What are we feeding our kids – and ourselves??!

29 03 2009

I watched this video on youtube the other day and I was shocked. It’s about a woman who has saved a hamburger from McDonald’s for 4 years and travels around showing what has happened to it over the years – or rather, what has NOT happened to it. It looks totally fine! I was unbelievably shocked, and realized how many different chemicals they must put in there for it to be able not to have any mold or other signs of aging after that many years! Watch the video:

When talking about obesity, which unfortunately is becoming more and more common in today’s world, I always wonder how people can actually let themselves go like that. I’ve had my own ups and downs with my weight, but I’ve never been really overweight, and certainly not obese, so I wouldn’t know exactly how that feels. But I do know how easy it can be to just give up. I know what it feels like to struggle not to eat too much, or certain things. But over the past few years I’ve become aware that diets are not the way to go. Sure – anyone who has ever opened a sports magazine, or an internet page for that matter, has read all that talk about “a diet is no good, you have to change your habits in a way that will last in the long run”. But I too had read all that for years and years before I was actually able to transform knowledge into action.

I’ve finally realized that I’m actually able to lead a healthy life, feel good and still enjoy the occasional chocolate cake :) I think I know how I’m supposed to make it last! The solution for me was simply to follow the golden rule “everything in moderation”. And to actually get moving. It finally kicked in. Before, I knew all that I needed to know about exercising, healthy eating and I’ve even tried out some diets. But I was never able to stick to any “life style” more than a few weeks or months, before giving up. It’s like my brain suddenly got tired of worrying about my weight, and about going or not going to aerobics classes. I noticed a difference in my body when I ate different things – I just feel sick if I eat fast food or excessive amounts of chocolate or white bread… So I just stopped eating foods that make me sick. And I cut down on those foods that I still like but that aren’t the healthiest of choices – this way I also enjoy them more once I eat them :)

I also concentrated on getting an exercise routing going. Took me a few months, but then I never ever wanted to skip any work outs, cause I immediately noticed a difference in my state of mind, in my body – and, after a longer break, in my weight. Plus, exercising makes your body feel great, and it also makes you lose weight (or keep your weight stable) and become healthier and fitter. It gives you good body conscience and makes you more confident over all, so exercising is a good deal no matter how you look at it! I have to admit though, I still have ups and downs when it comes to this. And if I’m very busy exercising is one of the first things that I cut out of my life – which is an area I still need to work on!

Changing your habits doesn’t have to be a big deal, or take a long time – nor be expensive. Just follow some basic ideas and principles, and take it one step at a time, and you’ll do great! These are just a FEW ideas on what you can do – believe me, I could write about this topic for hours, so right now I’ve really narrowed it down! Readers – feel free to contribute with your own tips and ideas!

  • Learn to cook. I think learning to cook might just be the best tip ever. It’s healthier, cheaper, tastes better – and it’s probably one of the best leisure activities you can have! Don’t look at it as something that takes a long time – make it fun! Involve family, friends, dates etc! Learn to enjoy it! Canada’s Food Guide.
  • Just get moving! Stop being lazy. Take a walk. Get off the subway/bus one stop earlier and walk a little bit. Don’t just lie in the couch while watching TV – do squats, push-ups, sit-ups, or – if you have the money – buy a cross-trainer! Walk or take your bike to school, work etc. Play outside with your kids if you have them. Don’t just call a friend and talk to them for an hour – take a walk with them instead. Physical Activity Guides.
  • Avoid fad diets. Although some may help you lose weight quickly, they usually involve avoiding certain types of food and the effects don’t last once you return to a normal diet.
  • Stop eating fast food. You don’t have to be super super healthy from the beginning. Just give up one bad habit at a time. And giving up fast food should probably be the first one.
  • Eat smaller portions. Just eat less! It’s that simple.
  • Consume what you eat. If you don’t consume it you store it. That’s the deal. In other words – be active!
  • Get a support network. Surround you with people that support you, inspire you and make you feel good about what you’re doing.
  • Find an exercise buddy. Having someone to exercise with, even if it’s just once a week for example, is an extra motivator. You won’t give up very easy if you know someone else is expecting you. If you don’t have a friend to exercise with just sign up for some work out class – which you have to pay for. When you’ve paid a lot of money for something it actually makes you want to go.
  • Variation is the key! Try out different sports, activities and work outs until you find something that you LOVE!
  • Read, learn and get inspired! Find inspiration from magazines, the internet etc! Read everything about food, exercising and healthy living that you can find! Learning to read nutrition labels is also a very good tip for finding out what foods are healthy and which are not.

