Former Associate editor Margret Aldrich on the hunt for happiness, community, and how humans thrive
Wednesday, February 08, 2012 3:32 PM
Have you ever wondered how the exuberant energy of elementary school–aged children might be harnessed and put to good use? It seems the Dutch company De Café Racer has found a way, with a kid-powered bicycle intended to replace the traditional school bus.
The bike is pedaled by 1 adult (who is essential for steering and safety’s sake) and up to 10 children, reports Kate Malongowski in YES! Magazine. Designed for kids ranging in age from 4 to 12, the bike can reach a speed of 10 miles per hour, is available in a variety of colors—including blue, purple, red, and school-bus yellow—and has adjustable seats to accommodate its growing riders’ extra inches. In addition, the ride comes with a music system, a canvas cover to ward off rain, and an auxiliary electric motor for when the hills get too steep or the pedal pushers run out of steam.
The innovative cycle is beneficial on several levels, such as reducing pollution and combating childhood obesity, and De Café Racer hopes it will catch on outside of the Netherlands. So far, the company has sold about 25 of the bikes in Europe and has received inquiries from buyers in North America and South America as well.
When Co.Exist spoke with the bicycle’s builder, Thomas Tolkamp, about how he thinks the idea will fare internationally, he said that people from around the globe are intrigued: “We have gotten interest from…all over the world and all people are positive.”
Sources: YES! Magazine, Co.Exist
Margret Aldrich is an associate editor at Utne Reader. Follow her on Twitter at @mmaldrich.
Friday, January 20, 2012 4:26 PM
How many times have you ordered an entrée at a restaurant only to leave a pile of food on your plate, dump the remains into a doggie bag, or stagger out the door with your pants unbuttoned? The new program Halfsies hopes to cut portion sizes for a good cause.
Halfsies identifies three food-focused problems in the United States. 1) Oversized servings. Most restaurant portions here are 2-4 times the recommended serving sizes, which contributes to our epidemic of overweight Americans. And portion size is a problem that keeps growing: 20 years ago, two slices of pizza added up to 500 calories; today, two slices weigh in at 850 calories. 2)Excessive food waste. Nearly half of the food produced in the United States is thrown in the trash. It’s commonly cited that every day we waste enough food to fill the Rose Bowl. 3)Hunger. More than 50 million Americans—and 1 billion people worldwide—are affected by food insecurity.
Combine these challenges, and “you have a dysfunctional feedback loop of waste, hunger and obesity,” says Beth Hoffman of Food + Tech Connect.
Halfsies wants to break this toxic pattern with a wonderfully simple initiative. When at a participating restaurant, choose a menu item with the Halfsies icon next to it and receive a half-portion. You’ll combat food waste as well as eat a healthier amount. You’ll also fight hunger: You pay full price for the plate, and the resulting proceeds are distributed to local nonprofit partners (60 percent), global hunger organizations (30 percent), and back into the Halfsies budget (10 percent).
Pilot programs will be launched in New York City and Austin, Texas, this spring. To learn more and help bring Halfsies to other parts of the country, view their beautifully commonsensical video here:
Sources: Food + Tech Connect, Halfsies
Image via Halfsies.
Monday, May 23, 2011 11:24 AM
Have you ever gobbled up a smallish bag of chips only to realize that, according to the food label on the side of the package, you’ve just consumed three servings, not the single serving you expected? Do you stop to recalculate the dreaded saturated-fat percentage? Or, wait a minute; is it the trans-fat percentage that’s going to kill you? And are thetwelve grams of protein you just ingested good or bad?
The familiar but perplexing black-and-white Nutrition Facts label is up for redesign. Good magazine and the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism’s News21 program are sponsoring the Rethink the Food Label project. It is a contest that can be entered by anyone who has ideas that would make the label more useful to consumers. “Your design could incorporate the nutrition label’s existing break down of fats, sugars, vitamins, calorie counts and percent daily values. Or, you could re-imagine the label to include geography, food quality, food justice, carbon footprint, or lesser-known chemosensory characteristics,” the sponsors say.
Why does nutritional labeling matter? The program explains:
We all read these food labels, but we’re not always sure what they mean. Is 20 grams of sugar too much? How much is a gram of sugar anyway? How many grams of fat fit in a teaspoon? Should I care about folic acid more than riboflavin? Saturated fat more than cholesterol?
