Food Choices for Healthy People and a Healthy Planet

All posts tagged Take Action


You probably knew that rainforests are in deep trouble, and that our food choices are part of the problem. Palm oil is a major culprit, since in countries like Malaysia and Indonesia, forests are being cut down to make room for palm oil plantations. Not only the forests, but creatures that live in them are endangered, including orangutans and rhinos.

Not to mention that the palm oil mill pollutes twice as much water as every unit of palm oil produced..

World Wildlife Fund, in its current newsletter, points out “To make noodles “instant,” manufacturers flash-fry them in palm oil to evenly dry the strands—a process that links instant noodles to environmental damage because the production of palm oil is one of the leading drivers of deforestation.”  One more reason to let go of processed foods as much as you possibly can!

There are two eco-labels that might help. WWF supports them, while RAN thinks they’re insufficient. Anyway, here they are. Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil ( began in 2001 when World Wildlife Fund proposed it, and was formally launched in 2003, based in Switzerland.  It’s a pretty complicated consortium of organizations from many countries that sign an agreement to support sustainability in the palm oil supply chain.

Green Palm is a subsidiary of a British oil importer and manufacturer. It has an interesting plan. Enterprises that produce certified sustainable palm oil can register their product with Green Palm. Then it seems they can sell their certificates. Is this like carbon cap and trade credits? Go here and see what you think.

Of course, by reading labels you can also avoid palm oil altogether. This may not be easy, since the stuff is everywhere. According to the Rainforest Action Network it can be found in “ice cream, cookies, crackers, chocolate products, cereals, breakfast bars, cake mixes, doughnuts, potato chips, instant noodles, frozen sweets and meals, baby formula, margarine, and dry and canned soups.” Go here for more info.

Related links:
The Problem with Palm Oil
Norway Cuts Palm Oil Consumption 64% in One Year
How to Stop Buying Palm Oil and Help Save the Orangutans

British recycle poster WWII lg

Actually, hundreds of thousands. This month, Israeli archeologists convened a conference called “The Origins of Recycling” to share their knowledge about the history of clever re-use. Dozens of scholars discussed findings that even before we were homo sapiens, we were reusing materials in Spain, North Africa, Italy, and Israel. A cave near Tel Aviv that was used by pre-humans two hundred thousand years ago (and more) yielded flint chips that had been turned into small blades.

Reporter Ariel David  writes, “A dry pond in Castel di Guido, near Rome, has yielded bone tools used some 300,000 years ago by Neanderthals who hunted or scavenged elephant carcasses there, said Giovanni Boschian, a geologist from the University of Pisa. ‘We find several levels of reuse and recycling,’ he said. ‘The bones were shattered to extract the marrow, then the fragments were shaped into tools, abandoned, and finally reworked to be used again.’”

This confirms findings reported a year ago. Middens (trash dumps) have been archeologists’ gold mines for decades, as they sort through the remains of past civilizations to discover how people lived. Meanwhile, Americans are throwing away not only food but also tons of other stuff. Don’t you wonder what future explorers will think about our landfills?

Forget the Paleo diet (It’s nonsense, anyway). Embrace your inner Paleo recycler!

Related links:
History of Recycling
Cavemen Recycled? Evidence Suggests Prehistoric Ancestors Repurposed Everyday Objects- Huffington Post

bee opencage 800 4591Time magazine recently ran a cover story on “A World without Bees,” and Scientific American, in its current issue devoted to food, includes an article on the dangers we face because bees, on which our food supply depends, are dying out in unprecedented numbers.

This is not a new issue – we’ve been warned about it for years, and the New York Times reported six months ago that the collapse of bee colonies has accelerated. Reporter Michael Wines spoke to a Montana beekeeper, who said this of his bees: “They looked so healthy last spring,” said Bill Dahle, 50, who owns Big Sky Honey in Fairview, Mont. “We were so proud of them. Then, about the first of September, they started to fall on their face, to die like crazy. We’ve been doing this 30 years, and we’ve never experienced this kind of loss before.”

A class of pesticides called neonicotinoids may be to blame. They persist for weeks or months after being applied to crops to keep unwanted insects away, and bees can apparently overdose on them. The European Union recently banned neonics (starting in December, for 2 years during study). And then there are all the other chemicals we pour into our environment (to the profit of the chemical industry).

Like it or not, we’re in danger, too. As I’ve explained before, bees are now being packed into trucks and driven hundreds of miles from one farm or orchard to another to do their crucial pollinating. These are desperate measures. What you can do: Don’t use chemicals on your lawn or garden!

Related links:
Marla Spivak: Why bees are disappearing | Video on
Colony collapse disorder – Wikipedia

farmers' market lg

Did you know there are over 8,000 farmers’ markets in the U.S.? That’s according to the USDA  and that number represents over 3,000 new ones since 2008, when there were about 5,000. There are over 750 just in California – no surprise, really, since we have such great weather for growing — but New York is not far behind. You can search the directory here  and search by location, what they sell, and what kinds of payment are accepted.

That’s 8,000 reasons to have a week dedicated to the farmers who feed us.

In the East Bay, you can find farmers’ markets in Walnut Creek, Orinda, Moraga, Lafayette, Rossmoor, Pleasant Hill, Concord, and two Kaiser locations – and that’s just within a ten-mile radius.

So grab your cloth bags, sunglasses, and sunscreen, and head out to the nearest market to get ready for the coming week.

To learn more about what groups are working to heal our food system, check out the following groups at their websites:

National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition,

Environmental Working Group,

National Farm-to-School Network,

National Young Farmers Coalition,

Sustainable Table,

and the USDA’s Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education program.


Did you know that over three thousand (3,000+) non-food substances are legally added to food in the U.S.? Manufacturers can add chemicals that preserve, color, sweeten, and flavor your food, as well as “improve” its texture or other quality deemed desirable by marketing departments. Oh yes, and add artificial vitamins and minerals that processing removed.

We’ve bought this stuff for decades. I shudder to think of the cake mixes I learned to use as a child. And a huge ratio of our food is still processed.

So why are chemicals used in our food banned in other countries? Dyes, brominated vegetable oil (which I wrote about in January), growth hormones given to animals, arsenic, and more, are banned in Europe. See this article from Dr. Mercola.

We’ve reached some kind of dystopia when Russia bans American food, in this case, meat, because of a feed ingredient called ractopamine. Since we export half a billion dollars worth of beef and pork to Russia, this is not a small item. The USDA asked Russia to postpone the requirement, and the New York Times suggested it was retaliation for American actions on Russian human rights violations.

Michale Pollan’s recent book Cooked urges us to prepare our own food. Pollan is a shameless, enthusiastic promoter of meat, speaking and writing cheerily about slaughtering and butchering, but he does have a point: we should be preparing more of our own food. That’s one way to get us out of some dangers posed by industrial food.

PS. Don’t you wonder if the manufacturers eat their own products?

Related links:
Revealed: Shocking list of popular foods and drinks readily available in U.S. grocery stores that are BANNED in other countries because their chemicals are deemed ‘dangerous’
80 percent of US packaged foods may contain dangerous chemicals

The Green Foodprint was recently selected for review by Publishers Weekly, one of the most distinguished and respected sources for book reviews in the industry. For their expert opinion, click here and read the glowing review they gave The Green Foodprint.