Hold the guacamole for just a moment and make sure that your cilantro is organic. Food safety came front and center this week when random USDA testing found 34 different varieties of pesticide residue atop a batch of conventional cilantro.
The Chicago Tribune reports that when the USDA randomly tested a batch of cilantro for the first time in its 20 year program, it found 34 unapproved pesticides.
According to the story:
Azoxystrobin and captan are legal for use on potatoes but were found 16 times at levels that exceeded federal limits, the most such detections in this round of testing. Next on the list for excessive amounts of legal pesticides were imported asparagus and domestic spinach.
“We would not pooh-pooh these violations,” said Roy, of the FDA. “They all constitute adulterated food. But we are also talking about a relatively minor food. … We have to be risk-based and apply our main resources to foods consumed most often by infants and children — and those are your major fresh fruits and vegetables.”
I don’t consider cilantro a minor food at all. It’s used in tons of recipes, especially in the summer time. But at least medical experts are beginning to refer to the risk of pesticide residue.
Again, the Chicago Tribune:
Some medical experts, however, are increasingly concerned about even low-level exposure to pesticides, especially in utero.
“The story of pesticides in food is part of a larger story of our growing knowledge of the exquisite vulnerability of the developing human brain to pesticides and other toxic chemicals,” said Dr. Phillip Landrigan, director of the Children’s Environmental Health Center at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. Along with colleagues, he has been researching the effects of chlorpyrifros on humans.
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More on Pesticide Residue
Avoid Pesticides in Fruit and Veggies
In Utero Pesticide Exposure Increases Risk of ADHD
Produce Industry Mounts Campaign to Entice Us Back to Conventional Pesticide-Loaded Fruits and Veggies
Bloom Energy, headquartered in Sunnyvale, California has developed an incredible technology that traces its roots to NASA’s Mars program. This technology is one of the few available that saves you money and helps you to go green at the same time. Not many people are willing to pay to take there home, company, or organization to the ‘green side’, but what if you can be more environmentally cautious and save money in the process.
If you are thinking this sounds like a great opportunity then you are in good company. There are a number of companies already taking advantage of this technology such as: Google, eBay, Walmart, Coca-Cola, and FedEX to name a few. So you might be wondered, what exactly is this technology all about? Well let me start by saying, as an electrician, what they have developed is truly incredible.
Bloom’s Energy Servers are truly revolutionary in the way they help you to lower your energy costs and improve your energy reliability all while helping to save the environment at the same time. Their Bloom Electron Service offers you the ability to start small and pay as you go. You have the opportunity to eliminate up front costs and simply pay for the electricity that you use. For those looking to maximize the return on their investment they have the opportunity to purchase the equipment outright eliminating the need to pay for consumption.
Due to the fact they have a simple modular, building block system it is easy to install, maintain, and upgrade. Visit http://www.bloomenergy.com/ to find out more information today.
Fun Fact: With this technology a box the size a snow globe can power a European home, two boxes the same size can power an American home.
Ceiling fans may have made it into our top 10 ways to keep your house cool, but boy is it hard to find one that doesn’t look like a ridiculously over-ornate blob. True, Collin’s batman ceiling fan was pretty awesome, and the sycamore-shaped ceiling fan has a certain something to it, but for a product with such potential to save energy, the ceiling fan could sure do with a makeover if we want it to remain mainstream. Maybe our readers could help…
My wife and I have long marveled at the white, eighties ugliness of the ceiling fans that came with our home. They look like there’s some kind of alien flying wedding cake levitating in the middle of the room. But, try as we might, we’ve found very few alternatives that look any better.
Type “ceiling fans” into Google and then search through the top entries or head down to your local hardware store, and you’ll most likely see what I mean. It seems that whoever designs ceiling fans seems to think that fake, retro country antique or ultra-modern space age minimalism are the only too directions you can go. (Let’s leave out the Jimmy Buffetesque palm leaves and such for now, we don’t even need to go there…)
This may just come across as a frustrated rant, but there is a serious sustainability question at stake here. As the rise of local organic food has shown, green will only become popular if it offers a superior experience to the mainstream. Sure, people might not care if their HVAC system out the back of the house looks ugly, but if we are asking folks to hang a gigantic contraption from the center of their living room in order to save energy, we sure as heck should be able to make one that looks good.
But then it hit me. TreeHugger is blessed with wise, sophisticated and tasteful readers, so why not throw out the challenge—surely somebody, somewhere must know of a ceiling fan that doesn’t suck. Please share your knowledge in the comments below.
