Green is Universal

How Our City Is Affecting Our Environment

When entering an urban city there is no doubt you’ll find rapid bustle going to and from businesses. Cars honking, street vendors prepping and selling, and people rushing through the streets to get to their destinations. One crucial aspect of urban cities that is often overlooked is the lack of sustainable resources and the resulting negative impact on the environment.

According to Owl Caution, “Urban areas have a high environmental impact that can be felt globally, as well as within its own borders.” Cities, in many ways have, become centers for consumption of energy and water. As time progresses, there are fewer places to find that aren’t devastatingly impacted by congested cities.

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Over Population

As the urban developments and the general population grows, there is more pressure placed on the environment. According to the Population Reference Bureau, the lifestyle, consumption patterns, and the regions where people inhabit these mannerisms have an effect on the environment.

When there is a high demand for resources, it generates more waste—and the people who are making these demands come from all walks of life. In WorldVision’s study, they found that those who are homeless move to urban areas in search of better opportunities for employment or survival. Even though developed countries tend to have better infrastructure and are able to provide more for people’s basic needs, there are many contributions of urban cities that can make both the homeless and the environment suffer; including over-population.

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Overcrowded zones also tend to increase the risk of disease. More than 300,000 children have been diagnosed with asthma in New York City alone due to heating oils used in buildings.  Oil no.4 and oil no.6 are popular types of heating oils used to create harmful emissions that contribute to global climate change. A large volume of uncollected waste is another contributor to multiple health hazards, which is not treated properly due to the lack of city resources.  The process becomes increasingly cyclical where no solution is reached due to lack of action.

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Unhealthy Living Conditions

Half of today’s global population already lives in urban cities and without fully being aware, our health is paying the price of the impact of urban environments. Water pollution alone results in poorer quality of living within a community because of basic needs such as consumption and sanitation. Water contamination also decreases soil’s ability to produce nourishing elements, kills off fish, unsafe for the eco-system and is extremely harmful to human health.

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Additionally, as environmental damage increases so does the likelihood of floods and other natural disasters. The people who are affected first and foremost are the homeless and those without shelter. In result they turn to whichever urban structure they can find to create shelter. VoicesOfYouth.org says, “consequences of environmental deterioration, whether they be economical, social, or related to metal or physical wellbeing, are experienced” are expected results.

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Our Part

We as a community are not always properly educated on how to take care of ourselves or the environment around us. Disposing waste on the streets, and lacking sanitation practices that result in poor hygiene is done without much regard for the impact it has environmentally. However, there are ways in which, we as community can become a resource for help.

PovertyUSA encourages teachers, community members, church and service group leaders to initiate meaningful discussions about poverty, the environment, and how we can come to reach a solution. These discussions should be designed to help others “understand the size and scope of the problem but also start thinking about the ways in which they can take action to help create awareness…”in their communities.

There are so many ways we can get involved to improve the environment in our overcrowded cities—from activating greener spaces for recreation and outdoor activities to developing affordable mixed-use neighborhoods, the possibilities are endless. It simply starts with us taking initiative.

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Making Green Cool this Back to School

Summer is starting to wind down, which means back to school season is soon approaching. This is an exciting time for students shuffling back to the classroom—but even more so, it’s a critical time for the environment and our planet. Impact created by back to school shopping is rapidly on the rise.

Each year an estimated two billion pencils are used in the U.S.; which represents about 82,000 trees cut for pencils alone. With school supplies in full demand, many of us are prepping to get ready for the new term. The challenge—can we do it in a sustainable manner? Here are a few ways to start the academic year off on a greener note.

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Shop smart, shop efficient

Each year teachers send out lists of school supplies needed to use in the classroom. Today, there are countless environmentally friendly options to replace the items that are normally recognized in the average back to school sale. They range from lunch boxes, eco-friendly water bottles, bag packs, non-toxic ice packs, glue, recycled notebooks, and recycled writing utensils. Even reprocessed pencils can be made of recycled newspaper. When in doubt, make the greener choice.  Renting or buying used textbooks is also becoming a popular option that helps students save and helps the environment by having fewer books produced.

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Healthy and organic food

Packing lunch during the back to school season can be challenging. School mornings can be hectic and fast paced, encouraging us all to reach for prepackaged snacks with high salt and sugar content. According to EcoLunchBoxes.com, “if your family is using single-use, disposable items like brown paper bags, plastic baggies and pre-packaged drinks to pack lunch, you’re probably wasting about $450 a year.”  Opt-in for eco-friendly snacks and packaging for your student’s school day. Instead of using carton juice boxes, try using reusable water bottles and food containers to pack no-waste lunches instead.

