Umbra on compost and climate

Dear Umbra, I was explaining to my neighbor (who doesn’t even recycle) why he shouldn’t throw out a bag of leaves with his trash. Just to clarify, he asked what to do with it. I explained composting; he doesn’t want to. I explained the energy expended in transporting his leaves and that landfills emit greenhouse gases as the materials break down. It got me thinking. Why is it better for my kitchen scraps and leaves, etc., to break down in my compost pile vs. in a landfill? Doesn’t it emit greenhouse gases at home? Continually composting, Sue R. St. Paul, …

New EPA rules let factory farms police themselves on water pollution

Factory farms can skip getting a pollution permit if they don’t think they’ll be mucking up nearby waterways, according to new U.S. EPA requirements. Enviros are unimpressed; notes Eric Schaeffer of the Environmental Integrity Project, “It literally puts the foxes in charge of their gigantic henhouses.”

Umbra on composting with worms

Dear Umbra, I recently moved into a studio apartment in an urban area. I used to compost in my backyard but don’t have that option anymore. I looked into getting a worm bin to use inside my apartment, but the cheapest ones seem to run around $200 and don’t hold very much. Can you recommend something for someone in a tight space, on a tight budget, that holds a lot of food scraps? Lauren L. St. Louis, Mo. Dearest Lauren, Red wiggler worms and their decompository companions make excellent compost, and a worm bin is pretty much the only choice …

Safety dance

Will a new administration give us the ‘safest food supply in the world’?

How many times have we been told we have the safest food supply in the world? Do we really? I suppose it depends on the comparison. Somalia? Kenya ? Eritrea? In developing countries, close to two million children die every year from contaminated food and water. These countries don’t have much of a food supply, safe or otherwise, so compared to them, we do quite well. How do we fare compared to other industrialized countries? The Centers for Disease Control and Preventions estimates that there are 76 million cases of foodborne illness yearly in the U.S. — roughly 1 out …

Terra Madre notes: Message in a bottle

Where Slow Food Nation rejected bottled water, Terra Madre embraced it

Turin, Italy – At Slow Food Nation in San Francisco back in August, drinking bottled water was simply not done. At several points, the event’s organizers had installed dispensers that proudly poured filtered city water. Socially, clutching a plastic water bottle was tantamount to digging into a greasy McDonald’s bag for a handful of fries. The water situation couldn’t have been more different at Terra Madre. The event offered no free water — to quench your thirst, there were stands peddling bottles of a brand called Lurisia in points throughout. Lurisa was in fact a major sponsor. The company had …

Terra Madre notes: Shiva to address the G8?

Via video, Italian official announces Slow Food will have a G8 audience

Turin, Italy — Perhaps the most surreal — and newsworthy — moment of Terra Madre came during the closing ceremony last Sunday, with some 7,000 to 8,000 people packed into an Olympic stadium. As with other large-scale gatherings during Terra Madre, the speeches were translated into eight languages on the fly, into little headsets. That’s when we learned that the Italian government had maneuvered to get an audience for Terra Madre officials at an upcoming meeting of the G8 nations. We found out in a dramatic and even comical way. A youngish guy wearing a dark, sleek suit played emcee …

Impressions from Terra Madre in Turin, Italy

    After days of feasts — intellectual, social, and culinary — my mind is too scrambled to put together a more structured column. Instead, here are some impressions and observations from Terra Madre while they are still fresh, written on a train ride between Turin and Florence. There is more to report; look for additional blog posts next week. The Real Economy: The Economy of the Land “We are the world’s largest multinational,” declared Carlo Petrini. He was addressing an international crowd of 7,000 food producers, chefs, and activists at Slow Food’s biennial gathering in Turin. The scene had …

Starbucks will double its purchase of fair-trade coffee

Starbucks will buy 40 million pounds of fair-trade-certified coffee next year, doubling the hill of beans it bought this year and becoming the largest purchaser of fair-trade coffee in the world. The caffeine giant, though struggling financially and recognizing the price premium of sustainable bean-buying, has a goal of selling only “responsibly grown and ethically traded” coffee by 2015.

How I beat KFC’s ‘family meal’ challenge

    Recently, the American public was issued a challenge by the folks at KFC (formerly “Kentucky Fried Chicken,” but “fried” just didn’t sound healthy). The fast-food joint argues in its latest commercial that you cannot “create a family meal for less than $10.” Their example is the “seven-piece meal deal,” which includes seven pieces of fried chicken, four biscuits, and a side dish — in this case, mashed potatoes with gravy. This is meant to serve a family of four. I’m not really a competitive soul, but this was one challenge I could not resist. When it comes to …

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