Posted in May 2016, Uncategorized

Why is not good to wrap food to Aluminium foil?

 

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Image from: starpakas.com

 

Aluminium foil is quite a usual thing in the kitchen. It’s easy to use, protects our food from outside effects and it’s very practical for wrapping food for work or travelling. But we are unaware of hidden effects of this popular item.

Aluminium is highly reactive metal and it reacts with the food processed in aluminium utensils or wrapped in aluminium foil. When we wrap food in aluminium foil it leaches out and makes it harmful for our health. More the food is heated more will be the leaching. It is more reactive to the acidic and spicier food. When aluminium enters in our body together with food our digestive system is unable to digest it. It accumulates in our body in our liver, kidneys, bones and our brain tissues. A significant amount of aluminium can affects our nervous system and cause diseases like Alzheimer, depression, memory lost and anxiety.

However, it is safer to wrap cold food like bread or sandwiches. Still, we have to be careful not to wrap acidic food, for example vegetables like tomatoes.

But there is another question. Usually we use aluminium foil to conserve leftover food so that it stays fresh and we can eat it later. It is a disposable item and rarely reused. Then, is aluminium foil better for environment comparing to the plastic wrapping? I personally believe that both are unnecessary items of our disposable society.

I checked COMPASS -Sustainable Packaging Coalition (http://www.sustainablepackaging.org/) a software tool that allows you to compare the environmental impacts of different packaging materials from manufacture to disposal. Aluminium foil was quite a loser in all different measurements, like fossil fuel consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, human health impacts, aquatic toxicity, and potential for eutrophication. Eutrophication is water pollution, an excessive richness of nutrients in a lake or other body of water, frequently due to run-off from the land, which causes a dense growth of plant life. That can lead to the deficit of oxide in the water which deadly effects fish and other water animals.  (https://www.design-compass.org/resources/pdf/LIFE_CYCLE_METRICS.pdf). Most importantly, aluminium has a heavy manufacturing footprint.

There are two most straightforward options. Don’t use aluminium foil if it is not really necessary. If you are using it, then at least wash it and reuse it again! And hey, don’t you think your food will stay perfectly fine, if you save it in a steal lunch box? Also, be aware and use recycled aluminium!

Aluminium foil takes such a small, non remarkable part of our lives and it is just unbelievable to think that it can have such huge effects. For a long time, I have never consider it as harmful or un-eco friendly. Now I believe it does have a remarkable foot print to our Environment and Health. It could be a reminder of all the small items in our lives that first seems to be so innocent but the truth is much more unpleasant. Would our lives really become more difficult and less comfortable if we just say NO to them?

 

Katja Polc, Member of Vatavaran team

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Posted in May 2016, Uncategorized

How to water the plants to use less water

The Indian summer is already here. You have to wake up very early in the morning to catch some pleasant breeze before the actual sunrise. Long hot summer affects people as well as animals and our biodiversity. Our plants may dry if we don’t water them enough. It’s important to save water at our homes and gardens simply because water is such a precious resource. Here are some tips how we can more efficiently water the plants and use less water.

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Image from: textureplant.com
  1. Check the soil

 Adding the organic matter to the soil improves its structure, which helps it to retain moisture. If you start composting at home you will not only eliminate 50 -70% of your waste at home but you will also add a valuable water saving resource.  Also, mulching the flowerbeds and around the base of shrubs and trees in spring, prevents moisture from evaporating during dry spells.

 

  1. Water at the right time

 Research shows that the timing of “when you water the plants” has a significant effect on plant growth. The best time is early in the morning because watering gives a plant a good supply of water to beat the heat during the day. . To check if you need to water or not, look at the soil about a spade-deep down. If it’s damp, it’s fine; if it’s dry, it’s time to water. If you have clay soil, it might feel damp whether it’s irrigated or not and sandy soil can feel dry, even if it has water in it. If this is the case, watch your plants and when they start to show signs of water stress – when leaves change position or get darker – note how the soil looks and feels. This way you can get more of an idea of what your soil is like when it has too little water.

 

  1. Save and reuse water whenever you can
  • Save your cooking water – if you steam or boil vegetables save the water rather than tipping it down the sink! It is full of nutrients and when cooled, makes a free fertiliser for watering your plants.
  • Install the water thank to catch the rainwater, especially during the monsoon.

