Do We Live in a Post-Environmentalist Society?

At the risk of dating myself, I grew up in the Captain Planet and Fern Gully generation. I participated in Earth Day clean up events before I understood much about the consequences of my ingrained consumerist behavior. When I was a kid, the big environmental problems could be addressed with a grocery bag full of litter and curbside recycling.
This past Earth Day, my normally celebration-happy town square was deserted. I was the only one shopping with cloth bags. I ironically wrote the words “Earth Day” on my “Nature’s Power” themed wall calendar, which had left the square unmarked.

There’s talk of the EPA, the Environmental Protection Agency, being disbanded. Our National Parks are defunded, and the internet meme is that Smokey Bear is eerily correct … only we can prevent forest fires.
With the CO2 levels in our atmosphere, climatologists are now predicting that there is no way to prevent global climate change.
Do we just give up? Is the environmental battle over? Do we turn in our chasing arrow badges and our planeteer rings?

I would hope that the answer is a resolute and resounding NO! Because, we still haven’t found a replacement Earth. We still live here and we’re still having children and we’re still hoping to eat, to breathe, to drink from the planet we live on. We can’t afford to be blaissez about this issue.
This isn’t a special interest. This is the root of all interests. We can’t eat money. We can’t make products from snapping our fingers together and willing them into existence.

What do we tell our children? That we’re sorry, but the continued existence of life on Earth, and their lives, were just too “fringe” for us to consider?

What Can We Do?

I suggest we do away with “the environment”, a cold, sterile word that seems so “special interest” and refocus on activity that is “Earth-friendly”. Refocus on “Our Planet”. Our connection.
We don’t give up in despair in face of the over-sized problem we’ve fallen into. We fight for as long as we wish to eat, to breathe, to drink, and so on.
You, me, our children and our grandchildren – we’re all in this together. Maybe we all find different solutions to work on. Our interests and specialties may vary, but our passion shouldn’t. This is situation critical. We can’t be lax now.
But if you have no idea what you are going to do. May I humbly make some suggestions to get you started:

  • Consume less stuff. Everything made has an environmental footprint. Check in with yourself before making a purchase. Do I really need this? Will this serve a function in my life?
  • Replace the plastic. If you have a choice between two materials, choose the item that isn’t made from plastic.
  • Avoid single use everything. Figure out how to use and reuse items for as long as you can.
  • Speak up. The reason there was no Earth Day celebration in my local town square, the reason the EPA is in danger of being disbanded, that National Parks are being defunded is because politicians believe we just don’t care. You and I both know this isn’t true.

Notes:

EPA
According to NBC News, in an article written by Avalon Zoppo, “On Feb. 3, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Florida, introduced a bill in the House that would terminate the EPA by the end of 2018”.
How seriously should we take this? The Washington Post published an article reviewing in detail the proposed 2018 budget in an article called “What Trump cut in his budget”. Guess which three letter agency received the largest funding cut.
The Guardian notes, in an article entitled “Donald Trump ‘taking steps to abolish Environmental Protection Agency’”, that eliminating the EPA was a campaign pledge of Trump. The article points to specific and worrying regulations already taking place. “Fears of a purge of EPA climate data, research, and reports have been fuelled by the removal of climate science material on a White House website and a ‘temporary hold’ placed on new publications until they have been vetted by politcal appointees.” (political appointees, not scientists) Let’s be clear, American citizens have funded this research, but we’re not being allowed to have access to the results. For political reasons.

Climate Change

According to a New York Post article, “Carbon dioxide levels hit ‘point of no return’ by Lauren Tousignant, “in 2015, when CO2 levels officially passed 400 ppm, which climate scientists call the ‘point of no return.’ After this mark, they claim, climate change is irreversible.”
Some may think that this is the signal to stop fighting. But consider this, while carbon dioxide is slow to dissipate, methane, the second most prevalent greenhouse gas can trap up to 100 times more heat inside the atmosphere and can dissipate from the atmosphere, if the problem is addressed, much more quickly.
I reiterate: we can’t afford to stop fighting. We may have to change our battle strategy, but we can’t just quit.

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My 2017 Favorite Vegan Resources (Day 25)

I imagine that as the years go by and I get exposed to new resources, my vegan favorites list will change. However, I have been “vegucating” myself during this challenge, and I think these are pretty good resources, resources that I feel could be valuable to others.

