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How Linda Garcia risked everything to keep Big Oil out of her community

This story was originally published by HuffPost and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Every time Linda Garcia’s cellphone pings, she wonders if it will be another death threat. The environmental activist has been targeted by anonymous callers for five years since taking on Big Oil to save her community from environmental devastation.

Garcia lives in Fruit Valley, the kind of close-knit place where everybody knows everybody. The low-income community in Vancouver, Washington, sits just across the river from Portland, Oregon, and is home to a thousand households. It also has a severe air pollution problem. In 2013, when Garcia, 51, first heard of a plan to put a massive fossil fuel transportation hub on the edge of her neighborhood, Fruit Valley was suffering the worst air quality in the city. Parents were regularly warned to keep children indoors to protect them from the dark industrial smog that descended across the river.

Goldman Environmental Foundation

Concerned about how the new development might exacerbate the problems, Garcia, who was secretary of the Fruit Valley Neighborhood Association, started asking questions. She was skeptical of dubious claims being made by executives from Texas-headquartered oil company Tesoro (as it was then called) and elected officials about impressive job creation and minimal environmental risks.

“They made it sound amazing — jobs, jobs, jobs — which in a low-income community like Fruit Valley that was still recovering from the recession sounded great … But most of it turned out to be slick PR,” Garcia told HuffPost.

The deeper Garcia dug, the bleaker it looked: She believed the mega-terminal would have devastating consequences — health, environmental, and social — for the community and across the region.

The project would be North America’s largest oil terminal. The plan was to transport up to 11 million gallons of oil every day halfway across the country on mile-and-a-half-long trains from fracking fields in North Dakota through the Columbia River to the industrial Port of Vancouver, where the proposed terminal would be located less than a mile from most Fruit Valley residents. The oil would then be loaded onto ocean tankers at the terminal and shipped to Asia, where rapidly rising energy demands are enticing U.S. fossil fuel companies.

The oil company’s environmental and safety track record rang alarm bells for Garcia, especially the death of seven workers at one of its refineries in nearby Anacortes in 2010. In 2016, as the community continued its fight, the Department of Justice and Environmental Protection Agency fined Tesoro $10.4 million for air pollution violations relating to six refineries and $720,000 for alleged safety breaches at Anacortes refinery.

The more Garcia chipped away at the project’s marketing veneer, the more worried she got, which motivated her to organize the community to oppose the oil giant and forestall environmental devastation. Over the course of her long campaign against the terminal, she kept up the momentum — despite multiple death threats that continue even today.“I didn’t give up; I’m not backing down. I am doing the right thing, that’s who I am,” she said.

Six years later, the Tesoro-Savage terminal is dead in the water and Garcia is the recipient of one of the world’s most prestigious environmental awards.

It was her steely determination that stood out to the committee, which awards the annual Goldman Environmental Prize to six grassroots environmentalists, one from each inhabited continent, in recognition of their leadership and efforts to protect the natural environment at significant personal cost. (This year’s other winners come from Chile, Liberia, North Macedonia, Cook Islands, and Mongolia.)

“Despite personal risks, political and legal obstacles in her path, and challenges with her own health, Linda demonstrated steady leadership throughout a long campaign — and didn’t stop until the terminal was defeated,” said Goldman prize spokesman Ilan Kayatsky.

Garcia was relentless. Through the neighborhood association, she met with company and council officials and organized public meetings to share information with friends, neighbors, and local businesses about the terminal.

Goldman Environmental Foundation

She also works with the Washington Environmental Council — a nonprofit that focuses on sustainability and climate action throughout Washington state — which helped her garner support from outside environmental groups like Columbia Riverkeeper and the Sierra Club. As the community got educated and organized, the company stopped turning up at public meetings.

In response, the community got political, voting out two of the three elected port authority commissioners who had twice voted for the mega-terminal despite widespread public opposition and growing concerns about safety.

Garcia testified as a community witness at public hearings and city council meetings, using general safety reports published by the federal agency PHMSA (Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration) and experience from similar projects to argue that the daily procession of rail and river traffic would threaten fish and wildlife species, and cause harmful air and water emissions damaging to human health.

The community was also deeply concerned about the risk of accidents and spills especially following the Lac-Megantic disaster in Quebec in July 2013, when a 14-car oil train derailed and killed 47 people in a fiery explosion. And in June 2016, as the battle heated up, a Union Pacific train carrying 3 million gallons of oil derailed in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area in Oregon — the same area the Tesoro-Savage railway would pass through.

