Posts Tagged ‘usda’

“Finish your potatoes!  There are starving children in Somalia!” . . . “Don’t throw that out!  Do you know how hard I work to put food on this table?” . . .  “If you let that go to waste, you’re contributing to global warming!”

Global warming?  Yes, it looks as though  parents have one more phrase to add to their arsenal of  nit-pickings to make their kids feel just a little bit guilty about leaving that last vegetable on the plate.  Turns out that letting last night’s meatloaf languish in the refrigerator may be contributing to greenhouse gas emissions.  As Americans, we waste a staggering 55 million tons of food annually, which is roughly 40 percent of our total supply.  Using software developed by CleanMetrics, an analytical firm out of Oregon, the USDA discovered that food waste is responsible for 135 million tons of atmospheric CO2 each year, about 1.5 percent of total output.  That comes to about 440 pounds of discarded food per individual each year, not counting meals eaten in restaurants or taking into consideration the energy and emissions produced in cooking.

The type food you waste may also have an impact on the climate.  For example, meats and dairy are more energy intensive and expensive to process, transport and raise.  Depending on where you live, your salad may have had to travel several hundred miles to reach the grocery store, meaning more fossil fuels burned and time spent in refrigeration.  According to CleanMetrics, nearly 80 percent of all emissions are created during transportation and processing, with additional greenhouse gas being released through decomposition in landfills.

What to do to keep the planet cool and mom and dad from nagging?  Leftover plants and grains can be composted in order to let carbon return to the soil and become sequestered in the ground.  Buying local groceries will help to cut down on the amount of highway your food needs to cover before becoming dinner.  Eating lower down on the food chain can also reduce the amount of energy needed to create, sustain and process your meal.  Most importantly, shop prudently and purchase only what you can reasonably eat within a given expiration date.  Not only will you save a little bit of cash, but possibly make a dent in the fight against global warming!


Thinking of getting into the bamboo business?  Excited by the idea of growing the wonder-grass for food or construction projects?  Dream of a shady, peaceful zen grove? Whether you are looking to plant for fun or profit, you may want to seek advice from Daphne Lewis.  She is the author of several books including Farming Bamboo and Hardy Bamboos for Shoots & Poles that are great reference guides for the beginning farmer.  The publications cover the essentials, including species and site selection, irrigation and pest control, as well as harvesting and marketing your crop.

Residents of USDA zones 7 and 8 (click here to see which zone you inhabit) will be delighted to hear that their warm, humid climates are ideal for successful bamboo cultivation. As a rule, if corn will do well in your soil, so will bamboo.  This grass likes more summer than winter rain, and soils that are not easily saturated.

Many Southern states are beginning to experiment with bamboo, and Lewis herself has been involved with collecting data on American production.  In October of 2010, Lewis moved to Perry, Georgia from Seattle, Washington to investigate how many pounds per acre several different species of bamboo would yield.  For those interested in the particulars of variety and pound per acre, visit the ongoing study at her website,

Lewis is involved in all aspects of raising and selling bamboo from germination to fabrication.  Through her site and contributions to the American Bamboo Society’s blog, Lewis aims to educate farmers as to the many commercial advantages to their crop.  Whether it be selling the young shoots to restaurants for special dishes, bagged for charcoal or kindling, used as fodder for livestock, mulch, or building material, farming bamboo can be a profitable endeavor.

At Bambu Batu we are excited to see more bamboo grown on native ground, and look forward to seeing what her research and advocacy will produce in the future!


In middle and high school, I can remember few healthy lunch choices.  At first, I thought that this could be due to lack of availability, but it turns out that maybe I was just unaware of my options because of where they were in relation to my field of vision.  As a hungry adolescent, I was probably only concerned with what was fast, within immediate reach, and had the highest cost-to-taste-ratio.  Sure, it was difficult to resist the high fat and sugar items, like chips, cinnamon rolls and pizza, but even after I had made a concerted effort to change my habits, I still found it hard to escape the onslaught of bright packaging and glistening slices of pepperoni under the cafeteria heat lamps.  Where the devil were the apples?  I knew they were hiding somewhere.

30 million children are fed by the National School Lunch Program each year, and administrators are trying to figure out how to guide their students toward making healthier eating decisions.  Once more nutritious food is introduced into the cafeteria, the battle for the lunchroom tray is still far from over.  Kids, especially teenagers, don’t generally like to be told what to do (I think most of us can recall some cringe-worthy photos of unfortunate fashion choices during our younger days).  Some schools have seen cafeteria room attendance drop when the menu makes a shift to more wholesome fare, and kids instead satiate their junk food jones at off-campus fast food joints or from vending machines.

What is a school to do?  What applies in real estate apparently also holds true for the dining room;  Location, location, location.  According to the Atlantic’s article, “How Smart Cafeterias Could Fight Childhood Obesity“, simply rearranging the position of the nutritious foods, and in some cases they way in which it was presented, created dramatic results.  An upstate New York School simply moved a salad bar near a natural bottleneck in the lunch line and created an increase in veggie consumption by 300 percent.

Another New York school swapped stainless steel fruit containers for better-lit, more attractive baskets and saw a 105 percent increase in apple and orange selection.  The USDA is currently funding a program at  Cornell to study the behavior and economics of childhood nutritional behavior in order to find easy and cheap ways to influence healthier eating habits.

Do these incredibly simple and dramatic solutions sound a little far fetched?  Consider your last trip to the supermarket.  Where was the bakery or the dairy aisle?  Chances are they were towards the back.  Many stores do this to lure the shopper past items they would not usually need.  Since bakeries tempt us with delicious aromas and we almost always need to buy some sort of milk product, they place those departments in the hinterlands to force a tour-de-grocerie.

Even the height of the item on the shelf and temperature of the building subtly influence our purchases.  Chilly environments trigger our body’s natural impulse to hoard and consume food. Products at eye level are more likely to be purchased than ones that have to be hunted for.  According to the documentary Beer Wars, companies such as InBev know this, and have taken great pains to place as many of their brands at eye-level as possible in order to maximize the visual field and marginalize smaller producers.

Public health experts, such as Rupal Sanghvi, founder of HealthxDesign, are looking into how altering the design of supermarkets can create more community influenced stores that encourage informed consumption.  They argue that obesity and diabetes are problems that affect entire populations, often those that are less economically developed and need to be addressed as matters of social justice.  The debate over whether public money should be spent altering essentially private businesses continues, but as many urban communities begin to create initiatives to increase the number of socially and nutritionally minded enterprises in their areas, the free market may go green purely out of self-interest.  Just take a look at the success of the Whole Foods chain or WalMart’s decision to carry organics.  For a more in depth investigation into Sanghvi’s work and her partnership with the Parson’s School of Design, peruse Sarah Rich’s article, “A Better Way to Fight Obesity:  New, Smarter Supermarkets.

Next time you go shopping, take a little time to examine your surroundings.  What does your store look like, and how do you think you would rearrange its elements to encourage wise decisions?  Where do you buy food and why?