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I was about 10 years old when I became health conscious for the first time. I was especially attentive when I learned about the risks of smoking and other kinds of tobacco use. Those warnings hit home when I thought about my favorite relative, Uncle Zo. From the first time I became aware of the risks of his habit, I wanted to stop him. During my adolescent years, we would occasionally exchange letters, and mine would sometimes include a note about the risks of smoking. He never responded, except once, to say he appreciated my concern.

I  was equally concerned about my Grandma Nancy, who was addicted to snuff.  Family members came to accept her habit, despite the fact that none of us found it to be appealing.  Perhaps that’s why no one was ever motivated to make a connection between our family’s holiday visits to Flint, Mich. and a recurring disappearance of her snuff box when we, or, more precisely, I, was around.

That said, I was determined to make my concerns heard, about my elders and their tobacco addiction, despite the fact there were no good options available to stop them. As it turned out, the best way for me to protest was to focus on two less threatening surrogates: my older cousins Paulette and Shirley Faye. Both were frequent smokers who, despite their youth, were never criticized until I made a stand.

Neither of them was exactly unaware of the looming threat.  My dislike of smoking was well documented, as was a timely teenage growth spurt that made me less wary of doing something so risk.  Since neither Paulette or Shirley posed a significant threat, nor were they fast enough to stop me,  I decided to seize the an opportunity to act.

On a memorable summer afternoon, I spotted an entire box of Paulette’s cigarettes left unattended. Without hesitating, I grabbed the box, burst out of the house and headed straight for the levy, just two blocks away. Paulette spotted me leaving the house, and chased me down the street.  But before she could stop me, I tossed the cigarettes into the Wolf River.

There’s two reasons why I lived to tell this story: Paulette never caught me, and I never did find Shirley’s cigarettes.

Years later, I miss Uncle Zo. I often regret not having the courage to throw his cigarettes into the river., too.

* * * * * *

Even though I haven’t thrown away any more cigarettes, I still have a strong desire to share information to ensure my loved ones can continue to be happy and healthy. That’s especially true since my generation has reached an age where in which health concerns are more urgent than ever.

I’ve had a longstanding interest in supporting businesses that produce food and household products that support good health and environmental sustainability. In many cases, those concepts are a stretch from preferences we learned from our parents. That said, I think these are important concepts, and based on years of research, I’ve concluded that they are worthy of your consideration.

Some years ago, I formed a business that spotlights experts in the fields of health and nutrition who share products and information that address critical health-related concerns in our lives. You’ll quickly recognize that the approach is uniquely mine, taking a crazy, light hearted approach to serious matters. From a business perspective, it’s targeted toward a general audience. I hope lots of people can benefit from this information. You, however, are the audience that matters most to me.

I love you all, and deeply care about your well-being. So you can regard this as a love letter of sorts. The kind I wished I could have written to Uncle Zo.

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These are tomatoes. Or are they?

tomatoes

They look like tomatoes. Just off the vine, luscious and delectable. However, It’s possible that they aren’t just any tomato. In fact, they could be a genetically modified tomatoes. Whether or not genetically modified products can be considered authentic food is a hotly debated topic.
Most tomatoes are produced by large corporate farms, where decisions are driven by economies of scale (larger farms produce more tomatoes and do so more efficiently). But that’s where the debate starts about what constitutes a tomato.
Large scale farms tend to be driven by optimal profits. In order to reach that objective, they use methods that ensure that they can harvest as much of their crops as possible. In part, that means they have to find ways to prevent

bugs and rodents from eating or otherwise destroying tomatoes in the field. Many corporate farms have turned to global chemical firms and genetic engineering solutions that change tomatoes to make them resistant to predators. Those solutions also include chemical additives that make tomatoes ripen slower, prevent softening, without outward appearance.
But if a tomato is genetically altered, is it still a tomato? Some producers, as well as a growing number of consumers, say ‘no’.
For those consumers, a dedicated band of farmers still use

natural methods to produce tomatoes. However many of those farms lead a precarious existence. Most don’t have access to supermarkets where most of us buy groceries. They depend on patronage from ‘true believers’ whose ethical concerns drive their buying decisions. Those producers operate on tight budgets, so they don’t have access to high-powered creative talents to market their products or educate consumers about their health benefits.
Until now.
Today, I’m launching a discussion that I hope will provide valuable information about foods and household goods that can help consumers make informed grocery buying decisions, and provide increased support to organizations that promote natural, sustainable processes to make products that we consume.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1

Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the highest heavens, the earth and all that is in it.” Deuteronomy 10:14

The earth is the LORD’s, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.” Psalm 24:1-3

“For the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof.” 1 Corinthians 10:26

Since I wrote about the carbon fast sponsored by St. Mark’s Presbyterian Church of Bethesda a few weeks ago, many people have asked me to explain the connection between my interest in environmental affairs and  my beliefs as a Christian. The answer is fairly simple. I believe that God, as the Divine creator, provided Earth as His gift to us. Mankind, the beneficiary of this Divine largess, is the designated as caretaker of His property.

Over 2,500 years worth of inspired writings by biblical authors leave no doubt about who has Divine ownership rights over the planet.  Even a cursory review of the above passages indicates that mankind’s authority is based his role as an occupant and caretaker on the Owner’s behalf.   (This is not a consensus opinion and I’ll discuss this further in an upcoming post.)

In that regard, care for the Earth isn’t merely casual hobby.  It’s a legitimate expression of my love for and relationship with the Creator of the universe.

