100% Clean Renewable Energy – The New Norm!

World-wide countries are pursuing clean renewable energy, glad to reap the economic and health benefits.  This is proving to be the most exciting emerging industry since the IT boom.  China, alone, plans to create thirteen million renewable jobs by 2020. It’s quite inspiring reviewing all the progress; here is a succinct snapshot provided by the Climate Reality Project.

Sweden – This year, the first country to generate 100 percent of their electricity from renewables. They are committed to eliminating fossil fuel usage and are investing in solar, wind, energy storage, smart grids and clean transport.

Costa Rica – 99% of their electricity came from renewables in 2015. They are capitalizing on hydroelectric, geothermal, solar and wind.

Nicaragua – Renewables comprised up to 54 percent of their electricity production in 2015. Their goals are to reach 90 percent by 2020 with an emphasis on wind, solar and geothermal sources.

Scotland – In 2015 wind power met 97 percent of the country’s household electricity needs.

Germany – This country leads the world in solar PV capacity and meets 78 percent of their electricity demand from renewables. An amazing accomplishment, given this country is quite cloudy. When choosing solar panels for our place of business, we chose the best, a German product. That came as no surprise. In 2008 my daughter had the honor of participating in and presenting the Texas A&M project at the world-wide Solar Decathlon competition at our Capitol Mall.  Germany innovation handily won first place.

Uruguay – After less than 10 years of effort, Uruguay now is 95 percent powered by renewables focusing on wind and solar.

Denmark – Given their high winds, they focused on wind turbines, meeting 42% of their electricity needs in 2015.

China – By 2014 China had the most installed wind energy capacity and the second highest installed solar PV capacity. Besides good economics, China knows renewables reduce pollution.  Their citizens will appreciate fewer air quality “red alerts”; perhaps eventually they won’t have to wear face masks. Never to miss a marketing opportunity, they sell face masks in a variety of colors!  While visiting South Korea last year, I found colorful face masks to be quite common. I was told governmental officials frequently alert their citizens when prevailing winds are bringing in toxic Chinese yellow dust.

Morocco – Capitalizing on their sunny skies, they opened the first phase of the largest concentrated solar plant in the world this year.

Kenya – In 2015, geothermal covered 51 percent of their electricity needs. They are currently building one of Africa’s biggest wind farms to cover 20 percent of their electricity needs; combined efforts 71% total.

United States – In 2014, we ranked fifth place on installed solar capacity globally and second place on wind energy capacity. Renewables accounted for about 13 percent of our electricity generation that year. 2015 totals were not listed.

As I’m reviewing the world’s progress, I’m reminded of the wonders of nature and all it has to offer. Windy countries maximize on wind turbines; sunny ones on solar panels.  With the world in agreement we need to phase out fossil fuels, scientists rise to the occasion; clean energy technology improve and products become more affordable!

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Environmental Accomplishments

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http://universe-beauty.com/gallery/search/(keyword)/vision+of+the+earth

Any environmentalist is quite concerned about the election results. I am no exception. To lift my spirits, I reviewed the environmental accomplishments over the last eight years.  Given the environment is our life-line, I had wished for more progress, but in retrospect, these accomplishments now appear quite impressive.

— In response to one of our worst financial emergencies in 2008, Congress implemented an economic package that laid the foundation for a clean energy future. Ninety billion dollars were invested in renewable energy, energy efficiency, green jobs and technology. Consequently, solar electricity generation has increased thirty-fold and wind electricity more than three-fold. Research funds granted growth in smart grids, energy efficiency, electric cars, renewable electricity generation, cleaner coal, and biofuels technology.

— The government bailed out the auto industry and required higher efficiencies – 36.6 miles per gallon by 2017 for cars and 54.4 miles per gallon by 2025. Those new standards will reduce tons of carbon pollution and has accelerated transition to electric vehicles; all the while creating a more marketable product and saving us money.

— The Environmental Protection Agency declared carbon dioxide as a pollutant in 2009. The Clean Power Plan is on track to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and other toxic pollutants from power plants 32 percent by 2030. We are closing down our oldest and dirtiest coal-fired power plants. Estimated costs to utilities upgrades is projected at $11 billion, while estimated health benefits are $59 to 140 billion. Tackling pollution makes us healthier!

