Give an eco-gift this season idea 8: Made in the USA cooking set for kids

Do you like to bring your little one into the kitchen to learn the art of cooking? Do you have a niece or a nephew that loves to cook? Then check out this eco-cookware set from All American Baby. The cooking set is made from recycled plastic, which helps reduce fossil fuel use and CO2 emissions. The 27-piece set includes a stock pot with lid, a skillet, four place settings, four plates, four bowls and four cups. A bonus is that it is made in the USA. For ages 3 and up.

It is on sale for $24.

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Give an eco-gift this season idea 7: Recycled hobo bag

Check out this hobo bag as a holiday gift for the lady in your life who appreciates style and recycled gifts. This hobo bag is made from recycled brown hounds-tooth wool fabric that was found in an old factory. There is a pocket inside, and the bag closes with a magnetic snap. The strap is made from a reused leather belt. Order it soon, as it will take from one to two weeks to ship.

It costs $59.

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Eat in Season Recipe 6: The Daikon

As part of our eat in-season series

Daikon, also known as the white or Japanese radish, has the shape of a large carrot but is more similar in taste to a radish. It is low in calories. In fact, a 3 oz. serving contains only 18 calories and provides 34% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C. It also contains active enzymes that aid digestion, particularly when paired with starchy foods. When purchasing them, chose those that feel heavy and have lustrous skin and fresh leaves.

Daikon Homemade Slaw
3 1/2 lbs. daikon radish
1 red onion, sliced lengthwise into 1/8 -inch strips
2 lbs. cut snow peas, cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sesame oil (or to taste)
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons rice vinegar (or to taste)
2 teaspoons sugar (or to taste)
2 teaspoons salt (or to taste)
2 tablespoons black sesame seeds

Trim and peel the daikon, cut it crosswise into 3-inch pieces, julienne the pieces, then place them into a large bowl and add in the onion and snow peas. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sesame oil, rice vinegar, sugar and salt. Pour half of the dressing over the slaw and toss to coat. Add more dressing as needed (you may not need all of the dressing).  Cover and refrigerate the slaw for at least 1 hour for the flavors to develop. Before serving, toss with the black sesame seeds.

Give an eco-gift this season idea 6: Organic cotton teethers for baby

I am asking everyone to make a commitment to purchase eco-gifts this holiday season, gifts that are good for our loved ones and good for the environment. Since our family recently was blessed with a new niece, I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to buy an eco-gift for my sister-in-law. A lot of my girlfriends say they receive many newborn gifts but not much is left once the baby grows out of that stage. So I wanted to give something that they could use a few months down the line, like teething toys.

The teething toys were made by a company called Under the Nile that uses fair trade practices. So not only are they good for the environment and baby, they also help those in underprivileged nations grow a sustainable economy.

What’s great about them is that they are machine washable, 100% organic cotton toys that contain no fluff—meaning there is no danger to a newborn’s health.  They also are the shape of vegetables, helping your baby fall in love with healthful food right from the start.

The crate of veggie toys costs $29.95.

Watch the video on Facebook:

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Next-Gen Green: Why do I do this?

Why do I do this?

Give an eco-gift this season idea 5: Give them a national park

Love to spend quality time with your family, especially outdoors? Then why not give the nature lover on your list this year a gift that could last all season, like donating to your favorite national park? Next-Gen Green's editor tells you why it's a good idea as well as shares her favorite trail snack, Skinny Pop.

Don't waste food this Thanksgiving

By Mary Rose Roberts

There are people starving around the world. This Thanksgiving, before the meal, plan your menu and know exactly how much food you'll need.

1. Be realistic: The fear of not providing enough to eat often causes hosts to cook too much. Instead, plan out how much food you and your guests will realistically need, and stock up accordingly. The Love Food Hate Waste organization, which focuses on sharing convenient tips for reducing food waste, provides a handy "Perfect portions" planner to calculate meal sizes for parties as well as everyday meals.

2. Plan ahead: Create a shopping list before heading to the farmers' market or grocery store. Sticking to this list will reduce the risk of impulse buys or buying unnecessary quantities, particularly since stores typically use holiday sales to entice buyers into spending more.

During the meal: Control the amount on your plate to reduce the amount in the garbage.

