Category Archives: Green living

Everyday things we can do differently to make an impact on our carbon foot prints. One small step at a time.

Algopack®, a natural material

Have been reading about and keeping tabs on the pacific garbage patch, new methods to keep the ocean clean, effects of plastic on the ocean life etc… Day before while reading articles online I came across this very interesting writeup about Algopack® shared by Captain Paul Watson of the SeaShepherd – a viable green alternative to plastic. It is manufactured in France by Algoe

Algopack®

With the price of petrol continuing to rise, Algopack® offers an alternative answer to plastic. Algopack offers a solution for reducing pollution from plastics, on land and in the oceans.
Algopack is capable of producing a rigid material made ​​from 100% based industrial waste from brown seaweeds. For their growth, seaweeds need no fertilizer nor pesticide and they need low amounts of water. They absorb and convert CO2 into sugar for growth and release O2, thus promoting the development of plankton. Seaweeds are not invasive and respect biodiversity.
At the end of the life cycle, the material is fully compostable and becomes a natural fertilizer.

(Read more about it here)

Seaweed

With the effect of the light from the sun’s rays, seaweed transforms CO² into the sugars it needs to grow. At the same time, it releases into the water a large quantity of oxygen.

The process of cultivating seaweed is unquestionably a positive thing for the Marine environment, as it allows CO² to be reduced and concentrated whilst simultaneously making available an energy that is ideal for the growth of plankton. The types of seaweed cultivated by Algopack® come from sources such as aquaculture farms.

Algoblend®

Reducing the percentage of petrochemicals by introducing seaweed-based products.

Extrusion

The granules, naturally brown in colour, can be mass-dyed according to projet requirements. You can receive bags of 25kg, Big Bags of 450kg or an Octoben of 450Kg.

Algoblend® represents a 25% energy saving in its production (compared to a polypropylene equivalent).

The Algoblend® granules are compatible with all the extruders on the market : there are no modifications required for your extruding machines, and you can use existing filters.

Any offcuts can be ground up again to be reused in the material.

Purging for cleaning can be freely carried out. The thickness of the sheets is between 300µ and 1000µ.

Thermoformage

Algoblend® sheets can be thermoformed without any particular modification to existing thermoforming tools. The material does not change either the impressions or the cutters. The material is also suitable for direct contact with food, and the degrees of permeability can be optimised to suit each particular application.

Injection

The material can be adapted to suit the preferred MFI settings. All existing moulds of any type can be used (hot manifold…). The material does not alter the imprint surface.

This material can be imprinted in line with existing processes

Looking forward Algae based products becoming more available and accessible in near future.

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Table Phare by Algoblend

As Capt Watson says “If the Oceans Die, we die”.

Sources for the article and to Read more about the products follow the links below :-

1.

2.

3.

 

Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual by Michael Pollan’s

Found this very interesting book on the library shelf last week while browsing titled “Food rules: An Eater’s Manual”. One of the most interesting and simple books on food I have read so far, and I have read quite a few.

I am one of those “fortunate” people  with whom food has always had an extra special relationship, it has been my friend in many a down ward spiral and has pepped me up a gazillion times, and then when am back to normal, I feel like it is my enemy and that I am always fighting a losing battle against it! Well with this ongoing love- hate relationship between us I am kind of drawn to any book, video et al with anything remotely tied to food. Yeah yeah, after trying umpteen diets and fads I know one needs to be aware of what one eats, why one eats, Should eat at regular intervals, eat healthy etc…  if it were only that easy.. There are just so many contradicting pointers out there it is like a maze, figuring out what to eat and what not.

So sack to the topic at hand, the book – So I pick it up, a simple cover with a long table of contents. The Part I title itself triggered my interest – What Should I eat? that is followed by the 2 other sections What kind of food should I eat? and How should I eat it?

The author has pretty much put together simple facts about food and us into a book. I like the introduction where he basically says all we need to do is “Eat food, not too much, Mostly plants“, he calls them the 7 words which form the essence of all that we need to know about food.

Michael Pollan says that it does not require a nutritionist to tell us what we should eat or should not, what we need to do is follow some simple basic principles, which were the ones our ancestors followed.

He has many more rules in the Book, I am picking a few as examples –

  • Don’t eat anything your Great – Grandmother would not recognize as food. (See for me that would mean letting go of most of the junk food that I am used to having)
  • Avoid foods that contain more than 5 ingredients (You can choose the number of ingredients, just stick to it and see what you will buy! More ingredients mostly means more processing involved)
  • Don’t eat breakfast cereals  which change the color of your milk.
  • Avoid foods which contain ingredients which are not used in a normal pantry. (Xanthan Gum, Ethoxylated diglycerides etc… to name a couple) I like this one which is similar better – if a third grader can’t pronounce an ingredient don’t buy it, simple! 🙂
  • You want to eat junk food? Eat all you want as long as you cook it.
  • If it’s called the same name in all languages it is not food (the author means the brand named products like Big Mac,Cheetos, Pringles and their ilk)
  • Eating what stands on one leg is better than eating what stands on two legs which is better than eating what stands on four legs. {Chinese Proverb} (Plants – one leg,fowl -2 legs,  animals- 4) It does leave out the healthy fish wonder why?
  • Avoid foods with high-fructose corn syrup (there are ads on tv which say the body uses sugar and high fructose corn syrup the same way, but that is not the issue, high fructose corn syrup signifies that the product is highly processed)
  • Avoid foods which pretend to be something else (eg. I can’t believe its not butter – means it is not butter and it is not natural)
  • Only eat food that will eventually rot, as real food is alive and it has to die.
  • Eat more leaves and treat meat as a special occasion food or flavoring.
  • The whiter the bread the sooner you will be dead!
  • If it came from a Plant eat it, if it was made in a Plant, Don’t.
  • Breakfast like a King, Lunch like a Prince and Dinner like a Pauper (well it is kind of the other way around for many of us).

