Saturday, January 31, 2009

A nice collection of photos...

Great slide show up on The Post's website, called Eye on the Earth, offering a view of human influence on climate and geographic change. The sixth and tenth images made a particularly strong impact on me. I wish there were more.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

How do you feel about GMOs? Frankenfoods?

In case you have never heard of such a thing, GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organisms and I get the sense that we are all eating them. Often. "Frakenfoods" is just another term for them. From James E. McWilliams recent Slate post:

"A genetically modified crop results from the laboratory insertion of a gene from one organism into the DNA sequence of another in order to confer an advantageous trait such as insect resistance, drought tolerance, or herbicide resistance. Today almost 90 percent of soy crops and 80 percent of corn crops in the United States sprout from genetically engineered seeds. Forty-five million acres of land worldwide contain genetically engineered crops. From the perspective of commercial agriculture, the technology has been seamlessly assimilated into traditional farming routines."

I don't know enough about this topic to decide where I stand on all of this but encourage you to learn alongside me and spend a few minutes with McWilliams' article.

White House "Kitchen" Cabinet

Definitely check out this excellent post by Tara Parker-Post on her Well blog today about newly appointed White House chef, Sam Kass' take on the sorry state of the National School Lunch Program. I agree with Alice Waters - a "kitchen cabinet"with folks like Sam could help change the national food culture!

Winter Farmers' Market: Annapolis

2nd and 4th Sundays, 12:30 - 2:30pm
January 11th - April 26th at Westfield Annapolis

Located on the first level of the Nordstrom garage off the Bestgate Road Main Entrance
(Anne Arundel Economic Development Corporation, Maryland Department of Agriculture; Westfield Annapolis, Anne Arundel County, MD.)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

More bad news for frogs...

As discussed in a previous post, the frog population on this planet is in peril. I've just learned some more bad news for frogs. Discovery News reports that human appetite is another contributor to the rapid population decline. Ugh.

"...The international trade in frog meat represents 200 million to 1 billion frogs eaten each year, or about 11,000 tons of frog meat...

...Trade alone may not be enough of a problem to drive frog species to extinction, but when added to other threats the frogs face, the combination may be enough tip some species over the edge..."

Baby Steps to Food System Reform

I encourage you to take a few minutes to read this excellent op-ed by Jane Black that appeared in Sunday's Post regarding stagnant food policy conversations in Washington. Black, a food writer, points out that food advocates and lobbyists lack a single message and strategy and this puts them (us) at a disadvantage in the policy room. The reasons for this, of course, lie in the complexity of food issues. Black writes:

"...After all, there's no one policy for improving food in America. To bring real change, policymakers need to look at the system more holistically -- because everything, as foodies see it, is connected. Federal subsidies of grain and corn make it cheap to produce meat. Industrial meat production, which takes advantage of cheap feed, is responsible for about one-fifth of the world's greenhouse gases. Eating too much meat and too many processed foods made with corn products such as high fructose corn syrup has contributed to the sharp spike in obesity over the past 30 years..."

This passage ties food policy to energy, health care, industry, and so forth beyond agriculture but this kind of broad agenda thinking isn't getting us very far. We've got to narrow it down, take one issue and address it from start to finish. Black offers some suggestions, stemming from the successes or failures in movements like Slow Foods, Alice Waters' inaugural meals, and the "give a swordfish a break" campaign, my favorite being:

"...Advocate for radical change this year when Congress renews the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act, which includes $21 billion annually for programs including school breakfast and lunch. Currently, cash-strapped schools are forced to rely on government surplus and sales of soda and other junk foods, a combination that results in millions of French fry-centric meals. Stricter school nutrition standards and increased funding for fruits and vegetables could change that. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack indicated in his confirmation hearing this month that he sees better nutrition as a tool for defeating childhood hunger..."

Monday, January 26, 2009

Obesity Virus?

I'm certainly not an expert on infectious diseases or chubby chickens, but something about this claim just doesn't seem.... real.

A study published in the American Journal of Physiology, Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology, and discussed in this Medical News Today article, claims that the human adenovirus Ad-37 is making people fat. Dr. L Whigham and team in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at Wisconsin University infected and studied chickens.

I have two questions for Dr. L Whigham and friends:

1.) Did you have to use chickens?!?! You may as well just sell the virus to our nation's hungriest chicken processors!

2.) Have you considered that the root of obesity may be a spell? Just saying. Something to think about. (Fiona from the Shrek films... get it?)

