Skunkfunk eco-conscious clothing line is hip and unique

Skunkfunk is an eco-conscious clothier's line of convertible fashions for women and men. New flexibility has been sewn into the mix, so that garments can be converted and adapted for multiple contexts, temperatures and looks. Such innovative features make Skunkfunk among the smartest clothes available today. The Skunkfunk line is a reflection of the Basque countryside yet transitions easily into the international urban landscape. Each piece is designed with environmental awareness: Textiles are carefully chosen with a high consideration of their impact on the environment. Fabrics often used include recycled polyester, organic cotton and Lyocell.

Meatless Monday Recipe: Baked Broccoli Macaroni & Cheese

Since it's January and freezing outside, I was in need of some comfort food this weekend.  When it comes to comfort food, you can't go wrong with baked macaroni and cheese, right?  I know it's not the healthiest food in the world. But jazzing it up with broccoli can make it more "adult"and be a place where you can sneak some veggies past a picky eater.

Being vegan, I'm also including the meat- and dairy free-recipe below.

#MeatlessMonday Baked Broccoli Macaroni & Cheese

1 lb noodles of your choice cooked per directions on box
1/2 cup flour
3 cups milk
1/3 cup butter
1/2 lb grated Monterrey Jack cheese
1/2 lb grated Cheddar cheese
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
2 cups chopped broccoli

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a saucepan whisk 1/2 cup flour with 1 cup milk until smooth. Add 1/3 cup butter, remaining 2 cups milk and spices. Bring to a boil.

Add shredded cheeses and stir frequently until melted and bubbly. Combine cheese sauce, noodles, and broccoli. Salt and pepper to taste. Pour into casserole dish. Top with pepper and paprika if desired. Bake uncovered for 25 minutes.

Serves 4.

Vegan #MeatlessMonday Baked Broccoli Macaroni & Cheese 
In a sauce pan whisk together:
1 1/4 cups non-dairy milk
1 1/4 cups nutritional yeast flakes
2 tbl yellow miso
1 tbl yellow mustard
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp turmeric

Combine cheese sauce, noodles, broccoli, and 1 container of pureed tofu. Bring to a boil. Salt and pepper to taste. Top with vegan parmesan and veggie cheese shreds if desired. Bake in casserole dish at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.

Serves 4.

Green Apple spring 2012 workout collection unveiled

Pure Style Fitness introduced the Green Apple Spring 2012 Collection. The core of this collection starts with a choice of a fitted yoga flare or a relaxed lounge pant. All of its clothes are made of nearly 100% organic material. Green Apple uses organic bamboo and organic cotton along with spandex in the production of their clothes. The natural make-up of bamboo allows for breathability and removal of sweat from the skin, ideal to wear while working out. Organic bamboo also blocks UVA rays. The use of organic cotton is safer for the environment as it reduces the use of carcinogenic chemicals typically found in conventional cotton growth.

France-based Ton Savon offers chemical-free, organic soaps

Ton Savon, a manufacturer of bath and beauty products from the South of France, introduced Pure Provence Organic soap certified by the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) to the public for the first time.

A fragrance-free soap joins the Pure Provence line of natural and organic soaps which were named a Best New Product Finalist at the 2011 NYIGF in the natural/organic category. This year Pure Provence Organic returns with the new unscented addition and the line has been updated with the recently-earned organic certification from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Ton Savon is the only French soap manufacturer to earn that classification.

Pure Provence soaps are 100% natural and crafted in the South of France free of any preservatives, colorants, or chemicals. The scented versions are blended with essential oils or natural fragrances developed by the legendary perfumers of Grasse, France, to deliver bliss-inducing scents including Acai Cranberry, Pomegranate Passion Fruit, Moroccan Mint, Grapefruit, Cactus Pear, and Lavender.

Next-Gen Green Giveaway: Israeli artist turns scraps into one-of-a-kind jewelry

Efrat Weiss
Eco-jeweler Efrat Weiss lives in Rehovot, a small city near Tel-Aviv, Israel. Her business name, efratim, can be understood as her plural name or as the Hebrew combination of the words Efrat and jewelry. I found her work on and immediately loved how she used non-traditional, upcycled materials to create her works. I virtually sat down with her to discuss how, for the past four years, she turned scraps and found items into something beautiful: earrings, necklaces and bracelets.

The best part? One lucky Next-Gen Green reader will win a piece of jewelry! How you may ask? By commenting below or by going to Next-Gen Green’s Facebook using the secret phrase, “Thanks Next-Gen Green. I love Efrat’s upcycled jewelry!”

What is your creative process?
In my creative process, I turn every day reminders into treasures that you can enjoy anytime. A piece of a tea package becomes a wonderful pair of earrings. An ad that was in my mailbox wakes up as a delicate pendant on a chain. I love to play with new ideas and re-purposed elements, and the outcome is always surprising. After choosing and cutting the paper, I decorate it by adding my personal touch to it, and then seal and glaze it by hand. Most of my jewelry is one of a kind because as a buyer, too, I enjoy knowing that a certain item is waiting just for me, and there isn't another one like it anywhere.  