Opinion

There is a lot more to read in the book, pick it up it has some common sense suggestions. The book is very well written and simple enough to understand and follow. It is a useful book for anyone who cares about health and food, I am sure you will find helpful tips for a healthier lifestyle for you and your family. Like the author says it is not about “nutritionism” it is simply about Food.

A Video of Prof Michael Pollan talking about – Food Rules. I found it very informative and interesting.

Check it out on Amazon

Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual

10/10/10 Global Work Party: What Are You Doing?

Today is the Global work party, in 188 countries world over people are getting together to make  a difference, responding to Bill Mackibben’s call “Circle 10/10/10 on your calendar,” reads the invitation. “That’s the date.The place is wherever you live. And the point is to do something that will help deal with global warming in your city or community.” We did do an earlier post on the Global Work Party, you can read it here

The Science of 350

What does a day mean in making a difference?, well it is a beginning and grass root movements are where major changes can start flourishing. So what are you doing today? In my case I have not decided what I will do, my option for a community meet would be – A harvest celebration: In our community there is a community harvest celebration planned – Harvesting vegetables, watering plants, tending to the plots of seeds of hope etc… If I am unable to get there I will be working on the garden patch in our backyard getting it ready for winter. Each of us who are unable to get to a work party has a choice of doing something on our own, check item #10 in the list below or follow the link for ideas.

Join me at http://www.350.org

TOP 10 IDEAS FOR A GLOBAL WORK PARTY FROM 350.org

#1 Organize a Tree Planting

Planting trees is fun, friendly, and a great way to engage the community. And each one you plant will be a little carbon-sequestering machine for years to come. Try to shoot for planting 350 trees or more in one day! Check out this tree-planting guide from our friends at the Green Belt Movement for some tips.

#2 Go Solar
Working on a solar project is a great way to demonstrate the clean energy future right in your community. Whether its installing a solar panel on a local school, building a solar cooker for your community, or putting a solar hot water heater on your house–it is a great way to work with the planet, not against it.

#3 Work on a Community Garden or an Organic Farm
To get to 350, we’ll need to rethink the way we produce food on the planet–moving away from industrial agriculture powered by fossil fuels, and towards small-scale, local, organic farming. Think about using your work party as a day to model this new system–maybe you can break ground on a new community garden. Or simply help out harvesting at a local farm. For more info, visit 350.org/foodandfarm


#4 Go For a Ride:
Biking is a great way to get out and be visible in your community. It also demonstrate the need for improved infrastructure for our alternative modes of transportation. Think about setting up a bike repair workshop, or painting bike lanes in your community. Maybe an awareness ride of 350 miles (or kilometers) if you’re feeling a bit more ambitious?

#5 Harness the Wind
A local wind project can show that you’re serious about building the clean energy economy. Putting up a turbine is a big project though, so you’ll want to start planning this one early…

#6 Get Efficient:
Energy Efficiency is often considered “low hanging fruit” when it comes to reducing carbon emissions. It’s often easier and cheaper than installing renewable energy, so why not start here? Whether it’s installing more efficient LED or CFL lightbulbs in your MPs office, insulating your basement, weatherizing your church or temple, or doing an energy audit on your school, efficiency can help get us on the path to 350 as soon as humanly possible.

7 Start a Transition Town:
The Transition Towns project is designed to equip communities for the dual challenges of climate change and peak oil. By raising awareness of sustainable living and building local resilience in the near future, making your community a “transition town” can provide a solid framework for sustained action at the local level. There is even a whole existing network of communities working as Transition towns that you can connect with to learn what they are doing: http://www.transitionnetwork.org/

#8 Faith Work
Connections between the world’s diverse religions and the issue of global warming are numerous and strike a strong moral chord. This is a great way to gather people together who already have a community in which they discuss the big questions — now is the chance to add global warming to the list and harness the network to start working on the solutions.

#9 Trash Clean Up
Sadly, some of our iconic places aren’t as pristine as we’d like. Why not leave the place better than you found it? By recycling the garbage you find, you can ensure that the embedded energy in the products gets reused–instead of decomposing over the years and sending a stready stream of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere.

#10 Reduce your own emissions 10%
By working together, we can achieve a 10% cut in carbon emissions in a single year, starting in 2010. Our focus is on immediate, practical action–350.org’s focus is on uniting local actions for systemic change on a global level. We’re working hard to show that through hard work, we can achieve 10% reductions on the personal and community level.

Find More Ideas Here

The options are many and if we all take small steps, it will make a difference. Good luck world! Let this be the beginning of a bold new Green revolution!

A Day For the Tiger

Today the 27th of September 2010 is International Tiger Day, it has  been set aside by all those who care about the Big Cats to highlight the state of the Tiger in the Wild. It was in Russia that International Tiger Day was started nine years ago by The Phoenix Fund, a non-governmental organization founded by Russian and U.S. conservationists.

