I think of myself as a blonde. In my mind, my hair looks like this:

Lisa Bronner at 6 years old

Here’s a more recent picture:

Lisa Bronner and daughter

I’m the one who is not the baby. The one who is not blonde.

Faced with this reality, I needed to change either how I thought of my hair or my hair itself, so I took the easier route. I became a highlighter. Otherwise I would have had to change my driver’s license.

Time out! Let’s step back a bit to what I wrote about my personal conversion from shampoo to soap. It ended with the somewhat devastating disclaimer that soap, due to its alkalinity, is unsuitable for color-treated hair. The higher-than-7 pH of the soap – 8.9 to be exact – causes the hair follicles where color is stored, to open up, allowing the color to escape. There has been keen disappointment in the comments over this disclaimer, and I absolutely hate disappointing people. Now I’m here to offer some hope. Hope in the form of highlights. But how can I get away with highlighting and still wash my hair with Dr. Bronner’s soaps?

Think of highlighting as a controlled color-stripping process wherein color is strategically removed to look like naturally occurring highlights. Color is taken out, not added in. There is no stored dye to worry about. Aha! A new day has dawned!

Warning: If you never, ever venture into the world of hair color, you may want to look away from this paragraph. The world of color is no simple sphere, so let me spin your head some more. When hair is professionally highlighted, stylists sometimes add lowlighting back in. This is more subtle streaking of color that creates depth. So, if your hair is lowlighted as well as highlighted, then you’re back in the “color added” category and the soap is not for you.

Breaking this down:

  • ➢ Highlights only = Dr. B’s soaps OK
  • ➢ Highlights and Lowlights = soaps not OK
  • ➢ Color-treated hair = soaps not OK

All of this to say, Dr. Bronner’s Castile and Shikakai soaps are safe on highlighted hair. Allow me to say that again: Dr. Bronner’s soaps are safe on highlighted hair! Release the confetti.

If you have never dabbled in the realm of hair color, I probably lost you at the first “blonde”. By the time we hit “lowlighting”, you had crossed the state line. However, if you are a highlighter, or are looking for a way to change your “look” but still want to use an organic, Fair Trade soap for shampooing, Dr. Bronner’s has your answer. As always, follow up a Dr. Bronner’s Castile or Shikakai hair wash with the Dr. Bronner’s Citrus Conditioning Hair Rinse. It balances out the pH which is always necessary to keep our tresses happy. And the Dr. Bronner’s Leave-In Conditioning Hair Crème adds extra moisturizing.

And I am happy to be a blonde again.

Lisa Bronner

Share

Deodorizing the Garbage Disposal

February 26th, 2014

Recently, my son learned the unforgettable life lesson known as “what-happens-when-you-leave-a-hard-boiled-egg-in-your-lunch-box-over-a-three-day-weekend.” Unhappily, the rest of us got to experience the natural consequences of that lesson as well. Rotten eggs really do smell as horrendously horrible as they are reputed. Until now, I had happily never actually smelled one. But, oh my stars, now I know for sure: rotten eggs smell like rotten eggs. It knocks you flat.

Of course (and if you spend time with kids, you know this is an “of course”), at the moment my son opened that ill-fated container, my other son simultaneously knocked a shelf out of the refrigerator, (“I accidentally backed into it”) and eggnog – the alcoholic kind – was running across the kitchen floor. I sensed a theme here.

What were my options? The rotten egg demanded to be dealt with first. The dog was handling the eggnog just fine. I didn’t want to put that bomb in my trash can.  The trash truck had come the day before and if that egg waited another week, the trash can would never recover and my neighbors might seek legal action. I thought about burying it, but that would only attract wildlife. I opted for the garbage disposal.

Maybe there was a better option, but in the midst of that stench, it wasn’t apparent. Down the garbage disposal it went. Unfortunately, the stench did not go down with it.

Lemon Slices

Providentially, winter in southern California is lemon season, and I happen to have an abundance. There they were, glowing on the countertop. Beautiful, juicy, deliciously lemony Meyer lemons. I grabbed one, sliced half of it thinly and threw it down the garbage disposal after the egg. Sweet! Instantly the air cleared. The sickly cloud of green hovering over my kitchen was sucked down the drain along with those circles of sunshine. Perhaps it was an ignoble death for the lemon, but it was a worthy sacrifice.

