Too Many Sweets on Halloween?

I did a little research for this month’s topic of making a sustainable Halloween and I was absolutely shocked at how much candy each kid eats on that day. According to the National Retail Federation, kids will eat around 7,000 calories worth of candy on Halloween! That’s 3.4 pounds per kid of sugary, fatty, chocolatey, delicious candy.


Delicious, delicious candy corn will not make ANY healthy Halloween treats list. – Photo Credit Atlanta Daily Herald

Is this a problem? Well, the National Health and Nutrition Examination say that kids up to the age of 10 ingest on average 2,000 calories per day. That’s a factor of almost 4 that Halloween cranks up the kids.

So, how do we change this? Is it worth changing? Many say that Halloween is only one day and letting your children enjoy their sugary haul is a time-honored tradition and I will be the first to say that Halloween candy tastes better than any other candy on any other day, but is it worth it?

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Nature Notes: Busy Beavers

Last week, we took a look at how squirrels are tirelessly preparing for winter by collecting and stashing food away for the harsh season. This week, we’re focusing on another MN native that caches food for winter – the beavers! They are the largest rodent in North America. While most adults weigh-in at about 45 pounds, beavers can weigh over 70 pounds! Historically, beaver fur has been important economically (trading), which led to beavers being introduced in other regions of the world.  A few years back I traveled to Teirra del Fuego, Chile at the southern tip of the Americas. Beavers were introduced to this region of Patagonia in the mid-20th century in hopes of increasing economic prosperity. However, beavers have no natural predators in Tierra del Fuego and have run rampant ever since, causing millions of dollars in damage to the ecosystem. There is now a widespread campaign to eradicate this nonnative species in this region of Chile. In Minnesota, beavers are not only a native species, but also a keystone species, meaning they play a very important role in their ecosystem as timber harvester, architect, and engineer! Here habitat modification by beavers creates aquatic habitats for many other animals, helps prevent flooding and erosion, and aids in filtering and cleaning water. (Note: Click on a photo to enlarge.)

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Top 7 Environmental Horror Movies


The film “The Host” by Bong Joon-ho is a fantastic take on the monster movie. Photo Credit AV Club

My wife has a cousin that really gets into the Halloween spirit. Every October, she and her husband will watch a scary movie every day up until the spooky day. Apparently, it’s been a tradition for years, a tradition that I would very much enjoy getting in on, to be honest. So, I thought I’d help out by putting together a list of horror movies that show how much I know about the genre. I’m so into horror films, that I can put together a list that focuses on the monster/enemy/scary thing is not a slasher or ghost, but instead is the environment or nature. So, without further ado, here’s the list:

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Nature Notes: Fall Feeding Frenzy

This month is known as Binaakwii-giizis, or “Leaves Changing Color Moon”, to the Fond du Lac Band of Ojibwe. The beautiful weather over the first couple days of October made for some breath-taking scenery of brilliant yellows against a bright blue sky and dark blue waters.  Soon the yellow of our aspens will be replaced by the golden shimmer of our tamaracks. Enjoy the view now, for by the end of the month, we’ll be greeting the barren landscape of winter.

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The animals that remain in our cold environment for winter are busy preparing for the season. Throughout the next month, we’ll focus on three animals that uniquely prepare for winter: squirrels, beavers, and winter birds.  We’ll kick off our fall feeding frenzy by taking a look at how squirrels are preparing for the season ahead. Continue reading

Halloween Done Sustainably

Halloween is a blast. It’s one of my favorite holidays. It’s full of traditions and symbols that are a deep part of American culture. If you were born after 1950, you know what the Great Pumpkin is. If you were born after 1960, you know who Mike Myers is. If you were born after 1980, you probably remember the Great Halloween Blizzard. But, most recently, we have been blessed to find our latest Halloween symbol: Macklemore.

That’s right. The funky rapper/artist/fashion trendsetter/deal hunter from Washington has set millions of people across the world on the new traditions for Halloween.

Actually, that’s wrong, but I’ll be using Macklemore as a mascot anyway. So come with me as we can find new ways to make Halloween more sustainable than ever.

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Nature Notes: Fall Foliage


Fall has unofficially arrived and with it has come cool evenings, dewy mornings, jeans and sweatshirts, fall harvests, pumpkin spice everything, and yes, the first leaves to change color! This month is known as Waatebagaa-giizis to the Fond du Lac Ojibwe, a name that literally means “Leaves Changing Color Moon”. The brilliant colors of autumn are one of the most beloved phenomena of the season, but do you know why the trees change colors?

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SPROUT. Not Your Ordinary Market

With over 75,000 farms in the state, Minnesota is the 5th largest food creator in the nation. Yet, in 1978 there were over 100,000 farms in Minnesota and the number is continuing to shrink.

The decline can be attributed to larger farms (over 100,000 acres) taking over for the family run-farms or many current farmers are simply retiring out with fewer people choosing to go along the same profession. But, for those that have picked up the mantle of farmer, they have changed the way local produce is bought.

Let’s take a look at Arlene Jones. Purchasing a farm in Brainerd in 2005, Jones didn’t want to simply be a production farm. She also didn’t want to utilize conventional farming procedures. She discovered that reaching to her community, she was able to create a vibrant food production location.


Jone at her St. Mathias farm location. Photo courtesy of Brian Peterson – Star Tribune

She became aware that despite her success, there were many other producers that were struggling to reach new customers. These were smaller farms, farms that were much less than the 100,000 acre production farms that are currently seen as “the norm.”

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Nature Notes: Feathers are Flying

During the last few days, I feel like I can notice fall slowly approaching. The decreasing day length and dropping temperatures are a signal to birds (and even some humans!)  to start preparing to head south. Despite the misconception that birds don’t like the cold, many birds can survive freezing temperatures, so it’s not necessarily the cold that drives them away. It’s our waning resources. It’s hard to find food – whether that be seeds, worms, mice or something else –  when everything is covered in snow. Migration can be defined as a movement from areas containing few resources to areas containing abundant resources. In the spring birds head north in a hurry, following the emergence of insects, prey, and plants that are important to their diet. The Northwoods provides an abundance of insects throughout the summer, which is a crucial source of protein for nestlings. Now, as fall slowly approaches with winter right behind it, many of these resources are beginning to disappear and our local birds have one foot out the door. But how can they fly hundreds, sometimes thousands, of miles? How can they sustain themselves? Their flight? How do they even know where to go? While many aspects of migration still mystify scientists around the world, light has been shed on some of the secrets of migration.

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Photo Credit: Cartoonist Group

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Odd Stuff, Straight From the Farmers Booth

One of the most fun thing to do at a farmer’s market for me is to talk up the vendors. They talk about the flavors of one veggie compared to another on their table. They joke and they have stories. They’ll let you know when the lettuce in front of you was picked. They’ll make sure you know that if they don’t have it, they can get it for you.

But, what I really like about chatting up stall vendors is that they know they best ways to eat what they’re selling. They’ve put the time into testing and retesting then tasting and re-tasting their produce to be able to tell you what way it should be prepared. And, let’s be honest. Who better would know how a veggie should be prepared than the people whose livelihood depends on its delicious conclusion? No one, that’s who.

For the most part, these veggies, fruits, and plants are commonly known. But, once in awhile, there are things sold at markets that just do not fit into what you’d normally find.

I took the time to ask some of my co-workers what they’ve found at their local markets and I was surprised at what they said.

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