Category Archives: Sustainable Living

Fighting for Clean Air in Oklahoma ~ An Interview with Lisa Sharp

Lisa Sharp is a freelance writer, social media marketer and environmental activist, living in a small town in Oklahoma. She has a blog called Retro Housewife Goes Green and runs a website called Green Oklahoma.  Lisa and I have been online friends for a few years, which in internet time equates to forever.  So when I saw Lisa talking about a local cement plant, air pollution, and the subsequent health effects on Facebook, I told her I’d love to interview her for the Moms Clean Air Force

How did you become interested in and first learn about the pollution coming from the local cement plant?

Around 1992, I would have been five, the cement plant tried to get a permit to burn hazardous waste and my grandmother was very active in fighting it. They won that fight so I didn’t think about it much until I became more active in the environmental community. A few years ago I was at a sustainability conference listening to Earl Hatley and I ended up talking to him about the cement plant and it turned out he had been apart of the fight against the plant in 1992. The things he told me sparked my interest and I started researching cement plant pollution more. 

Please give us a summary of the environmental problems caused by the cement plant.  What pollutants are released? Are current emissions standards being exceeded?

After the cement plant lost the battle to get a hazardous waste burning permit they started burning tires. As of a few years ago there were only nine wet-process cement plants burning tires in the U.S. Seven of the nine are in violation of the pollution limits, set by the Clear Air Act. Three are high-priority violators. One of these three plants is the plant in my town. In 2005 they violated the pollution limits more than 1,000 times in one year. They were only fined $321,000. Last I checked they were currently in violation as well.

Some of the toxins the plant puts off include ammonia, benzene, certain glycol ethers, chromium, diethanolamine, dioxin and dioxin-like compounds, ethylene glycol, lead, manganese, mercury, sulfuric acid, and zinc compounds. Cement plants are the third largest contributor of mercury emissions. 

How has your own health and/or your family’s health influenced your environmental activism?

I personally have asthma, as do my mom and brother. My mom’s asthma was very severe when I was young and we were living 0.7 miles from the plant. While many things played a role in her asthma being so bad, we believe one of those things was the cement. Since they have moved from that house, out of town, she has been much better. My asthma was better when living outside of town as well and once I moved back to town, now 2.5 miles from the plant, my asthma has gotten worse. 

I also have many friends that are quite young but already are battling cancer. My town’s cancer rates are above the state average, which is above the national average. I’m tired of seeing my friends sick and dying and knowing there is this plant pumping tons of cancer causing chemicals into our air.

Has the pollution from the cement plant been linked to local health issues?

Officially, no. But as I said our cancer rates are high. I also believe our autoimmune illness rate is high but haven’t been able to research this yet. Many doctors in town have commented on Ada’s cancer rate and citizens are starting to also question this. Benzene is one of the toxins that the cement plant puts off in large amounts and it’s been shown to cause cancer so it’s hard not to question a link. And benzene isn’t the only cancer causing chemical the plant puts off.

Have your local politicians become involved in this issue?

No. There is a city council member in Tulsa that is fighting the cement plant there on burning hazardous waste but that is the only politician I know of. And he is not being well received by others in Tulsa. That will be a very big fight.

What are you hoping will happen? What would be your ideal outcome?

Many people have this idea that I’m trying to get the cement plant closed down, but that’s not the case. I know they are one of the largest employers in my town and that it was cost the city jobs and money that we can’t afford to lose. Also at this time we need cement, I don’t want to close our plant just to end up with another city polluted to make the cement we were making. 

I would love to see the plant follow the current laws and for the laws to be made stronger. I also would like the burning of tires and hazardous waste by cement plants made illegal. This is where a lot of the emissions come from so this would cut them a lot. More scrubbers and other improvements that would help pull out the toxics would be nice as well. The biggest thing for me though, is to first get them to follow the law.

What advice would you give to someone who is interested in becoming an environmental activist?