Panthera is an organization which focuses entirely on conservation and education efforts to protect the big cats has been actively speaking out for the tigers. Panthera’s president is Mr.Alan Rabinowitz a leading cat expert who has traveled the world on behalf of wildlife conservation and over the years has studied jaguars, clouded leopards, Asiatic leopards, tigers, Sumatran rhinos, bears, leopard cats, raccoons, and civets. He has also authored many articles and books on the subject.

Panthera’s Tiger Program director is Dr.Joe Smith who is working on Panthera’s “Tigers Forever” Program. If you have been following us, you might remember reading in our last part of the Disappearing Stripes series about the new study which suggested focusing on the key sites across Asia which were more viable to the Tiger’s survival. Panthera’s Tigers Forever program is working with the Wild life conservation Society that aims to increase tiger populations in key sites by at least 50% over the next years.There is a detailed interview with Dr.Joe in the National Geographic, you can read it here.

Tigers Forever is mitigating direct killing of tigers and their prey by:

  • Enhancing law enforcement patrols through rigorous training to protect tigers, their prey and habitat in and around core areas,
  • Using informant networks to investigate and apprehend poachers and others conducting illegal activities, and
  • Training of government and other NGO staff to carry out the best scientific methods on the ground.

Tigers Forever is currently being carried out in six countries:

  • Thailand
  • Indonesia
  • Malaysia
  • Lao PDR
  • India
  • Myanmar

So What Threatens the Tiger?

The largest cats in the world! What could be threatening them?

  • Wild tigers are directly hunted both to meet the demands of the illegal wildlife trade market, and due to human-tiger conflict, where local people take retaliatory measures to protect themselves and their livestock.
  • Tiger habitat is either being destroyed due to conversion for agricultural purposes and human development, or fragmented, leaving only isolated ‘postage-stamp’ size areas that are not sufficient for the long term survival of wild tigers.
  • Tiger prey, like deer and wild pigs, have been overhunted by people either for subsistence or for sale on the black market. Lack of wild prey increases the chance of tigers feeding off of livestock, which in turn fuels human-tiger conflict.

Check out Panthera’s tiger report card HERE

2010 is the Year of the Tiger, but less than 3,500 tigers exist in the wild today. You can help by making a contribution to Panthera now to ensure the future of the world’s endangered tigers.HERE

Tigers Need our help now before it is too late.

Below is the trailer for the BBC movie – The Lost Land Of the Tiger (it follows Panthera’s President Alan Rabinowitz and a team of scientists as they search for tigers in the kingdom of Bhutan.

Sources –

Panthera Website

NatGeo

Offset Your Website’s Carbon Footprint

CarbonFree Blog

While writing about yesterday’s post as always when looking for Carbon offsets my go to link is carbonfund.org I added the link and was checking out what was new on the site and noticed this link – Make Your Website or Blog CarbonFree® Clicked it and found out there was an option for bloggers and website owners to offset their carbon footprints! Loved the idea and thought it prudent to make a post on it. Also the fact that this post gets me free carbon offsets for a year (so our green blog is becomes truly Green and carbon neutral!)

I have often wondered what the carbon footprint would be of worldwide computer/web use. On searching for answers I came across an article by James Kanter in the NY times in 2008 about The computer age and Its Carbon footprint. He was of course talking about all the gadgets we use which are plugged in and use vast volumes of powerful semiconductors and communication towers. A good chunk of that is computers and cell phones. According to some estimates almost 2% of global carbon emissions were from this sector.

So what can we do? Yeah, we can take all the available steps to reduce our power consumption like – Using the power saver mode, turning off the PC when not in use, using a power strip etc… but still the consumption of power and resulting emissions is a reality.

So How Does one make a Website / Blog Carbon Neutral?

With carbon offsets we get to neutralize the impact we create on our environment. It is a reality that the greenest form of energy is energy we do not use. To be as green as possible pay attention and be prudent in your use of the computer and connected devices.

What are Carbon offsets? How does it work? We all use energy in one form or another and impact our environment leading to climate change. A carbon offset represents a reduction in emissions somewhere else – like a renewable energy or a reforestation project – to balance out the emissions you cannot reduce. Also, carbon offsets are the only way to get your carbon footprint to zero today.

Carbon Fund has a simplified our calculations further by taking into account the number of page views we get monthly. As per their calculations a website with 1500 page views monthly would be Carbon Free for just $9.00 a year! And for a major website with 50,000 monthly visitors it would cost them $300.00 to offset their Carbon foot print.

As per the Carbonfund website their calculated cost per page view is $.0005 cents. This figure takes into account web hosting, network use, as well as the visitors’ computer use. Their assumptions are based on data from several studies published by independent third-party sources.

If you believe in green living and want your Website or Blog to be Carbon Neutral check out CarbonFund.org today.  Always remember the cleanest energy is the one we do not use.

I am proud to say Connect-Green is now Officially a CARBON FREE Blog! Live Green!

Sources –

Carbon Fund

NYtimes article

The National Geographic’s 12 Step Energy Diet

Read this very interesting article in the National Geographic titled  “Energy Diet” under the topic National Energy Challenge. It is based on the Dutch language book, The Ideal Energy Weight, by Klaas van Alphen, a researcher at Copernicus Institute for Sustainable Development, Utrecht University and Herman van der Meyden, a Shell engineer who has participated in the company’s future scenarios project.

