Fluoride – the Dental Miracle Chemical By-Product Not Yet Proven to Cause Cancer

When I last went to the dentist, I told her I use homemade toothpaste: baking soda, coconut oil, some essential oils…and without fluoride. She told me, she would be all for it, if it only contained fluoride. All dentists agree fluoride is a good thing, she said.

We then discussed organic vs gmo food and she said she doesn’t eat strawberries anymore. That sentence makes sense if you have heard that non-organic strawberries are the #1 do-not-eat food because they trap so many chemicals on their skin.

I get back on the fluoride topic from time to time, and I always go back to this one point: forced mass medication by government. Even if it may be a good thing, and hasn’t yet been proven to cause cancer, do cities have any right buying hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of the fertilizer by-product, hydrofluorosilicic acid, so that we continue our good streak of dental hygiene? That, and the fact that the data does not correlate. Yes we have better dental hygiene now than in the 1950’s. And many other things have also changed since then, like our oral health habits and diets. So of course it’s fluoride to thank for our lack of tooth decay!

Wouldn’t that money be better used to do things like…I don’t know…put on a music festival for the city? I could list 100s of things I would rather have any city spend $$ on than adding random isn’t-yet-proven-to-cause-cancer additions to our drinking water. Although, it does fuel the water purification industry, which creates jobs.

It costs about $.50 per person per year for communities over 20,000. So a family of four pays $2 a year (wait…the city pays it. How convenient. What if we could just pay for it ourselves if we wanted it? Doesn’t that make sense? Well…you could buy a filter to not have it, and pay $20 per filter, multiple times a year.)

Some light reading on the topic:

http://fluorideinfo.org/FAQ.html – sounds sort of convincing, they do have a .org domain and are in California.

Current status of fluoridated water in Rhode Island: http://fluoridealert.org/researchers/states/rhode-island/ (as of 2014, 85% of public water systems had it)

A statement opposing adding fluoride to drinking water: http://fluoridealert.org/articles/limeback/

Some facts from the City of Raleigh, NC: https://www.raleighnc.gov/home/content/PubUtilAdmin/Articles/Fluoridation.html (real facts, not much bias…they spend $200,000 annually on the stuff)

A nice discussion from Austin, TX: http://www.politifact.com/texas/statements/2011/apr/19/mike-ford/austin-resident-says-flouride-compound-added-local/ (discussion for both sides of the coin…eventually finds the claims false, that fluoride is harming us)

I didn’t bother with the CDC page…I’ve watched too many x-files episodes to believe the .gov pages…


World.org – animal rescue, solar house, save the world

The guy who started it, Jeff Gold, sold a few websites back in the day, go.com to disney amongst others. Pretty good way to spend your energy after you’ve done the career thing: start non-profits, rescue animals worldwide, save the world! I’m all for it.

Some nice ideas in here on reusing common items: http://www.world.org/weo/recycle

Other projects from World.org: http://www.world.org/weo/projects

Jeff Gold’s Next Generation House, complete with wind turbine and solar: http://solar.world.org/solar/nextgeneration

Orange, Yellow, Red

Fall is here! And with it here in Providence, RI comes the Farm Fresh Fall Veggie Box. It’s a bi-weekly food delivery of a big box of fresh veggies from farmers around southern New England. $25 for each box, and it’s enough to feed you for two weeks, if you throw in some of your own grains and things. I enjoy the challenge of creating dishes with everything in the box.

This last box contained Butternut squash, 6 ears of corn, an array of small spicy peppers, radishes, apples, potatoes, tomatoes, and some other greens (if my memory serves me correctly). The first dish I made was a hearty stew that will serve as this weeks’ lunch. It has a base of lentils, corn, carrots, potatoes, and tomatoes. For the spices, I put in garam masala, salt, black pepper, chopped spicy peppers, olive oil, cinnamon, apple and a few raisons. I forgot to measure things, but it came out delicious!


The Veggie Box isn’t completely plastic free – they wrap some small things like peppers in plastic wrap or plastic bags. I could write them and request that my box just not have any of the plastic wrapped goods in it ( or just put them in a paper bag ).

I tried talking with farmer’s at our weekend market at Lippitt Park here in Providence about using plastic to wrap some of their greens, and their answer was, “how else do we package things like arugula?” I didn’t have an answer ready, but now I know that you could have a big bin of arugula, and just dish out paper bags full of it, or fill a customer’s container with it after you weigh it. If there’s a will, there’s a way. And if more consumers ask for plastic free veggies, then I’m sure it’ll reach the vendors’ ears.