Garbage disposals can get funky smelling under normal circumstances, so even without my extreme situation, you may find the need to freshen up your disposal. There are several lemony components at work here. First, the lemon juice is acidic, which can cut through grease in your drain. Secondly, the lemon peel wipes off the blades themselves as they’re minced. Thirdly, the oils in the peel coat the disposal and leave that awesome lemony-fresh scent behind. A trifecta of effectiveness.

Deodorizing the Disposal

Before you try this out, bear a few things in mind:

➢ Use a fresh lemon if possible which would be juicier and more tender.
➢ Cut it into thin wedges so as not to burn out your disposal.
➢ Put the lemon slices down the drain before turning the disposal. (I just feel like I need to say that. I live with kids.)
➢ Run cold water while you turn on the disposal.
➢ Let the disposal run until you don’t hear it grinding any more bits. This may take 30 seconds or so.

Hopefully, you won’t find yourself in my rotten egg situation. Hopefully, I won’t again either. But forewarned is forearmed, and keep those lemons handy. And my dog is fine. I don’t recommend frequent eggnog, but that once didn’t do him any evident harm.

Share

So let’s tackle one of the least romantic parts of housecleaning – toilet bowls.  I don’t need to tell you that these can get icky, especially if you have boys in the house.  (I love my boys to pieces, but they do – well – miss.)  Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds and Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile soap are both powerful enough to cleanse a commode.

Honestly, my conventional toilet cleaner was one of my last conventional products to give up.  There was something so confident and reassuring about the thick, beautiful blue gel with its minty fresh scent.  However, let’s just take a look at each of those features.  The reason it’s so thick is that it is supposed to cling to the insides of your toilet without dispersing in the water.  At the risk of stating the obvious, that means that it doesn’t disperse readily in water.  This means that if the gel goes down your pipes, it’s going to be in clumps.  It also means that if you or a little one gets it on your skin, it will cling and burn.  Next, I’ve already tackled conventional fragrance In “Changing the Smell of Clean” and the dye for the color is another melting pot where manufacturers can hide nasties.  Furthermore, toilet bowl cleaners are needlessly intense.  They are meant to disinfect the filthiest of toilets and then some with next to no effort from the user.  The cleaner then goes down your pipes and either into area water sources or, if you’re like me, into your septic tank and ultimately back yard.  Then what?  It doesn’t just vanish.  Conventional stuff doesn’t even break down readily.  It’ll be there long after you’ve stopped thinking about it.

Keep in mind what I’ve said about how things get clean: chemically, manually, or thermally .  If you just try to clean with one of these means – let’s say chemically, what you use is going to have to be really, really strong.  However, if you use an alternative cleaning method that combines the chemical (for this purpose, please accept that Sal Suds and soaps are technically chemicals, just not bad ones) along with the mechanical (i.e. your scrubbing) plus a little bit of time for the cleaner to sit and work, you’ll end up with just as clean of a toilet with no risk.

One of my favorite resources, the Environmental Working Group, gives over 56% of commercially available toilet bowl cleaners an “F” for safety – and some of these “F’s” have the word “Natural” in their name.  I’m sorry to pop any bubbles with that one.

What You’ll Need to Clean the Toilet

Either my Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds All-Purpose Spray or my Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile All-Purpose Spray with added pure essential tea tree oil (1/2 tsp. or 50 drops) which is a little more than what I normally use around the house.

Check out the links, but in a nutshell, the Sal Suds spray is a quart of water with 1 Tbsp. Sal Suds.  The castile spray is a quart of water with ¼ c. liquid Castile Soap.