UPDATE: Fellow Treehugger Chris alerted me to Web Urbanist’s round up of cool and unusual ceiling fans. With the exception of Fanimation’s sophisticated looking fans, however, most of these look like the designer was on drugs. I’m still looking…
More on Ceiling Fans and Green Home Cooling
Sycamore Ceiling Fan: Works Smarter, Not Harder
Holy Ceiling Fan, Batman!
10 Overlooked Low-Tech Ways to Keep Your House Cool
Ecotricity has long been known for building urban wind turbines on brownfield sites. Perhaps their most famous turbine sits just outside London on the M4 motorway (highway) at Green Park industrial complex in Reading. But while the Green Park turbine may have made our slideshow of stunning urban wind turbines, and it gets many people excited to see renewable energy generation that doesn’t have to spoil the view, others are claiming that this landmark is “the most useless” turbine in the country.
Wind Turbine inefficient and Expensive?
According to Britain’s tabloid Daily Mail, the Green Park turbine is producing woefully inefficient electricity. It has, says the Mail, been working at “15 per cent of its capacity” last year, producing GB£100,000 worth of electricity, but using up GB£130,000 worth of Government subsidies to do so.
Is Wind Power “Efficiency” Relevant?
Unsurprisingly, the turbine owners Ecotricity say that this is a load of anti-wind-power, anti-green spin (pun intended). They claim the estimates of revenue generated are wrong (although they do not give a figure for the right amount), but more importantly when it comes to the wider wind-power debate, they claim that the incessant focus from wind critics on load factors, and efficiency measured by percentage of actual output versus maximum output, is a deceptive and pointless statistical trick.
This from Dale Vince’s response to The Daily Mail:
“Opponents of wind energy often refer to their load factor or the % of their maximum output that they produce in a year. It’s a statistical nonsense to use this figure as a measure of the value or merit of any device or machine. Take the average car – it runs at less than 1% of it’s maximum capacity in any given year. A mobile phone, even a heavy user will struggle to rack up more than low single figure percentages. Are these devices inefficient or worthless….?”
Yes, this is the same Dale Vince making headlines by banning red meat from an entire soccer stadium. Outspoken, no?
More on Wind Power and Opposition to Wind
Ecotricity: 20 More Urban Wind Projects Planned
Stunning Urban Wind Turbines Circumvent NIMBYs
Residents Demand More Wind Turbines
NIMBYs in Minority? Many Residents Welcome Wind Turbines
Cape Wind Faces Spiritual Opposition from Native Americans
Earth First! in Anti Wind-Power Protests
Rocket Stove Science
NPR has a great piece covering both the principles and the politics of the rocket stove. The article is a useful starting point for anyone wondering why rocket stoves are quite so efficient:
“The stove is made from a steel 55-gallon drum, but that belies the precision engineering of what’s inside. A well-insulated combustion chamber made out of a special steel alloy concentrates the fire of just a few sticks of wood. The combustion is more complete than what you’d get in an open fire, burning the particles that usually become smoke. The hot gases are directed around the cookpot. As the water boils, the stove’s metal skin and stovepipe barely get warm, an indication of how little heat is wasted.”
Rocket Stove Politics
Besides the mechanics of the stove though, there is also a philosophical debate underway. On the one hand we find traditionalist NGOs like Aprovecho which have championed open-source, locally-built cook stoves, with the idea that by seeding micro-entrepreneurs around the Globe you can both hone the efficiency of stoves, and also create economic development in the process.
On the other hand, however, are people who argue that the need is too urgent, and progress too slow, not to opt for a more commercial solution:
“There have been thousands of stoves programs; I’m familiar with hundreds of them,” says Bryan Willson, a professor of mechanical engineering at Colorado State University. “And it’s hard to identify programs that have been successful.” Willson says it’s time to bring 21st century capitalism to bear. “There’s a global need for 500 or 600 million cookstoves,” he says. “And nobody is willing to write a big enough check to donate our way to that solution. So we really need to be able to develop products that people will want to buy.”
Willson and his team started a company called Envirofit which manufactures clean-burning cookstoves for the developing world—and even Aprovecho has developed a stove-manufacturing arm.
Ultimately, as with so many things, it seems to be a false choice between the open-source, grass-roots approach of teaching people to build their own stove, versus the centralized, commercial yet efficient approach. Most likely both will serve their purpose in different communities, and with over half the world still cooking with solid fuels, the main thing is to get moving.
