5 Eco-friendly Technologies Lebanon Needs

Sparkling Sidewalks
Using the energy captured from the sun during the day, sidewalks and pedestrian-friendly areas can be lit up at night. “Starpaths” are created by spraying the surface with Pro-Teq. It consists of a polyurethane glue base, followed by the particles, followed by a biodegradable sealant. At night, it looks like a path right out of Alice in Wonderland. Considering our street lamps aren’t very reliable, this would be a easy way to keep the walkways lit in the dark evenings.

Falling Sand Energy
Danielle Trofes uses the energy from falling sand to light LEDs. Although the fixture needs to be flipped to keep it working, it’s a simple solution to an electric problem we face in the land of generators. Many product designers use the principle of harnessing kinetic energy from basic movements in order to have a self-sustaining product. Check out the Soccket and the Voltmaker. No need for external sources of electricity when it’s power source is built in.

Swing Generators
To power public spaces and parks – yes, I still have hope – Morodavaga swings can be set up. As the riders swing back and forth, energy is created. The system was created as an installation for the Pop Up Culture program by Guimarães, in Portugal. Simple swing sets with this technology could be used and be the power source for the lights within parks.

Algae Powered Lamps and Light Sources
By inserting nanoelectrodes into the chloroplasts of algae, a small current can be drawn from them while they photosynethsize. The simple process allows the organism to create energy for a battery which can be used later. Peter Horvath’s biolamps also depend on liquid algae to purify the air. The biomass produced from the process is used as biofuel that power the street lamp. Solar trees can also replace street lamps but we have something resembling that installed in certain areas of the country. Whether or not your district has them depends on your governing municipality.

Double-Sided Solar Panels
USA’s SunPower Design designed a carport that has a canopy of solar panels above it. The panels provide shade for the cars while being able to generate power for 200 homes nearby. What makes this carport so special is that the panels are designed in a way that allows them to capture light from both sides. The fabric underneath reflects the light onto the backside of the panels so you end up with double the energy. Solar panels, however, need to be cleaned regularly so that they absorb as much sunlight as possible. Stanford University researchers had the idea of using the water than runs off the panels to cultivate agave (the plant that makes tequila). In our case, we could incorporate this method to create root systems that “help keep soil in place and prevent erosion.” Or we can just use it to grow hashish.

Advertisements

Salt & Paprika Shakers

20140418-140102.jpg

If you’ve ever had Hungarian paprika, then you’ve probably already done this. If you haven’t, then get your hands on some and trade in your black pepper shakers. Hungarian paprika tastes good on everything except ice cream.

Paprika is made by grinding up the pods of capsicum pepper plants. The plant reached Hungary through the Turks back in the 16th century and the best stuff is grown in Szeged. There are two main types (hot and sweet) that are further broken down into 8 varieties. All Hungarian paprika is a beautiful bright red but the varieties differ depending on their pungency and heat. The red peppers are hung to dry and grounded into a fine powder. Sweet paprika is mostly pericarp with most seeds removed, whereas hot paprika contains some seeds, placentas, calyxes, and stalks.

Using it as a garnish gives minimal flavor, it’s better to cook with. If you want to enhance the paprika flavor even more, stir it into some oil before use. Hello, paprika parmesan fries with truffle oil! Unfortunately, the only dish I had in Budapest was chicken paprikash and it was purely the paprika that made this dish worthy. It reminded me of the chicken rice in Singapore only because of the combination of boiled chicken with a zing of spicy flavor. I think my supply above will last about a month.

A Cedar Environmental Update

IMG_3817

So once again, I attended a TEDxBeirut event and, once again, I got to hear about certain upcycling eco-friendly efforts going on in Lebanon including Chreek and the recent developments at Cedar Environmental. Ziad Abi Chaker was one of the live speakers and his presentation showed the audience what he’s been up to since his first TEDx talk in 2011.

MRFs (Material Recovery Facility)
These facilities are like garbage filters in that they extract the usable material from waste thrown away by communities. One issue with these facilities is space. According to Cedar Environmental’s website, “Land is an exceptionally scarce resource in Lebanon, and large terrain cannot be sacrificed as a waste dumping and burning site. A MRF using the Dynamic Composting™ technology takes only 1000 m2 of land to treat 5 to 10 tons of waste DAILY. Outside the Beirut area, a 5 and 10 tons per day waste stream is generated by a community of 10,000 & 20,000 inhabitants respectively.” However, Cedar Environmental has built 7 MRFs in Lebanon; each MRF treats up to 96 tons of waste daily.

Organic Fertilizer
Animal waste produced in Lebanon used to be dumped in the sea or burned. The waste is now converted into the first organic fertilizer made in Lebanon making it cheaper than imported alternatives. Before 2005, there were close to 90 certified organic farmers. Now, there’s about 400 thanks to the price of fertilizer dropping by 70% since there’s a local supplier.