3. Go small: The season of indulgence often promotes plates piled high with more food than can be eaten. Simple tricks of using smaller serving utensils or plates can encourage smaller portions, reducing the amount left on plates. Guests can always take second (or third!) servings if still hungry, and it is much easier (and hygienic) to use leftovers from serving platters for future meals.

4. Encourage self-serve: Allow guests to serve themselves, choosing what, and how much, they would like to eat. This helps to make meals feel more familiar and also reduces the amount of unwanted food left on guests' plates.

After the meal: Make the most out of leftovers.

5. Store leftovers safely: Properly storing our leftovers will preserve them safely for future meals. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that hot foods be left out for no more than two hours. Store leftovers in smaller, individually sized containers, making them more convenient to grab for a quick meal rather than being passed over and eventually wasted.

6. Compost food scraps: Instead of throwing out the vegetable peels, eggshells, and other food scraps from making your meal, consider composting them. Individual composting systems can be relatively easy and inexpensive, and provide quality inputs for garden soils. In 2010, San Francisco became the first U.S. city to pass legislation encouraging city-wide composting, and similar broader-scale food composting approaches have been spreading since.

7. Create new meals: If composting is not an option for you, check out Love Food Hate Waste's creative recipes to see if your food scraps can be used for new meals. Vegetable scraps and turkey carcasses can be easily boiled down for stock and soups, and bread crusts and ends can be used to make tasty homemade croutons.

8. Donate excess: Food banks and shelters gladly welcome donations of canned and dried foods, especially during the holiday season and colder months. The charity group Feeding America partners with over 200 local food banks across the United States, supplying food to more than 37 million people each year. To find a food bank near you, visit the organization's Food Bank Locator.

9. Support food-recovery programs: In some cases, food-recovery systems will come to you to collect your excess. In New York City, City Harvest, the world's first food-rescue organization, collects approximately 28 million pounds of food each year that would otherwise go to waste, providing groceries and meals for over 300,000 people.

Throughout the holiday season: Consider what you're giving.

10. Give gifts with thought: When giving food as a gift, avoid highly perishable items and make an effort to select foods that you know the recipient will enjoy rather than waste. The Rainforest Alliance, an international nonprofit, works with farmers and producers in tropical areas to ensure they are practicing environmentally sustainable and socially just methods. The group's certified chocolates, coffee, and teas are great gifts that have with long shelf-lives, and buying them helps support businesses and individuals across the world.

How to choose a CSA that's right for you

By Nikki Golden
I am by no means an expert, but here are some things that I think are important to find out before you give a CSA a whirl.

What does this CSA grow?
Many CSAs will have some sort of calendar on its Web site so you can get an idea of what types of items will be in your box, to determine if you will eat them. For instance, I knew ahead of time that I would be receiving lettuce in every box.

Can you visit the CSA?
I did not, but I liked the fact that I could schedule a visit to see where my vegetables were grown if I chose.

Drop-off points and pickup times
Clearly, you need to know that the CSA you choose will be conveniently located to you and that you’ll be able to make it in time to pick up your box.

There is risk involved.
Like all farms, your CSA’s crops depend on the weather. If the weather is unusually hot or dry, your share might be smaller than normal.

For more information and to find a CSA near you, visit
Missed my first two posts on CSAs? Learn why you might want to try one here and a recipe for White Bean Soup with Turkey Meatballs here.

Nikki Golden is a full-time association marketing manager and a part-time crafty wannabe. You can find her on Twitter @lucy1375 and on Pinterest @nikki_golden.

Eat in Season Recipe 5: Greens, greens, greens and turkey meatballs

By Nikki Golden
I love to cook, but because I don’t use recipes often, I tend to stick with familiar flavors and cooking staples. Broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and beans of all kinds appear in most dishes I make.

Belonging to a community-supported agriculture, or CSA, changed that because I was given a box of vegetables that I didn’t want to go to waste. I was introduced to foods I wouldn’t have even known the names of if I saw them at the store, and I had to search for information sometimes to find information on how to prepare them for cooking.

Roasted beets might now be my new favorite food, followed closely by roasted turnips. Throwing them into a 350-degree oven, coated with olive oil, salt and pepper for about an hour is the easiest way to cook anything, and the skin on both just wipes off with a paper towel (though be careful of beets because its juice stains).

