So Cute You Want to Love Them – But Alpacas Are Livestock

October 30, 2009 by  
Filed under Agriculture, Blog, Ecopreneurs, Front Page, Iowa, Livestock

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Across the fence, a pair of huge, black eyes stare into mine, with pupils so wide and dark that they look like giant, solid-black marbles. The eyes belong to Calleana, an alpaca whose shaggy bangs hang over her forehead, and whose curious gaze seems to be inviting me to touch her.

“Is it okay if I pet her?” I ask our host, Chris Schueller, co-owner of Andaluz Alpacas, near Oxford, Iowa. …

“If she’ll let you,” he replies with a laugh. “You know, the worst part of raising alpacas is that they’re so cute, you want to love them; but they don’t want to come to you — they’re livestock.”

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Retail Food Safety – Who’s Minding the Meat?

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According to the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, the operations typically conducted at point of retail sale include breaking up of meat shipments, cutting, slicing and trimming of carcasses, grinding, freezing, and packaging for individual sale. All of these operations offer plenty of opportunity for bacteria to be fruitful and multiply.

Of all the cuts of meat we buy, ground beef represents the highest potential health hazard. To begin with, ground meat is subject to the greatest amount of handling, which increases the risk of exposure to contamination. In addition, ground beef frequently combines meats from countries whose regulatory standards differ from our own.

But should that really pose a problem? …

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What’s for Dinner? Piedmontese Beef from Heartland Meats

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Regarding food, most of us used to ask just one simple question: “What’s for dinner?” But in these enlightened times, we now realize the implications of how we nourish ourselves reach far beyond health and personal preference, into political, environmental, and moral territory.

We still want to know what’s for dinner, but we also want to know a whole lot more: Where was it grown? How was it transported? Under what conditions was it produced? Does it contain chemical additives? Will it raise my cholesterol level or cause an allergic reaction? Can I afford it? And, by the way, how does it taste?

John Sondgeroth of Heartland Meats, Inc. thinks you deserve to know the answers to all these questions. …

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Allison Brinkman, Contributing Writer

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Allison Brinkman is a Greater Cincinnati publicist with an affinity for traveling to the furthest reaches of the globe and sampling exotic cuisine. Her love for her dog, Oscar, is closely rivaled by her love for the Ohio State Buckeyes — something not to be taken lightly! …

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Hugging Trees Fast Becoming New Mantra for College Students

October 27, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog, Education, Front Page, Sustainability, U.S., Youth

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Institutions of higher learning have always been a hotbed of cutting edge technology, social progression, and political involvement. Students are classic early adopters, and constantly challenge traditional thinking and processes. In response to the encouragement of campus environmental organizations, more and more universities are starting to see the world through green-colored glasses and finding more ways to conserve resources.

In fact, 4,100 institutions of higher learning have LEED-certified buildings, to total a whopping 240,000 buildings nationwide, according to the United States Green Building Council. Countless other schools are feverishly adopting wind towers, sustainability goals, and recycling programs. And the latest group jumping on the green bandwagon? Admissions departments. …

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Activists Spread 350 Message ‘Round the World (and Here in Iowa)

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October 24, 2009, in what may well be the largest environmental action yet to occur, 350.org mobilized hundreds of thousands of people to make a statement about climate change. From the Maldives sea floor to the pyramids of Giza, from the Sydney Opera House to the Eiffel Tower, from a rooftop in Shanghai to the steps of the Old Capitol on the campus of the University of Iowa — across the planet, in 181 countries — we stood, swam, danced, climbed, rode, kayaked, bungee jumped, surfed, dove, sat, lay, or did any number of other creative actions in protest and a plea.

Why?

Scientists calculate that the level of CO2 in the atmosphere is currently at 390 parts per million (ppm). They also tell us that the only safe level is 350 ppm or below. We need some carbon in our atmosphere — until the Industrial Revolution it was about 275 ppm — but we’re in the danger zone now, and global warming is causing devastating changes. …

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The Next Right Thing – Saving Children’s Lives, One at a Time

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In Cote d’Ivoire, on September 28, a child entered the world with a cleft palate so severe that he cannot nurse. He cannot eat. If he is to live, he must have surgery. The newborn is named Leandre. He cannot be helped in his home country. But he can be helped in the United States — if he can get here in time.

