Iowa Rivers Revival Invites You to Rivers Rock! September 11

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Whether you’re a paddler, a lover of rivers, or someone who wants to find out what all the fuss is about, Iowa Rivers Revival invites you to fall in love with Iowa’s rivers at Rivers Rock! Float and Music Fest on Saturday, September 11….

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Hallowell Acadia Is Revolutionizing the Heating Industry

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How do you heat and cool your home? Do you have both a furnace and an air conditioner? What if you could install a single, highly efficient, and environmentally sound system to handle both heating and cooling?

The Acadia, designed and built by Hallowell International, is a revolutionary, next-generation, air-source heat pump — the first that functions efficiently in cold climates down to -30˚F. Even residents of Canada and New England can enjoy comfortable indoor temperatures year ’round without the use of fossil fuels.

Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) spoke with Duane Hallowell, president and co-founder of Hallowell International, to learn about the latest innovation in heat pumps….

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Francis Thicke on Farming Alternatives, CAFOs, and the Future of Farming

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In this, the fourth post in a continuing discussion with Thicke, he talks about changing the minds of Big Ag with sustainable models, the rules regarding concentrated feeding operations (CAFOs), and his vision for the future of farming in Iowa. We believe Thicke’s views about agriculture are applicable not only to Iowa, but also to the nation….

BPGL: How can anyone convince Big Ag to change?

THICKE: I think the way to do it is to find alternative models that are successful, that are ecologically sound, profitable, and socially responsible. And then try to expand adoption of those successful models, rather than try to fight what we’re not necessarily in favor of….

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Francis Thicke on Small Farms and Local Foods

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Francis Thicke and his wife, Susan, are organic dairy farmers who recently received the 2009 Spencer Award for Sustainable Agriculture. Francis is also a scientist and a highly respected thought leader on agricultural policy. In this, the third post in a four-part discussion with Thicke, he discusses ways to encourage the growth of small farms and local food production….

BPGL: How can we increase biodiversity in agriculture?

THICKE: On the federal level, we have the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), which is being implemented now. The CSP, which was authorized by the 2008 Farm Bill, provides farmers with incentives to adopt resource-conserving crop rotations. Those incentives will help farmers go beyond growing just corn and soybeans. The incentive payments will help defray the cost of adding perennial and cover crops to crop rotations….

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Naturally Clean – The Seventh Generation Guide to Safe & Healthy, Non-Toxic Cleaning

December 4, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog, Books, Chemicals, EPA, Front Page, Green Cleaning, Tips, TSCA

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When my kids were small, I wanted to give them a clean, healthy home to live in. Our home was clean, no doubt about it, but was it healthy?

Naturally Clean by Jeffrey Hollender and Geoff Davis (with Meika Hollender and Reed Doyle) debunks the myth that a clean home is automatically a healthy home. Cleanliness in itself isn’t bad (though it can be taken to extremes, according to Chapter 20), but the chemicals used in those cleaners can be deadly. “The decision to stop using synthetic chemical cleaners is one of the most important ones you’ll ever make for the health of your family and the safety of your home,” say the authors….

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Francis Thicke on Renewable Energy Resources

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In the first part of our conversation with Francis Thicke, Ph.D., candidate for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture in the 2010 election, we discussed the use of perennial crops as biofuels, using a process called pyrolysis. In this part of our discussion, Thicke talks about increasing biodiversity and farm-based power generation.

Thicke and his wife are organic dairy farmers who live near Fairfield, Iowa. Thicke is a respected agricultural scientist, who has testified twice before the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee in Washington, D.C….
THICKE: I would like to see wind energy development become more targeted toward systems that profit farmers, landowners, and rural communities. Currently, we have quite a few large wind farms in Iowa. One study shows we now have the capacity to produce about 15% of our electrical energy needs with wind in Iowa. It is very good that we have developed so much wind power capacity, but we should look at how ownership of wind energy production is structured, and who profits from it….

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Francis Thicke on Biofuels, Biodiversity, and Erosion

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Francis Thicke is a soft-spoken, thoughtful man. He is also an accomplished scientist and an award-winning organic farmer. Thicke’s list of credentials is impressive, including selection by the W. K. Kellogg Foundation as a Policy Fellow in their Food and Society program, work as the National Program Leader for soil science for the USDA-Extension Service, and a current seat on the board of directors of the Organic Farming Research Foundation….

Thicke (pronounced TICKee) is also a candidate for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture. Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) interviewed Thicke to learn about his vision for improving agriculture in Iowa….

BPGL: Why did you decide to run for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture?

