It’s hip to be off!

December of 2008 marks the first of the semi-annual Madison Lights Out (MLO)!

MLO is a citywide energy conservation and awareness campaign, which will run every December and July. The sole purpose is to encourage behavior change in Madison residents resulting in turning OFF all non-essential lighting/energy products. Imagine how contagious this could be, if we as a community are successful in achieving measurable results.

Today, we have a choice in how we utilize energy. If we act now, we may be able to keep that choice. Everyone and every switch can help. You can. You count.

We are asking you, the community members of Madison to participate in the MLO awareness campaign by:

1. Be an example! Turn off non-essential lighting/energy products.

2. Printing and hanging a poster for your apartment, car or business. These can be downloaded at: http://www.madisonlightsout.org.

3. Planting a yard sign in December. Willy Street Co-op has them!

4. Be a yard-sign distribution center in your neighborhood! Email us at: info@madisonlightsout.org.

5. Passing the word—download our email blast and send it to everyone you know!

6. To take more steps towards sustainability... take the Mpower pledge! http://www.mpoweringmadison.com/individual

For more info on where to get/download signs (for your window, car, tables, etc) go to: http://www.madisonlightsout.org. -Madison Lights Out


Consumer victory: USDA proposes mandatory pasture and feed requirements for organic dairy farms

After years of pressure from organic farmers, consumers, and advocacy groups, spearheaded by the OCA and the Cornucopia Institute, the USDA has finally decided to mandate pasture requirements for cattle on organic farms. The pasture requirements will be required for every day of the growing season (minimum 120 days) for dairy (and beef) cattle, with a minimum requirement that 30 percent of organic cattle feed come from pasture. It is our hope that these new requirements will put so-called “organic” factory farms, like those operated by Horizon and Aurora, out of business. Although the OCA applauds the USDA for finally proposing regulations that will put an end to intensive confinement dairy feedlots under the “USDA Organic” label, we strongly oppose a separate section of the proposed regulation that would allow non-organic heifers (young milk cows) from conventional farms to be brought onto organic dairy farms and then be considered “organic.” -Organic Consumers Association


Go green, breastfeed!

Breastfeeding not only provides babies with optimum nutrition, but also helps reduce landfill waste, preserves valued energy, and helps prevent deforestation. Human milk remains the ultimate natural renewable resource and perhaps the most overlooked way of helping to create a healthier planet.

Human milk requires no resources for packaging, shipping, or disposal. The production and disposal of artificial baby milk products add to environmental problems by consuming energy and producing waste. The 550 million tins of formula sold in the United States alone, placed end to end, would circle the earth one and a half times. Each year in the United States, the production of artificial baby milk produces 86,000 tons of tin and 1,230 tons of paper labels, which add substantially to the landfill waste.

Breastfeeding preserves valued energy. No energy is wasted producing human milk the way it is wasted when producing artificial baby milk. Precious fuel is used to transport the ingredients of formula and baby milk products. Energy is used for sterilizing bottles and refrigerating them.

The environment also pays a price for growing soybeans or raising cattle to produce artificial baby milk. Clearing land for pasture results in deforestation, which then results in land depletion and soil erosion. Growing soy requires fertilization and irrigation.

While breastfeeding is a wondrous act of nurturing between a mother and child, it also has an enormous impact on the global ecosystem. Breastfeeding not only grows a healthy mother and child but also grows a healthier planet.

Although we live in a polluted world, scientists agree that human milk is still the very best food to nourish our babies. This is further reinforced by reports in recent years of processing errors in the production of infant formula and the contamination of plastic baby bottles with bisphenol-A.

Human milk is not only the very best food for our babies, but it may even protect babies from some of the effects of pollution and contamination.

To find out more about why human milk is “green,” that is, the healthiest and most ecologically sound way to nurture babies, or for breastfeeding information and support, contact La Leche League International at www.llli.org or call 847-519-7730. Since 1956, La Leche League International has been providing breastfeeding assistance through mother-to-mother support, education, and information. -La Leche League International


Organic facts

• If organic farming methods were practiced on all the planet’s food-growing land, it would be like taking more than 1.5 billion cars off the road.

• You can increase your antioxidant intake by 30 percent by choosing organic.

• The average child in America is exposed to five pesticides daily in their food and drinking water.

• The U.S. water system is regularly contaminated above safe limits immediately following chemical fertilizer applications to farm fields.

• Farms in developing countries that use organic techniques produce an average of 79 percent more than farms that don’t. -Organic Consumers Association


Farm and ranch groups expose NAIS as attempt to confuse consumers and destroy small livestock producers

Fifty-five groups from across the country sent a letter in early October to key Congressional Committees asking them to halt funding for the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) and to keep it separate from food safety reforms.

The recent highly publicized failures in America’s food safety system, from the slaughter of downer cattle in California to the inconclusive hunt for salmonella-laced tomatoes, have created a public outcry. Some advocates and legislators want to include the proposed National Animal Identification System (NAIS) as a mandatory part of food safety reforms. NAIS is a controversial three-step program that calls for registering, tagging, and tracking every livestock and poultry animal in the country, whether or not the animal is kept for food.

