Something the US Gov is Getting Right :: Solar Decathlon

We took a field trip yesterday to the 2013 Solar Decathlon which is a creation of the U.S. Department of Energy. 20 collegiate teams from across the US, Canada, and Europe design, build and operate their solar powered homes. It’s an outstanding event, free to the public that is open through Sunday, October 13th.  If you want to see something related to government that actually works really well then the Solar Decathlon is that place. Bonus: it’s family and dog friendly too.

We were particularly impressed that each team took a local approach to their take on a solar home. Although we are local to SoCal and support SCIARC/CALTECH’s DALE house and USC’s FLUX home, the Austrians have “crowned” themselves the winner.

Our bet is the discerning American will go for West Virginia’s warm and welcoming home, PEAK.

If the current second place contender keeps it up, we might all be living the desert lifestyle via DESERT SOL

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Is Vegan Mainstream?

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Originally posted by Vegworld Magazine

Ten years ago, the word vegan might have evoked for you an image of a scrawny, pale-faced youth who most likely smoked pot and ate nothing but pasta and lettuce. Today however, this image has been transformed into that of someone with golden glowing skin and a chiseled body gleaming with health, youth, and vitality. Eating a vegan diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables is associated with low incidences of nearly every type of disease. Cancer patients and people with heart disease are healing themselves with plant-based diets. Even chronic diseases like diabetes and Crohn’s disease are being stopped in their tracks with this switch to veganism.

Fortunately the medical community and our society at large are beginning to recognize the very real results people have when they make these diet changes. It simply can’t be ignored, especially when we have so many celebrities in the mainstream media helping veganism gain popularity and credence. Olympic gold medal winner Carl Lewis, famous boxer Mike Tyson, former president Bill Clinton, and countless stars like Samuel L. Jackson, Liv Tyler, Ellen Degeneres, Brad Pitt, Ben Stiller, Scarlett Johanson, Ozzy Osbourne, and Alyssa Milano all know the benefits a vegan diet has on their health and their public support of veganism is helping to change many lives. There are even several celebrities who have embraced a raw vegan diet! Robin Williams, Nathalie Portman, Uma Thurman, Jason Mraz and Woody Harrelson have all been heard talking about their raw diets and the amazing health they’ve since come to know as normal.

vegan_mainstream_02The thing is—it is normal. There’s a good reason that most of us know someone who is vegan or who’s at least dabbled with vegetarianism. While the media has a lot to do with this sudden acceptance of veganism, the real-life results speak for themselves. Despite the debate over whether humans thrive on a diet without meat, the facts are overwhelmingly in support of a well-planned vegan diet filled with fresh fruits, greens, and vegetables. These are the foods that are provided to us by the earth to meet our nutritional needs. What could be simpler or more intuitive than that?

Dozens of films have been produced over the past few years to help usher in a growing awareness of the problems with the standard American diet, as well as the healing power of vegan and raw vegan diets. The most well known is “Supersize Me”, in which Morgan Spurlock decides to make himself the guinea pig in an experiment that clearly demonstrates the damage done by eating fast food. While being followed around by a team of doctors, Morgan commits to eating nothing but McDonalds food for an entire month. During this time he gains about 24 pounds, experiences dangerously elevated cholesterol levels, and watches his health go down the drain. His doctors urge him to stop, but he finishes out the whole month-long commitment. It took him another 14 months on a strict vegan diet to undo the damage done in that month.

Then there’s “Fat, Sick, & Nearly Dead”, which follows Joe Cross through his journey from obesity and depression to radiant health with the help of juice fasting and a raw vegan diet. We watch Joe lose weight and transform his health along with that of everyone around him.

“Forks Over Knives” explores the perplexing dichotomy between our advances in medicine and the fact that more people than ever are suffering from chronic and degenerative diseases and terminal illnesses. It all points to a logical conclusion. Let’s see if you can guess what that conclusion is.

