Category Archives: Sustainable Living

7 Steps to Waste Less Food

Wastage of any kind is criminal, my mom used to say when we were kids. Especially with food it was her “mantra” with the added scenario of starving kids in Africa to make her point. Over the last decade I have become more aware of the size of the problem worldwide – especially wastage of Food when so many human beings starve.

We have done some posts about world hunger and the 1 billion people across the world who are in need of food. I came across a very interesting book and website by Jonathan Bloom – The book is titled “American Wasteland” and his website is www.wastedfood.com. I am in the process of reading the book (will write more about it once I am done with the book). From what I have read it is one book every person should read, once we realize the folly of our ways may be we will change for the better.

Today morning as I logged in I saw this article on Yahoo news by Lori Bongiorno titled A step-by-step guide to wasting less food

Checked it out and thought the tips were really simple and easy to follow if even some of us made some of the changes, it would make a big difference. So here is the lsit of 7 steps we can all adapt to waste less food and save money too!

Plan Ahead

Planning meals ahead of time. Checking your shelves, refrigerator, storage and making list before heading out to buy groceries.

Shop Smart

Write a detailed grocery list and buy what you need. If something is on sale make sure you can use it all up before buying it just because it is on sale. (e.g. anything that can be frozen is a good buy).

Use What You Buy

Make use of leftovers, be it rice, vegetables or bread. Almost everything can be used creatively to make a new dish.

Freeze before you toss

Freezing leftover vegetables or meat to make a broth is an example. Waffles pancake etc too can be put in ziplock bags and frozen, microwave them for a quick snack

Get educated

Nobody wants to eat unsafe food, but throwing away good food just because the label says so does not necessarily work either. Use by dates are more for quality than safety, Find out what expiration date really means

Think beyond eating

Overripe fruits make good homemade facials. Mixing them into your garden soil is a very green way to fertilize too.

Give to Others

Donate non perishable items that you are not going to eat.

A University of Texas study quantifies our wasted food into energy wasted and say Americans waste the equivalent of 350million barrels of oil every year on wasted food! That is 2% of annual energy consumption of the USA. More once am done with American Wasteland, check out the book I guarantee, you will not look at food or grocery the same way again.

The following is a short documentary film about food waste created by college freshmen at Appalachian State University. This video is product of Watauga Global Community. In the film they attempt to identify food waste, what causes it, and what college students can specifically do to reduce the amount of food being sent to landfills. They even go as far as dumpster diving to illustrate their point. David Nielsen, Shannon Doherty, Ridge Grahm, Lauren Prigge, and Drew Fortune.

Source – Yahoo Green

You can checkout the book at Amazon

American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half of Its Food (and What We Can Do About It)

Extinction of Many an African Species May Be As – BUSHMEAT

So why that title for today’s post you wonder? I read an op-ed on the BBC website by Mark Jones titled “Is Africa’s Wildlife being eaten to Extinction?” caught my eye to say the least. I have known for quite some time via National geographic and other nature channels that illegal Bushmeat trade was one of the major reasons for poaching in Africa, and had imagined that since it was well known it must be under control.

Educating the locals and providing them with alternate food sources etc… were the things I had read about. When I read Mark Jones write up I was stunned by the magnitude of the Bushmeat market. It was just not limited to Africa anymore; the bushmeat trade has gone Global and found a market outside Africa in the west!

Mark Jones says “It is now a multi-billion dollar international trade involving hundreds of species, from forest herbivores such as duikers and other antelopes to wild pigs, rodents, elephants and primates.

The exponential increase in the trade over recent years is being driven by demand from the exploding and ever more urbanized human population in Africa, and the increasing international value and demand for bushmeat products.”

What is Bushmeat?

In Africa the forests are referred to locally as “the bush” and anything that is caught from the bush is therefore Bushmeat or in French – viande de brousse. Traditionally almost all the local tribes have survived on Bushmeat for centuries and it is part and parcel of their way of living. What has changed over time is the loss of habitat and commercial hunting which has led to a steady decline in the number of species and its populations.

Illegal hunting for Bushmeat is rampant in many parts of Africa especially the Congo, where many a household depends mainly on Bushmeat for survival. Congo is almost always on the verge of anarchy because of its huge mineral wealth from cobalt all the way to gold and diamonds it is one of the richest African countries but the Congolese are leading a hand to mouth existence at best. Scientists have calculated that at the rate Congo is procuring Bushmeat the entire land would be wiped clean of wild animals by 2050! That would threaten livelihood of many of the indigenous people who depend on Bushmeat for survival.

Why is there a crisis?

Wildlife has been hunted for food ever since humans first evolved, and wildlife is still viewed as resource ‘free’ for the taking in many areas. Today in West and Central Africa, Bushmeat continues to be an economically important food and trade item for thousands of poor rural and urban families, and it’s a status symbol for urban elites trying to retain links to ‘the village’ – often commanding extremely high prices in city restaurants. Virtually uncontrolled access to forest wildlife (i.e., almost anyone can go hunting anywhere), rising demand for bushmeat, lack of economic options for rural and urban communities, the absence of affordable substitutes, the opening up of ‘frontier’ forests by logging and mining companies, and the complicity of government law makers and law enforcers, are the most important factors driving commercial hunting and militating against wildlife conservation.

