Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Food Waste Recycling

Sending our rubbish to landfill sites continues to be a major topic for debate as proposals for wind farms and incinerators are becoming more common.

At present, the Local Government Association estimates that we offload twice as much rubbish into landfill sites than Germany does, although Germany has a larger population. Due to the fact that land available for landfill sites is running out, pressure from Brussels and Westminster is making the use of these sites more expensive, which in turn is increasing the pressure to recycle our waste.

Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman has introduced legislative changes aimed to cut down the amount of rubbish that goes to landfill and improve recycling. A major part of the change is the prevention of food waste heading to landfill. Bespoke vehicles that utilize anaerobic digestion provide a totally green service that also offers a viable environmental and economic waste solution. Such a service is able to handle packed and naked food waste, and has proved to be a great success working with 68 Waitrose stores throughout the UK.

Why recycle your food waste? 

Methane is produced by decomposing food waste, and it is in actual fact 22 times more damaging to the environment than carbon dioxide. Instead of letting food break down in this way, it can be converted into biogas that generates electricity through anaerobic digestion (AD). The only by-product produced through AD is a nutrient rich liquid fertilizer.
  • Methane from food waste is 22 times more harmful to the environment than carbon dioxide.
  • Recycling food waste generates renewable energy, so is even better than carbon neutral.
  • 40 percent of the 14million tonnes of food waste generated in UK each year goes to landfill.
  • By using AD to process food waste we are preventing 905kg of carbon emissions per tonne of waste entering the atmosphere.
  • Government’s waste policy review announces plans to support development of AD technology in the UK.
What is AD?
Anaerobic digestion (AD) breaks down organic matter using naturally occurring microorganisms. This natural biological process results in the production of a valuable fertilizer as a by-product of producing biogas, a sustainable source of energy.  To convert the biogas into electricity and heat a Combined Heat and Power (CHP) engine is used. Compared to sending waste food to landfill AD processing prevents 905kg of carbon per tonne of food waste being released into the atmosphere.
It is becoming increasingly important that we consider not just how to reduce the waste we create, but also how we can use it, too. Waste is a resource, and when there is scarcity of resources, it is more important than ever to consider sustainability through a broader spectrum of material use.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Amazing Facts About Pelicans

PelicansPhoto: Wayne Butterworth
Earth’s oceans and waterways wouldn’t be the same without the amazing birds that wing so gracefully over water and crashing waves. Pelicans are fascinating creatures. Not only are they gigantic, with wingspans as large as 10 feet, but they can also soar up to heights of 10,000 feet on thermals!
There are eight living species of pelicans in the world. What’s more, these majestic birds inhabit every continent except Antarctica, from southern-lying Tasmania all the way up to Western Canada. Most pelicans live in warm regions, around coasts and river estuaries, where they feed on everything from fish and crustaceans to tadpoles and turtles. If they’re really hungry and desperate, they might even drown and swallow a seagull!

When it eats, the pelican catches prey in its large gular sack, squeezes the water out the side of its bill, moves the food until it is facing head-down in its throat, and swallows.


Pelican bills are actually able to sense creatures underwater, which is handy if the water is murky and the birds can’t see. Most pelicans will fish in groups. They beat the water with their wings to drive fish into the shallows and then scoop them up with their bills. A hook on their upper mandibles helps them grip slippery food – and sometimes even allows them to nab a large fish, toss it into the air, and swallow it in one gulp!


Although pelicans are some of the heaviest flying birds, each bird’s skeleton only amounts to one tenth of its total body weight – which in some cases can be over 30lbs! Air sacs in their bones give them extra buoyancy. And they also have air sacs beneath the skin on their throat, chest and beneath their wings which are connected to their respiratory system.

Aside from making the birds lighter and helping them float in water, the air sacs also improve flight aerodynamics by smoothing and stiffening the feathers across the abdomen and helping to cushion the impact when they dive for fish.


When pelicans are courting, they open and close their bills to make their gular sacks ripple, strut around, and toss sticks and dried fish up into the air. Their bills and pouches also change color. For example, an Australian’s pelican’s pouch will turn bright pink, the throat turns yellow, and parts of the bill turn bright blue. Different species of pelicans display different color changes, but they are all vivid and beautiful. Both males and females help incubate the eggs (usually 1-3) by standing on them with their completely webbed feet.