The company accused activists of using “scare tactics,” claiming the trains would be safe and the project would bring jobs and economic growth to the community.

As Garcia gained prominence as a key leader in the community resistance, the death threats started. In addition, she suffered a life-threatening illness during the campaign and would often travel directly from chemotherapy to council meetings to testify on behalf of Fruit Valley residents.

“I was fighting for my own life and the lives of others … I knew that the second the terminal went online we’d be living with 24/7 toxic fumes that would exacerbate or cause conditions people could die from,” she said. “This kept me motivated.”

Garcia and the other campaigners convinced the city council to appeal the project at the state level, and in late 2017, the Washington Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (the state agency responsible for sanctioning new projects) recommended against the oil terminal on the grounds it posed significant, unavoidable harm to the environment and community. In January 2018, Governor Jay Inslee denied the necessary permits. It was over, Fruit Valley had defeated Big Oil.

Fruit Valley’s triumphant resistance was remarkable, but not isolated.

The Pacific Northwest, a politically progressive region that identifies strongly with the environmental movement, has for almost a decade been under siege by the fossil fuel industry as it eyes the lucrative Asian energy market.

The plan of energy companies was to turn the picturesque Pacific Northwest into a fossil fuel highway for the next 50 years by expanding refineries and building terminals, trains and pipelines to transport millions of tons of coal (from the Powder River Basin in Montana and Wyoming), oil (extracted by fracking in North Dakota), liquefied natural gas (from the Montney Formation in western Canada), and petrochemicals.

In total, 30 or so infrastructure projects were destined for communities in the region, including federally protected Indian tribal territories. If constructed, the combined capacity could be at least five times greater than the massive (and massively maligned) Keystone XL pipeline, according to analysis by Sightline Institute, a sustainability and energy think-tank, bringing huge pollution and climate implications.

But the region’s response was to unite. The coordinated opposition movement, known as the Thin Green Line, has beaten back all but four of the proposed projects (two relatively small expansion projects were sanctioned; two other battles are ongoing).

The unity took work. At first, communities and tribes took on the projects individually, until it became clear that the threat was regional, said Eric de Place, a researcher at Sightline Institute, which coined the term “Thin Green Line” to describe the commonality of the threats. Local and state organizations — including Garcia’s Washington Environmental Council — formed a coalition that spearheaded three campaigns: Power Past Coal, Stand Up to Oil, and Power Past Fracked Gas.

“Regional coordination stopped the industry being able to pit communities against each other, as together our negotiating bottom line was no, not one ton, not one community, just no,” de Place said.

The coalition pooled resources to investigate the economic, environmental and safety risks, which in turn helped persuade diverse sectors including tourism and commerce that it was in their interest to resist the fossil fuel corridor. Together, they turned out thousands of people to every public meeting, in every community, to take on the company executives and local officials.

“It was aggressive activism,” said de Place. “Our hard-line stance made it clear to elected officials that this was a binary issue and taking any money from coal or oil would be a political death sentence. This might not work everywhere, but it worked here.”

It’s noteworthy that the Pacific Northwest’s coordinated resistance has targeted transport and infrastructure projects, not the actual oil fields and coal mines. By disrupting the only economically viable transport options, they have made the intended extraction of millions of tons of coal economically unviable. “Find the weakest point in the supply chain, and go after it, that’s what we showed was possible,” said de Place.

The region’s opposition strategies and successes have served as rallying points for the larger climate movement and “keep it in the ground” campaign (which advocates against further fossil fuel burning), said Hilary Boudet, associate professor of sociology at Oregon State University’s School of Public Policy.

But, she warned, with huge profits at stake, Big Oil isn’t giving up. “A proposal’s defeat in one location doesn’t necessarily mean that fossil fuel export won’t happen somewhere else … The Trump administration has been very vocal about its policy of ‘energy dominance,’ which includes fossil fuel export,” Boudet said. Local and state-level politics are crucial to opposing this, she added.

As Garcia’s personal story shows, things can get ugly. At times, community leaders, especially tribal leaders, have been attacked as anti-development, anti-jobs, even anti-American for trying to protect their corner of the planet. But staying united has been their key to prevailing.

Garcia said: “There’s a tremendous sense of responsibility in our communities to take care of the planet so that it can be passed on to our children, and their children. We need more people to speak out, stand up, and form armies of resistance.”

