Thursday, August 28, 2008

Nanny, Nano, Boo, Boo Food?

I've been finding a lot of interesting developments with regard to food lately. So thought I'd share them with you...

Nanotechnology - photo by Nano-food, nano-tech?

Something new is being added to our table and life called Nano-foods or nano-tech products. What in heavens name is Nano-food?

The internet is buzzing with a lot of stories. Reuters (2008, July 30) Nano-foods: The next consumer scare? In essence Nano-foods are produced by using nano-technology, which involves design and manipulation of the molecular level. Companies utilizing nanotechnology claim it can enhance flavor or nutritional effectiveness.

The Observer Welcome to the world of nano foods. Claims the food industry is developing a colorless, tasteless programmable nano-drink that you zap in a microwave which has been encoded with your eating preferences.

Sounds like sci-fi... Star Trek's Captain Picard ordering 'Tea, Earl Grey, hot' and it materializes in the replicater. That's an interesting concept. But I wonder about eating what appears to be synthetic food. What about the food's vitality?

Are there food products that currently contain nano-technology?

Out of the Labratory and onto our plate. (2008, March) A detailed report on Nano-tech products in agriculture and food funded by Friends of Earth. List of food products currently containing nano-products include: Canola Active Oil (Shemen), Nanotea (Shenzen Become Industry & Trading Co.), Fortified Fruit Juice (High, Nanoceuticals Slim Shake (assorted flavors, RBC Lifesciences), NanoSlim beverage(NanoSlim), Oat Nutritional Drink (assorted flavors, Toddler Health), and 'Daily Vitamin Boost' fortified fruit juice (Jamba Juice Hawaii).

Do we know if there are risks consuming nano-foods or the potential toxic effects to the body? 

Science Daily ETH Zurich/Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (2008, July 22). Nano-modified Food: How Much Are Consumers Willing To Accept The Associated Risks?. Reports, "Nanoparticles, however, are considered as highly reactive and it is not yet clear whether under certain conditions they can get the better of protective mechanisms and have a toxic impact on the body." Consumer Reports (2007, July) Nanotechnology Untold promise, unknown risk. Reports, "A growing number of scientists say the unique properties of nanomaterials might pose substantial risks, which are largely unexplored, to both human health and the environment."

Besides food there are a lot of products containing Nano-tech over 600 and growing. NanoForum offers an interesting report called Nanotechnology in Consumer Products (2006, October 25) which contains a list of products. As well Madison's Nano Cafe is a great resource for news and articles about nanotechnology.

I like to make informed decisions about everything in my life. So I'm all for labels disclosing complete information.

Viagen, Cloned Cow - photo by CNNCloned animals for food?

Wired (2007, December 19) Senate Votes to Keep Cloned Meat Out of Your Burger, for Now. The Senate passed a Farm Bill measure intended to bar the FDA from approving meat and milk from cloned animals until further study was conducted. Center for Food Safety (2008, January 17) Press Release. EUROPEAN UNION GROUP ISSUES OPINION CALLING CLONING FOR FOODS ETHICALLY UNJUSTIFIED. Center for Food Safety Praises Opinion; Calls for Swift Passage of Farm Bill Mandating Examination of Economic Risks to US Agriculture.

Public Opinion Center for Food Safety Reports, "Recent opinion polls show the majority of Americans do not want milk or meat from cloned animals in their food. A national survey conducted this year by Consumers Union found that 89 percent of Americans want to see cloned foods labeled, while 69 percent said that they have concerns about cloned meat and dairy products in the food supply. A recent Gallup Poll reported that more than 60 percent of Americans believe that it is immoral to clone animals, while the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology found that a similar percentage say that, despite FDA approval, they won't buy milk from cloned animals."

CNN (2008, January 18) FDA OKs meat and milk from most cloned animals. When introduced there will be no labeling required. The FDA asserts that there is no material difference between cloned and conventionally grown animals.

What's up with the swift approval by the FDA? If cloned animal products ever hit the grocery shelves I'd sure like to know so I can make informed purchasing decisions.

GMO Peas - Green Peace ad campaign 'Do you know what you eat?' rBGH and GMOs?

Called old news. The newest hot topic is nano-tech, but they haven't gone away. FDA tells us both are ok. Their endorsement means companies aren't required to put this info on packaging. Since around 1996 about 70% of our processed foods have contained GMOs. I'd like to know by reading the packaging instead of having to do an extensive online search. My body has an adverse reaction to both of these technologies so I cannot eat them.

Public Opinion A CBS/New York Times poll done recently found that 53 percent of Americans wouldn't buy genetically modified foods. 