We are confused about what and how to eat and so we’re eating too much of the wrong things. In fact, we’re eating too much of everything. Two-thirds of American adults are overweight or obese. The obesity rate among preschoolers has doubled since 1970. Type 2 diabetes has become an epidemic. We want to make it easier to choose healthy food.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration attempts to decode the existing food label on their website, but it’s still confusing. Michelle Obama agrees, saying at last year’s Grocery Manufacturers Association conference, “We need clear, consistent, front-of-the-package labels that give people the information they’ve been asking for, in a format they understand.”
Submissions to Rethink the Food Label are accepted until July 1 and will be judged by Michael Pollan, among others. Watch the promotional video here:
Image by lyzadanger, licensed under Creative Commons.
Thursday, December 30, 2010 12:33 PM
With Christmas morning mercifully in the rearview mirror, you might think America’s marketing and advertising industries are ready to start acting like adults—at least until Valentine’s Day. But over the last decade, turning impressionable youngsters into full-time consumers has become a corporate obsession, reports Z Magazine: “In the United States alone, expenditures on marketing to children skyrocketed from $2 billion in 1999 to $15 billion in 2005.”
And even though the Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission acknowledge that young children are uniquely vulnerable to commercial messages, the U.S. government hasn’t passed significant legislation on the issue since 1990—giving companies carte blanche to “surround children with messages at school, on the school bus, on the Internet, on cellphones and videogames, at doctors’ offices, zoos, museums, with viral marketing (i.e., fake word of mouth), grass-roots marketing, guerilla marketing, immersive marketing, and so on.”
Yosef Brody, who penned the Z piece and is a clinical psychologist in Paris, references recent studies establishing that young children are prone to pay particular attention to TV commercials, but they can’t discriminate its form or intent from other programming. A majority of these ads are for junk food, which is directly related to childhood obesity, considered a health epidemic and correlated with diabetes and hypertension (conditions that have tripled in teenagers since 1980).
Gender stereotyping and violence are also rampant.
“Recent research shows that a high level of exposure to commercial messages is a significant cause of depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and psychosomatic complaints, including headaches and stomachaches,” Brody writes. “Sociologist Juliet Schor found robust evidence that the more that psychologically healthy children become involved in commercial culture, the worse their mental health becomes, and that the more that emotionally disturbed children disengage from commercial culture, the healthier they get.”
Source: Z Magazine
Image by giovanni_giusti, licensed by Creative Commons
Wednesday, March 24, 2010 12:51 PM
For the past 1,000 years, the size of Jesus’ Last Supper has been getting larger. According to Live Science, researchers recently used a computer program to estimate the size of the dishes and plates in famous paintings depicting the biblical Last Supper. They found that the main dishes in the paintings grew by 69 percent over time, plate size grew by 66 percent, and the bread servings grew by 23 percent. The researchers believe the gradual growth of plate and portion sizes reflected in the paintings could be linked to the trend of overeating and obesity.
"I think people assume that increased serving sizes, or 'portion distribution' is a recent phenomenon," Brian Wansink, director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab told Live Science. "But this research indicates that it's a general trend for at least the last millennium."
Wednesday, February 24, 2010 3:59 PM
Elevators, escalators, and moving walkways are designed to minimize physical activity. Considering the rising obesity rate in the United States, urban planners are now trying to design the physical activity back into people’s lives. “It’s not necessary for us to go to the gym,” New York City’s assistant health commissioner Dr. Lynn Silver told Next American City. “Instead,” the magazine reports, “making stairwells more attractive, building ‘supportive’ walking routes, creating access to fresh produce, and ‘animating’ streets to make them more pedestrian friendly can encourage all the exercise a New Yorker needs. It’s LEED green building standards meets P.E. class.”
Source: Next American City
, licensed under
Tuesday, March 25, 2008 5:31 PM
Government efforts to foster fitness have expanded from passive public service announcements to interventionist urban planning. Spiked finds attempts to create obesity-combating “fit towns” in the United Kingdom downright Orwellian. It concedes that more attractive stairways and improved lighting in parks are sensible steps. But suggest giving pedestrians and cyclists roadway priority, and Spiked grows indignant. UK lawmakers—audaciously!—proposed limiting office parking to cycle-sized spaces. (Spiked’s virulent anti-bicycle commentators might commiserate with U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters, who drew a link between bike path funding and Minnesota’s August bridge collapse.) Yet compared to the stupidity Salon chronicled in October of U.S. “parking requirements” that result in overabundant, frequently unoccupied pavement, urban design that encourages outdoor time and self-propelled travel seems downright sensible, not despotic.
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