Take a Hike!

September 29, 2010 · Filed Under Environment, Health

The first day of autumn – last Wednesday, September 22, 2010 – slipped by me unnoticed, because, well, it quite simply didn’t start to feel like fall until today.  Now that the air is getting crisper, I’ve started taking blankets out of the closet each night. I’ve started thinking about wearing shoes that require socks. And I’ve been thinking that I can’t wait to go on my first autumn hike of the year to see the trees before, during, and after the leaves change.

Take a HIke

If you’re thinking of taking a hike while you travel this fall, be sure to check out Trails.com‘s trail finder. Simply enter the zip code of the area you are planning to visit, and hopefully you’ll find that there’s a hiking trail or two that you can check out during your trip. Or, if you live in or near a major metropolitan area, then visit LocalHikes.com for suggestions of where to hike near your city.

As with any physical pursuit, exercise caution before you exercise. Bring enough food and water, follow your trail map, and stay safe!

Antibiotics with your Tap Water, Madam?

September 3, 2010 · Filed Under Environment, Food, Guest Posts, Health, News

In a recent study by the University of California, antibiotics given to cows were traced throughout their waste stream. Although not the first study to be done on the extensive use of antibiotics, especially on dairy cows, this study found that most antibiotics broke down before reaching ground water. This is good news for individuals who use well-water and live near dairy operations. The study did not look into the effects on surface water, marine life, or other species and areas of the environment impacted by the antibiotics.

Filtering your water and occasionally having it tested can also help keep your tap water safe and clean. The EPA recently released a study that reviewed the safety of municipal tap water. Depending on where you live, contamination risks may differ. The EPA found that water quality (for the US) was disappointingly low and came up with a list of suggestions. So it may be worthwhile to see just what lurks in your tap water!

You can read the summary of the dairy study here.

Photo Credit.

Organic Wines Vs. Organic Grapes

September 1, 2010 · Filed Under Green, Health, Pop Culture, Quick Saving Tips

Organic Wine

Photo by {link:http://www.flickr.com/photos/sarahfelicity/83112974/}sarahfelicity{/link}.

Organic wines have been produced for centuries, but only recently have they become certified as organic.  It’s often a confusing topic as many people do not know what goes into making an organic wine. There is also a huge debate as to the difference between a wine that is certified organic as opposed to one that just contains organic grapes.

Organic Grapes

Any wine that claims to be organic must at minimum use grapes that have been grown organically.  That means we are not drinking harmful chemicals along with our wine.  Pretty straightforward, so whenever you see a wine that has organic grapes, you know that it was grown with you and the environment in mind.

Organic Wines

Here is where the debate gets interesting.  A wine can say that it uses organic grapes but not be certified as an organic wine.  Organic wines use organic grapes, but also do not contain any added sulfites in the wine.  I emphasis the word added as the production of wine causes a natural formation of sulfites.

What are Sulfites?

Sulfites do occur naturally in winemaking, but many winemakers add it during the process to get a product that will last longer.  They act as a  preservative in order to prevent oxidation and produce a better end product.  Doesn’t seem like a big deal, or is it?

Many people have various problems when consuming products in which sulfites were added.  The most common are difficulty of breathing and headaches.  If you get bad headaches after drinking wines, this could be the reason.

How to buy?

The next time you go to buy wine, be sure to check the labels appropriately.  Some wines may display large text of organic, but may just use organic grapes.  If you want to buy a truly organic wine, some cautious must be taken with foreign wines as some claim to be organic, but only use organic grapes.

Also be sure to check into the vineyard and winemaker.  There are still some vineyards that grown grapes organically or don’t add additional sulfites to their product and just don’t want to go through the process of getting certified organic.

Canadian? Watch your BPA Intake

August 30, 2010 · Filed Under Environment, Food, Green, Guest Posts, Health, News, Nutrition

In a recent study by Statistics Canada, 91% of all Canadians had BPA in their bodies. Now this is not a growing issue specific to Canada though, so consider your own Country’s products and your personal rate of BPA exposure and intake.

So just how bad is this and what can we do about it in our own locations across the globe? First, the study provides an important baseline for understanding BPA exposure. But is BPA really bad for you? And since it is so prevalent in consumer products, is this number of concern? Let’s take a quick look.

What and Where is BPA?
BPA, or Bisphenol A, is most commonly used in plastics and to coat things like shopping receipts and food cans. For the scientifically minded out there, it is most commonly used in polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins. It is a synthetically-made chemical that does not naturally occur in nature, but due to its persistent use in consumer products, can be found in water, aquatic animals, and humans mainly. The 2002 BPA market saw 2.8 million tons produced globally, and the numbers have only increased until recently. Some of the most common products can be found in our food plastics including baby bottles.

