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Friday, October 28, 2011

Working from home

I was happy to see this article about the eco-benefits of working from home as my better half has been working from home now since late August and he has acctually enjoyed it. Also Peppe wrote (in Swedish) about the benefits of working from home some days ago.

If you have the luxury and benefit of working from home I think it's important to have a space dedicated to this purpose not be distracted by other things while working and acctually having the feeling of taking a break when you go for lunch or a snack. Luckily, in the house we are renting now there is an extra little room that is just perfect for this solution. It is acctually almost too small to have any better use of it. So here is Stefan's office:


Peppes tip was to write down your workhours not to get caught in the "always on-line" trap when working from home.

Other benefits for Stefan has of course been the no-need-to-commute, saving time, money and impact on the environment. The fact that he is working a lot with latin america which is a big time-difference for us, however, as he works from home he can take it more easy in the morning, have a longer break for lunch and work more in the evening again which is not only giving him a better life quality but also our dog as he can spend time with him during his breaks.

Additionally we have acctually saved up some money as Stefan is eating at home (and probably eating healthier than in the city ;-) ) and we use up the food in the fridge as he has to create his own lunch from what is there.

Big scale is not always better

Just wanted to mention some addtional thoughts on the water situation post I wrote about last. I think I figured out what bothers me mostly on that. (except for it being expensive) Simply the fact that bigger systems are a lot of times more sensitive than smaller ones. For example if your neighbour's water get contaminated but you have your own well you are not affected but if when the whole system is connected everybody's water will get contaminated.

It's similar to the senseless industrial agriculture. The big scale farming is acctually more sensible to drought and other climate changes, additionally it is less biodiverse and feeds less people instead of more.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Small Water Crisis

We are back home in Finland, on the country-side for a couple of weeks, so sorry about the not-so-many updates.

Seems like here has been a minor water crisis when the authorities found protozoa (urdjur in Swedish) in the tap water. Luckily, we live in my granpa's old house that have its own well so we are not affected but it seems some people have even been going to the nearest city to buy/get water while some have continued drinking the "contaminated" water anyway. I mean, it's probably pretty safe but perhaps if you're a bit sensitive you can get an upset tummy.

At the moment the authorities are also planning to connect all the waste-water system to the nearest town's system. This has upset quite many as costs will have to be payed by every household themselves leaving them with a bill estimated on 10 000 EUR. For the ones with their own wells - like us - it is meant so that they also get connected to that water supply, so no need for the old wells anymore.

I am not quite sure what to think of all this. Taking proper care of the waste-water is of course good but is it sensible to build pipes 15-20 km to the place where it is taken care of? Will the system hold all this new households waste-water input? And will the water be properly taken care of before being dumped into the already polluted Gulf of Finland? Additionally, is the water from the community what we want to have - instead of our own well - if it is polluted? Apparently they've tried to clean it once from the protozoa but the small animals are still there. A bit tough to swallow this when you live in a country ranked among the best in water quality studies!

I don't know enough about water management to really be able to say what is better or not but it's gonna be interesting to see if they manage to handle it well.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Trick against nausea

Learned something new (link in Swedish) today. Apparently, cumin, cardamom and ginger are good against nausea or if you are feeling sick.

Will try next time I feel not-so-well.

My spicy drawer

Photo from here.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

UN International

This year is UN international year of forests, I think it is good that they have chosen to highlight this subject as so much forest is endangered at the moment. Let's hope they will keep working on that area in the future as well even if the focus already seem to be at the next year's subject.

Next year they have chosen to focus on cooperatives. A very interesting business model, this is how it is described on their webpage:

"Cooperatives are business enterprises owned and controlled by the very members that they serve. Their member-driven nature is one of the most clearly differentiating factors of cooperative enterprises. This fact means that decisions made in cooperatives are balanced by the pursuit of profit, and the needs and interests of members and their communities."

The S-Group (S-ryhmä) in Finland is for example a cooperative business, I guess the equivalent in Sweden would be Coop.

It would be interesting to know if these businesses are any more sustainable than their competitors. I can't at least pin-point right now at anything that would show that they would be.

Perhaps you have some better examples?

A world without coffee and chocolate?

Seems both coffee and chocolate (links in Swedish) might become scarce due to global warming. I have a few friends that might have a problem with both those facts.

Would you cope without coffee and chocolate?

Links in english on the same subject here and here.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Rooster Lips

Heard this awful news on the radio on my way home from school today. Here is another article on the subject in Swedish. Apparently, roosters are bred in Sweden solely for the purpose of their rooster comb which is used in anti-wrincle creams and lip enhancements. The rooster comb contains hyaluronic acid which keeps moist. By using this instead of synthetic filling apparently the lips get more soft and "natural", and this way they can call the filling "biological".

I always thought that, unless you had an accident or really need it, these sort of fixes are completely idiotic, but this is just insane. Is beauty really worth that price? and how beautiful is it really with gigantic lips anyway?

