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The 10 Greenest Presidents in U.S. History

1. The Father of a Modern Movement

In many ways, being green has never been easier, especially for politicians. The vast majority of Americans now say environmental protection is important to them, and few would vote for a leader who explicitly claims to be “anti-environment.”

But America’s highest office has long had a relationship to the planet that is anything but straightforward. Given enormous social, economic and political changes in our nation’s history, ranking presidents on green criteria is no easy task. This list couldn’t possibly reflect all the issues involved, but it is a subjective look at highlights in the evolution of environmental policy and protection.

To begin, when most Americans think of green presidents, they probably envision Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909). “TR” consistently lobbied Congress for wilderness protection, used the Forest Reserve Act of 1891 to set aside 150 million acres of timberland as public domains, and oversaw creation of the U.S. Forest Service. Roosevelt also created 50 wildlife refuges and five national parks.

Beyond those accomplishments, TR is well remembered as popularizing the ideas of good resource stewardship and respect for nature. That’s not to say everything was idyllic in those years of heavy logging, mining, urbanization and rapid human expansion, but seeds of consciousness were sown.

2. The Sweater-Wearing Efficiency Expert

In response to the 1973 OPEC oil embargo, President Jimmy Carter (1977-1981) created the Department of Energy in 1977, with a key goal being the establishment of a national energy policy that promoted clean and alternative fuels. Carter famously installed solar panels on the White House roof and set the mansion’s thermostats at 68 degrees to save energy.

Carter’s 1977 speech calling on the country to drastically ramp up energy efficiency and conservation is truly inspiring and ahead of its time. Backing that up, in 1979, Carter implemented “corporate average fuel economy” (CAFE) standards that mandated fuel-efficient cars — although those standards would soon be relaxed.

President Carter also oversaw passage of a number of other important laws, including the Soil and Water Conservation Act, the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act, the Antarctic Conservation Act, the Endangered American Wilderness Act and the Superfund Act (remember when laws that sound green actually were green?). Tighter amendments were passed on the Clean Air Act, and the Alaskan National Interest Lands Conservation Act conserved more than 100 million acres and 26 rivers in America’s Last Frontier.

Since leaving office, Carter has won world renown for his humanitarian work, particularly through Habitat for Humanity, which has recently been going green and promoting green building.

3. The Scientist, Philosopher and Idealist

Brilliant Renaissance man Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809) is well known as the principal author of the Declaration of Independence. Few also know that Jefferson was an avid botanist, scientist, architect, inventor, planner and philosopher (as well as slave owner, unfortunately). Jefferson believed in respecting and working with nature, and envisioned a society of small farmers living in harmony with the environment.

As president Jefferson sent Lewis and Clark on a groundbreaking voyage of exploration and research across America, after having secured the Louisiana Purchase. So little was known about the continent by whites that the explorers were asked to look for evidence of still-living wooly mammoths. Lewis and Clark then became the first to document many of America’s indigenous species, as well as peoples.

Thomas Jefferson also founded a pioneering institution of higher learning, the University of Virginia, and advocated for good public education, including science. He also thought corporate power should be kept in check.

4. Not Perfect But Still Pretty Good

Environmentalists often sigh when they muse on Bill Clinton’s legacy (1993-2001), which isn’t as green as one might hope, particularly since he had Al Gore as Vice President. During the Clinton years resource extraction on public lands proceeded at record pace. The administration is also blamed for being unable to secure support for the Kyoto Protocol or other major efforts to prevent global warming.

Clinton did get quite a number of things done, however. He used executive orders to create 17 new national monuments, and expand four more, preserving more than 4.6 million acres, more than any other administration. Clinton also increased protection for wetlands and old-growth forests and finalized a sweeping rule that banned road building on nearly 60 million acres of wilderness in national forests. The administration also extended an existing moratorium on offshore oil leases — something that is now hotly debated.

Clinton did secure more than $3 billion — a 50% increase in annual funding — to research and develop clean energy technologies. He also strengthened the Drinking Water Act, advanced cleanup of Superfund sites, and bolstered the EPA’s ability to go after polluters (something else that wouldn’t last).