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A FEW REASONS TO GET MOVING:

If you are overweight or obese, you may be at risk for a wide range of serious diseases and conditions including:

  • hypertension or high blood pressure;
  • coronary heart disease;
  • Type 2 diabetes;
  • stroke;
  • gallbladder disease;
  • osteoarthritis;
  • sleep apnea and other breathing problems;
  • some cancers such as breast, colon and endometrial cancer; and
  • mental health problems, such as low self-esteem and depression.

Obesity is one of the leading factors in heart disease and stroke, as well as in Type 2 diabetes. If you are overweight, you are at high risk of becoming obese, which can more seriously affect your health.

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And just to inspire you some more (not to eat fast food!) – watch the pictures on this webpage: This Is Why You’re Fat

I included some of those pictures here in this entry – just to give you an example of what is to be found on that webpage.

Egg n’ Ham Sammich

egg-n-ham-sammich

A regular ham and cheese sandwich but topped with 11 sunny-side up egg yolks.

Bacon Poutine

bacon-poutine

French fries topped with cheese curds, egg, bacon and covered in brown gravy. Since Poutine is the national dish of Québec, where I’m living right now, I just had to include this one ;)

The Thunderdome

thunderdome

Three stacks of bacon, sausage, elk meat, onions and cheese between tortillas all topped with sour cream, two fried eggs and scallions.

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LINKS TO USEFUL SITES:

Healthy Eating and Living – More than Medication

Health Canada

Healthy Eating – Tips for a healthy diet

Health and Fitness Tips – long list of good articles

gyminee.com – Workout programs, Exercise Routines, Food Diary

Rommel’s Flow – Blog written by a personal trainer

The Influence of Exercise on Mental Health

KidsHealth

diet.com

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EARTH HOUR 2009

27 03 2009

Tomorrow is one of the most important days of the year.

Earth Hour 2009 is taking place – and YOU can be a part of it!

Earth Hour

So at 8.30 pm (local time) on Saturday the 28th of March, no matter where you are

– TURN OFF YOUR LIGHTS FOR ONE HOUR!

Sign up for Earth Hour 2009 on your own local WWF site.

LEARN MORE ABOUT EARTH HOUR AT

WWW.EARTHHOUR.ORG





Norouz

25 03 2009

Did you know what big festivity is going on in the world right now? If you’re Muslim you probably knew, but if you’re not, there’s a good chance you’ve never even heard about this event.

Norouz, or Nowruz (several spellings are accepted), is the Persian New Year and it’s celebrated right now, during two weeks. The exact time of the Persian New Year this year was March 20, at 11:44 GMT.

Norouz marks the first day of spring and the beginning of the Persian Calendar (start of the spring in the northern hemisphere). Norouz has been celebrated for at least 3000 years and is deeply rooted in the rituals and traditions of the Zoroastrian religion. Today, the festival of Norouz is celebrated in many countries that were territories of, or influenced by, the Persian Empire: Persia (Iran), Iraq, Afghanistan, Turkey, parts of the Middle East, as well as in the former Soviet republics of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

flowers

Norouz in modern Iran

Preparations for Norouz begin in the last month of winter in the Persian solar calendar. The families start preparing with a major spring-cleaning of their houses, the purchase of new clothes to wear for the new year and the purchase of flowers (hyacinths and tulips are popular).

On New Year’s day, families dress in their new clothes, gather around the Haft Sîn table and await the exact moment of the arrival of the spring. At that time gifts are exchanged. Then they start the twelve-day celebration by visiting the elders of their family, then the rest of their family and finally their friends. During this period you don’t need to call ahead when visiting friends and family – you just pay them unannounced visits, and you get visitors as well. Sounds like a nice tradition to me!

