Your Daily Green Bit

Green-thumb gifts for schools and grown-ups

Children prefer hands-on learning, and school gardens combine environmental science, fresh-air exercise, nutritional learning (you eat what you grow), and fun. You can help raise money to start a garden or some other needed program for a school with a holiday fundraiser that sells SchoolGardenCo's handmade herbal lotions and soaps. They'll split the sales with your school or charity 50/50. For how-to's on starting school gardens, see Resources, below.

Or, you can help by simply buying School Garden Co's products as gifts, because they give all their after-tax profits to school garden programs. Even indoor gardeners get dry, chapped hands, especially in winter, and the most comforting salve we've found is their Hand Help, an opulent lotion with a just-right texture (not too hard, nor too oily) made of beeswax and olive, rosemary, lavender and calendula oils, $12 for a bright rose 2-oz. tin. A little goes a long way. School Garden Co. also makes a Hand Healer  with yarrow, comfrey and sage, and chapstick, bath salts, bar soaps; see their gift box.  

Holiday dishwashers will deeply appreciate the Gardener's Carrot Salve ($5.99) from Purple Prairie Botanicals, which uses organic beeswax, olive and coconut oil, as well as carrot and other plant oils. With no petrochemicals in any of their made-in-Minnesota products, Purple Prairie is a signatory of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics pledge to rid products of toxic ingredients. Can't resist PP's Carrot Rose face cream, perfectly pure and only $6.99 for 2 oz. 

Resources: It's never too early to plan a garden. Below are some tips and info.

*At Ecoliteracy, your school can get a free book on designing a school garden.

*Click here for how to get grants and raise funds.

*California School Garden Network provides a plethora of info and links. So does the Arts & Ecology Center in Sonoma Valley CA.

*Competitive colleges, take heed: Yale's sustainable food system includes an organic farm that that supplies its dorm dining halls.

Best food storage & reheating containers

Thanksgiving aside (whew!), budget-conscious Americans are cooking at home more (also better for our health!), which means more leftovers. To reheat these, we know not to nuke 'em in plastic, no kind, nohow, not since tests have shown that "microwave-safe" plastic can leach Bisphenol-A (BPA) when (surprise) microwaved. Also, the Polycarbonate (PC #7) plastic made with BPA is not recyclabe in most jurisdictions, whereas glass is "infinitely recyclable" and, unlike plastic, not made from petrochemicals. Following are some top picks for your health and the environment.

*Greenfeet has lots of glass storage/microwavable containers, including these compact flat-topped enlarged butter-dish styles, $15.50, by Anchor Hocking. and this cute mini dish , $4.95, for that mini dormitory microwave. Also a set of 4 round glass bowls with plastic lids.

*The Container Store, aptly, sells many ovenproof glass food holders at reasonable prices, including 2-cup, glass-lidded Vintage ware for $5.99 a piece, and groovy-sleek Italian Frigoverre Plus, starting at $7.99, which is highly portable due to slosh-proof lids.

*Target has a nice basic oven/microwave/storage set of Pyrex tempered glass:  square baking dish, rectangular baking dish and two round one-cup bowls, all with plastic lids (probably okay for micro-ing, so long as the plastic doesn't touch the food). $19.99.  Or get glass-lidded white porcelain Corning ovenware (Corning owns Pyrex); Target's 10-piece set is $59.99  

*BPA likes to leach into fat, so save your precious drippings in this porcelain Grease Holder , $15 from Williams Sonoma.

*Safer Plastics: For simple storage, in containers you're not going to heat, plastic is fine so long as it's not polyvinyl chloride (PVC #3), which can leach hormone-disrupting phthalates; polystyrene foam and rigid plastics (PS #6), which can release toxic styrene, and polycarbonate (PC,#7), aka made with BPA. And, don't let down your guard! Many PVC, PS and PC items are displayed alongside their less-toxic counterparts. Check recycling codes on the bottom of containers, and choose #1,2, 4 or 5. Tupperware has a new set of space-saving lidded boxes in its panoply of #5 containers;  Rubbermaid has this handy page of their food storage products that are BPA-free.

