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Friday, July 22, 2005

Will green work for Wal-Mart

Executives at embattled Wal-Mart are betting a bundle that getting on the green band wagon will bolster their corporate image around town, towns like Mckinney, TX, Aurora, CO, your town perhaps and mine.

The giant retailer opened the first of 2 prototype stores this week in Mckinney touted as using the latest in environmental mitigation technologies to reduce eco impact and, we suspect, deflect much of the criticism that has dogged Wal-Mart's expansion projects for the last few years. The new stores are designed to present features that one day, they hope, will be viewed as standard construction models repleat with waterless urinals in the bathrooms and heat generated, in part, by recycling used cooking oils from the deli and waste motor oil collected in their automotive department.

Other amenities designed to tighten up their eco debt include runoff retention ponds to both collect parking lot and roof area rainfall for net zero consumption irrigation and as a buffer to the surrounding environment; a windmill to generate power which will partially off set their electric load and wildflower meadows for eye appeal as well as good grounds stewardship. Not all of these technologies are new of course and experts agree that some are less than well conceived, others, however believe Wal-Mart deserves credit for taking a new tact and at least using some of its clout to reinforce, if not take a lead, in championing earth friendly building practices.

Recent Wal-mart wars such as the one in Tarpon Springs, FL are an example of their less than friendly efforts to cozy into eco sensitive neighborhoods that did not necessarily want them. The Florida site infringes ominously on a fragile wetlands buffer to the Anclote/Gulf estuary and continues to be a sore spot among Florida conservationists.

Greener will keep you apprised of the progression of these new 'green' super stores, you may be certain. Now if they would just make an effort to green up their merchandise lines and offer more natural, home grown and earth friendly products.

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2:04 PM

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

It's PLU season

Coming to a super market near you this summer, sticker free produce. You know those annoying little stickers that Mini Pearl like seem to adorn every piece of fruit, every vegetable that you bring home from the market. They are called PLUs or Price Look Up identifiers and they have for years been mandated by the FDA as a form if tracking the origin of produce through the distribution chain from field to table.

Growers, distributors and retailers have also used them as a means of codifying the price index and sometimes, just as a means of identifying thousands of varietal fruits and vegetables to occasionally befuddled check out clerks and shoppers.

The technology that will replace these stickers is laser tattooing or the precise control of emitted light to remove the pigment layer from the surface of the produce to reveal a contrasting sub-layer. Developed by Durand-Wayland, Inc an agricultural systems company in GA. the process is hands free and so delicate it does not penetrate the surface or "skin" of the produce and doesn't promote decay. Product Look-up Code(PLU), Country of Origin Labeling (COOL), Grower Lot Numbers and any other requested security information can be easily etched on your vegetables. The laser light printing process is earth-friendly too, using no consumables to label the produce. Since 911 the FDA has also been charged with monitoring the safety of US food supplies and the new tattooing technology is seen as a vital tool for "trace and track" of our food supply chain.

Some coding markers, if you're interested, may benefit the conscientious shopper as well. For instance four digit numbers designate conventionally grown products while four digits preceded by a 9 denote organically grown items. A number 8 prefacing the 4 digits indicates genetically altered produce.

Of course we like the idea that those pesky, unappetising, germ catching stickers will be banished forever but what to do for a pretty bowl of fruit and would you have to make sure the tattoo side is faced away from your guests when serving a stuffed red pepper?

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2:03 PM

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Certified organic

why it costs more

If you've been paying attention to the food circulars lately you already know that grocers are jumping on the band wagon these days in a concerted effort to get your attention fixed on organic products. Retailers like Giant Food, Kash n' Karry, Publix, Albertsons even embattled Winn Dixie have recently began touting 'organic' and putting in place special selections of organic produce, canned goods, pantry, dairy and meat items all proclaimed USDA Organic Certified. But at what cost and how can you, the consumer, be certain that the benefits justify the increased cost for you and your family.

