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Articles from 2004 In July

Delicious Living

August 1, 2004

Japan’s long, tough road to health claims regulations

Worldwide Regulatory Review: Japan

After more than a year of work and countless committee meetings, Japan has still not established a regulatory system to govern its health foods industry. Meanwhile, the proposed new rules, if enacted at all, may be only skin deep, says industry observer Kaori Nakajima

Despite many committee meetings canvassing opinion from representatives of the industry, consumers, media, academia and policymakers, Japan still has no regulatory system governing health foods. Proposals and pre-proposals have been laid on the table, but nothing has come to fruition in the form of functioning regulations. It?s a confusing situation because many people, including the media, believe regulatory floodgates have finally opened for health foods, including dietary supplements, when this is not the case. Indeed, the opposite may be happening.

A joint committee of six members was created in April 2003 by the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare to develop a regulatory system for ?health foods,? a previously undefined regulatory arena. The committee was supposed to draft a proposal by December 2003. It has now met 12 times in little more than a year with no resolution in sight.

Certain matters have been clarified, however, such as just what constitutes health foods. Notes from one committee meeting stated: ??Health foods? will mean a wide variety of foods that are sold and used with the purpose of contributing to the maintenance and promotion of health. These foods include Foods with Health Claims (FOSHU and Foods with Nutrient Function Claims). The ?so-called health foods? are those health foods that are not Foods with Health Claims.?

This is interesting. Foods with Health Claims [Foods for Specified Health Uses (FOSHU) and Foods with Nutrient Function Claims] have been regulated by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare since 2001. These kinds of foods are the only type that can carry some kind of a health claim in Japan. It would seem the committee has decided to put Foods with Health Claims under the big umbrella of ?health foods? and that ?health foods? have finally gained status in the regulatory arena.

This may lead the innocent observer to think a whole new raft of foods will be able to make health claims. This is not necessarily so. Only Foods with Health Claims are allowed by law to make health claims as it stands, and it would appear only those foods will be able to enhance the claims they may make. So, very little has changed.

Trying to position Foods with Health Claims was the easy part. Foods with Nutrient Function Claims (the name comes from Codex?s Nutrient Function Claims) are foods containing nutrients required for human wellness and vitality. However, under this definition, the case could be made that human wellness and vitality can be achieved via vitamins and minerals only. Foods with Specified Health Uses (FOSHU) are those with scientific support to maintain or improve specified health conditions. When it comes to positioning the ?so-called health foods? in this whole scheme, the committee is reluctant. Should they allow a third category of foods with some kind of scientific verified health claims system? Or should they expand upon the Foods with Health Claims framework to provide space for the ?so-called health foods? to be able to compile some kind of substantiation? A close look at the committee?s intentions reveals a tightening of claims options, even as they appear to be moving toward a more liberal system.

No escaping FOSHU
The committee has highlighted the following points of consideration:

  • Introduction of conditional FOSHU
  • Establishment of standardised FOSHU
  • Approval of disease risk-reduction claims
  • Reconsideration of FOSHU?s screening level

Everything has to do with FOSHU. No door has been opened for the ?so-called health foods? at all. This is disconcerting, especially in regard to supplements such as herbs, carbohydrates, proteins, lipids, bee products and mushrooms ? all of which will have no scope for claims under the proposal. According to the proposal, there will be three levels of evidence: A, B and C. Level A means there is both medical and nutritional scientifically substantiated evidence. They will apply to Foods with Nutrient Function Claims and FOSHU. Level B evidence must meet existing FOSHU substantiation criteria. Level C evidence alludes to a food?s functionality, but its effectiveness is not substantiated and will apply to conditional FOSHU. These foods must carry a disclaimer, stating that while the food affects the structure/function of the body, the ?grounds of this claim are not necessarily well-established.? That said, both B- and C-level claims will require clinical trials on Japanese subjects.