Farm shares and markets have a big chance to influence thinking and behavior about how we eat, re-use and recycle our food and food waste. Those organizations are reaching those of us who are closest to the earth, and thus have the most to gain or lose from it’s health. What ideas could we start promoting at farmer’s markets and through food shares related to environmentalism? Any small gains we could do this Fall? What about bigger plans that may take a year to implement?

I’m curious to hear how your market / CSA has taken steps to reduce, reuse and recycle, and what you have in store for the future. Remember the power of one, and try asking a vendor for a plastic-free package the next time you’re out shopping. I bet your request sticks with them, and they’ll mull it over for a few days. Who knows, next time you see them, they might have some fancy new non-plastic packaging!

Tomato Security and Earthships

"Tomato Security" is when your neighbors can grow tomatoes just as good as you can. Make sure everyone in a 500 mile radius is as well-off and well-sustained, and is as happy as you are. That is all the security we should need. No stockpiling guns, arms and food for the apocalypse. No worrying about how the have-nots will be banging down your walls to get your stuff.

Tomato security is one of the lessons taught by the Earthship movement, which is a completely self sustainable place to live that connects day-to-day live with the biosphere. The concept was created by Michael Reynolds in New Mexico back in the late 60s / early 70s, and popularized in the documentary Garbage Warrior.

I love this quote from Garbage Warrior – Michael is talking about his dad saving every single mayonnaise jar they ever used down in their basement…he didn't have a use for them, but knew they were to good to throw away. It's our nature to want to save useful stuff! We just get new stuff so easily, the old useful stuff just piles up. Eventually…we have so much we just toss out perfectly good bottles, bags, materials…I've lived with people who save plastic bags for an entire year just to shove them all in the trash when there's just no room for them.

I foresee in the not too distant future, people raiding the dumps for materials which we invent uses for. Earthship builders are raiding tire dumps right now. No more tire fires – we've found a use for them! Plastic bottles and glass bottles are being up-cycled to act as bricks in the wall structure of the building.

I didn't know a thing about earthships until I was reading the normal mix of environmental, green, self sustainable news mix that now floods my facebook wall the other day…and found myself at the valhalla movement website. Cool! These guys have some badass graphic design, and are located up in Montreal. They have a big focus on spreading the word, educating, and building earthships (and permaculture and other generally great things to be focused on).

So Michael Reynolds is living in the higher altitudes of New Mexico, where in the winter it can get to -30 below 0 (F), and he has no heating system. What?! I am intrigued. He has a fireplace, but only uses it on Christmas. He says something along the lines of "it takes a huge burden on the person to prepare for winter…but it takes a huge burden off of the planet." Elegantly said…

Pounding tires:

The earthship takes things like bottles and used tires to construct an off-the-grid house in remote environments. You grow your food in your house. You recycle your waste. You harness the land and nature to live in harmony, as opposed to bending nature to our needs.

So you don't have unlimited water and electricity, and you can't send your poop and garbage off to be someone else's problem (or gift!). The saying, "sometimes to go forward, you have to take a step back", is definitely valid here…if we are ever going to reverse the damage we've caused to the earth, we have to live a little more moderately. But really…is having your own green house, not paying electricity, water / sewage bills a step back? I'd jump at the chance to take every aspect of my life and put it in my own hands! How about you?

On to the next cool thing learned from this talk, the model creature of the earth, the tree.

I often wonder what a city would look like if humans never happened upon it…how the rolling hills would be completely covered by trees. If humans weren't around, trees would cover most habitable land on earth. They are extremely efficient. They gather energy from the sun, food from the soil and the air. They seed themselves. They use their waste. They flow with the seasons. We can learn a lot from a tree…so instead of chopping them down for fire, energy and housing, let's evolve to use what is already all around us.

The tree - the model creature of the earth

We have the knowledge to build a more logical and sustainable lifestyle, and now we need the transformation. That is a nice definition of wisdom: knowledge together with transformation.

To use the best of human intellect to live in harmony. Live with nature, not against it. To be totally connected to your house, which is totally connected to nature. It's a dream for most people these days, but that is changing as people innovate with self-sustainable living methods.

There's an earthship learning centre in the southern tip of Argentina called Tol-Haru. Located in the Tierra del Fuego, it's a pretty harsh environment, but tropical plants survive in the greenhouse.

