Pages

Monday, November 28, 2011

Stockholm tip for Thursday

Really need to concentrate on studying this week so I am not sure how much I will be able to write but if I wouldn't have classes on Thursday I'd go to the opening of the ecological store and beautysaloon Oikos in Stockholm.

Today's salad was a mix of some leftover bread and red-onion togheter with fresh tomatoes, some extra virgin olive-oil and sprinkle of lemon. And we finished it all which is great becasue I am not sure the bread would have been eaten otherwise.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Don't waste your waste

Finally, we managed to put up the "no advertising, please" label on the mailbox. It will be interesting to see if we will get less advertisment from now.


In the end we did not have so many new ideas on how to reuse the trash that we created during the week but I think we've saved most of the glassbottles and cans now. One old taco-sauce jar is for example super handy to scoop dog-food with, and it's more or less the same size as the old measurement cup we have left back in Finland. When it comes to the metallic cans, you can do supernice things with if you are handy like these bloggers: here, here and here. I'm a disaster for those sort of things so I think I will stick to something more easy, like this. Stefan used one can for planting some seeds he got from Spain some time ago but they didn't start growing - just as the acorn project also seem hopeless right now, what happened to my green fingers? It seems I have also overwatered the two indoor plants that we have since the move - we used to have a lot of them - and I think that no plants under my care have been in so bad shape ever.

Another thing Stefan already fixed ages ago is putting order of the cables with old paper rolls. I think he had read about the tip in some other blog. It doesn't look very good but as they are in the drawer it doesn't matter - and it works! It is acctually great not to have to unravel the cables from each other when you open the drawer and it is easier to find the cable you need at the moment, there is always too many of them anyway.

Here is the one of them neatly tucked away in its own roll:


And of course if nothing else you can always recycle as much waste as possible at recycle stations.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Buy Nothing Day

I was really late on this one but apperently it was Buy Nothing Day today. I knew I read about it earlier this month but then I've completely forgotten about it.

In any case, I think the message of this initiative is to reflect over Christmas-shopping as the day is strategically chosen to be just one month before Christmas; when the stores are obviously trying to market and lure you into buying as much as possible around this time.

I personally prefer to avoid the shopping malls before Christmas and instead if possible go around to Christmas markets: the Christmas feeling is usually nicer around there and it is easy to find home-made stuff or things you wouldn't find in a store.

The fair trade Christmas market in Stockholm would be something I'd like to go to - not sure I will be able to, though. Today I also rebelled against the buy nothing day (if you can rebell against something you didn't remember) and we went to the local village's Christmas market (and suprisingly enough I bought... toothpaste!). Tomorrow I'd like to go to the Uppsala castle's Christmas market, not only for the market but also because I haven't visited the castle yet and I guess it is something worth to see around here.

Another idea I like is the "charity gifts" but I've found that, just as it is horribly difficult to know what exactly another person might need, it is as difficult to know what charity or organization another person's heart ticks for. However, perhaps it is not such a big deal if the gift goes to UN or WWF as far as it helps doing a bit of good. Also Stefan and I have agreed that if we spend money on an organization or charity we prefer if they don't send us anything by post (no need of plastic toys, paper diplomas, etc.), if it's electronical it's ok.

All this Christmas shopping talking made me think that it would be interesting to make a survey and ask people what is the best Christmas present they ever got. What was yours? Do you even remember half of the things you've gotten?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Local Food Seminar

Our department at the University is trying out a new concept where they organize a seminar every month on a different subject than our normal courses that may be of interest for us for projects or the future. Sometimes, some courses might touch the subjects of the seminars but it can still be interesting to hear about them from another point of view.
If possible, they invite professors from other departments at the Uni so we can get to know them as well. I think it is a great initiative and as our department is Economics we can still work with almost all the other departments and subjects in one in one way or another once we have graduated. It's nice that we can also give our own ideas for future seminars on subjects that we are interested in.


