Hydrogen cars - the ultimate alternative?

Is it possible for a car not only not to pollute, but also to purify the environment? Electric vehicles dominate the transition to sustainable transport, but what about hydrogen cars? Let’s take a look at the advantages of this “green fuel”.

 

Leading global brands such as Toyota and Hyundai are making a strong commitment to hydrogen cars. At the moment they are still too expensive, but they promise to revolutionise global mobility. These vehicles are powered by hydrogen (the most abundant element on Earth), which is extracted from seawater through a process of electrolysis. To drive, the vehicle is powered by hydrogen and air, but the air must be pure, which is why the engine is equipped with a stringent particle filtering system. This is how the engine retains the polluting particles so that what comes out of the exhaust pipe is water vapour, with purer oxygen than it went in. Is this technology a dream, or is it the future?

Hydrogen car technology is innovative in many ways and is an engineering challenge. We generally differentiate between two types of hydrogen engines: combustion and conversion. So, while combustion engines burn hydrogen in the engine similarly to petrol engines, with the only difference being that what is expelled from the exhaust pipe is water vapour instead of polluting smoke, conversion engines convert this hydrogen into electricity, thanks to a fuel cell, to drive the car’s electric motor.

A fuel cell is therefore a device based on electrochemistry, i.e. it generates electrical energy from chemical energy. It always does so with the support of a fuel and an oxidant. In this case, one pole of the battery (the anode) contains hydrogen and the other (the cathode) contains oxygen. The advantage of this type of battery is that it does not need to be recharged and operates continuously, so users have a constant flow and consumption of reagents, which differentiates it from conventional batteries. 

 

Electric cars vs. hydrogen cars

Precisely this autonomy in recharging is the advantage that could make the hydrogen car end up leading the ecological transition, even overtaking the electric car. In fact, according to the Department of Advanced Materials for Energy at the Catalonia Institute for Energy Research (IREC), the electric car is considered a clean means of transport because it does not consume fossil fuels. However, the drawback of electric cars, according to IREC, is that the battery needs to be recharged with electricity from the grid, and many of us know first-hand what this means in terms of expense, besides the time it takes. Despite being considered a non-polluting method of transport, for it to be truly green, the type of electricity production it requires must also be green. This is a disadvantage that, for the time being, is also present in the hydrogen engine fuel cell, since obtaining hydrogen through the electrolysis of water, still requires a lot of energy.

In contrast, fuel cell-based cars, such as hydrogen cars, combine the range of conventional (petrol) cars with the recreational and environmental benefits of electric cars. Therefore, the most obvious advantage is the absence of harmful emissions and toxic gases. Filling the hydrogen tank takes no more than five minutes, unlike the time-consuming refuelling of electric cars, which can take hours. And in terms of range, hydrogen is also in front, with a range of up to 500 kilometres.

 

Charging points, the big problem

In 1839, the Welsh physicist William Grove invented the fuel cell, without much fuss. It was not until the 1960s that this technology became popular because it powered NASA’s Gemini space probe, which ran exclusively on fuel cells. In wheeled vehicles, it came later, in 2008, from the automobile manufacturer Honda.

Today, the range has increased slightly, and the AutoBild portal lists the Toyota-Mirai and the Hyundai-Nexo as the best hydrogen cars, with the Hyperion XP-1 sports car and the BMW-Hydrogen Next SUV expected to be launched later this year.

In 2019, 7,500 hydrogen vehicles were sold globally, while electric vehicles accounted for 2.1 million sales. Urban transport and goods vehicles are switching to electric vehicles, and the number of refuelling points is also growing. In the case of hydrogen, there are only three points in Spain. It is a complicated moment, with few recharging points and low customer demand, which places the sector at a difficult point of progress and continues to put the focus on energy companies. In countries such as Germany, hydrogen manufacturers and producers have already joined forces to draw up a plan that will end with 130 refuelling points and 60,000 hydrogen cars on the road by 2022. 

