Is organic food any good?

Here’s a learning moment. Organic food might not actually be what you think it is.

It is expensive and what my mom would call – fancy! (‘kay style martayt!’*)

Entering into an organic store feels like being among a cult.

Yet, I buy organic. I buy stuff other than food from organic stores.

Yet, I’ve never spoken ill of it.

I don’t mean to. Trust me.

Something made me think otherwise.

I saw a video. This one.**

Are you with me?

Then, I saw a list by the Government of Canada.

It’s called ‘Organic production systems: permitted substances lists‘.

Are you with me?

So, what’s the lesson?

If you listened to the video, you’ll know that we need the best of both worlds.

But I think we just need organic to get better at what it aims to be.

  • Find a Marathi friend for accurate translation.

** Thank you Swiss Miss for sharing!

Globe Forum 2018

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I was a volunteer at the GLOBE Forum 2018, held on March 14–16, 2018 at Vancouver. I helped attendees for three days for North America’s largest and longest running Leadership Summit for Sustainable Business. I helped guests navigate around the event, answering fundamental questions. I monitored and maintained specific event areas such as B2B area and the Innovation Expo. It was a little boring at times standing in one place, but fun too – during my breaks I made friends, networked with organisations, learnt new things.

The Innovation Expo was a global showcase of sustainable products, clean technologies, services, and ideas fresh off the lab bench. Buyers from more than 50 countries roamed the aisles, looking for the next big thing. As a B2B event – businesses, governments, and civil society leaders found inspiration, connections, and new opportunities in the clean economy. I had no idea Canada was so much into Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage (CCUS). Other focus areas included:

  • Smart Grid/Micro-Grid
  • Sustainable Mobility
  • Smart/High Performing Buildings
  • Water Innovation

CO2 is a waste

CO2 that human activities are pumping into the atmosphere is a waste, it is not needed there. This waste is a resource for many industries. Scientists are working around the world to develop technologies that will capture CO2 from their emission source and store it for use.

Hitachi Chemical showcased their research on how to capture CO2 more efficiently. Their research shows that cerium-based catalysts work better than zeolites for carbon capture.

International CCS Knowledge Centre was established to accelerate the global development of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology by both sharing access to the data, information and lessons learned from SaskPower’s Boundary Dam 3 facility and by incorporating the knowledge and experience from CCS projects elsewhere in the world. The Boundary Dam Carbon Capture Facility is capable of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by up to one million tonnes of carbon dioxide each year – the equivalent to taking 250,000 cars off the road. Brought online in 2014, the Boundary Dam CCS Project is the World’s First Post-Combustion Coal-Fired CCS Project integrated with a power station.

Not out of sight no out of mind

A lot of environmental and social issues are not acted upon because people cannot see the problem with their own eyes. Photographers and organisations around the world are making these things known to the public, becoming their eyes where they don’t reach.

Students on Ice Foundation is an organisation that organises an expedition that will be a profound hands-on experience for youth to expand their knowledge of the changing circumpolar world, foster a new understanding and respect for the planet, and gain the inspiration and motivation needed to help lead us to a healthy and sustainable future.

It was inspiring to watch the presentation of Cristina Mittermeier. Felt lot of emotions rushing through me as she told stories through her photographs. Cristina Mittermeier is a contributing photographer, speaker, and explorer for National Geographic.  She is a marine biologist who for the past 25 years has been working as a writer, conservationist and photographer. She is the founder and President of SeaLegacy, a non-profit organisation working to protect the oceans. SeaLegacy is an organisation dedicated to promoting the protection of the world’s oceans through storytelling. Cristina’s work has been published in hundreds of publications, including National Geographic Magazine, McLean’s and TIME.

Investment

The World Tree Carbon Offset Program is a sustainable timber investment based on the Empress Splendor tree, the fastest growing tree in the world. Empress trees provide valuable hardwood lumber within just 10 years. They also absorb 11 times more carbon than any other tree. Participants in the program both offset their carbon footprint and share in the profits of the sale of the lumber. They are looking for farmers to grow their trees. They provide the trees, the expertise and a buyer for the lumber. You provide the land and the care. Together you share the profits.

