When the teacher becomes a student: Motivated to action at the Richland Recycles Education Day

By Mary Pat Baldauf

Compost Day 3

Every May, Richland County hosts a Richland Recycles Education Day at the State Fairgrounds. Local environmental groups devise a short lesson and staff a table, which groups of invited students visit to learn more. In years past, I’ve led my own lesson, but limited now by the volume of my voice, I instead offered to assist as needed as a volunteer. I was assigned to the  Atlas Organics booth, where I learned more about composting and was even motivated to start an office vermi-composting bin.

I started composting at home about six years ago when I transitioned to a more plant-based way of eating. Using more veggies and fruits led to fruit flies in my house, and when I complained about it, one of my sustainability sidekicks recommended that I get it out of the trash via a compost bin. I’m what they call a lazy composter; I just toss my food scraps in the bin and add browns every so often, but I rarely turn it or add water. And neither of my bins are in the sun, so I don’t monitor the temperature either. According to Atlas educator Leslie Rodgers, that’s okay. I’m probably missing out on some great soil amendment material, but I’m diverting my food waste, and that is a good thing.Compost Day 2

For the event, Leslie brought a mini vermi-composting bin to explain the compost process to students. I was quite taken with the process and decided to make my own. I once tried to compost at work, but it created some issues with fruit flies and bugs. I wasn’t actually composting, but saving my fruit scraps to take to my home compost bin, thus the problem.

Compost Day 1

 

By the end of the day, I left with a new appreciation for composting as well as a scoop of red wiggler worms to start my own. I put them in a coffee tumbler and kept them inside until I could get them home. Three days later, the worms are still in the container on my night stand. I have good intentions to start a bin, but until I do, I’ll keep them moist and fed.

 

(To Be Continued)

 

Ways to Become More Resilient

By Mary Pat Baldauf

In my world, resilience is a new buzz word. Usually used in connection with climate change, resilience is defined as the ability of a system or community to survive disruption and to anticipate, adapt, and flourish in the face of change. In simpler terms, it’s the ability to bounce back from adversity, whether it be climate change, disasters or other unfortunate incidents.

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It’s not only important for communities, but also for us as individuals to be resilient. Resilient people may encounter dark moods, bad days and adversity, but they have strategies to help them bounce back and move on.

From Psychology Today, here are ten tips to help build your personal resiliency:

  1. Get adequate restorative sleep. Poor sleep patterns and stress go hand-in-hand.
  2. Engage in adequate physical exercise daily. Exercise is a major buffer against stress, including stress from depression.
  3. Maintain a healthy diet and keep your weight within a desired range. You’ll have fewer health-related problems.
  4. Nourish your quality social support networks through reciprocally supporting others who support you. Quality social support correlates with higher levels of resiliency.
  5. Meet challenges as they occur. Avoid procrastination and the stresses that come from it and crises that arise from delays.
  6. Build tolerance for ambiguity and uncertainty. You are less likely to experience anxieties related to a need for certainty.
  7. Express higher-order values, such as responsibility and integrity. This gives you a compass for taking a sound direction.
  8. Work to build high frustration tolerance. High frustration tolerance, cognitive flexibility, and problem-solving actions are normally interconnected.
  9. Stretch to achieve realistic optimism. This is a belief that you can both self-improve and act to make things more workable for you. You exercise realistic optimism by acting to do and get better.
  10. Boost resilience with preventive actions where you reduce your risk for negative thinking and increase your chances for realistic thinking.

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Recycle Right: Closing the Lid on How to Recycle Right

By Mary Pat Baldauf

This week, I attended a “Women in Green” event with 40 participants, all of whom considered themselves to be “sustainable.” At the end of the event, I was surprised to see that the recycling bin, conveniently located inside a trash receptacle, was full of items that couldn’t be recycled, aka contamination. If a roomful of “green” women can’t get it right, we obviously need to do more education.Blog_Green Trash

Recycling is an eco-friendly thing to do – but it’s also a business.  Recycling facilities want clean paper and packaging, and curbside recycling program is primarily designed to collect those materials. So, other random objects, like scrap metal, electronics, dining ware, toys, food, textiles, yard waste, etc., should never be placed in a blue recycling cart or bin.

Here’s how YOU can help make recycling work:

  • Please visit scdhec.gov/recycleheresc to see what is recycled where you live. Follow that list to the letter. Most Midlands area recycling programs also have smart phone apps with lots of bells and whistles to make it easier to recycle, including reminders for your recycling day. Visit your local government website for details.
  • Learn what 12 items you should never put in your recycling bin or cart and commit to keeping the “dirty dozen” out for good.
  • Creativity is a wonderful thing, but not when it comes to recycling. If there’s any doubt, throw it out. Don’t waste space (and fuel and time) by filling up recycling collection trucks with trash. It’s difficult, inefficient and expensive for the sorting facility to deal with trash and it reduces the value of your recyclables. Blog Wrong info env
  • No bags, please. They slow down recycling sorting systems, drive up costs and hurt the quality of the materials being recycled.
  • Just because it has a recycling symbol on it, doesn’t mean it can be recycled in your area. Check the list for your area, and if it’s not on there, don’t recycle it.

For additional information on recycling, visit http://recyclemoresc.org/.

Berry Good Muffins

By Mary Pat Baldauf

We’re in the throes of Spring, and there is so much to do in the Midlands right now. If one of the things you’re doing is picking strawberries at a local farm, you’ll want to check out this recipe for strawberry muffins from my friend April Blake. These muffins are incredible and the perfect way to share your strawberries!

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STRAWBERRY MINI MUFFINS (from The April Blake)

INGREDIENTS

Makes 48 mini muffins

2 cups fresh strawberries, sliced or diced
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs beaten

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Butter and flour muffin tins (two large tins, or one large and two mini, or four or five mini muffin tins).
  2. Slice strawberries, and place in mixing bowl. Sprinkle lightly with sugar, and set aside while preparing dough.
  3. Combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, salt and baking soda in large bowl and mix well. Pour oil and eggs into strawberries. Add strawberry mixture to flour mixture, blending until dry ingredients are just moistened. Make sure all flour incorporates. Divide batter into pans.
  4. Bake for 15-20 minutes for mini muffins (or 25-30 if you’re going for large muffins), or until knife inserted comes out clean. Let cool in pans on wire rack for 10 minutes. Turn muffins out, and cool completely.

April Officially Marks Start of Ozone Season

By Mary Pat Baldauf

LOGO_Clean Air Midlands

Ozone season in South Carolina begins in April, and now’s the time to start following the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control’s daily forecasts for ground-level ozone. High concentrations of ozone can create breathing problems, especially for children, people with asthma or other respiratory problems, and adults who work or exercise outdoors.  Here are some things to keep in mind during ozone season, which lasts through September 30:

Ground-level ozone affects everybody. At ground level, ozone is a health hazard for all of us, especially the young and elderly. Those who are active and exercising outdoors may experience breathing difficulties and eye irritation. Prolonged exposure may result in reduced resistance to lung infections and colds. Ozone can also trigger attacks and symptoms in individuals with pre-existing conditions, like asthma or other respiratory infections like chronic bronchitis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Stay alert. The highest ozone levels are typically found on days that reach the high 80s and 90s and when the wind is stagnant or light. Stay tuned to your local meteorologists, as they will be notifying the public of Ozone Action Alert days when ozone levels are forecasted to reach unhealthy levels.

Ozone2017

Know how to limit exposure without reducing healthy physical activity.

  • No matter how fit you are, cutting back on the level or duration of exertion when ozone levels are high will help protect you from ozone’s harmful effects.
  • Plan outdoor activities when ozone levels are lower, usually in the morning or evening.
  • Sign up for the ozone forecast so you can plan outdoor work or exercise during your day to avoid possible high levels of ozone.
  • Use these recommendations for schools and outdoor activities to modify plans for outdoor activities such as recess, lunch, and physical education class.
  • If you’re involved in an activity that requires heavy exertion, you can reduce the time you spend on this activity or substitute another activity that requires more moderate exertion (e.g., go for a walk rather than a jog).

Don’t just breathe, do something.  There are simple, easy steps you can take to reduce harmful emissions during ozone pollution season. Be a clean air warrior by:

  • Driving less by carpooling, walking or riding your bike or using alternative transportation.
  • Reducing idling – turn off your engine if you expect to be stopped for more than 30 seconds (except in traffic).
  • Observing the speed limit. It saves gas and reduces emissions, and may even save you a costly ticket.
  • Keeping your vehicle tuned up and your tires properly inflated. Both help save gasoline and improve air quality, as well as make your car safer.

For information on other ways you can make a difference, visit click Clean Air Midlands.

 

Pizza: My Favorite Veggie!

By Mary Pat Baldauf

I’m always on the lookout for good, healthy, easy meals, and I recently found a winner at my local Kroger store: CAULIPOWER, a ready-to-cook, cauliflower-crust frozen pizza.

Caulipowered

CAULIPOWER pizzas are made with real cauliflower, are nutrient-rich and gluten-free. While they taste like conventional recipes – my sister compares them to our mom’s homemade pizzas — they have less sodium, calories and sugar, and are higher in vitamins than most conventional and gluten-free frozen pizzas.

CAULIPOWER is the brainchild of Gail Becker who made the jump from a globally recognized corporate career at Edelman to the world of entrepreneurship. After both her sons were diagnosed with Celiac disease, she was frustrated by the poor nutritional value of today’s gluten-free options and wanted to create one product that could go beyond just ‘gluten-free’ to be craveable and delicious to anyone.

“I was really taken with the idea of bringing a concept that was born on the internet to life,” said Gail Becker, founder and CEO of CAULIPOWER. “I knew there was a large segment of the population that want to eat healthier, but may not have the time or resources to make those foods from scratch. My vision for CAULIPOWER is to advocate for accessible nutrition, that’s easy and even a bit unexpected.”

caulipower

Creating a vegetable-forward meal in under 15 minutes, CAULIPOWER pizzas are available in three guilt-free varieties:

  • Three-Cheese Pizza – a delicious mix of mozzarella, white cheddar and parmesan atop a signature sauce made from a traditional blend of spices, extra virgin olive oil and garlic
  • Veggie Pizza – features ripe red, yellow and green peppers atop a thick bed of mozzarella cheese and savory signature sauce
  • Margherita Pizza – honors the classic recipe with freshly diced vine-ripened tomatoes, abundant mozzarella cheese, and signature sauce made from a traditional blend of spices, extra virgin olive oil and garlic
  • And with there is a plain crust option, too, which is a blank canvas awaiting culinary artistry.

I found CAULIPOWER by glorious accident at Kroger on Forest Drive, and I’m hooked. They also sell at select Whole Foods and on Amazon.com, as well as other grocers throughout the country. To learn more about CAULIPOWER and where to buy it, visit CAULIPOWER.net or follow them on Facebook.

Kissing my sweet tooth goodbye!

By Mary Pat Baldauf

Studies show that sugar’s effect on our brain can be as addicting as cocaine. Yet the American Heart Association recommends that adult women eat no more than 24 grams, or six teaspoons, of added sugar. (The current average is over 30 teaspoons of sugar per day.) So what’s a woman to do?

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These days, I’m working to loosen the grip added sugar, particularly in the form of those pesky, persistent candies wrapped in holiday foil.  While Hershey’s Kisses may seem innocent enough, especially wrapped in pastel shades of the season, a handful contains the daily recommended allowance of sugar.

Excess sugar in your diet is unhealthy for many reasons, not the least of which is weight gain. It can raise your cholesterol; cause liver trouble and insulin resistance, which is a stepping stone towards diabetes.

From Rally Health, here are some tricks to help you successfully kick the sugar habit:

  1. Start with a solid breakfast. The less sugar you eat in the morning, the more balanced you will be all day. High-protein breakfasts have been proven to reduce cravings.
  2. Plan your meals in advance, to prevent dips in blood sugar.
  3. Dehydration can make you feel hungry, so drink plenty of water. Add lemon, berries or other fruit to your water to make it more flavorful.
  4. When you crave sweets, wait 10 minutes and change your environment. Take a walk, or get into a project. Perhaps you can distract yourself out of at least one sugar fix.
  5. To satisfy your sugar cravings in a more healthful way, turn to vegetables such as sweet potatoes, squash, beets and carrots. Other naturally sweet foods include coconut, bananas, frozen grapes, dates, vanilla, raw cacao and cinnamon (which has been shown to reduce sugar cravings by helping to manage insulin sensitivity). Berries are another option, and their sugars are released more slowly than those of other fruits. And high-fiber foods such as broccoli, cauliflower and kale make you feel full longer than many quickly digested foods such as cereal, bagels and other simple carbohydrates.
  6. Smoothies are a sweet treat that, if made without added sugars or too many sweet foods and with plenty of fiber, will satisfy without causing a blood sugar surge.
  7. Avoid artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, saccharin and sucralose, which have been shown to increase sugar cravings.
  8. Trick your body by eating something sour when you want something sweet. The sour flavor can stimulate the taste buds and distract you from the sugar craving.
  9. Ginger and turmeric help prevent insulin resistance so don’t be afraid to consume them freely, in turmeric lattes or ginger-infused smoothies, as you work to balance your blood sugar.

If sugar has already hijacked your body and you want off the bumpy ride, hold on tight because you will likely have those drug like withdrawal symptoms for two or three days, and the cravings will likely remain for at least the first week. After that, some of the negative habits and hankerings will dissipate, and hopefully, you can take off your seat belt and enjoy a smoother ride.

Is added sugar a problem for you? What is your weakness? And how do you control your sweet tooth?