Tuesday, April 29, 2008

I won't compost biodegradable utensils

Very interesting story from one of the major composting operators.
He says he doesn't compost biodegradable plastics at the moment.
Here are some reasons:

1) Plastic utensils are contaminants that are needed to be removed from feedstock before composting. Removing is done manually. Currently there is no way to distinguish biodegradable utensils from plastic ones. To make the operations economically viable, they have to either take all the utensils out or leave them all. His facility takes all out because they can't leave plastic in.
2) It is uncertain how long and to what extent the polymers will biodegrade. I think it means there is no classification on "how biodegradable" the products are. (I need to research this further) Composting is extremely experience/knowledge/skill intensive operation. People working on composting site really know what is the proper temperature/moisture/aeration for what material. It seems like there is not enough information/experience accumulated for biodegradable plastic to make sure the final product is marketable and of good quality.

Well, then if biodegradable utensils end up in landfills, they will produce methane, GHG much more powerful than CO2. (composting produce some methane too, but much less compared to landfill)

There should be pros and cons for these arguments. But anyway, for now, I would need more information to determine that biodegradable plastic is really good for environment.

In the meantime, this solution is definitely environmentally-beneficial: BYOU (bring your own utensil).

Babies have these; why not adults? It shouldn't take much to market them.

Japan's version of BYOU - BYOC (chopstick!).

Monday, April 28, 2008

Compact city: Sustainable urban development

A lot of people must be considering alternative transportation because of high gas price.

Bikes, motor bikes or small electric cars can be available. But they aren't safe when the cars are passing by at 40 or 60 mph. Then how about reducing speed limits to 25 or 30 mph? It is essential to safely promote bikes and other vulnerable transportation means.

There is a way where we can reduce speed limits without compromising the time needed to travel: make cities compact! Assume your town is 20% more compact than what it is now. You can reduce driving speed from 60mph to 48mph, and you still can get to the same place with same amount of travel time. Or, if the key services are effectively aligned, you could reduce your travel time even more with slower speed.

Compact city is a relatively new idea for sustainable urban development that focuses on
1) Central area revitalization
2) High-density development
3) Mixed-use development
4) Services and facilities: hospitals, parks, schools, leisure and fun

There is much more about compact cities, here are some links.
I strongly believe that making motor vehicles eco-conscious can never happen on its own. It has to come hand in hand with community planning and development.

University of Reading, UK: Compact city
Developing a compact city and a network region: Sweden
The compact city and the environment: a review: Netherlands

photo from: http://www.transport.gov.za/projects/msa/msareport/msarpt_fig82.gif

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The true Miso-soup

Miso-soups in Japanese restaurants are sad.

I have been to Sushi, Teriyaki and other places, but I've never had a good Miso-soup bowl. They taste as if they are using instant miso-soup and just dissolving it in hot water. Plus, there is very little ingredients to enjoy. It's all about cost-saving....

Here is the true home made Miso-soup. Put as much as vegetable you want! Nutrition can get the priority at home.

1) Broth, broth and broth.
This is the most important thing for Miso-soup. Please use broth. It can be iriko dashi(anchovy) or katsuo dashi(macharel). If you are vegetarian, konbu dashi (seaweed) will work. All of them are available in ready-to-dissolve package in Japanese grocery stores. Those will be handy as a starter kit.

2) Add broth in boiling water. Try 1-2 tps and see how it tastes.

3) Add your choice of vegetables. Most vegetables work fine. Start from hard vegetables such as carrots, radish or onions because they take longer to cook. Then add another group of vegetables such as cabbage, spinach or other leaves. Tofu can be added with them because it cook quickly and it doesn't taste good when overcooked. To enjoy the vegetables most, boiling time is very important. Not too short, not too long so as the texture and flavor gets just right.

4) Add miso right before you turn the oven off. Miso will lose its flavor when overcooked.

5) My Miso-soup of the day has spinach, red radish, carrots and tofu.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Tridem bike - a bicycle for parents and two kids

Yes there is a safety issue, and it is huge. Currently it is not legal in Japan to have two kids on a bicycle.

But the police started to consider allowing tridem bike and ordered bicycle makers to develop safe model. The picture is one of those test models.

I think there is a need for this kind of transportation in order for a society to shift toward car-free society.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Tips for Nuno-zori #2

Eco-samurai is moving to a new website
Updated version of "How to make nuno-zori" will be added shortly.
In the meantime, enjoy new posts.