Eco-boards within the pallet chairs

Eco-boards within the chairs

Eco-board
The Eco-board, a board made of 3600 compressed plastic bags, is being used for construction of small houses, porta-potties, furniture, and conveyor belts in factories. One eco-board conveyor belt exists in the slaughterhouse of Beirut. The boards can now be painted as well (painting plastic is not the easiest feat) so the not-so-glamorous ingredients aren’t detectable when you see the material. Honestly, I prefer the non-coated boards because the Eco-board has a nice textured pattern.

Colonel Microbrewery in Batroun
Many blogs and newspapers have been reporting the story of the new microbrewery that’s being built near the Batroun coast. This new craft beer will be concocted in an eco-friendly brewery that is made entirely out of recycled materials. Like the Ixsir winery, they will depend largely on natural light. There will be a 370 sq. mt. green roof and the walls are made of Eco-boards that will double as vertical gardens. Herbs including zaatar (thyme) and mint will be grown and, in turn, used at the restaurant there. The Microbrewery will also have a bed & breakfast. The structure, which is made out of 2 million plastic bags, 3000 shipping pallets, and 109 sq. mt. of glass panels, should be done in 3 weeks. I’d love to be part of a grand tour.

GGRIL Cups on an Eco-board table

GGRIL Cups on an Eco-board table


GGRIL Accessories
Mentioned before on the blog, GGRIL accessories are upcycled glass home accessories and decorative items. The team provides the glass bottles and the designs while the glass blowers take care of the production. All proceeds that come from the sales of these items go back to the artisans that created them. Because glass blowers were almost extinct prior to this initiative, it’s admirable to see that they’re craft is being preserved. As Ziad said, next time you’re invited to a dinner, instead of bringing a bottle of wine, get an GGRIL item that’s made out of used wine bottles. You’ll spend around the same amount, help the environment and be supporting local craftsmen. Cheers to that.

Bambi Recommends: Chimney Cake

Kürtőskalács, or the easier to remember/pronounce “chimney cake”, is a Hungarian sweet snack which is sometimes referred to as “spitcake.” Don’t let the names fool you.

photo1 (1)

It’s made by wrapping a long thick string of dough around what looks like a rolling pin skewer. The dough is brushed with butter or egg yolk, coated in sugar, and left to rotate over hot coals. Watch it happen here. The sugar becomes caramelized and once toasted, different flavored sprinkles are added on top (coconut, cinnamon, vanilla, chocolate, crushed walnuts). It’s then slipped off the skewer and wrapped; you can tear off pieces of the cake and it unravels like the inner tubing of a toilet paper roll. Sorry, bad association. It tastes best when it’s still warm off the coals. The outside has a sugary crust while the inner part of the strips remains soft like bread. Basically, if sweet pretzels and cinnamon rolls had a baby, it would be a chimney cake dipped in awesome.

IMG_3361

IMG_3417

Based on their little sign next to the grill and what I dug up online, the chimney cake originated in Transylvania when it was still Hungarian territory. Born in the bakery of the Szeklers, or Hungarian Szekleys. Szekleys were Transylvanian warriors who were rumored to be descendants of Attila’s Huns. They have pride in their effect on Hungary because Magyar tribes were said to be related to the Huns and thus, the Szeklers are a subgroup of Hungarians in the mountains of Romania. “Magyar” is used interchangeably with “Hungarian” but can also refer to the Hungarian language.

The cake is served at special occasions but can be found made and sold by street vendors throughout Budapest. Like Hungary’s pálinka, kürtőskalács are an EU protected geographic indication of Slovakia (but they’re called Trdelník). Regardless, they remain Hungarian to me.

5 Tidbits from Hungarians in Budapest

IMG_3617

“All we have to our left is our sword, dog, and hookers”

A Hungarian said this while walking with us two girls on the sidewalk. He moved to the left side as most gentlemen do, resulting in us being on his right and then proceeded to tell us the above Hungarian saying. So flattering.

“Egészségedre!” (pronounced egheshe gedra)

This means “cheers!” in Hungarian. The actual translation is “on your health!” so it’s just like Arabic’s “sahtein!” Be careful though because if you pronounce it wrong and say it with an A like “eghesha gedra”, then you’re saying “on your ass!” Always maintain eye contact when clinking glasses, they take their 7-years-of-bad-sex curse very seriously.

“The best way to describe Pinot noir is it tastes like strawberry shit.”

One Hungarian producer said this after telling me that Southern Hungary makes the best wine but his favorite type is Pinot noir. Despite this appetizing description, we had some later and I believe it tasted much better than fruity excrement but, then again, I’ve never tried strawberry feces.

“Let’s do a white line.”

This is referring to the new metro line. The existing three are the yellow, red, and blue lines. Yellow being the oldest in Budapest and the second oldest metro line in the world (first in mainland Europe!). It starts at Vörösmarty tér and was built in 1896. Seniors and EU citizens ride free. At first, Hungarians didn’t know what color was to be assigned to the new line so they dubbed it the white line; thus, the cocaine joke. Based on my trusty guidebook though, the line is actually green.

“Plum is the best.”