Black & White Necklace
What is your inspiration?
I just love everything that is mid-20th century (50s, 60s, and 70s): music, colors, graphic and interior design and fashion. My art is strongly influenced by it.

What type of recycled materials do you use?
My main material is, of course, paper. Some of the inlays of the jewelry are made of beautiful high-quality paper from my great paper collection, and some are made of paper that I find all around. It’s like little pieces of life: train tickets, an old calendar, newspaper, barcodes and all kinds of packages like tea, toothpaste, cereal and more are used. I also use glass beads, semi-precious stones, brass findings, Swarovski crystals, lace flowers, fabric ribbons and re-used materials, such as cinnamon grains, coffee beans, seashells and buttons.
Lilian Necklaces

Why is using recycled materials important?
Using recycled materials is important because we only have one planet. We must be responsible and treat it with respect. As consumers, we should consider who we give our money to. We have the opportunity to make a difference. It's in our hands. Today, we are not only buyers. We care about the story behind the product: fair trade, using re-purposed local materials, shopping handmade and more.  

Reversible Paper Earrings
What is the essence of your pieces?
The words "everyday treasures" sum up the essence of the efratim's spirit: to create cheerful, joyful pieces of jewelry you can enjoy anywhere anytime. It's affordable, handmade and user-friendly.  I believe we should enjoy life's little and sometimes forgotten reminders, because sometimes it's the small things that make a big difference.

Find Efrat’s work on Etsy and join her Facebook page. You also can e-mail her directly. Please support this great artist!

Giveaway rules: Must be 18 to enter. Not valid in Canada. Names will be printed and placed in a sealed box and picked at random/pure chance of winning. The giveaway ends on 12 a.m. Feb. 2, 2012. Any giveaway worth $600 must be reported to the IRS. 

Who won last Friday's Next-Gen Green Giveaway?

And the winner of Anna Fischer Wulff’s book and handmade accessory is Brandy Davis, who left a comment on our Facebook page. Look for our next giveaway to be published in an hour! 

There’s an allergy app for that No. 3: The G-Free Diet

The View personality Elisabeth Hasselbeck shares her experiences about living gluten-free. This app offers tips on how to find a gluten-free menu, create a gluten-free shopping list, lists of foods to avoid and how to stay gluten-free while dining away from the home. This app is a supplemental material to her book, The G-Free Diet.  It is compatible with iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. It is free to download the app.

There’s an allergy app for that No. 4: Find Me Gluten Free app

The Find Me Gluten Free app lists restaurants ratings and reviews based on how gluten-friendly the businesses are in the area. This app is designed for travelers to find restaurants with a complete gluten-free menu, gluten-free ingredients or a restaurant that will cater to gluten-free customers. Businesses are tagged with special gluten-free features they offer, such as pizza, pasta or bread. It is  Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. It is free to download the app.

TOMS gets ready to launch One for One ballet flats

In 2006, American traveler Blake Mycoskie wanted to help shoeless children across the globe, so he created TOMS Shoes, a company that would match every pair of shoes purchased with a pair of new shoes given to a child in need.  The program is dubbed One for One. While I have been a fan of the company, I have to admit, I was not a big fan of their shoe styles.

So it was with great joy that I received an e-mail from the company announcing ballet flats will be arriving in spring. I was so happy I almost kept it to myself to make sure I could get a pair, until my friend Jessica announced she, too, had heard the good news. To ensure you receive a pair before they inevitably sell out, sign up for their newsletter. You will receive a notice when they are launched and will be the first to purchase a pair.

I have my eye on  gray, black, pink and animal pattern ones. What about you?

Meatless Monday Recipe: Cheater Pad Thai

What's better than a delicious dinner that is healthful and nutritious?  How about a recipe that's also simple and quick?

I recently came across a recipe called Cheater Pad Thai in the cookbook Happy Herbivore. Now, I crave it constantly. What I particularly love about it is that I always have suitable ingredients on hand.

Even better, it's never the same delicious experience twice in my kitchen.

When I come across a recipe I like, I use it more as a guide than a how-to.  Don't let specifics hold you back.  If you open your cupboard and don't have rice noodles on hand, use spelt spaghetti noodles, wheat soba noodles or regular old linguine.  Have bell peppers and carrots you need to use up?  Throw them in.  Adding what is in your fridge can increase the nutrition value. Plus, the added color will be enticing.

#Meatlessmonday Cheater Pad Thai Sauce
2 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
2 tbsp warm water
1 tbsp peanut butter (chunky)
1/2 tbsp sriracha or chili paste (or more to taste)
1/2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp ginger powder
1/2 package of fresh or frozen stir fry vegetables
1/2 cups bean sprouts

Wisk together ingredients. Combine sauce with rice noodles (cooked as package directs). Add bean sprouts and combine with fresh or frozen stir fry veggies.

