Most viewers of the 2014 State of the Union address, delivered last night by President Barrack Obama, should be praised for having the wherewithal to persevere through such a sleep-inducing collection of strung together sentences — although, among the mind-numbing were a fair share of surprisingly spritely, humorous notes.

Regardless, for those green enthusiasts out there, hoping to learn more about initiatives in the way of sustainability, clean energy, and alternative fuels, there was relatively little mention of such, and with even less value behind it.  Far from a laughing matter.

View the enhanced speech on demand –which is by far better than the
live broadcast– if you don’t believe me (tune in around the 15:40 mark).

Unfortunately, the most prolific takeaway for such enthusiasts was a regurgitation of the All-Of-The-Above Energy Strategy, originally introduced several years prior.  And let me be clear (pun intended) — by “regurgitation” I don’t mean Mr. Obama repeated himself per se, but I do mean that it was just a simple spewing of what “we” have already accomplished over the past several years’ time.

Some of the facts and statistics used in the accompanying supplemental presentation seem randomly curated and desperately included, almost in some form of a last-ditch attempt to appear arguably progressive.  And be careful not to blink when watching the address, you may miss the just-over-four minutes the Pres took to speak to the notions of this All-Of-The-Above plan.

Nonetheless, a brief recap is in order, to point potential non-viewers in the direction of the few notions splayed upon last nights audiences:

  • America is closer to energy independence today than we have been in decades.  I hope this is self-explanatory.
  • Natural gas is being extracted safely. This was an obvious reference to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, something we have written about in the past and something which environmentalists everywhere denounce.
  • Companies are planning to build new plants that use natural gas.  President Obama made clear the fact that he wants to promote this via tax and other programs for these manufacturers who indeed increasingly move toward natural gas as a replacement means of production (instead of oil).
  • America will continue “strengthening protection of our air, our water, our communities,” and “protect more of our pristine federal lands for future generations” to come.  By definition, probably the closest we’ve come thus far to targeting sustainability, but still not compelling.  This just seems like some general commentary that could have been used years ago to describe our state, and which seem to be added only because they sound better to the heart than to the mind, once processed.
  • We are becoming a global leader in solar — “every four minutes, another American home or business goes solar.”  This is a great stat, assuming its factually accurate.  Bravo, Mr. President.  And his use was impeccable, directly relating solar’s ongoing push to economic job growth by referencing that men (and women) physically installing pieces of such equipment is not outsource-able.
  • GOAL: continue to invest in fuels of the future.  Check.  This should go unsaid — it’s something that would be done regardless of who is in office, be it oval or congressional.  Next.
  • We can continue to reduce energy we consume. He referenced the new standards for the auto industry, implemented after the bailout, to make vehicles more efficient.  Good example, yes, but we have been there and done that, so where else could this be actionable moving forward?  Another prospective example would have been beautifully refreshing.
  • The US is the leading nation in reducing carbon footprints.  Impressive, but how about we explore how we will maintain that role modeling… right?
  • We need to legislate new standards on the amount of pollution our power plants are permitted to dump into the air.  Air pollution is important, I get it.  And as we’ve seen in places like Mexico City and eastern Chinese cities like Beijing, it can quickly get so out of hand as to realizably affect the day-to-day quality of life for area inhabitants.  The future can only get worse, if not attended to, so let’s hope something of action can become of this verbiage.
  • “The debate is settled: Climate Change Is A Fact!”  Again, self explanatory, but a headline-grabbing quote all enthusiasts can be mildly happy about.

Now, that brief recap above contains literally every point I could imaginably pluck from the whole discussion of ecological sustainability, and most of it spoke solely of vague past accomplishments and emptily bottomless comments surrounding the overall direction we are headed. Personally, as someone truly interested in hearing what particulars could lay on the horizon, I was extremely underwhelmed by the President’s words, or complete lack thereof with respect to true governmental policy.  This could have been a chance for Mr. Obama to openly target specific goals and initiatives on one of the broadest stages possible, to really put the pressure on Congress to do something about the potential headliners — an opportunity blown.

