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Take a Minute: Plant an Herb Garden

In honor of National Herb Week, we would like to take a minute this morning to encourage you to plant an herb garden of your very own. Do you currently cook with many fresh herbs? If so, you already know how the various flavors can really infuse any meal with intense flavor. If you don’t, you may not quite understand that yet. But, today’s the day, stop by the grocery store on your way home and pick up some fresh herbs to spice up your dinner.  Whether you’re having spaghetti, baked chicken or grilling out, throwing some fresh herbs in the mix will really wake up your taste buds. After you taste the difference, you’ll be excited to plant your own herb garden to enjoy these irresistible flavors all the time!

Now that you’re ready to have your own garden, where do you start?

Where to plant your herbs?

  1. Be sure to plant close to your kitchen. One key to success is making sure that you can access your fresh herbs as easily as you can access your pantry.
  2. Plant your herbs where they will get full sun.  Herbs grown in full sun will be stronger and more flavorful than those grown in the shade.

What to grow your herbs in?

  1. A decorative pot is always a good choice, especially if you are limited for space on a full garden. Planting in a pot allows portability so that you can adjust the level of sun your herbs are receiving.
  2. Soil that is healthy and easy to mix around will help your herbs grow better. Herbs will not grow in just any soil. They need to be cared for similar to any flower that you would plant.

What herbs should you grow?

  1. Be sure to grow some Oregano. This is a very common seasoning. You can use it in almost anything! So, plant plenty of this one so that you don’t run out.
  2. Basil is another great herb to have on hand. Although basil provides a great flavor to the dishes you add it to, it takes a lot to get the flavor to be noticeable. Make sure you plant a few of these so that you don’t deplete your supply for every dish you mix it in to.
  3. Mint is a fun flavor that a lot of us don’t use often. So, planting this may encourage you to incorporate it in to your meals, or dessert.

Now that you know the basics, you can get started planting your very own herb garden. Remember, it doesn’t have to be big or overwhelming. Just start small and let it grow every year. Also, be sure to experiment with different herbs. You never know what flavors you may discover that you’ve never tasted before.

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To Stream or Not to Stream… Soda that is!

Did you have fun celebrating Earth Day last week? This day provides a great opportunity for us to consider our daily activities and how we can adjust them to sustain our environment. How did you celebrate? Did you make any big lifestyle changes hoping to make a lasting impact on our planet?  Chris Jackson, President of NCES, purchased a SodaStream machine for the whole office to use. So, we’re here today to tell you what we love, and don’t love, about the SodaStream.

First, what is a SodaStream? It is a machine that uses tap water and converts it in to soda, sparkling waters and sparkling teas. Currently, SodaStream offers over 25 different flavors. With just a couple tablespoons of your favorite flavor concentrate, 1 liter of tap water and the SodaStream carbonator, you can make your very own carbonated beverages at home.

The biggest advantage to using a system like this is the inherent benefit to the planet. Did you know that the US is the world’s largest consumer of bottled water? This bottled water habit we have been sucked in to is bad for us and for the environment. Why? Because, according to the US Recycling Institute, only about 20% of bottles used in America are actually recycled. The other 80% end up in landfills across the country.

SodaStream is also an ActiveGreen product. This means that users are actively reducing their carbon footprint each time they use their SodaStream. Many products are made using ‘green’ processes. However, these products are not designed to help the user be ‘green’ each time they use the product. The SodaStream is! So, you can rest better knowing that each time you use your new SodaStream machine, you reduce your carbon footprint.

The only downfall we found to this product is the initial cost. SodaStream has quite a few options for consumers to choose from. These products range from $79.95 to $199.95, offering carbonators with either plastic or glass bottles. But, after you make the initial investment, you will be paying only 25cents per ‘can’ of soda that you make. Or, 25cents per liter of sparkling water. This is a pretty big savings from what you would pay in the store for soda or sparkling water.

So, if you’re willing to make the initial investment, we think that the SodaStream machine provides a great, cost-effective opportunity to reduce your daily carbon footprint. We should also mention that, while the SodaStream is great to have, a big glass of ice water is still the best way to refresh and replenish your body. You should still strive to consume your daily recommendation of 8-16 cups of water per day. However, if you are good at meeting your daily water recommendation and enjoy a soda here and there, getting yourself a SodaStream to save money and preserve the environment may be a good choice.

Do you already have a SodaStream? What do you think are the pros and cons?

Did you decide to go get one after reading this article? If so, share with us what you think of your new SodaStream!