This recipe makes two large servings. Double the recipe for a family of four.

Learn more about Anna by reading our recent post about her new children's book.

Bonus giveaway for Cape Girardeau, Mo., dog lovers only!

Some might say I spoil my mutt, Bella. But you have to meet her to realize she is the sweetest, most loving and well-behaved dog. And especially being childless, I can’t help but shower her with love and treat her once in awhile to something special.

Some of the stores that helped me spoil her in Chicago were hard to come by in my new hometown. So in early January, I was excited to see the opening of a new store, Mississippi Mutts, where I could spend a few bucks on the dog while also accessing natural food products and toys that were good for her and the environment. 

I recently spoke with the owner, Sherry Jennings, about the store. And in return, she is offering two free giveaways—a free self-service dog wash and a dozen dog bakery cookies. As you can see from the picture on the left, Bella loves the biscuits and so will your mutt.

How do you win? Comment below or on Next-Gen Green’s Facebook page with the secret phase: “Thanks Next-Gen Green. My mutt deserves healthful treats!” You have one week to do it, so vote today. While you’re online, please like Next-Gen Green on Facebook as well as Mississippi Mutt's Facebook page.

Why did you decide to open a business that offers natural dog food?
Many dog owners, such as myself, want to do everything they can to increase the lifespan and quality of life for their beloved family members.  Choosing a natural or holistic dog food aids in disease prevention and the overall health of the dog.  

How are your dog biscuits made?
Our dog biscuits are made from all human grade ingredients and are preservative free.  We try to carry a variety of fun shapes and flavors of biscuits to make them fun for the dog. We even have low-fat biscuits for our dog customers who are watching their figures.

What other organic products do you offer?
We also carry a large variety of organic packaged treats from Northern Biscuit, Fruitables, Wagatha's and Darford.  In addition, we offer Fruitables Digestive, Weight Loss Supplements and Jones Natural Chews.

Why is it important to provide dog toys and goods made of recycled materials?
It helps to preserve the earth's natural resources and reduces the amount of energy needed to produce the items. Producing pet items from recycled materials also reduces air and water pollution, which in turn provides a healthier environment for us and our dogs to live in.

Does your self-dog wash conserve water?
Yes, because the elevated tubs and regulated water temperature make it easier and faster to manage the dog bathing process, therefore, conserving water.

Giveaway rules: Must be 18 to enter. Not valid in Canada. Names will be printed and placed in a sealed box and picked at random/pure chance of winning. The giveaway ends on 12 a.m. Jan. 28, 2012. Any giveaway worth $600 must be reported to the IRS.

Next-Gen Green Giveaway: Children's book author offers free book, handmade accessory to one lucky reader

Anna Fischer Wulff
Finding inspiration starts from within for Anna Fischer Wulff, a Michigan City, Ind.-based follower of Next-Gen Green. Anna is a creative savant, whose art shows up through cooking, gardening and writing. In fact, she recently published her first children’s book. I virtually sat down with her to discuss her book and what inspired her to write it. As a bonus, she has offered to give away a copy of the book along with a handmade accessory made of recycled materials that represents one of its characters, Pockett.

How do you win the book and accessory? You must go to Next-Gen Green's Facebook page or comment below using the secret phrase: “Thanks Next-Gen Green. I want Anna’s book!" You have one week to do it, so do it today!

You just wrote your first children's book. What was your motivation?
The Book!
It happened when my sister and her husband announced they were pregnant with twins.  Two days later, I just started typing on a whim. Thirty minutes later, "Pockett - The Tooth Fairy's Buddy" was born.  I immediately emailed the story to my sister and brother-in-law and that was the end of it...or so I thought.  My brother-in-law said my story was one of the best children's stories he's ever read. He insisted I work on having it published.  So I guess my motivation was my nephew, niece, and feeling like I had to prove to someone new in my family, who didn't know me, that I can follow through with something that I started.

You will be offering an accessory for the book to family, friends and one NGG reader. What is it made of?
Pockett isn't necessary to the story but to me he has always been a tangible part of the story from its conception. It will be a great place for your child to stash their tooth when they lose it and then place it under the pillow for the tooth fairy.  I am sewing Pocketts myself out of repurposed fabrics, such as old jeans, blankets, shirts and more.  I think this is neat and meaningful because it means, like snowflakes, that no two Pocketts will be the same.

Anna's vegan salad.
You go meatless and buy organic. In what ways has this changed you or your health?
I went vegan as a culinary challenge around four years ago.  I didn't necessarily intend to remain vegan but my body just felt lighter. It wasn’t lighter in a not stepping on the scale way. But how you feel when stress leaves your body, like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. At the same time, I learned that I was allergic to dairy. So I was feeling better when I cut out dairy. Buying organic just comes naturally when you’re vegan.  Most of the items I buy only come in organic versions.  When it comes to produce, I do my best to buy organic.  I love farmers’ markets.