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How Linda Garcia risked everything to keep Big Oil out of her community

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2019′s Dirty Dozen: Which Foods Have the Most Pesticides?

Beware the ?Dirty Dozen.? The Environmental Working Group has released its annual list of fruits and vegetables most likely to be contaminated with pesticides, based on testing from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And this year?s Dirty Dozen ? as the produce is nicknamed ? has some unsettling surprises.

?Overall, the USDA found 225 different pesticides and pesticide breakdown products on popular fruits and vegetables Americans eat every day,? according to an Environmental Working Group news release. ?Before testing, all produce was washed and peeled, just as people would prepare food for themselves.? And the results for one particular trendy food were eye-opening. ?The most surprising news from the USDA tests reveals that the popular health food kale is among the most contaminated fruits and vegetables,? the news release says.

So which conventionally grown fruits and vegetables (as opposed to organic) should you avoid if you want to limit the pesticides in your diet? Here is 2019?s Dirty Dozen.

12. Potatoes

Credit: Diana Taliun/Getty Images

The Environmental Working Group does point out that eating plenty of fruits and vegetables is critical for a healthy diet. But to make sure you?re maximizing the benefits, try to consume pesticide-free, organic varieties as often as possible. Potatoes, for instance, have numerous health benefits ? as long as you?re not solely consuming them in chip form. One baked potato has about 145 calories, 2 grams of fiber and 3 grams of protein. It also contains many vitamins and minerals ? including several B vitamins, 10 percent of the recommended daily intake of magnesium, 17 percent of potassium, 13 percent of manganese and 17 percent of copper.

11. Celery

Have you joined the celery juice bandwagon? If you don?t want to be sipping or crunching on pesticides, aim to go the organic route. One cup of chopped celery contains just 16 calories with 2 grams of fiber and a gram of protein. And it still offers a fair amount of nutrients ? including 9 percent of the recommended vitamin A intake, 37 percent of vitamin K, 9 percent of folate and 8 percent of potassium. Plus, according to Healthline, celery is full of antioxidants and can help reduce inflammation and aid digestion.

10. Tomatoes

Tomatoes are great to grow in your home garden, where you can prevent pesticides and other chemicals from coming in contact with your food. A cup of chopped tomatoes has only 32 calories with 2 grams of fiber and 2 grams of protein. Plus, the serving provides you with 30 percent of your daily vitamin A, 38 percent of vitamin C, 18 percent of vitamin K and 12 percent of potassium, among other nutrients. Tomatoes are especially known for their lycopene, which gives them their red pigment. ?Lycopene has been linked to health benefits ranging from heart health to protection against sunburns and certain types of cancers,? according to Healthline.

9. Pears

A medium pear is a substantial snack ? containing about 100 calories, 6 grams of fiber and a gram of protein. It also offers some vitamins and minerals, including 12 percent of the recommended vitamin C intake, 10 percent of vitamin K, 6 percent of potassium and 7 percent of copper. Still, even though a pear?s skin helps to make it a great source of fiber, it doesn?t keep the pesticides out. So make sure you?re consuming clean varieties of this fruit.

8. Cherries

Credit: dulezidar/Getty Images

More than 90 percent of the cherry samples the Environmental Working Group analyzed tested positive for two or more pesticides. So for the full health-boosting potential of this tart little fruit, go organic. A cup of cherries has about 87 calories, 3 grams of fiber and 1 gram of protein. It also gives you a good amount of vitamin C, B vitamins and several minerals. Plus, according to Healthline, cherries are full of antioxidants and phytochemicals that can protect your body against diseases and reduce inflammation.

7. Peaches

The thin skin of peaches doesn?t offer them much protection against pesticides. But it will contribute some fiber to your diet. One medium peach has about 60 calories, 2 grams of fiber and a gram of protein. It also contains several B vitamins, about 10 percent of the recommended vitamin A intake, 17 percent of vitamin C, 5 percent of vitamin K and 8 percent of potassium. And according to Healthline, peaches can be considered a low-sugar fruit with a little less than 13 grams of natural sugars.

6. Grapes

If you take pesticides out of the equation, grapes can be a very healthy addition to your diet. A cup of red or green grapes has roughly 100 calories and a gram of fiber. And it provides you with 27 percent of the recommended vitamin C intake, 28 percent of vitamin K, 8 percent of potassium and 10 percent of copper, among other nutrients. According to Healthline, the potent antioxidants in grapes can help fight several diseases, such as diabetes and cancer. Plus, grapes also might help to improve heart health and lower cholesterol.