My Favorite Vegan YouTubers:

My Top Three:

Honorable Mention:

My Favorite Vegan Movies:

Available on Netflix:

  • Vegucated
  • Food, Inc.
  • Cowspiracy
  • Forks Over Knives + Engine 2 Kitchen Rescue

Available on YouTube:

My Favorite Vegan Books:

  • Vegan Pregnancy: Survival Guide by Sayward Rebhal
  • Low-FODMAP and Vegan: What to eat when you can’t eat anything by Jo Stepaniak
  • V is for Vegan by Ruby Roth
  • Thrive: The Vegan Nutrition Guide to Optimal Performance in Sports and Life by Brendan Brazier

My Favorite Vegan Website:

Vegan Essentials 

My Favorite Vegan Substitutes:

I don’t feel that I eat a lot of vegan specialty foods. Mostly due to availability, my town isn’t very veg friendly. That said, I do have a few vegan swaps that are returning champions in my home. These are:

My Favorite Vegan Products / Companies:

Until next time, keep that talk walking!

 

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My Vegan Button (Day 23)

Yesterday, I got my order from veganessentials.com. It was a wonderful Earth Day present to myself. The order included a packet of No Whey! Pretzel No-No candy (already eaten up eagerly by my whole family) and the order included an organic cotton vegan message t-shirt, but the size was unexpected, so unfortunately, I’ll have to see if I can exchange it. Not exactly a “win” for the environment, but I want to be able to wear it.

What I really want to talk about is the Vegan button that I purchased.

vegan button

I was excited to get this in the mail and I immediately pinned it to my purse. I was headed out the door to do some grocery shopping, so its one-size, easy pin nature was just perfect.

Now, what happens when you put a visible label on yourself that comes with certain expectations? I’ve noticed this with religious jewelry and with environmental message wear, so I guess I shouldn’t have been too surprised.

The fact is, it is a small button and I bet no one actually noticed it. However, by pinning it on, I felt personally responsible for being the best example of a vegan and a person that I could manage. This made the endless debate over the dairy-based gas station capuccino much easier to decide. It made me try to be friendlier and generally more pleasant. Goodness knows, I was probably the only vegan anyone would see that day, so I wanted to leave a good impression. When flying in cognito, it’s easy to allow for slips in your ethics. But having a visible reminder is powerful.

I think a lot of people purchase message wear for educational reasons. You know, to educate the masses. But I would guess that message wear is more for the message wearer.

How About You?

Does wearing message wear help keep you focused on the person you want to be? Do you feel social pressure when you let yourself out of the pantry, so to speak? What do you think is the chief value of message wear? Let me know in the comments below!

Until next time, keep that talk walking!

 

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Earth Day: Vegan for the Environment

Happy Earth Day, guys! The best holiday ever, as far as I’m concerned, because it is the day where we make a concerted effort to realize how disconnected we’ve become and how utterly dangerous and stupid our disconnect is.

Earth-Day

I’ve talked about how my chief motivation to become vegan is for the environment, but today I’d like to show you some accessible resources that I find compelling.

Cowspiracy

In case you’ve never watched this film, it is available on Netflix Streaming and you can watch a free 15-minute version on YouTube, here:

My favorite vegan YouTuber speaks about this film. His analysis is also worth a view:

Bite Size Vegan

My second favorite vegan YouTuber, BiteSizeVegan, did her own research regarding the relation between the environment and diet. Here are two of her videos on this subject:

and…

Of course, combining our environmentalist and our vegan efforts is the most powerful approach. I disagree that veganism is the “only answer” and instead believe it is the “most powerful answer”.

Media 

Media is a double-edged sword. Everyone has an agenda. Vegans have an agenda. So do meat and dairy industries and the average American who wants maintain their sense of comfort with the status quo.

Here are three tips for sorting out the wheat from the chaff:

  1. Is the title of the article “click bait”? Does the title alone generate strong emotion or curiosity?
  2. What is the source of the article? Or, in the case of research, who funded it?
  3. Do the arguments presented in the article logically follow one after the other? It is amazing how little attention American schools pay to critical and logical thinking. A great, readable introduction to logical thinking is Being Logical by D.Q. McInerny.

Happy Earth Day!

Until next time, keep that talk walking!

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Vegan Costumes (Day 21)

I’ve mentioned before that I enjoy adult dress up games. I play in the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) and I want to get back into LARP (Live Action Roleplay). My husband is a proper geek so I expect to do some cosplay (costume role-play, usually dressing up as a particular character) and I have dressed up as a Vulcan before for a Star Trek convention my sister and I went to. Then, there’s Halloween. I mean, costume opportunities are practically endless!

These hobbies have inherent problems for a Vegan. For example, in the SCA, stress is put on traditional materials for garb and props. These are commonly: leather, fur, wool, silk and linen. Linen is produced from flax and is the easiest swap for us plant-based people. However, I’ve also found it necessary to sew up at least one set of Viking garb in cotton (which is an anachronism for the period of time I portray, but refer back to the name of the club), because a friend of mine is very allergic to flax.

