Can eating cicadas solve the sustainable protein problem?

June 16, 2020 by  
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Have you ever considered eating insects as a source of protein? If your answer is no, now may be the time to reconsider. According to a  study  by the University of Copenhagen, eating insects is more sustainable than eating livestock. The same study shows that there are over 2,000 species of edible insects, though some are rare. Thankfully, some edible insects are easily available in numbers large enough to supplement global protein needs. One of the insects seen as a possible remedy for global protein needs is the cicada. Cicadas are safe to eat and among the most nutritious insects. These insects are rich in protein and can be harvested in large numbers during their breeding seasons. The argument for eating insects A shift from eating livestock to consuming insects could reduce greenhouse gas emissions. According to the U.N., the global livestock industry makes up about 14.5% of greenhouse gas emissions. Consuming fewer livestock products can thus help reduce the effects of greenhouse gases on the environment. Further, some edible insects are richer in protein than livestock protein supplies. For instance, crickets are 20 times more efficient as protein sources compared to cattle. As  The Balance SMB  reports, cricket harvesting produces 80 times less methane than cattle rearing. If we are serious about conserving the environment, now is the time to consider shifting our dietary preferences. Another reason to consider eating insects is that they thrive on organic matter and require much less food than livestock. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), insects consume just two pounds of food to produce one pound of meat. This contrasts starkly with cattle , which have to consume at least eight pounds of food to produce one pound of meat. While the conversation about eating bugs might not be an easy one, the merits outweigh the discomfort. The U.N. is now calling on meat processing firms to start considering bugs for burgers. Bug meat could easily be used in most processed foods without consumers noticing the difference. Why cicadas and why now? Cicada re-emergence has spurred the conversation about eating them. According to an  NPR publication , millions of cicadas are expected to emerge from the ground this year. In most parts of the United States, over 1.5 million cicadas per acre are expected to emerge. Regions that can expect a high influx of cicadas include southwestern Virginia, North Carolina and West Virginia. The cicadas that will be emerging belong to a special brood that only shows up once every 17 years. While cicadas are not harmful to humans and do not bite, they present a different challenge. Cicadas chirp — a lot. This presents a noise problem, considering that over 1.5 million of these insects could emerge from an acre of land. According to Eric Day of  Virginia Tech Department of Entomology , the biggest concern that the people of Virginia should worry about is managing the noise. Once the insects set in, they will be busy day and night, and they are likely to cause excessive noise. This year’s cicadas come with more vigor than most annual cicadas. This special brood only appears once every 13 to 17 years. They last appeared in 2003 in parts of the eastern U.S. If you live in regions that are prone to cicadas, you can learn about their mapping by looking at this  cicada mapping site . How to eat cicadas Considering this influx of cicadas and the issues with livestock, there are many benefits to eating insects . For these reasons, more people are now shifting from mainstream protein sources to sources such as cicadas. If you have never tried eating insects, you might find the suggestion of eating cicadas absurd. However, insect-eating is not something new and is a practice that should be embraced. According to a  Live Science publication , over 2 billion people eat bugs regularly across the world. This means that about a quarter of the world already consumes insects. Given that insects are a good source of protein and considerably cheap, they provide nutrition to many people. In fact, many scientists are now looking at insects as the future of nutrition . All this considered, it may be in your best interest to try eating some bugs. If you are going to eat cicadas, here are a few tips to help you prepare and enjoy your delicious bugs. First, blanch your cicadas. Cicadas are wild insects and may come in contact with harmful microorganisms . Chefs recommend boiling cicadas for five minutes to get rid of impurities from the soil. After boiling your cicadas, dump them in a cold water bath to remove the legs and wings. If you do not mind the legs and wings, skip this step. There are many options for cooking and flavoring cicadas. For cicada scampi, place a cooking pan on medium heat and sautee the cicadas in butter, garlic and basil. Cook your cicadas for about five minutes or until they are crispy. You can also marinate cicadas if you want them juicier. Try an overnight Worcestershire sauce marinade, then sautee them for a tasty meal. Once you’ve tried cooking your cicadas, you can also prepare them as a sweet dessert. Serving them dipped in chocolate makes a great treat. The bottom line For most people who have not tried eating cicadas, this is foreign territory to explore. However, those who have tasted cicadas say they are tasty, with a nutty/earthy flavor. They cook similar to shrimp and can be consumed alongside most dishes that are normally served with white meat. If consuming cicadas can help the environment, we should all give it a thought. Cicadas are easily available and much healthier than most meat. There is nothing wrong with trying out a bug diet if it’s for the better. Images via Pixabay, Sharon Hahn Darlin , and istolethetv