Yesterdays seminar was on local food and the professor started with a very interesting question. Imagine you are gonna buy carrots and have three alternatives, which one would you buy?

1. The one that was produced in Sweden but with lots of chemicals
2. The one that was organic but produced in Italy
3. The one that she would tell you tastes really, really good (for choosing this one it of course requires you trust her, which is easier if you know the person from before)

The point she was trying to make was that our shopping will be affected by our own values. For someone it might be more important to buy the organic carrot even if it comes from further away, while for another one it is more important to buy Swedish (local) even if it fertilizer and pesticides are used. However, local is very difficult to define. Local could be a small area like a city or community, a country, Europe or even a bigger area depending on who you are talking to.

Here is three defenitions on local food:

1. Food from a specific region
2. Food from a place within a certain distance from you
3. Food from a person you know and trust

Note that there is a difference between "regional specialities" (like feta, champagne..) and a "local" food system (food produced and consumed in the same area).

Environmental benefits of local food can be:
-transport (shorter distances; however, some studies have shown that it is not always more energy efficient if every farmer takes their own car to the market and drive eg. 200 km back and forth)
- Local nutricient cycle (this cycle does not work in the industrialized agriculture)
- Seasonal eating habits( saves on transportation and energy for greenhouses)

Social and economic benefits may be:
- local specialities will have a positive impact on the local culture
- eco-chains are taken care off (this is not always the case though)
- transparency & larger control over the food chain
- social justice (we will eat the food that can be produced locally and not "steal" food resources from less wealthy sociaties)
- you create a bond and a trust with your food supplier (however this is difficult to measure scientifically but it is easier to trace the product relative to conventional farming)
- jobs and money stay in the region
- better income for farmers and satisfactory working conditons

However, the professors also pointed out that depending how local food is defined it is not necessarily environmentally or socially better. Usually, local means a heavier workload for farmers as they have to take care for more steps in the value chain themselves and this might mean that, let's say, the marketing of the products suffers as there is no time over for that, which leads to the fact that it might not pay off economically since a certain scale and volume is needed (the scale is also limited by the local measure). Another downside is that a local producer's power in the market place is limited and he/she cannot, for example, affect prices. Also local farmers might not have the money to pay for eco-labels even if the products have been organically grown. However, if there is trust between the consumer and the farmer this might not be an issue.

So it is not an easy decision we have in the store when buying food. In the end we have to choose what's behind our values and beliefs. I do like to support local food but I think I regard organic even higher, so if the local is not organic I might choose the Italian grown eco carrot. However, sometimes I choose a vegetable for the simple reason that it is not packed in plastic, it annoys me that every cucumber and pepper sometimes is packed separetely in plastic. What extra value does that bring us except for more waste?

Monday, November 21, 2011

On the waste subject

We got a whole bunch of advertisement in the mailbox today. It feels like the closer we get to Christmas the bigger the bunch per day. So unnecessary! I really need to fix a "no advertisement" sign on the mailbox, even though my experience is that it doesn't help much. However, let's hope we'd get at least a little bit less of them.

The toy ads upset me most though, with the glossy paper and most of the toys being made from plastic, which therefore may contain chemicals like phthalates. Three of the phthalates are forbidden in EU in toys since 2007 and three other ones are forbidden in toys that kids put in their mouths, but still not completely forbidden. (link in Swedish).


Here are some tips on how to choose safer toys. But I wonder still why do a majority of them need to be in plastic in any case?Link

Sunday, November 20, 2011

European Week for Waste Reduction

Yesterday the European Week for waste reduction started and will continue until 27th November.

The idea is to increase awareness on how much waste we are producing and what can be done in this area. Like reusing, composting and recycling. Companies can also help by producing products that last longer or products that can be refilled or recycled at the end of its lifecycle.

Here is some common actions around Europe this week and here is some ideas for activities. On twitter the hashtag #EWWR is used on news and ideas. Swedish speaking can also go to @Minskaavfallet and www.minskaavfallet.se.