— The Energy Department creation of new standards for energy efficient appliances and products ranging from refrigerators to light bulbs, impacting all structures from homes to enormous buildings. These new regulations won’t only cut significant greenhouse gas emissions; they will also save Americans billions of dollars.

— Last fall the world came together to tackle the dangers of Climate Change. Leaders from 196 countries developed and signed the ambitious Paris Agreement committed to keep global temperature rise this century well below two degrees.

—Per executive order, twenty-three national monuments were designated protecting 265 million acres of land and 100 miles of waterways. It’s always a victory when pristine public land is set aside for us to enjoy along with future generations.

— Per executive order, all federal agencies are making plans to soften their environmental impacts by 2020. Goals include 30 percent reduction in fleet gasoline use, increase water efficiency by 26%, and considering sustainable practices on all federal contracts. These actions will save our tax dollars!

— Efforts were made to keep fossil fuels in the ground to minimize carbon damage. President Obama stopped the Keystone pipeline. The Department of Interior discontinued extracting coal from public land.

On the flip side, a 40-year ban on US crude oil exports was lifted in exchange for extending clean energy tax credits. And, offshore and Arctic drilling leases were granted. Shell stepped away from Alaskan Arctic drilling efforts, ironically oil now more accessible due to glacier melt from carbon-induced global warming. Fortunately just this week, per executive order, President Obama deemed US owned waters in the Arctic Ocean and parts of the Atlantic Ocean as off limits to future oil and gas leasing and halted the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Now we have a new president elect who has been spouting anti-environmental rhetoric for months. He calls Climate Change “a hoax”. He pledges to approve the Keystone XL pipeline and pursue “clean” coal reserves, the dirtiest fuel on the planet. He promises to disband the Environmental Protection Agency since those regulations “get in the way of business”. And he says he is going to break our pact with the World by withdrawing from the Paris Accord.

There is much to be gained by continuing and expanding our efficiency and clean energy trajectory:

*Efficient energy practices and products save us money.

*Reducing toxins and pollutions makes us healthier.

*Decreased climate change dangers reduce environmental and world instability.

*Pursuing renewables is a huge economic opportunity.

To live is to progress; frankly I’m flummoxed the public wouldn’t always want to build on what we have learned.  We now know this clean energy trajectory not only protects our environment, it saves us money, creates jobs, enhances our health, it’s a huge economic opportunity and it honors world-wide needs and opinions.

To protect our environment, it’ll now be more important than ever to join marches, support environmental organizations and speak up. I remain vigilant fulfilling my moral obligation to be a good steward of our earth, assuring future generations too will revel in this beautiful gift. This year I became a grandmother – this just got real personal!

Apples Become Cider

 

 

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1816 Cider Press

The 1816 cider press hailed from Springfield, Ohio leapt into action this fall, propelled by muscle strength.  It’s quite fascinating imagining how this press landed so close by, in a small community along the Missouri River. The press was likely loaded into a wagon making its way to a boat on the Ohio River, once afloat it traveled up to Cairo and caught the Mississippi River up to St. Louis, then headed west up the Missouri River, finally received by one of the community elders. Fortunately, many years ago, the press was given to my friend who breathes life back into the relic. How did that press recently come alive?

Last winter, a friend told me he had acquired an apple orchard, the very orchard I frequented as a child. He lamented very few apples were picked last year, such a waste. Fortunately, this fall I pursued those apples. I was extremely excited since his dormant orchard hadn’t been sprayed with pesticides for years. After confirming the splotches on the apples weren’t a problem, we leapt into action, and invited some friends. With many tubs, buckets, and ladders in hand, we hit the orchard. Once the easy apples were picked, we carefully repositioned our ladders and stretched and stretched, determined to reach the elusive ones, many just barely within our grasp. This is better than yoga! Once our capacity was filled with early Fuji and Jonathan apples, we scrounged for empty jugs and hauled everything to the press.

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Getting organized; soon to fill 3-tub wash station

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Group Effort!

