I think it is amazing that in the year 2012, there would be a contentious debate going on in this country regarding the rights of consumers to know whether or not their food contains genetically modified organisms (GMOs).  This controversy will appear on the ballot in the upcoming California general election.  If passed, it will require “labeling of foods sold to consumers made from plant or animals with genetic material changed in specific ways”.  It also would prohibit “marketing such foods, or other processed food, as ‘natural’.

Proponents of Prop 37 voice concerns that GMOs have been linked to allergies and other health problems, while opponents of the measure state that there is no scientific evidence that processed food with traces of GMOs pose a danger to humans.  The major issue posed by the opponents lies in the costs of regulation and verification, which would be the responsibility of the retailers and an undue burden to smaller stores and businesses.

The amazing part of this debate is that there is such a discussion going on questioning consumers’ rights to know what is in their food.  Also, I find it interesting that this is a big issue in America while 50 other countries in the world (which represents 40% of the world’s population) presently require GMO labeling.  These countries include all of Europe, Japan, India and China.  Also polls here show that 90% of Americans want to know if their food is genetically engineered.

In our present tumultuous political climate, we hear politicians at all levels making promises about what they will do for us and our country if elected.  Maybe we all should take a step back and question how these people want to help us in all these other areas but are willing to bend to big business and violate such a basic right as access to information regarding the contents of the food we eat.  We have the right to make informed decisions about our nutrition and it is up to us ensure this is the case and that our rights are not violated.  This is 2012, not the dark ages.  Access to facts on our food content is crucial to being able to live green, be green.


Fall is a great time for true gardeners.  The weather is cooler, making a day in the garden a more enjoyable experience.  While fall is the best time to plant trees, shrubs and perennial plants, it is also the optimal period to save on purchases of gardening equipment and nursery stock.  During the autumn season, the soil is warmer, thereby promoting root growth, unlike the spring season, which is unpredictable and generally is followed by a potentially long, hot dry summer period which could be detrimental to young roots.

For those interested in growing vegetables, there are several perennial varieties that flourish during this time of the year.  They include asparagus, bamboo shoots, bunching onions, garlic, horseradish, kale and collard greens, radiccio and rhubarb.  These are hearty vegetables that can be easily grown.  A fall harvest of these items provides the opportunity to eat fresh vegetables well into the cold season.  For those interested in fall flowers, there are several choices available, including chrysanthemums, marigolds, dusty miller and aster, just to name a few.  As a bonus, autumn presents a wonderful landscaping opportunity.  Combinations of pumpkins, flowers, bales of hay and wreaths and arrangements made with corn and cornstalks create a festive mood for any lawn or garden.

Autumn also is the time to divide and plant mature perennial plants and flowering bulbs.  A little research now on how to handle each plant species will ensure that you properly divide and plant so that you will enjoy a dazzling display next spring and summer.  It is also important to mulch garden beds in the fall to retain ground moisture and protect plants while they sleep over the winter.  Building a compost pile for mulching using lawn and garden debris is a great way to be both economical and eco-friendly.

Maintenance of garden tools and equipment should be a priority during the fall.  Now is the time to give those shovels, hoes and other metal tools a good scrubbing and polishing prior to storing them over the winter.  Gas-powered equipment should be cleaned thoroughly and filled with gas containing a stabilizer to prevent condensation and deposits from developing in the engine.  After completing equipment maintenance, an inventory can be taken of useful equipment, followed by a shopping trip to replace items if necessary.  The best deals on garden equipment and tools often can be found during the Fall.

The work is now done, and it is time to enjoy your fall bounty.  Then get rested up and start planning your spring garden.  Live green, be green!

Beautiful flowers with a fall color schem

I just saw an interesting news video on hydroculture, a system for growing plants that incorporates expanded clay as a growing medium rather than soil.  Hydroculture has been around for years.  Unfortunately, while very popular in Europe, it has not caught on in the United States.  In fact, all of the materials needed for hydroculture are produced in Europe.  One company is trying to change that.  Greenspacers, a green technology company in Columbia, Maryland, is “dedicated to growing fresh air through the production and installation of soil-free plants”. 

