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According to the Organic Trade Association, U.S. organic beer sales more than quadrupled from $9 million to $41 million between 2003 and 2009.


—The Editors of E/The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: I see more and more organic wines on store shelves these days, but what options are out there today for organic beer?—Ken Strong, Wichita, KS

Some 80 million Americans drink beer, yet organic beer still represents only a sliver of the $7 billion U.S. craft beer market. But this sliver is quickly turning into a slice: Between 2003 and 2009, according to the Organic Trade Association, U.S. organic beer sales more than quadrupled from $9 million to $41 million.

According to Seven Bridges Cooperative, which has been selling organic brewing ingredients for a decade already, organic beers tend to feature exceptional clarity and a clean, flavorful taste. “On a more technical side, organic malts on average have a lower protein content, which produces a clear mash and less haze problems in the finished beer,” reports Seven Bridges. “Organic malts and hops have no chemical residues to interfere with fermentation to give the organic brewer a clean, unadulterated beer.”

Seven Bridges mails you all the ingredients you need to brew your own organic beer at home, but most of us would rather just enjoy the finished product. Depending on where you live, you might have dozens of organic beer brands available in bottles and even on tap at your favorite watering hole.

One of the most visible is Fortuna, California-based Eel River Brewing Company, founded in 1996. Eel River has the distinction of being America’s first certified organic brewery. Their India Pale Ale (IPA), Pale Ale, Porter, Amber Ale, Blonde Ale, Old Ale, and Imperial Stout are all crafted from organic hops from New Zealand and organic grains from the Pacific Northwest and Canada.

Butte Creek Brewery, established in 1998 in Chico, California, brews organic Pilsner, Porter, Pale Ale, and IPA. Their award-winning beers are distributed internationally.
Olympia, Washington-based Fish Tale Organic Ales has been brewing ales, porters, and stouts to rave reviews since 1993 and introduced its first certified organic beer in 2000. And Otter Creek Brewery in Middlebury, Vermont produces a line of organic ales called Wolaver’s that includes an Oatmeal Stout and a Pumpkin Ale.

The U.K.’s Samuel Smith Brewery turns out a full line of acclaimed organic ale, lager, and fruit beers. Other popular choices include Pinkus Organic Munster Alt, Peak Organic, New Belgium’s Mothership Wit Wheat Beer, and Lakefront Organic ESB, among others. And Whole Foods Market now produces its own private label organic beer called Lamar Street, which is known for its rich flavor and low cost.

Not surprisingly, even the big boys are beginning to jump in. Anheuser-Busch is pushing its Stone Mill, Wild Hops, and Green Valley organic beers. And Miller’s Henry Weinhard’s Organic Amber, on store shelves since 2007, is brewed with local ingredients by the Full Sail Brewery in Hood River, Oregon.

One way to sample dozens of organic beers at once is to attend the North American Organic Brewers Festival (NAOBF), held every June in Portland, Oregon. Whether you clue into organic beers at this event or just at your local pub, you can’t go wrong by spreading your eco-consciousness to your beer drinking.

Dear EarthTalk: What’s up with dishwasher detergents of late? They’re clearly not working as well. I hope whatever was done is helping the environment because it’s not helping my dishes.—Sally P., Everett, WA

What happened was that in July 2010, a significant reduction in the amount of phosphates allowed in automatic dishwasher detergent went into effect in Washington State. Similar regulations were implemented in 14 other states (Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin) in 2009, before Oregon and Washington added their names to the list earlier this year. Previously, phosphates could constitute up to 8.7 percent of dishwasher detergent; now, the new regulations limit them to 0.5 percent.

The main problem with phosphates, which also come from agricultural and landscaping activities, is that they get into natural water bodies and act as fertilizer, accelerating plant and algae growth. When the plants and algae die, a feeding frenzy of bacteria consumes all the oxygen dissolved in the water, creating an environment inhospitable to fish and other aquatic life. These oxygen-devoid “dead zones” can occur in freshwater or in the ocean. In fact, two of the world’s largest dead zones are in the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, the result of fertilizers running off of farmland. Besides phosphates’ negative effect on water bodies, their presence in the environment can also be harmful to terrestrial wildlife and can trigger skin and eye irritation and allergies, among other ill effects, in humans.

Environmentalists and others supportive of the reduction in phosphates claim that the new regulations will spare wastewater treatment systems from dealing with 10-12 percent of the phosphates previously encountered. Wastewater treatment managers in Spokane, Washington, for example, found that a local year-old ban on phosphates in dishwashing detergent saved them from dealing with upwards of 180 pounds of phosphates—or about 10 percent of the total load—each and every day at municipal wastewater treatment facilities, saving not only money, but also the other chemicals used to treat the water.