Baking soda

A high quality plastic toilet brush (metal can scratch the enamel on the toilet and cause rust)

Method

  1. 1. Turn off your toilet water.  There is a knob on the wall underneath the toilet.  It turns.  Turn it clockwise until you can’t (don’t wrench it).  The water is now off.
  2. 2. Flush the toilet.  This will drain the water out of your bowl.  You might need to do this twice.
  3. 3. Spray down the inside of the toilet bowl thoroughly with either the Sal Suds spray or the Castile soap spray.  While you’re at it, spray down the outside of the toilet, too, just not as thoroughly or else you’ll have lots of drips on your floors.
  4. 4. Let it sit for 10 minutes.  Perhaps clean the rest of the bathroom or just sit
  5. 5. Sprinkle baking soda on your scrub brush (while holding it over the toilet bowl).
  6. 6. Scrub the toilet bowl thoroughly, making sure to get under the rim of the toilet bowl which is where minerals build up.  If you sprayed the outside of the toilet bowl, wipe it down with a microfiber cloth.
  7. 7. Turn the water back on.  Let the tank fill with water.
  8. 8. Flush the toilet.

A Precaution:  Undiluted Sal Suds is about the same consistency as conventional toilet bowl cleaner.  However, do not use it as such.  If you coat the inside of your toilet bowl with undiluted Sal Suds, you will have a toilet bowl of bubbles for a week.  If you have a toddler who already loves to play in the toilet, this will not help.

Share
Dr. Bronner's Organic Hand Sanitizer

My Dr. Bronner’s hand sanitizer is loaded in an outside pocket of my purse where I can grab it in an instant.

We have become a society that is addicted to hand sanitizer, so I want you to read this disclaimer:  Hand sanitizer does not replace soap and water if available.  Soap and water is more effective and if it is feasible to wash with soap and water, please do so.*  However, the sanitizer is a must when my ducklings exit the grocery store where they’ve touched every part of the cart and run their hands on the check out conveyer belt and picked up a penny from the parking lot and handled the pack of ground beef we bought and then ask, “Mom, can I have a snack?”

Although the Directions for Use should be pretty obvious, let me mention that it is best if the sanitizer is wet on the skin for 10-15 seconds for maximum effectiveness.  So, give the hands a good spray and wait a moment before handling the snack.

Dr. Bronner's hand sanitizer protects when you can't wash your hands.

Dr. Bronner’s hand sanitizer protects when you can’t wash your hands.

Additional Uses

The uses for hand sanitizer do not stop with the obvious.  While I wouldn’t recommend these applications on a large scale due to cost, there are a few other things I’ve used my hand sanitizer for when I’m out and about.  There are many, many more uses for rubbing alcohol around the house, but to keep our wallets happy, you really should just buy a larger bottle of organic ethyl alcohol for those purposes.  But, on the go, I’ve used Dr. Bronner’s Hand Sanitizer for:

  • • Cleaning my son’s glasses.  I never seem to notice until we are very far from home that my 8 year old’s glasses are fuzzy with grime.  Alcohol is not the best thing to use on glasses regularly, but it works in a pinch.
  • • Spraying off public surfaces that must be touched – I’ve done grocery cart handles, airplane trays, steering wheels, diaper changing trays, even toilet seats.  This is not a cost-effective measure, I am well aware, but again, it works in a pinch.
  • • Quick relief from a mosquito bite – it really cools the sting.
  • • Eliminating stickiness. There’s a lot of sticky in my life.  We leave the house non-sticky and arrive at our destination sticky.  I don’t know how it happens  – sticky hands, sticky keys, sticky phones, which segues nicely to…
  • • Cleaning phone screens.  Do this with care because liquid and electronics don’t mix, so spray a tissue and then wipe the phone.   As with my son’s glasses, I am much more prone to notice filthiness on my phone when I’m far from home – I think it’s that public humiliation of, “What will they think of me when they see my phone?!?!”  Not really.  But still…
  • • This one is from a friend who uses it regularly – as an underarm deodorant, but not right after shaving.

A Rundown of Ingredients

This will be quick because there are only four: Organic Ethanol, Water, Organic Glycerin, and Organic Lavender Oil. All ingredients but the water (which is un-organic-able) are certified under the National Organic Program (NOP), which certifies organic food.

