Conventional celery highest in hidden pesticides

Diet-conscious folks have relied on celery for no-calorie munchies. But doing so has now been shown to have a serious negative side.

Dirty Dozen list

Conventional celery have now topped the soon-to-be released updated Dirty Dozen’s” list for having the highest amount of pesticide residue, according to green nonprofit Environmental Working Group’s latest Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides.

Dr. Andrew Weil, renowned author and integrative medicine guru, is straightforward about non-organic produce. “If I can’t get organic versions of those, I’m not gonna eat them.”

 So consumer beware. Shop smart and avoid the known hidden pesticides.Making a few small buying changes can make a big difference.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cape Wind project approved!

Cape Wind projectAfter a 9-year battle between the “haves” of Cape Cod on one side (with Robert Kennedy Jr. leading the pack) and environmentalists on the other, the Cape Wind project has just been approved by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

“”This will be the first of many projects up and down the Atlantic coast,” Salazar said at a joint State House news conference with Governor Deval Patrick.

Salazar said the United States was leading “a clean energy revolution that is reshaping our future. … Cape Wind is the opening of a new chapter in that future and we are all a part of that history.”

For more details on this controversial and historic decision, see http://3.ly/rENY.

UK company promotes sustainability through "green oil"

Jatropha may be the perfect alternative renewable source of green oil

Jatropha may be the perfect alternative renewable source of green oil

As the current environmental disaster of unchecked oil spewing from a wrecked oil rig unfolds in the Gulf of Mexico, the importance of non-fossil fuel is growing exponentially.

UK-based Carbon Credited Farming PLC (CCF PLC), a green energy company, has been making headway with their worldwide focus on developing “green oil” from jatropha (juh tro’ fa) plants.

“Our goal and vision is to provide alternative renewable energy sources through a sustainable commercial framework that benefits everyone – from farmers to governments to end users – and benefits our environment with conservation and sustainable practices,” said Gregg Fryett, CEO of Carbon Credited Farming PLC.

To achieve this, CCF has been operating jatropha plantations in Thailand, Cambodia and Africa. Previously viewed as a poisonous weed, this drought-resistant plant is now seen by many as the perfect biodiesel plant with seeds containing a high percentage of usable oil.

Jatropha grows well in poor or infertile soil. It’s excellent at helping prevent soil erosion, giving some environmentalists hope as to its use for preventing desertification.

Jatropha fruit

Jatropha fruit

More than this, jatropha oil can be combusted as high quality biodiesel fuel without being refined, burns with a clear smoke-free flame and has already successfully tested as fuel for simple diesel engine.

CCF recognizes that the stakes for jatropha’s success are high. But the company takes its commitment to sustainability further. 

“We educate farmers in marginal communities on sustainable farming practices that can be used on all value crops,” said Fryett, “giving them the tools to gain long-term financial independence for their communities.”

It helps farmers raise their standard of living, said CCF spokesperson Lauren Chen.

The oil from jatropha seeds makes an excellent biodiesel

The oil from jatropha seeds makes an excellent biodiesel

Jatropha has definitely gained interest among automobile-related companies as a viable fuel alternative. Companies like Daimler have cultivated it in southern India. And Toyota Tsusho Corporation, parent company of Toyota Motor Corporation, has invested in jatropha to refine it as a biofuel.

“CCF is about long-term,” says Chen.

Expect to hear more about CCF and their carbon and energy credit programs in the near future. It’s a company making a difference.

Are you eating endangerd tuna?

Sushi 1Seafood tracability is becoming an important factor for consumers, particularly with the steady rise in mercury and other harmful pollutants in our oceans.

Knowing where you fish came from - and how much mercury it contains - has just gotten a little easier.

DNA barcoding research conducted by the Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics at the American Museum of Natural History has shown that sushi purchased in supermarkets might actually be healthier than that from restaurants, where it’s likely you’ll end up eating endangered species of tuna.

The new research revealed that one-fourth of the tuna served on sushi menus is bluefin, while some was escolar, a waxy, buttery fish often labeled “white tuna” that’s banned for sale in Japan and Italy because it can cause gastrointestinal distress. 

Bluefin tunaNew DNA barcoading allows consumers to know what kind of tuna they’re really getting.

Jacob Lowenstein - a graduate student affiliated with the Museum and Columbia University - and colleagues used DNA barcoding to identify the kind of fishes labeled “tuna” in one Denver and 30 New York City restaurants. Almost half the restaurants did not accurately label the kind of tuna sold, and only 14 of the samples used for this study were listed on the menu by a specific name like bigeye tuna, albacore, or bluefin.

The results of the investigation showed how misled consumers have been when ordering their favorite sushi.

