Seven Foods So Unsafe that Farmers Won’t Touch Them
March 12, 2011, 10:05 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Most don’t think of foods being terribly bad for you, unless the food is pumped full of sugar.  But what about products that you can find everyday?  Those that you might use on a weekly basis?

The number one food that farmers won’t touch is canned tomatoes.  The lining of the tin cans that are used to can tomatoes includes a resin that contains bisphenol-A, a synthetic estrogen which has been linked to heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and reproductive problems.  But the biggest issue is the acid in the tomatoes breaking down the bisphenol-A, allowing it to seep into the food, and in very large amounts.  If you enjoy the taste of canned tomatoes, purchasing those in glass bottles instead of tin cans save you from the synthetic estrogen and its terrible impact on your health.

Corn-fed beef is another food that farmers have deemed unsafe.  Cattle naturally eat grass, not grain.  To fatten animals, farmers feed them corn and soybeans.  While increasing their earnings, farmers are minimizing nutritional benefits.  Grass-fed beef has been found to be higher in vitamin E, omega-3s, calcium, magnesium, and potassium, and lower in saturated fats than corn-fed beef.

One food that I found to be relatively shocking was microwave popcorn.  The chemically-saturated lining of the bag includes a compound called perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) that, according to a study from UCLA, may be linked to infertility.  Microwaving the bag of popcorn vaporizes the chemicals, lining the popcorn with the harmful chemicals.  Some manufacturers have promised to phase PFOA out of their bags by 2015, but millions of bags of popcorn will be purchased by then.  The only way to avoid PFOA entirely is to pop your own popcorn in a pot.

As many of us know, non-organic, conventionally grown potatoes are not good for our bodies.  While chemicals may not be sprayed directly on the potatoes, they absorb the chemicals sprayed through the soil and water.  Potatoes, the nation’s most popular vegetable, need to be produced healthily to keep up with the demand.  Many potato farmers have said that they would never eat the potatoes they sell, and have said they have their own private plots for their personal potato use, where they do not use the chemicals they use on the potatoes they sell.  Buying organic potatoes is the only way to avoid all of the harmful herbicides and pesticides that make their way into conventionally grown potatoes.

Farmed salmon is yet another food that farmers will not eat.  When salmon is crammed into pens, fed soy, litter, and hydrolized chicken feathers, they’re levels of healthy vitamin D lowers as the contaminants (obviously) increase.  The contaminants include pesticides and carcinogens.  David Carpenter, MD, director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University at Albany, said, “You can only safely eat one of these salmon dinners every 5 months without increasing your risk of cancer…It’s that bad.”  The solution?  Make sure the salmon you purchase says “wild,” as “fresh Atlantic” salmon is farmed salmon.

Dairy cows today are fed growth hormones like rBGH and rBST to increase milk production. The problem is, while they may be making more milk, farmers are increasing their cows’ chances of udder infections, which can lead to pus in the milk. More than that, high levels of IGF-1 from the rBGH may play a role in the development of breast, prostate, and colon cancers, which is why Rick North, project director of the Campaign for Safe Food at the Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility and former CEO of the Oregon division of the American Cancer Society says that “it’s banned in most industrialized countries.”  We need to make sure we purchase milk that is labeled as organic or produced without the use of artificial hormones.

The last on the list, and one that I personally overlooked, is conventionally grown apples.  Apples receive the most pesticides of all fruits grown during the Fall.  Mark Kastel, former executive for agribusiness and co-director of the Cornucopia Institute, a farm-policy research group that supports organic foods, says, “Farm workers have higher rates of many cancers.”  If possible, purchase organic apples.  But if you can’t, you need to thoroughly wash and peel apples before eating them.


Kellogg Boosting funds to Sustainable Palm Oil Producers
March 12, 2011, 10:05 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Despite the ability to buy and use sustainable palm oil for its cereal and snack lines, the Kellogg Company is doing what it can to increase the amount of sustainable palm oil being made.

The company will purchase enough GreenPalm certificates to equal the amount of palm oil it uses around the world until it’s able to buy sustainably-made palm oil for its products.

Palm oil producers that are certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil receive a certificate for every ton of palm oil they make sustainably. Then the producers put the certificates up for sale on the GreenPalm trading site, and companies have the opportunity purchase the certificates to support the farmers.

Kellogg, which uses about 0.1 percent of the global palm oil supply, says that a segregated supply of sustainable palm oil is not available outside of Europe, and the palm oil it does use in Europe is not available in a segregated supply. As GreenPalm explains on its website, “…palm oil supplies from different plantations, mills and even countries are intermingled at each stage of the production and delivery process. Under normal circumstances it is therefore impossible for palm oil purchasers to know exactly where their oil has come from and how it has been produced.”

Kellogg will be pushing its suppliers to increase the amount of sustainable palm oil they purchase in blended supplies, and will move toward buying segregated sustainable palm oil once there is a “financially and logistically feasible” supply available.

It’s refreshing to find a company that cares about creating sustainable products, even if they themselves are unable to use the product at this time.  Simply having a company like Kellogg backing the sustainable movement in one way or another, helps the entire industry gain momentum, as a company of Kellogg’s size brings sustainability to the foreground.

Scotland’s Salmon Population Endangered
March 12, 2011, 10:04 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

The Guardian (UK) posted a new article regarding a new trade agreement that was signed in January by the Chinese vice-premier, Li Keqiang, and Scotland’s first minister, Alex Salmonda.

