Palm oil in Girl Scout cookies???

I have been quite outspoken about my dislike for palm oil and the destruction that is created when land is cleared to make way for new plantations.  I also happen to have a Girl Scout in my house (my sweet daughter, of course!) so the controversy over palm oil being used in Girl Scout cookies was undoubtedly a BIG concern for me (especially when she came home with the order form and geared up to start selling!).

Thanks to two ambitious Girl Scouts from Michigan, Madison and Rhiannon, the 2012 menu of Girl Scout cookies will taste a whole lot sweeter AND eco-friendly!  Their petition and hard work brought about these changes (as seen in the Girl Scout USA statement I received below) and I think it’s AMAZING!

  • Our licensed bakers are members of the RSPO and exclusively source palm oil from members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), an organization of growers, buyers, manufacturers, conservationists and interested parties who are striving to develop and follow best practices to ensure sustainability. In 2012, GSUSA also became a member of the RSPO.
  • Our licensed bakers will purchase GreenPalm certificates covering 100% of the palm oil used in Girl Scout cookies. Additionally, GSUSA will purchase GreenPalm certificates to support programmatic objectives. The certificates offer a premium price to palm oil producers who are operating within the guidelines for social, environmental and economic responsibility set by the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil.
  • GSUSA and our licensed bakers will join other industry leaders in making a pledge to move to only segregated, certified sustainable palm oil sources.
  • GSUSA and our licensed bakers are committed to using as little palm oil as possible in Girl Scout cookies and have committed to continued research into viable alternatives.

So, if you have or will consider ordering and consuming some Girl Scout cookies this year, you can worry a little less about the guilt.  This year’s cookies are a whole lot greener than ever before and the next steps are definitely in the right direction.

…and, don’t you feel just a little bit inspired seeing the difference that two teens can make just by refusing to be silent about a wrong they want righted! Bravo girls!

Do you remember your PLUs?

About a year ago I ran a post about PLUs.  These are the numbers listed on the little stickers of the produce we purchase.  Did you remember that PLUs (“Product {or Price} Look-Up” labels) actually mean something?… they aren’t just random numbers.

I have them in long-term memory but I was reminded about them during my recent grocery store trip when I realized (while standing in line, of course!) that I had forgotten to purchase tomatoes.  I asked my 10-year old to run back to the produce section and bring back three tomatoes.  I did, however, forget to be specific… ugh-oh.  Well, lo and behold, she returned with three lovely tomatoes and said “Don’t worry… they’re 9 Mom!”  Yes, she remembered!

So, it’s a good time for a reminder:  the important number is actually the first digit and they can tell you a whole lot about the produce you purchase.  It tells you exactly how it was grown.

Here are the digits you need to remember (with an update from my past post) :

  • 3 or 4 – indicates conventionally grown produce (grown with pesticides, herbicides & fertilizers)
  • 8 – originally I had indicated that this identifies genetically-modified (GMO) or genetically-engineered (GE) produce but more evidence is showing that this may not be so and there is no true designation for GMO.
  • 9 – indicates that the produce is ORGANIC

The next time you pick up a piece of produce: (1) look at the first digit of the PLU label, (2) remember these numbers, (3) know what you’re buying and then (4) rest assured that they’ll tell you more about the food you’re buying for (and serving to) your family.  And, even when you don’t expect it, your kids may catch on too!

Do you really know what you’re eating?

GMO strawbSo, I’ve reviewed and given away some fantastic eco-products over the past weeks.  Congrats to the winners – I hope you’re enjoying your prizes! – and don’t forget that a few of the giveaways are still open for entries!

