Have you ever dumpster dived? I have; it’s pretty fun, especially if you find kale and other greens to steam for dinner. I used to live in an ecological nonprofit’s residential community and we had an agreement with a local health food and grocery store to salvage soon-to-expire and wilting food items. Why do I bring this up? Because dumpster diving is about avoiding waste.
There’s no waste in nature – everything has a purpose. When food is good, it’s eaten; if it rots, it decomposes and goes into the soil to power other living things. Humans are not often as efficient or thorough. But here’s a story that is waste-reducing, hunger-eliminating, and heart-warming.
Ben Simon, a senior at the University of Maryland College Park, saw all the food that was about to be thrown away in a campus cafeteria and asked a simple question: “Could it be donated?” The answer was yes. Food Recovery Network (FRN) was born. Simon founded FRN to collect food from college dining halls at the end of the day and donate it to hungry Americans. Perfectly fresh and nutritious food that would otherwise be thrown away. A simple and powerful service and all because Simon saw an opportunity where most of us don’t even look: college cafeteria leftovers.
Through Simon’s outreach work, FRN has spread nationally via connections with forty campuses who deliver their leftovers to nonprofits, religious organizations, and other institutions that feed the hungry. A beautiful, win-win solution. Simon’s my hero!
Image credit: moria via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution
Benjamin Franklin could be considered a true renaissance man. In his seemingly awesome life, he was an author, journalist, diplomat, scientist, founder of a country and an adventurer, among other things.
During one of his trips to London, he was introduced to a cheese made of soybeans. His excitement at having discovered this “Tau-fu” prompted him to send his friend, John Bartram in Philadelphia, some soybeans along with the recipe on how to make it. And thus, tofu was introduced to America in 1770.
Franklin, a vegetarian most of his life starting at age 16, had the following to say about a vegetable diet,
My refusing to eat flesh occasioned an inconveniency, and I was frequently chided for my singularity, but, with this lighter repast, I made the greater progress, for greater clearness of head and quicker comprehension. Flesh eating is unprovoked murder.
Even when he decided to start eating fish, it weighed on his conscience.
So convenient a thing it is to be a reasonable Creature, since it enables one to find or make a Reason for every thing one has a mind to do.
It is almost like an addict who, knowing better, will still choose to feed his addiction to the detriment of his values. No one is perfect and while people stray from their values, the great capacity we have as people is to correct ourselves where we have stumbled.
OK, back to tofu; soy products have been criticized heavily for their adverse health effects and while there is some data to show that more than FIVE servings a day might do more harm than good, soy, on the whole, is a pretty healthy food, especially when compared to animal protein. Besides, East Asians have been consuming tofu and other soy products for centuries and have been doing really well.
Anyway, next time you are enjoying tofu with friends and family, they might find it interesting as to how tofu was introduced the the Americas.
Source: Mother Nature Network
As its name implies, Factory Farming Awareness Coalition (FFAC) was created to bring attention to the health, environmental and social impact of industrial farming of non-human animals. They do this via giving presentations to schools and community organizations. They also plan and execute campaigns like Ditch The Dairy.
One of FFAC’s most successful projects has been securing $40,000 worth of advertising on BART, the San Francisco Bay Area’s public transit system. The prize is awarded via a public voting contest on Facebook.
FFAC has won this contest two years in a row and hope to pull off a hat trick this year by winning it again.
Over 300,000 people use BART daily, so winning this contest will allow FFAC to bring the ill effects of factory farming to a whole lot of people who would otherwise remain oblivious to this important issue.
For people who may have seen the ads in the past and not taken action, winning this contest will allow FFAC to remind them of the power of their food choices. As they note on their website, “Every meal we eat can be a powerful form of activism.”
Not everyone has the ability or means to take part in protests or other types of social action. But, everyone has to eat. And by making conscious choices about how we nourish our bodies, everyone has the power to create a better world for all living beings.
It takes only a few seconds to participate but your vote in helping FFAC win this contest will make a world of difference to someone who might otherwise never see this message. Please vote for Factory Farming Awareness Coalition on the BART Blue Sky Contest page on Facebook and share it with others who may be interested in raising awareness of this important issue.
Image credit: Factory Farming Awareness Coalition
I have a strong radar for greenwashing, so when I started reading a recent interview with IKEA Chief Sustainability Officer Steve Howard, I was fully expecting my eyes to glaze over. It didn’t happen.