He came up with the book in response to the Three quarters of Dutch people who want to save energy. But where would they start? And what really makes a difference? The Ideal Weight Energy is the solution says Herman.

An energy diet pretty much is like a normal diet; I would know for how many ever diets I have tried I am always fighting with what I can and can’t do with out… You listen to all the experts, read all the books etc, but the thought of starting a diet can be daunting. Once you have tried a diet a new one with the term diet always triggers an array of questions: Will I feel deprived? Can I stick to all the changes I’ll need to make? And where do I begin?

The Energy Diet aims to help you take a step-by-step approach toward a lifestyle that is healthier for the planet, and may even end up saving you money. National Geographic has simplified it for us in a 12 step program, one for each month of the year. So if you want to give it a try, you are getting a head start 🙂 get set to make changes in the New year, after all it is only 3 months away!

These are the 12 steps:

  1. January Check the age of your refrigerator – replacing an appliance older than 10 years with a new energy star one will pay for itself in a couple of years!

  2. February Consider replacing your natural gas furnace or boiler with a high efficiency (HE) unit. Check out this link for helpful tips and links. Your power consumption and comfort level will improve substantially with the right HE furnace.
  3. March – Check your power bill, Do you have Green Electricity? See if Renewable energy is available where you live and where you can get the best deal.

  4. April – Summer is around the corner, planning your next vacation? Consider a green vacation, pick green hotels,Consider a “Staycation”. If traveling by flight consider buying carbon offsets A Green vacation is a good start to a Green year!  

    Staycation courtesy the New Ecologist

    Staycation courtesy the New Ecologist

  5. May – Energy saving power strips for all your electric gadgets from mobile phones to TV’s and Computers. Make sure you turn them off or unplug them when not in use. The plugged in devices drain power even when not used.

  6. June – Investigate the possibilities for installing your own alternative power source – Solar, wind etc… The US Government has many subsidies for individual Alternative energy production. There are also some Solar manufacturers who are willing to work with you to make owning Solar power affordable and viable. Check out Sungevity they have leasing options too!!

  7. July – Check your driving habits. Is your car giving you enough mileage? Are you doing the best you can about using public transport?  Calculate how much you could save with buying a new car? Will a Hybrid be a prudent buy?

  8. August – We are half way through, so this month is for Sun, Sand, beach and fun!

  9. September – It is almost fall, days are getting shorter that means more lights. Switch your bulbs to energy efficient CFLs, save energy and money in the long run guaranteed.

  10. October – Summer is a memory and cold fronts moving in slowly, perfect time to winterize your home. It will keep you warm and your heating bills low. Check for drafts near windows doors etc. The Insulation guide from US Energy department is of immense help.

  11. November – Winter is at the door step, check for holes etc which need closing. Use caulk or weather stripping. Remember to keep the fire-place damper closed when not in use. Also try and replace your decorative lights with LED strings will help in the long run. I am doing it one string at a time, so the amount I spend is not too hefty.
  12. December – It’s the holidays! Share your successful diet with friends and family! Enjoy your Green Holiday Season!

    So are you going on an Energy diet in 2011? It would be fun to hear back from you, if it does work out for you. I will update the post with my experiences next year. For my part I am almost done with the transition to CFL bulbs. I need to take care of the insulation before it gets too cold.

    You can check out the National Geographic article HERE

February Consider replacing your natural gas furnace or boiler with a high efficiency (HE) unit. Check out this link for helpful tips and links. Your power consumption and comfort level will improve substantially with the right HE furnace.

A Road Trip to Reignite The White House Solar Project

Today morning at 9AM EST Bill McKibben the founder of 350.org will lead a group of Unity College students to meet White House representatives about Solar Installations on the White house roof. The team started a road trip from Maine on the 7th of September with the intent to reignite the solar installation project in the white house which was started by President Jimmy Carter in 1979 and dismantled by Ronald Reagan. The team will be carrying one of the original Carter panels from Maine as a symbolic gesture.

You can ask the President to Fix his roof here 🙂

Bill McKiben’s aim is to get solar panels on the roof of the white house; in his words “as visible as the White House Garden”. Any worthwhile environmental legislation has been shot down or watered down by the Fossil Fuel industry and its allies without breaking sweat. Putting Solar panels on the White house roof is something the President can make a decision on without being worried about a filibuster proof majority.

When the most powerful Country’s Government is dragging its feet when it comes to action on climate and environment, how can we expect other countries to take measures easily?

What I found interesting is the fact that President George W Bush did add some solar panels to the roofs of a maintenance shed, the presidential Spa and Cabana! Sad part is it did not get the coverage it deserved as it was not popularized. When President Carter put in the Solar panels for a water heating in 1979 he believed that it would be there until 2000 providing every president with hot water! The panels taken down by President Ronald Reagan were taken and used by the Unity college where it has provided hot water for 3 decades now!

The team is hoping for 10/10/2010 as the date when the panels will be installed on the White house roof. It is the Global Work Party day, the date is 10/10/10. The place is wherever you live. And the point is to do something that will help deal with global warming in your city or community. New Zealand has plans for giant bike fix-up day, Uganda plans to plant thousands of trees, Bolivia plans to in install solar panels to negate their carbon foot print. The Hope is to see our president helping his home go solar for the entire world to see.

