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Archives for April 2013

Chocolate Cherry Adventure Snack Bars

It’s finally beginning to look and feel like spring. The temperature is rising and people are getting outside. My family has been out more enjoying this warmer weather. Have you?

Like most people, my family is on a budget. So we save money wherever possible. One way to do that is by making our own snacks and bringing those snacks with us when we go out. Having three children, someone is always hungry. Having healthy snacks on hand helps prevent us from having to stop at a store or restaurant every time hungry cries begin.

The recipe I’m sharing today is for our Chocolate Cherry Adventure Snack Bars. These are similar in taste and texture to a Lara Bar. They are gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy free, and 100% delicious! I hope you enjoy them as much as we do!

Cherry Chocolate Larabars

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup almonds
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cup sweet and tart dried cherries
  • 30 pitted dates
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS

  1. Place the almonds in a blender or food processor. Pulse until finely chopped.
  2. Add the cocoa powder and salt. Pulse a few times to incorporate.
  3. Add the cherries, dates, honey and vanilla extract. Pulse until a dough forms.
  4. Line a 8X8 baking pan with parchment paper. (Note: If using a silicone baking pan, you do not need to line with parchment paper.)
  5. Remove Lara Bar mixture from blender or food processor and press down into the pan. Be sure to pack it in firmly.
  6. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  7. Slice into squares and eat. Any leftover bars can be keep in the refrigerator.

Share your thoughts in the comments below or on our Facebook page.


 

Drought Conditions Improve

oklahoma droughtThere is more good news this week for the drought. As of Tuesday, 28 percent of Oklahoma had no drought conditions! Only around five percent of the state is still in the exceptional drought category. This is the best that category has seen since July 31, 2012.

Many of the state’s lakes saw big improvements. However, many of Oklahoma’s lakes are still very low.  Canton Lake, for example is as of last week was still only about 18 percent full. However, this is a big improvement as the lake was nearly drained to help keep Lake Hefner’s level up.

The panhandle is still very dry, with all three counties in an extreme or exceptional drought. They are also dealing with dust storms. Photos from the dust storms look eerily like photos from the Dust Bowl.

duststorm

Friday’s rain also brought much needed relief to parts of the state. In fact, the rain was so heavy that some areas in Oklahoma even so flash flooding. Ada, for example, had over two and a half inches of rain.

While all of this is good news, we must remember April is normally a rainy month. We need May and June to give us at least normal rainfall to get through the dryer months this summer. Over the last three years of the drought, we have seen drought conditions a number of times only for the summer to send the levels soaring up yet again.


Share your thoughts in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

Photo credit- The U.S. Drought Monitor is produced in partnership between the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Map courtesy of NDMC-UNL.
Dust Storm- Randy Scheiner 

 

Tar Sands Pipelines: the Dirtiest Oil on Earth

Test Your Environmental Literacy

The EPA has compiled a simple test of environmental literacy. See how you do. (Answers are at the end of the post.)

  1. There are many different types of animals and plants, and they live in many different types of environments. What word is used to describe this idea: multiplicity, biodiversity, socio-economics, or evolution?
  2. Which of the following is a renewable resource: oil, iron ore, trees, or coal?
  3. Which of the following household materials is considered hazardous waste: plastic packaging, glass, batteries, or spoiled food?
  4. What is the most common major cause of pollution of streams, rivers and oceans?
  5. Most electricity in the U.S. is generated from what source?
  6. What is the primary environmental benefit of wetland areas?
  7. Having ozone in the earth’s upper atmosphere protects us from what?
  8. What is the current solution to the disposal of most nuclear waste in the United States?
  9. What is the largest source of carbon monoxide in the U.S.?
  10. What is the most common reason animal species become extinct?
  11. What is the name of the primary federal agency that works to protect the environment?
  12. Where does most household garbage eventually end up once it leaves the home?

If you didn’t answer most of the questions correctly, you are not alone. In a 2001 study by The National Environmental Education and Training Foundation, fewer than 2/3’s of American adults answered half the questions correctly

More than 66% failed.


