Organic Winemakers: Napa Valley’s Stewards of the Land

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The story of ZD Wines is a family saga—a family as principled about the environment as it is dedicated to wine making.

It’s evident as soon as you pull into the parking lot, where, you’ll note, everyone on staff drives a hybrid. “Except our CEO,” Dustin Moilanen, the vineyard’s hospitality director, explains. Winemaster Robert deLeuze’s car is all-electric. “He plugs it in at his solar-powered home, so his commute to work is completely ‘green.’ ”

For the ride home, he can charge up at the winery, where 712 solar panels generate more electricity than the entire facility can use. “The excess is returned to the grid,” Molainen assures his visitors….

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Eye of the Whale by Douglas Carlton Abrams

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Intrigue. Romance. Danger. Life. Death. Loyalty. Betrayal. Eye of the Whale has what it takes to get a reader’s pulse racing clear to the last page. But there’s more to this novel than a mystery. After years of thorough research, author Douglas Carlton Abrams has skillfully woven a tale that teaches as much as it entertains. Abrams combines hard scientific facts about the pollution that threatens the world’s sea creatures with a page-turning thrill ride.

Eye of the Whale is an excellent literary vehicle for making the current threat of pollution immediate and real. The author accomplishes this by creating characters — not all of them human — that readers come to know and care about. From a mother whale who begins a new, mysterious song that carries around the world to a ravenous shark whose violent kills are simply a means of survival to a male whale stranded in a California river, the animals have compelling plot lines that draw the reader in.

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A Plea to Protect Burns Bog as a UNESCO Site

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Environmentalists tend to be a passionate lot, on fire with conviction about the importance of preservation, conservation, and the well-being of the planet. But, despite our convictions, not all of us are activists. Dana L. Miller of Vancouver, British Columbia (B.C.), is an environmentalist who not only espouses her beliefs, she follows through with focused activities that support them. Miller is a vocal and dedicated advocate for protecting British Columbia’s Burns Bog with UNESCO designation as a World Heritage Site.

Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) spoke with Miller by phone from her B.C. home. We began by asking her to tell us what’s unique about Burns Bog and why UNESCO designation would help protect it….

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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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Got Organic?

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Walk down any aisle in the grocery store and you are faced with an astonishing choice of items to purchase. You may have apples on your shopping list, but do you want the red ones or the green ones, the big beautiful ones or the little pre-bagged ones, the ones from New Zealand or Washington State? More and more, we are now also being given the choice between conventional and organic food.

Ask people what organic means, and you’ll get words like expensive, natural, healthy, local, safe and no chemicals. Most people are thinking as consumers, but I am a farmer, so I think as a producer. I believe that knowing the more complete story behind the organic labels on the grocery shelves can help us be more aware of what we are choosing and why it matters….

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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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Rescuing Hartland Marsh – A Six-Year Labor of Love

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When Paul Mozina takes on a project, he doesn’t give up until it’s finished. That’s not an unusual characteristic, necessarily. Yet Mozina’s dedication is anything but ordinary.

For the past six years, Mozina, with the unfailing support and frequent help of his wife, Pati Holman, has been waging a battle against buckthorn, an invasive plant that once covered most of Wisconsin’s Hartland Marsh. Today, buckthorn is all but eradicated from the marsh, and Mozina and Holman are the team that did it.

Their work began on property owned by the Ice Age Trail, a 1,000-mile trail that follows the furthest edge of the glaciers that formed much of Wisconsin’s landscape. The glaciers pushed silt and debris ahead of them, then left behind their footprint, in the form of lakes and moraines, when they melted. The land is rich and fertile, providing healthy soil for the many forests that cover much of the state….

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My 5: Ken Cook, President, Environmental Working Group

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Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) asked Ken Cook, president and founder of the Environmental Working Group, two questions we like to ask all our interviewees.

BPGL: What are the five most important things we can do to save the planet? (You can answer as the head of Environmental Working Group or as a parent, if you prefer.)

COOK: Those two things — my job as a parent and my job as the head of Environmental Working Group — have come together in lots of things. It’s a blessing to be able to do this work now, and have both of those sets of objectives in mind, because they do merge pretty well…

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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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Namibian Research Project Leads to Unforgettable Adventure

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When Elsita Kiekebusch agreed to conduct an environmental awareness campaign for Integrated Environmental Consultants Namibia (IECN), she expected to face challenges. After all, the Namibian landscape can be harsh and inhospitable at times, and she would be driving across some of the most remote and desolate areas of the nation. While the results of her survey proved unspectacular, the journey itself contained surprises that made it an unforgettable adventure.

Miriam Kashia, international editor for Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL), interviewed Kiekenbusch by email to find out about both her experiences and the work that sent the young woman on her remarkable journey.

Washed out roads and flash floods challenged Kieckenbush and colleagues…

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Fishing with Nell

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Sometimes the kid in us gets lost when we grow up and take on the responsibilities of making a living, running a business, caring for a family, or serving a cause. Nell Newman seems to be different. When she talks about her childhood, a tomboy comes to life. It’s easy to picture her pushing open the screen door at sunrise, with a cane pole over her shoulder and a can of worms in one hand, walking down to the river to fish….
In Part 1 of a two-part series, we talk with Nell about her lifelong love for the environment, beginning as a young child. In Part 2, Nell talks about the the logical extension of her environmental activism, Newman’s Own Organics.

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Notes from Nepal: Cautions about Expanding Ecotourism

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Ghale Gaun is an inviting village of about 200-300 people. It sits 2,075 meters above sea level in the remote mountains of Nepal inside the Annapurna Conservation Area. Ghale Gaun is becoming an increasingly popular ecotourism and village-tourism destination, attracting many national and international visitors. Previously, the major source of income of the village people was from international sources, as most of the young boys were involved in the armies of the United Kingdom and India. Because it is a very poor village, the prospect of creating a new income source is highly appealing to the residents.

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Notes from Nepal: Climate Change Reaches the Himalayas

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In Jagdish Poudel’s first entry in the “Notes from Nepal” series, he told us that he would soon be going to the Himalayas to teach uneducated rural residents about climate change. Last week, Poudel, along with fellow environmental science M.Sc. students Aseem Kanchan, Raju Pokharel, and Mausam Khanal, journeyed to Khudi, high in the Annapurna Mountain Range. What follows is Jagdish’s second entry, in which he tells us about giving a presentation to Khudi villagers, who live in a place where the once-abundant snow has turned to rain, and the mountainsides are losing their coat of white.

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