You can stay in an earthship on your next trip out to New Mexico. Here's one on airbnb: airbnb earthship in Taos, New Mexico

That biotecture group in Australia called Terraeden has a bunch of a great resources re: earthships. What they are, how they work, and how to build them: http://terraeden.org/

Want to watch Terraeden build australia's first earthship? Here's part 1 and part 2.

You can attend Earthship Academy to become an expert builder. It costs a little money, or you can apply to be an intern and then get free tuition to the course.

There's also likely an earthship build going on which you can volunteer to help out with. Habitat for Humanity's next step: Habitat for Humanity And Earth. I think it could happen. I'm sure a poor family would love to be able to grow their own food and pay way less utility bills as well as get a house built by volunteers from Habitat.

Would you be interested in helping build one of these? I'm going to add helping to build an earthship to my to-do list.

As I'm writing this, I'm watching the Garbage Warrior documentary. It's awesome, inspiring, and frightening. It brings to light the problems our society has with innovation in housing. I donated some money to disaster relief the last time a tidal wave hit…these guys went to Indonesia and built an earthship, and trained the locals how to build earthquake-proof, self-sustainable housing. Here's a picture of locals building an earthship in Haiti:

Some good advise on getting bills passed in Garbage Warrior as well…use an attractive, personable woman to convince senators to pass legislation, and do not mention global warming to republicans.

Year Without Plastic – Halfway done!

It's been about 6 months since starting the Year Without Plastic last August, which means I'm almost half way to a year! What I quickly realized however, in about week one, was this isn't going to be a year without plastic. It is going to be a lifetime without one-time use plastic, and increased awareness of what I acquire, use, and dispose of.

I occasionally will mess up and use a one-time-use plastic, like a bag inside a box that I purchased (whole foods green tea, I'm looking at you…and drinking you…I spend way too much $ there anyways…), a trash bag (haven't found a way to avoid taking out trash except to purchase the green more-expensive-more-biodegradable bags), a plastic top to a carton of coconut milk, etc, but each time I will be aware of what I am doing, and will have searched for an alternative beforehand. If an alternative exists that uses less plastic and doesn't cost a crazy amount, I will opt for it.

So what to look forward to as the Year Without Plastic continues? For one, I will be seeking out alternatives to multi-use plastic items that crop up in our lives as well.

Recently (inspired by Erin), I have ditched the shampoo bottle and in its place use baking soda and water. Seems to do the job. I've never been one to spend a lot thinking about hair care anyways (j/k…I love my locks!) I used to opt for whatever was on sale, or the two-in-one shampoo conditioners, which Mitch Hedberg pointed out is impossible, as actually having two in one would mean there's shampoo and conditioner spilling over the top and leaking all over the place. I also use baking soda for deodorant. Please tell me if I'm becoming too smelly of a hippy and I'll switch back (maybe).

Another project I'll be doing is making my own laundry detergent – the recipe seems simple enough:

1 cup Washing soda (a close relative of baking soda – also made by Arm and Hammer),
1 bar Fels-Naptha or other brand of laundry bar soap, grated,
1 cub Borax

Combine all these (in a non-plastic container of course!) and use 1-2 tbsp per load. If using cold water, you can mix the ingredients before hand in hot water to dissolve the soap and ingredients.

Apparently it works really well. On Amazon, I recently bought a 12 pack of glass jars and bulk laundry ingredients to give this a shot. However I think I bought way too much stuff. If it works well, I may send a jar to some lucky people! Not having to buy or think about getting detergent at a store will be a big win. I also picked up a 10 piece set of glass tupperware for ~ 20 bucks on Amazon. The bad thing about Amazon (and getting anything shipped), is it's going to come either in a box with bubble wrap, wrapped in plastic bags to show you that it really is new, or some other plastic-y shipping container. How to get around that? Just don't get anything shipped, and buy things used. Talk to the seller and make it known you are not going to buy due to the shipping waste, if there is any. Easier said than done…but it's good to think about and consider local and used options vs new and shipped in.

One big area of concern that I haven't touched on, but also inspired by Erin, is synthetic clothing, like fleece and polyester. Turns out, when you send a fleece sweater through the washer, thousands of micro fibers leave the fabric and eventually make their way to our rivers and oceans. Who would've thought! Here's a brief read about it: clothes are shedding plastic

Give me (and you?) a few more months, and all these choices and changes will add up to a great example that proves we aren't as dependent on plastic as we once imagined.

Ditch the Car and Enjoy the Snow!

