Archive for August, 2011

Change the World Wednesday 31st Aug

Last week was furnaces, I don’t have a furnace, and neither do many people so Small Footprints found out. As we are heading into Spring (yesterday was 34⁰C – around 90⁰F) I cleaned my fan. Damn, now the font’s changed ( I can’t fully figure out this WordPress yet, it’s primitive and not at all user friendly.

There, got it back. Where was I? Ah, yes, I need more coffee… brb.

Slowly I am getting back into my blogging routine, but WordPress doubles the time necessary to write a post. I honestly can’t say a good thing about it. But at least it’s not Google.

Back to fans, having cleaned my room fan, I wondered about the fan in my cooler. Does it look like this? Not yet, but I wonder how much extra power a dirty cooler fan makes you use… Does yours look like this?

This week’s Change the World Wednesday challenge on Reduce  Footprints:

This week, head over to Zero Waste Week 2011 and commit to at least one activity which will reduce waste away from home. Be sure to come back here and share your commitment. The same rules will apply as always … if you write about it and/or tweet about, you’ll be honored next week. After committing to an activity, keep track of your progress because we’ll be talking about our successes next week.

Damn, I can’t even do colours here!

So off I went to see what Zero Waste was all about.

Here in Brazil it’s difficult to be ‘zero waste.’ The whole country seems primed against it and any attempt.

No. 1 on Zero Waste’s list. I don’t eat out at places like Starbucks, heaven forbid, I hate the very thought, as I hate all franchise outlets. The places I frequent don’t have disposable cups, plates, or utensils.

No. 6 But they do have plastic ketchup and mustard sachets, paper sachets for salt and toothpicks (that is the law in Rio de Janeiro). Eating places of all types are not permitted salt shakers and sauce bottles.

But I do use my plastic cup at work to avoid disposable cups in the water coolers; and I refuse to use the condiments at restaurants and they know why. It is a subject that I have argued the toss with them many times, but they are bound by the council law. I confess that I use paper serviettes provided in the restaurants. However, I don’t use their paper towels in the bathroom, I am a boy (albeit an old one) and wipe my hands on my jeans.

Strictly speaking, I am not ‘zero waste’, but I do make inroads in the attempt.


Make you Fink on Friday

Oranges, one of nature’s finest foods…

But wait…

Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

The Secret Ingredient In Your Orange Juice

by Iris

“Do you buy orange juice at the store? If you do, I’m sure you’re careful to buy the kind that’s 100% juice and not made from concentrate. After all, that’s the healthier kind, right? The more natural kind? The kind without any additives? The kind that’s sold in the refrigerator section so it must be almost as good as fresh-squeezed orange juice? If I’m describing you, then you’re either going to hate me or love me by the time you’re done reading this post. The truth is, that orange juice you feel so good about buying is probably none of those things. You’ve been making assumptions based on logic. The food industry follows its own logic because of the economies of scale. What works for you in your kitchen when making a glass or two of juice simply won’t work when trying to process thousands upon thousands of gallons of the stuff.Haven’t you ever wondered why every glass of Tropicana Pure Premium orange juice tastes the same, no matter where in the world you buy it or what time of year you’re drinking it in? Or maybe your brand of choice is Minute Maid or Simply Orange or Florida’s Natural. Either way, I can ask the same question. Why is the taste and flavor so consistent? Why is it that the Minute Maid never tastes like the Tropicana, but always tastes like its own unique beverage?Generally speaking, beverages that taste consistently the same follow recipes. They’re things like Coca Cola or Pepsi or a Starbucks Frappuccino. When you make orange juice at home, each batch tastes a little different depending on the oranges you made it from. I hope you’re hearing warning bells in your head right about now. The reason your store bought orange juice is so consistently flavorful has more to do with chemistry than nature.

Making OJ should be pretty simple. Pick oranges. Squeeze them. Put the juice in a carton and voilà! But actually, there is an important stage in between that is an open secret in the OJ industry. After the oranges are squeezed, the juice is stored in giant holding tanks and, critically, the oxygen is removed from them. That essentially allows the liquid to keep (for up to a year) without spoiling– but that liquid that we think of as orange juice tastes nothing like the Tropicana OJ that comes out of the carton. In fact, it’s quite flavorless. So, the industry uses “flavor packs” to re-flavor the de-oxygenated orange juice: “When the juice is stripped of oxygen it is also stripped of flavor providing chemicals. Juice companies therefore hire flavor and fragrance companies, the same ones that formulate perfumes for Dior and Calvin Klein, to engineer flavor packs to add back to the juice to make it taste fresh. Flavor packs aren’t listed as an ingredient on the label because technically they are derived from orange essence and oil. Yet those in the industry will tell you that the flavor packs, whether made for reconstituted or pasteurized orange juice, resemble nothing found in nature. The packs added to juice earmarked for the North American market tend to contain high amounts of ethyl butyrate, a chemical in the fragrance of fresh squeezed orange juice that, juice companies have discovered, Americans favor. Mexicans and Brazilians have a different palate. Flavor packs fabricated for juice geared to these markets therefore highlight different chemicals, the decanals say, or terpene compounds such as valencine.”

