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Food Labelling

28 Aug

Happy Wednesday folks – hope you’ve all enjoyed your August!  As our month themed around food is nearly over we wanted to point you to our past food-related posts on topics like: when to buy organic, front yard gardening, keeping produce fresh, food bank diets, and more!  Check back to 2010, 2011 and 2012 for lots of information…

This month we thought we’d share this handy collection of decoded eco-food labels from the Mother Nature Network as trends seem to be saying that more and more people are purchasing food produtcts with environmental responsibility in mind but with the lists of labelling on food these days, even the most up to date ecoholic can still get a little lost. …

What it means: The Non-GMO Project’s seal verifies that products have been “produced according to rigorous best practices for GMO avoidance,” including testing of all GMO risk ingredients. The Project’s current action threshold for testing is 0.9%, which is on par with the European Union standards. While final products don’t have to be tested and the label doesn’t guarantee a product is 100 percent GMO-free, you can be sure that products bearing the seal have met the highest standards possible for non-GMO, including testing, traceability, and segregation.
See it on: Dairy products, produce, coffee, tea, chocolate, meat, poultry, eggs and processed products.
 
What it means: Certified by the National Organic Program to be at least 95 percent organic meaning no pesticides, fertilizers, hormones, antibiotics, radiation or genetic engineering was used.
See it on: Produce, coffee, tea, chocolate, meat, poultry, eggs and processed products
 
What it means: Products are certified by the UK Soil Association to exceed the legal European definition of organic — strict standards are followed to avoid pesticides, additives, GMOs, harmful chemical processes and inhumane treatment of animals. 
See it on: Coffee, tea, produce, poultry, eggs, meat and wine
 
 
 
What it means: Farmers enjoy safe working conditions, living wages, fair prices for crops and they invest in business and community building projects. Plus, pesticides and GMOs are strictly prohibited.
See it on: Coffee, tea, chocolate, fruit, wine, sugar, rice and vanilla
 
Free Range
What it means: If you see this term on eggs or beef, it has little meaning. The USDA only defines the claim in relation to chicken, and even then, outdoor access can be limited to just five minutes a day.
See it on: Poultry, meat, eggs
 
 
 No Antibiotics Added
What it means: A USDA regulated term that can be used if documentation can prove animals were raised without antibiotics.
See it on: Meat, poultry
 
See all 17 labels decoded here.
 

WED 2013

5 Jun

Today mark’s our 3rd year anniversary of the No Waste Wednesdays Blog!  Happy 3rd birthday to us…   Fittingly it is also World Environment Day 2013 and we are excited to share the hype around this year’s theme –  Think Eat Save.

WED2013

World Environment Day is an annual event that is aimed at being the biggest and most widely celebrated global day for positive environmental action. World Environment Day activities take place all year round and climax on 5 June every year, involving everyone from everywhere.

Days like WED fit in well with No Waste Wednesdays because they are about coming together to participate – if we start small and start together we can get somewhere.

 “Although individual decisions may seem small in the face of global threats and trends, when billions of people join forces in common purpose, we can make a tremendous difference.”- UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon

So if you have an event planned be sure to register your activity with WED and use #WED2013 to track them.  If you don’t, check out the activities in your area to attend.  For some inspiration today we wanted to share a few items from a post by Food Tank – 21 inspiring initiatives to reduce food waste around the world…

WED burgerThe U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that 1.3 billion tonnes of food are wasted annually. Some countries are, unfortunately, greater culprits than others; according to the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition (BCFN), the total amount of food wasted in the U.S. exceeds that of the United Kingdom, Italy, Sweden, France, and Germany combined. In addition, the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) estimates that global food production accounts for 70 percent of fresh water use and 80 percent of deforestation. Food production is also the largest single driver of biodiversity loss and creates at least 30 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

5. Dickinson College Campus Farm (Pennsylvania, United States) – This student-run farm composts daily deliveries of salad bar scraps from the cafeteria. In 2005, Dickinson expanded the compost program into a campus-wide initiative with student farm workers, partnering with facilities management to ensure that campus food waste is composted.

12. Love Food, Hate Waste (United Kingdom) – This program teaches consumers about food waste and provides them with helpful portioning and planning tips, as well as an array of recipes to make sure food doesn’t go to waste.

WED chicken

13. The Postharvest Education Foundation (Oregon, United States) – This organization offers training materials, e-learning programs, and mentoring opportunities that help farmers around the world prevent food loss. Their postharvest management guide is available in 10 languages, featuring topics such as how to choose the best time for harvest and the advantages of different transportation methods.