The textbook I used to make Nuno-zori recommends to use 4 strips to make a sole, and that is what I did in my posts. But I had trouble maintaining the shape straight when going from one strip to another.

So I experimented something: I stitched one strip to another to bind them.....making one very long strip with no ends.

It worked better with me because I could always go back several rows and adjust the shape.

I also liked it because I don't have to deal with finishing messy bottom. (the pic is the bottom...much better than the previous photo)

The only tip I want to share with you is that I waited to stitch a strip to another till the very last minutes. Then I needled them so as the stitches will be on the right spot and not show up on the surface. Especially when binding two different cloths, I cut the end of the first strip to adjust the length so as the second cloth will start from the edge.

Tips for Nuno-Zori: Read me first

Eco-samurai is moving to a new website
Updated version of "How to make nuno-zori" will be added shortly.
In the meantime, enjoy new posts.

I posted "how to make Nuno-zori" a while ago. As I make some more myself, I find better ways to do it. It turns out that the pictures that I use for those posts are awkward and not good examples. But since it takes so much time to replace photos, I will wait a bit to do it.

However, I am editing and changing the text as I go.

If your Nuno-zori don't look good, it could be because my instruction was not good enough. Feel free to come back and check the posts again; they might have been changed and would be more helpful.

Enjoy knitting!

Monday, April 21, 2008

My take on Earth Day: Small can solve a lot

Electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles became regular faces in environmental events. But this year, this little guy was at our local Earth Day: ZENN.

Achieves the equivalent of 245mpg.

Moving 2 tons (or 5000 lbs) of metals requires a lot of energy. Typical pickup track weighs about that much. Do we really need to drag 2 tons of steel to transport one person from home to work or to the grocery store?

Can't a small guy like ZENN, the low-speed vehicle (max 25 mph), replace the job?

What about a Velocab?

Or Walk or bike whenever possible?


But how can we make "whenever possible" really happen??? I think the infrastructure for alternative transportation is missing, and it's critical.

ZENN won't fit in many Californian cities. ZENN cannot go on highway, and 25mph is even slower than speed limit in residential area.

Likewise, Velocab cannot be as effective as it is hoping to be.

Foot are the most helpless.

When it comes to shifting a society toward alternative transportation, the communities turn out to be unnecessarily large, sparse and sprawl.

If a town is 20% denser, speed limit in residential area can be reduced from 35mph or 25mph, and it can make room for ZENN. And now that the town is denser, you will get the same convenience with less mileage traveled.

Velocab and foot will also find more use.

Re-designing the community is the key to promote alternative transportation.

Livintg in a bit smaller/denser community is not a compromise; it's just the way to make land use more efficient.

Best selling car in 2007 around the world: Big or small??

Japan: Suzuki Wagon R
Units sold: 224,082
Body weight: 810-900 kg
Fuel efficiency: 54.5MPG
CO2 emission: 99~128g/km

Europe: Vauxhall/Opel
Units sold: 437,673
Body Weight: 1400kg
Fuel efficiency : 37MPG
Co2 emission: 185g

United States: Ford F series
Units sold: 588,952
Body weight: 2029 kg
Fuel efficiency: 13~18 MPG
CO2 emission: 500g???

This page is still under construction: the numbers may change if I can find more reliable data. Please let me know if you can provide me with accurate data. I want to see the true numbers but having trouble . I am still not sure if Ford F series was America's No1. best selling car. Was it really?

Friday, April 18, 2008

Brew time! Porter

I am a beginner home beer brewer.

I brew my second batch today: Porter. First batch was Ale.

Beer brewing is pretty fun.

And what I really like with brewing beer is.....I am almost free from beer bottle recycling!

12oz bottles easily pile up in the garage. Collectively they are heavy. With two adults in the house, we have to bring in 100-150 bottles every few of months to the collection center. Loading and unloading is quite some work.

Beer is heavy. The bottles are heavy, the liquid is heavy and not compactable. I have to think how much CO2 emission is associated with drinking beer from bottles throughout the entire life cycle. Distribution. Purchase (stores to home). Home to collection hubs for recycling. Collection hubs to glass recyclers. And then, glass recyclers to.....?

