Posts Tagged Green & Eco Friendly

Oil & Food, A Scary Picture

  • Oil is used to deliver the seeds to farmers
  • Oil is used to pump water to the cropspeakoil
  • Oil is used in production of fertilizers
  • Oil runs the tractors that harvest food
  • Oil is in the plastics that we package the food
  • Oil is in the tanks of the trucks that ship food an average of 5000 miles
  • Oil is used to drive your car when you bring the food home
  • Oil powers electricity at every step of this chain
  • Oil helps you cook the food when you bring it….
  • What would happen when Oil is $400 a barrel?

Peak oil is here and now, Get ready for the ride of your lifetime

Info on Peak Oil

Reprinted Treehugger Lester Brown July 2009

Today we are an oil-based civilization, one that is totally dependent on a resource whose production will soon be falling. Since 1981, the quantity of oil extracted has exceeded new discoveries by an ever-widening margin. In 2008, the world pumped 31 billion barrels of oil but discovered fewer than 9 billion barrels of new oil. World reserves of conventional oil are in a free fall, dropping every year.

Discoveries of conventional oil total roughly 2 trillion barrels, of which 1 trillion have been extracted so far, with another trillion barrels to go. By themselves, however, these numbers miss a central point. As security analyst Michael Klare notes, the first trillion barrels was easy oil, “oil that’s found on shore or near to shore; oil close to the surface and concentrated in large reservoirs; oil produced in friendly, safe, and welcoming places.” The other half, Klare notes, is tough oil, “oil that’s buried far offshore or deep underground; oil scattered in small, hard-to-find reservoirs; oil that must be obtained from unfriendly, politically dangerous, or hazardous places.”

The oil-food-security link.
At Earth Policy Institute we note that the prospect of peaking oil production has direct consequences for world food security, as modern agriculture depends heavily on the use of fossil fuels. Most tractors use gasoline or diesel fuel. Irrigation pumps use diesel fuel, natural gas, or coal-fired electricity. Fertilizer production is also energy-intensive. Natural gas is used to synthesize the basic ammonia building block in nitrogen fertilizers. The mining, manufacture, and international transport of phosphates and potash all depend on oil.

Efficiency gains can help reduce agriculture’s dependence on oil. In the United States, the combined direct use of gasoline and diesel fuel in farming fell from its historical high of 7.7 billion gallons (29.1 billion liters) in 1973 to 4.2 billion in 2005–a decline of 45 percent. Broadly calculated, the gallons of fuel used per ton of grain produced dropped from 33 in 1973 to 12 in 2005, an impressive decrease of 64 percent.
One reason for this achievement was a shift to minimum- and no-till cultural practices on roughly two fifths of U.S. cropland. But while U.S. agricultural fuel use has been declining, in many developing countries it is rising as the shift from draft animals to tractors continues. A generation ago, for example, cropland in China was tilled largely by draft animals. Today much of the plowing is done with tractors.

Fertilizer consumes oil
Fertilizer accounts for 20 percent of U.S. farm energy use. Worldwide, the figure may be slightly higher. As the world urbanizes, the demand for fertilizer climbs. As people migrate from rural areas to cities, it becomes more difficult to recycle the nutrients in human waste back into the soil, requiring the use of more fertilizer. Beyond this, the growing international food trade can separate producer and consumer by thousands of miles, further disrupting the nutrient cycle. The United States, for example, exports some 80 million tons of grain per year—grain that contains large quantities of basic plant nutrients: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. The ongoing export of these nutrients would slowly drain the inherent fertility from U.S. cropland if the nutrients were not replaced.

Irrigation consumes oil
Irrigation, another major energy claimant, is requiring more energy worldwide as water tables fall. In the United States, close to 19 percent of farm energy use is for pumping water. And in some states in India where water tables are falling, over half of all electricity is used to pump water from wells. Some trends, such as the shift to no-tillage, are making agriculture less oil-intensive, but rising fertilizer use, the spread of farm mechanization, and falling water tables are having the opposite effect.
Although attention commonly focuses on energy use on the farm, agriculture accounts for only one fifth of the energy used in the U.S. food system. Transport, processing, packaging, marketing, and kitchen preparation of food are responsible for the rest. The U.S. food economy uses as much energy as the entire economy of the United Kingdom.

Distribution consumes oil
The 14 percent of energy used in the food system to move goods from farmer to consumer is equal to two thirds of the energy used to produce the food. And an estimated 16 percent of food system energy use is devoted to canning, freezing, and drying food—everything from frozen orange juice concentrate to canned peas.
Food staples such as wheat have traditionally moved over long distances by ship, traveling from the United States to Europe, for example. What is new is the shipment of fresh fruits and vegetables over vast distances by air. Few economic activities are more energy-intensive.

Food miles—the distance that food travels from producer to consumer—have risen with cheap oil. At my local supermarket in downtown Washington, D.C., the fresh grapes in winter typically come by plane from Chile, traveling almost 5,000 miles. One of the most routine long-distance movements of fresh produce is from California to the heavily populated U.S. East Coast. Most of this produce moves by refrigerated trucks. In assessing the future of long-distance produce transport, one writer observed that the days of the 3,000-mile Caesar salad may be numbered.

Packaging consumes oil
Packaging is also surprisingly energy-intensive, accounting for 7 percent of food system energy use. It is not uncommon for the energy invested in packaging to exceed that in the food it contains. Packaging and marketing also can account for much of the cost of processed foods. The U.S. farmer gets about 20 percent of the consumer food dollar, and for some products, the figure is much lower. As one analyst has observed, “An empty cereal box delivered to the grocery store would cost about the same as a full one.”