Thus, despite the current commitment of many governments and brands to hybrid vehicles, environmental requirements leave the door open to hydrogen vehicles, which are awaiting the union of manufacturers, energy companies and administrations to experience their moment of expansion.

 

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In the face of natural (or pandemic) disasters, society is forced to change and evolve. There is no option to do anything. Uncontrollable circumstances force the creation of change-resilient communities.

 

Global warming and climate change make us more vulnerable to natural disasters. The UN’s head of Disaster Risk Reduction, Mami Mizutori, warned that in the next twenty years the number of disasters or catastrophes will double, and the cause for 90% of these will be related to climate change.

Added to this are factors such as poverty, air pollution, population growth, and uncontrolled or risky urbanization. The result: more hazardous areas and more people at risk. Our present and future will be marked by constant change, whether natural, technological, political, or social.

We are condemned to live in a changing world, but are we prepared for it? We analyse how adaptation, an intrinsic human characteristic, will be key to building resilient societies of the future.

 

Avoiding change or preventing it?

In the face of a disaster, or a situation of general change, the worst thing we can do is to do nothing. This is why Margareta Wahlström, UN Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, stresses the importance of taking action to minimize disasters. Some, such as those related to climate change, we have the capacity to help to prevent. But for those we cannot avoid, we need to build societies that are resilient to change, and the urgency is to do so before the next disaster strikes, as Wahlström describes in her article.

Teaching this is essential at all levels. Every euro invested in prevention can save up to seven euros in recovery. And here the resilience of the population is a key factor. We must train our minds to make them more resilient to change, and leave behind the traditional view that links change with fear and a refusal to evolve.

 

Back to the point of equilibrium

Adaptation to change is a human characteristic, even from a biological point of view. This is what is known as homeostasis, a concept created in 1865 by the physician Claude Bernard, and which refers to the general tendency of an organism to re-establish balance and internal stability. From a psychological point of view, the reading is that in situations of change, people tend to find equilibrium again, i.e. that both change and stabilization are two undeniable constants in human life.

For his part, Darwin also came close to this idea in his evolutionary process, arguing that evolution is nothing more than having the ability to adapt to new environments.

 

Change is evolution

The psychologist Jean Piaget theorized that the main characteristic, and therefore the distinguishing feature of living beings, is precisely this ability to self-regulate. Our system, from the most biological to the psychological part, is capable of recovering or restoring damaged structures. Therefore, a living being is dynamic and active by nature, and change is nothing more than the survival response of our body in an attempt to adapt to the environment.

Piaget differentiated between two ways of adaptation: assimilation, which consists of including novelties in our already defined schemas. And accommodation, which modifies the schemas to adapt them to new demands. Putting theory into practice, in the pandemic era we may have felt identified with one system or the other depending on our behaviour: have we incorporated the new habits into our daily routine, or have we modified it to create a new routine based on the current moment?

Whichever way we have positioned ourselves in the face of change, the important thing is to have gone through the process of adaptation. This is what can save us from constant change: action, fleeing from denial and stagnation, and opening up the possibility that each change presents us with a new scenario that is challenging enough to force us to rethink everything, with no alternative but to evolve.

 

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They denounce the bad practices of the large distributors in the food sector, who adjust the prices of raw materials to such an extent that it is no longer profitable for farmers to produce.

 

Unió de Pagesos‘ demand is clear: fair prices for producers. A problem that in recent months has particularly affected the dairy cattle business, but which extends to many other sectors of agriculture and livestock farming. At the root of the problem lie the bad practices of the large distributors, and from here new problems arise that compound the critical situation of this sector in our country.

Agriculture contributes 2,307 million euros to Catalonia’s GDP (2020), making it the economic sector with the least impact on GDP, and a far cry from the 153,039 million euros generated by the services sector. Even so, it is still a strategic sector for society as a whole, and mainly because it provides the raw material for the main foodstuffs, it is one of the main sectors that must be maintained and developed. The question, however, is what price we are prepared to pay to maintain it, or rather, what would be a fair price to pay.

