Tag Archives: green living

Green Is Good But Sustainability Is Systemic

8 Apr

I don’t talk about sustainability enough on this blog.  The rub of having your masters in sustainability and opening a green business in a city brimming with eco-stewards is that you get all talked out at a certain point.  When you finally do sit sit down to blog, you want to talk about anything else.  This space has become an outlet for all the stuff I love but don’t get to talk about all day:  running and food!

“I feel like I need to commit more time to talk about green living.”

I hate that I even typed that.  What I mean is: I need to commit more time to talk about going beyond green living, into real sustainability.  By no means am I looking down on people who are into green living or use that phrase.  Green is good…great even.  I wish everyone would embrace green lifestyle choices and for the most part, people are pretty happy to jump on the good karma band wagon.  BUT.  And I don’t want to sound pompous when I say this, BUT…to me, the phrase green living has very little meaning.  The phrase itself doesn’t demand self-awareness.  It seems so passive, almost implying that we simply go through our lives and buy products labeled “green” or “eco-friendly” and recycle when it’s convenient and then bask in the awesomeness of our green living.  Understanding sustainability requires us to look beyond packaging and promotions and marketing and our own behaviors/attitudes; it requires us to consider things like social equity and our waste streams and broader systemic implications than just our purchases.  It requires us to think and ask questions and demand answers and improve.  It requires us to walk the walk.  In that spirit, I plan on having more of those conversations in this space.  🙂


We are smack dab in the middle of what I like to call “crunch time” at the new house.  We’ve got an appraisal coming up so we need to make sure that the remodel is 100% completed by early next week.  It has really been a struggle to find some kind of balance, but with or without balance this train isn’t slowing down!  I have started to think beyond what is happening now, trying to plan how I will tackle my new enormous yard.  I have so many ideas, but it’s challenging for me to figure out which ones are realistic based on my level of experience and the fact that I have 2 oaf-ish dogs.I grew up in a small house nestled smack dab in the middle of an acre of land in the suburbs.  I am used to having air to breathe, trees, and room to wander.  For the last 5 years, I’ve had to leave my house to find any of those things, but that is about to change in a big way (see below)!  I mean, if the zoning requirements were different in this borough I could have an self-sufficient farmette with the yard we are moving into.  They don’t allow that in West Homestead however, and green my thumb is not.


our yard now..

photo 4(2)

our new yard…

Before May, my goal is to have a recycling center set up, an herb garden planted, a vegetable garden prepped, some kind of rain harvesting set up, and I will make a composter.  Ambitious, no?

The sky is really the limit as far as composting options go, but after a series of trails and errors I have a general idea of what I want.

I don’t think I’m ready for something quite this permanent yet, but ideally this is what I would like to work up to once I know how I want the yard set up:

To begin, I think I like the one below because it seems like it would be easy for someone with very little interest in using a shovel, rake, or biceps.

If I’m unable to get any cooperation from Christina, I may end up with something a little less fancy like this:

I’m shocked at how much less garbage we put out each week when our kitchen scraps get diverted to make compost!  It’s a gratifying feeling when you make something productive {fertilizer} from literal garbage without spending much money.  Composting is one of the simplest examples of a feedback loop.  We have an endless supply of food waste, which will eventually become an endless supply of fertilizer, which will eventually become an endless supply of vegetables, which then turn back into food waste.  That simple model is at the core of sustainability:  consider how a system works, analyze factors that effect it, and then find a way to close the loop/act on the process to get a beneficial outcome.


Do you compost?

What kind of system works for you?


What’s Up With Oil Anyway?

3 Apr

Well, it started with crutons…

They needed tossed in oil.  The instructions I had were vague.

What is the damn difference between vegetable oil, olive oil, and canola oil anyway?

Obviously my first look is nutrition values:

Vegetable Oil has 120 Calories, 14 g of fat, 9 g of polyunsaturated fat, 3 g of monounsaturated fat, and 2g of saturated fat.

This is what I know:

1. Monounsaturated fats can help lower your cholesterol and prevent heart diseasre.

2. Polyunsaturated fats do pretty much the same thing but CAN contain Omega-3s.  (You know, those good things salmon has…blah blah blah).

3. Saturated fat is bad and RAISES your cholesterol, heightening risks of coronary problems and diabetes.

So what are the ingredients in this anyway.  Soybean oil.  Coooool.  Of all the evil things I know about industrial farming, this comes from soybean oil and is probably the most common oil to cook with.

So what about olive oil, which is one of the primary ingredients in my cooking…

120 calories, 14 g of fat, 2 g of polyunsaturated fat, and 10g of monounsaturated fat.

That means olive oil has less trans fat, 7 g less of polyunsaturated fat, but 8 g more of monounsaturated fat.


Gotta love that the primary ingredient is refined olive oils and virgin olive oils.  Purity wins over geographic undesirably.  I also having been hearing a lot from the Mediterranean area regarding food outrage of any kind so…

By the time I’m checking out the canola oil, I’m feeling totally confused.

120 calories, OK that’s the same as the other two; 14 g of fat compares with the olive oil; has 1 g less saturated fat (which, like I said, we know is the bad kind); it has 2 MORE grams of polyunsaturated fat than olive oil; and is high in omega 3 rich monounsaturated fats.

So, we’ll do a quick sum of the fat because that seems to be the first major factor.

Total Fat:

Vegetable Oil: 2 BAD, 12 OK – 14 g total fat

Olive Oil: 2 BAD, 12 OK – 14 g total fat

Canola Oil: 1 BAD, 13 OK – 14 g total fat

Canola Oil wins in both purity of ingredient and in amount of good fats.  And guess what, it can be grown in the United States.

Wait, the ingredients…canola oil.  What the hell is a canola?

Apparently its derived from this purty thing called a rapeseed.

There are some GMO-related issues with canola oil right now though.  Monsanto does own some kind of GMO canola in Canada, which “accidentally” (retarded.) “infected” a neighboring farm.  Monsanto sued the poor farmer who had no control of pollen factors or wind, which easily moved the seeds to his yard.

So what to do?

I think I’m going to switch to canola oil and hawk the shelves for a GMO-free label.  Not sure what I’m going to find – but I’ll let you know when I do.

Farm To Table Conference 2012: Recap Part 1

25 Mar

Farm to Table was one of the best experiences I’ve had since I began my journey into sustainability.  Events like this are so amazing because it allows people to connect with growers and find out about the REAL FOOD CHAIN, learn about how to be more self-reliant, network with other community members, and to LEARN LEARN LEARN.

Most of this recap will be told in pictures (which are worth 1000 words, right?) because much of my time was spent in the Exhibit Hall talking to awesome greenies like me!!  I will try to link most of the pictures to the company’s website, so don’t be shy 😉

Allison Park




(814) 303-9663



I think that’s about all you kids can handle for right now.  If I overwhelm you, you might get loosey-goosey…

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