Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Fireless Cooker

A simple and effective way to make-do with limited resources is to use limited resources. A fireless cooker is a practical solution to an everyday task: preparing meals. The cooker works by trapping heat with the meal in order to keep cooking it after it has been removed from a heat source.

These cookers can be made with reclaimed materials. An organization called Practical Action has invented and is promoting use of these fireless cookers in Kenya, where indoor pollution within people's homes is an issue!

The fireless cooker is helpful in the following ways: 

  • Nutritious food Women can cook nutritious foods that previously required lots of fuel for simmering (such as beans, rice and whole maize).
  • Improve children's health The fireless cooker produces no smoke, so there is less risk of children developing respiratory disease.
  • Create opportunities for income generation Women no longer have to spend hours cooking, freeing up time to earn money at the market or in the field.
  • Reduce fuel consumption by an average 40% Women and children can spend less time foraging for firewood, also reducing the need to resort to potentially toxic fuels.
  • Reduce water usage by 25% Water is retained in the food, rather than evaporating, preserving nutrients, flavours and precious drinking water.
  • Help preserve local forests and the environment This 'green technology' will help to reduce the demand for scarce natural resources.

Read how to make a fireless cooker here.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Help Africa!

How would you feel knowing that the water you drink, may be your last drink? People in Africa take these risks everyday. Many Village women have to walk miles and miles away from their homes just for water that is contaminated and not pure for consumption but It is the only source they have, so they must use it or go without and we all know that is not possible for long. If they were to go without water, they would be open to a wide range of diseases, and within two to three days they would die. American’s use clean water to bathe, drink, cook with, water lawns, and wash cars, and much more. But, many Africans are dying just by drinking this polluted water. They may be from a different culture and country, but they run the same human race. We need to help, or some Africans may not be running the race of life much longer.

What causes the pollution of drinking water?

No matter where we are, there will always be worries about the pollution of our drinking water. These issues have always been haunting all of us, as we need water to survive. Firstly, what is pollution of drinking water? Adapted from Oxford dictionary, “Pollution is the presence in or introduction into the environment of a substance which has harmful or poisonous effects while drinking water is the water pure enough for drinking. Consequently, several causes have been identified by the authorities as the main culprits that cause the pollution of our drinking water through the farming sector. One of the causes from the farming sector is the released of organic waste by livestock. Animal waste released into the rivers or other water sources contains disease-causing pathogens, such as Salmonella, E. coli, and Cryptosporidium, causing our water to be poisonous. 

Stop polluting Colorado River

The Colorado River supplies water to most of the southwestern United States and despite this fact; pollution levels are continually rising and in some cases above acceptable limits. The Colorado River supplies and runs through five states and during some parts of the year to the Mexican border. During the rivers journey various types of pollutants come into contact to with it degrading the water quality downstream. The river water benefits humans in multiple ways the first obvious answer is by drinking it. Farming and other agricultural uses demand 60% and sometimes as much as 90% of its water. Using polluted water for irrigation passes the contaminants into the crops and ultimately onto our dinner tables.


Water crisis in India

Millions of Indians currently lack access to clean drinking water, and the situation is only getting worse. India’s demand for water is growing at an alarming rate. India currently has the world’s second largest population, which is expected to overtake China’s by 2050 when it reaches a staggering 1.6 billion. According to 2001 census 68.2% households have access to safe drinking water. The department of drinking water supplies estimates that 94% of rural habitations and 91% urban households have access to drinking water. But according to experts these figures are misleading simply because coverage refers to installed capacity and not actual supply.37.7 million People –over 75% of whom are children are afflicted by waterborne diseases every year. Overdependence on groundwater has brought in contaminants, fluoride being one of them. Nearly 66 million people in 20 states are at risk because of the excessive fluoride in water. India must start conserving water, begin to harvest rainwater, treat human, agricultural, and industrial waste effectively, and regulate how much water can be drawn out of the ground.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Bottled Water Scam and the Absence of Sustainability

Chances are you've seen an over-the-top ad for bottled water at some point in your life. The voice- over artist will predictably start singing high praises for the divine purity of the spring this bottled water was magically procured from.
This is usually followed by a sensual display of perfectly clear water pouring like this:

Why is Bottled Water Bad?