Although salads were a staple of the summer because of all the lettuce in the box, I also branched out for new uses, including this White Bean Soup recipe I made last week, to use up some potatoes, the Russian kale and bright lights chard I had in my final box. This recipe could be customized using different types of greens and substituting regular meatballs or any kind of sausage you had on hand.

White Bean Soup with turkey meatballs
1 32 oz carton of chicken broth
1 14 oz can of chicken broth
1 package pre-cooked Italian seasoned turkey meatballs (24 to a pack)
3 15.5 oz cans of Great Northern White beans (drained and rinsed)
1 15.5 oz cans of Navy beans (drained and rinsed)
1 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes with olive oil and oregano
1 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes with red pepper
4 cloves of garlic, minced (I used Trader Joe's frozen garlic cubes)
2 T basil (I used Trader Joe's frozen basil cubes)
Russian kale (cut into 11/2 inch pieces)
Bright lights chard (cut into 11/2 inch pieces, back rib removed)
Salt (to taste)
Pepper (to taste)
Red pepper flakes (to taste)

  1. Spread turkey meatballs evenly over pan, coat with olive oil and put in oven to low broil, 10 minutes each side.
  2. Combine white beans, navy beans, garlic, salt, pepper in a pot and cook for about 5 minutes
  3. Add tomatoes, kale, chard and basil.
  4. Once turkey meatballs are done, cut into fours and add to soup
  5. Add red pepper flakes
  6. Cook for about 1 hour.
  7. Serve garnished with grated Parmesan, with hearty bread for dipping.
What’s coming up in Part 3? How to choose a CSA.

Nikki Golden is a full-time association marketing manager and a part-time crafty wannabe. You can find her on Twitter @lucy1375 and on Pinterest @nikki_golden.

Why a CSA might be right for you

By Nikki Golden
I have often thought about purchasing a share in a community-supported agriculture, or CSA. For those not familiar, a CSA is generally a chance to buy a “share” of locally grown, often organically grown, seasonal vegetables and other food items from a somewhat local farm. These shares (or memberships or subscriptions) are delivered to a drop-off point near you, which is what makes this a feasible option for many families.

This year, one came to my attention that had a drop-off point very close to where I worked, and it also offered a half share, which was appealing because there are only two of us in my household. It was also a good introduction to a CSA, being that I got my delivery every other week instead of committing to every week in the summer. What I liked about the particular CSA I joined was that I could pay in three installments by providing two post-dated checks.

Vegetables are my favorite, but like most people, I’m sure, I gravitate toward vegetables I’m familiar with, and if they’re unfamiliar, I’m less apt to purchase them because I don’t know how to prepare them. Being in the CSA forced me to try new vegetables because they were there already in my box, and I obviously didn’t want to let things go to waste. Also helpful was that there were often recipes or preparation advice in the e-newsletter I received that contained information on the vegetables I’d be receiving in my box.

Among those items I tried this summer were beets, turnips, kohlrabi (really good grated into a salad) and a variety of lettuces that I’ve never bought, including bright lights chard, escarole and bok choi.

Gardening is a summer activity I remember with fondness from my childhood. However, I presently rent a house, and I don’t have the time to commit to renting a plot at our park district farm patch. But by being part of a CSA, I was able to reap the benefits of fresh produce.

As part of the e-newsletter I received each week, I was kept apprised of what was going on at the farm (which members are invited to visit), as well as how the weather was impacting the growing conditions of not only the vegetables they were growing but also the livestock. I learned about some of the more difficult aspects of organic farming, specifically pest control.

And I will also admit to something—normally at the grocery store, I’m not necessarily prone to buying organic. My thinking on that has somewhat changed from this CSA experience. The taste is definitely more noticeable on foods that I eat uncooked, and the bag of sugar snap peas that were in our first box was a great introduction to what to expect for the summer. They were crisp, juicy and had a somewhat minty, fresh flavor that just felt good on the palate. I will definitely be buying organic lettuce going forward, and if I know I’m going to be eating the vegetables raw, I’ll also look for organics of those.

Although I didn’t purchase any of these, most CSAs will also offer a variety of the following to purchase as shares: cheese, eggs, poultry and beef.

For more information or to find a CSA near you, visit

Stay tuned, because we’re not done with this subject. On Monday, I will share some recipes for the vegetables I discovered this summer, and on Wednesday, I will give you some helpful hints on deciding if a CSA is right for your family to try.