Looking at the four people outside my window who have been using a snowblower for the past 2 hours, shoveling snow by hand, using various utensils to scrape snow from their car, I came to a realization. Ditch the car, and you save yourself all that work.

snow car

Ditch the car, and we don’t have to salt the roads, which can add up to costly salt purchases and road maintenance (Over the next 10 years, Michigan will theoretically spend $5 billion on road salt and its correlated depreciation to infrastructure investment –http://www.mackinac.org/15189). Salting is also harmful for the environment, as salt runoff makes its way to our streams and rivers, increasing chloride and damaging ecological health.

Ditch the car and you are no longer at risk for an auto accident. That’s pretty logical. Here’s some interesting stats on the number of auto related deaths per year (about 34,000 in 2012): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_motor_vehicle_deaths_in_U.S._by_year

I love the snow because I don’t have a car to deal with. I used to have a car. I drove it in the snow. It got stuck in a parking space that was covered in ice. I cut up my hand digging the tire out of the ice so I could drive my car back home. That same storm (in Georgia, we only had a snow storm every few years), my car hit a big snowball in the road (i think someone started a snowman in the road…yea people will do that in Georgia) and tore off a piece of the front bumper. That was fun and all, but I didn’t want to do it again anytime soon.

Solution to enjoy snow: ditch your car! Walk to where you need to go (or use a tank: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dOH2SkGoooQ), and life will be grand.

But it’s not that easy…you have a job. You have to drive to your job. Your kids have to go to their Irish Dance Class. Whatever it is you’re entangled in, chances are, you are depending on your car to get there.

So let’s drill down a bit…you have a car to get to the places that you’ve said you would be, or need to be, or whatever. You are going places a few miles away. Could you remove yourself from those engagements? Could you work from home? Are their extra-curricular activities nearby your home? Could you shop at the local food mart as opposed to driving to Wal-Mart or Stop n' Shop? Could you walk a mile to get what you need? There’s a trend in all these changes…do you see it?

Ditching the car means staying local. Staying local means building community. What if there is no food store nearby, no place to have an iced coffee, no place to take Irish Dance lessons? Well then, maybe someone should start it as opposed to driving a few miles away to get it.

Perhaps the biggest benefit to ditching your car is a much smaller environmental footprint. No car means no burning fuel. It means no new tires. No oil changes. You’re also no longer dependent on oil – the thing that we have been fighting for in the middle east for the past 25 years or so. You obviously don’t want drilling in pristine environments either, because you don’t own a car. Turns out flying is actually better than driving, when the amount of energy used is measured. In fact, driving is the least efficient in terms of energy use. A long distance train uses 1,668 BTU per person mile. Planes use 2,691, and cars a whopping 4,218. (BTU stands for British Thermal Unit. Per person mile is a measure of energy used to move a person one mile. I thought they used kilometers?) – http://www.umtri.umich.edu/what-were-doing/news/planes-trains-and-automobiles-traveling-car-uses-most-energy

Oh, and you save money. If you have a car, sell it and pocket the thousands of dollars, however much it’s worth, you can use that money to do practically any dream that you have! Go on a trip of a lifetime, start a business, save it for a rainy day, or donate it to a charity. And now that you don't have to budget a few thousand dollars a year on gas and maintenance, you can add that to your dream piggy bank as well.

So, should the personal car era come to an end? Has it been a failed experiment?

If you’ve ever been to Europe, especially Denmark and the Netherlands (where there are more bikes than people, and where they are building bike superhighways), you will realize it’s simple to get around by walking, biking and taking public transit. Hamburg, Germany has plans to be car-free within the next 20 years: http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20140204-can-a-city-really-go-car-free

Here’s a list of places that have ditched cars: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_car-free_places – city centers, towns, parks, etc.

Are you convinced yet? Smaller environmental footprint (no gas, oil, maintenance, harmful emissions, new tires), multiple thousands of dollars in the bank (saving on maintenance and $ from selling your car), increased sense of community (this leads to increased happiness for everyone involved), and you enjoy the snow a whole lot more.

…just confirmed it is not that fun to bike in freezing rain. Would probably have accepted a ride.

Gym, Tan, Laundry in 2014 – Make it Happen!

Setting a New Year's resolution is a chance for renewed energy, a clear mind, and a fresh perspective on our lives. So while accomplishing them may seem a little daunting, I definitely recommend the practice of setting them in writing.

Let's face it: everyone wants to go to the gym more, do more laundry or tanning…and the people that don't live up to their resolutions give the whole practice a bad reputation. "The gym is too crowded", "The laundromat scares me"…enough excuses!