Standardised FOSHU will be reserved mostly for pre- and probiotics, since their effects on the structure/function of the body have been evident for many years. This will speed FOSHU evaluation for look-alike FOSHU—hence less work for everyone, but less development of truly innovative foods. Disease risk-reduction claims provide valuable information to the consumer. Before taking the bold step of making claims, scientists must consider not only disease risk factors, but also have medical and nutritional substantiation for intake levels and individual physiology. The safety/effectiveness examinations that the FOSHU candidate products must go through is based on tough, almost drug-like criteria.

The proposal states the system should adopt more rational steps toward approval, by considering FOSHU more as foods, and not be required to demonstrate such a high level of safety and effectiveness. Thus the screening level of FOSHU will most certainly be reconsidered. Presently, it has two disease risk-reduction claims in mind: calcium and osteoporosis; and folic acid and neural tube defects. We do not know, however, if more are really going to be considered at all.

Wanted: a powerful government health zealot
It also says it should clarify the system, indicating reassessment of FOSHU products already on the market may be required. There are a lot of ?shoulds? in the proposal. The committee has left a lot of space for discussion.

There are other specifications related to the appropriateness of claims, safety guidelines, consumer education and diffusion of information to the public. The committee seems to know what is important and what ?should? be done. There is, however, no road map for how or when it must be done.

As it stands, the ?so-called health foods? that have waited more than a year to gain legitimacy are little closer to this goal. This proposal needs a zealous advocate, preferably a powerful parliament member to seize its cause and push it forward. Until that happens, the discussions are likely to go on ad infinitum with little hope of significant change.

Kaori Nakajima is chief of staff, scientific and regulatory affairs, for the Health Food Department at the Japan Health Food & Nutrition Food Association. Respond:
All correspondence will be forwarded to the author.

Increase your mental, emotional, and spiritual energy

Energy-boosting supplements




Asian ginseng
(Panax ginseng)

200–500 mg/day

Helps improve endurance and concentration and facilitates the body’s response to daily stress. Also stimulates the central nervous system and improves physical and mental efficiency.

Gotu kola
(Centella asiatica)

60 mg (of a standardized extract), 1–2x/day

Rejuvenates the nervous system, strengthens the adrenals, improves mental function, and helps prevent fatigue. May also help body respond better to stress.


1,000–3,000 mg/day

Helps transfer fatty acids to the mitochondria, the part of the cell responsible for energy production.

(Thodiola rosea)

200 mg (of a standardized extract)/day

Helps stimulate the central nervous system and boost endurance and adrenal function.

(Schisandra chinensis)

2–4 ml (taken as a tincture), 3x/day

Stimulates metabolic functions throughout the body, aids digestion, and strengthens the kidneys and adrenals. Also improves nerve reflexes.

Source: Kim Erickson, herbalist.


Has Low Carb Peaked? Opinions Vary on the Diet’s Impact

While corporations are wary of a low-carb bust, analysts and market researchers can’t agree on whether the diet trend has peaked—or whether carb-awareness will be lasting. A survey of 2,500 people published in April 2004 by Morgan Stanley found 11% of the population on a low-carb diet, down from 13% in January (but still ahead of 10% in June 2003), leading some analysts to declare low-carb diets no longer a trend but a fad. However, the survey also found consumers are inclined to limit carbs even after they’ve dropped off the diet and remain interested in the potential health benefits of a low-carb lifestyle. This could have lasting implications for the food industry, Morgan Stanley said.

In a study updated in July 2004, Opinion Dynamics Corp. (ODC) judged the number of low-carb dieters to be “remarkably stable” at 12% over the past several months. Meanwhile, low-carb lifestyle consumers, i.e., those casually watching their carbs, shrank from 32% in April to 21% in July. However, ODC asserted that the difference between low-carb lifestyle consumers and regular consumers is small, and thus a decrease in this group is likely to have little effect on overall consumption patterns. Opinion Dynamics raised the question of whether the low-carb market has now been defined: Results from an April 2004 survey showed that over three-quarters of current low-carb dieters and 59% of former low-carb dieters said they are very likely or somewhat likely to be on a low-carb diet two years from now. But only 9% who have not tried such a diet said they are likely to be on it.