Some facts about Bushmeat

  • Current harvest of Bushmeat in Central Africa is estimated to be around 1 million tons annually! This is equivalent to 4 million cattle! Congolese consume similar amounts of meat like Europeans and Americans, difference being it all comes from the forest.
  • Almost 24 million people live in and around the forest regions of Africa and most of them depend on Bushmeat as the major source for protein.
  • Primates and antelopes that are commonly hunted for meat, play an important -role in the forest by spreading the seeds of trees, vines and shrubs. Meat consumption may increase by 3% or more per year as human populations continue to grow and household incomes increase.
  • The most hunted wild species in Central Africa are duikers (forest antelopes), bush pig, pangolin, porcupine and small monkeys.
  • In Gabon, since agricultural production is low, the 1.5 million inhabitants depend almost entirely on Bushmeat for their protein intake.
  • The Democratic Republic of Congo has the highest Bushmeat consumption of the region. One study in the northeast found that two-thirds of households’ total cash income came from Bushmeat, fish and plants.
  • Bushmeat these days also includes Elephant, Apes and other protected animals.
  • Wildlife in Eastern and Southern African countries is increasingly being targeted, and Kenya is estimated to have experienced a loss of about 50% in its wildlife in recent decades, largely as a result of the bushmeat trade.
  • While most people are aware that elephants are poached for their ivory, many do not know that elephants are also a part of the Bushmeat crisis. One elephant yields thousands of kilos of meat, which may be easier to sell in markets than elephant ivory.
  • Humans share much of our DNA with great apes and monkeys like. Bushmeat hunting exposes humans to diseases carried by non-human primates, and vice versa.
  • Awareness and support for control of the bushmeat trade was virtually non-existent until the late 1990’s. Funding of a suite of studies and the efforts of a few key individuals have begun to change that. Now NGOs, governments, and the private sector are awakening to the challenge, and are currently seeking ways to understand and address the bushmeat crisis at local, national and international levels.
  • Working with logging companies to curb the export of meat from concessions is an essential step to conserving forest wildlife.

What Needs to be and Can be done?

Poverty and hunger are the underlying issues and without trying to resolve them I doubt the issues of Africa or any other place on earth can be solved. The Following are solutions suggested by the Bushmeat Crisis task Force (BCTF)

  • Employment of local residents;
    restricting human immigration to logging concessions;
    negotiating areas to be set aside and remain unlogged;
    prohibiting use of logging vehicles to transport bushmeat;
    and removing bridges along roads in already logged areas.
  • Increasing support for national and trans-border protected area networks and developing capacity at local, national, and regional levels is highly important.
  • Long-term support for protected areas including provision of well-equipped and trained anti-poaching units is a second clear priority for mitigating the commercial bushmeat trade.
  • Support environmentally sound economic development throughout West Africa and the Congo Basin.
  • Be the primary, reliable, credible source of information on the bushmeat issue (commercial, illegal and/or unsustainable) in Africa, Asia, Latin America and around the globe.
  • Use information to catalyze connections in the bushmeat arena, to support conservation on the ground.
  • Strengthen domestic and international policies focused on mitigation of the illegal, unsustainable activities related to bushmeat (government, private sector, etc.)
  • Identify and cultivate key decision makers that will advance our vision.
  • Respond to requests from key decision makers that result in the advancement of our vision.
  • Raise awareness of the bushmeat crisis and its implications among  (a) members (b) key decision makers (c) public in Africa and North America and around the globe.
  • Motivate and enable action addressing the bushmeat crisis.
  • Promote education and training opportunities to enhance member and partner capacity to address bushmeat.
  • Establishing an information database regarding the activities and impacts of the African commercial bushmeat trade (ecological, economic, and social).
  • Establishing mechanisms for information sharing among member organizations with the goal of increasing collaboration and effectiveness of field program actions and reporting/ evaluation of results.
  • Informing, raising awareness, and identifying support from key decision-makers regarding the scope and immediacy of the problem.
  • Coordinating cooperative public relations/ media campaigns to inform the public in the USA about the bushmeat crisis (including collaboration with member institutional/individual partners to develop similar, culturally appropriate, information campaigns in Africa).
  • Engaging African partners and stakeholders in the BCTF process.
  • Building and maintaining communications among members of the BCTF to facilitate collaborative policy, decision-making, fund-raising, and action implementation among the disparate members of the BCTF.
  • Developing linkages with parallel collaborative efforts emerging among African and European counterparts.

Unless one looks at the big picture it is kind of difficult to understand the impact of bushmeat trade. Species have functions: as prey for other species, seed dispersers or forest rebuilders. So reductions in certain species can have far reaching impacts on others, causing a loss of biodiversity and a crisis within ecosystems. In the UN’s year for biodiversity this becomes another issue which adversely effects biodiversity and species survival. Wonder what will be done and how soon.
Check out a video on Bushmeat crisis by the BBC:

Read the BBC article by Mark Jones here

Check out the Bushmeat Crisis task Force here

Another interesting article here

KOMUNTO Winner Of The Equator Prize 2010

The 2010 Equator Prize was awarded to KOMUNTO (Komunitas Nelayan Tomiya) – The Tomiya Fishermen Community from Indonesia. KOMUNTO is a community based organization. It is made up of representatives of the fishermen groups from East Tomiya, Wakatobi, Indonesia.  The organization works  to encourage the independent administration of local natural resources to improve the well being of the fishermen. It was developed as a response to communities grievances about Foreign Commercial fishing, use of destructive fishing methods and an absence of local governing leadership to manage sustainable use of the Wakatobi natural resources.