As one US News and World Report describes fairly well, the State of the Union was predicted to be and then turned out to be unsustainable.  The article describes, quite adequately, that sustainability is the focus of making sure our living our lives does not hinder the ability of the generations to come from living theirs.  While the State of the Union contained moments wherein the glimmer of hope for the future verged on addressing some social or economic sustainability, environmental sustainability was not allowed to shine in its full brilliance.  There was clearly insufficient forethought and future initiatives relayed from the President — no true future plans were outlined for environmental policy.

All of this being said, I must concede that it is not all President Obama’s fault, that the entire State of the Union address seemed monotonous and archaically pointless.  In actuality, it is just that, and by inevitability.  The State of the Union was originally put into policy as a way for the President of the United States to relay his views on the current status and future agenda of the country to the US Congress.  This is especially needless in today’s society of technological advancement, what with all the instantaneous newsfeeds at our constant disposal via push notices to our pocket devices.

Overall, Obama’s address was only half-baked, nearly ignoring future sustainability, clean energy, and alternative fuel plans altogether.  But that’s just my opinion.

Got some time to share your opinions?  We’d love to hear them!

This past weekend, Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines, leaving miles of devastation and thousands of deaths.  This disastrous storm once again should serve as a reminder to everyone, climate change believers and deniers, that these events still occur and that preparedness for severe weather disasters is a must.

We acknowledge that the geography of the Philippines alone (an archipelago comprised of 7,107 islands) made it especially vulnerable to the 25 feet storm surge with sustained winds greater than 100 miles per hour that battered the island nation, leveling everything in its path.  While some areas, such as Manila, fared relatively well, many coastal villages were totally destroyed.  Additionally, the economy of this emerging nation, plagued by a poverty rate of 27.9%, was a significant factor in the lack of storm preparedness, largely due to the inability to effectively address issues, such as infrastructure and construction of residences and other buildings to codes that withstand severe weather events.

Philippines-- An archipelago of 7,107 islands

Philippines– An archipelago of 7,107 islands.  Credit:  Wikipedia










With that said, it is more important than ever for everyone, regardless of economic station or geographical location, to have a plan in place in order to survive severe weather disasters.  Any such plan must include the following basic elements:

  • Water:  The general rule is to have one gallon of water for at least three days for drinking and sanitation.
  • Food:  A minimum of a three-day supply of non-perishable food should be available.
  • Radio:  This should be battery-powered with a tone alert and with extra batteries.
  • Flashlight:  Every essential survival kit should have a flashlight with extra batteries to be used during power outages.
  • Cell phone:  Make sure a solar charger is included.

Additional emergency supplies that should be added to the essential preparation kit are prescription medications, diapers and infant formula if needed, food and water for pets, sleeping bags and blankets, a change of clothing and paper and plastic eating utensils.  We also suggest that a disaster kit include cash or traveler’s checks in case the family has to relocate to a hotel or travel to stay with friends or family.  Also, make sure you fill the car with gas in cases of news of impending storms.  With the possibility of total residence destruction, it is recommended that copies of all important papers (legal records and certificates, insurance information and pictures and documentation of household valuables) be stored in a secure remote location, i.e., safe deposit box.

Emergency preparedness kit

Emergency preparedness kit










Another consideration in emergency preparedness is the purchase and installation of a storm shelter, if possible.  Of course, these fixtures once were staples in the plain states which were consistently subjected to tornadoes.  Now that tornado alley has expanded to include most regions of the United States, such structures are making a necessary comeback.

Storm shelter

Storm shelter:  Credit







For those of us who belong to homeowners associations where we pay dues for services, now is the time to enlist these organizations to address the issue of storm preparedness and the institution of guidelines to assist and protect the members of the communities they serve.  Issues to be addressed include, but are not limited, to the following:

  • Facility Preparation:  Addressing the need to determine if property is ready to confront the impact of a severe storm with documentation of property pre-storm state, which is crucial to disaster recovery.
  • Member communication:  Procedures in place for board members to communicate with residents and employees prior to a storm’s arrival, during a storm and in the post-storm period.
  • Post-storm action:  Immediate attempts following a weather disaster to locate residents and employees to ascertain their condition, to attend to injured residents and employees and to secure the community and document storm damage.
  • Reconstruction and Restoration:  Dealing with insurance companies and attorneys to restore the community.