In August 2004, IRI’s Carb-Tracker Service said store sales trends don’t indicate a decline in low-carb products. For the latest 52 weeks IRI cited a 223% rise for the 10 largest carb-branded products and a 180% rise for the latest 12 weeks. IRI said it’s too early to predict low carb’s rise or demise but concluded that healthier nutritional eating and weight loss objectives are driving significant shopper shifts and growth: “All of the consumer mindset evidence from Gallup to IRI’s MedProfiler says that a major chunk of the overweight population is now interested in attacking the problem through healthier eating.”

Delicious Living

ARCHIVE: Oven-Baked Fried Chicken

Oven-Baked Fried Chicken

Serves 4 / Removing the skin, baking instead of frying, and limiting spices to buttermilk and Parmesan cheese instead of traditional paprika and garlic turn this comfort food into a treat for heartburn sufferers. Look for coarse, crunchy panko bread crumbs in the Asian section of your market.

3/4 cup reduced-fat buttermilk
1 cup panko crumbs
1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste
8 skinless chicken pieces (drumsticks and thighs)
Nonfat cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 400º. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Pour buttermilk in a glass pie dish. In a second shallow dish, mix panko crumbs with cheese, salt, and pepper.

3. Dip each chicken piece into buttermilk, coating thoroughly, then dip into crumb mixture. Arrange coated chicken on lined cookie sheet and spray with nonfat cooking spray. Bake for 40–45 minutes, turning once.

Delicious Living

ARCHIVE: Oven-Baked Fried Chicken

Serves 4 / Removing the skin, baking instead of frying, and limiting spices to buttermilk and Parmesan cheese instead of traditional paprika and garlic turn this comfort food into a treat for heartburn sufferers. Look for coarse, crunchy panko bread crumbs in the Asian section of your market.

3/4 cup reduced-fat buttermilk
1 cup panko crumbs
1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste
8 skinless chicken pieces (drumsticks and thighs)
Nonfat cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 400º. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Pour buttermilk in a glass pie dish. In a second shallow dish, mix panko crumbs with cheese, salt, and pepper.

3. Dip each chicken piece into buttermilk, coating thoroughly, then dip into crumb mixture. Arrange coated chicken on lined cookie sheet and spray with nonfat cooking spray. Bake for 40–45 minutes, turning once.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving: Calories: 263 calories % fat calories: 28 Fat: 8g Saturated Fat: 3g Cholesterol: 113mg Carbohydrate: 12g Protein: 34g Fiber: 1g Sodium: 347mg

Delicious Living

ARCHIVE: Ginger-Cherry Ice-Cream Sodas

Serves 8 / This refreshing, spicy, homemade ginger ale tastes wonderful even without the ice cream. Canned cherries will work in a pinch, but take advantage of summer’s crop by getting kids to pit fresh cherries with a hairpin or cherry pitter.

3/4 - 1 pound fresh ginger, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks (to make 2 cups)
2 cups water
2 cups black cherry juice
1/3 cup sugar
Blackberry sorbet
Vanilla ice cream
1 liter sparkling water
2 cups fresh cherries, pitted

1. In a medium saucepan, bring ginger, water, juice, and sugar to a boil. Reduce heat to a rolling simmer and cook until reduced by half, 25–30 minutes. Strain; discard solids. Refrigerate liquid.

2. Place about 2 tablespoons sorbet and 2 tablespoons ice cream in eight 8-ounce plastic cups. (Store in freezer until you’re ready to serve.) Just before serving, combine ginger-cherry juice with sparkling water. Place 1/4 cup cherries in each glass. Fill with ginger-cherry mixture and serve.

Delicious Living

ARCHIVE: 24-Hour Layered Bean Salad

Serves 10–12 / Assemble this a day early to let flavors marry. Make and serve in a clear plastic or glass container with a tight lid, so you can turn the dish over to distribute the dressing and so diners can see the colorful layers.

