Tag Archives: food

The Wicked Green: 8 Tips to be Green in 2017

By Emma Brown
Creative Marketing at Bootstrap Compost, Inc.

Every year in early January, folks across the world make resolutions of all sorts: exercise more, eat healthier, spend more time with family and friends, call that aunt you barely know. If you’re looking for some ideas to set your sights on this year, look no further! Here are 8 tips that will make your life a little more sustainable in the coming year.

  1. Buy less, and buy more often: unless you’re buying for a large family or a big meal, chances are you can get away with buying fewer ingredients. The trick here is to shop more often. That way, you always have the freshest produce, and you’re less likely to waste food (50% of all produce in the United States is thrown away!)
  2. Buy locally: if and when you can, buy from local growers. It’s a no-brainer that your items will be fresher and more nutritious! You’ll also be supporting your own community and leaving a smaller carbon footprint. Just think, an average meal travels 1500+ miles from farm to plate! And don’t forget, buying locally applies to art and music, too.
  3. Grow your own: if you have any sort of green thumb, try growing your own herbs and veggies this year. Basil, mint, garlic, and tomatoes are all easy plants to take care of, and you can grow them in a variety of spaces. See our Twitter hashtag #BSCgrows or read our “Bootstrap Grows” blog posts for tips and tricks!

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    Meet Tom, my tomato plant. This guy was grown in a 5-gallon bucket on my back porch. Shoot me a comment and I can tell you more!

  4. Walk, bike, or take public transit: do what you can to reduce your dependence on your own motor vehicle. Did you know that one gallon of gasoline produces ~20 pounds of carbon dioxide? So ask yourself, do you need to drive to the grocery store for milk, or can you walk there? Do you live in a city with public transport options? Some companies offer incentives for using public transport – explore what your employer has to offer. Or hop on your bike and get a workout in! Just please, wear a helmet.
  5. Ditch the gym membership: we all join with great intentions, but unless you use it regularly and you just CAN’T stand running in the cold (personally, I’m in this boat), you can save time, money, and energy by exercising outside near your home or work.
  6. Only print what you need to: we live in a digital age, and frequently there’s no reason for printed materials anymore. Do you need a hard statement of your credit card bill mailed to you? Do you need to print directions to your child’s basketball game? If the answer is no, do yourself (and the planet) a favor and save these items to your computer or cell phone. You’ll save ink, trees, and water too!
  7. Compost: Whether you want to try out a worm bin, build a compost pile in your back yard, or sign up for a subscription service, give composting a try! Your trash will smell way less, you reduce your contribution to landfills – methane emitting powerhouses, and in return, you’ll get a great soil amendment at the end of the process.

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    Wishing you peace, love & compost in 2017

  8. Consider alternative energyif you own your home, check out your options for alternative energy! Federal tax credits and state incentives offer price breaks for installing solar panels, and you can sleep easier knowing that you aren’t relying on an archaic, heavily polluting technology. Massachusetts and other states also allow you to subscribe to programs that source local and renewable energy to your home.

Bootstrap co-founder Igor couldn’t help but chime in: “Carry a reusable bag, replace your incandescent bulbs to CFLs and LEDs, and use your own water bottle!” So there you have it, folks. A list of easy ways to be a more eco-sustainable you this upcoming year!

What are your suggestions? What will you try, or what doesn’t work for you? Please share ideas, questions, comments, seedlings, and the like!

Also, the first enzyme to be discovered was amylase, which catalyses the hydrolysis of starch into sugars. In humans, it’s found in the saliva and is responsible for the beginning the chemical process of digestion.

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The Wicked Green: Baldor Eliminates Food Waste

By Emma Brown
Creative Marketing at Bootstrap Compost, Inc.

If you’ve been following Bootstrap Compost (@compostboston) on Twitter, you’ll know that every Wednesday, I post an article (or sometimes video!) related to sustainability and “green” innovation. If you didn’t already know that, now you do! You can track those articles with the hashtag #WickedWednesday. While Twitter is a great way to spread ideas, it doesn’t really allow for much in-depth discussion. I whole-heartedly believe that discussion is integral in propelling us forward, both as individuals and as a society, so we at Boot HQ decided to formally turn those Wicked Wednesday posts into a blog series. Without further ado, I present to you “The Wicked Green,” and invite you, dear readers, to participate in a weekly forum discussion.