The Haft Sîn

Haft Sîn, or “The Seven ‘S’s” is a major tradition of Norouz. The Haft Sîn table  includes seven items starting with the letter S, or Sîn in Persian.  The items symbolically correspond to seven creations and holy immortals protecting them. Traditionally, families attempt to set as beautiful a Haft Sîn table  as they can, as it is not only of traditional and spiritual value, but also noticed by visitors during Norouzi visitations and is a reflection of their good taste.

Haft Sîn Table

The Haft Sîn items are:

Sabzeh – wheat, barley or lentil sprouts growing in a dish (symbolizing rebirth)

Samanu – a sweet pudding made from wheat germ (affluence)

Senjed – the dried fruit of the oleaster tree (love)

Sîr – garlic (medicine)

Sîb – apple (beauty and health)

Somaq – sumac berries (the color of sunrise)

Serkeh – vinegar (age and patience)

Sonbol – hyacinth (flower)

Sekkeh – coins (wealth)

Other items on the table may be: traditional Iranian pastries, candles (enlightenment and happiness), a mirror (cleanliness), decorated eggs (fertility), a bowl of water with a goldfish (life) and a book (wisdom).

Sizdah Bedar

The thirteenth day of the new year festival is Sizdah Bedar (literally meaning “thirteen to out”, figuratively meaning “hit the outdoors on the thirteenth”). This is a day of festivity in the open, often accompanied by music and dancing, usually at family picnics. At the end of the celebrations on this day, the sabzeh grown for the Haft Sîn (which has symbolically collected all sickness and bad luck) is thrown into running water (a river for example) to exorcise the demons from the household. It is also customary for young single women to tie the leaves of the sabzeh before discarding it, so expressing a wish to be married before the next year’s Sizdah Bedar.

Norouz around the world

This past weekend I participated in a great Norouz celebration, with a lot of Iranians here in Québec. There were musical performances, a beautiful Haft Sîn table, a lot of dancing – and the best part: there were people of all ages and everyone had fun together! For me, the celebration included trying to learn how to snap my fingers in the Iranian way and dancing like the Iranians. In short: celebrating Norouz was one of the greatest experiences of this year!

Snapping-your-fingers-Iranian-style

USA and Iran

Norouz was also acknowledged by President Obama. However, he concentrated on political issues in his speech, all the while wishing the people of Iran a happy new year. He even said it in Persian in the end: Sale no mobarak!

Iran’s highest leader, Ayatolla Ali Khamenei, thinks that the speech was just a slogan. He responds to it by saying that the change that the US speak of is yet to be seen. He asks them when they are going to remove the sanctions and when they will stop supporting the sionist regime (Israel). In a TV broadcasted speech he reminds the US that change only in words is not enough. And then the man who has the most power in Teheran adds that Iran is ready to change its politics if the US change theirs.

Ayatolla Ali Khamenei

Ayatolla Ali Khamenei. Image from Hufvudstadsbladet.

Tensions between the US and Iran have “always” existed. Just as a quick reminder of what has happened in the past I will make a short list of important events in the history of these two countries. Reading this list you will hopefully be reminded of why the past 30 years have not been the best possible for the relations between the two countries.

USA and Iran

1953 – the US and the UK help Iranian military to overthrow the elected prime minister Mohammad Mossadeq, who wanted to nationalize the oil.

1979 – The US supported shah is forced to leave the country due to large protests. Ayatolla Ruhollah Khomeini returns from exile and takes over power. Students take 63 people as hostages in the US embassy in Teheran.

1980 – A secret US operation to free the hostages ends in fiasco. Saddam Hussein’s Iraq invades Iran, the war lasts 8 years. The US stand on Iraq’s side.

1981 – The hostage drama at the US embassy comes to an end, after 444 days.

1985-1986 – The US engage in secret talks with Iran and provides the country with weapons in exchange for help with freeing an American hostage in Lebanon.

1988 – The US shoot down an Iranian passenger airplane over the Persian Bay by mistake. 290 people die.

1995 – President Clinton introduces sanctions and accuses Iran of supporting terrorists.