 

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Reuse, Recycle, Impress!

Everyone wants to look their best on the first day of class. You can achieve that goal without purchasing brand new clothes and being environmentally aware. An estimated $76 billion was spent on new school supplies last year, including apparel. According to SmallFootPrintFamly.com, “a great way to get new school clothes for free is to organize a clothing swap with family, friends or neighbors.” If you can’t find a community clothing swap in your local area—flea markets, consignment shops and thrift stores also embody the sustainable principle of “reuse.” If you choose to buy one or two pieces of clothing for the new school year, consider purchasing clothing that has been made with organic cotton. Organic crops used to make fabric aren’t treated with pesticides, which are normally toxic and harmful for farmers and workers. Organic fabrics like cotton also use less water during the wash cycle, making it easier to consume less energy on laundry days.

 

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Responsible technology usage

Today, the use of personal computers in school is a necessity and more schools have incorporated the use of technology in the classroom. However, it is our responsibility to make sure our students are creating smart habits with their electronics. Children between the ages of 8 and 18 spend an average of seven hours a day with digital media. When not in use for academic activities, help your student learn the importance of conserving energy by turning the laptops and tablets off to help reduce energy consumption.

This year support those who are returning back to school live sustainably by sending them back to the class room with these eco-friendly tips!


 

Comcast NBCUniversal is the national sponsor of Boys and Girls Clubs of America’s Back2School campaign. In partnership with retailers across the country, BGCA will be holding school supply drives through September to benefit the children served at their Clubs.

During the month of July, NBC and Telemundo owned and operated stations across the country called on viewers to donate supplies or funds in support of students and teachers. The stations have partnered with Communities in Schools and national nonprofits working at the local level including United Way and Boys & Girls Clubs, among others. Many stations are also working directly with DonorsChoose.org, a not-for-profit organization that makes it possible for individuals to donate directly to public school classroom projects and make it simple for local viewers to participate in “Supporting Our Schools.”

To learn more about the work that NBCUniversal has done in supporting our communities and schools, visit our Pro-Social Initiatives page.

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How to Green Your Summer Vacation: Part Two

We can all take a few green practices with us as we enjoy our trips. In this second half of our two part series you are going to learn additional ways to make this year’s summer vacation a little greener.

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Plan to visit eco-friendly destinations:

There are many tourist destinations around the world that are making serious efforts toward preserving the environment while making it fun for all of its visitors as well. Costa Rica is an example of one of many destinations that has received a lot of attention for its sustainable development as an international community. It is home to beautiful rainforests, national parks, and nature reserves. According to EagleCreek.com, amenities such as “organic, farm-to-table dining, naturally-heated rock pools for bathing, and tours that are guided by experts in sustainable tourism,” are just a just a few of the features that one can enjoy in Costa Rica. The sustainable tourism experts educate you on how your vacation affects the local environment as well.

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Offset carbon emissions:

When deciding to have an ecofriendly vacation locally or overseas, it’s important to consider the method of travel—including the trip to the destination, the trip back home, and traveling in general on site. Traveling by rail contributes less greenhouse gas emissions than cars and airplanes. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, traveling by train is 30 percent more efficient than traveling by car. If you’re flying to your destination, try carbon offsetting. According to Carbonfootprint.com, carbon offsetting compensates your emissions by funding an equivalent of carbon dioxide savings somewhere else. There are also online carbon calculators that allow travelers to estimate the amount they would be paying to a company to invest in a project in another location to offset your flight’s air pollution.

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Pack your own snack:

Eating green may be one of the most impactful acts you can take part in during your summer vacation. Whether you take a train, plane, or go on a hike to camp this summer, packing your own snacks can contribute to a more sustainable vacation. Buy seasonal and local foods to cut back on foods that are impacted by climate change and long commutes of trucks to your super market. According to TreeHugger.com, “Local food also generally uses less packaging, is fresher and tastier, and comes in more varieties. It also supports small local growers.” Also, consider organic fruits, vegetables, grains, and dairy products that are produced in natural soil with far less chemicals.

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How to Green Your Summer Vacation: Part One

Going on a summer vacation is something most people look forward to experiencing. Whether the trip involves staying close to home or going to explore a new place overseas, we can all take a few green practices with us as we enjoy our trips. In this two part series, you are going to learn about a couple ideas to make this year’s summer vacation a little greener.