Wondering what the Wakatobi natural resources are?

The reefs of the Wakatobi Marine Park is the 3rd largest in Indonesia and support a tremendously colorful cross-section of biodiversity. But its 3.4million acres of islands and waters support a fishing industry that, through destructive practices and overuse, has placed those same natural resources in danger.

Check out a video of the Biodiversity in Wakatobi Reefs:

The Equator Prize is awarded to recognize and celebrate outstanding community efforts to reduce poverty through the conservation of biodiversity. As sustainable community initiatives take root throughout the tropics, they are laying the foundation for a global movement of local successes that are collectively making a significant contribution to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Equator Prize nominations are accepted from three regions of eligibility within the equatorial belt (23.5 degrees north and south of the equator): Asia and the Pacific, Africa, and Latin America and the Caribbean. In addition to worldwide recognition for their work, a monetary award, and an opportunity to shape national and global policy, all nominees are invited to join the Community Knowledge Service (CKS) and are profiled in the Equator Knowledge Zone (EKZ) database of practice.

You can find more details and past winners on the Equator Prize website HERE

Key Impact of KOMUNTO

KOMUNTO has been able to mobilize and organize previously isolated and scattered fishermen groups. Representatives of the organization are now leaders in their respective communities, encouraging the local population to decrease catch sizes, eliminate coral reef bleaching, stabilize fish prices, access capital for local development projects, and engage local government in management activities.

Biodiversity

  • Local participation in zoning and spatial planning for the sustainable management and use of Wakatobi National Park
  • Establishment of three protected areas around the island of Tomia, declaring these sites as “fish banks” safe from exploitation and allowing for regeneration of fish stocks

Socio-economic

  • Member groups make financial contributions to the organization through primary savings (simpanan pokok), a compulsory fee (iuran wajib) and a voluntary savings (simpanan sukarela) from each member
  • Financial contributions are also earmarked for members with special needs such as health, funerary reasons, weddings, and other traditional events
  • Development of an organizational cooperative through its economy division, providing savings and loans services and supporting trade activities

Policy

  • In 2007, the spatial zonation of Wakatobi National Park was signed and approved by the national government, with inputs from KOMUNTO

Replication

  • The KOMUNTO “fish bank” model has been adopted by other local fishing communities
  • In 2008, all twenty-seven KOMUNTO member groups (consisting of 418 families) formally that they share a common fishing approach, including the outlawing of explosives and sedatives

The KOMUNTO project and others like it, all need financial support to survive, check the Nature Conservancy. org website for how you can be of help. Congratulations KOMUNTO! Keep Up the Good work!

The following videos and books from Amazon make interesting study materials to learn about Coral reefs:

Coral Reef Adventure (IMAX) [Blu-ray]

Wildlife International – Creatures Of The Coral Reef

Water The Elixir of Life- Is It the Next Oil?

My better half who is immersed in the markets up ticks and down falls has told me many times over the years that in our life time we may see fights or wars over water, to me it sounded very far fetched 10 years ago, and then I started reading up on it. He send me the link to the Forbes magazine website early this year with an article titled “The Next Oil-Water” The article in reference was from the Mother Nature Network and was published on March 22nd which was incidentally World Water Day. WHO has been celebrating world water day since 2005.

Albert Szent-Gyorgyi the Nobel Prize winning Hungarian Biochemist said “Water is life’s mater and matrix, mother and medium. There is no life without water.”

Water- the elixir of life which makes life possible on Earth, and that which makes Earth unique amongst the other planets in our solar system. We are by all estimates 75% water, our brain in itself is 85%water! Without water there would be no life and that is a fact. It is the reason why we send missions to the moon, mars and planets beyond searching, hoping that may be somewhere out there is another place like ours, special because it has water the sustainer of Life.

What really opened my eyes?

I grew up in Cochin a small coastal city in the Southern most part of India. I have lived my life without major issues related to water shortage, there were a few times when there would be a pipe that burst or something and we would go get water from a nearby well. Then I moved to the US and the only issues we have ever had has been when hurricane Ike’s remnants lashed through a couple of years back and brought down trees and power lines along its path… for a couple of weeks we were left without power and potable drinking tap water.

Early this year when I went to India to visit my folks, there were riot like situations happening in some islands adjacent to the city of Cochin and the cause was drinking water. The wells and the water tables in the islands are saline, leaving them dependant on the mainland for potable drinking water. With the city growing in leaps and bounds and the population bursting at the seams whatever water is available gets consumed before it makes its way to the islands. The people in the islands were fuming over the injustice they have been putting up with for decades… I remembered then that this was an issue when I was in school in the 80’s and probably even before that. For us mainlanders as long as it was not affecting us the issue seemed remote and something one the inside pages of the newspaper that we read and forgot.

