Recently an email came through decrying that produce was grown in human poop and that Chinese suspend chicken wire crates over the fish ponds and the fish with their shit. While this sounds sensational, in truth, human manure was a standard farming nutrient prior to the flush toilet.
I am not overly concerned about chicken poop or people poop – where do people think dirt comes from? it’s worm & bug poop (also known as castings). The “Circle of Life” is not just a cute song from the Lion King – creatures eat predominantly other creatures – bones, stomachs, poop and all. Cows & horses poop on the land that grows the grass that they soon graze on. Human poop starts as food and is simply food that has been burned as fuel or excess nutrients that cannot be fully absorbed at the time. Allan Savory in his TED presentation establishes how new deserts have been re-established as verdant grasslands by re-introducing traditional cattle herding whereby the droppings both enrich the soil and contain the grass seeds for reseeding.
We need those excess excreted nutrients over and over again each day and they need to return to the food stream through the soil, though a diet entirely of poop is probably not very well balanced and should be mixed with veggie matter for a full-bodied compost. Composting and percolation through the ground to underground aquifers (except those exposed to fracking or other underground toxins) exposes excrement to the pro-biotic bacteria necessary to cleanse it for eventual safe reabsorption into plants. The Rich Earth Institute in Vermont does just that with collected urine (rich in nitrogen, phosphorous & potassium) in a [rpcess they call “peecycling” which is used after it is pasteurized !
That being said, excrement of sick humans and animals should be contained and kept out of the food stream.
No less an authority than our founding father, George Washington, considered people and horse casting to be more valuable than gold. Though he was many things to our nation, he considered himself, first and foremost a farmer. He studied it, saved seeds, used crop rotations, fertilizers, was intimately knowledgeable about the micro-climates of Mt. Vernon & the 8,000 acres he maintained for his wife’s family around Virginia. He built lovely “necessaries”, outhouses, throughout his estate from which the proceeds were harvested regularly and encouraged everyone to use them. The farms were extraordinarily prolific and provided all the food for the family and 300 workers.
Amish have been recycling their refuse regularly though some municipalities are now requiring them to put in leach beds.
Composting, Gardening, Landscaping, manure, Organic, Re-use, Recycle, Sustainable Food, Toxic Chemicals, Water | Comments (2)
A furtive meandering email forward about Chinese vegetables, Pacific Rim seafood, poop as nutrients & American jobs going overseas got me to doing a lot of research on food chains, food safety, sustainability & food ethics. A lot of territory, and this does not presume to be complete, but here goes.
It’s a lot of work but basically, caveat emptor, read the labels on every food product you buy, their sourcing may change from month to month. Consider writing an email to companies when you decide not to buy a product because the the origin or production values of the product. Buy foods in season. Off season foods come from far away places. Maybe you should be eating pomegranetes not strawberries in December. Processed foods are always a sourcing, and disclosure, nightmare, an example:
In the NutriGrain bar, the list of sources and ingredients is as follows:
• USA: high fructose corn syrup, sugar, wheat flour (produced and milled), whole grain oats, sunflower oil, strawberry puree, cellulose, red dye #40;
• China: vitamin and mineral supplements (B1, B2, iron, folic acid), honey;
• Philippines: carrageenan;
• India: guar gum;
• Europe: citric acid;
• Denmark: lecithin (soy);
• Italy: malic acid; and
• Scotland: sodium alginate.
“The 2002 Farm Bill and the 2008 Farm Bill amended the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 to require that retailers inform consumers of the country of origin of all perishable agricultural commodities beginning September 30, 2008…” per this excellent full article.
What this really means is re-thinking your budget putting a priority on paying for organic, sustainably raised foods and making as much of your food from scratch as possible. They are better for both your body and the planet’s health. Are you willing to buy fewer clothes (or movie tickets, or tech gadgets) to have more quality & control in your foods?
When choosing imported foods consider the carbon impact from shipping. East Coasters are actually using less carbon when you choose European (wine, olive oil, fruits, seafood ) over California grown because sea shipping is more energy efficient than trucking) , Mexico (even we Californians now get most of our tomatoes from Mexico, the big farms are pretty attuned to US standards), Canada. West Coast folks cause less transportation CO2 by buying from the Pacific Rim countries if we can’t get it from Mexico or western Canada. Though I enjoy the European and South American Wines, I generally buy California wines. If I’m traveling I always look for local fare & wines.
Just as we cannot categorize all US food as good or bad, we must make the same distinctions within other countries. There are honest and unethical people around the world. QVD Aqualculture out of Bellevue WA provides farmed fish from the US, Vietnam & Singapore and you will be impressed by their standards & certifications .
FDA has a lot of seafood inspections but can’t possibly inspect everything. China is the only entire county on their seafood watchlist.
A great seafood guide from the Monterey Bay Aquarium includes guides for different regions of the US see: Print a copy and keep it in your purse or with your coupons.
There is a HUGE difference between Chinese veggies for the US/Canada frozen market & Chinese seafood, meat & products grown for their internal markets.