Yet, the same study found that 95% of the public supports environmental education.

Why is environmental education important?

dustbowl

I suspect more damage has been done to the environment by ignorance than by malice. Not too long ago DDT, asbestos, chlorofluorocarbons, and lead paint were considered safe and useful. Slash and burn farming is still widely practiced. And remember the phrase, “the rain will follow the plow.” This 1881 slogan encouraged people to plow up vast sections of the semi-arid prairie. But rains did not follow the plow. Droughts occurred, as they always have and always will. And before long, the Dust Bowl was born.

 

We know better now. Or do we?

66% failed.

What we can learn from nature.

By studying nature, we learn its two patterns of organization are the web and the cycle, not domination by any one species, even man. Predator-prey cycles are a powerful example of what happens when one species dominates.

The study of living systems is the study of relationships, patterns, cause and effect. It tests assumptions and reveals unintended consequences. By increasing our environmental literacy, we come to appreciate the power of seemingly small variables such as rainfall, soil composition, wind currents, temperatures, migration patterns, advantageous and disadvantageous adaptations, and luck.

And one of these variables is man whose disruptions of natural systems affect society in the form of erosion, floods, desertification, contamination, and disease.

Environmental literacy has been shown to be beneficial to both the students and the community. Since most environmental education involves hands-on experiences such as planting gardens, restoring waterways, and caring for injured wildlife, people are making a difference. The learning is deeper, more meaningful.

And studies have shown that as people gain environmental literacy they increasingly adopt pro-environmental behaviors such as energy conservation, recycling, and eco-conscious buying choices. They understand that even small actions make a difference to the web and cycles of our living systems.

Interested in knowing more? Many resources are online. For example:

http://www.ecoliteracy.org/

http://classroomearth.org/

http://education.nationalgeographic.com/education/program/environmental-literacy-guides/?ar_a=1

http://livinggreenmag.com/2013/02/27/energy-ecology/eco-classrooms-teaching-environmental-literacy-in-schools/

Environmental pressures will increase.

Our children will face tougher environmental challenges than we do. Increasing population and political conflict will cause shortages of food and water. Climate change will impact agriculture and trade. Rising oceans will flood cities. Green and sustainable practices will be accused of harming our ability to compete in the global economy. Environmental educators will be accused of teaching children “junk” science. (For a tooth-jarring rant against environmental education, see http://www.redstate.com/dhorowitz3/2011/06/22/its-official-you-must-be-an-eco-socialist-to-graduate-in-maryland/). The problems will be complex, and the solutions will involve tradeoffs, conflict, and compromise.

Our children are going to inherit the environmental mess of prior generations. Let’s give them some tools for dealing with it, starting with environmental literacy.

Answers:

  1. Biodiversity
  2. Trees
  3. Batteries
  4. Surface water running off yards, streets, paved lots and farm fields
  5. By burning coal, oil and wood
  6. To help purify water before it enters lakes, streams, rivers and oceans
  7. Harmful, cancer-causing sunlight
  8. Store and monitor the waste at the plant
  9. Motor Vehicles
  10. Loss of habitat
  11. Environmental Protection Agency
  12. Landfills

Share your thoughts in the comments below or on our Facebook page.
Photo credit- NOAA George E. Marsh Album


About the Author

Helen Sedwick, author of COYOTE WINDS, a young adult novel set on the prairie in the years leading up to the Dust Bowl. Visit her web site, Facebook page, blog, and feel free to send her emails at helen@helensedwick.com

 

 

How an Event About Plastic Changed Me

plasticfreeWhen I learned that Beth Terry, blogger, activist, and author of Plastic-Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too, was coming to speak at a BookSmart Tulsa event earlier this month, my first impression was curiosity. I hadn’t heard of her before, but my interest piqued and I delved into her book and her blog, My Plastic-Free Life, and discovered that she is a true environmental hero. Here is someone who walks her talk and is sharing with the world everything she knows. Her journey is inspiring. But I really didn’t expect to be changed. I was a good little environmentalist, after all. I tried to avoid inordinate amounts of packaging, I recycled, I did my part. I was excited; I knew her plastic free message was one that people needed to hear, but I didn’t know I would be revolutionized.

