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Posts Tagged ‘sustainability’

Not a day goes by, without yet another report on the growing risks posed by the increasing scarcity of water. Today’s report is from the Pacific Institute: Water Scarcity & Climate Change: Growing Risks for Businesses & Investors and CERES.

Taking agriculture/food, the sector of interest to me, the applicable risks fall as follow:

Physical Risks Reputational Risks Regulatory Risks

water-risks_food-sector_ceres-study

Growers are going to need all the help they can get to adapt to more and more unpredictable water supply and weather patterns. Not one but a combination of strategies will be required to mitigate risk. Prediction models, risk management tools, sensing networks, smart irrigation scheduling systems, efficient water pricing and delivery, accurate water tracking, incentives for the installation of smart water management infrastructure,   all will have a part to play. And it will take the collaboration of federal, state, business, and private land owners to make it happen.

If you want to assess your company’s exposure to water risk, you can start here.

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Today, four stories displayed next to each other, in the National section of the New York Times:

Boise Region Grapples With Smog, a Growing Threat

After years of growth and suburban development, the region that includes Boise and its suburbs, known as the Treasure Valley, is on the brink of violating federal clean air standards, and experts say the only real solution is one that might seem awfully un-Idahoan: persuading people to drive less.

List of Tainted Peanut Butter Items points to Complexity of Food Production

Tracking how the paste travels through the food supply can be challenging, because several companies can be involved in making the final food. For example, one manufacturer might coat the paste in chocolate and make a peanut butter cup, which is then sold to another company that mixes it into ice cream that may or may not also contain peanut butter. A grocery chain might buy that ice cream and sell it under a private label.

Environment Issues Slide In Poll of Public Concern

In the poll, released Thursday by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center, global warming came in last among 20 voter concerns; it trailed issues like addressing moral decline and decreasing the influence of lobbyists. Only 30 percent of the voters deemed global warming to be “a top priority,” compared with 35 percent in 2008. “Protecting the environment,” which had surged in the rankings from 2006 to 2008, dropped even more precipitously in the poll: only 41 percent of voters called it a top priority, compared with 56 percent last year.

Environment Blamed in Western Tree Deaths

Rising temperatures and the resulting drought are causing trees in the West to die at more than twice the pace they did a few decades ago, a new study has found. The combination of temperature and drought has also reduced the ability of the forests to absorb carbon dioxide, which traps heat and thus contributes to global warming, the authors of the study said, and has made forests sparser and more susceptible to fires and pests. 

A bit much to take, all at once . . . if you are at all concerned with what sustains us. Of course the one bright spot in this otherwise dire picture, is our new Commander-in-Chief, President Obama. I can feel his sense of urgency, and that gives me hope. 

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Thanks to Meryn Stol, for pointing me to what could be a world changing enterprise for food sourcing. As reported in World Changing, The Food Map, a project from two graduate students from University of Wisconsin, Madison, aims to shed some light on the U.S. food network. Currently in a very raw form, Food Map is using the example of two brands of mac and cheese to demonstrate how it would work on a larger scale. 

food_map

It is time the shroud of secrecy surrounding what’s gone on with our food, be lifted. I personally support the idea of a travel log for every single food item that makes it into our grocery stores. Food Map would go a long way towards alleviating my concern regarding this most troubling statistic from the FDA, that only 1% of food imports undergo food safety inspection . . . Short of greater transparency, I have to resort to blanket decisions such as bypassing non US food altogether. And even so, I still leave myself open to risks with processed foods. Currently ingredient sourcing for processed food is not required. 

Please support The Food Map project, starting with a visit to the site. 

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As reflected in the new tag line ‘A Girl’s View of Social Media, Sustainability, and Social Change‘, La Marguerite is getting reborn. From a green blog, to a more inclusive forum where to share my three main interests: sustainability, still, and also, social media, and social change. Social media has become a passion that’s become too big for just a few occasional tweets on Twitter. Social change touches upon my current forays into social entrepreneurship. All three embraced from a very feminine perspective:

dsc00349

I am thrilled!

