Chicken Taquitos (NRC – Part 2)

This week of the NRC project features chicken³ (no, that’s not a footnote).

I had chicken taquitos for dinner the other night. Trader Joe’s, a grocery store with its headquarters in Monrovia, CA, prides itself on having “innovative, hard-to-find and great-tasting foods”. Well, as I found from examining the ingredients listed on the taquitos box, their food really is quite innovative. With these delicious meat tubes, they have achieved chicken inception. Chicken within chicken…within chicken. Chicken³.

This is the list of ingredients on the box (I put them into a bullet-ed list here, but on the box it’s listed in brackets, all in one paragraph):

  • chicken
    • chicken
    • water
    • flavoring
    • chicken base
      • chicken meat in natural chicken juices
      • salt
      • sugar
      • corn syrup solids
      • chicken fat
      • flavoring
      • autolyzed yeast extract
      • tumeric
    • chicken fat
    • spices
    • sodium phosphate
  • tortilla
    • corn
    • water
    • lime
  • soybean oil
  • modified food starch

What the (chicken) fluff. Isn’t that kind of ridiculous that the chicken is ‘incepted’ into itself? This makes the meat included in these delicious pipes of carne seem very processed, amirite? What is the deal with processed food anyway? A lot of people say it’s bad for you, but what is the true deal? This is a question I want to answer in this project.

At first glances, sodium phosphate looks a bit ominous. That said, sodium phosphate is just the name of a chemical compound. A fancy -ate or -ide name doesn’t necessarily mean eating it will have a negative impact on your health. For example, you could go around calling the stuff you put on your food every day sodium chloride but it’s no more dangerous to your health than calling it salt. There’s a fair amount of people who would say that “chemicals” are bad for you. Pray tell, what do you define as a chemical? Definitely, there are substances that are bad for you (e.g. too much “nitrate” in your drinking water from nearby agricultural run-off) but it seems there is too much alarmism about BIG BAD CHEMICALS IN YOUR FOOD. Another question I want to answer in this project, how do you define bad chemicals in food?

This is only one dish and already my NRC is looking like it’s going to get complicated. Bring it on!

As part of my fact-finding mission so far, I have emailed Trader Joe’s and the Water, Sewer and Street Bureau of Arlington County. I haven’t heard back from Trader-J’s but I am going to have a call with someone who was listed on my email as “Water Quality” in the next week to talk about dat H-two-Oh.

These first few weeks of the project have been focused on overall questions. I have been thinking about how I want to approach the whole thing. Do I list all the things I consume every single day (e.g. keeping a consumption journal?) or do I focus on specific case studies as I did in this post? Maybe I’ll do both. Who knows what the future holds! You just gotta keep checking back to find out.


Chlorine gas a thing of the past! Electrochlorination is NOW!

Chlorination began in the early 1900’s and since then diseases such as dysentery, cholera, and typhoid have significantly decreased to almost 0% in 1950. It was a very impressive discovery with tremendous affects on sociey. Since then, electrochlorination is a newer more updated way to treat drinking water. It does not harm the environment and does not have any by-products like basic chlorination has. It is much safer to handle, is nontoxic, relatively easy to make and is a more natural way to treat drinking water.

Electrochlorination runs an electrical current in salt water to produce hypochlorite. It is considered to be a type of desalination and is a rather simple process. Saltwater is put into electrolyzer cells (after solids are removed). It is then moved through various channels that range in decreasing thickness and are charged with positive and negative low current DC. The reaction is a production of sodium hypochlorite and hydrogen gas, which has between 0.7-1% chlorine. It uses chlorine, a very common drinking water disinfection, in a hypochlorate solution that is dispersed within the system. The hydrogen gas is then removed and the solution is stored. It uses no chemicals!!

Electrochlorination follow this simple equation:

NaCl + H2O + Energy -> NaOCl + H2

Electrochlorination systems are usually used by large water utility companies before the water is pumped to households, but it is becoming more available to smaller populations and there are several installation engineering companies that design specifically for the clients needs .

It has several advantages:

  • Low costs
  • Used worldwide
  • Nontoxic because it is salt based
  • Easy to store
  • Safe to produce
  • Low maintenance
  • Long life cycle
  • Approved as a disinfection from the CDC
  • Reduces scaling because of a lower pH

Disadvantages are:

  • Effects biofilm in hot water pipes and tanks
  • Effect on bacteria is limited in the long term
  • Smell and taste is changed
  • Less effective with pH’s higher than 7.5Image

NOT too bad huh?!

Life Straw! Mini Water Purifier

My dream company to work for!! One day, one day… Check them out, absolutely incredible!!

Awesome Stuff To Buy Online

This is really neat invention that will allow you to drink water from questionable sources when you’re out on a long hike and don’t want to carry too much weight. It filters at least 99.9% of waterborne bacteria. This is very impressive but expected if you are filtering particles up to 0.2 microns.

Considering it’s only $25, it’s a great buy for anyone that likes be out in the wild for longer periods of time. You never know what may happen and water is a first priority. Although not the worst of the 7 enemies of survival, it surely will kill you the fastest and it is only a result of poor planning and preparation!

This lab instructor has balls enough to use this straw to drink from poo water! Watch Video

If you check out their Website, it looks like they have more plans than just using the…

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Innovative, creative, and simple ways to can water good enough to drink!!