 

  1. Choose your plant container carefully

 Different materials heat up quickly or lose moisture due, so you have to think about your pot location before making a final decision. For example metal heats heat up quickly and are not good for a hot climate. Clay pots and glazed pots are probably better option to go with it.

  1. Mulch!!!

 On a hot day up to 70% of water can evaporate from the soil if you don’t have a protective layer on the top. Mulch is one of the best moisture holding strategies you can employ.

 

6.       Plant flowers that need less water

Some plants need less water than others to grow; lavender, palms, mimosa and verbena, to name a few.

7.        Use the best watering techniques for your plants

  • Sprinklers: best used to water the lawn and soak unplanted areas, sprinklers have great coverage but you can’t target specific sections of your garden with them.
    Hoses and watering cans: labour intensive but precise, use these to water around plant bases beneath the leaves, and leave the surrounding soil dry. This limits weed growth and means all the water goes where it is needed.
    • Seep hoses: these allow water to seep out of holes in the hose. They can be buried under soil or mulch, which avoids evaporation. They allow you to water established plants in rows, but are best used on heavy soil as water spreads further sideways, covering more than it would on lighter soils.

 

Katja Polc, member of Vatavaran team

Posted in May 2016, menstrual cup, Uncategorized

The word of mouth – Spread the word about menstrual cup!

I clearly remember the first time I used the menstrual cup. It was a year ago when I came to India and I was just simply unhappy with my trash bin. I have segregated recyclables, but there was always sanitary waste, for which I knew that it would end in the land field. On top of that, I just hated the feeling of sanitary pads during my sport activities. A friend told me few months ago about the menstrual cup and how it is the best thing for the women during the menstruation. Still, I needed some time to actually decide and buy it.

menstrual-cup-pinterest                                          Image from: http://empoweredsustenance.com/

So I was searching online and I didn’t know which one to buy in terms of brand as well the size. But I found very good instructions online and I finally decided that it cannot be so difficult and I should at least give it a try. I read some articles on experiences of users and watched some videos and I was ready to go. I order my first menstrual cup.

I was just looking at the cup and I was still a little uncertain. Initially, I had few questions in my mind like: How do you actually insert it? All right, there are instructions, but in practice, is it possible? I tried on my second day of my month cycle at home. First time I spent 10 minutes in the bathroom following the instruction and I made it! I laughed as well!  I was kind of proud and I felt the cup for 20 minutes, but after that I totally forgot that I am actually wearing it. Since it was my first time that made me scared. Oh, what if I will not be able to remove it? Sometimes fear scares us so much and we forget about anatomy of our bodies – of course it cannot get lost in the stomach. Women cervix is to short that we actually could lose the cup. Honestly, it was easier to remove the cup than inserting it. I remember how I was afraid to use it during the night but after two monthly periods everything became just a habit. Many people compare the use of this cup with using the contact lenses. For both we need a little bit of practice, but after that is just the most normal thing to do. And more importantly, it has so many benefits that it is really worth to try. There is no unpleasant smell; I can wear the cup up to 6-8 hours and do not feel anything and it is the best thing to use during my work time, sport activities as well during the night.

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Diferent ways to fold the cup before inserting. Image from: lenacup.com

As more months past, I became happier with the use of the cup and more I wanted to spread the word. We started with workshops in colleges and different women institutions in Delhi NCR. And it is not an easy work, because it is so personal that mostly people are not comfortable talking about it and of course we are sceptical. Menstrual cup is quite different compared to the usual sanitary napkins.

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Different cups in India. Image from: hygieneandyou.com

Definitely the word of mouth is the most important mechanism. We can organize as many workshops as we want, but without action there will be no change. It is on us, users of menstrual cups to spread the word, share our experiences and present the reasons why the switch to the reusable menstrual products is so important. Overtime I have seen that girls make this switch after hearing or seeing their friends/family use it. If you are one of the girls who are thinking about using the menstrual cup, you are probably don’t have a person to guide you through this process of change. Now days there are many different cups available in the market, with different designs, sizes, materials, qualities, prices and it makes our decision to choose complicated and confusing. However, it is  very simple – our bodies are so unique and different cups suit different women. The key is to know your body and to do some research. The brand is more of a personal choice, but it is definitely important to choose the right size. There are many comparisons out there, but I found this table the most efficient. It was made by Priyanka Jain, a happy user of menstrual cup for the last 10 year and a founder of online store Hygiene and you. Simply go through the chart, calculate your points and you will see which cups are the most suitable for you. . Here is the link to the table:

http://www.hygieneandyou.com/index.php?route=information/information&information_id=13

I would invite you to also join our  facebook group “Menstrual cups, cloth pads India” where  women are sharing their experiences as well as they are not afraid to ask and answer any questions.

