Category: Green Living

  • From the Local Producer Committee | 03.10.2014

    Soups 2

    GEM’s soups tell the story of why the Good Earth Market’s Local Producer Committee exists.   I just enjoyed a delicious cup of Greek Minestrone soup made of Seder Ridge turkey and Negaard Farm onions – a tasty, locally-sourced lunch on Valentines Day.  That’s something that sets GEM apart from any other grocery store in Billings, and most every restaurant, too.

    The GEM Local Producer Committee was launched in 2009 to expand the number of local producers who sell their food and products in the Market, and increase the amount of locally produced food and goods sold at GEM.   The Committee was instrumental in creating the Local Producer Map, available at the Market and in outlets around Billings.  The special features of GEM’s local producers displayed throughout the market is an outcome our work.   GEM’s Spring and Fall Local Producer Fairs are promoted and assisted by this committee.  Last year’s Early Season Farmers Market was our first foray into providing direct marketing options for local producers.

    The Local Producer Committee is gearing up for a repeat of the Early Season Farmers Market.     We’re recruiting producers to set up booths in the GEM lot and sell their food and wares from 9 am – noon every Saturday in June.   The Early Season Farmers Market was begun as a way to boost public understanding of the benefits of locally produced food and goods, and introduce shoppers to the farmers who grow their food.  It is timed before the Yellowstone Valley Farmers Market begins in July.  Get fresh greens, bedding plants and “early season” vegetables and other locally-produced items while enjoying a Saturday morning GEM coffee (or, my personal favorite, George of the Jungle smoothie).

    You can help us make the Early Season Farmers Market bigger and better.  Come down to shop and support the local producers, and bring along a friend.  Contact one of the Local Producer Committee members below if you’d like to help with advertising, set up and support.

    Serving on the Local Producer Committee are Heather Bilden, our capable committee past chairperson, new Board member Maggie Zaback, Maregurite Jodry  of Wholesome Foods, Kenny Reimche of Kenny’s Double D Salsa, Andi Buckley, former GEM, Alexis Bonogofsky, who with her partner Mike Scott farm off of Tired Man Road on the Yellowstone River, and GEM President Carol Beam.  Since the Local Producer Committee was first launched in 2009, we’ve been ably assisted by Marketing Manager Alicia Weber who is leaving.  Thank you, Alicia, for your commitment and excellent efforts!

    Early Season Farmer’s Market
    9am – 12pm
    Saturdays in June
    Good Earth Market parking lot

    By Theresa Keaveny, Board Secretary & Local Producer Committee Chairperson


  • Shopping for Cleaning Products | 03.04.2014

    Looking for cleaning products that are eco-friendly and up to the task? Many kinder-to the-environment products are widely available and equally effective. And that’s a good thing because, according to conservative estimates by the Clean Water Fund in Washington D.C., the average American uses about 40 pounds of toxic household cleaning products—like chlorine bleach, formaldehyde, phosphates, phthalates, petroleum products, and sulfuric acid—each year. These are chemicals that make their way into our waterways and may also linger in our home environment in our air, on our counters and in our clothes.

    It’s easy to make the switch to natural cleaning products – look for options in the co-op’s household supplies/cleaning aisle and consider making some simple green cleaning products from ingredients you probably have stocked in your pantry.

    At the co-op, some things you might want to pick up are a natural, all-purpose cleaner and a glass cleaner. There are also excellent eco-friendly shower cleaners, toilet bowl cleaners, tub and tile cleaners, floor cleaners, carpet cleaners, and spot and stain removers. You can even find natural, botanically-based disinfecting cleaners and wipes (commercial disinfectants are typically highly toxic). Don’t forget dish liquid and dishwasher detergent, as well as a natural rinse aid (yep, those are available now, too). Opt for concentrates when possible, as well as post-consumer recycled plastic or cardboard containers.

    For real savings, you might want to concoct some of your own natural cleaning supplies, using common household ingredients.

    • White vinegar can be used as softener in your washer’s rinse cycle or combined with equal parts water for an all-purpose/glass cleaner.
    • Cornstarch can be sprinkled on carpet to freshen before vacuuming or made into a paste with water for cleaning silver.
    • Washing soda makes a great spray cleanser when combined with hot water (1 teaspoon soda per 2 cups of water) or a solution for soaking grimy items like barbecue grills (1 cup soda per sink-full).
    • Baking soda works wonders as a sink/tub scrubber or as a diaper pail freshener.
    • Plain liquid soap and a few essential oils combine for a scented cleaner with disinfecting properties.

