Category Archives: food

eating local

You’ve heard that eating local is the thing to do.  But how about sourcing all your food locally – is that even possible?  From your tea/coffee to your starches (rice, potatoes, pasta), to your drinks.  I’m lucky if I can  arrive at 50% – and that’s in Northern California – where we have ample fruits, vegies, rice, wine, etc.

I would be fortunate to get 50% of my food intake locally.   Starting with my first morning routine: coffee.  How can I  get local coffee when the nearest coffee plantation is in Santa Barbara – 400 miles away?  … and they have 5 acres with beans selling at $60/lb.  How can 90% of consumers in 1st world countries get their coffee or teas locally? Where are the large tea/coffee plantations in the USA or Europe?

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Another consideration in going local on all  food is the seasonality.  It’s easier in summer, difficult in winter.  They say an apple stored in a warehouse for several months, is way carbon intensive than an apple shipped from Chile.  That gives me pause.  Maybe the best solution is dehydration or canning.  Freezing in my book uses way too much energy, although it is quick and convenient.

Again, I am spoiled in California – we have year round greens:  the Salinas valley on the coast has year-round moderate temperatures and hectares of greenhouses.

I think greenhouses, vertical and urban farming have tremendous bright futures as fresh, local food becomes more important to every human.

Is it really local?

The label ‘local’ and ‘regional’ are not regulated.  I don’t trust my local farmer markets anymore.  There are unlabeled white trucks from industrial farms 500 miles away pretending to be local organic farmers.  I ask questions and am connected with local farmers and CSAs where I volunteer and help out on.

For most people the best they can do is join a local CSA and  get to know their own local farmers and pay them fairly.   I find that many local farmers discard  ‘not-so-perfect’ food since customers won’t buy them – so you probably get a bounty of imperfect produce at  low cost.

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Here’s a great article on one European’s experience in sourcing all their food locally…German DW article

http://www.dw.com/en/would-you-eat-local-for-a-week-i-tried-and-discovered-what-eating-green-really-means/a-36751273

 

my eco-dilemna

I constantly live at the intersection of  mainstream or ‘alternative’ lifestyle. Living at WinSol,  there is no cost:  no energy bills, no garbage bills, no water bills, no sewer bills… nada!   Is that alternative? or just nice, even cool?  So when I go live in the mainstream for a few days, I quiet all my judgment, evaluations and comparisons. Over the years I have arrived at a state of equanimity: it just is. I used to just ‘let go’ but eventually found that letting go is the negative form of attraction and is as much of a trap as outright judgment is. So ’empty mind’ and ‘metta’ (as the buddhists say)  fills my mind and heart. But lately, something has come to the forefront of my mind, and I can’t let it go: crockpots!

Lately, I have circled around and focused on crockpots as being the poster child of our continued western decline.  A crockpot by its innocent self contains all the trademarks of our declining civilization going down the rabbit-hole.

At best a crockpot produces a beautiful savory food dish. At worse it could burn your house down. But it’s the space in-between where my judgmental mind can’t seem to let go. Maybe it’s this: in order for WinSol to have a working crockpot I would need to spend over $5,000 increasing my solar panels/controller/battery storage – just to accommodate a 1500watt constantly on electrical heating element. And maybe – just maybe – I am envious of mixing up a casserole, soup or other delicious dish, plugging it in,  walking away… and 5 hours later I can enjoy a savory dish. How convenient is that!!? But the ‘real’ price that I would pay for that is beyond my ‘alternative life style budget’ and WinSol’s philosophy.   Let me explain…

…First of all at WinSol, we live by the sun. We are immersed in the nuances and cycles of nature (real nature). One of our founding principles (WinSol’s manifesto) is that electricity cannot be used for heating and cooling. I’m about 95% there in reality – due to a small solar electric driven freezer.

On a technical basis:  WinSol’s current solar & wind electrical system cannot accommodate a microwave (high-surge induction load), or any electrical heating elements like a toaster, convection oven, space heater, or crockpot. I miss the convenience of a toaster more than anything, but have developed a work-around using a gas burner. I could probably develop an alternative to a crockpot using a pressure cooker or a double pot over a gas burner – but why?  I remember a past eco-dilemna that had to do with making bread….

Bread maker?   I think the easiest explanation for my behaviour change is an electric breadmaker. Before I moved to WinSol , I used an electric breadmaker twice a week to make beautifully home-baked, healthy bread without chemicals. But was it really ‘home’ made? I think it was closer to being ‘microprocessor’ made. A few years back, a friend and I decided to make bread the old fashioned way, and I reconnected with the passion of true artisan bread. There’s something
very cool and ‘right as rain’ about kneading, rising, kneading, rising and baking a loaf of bread from three ingredients… talk about being a purist!! And that’s really what an electric breadmaker and crockpot takes away – the artisan element.  (besides using a WHOLE bunch of electricity, high-embodied energy, shelf space, another convenience contraption, another appliance that’ll break and has designed obsolesce built in… geezh! tell me how you really feel :-)!