5. The Reluctant Environmentalist

Richard Nixon (1969-1974) was president during tumultuous times, and is consistently rated as one of the country’s most disliked leaders, in no small part because of his role in the Watergate scandal. But Richard Nixon had also faced tremendous pressure to do something for the environment, after 20 million people took to the streets on Earth Day in 1970.

Responding to a 60s-era public, Nixon signed the bills that established the Environmental Protection Agency and the landmark Clean Air Act. Going further, in 1972 Nixon signed the Coastal Zone Management Act; the Ocean Dumping Act; the Marine Mammal Protection Act; the Federal Insecticide, Fungide, Rodenticide Act; and the Toxic Substances Control Act. Nixon’s term also saw passage of the Endangered Species Act in 1973 and the Safe Drinking Water Act in 1974.

6. The Soil Savior

Inheriting a deeply troubled country in the throes of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-1945) showed innovative leadership. In order to put people to work and improve and protect the landscape, FDR created the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Part of his New Deal, more than 2.5 million Americans planted millions of trees, opened summer camps, improved parks and trails, battled soil erosion and safeguarded other infrastructure and the environment.

FDR’s terms also saw creation of the Soil Conservation Service and the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act. Soil began to be viewed as an invaluable, and largely non-renewable, resource, and measures were taken to promote long-term productivity and soil health. The country truly began to realize the importance of protecting natural wealth for future generations.

7. The Great Unifier

Consistently rated as America’s greatest president, Abraham Lincoln (1861-1865) is best known for leading the country through the Civil War and ending slavery. Few people also know that the “Rail Splitter” did quite a bit to protect the environment as well.

Lincoln established California’s spectacular Yosemite Valley and its Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias as a public trust, marking the first time land was set aside specifically for public enjoyment (and laying the groundwork for the national parks system).

In 1862 Lincoln established the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). In 1863 he authorized the establishment of the National Academy of Sciences, which would go on to lead the world in promoting and fostering innovation.

8. The Greenest First Lady

Controversial for his authoritative style and role in the Vietnam War, Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1969) also spearheaded civil rights laws, and his “Great Society” bolstered education and established Medicare, Medicaid and other social programs, as well as several environmental initiatives.

Johnson’s policies supported urban renewal, beautification and conservation. In 1964 the president signed the Wilderness Act, which was written by the Wilderness Society, and which protected more than 9 million acres of federal land. The Urban Mass Transportation Act of 1964 provided matching grants for large-scale rail projects.

These days, greens probably remember LBJ best for his wife, the venerable Lady Bird Johnson, who tirelessly advocated for protection of natural resources. The First Lady promoted parks and beautification projects, fought to restrict billboards and worked to protect and plant millions of wildflowers. She is famous for saying “where flowers bloom, so does hope.” Lady Bird continued her conservation work until she died in 2007.

9. The Well-Meaning Progressive

Often regarded as among the brightest presidents, Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921) had been a leading intellectual of the Progressive Era. He led a Democratic Congress to pass major legislation that included the Federal Trade Commission, the Clayton Antitrust Act, the Federal Farm Loan Act and the Federal Reserve System.

Wilson oversaw creation of the National Park Service in 1916, which has long been considered one of the great treasures of the nation. He also spearheaded the Smith-Lever Act of 1914, which established cooperative extension services through the land-grant universities to disseminate information on agriculture and other topics.

Wilson’s anti-trust and labor laws probably helped set the stage for future environmental regulations, by increasing government oversight of corporate America.

10. Laying the Foundations

Like many Americans at the time, John F. Kennedy (1961-1963) was reportedly influenced by Rachel Carson’s groundbreaking book Silent Spring. As a result the president established a committee to investigate the impacts of pesticides on health and the environment. The subsequent report was critical of the industry and lax government policies.

This investigation would help lay the groundwork for the establishment of the EPA and modern environmental protection laws.

