Sunday, February 27, 2011

We Would Like Your Input!

At the 2/24/11 General Meeting the Environmental Committee presented a Committee Report about the need to reduce plastic consumption at the PSFC and outlined concerns that affect members, including:
  • Financial Waste
  • Environmental Devastation
  • Health Toxicity
  • Social Injustice
If you missed the GM meeting, please download and review our slide show [PDF].

We are formulating a proposal to reduce plastic consumption and we want to hear from you.

What would help you to change your shopping routine to consume less plastic?

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Connection Was Made

The Connection Was Made:
An Interview with Beth Terry, the Plastic-free Woman
by Eric Daniel Metzgar

In 2007 Beth Terry read a news article titled "Our Oceans Are Turning Into Plastic...Are We?" She had encountered this sort of gloomy information before, but this article had an unprecedented effect. After reading it, she decided to stop buying new plastic. That was three years ago. Since then, she has been on a mission to live a plastic-free life and to educate others (without preaching, she hopes) about the ills of plastic consumption.

Beth was gracious enough to grant us an interview.

Q: Beth, we are overwhelmed with information about environmental problems. You had encountered depressing facts, photos and statistics about plastic before reading the article that changed your life. What was it about this piece of information that triggered action?

BT: More than the article, it was the photo that changed my life. Prior to that evening, I'd heard that there were chemicals in plastic that could leach into your food. I knew that plastic wasn't biodegradable and was filling up landfills somewhere. But these weren't problems that carried real urgency for me. Toxic chemicals might have been scary, but they were invisible and no worse in my mind than other unhealthy habits I might have had, like eating too much fattening food or not getting enough exercise. And as far as plastic waste, once the garbage truck came, it was out of sight, out of mind.

Then, I saw a photo of a dead albatross chick carcass filled with plastic pieces, and I was utterly stunned. Here was tangible evidence of direct harm. The connection was made. My actions had a direct impact on creatures thousands of miles away that I hadn't previously known existed, and not just in a theoretical way. My reaction was visceral. I knew I had to change.

Q: How did it feel to begin making the changes in your life?

BT: At first, it felt like an adventure. I took field trips to stores and recycling centers to learn as much as I could about plastic and plastic-free alternatives. I was solving real-life puzzles. And it was gratifying to see my plastic waste drop as I changed my habits and learned how to live without it. Instead of feeling guilty or ashamed about my plastic waste, I posted my results on the blog and looked at it methodically, as a scientist would.

Q: Let's say you walk into a grocery store and head to the produce section. There you find a horde of busy people stuffing their fruits and veggies and bulk goods into plastic bags. If for a moment they all stopped and gave you their full attention, what would you say to them?

BT: I'd ask them to stop and look at the plastic in their hands and ask themselves why it was necessary. I'd remind them that fruits and vegetables grow in the dirt, and that it's really okay to put their apples and cucumbers and broccoli in the same bag "naked." I'd ask them to think about the irony of putting healthy foods fruits and vegetables into a material whose manufacture is so toxic to the planet and which may contain toxic chemicals that can leach right back into their healthy foods. And then I'd challenge them to make their purchases without plastic, just that one time and see how it went.

Stridence doesn't work. Trying to make people feel guilty only turns them off. What works is assuming that people are doing the best they can for their current level of awareness and encouraging them to challenge their assumptions and try to see the possibilities for living in a different way.

Q: Our shoppers can look on your website for all sorts of practical information and tips, but in a nutshell, could you describe your 'plastic-free' shopping process?

BT: I choose to shop at stores that provide foods like beans, nuts, grains, flour, pasta, dried fruit, cereal, etc. in bulk bins. Then, I shop the perimeter of the store and rely less on the processed foods in the aisles. I buy produce "naked" instead of using any kind of bag. For bulk foods, I bring my own bags and containers and first have them weighed at the customer service desk so that the weight of the container can be deducted from the total weight at checkout. I choose dairy products in returnable glass jars and bottles when possible, bread in paper bags or my own bags for loose breads like bagels (I also shop a local bakery where I can have whole loaves put in my own cloth bags.), and ask to have meat and cheeses cut and put into my own stainless steel containers. For the few processed foods I do buy (spaghetti sauce, for example) I choose glass jars and reuse them to store all kinds of food in the pantry, refrigerator, and even the freezer. It should go without saying that I don't buy bottled water and that I carry all my purchases home in a reusable grocery bag or my backpack or purse.

Q: What allows you to maintain your commitment?

Seeing how my blog is helping to inspire and motivate others. Many people are participating in the Show Your Plastic Trash Challenge and learning about their own plastic footprint and what they can do to reduce it. When you use your own life as an example for others, you really can't backtrack.

What's more, the picture of that dead albatross has never left my consciousness. It's always there when I have choices to make about buying plastic.

More about Beth Terry and her plastic-free life can be found at, including her inspiring blog and many tips for reducing our plastic consumption.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Domestic Detox

Domestic Detox | Pollution is Personal
Feb 24 2011
7:00-8:30 pm
at The Commons
388 Atlantic Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11217
347 689 3908

From laundry detergent and toothpaste to non-stick pans and canned beans, unregulated, untested, and undisclosed synthetic chemicals are used in the production of countless household items.