Agriculture

Terramera is a Sustainable Agriculture CleanTech company developing safe and effective Plant-Based Products and Replacements to Synthetic Conventional Chemical Pesticides & Fertilizers. They use Neem which is a tree native to the Indian subcontinent. Terramera’s agriculture products make sustainable/organic farming without the use of conventional chemicals more productive and efficient. Farmers need better solutions to protect crops from pests & diseases: Over 30% of chemical pesticides will be banned or restricted by 2020 leaving a 6.2 to 20 billion dollar gap in the market.

Who is phasing out what

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Volunteer Image Author TheDigitalArtist

The world is phasing out fossil-fuels, old polluting vehicles, plastic products, toxic substances, nuclear power, biofuel, incandescent light bulbs, ozone depleting substances, waste imports, second hand clothes, food waste, and ivory trade. These are either gradual phase outs or immediate bans. So, who exactly is phasing out what? Read ahead to find out.

Who is phasing out fossil-fuels?

Who is phasing out old polluting vehicles?

Who is phasing out plastic products?

Who is phasing out toxic substances?

Who is phasing out nuclear power?

Who is phasing out biofuel?

Who is phasing out incandescent light bulbs?

Who is phasing out ozone depleting substances?

Who is phasing out waste imports?

Who is phasing out second hand clothes?

Who is phasing out ivory trade?

 Who is banning food waste?

Who is banning deforestation?

Last Edited: April 4 2018

International Year of Pulses 2016

Food security is a huge concern worldwide. By 2050 it is estimated that global food production would need to increase by 60% in order to feed the entire world. The United Nations has declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses (IYP). Pulses are a kind of grains. Terminologies can be confusing sometimes. Especially when you say grains, pulses, cereals, oilseeds, legumes and beans in a single sentence like this. I’ve made the following infographic to better understand these terminologies.

GRAINS

Events such as the IYP 2016 raise awareness among the people. What’s special about pulses is that compared to other crops, pulses already have a low food wastage footprint (as shown in the chart below), requires less water as compared to other sources of protein, requires minimal processing and no refrigeration. However, in spite of this, we still consume stuff that requires the a lot of water, consumes a lot of energy and gets wasted a lot. Hence, this year IYP 2016 intends to raise awareness for more consumption and production of pulses.

Figure 1. Total agricultural production (FBS) vs. food wastage volumes & food wastage volumes for edible part only.

A friend, Sumit Tated, alumnus of Institute of Chemical Technology Mumbai, runs SoFood Private Limited. SoFood is a start-up which aims to work with farmers to provide sustainable solutions to India’s agricultural & food industry. Their Solar Conduction Dryers dehydrate fruits & vegetables thereby imparting longer shelf life and ease of consumability. One such innovative product from the team is “Ready to Cook” Sprouts (shown below). Unlike conventional sprouts which undergo a tedious process of production, these sprouts rehydrate in just 20 minutes in lukewarm water making it ready to eat or cook. This product offers a purely natural and healthy solution to those seeking convenient eating options in stores with a shelf life of 6 months. In the coming week, I’ll be interviewing Sumit to know more about this, so stay tuned!

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What’s your favorite recipe with pulses? Mine is Misal Pav, a popular dish from where I come from.

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Misal Pav

Further Reading:

Grain

I’m cooking like I’ve never cooked before – adventures in the new land

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I made the paratha but not the ketchup.

I always liked cooking – not the kind that is forced upon by society as a ‘women’s’ thing, or the kind that you want to do seven days a week. My generation – my friends and family – have enjoyed the luxury of eating out every once in a while. But many of us, especially the women in the family, are still proponents of healthy home cooked food.

Ki and Ka Official Theatrical Release Poster, January 2016.jpgKi & Ka (English: Hers and His) is an Indian romantic drama film that follows a young, married couple contradicting the gender roles placed upon women and men in Indian society. Did you watch it? Arjun Kapoor cooks in it!

My need to have more of the home cooked food developed when I was pursuing my Bachelor’s degree. The place I got admission at was dull and lacked the food options that my hometown Mumbai had to offer. Tired of this, I longed for going back home on weekends and have food cooked by my mother. As my mother got busier with her job, we started buying local tiffin services – still close to home cooked food as compared to restaurant food.

Now that I’m married and living a different lifestyle in a new country, I long for Indian food – home cooked still. I try new recipes and take a monthly trip to the Indian grocery store. I still get to relish packed Indian foodstuff from there, something I used to share with my elder brother back in Mumbai. Yes, I am definitely also talking about Maggi noodles. We get them here, considering a lot of Indian reside in the state of New Jersey, also in and around my area.