Three aspects of IKEA’s sustainability strategy stand out as authentic: IKEA’s management team apparently understands climate change as a long-term risk management issue, goes after transformative change instead of just incremental tweaks, and puts its money where its mouth is.
Howard describes IKEA’s view on sustainability as a way to build resilience for an uncertain future, based on solid values, concomitant strategies, and investment to back it all. The company is building its own wind, solar and geothermal capacity to ensure it can meet its own energy needs. Another strategy is to invest in paradigm shifts instead of improving on existing inefficient technologies; rather than improving on CFLs and halogens, IKEA has invested in 100% LED technology. IKEA is also implementing cost-effectiveness and efficiency measures to save money and energy, and proactively considering its role as a furniture provider in a resource-scarce world with a burgeoning middle-class population, and an unstable climate.
Says Howard: “All the challenges are solvable with the solutions we have today, but we don’t have the right leadership, policies and priorities in place. Most political and business leaders are in a state of denial. Sustainability will be a decisive factor in terms of which business will be here in 30 years time. It’s also the future of business.”
We, at LLV, couldn’t agree more.
Image credit: kobaku via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution
New research shows that salamanders are shrinking in size as part of an adaptive response to climate change. The study measured the lengths of salamanders, finding them on average shorter, especially in warmer and drier conditions. This is a relatively novel area of research, as previous studies on the decline of amphibians, including salamanders, have rarely focused on climate change. The team that made this discovery had set out to study salamander population decline, and finding that disease was not the cause, were curious about whether climate change had anything to do with it. Their hypothesis turned out to be correct.
Scientists haven’t isolated the biological process that is at work; it could be plasticity, the ability of an organism to adjust its biological features based on changes in its environment. Alternatively, the reduced length of the salamanders could be due to changes in gene activity. Models suggest that compared to their ancestors, salamanders now need to burn more energy to stay as active, and spend more time finding food and hiding from predators.
All in all, it’s a difficult state of affairs for the little critters: hotter, and drier. Think of how all you want to do during a heat wave is lounge around under a tree with a cold drink; these little guys don’t have that luxury, and are shrinking just to keep up. At least we’re learning more about how they’re being affected, and hopefully we can ease their plight, especially the endangered ones, by fighting climate change.
Source: National Geographic
Image credit: Seemann via MorgueFile, Morguefile License
Ever feel like giving aid to developing countries is a bit elitist, paternalistic, or corrupt? Research says you may be right. What would global aid look like if it was more humble and egalitarian? Doga Makiura set out to discover just that.
Makiura is from Tokyo, and at 13 he went to study in London because he wanted to be around a more diverse group of people. After high school, he took a year off and went to Rwanda to work on a project that would empower 1.2 million people living in poverty. His motivation: “Rather than just helping them out, I wanted to go and work with them together as equals, as business partners.”
Working with a friend who ran a similar project in Bangladesh called e-Education, Makiura started producing DVDs of chemistry experiments to allow Rwandan students to learn experiments from any location. Results were encouraging: “In 2013, national exam results in chemistry increased by an average of 46% in 5 rural schools with over 700 students using DVDs from e-Education.”
Makiura hasn’t stopped there. He has gone on to work on the food supply and distribution issues in Rwanda in response to the influx of refugees from Congo:
“So I became a middleman, coordinating with agricultural cooperatives in Rwanda to understand how much surplus each cooperative or farm has, and finding out how much food the UNHCR was needing where. I went to the farms with a truck, purchased their surplus crop, and transported this food to the UNHCR refugees. The farmers now had extra income, and the refugees had more food. Win-win. The team I set up with the cooperatives work on this even when I’m not there.”
The next step for Makiura has been to connect smart-ag technology producers in Japan with Rwandan famers, allowing the information and communication technology (ICT) to improve food production efficiency in Rwanda. Another win-win.
The fundamental difference in Makiura’s approach to global aid is to look for ways to honor and value people in the developing world on equal terms with people in the developed world, and to discover and implement win-win solutions that benefit the developed and developing world. This creates collaborative relationships on equal terms instead of one-sided situations that create more separation. It sounds like the future of global aid, perhaps better phrased “global collaboration,” is finally here!
Source: TED Blog
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TED fellow Suzanne Lee is writing a book called Fashioning the Future and in the process, investigating how bacteria can be the next generation’s clothes manufacturers, through the same process that gives us beer: fermentation. In an interview for TED’s blog, she explains that like Maya, whom we featured earlier on LLV, Lee wants to improve upon the current toxicity and environmental degradation that is associated with producing textiles. Lee has turned to fermentation as a source of fiber production.