(The ideal here is to look for plain-woven muslin with uneven warp and weft to simulate a more homespun/home-woven appearance, but finding this is tricky. My last cotton purchase I may have to send back because it is too “finely”, that is it looks too machine woven.)

It has been my practice in the past, as a vegetarian, to limit my animal-based clothing to costumes. And so, I have collected items with wool, silk, fur, leather, feathers, horn, and bone. Oh, and a tooth!

Now that I’m making the switch to veganism, I’m uncomfortable with this arrangement. Obviously, I won’t be stocking any new materials made out of these things. With what I already have, I will be looking for replacements and then gifting the replaced items to my large circle of non-vegan friends who, I’m sure, could treasure these items.

My intent here, is to provide the fellow costumer and vegan some ideas for all-vegan costumes.

Wool 

Polar fleece is actually a pretty good replacement for wool. It’s warm even when damp and has a wool-like appearance. (Watch out for sitting too close to the fire pit though!) Now, polar fleece can release micro-plastics into the ocean so I don’t give this solution without pause, but I find it an acceptable replacement in the few places I really feel wool would be necessary (I expect to use it for cloaks, winter hats, winter hoods, and winter coats.)

Horn and Bone

In many cases where there was a historical use for horn and bone there will also be wood finds for the same objects. Wooden bowls and spoons and needles and hair pins are just as historical, in most cases. Lilac wood also resembles bone if the examiner does not look too closely.

Also, metal, amber or glass can take the place of horn and bone in some cases. An example might be fore jewelry and hair accessories.

Fur

The obvious switch here is to use faux fur. I actually have found some faux-fur blankets that make great cloaks and were much cheaper than buying specifically faux-fur fabric. You might also find some in used clothing shops. Since fur in costumes are often just draped, organically cut shapes, it is easy to cut these as you like with a minimum of sewing.

Be careful, sometimes labels can be misleading or false. Brush the “hair” back to see to the surface it is attached. It should look like fabric and not skin.

Leather (Skin)

There is faux-leather, but unless you have the old-fashioned sewing machines, I would caution the do-it-yourself approach. I would buy faux-leather garments with an eye to whether they would work for costumes before trying to sew my own.

I do have an old-fashioned sewing machine and may attempt this, but this remains an untested idea at this point.

Feathers

There are plenty of fake feathers to use for hair ornamentation, but the problem here is really about my archery gear. I have real feather fletching and do not yet know if there are any feathers available that mimic this look and toughness (the feathers used are only the first few flight feathers). Of course there are rubber vanes for those not too particular.

vegan viking

Anyway, I hope this is useful for you and please write in the comments below if you’ve got vegan costuming experience so that we can learn from each other!

Until next time, keep that talk walking!

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Restricting Beyond Veganism (Day 20)

I used to sneer at those who restricted their diets beyond veganism. Especially those who are not gluten-intolerant but avoided gluten. I mean, no bread? Blasphemy!

I not only thought they did a disservice to veganism by muddying the waters (where does the vegan message leave off and coffee hatred begin?), thus making it hard for new vegans, I also thought that they were on shaky grounds in regards to their long-term health.

Most of the public vegans that I truly respected advocated nothing more than a whole food plant based diet. Maybe also specifying the avoidance of salt, refined sugar, and oil, but they would always back up this regimen with scientific, peer-reviewed studies.

Then I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, possible thyroid cancer (ruled out!), IBS, and some as yet undetermined condition (we’re still doing tests) which leads to blood in the stool. My conditions weren’t going away with a simple switch to a vegan diet. In fact, I didn’t benefit from the glowing health many new vegans expect, but instead felt worse.

I needed to refine my diet for my continued health and while I hope Veganism will always be the groundwork, some of these added precautions don’t seem so insane after all.

Why Mentioning the IBS Thing Isn’t Bad Vegan Advocacy

Apparently, IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) is much more common than polite society would have us realize. There is some evidence that switching to a low-FODMAP diet (at least temporarily to identify triggers) is highly effective with eliminating symptoms and can be done while maintaining one’s veganism (though it is trickier).

The thing is, a new vegan who has IBS may find they feel worse on a lot of vegan staple foods. They might try to bring this up with the vegan community and may be treated as though they were just looking for an excuse to quit veganism. I know, I’ve been there.

If this were talked about more, I think would-be vegans who have this issue might discover the help they need to thrive on a vegan diet.

BTW, if you have this problem, I highly recommend this book:

lowfodmap and vegan

What I’m Currently Limiting

I’m currently limiting alcohol, caffeine, gluten, dairy (no duh), processed foods, garlic and onions. It is a lot and I hope this isn’t permanent. I really love garlic and bread. And garlic bread, yum. But I’m getting more insight in what really makes me feel queasy all day long (not a great way to spend all day every day, let me tell you).