One of the interesting things that caught my eye on the road in Cochin were the Tankers with “Drinking Water” boldly emblazoned on the sides. There seemed to be so many of them around! Each tanker carries Precious water for the residents who pay premium to get it 3-4 times a week! I was talking to a friend of mine who has always had a well with a never drying water table beneath, who mentioned that wells around were drying up in the wink of an eye without no reason at all… What we concluded was that probably the huge flats around had something to do with it?? Water tables are interconnected and when we break them I feel there must be some repercussion. Anyways so when I got back home and my husband gave me the link to the Forbes article, I started trying to find out how much water I was using in a day. I collected water in buckets to shower with, and kept track of the water I used to cook, tried to minimize use etc and when I triumphantly mentioned my effort to my better half her suggested I take a look at my water foot print a little more in detail. He said remember almost everything that we consume comes in contact with water before it makes its way to us!

So I thought well I need to find out for real how much water approximately I consume or use. On searching I found this website water foot print and I was astounded by the numbers and the realization of how far off my calculation was from reality. For me a cup of coffee was 1 cup of water, where as in reality to make that cup of coffee it takes approximately 140 liters of water! The sheer magnitude shocked me and made me realize like everything else the onus falls on us to take a stand and make sure we are making use of this elixir thoughtfully.

My water footprint was 801 cubic meter per year, what is yours? Find out here

Interesting and thought provoking Water Facts:

  • In the population of around 6billion plus people on our earth, 1 billion plus have no access to drinking water.
  • Around 1000 children die a day due to sicknesses from drinking non-potable water.
  • Oceans dominate the earth but only 1% of that water is fresh, accessible and potable.
  • Dry nations will increasingly abandon agriculture because of water scarcity, as is now happening in the Middle East and North Africa, and will turn to the water-rich countries for grains and other foods. This trade in comestibles—flowing from lush lands to parched places—has earned wheat, rice, and other crops the sobriquet “virtual water.”
  • The World Bank reports that a third of public utilities in developing countries lose up to 40 percent of their water due to poor infrastructure and mismanagement.
  • In 2007 the city of Atlanta was nearly brought to a standstill when Lake Lanier, the area’s primary water supply, dropped to its lowest levels in a century.
  • Every time you open a faucet, remember that you’re doing something beyond the reach of almost 3 billion people.
  • 2005–2015 is the International Decade for Action Water for life, we are half way through it is high time there is action. Like everything else every small step counts.
  • 4 of every 10 people in the world do not have access to even a simple pit latrine and nearly 2 in 10 have no source of safe drinking-water.
  • Harvesting rain water is a very sustainable way to save water.
  • Planting local plants and drought resistant varieties helps.
  • Taking shorter showers helps, keeping the tap closed while brushing teeth or shaving helps…
  • The steps we can take are myriad it is just that we need to do it, pay attention to the small things and make sure to follow through when we care about something which in this case is survival.
  • China, with 1.26 billion people, is the one area worrying most people most of the time, In dry Northern China, the water table is dropping one meter per year due to over pumping, and the Chinese admit that 300 cities are running short. Some Chinese rivers are so polluted the water can’t be used for irrigation!!
  • In India, home to 1.002 billion people, key aquifers are being over pumped, and the soil is growing saltier through contamination with irrigation water.
  • Israel (population 6.2 million), invented many water-conserving technologies, but water withdrawals still exceed resupply. Over pumping of aquifers along the coast is allowing seawater to pollute drinking water.
  • Egypt, whose population of 68 million may reach 97 million by 2025, gets essentially no rainfall. All agriculture is irrigated by seasonal floods from the Nile River, and from water stored behind the Aswan High Dam. Any interference with water flow by Sudan or Ethiopia could starve Egypt.
  • Mexico City (home to 20 million people) is sinking because the city sucks out underground water faster than the aquifer can be refilled.
  • In Bangladesh, what’s been called the “largest poisoning of a population in history” has 35 to 77 million people drinking arsenic-laced water.
  • 5 tips from the MNN network
  1. Reduce your current shower time by one minute
  2. Locate and repair silent toilet leaks.
  3. Water lawns on demand, not on schedule.
  4. Turn off the tap while you brush your teeth.
  5. Smart Dishwashing – If you’re doing dishes by hand, don’t rinse under an open faucet. Buy an in-sink rack, load your soapy dishes, and rinse by pouring hot water over the top or using a handheld spray nozzle. Have a dishwasher? Use the short cycle for all but the dirtiest dishes.
  • In developed nations such as Japan, the USA and in Europe, most water shortfalls arise from politically popular but inefficient subsidies and protections of agriculture, which accounts for 85% of freshwater consumption worldwide.
  • An apple is the result of 70 liters of water! and Wheat uses less water than rice to cultivate, almost 50% less! Can you believe that!
  • Why there can be strife over water? Consider: More than a dozen nations receive most of their water from rivers that cross borders of neighboring countries viewed as hostile.

A prime cause of the global water concern is the ever-increasing world population. As populations grow, industrial, agricultural and individual water demands escalate. According to the World Bank, world-wide demand for water is doubling every 21 years, more in some regions. Water supply cannot remotely keep pace with demand, as populations soar and cities explode.

The reality is that the water we take for granted can and will become not so cheap in a not so distant future unless we wake up to the fact that it is indeed a precious commodity now, not an unending source which will keep on giving. We need to take steps to make sure drinking water shortages do not start the next cold war scenario or unrest world over.

Our first step like everything else starts with ourselves, that small step we take in the right direction… like deciding whether to plant drought resistant vegetation, if guided by awareness that water is a very limited and precious natural resource… To get started check out your water footprint here am sure you will be as surprised as I was. Live Green!

