How Reusable Bags Change Shopping Decisions.

Do you see this effect at your house?

Taking reusable bags to the supermarket can help identify the environmentally friendly shopper but a new study has now discovered the products they are more likely to buy.

New research in the Journal of Marketing reveals unsurprisingly that shoppers who take their own bags are more likely to purchase organic food – and more surprisingly, junk food as well.

The study describes: “Grocery store shoppers who bring their own bags are more likely to purchase healthy food. But those same shoppers often feel virtuous, because they are acting in an environmentally responsible way.

“That feeling easily persuades them that, because they are being good to the environment, they should treat themselves to cookies or potato chips or some other product with lots of fat, salt, or sugar.”

The study by Uma R. Karmarkar of Harvard University and Bryan Bollinger of Duke University is one of the first to demonstrate that bringing reusable grocery bags causes significant changes in food purchasing behaviour.

The authors collected loyalty cardholder data from a single location of a major grocery chain in California between May 2005 and March 2007. They compared the same shoppers on trips for which they brought their own bags with trips for which they did not.

Participants were also recruited online from a national pool and were randomly assigned one of two situations: bringing their own bags or not bringing their own bags. Depending on the situation, participants were presented with a certain scenario and a floorplan of the grocery store and were asked to list the ten items they were most likely to purchase on the trip.

The researchers found that when shoppers brought their own bags, they were more likely to purchase organic foods. At the same time, bringing one’s own bags also increased the likelihood that the shopper would purchase junk food. And both results were slightly less likely when the shopper had young children: parents have to balance their own purchasing preferences with competing motivations arising from their role as parents.

Continue reading at, ClickGreen.

Reusable bag image via Shutterstock.

ConAgra: Bad Food, Bad Policies

ConAgra is one of the most irresponsible companies that one can find on Wall St. From fighting GMO labeling to abusing labor and the environment they have done it all. But now ConAgra is on the ropes. They have stretched themselves thin and they are weak with debt and shrinking sales.

cagchartNow is the time to organize an all out boycott, not just from those of us that call ourselves environmentalists, but from everyone who will listen.

In 2002, ConAgra, together with other major food and beverage companies including PepsiCo, General Mills, Kelloggs, Sara Lee, and H. J. Heinz Co., spent millions to defeat Oregon Ballot Measure 27, which would have required food companies to label products that contain genetically modified ingredients.

A 2006 report by CERES, a non-profit organization that works to address global climate change and other sustainability issues, titled “Corporate Governance and Climate Change: Making the Connection,” measures how 100 leading global companies are responding to global warming. Companies in the report were evaluated on a 0 to 100 scale. ConAgra scored a total of 4 points, the lowest of any of the food companies rated.

And that’s not all ConAgra does with major labor and safety violations over the years, and of course corruption. Multinational Monitor, a corporate watchdog organization, named ConAgra one of the ‘Top 100 Corporate Criminals of the 1990s’.

So as you can see they are not a responsible company and are actively contributing to slowing or stopping agriculture reforms.

ConAgra brands to avoid:

Can organic crops compete with industrial agriculture?


A systematic overview of more than 100 studies comparing organic and conventional farming finds that the crop yields of organic agriculture are higher than previously thought. The study, conducted by UC Berkeley researchers, also found that certain practices could further shrink the productivity gap between organic crops and conventional farming.


The study, to be published online Wednesday, Dec. 10, in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, tackles the lingering perception that organic farming, while offering an environmentally sustainable alternative to chemically intensive agriculture, cannot produce enough food to satisfy the world’s appetite.

“In terms of comparing productivity among the two techniques, this paper sets the record straight on the comparison between organic and conventional agriculture,” said the study’s senior author, Claire Kremen, professor of environmental science, policy and management and co-director of the Berkeley Food Institute. “With global food needs predicted to greatly increase in the next 50 years, it’s critical to look more closely at organic farming, because aside from the environmental impacts of industrial agriculture, the ability of synthetic fertilizers to increase crop yields has been declining.”

The researchers conducted a meta-analysis of 115 studies — a dataset three times greater than previously published work — comparing organic and conventional agriculture. They found that organic yields are about 19.2 percent lower than conventional ones, a smaller difference than in previous estimates.

The researchers pointed out that the available studies comparing farming methods were often biased in favor of conventional agriculture, so this estimate of the yield gap is likely overestimated. They also found that taking into account methods that optimize the productivity of organic agriculture could minimize the yield gap. They specifically highlighted two agricultural practices, multi-cropping (growing several crops together on the same field) and crop rotation, that would substantially reduce the organic-to-conventional yield gap to 9 percent and 8 percent, respectively.