As for me and my boys we're gonna try to see if we can think of ways to reuse things this week that otherwise would have gone to waste.

This box, with the paper it came with re-lived already once as the dog entertainment of the day with some dog-candy inside:


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Rädda Mannen -Save the Man Conference

I woke up this morning with the theme song from the Monk TV-series in my head. It might not be that strange as the information we got yesterday would very much suit the theme lyrics. Monk suffers from intensified obsessive-compulsive disorder and has different phobias, one for bacterias, turns out he should be scared of chemicals as well!

It's a jungle out there
Disorder and confusion everywhere
No one seems to care
Well I do
Hey, who's in charge here?
It's a jungle out there
Poison in the very air we breathe
Do you know what's in the water that you drink?
Well I do, and it's amazing
People think I'm crazy, 'cause I worry all the time
If you paid attention, you'd be worried too
You better pay attention
Or this world we love so much might just kill you
I could be wrong now, but I don't think so
It's a jungle out there


Here is a sum-up of the conference yesterday.

Why was it called "Save the Man"?
Because a lot of chemicals in our environment have been found to affect our hormonsystems: men produce less and less sperm, there are more babygirls born than boys and some of the boys are born with malformed genitals.
Additionally, chemicals or "chemical cocktails" also cause us cancer, obesity, asthma, allergies, ADHD, ASD... the list seems to be endless. Obviously, these chemicals also affect our environment and animals.


During the conference a new study was presented by Naturskyddsföreningen's chairman Mikael Karlsson on how much chemicals was found in fish in 9 countries all over the world. They found chemicals like dioxins, DDT, PCB, brominated flame retardants, fluorinated pollutants and the heavy metals cadmium and mercury. Many of the substances were found in levels way over the healthy limits. Note that these fishes would have ended up on somebody's dinner table if they would not have been part of the study. The whole study can be found in Swedish here and articles here and here.

One problem at the moment is that we use syntetical chemicals before we know if they are actually dangerous or not, thus creating chemical cocktails in the environment. Mikael Karlsson made a metaphor saying "it's a bit like making an omelette out of all different mushrooms we can find in the forest without knowing which ones are toxic or not".


Also, the book "Den flamsäkra katten" - "The flame retardant cat" - was launched during the day. The book can be bought here.

The authors of the book, Anna Froster, Magnus Hedenmark and Roger Olsson had a very cool presentation. Basically, Anna started worrying about the chemicals in her surroundings when she got pregnant and was shocked to found out that they are absolutely everywhere. In our food, clothes, home, even the new stroller they bought for their kid was flame retardant; so perhaps not so safe for the baby? Especially, since the flame retardants do apparently not even save people from fire, meaning they are not fire proof.

Another interesting case was that Cats seem to be more exposed to chemicals as they are crawling around on the floor where chemicals lay around in, for example, dust and particles. The cats had 20 times more flame retardants in their blood than a normal grown-up. Unfortunately, small kids also crawl around on the floor a lot, so why would they not be exposed as well?

Other speakers we heard during the day was Aleksander Giwercman, specialist on mens' fertility, Merete Eggesbo from the health institute in Norway speaking about obesity and Åke Bergman from Stockholm's University about the effects of endocrine disruptors.
They all at some point in their presentations touched the subject of how exposure of a different chemical or chemical cocktail at diffent points of time in your life might trigger diseases or mess with your hormones in your body at a later point in life which is why it is difficult to make studies on this. For example, when fetus mice was exposed to an extra dose of oestrogen they suffered from obesity as grown ups. Many diseases might be linked to similar exposure of chemicals in the fetus stage or infant stage when a child is extra sensitive in its developement. Another factor that makes it extra difficult for studying the effects of different chemicals is that we all react differently to different chemicals.

An area of concern is the fact that EDCs, Endocrine Disrupter Chemicals - synthetic or artificial hormones - are continously increasing. Hormon signals co-ordinate our body's organisms and functions.

