Good Chemistry: Green Tips for Better Health, from Planned Parenthood of Northern New England

Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Greening up Your Tailgating Party

The leaves have turned, the temperature has dropped, and that can only mean one thing: Football season is upon us. With it comes one of the sport’s biggest traditions—tailgating. Whether you are a die-hard fan who shows up to each game with a blue-painted face and stomach, or whether you only catch a game or two a season, we’ve got some tips for greening up your tailgating.

1. Propane vs. Charcoal

Whether your prefer propane or charcoal, you have green options. Although propane is a fossil fuel, it burns cleaner and more efficiently and thus creates less waste. If you favor charcoal, go for cleaner, more natural briquettes.

If you’re feeling adventurous, try the Flamedisk. It’s small, portable, inexpensive, disposable, and best of all, it uses ethanol as its burning agent.

2. Recycle

When you’re tailgating, provide different garbage bags for glass, compost, plastics, paper products, aluminum, etc. Your waste will be equal to what you’ve brought, so space shouldn’t be a concern. For additional brownie points, use recyclable garbage bags.

3. Reduce and Reuse

If you can’t recycle your dinnerware, ditch the disposable and opt for reusable options instead. You can either bring your own from home, or you can explore options such as Green Party Kits, that are perfect for tailgating and are made 100% from recycled materials. Additionally, use cloth napkins over paper napkins to reduce waste and spending.

4. Buy Local and Organic

Organic beer is a key ingredient for a healthier, greener tailgating. Due to recent popularity, it can be more readily found at any local grocery store, especially here in northern New England.

Choose local, organic beef whenever possible. When choosing snacks, look for those that aren’t loaded with sodium, preservatives, saturated fats. A great way to avoid all of these hazards is to make your own snacks, so you know exactly what is in your food.

5. Don’t waste your Car Battery

For music, opt for either an emergency crank radio, or use rechargeable speakers instead of playing through your car.

Have fun, be safe, and enjoy the game.

Posted by on October 19th, 2011 No Comments

Be Green, Even on the Grill

It’s almost the end of the summer and barbeque season is in its peak. But before you just grab any old burger to grill, we’ve got some tips for making the barbeque fun and healthy, for yourself and the environment!

1. Consider what you're eating…and what it ate! Purchase grass-fed free range beef over conventional corn-fed factory beef. Research has shown the grass-fed beef is better for you, and also healthier for the environment. Meat from grass-fed animals typically contains:

* Fewer calories.
* More of vitamins A, C, D, E and beta-carotene
* More Omega 3-fatty acids (which reduces the risk of heart disease, and decreases the risk of high blood pressure, and Alzheimer’s).
*Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), another healthy fat, that has been linked with inhibiting various types of cancer, including breast cancer!

Check out the Eat Well Guide or Eat Wild to find grass-fed meat near you.

2. Turn down the heat. Like your burgers burnt to a crisp? It may be time to reevaluate. Studies have shown that cooking meat at such high temperatures forms compounds in the meat that are carcinogenic. These chemical compounds mimic estrogen, and with lots of exposure, increase your risk of breast cancer.

3. Frequent the Farmer’s Markets . Shopping for local, organic produce helps the environment, local farmers, and your health! Local Harvest is a great source for searching for farmer’s markets and CSAs nearby. Perks:

* Fewer chemicals and pesticides than in produce from factory farming;
* Local shopping cuts down the use of energy for transportation, often reduces the amount of materials needed for packaging.
* You’ll support your local farmers.

4. Buy reusable cutlery. Instead of reaching for a package of paper plates and plastic cups, consider buying reusable plates made from recycled material. Preserve offers a bunch of cute cutlery that is also eco-friendly, dishwasher-safe, and built to last.

Posted by on August 11th, 2011 No Comments

Recipe for BPA: Cigarettes + Canned Vegetables + Cashier Job

As a broke college student, and an avid-canned bean eater, I found a recent article on BPA especially troubling. The study revealed the recipe for high BPA exposure is cigarettes, a job as a cashier, and you guessed it, canned vegetables.

