Bathed in Plastic

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I went shopping last week with a friend who has a membership to BJ’s and was reminded why I have let my own membership lapse.  Once you are sensitive to the single use plastic issue, it seems like the plastic monster is everywhere and that the entire universe is bathed in the stuff.  Natures finest gets wrapped and encased. I thought I would choose a carton of milk over the plastic jug…and, as you can see, this didn’t work out for me.  Selling two at a time with one price and plastic wrapping the two milk cartons together! You have to wonder who thinks this up!

 

Eggs (the ultimate in perfect packaging all by themselves) were covered by the plastic cloak as well.

I decided to try Stop and Shop.  First stop was the produce aisle. I needed some celery for a recipe I was thinking of making.  I caught up with a person stocking the items and asked what she thought about the celery being in plastic and whether or not there was some purpose for packaging them that way and she sweetly said “Oh, thats how they come.” She then looked at the quizzical look on my face and she laughed and I laughed and we had a discussion about how easily we say these things forgetting that produce doesn’t start out its journey in plastic wrap.

I did find a carton of milk!

 

Misleading/Mislabeled: MSC 2

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NPR photo of Whole Foods MSC label on Swordfish

As a follow up to my last blog post, I am including the second of a three part series about the “sustainability” of the MSC labeling. MSC labeling is again called to task. Hopefully a great idea will maintain/gain some great standards and guidelines for buying fish. What we wish it to be, though, isn’t yet. Certainly listen to the three programs devoted to this topic or read this entire article (and the MSC’s response to the accusations) but here is an excerpt from the next NPR segment:

 

But many environmentalists who have studied the MSC system say that label is misleading. “We’re not getting what we think we’re getting,” says Susanna Fuller, co-director of marine programs at Canada’s Ecology Action Centre. She says the consumer, when purchasing seafood with the blue MSC label, is “not buying something that’s sustainable now.”

If the label were accurate, Fuller says, it would include what she says is troubling fine print: The MSC system has certified most fisheries with “conditions.” Those conditions spell out that the fishermen will have to change the way they operate or study how their methods are affecting the environment — or both. But they have years to comply with those conditions after the fisheries have already been certified sustainable.

Gerry Leape, an oceans specialist who sits on the MSC’s advisory Stakeholder Council on behalf of the Pew Charitable Trusts, says the MSC’s policy is baffling. “It’s misleading,” he says, “to put a label of sustainability on a product where you still don’t have the basic requirements.”

MSC Labeled Swordfish Please, Hold the Shark

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Image from sustainablesushi.net

I caught the ending of an interesting program today on NPR that explained and questioned the labeling of fish by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).  I see the labels in Whole Foods and other retail outlets and have always just taken for granted that the label was a signal to me that what I was purchasing was “sustainable.”  I am like you-I want to do the right thing and buy fish that are not endangered or in decline. I also want to support fisheries that care about sustaining species of fish for their own livelihood and our culinary enjoyment. The labeling of fish by the MSC seems like a great idea but doesn’t always fulfill the promise of sustainability.

Unilever, one of the largest producers of frozen fish, and The World Wildlife Fund devised the MSC labeling at the height of the Atlantic Cod decline in the 90s.  “The MSC does not certify fisheries itself. Instead, a fishery that wants the label hires one of roughly a dozen commercial auditing companies to decide whether its practices comply with the MSC’s definition of “sustainable.” Sounds like a wonderful idea….

The comment that struck me as I listened today made my heart sink; ( I won’t get the quote just right and can’t find it anywhere in the article) “When you buy swordfish for dinner are you ok with the fact that three sharks were caught along with it?”  The sharks caught are usually release but the stress causes many of them to die anyway.  My taste for my favorite fish suddenly makes me not hungry. “This touches on one of MSC’s three fundamental rules, even though studies show swordfish are plentiful. The second rule says that a fishery is not sustainable if it does not maintain “the integrity of ecosystems” — which means, in part, that it’s not sustainable if there is too much by-catch,” says Steve Campana, who runs the Canadian government’s Shark Research Laboratory, near Halifax, Nova Scotia.