Organic Ethanol (62%):  NOP standards include a non-GMO policy, so this ethanol is from non-genetically modified cane sugar.  Ethanol, also known as ethyl alcohol or the alcohol you drink, is an effective antiseptic. Isopropyl alcohol is the other one, which is made from propane. Hand sanitizers generally are alcohol based or triclosan based. (Any hand sanitizer that has a “natural” sanitizing claim has not been verified by the FDA.) So why do we use alcohol and not triclosan?  First off, triclosan isn’t and can’t be organic.  Second, the effectiveness of triclosan in killing germs is in dispute.**   Lastly, triclosan is also repeatedly being credited with contributing the formation of antibiotic resistant superbugs.

Water – Not in there as a cost saving measure, water dilutes the alcohol so that it won’t dry out our skin and to aid the penetrability of the alcohol into the cells of germs.  Before you ask, alcohol will not penetrate human skin which is too thick and the alcohol evaporates too quickly.

Organic Glycerin – Glycerin is a natural humectant which draws moisture into the skin, further countering the drying nature of alcohol.

Organic Lavender Oil – The lavender oil is used to denature, or make undrinkable, the alcohol.  This is necessary to keep curious little people or mischievous big people from consuming the hand sanitizer. (You should still not leave the hand sanitizer in the hands of Untrustables.)  It also keeps the product from needing an alcohol tax.  This addresses the question, Can we make an unscented hand sanitizer?  No, we can’t.  It is legally necessary that we put something really untasty – though still organic and non-toxic per our own standards – in the formulation.   And since your next question will be, why don’t we make other scents of hand sanitizers, there are a few other essential oils that are permitted for denaturing, but we also have to consider safety to skin, cost, and demand.

While it’s a must-have for a diaper bag or a mother’s purse, I know I’ll be carrying this far past my child-rearing days.  And, as this was recently relevant to me, with a 2 oz. bottle, it is OK to carry it on to an airplane.

* Check out one of my previous posts, “Who Gave Soap a Bad Name”.

** Check out NBC’s “Think Twice about Antibacterial Soap, FDA Says

If Dr. Bronner’s pure castile soap is so versatile, why make another kind of soap, the Organic Pump Soap? Which should I buy?

Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile soap is an extremely simple soap. It is my grandfather’s original, and if you have only heard of one Dr. Bronner’s product, it’s probably the castile soap and probably the peppermint. Its method of reacting oils with a strong alkali is millenia old; someone from the middle ages looking at our soap-making process would understand exactly what we are doing. The art of creating the perfect castile soap, though, lies in the choice and balance of oils as well as other processing methods. When you have the perfect castile soap, it is the most versatile cleaning agent possible. If you had to choose only one cleaning product for every aspect of your life, Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile soap is it. However, through the years, we have repeatedly heard a few requests:

  • “It would be nice if the castile were thicker.”
  • “It would be nice if it were more moisturizing.”
  • “It would be nice if it worked in a pump.”
  • “It would be nice if it were USDA certified organic.”*

Enter the pump soaps.
The Fair Trade & Organic Pump soap is based on the Pure Castile soap but the addition of a few ingredients makes all four of these desires a reality.

Dr. Bronner's Castile Soap vs. Shikakai Soap

The pump soap drops the water from the castile soap and adds Organic White Grape Juice, Organic Sucrose, and Organic Shikakai Powder. Here’s how each benefits:

Organic White Grape Juice:

  • Acts as a humectant, which is something that helps the skin retain its natural moisture

Organic Sucrose:

  • Also a humectant (which is why sugar scrubs are so popular for the body)
  • Caramelized sucrose keeps the soap from coagulating and clogging the pumps

Organic Shikakai Powder

  • Conditions Skin and Hair as it cleanses – Shikakai is derived from a south Asian tree, the acacia concinna, and has long been used in traditional Indian body care as a moisturizing skin and body cleanser
  • Thickening agent

Why use one soap over the other?
Personal Care – The pump soap is more moisturizing and works in a traditional pump dispenser.  Other than that, it is mostly a matter of personal preference. The two soaps feel different. They smell different. They react differently on different skin types. If you are in love with the Pure Castile soaps, chances are, you are not going to like the pumps. If you’ve turned away from the Pure Castile because of dryness or intensity, the pumps are your answer.
House cleaning – The Pure Castile soap is the only way to go. Your household surfaces do not need to be moisturized (for the most part), and the ingredients that provide the moisturizing afterfeel on your skin make it a little more difficult to rinse off of hard surfaces. Also, the very slight graininess of the Shikakai powder (kind of like cinnamon) might clog spray bottles.