Personally I believe menstrual cups are  the future of women menstrual hygiene. Sanitary napkins have become such a huge health and environmental problem that even government wants to eliminate it. It will be a long path and it will take time, but it starts with you.

I told you, you tell all your friends and relatives, they will tell theirs and slowly we can reach the goal. The word of mouth can have such a beautiful domino effect. Join us in women menstrual revolution!

 

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Do you want to host a workshop on sanitary waste and solutions for it? Do you want to know more about eco-friendly menstrual solutions for women?  Write to us: info@vatavaran.org

 

Katja Polc, member of Vatavaran team

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in May 2016, Uncategorized

Bad news about bottled water!

 

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Image from: Inhabitat.com

Recently I was travelling by train to Kolkata from Delhi. It was hot and of course, I needed a lot of drinking water. I had two glass bottles of water with me from home, but unfortunately it wasn’t enough for 24 hours long journey. I bought a plastic bottle of water and I didn’t feel good about it. But it just shocked me how many bottles of water were sold on the train and how many of them have been just simply thrown outside the train.

The hot summer is here and it seems it comes faster every year.  Water is the perfect and the only way to refresh.  In coming months the selling of bottled water will increase enormously and so will the waste of plastic bottles!

It is true that we cannot drink tap water in India and on top of that different brands market their water as the one which has all important minerals.  Many people actually consume the specific water brand for many years. Water is extremely important and on average we should drink around 2-3 litters of water every day. Our body is made up of 80 percent water and you can only live a few days without this precious, life-giving substance. Since it is so important, you will get bottled water in every small shop in every corner of the city.

Unfortunately, there are many bad news about bottled water.

It is not healthy to drink bottled water.

Can you imagine the effect of the bottle of water on us which is sitting on the shop’s shelf? When you choose water from plastic bottle you are exposed to BPA – Bisphenol A or BPA which is an estrogenic chemical and has been linked to serious health problems including: Learning and behavioural problems, altered immune system function, early puberty in girls and fertility problems, decreased sperm count, prostate and breast cancer, diabetes and obesity and more. Though drinking bottled water possess serious health risks, leaving this bottle water in the hot sun will cause even more serious chemical exposure. Ultraviolet rays from the sun or high temperatures will accelerate leaching of the plastic chemicals directly into water!  Adding to this health threat is a toxic substance called dioxin, which is also released into bottled water when it is left in the sun. Dioxin has been strongly linked to the development of breast cancer.

It is not environmentally friendly to drink bottled water.

There’s no sense in sugar-coating it. Bottled water is destructive to the environment. There is more water needed to make a plastic bottle that is actually in the bottle itself. Another problem with bottled water is the incredible amount of oil and fuel needed to make these plastic bottles as well to transport them to your local stores! And sadly, even if we think that they are all recyclable many of them finish in the landfills and in the oceans.

Basically we are disposing important natural resources, filling our lands with the trash and making a health threat to all of us.

For couple of years, I have been carrying my own water. I remember how we as students started to bring our own bottles to the colleges.  I am reusing some glass bottles which I had at home and I am taking one of them with me. Sometimes it’s smart to have in your mind how much water would you need during the day and if there is an option to refill the bottle. Many places offer that. Once I already bought the plastic bottle of water on the train to Kolkata, I figured out I could refill it in the next big station.For me was a mistake, which I don’t want to repeat next time. Imagine, how big impact we can all make if everyone brings their own bottle?

Not only bottled water, there are also soft drinks for which I have no good words. We hear a lot about soft drinks and its effects on our health, but it seems we are still consuming them. Sweet drinks, which makes us even thirstier are packed in even smaller plastic bottles and designed in a way to use it and dispose it. I don’t want to imagine the chemical reaction between the ingredients and plastic bottle. I said no to soft drinks and I rather drink homemade ice tea and lemonade, which just taste so much better.

When we are talking about environmental issues, it’s usually on us to change something in our everyday life and in that way decrease the impact. This is actually sustainable life style which can start with taking small steps every day. Saying no to bottled water is definitely one of them.

 

Katja Polc, Member of Vatavaran team