    For ease on cleaning day, stock all your cleaning supplies in a large galvanized bucket, along with some colorful washable cloths (instead of paper towels) for cleaning.

    Recipe reprinted by permission from StrongerTogether.coop.  Find articles about your food and where it comes from, recipes, and a whole lot more at www.strongertogether.coop.


  • | 05.10.2013

    Between May 1 and 21, 1% (minimum donation of $5,000) of your purchase of Alaffia, Alter Eco, Divine Chocolate, Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps and Equal Exchange products at your Co-op will be donated to Root Capital. These companies are strong supporters of Fair Trade principles, including stable and fair prices for farmers, organic and sustainable agriculture practices, and community-led development projects.

    Root Capital is a nonprofit social investment fund that grows rural prosperity in poor, environmentally vulnerable places in Africa and Latin America by lending capital, delivering financial training, and strengthening market connections for small and growing agricultural businesses. Learn more about Root Capital at www.rootcapital.org.

    World Fair Trade Day
    WFTD_Logo

    Join us this May 11 as we celebrate World Fair Trade Day. When you choose a product from a committed fair trade brand like Alaffia, Alter Eco, Divine Chocolate, Dr. Bronner’s, Equal Exchange, Farmer Direct and Maggie’s Organics, each fair trade product you choose supports:

    • Long-term direct trading relationships
    • Prompt payment of fair prices and wages
    • No child, forced or otherwise exploited labor
    • Workplace non-discrimination, gender equity and freedom
    • of association
    • Safe working conditions and reasonable work hours
    • Investment in community development projects
    • Environmental sustainability
    • Traceability and transparency

    Your purchase has power. Learn which of your favorite products are fair trade. Choose them with pride on World Fair Trade Day, and throughout the year.

    What is World Fair Trade Day?
    World Fair Trade Day is an annual global celebration occurring each May. Celebrations bring consumers and businesses, nonprofit organizations, churches, student groups, and advocates together to host thousands of events worldwide. This year, World Fair Trade Day is May 11.

    What is Fair Trade?
    Fair trade is a social movement and market model that aims to empower small-scale farmers and workers in underdeveloped countries to create an alternative trading system that supports equitable trading, sustainable development and long-term trading relationships. Fair trade supports fair prices and wages for producers, safe working conditions, investment in community development projects, and the elimination of child labor, workplace discrimination and exploitation.

     


  • Organic vs. Sustainable | 05.06.2013

    Hi Everyone,

    The word “organic” itself tells the consumer how the farmer grew the piece of produce. Organic farming practices are designed to encourage soil and water conservation and reduce pollution. Farmers who grow organic produce don’t use conventional methods like herbicides, pesticides, chemical fertilizers, or GMO seeds. When raising cattle or poultry, the farmer does not use antibiotics or hormones and the animals must be organic-fed. Rather than using chemical weed killers, organic farmers may conduct a more sophisticated crop rotation and spread mulch or manure to keep weeks at bay among more guidelines.

    Organic SealTo be an organic farmer, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has established a certification program that requires all organic foods to meet government standards. Any product labeled as organic must be USDA certified. This certification also is regulated to ensure quality in the food.

    Sustainability is fundamentally about our relationship to the world around us and our responsibility to future generations. Sustainable is not regulated but it still addresses the whole system. Three essential elements to being sustainable are economic prosperity environmental stewardship and community well-being. For produce production, the farmer does not use pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers or GMO seeds. In the case of meat production the sustainable farmer does not use antibiotics or hormones and the animals must be free range fed.

    Organic and sustainable may have their similarities and differences, but they are always a good choice for you. These foods have fewer toxins in them than conventionally farmed foods, making your life a healthier one. Organic and sustainable may seem a little more expensive when it comes to grocery shopping, but you, the consumer, can decide – pay now or pay later. If you don’t know where to start fitting these healthier choices into your budget, start small  with produce, then dairy and after that choose organic or sustainable meats and poultry.

    Andi BuckleyMy name is Andi Buckley! I am your Good Earth Market intern! I have been running around doing a lot of fun things at GEM but of course working hard. I  am organizing some pieces of the Early Season Farmer’s Market (June) and am getting the Local Producer Map out into our community and all around the state! Be sure to keep your eyes open and grab a free copy around town!

    I have been very blessed with the opportunity Good Earth Market has given me and I hope I can help them out as much as possible with a couple projects!

     


  • Vino Verde | 04.30.2013

    In many avenues of the consumables market there is a spectrum of values regarding production.  In the wine industry, you find all of the typical players; the mega conglomerates pumping out enormous amounts of wine to the family-run chateaus producing barely enough wine to export.

    Fortunately, organic and biodynamic farming practices are a growing trend in wine production.  Much of this trend comes from the idea that the best wines taste like they come from somewhere and mediocre wines taste like they come from anywhere.

    Some studies show that farming organically and biodynamically can potentially offer a harvest with higher levels of phenols (potential complexity/antioxidants), anthocyanins (color) and brix (sugar).  To put it simply, better fruit that will hopefully express a greater connection to the place that it was grown.

    Find them at the Co-op:

    Farming organically since 1790, Pares Balta is working in harmony with the land, fostering vines amongst flocks of sheep, banks of beehives and the rolling hills of Penedès, Spain, a region best known for Cava production, located southwest of Barcelona and a short drive from the Mediterranean.

    The winemaking is in the hands of Maria Elena Jimenez and Marta Casas, two skilled young enologists whose efforts are reflected in the quality of the wines that are produced at Parés Baltà; showing fine character and concentration, yet with elegance and balance.

    They are winemakers with a long tradition who warmly embrace new ideas and are actively seeking a biodynamic certification.

    Pares Balta

    Blanc de PacsParés Baltà Blanc de Pacs
    Blend: Parellada, Xarel.lo, Macabeo (the same grapes used for Cava).  Yellow lemon color with light green tints. On the nose, intense aroma of pear and apple; in the mouth, it is fresh and with a good acidity.  Resulting in a soft wine, it leaves an intense sensation of fruits and freshness on the finish.

    Parés Baltà Mas Petit
    Mas PetitBlend: Cabernet Sauvignon, Garnatxa (Grenache).  Combination of soft Cabernet Sauvignon with the delicate and aromatic Garnatxa to create a classical, everyday red wine. Round and seamless, full of fruit balanced with smooth tannins by the seven months of French oak.

     

    View their informational slideshow presentation!

    Written by Lena Olson of Winegardner’s Wines.  Learn more at www.winegardnerswines.comPares Balta

     

     


  • Container Gardening | 04.24.2013

    Growing your own food is fun, satisfying and delicious—and it’s easy to do even if you don’t have traditional garden space! Fact is, if you have a patio, balcony, or even just a windowsill or doorstep, you can grow your own little vegetable garden in containers.

    It doesn’t take much horticultural savvy to grow produce in pots, either. Here’s what you’ll need to know—about container plants, pots, soil, and care and feeding—to get started.

    What to Grow:  Keep growing habits in mind.  Read plant tags, seed packets, and catalog descriptions with an eye towards words like “compact”, “bush”, “small”, “mini”, “dwarf”, and “tiny”, or “well suited for container growing”. You can grow a variety of vegetables and flowers, even fruits. You might also place a small fruit tree (like a dwarf apple) in a big pot.  When combining plants in the same container, keep in mind that partners need to have compatible needs for water and sunlight!

    Potted plants Containers:  You can purchase a variety of functional—and beautiful—pots, but anything that can hold soil can be used for growing your bounty. You’ll need to match the size of the container to what you’re planning to grow.

    If the pot doesn’t have holes near the bottom, ensure proper drainage by drilling some yourself (about 1/4 to 1/2 inch in diameter). To prevent soil from washing out, add mesh to the bottom of the pot. Clean your containers well with soap and hot water or a natural disinfectant before planting in them.

    Light & Temperature:  Most vegetables like plenty of sunlight, but some (like leafy greens) can tolerate partial shade. If a plant calls for full sun, that means it needs between 6 and 8 hours of direct sun per day. Partial sun means 4 to 6 hours of sun daily.

    The best temperature range for most plants is between 55 and 75 degrees F.  You’ll want to wait to plant your containers outdoors until after the danger of frost, but one of the advantages of container growing is that you can haul the pots indoors (or easily cover them) if the temperatures dip.

    Soil: Fill your containers with good, organic, sterile potting soil (to 3/4 inches below the rim or lower to allow for watering). Do not use “topsoil” or soil from a garden, which will become too compact and may contain disease or insects. You can also make your own customized potting soil.

    Water:  You’ll want to keep the soil around your plants moist but not soggy. Plants dry out more quickly in pots than they do in the ground, so depending on the type of container you’ve chosen, the plant, and the environment, you may need to water it every day—or even twice a day. Water the soil, and occasionally the leaves, until the water runs out the bottom of the pot (this will ensure plant roots have access to sufficient water and helps wash away any buildup of salts).