A final note:
There is no difference in the formulation of the two sizes of pumps. The 12 oz. is more conducive to sink-side, hand-washing use, and the 24 oz. lends more towards in-shower, whole-body washing. There is also a refill half gallon size.

*A few questions that might come to mind:
Why doesn’t the Pure Castile soap have the USDA organic seal?
In order for a product to qualify for the USDA organic seal, it must be made with 95% organic materials. However, for our castile soap making process to work correctly, we must add over 7% of the alkali (sodium or potassium hydroxide) to the oil blend.  Also bear in mind that substances such as water, salt, and hydroxides are all by nature inorganic, which means they do not come from a plant source. Therefore, the term “organic” can never apply to them.  The water content in the Pure Castile soap is not included in the organic percentage calculation.  The Pure Castile soap does carry the label “Made with Organic Oils”.  However,  the Fair Trade & Organic Pump Soap does not use water, but rather organic white grape juice, for the reasons mentioned above.  The organic white grape juice does count in the organic calculation and brings the pump soaps above the 95% threshold.

Why not replace water with white grape juice in the pure castile soap?

The beauty of the castile soap is its simplicity. And it is this very simplicity that makes the pure castile soap so very versatile. Once we start fancifying it with anything, the soap will lose some of its attractiveness as well as its usefulness.

Share

Yes on 522The ads from the No on 522 campaign in Washington state, opposing the labeling of genetically modified food (GMO’s), muddy and confuse the debate. Let’s look at each of the claims their ads make, and address their flaws. My hope is that these clarifications will not only convince you, my reader, of the need for labeling, but also will aid you in discussions with friends.

Claim: I-522 has too many exemptions, nearly two thirds of food and beverages purchased would be exempt.
Clarity: This skews the truth tremendously because nearly two thirds of food and beverages we purchase do not have any nutritional labeling whatsoever* and I-522 does not address those categories. By this, I mean restaurant food, freshly made grocery store food (e.g. the in-store deli), and alcohol. I-522 adds GMO information only to existing nutritional labels, a simple and sensible thing to do.

Claim: I-522 conflicts with national law
Clarity: This implies that states should never disagree with the federal government. Arguments about states’ rights aside, there is no disagreement with federal policy with Initiative 522. Federal law is silent on the issue of GMO labeling. It does not require labeling, nor forbid it. In cases where the federal government does not speak, the state law governs without question. If Washington state decides to mandate labeling, there will be no conflict with federal law.

Claim: Costly new burdens on Washington farmers.
Clarity: Producers change and print their labels all the time. It will not cost more money to add a few words to the label.

Claim: No scientific justification.
Clarity: This is as close as the No campaign comes to outright saying, “You do not have a right to know what is in your food.” The idea here is that consumers only need to know what is in their food if it is dangerous. If we already have the right to know if our orange juice is fresh or from concentrate, how much more should we know if there have been fundamental alterations in the genetic make-up of our food?

Claim: I-522 is complex and misleading
Clarity: This is a scare tactic. “No on 522” is assuming that you have not actually read I-522 or even its summary. Instead, they want you to rely on your beneficent seed and pesticide monopolies who are here to take care of you and tell you what to think. Read it. Think for yourself. It is clear, detailed, and straightforward.

Claim: No other state requires it
Clarity: This is a terribly adolescent argument. Being the only state to do the right thing, still makes it the right thing to do. Nineteen other states are having this exact same debate right now. If 522 passes in Washington, they will be the trailblazers.