Don’t do it! Just kidding. It is a very hard job and one that is often thankless but it can also be the most rewarding job you can do. You don’t have to take on a big company like I’m doing. I started by joining my local recycling coalition, I’m currently a board member. Simple things like that can really help your community be a better place. 

More about cement plants from Lisa:

I’d like to thank Lisa for sharing her fight for clean air with the Moms Clean Air Force.  As Lisa said, her goal is to have the cement plant follow current emission standards and she thinks emissions standards need to be strengthened. 

Please join the Moms Clean Air Force in our fight to strengthen clean air standards and protect our children’s health.

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800,000 Voices for Clean Air

Three years ago, I remember having a “light bulb moment.”  I was sitting in my environmental law class, the first class in my environmental education program (my second MS).  I was taking notes in black pen on my repurposed notebook, learning about how a bill becomes a law and listening to my professor talk about the comment period.

I remember thinking that I had never learned this before.  I’m sure at some point in my education I was supposed to learn it, but to be honest I was much more interested in things like studying the cartilaginous skeleton of sharks, adding insect species to my entomology collection, tracing the evolution of placental viviparity, and the genetics of Przewalski’s horse.  I kid you not, those were my passions and college.  I didn’t see how US law was connected to the natural world.  But then suddenly, years later, I got it.

I could do all I want on my own to protect everything I love about the natural world.  I could stop dying my hair, make my own cleaners and read every environmental book since Silent Spring, but that wasn’t enough.  If I wanted to affect real change on a large-scale, I had to get politically active and advocate for legally protecting the environment.  I had to speak up and make sure others were listening.

Now, I am so proud to play a role in the environmental movement at the political level.  I’m thrilled to be one of over 800,000 people who made their voices heard and contacted the EPA about the new Mercury and Air Toxics Rule.  I hope that my writing for the Moms Clean Air Force encouraged even a small fraction of those 800,000 people to speak up for the health of our atmosphere and the air that our children breathe.  Thank you to everyone who contacted the EPA, and congratulations on taking a stand on protecting our environment. 

The EPA is going to consider all the comments and release the final Mercury and Air Toxics Rule by November 16.  This doesn’t, however, mean that our work is done.  It’s only the beginning of the road to clean air.

I was thinking about that class in environmental law today, and how I should email my professor to thank her for starting me down this path.  As a teacher myself, I know how much she’ll appreciate hearing from me.

Please join the Moms Clean Air Force to help us fight for clean air for our kids. Thank you!

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Instagram

I recently tweeted something about how I don’t like those Instagram photos.  Then I promptly downloaded (is that the right word?) the Instagram ap onto my new iPhone (oh yeah, I retired my 9 year old phone) and fell in love with it.  Here are some of my favorites from the last few days.

I haven’t quite figured out how to search out people to follow yet, so if you follow me, I’ll follow you back! My username is farmdaughter.

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Hood Health

During a recent Moms Clean Air Force twitter chat: African American Asthma Rates and What Moms Can Do About It (listen to a related MCAF podcast here) , I was intrigued to learn about C’BS ALife Allah and his Hood Health Handbook. It truly is a small world, because when I read C’BS ALife Allah’s tweets about community outreach, I realized he was talking about my area.  Sure enough, Hood Health is based here in Connecticut! I’m so excited to share an interview with C’BS ALife Allah today!

Can you please tell me a little bit about what Hood Health is?

Hood Health is acknowledging that there are health disparities that are rooted in race. This includes, yet is not limited to, issues of poverty, environment, access to service and dissemination of information. In acknowledging all of the above what Hood Health seeks to do is identify these disparities and repackage the delivery of the message so that those who are in most need of the message actually receive it and are able to comprehend it.

How did you get the idea for Hood Health?

The idea for Hood Health came about from my own experiences. I grew up with asthma. When in high school I got off of dairy and was able to go on and become all state in Track and Field. I saw that one element change made a huge difference. I started to then see what else could I do to reach my own personal potential. In college I became exposed to the vegan movement yet it was clearly from a White perspective. Though I could see some issues that definitely addressed health in the hood I also still saw racial issues of racism and entitlement not being dealt with. I also saw that the presentation, for all intents and purposes, was too ‘corny’ for my peers. They don’t want to eat form of tofu or granola yet they would down a good plate of rice and bean or savory soup.