In the afternoon there were different seminars we could attend. I followed a very interesting one where Leonardo Trasande from New York University talked about socio-economic costs of chemical diseases and Lars Drake from Kemikalieinspektionen talked about how economical instuments (like taxes) can be used to prevent or lessen the use of chemicals.

To round up the day, the conference ended with two debates, one with researchers and entrepreneurs and the other one with politicians. Very lively debates, let's hope the politicians took the facts and these matters to heart.



So, what can you do to avoid chemicals?
- buy eco-certified products or second-hand
- check not only what you eat but also what creams and cosmetics you use, our skin absorbs a lot more than what you might think.
- try to influence politicians and businesses
- educate your friends on products that you learn are harmful

What can businesses do?
- Businesses that are proactive and do more than necessary already now will not have to go through heavy adjustments at once when the laws will be pushed trough (which they hopefully will be!).
- The SIN-list (Substitute it Now) might be of help as it identifies the most hazardous substances, as known at the moment

If you are interested you can find what chemicals are registered in Europe at the moment at the ECHA-website (as a Finn I have to make a note that the ECHA, European Chemical Agency, office is based in Helsinki ;-) ) and CAS, American chemical society, will have listed the American ones. The list of registered chemicals are growing by the minute and one concern that Ulrika Dahl from the Naturskyddsföreningen brought up is how to handle this flow. Unfortunately, usually when one harmful chemical is prohibited it is quickly replaced with another similar one in chemical structure or at least with similar qualities ( eg. bisfenol a->bisfenol s).

Scary facts, as Monk would say; "It's a jungle out there".

Friday, November 18, 2011

Rädda Mannen

Follow tweets from today (mostly in Swedish) #raddamannen conference on chemicals.

My tweets @rulesofgreen

EDIT: BTW, livefeed from here.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Vintage Fair and Chemical Conference coming up

Pretty exciting days coming up.

Tomorrow we will go to the vintage fair, Vintagemall, in Stockholm to check out weddingdresses and suits. If you are in Stockholm and interested in going, check out Drottninggatan 81 during 17-20 november 2011.

Friday I will spend the day at the conference "Rädda mannen" (Save the Man), about chemicals in our environment organized by naturskyddsföreningen. Will keep you posted.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Save the bees

Lisen wrote a very nice post on bees (in Swedish), so I got inspired to also write about them. The fact that we need bees for our food is very basic and elementary as they pollinate the flowers that will eventually give us apples, raspberries and so on. Up to 76% of what we eat is pollinated by instects.

Unfortunately, the bees are struggling because of mites and an unexplicable sudden kill. I learned about the threats already some time ago when I saw this website and the trailer of "Vanishing of the bees".



However, according to the documentary running on SVT play until 31 November, the biggest treath to bees are acctually a mite called 'Varroa distructor'. As usual though a lot of the things humans are doing is not making it easier for the bees. We are polluting them with pesticides and destroying their natural habitats of biodiversity with our big scale agricultural ways. Unfortunately, the only way to get rid of the mite is to use pesticides, which brings us to a vicious circle.

In whichever case, as non of us wants to live in a world without bees here is some tips on what you can do to save them. You can also for example support the Bee Urban organization that sponsors beehives in urban environments.



And most importantly of all, you probably want to buy honey that is local and organic. I read another piece of shocking news just a week ago; most honey in stores does not even include pollen, at least in US. This is done so the honey cannot be traceable and probably the honey without pollen comes from China.

I know that most of us probably think of bees in negative terms, as we think of being stung, but as bees do not only create honey but are a key factor for our food production we should take care of them better. Even Einstein had something to say on the matter of bees: (quote from here)

"If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live."

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Orangutan Awareness Week

This week is Orangutang awareness week. You can see the different events during Orangutan awareness week here.

I didn't know much about Orangutans until I saw BBC's documentary, Orangutan Diary, few years ago. If you haven't seen it yet, do take time to watch it: very well made documentary and the orangutan's are completely adorable, especially the baby ones.



Orangutans are one of the species that are having a tough time due to the deforestation in Indonesia and Malaysia for the palm oil plantation.