“ Farmland is communally owned, so a foreign business, often working with a Chinese agent, will approach a village council and propose a farming arrangement. After a community vote, the entire village contracts with the company to supply the agricultural product. The farmers agree to use the seeds and other inputs the foreign company provides… export crops are part of a separate food system. .. vegetables headed abroad are monitored along the food chain: farmers grow the organic vegetables on plots of land that are often less than an acre, then bring the harvest, usually by hand-pulled cart, to a company processing plant, where it is inspected. Plant employees.. wash and prepare the vegetables—all by hand. Before leaving the factory, the vegetables are put through a double metal detector. …“The Chinese are super careful,” echoed Rozelle. The vegetables destined for foreign supermarkets are inspected by government employees before they leave the country. “They know if they get to the port and find residues, it will be rejected.”
Overseas trade is a huge balancing act. Depending on US markets for the wellbeing of the Chinese population certainly keeps them from extreme military measures; slowly their population is becoming consumers who will begin to be their own best customers.
Looking for sustainably & ethically harvested Ceylon cinnamon? Enjoy the photos and stories of La Cannelle plantation.
Cinnamon has several health benefits, a source of manganese, fiber, iron and calcium. It’s believed to help with anti-clotting abilities, help stabilize sugar levels for those with Type 2 diabetes, lower bad cholesterol, and fight infections.
There are two kinds of cinnamon, but product labels do not usually identify the type. Cassia, “common” cinnamon, usually from China, is redder, stronger in flavor, and cheaper. Ceylon (from Sri Lanka, Vietnam) or “true” cinnamon is a pale tan color; it is milder, sweeter, and more expensive than cassia.
Ceylon cinnamon sticks are tight rolls of thin layers; cassia sticks are hollow tubes of thicker, rougher, bark. They are generally ground into powders.
Not sure which type of cinnamon to use for your food? Penzeys offers a helpful guide.
CINNAMON AS ALLERGEN
Cinnamon also contains as essential oil called cinnamal, which can act as an allergen in a fair amount of people. Those who are allergic to cinnamon can suffer from contact dermatitis. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, cinnamon can also cause a severe allergic reaction that can lead to anaphylactic shock. We can only hope that someone who knows they are allergic to cinnamon would politely decline the challenge; but for someone who wasn’t aware of the existence or severity of an allergy, the results could be … challenging.”
CINNAMON AS NATURAL TOXIN & PESTICIDE.
On the plus side, cinnamon can be used as a natural pesticide known to be unkind to mosquito larvae, moths and ants … and most famously, rats.
Cinnamaldehyde is the organic compound that gives the spice its flavor but, used in concentration, is a pesticide and fungicide that causes internal hemorrhage & death. EPA warns of acute dermal toxicity; acute oral toxicity; eye irritation; dermal irritation and dermal sensitization. When cooking, use recommended portions.
CINNAMON AS MEDICATION.
Cinnamon contain substantial amounts of coumarin (also present in the tonka bean, from which it’s name came, and other plants). Coumarin is better known by its trademarked name, Coumadin, an anti-coagulant used to keep blood from clotting. Although coumarin itself has no anticoagulant properties, it is transformed into the natural anticoagulant dicoumarol by a number of species of fungi. Eating cinnamon, by itself, will not help your heart disease.
Coumarin is a possibly carcinogenic substance that can cause liver inflammation and can affect blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. In people who are sensitive, coumarin might cause or worsen liver disease.
Ground cinnamon can lead to a bronchial constriction that can be life threatening. For anyone suffering from asthma or COPD, this can be very serious.
Cassia cinnamon contains .5% coumarin. Due to concerns about the possible effects of coumarin, several years ago the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment warned against consuming large amounts of Cassia cinnamon. One teaspoon of cinnamon powder contains may be above the Tolerable Daily Intake for smaller individuals.
Ceylon contains only .0004% coumarin and is unlikely to be problematic. If you enjoy cinnamon but are at risk, consider cooking with Ceylon.
Fair Trade/ Ethically Traded, Organic, Sustainable Food, Think Globally, Toxic Chemicals |
One thing that still remains in my brain from calculus is that the smaller the container, the higher the ratio of container to contents. Once upon a time I could calculate the most cost and weight efficient sized can – who said calculus has no real world applications?
Herb & spice containers jars are low on the container-to-contents sustainability scale. That being said, spices can last many years and they often come in lovely shaped jars and cans. I could not bring myself to throw out the darling A&P spice cans, a favorite wedding-shower gift appropriate for newlyweds on a tight budget. I am quite thrilled that there are now so many options for re-filling these containers and the choices are usually less expensive, as well.
Penzey’s (some stores & online) offers 4, 8 and 16 oz bags of their spices with discounts for the larger bags (again less packaging per oz of spice) plastic bags can be recycled at your grocer with other bags; foodies appreciate their quality and wide variety.
Whole Foods and some health grocers offer the Spicely line of boxed (totally bio-degradeable paper & cellophane) spices that fit perfectly in your jars ;(they also donate a % of sales to a children’s charity). Ethnic groceries and the international aisles in the supers offer authentic bagged spices at excellent prices.
Looking for sustainably & ethically harvested Ceylon cinnamon? Enjoy the photos and stories of La Cannelle plantation.