Check out this presentation by professor Scott Fendorf of Stanford University about Southeast Asian water shortage:

Interesting reads and sources for the data in water facts:

Read the Forbes Article here

The UN WHO project Water For Life Booklet a must read

World Water.org dedicated to providing information and resources to help protect and preserve fresh water around the globe.

Arizona Agricultural University website

Why files

Harvard Business School Alumni Bulletin

Drinking water and sanitation data

Check out rainwater harvesting here

Interesting Books from Amazon –

Your Body’s Many Cries for Water

Out of Water: From Abundance to Scarcity and How to Solve the World’s Water Problems

Upcycling Wine Corks

Like the line from Tennyson’s poem The Miller’s daughter “After-dinner talk across walnuts and wine” it just makes sense  at least the wine does to me, the Walnut not so much :). To anyone who enjoys his/ her glass of wine it is evident bottles get recycled and the corks normally end up in the trash can. I have thought about what to do with them and keep them until the fill up a bag and then one day I throw it all in with the trash and start again.

As I was surfing the web I chanced across an article by Dave Chameides also known as “Sustainable Dave” titled “Don’t throw those wine corks away, upcycle them’ and that title piqued my interest.

His article helped me find a way to save the corks! Dave says “‘Thanks to companies like Recork, the answer to your problems lies only a post office or drop off box away. Recork will take back your natural corks, and make them into new shoe treads for a company called Sole. How cool is that? You can send your corks in (they’ll send you a free mailing label for 15 lbs or more), or better yet, you can find a drop off in your area and turn them in as you use them. According to their website, to date, they have upcycled over 8 million corks and planted over 2000 trees (they do that too).”

You can read the entire article here

I also found this cool video on using wine corks to make a board check it out below

And found this one from BetterTV which has a video on what one can do creatively with wine corks!

So next time you uncork the bottle of wine don’t forget to save the cork! Enjoy your wine and Live Green 🙂

Colin Beavan The No Impact Man

I love reading and staying informed on things which help me take sustainable living decisions. With the advent of blogs the world seems to have gotten really small where by we all get to share our days, weeks or just moments we feel like sharing, with the entire world which is connected by the web. I have many blogs that I frequently follow either by religiously visiting them or by subscribing to their RSS links.

One of my favorites has been the No Impact man by Colin Beavan . He started a blog about his attempt to lead a life with as minimal impact as possible on the environment around him. In November of 2006, Beavan launched a year-long project in which he, his wife, his two-year-old daughter and his four-year-old dog went off the grid and attempted to live in the middle of New York City with as little environmental impact as possible.

His blog which has been online for almost 3 years and has around 3,000 plus daily visitors and 4,000 daily page views, the site has 10,000 email and “newsreader” subscribers! It has become a forum for people interested in green and sustainable living.

In late 2009 No Impact Man came out in print and as a Documentary. The book is now out in paper back too.

No Impact Man: The Adventures of a Guilty Liberal Who Attempts to Save the Planet, and the ….

I found the plan interesting and was keen to know how long it could be sustained, the pessimist in me thought it is “Impossible”; Boy, was I in for a surprise! Read the plan HERE I consider myself as someone who does a lot of stuff to live life in a more sustainable way, after watching Beavan and his family I have realized there is so much more I can do. Thank you Colin Beavan

Now I am a believer and I believe we all can make changes how ever small they may be and we can make an impact on reducing our impact on this beautiful planet we are privileged to call home.

This is the Official Trailer for the No Impact Man Documentary

You can follow No Impact Man here

The NonGMO Project: A Guide To Living Free of GM Products

I came across a very interesting and useful website today and decided on it as the topic for today’s post. I have been reading up about GM(Genetically modified) crops for some time now and have been writing about it too. The thing that worried me the most was that in the US we did not have a choice as to at least know what kind of food we were consuming. GM or non-GM does not seem to matter as far the FDA is concerned.

The Non GMO Project is is a non-profit organization, created by leaders representing all sectors of the organic and natural products industry in the U.S. and Canada, to offer consumers a consistent non-GMO choice for organic and natural products that are produced without genetic engineering or recombinant DNA technologies.

What does it provide?

It has a consumer section with an abundance of information about GMO products, a printable shopping guide with a list of brands which are non-GMO and tips as to what you need to look for etc…

The NonGMO Product website answers the question Are GMOs safe? as follows:
In 30 other countries around the world, including Australia, Japan, and all of the countries in the European Union, there are significant restrictions or outright bans on the production of GMOs, because they are not considered proven safe. In the U.S. on the other hand, the FDA approved commercial production of GMOs based on studies conducted by the companies who created them and profit from their sale. Many health-conscious shoppers find the lack of rigorous, independent, scientific examination on the impact of consuming GM foods to be cause for concern.

The iPhone app for non-GMO shopping – There is an iphone app which verifies whether a product is non-GMO certified you can download it here

Check the website out and bookmark it (I already did). It has a lot of information and a lot of help if you care about what you eat. Being informed that is the least we should be expecting when making our choices. Looking forward to an informed and non-GM, Sustainable lifestyle! Live Green!