The most important consideration of storm preparedness should be the human factors.  Every step should be taken to avoid and/or to reduce the loss of life during tornadoes, hurricanes, typhoons and any other severe weather event.  To that end, we all should maintain open communication with our neighbors and support each other during storms.

As we all mourn the tragic losses in the Philippines from Typhoon Haiyan, we need to be mindful of the part each of us plays in climate change and the weather calamities that keep striking all over the world.  We must increase our efforts at environmental protection and sustainability while simultaneously planning for disaster survival.  To strive for the safety and survival of all people globally is to live green, be green.


Sources for this article:


Related articles

Happy Food Day!  Today marks the annual celebration of Food Day where we recognize the movement for healthy, affordable and sustainable food.  In honor of this most important day, there will be more than 4,500 events in all 50 states to focus on the strides we have made in our efforts to improve our food system and to bring awareness to the need for additional work that still needs to be done to ensure that we have healthy and sustainable diets without a negative environmental impact.

Food Day as a day of celebration was created by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).  According to Michael F. Jacobson, executive director and founder of Food Day:

We hope that one of the things that comes out of Food Day is a movement that is stronger, more united, and better equipped to press for changes that make it easier to eat healthier year round . . . .  Today hundreds of thousands of Americans will add their voices to a growing campaign for food that is produced with care for consumers, the environment, and the men and women who grow, harvest and serve it.”[1]

The main purpose of Food Day is to “help people eat real.”  Food Day is a very organized and focused movement with five priorities, which are as follows:

  • To promote safe and healthy diets for all people.
  • To support sustainable and organic farms.
  • To reduce the occurrence of hunger in this country.
  • To ensure reform of factory farm practices so as to protect both farm animals and the environment.
  • To ensure fair working environments for both food and farm workers.

Many cities have Food Day events occurring today, as well as throughout the upcoming weekend.  Activities range from educational events at local schools, round-table discussions and forums hosted by civic organizations and local food festivals.  This is a great opportunity to involve the entire family in the celebration of Food Day, gathering information and planning healthier diets through better food choices.  I urge you to ditch the bag of chips and to get out and explore the choices and opportunities that Food Day has to offer.  Also, don’t forget to like Food Day on Facebook.  This page also has great ideas, contests and valuable opportunities to support this worthy cause.

We here at LGBG urge all of our readers to join in the celebration of Food Day and to support this very important movement.  To do so is to live green, be green.




The GREEN Program: Iceland

The GREEN Program: Iceland

Perhaps you are an avid reader who remembers my first Business Spotlight on the GREEN Program, or perhaps you are just now visiting LGBG for the first time and should definitely read up on that ASAP.  Either way, welcome, and listen up, because we have a new update on this fantastically new age study abroad program.

Since the last article I wrote, GREEN has made some big-time organizational moves.  They have literally doubled in size, and a huge contributing factor to that has been their newly developed program in Iceland, in addition to their original Costa Rican adventure.  They have a partnership with the country’s Iceland School of Energy at Reykjavik University, whereby students can gain 1.5 U.S. college course credits for their 10-day participation in the program.

The GREEN Program is still bringing together young minds from all over the world and educating them on energy sustainability practices with hands-on experience, in the hopes that the collection of young info-seekers will eventually see to it, as future leaders, that the world creates a better tomorrow.

For all interested in learning more about the program, there is an awesome video on it,

and for those considering pursuing an internship in the area of sustainability, the program is now looking for candidates in Philadelphia, PA!

This is not meant to be just another applausive article on the GREEN Program to join the already dozens written and published all over the U.S.   Rather, this is meant to show off what a ton of hard work can create in the way of educating the masses, a goal with which we at LGBG unquestionably align.  This study abroad program, still in its toddler years, is truly making energy-packed waves in the way of study abroad programs.

Deviled eggs are a staple for NFL Sunday football, and this recipe adds shrimp and bacon to the mix, making this a particularly tasty treat.  The addition of instant potato flakes gives extra body to the filling.  Any extra yolk can be sprinkled over a spinach salad, adding another healthy and delicious dish for your football celebration.  An added plus is that this dish can be prepared the day before and chilled until game time.