I’m blessed to live in a climate where I can harvest fresh rosemary, sage, oregano, thyme and bay leaf year round – also blessed that they are hardy as I am not the most attentive gardener.Gardening, Packaging, Plastics, Re-use, Sustainable Food | Comment (0)
My daughter sent me an image of a factory spouting smoke with the tagline ” Explain to future generations that it was good for the economy when they can’t farm the land, breathe the air and drink the water”
“Americans from coast to coast are living with the human health and environmental costs of factory farms that cram together thousands of animals in filth conditions… producing huge quantities of manure that taint local water supplies and air quality. Consumers…end up eating meat, poultry and dairy products loaded with antibiotic-resistant bacteria and artificial hormones” – Food and Water Watch. See the online map of farm factories near your water supply.Sustainable Food, Think Globally, Toxic Chemicals, Water | Comments (2)
That nice shiny paper that most receipts are printed on? BPA (or BPF) is likely-as-not an ingredient. We slip those recieipts in next to our currency in our wallets, slide our hands over them countless times as we rummage through our purses, pick them up to enter them in Quicken, then one more time to file, trash or shred them.
“When people talk about polycarbonate bottles, they talk about nanogram quantities of BPA [leaching out],” John C. Warner of the Warner Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry observes observed about carbonless copy papers when he worked at Polaroid. “The average cash register receipt that’s out there and uses the BPA technology will have 60 to 100 milligrams of free BPA.” By free, he explains, it’s not bound into a polymer, like the BPA in polycarbonates. It’s just the individual molecules loose and ready for uptake.”
But thats not the end. Those duplicate check records? Carbonless credit card receipts? What if you’re a cashier handling them all day? Touched some food after handling the receipt? Ouch! Of course, many of us recycle those receipts, cool huh? Maybe not, it may be ending up in our recycled toilet paper. Is shredded thermal paper part of your composted fertilizer? Ooops.
Bill Van Den Brandt of Appleton papers point out that his company’s receipt paper (manufactured for NCR) is now BPA-free. This after after a lawsuit (NCR also named) for cleaning up PCB’s from the Fox River in Wisconsin) and subsequent change of ownership to employees.
“Attempts have been made to develop a thermal ink which reduces the problems associated with thermal papers by obviating the need to provide a thermal coating over the whole surface of the paper.” but this technology has not been perfected. I’ve got some receipts I can no longer read (though I really have no idea which technology was actually used).
Another option, the companies, TransactionTree, and AllEtronic emails a receipt to you (instantly) and you have 24 hour access to your receipts through their website. TransactionTree might also email you a retailer discount coupons & AllEtronic will soon have an iPhone app.
The sticking point is actually figuring out which manufacturers still use the BPA method and which stores buy paper from which mfg; data still outstanding. In the meantime, be aware. Don’t put thermal receipts in your paper recycling (or compost). Consider the electronic options, if available. Educate the stores you frequent. Decrease your use of microwaved convenience foods.Bisphenol, Composting, Organic, Packaging, Plastics, Polymer, Recycle, Sustainable Food, Think Globally, Toxic Chemicals | Comment (0)
Water is an essential element of life. Most folks incorrectly link global warming with outside air temperatures. The true problem is occurring in our seas which most of us rarely see, feel or think about. The warming of our oceans, lakes and stream affects the type of fish we can eat, sources of seaweed (seaweed is an ingredient in more foods, beauty products and medicines than you can possibly imagine), and the purity of the water we drink.
I’ll be expanding this post regularly but today’s news is that Target has announced that all their stores will stop selling farmed salmon products.
“Target announced that the reason they are discontinuing the sale of farmed salmon is because of the significant environmental degradation it causes. Aquaculture (farming fish) is often called the future of the seafood industry, but some types of aquaculture – such as conventional open-net salmon farming – can cause tremendous damage to the environment. Parasite infestations, concentrated fish waste, the uncontrolled spread of genetic material, and the unsustainable use of wild fish to feed farmed animals all pose significant threats to the sanctity of our marine ecosystems.
While some types of aquaculture, such as closed-containment systems and many bivalve farms, are relatively environmentally responsible sources of protein, many fish in conventional, open-containment aquafarms suffer from parasitic infections, diseases, and debilitating injuries. Conditions on some of these farms are so horrendous that a large percentage of the fish die before farmers can kill and package them for food.”Sustainable Food, Think Globally, Water | Comments (2)
I’m in search of a sage Cal King organic fitted sheet. Online shopping makes my work relatively simple. Choices have certainly increased since I went looking a few years ago:
Fabrics: Cotton, Bamboo, Wool
Weaves: Sateen, raw, damask, jersey, 200-400 thread counts
Prices: Target to $$$$$
Sets are available everywhere, individual pieces are harder to find (Clean Bedroom, Company Store & Dreamsoft were the only I found).
Cotton and labor sourcing are around the world. My choice is the Coyushi brand with small fair trade cotton farms in India, Turkey & Uganda but American milling and production in North Carolina.
If price is an issue, Target has an amazing selection. Quality may have changed from a year ago but my only complaint was that I needed to iron the pillowcases so they didn’t look so rumpled.