Tag: cooking

Essentials for a Well-Stocked Kitchen

Having a well-stocked kitchen is essential whether you’re looking to throw together a last-minute meal, a well-planned meal (which I recommend should be the default), or if you’re just not able to get out of the house because of weather, sickness, or other circumstances.

Knowing what to have in your pantry, cupboards, refrigerator, and freezer also provides security and predictability when the future is uncertain and people are social distancing and sheltering at home, such as during the time of the Coronavirus pandemic 2020.

Today’s episode is focused on my personal strategies for buying wisely, eating well, and stocking up — principles that can be applied every day or during emergencies. Also, see below for links to my favorite appliances, including my favorite pressure cooker, air fryer, and popcorn maker!

How Zero Waste Changed the Way I Eat (And Why Baby Carrots Are Evil)

Once you decide to make zero-waste, plastic-free, low- or no-packaging a priority in your life, you learn very quickly you have to make some changes when it comes to what you buy, how you shop, what you eat, and how you cook. Some might find this an inconvenience. I find it an adventure. Journey with me as I share some reflections on favorite foods and how my relationship with them has changed since “becoming zero-waste.”  Oh right, and I’ll also share with you WHY BABY CARROTS ARE EVIL from this joyful vegan’s point of view. 

Thank you to supporters for making this a 100% listener-supported podcast. Become a supporter at patreon.com/colleenpatrickgoudreau!

25 Meaningful Zero-Waste, Ethical Gifts

Aspiring to live “zero-waste” doesn’t mean being perfect or never buying anything ever again. It means valuing and taking responsibility for what we bring into our lives or into the lives of others.  This list first debuted on my Food for Thought Podcast, so if you’d like to hear it in the context of a larger story about living meaningfully, compassionately, and thoughtfully, check out the episode Lessons and Gifts: Making Meaningful Holidays (and Lives).

As for our list, I’ve categorized them into a few different categories and look forward to hearing your thoughts and your ideas for meaningful, zero-waste, ethical gifts. Please use the comments below to do so!

FOOD

  1. Loose Tea — find your favorite in bulk or in tins; if you order from FarLeaves.com (their tins are reusable and recyclable), enter “colleen” as the coupon code for 10% off
  2. Herbs and Spices — If you can’t find them in bulk near you, you should be able to find spices and herbs in glass jars (which can be reused again and again).  When creating your gift for others, you can make theme-based gift packets, such as “baking spices” (including cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cardamom), or “Italian herbs” (including parsley, basil, and oregano), or “favorite herbs for soup.” You get the idea. Add the spice jars to a basket and wrap in a pretty kitchen towel and raffia ribbon.
  3. Fruit and Nut Basket — Go to a local farm stand or farmers market and buy some beautiful seasonal fruits like persimmon, pomegranates, and apples and some whole walnuts (along with a nice metal nutcracker) — even a jar of local or homemade jam and create a gift basket. Add a couple hand-written recipes that feature the fruits you’ve included. 
  4. Ready-to-Bake Ingredients in a Jar — Instead of giving chocolate chip cookies, what about giving chocolate chip cookies ingredients (and promising to come over and bake with your friend)! Get a bunch of jars from a thrift store and add exactly the amount of all the ingredients in each jar, along with the recipe itself. Make it more special by adding a pie plate or cupcake tin, and pack it up in a pretty paper box. 
  5. Homemade Baked Goods — Bake a pie, crumble, or cobbler and hand-deliver your gift! Make my Caramel Popcorn (from The Joy of Vegan Baking), and present it in a pretty  tin. There are so many ways to create a pretty presentation of homemade goodies.

REUSABLES
Give these individually, as stocking stuffers, or Secret Santa gifts — or create a gift pack of some or all of these. (If you order online, just call when you’re placing your order to request using only paper and not plastic packing materials.)

  1. Reusable straws
  2. Stainless steel food containers
  3. Reusable coffee cups
  4. Reusable grocery shopping bags
  5. Reusable produce bags
  6. Reusable water bottles
  7. Reusable tea thermos (you know me and my favorite tea thermos!)
  8. Reusable shampoo and conditioner bottles
  9. Reusable travel cutlery set
  10.  