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Latest spill increases worries about Canada’s Trans Mountain pipeline

June 16, 2020 by  
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A major spill last Saturday has renewed Canadians’ worries about the Trans Mountain pipeline. Up to 50,000 gallons of crude oil flooded Sumas First Nation’s land in Abbotsford, British Columbia, spilling over an aquifer that supplies the community’s drinking water . “We cannot continue to have our land desecrated by oil spills,” Sumas First Nation Chief Dalton Silver said in a statement issued by the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs (UBCIC). This is the fourth spill on his community’s land in 15 years. Related: Dakota Access Pipeline placed under environmental review The cause is still under investigation, but may be connected with a fitting on a piece of pipe attached to the main line, Trans Mountain said in a statement . “Clean-up is well underway with trucks and crews working around the clock,” the company said. “The free-standing oil has been recovered and is being transported to an approved facility for disposal. The site has permanent groundwater monitoring in place and air monitoring continues. Monitoring has not identified any risk to the public or community.” While the company claimed to be working with Indigenous communities on cleanup, Silver told CityNews 1130 that Trans Mountain had not updated him about restarting the pipeline’s operation. “That they’re up and running Sunday afternoon, my sister just read that to me off her phone. That was the first I heard of it, so there you go with the openness and transparency,” Silver said. “I would really rather hear it from those at the incident command post.” Environmentalists and many First Nations communities oppose plans to triple the capacity of the pipeline, which carries oil from Alberta to the Pacific coast. They worry about threats to Indigenous sovereignty and clean water supplies. Increased tanker traffic could also harm already endangered orcas. “We conducted our own assessment of Trans Mountain using leading science and Tsleil-Waututh’s Indigenous law that concluded that oil spills are inevitable, can’t be fully cleaned up, and have devastating effects,” Chief Leah George-Wilson of Tsleil-Waututh Nation said in the UBCIC statement. “This most recent spill is another reminder that the risk is too great to accept. The Trans Mountain pipeline has already spilled more than 80 times since it began operating. This is why we continue to fight the Trans Mountain Expansion in the courts.” Via EcoWatch Image via Jim Black

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How to make a delicious vegan pie for Pi Day

