Sunday, July 08, 2012

Wind- How is it Created? What Can We Use it For?

I was sitting outdoors, eating my lunch and the wind suddenly picked up and blew my lunch bag over.  It made me wonder, where does wind come from, more specifically, how is wind created?  And what can we use it for?

How is Wind Created?

An initial search came up with some fairly in depth and complicated answers.  But seeing as this blog is intended for the average person who doesn't have in depth knowledge of science, I have compiled an easy answer guide.

Essentially, wind is the rotation of hot and cold air circulating around one another.  Air is in constant motion in our universe and becomes affected by the pressure and temperature around it.  When one area is hotter than the one next to it, it creates wind.

What Can We Use Wind For?

The biggest use of wind is as an energy resource.  A lot of people consider wind as a new energy source, however many of us forget about windmills (and many other wind technologies and uses dating back to the Middle Ages).  As technology has progressed, so has our use of wind as an energy resource, including wind turbine farms.  These are entire fields dedicated to erecting wind turbines and "farming" that wind and ultimately turning that wind into energy (electricity) to use in people's homes and businesses.

Wind can aid in travel as well.  Sail boats almost exclusively rely on wind to move them, and airplanes can often use less fuel and travel faster with the help of wind.
Entertainment use of wind is often overlooked, however flying a kite would be impossible without it.

So there you have it.  Wind is simply created by the variations in pressure and temperature in the atmosphere and can be used for lots.  Being a constant renewable resource we really should start to take advantage of it more often.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Workplace Quick Tips

Let’s face it- we all can’t ride our bikes to work or grow a vegetable garden on our company’s rooftop. But that doesn’t have to stop us from eating better and being more environmentally friendly while at work. Below is a quick list of easy healthy/environmentally friendly behaviours:

  • Use up your whole Post-It Note, both sides 
  • Collect non-confidential papers in a paper tray- use for scraps, you can even make small notepads 
  • Bring your lunch- it takes some time and planning the night before (or morning of) but it’s quite simple and much cheaper than buying food 
  • Make eating lunch easy by keeping cutlery and other required materials (such as condiments etc.) at your desk or in the lunch room 
  • Only eat in conducive areas for healthy eating, don’t eat in the food court even if your work friends are, this can lead to temptation 
  • If you have to walk anywhere, whether that be within your office or outside, take the long way. A couple minutes of extra walking doesn’t disrupt your day, but allows you to enjoy some detox and brief exercise 
  • Have a cup which can hold both hot and cold beverages, which saves on the amount of items you need to buy, keep track of and wash 
  • Dump unwanted water from cups into plants, or outdoor bushes etc. 
  • Keep a small sweet snack in your desk out of sight, even locked up in a drawer for those dangerous 3:30pm sweet cravings. Pre-ration them into small amounts and commit to only eat one portion during a craving 
  • Drink lots of water! If your company doesn’t provide a filtered water system, buy a small cooler of your own to sit under or on your desk, alternatively you could use a Brita filtration jug 
  • Take the stairs when possible 
  • When you start to feel bored, unmotivated or restless take a walk around the office or outdoors 
  • Stay organized to prevent stress 
  • Only print what absolutely must be printed- most items can be emailed, faxed or spoken about 
  • Spend time with and eat with like minded people to avoid distractions and temptations
  • Surround yourself with a positive and refreshing work space.  Include pictures of people that matter, inspiration quotes if desired, plants, fan/heater, bright colours and comfort
What other suggestions can you add to this list?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Disney Frying Out Fast Food

Recently, Disney, the large family entertainment company, announced they weren't going to advertise fast food companies on their TV channels, websites and radio stations which are aimed at kids and families beginning in 2014.  Also on the list of banned advertisements are sugary cereals and treats.  The company has set out standards to follow, and any advertisers who wish to win a coveted spot in any of their media must be a product that passes the test.  They've put a 600 calorie limit on full meals, and a 200 calorie limit on any side dishes as their advertising constraints.

No longer fast food, but apples will grace Disney's ads
The First Lady, Michelle Obama, has been active in this initiative and supports the company's decision, calling it a "game changer".  Disney is the first major media company to take this stand and if their past actions have been any indication, it's quite likely other companies could follow suit.  This ban has been in the making for a while, in 2006 Disney set out a goal to make 85% of the food sold in their parks and resorts "healthy".  What they constitute as "healthy" isn't quite defined, so they can have creative liberty at deciding what they deem healthy and unhealthy.

Of course, it would be difficult to argue cookies and chips are healthy, however, there are many foods which sit on the healthy/unhealthy fence.  While I think this is a step in the right direction for Disney, and advertising in general, I'll be impressed to see it actually come to fruition successfully.  I think it will be more difficult to initiate and enforce this goal.  I'm hoping it works out though.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Food Labels

Going through my organic, real food, environmental books I have noticed something which I hadn't prior to this personal research: most, if not all, foods are required to have a list of ingredients and generally also some (face value) nutritional information.
While there are arguments against whether or not these nutritional labels are of any importance or actual good use to determine the true nutritional value of the food item, at least you've got some facts to work with and start your additional research (if so desired).  However, have you noticed one food item which does not have one of these labels?
Meat products.  What's on the labels?  Weight and price and some kind of description of the meat.  Unless you're getting some kind of frozen meat product (and then it's not really "real food" now is it?), meat doesn't have to list ingredients or nutritional information on the packaging.  Why is it that the FDA (or other governing association) doesn't require this as they do for other food packages?  What would be listed on these labels if they did require it?
  • pesticides
  • chemicals
  • drugs and hormones
It could get a lot of more specific and terrifying.  Yet it's all ignored and consumers aren't even given the option, unless they choose to do the research themselves.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Plastic Bag Ban