In any case this "beauty-ideal" is just a concept created by media. I was not originally gonna post this video in this blog but since it suited the subject so well, here is the trailer for the movie
Miss Representation. Found it on Soufi's blogg.


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Thoughts on GMO crops

As today is the Blog Action Day of 2011 and the subject is food, I decided to write about GMO crops. I realized that I knew very little about them myself and I'd seen a lot of articles recently on the issue, so I'll try to sum up on that a bit.

I was a little bit taken aback when I read the links from this Swedish blog to articles in the most important newspaper in Sweden, DN (Dagens Nyheter). The articles were positive and, in fact, argue for less tight rules in Europe on GMO-crops (articles here and here). I guess I was very suprised as I have felt Sweden is very pro-organic and pro-ecological in every way so far... apparently not every one in Sweden is. Luckily, a blogger posted the answer from the environmental organization that DN didn't to publish for some reason (so typical!)

Anyhow, the answer very much contains the same informaton that I found from this movie on GMO crops (I found the movie from this Swedish blog). I very much recommend it if you have 1 h 30 min to spare! It's from 2004 but unfortunately still a hot topic today.

Some thoughts on the movie (Warning for spoilers if you want to watch it):

  • When I have googled GMO before, the company Monsato came up and I didn't get a good feeling, this movie definitely confirmed that this company makes big money on not so ethical grounds
  • How? Monsato patented their GMO-crop and, because a crop is a natural thing that reproduces itself, it contaminated other farmers' fields that had normal crops and, then, Monsato sued those farmers for using their patent. The person in the movie talks about "a disturbing economic trend" (no shit!).
    Now US wants to harmonize patents in the world, wonder why?
  • When people say GMO crops are safe, do they know that the way to make GMO-crops is very much the way viruses behave? It seems for example that rats that were fed only GMO-crops had an affected immunesystem; so how will it affect us?
  • GMO crops will also affect genetic biodiversity. For example, if we have one GMO crop that is resistant to a certain herbicide and 10 different normal crops that are not->which one do you think will survive? There is also GMO crops with a "suicide" gene, after one planting it will not be possible to use its seeds anymore. What if this one contaminates other plants? What sort of mess are we in then?
  • About 1:10 min into the movie they explain why the argument that GMO crops will help the hunger problem in the world is not correct:
    "The hunger problem is not a production problem but an access problem"
Luckily, in Europe our legislation is still pretty thight, I at least hope it stays that way. It seems that even in US where GMO crops are more widely spread it is not very popular, 87 % of Americans would like to have labels on food with GMO crops, and just a week ago I read this article on "how to protect your family from GMO".

This article was also very interesting "Deep thinking about the future of food" based on a analysis by scientists in University of Minnesota. There's a few points that I would like to highlight from the text:

  • For starters, the group argues that the conversion of forests and grasslands to agricultural use needs to stop now; the environmental damage we are doing chopping down the Amazon far exceeds the small gain in food production, it says.
  • increases in food supply need to come from existing farmland by a process of intensified production in regions where yields are low
  • If yields in these regions could be brought to within 75 percent of their known potential using modern farming methods, including fertilizer and irrigation, total global supply of major foodstuffs would expand by 28 percent, the paper found. If yields were brought to 95 percent of their potential, close to those achieved in rich countries, the supply increase would be a whopping 58 percent.
  • improve the efficiency of agriculture in places where yields are already high. If farmers in Africa need more fertilizer, farmers in the United States need less.
  • high yields can be attained with fewer chemicals and less water, which would not only cut pollution but in some cases also cut costs for farmers.
  • more of the food we grow needs to wind up on people’s plates. That means cutting food waste, not just the kind so common in Western kitchens but also the tremendous post-harvest losses caused by bad storage conditions in poor countries.

Luckily some consumers are clearly making a statement buying organic food. I wonder if this is also a reason why the trend of gardening on your own is growing. In UK I saw numerous books on how to make your own kitchen garden and this post confirms that it is also big in US to grow your own stuff. Stefan also showed me this link, of a Spanish company offering solutions and education on how to grow your own garden and plants.

Growing your own takes of course a bit more effort and time but I think it's worth it in the end and it might even be fun. I found yet another reason to stick to organic as much as possible and now I'm dreaming of a greenhouse...too bad the winter is so long in the nordics though:-(

Friday, October 14, 2011

Eat & Joy Helsinki

Today I am almost a bit sad we do not live in Helsinki any longer. The shopping center Kluuvi in the center is re-opening today-I don't care about that much but the new market hall in the down floor seems to be lovely with ecological, seasonal and locally produced products.

Read more in Swedish here and in English here.

Well, I guess I have to join the Fairtrade fika (fika is the term the Swedes use for having a coffee or drink with a small bite) on 19th October here instead.

EDIT: One more link to a Finnish blog writing about the new Eat & Joy store/café

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

No Impact Man

Bought this book on the weekend. Haven't read it yet but it seemed quite interesting and entertaining. Apparently it is a about a guy who decides to make no environmental impact for a year. Any one of you read it yet?