2001 – CIA claims that Iran is trying to produce nuclear weapons.

2002 – President George W Bush says that Iran takes part in an “Axis of Evil” together with Iraq and North Korea, and constitutes one of the greatest threats against the US. The speech causes major anger in Iran.

2008 – Barack Obama is elected President of the United States of America and promises talks with Iran without advance demands.





What if you could do it all over again?

22 03 2009

Are you happy with the choices you’ve made in your life?

The thought hit me the other day. What would I change if I could live my life all over again? Would I do anything different?

I’ve always believed that you should live your life to the fullest and never regret any choices you’ve made, be they good or bad. Because it’s always easy to second-guess, but I do believe that, at the time, you made the choices you made for a reason. I don’t think anyone consciously would make a choice that they KNOW is the “wrong” one.

And speaking of wrong choices. Do they really exist? One could claim that there is no right or wrong answer – at the moment when the choice is to be made one could actually claim that there are only right choices. If you knew beforehand that one choice was the wrong one you wouldn’t even seriously consider it as a choice – so all the choices are “right” – in some way at least…

sunset

I’ve taken a liking to the saying that you should never regret things that you did do, but only things that you didn’t do. I try to live by that principle. No matter how “wrong” a choice may seem afterwards I refuse to regret it – since at the time it felt like the right thing to do. And since I don’t want to miss out on anything I always strive to do the most that I can. Remember – “…just regret the things you didn’t do”. I don’t want to wake up when I’m 50 realizing that there was so much I could have done, but I didn’t.

Most people always find some excuse not to do something that they might want to but that seems a bit dangerous, wild or simply “out of the norm”. They’re either too busy, do not have enough money, don’t want to risk the stabile and secure life they’re leading at the moment, or they’re simply too afraid. I say – don’t let logic rule your life! You’ve got to LIVE! You’ve got to dare do things you’ve only dreamed about doing! And don’t be afraid to change direction in life if you one day wake up and realize you’re not perfectly happy with your current living situation!

Let’s take a for instance – you’re studying to become a doctor, which most likely would lead to a respected career and a well-paid job. But what if you all of a sudden, when you’ve graduated, realize that this isn’t at all what you want to do the rest of your life? Maybe you chose that career because of your parents, because of the good pay, or maybe you just simply changed your mind after those years of studying. It really doesn’t matter why you all of a sudden don’t want to work as a doctor anymore, the only thing that matters is that then you have a choice. You could keep on pursuing a career as a doctor, and maybe you could be perfectly fine with that – but would you be truly happy?

Ever since I’ve started to consciously do more things that scare and tempt me at the same time I’ve become a much happier person. Of course, there are times when I wonder why I wasn’t satisfied with a calm, secure life with everything worked out for me – with a plan. But that thought passes really quickly. I usually realize really quickly why exactly I’m happier this way – leading a life where I don’t actually know where I’m going to be in a year. When I’m sad I’m more sad than I ever was before, but when I’m happy, I’m truly happy. Then it’s no longer about having this feeling of satisfaction. It’s about feeling a strong sense of being truly and honestly happy – and you feel all throughout your whole body! And that feeling makes you feel so alive. Then I know. I know why I chose this lifestyle. I know why I’ve given up all that security. I know that I will not wake up when I’m 50 (or 60, or 70 for that matter), wondering where my life went!

So if you’ve ever thought about “taking the leap” – just give it another serious thought. It might just be worth the sacrifice ;)





How safe is Tupperware, and other plastic containers?

18 03 2009

There has been a lot of talk about what plastic is safe to reuse, and what is not. Well, I’ve looked it up, and I’m now going to present you with the facts.

First of all, there are different sorts of plastic, used for different purposes. They are categorized in accordance with what raw material was used to produce the product. Here are the different categories:

plastics6

According to The Green Guide, a website and magazine focusing on promoting greener living and owned by the National Geographic Society,the safest plastics for repeated use in storing food are from categories 2, 4 and 5.