Then, to top it all off, I found out a few days before the event that one of our local heroes was to co-present with Ms. Terry—Green Oklahoma’s own Lisa Sharp. Lisa and I had been corresponding via email for a few weeks prior, discussing our mutual desire to provide strong voices for Oklahoma’s environmental movement and brainstorming those possibilities. At that time, I knew little of her story. I only knew she was the editor-in-chief and creator of the eco-conscious website Green Oklahoma, and that I could learn a lot from how she’s managed it. The fact that she would also be speaking at this event, that I’d possibly even have a chance to meet this native Ada girl, whose efforts thus far had so impressed me, seemed like a strong touch of kismet.

I arrived at the University of Tulsa’s Allen Chapman Activity Center minutes before Beth Terry was scheduled to speak. It was a cold and rainy night, and I worried this would affect the turnout. Not allaying my fears in the least, I found a good parking spot and jumped a few puddles before climbing the concrete steps to the event hall. The place looked virtually empty. There were still a few tables occupied on the lower level, the remnants of some hands-on activities given earlier in the evening by Make: Tulsa on alternative uses for plastics and how they can be upcycled before they are recycled. These dedicated crafters and designers were happily chit-chatting away with each other, and each table was in various stages of disarray, telling me someone must’ve been here to make all this mess.


I walked up the steps leading to the presentation rooms alone. The upper landing was like the aftermath of a convention—the lights are on but almost everyone has gone home. A few people manned yet another table, this one stocked with copies of Beth Terry’s book. I looked expectantly at the closed doors across from the table, and the book table’s occupants nodded encouragingly. I walked in.

I was buoyed by the sight. The place wasn’t packed. What could I expect on a stormy Tuesday night? But there were people. A good double handful of people, enough to make a decent representation of Tulsa, and to pass along whatever they might learn tonight to the greater population. That is how it works, I’ve found. All it takes is just a few, and if the information catches, it spreads like so many dry summer wildfires.

Beth started talking with the energy of a girl perhaps half her age, and the ease of a catch-up conversation with an old friend. She told us a little about her life—she has no kids, she is married, and they have cats which they dearly love. She was an accountant. And she stumbled upon her mission to rid her life of plastic when she happened to learn about the plight of the Laysan albatross on Midway Island.

She showed us the picture. I’d seen it before, and I understood her pain. It was an image of a Laysan albatross chick who had died of malnutrition, and whose carcass showed the culprit—a gut so full of plastic trash, everything from intact bottle caps to plastic washers, that it literally had no room for actual food. The mother albatrosses see pieces of floating plastic in the ocean, mistake it for food, and bring it back to the island to feed their young. I knew this. I had heard the story before. But it never hurts to have a refresher course.

I should take that back. It does hurt. It hurts a lot. It hurts your heart and your conscience and your logical mind. As well it should. This is our mess, after all.

And then she said something else about Midway Island… something I might have known but had since forgotten. This island, halfway between California and Japan (most likely how it got its name), is thousands, and I mean thousands, of miles away from civilization of any kind. The island is totally secluded. This is how far our reach, how vast our destruction. All from the simple act of throwing it away. Because, as Beth Terry will tell you, as she learned in her own shock-to-the-system painful lesson, there is no such thing as away.

From this moment, Beth started analyzing her life and how she could make a difference. She set out to determine just how much plastic she threw away on a regular basis and how much of that could be cut back. She was very analytical with it all. She knew that, in order to get the real data she needed, she would have to be dispassionate. So she created charts and graphs. She kept track of all her plastic waste, changing nothing at first, just so she would know, with eyes wide open, what her impact on the planet had been. And then she started cutting back.