The Link to NonGMO Project.org

My favorite book to learn about the realities of Genetically Modified Crops

Genetic Roulette Digest

Seeds Of Deception III

Continuing from part I and II

I am still very much engrossed in Genetic Roulette it is 300 pages long and choke-full of information! As I wrote in the earlier posts GM foods and seeds have been of interest for me for some years now and I like most people thought “Well if the US FDA tags them safe, they must be safe!” On reading “Genetic Roulette” what I realized is how callous the system we trust to protect us is…

World over policy makers also go by the US FDA guidelines as it is one of the most trusted and touted organizations in the world when it comes to food and drug administration. It is assumed wrongly that the approval to GMO is done after extensive tests by the FDA or related organizations. The tests and research are carried out by the developers themselves (kind of like new medicines are tested by the very labs which manufacture them and then later on when there are severe reactions or even fatalities some whistle blower comes out and says “well the company knew that was possible, but was in a hurry to get the medicine out as it was a very small minority which showed a reaction to it etc…) and most of these studies are kept under wraps in the guise of “Confidential Business Information”. Very limited data of these studies are available for us to look at.

Jeffrey says in his book about how Genetic Engineering or Genetic Modification is looked up on as if DNA (Deoxy Ribo Nucleic Acid) is like Lego blocks and one could move pieces in and out as one pleases. He says the truth couldn’t be farther from it. He compares it to a well written book which is taken apart; pages and lines and even words are jumbled together and put back together with no particular order to it… will it make any sense? I guess not. He goes on to add when genes are messed with the changes in the DNA can produce massive changes in the functioning of the plant’s natural DNA. Inserted or spliced genes can mutate and produce un-intended characteristics.

In 1992 when Genetically Modified crops made their debut the FDA said The Agency is not aware of any information showing that foods derived by these new methods differ from other foods in any meaningful or uniform way” and on that basis they said no safety studies are necessary and that “Ultimately, it is the food producer who is responsible for assuring safety”! This was also when there was an overwhelming consensus amongst the technical experts in the agency that GM crops were meaningfully different and still the 1992 policy was put into place. During this time Michael Taylor, who had previously worked as a lawyer for Monsanto, was Deputy Commissioner for Policy to oversee policy development.

Jeffrey Smith also says that the 44,000 pages worth of info released under freedom of information act reveals that the FDA was under orders from the White house to promote GM crops!! It is said in jest that the connections between these companies and the overseeing organizations are almost like a revolving door, Michael Taylor is now back in the FDA – on July 2009 US President Barack Obama appointed former Monsanto lobbyist and attorney Michael R. Taylor as a senior adviser to the US FDA (Food and Drug Administration)(I read this writeup about his appointment on The Daily Green check it out before you make your decision 🙂 )

The FDA’s 1992 Guidance for the GE Industry says “The 1992 policy does not establish special labeling requirements for bio-engineered foods as a class of foods. The policy states that FDA has no basis for concluding that bio-engineered foods differ from other foods in any meaningful or uniform way, or that, as a class, foods developed by the new techniques present any different or greater safety concern than foods developed by traditional plant breeding.”

So legally the manufacturers are under no obligation to put a label on GMO’s unless the following hold true –

Under section 201(n), the label of the food must reveal all material facts about the food. Thus:

  • If a bioengineered food is significantly different from its traditional counterpart such that the common or usual name no longer adequately describes the new food, the name must be changed to describe the difference.
  • If an issue exists for the food or a constituent of the food regarding how the food is used or consequences of its use, a statement must be made on the label to describe the issue.
  • If a bioengineered food has a significantly different nutritional property, its label must reflect the difference.
  • If a new food includes an allergen that consumers would not expect to be present based on the name of the food, the presence of that allergen must be disclosed on the label.

Dr. James Maryanski, Biotechnology Coordinator, in FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) testified about Bio-engineered food safety in front of the senate in 1999 reiterated the safety protocols of the US FDA and said this in conclusion “FDA’s 1992 policy statement and our guidance documents make clear that pre-market clearance is required if there is scientific uncertainty about the safety of food derived from bio-engineered plants. The policy also makes clear that labeling will be required if the composition of the genetically modified food differs significantly from what is expected for that food, or if the genetically modified food contains potential allergens.”

STATEMENT EXCEPTIONS ABOUT FOOD USING GENETICALLY ENGINEERED FOODS:

The discussion accompanying each example is intended to provide guidance as to how similar statements can be made without being misleading.

  • “Genetically engineered” or “This product contains cornmeal that was produced using biotechnology.”

The information that the food was bioengineered is optional and this kind of simple statement is not likely to be misleading. However, focus group data indicate that consumers would prefer label statements that disclose and explain the goal of the technology (why it was used or what it does for/to the food) (Ref. 1). Consumers also expressed some preference for the term “biotechnology” over such terms as “genetic modification” and “genetic engineering” (Ref. 1).

  • “This product contains high oleic acid soybean oil from soybeans developed using biotechnology to decrease the amount of saturated fat.”

This example includes both required and optional information. As discussed above in the background section, when a food differs from its traditional counterpart such that the common or usual name no longer adequately describes the new food, the name must be changed to describe the difference. Because this soybean oil contains more oleic acid than traditional soybean oil, the term “soybean oil” no longer adequately describes the nature of the food. Under section 403(i) of the act, a phrase like “high oleic acid” would be required to appear as part of the name of the food to describe its basic nature. The statement that the soybeans were developed using biotechnology is optional. So is the statement that the reason for the change in the soybeans was to reduce saturated fat.