That is a lot of travel. And since the bottles are heavy and not compactable, the mass shouldn't be easy to redue. So I doubt that the entire miles traveled by the bottles would lead to quite some CO2 emission.

By brewing beer at home, I can get out of this loop and initiate small closed loop; keep reusing my own bottles. It makes me feel good!

Not only that, home brewed beer tastes good.

I heard that during gold rush times, people used brew in their community; Germans made German beer, English made English beer......it must have been fun. Beer could be one of the "grow locally, buy locally" products....eerhh...if managed properly, I would have to say.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Taste bud counts: what babies/kids need to eat

"You are what you eat" can be interpreted "You are what you grew up eating". What you grew up eating is what you will eat throughout your life. It will be difficult to change your eating habit once you are too used to it.

So, what babies and kids eat is really important because it can determine one's health for life.

When my son started solid food, I tried some baby food from stores. After a couple of jars, I decided I couldn't use them any more. I thought they tasted weired. I thought they tasted like processed food, they tasted like jar or plastic (I mean, tasted of the container) even though the products boasted no additives or no preservatives.

What was I sensing in baby food? I don't know exactly.

Probably "taste bud" plays some roles. Taste buds are small structures on the upper surface of the tongue that provide information about the taste of food being eaten. They can identify sweet, sour, salty, bitter and probably one or two more tastes.
Babies are born with certain taste buds and they keep developing as they grow. Especially when introduced to solid food, they develop rapidly. First taste that the kids recognize is "sweet" and that is why they like cookies and stuff. Then gradually, taste buds develope as they are stimulated by variety of tastes.

Taste buds development is very important to become an adult that can eat variety of foods (different kinds of textures and different kinds of tastes). It leads to decent and healthy eating habits. It seems like my tongue senses something subtle in processed food. My nephew can detect MSG in any given dish (obviously it's invisible). We both grew up with what resepective mom cooked.

If taste buds don't develop well, one can end up appreciating only "sweet" and "salty". In that case, she/he might have to depend on junk food. Obesity risk could be very high.

Taste buds development peaks at around 20 years old. So, we would have to hurry to properly develop them in time.

I ended up cooking most of the meals for my son.
But here is another approach...interestingly enough, I found a baby food company named "Taste bud organic baby food". Their baby food is frozen.

Here's what they say:
Our company was founded on the strong belief that introducing babies to real food with interesting, flavorful tastes and textures as early as possible sets the stage for a lifetime of joyful, healthy eating. In addition to the simple pleasure that a child gains from eating and enjoying good food, research has shown that kids’ tastes are formed in their first two years. Those who eat a variety of healthy foods early on grow up to be much healthier eaters overall and have a strong chance of avoiding major health concerns (heart disease, obesity, diabetes) in adulthood.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Combating obesity: What is Shokuiku

This graph shows obesity statistics by country. (please see the link for details)

You will see the rate is extremely low in Japan (and Korea too).

I believe it is because of what Japanese have been eating. Rice/grain, vegetable, seafood and not much oil/meat.

When it comes to combating obesity, I imagine it will be very tough to try to change eating habits after so many years. I think it is natural for anybody tempted to going back to what she/he's grown up eating. I don't eat much junk food and I am eating less and less meat, but I don't think it's because I am a super-conscious eater. It's more because I didn't grow up eating junk food and a lot of meat. My body is not designed to allow too much intake of those.

So, my assumption for eating is babies/kids' eating habits is extremely important because it virtually determines what you will be in the future. Plus, it's very difficult to retrofit even if something went wrong.

Unfortunately, Japanese young people are eating more and more junk food, and obesity rate is increasing. In reaction, people started to discuss "Shokuiku". It is often translated to "food education" and what it really means is raising awareness of/re-examining eating habit. It is based on the philosophy of "you are what you eat". By carefully choosing what you eat and actively engaged in cooking, the kids will know more how to live health, both physically and mentally.

There were not much materials available in English about Shokuiku. Here is the one. It is directly linked to a pdf file, so the link will prompt you to download it.

What is Shokuiku?

Soothing children's coughs while sleeping

My son coughs a lot. Probably his respiratory system is sensitive.

When he starts to cough at night, it drags on an on and he has trouble keep sleeping.

I came up with a simple solution.

Wet a towel (but not too much), and place it on the bed head. Add some water in his old baby bathtub and place it near the bed.

It seems like the towel hanging above him is close enough to give enough moisture to soothe coughs.