 

The primary sector has declined in recent years.

In recent years, the food sector has seen an irreversible change in the business model: multinational chains have filled the towns and cities of Catalonia with large supermarkets, with prices so low that hundreds of small and medium-sized businesses have been priced out of the market. A situation that has directly and significantly affected the state of health of the farming sector, which, as trade unions, employers’ associations, and town councils denounce, is experiencing a historically critical situation. In 2020, Catalonia registered a total of 454 dairy cattle farms. To give us an idea, in 2010 these figures stood at 813 farms and, even further back, in 1991 there were 4,329.

Currently, the average paid is 33.28 euro cents per litre. This is the amount that reaches the producer, a figure far from the break-even point, which is around 37.31 euro cents per litre, and in some cases even more. The minimum production costs are therefore not covered, and this puts producers in a critical economic situation, which explains the decline in the number of farms.

 

Catalonia’s food sovereignty at risk

Food sovereignty is understood as the right of the people and countries to create policies that allow them to produce food according to their characteristics and needs. It includes, therefore, not only the right to food but also the right to produce food and for this production to serve to maintain the community as a whole. This is stated in the Political Declaration of the NGO/OSCO Forum for Food Sovereignty.

Catalonia’s food sovereignty could be affected if the economic situation of livestock farmers does not improve. If they cannot compete with the prices of the distributors, and as the Unió de Pagesos warns, they cannot make a living, many of them will end their activity, which in recent years has declined progressively but substantially. The impact on society will be felt in almost all areas.

 

An issue where every action counts

A loss of activity in the primary sector would lead to a much higher demand for imports, which could affect both the quality and price of commodities. On the other hand, a lack of production would lead consumers to renounce zero-kilometre and local products, which, with a decrease in supply, could also lead to higher prices.

If the situation is to be brought under control, and before it reaches a point of no return, the main problem to be tackled is to pay producers a fair price. The support of the administration will therefore be key in this process, and the management of the distributors will be critical in determining the future of the primary sector. Beyond that, the end consumer also has the power to contribute to change, in his or her case, by making choices. The challenge will be that, aware of the situation, this choice is made according to sustainable criteria and that it guarantees a fair price for the whole production chain.

 

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In summer, more people visit the sea and the mountains, and unconsciously we put ourselves to the test again, as a society, in terms of the way we relate to nature. Analysing our civility will help us to maintain the self-critical spirit necessary for personal and collective growth. If nature is everything, so is civility.

 

Whether due to leisure practices or industrial activity, in Catalonia in recent decades 54% of species living in rivers and lakes have disappeared, 30% from agricultural areas and meadows, and 10% from forests and scrubland. The conclusions of this study, conducted by the Department de Territori i Sostenibilitat, point to human actions such as the alteration of natural habitats, soil exploitation, and climate change, but the reality is that we can all contribute if we carry out uncivil or disrespectful behaviour when visiting natural areas.

 

The human footprint

Whether on holiday or walking around our environment, we have surely all witnessed uncivil behaviour that endangers the natural environment and even people’s safety. We are referring to attitudes such as making noise, littering the environment, leaving waste, disturbing or harming wildlife, disturbing the tranquillity of other people, especially local residents, or reckless behaviour such as smoking or lighting fires in areas at risk of fire.

As tourists, we look for quiet places where we can enjoy nature, but it will not always be the case with other visitors. And while everyone may have different concepts of hiking, picnics, or tranquillity, there are limits such as leaving waste or making too much noise that cross the line of civility in these spaces.

Code of conduct in National Parks

In recent years, virtually all natural parks in Catalonia have created codes of conduct or recommendations that all visitors have to follow with a single objective: to preserve the territory. This is the case of the Parc Nacional d’Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici, which welcomes more than half a million visitors annually. Such many visitors can jeopardize the biodiversity of the area, and even the safety of hikers if the right measures are not taken. So, what are the rules?