This dish can be made healthier by purchasing eggs from local farmers.  Also, be mindful of your shrimp purchase by buying shrimp raised here in the United States as opposed to farm raised products imported from other countries, particularly southeast Asia where the seafood may have been treated with high levels of antibiotics or may not have been inspected.


Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner; Styling: Cindy Barr (Credit)













1.  8 large hard-boiled eggs shelled.
2.  1/4 cup instant potato flakes.
3.  1/4 cup of fat-free mayonnaise.
4.  1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives.
5.  2 teaspoons Dijon mustard.
6.  1/4 teaspoon salt.
7.  1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.
8.  1/8 teaspoon of ground red pepper.
9.  1/2 cup of cooked medium shrimp peeled and chopped.
10.  2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley.
11.  3 slices of center cut bacon, cooked and crumbled.


Cut eggs in half lengthwise; remove yolks. Place 4 yolks in a medium bowl; reserve remaining yolks for another use. Add potato flakes and next 6 ingredients (through red pepper) to yolks; stir well. Stir in shrimp and parsley. Spoon about 1 rounded tablespoon shrimp mixture into each egg white half. Sprinkle with bacon.

Source:  Julianna Grimes Bottcher & Ann Taylor Pittman, Cooking Light 
APRIL 2007


Dr. Martin Luther King at a press conference.

Dr. Martin Luther King at a press conference. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dr. Martin Luther King‘s “I Have A Dream Speech” is a timeless work that is relevant today, particularly to the movement for sustainability.  This famous address delivered at the March on Washington 50 years ago focused on the plight of Blacks in America and the racial injustices of that era, and Dr. King’s words and leadership served as a lightning rod for social and political upheaval in America.  Since that famous speech, Americans, specifically Blacks, have witnessed major changes in their lives, gaining greater access to jobs, better housing and equal education.  However, there still is a lot of work to be done.

As we fast forward to 2013, we see that Dr. King’s speech is still relevant today in terms of the fight for sustainability, not only in the United States, but also globally.  My personal recognition of this fact comes as a result of taking an online class at Stanford University on the “Introduction To Sustainable Product Development and Manufacturing”.  This class includes lectures, videos and interactive group projects with fellow students globally, along with peer review.

The course begins with a video on the “Story Of Stuff,” an eye-opening explanation on the textbook theory of “materials economy” — the movement of “things” from extraction to production, distribution, consumption and finally depletion.  The author, Annie Leonard, explains how this linear theory is flawed because in its application to a finite world, it fails to address the impact of outside forces on production of goods, i.e., the environment, societies, cultures and economies.  This theory also does not account for the influence of corporations on our lives and the policies and programs adopted, which are undertaken solely for the purpose of improving the bottom line.  The rise of mega corporations that lobby to reduce government oversight and then exploit natural and human resources, creating inferior products with reduced shelf life to encourage heightened consumerism has resulted in a global crisis.  The natural resources of the earth are being depleted at an alarming rate, and humans are being misguided, overworked and exploited.  This is not sustainable.

We now witness the redefinition of the term “value” being reduced to “ownership of stuff”.  It then follows that certain segments of the world population, specifically, the economically disadvantaged (generally minorities and emerging nations), are assigned a lesser value in society.  The desire to “raise one’s value,” albeit based on erroneous definition of the term, leads to exasperating attempts to “keep up with the Joneses”.  So many people are mentally and physically exhausted and distressed, it is no wonder that the American Psychiatric Society had to revise the DSM codes.  While the movement for sustainability largely focuses on water and energy conservation, protection of natural resources and upgrades to infrastructure, the dialogue must also include human rights and justice.  Products and services must be priced fairly to include a living wage for laborers.  Also, access to health care and health insurance must be recognized as a part of the human rights that D. King spoke about.  The honesty and character of a person must trump “ownership of stuff”.