THICKE: I see a lot of challenges coming down the road for agriculture in Iowa, as well as opportunities. I think we need new vision and new leadership to meet those challenges and take advantage of the opportunities.

One challenge is escalating energy costs….

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Preventing the Elders You Love from Falling

November 18, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog, Elders, Family, Front Page, Health, Iowa

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Two weeks before my mother’s 90th birthday, she fell. She stubbed her toe on the carpet while reaching for a light switch, lost her balance and, Bang! She broke her right wrist.

I hustled over to my trusty computer for a little research. Yep. According to the National Security Council, the older you get, the more likely you are to end up in an emergency room from an accidental fall. Each week, more than 30,000 Americans over the age of 65 are seriously injured by falling, and nearly 250 per week die from their injuries….

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Book Review – Who Turned Out the Lights? Your Guide to the Energy Crisis

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Being an environmentalist means I have to choose from a million aspects of concern, direction, and interest. Planet Earth is facing a flood of problems, too many for one writer to assimilate, even for one magazine. For me, there is too little time to read about all the daily assaults on our planet, let alone verify the data in print; seek out authorities on the subject; interview them; type, edit, and post their points of view.

Being a journalist, as well, compounds the problem. Now, it is just as important to seek the opposing opinions and compare conflicting scientific data. Every topic has many angles, often many points of view, and frequently, two polar-opposite conclusions.

The fact that I try to keep an open mind on these issues is exactly why I like this book. The writers, Scott Bittle and Jean Johnson, have tried to present both sides of every energy issue, or at least, remain neutral in their presentation. The book gives “just the facts,” not opinions, and provides extensive end notes for the reader to verify all sources. …

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Shining a Light on Seasonal Affective Disorder

September 4, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog, Drugs, FDA, Front Page, Health

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With fall approaching the Midwest like a freight train, our days are getting shorter, and our nights longer. It will soon be the Northern Hemisphere’s turn to watch green turn to brown and, in some places, to white, as snow covers the barren ground.

The weaker sunlight and cooler temperatures, the graying of the days, and the prospect of snow don’t bother me, but they do bother my wife. Transplanted to Iowa years ago from a sunnier state, she begins dreading winter with the first cool breeze of September. She doesn’t like this change of seasons, but she copes with it. (“Just barely,” she chimes in from the other side of the room.)

Yet, for some people, the lack of sunlight and cooler temperatures are more than just a mild annoyance; they cause a deep depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)…

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How to Build a Compost Bin in Your Own Backyard

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Perhaps you’ve been thinking about it for a while now, and you’ve decided that your family needs a compost bin in your backyard. You could go out and buy one of those really nice, plastic-barrel ones, the kind that sits on a fancy rack and rotates with a spin of the handle. But you don’t have to shell out a couple hundred dollars or experience the frustration of trying to assemble it when you get it home. Build your own. It’s less expensive, relatively simple to construct, and — as important, in my mind — easy to disassemble and repurpose if you ever want to.

I’m always looking for reasons to avoid buying anything new, especially new plastic things. I like to use old stuff when I can; it’s eco-friendly and helps create a sustainable lifestyle. Better yet, I prefer to make my own. But I have to be careful to not get carried away. I tend to over-design, and then over-build, so my projects end up costing twice as much and taking twice as long as yours might. Most people build their compost piles with four stakes and some chicken wire wrapped around the outside. That’s an option, of course, but it’s not raccoon-proof, and that was my first requirement…

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All Abuzz about Habitat: A Practical Farmers of Iowa Field Day and Potluck

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Join Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI) and One Step at a Time Gardens on Saturday, July 25, from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. to explore the many benefits diversity on the landscape offers to the sustainable farm. At 6:00 p.m., PFI will hold the first of its summer potlucks. Bring a dish to share and your own tableware, and enjoy music from the local band The Shifting Gears during dinner. Beverages will be provided.

During the field day, tour One Step at a Time Gardens and hear presentations from local conservation offices. PFI staff member Sarah Carlson will discuss current and emerging opportunities with the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) of the 2008 farm bill…

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It Rained on Our Parade

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It had not rained in Iowa City for eleven days. We had been experiencing a cooler than usual June, with day after day of amazingly great temperatures and low humidity. I should have known it wouldn’t last.

Iowa weather usually acts like a spoiled child and demands constant attention. The minute you look away, it will catch you in snow without a coat or a thunderstorm without an umbrella. Or the temperature will rise 30 degrees in a few hours and put you in a dripping sweat because you’re not wearing shorts. These are facts of life in Iowa. I forgot. I lowered my guard. I did not schedule a rain date.