Nikki Golden is a full-time association marketing manager and a part-time crafty wannabe. You can find her on Twitter @lucy1375 and on Pinterest @nikki_golden.

Give an eco-gift this season idea 4: Twilight charm bracelet made in the USA

Fans of the Twilight book series will be rushing out to theaters tonight to see the next movie. With this in mind, check out another eco-holiday idea: a one-of-a-kind bracelet that features scraps of text taken from an actual Twilight book, which was written by Stephanie Meyer. Each bracelet will differ as far as the words included. It is nickel-plated, 7" long and is adjustable with an additional 2" of chain. It is water resistant and would make a great stocking stuffer for your Twilight addict.

It costs $17.50.

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Green Tip of the Day--Water 11 of 20: Harvest your water.

Why not capture your water naturally by installing a rain barrel. Rainwater can keep your plants hydrated without turning on a hose or sprinkler. Maybe put one on your holiday wish list? Honey, are you listening?

Give an eco-gift this season idea 3: Billiards bottle stop made in the USA

I know a woman who works unusually long hours due to the additional workload put on her plate by corporate downsizing coupled with a somewhat manic boss who causes and then needs her to stomp out fires. I assume at the end of the day she cracks open a bottle of wine to unwind from the barrage of fabricated emergencies and let go of the daily stress. What I know for sure is that she is an avid billiards player, even plays on leagues, and would love the next eco-seasonal gift idea: the recycled pool balls billiards bottle stopper.

Handmade in Colorado in a small shop, the pool balls have been retired from the table—scuffs and all—and have been recycled into unique bottle stops. The pool ball is attached to a stainless steel bottle stopper designed to last a lifetime with a guarantee not to pit or corrode. While buyers can request a number or color, supplies are limited based on what the maker has found.

One stopper costs $20. 

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Give an eco-gift this season idea 2: Guitar-string bracelet supports mental illness nonprofit

As the holidays approach, we will provide options for hip, one-of-kind recycled gifts that can make your loved ones feel special all year long. Next up, a stocking stuffer idea from Strung Up Jewelry that is made of recycled guitar strings that were supposed to end up in the trash. The hand-made piece consists of a thin braid of guitar strings with pewter or antique silver-plated beads and a hand-crafted stainless steel hook to close the bracelet. In addition, buying it means you will help others.  A portion of all monthly proceeds go to Concerts of Hope, a nonprofit that supports people suffering from mental illness.

It costs $32.

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Green Tip of the Day--Water 10 of 20: Do your chores at night.

Don’t run the dishwasher or washing machine until they’re full. Half-loads add up to gallons of water wasted per year. In addition, try to run the appliances at night. Start your laundry after 6 p.m. and run the dishwasher right before you head to bed, when energy prices are at their cheapest.

Give an eco-gift this season idea 1: One-for-one with TOMS

As the holiday season approaches, why not give a gift to your loved ones that also benefits the rest of the world? For the next 41 days, we will be providing our readers with eco-friendly gifts that are made of either sustainable material, recycled materials or can be used to help others in the U.S. and around the world.  Our first suggestion is a gift from TOMS, a company that matches every pair of shoes purchased with a pair of new shoes given to a child in need. In the past, the company would donate shoes only. But now, you can purchase TOMS’ eye wear for a stocking stuffer and know that someone less fortunate will have access to eye care. Or, check out their Unisex Grey Stamp Flag Henley and let your loved one know that while the thermal is keeping them warm, it also is warming the lives of someone less fortunate. What better way to feel good this holiday season?

It costs $36.

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Green Tip of the Day--Water 9 of 20: Shrink your lawn

It's never too early to develop next year's gardening plan. For example, do you have a large, green lawn? Why not take some of it away or, even better, lose your lawn and plant a natural landscape that incorporates flowers that thrive in your specific location--complimented by natural paving stones? Choose plants that use water wisely, such as ground cover, succulents, and other that thrive in drought conditions. Be creative, conserve water and one-up your neighbors by making this simple change.

Green Tip of the Day--Water 8 of 20: Take stock of your home

The next tip takes a little bit of an investment. Take stock of your home and do your best to switch out less efficient with more efficient fixtures.  Aerate faucets, buy a low-flow toilet, choose efficient shower heads and look for an EPA-approved WaterSense-rated dishwasher or washing machine. It’s not only a great way to conserve water, but it also will result in a lower bill at the end of the month. 