  • Over 80% of the containers are thrown in the trash, instead of being recycled. Journalist Chris Baskind wrote this about the massive waste, "Bottled water produces up to 1.5 million tons of plastic waste per year. According to Food and Water Watch, that plastic requires up to 47 million gallons of oil per year to produce." This is nowhere near sustainable, nor environmentally healthy. Todd Jarvis, PhD, associate director of the Institute for Water and Watersheds at Oregon State University estimated that "it takes about 72 billion gallons of water a year, worldwide,"to produce all of the plastic bottles.
  • It's a terrible financial decision. Brands like Coca Cola-owned 'Dasani' are being sold anywhere from 5-25 cents per ounce. Your tap water costs you all but 1 cent per gallon.  That's what you call a serious mark up. Former bottled water drinker, Lisa Ledwidge, had this to say of her decision to stop: "You’re spending more per gallon than you would on gasoline for this thing that you can get out of the tap virtually for free."
  • There is not sufficient evidence that suggests that it's any healthier than tap water. Eric Goldstein, co-director of the urban program at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) stated that "over 25% of bottled water comes from a municipal supply."  In addition, the companies themselves are not required to reveal the source on their labels. It's also worth noting that the chemicals that make the plastics softer are also contained in: "cosmetics, fragrances and shower curtains." Some 60-70% of the bottled water is free from FDA regulation.  
  • The documentary"Blue Gold:World Water Wars," details the escalating arms race between different multinational corporations to purchase groundwater reserves and distribution rights from locations all over the world for bottled water. This is the privatization of a basic human right.  There has been many instances of these huge corporations coming in and forever altering the natives' way of life. One particular case in Ghana, Africa stands out. The water that they've drunk for thousands of years before now gets rationed out to them. It flows just once a week at variable times. Most can't even afford 10 gallons in a week, it's that expensive. They are also charged for turning the tap on just to check if the water is running when it's not. They are often must resort to drinking the cholera contaminated water near their home, and people get sick, the government pays for it, and it's all one destructive cycle.

What can we do?
1) Buy a sustainable containers to store your tap water in.
2) Make your statement with your wallet this year.
3) Tell others in your community about the dangers plastics     pose to our environment, and raise awareness about the economic insanity of bottled water.  
4) Get involved in spreading awareness of the dangers of commoditization of the most essential human need.   


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Tap Water and Lead- What you Need to Know

Lead solder was commonly used in plumbing materials before the year 1986.  The danger lies in the corrosion of these supplies over many years of use, causing a higher concentration of lead in the tap water.  The EPA concedes that an 8% lead concentration is, by federal law considered, "lead-free."

According to the EPA, "lead in drinking water can cause a variety of adverse health effects. In babies and children, exposure to lead in drinking water above the action level can result in delays in physical and mental development, along with slight deficits in attention span and learning abilities. In adults, it can cause increases in blood pressure. Adults who drink this water over many years could develop kidney problems or high blood pressure."

Multnomah County's page on lead contamination warns that even newer plumbing systems pose danger, "The most common problem is with brass or chrome-plated brass faucets and fixtures which can leach significant amounts of lead into the water, especially hot water."

The best strategies for avoiding lead in your water are:

  1. Consider buying a water filter.
  2. Flush out the pipes if you haven't run the water in a while.  By passing up the water that's been sitting in the pipes you may be avoiding greater lead contamination.
  3. Always use cold water for drinking- especially for infants.
  4. You can also request a free test kit from Multnomah County here

India's Water Crisis

Many of us may recall this tummy-turning-triumph from 'Slumdog Millionaire.'

While this scene was inspiring, shocking and funny all-in-one, the reality is that our hero pictured above would actually qualify young Jamal as a privileged youth among those with access to a latrine. According to, "only 14% of the rural population has access to a latrine."

The World Bank "estimates that 21% of communicable diseases in India are related to unsafe water." A 2005 report displayed the massive disparity between the "29000 million litre per day of sewage India generates through (industry, agriculture and households)- and a treatment capacity of mere 6000 million litre per day."