The yields also depended upon the type of crop grown, the researchers found. There were no significant differences in organic and conventional yields for leguminous crops, such as beans, peas and lentils, for instance.

Continue reading at UC Berkeley.



6 Green Living Principles Every Household Should Learn (The Basics)

By: Guest Contributor, Jonathan James More

Sometimes, you are presented with too many ideas on how to maintain sustainability in your living space and are unsure which ones are the most effective. The challenge is to put those concepts together and come up with the best game plan for a greener living.

Here are 6 green living principles your household should learn and live by.

1. Your Electricity Bill Tells a Lot

You can start at home. Try to consume less energy and you’ll realize that it will not only benefit the environment, but it would also yield higher savings for your family. Use natural sunlight rather than electricity during the day. Sunlight is a great source of vitamin D and can boost your mood.

2. Meals Should Be Well-planned

Obesity rate among children ages 2-5 decreased 43% in the past 10 years, based on a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in February 2014. This means that healthier habits are being practiced by more Americans. Do your part by preparing healthy and delicious organic food that your kids would like. As much as possible, have a good estimate of the food you will prepare for your family to avoid throwing away leftovers.

3. Make Play Time More Fun

Aside from preparing healthier meals on the table, you should also be concerned about your kids’ physical and mental development. Being active in the playground allows children to run around freely with other kids. Having fun playground time is one great trick that can prevent your children from watching too much TV, or playing too often using electronic gadgets, or spending too much time in front of the computer. Allow them to exercise at the playground with other kids in your community to make play time more enjoyable for them. Look for commercial playground equipment that would not only address their playground fitness, but also develop their cognitive and social skills.

4. Reduce Waste

Do your share by purchasing items in bulk to reduce the amount of packaging. Buying reusable items rather than disposable single-use products can also help in avoiding waste. And when doing the groceries, bring tote bags to avoid the use of plastic bags.

5. Transform Waste into Treasure

Look for second-hand furniture or previously-owned home pieces that are useful and in great condition. If there are unused toys or old clothes that do not fit anymore, hand them down to other people in need. Donating them to the less fortunate is better than just throwing them away. Glass and plastic bottles are good for decorating the house. Use your creativity and give the house a makeover.

6. Grow Greens

If you have a spacious backyard, consider growing various vegetables in it. This can be a source of food available for your household, so you don’t need to buy them when you do your grocery shopping. If you do not have a yard where you can plant a fruit tree, you can still create a small herb garden. Grow them in a pot and place it on the front porch or windowsill. It’ll be a fun learning experience for the kids to watch the plants grow as well.

Jonathan James More is a medical writer. Connect with him via @JJMore022.

Azospirillum Brasilense Bacteria (Azos) And Why Every Gardner Needs It.

Once again this is an example of how one must feed the SOIL not the plant. Nature has already thought of everything you need and provided it somehow, all you have to do is learn to restore what has been lost. Many fungi and bacteria have been killed off by spraying and other pressures of modern Western life. So here is a knowledge bomb of one of the hardest working bacteria in your garden, and maybe on the planet,

Azospirillum Brasilense, commonly referred to as Azos or A.Brasilense, is one of the most well-studied plant growth promoting bacteria. It is considered a free-living soil bacterium that has the ability to affect the growth of numerous agricultural crops worldwide through the excretion of various hormones and the bacteria’s ability of nitrogen fixation.

Pull Nitrogen From Thin Air.

Even though you and I breath oxygen and plants breath carbon dioxide, the atmosphere is actually comprised of around 80% nitrogen which is in the form of N2 atmospheric nitrogen that is not conventionally available to plants. Nitrogen is a key component in growing anything. it drives chlorophyll production keeping the plants dark green and happy. It is a huge part of amino acids and other compounds that keep your plants strong and healthy. It is a part of every major protein molecule, and yet soil is often lacking enough N. Chemical fertilizer could provide this N, but they are expensive and can be dangerous.


Somewhere along the evolutionary development of the “Plant – Soil – Microbial Matrix”, certain bacteria began to specialize in tasks to enhance plant growth, which in return provided the microbes with a food source exchange opportunity.  A select group of bacteria classified as “Diazotrophs” began to supply nitrogen to plants from a range of sources, including decomposed plant litter, dead micro-organisms, and sequestration of atmospheric nitrogen.