So, if bacteria are producing clothes, you need to feed them, right? Right. Lee is exploring feeding bacteria with what they thrive on: sugar. Now, this sounds a little shaky and short-sighted at first, a bit like using corn for biofuels, which raises corn prices and disadvantages the poor when it comes to using corn for food. However, Lee is looking at agricultural waste materials that are sugar-rich to avoid spiking the price of sugar for her fermented clothes. Reduce impacts on the environment and close the loop? We approve!
Lee is interested in creating products that are highly functional. However, fermented shoes and accessories aren’t about to appear in your stores just yet, because much more work is needed to make such products competitive and fashionable.
Image credit: mconnors via MorgueFile
Hemp continues its reign as a miracle plant, now as a key ingredient in what is being touted as the world’s most eco-friendly car.
The car, called the Kestrel, is being developed by Motive Industries Inc. with active support from the Canadian government.
Hemp lowers the embedded energy of the Kestrel, compared to the use of other materials, such as steel, which require much more energy and money to extract. Composite materials made with hemp can be stronger than steel and lighter than glass but with similar mechanical properties. The Kestrel seems sturdy and safe with an impact-resistant. It also offers a reasonably high speed of 90km or 56 miles per hour, and need recharging every 100 miles.
This isn’t the first time a car has been built out of hemp. Henry Ford had constructed them way back in the 40’s. Given the history of legal issues surround hemp, it is understandable that this versatile substance hasn’t been more widely accepted by the automobile industry. While Canada is supporting hemp, the U.S. still bans cannabis, preventing its use in many products for the food, oil, paper, textile, medicine, and of course, the automobile industry.
Despite this long-standing legal obstacle in the U.S., it’s heartening to see such a stellar car being produced by our Northern neighbors. Maybe good old competition will drive change in the courts so we Americans can enjoy sensible transportation too!
Image credit: aforero via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution.
Source: Collective Evolution
Forum for the Future is a bit like us at Life, Love, V: interested in good news. The Forum works on sustainability issues, and was recently featured by Grist for one of their founding director’s books about a vision for a sustainable future. Jonathan Porritt’s book, called The Future We Made, talks about a future world in which population stabilizes at 9 billion and the economy is fueled mostly using renewable energy, among other features.
In his interview with Grist, Porritt explains his intentions:
What I’m trying to do in the book is to demonstrate to people that this innovation pipeline is bulging. There are new ideas and brilliant breakthroughs and all sorts of technological opportunities emerging on a daily basis. Which means we can free ourselves from fossil fuels, we can get incredible resource efficiency, we can learn how to manage water far more efficiently than we do now, we can turn waste into raw materials, we can deal with sanitation problems. We need that as a starting point, just to give people a sense of doability — it is doable. At the moment, too many people think it isn’t doable.
Such emphatic positivity is admirable. Porritt also emphasizes the importance of including connection to nature in education systems, and making the connections between our food and its impacts on the world; he describes these as issues he wishes we had already resolved. Porritt explains how humankinds’ food choices have put the world in a state of imbalance:
We seem to have got ourselves into a very bad place when it comes to our understanding of the importance of food, how it gets onto our plates, our relationship with the animals that we consume so thoughtlessly, and our relationship with the land that we pay no attention to at all. There are many, many people in our world who believe that that relationship between land-food-farming-health is absolutely at the heart of what a sustainable world has to mean.
For Porritt, resolving this dysfunctional relationship is critical to a sustainable future. We at LLV couldn’t agree more.
Image credit: dbking via Flickr Creative Commons Attribution.
One out of ten Swedes is vegetarian or vegan, according to a recent poll by reputed research firm Demoskop.
Out of 1,000 Swedes interviewed, 6% self-identified as vegetarian, and 4% as vegan. In the last 5 years, interest in purchasing vegetarian products has increased by 11%.
The poll indicates that 21% of those interviewed who identified themselves as vegetarian or vegan, their choice was mainly due to animal welfare concerns, while 28% claimed that animal welfare was only partly responsible for their decision. The remaining 51% of people are likely to have made their dietary choices for sustainability, health, or religious concerns.
The poll also suggests that this trend is supported by the increasing availability of vegetarian options in major cities, including Stockholm and Skåne.
Given our previous post on how the Chinese, Taiwanese, and Israelis are embracing plant-based diets, it looks like the Swedes are in great company!
Source: The Independent
Image credit: galant via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution