The Lost of Art of Canning

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Food and Drink, Home and Garden, Lindsay Vidrine | Posted on 22-09-2010


I ran across an interesting USA Today article this afternoon discussing how the Local Food Movement Spurs Canning Trend and the renewed interest in canning food. Whether it's because of food safety or security concerns, or other reasons, canning is making a comeback.

The article also included a chart showing the number of households that participate in vegetable gardening — 31 million households for 2009 and ever-so-steadily climbing.

Do you take the time to preserve your land bounty? If so, what local resources have you found helpful for classes or supplies?

Posted by Lindsay Vidrine. 

Doing the Right Thing

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Energy, Lindsay Vidrine | Posted on 01-06-2010


Like many of you, I've been keeping up with the various news angles and reports from the BP oil spill but a recent article in The Atlantic caught my eye for a different reason.

John Besh, the James Beard Award-winning chef of Restaurant August and five other restaurants in New Orleans, Louisiana, authored the article The BP Oil Spill…Destroying A Food Tradition which I thought was worth sharing.

I particularly appreciate his imperfect perspective on the energy industry as both a Louisiana-native who grew up with off-shore drilling as a way of life and serving as a paid endorser of cooking with propane, yet Besh has become an outspoken advocate for responsibility and solution-finding throughout this crisis. Advocating for doing the right thing and taking action not only because of the environmental impacts, but also because of the cultural ones.

Additional headlines about Obama's call for a tough investigation and possible criminal charges may be justified, but in the end will not correct the heartbreaking damage to the ecosystems and cultural traditions of the Gulf.

Meanwhile, BP disputes existence of underwater oil plumesas possibly another way to minimize the situation, but in the end I wish all of the time and energy being used to point fingers and dodge blame would be spent on finding solutions instead. As Besh puts it…

Those of us here are left with a seemingly insurmountable mess, with the richest wetlands of America and a culture to match hanging in the balance. Whoever is looking to assign blame—even to me, for taking money for promoting propane—is overlooking the plight of those fish, birds, and people who depend upon the salt marsh estuaries that give the Gulf of Mexico and much of America life. Our wetlands and culture are at stake! Now let us see what we are going to do about it.

None of us are perfect. We've all used oil-based products in our daily lives and will continue to do so at varying levels, but it doesn't mean we shouldn't pull together and demand solutions instead of getting wrapped up in the blame game. There will be a time for accountability, but first we need solve the tasks at hand.

Freshening Up

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Change, Lindsay Vidrine, Sustainable OKC | Posted on 31-07-2009


by Lindsay Vidrine

This blog and its host, Sustainable OKC, are all about fresh thinking and ideas that move our community forward in a sustainable way. With that in mind, the SOKC board thought it was time to rejuvenate our logo. We aimed to communicate that our organization is fresh and vibrant, with a logo that is thoughtful, yet open to individual interpretation. 

We’re excited to unveil a new look for Sustainable OKC:


This clean, bold design will set the tone for other updates to our marketing materials and website in the coming months. We hope you appreciate the minimal, modern approach as much as we do. 

If you’re interested in helping evolve SOKC’s brand by providing time or expertise to update our website, please email me. From the board to the members we are all volunteers, but together we can propel Sustainable OKC forward in innovative and exciting ways. 

The Bastardization of Green

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Greenwashing, Lindsay Vidrine | Posted on 05-05-2009


by Lindsay Vidrine


Untitled1 Do you remember when green was just a color? It was taught
to children as a middle initial in the ROY G. BIV spectrum, and Kermit the Frog innocently sang about the trials and tribulations of being green. 


The word green has had quite a linguistic run. A Wikipedia search reveals some of the emotional, cultural and political definitions green
has carried over the years in addition to being a color:


The word green is closely related to the Old English verb
growan, “to grow.” It is used to describe plants or the ocean. Sometimes it can
also describe someone who is inexperienced, jealous, or sick. In America, green
is a slang term for money, among other things. Several colloquialisms have
derived from these meanings, such as “green around the gills,” a phrase used to
describe a person who looks ill.


It’s amazing how one five letter word can convey everything
from envy to cash to plants and vegetables to sustainability. Even our blog
name contributes to these semantics.


On top of all of that, green has also become an entire
movement. So does this word still hold value, or is it now diluted,
commercialized branding jargon? Just Google the term green washing and you’ll find 11 million hits (in only .19 seconds
by the way).