 

After we washed our assorted apparatus, our group of seven got organized. The huge pile of apples was daunting! We were glad to share our bounty with this particular group of friends, as they have a long-standing cider-pressing tradition and hadn’t found apples this year. Their labor force is three generations deep! We sorted, cut out bad spots, triple washed, then filled the hopper; those were the easier jobs. Next we pulverized the apples with sheer muscle strength, cranking the press handle around and around until our bodies said no more! Then our strength was again challenged as we pressed out the juice, turning a wheel around and around. Once exhausted, we called in supports, handing the task over to a new set of muscles and energy.

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Crushing apples
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Pressing juice out of crushed apples.

 

 

 

 

To re-energize, we shared a communal cup sampling various apple combinations along the way, such sweet and delightful nectar!  Free flowing juice was captured, strained thru a sieve, then poured into our welcoming jugs – 41 gallons!

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Cider!

All along the way camaraderie abounded making for a wonderful day. With kindred spirits we shared stories and laughter while bringing in the harvest. We stashed our cider in the freezer and in a brave attempt to make vinegar, set aside one gallon in the closet. Now we pull from our freezer from time to time, such sweetness, rationing ourselves in anticipation of hot spiced cider this winter. As for the vinegar, it was a success!

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Apple Scraps!

 

 

 

Ocean Conservancy

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Consider these lofty goals – promote healthy and diverse ocean ecosystems, restore sustainable American fisheries and protect wildlife from human impact. In 1972, Ocean Conservancy, a nonprofit environmental advocacy group took on such a challenge. These champions help formulate ocean policy on both the federal and state government levels.

Naturally, litter was a major concern.  By 1989 an International Coastal Cleanup annual event took shape, now the world’s largest all-volunteer clean-up event for the ocean with activities held around every major body of water. Last year alone, 561,895 volunteers picked up and cataloged over 16 million pounds of trash along 13,360 miles of coastlines and waterways.

Ocean Conservancy focuses on waterways litter as it “compromises the health of humans, wildlife and the livelihoods that depend on a healthy ocean; threatens tourism and recreation, and the critical dollars they add to our local economies; complicates shipping and transportation by causing navigation hazards; and generates steep bills for retrieval and removal.”

Capturing the flow of trash at the source is especially critical before it escapes and joins the bulk of the trash lying unseen beneath the surface. Ocean Conservancy estimates 5-12 million tons of plastic enters our waterways annually from land-based sources, over 80% of the ocean plastic. During their annual event, volunteers not only rid our coastlines of trash, they tally and identify the worst litter offenders, providing a global snapshot of the marine debris littering our coasts and waterways around the world. Last year’s top ten items offenders:

1 – Cigarette butts

2 – Food wrappers

3 – Plastic beverage bottles

4 – Plastic bottle caps

5 – Straw, stirrers

6 – Other plastic bags

7 – Plastic grocery bags

8 – Glass beverage bottles

9 – Beverage cans

10 – Plastic cups and plates

While we in the United States are the top producer of waste per capita, Ocean Conservancy has found emerging countries, experiencing rapid economic growth, are the highest producers of plastic marine waste. Recent studies indicate five countries alone (China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam) produce 60 percent of the marine plastic entering our oceans. Unfortunately their waste-management infrastructures haven’t kept up with their excessive waste as their plastic and plastic-intensive goods have grown exponentially.  Improved collection infrastructure will be critical or a commonly quoted projection could come true – by 2025, the ocean could contain one ton of plastic for every three tons of fish.

As global citizens, we all benefit from healthy oceans. We can contribute by containing our trash, picking up litter, not tossing cigarette butts and asking our friends to join us. Our watershed goes directly into the Missouri River, then to the Mississippi River and on to the ocean. We can form a clean-stream team, join Pick-Up Boonville and Missouri River Relief efforts, practice Refuse-Reduce-Reuse-Recycle principles, avoid single-use disposal items and plastics when possible, pick up along ocean beaches during our travels, vote in forward-thinking leaders that prioritize our environment, and donate to environmental champions including Ocean Conservancy. It’s a symbiotic relationship – when we take care of the environment, it takes care of us.

