For The Greater Goods (sm)

Susan

I'm co-founder of shopOrganic. Being an avid fan of organics and a serious geek, I thought an organic e-commerce company would combine the best of both worlds...I was right. In my spare time, I work on perfecting my ciabatta.

Organic Popcorn Becomes An Adventure In Flavor

Organic popcorn is pretty close to the perfect snack. Whether you’re streaming the latest movie from your favorite online source or you’re out in the yard with friends and neighbors celebrating the arrival of spring, you can’t go wrong with organic popcorn seasoned with some new and interesting flavors.

organic popcornLet’s take a quick tour of popcorn so you understand just how important it is to choose organic popcorn instead of conventional. Did you know that over 90% of corn grown in the U.S. is genetically modified? That matters because GMO corn has been shown to be closely related (if not the sole cause) of gastrointestinal distress in livestock and humans.  The BT toxin that is inserted into the gene of popcorn causes the stomachs of insects to explode.  While humans are much larger than insects, it only makes sense that our gastrointestinal system would be affected by this as well.   So, choosing organic popcorn is a smart choice.  Organic popcorn is by definition non-GMO popcorn.

Popcorn is a great snack – it’s high in fiber and low in calories. Zero fat unless you drench it in something – but more about that in a moment.

A cup of air-popped organic popcorn is only 31 calories and has about 1.5 gm of fiber. Not bad. Of course, many of us prefer our popcorn with some sort of seasoning on it.

If you’re going to add a seasoning, you might want to toss your organic popcorn with some organic extra-virgin olive oil or organic olive oil spray. This will help your seasonings stick and a bit of fat gives your organic popcorn a great flavor. Here are my top 8 seasoning ideas. What are yours?

First, let’s start with organic popcorn - you can get yellow, white or rainbow.

[Hint: If you want someone else to pop your organic popcorn and season it with great flavor combinations, try 479 organic gourmet popcorn but be warned, it's crazy good and you will become a serious 479'er]

  1. Extra-virgin olive oil spray (helps lightly coat without adding too many calories)
  2. Fusion White Truffle Sea Salt – needs no explanation, give it a try
  3. Fusion Chile Verde Sea Salt – a bit of heat to amp up your organic popcorn
  4. Simply Organic Garlic Salt – an old standby
  5. Red Star Nutritional Yeast Flakes (shaker) – another old standby, if you’ve never tried it, you’re in for a treat. Great source of protein, essential amino acids and B vitamins, how great is that?
  6. Eden Foods Organic Black & Tan Gomasio – a lower sodium seasoning made of black and tan sesame seeds and a bit of sea salt. Delish.
  7. Frontier Organic Balti Curry Seasoning – give your popcorn a more international flare with this wonderful seasoning
  8. Frontier Organic Thai Seasoning – another great international flavor to spice up your organic popcorn.

Do you have other favorite toppings for popcorn? Let us know in the comments!

 

A New Path Forward :: Plenitude

A friend brought over a book the other day – she’d heard about it on NPR. The book is titled Plenitude (Juliet B. Schor) and the basic premise is that our current economic models aren’t working. In fact, the economic and environmental policies in place are worse than not working, they’re steering us for disaster. But unlike so many other authors, Ms. Schor then lays out, step by step, a remarkable path forward.

The author outlines how we can transform our lives, our communities and our planet and actually like it. What amazes me about the book is that Schor doesn’t stick with the gloom-and-doom long, though she certainly will point out data, facts and figures that support her premise. Rather, she continually frames forward and talks about what we can do, how we each are empowered to make change that is not only good for us but is something we ultimately enjoy.

Her premise is that we can’t keep doing the same things we’ve been doing and expect different results – but that we can do new and different things and actually create a better world and have fun getting there.

Here’s what sealed the deal for me – and this is just from the introduction:

…there’s a growing body of research that attests to human adaptability. Newer thinking in behavioral economics, cultural evolution, and social networking…yields a view of humans as far more malleable….As economic actors, we can change, too. This has profound implications for our ability to shift from one way of living to another, and to be better off in the process. It’s an important part of why we can both reduce ecological impact and improve well-being. As we transform our lifestyles, we transform ourselves. Patterns of consuming, earning and interacting that may seem unrealistic or even negative before starting down this road become feasible and appealing.” (Schor, Juliet B., Plenitude, The Penguin Press, New York, 2010, p. 11)

Everyone I know has scaled back in the past few years, re-examining their personal economic models. In part this was forced by so many people losing jobs, homes and investments (or savings). But on the heels of that was a true re-assessment of priorities. Even people I know who were less impacted by this economic crisis than most were looking at their lives and deciding that less was more.

Those actions were driven by necessity – the necessity to survive amidst the upheaval. Schor’s book takes it a step further and shows us how continuing down this new path can lead to a much more rewarding and richer life experience. Plenitude is for those who’ve decided to go down this path and are looking for a few guideposts along the way.

