Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Book review - "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle"

This is the first in what we hope will become a frequent topic here on the CUMC Green Team blog - book reviews that deal with green topics. In this first review, Green Team member Keely Farris reviews Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life
by Barbara Kingsolver with Steven L. Hopp and Camille Kingsolver

The New Oxford American Dictionary chose locavore, a person who seeks out locally produced food, as its word of the year in 2007. When I began this book I had just started to become aware of these locavores, people who eat food grown or produced locally or within a limited radius. The locavore movement encourages consumers to buy from farmers’ markets or even to produce their own food, with some arguing that fresh, local products are more nutritious and taste better. Locally grown food is an environmentally friendly means of obtaining food, since supermarkets that import their food use more fossil fuels and non-renewable resources.

The local foods movement is gaining momentum as many people prefer the taste and more environmentally sound effects of foods that are fresh, seasonal, and grown close to home. Some locavores draw inspiration from the The 100-Mile Diet or from advocates of local eating like Barbara Kingsolver, whose book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle chronicles her family's attempts to eat locally. Others just follow their taste buds to farmers' markets, community supported agriculture programs, and community gardens.

But you don't have to be a locavore to appreciate Kingsolver's memior. It is moving, informative, sincere - an honest potrait of a family who moved back to Southern Appalachia from Phoenix and committed to a one-year challenge of eating only what they could grow (they were "allowed" to buy only things that were produced within 100 miles of their home). Kingsolver takes readers through the seasons, sharing the joys and challenges of eating only foods that she, her husband, and two daughters grow in their backyard or purchase from neighboring farms. Part memoir, part cookbook, and part exposé of the American food industry, AVM is one family's inspiring story of discovering the truth behind the adage "you are what you eat" and a valuable resource for anyone looking to do the same.

While reading this memoir, written by such a gifted novelist as Kingsolver, it felt as if I were doing more than reading. It was more like drinking the words in, being invigorated by this descriptive story of the impact one family can make on this big world. Truly, I did not want this book to end. I enjoyed so much that I not only own a copy of it, I bought the audiobook too. It took me to mountains and Southern communities I remember as child, a landscape that is ever-changing and disappearing. Reading it was more of a treasured experience for me personally than just a pleasureable read.

Kingsolver allows you an intimate window into her family's year-long journey. It would be hard not to admire them and their committment as you follow them through the pages of the book. The Kingsolver-Hopp's are charming, funny, poetic, and informative all at the same time. This family is full concern for the farming community, and the book captures the pulse of a life that is dissolving like the misty haze that gives the Smoky Mountains their name. This one of my top picks and I suggest it to everyone who enjoys reading.

- Keely Farris

If you have suggestions for other books you'd like to see reviewed here, please leave a comment in the "comments" section following this post. We'll do our best to accommodate you as soon as we can!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Green trivia

Did you know?

The well-known recycling symbol you see above was a college student's winning contest entry in 1970, the same year as the first Earth Day. Stay tuned for more exciting news about some Earth Day activities we're planning at Christ Church!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Monthly Green

Green Team member Jennifer Hobbs is currently reading the book Eco-Friendly Families, by Helen Coronato. One of the things the book shares is short tips you can implement each month that add up to big changes over the course of a year. We'll try to share these with you each month as well!
For January:
  • Have a Family Game Night where all electronics are turned off and only necessary lighting is used. Play fun games such as board games or card games. Have playing cards that need to be cleaned? Put them in a brown paper bag with 1 tablespoon of baby powder and shake vigorously. Remove cards and wipe down with a damp rag.
  • Save energy by using old tights or men's tube socks by filling them with rice or beans and tying off the end. Children can even make creatures out of them by adding googly eyes and leftover craft supplies. Assign a child the role of making sure they are placed in window sills or at the bottom of drafty doors.
  • Be sure to clean your humidifier with baking soda between uses to extend the life of your purchase.
  • Houseplants are natural air purifiers, use no energy, and make an especially welcome health asset when homes are locked up tight during winter months. It is suggested that you have one plant for every 100 to 150 square feet of living space. These top five choices said to help remove carbon monoxide, trichloroethylene, benzene, and formaldehyde: spider plants, English ivy, mums, peace lily, and bamboo palm.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Green in 2010

The Sierra Club recently published several tips for making 2010 a greener year. I thought it was interesting how simple changes can make a big impact.

Tip #1: Drive Less

If your pledge is to walk or bike more and drive less, you’ll relieve the environment of harmful greenhouse gases as well as reducing our dependence on fossil fuels. Added bonus: This will nicely complement an exercise or diet resolution.

Yearly Impact: Reducing your driving distance by just 15 miles per week will save 900 pounds of carbon emissions annually.

Tip #2: Eat Fewer Animals

The environmental vegetarianism movement grows by the day, assisted in part by the recent assertion by the Worldwatch Institute that livestock production is to blame for more than half of the world’s greenhouse-gas emissions. If people resolved to cut back on meat and dairy in 2010, the world would be a much cleaner place.

Yearly Impact: If you refrain from eating meat just one day a week, you'll save as many emissions as you would driving 1,000 fewer miles this year.

Tip #3: Commit to Composting

We hear people preach about recycling all the time. But did you know that composting may be as important? As food and other organic waste decomposes anaerobically in the landfill, it releases methane, a greenhouse gas that's more than 20 times as potent as carbon dioxide. Because composting is an aerobic process, it only produces carbon dioxide and not methane. Not sure how to get started? Click here and here to find out.

Yearly Impact: If the average family composted regularly, that household would prevent about 30 pounds of methane emissions per year, the equivalent of around 620 pounds of carbon dioxide (the same as what a small diesel car driving 1,200 miles would emit).
Tip #4: Give Your Time

Heed President Obama's call to service by signing up to help an organization that works to improve the world by protecting and preserving the environment.

Yearly Impact: Immeasurable.

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Green Book

Kohl's has The Green Book on sale right now for $5 as part of its "Kohls Cares for Kids" promotion -- all proceeds from the book sale go to health, education, and recreational opportunities for children (Chattanooga's own T.C. Thompson Children's Hospital is one of the 2009-2010 partner hospitals). The book is a great collection of simple things we can all do to reduce waste and conserve energy. It also includes green-living anecdotes from celebrities like Faith Hill, Justin Timberlake, Robert Redford, and Martha Stewart.

Kohl's has also taken steps to become greener - both corporately and within each individual store. For more information, go to