In what ways do you turn trash into art?
Well, for starters, my husband is a hoarder so if there is anything I can do with something he brings home I will use it.  I have turned buckets, giant pipes, wash basins and more into planters.  I really like my old window that I spray-painted with mirror paint and hung against the house.

Why is it important to tap into the creative spirit to develop a piece of work?
For me, I think this actually works in reverse.  If I make a conscience effort to create something and then try to tap into my creative spirit nothing will happen.  It's like knowing exactly what kind of shoes you want, but you'll never find them if you're looking for them.  In my case, it's more like my creative spirit taps me on the shoulder, and I just create until I'm finished—literally in one sitting.  If I stop, I won't ever finish it. And no matter how hard I've tried, I absolutely cannot create the same thing twice.

What is your inspiration?
I'm not really sure I can pinpoint my inspiration.  My brain thinks too much and my heart feels too much.  Sometimes whatever is going on in my brain or heart just all gets to be too much and unintentionally comes pouring out in the form of a drawing, a recipe, a garden, or, in this case, a children's story.

Contact Anna to learn more about ordering a book or follow her on her blog.

Giveaway rules: Must be 18 to enter. Not valid in Canada. Names will be printed and placed in a sealed box and picked at random/pure chance of winning. The giveaway ends on 12 a.m. Jan. 26, 2012. Any giveaway worth $600 must be reported to the IRS.

A penny an ounce to fight heart attacks?

A study in the latest edition of Health Affairs has found that a national penny an ounce excise tax on sugar sweetened beverages (SSBs) would prevent 95,000 coronary heart events, 8,000 strokes, 2.4 million diabetes person-years and 26,000 premature deaths while avoiding more than $17 billion in medical costs between 2010 and 2020. SSBs are a group of drinks that have added artificial sweeteners including soda, sweetened iced teas, sports drinks, energy drinks, fruit juices and flavored water.

The study, by researchers at Columbia University, the University of San Francisco and Virginia Tech, found that a penny an ounce SSB excise tax would decrease consumption of these beverages among 25-64 year olds by 15%. The average American consumes approximately 70,000 “empty calories” from SSBs each year.

Farmer-Owned Organic Valley adds products, Wisconsin jobs in 2012

Organic Valley, the nation’s largest cooperative of organic farmers, announced their 2011 year-end results, which include bringing on 212 new farmers in regions such as Pennsylvania, Vermont and California for 12% member growth across the country, increasing sales from $620 million to $715 million for 15.3% growth. The company also donated more than $2.2 million to nonprofit organizations dedicated to advancing organic food and farming—from community food banks to farmer initiatives to advocacy for mandatory labeling of genetically modified organisms in food.

In terms of other tangible metrics for success, Organic Valley achieved sustainability and job creation goals in 2011, such as beginning installation of wind turbines to offset 100% of its distribution center’s current electricity use, on-farm renewable energy projects and other sustainability initiatives, and undergoing a state-of-the-art green-designed headquarters expansion in La Farge, Wis., that is expected to add 84 new jobs this year. In 2011 alone, the farmer-owned cooperative brought 79 new jobs to Vernon County, Wis., bringing total employees up to 620.

The past year also saw the launch of the latest of Organic Valley’s regional milks, New York Fresh. Like its regional counterparts, New York Fresh milk ensures fewer miles from farm to table and supports local economies, including the 115 New York farm families that produce it, according to the company. Organic Valley also launched the first organic flavored half-and-half and soy creamers, providing an organic, fair-trade alternative to complement beverages and recipes.

GoingGreen: Eco Tourism || Low Impact Travel || Advice and Tips

Hello travelers, (physical and virtual).

My name is Adam Leaders and I am the founder of a new website YIPPYtrip that helps people find bar/restaurant specials, hotel deals and transportation discounts in Costa Rica.

Every day, I am introduced to new and exciting activities, restaurants, and lodging. Some more eco-conscious than others and others that go above and beyond the call for environment friendly eco-tourism.

I would like to share those places/activities/businesses with you as we help build awareness for their cause and applaud them for their valiant effort in making the travel industry have less of an impact on the environment and more sustainable.

To start, check out Koki Beach in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica video that shows that they care about the environment by building their restaurant almost completely from recycled materials. Not wanting to negatively impact their surroundings, the site is 100% removable and built around the nature that was present before they arrived, including trees and bushes.

Adam Leaders
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There’s an allergy app for that No. 2: CeliacFeed

CeliacFeed is an app that can be used to locate gluten-free restaurants and products. The Academy of Nutrition and Dieticians found the interactive map highlights the nearest restaurant with gluten-free products and interfaces with GPS systems on phones. Users can post photos with their recommendations and reviews of gluten-free restaurants. It is compatible with iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. It is free to download the app.