 

Before the hike

  • Find information about where you are going, what the area is like, the weather, and what route you want to follow. Bringing the right equipment will be key to having a good experience.
  • Prepare meals according to the duration of the hike and always taking into account the waste that we can generate, since we will have to take it with us until we can dispose of it properly.
  • If we take our pets, we should keep them on a leash and take care of their hydration.
  • If we take our vehicle, respect the speed limits, and do not make more noise than necessary. When parking, try to park in designated and marked areas.
  • Use public transportation to access the park whenever possible.

During the hike

  • Do not leave the marked route to avoid getting lost, but above all, avoid stepping into areas that are not intended for visitors, so as not to damage the fauna and flora.
  • Keep a safe distance between other hikers or cyclists.
  • Swimming in rivers and natural pools is not allowed, since although it may seem like a natural activity, the reality is that it can alter and pollute the water.
  • Eat in the authorized areas. And if the route does not allow it, try to do it without leaving residues.
  • Lighting fires is prohibited. A measure that is especially enforced in certain areas or periods of drought, but that applies to all natural areas. Therefore, neither gas canisters, nor smoking is allowed.
  • Do not take anything that does not belong to you, neither stones nor plants. Much less hunting activities. If we visit the area, it is to enjoy it as it is.

Ethics and civility, a personal commitment

In short, complying with the standards previously described is nothing more than an act of civility that, if it does not come from within, it will come from compliance with the current regulations. We recommend you read “Educar la convivència. La pràctica del civisme” by the philosopher Francesc Torralba, a brief document that deepens and makes us reflect on the relationship between civic values and ethics.

 

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We compile a list of the main apps for selling or buying all kinds of second-hand products. The sustainable trend of buying second-hand products is here to stay.

 

The world is constantly evolving, at the same time as people’s way of consuming is also changing. This is the origin of the Recommerce trend: the sale of second-hand goods, based on the circular economy: Reduce, reuse and recycle. This means that by reducing the consumption of new products, people save money while minimising their environmental impact. This predisposition to buy second-hand products has become widespread among people concerned about sustainability, and their responsibility when it comes to consuming goes beyond looking for the cheapest product. Today we would like to invite you to discover the world of recommerce, with different apps where you can find all kinds of second-hand products, from bicycles, clothes and cars to technological products. Welcome to the new era of a sustainable economy:

  • Backmarket: This app is making a lot of noise online. With this app you can buy professionally reconditioned technology products at discounts of up to 70% off their original price. Smartphones, computer devices, televisions, cameras, drones, small household appliances. The application also acts as a guarantee, as well as a connector between sellers and customers.
  • Letgo: Application to sell everything you no longer need, or to buy what you want, in a very simple and convenient way. The difference between this app and the others for buying and selling second-hand items is that this app has image recognition and artificial intelligence to be able to tag and catalogue the items for sale. In this app you can sell and buy books, cars, sports equipment, fashion, household items…
  • Wallapop: This is undoubtedly the app par excellence for buying and selling second-hand products, with more than 15 million users. It is also similar to Letgo, where you can buy all kinds of products. A meeting point between sellers and buyers, where, through a conversation, the sale and purchase of the product is formalised.
  • Coches: In this app you can buy and sell second-hand cars, pre-registered new cars, and even new cars. More than half of the vehicles on sale offer a guarantee, and you can find motorhomes, vans or even cars for which you don’t need a driving license. In short, the leading motoring app.
  • Vinted: A community for selling second-hand clothes, through videos or images uploaded by sellers to offer their clothes. A sustainable and fun way, both to make some room in our wardrobe and also to renew it.
  • Milanuncios: Classified as one of the most veteran, this application never goes out of fashion. With a simple design, since its creation in 2005 it has always managed to stay at the forefront of classified ads. Here you can find everything from jobs, clothes, and furniture, to renting and selling flats…
  • Bkie: With cycling so fashionable, you couldn’t miss an app for buying and selling bikes and cycling products. A buying and selling application like any other, but with the particularity that it is focused on the cycling community.

