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Swedish Solve Clutter with ‘Death cleaning.’ 

If your family doesn’t want your stuff when you’re alive, they sure won’t want it when you’re dead. 

That’s the blunt assessment of yet another self-help author from abroad who is trying to get Americans, who have an addiction to collecting and storage units, to clean up their acts. 

The latest volley in the decluttering business comes from Stockholm, where 80-ish artist Margareta Magnusson has just published a slim yet sage volume, “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning.” The book will be published in the United States in January. 

While Japanese item-control diva Marie Kondo gave us strict instructions to keep only things that spark joy, Magnusson’s book is straightforward and unsentimental (with a bit of humor). The main message from this mother of five is: Take responsibility for your items and don’t leave them as a burden for family and friends. It’s not fair. Magnusson says you can keep things that evoke good memories; there are no hard-and-fast rules such as folding your remaining T-shirts to stand upright in your drawers, as dictated by the KonMari method. 

The concept of decluttering before you die, a process called “dostadning,” is part of Swedish culture. (It comes from the Swedish words for death and cleaning.) Karin Olofsdotter, 51, the Swedish ambassador to the United States, says her mother and father, who are in their 80s, are in the midst of it back home. 

“My parents and their friends are death cleaning, and we all kind of joke about it,” Olofsdotter says. “It’s almost like a biological thing to do.” Olofsdotter says part of Swedish culture is living independently and never being a burden to anyone. How you keep your home is a statement of that. 

Magnusson, who has moved 17 times, says women often end up doing the death cleaning. After her husband died, she had to declutter their house; it took her almost a year before she could downsize to a two-room apartment. She says that although it felt overwhelming, she is glad she did it herself, as her husband would have wanted to keep everything and her kids would have disagreed about what to keep and what to toss. This way, she made her own decisions. Now she continues to do it on a regular basis. 

Magnusson suggests that age 65 is a good time to start death cleaning, but the process is freeing at any age. 

A few of her tips: Don’t start with your photos, as you’ll get bogged down in your memories and never accomplish anything. Make sure you keep a book of passwords for your heirs. Give away nice things you don’t want as gifts, such as china or table linens or books, as opposed to buying new items. Keep a separate box of things that matter only to you, and label it to be tossed upon your death. It’s okay to keep a beloved stuffed animal or two. 

Magnusson and one of her daughters filmed a video in which she talks about why she decluttered and how it’s not a sad process, but more of a relief. Her daughter asks whether her mom would help her begin death cleaning. They go to a storage locker overflowing with luggage and clothes and blankets topped by a garden gnome. 

“Oh, my God. What are you going to do with all this crap?” her mother says in perfect English, taking a look around. They discuss how long it’s going to take. 

Author Margareta Magnusson. Photographer: Alexander Mahmoud (Alexander Mahmoud) 

“You are never ready with your death cleaning because you don’t know when you are going to die,” Magnusson says. “So it goes on and on.” 

When you are dead, then it stops, they agree. 

“Finally,” Magnusson says.

All You Need to Know about Tesla's New Solar Roof 

Ahead of the curve as usual, Tesla announced some very exciting news in the arena of solar energy. In its fourth-quarter investor letter, Tesla announced that it will begin selling and installing its solar roof later this year. 

In October 2016, Tesla unveiled its solar roof product, which was about a month before the company acquired SolarCity in a deal worth $2.1 billion. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said it looks "quite promising" that the solar roof could be cheaper than a normal roof, factoring in the price of labor. 

Here's everything we know about the new solar roof product: 

Tesla will offer four types of shingles to match different housing aesthetics in an effort to get homeowners to ditch clunky solar panel add-ons in favor of a beautiful roof.

"First of all, I’ve never seen a solar roof that I would actually want… they're weird," Musk said on a conference call Nov. 1. "Every one of them that I’ve seen is worse than a normal roof, without exception. So unless you’re going to beat a roof on aesthetics, why bother?"

Here you see Tesla's textured glass option.

Tesla tucked the solar cells behind the glass...

... And in doing so, you can't really tell the roof has solar cells. That's the crux of Tesla's solar roof vision: to create something that's both aesthetically appealing and efficient. 

Musk has been emphasizing the importance of competing on an aesthetic level when it comes to the new solar product offering.

Musk seemed most excited about Tesla's French slate tile offering, saying the style is "one of the hardest things to do." This photo gives you a nice look at the solar cell hidden in the tile.

"My roof is a French slate roof, that’s one of the tile styles I wanted to do," Musk said on the conference call. "And we were able to get that. Super hard.”