Tupperware. Most Tupperware containers are made from #4 or #5 plastics. However, some of their products are made from polycarbonate, #7, which has been shown to leak the harmful, hormone-disrupting chemical Bisphenol A (BPA) into food items after repeated use. The following Tupperware products are made from polycarbonate (#7): the Rock ‘N Serve microwave line, the Ice Prisms line, the Meals-in-Minutes Microsteamer, the “Elegant” Serving Line, the TupperCare baby bottle, the Pizza Keep’ N Heat container, and the Table Collection (the last three are no longer made but might still be found in your kitchen).

The Sheerly Elegant Line

The Sheerly Elegant Line

Ice Prisms Pitcher and Tumbler set

Ice Prisms Pitcher and Tumbler set

The Rock'n'Serve Line

The Rock 'N Serve Line

Bisphenol A (BPA). So what is BPA really, and how harmful is it? Bisphenol A is a key industrial chemical used to make polycarbonate, which is a hard, clear plastic. Studies made by governments in the US, Europe and Japan, as well as studies conducted by academic researchers and by industry, show that under typical use conditions, the migration of BPA into food is extremely low. The more I read about this topic the more sources I find that tell me there’s no reason to worry about migration of harmful amounts of BPA into food when using #7 plastic food containers.

In my opinion, there is more reason to worry about some of those other categories, like #1 and #3.

#1 PET bottles. How many of you have NEVER used a PET-bottle more than once? Not many I guess. Most of us use these bottles more than once. As for me, I do not drink soda drinks, but I do drink water, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve bought a nice/cool looking water bottle, with the purpose of reusing it several times before throwing it out. Normally I drink tap water, but since I’m one of those people who carry a water bottle wherever they go I do buy water bottles for this purpose. This will stop NOW. I took a look at the water bottles in the store last time I was there, and turns out almost every single one of them was made out of #1 plastic. Bottles made from this plastic are proven to leak carcinogenic, hormone-disrupting phthalates when used over and over again.

#3 PVC plastics. PVC can leak cancer-causing dioxins, which is one of the most toxic environmental pollutant there is. PVC is found in a wide range of consumer products, such as packaging, credit cards, bottles and imitation leather, as well as in construction material, such as window frames, cables, pipes, window blinds, wallpaper and flooring. In addition to that it is used in car interiors and in hospitals, as medical disposables. However, PVC does not only leak harmful additives during use (recent testing has showed that children can ingest hazardous chemicals from PVC toys etc) – already the production of PVC creates and releases dioxin and PVC products continue to leak harmful additives during disposal, when they’re burned or buried. Burning creates and releases more dioxins and compounds containing chlorine, which further contaminates the environment. Furthermore, phthalates are present in this category as well. They are added to PVC to make it soft and flexible. PVC is difficult to recycle, resulting in much of it ending up in landfills – which we all know is the least favorable outcome from an environmental point of view. Governments and industry are taking action to eliminate PVC. Danish and Swedish governments are restricting PVC use, hundreds of communities worldwide are eliminating PVC in buildings and many companies such as Nike, IKEA and The Body Shop have committed to eliminating PVC from their products. Many deli items are packed in PVC plastic containers, so swapping foods out of such wraps one the groceries are home is advicable.

#6 plastics (polystyrene, also known as styrofoam). Containers made of polystyrene can also be dangerous, as its base component, styrene, has been associated with skin, eye and respiratory irritation, depression, fatigue, compromised kidney function, and central nervous system damage. Take-out restaurant orders often come in polystyrene containers, which also should be emptied into safer containers once you get them home.

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So, if your head is spinning and you don’t know which plastics are safe and which are not – use glass containers, like Pyrex, and stop worrying! ;)

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Sources: (other than the links found in the blog post)

What material is used in Tupperware products

Earth Talk – How safe is Tupperware?

More to read:

Dangers of heating food in plastic – goodhousekeeping.com

Bisphenol A – fact sheet – Government of Canada

Plastics and the Microwave – U.S. Food and Drug Administration

European Food Safety Authority re-evaluates safety of Bisphenol A and sets Tolerable Daily Intake





How I help. The slums of Lima, Peru.