Artisans   What would our world be like without artists and artisans? As technology encroaches further and further into minimizing real artistry I will stubbornly cling to WinSol’s ‘alternative’ and artisan lifestyle and not enjoy the conveniences of crockpots.

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Sidebar….What’s ‘Alternative’ ?

Everywhere we hear ‘alt – right’, alternative news, alternative energy… I really dislike the word: ‘alternative’. Alternative to what? Is it a good or bad alternative? Does something really need an alternative? Isn’t it really just different rather than alternate?

Take alternative energy for instance. Most (all?) people know that alternative energy is that green stuff: solar, wind, geothermal. But oil, coal, natural gas are the REAL alternatives, because ALL our energy comes from our only energy source: the sun. One of my fun sound bites is: ‘Oil is renewable, you just have to wait a couple million years’.

So can we agree that ‘alternative’ is in the mind of the beholder?

two WOW’s

It’s a long time between my ‘WOW’s.  After decades and ramblings around, it takes something special & extraordinary to elicit this reaction. Here’s two in the last week:         1) DrawDown                           2) Scandanavian electric cars

Book

DrawDown is Paul Hawken’s latest (swan song?) endeavor along his philosophy of ‘natural capitalism‘ and ‘ecology of commerce‘… in other words they’re solution based. I’m a BIG fan of Paul over the decades, but he’s outdone himself on this one. I knew about drawdown a few years ago and could never quite figure out what it was about until recently. When I attended his sold out (250+) pre-release at the Oakland Impact HUB last week – a big WOW again. Paul’s original thinking and limitless passion are unique in the USA.  Dr. Michael Braungart told me 10 years ago that Paul was the best example of a ‘european eco-dude’ in our midst. I say that with all the love in the world:  a european eco-dude in our midst (sounds like a book or song title) is my way of saying forward thinking with social/economic/environmental balances on the cutting edge within a long-term systems thinking strategic view: like Michael’s green chemistry and C2C endeavors.

Drawdown’s mission & vision:

The Mission

Project Drawdown is facilitating a broad coalition of researchers, scientists, graduate students, PhDs, post-docs, policy makers, business leaders and activists to assemble and present the best available information on climate solutions in order to describe their beneficial financial, social and environmental impact over the next thirty years.

The Vision

To date, the full range and impact of climate solutions have not been explained in a way that bridges the divide between urgency and agency. Thus the aspirations of people who want to enact meaningful solutions remain largely untapped. Dr. Leon Clark, one of the lead authors of the IPCC 5th Assessment, wrote, “We have the technologies, but we really have no sense of what it would take to deploy them at scale.” Together, let’s figure it out.

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This solution based book (database/case studies) and website (which is VERY deep) is a compilation of the world’s best think tanks and scientific research on carbon reduction projects. In 2001, Paul asked: …‘what are the top five things we should be doing to reverse the CO2 trend?’… no one knew. Fifteen years later, there was still no consensus.  Three years ago, Paul decided to assemble a team of researchers and scientists to answer this question, and he has succeeded. It’ll be interesting to see how the vested interests and climate change mafia (Paul’s words) aka IPCC will react to this seminal work.

In a nutshell, drawdown has three CO2 forecast scenarios: business as usual, adopting 80 solutions, optimistic adoption. In the latter, we could start actually REVERSING global CO2 buildup by 2045. WOW – who would’ve thought that was possible even in the next hundred years! Most pundits including the IPCC, Bill McKibben, etc… have stated that even if we stop all CO2 emissions right now, levels would not go down for hundreds of years. Paul Hawken says otherwise – and more power to him.

Quick summary (spoiler alert) is that even though Refrigerant management is the #1 solution (HFC’s are 100X+ more potent than CO2) combining (#6) educating girls and (#7) family planning makes it over 119 Gton of CO2 reduction, AND combining (#3) reducing food waste and (#4) plant rich diet wheat food also makes it over 136Gton of CO2 reduction. So focusing on women and food instead of energy and transportation would be a better start.

Thanks for refocusing us, Paul. He’ll be at several book signings in the Bay Area if you want to thank him personally…. I know I will, again and again. Stay tuned for Drawdown #2 as there are another 100 coming attraction (solutions) in the works by Paul and his team.

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Electric cars in Norway: 40% of all cars sold in Norway are electric. Norway has set a goal to be 100% electric cars by 2025. WOW. Considering that StatOil is one of the world leading oil producers, and that Norway isn’t exactly located in the sunniest climate = it’s an ambitious and admirable goal.  For starters:  “Earlier this year, Norway opened the world’s largest fast-charging station, which can charge up to 28 vehicles in about half an hour.”  So maybe Germany, China, California can take a clue from Norwegians and emulate them.