EXPERIENCES

  1. The 30-Day Vegan Challenge Online Course 
  2. Concert or Theatre Tickets  — Either find a theatre near your recipient and pick a show you think they’d like to see, or buy a gift certificate from the theatre so your recipient can choose exactly what show they want to attend. 
  3. The Gift of Time (in a Coupon Book): Something I’ve done over many years is create a little coupon book, which you can make as simple or as elaborate as you like, that you give to a loved one for them to redeem — for a massage, a home-cooked meal, a movie, a walk, a hike, a dance — whatever experiences you want to encourage you loved one to ask you for. There are companies that sell these nowadays, but I just like making my own. 
  4. Travel by Theme: My husband David and I set for ourselves the goal to sleep in every county in California. When we lived on the east coast, one theme was “Literary / Author’s Houses” (and still is, depending on where we go) as well as “Lighthouses of New England.” The National Parks of North America is another on our list, and that can be done either by driving or by train! (Travel doesn’t have to include flying, though if you want it to, then I recommend my CPG Vegan Trips!)
  5. Local Walking Tours. Many cities have walking tours led by docents who love where they live and relish sharing the history of the place with others. Lots of cities also have themed walking tours — they might be literary, history, architectural, women’s history, etc. (For those who came to my Compassion in Action a couple years ago, I led a walking tour of the animal protection history in Oakland!). Contact a city’s chamber of commerce and register you and a friend today! Many are free; some ask for donations, some you pay a minimal fee for — it’s worth it! I promise!

BOOKS 
 Obviously, as a writer and a reader, I’m a huge fan of books — even if they’re ebooks or audiobooks. I usually buy a bunch of my favorite books to give out throughout the year, and I’ve listed some below that I use as manuals for living every day. I encourage you to create your own.

  1. Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu (trans. Stephen Mitchell)
  2. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius (trans. Gregory Hays)
  3. The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday
  4. Enlightenment Now by Steven Pinker
  5. Zooburbia by Tal Moses
  6. Commonplace Book and / or Blank Journals — I journal every day, but I also keep a common book inspired by the Stoics. (Ryan Holiday explains here.) The idea is to not only record your own thoughts (blank journaling/free-writing) but also to record quotes and thoughts of others you find meaningful and want to remember. The act of just writing down meaningful sentences and paragraphs penetrates your mind even more than just reading them. 

BONUS IDEA: MY BOOKS. I’m an author. I’m proud of my seven babies. If you’d like to buy one or more as gifts for others, you’ve made it worth the work I’ve put into each of them. Thank you. 

ENJOY!


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The Vegan Police: How to Speak Up for Animals without Talking Down to People

A small subset of opinionated, passionate, well-intentioned people perpetuate the stereotype of the angry, self-righteous, perfection-focused animal rights vegan when they spew invective at anyone who is not “vegan enough” in their eyes. They are otherwise known as The Vegan Police.

Of course I’m very well aware of how judgmental people can be — we’re all guilty of it — and nothing tastes better than sweet self-righteousness, especially when it exists in the name of justice. But self-righteousness,  arrogance, and meanness are just ugly regardless of what inspires them. And of course I’ve been keenly aware of the existence of the perfectionist vegan for as long as I’ve been vegan — probably since before I was vegan.

But I’ve been seeing it so much more invective on social media – not much of it directly because I won’t venture into territory that is filled with self-righteousness and piety and name-calling.  But I’m hearing about it a lot more because my audience comes to me and tells me what they see and hear, and frankly…forgive my naivete,  I find it shocking. I’m shocked at the things people say and how they say them. These comments are filled with so much scorn and unkindness, and I have to believe that the people writing it aren’t aware of how toxic it is for everyone — including for the animals.

