Pressure Canners and Simple Living

Pressure canners and pressure cookers seem to be everywhere I look now. Canning in particular seems like an obvious way to store the goodness of a haul from the local farmer’s market through the winter. I picture a pantry full of applesauce, carrots, squash, green beans, squash and more. From what I hear, tomatoes and pressure canners don’t quite get along, due largely to the acidity. But I’ll take an expert’s opinion on that.

Living in California, we get a pretty steady flow of seasonal fruits and vegetables, so I don’t know if I would really use one. But, I clearly need to do a little reading up on pressure canners.

I’m interested to know - does anyone have and use a pressure canner? If you do, how do you like it? What vegetables work best? What tips can you share?

Organic food firm adopts wool packaging

Wool packaging to replace styrofoam?

In what might be considered a pretty amazing achievement, UK organic food delivery firm Abel & Cole has replaced its polystyrene-insulated packaging with a sheep’s wool packaging called Woolcool.

Abel & Cole, which makes approximately 25,000 deliveries to customers every week, has begun using Woolcool packaging boxes across its range of chilled and perishable goods, including meat, poultry, fish and dairy products.

Woolcool is made from British sheep wool that has been washed, scoured and needle-felted to produce a fleecy insulation material. The fabric is cut into strips and sealed into recyclable food-grade LDPE, which is micro-perforated so that the wool can breathe, allowing for a hygroscopic cooling effect.

Once used by customers, Abel & Cole’s Woolcool boxes are collected by Abel & Cole’s delivery drivers, and can be reused. They are also biodegradable and recyclable. Abel & Cole claimed the switch would save the equivalent of 87 40-foot trailers of polystyrene packaging every year.

Woolcool can keep contents below a temperature of five degrees centigrade for at least 24 hours, which makes it more effective than polystyrene.

Innovations like this, especially those that might reduce our reliance on such inexplicably packaging such as styroforam, are so flat-out cool. I’m so encouraged by efforts like this. Not to mention other biodegradable packaging that I see these days.

How do you suggest we light a fire underneath other companies to explore using this?

U2 360 Tour and Carbon Offsets

U2\'s 360 Tour Stage Design

U2, arguably one of the world’s very biggest bands and tour attractions, kicked off a massive world tour last month in Europe in support of their recent release, No Line on the Horizon. Not content with revisiting their previous stage designs, U2 is performing in what they call “360″, where the stage is in the middle of the venue, with huge video screens and speakers sit above the stage. This creates a sort of “democracy of perspective”, where everyone in the venue should get an equally excellent view.

But lugging all of this equipment around the world comes at an environmental cost.

The good news? U2 isn’t just any rock band - they do have a conscience, and see the value in making a difference in every way.

According to the New York Times, U2 has approached the giant carbon costs of transporting their cutting-edge stage design around the world on their current 18-month tour:

Perching above on four spindly legs will be a steel colossus bearing the lighting, speakers, cables and a giant conical video screen. Looking not unlike an alien sea monster, it is 50 meters high, or about 165 feet, weighs 390 tons and packs away into 180 trucks. (U2 is buying carbon offsets, but no one embarks on a rock tour with a clear eco-conscience.)

I’ll check in with more details as I get them, but this is certainly good news. I just wonder why the band or the U2 PR machine haven’t made that more public.

Buy No Line on the Horizon!

Earth Hour - March 28th

March 28th is the day we do Earth Hour. What is Earth Hour?

All you have to do to Vote Earth is turn your lights out for one hour tonight, Saturday, March 28 from 8:30pm to 9:30pm local time, in your city. Your light switch is your vote!

This is a genuine no-brainer. Go here to sign up, pledge to be part of Earth Hour.

Go here to learn more, including what events are taking place around the world.

Don’t miss it! Enjoy the dark and silence :)

San Antonio - Green City

Friends of ours just moved to San Antonio, which gave me the idea to check them out for their green-ness. Having visited there as a teenager, while visiting family friends in Austin, I have a fond recollection. Everyone knows it for its river walk and champion NBA team, the Spurs. But what would a green family do, should they go to live or even visit?

For starters, they have a Whole Foods (always a plus!). Sustainlane.com had some other points to make about San Antonio:

* San Antonio currently has no USDA certified farmer’s market. (Local food isn’t quite San Antonio’s strong suit)

* Water use is superb! The city relies on groundwater from the Edwards Aquifer, which is replenished by rainwater. Although the city had only six inches of rain in 2007, it never went into emergency conservation mode.

* While San Antonio ranks number one in housing affordability, there is no policy to control urban sprawl.

* In SustainLane’s 2006 survey, green building was the city’s lowest scoring area. The good news is that it has since adopted a green building resolution mandating that all new city facilities achieve LEED silver status.

If you’re interested in seeing about the viability, here is a link for some San Antonio Jobs

I had no idea, before researching, that San Antonio is the 2nd largest city in Texas and 7th largest city in the United States!