It doesn't require humidifier or electricity. No medicine if the coughing is not too bad and not accompanied by other symptoms.

It works great.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Olive virgin oil: what my skin needs

I have been using this product for years because it really works for my skin.
I just learnt that it's now USDA organic certified. (made of organic olive oil)

The product is called Olive Virgin Oil, by Japanese cosmetic company called DHC.

My skin is oily and I never imagined that oil on oily skin would work.

Actually it does great. My skin feels a lot less greasy and much more even. Their site describe what's so good about this product.

I've never noticed this company bragging being green, however they also offer some healthy/fine foods that can be used for macrobiotic or vegan diet such as Japanese brown sugar or multi grain rice. (soy sauce, of course!) Germinated brown rice is another popular brown rice in Japan. It's almost as nutritious as brown rice, but much easier to deal with. Worth trying.
They have an office in San Francisco, and the website/catalog/online shopping/call center is available in English.

Sustainable food: Shiitake

It looks like there are quite some people who come to my blog looking for information about Japanese food.

So....today's topic is Shiitake!

Shiitake is a kind of mushroom that is widely used in Asian countries. It's good to eat, but it's also good for broth.

People usually use dried Shiitake for broth. For several reasons, dried Shiitake produce much better broth than fresh Shiitake. It's also rich in Vitamin D.

With Shiitake broth, the plates can easily be vegetarian and nutritious. Plus, mushroom is very low in calorie. Healthy.

Dried mushroom is easily available at local Japanese/Korean/Chinese grocery stores. Dried are probably more reasonable to buy than fresh Shiitake.

Preparation: Soak dried Shiitakes in water (and not too much water) for hours to overnight. Use broth for soup and Shiitakes themselves are ready for cooking.

My recommendation is to make Shiitake filling for Sushi roll. Dried or fresh.
1) Chop them into pieces (size don't really matter)
2) Stir fry them with oil. (Mushrooms absorb quite some oil, so use enough oil) If you don't want oil, you can boil Shiitake with 3) and a little bit of water.
3) Add soy sauce and white wine (Usually it is Japanese cooking sake, but I substitute it with white wine.) and some sugar.
4) Roll the Sushi, probably with stick a of cucamber or egg.

Another way is to add 3) when you cook rice with rice cooker.

If you are interested in cooking them, Google Shiitake recipe. I found quite some information.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Calling all drying rack users

I don't use dryer for my laundry primarily in order to reduce my carbon footprint. But I also do it to maintain my clothes in better condition. I think the dryer shrinks and damages the textile pretty bad.

HOWEVER I have a problem in doing so....... FLUFF!!!!!!!

I learnt that here in US, dryers are equipped with a device to collect fluff.......not the washing machine. So, if you skip dryer, your clothes miss opportunity to get rid of whitey fluff. I happened to wash something very fluffy recently, and was shocked with what I got. My clothes all looked miserable.

I am looking for fluff collector for washing machine, but no luck so far. Does anyone know what I can do?

In Japan washing machine has something like this. Or you can attach same quality mesh bag. They nicely collect fluff.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Mimicking macrobiotic: No.1

Macrobiotic requires some studying or training.

I am not qualified.

So I will try to borrow some ideas and mimic what they do. In this first post, I am going to introduce two items that are commonly used in macrobiotics. Vegan yet very nutritious.

1) Hijiki

This is black, sort of scary-looking seaweed. Honestly, it doesn't taste excellent - at least I don't appreciate the taste. BUT it is very nutritious. Notably, it's very rich in iron.

Before/after I had a baby, I ate Hijiki on a daily basis (1 spoonful per day) and I didn't have to suffer from anemia at all! (I have been suffered from chronic anemia in my life! It disappeared....) My mom has her own theory about nutrition. She insists that the nutrition that comes from supplements is not as effectively absorbed as from natural foods.

Well, I haven't tried to verify her theory yet, but as long as Hijiki is concerned, it really worked for my anemia. Amazing.

You will soak dried Hijiki for 10-20 minutes and add it to soup or salad or whatever you want. If you are interested, Google with hijiki and you will find some recipes in English. However, my recommendation is to add Hijiki to minimum amount of soup and drink it up fast! I mean, I swallow Hijiki like supplement tablet!