March 13, 2020 by  
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Pie is delicious on any day, but Pi Day may be the impetus to bake — or at least eat — a pie. The annual celebration is named for the mathematical constant ? and observed on March 14, because ? is 3.14. In honor of Pi Day, Lisa Clark, owner of Petunia’s Pies & Pastries in Portland , Oregon shares some of her vegan pie baking tips with Inhabitat. This Pi Day is especially exciting for Clark, as it marks Petunia’s 10th anniversary. Inhabitat: What are the main differences between vegan and non-vegan pies? Clark: The main difference is just the fact that you don’t use butter for the pie dough. We use a blend of half soy -free Earth Balance and half organic shortening. We never use any of the hydrogenated stuff. Even the fillings are not too different: the fruit and a sweetener, which is usually just sugar, and citrus and something to thicken it, whether it’s organic corn starch or tapioca pearls. We do a lot of pies with streusel. We make that the same as traditional streusel but we use, again, the soy-free Earth Balance instead of butter. Related: 12 delicious and crowd-pleasing vegan brunch ideas Inhabitat: What about cream pies? Clark: That’s where it gets definitely a lot more challenging. We make coconut cream pies and chocolate cream pies, and we do key lime pie and banana cream. Depending on what the flavor is, we use a lot of coconut cream instead of regular dairy cream. We try not to use a ton of soy. A lot of people don’t tolerate it well, including myself, so we use a lot of coconut cream and nuts. We try to do some without nuts, because there’s a lot of nut allergies, too. When we make our chocolate cream pie, we use the Mori-Nu silken tofu with the coconut cream just to help the texture be a little more smooth and creamy like it would be traditionally. Automatically, that makes it super thick. Folding in the melted chocolate, it really stiffens up and sets in the fridge. We make coconut whipped cream instead of regular whipped cream for the tops of pies. Inhabitat: How do you make meringue without eggs? Clark: For the meringue, we use dehydrated aquafaba powder. We were using actual aquafaba from a can of chickpeas. But the problem with that is, what are we going to do with all these chickpeas? So there’s a product now that’s dehydrated aquafaba powder; you have to add a certain amount of water per tablespoon and mix it up. Then you cook it on the stove to reduce it down to a third of the volume. You take what’s left, and you whip that up with sugar, like if you were making a traditional meringue with egg whites and sugars. Inhabitat: What are the easiest pies to make? Clark: Definitely the fruit pies are the easiest. Berry pies are the easiest because there’s really no prep involved with the berries . Our most popular pie that we’ve made for the longest time is the bumbleberry peach pie. It’s a mix of blackberries, blueberries, raspberries and peaches. We make a coconut hazelnut streusel for the top. ( See the recipe below! ) In the summertime, if people go berry picking, that’s the best time and the best way to make the most amazing pies with fresh, in-season berries. Other times of the year, it’s totally fine to use good frozen berries or even frozen peaches. Frozen fruit works fine, it’s just a little more temperamental with the baking time. There’s more moisture in the fruit because it’s frozen, so all that water is trapped in there. Inhabitat: Can you share any shortcuts you’ve learned over the years? Clark: Chill the fats and mix all your dry ingredients ahead of time. If there’s any fruit to prep, or the lemon zest, you want to do it in advance. I will sometimes measure out the sugar and any of the spices that are going in the filling in a little bowl and have that ready. You can make the streusel in advance and keep it in the fridge. I like to get all the steps of everything ready, so when I want to throw it together, it goes together much faster. Inhabitat: What is the most basic equipment somebody needs to make a pie? Clark: A pie plate and a rolling pin. At the very minimum, that’s what you need. Beyond that, if people have a handheld little pastry blender, that’s really helpful to make the streusel and the pie crust. But you don’t have to one. You can just cut it by hand. Beyond that, if people have a food processor for the crust and streusel, that makes it even faster. A zester for the lemon zest for the filling. A knife. But most people have a knife. And time. You just need some time, some patience. Inhabitat: Any pie mishaps you’re willing to share? Clark: Oh, yeah. I think the most common one would be just not baking the pies long enough. It’s always different. It depends on the weather , it depends on the oven, the flavor of the pie, how much moisture is in the fruit, how long you mix the dough. Sometimes, the crust can start to get too brown in the streusel, but the filling