I better go double check that my source didn't find this study on The Onion...


I got a scientific opinion about this obesity virus business from a trusted colleague and pioneer of science at Johns Hopkins University, Zachary Gerhart-Hines:

"I would agree with you [that this sounds pretty far-fetched]. There are many things we do in science for which we do not have mechanistic explanation. There is also the question of how direct or indirect is the action of the virus on the animals. One person in the article began to address this... If the virus makes the animals sedentary or tired etc then they may eat more and exercise less. However, if that was the case I would not consider that to prove that the virus makes you fat. That's like saying getting dumped makes you fat. If you get depressed from having been dumped and you eat a lot and stay inside and cry you will gain weight. I can tell you from what little I know about viruses they affect A LOT of cellular processes and it is difficult to tease out the direct actions from peripheral side effects."

Taste for Turtles?

Ugh. According to this NY Times editorial, the consumption of turtle meat, which used to be a rare delicacy in some Asian diets, is on the rise - particularly in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. So much so that the wild turtle population in Southeast Asia has severely declined. Now the population of common soft-shell turtles from the American Southeast are in jeopardy! I promote the consumption of self-caught, wild meat over the supermarket variety hands down, but not if the animal is endangered or headed in that direction. I hope this population decline gets more media attention soon.

somewhat topical

Adam Gopnik, one of my faves, published a thoughtful article, Twin Peaks, in the February issue of Smithsonian Magazine about the incredible influence that Darwin and Lincoln, coincidentally born on the same day, have had on our modern world. It's a lovely tribute and reminder of their humanity. I should also point out two other great articles in the issue: Thomas Hayden's, What Darwin Didn't Know and Philip B. Kunhardt III's, Lincoln's Contested Legacy.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Guess what I just found?

The recipes for each and every course served at the 2009 Inaugural Luncheon! Seafood Stew with Maine lobsters, scallops and shrimp. Duck Breast with Cherry Chutney. Herb Roasted Pheasant with Wild Rice Stuffing. Molasses Whipped Sweet Potatoes and Winter Vegetables. And to finish it up: Cinnamon Apple Sponge Cake a la mode. Yum!

As you may have already read, the luncheon was catered by Design Cuisine, an Arlington, VA catering company owned and operated by Stavros (aka Stevie) Veletsis.

"After a few minutes chatting with Mr. Veletsis, he told me all about Design Cuisine and that pending Barack Obama's final seal of approval they would be catering the Inaugural Luncheon," Rebecca Carter said to gallery owners David and Susan Wase at the Chas Fagan Exhibition at Metropolitan Gallery in November of 2008. The artist on display, Chas Fagan, is well known for his commissioned presidential portrait and sculpture work and signature landscapes (pictured).

When speaking to Susan Wase just before the inauguration, she told me, "David called me over to check out the article in The [Washington] Post confirming Mr. Veletsis would indeed be catering the luncheon. It was exciting news. We are very happy for him."

I was happy to see American birds, Maine lobsters and winter vegetables on the menu. All rather sustainable choices. I definitely encourage you to download the recipes. Find the pdf here.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Food Films

There is a great article up on Treehugger collecting/contributing reviews of five food-focused films as well as clips from each of them: The World According To Monsanto, King Corn, Our Daily Bread, The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil, and Food Fight. Each film appeals to me for different reasons and you can bet they are all going on my Netflix list. Well, at least four of them. I'm on the fence about Our Daily Bread. Find the article here.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Another reason...

...for shopping at our local, natural market: Sunsets over the Anne Arundel Dairy Farm. A bit too cold for the cows lately though.

How to dry fruit (after using it to power small clocks)

After my tweenage sister and I punctured an apple for an experiment using copper and nickel to harness it's natural electricity, and then carelessly tossed it back into the fruit basket for a few days, I figured it would be best to dry it but didn't know how? So I activated the Google machine and here's what I found out:

  • You can dry any fruit that is ripe, but not too ripe, and in good condition, including but not limited to apples, bananas, peaches, pears, apricots, berries, cherries, etc. For eco-sake, it's best to stick with fruits that are in season in your area.

  • Wash, peel, pit, core and slice up your fruit unless it has skin (like blueberries and cherries). The thickness of your slices is up to you but try and keep pieces uniform for equal dry time.

  • Steam those slices and berries for 3-5 minutes then place them on a parchment lined baking sheet with enough room so that the pieces don't touch. Turn the oven to about 125 degrees Fahrenheit and find something else to do around the house because it will take a few hours to dry the fruit and any attempts to speed up the process by turning up the heat will just result in dehydration.