Good green beans

In case you missed our headlong dive into the wonderful world of soy poultry substitutes (Huah Tofurky) it is now time for veggie talk.  Whether vegetables are to play the lead role in an herbivorous Thanksgiving meal, or serve as sides for an omnivore's feast, they are not to be overlooked.

We're going to go out on a limb and say that beans are fabulous.  They are packed with protein and like snowflakes, no two quite the same.  You’ve got your Golden Lima Beans, Dark Kidney Beans, Light Kidney Beans, Cannellini Beans, Green Flageolot Beans, Dutch Bullet Beans, Calypso Beans, Jacob’s Gold Beans, Painted Pony Beans, October Beans, Jacob’s Cattle Gasless Beans, Good Mother Stallard Beans, Vermont Cranberry Beans.

The more colorful the bean the more antioxidants it has, so have fun choosing the prettiest.  Purchase beans (aka the magical fruit) online at Seed Savers Exchange a non-profit organization that has been saving and sharing heirloom seeds since 1975, and receive a seeds to plant for next year, or buy the beans ready to serve.  Once you have the beans, go with a nice Succotash, which comes from the Native American Narragansett, msikwatash.  

The long elegant green, or string bean (haricot vert) is a perennial Thanksgiving star. If you see fresh, unwithered, firm-to-the-touch organic or local green beans at the market, grab a handful. They'll be scarcely any trouble:  Just break off stems,  rinse, blanche quickly in boiling water, and give a light stir-fry with toasted almonds, and voila. We recommend organic because conventional green beans have pesticide residues placing them 14th highest on Environmental Working Group's  handy list of 45 fruits and vegetables (the lowly onion was lowest).  If you have already canned green beans from the summer time, when they are in season, check out  If you haven't got a stash, frozen vegetables score high in nutritional value and flavor with NYU nutritionist and healthy eating guru, Marion Nestle. A green bean disclaimer however: Last month a woman in New Zealand found a shrunken mouse head in a bag of frozen green beans, so just be careful with frozen or canned green beans (all vegetables really.)   Fresh produce that is in-season for late fall like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussel sprouts, spinach and zucchini is more affordable and rodent-head free.  Scoop them up at your local farmer’s market, which you can find using the Eat Well Guide database.

Feel the need for a little pre-Thanksgiving communing as you prep in the kitchen? Last-minute tip:  Speaking of the Eat Well Guide, they are partnering up with the publishers of Consumer Reports,  the Consumers Union, for a Thanksgiving Local Food Challenge.  To participate, you submit a Thanksgiving recipe with local ingredients and they will post it alongside other recipes on their site.  While there aren’t any winners, per se, new ideas for local holiday delicacies mean we are all winners.

by Margaret Teich

Tofurky: the other white "meat"

Each Thanksgiving, 675 million pounds of turkey is eaten in the United States (that’s 45 million turkeys!)  Packed with protein and low calories, our native bird, especially when certified organic or humane, is a healthy main attraction indeed. Wait:  but what about those pesky vegetarians coming to dine?

Enter the Tofurky, a soy-and-wheat gluten bird.   This vegan bird (well, log), with turkey seasoning, packs a helluva protein punch with 26 grams per serving vs. 32 for turkey), five vs. nine grams of total fat and zero saturated fat compared with turkey's three grams. And, the classic eponymous roast made in Oregon by Turtle Island Foods also uses certified organic soybeans for the whole tofu and tempeh that go into "the little brown wheel that could," as our Mom dubbed it. Created in 1980, the Tofurky has gained massive popularity in recent years, boasting an increase of 40% in sales and total revenue of $11 million dollars in 2007.  But what are numbers without the personal touches?  Fan sites like Mike Rubel's, with photo albums, speak to the cult-like passion folks have for Tofurky.