I say forget about all the people who complain and talk bad about setting new year's resolutions. Anything that gets you motivated to live your ideal life is a great thing. It should be practiced. It won't be perfect the first few years…it might take a lifetime…but eventually you will get good at setting achievable new year's resolutions that really do make a positive impact on your life.

This year, I didn't set anything into writing until about mid-way through January. But after I did (it took a whole 20 minutes or so), I've definitely felt the energy that a new year brings. A fresh start, a fresh outlook, and the opportunity to make this year a great one.

I felt like, instead of starting with action items, I would group some things into broader categories. Those turned out to be:

Healthy Mind
Healthy Body
Contribution to Social Good
Planning for the Future
Lifelong Skills to Prepare for the Zombie Apocalypse

The apocalypse could come at any time. We really can't tell the future, but what we can do is prepare for the possibilities of what's to come. I made sure to include apocalypse preparations in my 2014 New Year's resolutions.

Mind you, these are the ideals I set. Will I achieve half of them? Time will tell…

Within the mind category:
– meditation: every morning
– reading: 30 mins a day
– writing: 10 mins daily reflection and planning for the next day
– yoga: every morning
– buddhist practice

Within the body category:
– yoga (apparently yoga is mind AND body!)
– run / train for a 1/2 marathon
– bike 50 mi / week
– soccer 1x / week
– vegetarian diet

Social Good:
– Become a tutor / teacher
– Volunteer at a food bank
– Habitat 4 humanity
– Year Without Plastic – Keep active on the blog (1 post per week) and Twitter, get engaged in the local farmer's market, do something like a video series.

Planning for the Future:
– Expert-level ruby on rails / web developer
– Contribute to open source project(s). 2-4 hours a week.
– Join a company
– Year w/o Plastic could fall into this category too, because I guess the well-being of the planet is important for the future.

Lifelong Skills for the Zombie Apocalypse:
– farming / gardening (grow a window-sill herb garden for good eats while holed up from the zombies outside)
– sailing (zombies can't walk on water)
– teaching (maybe they won't attack the teacher?)
– carpentry / electrician (build a fort and an electric fence around it)

So that's it! Have you written a list that you want to share? It may give me and some other folks ideas for their own 2014 goals, so share what you've come up with, and if you don't have anything yet, try writing a list!

GivingTuesday, Holiday Norms and Typhoon Disaster Relief

I have done some light research into some of the organizations who are accepting donations (there’s many), and have found a few that are doubling donations today. Apparently it’s #GivingTuesday every Tuesday in the month of December. Many organizations are doubling contributions, doing giveaways, and providing other incentives to give.

CARE is doubling donations, up to 1 million dollars, all through the month of December.

Partners in Health is doubling all donations today to support their work in Malawi: http://act.pih.org/Malawi-match for #GivingTuesday

So go forth and give!

Today is also a good day to ask your friends, family and significant others to give to organizations on your behalf for the upcoming Christmas gift buying madness season. The alternative to donating on behalf of others, which I’ve done all throughout my life, is me rushing around to buy random things for people, and then blindly accepting starbucks gift cards and trinkets that likely will be stuffed away in a drawer for years to come.

How much money is wasted on things like gift cards that could go towards helping others? TIME reports last year that 2 billion dollars were wasted due to cards expiring or just going unused. Pretty crazy to think about!

List of many organizations doing aid relief due to the typhoon in the Phillipines from this USAToday article:
In the wake of Typhoon Haiyan slamming into the Philippines, relief organizations are calling on Americans to donate funds to their efforts. Want to donate to a group not listed below? CharityNavigator.org rates organizations based on their financial health, accountability and transparency.


• UNICEF staff in the Philippines is being repositioned to provide emergency aid and the organization is gearing up to deliver supplies to children and their families. Donations can be made online or by texting RELIEF to 864233 to donate $10.

• CARE teams are on the ground in the Philippines and the organization plans to provide emergency relief to thousands of families. Donations can be made online or by calling 1-800-521-CARE within the U.S. or +1-404-681-2552.

• World Vision is mobilizing nearly 500 staff around the country to respond to the disaster. Donations are accepted online and the organization also lets you sponsor a child in the Philippines.

• The American Red Cross has volunteers spread throughout the region and accepts donations online. You can also mail a check to your local American Red Cross chapter designating Philippines Typhoons and Flood in the memo line.

