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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Produce Tips and Tricks

By: Nan Jensen, FCS Agent

Fruits and vegetables are so important to good health. Regardless of whether you choose organic, or conventionally grown, the important thing is to eat your fruits and vegetables and plenty of them. The health benefits of a diet high in fruits and vegetables far outweigh any potential risks from pesticide exposure. Here are some tips from the Food and Drug Administration to keep your produce safe.


  • Purchase produce that is not bruised or damaged.

  • When selecting fresh cut produce - such as a half a watermelon or bagged mixed salad greens - choose only those items that are refrigerated or surrounded by ice.

  • Bag fresh fruits and vegetables separately from meat, poultry and seafood products to take home from the grocery store.


  • Certain perishable fresh fruits and vegetables (like strawberries, lettuce, herbs, and mushrooms) can be best maintained by storing in a clean refrigerator at a temperature of 40° F or below.

  • All produce that is purchased pre-cut or peeled should be refrigerated to maintain both quality and safety.


  • Start with clean hands. Wash your hands for 20 seconds with warm water and soap.

  • Wash and scrub produce under streaming water to remove dirt, bacteria and surface pesticide residues, even produce with inedible skins such as melons.

  • Do not use soap.

  • Remove the peel from fruits and vegetables.

  • Remove the outer leaves of leafy vegetables.

  • After preparation is done wash your hands again for 20 seconds with warm water and soap.

Remember to eat a variety of foods from different sources and buy local when you can. Locally grown foods are usually fresher -- and kinder to the environment -- than produce that’s been trucked across the country in energy-consuming vehicles.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Seminole Discussion Group on Recycling and Sustainability

By: Mary Hampton, Guest Blogger

The first monthly meeting of the group is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 4, 2010, 10:00 am to noon.

The guest speaker will be Andy Wolfe, founder, Freedom Farm. Andy has worked for over one year to establish a self-sustaining lifestyle. He converted his private residence to make room for a tilapia pond, ducks, chickens, beehives, and a greenhouse. Come hear about Andy's struggles and accomplishments! There will be some jars of the 'Taste of Freedom' honey available for purchase.

Meetings are held at the Seminole Community Library Program Room, 9200 113th St. N., Seminole, Fl. 33722.

Need more information? Contact Mary at 631-838-2272.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Living architecture – Green Roofs and Walls

By: Ramona Madhosingh-Hector, Urban Sustainability Agent

There is great interest in green roofs and green walls as we strive to achieve more sustainable cities. Green roofs and green walls have been referred to as “living architecture” since they promote the concept of life and vitality although they are structurally connected to an urban fixture – e.g. office building, hospital, malls.
Is a green roof better than a green wall? Well that really depends on the building, its location and the purpose for the green infrastructure.

A green wall is similar to a green roof but instead of being a lateral installation, a green wall is a vertical installation. Green walls are preferable where a green roof installation might not be suitable. The benefits of both of these “architectural pieces” are quite similar but the most direct impact of a green roof or green wall in an urban area is its ability to reduce urban heat island effects.

Here’s a short list of some of the merits of a green roof:

  • Green roofs offer the obvious aesthetic benefit but it can also provide opportunities for gardens in land-deficit urban cities and promote health and stress reduction therapies using plants.

  • Green roofs reduce a building owner’s economic costs since the insulation provided reduces heating and cooling costs.

  • Green roofs improve air quality since they filter pollutants and can mitigate climate change impacts by acting as carbon “sinks”.

  • Green roofs also assist with water filtration and reduce stress on stormwater systems because the plants use the water and return it to the water cycle via transpiration and evaporation.

Green walls provide all the benefits of a green roof installation but can be installed as a façade or as living wall. The façade installation uses recycled steel and 3D welded wires to create captive growing spaces for the plant materials. The façade panels can be attached to exterior building walls or between floors or horizontally between posts. The added benefit is that the panels are easily flexible, both in terms of dimensions and mobility, so you can detach it from the building whenever necessary!

Consider a green wall or green roof in your next upgrade!


