animation of their Cradle to Cradle approach to bottle, product and formula design. The liquid laundry detergent is not only non-toxic but also uses 36% less plastic than a conventional product offering the same amount of washes – 50 loads in the size of a soda bottle. This highly concentrated stuff really works. Thanks to a sample packet I just did a load and I’m loving the results.

One the food front, a few companies were in the running for the best hot food samples of the show. My all time favorite has to be Tasty Bites, who hires a chef to cook up some of the best Indian dishes that are premade. I’m hoping that the owner Ashok Vasudevan reads this and sends me a case of everything.

Coming up in a close second is WorldCatch — sustainable, wild-caught seafood dishes that are also ready made. Just heat and serve. Simply Yum!

For cold food, I couldn’t get enough of the hummus and chips made by Falafel Chips an organic chip company that make the best Falafel chips ever – bar none. Their hummus in a bottle, that can be used as a dressing or dip, is to die for. I hope these products find more outlets soon and I hope that the owner reads this and also sends me a case of everything. I want my hummus in a bottle….

We were also fond of a company called Nest Collective which is actually comprised of two companies that are here for the organic greater good of babies and students everywhere. Plum Organics is the leading brand of packaged organic baby food which comes in containers that are BPA free and contains no icky stuff. Revolution Foods is dedicated to changing the way our kids are eating at school. By supplying schools with natural and organic food choices, children will have better chances of avoiding obesity and staying healthy and smart. This is definitely a much needed revolution.

Another wonderful story comes from the owners of H2OM Water – pegged as “Water With Intention.” This wife and husband team had a revelation on their honeymoon to provide pure water with an exceptional message of peace, love, perfect health, prosperity, gratitude, will power and joy. Okay sounds like your typical hippie-yoga water. However, you may be surprised that this water has an eco-conscious footprint as well. It comes in plastic bottles but these bottles are made from 100% post consumer recycled plastic (R-PET) and the plastic is considered safe. That means no leaching. The water is award-winning and comes from one of the purest sources – the San Diego Mountains – a protected part of the 420,000 acre Cleveland National Forest.

Explorer’s Bounty is also a relatively new company on a mission to bring the finest organic food products to market and support organic farming practices around the globe. Some of their products include organic chocolate covered macadamia and other nuts and a variety of organic and shade grown coffees and teas, dried fruit and delicious and nutritious crackers. They even had a project to the visitors to their booth. We were given a bamboo dog stuffing kit complete with organic cotton and organic tote backpack to keep the pup happy. Great marketing for a wonderful company.

Well registration is already up for the 2011 Expo West and if you are a retailer, wellness practitioner or journalist the admission is free if you register in advance. I’m still recovering but it’s definitely worth the trek and nice to be in the company of so many like-minded individuals in one place at one time. Did I mention the food?

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Carlee Gerardi – Reasons to be Envious

Carlee Gerardi – Reasons to be Envious
By Julie Gengo

“Organic dips. Check. Seed packs. Check. Potted floral arrangements. Check. hemp table cloths. Check.” This is what you might hear during set up for a Green With Envy (GWE) crafted event. GWE is a fresh and innovative event design and production company with an organic twist whose mission is to leave a lasting impression on the guests and not the planet. The results so far have been nothing but bright green. To understand why GWE is well on its way to great success you may want to meet one of the wonderful spirits behind all this greenness – Carlee Gerardi. Gerardi, a native San Diegan and genuinely happy entrepreneur, co-founded GWE with business partner Laura Rankin in early 2009. They both had backgrounds planning events for family, friends and the companies they worked for. When they decided to branch out on their own they knew that entering into the event business as another creative company wasn’t enough. They wanted to do something that had lasting value. While hiking Cowles Mountain in San Diego the spark hit them: “Let’s do it GREEN,” Carlee recalls. The two were both concerned about the environment and wanted to do their part while helping others understand that their choices have an environmental impact. I chatted with Carlee a bit to find out more about her passion for life, work and all things green.

What inspires you to be in this business?
I am inspired by the opportunity to be creative and express myself. This industry is all about the details. I love putting together interesting, surprising details to engage and delight the guests. I am also inspired by how new “green” is in the event planning business. This gives me the opportunity to start trends and make people think about ideas they’ve never considered when planning an event.

In addition to GWE, what is your vision for a greener, cleaner world?
My vision for a cleaner world starts with changing the mindset of its citizens. I believe that society has created this false idea of what people need to live and it has made people wasteful, lazy, excessive, and ignorant. I imagine a day where public figures set the example of eliminating waste, only buying and using what they need and living sustainably which will in turn leads the general public down the same path.

What are you personally doing to make a difference?
At home and at work, I am taking all the precautions to live as sustainable as possible. I drive a Prius, carpool whenever possible, work from home, recycle, and I try to encourage and educate everyone I know to do the same. It’s my personal belief that you can’t take on every issue, so you have to choose which battles to fight. I am not hard on myself if every aspect of my life isn’t “green,” My philosophy is to celebrate the positive things I’m doing for the environment.

How have your clients inspired you?
What inspires me most is their eagerness and desire to learn about throwing a green event. People are opening up to green in a way I’ve never seen before. We approach our clients in a consultative way, not forcing anything on them, but simply counseling them on ways they can save money, eliminate waste and promote sustainable practices.