isn’t cooked. We actually bake a pie for the first half without the streusel and then we put the streusel on for the second half of baking to help with that. Every oven is so different. It depends on how thick your pie plate is, too. Like a deep dish or a more shallow pie plate, the baking times can vary so much. The only way to know when it’s really done is by seeing how the fruit bubbles up through the streusel or through the crust on top. It should be bubbling really slowly and look really thick and syrupy. If it just looks watery, like water bubbling out, it’s totally not done. Inhabitat: Any last words of advice for Inhabitat readers? Clark: The biggest advice I want to give people is not to be intimidated. I think when you read the steps, it can sound like a lot. But when you break it down and take one step at a time, it’s really not too bad. The more you do it and practice, it gets easier and easier. Pies are simple. It’s just a dough and a filling you have to sweeten and thicken. And you have to bake it. That’s really all it is. So just remember, it’s very simple and don’t overthink it too much; try to have fun. When people realize that, they tend to do a better job and not get so stressed about it working. As long as it tastes good, too, it doesn’t matter what it looks like. Be brave. Recipe for Bumble Berry Peach Pie with Coconut Hazelnut Streusel By Lisa Clark, Petunia’s Pies & Pastries Pie Crust 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon white rice flour 7 tablespoons + 1 1/2 teaspoons brown rice flour 7 tablespoons + 1 1/2 teaspoons tapioca flour 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons millet flour 3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum 1 tablespoon + 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar 3/4 teaspoon salt 1/4 cup + 1 1/2 teaspoon Earth Balance spread, very chilled & cut into 1/4” pieces 1/4 cup + 1 1/2 teaspoon organic vegetable shortening, very chilled & cut into 1/4” pieces 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons ice cold water Filling In spring and summer, use fresh berries & peaches if possible. The rest of the year, frozen berries and peaches will work just fine. 1 1/2 cups raspberries 1 1/2 cups blueberries 1 1/2 cups blackberries or marionberries 3 1/2 cups sliced peaches 1 cup sugar 6 tablespoons organic cornstarch 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice Coconut Hazelnut Streusel 1 cup hazelnuts, toasted and skinned 1 cup coconut 1/4 cup millet flour 1/4 cup white rice flour 3 tablespoons brown rice flour 3 tablespoons tapioca flour 2/3 cup sugar 1/4 tsp salt 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 1/4 cup Earth Balance spread, chilled and cut into 1/4” pieces To make the crust, combine the flours, xanthan gum, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl and mix well. Add the cold shortening pieces and the cold Earth Balance pieces, and blend with a handheld pastry blender until the fat pieces are in pea-sized clumps. Be careful not to overwork the fats into the dry ingredients. Drizzle the ice-cold water over this mixture and mix by hand until the dough comes together and forms a ball. Again, be careful not to overwork the dough. Flatten the dough into a disk about 1” thick and wrap in plastic. Chill for about 20 minutes. Remove the dough from the fridge and place on a lightly millet-floured non-stick baking mat or countertop. Roll the dough into an even circle, about 1/4” thick. Transfer to a pie plate. Press the dough into the pie plate and form nice fluted edges. Refrigerate the pie shell for 15 minutes before baking. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. To make the filling, combine all of the fruit in a large bowl. Mix the cornstarch with the sugar and nutmeg. Sprinkle this mixture over the fruit and mix to evenly combine. Pour lemon juice over the fruit mixture and stir well. Let sit for about 15 minutes (about 25 minutes if you are using frozen fruit) to form juices. Pour mixture into chilled pie shell. Place pie on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for about 35 minutes (without the streusel). While the pie is baking, make the streusel. Combine hazelnuts, coconut, flours, sugar, salt and cinnamon in a medium bowl and mix well. Add the cold Earth Balance and work it in by hand until the Earth Balance is in pea-sized clumps. Larger clumps are better than smaller for the streusel. Refrigerate until ready to use. Once the pie has baked for 35 minutes, carefully remove it from the oven and top evenly with streusel, covering all of the fruit. Bake about 35-40 minutes more. The streusel and crust should be golden brown. The pie is ready when you can see the juices bubbling out on the edges and it looks very thick and syrupy. If it appears watery, continue to bake. Let cool (at least 2-3 hours) so the pie can set a bit, then slice, serve and enjoy! + Petunia’s Pies & Pastries Images via Lisa Clark