Organic labeling guarantees that certain conventions are maintained in the production and processing of consumable agricultural goods, conventions that specify: restrictions for beef, pork and poultry producers that prohibit the use of antibiotics and allow only organically grown feed, composting, and organic fertilizers. Crop rotation methods that enhance the soil but reduce in the short term a farmer's cash crop production are also mandated by the seal. These restrictions add to the cost up the chain beginning with the producer - the farm - and continue on to the wholesale and ultimately the retail level where they are passed directly to the consumer.

We checked 3 national chain grocers this week and found these relative* costs for 12 items labeled organic versus non organic. The value averaged totals are as follows.
organicnon organic
1 pound fresh shrimp**8.999.99
1 pound vine ripe tomatos2.322.19
1 dozen eggs2.991.79
1 24 ounce loaf whole wheat bread2.992.09
1 27 ounce multigrain cereal3.292.79
1 64 ounce apple juice2.291.79
1 5 ounce bag salad mixed greens2.992.39
14.5 ounce can soup various varieties2.191.89
16.3 ounce bottle pasta sauce2.392.69
1 14 ounce long grain brown rice1.191.59
1 15.25 ounce can corn.99.78
1 5 pound bag bread flour2.392.89

The difference amounts to roughly a 6% increase to the cost of organic foods over non-organic.

*note - we disregarded sale pricing in both categories at all 3 chains

**note - organic sea food, meat, fowl and dairy products cannot be verified nor compared to soy substitute products in the same category because the source of protein in each, although of similar quality, is based on entirely different organic standards.

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12:16 PM

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Donate and Recycle

For a Greener Community

Anytime the car won't fit in the garage is a good time to consider recycling. But, as often happens, this becomes a real chore; finding a recycling station or paying extra fees to have the items picked up and taken to a landfill and then sorting it beforehand, better to just leave the family car out in the elements another week. Or, why not consider donate and recycle, the green solution to freeing up garage space, making your life easier and going easy on the environment all at the same time.

We've compiled a list of alternatives to a trip to the dump for nearly everything you want to get rid of - make that recycle. From electronics to toys, unwanted clothing , furniture, even spent batteries, half used cleaning products and paint that may no longer be safe around your home, we'll show you ways to recycle it all.

Some of these resources are community run such as local recyling days or regular pick ups by a recycle center. Others are privately operated and will gladly pick up items which are no longer wanted by the homeowner, sometimes for a fee and sometimes free of charge depending on the type of items you have. Still others are operated by charitable organizations and benefit a particular charity, cause or association.

Any of these options can benefit your community in many ways. By recycling some still useful item you have made an economic contribution to the community, preserved valuable space in local landfill and provided incentives for industry and jobs in your area.

So the next time you want to lighten the load around your home think of recycling first, its the Greener thing to do.

Check our resources page Green Market for recycling information in your community. We'll maintain this page and update it as new resources becomes available. If you know of a recycle resource in your community send it to us. We'll tell everybody and give you the "Greener" credit.

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4:16 PM

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Your positively green 4th

You're running around like most of us this weekend making last minute preparations for the coming 4th of July and suddenly you realize the lawn needs mowing. What with getting the grill ready to cook and a menu planned, shopping and a little down time for yourself it seems like one too many things crammed into a weekend. We'll here Greener can help with a clean, green alternative to that old time energy guzzler the gasoline powered hay maker that you dread confronting.

We did a little research and found a great solution to your lawn care woes, the cordless electric mower. Electric mowers have been around for years, they are efficient, safe, reliable and non polluting but until now they were also cumbersome, tied to tangled extension cords and not very powerful.

Well, that has all changed. Thanks to market driven industry improvements in rechargeable battery technology and EPA recommendations, cordless mowers are quickly out stripping and out cutting the traditional mower. Read the complete report and discover the joys of greener lawn care.

Now, on to the main event. If grilling is on the menu this holiday we have a few delicious resources for you starting in our very own kitchens, or should we say back yards at The Green Cutting Board with this easy and fit for the fourth grilled 3 decker sandwich.

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1:48 PM