Thursday, April 17, 2008

Treat yourself: Taste something local and organic for Earth Day

Be a localvore and celebrate Earth Day!

From the Cleveland Plain Dealer

Treat yourself: Taste something local and organic for Earth Day
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Debbi Snook
Plain Dealer Reporter

I once looked up from gardening to find an asparagus growing when I had planted none. It stuck out of the ground between shrubs in a dark corner of my landscape border, tempting me to guess its origin. A gift of the wind? A seed-carrying bird? Or pure garden magic?

I liked the last idea.

A few seasons later, when there was enough to share, I made my first meal of it. It was worth waiting for, as good as any asparagus I'd had, only different - sweet with familiarity, satisfying as a blessing of good fortune, and fresh as it could get.

What a delicious metaphor for eating locally.

Earth Day arrives Tuesday, and in this world of industrial food, so has our runaway appetite for the kind of work, heart and little miracles that produce local food. They can't be commanded into existence, but they can be nurtured.

Here are some ways we can help make them grow:

Eat organic:

Easy to say, when it often costs more. But if you have the money, do it. We all pay a higher price from the pollution caused by nonorganic farming. The taste will convince you to stay. Put organic carrots or celery side by side with conventional veggies and try each of them. You'll be amazed at the difference. Get bushels of information from the Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association in Columbus at 614-421-2022 or on their helpful Web site,

Shop at community-based farmers markets:

You can look farmers in the eye at these markets and ask them what they put in their soil, how they treat their animals and how to cook their products.

The season goes into full swing in late May, although early sprouts are up:

Coit Road Market in East Cleveland (at Woodward Road, 216-249-5455; has gone back to warmer weather hours, 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Wednesday and Saturday, and will host a Spring Fling at the market on May 17.

North Union Farmers Market at Shaker Square (216-751-7656; is already back outdoors, 8 a.m.-noon on Saturdays. Its annual spring benefit happens Monday, April 28, at Eton Chagrin Boulevard with another sparkling crop of great chefs.

Blue Pike Market's spring open house runs 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, May 17, at the farm, 900 East 72nd St. in Cleveland (216-373-9461).

Sign a contract with a farmer: Consider joining a Community Supported Agriculture program, a kind of subscription deal where you pay up front and get the latest crops on a regular basis during the growing season. This is the time to start joining, since slots are limited. Check out the CSA lists on the Cuyahoga Valley Countryside Conservancy's Web site,, click the Countryside Harvest Guide and scroll down to the CSA list.

Consider joining City Fresh, a partnership between the New Agrarian Center in Oberlin and the Ohio State University Extension. The urban gardening program has its own CSA, which you can join for yourself and, if you like, for someone who can't afford to join. Find out more and attend their monthly meeting 6 p.m. Monday at Great Lakes Brewing Co. or find City Fresh at and 440-774-2906.

Grow your own: No place to grow? Learn about container gardening from Ohio State University Extension of Cuyahoga County (www.extension.osu.e du/lawn_and_garden). Join a community garden (, search for "community gardening"). Get info on asphalt gardening programs by contacting City Fresh director Maurice Small at 216-849-8224.

Teach your kids: One of the easiest ways is a trip to Lake Metroparks Farmpark (8800 Chardon Road, 1-800-366-3276,, a county park set on a working farm with worthwhile admission fees ($6 for adults, $5 for seniors, $4 for kids 2-11). They will have their own Earth Day festivities noon-4 p.m. on Sunday.

Or sign up your 6- to 10-year-olds for a week of "The Summer Farm and Science School at Crown Point." Contact the working farm and environmental education center in Bath at 330-668-8992, Ext. 101, or go to

Imagine the surprises children can bring to your garden. And to your table.

