Eat the White House lawn

Auntie Ruth is green to the eco scene. Read up each week as she weeds through the dirt and unearths new gems of environmental knowledge.

What’s equivalent to filling more than 100 football fields to a height equal to the Empire State Building? The amount of waste Californians diverted from landfills in 2008. That’s right, our state reached a 58 percent waste-diversion rate, which means we saved an unprecedented 54 million tons of trash from landfills for reuse and recycling. California produces about 93 million tons of solid waste per year, according to the California Integrated Waste Management Board, who attributes this year’s accomplishment to increased recycling programs, a stronger infrastructure and a shift in consumer behavior. Each year, recycling saves enough energy to power 1.4 million California homes, reduces water pollution by 27,047 tons, saves 14 million trees and helps reduce air pollution by 165,142 tons. Whoa!

Auntie Ruth is quite fond of LJ Urban, the green builder based in Midtown, and while she’s not usually one to push products, for LJ Urban, she’ll make an exception. The company recently launched a line of eco-friendly T-shirts with eco-urban logos. The point is to wear the thought-provoking shirts around town and raise awareness about sustainability issues. The T-shirts—available in three styles—are “selling like mad,” said LJ Urban co-owner Levi Benkert. “I guess people were ready to wear their urban beliefs on their sleeve.” The recycled, cotton-blend T-shirts are custom screen-printed using 100 percent plant-based inks. Check out the shirts at

If Ruth had 18 acres of land and a team of 13 gardeners, she knows exactly what she’d do: plant a garden. She hopes President-elect Barack Obama feels the same way.

Kitchen Gardeners International is asking Obama to “eat the view” and turn a portion of the 18-acre White House lawn into an organic garden to provide fresh produce for the first family and local food pantries. The group has been circulating a “White House Food Garden Petition” at since early 2008. Presidential edible landscapes are nothing new—Thomas Jefferson, John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson and first lady Eleanor Roosevelt all planted food on the White House lawn, and the Wilsons even grazed sheep there. But as food became more convenient to buy elsewhere, gardens at the White House became largely ornamental. Maybe if Obama planted a garden, more Americans would be inspired to plant their own.