As I see it, this toxic self-righteousness is coming from two groups — and this is a broad generalization, but there seems to be:

  1. some well-intentioned ethical vegans who are concerned that veganism as an ethical way of living is watered down by the media and celebrities who position veganism as a temporary, trendy diet. Hooked on the ideology, the badge, the label, the purity, this is the group that acts as if veganism is the end rather than the means to an end. 
  2. some well-intentioned health-oriented plant-based eaters who excoriate the consumption of oil, sugar, flour, wheat, gluten, or soy.  This is the group of dietary purity that scorns anyone as a “junk food vegan” who doesn’t fit their prescribed notion of what vegans should eat (and look) like. 

I bring up both of these groups because I see policing on both sides. It’s really more than acting like the police; it’s also playing judge, jury, and executioner. Today, I’m going to talk only about the first category and save the second for an upcoming podcast episode.

In the first category, those folks attack:

  • Vegetarians who are not yet vegan.
  • People who identify as vegan but who “cheat” or eat animal products occasionally.
  • People who identify as vegan but who have stopped eating animals and animal products for health reasons. The feeling is that if they’re not doing it for the animals, then they shouldn’t call themselves vegan.
  • People who don’t identify as vegan but who have stopped eating animals and animal products for health reasons and thus call themselves “plant-based.” The feeling is that if they’re just “plant-based,” then it’s not about the animals and they’ll still be contributing to animal exploitation.
  • Non-vegans (including celebrities) who have vegan companies or sell vegan products. (Even though many of us live in the real world where we buy vegan products from non-vegan grocery stores and plants harvested by non-vegan farmers and eat in vegan restaurants owned by non-vegans, when a non-vegan celebrity (ahem, Beyonce) announced that she’s creating a vegan food delivery service, the Interwebs went nuts — accusing her of appropriating the vegan ethic.)

But it’s not just the non-vegans who are targets of their scorn. It’s also vegans — it’s vegans who are pregnant or who have children (“breeders”). Vegans who have companion animals (“perpetuating animal slavery”). Vegans who are religious. Vegans who celebrate Christmas. Vegans who celebrate Valentine’s Day. Vegans who aren’t intersectionalists. Vegans who aren’t activists. Vegans who share recipes. Vegans who aren’t angry all the time. Vegans who aren’t Level-5 vegans.

In a famous Simpson’s episode called “Lisa the Tree Hugger,” Lisa meets animal/enviornmental rights activist, Jesse. She falls head over heels in love and wants him to notice how conscious and ethical she is.  

Lisa: Oh, the earth is the best! That’s why I’m a vegetarian.
Jesse: Heh. Well, that’s a start.
Lisa: Uh, well, I was thinking of going vegan.
Jesse: I’m a level 5 vegan — I won’t eat anything that casts a shadow.

Ah, yes. It’s funny because it’s so true.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I love people who have opinions. I’m one of them. I love people who stand up for what they believe in. I’m one of them. I love people who speak up for the animals and act on their behalf. I’m one of them. But we can do all of that without being cruel. I feel like I’m constantly talking about walking the line between this and that: walking the line between speaking up for what we believe in and not being attached to the outcome. Walking the line between asking for what we want without being demanding. Walking the line between expressing our opinion without attacking other people. We can do it all. We can. It takes practice, and it takes time, but it can be done.

I think we humans — especially opinionated or justice-oriented humans — are not good at living in the grey areas or at least areas we feel are places of contradiction. For instance, I think what happens for so many animal rights activists and ethical vegans is that we feel so acutely aware of how much animals are suffering that we think if we don’t demonstrate outrage about this fact all the time, then we’re not being true to them. We’re not being good advocates. I think we think that if we’re not in a constant state of anger about how animals are treated, we’re letting the animals down. We feel that if we don’t speak UP for animals, we’re letting them down, but speaking up for the non-human animals doesn’t mean we have to speak down to the human animals. 

I understand the urgency. I understand the desperation, the outrage, the anger. It’s why I talk about this in the podcast series I did called The 10 Stages You Go Through When You Stop Eating Animals (and it’s the subject of my upcoming book The Joyful Vegan’s Guide to Life). It’s not that we shouldn’t be outraged and motivated and angry, but I think some people lose the plot. Or maybe they haven’t lost the plot at all. Maybe the problem is they see nothing but the plot, but that’s a problem because when you see only one thing through one lens, you become incredibly myopic. Animals are victims of horrific violence at our hands for the sake of our pleasure and convenience. That is true. That is real. But that’s not all that’s real. That’s not all that’s true. As human beings, we don’t live in a vacuum.