U.S. is fat and getting fatter

There has not been significant change in the prevalence of obesity in the U.S., with data from 2009-2010 indicating that about one in three adults and one in six children and teens are obese; however, there have been increases in certain demographics, according to two studies being published by JAMA. 

Katherine M. Flegal, Ph.D., Cynthia L. Ogden, Ph.D., M.R.P., and colleagues with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Hyattsville, Md., analyzed data from the 2009-2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) to determine rates of obesity in the U.S. In the analysis for prevalence among adults, rates of obesity (defined as a body mass index [BMI] of 30 or greater) were compared with data from 1999-2008. NHANES includes measured heights and weights for 5,926 adult men and women from a nationally representative sample of the U.S. population in 2009-2010 and for 22,847 men and women in 1999-2008.

In 2009-2010, the age-adjusted average BMI was 28.7 for men and women. The researchers found that overall, the age-adjusted obesity prevalence was 35.7%. Among men, the prevalence was 35.5%, and within race/ethnicity groups, prevalence ranged from 36.2% among non-Hispanic white men to 38.8% among non-Hispanic black men. There were significant increases in obesity for men over the period 1999-2000 through 2009-2010.

For women, the prevalence of obesity was 35.8%, and the range was from 32.2% among non-Hispanic white women to 58.5% among non-Hispanic black women. Over the period from 1999 through 2010, obesity showed no significant increase among women overall, but increases were statistically significant for non-Hispanic black women and Mexican American women. For both men and women, the most recent two years (2009-2010) did not differ significantly from the previous six years (2003-2008).

The age-adjusted prevalence of overweight and obesity combined (BMI 25 or greater) was 68.8% overall, 73.9% among men, and 63.7% among women.

"Obesity prevalence shows little change over the past 12 years, although the data are consistent with the possibility of slight increases," the authors write. "Many efforts both at the national level and at state and local levels focus on reducing childhood obesity. Yet results from NHANES indicate that the prevalence of childhood obesity in the United States remains unchanged at approximately 17 percent; although increases in obesity prevalence may he occurring among males."

There’s an allergy app for that No. 1: AllergyEatsMobile

The AllergyEatsMobile app offers gluten-free menus, allergen lists, certifications, nutrition info, links to dining tips and other outside resources. The Academy of Nutrition and Dieticians found the app’s restaurant database was comprehensive, including both large chains and local listings. Users can search by zip code or GPS location and covers many different allergies, such as peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, eggs, wheat, gluten, fish, shellfish, sesame and soy. It’s compatible with iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. Download the app. 

Meatless Monday Recipe: Rice-Crust Healthful Garden Pizza

My husband used to insist on making his own meaty, pre-made packaged pie on pizza night. But here’s a meatless pizza recipe that he loves and, in fact, everyone in your household will enjoy—even without the fatty Italian sausage, pepperoni or salty tomato paste contaminated by BPA that usually dons tasty pies. This gluten-free, Mediterranean-style pizza will not only tantalize your taste buds, but it also will give the body a nutritional boost. In fact, here’s a list of the ingredients and how good each of them are for you.

Garlic: This food has calcium, phosphorus, selenium, vitamin C, vitamin B6 and manganese. The recipe calls for three cloves, which equals 30 calories.

Kalamata olives: This food gives you a small boost in your iron intake -- each serving provides 2% to 3% of the daily recommended intake. Iron promotes adequate levels of oxygen in the body. The recipe calls for 12 olives, which is 70 calories.

Mushrooms: This food has protein, thiamin, vitamin B6, folate, magnesium, zinc, manganese, dietary fiber, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, phosphorus, potassium, copper and selenium. This recipe calls for ½ cup, which equals 10 calories.

Olive oil: This food may help lower your risk of heart disease by improving related risk factors. For instance, it may lower your total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels. Some research shows it may benefit insulin levels and blood sugar control. This recipe calls for 6 teaspoons, which equals 220 calories.

Red onion: This food has dietary fiber, vitamin B6, folate, potassium and manganese, and is an excellent source of vitamin C. This recipe calls for ¼ cup for about 10 calories.

Rice-based crust: This food has vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin and iron. Each slice has 100 calories.

Spinach: This food has niacin, zinc, dietary fiber, protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B6, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper and manganese. This recipe calls for 1 cup, which is 15 calories.

Tomato: This food is low in sodium and is a good source of vitamin E, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, potassium and manganese. This recipe calls for one tomato, which is 40 calories.

Parmesan cheese: This food has phosphorus, protein and calcium. This recipe calls for ½ cup, which is 216 calories.