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DIY sweet treats for Valentines Day

February 14, 2020 by  
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From pesticide residue on cut flowers to the questionable ingredients in conversation hearts, standard-issue Valentine romance won’t cut it for your earth-conscious sweetie. But don’t worry, you can make DIY treats that are delicious, personalized and easier on the environment than conventional Valentine’s Day candy. Fair-trade ingredients The best Valentine’s Day candy starts with fair-trade ingredients. Cocoa is one of the most important fair-trade items, as 90% of the global cocoa supply comes from small family farms in tropical places. The 6 million farmers earning their living through growing and selling cocoa beans are vulnerable to pressures that drive the market price down. If you buy chocolate bars and chips that are Fair-Trade certified, you know that the farmers are being fairly paid for their work. Since 1998, this program has invested about $14 million into cocoa-producing communities in places like Peru, Ecuador, Ghana and the Ivory Coast. Many other ingredients besides cocoa are covered by the fair-trade certification system. Some of these items that you might use in Valentine’s Day recipes include sugar, coffee, honey, tea and fruits like bananas . Simple Valentine’s Day treats Does the intricacy of the treat reflect your love for your partner? Not necessarily. Even if you’re challenged by lack of time and/or kitchen skills, you can still produce a thoughtful and tasty Valentine’s Day gift. Related: 14 vegan and vegetarian Valentine’s Day dinner ideas Three-ingredient vegan chocolate pots contain only chocolate, dates and almond milk. You melt unsweetened chocolate in a microwave, throw it in a blender with the dates and almond milk, then refrigerate until it solidifies. The trickiest thing is remembering that you’ll need to refrigerate it for at least four hours, so plan ahead. Get the full recipe here . Another option for those who have trouble juggling multiple ingredients, this three-ingredient velvety chocolate fruit dip combines coconut cream, cacao powder and maple syrup. Just add a fourth ingredient — some fruit — and you’ll be ready for Valentine’s Day. Try bananas, mango slices or chunks of pineapple for best results. Does your darling love ice cream? The simplest vegan ice cream consists of two ingredients: cocoa powder and bananas, both of which you can get fair-trade certified. You just need a blender or food processor and a freezer. Want to jazz it up? Add coconut, berries or nuts. Prefer to be even more minimalist? Make a one-ingredient ice cream of bananas only. Chocolate delicacies For a more traditional Valentine’s Day candy gift — but still vegan and fair-trade — make your own vegan chocolate salted caramels . You can get really romantic by shaping them into hearts. What if your love is not only vegan, but a gluten-free raw foodie? A vegan chocolate almond cheesecake with a gluten-free crust is an excellent solution to this Valentine’s Day gift-giving challenge. This recipe tops the cheesecake with cocoa nibs and extra almonds. Perhaps cookies are your loved one’s favorite treat. These heart-shaped chocolate sugar cookies are vegan and gluten-free. You’ll need heart-shaped cookie cutters and a rolling pin for this recipe. Fancy and fruity desserts It’s hard to fathom, but not everybody rates chocolate as their favorite. Some people don’t like it at all and would even prefer fruit ! If your partner values berries over cocoa, whip up a raw strawberry cashew cream tart . The crust is made of dates, coconuts and almonds, and the filling is strawberry cashew cream. Remember that strawberries usually top the dirty dozen list of produce that you should buy organic, so shop accordingly. No pesticides for your valentine! Strawberry donuts with jam frosting make for a sweet Valentine’s Day breakfast. If you like decorating, you can heap on the pink frosting and arrange freeze-dried strawberry bits or candy sprinkles. Related: 9 ways to have an eco-friendly Valentine’s Day Few vegan desserts involve dusting off your blowtorch. But this vegan crème brûlée recipe made with coconut milk will awe and impress your partner, especially when they see you welding that blowtorch in the name of love. Flowers for those who don’t like sweets What if your partner doesn’t have much of a sweet tooth? Cut flowers are a Valentine’s Day staple, but they are notoriously pesticide-ridden, and many flower farms don’t treat workers or the environment well. If you’re concerned about sustainable practices in the floral industry, the internet provides a few tools. For California-grown flowers, you can look at Bloomcheck , which measures wildlife protection, air and soil quality and impact on workers and community. Rainforest Alliance monitors South America , with more than 1.3 million farms using Rainforest Alliance methods to protect local ecosystems and workers. Veriflora vets farms in the whole western hemisphere. A low-key Valentine’s Day Sometimes Valentine’s Day is the worst time to go out to dinner or to dessert shops. The stress of making reservations and battling a sea of lovers can put a damper on romance. Instead, consider celebrating at home with a simple, homemade dinner followed by DIY treats. Whipping up dinner together is a good way to show your love and is much more personal than making a reservation. Images via Shutterstock

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A tour of Seattle Chocolate elicits a deep appreciation for cacao