I’m an avid hiker. Part of the attraction is the privilege of getting up close to my favorite venues like the Grand Canyon, Mt. Rainer and Denali. Those breathtaking views always affirm my belief that those are works of Divine artistry, not a random circumstance of nature. As such, I want to demonstrate my gratitude by helping to preserve the splendor of this precious gift.

It’s taken a long while for our society to grasp that reality. A charitable analogy would be to compare our regard for the planet to a tenant of a highly desirable property whose care depreciates the value of the asset and threatens the well-being of the inhabitants.

Imagine how the Owner must feel.

Fortunately, a growing number of Christians are recognizing our responsibility to practice responsible environmental stewardship and to advocate public and corporate governing policies that are consistent with our beliefs.  It’s not yet a majority consensus among faith communities, but the emerging shift in momentum is encouraging.

For now, I”m  happy for the forum to share my passion in the hope that like-minded persons will be motivated to join the movement.

This weekend, I’ll be attending the annual Environmental Film Festival, held a various locations around Washington.

The festival features 140 films that celebrate the splendor of earth’s natural wonders, portraits of exotic cultures, and documentaries about deforestation, climate change, disappearing species and other environmental threats.

If you’re in the D.C. area for the next 10 days, I highly recommend you see these fascinating projects

The large purple banner affixed to St. Mark Presbyterian Church of Bethesda immediately attracted my attention. It read: “Join our Lenten Carbon Fast.” Because I’m both a Christian and a believer in sustainable living, it didn’t take long for me to contact the church to learn more about this event.

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During each of the 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter, St. Mark’s members are being encouraged to adopt simple lifestyle changes to reduce their carbon footprint in recognition of Lent, a period of repentance, reflection and sacrifice. For instance, on Day 1, calls for members to remove one light bulb in their homes. Other challenges include turning central heating down by one degree and unplugging mobile phone chargers.

“These things are not meant to be grandiose or heroic. I see this as doing ordinary things that we are called to do as Christian stewards. I hope this will make a difference in our lives,” said Roy Howard, St. Mark’s pastor.

I made the connection immediately. It’s a great way to highlight the traditional call to recognize God’s gift of life while raising awareness that we, too, have a responsibility show our gratitude by being good stewards of the earth.

“During the carbon fast, participants will focus our discipline on caring for God’s creation,” said Alison Bennett, a church elder. “For generations, Christians have given up things during Lent as part of our discipline. Scripture and our tradition call us to care for the natural world so that all may live abundantly.

“All of the things we are asked to do over the 40 days are small. They will not have big effects, but changes to our hearts and minds are just as important,” she said.

So far there has been a good response the congregation. In addition, 75 people have signed on the church’s Facebook page, Friends of St. Mark Presbyterian Church.

I’m excited to learn that the church is committed to remind its members that there is a link between Christianity and concern for the environment. Some people may view this as a departure from traditional Christian values. I agree with Rev. Howard and his congregation, and their belief that there is an inherent call to environmental stewardship in the Bible.

It’s a simple concept. Earth is God’s gift to man. The only appropriate response should be to treat God’s gift with the kind of loving care that is commenserate with the value of the gift. St. Mark’s carbon fast engages participants to bring those convictions to life in their daily activities.

Miscalculation

A few months ago, I launched my ‘buy used” commitment with the purchase of a new-to-me television at an estate sale.

Initially, I was excited because it appeared to be a great deal. The price was right — $50 for a 3-year old, 40-inch model in very good operating condition.

Big mistake

I neglected to look for the Energy Star logo. If you’re not aware, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sponsors Energy Star, a program that helps consumers identify energy-efficient consumer goods.

I nearly always choose products with the Energy Star logo when I’m shopping at a retail outlet.

It turns out that the new-to-me television is not at all efficient. That became abundantly evident when the next electric bill indicated my consumption increased noticeably.

Fortunately, I’m not a huge television viewer, so my footprint won’t take a huge hit…until it’s time for recycling…when I’ll have to address other issues. But I’ll leave that for another post.

Note to self for future purchases: Look for the Energy Star logo…even when buying used electronics and appliances.

Recently, I’ve found myself trying to balance my desire to cut my carbon footprint with the harsh reality that I can’t continue to choose more expensive carbon-free options for daily commuting.

This sudden change is necessary because my job status has changed from full-time to part time. While that’s given me more time for blogging, I’ve had to make some difficult decisions regarding my sustainability options. That means I’ll be commuting to work by car instead of using public transportation.

A round trip using the preferred rail/bus option costs $4. 95. The same trip by car, even when adding maintenance and insurance costs, is just over $2. Normally, that’s not a big deal. Across an entire month, that adds up, and in the current environment, I simply can’t afford to ignore the additional cost. And unfortunately, there are no known carpooling options available.

I started taking public transit a few weeks ago. Montgomery County has a very good public transportation infrastructure, and Washington Metro is one of the nation’s best urban transportation networks. I can reach most of my travel destinations by bus or rail, even though it requires a bit more planning. And the longer trips offer a great opportunity for reading, one of my passions.

The other major snag is that there is no transit service to the church I attend in Centreville (a 31-mile trip); the same is true for another church in Vienna where I participate in men’s retreats (22 miles). Those also happen to be my longest weekly trips However, when gasoline prices return to mid-2007 levels; I may have to revisit those decisions if my job status doesn’t change.

This is probably an indication that my commitment to reduce my footprint will be severely tested, as my budget now dictates that cost will trump carbon commitment for now. Then again, times like these offer opportunities to employ creative cost-saving methods. And, as always, I’ll gladly accept suggestions anyone who has found useful ways to overcome this dilemma.