If you're interested here's a list of products which contain GMOs. The photo above is an ad from Do You Know What You Eat?Greenpeace's advertising campaign against Genetically Modified Organisms. What a superbly done and wonderfully creative campaign. Kudos to BBDO Russia.

Organic vs. conventional food study underway some findings released. Green MSN (2007, November) and BBC News (2007, October) reported - a Newcastle University study shows organic foods have far more nutritional value. They found levels of antioxidants in milk from organic cattle were between 50% and 80% higher than normal milk. Organic wheat, tomatoes, potatoes, cabbage, onions and lettuce had between 20% and 40% more nutrients.

Is this just the beginning of lots of comparable studies? To my taste buds naturally grown food (buzz word organic) has a fuller, richer flavor... like homegrown tomatoes vs. store bought. Studies proving what my mouth distinguished at first bite. Exciting! Tastes better and fresh organic food is better for you too! Yahoo!!!

Now if we could only get those crazy prices down...

P.S. I've been eating locally grown and organic produce all summer and I started walking. Really strange. I haven't desired to walk in years. But now most mornings I walk to the Post Office and evenings around the neighborhood; about 2 miles total. I have more vitality and feel better too. Don't know for sure if it's related, but it's sure interesting.

Here are a couple of links you may enjoy:

Food Routes - A resource on locally grown foods. Why to buy and where to buy.

Organic Made Easy - A guide to understanding and buying organic produce on a budget.

The Practical Guide to Healthier Living - Lots of videos and articles about natural healthy living. Why to buy at Farmer's Markets, recipes and more.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Crazy CFL Contamination

Update on CFLs...

cfl-bulb CFL Light Bulbs? Had a CFL energy efficient light bulb break the other day. Luckily it broke inside a glass fixture cover, everything was contained except a bit of the gas. None the less I did get a headache and begin to sweat as a result of breathing it. Went online to find out more about them.

Like all florescent bulbs CFLs contain small amounts of mercury and require special hazardous waste handling when they burnout or break. Mercury is a potent neurotoxin, and is especially dangerous for children and fetuses. Some states require that CFLs be taken to a recycling center and not thrown into the trash. EPA states, 'If you improperly dispose of products with mercury in them, they may break and release mercury vapors which are harmful to human and ecological health.' When they break there are very specific instructions for cleanup which I didn't know about. Here they are...

EPA's recommendations for broken CFL bulb clean up  

Before Clean-up: Air Out the Room

  • Have people and pets leave the room, and don't let anyone walk through the breakage area on their way out.
  • Open a window and leave the room for 15 minutes or more.
  • Shut off the central forced-air heating/air conditioning system, if you have one.

Clean-Up Steps for Hard Surfaces

  • Carefully scoop up glass pieces and powder using stiff paper or cardboard and place them in a glass jar with metal lid (such as a canning jar) or in a sealed plastic bag.
  • Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and powder.
  • Wipe the area clean with damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes. Place towels in the glass jar or plastic bag.
  • Do not use a vacuum or broom to clean up the broken bulb on hard surfaces.

Clean-up Steps for Carpeting or Rug

  • Carefully pick up glass fragments and place them in a glass jar with metal lid (such as a canning jar) or in a sealed plastic bag.
  • Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and powder.
  • If vacuuming is needed after all visible materials are removed, vacuum the area where the bulb was broken.
  • Remove the vacuum bag (or empty and wipe the canister), and put the bag or vacuum debris in a sealed plastic bag.

Clean-up Steps for Clothing, Bedding and Other Soft Materials

  • If clothing or bedding materials come in direct contact with broken glass or mercury-containing powder from inside the bulb that may stick to the fabric, the clothing or bedding should be thrown away. Do not wash such clothing or bedding because mercury fragments in the clothing may contaminate the machine and/or pollute sewage.
  • You can, however, wash clothing or other materials that have been exposed to the mercury vapor from a broken CFL, such as the clothing you are wearing when you cleaned up the broken CFL, as long as that clothing has not come into direct contact with the materials from the broken bulb.
  • If shoes come into direct contact with broken glass or mercury-containing powder from the bulb, wipe them off with damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes. Place the towels or wipes in a glass jar or plastic bag for disposal.

Disposal of Clean-up Materials

  • Immediately place all clean-up materials outdoors in a trash container or protected area for the next normal trash pickup.
  • Wash your hands after disposing of the jars or plastic bags containing clean-up materials.
  • Check with your local or state government about disposal requirements in your specific area. Some states do not allow such trash disposal. Instead, they require that broken and unbroken mercury-containing bulbs be taken to a local recycling center.

