#9 The Importance of Making Time for Yourself

As a student, I find myself constantly working on something whether it be for a class, TEA literary magazine, taking care of chores, or even my blog. I haven’t been posting frequently because I have been taking time for myself. I have realized that this is so incredibly important for my mental and even physical health.

Here in America, we basically worship those who take on handfuls of projects or tasks at one time. Multitasking is a skill that one must master very early on in order to be considered successful or hardworking. I have lived by this very notion since high school. This mindset was required of me in order to stay competitive. However, since coming to college, I have realized that life is so much more than the tasks and projects we take on.

I have taken time to breathe, to decompress, and to collect my thoughts. In doing so, I have found that I wake up happier, more relaxed, and ready to take on my tasks for the day.

In order to be more productive, you have to refuel yourself every now and then. I do this by adding time for pleasurable hobbies: reading, sketching, and every now and then, teaching myself to code. Finding a balance for yourself is key to success. If you can spare just 20 minutes a day to dedicate to self-care and relaxation, you will be much better off.

Unfortunately, it took me an entire semester to realize that this was such an important factor in maintaining both my mental spirit and productivity levels. However, I will be tackling my next semester with this newfound mindset.

I guess the main takeaway would be to not be afraid of having a day to yourself. We are all entitled to some sense of relaxation at the end of a stressful day or week. Once the machine is well-oiled, you can go back to chugging along, feeling much better.

#6 Recycling Done Right

Local communities recycle in different ways that I was unaware of. I recently learned that Gainesville is unable to recycle Starbucks cups due to the expense it takes to process their material. Of course, other cities and counties face the same issues, but not necessarily with Starbucks cups. 

 

It is important that we play our part in making this process as efficient as possible. There are some general rules for recycling that include:

  1. No food, no liquids, no straws, no plastic cups, and no plastic dishware. 
  2. Compost all food and food-soiled paper when possible. Paper is important in absorbing oils and greases which in turn restore the nitrogen balance. 
  3. Never put plastic bags or plastic wrap in a recycling bin. 
  4. Avoid single-use items as much as possible. 
  5. Pizza boxes are contaminated by food and cannot be recycled. 
  6. Empty and rinse out materials from bottles, jars, containers, and cans before placing them in the bin. There is no need to wash, but don’t put half a jar of spaghetti sauce in the recycling bin, just scrape it out. 
  7. Some communities do not recycle glass anymore, so make sure to check with your local waste management before placing glass in the bins. 
  8. Plastic bottles and jugs with the numbers 1 or 2 on the bottom can be recycled. 
  9. Plastic caps can be recycled as long as they are not screwed on the bottle. Screwing the caps on can cause safety hazards for workers when the bottles are being compressed etc. They can also damage the gears of machines. 
  10. Prescription bottles and sample size bottles generally cannot be recycled. Check with your local management to see if they are accepted. 
  11. Recycle all clean paper and flattened cardboard boxes. 
  12. Dishware, even if glass, cannot be recycled. Take it to Goodwill. 
  13. Compostable plastics cannot be placed in recycling bins. They contaminate the recycling process. 
  14. Batteries cannot be recycled. 
  15. Electronics cannot be recycled. I suggest taking them to BestBuy where they can recycle them for you. 
Following these tips will reduce landfill waste and increase the efficiency of the recycling process. If you have any specific questions that were not answered here, contact your local waste management to have your questions answered. 

#2 Designer Food: Organic vs Genetically Modified

As agricultural production has evolved, terms and phrases like ‘organic’ and ‘genetically modified organism’ have entered our vocabulary. What are these modified organisms we see labeled in supermarkets?

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have been used since the production of insulin. The purpose of genetically modifying something is to bring out desirable traits while eradicating the undesirable traits. However, some people have become increasingly suspicious of these modified foods we now unknowingly purchase and consume.

Two Types of GMOs: First Gen vs Second Gen

First generation GM products are produced to benefit farmers as they are resistant to pests and disease. First generation products are essentially produced to increase yield and to save money. Second generation GM products benefit the consumer due to their improved nutrition, flavor, and taste. The market for second-generation GM foods has grown with the increased interest in improved nutrition. However, the market for organic foods, foods which have not been modified, has grown as well.

Willingness to Pay for Foods with Different Levels of GM Content

A recent study was published in the Journal of Food Distribution Research on the topic of consumer’s willingness to pay (WTP). The objective of the study was to determine consumer WTP for foods produced with different traits: first-generation GM, second-generation GM, and organic. The second objective was to examine WTP for non-GM foods with a tolerance level for GM ingredients that may have entered the production process. To gather results, the researchers conducted a survey from two universities. They asked questions regarding knowledge of GM and organic foods, opinions regarding labeling (which is another issue in itself), and confidence in the ability of agencies to ensure the safety of the food supply (Bernard et al. 2009).

The researchers found that consumers were willing to pay the most for organic foods like milk and cereal. It is also important to note that the consumers were more concerned with the GM content of fresh foods and therefore willing to pay more. The second highest value for WTP fell under the second-generation GM category most likely because of improved nutrition. The consumers were not as concerned with first-generation GM foods because paying more would not benefit them directly, as the producers would be benefitting the most.

Furthermore, the researchers found that 52 percent of the students were unsure if they had eaten GM products. This statistic may be a result of the inadequate labeling of genetically modified foods. About 44 percent were sure they had eaten GM products while only 5 percent believed they had never eaten GM products.

Additionally, the researchers found that students were most concerned about pesticides and fertilizers while they were least concerned about non-GM foods, most likely due to the low awareness of GM-content in the food supply (Bernard et al. 2009).

Threshold Levels for GM Content

The researchers suggested that a one percent threshold would be a reasonable limit for GM content in non-GM foods. Consequently, foods beyond the one percent threshold would have to be labeled as GM.

This differs greatly from the standards that China has set. In China, there is a zero-tolerance threshold. In order to be non-GM, there cannot be any modified ingredients in the product. A zero-tolerance policy would be unrealistic in the United States as about 80% of maize, cotton, and soy, are of GM varieties (Maghari and Ardekani 2011).

The Benefits and Dangers of GMOs

Benefits

Resistant to pests and plant disease

Allows for nutritional enhancement

Allows farmers to increase production yield

Tolerant to droughts

Dangers

Can introduce risks to food security

Can be harmful to the environment

Can allow for the emergence of superweeds and superpests

Can contribute to the loss of biodiversity

Increase antibiotic resistance

Increase food allergies

(Maghari and Ardekani 2011).

The Debate on Genetic Modification

The debate over the production of GM foods falls between agri-biotech investors and independent scientists, environmentalists, farmers, and consumers. The investors believe that the new technology can solve issues of food and resource scarcity. Those against GM foods warn that GM products introduce new risks to food security, the environment, and human health. Maghari and Ardekani suggest that biotech companies proceed with caution when producing new GM foods as human health and the environment may be at risk.

 


References

Bernard JC, Gifford K, Santora K, & Bernard DJ. 2009. Willingness to pay for foods with varying production traits and levels of GM content. Journal of Food Distribution Research 40(2): 1-10.

Maghari BM & Ardekani AM. 2011. Genetically modified foods and social concerns. Avicenna Journal of Medical Biotechnology 3(3): 109-115.