The formulas vary to give a brand’s trademark taste. If you’re discerning you may have noticed Minute Maid has a candy like orange flavor. That’s largely due to the flavor pack Coca-Cola has chosen for it. Some companies have even been known to request a flavor pack that mimics the taste of a popular competitor, creating a “hall of mirrors” of flavor packs. Despite the multiple interpretations of a freshly squeezed orange on the market, most flavor packs have a shared source of inspiration: a Florida Valencia orange in spring.Why aren’t these flavor packs listed as ingredients? Good question! As with all industrial foods, it’s because of our convoluted labeling laws. You see, these “flavor packs are made from orange by-products — even though these ‘by-products’ are so chemically manipulated that they hardly qualify as ‘by-products’ any more.” (source) Since they’re made from by-products that originated in oranges, they can be added to the orange juice without being considered an “ingredient,” despite the fact that they are chemically altered.

So, what should you do about it? First off, I must ask: Why are you drinking juice? Juice removed from the fruit is just concentrated fructose without any of the naturally-occurring fiber, pectin, and other goodies that make eating a whole fruit good for you. Did you know, for example, that it takes 6-8 medium sized apples to make just 1 cup of apple juice? You probably wouldn’t be able to eat 6-8 medium apples in a single sitting. (I know I can barely eat one!) But you can casually throw back a cup of apple juice, and you would probably be willing to return for seconds. That’s why fruit juice is dangerous. It’s far too easy to consume far too much sugar.

So, my first piece of advice is to get out of the juice habit altogether. It’s expensive, and it’s not worth it. My second piece of advice is to only drink juices that you make yourself, and preferably ones that you’ve turned into a healthy, probiotic beverage (like this naturally-fermented lemonade my own family enjoys). Sally Fallon Morrell’s “Nourishing Traditions” cookbook has several lacto-fermented juice coolers that are pleasant, albeit expensive. (I especially like the Grape Cooler, Raspberry Drink, and Ginger Beer.) Want to make juicing easier? See here for where to buy juicers and Vitamix blenders.

And finally, opt out of the industrial food system as much as you can. If you learn anything at all from this post, it should be that you never know what’s in your food unless you grow it, harvest it, or make it yourself. Second best (and more practical for many, including myself) is to pay somebody I trust to do it — like the farmers at my Farmer’s Market, the cattle rancher I buy my annual grass-fed beef order from, or the chef at my local restaurant who’s willing to transparently answer questions about how he sources ingredients and what goes into the dish I’m ordering.”

:: Change the World Wednesday 24th August

This is a repost of my last CTWW on Life is a Labyrinth, to start the ball rolling

Here we are, Wednesday again and time for Small Footprint’s CTWW. Last week we were on about litter, it was a great challenge, check further down the page to see my post. Unfortunately the post titles on these stand-alone-pages are not ‘httpable’, so I can’t make a link for your convenience; but the good thing is by scrolling down you pas other posts which may catch your eye.

Example of paved street & footpath


We had a wet weekend, so it was not suitable to de-litter the praça as I would have liked to. After last week’s post, where I explained that I have stopped doing that because of my health, I decided I would do a little. Instead, I swept my footpath (sidewalk for our American cousins. I have no idea why Americans call it a ‘sidewalk,’ because I always walk on my feet – strange habit – never on my side) and extended it to include the whole section of the street and both gutters in front of my house. It was surprising how much rubbish I collected just from that small area. The photo I have included shows the style of street that we have in our small suburb (that’s not our street); you can see the paving stones and the condition of the footpath make ideal traps for small litter.

This week’s challenge:

This week clean and test the furnace. Did you know that your furnace needs cleaning? Yep … it collects all kinds of dust and debris which not only affects it’s performance but could cause a fire. Before you really need the heat, get out your owner’s manual for instructions on how to clean it. No manual? Check here or call a furnace maintenance company. If you have a gas furnace, have it professionally inspected once a year.
Or …

Have you already accomplished this task … or don’t use a furnace for heat? Then we’d like to hear another Eco-tip or idea for the fall months.