Given the shift in so many states, many manufacturers have reformulated their entire product lines for markets across the country, so even if you don’t live in one of the affected states, you might be getting dishwashing detergent with a lot less phosphorus as well.

Consumer Reports tested 24 of the leading low-phosphate dishwasher detergents to see which ones got dishes cleanest. The top finishers were Cascade Complete All-in-1 ActionPacs (at a cost of 28 cents per load), Ecover tablets (27 cents), Finish Powerball Tabs tablets (22 cents), and Method Smarty Dish tablets (21 cents), but other brands and formulations also performed adequately, if used properly.

Consumer Reports also provides tips on optimizing the performance of your dishwasher and dishwashing detergent, no matter which brand you use. For starters, load large items at the sides and back of the dishwasher, so they don’t block water and detergent from reaching other dishes. And place the dirtier side of dishes towards the center of the machine to provide more exposure to the sprayer. Also try to prevent dishes and utensils from nesting within one another, so that the water can reach all surfaces.

New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission discontinues action on water agreement with Intel

—Karin Stangl, Planning and Communication Division Director

The New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission (ISC) and Intel Corporation have jointly decided to discontinue activities toward a water agreement—proposed in the summer of 2010—which would have provided water and funds to the commission’s Strategic Water Reserve, as well as aided the federal government and water users in addressing Endangered Species Act issues in the middle valley.

“I still believe this proposed agreement between the Interstate Stream Commission and Intel would have been an excellent public-private partnership that would have greatly benefited our community, while protecting senior water users and our environment. However, it was not prudent to pursue the agreement when those who would directly benefit from it were expressing opposition to it,” said Interstate Stream Commission Director Estevan Lopez.

Under the proposed agreement, the ISC would have received water rights and funds from Intel in exchange for assuming part of Intel’s obligation to offset Rio Grande depletion impacts that result from Intel’s ground water pumping. The ISC would have met that obligation using water that it has available to it, including water rights Intel would convey to them, and other sources available to the ISC.

“For more than four years, Intel and the ISC staff worked diligently together to complete an innovative draft agreement,” said John Painter, Intel New Mexico’s corporate services site manager. “Although we will not pursue this agreement, we remain committed to reduce our environmental footprint through our aggressive, ongoing water conservation program focused on improvements in the design and operation of our manufacturing facility.”

The proposed agreement would have cut down transfer of water rights out of agriculture, while providing water and money to help with protection and insulation from potential endangered species act threats to water users. The state would have received about 741 acre-feet of senior water rights that would ultimately be placed in the Strategic Water Reserve for ecological projects aimed at solving endangered species issues in the middle Rio Grande. In addition, Intel also would have provided $1 million a year for 10 years, adjusted for inflation, for the Strategic Water Reserve and to provide nonfederal cost share to the Middle Rio Grande Endangered Species Collaborative Program, including dealing with endangered species issues on the middle Rio Grande.

Gardening with Charlie

—Charlie Nardozzi

Growing Food Indoors

While it might be cold and blustery outside, there are a number of edible plants you can grow indoors. Some of my favorites are herbs. Growing herbs indoors successfully is all about selecting the right varieties and having the right conditions to grow them.

Here are some tips for growing herbs inside in winter.

Bringing Herbs Indoors

Window boxes filled with rosemary and parsley can be moved inside before freezing weather.

Some of my favorites to grow this way are parsley, rosemary, and chives. There are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Don’t worry about a few dropped leaves. Light levels in a house, even in a sunny window, are much lower than outside. Older, larger leaves will drop off, and smaller, low-light-efficient leaves should form in their place.
  • Cut back on watering and fertilizing mature plants. They don’t need as much moisture or nutrients inside as they do outdoors.

Indoor herbs can be decorative as well as functional. Why not train a rosemary plant on a topiary frame for a whimsical look?

Starting New Herbs

Although a sunny window looks bright in winter, the available light can be only 1/10th of what’s needed for plants to grow properly. That’s why it’s best to grow herbs under grow lights. Select full-spectrum lights, and leave them on for 12 to 14 hours a day. Keep the tops of the herbs close to the bulbs, and the plants should thrive.

Grow seedlings in 3- to 4-inch-diameter pots, and use only sterilized potting soil mixes that are light and airy. Many culinary herbs require well draining soils, so the lighter the soil the better.

Supplement the potting soil with a liquid fertilizer when watering. Use a half-strength formulation to encourage new growth. Water plants less often, but more thoroughly, and only when the soil is actually dry to the touch. Add water until it drains from the bottom of the pot. Keep the air temperature on the cool side (60° to 65° F) for the best growth.

