Thursday, February 28, 2008

Green Business from a Black Perspective

Want to know how green issues impact black businesses? Thinking of starting a green initiative at work or trying your hand at running a green business? Register with Black's, "BE'ing Green" series that will highlight green issues every other Thursday to stay current these green economy issues.

The most recent issue featured a high ranking government official that helps industries to go green, two entrepreneurs and their green niches and a powerful activist that makes it his business to see that African Americans are well represented in the green economy.

Black Enterprise Magazine has provided positive role models and encouragement since my days as a junior as The Ohio State University. It was their images of African American entrepreneurs, professionals and executives that motivated me to stick with my business major. I am truly delighted that they continue to provide these positive examples and stories of blacks that are into green. Thank you BE!

Green Jobs and Green Agenda for People of Color

Finally! An environmental event with a diverse cast of characters! I am usually one of a handful of African Americans at these types of events, but this one promises to be different!

Green For All is hosting a green, poverty busting, social justice focused event titled, "The Dream Reborn: The Conference". The event will be held April 4-6 (the weekend of the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King) in Memphis, Tennessee. There will be a wide range of speakers from diverse cultural, social and occupational backgrounds. Scientists, community activists, preachers, hip hop artists, educators and organic chefs are just some of the individuals that will be speaking. On the agenda- workshops, entertainment, food, unity and solutions. Want to learn more about "the green jobs" that the politicians are talking about? How climate change impacts us? Healthy food supplies for our community? This seems like the place to be. I will be there. Will you?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Oil Prices Hit New High: Save Money by Going Green

Oil and gas prices have hit record highs. Oil prices reached $102 a barrel at one point yesterday with a promise to keep rising as global demand increases this spring and summer and production will not increase. Gas prices are at record levels hitting an average of $3.14 a gallon. This is up from $2.35 a gallon one year ago. Predictions are that we could see prices hitting $4.00 a gallon by the summer. The good news is interest rates are dropping! Okay, that's nice, but unless you are financing a large purchase, lower interest rates don't help much with day to day expenses. The great news is that this is a great time to go green or deep green and end up with a lower carbon footprint and a fatter wallet. I know you have seen all of these ideas before, but with prices going up on everything, now might be a good time to actually try some of them:

  • Carpool. Connect with your neighbors, co-workers or family on a whole new level. If you don't like any of these people, checkout some of the online ridesharing services. Some social networking sites are now offering these. Just use extreme caution.

  • Bike or walk to your destinations. Not only will you save money but you will look so awesome this summer on the beach or at the pool!

  • Use public transportation more often, a bus or train schedule is only a click away (you can catch up on some reading, listen to a podcast, daydream or people watch on your way to work-hopefully you can avoid unruly teens)

  • Maintain your vehicle and don't drive like a maniac (not only will you save on gas, but your blood pressure will drop by several points)

  • Consider a hybrid. With gas prices rising, hybrids can be worth the higher price considering you can get double the gas mileage on some models. They also look great these days-have you seen the Lexus GS 450h? So hot!

For me a new car is out of the question for now. I am going to rideshare with co-workers on sales calls, carpool with family for some routine errands and carpool with associates for community events. I will definitely buy a bike this year and ride to the store or the mall for light purchases(I could also ride to my grandma's house to show her some love). Seeing that I won't be getting a new car, now at least I feel better about investing the money to maintain my vehicle knowing it will help me save money in the short run.

One observation about all of the money saving tips above - notice how most of them enhance your intimacy and relationship with your community and your surroundings. Recent research reveals that strong relationships are one of the keys to happiness, health and longevity. The long term benefits of going green are immeasurable.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Village Green: Teach a Class

Several times a year I receive a course offering from my community recreation center. There are many classes offered, ranging from cooking, gardening and aromatherapy to plumbing, publishing and financial management. Noticing that there were no offerings on conservation, recycling or organic living, I decided to toss my hat in the ring and offer up my own curricula on going green. I contacted the the coordinator of the rec center and was emailed a course outline. Once completed and submitted, I received a notice of approval within days. The one evening class is scheduled for May. It was that simple. I expect to easily reach at least 25 members of my community. Twenty five new converts to and advocates for the world of green and sustainable living. I plan to offer a longer series of classes in the fall reaching more of my neighbors and spreading the word of responsible living, one neighborhood at a time. Do you have a passion that you would love to share with your community? Start small, pick up the phone and show your stuff!