One a side note, a couple weeks ago California crossed a milestone and produced 50% of its electrical demand from renewables. And they said it couldn’t be done… by 2020! That’s our current goal: 50% of our energy from renewables by 2020. And we crossed that threshold three years early. Now the challenge is to increase its frequency and duration.

maslow essentials

Remember Maslow’s hierarchy?  It basically says we need to have our basic essentials taken care of first and then we can move on.  It starts at love & security; food-shelter-clothing, and ends up at self-actualization.  First developed in 1943, it’s amazing it still stands the test of time.

Although this version may be more accurate….
or maybe this one is more current?

 

My personal experiences at WinSol’s simple & natural living has been a constant focus of not ‘powering up’.  It is SO, SO tempting to just go to the store and buy, buy: more solar panels, more comfy chairs, more 2×4, 2×6, etc.  It has taken me over a decade to realize the surrounding forest has all (or most) of what’s needed.  1″ fir tree rounds are way stronger than 2×6’s.  Chairs can be made from the forest (hey – I’m working on it).  Thermal mass is amazing in tons of local granite.  The dome floor is just the dirt (sifted) from clearing the access road to it…. on and on.  All re-purposed, or in the current PC lingo: up-cycled.

What are the  basic essentials? Let’s face it, our basic physical needs are still food, shelter and clothing.  Ok, I’ll add warmth (coolth?) in there. But one can easily survive with an indoor temperature of 40F.  But do we really need to cool ourselves to 65F on summer days?

And then there’s all that energy.  

Do we really need energy to live simply?  Ok, I’ll vote for lights, music, videos and internet in that order.  Above these items, it’s over-rated.  We are getting more comfy and cozy with all our toys.  I hope they last, but if they don’t y’all can always come experience the sheer beauty and serenity (and quietness) of WinSol in it’s natural state…. and maybe after a few days feel refreshed by real simplicity.

Here’s my personal favorite on Maslow’s hierachy:

Shrimp with bacon + olive oil?

 

mmm……looks appetizing right?

well, I won’t be saying this at any dinner parties:  But shrimp, bacon and olive oil are not what we think they are.

I can’t seem to get away from blogging about food. Why are there  so many food distortions, outright lies, and hidden secrets?  Here’s the latest:

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I’m a regular fan of CBS  60 minutes… I know, I know: they are heavily edited + scripted for THEIR agenda,  but they still produce original investigative journalism – unlike 90% of web content.

Let’s start with olive oil, or what olive oil isn’t.  Look at a bottle of olive oil.  Chances are it will say ‘Made in Italy’ well it’s neither from Italy nor is it olive oil!

Check out ‘Agromafia’ a 60 minutes segment that aired on Jan 3, 2016. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/60-minutes-agromafia-food-fraud/

Here’s some highlights:  Olive oil is a $16 billion industry.  Generally olive oil costs $50 agallon.  But sunflower oil costs $7 a gallon.  Add a little chlorophyll to sunflower oil and it’ll look just like olive oil!  Let’s see $50 vs $7… quite a margin!   So the Italian mafia brings in sunflower + canola oil from North Africa, reprocesses it with Chlorophyll, relabels it  – and walla:  a whole new profit center is borne:  3x more profitable than cocaine.  Allergy people BEWARE :  some of this fake olive oil is based on nut seed oil.

anecdote: just yesterday I bought some italian pasta instead of USA pasta (thinking I would avoid the inevitable GMO that most USA wheat has) … but alas! italian pasta is neither also!  At best it’s contaminated with pesticides and poisons.

Italy appears to have its own hideous, fake food supply chain …  just like China++   So sad!  The ‘made in Italy’ label has been altered forever. I stopped trusting Italian leather decades ago, ever since an Asian store keeper in Venice tried selling me a fake leather jacket .  A little due diligence revealed cheap China crap with ‘made in italy’ knockoffs that were everywhere – even in some  hi-end stores.

Nothing seems to be immune  from the mafia’s food altering cartel: Italian wines are altered with poor quality table wine, relabeled ‘made in Tuscany’;  40,000 gallons worth >$5mil last year alone.  Tomatoes, sauce, pasta, milk, bread… nothing seems to be immune from the mafia’s reach.

From farm to fork:  from supermarkets, to transportation, to farm harvesters, growers + seeds… the entire supply chain!!  The Italian mafia appears to controls everything: especially in Sicily, where the majority of food vendors and restaurants are controlled by the mafia.

The 2007 New Yorker magazine was the first publisher of this phenom.  Why has it gone unnoticed for so long  (8 years!)?