Varieties to Try

These herb varieties have compact growing habits and pack a flavorful punch:

  • English mint (Mentha spicata)—perhaps the best-behaved spearmint variety.
  • Spicy globe basil (Ocimum basilicum minimum)—dense, compact form of basil, 8- to 10-inches tall. The leaves are smaller than regular basil, but taste and smell great.
  • Blue Boy rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)—more compact and diminutive than standard rosemary, reaching a height of just 24 inches. Flowers freely and has excellent flavor.
  • Dwarf Garden sage (Salvia officinalis ‘Compacta’)—smaller leaves and more compact than regular sage, growing only 10 inches high.

Placitas Recycling Association asking patrons to separate newspapers from other recycled paper

The Placitas Recycling Association (PRA) is asking for community cooperation in separating newspapers from mixed paper brought to the Placitas Recycling Center for recycling. The move is prompted by a change in vendor procedures and market demands. Newspaper commands twice the price of mixed paper, such as junk mail and catalogues. The PRA is a self-funded, all volunteer organization. It relies on vendor purchases of recycled materials to fund operating costs, including fuel to transport the materials and vehicle and equipment maintenance.

“We are sensitive to the inconvenience this places on users and are very grateful for their patience and cooperation in implementing this change. Frankly, we need the additional funds to continue providing this valuable service to the community,” commented John Richardson, Placitas Recycling Center yard coordinator. “Thankfully, the inserts that come with the newspaper do not have to be pulled out; the newspaper can be recycled as it is received, including any inserts. As we like to say, what comes with the newspaper stays with the newspaper.”

The change also alleviates one of the PRA’s transportation issues. Thanks to the Placitas community’s commitment to recycling, the mixed paper trailer is quickly filled each week, and in recent trips to deliver the paper to a vendor in Albuquerque, the trailer has been overloaded. Placing the newspapers in a separate trailer enables the PRA to spread out the material and avoid overloading the trailers.

To accommodate the new procedure, the PRA has converted the aluminum trailer to collect newspaper and rehabilitated one of its old trailers to collect the aluminum. The trailers for depositing mixed paper, newspaper, and office paper are now located together at the north side of the yard, and the aluminum trailer has been moved next to the cardboard trailer. The PRA has long requested that users also separate out recycled office paper, which commands four times the price of mixed paper.

A portion of the PRA’s proceeds every year is returned to the community in the form of charitable donations. At its quarterly meeting in October, the PRA board of directors voted to make donations to Casa Rosa and the Placitas Community Library.

The Placitas Recycling Center is located on Highway 165, about a quarter mile east of the I-25 interchange. It accepts cardboard, white and pastel office paper, newspaper, mixed paper, No. 1 and No. 2 plastics, aluminum, polystyrene peanuts, printer ink cartridges, and rechargeable batteries. Collection times are Saturday mornings from 8:00 to 11:00 a.m., except posted holidays. The center will be open January 1, 2011. For more information, visit the PRA Web site at

The Placitas Recycling Association wishes everyone a Happy New Year and extends a special thanks to the volunteers and patrons who make the Placitas Recycling Center a success.

The unexpected environmental benefits of recycling refrigerators

—PNM PowerSource
Saving energy is a big motivation for many who recycle refrigerators. Older model refrigerators can use two or three times the energy of newer, more efficient models. That’s why PNM offers a refrigerator recycling rebate to encourage more customers to get rid of their old appliances.

But there’s another environmental benefit in addition to saving energy. Properly recycling refrigerators helps remove harmful chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), a known contributor to the greenhouse effect.

CFCs have been recognized as an environmental danger since 1987, when world leaders signed the Montreal Protocol. CFCs, which threaten the stratospheric ozone layer, were found in common industrial and consumer products, such as aerosol cans, polystyrene cups, fire extinguishers, and packing peanuts—and refrigerators and coolants.

When PNM recycles your old refrigerator or freezer, the removal of CFCs, combined with the energy savings, means customers save 9.57 tons of CO2 if you replace it with a modern, efficiency appliance. And if you don’t replace the unit at all, you save 14 tons of CO2.

Through the PNM refrigerator recycling program, CFC-12 and foam insulation, oils, glass, plastic, metal, rubber—more than 90 percent of the unit—is recycled at the PNM recycling facility in Albuquerque. To date, more than 23,500 refrigerators and freezers have been recycled. Businesses can also recycle residential-size units. To schedule a pickup, you can go to You will get $30, and you’ll help the environment!

