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22 April 2015

IS IT EVER WRONG TO DO THE RIGHT THING?

Forty-five years ago, while still living a post-hippie lifestyle, I attended my first Earth Day in Los Angeles. I was working at one of the first 24 hour gas stations in Los Angeles, where gas was 25 cents a gallon. A couple of bucks would fill the tank of my, mint condition, 1955 VW Bug, almost to the brim.

I was invited to attend a day in the park by a young woman who wrote for an ecological magazine, a “commie rag”, as my father would say. She would come in late at night to get gas and we would talk about movies, politics and the world around us. Her passion and main train of thought was about the environment and her involvement in the upcoming Earth Day festival. At the time, Earth Day had the overtones of a “love-in” or anti-war rally of the sixties with music and speeches, but instead of the war in Vietnam, the direction had shifted to the environment.

The focus of Earth Day in 1970 was about the quality of our air and water as well as the use of pesticides in farming and toxic waste being dumped in the ocean. And on that sunny spring Saturday in the park, with the sun shining down, out of a clear blue sky, global warming or the thought of climate change was far from the minds of this eclectic group of people, holding hands and singing along with Joni Mitchell’s, 70’s hit and anthem of the fledgling environmentalist movement, "Big Yellow Taxi", one of the most prophetic songs ever to be written.

During the day’s event of music and speeches, my friend invited me to the podium to say a few words during an open “mic” period in between sets. I remember my stomach feeling like it was tied in a knot, as I had never spoken in front of a large group before. A light breeze blew through my shoulder length hair and I can still feel the way the sun played upon my face. I don’t remember much of what I said that day, a blessing of time I think, other than these few words, “the future is deeply rooted in the actions we take today”, and from that moment forward I become an environmentalist.

Now after all these years the movement is under attack from all sides, challenging and dismissing years of recorded data, attacking the credibility of thought-leaders, scientists and engineers, but the worst part is that the confidence of the American consumer has been shaken and they have begun to question an idea that had touched their lives. Simple things like recycling their trash or driving a fuel efficient car or purchasing energy star appliances has begun feel silly as if they were the butt of a secret joke.


It all became very clear for me one evening as I sat at the kitchen table, helping my son with his Earth Science home work, when he asked me “what if all these things we do around the house, don’t change anything?”  POW!...right between the eyes by one of my own. It was like being asked if I believed in GOD. I sat dumbfounded for a minute or two and looking him straight in the eyes I said…”Is it ever wrong to do the right thing?

I explained to him that we, as individuals can make a difference, by the choices we make and the actions we take, we can make a lasting impact on the world around us. So, yes…the things we do around the house to lower our carbon-footprint, like taking shorter showers or changing out light bulbs or compositing or bring our own bags to the market…do make a difference.

So even if climate change or global warming were not an issue, I ask, is it wrong to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and seek alternative energy resource? Is it wrong to want a more energy efficient automobiles or home appliances? Is it wrong to conserve and protect our limited natural resources? Is it wrong to want to make a difference in the world around us? No, it is not wrong to want and expect these things, but we have to take action and we cannot wait for the government or a group or committee for the answers, we, as individuals, hold the power to make a difference and by the choices we make and the actions we take, we can alter the course of life on this planet, now and for generations to come.


Happy Earth Day 2015

02 March 2015

Ensure Our Water Future

It’s hard to believe that California is moving into its 5th straight year of an on-going drought with little belief that it will end anytime soon.

Californians are truly a self deluding group of people that are either very ignorant to the problem at hand or just refuse to see it.  I, an Angelino, still find myself letting the water run while brushing my teeth or shaving in the morning, or washing the car in the driveway or even watering the lawn on my restricted off days…I am guilty of water abuse. 

The drought can be blamed on many things, such as climate change, or maybe just a historic California weather pattern, maybe its to many people or just simply unrestricted use. 