I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas on class topics or success stories you may have in teaching a similar class.

Plant Based Diet Helps More Than Earth

Consuming a plant based diet of vegetables, grains and legumes (beans) not only will help you reduce your carbon footprint. (see Measure your Impact on this site), but will help reduce the likelihood of prostate enlargement that comes with aging. Have you seen those Flomax commercials where the men are constantly having to urinate?"Are you going and going?" This "going" is the result of prostate enlargement. Thank goodness we younger folks have a plethora of commercials to warn us of the potential dangers down the road...Anyway, seems that one thing you can do to reduce this enlargement or likelihood of enlargement is to eat a low-fat diet that is more plant based. Eating four or more servings of vegetables can reduce ones chances of suffering from this by up to 32%. You can also drink your way to this result, but there are a host of other issues that come from drinking alcohol. Anyway, eating a low-fat, plant based diet is reported to benefit your health in many other ways, including cancer reduction, heart health, stroke reduction and diabetes prevention. You will also look great and the payoff for that has so many rewards....

Told You So: Benefits of Green Tea

Family history of prostate cancer? Just diagnosed? There is good news about the benefits of green tea and a plant based diet in reducing cancers risks. Every other month you are reading about the benefits of green tea. A recent study proposes that by drinking five cups of green tea a day, one can reduce their chances of developing advanced staged prostate cancer. Prostate cancer is inevitable for most men as they become senior citizens which is very likely as people are living longer. Catechin, an ingredient in green tea, reduces the amount of testosterone, which is the hormone that drives prostate cancer. Five cups a day seems like a lot, but fill up a pitcher or a large thermos with the green goodness and it becomes very doable. Well worth the extra work if you have a family history of the disease, which disproportionately affects black men. Japanese men have much lower rates of prostate cancer and consume lots of green tea. Avoid sugary green tea drinks found in the stores. Organic tea bags and water is all that is needed. Add honey for a sweet taste.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Reduce your Stroke Risks by Eating Green

The rate of middle-aged women ( age 35-54) having strokes has tripled in recent years according to a study presented at the International Stroke Conference in New Orleans. The increase has been tied to an increase in belly fat in women. Women's stomach sizes have grown by two inches in just a ten year period. Hmmm. Could it be a result of all of the animal fat, sugar and supersized portions we are eating? (Muffins are as big as grapefruits these days) Or perhaps its the fact that we can't go anywhere without driving? Or maybe because we are just too exhausted to work out- at anytime over the course of seven days? Ladies,please wake up. Thirty-five years old and a stroke victim? We are experiencing cancers, strokes, diabetes and heart disease at younger ages. We die from these diseases at higher rates. Children are now beginning to suffer from adult oriented diseases.

One of the physical benefits of living a greener life is that you improve your chances of living a healthier, longer and happier life. Replacing more of your meats with plant based choices, buying local produce and whole grain baked goods from the farmer's market, eating and buying foods that you actually need and walking instead of driving short distances, will not only shrink your impact on the earth, but your waistlines as well.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Toys "R" Us Commits to Safe Toys

Got another treat in my inbox today. A letter from the CEO of Toys "R" Us, promising to sell toys and goods that we can feel good about giving to our kids. No phthalates or PVC's, lower lead levels and nickel-cadmium free batteries. Wow! The power of a little media controversy. Congratulations to all of you that voted with your dollars and found alternatives this past holiday season to toxic imported toys. This one step, while inconvenient and time consuming, led to a change in business practices that will positively impact children around the world for years to come. Who's next?

A Prayer for the Journey to the Village Green

I found this wonderful and timely poem today in my inbox from the Living on Earth 40 day Lenten devotional series. Talk about confirmation! Amen.

We plant seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for God's grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the workers.
We are workers, not master builders. We are prophets of a future not our own.
Oscar Romero, Roman Catholic archbishop of El Salvador

The Village Green: Get Involved

It takes a village to raise a child. The eco-twist on this old adage is "it takes a village to raise a healthy child". Our children will be the benefactors of the environment that we create for them today. The choice is ours, we can either leave them at risk for respiratory disease, cancer, reproductive difficulties, water shortages and unpredictable weather disasters or we can leave them to enjoy long, healthy, nature driven lives. As I progress on my personal journey of healthier and ecologically responsible healthy living, I am often shocked and dismayed at the wasteful and carbon emitting lifestyle of my neighbors, friends, church, school and workplace. I often reflect on the benefits to myself (living to 100+) and our children if my earth friendly habits could be multiplied by 10 or 100 fold. What's a greenie to do? Do something, but start small. These are some of the actions that I plan to put in to play in 2008. I invite you to pick one and run with it. I will post on my progress as I go on this eco-journey.

