Maybe I’m just a fickle gal, but it seems that I fall in love with the last car I test drive. The Chevy Volt is my 4th week-long review ride, and as of now, it is at the top of my real-world, eco-ride list. Sandy totaled two of our cars (with one tree!), and my daughter has the one that was salvageable at college, so I’ve been taking my time doing research on my next vehicle. Being a Green Diva has its advantages . . .
It seems like most car manufacturers are coming out with some type of EV, hybrid or plug-in hybrid. Most of them are still concept cars, but worse, many of them are only ‘compliance’ cars designed to fulfill California emissions requirements so the car company can continue to sell cars in that enormous market. Sadly, compliance cars are extremely small production runs and usually aren’t available to the rest of the US. Bummer.
What’s a Green Diva to do? Fortunately, companies like GM are serious, and proving it with the Volt.
Great 2-part video chat with John Voelcker, Sr. Editor of GreenCarReports.com on compliance cars from last year:
The good news is that the Volt is NOT a compliance car and they have been out long enough to have a significant track record on the road. I’ve talked about them for a couple of years with John Voelcker and other green car experts and the ruling has always been positive. So, I was glad to have a chance to really play with this car and consider it seriously as the next GD mobile!
My dream is to have a car that will run primarily on electricity with a small gas engine as back-up for longer trips. Sounds like a Volt, right? I had driven the Prius plug-in hybrid and the Ford C-Max Energi, which are both great little cars in many ways, but as it turns out, charging from my house (as it stands without a 220 station) didn’t give either of them enough juice to run without using the gas reserves on a daily basis.
I work from home and live where I can walk to town and aside from occasional trips to New York, I really only need the car for local travel during the week.
So far, the Volt is the only car that has answered this dream of gas-less driving. I didn’t use a drop of gasoline the entire week I had the Volt! Now, if I were to every purchase or lease this car, I would definitely consider a 220 charging station because it did take over 12 hours the first time I charged it . . . (note the ‘charge by’ time is 3:30am – this shot was taken at about 11am, so it’s expected time to fully charge was well over 12 hours.)
That was only the first day because they guy that brought it, had completely drained the battery and even depleted the gas as he had to drive over 60 miles to drop the car off. The rest of the time, it charged easily overnight — being plugged in after dinner and ready to go first thing in the morning, which would mostly be my schedule.
It was a little strange never hearing the gas engine kick in, but I rather liked that part.
Generally, the car is a very smooth ride (and is exactly what every single person that got in it said almost right away), and more powerful than you imagine an electric engine to be. I didn’t take it on the highway till day 4 and was very tentative about passing a big truck in a healthy volume of traffic, but the car quietly, but powerfully accelerated without a moment’s hesitation. I expected the battery meter to drain quickly, but it did not move. Hmmm. Really not what I was expecting — in a good way.
This particular model was missing a couple of the bells and whistles that I’ve gotten very attached to — electric seats with memory settings and beeping reverse and front bumper sensors. The former a luxury my husband and I love because we are a foot difference in height, so you can imagine how vastly different our driving settings are; the latter just a helpful crutch that I’ve gotten accustomed to using for the past 6 years, and it felt strange NOT to have those little beepy helpers.
Like all hybrids and electrics, the Volt has its own graphic drive train that helps illustrate in real-time when you are draining the battery and when you are recharging it. And like the others, it offers other graphic displays in the driver’s view that are designed to help retrain how we drive in order to drive more eco-friendly, and ultimately take advantage of the electric/hybrid engine. There was a wonderful little green ball graphic that rotates with leaves happily when you are in the eco ‘sweet spot’ and changes color and loses the leaves when you are not.
Every time you turn the car off, the main display would offer this detailed report . . .
I was very pleased with this car, and because of my ability to drive without using any gasoline, this could now be at the top of the list for new official Green Diva vehicle. That and the fact that the interior was aesthetically pleasing, comfortable and the sound system rocked (a prerequisite for any serious car contenders).
and Green Diva Gracie gives it her paw print of approval too . . .
The title of this article is metaphoric only, because I assure you there is no way I could physically keep up with Mariel Hemingway, if I ever had the opportunity or notion to run with her! And yes, it is my clever way of trying to weave in her two current projects — a documentary film about her family,Running from Crazy; and her new book with Bobby Williams, Running with Nature. And to continue the running silliness, she did say during our a recent interview in the GD studio that now that she is with Bobby, she is running WITH crazy, and we all laughed heartily. The atmosphere in the studio was light, refreshing, definitely fun and funny and sparkled with great energy.
