I’m on a home-brewing KICK! And now I’m going to talk about homemade wine. I never really have done a whole lot with homemade wine before, but that’s mostly just because I’m not really much for wine. I’m a beer man, but it’s a pretty cool experiment to try and make your own wine. There are even a bunch of recipes out there for making wine with juice concentrate and bakers yeast, but I REALLY don’t recommend doing that. Unless you’re in prison. Then: knock yourself out.


For the rest of us, getting a good kit is essential for getting decent wine out of your experiment. There are even some very fancy sets out there that give you special wine pressing equipment and all of that. I’m not going to get into anything that crazy, but I can recommend a great beginners kit that I haven’t personally used but that a friend of mine has used with great success. It’s called the Strange Brew Wine Making Kit, and as a homebrewer, I can tell that this thing is well worth the money and time.


One thing that is great about this set is its simplicity. Some sets are full of confusing home brew components that can make the whole process seem way more complicated to a newbie than it has to be, and there’s really no good reason for that. Another thing that I love is that it has a glass carboy. The carboy is the thing that you’re doing the actual fermentation in before you do the initial bottling, and having a glass one is great because it allows you to actually see the fermentation going on. When it comes to wine fermentation, this is a great way to keep an eye on the fermentation process so you can see when it’s done. Aside from that, this kit has a very sturdy build and none of the parts that come with it are built out of that cheap, shaky plastic that makes you shake your head in shame at having spent money on them.

Eco friendly Eggs

three eggs of different colors

Around Easter, many eggs are consumed without a thought as to their origin, how the chickens are treated and how healthy the eggs from these farms are for us. Thankfully more people are becoming aware of the plight of caged chickens and the cruelty that lies behind the commercial factory farming egg production.

Battery Farmed Eggs
Eggs from conventional battery farms are produced from hens raised in small crowded cages, usually with multiple hens per cage. These cramped conditions prevent the chickens from engaging in natural behaviors such as wing-flapping, dust-bathing,
scratching, pecking, perching, and nest-building. Due to the cramped conditions and scarce food, fights are inevitable and so the birds are de-beaked to prevent the birds from harming each other during fights. This is a cruel barbaric practice that causes great stress to the birds and in some cases interferes with their ability to eat. There are also many other complications of keeping so many birds in confined conditions such as diseases (antibiotic use), mass culling of male chicks as they can’t lay eggs, laying hens may be forced to molt to increase egg quality (molting can be induced by extended feed withdrawal, water withdrawal or controlled lighting programs). The European Union will introduce an EU-wide ban on the use of conventional battery cages for egg-laying hens. This ban is expected to come into effect from 1 January 2012, hopefully, the US won’t be too far behind!

An alternative to battery farmed eggs is free-range eggs which are given outdoor access instead of being contained in
crowded cages. There have however been questions concerning the actual living conditions of free-range hens have been raised, as there is no legal definition or regulations for eggs labeled as free-range in the US. Many of the free-range hens are simply kept in barns, they are allowed limited outdoor access and there are still health concerns. Some free-range hens are given lots of outside access though so you just can’t be sure what you’re paying for.

Cage-Free, natural, organic and humane
Other standards of egg production include “Cage Free”, “Natural”, “Certified Humane”, and “Certified Organic.” Of these standards, “Certified Humane”, which carries requirements for stocking density and cage-free keeping, among others, and “Certified Organic”, which requires hens have outdoor access and are fed only organic, vegetarian feed, among other requirements, are the most stringent so look for these on your next trip to the grocery store. Be aware though that these eggs do cost more, personally for our household it’s worth it for peace of mind on how the hens were raised and treated to produce the eggs.


Instead of looking at commercially farmed eggs why not look for a local farm in your area that sells eggs? Even some suburban households have small backyard henhouses these days and have an egg surplus. Check out your local resources like Craigslist and farmers markets for locally produced and humanely produced eggs.

One other thing to remember when looking for eggs in your supermarket is packaging. Instead of opting for the eggs wrapped in Styrofoam cartons look for ones in cardboard. Some manufacturers even use recycled products to produce their packaging to be sure to look for eco-friendly alternatives. If you buy your eggs at a farm or farmers market remember to save the cartons to return them the following week!

Sources: Image by pieceoflace at Flickr

A Strong Drink for the Green at Heart

green heart

Most of the time we hear about alcohol and the environment in terms of ethanol and E85, but this is about whisky. Whisky is a rough drink, I’ll admit, and I am no connoisseur, but during a recent visit to Scotland, I learned more about scotch whisky than I ever wanted to know…and then some. But the most interesting fact was about new technologies that make whisky production one of the most eco-friendly processes in the notoriously unhealthy alcohol industry.

Heading this trend is the installation of a GreenSwitch™ biomass-fuelled combined heat and power plant (CHP) alongside Combination of Rothes Distillers Limited (CoRD) in Rothes. This GreenSwitch unit will allow the distillery to run off of a combination of distillery byproduct and wood chips from sustainable sources. In the end, it is expected to provide enough energy to run 9,000 homes, with excess energy being exported to the national grid.

The new GreenFields plant that is expected to go along with the CHP plant will also allow for the conversion of the liquid byproduct of whisky production- the liquid that is not able to be distilled- to be converted into concentrated organic fertilizer for local farms.

Most of this innovation, including the GreenSwitch unit and GreenFields plant, is the work of the Helius Energy Group, which won the ‘Best Environmental Initiative Award’ at the Scottish Green Energy Awards in 2008 for their work with CoRD. But this is not the first time distillery byproduct has been used for energy.

In Islay, Scotland the local swimming pool is actually heated by the excess heat from a distillery located nearby, while excess C02 is sometimes used in nearby greenhouses to grow plants and vegetables. ‘Draff’ (the cereal-like leftovers from malt and grain distilleries) is a much-sought animal feed as well, making distilleries a valuable business for local farms and in turn the local economy.

Whisky has a long history in Scotland, and with a long history of material scarcity, the reuse of product still viable as foodstuffs or fertilizer is no surprise, especially in a country when farming and sheepherding is a major industry. In this kind of environment, the CHP and GreenField’s unit can simply be seen as the next logical step in reuse to benefit the surrounding infrastructure. While the initial cost of installation and construction is estimated to be over 4 million euro, the payoff from the system is sure to exceed it, not only in monetary terms but in the future sustainability of the scotch whisky industry.