Innovative, creative, and simple ways to can water good enough to drink!!


Fascinating!! Intelligent design, purposeful meaning, interesting aesthetic, and future driven, how buildings should be made.

Fascinating!! Intelligent design, purposeful meaning, interesting aesthetic, and future driven, how buildings should be made.wbrfrontview

Greenhouse your water…say what?


The use of solar is becoming increasingly poplar as a source of energy. By capturing this technology and manipulating it to treat water is rather simple. It has been used since the 1800’s when it was invented to deliver drinking water to miners using a high nitrate brackish influent. Since then, solar distillation is increasingly becoming a common method for supplying clean drinking water.

The method is really simple: solar heat increases water temperature to where it is evaporated into the atmosphere, captured and collected. It is basically creating a man-made cloud and making it rain. This ‘collected rain’ will be free from salt and microbes, making it then, safe to consume.

Dirty water is put into a container or basin that has a blacked out bottom. Then it is covered with glass that is at an angle, allowing the clean water to collect or drain. The sun heats the water causing evaporation and condensation to collect on the glass. Since it is covered at an angle the condensed water moves down the angle cover to collect in a separate container. Water in the feed should be added in order to clean out the basin.

The size of these systems can be large or small, however their production is somewhat limited. A system set up for a family can create up to 3 gallons a day. This is a great option for those communities that suffer from drought because these areas tend to have a hot climate great for distilling salt contaminated water sources. In some areas the contaminated water source has a built structure directly on the source to create a greenhouse-like effect.

The technology is remarkably simple and somewhat inexpensive. The basin where the feed water is located should be shallow and of a dark color such as black in order to absorb the heat. Choosing a cover such as glass allows for the solar energy to go through without becoming the same temperature as the basin, hence the creation of condensation.

There is a possibility of recontamination in the catchment system, so it is recommended using a PVC plastic piping made specifically for water systems. The reason being that some PVC pipes degrade in time thus releasing various chemicals which can be dangerous to consume. There are pipes made specifically for water systems and are manufactured to avoid this danger and would be clearly identified at any hardware store. Another way to minimize contamination is to leave the materials to build the solar distiller in the sun for approximately a week so that any chemicals will be ‘burned’ off and released without it entering into the water system. Also, a disadvantage of this process is that the gathered water is tasteless. By adding a small amount of chlorine (5 drop per liter) or by allowing the water to flow through marble to obtain some lost minerals. Both of these methods will make the water taste better.

The United Nations states that the cost of solar distilled water is $3-6 per 1,000 gallons. This is less than buying bottled water, but a bit more expensive than the average municipal supplied water. However, although it is a little more expensive, there is more guarantee of cleanliness in the context of variations of municipal drinking water quality around the world.

According to the University of Central Florida, who specializes in solar distillation research, ‘if it costs about $40-60 per square meter to build the still and it is worth roughly $15 USD per 1,000 gallons, the still should pay for itself in 2,500 to 4,000 days or 7-11 years.” This is a great idea as the prices of water rise and the valuable resource becomes scarcer.

Distillation by solar energy has been used for a rather long time and is widely accepted by both water quality engineers and those communities/families/persons who use and maintain these systems. This choice for obtaining clean drinking water is most effective where somewhat clean water is difficult to come by or where there is a shortage in water supply. This is because it may be most beneficial to pump and purify where water is more plentiful.

The simplicity of this method and the result of quality drinking water is ideal in humanitarian assistance and natural disaster emergencies. It is worthy of being a viable option to increase clean water consumption.


Engineering crush: Green Roofs

I thought I would write my first ‘spotlight on a technology’ post on…. Green Roofs! It’s because they’re so great. And because I intend to live in a house that has one (if I don’t end up living in a tree house).

What a Green Roof is…

They are multiple layers of soil and plant matter that are installed on the roof of a building. Basically, if all houses and buildings had green roofs, we’d be living in the Shire (minus the hairy feet).

The forest is really good at dealing with storm water. Rain falls on a natural area relatively evenly and it percolates down into the soil. Effectively 100% of the ground is permeable so the water can infiltrate down into the groundwater system (recharging aquifers! Yay!). When an area is built-up, however, rainwater gets erratic. It will run off traditional roofs and onto paved, impermeable sidewalks. If there is no drainage system, flooding will occur. That’s bad. Also, even if there is a drainage system it may be old. Old systems tend to just siphon off the water into nearby lakes or streams. These natural water bodies haven’t been adapted for influxes of large volumes of water. Their delicate stream beds and shores may begin to erode due to the water’s force.

So if you put a little forest on your roof (that’s what a Green Roof effectively is) you can restore the natural process of rainwater movement through our environment. You are protecting streams and lakes! You are helping prevent flooding! You are planting trees and greenery which gobble up CO2! Also, they look pretty boss.

Can I get one?

Yes. I’m glad you asked. There are varying thicknesses of Green Roofs that you can install on your roof. Even a thin layer of soil and plant matter (generally called an “extensive green roof”) can help manage storm water. And it won’t be crazy expensive or require a retrofit to support the added load to your roof.

See, you can even graze your goats up on these bad boys.

I want to learn more!

Go here:

And here:

“Ecogeeking” out in D.C.,