* Green Gifting - Introduce your loved ones, friends and co-workers to the world of conscious living by giving organic or eco-conscious gifts for your family and friends on birthdays, holidays and anniversaries.

* Party Green - Invite your friends and neighbors to your home and show them the benefits and ease of living green

* Work Green - Start small by promoting the economic, social and ecological benefits of working green on the job

* Teach Green- Volunteer to teach a class on sustainable living through your local community recreation center, YMCA, Boy/Girls Scouts Troop or place of worship

* School House Rock - Participate in school board and PTA meetings and promote a healthier environment for children

* Grow green - Coordinate a community or urban garden this spring

These are few things that we can do to engage our communities in a healthy living discussion that will hopefully encourage healthy living habits. I would love to hear some of your ideas and success stories on your journey to create a clean green village for ourselves and our children.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

About the Water for that Tea...Is it Safe to Drink?

Water - essential for life, the source of 70% of our cell structure, a key ingredient for a good cup of tea or coffee - is it safe to use? I am not a big fan of bottled water for many reasons, so that leaves me and many others, to get water straight from the faucet or tap. There are many questions about the safety of that tap water - about contamination from farm and factory originated chemicals and toxins, contamination from drugs being disposed of via dumping or human waste into the water systems or intentional bio-terrorist inspired poisoning. There are many water filtering systems on the market and lots of information available about the effectiveness of one over the other. It can be overwhelming to research and decipher the information about each of these systems. I have provided an outline below as a possible approach to take in making your drinking water safer and cleaner:

  • Determine the health of your community's drinking water by evaluating public reports
  • Test the water of your home (Plumbing materials can impact water content)
  • Using this information, refer to the National Sanitation Foundation's website to select a system that works best for your water profile
  • Refer to your national consumer reporting publication for product reviews on the type of system you will be using
  • Advocate for the most thorough treatment processes to be used by your local water treatment facility.

Fuel for the Journey: The Benefits of Tea

Okay, before you head down the path of eco-activism, you are going to need an energy boost. I usually start my day off with a steamy cup of black tea (sometimes a little java) and end with antioxidant rich, cancer fighting, fat burning green tea. Educate yourself on the benefits of tea. Remember to look for fair trade and organic teas to avoid pesticides and encourage sustainable farming practices and economic development for families across the diaspora.

I Am Woman Hear Me Roar!

As a child growing up on the west coast of the states in the seventies, I was exposed at an early age to progressive themes and concepts. I can distinctively recall in the third grade singing Helen Reddy's ode to female empowerment, "I am Woman". It would be years before I realized how deeply the words of that song would burn in my consciousness, even later before I realized the truth behind the words. I am amazed at the impact that one woman, Dr. Wangari Maathai, has made on the lives of women, children, families and humans not just on that great continent of Africa, but on the world. The song goes "I am woman hear me roar", and with ONE BILLION trees being planted over the world and a Nobel Prize under her belt, I can say confidently speak for all of us by saying "we hear you, Dr. Maathai"!

The question is, whether male or female, are you ready to take the next step in your journey to responsible living? A journey that removes you from the comfort zone of your home to the twilight zone of your community? Are you ready to be heard? I am. Look for posts over the next week that layout a simple to follow roadmap to the path of eco-activism. Roar!!

Update on Dr. Wangari Maathai

Apparently, Dr. Wangari Maathai, is still very involved advocating for the well being of her beloved country, Kenya. She has expressed her opinion of the conflict in this piece published in the Washington Post on February, 7, 2008. To learn more about Dr. Maathai and her struggles and successes, pick up her book, "Unbowed: A Memoir".