Fifty years ago, Dr. King voiced our “need for liberation“.  We still need liberation, principally from the confines of materialism and unhealthy lifestyles.  He also said, “[w]e must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline . . . we cannot walk alone”.  This call for self-service and determination rings true today.  Each one of us can start with small steady steps to endorse sustainable living.  We can get off the endless cycle of wasting money on inferior products and services.  We can support businesses that employ green practices and that invest in its employees.  We can take responsibility for the space we occupy on this earth.  The first step to achieve sustainability is to believe in it.  This belief begins with a dream of the possibilities, and the grassroots commitment of each of us will lead to a revolution.

I invite you to watch the video of the “Story of Stuff” and to commit to carry on the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King.  To do so is to live green, be green.

If you are ever in San Francisco, be sure to visit the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park. This beautiful place has been around for over 100 years and thanks to First Lady Hilary Clinton, in 1998, The Conservatory was placed on the 100 most endangered world monuments. It currently exists as the oldest public glass and wood greenhouse in the United States!



The Nourishmat, a 4′ x 6′ garden system, is an all-in-one roll out garden designed to empower people to start growing food and flowers. The Nourishmat is rolled out onto your soil for easy DIY food production. Roll out the mat, push in the seedballs (clay, seeds, chili-powder and all-natural nutrients), and hook it up to the hose. We think of the Nourishmat as the way to cultivate the next generation of food growers.People have become disconnected from their soil. Earth Starter was formed in order to solve what we believe will be the world’s most pressing issue in upcoming years: sustainable healthy food supplies. Given limited resources and budgets, food as it is available today might not be so accessible in the future. By using the Nourishmat products, you are preparing yourself for this future. Our products offer cost-effective solutions that have a tangible return in your wallet. Our goal is to help people reduce their dependency on global food markets while focusing on creating a more nourishing Earth.

Earth Starter is doing more than just empowering consumers to grow their own food.  They are now making a huge push to help feed children who struggle with hunger. Earth Starter has teamed up with Two Degrees Foods to give 4 meals to children in the United States when you purchase the highly anticipated Nourishmat.  For every Nourishmat YOU PURCHASE, WE GIVE 4 meals to children suffering from hunger in the United States.
The Nourishmat is made of polypropylene, a recyclable landscape fabric used in industrial agriculture.
The Nourishmat was designed to be multi-sensory and intuitive. We used colors in combination with the square-foot method. The layout of the plants revolves around companion planting. For example, the bugs that like marigolds are the same bugs that love to eat the bugs that love to eat tomatoes. Other plants like Nasturitum (everyone’s first question, what is nasti-tu-…..) are great pollinators and so forth. The Nourishmat comes with a planting guide that tells the user where and when to plant.
Every 4′ x 6′ Nourishmat and 2′ x 6′ Herbmat comes with pre-planted seedballs separated by plant type. There is a combination of spring, summer and fall crops so users can continue to grow almost year round (we even have winter wheat during the winter).
We completed a 22 state beta test over the last year and a half. In order for us to have a successful first year run, we had to choose plants that would grow in all USDA hardiness zones. We took the data from our beta test and created the first Nourishmat iteration and adapted a planting guide accordingly. The combination of cool and warm weather crops with a mix of herbs for the summer allows for more successful yields. Bio-diversity promotes more pollinators and the seedballs help protect seeds against harsh environments and pests.
Eventually users will receive instructions based on their geo-location online. That is one of the goals with our Kickstarter — to make information available to our users without overwhelming them or keeping them glued to a tablet or PC. By 2014, users will be able to go-online – select their zip code, we will tell them what grows best in that location, choose a size, and based on seedball inventory, we will use a companion planting method to automatically position and space the plants. It’s all about cultivating gardeners not gardens.
After Kickstarter the the mat will run $39-$79
Nourishmat with Irrigation – $79.95
Nourishmat without Irrigation – $64.95
Herbmat with Irrigation – $49.95
Herbmat without Irrigation – $39.95
The nourishmat
We have already done some pilot testing with the summer camps and schools on the east coast. Right now we are working with the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) and the Mayors office in SF to work on using our curriculum and the Nourishmat as an educational tool. It reduces the intimidation factor because all of the tools are already laid out.
When you combine outdoor learning with something like the ‘Nourishmat’ designed to allow students to grow their own garden and share with other students around the country using the Nourishmat application…well this is hands on learning at its best… students can watch plants grow, share their growing time and success, read, write and communicate with other students, sharing together in the learning experience. Designed for students and schools in mind, the inventors of this creative product are developing a user-friendly curriculum for students as well.Theresa May – Head of School Prince William Academy 