All of these definitions don’t even begin to delve into the
fact that individuals also have their own perceptions and associations with the
words like green, as well as others. If someone or something is described as
green, conservative, liberal, granola, right- or left-wing, peak oil or so on, you
immediately bring your own associations into your understanding however
accurate they may or may not be.


So as a group interested in sustainability and the Green Movement,
how do we overcome this word pollution while staying on message and not
alienating anyone?


Kermit may have been right all along. It’s not easy being
green, but if the conservative town of Greensburg, KS can do it, why can’t we?
Their panel at the OSN Annual Conference discussed that when the idea of
rebuilding sustainably came up it wasn’t politically charged. It was about
human preservation and was deeply rooted in their agricultural values and
connection to the land that has spanned many generations.


That got me interested in learning about how others view
sustainability, regardless of our differences, political, geographical,
financial, cultural, etc. I came across these interesting articles and blogs:


How to Create Change in a Conservative Culture
Liberal Isn't a Dirty Word; "conservative" Isn't

Terra Rossa – Where Conservatives Consider a New Energy Future
A Perspective on Earth Day from a green Christian


One take away I had was that once you get past some of the
alarmism and trigger words, both liberals and conservatives may actually share
similar views on animal rights, energy issues and (dare I say) climate change.


So whether the challenge is keeping value in the words green
and sustainability or learning how to best communicate to those on the opposite
side of the aisle, it’s important that we think about our words and
communication methods.


It may be the difference between change coming at a glacial
pace or a groundswell. 

A Love Letter to the Written Word

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Books, Events, Lindsay Vidrine, Recycling | Posted on 20-02-2009


by Lindsay Vidrine 

In this electronic information
age of text messages and *ehem* blogs, it seems like the written word
is dying, or at least getting reduced to short-hand-friendly acronyms.

I see this slow progression
in ways large and small every day. Traditional outlets for the written
word — like newspapers and books — are moving online, while at the
same time hand-written notes or letters have been replaced by e-mails
and texts.

The shift isn’t always a
bad thing, just look at this Fresh Greens blog. It provides an
forum for idea sharing and issue awareness that brings me together with
people I
may not have otherwise known. I can even understand the environmental
advantages of saving paper and ink by publishing an online newspaper
instead of a disposable hard copy.

All that said, I couldn’t
help but feel a personal loss recently when I asked my intern to write
a letter for me, and she formatted it like an email. I went back and

explained how the date, address, structure and tone should be, but in
turn received a look like I was a fossil that belonged in a museum.

When I later mentioned my evening
plans included a book club discussion, I solidified my status as a relic
in her eyes. While I may have evoked the pity of youth, I couldn’t

help but reciprocate the same emotion. If this loss is being felt in my journalism-based
field, imagine the erosion other academic departments are facing.

This sad realization led me
to seek refuge in the one place that my hope for the written word is
consistently restored — the public library. My love for the library
started early when my mom used to take my sisters and I to go pick out
books as a treat when we were looking for summ
er entertainment. We spent
hours there, carefully making our selections and checking out the maximum
number of books allowed.

I now live near another very
busy library and gain great personal joy in seeing how well-used the
facility, books and programs are by the community. It attracts all ages
and demographics, which makes t
he people watching and the potential
for community interaction unparalleled. The library system is a tried-and-true
example of how recycling can be a symbiotic relationship and never
ceases to remind me how connected people are to the written word.

If you share the same sentiment
for the library but find yourself wanting to purchase gardening, cooking
or other books as reference, you may want to check out the Friends
of the Library
sale on February 21-22 at the state fairgrounds.
It’s the perfect place to purchase
must-have books for your personal library, plus music, movies and even
gifts for others. In true symbiotic fashion, the gently used items are
cheap and proceeds benefit the Metropolitan Library System.

2009: The Year of Sustainability

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Family, Food and Drink, Lindsay Vidrine, Locavore, Waste Management | Posted on 09-01-2009


by Lindsay Vidrine

Every year, with the tick of a clock, we ring in a new calendar year signifying a fresh start and clean slate for our lives. For many, this New Year comes with strings attached in the form of resolutions – some realistic, some lofty.

This year, I’m choosing to step up the focus on sustainability in my life in several tangible ways. My mother always told me to write down my goals to help hold myself accountable and stay the course, so here it goes:

Resolution #1: A renewed focus on what my family eats.
This includes using my new Made In Oklahoma cookbook Tastefully Oklahoma to come up with delectable recipes stuffed with locally-grown ingredients.