Can you share with us some specific project details and how you make it work to achieve the final result?
When planning any event, there are hundred of different elements that can be made more sustainable. We’ve created a checklist of simple and affordable Eco-solutions that will lower the impact of any event. We always try and align ourselves with Eco-minded vendors, recycle and strive to eliminate waste when ever possible. We encourage our clients to: use less paper and/or recycled paper for all their invite/paper needs; consider organic and locally produced foods, beverages, flowers, etc; choose a venue that is outdoors, LEED Certified, or supports sustainable practices; encourage guests to carpool or take public transportation; purchase carbon offsets; choose décor elements that are minimal and/or Eco-friendly; give Eco-friendly favors, like seed packets; educate guest on simple steps they can take in their lives to be more green; and so many more.

How does this approach make you and your guests feel?
It feels amazing to be responsible for putting together an event like this. Guests are so impressed, and our clients feel really good about the decisions they make to lower the impact of their event. It’s also really exciting to work with other vendors who share this same enthusiasm.

What does the future hold for GWE?
Our mission at Green with Envy Events is to become the premier green event planning company. We would eventually like to have offices in major cities around the United States. But more short term, we want to make an impact in our communities. We want to educate people about the impact their event has on the environment, and show them ways they can help reverse the wasteful trend in the event industry. Whether they hire us or not, we want to set the example so that people everywhere, when planning any event in their lives, will consider the environment first.

What are some things that allow you to be you?
My absolute favorite hobby is sailing. I feel so free when I’m out on the water. It’s one of the oldest sports, and the best thing about it is you use nature and wind to power the boat. I also love hiking, and try to do it two to three times a week. It gives me a chance to reconnect with nature and clear my head. I also love photography, snowboarding, traveling and music.

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Top 10 Organic Food Buying Tips

I snatched this from OrganicJar, a fabulous website on organic food.

A report hit the news about a month ago stating that based on a research study conducted by the British Food Standards Agency entitled Comparison of composition (nutrients and other substances) of organically and conventionally produced foodstuffs: a systematic review of the available literature (pdf)., organic food was found to be no more nutritious than conventionally grown food. One thing you might want to consider when making your decision is that the study failed to take into account the insurmountable amount of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides that are used to grow food. There were other flaws (see the article – In Defense of Organic Food). While the nutrients may be the same, with organic food you do not damage your cells by ingesting these highly toxic chemicals. Conventional farming also “gives animals antibiotics, growth hormones and medications to prevent disease and spur growth. according to the Mayo Clinic.” I’ve written about this in previous blogs but please do your own research.

Again here are some benefits to consider when deciding on whether or not to eat organic food.
Organic Farmers:
– Apply natural fertilizers, such as manure or compost, to feed soil and plants.
– Use beneficial insects and birds, mating disruption or traps to reduce pests and disease.
– Rotate crops, till, hand weed or mulch to manage weeds.
– Give animals organic feed and allow them access to the outdoors.
– Use preventive measures — such as rotational grazing, a balanced diet and clean housing — to help minimize disease.

Top 10 Organic Food Buying Tips

Whether you’re already a fan of organic foods or you just want to shop wisely and handle your food safely, consider these tips:
1.
Buy fruits and vegetables in season to ensure the highest quality.
Also, try to buy your produce the day it’s delivered to market to ensure that you’re buying the freshest food possible. Ask your grocer what day new produce arrives.
2.
Read food labels carefully.
Just because a product says it’s organic or contains organic ingredients doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a healthier alternative. Some organic products may still be high in sugar, salt, fat or calories.
3.
Don’t confuse natural foods with organic foods.
Only those products with the “USDA Organic” label have met USDA standards.
4.
Wash all fresh fruits and vegetables thoroughly with running water to reduce the amount of dirt and bacteria.
If appropriate, use a small scrub brush — for example, before eating apples, potatoes, cucumbers or other produce in which you eat the outer skin.
5.
If you’re concerned about pesticides, peel your fruits and vegetables and trim outer leaves of leafy vegetables in addition to washing them thoroughly.
Keep in mind that peeling your fruits and vegetables may also reduce the amount of nutrients and fiber. Some pesticide residue also collects in fat, so remove fat from meat and the skin from poultry and fish.
6.
Buy organic food at farmer’s markets when you can.
Not only is this a great way to buy organic food that’s in season but you get to talk to the farmers directly about how the food is grown. Plus you support the farmers who have invested in organic growing processes.
7.
Buy in bulk.
Whether you’re shopping at a natural foods store, supermarket or co-op, buying in bulk is a great way to stretch your food dollar. For beans, grains, lentils and nuts, head straight for the bulk containers. Just make sure you have a cool, dry place in your kitchen to store your dry goods for a few months. Not every item you can buy in bulk is worth the bother. Do the math.
8.
Be flexible.
To nab the best deals on organic foods you need to be a focused, yet flexible, shopper. Always shop with a list but never be afraid to snap up a good bargain when you see one. Write “three vegetables” on your shopping list and then look around at store specials. Do the same for proteins and grains. Never ever buy an item that you don’t need just because it’s on sale or you have a coupon.
9.
Shop online.
Can’t find a local source for the organic food you want? Don’t give up. Hop online. You may be able to order the organic foods that you want online.The GreenPeople directory from the Organic Consumer Association is a good place to begin your online search for affordable organic foods. A roundup of additional organic directories is also available on the site. And be sure to check out this list of cyber-markets offering organic products from Organic Kitchen. Shop wisely.
10.
Grow your own.
If you’re really serious about garden-fresh organic produce, why not plant your own? Seeds are available from companies such as Seeds of Change. And Organic Kitchen has a big roundup of organic gardening tips. Start small. Carrots, radishes and beets are easy to grow.

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