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Sustainability

News Bit: Overcoming the Yuckiness of Eating Bugs and Seaweed Can Help Save the World

By Josh Schonwald, posted on Slate.com, June 25, 2012

“About 200 years ago, the lobster was regarded by most Americans as a filthy, bottom-feeding scavenger unfit for consumption by civilized people. Frequently ground up and used as fertilizer, the crustacean was, at best, poor people’s food. In fact, in some colonies, the lobster was subject to laws – laws that forbade feeding it to prisoners more than once a week because that was “cruel and unusual” treatment.

Things obviously changed for the one-time prisoner’s grub. It’s a gastronomic delicacy, the star of festivals, subject of odes to New England summers, a peer of prime rib.

I’m telling the story of the rise of lobster (as described in David Foster Wallace’s brilliant Gourmet piece ‘Consider the Lobster’) because it’s a tale of hope, a shining example of triumph over the yuck factor.

Much of the conversation about how to solve the coming food crisis caused by soaring population, diminishing resources, and a warming planet focuses rightly on technology, reducing waste, and improving food access and distribution methods. But equal urgency needs to be devoted to simply broadening our appetites. Two food sources that strike many as unpalatable – insects and seaweed – could play a critical role in not only feeding the 2.5 billion extra humans expected by 2050, but doing so in a green, climate-friendly way.

With the exception of honey (bee vomit), insects pretty much reside in Fear Factor and Bizarre Foods country. If you’re not familiar with the bug-food phobia, consider March’s Frappuccino incident. A barista revealed that Starbucks was using cochineal beetles to color its strawberry frap, prompting headlines like ‘Starbucks Lovers Bug Out Over Creepy Frappuccino Incident.’ Within weeks, Starbucks apologized, replacing the beetle juice with tomato-extract coloring. The point: insects are overwhelmingly viewed as filthy, creepy, dangerous, inedible – and not just to vegans.

But this prejudice against eating insects – four-fifths of all know organisms on earth – is slowly staring to change. A growing number of people are beginning to recognize that bugs, such as mealworms, grasshoppers, and crickets, may be the ultimate sustainable protein source. In fact, in January 2012, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization held an insect world summit of sorts – 37 international experts gathered in Rome to discuss the role of insects in achieving global food security.

Many insects are what you might call superfood – rich in protein, low in fat and cholesterol, high in essential vitamins and minerals like calcium and iron. More important, insects are green super-foods. Bugs are cold-blooded (they don’t waste energy to stay warm), so they’re far more efficient at converting feed to meat than cattle or pigs. Ten grams of feed produces one gram of beef or three grams of pork, but it can yield nine grams of edible insect meat, according to research from Arnold van Huis, an entomologist at Wageningen University. Yet insects still have virtually the same amount of protein as beef or pork. A 100-gram portion of grasshopper meat contains 20.6 grams of protein, just 7 grams less than an equivalent portion of beef.

If the protein numbers and energy efficiency don’t move you to try a grilled locust, consider this: Insects use a fraction of the water and land of conventional livestock, plus they’re climate-friendly. According to van Huis’ research, breeding edible insects, like locusts and crickets, emits just 10 percent of the methane from livestock and about 0.3 percent of the nitrous oxide. Insects are also natural recyclers that thrive on paper and industrial wastes – stuff that would normally be trashed.

Insect-eating doesn’t have a yuck factor in most of the world. Venezuelans eat French-fried ants. Ghanaians eat bread made out of termites. Thailand has more than 15,000 locust farmers. As pro-bug people like to point out, 70 percent of the world’s population eats more than 1,400 insects.

Fear of insect eating is peculiar to North Americans and Europeans. Advocates of a global surge in ‘micro-livestock’ – that’s the euphemistic term some like to apply to insect farming – are tyring to challenge the phobia.”

For the rest of this very thought-provoking article, go HERE. See what might be showing up on the shelves of Costco or Sam’s Club in the future…

News Bit: Why Efficiency is Smarter than Renewables

by Marc Gunther, Greenbiz.com, published June 15, 2012

“Real estate is the largest source of clean energy in this country, and it’s very inexpensively tapped.”