I will also buy food from the Oklahoma Food Coop to make recipes from Clean Eating magazine which focuses on “consuming food in its most natural state.” Each recipe includes nutrition information to help create well-balanced meals while also helping to cut out preservatives and additives that seem to have become a staple on grocery store shelves.

My last tactic for this resolution is to make my own baby food for our four-month-old son. It’s amazing how setting aside just a few hours one Sunday afternoon can provide safe, chemical-free food for weeks at a time. I plan to become a fruit and veggie steaming, puree master to help stave-off food allergies and create a nutritious palate for our little man.

Resolution #2: Ditch plastic bags once and for all.
I never seem to have my canvas bags with me when I hit the check out line and by the time I get back home, I’m too focused on other things to remember to stick them in the car. This will soon change thanks to a set of Envirosax renewable shopping bags. These adorable bags roll up to the size of a cell phone and are an easy and inexpensive way to make sure a reusable bag is always on hand.

Resolution #3: Use less stuff.
Have you watched the video The Story of Stuff? It’s well worth the 20 minutes of viewing time and will put into perspective how most of the stuff we “need” typically ends up in the landfill in 6 months or less. So before I make a purchase, I’m resolving to stop and take a hard look at what I’m buying.

Resolution #4: Don’t let baby gear take over my house.
This is closely related to resolution #3, but the world of baby toys and products is never-ending. Parents and children are constantly bombarded with new gadgets to make life easier. The catch is, many of these products are only used for a brief period of time (especially for infants) and before you know it your child has outgrown it and baby gear is taking over your house. So, I’m pledging to take preventative measures before we get to that stage (and I have a total panic attack). This is going to be tricky – especially when it comes to filtering through all the things people give as gifts that have a short life-span – but I’m up to the challenge.

What are your goals for 2009? If you think about it, I’m sure there are ways to incorporate sustainable practices in some form or fashion. Don’t forget, small changes add up to make a big difference, so keep that in mind when things seem to get overwhelming.

‘Tis the Season…Already?

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Family, Finances, Lindsay Vidrine, Tips | Posted on 14-11-2008


by Linsay Vidrine

Lately we’ve been bombarded by dismal reports about the economy, and every newscast comes armed with a “special news series” on how we can stretch our dollars further.

Other Fresh Greens contributors have discussed great strategies for saving money, so I don’t want to belabor that point. That said, I would like to take this opportunity to talk about ways to celebrate the upcoming holiday season while also staying within your financial means.

I come from a ridiculously large family, (eight grandparents alone, not to mention my husband’s equally large family) so the holidays typically involve a lot of gift giving. Over the years we’ve had to get creative with expressing our love through gifts, while not breaking the bank. One strategy that helps is drawing names instead of buying a gift for every individual. We’ve found this is a great way to get in the giving spirit without the stress (financial or physical) of buying for everyone.

Another helpful tip is thinking outside the box—as in the big box retail store. I have to say some of the most memorable gifts I’ve ever given or received have not come from the mall. For example, one year my aunt put together a three-ring binder with family recipes for all of my siblings and cousins. It was so simple and inexpensive in design, yet extremely meaningful for us. Each recipe noted the family member whose kitchen produced it and a family tree so that future generations can make the connections. Even those of us who are not particularly crafty could pull this off smoothly.

Over the years, other great non-traditional gifts have included making a charitable donation in someone’s name and “adopting” a street, whale, or other animal on behalf of a relative. And don’t forget much-needed contributions to food banks or clothing and toy drives.

For those hard-to-buy-for types, I pick up some tasty handmade treats from the Oklahoma Food Coop or a Made In Oklahoma company. With so many wonderful baked goods, jams and even wines, these goodies are sure to please while supporting local producers. I also like to give the gift of Oklahoma through gift certificates to one of our state parks or a subscription to Oklahoma Today magazine. At just under $15, these Okie t-shirts are another one of my favorite things this holiday season.

This year I’m also brainstorming how to make our son’s first Christmas special. At only four months old, he won’t really understand gifts, so I think Santa can skip our house this time around. Instead we’ve discussed planting a tree to mark the occasion. Then each year we can take his picture next to the tree as they both grow.

Before the holiday season gets into full swing, I hope you’ll take some time to think about unique ways to give without stressing yourself out or breaking the bank in the process. I’m sure many of you have other great ways to give green without spending a lot of green, and we welcome these ideas in the comments section.

Happy Hour

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Family, Food and Drink, Lindsay Vidrine, Locavore, Travel | Posted on 29-09-2008


by Lindsay Vidrine

As a new mother of a three-week-old baby boy, my life has recently been upturned. When I sat down to write this post it was difficult to decide what topic to choose. There are many sustainability-related topics to explore when it comes to parenting a newborn – cloth versus disposable diapers, formula vs. breastfeeding (the ultimate organic/local dining experience), and so on.