5. Apples

Just like with cherries, more than 90 percent of the apple samples carried two or more pesticides. ?Apples are generally near the top of EWG?s Dirty Dozen list because they contain an average of 4.4 pesticide residues, including some at high concentrations,? according to the Environmental Working Group. And there?s one chemical in particular that?s especially controversial. ?Most conventionally grown apples are drenched in diphenylamine, an antioxidant chemical treatment used to prevent the skin of apples in cold storage from developing brown or black patches,? the Environmental Working Group says. U.S. growers and regulators say the chemical poses no risk, but European regulators feel there isn?t enough evidence to prove its safety.

4. Nectarines

Credit: gresei/Getty Images

Nectarines also are among the fruits and vegetables that had more than 90 percent of their samples test positive for two or more pesticides. But sans pesticides, nectarines are a healthy way to get several nutrients. A medium nectarine has about 62 calories ? most of those coming from its natural sugars. Plus, it contains 2 grams of fiber and 2 grams of protein. It also offers multiple B vitamins, 9 percent of the recommended vitamin A intake, 13 percent of vitamin C, 8 percent of potassium and 6 percent of copper.

3. Kale

The Department of Agriculture hadn?t included kale in its pesticide tests since 2009. At that time, it ranked eighth on the Dirty Dozen list. But since its popularity has skyrocketed, so has the pesticide use. ?More than 92 percent of kale samples had two or more pesticide residues detected, and a single sample could contain up to 18 different residues,? according to the Environmental Working Group news release. Especially alarming was the presence of the pesticide DCPA, or Dacthal, which showed up in roughly 60 percent of the kale samples. Since 1995, the EPA has classified DCPA as a possible carcinogen ? specifically citing liver and thyroid tumors ? and the European Union banned it in 2009. Yet it?s still legal to use on U.S. crops ? including kale.

2. Spinach

?Federal data shows that conventionally grown spinach has more pesticide residues by weight than all other produce tested,? according to the Environmental Working Group. There were an average of 7.1 different pesticides on every spinach sample. And more than three-quarters of the samples contained one particularly scary ?neurotoxic bug killer? called permethrin. ?At high doses, permethrin overwhelms the nervous system and causes tremors and seizures,? the Environmental Working Group says. ?But several studies also found a link between lower-level exposure to permethrin-type insecticides and neurological effects in children.? Europe banned permethrin in 2000, but the EPA is still assessing its risks.

1. Strawberries

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Sweet, juicy, pesticide-filled strawberries took the top spot on 2019?s Dirty Dozen. ?Conventionally grown strawberries ? contained an average of 7.8 different pesticides per sample, compared to 2.2 pesticides per sample for all other produce,? according to the Environmental Working Group. ?? What?s worse, strawberry growers use jaw-dropping volumes of poisonous gases to sterilize their fields before planting, killing every pest, weed and other living thing in the soil.? Of all the samples, 99 percent contained at least one pesticide ? and 30 percent had 10 or more pesticides. Some of these chemicals have been linked to cancer, reproductive issues, hormone disruption, neurological problems and more. So if you?re not keen on putting that in your body, stick to the organic varieties.

Bonus: Hot peppers

The Environmental Working Group expanded 2019?s Dirty Dozen to include hot peppers, which don?t meet its traditional ranking criteria but nonetheless should have their contaminants exposed. ?The USDA tests of 739 samples of hot peppers in 2010 and 2011 found residues of three highly toxic insecticides ? acephate, chlorpyrifos and oxamyl ? on a portion of sampled peppers at concentrations high enough to cause concern,? according to the Environmental Working Group news release. ?These insecticides are banned on some crops but still allowed on hot peppers.? So buy organic hot peppers whenever possible. But if you can?t, washing and cooking them can somewhat diminish the pesticide levels.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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2019′s Dirty Dozen: Which Foods Have the Most Pesticides?