We hope you liked the concept of recommerce, followed by the apps we have suggested. And don’t hesitate to put into practice the three R’s of the circular economy: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, also in your purchases.

 

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Per la Mar Viva is a non-profit organization of Menorcan origin with a clear objective: to ensure the good health of the sea.

 

“The message is very clear, spread it everywhere: save the seas and oceans, and do not sell them at any price.” The Menorcan duo Cala Joia sums up the purpose of Per la Mar Viva, which seeks to raise awareness among companies, administration, organizations, and individuals — starting with the youngest — to reduce any dumping of waste in the waters of Menorca, as well as excel in waste management and contribute to the reduction of plastics that end up in the sea and on the coast.

Per la Mar Viva was born in the year 2017, after years of research and observation on the amount of plastics that ended up in the port of Ciutadella, and on the Menorcan coast. Its founder, Carlos Salord, a local physiotherapist, has mobilized to promote this non-profit organization, after years of observing society’s indifference to change the situation.

 

The initial study: how much plastic is collected in a day?

Carlos Salord, president of the Per la Mar Viva association, decided to launch a comparative study: on the one hand, the amount of plastics collected by the boats that the Balearic Government uses to clean the coast of Menorca; on the other, the amount of plastics that he himself was able to collect, trying to simulate the work done by these same boats, during nine working days.

The results showed that the vessels of the Balearic Government collected an average of 11.34 kg per day. Salord, with his semi-rigid zodiac and three sieves, was able to pull out an average of 70.33 kg per day.

 

First step: social awareness

The goal, in order to see real changes in the health of the sea, is social awareness, and that is why Per la Mar Viva has brought the project closer to both citizens and the administration. Specific solutions have been proposed to each body, according to responsibilities and involvement, in order to involve everyone and make the results real and prolonged over time. 

The main challenge, however, remains responsibility and human behaviour. And that is why they hold talks and events in schools and institutes in the Islands, to educate their citizens from an early age in good maritime management. An action that has been very well received, even in preschool, and that is certainly what can mark future generations.

The goal is to move from the indifference from “this does not concern me” to the awareness of “we really have a problem”, and from there, to the proactivity of “what can I do about it?”

 

Second step: the real involvement

Spreading is essential to get real involvement, and that’s why local artists, like Dos Sipiots & Orgànic and Cala Joia, spread this awareness throughout their music. The exhibition La mar de plàstics opened in Ferreries in May 2019. With more than 8,000 visitors, it reached the goal of giving voice to the sea and raising awareness from objects rescued from the Menorcan coast. 

Beyond the association itself, Per la Mar Viva has become a popular initiative that spreads around the island of Menorca and that echoes overseas. The intention, now, is to expand its effect to the rest of the islands and to Catalonia. For now, it has launched the campaign #GobiernoDesplastificanosYA on social media, addressed to the Government of Spain and requesting its involvement.

So far, humans have turned the oceans into the final dump of our rubbish. It is time to change this idea and work together to keep the sea alive for many years, as Cala Joia sing:

 

«Que la mar no sigui més

un immens abocador,

entre tots hi som a temps,

junts podem canviar aquest món.»

 

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Water covers 70% of the planet’s surface, and the volume of business that this can generate makes the marine ecosystem a strategic sector for developing a sustainable economy.

 

The blue economy describes all those economic activities linked to the sea and marine ecosystems. It includes port and logistics activities, fishing, shipbuilding, energy production, sports, science, and technology activities. The main premise is sustainability, as the future of both this economic sector and the planet in general will depend on it. 