Wish you could hear it? well, me too. Everything was brilliant, but the technology fairy was asleep at the wheel, and the green diva at the control board missed one tiny setting, and as it happens, it was a critical one. I own it. I was blinded by the natural light of Mariel and mixed my input with my output and well, you’ll get to read the highlights instead, and I’ll do my best to be descriptive and thorough.
During our last call-in interview with Mariel, Mizar brazenly invited Mariel to visit us in the studio when she came to New York, and as it turned out, her next visit to New York ended with a weekend of business in northern New Jersey, 5 miles from the GD HQ. We were the fortunate beneficiaries of Mariel’s ongoing whirlwind book and film tour.
I retrieved Mariel and her assistant, Heather from New York and from the moment I saw her, she hugged me and put my nerves at ease and we talked like great friends separated for years, trying to catch up. Without our even knowing it had occurred, we lapsed into a comfortable cadence of fun and familiarity.
When we finally settled in front of our mics in the studio, the conversation went quickly to the film featuring her and the Hemingway legacy called Running From Crazy, which was done by Academy Award-winning filmmaker, Barbara Kopple and executive producer Oprah Winfrey.
Early in the interview Mariel said, “A lot of people say the word crazy has such a bad connotation, but my feeling is that Running from Crazy is about me and my family, literally my feeling like I was running from this genetic or inherited thing. I was scared. But I think by speaking the word, it loses its power.”
For her, nature had always been a sanctuary, and her latest book, Running with Nature is a healing progression from the revelation and healing that is evident in the documentary to her experiences with her life partner, Bobby Williams. Mariel said, “Running with nature has always been my saving grace.”
One thing we all agreed about the book, was that it doesn’t scream, “this is THE way!” As Mariel put it, “It is about finding you. We are not gurus. We’re not trying to get you to follow us. We want you to find you.”
I noted that early in the book it says, “All it takes is a little willingness.” We laughed about how hard that willingness can be to come by and GD Mizar asked a great question about taking that first step, which can seem so overwhelming. Mariel’s response was, “I say to people, keep it simple. If you want to change your food, change your breakfast.” We went on to talk about how vital it is to start the day more slowly and intentionally, with a few solid minutes of quiet, creating a routine that includes gratitude.
The book offers a low-stress way to reconnect with nature and reconnect with yourself. There is a point system after each chapter, which at first made me bristle, but instead of being about gathering points to ‘win’, it offers encouraging ideas on a spectrum that allowed me to feel better than I thought I would about the chapter on adventure, where I thought I would be intimidated.
I mentioned that reading the book was like a stream of reminders of so many of the healthier habits I already know, but allow myself to get distracted from engaging in. Other than the rock climbing, real running and seriously advanced yoga, I related to the book more than I thought I would. It is a refreshing reminder of the many ways we need to re-engage in what we know is our own healthy nature, and of course nature is the key.
Green Dude, Eco Ed Schwartz was patient and waited his turn to do a separate Green Dude segment with Mariel, which of course was also lost in the technical vortex that was my great misfortune that day. I’m thinking he still enjoyed being in the studio that day, basking in the wonderful green diva energy (Heather included in this awesome feminine overload).
After an unusually uplifting session in the studio, Mariel graciously signed a couple of books for us, and we unanimously decided that after all this talk of nature, we needed to get outside in the sunshine and take a group shot near a tree.
Part 2 coming soon:Somewhere in the first part of our ride to New Jersey, we got on the subject of food and my recent healthy detox and my desire to lose weight and feel better. She immediately volunteered to help me and encouraged me to keep a detailed daily food journal and confidently offered to look at it and give me insight. She did, stay tuned to find out what I learned . . .
Only last week I wrote about being a non-consumer for Earth Day . . . And I did celebrate Earth Day this year by unplugging (mostly), not buying anything, cooking nourishing meals, and getting outside as much as possible. It is always a great time to sort out my priorities, and I usually find a bit more balance between my ideals as a green diva and the reality of the world I try to live in harmony with. Let’s face it, this is what makes me a green diva!
I strive to be more conscious about everything I do and the potential impact it has on me, my family, my community, animals and ultimately the earth. Seems lofty, right? Well, thankfully I don’t have to live off the grid and make everything by hand, which is an awesome concept, but probably not realistic for me at this time. There are companies making progress in providing healthier, more sustainably manufactured products that keep people and planet higher on the priority list.
We get offered products to review EVERY day — some rather large and expensive things like cars, which are fun reviews, but most are practical, every-day things. We have gotten backed up with a nice bounty of great things we chose to review and play with, and finally spent some time focusing on most of them. We decided to dedicate a show to sharing about our favorites, and well, we just didn’t have enough time, so there is another roundup coming soon!
