Often the latest environmental/social cause du jour comes across as some flaky idea dreamed up by a bunch of college grad students with too much time on their hands.
But one of the latest ideas, now trumpeted by various pundits, relates almost solely to your kitchen. Turns out it could save you a few bucks while it’s no more elaborate than your mother’s old exhortations to “get what you want but want what you get” when you sit down to mealtime.
A new book, American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half of Its Food (and What We Can Do About It) by Jonathan Bloom, pretty clearly indicates its message in the title.
While the author puts forth research that 40 percent of the food in this country ends up uneaten in the trash, that figure is open to some debate. But looking over the ample research on the Internet, it appears that between a quarter to half of the food produced in America does indeed expire unconsumed.
At it’s most basic level, the waste results from the fact food is not valued in this country. Due to advances in agriculture, ingredients become so cheap who worries over the fate of a few donuts, a 99-cent hamburger, or a box of cereal?
Imagine explaining to someone from the Great Depression how in this Great Recession many restaurants cook extra food ahead of time and throw away whatever goes unsold as part of a standard operating plan.
Or tell your farm-born grandmother how often you forget those fresh veggies you bought until you find them all mushy in the back of the refrigerator several weeks later. The worst food wasters are the final consumers: us. We buy stuff we never cook or fix. We order larger meals than our families eat and then trash the leftovers.
This waste does have a financial cost for your household. According to a University of Arizona study, about 14 percent of the food purchased for American households goes into the trash. Nationwide, that amounts to $43 billion yearly in squandered grocery dollars, about $590 per family. We could all use that $590 back, so here are several tips to reduce what goes into the garbage uneaten.
Home economists advise planning total meals before you shop at the grocery store. That way you don’t end up with odd ingredients pushed to the back of the cupboard until they are finally trashed.
A second hint is, oddly enough, to stay away from cheap food. Impulse purchases (like packaged cookies from a gas station) form a high percent of the stuff that gets trashed. Who ever throws away a pack of T-bone steaks or fresh trout fillets? If you pay a little more at the store, presumably you become more mom-like: “Clean your plate. You’re lucky to have that!”
Nutritionists will add that the more expensive foods (meats; fresh produce) are better for you than cheaper “junk foods.” So see, this same contributor to food waste (high quantity/low quality) also relates to the obesity problem in this country.
Another simple suggestion to cut waste and stretch your cash is to take leftovers seriously. In the bigger picture, a whole spiral of inefficiency-related issues flow from wasted food scraps.
On the front end, much of the success of American agriculture depends on the liberal use of irrigation – more water goes to agriculture than anything else in America. Because of that, every wasted food ingredient represents a sizeable amount of water wasted–with water a resource running short in many areas.
On the back end, all that wasted food has to go somewhere. Most often it goes into a municipal landfill. It’s thought that 13 percent of all municipal waste is food from either restaurants or homes.
Unlike impending climate change, this is not one of those issues where the guy on the street is left to read the science with no way to take action. Who can argue that fewer wasted groceries can lighten the stress on your wallet and on landfills that serve your area?
So, as per normal, we’d do well to heed the words of our mothers: “Better clean your plate.”
“They” need to get busy, according to a lot of opinions relating to downtown Jasper.
They need to do something to help businesses downtown, to ease parking, to slow traffic. They need to do something about the trees. They need to get rid of the water park.
Most of all, They need to paint the old blue NAPA building on the corner of Main Street and Highway 53.
In our opinion, They have done enough already, and we’re not being sarcastic.
If, by They, those calling for change in downtown mean government, we’d argue City Hall has maybe done enough, and now it’s up to private commerce to come through in the clinch.
City streets are in the best condition ever. Parking is not bad, compared to any mall.
Jasper City Hall deserves credit for adding some cultural elements to town. There have been a few setbacks, but work was well-intentioned on the water park and on trees along Main Street. Some trees have not prospered in the sidewalk setting. While The city (through community service workers) takes care of the trees, we still rely on Mother Nature to do her part.
The Bill Sunderland sculpture on the courthouse lawn, placed by the county, adds further to downtown’s ambience. The water park at the north end of town was a home-run idea. A watery feature where kids can play on a unique piece of art was a grand notion. And it came at the right price (mostly free), built by former artist-in-residence Eino and city hall employees.
That the work still draws criticism is unfortunate. Though assessed beauty may depend on the eye of the beholder, beholders should remember the water park sits where a dilapidated building once marked the north end of town. Could the water park look better? Probably. But the park and its sitting area add a nice touch to the downtown streetscape. Often used as a photographer’s backdrop, the park seems appealing enough.
As for the old blue NAPA building: the paint just looks bad. But the building is privately owned and has been long enough in place to stand exempt from even the most rudimentary ordinances on civic appearance. The owner can’t be forced to paint “Big Blue” any more than a reader of this can be asked to paint her own house.
Unfortunately the building (like too many other large buildings downtown) sits empty. We suspect the owner of the old NAPA building, like owners of the former Crust restaurant and the former U. S. Post Office on Highway 53, would love to see them bought, rented, renovated and occupied. Everyone who has an interest in Jasper, whether landlord, business owner, or customer, would love to see new life on Main Street.