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Go camping:

If you are planning to stay close to home, camping is a great summer activity. It can take place in the woods, near the beach or even in your back yard. Camping brings you and your friends or family closer together while enjoying nature’s beauty. While on your camping trip remember to be responsible for the environment by keeping a couple of tips in mind. Keep the woods and the campsite clean and free of debris and litter—exactly the way you found it. There is no specific way or rule to go camping. Simply being entertained and relaxed by being outdoors while enjoying nature’s playground is all it takes.

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Lodge responsibly:

If you are planning to leave your hometown for a week or two to travel to an exciting destination, you will need a comfortable place to rest. With traveling comes lodging—choosing environmentally friendly accommodations can be accomplished with a little time and research. Green Hotels Association offers information about eco-friendly hotels in each state along with the efforts each hotel makes to be green.

According to wwf.Panda.org, there are plenty of hotels that offer “effective waste treatment systems that recycle, and are energy efficient.” These eco-friendly hotels also use environmentally safe energy sources such as solar energy and hydroelectric power. Hotels have also given their guests the option to skip washing their towels and sheets every day in order to save water and energy. According to the American Hotel and Lodging Association, “the request reduces water, sewer, energy, and labor costs by 17 percent.”

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Pack simple items:

Traveling lightly encourages you to keep green habits while you are away from home. If at all possible, travel as lightly as you can. You can do so by wearing one pair of jeans instead of packing several pairs; packing quick dry fabrics that can be hand washed and hung out to dry overnight; and dressing in layers rather than wearing bulkier items. When dressing in layers you can also make more outfits for your trips by reusing those articles of clothing.

When traveling by flight, lighter baggage from passengers also helps reduce fuel emissions released into the environment by the airplane. An alternative to using travel size bottles and containers, found normally at pharmacies or drugstores, is using recycled items around the house such as an empty old spice container for liquids, lotions, and shampoos. Another great reason to pack lightly is because it helps dispose of less waste in the environment.

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Sustainable Filmmaking: Girls Trip (2017)

Girls Trip, July 21, 2017

Girls Trip (2017)

© Universal Pictures

Producer Will Packer (Ride Along and Think Like a Man franchises, Almost Christmas) presents Girls Trip, a new comedy from director/producer Malcolm D. Lee (The Best Man franchise, Barbershop: The Next Cut).

When four lifelong friends—Regina Hall, Tiffany Haddish, Jada Pinkett Smith and Queen Latifah—travel to New Orleans for the annual Essence Festival, sisterhoods are rekindled, wild sides are rediscovered, and there’s enough dancing, drinking, brawling and romancing to make the Big Easy blush.

Filmed in New Orleans, Girls Trip made a dedicated effort to reduce their carbon footprint where possible.  The film’s production offices were located at Second Line Stages, a certified LEED GOLD building that included motion detector lighting, low flow water fixtures, composting in the kitchens, and recycling throughout the offices and stages.

The office enforced a strict “Print Only by Request” policy which resulted in a 60% drop in paper usage compared to a production of a similar size.  Production passed on remaining paper and office supplies to another New Orleans film.  On set, crew practiced energy efficiency by using hybrid vehicles, energy efficientEcoLuxe trailers, and LED set lighting.

Girls Trip gave back to the community both during and after filming.  Production donated approximately 600 lbs of excess catering food (equaling 500 meals) to the New Orleans Mission, and also donated lumber to The Green Project, a local non-profit reuse center.  These practices and more led to Girls Trip earning a 2016 EMA Green Seal, recognizing progress in sustainable production practices.

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The Hidden Impact of Cars on Our Planet

It’s no secret that an overwhelming majority of cars built today depend highly on fossil fuels—which is not good for our planet.  According to Sciencing.com, cars, trucks and other forms of transportation is the single largest contributor to air pollution in the United States. Cars release pollutants that cause a wide range of issues for the environment and human health in general.

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Soil & Water

Even after a car has exhausted its time on the road, it still has the ability to do damage to the environment when they’re in junk yards. Auto parts, such as batteries or engines with oil or gasoline, can often times be disassembled in junk yards and the process alone can lead to leakage into soil and any bodies of water nearby. Cars can also contribute to pollution through sulfur dioxide—sulfur dioxide is created when fuel containing sulfur is burned and when gasoline is extracted from oil.  When sulfur dioxide mixes with rain water it creates acid rain which damages crops, vegetation, and forests.