Wondering whether the tax payer will have to foot the bill for these panels? No need to worry, Sungevity Solar a California based solar manufacturer has promised to provide them free of cost provided they will be mounted visible to the public.

China has more than 60 million solar water heaters installed! The White House leading the way will make a push for Solar unlike any other by reigniting the “Green Movement” which was allowed to wither away 3 decades back. The Global climate depends on each one of us doing our bit to get away from using fossil fuels, lesser fossil fuel we consume better it will be for the environment and our planets future.

Waiting for the meeting today and hope we get a positive outcome out of it.  Seeing Solar Panels on the roof of the most powerful home in the world, what can be more symbolic and Green.

Watch the coverage on Democracy Now:

Quoting Mahatma Gandhi “We must be the change that we want to see in this world”

Go 350.org! Go Eco Warriors! you make me proud to be a follower! Live Green!

Sources:

Put Solar On it

Unity College
350.org

NYtimes

UPDATE:

The meeting with White house officials sadly did not produce any positive result and the write up by McKibben can be read here . The Carter Panel will stay in Washington albeit not in the White house, and the 10/10/10 Global Work Party is going ahead full steam. May be President Obama will rethink about fixing his roof sooner than later.

Is Chocolate The Next Health Food?

I could start like any 12 step program and say “My name is Spisharam and I am a Chocoholic”. If you love chocolate you know what I am talking about, I can pretty much eat chocolate any time of the day and it does not matter what kind. If it looks like chocolate, smells like it and tastes like it; I am in 100%. Growing up it was kind of part and parcel of who I was, my friends from college still talk about my chocolate binges and how many a junior bribed me to get their record book drawings done by passing me a chocolate 🙂 Well I was not complaining as long as the chocolates kept coming.

Then as years passed and pounds started piling up (which incidentally I could say my body is pretty much 50-60% chocolate if what I ate really did cause me to put on weight!). I was waging a losing war with chocolate until one day my better half started buying me chocolates when ever he went to the store. Now my cravings have actually gone down, I don’t feel like sneaking in a chocolate bar as I stand with the cart in line to checkout my grocery (I have learned to say “later” to the chocolates who always call out to me from all those shelves in their snazzy covers :)) I still love chocolate it is just that I don’t feel guilty about it as I feel I am allowed to have chocolate irrespective of what the weighing scale says. So I am pretty much at peace with the Chocolate binges and then I see this article on the ACS website (American Chemical Society) titled “Chocolate the next health food? or is it?” whetted my appetite enough for me to want to check it out.

I have always wondered if it was just the caffeine in chocolate which made me feel like I had to have chocolate (whatever I was feeling chocolate makes me feel goood 🙂 ) See for me not having coffee is easy, I really don’t care much for it at all and I can go on and off coffee when ever I want to, not so with chocolate.

So I started reading the article and I catch myself smiling about “Anandamides”  (root from the Sanskrit word “Ananda” meaning Bliss) the Bliss molecules in the brain which seem to stay active longer when we eat chocolate! Not only do chocolates supposedly have it in them, they keep the ones in our system last longer, now I know why a chocolate high lasts for so long 🙂

Emmanuelle diTomaso, an assistant biologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Mass., and Daniele Piomelli, professor of pharmacology
at the University of California-Irvine, have shown that chemicals in chocolate may inhibit this natural breakdown of anandamide. Then, there is phenylethylamine (PEA), a natural brain chemical which stimulates the parts of the brain that keep you alert and mimics the brain chemistry of a person in love.

Recent studies have shown that cocoa is rich in anti-oxidants called polyphenols and another chemical called flavanols – which is what provides wine, tea, nuts etc with their health benefits!

Fun Facts About Chocolate:

  • Scientists have discovered that chocolate was invented at least 3,100 years ago in Central America and not as the sweet treat people now crave, but as a celebratory beer-like beverage and status symbol.
  • The chocolate enjoyed by civilizations like the Maya and Aztecs was made from ground cacao seeds, producing a spicy, frothy drink like beer.
  • The Spanish brought cacao back to Europe in the 16th century and many chocolate innovations have occurred in the ensuing centuries.
  • In the 1850s, Englishman Joseph Fry changed cocoa to chocolate by adding more cocoa butter, rather than hot water, to cocoa powder and sugar. The world’s first solid chocolate was born.
  • In 1875, Daniel Peter and Henri Nestle added condensed milk to solid chocolate, creating a milk chocolate bar.
  • By 1907, Milton Hershey’s factory was spitting out 33 million kisses per day.
  • In the world wars Chocolates were a part of the soldiers rations!
  • The word ‘Chocolate’ comes from the Aztec word, ‘cacahuatl’ or ‘xocolatl’. This means ‘bitter water’
  • The Mayans and Aztecs believed that the Cocoa Beans originated from Paradise and would bring wisdom and power to anyone consuming them.
  • Chocolates could be fatal for pets due to the presence of Theobromine which over stimulates cardiac and nervous systems.
  • Chocolate has over 500 flavor components. This is double the amount found in strawberry and vanilla.
  • Chocolate is a great economy booster. Annual world consumption of cocoa beans averages approximately 600,000 tons per year. Consumers worldwide spend more than $20 billion a year on Chocolate.