1 19-ounce can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced (white and light green parts only), divided
1 19-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups grated carrots (about 2 large carrots)
2 cups frozen shelled edamame
2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper
2 cups baby spinach, washed and dried

1. In a 10-cup container with a tight-fitting lid, layer salad ingredients as follows: garbanzo beans, half of the scallions, cannellini beans, grated carrots, edamame, remaining scallions, and halved tomatoes.

2. In a small bowl, whisk olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Pour over salad. Top with spinach leaves, press down, and cover. Refrigerate overnight, turning container over occasionally to distribute dressing.

Delicious Living

Summer Corn Bar with Three Toppings

Summer Corn Bar with Three Toppings

Makes 18 / This easy presentation is a fun way to serve a crowd. Keep toppings cool by nestling containers in crushed ice.




6 ears fresh corn, husked

18 wooden craft sticks

2 tablespoons salt (optional)


1. Cut each corn cob into 3 disks. Using a screwdriver, carefully push through the center of each cob to create a narrow hole. Insert a craft stick to form a handle.

2. Bring a large pot of water to boil; add salt, if using, and skewered corn. Boil 8–10 minutes. (If cooking ahead of time, undercook and reheat before serving; keep warm in the hot water.)

Topping 1: Parmesan Butter

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

1. Blend all ingredients until smooth. Refrigerate. Makes 1-1/4 cups.

Nutrition Facts Per Tablespoon: Calories: 93 calories % fat calories: 98 Fat: 10g Saturated Fat: 4g Cholesterol: 13mg Carbohydrate: 0g Protein: 0g Fiber: 0g Sodium: 58mg

Topping 2: Three-Herb Pesto

1 bunch cilantro, stems trimmed
1 bunch Italian parsley, stems trimmed
1 bunch fresh chives (about 8–10 stalks)
1/3 cup grated Asiago cheese
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt, to taste

1. In a food processor, combine cilantro, parsley, and chives; pulse until minced. Add cheese, onion, garlic, olive oil, and salt. Process until well combined. Refrigerate. Makes 1-1/2 cups.

Nutrition Facts Per Tablespoon: Calories: 33 calories % fat calories: 85 Fat: 4g Saturated Fat: 1g Cholesterol: 1mg Carbohydrate: 1g Protein: 1g Fiber: 0g Sodium: 19mg

Topping 3: Southwestern Spice Rub

3 teaspoons sea salt
3 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons chipotle powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin

1. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl or shaker. Makes 3 tablespoons.

Nutrition Facts Per Teaspoon: Calories: 5 calories % fat calories: 38 Fat: 0g Saturated Fat: 0g Cholesterol: 0mg Carbohydrate: 0g Protein: 0g Fiber: 0g Sodium: 720mg

Delicious Living

One Planet, One Person

Photos by Cliff Grassmick & Sean Hennessy

Have you longed to make a positive impact on the environment but don’t know where to start? To help you on your way, let us introduce you to four people whose everyday green choices are making big strides toward slowing the environmental devastation humans have wreaked upon the Earth. As a result of centuries of burning fossil fuels for energy, heat, and transportation, our atmosphere contains 30 percent more carbon dioxide—the main culprit among greenhouse gases—than ever in history. And although it makes up only 4 percent of the world’s population, the United States is responsible for a disproportionate 25 percent of that pollution, which is thought to contribute to melting arctic ice caps and other major, unforeseen changes.

With challenges planetary in scope, it’s easy to feel your efforts can’t make an appreciable difference. But the individuals profiled here—whether their environmental focus is on using less harmful, renewable energy sources or supporting their values through conscious financial investments—all are making a difference in the world, starting at home. Their stories also show how one person’s efforts can start a positive ripple effect.

“You must be the change you want to see in the world,” Gandhi said. We hope these stories illustrate the truth in those simple words and inspire you to take your own first step.