Here is adorable video I saw yesterday:



Just in time for this awarenss week a new book on organutans has been published. A nice Christmas gift maybe?

Friday, November 11, 2011

How to clean your clogged drain naturally and in a more fun way


Our bathroom sink's drain was really clogged last week and I was thinking about how to clean it without using chemicals like Mr Muscle that I've used in the past. Now I am not sure if the chemicals in Mr Muscle are bad for the environment or not but I wanted to try to do it with stuff that we had at home.

Before, the water took ages going down the drain:

So after some googling I found this tip and thought it was easy enough. Here it goes:

Put some water to boil and get three cups, one with baking soda, one with salt and one with with vinegar. Make sure that the sink is dry.


And then you just drop then down the drain one at a time:

1. Baking Soda


2. Salt


3. Vinegar, once you get to this stage the fun begins, buzzing, bubbling and steaming



4. Last pour the boiling water on top.


The kid in me really enjoyed this little home made chemistry and the best thing is that it worked! No more clogged drain, without needing to buy any chemical based stuff from the store and it was fun too!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Time Management

Regarding time management it's a blessing to be a student again. Even if it's a lot of work, I am much more free to decide when I work on what.

Another thing that helps is that we don't watch TV since we moved to Sweden. We used to live without one for some time in Helsinki but for the last couple of years we had one. At the moment we have a TV but it's only connected to the playstation, so yes, we watch movies and some series on it but we decide when we feel like it. It's not bad as such to watch TV, it's just that I think that a lot of times we get stuck on something completely brainless. Don't get me wrong, though, there is a lot of interesting programs shown as well but most of the people turn the TV on just to see "what's up" and end up hooked on useless stuff.

Unfortunately now I am spending a lot of time that I would have spent in front of the TV in front of the computer, surfing the web, but I almost feel like I'm getting just a bit more out of that - most of the times I chose what I search for. However, I still need to work on getting myself away from the computer more as well and doing more useful things when I am in front of it.

Here is some links that got me thinking of this subject in the first place:

The treehugger post on how much our life is shortened by watching TV and graphs on how many hours we spend in front of the box.

Jonas posts (in Swedish) on why to stop watching TV. Basically he is referring to statistics that say that the avarage Swede spend 7 years of their life all in all watching TV, and by watching TV you watch also a lot of commercials which tell you to buy more stuff. He wrote another interesting post about our use of interet. How we surf bookbloggs & stores instead of reading books, food bloggs and recipes instead of cooking etc.

Therefore it was refreshing to spend some time on the Finnish counrty-side where I had to force myself to do other things than stay at the computer. I read more than usually, did some raking:


Had to heat up the house and the sauna:


When it's pitch black outside the warm sauna was quite inviting.


Peppe also wrote an interesting post (in Swedish) about how the future TV media will look like. Already now web-Tv is more and more popular than traditional TV and the programs we watch are maybe not the same as before.

Perhaps the younger generation who will grow up with internet will find tradtional TV-watching boring?

In whichever case, the sun is out so I'm gonna reluctantly leave my internet and take the dog for a walk in the sunshine before it's dark again.

Grow your own oak

Read in the newspaper this tip on how to grow your own oak and since we have loads of acorns aroud I thought we would try.

It says to keep them in water for 3-6 weeks and when you can see a small root coming out to move it to a vase with a narrow neck and and fill the vase with water up to the neck. In some weeks there should be leaves on your small tree.

I'm a bit suspicous about this though as my acorns keep floating in the glass and does not look at all like in the pic.

Well, we'll see in some weeks I guess, will keep you posted.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Overdose

Stumbled upon the video overdose in this blog. Here is the trailer in english:

Overdose - The Next Financial Crisis : Official Trailer from Devell/Borgs on Vimeo.



