Earth to table: Is biodynamic the upcoming food movement?

Dig garden

Written by: Megan Tyminski

Local. Organic. Fair trade. Humane. Non-GMO. More and more, people are equating food quality with its growing process. Ethical concerns related to social issues and the environment have materialized into consumer trends, and farming philosophy has made its way to the dinner table. So what’s the next philosophy that could start showing up on plates? Biodynamic farming.

In Columbia, Missouri, Sarah Cyr, restaurant co-owner of Wine Cellar & Bistro has been using biodynamic practices that steward the earth and its people.

The Cyr biodynamic farm grows a variety of vegetables that Craig Cyr “enjoys cooking with later” at the restaurant. Sarah also sources biodynamic wines for the menu, including a lengthy list of biodynamic and organic wines featured prominently on the first page.

As a sommelier, Sarah Cyr can taste the “cleaner, brighter, tastier” flavor profiles in biodynamic wines. It also helps that she feels healthier knowing what is going into the production, and the philosophy.

So what is biodynamic? Essentially, the practice looks at farming as an ecosystem, and integrates organic approaches that are taken “even further to the whole health of the land and the moon cycles,” said Cyr.

Biodynamic farming uses scientific reasoning, and manages soil health as the most important practice. Cyr uses compost preparations from cow horns, fish from their pond and oak bark to provide nutrients and prevent disease.

Tim Reinbott, a researcher at MU Bradford Farm concerned with soil science, said that there is definitely some truth in these principles.

“Soil health in general is a change in philosophy,” he said. “Soil is not just a growing medium. It’s alive.”

According to Cyr, biodynamic farming can be “hard for people to wrap their brains around,” and may seem a little hokey, but in reality, it’s “egotistical of us to think that nature can’t do it better.”

If this philosophy grows, that taste of nature may be in your next meal.

Advertisements

Citizen Science: How YOU can help the environment

17079728492_d1e2b90b3b_z.jpgWritten by: Vidya Balasubramanyam

Did you know that you too can be a scientist? It doesn’t matter if you are a business student, art major, or interested citizen; there is a lot that you can do for science. In fact, scientists are actively seeking your unique skills to help them answer complex questions about the amazing planet that we live in.

Earth Day is coming up on April 22, 2017. With proposed federal budget cuts threatening environmental and climate science, your involvement is needed more than ever for a brighter future. Here are some simple, fun ways you can contribute and advocate for science and the environment:

Did you see change?

climate-change-2063240_640.jpgHave you noticed that the winters are getting warmer, or that a tree in your backyard bloomed earlier than usual? Your simple observations are valuable to scientists! Head over to iSeeChange to document your observations. You can choose from several investigation themes—from birds to extreme weather events to your everyday life. The changes that you see around you are important to the narrative of planet Earth. Each post you make will be accompanied by a bigger picture visualization using satellites or other data.

Cloudy with a chance of… science?

man-person-clouds-apple.jpgEver been accused of always having your head in the clouds? NASA wants YOU! The Globe Observer is an interactive project meant to help scientists record sky observations through cloud photographs that you take. This information will be used to enhance their understanding of global climate change. All you have to do is download the app (available on the iOS App Store and Google Play), look through some training resources, and lose yourself in the clouds!

It’s time to get dirty!

soil-1795902_640We have food to eat because of soil. To maintain and improve soil quality, scientists need to have a better understanding of soil health. This is where you come in. The MO Dirt project is looking for volunteers (working as individuals or teams) to conduct soil health surveys in a study site of your choice. Several resources are available to get you started; the first step would be to create an account on their website.

A similar project is seeking to develop new life-saving drugs by learning about diverse genetic information in soil bacteria. They’re interested in samples from the Midwest, and you can even earn an Amazon gift card in return for your help! Fill out this form to request a soil sampling kit, and head over here to read more.

Take a selfie!

SaracaStreamThis one is really easy. Next time you’re out hiking, or you come across a stream during a scenic drive, stop and take a selfie with it! It’s that simple. Your selfie will help in creating a national map of streams that need to be monitored because there is currently a lack of information about water quality. This is especially important because the Clean Water Act is currently being reconsidered through an executive order, which could eliminate protection for our water bodies. This handy infographic should help you take and upload your selfie in support of clean water.

Are you ready for an renewable future?