Musk said at the event that each French slate tile was made using a process known as hydrographic coloring, a process that uses water to apply printed designs.

"The production process itself makes each tile specially unique, it’s sort of a special snowflake tile," Musk said at the solar roof unveiling.


Tesla's hydrographic process is being overseen by a brand new Tesla glass tech division, Musk said on the Nov. 1 call. He said the process is "using a lot of techniques from the automotive glass business." 
Musk said the solar roof could cost less than an actual roof, but still hasn't given specific pricing information. However, Lyndon Rive, SolarCity's former CEO, said on the Nov. 1 call that "we think we can get to that price point of 40 cents a Watt over time in large scale" for the solar cells, which would put it in line with the competition.
"We’ll have the best cell at the lowest price. Just as we have the best battery cell at the lowest price," Musk said on the Nov. 1 call. "We have the highest energy density cell at the lowest price."

Rive said on the call that the solar roof would most likely not fall under a lease or power purchase agreement, but instead as a straightforward loan. "In that case, there is no asset ownership challenge. We would just transfer the ownership to the new homeowner," he said.

Tesla's smooth glass tile is meant to offer "more of a modern look," Musk said at the event.
Unlike the textured glass tile and French slate offering, the smooth glass tile seen here was purposefully designed so you could see the solar cells from certain angles.

"From the vantage point of the street or anywhere near the house it looks completely opaque, but to the sun it’s transparent," Musk said. Although, it's hard to imagine why a feature you can only see from an aerial vantage point would be a huge selling point.
Lastly, Tesla's Tuscan glass tile offering. The roof shown at the event wasn't exclusively made up of Tesla's Tuscan tile. Instead, only the darker tiles seen here come with the solar cells.
Like the smooth glass tile, Musk made a point of showing how looking at the Tuscan tile from different angles will determine whether you can see the solar cell.

Here's a better shot of how the Tuscan glass tiles look once they're installed.

Musk also made a point of showing the durability of Tesla's glass tiles with a weight taste. He also wrote in an Oct. 28 tweet that you can walk on the tiles like you would with regular asphalt shingles.

Musk also tweeted that the solar glass tiles can incorporate heating elements to clear snow while generating energy. He said it wouldn't be energy intensive to melt the snow, but "strongly net positive" in an Oct. 28 tweet. 

The solar cells will be produced at a plant in Buffalo, New York. Tesla and Panasonic will produce the solar cells at the Buffalo manufacturing facility in mid-2017. Tesla is referring to the Buffalo plant as Gigafactory 2. 

Musk's solar roof product is one of several energy products Tesla is offering now that it's merged with SolarCity.


The First 100% Organic State... Do You Know Where it is? 

No, it's not a state in the United States, nor is it in the Western Hemisphere for that matter. The first 100% organic certified state is in India. Sikkim, located in Northeastern Indian, between Bhutan and Nepal, received this certification back on January 18, 2016, during the Sikkim Organic Festival.

Out of all the countries in the world, India has the most organic farmers, and now it can claim that it has the first, fully organic state. Sikkim is home to 66,000 farmers, all of whom have sworn off GMOs, pesticides, and chemical fertilizers. This comes as a significant achievement of the Sikkim Organic Mission Plan, which, in 2003, set a goal for the state to become 100% certified organic. 

India has a long standing tradition of growing products with little to no input and saving seeds that date back centuries. Thus, the idea of organic farming is nothing new to India. However, the concept of "certified organic" is new and has yet to gain much consumer support in the country. Thus, Sikkim, and the rest of India, is in the process of learning how to market organic produce domestically to consumers.

Photo: Anja Disseldorp - Flickr: India Sikkim - view of rice fields


Sikkim's organic farming serves as a case study for the Indian government, who is exploring whether statewide organic production is reproducible on a larger scale. In Sikkim, the government worked from 2003 onwards to support farmers in becoming 100% organic by gradually removing subsidies for pesticides and fertilizers, purchasing organic certification for Sikkim farmers, and increasing the integration of organic farming techniques across that state. 

The landscape in Sikkim is not ideal for conventional farming. Most farmers in the state own 4 hectares or less of land, which they cultivate using terraced farming methods due to the hilly features of the land. Thus, the monocultures that dominate nonorganic, conventional farming wouldn't work in the region anyway. 

At the moment, Sikkim, a land-locked state, does not have the infrastructure that would make transportation and export of its organic produce possible. In addition, the mechanisms for marketing and selling organic produce in India are not fully established either. Therefore, this milestone, while significant, marks only the beginning of a long road for organic farming in India.

Photo: Kaushik Das; A view of the winding, switchback roads in Sikkim.