We are complex people who live in a complex world with many, many inputs determining who we become and what we do and what we believe and what we buy and who we eat. Forces are in play every day conditioning us, reinforcing belief systems, influencing our decisions, and affecting our relationships.

It’s neither realistic nor fair to expect everyone to see through the same lens we do. And as advocates, we want to speak up and help guide people toward embracing their empathy and compassion for animals and not contribute to this violence. In fact, the word “advocate” is built from the word “vocare” – to call – which is related to the word “vox” – voice. As advocates we MUST use our voices in order to be voices for animals, but we have to be mindful of HOW to use our voice so that we’re not only compassionate but effective. We must speak up, but we don’t have to be cretins to do so. 

I will emphasize the word “effective” for those who don’t think they have to be compassionate to people when the stakes (for animals) are so high, but I will tell you that if you think people will be attracted to venom and invective, then I will just say I vehemently disagree.

People join groups and befriend people they’re attracted to, and I guarantee you that very few people are attracted to self-righteousness, especially when something is new to them and they’re already feeling vulnerable and exploring unfamiliar territory. And when the attack comes publicly, that’s even worse, because nobody likes being humiliated. That should just go without saying, but I’ve said it, and I’ll say it again. Nobody likes being humiliated.

I’m not saying everyone has to agree or have the same viewpoints. But that doesn’t mean in disagreeing or having conviction or having opinions we can’t do it in a way that is constructive rather than destructive.

Of course, you can say that in the end, the person who happens upon a negative comment and chooses not to be vegan because of it is really their own blocks and they’re just using it as an excuse to not change their behavior. But I don’t think it’s as simple as that. Yes, I believe very much that we’re ultimately responsible for our own actions, but we’re also social creatures and psychological creatures, and some things really are just a turn-off for people, and if you don’t know that you have an effect on people for better or for worse, then you’re just lying to yourself.

You’re lying because if you’re any kind of activist, you’re ACTING to affect someone else’s behavior, so you’re at least aware that there’s a relationship taking place, that there’s a cause and effect. And what I’m saying is that mean, nasty, self-righteous posts mostly have the EFFECT of turning people away.

Now, in the end, my little lecture isn’t going to change much. It will probably receive approval from those who already agree with me and scorn from those who don’t. In the end, I can’t control how others represent veganism and animal advocacy. And that’s part of the point. We can’t control how people — the media, celebrities, the public, vegans, plant-based eaters, etc. —  will use or represent what “vegan” is!

We can’t control the message, because there is no single voice. My voice is singular; it’s my own, and I use it. Your voice is singular; it’s your own. Use it wisely and intelligently and effectively. How I represent myself as a vegan and animal activist is all I can control, and in being able to control that, I’m going to be the best, most steadfast, most compassionate, most effective voice for animals I can be. 

“Vegan” isn’t a trademark that any of us own. It’s a means for achieving my goal of living in a way that doesn’t contribute to violence against animals. We can help clarify what vegan means, because it does mean something, but we don’t get vegan certification when we become vegan. Being vegan is not about being perfect or pure, and I think this expectation of perfection is what stops many people from even trying to be vegan.

Their fear is justified when they proudly declare to someone or in a message board that they’ve become vegan, and they’re met with smug responses from non-vegans that the shoes they’re wearing are made of are leather or from vegans that the machines on which their peanut butter was made were also used to make non-vegan food products.

That isn’t to say that in this imperfect world I don’t accidentally contribute to the suffering of human or non-human animals, but that doesn’t make me less vegan. It just makes me human: an imperfect human in an imperfect world using this thing called VEGAN as a pretty fantastic way to reflect my values of compassion and wellness.

And that’s the message I want to convey when people are trying to do the right thing. I want them to know that there’s so much they can do in their own lives to not contribute to violence against animals and though they, too, are imperfect humans in this imperfect world. Imperfection is built into being vegan. But so is compassion. And without that, it’s just ideology.  