16. Society of Saint Andrew (United States) – This national network connects volunteers with farms to glean produce that has been left unpicked after a harvest. The Society distributes the gleaned produce to food banks and other organizations serving marginalized communities. In 2012, the Society gleaned 10.4 million kilograms (23.7 million pounds) of produce across the United States.

These initiatives cover a wide range of sectors – private businesses, universities,and  nonprofit organizations – and illustrate the extent to which collaboration is the key to change.

WED apple

To read the full list see here..
Do you know of other initiatives to reduce food waste in your area?  Tell us about it – leave a comment.

Feed Yourself From Your Front Yard

29 Aug

Do you remember earlier this month when we posted about Drummonville’s illegal front yard garden?  Well we are happy to share KGI’s news in telling you that the Drummondville Municipality announced that front yard gardens are cleared and front yards all around town are free to be planted!!

“… the Drummondville front yard garden case which attracted over 30,000 petition signatures, significant international media attention and what seemed to be an endless parade of supportive emails (I stopped counting after the first 200).  Earlier this week, the Drummondville Municipal Council announced that henceforth front yard kitchen gardens will be allowed and have even invited gardeners, Josée Landry and Michel Beauchamp, to help shape the city’s new guidelines for urban food gardens. You can see the news story translated here and Josée and Michel’s blog post here. I am convinced that this victory will prove to be a landmark case that will influence urban agriculture in a positive way, not just in Canada but around the world. So let me join Josée and Michel in thanking you for all your support and good wishes.” (From Roger Doiron)

This is great news and a definite step in the right direction in terms of influencing policies that empower people towards sustainable living and growing their own food!
Do you have any examples of sustainable living policies for the good or bad in your region??

Give Bees A Chance

15 Aug

Many people have heard about the “disappearance of honey bees” (Colony Collapse Disorder, CCD) which has been attributed to things like increased cell phone use and radiation.  More recently however, research has pointed towards the use of pesticides in conventional farming practices as the primary cause.
As it relates to our August food theme –  all the buzz around the missing bees has brought public attention to both the decrease in honey production as well as the importance of pollination that bees accomplish.

Plants that produce almonds, cucumbers, alfalfa, apricots, blackberries, cherries, blueberries, nectarines, peaches, pears, pumpkins, raspberries, squash, watermelon, etc.  must be pollinated to produce fruit.  See a more complete list here.
Other plants, such as eggplant, grapes, okra, peppers, and strawberries,  will produce fruit on their own but the yield and quality would be improved through honey bee pollination.
The survival of these food crops depends on the survival of a healthy honey bee population.
In terms of how we as individuals can encourage this, there are a few  simple things we can do…

  1. Buy organic produce
    While more research is needed to understand exactly which chemicals are harming honey bees (and how), choosing to buy produce that hasn’t been treated with any chemical pesticides is a good precaution to take at this time to minimize the damage pesticides may have on honey bee populations. When it comes to the survival of pollinators (that facilitate the survival of crops that feed us!) it’s far better to be safe than sorry! (taken from in.gredients)
  2. Plant gardens to encourage pollination
    Flowers attract insects by providing them with two rich sources of food – nectar and pollen. Nectar contains sugars and provides insects with an energy source, while pollen grains contain proteins and oils.  (taken from Plants for Pollinators).  The greater the plant diversity, the more bees and other wildlife your garden will attract and support. Always try to choose as many native plants as possible, and consult with local nursery staff or other experts to find vegetation that will thrive in your specific conditions. (taken from the daily green)
  3. Encourage bees to nest in your backyard.
    Nest boxes containing cardboard tubes or hollow plant stems, or holes drilled in blocks of wood will provide nest sites for some species of solitary bees.  Or put an ad out inviting small scale beekeepers to keep bees on your property (it’s not as scary as you think).

Keep It Fresh

8 Aug

In our daily food consumption habits the majority of us are accustomed to keeping our food fresh through refrigeration.  And many of us in Canada and the US have large refrigerators to do just that.  However, considering how much energy it takes to run a fridge, are there other ways to keep food fresh?  We came across an article from Treehugger titled, “Saving Food From The Fridge: It Will Taste Better, May Even Last Longer And Reduce Your Energy Bills” and it had a few helpful tips for those of us thinking about reducing our fridge use…

© Jihyun Ryou

Fridges are a recent invention; for thousands of years, people lived without them, but had many low-tech ways of making food last. Today most fridges are filled with stuff that would last just as long and probably would taste a lot better if it was never lost in the back of the fridge. They are expensive air conditioned parking lots for what Shay Salomon called “compost and condiments.”