 

2050 goal: 35% of energy will be produced in the sea

The European Commission points to the blue economy as a key player in the European Green Deal, which promotes the sustainable development of all member countries. The ocean acts as a climate regulator, is indispensable in the production of oxygen, and provides energy, food, and other resources without which we could not live.

It is, therefore, a strategic sector in the fight against climate change which, today, focuses on two major goals: developing renewable energy on the high seas in order to achieve 35% of energy production by 2050 and, on the other hand, making ports and transport more sustainable, seeking to limit carbon emissions and reduce the ecological footprint of ports.

Catalonia has a project that could achieve the energy goal, the so-called Tramuntana Park. With the intention of becoming a benchmark against climate change, the Empordà presents this proposal to create a marine and floating wind farm in the Gulf of Roses. The project would start operating in 2026 and could supply 45% of energy in the province of Girona, in addition to creating 5,000 jobs and contributing to the preservation and regeneration of marine ecosystems.

 

What is the European Green Deal? The European Research Council explains it in this video.

 

Blue Catalonia, leader in Europe

The plan to promote the blue economy in Catalonia began in 2018. Since then, the sector has generated more than 200,000 jobs and 35.5 billion euros. A figure that places Catalonia at the forefront of European countries where the maritime economy has greater internal weight. It is followed by Portugal, Estonia, Greece, Malta, and Cyprus.

Its weight is undeniable, and Catalan business involvement corroborates this. For example, the Port of Barcelona has launched a project to turn into a blue economy hub acting as a strategic point for companies related to the sector directly or indirectly.

Also, this year, the Blue Economy Business Cluster was created in the lands of the Ebro. It is an initiative open to all companies in the area that want to join forces for the environmental preservation of the Delta and its economic activity, mostly maritime.

A sustainable economic development involves making efficient use of the available resources, and in this sense Catalonia must make conscious use of everything the sea has to offer. The goal will be economic and social progress, but with the same degree of importance as environmental preservation, because as the European Commission warns, “there can be no green without blue.”

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Whenever there are forest fires, the debate begins on how to prevent these catastrophes and, once again, we are aware that it is a complicated situation that needs a serious and forceful approach. A rethinking of the territory’s management model.

 

Unfortunately, forest fires are in the news every summer. In 2021, they have already burnt more than 2,000 hectares and the risk of fires is still very real, given that the abandonment of crops, poor forest management and climate change complicate the conservation of the landscape we have.

Catalonia has a Mediterranean climate, and this means hot, dry summers, a situation that is worsening nowadays with the effects of climate change. According to the Servei Meteorològic de Catalunya (SMC), the climate in the middle of the century could have almost thirty more summer days and the temperature in our country could rise by an average of three degrees Celsius.

 

Economy and landscape

Marc Garfella, a technical forestry engineer from Bosquerols, a cooperative dedicated to forest management and planning, explains that the current situation is partly due to the abandonment of cultivated fields (in the 1950s forests occupied 35% of Catalonia, and today they occupy 70%), climate change, and the fact that the primary sector cannot make a decent living.

According to Garfella, the primary sector has a very important role to play in managing the landscape and maintaining it, and therefore in preventing forest fires: “But forest management has not been profitable for years”. He knows what he is talking about because the cooperative, in addition to working for the administration, works for clients who are forest owners: “Our rural landowner clients know that timber is currently worth very little and that this is not the time to cut down large quantities of trees. Trees are now being felled to allow the forest to be more diverse in structure, more resilient to climate change and more resistant to fire”. He adds that the non-profitability of forests is a general problem in the primary sector: “today, those who work in forestry management, agriculture and livestock farming cannot live without aid”. And the abandonment of crops is an element that contributes to the fact that the forest mass is growing without management or control. And the fact that the exploitation of the forest is not profitable means that the owners do not invest in its planning or management.

We are facing a paradigm shift, says Marc Garfella: “The countryside has been abandoned, and climate change has been accentuated. And this is not exclusive to our country. There are fires all over the world (Argentina, USA, Bolivia, Australia, Canada…). Climate change is changing the landscape, and a forest fire can change it in a few hours. We need to think deeply about land management”.