 

The Dangers of Ignoring our Scientists

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Follow the Leaders – Isaac Cordal

The tobacco industry paved the way for ignoring our scientists. Unable to deny their product was both addictive and harmful, they casted doubt, ridiculing doctors and scientists who spoke out. In1998, they admitted they had lied and paid billions in law suits, miniscule considering their addicted customers and ongoing profits. Now they are casting doubt on the dangers of second hand smoke. Again doctors are speaking up; this time the majority is no longer gullible. Now 34 US states have state-wide 100% smoke-free indoor air laws for worksites and 33 communities in Missouri have enacted comprehensive smoke-free ordinances. Such ordinances result in reduced cigarette sales and healthier communities. Now the cigarette state excise tax median is $1.53, ranging from $4.35 to the lowest rate in the nation, Missouri’s seventeen cents. As for heeding the warnings our doctors, unfortunately Missouri and our local Boonville City Council aren’t pursuing a smoke-free ordinance.

Other industries saw the power of dismissing our scientists and casting doubt. Now documents confirm as early as the seventies the oil industry knew their product was harming our environment.  Initially, politicians across both party lines united, ready to take on this challenge. Not to be bothered, the oil industry chose to cast doubt, bringing all progress to a halt. For years the industry has been bullying the public and politicians. They now fuel doubt with fear, claiming reducing carbons will impede progress.  Sadly, our Environment, once revered and shared by all, has now become a partisan issue. Ignoring our scientist’s warnings, politicians continually attempt to weaken our Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and overthrow the environmental laws put in place to protect us, a dangerous practice indeed.

In stark contrast, other countries value and benefit from their scientists. Last year all the world leaders united and developed the Paris Agreement. All agreed, Climate Change is a world-wide problem and ambitious goals and immediate actions are needed to minimize further damage and suffering. Glacier melt, rising oceans and erratic weather patterns make it hard to ignore. Staunch deniers are slowly admitting Climate Change is real but maintain humans aren’t the cause; those scientists have a sinister agenda! If we had simply followed our scientist’s advice over 45 years ago, not only would we have prevented great human suffering and environmental damage world-wide, we would now be thriving with a healthy robust clean renewables economy meeting all our energy needs. Instead we are left with an escalating problem difficult to reverse.

Meanwhile a small Central American nation, Costa Rica, takes the lead generating 99% of their electricity from renewables in 2015; 100% so far this year. These visionaries are clearly on target to meet their goal to be free of fossil fuels in just five years. More reasons to embrace our scientists next week.

Many industries have enjoyed great influence and profits by following the tobacco and oil industries lead. It has now become common practice for many to value industry’s opinions over our scientists.  In the seventies, the chemical, plastic and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) industries all exploded with very little oversight. While our lifespan was increasing due to new medical advances, sadly that is now no longer true. In the 1900s, the top causes of death were pneumonia or flu, tuberculosis and gastrointestinal infections; now 50% of our deaths are due to heart disease, cancer, and respiratory diseases.

Scientists and doctors warn us about exposure to thousands of chemicals, cigarettes, GMO products, high fructose corn syrup, refined sugar, and processed foods. Yet when the overwhelming majority requested transparent GMO labeling laws, our Congress chose to cater to the GMO industry, dismissing our scientists and the public majority. Our leaders remain complacent accepting health compromising chemicals and products as a given, favoring treatment research over prevention.

The environmental scientists warn us about our over-consumptive habits. They say we are putting future generations at risk dipping into resources they will sorely need. They cry we are polluting our soils, air, waterways and food with too many chemicals, and plastics. They tell us chemicals are killing our much needed pollinators (Monarch butterflies and bees); soaking our crops, seeds, yards and gardens with dangerous pesticides and herbicides like neonics and glyphosate (e.g. Round Up) are causing great harm. They warn us industry is compromising our aquifers and waterways with sloppy extraction/production, and reoccurring oil/fracking/chemical leaks and spills. They caution us we are generating and improperly disposing a wide array of hazardous waste. Then say ever prevalent toxic Styrofoam is compromising our soil, waterways, and wildlife, and overflowing our landfills.  Scientific warnings are dismissed. Scientists have developed innovative “Zero Waste” strategies, solutions widely ignored in the United States. While industry could eliminate toxins, and financially benefit by reducing and reusing their waste, they don’t bother. As long as industry isn’t held accountable for their waste, they will continue to vie for more lax environmental laws.  Meanwhile, their pollution becomes our problem as the general public.