More on Efficient Cook Stoves
Envirofit & Shell Create Efficient Cook Stoves for India
Rocket Stoives: Build Your Own Ultra-Efficient Cook Stove (Video)
Rocket Stoves Aid Relief Effort in Haiti
The New Yorker on Efforts to Hone Efficient Cook Stove Design
Biodiversity in the Garden
Much like Seedy Sunday’s massive seed swap, the idea behind Potato Day is not just to celebrate the diversity of varieties available, but to actively promote their use—keeping this diversity as a living, evolving collective treasure. After all, potatoes are a highly nutritious staple in much of the world—with some experts even claiming that an increased consumption of potatoes could help us feed the world.
Food Security in Challenging Times
Perhaps unsurprisingly, given its focus on food security and resilience, the Transition Movement—a community-led response to peak oil and climate change—has embraced the Potato Day and helped it to spread. Below is a video of Potato Day activists in action as part of Transition Stroud’s efforts to increase food growing in the community.
It must be my British blood, but even the sight of seed potatoes makes me crave malt vinegar…
From NatureMill’s high-tech indoor composter, to building your own worm bin, there are plenty of options for the would-be composter who doesn’t have a yard, or who would just like to keep composting through the winter. The video below gives a very basic, cheap methodology for building your own compost bin. Apparently you need some thin mints to do it…
OK, so the thin mint joke is kinda goofy, but this is a classic example of just how easy composting can be. While you can get all worked up about the correct ratios of nitrogen to carbon, or temperatures, or any number of other things, I always appreciate compost enthusiasts who accept that compost basically happens.
Using little more than some leaves, some coffee grounds, some dirt and some water, Praxxtube shows us how to make smell-free, almost mess-free compost in a plastic bucket.
Anyone tried this at home?
Whether you are a renter or a homeowner, run a small business or a large institution, when it comes to going green there is something for everybody. Going green encompasses a vast area of topics. From plumbing to electrical, and landscaping to recycling, the list is so long that it can be difficult to decide where to begin.
The truth is, it doesn’t matter if you are the homeowner on a shoestring budget, or the president of a major institution with no room left in the budget for the next decade, there is one place anyone can start, your “luminaires”. What are luminaires? Simply put, a luminaire is a ‘complete light unit’, that is to say a lamp, light fixture, etc.
Why are lights so important? Simple they return the highest savings yield for the least investment. Actually, if you are reading this in hopes of finding out how to help your business or institution, you are in luck. In your case you can likely get this all done without adding one dollar to your budget.
There are contractors whose entire business model is built upon the structure of changing out 100% of your lighting without charging you anything upfront. Additionally, there is no need to change your budget to accommodate repayment for their work as the money is already in your budget. Where is this hidden money in your budget? Simple, it’s in your electric bill.
That’s right, lighting alone can reduce the price of your electric bill by 50%, and by redirecting this savings, you repay the contractor never having to come up with the capital to pay for the lighting retrofit yourself. After about 3 years of paying the 20-50% savings amount of your electric bill to your contractor, 100% of the savings is then yours, with about 2 years left on the warranty.
All this was accomplished without paying a dime more than you were already dishing out to Edison each month anyways. So don’t get discouraged with the hand powered drills, and that new AC unit just yet, you may just find that a lighting retrofit is exactly what you need to brighten up your life without lightening up your wallet!
Good Start, But Don’t Stop There
Procter & Gamble was founded in 1837, and since then it has grown to a market cap of over 180 billion dollars by making mostly consumer good, a lot of them of the disposable kind (paper towels, razor blades, diapers, etc). It’s certainly not the greenest company, but it’s not the worst either, and in this post, I want to take the “carrot” approach rather than the “stick”. Let’s look at a good thing that P&G just did and encourage them to go much further…
The company built a wind turbine at its Coevorden plant in the Netherlands and installed solar panels at its Beauty & Grooming plant in Cologne, Germany. The video above shows the construction of the wind turbine, saying that P&G “long term vision” is to go “100% renewable energy”.
Switch “Long-Term” for “Short-Term”
How about making that a short-term plan? Instead of making enough wind power capacity to produce 17% of a plant’s needs, how about 100% for that plant, and then moving on to the next one, and so on. How about making fewer disposable products and using greener chemicals in your soaps, implementing zero-waste policies in your factories, etc..? Now that’s a powerful vision that would position P&G for the next 200 years. They certainly have the cash to do it, and it would mostly be a one-time investment (the wind and sun are free, after all).
You have to aim higher than this, P&G.
More on Wind Power
Wind Turbines Might Help Crops Absorb More CO2, Fight Fungal Infections, Etc
Base Jumping Off Wind Turbines Is Insane (Video)
Warren Buffett’s MidAmerican Orders 258 Wind Turbines for Iowa Wind Farm
Driving Through a Huge Wind Farm in Indiana (Video)
We Could Have 10 MW Wind Turbines by 2011 and 15 MW Turbines by 2020