October 23, 2019 by  
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In 1900 BCE, Mesoamericans used cacao beans to make a bitter, fermented drink. By 1400, Aztecs traded cacao as currency. Spaniards later thought to add sugar. Nowadays, we just go to the store when we want to buy chocolate, divorcing the exquisite substance from its historic origins. But a tour of the Seattle Chocolate factory helps visitors deepen their appreciation of one of the world’s favorite treats. This woman-owned, Rainforest Alliance-certified company has put decades of thought into how to make its treats both delicious and sustainable. A tasty tour Seattle Chocolate started in Seattle in 1991. But the Nisqually Earthquake of 2001 destroyed the original factory. One of Seattle Chocolate’s investors, entrepreneur Jean Thompson, took over as owner and CEO. The company found a new, 60,000-square-foot factory in Tukwila, a town just south of Seattle. Visitors go to this nondescript building for the tour. It is hard to believe that something so plain on the outside turns out more than 30,000 colorfully wrapped chocolate bars per day. Our tour starts in the chocolate classroom, where guide Chris Hardwick talks to us about the history of chocolate in general and Seattle Chocolate in particular. In class, we learn it takes three to five years to grow cacao. Nigeria, Ghana and the Ivory Coast produce 70 percent of cacao beans. Midges pollinate chocolate, answering that age-old question, what are midges good for? Related: Fueled by chocolate — Ghana’s newest biofuel Hardwick explained that Seattle Chocolate has two directions, the line with the original name, and Jcoco, more of a culinary experimental brand. “Seattle Chocolate is a fruit-forward, acidic chocolate,” he said in the assured language of a wine expert. Jcoco is more likely to include ingredients like edamame or cumin. Hardwick passes around jars of cacao beans and nibs, so we can smell the terroir of beans grown in different countries. Because every good factory tour requires a hairnet, we don blue netting before continuing on to the next part of the tour: the factory floor. As well as chocolate bars, Seattle Chocolate is known for its 20 truffle flavors in bright metallic wrapping. High on the catwalk, we look down at workers bent over enormous boxes of truffles, scooping armloads into smaller containers. It’s a chocolate-lover’s fantasy come to life. The tour ends with a chocolate tasting. We sit at placemats with six chunks of chocolate to compare. The regular tasting includes varieties of white, milk and dark chocolate. The vegan version offers several types of dark chocolate. Hardwick guides us through a more mindful tasting process, rather than a simple devouring. The experience changes how visitors interact with this sweet treat — it makes them more appreciative of it. Tours are offered year-round. But if you visit on certain days in October, you can experience an exciting bonus — a haunted factory . The company website explains, “A troublesome spirit has escaped and is creating havoc for the Seattle Chocolate Factory! Help repair the damage while gathering clues to speak with Ixcacao, the Goddess of Chocolate. With her help, you’ll brave the dark factory and cast the fell spirit out.” Hardwick assured me this family-friendly tour is fun, not gory. Sustainability measures Seattle Chocolate carefully addresses social responsibility throughout the entire chocolate life cycle. It uses Rainforest Alliance Certified cacao to ensure just labor practices and good environmental measures in the countries the cacao is grown. In the factory, workers compost 25,000 pounds of chocolate scraps annually. They use non-GMO ingredients in the bars and truffles. Wherever possible, Seattle Chocolate sources ingredients like fruits, spices, mint and honey from local partners. Packaging is especially problematic for environmentally conscious companies. Seattle Chocolate has recently developed cellulose truffle twist wraps made from sustainably harvested eucalyptus trees . This is significant, as it churns out 12.5 million truffles a year, wrapped in about 8,000 pounds of bright truffle twist wraps. By mid-2020, all truffle flavors will be wrapped in the new cellulose material. Customers can throw the truffle wraps into their home compost piles, where they should break down in six to eight weeks. Giving back While the ordinary chocolate fan might question the presence of edamame beans in a chocolate bar, the Jcoco line isn’t just for foodies. Thompson created the line in 2012 with an underlying goal of feeding hungry families. The company donates a fresh serving of food to those in need every time somebody buys a Jcoco bar. So far, Seattle Chocolate has donated nearly 4 million servings of food to food banks in Washington, California and New York. In addition to tours, Seattle Chocolate invites the public in for events like tastings of new seasonal chocolate flavors or classes on pairing beer with chocolate. It hosts the haunted chocolate factory in October, and a large holiday party in December. + Seattle Chocolate Images by Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat and Seattle Southside Regional Tourism Authority

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A tour of Seattle Chocolate elicits a deep appreciation for cacao

Designer invents self-testing HIV kit made out of recycled plastic

October 23, 2019 by  
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One of the largest obstacles in HIV prevention is the lack of clinics and resources in developing countries around the world. Now, British product designer Hans Ramzan has unveiled a solution that could potentially save thousands of lives. CATCH is a low-cost, self-testing HIV kit, partly made from recycled plastic, that is designed to help individuals check for HIV in their own homes, reducing the need to travel miles to the nearest clinic. As a leading cause of death around the world, HIV infected about 1.7 million individuals in 2018 alone , and nearly 40 million people are living with HIV globally. Despite these massive numbers, early detection is nearly impossible for many who live in rural areas that don’t have clinics nearby. Due to the lack of resources that would otherwise help patients detect HIV in its early stages, many people develop AIDS, which often leads to death. The situation is dire and has been for years, but CATCH might be able to change that. Related: New study claims climate change could be linked to heart defects in newborns CATCH is a low-cost testing kit that allows individuals to face fewer long trips to the nearest clinic. The innovative finger kit is extremely intuitive and can be used by anyone. In just three simple steps, people can check their status. The first step is to slide the disinfectant sleeve over the finger. Then, push down on the pipette/needle-top. and finally press the button to see the result. Made partly out of recycled plastic , the design is eco-friendly and affordable. The production price of one CATCH kit is £4 (approximately $5). According to Ramzan, the innovative design was inspired by his own experience of losing someone. “After witnessing my aunt pass away due to a life-threatening illness, it was heart-breaking,” Ramzan said. “If she had her illness caught earlier, perhaps her chances of survival would have been greater. That’s when something clicked — too many people are dying due to late diagnosis.” + Hans Ramzan Images via Hans Ramzan