At Bootstrap, we frequently talk about food waste as it’s near and dear to our hearts. Every so often we hear of other local businesses working to eliminate food waste in one way or another, and it’s almost always on our radar. So, when I caught wind of Baldor’s lofty goal of eliminating 100% of their food waste, I was interested, to say the least. How are they doing this? What’s their process? Where is the food waste going? What about the “other stuff” involved with produce distribution: the pallets, boxes, plastic, the list goes on.

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Garlic Scapes at Baldor Boston. Credit: Wendy Maeda/ Boston Globe Staff

The short answer is that Baldor has developed a multi-faceted strategy for dealing with food waste. The first preference is for any edible food to go to people who could consume the food. This is akin to grocery stores selling “ugly produce” at a discount, and it goes a long way toward eliminating waste. If the scraps aren’t suitable as is for human consumption, they’re dehydrated, blended, and turned into a powder that chefs can use in their foods or beverages. Other items, like pits and peels, are sent away at a rate of 16,000 lbs per week to a farm in upstate New York where they are consumed by pigs, who will later feed your bacon craze. The last resort? Scraps are composted, where they’ll turn into a rich soil amendment and will go back into the food production cycle.

“Something on this scale wouldn’t work without a team effort,” [McQuillan] notes. “It is so cool how we all have a stake in this.”

I love that Baldor is taking so many steps toward eliminating their food waste, and also making an effort to eliminate other waste around their entire process as well. It speaks volumes as to the type of rockstars these folks are, and it sets an important example for other produce and food distributors around New England, the United States, and globally. Cutting food waste at home is great, but it will only go so far if the big cats aren’t also making an effort. I have to wonder: who will be next to hop aboard?

I invite you: please add comments, questions, concerns, burps, and other thoughts in the comment section below. Happy digesting!

Also, the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell.

The BiG Stink: Organic vs. Conventional, Round 1 – Soil Health

By Faith Miller
Operations Manager at Bootstrap Compost, Inc.

Last time I covered what it means to be “organic” and now I want to know what the label is worth. The BiG Stink asks: Is organic better for the environment? That’s a loaded question with numerous angles and it would take an army of scientists to get to the bottom of it. Since I am not a) an army or b) a scientist, I will cover four specific topics (soil health, energy use, chemical runoff, and land use efficiency) in four different posts comparing organic and conventional methods.  While the conventional versus organic debate will hardly be settled, I hope I can drop some knowledge and get people thinking.

To begin, get to know thy farming method. Conventional farming a.k.a. industrial agriculture a.k.a modern farming is defined by a loose group of characteristics. Conventional farms are typically large scale and cultivate a single strain of a high-yield crop continuously for many seasons. They also are characterized by high energy inputs in the form of pesticides and fertilizers.

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BSC’s John, Faith and Emma visit organic partner farm Wright-Locke Farm in Winchester

Organic farming also has a wide definition. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), organic farming “preserves natural resources and biodiversity, only uses approved materials, and does not use genetically modified ingredients.” In order to “preserve natural resources and biodiversity” farmers employ techniques such as crop rotation and low-tillage to promote soil health, use of compost and green manure as fertilizer, and mulching to control weeds. For a more in depth breakdown of what it means for produce to be certified organic check out my previous post, “But what does organic even mean?”

Now that each farming method has a definition, let’s get to the good stuff. When it comes to soil health, how do organic and conventional methods compare? For soil to be deemed “healthy” it must function as a living ecosystem that sustains humans, animals and plants. And what’s the number one need of plants, animals, and humans? Water. The soil of organic crops exhibits better water-holding capacity, better water infiltration rates, and better resilience to moisture fluctuations. What does all that mean? Water, water everywhere. Under organic management, the soil system stores 15-20% more water than conventional methods. Stored water becomes crucial during dry spells or intense rainfall, making crops more resilient to extreme weather.