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Every night, the same question comes up, of what to make for dinner? Tonight’s no different. No leftover in the fridge to give me a hint. Instead an odd assortment of vegetables, not even enough to make a soup with. And no help to be had from family members. All four have different ideas, and I do not have the time nor the desire to accommodate all. I shall make an executive decision. Of course, it would be nice to be ‘creative’ and step out of the usual repertoire, for a change. But tonight’s not the night. I am going to go for the safest bet. Roasted chicken with potatoes, and a green salad. I can zip over to Whole Foods, buy their organic fryer, organic potatoes, and organic lettuce, and while I am at it, a few extra vegetables so I can make a soup out of the leftovers tomorrow. Preparation time, 15′ total, and I can go back to my work, while the creature’s cooking in the oven. Done.

There is a lot to be said for that roasted chicken dinner. Most importantly, it meets all four criteria in my good food book:

  1. Cost: a whole chicken can be stretched over two meals for four people, easily, with roasted chicken first day, and chicken soup with rice the day after
  2. Health: no worries to be had with natural, organic ingredients
  3. Convenience: both meals are easy and quick to make, less than 15′, my usual limit on week days
  4. Taste: it’s hard to mess up roasted chicken, plus who doesn’t like chicken?

In a perfect world, I would have a hundred ‘roasted chicken’ recipes to pick from. The reality is closer to five or six meals, that I keep repeating, from week to week. The children have noticed. Oh! we’re having crepes again . . . How about a different dressing for the salad? I have fallen into a rut. I wish I could be more creative and fancy myself as one of my French friends, for whom cooking is still very much a daily practice in effortless imagination. Once in a while, I decide to shake things up a bit, and invest in a new cookbook. Last time, was The Art of Simple Food: Notes, Lessons and Recipes from a Delicious Revolution, by Alice Waters. I remember being quite excited, and thinking this was going to be THE book, unlike the thirty previous volumes, that have been gathering dust on my kitchen shelf. Of course, my interest in THE book was short-lived. I found it hard to make Alice’s recipes mine. An interesting observation, given that, objectively, her recipes embody all I want in food.

I am left with the question of why? How come is it that I keep going back to these few ‘comfort recipes’? When I could so easily whip myself into shape, and start meal planning the heck out of Alice’s cookbook, gathering hundreds of perfect recipes in the process. The answer is in the smell coming out of my oven right now. The aroma from the roasted chicken, and the potatoes brings me right back to my mother, and also my grandmother’s kitchen, to my French peasant roots of uncomplicated, good food. From the many more dishes that I watched, and sometimes helped them make, only le poulet roti, les pommes de terre au four, la salade verte toute bete, la soupe de legumes, les crepes, la tarte aux pommes, and le pudding au chocolat have remained in my primal core . . .

Of course, I am fortunate, to have been wired early on to only appreciate really good, natural food. That I am a boring cook with a limited repertoire is a small problem, compared to what happens for the majority of people in America, who have been brought up to love not natural food, but fast food instead.  To them, a visit to McDonald’s may bring up the same positive emotional onslaught as the one I feel when cooking my grandmother’s vegetable soup. And cooking naturally, or even cooking period, may be a lot harder for them to get into. Although hugely popular, cookbooks, recipe websites, and TV cooking shows, often cannot compete with the aroma of a Big Mac with French fries, on the side.

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In response to my last post, I was overwhelmed by a flurry of worried emails wondering what’s happening with La Marguerite, and my alluded identity crisis as a green blogger. The truth is, I have been posting a lot less frequently, and when I do, it is usually related to my new foray into cyberspace, a new website still in development, to do with food, sustainability, and grocery shopping. 