As other agricultural products in India also switch to non-GMO and organic, such as cotton, the Indian government will need to look at how it can best support all of its farmers in making the shift to organic while ensuring that the farmer's livelihood is not overlooked; especially since India has a difficult history of farmer suicides. 

While Sikkim presents unique conditions that have supported it in becoming a 100% certified organic state, it does serve as inspiration for the rest of the world. Might India lead the way in creating a 100% certified organic country? We will have to wait and see. 

Article by: Rajmani Sinclair, September 20, 2016


Eco Baba Shows that One Person Really Can Make a Difference 

As Gandhi so eloquently put it: Be the change you want to see in the world. 

Balbir Singh Seechewal, fondly known as Eco Baba, is a living example of Gandhi's quote. In recent days, Eco Baba has been getting a significant amount of press for the work he started in 2000 to clean up a 160 kilometer stretch of the Kali Bein river in the Punjab region of India. 

When speaking about his project, Seechewal quoted a verse from the Guru Granth Sahib (the Sikh holy book) saying: "The wind is our Guru, the water our Father, the earth our Mother."  This verse calls upon people to treat the earth, wind, and water with respect, but since the Green Revolution four decades ago, increased agricultural production has lead to more pollution of the earth, water and air. Several villages and towns dumped their waste into the river, and this led to parts of the river drying up, which had significant repercussions for neighboring farmland. Runoff from the waste in the river also seeped into the groundwater, causing many people to contract lethal diseases. The health of local communities started to reflect the poor health of nature as a  result of their polluting practices. 

Seechewal saw this and decided that he wanted to break the cycle of pollution and destruction. Drawing upon the Sikh tradition of kar sewa, or selfless service, he inspired many locals to get involved in helping clean up the river. In an attempt to get the local and municipal governments to support his efforts, Seechewal started a public awareness campaign in the region and together, with the help of several people giving hours of selfless service, they cleaned 99 miles of riverbed, built new river banks, and revived traditional methods of waste disposal and treatment. Since cleaning up the main part of the river, Seechewal has set his sights on cleaning up rivers and creeks across the Punjab in a more systematic way. 

Seechewal's efforts show how the efforts of one person can have a ripple effect - inspiring and benefitting the community in a very meaningful way. 

Written by: Rajmani Sinclair, April 13, 2016

Are Biodegradable Water Bottles Made from Algae the Answer to Our Trash Problem? 

Do you know how many tons of plastic waters bottles are currently floating on the surface of our oceans right now? Or how many plastic bottles we Americans throw away each year? 

According to EcoWatch, billions of pounds of plastic currently float in our oceans. So much, in fact, that plastic covers about 40% of the ocean's surface. Off the coast of California there is a floating mass of plastic twice the size of Texas that is known as the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch." 

Is there a way for us to decrease the amount of waters bottles Americans throw away each year, which happens to be about 35 billion water bottles annually? Ari Jónsson, a student at the Icelandic Academy of the Arts, would like to think so. When prompted how it would be possible to create water bottles out of materials that don't take 100s or 1000s of years to break down, Ari created a water bottle out of algae and entered it into the 2016 design festival in Reykjavik called "Design March", this past March. 

The process of decomposition of the bottle made from Agar Powder, by Ari Jonsson.

Ari experimented with different biodegradable materials while making his bottles, but settled on using agar powder, which he poured into a mold and froze into the shape of a bottle. Once filled with water, the bottle itself holds its shape and does not biodegrade until it is empty. 

A water bottle made from algae? The wave of the future? Could be. 

Since the water bottles themselves are made out of 100% natural materials, the water inside is safe to drink. Furthermore, if you like the flavor of algae, you could even take a bite out of the bottle once you're finished drinking the water. The only downside is, that if the water is stored in the bottles for an extended period of time, it does start to take on the flavor of algae, but hey, some people might enjoy that flavor! 

Until the bottles are available on the market, here are 3 actions you can take right now to decrease the amount of plastic you use and put back into the environment: 

Drink filtered water, not bottled water 
Bring reusable bags to the store when shopping, especially the grocery store. 
Carry reusable utensils with you, so that you don't rely on one-time-use items like plastic forks and spoons 

Or if you're feeling adventurous and scientific, you could try making your own water bottles out of agar powder, or maybe you could try making these water blobs

If you're into molecular gastronomy and spherification of foods ... then maybe water blobs are for you. Just make sure you have a towel to dry off after drinking your water blob. 