2) Kinako

This is powered soy bean. It is often used for sweets. If you are bored with plain rice, just mix kinako with some sugar and sprinkle it over your rice.
Kinako is commonly used for Mochi, but it goes well with plain yogurt or milk. I found a nice observation and mode d'imploi for Kinako. Soy bean is obviously rich in Vitamin B and protein.

Both can be easily found at local Japanese or Korean grocery stores. And they are pretty reasonable in price.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Best recycled paper product.....what could it be?

I took a training a couple of days ago, and really liked the recycled cardboard binder for the training materials.

It's not bleached, it touched rough on surface, it got slightly fluffy easily when in contact with table or other objects.

Yes again, like Whole Foods paper bag, it has an apparent quality of recycled product - not as good as new one.

That's exactly what I like with this binder. This is for training material. I don't care if the edges get bent or the surface get fluffy. As long as it can keep the papers together, I have no complaints at all.

According to my "recycling-is-not-alchemy" theory, contaminated post-consumer paper shouldn't be able to produce something of high quality unless you add more virgin material or more energy input to offset the bad quality of the feedstock.
Based on that, this binder could look like above. Ratio of post-consumer product in feedstock is probably high, energy or chemical input required for process is low, but the product is not as good as new product. (it's totally acceptable in this situation) I doubt it might not be recycled again. Maybe egg case?

On the other hand, if you try to make copy paper from recycled paper, it could be like this.

This is an unproven theory. I identified the maker for the binder and asked about the material, but the answer was "We know it's made of recycled paper, but we are not sure about the details."
I will investigate more even though not much information is available out there.
I really think the information will help to determine what to make out of recycled paper and what not to, to make paper recycling truly environmentally beneficial.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Reducing emissions from vehicles

It has nothing to do with technology to make a car.

It is about how you design the environment that surrounds cars.


Washington, D.C.'s new ball park does not have many parking lots. Instead, it provides a free bike valet, enhanced nearby subway station, and a ton of bus service. They also ran an advertising campaign asking people not to drive to the park.

On opening night, 21,492 baseball fans (out of a total of 25,000) took a train to the ball game!

This is exciting.

Palo Alto marchants: just banning plastic bag is not enough

Palo Alto merchants, faced with a proposed new regulation, come back with more sweeping alternative!

Local grocery stores and pharmacies are claiming that just banning plastic bag is not enough.

Instead, the comprehensive program should charge paper bags and an include intense effort to shift people to cloth or other reusable bags.

They also suggest that the program would also apply to all retail businesses in town, not just the 13 groceries and pharmacies affected by the current plan.


As a reusable bag user, I have always been worried about increased paper bag consumption due to the skepticism for the plastic bag. Too much paper bag is also waste of our precious resources (even recycling requires energy and other input). I totally agree with Palo Alto marchants!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Small community with a belly button: Centre, centro, place, square, plaza

I lived in Paris for a short time.

I've always imagined that Paris must be a big big city with historic sites, boutiques, restaurants, apartments, River Seine, etc, etc.....

But it wasn't. I was very surprised and pleased to find that it was a very walkable city. Well, it's not really small, but considering the rich content that Paris boasts, it's remarkably small!

Paris hasn't been changed much since medieval era. It started to flourish from Ile de la Cite (and the Notre Dame) on the Seine and it is still the center of Paris. It is like a belly button of the city.

Paris has smaller belly buttons too; "place". Place de la Concorde, Place de la Bastille..... Those are the hubs of the streets that form radial system. Small places are connected each other with radial streets like a spider web and it was really nice to stroll around from Place to Place. I enjoyed walking following different scenes; fashion, art, cafe and bistros, marches, old, nice apartments and hotels, historic sites, different ethnic communities.....

Italy has Centro and Plaza. England has center and square. Same idea. Old cities developed centering some important buildings such as churchs and gradually expanded their radius. It's amazing to see the similarity; old cities with belly buttons and small hubs that connect them each other, forming a nice spider-web like circle.

All those cities were developed well before fossil fuel became available. In other words, those cities are inherently designed low-carbon and efficient.

There must be so many ideas and tips to design low-carbon community.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Tofu hamburger patty

I am not a vegan, but I don't eat meat much. Especially beef feels too heavy for me.

But sometimes I feel like eating greasy stuff. I make hamburger patty using Tofu (firm).