Important note: we are never compensated for the reviews, and we only review products that we like and want to recommend. So, while we don’t get paid cash, we do have a lot of fun and hope to offer some good ideas for our listeners to try new healthy products that are good for us and better for the environment.
I will list some of the products from this week’s review show, but to see the full post by our awesome intern GD Jamie (this was her last show and we will definitely miss her – great job, we love you Jamie)
Pure Sky Living offers an alternative to reusable paper towels. They are durable, 100% all-natural cotton towels that will allow you to finally kick paper towels — and save a few trees! When you buy them just remember to wash them in cold water a couple times, so they become more absorbent.
Wean Green is a Canadian company dedicated to providing safe and environmentally friendly products. There glass food containers are created for babies and kids, but can be used by anyone. They are handy and so much better than plastic containers. An added bonus is that Wean Green is a partner of 1% of the Planet, an organization dedicated to building and supporting an alliance of businesses financially committed to created a healthy planet.
The Original Green Pan
The GreenPan uses Thermolon, a non-stick technology that is heat resistant and will not release toxic fumes. GreenPan products are also cadmium and lead free and emit 60% less CO2 emissions producing Thermolon than traditional coatings. Green Diva Meg got to try the egg expert which makes the perfect breakfast egg.
Balance Bar was one of the originators of energy bars and sent us their new Balance Bar Dark. We were like locusts and descended upon the box as if we hadn’t eaten in 17 years — I think we loved these. We got to sample the dark chocolate crunch, the chocolate peanut, and the dark chocolate coconut. Green Diva Mizar barely even let the other Green Divas try the dark chocolate coconut bars because she loved them so much.
The foundation of Bixby Bar ($15.99 for 4 bars) is pure chocolate, completely free of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), preservatives or added sugars. All their chocolate is combined with exotic spices, healthy nuts and dried fruits. All ingredients are natural or organic and delicious!
For the last two weeks the Green Divas having been munching away on Crunchies ($4.99). We were lucky enough to be sent the Roasted Veggies and Tropical Fruit variety but they have many more and they are all freeze-dried, sugar free, gluten free, with no preservatives and high in fiber. Just beware they are most definitely crunchy!
After Green Diva Meg wrote about earl grey tea, Numi Tea sent her a package of their Aged Earl Grey, which has already disappeared because she loved it so much. Numi is 100% natural, organic, and uses eco-responsible packaging.
SHOES (green divas LOVE their shoes!)
Naya sent me a pair of sandals, which didn’t exactly fit, so I gave them to our intern GD Jamie as a goodbye gift — she earned them! These shoes don’t compromise style, they are fashionable and environmentally friendly, because Naya uses materials that reduce environmental impact. They will definitely go with any summer outfit.
Teysha sent an adorable pair of flats to me, and they are my new go-to summer shoe. The shoes are unique, handmade in Panama and Colombia and help to create jobs for women, who might not have jobs otherwise. A portion of their proceeds got to Global Village Initiative which works to incubate social enterprises, provide educational opportunities, increase food security, create access to technologies, and off set their environmental impact through reforestation and sustainable development.
After events like the recent Boston Marathon bombing or the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting, my initial reaction is to be frozen as if shot in the gut with a laser gun set on stun. It’s hard to breath, to speak, to choke out words of any meaning. I will cry, watch too much news for a couple of hours, then something in my immediate world will draw me back. The dog needs to go out, my bladder wants to be emptied or some mundane act of living forces me to move, to break the paralysis that keeps me stuck to the couch with a silent scream stuck in my mouth. Inspiration is hard to come by.
It seems somehow wrong to have a nice meal or a soothing shower or to be happy to see my loved ones come through the door after being absorbed in the media world and drama that encompasses tragic events. I was hyper-aware when I stood up on my own two legs, how lucky I was to have them both after seeing images of one poor man in a wheelchair who had only bone sticking out from the knee down — several times. This is what finally made me turn it all off. That poor guy is going to see this footage and be reminded of those moments forever, not that he would forget, but sometimes shock and nature have a way of allowing us to erase certain harrowing moments or at least softening them. If that were the case for this guy, some idiot will surely show him the footage.
Sadly, these kinds of events aren’t new to the world, but the frequency and intensity has stepped up here in the U.S. in the last few years. If you lived in Northern Ireland or England in the 70s and 80s or inIsrael or Afghanistan or Uganda . . . these kinds are events are no less horrifying, but less unexpected and shocking perhaps.