  • “These tomatoes were genetically engineered to improve texture.”

In this example, the change in texture is a difference that may have to be described on the label. If the texture improvement makes a significant difference in the finished product, sections 201(n) and 403(a)(1) of the act would require disclosure of the difference for the consumer. However, the statement must not be misleading. The phrase “to improve texture” could be misleading if the texture difference is not noticeable to the consumer. For example, if a manufacturer wanted to describe a difference in a food that the consumer would not notice when purchasing or consuming the product, the manufacturer should phrase the statements so that the consumer can understand the significance of the difference. If the change in the tomatoes was intended to facilitate processing but did not make a noticeable difference in the processed consumer product, a phrase like “to improve texture for processing” rather than “to improve texture” should be used to ensure that the consumer is not misled. The statement that the tomatoes were genetically engineered is optional.

  • “Some of our growers plant tomato seeds that were developed through biotechnology to increase crop yield.”

The entire statement in this example is optional information. The fact that there was increased yield does not affect the characteristics of the food and is therefore not necessary on the label to adequately describe the food for the consumer. A phrase like “to increase yield” should only be included where there is substantiation that there is in fact the stated difference.

The above are excerpts from the US FDA’s Guidance for Industry which were non-binding! The complete guidance can be found here


To me it sounds like it basically says that unless something is visibly different from what the food item is purported to be one is not under any obligation to label the food item as a GE or GMO. If it looks like a tomato, tastes like one etc… it should not matter to the consumer what kind of gene has been inserted into it to keep it from over-ripening on the grocers shelves week after week! Don’t we deserve to know what we are consuming? I believe we do…

This will be continued… I seem to be unable to make it concise (like kids say these days “MY BAD 🙂 “)

Sources :

US FDA. gov

Genetic Roulette by Jeffrey M Smith

—————————

Some abbreviations I use commonly in the post

GM -Genetically Modified (Also called GE for Genetically Engineered)

GMO- Genetically Modified Organism

Congratulation Virginia Tech Winners of Solar Decathlon 2010

CONGRATULATIONS Virginia Tech! Virginia tech’s Lumenhaus won the Solar Decathlon 2010 in Madrid Spain. University of Applied Sciences Rosenheim and the Stuttgart University of Applied Sciences came in at second and third places, respectively.

Virginia Tech team with the Solar Decathlon Trophy

Fachochschule fur Technik und Wirtschaft Berlin is announced the winner of the Solar Systems Award.University of Applied Sciences Rosenheim is the winner of the Electrical Energy Balance Award and also the Appliances and Functioning Award.

Over 190,000 people visited the Villa Solar 2010.The public’s favorite houses were the Fablab House from the Instituto de Arquitectura Avanzada de Cataluña and the SML House from the Universidad CEU Cardenal Herrera.

The web’s favorite was Re:focus from the University of Florida. Congratulations also to all the young sustainable Green architects and creators of all the participating teams you are the hope of the future!

The Solar Decathlon

Solar Decathlon was held in Spain this year. For those of us who are hearing about it for the very first time it is normal to wonder “What is the Solar Decathlon?”

The Solar Decathlon is a competition organized by the U.S. Department of Energy in which universities from across the globe meet to design and build an energetically self-sufficient house that runs only on solar energy, is connected to a power grid, and incorporates technologies that maximize its energy efficiency.

In the final phase of the competition, teams will assemble their prototypes in the so-called Villa Solar. The prototypes designed by the participating teams will then compete in a set of ten contests (Decathlon) in order to demonstrate the self-sufficiency and energy efficiency of each house.”

History of the competition

The Solar Decathlon is held every 2 years; the first edition of the Solar Decathlon was held in 2002; the second in 2005; the third in 2007. The previous competition was held in October 2009 and 20 teams representing as many universities from the U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico, Germany and Spain competed. The German team from the Technische Universität Darmstadt won the decathlon in 2009.

All of the competitions that have been held so far have been located in the National Mall in Washington D.C., and have resulted in great media and social impact, with more than 100,000 visitors attending the competition. This year the number of visitors alsmost doubled to 190,000 plus!

Europe is hosting its first Solar Decathlon; Villa Solar 2010 is being held in Madrid Spain and 17 universities have been shortlisted from across the world, they are the following in order of their final ranking- The top 5 also have the points they received. Virginia Tech won by less than a point!!:

  1. Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University 811.83
  2. University of Applied Sciences Rosenheim 810.96
  3. Stuttgart University of Applied Sciences 807.49
  4. Ecole national Superieure darchitecture de Grenoble 793.84
  5. Aalto University Finland 777.01
  6. Bergische Universitat Wuppertal
  7. Arts et Metiers Paris Tech
  8. University of Florida
  9. Unviversidad CEU Cardenal Herrera
  10. Fachchochschule fur Technik und Wirtschaft Berlin
  11. Tongji University Shanghai
  12. Universidad Politecnica de Catalunya
  13. Universidad de Sevilla
  14. Universidad de Valladolid
  15. University of Nottingham
  16. Tianjin University
  17. Instituto de Architecture Avanzada de Cataluna

Watch the Virginia Tech’s documentary about the Lumenhaus on Youtube


Virginia Tech Team and its Lumenhaus
Given Below is the Description given by the team about their project on SDEurope.org

The Concept

Inspired by the Farnsworth House by Mies Van Der Rohe, the house offers an open configuration which connects the houses inhabitants to the outdoors.