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Mycelium Running – Paul Stamets


Mycelium Running
How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World
Paul Stamets

Genre: Nature

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: October 1, 2005

Publisher: Potter/Ten Speed/Harmony/Rodale

Seller: Penguin Random House LLC

Mycelium Running is a manual for the mycological rescue of the planet. That’s right: growing more mushrooms may be the best thing we can do to save the environment, and in this groundbreaking text from mushroom expert Paul Stamets, you’ll find out how.   The basic science goes like this: Microscopic cells called “mycelium”–the fruit of which are mushrooms–recycle carbon, nitrogen, and other essential elements as they break down plant and animal debris in the creation of rich new soil. What Stamets has discovered is that we can capitalize on mycelium’s digestive power and target it to decompose toxic wastes and pollutants (mycoremediation), catch and reduce silt from streambeds and pathogens from agricultural watersheds (mycofiltration), control insect populations (mycopesticides), and generally enhance the health of our forests and gardens (mycoforestry and myco-gardening).   In this comprehensive guide, you’ll find chapters detailing each of these four exciting branches of what Stamets has coined “mycorestoration,” as well as chapters on the medicinal and nutritional properties of mushrooms, inoculation methods, log and stump culture, and species selection for various environmental purposes. Heavily referenced and beautifully illustrated, this book is destined to be a classic reference for bemushroomed generations to come. From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Mycelium Running – Paul Stamets

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What Produce is In-Season in December?

Because of modern agriculture and our ability to ship produce all over the globe, most foods are available year round. But just because we can eat a tomato in the dead of winter, doesn’t mean we should be doing it.

Eating seasonally is one of the best things you can do both for your health and for the environment. Not only does it promote a genuine connection with the earth’s resources, eating locally-grown, seasonal foods helps limit the amount of greenhouse gas emissions we generate by shipping foods where they don’t naturally belong. Not to mention seasonal produce is more nutritious!

Once upon a time, eating seasonally was the only way to survive. Today, it’s a choice???and one that has both environmental and physical impacts. Ready to start? Here’s what’s in-season in December. Yum!


1. Apples

2. Dates

3. Citrus fruit

4. Pears

5. Bananas

6. Pomegranate

7. Persimmons


1. Broccoli

2. Leeks

3. Brussels sprouts

4. Cabbage

5. Onions

6. Parsnips

7. Potatoes

8. Winter squash

9. Sweet potatoes

10. Rutabagas

11. Parsnips

12. Pumpkins

13. Kale

14. Garlic

15. Celery

16. Beets

17. Radishes

18. Turnips

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.


What Produce is In-Season in December?

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5 Time-Tested Ways to Make Your Groceries Last Longer

You spend hours?each week planning out your meals, gathering up reusable bags and hauling groceries from the store to the house.?And then they all go bad on you??That’s just not nice.

Produce is fickle stuff?? it starts fresh, then quickly devolves into a mess of green goo, mold and wilted leaves. What can you do? Fortunately, lots of things! Here are a few of the secrets you need to know.

1) Store leafy greens loose and dry.

The bane of all leafy greens ? arugula, spring lettuce, spinach ??is moisture. If left bunched up, unwashed, in the back of the fridge, they?will wilt.

To keep your greens from spoiling too quickly, first remove any ties or rubber bands, then rinse and dry (fully!) before wrapping loosely in a dry tea towel. Hardier varieties, like curly kale for example, will do best when placed in a cup of water like a bouquet.

2) Store?bulbs and tubers in the dark.

Bulb vegetables like onions and shallots, as well as tubers like sweet potatoes and golden potatoes, should be stored in as cellar-like an environment as possible.

Cool, dark, dry, with a bit of air circulation. That’s ideal. Placing them on the counter or?? please no?? in the fridge is a recipe for greening or growing eyes. Yuck!

3) Store?fleshy fruit vegetables in the crisper.

Fruit vegetables like tomatoes and cucumbers (basically, all the good stuff) have a tendency to soften and mold due to their high moisture content.

Again, moisture is a serious no-no. Lay down a tea towel in the bottom of your fridge’s vegetable crisper, then wash and dry fully everything that will be placed there. Set up reminders to eat these! They’ll last longer when kept well, but longevity isn’t their strength to begin with.

4) Store?soft fruit in a paper bag on the counter.

Stone fruit?? think apricots, avocados, peaches?? come with the summer and go just as fast. Mold comes quickly, so you have to be vigilant and eat these at their prime.?

First, get them to?just ripe on the counter top (speed up the process by placing them in a paper bag) and then pop these beauties into the fridge when at their peak.

5) Store?melons uncut and out of sight.

Melons may be stored as-is on the counter, but you’ll want to keep them far away from direct sunlight. Cantaloupe and honeydew in particular are prone to sogginess, so follow the rules if you want to keep them fresh for long.

Once ripe, slice and store in a reusable container with a dry towel. This will help sop up any excess moisture and prevent ripe melon slices from becoming soft and unappetizing.