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Designer invents self-testing HIV kit made out of recycled plastic

11 unique edible plants for your garden

June 14, 2019 by  
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Part of the joy of gardening is falling in love with the plants you choose to nurture, especially those with a tasty reward. While the traditional carrots and raspberries certainly have their place, you can create a yard full of unique, yummy and eye-catching produce when you select plants that are a little less traditional. The produce department at your local supermarket might have a few dozen choices, there are actually hundreds of fruits and vegetables that you may have never even heard of, let alone considered growing. While some require special adaptations, such as tropical weather, most are just as easy to grow than the mainstream selections. Here are some examples to get you started. Jujube If you’re in USDA zone 5-9, check out the jujube. This is not the beloved candy by the same name, but the candy was inspired by this small, apple-like gem. Jujubes offer a sweet and sour flavor and can be eaten raw, although the sugars intensify when dried. Jujubes like hot, dry environments and tolerate drought quite well. Related: Incredible edible landscape map shows you where to find free food Pawpaw Another heat lover is the pawpaw, similar to tropical fruits like the related cherimoya and custard apple. Happy in zones 5-9, the pawpaw doesn’t do well on a commercial scale, but is a great addition to a backyard garden . The plants itself is a small, uniform tree that produces pleasant foliage. Quince You may have heard of quince jam or seen it on a menu at a restaurant, but few people actually grow quince themselves. At one time, quince trees were as ubiquitous as pear and apples and rightfully so since it is related to both. Quince must be cooked for eating, but the reward is equivalent to apple pie in a single fruit with flavors of vanilla, cinnamon, and a hint of citrus. Quince grows well in zones 4-9. Cattail Did you know cattail is edible? If you have a pond area be sure to include this plant in your design. Young stems can be eaten raw and young flowers can be roasted. In midsummer, the pollen from the cattail can be used as a type of flour in pancakes and breads. It also works as a thickener for soups and sauces. Young shoots on the plant can be cooked like asparagus by roasting or grilling. They can also be added to stir-fry for a distinct flavor. Chocolate Vine Less tropical than other options, the chocolate vine can even tolerate substantial amounts of shade. Best in zones 4-9, it produces sweet-smelling flowers in the spring and long pods later in the summer . The pods can be cooked like a vegetable but should be avoided raw. Before you toss them in the oven though, pop open the pod and scrape out the pulp, which resembles a banana/passionfruit custard that can be eaten directly or mixed with other fruits. Edible Flowers In addition to those traditional and non-traditional fruits and vegetables , remember than many flowers are edible too. This makes for many exciting options for your yard, even outside the designated garden gate. Include nasturtiums, violas, pansies, borage, and calendula in your landscape and you will have a cornucopia of salad greens at your fingertips. Maypop If you love passion fruit, but don’t live in the tropics , try this American cousin instead. Happy in zones 6-10, this vine not only offers a delectable fruit, but also produces large colorful blooms in the form of purple and white blossoms. Haksap More commonly known by a variety of names in the honeysuckle family, haksap produces a delicious sweet-tart berry that tastes like a cross between a blueberry and a raspberry. Almost as great as the tasty treat it produces is the gift it provides with its delicate downward trumpet-shaped blooms. Make sure to plant at least two of the same type of haksap together for effective pollination . Medlar Medlar is an ancient fruit, even though you may have never heard of it. For thousands of years, dating back to at least the Roman era, this small deciduous tree has produced small edible fruits. Related to roses, the one to two-inch fruit resembles large rosehips. The color is a rosy brown. For a commercial product, the medlar is a bit finicky since they have a very small window of the perfect ripeness for consumption. For the backyard gardener, though, your challenge might be picking them at the right time before the animals pluck them for you. Medlars adapt well in climates with hot summers and wintry winters. Red Meat Watermelon Radish While the flavor is similar to the traditional radish, the look is anything but. It’s a bit of a mind game when picking the small radishes off the plant, which look nearly identical to a spotted watermelon at 1/1000 the size. Red meat radishes are a cool weather crop and will bolt if planted when it is too warm. Serviceberry Placed right up next to your garden, trees, or perennials, serviceberries add a lively texture to your landscape and produce a yummy, yet non-commercial, fruit for your backyard enjoyment. Serviceberry grows well in a variety of zones because there are different varietals of trees and shrubs. It is a versatile and durable plant, growing wild in many areas. Plant it right up next to the house or in soggy areas of the yard where other plants are unhappy. Watch for the berries to ripen, which resemble blueberries in size and shape. Images via Shutterstock