#MeatlessMonday Rice-Crust Healthful Garden Pizza
1 package King Arthur pizza crust mix
½ cup hand-shredded Parmesan cheese (has no preservatives this way. Vegan cheese as a substitute.) 
1 tomato, chopped
1 cup spinach, chopped
¼ cup red onion, chopped
6 teaspoons olive oil
½ cup baby bella mushrooms, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
Pizza stone

Follow directions on King Arthur pizza crust. The package makes two crusts. Place the two balls of dough on parchment paper, large enough to form each into a circle. Take one of the halves, wrap it in the paper, wrap it in plastic wrap and place in the freezer. Pour olive oil over the working dough and use your fingers to form it into a thin circle. Let it rise for 30 minutes.

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees with pizza stone inside for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, place pizza crust with the parchment paper onto the pizza stone and cook for 12 minutes. Meanwhile, chop all the ingredients. Shred the cheese using a cheese grater. To make it easier, spray the grater with cooking spray.

Remove crust. Drizzle with olive oil. In layers, add garlic, mushrooms, onions, spinach and tomatos. Add some of the cheese. Add olives. Add rest of the cheese.

Bake for another 6-10 minutes, until the cheese is browned around the edges.

Makes 8 pieces. 

Next-Gen Green Giveaway: Mosaic eco-artist uses trash to create treasures

Compliments of: Ryan J. Bolger Imagery  

One of our Chicago-based Facebook fans, Colleen Miltenberger, creates beautiful handmade mosaics using recycled goods. I recently virtually sat down with Colleen to discuss her art and motivation to create it using others trash. As a bonus, she has offered to create a custom 5"x5" mosaic tile (pictured below right) as a free gift to one lucky Next-Gen Green reader. How do you win? You must go to Next-Gen Green's Facebook page, go to Colleen's album on Facebook or comment below using the secret phrase: “Thanks Next-Gen Green. I love Colleen’s recycled art!” You have one week to do it, so do it today!

How long have you been making mosaics?
I've been making mosaics since 2008. My friend Collette makes beautiful mosaics and got me started by sending me some of her scrap glass, a few simple how-to’s and then I was on my way.

What materials do you use?
I mainly use stained glass. But every now and then I will incorporate bits of broken jewelry, "findings" like buttons, keys, beads, ball chain, and even scrap pieces of metal/wire. In fact, I work for a hook and wire forming manufacturer and will snag scrap pieces. I also use decorative glass baubles like the ones you can put in vases for accent.

I also re-use glass and plastic jars (of all types and sizes) as well as plastic containers from butter, carry-out, etc. for storing my supplies. My mom saves her empty dog treat containers, and they work perfect because they are clear, plastic and lightweight, which makes it easy to find what I need.

How often do you buy new versus finding material for your art?
It's rare that I buy anything new. I buy scrap glass by the pound from a local stained glass maker outside of Michigan City, Ind. I'll pick up used or even broken costume jewelry from second-hand stores and yard sales. My friends often save such things for me that they'd otherwise throw away.

My grandmother passed away last year, and I acquired a lot of her costume jewelry, nothing too fancy. I plan to incorporate that into future pieces, maybe as a tribute piece to her.

What about the material used as a backdrop for the mosaics?
It’s the same with what I mosaic upon. I'll repair and seal cracked clay flower pots, pick up used, small furniture at second-hand stores and yard sales and take things from friends that they were planning on throwing away. If it's broken and repairable, I'll fix it. I also recently started making mosaics on leftover ceramic bath tiles that were extras from jobs.

What is your inspiration?
My inspiration is hard to say. The majority of the mosaics I make I give as gifts, and I give gifts that are suited to the person I make them for, so I guess I am inspired by my friends and their personalities. Sometimes, I can't explain, ideas just pop into my head and I go to work.

Why is it important for people to reuse instead of toss away materials?
I think that it's always important for people to take a second look at anything they're planning to throw away and give a little thought to how that item can be re-purposed. I also think that everyone knows someone in their circle of friends that can find another use for "trash" and, at the very least, offer it to that person (like me). My first furniture piece was the ugliest, two tiered 60's style end table. With the help of only a screwdriver, and a little motivation, I removed the top tier, glassed the top of the bottom half, and now have a beautiful piece that receives compliments from everyone who stops by. I even used the smaller, top tier, then topped it with durable, non-slippery glass (called vitreous glass). My best friend uses it as a bathroom sink step stool for her small kids. Simply put, with a little imagination, anything can be turned into something beautiful. I like to turn other people's trash into a treasure.

E-mail Colleen if you want to buy a piece of her art or commission her to develop a one-of-a-kind piece.

Giveaway rules: Must be 18 to enter. Not valid in Canada. Names will be printed and placed in a sealed box and picked at random/pure chance of winning. The giveaway ends on 12 a.m. Jan. 19, 2012. Any giveaway worth $600 must be reported to the IRS.

Do you know about the new Illinois Electronics Disposal Law?

