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From Consumer to Owner: A Zero Waste Mindset

The changes I recently made to incorporate more zero-waste actions into my life have resulted in a change in my perspective. Listen to my NPR commentary about how we can have a zero-waste mindset while reducing our environmental footprint. Listen below, on KQED’s website, read the transcript below, and please share with friends and family. It’s a perspective that can change the way we interact with the world.

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A Zero Waste Mindset

I’ve always tried to live lightly on this earth and avoid causing harm to animals. I’ve been vegan for almost 20 years. I shop with canvas bags. I compost all of our family’s food and yard scraps. We irrigate our gardens with grey water from our showers and sinks. We shop at our local farmers market. We purposefully live where we can walk everywhere. And when we do drive, we have a single car — a plug-in hybrid whose gas tank we have yet to fill up.

Not perfect, but not bad. And yet earlier this year, I realized I may have unconsciously stopped doing more because I thought I was doing a lot. And so I did it: I “became” zero waste. And it has been absolutely life-changing.

The first time I heard the term “zero waste” was in 2006 when Oakland adopted its zero-waste policy in relation to its waste management. In fact, the term “zero waste” has its root in Oakland as well. It was coined in the 1970s by a chemist as the name for the company he founded to find new ways to use surplus chemicals discarded by the electronics industry.

The simple concept of zero waste is to prevent rather than divert trash, but at its core it’s about valuing and taking responsibility for goods we bring into our lives — replacing a linear system whereby goods are designed for discard with a circular system whereby goods are built for longevity and recirculated for as long as possible.

We need governments and manufacturers to help create a zero-waste world, but there’s so much individuals can do. We can replace our reliance on single-use plastic, reuse rather than recycle items like glass jars and bottles, repair what we already have, eliminate food waste in our home.

The journey thus far has been enlightening and overwhelming and exhilarating, and there have been many gifts and discoveries. Becoming zero waste has shifted some of my behaviors. I buy less, and I value more what I actually buy. But most significantly it has shifted my mindset — from seeing myself has an owner rather than a consumer of goods.

I’m not just living a zero-waste lifestyle. I’ve come to have a zero-waste mindset.

With a Perspective, this is Colleen Patrick-Goudreau.

I’m An Animal Advocate. And I Have Hope.

Yes, I have hope. No, I’m not a mythical creature.

I wrote and recorded this radio editorial for KQED Radio, called Why I Am Hopeful. Listen on KQED’s website, or just click play on the audio player below.

In any case, please share. I think animal advocates and vegans need to hear this message more than ever. 

I have been an animal advocate for more than 30 years, and I see enough cruelty every day to have a pretty bleak view of the world.

And yet, I have hope.

No, I’m not a mythical creature. No, I’m not delusional, and yes, I’m paying attention — so much so that I’m quite aware, for instance, that in the U.S. every year, over 9 billion animals are brought into this world only to be killed for human consumption.

Elephants are killed in their homes for their tusks.

And wild animals face the consequences of loss of habitat, hunting, and safe migration paths.

And yet, I have hope.

I have hope because I focus on what I can solve rather than what I can’t.

I have hope because there’s much to be hopeful about. History gives you great perspective if you just step back.

I have hope because outrage doesn’t change the world. Vision and vigilance do — along with the political, technological, economic, and moral forces that drive progress forward. I’m hopeful, because:

I live in a Democratic country, I can criticize elected officials, I can vote them out, and I can exercise my power and privilege to help those who have neither.

Scientific advances and technological breakthroughs, such as cellular agriculture, have the potential to save billions of animals from misery and death.

I live in an economic system that empowers visionaries to test their innovations in the marketplace and that gives me the choice to support companies and products that reflect my taste and ethics — and reject those that don’t.

My hope is not delusional; it’s rooted in facts, science, reason, and statistics.

My hope is not complacent; it’s provisional. It’s the difference between wanting things to change and taking action to facilitate that change.

My hope is rooted in joy. We don’t have to be angry all the time to demonstrate we care. We don’t have to be outraged to show that we’re conscious. We can be acutely aware, actively engaged, politically minded, and still have hope.

And so I’m hopeful, and I hope you are, too.

With a Perspective, this is Colleen Patrick-Goudreau.

Why I Am Hopeful

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Animals Are Residents — Not Intruders

The animals who live among us are residents — not intruders; listen to my NPR commentary about how we can be better neighbors to our wild brethren. Listen below or on KQED’s website, read the transcript below, and please share with friends and family. It’s a perspective that can change the way we interact with the world. 

(Supporters make this work possible. Thank you.)

How to Talk to Hunters (or anyone with whom you disagree)

WARNING: Radical ideas fill this episode — the most popular of Food for Thought episodes — centering around the suggestion that we try to have compassion for people with whom we disagree or who participate in behavior we find abhorrent. That’s the thing about compassion: it’s gotta be equal opportunity or it’s just inauthentic. It’s easy to be compassionate towards like-minded people; the challenge is choosing to have compassion towards those with whom we disagree. Check out this episode for tips and suggestions on communicating with compassion – but only if you want to create change in the world.