Should I Be Concerned?
According to the American Chemistry Council and industry trade groups, No.

According to health officials worldwide including the FDA and health scientists, Yes.

Take a minute to reflect on the different sources of information.

So, Why the Controversy?
Mainly, different mindsets. The chemical industry and chemical trade groups are taking the approach that until it has not been proven to cause immediate harm to human health. Resulting with the approach that there is little need to address the situation, so business continues as usual. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) originally deemed low rates of BPA exposure as safe. The chemical industry is first to tell you that BPA is highly regulated and tested and has been studied for over 40 years.

Unfortunately, there is a growing body of evidence that is proving that BPA exposure is not safe. Its effects on the brain, diabetes, prostate gland, and in particular the reproductive system and children is of great concern. In February of this year, the FDA made a public announcement encouraging households to limit their exposure to BPA. Now the FDA has not made a formal announcement that BPA should be publicly banned, but countries like Canada have decided to review whether this should be done until we learn can be certain there is absolutely no health risk.

The real health concerns arise when BPA levels increase, and since manufacturers have no control over what their consumers eat and are exposed to in conjunction with their product, the responsibility lays with each of us to decide which approach we will take.

CBS News Video on the 2010 FDA Announcement to Limit BPA Exposure

CBS News Reviews FDA Warning on BPA

Tips for BPA-Free Living
The Mayo Clinic offers these tips for reducing your potential exposure to BPA:

  • Choose glass or BPA-free plastic baby bottles.
  • Use glass, porcelain or stainless steel containers for hot foods and liquids.
  • Avoid plastic containers with the No. 7  and No. 3 recycling label — they’re made with BPA.
  • Don’t microwave polycarbonate plastic food containers. Instead, use glass containers designed for microwaving.
  • Reduce your use of canned foods — many cans are lined with a BPA-containing resins

Please note that BPA is not required to be listed on food products or consumer goods, so it may be hard to find and eliminate all together. BPA can be flushed out of the body within 6 hours according to current research, so cleansing your body of BPA quickly is an option.

So it is up to you to decide which approach is best for your lifestyle. Either the wait and see method or the precautionary principle. Best of luck with your decision.

Sources include: Reuters, Chemical Market Associates, Inc (CMAI), Mayo Clinic, American Chemistry Council’s Plastics Division Business Group

Nationwide Salmonella Outbreak For Eggs

August 23, 2010 · Filed Under Food, Health, News

Major egg producer Hillandale Farms is associated with an outbreak of salmonella in millions of eggs covering 14 states.  This is the third recall that has occurred in just under two weeks and really shows the sad state of the egg industry in our country.  Almost a half billion eggs and thousands of cases of salmonella can be associated with the eggs coming from these recalls.

Farms like Hillandale follow the same practices, having way too many chickens stuff in small cages with little movement and unsanitary conditions.  Is anybody really surprise that this happened and with so many eggs?  What’s even worse is that the FDA set new rules to prevent many salmonella cases every year due to eggs.  We see how effective that particular regulation was.

What to do?

Salmonella can be prevented by making sure to fully cook your eggs.  It’s pretty simple, but the bacteria shouldn’t even be in the eggs in the first place.

An even better solution is to fight against these horrible big egg producers and start buying local and free-range. Only good eggs are going to be produced when you see the chickens running around the farm, fed and treated well.  On top of that, you will be getting eggs that taste better and are fresher than any of those sold in any traditional grocery store.   The key is if you can actually go to the farm and see the conditions, then you know how the chickens are treated.  It’s difficult to do that unless you live nearby the actual farm.

The reason I mention local is that even eggs that claim “Organic”, “Free Range” or “Cruelty Free” are still not even close.  They allow the hens to be bunched up inside with very little space.  They often can be just as inhumane.  Read this interesting article from The Vegetarian Site that goes into further detail.

Consider making a change as it could be putting our families at risk just to save a a few bucks on cheaper eggs.

Meal Planning Done For You: E-Mealz

August 8, 2010 · Filed Under Environment, Food, Guest Posts, Health

The easiest meal-planning helper has arrived! We have all heard that meal planning can save you money, help make organic food more affordable, and even help you develop healthier eating habits (and kick the food waste habit…which is a growing problem). The reality is that too often we are moving so quickly in our culture of “busy-ness” that meal planning feels like an idea only suitable for a 1950s housewife. Since Home Economics has left the school curriculum, we are not as food savvy as we once were as a culture, and therefore meal planning and learning how to use leftovers feels a bit ominous to most of us.

Meet your meal planning lifeline: E-mealz.

What is E-Mealz?