Tiny Leandre has a cleft so severe he cannot eat. Photo: Courtesy Strongheart Group
Tiny Leandre has a cleft so severe he cannot eat. Photo: Courtesy Strongheart Group

Half a world away, Todd Grinnell thinks about Leandre every day.

Grinnell is just one person. He can’t save the world all by himself. But he is making an impact, one child at a time, by volunteering with the Next Right Thing (NRT). NRT is a nonprofit organization under the umbrella of the Strongheart Group, founded by Cori Stern. Through his work with NRT, Grinnell helps bring hope for a normal life to impoverished children who have disfiguring or life-threatening conditions. One of those children is Leandre.

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Simeon Talley, Contributing Writer

October 22, 2009 by  
Filed under BPGL Crew, Contributing Writers, Iowa

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Simeon Talley is a student at the University of Iowa, majoring in International Politics. He is also a member of the Roosevelt Institute, a progressive network of campus-based think tanks.

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IC Ecocabs — These Ecopreneurs Are on a Roll

October 22, 2009 by  
Filed under Bicycle, Blog, Ecopreneurs, Front Page, Iowa, Slideshow, Youth

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Imagine that you’re a student at the University of Iowa, living not too far from campus. Running late, you find yourself in need of getting to downtown Iowa City in a hurry. Maybe you have a date, and it’s the first date. Or maybe it’s that last class of the day — the only class of the entire week that takes place at night. Regardless, you need to get moving. What are your options?

Driving? That takes too much effort. Walking? You surely won’t get there soon enough. Calling a taxi? After the wait and the expense, that’s completely out of the question. So what are you to do?

Call my friends, Vik and Veena Patel, who operate a pedi-cab service. They’ll pick you up and quickly get you where you need to go — all at no cost to the environment. …

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Dear Department of Energy – A Consumer’s Plea

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Dear Department of Energy:

I am far from being an outspoken environmentalist or even very green, but I have been trying to figure out ways to reduce my energy consumption and look for green alternatives. I have recently been trying to read the energy labels on many devices, only to find that the “required energy disclosures” are pretty much worthless.

Let me cite some examples. …

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“Recycle Your Imagination” with Vocal Trash

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Texas-based Vocal Trash uses some pretty odd materials to make music. They describe themselves as an a capella production that uses instruments made out of trash.

Yes, trash.

If you attend a Vocal Trash concert, you’re likely to see instruments made from car parts, water bottles, pots and pans, buckets, and brooms. It’s not exactly what you might expect for musical instruments, but this is a trademark that the group is genuinely proud of. …

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Farmers’ Markets – Delicious Produce and a Whole Lot More

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Shopping at a farmers’ market — a staple of village life throughout history — is healthier for you while also being a socially and environmentally responsible act for your community. Buying locally grown food direct from the producer ensures that the produce you purchase is fresher — therefore, more nutritious, with superior taste and texture — than anything you’d be able to buy from a supermarket. Keeping food dollars circulating locally directly benefits your local economy. And, by not shipping produce over long distances, you reduce both fuel and excess packaging, which benefits the environment….

After visiting at least a dozen Chicago area farmers’ markets over the past few months, Blue Planet Green Living’s Chicago-based crew has selected two of our favorites for an in-depth look. Among the longest-running and best-attended markets in the metro area, they offer not only a superior selection of quality goods, but also a number of educational and special programs that benefit their communities. …

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An Open Letter to My Family – I’m Giving Up My Birthday

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Dear Family,

My birthday is next week. I know, you don’t need reminding. You’re thoughtful that way. But that’s not why I’m writing this letter to you.

You see, although I do appreciate it when you acknowledge my birthday by coming over — or calling, if you’re far away — I don’t want you to spend any money on me. No flowers. No presents. Oh, don’t get me wrong. I enjoy such things. But I don’t need them to know that you love me.

If you want to do something to mark my presence in your life, please do something for someone else. …

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Rebuilding after Disaster – Greensburg Becomes a Green Town

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On Friday, May 4, 2007, an EF5 tornado cut a two-mile-wide swath of absolute destruction through Greensburg, Kansas. This was the largest tornado in recorded history, and it reduced Greensburg to rubble. Eleven people were killed in Greensburg that evening, while 22 other tornados swirled violently across the state. Every building in Greensburg was damaged or destroyed.

Under such dire circumstances, it would have been easy for the townspeople to give up and walk away. But that’s exactly the opposite of what happened. …

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Fed Up with Climate Change? Do Something!

October 14, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog, Climate Change, Front Page, Slideshow

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Are you tired of hearing dire warnings about climate change while politicians wag their tongues and do nothing of substance to stop it?

Everybody talks about climate change, but they don’t do anything. It seems that all we can do is stand by and wait for the oceans to rise and the fertile farmlands turn into dust bowls.

None of us can solve climate change by ourselves. We can’t even get our leaders to step forward and commit to policies that might actually help. But we have to try….

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John J. Audubon, Iconic Painter of Birds

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Sometimes, the most extraordinary and singular lives prove to be the most typical. Through a sheer depth and diversity of experience, a person who appears well outside the norm can serve to embody it. If this were ever true of anyone, it was true of John James Audubon.

In the life and work of this failed businessman — turned bird painter — turned environmental icon, one can discern a piece of the fundamental American character. The energy, resourcefulness and enterprising nature of early Americans are bound up in Audubon.

As his biographer, Richard Rhodes, wrote, “No life was at once more unique and more representative of that expansive era when a national character emerged than Audubon’s. Celebrate him for his wonderful birds; but recognize him as well as a characteristic American of the first generation.” And as America made Audubon, so too did Audubon make himself….

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Protect Yourself from Cell Phone Radiation

October 12, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog, Cancer, Cell Phones, Front Page, Kids, Slideshow

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We’ve all heard rumors over the years that cell phones cause brain cancer. But no one could ever point to conclusive research that it was true. So, most of us have pretty much dismissed that theory and forgotten about it. We walk, drive, sit, stand, and even (shhh!) use the bathroom with a cell to our ear. And if it’s not at our ear, it’s in a pocket or purse, or charging on the nightstand near our pillow.

Cell phones are our constant companions. But perhaps they shouldn’t be. …

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The Moviegoer’s Guide to the Energy Crisis

October 9, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog, Books, Energy, Front Page

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In the hit TV series, NCIS, Navy investigator Tony DiNozzo, has a habit of finding a movie analogy for nearly every case his team handles. Sometimes it falls flat, since not everybody’s seen the movie in question. Thinking about things that are new and unfamiliar by comparing them to things most people already know is a time-honored way of coping with a complicated world. In some respects, it’s one of pop culture’s greatest benefits: providing a shorthand frame of reference. When President Obama compared being chief executive to being a contestant on American Idol “except that everyone is Simon Cowell,” we all knew what he meant.

But we like Tony’s take on the world, and our concern is America’s energy problem. So here’s how some famous films shed light on the country’s energy problems. As far as we’re concerned, four movies tell the story….

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Planet Earth Video Inspires Awe and Action

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“A hundred years ago there were one and a half billion people on earth; now over six billion people crowd our fragile planet. But even so there are still places barely touched by humanity,” says narrator David Attenborough in the opening scene of the 11-part mini-series, Planet Earth. “This series will take you to the last wildernesses and show you the planet and its wildlife as you have never seen them before.”

Four years before audiences around the world saw the wonderment of Planet Earth on television, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) set out to make the most ambitious documentary ever witnessed. Planet Earth captures the full range of experiences in observing wildlife in their natural setting, and arouses emotions in the viewer typically associated with major Hollywood films….

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Soil Is a Finite Resource – Once It’s Gone, It’s Gone for Good

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I asked Angie Tagtow, a registered dietitian who serves as a Food and Society Policy Fellow with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy out of Minneapolis, to speak to the issue of soil quality in farmland. Tagtow previously served 10 years at the Iowa Department of Public Health. This is Part Two of a two-part interview.

TAGTOW: Having a registered dietitian talk about environmental resources and natural resources conservation is a little bit of an anomaly — I am often drawn to the work of Sir Albert Howard, Wes Jackson, Wendell Berry and Fred Kirschenmann. But the justification is there, because if you don’t have a healthy environment, you’re not going to be able to produce healthy food.

For me, the connection to soil started on our property more than 15 years ago. We live north of Elkhart, Iowa, and when we bought the property, we didn’t have the means of taking care of it. So we continued to cash-rent it to the farmer who sold it to us. Over the years, we noticed that we had a tremendous amount of erosion. We had flooding. We were witnessing a lot of destruction that we were not prepared to observe. …

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