So there you have it! If my friends can report back about the sudden growth in farmer’s markets, I’ll be sure to pass it along!

Chicago Museum Reopens Green Home Exhibit

For those visiting the Chicago area, check this out: A well-known Chicago museum just reopened its newly remodeled green home.

The Museum of Science and Industry’s briefly closed (for renovation) their environmentally friendly home exhibit.

The Smart Home exhibit closed Jan. 4 but reopened March 19. The home is on museum grounds and originally opened in May 2008. More than 100,000 people toured the original exhibit. The new display runs through Jan. 3.

The goal of the Chicago exhibit is to show visitors that saving energy and conserving resources are within reach of everyone. The redesign updates the 2,500-square-foot home with the latest in green technology, including an eco-friendly baby nursery and a garage workshop.

Here is a link to the Museum of Science and Industry for more information!

Organic Gardening

The White House is set to have it’s first organic vegetable garden since the Roosevelt administration, the economy (and resulting inflation) is causing people to rethink the way they spend their food budget and the increase in home food gardens are reported as on the rise. And then there is the simple, “back to easier times” joy of getting your hands in the dirt, nurturing and watching something grow and visiting a vegetable garden every afternoon to pick what to serve for dinner. Doesn’t that sound great?

Organic home gardening is on the rise and here to stay. And we are jumping on the bandwagon. What better way to use the super-rich soil we get from our composter?

Within that, we are borrow some necessary elements from my in-laws to get us started. Or so I thought. They come from a different era, and have used products that we know to be if not outright unsafe, at least less-than-desirable for exposure to our kids, pets, selves and our overall environment.

At the same time, I found a site called Saferbrand.com that sells organic gardening products, as well as organic pest control products. Let’s see how they match up.

Fertilizer: conventional fertilizers are full of chemicals that can leach into not only food that you grow, but lawns that you walk on. Organic alternatives can provide long-term money-savings, and increased vitamin and mineral content in your soil, among other benefits.

I found an organic fertilizer on this site that will fit our needs perfectly. Let’s just say that finding something like this at your local hardware store isn’t likely.

Bug spray/pest control: non-organic options are full of man made chemicals and poisons. Organic pest control products are based on safe alternatives to the damaging ones found in their conventional counterparts. Knowing that they’re safe is just part of the benefit.

Saferbrand.com offers an insect-killing soap that is based on safe and natural ingredients, and will give us both peace of mind and bug-free plants and vegetables!

Let’s just say that my in-laws are not growing an organic garden. Although, they have been interested in learning how we live our lives in a green way. I’m hopeful that we can help them learn more about organic gardening!

For more information, you really should check our Saferbrand.com. A particularly good place to start is their Gardening 101 section.

Also, If you are serious about going “Green” in your yard, do not miss Designing Spaces’ host Jodi Dombrowski and Woodstream Corp’s Karolyn Warfel in this very informative 5-minute segment.

Wish us luck as we embark on our organic gardening mission!

Green Photo Printing

Really interesting news in the Green photography realm: Ecovisual Communications has launched the nation’s first 100% Green Custom Photo “Lab”

Greenphotoprint.com is a new photo-printing firm, headed by industry veteran Rick Colson, and is the first to offer an exclusive combination of totally green, museum-quality, archival photographic print services.

“We’re bringing new green solutions to an industry that still uses toxic, petroleum-based, silver-based and tree-derived materials. Our new print solutions use papers made from 100% recycled cotton, VOC-free water-based inks, and mounting substrates made from soy and 100% post-consumer recycled paper,” says Colson. He continues, “I wouldn’t hesitate to hang one of our healthy prints over an infant’s crib as soon as it comes out of the printer.”

Wordpress Theme Update For simple + green

Here’s a question: I’m looking to possibly update the theme for simple + green. This blog is run via Wordpress.

Within that, something like this looks pretty cool: Custom WordPress Theme Software.

Does anyone have any experience with a company like that one, or feedback about them?

The custom work they do is pretty cool. Again, I’m looking at a new look and feel for simple + green. Any thoughts would be appreciated!

Green Jobs for California Youths

California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has unveiled a number of new Green jobs for youths. What is this all about?

The governor on Monday announced the new California Green Corps, a statewide effort to train young adults between 16 and 24 years old to work in the state’s fledgling green-tech industry.

“It’s the kind of program President Obama envisioned when he put together the economic stimulus package. It’s all about jobs, jobs, jobs,” Schwarzenegger said after touring a solar-installation certificate program at a Sacramento community college.

The idea is to create a 20-month pilot program in at least 10 locations to train at least 1,000 people for jobs such as solar-panel installation and sheet-metal manufacturing for wind turbines, Schwarzenegger said.

In particular, demand for solar panel installation professionals has outstripped supply for awhile now. I haven’t read through the fine details of the program, but creating jobs that fit such a Green niche is obviously impressive.

It might pay to wait another year before getting any sense of success for this program.