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Sustainable Food

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The sustainable seafood myth

One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish: They are all in trouble if global warming continues unabated.Stroll by any Whole Foods seafood counter and you will see color-coded fish: Green for fully sustainable, yellow for partially sustainable, and red for fish threatened by overfishing or grown on polluting fish farms. Buy a "green" fish and you eat guilt free, confident that you are doing your part to save the ocean and its inhabitants. Put down your fork -- Whole Foods is not telling you the whole story. The dirty little secret of their seafood rating system is that it …

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From nose-to-tail to stem-to-root, tasty ways to reduce food waste now

We waste an enormous amount of food. A recent report by the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) found that worldwide approximately one-third of all the food we produce is lost or wasted. And it's not just a problem for landfills. We could address a significant component of worldwide food demand as well as the need to increase agricultural productivity simply by wasting less food. As it is, 2 percent of U.S. energy production goes toward food that ends up in the trash, according to Jonathan Bloom, author of American Wasteland. And the Environmental Working Group found that wasted food …

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Why is Michelle Obama’s food initiative promoting Walmart?

I winced yesterday when James Gavin, chair of the Partnership for a Healthier America, said he'd like to see Walmart double its U.S. store count. He was speaking at Michelle Obama's event announcing that several retailers will open stores in "food deserts." It was a sort of half-jokey remark, but, still, in a conversation about food in America, the suggestion that Walmart should have an even bigger role in our food system is pretty disturbing. This is a company that already captures 25 percent of grocery sales nationally and more than 50 percent in some metro areas.

It's remarkable the way Walmart has managed to maneuver itself on this issue. If you were to rank the factors that have contributed to the disappearance of neighborhood grocery stores over the last two decades, Walmart would be a pretty formidable contender for the top spot. Today it is garnering heroic headlines for saying it will bring fresh food to places that lack it.

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Is it meaningless to talk about ‘sustainable’ food?

How sustainable is your jar of Ragu tomato sauce? That is an insane question, says self-described “anti-foodie” Frederick Kaufman in his TED Talk. Sustainability, Kaufman suggests, can be sort of like porn: you know it when you see it. But people really want it to be quantifiable. Kaufman describes efforts by a grand consortium of scientists, farmers, agribusiness, and environmentalists to track all the inputs into a product and mush those into one number that would reflect its overall sustainability. It turned out that one of the biggest hang-ups was that the corporate muckety-mucks calling the shots on the project …

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High steaks: Meat eaters' climate impact

Where's the (climate-friendly) beef?The Environmental Working Group (EWG) released the "Meat Eaters Guide to Climate Change + Health" Monday, and it contains a few surprises for climate-conscious eaters. EWG staffers linked up with lifecycle analysis firm CleanMetrics to come up with a nifty set of infographics and guidelines for health- and climate-conscious carnivores. It's part of a recognition that industrialized societies are not about to go veg any time soon, so at least we can make sound judgements about how much and which kind of meat to eat. According to EWG, the top five worst climate culprits are, in order: …

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What a hoe! — and other secrets of an orderly garden

Lookin' sharp!Can you keep a secret? I think I'm in love. The object of my affection is about 5'4", slender, and she's the sharpest tool in the shed. Did I mention she's a redhead? I've taken her out twice now, and we danced around the garden like we were made for each other. I'm talking, of course, about my new stirrup hoe. Equally enamoring is our new low tunnel -- a temporary structure made of curved metal and special fabric that lets light and water in. My partner, Brian, keeps exclaiming, "How did we ever grow anything without a low …

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Great places, great food (and beer): part two

You can't have a great place without great beer.In part one of my musings on food and "great places," I painted a bleak picture of the U.S. food landscape: one in which a handful of companies churn out mountains of low-quality food, competing not to see who can put out the best product, but rather to see who can most deftly and deeply slash costs. The fixation on cost-cutting gives rise to all manner of dysfunctions, including the erasure of skilled food trades like that of the butcher and the rise of a vast, low-wage, low-skill army of food-system workers. …

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Great places, great food: part one

Is this your idea of a great place? Didn't think so.Photo: Robert TerrellDavid Roberts has been sketching out a positive, unifying agenda for progressives under the banner of what he calls "great places." It isn't enough, David argues, to rail against the snarling philistinism of Sarah Palin or engage endlessly in the "decrepit political arguments that dominate U.S. politics." Instead, he urges us to: see things with fresh eyes, to think anew about the unique challenges and opportunities of our historical moment. We're in a time of profound, rapid change and we need an agenda that looks to the future …

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Spice up your sustainable pantry: Look for fair trade seasonings

Your award-winning chili recipe calls for grass-fed beef, organic tomatoes, and locally grown carrots. But what about the cumin? The salt? The chili powder? We greens have been well trained by now to look for fair trade everything, but sustainable spices have received less attention than other make-your-life-better products like chocolate and coffee. But many spices are grown in monocultures that degrade land and encourage loss of biodiversity. Spice farmers are rarely paid a fair price for their products. And the products that make it onto grocery store shelves depend on artificial dyes and flavoring to trick even discerning palates. …

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Critical List: Christie ditches climate initiative; France opens huge solar farm

New Jersey governor Chris Christie has jumped ship from a regional greenhouse gas program, because "it's a failure." The owners of the Fukushima nuclear plant provided regulators with only a one-page memo on its tsunami and earthquake preparedness. One page. A decade ago. In Japan, the country that invented the word “tsunami.” Green tech companies need for everyone to start doing a better job of recycling those rare earth materials that make electronics run. Trust us, you’re never going to refurb that old Dell laptop that doesn't have wireless capabilities. Please just drop it off somewhere they can make use …