Friday, September 24, 2010

Clearwater GreenPrint Open House

The City of Clearwater is hosting a community Open House on September 28th to hear your ideas on creating a sustainable Clearwater. Clearwater Greenprint, A Community Action Plan for Sustainability is your opportunity to plan for a sustainable Clearwater.

It’s an open house so you can stay for as little or as long as you’d like between 4PM & 7PM.

For additional information, check out Clearwater Greenprint or contact Lauren Matzke, AICP at 727-562-4547.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Clean 15

By: Nan Jensen, FCS Agent

Last week we learned about the “dirty dozen” of the produce world. This week we sink our teeth into the Clean 15.

The fruits and vegetables on the Clean 15 list are less contaminated, each with an average of only two different pesticides. In addition, they are often peeled and their outer layers are disposed of. Lastly, they are usually easier to wash.
  • Onions
  • Avocados
  • Sweet Corn
  • Pineapples
  • Mango
  • Sweet Peas
  • Asparagus
  • Kiwi Fruit
  • Cabbage
  • Eggplant
  • Cantaloupe
  • Watermelon
  • Grapefruit
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Sweet Onions

Now that you have your shopping list for your organic and non-organic produce come back next week for some storage and preparation tips and tricks.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Sea this September Double Header!

By: Ramona Madhosingh-Hector, Urban Sustainability Agent
September 25th, 2010 has been designated National Estuaries Day and International Coastal Clean Up and many communities both locally and internationally will be scheduling celebration activities.

In a state like Florida, we have so many reasons to celebrate. Our coasts and estuaries are critical elements in our quest for sustainability and offer economic, environmental and social benefits.

Economically – our coasts and estuaries are major drivers of our tourist-based economy. Florida’s coastal zone is defined as the entire state and with 67 counties, 35 of which are directly on the coast, the direct and indirect economic effects results in significant earnings potential. The National Ocean Economics Program estimates gross wages earned in Florida’s coastal economy for 2007 at $3 billion while the coastal zone in the United States contributed $6.7 trillion to the national economy in 2007.

Environmentally – our coasts and estuaries are environmentally sensitive and in recognition of this, Florida has estuaries designated through the EPA National Estuary Program and the NOAA National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERR). Our estuaries provide tremendous environmental benefits that include natural buffering abilities and nursery grounds for our fisheries while our oceans contribute to our trade and commerce activities as well as our ecological integrity.

The National Estuary Program (NEP) recognizes Charlotte Harbor, Tampa Bay, Sarasota Bay and Indian River Lagoon as participating estuary partners in the State of Florida. With the exception of Indian River Lagoon, the other NEPs are located on the Gulf coast of Florida.

With an 8400+ mile shoreline that is exceeded only by the state of Alaska (33,904), Florida is the only other state outside of California that has three National Estuarine Research Reserves (NERRs). The NERRs are well distributed across Florida and emphasizes the unique ecosystems that are unparalleled elsewhere in our nation. The Guana-Tolomato-Matanzas NERR is located in St. Johns and Flagler counties, the Apalachicola NERR is located in Franklin County and the Rookery Bay NERR is located in Collier County.

Florida is the only state in the nation to have 7 estuaries designated by 2 different federal agencies!

Socially - our coasts and estuaries contribute significantly to our recreational pursuits. Our boating, fishing, swimming and picnicking adventures revolve around the beautiful waters of our state. Many families pass down a traditional recipe for low country boil or a favorite fishing memory on one of our famous water bodies.

This September, show your support for our beautiful waters and join a clean-up group in your community. For coastal clean-ups in Florida, contact your local site captains. For estuary clean-ups in Florida, visit the web sites of your nearest estuary. Your local parks may also be coordinating clean-up events, so be sure to ask your local park ranger.

Make a difference - start a sea change!

NOAA Ocean and Coastal Management
Florida Department of Environmental Protection

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Stretching Your Produce Dollar-When Organic Might Make Sense

By: Nan Jensen, FCS Agent

Fruits and Vegetables on their own are very healthful and necessary to living well. But the fruits and vegetables at your local produce may be covered in pesticides and other chemicals that will make them less healthy for you. One way to avoid these unwelcome additions to your salad is to go organic. One big drawback to organic foods, including produce, is they tend to cost 50% or more than their conventionally grown counterparts.

