the Stanford Study

The (in)famous Stanford study that showed organic foods are no healthier than conventionally grown foods made me ashamed of my mother’s alma mater big time. Why?

1) Processed food mega-giant corporation Cargill was major funder

2) “More nutritious” was classifed as only “more vitamins” and as Mark Bittman takes the next logical step, “By which standard you can claim that, based on nutrients, Frosted Flakes are a better choice than an apple.”

3) Discussion of pesticides and antibiotics was incomplete – it’s not just what organic foods HAVE, it’s also what they DON’T HAVE

Mark Bittman sums it up nicely on his blog here: That Flawed Stanford Study.

Abandoned yet occupied

Here in Reston they recently tore down some low to mid-income apartments, along with the old trees that flanked them. They weren’t beautiful historic houses (there’s only about 3 houses that date back before the 1960s in Reston). They weren’t run down either. But they are now going to become bigger and better, shinny and new and unaffordable to those who lived their earlier. It seems here things aren’t built to last, everything is disposable.

Destruction of good to build bigger and better is scheduled to take place at several apartment complexes across Reston in upcoming months and years, each time chipping away affordable housing. We may be in what is the 2nd richest county in the US, but daily I’m meeting people who are without a home or at risk of loosing their housing.

You wouldn’t drive around Reston and say there’s “abandoned building” yet we have plenty of older office buildings, commercials parks, etc that are unoccupied or only partially occupied.  Sometimes I think, “Why not turn them into affordable housing?” I know it’s not that easy, but we’re also not that desperate (at least yet).

In Detroit on the other hand….

The documentary Detropia won a Sundance Award and features those who live in some of Detroit’s abandoned places. I’m excited to see it.

Or the 300 some Spaniards and African immigrants living in an abandoned factory outside of Barcelona, Spain. 

The economic crisis in Europe is frightening because it’s not hard to see that it could easily happen to us.  How will the Greeks respond? Blame immigrants? Demand government services? Band together or fracture apart?

Should the government continue to spend, spend, spend what it doesn’t have to stimulate the economy? Do we have to continue relying on over consumption and consumerism to improve the economy?

Gus Speth, author of America the Possible: Manifesto for a New Economy, has some innovative and hopeful suggestions. Check out an excerpt from his book here. And I’ll leave you with this quote:

It is time for America to move to a post-growth society, where working life, the natural environment, our communities and families, and the public sector are no longer sacrificed for the sake of mere GDP growth; where the illusory promises of ever-more growth no longer provide an excuse for neglecting our country’s compelling social needs; and where true citizen democracy is no longer held hostage to the growth imperative.



Food for thought

How do we understand the two simultaneous news blurbs?

1 in 7 households in the US are food insecure


 “40 percent of food in the United States today goes uneaten” ??

I’m in the midst of addressing these challenges and opportunities now – ideas & suggestions welcomed!

NPR has some good ideas:

1. Coffee Could Be Fuel Times Two: Researchers are teaming up with Starbucks Hong Kong and a nonprofit called The Climate Group to turn used coffee grounds and wasted bakery items into fertilizer, plastics and biofuels, according to Fast Company.


2. Gents, Start Your Bikes: Caleb Philips founded Boulder Food Rescue, a group that collects produce and packaged goods that grocery stores consider no longer “sellable” and bikes them to shelters, housing projects and at-risk community outlets. Since September 2011, BFR has rescued more than 128,000 pounds of nutritious food and transported most of that to feed those in need, according to NPR’s Participation Nation blog.


3. There’s An App For That: Students at Arizona State University are developing a mobile phone app called FlashFood designed to connect restaurants with excess food to community groups in need, according to the blog EarthTechling. And Love Food Hate Waste is a free app for iPhone and Android that offers hints, tips and recipe ideas to keep home cooks from trashing those squishy tomatoes too soon.


4. Follow That Squash: NPR’s Pam Fessler recently brought us this piece on how Wal-Mart and Feeding America have teamed up to get fresh but slightly imperfect fresh foods to the needy. And it’s got some pretty cool graphics, too, where you can follow an ear of corn and some yellow squash from farm to table. 


National Geographic Adventurer of 2012 Alastair Humphreys really impressed me. Not because he climbed the highest mountains or travelled to the most desolate places…. but his creative ways to show adventures are accessible to all.

Generally I swoon over crazy stories of mountaineers, sailors, backcountry skiers and others who hop around the globe, doing daring feats that test their determination, perseverance, physical and emotional strength. Those individuals are awesome – but most of the adventures require a lot of time and a lot of money. We used a little of each on our kick a$$ adventures  hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in ’09 and Continential Divide Trail in ’10. TBut now what?

To go off for 5 or 6 months we’d have to quit our jobs… and we’re fortunate to both have jobs we’re very passionate about.  Plus, after moving here and there so much, we’ve now decided to stay put (for a bit, at least) and build up a community here in Reston.  However, we only get about 2 weeks of holiday a year.  So does it have to be all work or all play? Working 4 jobs to earn money for our backpacking adventures was definitely worth it, but now we’re trying to create a more integrated and balanced life.

Enter Alastair.

“Break down the elitism in adventure—that was my goal,” says Alastair Humphreys, reports

He had his fare share of far-flung adventures – he rode his bike 46,000 miles around the world, as well as traipsing around remote areas of Iceland and the South Pole.

But in 2011, Humphreys never left his native U.K. He barely even left the county.

Photo: Alastair Humphreys cycling on folding bike in the mistInstead he embarked on a year of microadventures—small, local trips that began and ended at his doorstep. He hiked Britain’s most reviled stretch of road, the M25, a clogged transit artery that circles London through the swelling suburbs. He swam the Thames, used public transport to get out of the city and sleep out underneath the stars, and spent four days living off the land. Advanced Base Camp was his home in London’s suburbs.

“Each trip ticked all the boxes of adventure. It was cold. It was physically challenging. I talked to people I wouldn’t have otherwise met,” says Humphreys. What he learned was clear—we find adventure by stepping outside of our day-to-day norms.

And what’s also great is his use of Twitter and modern technology to inspire others to also come up with their own microadventures. My fave of Humphreys’ adventures is his hike around the M25 – basically London’s equivalent to 495/The Beltway – a huge circular highway that people dread driving, much less walking. It’s so ludicrous. It sounds like something only a masochistic would dream up. Did I mention he did it in January? Yet Humphreys’ reports,  “I saw some beautiful places, which I hadn’t expected to find at all. I met interesting people. That week ticked all of the boxes that my four-year bike trip around the world ticked. I came back buzzing. It was quite stupid and silly, but it had been a genuine adventure.”

To read the full interview of Humphreys, click here.

And please leave comments about ideas of DC microadventures? Walking around the Beltway anyone?