  • The most prevalent tuna found in sushi is bigeye (30, or almost half, of the 68 samples collected for this study). 
  • Nearly a third of the tuna was bluefin.
  • Only eight of the 22 bluefin samples were labeled “bluefin” on menus, and nine restaurants that sold the bluefin didn’t label it as such on the menu, although restaurants that did, did so accurately and charged more for the sushi.
  • Five of the nine samples labeled in restaurants as “white tuna” were not albacore but escola.

“It is very difficult to get reliable information about the species you are eating, especially since the FDA’s approved market name for all eight species of Thunnusis simply ‘tuna’,” says Lowenstein. New requirements that would market each species under its own name would help to clarify cases of economic fraud and allow conservation-minded consumers to avoid bluefin.

Like anychange, it has to start with consumer demand. Speaking up and asking questions are the first steps to really knowing what you eat and how safe it is for you and the environment.

Natural Remedies can help defeat flea season

Flea season 1Spring brings a double edged sword – winter’s end and flea season.

2009 saw an increased number of adverse incidents reported from using over-the-counter and prescription flea and tick products. After first blush, it appears a percentage were due to improperly applying those products.

But pet owners are looking for alternatives.

After researching and testing, I’ve narrowed the field to three easy, effective flea remedies.

Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous Earth is used regularly by veterinarians, farmers and ranchers. There are two distinct grades or types of DE – the kind for swimming pools and the food or human grade power kind. Look for the ground-up, Food or Human Grade powder.

What makes DE effective, says Steve Bessette, founder and President of EcoSmart Technoligies, is it dries insects exoskeletons, killing them within 72 hours.

Like any pest control product, spread this powder around the floorboards and outside the house foundation and any barriers to your home. Use a mask as inhaling it can cause serious breathing problems.

You can carefully dust your dog or cat with diatomaceous earth. But, says Steve Chaplin, a science writer and journalist who works with researchers at Indiana University, don’t create a dust cloud in front of the pet’s face.

To control pests, Chaplin fills a metal kitchen sieve with DE. Then, like sifting flour. tap it all over your pet, work it into their coat and leave it in.

Keep your pet dry afterwords to maintain the DE’s effectiveness. It fails when it gets wet. Dry times of year (when fleas are worst) are the best times to use DE, Chaplin says.

DE’s a safe bet for indoor use, but test beforehand to protect the colors of your furniture. Chaplin sprinkles DE on their middle Eastern rugs, couches and chairs.

With indoor use, keep pets away from it, especially at night, as DE is toxic for pets to breathe in. Vacuum thoroughly the next morning before letting them come in.

One other effective use of DE is to add it into your pet’s food. Carefully follow instructions for this to avoid overdosing.

20 Mule Team20 Mule Team Borax

We all know the next remedy – 20 Mule Team Borax. This white powder destroys fleas reproductive systems.

“There’s silicate in borax,” says Chaplin, just like in DE, which is why it works well.

Sprinkle borax lightly throughout the house and gently work it in with a broom. Keep pets away from this as much as possible. Leave it for 24 hours, then vacuum thoroughly.

As when using DE, if your vacuum uses a bag, dispose of it immediately after vacuuming. Spray the bag and your vacuum cleaner’s insides with a flea spray. Or buy cheap flea collars, cut them up and put pieces inside each bag before you vacuum. Remove them each time you toss the bag.

A word of caution. Vacuuming causes any eggs in your carpet to hatch. You’ll want to vacuum again in a few hours, to ensure you got this new infestation. Do NOT put borax directly on your pet.

EcoSmart 2EcoSmart

EcoSmart products, the third choice use essential oils from plants that mimic a nerve receptor only insects have. They won’t have any adverse impact on people, pets or the environment.

I’ve successfully used a number of EcoSmart products, many of which are effective in repelling or eliminating fleas.

Their Lawn & Landscape attaches to a garden hose, mixing with water as it sprays the yard. Using this on my backyard, the fragrance wasn’t overpowering, unlike traditional pesticides, and one bottle covered the entire area.

EcoSmart Granules 2Their Organic Insect Killer Granules for Lawn and Landscape also does the trick. It comes in two sizes: a 10 pound bag you put in the spreader and spread across the lawn and a 2 pound shaker package for perimeter treatments.

Like DE or borax, EcoSmart’s Lawn and Landscape fails when wet. Their granular product releases its active ingredients into the soil when wet, providing protection against fleas, ticks, ants and many common pests.

“It kills on contact and repels for residual on-going (effect),” said Bessette.

It’s the oils that kill the insects, Bessette said.

EcoSmart products are designed in a water solution to settle down, eliminating airborne drift. And they’re around 1,000 times less toxic than malathian, Bessette said.

Being plant-based, the company recommends applying them at least once a month.

Many pest control companies, including Clark, Orkin and Western, use EcoSmart products.