Electricity dominates with consumption
The most energy-intensive segment of the food chain is the kitchen. Much more energy is used to refrigerate and prepare food in the home than is used to produce it in the first place. The big energy user in the food system is the kitchen refrigerator, not the farm tractor. While oil dominates the production end of the food system, electricity dominates the consumption end.

In short, with higher energy prices and a limited supply of fossil fuels, the modern food system that evolved when oil was cheap will not survive as it is now structured.
To continue reading about localized agriculture and urban gardening, see Farming in the City from Chapter 10 in Earth Policy Institute’s book, Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization, available for free downloading.

Land Sharing

Part of the issue of tiny houses is figuring out where to put them.  While building codes are so restrictive, it simply isn’t possible to legally place them on land in most states. landshare There is a county in my state of NC where the minimum square footage is 2500 square feet!  I continue to feel that the only viable is to buy a large chunk of land and have your house nestled deep within it.  But this presents a large barrier for some, including me at the age of 25.  Once I do get a sizable piece of land I have often thought of opening it up and sharing with other tiny houses to form a tiny community.  The group would contribute to a community garden, upkeep and improvements.  There would be public areas such as botanical garden, small park, perhaps a pool or swimming hole.  I apparently I haven’t been the only one thinking about this.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is a national treasure–a writer, organic farmer, chef, t.v. personality and passionate believer in local communities. His latest venture is “Landshare”–a scheme which puts people with large unused gardens in touch with gardeners wanting space. He calls it a “food revolution destined to be the next great thing.” With more people wanting to grow their own food and allotments being harder and harder to come by, he just may be right.

It is a simple and optimistic idea. People register their interest as a grower, a spotter –someone who has seen land in their area that may be suitable for growing–or an owner. The register, once it is up and running, will put these people in touch with each other.

The facts are that 80% of Britain’s population live in towns and cities, Britain’s food travels 17 trillion miles every year to reach our plates and it costs four barrels of oil per person to feed us every year.

So there is a good reason why the concept is growing and others are proposing variations. “LandFit” is another group that is “encouraging local food production by matching would-be growers with under used land.” They too want to increase opportunities to grow good locally by bringing untended and ignored bits of land back into use. They see it is a way to not only grow food and encourage organic gardening but also as a way to discourage anti-social behaviour. It’s a variation on Jane Jacobs all over again: when you have a well-kept street with local people interested in what is going on then you have a sense of community and involvement.

It is complicated and political because it involves land ownership and the use of private property by others. The group is in the process of discussing matters such as ” governance issues, and developing a model agreement between gardener and ‘lead stakeholder’, and ways in which LandFit style agreements can be supported.”

These are two examples of groups trying to come to grips with sustainability in food production, taking control of food production and the growing numbers of people interested in gardening but without access to land. Landshare and LandFit

Old Magazines Into Coasters

While I find coasters to be a hassle and I use the Bodum glasses which eliminates the need for them, there are many folks that use them.  In addition they make a great gift if you make them yourself.  So here is a quick way to reuse old magazine to make some fun coasters.

6-24-09coasters11. Tear out 6 magazine pages. Cut off the ragged edge on each, then cut each page in half lengthwise. I stacked them and cut them all at once with an X-acto knife and ruler. (To make a coaster with a finer weave, cut each of the half-page strips in half lengthwise again. And note that weaving will take you twice as long!)

2. Fold each strip in half lengthwise. Then fold the resulting piece in thirds, folding the cut edges inward first so they’re hidden inside. Now you have a long, thick strip. Fold it in half at the center. See steps pictured above. Repeat with each magazine sheet.

3. To start weaving, interlock two strips. This is the bottom left corner of your coaster.

4. Add another strip that wraps around the outside of the horizontal bottom strip.

Read more

Lunch Bots

Recently there has been allot of hype when it comes to plastics and chemical leeching.  One prime example is Nalgene water bottles and how they used to contain BPA’s.  These days you hear about how fill in the blank causes cancer, by the end we find that the majority of things we use will be the death of us.

lunchbot2

I have always loved how in the olden days they used to package everything in great little metal tins, they were so durable, reusable and most often recyclable by today’s standards.  This might just be me, I have come to realize I have this odd addiction to containers, but that’s for another day.

Lunch Bots are basically Tupperware but made from 100% stainless steel, they are washable, recyclable, durable and look awesome!  While they can’t handle liquids like soup, they are good for just about everything else.  Combined these with a reusable lunch bag and your golden.  Buy them for around $15 each or a set of all 4 for $50 here

Eco Pods

I have always been intrigued by creative solutions to housing, in our life the average person spend a third of all the money they make on housing, my question is, how can we change that third to a much smaller fraction?  I found this a little bit ago and what I really like about it is thatecopod

  • It is able to be transported via standard tractor trailer (18 wheeler) methods
  • It uses recycled materials almost exclusively
  • They are relatively inexpensive
  • It can be locked up and short of someone spending an hour with a plasma cutting torch, they aren’t going to get in

All of these things are really important to me because I don’t want to spend my entire life in debt, I want to be able to move my home if I find a great job elsewhere with minimal cost, and when I go on month long vacations I can without worry about my home.

Eco pods are 120 square feet of living area not counting the built in deck.  The floor is recycled car tires and actually looks really nice, plus gives some so you aren’t always standing on a hard surface, plus it cleans well.  Check out the video below and their website here