Azos is a particularly efficient agent originally isolated in the Amazon Basin where the lack of soil, the reapid breakdown of any vegetation by hungry microbes, and the environmental conditions which require growth to survive is a fundamental proposition of the ecosystem. Azos specialized in the highly-efficient conversion of the N2 form of nitrogen into plant-available NH3 ammoniacal nitrogen. Azos is so efficient that between 50-percent and 70-percent of all the nitrogen required by most crops can be supplied by this organism. Azos benefit to plants is not limited nitrogen-fixation alone. Azos also acts as a growth simulant, catalyzing the release of a natural growth hormone in plants. This naturally-released hormone increases root development and optimized the harvest potential of your garden. Together, Azos and mycorrhizae fungi work symbiotically to help ordinary plants become the fullest they can be (read about mycorrhizae in this post).

Azos can be used as a cloning solution, though I have not tried it personally.

So grab some for your spring transplants and improve your crop this summer.


Top 5 Reasons To Use Mycorrhizae, Friendly Fungi And Fabulous Friends For Gardeners

Do you want way to naturally and organically produce more food from your garden or farm. Well, nature provides. Mycorrhizae is a fungi that will rock the roots of most plants and show a HUGE gain in size and yield. In combination with Azos bacteria, the two can nearly grow a plant in anything. So here is some info and The Top 5 Reasons To Use Mycorrhizae.

Top 5 Reasons To Use Mycorrhizae In Your Garden.

5. Can give your plants up to 10000% more root mass (yes 10000%!)

4. It makes a plant heartier and more resistant to drought, pests and disease.

3. Use less water to grow even better plants.

2. Use less compost and fertilizer, meaning less work, energy and waste go into your garden.

1. Plant yield and growth will explode!

Runner Up: They look really cool when you see them pop up on your seedlings.



Mycorrhizae (or Myco’s for short) form a mutually beneficial relationship with the roots of most plant species. Let me simplify the science. The fungus colonizes roots of plants and breaks down certain nutrients for the plant, in return for those nutrients the plant feeds the fungus the sugars it so craves, its just a fungus with a sweet tooth looking for its next fix, which it is willing to work for.  The mechanisms of increased absorption are both physical and chemical. Mycorrhizal mycelia, tiny little hairs which you can see on the roots, are much smaller in diameter than the smallest root, and thus can explore a greater amount of soil, providing a larger root mass for absorption of water and nutrients. While only a small proportion of all species has been examined, 95% of those plant families are predominantly mycorrhizal. And here is the real kicker, it may be myco’s that allowed waterborne plants to move to the dry land many millions of years ago!

Mycorrhizae should be everywhere, but due to pollution, runoff, pesticides, herbicides and anti-fungal sprays, mycos are missing in many gardens and raised beds, not to mention all indoor potted plants that are started with sterile soil.

Two Types, Two Jobs, Too Easy

There are two types of mycos, endo and ecto. Rather than bore you with my poorly explained science, I will simply tell you that endomycorrizae are for most vegetable and fruit species in your garden (spinach and lettuce type plants do not colonize with it, though it will not hurt them either), and ecto are for a lot of trees and some flowers such as roses and orchids. I just generally get a mix of ecto and endo so that it can both colonize the plant I am planting and rebuild the soil by possibly colonizing other areas and plants.

Technically there is a third type, but it is for bogs and not commonly sold or needed.

You can spray on myco, you can use it as a root inoculate when you transplant or plant, or you can “drill’ a small hole in the soil and spray or sprinkle some in the hole for existing plants. The key is to get it in contact with the roots.

So have heavier yields with less fertilizers and compost for less than $20 an acre. And I will give you a little tip that the guy at the garden center may not. You can use a small amount of myco and culture it in your potting soil, use it in house plants and then put that medium in the garden when done recycling the myco or you can even grow your own with certain grasses etc, but I just find it easier to buy a box or two a year (about a pound) for our whole farm to use.

Here is a good video if you want more info, the more you know, the more you can grow.

Research shows that the lack of mycorrhizal fungi can create problems with many plants, shrubs and trees when they are growing in our gardens, so make sure you get some before this spring.



Using Wood Ash Instead Of Lime.

Fireplace ash can be used as a substitute for lime in very acidic soils. It also provides many trace elements that plants need and the trees and fungi you are burning had already mined and stored.