Claim: Labeling would provide misleading and inaccurate information through special exemptions.
Clarity: If you can, pause on the images that show the supposed exemptions. They are cow milk, meat (looks like beef), cheese (assume cow milk), eggs (assume chicken), chicken meat, liquor and beer. The animal products are not exempt if they are from genetically modified animals. However, there are no GMO animals on the retail market – yet. When that day comes, they will have to be labeled, too. The liquor and beer is exempt because alcohol does not currently carry nutritional labels of any sort. I-522 does not address the issue of nutritional labeling of alcohol.

The ad further makes an extraordinarily misleading claim that some products that do not contain GMO’s would be labeled as containing them. It is referring to substances like sucrose which is derived from genetically engineered sugar beets. The sucrose is so processed that very little, if any detectable, sugar beet DNA is left. However, it is still from a GE sugar beet, and consumers should know that it is not the same as sucrose derived from non-GMO sugar cane, despite their molecular similarity.

Claim: Costly to farmers
Clarity: It is not costly to add text to pre-existing labels, which is the responsibility of the manufacturer of prepackaged foods where we find 80% of retail GMO’s. For fresh produce, very little of which is currently genetically modified, the signage required would not be costly nor burdensome. Farmers know exactly which of their crops are GMO, because they must sign compliance contracts when they purchase them.

*Bureau of Labor Statistics, reported via npr.org

Share

The debate to label genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) in foods continues this year in the state of Washington where voters will face Initiative 522. This issue was not resolved with the defeat of Proposition 37 in California, and by no means have those of us in favor of labeling given up. In fact we are more determined than ever. I just wrote about the upsides of the outcome of last year’s Prop 37. Read that and then check out this appeal my brothers, Mike and David Bronner, and I made to ask for your support on behalf of the voters in Washington state.

yeson522-small
Go to www.Yeson522.com to donate and support.

Share
Posted in GMO, Labeling | No Comments »

I should have posted some reflection ten months ago when California’s Proposition 37 to label genetically modified food was defeated. In case you missed Dr. Bronner’s role, the company supported the Yes on 37 campaign with over $600,000 and we all did our part to speak out on behalf of labeling. After 37 lost, I heard many comments about what a tragedy it was. However, it could only have been a tragedy if that were the end of the story. Instead, it was merely the beginning.

Taken together, everything that happened around Proposition 37 served as a great catalyst to bring this issue to the forefront of the national stage. The debate is now being waged in many states, with progress in Connecticut and Maine who are waiting for four more New England states to join them in enacting labeling. And most importantly and immediately Washington state is prepped for victory this November on Initiative 522, mandating GMO labeling.

Lessons Learned from 37
Proposition 37 vote resultsDespite being outspent by over 5 to 1, Prop 37 lost by very little, only 1.4%. This was the closest vote among the 2012 propositions, and one of the closer proposition outcomes in recent history. The $46 million that the No on 37 campaign spent only bought them a scraping victory. Furthermore, much of the $8 million that Yes on 37 raised came in very late, somewhat past the point of usability. If you lived in California last October, think back on what the advertising was like. Every commercial break on every major TV channel and radio station contained an ad from the No on 37 side. Every day brought a new mailing in the mailbox. Yet, despite drenching, saturating, monopolizing the air waves, mailboxes, printed media, they were only able to win by so little.

This shows us that our arguments for labeling are extremely strong. People who knew the facts about the GMO situation, who were exposed to fact-based arguments beyond the opposition’s misleading commercials were not swayed. Furthermore, these people were passionately convinced enough to spread the word via whatever free mediums they had available. Although the $8 million raised by Yes on 37 was a tidy sum, it didn’t go far spread over a state the size of California. And therefore the hold on the vote that Yes on 37 was able to maintain is a testimony to the merit of the arguments to label GMO’s which passionate and persevering individuals mightily proclaimed.

We are applying this lesson right now in Washington state. Money needs to be raised now – with 7 weeks to go – so that we can get our argument for labeling in front of the voters as early as possible and right where they are; this means during the nightly news. We need to show them the facts through efficient advertising before the opposition muddies the water with nonsensical, misleading and irrelevant claims.