Joe Callahan: Living off the grid
Emerson Gulch, the dirt road that switchbacks up through snow-loaded pines to Joe Callahan’s mountain house, seems better suited to a prospector’s mule than a suburban station wagon, even in four-wheel drive. But upon arrival, it’s immediately apparent that this off-the-grid “earth ship,” or sustainably built structure, is far from an austere backcountry outpost.

From the front yard, where two mirrored solar ovens are set up, the scent of roasting butternut squash and apple pie wafts enticingly. Walk into the new, Santa Fe–style house, and it gets even more homey. Along the south-facing facade, warm sunlight floods through floor-to-ceiling windows that flank an indoor bed of rosemary, aloe, and birds of paradise. A pressure cooker huffs on the vintage stove—more home cooking—and all around are sculptural, organic forms: flagstone and ceramic tile floors; hand-built, curving stone walls; and rough-hewn timber beams, salvaged from standing dead firs on the property.

In keeping with the earth-ship model, the naturally appealing aesthetics belie solidly pragmatic, energy-smart functions. Massive adobe exterior walls hide used tires packed with dirt, virtually indestructible “bricks” that function as insulation. They’re the latest update on Native American wisdom about how thick walls absorb heat all day and radiate it all night, keeping interior temperatures remarkably stable and comfortable year-round. Inside, both the stonework and the gray-water-moistened garden soil also do double duty as thermal mass, soaking up heat, then releasing it throughout the house. Skylights illuminate northern rooms, which are dug almost completely into the ground to help conserve heat in winter and cool air in summer. Cranked open on hot days, the skylights also cross-ventilate for a breeze. On a 45-degree pitched roof outside, Thermoslike “evacuated tubes” efficiently transfer the sun’s heat to household water. And a small workshop nearby houses the solar electric system: photovoltaic panels, a bank of large batteries, and an inverter that changes 24-volt DC power to usable 120-volt AC power.

A soft-spoken 40-year-old who spent more than a year crafting his dream home (it’s still a work in progress) in Gold Hill, Colorado, Callahan makes his living designing and installing solar and wind systems for homeowners and public institutions. As he outlines the mechanics of photovoltaic panels, it’s clear that the former electrical engineering major delights in the technology itself.

Highly functional and dependable, today’s solar electric technology is already “there,” energy analysts say. It’s the initial investment price of photovoltaic-panel systems—$10,000 to $20,000 or more—that needs to come down before solar power can truly go mainstream. Callahan admits that off-the-grid sites are solar electricity’s biggest niche because of the relatively higher cost of bringing a power line to a remote area. But in a growing number of states, he says, rebates can help defray set-up costs even when you live closer to public utility hookups. And simpler, cheaper, solar hot-water systems are very cost-effective, Callahan explains. “The system pays for itself in a third of its lifetime.”

Economics aside, Callahan points out that the sun is the largest resource available to humans—and an unlimited one at that. “We wear sunglasses; we’re always trying to block out the sun,” he says. “We might as well use it!” Squinting out the windows at a fast-melting snowscape, he adds, “This house works. The batteries get happy when the sun comes out. It’s very simple.”

When asked what motivates his passion for solar power, Callahan doesn’t cite the obvious problems of finite fossil fuels and worsening global pollution. Angry protests and railing against multinational corporate greed aren’t his style, explains the dedicated student of meditation and spiritualism. “It just adds to the negative energy in the world,” he says. “And it tends not to acknowledge that we’re all responsible for these problems. I believe the best thing is just to ‘go inside’ and affect people through example.”

Kellie & Tony Falbo: Driving a biodiesel car
When her husband slid on some ice and totaled their 1991 Toyota Tercel early last year, Kellie Falbo found herself focusing on the positive. After all, Tony escaped unharmed, explains Kellie, a fit, outgoing 34-year-old, who spends her free time teaching wilderness medicine and EMT workshops, volunteer firefighting, boating whitewater rapids, and piloting a beefy Yamaha motorcycle. What was the accident’s best windfall? The couple finally had carte blanche to go out and buy a used diesel-powered VW Jetta—and join the biodiesel revolution.