Reminds me the documentary, "Recipes for Disaster" by John Webster, filmed in Finland. He decides to live without oil for a year. I think the best bit is when his son points out that his camera is made of plastic. Here you have the trailer, enjoy!


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

News

This was not the cheeriest of news right now. Apparently the Swedish government are cutting down on funding to the agricultural University were I am studying at the moment.

Yesterday the news was that Europeans feel that climate change is more important than the economic crisis. (Swedish link and English link)

Let's hope that at some point soon the political decisions will reflect this a bit better.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Healthy Spices

Found this small notice about spices' health benefits in the free newspaper on the bus.



Apparently cinnamon will help on burning calories, regulate your blood sugar, lessen heartburn and sugar cravings. I also read somewhere else that cinnamon helps for menstrual pains and at least it works for me. I just add some in my hot chocolate for example and no need to take pain killers (which I try to avoid as much as possible).

Turmeric (gurkmeja in Swedish) is according to the notice good for lowering blood sugar and against arteriosclerosis.

Cardamom again will help the metabolism and have a calming and diuretic effect.

Thyme will work against bacteria, expectoration and will prevent throat infections.

Learned a few new medical terms in English translating that but I found these sort of things interesting. Enjoy a spicy autumn!

Friday, October 7, 2011

You Decide

We had an external lecturer from the big dairy-company in Sweden last week, talking about their journey to produce ecological products. He concluded with a very interesting comment.

"It is you and I, the consumers, that decide what is provided in the stores. The seconds when you decide what you buy is acctually more important than what you think."

Once again I was reminded that our choices and actions as individuals does matter.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Don't Underestimate Plants

The plants can help clean the air for us. ( I personally want one of each of those indoor plants! :-) )



The trees absorb carbon dioxide for us, unfortunately the cut-down of rainforest is not helping the climate change. In turn the climate change is not helping the trees and so we have created a bad spiral.

There migh be unexpected ways plants can help us, they can for example work as a natural guard.

A lot more plants than the avarage vegetables are also edible (link in Swedish) and I think we often forget that a lot of herbs and plants can be used for the most ailments we have.

Buy Nothing New Month

In Australia they have launched a Buy Nothing New Month campain during October.

Webpage here and FB.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Focus on Fish Week

Apparently it is the week to focus on fish in Sweden now.

I will just link to an article on the overfishing and the sustainable seafood guides by WWF.


I will also just copy some old text from my other blogg on the shampoo that kills fish:

I was shocked to learn that some shampoo contain a toxic that kills fish. I will be looking at the ingredients list better next time I buy a shampoo.
The ingredient that is toxic in shampoo is called: -Zinkpyrition.


And as a last thing you can check out the anti-scampi video I posted before.

Have a nice fish-week!

An inconvenient truth

We saw the movie "an inconvenient truth" in class today. Unfortunately, I was not able to embed the trailer here but you can check the it on youtube.

Very interesting and still very relevant even if the movie is from 2006. It's a bit focused on US though, he could have made a "worldversion" as well.

Have you seen it yet?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Stories of stuff & things

I saw long ago already the story of stuff video. Now lately I've stumbled upon also the story of bottled water and the story of cosmetics. Seems they have a whole project going on with more and more videos all the time.

This is the teaser for the first video:



You can see them all at their homepage.

On the subject of cosmetics, Oca posted a link to the no'poo website, with tips on self-made or chemical-free cosmetics. (in Swedish though) Here is also an ABC of cosmetics.

"Natural" Gas

I found this quite entertaining video in this blog by some other students at SLU. It refers to the way the natural gas is obtain from the ground. Apperently, they pump water with a high pressure into the rockbed so it brakes. Unfortunately, they also pump a lot of chemicals in with the water that evetually end up in the groundwater that we use for drininking.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Beans and Oils

Learned that 90% of the soya produced is GMO (genetically modified organism) and that a lot of rainforest is cut down for the soya production. Unfortunately, most of the soya produced will be fed to cattle for producing meat for us. So even if I personally never buy soya, since I don't like the taste, I probably eat meat or drink (or have drunk) milk from cows that have been fed with GMO soya-beans. Not-so-nice!

Valio has apparently done a good move and stopped using soya for their cows but instead they are using canola (raps in swedish). According to Juha Nousiainen, the CEO of FarmServices in Valio, raps contains even more protein than soya. So good going Valio!

Palm Oil is another product that the rainforest has been cut down for and the production is continously growing. Unfortunatly, it is extremely difficult to avoid palm oil as well as it is in everything from shampoo to cookies and usually labelled "vegetable oil". So I did put my snack in the wrong throat when I read this on the back of the bag:

No more Mexicanos for me!

In Australia there was an attempt to make a law on labelling palm oil in food but it seems it didn't pass in the end. I wonder how many products here are labelled "vegetable oil" or similar for palm oil, wouldn't be all too bad to know for sure.