Apps for a healthier and environmentally friendly lifestyle

To avoid the mind-boggling array of products in grocery stores, I either resort to buying the same products that I have used before or look for specific cues such as the color of the packaging or words like eco, good, fair trade, or healthy. Our eyes can only scan so much because of information overload. According to the International Food Information Council Foundation’s (IFIC) 2017 Food and Health Survey, almost half are unable to identify a single food or nutrient associated with the benefits.

We have another set of eyes at our disposal – our smartphones. About 36% of the world’s population uses smartphones. I mostly use a smartphone in a grocery aisle to check my to-buy list or to call. I recently also used my phone to take a picture of a Himalayan Salt package to show a friend how it doesn’t supply iodide. But, that’s about it. I feel guilty for using smartphone around because it invades privacy, but I shouldn’t feel guilty to use it to make better choices for me and my family and our environment.

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Apps are now available for users to make better choices for a healthier lifestyle as well as to give them a chance to protect our environment. These apps are like little orbuculums under your glass screens. They provide ingredient analysis and nutritional information, to make better choices for your future. I’ve made a list below, but apps can be geographically limited, which means that you will neither be able to download it on your smartphone nor can you see products that are locally available. Fret not, some of these apps will allow you to enter products and all their ingredients into their database.

CodeCheck

  • Customize your profile based on your own lifestyle and diet.
  • For food and cosmetics
  • Scan barcode, enter EAN number
  • Find out whether the products are vegan, vegetarian or gluten- or lactose-free
  • Offers information such as palm oil, microbeads, nanoparticles, parabens, paraffins, too much sugar, etc.
  • Helps you if you have an allergy to something.

EWG

  • For food and cosmetics
  • Scan a barcode, search by name or browse by category
  • Gives you an easy-to-understand 1-10 score (1 being the best!).

Fooducate

  • Provides health tips
  • For food only
  • Tracks calories, sleep etc.
  • Scan barcode
  • Provides information on added sugars, artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, trans fats, high fructose corn syrup, MSG, controversial food colourings, GMO – genetically modified organisms (premium feature), additives and preservatives.

Shopwell

  • For food only
  • Similar to CodeCheck
  • Allows you to share your food picks with friends and family
  • Create food goals.

Open Food Facts

  • For food only
  • Provides information about Fair Trade products
  • Shows you where your food was made
  • Collaborative, free, open database
  • Compare products.

Seafood Watch

  • For seafood only
  • Offers recommendations to help you choose ocean-friendly seafood at your favourite restaurants and stores.

Chemical Cuisine

  • For food only
  • Ranks the safety of food additives such as acetic acid, yellow prussiate of soda etc.
  • Unable to find the app, but their website contains all the information.

With volumes of digestible information now available at our fingertips, it is also important to factor people’s perceptions of local food environments and how it influences their abilities to eat healthily. A 2016 research done in Alberta, Canada, shows that while availability and access to food outlets influence healthy eating practices, these factors may be eclipsed by other non-physical environmental considerations, such as food regulations and sociocultural preferences. This study identifies a set of meta-themes that summarize and illustrate the interrelationships between environmental attributes, people’s perceptions, and eating behaviours:

  • availability and accessibility are interrelated and only part of the healthy eating equation
  • local food is synonymous with healthy eating
  • local food places for healthy eating help define community identity
  • communal dining (commensality) does not necessarily mean healthy eating
  • rewarding an achievement or celebrating special occasions with highly processed foods is socially accepted
  • food costs seemed to be driving forces in food decisions
  • macro-environmental influences are latent in food decisions.

How comfortable are you using these apps? Will you use them? Have you used them? If not, why not? How far do you go or are willing to go to make better choices? Or do you hope that you will simply stumble upon a better choice? While we can reduce exposure to bad elements by cooking more at home, our lifestyle doesn’t necessarily always allow it. Yet, here we are.