The reason behind my change in perspective behind the whole gluten thing, is that Hashimoto’s is an auto-immune disease and I’ve discovered many expert opinions (I don’t believe there is consensus on this yet) that avoiding gluten is helpful. The blood in the stool also has me worried over intestinal damage which could indicate as yet un-diagnosed gluten intolerance. I will have to see what my doctor says.

For Others

I’m sorry I started out with such judgmental opinions. Your diet is your own and there are many reasons other than veganism for adopting a specific way of eating. I do recommend that while acting as a vegan advocate, we mention why we’re avoiding something that isn’t an animal product. Other than this, you’ll find that it won’t be me who is casting the sideways glance at you.

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Tackling My Kitchen (Day 19)

My kitchen is a disaster area! Sure, it can look neat, but this is all to lull the unsuspecting into a false sense of security.

The thing is, all the processes that have to go on in there to turn out healthful, vegan food are an unruly mess. Other goals I have for my lifestyle, such as going minimalist and zero waste are almost laughable here. And definitely overwhelming.

Six Categories of Kitchen Work

I think there are six categories of activity that are crucial for the kitchen.

  1. Tidying and Decluttering. If you have no space to cook or clean, messes fly out of all control. Food goes bad when you can’t find it. Most people won’t want to venture into the kitchen in the first place. Homework goes missing. Out goes the idea of home cooked meals in favor or ordering out or convenience foods. Give yourself space to work and know what’s in your kitchen.
  2. Cleaning. You can’t cook healthfully if the dishes are filthy, the counter tops sketchy, or the utensils are tripping over themselves in the limited space and falling to the dirty floor. Obviously, a certain level of cleanliness is next to … good … health.
  3. Meal Planning and the Grocery List. Once you know what you have, you can decide what it is you still need. Going through your cupboards and deciding what you’ll be making are crucial steps to building a shopping list that doesn’t leave you filled with regret. This takes a little time. I also include in this category recipe and nutrition research. It’s nice to have one new recipe to try a week. It isn’t as overwhelming to only have one, but a new recipe can fend off food boredom.
  4. Grocery Shopping. I used to boohoo this, but after having kids it’s like a mini-vacation. Of course, I then spend the time kid watching. I’m hopeless. What’s there to say? Try to bring a list and don’t stray from it!
  5. Food Staples and Meal Preparations. This is food you’re going to make to last you some time. As distinct from meals ready to eat. I like to keep these manageable. I process groceries, I make jam, prep overnight oats, sprout, bake bread, I might do some meal prepping, but I keep whatever I choose down to a few tasks a week so that I have time to do them properly.
  6. Cooking. This is for all those meals and snacks that seem to be in near constant demand. I try to cook big batches whenever possible and dispense left-overs into portion sizes for quick meals. I also try to clean while I’m cooking if there are any gaps in labor or wait times.

My New Kitchen Schedule

 

 

I’ll be breaking these tasks into daily, weekly, and monthly chores.

Daily:

  • Go through all cupboards and drawers and straighten the contents to keep everything visible. This is usually just maintenance and takes about a minute.
  • Make sure everything is off the counters (I keep my toaster, electric tea kettle, knife block, cooking utensil container, hand soap, and mini-herb garden on the counters.)
  • Clean out the dishwasher (preferably in the morning) so that people can work to fill it through the day.
  • Wash all the counters and sink and stove’s surface. This is easier if the counters remain mostly clear. My favorite surface spray recipe is here. (I like to add peppermint essential oil during the summer to keep the ants away.)
  • Sweep the floor.
  • Make sure dishes are going into the washer and food is being put away.
  • Do food and meal preps and cook as needed throughout the day.

Weekly

  • (Sun.) Meal Planning and Grocery List. Grocery Shopping.
  • (Mon.) Determine if there are items that could still be culled. Minimize.
  • (Tue.) Pick a cupboard or drawer and give it a scrub down (inside and out). Going sequentially can help you keep track of what has been done recently.
  • (Wed.) Floor gets swept and mopped.
  • (Thu.) One Big Task (see monthly)
  • (Fri.) Go through pantry and refrigerator and remove food that is past its prime.

Monthly 

  • Tackle 1 big task: full refrigerator clean, a thorough stove top clean, clean all small appliances, or an oven clean.

My Vegan Kitchen

I understand that everything above applies across the board and not just to Veganism, but this is nonetheless an important step for me to tackle as desperation has led me to order out (there are really no vegan restaurants in my area), munch on whatever my husband brings home from the store (which is sometimes not even vegan) and go for the convenient and unhealthy option. To make the transition complete, I need my kitchen to be under control.

Until next time, keep that talk walking!

 

 

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