Working with charter schools and visiting the school fairs has been helpful, but parents have been some of the biggest advocates. They have purchased some of beta quantities to be tested in schools in MD and VA. Some of our Kickstarter levels focus directly on allowing folks to give directly to a school of their choice. By working with the SFUSD we are able to use initiatives like Proposition A which gave 120 schools in the San Francisco area each $150,000 for schoolyard greening. We have proposed to put Nourishmats in those spaces with a curriculum with a much small $6,500 budget. Each school is receiving  $150,000 for their own green schoolyard. This gets spent on landscape architects, and plants, mainly and for some, the process will most likely take a few years to get completed.
Our focus is on providing people with all the resources needed to start growing food and flowers today. We have come a long way and have had many bumps and scrapes on the way. Our Kickstarter page doesn’t show the grit that it took to keep going and how hard manufacturing in the US can really be. But it’s part of our mission. We’ve been getting pushed around since day one. Family friends tried to take our idea, the doors to banks were closed and the only funding we could get was from our bank accounts. We started as two young professionals from the University of Maryland who stepped out of their comfort zone to self fund a company. Our team worked hard to beat out better funded company and apps that were poised to win the 2013 Cupid’s Cup presented by fellow UMD Alumnus Kevin Plank. We took the Nourishmat from three stages of product development on our own dime and just when we thought things were going great, a deal with Orchard Supply went by the wayside when the company fell bankrupt a few weeks ago. It hasn’t been easy but it has always been a battle against the rays of the sun.
In order for Kickstarter to be successful we must reach our $70,000 goal.
Here is a link to the campaign:

We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of happiness.    (July 4, 1776)

Credit:  Sharon Lathan

Credit: Sharon Lathan

Happy Independence Day from LGBG!

Wwoofing by the sea

Wwoofing by the sea (Photo credit: Peter Blanchard)

If you have a green thumb, need a vacation, and you are willing to work approximately 4 hours a day in exchange for room and board, WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities On Organic Farms) may be your ticket to paradise.  WWOOF is an exchange program that started in the United Kingdom in 1971 for people at least 16 years old, who are interested in organic farming and travel.  You, the WWOOFer, pay your travel costs, but do pay any living costs, and the host farmers do not pay you a wage.  Rather, for a period of time predetermined by the WWOOFer and the host, you get hands-on experience in organic and sustainable farming, and the farm gets extra hands.

WWOOFing opportunities exist globally.  Those interested can WWOOF in the United States or abroad.  An excellent place to begin your WWOOF journey is at the website,  This is a comprehensive site that thoroughly explains the program, requirements and rules for participation.  This site has links for both volunteers and for organic farms interested in participating in this wonderful program.  The site also includes links to specific WWOOF organizations in Africa, the Americas, Asia-Pacific and Europe.  This site specifically addresses any concerns one may have regarding security, VISAS, insurance requirements and even specialty farming opportunities.

WWOOF presents a great opportunity for summer vacations.  The host opportunities come in all sizes and shapes.  A review of the site shows that there even are opportunities for family participation.  What better way is there to spend a summer vacation learning something new and valuable as a family while also providing a service to the environment?  This would be a truly unforgettable vacation with an added bonus of free time to tour places of interest while making a difference in sustainable living.  This also is a great opportunity for high school and college students to enjoy unique cultural experiences during their summer vacations.

For anyone still planning a summer vacation, who is interested in learning about organic farming and who does not mind a few hours of work in exchange for room and board, WWOOF certainly should be a consideration.  With our busy lives and the constraints of urban living, we often are limited in the ability to learn many aspects of organic farming.  WWOOF links individuals interested in learning about organic farming with experts all over the world, who are more than willing to share their knowledge.  This truly is a great way to live green, be green.


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