It’s a new year. While you try to keep up with countless resolutions, you also need to make yourself aware of the 200+ new laws that took effect January 1st in Illinois. One law that’s likely to affect nearly every Illinois resident at some point is the new electronics disposal law. Done are the days of tossing your outdated computer, TV, or even CDs in the trash bin and calling it a day. Residents now are required to recycle their electronics under state law.

The new law carries a fine of $25 for first time offenders and $50 for repeat offenders. But it’s about more than the government trying to make a buck. The goal of the new law is to divert up to 60 million pounds of electronics from landfills in 2013. Electronics sit in landfills and contain many dangerous harmful chemicals that can be released into the environment.

•           Donate – What’s old to you can be gold to someone less fortunate. Even if your electronics aren’t working they can often be easily fixed and updated for a second life of use by someone who couldn’t otherwise afford them. Search the web for The National Cristina Foundation, The Assistive Technology Exchange Network and Computers for Schools to find out how you can part ways with your old, seemingly useless object while contributing to a worthwhile cause

•           Recycle – Many communities offer drop-off bins and recycling programs where you can drop off or arrange for pick up of your old electronics. The community will make sure your electronics are properly recycled for parts or re-use. Check with local communities’ websites to find drop-off locations.

•           Sell – You’d be surprised what people are willing to pay for electronics you may view as worthless. Often old electronics contain valuable parts or can become collectable items over the years. Put your electronics on sites like Craigslist or eBay or even hold a garage sale and see what people are willing to pay.
Source: SRV Network

Compost better with made in the U.S.A. compost bin

Ucan, a sustainable products company, launched the Untrash Can and the Untrash Bags for residential food recycling programs, which are spreading across the U.S. In some cities, such kitchen compost bins are being supplied by cities and waste agencies. The Untrash Can is made in the U.S. from a minimum of 50% recycled plastic, with a handle that folds away, interior bag holder and lid design that lets consumers empty the contents with one hand.

The Untrash Bag is made with Mirel, a plant-based material that has the durability and strength of plastic but is 100% compostable and certified by the Biodegradable Products Institute.

The Untrash Can is available for $24.99. The Untrash Bags are 3-gallon biodegradable trash bags that are sold in boxes of 18, 3-gallon compostable trash bags for $5.99 and 10, 13-gallon compostable bags for $8.99.

Will light bulb, battery recycling machine be coming to an Ikea near you?

Revend Recycling Ltd, a UK corporation, launched a reverse vending recycling machine for the collection and recycling of domestic light bulbs and domestic batteries. The patented reVend reverse vending recycling machine has an add-on unit, as an option, for the collection and recycling of domestic batteries, which contain valuable and scarce natural mineral resources.

The company recently concluded a supply agreement with IKEA of Sweden to install a significant number of machines in several IKEA stores throughout Europe, including the UK, Germany and Denmark. IKEA is the first to install the unique light bulb reverse vending recycling technology.

Meatless Monday Recipe: Spinach Pesto Pasta with Zucchini and Roasted Red Peppers

Have you made a commitment yet to try out Meatless Mondays, a movement to skip meat one day a week to help your health and to help the environment? My carnivore husband was a bit reluctant to try the idea at first. So to get him started, I asked that he join me with at least eating a meatless meal every Monday night or maybe twice a week.  

Two weeks in a row, we’ve had great meals that he has enjoyed, starting with a pasta dish featuring spinach pesto and vegetables. This recipe calls for hand-grated Parmesan cheese. Store grated usually has added preservatives, so skip that and do it yourself for a more healthful option. Doing it yourself also saves money.

If your loved one isn’t a fan of spinach, I recommend telling them after they have finished their meal what is in it. This dish is so tasty even the most finicky of eaters will come back for seconds!

#MeatlessMonday Spinach Pesto Pasta with Zucchini and Roasted Red Peppers
21/2 cups of organic spinach
3 garlic cloves (less or more based on taste)
2 tablespoons of walnuts
4 tablespoons roasted red peppers
1 pound zucchini, sliced
6 tablespoons of olive oil (or to taste)
8 ounces of rice pasta
1/3 cup hand-grated Parmesan cheese
Sea salt
Black pepper

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add salt. Add pasta when at a boil.

Put 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet and heat over medium. After a few minutes, add the sliced zucchini and sprinkle it was salt and pepper. Cook it about 10-15 minutes until tender.

In a food processor, combine salt, garlic, walnuts, and about 4 tablespoons of the olive oil. Process, scrapping down the side to ensure it is mixed well.

Drain the pasta, saving 1/3 cup of the liquid in a measuring cup. Add pasta to the skillet and toss with zucchini, pesto, Parmesan and pepper. If it is dry, add a bit of the pasta liquid at little at a time until it has an even consistency. Mix it fast, to keep the spinach warm and raw not cooked, which will result in a higher nutrient level per bite.

Plate the pasta and add a tablespoon of red peppers on top.