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Our Health

Diesel fuel, normally used to power buses and trucks, emits airborne particles such as metal and soot. These airborne particles can cause skin irritations and allergies. The smallest particles can nestle into our lungs and can cause respiratory issues as well. Surprisingly, the noise from cars is also harmful to our health. The effects of noise on hearing may vary among people, but any sound that is too loud can cause damage to hearing. According to CultureChange.org, “researchers have found vehicle noise pollution to be a major cause of stress.” Vehicle noise pollution can also be traced to stress related illnesses—one being high blood pressure. When people are exposed intrusive sounds, it puts them in a state of agitation with an increased level in blood pressure.

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Climate Change

Car pollution is one of the major causes of climate change. All of the gases that cars emit, including greenhouse gases, contribute a great deal to climate change as well. As stated by Sciencing.com, greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere, which causes temperatures to rise worldwide. Warmer temperatures around the world affect farming, wildlife, sea levels and natural landscapes.

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How you can help

There are many ways to help lower the amount of car pollutants in the environment. Whenever the time comes to purchase a new car, be sure to check the fuel economy and environment label. This label tells you about the ratings and pollution level the vehicle will produce. A high rating means lower pollution levels. Additionally, keeping your car well maintained by getting regular checkups at your local mechanic is also a great way to make sure your vehicle is not contributing too many air pollutants to the environment.  If your car is used sparingly, you could also re-evaluate if you really need your own car. There are alternate ways of travel such as taking public transit, riding a bike, walking, or using a car-sharing app or service.

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Six Green Ways to Start Your Day

Mornings can be a hectic part of the day for most people. Often time’s people feel as if they don’t have enough time to prepare and get out of the house with everything they need to get their day started off on the right foot. With that in mind, it can be challenging to think about helping the environment in the mere minutes leading up to rushing out the door.

Fortunately there are plenty of simple ways to make your morning routine more sustainable. Here are six green ways to jumpstart your day:

1.Utilize eco-friendly beauty products

Beauty products are known for having layers of plastic packaging around the boxes that hold the cosmetic. Both the plastic wrapping and the cosmetic containers are usually made of a material that cannot be recycled—and these plastic wrappers make up a large portion of waste that ends up in landfills.

Many beauty companies are trying to make both their products and packaging eco-friendly. In some instances, cosmetic companies are making their packages more ecofriendly by using less material in the packing process. According to Allure.com, “sustainable packaging goes through a process that can make the packaging more costly; however the plants and labs that manufacture these goods use environmentally friendly water and electricity systems, as well as recycle all goods.” Shopping for sustainable beauty products that utilize fewer resources to package their products is a green way to start your day.

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2. Use an alternative to disposable razors

Straight razors are a great green alternative to disposable razors. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, “Americans alone throw away an estimated 2 billion disposable razors each year—that’s approximately one billion pounds of waste.” By utilizing straight razors, you would be saving the environment from plastic razor waste that cannot be recycled.

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3. Bring your own personal coffee mug or thermos to work

According to CarryYourCup.org Americans throw away a staggering 25 billion Styrofoam coffee cups every year. If you replaced purchasing a disposable cup of coffee each day with BYO mug, you can save 23 pounds of waste in one year.

Even if you like getting coffee at a coffee shop you can bring your own mug and get it filled up with freshly brewed coffee. Some coffee shops even offer discounts for bringing your own mug!

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4. Exercising outside instead of in a gym

Instead of burning energy on exercise machines at a gym take advantage of local hiking trails. Going for a jog or walk at a park in your area is always an eco-friendly option. One of the best benefits of the exercising outside is getting fresh air to decrease stress. According to the Huffington Post, “research shows that the scent of pine trees decreases stress and increases relaxation. Even walking through a park or your own backyard can help you feel calmer and happier when you catch a whiff of freshly cut grass.”

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5. Pack lunch using reusable containers

Instead of using plastic sandwich bags or brown paper bags, opt in for a more sustainable option and try a reusable lunch containers and carrying bags. According to Recycle Works, “disposal lunches can generate between 4-8 ounces of garbage every day, totaling up to nearly 100 pounds of waste per year.” Simple household items such as mason jars, and leftover durable shopping bags, and old plastic food containers are great alternatives to transporting your lunch to the office. According to Huffington Post, bringing lunch from home is also great for extra savings—you can save on average $1,500 per year by choosing homemade lunches over restaurant lunches.

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6. Walking or biking to work

Riding your bike and walking to work are not just healthy for your body–they’re better for the environment too. According to Movoto.com, riding your bike to work rather than driving can cut down on your household emissions by at least 6%. Cars emit air pollution every mile, whereas bikes produce none.