• The U.N. World Food Programme is urging Americans to make donations to support its emergency food relief after Typhoon Haiyan. You can donate online or by texting the word AID to 27722 to donate $10.

• Save the Children is mounting disaster relief efforts to help children and families in the area. Donations can be made online or by texting DONATE to 20222.

• AmeriCares is deploying medical aid and a relief team to Philippines, and says an emergency shipment with enough medical aid for 20,000 survivors is already on its way.

• The Philippine Red Cross has deployed staff and volunteers across the region. You can easily make a donation through organization’s website.

• Doctors Without Borders has had emergency teams in Cebu since Nov. 9.

• To donate to the Salvation Army’s Typhoon Haiyan relief efforts, visit its website or text TYPHOON to 80888 to donate $10 and reply YES to confirm your donation. The organization uses 100% of all disaster donations in support of disaster relief.

• The International Rescue Committee (IRC) has sent an emergency response team to assist with safe water, hygiene and sanitation needs, with additional aid to follow. Donations can be made online or by calling +1 855 9RESCUE.

• The International Medical Corps is on the ground coordinating with their partners in the Philippines to distribute and provide medical aid. Donations can be made online or by calling1-800-481-4462.

• Mercy Corps responders are working with local partners to provide food, water and shelter. Donations can be made online.

• Handicap International supports people with disabilities and vulnerable populations in situations of poverty, conflict and disaster. The group has been working in the Philippines since 1985 and is preparing emergency aid for the hard-hit city of Tacloban. Donations can be made online.

• The United Methodist Committee on Relief is providing funds for the purchase of emergency food, water and and water purification tablets in Tacloban. Donations can be made online or by calling 1-888-252-6174

• Catholic Relief Services says its assessment teams have reached the hard-hit island of Leyte by boat. The organization will prioritize emergency shelter, water and sanitation, household relief items potable water and toilets. Donations can be made online or by calling 1-877-435-7277.

• Looking for someone in the Philippines area that is in your family or a friend? Google has launched a person finder for the storm, also known as Yolanda in the Philippines, where you can try and find out someone’s whereabouts or enter your own information.

How To Set Up a Refill Station like Refill Hawaii

“The earth is not inherited from our ancestors, but rather borrowed from our children.” – Native American proverb. Damn Europeans had to come and ruin everything 😉

The other week I had the chance to speak with Ry, who is the owner and operator (along with his wife G) of Refill Hawaii. I’ve been trying to catch up with Ry for the past few weeks, ever since I read about the organization on the incredible blog http://plasticfreeguide.com/.

Our conversations were getting pushed back as he has been in the middle of fighting for something that he and other citizens of Kauai, Hawaii’s 4th largest island, hold very dear. Days before Ry and I spoke, Bill 2491 was up for vote and under heavy debate. If passed, it would provide more restrictions on agribusiness giants who have been experimenting on the land and ruining natural crop production for years. In Ry’s words, ruthless, deep pocket biotech companies have over run Oahu, Molokai and Kauai and need to be highlighted and evicted from these lands. The Right to Know bill, Bill 2491, provides for restrictions on pesticide usage GMO seed testing on Kauai. And the best part – the bill was passed in a unanimous 6-1 from the Kauai Council!

Here’s a short description of the island and how USDA and agribusiness view it:

Kauai is known as the “Garden Isle” and viewed as an ideal testing ground for new genetically-engineered varieties due to its climate, which allows year round growing seasons, including three corn crops per year. It has served as a virtual ‘ground zero’ testing headquarters for many of biotech’s biggest firms for decades.

The USDA issues permits to Syngenta, DuPont Pioneer, Dow AgroSciences, BASF, and, of course, Monsanto to conduct thousands of acres of open field trials in Hawaii, with an estimated 15,000 acres cultivated on Kauai.

One of the most beautiful and unique places in all of the US has been handed over to these corporations by the USDA, and the citizens are tired of it.

If we are going to push back on big agribusiness, it will be a grassroots effort. Farmers need our support and local government needs to hear our voices.

So, I finally did have the conversation with Ry, and it was amazing. After the “Aloha” greeting, we talked in depth about his business that allows organizations as well as individuals to refill 1 gallon jugs of the “daily offenders” (the things we use each day that release chemicals into the environment and come packaged in plastic containers, like laundry detergents and dish soaps ).

I would really love to see a refill station at the local farmer’s market here in Providence, and with Ry’s advice and guidance, it may be a reality sooner than later.