“The giant meatpackers are diverting attention from the real reasons for the recurring food scandals, by pushing a feel-good tracking program that will protect their profits without improving the safety of their meat products,” said Judith McGeary, executive director of the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, one of the signatories to the letter.

The NAIS would track livestock and poultry animals from birth to death, ending at the slaughterhouse. According to the Centers for Disease Control, most foodborne illnesses are the result of contamination at the slaughterhouse or during food processing and handling.

“The problems in our food supply stem from factory farm practices and the consolidation of our food industry, so that a problem in one large processing plant can make people all over the country sick.” says Taaron Meikle, President of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, another signatory. “We need to stop turning to false solutions offered by the industry, and support local, sustainable farms that provide safe and healthy foods for our communities.”

The NAIS would impose significant regulatory compliance costs on small livestock producers, lacks a sound scientific basis for combating foodborne illness or animal disease, and infringes on the privacy rights of farmers that are not raising livestock for integrated meatpackers and processors. Among other things, the NAIS plans would allow vertically integrated factory farms that manage animals as a group from birth to death to identify thousands of animals as one group, while most independent family farms would have to individually identify each animal when they leave their birthplace. “The NAIS favors vertically integrated farms and factory confinement farms that will be able to use group identification and avoid the cost imposed on family farms,” says Debbie Davis, a Texas rancher and a director of the Cattlemen’s Texas Longhorn Registry. “We’ll essentially be penalized for raising our animals on pasture in sustainable systems as independent producers.”

The organizations’ letter concludes: “For these reasons, we strongly urge you to exclude the NAIS from any food safety bill and to stop all funding for the program. Additional background information on why the NAIS is a flawed system to address food safety is attached.” -Organic Consumers Association


Bottled water quality investigation: 10 major brands, 38 pollutants—several major brands no different than big-city tap water

Ten popular U.S. bottled water brands contain mixtures of 38 different pollutants, including bacteria, fertilizer, Tylenol and industrial chemicals, some at levels no better than tap water, according to laboratory tests recently conducted by Environmental Working Group (EWG).

Wal-Mart’s Sam’s Choice at several locations contained contaminants exceeding California’s bottled water quality standards and safety levels for carcinogens under the state’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act. Giant Food’s Acadia brand consistently retained the high levels of cancer-causing chlorination byproducts found in the suburban Washington DC tap water from which it is made.

Overall, the test results strongly indicate that the purity of bottled water cannot be trusted.

“It’s buyer beware with bottle water,” said Jane Houlihan, Vice President for Research at EWG. “The bottled water industry promotes its products as pure and healthy, but our tests show that pollutants in some popular brands match the levels found in some of the nation’s most polluted big city tap water systems. Consumers can’t trust that what’s in the bottle is anything more than processed, pricey tap water.”

“For years the bottled water industry has marketed their product with the message that it is somehow safer or purer than tap water,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of the non-profit consumer advocacy group Food & Water Watch. “This new report provides even more evidence that the purity of bottled water is nothing more than a myth propagated to trick consumers into paying thousands times more for a product than what it is actually worth.”

Laboratory tests conducted for EWG at one of the country’s leading water quality laboratories found 38 contaminants in ten brands of bottled water purchased from grocery stores and other retailers in nine states and the District of Columbia. The pollutants identified include common urban wastewater pollutants like caffeine and pharmaceuticals, an array of cancer-causing byproducts from municipal tap water chlorination, heavy metals and minerals including arsenic and radioactive isotopes, fertilizer residue and a broad range of industrial chemicals. Four brands were also contaminated with bacteria.

Unlike tap water, where consumers are provided with test results every year, the bottled water industry does not disclose the results of any contaminant testing that it conducts. Instead, the industry hides behind the claim that bottled water is held to the same safety standards as tap water. But with promotional campaigns saturated with images of mountain springs, and prices 1,000 times the price of tap water, consumers are clearly led to believe that they are buying a product that has been purified to a level beyond the water that comes out of the garden hose.

Americans paid $12 billion to drink 9 billion gallons of bottled water last year alone. Yet, as EWG tests show, several bottled waters bore the chemical signature of standard municipal water treatment -- a cocktail of fluoride, chlorine and other disinfectants whose proportions vary only slightly from plant to plant. In other words, some bottled water was chemically almost indistinguishable from tap water. The only striking difference: the price tag. The typical cost of a gallon of bottled water is $3.79 - 1,900 times the cost of a gallon of public tap water.

Unlike public water utilities, bottled water companies are not required to notify their customers of the presence of contaminants in the water, or, in most states, to tell their customers where the water comes from, how it is purified, and if it is spring water or merely bottled tap water. Given the industry’s refusal to make available data to support their claims of superiority, consumer confidence in the purity of bottled water is simply not justified.

The bottle water industry has also contributed to one of the biggest environmental problems facing the world today. Only one-fifth of the bottles produced by the industry are recycled. The remaining four-fifths pile up at landfills, litter our neighborhoods and foul our oceans. About halfway between Hawaii and California, an area twice the size of Texas is awash in millions of plastic water bottles and other indestructible garbage.

The report can be found online: http://www.ewg.org/reports/bottledwater -Environmental Working Group