  • Let the now-dried fruit sit overnight. In the morning, pop it back in the oven for ten minutes at 175 degrees in order to destroy any possible insect eggs. Then let it cool for a bit and viola! Dried fruit without added sugar and preservatives.

Eco-friendly eater?

There is a fun and informative quiz up on Planet Green today. For all you loyal blog readers, scoring a 100% should be a breeze. Click here to test your ecotarian knowledge.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Arable Agriculture

This practical, inexpensive and achievable approach to reducing the amount of sunlight reaching the earth's surface is the recent suggestion of Andy Ridgwell and his colleagues at the University of Bristol in England, who have been researching agriculture as an alternative to building an enormous sunshade infrastructure in space or disseminating sulfate particles into the atmosphere.

Their calculations say that summertime cooling of more than one degree Celsius, about two degrees Fahrenheit, is achievable across central North America and parts of Europe and Asia simply by planting crop varieties with maximum solar reflectivity (albedo), a practice they call Leaf Albedo Bio-geoengineering.

From their findings, published in Current Biology:

Ultimately, genetic modification of plant leaf waxes or canopy structure could achieve greater temperature reductions, although better characterization of existing intraspecies variability is needed first.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Green Galas

Since inaugural excitement has taken over many of the news sources I draw from, not to mention a lot of my daily conversations, I haven't had a whole lot to post to the blog (hence the recent Biodynamic Beauty post snagged from my article-in-process file). Lucky for us, the NY Times' Leslie Kaufman published a great article about the two greenest inaugural galas being held this Monday night: One hosted by Al Gore and the other by the International Conservation Caucus Foundation.

Among those joining Gore for the organic fare at the National Portrait Gallery are the Sierra Club, the National Resources Defense Council, Earthjustice, Vote Solar Initiative, Youth for Environmental Sanity, and musicians and Maroon 5, whose performances are pro bono. Guests will clearly interpret the "conservation-as-lifestyle" message as they walk on a carpet made of recycled fibers and enjoy the strictly local menu.

Blocks away, the Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Federation, and celebrity guests Robert Duvall, Ed Norton, among others, will be treated to the Boys Choir of Kenya and organic beer at the ICCF gala. Certain sponsorship of this gala is troubling (for example: Exxon Mobil) but caucus president David H. Barron sticks to the philosophy that governments and businesses are the most effective at protecting wildlife and the environment and told the NY Times, "We are not into symbolism. We are focused on a much bigger impact."

No matter how you slice it, the carbon footprint of all these guests traveling to and from the district to attend these balls is certainly significant but such is the case for any of the galas, green or not, so kudos to these two for highlighting the issues.

And Al, Mr. Barron, if you are reading this and looking to fill any extra seat at your tables, please note that I could hop on the MARC train and get down to the events with little to no enviro-impact. Just saying.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Biodynamic Beauty

As the worldwide quest for sustainability leads major industries towards eco-friendly practices a not-so-new farming practice, known as biodynamics, is becoming a mainstay on the green scene. Actually, it’s been in the works since 1924, and in the US since 1938, but has gained momentum in recent decades as consumers become increasingly interested in what they are putting in and on their bodies.

Biodynamics has gained exposure in recent years as viticulturists have incorporated its astrological principles of measure the quantity and quality of light reaching their vineyards based on phases and cycles of the sun, moon, stars and planets, in order to produce what some are hailing as their best wines yet. In recent decades, while growing numbers of winemakers adhere to this method and a growing number of consumers are willing to spend a few more bucks to reduce their carbon footprint, other industries are taking notice. The latest tapping into the benefits: cosmetics.

Of course, the beauty industry is no stranger to social responsibility. Historically, cosmetic companies were forced to examine issues surrounding animal testing and adapt to consumer concern. As companies discovered that developing and marketing natural, cruelty-free products meant that they could take a stand and increase their bottom line, the holistic approach really caught on.

The market for natural beauty products got a boost back in 2002 when the Center for Disease Control published some alarming statistics. Women aged 20 to 40 had the highest levels of a toxic endocrine disruptor, called phthalate, a chemical linked to disruptions in fetal development. The highest level of phthalate exposure comes from conventional beauty and personal care products, items that most women have come to rely on. Consumers were reminded that skin is the largest organ and 60-80% of products applied to it are absorbed into the body. The pressure to develop skincare products entirely free of the harmful chemical was on. They had to go organic. In fact, they had to go beyond organic.