17 03 2009

This will be the first blog entry in the category “how I help“, which serves one purpose (which is not to brag or anything like that) – the goal is to give you readers some ideas on how to help and information about what’s out there, what can be done etc…

In August last year I spent a few weeks in Peru. I visited a lot of different cities, and saw a lot of cool places, but one of the most amazing places I’ve been to is the slums in the outskirts of Lima. Here I also met some of the greatest people I’ve ever met in my entire life – all the children we were giving food to!

The outskirts of Lima is like an ocean of houses built up in the mountains

The outskirts of Lima form an ocean of houses. The slum. It doesn't get more real than this.

Early in the morning we (a group of young adults from various countries, all in Lima for one or another reason) met up with some people from the Asociación Cultural Johannes Gutenberg, which is a Swiss-German NGO (non-governmental organisation) that does volunteer work in Peru. They have founded several schools in Lima (three if I remember correctly) and they distribute breakfast to more than 11 000 kids (every day, if they can). 11 000 may sound like a large number, but considering the fact that out of 8 million inhabitants (the number of inhabitans varies depending on the source) over 5 million are poor there’s still more that needs to be done! Luckily there are more NGOs working in that area.

This organization “lives” on donations made from people in Switzerland and Germany. Usually people have a “sponsor child” and therefore they give a monthly donation – or they give random donations whenever they have the money, and so, they help the organization keep up their good work! The organization also receives a lot of product donations from other countries, mainly Canada and the US. A lot of the food (milk powder, oatmeal etc) is donated by sponsoring countries.

In the kitchen of the organization.

In the kitchen of the organization.

Some of the oatmeal and milk powder they had in stock. Takes a lot of food to feed 11 512 hungry kids!

Some of the oatmeal and milk powder they had in stock. Takes a lot of food to feed 11 512 hungry kids!

So, this morning we went out with the organization to observe and help them distribute breakfast to children. It was unbelievable. These kids, having nothing, were still happier than many kids I’ve met in different developed countries. And they loved being photographed. They were fooling around, having fun, laughing. The joy of life was certainly present in these kids, even though they didn’t have new clothes on and a lot of toys – or even a real house! The experience was also shocking, and a bit heart breaking. For breakfast we gave them one banana, one small bag of raisins, one piece of bread and one cup of warm milk with oatmeal and spices in it. Since it wasn’t every day that western people came to visit the kids they went all crazy and wanted us to give them several bananas etc. Of course it hurt me not to be able to give them all that we had, or help them in some other way, but the people from the organization let us give them some extra bag of raisins, some extra bananas etc. For some of these kids this is their only meal for the day! And they were all prepared when we came, standing in line, waiting for their food. And apparently some of them wanted extra fruits etc to give to those sisters or brothers who were lucky enough to go to school, and therefore could not be there to take it themselves. Pictures say more than words.

Children waiting for breakfast

Children waiting for breakfast, their homes can be seen behind them

Cute children eating their breakfast, which might be their only meal for the day...

Cute children eating their breakfast, which might be their only meal for the day...

Me and some of the lovely children!

Me and some of the lovely children!

My favorite kid there - just look at those eyes!

My favorite kid there - just look at those eyes!

After having visited a few distribution spots we went to visit two normal homes there in the slum. The first home belonged to a woman whose husband had left her and their children, so she had to support them by herself somehow (I still don’t know how she managed). They were living in this small one room house built of metal plates and cardboard. This family had a dog who had just had puppies, and the children were so proud when they showed us their cute cute puppies. Unfortunately all of these puppies will end up as street dogs, of which there are many many already in Lima.

The first family, a woman and her children.

The first family: a woman and her children.

The second home belonged to two sisters and their children. The younger sister was 15, and had one child. She had been raped, and had then not had the possibility (money) to have an abortion, so she was now living with her older sister and her kids. They had a two bedroom apartment, with some “real” furniture as well. But believe me – bathrooms, running water and electricity are luxuries which many of these people will only dream about.

In one of the bedrooms in the house of the two sisters

In one of the bedrooms in the house of the two sisters

One of the girls in our group had sponsored a house for one family, and it was under construction, so we went to see how that project had advanced. For around 500 euros, if I remember correctly, a real house can be built for a family living in the slum.