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:, 216-999-4357

Negotiations to resume on energy legislation

From the Cleveland Plain Dealer
Negotiations to resume on energy legislation
Posted by rroguski April 17, 2008 01:00AM

Columbus -- Ohio House Speaker Jon Husted will continue today to negotiate changes to his energy and utility regulation bill, after nearly a week of stormy negotiations that dominated Statehouse politics.

The Kettering Republican says he hopes by Tuesday to have ironed out issues that mushroomed into major problems the longer talks went on this week.

Among the most thorny issues still on the table Wednesday night:

• A rule allowing FirstEnergy Corp. to keep charging a residual generation rate to consumers who buy from outside suppliers next year.

The Akron-based utility has argued that it would still be obligated to supply power if independent marketers failed to provide enough power.

Leigh Herington, executive director of the Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council, testified this week before the House Utilities Committee that NOPEC will not be able to attract new suppliers unless the language is stripped out of the bill allowing FirstEnergy to collect the residual generation charges.

In other words, consumers who buy power from outside suppliers should have to pay only FristEnergy's distribution rate, not any part of its generation rate, he said.

• A Senate requirement that wind and solar development be halted if the construction costs of the green energy drove up a utility's generation rates by more than 3 percent. Advocates of green energy say they can live with the limit because the power from renewable projects will represent only a fraction of the total power generated and its cost will be blended with power from traditional power plants.

Still, the last House version did not include explicit language but instead authorized the Public Utilities Committee of Ohio to decide the issue on a case-by-case baisis.

• A demand by American Electric Power that it be allowed to begin basing its rates on wholesale market prices at a faster rate than allowed in the bill.

As last written, the legislaiton would allow AEP to begin basing just 10 percent of its total sales on market rates next year and 10 percent additionally every year for five years. At that point the state could stop the progression and force the company back under traditional regulation.

The underlying issue behind the struggles is how quickly the state's utilities can begin basing their rates on wholesale market prices.

Strickland may have lost the battle with FirstEnergy even before he unveiled his original bill last September.

The company argues that since it moved ownership of its power plants to unregulated -- though wholly owned-- subsidiaries, the state cannot regulate the generation portion of its rates.

Despite the assertions of FirstEnergy executives, however, most of the players in this week's Statehouse drama do not think the company would actually want to sell all of its power outside the state.

Husted's problems holding his version of the bill together began a week ago when he unveiled the House rewrite of the bill

Within a day, Gov. Ted Strickland threatened a veto if it ever reached his desk.

What followed were five days of around-the-clock negotiations with the administration as well as the Senate, plus volley after volley of complaints and proposed amendments from utilities, consumer groups and industrial power users.

In short, the process overwhelmed the bill.

After midnight Monday, the House Utilities Committee approved the measure as Husted had drafted it -- but not before Democratic members walked out and Husted had a face-to-face stalemate with Strickland.

Husted on Tuesday night said the legislation has become unrecognizable even to him, but he nevertheless scheduled a House session for 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, which was delayed until 9 p.m.

Husted cancelled that session in the late afternoon and issued a statement saying he intended to keep working on the legislation before Tuesday's regularly scheduled session of the House.

Earlier in the day, Senate President Bill Harris, an Ashland Republican, said he did not intend to convene the Senate again this week just to consider Husted's legislation.

In an interview, Harris also said he thought rather than have the Senate debate the measure he would send it directly to a conference committee of the two chambers.

By law, the Senate president and House speaker each choose three members to meet and iron out the differences in a bill.

Selling an environmentally friendly lifestyle in Rocky River

From the Cleveland Plain Dealer
Selling an environmentally friendly lifestyle in Rocky River
Posted by rmezger March 10, 2008 16:07PM

Chris Stephens/The Plain Dealer

Rebecca Reynolds sells environmentally friendly products for the home and body at her new store, Planet Green, in Rocky River.
Rebecca Reynolds doesn't know how she contracted a blood-clotting disorder that brought life to a temporary halt in her late teens.