According to the article by Environmental Health News, more than 90 percent of pregnant women had detectable levels of BPA in their bodies. Pregnant women who ate canned vegetables, exposed themselves to tobacco smoke, or worked as cashiers also had above-average concentrations. BPA can be found in cash-register receipts, so it’s no wonder women working behind a counter had higher levels in their bodies.

BPA is a nasty chemical that has been linked to heart disease and diabetes in humans, cancer of the prostate and mammary glands, obesity and reproductive problems in lab animals exposed in the womb.

Not long ago pregnant women pressured retailers and manufacturers to offer BPA-free baby bottles. While this is a step in the right direction, women are still unknowingly exposing their infants during fetal development and babies are being born pre-polluted.  

The study also showed that those who eat canned vegetables once a day had 44 percent more BPA in their urine than those who didn’t. Once I read that, I decided to make my beans the old-fashioned way—by soaking and cooking them. Although this process did take roughly 24 hours, I can rest peacefully knowing my BPA intake decreased sufficiently.

Posted by on November 16th, 2010 No Comments

Green Halloween

My friends and I take Halloween very seriously. Each year we have a “group theme,” and work on our costumes for weeks leading up to the big day. 

Although we consider ourselves Halloween experts, we were in the dark about how horrifically toxic this holiday can be. Lead in children’s face paints, phthalates in masks, and costumes made from PVC are just a few of the ghastly truths I unveiled in my research. Luckily, thanks to several informative blogs and websites, there are ways to have a Green Halloween.

Some tips:

  1. Avoid face paint. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetic’s Report Pretty Scary revealed children’s face paints contain lead, nickel, cobalt and/or chromium, among other unidentified ingredients like “fragrance.” If you need to paint your face, check out some of these home-made face paint recipes.
  2. Ditch the Colored Hair Sprays. They contain toxic chemicals and shouldn’t be sprayed around eyes, mouth, nose, and definitely shouldn’t be inhaled! As that is pretty much impossible to avoid, opt for a wig instead.
  3. Buy PVC-Free Masks & Costumes. Community Mama reports many Halloween masks and costumes are made from PVC (the poison plastic) which can leach harmful gender-bending phthalates. If you can’t avoid them, look for ones that are marked “PVC-Free,” or make your own from what you have at home.
  4. Avoid Phthalates in Masks & Teeth. The reason those false teeth and masks are so flexible is because they’re made with endocrine-disrupting phthalates. Try making your own mask instead, or painting your face with homemade face paint.
  5. Steer Clear of Traditional Nail Polish. Most contain formaldehyde, tolulene, and acetone. Get Green Be Well recommends Hopscotch Kids or Piggy Paint as a safer alternative.
  6. Decorate Naturally. Opt for pumpkins, gourds, and cornstalks, instead of plastic decorations. You won’t be harming your guests, and it will look a lot less cheesy.
  7. Light Soy Candles.  Planet Green reports traditional candles are made from petroleum-based paraffin, carcinogens, neurotoxins, and reproductive toxins. Soy candles are safer, renewable, and biodegradable.
  8. Hand out organic, or natural treats. Organic chocolate is pesticide-free and lead-free.  It’s also full of powerful antioxidants. 

Posted by on October 14th, 2010 No Comments

Organic Apple Orchards

Apple picking is undoubtedly one of New England’s most anticipated fall activities. Unfortunately, apples tend to be heavily sprayed with pesticides. One study found evidence of 42 different pesticide residues on apples!

Luckily, New England is home to a growing number of certified organic apple orchards. The following orchards use organic growing practices or are certified organic, which means that they have been produced and handled without the use of synthetic chemicals (Organic Foods Production Act of 1990).


Raven Hill Orchard
225 Ossipee Hill Road, East Waterboro, Maine 04030 - 207-247-4455
In addition to more than 30 varieties of organic apples, this orchard also boasts a bakery and café filled with homemade, organic coffee and pastries. Their website invites the visitor to come “walk the orchard or sit by the fire,” making this an extremely inviting place to pick your own.