Of course, my viewpoint is that organic farming and sustainable environmental practices are absolutely a part of this new economic model. We can’t fix our economic model until it incorporates cost accounting for the economic fall out from traditional practices. What’s the ultimate cost of the oil spill in the Gulf? It’s not just on the ledgers of BP Oil that this cost will be paid, but that’s likely the only place it’s visible. Schor’s approach is to look at many sides of this multi-sided puzzle and provide a sane set of recommendations as to how we move forward.

I won’t hold it against her that she mentions organic farming but once in the book (p. 22) – she is providing a large-scale topo map for our new adventure, organic being one of the many facets that will bring us back to a sustainable and enjoyable approach to life on this breaktakingly amazing planet of ours.

If you haven’t read this book, grab it as soon as it hits your local library, borrow it from a friend (as I have done) or download it on your favorite e-reader. Buy the hard copy if you must (I am tempted), this one’s a keeper.

If you’re ready to start spreading your sustainable wings, stop by shopOrganic for the best in organic, fair trade and sustainable products. Use coupon code GRGDS and save 10% on your first order.

Science Links Pesticides with ADHD

A new study links Attention Deficit disorder with pesticide exposure – (here’s the link to the story). I don’t know about you, but this isn’t really as much a surprise as a confirmation of what we already knew but had little scientific evidence to cite.

Pesticides were actually developed as chemicals for warfare. After World War II, someone had the no-so-brilliant-thought to spray those chemicals that were stockpiled on plants to kill pests. I’m not quite sure why no one ever thought about the fact that those chemicals sit on the leaves of the plants, soak into the roots of the plants and are then ingested. I guess it seemed like a good idea at the time….

I guess it’s easy to sit back and second guess 60 or 70 years’ worth of ‘conventional’ agricultural wisdom, but it still seems like a no brainer that you don’t want to douse your food in poison.
This article points to the link between certain pesticides and ADHD. I remember an elderly friend of mine once speaking a bit mockingly of all these new ‘disorders’ – but maybe there really are a new host of disorders all stemming from our dousing our environment with toxic chemicals.

Of course, at shopOrganic, we’ve always believed it was healthier for our bodies and the planet to eat organic; now the scientific community is starting to look at the underlying science and is coming to the same conclusion.

So, while it’s important to teach children to eat a balanced diet, it also needs to be a diet free from toxic chemicals. Go organic, you and your children are worth it.

Mrs. Green Goes Mainstream

I just finished a two hour meeting with an amazing woman who is on a mission to change the world. Her vision is similar to ours at shopOrganic, so it was great to meet this dynamic woman, Mrs. Green, as she’s known to her universe. She hosts an hour-long radio show on a local station (hoping to become syndicated for all of you out there in radio land) about how mainstream Americans can go green. But more than that, she is living the journey. She’s discovering the wide world of organics, sustainable agriculture, sustainable technologies, and all things green. What I like best about her is that she doesn’t profess to be the expert who will tell you what to do – she’s more like the trail guide on a path that she’s discovering as she leads you forward. You can listen to past shows on her site and she’s had some really interesting guests. So, visit  www.mrsgreengoesmainstream.com, sign up for her newsletter, listen to past shows or tune in live for her Saturday shows (they’re streamed live) and enjoy learning more about the green possibilities in your life!

True Costs

I was thinking the other day about the repair of my ancient printer (see “The World Around Us” entry at shopOrganic.com/community) and realized that the true cost of things is often not accounted for. It’s like a gaping hole in our accounting systems and metrics that allow us to disregard certain costs – those enormous, universal, hits-all-of-us kinds of costs.

For example, that old printer part. I purchased a part for $20 to fix my printer. The old board probably needs a single component, like a $0.10 capacitor, to make it run like new. However, I long ago sold my oscilloscope, I have an old soldering iron out in the garage, but I think my skills are just rusty enough that I would likely toast the entire board in the process of trying to discover which component went bad. That said, I’m sure there’s someone in this town that could repair that board. I’d be happy to give the part to him or her just to know it would be repaired and reused. But, I doubt I’ll find that person primarily because I don’t have the time to spend searching for someone to repair a $20 board that I don’t need.

But is it really a $20 board? What’s the cost of that board just being tossed in the landfill? What’s the cost of the metals and the toxic substances seeping into the water table beneath the landfill? What’s the cost of that part just sitting, mostly unchanged, in a landfill for generations to come?

Now, that part is not in a landfill nor will I be the one to put it there. It will, no doubt, live in my cache of ancient, unusable technical spare parts for years to come. Every now and then, I’ll pull it out, look at it, remember fondly the time I fixed that old HP IIP laser printer and put it back in the box. At some point, I might even get it together to bring a box of old spare parts to the computer recycling center so they can tear it apart and recycle whatever materials they can.

Still, most people would take that old part and toss it in the trash because it is, after all, only a $20 part. Our landfills are filling with things that may not be perfectly good, but things that might have a useful afterlife in some sort of recycled format – only there’s no economic incentive to do so.