Danny Seo, green lifestyle guru and author of the new Simply Green book series, sees an increasing consumer demand for biodynamic products in the beauty industry, because of the very direct connection between beauty products and the consumer’s health.

“You hear that a chemical in your deodorant can cause an endocrine disruption… and it’s just terrifying,” Seo explains. “Something you are putting on your body causes all this harm, so everyone is looking through the cosmetics database, fearful of this chemical and essentially searching for the most natural, almost food-quality, product and they are willing to pay the premium.”

Since 1985, Australian skincare company Jurlique, a true pioneer in the biodynamic beauty industry, has been going beyond organic. Currently the number-one selling skincare in Australia they are harnessing the natural power of ingredients grown on their certified Biodynamic and Organic farm, the products use only naturally derived, high-efficacy ingredients from herbs and flowers to renew and maintain healthy skin just like their eco-friendly farming practices do for the land. Jurlique is considered a “closed system” green corporation committed to sustainable business practices, setting an industry-wide example.

Their biodynamic beauty line does not contain artificial colors or fragrances, Parabens, Propylene Glycol, or Synthetic Emulsifiers found in conventional products. The bottom line, and buzz in the beauty scene, is that biodynamic products produce the sought after results of conventional harsh wrinkle-reducers while offering the piece of mind of organic and natural products. Not to mention, the eco-friendly philosophy of Jurlique inspires even the most skeptical buyer. Jurlique is not another company making a profit from the green scene - it’s a testament to sustainability. “

Methods in biodynamic farming aren’t some new innovative concepts,” said Eli Halliwell, former CEO of Jurlique.“It is reviving practices that were seemingly forgotten in the late 1800s when we learned that petroleum is a massive fertilizer booster and the agriculture industry shifted from diversity to monoculture. We literally forgot about tens of thousands of years of techniques. Rudolf Steiner, [a founder of biodynamics] recognized that.”

However some feel that consumers in the market for anti-aging products have shied away from some natural or organic skincare lines because many believe that nature cannot produce a technique that is as effective or powerful as certain chemicals, particularly Retinol. Australian skincare company, Jurlique, has created a Biodynamic Beauty line that has replicated, if not exceeded, the results of Retinol, called Totarol.

As biodynamic farming develops into a major business trend, cosmetics retailers and green-sceners are pleased to remind that the practice is hardly new and fairly obviously yields high quality results. Seo reminds, “It’s a smarter and more technological way of growing things. The soil is really the foundation of a quality crop. Rotating crops, re-adding the nutrients – it really just makes sense.”

The principles of biodynamics and its acceptance and incorporation into the beauty industry, makes a strong statement: Sustaining our surroundings and agricultural abilities without the use of fertilizers and chemicals is paramount in so many aspect of our lives. From what we put in our body as fuel to what we put onto our skin, awareness is key, so keep your eyes open for the most eco-friendly beauty products on the market – the ones cultivated on biodynamic farms.

(To purchase Jurlique products, visit their website and stay tuned for an upcoming post about a local skincare company that's also caught my attention.)

Tom Vilsack

I think I'm pleased with Tom Vilsack, former Iowa Governor and soon-to-be agriculture secretary, but I'm not completely sure. In his confirmation hearing he promised to carry out provisions of the 2008 farm bill, which includes billions of subsidies for some farmers, expressed his intentions to modernize food safety, promote nutrition, work towards more sustainable food production and look for alternative incomes for farmers in areas like wind power and organic farming. All while aggressively pursuing new fuel sources to produce ethanol, which is nice to hear considering concerns that his roots in the corn belt. What do you all think?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


We've talked about e-waste before, mostly in regards to the businesses and lives run off of our waste in Mumbai, India, the resulting health problems and a few other factoids I learned from Thomas Kostigen, but sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. Or in this case, a photo essay about the e-waste business in Guiyu, China is. Pay close attention to the notes below the pictures too.

The accompanying article is a quick, worthwhile read as well - especially if the images made you pause and reconsider your e-waste disposal methods.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

New Year's Resolutions: Less is More

I love this week's Green.view from The Economist. The post challenges the value in so-called "green" New Year's resolutions like super-small scale wind power and fluorescent bulbs in the home and suggests that simpler, more traditional resolutions such as quitting smoking and cutting back on drinking actually have a greater positive impact on the planet. Read it here for a refreshing reminder that less is more: less consumption means reduced CO2 emissions unless of course, as Green.view points out, it leads to a baby boom.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Wishing Aimak Dzangaliev and his colleagues success...