Another great success that emerged from 37 is the way the media is covering the issue. The media, too, underwent a steep learning curve last year which has continued beyond the election. As more and more research has emerged, they are waking up to the reality that they’ve been duped by biotech superpowers such as Monsanto, whom a year ago seemed to be writing the articles for the press.

Not a Tragedy
The Prop 37 outcome was not a tragedy because we made such enormous strides in public education –what GMO’s are, how they’ve been used, what industry concealment has occurred, and why we should care. Furthermore, some quiet and troubling truths of the food industry became clearly evident.

Part way through the 2012 campaign, the Cornucopia Institute published this comparison of the brands, and their parents, making up the two sides of the Prop 37 debate.

Part way through the 2012 campaign, the Cornucopia Institute published this comparison of the brands, and their parents, making up the two sides of the Prop 37 debate.

Why didn’t such healthy and natural heavy-hitters such as Kashi, Horizon Organic, Silk, Naked Juice, Odwalla, Cascadian Farms support the labeling of GMO’s? Because their parent companies Kellogg, Dean Foods, PepsiCo, Coco Cola, and General Mills were prime funders to defeat Prop 37.

How has this technology of genetic modification been put to use? Not to increase nutrient density, not to increase crop yield, not to increase drought-tolerance. Nope. The primary use of genetic modification has been to create crops that produce or withstand greater amounts pesticides and herbicides. Because of this tolerance, farmers apply vastly greater amounts of weed and pest killers on the crops. One such example of this vicious cycle is the development of Round Up Ready corn and soy which fuels Monsanto’s sale of Round Up herbicide. Now these are failing due to the emergence of resistant super-weeds and super-pests. Therefore, the industry is engineering tolerance for far more toxic herbicides such as Dicamba and 2,4 D which is the main ingredient in Agent Orange.

Where is this going to end? How about here and now, beginning with labeling that informs where these crops are found in our grocery stores.

The Ongoing Debate
Yes On 522What would have happened if we could have taken the passion of the Prop 37 supporters and magnified it with more manpower and more resources? We have the chance to find out. This year. Washington state. Initiative 522. Get involved regardless of where you are by going to YesOn522.com. Make phone calls, donate money, and just keep talking about it.

For my earlier posts on this topic, check out Let’s Talk Lunch – An Intro to Genetically Modified Food and Yes on Prop 37 – Label Genetically Modified Food.

Share

One issue with purchasing conventional produce is that it probably has pesticide residues on the surface and it may also have been waxed. The waxing is used to increase appeal on the store shelves and to give it a longer shelf life. There is no need to purchase a separate and oft expensive “veggie wash”. Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds – one drop in a bowl of water – works great to get rid of both these substances, as I demonstrate here in this video.

Share

I am a huge fan of CSA’s.  They satisfy my principles, my health, and my schedule.  Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA, unites many of the good things about greener living.  Although individual programs vary in specifics, a CSA is a program in which individuals purchase subscriptions for the products of local farms and ranches.    I am part of a vegetable CSA and a grassfed beef CSA.

CSA vegetables

Here is the content of my CSA box last week.

 

Top Ten Benefits of CSA’s:

  1. 1. I don’t have to think about what to buy each week or month.
  2. 2. My food is fresh, with less nutrient attrition through travel.
  3. 3. My food has less of a carbon footprint.
  4. 4. My food is organic. (though not all CSA’s are organic.)
  5. 5. My food is less expensive than from stores or even Farmer’s Markets.
  6. 6. I know the growers personally.
  7. 7. I am supporting and encouraging local, sustainable, organic agriculture.
  8. 8. My family eats more vegetables and more variety of vegetables.
  9. 9. Farmers grow a greater variety of produce because it is pre-sold.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trouble-shooting  I know many of the complaints against CSA’s.  I’ve said most of them myself.

#1    I don’t even recognize some of these vegetables and I’ve never heard of these cuts of meat.

That’s the fun of it: trying new things.  Kohlrabi?  Purple carrots?  Skirt steak?  That’s what cookbooks are for – online or paper.  You may need to learn new techniques in slow cooking or marinating, but there’s a whole world of possibilities!   The next problem you’ll have is that your food at home will be so excellent, going to a restaurant will be a disappointment!