JFK’s brother (and attorney general) Robert F. Kennedy spoke passionately about the need to curtail consumption and protect the planet in 1968, shortly before he was assassinated. Today, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. serves as one of the country’s leading advocate lawyers and environmentalists.

What Will Be President Obama’s Legacy?

It’s too early to judge Obama’s full environmental record, but so far his administration has successfully rolled back some Bush-era challenges (such as the Global Gag Rule on family planning aid and an attempted sell-off of “roadless” wilderness areas). Obama’s EPA under Lisa Jackson has returned to the business of fining polluters and attempting to address global warming.

Many greens, international leaders and global citizens are deeply disappointed that Obama has failed to show strong leadership on aggressive mitigation of climate change, though Obama supporters are quick to point fingers at vehement opposition from the GOP. Similarly, the president has not been able to stop the mountaintop removal mining juggernaut. For their part, the Center for Biological Diversity gave Obama a grade of C- for the first half of his term, also citing the administration’s failure to ban lead ammunition and fishing tackle and for only listing eight new endangered species in the lower 48.

Obama has earned praise for supporting electric vehicles and clean energy, although actual progress remains to be seen, given budgetary woes, political bickering and the entrenched power of fossil fuels.

Article excerpted from

Set It and Forget It! Plant Garlic Now, Enjoy It Next Summer

image: lowjumpingfrog

This just in from my lunch break: I put in next summer’s garlic crop. You can too! Here’s what you need:

  1. Garlic
  2. Digging tool

In most of North America, now’s the time to plant garlic and other bulbs. They will establish some roots before the ground freezes, then sleep all winter to emerge in spring.

What kind of garlic should I plant?

Obviously, you’ll want to plant organic. Not only is it better for you and for the soil, but non-organic garlic is often treated with an anti-sprouting agent that will keep it from growing in the first place.

I recommend seeking out an heirloom variety, ideally a hardneck “true” garlic. Though it can be tempting to pick up elephant garlic for its huge bulbs, elephant garlic is actually more closely related to the onion, and can have trouble if you plant it too late in the fall. True garlic has smaller cloves, but they’re much more potent. For my garlic patch, I picked a Chesnok Red that I picked up from a local permaculture nursery.

Where should I plant it?

Someplace it’ll have good sun, in well-draining soil. You don’t want your bulbs to rot.

If you live someplace that gets very cold with little snow cover, mulch it with straw after the first hard frost. Otherwise, it should survive the winter just fine.

How much should I plant?

Are you kidding? Garlic is delicious. Plant as much as you can. Bury one clove of garlic every foot or so (advice varies on this, but one foot seems a safe distance even for hungry bulbs). Each clove should divide into a new bulb, and will flower in early summer.

How do I plant it?

Dig a hole and put a clove of garlic in, pointy side up. For small cloves, put them about one inch deep — that is, they should have an inch of dirt over their heads. Bigger bulbs like elephant garlic should go deeper, up to 3 inches.

After you’ve planted it, water it in by drenching the soil completely.

Now, you wait. Begin watering in the spring, and you’ll harvest your garlic crop in the summer.

And that’s garlic, and that’s how I spent my lunch break! Speaking of which: Got a few cloves left over? Whip up a batch of organic bistro garlic fries.

Article excerpted from

It’s not hard to plant the garlic and we should start to plant it at our garden. This will be one way to save money and we will have a healthy exercise too by planting the garlic.  Once garlic crops have been harvested, don’t forget to try out the organic bistro garlic fries recipe.

Ways to Go Greener at Home (Besides Just Recycling)

  1. Plant an herb garden.  It’s good to have a reminder around of where our food originates.
  2. Switch all your lightbulbs to CFLs (or at least switch a few).
  3. Create a homemade compost bin for $15.
  4. Switch one appliance to an energy efficient model (look for the “energy star” label).