You can use your own recipe for making patty. You'd only have to determine Meat: Tofu mixture ratio. I like to mix ground beef and ground pork at 1:1 ratio; it tastes lighter. Then I mix beef/pork ground meat with Tofu at 1:1 ratio. Caveat: with more Tofu and less meat, the patty can be soft and squishy. Handle with care! To be on the safe side, you can start low Tofu ratio and increase the amount as you are used to handle it. Binder (eggs, little bit of flour or bread crumbs...) is recommended.

A tip: try to minimize water content in Tofu. You can place a Tofu on a kitchen towel or kitchen cloth, and then place something heavy on top of Tofu for 10 to 20 minutes. (e.g. A plate with something heavy on it)

Texture of patty with Tofu is pretty soft, mild and smooth. I serve them as hamburg steak with salad. You can add ketchup or mayonnaise or other sauce as you like.

Ground shrimp or squid in place of beef or pork tastes great too! You chop them with food processor.

photo: nakaya rie

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Who killed electric car? Part2

About a week ago, California Air Resources Board voted to lower the target for ZEV (zero emission vehicles) program. The target for hydrogen fuel cell and electric vehicle has been lowered from 25,000 (set in 2003) to 7,500...substantial setback.

It's hard to see from the pic, but there were many electric vehicles parked outside Cal/EAP building in Sacramento, CA (where CARB is located) to protest the decision....including fancy Tesla electric car.

This is not new. CARB did the same thing a few years back which is rememberd as famous "who killed electric car?" story. It seems that there will be no leap forward on this issue.....at least for coming years.

Well, that is sad and bad, because ZEV is better than conventional cars.

But No car is even better than ZEV. And a lot better.

However, if you are a Californian who don't live in San Francisco or Berkeley (pedestrian-friendly communities), you can't really scream "I want to be green and I want to live without a car!"

Things are build sparse, and public transportation is not very convenient. If I choose to live without a car, I'd be struggling to run errands. But if a community is re-designed in a way that everything is nicely concentrated, then you can walk, ride a bike or use trams to access many different places. And owing no car is far more affordable than purchaing a cutting-edge ZEV!

Investing in ZEV is one option for reducing emission from vehicles, but investing in public transportation and re-designing community is another way to do it. What should I do if I wanted to vote for the latter?

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Small is Inevitable: Transition Town Totnes, UK

This is just inspiring.

Transition Town Totnes, as it has more recently become known, is the first initiative of its kind in the UK attempting to reduce the carbon footprint of an entire community in a way that is imaginative, fun and engaging.

And that.....

‘One of the first things we did was to consult the town’s older generations, to ask for their experience and advice on how the town used to function with minimal oil dependency’
‘It is important to remember that this concept is not new. As recently as the Second World War, Totnes was almost entirely self-sufficient out of pure necessity’

I totally agree that shifting toward low carbon society is not all about technology and innovation.

Our predecessors, across the globe, have rich knowledge base on how to live self-sustained.

I definately want to learn from their experiment.

Whole Foods paper bag: 100% recycled and recyclable

I usually use reusable bag for grocery shopping, but I had to get this one.

Whole Foods' paper bag. It says: "This bag is made of 100% recycled paper (40% post-consumer recycled fiber and the remainder is post-industrial recycled fiber, excluding handles).

Sounds cool.

But this brought me back to my lingering question: "is recycling that environmentally beneficial?"

I wrote about Japanese recycled paper scandal the other day. What happened is that Japanese major paper companies lied about mixture ratio of recycled material and virgin material.

If what Nippon Paper Group argues is true, using recycled material (contaminated) requires more energy compared to using virgin material which leads to higher cost (and more additives or chemical input?). Plus, paper can be recycled max 4-5 times. The more time the material is recycled, the less yield the secondary product will achieve.

Whole Foods paper bag is made of 100% recycled paper. Obviously, it's not bleached. It touches pretty rough....not smooth. Yes it feels like "recycled" paper. Interestingly, the handle is not made of recycled materials. I assume that it's because recycled materials can not achieve the strength that is required for a handle.

Going back to Japan's recycled paper scandal, I think what Japanese companies were lying about was paper product such as copy paper. It will require more quality compared to a grocery bag.

Here is my question: shouldn't recycled paper focus on certain products that would require less quality?

Recycling is not alchemy. You cannot make super-quality product from bad quality material unless you use more input during the process. If that's the case, instead of trying to make everything from recycled paper, isn't it better to decide what to make from virgin materials and what from recycled materials?