Mother Nature: Wangari Maathai

In honor of Black History Month, I would like to recognize the achievements of Nobel Prize winner, Dr. Wangari Maathai of Kenya. Dr. Maathai is one of the most visible, credentialed and globally recognized leaders of the green movement. In fact, she founded the Green Belt Movement, which is responsible for the planting of over ONE BILLION trees worldwide. She started by encouraging women in Kenya to plant trees on their farms, schools and churches. This movement spread across the continent and formed the Pan African Green Belt Movement, developing ecologically sensitive leaders across Africa. Hopefully these leaders can effectively represent the needs of the individuals of the continent while promoting an environmental agenda and guard against eco-colonialism as discussed in previous posts. Anyway, Dr. Maathai has taken on leadership roles in movements and initiatives to reduce poverty across the continent of Africa and abuse of the land by multiple parties. To learn more about Dr. Maathai, read the bio provided. I am curious to know about the current fate of Dr. Maathai, given the political unrest that has gripped Kenya as of late. I will include an update in future posts.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Eco-Colonialism: A Fine Line

Conservation and environmentalism are often at odds with the economic and cultural needs of urban factory and refinery workers, farmers, loggers and indigenous people across the diaspora. Should one be more concerned about feeding their family today or the ability to feed their family 50 years from now? This is a very real issue. This conflict is in part responsible for the distrust and apprehension among these individuals about the "green" movement. While the goals of conservationists are well meaning and necessary, often efforts to reduce man's impact on the earth are done without sensitivity to the immediate needs of the local community. Often, entire communities are displaced and left without a means of survival, as highlighted in this article by John Vidal of the Guardian. I have read many other examples of this occuring in Africa, the U.S, Asia and South America. There are success stories of conservationists working with the local community to develop solutions that were mutually beneficial. More conservationists should follow this model. If done properly and with sensitivity, more citizens would be brought in to the fold of being environmentally responsible.The article also highlights the trend of wealthy individuals, private hedge funds, governments and a wealth of other entities purchasing vast areas of acreage in other countries. In many cases profit through the trading of carbon offsets is the primary motive for these purchases. It appears that carbon control is potentially the "new diamond" and the opportunity for eco-exploitation is wide open. We must keep our eyes open and be vigilant in ensuring that this form of colonialism never happens again.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

How to Survive a Natural Disaster

Tornadoes, Fires, Mudslides, Blizzards and Hurricaines. Every month there is some new weather crisis. Ever wonder if you would be ready should your town be next? Check out this homesteader's blog series on how to be prepared in a weather emergency. I have some of the items recommended in what I call a "go bag" (the one sound piece of advice given by Glenn Beck) but apparently have a lot more planning to do. A budget friendly way to accumulate the items suggested for emergency preparedness is to purchase two or three items every week or so. Start preparing now. All I have to say now is "remember Katrina"!

Earthly Beginnings

I have completely enjoyed so far the earth friendly daily devotions sponsored by the Evangelical Lutheran Church. My mornings are usually pretty busy-I get in a quick prayer of appreciation upon awakening, make my routine runs, check my email and sometimes get to enjoy a cup of tea while reading the morning paper. Heading off to work, my thoughts are generally tuned to the pending issues of the day. There are several devotions that I subscribe to via email that encourage and keep me spiritually grounded and refreshed. What I really enjoy about this series of devotionals is the daily connection of the physical world with the spiritual world. You are encouraged to be still and be mindful of the earth, its yields and others that share its bounty, but from a spiritual perspective. This kind of application is right up my alley as I have an affinity for the natural world and compassion for underserved and exploited communities around the world. The timing of the series is very appropriate as we are usually more tuned in to our physical environment around this time of year, looking for visible signs of the return of spring. The hope is after reading this series, our spirits and consciousness will blossom in a manner to rival the fragrant blooms of our cherry and apple trees in a few short months!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

A Toxic Trifecta for Babies

Last year tales of toxic imported toys startled us. Last month reports of hormone altering baby lotions and shampoos drove us to label scrutiny. Today reports of cancer causing chemicals present in heated baby bottles has mothers turning to BPA (Bisphenol-A) free bottles or even better, nature's bottles. These warnings should really cause us to truly be mindful of what we put on, in and around our bodies. The internet and 24 hour news media allows for the rapid transmission of information, so we can no longer feign ignorance to the dangers of chemicals that surround us. (Ever notice how fast word of a raunchy tape gets around?) Today, armed with new knowledge, mindfulness and consciousness, I went to the drugstore for a few purchases. I was overwhelmed as I read the ingredient labels on the products. Chemicals dominated the ingredient list on almost all of my normal purchases. Walking down the aisles of the store almost became an eerie and surreal experience as I evaluated these products from a fresh perspective. I purchased only about half of what was planned (and not all chemical free). Organization and planning must play a greater role in my purchasing decisions. I will add useful links to this blog to tools and information that will give you greater power to make mindful and healthy product choices for you and your family. I would love to get your ideas for links to healthy choices and information. Send them in and we can build a comprehensive one stop planning center for toxic free living.