What creative tricks do you have up your sleeve for keeping produce fresh? Let us know!

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The Dos and Don’ts of Washing Your Produce
2018′s Dirtiest Produce Award Goes To…
4 Surprising Reasons to Eat Ugly Fruit

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.


5 Time-Tested Ways to Make Your Groceries Last Longer

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This Eco Tech Will Double the Life of Your Fruits and Veggies

How many untouched bunches of celery have seeped into rot at the back of your fridge? How many expensive pints of strawberries turned moldy almost immediately after you bought them? How many avocados have become unsalvageable because you missed the short window of ripeness?

Food waste is a massive problem. It’s costing our health, our wallets, and our environment.?Americans waste an astonishing?150,000?tons of food every single day (about 1 pound of food per person). The UN estimates that food waste costs $2.6 trillion globally per year, and produce is a major culprit.

That?s where Apeel Sciences comes in.

Fighting Food Waste with Food Waste

Apeel Sciences is a California-based food tech startup with a mission to reduce food waste, and they’ve made some serious headway. They claim to have developed a way to actually double the shelf life of fruits and veggies?even avocados.

According to?CNBC, ?The company’s technology basically works like this: Plant materials that are left behind on the farm (leaves and peels, for instance) are blended, and then lipid molecules are extracted. The resulting powder is then turned into a liquid that is sprayed on produce; fruits and vegetables can also be dipped into the solution.”

Apeel has created an edible, colorless plant-based powder which fortifies produce skin and slows the rate of water loss and oxidation. As a result, it significantly extends the ripening process. Apeel-treated fruits and veggies are?less likely to get mushy in the deep chasms of your fridge, but on a larger scale, this?also means that grocery stores will potentially throw away significantly less rotting produce.

Here’s a video posted by Apeel Sciences showing their produce in action.

Working?with Del Rey Avocado and Eco Farms, Apeel has launched its first slow-ripe avocados at Costco locations nationwide as well as Harps location in the Midwest.

They are also planning to launch?Apeel citrus, with hopes?to expand to other fruits and veggies soon.?In testing, they have successfully extended the life of dozens of plant foods, including:

citrus fruits
stone fruits

Currently, Apeel’s products are only available to?suppliers and retailers on the production end, but the company hopes to eventually make its product available direct to consumers as well.

Beyond Food Waste

While this is potentially a massive?win for minimizing food waste and saving money on groceries, this technology also has the capacity to improve the diets of those who live in hard-to-reach areas of the country.

People?living in food deserts, where fresh and affordable food is a rarity, tend to be?forced?to rely on highly?processed foods. Apeel’s use in the produce industry?could potentially?make?fresh foods more accessible by extending shelf life.

It’s all about using nature to heal our broken food system.

According the Apeel?s head of marketing Michelle Masek, “Every piece of produce, every fruit, every plant already has a peel. And that peel is already doing what it needs to do to keep the fruit fresh. Instead of making new chemicals in a lab, let’s use the same ingredients that nature gives us time and time again to add a little extra Apeel to produce.”

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The Problem with Activated Charcoal
A Plant-Based Diet Will Make Your Brain Bigger
Avoid These 4 Phrases to Appear & Feel More Confident

Image via Thinkstock.

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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This Eco Tech Will Double the Life of Your Fruits and Veggies

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8 Processed Foods You Can Easily Make From Scratch

Sure, processed foods can save you a little time. But what you gain in convenience, you lose in money, environmental impact and maybe even health.

That’s because processed foods require more labor to convert them from their natural state to something that fits in a box, bag or tub. You’re also paying for the chemicals added to the processed food to keep them fresh. You’re paying for the packaging, too, which is totally worthless once you get it home. Indeed, $1 out of every $11 you spend at the grocery store you spend on packaging you throw away.

Speaking of that packaging, it’s probably the biggest source of trash in your home. Think about the pile of empty boxes, bags and wrapping you’re left with after you unload your groceries and put them in the refrigerator or cupboard. Plastic waste is especially egregious since many communities still don’t recycle and it doesn’t biodegrade. Instead, it turns into millions of pieces of microplastic that get in the oceans and soil and that animals mistake for food.

Here are 7 processed foods that normally come wrapped in paper or plastic that you can easily make at home. They’ll be fresher, cheaper and waste-free if you skip plastic produce bags and take your own when you shop.