    Photo from Flip & Tumble

  5. Stop using disposable bags – order some reusable bags, or make your own.  My favorites are Envirosax and Flip & Tumble.
  6. Buy an inexpensive reusable water bottle, and stop buying plastic disposable bottles.  Then watch The Story of Bottled Water, a short movie about the bottled water phenomena.
  7. Wash laundry in cold water instead of hot.
  8. Turn off lights when you leave the room.
  9. Don’t turn on lights at all for as long as you can — open your curtains and enjoy natural light.
  10. Drive the speed limit, and combine all your errands for the week in one trip.

    Photo by Kamyar Adi

  11. Better yet, walk or ride a bike to your errands that are two miles or closer.
  12. Support your local economy and shop at your farmer’s market.
  13. Turn off your computer completely at night.
  14. Research whether you can sign up for green power from your utility company.
  15. Pay as many bills as possible online.
  16. Put a stop to unsolicited mail — sign up to opt out of pre-screened credit card offers.  While you’re at it, go ahead and make sure you’re on the “do not call” list, just to make your life more peaceful.

  17. Reuse scrap paper.  Print on two sides, or let your kids color on the back side of used paper.
  18. Conduct a quick energy audit of your home.
  19. Subscribe to good eco-friendly blogs.  My favorites are The Daily Green, TreeHugger, and Keeper of the Home.  Of course, you gotta subscribe to Simple Organic.
  20. Before buying anything new, first check your local Craigslist or Freecycle.
  21. Support local restaurants that use food derived less than 100 miles away, and learn more about the benefits of eating locally.
  22. Fix leaky faucets.
  23. Make your own household cleaners.  I’ve got quite a few recipes in my e-book.

    Photo by Kasia

  24. Line dry your laundry.
  25. Watch The Story of Stuff with your kids, and talk about the impact your household trash has on our landfills.
  26. Learn with your kids about another country or culture, expanding your knowledge to other sides of the world.
  27. Lower the temperature on your hot water heater.
  28. Unplug unused chargers and appliances.
  29. Repurpose something – turn one of your well-worn t-shirts into basic play pants for your baby.  Or save egg cartons for paint wells, seed starters, treasure boxes, or a myriad of other crafts.
  30. Collect rainwater, and use it to water your houseplants and garden.

    Photo by Lori Ann

  31. Switch to cloth diapers– or at least do a combination with disposables.
  32. Switch to shade-grown coffee with the “Fair Trade” label.
  33. Use a Diva Cup for your monthly cycles.
  34. Use cloth instead of paper to clean your kitchen. Be frugal, and make these rags out of old towels and t-shirts.
  35. Use cloth napkins daily instead of paper.
  36. Read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and open your eyes to the way conventional food is processed. Watch Food, Inc. while you’re at it.

    Photo by Katherine Raz

  37. Repurpose glass jars as leftover containers and bulk storage, especially in the kitchen.
  38. Five-minute showers – make it a goal for yourself.
  39. Donate to – and shop at – thrift stores such as Goodwill.  You’ll be recycling perfectly usable items, and you’ll be supporting your local economy.

Article excerpted from

Which of these do you already do?  Which ones are you going to focus on this next year?  And what can you add to the list?

Go Green with Envy!

Go green with envy!

Green is amazing. It is next to nature and an eco-friendly colour. Imagine decorating your home with green. That simply means you are transferring nature into your home. How and where do you start the green revolution?

Restroom/bathrooms: They are always a good place for inspiration. You get refreshed and revitalised when you have a shower or heed nature’s call in a green environment.

Kitchen: From your kitchen shelves to appliances, you go all green and enjoy brightness everywhere especially when they are in the bright hue.

Accessories: Why not decorate the walls of your home with different green accessories? Mind you, you should allow your theme match perfectly.

Pillows and wall art: When pillows and wall arts are in green colour, they transfer a sense of well-being and energy into the home. Try mixing the colour with yellow undertones too.

Nursery/children’s room: By now, you should know that green is kid-friendly. When mixed with other nursery colours, green could blow the mind! Sometimes it is the children’s favourite, so try and creatively turn their rooms to green.

