Soiling the Garden

GardenAn organic garden must start with healthy soil. Natural fertilizers promote the growth of beneficial bacteria, earthworms and fungi which build soil structure and foster healthy plants.

The best fertilizer for your lawn and garden is homemade compost, made from food scraps, fall leaves and lawn clippings. If you still need store-bought products, there are some things to keep in mind.

Commercially made compost has a high level of naturally occurring nitrogen and phosphorous which is released gradually and is absorbed more easily by plants. Other soil improvers, such as worm castings, Epsom salts and decomposed organic matter called humates, add nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Watch out for commercial fertilizers, even those that are labeled “organic”, because they most likely contain harmful ingredients, like animal byproducts or sewage sludge. Animal byproducts, such as bone meal or fish meal, may have come from industrial farming operations, and sewage sludge, might be contaminated with diseases or heavy metals.

The Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) and the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA), an accredited certifying agency for the USDA National Organic Program, approve of products which have been composted according to USDA Organic standards. The only synthetic materials that can be added to NOFA approved compost are those allowed in the production of organic crops.

Have your soil tested by your local USDA Cooperative Extension Service to determine pH and which nutrients your grass is missing, or test it yourself with a soil testing kit.

Once you know the pH, you may add organic matter to help balance it. Lawns prefer slightly acidic soils with a pH range of 6.5 to 7, while flowers, shrubs and trees vary in their pH preferences. Lime helps balance acidic soil, while sulfur helps with alkaline.

To find out the nutrient content of a fertilizer, look for the “NPK” number (NPK stands for nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium). A “5-6-5” NPK number, for example, means that a fertilizer is 5% nitrogen, 6% phosphorus and 5% potassium with the remaining 84% representing filler material.

Spread only about 1/2 an inch of compost on your lawn at a time. Even though plant-based nitrogen is more easily absorbed, composts and organic fertilizers may still be applied too heavily, leading to nitrogen- and phosphate-heavy runoff.

Avoid applying fertilizer before a downpour which will rinse it away before it gets absorbed. Wear a mask if you are applying dusty fertilizers made with lime or any other fine particles that you might inhale.

Organic “Vegitecture” Architecture

Ken Yeang concept buildingWe have business districts, and we have agriculture. Agriculture takes up a lot of land and resources, and agriculture is, in fact, the most damaging industry worldwide when it comes to environmental impact. So imagine combining the business district with agriculture. What you have, as a result, is “vegitecture.” Big skyscrapers covered with leaves and vegitation.

Architect Ken Yeang is the world’s leading vegitect, and his designs use walls of plants, solar panels, and the structure and of the building itself to collect water and catch cooling air currents. It enables the building to catch its own energy and rely less on outside sources, like power lines. He even talks of “vertical farms.” That is, your food grows on your wall. You go out, scale it, and pick out a nice tomato.

Green BuildingThis is a Ken Yeang concept building, and in Paris he’s already engineered green walls that provide natural cooling to the city, and suck up a lot of the carbon output while they’re at it. Even now, NASA uses plants to clean the air on space shuttle missions, and you know how you can feed plants garbage water and they don’t seem to mind at all? I mean, provided there aren’t any heavy metals or chemicals in it, just good old smelly organic garbage water. So yes, they can also be used to recycle used water by buildings.

Concrete is a material that bounces heat off and makes the outside that much more sweltering than it already is. Plants soak up heat and cool things down, so people can turn down their air conditioners. There just doesn’t seem to be any downs to this idea. If you grow food on buildings, then people stop starving, you save land, you save energy, and you live in an urban jungle. Wave of the future? Just one of them. Surf’s coming in…

Hemp Shampoo

Organic Hemp ShampooFor many years we’ve been accustomed to use soaps and shampoos that contain chemicals that damage our skin and damage the environment. These chemicals can be so dangerous sometimes, that most manufactures have to test their products on living animals before they release these products to the market. Countless bunnies have been blinded by soap manufacturers.

