Currency Corner: Home Space

Refrain or Sustain?


By Sandy McCall


Stop the Train, I want to get ON!


Can we live more sustainably each day? I am challenged by the practical versus the philosophical. Who has the time and money to do it all? Not me! Perhaps we can’t do it all, but we can do our best to sustain healthy practices and refrain from those that damage our bodies and our environment! By choosing the things that are most important to each of us, individually, we can do good work, one person at a time, for ourselves and our planet!


Ok, there will be a “Food for Thought” challenge at the end of this piece that you can participate in for the next issue! Read on and check out recipes in this issue!


We have all heard about our carbon footprint but until recently I had not explored what that might mean to me in my everyday life, and importantly what it might mean to the world if I paid a little better attention to what I do each day! So I spent a little time on a couple of websites that helped me to explore from a broader prospective how my actions are affecting the environment. As always, I think that moderation is key, as we really can’t do it all and still have a lifestyle that works!


Try this website and discover what impact your daily life has on our planet:


I really thought I was doing pretty well, so some of this information has been an eye-opener for me. Here are some interesting facts that shares with us:


• One glass of milk has a water footprint of 52 gallons.
• Organic farms use as much as one-third less fossil fuels than their conventional counterparts, and can sequester carbon!
• People who water their lawn with an automatic timer use 47 percent more water than those who just use a hose.
• Animal agricultural operations produce nearly 73% of all ammonia air pollution in the US.
• 73 percent of the Earth’s surface water is locked in ice and snow.
• Between 1985 and 2001, the use of antibiotics in feed for industrial livestock production rose a startling 50%.
• It takes 3 liters of water to produce 1 liter of bottled water.
• The United States imports about half of oil consumed.
• About 10% of energy consumption goes toward raising, distributing, processing and preserving crops and animals used in the American food system.
• One egg has a water footprint of 53 gallons.
• One cotton t-shirt has a water footprint of 659 gallons.
• One pound of cheese has a water footprint of 600 gallons.
• The United State’s electricity generation fuel mix is Coal 45%, Natural Gas 24%, Nuclear 20%, Hydropower 6%, Other Renewable 4%, Petroleum 1%.
• Nearly 70% of swine confinement workers suffer from a respiratory illness or irritation. 58% of workers suffer chronic bronchitis.
• The transportation sector made up 28 percent of United States energy consumption in 2011


And again, it is a good time for me to offer this disclaimer. It is important to me to do my best when searching online for answers to important questions, but please remember that what we find on the web may or may not be true or there may be layers of truth. So please take what is useful here and throw away the rest!


My focus today is food, but you can explore much more about how your daily habits might affect your own health and the health of the planet! The calculator on tells us what impact we have on the earth in the areas of food, shelter, mobility, goods and services. What’s your score? How many “planet earths” will it take to support your lifestyle?


In addition, this website helps to discover the answers to some of our questions about how to shop, cook and eat more sustainably, Check out “Shop Sustainably” and Definitions for more information on interpreting the labels on the food we buy. The next time you shop, you may be more aware of what you are purchasing! Have you ever wondered what all of the labels mean?


• Animal Welfare Approved
• Beyond Organic
• Biodynamic
• Cage free versus conventional
• COOL labeling
• Fair Trade
• Free range and roaming
• Grain Fed/Finished
• Grass Fed
• Heirloom or Heritage
• Integrated Pest Management
• Irradiation
• Locally grown
• No Antibiotics or Hormones
• Organic
• Sustainable
• And the list goes on … discover and question more!


What does sustainable agriculture mean to you?


Here’s one definition: “Sustainable agriculture is a way of raising food that is healthy for consumers and animals, does not harm the environment, is humane for workers, respects animals, provides a fair wage to the farmer, and supports and enhances rural communities.”


Our lives are often complicated and I find it impossible to remember the definitions of all of the labels that I see. If a label does not state that it is Organic or GMO free, I just might avoid those products and here’s why.


Wikipedia defines GMO products like this:


A genetically modified organism (GMO) is one whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques. These might include: micro-organisms such as bacteria and yeast; insects; plants; fish and mammals.


I found a couple of phone apps that have been helpful in my quest to better understand. Try “Center for Food Safety” and the “True Food Network” app for your smart phone or you can Google it online and get the same info. I like these apps because I can use them as reminders when I am shopping! One of the best things in the Center for Food Safety app is the listing of local grocery store brands that are typically GMO and those that are not and also the hidden GMO ingredients in the food we buy—you may be surprised at the info here.


I also like an app called “Food Truth.” It gives you great info on different types of vegetables separated by seasons. The cool part is if I am at the store and spinach is on sale, I can look quickly for a way to serve it that is labeled “cinch,” “simple” or “sensational” and pick up the other ingredients that I need at the same time. Of course there is limited info here unless you purchase the full app. (I prefer to use a cast iron skillet instead of a non-stick pan for the Spinach recipe but to each his own!)


Here is a “simple” recipe from the free site.