The basis of Greenspacers’ mission lies in the hypothesis that plants can remove volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from the air.  These compounds consist of the chemicals produced from household items, such as paint, glues and cleaning supplies that can cause adverse health effects. 

In addition to removing targeted VOCs, hydroculture plants, do not harbor microbes, and  do not release bio-aerosols.   The plant system starts with a growing medium of lightweight expanded clay (LECA).  The clay pebbles are fired in a kiln, causing them to expand with formation of air pockets within the individual pellets.  These air pockets retain moisture and allow maximum moisture to flow to the plant roots.  The plant systems use a slow-growth fertilizer and contain a water indicator which, when used properly, prevents over-watering that drowns the roots. 

Greenspacers now contracts with green-minded businesses to provide “green” planting systems on their premises, including Children’s Hospital, National Medical Center in Washington, D.C.  The company’s goal is to also provide services to consumers.  More information can be found at http://www.greenspacers.com.

 With research and innovation, “green” companies are discovering ways to help us make sure our homes and businesses are healthy.  Our support of these companies’ efforts to live green, and be green is vital to the environment.

The current world population of over seven billion has necessitated discussion to find ways to be smarter about producing, eating, sharing and preserving food.  At the recent “Eating Planetsymposium in New York, the World Watch Institute and the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition assembled a panel of farming and food policy experts to share their findings and statistics on this subject.  Research indicates that there are more than one billion obese and overfed people on the planet.  Many of these people are impacted by the adverse health issues associated with obesity, such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease, just to name a few.  On the other hand, there are more than one billion people on this planet who are underfed and must struggle with poverty and hunger on a regular basis.  Amazingly, agriculture is the solution to both of these problems.

Growing indigenous crops empowers any group of people to be independent.  Also, the most sustainable foods on the planet yield the lowest carbon footprint.  A plant-based diet consisting of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds are vital to our health.  Conversely, a diet rich in meat relies on the use of the life-sustaining grains that are so beneficial to people, and in turn, its consumption adversely affects our health.  The transportation costs required to get meat to communities, along with the fuel expenses, preservation costs, etc., also negatively impact the environment.

We would be doing ourselves and the planet a big favor by reducing our meat consumption and increasing our consumption of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, etc.  Making contributions to funds that educate underfed populations to grow indigenous crops also is something to consider.  Face it, our population is growing, but our planet is not getting bigger.  Let’s work together to make a difference.  Live green, be green.

With the upcoming presidential electionpolitics is one of the hottest topics around.  While we owe it to ourselves to be educated on the issues and to go out and vote in November, it is also imperative that we pay attention to localstate and regional issues, especially those affecting the environment.  The clamor over immigration issues, health care and “Fast and Furious” was so loud this past week that it practically drowned out the enactment of several “green” laws that took effect on July 1st.

Noting that “the abundance of aquatic life is one measure of a healthy Chesapeake Bay“, several laws taking affect over the weekend are aimed at significantly reducing pollution from varying sources.  Laws passed to protect the Chesapeake Bay include:

  • Doubling the flush tax from $2.50 to $5.00 to raise funds to upgrade wastewater treatment plants.
  • Placement of limitations on areas where developers can build residential communities that use septic tanks.
  • Requiring local jurisdictions to set fees to fight storm water pollution in Baltimore City and nine of the largest counties in Maryland.

These green laws are a manifestation of the need to accomplish eco-friendly objectives through taxation as there clearly has been a failure to achieve the desired results through advertising, education and voluntary public support.  The green movement has been around for a long time, yet most citizens have not jumped on the bandwagon.  In future legislation, we can expect to see further taxes to reduce waste and increase recycling in the form of taxes on grocery bags and more bottle deposits.  

No one likes the idea of higher taxes, but “green” taxes are an inevitable component of improving the environment and failure to act voluntarily serves as a mandate for government to enact and enforce policies to guarantee the protection of the environment.  In an effort to lower our taxes, let’s voluntarily live green, be green!