Russell Phillips of Clark in Redding, California said you have to have a little more patience when using “green” products like EcoSmart for fleas.

EcoSmart products are safe because they don’t persist. But, says Bessette, because they don’t persist, you have to apply it more frequently.

Depending upon the flea infestation, apply every 2 to 4 weeks and you probably won’t have to worry about infestations from the yard.

With summer and frequent watering, change your approach.

Apply the product in early morning or early evening so it doesn’t evaporate right away. For the best effect when using the Lawn spray, Besset said to water first, then spray afterwords.

There’s no magic bullet. To really be effective, combine some of these. And don’t forget to wash and brush your pet regularly during high flea months.

“Flea combing your animals is just as important as using DE,” says Chaplin.

These effective choices are safe around pets and children.

EcoSmart can be found at Raleys, Albertsons and some Safeway. Home Depot carries most of EcoSmart’s products and Wal-Mart and Lowe’s carries some of them.

Dart makes recycling styrofoam easy

Styrofoam boxEveryone tosses that foam packaging that comes with our favorite electronics, right?

Not any more.

Since the 1990’s, Dart Container Corp.– a leader in the polystyrene foodservice product industry – has been collecting polystyrene (generally called StyrofoamTM, a product developed by the Dow Chemical Company) at their drop-off centers, keeping it out of landfills.

They began at their corporate headquarters in Michigan, says Michael Westerfield, Dart’s Corporate Director of Recycling Programs.

Since then, the drop-off program has grown.

In 2007, Dart collected and recycled 106 tons of foam at the Michigan location. In 2008, doing nothing different, they recycled 200 tons of foam. In 2009, they recycled 250 tons, again altering nothing.

Since the 1990’s, the amount and kinds of recycling has steadily grown, practically exploding the past several years.

Recognizing the public’s interest, Dart rolled out its drop-off program at all their 13 plants across the country.

Since then, they’ve developed several types of recycling programs.

Dart can now recycle school foam lunch trays

Dart can now recycle school foam lunch trays

A Stockton elementary school decided they wanted to recycle their foam lunch trays. Laura Rodriguez, a teacher there, contacted Dart, and now there’s a lunch tray recycling program.

Students participate to make the program work. A video on Dart’s website shows the creative ways students came up with to keep the trays clean so they can be recycled. With their help, the school has been able to recycle 90% of their school lunch trays!

Teacher Laura Rodriguez said: “It’s a tiny bit of work to clean your tray but it’s a big payoff.”

With the program’s success, the school has eliminated one day of trash pick-up, giving them big financial savings.

A machine Dart invented specifically for this program compacts up to 1,200 lunch trays into a small log. These get converted into flower pots – which the school then sells as fundraisers – or plastic lumber, video cassettes or picture frames. And all that polystyrene stays out of the landfill.

Dart has several other recycling programs.

Dart's Recycla-Pak

Dart's Recycla-Pak

Any store or company that regularly uses polystyrene can sign up with Dart’s Reclca-Pak programand begin collecting foam cups. They can use their own box or buy a Recycla-Pak corrugated collection bin from Dart, says Westerfield. Dart’s bin doubles as a collection and a shipping device.

Dart’s CARECups Are REcyclable – program is designed to collect and recycle Dart’s own foodservice containers. Any business can start its own CARE program, collecting and separating their foam foodservice containers from other recyclables. These are shipped back to Dart, which uses a densifier to crush the foam into lightweight, cone-shaped cylinders. Dart transports them to certified recycling centers where these are turned into products like plastic molding and plastic lumber.

The EPA’s Office of Solid Waste has said this is the kind of program they’d like to see adopted in corporate America.

Dart stays ahead of the curve. “And we’re not resting either,” said Westerfield.

They’re working to establish curbside polystyrene foam recycling. It’s already set up in Tracy and Los Angeles, where foam products are added into their single stream recyclable bin.

And, says Westerfield, they’re close to having 40-50 curbside recyclers just in California alone!

“Dart is making foam recycling easier,” he said.

Dart's new PET cups help educate consumers on recycling

Dart's new PET cups help educate consumers on recycling

Dart recently introduced a PET cup with 20% post consumer recycled plastic in it. Each of these bright colored hot and cold beverage cups come imprinted with one of ten facts about foam’srecyclability and  how this compares environmentally to similar paper-based products.

The messages invite consumers to learn more at Dart, reinforce its  nationwide efforts to promote polystyrene recycling and helps dispel the misperceptions about foam’s environmental attributes.

The messages include facts such as:

  1. An average weight paper hot cup with a cardboard sleeve requires 47% more energy to produce than a comparable foam cup.
  2. An average weight paper cold cup generates 148% more solid waste by weight than a comparable foam cup.
  3. An average weight paper hot cup with a cardboard sleeve generates 257% more solid waste by weight than a comparable fusion cup.