How did your parents and/or children influence your choice to start Hood Health?

My mother and father both grew up on the farm. My father is 89 and grew up in Kentucky. My mother grew up picking cotton in Arizona. They were very conscious of the difference in the quality of farm food vs the fast food that started to be pushed on the youth in the 80’s. I was fortunate to taste farm grown vegetables while growing up. It made me reflect on how many of my own peers have never tasted farm grown veggies or meat so they have no frame of reference to compare the junk that they are eating nowadays to. They instilled in me quality in what we put in our body. Also they both passed down to me countless home remedies that definitely work.

My son reminds me to not skimp on quality. He reminds me that we have to pass this knowledge down. We can’t afford to let corporations, big business, etc. destroy the traditional centers of health and wellness. They don’t have our best interests at heart.

How has the community received Hood Health? Can you tell me about some successes?

I am constantly humbled by the response that it has gotten. Even from its inception it was blessed. Dick Gregory, the noteworthy Black activist and health advocate agreed to write our intro when he found out what the book was about. He realized that the message of health had to be repackaged for a new generation. It also made me realize that most people do not have this information. When we clean ourselves up and review this stuff all of the time we tend to start to think of it as ‘common sense’ yet this is not the case at all. Thus the ones who have the information forget the art of speaking to the people. As a result of our push we are at the point of setting up several Hood Health conferences next year in Oakland, Houston, and Boston. The people are the one who made that decision.

What would you tell someone who wants to get involved in community health or environmental activism but doesn’t know where to begin?

That is such a multi-faceted question because it is so different from community to community. There is definitely a lot of room for people to develop programs and reach the people. Of course I say that our book is a good place to start. In addition start with people who are doing some of the work. Find the farmer’s market and build with the farmers. Do a search on environmental racism and see if there are organizations in your town or area. Sometimes one of the simplest things that we can do is get information out. Merge health information with whatever you are doing and wherever we go whether it is a party, barbershop, etc.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Health is a natural right that shouldn’t be denied due to any type of disparity. The greatest open secret is that the tools to improve our health and wellness have always been right in our grasp. It just depends on a change of perspective and people coming together.

Please join the Moms Clean Air Force to help us fight for clean air for our kids. We need your voice! If you haven’t already, please email the EPA to show your support of the new Mercury and Air Toxics rule. Thank you!

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Green Moms Carnival – Food Preservation

Welcome to the July Green Moms Carnival! I’m so excited to be hosting the carnival especially with Food Preservation as the topic because I think that food is one of the first ways that many moms choose to “go green,” by opting to eat seasonally and locally.  Once you’ve found your farmers you can learn to save money and enjoy that produce year-round by buying in bulk and preserving it.   Please take the time to visit each post!

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Food Preservation Basics

Tiffany from Nature Moms Blog gives a nice summary of different types of food preservation, along with some tips for getting started in her post Bringing Food Preservation Back to Our Kitchens.

Katy of Non-Toxic Kids (and my Moms Clean Air Force teammate) shares 3 Ways to Preserve the Summer Bounty.  Berry picking is a great way to teach your children where their food comes from and get some great pictures of ruby stained faces.  Katy also suggests pesto (yum!) and baked goods as ways to preserve.

Laura of Pug in the Kitchen shares tips for preserving food with little ones underfoot in her post Preservation: Pickles, Jelly and Sanity.  I’ve found that my canning has dropped way off (as in, come to a dead stop) since I had Joshua because big pots of boiling and a baby who wouldn’t let me put him down were not a combination I wanted last summer. 

Michelle of Green Bean Chronicles writes about canning, freezing, dehydrating, fermenting and not preserving in her post There is More Than One Way To Skin A… at The Green Phone Booth.

Canning

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There are so many different ways to preserve food, but many people think of canning first.  I have loved seeing the resurgence of canning in the past few years.  It’s hip to can! Can you believe it? 