Eat in Season Recipe 4: The Purple Carrot

Part of our eat in season series:
By Mary Rose Roberts
I spent time up north this weekend with my dad and his sister, Mary, who lives in Madison. She's one of those people who never shows up empty handed. This time, I lucked out with gifts of homemade cheese, natural-casing beef sausage and purple carrots. I’ve never seen a purple carrot and took a bite of it raw. It tasted slightly more rustic compared to an orange carrot but just as good... and good for you. Purple carrots have 33% of your daily allowance for vitamin C as well as vitamin B6 and vitamin E. I thought the purple version would make a delicious carrot soup. In fact, the soup recipe below can offer your family a nutrition-packed option on a weeknight and only will take you 30 minutes to make. A bonus is that carrots are in season and fit perfectly with our eat in season series

Purple Carrot Soup
2 large organic purple or regular carrots, chopped into chunks (Clean the carrots. Don't peel.)
1 organic potato, chopped into chunks with the skin on
1 celery with leaves, chopped
1/2 cup skim milk (or soy milk)
1 onion, chopped roughly
1-2 garlic cloves, chopped
Pinch of saffron
Salt and pepper to taste
Cilantro to garnish

Steam carrots and potatoes for 4 minutes until they are soft enough to be mashed via a food processor. Warm the milk and add the saffron. Put aside.  In a skillet, heat 1/4 tsp. of oil and add the onions, garlic, chopped celery and salt. Cook until soft for about 2 minutes. Transfer the contents of the skillet to a food processor; add the steamed vegetables. Mix until smooth. Pour into skillet to warm, add saffron milk and stir for 2 minutes. Serve immediately with cilantro garnish. 

Green Tip of the Day--Water 7 of 20: Cut your shower short

I love to take long, hot showers. My husband always is barking at me about it, but it is one of my guilty pleasures. However,  each one of us should cut the shower short. Just think how lucky you are to even be able to choose the length of your shower. Some people in this world don’t even have access to running water, much less hot water.

Green Tip of the Day--Water 6 of 20: Go to the car wash

I recently read that it is more environmentally correct to go to a car wash that recycles water, rather than washing at home with the hose. Given that winter is coming, it’s even a better idea for those folks up north.

Green Tip of the Day--Water 5 of 20: Use pasta water to feed plants

I make pasta about once a month. When I do, I use some of the pasta cooking fluid for my sauce. The rest goes through a strainer into a large pot. Once it’s cooled, I use it to feed plants inside the house. Make sure it’s cool first, though; otherwise, your plants could die. What other ways could you use this liquid, maybe to make chicken stock? Thoughts?

Green Tip of the Day--Water 4 of 20: Fix those leaks

Fix your leaks. The average American household uses 400 gallons of water per day, so fixing leaks can you save you money and conserve water. It's a simple solution that can be done in an afternoon. Why not make time Saturday?

Eat in Season Recipe 3: Brussels Sprouts

Part of our eat in season series:
By Mary Rose Roberts
One of my best friends, Sean, recently commented on my Yummy Beet Soup recipe that his mother loves beets but that he hates them. So here’s my second shot at winning him over with one of my eat-in-season recipes showcasing brussels sprouts. Brussels sprouts have gotten a bad rap over the years. Children are known to hate them and adults often avoid them. But the vegetable is a good source of thiamin, riboflavin, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and copper. It also is an excellent source of dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin B6, folate and potassium. And when cooked well, they are a delight to the taste buds.

While my husband prefers to use an iron skillet and add bacon, I like to follow the below recipe that excludes the bacon and is baked instead of fried.

Don’t Hate Brussels Sprouts
1 ½ pounds of Brussels sprouts
3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
¾ teaspoon of kosher or sea salt
½ teaspoon of freshly ground pepper
½ teaspoon of garlic powder
Parchment paper

Preheat to 400 degrees F. Cut off the brown ends of the brussels sprouts, as well as any yellow leaves. In a large bowl, add olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic powder. Toss well. Pour them on a parchment paper-covered baking sheet. Roast them for 25 minutes. Shake the pan and roast for another 15 minutes until crisp on the outside. Season with more salt (depending on your taste) and serve immediately.

Green Tip of the Day--Water 3 of 20: If yellow, let it mellow

If it’s yellow, let it mellow. Not everyone may agree with this tip, but the fact is that the toilet is one of the most water-intensive fixtures in the house. Do you need to flush every time? They didn't in Meet the Fockers! 