Renewable_energyWhy not spend some time working in an energy lab? Our fossil fuel resources are dwindling out, and scientists need your help in designing a renewable future. Head over to NOVA Labs, and take the challenge. You’ll be given all the data you need to perform a cost-benefit analysis of energy sources, and you’ll eventually end up designing a renewable energy system for an entire city!

None of the above?

If none of these appeal to you, worry not! There is a vast repository of citizen science projects on SciStarter. You can use their customized filters to find the one that is perfect for you. They have more than 1600 formal and informal projects so you can easily find one tailored to your interests.

Want to do more? How about marching for science?

On Earth Day (April 22, 2017), scientists and science enthusiasts are coming together to March for Science. The goal of the march is to affirm science as a democratic value, support scientists, and advocate for open, inclusive, and accessible science. The march takes place in Washington, D.C. but if you can’t make it all the way to D.C., no worries, we’ve got one right here in Missouri! The rally starts at 2 p.m. at the Boone County Courthouse Amphitheater and goes down 8th street to the columns, ending with a science festival at Peace Park. So invite your friends, confirm your attendance on their Facebook page, and last but not least #StandUpForScience in any way you can!

Sustainable Threads: Innovations in the Industry

solutions_industries_textilesandfibres_1160x451_banner

The textile industry is–let’s face it–not the most sustainable. However, there are lots of companies out there trying to figure out ways to fix that problem. In this article, we’ll look at how the textile industry is making ecological innovations. First, let’s learn a little bit about textiles.

“Textiles” and “fabrics” are pretty much used interchangeably. They can be made from both natural and synthetic materials (called fibers). Most synthetic fibers are petroleum-based, meaning they’re made from non-renewable sources and require a lot of energy to make.

However, a fabric made from natural fibers is not necessarily a sustainable choice either. For example, cotton is a widely known and used natural fiber, but because the production process normally uses pesticides and extensive amounts of water, it is a much less sustainable choice.

So, when is a textile considered sustainable? It might help to think of the three Rs of environmental friendliness:

  • Reduce: Does the manufacturing company attempt to reduce the water, chemical, and air pollution that normally occurs during the manufacturing process?
  • Reuse: Is the textile in good enough condition to be used several times or even be made into something else during its use?
  • Recycle: Has it been made with recycled materials, or can it be recycled/biodegraded?

With these factors in mind, let’s delve into innovative ways the textile industry has developed to try and help solve its sustainability problem.

The company WeAreSpinDye is hoping to revolutionize the way synthetic fibers are produced by dyeing them early in the process (before they become yarns or fabric). This will reduce the negative environmental effects of the chemical dyes used for textiles.

A brand of hemp called Hardy Organic Hemp has innovated the production process by creating a fiber that is produced using zero pesticides, water, or chemicals, and is organically dyed.

Though we don’t usually think of carpet backing when we think of textiles, a company called Milliken revolutionized the backing on carpet tiles by finding a way to make them stick to your floor without the need for harmful glues and adhesives.

Climatex, an ecologically responsible German textile company, created the first 100% biodegradable fabric made of synthetic materials, all while maintaining extraordinary energy, water, and dye standards.

Another fabric called Sensuede is the first high-end microfiber suede fabric that is made completely from recycled polyester and is not produced using harmful solvents like many other synthetic suede fabrics.

One of the most interesting innovations being made in the textile industry is Crabyon fibers. These are made from “chitosan” (or “chitin”), a material actually derived from crab shells. These fibers produce textiles that are completely biodegradable, while also recycling waste from crab processing factories.

Did you know that when you clean an item made from a synthetic fiber (especially fleece) in a washing machine, it sheds a small amount of microfibers that end up in the water and pollute it? G-Star, a denim brand, recognized this issue and took action with their RAW for the Oceans denim line, the first to be made from recycled plastic found in the ocean.

Patagonia, a leader in producing apparel with recycled materials, is the first brand in the US to incorporate into their products an innovative TENCEL (lyocell) fiber that is made of waste from cotton fabrics.

Though there is still lots of work left to do in the industry, you can see that the work of these textile and apparel companies creates new, sustainable ways to make fibers which not only reduce negative environmental effects, but cause positive ones. Check out the links and learn more; get involved with sustainable clothing! When consumers are excited to have eco-friendly clothes, apparel companies will pay attention, and this could be the start of some big changes in this field. The textile industry is always learning how to become a more eco-friendly industry, one that is fit for our changing world.