Platitudes suck almost as much as blame does. There’s always some DB that wants to claim that God is pissed at us, because we love gay people and allow abortion and this is his retribution. Seriously? Sorry, but this is NOT any god I would worship or put any kind of faith in, and trying to convince me otherwise during these times only infuriates me and makes me . . . well, actually, it makes me a bit aggressive and want to scream at the TV or the computer or the newspaper and maybe even throw things. Interesting.
The Dalai Lama usually gets it right for me at times like this. I dig my stubborn little heels in and refuse to be dragged into darkness. I reluctantly turn on the lights, breath deeply, smile at my neighbor, prepare a delicious healthy meal, and drink in life unabashed and unashamed — in tiny sips to start. I cling to hope, when it would be easier to collapse in despair and just eat chocolate all day and weep with the TV about the tragedy of it all (and sometimes eating chocolate all day and weeping on the coach is okay too!).
I hate funerals. Loath them. And yet I go and mostly I’m uplifted by the spirit of hope that usually ripples through the crowd. This was the case with my dear friend and spiritual mentor’s funeral this week (two days after another woman from the same circle’s funeral!). Jean Brookwell was a wise woman with a fantastic sense of humor and a wonderfully deep New England accent. She moved around a LOT, and there were long periods of time we wouldn’t see each other over our 17-years of spiritual experimentation. But, we’d always get on the phone and her voice is so distinct in my head still, “Megaaan, you have to embrace it all! The dark, the scary, the deep unknown.” She would often pepper me with Pema Chodron quotes, and tell me to meditate, which seemed impossible, when I was in such a state of desperation. But, it always worked. I can’t say how exactly, but the unwinding of the most dreaded thing in meditation always revealed a pearl of bright bubbly light and some new tiny piece of wisdom to be gained.
Thank you Jean. In this week of tragedy, my heart breaks open even more and I weep for my mentor, my friend, for her new reality, for my loss, for my new perspective, for her new perspective (hoping she finds a way to share it with me), for her family and their loss, for the unknown finish line we will all cross at some undetermined point whether by terrorist, cancer or old age.
I was sitting at my desk last week staring at my tea cup, which is ALWAYS full of some form of earl grey tea during the daylight hours. My love of this tea goes back far enough that I’m not really sure when I became hopelessly hooked, but it was probably my summer in England in the early 80s. THAT is a whole other story, but I know it was before I met and dated my wild Englishman for several years in the later 80s, because to my shock and horror he drank plain ole Lipton’s (although he did school me on the proper way to prepare a pot of tea – yes, there was a cozy involved).
Tea is one of those commodities that should be subject to Fair Trade standards and in my humble opinion should be organic and non-GMO as well — for the enjoyment and health of the tea drinker as well as those who work on the farms, which are often in faraway places where the potential for unsafe and unfair practices has been common.
It was in my afternoon early grey haze that I pondered the journey this tea made to my pantry and while I knew the brand I was drinking was all of the above (fair trade, organic, non-GMO), I wondered about how some of the other popular earl grey brands would compare . . . ooooo! An idea?
GD Mizar, Gina and I decided to each do some research on one popular brand and see what we could come up with. Because there are literally THOUSANDS of types of tea, from white to green to black to red and too many herbal and flavor combinations to try to categorize, we decided to just focus on one type of tea. As I was writing this, one additional company, which is worthy of a mention got my attention with a timely press release, so there will be 4 brands featured.
The main questions we asked were:
1. Where was the tea grown?
2. How was the tea grown? Using chemical fertilizers and pesticides or organically or other?
3. Who actually grew and harvested the tea, and how were they treated?
4. How much does it cost?
but first . . .
Who is this Earl Grey anyway?
The 2nd Earl Grey was prime minister of England back in the 1830s, when tea drinking was already a national obsession. There are several stories about the origins of Earl Grey tea in England. One debunked legend that one of the Earl’s men saved a young Chinese boy from drowning and the grateful father presented the Earl with tea that was flavored with the oil of bergamot, which is an aromatic citrus fruit — a small orange tree (Citrus bergamia). Of course, as it turns out the Earl never went to China, so there goes that fun story. It is likely that a Chinese diplomat presented the then prime minister with a gift of this specially flavored tea, and apparently he liked it. Jacksons of Piccadilly claims to have been given the original recipe by the Earl himself back in 1830, and continue to produce it as it was originally formulated.
There are many variations, like one of my favorites, lady grey, which is generally earl grey tea with lavender and Seville oranges. But, if you are like me, you become accustomed to your favorite blend.