The lack of water is having an effect on everything in the west, from farming to real estate sales.  With very little hope of rain or a heavy snow pack, our future water issue will only get worse.  The point now is to use what we have wisely to ensure our water future.

Here a few things to think about:
  • 50% of all fruits, nuts and vegetables are grown in California
  • 61% of all used in California goes to irrigation
  • 37% of our national water supply goes to grow food and live-stock production
  • The average American uses 2000 gal of water a day…twice the global average.  It’s like running the dishwasher 400 times a day, per person
  • A 10 minute shower takes 25 gal…a 5 minute shower would save 300 gal a month.

Water Tips:
    1. Buy A New Dishwasher
A new, water and energy efficient dishwasher use is less water than washing your dishes by hand.  Make sure your dishwasher is fully loaded to get the most out of your water.

    1. Use it Twice
When rinsing fruits, vegetables, save the water to reuse on house and potted plants.

    1. Think Local
Design your landscape to reflect local environment and climate.  Use drought-tolerant plants and herbs that need less water to survive

    1. Let It Rain
Avoid large concrete areas in you backyard, so rain water can soak into the ground naturally.  Use rain barrels to capture rain water to use in your garden.

    1. Seek Efficiency
Think about upgrading fixtures and appliances, such as dishwashers, clothes washers, water heaters and toilets as well as faucets and fixtures   to save water

    1. Think Twice Before You Toss It Out
Try composting instead of using the garbage disposal.  You’ll save water and reduce food waste

    1. Stop and Think
      • Turn off the water while brushing and shaving.
      • Take a   shorter shower
      • Set        the timer on your sprinklers

 This just isn’t a California crisis, it’s a national water crisis that will effect us all and we will feel it first in our pocket books in the form of higher food and water prices long before we feel it at the spigot.  We can all make a difference if we work together.

08 February 2015

THE HEARTH STILL MAKES A HOME (re-post)

Today, when uncertainty surrounds us and the world outside seems lost to confusion and chaos, we seek, almost by instinct, sanctuary and communal comfort, much like our ancestors once did around an open fire.

Reaching into our collective past, to a time when all family, community and social activates took place deep within the heart of the castle, we find the “Hearth”, a place where life, feasting, entertainment and communal gatherings centered.

Today’s hearth, the modern kitchen has evolved far from its original function of food preparation to that of “the social hub of the home”. In the modern kitchen, the family, both nuclear as well as tribal, still gathers to share, rejuvenate and commune together, but the walls have come down and this once hidden and secluded place is now part of a larger social arena. As the hearth of yore, the modern kitchen serves as a meeting place, a dinning room, a home-office, a place to do homework; it can also serve as a sanctuary for quite reflection, or a place to gather for fun and entertainment.

Once the center of all communal life, the modern hearth has taken on a new domestic role, now finding it self reflecting a family lifestyle based on the sharing of traditional roles and functions. With a more democratic lifestyle the modern hearth embraces the kitchen as a multifunctional arena, were food is prepared, people talk, homework is finished and where family and friends sit by a modern hearth to bathe in the warmth of community.

So throw another log on the fire, pull the children closer and tell a tale or two of days gone by, and let the winds of uncertainty blow outside and feel secure in the natural warmth of the hearth of your modern castle
.

Retro Weekend


27 August 2014

The Natural Kitchen


I remember growing up as child in post-war America that food seemed to be the center of life in the Henry household.  Sunday was a family chicken dinner, Thursday spaghetti and meatballs, Friday was fresh bread and pizza from Bruno’s and the other nights we had TV dinners on the sofa watching our favorite shows, or more like my father’s favorite shows.  Although I can’t recall my mother cooking, other than our weekly chicken dinner, I do have vivid memories of Saturday morning shopping missions to the local Safeway supermarket in the San Fernando Valley.



