BRB w/ Nathan P – Rubber from Dandelions, Tempeh Avocado Salad & The Power of Now
Dandelions as a promising latex alternative, a delicious salad with my favorite plant-based protein, and how solving the climate crisis starts with our own consciousness (#42).
Welcome back to BRB w/ Nathan P, your 5-min weekly dose of climate information to inspire climate action.
My mission is to make it fun, easy, and delicious to make more sustainable decisions.
Each Wednesday, I share 💥1 Breakthrough, 🥘1 Recipe, and 📚1 Book on food & climate.
💥 Breakthrough: Rubber from Dandelions
Most of the natural rubber and latex we find in over 40,000 consumer products comes from the Brazilian Pará rubber tree, also known as Hevea brasiliensis. It is now under threat from spreading fungal infections.
You may have also seen synthetic rubbers in wetsuits, balloons, and shoe soles – over 20 million tons are produced every year. However, it is made from fossil fuels, carries air quality concerns in home products, and is not as durable in certain applications.
The resistance and durability of natural rubber still make it first choice for the automotive & aerospace industries, mattresses, and many other personal and commercial applications. We more need natural alternatives.
Another plant you might remember from childhood could offer a viable natural substitute: dandelions.
Pará rubber tree plantations are now widespread in Southeast Asian countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand, which now account for 95% of global natural rubber supply.
There are many fungal infections that are threatening rubber trees worldwide. One is called South American leaf blight (SALB), which first appears as brown spots on leaves before spreading to the rest of the tree. Despite best control efforts, there are no ways to cure trees of the fungus yet.
Scientists in from the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology in Germany discovered that Russian dandelions are a viable alternative source for natural rubber. They have higher concentrations of latex – the key ingredient to make rubber – than European varietals.
The Russian dandelion, also called Taraxacum kok-saghyz (TKS), offers additional benefits over rubber from the Pará tree. For one, it grows annually, whereas the Pará rubber tree needs 5-7 years before it is ready for latex harvest.
Through precision breeding, scientists doubled the Russian dandelions’ rubber production, which mostly happens in its roots.
Scientists and industry are developing biorefineries that extract rubber from these dandelions with eco-friendly processes. Industrial leaders like GEA are scaling up multi-product extractions from TKS:
Latex for rubber (4-6% of roots)
🍬 Inulin* for sweet syrups (40% of roots)
🍃 Other fiber waste streams to upcycle
*Inulin is the fructose polysaccharide and prebiotic sugar found in prebiotic sodas like Poppi.
Products from TKS are already in market. Vredestein (Apollo Tires) debuted the first TKS-based rubber bicycle tires at the 2017 Eurobike Trade Fair in Germany, with promising performance tests.
TKS rubber thus promises to be a viable replacement for the Pará tree rubber, to be compatible with large-scale manufacturing, and to have the potential to reduce import pressures from Asia.
Russian dandelions are just one example of the many materials and solutions nature can offer. This is your sign to take that nature break you need.
🥘 Recipe: Avocado Tempeh Salad
Made right, tempeh is deliciously nutty, crunchy, and umami – one of my favorite plant-based treats and protein sources.
I love combining it with avocados for texture, which I also mixed here with with baby lettuce greens and a tangy vinaigrette on a bed of wild rice.
PS: for all of the nutrition nerds out there, tempeh has the highest DIAAS score (digestible indispensable amino acid score) of any plant-based protein. Typically, only 80% of plant protein is digestible (egg and dairy are above 97%). Tempeh also has 60% more protein than tofu. And tempeh is also high in fiber, probiotics, and micronutrients as a fermented product. Three cheers for tempeh.
PS: if you make it, please send pictures :)
📚 Book: The Power of Now
There are a handful of books that I read once a year. As I am a different person each time I read them, different things resonate with me. The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle is one of those books.
The Power of Now is a liberating read on many fronts. Eckhart Tolle explains that suffering often results from non-acceptance of the present and overidentification with our minds, thoughts, and emotions. Reading and understanding this has brought me a lot of peace.
When reading it this time around, I noticed more on how our collective unconsciousness results in planetary crises. Climate change, biodiversity loss, plastic pollution, and overconsumption all stem from unresolved individual conflicts on a global scale:
The pollution of the planet is only an outward reflection of an inner psychic pollution: millions of unconscious individuals not taking responsibility for their inner space.
Unconsciousness is one of the root causes of dysfunction in our relationships with ourselves, each other, and the Earth.
Overcoming the climate crisis starts with tuning in and aligning with our own consciousness. This consciousness then lets the right creativity, sensitivity, collaboration, and leadership emerge.
The Power of Now is amongst my most gifted books and I cannot recommend it enough. If you read it, I hope it brings you peace and healing.
Some more food for thought:
If you get the inside right, the outside will fall into place. Primary reality is within; secondary reality without.
All negativity is caused by an accumulation of psychological time and denial of the present. Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry – all forms of fear – are caused by too much future, and not enough presence. Guilt, regret, resentment, grievances, sadness, bitterness, and all forms of nonforgiveness are caused by too much past, and not enough presence.
I have lived with several Zen masters – all of them cats.
Thank you for reading – BRB next week ✌️
Hi there! My name is Nathan Paumier – I’m an avid reader, food enthusiast, and climate optimist. I started this newsletter after frequent questions on food tech, reading recommendations, and my secret recipes.
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