MSC has engaged the interest of the public by contracting with big companies such as Walmart and Target, which are drivers of change for sure-so maybe this is a good thing for some that are just starting their journey about caring for our fish and oceans.  If labeling is done well, we should rejoice that this system has become popular. But this consumer is now concerned that she doesn’t know enough to trust what she reads and will be questioning labels and doing some more research on this important topic.

 

February Board Member Profile Lynne Taylor: Armed to Be Bolder

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Board Member Lynne Taylor will tell you that after the W2O plastics event, “Plastics in the Ocean, Plastic in You”, she gained valuable information about marine debris and its effect on the oceans from Plastic Pollution Coalition founder, Dianna Cohen. Now, she feels even more passionate to take a stand and say “no” to single use plastic. “I feel like I am now armed to be bolder. If people are informed about the issue, they are willing to try and change their habits. We need  factual information before we can jump on the band wagon. Saying ‘no thanks’ is easier for me now. But we still need to spread the word.”

Lynne’s husband Michael (a board member of the New England Aquarium) and her four boys (ranging in age from 7-13) share Lynne’s desire to do their part to protect our amazing oceans.  Michael, a  pilot, recently helped the New England Aquarium transport sea turtles to the Charleston, South Carolina Aquarium  as part of a rescue and relocation program. The boys have a true love of the ocean from summers with cousins and grandparents on the Jersey Shore.  At home, the boys like to calculate how many bottles of plastic they didn’t use by making soda in their Soda Stream. “When the boys see the plastic on beautiful beaches, I want them to understand why we all need to do our part to protect our oceans.”

Lynne lives in Milton and has a long list of accomplishments, including her work in publishing, public relations, and communications.

 

 

Cod Conundrum

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Massachusetts is a place where we value our ocean frontage, its beauty, magic, and its ability to give us recreation and sustenance.  At W2O we are watching carefully as the protection of fish stocks collides with the protection/support of our local fisherman and fish related industries.

Off the coast of New England, our stock of Cod, the fish that Massachusetts calls its own, is “on the verge of extinction” according to scientist.  Making real change so that the fish population can recover while supporting the efforts of our local fisherman and fisheries is a topic that our state has struggled with since the beginning of the decline of the once abundant Cod population from decades of over fishing. If confirmed, the new rulings on allowable catch this year will have a huge economic impact on the fishing community. If nothing is done, Atlantic Cod will be the fish that we will regret not saving from extinction.

From the New England Aquarium: “On January 30, the New England Fisheries Management Council met to decide on allowable biological catch (ABC) limits for cod in fishing year (FY) 2013 (which begins on May 1, 2013). This decision had been delayed since last year by the Council’s request for a new Gulf of Maine cod stock assessment to ensure the findings from the 2011 assessment were accurate. The results of the most recent Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank cod assessments show that both stocks have been overfished, with overfishing occurring every year since the beginning of the time series (1982). These results are in accordance with previous results, both the original Gulf of Maine cod stock assessment and the new one came to the same results.”

Here are some links about this topic (in the news today and some archival information) that might help you understand this huge issue.
http://www.fishwatch.gov/seafood_profiles/species/cod/species_pages/atlantic_cod.htm
 
http://www.bostonglobe.com/lifestyle/health-wellness/2012/12/20/with-drastic-fishing-cuts-expected-thursday-blame-for-disappearing-cod-shifts-ocean/OydWAwHlQcZwWxL6eIXzSI/story.html
 
http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2012/03/04/in_canada_cod_remain_scarce_despite_ban/
 
http://www.pressherald.com/opinion/hope-remains-for-new-england-fisheries_2013-02-03.html
 
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/31/opinion/keep-the-fishing-ban-in-new-england.html?_r=0
 
http://www.savingseafood.org/fishing-industry-alerts/statement-of-the-northeast-seafood-coalition-on-gulf-of-maine-cod-catch-limit-announc-2.html
 
http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2011/jun/03/fish-stocks-information-beautiful
 