Unfortunately, I didn't find the whole film with english subtitles but you can see it with swedish once here. I thought it brought up some interesting facts.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Eco Hairdresser Experience

After reading about all the chemicals in normal hair colours I decided that no more. I thought it was gonna be easy to find an eco-hairdresser in Uppsala but turns out that the only one here has quit. So instead I went to one in Finland while we were there.

My hair was in not very beautiful condition anymore before I went:

After some oil-massage, mud-treatment, some eco-colouring (including at least lemon-juice) and a hair-cut the result looked like this:

Still a bit lighter in the ends were the old colouring was but all in all the contrast is now less clear. Next time I might try to colour it myself with eco-colours, Noora did some colouring with henna powder and red wine. That sounds too cool not to try, even though I might have to stick to lemon and other stuff that gives lighter colours as I am not that dark-haired naturally and it is best to stick to something quite close to your own colour.

It was a nice experience and if I go to the hairdresser again I will try to pick an eco one. I do recommend it too if you have a dry or itchy scalp as the products they use naturally are more sensitive for your skin than chemical products.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Confessions

I have to confess that my personal buy nothing new October month did not go so well. I bought some warm gloves, a woolly hat and leggings - for the cold winter! - and then some books: the ones I've been telling you already about in the blog (no impact man and smakernas återkomst) and these three:

Well, practically the last book is for Stefan and the first book is for both of us.

About the gloves, hat and leggins, I guess there is not really any good reason, unless it counts that it was difficult to find these items second-hand and that I am expecting an as cold winter as the last two. However, now it's November and it is still + 10C which is strange. I'm almost waiting for snow, the days are getting so dark now without anything to light them up a bit.

On books, we are unfortunatly both bookaholics but Stefan has been thinking of buying an e-book reader since our old one broke. However, some books are just nicer to read on paper. The good news is though that they can be read over and over.

All in all I think I did good thinking about how much I used to shop I few years ago still and I've been good the whole year. In the end it is not about not buying anything at all but buying consciously. Thinking about if it makes sense to buy the things we buy and if we really need them. Nowadays, I prefer to buy one item of good quality that will last longer than a new pair of gloves every year as they fall to pieces.

During the weeks in Finland I also packed up two plastic bags of shirts and jumpers I don't use anymore hoping they will be of use for somebody else, so the month end balance is still ok.

Eat according to the seasons

We spent last saturday in the Helsinki book fair, I had no idea that Mats-Eric Nilsson was gonna be there so I was really happily suprised when he turned up. For those who doesn't know him he has written books in Swedish about the additives in our food, how companies "cheat" when making our food and how to avoid these products when going shopping. You can find some of his books in Swedish here and read more about him and his books on his website here. I think it was the guy who has translated his books into Finnish that interviewed him and afterwards he signed some books. I took my chance to get a signed copy of his newest book which is acctually a cook book on seasonal food. Eating seasonal does not only make more sense environmentally but is also cheaper. Now, it depends of course a bit on what is in season depending where you live but here are a couple of Swedish websites on seasonal food; säsongmat and säsongbloggen. Just googling quickly I could find for example this one in english.

My copy of the book:

During the time in Finland I also finished the no impact man book that I got earlier this month. I can really recommend it, got me thinking at least, even if I don't think we all have to go to such extremes as he did. In the book, Colin Beavan is also talking about seasonal and local food. He committed himself to only eating food from a 250 mile range, no greenhouse grown food, neither seafood or beef. If I understood correctly they didn't use fridge or freezer either. You can read his blog here.

In the Nordics though that can be a bit difficult as nothing can really be grown during winter so we have to in such cases rely on food that can be stored and saved for longer perods of time. I think this is partly why Mats-Eric is not as radical in his book, but he gives some good advice and inspiration anyway.

"Eat well!" is what he wrote in my book so I'm wishing you the same!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Volunteer

Lovely Angelique Kidjo has dedicated a song of hers for volunteers.



We saw her in concert some years ago in Helsinki and I've never seen anyone more energetic on stage. She was fantastic! So if you have the opportunity to see her I can surely recommend you go.

Enjoy Agolo: