Month March 2013

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As Fresh as They Come: Getting the most out of your produce

Today, Americans and the U.S. government are realizing the importance of fruits and vegetables being the center of a nutritious diet. It is now more apparent that a colorful diet, rich in fruits and vegetables supports many of the needed vitamins and minerals for a healthy body.

Dr. William H. Dietz, director of CDC′s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity, said “a diet high in fruits and vegetables is important for optimal child growth, maintaining a healthy weight, and prevention of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and some cancers…”

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Fresh fruit contains nutrients that the body needs. Photo Credit: Lawren Chandler

In 2011, the USDA launched the ChooseMyPlate.gov project, showing fruits and vegetables taking up half of the plate, grains taking up a quarter of the plate and meat taking an even smaller quarter than that.

According to a report by MarketLine, the consumption of produce is going to do nothing but increase over the next few years. The global fruit and vegetable market expanded significantly in 2011, to meet a value of $1,517.3 billion, an 11.7 percent increase. A whopping 79.2 percent increase in value, $2,719 billion, is predicted to manifest in the global fruit and vegetable market by 2016.

Realistically, everyone wants to be able to purchase the most crisp fruits and vegetables possible. However, this is not the case for many Americans, including Brielle Logan, an alumni of Rollins College.

“I bought a bag of peaches last Thursday and by Monday they were all brown on the inside. I didn’t even know. I bit into one and spit it right back out.”

Logan was able to take the spoiled fruit back to the store for a store credit. For many, the peaches would have found their way into a plastic bag being heaved into the dumpster.

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Vegetables are essential to proper nutrition. Photo Credit: Lawren Chandler

A 2012 report by the NRDC, a nonprofit environmental organization, showed that Americans throw away nearly half of the food they have. This adds up to almost $165 billion every year. The report said that annually, 40 percent of the food supply is discarded, an equivalent to $2,275 in food each year.

Additionally, the report approximates that the average food store throws out about $2,300 worth of food each day because the products are too close to the expiration date.

In an interview with John Hyde, a store director for a major supermarket chain, he said on average he gets about “1 to 2 complaints a month,” either about freshness of the produce or availability.  Hyde also said that his store is ranked at 65 percent, which is three percent above the national average.

When asked, Target and Walmart declined to interview or comment on their produce section.

So what can be done to ensure freshness?

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How long does the food stay fresh in your fridge? Photo Credit: Lawren Chandler

1. Try Organic Food

Readily available, organic foods are available at many stores including Whole Foods and Trader Joes.

In a study conducted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), they tested 1398 domestic food samples for pesticides. The FDA found that 64.2 percent of samples had no pesticides residue, 34.9 percent of samples contained pesticide residue, and 0.9 percent of samples that were tested contained “violative” materials.

2. Check Inspection Records

There are many public records available on the Internet. Checking to see what your local grocery store was rated on a recent inspection may save time and money. For Orange County, Florida’s inspection records, only one grocery store on the list had a poor rating.

Also, check your local restaurant’s inspection ratings to ensure the freshness of food when dining out. Here are the inspection records for restaurants in Central Florida.

3. Buy Produce In-Season

To ensure maximum freshness, purchase your fruits and vegetables in-season, month-to-month.  For April, in-season produce includes zucchini, rhubarb, artichokes, asparagus, spring peas, broccoli, lettuce, pineapples and mangoes.

Here are some more links for in-season fruits and vegetables:

http://www.wisebread.com/fresh-fruits-and-vegetables-by-the-month

http://frugalliving.about.com/od/foodsavings/tp/Cheapest_Produce.htm

http://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/shopping-storing/seasonal-fruit-vegetable-tool-00000000008233/index.html

 

 

Wind turbines capture the natural force of wind, converting it into energy. Photo Credit: DailyTech.com

Alternative Energy Sources in America: Will they Help or Hurt us?

Long ago the fiery debate has stirred up many questions, concerns and views on one of the biggest topic at hand: sources of alternative energy.

Will alternative energy be a beneficial asset in reducing greenhouse gases and CO2? Or will alternative energy spend too much money and time in investments? There are an unlimited number of sides to this story, as the country’s stance on this argument may never seem to come to a conclusion.

ProCon.org’s Top 10 Pros and Cons of Alternative Energy article poses various perspectives on the many different sides of this controversial issue. The full article of the Top 10 Pros and Cons of Alternative Energy can be found on their website. While there is a vast list of alternative energy sources, this article will discuss three interesting points: biofuels, solar, wind power.

The most common method of biofuel is converting corn into ethanol. Photo Credit: Danish Center for Biofuels.

The most common method of biofuel is converting corn into ethanol. Photo Credit: Danish Center for Biofuels.

1. Biofuels

This method of alternative energy is the process taking biomass, or plants, and converting it into fuel. “Simply put, biofuels are fuels made from plant materials. Right now, the main biofuel on the market is ethanol, made from corn kernels,” according to The Natural Resources Defense Council.

Pros:

The US Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy made this statement:

“On a full fuel-cycle basis, corn ethanol has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 52% over petroleum-based fuels. Even better, ethanol made from cellulosic feedstocks, such as switchgrass, or agricultural residues such as corn stover, has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 86%, compared to gasoline. Biofuels have the added benefit of providing a ‘carbon sink.’ As crops grow to produce the feedstocks for making the biofuel, they absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.”

Cons:

David Pimentel, PhD, professor of Emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Cornell University said:

“The use of corn for ethanol has led to major increases in the price of U.S. beef, chicken, pork, eggs, breads, cereals, and milk — a boon to agribusiness and bane to consumers…

As global population soars to 8 or 9 billion toward mid-century, and as we burn more grain as fuel, shortages and production costs could cause grain prices to skyrocket, taking food from the mouths of the world’s poorest people.”

2. Solar Power

Capturing solar power is most commonly accomplished with photovoltaic solar panel systems, converting sunlight into energy. The National Resources Defense Council explains the different ways of producing solar energy:

Solar power captures sunlight, transforming it directly into energy.  Photo Credit: langalex

Solar power captures sunlight, transforming it directly into energy. Photo Credit: langalex.

“The sun’s energy can be actively captured to generate electricity or passively harnessed to heat water or buildings.

  • Solar, or photovoltaic cells, convert sunlight directly into electricity. They’re usually made primarily of silicon, the same material used in computer semiconductor chips.
  • Concentration systems use mirrors to focus the sun’s energy. The concentrated sunlight heats water or a heat-transferring fluid to generate steam.
  • Collectors use heat-absorbing material to harness sunlight for heating water or buildings.
  • Windows, sunrooms and skylights allow the sun to heat and light buildings.”

Pros:

Greenpeace International and the European Photovoltaic Industry Association supports solar energy by saying:

“The cost of manufacturing both solar cells and modules and other components has been falling steadily. As a result, the price of PV [photo-voltaic] systems has fallen by an average of 5% per annum over the last 20 years. It is expected that this rate of price decrease can be maintained in the future…”

 Cons:

Jay Leher, PhD, Science Director for the Heartland Institute, said this:

“The sun’s energy is too widely dispersed and the land area required to collect it too vast for solar to become a large-scale power source….

In reality, solar and wind power remain on today’s radar screen only as a result of wasteful tax breaks to appease the green community…

The solar problem is that no matter how you design the system it will always be inefficient and capture only a small, uneconomical amount of solar energy…”

 3. Wind Power

Giant windmill turbines moving by the force of natural wind, is the process of generating wind energy. The National Resources Defense Council explaining the process of wind power stated the “wind’s kinetic energy can be harnessed by a wind turbine, a device that looks like an extremely tall, skinny fan. When wind moves the blades of the fan, they spin a central hub. The spinning hub moves a series of gears connected to a generator, which converts the mechanical energy into electrical energy for distribution.”

 

Wind turbines capture the natural force of wind, converting it into energy. Photo Credit: DailyTech.com

Wind turbines capture the natural force of wind, converting it into energy.
Photo Credit: DailyTech.com

Pros:

The National Audubon Society said this:

“Every megawatt-hour produced by wind energy avoids an average of 1,220 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions. If the United States obtains 20 percent of its electricity from wind power by 2020, it will reduce global warming emissions equivalent to taking 71 million cars off the road or planting 104 million acres of trees. Expanding wind power instead of fossil fuels also avoids the wildlife and human health impacts of oil and gas drilling, coal mining and fossil fuel burning.”

Cons: 

Robert L. Bradley Jr., PhD, chairman and CEO of the Institute for Energy Research, gave his position on wind energy:

“Wind power is certainly a candidate for the perfect imperfect energy. It is uneconomic to produce and more uneconomic to transmit. It is unreliable moment-to-moment (the intermittency problem). It is at its worst when it needs to be at its best (those hot summer days). Its aesthetics are bad. It attracts the worst political capitalists (the late Ken Lay, the current T. Boone Pickens). W. S. Jevons was right in 1865 when he concluded that wind power was unsuitable for the industrial age.”

 

With so much information to process, remember these are just three of the many options of renewable energy sources. Please visit ProCon.org’s Top 10 Pros and Cons of Alternative Energy article for more information about renewable energy.

Here are two supplemental videos on different views of alternative energy. Each video poses different perspectives: fossil fuels vs. alternative energy:

 

 “U.S. town focuses on alternative energy” – In Eastport Maine, a startup company discusses and demonstrates the last test phase of North America’s first commercial tidal energy project.

 

“Romney outlines plan for U.S. energy independence” – Former presidential republican candidate Mitt Romney unveiled his energy plan to have U.S. energy independence by 2020, by way of inland and offshore drilling. Romney said that he did not support alternative energy sources because they were “unfair to drilling companies,” according to MSNBC’s The Ed Show.

 

What is your view on alternative energy?

Mobile Apps Targeted for Copyright Infringement

Hollywood corporations are growing more aware of the rising issue of mobile applications using their licensed content without permission in the mobile app stores.Executive corporations such as, Sony, Warner Bros., NBC Universal, Marvel Comics, Paramount, and Twentieth Century Fox have all made complaints against various mobile applications on the market. According to an article by Reuters, all of these companies have filed requests for Google to take certain apps down from the Google Play Store that may use infringing material.

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From TV to cell phone, mobile apps are using copyrighted content without permission.
Photo Credit: Lawren Chandler

Marvel Comics, Paramount, and Twentieth Century Fox are some companies going after mobile apps for copyright infringement.
Photo Credit: Lawren Chandler

According to Tech Hive, “apps targeted by the content owners allegedly contain unauthorized images from such properties as “Clash of the Titans,” “Glee,” “Gossip Girl,” “Green Lantern,” “Spider-Man,” and “The Hobbit.””

 

Through a study directed by using IP Lasso’s AppGuard, software created to detect foundations of infringing content, IP Lasso determined that 90% of mobile applications stating the Oscars or the Academy Awards were questionable and were “infringing on copyrights or flagrantly violating consumer privacy, or in most cases, both.”

On their website, IP Lasso also stated, “These rouge apps are becoming a growing concern as many of them are deceiving consumers with unauthorized copyrighted material while damaging the credibility of branded entertainment, and ultimately violating consumers’ private data by requesting unnecessary access to contacts, camera, and even exact GPS coordinates stored on smartphones and tablets.”

Google has been sending requests to takedown infringing apps from the Google Play store to Chilling Effects, where they posted these requests for the public to view. Photo Credit: Lawren Chandler

Google has been diligently attempting to take down apps that allegedly contain copyright infringing content. They have also been sending out copies of takedown requests on the Chilling Effects website.

Lester McDowd, a student at the University of Central Florida, shared how he felt about the growing mobile app issue. “The problem that I see in this situation is that technology will constantly evolve. It is just that Hollywood movie and television corporations are just now beginning to catch on.”

McDowd continued, “In the mobile app world they thought they were safe by just using copyright protected material without permission. Now that many of these apps have been discovered for their wrong-doings, they will surely have time to think about taking their feet out of their mouths while their business gets shut down.”