1) Yogurt
Yogurt couldn’t be easier to make at home. Heat a half-gallon of milk to about 180 degrees, using a candy thermometer to test the temperature. You can heat it on the stove, but I usually do it in the microwave to prevent scalding. Let it cool to 110 degrees. Put a quarter cup of the milk in a glass or small mixing bowl and add a couple of tablespoons of powdered milk if you want thicker yogurt (this step isn’t essential). Add the mixture back into the bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of yogurt and whisk into the milk. Cover the bowl with a towel. Some people then put the bowl in a warm oven. I wrap mine in a heating pad, which I set on its highest setting for a couple of hours and then turn down to low for a few hours. It will take 4-6 hours for the milk to become yogurt. You can spoon it into individual serving jars or keep it in the bowl. Use the whey that collects in the bottom of the bowl in pasta sauces, salad dressings or just stir it back into the yogurt.

2) Hummus
Buy raw chickpeas in bulk at your grocery store or food coop. If possible, use your own reusable bag to hold the peas. At home, soak them in water to cover overnight until soft. Or simmer them for a couple of hours until soft. Drain the chickpeas, rinse under running water, then drain and toss into a food processor with 3 tablespoons olive oil, 3 tablespoons tahini, salt, pepper, a clover or two of chopped garlic and the juice from at least half a lemon. Process until smooth. Season to taste, adding more lemon, garlic or tahini as desired.

3) Shredded Cheese
Pre-shredded cheese always comes in a plastic bag or tub along with chemicals to prevent mold growth and even the dust from wood pulp which is added to prevent the cheese from clumping. Why not grate your own cheese instead? It will be fresher, cheaper and you can minimize packaging if you buy a chunk of cheese from your deli counter rather than in the dairy aisle.

4) Salad Dressing
Most salad dressing is sold in plastic bottles which are hard, if not impossible, to recycle in most communities. Yet, DIY salad dressing couldn’t be easier to make, and it’s tasty, too. For a simple vinaigrette, combine 1 part olive oil to 3 parts red wine vinegarvinegar in a clean jar with a lid. Add minced red onion, a sprinkling of salt, pepper and garlic powder, and one or two teaspoons of Dijon mustard. Stir vigorously until well combined. Adjust seasonings to taste. You can replace red wine vinegar with fresh lemon juice, add finely chopped basil, or fiddle with it in other ways you like. For more ideas, see 7 Fantastic Salad Dressings You Should Make Today.

5) Mayonnaise
If you’ve never made your own mayonnaise, you’re in for a real treat. It’s fresh, flavorful and very creamy. Check out Alton Brown’s recipe, which whips together an egg yolk, salt, dry mustard, a bit of sugar, lemon juice, white wine vinegar and of course, oil. Double or triple the ingredients depending on how much you need, keeping in mind it will last just about a week in the fridge. Store it in glass jars with tightly fitting lids. And don’t miss this great Care2 post, 12 Surprising Uses for Mayonnaise.

6) Ketchup
I find most processed ketchup contains way too much sugar. You can dial the sweetness down and turn up the spices and flavor if you make your own. You can make it from canned tomatoes, but to skip the packaging, use fresh plum tomatoes you get at the grocery store or farmers market. Peel, seed and dice the tomatoes, add a tablespoon or so of minced red onion, a tablespoon or so of apple cider vinegar, minced garlic and hot sauce if you want some spice. Process in a food processor. If it’s not as thick as you’d like, simmer it on low until some of the liquid evaporates. You can also play with spices like ground ginger, cinnamon, honey and cloves. The beauty of making it yourself is that you can make it exactly the way you like it. Don’t be afraid to experiment.

7) Salsa
Why buy this in plastic tubs when it’s so much better made fresh? Chop fresh tomatoes into a small dice until you have about two cups. Add around a quarter cup chopped red onion and a smattering of diced green peppers or cucumbers if you want more veggies. Flavor with lime juice, chopped cilantro leaves, a teaspoon or so of ground cumin, a couple of cloves of garlic minced and something hot – Sriracha, Tabasco, chili pepper flakes or chopped chili peppers. Add the heat incrementally so you don’t overdo it.

8) Juice
Most juice comes in plastic throwaway bottles or jugs. You can make your own orange, tangerine and grapefruit juice simply by cutting the fruit in half and using a hand juicer to press out the liquid. For vegetable juices and apple or pear juice, you’ll probably need an actual juicing machine (most food processors will simply puree the fruit or veggies, not juice them). But if you drink a lot of juice, it might be worth the investment to buy an electric juicer.

What’s your favorite “make from scratch” food that helps you skip the processed product?

