There is really no better day of the year than this to launch The Green Advocate.
So, in honor of St. Patrick, popular Patron Saint and Apostle of Ireland, here are a few eco-friendly and eco-cultural suggestions to help make March 17th (and the year that follows) even greener.
These touch upon four quite important areas of Irish life and modern green living: food, shopping, drinking and cultural entertainment. We’ll leave politics and religion aside for the moment.
Eat Green – starting with the most important meal of the day.
The traditional Irish breakfast usually involves a plate piled high with rashers, sausages, black and white puddings, fried eggs, a dollop of baked beans and hot buttered toast or soda bread. All washed down with a mug of scalding tea. Hearty and satisfying it may well be, but green it most definitely is not!
Relax! You don’t have to lose the bacon – but one way to make the dish greener is to look for pasture-raised, organic proteins, dairy and eggs, ideally stamped with the Animal Welfare Approved Certification. Granted this can be more expensive, but balance out the cost by eating less meat and more vegetables throughout the week – focus on quality over quantity.
If you can afford it, honestly, it’s worth the extra few dollars to taste eggs produced by chickens who have feasted on grass and grubs and basked happily in the sun, the way chickens should. Brimming with heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, these are nutritious and indescribably delicious forkfuls of goodness.
Next, consider adding some leaves or plants to the plate as well. A bed of piquant watercress or baby arugula is a tasty base for crispy bacon and runny golden yolks – perhaps topped off with a few slices of avocado, grilled zucchini or fried green tomatoes.
Suddenly, breakfast has become a lot heartier, a lot healthier and a lot greener. Better for you and just a little bit better for the planet.
Shop green – support your local farmers’ market.
Where to find these wonderful grass-fed, green foods? Thanks to growing customer demand, even the most basic supermarkets are starting to offer more organic, unconventionally produced options. However, the best way to support small producers and to source great ingredients is to take a trip to your local farmers’ market.
Founded nearly 40 years ago, New York City’s terrific “Greenmarket” program is one of the largest in the country, with 54 urban markets throughout the week and some 230 family farmers and fishermen participating. Heading to Union Square every Saturday morning has become a favorite ritual of mine, and I’ll happily spend several hours wandering around the stalls and stocking up on fresh produce for the week. Building a rapport with these tenacious, dedicated farmers has also helped to make my shopping, cooking and eating experiences a lot more satisfying and enjoyable.
The USDA’s Local Food Directories is a great resource for finding local farmers’ markets and community supported agricultural programs all over the United States.
In Ireland, Bord Bía (The Irish Food Board) publishes a list of Country Markets, highlighting those that meet the welfare Code of Good Practice for Farmers’ Markets. If you live in the United Kingdom, hop onto the Local Foods directory which includes a post-code search wizard to help you find nearby Farmers’ Markets, Farm Shops and artisan producers.
Drink Green – just not the color.
Let’s forget about the monstrous idea of green beer. Instead, why not check out some organic wines and beers as a better, greener way to toast St. Patrick. In the store, look for the organic seal or other certification highlighting sustainable production practices.
The Organic Wine Company is a distributor offering a worldwide selection of bio-dynamic, sulfate-free and vegan wines, all available to order online. In the United States, EcoVineWine is a California-based wine club specializing in sourcing and distributing award-winning organic wines. And of course, if you live near wine country, either on the East or West Coast, it’s a great idea to visit and support local vineyards, where you can ask questions directly as to how the grapes are grown and the wine produced.
Experimenting with organic wines can still be a bit hit or miss, but one brand I’ve tried – and like – is the Pinot Noir from French wine producer, Gilles Louvet.
As for beers, many organic brands from local, artisan breweries are popping up and available in supermarkets all over the country. I’ll have to admit this is not my specialty area so let’s turn to the experts – here’s Esquire magazine’s recent take on 8 Refreshingly Organic Beers.
For those who prefer not to drink alcohol, green tea is an obvious – and healthy – alternative. Try it iced, mixed with sparkling water, mint and perhaps even some cucumber, lime or apple slices for a bit of added excitement. Doesn’t get any cleaner, or greener than that!