Give up meat, only one day a week, for Meatless Mondays

Ready to give up meat one day a week?  In collaboration with Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health, nonprofit Meatless Monday launched The Monday Campaigns, which encourages people to skip meat on Mondays to reduce their risk of chronic preventable conditions like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. The nonprofit believes it also can help reduce people’s carbon footprint and save resources, such as fresh water and fossil fuel. At the same time, they are recommending grass-fed, hormone-free, locally-raised options whenever possible.

To support this movement, Next-Gen Green will be posting a Meatless Monday Meal recipe every Monday at noon. Look for one today that will be packed with nutrients and also super yummy!

Health Benefits to Meatless Mondays
Limit Cancer Risk: Studies suggest that diets high in fruits and vegetables may reduce cancer risk. Both red and processed meat consumption are associated with colon cancer.

Reduce Heart Disease: Recent data from a Harvard University study found that replacing saturated fat-rich foods (for example, meat and full fat dairy) with foods that are rich in polyunsaturated fat (for example, vegetable oils, nuts and seeds) reduces the risk of heart disease by 19%

Fight Diabetes: Research suggests that higher consumption of red and processed meat increase the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Curb Obesity: People on low-meat or vegetarian diets have significantly lower body weights and body mass indices. A recent study from Imperial College London also found that reducing overall meat consumption can prevent long-term weight gain.

Live Longer: Red and processed meat consumption is associated with modest increases in total mortality, cancer mortality and cardiovascular disease mortality.

Improve your diet: Consuming beans or peas results in higher intakes of fiber, protein, folate, zinc, iron and magnesium with lower intakes of saturated fat and total fat.

Environmental Benefits to Meatless Mondays
Reduce your carbon footprint: The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization estimates the meat industry generates nearly one-fifth of the man-made greenhouse gas emissions that are accelerating climate change worldwide, which is more than transportation. 

Minimize water usage: The water needs of livestock are far above those of vegetables or grains. An estimated 1,800 to 2,500 gallons of water go into a single pound of beef. Soy tofu produced in California requires 220 gallons of water per pound.

Help reduce fossil fuel dependence: On average, about 40 calories of fossil fuel energy go into every calorie of feed lot beef in the U.S. Compare this to the 2.2 calories of fossil fuel energy needed to produce one calorie of plant-based protein. 

Schrenk family vacation made safer with packed water filter

As I write this, I'm at an all-inclusive resort on Mexico's "Mayan Riviera," south of Cancun. It's our biggest vacation as a family of four, and the first trip to Mexico for all of us. Even though we are at a resort that caters to gringos, I'm pretty sure you're still not supposed to drink the water. In fact, because it is an all-inclusive resort, the mini-fridges are well stocked with bottles of filtered water emblazoned with the resort’s logo. Indeed, the bottles are ubiquitous at many of the restaurants and bars throughout the resort.

Fortunately, I recently bought a MSR MiniWorks EX water filter for backpacking and remembered to bring it on this trip in order to filter tap water. Not only will I have clean water for the trip, but I won’t have to resort to opening, using and tossing out plastic water bottles.

I shudder to think of how many water bottles are tossed out each day by the hundreds of guests at this resort. But I'm happy to have brought my filter to take that number down a bit.

Our next stop is a two-night stay at Chichen Itza, where the hotel might not have a proliferation of water bottles included in the price of the stay, so I'll be even happier to have my filter.

Buy it at Amazon...

Green Tip of the Day: Use less electricity, save water.

Power plants use thousands of gallons of water to cool. Do your part to conserve power, and you’re indirectly saving water, too!

NYIT students take their inventions to build recycling center in Costa Rica

Nine architecture students will bring their creative designs to Costa Rica to develop a recycling and education center – after thousands of people voted on Facebook in a competition hosted by New York Institute of Technology. Professors from NYIT’s School of Architecture and Design initially selected two winning teams and kept their decision confidential until after the public voting process. They praised the teams – Duality and MCD Costa Rica – for "simple and elegant ideas, good planning, and clear presentations."

Duality’s design focused on two elements: the recycling center and the education facility. The team also addressed the dry season and wet season of Nosara by developing a process to collect rainwater and reduce heat build-up in the facility by using reflective roofing materials, as well as high ceilings, and a ventilation opening in the roof.

MCD Costa Rica planned a design that would cause little impact on the Earth, placing an elongated building along the landscape. They proposed using trees that were previously cut down as well as recycled plastic bottles to construct the building. Their plan minimizes deforestation and also creates a covered educational space.

The NYIT architecture students also will refine their plans with Sarah Meyland, associate professor of environmental technology, and students from the School of Engineering and Computing Sciences during the spring semester. The project is part of the ongoing student-led architecture build (sLAB) initiative at NYIT’s School of Architecture and Design. It will involve the NYIT community service chapters of Freedom by Design and Engineers Without Borders. Veritas University in San Jose, Costa Rica will serve as the local partner university for the project.

Follow the project on Facebook and tell them sent you!