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Kate Rockwood (33 posts)
"There's a fierce inventiveness to Detroit," says artist Kate Daughdrill. "People here take ownership of a problem and work to find solutions." In order to help Detroiters keep doing just that, Daughdrill and a friend cofounded Detroit Soup, a philanthropic supper club. Each month four local groups present ideas to diners who pay $5 to attend; the crowd then discusses the ideas over soup, salad, bread, and pie, and decides which project will receive the evening's proceeds.
Since 2010 Detroit Soup has raised from $700 to $1,000 per dinner for more than 20 community projects—like a bicycle education workshop, or the design and manufacture of a coat for the homeless that converts to a sleeping bag—and the typical number of diners has grown from 20 to 200. "Right now Detroit feels like an underdog," says Amy Kaherl (below), Detroit Soup's current coordinator. "Someone needs to care for it, and that someone could be any one of us."
2. Almost any cooked vegetables—broccoli, zucchini, potato—can be mashed and made into fritters. Simply add to a beaten egg, flour, and salt (you want the mixture to resemble thick pancake batter), and fry in canola oil until brown on both sides.
3. Puree surplus berries, then add lemon juice and sugar to taste for an easy pancake topping or yogurt stir-in.
Keep Reading: Your biggest cooking questions—answers!
Four years ago, Zach Balle had a successful real estate career in Phoenix, which earned him an impressive paycheck but left him unfulfilled. "There was a sense that I'd made it," he says, "and yet I couldn't ignore this empty feeling in my stomach." After a colleague offered some unorthodox advice—"Book a flight to a country you've never been to"—Balle found himself in a small Guatemalan community where many children received their lessons outdoors. "If it rained, they didn't have class that day," says Balle, now 28. "I decided I wanted to build them a school—which was totally unrealistic. But I knew if I could figure out a way to include the townspeople in the project, we could make it happen."
Armed with newfound inspiration, Balle quit his job and started researching his plan. He was dismayed to discover that even a simple structure would cost nearly $15,000 for supplies and labor. When he explained his dilemma to a contact in the Peace Corps, she told him about a method of construction she was using that transforms trash into building material. Balle decided to help her build a school in the Guatemalan community of Granados. His friend Heenal Rajani, 31, who had been casting about for a more meaningful endeavor, decided to help out as well. After local children collected empty soda bottles and stuffed them full of chip bags and candy wrappers, the resulting "eco-bricks" were placed between chicken wire panels and covered with cement to create the walls of the structure.
Their two-room schoolhouse, completed in October 2009, used more than 5,000 plastic bottles and 2,053 pounds of trash, cost less than $6,000 to build, and now serves roughly 300 of Granados's students. In 2010 Balle, Rajani, and three other friends, including Joshua Talmon, 31, officially established the nonprofit Hug It Forward to fund more eco-brick schools across Central America; so far they've built 17 in Guatemala and one in El Salvador. The San Diego–based organization, which finances the school projects partially through eco-tourism trips (volunteers can sign up at ServeTheWorldToday.com), now publishes a free online manual to help others replicate their model elsewhere around the world. "Being a global citizen isn't about swooping in as a superhero," says Talmon. "There are more wins if we all work together."
I've lost count of how many phone cases have graciously given their lives in the line of duty. It's gotten so bad that even the sight of my naked iPhone makes me anxious. So after the latest case-killing incident (ahem, sidewalk spill), I knew I needed protection stat. Elvis & Kresse's stylish phone holders come with a not-so-obvious environmental bonus: They're fashioned from decommissioned British fire hoses that would otherwise be headed to the landfill. If stashing your phone in an old hose has visions of scratches dancing in your head, you can rest easy. "Our fire-hose pieces are lined with scrap parachute silk," explains designer Kresse Wesling, which makes the interior soft and scratch-proof. The cases are available in yellow and blue, but we prefer fire-engine red. ($45, voguevert.com)
So when Seventh Generation, masters of eco-friendly household cleaners, launched a new line of soaps, lotions, and body washes this summer, I was game to get my suds on. Like any packaging, you should skip the marketing hype on the front ("natural," "pure," and "healthy" aren't regulated claims) and flip to the backside. Here, the science is transparent and promising: No parabens, phthalates (hormone disrupters that have been linked to increased cancer risk), or synthetic fragrances.
Equally noteworthy: This line is one of the first to qualify as a USDA Certified Biobased Product. The new seal discloses the percentage of materials that are made from renewable plant and marine elements versus petroleum products. All certified products must meet a threshold of 25 percent renewable resources, but Seventh Generation's mandarin-scented body wash, for instance, is 93 percent plant-based. Consider it a clean routine that leaves no residue of environmental guilt. ($4 to $8, seventhgeneration.com)
Slurpy, drippy, creamy, sweet—what's not to love about ice cream? But by late summer, my daily diet of the frozen treat means I'm also itching for new ideas. Here are five toppings capable of transforming that bowl of vanilla (or chocolate or strawberry...) into something deliciously new.