Fortunately, scientists aren’t only warning us, they continue their research and offer alternatives. To benefit from our scientists – we need to listen and value their opinions. With change comes opportunity. In the same way I trust my doctor, I always choose to believe our scientists.  Out of great reverence for our beautiful Earth, nature and the people around me, I’m glad we have our scientist watch-dogs. If we don’t heed their advice, I fear we and future generations are doomed! It’s time for a revolution!

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http://kalw.org/post/your-call-will-it-take-revolution-stop-climate-change#stream/0

 

 

 

The Possible Journey of a Piece of Litter

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https://www.shutterstock.com/cs/search/street+litter

Say a single-use plastic bottle someway becomes litter – Imagine the possible journey of this misplaced item.  Best case scenario – you or I are strolling along, see it, and grab it.  It gets recycled and perhaps turns up again recycled into a nice fleece vest with a new life.  Or if it stays visible until March, maybe a participant of our local effort, Pick Up Boonville, snatches it and sends it to the recycling stream.

If not, perhaps the wind blows it to a storm drain or a river bank, when it rains it could flow into the Missouri River.  There is a slight chance someone from the Missouri River Relief effort retrieves it. During their 15th year in 2015, 1508 Volunteers removed 41 tons of trash along 57 miles of the river!  One year, after a 600 mile journey, a plastic Sioux Falls, South Dakota restaurant cup was rescued during the Hartsburg Missouri River Relief clean-up effort.

Or perhaps it rains for days either here or up-river, the river rises and deposits the bottle somewhere further inland where it remains for hundreds of years, or perhaps it lands on an island where someone finds it.  Or maybe the river rises again and meets it, lodges it out of the mud and sends it further downstream.   Maybe a boater will grab it or it could be so full of mud it simply sinks to the bottom of the Missouri River remaining there for hundreds of years.  Say it continues floating, and makes it to the Mississippi River.  Maybe one of Chad’s Mississippi River Clean Up participant will run across it. (This organization has been picking up now for 25 years!)  Or perhaps someone with a river home near Natchez, Mississippi will grab that bottle.  If all fails, it could float all the way past New Orleans into the Gulf of Mexico and join gravitate to the North Atlantic Gyre, a swirling pool filled with all things plastic.  Once there it could find its way to one of the five oceanic gyres – swirling heaps of garbage.   If we were on the west side of the Continental Divide, it could make its way to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the size of Texas!

Then I think back to the beginning of this journey.  If we had bottle deposit laws or if that individual used a reusable water bottle instead, the journey would never have begun.   So, if you see a discarded plastic water bottle, don’t let it get away – Grab it!

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http://www.algalita.org/mid-ocean-plastics-cleanup-schemes-too-little-too-late/

Say No to the Straw

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© The Last Plastic Straw

While I’m sparing everybody the horrible visuals of the unfortunate turtles saddled with wayward straws stuck up their nose, I do want to share this consumption visual – the number of straws used daily in the United States could circle our planet more than two-and-a-half times a day – 500 million straws! While it’s easy to mindlessly take those “free” straws, they come at a high price.  This seemingly innocuous straw has significant environmental impact – Extracting resources, distribution, polluting our oceans and crowding our landfills.

In the early 1900s straws, made of paper and rye, became common due to the fear of polio and tuberculosis being transmitted from shared glasses. In the mid-1950s as cars became popular, fast food restaurants soon graced our roadways. Fast-food restaurants replaced glass with low-cost disposable packaging for meals and made straws commonplace accompanying drinks on the go. By 1960, those renewable paper straws were replaced with plastic, a petroleum product. To gain a strong foothold, straws were heavily marketed as “convenient” and a way to reduce illness exposure from improperly washed containers. With people eating more meals on the go, straws fling into our environment. Now, consider the implications of twenty minutes of convenience.

More demand for straws means more production, more oil and gas extraction, more electricity for production, and more gas to both ship materials to plastic manufacturers and to deliver straws to the consumer. So, more carbon emissions and pollution for a now commonplace product we rarely “need”.

There are also health implications. Like most plastics, those straws contain Bisphenol A (BPA) which mimics the activity of hormones in the body, such as estrogen, linked to many serious health risks.