Eat in Season Recipe 2: The Beet

Part of our eat in season series:
Beets are cardiovascular friendly root vegetables that contain pigment antioxidants found to protect against coronary artery disease and stroke. They also lower cholesterol in the body and have anti-aging effects. To enjoy the healthful benefits, try our Beet Soup recipe below. Why not serve it at this year’s Thanksgiving table and give thanks to yours and your family’s health with this great recipe?

Healthful and Yummy Beet Soup
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
6 medium beets, peeled and chopped
2 cups vegetable, chicken or beef stock (depending on your diet)
salt and freshly ground pepper
heavy cream (for vegans, use Japansese soft silken tofu and puree it)

Warm olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, stirring in onions and garlic until they are soft but browned or for about 5 minutes. Add beets and cook 1 minute. Stir in stock and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil; cover and simmer until the beets are tender, about 20 to 30 minutes.

Remove from heat and let it cool for about 3 to 5 minutes. Add soup to a food processor and pulse until liquefied. Return soup to saucepan, gently heat through and ladle into bowls. Garnish with a swirl of cream.

Green Tip of the Day--Water 2 of 20: Turn off faucet when brushing

Turn off the tap when brushing your teeth. I’ve read that water comes out of the average faucet at 2.5 gallons per minute. Don’t let all that water head down the drain while you brush. Turn off the faucet after you wet your brush and leave it off until it’s time to rinse.

Eat in Season Recipe 1: The Artichoke

Part of our eat in season series:
The artichoke is a low-calorie vegetable that is an excellent source of fiber, vitamin C, folate and magnesium as well as a rich source of antioxidants. 

Steamed Artichokes
2 whole artichokes
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, sliced
salt and pepper to taste

Clean chokes by setting them in a pot with cold water. Let them soak for 30 minutes. (Put the pot of water aside and use it later to water plants, to clean dishes and more. Just don't waste it by pouring it down the sink.) Next, take a knife and cut the stem evenly so each choke will balance when placed in a pot to cook. Then, snip off the tips of each leaf and spread the inside open to remove the tiny purple leaves near the heart or center of the choke.  

Fill up a pot just enough to cover the chokes half way. Bring to a boil. Place the garlic in the center of each choke and place them stem-side down. Cover the pot with a lid and steam for 20 minutes, until tender. Insert a fork into the heart to check for doneness. When it goes in without any effort, they are done. Set them on a reusable towel-covered plate to remove excess moisture.

Pull off leaves one by one and serve with melted butter.

Green Tip of the Day--Water 1 of 20: Use a shower bucket

The World Bank reports that 80 countries now have water shortages that threaten health and economies while 40% of the world — more than 2 billion people — have no access to clean water or sanitation. At the same time, U.S. states have been fighting over the Colorado River's limited water resources that in the last two decades have been diverted to feed the unsatiated thirst of McMansions and green lawns in desert communicates popping up in southern California and Nevada. To help solve the problem--short of teaching people that McMansions and the creation of fake environments is selfish and uncool-- each of us should do their part to conserve water. For the next 20 days, the Green Tip of the Day will focus on ways each of us can consciously conserve water.

Use a shower bucket: Don’t let water go down the drain as you heat up your shower. Stick a bucket under the faucet and use it in other ways, like watering plants.

Eat in season: Persimmons, try a tasty sweet treat

Next-Gen Green posted a blog about eating in season. One of her picks was persimmons, otherwise known as the Sharon fruit. Here in Maui persimmons are in season. These are great, tasty little fruits that can be used in many ways. One of my favorite ways to eat them is fresh off the tree, peeled and sliced like an apple. I prefer my persimmons a little bit crispy. When persimmons are fully ripe, they turn a deep orange color and are soft to the touch. Ripe persimmons are good for salsa, sauces and dressings.

One of the best places, in Maui, to pick up persimmons is Hashimoto Persimmon Farm. This is a family run business located in Kula. It was started in the 1920’s and has remained in the family to this day. This five-acre farm has around 500 trees which are harvested from October through December. Even though this is a short season, they do offer other persimmon based products that can be ordered and delivered to the mainland USA. If you’ve never eaten a persimmon, these products are a good launch pad into a sweet new world.