*looks around for furnace* Nope, we don’t use furnaces in Rio, as I have explained in previous posts, we use neither hot water or have a need for heating the house (although the last weekend tends to make me a liar there, it was very cold for us).

So I will look at the second part of the challenge.

Hmmmm, that’s not particularly applicable either.

Unlike the northern hemisphere, we are about to enter spring, not autumn (fall for our American cousins, never could understand why they did away with such a lovely word) and so I have cleaned my fan. I still have only one, although another is in the offing, and necessary before the coming summer months. A dirty fan is neither energy efficient, nor does it give the maximum performance. Because they tend to run day & night during the hot summers here (I have only used it once since March), they get neglected. So I have cleaned my fan, ready for use.

So there’s an idea for you Americans (and other northern hemispherers) when you finally switch off your fans after your heat waves, give then a good clean before you pack them away for the winter months.


I am adding a news item here:
Here in Brazil most households use margarine as opposed to butter. I prefer butter but I do have a pot of margarine in the fridge for ’emergencies.’

This is not my brand of margarine, although I am going to look for and buy one to try the quality.


Because, this brand are now using a biodegradable plastic for the pot. The first brand to do so in Brazil. Reportedly the pot becomes fully composted after 180 +/- days; which is far quicker than conventional plastics. When I am done with the pot, I am going to bury it and see what happens. I may be old, but I am not silly enough to believe anything in advertising any more. I want to see what happens for myself.

Do you have these biodegradable pots or other containers? Have you looked? Do you buy them in preference to other plastics? If yes, and you don’t, why not?

I am also going to have a sniff around at what makes these pots different and if they are still being made with petroleum products. I’ll keep you posted.

That’s my CTWW for this week. Have a great weekend ahead.


A Bull by the Horns

I have decide to take the bull by the horns.

While I am not completely comfortable with WordPress, I have totally lost faith in Blogger and I feel it has seriously undermined my ability to blog.

I have to figure WP out. I cannot find the template I want unless I pay; and I don’t want to pay. I am not into blogging for the money, although donations would be a nice way to recognise the hard work I do here, so I don’t see why I should pay.

In the previous post you will see all that was on my Life is a Labyrinth Eco-Crap Page. I am going to continue here.

Wish me luck and  hope you enjoy or hate what I have to offer. Please be patient while I learn how to ‘do it;’

A New Home

Hey guys & gals, look what moongoddess found and Small Footprints passed on to me. This is great, no it’s fantastic. Now I feel that the Eco-Crap page is really up and running; talk about the blue bird of happiness. Maybe Monday’s aren’t so bad after all…

Got old wine bottles?

Here’s a way that you can use them.

Wall/Fence mounted kerosene torches.

Check out the details on:

Design Sponge

Full details and photo by photo ‘how to.’

Just imagine how classy you BBQ will look with these around the yard.

:: Change the World Wednesday 17th August

I love this time of the week, it is the one time of the week that I feel focused since I started this new blog.


In last week’s challenge I made the unreferenced statement that CFLs cause the human brain problems, because I remembered reading on this at some stage recently. I was taken to task on this through a comment; so some further investigation was in order. Here is what I found.

 Not only are the frequencies of CFLs hazardous to humans, but to nearly all animal forms on the planet.

See the article on Science 2.0 Here is a good article that explains the problem better than I can.

Notwithstanding they present a problem for eco-friendly disposal because of the mercury content. Now the USA has laws and regulations regarding their correct disposal, but there are a potential 5 billion other uses on the planet who may not. Brazil, for instance, does not have any such laws; and, if they did the education of the greater population isn’t sufficient for them to understand the necessity. So here is one country of 180 million people which would dispose of these CFLs ad hoc, anyway they can.

Now have a read on EMF UK, here’s a sumary of their testing of CFLs to whet your appetite for more reading:

There is sufficient evidence available to suggest that a precautionary approach should be taken towards EMF exposure. With homes already containing EMFs from multiple sources (many of which may be beyond the occupants’ control) such as the power system, electrical appliances, cordless and mobile phones, wifi and an ever-growing list of ‘essential’ gadgets,  why are the public being effectively forced to introduce yet another source of EMFs into their homes in return for negligible energy savings and some serious disadvantages?”

For further reading, I would suggest  a report from Dr Magda Havas, Associate Professor, Environmental & Resource Studies, Trent University
Peterborough, ON,, Canada. This one gets a little technical and talks of GS Units which are considered safe below 40 GS Units.