Men’s room: The good thing about green colour is that it is not gender specific, unlike the pink, black or blue. You can choose the masculine one for some of your men’s rooms.

The bedroom: Imagine a green bedroom! You will sleep well, be more relaxed and live next to nature.

House plants: Don’t forget the green environment which starts with plants. Have a collection of more green plants in your garden and as indoor plants.

Article excerpted from

This is interesting!! “Go Green” can actually create a beautiful living place, that’s really a brilliant idea. Start decorate your house or comfort zone with juicy and creative ideas of “Go Green!”

Don’t Idle Away Your Car’s Gas

Save money, cut emissions and reduce wear on your engine.
eco tip for idling your carPhoto: Jim Jurica / Istock

Every moment you spend idling your car’s engine means time spent needlessly wasting gas, as well as rougher wear on your vehicle. So give it a rest, and avoid idling through your days.

One of the ways the much-praised Toyota Prius is able to achieve such impressive fuel economy is by having a computer cut out idling automatically: when you aren’t making headway, the gas engine shuts off. For regular cars, it doesn’t make sense to shut off the engine at every stop sign. (Even though Environmental Defense found that idling for more than 10 seconds wastes more gas than is required for startup.) But, you should certainly kill it when you are waiting for your date to finish getting ready. Or when your honey has to run into the bank to cash a check.

Overall, idling Americans burn 2.9 billion gallons of gas a year, worth around $78.2 billion, according to a recent report from Texas A&M. That doesn’t count the damage done to idling engines by incompletely burned fuel.

Many communities have organized “no idling zones” around schools, churches and other locations. At least 15 states, and many counties, have laws that restrict idling for large diesel engines. New York City and New Jersey have laws limiting idle times of passenger vehicles, but enforcement is lax.

Article excerpted from

All for a green life

Organic practices have now become desirable and chic. GEETA PADMANABHAN takes a look at what goes into an organic lifestyle.

PHOTOS: P.V. SIVAKUMAR and K. ananthan

Stay close to Nature:Shift to organic products.

It is a reasonable wish. You want to eat food that doesn’t come soaked in dangerous chemicals, drink water whose ingredients will not poison and maim, wear clothes not made in factories that smothered farming livelihoods, breathe air that won’t choke the lungs. Simply, you hope for a life that will leave an environment for your kids to stay healthy. You want what is now labelled an “organic” life. Happily, it is becoming increasingly doable. That is, if you’re willing to learn its rules.


One who can rattle them off is Vellore Srinivasan, the green foot soldier of the Vellore fort. Turning his wedding into an eco-event, he’s DVD-ed it for public campaigns. “I was on auto-pilot during my wedding,” he laughs. “Can’t remember going through the rituals, I have to marry again,” he said.

For Srinivasan, an Ashoka awardee, this was one more successful campaign to prove that living with least damage to nature is not impossible. His bride wore ahimsa silk (“I checked!”). All the decoration including banana trees and thoranams went to feed local cattle. Garbage was segregated into organic and inorganic waste for disposal.

Guests were given a bundle of a jasmine sapling, vermi-compost, sachets of seeds and printed instructions for composting and rainwater harvesting.

This is probably obsessive, but green practices are now desirable chic. Speakers are given tulsi plants as gifts, shoppers carry purchases in paper or cloth bags, wedding invitations go online, children take a vow not to fire crackers, gas cylinders carry green labels. There’s a wobbly willingness to segregate garbage. Organic food and farming are everyday phrases. Celebrities talk of “doing their bit” on TV, anything organic gets column space. Together, these seem significant though small, steps out of a plastic-coated world.

“Our ancestors saw organic life as wholesome life,” said K. Vijayalakshmi and A.V. Balasubramaniam at the Centre for Indian Knowledge Systems, which advises farmers on organic practices and connects their products to consumers. “It’s living in peace with nature and other humans, giving back what you take from surroundings, not eating away the capital. This perception changed in the post-industrial society. We are all children of this phenomenon.”