Sewall Organic Orchard
259 Masalin Road, Lincolnville, Maine 04849 - 207-763-3956
Sewall’s orchard is the “oldest organically certified orchard in Maine” and is located on the south side of Levensellar Mountain, making it also one of the most scenic apple picking spots in Maine.


Shelburne Orchards
216 Orchard Road, Shelburne, Vermont 05482 – 802-985-2753
Located on 80 acres overlooking Lake Champlain, Shelburne Orchards is another scenic apple picking spot that offers a 10 acre section of organically grown apples. This orchard also won the first ever “Sustainable Farm of the Year Award” in 1997.

Dwight Miller Orchards
511 Miller Road, East Dummerston, Vermont 05346 – 802-254-9635
This farm has been certified organic since 1996, and in addition to pick your own apples, the farm has pumpkins and squash. Definitely worth the trip, as the website claims that the Miller family has been cultivating the same land since before Vermont was a state!

New Hampshire

Alyson’s Orchard
615 Wentworth Road, Walpole, New Hampshire 03608 – 603-756-9800
Alyson’s follows organic growing practices and boasts 50 varieties of apples, including heirlooms.

Lost Nation Orchard, located in Groveton, New Hampshire, will unfortunately not be offering pick your own this year, but is a great resource for growing your own organic apples!

Know of other organic orchards? Let us know about them by leaving a comment!

Posted by on September 29th, 2010 4 Comments

The Great Microwave Debate

We’ve all grown up with that one friend whose parents refused to own a microwave, right? Well, after reading this new article by Dr. Joseph Mercola, let’s hope we all spent a significant amount of time in said friend’s home.

MicrowaveBy exploring many different studies, Dr. Mercola proves our kooky friend’s parents right—ditch that microwave. Evidence shows they can leak radiation, deplete nutrients from your food, and cause a whole host of health problems, including something called “Microwave Sickness.”

Don’t be discouraged; think of Mercola’s conclusion as another excuse to eat more fresh, fruits and vegetables and to cut down on processed foods. Concerned about time? Check out these tips for healthier, microwave-free eating, for those of us who lead extremely busy lives.

Posted by on September 2nd, 2010 No Comments

How to Start Your Own Compost Pile

10-compostSo, I know what you’re probably thinking. Compost? That’s going to be gross and messy. I was hesitant at first too, but once I gave it a try I learned that composting is a wonderful, environmentally-friendly way to get rid of food scraps and yard waste while at the same time generating high quality usable soil.

Here are some simple tips to get started:

Step 1—Select a Spot

  • Choose a location that is far enough away to avoid odor, but is still convenient enough to visit on a regular basis.
  • Make sure the spot isn’t too sunny or windy—this will cause the compost pile to dry out.
  • Do not place the pile on top of a hard surface such as concrete, as this will prevent drainage.

Step 2—Pick a Composting Method. These include:

  • Building a pile on the ground.
  • Constructing a bin or pen out of wood or chicken wire.
  • Purchasing a bin or tumbler.

Whichever method you choose, the enclosure should be about 3x3 feet.

Step 3—Add both carbon-rich and nitrogen-rich materials. These include:

  • Cardboard (Carbon)
  • Wood shavings (Carbon)
  • Newspaper (Carbon)
  • Manure (Nitrogen)
  • Grass clippings (Nitrogen)
  • Algae (Nitrogen)

Things such as vegetable peelings and fruit cores are great to add to the pile. Do not add pet waste or meat scraps as these can spread disease and smell really bad! Make sure to turn and water your pile often. When the soil looks dark brown and crumbly it is ready to use.

Happy composting!

Posted by on August 18th, 2010 No Comments

Bug-Sex Each Day Will Keep the Pesticides Away

Plant Crusher Culprit #1-Buddy the Cat

Plant Crusher#1-Buddy the Cat, a.k.a. Dr. Destructo

Spring has sprung in northern New England, and I, for one, couldn’t be more excited. Among the many things I look forward to, starting a vegetable garden is on the top of my list. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as raising your own food against the odds. What odds do I face? The weather, my cats who think it’s their job to lie on top of my seedlings, and the biggest obstacle of all—the Very Hungry Caterpillar who tries to eat his way through everything I plant!