All of this is in today’s episode — speaking up for animals — online and in person — without alienating people who are trying to make compassionate choices. I’ll be addressing it in this year’s Compassion in Action conference as well as in my upcoming book.

Thank you for your support and for sharing. 

Vegan at Work: When Your Job Conflicts with Your Ethics

It’s one thing to opt out of eating animal products at home and in our personal lives, but what about adhering to our values in the trickier, grayer areas of our lives, such as in the workplace? What if you work for a software company and you’re put on a project to build a website for a fishing company? What if you work in a restaurant and have to serve meat? What if you work in a job that requires you to cook meat? These are real scenarios for many people, and the answer isn’t to “stop being vegan” because things are complicated. Take a listen to my thoughts in today’s episode of Food for Thought.

Home Composting for Zero Waste Living (in a House or Apartment)

Remarkably, we throw away up to 40% of the perfectly edible food we bring into our homes! According to the Environmental Protection Agency “wasted food is the single biggest occupant in American landfills.” Globally, food waste is responsible for an estimated 3.3 gigatons of greenhouse gas emissions.

And vegans aren’t off the hook either! Certainly, animal agriculture is the main contributor of greenhouse gas emissions, but even when we waste vegan food, we’re contributing to methane created in landfills. So, even though we may not be contributing to greenhouse gas emissions by the food we eat, we ARE contributing to it by the food we waste

That’s were composting comes in! Wherever you live — whether in a house or an apartment, whether you have outdoor access or not, whether you garden or not…you can do it!

Here are some top tips for starting to compost at home. (But for LOTS more, listen to the related Food for Thought podcast episode below.)

  1. Decide what type of compost bin is right for you. I’ve been using the Envirocycle Tumbler Composting Bin for 15 years and recommend it! It’s fully enclosed so it can put in a garden, on a patio, deck or a balcony; it comes in mini (17 gallons) or regular (35 gallons); and it’s super easy to use!
  2. Decide where to place your compost bin. Keep it near the kitchen for easy access (or in the kitchen in the case of an indoor worm bin.)
  3. Remember the basic principles of composting: food, oxygen, and moisture. The microorganisms (bacteria, fungi) and macroorganisms (worms) that break down organic matter need all of these to thrive and do their job. “Food” means nitrogen (green materials such as fruit and veggie scraps) and carbon (brown materials such as dry leaves, cardboard boxes, paper bags). “Oxygen” comes from stirring the pile or rotating your tumbler. “Moisture” comes from water or wet green materials.
  4. Create a system for your veggie scraps. Whenever I’m prepping a meal and invariably have scraps, I throw all of those that can be made into a stock directly into a soup pot, and I throw the rest into my compost pail.
  5. Learn what green and brown materials you can add to your compost bin.  Green: fruit and veggie scraps, lawn and grass clippings, flower cuttings, nut shells, fruit pits, grains (including rice, pastas and breads), coffee grounds, and tea leaves. Brown: cardboard, brown paper bags, paper towels, newspapers, toilet paper rolls, bedding from hamster/gerbil/rabbit cages. (Supporters receive a beautiful graphic detailing everything that can go into a compost bin. Become a supporter today for perks like these!)
  6. Chop green and brown materials into smaller pieces. The smaller the scraps, the faster composting takes place. It just means chopping the veggies smaller before putting them in your compost pail and using something like a microshredder to shred brown materials.
  7. Keep a good balance of green to brown materials.  As a rule, add 1/3 green to 2/3 brown materials.
  8. Learn what NOT to add to your compost bin. Animal products, tea bags (many have plastic), glossy papers, bioplastic “biodegradable” cups/bags are just a few of the things you don’t want to add.
  9. Donate your compost! If you don’t have a garden but are creating beautiful compost (as per all my suggestions in the podcast episode), donate it to community gardens, local garden centers, friends, or to the local park!
  10.  Give away your veggie scraps! If you just aren’t ready to compost on your own but still want to reduce your food waste, here is a handy guide to finding out how you can arrange to have your veggie scraps picked up and hauled away! Some cities offer green waste pick-up, and some innovative companies are picking up people’s veggie scraps for them!