But in the limited time I have to write this post, I’m going to focus on something I’ve been missing over the last nine months – happy hour. Before the pregnancy test displayed a plus sign, my husband and I enjoyed trying out locally produced wines and beers. Luckily for us, Oklahoma has a wide variety of producers so we were never short of new products to taste test.

Regardless of your palate for wine or brew, there’s plenty of fun to be had experiencing the places where these beverages are made. There is something about walking through a vineyard at sunset or hearing the story of the land directly from the family that owns and picks the grapes that turns a tasting into a full-bodied experience.

The same goes for local beer producers. Micro-breweries typically have intriguing background stories that bring their beer to life. In addition, their smaller size often provides an agility to produce seasonal brew flavors that the big, corporate breweries don’t bother making.

So the next time you find yourself standing in a liquor store aisle trying to find the perfect pairing for dinner, pick up an Oklahoma wine or beer in addition to that old favorite, or even better, make a date to check out a local winery. Many host harvest festivals and a regular line up of events and musicians in addition to tours and tastings.  

Follow these links for more information on Oklahoma wine and beer:
Order a free Oklahoma Wineries brochure, and while you’re there, check out the Land Bounty brochure as well for U-pick farms and other local agritourism experiences.

The Perfect Lawn: An American Obsession

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Community, Home and Garden, Lindsay Vidrine | Posted on 15-08-2008


Untitled1 by Lindsay Vidrine

August 11 marked the official end to the Dog Days of Summer, but hot temperatures remain the norm in our weather forecast. In Oklahoma, it will still be a while before we experience crisp autumn air or the need for a light jacket, which means a few more months of lawn watering and maintenance are in order.

Over the last few weeks, oppressive heat moved across our state setting weather records and wreaking havoc on the American dream of the perfectly green lawn. This time of year it becomes increasingly difficult to keep these status symbols lush. Instead of giving up the fight, many simply pile on more water and fertilizer without realizing that most lawn care products are not only unnecessary but may actually harm soil and turf. (For now I’ll spare you my soapbox on how many people apply fertilizer without even reading or following the directions.)

According to Ted Steinberg’s book American Green, lawn care is not only significant to the American psyche but also to our economy – generating more than $10 billion in annual sales of pesticides, fertilizers and other products. (Keep in mind this figure doesn’t include the water bill.)

So why is America obsessed with acquiring and maintaining the perfect lawn by any means necessary? It’s a subject that turns perfectly rational people into irrational, obsessed lawn warriors. Looking down my suburban street, sprinklers blast water in the heat of late afternoon while a retiree across the street mows for the fourth time this week (each time inching a little further over his property line leaving a message for his neighbor to pay more attention to lawn maintenance).

Growing up with a father who has a significant collection of “Yard of the Month” signs, I’m torn between my environmental principles and the joy I see in my dad’s face when someone compliments his perfectly manicured lawn. He has eased up slightly over the years and now chooses organic fertilizers when possible, but I know there are times pride kicks in, causing him to revert to guerilla tactics against his stubborn weeds and mole invaders.

At my own home, we’re lucky to have several large trees surrounding our house so our yard is mainly shade grass requiring minimal maintenance and mowing compared to other grass varieties. Not only does my husband enjoy freedom from slavery to the mower, but as an added bonus, our yard stays green year-round without a lot of fuss. Although our self-imposed water rationing and abstinence from fertilizer use may not result in the textbook version of a perfect lawn, we maintain decent curb appeal while the time and money we save allows us to obsess about something more interesting than grass. 

So what are your lawn pet peeves or tips and tricks for sustainable lawn care? Together, maybe we can redefine our local lawn standards into a “Yard of the Month” club based on methods not just results. With this mental shift we might even come to find that weeds are not the enemy our American yard dreams have made them.

American Green by Ted Steinberg
The Green American Dream
Free seminar to focus on Oklahoma City lawns
A free seminar about shade grass and cool season lawns will be at 1:30 p.m. Aug. 21 at Oklahoma County Extension auditorium, 930 N. Portland.

The workshop will focus on grass types, planting techniques and maintenance schedules.
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"It's really easier than most people think to have a nice, green lawn most of the year,” Extension Educator Ray Ridlen said.
"Some grasses flourish in cooler weather and can stay green and healthy through most of the fall season.” For more information, call 713-1125.