Biodiesel is a biodegradable, nontoxic fuel made from vegetable oils or animal fats. Running diesel engines on vegetable oil is not a new or complicated concept; it was an original intention of Rudolph Diesel, who in 1900 introduced an engine that ran on peanut oil. (Shortly after he died in 1913, the auto industry adapted the engine to run on the cheapest available fuel, which was a by-product of gasoline distillation.) The eco-friendly biodiesel fuel is relatively simple to make. In fact, some enthusiasts collect restaurant “waste grease,” add methanol and lye, and concoct homemade biodiesel in their garages, which accounts for their cars’ french fry-scented exhaust. Domestically produced and sustainable—and a welcome use for agricultural by-products such as soybean oil—biodiesel reduces U.S. dependence on foreign oil. It cuts life-cycle emissions of carbon dioxide by more than 78 percent. And pragmatically, any diesel engine made during the past decade runs beautifully on pure biodiesel. “Ten times better,” in fact, says Kellie, explaining that the natural solvent effectively cleans out engine deposits and silences rattles.

As executive director of the Rocky Mountain Sustainable Living Association and Fair, held every September in Fort Collins, Colorado, Kellie was already well informed about the latest alternative-energy options and committed to using them at home whenever possible. “We’d love to be off the grid,” for example, she says, “but we just can’t afford a solar system right now.” Switching to biodiesel seemed a great way to be part of a growing solution—not least because Tony, 33, had recently cofounded Blue Sun Biodiesel, a company that has helped open 13 biodiesel pumps at Colorado gas stations. (To find specific locations, go to

In practice, driving a car emblazoned with “Powered by Biodiesel” stickers seems to mesh perfectly with Kellie’s sociable, community-minded style of eco-activism. “It’s made my ideals more of a way of life, in a way that’s especially tangible to other people,” she says. “People see the stickers and ask me about it all the time. I love explaining it to them.”

Having once worked delivering microbrews via a big, “stinky” diesel rig, Tony says he immediately recognized the potential of a cleaner, renewable fuel. Compared with efficiency-minded Europe and Asia, he explains, U.S. diesel passenger-car ownership is still tiny—partly due to a reputation for being noisy and sooty, earned during a vogue following the ’70s oil shock. But improved technology, he says, means diesel cars being introduced here today—including most Volkswagen models and Jeep’s Liberty SUV—tend to emit less greenhouse gases than the other fuel versions. “I tell people, ‘Buy a diesel for your next car, then use biodiesel,’” he says.

Like other nascent alternative-energy technologies, biodiesel isn’t perfect yet. When temperatures get cold, it runs best mixed with 80 percent diesel fuel, the mix currently sold at most gas stations. (Older diesels’ “plug-in” engine-block heaters aren’t sufficient to counteract these cold-weather problems, but you can buy after-market products that heat the whole fuel system.) Early adapters such as the Falbos run 100 percent biodiesel whenever they can, by pumping it out of 55-gallon drums in their garage. As demand rises, they hope more gas stations start stocking it, too.

Compared to electric hybrids such as the Toyota Prius, biodiesel-powered cars get similar gas mileage—from 40 to 55 miles per gallon or more. City dwellers should probably consider hybrids over diesels, Tony concedes, because they are more efficient for stop-and-start driving. For the Falbos, biodiesel’s benefits far outweigh any growing-pain inconvenience. “You can just put biodiesel into an existing diesel car; you don’t have to get on a waiting list to buy a new car,” Tony says. “And you don’t have to sacrifice size or power. We get 44 mpg with turbo and fuel injection.” But given the country’s current political and economic woes, Kellie and Tony seem most inspired by their desire to be part of a viable solution. “We’re fueling our car with an American-grown crop,” says Kellie. “It’s sustainable, and it brings that industry home. That’s huge for me.”