With all single-use disposable products, comes the disposal end. Plastic straws are rarely recycled; they don’t biodegrade so they stay around and accumulate. According to Ocean Conservancy, straws and stirrers were the fifth most common marine plastic debris found during their 2015 coastal cleanup (cigarette butts #1). Researchers estimate 90% of our marine life and seabirds have now ingested plastics.

Luckily, this is an environmental menace we can easily avoid. If you don’t need a straw, don’t use one. When eating out, simply say “no straw please” or have more of an impact by requesting the restaurant or bar only serve straws upon request. While some restaurants have switched back to paper straws, best case practices is to avoid all unnecessary disposables. If you like straws or have a physical disability requiring one, consider buying reusable  stainless steel, glass, or bamboo straws.  At the very minimum, at least  buy paper straws – yes, they are still out there.

If by chance, my powers of persuasion are lacking, I challenge you to Google “sea turtle plastic straw” and see the consequences of one wayward plastic straw – It’s horrifying. If for no other reason, say “no to the straw” to save our marine life.  With this one single action, we will all enjoy a much cleaner environment – our air, land and oceans.

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Take the no plastic straw pledge – http://www.plasticpollutioncoalition.org/no-straw-please/

 

 

Conscious Shopping

It’s complicated.  Shopping by one’s conscience takes more time, thought, research and label scrutinizing – pain staking yes, but a worthy challenge.  These are factors I consider –

*Second-Hand – Hand’s down, this is the most eco-friendly shopping practice of all.  Producing fewer products reduces environmental damage, and reuse minimizes waste, averting valuable resources away from our landfill.  While shopping second-hand, sometimes I flex my other criteria. Swap meets are becoming a thing!  My daughter recently helped with a community  Stop ‘N’ Swap event in New York City.  I always enjoy all the laughter, and stories as we model and promote our wares seeking a new owner during smaller swap parties among friends.

*Buy what I need – By avoiding impulsive shopping, I minimize my carbon foot-print.  I’m rewarded by saving both time and money.  Focusing on “need” helps one avoid the emotional therapy shopping trap.

*Made in the USA/Shop Local when purchasing “new” items – Certainly challenging, buying as locally as possible minimizes transporting carbon spewing cargo ships and trucks, keep jobs in the USA, and stops supporting companies that gravitate to countries with lax environmental and labor laws.

*Produce – Grow yourself, or buy at Farmer’s Markets.  When purchasing organics, I consult the Environmental Work Group’s Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen groups to get more bang for my buck.  Buying in season reduces transportation emissions when produce isn’t transported from countries all over the world.  Frequently cited, food travels an average of 1500 miles from farmer to consumer in the United States.

*Fair trade/Eco-conscious companies – I always start my day with a strong cup of fair trade coffee.  Knowing those working in the fields aren’t over-worked and underpaid enhances my enjoyment.  While considering products, I frequently consult the Good Guide , as their scientists have rated over 250,000 products on a zero to ten scale rating their health, environment and social impact.

*Quality – I will pay extra for products I that will last longer and always purchase energy efficient appliances.

*Buy Healthy Food – Again challenging, I try to avoid processed foods, unhealthy chemicals (additives, preservatives, food coloring), and hormone fed animals and their byproducts.  I also avoid products made with genetically modified (GMO) ingredients which are unfortunately very prevalent and unlabeled.  If you want to see more healthy options available on our local grocery shelves, speak up.

*Avoid Environmentally Damaging Products – Styrofoam, plastic water bottles, cleaning products with toxic chemicals, heavily packaged products, disposables, single-serve products and healthcare products with micro-beads.  With Good Guide’s assistance and lots of research, I am replacing old standbys with healthier products – shaving cream, toothpaste, sunscreen, lotion, shampoo, and conditioner.

Embrace Consumer Power – When we consciously choose where we spend money, we have the opportunity to support businesses and companies that reflect our values.  Many times those “bargains” come at too high of a price to the environment and workers.