Some interesting results from the research:

  • The scientists discovered that in hamsters, cocoa powder at a dose equivalent to two dark chocolate bars per day significantly inhibited atherosclerosis, a type of heart disease in which fat clogs up arteries, and raised the levels of good cholesterol.
  • Ian Mcdonald, professor of metabolic physiology at The University of Nottingham, and colleagues have shown that people who consumed a flavanol-rich cocoa beverage had increased blood flow in their brains. This result suggests that cocoa flavanols could be used to prevent vascular impairments in the brain resulting from, say, a stroke.
  • You might think that chocolate causes acne, decays teeth, and makes you fat. Not so. No current research connects specific foods to skin
    problems. Chocolate husks contain chemicals that prevent tooth decay (although they don’t offset the added sugar), and too much food
    causes weight gain.
  • Chocolate straight from the tree has more beneficial chemicals than possibly any other food, including blueberries, red wine, or green tea.
    They are not only antioxidant, but anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic, anti-cancerous, and anti-viral.

The BAD NEWS – Cocoa butter is essentially all fat. There are three major kinds: a “bad-for-you” saturated fat called palmitic acid;
oleic acid, a heart-healthy monounsaturated fat; and stearic acid, part of which later converts to oleic acid in the liver. Overall, one-third of chocolate’s fat is known to be unhealthy. All three kinds of fats produce high amounts of calories in the body, although they do not cause an increase in blood cholesterol when consumed in chocolate.

So as long as you enjoy your chocolate sensibly it is ALL good! 🙂 Want the most for your calories? And your dollars? Check out the nutrition information on the labels. The fewer additives, the better. Meanwhile, dark chocolate or chocolate nibs are a healthy alternative to milk chocolate or chocolate syrup.

So, is chocolate a healthy food, a luxury item, or junk? It can be all three, just not all at the same time. The choice up to us.When we make a judgment call as to the kind of chocolate we eat, we decide whether it is healthy or not. Like the report says commonsense – read the label, enjoy your chocolate!

I am yet to meet a chocolate I did not like, but I have decided dark would be the best way for me to go.

Go easy! Go dark! Go chocolate!

Read the Entire Report on the ACS website HERE

10 Healthiest Cuisines From Around The World

What makes traveling around the countries or meeting people from across culture more interesting? If you ask me one of the main things of common interest is “Food”. We all have to eat to survive and good food is an upper like any other good thing! It is that interest which makes a good number of people be adventurous and check out the new restaurant with a “funny” name or try that new dish on the menu which they really are not sure about. Our planet is such an amazing place with the tapestry of cultures interwoven each connected to the other by unknown threads…The differences that make us unique also show up in the ethnic cuisines which are based on the available crops in the region and which are also influenced by the interactions between nations via trade, travel and colonization, which were the beginning of what we see today as the global village.

Examples would be the Chinese Noodles giving rise to the Pasta in Italy, Persian spices becoming an integral part of Indian cuisine etc… Today while reading CNN I found an interesting article about the 10 Healthiest Ethnic Cuisines and that is what today’s post is about. The post is mostly based on Daphne Miller MD’s book The Jungle Effect: The Healthiest Diets from Around the World — Why They Work and How to Make Them Work for You.” Daphne is an associate professor in the University of California, San Francisco.

Years back when I crossed the oceans leaving India to join my husband in the US, food was the least of my worries because I grew up with what I believed was “exposure” to the western way of cooking and food habits, Boy! was I in for a surprise?! The my new life changed my view of the world, I realized that in a melding pot of cultures which is the US there are certain places where you can actually find “original” cuisine from a different part of the world and that many mainstream restaurants served what was a mishmash of flavors which went well with the intended clientele!

According to the CNN article the 10 healthiest Ethnic cuisines are the following:

  1. Greek or Mediterranean Cuisine
    image credit @mediterrasian.com

    Traditional Greek foods like dark leafy veggies, fresh fruit, high-fiber beans, lentils, grains, olive oil, and omega-3-rich fish deliver lots of immune-boosting and cancer-fighting ingredients that cut your risks of heart disease, diabetes, and other diet-related ailments.

    The Greeks often share small plates of food called meze, having just a bite of meat along with low-cal, healthy Greek staples like fresh seafood, slowly digested carbs (beans, eggplant, or whole-grain breads), and small portions of olives and nuts. If you’re eating out, order grilled fish and spinach or other greens sautéed with olive oil and garlic.

    “This dish gives you the anti-inflammatory combo of olive oil and greens with the blood-pressure-lowering effects of garlic,” says Daphne Miller.
    What to Watch out for – E.g. Spanakopita the Greek Classic spinach pie has layers of dough with butter in between can be calorie and fat laden like a bacon cheese burger.

  2. California Fresh
    image credits@blueheroncatering.com

    California Cuisine is about eating fresh, local ingredients simply prepared and one does not need to live in California to practice that life style. Eating plenty of disease-fighting, naturally low-cal, nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables from a local farmers’ market or farm is good for your body, and it’s satisfying, says Frances Largeman-Roth, R.D., Health magazine’s senior food and nutrition editor.

    “Foods grown locally are going to taste better and may have more nutrients,” says Frances Largeman-Roth, R.D., Health magazine’s senior food and nutrition editor, while produce that’s shipped cross-country after being harvested can lose vitamin C and folate, not to mention flavor.