Many of these toxic ingredients are absorbed by our bodies and contribute to a dramatic increase in chronic health problems. Scientific estimates show that the average person carries at least 700 contaminants in his or her body.

With the FDA and EPA powerless to regulate the chemical corporations and protect the populace, how do citizens navigate this minefield of domestic toxins? Where do we start?

It can be overwhelming and often paralyzing, but we CAN transform our living spaces into toxin-free homes, starting with a few simple steps.

Join Jenna Spevack, City University of New York professor and founder of Plastic Albatross, for a domestic detox with a step-by-step tour down the average household shopping list. Learn how to lessen your exposure to toxins in your own home and reduce your body burden.

Directions to The Commons
By train: Hoyt-Schermerhorn; A, C and G
Bergen Street; F
Atlantic-Pacific; B, M, Q, R, 2, 3, 4 and 5
Flatbush Avenue; LIRR
By bus: B63 and B65

Monday, February 07, 2011

Compost Drop-Off at Greenmarkets

Beginning Saturday, March 5, Greenmarket shoppers can bring fruit and vegetable scraps for composting to the following Greenmarkets: Inwood, Tribeca, Abingdon Square, McCarren Park, Grand Army Plaza and Brooklyn Borough Hall. Compost drop-off hours may differ from Greenmarket hours, so please refer to the schedule for details. Food scraps are currently accepted at the Union Square and Ft. Greene Greenmarkets.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Surprise Approval of GMO Alfalfa

Surprise Approval of GMO Alfalfa Threatens the Environment
and Organic Dairy Farms

Last June, in a landmark ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court held that farmers and ordinary citizens have the legal right to sue in federal courts to keep crops and food from becoming contaminated by genetically modified organisms. The crop at issue in that lawsuit was Monsanto’s GMO alfalfa, which was created to withstand Monsanto’s patented weed poison, Roundup.

The court found that the U.S. Department of Agriculture had approved sale of the GMO alfalfa without a thorough environmental impact review. Last week, however, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack cleared Monsanto’s GMO alfalfa for unrestricted sale, ignoring the more than 200,000 comments his agency received opposing deregulation.

As Tom Philpott reports in Grist, there’s quite a bit of evidence that this latest Monsanto victory is part and parcel of President Obama’s promises, made most recently in last week’s State of the Union address, to direct federal agencies to lift regulations that “burden” the business sector. As a practical matter, Vilsack’s announcement punts the issue back into federal court. The Center for Food Safety, which filed the initial lawsuit, has announced its intention to challenge the deregulation.

Monsanto claims that its GMO alfalfa produces increased yields, but its major “advantage” is that it can withstand unlimited applications of Roundup, while any weeds in the alfalfa fields are killed by the herbicide. However, while Monsanto has claimed for decades that Roundup degrades harmlessly in soil, in 2009 France’s highest court found the company criminally guilty of false advertising for these claims. In addition to poisoning our air, soil and water, no significant research has been done to determine the effects of eating products from animals fed genetically-engineered grain, nor of directly consuming foods made with genetically engineered crops such as soy and corn, which are ubiquitous in American supermarkets. Essentially, Monsanto and other agribusinesses that promote GMO foods are experimenting on consumers.

Alfalfa is grown primarily to feed dairy cows and horses, with more than 20 million acres devoted to its cultivation in the United States each year. Among the concerns raised by GMO alfalfa are that it will contaminate the fields of organic alfalfa through cross-pollination, as has happened widely with Monsanto’s GMO Roundup resistant corn, threatening the crops and livelihood of organic farmers and making it more difficult, if not impossible, for consumers to be sure they are purchasing dairy products that are truly organic.

Perhaps even worse, according to the Center for Food Safety, the USDA’s own analysis indicates that widespread cultivation of Monsanto’s Roundup resistant alfalfa will lead to huge increases in the application of the herbicide, which poisons soil, water, air, birds, animals and people. In addition, widespread use of Roundup has created herbicide resistant “super weeds,” which has led farmers throughout the United States to abandon soil conservation methods in favor of destructive plowing and increased use of toxic weed killing agents.

You can learn more about the fight against GMO alfalfa and the GMO takeover of agriculture on the websites of the Cornucopia Institute, the Center for Food Safety and the Organic Consumers Association.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

A Month of Less Plastic

Use Less Plastic from TakePart on Vimeo.

We're going to participate in Rodale's Plastic Free February. Like sugar, caffeine and other addictive substances, using plastic has become a habit for many. Individuals are not to blame when stores and manufacturers use the substance so freely. But individuals can take control of their own lives and try living without plastic (or as little as possible) for the month of February.

Why? Many reasons, including Rodale's top three:
  • Plastic is from either petroleum or natural gas, two nonrenewable resources extracted in ways that pollute our air and water.

  • Plastic manufacturers add chemicals to certain types of plastics that can be highly toxic, like bisphenol A and phthalates.

  • Very few types of plastic are widely recycled.
Plus, let us add that an enormous amount of plastic ends up in the oceans, strangling and starving birds, seals and other sea and shore dwellers.

So join us in learning to live plastic free. Rodale's Plastic Free February site has great tips and information.