Here’s an overview of how it works:

The company that provides the earth friendly products is called (appropriately) Earth Friendly Products and their main laundry detergent product is called ECOS. They have 5 manufacturing plants strategically placed throughout the US to minimize shipping costs and are also predominantly run on solar power. Earth Friendly Products are definitely on the forefront of reducing their footprint. Ry mentions that people should search out different environmentally conscious companies in their area to support local businesses if possible. He also recommends trying and testing a company’s products first, as some of them are ‘greenwashers’, and their products might simply be crap.

Earth Friendly Products are shipped to Ry in large drums from the west coast of the US. 55 gallon drums, to be exact. The allows a refill station the bulk capacity to fill customers’ 1 gallon bottles up.

Once the shipping and receiving aspects are taken care of, the next part is interfacing with customers, explaining how the process works, and tracking supply and demand.

Ry explained how I could get started opening up a similar operation:

  • Collect 1 gallon bottles with caps from recycle centers, restaurants, or businesses that usually toss them or recycle them (ideally no cost to the refill business).
  • Pre-fill these containers from large bulk containers of Earth Friendly products
  • Offer the pre-filled containers to customers in a hurry, or refill containers that customers bring.

There’s more to it than that of course. It takes a good bit of hard work and determination, but it’s definitely a model that other communities can emulate.

Get this working on a small scale, like once a week at a farmer’s market, and then expand it to local organic restaurants and grocery stores.

Needless to say, I was extremely grateful to talk with Ry and hear about how Refill Hawaii operates. Running a business that helps everyone reduce their plastic usage and raise awareness of the chemicals seeping into the environment is a fantastic use of one’s time.

Refill Hawaii’s homepage says it best:

​” let no one who follows regret you were here.. “​ ​



REFUSE to purchase single use plastics.
REDUCE your overall plastic purchases.
REUSE your existing empty plastic containers,
REFILL your existing empty plastic containers.
then finally,

RECYCLE your plastics ​properly once they are retired.

Reducing plastic usage and fighting against toxic chemicals in our environment go hand in hand. I hope to take up both fights as much as I can. I also hope to visit Hawaii some day soon. Alaska Airlines miles may be an option.

(Kalalau Valley)

The largest human-caused disturbance to the biosphere

“The fishing industry is following directly in the footsteps of the livestock industries,
feeding primarily the rich at the expense of the planet, the animals, and the poor.”
John Robbins, The Food Revolution

From Peta.org:
Q: Is commercial fishing bad for the environment?
A: Many commercial fishing vessels practice bottom-trawling in order to catch sea animals who live near, on, or under the sea floor, such as flounder, cod, grouper, shrimp, and scallops. Scientists say that the destruction caused by bottom-trawling is similar to that caused by clear-cutting old forests, only on a far greater scale. For example, the area of seabed trawled each year is roughly the size of the 48 contiguous states: 150 times greater than the area of forest cut! Elliot Norse, president of the Marine Conservation Biology Institute, says, “Scientists find that bottom-trawling is the largest disturbance to the world’s sea floor and possibly the largest human-caused disturbance to the biosphere.”

It has come to my attention, through this vast channel of information we call the Internet, that the fishing industries are destroying the oceans, just as the livestock industries are polluting the land and air. Part of my mission as an anti-plasticarian and vegetarian is to work towards changing human behavior in how we think about food. We should not plunder the earth’s resources with no regard for sustainability just to feed our insatiable appetites.

What would I be like, if I never was exposed to a search engine? To a facebook or twitter feed? I would live based on what my community around me would teach. But luckily for us and for them, we can spread our opinions, findings, and stories far and wide.

As a vegetarian that eats seafood occasionally, I have gotten into the habit of saying ‘I don’t eat meat, but I eat seafood.’ I have always felt a little bad about it, knowing that somewhere, some documentary and collection of vegetarian / vegan blogs are condemning my actions.

Today I am waking up a little bit more and making the decision to no longer eat sea creatures. It’s a destructive practice in how the meat gets from ocean to boat to plate, and I won’t support it anymore. I will vote with my dollar, which is the most powerful vote I can cast.

Here’s what I stumbled onto that sparked the decision:

“Seafood is simply a socially acceptable form of bush meat”, according to Paul Watson, a founder of Greenpeace and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. “We condemn Africans for hunting monkeys and mammalian and bird species from the jungle, yet the developed world thinks nothing of hauling in magnificent wild creatures like swordfish, tuna, halibut, shark and salmon for our meals. The fact is that the global slaughter of marine wildlife is simply the largest massacre of wildlife on the planet.”