Now I need to move on to something that has always been high on my list of concerns… the foods I feed my family.  It’s been no secret that I favor organic foods (and I’m an avid supporter of CSAs).  I also try to steer clear of anything processed and shop the perimeter of grocery stores where fresh foods are often found. But, more and more, genetically altered foods are finding their way into our daily “eats”!GMO no

One of my previous posts talked about all of my biggest concerns with these foods but, for a simple explanation: genetic modification is a process of recombining DNA in food sources to introduce new characteristics or desirable traits. Ugh. Changing DNA?!?  There is also no long-term and/or conclusive research about the consumption of these “altered” foods and the effects on the people consuming them… doesn’t that just make your stomach swirl… yea, in a big way!

Would it bother you more if I told you that, currently, these genetically engineered foods have no labels identifying them as GMO.  The FDA simply has no requirements.

GMO tomEnvironmental Working Group (EWG) and the Just Label It campaign has a petition to the FDA demanding that genetically engineered foods are labeled… if you’re so compelled, sign it and tell them you want to know what you’re eating!

A dear friend of mine taught me that “silence is compliance”… when it comes to my family’s food, I don’t want to be silent! Sign with me?

Consider the packaging… not just the contents!

produce bagsWhen we make food choices for our families, we often put most of our effort into what we’re buying but, there is another part of the equation.

How is your purchase packaged? I get really annoyed when I see lovely organic eggs placed in a polystyrene container.  Nope, that’s not green at all because, while it can be upcycled, it certainly can’t be recycled.

Take a closer look:

  • Glass – it’s a dream container. Not only can it be recycled but it can be safely reused.
  • Aluminum cans – yes, it’s recyclable but many also worry about leaching into the contents.glss jar
  • Paper packaging – it often gets contaminated from food residue or has a wax coating, making it unrecyclable.
  • Plastic – some of it is recyclable, but it’s also made from fossil fuels.  And, would you believe, only about 4% of plastics ever get recycled! (Plus, many also worry about plastics leaching toxins into the food.)
  • Cardboard or paperboard – definitely “Recycling 101”… make sure it reaches your recycling can.
  • Polystyrene (often called Styrofoam) – covered in my “egg” comment… avoid it!

The moral of the story is to consider the packaging of what you purchase right along WITH your purchase.  You CAN bring your own containers for bulk foods, the meat and deli counter, produce… and you’ll earn a green star for being “as green as you can be!”

It’s the “grill battle”!… propane vs. charcoal

grll prpaneThis coming Memorial Day weekend always seems to be the kickoff of grilling season in my neighborhood.  It’s the aroma that indicates that summer is on its way.  While some of you may be lucky enough to grill all year long, we’re just getting started… and once we get started, it doesn’t end until the snow flies. (It’s also a time for me to share cooking duties with my husband… BONUS!)

We’ve always owned a propane grill and never, ever, go the route of charcoal or (perish the thought!) lighter fluid!  (EEK!)

To me, the propane choice seems like a no-brainer, but is it really?

Take a look at the facts:

  • Overall, propane grilling creates a smaller carbon footprint than charcoal grilling, by about a third.  (win: propane)
  • Charcoal comes from renewable resources, but propane does not.  It comes from non-renewable fossil fuels. (win: charcoal)
  • Carbon monoxide levels from charcoal grilling can be as high as 105 times as much as propane grilling.  (BIG win: propane)
  • The “burn time” for propane is much less than charcoal.  It only needs to be “on” when you need it.  Charcoagrll chrcoall must burn until coals are hot and then you need to wait until it burns out before the cycle is done, and it creates gasses all the while.  (win: propane)
  • Charcoal often travels a far, far distance (and creates extra emissions) before it even reaches your grill, but “not so” with propane… it’s most likely local. Plus, producing charcoal creates even more emissions than actually burning it!  (win: propane)
  • Lighter fluid for charcoal is a petroleum distillate that emits volatile organic compounds (VOCs) when burned.  (win: propane)

So, I’d say we’ve been making the right decision, especially with that last VOC issue!  But just remember that what you toss on the grill matters too – preferably local organic meats and veggies!  And when it’s time for clean-up, baking soda and warm water does wonders too!

Now, fire up that grill and let’s get the cookout underway! (My family will be right over!…)