    What to Watch out for – Adding high fat cheese or other unhealthy additives to the fresh food defeats its purpose and is not “waist friendly”.

  3. Vietnamese
     

    Fresh herbs, lots of vegetables and seafood, and cooking techniques that use water or broth instead of oils — these are some of the standout qualities of Vietnamese food. Real Vietnamese cuisine is less about frying and coconut milk, but more about use of spices and flavorful broths etc.

    Traditional Vietnamese flavorings (including cilantro, mint, Thai basil, star anise, and red chili) have long been used as alternative remedies for all sorts of ailments, and cilantro and anise have actually been shown to aid digestion and fight disease-causing inflammation.

    One of the healthiest and most delicious Vietnamese dishes is pho (pronounced “fuh”), an aromatic, broth-based noodle soup full of antioxidant-packed spices.
    What to watch out for – While eating out watch out for fried stuff and fatty short ribs on the menu.

  4. Japanese
    image credits@takashisedona.com

    Okinawa in Japan is well known for the longevity of its residents, many of them live a healthy and full life past 100! Miller while travelling through Okinawa found that not only the Okinawan’s healthy, their food habits were simple and easy to follow. “Not only are Okinawans blessed with a diet rich in cancer-fighting fruits and vegetables, but they also prepare them in the healthiest way possible, with a light steam or a quick stir-fry,” Miller explains.
    They also practice Hara Hachi Bu, which means “eat until you are eight parts (or 80 percent) full,” she says. These simple diet rules may be why people in Japan are far less likely than Americans to get breast or colon cancer.Japanese staples that are amazing for your health include antioxidant-rich yams and green tea; cruciferous, calcium-rich veggies like bok choy; iodine-rich seaweed (good for your thyroid); omega-3-rich seafood; shiitake mushrooms (a source of iron, potassium, zinc, copper, and folate); and whole-soy foods.
    Best items to order in a Japanese Restaurant according to Miller are the Miso soup or the vegetable tofu stir fry!
    What to watch out for  – White rice can cause a spike in blood sugar, so ask for brown rice, rich in fat-burning resistant starch (RS).

  5. Indian Cuisine
    Image credits @aashirwadrestaurant.com 

    Indian cuisine brings to mind the smells of spices, colorful curries, naan bread etc… The spices don’t just add to the taste but they also have plenty of health benefits associated to them. Turmeric a staple in almost all curries is an anti-inflammatory and also helps in preventing Alzheimer’s. Turmeric and ginger help fight Alzheimer’s, according to recent studies. Researchers point to the fact that rates of Alzheimer’s in India are four times lower than in America, perhaps because people there typically eat 100 to 200 milligrams of curry everyday.
    Finding healthy wholesome dishes in an Indian restaurant is easy if you know what to look for. Daal is a lentil cooked with turmeric, fennel seeds, tomato etc. Lentils and vegetables is a safe bet. Yogurt and lentils are very good for the digestive system as they provide folate and fiber.

    What to Watch out for – Any thing deep fried e.g. samosas, fritters etc… curries with cream, butter, coconut milk etc.. those are all loaded with empty calories.

  6. Italian Image credits @azcentral.com Italian food brings to mind Pizza, Lasagna and other cheese laden American favorites, but in reality the food is healthy when eaten right. Italian food is about fresh ingredients, Olives, Spinach, Tomatoes, Oregano, parsley, basil etc… One of the best ways to get cancer-fighting lycopene is in cooked tomato products: a half-cup of tomato sauce has more than 20 milligrams. Plus, garlic and traditional Italian herbs provide vitamins A and C. And olive oil helps lower cholesterol, fight heart disease, and burn belly fat.
    Italians when using cheese use hard cheese like Parmesan etc grated in small amounts.
    What to watch out for – Cheesy pizzas, lasagna etc.. loaded with fat and empty calories.
  7. Spanish Image credits@mediterrasian.com The Spanish tradition of eating tapas (small plates of food): “I love the idea of being able to sample little portions of tasty, healthful foods and making a dinner of it,” Largeman-Roth says.The Spanish eat tons of fresh seafood, vegetables, and olive oil — all rock stars when it comes to your weight and well-being. Super healthy dishes to order: gazpacho (full of cancer-fighting lycopene and antioxidants) and paella (rich in fresh seafood, rice, and veggies).What to watch out for? Avoid fatty sausages and fried items, which can show up on tapas menus in the United States.
  8. Mexican Image credits @q80s.com Authentic Mexican cuisine can be heart-healthy and even slimming, our judges say. In fact, a Mexican diet of beans, soups, and tomato-based sauces helped lower women’s risk of breast cancer, a study from the University of Utah found.And the cuisine’s emphasis on slowly digested foods like beans and fresh ground corn may provide protection from type 2 diabetes.”Slow-release carbohydrates have been shown to lower blood sugar and even help reverse diabetes,” Miller says.
    What to watch out for –Go easy on the chips and dips, keep away from deep fried stuff and also too much of the queso dip.
  9. South American Image credits@ brazil4tour.comWith 12 countries within its borders, South America has a very diverse culinary repertoire. But our judges applaud the continent’s traditional diet of fresh fruits and vegetables (including legumes) along with high-protein grains like quinoa. In fact, a typical South American meal of rice and beans creates a perfect protein, Largeman-Roth says.
    Instead of the whole steak opting for the Ceviche is a healthier option when eating South American food. Ceviche is a mélange of fresh seafood boasts a variety of healthful spices and ingredients, from cilantro and chile peppers to tomatoes and onions.
    What to watch out for – Deep fried dishes made from yams, bananas, sausages etc… 

  10. Thai
    Image credits @cityofangelsfestival.com Thai food has come to be synonymous with coconut milk cooked curries and other preparations.Can a soup fight cancer? If it’s a Thai favorite called Tom Yung Gung, the answer just might be yes. 