© Jihyun Ryou Keeping roots in a vertical position allows the organism to save energy and remain fresh for a longer time. This shelf gives a place for them to stand easily, using sand. At the same time, sand helps to keep the proper humidity.

Korean designer Jihyun Ryou, has developed a series of modern designs that rely on traditional techniques, learned from her grandmother and other elderly people in the community, the ” traditional oral knowledge which has been accumulated from experience and transmitted by mouth to mouth.”

Here is an interesting and complicated example. Many fruits give off ethylene gas as they ripen; a lot of people put their tomatoes in paper or plastic bags to make them ripen faster. That’s why putting fruit is a fridge is so silly, the ethylene builds up inside the sealed box and the fruit goes rotten faster. But some vegetables react differently to ethylene; with potatoes and onions, it suppresses the sprouting process. Put a banana in a plastic bag with a potato and the banana will be rotten in no time, but the potato won’t sprout. Jihyun Ryou’s response: “Apples emit a lot of ethylene gas. It has the effect of speeding up the ripening process of fruits and vegetables kept together with apples. When combined with potatoes, apples prevent them from sprouting.”

© Jihyun Ryou

“The more food you can keep out of the fridge, the smaller it needs to be and the less energy it will consume. The designs described above show a refreshing way to do that, although it should be remembered that these are artworks, not consumer products. Using similar methods when storing food in a basement or a specially designed root cellar – the traditional way – will give better results.”

Smaller fridges use less energy, of course, take up less space and make good cities. Furthermore, these techniques are not relics from the past, they are templates for the future. In the hands of a talented designer, they can look beautiful, too.

Some people are designing their kitchens without refrigerators altogether (see photo below from treehugger.com) and others,  like Vanessa Farquharson, are getting rid of their fridges step by step.  What food preservation tips (new or old) do you use??  Leave us a comment!

Kitchen Garden Day

1 Aug

Happy August 1st and welcome to our month themed on food!  It’s a little early but we wanted to be sure you were ready for KGI‘s World Kitchen Garden Day coming up on August 26th this year.

World Kitchen Garden Day is an annual, decentralized celebration of food produced on a human-scale. It is recognized each year on the 4th Sunday of August.
It is an opportunity for people around the world to gather in their gardens with friends, family, and members of their local community to celebrate the multiple pleasures and benefits of home-grown, hand-made foods.

Goals:

  • To celebrate the positive role of organic kitchen gardening in society, health, and gastronomy
  • To raise awareness about the benefits of eating local and to encourage people to explore local food options in their areas
  • To build community spirit, at local and international levels, around the universal experiences of gardening, cooking, and eating

Activities:

How people celebrate International Kitchen Garden Day and with whom is up to them. Some choose to do so in public ways with large gatherings of friends and neighbors, whereas others opt for a more intimate celebration with close family.  Here are a few ideas for some activities you might consider organizing depending on the level of involvement you would like to have:

  • a walking tour of gardens in your area
  • a kitchen garden or local agriculture potluck
  • a kitchen garden taste-test -a harvest or planting party
  • a benefit for a local food/gardening charity
  • a kitchen garden “teach in”
  • a single food theme party
  • an activity at a local farm

How awesome!?!  Check out more from Kitchen Garden International and be sure to get the update on KGI’s petition to legalize front yard gardening in Drummondville.

Slow Cities

25 Jul

There are 120 towns within 16 countries in the world that have met the criteria to be named “Slow Cities” or “Cittaslow.” This idea of slow cities emerged out of the Slow Food movement in 1999 that began as an attempt to preserve Italian culture. Towns and cities must meet specific criteria to fit under the Cittaslow certification…

pedestrian walkways, no big box or chain stores, a population of less than 50 thousand.

Recently Cowichan Bay in British Columbia became the first North American town to be recognized as fitting this Slow City cultural identity and Naramata, British Columbia is soon to become Canada’s second Cittaslow. As well, Sonoma, California at the end of November will become the first Cittaslow in the United States. This idea of slowing down, and striving for a Slow City identity is spreading throughout North America.