                                        ________________________

Words Change, Meanings Evolve, but Meat and Milk Companies Think Customers are Stupid

You’ve probably heard by now that France banned the use of meat-like terms in packaging for vegetarian food. Yes, that’s right. “Food producers in France,” as reported by the Independent, “will be forced to think of new ways to describe some of their vegetarian and vegan foods when they are banned from using terms such as ‘vegetarian sausages and ‘vegan bacon.’ French MPs have voted to outlaw use of such vocabulary, claiming they mislead shoppers.

Firms will no longer be able to use ‘burger,’  ‘steak’, ‘sausage’ or ‘fillet’ to describe foods that have no meat in them, such as ‘ham’ slices or ‘chicken’ pies that are made of soya or wheat. The ban on such vocabulary will also apply to dairy alternatives.”

I recently shared my response to the Economist magazine’s article about “The Vegetarian Butcher,” Jaap Korteweg, a ninth-generation farmer who wants “to become the biggest butcher in the world without ever slaughtering an animal.” As a result, some Dutch politicians called for a ban on meat names for products that contained no animal protein, and “the country’s food authority asked The Vegetarian Butcher to rename misleading products...because it might confuse consumers.

Dutch media termed the episode ‘Schnitzelgate’ after a similar situation in Germany, whose minister for agriculture said that ‘meaty names’ such as ‘schnitzel’ and ‘wurst’ should only be legal for animal-based products.”

And of course we’re familiar with such shenanigans in the United States as the dairy lobby uses the Dairy Pride Act to try and outlaw the use of such words as “milk,” “ice cream,” “butter,” and “yogurt” from products made from non-dairy sources. I’d like to see them tell a lactating woman she has to refer to her “breast beverage” because the dairy industry “owns” the word milk or that peanut butter companies have to devise a new name for this favorite food.

The movement toward banning “meat,” “milk,” and other descriptors from plant-based versions simply demonstrates how threatened companies and governments are by the success of these products. Instead of hopping on the cruelty-free bandwagon, they’re attempting to hinder their growth in the marketplace. (It won’t work.)

Meanings evolve, words change, context matters, and consumers aren’t stupid. They know a veggie version from an animal-based one and in fact, they’re choosing the former over the latter precisely because it’s animal-free. No one who orders a veggie burger, drinks almond milk, or eats cashew cheese is being duped. But associations with the names of familiar animal-based meats and milks help create their gustatory expectations.

More than that, the etymology of these words reveal that they have less to do with the animals than we think: schnitzel comes from a Proto-Germanic root meaning “to cut, slice”; wurst comes from a Proto-Germanic root meaning “to mix up”; sausage comes from the Latin word for “salted”; in English, the original meaning of word meat was “food in general” — and we still use that meaning today in sweetmeat, coconut meat, and the meat of a nut.

The word underwent the same evolution in French. The word viande (“meat”) also originally meant food in general — not simply the flesh of animals for consumption. That word became narrowed over time, but its root vivere remains, meaning “to live.” In its current usage referring to a dismembered body part of a dead animal, however, viande certainly represents anything but life.

Language is not simply a means of communication. It represents and reinforces the attitudes of our culture; it informs and gives social credit to our thoughts, rhetoric, and actions; and it masks, justifies, or dulls our ethical red flags. In fact, I would argue that the words the meat, dairy, and egg industries currently rely on to market and sell their products are really the ones that dupe consumers. The euphemisms they use to hock their wares disguise the violence inherent in bringing animals into this world only to kill them. Even the very use of the words pork, bacon, poultry, beef, burger, and steak conceals the presence of the once-living animals.

Perhaps instead of banning such qualifiers as “veggie,” “vegetarian,” and “vegan,” they should add “pig,” “piglet,” “sow,” “cow,” “calf,” “steer,” “bird,” or even “animal” as qualifiers on their own products. “Cashew milk” could then compete fairly with “calf’s milk,” and “veggie burger” would be on the same playing field as “cow burger.” 