Eat November’s in-season fruits/vegetables

Often, we buy what we want at the store without taking into account the season. However, it is better for each of us nutritionally and for the environment at large to reduce our carbon footprint by buying fruits and vegetables that are in season and grown by local farmers. For autumn, try your best to purchase something off the following list. For the next five days, I will post easy healthful recipes that can fool even your pickiest eaters. See how good doing the right thing can feel.

November's list of in-season veggies and fruits
bok choy
brussels sprouts
squash, winter

Ready to break up with your corporate bank? Tomorrow is Bank Transfer Day.

I recently encouraged readers to stop occupying Wall Street and, instead, to put their money in community banks. Now, there is a movement to break up with your corporate bank starting tomorrow, Nov. 5. To help, Green America is offering a free Break Up With Your Mega-Bank Kit, which answers questions frequently asked by consumers who are trying to close their accounts at mega-banks in order to support community development financial institutions instead. In addition, the kit is said to help consumers use all their financial accounts and investments—from credit cards to mutual funds—to support a green economy.

The kit includes a Community Investing Guide, which provides consumers with information to know to invest their money in community development banks, credit unions, loan funds and venture capital funds. An SRI section is a resource for using investments to support a green economy while a Socially Responsible Mutual Fund Performance Chart provides information on the performance of leading mutual funds that use its investments to support a green economy. Finally, there is a Shareholder Activism tool with information shareholders need in order to be active with their shares in supporting social and environmental responsibility at corporations.

Join the movement.

There’s an app… to track food from the farmer to the grocer

Want to track your food from the farmer to the grocer? Then check out HarvestMark’s free Food Traceability App, which lets consumers connect to the farmer and keep a history of the food they’ve traced such as when, where and how it was grown.

After downloading the app, users look for the 16-digit code on HarvestMark fruit, vegetable and poultry brands, then scan or type the code to retrieve information specific to the package of food they’re holding.  Shoppers also can ask questions and give feedback to the people who grow and sell their food using the Talk to the Farmer feature.  In addition, the Food Safety Notification feature updates a food’s safety status in the event of a recall.

HarvestMark sells products across the U.S. and Canada on brands that include chicken from Coleman Natural Petaluma Poultry; berries from Driscoll’s; fruits and vegetables from Fresh Selections by Kroger and Private Selection by Kroger; and produce from Sun World, Del Campo, Alpine Fresh, Borders Melon, Frontera and more.

The app is available for iPhone 4, 3GS and iPad. Shoppers also can trace their fresh food by entering HarvestMark codes at

Banana-walnut, almond-cranberry bread is nutrient packed

No matter how hard I try, I never seem to be able to finish off a bunch of bananas before the last one starts to turn brown. When this happens, I toss it into the freezer. Eventually, I have three or four frozen browned bananas. What better way to use them then to make banana bread?

To kick it up a nutrient notch, I include dried cranberries and three kinds of nuts: almonds, walnuts and black walnuts. Of course, many of the nutrients are cooked out. But I’d like to think a dessert made without the traditional white flour and lots of different nuts is more healthful compared to store-bought brands.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the ingredients:

Dried cranberries: Dried cranberries have been linked to benefits like strengthening the immune system and battling against bacterial and viral infections.

Almonds: Almonds are a rich source of vitamin E, calcium, phosphorous, iron and magnesium. They also contain zinc, selenium, copper and niacin.

Walnuts: Walnuts have antioxidants, which protect cells against damage caused by harmful molecules known as free radicals. The damage can play a role in heart disease and other health conditions.

Black walnuts: Black walnuts are rich in Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, vitamin A, vitamin E and vitamin C. They have been shown to help relieve colic and heartburn.

Nutrient-Packed Banana-Walnut, Almond-Cranberry Bread

1/3 cup melted butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ cups of tapioca flour
¼ cup black walnuts
½ cup of almonds, crushed
¼ cup dried cranberries
3 or 4 ripe bananas, smashed

Preheat the oven to 350°F. With a wooden spoon, mix butter into the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the sugar, egg and vanilla. Add the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix. Add the flour, mix. Add the walnuts, black walnuts and cranberries. Pour mixture into a buttered 4x8 inch loaf pan. Sprinkle the almonds on top. Bake for 1 hour. Cool on a rack. Let it sit for three hours. Remove from pan and slice to serve.