All she knows is that doctors called it a virus and treated her with steroids -- high levels of steroids. And that before her ordeal was over she lost her spleen, her gall bladder and almost her life.

That's behind her now, and she's vowed never to get sick again. For her, that means eating healthy, living smart and avoiding environmental toxins. It's a holistic philosophy that she's passed on to three daughters and as many other people who have cared to listen.

In January, Reynolds, 43, opened Planet Green, a small retail store in the Old River Shopping Area on Detroit Road in Rocky River. It's as much a shrine to area artisans as it is to sustainable living. The products in her store are not only green but usually local.
Planet Green

Location: 19056 Detroit Road, Rocky River

Owner: Rebecca Reynolds

Contact: 440-333-9333

Related business: Green Clean Inc.

There's furniture made from discarded oak barrels. And from wood reclaimed from demolished homes.

There are vegan cookies. And organic bedding woven from cotton never treated with pesticides or herbicides.

There are organic, fair-trade herbal supplements courtesy of Earth Healers of Lakewood.

There's health food for the dog.

Reynolds even has a refilling station in the store for her own Green Clean line of cleaning products. She developed them after many years of scrubbing other people's homes. She recalled how it dawned on her, while spraying chemicals in a shower with a cloth over her face, that she didn't even know what she was protecting herself from.

Her concoctions include all-natural ingredients, no chlorine bleach or ammonia. And for $2 less than the original purchase price, they can be refilled in one of the sturdy plastic bottles they come in.
Chris Stephens/The Plain DealerA bout with a blod-clotting disorder in her late teens made Rebecca Reynolds vow never to get sick again. It's one reason she has opened her store, Planet Green, whose offerings include natural and organic products.
"First of all, this whole store started after years of [my] being an educator on environmental toxins," Reynolds said. "And people would ask me all the time, 'Rebecca, where do I get organic clothing, organic bedding and items for my home?' And, so, this is how this concept came about for Planet Green."

Re-use is a common theme among products in the store, including Nicole McGee's Second Time Design jewelry. She scours the Ohio City sidewalks near her home for pieces of junk that might make for links in a necklace or a bracelet. Her favorite source for discarded items is the Shaker Cycle shop in Tremont where she gets bits of bike chains, washers and broken pieces of metal.

It's kind of an extension of her world view, she said, "that there's potential in everything, especially things that we cast aside and may not see value in."

Her stuff sells for less than $25.

"I'm pretty economical," she said. "I don't have the cost of materials."

Chris Deffenbaugh, 42, has found a way to reclaim oak barrels, turning them into beds, bars and stools. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not allow wooden barrels for aging wine and spirits to be used more than once, he said, which means there are a lot of perfectly good barrels out there.

Deffenbaugh gets his through brokers with some coming from California's wine country and others from the bourbon belt in Kentucky. He crafts them into furniture in a studio behind his house in Wooster with the help of his father and his best friend.

While his wares can be found at two locations in Wooster, Planet Green is the only place that carries them in the Cleveland area, he said.

Reynolds' view of a holistic lifestyle extends beyond humans and includes their pets, which explains the $7 bags of Deez Bonz for sale at Planet Green.

Danielle and Dennis Piotrowski created the all-nautral dog biscuits. They came up with the recipe after their pug Gabby was diagnosed with cancer. They figured a better diet would keep her healthier, Danielle said, so "we decided to get her off the bag food."

The biscuits come 20 to a bag. They are made of organic flaxseed meal, organic olive oil, organic cheese (mild cheddar) and free-range chicken and eggs.

"We've had people actually eat them," Danielle said, "and they're like, 'Hey, these are great.' "

For Reynolds, Planet Green is another way to promote a healthy, sustainable lifestyle. A mission shaped by the emotions of her own ordeal, and those of others she encountered along the way.

"You sit with a mother who has a toddler on their lap who has just been diagnosed with some rare leukemia and you're changed," she said. "You're changed. You want to pass the message around. You want to help people."