To find out more about Dart’s recycling programs, check out www.dart.biz.

The problem of unused medications – their safety issues and solutions

This represents a short series I’ve written on this critical problem.

Unused medications have made it into almost every US waterway, putting Americans at risk

Unused medications have made it into almost every US waterway, putting Americans at risk

More Americans are faced with a growing problem: what to do with expired, unused or unwanted medications.

The common practice of tossing pills in the trash or flushing them down the toilet has led to an increase in drinking water contaminated by prescription drugs of all kinds, including mood stabilizers, hormones and antibiotics. An Associated Press investigation in 2008 found that 51 million Americans’ drinking water was affected.

There’s also the problem of children and others finding the tossed pills and ingesting them.

For more on this article, see http://bit.ly/9juxAM.

There are a number of safe methods that you can use to safely dispose of medications, none of which include flushing down the drain or tossing in the trashcan.

Unused meds 1Some of these include:

  • Crush medication, dilute in a small amount of water, mix with kitty litter or coffee grounds
  • Call your pharmacist to find out disposal options.
  • Go to www.disposemymeds.org to find a pharmacy that will take back medications or provide information on how to do so.

There are also new “kits”  available to help consumers safely dispose of unused medications. For more on this, see: http://bit.ly/diliZT.

 With the growing concern about protecting the earth, responsible disposal of unused medications is one real way we each can help.

Goodwill expands their recycling to include Microsoft electronics

GoodwillGoodwill Industries  hasannounced it will now accept Microsoft electronics.

Those 1,900 plus facilities that participate in the Reconnect recycling program  -  a residential computer recycling program managed by Dell Computers and Goodwill that makes it easy, convenient and responsible to recycle your used computer equipment – will now accept Microsoft entertainment products including Xbox, Zune and accompanying accessories for free recycling.

Goodwill employees have collected 96 million pounds of e-waste through the program since 2004, which are then refurbished, repaired and resold or recycled by Dell’s partners. To ensure the collected electronics don’t add to the global problem of e-waste dumping, Dell holds its partners to a strict policy of not exporting non-functioning electronics to developing countries.

To find a participating Goodwill location and list of products it accepts, visit www.reconnectpartnership.com.

Fallout from volcano forces Europeans to eat local

The plume from Iceland's volcano  (Photo courtesy Icelandic Coast Guard)

The plume from Iceland's volcano (Photo courtesy Icelandic Coast Guard)

With millions of travelers stranded at airports and in countries around the world due to the eruption of Iceland’s volcano, fruits and vegetables from around the world lay rotting, unable reach their European destinations.

Farmers in Kenya are hard hit by the flight snarl. They usually ship 10-15 tonnes of produce every day to different parts of the world and, so far, have had to lay off 5,000 workers, with  thousands more layoffs pending. 

Kenya flowersHorticulture is one of Kenya’s top foreign earning crops - 97 percent of Kenya’s flowers are delivered to Europe. To date the country is experiencing $1.3 million in lost shipments.

So far, AAA Growers of Nairobi has donated or dumped 50-60 tonnes of vegetables. Ariff Shamji, AAA Growers’ managing director, said he’s delayed harvesting some produce and might try shipping to Belgium or Spain. From there vegetables can be trucked to market.

Consumers around the world have grown used to being able to get their favorite produce almost year round. The idea of eating locally – a new concept for many – is one we should  explore and embrace. It’s taken a volcano to shine a light on a simple strategy that could prove critical in the coming years.

US military seeks to create a hybrid flying car

The military's seeking bids to create a no-kidding hover car

The military's seeking bids to create a no-kidding hover car

The Defense Advance Research Project Agencyor DARPA has announced it is “seeking innovative solutions that would aid in the demonstration of a roadable flyable vehicle” - in other words, they want to build a real, honest -to-gosh flying car. Move over Hanna-Barbera!

DARPA is seeking design bids for this Transformer TX concept, which is envisioned as “a robust ground vehicle that is capable of configuring into a VTOL [Vertical Take Off and Landing] air vehicle with a maximum payload capability of approximately 1,000 lbs.”

This amazing vehicle, if it’s really built, will be shaped similar to an SUV, about the size and length of two Hummers nose to tail, and be capable of handling light off-road travel. The TX should also be able to lift off and land “without forward motion”, climbing to around 10,000 ft. and be able to cruise forward at speeds “represenative of a light single-engine aircraft.”

This cool hover craft would be able to travel up to 250 miles before refueling. DARPA has some specific mission plans for the TX. They also plan that it be capable of unmanned flight operations, similar to robotic supply choppers now being considered by the Marine Corps.

However this plays out, once again it proves the statement that what science fiction can dream of can become real science. Now when will this be available for consumers, at least as a test drive?

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