However, there are alternatives. Recent years have seen a surge in organic cosmetics. Usually, these soaps, toothpastes, and make-up, are made of herbs, vegetables, and fruits, without being mixed with additional chemicals or color additives.

I want to present a natural shampoo made in Canada from organic hemp. There’s no animal fat in the ingredients — in facts, it’s even suitable for vegans. The delicate smell of the shampoo bar comes from sweet oranges, and it’s both gentle and antiseptic.

This item, along with other hemp products, and even hemp clothes, can be found at Rawganique.

Have a good scrubbing!

Organic Antidepressants

Depression and anxiety are two of the most common mental disabilities afflicting mankind. The current scientific position tells us that the most likely cause of these conditions is a combination of both a genetic predisposition along with acute environmental stress (such as the consumption of harmful junk food, or the ordeals of a divorce). Whatever the actual reasons for a certain episode of melancholy, there are several known brain mechanisms that engage in the regulation of mood, stress, and motivation. I can assume most of us have heard of the infamous neurotransmitters Serotonin, Dopamine, and Norepinephrine. Taking antidepressants (such as Prozac) affect the receptivity of our nerve cells to these molecules, and by doing so these drugs reprogram our brain to behave differently — hopefully, in a more healthy manner.

Recently, other mood-regulating neurotransmitters have been discovered. One of them is Orexin, a peptide which was traditionally mentioned in the field of hunger-regulation. It’s also important in maintaining a state of wakefulness, as can be evidenced by a drug called Modafinil that is used to increase brain levels of Orexin in order to treat people with narcolepsy.

IncenseLater this month, a group of researchers in Israel will pronounce the discovery of yet another mood-regulating neurotransmitter. It is called IA (Incensole acetate), and it activates an ion channel named TRPV3. Ion channels are specially-designed proteins that sit on the membrane (the outer layer) of nerve cells, and control the flow of electrically charged particles into and out of the cell — a process that determines whether a certain nerve cell is activated at a certain moment, or not. In other words, molecules (neurotransmitters) that can alter the function of TRPV3 channel change the patterns of our brain activity — and as just mentioned, cutting-edge research from Israel indicates that this pattern of change adjusts the levels of mood and stress.

More specifically, a group of scientists from The College of Judea and Samaria in Ariel, led by Prof. Ester Fride, conducted experiments with the Boswellia plant, which contains the IA molecules. They’ve discovered that this plant does indeed reduce anxiety, without all the pesky side effects of ordinary antidepressants, such as sexual dysfunction and weight gain.

It is interesting to note that the ancient Israelites burnt incense made of the Boswellia plant in the Temple in Jerusalem, since it created a relaxing atmosphere, suited for prayer and rituals. Perhaps as we revert back to ancient remedies, we’ll discover healthier – more organic – solutions to modern maladies.

Picture by Garnet’s Book of Shadows

Ambrosia Essence and other Organic Skin Care Options

Aloe veraSome days I wonder if I am all alone in my quest for a cleaner planet. Then I find a kindred spirit or read an article and know that the collective consciousness is moving in the right direction. There are many folks like myself who are becoming more aware of the dangers of chemicals in the food we eat as well as in many other household products.

I have not only been purchasing organic foods and reading all food labels but more recently I have started looking at the ingredients in household cleansers, cosmetics and skin care products. My search for healthier products led me to become a representative for One Group, a company that produces certified organic personal care products.

My personal favorite in terms of skincare is a product called Ambrosia Essence. Its expensive, but it is by far the best product I have found to help me with my rosacia. I still have some redness, but in comparison to what I have been living with for years this is heaven. I don’t know if this product would give the same results for other folks but it is working well for me.

If you are on the search for a more natural, or organic option for your personal care products the skin deep website it a great place to start. They have all kinds of products listed and each one has a safety rating. Take a look and see if you can’t find a cleaner, greener alternative to what you are currently using.

Written by Anita Kaiser

Environmental Promises – Kiki’s Turn

We at Natural Buy have decided to sponsor our very own candidate for presidency. His name is Kiki, and he’s very environmentally-aware. The picture below was taken during a photo op, in which Kiki restated his commitment to reduce carbon emissions by 60% before 2015!