You may want to keep a special ask bucket to make sure you only get pure wood in the loads that you plan to use. Store them in a metal trash can or similar and make sure that you are careful, it is very dangerous if improperly handled. One use for ashes is to make lye, and lye is extremely caustic so keep that in mind.

Fireplace ashes can be used whnever you have to acidic of a soil, SMALL amount to your compost pile can help, larger amounts can be used if you have to much (N) Nitrogen in your compost, N will make it heat up and fireplace ashes can cool it. In the same respect fireplace ashes can kill your compost if you use too much when it wasn’t needed. If you have to much “green” in your compost , add a bit of fireplace ash in the layers to help it even out.

Some other tips:

  • Where long sleeves and proper clothing when applying wood ash. Use the same precautions you would use when handling bleach, as they are about equally dangerous. Wear eye protection and gloves. Depending on the fineness of the ash, you may want to wear a dust mask.
  • Do not use ash from burning trash, cardboard, coal or pressure-treated, painted or stained wood. These substances contain toxic elements, harmful to plants when applied in excessive amounts. For example, the glue in cardboard boxes and paper bags contains boron, an element toxic to many plant species at levels slightly higher than that required for normal growth.
  • Do not use ash on alkaline soils or on acid-loving plants.
  • Do not apply wood ash to a potato patch as wood ashes may favor the development of potato scab, though in can be used in compost that will be used on potatoes..
  • Do not apply ash to newly germinated seeds, or very young plants as ash contains too many salts for seedlings, though again it can be used if properly composted.
  • Do not add ash with nitrogen fertilizers such as ammonium sulfate (21-0-0-24S), urea (46-0-0) or ammonium nitrate (34-0-0). These fertilizers produce ammonia gas when placed in contact with high pH materials such as wood ash.

    Use what you can here, and you may even want to try soap making in the future, good luck.


The Microwave: Is it Hurting our Healthy Efforts?



The safety of cooking in a microwave has been a debate that’s gone on for as long as I can remember. Some claim there is absolutely no danger, as long as the seals are all intact, others claim that radiation leaks out and helps cause cancer (heck, the same waves come from our cell phones and our WiFi. We are screwed!)


This article –clickable– (a really depressing read, but worth checking out) discusses the suspected dangers of microwaves, and also states we may be zapping nutrients right out of food when we cook with microwaves. UGH. In fact, the article states we are ‘violently ripping the molecules in food apart, rendering some nutrients inert, at best, and carcinogenic at its worst’

Um, Yikes?


Where do you stand? I cringed while reading the article, and I admit–I looked at my little magical zapping oven and wondered for a moment if I was doing more harm than good by using it.


In those romantic homesteading daydreams I get, the ones where I’ve cut out as many gadgets as possible and live as simply as I can, I imagine warming up my leftovers on my woodstove. My imaginary woodstove that keeps our house warm with imaginary wood stacked out back. Much like Jenna Woginrich (hero of mine) describes in her latest book:

“If I have any leftovers from last night’s dinner, I don’t fuss with the stove in the kitchen. I just slide the crock of mac-n-cheese or leftover soup into the Bun Baker’s lower oven. Soon it’ll be warming up with the same energy source I knew so intimately back in June, when I was out there splitting that seasoned locust, sweat running out of my pores like out of a tap.”


Ahhhh, if only my imaginary woodstove were real. Someday, maybe.


But honestly. Even if I had my warm, dreamy woodstove right now, how hard would it be to give up my microwave? This family gave up their microwave and is not looking back. I give them kudos, definitely. Would I be able to? Okay, wrong question–of course I’d be able to. But would I want to take away that convenience?


I cook for 5 in our family, plus however many daycare children I have for the day (in the summer, this can be up to 7 extra kids). Breakfast, lunch, supper. The food for all these mouths, for the majority of meals, comes from one kitchen. One little kitchen with a half-broken stove, a few helpful gadgets, and a trusty microwave.


In my quest to prepare healthier food, the microwave really has fallen by the wayside quite a bit. We don’t really buy prepackaged microwave meals or snacks. However, I DO rely on our microwave to make eating healthy easier.



  • Steamed veggies, like broccoli? 2 minutes and splash of water in a bowl, compared to at least 10 minutes and a cup of water on the stove. Ok, so according to the scary article, I’m just ripping the nutrients in my broccoli apart, so there’s that…



  • Coffee cold? 30 seconds in the microwave. (I know I’m not the only one who gets busy and sometimes reheats coffee 3 or more times…)



  • Brown Bag Popcorn? Yes, please! We don’t want the nasty chemical stuff, but don’t always have time for stovetop.