This week’s Reduce Footprints challenge:

This week go for a walk and pick up litter as you go. If you don’t find any litter on your walk, then just enjoy being outside and “commuting” with nature. By the way, this is a great activity for kids so don’t forget to include them.
Or …

If going for a walk is not doable for you, please write a post about why litter is a problem in the environment and how we can prevent it.

Well, I live on a small praça (neighbourhood park). It is frequented by the elderly seeking shade from Rio’s punishing sun, kids flying kites (like Izaak here) or playing taco (like schoolboy cricket), it has a concrete football (Americans read soccer)/basketball court, that is also used for the senior citizen exercises in the mornings and the occasional party like last month’s Festa Juninha.

Generally speaking, it has a lot of ‘traffic.’

Which generates a lot of rubbish. There are numerous orange rubbish bins on posts dotted around the place, but few use them. You can see some of the detritus that accumulates on the ground around Izaak.

I have in the past spent my early Sunday morning wandering around with a salvaged plastic bag picking up the plastic rubbish (it is invariably plastic) and depositing it in the rubbish bins. I haven’t of late, because my leg has stiffened in recent months so that bending requires more effort. But I still often have my early morning coffee sitting in front of my house communing with nature before the sun becomes too strong, watching the toing and froing of the neighbours while I sip on my coffee lamenting at the disrespect shown by our community.

Brazilians have no compunction in dropping rubbish on the ground, even if there is a bright orange on a post nearby like the photo (left).

Sadly, they are also often overflowing if they are used, even the council doesn’t care enough to empty them on a regular basis.

If the council doesn’t care, how can you expect the people to care? They follow by example. So I used to do my bit, and since then other neighbours (two younger fathers) have taken the initiative to do the same; irregularly, but they have.

When I see kids dropping litter, I take them to task in a friendly way by suggesting that the praça would be a nicer place if people used the lixeiras (rubbish bins). They generally get the message and recover their litter and put it in the trash.

Yesterday on the bus to work, the guy sitting in front of me threw some paper out the window. It annoyed me. When he did it a second time I said aloud, “Sem vergonha!” (No shame) and he looked around and then sheepishly at other passengers who had also heard my comment. Maybe he will think about that next time he has the urge.
btw – I hate the new colour scheme for the buses in Rio.

So there you have it, my response to this weeks challenge.

And, don’t be squeamish. I am going to up the ante. Next time you see a person drop some trash, take them to task in a friendly way. If everybody did this just once, the world would stay a little cleaner, a little longer.

You may (had better) comment here

:: Australia carbon tax protest

Thousands of people gathered in the Australian capital, Canberra, to protest against a planned carbon tax aimed at curbing greenhouse emissions.

It is the centrepiece of Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s environmental strategy, despite her ruling out its introduction during last year’s election campaign.
A year on from that pledge, conservative opponents, who opposed the measure, are calling for new elections.
They say the tax will drive up household bills and cost jobs.

Source: BBC News Read more

:: Saturday Satire

:: Change the World Wednesday 10th August

Well, we’re slowly getting back to normal, after the disaster and settling down to this new (for me) format of blogging.

This weeks CTWW from Small Footprints is once again an easy one for me:

This week, for one entire day, do not use Air Conditioning in your home. Instead, employ other ways to stay cool (ceiling fans, adjusting curtains, swimming, etc.).
Or …

If you live in a cooler climate, or simply choose not to use A/C ever, please look around your home at all the ways you use electricity. Choose one and don’t use it for one entire day. Some ideas might be lights, the computer, TV, the stove, the hot water heater, or the radio. The idea is to NOT use the electricity which you typically use in a day.
Or …

If the only electricity you use is for the refrigerator, we’d like to know how you’ve managed to live off the grid.

Okay, let’s start at the top, with the first part of the challenge. I don’t have air conditioning, there, that was easy. I don’t actually like air conditioning at home. I prefer a fan, I have one small fan (30cm – 12″) in the bedroom/office (my pc is in my bedroom). It’s the only place where I ‘am’ all the time. It is hardly adequate and I plan to get a 40cm for this summer. You Americans will realise how hot temperatures of 40⁰+ C degrees (106⁰F) can be after having your current heatwave. Temperatures like this make some form of cooling essential. At the moment here it is winter and the fan hasn’t been on since April even though we have had the odd day recently of 35⁰+C, I have managed without. Mostly for cooling we have windows and doors that open fully to allow air to circulate.

The second and part of the challenge is to look at another appliance that we can do without.