So, I’ve learnt to cook more at home and eat less outside. I wish I could stop it all together, considering the chemicals being found in outside food, but hell it is hard. There’s a restaurant here called Chillis that had a ‘El-Nino’ Margarita. Haha.

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After I moved to the US, I initially bought a lot of packed food from the local stores. For example, orange juice. My husband showed me how it was loaded with sugar, so I stopped buying it. I bought fresh oranges instead. A simple nudge did it. I now have fresh orange juice, loaded with pulp fiber and no added sugar. Guess what, I even got a bonus! I dried the peels and crushed them to make my very own facial scrub. This way, I’ve managed also not to use the microbeads in synthetic scrubs that cause marine pollution and death. These are banned in some countries including the one I reside in currently, but need more awareness and legislations worldwide for a blanket ban.

I’m now watching ‘Cooked’ by Michael Pollan on Netflix. Explored through the lenses of the four natural elements – fire, water, air and earth – COOKED is an enlightening and compelling look at the evolution of what food means to us through the history of food preparation and its universal ability to connect us. Highlighting our primal human need to cook, the series urges a return to the kitchen to reclaim our lost traditions and to forge a deeper, more meaningful connection to the ingredients and cooking techniques that we use to nourish ourselves.

He says cooking makes us human. He mentions how we have lost touch with how the food gets to our plate. For all we know, there are people like me, providing environmental services, that calculate footprints for such a thing. I eat chicken, but I don’t dare bring it home to cook myself. Over time, I’ve been bending towards home-grown as well as home-cooked food. However, it is a big challenge – but we can at least start. I want to. By not cooking, we are losing on the knowledge that comes with it. I highly recommend you watch the series ‘Cooked’, it is truly enlightening.

I tried kitchen gardening back in Mumbai

IMG_3307In October, I resigned from office to prep for my wedding in December. In the meantime, I decided to try my hand at things that will be useful to me and my family someday. One of those things was kitchen gardening, a.k.a. urban farming, urban horticulture, container gardening, etc.

my first bicycle

I was always into gardening, so that’s how it hit me that I should go a level higher. As a kid, we had a little garden right in front of our house, oh what a privilege that was in a place like Mumbai. I would often spend time pruning, watering, earthing up, potting up and so on. It was my meditation.

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During my little vacation, I looked up for workshops and I found out there was one near the place I studied. It was being conducted by an organization called Urban Leaves. Urban Leaves is a collaborative urban farming project driven by volunteers. Such organizations are coming out of the need for people to become self-sufficient and healthy. Many people are aware of the consequences of chemical pesticides in our food, although not many are aware of our dependence on food imports and consequences thereof.

How your food is grown, stored, transported, processed and cooked can all influence how it impacts climate change and the environment. – NRDC

Food mile is a mile over which a food item is transported from producer to consumer, as a unit of measurement of the fuel used to do this. It deals with the broader issue of sustainability which deals with a large range of environmental, social and economic issues.

Yet food mile doesn’t show all the impacts of food transport, in which case Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) does a better job. LCA takes into account embodied energy and water involved with producing food. According to a study launched in 2007, the food in a typical Australian’s shopping basket has traveled a staggering 70,803 kilometres to reach Melbourne — equivalent to almost two trips around the world.

So, have these guys been thinking about this for so long? Not as long as this Swedish researcher who in 1993 calculated that the ingredients of a typical Swedish breakfast traveled a distance equal to the circumference of the Earth before reaching the Scandinavian table.

Since the green revolution, India has come a long way avoiding famines. Self-sufficiency shouldn’t have been a problem in a country with the largest irrigated land in the world. According to FAO, since 1950, population almost tripled, but food-grain production more than quadrupled. The scene is changing as rising food imports in India are rendering food costlier. Droughts, the lack of long-term investment in agriculture and increasing demands from a growing population are to blame. Food waste is a topic for another day but it should have been on this blame list. An estimated 40% of all fresh food produced in India perishes before it can get to customers. Let’s just say that the more our food travels to reach our table, the more mess it creates and by mess I mean waste and pollution.

Locally grown foods are proving to be a better choice and by not importing food, we are not importing pollution and water scarcity.

I present my work in the slideshow below. I couldn’t grow anything more than a leaf of a red radish. It’s technically not even a ‘true leaf‘. But I won’t be bogged down, I’ll try again. Thanks to Urban Leaves for helping kick-start my kitchen farming.

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