Animal Neighbors

Last night, I arrived home with three dear friends who helped me host a day-long animal advocacy conference in Oakland. It was an incredible if not exhausting day, and we had only 20 minutes to rest before needing to head out to treat the staff and speakers to dinner. 

Three of us went into the house, and my friend Amanda came in a couple minutes after us — distraught. Our little deer Pious was lying in the corner of the house just at the base of our front stairs by the door. He was dying, and I hadn’t seen. This little guy who was born in April suffered an awful injury in early June that I’ve spared you all from seeing. It was very difficult to bear witness, and it was even more difficult that (after consulting with several wildlife rehabbers) he was past the age where fawns can be taken and treated. A few weeks old, yes. Over a couple months old, too difficult for a number of reasons. 

And so I appointed myself his guardian, providing him with — as always — a quiet place, a lot of water, a salt lick — and monitored him to see if there ever came a time where I COULD intervene to ease him of any unnecessary suffering. 

Last night was that night. We sent some of our group off to our dinner to meet with the rest of our party, and I immediately began making calls. I’m so grateful to the non-emergency dispatcher who, when told of the situation, voiced her compassion and concern. She sent out a call to Animal Control, and within an hour, he came out to relieve Pious of his suffering. 

I feel so grateful that Pious chose to die in a location visible enough for us to see him so we could help. Yes, I realize that free-born animals die all the time and “it’s part of nature,” but I believe where and when we can appropriately intervene, we should. As humans, we impose our lives on animals in every way and intervene in ways that negatively affect them all the time, so I have no compunction about what some would consider “interfering” with nature when it alleviates unnecessary pain. 

I am so grateful the animal control officer who came out hasn’t yet suffered from “compassion fatigue” as so many do in his profession. He was gracious and kind as he tranquilized Pious and brought him back to animal control to give him the gift of a painless end. I’m sad, but I’m so relieved that this little guy doesn’t have to struggle anymore. He was such a fighter these last two months, and he worked hard to keep up with his mother and brother, even after his lower limb atrophied and fell off. It was very difficult to watch, but in bearing witness, I was able to help indirectly — if not directly in the end. 

The animals we live among are our fellow residents. And today I just want to honor one we have lost. He has a name, and he will be remembered. 

This morning, I’m leading a walking tour from Jack London Square to Lake Merritt of the history of animal protection in Oakland in the last century. Many before me have borne witness to suffering and intervened (and continue to intervene) to help our local animal residents as well as those beyond our borders. And when I come home, I’ll make sure the water is fresh and the salt lick is in place for all who share our neighborhood. 

For Pious. 

_________________________________________

(I’m including a photo of Remus and Romulus, two fawns born just a month after Pious, who are absolutely adorable and grace us with their playful, curious presence every day. I have only videos of Pious, and they’re too difficult for most people to watch. He was beautiful.)

Many thanks to Lila at Yggdrasil Urban Wildlife Rescue Center (YUWR) and Wildcare Bay Area who help injured and sick wildlife and guided me the last two months through Pious’ ordeal. 

Many thanks to the kind Animal Control officer who supported Pious through his transition. 

Compassion for All Creatures Great and Small: In Conversation with Nancy Lawson, author of The Humane Gardener

Just because you don’t consider yourself a “gardener” doesn’t mean this episode isn’t for you. Humane gardening is about looking through the lens of the millions of species on this planet and creating a space that enables them to thrive. It’s about coexisting with rather than managing or controlling wildlife. With the help of Nancy Lawson, author of The Humane Gardener: Nurturing a Backyard Habitat for Wildlife, you can apply this concept in your own garden patch, on your apartment balcony, or as part of policy you create with city officials. In this episode, Nancy and I chat about:

  • how to help pollinators (and that doesn’t just mean honeybees)
  • what to do when you have uninvited critters in your attic
  • how to plant for maximum wildlife (hint: NATIVES!)
  • why preventing deer, plant-eating animals, from eating plants, makes no sense
  • why you may want to rethink birdfeeders (and plant natives instead)
  • how you can prevent your dog from getting skunked
  • how you can get on the public relations team for wildlife

and so much more! Enjoy, please share, and be sure to follow Nancy at humanegardener.com.

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Animal Characteristics in Word Histories: Who They Are in What We Say

Whereas the word veal in English simply means “flesh of a calf” and pork in English means “flesh of a pig used as food,” hidden in many of the Anglo-Saxon/Old English and Proto-Indo-European words for the living animals are clues about the physical, behavioral, or vocal characteristics of the living animals, reflecting a tendency to name animals based on typical attributes or activities. 

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Old English Pigs and Old French Pork: The Linguistic Cleaving of Animals

Roughly 10,000 new words entered the English language during the Norman occupation and assimilation, particularly those having to do with the world of the ruling class.

The effects of the linguistic class division are most apparent in the culinary realm, where words used by the aristocracy have French origins and words used by the commoners have Germanic origins.

This is evident even today in the way we talk about certain animals, particularly those typically eaten by Westerners, with words rooted in Anglo-Saxon / Old English to indicate the living animals and words rooted in Old French to indicate the slaughtered animal as flesh for consumption.