I find LCA for recycled paper....recycled vs incinerated vs landfill.

I want see the environmental impact of the paper made of virgin material vs different mixture ratio of virgin and recycled, and vs 100% recycled. More preferable, different recycled materials scenario: homogeneous, heterogeneous, contamination level.....

Otherwise I can't decide which solution is most environmentally beneficial.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Furoshiki - wrap and go!

Furoshiki is a traditional Japanese multi-purpose/collapsible/adjustable/foldable/reusable wrapping bag -- sounds very eco-friendly.

Actually, it is. By simply being a square cloth, it can be folded in various ways to accomodate your belongings. It eliminates the need for different kind of bags and bags in bags.

I said it's just a square cloth - but with a lot of art. You can enjoy different textile, color and motif. You can use different technique to wrap your belongings depending on the item/size. It has evolved a lot- Furoshiki can be used even as a tote bag or a baby sling! Such an entertaining cloth.

Because Furoshiki is an old style bag, it has been thought as an accessory for Kimono. Therefore people forgot about it for long time because we don't wear Kimono that often in modern society!

But the green consumers re-discovered it recently. New generation Furoshiki has wide variety in design and use.

I found a nice website in English. Ecoshikis, Portland, OR sells Furoshiki and introduces a lot of information about Furoshiki including how to wrap it.

This site is also interesting. It is by a Furoshiki-shop in Kyoto, Japan. Although it's all in Japanese, you can see a lot of graphics on how to wrap it and use it.

photo: Kakefuda

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

What is macrobiotic diet?

Madonna practises macrobiotic diet. (is her body a product of macrobiotic and yoga? ) Larry King asks her what macrobiotic diet is.

KING: Someone asked me to ask you are a -- do you eat a macrobiotic diet?

MADONNA: Yes, I do.

KING: Which of consists of what? A little rice? Some seeds?

MADONNA: That is not true. Do I look like I've missed any meals?

KING: No, no. No, but you don't look like you're not -- you're not voftig either, you know. What's the number one treat in the macrobiotic diet?


KING: Boy, we can't wait for this one!

MADONNA: No, you're not allowed -- well, it's not good to eat toast because it's...

KING: Oh, it's not good to eat toast.

MADONNA: No, that's why when I'm sneaking and I'm having a moment of decadence I eat toast with strawberry jam...

KING: That's decadence. What's a typical quick...

MADONNA: Well, macrobiotic means big life and it means getting the most of life -- most life out of your food. So...

KING: A sample dinner?

MADONNA: Fish. Grains, some kind of grains. Some kind of cooked vegetable. Salad. Simple, but tasty.

KING: Not part of Kabbalah though is it?


KING: No, it's not part of its teaching.


Eeeeerrrrhhhh, so, what is macrobiotic????

It is a diet based on whole cereal grains. Brown rice is most widely available, but macrobiotics is rediscovering many ancient-old grains that modern Japanese cooking forgot. Along with grains, macrobiotic rigorously incorporates vegetable, beans and some fish.

Macrobiotics is increasingly attracting Japanese people, probably because it is considered major component of LOHAS. This is just my perception but macrobiotics really focus on the art of cooking, taste and presentation of the finished meal along with the overall lifestyle that macrobiotic pursue.

Macrobiotics needs some instruction/training to start, but quite some books are available in English. There are many "sects"... some are very strict and authentic, some are more relaxed and easy going. Find your own macrobiotic style!

photo by mac-vegetarian

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Charcoal as an alternative for detergent

Charcoal + salt + vinegar can be used as detergent/softener. It completely eliminates the chemical input into laundry system.

I have a friend of mine who uses them for washihg cloths, and she sees no disadvantages in using charcoal compared to using conventional chemical detergents.

I'd like to try.......but I would guess it won't work with "black charcoal". The kind of charcoal that the people in Japan usually use for laundry is called Bincho-tan or white charcoal. High-quality Bincho-tan is steamed at high temperatures therefore pretty solid and hard.

So, even soaked in washing machine, it doesn't crumble. It can be repeatedly used for about three months.

When planting trees become strategical tool to sequester CO2, strategical method to manage/control forest would be needed ever than before.

Producing charcoal detergent from those forests would be one way to close the loop.

(caviat: high quality white charcoal can only be produced from specific kind of trees...)