Have you ever had the feeling that your grocery shopping and meal-planning could use a little hand holding? I mean nothing serious, just a little extra support like a shoulder to lean on? Well add meal planning with E-Mealz to your list if this sounds a little too familiar. Simply enter in your grocery store and any dietary restrictions, diets regimes, or desires. They provide you with a weekly shopping list and menu with recipes. Viola! Meal planning done and on to the good stuff, shopping. The grocery list is organized by sections of the store in a one-page chart. There is even a little section for you to add other groceries you may need and it includes the total cost with the goal being a $75 average. Each item has a corresponding meal number, so if you don’t like spinach (sorry Popeye!) then you can eliminate that meal or side dish easily.

What’s it to me?

No need to wander around the grocery store helplessly trying to find Tartar Sauce! It can also help you with new dietary restrictions, understanding how to eat healthy, and keep you on track for any diets you may be trying out. It can also help you save money by decreasing your impulse buys of “I will use this for something…” and the planning list is available 24/7, unlike Grandma. Of course there are a few cons. First, it costs a whopping $5 per month, which makes it a great holiday or Birthday gift! If you stick to the plan, you may actually find that you are saving money upfront through meal planning and indirectly through eating balanced meals helping you focus at work, and worry less about meal planning. The other con is if you do not shop at Big Box stores for your groceries, there may not be a grocery chart for you and prices may differ at the store.

So, what’s for dinner tonight? A balanced meal on a budget? If you want a meal planning companion, E-mealz is an easy option for the busy Moms and Dads out there, as well as for those new to cooking and meal planning.

Cheers to sustainable living, keeping our food waste down, and getting in touch with the efficient 1950s housewife within all of us!

And for those of us shopping at co-ops and the like, we can still get meal plans, but the budgeting may be different – just a heads up.

Photo Credit: E-Mealz

Plugless Power’s EV Solution

August 3, 2010 · Filed Under Alternative Energy, Electric, Environment, Guest Posts, Health, News

What’s one of the main catches of electric vehicles? Charging up. It’s one of the major barriers to people buying electric cars. What if I forget to charge my car? What if I run out of charge and am stuck somewhere?

Well the solution to one of those questions is on the horizon. A Company called Evatran is focused on what they have termed “Plugless Power“. They have developed a sensor system for EV users to install in their garage. Instead of remembering to plug in your car at night, just park it over this power station. Without any cords or hook-ups, the car gets charged and you can rest easy.

This invention has incredible potential and a few drawbacks.

First, the bad news

It isn’t as efficient as plugging in your EV (well, less than 10% efficiency is lost). For the dark green eco-enthusiasts out there, that means it uses more energy than it needs to to charge the car. Since the majority of our energy mix comes from non-renewable sources like fossil fuels or nuclear power, this isn’t great news. But as the company points out, this provides a solid reminder that emissions and energy use isn’t a one-sided transportation problem.

Now, the good news

If this technology takes off, it will be an incredible tool to implement in cities, parking garages, and metered parking. As EVs gain more traction, these types of solutions are becoming increasingly critical for its global survival and spread. They also help us get over the inconvenience of plugging in the car (although some may argue we are already conditioned to filling up our gas tanks…so what’s the big difference?).

Is EVs future as gloomy as its past?

No, but it is ominous. When the EVs of this century (yes the first cars were electric) came out they were celebrated as a huge leap in the transportation sector. Inventors competed to have the most efficient vehicle, and hope was abundant. Then something sad happened. The patent was purchased by an automobile company and they decided to silence the debate. The information was now private and would not be acted upon. There was a brief glip where EVs tried to take off in California, but through the oil and auto industries interests and some interesting legislation, they flopped. (Watch Who Killed the Electric Car for a somewhat comical review of the happenings)

Now, as we have grown more aware of climate change and the intricate ties our environmental health has to our societal health, EVs are making a comeback. But it isn’t without its own hurdles. First, since climate change and the hazardous compounds that burning fossil fuels emit have been common knowledge for a decent amount of time, the competitive landscape has changed. There is now competition over “what technology” will win the race. Will it be the EV? Or will we take hydrogen technology to the max. Perhaps we will give ethanol another go. This conundrum is one of the reasons many automakers have failed to invest in new technologies (although not the only reason). What if they build out the machinery for hydrogen vehicles only to find that no one will support hydrogen fueling stations?

The electric car isn’t a particularly new idea, nor is it foreign. Unfortunately, with so many years under our car-driving belt devoted to gasoline vehicles its hard for us to imagine any shifts in this marketplace. Due to rising gas prices, increased environmental awareness, and government incentives, hybrids were able to succeed. But the water is still lukewarm for EVs and their competitors.

One thing we do know, is that this product will revolutionize the attractiveness of EVs as a long-term solution. To learn more about this invention visit Plugless Power.

Photo Credit: Plugless Power

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