    Nutrients:  Whenever you water your container, nutrients are leached from the soil, so you’ll want to add fertilizer every week or two or use a diluted fertilizer with every watering. There are plenty of good organic fertilizers; these will provide macro and micronutrients, minerals, amino acids and vitamins. Compost or compost tea, fish emulsion, liquid seaweed, kelp meal, and worm castings all provide excellent organic fertilizer for container plants.

    Whether you’re adding an array of containers to your already bountiful garden plot or a single potted tomato to your doorstep, you’ll find container gardening fun and rewarding.

    For more information on growing in Montana, check out the Yellowstone County Extension Service and the Yellowstone County Master Gardeners.


  • 7 Easy Ways to Nourish the Earth at GEM | 04.17.2013

    Green may be the new black, but it’s more than a trend—it’s a permanent shift towards creating a sustainable planet. In fact, taking steps to live a greener life—one that leaves as small an environmental footprint as possible—is part and parcel of living responsibly.

    Sustainable living is serious business, but many effective changes require thoughtfulness more than sacrifice, good habits more than financial investment. In fact, you’ll find that acting with the environment in mind often has a positive impact on your budget, too.

    Reduce, reuse, and recycle” is the green-living mantra. Let these three words steer you in the right direction—with your purchases, at home and at work, even while traveling. It’s fun to see how many opportunities there are for greener choices.

    For starters, here are some simple ways to make a big impact while shopping at your co-op:

    1.  Bring your own bags when you shop. Tied end-to-end, the nearly 4 billion plastic bags discarded around the world each year would circle the earth 63 times. When you do use plastic, be sure to recycle it. But get in the habit of bringing your own cloth bag when you head to the store.  Five years ago on Earth Day, we stopped buying plastic bags, and thanks to all of our members returning plastic bags to us, we continue to keep them out of the landfill.  If you prefer not to use plastic, use a box available by the registers!

    2.  Buy in bulk to eliminate wasteful packaging and save money. Check out the bulk section, where you’ll find everything from beans to grains, nuts and granola, soaps and shampoos. Bring your own jar in, have a cashier weigh it before filling, or use one of our reused, sterilized jars.  Ask a staff person to show you the ropes if you’re new to bulk buying.Carmen and Dan

    3.  Choose products with the least amount of waste – produce without wrapping and trays (or bring your own bags for produce), and a large jar of juice (or concentrate) rather than a dozen juice boxes, for example.

    4.  Use your own container in the deli for coffee or a salad.  Save a plastic container from ending up in the landfill.

    5.  Support green businesses with your purchasing dollars. Sustainable business practices are marketable these days, but so is greenwashing, so be selective. Co-ops have a long-standing tradition of conscientiously supporting ethical business practices.

    6.  Choose nontoxic. Replace chemical cleansers and cosmetics with natural products. Nontoxic cleaners—which you’ll find at your co-op—won’t hurt the water supply, your family, or wildlife. When decorating, explore nontoxic paints, fabrics, carpeting, and flooring. Before remodeling, look into using nontoxic, recycled building materials.

    7.  Purchase locally. Shop at community-owned stores and purchase locally grown food, available all year round. You’ll support neighboring farmers and reduce your carbon footprint at the same time. Co-ops are a great source for locally produced food.

    8.  Choose organic food whenever possible. In addition to health and taste benefits, your selection of organic over conventionally grown food contributes to cleaner air and water; soil enrichment; the reduction of pesticide, growth hormone and antibiotic use; and safer working environments for farmers and their families.

    Small steps can make a big impact.  What small steps have you taken?  Do you have a green living resolution this year?


  • Solar Cooking | 04.10.2013

    Solar RiceNature has provided no better way to cook our food than with sunlight. That may sound like a pretty sweeping statement, but for almost everyone I know who has done a bit of solar cooking over time, the agreement would be nearly unanimous. Generally, the food just tastes better! A simple pot of brown rice or a chicken, for example, receive a unique transformation with a dash of sunlight added. You have to taste it to believe it.

    I have solar cooked for twenty-three years and taught and demonstrated it nearly as long. I enjoyed it from the first time I did it.

    I believe it is a gift literally “from on high” waiting to come into our experience to transform life. It already is doing just that in many parts of the world where countless daily lives are so much better for the entry of solar cooking.

    There’s a touch of fun in taking a pot of food and putting it in a homemade or manufactured solar cooker and knowing that the only “fuel” involved for cooking is sunlight. Plus there’s no heat added to the kitchen, nothing added to the utility bill, no toxins for the environment, and delicious food added to the table!

    Solar Cooking

    Gregory Lynch among a variety of solar cooking options.

    There are very simple homemade cookers that can be constructed in 30 minutes with a dollar’s worth of materials and a Reynolds oven bag to insulate your pot while it’s in the cooker. You can see the easiest-to-make, the Box-Corner Cooker.

