Friday Favourites 9: Go With the Flow

First things first (for my American friends, at least): in case you missed my other post about it, Congress is currently considering a bill called HR 4432: The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act. If passed, this bill would cause all sorts of problems for farmers and consumers alike. If you agree that consumers should have the right to know what’s in their food, please sign the petition and ask your congressmen to oppose the bill.

Spile *
Spile *
Collecting Maple Syrup *
Collecting Maple Syrup *

A New Maple Staple

When I was a kid living in rural Ontario, Canada, my parents tapped the maple trees in our back yard. I loved to go out into the woods and watch them drive silver spiles into the trees. Almost immediately, the sap would start leaking out into the buckets, filling the air with a gentle drip drip drip. We’d leave them overnight, and return the next morning to reservoirs of sap waiting to be boiled down into fresh maple syrup. My favorite part of the process was eating snow candy—hot syrup dripped onto clean snow, where it would harden like candy when it cooled.

I have a really vivid memory of being woken by my parents and a huge bucket of fresh sap when I was about four or five. “Look how much sap we collected today!” they said, eyes alight with the joyful prospects—and rightly so. The bucket was so full, it required both of them to carry it. If only they had known that in about 25 years, syrup producers would start selling that sap as maple water—you know, like that nasty but apparently good for you coconut water health gurus like to guzzle. Only, you know, tasty. (Or so I’m told—I haven’t yet tried this for myself.) It’s also naturally fortified, sustainable, and completely organic.

As crazy as it may sound, I would definitely try some. After all, everything that comes out of Canada is pretty amazing.

*wink wink*

(Also, something I found kind of amusing as I read the aforementioned HR 4432 was that there are entire paragraphs of the FDA’s labeling regulations discussing the proper labeling of maple syrup. It’s different than the labeling for other foods, apparently…)

UNICEF Tap Project

Speaking of things that come out of a tap, let’s talk about water. Around the world, 748 million people don’t have access to clean drinking water. 2.5 billion people don’t have access to a toilet. 1,000 children die each day from diseases linked to unsafe water or a lack of safe sanitation facilities.

Last year, UNICEF piloted the Tap Project, which partners with you and your fancy smartphone to provide clean water for those who need it most. The premise is pretty simple: for every 15 minutes you don’t use your phone, it unlocks a donation from their sponsors which provides a child in need with an entire day’s worth of water. There’s nothing to download and they don’t make you sign over your first born—in fact, you don’t even have to tell them your name if you don’t want to. Simply direct your phone’s browser to, watch or skip the intro animation, and then put your phone down. If you’re anything like me, you’ll completely forget that you even own a phone and before you know it, you’ve helped provide clean water for a gazillion children! (Or be a total cheater like me and leave it going through the night while you sleep and wouldn’t be using your phone anyways…)

I participated last year, so I was super excited to see that they’re doing it again. But if you want to participate, you’d better hurry—the project ends on March 31st!

My Phone on Tap
My Phone on Tap

Breaking News on Glyphosate

One of the reasons I’m focusing on organic farming is because I strongly believe the chemicals used in conventional farming do far more harm than good. One of those chemicals is Glyphosate, the main ingredient in Round Up and the most widely used herbicide on the market. After a mini meta-analysis we did in one of our modules earlier this year, I will never touch the stuff. I find it absolutely terrifying.

Monsanto, the manufacturer of Round Up and creator of Round Up  Ready (RR) GMO crops, claims that Glyphosate is perfectly safe, but the World Health Organization has identified Glyphosate as a probable carcinogen. And given that glyphosate residues are found in air, rain, groundwater, streams, and even our food, this is a pretty big deal. The study also identified risks associated with four additional herbicide chemicals.

As can only be expected, Monsanto and other proponents of Glyphosate are trying their darnedest to discredit the WHO statement, claiming that the study relies on bad science. Personally, I find this pretty ironic considering Monsanto has a history of poor experimental design. Furthermore, every single one of the journal articles I read in support of the “glyphosate is safe” claim were conducted by individuals with ties to Monsanto. (Hello, conflict of interest.)

It’s true that Round Up and other glyphosate-based herbicides are highly effective weed control agents, but at what cost? I’d rather have to do some manual weeding than risk developing cancer.

A New Type of Hydro

My cousin Emily posted this one a few weeks back, and it literally made me so happy I cried a little. The city of Portland, OR is installing turbines in their water pipes to create hydro-electric power within their existing infrastructure.

I think it’s a fantastic idea, and I hope more cities start investing in this kind of alternative energy technology. I also really like the wind turbines designed to look like trees, and anaerobic digestion is my new favorite energy source. My mom recently found out that the cheese factory down the road even uses anaerobic digestion to turn whey into power and fertilizer! It’s so nice to see when places close to home—especially in small, rural communities—recognize the value of alternative technologies.

* Photo by Joe Zlomek