Faced with this paradigm shift, Garfella asks society in general what kind of country we want: “It is up to citizens to say what kind of country they want, and they must do this not only theoretically, but also actively, that is, by being aware that the actions they take every day influence the landscape of the country, because it is the economy that ends up defining the landscape”.

 

Product with an impact

80% of the human diet is plant-based, and agriculture represents an important economic resource and means of development for people. We are all aware that forests are home to millions of species, are an important source of clean air and water, and are also key to combating climate change.

And what can we all do together to maintain the landscape? Well, for Marc Garfella, we have to be aware of the products we consume: “In the end, when you buy local produce, whether it is wine, oil, lamb, wood, fruit, you also end up paying for the conservation of the landscape. If farmers, stockbreeders and foresters can make a decent living, they will not abandon their land and will maintain the landscape. When we consume local products, we are consuming products that have an impact.”

Farmers, foresters and livestock farmers, in addition to supplying us with food and energy, also act as managers and planners of the territory. It is up to us to ensure that they can continue their work of preserving the landscape.

 

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Food is an essential part of any trip, both the food you discover at the place of arrival and the food you take with you from home. Let’s review the basics for travelling with food.

 

The importance of food, whether for the cultural basis or the need for energy, means that when we travel we face various dilemmas, such as: Where to eat? What to eat? Eating at a restaurant or taking food with us in a home-made lunch box? Eating before leaving home or doing so when we arrive at our destination?

What we need to know is that, no matter what option we choose, the best we can do is avoid travelling when we are hungry. It is necessary that, before starting a journey, we leave home with a full stomach, as this will make us optimistic and will make us face any problem that may arise with more energy and positivity.

I want to take my food from home. How should I do it?

Once I have decided that I want to take my food with me, I need to know that, depending on the means of transport I use, I will have to transport it differently. For example, if I fly from one European Union country to another, there are usually no restrictions on carrying food on the plane. We can travel with products of animal origin, as Member States are supposed to comply with Community veterinary standards. If the trip is outside the European Union, you will need to consult the regulations of each country to find out whether they will let us introduce our food and how to do it. 

On the other hand, if we travel by car, what worries us most is what foods to put in the lunch box so that once cooked or processed they retain their properties, both in terms of preservation and taste. Therefore, it is necessary to keep the lunch box at the right temperature, this being a maximum of 5 °C for cold foods and around 65 °C for hot foods. In case the heat cannot be maintained, it is better to refrigerate the food and heat it before consuming it. Recommendations such as the desirability of using hygienic foods, cured in the case of dairy products, and avoiding preparations containing raw egg should also be taken into account.

We are what we eat

As the La dieta Mediterrània un estil de vida actual document by the Alice Foundation highlights, “The need to recover the Mediterranean diet has become a constant demand for decades. The different researches carried out on the food patterns that characterize the developed societies of our time lead to surprising conclusions: we do not eat well, we have unlimited access to certain food products, and in our society more and more important states of malnutrition are detected. Pathologies specific to our environment — overweight and obesity, anaemia, decalcification and osteoporosis, caries, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, retinopathy and macular degeneration, constipation and digestive disorders, and degenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s or cancer — are, in many cases, related to diet that the patient has followed throughout his life. And diet can be, if not the cause, the trigger of the malfunction of the body […].”

Mediterranean culture

The panellets, chestnuts, and sweet potatoes that are consumed for the feasts of All Saints and the Day of the Dead; the nougat for Christmas; the omelettes and other preparations for Fat Thursday; the doughnuts for Lent; the ring-shaped cake for the Kings’ day; the cream for St. Joseph; the cakes for the festivals of Sant Joan and Sant Pere; the mones for Easter…

The history of our land is closely linked to Mediterranean culture. Mediterranean people share similar characteristics, one of which is the fact of enjoying social life around a table, enjoying the dishes and stews that are presented to be tasted while talking a mile a minute and having a good time.