I was recently reminded of the curiosity Michael Pollan's The Botany of Desire cultivated within me and came across a wonderful article from a past issue of Orion magazine while revisiting the apple topic. Gary Paul Nabhan's article, The Fatherland of Apples, is a thoughtful journey through the region said to be the center of origin and diversity for apples: Kazakhstan. The article is so rich that paraphrasing just won't do it justice. If you haven't previously enjoyed it, I highly recommend doing so. Here is excerpt:

"DISCERNING WHERE A CROP originated and where the greatest portion of its genetic diversity remains extant may seem esoteric to the uninitiated. But knowing where exactly our food comes from—geographically, culturally, and genetically—is of paramount importance to the rather small portion of our own species that regularly concerns itself with the issue of food security. The variety of foods that we keep in our fields, orchards, and, secondarily, in our seed banks is critically important in protecting our food supply from plagues, crop diseases, catastrophic weather, and political upheavals....

In a very real sense, the forests of wild foragers and the orchards of traditional farmers in such centers of crop diversity are where our food truly comes from, the ultimate sources of our food crops’ resistance to drought, diseases, and pests, and our primary means of staving off famine. They are the wellsprings of diversity that plant breeders, pathologists, and entomologists return to every time our society whittles the resilience in our fields and orchards down to its breaking point, ushering in pestilence and plague.

And whittle away we have done. Here in North America, according to apple historian Dan Bussey, some 16,000 apple varieties have been named and nurtured over the last four centuries. By 1904, however, the identities and sources of only 7,098 of those varieties could be discerned by a USDA scientist named W. H. Ragan, who devoted his career to tracking America’s extant apple diversity. Since then, some 6,121 apple varieties—86.2 percent of Ragan’s 1904 inventory—have been lost from nursery catalogs, farmers’ markets, and from the American table. In the southern U.S. alone, it is estimated that only 300 of some 1,600 varieties that once flourished in the region remain. The Fruit, Berry and Nut Inventory of the Seed Savers Exchange suggests that only a few hundred varieties of apples are currently available from commercial nurseries, and just 15 varieties account for 90 percent of all apples bought in grocery stores. Today, 129 of the remaining apple varieties have become rare enough to be boarded onto Slow Food USA’s Ark of Taste in the hope that being labeled “endangered” might aid in their recovery"

Sunday, January 11, 2009

New Study Links Autism to Environment

Environment, in this case, meaning compounds and chemicals present in flame retardants, insecticides, and household items such as pet shampoo and antibacterial soap, that many children and/or expecting mothers come into regular contact with.

The study, published in the journal Epidemiology, compares autism diagnoses in California in 1990 to those reported in 2006. 3,000 new cases were reported in 2006, compared with 205 in 1990. In 1990, 6.2 of every 10,000 children born in the state were diagnosed with autism by the age of five, compared with 42.5 in 10,000 born in 2001 and apparently the numbers have continued to rise since then. This article in Scientific American does a fine job explaining the elimination of variables, or rather the improbability of certain causes such as vaccines, genetics or migration pattern.

I'd like to point out another environmental factor: According to the American Lung Association, Los Angeles, California has the worst air quality in the country thanks to the worst traffic congestion, worst air pollution (special shout out to China), and the largest active landfill in the U.S. Whether or not this is a factor in the rise of autism is beyond me of course but it seemed like a good time to mention it. Hopefully these researchers and their findings will remind the general population of our connectivity - of the link between what we consume, finance, use and discard and our health.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

South Lawn Garden

With the Obama family (and yet-to-be-chosen pup) moving into 1600 Penn in a few short weeks, I suppose it is about time I join the camp that is lobbying for an organic, sustainable, inspirational, victory garden on the South Lawn.

In case you haven't heard about the "first family garden," the Washington Post published a great article earlier this week. Check it out here.

I just signed a petition on Eat The View and (of course) encourage you to do the same.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Will rising temperatures trigger food shortages by 2090?