For months, I had been focusing on creating a Fourth of July, New Orleans-style, second-line, jazz funeral march. This was to be a symbolic funeral for the Iowa River, held by volunteers from our Facebook group, Save The Iowa River (STIR). The planning went on: a casket, pallbearers, news coverage, musicians, music, marchers, signs, bottles filled with water from the Iowa River, parade permit, first aid kit, parking, tables, tent. When the word rain came to mind, I just told myself that there would be lots of umbrellas at the march anyway, in keeping with the motif; so, if it did rain, everything would work out just fine…

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A Symbolic Funeral for the Iowa River

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Every so often, an issue consumes me. I read as much as I can on the subject. I attend lectures. I join action groups. I get involved. This is one of those issues: my beloved Iowa River. The Iowa River isn’t dead yet, but, like so many other rivers, it’s heading that way. And I think it’s worth saving. So, I decided to do something about it.

Tomorrow, on the Fourth of July, the Save the Iowa River (STIR) group will hold a mock funeral for the Iowa River in conjunction with Iowa City’s annual jazz festival. We’ll be rocking a pine casket, loaned by Gay & Ciha Funeral and Cremation Services, while playing “Down by the Riverside,” “When the Saints Go Marching In,” and other standards. We’ll march in true New Orleans style in a second-line, jazz funeral parade. We’ll have fun, while spreading the word — and water samples — to the public. And you’re invited to join us…

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Hog CAFOs Can Affect Human Health

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Iowa produces more corn, soybeans, pigs, and egg-laying hens than any other state in the US. There are approximately 100 million farm animals — and only 3 million people. Animal feces is actually the state’s largest product. MRSA bacteria — which causes the flesh-eating disease — and swine flu are growing problems. Concerned about these facts, Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) contacted Dr. Alan Kornberg, a physician who serves on the board of directors of the Farm Sanctuary. We asked Dr. Kornberg about the human health effects associated with farm animals in confinement…

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Good-bye, Mr. Rabbit

June 17, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog, Front Page, Iowa, Leisure, Wildlife

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Time. There never seems to be enough of it. I am always running late. Too many things crammed into too little time.

A few months ago, in a hurried sprint to my car, I noticed a rabbit in my backyard. Nothing unusual about him, he was just one of those run-of-the-mill brown rabbits. He kept a wary eye on me, but he made no effort to run away. He just stood there next to my little trellis garden, peacefully munching on grass. He seemed to be mocking me. I was the one scurrying off to a consulting appointment, all suited and tied, my watch in hand, saying, “Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late!”…

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Rare or Well Done?

June 3, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog, Cooking, Food Safety, Front Page, Health

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You light the grill. You prep the meat. You cook it: Blackened and charred, well done, pink in the center, or still mooing when it hits the plate… the range of preferences is vast. But which is better for you? Or does it even matter? In the last few days, I’ve read several sources that have me wondering whether there is any safe way to cook meat…

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In Loving Memory of Dave Church

May 25, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog, Front Page, Seniors, U.S.

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What I am about to tell you about Dave Church may not be entirely factual. I may have misheard it or misremembered it, or the person who told it to me may have exaggerated a little. I don’t know. The facts are hazy at best, but the story is deeply etched in my heart and mind. I cannot corroborate the facts and, quite frankly, I don’t care to. If you prefer to read only facts, then don’t read this. This is a story of emotion…

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This Should Scare the Meat Out of You

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We’ve heard it all before. We’ve read it a million times, and now we’re sick of it. We’ve all had it up to here about why we shouldn’t eat red meat. You did hear about the recent study published in The Archives of Internal Medicine — the one in which researchers followed half million people for ten years. Oh, you missed that one?

It involved 322,263 men, and 223,390 women ages 50 to 71. That’s my demographic — and the single largest demographic in the US. Maybe it’s your demographic, too. Or your parents’ or grandparents’ (if you’re really young). Ever wonder why we Baby Boomers are experiencing such high rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer?…

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Earth Day Founder Gaylord Nelson Inspires Us Still

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Gaylord Nelson, the founder of Earth Day, passed away in 2005, leaving a legacy that resonates within every article you will read in this environmental magazine. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, back before I ever imagined running a magazine — or had the slightest hint of the electronic revolution yet to come — I was engaged in campus protests against the Viet Nam War. Though our main concern was the war, my fellow student activists and I took began to take on an additional focus, a whole new cause: the environment.

For many of us, pollution was just another symbol of how out of touch our government was with its people. By turning a blind eye to the egregious environmental crimes of big businesses, the government was slowly killing us. If “The Man” didn’t get us killed in Viet Nam, he was allowing us to be poisoned by the industrial machine. Our air, our water, our soil were being sold to the highest bidder. And our voices were being suppressed to keep us in check….

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