• 1 cup baby spinach
• 1 or 2 eggs
• 1 roasted red pepper
• 1 garlic clove
• 1 tbsp olive oil


In a non-stick pan add one big handful of washed baby spinach with 1 tbsp water. Cover and wilt over medium heat, 3 minutes. Make a slight well in the center and carefully crack one egg on top of the spinach. Cover again and poach 3 minutes more until set. Season with salt &pepper. Serve with red pepper sauce: puree red pepper (from jar ok), garlic and olive oil in a blender until smooth.


What about the cost of buying organic or GMO free? Some might say that the cost for our future is too high not to shop organic, yet I can’t always pay the price when I shop, so I pick and choose what works for me. I have explored which food items might be best purchased as organic and which ones are more dangerous to my body and my environment if not purchased as organic, but GMO gets in the way. Here’s what I found:


Here’s some info on what “organic” actually means and things you might look for on food labels while shopping:


• Food labeled “100% organic” has no synthetic ingredients and can legally use the USDA organic seal.
• Food labeled “organic” has a minimum of 95% organic ingredients. It is eligible to use the USDA organic seal.
• Food labeled “made with organic ingredients” must contain at least 70% organic ingredients. It is not eligible for the USDA seal.
• Meat, eggs, poultry, and dairy labeled “organic” must come from animals that have never received antibiotics or growth hormones.


The Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., recommends going organic on the “dirty dozen” listed here—types of produce that are most susceptible to pesticide residue:


• Peaches, Apples, Sweet bell peppers, Celery, Nectarines, Strawberries, Cherries, Pears, Grapes (imported), Spinach, Lettuce and Potatoes.


This same group suggests that the following organic produce is probably not worth the added expense. The group lists these 12 items as having the least pesticide residues:


• Papayas, Broccoli, Cabbage, Bananas, Kiwifruit, Sweet peas (frozen), Asparagus, Mangoes, Pineapple, Sweet corn (frozen), Avocados and Onions.


What about Dairy and meat products? I found this website helpful:


“Nonorganic milk can contain small traces of pesticides. Organic milk is more pure. Organic dairies give their cows feed made from grain grown without chemical fertilizers or pesticides. Growth hormone isn’t allowed. Dairy animals are not given antibiotics, which could get into the milk. Widespread use of antibiotics also increases the possibility of antibiotic-resistant bacteria developing in the future. U.S. Department of Agriculture standards say organic dairy cows must graze in a pasture for at least 120 days a year. The avoidance of pesticides and fertilizers in the feed and in the pasture lessens the impact of the herd on the environment. Remember to look for organics in products made from milk such as yogurt, ice cream, butter and cheese.” [source: Skrzycki]


After researching a bit, I can say that GMOs scare me and the rising use is even scarier! It seems that organic products have pretty strict requirements in production and labeling, yet manufacturers using GMOs, not so much! So at the very least, if I am not able to buy organic, how can I know that I am not buying GMO products (also known as GE products)?


There is lots of controversy about GMO labeling right now and I hope you will all take the time to explore what it may mean to you if companies are allowed to produce GMO foods and are not required to label them as such. My hope is that labeling will become clearer so that we really know when we are purchasing GMO or non-GMO products. Search on “proposition 37” for more info on what California is attempting to do about GMO labeling and how you can get involved.


For a complete list by the Organic Consumers Association of all the companies that helped defeat Prop 37, and their brands, visit:


The Center for Food Safety says these foods are typical GMO foods or ingredients:


• Corn: Corn flour, meal, oil, starch, gluten, and syrup
• Sweeteners: such as fructose, dextrose, and glucosen
• Modified food starch
• Soy: Soy flour, lecithin, protein, isolate & isoflavonen
• Vegetable oil* and vegetable protein*
• Canola oil (also called rape seed oil)
• Cottonseed oil
• GM sugar beet sugar recently entered the food supply. (Look for organic and non-GMO sweeteners, candy and chocolate products made with 100% cane sugar, evaporated cane juice, agave, or organic sugar, to avoid GM beet sugar)


Each of us has to decide how we will walk through this complicated world and I have faith that most people do the best they can do! Carry on!


“Food for Thought” challenge … Are you in? Our Mothers, Our Selves is the theme for the May 2013 issue of WNC Woman. This Currency Corner/Home Space section will include some recipes that you might want to use for a special Mother’s Day feast.


Are you challenged by making your favorite recipes gluten free, vegan or sugar free? Send us your favorite recipe by April 12, and if we choose your recipe in our challenge, we will print a tested version of your recipe as gluten free, vegan or sugar free. Send your name, email address, phone number and your recipe to:



Sandy McCall’s day job is working as the Broker/Owner of Southern Life Realty. When she’s not cooking or loving-up her cat and dogs, she enjoys writing for WNC Woman and volunteering for Madison Habitat for Humanities and Manna Food Bank. or 828-273-9755 or Your Dream, Our Expertise … Matching People With Property!

Sandy McCall
Written by Sandy McCall