If you want to purchase organic yet maximize your food dollar, consider the advice from the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., that recommends going organic on the "dirty dozen" - types of produce that are most susceptible to pesticide residue:

  • Celery

  • Peaches

  • Strawberries

  • Apples

  • Domestic Blueberries

  • Nectarines

  • Sweet Bell Peppers

  • Spinach, Kale, and Collard Greens

  • Cherries

  • Potatoes

  • Imported Grapes

  • Lettuce

Now that you know the organics it is worth spending the extra money on, check out next Thursday’s post; The Clean 15. Learn which produce you can buy that doesn’t necessarily need to be organic.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Poisonous Toad—Beware for Pet’s Sake

By: Heather Hammers, Sea Grant Marine Agent

Here in Florida we can certainly admit that we have our share of diverse wildlife both on land and in our water including the established amphibian and reptilian fauna that often inhabit and forage in our gardens and landscaping around our homes. One leaping creature that people need to be cautious of however, is the marine toad, or bufo marinus. They're infamous for the danger they pose to small pets and wild animals because of the "bufotoxin" they produce as a defense against predators.

Bufotoxin is a moderately potent poison secreted in the skin of some amphibians, especially the typical toads. The milky fluid contains several identifiable components: bufagin, with effects on the heart similar to those of digitalis; bufotenine, a hallucinogen; and serotonin, a vasoconstrictor. The composition of the poison varies with the species of toad. Taken internally, the poison causes severe, even fatal reaction in many predators. The poison does not normally affect human skin, but it does irritate the eyes and mucous membranes.

The toads' natural range is from south Texas and south Sonora (Mexico) through the Amazon basin in South America, according to information from the University of Florida. However, the marine toad was introduced in many areas of south and central Florida to control agricultural pests in sugar cane. People can avoid attracting the toads by not leaving pet food in open dishes in the yard.

Toad poisoning is a common problem for dogs, particularly terriers, according to the University of Florida. Symptoms include drooling, head shaking, crying, loss of coordination and, in more serious cases, convulsions. A dog's gums will also often turn red. If an owner suspects his dog is suffering from toad poisoning, he should get a hose and run water in the side of the animal's mouth, while making sure to point its head downward so the water isn't swallowed. The owner should then rub the gums and mouth to remove the toxin. A vet should be called immediately.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

What is Organic Produce?

By Nan Jensen, FCS Agent

Fruits and vegetables are the cornerstone of a healthy diet. They contain essential vitamins, minerals, fiber and other compounds called phytochemicals. Research has shown that people who eat generous amounts of fruit and vegetables as part of a healthful diet are likely to have reduced risk of chronic diseases, including stroke and perhaps other cardiovascular diseases, and certain cancers.
However, many people are concerned about the pesticides used on fruits and vegetables, so consequently the interest in purchasing organic has grown significantly over the past several years.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has created an organic labeling program to help guide consumer choices. Organic foods are required to be grown, harvested, and processed according to national standards that include restrictions on amounts and residues of pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), "organic" foods cannot be treated with any synthetic pesticides, sewage sludge, bioengineering, or ionizing radiation. They may use pesticides derived from a natural source.

Next Thursday I will discuss which fruits and veggies might be your best choice to maximize your organic food dollars.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Call for Pinellas Recycles Day Vendors

By: Guest Blogger Jim Chapin, Event Coordinator

Do you or anyone you know create products using recycled materials?

If so, please consider registering to display your creations at the Pinellas Recycles Day event on November 6th. This event is part of the national American Recycles Day program.

Our local event will be held at the Town Square Plaza Park, 5010 - 81st Ave. North in Pinellas Park Florida. The event runs from 9 am till 4 pm. The event will showcase products made from recycled material, what and where residents can recycle, and tips on how to increase your recycling efforts. The event will feature vendors and their products, food vendors, local recycling experts, live entertainment from the "Earthlings", plus free giveaways. The event is free to attend and free to display recycled products.

For more information visit our website once there go to the calender or fill out the vendor registration form.

See you there.