Article by: Rajmani Sinclair

He Set Up a Camera in The Forest And Captured Something Mesmerizing (Video) 

Nature is in constant movement and often the action is too slow for the human eye to capture. These breathtaking images were captured by Louie Schwartzberg, a pioneer in high end time-lapse cinematography for his documentary: 'Fantastic Fungi: The Forbidden Fruit'.  This preview features mycologist, Paul Stamets, as he discusses the important role mushrooms play in the survival and health of the earth and human species. 

Fungi are vital for life; they keep the soil healthy, decompose biomass and have a synergistic relationship with plants. There are also a great variety of mushrooms that have powerful medicinal properties. 


Medicinal Reishi Mushroom

To learn more about the documentary please visit:

Article by Vidura Barrios


5 Foods to Stop Eating if You Care About the Environment  

An article published in Sierra Magazine last year highlighted just a few of the various foods that are currently wreaking havoc on the environment. Activists, scientists, and even cuisine critics are urging us to stop eating these foods immediately in order to ensure the health of our planet and ourselves. If you're a big fan of the affordable burger or expensive tuna roll, you are in for very enlightening (and slightly disappointing) surprise!

Here's the list:

1. Atlantic Bluefin Tuna

Time to switch back to California rolls! Because of its famously delicious flavor, bluefin tuna is extremely prized in Japanese cuisine, notably in high-end sushi, and is quite lucrative within the fishing industry. Unfortunately, consistent overfishing has led to a huge depletion in bluefin population, and these lovely fish have officially become an endangered species. Bluefin is usually found in more expensive sushi restaurants so, if you find yourself in one such establishment, make a difference by recommending to your waiter that this ingredient be removed from their menu. From nutritional and health standpoints, eating large fish such as bluefin is generally a bad idea. Just remember; the bigger the fish, the higher the mercury content.

2. GMO Corn

Douglas Fox, a professor of sustainable agriculture at Unity College makes a powerful point when it comes to the cultivation and consumption of GM maize: "Genetically modified corn violates so many sustainability boundaries—destroying habitats, depleting soils, breaking nutrient cycles, polluting air and water, contaminating native maize varieties, and on and on..." And don't forget wiping out millions upon millions of bees worldwide and contributing to the rise of superpests. The bi-product high-fructose corn syrup has been found to deplete soil levels, and requires a huge amount of pesticide use and processing. Our advice? Stay clear of corn until GMO labeling is approved in your state.  

3. Conventional Coffee

It's simple, really. Coffee is shady, by which we mean it is a plant the loves and requires shade to grow. However, with the enormous demand for coffee beans, we have manipulated the plant into one that's grown in sunlight and requires large amounts of toxic pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers to grow. If that weren't enough, a huge amount of tropical deforestation is being sanctioned in order to grow coffee crop, and many animals, such as migratory birds, are consequently losing their habitats. But don't give up hope, coffee lovers! Step up your expectations and buy organic java to ensure that no pesticides were used during cultivation. More importantly, make sure you're always drinking "shad-grown" product, so that no tropical forest was cleared nor animals displaced. Doing this will help ensure the biodiversity of our rainforests!

4. Palm Oil

According to the Rainforest Action Network, modern Palm Oil cultivation is the number one cause of rainforest destruction worldwide. In an age when half all packaged foods contain palm oil as an ingredient, use of the product has increased by a staggering five hundred percent in the past ten years. An estimated eight million acres of ancient rainforest have been cleared and burned to create palm plantations, resulting in the endangerment and now near extinction of the orangutan. Hold tight- you haven't heard the shocker yet! In Indonesia, carbon emissions caused by deforestation (mostly in favor of palm oil) are higher than all U.S. transportation vehicles put together. The considerable destruction caused by our cars, planes, trucks, trains, and ships doesn't even come close to the massive toll deforestation takes on our Earth. Long story short, don't buy anything with palm oil listed as an ingredient. 

5. Factory Farmed Beef

Factory-farmed cows are fed loads of genetically modified corn and soy, the cultivation of which requires replacing tropical forests with crops laced heavily with pesticides that pollute nearby streams, rivers and lakes. Get this: for a cow to gain just one pound of flesh, it needs to eat ten to fourteen pounds of GMO feed. These cows are overfed to gain weight and then, once their flesh is harvested, enormous amounts of energy are required to keep the meat cold and fresh. In the words of Mary O'Brien, who directs the Utah Forest Program of the Grand Canyon Trust, "In the western U.S., cattle have the single most pervasive impact on public lands, depleting native biodiversity, increasing invasive exotics, diverting water, fouling streams, and baring the soil." If you must eat beef, go with organic, grass-fed brands.

Author: Nate Morgan
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