Our culinary culture has its origins in medieval times. In Catalonia, we have one of the first manuals of recipes, gastronomy, and wines in Europe, the Llibre de Sent Soví, from the 13th century, which is an anonymous medieval recipe book. Also, in the words of Josep Pla, we have the first best-seller of the culinary world: it is the Llibre del coch from the 16th century, by the master Robert de Nola, cook of King Ferdinand of Naples. Today, Catalan cuisine is known and recognized internationally.

What is the energy value of food?

The energy value of food is proportional to the energy released when that food is burned, in the presence of oxygen. This released energy is measured in calories.

A calorie is the amount of heat needed to raise the temperature of one gram of water by one degree Celsius. It is a very small unit and, for this reason, kilocalories (1 kcal = 1,000 calories) are usually used for food.

The human body, when in a state of absolute rest and constant body temperature, consumes a certain amount of energy. This amount of energy is called the basal metabolic rate (BMR), and is needed to maintain vital signs. The following formulas are used to calculate the daily rate of basal metabolism:

  • Women: BMR = 655 + 9.6 · W + 1.8 · H – 4.7 · A 
  • Men: BMR = 66 + 13,7 · W + 5 · H – 6,8 · A 

In these formulas, W is the weight in kilograms, H is the height measured in centimetres, and A is the age in years.

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Who doesn’t love summer? The day has many hours of light, the weather is good to go to the beach, to the mountains… But what happens when it’s so hot that stones burn and houses turn into ovens? How can we enjoy a cool home without having to abuse air conditioners and paying a fortune for the electricity bill?

 

It’s getting hotter and hotter. The Meteorological Service of Catalonia (SMC) has predicted that the mid-century climate could have almost thirty more days of summer than two decades ago and the temperature in our country could rise by an average of three degrees, which would also lead to an increase in the number of days over 30 degrees

Plants that cool the air

Before this scenario of rising temperatures, what can we do to keep the house cool while being environmentally friendly and helping to curb climate change?

In addition to doing things like installing curtains, blinds, opening and closing windows to take advantage of the running air, not using the oven, and avoiding using as much heat-emitting appliances as possible, there is a simple and economical way to keep your house cool: having certain indoor plants.

According to the professor Dr. Leonard PerryProfessor Emeritus of Horticulture at the University of Vermont, USAin the article Benefits of Using Plants Indoors, there are some studies done by the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) in which it is said that, among other benefits, such as purifying the air, some houseplants also help to combat heat.

The six most cooling plants

Indoor plants have a number of benefits, such as purifying the air and improving people’s mood. And, according to studies done by NASA on the effects of the plant perspiration, they also make our homes cooler. The work explains that, when the air is heated, plants release extra moisture (they transpire), and this is how they cool the environment.

There are six plants that stand out for their purifying and cooling effect:

  • Boston Fern. NASA discovered that this plant is a natural air purifier (it removes volatile organic pollutants such as formaldehyde) and an excellent humidifier.
  • Aloe vera. This plant has a high water content and is very famous for its medicinal properties. Now, you will also know it for its air-cooling properties.
  • Dracaena trifasciata or the mother-in-law’s tongue. It also contains a lot of water and therefore humidifies the air. In addition, the impact of the sun can be avoided by placing a few in front of a window, as it tolerates direct sunlight very well.
  • Peace lily. This beautiful houseplant has a better cooling effect if it has large and lush green leaves, which release a greater amount of oxygen and moisture.
  • Ficus elastica or rubber fig. The larger its leaves, the greater the cooling power.
  • Pothos. It is a well-known plant, present in many homes. It has great moisturising and purifying qualities.

This new feature of indoor plants makes us see them not only as a decorative element, but also as purifying and cooling, and as an element that will help us have a healthier, cooler, more beautiful, and more sustainable environment.

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