Well, I live pretty meagrely. I have the following:

  • Fridge (old model that I believe uses the most power in the house – I have plans to replace this with a new one in the near future).
  • A hot-head shower (We don’t have hot water cylinders, this is the only hot water in the house).
  • Television (a recent innovation, I was without for three years).
  • My computer (LCD screen set to power off in 5mins).
  • A blender.
  • 5x lights (actually 7, but 2 I don’t use, at all) all light bulbs are 60 watt)

That’s it.

I shower daily, as previously posted, my statutory 3 minutes, I used the blender only when necessary and the TV is only on a maximum of 3 hours daily 6pm – 9pm (Usually less because my work encroaches on those hours; Usually I get home about 6:30pm, sometimes I don’t get home until 8:30pm). Lights, I normally have two on, living room and bedroom, because I am between the two during TV hours; when I switch the TV off the living room light is also off.
So there’s not a lot that I can reduce. My light usage is already frugal, unless I resort to candles and I am reluctant to do that because I have read that using one candle produces more

CO₂ than producing the power for a light bulb.
The one improvement I could make is to buy a small lamp and have a lower wattage bulb for TV viewing.
Now, I will say that none of my bulbs are the ‘energy efficient’ type. My experience in the past is they maybe energy efficient, but they haven’t the durability of the old incandescent bulbs and the cost of replacing them sometimes after only a few weeks usage is exhorbitant.  I have read also that the frequency of the light is not conducive with a fully functioning brain. These new energy efficient bulbs (besides being just plain ugly*) have a lot of issues involved; of course the government wants to push them because the produces tell them too (more lobby money) and the producers want you to use them because there is more profit in them. Don’t be under any illusion they are doing it for King & Country.So there you have it, my contribution.* This quote on Energy Efficient Light Bulbs

“We’ve waxed poetic about the benefits of energy efficient light bulbs and their advantages are many. But the backlash from designers and consumers is coming to a head and although most people want to save energy and lower their utility bills, they also want their living space to be cast in the warm glow that fluorescent lighting just can’t reproduce. The New York Times House and Home section did an informal survey on “how pleasing the light is” from these energy saving bulbsand the results were not positive.”To comment, click here 
:: Change the World Wednesday 3rd August

Hi everybody, both of you, things are in a bit of a muddle, but I want to continue. I am experimenting here using WebNode, I’m not sure whether it is the blog platform I want. I am still looking. But to continue…

Well, since that was written, I have tried and failed. I could not get WebNode to publish this article, or if it did I can’t find it. So here I am again on Blogger.

This weeks challenge Aug 3rd:

This week, use what is in your cupboards, pantry, freezers, etc. before buying new food items.
Or …

If you regularly do this, tell us about some of your more creative dishes using just what was “on hand”.

Well, as one that shops as I need, I don’t have a pantry. The only thing I have stocks of are the likes of hearbs and spices and they all get used in due course. My shopping practice is to do a big buy up on payday (I have become very Brazilian in this respect, we get paid monthly); for example, I know that I need four 500g (1lb) bags of coffee for the month – I buy 4x 500g bags of coffee and so on. It is only fresh produce, dairy products and meat that I buy as needed for the week’s menu.

So you can see that my shopping needs are quite different from the western world, so the first part of the challenge is not for me; and neither is the second, because I don’t use recipes; recipes are for the housewife. A housewife I am not; I am a chef, so I simply look around the kitchen and fridge and throw things into a pot or pan.

The crux of my post then is that times are going to get tougher. You (who don’t watch FauxNews) have all read/know of the political farce posited by the Democraps and Repugnicans recently over the “debt ceiling” and the subsequent down grading of the US credit rating by Standard & Poors from AAA to AA+, I’m afraid that it all doesn’t stop there. The snowball has begun to roll downhill, the genie is out of the bottle and you can’t put him back. First, the raising of the debt ceiling has only delayed the inevitable by a few months and when (not ‘if’) the slide starts it will be faster than before.

Secondly, S&P’s announcement that 1.? trillion wasn’t enough, it had to be in the order of 4 trillion to even think ‘begin,’ will have a global effect. China’s sphincter is quivering as China has the biggest holding of US credit; and Brazil is the fourth biggest holder.

Basically, all this means is the Americans, along with the rest of the world are soon going to need to ‘stock up’. The challenge is a good one, because most goods have a ‘shelf-life’ and to clean out the pantries at this time is necessary, not only to use the produce you already have, but to create space for the eventuality of stocking up when inflation begins to skyrocket and products become scare.

Globally, we are facing an economic disaster of the proportions never before imagined. If you look back in history all ’empires’ have followed the same route without exception; none of them had trillions to play with, so the fall from grace will be proportionately greater.

Even here in Brazil we are going to have to revise our thinking to survive in the future.

Click here to take you to the comment page.

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