My own family has been doing the Tofurky thing, accompanied by a real bird for my little brother, since my older sister became a vegetarian ten years back.  We have so many fond Tofurky family memories,  like the first year my mom cooked the faux bird with margarine when the recipe called for oil, rendering it too hard to eat and only acceptable for use as soccer ball, which we did. Another Thanksgiving Day, about 7 years ago, in the small beach town of Edisto, outside Charleston, SC, we couldn't find Tofurkey in the Piggly Wiggly grocery store. We asked the cashier for help and so she got on the store microphone and said,  “ Delores, we have people looking for the ToFU*KY. Please bring the ToFU*KY to the front, Delores, the ToFU*KY.” 

To what , precisely, does Tofurkey owe its magic?  One can’t be sure, except to say that it has a meat-like texture, and even shears at a 45-degree angle.  Other delicious non-meat “roasts”  (although the word Tofurky” is 57% of the fun/cachet) include the Celebration Roast, with acorn squash/mushroom stuffing from the Field Roast Grain Meat Company, which got top taste test ratings recently on Chowhound.  And there's also the Match Foods Stuffed Holiday Roast.  

f you don’t have vegetarians among your holiday guests (although you never know, your freshman niece coming from college might have switched over to Team Veggie), you can still eat a tofurky! But if you must have real flesh, go with an organic , humane certified bird that ate a green diet and got to stretch its limbs outdoors.  Also, you can sign the Humane Society’s Petition for Poultry urging congress to add poultry to the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act so that all turkeys will transition for life on the farm to dinner on your table, in a more humane way.

by Margaret Teich 

Cool, edgy, green gifts

Adrian Grenier, actor, and Peter Glatzer, producer, helped host last Thursday's Wired party launching its Manhattan pop-up store, standing by a display of cool green products they'd selected. The co-creators of Alter Eco, the green living show on Discovery's Planet Green, looked delighted to be discussing an hybrid electric bicycle and an LED table lamp made with what looked like foam peanuts but were actually cast-off silkworm cocoons. Asked how they got motivated to go green, the friends said they'd grown up in the urban tristate region but always loved, and increasingly worried about, the threatened natural world. 


It was three years ago, when Grenier bought a Brooklyn townhouse in need of major renovation, that he started getting serious about leading a green lifestyle. It's been good discipline, he told us.  "I'm sort of both a control freak and a slob, and this was something I could control that also contributed, in a small way, to cleaning up the planet," Grenier said, noting that individual choices really do matter. "Our mission is to inspire people to go green and that it doesn't have to be difficult," Glatzer said. "So we don't preach; instead, we show how a small shift in your thinking can make the difference. In curating for this section of Wired's store, we found the things we liked that had great design, functionality, and were also sustainably made."


Despite the troubled economy, the business partners were upbeat about the incoming Administration and the promise of public investment in a green infrastructure and jobs. Glatzer and Grenier produced, and Grenier appeared in, public service announcements for the Rock the Vote campaign aimed at registering young voters ages 18-23, who turned out in historical numbers (23 million) for this election. Young adults are also ushering in positive consumer change. In a 2008 survey by Mintel, over half of 18- to- 24 year-olds said they regularly purchase green products, compared with 36% of older Americans (hey, that's still not bad!).


As we studied the Glatzer/Grenier picks, including the big frosted-glass, Mason-style Solar Jar ($42) that could light your patio forever,  and wandered through the loftlike store crammed with other enticing green stuff, we began to feel flush with holiday spirit (well, the high-alcohol California wine helped, too, not to mention the lemonade punch and cranberry vodka sans the cranberry juice: Next morning, we could have used the bionic tongue cleaner and mouthwash).  So drop by the Wired Store, whether in person (at 15 West 18th St.) or online. And stay tuned for more news about G/G's multiplatform green lifestyle venture, including a forthcoming website.

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