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.

What I Learned From the No Spend Challenge

I began a “no spend” challenge at the beginning of May in order to better understand my spending habits and to help me with my minimalist goals. In failing at my first attempt, I learned a lot and I thought it would be interesting to share. 

What Led to My Failing

After the second day of the challenge, I came down with a bad cold. I was miserable and not interested challenging myself or in writing about it. So the challenge mostly fell apart due to timing. 

That said, there was another factor that also got in my way: my addiction to coffee. For others who are coffee-dependent, doing this challenge might just mean buying coffee along with groceries (which are allowed) and going about as normal.

For me, this isn’t an option. I don’t keep coffee in the house at this time because I tend to talk myself into too many cups of coffee. This habit isn’t healthy for the pregnancy or for me, as I have digestive issues. I instead rely on an occasional cup from a coffee shop or gas station. Being sick, I wanted at least one cup a day to keep from disappearing into the couch and neglecting my kids. 

In justifying this expense, I felt as though I was cheating at the challenge.

What I Learned

  • come to terms with my caffeine dependence
  • don’t take kids inside the gas station, just don’t do it
  • pack food when traveling out of town (such as to doctor’s appointments) rather than spending money at fast food joints
  • Amazon is my one-click impulse vice and I’m in special danger of abusing this on pay days (feeling good about my finances) or when feeling emotionally down. 

How About You?

Have you attempted a no spend challenge? Did your first attempt go smoothly or was it frought with missteps? What did you learn from your experience? Let us know in the comments below!

Until next time, keep that talk walking!

No Spend Challenge (Day 2)

This year, I’ve really begun to delve into minimalism. I’ve always been a bit of a hoarder so this has been a journey, to say the least. So far, I’ve tackled several decluttering projects including my wardrobe, my hygiene and makeup, and my books.

However, up until this point, my minimalism has been somewhat superficial. It has generally been about decluttering physical stuff in my life. One of the reasons that I’m taking on the no spend challenge is to cultivate a minimalist mind set.

And to see where all this stuff is coming from.

Today’s No Spend Challenge

I had to take the kids in for a follow-up pediatric visit. It usually means a long trip, one hour one way. I typically throw in a fast food meal with such trips so that I don’t have to worry over packing meals or hungry little tummies. To feed the 3.5 of us (I’m pregnant), costs between $16-20 at a fast food joint. Our favorite is Taco Bell, because I can easily veganize a bean burrito.

As part of the challenge, I did some pre-planning and packed us little containers with snacks. I had some dates, half a banana, and a handful of soy nuts. The boys additionally had some Ritz cracker sandwiches I made by putting Sunbutter between two crackers.

This wasn’t as fancy as going out to eat, but we were actually traveling between meals anyway.

Today’s No Spend Education

 

Today’s Question

How has your minimalist journey affected your spending habits (or vice versa)? Do you build in obligatory wait periods? Keep an ongoing list or shopping cart open over a certain period of time? Question your purchases while in the store? Let me know in the comments below!

Until next time,

keep that talk walking!

No Spend Challenge (Day 1)

For the next 30 days, I am challenging myself to not spend any money. I’m doing this not only to save money, but to understand better where my money is going and how my spending affects my minimalist goals.

During this challenge, I will be posting about what struggles arise from changing my behavior and I will be researching this movement and probably responding to what I find.

These are the rules:

(1) grocery shopping doesn’t count (but I can’t buy anything that wouldn’t normally be bought during a grocery shopping trip)

(2) paying bills and rent doesn’t count (it’s torturous enough to do this that I’m not doing it from anything but necessity)

(3) Gas

(4) Doctor’s visits, medicines

(5) shopping for my son’s birthday party is not going to count (I’ve already bought his presents and wrapping paper, but I need to purchase food and a very limited range of party supplies, probably just blue balloons and maybe some activity related supplies.)

I believe the first four are common stipulations for people attempting this challenge. The last stipulation I’ve included in order to get started with this approach to my spending habits.

My First Struggle

My kids have been sick for several weeks and this has included high fevers and 3 ear infections between them. Suffice it to say, I’ve been making close personal friends with my vice – coffee en lieu of sleep.

Today, after I decided to begin this challenge, I really wanted to take the kids to the gas station to get a cup of coffee (which I can’t store in the house because I abuse it). A trip like that would not only cost the refill amount of $1.50, it would cost some indeterminate amount of gas and probably lead to impulse purchases like candy and chips, especially with two young boys in tow.