There’s not just more water down there. Soil handled using organic methods contains more soil organic matter (SOM) than soils subjected to conventional till methods. SOM allows soil particles to bind together which prevents erosion and loss of topsoil. SOM also provides substrates to attach heavy metals and pesticides. The microbes and minerals found in soil detoxify, immobilize, and degrade harmful chemicals and reduce runoff. Finally SOM produces nutrients for microbes that boost plant productivity by freeing up nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium for plant uptake.

What about soil subjected to conventional till methods, continuous monocropping and constant synthetic chemical inputs of industrial agriculture? Can you say dust bowl? Lacking careful management, soils can be stripped of their topsoil, become drought-prone, and, well, turn to dust, no longer able to sustain life.

The comparison of soil health of organic and conventional farming is no contest. Organic methods are superior at maintaining overall soil health in the long-term. Organic farming methods such as low/no-till, composting, use of green manure, and crop rotation produce healthy soils that function as physical support to prevent erosion, as a plant nutrient source, as a water source, and as a chemical repository to prevent runoff. While the conventional versus organic farming debate may never be settled, when it comes to soil health, organic farming has it in the bag.

With soil health behind us, next up the BiG Stink crunches numbers to compare the energy inputs of modern agriculture and organic farming. Stay tuned for the 411 on fossil fuel use during agriculture and we’ll discover where all that energy is spent on a farm.

The BiG Stink: Eating by the Bucket

By Faith Miller
Operations Manager at Bootstrap Compost, Inc.

Let’s debut “The Big Stink” with something we all do quite often: eating. This everyday activity has been plagued by the endless health claims of fad diets, “superfoods”, and public health misfires. Eggs are evil cholesterol orbs. Acai berries for life. Fats are bad; nevermind, only some fats are bad. This continued intellectual food fight has resulted in a confused public (and I’ll bet some gross meals too).

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“Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly Plants.” -Michael Pollan

Two very different voices have ushered in Round 2016 of the food fight. The first contender stepping into the (onion?) ring was Dietary Guidelines for Americans jointly published every five years by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Department of Agriculture (USDA). The guidelines are the basis for school lunches, dietitian recommendations, and food labels. They are jam packed with statistics, infographs, and incredibly specific recommendations.There’s also an exhaustive table listing acceptable consumption of macronutrients, minerals, and vitamins. This is all great information, but it wasn’t meant for average Joe to use as a handbook for healthy eating. The Guidelines were created for professionals to advise patients to consume a healthy diet. The message was clear: Johnny Public needs a doctor to tell him what to eat.

A very different message was proclaimed by author and delicious food activist Michael Pollan. In December of 2015 the PBS documentary “In Defense of Food” aired. The documentary, based on Pollan’s 2008 book of the same title, answered the question: What should I eat to be healthy? While the government’s Guidelines relied on a barrage of information filtered through professionals to solve the riddle, Pollan’s entire message was summarized in 7 words- Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. Boom (well, that last one’s not part of it).

“If it’s a plant, eat it. If it’s made in a plant, don’t.”
– Michael Pollan

Food, Pollan contends, is not the packaged monstrosities found in the center aisles of one’s local grocery. Those things packed with hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn michael pollansyrup, and wrapped in plastic are factory creations, not delicious healthy food. Food is all
the things found around the outside aisles of that same store such as vegetables, dairy products, meats, and fruit. “If it’s a plant, eat it. If it was made in a plant, don’t.” The information Pollan presented is the same found in the Guidelines. He just put an engaging bow on it and added a call to action: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

I don’t want to infringe on Pollan’s genius, but I’m gonna put out my own call to action: Eat by the bucket. I’m not suggesting you eat with a bucket at your side or use the bucket for measuring portions. I mean eat things that can go in the BSC bucket. If it grows it goes and everything Pollan and the Guidelines define as healthy food can be tossed in your bucket and composted (minus meat and dairy!). So here’s the unofficial BSC guide to healthy eating: If it’s good for the bucket, it’s good for you. And that’s a food fight knockout.