The number of buildings on Main with “For Rent” signs in the window is distressing. The situation looks even worse if you include adjacent streets on either side of Main, where far too many commercial spaces stand idle.
It would be great to see shops filled with vibrant, quirky, mom-and-pop retailers or eateries and city hall applying every legal means at its disposal to help prospective tenants swing deals with anxious owners for setting up shop. But we are skeptical that government can solve this problem. Even with financial incentives, we need some brave entrepreneurs willing to take the risk and launch a business here.
Until there are people looking to rent, buy, or re-open, there is little government really can do. We remain confident Jasper is a solid place to do business. Establishments like Jasper Drugs, the Carriage House, and Moore Furniture prove good businesses can prosper here. New businesses will come when venturers see opportunity over-topping risk.
Until then, the most important thing that we (not They) can do is to see that Main Street remains strong by being a regular customer of businesses located there.
This winter in Georgia has been unlike any of the past decade. After one ice storm and two major snows not even a month into the season it’s easier than ever to discount global warming as politicized hype. During the past week of persistent snow and ice that covered our region, we’ve heard so many friends and neighbors say, with no less than an overt tone of sarcasm, “Must be that global warming.” But let’s not lose sight of the forest for the trees. Just because one Jasper home sells quickly and for a solid price it doesn’t mean the housing market has returned to health -- any more than a cold snap means that global warming isn’t occurring. Instead let’s use our common sense and take heed of the planet’s red flags. Now more than ever we need to press US lawmakers to make aggressive moves to protect our earth. NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have both recently released their independent analysis of the earth’s surface temperature data and found that 2010 tied 2005 as the hottest year since recordkeeping began in 1880. 2010 was the 34th year in a row that the average global temperature was higher than the 20th century average. The year saw extreme cold and severe snowstorms in Europe and North America, while heat waves swept the planet. Here in Georgia we saw temperatures consistently reach near 100 degrees. In a New York Times DotEarth interview NASA’s top climate scientist Dr. James E. Hansen comments on peoples’ unfortunate tendency to kick global warming to the curb when it’s colder than the average. “When you talk about global warming, then when you have a cool day or a cool month or a cool year people think that, oh, that must be a lot of bologna,” Dr. Hansen said. “But in fact the problem is that global warming is relatively small compared to weather fluctuation, so all you can do is look for a change in the frequency of warmer than normal times. “People do tend to misinterpret these unusual weather events,” he added, “even though the chances of having [them] might be related to global warming, but it doesn’t mean the warming is large enough to dominate all the natural variability.” Using the period of 1951 to 1980 as the scientific community’s base for “normal” climatology, Dr. Hansen says the National Weather Service found that during that time unusually warm seasons occurred 33 percent of the time, with unusually cool and average seasons occurring equally as frequently. Now Hansen says warmer than normal seasons occur 60 to 70 percent of the time, with unusually cool and average seasons occurring just over 16 percent of the time. “So even after this warming you can get periods that are colder than they were in the period from 1951 to 1980,” he says. Some climatologists like Atmospheric Environmental Research’s Director of Seasonal Forecasting Judah Cohen even theorizes that our unusually cold winters are, in fact, a result of global warming. Cohen links the extreme winter weather here to increased snowfall in Siberia. He says as sea ice has melted there is more moisture in the air, which creates more snowfall. More snowfall in Siberia, he says, creates a large dome of cool air in that region which then affects the jet stream, pushing it south and creating harsher winters in the Eastern US and Europe. NASA’s Dr. Hansen goes on to rightly accuse special interests for keeping real energy reform at bay. It’s no surprise that many of the lawmakers who have stalled global warming reform are the very ones being funded by the fossil fuel industry. Dr. Hansen has even gone on record saying he was trying to be silenced by higher ups who were unhappy with data he released linking emissions to global warming. “In my 30-some years of experience in government I’ve never seen control to the degree that it’s occurring now,” he said. The world doesn’t need a public guarded from the truth about global warming. It needs a public that understands its real dangers and an elected body of representatives willing to enact the big initiatives needed to turn it around.
Although cursive handwriting, the flowing style of handwriting where letters are joined together, is currently required of third graders in Georgia, the new Common Core Standards for English adopted by the state last summer makes no mention of it. Teachers and administrators from across Georgia will convene in March to decide whether or not to amend the standards and keep cursive as a requirement for our kids.
A basic question to start the discussion: Do today’s children need to spend time learning cursive?
Proponents consider it an essential tool for writing, an art form linking us to our past. Opponents say it’s outdated by new technologies and all but gone the way of vinyl records.
Cursive script is defined as rapid handwriting in which letters are set down in full and are cursively connected with words without lifting the writing implement from the paper. In the early 17th century William Bradford’s writings showed most letters separate (while still stylistically cursive), but 150 years later that had changed. Thomas Jefferson’s draft of the U.S. Declaration of Independence has most, but not all, of the letters joined, while the final draft was completely written in cursive. Eighty-seven years later Abe Lincoln drafted the Gettysburg address in cursive.