Kiki 2008

Another major theme in Kiki’s political platform is his firm stance on the promotion of organic lifestyle throughout America. Kiki makes sure to set a personal example, consuming only naturally-grown Bananas, and using no plastic bags at all. He is an avid user of perishable clothes, and aims to legalize the consumption of hemp — believing it would foster World Peace.

I urge you to vote Kiki this November. Together we can make a change. Yes, we can change!

Finally 2010 – Is Fusion Man the New World?

Can this be the answer to congestion in the cities? Is this going to be the new mode of transport? I heard about this first on the Radio on the way to work and honestly could not picture it. Those jet engines he has strapped to his back can’t be eco friendly or good for global warming but it is intriguing. Imagine that the Fusion Man actually symbolizes a new direction in our evolution. I mean this actually gets close to what I imagined 2010 to be like.

This is from Reuters May 14 – Known as ‘Fusion Man’, a former pilot has stunned crowds by flying a jet-propelled wing for nearly ten minutes at a peak speed of 300 km/h (186 mph).

Yves Rossy, a Swiss former military pilot and Airbus commander for Swiss airlines completed an official demonstration on Wednesday (May 14, 2008) in the Swiss Chablais region, where he was released from a plane at 2438 metres (8000 feet) with his wing folded.

He deployed his craft after a short free-fall and began his flight. After a flight of almost ten minutes, he deployed his parachute, folded the wing and landed at the Bex airdrome.

A secret called Tahini

Tahini SpreadToday I want to tell you about my favorite dip — A greyish natural spread called Tahini, or otherwise, Sesame Paste. It is a dish well known in the Middle East and in Africa, much appreciated there for its nutritional value and its unique, slightly bitter, taste.

Tahini is made from sesame seeds. First you have to separate the seed’s oil from the rest of its content, and then you roast and grind each substance separately, only to be merged again afterwards. The result is a thick and smooth paste, which you can buy and store in your cupboard for long periods of time.

Whether you buy whole-seed tahini (thicker, bitter, healthier) or hulled-seed tahini (thinner, slightly sweet), the paste is full of protein, calcium, and healthy fatty acids such as Omega 6. Even better, it is relatively low in carbohydrates.

To make a fresh paste you simply pour some pure tahini into a bowl, mix it with an even amount of water, and add some fresh lemon juice. That’s the basic recipe, and it’s fast and easy to make! But if you feel like investing a bit more time in making an authentic sesame spread, the kind of which you could buy on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, I suggest taking a single clove and and scraping it with a small grater directly onto the bowl. Then, add some chopped parsley (organic parsley is my preferred) into the mix, and top the bonanza with a touch of salt and black pepper.

Congratulations! You now have a home-made tahini, which you may spill over your salad or spread over a piece of bread. Heck, sometimes I eat it straight with a spoon.

Picture by:

Plastic nursing bottles may be health hazards

Plastic nursing bottles are now being seen to have similar health hazards to infants and young children as plastic drinking water bottles are to older persons. Studies made by U.S. and other laboratories are linking chemicals found in the plastic material in nursing bottles to be instrumental in causing various forms of cancer later in life, including breast and prostate cancer. In addition, these chemicals, including some known as BPA or Bisphenol-A may also affect a child’s reproduction capabilities later in life.

Baby bottleBPA is defined as an organic compound containing two phenol functioning groups which have a semblance to estrogen hormone. BPA is an important ingredient in the polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins used to make the strong, shatter-proof plastic bottles that people rely on to heat up baby formula. The plastic material in itself is relatively safe when only water or juices at room temperature are poured inside. The problem arises when the formula is heated to a high temperature prior to being given to a baby; as well as when the bottle is washed at a high temperature, as in an automatic dishwasher. The heating process causes the chemicals in the plastic to be released into the fluid inside the bottle which then enter the child’s body and bloodstream. The chemical reactions are similar to what occurs to water inside plastic water bottles which are exposed to high temperatures (when left in a car, etc.)