“So said Tony Malkin, the president of Malkin Holdings, owner of the Empire State Building.

Malskin spoke this week at the annual Energy Efficiency Forum in Washington, D.C. and he’s got a point, albeit a controversial one.

If we – or more to the point, the people who represent us in Washington – have $1 to spend, better that it be spent on energy efficiency than on clean energy. That’s not way things work now. Today, wind and solar power get generous tax breaks and subsidies. Energy efficiency investment do not. The government has it exactly backward.

Why? First let’s stipulate that money spent on efficiency and on clean energy creates short-term jobs. The efficiency-related jobs are more likely to be US jobs (because most solar panels are made in China) but set that aside for a moment. What matters is what happens after the insulation goes into a building, or the panels go up on the roof.

The problem with clean energy is that electricity from wind turbines or solar panels, as a rule, costs more than power generated by burning coal or natural gas. If it didn’t, the wind and solar industries wouldn’t need the investment tax credits and renewable portfolio mandates that are vital to the business. But over time the higher costs of clean energy create a drag on economic growth, whether they are paid by the government or by energy users.

By contrast, money spend on efficiency reduces costs over time. So, whether we are talking about more efficient factories, commercial buidlings, homes or even cars, the spending on efficiency makes the economy more productive, driving economic growth and creating jobs in the long run.

Yet the government generously subsidizes wind and solar. Efficiency, not so much.

Actually, it’s a bit worse than that. Since businesses can deduct legitimate expenses on their tax returns, they pay less than the full cost of their electricity bills.

“I get a tax deduction for wasting energy,” Dave Meyers, president of building efficiency business at Johnson Controls, said wryly during the forum.

“It is absolutely insane to me that energy can be expensed on your tax bill,” Malkin agreed.

Let me hasten to add that we need both energy efficiency and clean energy, and in my view, both deserve strong policy support. Remember, scientists say that to avoid risky climate change, the world needs to curb its greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050. That will require the aggressive deployment of low-carbon energy sources, as well as dramatic gains in efficiency. But we also should be clear about how the costs and benefits work, so we an get the policy right, and especially think about why the government isn’t doing more to promote efficiency.

Read the rest of the article HERE – what’s your opinion – renewable, efficiency, both? How?

News Bit: Fryer Grease Hits the Black Market

Story by Samantha Neary, posted in TriplePundit.com on June 13, 2012.

“We know that oil consumption is a hot topic today, especially in this volatile economic climate. For example, biodiesel has taken center stage this week with reports of increased grease theft from restaurant kitchens nationwide, subsequently creating an underground frying oil market.

With green energy becoming evermore prevalent and effective, the demand for biodiesel has inspired many to cash in. Here is how it happens: restaurants store used cooking grease in barrels to be picked up by a collection company, “green” thieves steal the grease and resell it to recyclers who then process it and sell the processed biodiesel to someone in the transportation industry. Yes, all this effort is over lard.

For years, restaurants had to pay companies to haul away old grease, which was used mostly in animal feed. Some gave it away to locals who used it make biodiesel for their converted car engines. But with a demand for biofuel rising, fryer oil now trades on a booming commodities market, commanding around 40 cents per pound, about four times what it sold for 10 years ago. Many restaurants now have contracts with collection companies to sell their grease for about $300 per container. This boost in value is tempting for thieves, especially in hard times like we face today, so the renering industry has been trying to lock down the growing market from freeloaders. But barrels of grease are still slipping through the cracks. So instead of restaurants paying collection companies, they are not paying lawyers to persecute grease thieves.

It did take some time, however, for this type of larceny to be taken seriously in court. ‘The reception in municipal court is very uneven,’ said Steven T. Singer, a lawyer in New Jersey. ‘You’re reliant upon the prosecutors, so you got to get them to understand the seriousness of this, as well as the judge.’”

Go to the rest of the story and watch the video from a security cam of a grease thief slipping away with the goods HERE.