The sponsor reluctantly agreed to take a picture with the family (she didn't want them to know who had paid, which is a standpoint I totally understand and agree with) in their new home, which was under construction.

The sponsor reluctantly agreed to take a picture with the family (she didn't want them to know who had paid, which is a standpoint I totally understand and agree with) in their new home, which was under construction.

This is the current home of the family waiting for their new home to be finished!

This is the current home of the family waiting for their new home to be finished!

The last stop for the day was one of the schools the organization had founded. The children there were very well behaved, and they had a lot of activities, and they got food and health care etc – so these kids were definitely lucky.

The children at the school were waiting for us when we arrived, and they happily greeted us :)

The children at the school were waiting for us when we arrived, and they happily greeted us. The whole trip felt a bit "staged" to me, and I guess we didn't get to see what a "normal" day at work would be like for that organization. But at least we got to see what they did for the kids, and that's the most important thing.

The Johannes Gutenberg school we visited, Lima, Peru.

The Johannes Gutenberg school we visited, Lima, Peru.

Unfortunately I didn’t find a website for this organization, no matter how hard I looked for one, but I do have an email address to the executive director Alwin Rahmel – alwinrahmel@hotmail.com

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So if you’re thinking about doing some volunteer work – there are many organizations like this one, and they will most likely be happy to accept any help you’re willing to offer them. While traveling in Peru I met a girl from New Zealand who had been working at an orphanage for the past 3-4 months, and she didn’t know any Spanish when she arrived! So anything is possible!!! Just look something up, you can find a lot of these opportunities on the internet, take a few weeks or months out of your life and invest some money to make a difference in a lot of people’s lives!





To recycle pizza boxes

16 03 2009

When people talk about green living in general, and more specifically what they do for the environment, they usually start by saying that they recycle. They are proud of that they don’t throw all of their garbage in the same bin. Well, sure, recycling is a good way to live green – but it shouldn’t be the starting point. Living green should begin on a totally different level.

Firstly, we should stop buying stuff that we don’t need. In order to lead more environmental friendly lives we have to stop overconsuming. Source reduction is therefore the first thing you should try do achieve. On the plus side, by doing this you will also save money, since you will only be buying things you really need, or want. This is also really zen – cleaning out your house, and then resist the urge to fill it with new stuff, will give you a clean, spacious home – and you will have done something really good for the environment (provided that the old stuff you throw out is reused in some way).

The second step is to reuse. So instead of throwing out and buying new, you should try to find a new way to use the stuff in. Be creative ;)

Recycling is found on third place in the “waste hierarchy” (see picture below). This means that you can significantly reduce the amount of things you recycle, just by following steps 1 and 2.

waste-management-hierarchy1Image from Fairfax County Solid Waste Management

So, how to recycle? There are some things that I know people don’t think about. Did you know that you shouldn’t throw cardboard with grease/oil/food stains on it in the bin for paper/cardboard? That is: any paper product stained with grease or food is not recyclable (unless you remove the stained portion)! This effectively means that you shouldn’t recycle pizza boxes that have grease on them – which I know many people do. Remove the stained portion and throw it away before recycling the rest of the box.

Why is this? Because paper products that are recycled are mixed with water and turned into a slurry, and any grease on the cardboard causes oil to form on top of the slurry (since oil and water don’t mix *duh*) – which causes the entire batch to be ruined. For the same reason used napkins, used paper plates, used paper towels etc are not recyclable. So if you’re one of the many people that recycle they pizza boxes, thinking they’re doing a good thing – think again! By recycling that one pizza box you might actually be destroying a whole batch of recycled paper and cardboard! According to some estimations, the cost of irresponsible recycling is $700 million per year!

So – go find out the recycling rules for where you live so that you know how to recycle correctly :)

Sources:

The Pizza box mystery, Earth911

Waste Hierarchy: Who’s on Top in the Game of Trash? Earth911

For more tips on cleaning out your house to make it more “zen”, see:

15 Great Decluttering Tips, ZenHabits

How to Declutter, ZenHabits

18 Five-Minute Decluttering Tips to Start Conquering Your Mess, ZenHabits