Missouri State Parks 100 Year Anniversary

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https://mostateparks.com/passport

I was quite amazed when perusing the spring edition of Missouri Resources to learn Arrow Rock Tavern was the first property purchased by the state; a rest stop built in 1834 for settlers headed west.  In 1916, Missouri was one of the first states to create a special park fund used to buy land. By 1928 the state had acquired 40,000 acres creating 14 state parks, mostly in the Ozarks. Only four states had obtained more land at this point in time. Funds initially came from game and fishing fees, and federal funds.  As automobiles and better highways improved mobility, park attendance grew. In 1974 the Department of Natural Resources was formed with Missouri State Parks under its umbrella. In 1981 federal aid ended. Fortunately citizen action led to voter approval of a one-tenth-cent sales tax to be split between state parks and soil and water conservation. To date, every ten years a large majority approves the tax renewal, now poised for a vote again this fall.

Per Missouri Resources, “state parks offer prairies, battlefields, covered bridges, ancient Indian villages, forested hills and valleys with caves and springs, streams with trout, lakes with bass and the homes and workplaces of honored artists, pioneers, soldiers and statesmen.” Given our state was quick to preserve land for the public good, we were major recipients of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. Thousands of young men worked for the Civilian Conservation Corps building infrastructure in our park systems; as major recipients, four thousand in Missouri alone. Wonderful stone and timber pavilions, along with rock walls and steps along pathways, added beauty and functionality to our parks. With over 18 million visitors each year, we have much to offer – 53 state parks, 35 historic sites, and over 1000 conservation areas. Contrary to most states, entry to our parks is free.

In 2013, American Trails, a national, nonprofit organization, named Missouri the “Best Trails State”. We have almost 1,000 miles of managed trails and more than 500 miles of National Recreation Trails; diverse trails we can walk, hike or bicycle throughout our state park system; and the Katy Trail, the longest developed rail-to-trail  in the nation. We also have the beautiful Ozark National Scenic Waterway flowing through the lower part of our state. If you want to learn more about nature offerings in Missouri, call for free subscriptions to Missouri Resources through the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and Missouri Conservationist through Missouri Department of Conservation. Missouri is a beautiful state – get out there and enjoy it!

 

Obesity Epidemic – Part IV

Taking back our health requires much more than taking a pill to mask symptoms.  While it will initially take a lot of discipline and effort, in most cases obesity and related health issues can be overcome.  Being heavy and unhealthy doesn’t have to be our new norm. While the food industry will tell you the answer is to simply exercise, specialists say reducing targeted calories is the first step, and all calories are not alike.  Eating healthier takes off the pounds and exercise builds muscles to keep off the weight.

Any lifestyle changes take time – it’s a process, not an event.  While many serious health issues require drastic measures, it is more nurturing to “ease” into a healthier lifestyle. A moderate approach might mean starting by eating fast foods one less day a week, eating vegetarian one day a week, drinking more water, not eating at a desk or while driving, enjoying more family sit-down meals, or shopping at a Farmer’s Market. Gradually adding movement to your day might mean stretching more often, taking a fifteen minute walk, playing catch with your kids, take up gardening, strengthening your balance by standing on one foot or joining a yoga or fitness class. Study labels, try new foods, gradually shift to a healthier diet and move more.  Positive results lead to more positive changes – you will be on your way.  Change is invigorating.  Just keep in mind, for optimal health, the Department of Health and Human Services and American Heart Association recommend at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise (or a combination).

I find the Environmental Working Group dietary guidelines to be quite helpful.

Eat more vegetables and fruits, avoid pesticides when you can.

Eat less meat, especially red and processed meat – “Red and processed meats are believed to cause cancer and heart disease, and their production is bad for the environment”.

Skip sodas, sugary and salty food.

Eat healthy and sustainable seafood that’s low in mercury.

Beware of processed foods – “The federal Food and Drug Administration allows more than 10,000 chemical additives in food.  Some of these substances are linked to serious disorders.”

While the issues surrounding obesity are quite complex, during my discussion I have focused on dietary changes and a more active lifestyle. Minimizing stress, staying well rested and maintaining a strong support system all help to prevent emotional eating. Cutting down on screen time filled with advertisements, especially those targeting vulnerable kids can also be extremely effective. If you feel the need, continue researching on your own and see what works for you.  Feeling healthy, happy, and energetic is worth the effort!

This is the last of my Obesity Epidemic series – Thanks for staying tuned in!