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Celebrating Earth Day with ‘A Million Acts of Green’

Tomorrow, April 22nd, is Earth Day and all of us here at NCES are very excited. In order for us to be healthy, our planet has to be healthy. Earth Day is a great opportunity to begin celebrating Mother Earth and brainstorming ways to keep her healthy. Have you jumped on board yet? Here are 6 ways that many Americans have started ‘Thinking Green’ to conserve our planet (Courtesy Readers Digest).

Green Driving: Roughly 1.5 million hybrid cars were sold in the US between 2004 and 2009. Most of us drive our vehicles on a daily basis. So, this is a great place to start.

Turn off the Lights: 1 in 2.17 adults claim they always keep unneeded lights off or turn the lights off when leaving a room. Not only does turning off the unused lights help save the planet, it will also have   a direct impact on your electric bill.

Recycle, Reduce, Reuse: 1 in 2.38 adults claim they always recycle. But, 1 in 20 admit they never recycle. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, recycling creates jobs, reduces pollution, energy use, and conserves national resources. Many cities are currently offering new programs to encourage residents to recycle. Check with your city to see what you can do today.

Trash Can: The average American produces 1,600 pounds of garbage a year. 1 in 3.7 adults claim they always reuse things instead of throwing them away or buying new items. But, 1 in 25 admit to never reusing things. Garbage is sitting in landfills all across this country. By reducing our personal trash, we can reduce the size of these landfills.

Running Water: 1 in 3.85 adults claim they always make an effort to use less water. However, 1 in 16.67 admit they never make an effort to conserve water. The average American uses between 80 and 100 gallons of water a day. You may be asking; if water is constantly recycled through Earth’s water cycle, why do we need to conserve it? The truth is that we currently use water faster than it can be replenished. So, conserving water eases the burden on treatment facilities, uses less resources and energy and costs us less.

Vampire Power: 1 in 6.25 adults claim they always make an effort to unplug electrical appliances when not using them. However, 1 in 6.67admit they never make such an effort. The electricity used by appliances plugged in but not in use is estimated to account for 1% of global C02 emissions. Where do you start? Begin by unplugging the items around your house that you don’t use often. For example, you may only use your toaster once every couple weeks. Therefore, it doesn’t need to be plugged in 24/7. This is also a good rule of thumb for your home printer, if you don’t use it often.

Now that we have discussed the 6 things you can do to start being green around your house, let’s discuss a few things you can do to in order to start ‘Eating Green’.  Eating Green is not only great for the planet but is great for our  bodies as well . Some things you can do to eat green include:

  • Buying local food items, including fruits, vegetables and meat.
  • Using natural food products in your recipes.
  • Plant your own garden, any size is great.
  • Pack your own lunch
  • Avoid processed foods

There are many great resources available to help you begin ‘Living Green’. For a full list of NCES products to get you started visit our ‘Green Products’ section.  Also, check out this Earth Day video created to encourage everyone to begin considering our planet when making decisions.

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Low Carbon is the New Low Carb (“7 Nutrition Trends of 2010”)

Looking back at our post on “7 Nutrition Trends of 2010” we can see that carbon footprints are being improved in the health and nutrition education areas. Going green isn’t just for homes and cars anymore.
When something goes from garden to grocery store these days, it tends to travel a little farther than we realize. Take, for example, that can of corn sitting in your cupboard. If we were to track how much fuel and energy it took to get there, you might reconsider going straight for the canned goods aisle next time.
First of all, before it’s even grown, fuel is spent to fertilize and plant all of the corn seeds in large farms. When it’s harvested, more fuel is spent to gather all of it up. Immediately after, the corn is stored and either heated or cooled to optimum temperature, yet another use of some energy.
Then, it’s taken, by a fuel-powered truck, to a processing plant, where the machinery uses its vast energy resources to process and pack all of the corn into those cans that fit so nicely into the cabinet. The corn then flies by plane, and then is moved again, by truck, and finally arrives at the store. While it sits in storage for you to buy it, more energy is used.
It’s a bit excessive on an example, but the truth is, buying local can make a bigger impact on our world than you think. If a local farmer goes out and plants something by hand, then grabs the ear off the stalk, washes it, and brings it to the local farmer’s market, you have a product that took a lot less fuel and energy to make. And, it probably tastes a lot better too!
This story is summed up in a pretty fun illustration in the book “Go Green Get Lean,” which talks a lot about how eating more ‘green’ foods can improve your waistline, and preserve our world. Check out “Go Green Get Lean” in our catalog or online at www.ncescatalog.com.