References:

https://www.brainerddispatch.com/lifestyle/health/4432249-try-phone-app-help-you-make-healthy-choices-grocery-store

https://www.dw.com/en/doing-your-bit-code-checking-in-the-store/av-47222771

https://www.techlicious.com/guide/apps-for-making-healthy-food-choices/

Make your way through the noise

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Noise can grab your attention, but it can also confuse you. Noise is a disturbance. Noise numbs our other senses. Noise can also be empowering, noise can be a voice, to make something known, to create a movement. Noise is too much information. Whatever it is, find your way through it or stop it all together. It’s your choice.

Social media may have made it easy to raise awareness of environmental and social issues, but it can be overwhelming too. It can be distracting. Simplify. Declutter. Remove the noise if you need to and focus on something simple and glide towards complexity effortlessly, making it look seemingly simple when you reach there.

Don’t let the noise stop you from doing what you feel is right. Or make noise for it. It’s your choice. You are in control. You can do it. Take that cotton bag to the grocery. Try a ceramic coated frying pan instead of the Teflon coating. Try this, try that. Or don’t. But, try, try that one thing that makes it right, for you, for your family, for the future generation, or for the planet. Then try another. Tell the world about it.

Fire extinguishers basics

What is fire? We’ve all seen fire. Probably felt it too. Fire is the rapid oxidation of a material  – a process known as combustion. It is exothermic, therefore it releases heat. We also know it produces light. Lastly, we know it burns or vaporizes things.

fire extinguishingMechanism of fire onset:

Fire is nothing without its three components – oxidizing agent, heat and fuel. The visible part of fire is called the flame. In my previous post, I mentioned how the fascination towards colorful flames caused a severe accident. Anyway, we’ll get to the safety aspects in a while. So, fire only comes into existence when there is enough oxidizing agent (mostly oxygen), enough heat and enough fuel. When I say ‘enough’, I am trying to quantify it. What I mean is, if one of these three components is in less supply, there won’t be any fire. It also means that as long as these three components are in sufficient supply, the chain reaction that causes fire will continue and the fire will not go away.

Why do we need to extinguish fire?

We know that fire can cause loss of life, loss of property and environmental destruction. To know how fire extinguishers work therefore comes handy. For those who do not know what fire extinguishers are – fire extinguishers are red cylinders containing a certain fire extinguishing chemical inside it. In simple terms, these are devices that can contain small fires.

How do fire extinguishers work?

Fire extinguishers smother fire by:

  • keeping oxidizing agent from reaching it
  • replacing the oxidizing agent with an inert gas
  • preventing the chain reaction (chemical reaction) that’s causing the fire to sustain itself
  • absorbing the heat from the burning material

Fire extinguishing materials:

The most common and probably the most easily available fire extinguisher is water. But beware, it doesn’t work in all cases. It won’t work if the fire is caused due to, say, electronic short-circuit. It can therefore do more damage than good. OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) provides a list of common fire extinguishing materials and here they are:

The last two types were discontinued from use when the Montreal protocol came into effect. This is because when the two chemicals decompose, they decompose into bromine and chlorine, which then mess with the ozone layer.

Fire classes:

The tricky part of all this is knowing which fire extinguisher to use for which type of fire. Yes, there are types of fire and they are categorized into a number of different fire classes.

  • Class A: Ordinary combustibles
  • Class B: Flammable liquid and gas
  • Class C: Electrical
  • Class D: Metal
  • Class K OR Class F: Cooking oils and fats (kitchen fires)

Fire classes can vary a bit according to the country you reside in. So, it is important that you first find out information specific to your own country. For example, in the UK, class B is further divided into two parts: one for liquids and another class C for gases.

Fire training:

Most laboratory and industry personnel have basic or rigorous training in fire fighting. For those who don’t have any access to such training, Wikihow can help, but only so much. You really have to get some practical knowledge – a single demonstration can someday help you save yourself or others. May be a friend from a fire fighting department can help you give a demo or one can request them to have such sessions for your entire community. Training – no training, fret not. Here’s something you can do yourself. Get to your nearest fire extinguisher, you probably know how it looks like. All you have to do now is to read what is written on it. Click here to read about how you can read the details on the cylinder and what it means in simple English. Next, go to YouTube and find videos which demonstrate how to use a fire extinguisher. Something like this video:

Further reading:

What chemicals are used in a fire extinguisher? How do they work to put out fires? – Scientific American

Enjoy the song. ;)