More than that, we don’t account for all these costs. So, that $20 part isn’t really a $20 part. If we add up the environmental impact and the time it will live in the landfill and…..well, you get the point and it’s more like a $2,000 part at that point. Now, if it was a $2,000 part, I bet someone would be more interested in fixing it, don’t you?

We may not ever change our accounting systems to look at the cost in a holistic manner, but each of us can perhaps become more aware of the larger costs of our consumer products and begin to make small changes. Critics will argue that small changes by millions of us won’t change anything, but in fact, that’s the only thing that creates change – all of us together, one by one.

Shades of Green

There’s been a big flap in the organic world lately regarding the recommendation by a reputable organic association that consumers should buy conventionally grown fruits or vegetables that are not heavily sprayed with pesticides if price is a concern. This was picked up by many national news organizations and has lead to some pretty loud virtual arguments going on. The gist of it was that some fruits and vegetables are heavily sprayed with pesticides and eating conventionally grown varieties is not recommended. On the other hand, this same report said that there were some conventionally grown varieties that were not full of pesticides and that if you wanted to save on your food bill, you could ‘safely’ consume these conventional varieties.

So the discussion has centered around whether or not you should ‘ever’ buy conventionally grown produce. My take on it is this: we each have to make choices that are appropriate for ourselves, our families and our budgets. Life is not black and white, all or nothing. It’s about constantly finding a balance. Whether you go (or have gone) all organic or part organic; all green or part green is something you choose for yourself based on a variety of often complex factors. Clearly, the arguments for all organic, all green all the time are strong – but most of us find some blend, some mix that works in our lives.

From my perspective, it’s about making conscious choices and making incremental improvements over time. If each of us takes whatever tiny steps toward a greener future that work for us, it will make a difference. Is organic better for you, for the community, for the planet? Sure it is, but sometimes we have to make tough choices given the economic realities of our lives. We founded shopOrganic.com, in part, to provide a wide range of organic products at fair prices to people across the U.S. We, too, have to make those choices each day as well.

My hope is that one day we’ll look back on this time and laugh at the notion that we ever sprayed chemicals on food we ate. Still, we have to deal with the economic realities we face and sometimes the cost difference between organic and conventional can be prohibitive for those on tight budgets. I have noticed that the price difference seems to be disappearing on certain products – so smart shopping will help you find organic products at the same (or, gasp, even lower) prices as conventionally grown items in some stores.

I’ll end with two quotes that perhaps sum up this entire discussion.

“It may be necessary temporarily to accept a lesser evil, but one must never label a necessary evil as good.”

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

- Margaret Mead

Now, go out there and enjoy your day.

Dancing Our Way To World Peace

A friend forwarded a link to this guy Matt’s website. I’d heard about him a year ago and forgotten all about his personal mission until I got the email today. This guy Matt just went around the world, visited some of the most amazing places on the planet and recorded himself doing his little trademark dance. That’s it. No dialog, no drama, just Matt dancing around the world. And seeing the diversity of the people that joined him on many of his stops was amazing. OK, so dancing around the world won’t address poverty or reverse global warming, but if we can dance together, maybe we can solve some of the bigger problems together as well. Check out this video -

Where the Hell is Matt? (2008) from Matthew Harding.

shopOrganic – The Blog Begins

For those of you who’ve been following shopOrganic’s ride through the sometimes murky world of e-commerce startups, we wanted to bring you up-to-date. For those of you just joining us, we’ll bring you up to speed quickly.

We formed shopOrganic to address a niche we saw that we were all passionate about – organic products. We’ve been consumers of organics for years, most of us have worked in one capacity or another in the organic world. An opportunity arose to create our own company and so we worked tirelessly (well, we got pretty tired a couple of times – nothing a strong pot of organic fair trade French Roast coffee couldn’t fix) and launched shopOrganic.com in May of this year.

One of the best parts of the process was hand-picking each and every product we carry. We talked with hundreds of certified organic companies, we schmoozed with vendors at Expo West in LA in March, and we looked at thousands of certified organic, fair trade and eco-friendly products (in a virtual manner), then selected the products we are offering. We were already familiar with most of the products, but we came across some interesting new products.

Our criteria were simple: certified organic products, fair trade when possible, always eco-friendly and when a product was all three it was like the organic trifecta. Some products, of course, cannot legally be labeled as organic – water being one of them (which is the weirdest thing in some ways). For those types of products, we looked for all natural, eco-friendly products.

The organic market is growing and even with this economic cycle we’re in, dedicated organic consumers are still seeking out high quality organics at a good price – of course, that’s where we come in. That’s why we’re in this business and that’s what brings us to work each day.

We’re having a great time with this new business and one of the best parts has been talking with new customers. We love hearing from you and you can post to this blog or email us anytime.

That’s the short story of why we exist. More details to follow.

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