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There are many simple ways you can contribute to making the world a little bit greener every morning when you are getting your day started. Take the first step today and share your new green habits with your friends to create an ecofriendly movement!

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Sustainable Filmmaking: The Beguiled (2017)

The Beguiled, June 23, 2017

The Beguiled

© Focus Features

The Focus Features film The Beguiled is an atmospheric thriller from acclaimed writer/director Sofia Coppola, winner of the Best Director award at the 2017 Cannes International Film Festival. The story unfolds during the Civil War, at a Southern girls’ boarding school. Its sheltered young women take in an injured enemy soldier. As they provide refuge and tend to his wounds, the house is taken over with sexual tension and dangerous rivalries, and taboos are broken in an unexpected turn of events.

Filming on locations in Louisiana, The Beguiled production team implemented a number of sustainable practices. In the production office, water dispensers were used to avoid plastic water bottle usage.  A conscious effort was made to turn off all lights and electronics at night.  A strict “print only by request” policy, resulting in 52% less paper use than average for a production of their size, was enforced. When production wrapped, remaining paper was donated to local elementary schools.

All departments at work on The Beguiled made specific efforts to reduce their environmental impact. The sound department primarily used rechargeable batteries; the electrical department used LED set lighting; and on-set recyclables were collected and dropped off at a local recycler.

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Sustainable Filmmaking: The Book of Henry (2017)

The Book of Henry, June 16, 2017

The Book Of Henry

© Focus Features

The Book of Henry is a Focus Features drama directed by Colin Trevorrow, who last helmed 2015’s “Jurassic World.”  Written by Gregg Hurwitz and starring Naomi Watts, Jaeden Lieberher, Jacob Tremblay, Sarah Silverman, Lee Pace, Maddie Ziegler, and Dean Norris, The Book of Henry centers on a single mother whose genius son’s plan to help a classmate with a dangerous secret takes shape in thrilling ways.

Filming in New York State, The Book of Henry production team made substantial efforts to reduce the movie shoot’s environmental impact.  To help reduce fuel use, they rented hybrid vehicles for crew.  To lower energy use, the lighting department used LED set lighting.  Refilling stations were provided on-set and all crew were encouraged to use reusable water bottles, which resulted in individual water bottle use that was 90% less than comparably sized productions.

When building their sets, The Book of Henry construction team utilized sustainable building materials such as FSC Certified Plywood and Pulp Art, a wall skin made from 100% recycled paper.  Several departments made the effort to purchase secondhand pieces from Build it Green, Habitat for Humanity, and local thrift stores.

The Book of Henry was very active in donating to the local community.  The production donated a set of stairs that had been built to the Rochambeau School, a local high school in White Plains, NY, and construction flats were donated via Art Cube.  In addition, the set decoration team gave away several pieces of furniture and home goods to Habitat for Humanity, Goodwill, and Furnishare.  The production donated excess food throughRock and Wrap it Up!, with over 162 meals given to the hungry.  These practices and more earned The Book of Henry an EMA Green Seal.

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Serving Seasonal Produce This Summer

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Strawberry shortcake at summer festivals and pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving – these culinary traditions are no accident. While these dishes are typically associated with celebrations, they are also tied to the seasons. Strawberries thrive in June and July, and pumpkins are harvested in the fall. Eating food that is seasonal and local is a tradition that is both good for human health and the environment.

Fruits and vegetables thrive when planted and harvested during certain times of the year. Tomato plants, for example, are typically best when harvested during the summer, because they need a lot of sun for their fruit to ripen. Timing is important for plants to grow successfully. Seeds are accustomed to everything from the condition of the soil to the amount of rain during a particular season. Oftentimes, produce is picked during its peak harvest time and then treated with chemicals and stored to be sold throughout the year. These products end up poorer tasting and with less nutritional value. Freshly picked fruits and vegetables grown during their natural season are the healthiest and most flavorful. It is well worth the wait.

Eating locally grown produce has many benefits as well. Flavor and nutrients are retained and extensive, pollution-causing transportation – known as “food miles” – is not required. Produce that travels a great distance is often also treated with chemicals for preservation. In contrast, produce grown in your region can be enjoyed naturally hours after being picked from the vine. Enjoying locally grown food can also foster community and create appreciation for local culinary traditions.

This summer, after you purchase your food from a farmers’ market or CSA, prepare it using a healthy recipe. The Eating to 100 series from the TODAY show features recipes that boost longevity – many of which are packed full of produce, like this one!

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