Living in the shadow of nuclear war with the Russians, those “Godless commies” as my father would call them, we shopped as if we were shopping for the end of western-civilization.  Eggs, bacon, breakfast cereal, milk, coffee, assorted fruits and a few vegetables and cans upon cans of Jolly Green Giant corn and peas, mother would rotate them from time to time…I remember years later, helping my parents to pack up the house for a move to New Hampshire and finding cans of corn and peas in the pantry dating back to the Kennedy administration.  And meat, my God we purchased and froze more meat than we could ever possible eat…again, I have no memory of ever actual defrosting anything, other than my dad drive down to the butcher for fresh steaks because the ones he had were still frozen and far from ready to barbecue.

The point of this jog down memory-lane is to point out that much of America’s shopping and eating habits have changed very little since the 1950’s and I would go so far as to say that they have gotten far worse.  Today we need to worry about everything from an increase in food-allergies to diabetes.  As well as added growth hormones, anti-biotic to genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) and that directly effects our overall health.   I believe that it’s time to rethink how we eat, what we eat and most importantly how we shop and prepare our meals.

For years I have been traveling back and forth to Europe for my work as a kitchen designer, and the opportunity presents its self to stay with friends instead of a hotel.  It has always amazed me that the kitchen, like in the US,  is the hub of daily life…it seems as if the same care and thought went into each meal, but something was very different, every meal was a symphony of color, taste and texture.  From the morning meal of eggs, cheese and assorted meats, as well as juice and coffee to the evenings meal of fish or chicken, vegetables, bread and wine.  For years I thought it was just the fact I was in a different environment than I was use to and that somehow this made the experience different.  And then it came to me.

In the middle of a lively debate, over an after-dinner glass of wine and a plate of assorted cheese, at my friends kitchen table in the Italian countryside, we were discussing the merits of American verses European kitchen design when we happen upon the topic of refrigeration, when the fundamental differences between European and American life hit me…the average American family was still living and buying food on a 50 year old model based upon an Industrial Food Complex of corporate farming, industrial processing and packaging and national retail food distribution, all which encourages mass consummation and storage of food stuffs that have been pumped  full with additives for longer shelf life. And as when I was a child, we still go out once a week and buy as if the world is about to end…hence the need for a huge, monolithic, stainless steel box we call a refrigerator. 

On the other hand, our European cousins are living an almost Utopian lifestyle when compared to ours.  Thinking that the smaller, 60cm (24”) refrigerator was due to the smaller nature of European kitchens, it was quickly brought to my attention how wrong I was and the smaller fridge was reflective of lifestyle and the daily nature of meal preparation.  Almost everything is purchased for that day’s preparation and consumption.  Fresh bread from the corner bakery, fresh fish or poultry for the evening meal, eggs, milk from a local farm and fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables from the weekly farmers market or freshly picked from their own home garden.

The question is whether or not we can change our eating and buying habits for better health and nutrition.  Dr Mark Hyman believes that modern health care is flawed because it is based upon the premise of treatment and not prevention.  Dr Hyman believes that the future of health care will take place in the family kitchen and not the doctor’s office.  

He went on to say “We ate ourselves into this problem, we can eat our way out”.

I have to agree with the good doctor, I to believe we can eat our way back to a healthy lifestyle and I also believe it starts in the kitchen. I have given much thought to this and feel that we all can make a few minor changes in the way we approach the way we purchase, store ad prepare food.

The Natural Kitchen is a healthier as well as a sustainable environment. Here a few simple ways you can change your life as well improve the world around you.
The Natural Kitchen:
1.    Buy local. Buy fresh, Buy daily.      
2.    Plant a garden…Grow your own 
3.    Use your leftovers
4.    Store your food correctly for longer life
5.    Use a larder for vegetables and certain dairy products
6.    Replace your appliances to reduce energy consumption
7.    Compost your organic kitchen waste
8.    Reduce, reuse and recycle!
9.    Support the Non-GMO Project
10.  Use natural lighting when possible, LED’s when necessary.
11.  Live mindfully. Eat consciously. Choose as if it makes a difference.