Deanna of Crunchy Chicken, one of my long-time favorite blogs, contributed some fantastic canning recipes.  Just the titles make my mouth water!

Lisa from Condo Blues and Lazy Budget Chef writes about her first canning experience in I Canned Jam and Nobody Died.  There are so many people who are afraid of canning, but once they try it they realize how easy it can be! It’s blueberry jam, by the way.

Mary Clare from In Women We Trust totals up the return on a $20 seed investment in her post Can Yourself – Grow Money, Grow Friends.  You’ll be shocked!

Anna from Green Talk shows us how she has worked on Greening the Tomato Sauce Process.  There are great pictures to walk you through the steps of using a tomato press.

Linda of Citizen Green shares her tried and true recipe for marinara sauce in her post Use Your Garden Tomatoes in this Sauce.  It’s versatile and can be canned or frozen.

For those of us with a pressure canner and nerves of steel, Jena from Married to the Farm tells us about Pressure Canning Green Beans.  Don’t be scared!

I want to also share a few of my own favorite canning recipes from here at Farmer’s Daughter:

Freezing

Photo Credit: Laura from A Pug in the Kitchen

Lisa from Condo Blues and Lazy Budget Chef shares step-by-step tips on How to Freeze Fresh Tomatoes, for those of us who are a little too scared of the pressure canner.

Zoie at TouchstoneZ shares various ways to make organic strawberries from the local farmer’s market last and finds making freezer jam is even sweeter with her kids and a little reggae on the side in her post We’re Jamming.

Anna from Green Talk walks through the steps of Cooking Pumpkin and Squash for Easy Winter Storage.  She reminds us not to forget the seeds!

Karen from Best of Mother Earth explains that while she doesn’t do a lot of preserving, she does cook from scratch and makes sure not to waste the leftovers in her post How Do You Preserve Food?

Emily from Live Renewed shares a step-by-step tutorial for freezing fruit, along with a neat tip for pitting cherries, in her post Preserving Summer’s Bounty – Freezing Berries.

Lori of Groovy Green Livin shares how to find, freeze and thaw blueberries, as well as their health benefits in Preserve Summer: How To Freeze Blueberries.

Diane from Big Green Purse Blog shares a step-by-step tutorial on how to freeze tomato sauce in her post Make Your Own Delicious, Organic Tomato Sauce. Here’s How.

I love to freeze sweet corn for use in soups, stews and cornbread throughout the year. 

Drying/Dehydrating

Deanna of Crunchy Chicken shares Drying Herbs for Idiots.

Beth of My Plastic-free Life shows us how to make dried apple slices and fruit leather in her post Dry Summer Produce to Keep Through Winter Plastic Free

Mama Bear runs through a pro/con list of dehydrating in her post Kitchen Adventure: Drying Strawberries.   She outlines how to use the oven to dehydrate food.

Cold Storage

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Jena from Married to the Farm shows us how to store carrots throughout the winter in her post How to Store Carrots, and Save them for Seed

Dairy

Deanna of Crunchy Chicken shares:

Marci of Down on the Farm has two grass-fed Jersey milk cows and is in my opinion an expert cheesemaker! Check out her how-to’s:

Do you know what kefir is? I didn’t until I read the following two submissions. Now I want to try some! I have one question, how do you pronounce “kefir”?

Micaela of Mindful Momma‘s husband John shares how he makes homemade kefir in his guest post Kefir Madness.  Can I just say how cool it is that there’s a DAD joining the Green Moms Carnival?

Jen of Puddle Jumping shares her very low-maintenance kefir making system in her post Easy Homemade (Refrigerator) Kefir. I’ve gotta get me some of that kefir.

Baking in Bulk

Betsy from Eco-Novice shares her recipes for baking in bulk and freezing, which means she can have homemade food in a pinch!

Miscellaneous

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Deanna of Crunchy Chicken shares Homemade Rosolio and Candied Orange Peels.