If you are interested, here are the details of the CO2 savings calculations:

  • Residential refrigerators and freezers manufactured before 1995 contain ½ pound of CFC-12 coolant. CFC-12 is commonly known as Freon®. The global warming potential (GWP) of CFC-12 is 10,950 times that of CO2. So ½ pound of CFC-12 is equivalent to 5,475 pounds, or 2.73 tons of CO2 (0.5 pound of CFC-12 x GWP of 10,950 ÷ one ton, 2,000 pounds = 2.73 tons of CO2 equivalent).
  • Older refrigerators and freezers also include CFC-11, a relative of CFC-12. One pound of CFC-11 was used in each refrigerator or freezer as a blowing agent in polyurethane to create the tiny bubbles found in insulating foam. Those trapped bubbles in the foam still contain the CFC-11. The global warming potential of CFC-11 is 4,680 times greater than CO2. So, a pound of CFC-11 is equivalent to 2.3 tons of CO2 (1 pound x GWP of 4,680 ÷ one ton, 2,000 pounds = 2.34 tons of CO2 equivalent).
  • The accepted industry standard is that older refrigerators and freezers would have remained in service an average of eight additional years, using 1,500 kWh of electricity per year. New refrigerators and freezers use about one-half that much electricity. Using a national average of 1.5 pounds of CO2 per kWh to generate electricity, recycling one unit saves about 4.5 tons of CO2 (1,500 kWh x 8 years x 1.5 pounds of CO2 per kWh = 18,000 pounds of CO2 = 9 tons of CO2 ÷ ½ of the electricity to run a new unit = 4.5 tons of CO2). If the refrigerator or freezer being recycled is an extra unit in the home or business that is not replaced, an additional 4.5 tons will be saved for a total of 9 tons of CO2.

In summary, when PNM recycles your old refrigerator or freezer, here’s what you’re saving from the environment:

  • ½ pound of CFC-12 = 2.73 tons of CO2 equivalent saved.
  • 1 pound of CFC-11 = 2.34 tons of CO2 equivalent saved.
  • 8 years of electricity use = 4.5 tons of CO2.
  • Cumulative result = 9.57 tons of CO2 saved.
  • If the old unit is not replaced = 14 tons of CO2 saved.

Hon. Joshua Madalena, Pueblo of Jemez governor (left), and Erin Connelly, acting forest supervisor for the Santa Fe National Forest, sign a historic cooperative agreement at the Pueblo of Jemez Youth Center on Monday. The agreement is designed to improve collaboration and consultation between the Pueblo and the Forest Service regarding forest operations in the Jemez Pueblo area.   —Bruce Hill, Jr., Santa Fe National Forest Public Affairs.

Santa Fe National Forest and Pueblo of Jemez make history

The Santa Fe National Forest and the Pueblo of Jemez entered into a historic cooperative agreement at the Jemez Pueblo Youth Center on Monday, December 20.

Pueblo of Jemez Governor, Joshua Madalena, and Acting Forest Supervisor of the Santa Fe National Forest, Erin Connelly, formalized the government-to-government relationship between the Pueblo and the Forest Service. Each recognized the struggles and impacts of the past and acknowledged the present, successful relationship. Each is also committed to working together in the future to address issues related to the management of areas of the Santa Fe National Forest that are the ancestral lands of the Jemez people.

This Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) establishes a mechanism for ongoing collaboration and consultation.

The memorandum comes after many years of sacrifice by the Pueblo, including elements of its religion and culture that have been impacted since the forest service began operations there in 1905, then known as the Jemez Forest Reserve. 

“I am deeply moved by the words spoken by Governor Madalena here today,” Connelly said. “I look forward to continued dialogue and coordination on natural and cultural resource issues.”

“This MOU brings us one step closer to properly and directly managing the very lands that support our life and livelihood,” said Governor Madalena. “I have an overwhelming feeling of gratitude (about the signing) because our ancestors sacrificed their lives to protect these lands as the first stewards and conservationists.

“This MOU helps our people follow in our ancestors’ footsteps,” he said. “It also details that the Santa Fe National Forest has legal commitments and federal trust responsibilities to protect and preserve our ancestral sites, our traditional cultural properties, human remains, religious freedoms, and sacred objects of the Pueblo of Jemez.”

In 1891, Congress authorized forest reserves to be established for the purpose of preserving forest land for timber and other public uses, but without cooperative agreements with Native American tribes in New Mexico, thus adversely impacting the Pueblo of Jemez culture and religion. Over the past 20 years, the Santa Fe National Forest has made a concerted effort to guide forest management, acknowledging and respecting the deep ties the Jemez people (Hemish) have to the land. Members of Jemez Pueblo, who experienced a decline in their customary practices at sacred sites, are today welcoming the efforts of the Santa Fe National Forest.

“We’ve had a good relationship with the Santa Fe National Forest for the past decade or so, but now have a better relationship that is understood through this agreement,” Madalena said. “There are no words that can express the spirit of cooperation I have experienced in working with the Santa Fe National Forest. For our religious purposes, this means improved access to and greater protection of our sacred sites. This is something my people have dreamed of for a long time.”





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