So far, I can say that this challenge has saved me something like $5.00, some environmental footprint, and some unwanted ounces to my poundage. So, this is good. The caffeine dependency isn’t too happy, but it’s probably best for my unborn child that I come off the caffeine.

No Spend Challenge Education

 

Today’s Question

Have you ever attempted a no spend challenge? If so, for how long? What was your motivation for giving it a try? Let us know in the comments below!

Until next time,

keep that talk walking!

How Vegans Party (Day 26)

We’re about to celebrate my second-born’s third birthday this May. As a result of going vegan, I know that I want to make some changes to how we celebrate. Right now, I’m in the planning stages. I have to wonder, though, how do vegans party?

In this piece, I want to share with you some of my thought processes about transforming the average birthday party into a vegan one.

Determining Your Party Audience

I don’t know any vegans in “real life”, so it’s safe to say that everyone (minus me) attending this party is not vegan. That means I’m not going to make anything overtly vegan, for a party, this generally just means food.

 

Now, if you have more vegans in your circle, I’m sure this will impact your choices.

Invitations

We prefer to invite people pretty casually. We usually create a Facebook event and call non-Facebookers individually. This cuts down on waste and postage and gives a very easy built in option for RSVPing. It also allows us to warn our guests on what they might expect. We usually give an idea as to whether the event is indoor or outdoor, what activities we’re planning, what food we’re planning, and what gifts (if any) might be a good idea.

I haven’t explicitly written “no toys with animal exploitation imagery (such as farms or zoos)” as I’m not comfortable with actually saying that to my circle, but that certainly is an option. We feel that presenting ideas cuts back on undesirable gifts.

That said, I have had to make certain gifts disappear in the past. We once got a gift which included a cow singing about how good her life is on the farm. It was rather obnoxious!

Food & Drink

As I’m playing hostess to omnivores, I’ll be choosing food and drink options that are accidentally or incidentally vegan. No tofu scrambles or seitan sandwiches. Food choices might include things like: potato chips, corn chips and salsa, veggies with hummus dip, fruit, a potato salad made with Just Mayo mayonnaise, drinks, and so on. I haven’t determined the full menu, but I’m going to stick to foods that appeal to omnivores.

How Do Vegans Party?

I assume that vegans party just like everyone else. Food, drink, chitchat, some fun activity, and gifts.

Maybe there isn’t pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey or an animal shaped pinata? No idea. Just silly speculation on my part.

Here’s your chance to weigh in on what makes a party vegan. Please post your ideas in the comments below!

Until next time, keep that talk walking!

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!

 

The “Perfect” Vegan (Day 24)

I’ve sabotaged myself for YEARS and I hope other would-be and new vegans don’t make this same mistake.

When I went vegetarian, I went vegetarian overnight and it was shockingly easy. It’s pretty easy to spot rotting flesh posing as food. It has a look, a taste, a smell, etc. One doesn’t have to read labels or get science-y about it. I’m also reasonably sure it won’t show up as a hidden ingredient. It’s not so much a lifestyle change as a recognition that corpses aren’t a viable food source.

When meat has appeared amidst my food accidentally, I usually tasted it and (discreetly) spat it back out. I’ll even admit to trying small bites once or twice in my 15 years as a vegetarian. This was out of concern that I might eventually lose the ability to eat meat and this would decrease my survival chances in, I don’t know, the zombie apocalypse or something. I’m not saying it was a rational choice.

The point is, when accidents or momentary lapses in sanity did take place, I didn’t relinquish my identity as a vegetarian. I was a vegetarian because I believed that eating meat was wrong.

The funny thing is, in recent years, I’ve attempted to go vegan over and over again. I wasn’t convinced that veganism was wrong when I stopped calling myself or acting vegan, but I did find the logistics strikingly harder than going vegetarian and lapsing as a vegan was easy to do.

When Perfectionism Gets in the Way

I have an unhealthy tendency toward perfectionism. And if I made a mistake in my veganism or had a lapse in judgment, I would start again at “Day 1 – Vegan”. This treatment was like an unsuccessful diet regime that always restarts “tomorrow.”

I need to get over myself and my stupid perfectionism. I’m a vegan like I was a vegetarian. I am convinced by the philosophical underpinnings, I just need to work a little harder on the logistics. If I forget myself in the moment and eat a slice of cheese and then remember that I don’t want to contribute to the dairy industry, then I made a mistake. It does not negate anything.

It gets easier with time and experience. I will get to a point where my vegan decisions are on auto-pilot, but until I’m there, I just need to keep trying. Keep training the habit. Don’t give up so easily. Don’t beat myself up over accidents, but work to avoid them in the future.

Until next time, keep that talk walking!