In the pre-typewriter days of the 18th and 19th centuries all professional correspondence was written in cursive and it needed to be mostly legible, if not stylish.
Today handwriting in general, much less cursive, is rarely used. When was the last time you set down with a pen rather than a keyboard to dash off correspondence via e-mail or text?
Most adults can remember getting grades on how neat or beautiful our handwriting was, with girls typically outshining boys in this arena. Two decades ago penmanship was considered a mark of education. That trend is changing and Georgia is one of 40 states whose new curriculum has no place for cursive.
For now, students are expected to be able to read and write legibly in cursive by the time they finish fourth grade but many teachers say there isn’t enough time in the day to spend practicing, especially in light of the many requirements for standardized testing. The shift in curriculum seems to be emphasizing the content of the writing and not how well the letters are linked together.
Elementary schools now advocate computer literacy every week, when students learn keyboarding either formally or informally. Watch a seven-year-old quickly peck and hunt on a computer and you’ll see how informal training takes over in the absence of any instruction.
Daily handwriting lessons have decreased, according to one Vanderbilt University study, from an average of 30 minutes a day to 15 minutes a day in elementary schools. As students get older many teachers prefer typewritten assignments, and it’s unlikely college professors would accept handwritten anything at this time.
Kids don’t write letters now; they send emails or text messages. As education gurus discuss the new curriculum in March they should consider that kids have already embraced the changing technology and align the curriculum accordingly. Is cursive necessary in an age where keyboards and texts rule the day?
Cursive lessons might still be taught occasionally, such as in history classes so that kids will recognize that the Declaration of Independence is not in a foreign language.
But we would challenge handwriting proponents to present scenarios where someone might be called upon to draft something by hand. Sure calligraphy is beautiful, but is it practical to today’s students?
With the almost universal availability of some type of keypad, students will be better off in typing class than writing class.
Seein' as Christmas Day found me on the road away from round here, I stopped midday at a handy Waffle House to place a to-go order. Was lunch time on Christmas Day, mind you. And the Waffle House bein' the only eatery open just then, I had lots of company for sharin' that precious moment.
I weren't inside the Perimeter, but I'd surely crossed that twilight zone 'tween rural North Georgia and the Atlanta 'burbs, I can tell ya. Can't describe it exactly, but I 'spect most folks know the feelin’: that whole "We ain't in Kansas no more, Toto" thing. You know what I mean.
Well, that might explain somethin’ I seen in that little greasy spoon of a place, somethin' I found more than a tad unusual, even a trifle troublin'. See, while I was standin' round 'gainst the wall, lookin' dumb and a-waitin' for my order, I had time to check out the other diners. Many waited to be seated, the crowd heaped up as it was.
First I noticed this little teenaged girl a-standin' up holdin' a book in front of her face. Was a Christmas present just received, I figured, and she was a-busy gettin' into it. But there she was in a whole group of folks––her family, it looked like.
My mama would never put up with that. At our house, books was mainly for noddin' off with all piled up in a bed at the end of the day. And when folks come to see us, we shut off the TV, the radio, whatever other electrically aggravated device sure to present a distraction, and we'd plain visit, that's all. Usually some laughter and pleasant conversation involved.
I mention the electronics 'cause the fellow what was that little girl's daddy (looked like), he weren't readin' no book. Naw, his face was plum glued to some cell phone device instead, and him just a-thumbin' on the damn thing. Had he ever arrived at my mama's table at such a sport, she'd have found him a dark place to park that gizmo, I can tell ya.
And as I looked around all over in that restaurant, I noticed a whole buncha folks a-busy at the same business. 'Bout broke my heart to see it. 'Cause it was Christmas, you understand, the day I recall from childhood as sort of the high holy day of warm fellowship and family love.
"Y'all turn that junk off and talk to each other," I wanted to say to them. I knew I had no right to, it still bein' a free country and all, but I wanted to say it. I wanted to remind 'em how short this life is – how we don't have each other forever, y'know – how moments well shared grow priceless in retrospect – and how a lot of distractin' nonsense can nix the most important communicatin' we’ll ever do, the kind that binds us face to face, eye to eye, heart to heart.
Well, that's just how things have gotten below the Etowah, I reckoned. Yeah, 'til someone told me they'd seen a marcher in Jasper's Christmas parade a-textin’ as she went. Could be it's much the same all over. Have mercy.
I'd apologize for lettin' a rant 'gainst new-fangled gadgetry fashion me a fogey so soon into 2011, but I'd be just plain lyin' if I didn't admit I like the old days much better. The old ways, at least.
I’d say we got along a lot better then without all these electronic distractors. And I aim to keep gettin' along without 'em. Just give me a cup of coffee and a friend to enjoy it with. And all that folderol ‘bout “Can you hear me now?” – I won’t be wonderin’ a lick about that. I'm sure ‘tween caffeine and conversation, that friend and I will understand each other just fine.