Thursday, January 22, 2009

Obama's Victory Garden

By Scott Castor

In Barack Obama’s Inaugural Address he stated, “Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

“For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act - not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. All this we will do.”

This is our call for sustainability in our community, nation and world. Since 9/11, though we were going to war, we have not been asked to sacrifice or do anything, but, in fact, to go shopping by our President George W. Bush.

We have now been told by our new President Barack Obama, “What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility - a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.”

Doing what we can to improve our communities is how we should start. I call to all of you to embrace these challenges and to show your commitment by planting a front yard edible Victory Garden. Activism of this sort is steeped in history.

In 1944, the call to plant a Garden for Victory was answered by 20 million Americans and produced 30 to 40 percent of the fresh produce in the food supply. The Victory Garden was a movement in which even Eleanor Roosevelt participated, on the White House grounds much to the chagrin of the Department of Agriculture. In 1944, having a Victory Garden was not only expected to help the war effort, but it was considered patriotic.

Having a Victory Garden would contribute to our nation in many ways. It would help stem global warming by reducing the fuel used in transportation of our food. Our food travels an average of 1500 miles according to, a website devoted to the Victory Garden renaissance. When it takes less fuel for transport we contribute to world peace by reducing reliance on foreign oil.

Another amazing benefit of the Victory Garden is to curb obesity by improving our own food quality. According to Michael Pollen, author of In Defense of Food and The Omnivores Dilemma, obesity in this country is directly related to our nation’s food policy which encourages our farmers to grow corn and soy beans. These commodities are the building blocks of fast food and processed foods, all too common in the American diet.

What better example would it be if the First Lady, Michelle Obama, made it a priority to have a Victory Garden? Just think if meals at the White House were partly home grown and organic. This would send a serious message to the Department of Agriculture, our nation and the world, not to mention a wonderful teaching tool for the Obama’s daughters, Malia and Sasha. So as the seed catalogs start arriving and thoughts of early spinach, peas and m√Ęche wet my palette, I vow to plant my first Victory Garden. How about you?

Scott Castor is an “Ecopreneur” living in Cleveland Heights. He is the Greener Home Handyman and the owner of a new franchise called Greener Home Services, LLC. Scott just planted 5 fruit trees in his yard, has a vegetable garden and heats his home and hot water with wood and solar. He can be reached at or

Friday, December 26, 2008

“Being Green” is a Journey

What exactly does it mean to be “green” anyway? Being green is making conscious decisions about your environment, your health and your local economy.

Environmental consciousness is having concern for the earth, including what we dump into the air, the water and dirt surrounding us. One way to measure your level of environmentally green decisions is to know the size of your “Carbon Foot Print” or the measure of the amount of carbon based fuels it takes to maintain our lifestyle.

Health consciousness in the context of “being green” is the concern for what we put into our body and how this effects you and your family. One way to make green health-conscious decisions is to look at how your food is grown – is it organic or is it grown with pesticides and chemical fertilizers.

Economic consciousness is about where you spend your money and the question “is this purchase helping me in the short term because it is inexpensive or am I keeping my money in my own community for longer term benefit?”

In order to link all three of these green considerations together, consider the phrase, “Think Globally, Act Locally.” This is the concept that everything we do individually can have an impact globally. This consciousness begins with the question “how is what I am doing effecting myself, my community, or my world?”

“Being Green” is not a switch that you flip, but a journey you take one step at a time. This journey begins with asking the above questions. Ghandi said “you must be the change you want to see in the world.” The action, in this case, is to “be green.”

It’s easy to “be green!” Start with what you are interested in. If it is a healthy home, buy earth-friendly cleaners or make your own. Use your old cleaners less frequently until they are gone then go on-line to find out how to make your own. If you are interested in saving energy, change out your light bulbs. If it is too daunting to wade through all of the choices, do some research, or hire a local green conscious contractor. If you are interested in health, plant a garden, go to the local farmers market, or join a CSA.

Consider doing all three because you can knock out several things on the list with one step. For example, getting food that is locally grown, reduces your “carbon footprint” because the amount of fossil fuel that it takes to grow the food and then transport the food is greatly reduced. Second, it is healthier. We can find out how “organic” that tomato is because the farmer who grew it is most likely standing there selling it to you. There is a more direct connection to your food. Third, you are keeping your money in the community. It is more likely that that farmer could come into your place of business and spend his money with you sometime in the future.

One common misconception is that being green is expensive; How can I “be green,” I’m poor? Most everything we can do to be green is not expensive or we can make adjustment and reprioritize what is important. In the case of food for instance, buy less food but better quality. Look for the “made in” label to make sure you are buying products made in this country. Buy your electricity through a cooperative that produces “Green Power.” All of the little things add up on our journey to “be green.” Don’t be overwhelmed, take the first step.

Scott Castor is an “Eco-preneur” living in Cleveland Heights. He is the Greener Home Handyman and the owner of a new franchise called Greener Home Services, LLC. Scott just planted 5 fruit trees in his yard, has a vegetable garden and heats his home and hot water with wood and solar. He can be reached at or