  • Frozen harvest. Yes, I could think ahead and set out my frozen tomatoes the night before, but when I have a pot of chili that needs glut sauce right now, at the last minute, thawing the hard-as-a-rock-container in the microwave for a couple minutes is a huge help.


  • Breakfast. Oh my goodness, breakfast. Egg casserole made ahead and rewarmed, and plain old rolled oats with raisins are two things specifically. When we are rushed in the morning already, I wonder if we’d rely on crappy food if we didn’t have the microwave to help us make something more healthy, quickly.

  • Lunch. Same as breakfast…oh my goodness. So many lovely foods prepared ahead and frozen, easily rewarmed in the microwave. Soups do fine warmed up from the freezer in a pot, but little squares of casseroles or pastas just warm up so much better in the microwave!


I’m racking my brain, and I guess those really are the top reasons that would make giving up my microwave so difficult. To me, they are huge.


Am I just being whiny? Last fall our microwave broke, and we were so used to the ease and convenience of having one, those few days until we could buy a new one were like torture. So many more dirty dishes and pans, longer time spent cooking things on the stove. Leftovers dried out warmed in the oven. I’m sure, given enough time without, we would adjust. But I think I would fight it and complain every step of the way.


Do you still have a microwave, or have you done without? I’m so curious how many people have decided that it’s one modern convenience they just don’t need…or maybe are afraid to use.


 Originally posted at LittleBigHarvest

I Never Knew That! -Sweetgum Balls


You know, the super magical thing about the internet is that it can make you the bearer of almost instant knowledge on just about anything. This comes in handy when you hang out with kids. The ‘aha, I never knew!’ moments are exhilarating.


For instance, yesterday I finally googled ‘tree with spiky balls.’ Yeah, I giggled a little inside at the search terms. However, the search is long overdue; we’ve taken hundreds of walks in our neighborhood and have run into the same patches of ‘spiky balls’ countless times. On our typical route, there are 3 trees that bear these weird little balls. I’ve twisted my ankle on them more than once; when I’m pulling a wagon full of kids, they can make travel difficult; Simon has crashed his bike more than once when his front tire hit one. Despite these nuisances, we always slow down to take a look, and to collect the unusual alien balls–we always end up with pockets full and fists bulging because they really are just amazing things to study.




It wasn’t until yesterday, after a walk along the snowy sidewalks when we gathered a few of these funny spiky balls, and Noah said ‘What are they called?” that I decided it was time to find out! Incidentally, he has become so fascinated with all the things in our compost, that he added “Can we put these in our special trash to turn them into dirt?” We are always in need of brown stuff (carbon rich things like dead leaves and straw), so I was thinking, hmmm, maybe!


Turns out, they are the seed pods from the sweetgum tree. Green in the spring, they darken as autumn and winter pass, and they fall from the sweetgum by the hundreds. If you look very closely, they are actually a bit scary looking–they appear to be made of a collection of tiny, dark brown bird beaks. Noah is the one who make the beak connection, and once he did, he was too freaked out for awhile to touch his ball again. He got over it. 🙂




Here is something interesting to pass along: The sweetgum doesn’t even start producing the seed pods until they are TWENTY years old! That will widen the eyes of any curious kid!


The spiky seed pods from the sweetgum tree are not only fascinating to look at, they can actually help out in the garden. Who knew?! Go out with a bucket and fill it with seed pods, and in the spring you may just use some:

1. Lay the seed pods around young plants to deter snails and slugs who would rather not tangle with them

2. Put them around plants that you also want to protect from rabbits (press the spikes in the ground a bit so they don’t blow away)

3. Use them as mulch (you can’t have too much mulch!)

4. Like Noah suggested, you can always throw them in your compost for some much needed brown material. However, they will take a long time to compost

5. Use them in the bottom of planters as the drainage filler instead of stones

6. If you have hard, compacted soil that you are trying to amend, dig deep and place a thick layer of the seed pods down to help aerate and drain–cover back up with soil and other amendments


The pods would also be great for making wreaths or ornaments. They have a natural beauty to them, even if they do look like weird little baby bird beaks.


If you walk by a sweetgum tree like we do almost every day, now you know they can be useful for more than twisting your ankle or causing a bike wreck!


P.S. If you are feeling really motivated, get on ebay and sell some like these folks are! I’m totally kidding. Maybe.