#2   What am I supposed to do with all those leafy greens?

Eat them.  They are the most nutrient dense food you could put in your body.  This one stumped me for a while.  I cancelled my CSA at one point because of them.  But then I learned new recipes and not to underestimate what my family will eat.  Kale chips!  Soups!  Green smoothies!  (My 9 year old, and I kid you not, said one morning, “I feel sorry for all my classmates who aren’t having this green smoothie for breakfast.”  Otherwise, he’s fairly normal.)

#3     I don’t have a large enough freezer.

CSA’s – my grassfed beef one included – offer very reasonably sized packages that are just enough for a month.  You don’t need a deep freezer for that.

#4    We’ll never eat all that.  That would mean eating only vegetables for some meals, even breakfast.

gorgeous csa salad

A gorgeous salad made with the contents of my box.

Yes.  Yes, it does.  That’s rather the idea.  For breakfast, sauteed spinach and scrambled eggs.  Green smoothies.  Snacks of carrot sticks and hummus, celery sticks and peanut butter, zucchini and guacamole.  Lunch of salads.  Stirfrys for dinner.  Are you getting the idea that fitting this many vegetables into your diet means kicking out less nutritious things?

#5     I’m not a vegetarian, but I don’t eat beef. It makes me feel bad.

Let me tell you, I was right there with you.  I had gone for years not eating beef because I felt blechy when I did.  But the difference between conventional beef and grassfed beef cannot be exaggerated. They are simply not the same food.  The nutritional content of grassfed beef is right up there with salmon – high in the good cholesterol, low in the bag.  High in the omega-3’s, low in the omega-6’s – the right ratio.  And lower in fat in general than conventional.

#6     I want to be in control.  I don’t like the idea of not getting to choose what’s in my box.

I’ll try to keep this one short, but this complaint underlies every problem with the food industry in America.  We want our watermelon in December.  We don’t want insects to touch our food.  And we have our basic set of vegetables and cuts of beef we eat and that’s all we want.  Here’s the problem: Nutritionally, a narrow range of veggies means a narrow range of nutrients.  And what are ranchers supposed to do with the rest of the cow? Logistically, the only way to get watermelon in December in America is if either heroic measures (medically speaking) were taken to grow it or it came from the southern hemisphere.  And entomologically, do you know the price we pay for bug-less food?  The only way to keep an insect from touching our food is to drench it with pesticides (or genetically insert them) and the only reason we aren’t killed (at first) by the pesticides is because we’re bigger.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t love the bugs either.  I haven’t quite embraced the idea that they’re just a little added protein.  However, put me in front of me a bottle of pesticide and ask me to drink it versus a bunch of lettuce that just needs to be washed, and which one do you think I’m going to choose?

CSA’s mean revisiting that very important preschool snack time lesson: You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.

I highly recommend my two CSA’s, JR Organics and J&J Grassfed Beef.  I love the fact that I know my farmers.  Joe grows the produce.  Jay raises the beef.  (They don’t know each other, I don’t think.)  I’ve traipsed all over the veggie farm, and had the rancher over to my house for a Q&A.  It makes me excited about my food.  I appreciate it so much more, knowing that the hard work of people I respect has gone into this food.   I’m not going to eat it mindlessly.

Lisa picking berries at her CSA

This is me during the annual farm tour at JR Organics in Escondido. They host this “pick your own” moment only during their tour.

Obviously my CSA’s can be your CSA’s only if you happen to live in southern California.  (And if you join the J&J Grassfed beef CSA, you can pick up right at the Dr. Bronner’s plant!  We’re working on being a drop-off for JR Organics produce, too.) However, CSA’s exist all over the country.  Another great resource for finding stuff in your area is Local Harvest.   In harsher winter climates, CSA’s may only run in the warmer months.  Some CSA’s aren’t very big or specialize in certain crops, so check it out before you sign up. Share recommendations in the Comments section below for what is good in your area.  Also, if you’re stumped by something you’ve received in a CSA, share it, and I’ll see if I can help!

Share