It is not just the new website however. I have also fallen into the slow blogging phenomenon, as described in last weekend’s New York Times, ‘Haste, Scorned: Blogging at a Snail’s Pace’. The article does a good job of capturing the shift taking place amongst bloggers, including the rise of Twitter as an alternative  blogging platform. For those of you not familiar with it, Twitter is a micro-blogging site that allows you to share, in 140 characters or less whichever thoughts come to you throughout the day, in response to question “What are you doing?”. Now, rather than sharing these small thoughts on La Marguerite WordPress blog, I go to La Marguerite on Twitter. And I save the blog for those rarer occasions when I want to expand on a particular issue.

Yet another reason for my decreased frequency in posting, has to do with a very practical consideration, and one that faces the majority of serious bloggers: the need to make money, and to spend one’s time wisely. This is a huge issue in blogging and social media in general. So far, there has not been a satisfying model for full time content providers such as myself to make money from their social media enterprises. Particularly in non commercial fields such as here on La Marguerite.

Last, it is my belief that blogging can only go so far in terms of its social impact. I have written about this before. At some point, action needs to take the relay of thinking and writing, and  I am not happy with just inciting others into action. 

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With less money to spend every month, many Americans are turning to coupons to stretch their food budget. Last weekend, I decided to join the ranks, and sat down at my kitchen table, armed with scissors and the two inserts from our Sunday paper. And started clipping away.

Coupons' Trap

I decided to separate the coupons into three piles:

Coupons that passed the test of my health conscious, green filter, and the only ones I may possibly use:

  • Minute Maid Juices, Lipton Teas, Stash Tea, EarthGrains Whole Wheat Bread, Tabasco – not a hundred percent sure about the EarthGrains Bread, I tried to check the ingredients online, without success -

The suspicious pile, coupons for products that won’t kill you, but all come with health/nutrition problems attached, to various degrees. Red flags such as too much salt, too much sugar, too much fat, GMO baggage, unnecessary packaging, radiation, pesticides, excessive processing, toxic eakage from plastic linings, added chemicals, grains stripped away from their wholeness, empty calories, fried potatoes, too much red meat:

  • Progresso Chicken Broth, Green Giant Frozen Vegetables, Star Olive Oil, Vinegar, and Olives, Mrs. Dash Seasoning Blend, Spice Islands Spices, Quaker Oatmeal, Fresh Express Pre-cut Salad, Del Monte Canned Fruit and Vegetables, Ragu Pasta Sauce, Skippy Peanut Butter, College Inn Broths and Stocks, Uncle Ben’s Long Grain and Wild Rice, Lawry’s Seasonings, Newman’s Dressings, Swiss Miss Cocoa, Bisquick Pancake Mix, Best Foods Mayonnaise, Pillsbury Dinner Rolls and Biscuits, Daisy Sour Cream, PoppyCock Nuts, Pam Spray, True North Nuts, Lipton Dinners, Kraft Salad Dressings, CountryCrock Cinnamon Apples, International House of Pancakes, Black Angus Steak House, Bakers Square Dinners, Betty Crocker Au Gratin Potatoes, Jell-O, Planters Nuts, C&H Sugar, Tyson Fully Cooked Bacon, Fiber One Toaster Pastries, Betty Crocker Cookie Mix, Quaker Chewy Granola Bars, Lee Kum Kee Sauces, Hillshire Farm Cocktail Links

The obviously junky bunch:

  • Betty Crocker Frosting, Cool-Whip, Big G Kid Cereals, Chuck E Cheese Pizza and Coca Cola Drinks, White Castle Microwavable Burgers, Reddi Whip, Entenmann’s Doughnuts, Hershey’s Chocolates, Kozy Schack Desserts, M&Ms

If I had any lingering doubts about the intentions of the food industry as a whole, this little exercise put them to rest. Coupons were not created with the interest of consumers in mind. Rather they are yet another marketing tactic from consumer packaged goods manufacturers to push their highly processed foods, regardless of their actual health benefit or lack thereof.

I say, let us not fall into the coupon trap, and seek instead, other, smarter ways to save, that won’t hurt our health.

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