This part of the lecture was the fun part, the solutions. Because we need solutions, if we are to realize the kind of destruction for which we are responsible and not go mad with guilt. We need to be able to stop what we’re doing and to do something to fix the problem. Guilt solves nothing, past the initial shock to wake us up to our own shortcomings.

She talked about recycling and its advantages and pitfalls. We Tulsans were feeling pretty proud at this point, because our city had recently started a comprehensive curbside recycling program. City officials told us all the plastics were now recyclable, everything from 1s to 7s. Milk jugs? Toss it in. Bottle caps? They’d take those. Styrofoam? We were good to go. This was our dream come true. Finally, we were on the map of cities who offered all-encompassing, user-friendly curbside recycling for every resident within city limits. Even I, an apartment dweller, had been taking advantage of it, sending all my odd plastics and other recyclables to my boyfriend’s house for curbside pickup. (This has the added advantage of getting him to be more diligent with his own recycling efforts.)

And then Beth Terry dropped the bomb. She makes it a habit, when she comes to speak in different towns along her way, to contact the local recyclers to see how they run their operation. She contacted ours. And was told flat out that only the traditional numbers 1 and 2 plastics are actually being recycled. A big machine scans all of them and can sort out the recyclables from the rest. And what about the rest? Plastics numbered 3 – 7 are incinerated. You could almost hear the jaws of the entire audience drop. You could hear several shocked gasps and involuntary what’s puncture the air.

Now, she said, she was reassured that all this plastic burning was generating energy for the city’s use. But you could sense this concept didn’t hold much water for the listening audience. How could burning plastic be good for our environment? Wouldn’t there be toxic fumes and smoke from such a process? No one in the room knew for sure.

However, recycling is still important, when the items are recycled, and this was the point where she gave Lisa Sharp the floor.

Lisa, I quickly learned, was directly involved in implementing a curbside recycling program in her own home town of Ada. I was impressed. Environmental responsibility is eyed with a certain amount of suspicion in our Red state, and it must have been an almost Herculean task to get such a concept to pass muster in a small town like Ada, where views are likely to be even less progressive than those in Oklahoma’s larger cities. It took Tulsa a long time to get a program even remotely comprehensive, in Tulsa, the state’s second largest city.

From there I learned that Lisa, this brave, young, soft-spoken woman, who must have had one heck of a great upbringing, has been working on changing the practices of the local concrete plant, who has been fined multiple times by the EPA for emissions violations over the past several years. She told [us] of friends being diagnosed with cancer and respiratory problems. And she spoke of the difficulty in working against the prevailing attitude of the town—leave the cement plant alone, they’re one of our biggest employers. This is what happens when a big corporation takes advantage of a small town. The town becomes dependent on the company for its livelihood, and then the company can, almost literally, get away with murder. Sometimes public resistance to holding the town’s primary breadwinner accountable seems insurmountable, even when there is clear evidence the alternative is killing them.

The two, Beth and Lisa, segued into more upbeat conversation—companies Beth has convinced to find plastic-free packaging alternatives, the story of Lisa telling Beth about a glass reusable straw from the company GlassDharma, and a multitude of plastic alternatives Beth has found along her journey. For all the discouraging and even terrifying facts revealed in our time with these two veteran environmentalists, there was a lot of hope and a lot of laughter. My fellow Tulsans asked insightful questions and even shared some of their own solutions for things we can do here at home to reduce our plastic waste.

I came home at the end of the evening to a stack beside my sink of “reusable” plastic Quik Trip cups. I noticed all the countless food items I buy—even the local organic ones—all wrapped or contained in plastic, much of it non-recyclable. And of course, everything I do throw away is wrapped up in a big plastic bag, only to be sent off to a landfill, where the wind can carry what doesn’t simply sit there out to sea.