A 1992 World Health Organization study is claimed to have reported that out of India's 3,119 towns and cities, just 209 have partial sewage treatment facilities, and only 8 have full wastewater treatment facilities. Many people use the same water for bathing and drinking everyday. While India is home to 16% of the population, it only has access to 4% of the Earth's supply of fresh water.

  What are some possible world and individual solutions?
  • Partner with organizations who fund and produce both sewage treatment and wastewater treatment facilities in India. is a good resource for ethical   
  • Clean up the beaches, creeks and rivers. Have fun in the sun and help the planet at the same time.
  • Avoid plastics. They are a well known water pollutant. Buy a reusable metal jug that'll last you a lifetime, or at least a couple years.
  • Keep healthy soil. Fertilizers and pesticides pollute local bodies of water. 
  • Get involved- Alert the FDA and write company owners to make them aware of any illegal dumping of chemicals into nearby water. 
  • Remember we're all in this together. Do your part to keep your local waterways pollution free and you'll proliferate the health and vitality of the aquatic ecosystem.
  • Ride your bike whenever the opportunity presents itself. The emissions from your car are toxic.   

Conserve Water Today for Karma and $Cash

UN statistics tell us that the average American is using approximately 100 gallons of water per day!

Here's how that breaks down:
Faucet: 16.7% or 15 Gallons
Toilet: 26.7% at 5 Gallons per Flush
Dishwasher: 1.4%
Clothes Washer: 21.7%
Shower: 15.9% at 20 Gallons per Shower
Leaks: 13.7%
Other 2.2%

By using your water more efficiently you could reduce your annual water bill from $500 down to $300. It just make so much ¢ents to conserve your water. Water conservation also: reduces pollution, protects ecosystems, and saves the 1% of the Earth's drinkable water for future droughts and generations. So why not release your inner Zen monk and practice mindfulness everyday. As the Dalai Lama once said:

"It is necessary to help others, not only in our prayers, but in our daily lives. If we find we cannot help others, the least we can do is to desist from harming them."

Clean Water Today?

Clean water is an issue around the world. Charles J. Vorosmarty writes a great article about the issues the world is facing around the world with poor water quality.
Exposure to unsafe drinking water and inadequate sanitation results in 3.4 million deaths, mostly children, each year from diarrhea. In the U.S more than 200 million people live within 10 miles of degraded fresh water. In Australia the town of Brisbane was down to a 6 hour supply due to clogged pipes from sediment washing down from a poorly managed land upstream. 

Portland's Water

With all this talk about clean water I decided to check out the quality of Portland water. Here is the 2013 Drinking Water Quality Report from the Portland Water Bureau

Charity Water

Charity water is a non-profit organization bring clean, safe drinking water to people in developing countries. 100% of all public donations directly fund water projects, and we olive every dollar using photos and GPS coordinates on a map. They work to build wells in 3rd world countries to allow for more access to clean water. 

Bill Gates on World Problems

Bill Gates is at it again. Gates has moved his time and energy into solving world problems. One of them being Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene. With 40% of the world practice open defecation or lack adequate sanitation facilities, Gates decided to start the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge. 
In August 2012, three prototypes were selected from the first round of the grants. California Institute of Technology received 1st for a solar power toilet that generates electricity. Loughborough University took 2nd for a toilet that extracts biological charcoal, minerals, and clean water from human waste. University of Toronto won 3rd for a toilet that sanitizes feces and urine and recovers resources and clean water. 
Bill Gates continues to push people to solving the problem. Since 2012 they have been testing the prototypes and learning on how to expand and develop the technology to better server the world. 

Saturday, June 8, 2013

It's More Serious When It Hits Home

We have heard a lot about the water crisis abroad, but if the water that came out of your faucet at home looked like the water in the video below, you may have a bit more to say about access to clean water for all.  

In 2009, the New York Times wrote an article on the safety of tap water, and how outdated the laws are that regulate the contents of what comes out of our tap.  

One quote from the article demonstrates the severity of the situation, "Only 91 contaminants are regulated by the Safe Drinking Water Act, yet more than 60,000 chemicals are used within the United States, according to EPA estimates. "  

Maybe our trust in municipal water is outdated, much like the Safe Drinking Water Act, but even with an updated contaminants list, pollution is still a very real problem that could cause contamination.

Here is the full article on the New York Times website.