Future Cleaning of Carpeting or Rug: Air Out the Room During and After Vacuuming

  • The next several times you vacuum, shut off the central forced-air heating/air conditioning system and open a window before vacuuming.
  • Keep the central heating/air conditioning system shut off and the window open for at least 15 minutes after vacuuming is completed.

This is frightening, especially since I'd imagine most folks don't know about it. I didn't! Mercury is extremely toxic! What doesn't make sense to me is why? Knowing the toxicity of mercury, why make bulbs utilizing even a little bit for sale on such a large scale? A lot of little bits add up to... well, a big toxic mess. It got me really wondering does the end justify the means?

My conclusion... NO! I replaced all of my CFLs with incandescent bulbs again, because I don't want the potential contamination of myself, my family, my pets or the earth. I'd rather keep the lights turned off as much as possible and use candles.

After reading all of this I sure won't recommend using CFL bulbs again. Yes, they help reduce mercury from coal burning power plants which is good. But potentially poisoning myself in the process isn't a good trade off. Maybe I'm over reacting here... but the way I see it 'forewarned is forearmed'.

Perhaps a better use for all the money spent on CFLs (advertising and sales) would have been to upgrade the electric power plants to solar, wind, water or other eco-friendly methods. Then there wouldn't be mercury from either coal or florescent bulbs poisoning us and our beautiful earth.

A thought... according to the U.S Census Bureau Population Clocks as of August 20, 2008 there are 304,922,151 people in the U.S. If every person bought 1 CFL at roughly $6.00 each that comes to $1,829,532,906. That is almost 2 billion dollars and that's a conservative figure. If that money were spent on upgrading power plants we would be much further along in the process of our environmental stewardship.

Plus, there's got to be a safer, more eco-friendly, cheaper lighting solution! I'll let you know what I find.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Horrible Harmful High Housing no more...

Thought you might enjoy reading about some of my adventures.  Redwood Camping - photo by Light. ©2002-2008 Bonnee Klein Gilligan. All rights reserved.

For 3 years my husband and I traveled around the country, without a home and everything we owned in our very small car. We camped in a lot of great places, met many wonderful folks and were invited to stay in many homes. It was an amazing spiritual journey.

We crossed the USA about 4 times driving through all the states at least once except Alaska and Hawaii. Spent a little time in Canada andMexico camping - photo by Light. ©2002-2008 Bonnee Klein Gilligan. All rights reserved. Mexico too. Our very favorite place was anywhere in the redwood trees. The photo above left is our home in the majestic redwood forest. Cool, crisp and filled with critters. We had owls, deer and fox come for a visit. The photo right is our home on the beach in Mexico. It was beautifully steamy by the Sea of Cortez. The photo below is our home by a rushing stream in Utah. The stream was singing its' song of creation so loudly, we finally succumb to earplugs. Snigger! We've had thousands of homes. Everywhere we stopped to lay our heads was home. The saying, 'Home is where the heart is' was our life.Utah Camping - photo by Light. ©2002-2008 Bonnee Klein Gilligan. All rights reserved.

It's an interesting experience living without running water or electricity. We loved it. We didn't label it as green or eco-friendly or even low impact. Though I suppose it was. Our car often got 45 to 50mpg. Maybe we were hypermiling, we called ourselves blessed. We had all the comforts of home including an air mattress with feather bed and down pillows. Solar shower bags with hot water for bathing and doing dishes. Once in a while for fun we bathed in cold streams or waterfalls. Burrr... refreshing! Had 2 cook stoves and complete kitchen gear. We bought local produce at roadside stands because it was convenient, tasted better and was usually cheaper then grocery stores. Then dined on simple homemade meals in the fresh air. Ever notice how food tastes better outdoors? We woke up in forests, by lakes or oceans, in fields or deserts. What scenery, what beauty, what majesty!

I won't lie to you, this lifestyle was harder. Packing and unpacking the car. Really conserving precious water. Everything we carried had to serve several useful purposes. Space was very limited, we couldn't acquire. When we did something else had to go. Living simply was natural. Sometimes what seems to be less is actually more. When we finally decided to set down in Arizona and moved into a small 400 sq. ft. efficiency apartment we felt like we were living in a palace. Everything is perspective it seems.

I loved life on the road, but decided I enjoy nesting and going out for adventures now. I've owned and lived in large homes, but prefer them small and cozy or using today's buzz words low impact, green living, sustainable homes.

Here are a few more small low impact homes I love...