The results of a recent study by David Battisti (University of Washington) and Rosamond Naylor (Stanford University) analyzing data from 23 global climate models has revealed a 90% chance that most of the tropic and sub-tropic regions of our plane will experience "unprecedented seasonal average temperatures by the end of the twenty-first century." This alone, of course, is hardly surprising news. Here's the other part. On top of studying those 23 global climate models, which were produced for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, they examined case studies of three areas that have experienced extreme heat waves and the resulting impact temperatures had on food production. From the Nature article:

"France felt some of the greatest impacts of the 2003 heat wave in Western Europe, seeing mean temperatures rise to 33 °C between June and August — nearly 4 °C higher than the country's average historical temperature for those months. Over this period, production of maize (corn) fell by 30%, fruit harvests declined by 25% and wheat harvests dropped by 21% compared with the year before. The study, published in Science, claims that by the end of the century, the temperatures experienced in the summer of 2003 will be the norm for the season in France."

Critics have pointed out these agricultural shortages could (or should) be attributed to drought, as opposed to extreme heat, and that with sufficient rainfall or irrigation, crop yields could potentially increase in other regions. Of course you then have to ask what causes droughts and so on and so forth...

I recommend reading David Biello's recent article on the topic in Scientific American, that acknowledges climate change, a greater demand for food, biofuels, and so forth as causes leading to an agricultural breaking point, not just record-breaking heat. Find it (and more info about the doomsday temperature increase maps posted below) here.

Alaska, anyone?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

a tough one for me...

As a spokesperson for squirrels (red, gray or brown) I am having a difficult time endorsing the "Save a red, eat a gray!" campaign taking place to help Britain's Red Squirrels. However, the gray squirrels are technically an invasive species from North America, I do encourage omnivores who hunt and consume wild game, and I'm a long time Beatrix Potter fan so... I suppose I'll just report the facts. And the fact is, gray squirrels may be the new hip cuisine in the UK.

Find the NY Times article that inspired this post here in their Dining & Wine section. Ugh. And for a blog post and collection of comments that earns a Double Ugh from me, check this out (and yes, the squirrel photo on the post is little Jeffrey from a previous JS post)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

cheap and healthy eats

The supposed higher cost of eating healthy is perhaps the most common objection I face on those rare occasions in which I, eh hem, preach against the anti-food packaged aisles of the grocers. Thankfully, a great post (via Brie Cadman) recently appeared on Divine Caroline listing 20 healthy foods for under a dollar (the dollar getting you at least a few servings). As you would expect, the focus is on fruits and vegetables, meat and dairy, and bulk grains. Definitely check it out here for details or find the 20 picks below.

1.) Oats
2.) Eggs
3.) Kale
4.) Potatoes
5.) Apples
6.) Nuts
7.) Bananas
8.) Garbanzo Beans
9.) Broccoli
10.) Watermelon
11.) Wild Rice
12.) Beets
13.) Butternut Squash
14.) Whole Grain Pasta
15.) Sardines
16.) Spinach
17.) Tofu
18.) Low Fat Milk
19.) Pumpkin Seeds
20.) Coffee

Is the blogosphere energy-efficient?

Slate's Green Lantern took on an interesting question in today's post, Green My Blog. Jacob Leibenluft clearly has a better handle on gigabyte to energy to carbon footprint conversion than I do but I'll do my best to break it down for you.

Direct pollution from a blog is pretty small. WordPress reported transferring about 161,100 gigabytes of data in 2008 across 3,132,606 blogs - adding up to a small amount per blog per year: 51 megabytes of data to be exact. Bandwidth increases on blogs with lots of traffic, videos or large images but even the largest ones would only be responsible for a few hundred kilowatt-hours of electricity per year, which according to the Lantern, "would put even one of those larger blogs somewhere in the range of the average household's microwave." Doesn't sound too bad to me, especially if the posts on the blog inspire readers to reduce their footprint elsewhere (hint, hint).

There is a camp saying that suggests information technology accounts for a larger carbon footprint than the airline industry. Sure if you add up all of the equipment necessary: rooms full of servers and network equipment, energy to keep those rooms cool, desktops, laptops, wireless routers, and so forth it does sound like an awful lot of energy - but you have to think about the alternative. Compare downloading an album to burning gas on your drive to the air conditioned or heated mall, purchasing the manufactured CD from a store to which it was shipped, the plastic in which it is packaged...

I'm not going to beat myself up too much about Just Saying's energy consumption, but I do predict a post about how I'm offsetting its footprint in the near future.

Thursday, January 1, 2009


The jatropha plant (I think there are about 150 different plants and shrubs in the genus) is of particular interest for a few reasons: It is hardy - resistant to drought and pests. It produces seeds containing up to 40% oil that can be processed and used in a standard diesel engine. The residue can also be processed into biomass to power electricity plants.