Healthy Homemade Yogurt
Would You Like a Little Wood Pulp With Your Pizza?

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

Originally posted here: 

8 Processed Foods You Can Easily Make From Scratch

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The Horrifying Reason Why Your Fruit Is Unblemished

Mother Jones

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Back in 2010, I visited a labor camp that houses some of the migrant workers who grow America’s fruit and vegetables. I found people living densely in shanty-like structures made of scrap metal and cinder block, surrounded by vast fields and long rows of greenhouses. Strangers in a strange land who didn’t speak the language, hundreds of miles from home, they lived at the mercy of labor contractors who, they claimed, made false promises and paid rock-bottom wages. Like all Big Ag-dominated areas, the place had a feeling of desolation: all monocropped fields, mostly devoid of people, and lots of billboards hawking the products of agrichemical giants Monsanto and Syngenta.

You might think I had made my way to Florida’s infamous tomato fields, or somewhere in the depths of the California’s migrant-dependent Central Valley. Those places remain obscure to most Americans, but the gross human exploitation they represent has at least been documented in a spate of excellent recent books, like Barry Estabrook’s Tomatoland, Tracy McMillan’s The American Way of Eating, and Seth Holmes Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies. But I was somewhere yet more remote and less well-known: Sinaloa, a largely rural state in Mexico’s northwestern hinterland.

If most Americans have heard of Sinaloa at all, it’s because of the state’s well-earned reputation as a center of Mexico’s bloody drug trade. But in addition to the eponymous drug cartel, Sinaloa also houses vast-scale, export-oriented agriculture: farms that churn out the tomatoes, melons, peppers, and other fresh produce that help fill US supermarket shelves. And the people who do the planting, tending, and harvesting tend to be from the indigenous regions of Mexico’s southern states, Oaxaca and Chiapas, where smallholder farming has been ground down by decades of free-trade policies pursued by the Mexican government, which left millions in search of gainful work to the north.

In my brief time there, I found Sinaloa overwhelming: a scary cauldron of labor exploitation, industrial agriculture, and drug violence. Now, Los Angeles Times reporter Richard Marosi and photographer Don Bartletti have documented the grim conditions faced by workers on Mexico’s export-focused mega farms in a long-form investigation, after 18 months of reporting in nine Mexican states, including, most prominently, Sinaloa. The Times plans to publish it in four parts; the first, here, is stunning.

Marosi found that Mexico’s mega-farms adhere to the strictest standards when it comes to food safety and cleanliness, driven by the demands of big US buyers. “In immaculate greenhouses, laborers are ordered to use hand sanitizers and schooled in how to pamper the produce,” Marosi writes. “They’re required to keep their fingernails carefully trimmed so the fruit will arrive unblemished in US supermarkets.”

While the produce is coddled, the workers face a different reality. Pay languishes at the equivalent of $8 to $12 a day. Marosi summarizes conditions that often approach slavery:

• Many farm laborers are essentially trapped for months at a time in rat-infested camps, often without beds and sometimes without functioning toilets or a reliable water supply.

• Some camp bosses illegally withhold wages to prevent workers from leaving during peak harvest periods.

• Laborers often go deep in debt paying inflated prices for necessities at company stores. Some are reduced to scavenging for food when their credit is cut off. It’s common for laborers to head home penniless at the end of a harvest.

• Those who seek to escape their debts and miserable living conditions have to contend with guards, barbed-wire fences and sometimes threats of violence from camp supervisors.

• Major US companies have done little to enforce social responsibility guidelines that call for basic worker protections such as clean housing and fair pay practices.

The piece includes excellent photography and is chockfull of stories straight from the mouths of farm workers. And it shines a bright light on a hugely important source of our food. The US now imports nearly a third of the fruit and vegetables we consume, and Mexico accounts for 36 percent of that foreign-grown cornucopia, far more than any other country. And we’re only growing more reliant on our southern neighbor—imports of Mexico-grown fresh produce have increased by an average of 11 percent per year between 2001 and 2011, the USDA reports, and now amount to around $8 billion. The Times investigations demonstrates, with an accumulation of detail that can’t be denied or ignored, that our easy bounty bobs on a sea of misery and exploitation.

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The Horrifying Reason Why Your Fruit Is Unblemished

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Fruit Of The Earth 100% Aloe Vera 24oz Gel Pump


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CytoSport Cytomax Sport Energy Drink, Tropical Fruit, 4.5 Pound


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