The Design

The interior and exterior of the house are joined together by a smooth transition when the Eclipses System is open, contributing to a feeling of transparency. When the weather is nice, the windows can be opened to expand both the physical and psychological appearance of the space. The floor of the house doubles in size, and the southern and northern walls disappear to make the rooms seem as if they have no barriers or limitations. The multi-layered wall-changing system allows for various forms of spatial organization and therefore different perceptions of the house. The central core plays an important role in allowing different configurations in the houses interior.

Each area of the house is set up for specific activities, but they are designed to be flexible and can be adjusted according to individual needs. For example, the doors within the central core incorporate the work area, storage and entertainment units, but may be shifted to close off the bedroom from the rest of the house in order to create a more private area. The kitchen can be transformed into a bar, and the dining table can be left outdoors during warm summer evenings. The modular design also means that the entire house is flexible and that multiple units can be connected or placed one above the other (connected by stairs) to create a house with 3 or 4 bedrooms.

The Technology

From its construction to its transportation, the house employs responsive architecture and other similarly advanced technological features.

Radiating heat in the concrete floor

The concrete floor features a radiating floor heating system. This heats the house through a geothermal pump, which draws in heat during the winter and cools the floor during the summer. This procedure requires less energy use, making the house more efficient. In addition, the geothermal heat pump produces hot water as a byproduct during the summer.

Photovoltaic System

The rooftop photovoltaic system has the ability to vary its angle in order to maximize the efficiency of the power gained from the sun. It is controlled through a computerized user interface that can be connected to an iPhone. In fact, the user can control all of the functions, including the Eclipsis System, the photovoltaic system, the temperature, the electricity and the entertainment devices, with the simple use of an iPhone.

Placed second overall and winners in Appliances & Functioning and Electrical Energy Balance

Rosenheim Placed Second

Stuttgart Placed Third

All the houses and the technologies used are mind blowing and very inviting to live in 🙂 Sustainable Green living sure looks like a safer future in these hands!

The rest of the videos and more can be found here http://vimeo.com/tag:solardecathloneurope

Source for pictures and info

Green Gas Stations Of the Future: Yana The Solar Charging Station

It has been on an ongoing process for Presidents starting with Richard Nixon in the 1970’s every president since has vowed to take America off her addiction to Oil, but till date we are far from it. When the BP Deep Water Oil Spill happened and as it still goes on spewing oil into the ocean after 60+ glorious days of BP trying everything known to the oil industry to stop it, there is a renewed interest to really get off our dependence on oil in a better percentage of the population than before.

Electric vehicles or EV’s as they are called are becoming more acceptable to even the doubters as they are getting better mileage and speeds comparable to the standard automobiles. While EV’s reduce the usage of petroleum by a good chunk the charging of EV’s using the electricity we produce from Oil / coal based technologies do not really serve the purpose of going green. In the future, electric vehicles will play an ever greater role in individual transport. Many companies are coming out with charging stations using alternative energy sources. CO2-free mobility is already possible today with what is currently the world’s largest stand-alone solar charging station, situated in Berlin-Adlershof and is called The Yana Docking Station.

Source for picture and info Younicos AG

German company Younicos AG based in Berlin with a very interesting and apt motto “Let the fossils Rest in Peace” have come up with a comprehensive charging infrastructure based on solar energy. Younicos believes everyday electric mobility is possible in near future. They talk about a future where electric vehicles will be charged while we are having a coffee, working or sleeping! That future is called – Yana Docking Station. Younicos not only provides complete solar charging stations on a turnkey basis, but also smaller docking stations which can be integrated into existing grids.

Yana Docking stations come pre-assembled in various formats: with integrated street lighting, with various integrated advertising possibilities, with a solar module or in a simple block-shaped design. All of the Yana Docking Stations are equipped with control and communications electronics as well as one or more socket modules as a part of their central construction element.

When Yana Docking Stations draw their energy from renewable sources, users of docking stations integrated into the grid are also mobile CO2-free.

In principle, all types of electrically powered vehicles can be charged at the solar charging station. The employees on the SOLON campus mainly use electric scooters, which maneuver nimbly through city traffic.

At the solar charging station, up to eight electric vehicles can be fueled at the same time.

Components of the solar charging station

The solar charging station at Berlin-Adlershof consists of three essential components:

  • A mover to generate electricity – The mover is a biaxial photovoltaic generator with 12 large modules. It follows the sun and can thus generate up to 40% more energy per site than solar systems that do not track.
  • A storage unit – A long-life vanadium redox flow battery serves as storage unit. The battery stores 100 kWh, provides 10 kW and enables electricity to be tapped at any time. It is the ideal complement to renewable energies (solar, wind, biomass) for solutions independent of the grid.
    AND
  • An intelligent electrical connector system – Younicos has developed a system for electrical charging stations that consists of an intelligent outlet and associated software. The system enables communication between the outlet and an external service by means of a GSM modem. The outlet, outfitted with a motorized flap, indicates its current status with a range of colors.

The charging station is set up to recognize what user is charging his or her vehicle and ensures precise billing. Pretty cool don’t you think?

May be the day is not far when we will be refilling our vehicles at these solar charging stations in our homes or at the corner coffee shop! Live Green!