A little more about black tea in general
Most of us know that tea originated in China as a medicinal drink way back around 1500 – 1050 BC. Tea played and continues to play many roles in Asian cultures from a formal tea ceremony that originated in China, but was developed by Buddhist monks in Japan into a mindful art. India, which is now well-known for growing some of the most popular brands of tea in the west, was introduced to tea by the British, who were fed up with the Chinese monopoly of this addictive commodity, in the 1800s.
Tea was introduced to western culture via Portugal via priests and traders who had dealings with the Chinese in the 16th century. The English, who elevated tea drinking to a cultural obsession, didn’t catch on till the 17th century. In my research, I found a page devoted to the history of tea in England that is pretty informative for anyone who is interested. Then you have the defiant Americans, who were as attached to their tea as the Brits (remember, they were still English at that point), who got all uppity because of the oppressive British tax on tea and dumped a mess of tea from English ships into Boston harbor in 1773 making tea (or the addiction to it) a catalyst in a historic revolution.
The many colors of tea
Black, green and white tea is made from the camillia sinensis plant. Their ultimate color is determined by how they are processed.
I’ll take mine black – the leaves are crushed and fermented. Black tea is fully oxidized. Black tea contains theaflavins and thearubigens, which help to reduce bad cholesterol and lower the risk of stroke and heart attack. And, of course it has 2 to 3 times more caffeine (unless it is a decaffeinated variety).
Go green – the leaves are withered and steamed. Green tea is un-oxidized, which is why it retains its color. Green tea has loads of a powerful antioxidant, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which is lost in the fermentation process of black tea.
White tea? – well it isn’t actually white, but because it is made from the buds and the leaves and is oxidated in a certain way, it has a silvery appearance. It’s all good. And while it has all the health benefits of its black and green siblings, it has the most antioxidants.
Health benefits of black tea
There are literally thousands of claims and studies about all varieties of tea and it’s benefits to our health – well, we have to rationalize this socially acceptable addiction, right? From increasing cardiovascular function to decreasing chances of many cancers to its effectiveness in treating intestinal stress because of its high level of tannins, tea also is credited with some surprising things.
Did you know . . .
black tea prevents tooth decay because of the fluoride it contains
black tea is loaded with antioxidants, such as flavonoids, and is known to prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, preventing damage in both the bloodstream and at artery walls, and lowering the risk of heart disease
a compound in black tea called TF-2 causes some cancer cells to go into apoptosis (cancer cell suicide – yes!) while normal cells stay healthy
all tea has phytochemicals. studies show that tea drinkers have stronger bones than non-tea drinkers, and these phytochemicals are the likely cause
the list goes on and on and on . . .
Here’s what we found out about
4 different brands of earl grey tea
No one was assigned this one, but I got a press release at the last minute and I have always liked Numi teas, so I asked if they had an early grey we could feature and they did. I haven’t tried this one yet, but hope to soon!
Where is it grown? Numi works with the Sewpur Tea Estate, a cooperative consisting of more than 330 workers in Assam, India.
How is it grown? Certified Organic and Verified NON-GMO
Who grows it? Sewpur Tea Estate has been working with Numi for two years. Fair Trade funds have been used to build a new school and provide scholarships; distribute fuel-efficient cooking stoves (chullas) and mosquito nets; build new roads; and develop women’s empowerment programs.
This is my current go-to tea that started this fun project. Love the taste, love the price, and I love paisley designs. Here’s a silly pic I took of the inner bag, which is plastic, but I can’t help admire the design: anyway, about the tea . . .
Where is it grown?
How is it grown?
Organic. Only natural, approved fertilizers are used
Where is it grown? Kenya, Sri Lanka, China, some is even grown in Poland. Everything is processed, packaged and produced in the UK
How is it grown? The majority of their tea is conventional and grown with the use of pesticides, but they do have an organic blend
Who grows it? They weren’t clear on exactly how the conventional tea growers were treated, but they stressed their new fair-trade certified varieties meeting the EPP (Environmentally Preferable Purchasing) standards.
How much does it cost?*
$3.00 – 25 tea bags
*as I wrote this question down for these last two that are not organic or fair trade certified, I wish I had the time, energy and brain power to calculate the REAL cost of using chemical fertilizers and pesticides — for the people working on the farms and the environment. Also, what is value of a worker, who is fairly treated and is afforded reasonable living conditions? There are costs for the abuse of people, whether it is economic, ethical, spiritual or cultural but I believe it all of those. I hope that the demand for safe, sustainable tea (and food) becomes great enough that no matter WHAT the cost, it is the standard rather than a specialty.