When asking about the best flavor of pálinka, Hungarian fruit brandy. There’s plum, apricot, apple, pear, peach, and so on. It’s an EU geographical indication which I find to be just another policy that we should implement for our own geographical specialties. It’s like hardcore copyright. It “ensures that only products genuinely originating in that region are allowed to be identified as such in commerce.” Read more here. We’ll have it one day. Anyway, pálinka is insane. It’s sometimes served like a shot in whiskey glasses and once you down it, you have a hint of fruit flavor and then your mouth stops functioning. It goes numb and you can’t feel your tongue for about 30 seconds. And then it burns on the way down and everything is fuzzier. TWSS.

Singing “Supergeil” under his breath

And then the German/Hungarian producer who studied in the UK showed me this amazingly unforgettable supermarket ad:

Beirut vs. Budapest

IMG_3456

Like anyone who visits a city for the first time, I was automatically comparing all things to my home city of Beirut. I don’t know what it is about you Beirut but I see you no matter where I am. It’s a “wherever you go, there you are” sort of thing. You can travel thousands of miles but you’ll never really escape something that’s constantly in your heart.

Upon arrival, I received a guidebook that described Budapest as the “sandwich city” and not because of its huge array of sausages, deli cuts, and blood pudding. It’s called so because it is two strips of a city split by the Danube. Buda, the hilly residential half, and Pest (pronounced Pesht), the SoHo-like flat land. Buda overlooks Pest because of the contrast in elevation and they’re connected with 3 main híds, or bridges.

Wine
There are 23 wine areas in Hungary but the two that seem to have the best are the Eger and Szekszard regions. It’s good stuff – as in, you would drink the wine because it actually tastes good rather than just to feel a little lighter/giddy. Hungarians are very proud of their wine and it’s a big part of their nightlife; most of the streets in the downtown area are filled with wine bars. Most bottled water there is fizzy and, because of this, it’s easy to transform your glass of rosé into a spritzer on ice. Innio is one wine bar near Ersebet Tér that has a chill atmosphere and yummy cheeses. Their slogan is “innio, ennio, elnio” meaning “to drink, to eat, to live.” Goat cheese with paprika and a glass of Hungarian cuvée, yes please.

Identity
When addressing a Hungarian, you use their family name then first name. There are some mixed feelings when it comes to their neighbors, the Romanians, because of history and the claim of Transylvania. Due to the Turkish, Austrian, and Roman influences (and others), Budapest is filled with various classical European architectural styles. The newer buildings stand out immediately up against Gothic, Baroque, and Art Nouveau-inspired exteriors. The whole city is a mesh of old & new much like my beloved BEI. I particularly hate the Intercontinental Hotel’s disgraceful contribution to the Pesh side’s waterfront but that’s just me. In Hungary, identifying Hungarians as anything other than Hungarian is illegal. Some Hungarians fought to be registered as Jedis in the census just to make it a point. This is something we should adopt: we should be Lebanese and nothing else.

Hungarians Invented Everything
Hungarians invented the button, the Rubik’s cube, and the ballpoint pen. They also claim to have invented trousers. Hungarians’ official language was Latin until 1844…but Phoenicians invented the alphabet. This belief that your own nation is the center of the world may not be a Hungarian or Lebanese thing; when we were discussing this with a colleague from Geneva, he said “yeah, you guys probably got that from the Greeks.” Did I mention he’s Greek? It seems that all countries are ethnocentric to some extent.

Government
All week long, the current government was pulling out all stops trying to impress the public including completing the newest Metro line. Although no one really uses that particular line and its practicality is questionable, residents thought it would never finish but it miraculously has. Why? Because parliamentary elections are this weekend. The Metro plus public markets, a club opening, and classical concerts in the park – they’re trying very hard to win the vote using anti-EU rhetoric even though 97% of their projects are EU funded. The leading governmental party is orange. It seems they use colors too. “Do people like them?” I inquire. “Depends who you ask.” Well there’s a diplomatic answer that sounds all too familiar.

Neighborhood Names
Budapest is split into 23 districts and some of these districts are broken down further into neighborhoods. It’s the same as our Hamra/Geitawi/Horsh Tabet/etc divisions. They have great respect for their history and their past. Small plaques on buildings commemorating someone have small wreaths hung below them. There is evidence that they cherish what came before them. Another lesson we could learn from the Hungarians.

Rom kocsma (Ruin Pubs)
This trend started in 2002 at Szimplar Kert, the oldest ruin pub in Pest. The concept was that pubs would open in temporarily abandoned inner city blocks. Once it got popular, more and more pubs opened up and people would bar-hop from one to the other shifting to quasi-snobbism. We visited the Gozsdu Aracade which used to be social housing during the Communist days. The recipe according to this site is: “search for an old building in downtown Pest, rent the cellar and the ground floor, do not renovate anything, invite some contemporary artists and designers, recreate the atmosphere of the 70’s, build a bar and serve some drinks, invite a band and be open until the morning comes.” And it’s no fun to live in the same area but partying is great. Sounds a lot like our Monot/Gemmayzeh/Mar Mikhael culture. By the way, our latest rom kocsma area is Badaro but that’s for another post.