    While this particular homemade cooker works well in mild to warm weather, there are more sophisticated designs which can provide for cooking even in freezing weather. I have done a lot of cooking in Minnesota and Montana in temperatures hovering around zero.

    Generally speaking, if I have bright sunshine, I can solar cook.

    A number of manufactured units are on the market, at least three made domestically. The “Sun Oven” is the most widely known followed by the Solar Oven Society “Sport“.  Solarcooking.org is a vast resource to help you find your way into the world of solar cooking is.  Almost every facet of solar cooking is covered in detail:
    – endless ideas for constructing your own unit
    – learning many of the finer points of cooking by sunlight
    – seeing how this cooking method is transforming lives in many developing nations
    – how you can help make the solar revolution real in the lives of others you may never see.

    Youtube.com provides hundreds of videos related to solar cooking, to give you another huge resource. Many other online information resources are just a few clicks away when you plug “solar cooking” into a search engine.

    Solar cooking is, I believe, a step into the future of food preparation that is available today. Make sure you don’t miss your opportunity to taste the future of food right now. Happy cooking!

    Gregory Lynch   believes every person should know the value of self-sufficiency.  He will be demonstrating solar cooking techniques (weather permitting) at our Earth Day event on Friday, April 22 from 11am-2pm. 


  • Greener Cleaners | 04.03.2013

    With a miminum of effort, you can easily make your own cleaning products from inexpensive and common household ingredients like white vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice and borax.  Essential oils are an optional addition to homemade cleaning products, and many of htem, like lavendar and tea tree oil, have antifungal, antibiotic and antibacterial qualities, as well as a pleasant and all-natural scent.  Try these easy recipes for all-natural cleaners.

    Easy Spray Window Cleaner:
    1.  Mix 1/4 cup of white vinegar with a quart of warm water in a spray bottle. 
    2.  Spray windows (doing this on a cloudy day works best), rub with a clean rag and polish with crumpled newspaper.

    GrapefruitDolly’s All-Natural Shower Cleaner:
    1.  Cut one overripe grapefruit in half.
    2.  Sprinkle salt on the grapefruit and scrub your shower!

    Visit strongertogether.coop for more green household hints and tips!

     


  • Sustainability Think Tank | 03.29.2013

    Just 12 years ago Bruce Kania purchased farm ground on the Yellowstone River about five miles east of Shepherd.   Like many of us, he had agriculture in his background.  But he also had “hunter/gatherer” in his genes too.  In fact, based on a two million year presence for homo sapiens against only, roughly, 15,000 years of agriculture, it’s fair to say that hunter/gatherer imprintation may have dominated around his motivation for land management.  

    Bruce KaniaSo now, at the Shepherd Research Center, Bruce’s name for the farm, there’s a few hundred acres of experimentation going on around wildlife enhancement, fishery enhancement, perennialization, water quality enhancement, and more…all driven by an overriding theme…How Will Humans Sustain and Transition in this Changing World?

    According to Bruce, Shepherd is a think tank.  Since 2005, folks from 39 different countries have visited and participated in the think tank process.  This includes individuals from some of the premier learning institutions of the world including Oxford, Harvard, and Yale.  They’ve been to Shepherd to see the ongoing experiments in action which include floating islands that cycle nutrients into fish.  

    Fish from the Ponds The PondsNow Bruce and his wife Anne want to build and grow and connect on a community basis as well.  They would like to enter into discussion with local folk interested in the broad topics of sustainability and physical, emotional and spiritual health.  Other more detailed topics of interest are aquaponics, organic and raised bed gardening, horticulture, wild edible plants, paleo lifestyle, stewardship around fishery and wildlife enhancement, the lag time between environmental and policy shifts (and how this might be addressed),  and pretty much all the other transition issues/opportunities we currently face.  

    But beyond just talking about these topics, Bruce and Anne want to collaborate and experiment around them too.  They propose that their farm can be a platform from which experiments can be run and ideas tested.  

    Anne Kania“I’ve been amazed over the years by the human resources in Billings.  It seems that Billings has more than its share of bright, inquisitive, high energy people.  Maybe it’s Montana that pulls such people here, or keeps them here, for that matter,” Anne Kania stated in a recent interview.   “We’d like to share the experience that happens at Shepherd, the abundance, the lifestyle, the challenges and the outcomes with our friends and neighbors.”   

    On that note, Bruce and Anne will be present on Earth Day, April 22, and ready to expand on or discuss the idea.  They can also be reached at 406-373-5200