If they’re really so worried about “duping” or “confusing consumers,” they would stop referring to their production practices in euphemistic terms. The egg and chicken industries would stop referring to the burning or cutting off of the tips of birds’ beaks without anaesthesia as “beak conditioning.” They would stop referring to the amputation of the tips of birds’ toes without anaesthesia as “toe clipping” or “toe conditioning.” The dairy industry would stop calling  the cutting off of cows’ tails without anesthesia “tail trimming.” The pork industry would stop referring to the pens they confine pregnant pigs in as “maternity pens” or “individual gestation accommodations.” And instead of referring to their practice of killing piglets by slamming their heads against floors or walls, as “blunt force trauma,” they would call it what it is. 

The animal exploitation industries and the politicians who rely on the deep pockets of the animal agriculture industry know that words matter, which is precisely why they work so hard to conceal the reality of their practices and products from the public. 

The attempt to control the words used by plant-based companies — words that are already part of the public’s vernacular — is a desperate and short-sighted ploy to save a dying paradigm. Animal-based meat, dairy, and egg companies are fighting a losing battle and missing a golden opportunity to  give customers what they want: animal-free versions that provide the fat, salt, flavor, familiarity, and texture without the cruelty. 

Instead of trying to change words, they could be part of changing the future.

__________________________

Colleen Patrick-Goudreau is an author, speaker, podcaster, and host of Animalogy, a podcast about the animal-related words and expressions we use every day

(Listen to the numerous podcast episodes I have on the naming of meats and milks as well as the word “butcher.” Some are part of Animalogy podcast; some are part of Food for Thought.)

Zero Waste Food Scraps

I’ve had so many eye-opening moments since starting this Zero Waste journey — one of them having to do with food waste. It’s why I’ve devoted three podcast episodes to this topic, when I thought I’d just be doing a simple episode on how to compost.

Certainly it’s been revelatory to learn about the rampant (and preventable) food loss and food waste that takes place in the harvesting, production, processing, and transportation arms of the food sector — the animal livestock industry being the number one culprit. But it’s been the food waste that takes place in the consumer sector — in our own homes — that has left a deep impression on me. 

As I explain in Food Waste Part 2: Food is Not Garbage,  Americans throw away up to 40% of perfectly safe, perfectly edible food — all of which winds up in a landfill, sitting in a dump, creating methane and other greenhouse gases. 

The lightbulb that went off for me is simply this: food doesn’t belong in the garbage. I know that may sound ridiculously obvious, but I think because it’s so ridiculous obviously that it doesn’t even penetrate our skulls. We can’t see the forest for the trees.

When I started on this journey and began making changes in my life and in our home, one of the dilemmas I was faced with was what kind of garbage bags would I be able to find that fit our existing cans (below) and that are biodegradable. I started researching and googling and stressing until I realized…we don’t need ANY garbage bags at all — because there’s nothing stinking up our garbage!

[envira-gallery id="6908"]

The only reason we line our garbage bins with plastic bags is because of all the wet food we throw away that becomes stinky and smelly. Once we put those stinky garbage bags into our outdoor garbage cans, hungry, opportunistic critters (or “pests” as many people consider them) find these food-filled cans and create the human / animal conflicts that lead to their demise. The raccoons, skunks, opossums, crows, foxes, even bears who topple our garbage cans and make a mess are simply being resourceful enough to want to eat the food we considered waste and discarded. 

Animals are the ultimate zero-wasters!

But, no food breaking down in our garbage…no smell. No smell…no “pests.” No “pests”…no conflicts or fear of disease-transmission. No conflicts…harmony. (And if you’re worried that urban and suburban wildlife would starve if we stopped throwing food away, my recommendation would be to focus on creating a wildlife-friendly habitat.)

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Same goes for dumps.

The only reason dumps smell putrid is because of all the food we throw away that becomes stinky and smelly. If organic matter weren’t putrefying (especially because it can’t properly break down without the oxygen and soil and microbes it needs to do so), dumps wouldn’t smell. They also wouldn’t create greenhouse gases or attract “pests” that also create conflicts and a certain bad reputation and sometimes death for them. (Listen to the podcast for more about the negative effects of food in dumps.)