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“Get Vegucated” (see story on pg. 25) begs us to consider the fact that “We are digging more graves with our forks than with anything else and it’s not just our graves, it’s the graves of the future.” It’s a heavy statement. But when three random people are challenged to go vegan for six weeks, their journey through fisheries, slaughterhouses, and the discovery of the toll meat eating takes on our environment and health takes these individuals passed the point of no return. After all, how can we go back after we’ve been shown the truth.

Now I challenge you to ask yourself: Does my refrigerator look like a garden or a morgue? You are what you eat. Are you eating for life?

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The Ecopreneur Next Door: Funny Green Gal Kristina Wong

“Hi Lindsay, I’m on the bus. Sorry it’s really loud on here. Can you hear me OK?”

And so my conversation with Kristina Wong began, the LA-based carless solo performer, writer, actor, educator, filmmaker, and self-professed culture jammer. Her most recent project, “Going Green the Wong Way” is based on Kristina’s true-life adventures trying to do the right thing for the environment (and it sometimes backfiring on her).

Take her carbon-neutral car fiasco for example. In 2006 right after the war in Iraq, she decided to show people just how easy it is to get off our addiction to oil and go green, and she started driving a pink vegetable-oil-run Mercedes, which she named Harold, around LA. “It caught on fire on the freeway and nearly killed me,” said Kristina.

After Harold’s dramatic death, she decided to give up cars cold turkey to be an indentured servant to LA’s bus system; she shares her trials and tribulations in the show. Though she says bus riding is an adventure which isn’t at all easy, she enjoys carbon emission-free commuting and walks, bikes and mooches rides from friends in between.

Satirical in nature, “Going Green the Wong Way” was created to entertain and have a little fun at the green movement’s expense, not to discourage audiences. “It’s not about being critical. It’s just about how difficult I feel it is,” said Kristina. “It’s intended to get us to talk, put the pom-poms down for a minute, and share a sense of humor about the movement. The show tracks my life as a lifelong environmental martyr.”

Raised in San Francisco by Chinese-American parents, Kristina developed a passion for the environment as a young girl. “I thought: ‘I’m not popular. I’m not pretty. But I am smart. I’m going to know more about the environment than anyone else.’ Being a little environmentalist gave me a sense of identity. I was this odd-ball girl recycling every can.”

Kristina’s first job was, not surprisingly, with the Sierra Club. “I went door to door in San Francisco trying to raise funds for them. But you only get paid when you raise money, so I had been out there for a long time and wasn’t getting compensated,” said Wong.

Though she calls herself an environmental martyr, she is the poster child for low impact living and resourcefulness.

In 2007, she declared it the year of the “Buy Nothing Year.” That’s right, for one whole year Kristina avoided buying anything new such as clothes, shoes, accessories and gifts, and opted to repurpose and create instead.

Individual excess aside,  the U.S. government’s gluttony frustrates Kristina. “I think we have everything but capitalism gets in the way. I’m not saying we have to all get naked and grow vegetables, but we’re not using what we have. Government will not let progress happen because of profit.”

Kristina has made a successful career exploring difficult topics with humor in a way that feels comfortable for her audiences. “Wong Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” for example, toured for five years in over 40 live engagements, and dealt with the high rates of depression and suicide among Asian American Women. Now out on DVD, the show is used by mental health professionals, universities, community groups and social workers to help reduce the stigma around these issues.

Kristina’s very first major public project, www.bigbadchinesemama.com, a mock mail order bride website, was set up to deliberately rock the boat and tick people off. The project received lots of fan mail — a mix of hate and love letters, but it toughened her up.

Kristina has been working with members of the Bus Riders Union and community members on an ensemble theater project on Environmental Justice. The show is this Saturday June 16, and will take riders on a ride through the present and future of climate, food, transit and environmental justice. They’ll be a vegetarian reception to follow.

Whatever Kristina is performing, whether she’s in LA or Edinburgh, count on it being funny, thought-provoking and perhaps even slightly offensive. But sit back and enjoy; it’s all part of the Kristina Wong experience.