A wholesome life

Living this “wholesome” life are the Cariappas: Vivek, Julie and kids on their 30-acre Krac-a-Dawna organic farm in HD Koda taluk, Mysore. “Without Malathion, lindane, DDT, or Roundup”, the Cariappa family profitably grows 30 different kinds of crops using principles of seed-saving, multiple cropping, integrated and inter-dependent animal and soil husbandry, optimal utilisation of animal and plant-waste, vermi-composting, small-scale food-preservation and storage. Going directly to the consumer, they sell grain as flour, fruit as jams and jellies, sugarcane as jaggery powder, coconuts as cold-pressed coconut oil soap. “This takes effort and imagination, but it has improved our economic viability and our sustainability in the market society,” said Vivek. Their organic cotton is spun separately, woven by traditional weavers, coloured by vegetable dyes extracted on the farm and stitched into dresses. Buyers are nearby families and eco-shops around India.

Aurobindo Ashram’s Gloria Land (GL) has replaced inorganic fertilizers and pesticides with mulch, cattle dung and a carefully chosen mix of crops. Plants like sesbania help with nitrogen fixation. Jenda Medu, a 100 per cent organic farming village near Udhagamandalam uses advice from experts and has built a check-dam and water storage tanks to combat water shortage.

“Interdependence, without disturbing the rhythms of nature,” Balasubramaniam defines the green philosophy. “We must preserve bio-diversity, build on local availability of resources. Buying readymade bio-products is not sustainable.”


AVB wants mass training for organic farming by the Directorates of Agriculture; financial help for farmers from banking and credit institutions; inclusion of organic methods in agricultural education. “Chemical fertilizers/pesticides are subsidised. Why not subsidy for those using green manure and in-house seeds? Are earth-enriching products like neem-seed cakes available freely? If we trust farmers, change will come,” says Vijayalakshmi.

Varun Gupta, of Pro-Nature Organic Foods, also sees organic life as being conscious of how closely we’re tied to our environment. He concedes we can’t all go the Julie-and-Vivek way, but if we “ensure that we consume less than what is our rightful share of nature’s bounty, we are leading an organic life.” He made the switch because he “fell in love with the “organic concept” while working for a food company. “Organic does not have any strong well-established brand, yet more and more are willing to consider it as an alternative. There is also increased awareness of environment issues.”

A mindset

“An organic life is a mindset,” say Vivek and Julie who home-school their two boys. They liberate the phrase to mean “necessary social change” – through free thinking, sensible land-use, gender equality, equal opportunities, a diversity-based inclusive approach. “Organic practices are woven into our lives,” Julie says. “It’s about mental strength, making determined decisions,” agrees Srinivasan.

They fear commercial enterprise hi-jacking the concept. “Organic food cannot be a “boutique” affair adopted by affluent consumers,” says Balasubramaniam. Processes and practices must reach all retail shelves. “We need to link what we buy to the grower/maker,” emphasises Vivek. “The consumer has a vital responsibility to change the system.”

“Start small,” suggests Vijayalakshmi. “Go organic one day of the week.” Remember, the decisions you make at supermarket aisles could make a significant difference.

The first hurdle is the label mix-up. Are “all-natural” foods organic? No. Such food products may not have anything artificial in them, but their basic ingredients were probably grown by unsavoury methods. Terms such as “pesticide-free” and “residue-free” can also be misleading. Organic packaged foods contain no additives and must be processed in a clean, chemical-free environment. The best way to make sure you’re buying organic is to look for “certified organic”.

The next is the cost. “Organic is not expensive if we consider the indirect cost attached to “regular” food; health and nutrition, environment and social,” said Varun. “There will always be a cost attached to buying “pure and healthy”. However, the fast-growing market will help in bringing down the prices.”

To stay within your budget, buy locally-grown fruits and vegetables in season. It saves transportation costs. Buy lasting items in bulk. Walk when you can. Turn down lights, volume. And grow greens on the terrace. Go to bed without feeling guilty about the future of your kids.

Article excerpted from

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