So instead of buying biodegradable garbage bags (which, by the way, can’t biodegrade without the right conditions, and there are no right conditions in a dump), we simply put our garbage and recycling into their respective receptacles — sans plastic bags. 

Despite the goal being zero waste, we do still create waste in our home, mostly from products we still had and are using up before starting this journey and packaging from online orders (for the garbage) and aluminum cans from the cats’ food and the beer bottles David occasionally buys (for the recycling). All of the garbage items are dry, so there’s no issue there, and as for the recyclable items, we simply rinse out the cat cans and beer bottles before putting them in the garbage bin. The rest is any mail I can’t compost (yes, I’ll be discussing the challenge of reducing unwanted mail!) No need for a liner. 

On garbage days, we bring take the receptacles directly to the city cans in our garage, dump in the contents, and rinse out our cans before returning them to the kitchen. Easy. Peasy.

As for what we do with food scraps, you’ll want to listen to the Food Waste Part 2 podcast episode for the gazillion ideas I provide for reducing food waste in the first place — and composting is the final (not first) suggestion. That’s right…the other massive revelation that guides my actions every day: ZERO WASTE ISN’T ABOUT WASTE DIVERSION. IT’S ABOUT WASTE PREVENTION

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Yes, I compost all the food scraps that remain (more to come on that topic), but I’m now focused more on eliminating food scraps in the first place, including when I eat out or at other people’s homes. (And for years we used compostable bags to line our compost pail on our countertop to make it “more convenient” for us to bring it down to the city’s green bin in our garage, but we stopped buying those, too, because it’s only a little less convenient to bring the actual pail down to the green bin, dump it, and bring it back to the kitchen. Big. Friggin. Deal.) 

I’m reluctant to even recommend biodegradable garbage bags, because of all the reasons I gave above, but I realize there are municipalities around the world who don’t offer green bins for homeowners or apartment dwellers and many people don’t have compost bins (or know what to do with them if they did), however, please do me a favor and first:

  1. Listen to Food Waste: Part One and Food Waste: Part Two to get a broader understanding of the issue.
  2. Implement the suggestions in Part Two to start reducing food waste in the first place. 
  3. Purchase biodegradable garbage bags instead of plastic while you’re eliminating food waste as much as you can.
  4. Share what you’re doing below to inspire others!

Thanks for reading! Lots more to come!

For the animals, 

Halong Bay (Vegan in Vietnam)

After another hearty breakfast, we checked out of our hotel to make our 3.5-hour drive to Halong Bay, where we stayed overnight on our own chartered boat.

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The unique beauty of Halong Bay with it’s towering limestone pillars has made it a World Heritage site in 1994. It’s emerald waters and forest topped islets draws tourists from around the world to this Gulf of Tonkin in Northern Vietnam.

After we settled in and enjoyed some welcome drinks, we headed our on kayaks to a stunning spot reachable only by a little cave. The highlight was a family of 20 macaque monkeys….

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It’s been so amazing getting to know everyone in our group. I am so grateful for having the opportunity to travel and make discoveries with my fellow vegans that share my values of peace and compassion and my love for exploring the world.

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The food has been beautiful, aromatic and delicious. After traveling to Thailand where the food was heavy with oils and curry, I’m delightfully surprised at how much more I love Vietnamese food that I thought I would.

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We’re loving it so much that already planning our next trip to Vietnam, which would include Phnom Penh, Angkor Wat and Laos!

Food Waste (Part 2): Food is Not Garbage

Zero waste is not about waste DIVERSION; it’s about waste PREVENTION! We (vegans and non-vegans) throw away 40% of the food we bring into our home — leading to greenhouse gas emissions in landfills, waste money, human / animal conflicts, and squandered resources.

Enjoy Part 2 of the series on food waste, which offers a number of solutions for preventing food waste in our own lives.

What are you doing to prevent food waste in your own home?

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