Friday, February 8, 2008

African American Environmentalist Association

In my post titled "Green Diversity", the link "black environmentalist organizations" was linked incorrectly to the American Agricultural Economics Association. The correct link should be I like to refer to the site on environmental issues relating to political candidates (OBAMA), racism within the green movement, energy policy and career opportunities. There is also a wealth of general information about current environmental issues and resources. You should check it out!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Green Diversity: Black Environmentalists

Green Diversity- Integrating members of all cultures into the environmentalist movement. To many blacks, the environmentalist movement has been perceived as a "white only"campaign. We imagine long haired, granola eating, sandal wearing, twenty-something white men and women chaining themselves to trees. While I am sure that there are some individuals out there that meet that very description, I am learning that the faces of the green movement are changing, albeit slowly. As blacks face water shortages in southern and western states, chronic asthma from polluted air and toxic homes, cancer outbreaks in communities close to heavily polluting industrial complexes and a decline in safe green spaces for their families to enjoy, more of us are paying attention to environmental issues. We are paying more attention to our food sources, drinking water quality and chemicals that we use in our homes and on our bodies. There are black environmentalists organizations, national talk show hosts, activists promoting green jobs and conservation leaders. I have met a few myself at some local sustainability events. I would like to see more involvement from church leaders, politicians and educators in the green movement. What are your thoughts?

Chocolate Fix

In my last post I wrote about blaxploitation in the chocolate industry and gave some recommendations on kinder gentler chocolates to try. Well, I haven't been able to stop thinking about chocolate since then. Today I made a special trip to the mega organic/healthy/fresh/delicious/friendly grocer, Whole Foods Market to pick up an Endangered Species candy bar (dark chocolate with cranberries and almonds). To my surprise, not only was I able to find a wide selection of fine organic and fair trade chocolates, but about a hundred singles looking for a sweet match. Apparently, Whole Foods took the whole grocery store pick up scene to a new level. The grocer sponsored a singles night, with free food samples, drinks, music and lots of atmosphere. People were everywhere and love (or lust) was in the air. My son and I got a kick out of reading the "love wanted ads" placed by participants that were on display. It seemed like a fun but low key way to meet or at least see people with similar interests (at least in healthy eating). Anyway, I was able to able to make a sweet connection with some delicious dark chocolate!

Monday, February 4, 2008

Bittersweet: Chocolate, Child Labor and Deforestation

Well it's that time of the year again. Time to order flowers and chocolate for your sweetie. If you really want to do something sweet for your beloved, show some love for the children of the world. According to this article I found on Yahoo! Green, most cocoa is harvested in Africa, specifically Ghana and the Cote d'Ivoire, by children as young as six years old. Many of the children don't attend school and are exposed to toxic pesticides. Also, with the demand for chocolate increasing, many rainforests are being cleared to farm cocoa. The chocolate industry is becoming more sensitive to this issue and has begun to make inroads to reducing the child labor issues and developing more sustainable cocoa farming practices. For chocolate that tastes as good as it can make you feel, look for a "fair trade" designation on the label or organic. The article includes a lists of chocolates to look for and links to the websites of the confectioners. My personal favorite is the Endangered Species chocolate brand. It is by far the smoothest, creamiest and richest of the organics and fair trade brands that I have tasted.

Baby Products: Lead is the Least of Your Worries

I have addressed the issue of potentially toxic chemicals in previous posts in relation to personal care products. New reports now warn of these chemicals, primarily phthalates, being present in many baby personal care products, such as shampoos, lotions and powders. Many pediatricians, including my son's, have stated that there is no need for special personal care products for babies. Bottom line.. because labels do not always indicate the presence of these chemicals, look for products that are labeled "phthalate free". DEP, DEHP and fragrance are used to describe phthalates. Read further for more information on this topic. Also, refer to the Eco-Links section for children's product safety organizations.