Warnings of the possible dangers of BPA chemical reactions in infant feeding bottles are now being issued by U.S. government agencies such as the National Toxicology Program. Their findings indicate that these chemical reactions may cause harm to humans, especially children, and result in problems such as early puberty, reproductive problems and even neurological problems.

BPA is found in a number of plastic containers as well as in the coatings often used in a number of soft drink products. Although tests are still being conducted, the main concern is that continuous exposure to BPA could result in a chronic toxicity which will result in the aforementioned health problems.

Plastic infant feeding bottles have been in use for decades, and mothers rely on them to nourish their babies. The dangers of chemical toxicity are now becoming more publicized, and some countries, including Canada, are planning to declare that Bisphenol-A is a toxic substance. Some American states, including California, are also considering the banning of products containing BPA.

As for an alternative to BPA, perhaps the old adage that “breast is best” is in the end the best and safest infant feeding method.

The Price of Bio Fuels

India FarmerA recent posting in this web blog noted the problem of rising grain prices, most notably rice. It now seems that virtually all food items are increasing in price at a pace so great that the end result may be mass hunger and even starvation in many parts of the world, including so-called affluent countries like ones in Western Europe and even the U.S.A. Already, the price of basic cereal grains, notably wheat and corn are double in price to what they were just a few years ago. And many common vegetables, such as tomatoes and cucumbers, are selling at very high prices.

Global warming, or the hysteria being generated by this subject, is only part of the problem, however. There are other factors, both environmental and political, that are resulting in near-empty supermarket shelves and some countries and food riots in others. It’s easy to see why food shortages are now a way of life in most of Africa and parts of Asia. But now, millions of Americans are really feeling the bite that weekly grocery bills are taking from their incomes. And it’s not only bread, breakfast cereal, and other products made directly from grain that is causing food prices to run to as much as $250 a week for a family of four. Meat items are also becoming very expensive due to sharp increases in animal feed and fodder.

The answer to at least part of the problems of food shortages, coupled with high prices, lies in what we are now putting into our automobile gas tanks. Bio fuels, especially ethanol made from corn and sorghum, are re-directing thousands of tons of food grains into alcohol based fuels to make up for fuel shortages caused by increasingly scarcer and more expensive fossil fuels; most notably petroleum. Just ten years ago, American farmers complained of having massive grain surpluses, particularly in corn producing states like Indiana and Iowa. Due to low market prices, farmers were receiving subsides from the U.S. Government and were even being paid not to produce these crops.

Enter the ethanol age, when farmers are suddenly receiving high prices for growing ethanol producing grains with the encouragement and blessing of a government that continues preaching self-sufficiency in energy by augmenting crude oil with ethanol. The rush for farmers to grow crops for conversion into ethanol has resulted in countries like Brazil dedicating almost their entire agricultural production to growing crops like maize and sugar cane for conversion into ethanol. Poor Brazilian farmers, in their frenzy to grow “ethanol crops”, are destroying their country’s rain forests at an alarming pace to have more land available for growing these crops. The same thing is happening in many other countries too, with the result of less attention being given to growing crops for food.

Bio fuels in themselves are also ecologically polluting and contribute to the “greenhouse effect” and other symptoms of global warming. While these crops may not pollute our planet as bad as petroleum, bio fuels do cause pollution in their own way. And worst of all, every bushel of grain used to make ethanol means less available grain to be available for basic food commodities.

Less available grain means less and more expensive food products, especially for those whose main diet is composed of basic foods like bread items, including pastas. Perhaps it’s now time to “reverse” the emphasis on growing cereal crops for fuel and begin growing more crops again for food. If not, the day will soon come when a loaf of ordinary ‘store bread’ will cost more than a gallon of Bio fuel. And the cost of that bun on a McDonald’s or Burger King hamburger will cause it to be much more pricy than it is today. After all, you can’t eat that stuff that goes into your car.