I also thought about our shiny new curbside recycling program. I don’t know how I feel about this “plastic to energy” concept. It seems there’s a lot of room for error there, and it is going to take some in depth research to truly understand what is happening to the trash in this town. But I’m glad Beth came. I’m glad she told us. Our recycling program is still young, and there may yet be something we can do to keep it honest. At least I know I am not alone with this newfound information. There is power in numbers, and there is now a big handful of Tulsans ready to spread the word and make a change.

Share your thoughts in the comments below or on our Facebook page.


About the Author

akh-profile
Angela Bushong is an office grunt by day, mad word-slinger by night. An avid tree-hugger and lover of all life forms, she is known to write on any number of topics from sustainable living to how best to avoid becoming a slave to your cat. She also authors the blog, The Green Country Guardian. When not writing to save the planet, she can be found in the confines of her Tulsa apartment mothering, reading, fire-escape gardening, rebelling against our corrupt food system from the front lines of her tiny kitchen, and fighting for equal rights with her own resident cats. Negotiations are ongoing.

Green Oklahoma’s Best of 2013

bestof2013side

Happy Earth Day! Today as we celebrate the earth we also want to celebrate the local businesses that help us live environmentally friendly lives. There were a lot of great nominates for Best of 2013 and a lot of you voted. We are excited to announce the winners and runner-ups.

Best Eco-Friendly Retail Store: Naturally Wise
Runner-up: Green Bambino


Best Eco-Friendly Restaurant Cafe Samana
Runner-up: The Earth Cafe & Deli

Best Eco-Friendly BakeryFarrell Family Bread
Runner-up: Earth Elements Market & Bakery

Best Eco-Friendly Farm– Canyon Ridge Farms
Runner-up: John’s Farm 

Best Eco-Friendly Grocery StoreOklahoma Food Cooperative
Runner-up: Urban Agrarian

Best Eco-Friendly Service2 Green Chicks
Runner-up: Natural Green Cleaners

Best OrganizationCloth Diaper Oklahoma
Runner-up: Oklahoma Sustainability Network

Thanks to everyone for their nominations and votes. Be sure to check out the winners and runner-ups.

Best of 2013 Voting Closes Today

bestof2013side

 

Voting for Best of 2013 closes tonight, 4/21, at midnight. We have some very close races right now so be sure you have voted. Winners will be announced on Earth Day, tomorrow, 4/22.


Click here to vote.

Hanging Out Day

line drying

Happy day after Hanging Out Day!  That’s what the folks at Project Laundry List have designated Friday the 19th a day for awareness, education, and laundry.  They’ve put together a fine list of reasons you might want to air-dry, even if it’s slower, takes a little work, and could possibly expose your undies to the neighbors.

The humble clothesline is cheaper than a dryer to set up and to run, it takes better care of your clothes, with no pollution or fossil fuels at all. In fact, it’s the cheapest and most efficient alternative energy technology available to most folks.  Solar panels and wind turbines got nothing on a little string between two poles.

These factors definitely motivate me to keep line drying, but what really got me started, even when a dryer was available, was pure selfishness.  My dryer made the house hotter.  It was old, leaky and our AC was past it’s prime and puny and finally one summer day I was hot as heck and not gonna take it anymore.  Not one more bit of heat was entering my door.

For several months I enjoyed the fresh smell, the gentle exercise, and most of all the quiet coolness.  Come winter, I went back to the dryer until one stormy night it died with load of jeans just washed, a load of blankets half-washed, and no spare money lying around for repairs or new dryers.  All I had was just some line, a shoebox full of clothespins, and an enclosed porch (where, it turns out, my ancestors had left nails in the walls, high up, for their own wash line.  Thank you, great-great-aunts Jenny and Mabel.)  The jeans took a while and got kind of crispy but they dried.