Read Green – enjoy some Irish literature the old fashioned way.
Leafing through an old-fashioned book is a simple pleasure and one that is becoming sadly overlooked in today’s modern world of Kindles, tablets and other electronic devices. These are not without their place, believe me I love the convenience of them too, particularly when traveling. But once in a while, put down the phone, switch off the laptop and curl up in the corner of a comfortable sofa. Take some time to relax and enjoy the experience of turning actual pages.
The Irish are celebrated story-tellers and for a country the size of Indiana, its contribution to the world’s literary stage has been quite remarkable. For a glimpse into the Irish psyche, check out the likes of Jonathan Swift, James Joyce, W.B. Yeats, Sean O’Casey, George Bernard-Shaw, Oscar Wilde, Brendan Behan, Samuel Beckett, Seamus Heaney, through to contemporary writers Colm McCann, Colm Tóibin and Roddy Doyle.
Let’s also take a moment to think about the ladies. Pioneers such as Edna O’Brien, Jennifer Johnston, Elizabeth Bowen, Molly Keane, Maria Edgeworth, Iris Murdoch, Anne Enright, Maeve Binchy and Marian Keyes are some of the talented doyennes who have made their own mark on the literary and popular written landscape, both in Ireland and beyond.
A special mention must be made to the singular, elegantly eccentric Maeve Brennan (1917-1993), an under-appreciated Irish short-story writer, journalist and satirist who moved to the United States and settled in New York in 1934. With her witty and vibrant observations about life and society as she flit and flew around Manhattan, she established herself as Ireland’s very own equivalent of Dorothy Parker.
This recent article in The New Yorker is a lovely profile about the life and work of this interesting writer, bohemian and astute social commentator.
Live Green – at least in our own tiny corner of the planet.
These are just a few simple ideas about how to bring a little more authenticity, culture and ‘green’ to St. Patrick’s Day.
It’s also a roundabout way for me to introduce The Green Advocate and provide a few insights as to what it’s all about.
On June 28, 1963, during his historic trip to the Emerald Isle, Ireland’s favorite American President, John F. Kennedy, addressed a joint session of the Dáil and the Seanad (Houses of Parliament) in Dublin. He sagely observed that “[t]he supreme reality of our time is …the vulnerability of our planet” and these green words ring even truer today as they did back then.
The many challenges facing our beleaguered planet are completely overwhelming and I’m well aware of my own limitations when it comes to solving any of them. So I’m not planning to.
What I am planning to do is pursue a leaner, cleaner, greener lifestyle – and not to stop blathering on about it to anyone who is (i) passionately interested (ii) extremely interested (iii) moderately interested (iv) vaguely interested (v) disinterested (vi) thoroughly disinterested or worst case scenario (vii) completely catatonic.
Recently, to my great despair, I noticed that friends and family members began running for the door, glaze-eyed, every time I started pontificating about some of my favorite topics, be it the insidious use of flame retardants in furniture, the unmentionable parabens lurking in shampoo or the evils of GMOs. Start a blog and stop torturing us, they told me. So here I am.
As an independent advocate for all things green, I am looking forward to profiling and promoting a myriad of different products, restaurants, suppliers, farmers, business owners, stores, recipes, organizations, communities, causes, people, ideas, books, films and other relevant topics of the day. All gently united by the common theme of green. Why? Because they might interest, uplift, intrigue or inspire me. Because I’d like to acknowledge their role in a greener, cleaner life. And because I’d like to share this information with you.
Rest assured, unlike Paddy, I’m no saint. For me, this is not about making judgments, criticizing others, abstaining from a juicy cheeseburger or turning down that generously-poured glass of Rioja. However, it is about finding ways to live life (while enjoying my favorite indulgences) in the kindest way possible, both for me, those around me and the environment. While it may not change the world, at least it may have a beneficial impact on my own little part of the world. Which is a start.
Hopefully, I’ll end up entertaining a few people here and there – and learning from some of you as well.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!