So I wanted to update all of you guys on how the green world snapchat is going by sharing a video of some of the adventures I’ve been on since the snapchat was initiated (although those of you who follow me will already have seen this). More than anything, this project has been a lot of fun. I get to go out and explore and learn so many things about the place that I live and the place that I go to school and I get to put all of the information into an engaging medium to show all of you. I had the wonderful opportunity to go to the Third North dining hall with Paula (my snapchat guest) to see how much food waste goes on at NYU dining halls and I feel like the collaboration really helped the momentum of both of projects! There is definitely a lot of fishy things going in the dining halls because the workers refused to tell us anything about how much food gets wasted per day or let us see the trash for that matter! What I loved about this particular outing was how interactive it was. We interviewed plenty of people for both snapchat and Paula’s Green Street youtube channel, which was a nice way to get people informed about our work and how to connect!
Momentum has definitely been a huge part of this project since snapchat is all about continually updating people, but in order to keep it going, I really need more people following! So please, if you haven’t done so already, add greenworldnyu on snapchat! I promise, you will be both entertained and informed.
Check out the video below of my most recent NYU Campus Adventure!
What can we live without? We can live without television, or the internet (both relatively new inventions). We can live without organic foods, our daily cup of coffee, we can even live without a permanent home. So, what do we need for survival? Food, clean water, and some form of shelter from the elements. Overpopulation complicates the distribution of these human necessities. Although the effects of overpopulation aren’t as apparent in North America, the lack of clean drinking water and food effects millions of people globally.
This National Geographic video concisely explains the exponential human population growth and the problems we may face because of it. Before watching this video, I imagined that overpopulation would mean there would be no more land to occupy. It may be because I’m from New York, but I already feel claustrophobic amongst the present population of 7.4 billion people. I learned in the video that every human on Earth could stand shoulder-to-shoulder within the confines of Los Angeles. Living space isn’t as much of a global issue as energy, food, and water are. The National Geographic video (released in 2010) said that 5% of humans consume 23% of the world’s energy. It’s actually not so hard to believe; I’m sitting in an air conditioned, well-lit room, charging my phone and laptop. It gets worse; the amount of energy consumed by the average American is going up. The US uses 100 quadrillion BTUs (105 exajoules) per year, 3x its consumption in 1950. If we are using more energy to light our buildings, cool and heat our air and water, and power our electronics, where is this energy coming from? 7.30% of the energy Americans use is renewable (solar/wind/geothermal). The other 92.7% of energy is nuclear, petroleum, coal, and gas. These energy sources are not renewable, so they will eventually run out. With a growing birth rate and a slower mortality rate, our population will continue to grow, as will the dependence on energy. What could happen when we have no more coal or gas energy? Will we depend solely on the more sustainable energy sources, like wind and solar?
Energy is a hard subject for me to think about. I’m privileged in the sense that I’ve never been without power for an extended period of time. Meanwhile, the total number of individuals without electric power is put at about 1.5 billion, or a quarter of the world’s population, concentrated mostly in Africa and southern Asia. This statistic creates a problem for me. I can’t figure out if supplying energy to every human being is even a good thing, because much of our energy is non-renewable and incredibly harmful to the Earth. The best solution may be for most developed countries to transition to 75%-100% renewable energy, while supplying underdeveloped parts of Africa and Southern Asia with solar panels, which costs less and could work well in these hot and sunny climates. Energy cannot be created or destroyed, but we can learn to share it better and increase the quality of life for our growing population.
I have been thinking about what to do for my final project since this course began back in January. Ever since I started learning about the horrible state of the environment, I have been paying much closer attention to the circumstances around me. That got me questioning…How green is NYU?
When researching the greenest college campus in the United States, I found that NYU was not any of the lists compiled by The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). I then started thinking about all the different aspects of college life that I witness on a day to day basis that could be improved and made greener. There’s a lot of stigma around the phrase “going green” as it implies some sort of lesser standard of living where a huge sacrifice has to be made. But that is not at all the case. People are simply afraid of change, especially in college, where students sometimes forget to feed themselves let alone find time to worry about how “green” their habits are.