Scotland, the second largest salmon exporter in the world, has suspected that if even 1% of the Chinese population eat Scottish salmon, their salmon production will need to double to meet demands.

The size of the Chinese market for fresh Atlantic salmon is estimated at more than 10,000 tons a year, having grown considerably over the past decade. Scotland is the second largest salmon-producing country in the world, after Norway, and exports have grown by 500% in the past 20 years. Salmon now makes up 40% of Scottish food exports.

The agreement made by the Scottish first minister is a terrible mistake.

“The young wild fish, known as smolts, which migrate from the rivers to the sea each spring, cannot cope with more than the odd louse yet now must run the gauntlet past the fish-farm cages on their migration routes. They are “ambushed” by the unnaturally high concentrations of lice. The attachment of more than 10 lice is almost invariably fatal. The fish are literally eaten alive, although death is usually hastened by secondary infections, which gain access through open wounds made by the grazing lice.”

The Scottish first minister needs to rethink this agreement, and needs to make his decision from a sustainably responsible point of view.

What makes a quality sustainable rating system?
March 12, 2011, 10:04 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Having taken the Communicating Sustainability course at the University of Oregon, I feel as though I’ve learned what it takes to create a successful sustainable rating system.

The first aspect must be transparency.  Users value true transparency above all else, and if a company is honest about their business practices and their products.  Companies must take it upon themselves to provide the user with a truthful rating, as it is the rating that the user will follow above all else when making a purchase.

The next aspect is simplicity.  Ratings have the ability to become over-the-top and too complex.  If we are able to come up with a clear-cut list of attributes in which to rate a company’s products, the rating system will be simple and user-friendly.  Creating an understandable rating system is critical to creating trust.

Many ratings systems focus on companies’ current or past performances.  To create a truly successful rating system, the system must focus on how these companies are positioned to create sustainable practices going forward.  Instead of focusing on current and/or past performances, we need to create a rating system that focuses on current and future performance and ideas.

The last main aspect of a quality sustainable rating system is to provide the users with the ability to engage with the companies they are rating and buying from.  Most ratings are focused on performance assessments, where we need to focus more of the users’ time assessing the companies.  In allowing a truthful assessment to take place, the users will gain a better understanding of the companies in their current state and where they are planning on taking their sustainable practices, users will be able to verify information that is publicly reported, and it will help companies understand the ratings system, which in turn will allow them to improve their sustainability practices. 

Oregon Solar Project taking shape
March 8, 2011, 5:58 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced last month a conditional commitment to SoloPower, Inc. to retrofit an existing building and install additional equipment to operate a thin-film solar panel manufacturing facility in Wilsonville, OR.  The commitment includes a $197 million loan guarantee.

The project is expected to create 500 permanent jobs and 270 construction positions,  and produce 400 megawatts of photovoltaic panels annually once at full capacity.  Talk about efficiency!  Not only will this project create an absurd amount of sustainable energy, but it will create jobs in a state where unemployment has hit 10% of Oregonians.

SoloPower uses a manufacturing process that deposits copper, indium, gallium and selenide (CIGS) onto rolls of flexible stainless steel materials and transforms them into flexible modules.  This approach improves module size and weight, ease of installation, and reduces mounting hardware.”

The SoloPower project could be a significant contributor in moving toward sustainable renewable energy.  With their plan in place, it seems as though solar power has reached a new level in Oregon, setting the bar even higher for corporations that do not use or support solar energy install and use.

Something to learn from Spain?
March 5, 2011, 7:57 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Spanish tradition calls for children to receive gifts from the three wise men on January 6.  Like Christmas, coal is the most feared gift, as it is only given to those children who behaved badly over the course of the year.  Coal, the largest source of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere and a major driver of global warming, is a bad sign for the environment.  But in Spain, things are beginning to change.

The morning the children of Spain opened their new electronic gifts, none of the electricity was coming from coal.  That day, renewable sources provided three-quarters of Spain’s electricity.


“Annual data from Red Electrica, a major Spanish power transmission company, confirms the unstoppable rise of clean energies in Spain. In 2010, renewables supplied 35% of all Spain’s electricity, higher than ever before, and even though overall power consumption was higher than 2009. Wind power alone supplied 16%, twice as much power as coal and on very windy days, wind power peaked at over half the national power consumption.”

More information can be found here.  This is an absolutely incredible, and Spain has set the path for nations all around the world.  Spain has proven that a country can uses renewable energies to power large percentages of their electricity needs.  All it takes is the desire to use renewable energies.

Meet the Urshuz
February 22, 2011, 6:08 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Interchangeable soles?  That are recyclable?  That’s what Grant Delgatty envisioned, and come June 2011, his dream will become a reality.

With shoes having an attached sole, the consumer is forced to purchase a new pair of shoes when their current ones wear out.  Delgatty had an idea and ran with it: the “convertible shoe.”

At just $60 a pair, Urshuz allows the consumer to swap out their old, worn out soles for brand new ones.  Like recapping a tire, when applying new soles, the consumer simply hooks the soles to the shoe with U-shaped hoops.  Diversity was one of Delgatty’s main goals, and he has delivered.  The consumer has the ability to swap the soles for a sneaker, flip-flop, or open-toe sandal.

Instead of needing to buy a new pair of shoes, and potentially throw out your old pair, you now have the ability to be eco-friendly in when shoe-shopping.

Excellent idea, and when they become available, I will be purchasing a pair of these – as long as they come in a size 13.