Yesterday was kind of a big deal to environmentalists in Toronto, because council was voting on the use, charges and ultimately, what ended up being the ban, of plastic bags in the city.  The mayor, who is sometimes viewed as a joke, or at the very least unprofessional, with many residents, had asked council to remove the $0.05 charge for plastic bags in retail and grocery stores.  In typical Mayor Ford style however, he was slightly embarrassed when council actually voted to get rid of plastic bags altogether starting January 1, 2013.  This vote which ended up being a great environmental impact for the city, wouldn't have occurred had Mayor Ford not brought up the cost of the bags- so I suppose we should thank him for that.

Unfortunately, the actual vote to lift the charge for plastic bags was passed, and from July 1, 2012 until December 31, 2012, consumers will not be charged the $0.05 fee.  While, the mayor is happy he was able to get rid of the fee, he doesn't support, nor think the ban of plastic bags will stick, though many European and American cities have already done away with plastic bags with good success.  Toronto is the first major Canadian city to make this giant step towards being more "green".  Retailers will have the option to provide or charge for alternate bags such as paper and cloth.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Eco Engagement

This weekend I became a fiance!  No longer just a girlfriend title following my name in an introduction.  I have a ring and there's a plan to become legally obligated to one another in the next year! Woo hoo!  I make it sound a lot less than ideal, don't I?  I don't in any way mean that negatively.  I am super excited!  Especially, because it gives me an opportunity to show my friends, family and clients (I do wedding & event planning services in my spare time) that you can do an eco friendly wedding on a modest budget!

So, the next few months will be spent planning the details we haven't already planned while keeping th environment and our budget in mind. 

Friday, June 01, 2012

Book Recap: Food Matters

Recently, I've been researching how to eat more ethically and socially responsibly.  By that, I'm referring to eating more locally produced foods, searching out humanely slaughtered animals (doesn't that just sound like an oxy moron) and how to eat less commercialized and prefabricated foods.  Not only is all this better for me in body and mind, but also better for our environment and of course the animals I will consume.
Beyond reading through many websites and online articles, I picked up a few books on eating more responsibly, in one book the author refers to this type of eating as "sane eating".  As in, it just makes plain sense.  This book is called, "Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating" by Mark Bittman.  The book begins by recapping how we, North American people (more specifically, in the book, Americans), used to eat, and how there used to be food production places called....farms.
Very little of our food in supermarkets is grown on what we think of as a farm, but rather a lot of it is produced in factories and plants where they douse chemicals all over the so called food.  The animals raised in these conditions have no sort of quality of life.  In fact, I would argue they have no life at all.  They are born and raised indoors, being fed grains and corn meals.  When you think of a cow, how do you envision it eating?  Grazing on grass?  That's their natural state, cows aren't designed to eat grains and corns.  However, when kept in small factories these cows have no other way to gain any sort of fat in a timely enough fashion for the meat producers.  Because of the close quarters these animals are subjected to, they are much more vulnerable to diseases and general sickness so they are given just enough antibiotics to keep them alive and put on weight.  Now, instead of a cow, chicken or pig, instead put your pet into that situation- would you be ok with your dog or cat living in those conditions?  I'm going to go out on a limb and guess you said no.  So why then, do we allow the meat producers to treat other animals this way?
Of course, beyond the animals' rights in this situation, the consideration of how those antibiotics and hormones affect the humans consuming them.

The author also discusses how unnatural (though tasty) junk food is for us.  We all have our own definition of junk food, but the author considers anything made without naturally occurring ingredients, especially those with overrefined carbohydrates, highly processed oils and high fructose corn syrup to be in the category of junk.  Of course, the expected items are mentioned (candy, chips, pop), but others such as, white bread and breaded chicken are brought into the category of "junk".  Never once, however, does the author define what junk his readers should or shouldn't be eating, nor tell anyone to not eat anything.  Instead, he gives the facts with the main one stating these foods all have empty calories.  Meaning, no nutritional value.  And in large quantities do more harm than good for your body.  I don't feel as though this would be a surprising fact to most North Americans. 
He then puts it into environmental perspective and says, "To give you an idea of how much more energy goes into junk food than comes out, consider that a 12-ounce can of diet soda- containing just 1 calorie- requires 2,200 calories [of fossil fuel] to produce, about 70 percent of which is in production of the aluminium can."  What!?  Who knew one small can of pop had such an environmental affect just in the production.  Now imagine if the consumer doesn't recycle that can.

I could continue on and on, essentially reiterating the author's thoughts and feelings, but why bother when you could go out and read the book yourself?  What's even better about this book is the first 108 pages are all information about how to eat with the environment, your health and animals rights' in mind (as in, eating less meat, but no need to completely eliminate it from your diet).  The remaining 190 pages contain recipes on following his recommendations of eating less meat, eating more plants and being aware of what's involved in the making of your food as well as the ingredients in your food.  I would definitely recommend* reading "Food Matters" by Mark Bittman as an easy-to-read informative source on healthier and socially responsible eating.  He also has an entire cookbook following these principles he outlines in the book.

* I have received no compensation for this recommendation, nor was asked to do so.  This posting is all personal choice and opinion