Tickets are now on sale for “Going Green the Wong Way‘s”  four-week Los Angeles run. Gather Green is a proud sponsor of “Going Green the Wong Way” in LA and Edinburgh, as well as the Environmental Justice League Theater Project this Saturday, June 15th. Join us for Kristina’s opening night, June 28, and walk a green carpet and then enjoy a delicious meal.



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Guest Post Part II: The Buzz Behind the Monsanto/Beeolgics Acquisition

This guest post is by Maryam Henein, director of the documentary Vanishing Of  The Bees. Check out her latest venture Honey Colony, which cross pollinates hive and health.

Monsanto & Beeologics Answer Our Questions

As a journalist I strive to be objective. I recently had the opportunity to talk to Monsanto and Beeologics. Here are their answers. I look forward to your feedback.

What exactly is Remebee in layman’s terms?

Eyal Ben-Chanoch, Business Strategy Lead, Beeologics: Remebee® is an anti-viral treatment that is being researched for use in honeybees affected with Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus (IAPV). We currently have the product in regulatory trials with beekeepers across the United States to evaluate its safety and effectiveness.

How do you apply Remebee?

Eyal: In our trials, we are proposing to have the concentrated Remebee solution mixed with heavy sugar syrup and fed to honeybees through normal practices.

Remembee, utilizes RNA interference. What does that mean in layman terms?

Continue reading

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The Ecopreneur Next Door: OC Green Market’s Rana Sabeh

Rana Sabeh, OC Green Market Founder and Visionary

Rana Sabeh is as bubbly and full-of-life as they come. Though thousands of miles separated us as we spoke over the phone one day — she in beautiful Orange County, Calif., and I in chilly NYC — within two minutes we were fast friends (or at least I thought we were), chatting it up the way you do with an old pal you haven’t spoken to in a while.

I instantly understood why she’s the green darling of Orange County, adored by local eco-conscious businesses. It’s impossible not to gravitate toward Rana and what she’s building: a local green community from the ground up, through the OC Green Market which she founded.  Her ambition seems fueled by an authentic desire to affect change in her community. Rana had a greener vision for OC, and she’s steadfastly made it an accessible reality through hard work and sacrifice.

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The Ecopreneur Next Door: Kombucha Kamp’s Hannah Crum

I’m a bit embarrassed to admit I was something of a kombucha tea ingenue before spending time with the Kombucha Queen herself, Hannah Crum.  She prefers to go by the name Kombucha Mamma, actually, but because she reigns as kombucha master brewer, community educator, entrepreneur, and mentor to thousands of new and experienced homebrewers all over the world, queen just feels right.

Kombucha, as Hannah patiently explained to me, is fermented tea which is an ancient elixir consumed for thousands of years by civilizations all over the planet. Simply put: It’s a living health drink full of probiotics and other healthy amino acids, and it helps get the toxins to flow out of the body. It boasts healing properties that include better digestion, increased energy, and a clearer mind, and ultimately helps bring the body back into balance so that it may heal itself naturally.  Hannah’s students tell her that kombucha has given them more energy, helped them with digestion, and curbed their sugar cravings. “When you crave sugar something is out of balance,” said Hannah.

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Guest Post Part I: The Buzz Behind the Monsanto/Beeolgics Acquisition

There was quite a stir amongst beekeepers and anti-gmo activists this past October when chemical and seed giant Monsanto purchased Beeologics , a small company best known for its “groundbreaking research” vis a vis the application of RNAi technology on honeybees, a mechanism meant to block gene expression.

This was Monsanto’s first acquisition of a pest control biotech company. Yet surprisingly the terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Since its inception in 2007, Beeologics has been developing Remebee,® an anti-viral treatment for use in honeybees affected with Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus (IAPV), a bee-specific virus, which originated from Australia and found and named in Israel in 2002.

I first heard about Beelogics, which is headquartered both in both Florida and Israel, in April 2008 when President and CEO Eyal Ben-Chanoch reached out to Vanishing of the Bees via email after viewing our trailer and spotting some familiar faces. Continue reading

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