Jack Robinson: Investing in environmentally responsible companies
Jack Robinson’s credentials are impeccably green. He grew up on a Connecticut homestead complete with fruit trees, vegetable gardens, a fishpond, a passive-solar greenhouse, and a full complement of barnyard animals. (In 1947, his parents authored a popular back-to-the-land guide—The Have-More Plan: A Little Land, A Lot of Living (Storey Books, 1995)—that’s still in print today.) Although Robinson has worked mostly as a money manager, he also was president of the nonprofit National Gardening Association. But one of the biggest environmental impacts Robinson has made began in 1984, when he founded the Boston-based Winslow Management Company, one of the first U.S. firms to focus exclusively on green investing, or, as Robinson likes to say, investing in “companies that are part of the solution, not part of the problem.” A green company, he explains, “not only behaves in a responsible way but has a sustainable product or service that impacts the environment, hopefully in a positive way, but no worse than neutral.”

Robinson’s heart is clearly in the environmental camp, but he’s all business when it comes to making a case for green investing. “At Winslow, we’ve developed a highly disciplined financial and environmental approach that we apply assiduously to every company we consider investing in,” says the professorial 62-year-old, whose easygoing calm seems thoroughly unflappable. “We’re not tree-huggers.” The no-nonsense approach appears to be working: Last year, Winslow Green Growth Fund posted the second-highest return for any small-cap growth mutual fund in the country—nearly 92 percent.

Convincing investors that they can do well by doing good for the environment has become what Robinson refers to as his “ministry.” He says, “There’s a misconception that when you screen out companies that commit environmental ‘sins,’ you have to sacrifice financial returns.” Winslow’s investment approach, he contends, is “all about [making] money.” Screening out companies with environmental liabilities—such as Superfund sites, which require corporations to pay to clean up their own toxic spills—reduces the risk of unpredictable, costly setbacks, he explains. Looking for companies that recycle materials and water reduces the net cost of doing business, improving the chance that profits will be passed on to investors. And finding companies that offer a product or service that’s sustainable creates ways to grow revenues. “It’s a wonderful set of financial characteristics that any investor would look for [in an investment opportunity],” he says.

Pragmatically, Winslow doesn’t invest only in environmental “angels,” however. Its “best in class” category focuses on companies that operate in traditionally “dirty” industries but are taking significant steps to minimize their impact. A case in point is longtime toxic-pesticide and cheap-labor-user Chiquita, which recently brought in the Rainforest Alliance to overhaul its environmental policy and now markets some organic produce.

Recent trends support Robinson’s positive outlook. Green investing—and the broader niche of socially responsible investing (SRI), which screens for environmental practices along with labor and human rights policies—is on the upswing. Even as losses and corporate scandals chased off overall investor dollars, socially screened assets grew 7 percent last year, to more than $2 trillion. There are now more than 200 SRI funds from which to choose, and several regularly achieve attention-grabbing returns. More investors are following their social and environmental consciences these days partly because more consumers are.

The $20 billion natural and organic food industry is enjoying double-digit growth, much faster than conventional foods. (Whole Foods Market is a longtime holding of Winslow’s Growth Fund.) And as improving technology brings down the costs of generating, storing, and delivering forms of renewable energy, the opportunities are “huge,” Robinson says. “Wind power is already price-competitive with fossil fuels in many places and will continue to grow worldwide,” he says. (Vestas, another Winslow holding, is the leading wind turbine maker in the world and is headquartered in Denmark, a country that uses 20 percent wind power.)

With more than $200 million invested in companies that manage to make a profit without trashing the environment, Winslow satisfies its founder’s financier’s head and his naturalist’s heart. It’s a balance Robinson thinks we all can achieve more easily these days, whether we are investing in green mutual-fund shares, buying a hybrid car, or making resource-efficient home renovations. Even when initial price tags for eco-friendly investments are higher, he points out, they often “pay for themselves” with a lifetime of lower gas or electric bills, not to mention the incalculable benefit of “feeling good about it.” He adds, “More and more, you don’t have to sacrifice your pocketbook to support your beliefs.”

A former editor for Outside magazine, Susan Enfield is now inspired to green-build a new deck and start collecting gray water at home.