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11 unique edible plants for your garden

Colombia to produce free chocolate deforestation-free, that is…

July 25, 2018 by  
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You’ll soon be able to enjoy your chocolate guilt-free. Colombia has become the first Latin American country and the third country in the world to commit to deforestation-free cocoa production. The government signed a pledge with the Cocoa and Forests Initiative, a movement intent on achieving this goal throughout all cocoa-producing nations. The country hopes to achieve this monumental goal in just under two years. The Casa Luker company, a cornerstone brand in Colombian chocolate manufacturing, has joined the pledge along with the National Cocoa Federation, and the initiative is spearheaded by the World Cocoa Foundation. These organizations are committed to helping Colombia achieve deforestation-free chocolate production by the year 2020. Colombia will join other member-nations Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana , making it the third country to engage in the anti-deforestation effort. Related: Australia’s rampant deforestation is killing koalas In 2017, Colombia faced “one of the most drastic losses of tree cover in the world,” according to Mongabay . In total, tropical countries lost forest grounds approximately the size of Bangladesh, and Colombia experienced a 46 percent rise in deforestation from the previous calendar year, losing about 1,640 square miles (or 4,250 square kilometers) of greenery. Not wanting this degradation to continue, the Colombian government has agreed to a Framework for Action subsisting of “11 core commitments, which include preventing deforestation and forest degradation; promoting the conservation of protected areas; respecting the rights of cocoa farmers and minimizing adverse social and economic impacts monitoring and reporting on the progress on commitments; ensuring transparency and accountability; and providing support to sustainable markets for cocoa products.” Related: First newly-developed chocolate in 80 years is made from Ruby cocoa beans Enthusiastic about the progress, Eduard Baquero López, president of the National Cocoa Federation, said, “There are many inspiring examples of cocoa production leading to forest protection and restoration; we wish to gain greater global market access for Colombia’s cocoa, which has such a distinctive quality and which is rare in contributing both to forest protection and to the peace. We hope the global consumer will come to enjoy their chocolate even more when they learn it protects the forests and delivers the peace!” + World Cocoa Foundation Via Mongabay

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Colombia to produce free chocolate deforestation-free, that is…

Cleverly layered compact dirt walls mimic ice cream cakes in this Tokyo patisserie

June 21, 2017 by  
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Dirt may seem an odd material choice for an upscale patisserie in Tokyo , but design studio nendo playfully pulls it off with style. The Japanese designers layered compacted soils of varying colors to mimic the layers of an ice cream cake. The earth walls lend the “à tes souhaits!” shop a sense of warmth and contrast beautifully with the glass-and-steel facade. Located in the trendy Kichijoji neighborhood in Tokyo, à tes souhaits! is a small and elegant shop specializing in ice cream and chocolates . The earth walls comprise stacked soils of varying shades arranged in a staggered pattern to look like cut slices of ice cream cake with different flavors. “The wall guides people into the shop by the soft curvature from the outer wall, and then creates a gentle all-enveloping effect, like melted ice cream, all the way into the back of the shop,” writes nendo. “This created a relaxing ambience, taking advantage of the compactness of the space.” Related: Ancient Japanese tombs inspire nendo’s first public space design Since the new patisserie is the second location of à tes souhaits!, Nendo wanted to differentiate the two shops. The flagship uses bright lighting with mostly white surfaces and hard materials like marble and metal. In contrast, the new location uses a subdued color palette and softer lighting to complement the dominant use of wood and soil . + Nendo Images by Takumi Ota

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Cleverly layered compact dirt walls mimic ice cream cakes in this Tokyo patisserie

5 Holiday Items Making Your Family Sick

December 2, 2016 by  
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‘Tis the season to be jolly. For many, this symbolizes an all-access hall pass to indulge one’s taste buds along the chocolate-, cake-, cocktail- and candy-lined corridors. While some choose to channel their inner Oompa Loompa between the…

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5 Holiday Items Making Your Family Sick

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