Brenna of Almost All the Truth shows us how to reduce food waste and eat more of the green leafies with her post Getting Greens with Organic and Fresh Green Smoothies.

Phew! What a huge carnival! There were a grand total of 45 submissions! (Unless I counted wrong, my eyes are tired from all this typing!)  I want to send a special welcome to our new participants Marci, Zoie, Brenna and Jena.  Jena is a VERY new mom to her son Kent. Congrats Jena!

Thank you everyone for joining the Green Moms Carnival! Next month’s topic is Back To School and will be hosted by Micaela of Mindful Momma. The deadline is August 4 so get writing!

Please join in by sharing a link (or two, or a few) to your favorite food preservation post.

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Filed under Adventures, Food, Living from Scratch, Local Agriculture, Recipes, Sustainable Living

Call for Participation!

Two big events this week:

MomsCleanAirForce             

First, join @MomsCAF with special guests @FarmDaughter and @Non_Toxic_Kids for MCAF Twitter Chat: Finding Time for Activism on Wednesday, July 13, 2011 at 9:00 PM EST.  Prizes include three copes of The Family Table, a Beaba Feeding Set donated by The Soft Landing and a Diva Cup donated by Diva International!  Follow the hashtag #MCAF.  Register here.

Then, I’m hosting the July Green Moms Carnival with the topic of FOOD PRESERVATION!!! Recipes, reflections, tips and tutorials all welcome! Send me your post by Thursday 7/14 to be included! Carnival goes live here on Monday 7/18.

Two great groups of moms, but we welcome everyone to join in!

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Celebrating 365

Years, that is!

Cross-posted at Moms Clean Air Force

My family’s farm, Rose Orchards, is celebrating 365 years of continuous farming by the Rose family.  We’re having a great big celebration on July 23, with lots of events and activities for family fun.

I love to think about what life was like in those early days, back in the mid-1600’s.  Life was surely much harder, but families were much more self-sufficient and lived sustainably.  I imagine that their biggest concerns were to grow, harvest and put by enough food, chop enough firewood, and make enough warm clothes to last throughout the long, cold New England winter.  Growing crops, raising animals, canning, sewing, knitting, crocheting, other handcrafts, fermenting, drying food, cooking and baking were means of survival, not the spare-time hobbies of today. 

Was it less or more stressful to live back then? I often wonder, as I can see both sides.  On one hand, they didn’t have to worry about climate change, polluted air, polluted water, depletion of fossil fuels, endangered species, population control, and other contemporary environmental concerns.  On the other hand, there was a constant need to provide for yourself and your family, prepare for cold weather, and the aspects of life beyond control: drought, or floods, illnesses, injuries, infection, never quite knowing if you’ve split enough wood or put away enough hay.  Though my ancestors’ daily activities were much more strongly tied to their survival than my own, I think their lives were harder and maybe more stressful, in a different way, than my present-day experience.

As my family gears up to celebrate 365 years of Rose family farming, I find myself so thankful to have grown up in this place.  I’m thankful to each of the thirteen generations for keeping the farm going, reinventing it so it can survive and be passed down.  I love to listen to stories from my parents and grandparents, and I miss talking to my great-grandmother.

And so, when I think about what role I will play in keeping the farm alive for another generation, I know it’s different but still important.  I no longer live on the farm, though it’s a few minutes away and we visit often.  I don’t spend my days working on the farm or contribute to the family business in any measurable way.  But yet, I love it.  I am connected to that land in a way that many people can’t understand. 

I fight for family farms with my dollars, my votes, and my blog.  I know, admire, and support my local farmers.  I frequent farmer’s markets.  I contact my representatives when I see threats to family farms, and I vote accordingly.  I am an environmental activist, in essence, because I love family farms and I see that they are hit particularly hard by environmental problems like pollution of our air, water and soil.  If I stand up to polluters and demand that my representatives do the same, then I am standing up for family farms.

Please join the Moms Clean Air Force to help us fight for clean air for our kids. We need your voice! If you haven’t already, please email the EPA to show your support of the new Mercury and Air Toxics rule. Thank you!

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