    Made with shrimp, coriander, lemongrass, ginger, and other herbs and spices used in Thai cooking, the soup was found to possess properties 100 times more effective than other antioxidants in inhibiting cancerous-tumor growth.

Okinawa in Japan is well known for the longevity of its residents, many of them live a healthy and full life past 100! Miller while travelling through Okinawa found that not only the Okinawan’s healthy, their food habits were simple and easy to follow.
“Not only are Okinawans blessed with a diet rich in cancer-fighting fruits and vegetables, but they also prepare them in the healthiest way possible, with a light steam or a quick stir-fry,” Miller explains.

They also practice Hara Hachi Bu, which means “eat until you are eight parts (or 80 percent) full,” she says. These simple diet rules may be why people in Japan are far less likely than Americans to get breast or colon cancer.

Japanese staples that are amazing for your health include antioxidant-rich yams and green tea; cruciferous, calcium-rich veggies like bok choy; iodine-rich seaweed (good for your thyroid); omega-3-rich seafood; shiitake mushrooms (a source of iron, potassium, zinc, copper, and folate); and whole-soy foods.

I was impressed by the list of cuisines, many a time I tend to mark off cuisines in its entirety as “healthy” or “non-healthy” now I realize it is not really the cuisine that is not healthy, it is my habit of not making an informed decision which is at fault. If I take the time to find what goes into a dish, how it is cooked etc… eating healthy should be a breeze! Here’s to a healthy lifestyle! baby steps 🙂

Source Article in CNN

Read the Health.com article by Annie Corapi

Check out the Book by Daphne Miller at Amazon

The Jungle Effect: Healthiest Diets from Around the World–Why They Work and How to Make Them Work for You

Global FootPrint Network: Keeping Tabs On Our Consumption

August 21st was EarthOvershoot Day! Wondering what that means? So did I. That is when I found this organization “Global Footprint network”.

So what is the Global footprint? In articles about reducing consumption we have all come across the term Carbon Foot print; when that is taken to a global scale it becomes the Global footprint for all inhabitants of our planet.

Every year, Global Footprint Network calculates nature’s supply in the form of biocapacity, the amount of resources the planet generates, and compares that to human demand: the amount it takes to produce all the living resources we consume and absorb our carbon dioxide emissions. Earth Overshoot Day, a concept devised by U.K.-based new economics foundation, marks the day when demand on ecological services begins to exceed the renewable supply.

This year August 21st is the day on which we exhausted our ecological budget for the year, with 4 months remaining in the year.

How is Earth Overshoot day Calculated?

Earth Overshoot Day shows the day on which our total Ecological Footprint (measured in global hectares) is equal to the biocapacity (also measured in global hectares) that nature can regenerate in that year. For the rest of the year, we are accumulating debt by depleting our natural capital and letting waste accumulate.

[ world biocapacity / world Ecological Footprint ] x 365 = Earth Overshoot Day Day

What is Happening?

As with everything else in the environment being aware and reducing consumption and waste will go a long way in reducing our impact on the environment. Global climate change is one of humanity’s greatest challenges; addressing it is key to our long-term well-being and the continued vitality of our societies.

I had a conversation with my friend about program on NatGeo about Human population explosion and how that could lead to chaos due to inadequacies of resources vs. population… Scary but possible unless Governments world over pay heed to the burgeoning population in its urban centers. In 2008 according to data collected most number of people worldwide were residing in urban areas; their populations were calculated to be around 6.6 Billion and this was estimated to grow by 1.5Billion by 2030! Our role in shaping the Earth is powerful, and the human footprint continues to expand.

What Can Be Done?

The Global Footprint Network aims at creating a world where everyone can live well, within the means of one planet, and it is going to take all of us pulling together toward this common goal.

The scale of our challenge is enormous. Nothing short of a revolution in our economies, societies, energy choices and lifestyles is required.

At Global Footprint Network our programs are designed to influence decision makers at all levels of society and to create a critical mass of powerful institutions using the Footprint to put an end to ecological overshoot and get our economies back into balance.
Check out this video on the importance of ecological footprints

Check out your Ecological Footprint here very interesting almost like an FB game! This is my Ecological Footprint! 4.7 planets is everyone lived like me!!

And you come away with the knowledge of what each of your actions cost.

Keep in mind we are already accruing a debt this year, be conscious of your consumption.

Live Green!

Sources:

Global Footprint Network

World Governments Fail to Deliver on Biodiversity Promises

Suggested Reading from Amazon:

Our Ecological Footprint: Reducing Human Impact on the Earth (New Catalyst Bioregional Series) (Paperback)

Sharing Nature’s Interest : Ecological Footprints as an Indicator of Sustainability