I took on a different form of research: field research, which involved going around and observing. A simple walk around my dorm building made me realize several issues that could be easily fixed to make our campus greener and more sustainable. If I begin with my room, I can already point out two problems: The heater is always on in every room that I go into, and the lights are always on, even when people aren’t home. If we go to the bathroom, my roommate, for example, leaves the shower on for thirty minutes before he goes into the shower. The hallway? Lights are on 24 hours a day. The trash room? Recycling and compost are always mixed. The dining hall? Palladium salad bowls are non-recyclable and all take-out boxes are non-reusable. Transport? NYU buses leaving every ten minutes leaves a huge carbon print on the city. NYU does indeed go a long way to try and stay green in a metropolitan city like New York, but there’s a long way to go .
So this a problem to say the least. The question becomes, how are we going to call people’s attention to it. I think the most effective way to get messages across in modern day is through social media. So I thought it would really fun and engaging if I began a Green World snapchat, where I take followers on day to day adventures of living on a college campus. The aim is to point out simple errors that we collectively make and furthermore simple solutions to make our school a greener one. The tone will be humorous and light to keep people my age interested.
The goal would be to get NYU on the list of greenest universities, and while that might take some time, there is no reason we can’t start future green world students on the right track now.
Another really great perk to the Green World snapchat is it is a great way to showcase other classmates’ projects as well. Not only would it help them get their idea across to more people, but also would provide my project with more areas to look into.
So, here is the snapchat. This might sound like shameless advertising, but add me!
Trader Joe’s is my grocery store of choice. I am able to discover food from many cultures that I love and new items that inspire me to travel more. I find that with each item I buy, I am searching the ingredients and Nutritional Fact sheet for different bold words. Some items, I am searching for the amount of sugar, while with other food I am more concerned with protein or fiber. I try to find a balance in all items that I purchase, but I try not to over analyze every percentage. After walking the aisles of the store and gathering some photos, I realized I could not do the same for all of my fruits and vegetables. Some prepackaged fruit and vegetable items do have a Nutritional Fact sheet. I personally would like to know what each of my bananas and cucumbers contained. I cannot assume that the items are fully organic or healthy.
Below are some of the items I gathered, some of the words that stuck out to me, and some of the things that surprised me along the way. This investigation has made me take a second glance at some food that I have always considered good for me and never questioned.
This popcorn has very little fat and some fiber and protein. I was pleasantly surprised that it is made of just three ingredients. I am curious about the “sea salt” though. The other two items say organic, yet the “sea salt” does not. I am wondering if it is automatically organic.
I am concerned about the amount of sodium that is in one slice of bread. It is almost as much as two cups of popcorn. Some words and phrases that stuck out to me were “natural”, “no high-fructose corn syrup”, and “no artificial ingredients or preservatives”. I am curious if these words were necessary 15 years ago.
My roommate purchased this juice and I find it containing all of the scary words we find on the don’t eat or drink list. The front is inviting with bright colors and lemons in clear water with the words “100% Natural Flavors” below. The “Flavors” words is made very small and could be looked over if the buyer is in a hurry. The Nutrition Facts display an extremely high amount of sugars, while the ingredients shows the “high fructose corn syrup”. Another labeling they added was “13% Fruit Juice Pasteurized” and I am wondering if this is a good thing, something they had to put on their by law, or a marketing tactic.
My carrots do have a Nutritional Fact sheet while my tomatoes do not. I am not sure why a plastic package wouldn’t have that information for the buyer. If I were at a farmers market, then I would understand the lack of nutritional information. Are there regulations for when and how much health information is given to the buyer?
Growing up my sister ate her share of microwaveable Mac n’ Cheese, while my brother ate many servings of Top Ramen. I found myself between the two with a Cup of Noodles. From this comparison, we can see that the Mac n’ Cheese has far few ingredients and the ones they have are easily understood.