Cabin Dream - 1800s beautifully renovated guest cabin

Randy's Cabin - photo by Light. ©2002-2008 Bonnee Klein Gilligan. All rights reserved. Located in Tennessee. 1800s log cabin, dis-assembled, numbered, moved and rebuilt in its' existing location by the owner. With added space for kitchen and bathroom. 700 sq. ft. including loft bedroom. 3 acres of rolling grassy land with organic flower and vegetable gardens and a large pond.

Porch Gathering - photo by Light. ©2002-2008 Bonnee Klein Gilligan. All rights reserved. Features: Original logs, salvaged wooden floors, windows and doors. Composting toilet. Propane heat and cooking stove. Well water. Gray water reclamation. Organic gardens.

During our road journey we had the privilege to stay in this guest home several times. The photo above is all of us gathered on the deck of the cabin. I'm the one on the far left, my late husband is standing in the middle.

How to build a log home Information about building log homes.

A Hobbit House - lovely, creative, imaginative living

Cob House photo by Gary Zuker Located in Austin, TX, just up the hill from Lake Travis. 900-square-foot Leichtlehmbau modified cob (straw and clay) energy efficient home on 2 acres of wooded land. 3 people - 3 yrs. to build including 1 yr. to dry. Built by owner Gary Zuker who wanted to build a low-maintenance weekend get-a-way home for $10,000. Finished house, well, appliances and Cobhouse Model - photo by Gary Zukerseptic estimated cost $40,000 not including Gary's labor. Photo right is a model of the house before it was built.

Features: Rock foundation and chimney. 18"- 24" inch thick walls made of Leichtlehmbau cob-type material (more straw and only clay) increases insulation. Wood framing embedded in Leichtlehmbau. Dries to a strong, dense mass, 25-40 Lb/cu.ft. Post and beam frame. Finish, exterior: white lime and sand with fibers, then whitewash (white lime, water, rocksalt, alum). Interior: Gypsum Plaster. Salvaged pine floors, floor joists, granite, windows, soap stone and cabinets.

Building with Cob workshops Natural Homes cob building courses. Photos of cob building and more workshops from House Alive!.

Extremely Tiny House - home to go

 Jay's House - photo for Tumblewheed Tiny House Company Located on planet earth, but resides mostly in Sebastopol, CA. In 1997 Jay Shafer built his first 96 sq. ft. house on wheels himself for around $10,000. Today Jay owns Tumblewheed Tiny House Company which offers plans, books and truly tiny homes for sale. The Epu shown left is 88 sq. ft. and weighs only 4700 lbs. It comes with a tiny fireplace, living room, kitchen with  tiny refrigerator and 2 burner stove, wet bath and sleeping loft. Pull away price $42,997.

Features: Designed with thoughts of light, warmth, energy efficiency, and proportion. Propane cost to heat and cook about $5 per month according to one owner of a tiny house. 16 Tiny house plans available for homes from 65 to 774 sq. ft.

Learn how to build a truly tiny home workshops available.

Some more interesting links about low impact housing...

Low Impact Housing Listing of low impact housing resources Cusato Cottages Plans for inexpensive small cottage style homes Resources for Life and Small House Society Low impact ideas    Sustainable House Plans Links to sites which offer building plans

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Horrible Harmful High Housing

Houses gassing off. Carpets, insulation, paint and more. So tight and filled with chemicals they're sick houses. Literally! The building materials are bad for us. Real bad. Have been for years now. Since the '50s we've had Horrible Harmful Housing.

I remember back in the late '70s when I was a young thing living in Pennsylvania. Me and my best beau (that's us in the photo, weren't we cute!) would stop for a look see at houses from time to time. Was fun... we loved it. Once we pulled into a mobile home lot and took a tour. It was hot that day. The sun was frying eggs. Walked in one home. Looked around a bit. It was really nice inside. Could imaging living there. The longer we spent ooing and awing the more our eyes burned and watered. When we both started coughing we beat it out of there fast. Talked about it as we drove away. Said to each other, "We're protected for sure. Thank you God." Came to the conclusion it musta' been the formaldehyde. That was the buzz word back then. The stuff in the insulation that gassed off and made folks sick. They were ripping it out of all the schools.

But it's still used in some building materials. Read an article at ABC News dated July 9, 2008, "Makers of Katrina Trailers Grilled by Congress." The mobiles that were bought as temporary housing for hurricane Katrina victims were filled with it. Made some folks sick. Huh. Scratching my head. They were ripping it out in the early 80s why is it still used? In our modern society can't we come up with affordable housing that is people and earth friendly???

Well that got me curious about green housing. Sustainable, affordable, earth friendly? I like words and always find it interesting to look at dictionary definitions. Here is what I found in the Oxford American Dictionary and dictionary.reference online.