Since then we’ve bought a new dryer, cooler and more efficient and very, much appreciated for specific jobs  but the clothesline is still the main dryer and i’m still pretty much in love with air-drying.  It is utterly simple but there are a few things I’ve learned:

  • Smell matters.  Blooming lilacs next to the line are lovely, barbecues not so much.
  • Lint stays.  Most lint is the fibers of your clothing and you want them to stick around, but the clothesline will not remove cat hairs, shredded tissues, or any other mystery lint, especially from dressy dark knits.  Check pockets, match pets to wardrobe, or go ahead and use the dryer.
  • Unmentionables are maybe the most important thing not to put in the dryer. They are delicate, full of heat-sensitive elastic, and not much fun to replace.  But they’re also what you least want to share with your neighbors.  Dry them indoors or set up three lines, with sheets and towels on the outside, skivvies in the middle.
  • If you are lucky enough to have handmade quilts, please line dry them.
  • On very hot days, bring the clothes in when they’re dry, unless you like starched shorts.
  • Hang t-shirts by the armpit.  Hang slacks by the cuffs.  Snap plackets and hems to get a nice crisp finish.
  • Dresses and blouses can go on hangers, which can also be easier for people with mobility issues.
  • The sun’s bleaching action is gentle.  It freshens musty smells and brightens whites but it doesn’t actually remove big globs of guacamole.
  • Outdoor drying will slightly cool the surrounding air, making a very nice spot to lie on the grass.
  • Put your line over grass because you will drop things.
  • Indoor lines don’t need clothespins.  Duh, you say, but I didn’t know that at first.
  • Indoor drying humidifies the house, which could be good or bad, and it’s slower than outdoor.
  • You can use anything from string tied between two tall things like trees (eventually this will hurt a tree) to a fancy folding rack.  It’s your laundry.

Do you line dry your clothes? Share your thoughts in the comments below or on our Facebook page.


 

Great Cloth Diaper Change

This post was written previously and we feel our readers need to know about the event. However, our thoughts are with Boston and hope everyone will join us in keeping our thoughts on Boston as today’s events unfold.

smlogoCloth diapering has become very popular again, but these aren’t your grandma’s cloth diapers. Gone are the plastic pants, now cloth diapers come in all shapes, sizes, and colors.

On April 20th, in locations around the world, cloth diapering parents will join together to try and set the Guinness World Record for the most cloth diapers changed simultaneously. The record was set at the first Great Cloth Diaper Change in 2011 and was broken in 2012 at the second event, and this year they are trying to break it again.

Oklahoma is once again joining in, both in Oklahoma City and Tulsa. Last year, the Tulsa Great Cloth Diaper Change ranked #6 world-wide with 109 participants and #1 world-wife for most funds raised for The Real Diaper Association. This year they are including an Eco Family Fair with local vendors and will have $1000+ in raffle prizes.

Oklahoma City had 147 participants and ranked #2 in the world! This year they will have goody bags for the first 100 families with a qualifying participant, a raffle, and lots of other fun things for the family to enjoy.

This is a great opportunity to meet other cloth diapering families or if you are new to cloth diapering- a great way to learn more about it. Even if you aren’t a cloth diapering family, these events will be a fun way to spend the start of Earth Week.

Both events are on April 20th. The Tulsa event will be at the Broken Arrow Community Center located at 1500 S. Main Street in Broken Arrow, from 9:30 a.m. – 12 p.m. The Oklahoma City event will be at the Science Museum Oklahoma located at 2100 NE 52nd Street in Oklahoma City. Registration will start at 9 a.m., pre-event activities at 9:20 a.m. and the Great Cloth Diaper Change at 11 a.m.

If you want to learn more about the Great Cloth Diaper Change and cloth diapering in Oklahoma, be sure to check out the Great Cloth Diaper Change web site, Cloth Diaper Oklahoma’s web site, Fluffy Bums of Tulsa’s web site, and the Tulsa Great Cloth Diaper Change web site.

Share your thoughts in the comments below or on our Facebook page.


 

Best of 2013- Voting Closed

bestof2013side

We got a lot of great nominations for Best of 2013. We had a lot of ties so some categories have more than five candidates. Because of the ties in the restaurants and bakeries category we divided this category into two categories.

Voting is open until midnight on April 21st. Winners will be announce on Earth Day, April 22nd. Please only one vote per person.