Although there’s a lot more that could be said about pelicans, these facts should give anyone a new appreciation for these huge-billed water birds. Fortunately, most pelicans are not endangered, and we can enjoy watching them swoop majestically over the world’s oceans.


organic farming and teaching in the Sacramento Valley

Craig McNamara, the son of former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, balances public policy work with organic farming and teaching in the Sacramento Valley.

Craig McNamara

Craig McNamara, whose father was Defense secretary during the Vietnam War, balances public service and organic farming in the Sacramento Valley. (Marc Lifsher, Los Angeles Times / October 3, 2012)


The gig: Craig McNamara is a sustainable farming expert, organic walnut farmer in the Sacramento Valley town of Winters, founder of the nonprofit Center for Land-Based Learning and the California Farm Academy, and president of the state Board of Food and Agriculture, which advises state officials on farming policies.

Organic food basket: At his Sierra Orchards, Craig McNamara makes extensive use of pro-environment and conservation techniques as he grows 450 acres of organic walnuts, presses organic olive oil from 150 trees that are more than a century old and helps his son raise hops for a local craft beer. The Center for Land-Based Learning and the California Farm Academy are based at his farm, on the bank of Putah Creek near the Solano-Yolo county line.

Techniques: "We try to incorporate sustainability into all our actions," said McNamara, so that the farm supports "healthy people, a healthy planet and a healthy profit." He relies on solar power to run water pumps, sediment traps to reduce fertilizer runoff into streams and the underground aquifer, "green" composting that doesn't depend on animal manure and pollination with native bees.

Honors: His environmental work earned him the 2012 James Irvine Foundation Leadership Award, the 2007 Leopold Conservation Award and other honors. He has served on the state Board of Food and Agriculture since 2002. Last year, Gov. Jerry Brown appointed him board president.

Politics and the farm: McNamara has managed to find a balance among making a living as a farmer, teaching about the importance of farming and, as a high-level appointee, helping bring experience and expertise to public policy on water, labor, exports and other issues in the country's richest agricultural state.

Roots and upbringing: He grew up in Ann Arbor, Mich., and Washington, D.C., in the shadow of his late father, former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, considered the architect of the Vietnam War. In high school, Craig McNamara broke with his father over the war. His mother, Margaret, was a literacy pioneer who started the Reading Is Fundamental program.

Latin America travels: McNamara's interest in agriculture developed after he dropped out of Stanford University and traveled around Latin America for two years. On his way to Tierra del Fuego at the southernmost tip of South America, he worked on peasant farms and came to understand "the importance of sustainable agriculture and how political food is."

Back to the land: McNamara came to the Sacramento Valley, where he fell in love with the flat, fertile soil and the farms, ranches and orchards. He received a degree in plant and soil science from UC Davis in 1976 and struggled for three years to run a 60-acre garden that supplied fresh produce to San Francisco restaurants. "It broke me financially and it broke me physically," he said. He switched to walnuts, he said, because they are high value, harvested once a year, healthful and not highly perishable.

Nuclear family: McNamara has been married for 30 years to his wife, Julie, an entomologist he met at UC Davis. They have two sons — Graham, 28, who works for a software company in San Francisco, and Sean, 25, who returned to the farm 18 months ago to grow hops. A daughter, Emily, 20, is a student at Brown University.

Young farmers: The California Farm Academy just graduated its first class of 20 young farmers from its six-month program. The center and academy are busy places thanks to a growing interest among young people in organic farming, farmers markets and the slow-food movement, he said. "It's a perfect wave, a wholesome wave," McNamara said. "Millennials understand the importance of agriculture and food and this vital connection to nature." California must attract more young farmers, he said, or risk losing valuable agricultural land from production.

Agricultural gold: As an educator, McNamara hopes that training will instill among students the same devotion to the land that the pioneers of the Sacramento Valley showed when they settled there after the Gold Rush. "People then were so dedicated, so courageous and so adaptable," he said. "The same character exists today.",0,1752156.story

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