Membership has its rewards: Delicious Food and Education about Sustainable Seafood

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Chef Bill Bradley cooking for W2O members

W2O Member, Michelle Vilms weighs in on what she learned from a night out with members at the Sustenance for the “Sole” Event
For the novice fish buyer, the seafood counter can be daunting.  We are often paralyzed by the choices and a lack of understanding about what is a great sustainable seafood choice.  At the W2O members event this month, Heather Tausag, from the NEAq started off by saying,  “Buying seafood over meat is always the best choice. It is a choice that is better for the environment as well as for our health. Knowing the benefits should make us all want to experiment with new selections at the seafood counter.”  Heather and NEAq staff member, Elizabeth Fitzsimons, also talked about the great shellfish options available all year long.  They explained the strict US regulations for monitoring the bays where the shellfish is caught and NEAq Executive Chef Bill Bradley explained some cooking options.  The take-away “You can never go wrong ordering shellfish”.
Next, we learned that all canned fish can be a great trusted staple. Even canned tuna is a good choice.  That being said, not all countries adhere to the regulations and the fish do not see the boundaries. The package labeling will guide us toward the highly regulated sustainable USA products, which is a great choice for the environment.  It also sends a message of support to our local fishermen.

Anchovies are the underrated fish. Most often the anchovy is a food source for the larger fish and has not been cultivated as a dining option.  Chef Bradley provided tasty fried anchovy stuffed olives (recipe below!) as an appetizer.  Elizabeth and Heather explained the many health benefits of the fish which are packed with vitamins and selenium (which has benefits for a healthy heart and has been prescribed as a healthy food to cancer patients).  Because some view anchovy as “fishy” and associate it with what is served in a Caesar Salad, it is a not a typical choice for the home cook. The advice from Chef Bradley was to start out slowly by incorporating an anchovy paste (found at Wholefoods and other specialty shops) into a pasta dish for flavor and great nutrition.
Chef Bradley, cooked with ease as he explained how to poach fish.  Arctic Char was the choice for the evening. Delicious!  Check out the Neaq.com website for some recipes.
All the guests asked great questions and showed a thirst for knowledge about sustainable seafood choices. Overall the best advice was to “experiment with different fish and recipes to broaden the seafood menu in our homes”.  Events like this one helps share the important information regarding the choices that we make regarding our health and the health of our oceans. We should all continue to ask questions of our waitstaff, chefs, seafood counter help and owners.  Asking these questions about where and how the fish is raised or caught assists in menu choices, product lines and consumer information.
This event was fantastic.  The information was well thought out and provided useful tips for our everyday busy lives.
Michelle Vilms is a consultant and a member of W2O. She is also an Overseer at the New England Aquarium.

Fried Olives

 For the: Anchovy Filling

1 cup Italian parsley, chopped fine

4 anchovy fillets, chopped fine

2 garlic cloves, chopped fine

¼ cup panko bread crumbs

Extra virgin olive oil or butter as needed

Salt and pepper

Method: Combine all ingredients in a in a food processor and puree to a paste.  Add some extra virgin olive oil or butter as needed to make the paste smooth.  (You may add water instead to cut down on fat content.)  Place filling in a plastic pastry bag and set aside.

For the: Olives

24 green Sicilian olives

Anchovy filling

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 eggs, whipped

2 cups Italian bread crumbs

Canola oil for frying

Method: Fill each olive with the anchovy filling. Roll each filled olive in flour (make sure the olive is completely covered with flour), then dip in the egg (again make sure the olive is completely covered in egg.)  Finally, roll the olive in the bread crumbs.  Place olives in the refrigerator for at least an hour so the breading adheres.  When ready to serve heat oil in a sauce pan to 325 degrees.  Place olives in the oil, 8 at a time, and fry until golden brown.  Serve warm.

