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 . . .
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.
We finally got to talk to the inspiring Mariel Hemingway!
But first, a big thank you to Green Diva Correspondent Sandy Holtzman for telling us about Bixby Bars and to Bixby Bars for sending us samples of their unusual, delicious, and seriously sustainable chocolate bars. Bixby Bars are organic, fair trade, GMO-free, and blend in varying combinations fine chocolate, dried fruit and spices to create a drool-worthy treat.
Green Diva Correspondent: Marie Wilson on Eco-Fashion at the Oscars
Our GD Correspondent report was from Marie Wilson, actress and model, who is well-known as Meg from As the World Turns. GD Marie dished on all the awesome eco-fashion on the red carpet at this years Oscars this year.
Many celebrities stepped up to the challenge after the original Green Carpet Challenge in 2009. (Did you know at last year’s Oscars, Meryl Streep wore an eco-gown made from Eco Certified Fabric?)
Helen Hunt wore an eco-gown designed by H&M, who just launched an eco-friendly initiative with the environmental group Global Green.
Skyfall actress Naomie Harris wore a gorgeous gown made with Global Organic Textile Standard-certified silk crepe de chine, recycled zippers, vintage glass beads, hand embroidered chocolate candy-wrapper embellishments (Yes, you read right — chocolate wrappers!). The pale mustard hue was derived from a natural dye bath of goldenrod and chamomile seeds. wow!
Green Dude Segment: Eco Ed Schwartz – Residential Solar Energy 201
Green Dude Eco-Ed joined us once again and did the second in his series on residential solar energy. He talked in more detail about how important it is to invest in solar energy and the different ways to do it.
State & Federal Incentives: There are many federal and state rebates offered to homeowners who invest in solar panels. Who knew? New Jersey is the second best state for refunds right behind California. It is very possible to earn your initial investment back quicker than you think. Go to the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Energyto find out about incentives where you live.
Lease: If it is too expensive to purchase solar panels, you can always lease for a more budget friendly monthly charge.
PPAs Power Purchase Agreements: PPAs are financial agreements in which the solar panel developer owns, operates, and maintains the panels, and the customer agrees to let the developer to essentially rent their roof.
New Construction: Green Dude Eco-Ed also had a tip for architects building new homes-Design a house so if the owner doesn’t want solar panels on it now, another owner can easily install them in the future.
We finally got to talk to one of our Green Diva heroes, the beautiful and inspiring actress, author and activist, Mariel Hemingway. She is one busy lady these days with a documentary about her life as a Hemingway, Running From Crazy, and her new book, The Willing Wayand many worthy projects in between.
The Willing Wayis born from Mariel and partner Bobby Williams’ passion for healthy, conscious living. Her passion came through the airwaves and we were all feeling it. We loved hearing that it wasn’t another ‘self-help’ book touting “this is THE way to happiness . . . ” Mariel quickly described that The Willing Way is all about helping people find their OWN path to passionate, conscious, healthy living.
Mariel is an awesome Green Diva, and we are all in love her. She said she will come to the studio and do the whole hour show with us when she is in New York promoting the book in April. Let’s hope we can get into her busy schedule in April!
I was the youngest in my family – by 8 years – and thusly spent most of my life trying to catch up. I never loved being the baby all the time, yet always found myself attracted to older people and perpetuating my role as the baby. But this week, the delusion that I was still the baby was finally crushed beneath that mother of all birthdays (at least in my current limited perspective) – 50.
I hadn’t really paid much attention to this as a big deal, but EVERYONE around me keeps saying, “oh, no – 50 is a BIG deal.” Oh. Ok. So, I should take this thing seriously?
Growing up hasn’t been my strongest attribute, but perhaps here at the half-century mark, I will consider it more carefully . . . nah . . . that hurts my wee brain. In fact, the phrase ‘half-century’ makes me want to dig in my heels and consider how awesome being a kid at 50 might be.
50 tried to kick my butt with a big dose of phlegm and bronchitis – my big event on my actual 50th birthday was to get carted off to the doctor by my oldest daughter. My potential future as an old woman flashed before my eyes as I sat in her passenger seat and felt like a pain in her @ss. This just boosted my resolve to be healthy, stay healthy and kick some middle-aged booty, because no doubt the next 50 years will bring this scene in sincerity all too quickly – must enjoy the time between as much as possible!
I’m not big on birthdays and gifts and all that hooha (at least for myself), but the universe gave me one of the most awesome unexpected gifts I could imagine – our new furry girl, Gracie Mae. We have always had dogs and at one point in the last 10 years, we had 3 big ones – 2 newfies and 1 very large golden (over 300 pounds of serious woof love).
The last one passed 2 years ago and we have been looking to rescue another furry family member for over a year. It isn’t easy to find a large breed puppy, but my husband and I felt strongly that because of our awesome grand babies, it was important to get a young dog that could socialize with the wee g-babes and they could all grow up together. We really never considered getting an adult dog, so as the months passed, we tried to trust that we would find our new baby, and we would know her/him when we found her/him. We fell in love a million times via internet, met a few dogs (not pups) that just weren’t right and almost gave up.
But, about 10 days before I crossed the invisible boundary into the second half of my life, we stumbled (literally) into our Grace. We had seen some pics online of some newfie mix pups and were running around trying to find them and the kind folks at Eleventh Hour Rescue said we had to go to their adoption center and sign up to be first on the list when the pups came up from wherever they were coming from. So, slightly discouraged from yet another future, maybe, hopeful excursion, we showed up to sign up in person (rather than online) for these puppies, but before we got to the desk, there was Gracie Mae (whose name was Mae) sitting with a volunteer. We stopped, stood, stared, gawked and I think we both cried before we spoke because we knew she was our girl. She came right over to us, kissed us both and offered her paw politely and we were smitten. There was no question, we barely uttered words, but we all knew what had happened and within minutes, there were papers and we were shopping for supplies for our new girl.
She is 5 years old and not what we were looking for, but she was patient – unlike us – and we finally caught up. Wow! We all bonded as if we had been together for 5 years. Grace found us and her exuberant energy is exactly what this green diva needs. She is amazing. May I gush just a wee bit? Of all the dogs I’ve loved, she is probably the smartest. She embodies many of the various favorite attributes of our best dogs in one miraculous package behind those soulful, sweet brown eyes.
So, I trudge this Road of Happy Destiny* with my husband on one side, my best furry girl on the other and the rest of my awesome family all around us. What a party! If I had any thoughts of being bummed out about turning 50, they are gone. I have been salvaged – yet again – I have been recycled and repurposed. I have been rescued by Grace (Gracie Mae that is).
*pg. 164 of the Big Book (if you don’t know what this is, don’t worry about it)