Since I can’t bring myself to use pesticides, I am delighted to hear of a new way of keeping crops pest-free! The answer? Over-sexed male bugs, or a “stud bug."

Researchers have come up with a plan to introduce “super-sexed” sterilized male bugs into the world, whose sole purpose in life is to get it on with females. These sterile males copulate with wild females, who are then unable to lay fertile eggs, thus reducing their population.

grasshopperWhile this may seem like a mean joke to those unsuspecting grasshoppers and fruit flies…Trust me when I say that this sex solution is a much kinder alternative to the traditional Death By Pesticide Asphyxiation. It’s also a win-win for humans, as it reduces the number of chemically-doused fruits and vegetables we consume each day.

Until these over-sexed males show up in my backyard, I guess I’ll just have to put up with my hungry friends. But if anyone has organic suggestions, please let me know.

Posted by on April 26th, 2010 No Comments

Organic Coffee Options

Roasted_coffee_beansThe sign at my local coffee shop reads, “Coffee first, questions later.” My sentiments exactly, which is one of the many reasons I go to Café on the Corner.  Other reasons it’s my favorite place include their delicious jalapeño cream cheese, Chelsea Clinton’s shining face hanging on the wall; and, most importantly, they have organic shade grown, fair trade coffee choices.

Shade grown coffee is pretty much what it sounds like—coffee grown in the shade. The coffee plant by nature loves shade and the best quality beans come from coffee plants that grow slowly under the rainforest canopy. But because of the high demand for java (501 billion cups consumed every year), rainforest trees are being chopped down and are being replaced by a quicker growing, sun-tolerant variety. These coffee bushes are doused in chemicals and fertilizers to make them grow faster and to keep up with the demand (Mmm…There’s nothing like a cup of warm pesticide residue in the morning…).

shade-grown-coffeeIn addition to the many health risks of this practice, the natural habitat for songbirds—and many other species, including howler monkeys, iguanas, ocelots, peccaries, pumas, and tree frogs—is greatly reduced when their homes are chopped down and replaced with coffee.

My other, more noble reason for purchasing organic coffee—the fair trade label. Simply put, when a product is fair trade certified the label guarantees consumers that strict economic, social and environmental criteria were met in the production and trade of an agricultural product. In this case, fair trade coffee ensures that the vast majority of the world's coffee farmers get a fair price for their harvests in order to achieve a decent living wage.

If you would like to learn more about this cause, and also find out where to buy organic shade grown fair trade coffee in your area check out this site.

Posted by on February 23rd, 2010 3 Comments

Organic Chocolate Makes Treats More Palatable

Cacao tree with fruit pods

Cacao tree with fruit pods

Ah, chocolate! The nectar of the gods. It’s decadent, delicious, and, in some cases, full of ingredients you don’t want in your body. I’m not just talking about fat and sugar, which can be detrimental to your health (and waistline), but more insidious stuff such as pesticide residues or even lead.

While high-quality, conventional chocolate is unquestionably tasty—and has been shown to offer powerful antioxidants and other health benefits—there can be pesticide residues present in the cocoa powder used to manufacture it, which can have harmful effects on the body.

The best way to satisfy your sweet tooth and minimize your risk of ingesting dangerous ingredients is to go organic. Organic chocolate is made from organic cocoa beans, therefore minimizing the use of pesticides. Plus, when eaten in moderation, it can contribute to heart health, suppress chronic coughs, add much-needed magnesium to the diet, help control blood sugar, and improve your mood. Not to mention all the ways it’s better for our environment.

Photo: Gary Coffey

Photos: Gary Coffey

Thank goodness there are now lots of places to buy organic chocolate, including Whole Foods, Hannaford and Shaw’s supermarkets, and Vermont’s own Lake Champlain Chocolates. (In the interest of full disclosure, you should know that my husband, Gary Coffey, works there.) Better still, with so many options to choose from , there’s no need to compromise on flavor!

 So go ahead and indulge—just remember to eat responsibly!

Posted by on January 5th, 2010 1 Comment