 

W2O Member’s Only Event-Sustainable Feasting

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W2O members crowding in to enjoy NEAq's Chef Bill Bradley's cooking demo

On January 10th, W2O Board member, Pam Holding, graciously opened up her lovely home to a W2O members only night, “Sustance for the “Sole.” NEAq Chef Bill Bradley and NEAq’s V.P. of Conservation and Sustainable Seafood expert (and W2O board member), Heather Tausag, treated W2O members to a free cooking demonstration and discussion about Sustainable Seafood. Beautifully presented delicious fish was served up and Heather and conservation staff member, Elizabeth Fitzsimons, helped W2O members navigate through the myths and facts about what to look for and questions to ask about sustainable seafood when purchasing at a restaurant or for cooking in your home. Bill Bradley spoke about easy plan ahead recipes to prepare for your family or guests (some linked here from the NEAq website).

Fish and Shellfish were generously donated by North End Fish Market.  

Don’t miss out! Join Nowand find out why W2O members have so much fun learning about a variety of topics concerning protecting our life sustaining oceans.

NEAq Chef Bill Bradley with Host Pam Holding

The Other Cliff-Tap the Breaks on Climate Change

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The big new today, of course, is not new news at all. We are all feeling the effects of climate change and thankfully it is a “hot” (pun intended) topic in the press.  Graphs and headlines that show that 2012 was the hottest ever on record are scary but hopefully will squelch the skepticism that still exists about whether or not our own actions are contributing to last year’s extreme heat and drought. Scientists are convinced that last year’s record temps are caused by “natural variability but “many of them express doubt that such a striking new record would have been set without the backdrop of global warming caused by the human release of greenhouse gases” (NY Times 1/9/13).

Tucked away in the Op-Ed section of the NY Times Thomas Friedman makes the analogy that we need to “tap the breaks” on climate change because we are “driving towards a cliff in a fog.”  I won’t get political here but we all know that a cliff is a cliff and we can’t go over it-whether financially or environmentally.  Mr. Friedman puts it eloquently: “Indeed we are actually taunting the two most powerful and merciless forces on the planet, the market and Mother Nature, at the same time. We’re essentially saying to both of them: “Hey, what’ve you got, baby? No interest rate rises? A little bitty temperature increase? Thats all you’ve got?  I just hope we get our act tougher before the market and Mother Nature each show us what they’ve got.”

January Board Member Profile: Meg Kelly “Live to Wimp Again”

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Meg Kelly and Dovey

When adventure calls for quick action and you must decide whether or not to take that tempting risk or to walk away, Meg Kelly tells her three daughters “Live to wimp again” a motto that she has carried with her for almost thirty years from her days as a National Outdoor Leadership (NOLS) participant.

W2O Board member Margaret Carter Holliday Kelly (I give you the long version of her name because it seems as impressive as her resume) graduated from Williams College with a degree in Economics but it is telling that she was a teaching assistant in Environmental Studies, a foreshadowing of things to come. After college and a few years in banking, she took a hiatus to do the NOLS program and lamented to one of her instructors that she wasn’t fulfilled and was searching for her vocation. That instructor, Steph Kessler, wife of current NOLS director John Gans (and that same instructor that gave her the “live to wimp again” motto) recommended that “she do something that she loves.”  The door opened to conservation starting with a Masters of Environmental Studies from Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and followed with a life long passion for stewardship of the natural world.

Meg is vital to the board of W2O. She brings expertise from her positions of President of the Weston Forest and Trail Association (merged recently with the formally named Weston Land Trust) and her work with the New England Aquarium as an Overseer.
Meg celebrates a big birthday this week and I asked her what that meant to her as it applies to her work in conservation.  “I feel like there is some unfinished business-that I have work to do, work that will make a difference. I want to leave the world in a better place than it was in when I was born.”

What We Should Be Doing Anyway

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Derek Speirs for the NYTimes

My favorite New Years quote (NYTimes 12/28) comes from Dr. Frank Convery, an economist at the University of Dublin, and refers to the strides made by Ireland to reduce their overwhelming fiscal deficit while creating low carbon emissions with the introduction of a carbon footprint tax.  By introducing the tax and changing behavior, Ireland has reduced its emission by 15% since 2008.  Dr Convery: “You don’t want to waste a good crisis to do what we should be doing anyway.”