Lark Fine Food's Scourtins
They're like...cookie crumbles
Except...they're studded with bits of black olive. The sweet-salty contrast may sound jarring, but it was love at first bite in our office. The traditional French-style cookie's olives are almost raisin-like in their concentrated sweetness. And the super-buttery, super-crumbly texture makes it easy to crush a few of these grown-up cookies (at left) over ice cream.
Spoonable Sesame Caramel Sauce
It's like...traditional caramel
Except...toasted white sesame seeds give this so-thick-the-spoon-won't-move sauce an almost chewy consistency and a subtly salty bite. I especially loved it spooned over Talenti's Double Dark Chocolate gelato, for a doubly decadent match.
Jansal Valley Basil Crystals
They're like...candy sprinkles
Except...this basil candy is made from small, hand-harvested basil leaves mixed with sugar syrup. Crunchy, colorful, and sugary, the topping also packs an herbaceous freshness that can elevate a simple bowl of strawberry ice cream.
For the eco-minded eater, sushi can feel like a guilty pleasure: Much of the fish is imported from overseas or farmed unsustainably, and a study by the International Union for Conservation of Nature found that more than 40 species of fish could vanish in the next few years, due largely to overfishing.
The next time you're seated at the sushi counter, you can check Monterey Bay Aquarium's handy mobile app for the best seafood choices (domestic Yellowfin tuna gets a green light, while Bluefin tuna is best avoided, both for the planet's sake and because of mercury concerns). Or you can skip the fish (and guilt) entirely and feast on vegetarian sushi. Guy Vaknin, the executive chef at Beyond Sushi, goes beyond the usual avocado-and-cucumber roll at his new restaurant, with creative combinations like asparagus and basil or kiwi and cucumber. We asked the former Hell's Kitchen contestant for tips on spotting worthy rolls at our local sushi joint or making your own at home (it's easier than you think!).
"Like any dish, you eat with your eyes first," Vaknin says. "Green on green can look boring, but picking a roll that has layers of color gets you more excited to eat." The rest, he says, is all about balance: Every soft texture, like avocado, should be paired with something crunchy, like carrots or daikon radishes. And sweet ingredients work well with a bit of spice (Beyond Sushi's mango and pickled jalapeno roll is too tasty to share—sorry, tablemates). And like most green tips, there's no need to think of it as an all-or-nothing proposition: Swapping one of your standard rolls for a vegetarian option each time you're out can add up to a big, happy impact on our oceans.
That's probably why my lazy little heart skipped a beat when I discovered Plywerk, an eco-alternative to traditional framing that's also easier (bonus!). Upload your digital photo at Plywerk.com and pick out your preferred size (from 30-plus options). The company prints the image, mounts it on sustainably harvested maple or bamboo, and adds a durable finish that makes glass moot. When it's delivered to your doorstep a week or two later, your artwork is ready to hang -- no purgatory required. (from $15.50, plywerk.com)
Breakfast may be the most important meal of the day, but morning auto-pilot means it can also get pretty boring (eggs, cereal, repeat). If you're feeling ho-hum about your current rotation, consider one of these swaps instead.
If you always eat: Bagels with cream cheese
Swap it for: Ozery Bakery's Morning Rounds. Think of this saucer-sized, chewy bread as the love child of a bagel and an English muffin. Studded with plump cranberries and chewy bits of orange, they're the perfect canvas for a thick schmear of Karoun's Labne cheese, a thick, spreadable yogurt that's lighter than cream cheese and subtly tangy.
If you always eat: Cheese and toast
Swap it for: Carrie's Black Pepper Bacon Biscuits (at left). Handmade by Callie's Charleston Biscuits, with caramelized bacon, cream cheese, and green onions, these addictive little biscuits are shipped pre-baked and frozen. Simply pop one (or three) in the oven to warm, and breakfast is served.
From the brittle orchid on my desk to the wilted blooms in my last backyard, I've never met a plant I couldn't kill. (True story: I once watered a little potted shrub for nearly two weeks before realizing it was fake.) But on a recent grocery trip, I looked into my cart to admire my bounty of summer herbs and saw...a lot of plastic. It seemed each sprig of mint and leaf of basil was wrapped in its own little slip of bad-for-the-planet packaging.
That grocery store moment was a gentle reminder that growing your own herbs can save both money and the eco-impact of shipping and shelving all that basil, mint, and chives. The hydroponic herb planters from Potting Shed Creations seem particularly forgiving. Made from recycled wine bottles, the planters come pre-filled and are slim enough to soak up sun on a windowsill. When the organic herbs are ready for harvesting (usually in four to six weeks), you can simply rinse the bottle and replant. Three weeks in, my tiny garden is still going strong -- and smelling delicious. ($35, pottingshedcreations.com)