Oatmeal is one food that I appreciate and find accessible in most places I have lived. While I was an undergraduate, the instant oatmeal was what I ate most often. The ingredients list for this item is never ending and filled with scientific words I cannot understand. I am lost in words such as “guar gum”, “niacinamide”, and “pyridoxine hydrochloride”. One Green Planet states, “With instant oatmeal, the packages often have loads of added sugar and salt and artificial coloring.”
There is one ingredient in my cereal, five grams of fiber, and zero sugars. I find the difference between the Instant Oatmeal and these grains to be shocking. I started buying the whole oats a few years ago as I enjoyed adding my own fruits and spices to the mix. Now, I buy them because of the difference in nutrition.
In Medical Daily, I found the following information, “In a Swiss clinical study, researchers found that blood changes in individuals who consumed microwaved milk and vegetables…The results of the study showed red blood cells decreased while white cell levels increased, along with cholesterol levels. The non-ionizing radiation of the microwave can affect changes in your blood and your heart rate…If you experience irregular heart beat or any chest pain and regularly eat microwaved food, it might be best to discontinue use.”
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) claims the following, “The microwave energy is changed to heat as it is absorbed by food, and does not make food “radioactive” or “contaminated.”…Microwave cooking does not reduce the nutritional value of foods any more than conventional cooking. In fact, foods cooked in a microwave oven may keep more of their vitamins and minerals, because microwave ovens can cook more quickly and without adding water.”
The Global Healing Center published “Why You Should Never Microwave Your Food” this past February. “One study by Dr. Hans Hertel explored how microwaves change the molecular structure of food and the effects of that food on the human body. In his study, he found that individuals who consumed the microwaved foods experienced a decrease in HDL cholesterol, a reduced red blood cell count, and fewer white blood cells….Microwaving cooks the food at very high temperatures in a very short amount of time. This results in a great deal of nutrient loss for most foods, especially vegetables.”
Food is sustenance. Without it we cannot live, we cannot grow, we cannot exist. But in our world today, food is often harmful. It is toxic, full of pesticides and preservatives, genetically engineered. We are misled to believe often that certain foods are healthier for us. This breakfast bar has less sugar, this can of Pepsi has less calories, and that bag of kettle-cooked potato chips has less sodium. Our perception is controlled by propaganda and marketing.
And, unfortunately, like many others, I often fall prey to these ploys. Like many others, I often succumb to the temptations of the bag of marshmallows and the bowl of Cheetos sitting in front of me.
In today’s world, while theoretically I want to be healthy and eat all-natural, not only is it difficult to resist unhealthy food, but it is increasingly difficult to figure out which foods are genuinely good for me. Though some are quite obviously better than others, I have a difficult time figuring out what is particularly good and will benefit me.
I would love to say that I do the research, and that I eat organic, fair-trade, preservative-free, actually healthy food. When I think about it, I know that I should know where my food is coming from (the country or origin, what the process of making or cultivating the food is, etc.). It’s much easier to say all of this theoretically than to actually implement it into my daily life. It would require tremendous amounts of time and discipline. I know it’s possible, but it’s also difficult.
Every few months, I do go through a phase where I decide I’m going to be healthy. I say that I won’t drink any soda or eat any junk food. I have generally followed through with the soda, but not so much with the junk food. Sometimes I track my calories and dietary intake, sometimes I do have the self-control to substitute fruits for snacks and eat more vegetable-based meals. I read the labels and I see what ingredients foods contain to decide which option is healthier for me.
But that’s not most of the time. Most of the time, I’m one of the ignorant many. The more I think about it, the more I realize how little I know. But I do know that if the food industry was more straightforward about their process and contents, many people would eat more healthily. And if not, it would be their explicit, understood choice.