So step aside China, we have a new wiener in the food deception game!  The real sad losers in all of this are the Italian people. Gone will be their ‘made in Italy’ reputation and pricing premiums.  The real Italian artists and artisans could be driven out of business. Hopefully they’ll re-label themselves, and be able to market their wares under some new ‘unalterable, non-mafia’ controlled label.

Thank you New Yorker + CBS/60 minutes – there are still a few investigative journalists around… I might just start subscribing to the New Yorker!

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 let’s look at shrimp.

Have you noticed how cheap it’s been for the last year?                    There’s a reason for that:    In Thailand + Mynamar +, poor migrant kids are being sold to and locked inside shrimp factories to peel Red Lobster, Kroger, Olive Garden, Wal-mart and others’ cheap shrimp. They get paid $3-4 for a 16 hour day peeling shrimp.

In 2015 alone, over 2,000 shrimp slaves have been freed as a result of an ongoing AP investigative series.  42% of Thai shrimp are contaminated.  Heavy antibiotics are used by shrimp farmers. As much as 38% of the mangrove forests being cut, can be directly linked to shrimp farming.

To escape detection, Asian shrimp are often combined with other seafoods and sold as combo patches to unsuspecting western markets. Last week, even Whole Foods had to admit it didn’t know if its Thai suppliers were mixing ‘slave shrimp’ into its seafood supplies.

sources: SF Chronicle page A6, December 15, 2015 and Mother Jones Jan6, 2016:  http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2016/01/six-reasons-think-hard-about-shrimp-craving

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And now for some GOOD NEWSbacon

Everything’s better with bacon – right?

You may have seen the latest WHO (World Health Organization) report that a couple slices of bacon are equivalent to two packs of cigarettes a day – what BS!  Here’s the real story behind the NPR + pop media story:

WHO merely put cured meats on its list of likely carcinogens.  Within three days, over two dozen social media outlets posted that bacon was hazardous to your health — they ramped up the WHO listing to an become an edict on avoiding bacon + ham. The Spanish were pretty pissed about that!

Here’s the real story: There’s always been a correlation linking nitrates in cured meats to cancer. BUT  ‘correlation does not imply causation’. The WHO did not imply causation – they merely put cured meats on their ‘links to cancer’ list – not an increased risk!

Smoking increases lung cancer by 2,500%, eating two slices of bacon each day increases cancer risk by 18% – and even that is misleading, since the average person has about a 5% risk of colorectal cancer.  When you put the two together it comes out to about a 1% increased personal risk – unless of course you’re driving a car while eating your bacon burger.  So… enjoy your bacon!

(source: Catalystmagazine.net page 16, December 2015)

let’s stop poisoning ourselves…

Most people thought that the teflon issue was settled a few years ago and that DuPont and others have moved away from PFOAs (teflon coating) .  Not so!

Products that involve stain resistance, flame proof, moisture proof, odor proof, bacteria resistant, WATERPROOF or have non-stickiness in them –  ALL have flourochemicals (PFASs) in them and are proven carcinogens – thanks to Mr. Rob Bilott at Taft Stettinius & Hollister (a large law firm in Cincinnati) who has been dogging DuPont and PFOA’s + PFAS’s for decades.

I just read a comprehensive report:

‘The Lawyer Who Became
DuPont’s Worst Nightmare’

about Dupont’s PFOA (Teflon coating)  saga and the lawyer that wouldn’t let it go away… wow!  My heartfelt thanks to the major law firm and big time lawyer who saw it through for over 20 years.

Hollywood couldn’t write a fictional saga this devious!

From the NYT article (link at bottom): “PFOA is in the blood or vital organs of Atlantic salmon, swordfish, striped mullet, gray seals, common cormorants, Alaskan polar bears, brown pelicans, sea turtles, sea eagles, Midwestern bald eagles, California sea lions and Laysan albatrosses on Sand Island, a wildlife refuge on Midway Atoll, in the middle of the North Pacific Ocean, about halfway between North America and Asia.”

And to think that this goes on – continually – as more ‘safer’ chemical coatings are now in our supply chains that will play out this same scenario decades from now.  The chemical industry continues to get a free ride.  It is by far the largest industry in the world.   Climate change issues?  We are poisoning ourselves way before we’ll ever heat ourselves up.  How about saving humans  – and then saving the planet.   OR…

…maybe this is the answer to population control 🙂 let the chemical companies continue to go astray – it’ll reduce our population which will help the planet.  Maybe they should get a gold star for helping fight climate change   (nahhh… my cynical side lives!)

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update:  DuPont Chemical Co. no longer exists.   Chemours                (new name for chemical company ) is now the proud stepchild of two chemical behemoths: DuPont + Dow.

As if a merge and re-org along with a new name will make them better. ha!

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NYTimes article link: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/10/magazine/the-lawyer-who-became-duponts-worst-nightmare.html?src=me