The definition of the word sustain: to support; to keep alive; to endure without giving away. To keep in existence; maintain. To supply with necessities or nourishment; provide for. To support the spirits, vitality, or resolution of; encourage. Definition of sustainable: capable of being sustained or maintained. Capable of being continued with minimal long-term effect on the environment. How interesting.

So what does sustainable mean with regard to housing? Here are definitions of sustainable housing I found online:

Sustainable Housing: Affordable and comfortable. Climate appropriate design which minimizes or eliminates the need for artificial heating and cooling. Design and construction which maintain sites natural resources. Collect and efficiently manage water resources. Management of own waste on site including greywater and black water. Produce and efficiently manage electrical power. Provide food resources from a permaculture garden. The house becomes part of the local ecosystem. Use of building materials which are recycled or made from renewable resources.

I enjoy housing designs which are unique and creative. So I did I a search. Found lots of stuff on natural or recycled building materials. Lots from companies building passive solar and other things. I was looking for something more then your average home... something fun, unique, affordable, beautiful, sustainable, earth and people friendly. Here are a few of the inexpensive homes I liked a lot....

A low impact woodland home - beautiful, natural living

Wales woodland home Located in Wales, UK. Built with maximum environmental regard by 2 people and passersby. 4 months start to finish:  1,000-1,500 man hours. Cost: about £3,000 (£60 per sq. ft., not including labor). Part of Lammas ecovillage project a carbon neutral, low impact development.

Features: Dug into hillside for low visual impact and shelter. Stone/mud at site used for retaining walls, foundations etc. Framed with oak from local woodlands. Reciprocal roof rafters. Straw bales in floor, walls and roof. Plastic sheet and mud/turf roof. Reclaimed wood floors and fittings. Reclaimed windows, burner, plumbing, wiring, etc. Lime plaster walls. Breathable and low energy to manufacture. Heat is wood burning stove - renewable and locally plentiful. Flue through thick stone/plaster. Retains heat. Slowly releases for even warmth. Fridge cooled by underground air through foundation. Skylight in roof. Solar panels for lighting, music and computing. Water gravity system from nearby spring. Composting toilet. Rainwater from roof collects in pond for garden, etc.

Building workshops available. Learn how to build a low impact woodland home.

Thanks to Pipa's Porch for directing me to this wonderful home.

Eco Dome Earth Dwelling - a small gnome-like homedomepod-home1web

Located in California, USA.  House built by students to learn about Superadobe coil construction. Very small, 400 square foot, very low cost. Easily built by 3-5 people. Part of the Cal-Earth educational and research program.

Features: Built from local earth-filled Superadobe coils (soil-cement or lime-stabilized earth) and barbed wire. On site soil utilized, coil bags low cost. Covered with adobe. Tree free. Main dome and four niches, very low cost. Can be repeated and joined together to form larger homes and courtyard houses. Very thick walls have significant thermal mass, which reduces heating and cooling costs. It also provides sound insulation, structural integrity, fire and pest protection. Designed with the sun, shade and wind in mind for passive cooling and heating. Wind-scoop can be combined with a rated furnace unit. Solar energy and radiant heating may be incorporated. Water collection and reclamation can be incorporated. It is estimated that a four-bedroom, 2,000 square foot house would cost $75,000 ($37.50/sq. ft.) to build, including labor, materials and utilities.

Building workshops available. Learn how to build with Superadobe coils online or apprentice at Cal-Earth.

Sculpted concrete homes - Live in Art

Living Art concrete home by Flying Concrete Located in Mexico. Beautiful, imaginative custom, free flowing, sculptured concrete homes built by Flying Concrete. House shown is 700 square foot with various out buildings. Has been a design-as-you-go, evolutionary, spontaneous project. Built by 2 people.

Features: Roofs built with lightweight aggregate. Walls are lightweight concrete or local rock. Vaulted roofs – 400 year guarantee. Solar green house and other interior solar spaces.  Passive solar heat and good insulation. Water recovery systems.  Detached composting toilet. Low cost units as low as $25 per sq. ft. (2005). Roof represents 10-15% of cost.

Building workshops available. Learn how to build a sculptured concrete home.

Whoo Hoo!!! There are lots of great healthy, natural, beautiful and affordable alternative building techniques that I can learn and do myself. This is so great I can't wait to get started. Now if I only had a plot of land...


There are a lot more green and sustainable building methods, I've only mentioned a couple. Here are some links to additional stuff:

Green Home Building is a website which talks about sustainable architecture and natural building.

Natural Building Network is an association which promotes natural building principles, materials and practitioners worldwide.

Green Builders Directory a listing of various builders who build green and sustainable housing.