What surprises me more is that while snacks and foods that come in a package are at least labeled at all, my fruits and vegetables are often left open. I sort through the options and pick which apple looks the ripest and which avocado looks the biggest. But none of these are labeled. How am I supposed to know if my fruit or vegetable was contaminated with pesticides? How am I supposed to figure out if it was genetically engineered to grow larger or faster? It seems unfair and unjust to mislead people to believe that this orange is as healthy as oranges can get.
I recently learned that the term “natural” holds little to no meaning in the United States. All it means is that there is no food coloring, hormones, and additives that were not originally in the food. The food can be “minimally” processed though, and the terms are so ambiguous that often the label “natural” indicates a food that isn’t natural at all.
I previously was under the impression that organic food was considered better than all-natural food. I learned, however, that organic food only focuses on the farming of food production. This website distinguishes organic food from all-natural food and describes that organic food implies that the crops and livestock cannot be raised or cultivated with any pesticides, antibiotics, hormones, or synthetic fertilizer, pest management, etc.
The process stops after farming though, and the all-natural responsibility lies in the hands of those who are processing the food. All-natural food crops must generally follow the same guidelines for crops as organic foods, but while organic foods cover a 5-7 year growth cycle, all-natural foods are only concerned with the present moment. As the above article indicates, this means that the soil can have trace amounts of synthetic fertilizer in it, but it is often miniscule and insignificant.
All-natural food focuses primarily on the processing and packaging of food. The equipment and standard set by the USDA are stricter than for other labeling, especially in terms of freezing the food, what materials are used to package the food, and what cleaning products are used the machines that the food is put through.
Unfortunately, many foods that are labeled “all-natural” still are not, as the USDA does not account for the fact that many people will put “natural” additives in the food, such as salt and water.
Similarly, GMOs, or genetically manufactured organisms, in the United States have no regulation or labeling. The controversy with GMOs is that they are vaguely defined and can sometimes be used productively. They are not always harmful as some people say, but they may also have unintended consequences, such as not being suited to humans, animals, or plants, depending on what purpose they are being used for. There is always the possibility that they can cause immune system problems, heart, liver, or kidney problems, among others.
Primarily for the possible side effects, the United States, like Europe and much of South America, should have regulations to mandate the labeling of GMOs. At the very least, people will be able to make an informed decision about the products they are purchasing.
Similarly, mutagens also are often harmful, containing carcinogens and even being cancerous. Though some mutagens are naturally occurring, other modify the DNA (or other biological elements). Fortunately, the effects of mutagens and the creation of mutagenic compounds can be significantly reduced by antioxidants and a change in diet. Fruits and vegetables especially, which are rich in antioxidants and lower in mutagens than certain foods such as meat which has been cooked at high temperatures.
Unfortunately, however, in this consumer society, there are so many different ways we are led to believe that a particular food or product in general is of high quality. Even things so “healthy” as tofu and soy milk can contain endocrine disruptors, which could potentially be associated with hindering cognitive and brain development, leading to problems like attention deficit disorder.
Endocrine disruptors exist in so many household objects, and yet we don’t even hear about them or the possible effects they can have on our health. Like GMOs and processed food, they are not usually labeled to indicate the negative health effects.
This problem of a lack of labeling on food products especially is prevalent in our society, particularly in the United States. The USDA’s guidelines are virtually non-existent and way too lax to be reliable. Not only this, but proposals like the DARK Act (“Denying Americans the Right-to-Know Act,” technically the “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2014”), which fortunately was not approved, would have allowed manufacturers to exercise even more freedom than they already have in labeling GMOs and natural foods.
All I can say is that this problem will persist until the mass public, the FDA, and Congress come together to create stricter regulations. It will persist until the United States, and the rest of the world, stop allowing consumerism and corporations to control them. We are in a profit-driven market, but it is ruining us slowly. As a public, it is our responsibility to become informed and demand change. Hopefully, that day will come, and hopefully it will be soon. Our health and livelihoods depend on it.
Refer to links in the article for more information on each topic.