Before Cowichan Bay in British Columbia was recognized, many thought it would be impossible for a North American town or city to be a Slow City. We are so accustomed to our cities and towns that are built upon foundations of business. Our cities are literally developed around this fast-paced lifestyle whether that be our streets, or the many fast food restaurants in our culture. Whether or not our Canadian cities have the ability to reach legitimate certification (also considering population must be under 50,000), we can still strive for slower paced lifestyles.

“My hope is that Cowichan Bay will emerge as a model. Not every location will choose to be a Slow City, but at least some of the philosophy could be adopted by more and more North American places. Cities, towns and neighbourhoods could benefit by understanding the positive effects of living more slowly.”

Since our North American cities were built around automobiles, we must approach this philosophy from a neighbourhood level in larger cities.

Hydra, one of the Greek Islands was built around a slow city mentality right from the start. It cannot even accommodate vehicles, so all forms of transportation aside from walking or donkey is prohibited. While prohibiting automobiles at all times would be much to challenging for our society, it is possible that our cities could adapt to vehicle prohibition in busy pedestrian areas on weekends.

So where do we start as individuals in communities built around fast-paced vehicle transportation? How do we become Slow City minded people?

Choose the slower mode of transportation for a change. Bike, or walk. Last summer I had the opportunity to spend some time in Amsterdam. I rented a bicycle to get around and was able to see so much more, and experienced a slower mindset as much of the city does choose bicycles as there means of transportation.

Take the train. In Canada while travelling from province to province we would normally drive a vehicle or take a plane. We often do not even think of the train as an option. I took the train from Saskatoon to Winnipeg this past March and although it took a bit longer than by car, I saw the prairies from an entirely new lens.

Skip the fast food. Make the time to cook at home or choose a local restaurant to sit down at for a change. Cowichan Bay, British Columbia has no fast food restaurants and takes pride in their local restaurants that line its streets.

What are you, your towns, or your cities doing to adopt a Slow City lifestyle? Let us know!

Get in the Garden!

7 Jun

As we make our way into June we’ll once again explore some broader topics related to nature… In previous years we’ve written about composting, World Environment Day, soil conservation, forests and community gardens.  Feel free to check back in our June archives if you missed out.

This month’s focus on nature will kick off with a few motivating tips to get you gardening plus an inspiring write up from care 2 make a difference on some of the side-benefits of gardening…

Why get in the garden?

  1. To save money!  Grow your own food so that you don’t have to shop for it.
  2. You can’t get more local than food grown in your own neighborhood, backyard or balcony.
  3. Growing your own fruits and vegetables means that you know exactly what does and does not go into your food and exactly where it comes from.
  4. You will end up eating more healthy fruits and vegetables in quantity and in variety!
  5. You can teach children where their food actually comes from and that it doesn’t come form the supermarket but from the soil, the earth that we all depend on.

“Aside from improving our environment and having your own source of flowers, fruit and vegetables, we often overlook the other benefits that gardening provides us.

To start with, gardening really is exercise. The physical benefits of gardening are often discounted because people don’t think of it as “real” exercise. But, gardening offers the same benefits as other forms of exercise do. Did you know that you can burn as many calories in 45 minutes of gardening as you can in 30 minutes of aerobics? And depending on the task that you are doing, you are using many different muscle groups, and increasing your flexibility and strength.

Working in the garden reduces stress. Connecting with nature, digging in the dirt, even weeding is one of the best stress reducers I have found. When I first started gardening, I dreaded the thought of weeding by hand. I thought it was an unnecessary and unpleasant part of gardening. As the years have gone by, I have found that weeding is the one thing that lets me totally unwind and makes me forget about everything else. I am so intent on getting those weeds out of my garden that I become intensely focused on it.

This brings me to another gardening benefit, it allows me to unplug and forces me to slow down the pace of my life. We are all so plugged in and connected that working in the garden is the one way that I can get away from the constant barrage of information being connected brings with it.

One of the most surprising things that gardening has done for me is to teach me how to have more patience. Think about it. You can’t rush nature. If you sow seeds, or plant seedlings, you can’t make them grow faster than they are able to grow just because you are limited on time or by pressuring them to grow faster. They grow at the pace they are supposed to grow at, no faster or slower.

Gardening also releases our creativity, often without us even realizing it. Planning the garden for the year or the season, choosing flower colors and plant palettes, and arranging the fresh flowers from your garden all require you to use your creative side.”

Read more at care2.com

Why do you garden?  Leave us a comment!