Commercial fishing is causing the collapse of the world’s fisheries, having likely passed “peak fish”, destroying marine ecosystems, heavily polluting our oceans, and, along with climate change, contributing to “dead zones”. In effect, we are clear cutting our underwater rainforests, including the coral reefs and mangroves that support a rich array of biodiversity, as well as providing coastal protection, leading to the endangerment and extinction of many species employing “the factory trawler’s wet version of a scorched-earth policy” (Curtis White). To catch wild fish, entire schools of fish are netted along with turtles, dolphins, whales, sharks, seals, birds, and others as “by-catch”, or “collateral damage”, leaving a destructive and deadly wake. In fact, over 1/5 (about 22%) of fish caught by U.S. commercial operations is “by-catch” (fish that is caught, but discarded), topping more than a million tons per year.

Aquaculture, or the factory farming of fish, is also massively eco-destructive, often leading to over-fishing of wild fish for feed, de-oxygenation of the water, disease amongst fish and other marine animals, and the (over)use of antibiotics, hormones, chemicals, and genetically-engineered additives.

Further, underwater “forests” of coral reefs and mangroves are being decimated by “rape-and-run” shrimp farming (exploiting and polluting coastal communities for 2 to 5 years before abandoning them), commercial overfishing and trawling, inefficient industrial shipping, and other fish-related mega-activities with no regard for the natural world, whether underwater or above.

Fish often contain mercury, arsenic, lead, cadmium as well as toxic POPs, including PCBs, DDT, and dioxin, which can’t be removed from the fish and which bio-accumulate in consumers. “A major health hazard from eating fish flesh comes from humans causing polluted aquatic environments. Fish are repositories for the industrial and municipal wastes and the agricultural chemicals flushed into the world’s waters”, says Richard Schwartz, Ph.D. “Mercury, especially high in tuna and swordfish, can cause brain damage, especially in growing children. PCBs, dioxin, and pesticides (such as DDT) have been linked to cancers, nervous system disorders, fetal damage, and many other health problems. Removing fish from your meals eliminates half of all mercury exposure and reduces one’s intake of other toxins.” According to Dr. Steve Patch, co-director of the Environmental Quality Institute, University of North Carolina-Asheville, “We saw a direct relationship between people’s mercury levels and the amount of… fish people consumed”. Dioxin is one of the world’s most toxic chemicals and the EPA reports that about 95% of dioxin in humans comes from ingesting meat, dairy, and fish.

While fish often are said to contain high levels of protein and healthy fats and fatty acids (especially for the fish), this may not be the case and, in any event, there are easy alternatives for these nutrients, including olives, walnuts, flax, and hemp seeds. Additionally, fish, as with other animals, contain saturated fat and cholesterol, which are unhealthy. Further, fish do not contain any fiber, vitamins, anti-oxidants, or phytonutrients, all of which are exclusive to plant foods. A scientific review of studies about fish has shown that it is not necessarily a healthy food for humans. William Harris, M.D. determined that fish have seven times the protein that humans should intake and that fish protein contains high amounts of the amino acids methionine and cystine, which lead to calcium depletion and can cause osteoporosis.

It is understandable why some people go into denial, but it should be clear that fish—as with all other animals—feel pain, a phenomenon in animals needed for survival and success. Being caught on a hook is “like dentistry without novocaine, drilling into exposed nerves” (Dr. Tom Hopkins). Being pulled out of the water is like a person being held under water.

Vegetarians and vegans protect fish, other marine animals, coral reefs, and the incredible oceans they live in.

“The fishing industry is following directly in the footsteps of the livestock industries,
feeding primarily the rich at the expense of the planet, the animals, and the poor.”
John Robbins, The Food Revolution

“Now that the shallow fisheries are in serious decline, trawl nets fitted with wheels and rollers are dragging across the bottom of the deep oceans,
removing everything of any size.”
Rachel’s Environment and Health Weekly

“Commercial fishing, aquaculture, and angling are environmentally catastrophic….
If you eat fish, you are supporting an industry that plunders our oceans with no regard for the horrible pain and suffering that fish and other marine animals endure
or for the diverse ocean ecosystem that is imperative to the survival of all underwater life.”

from www.brook.com

What, you don’t like getting boiled alive? Me either. Today I’m stopping my consumption of seafood, forever.

(unimaginative and possibly misdirected “boycott red lobster” image)

So, goodbye, Red Lobster…I tried your vegetable skewers and was not impressed.