Skip to main content

Tag: food

Food Waste (Part 1): How Animal Products Hinder Zero Waste Goals

We can’t talk about Zero Waste living without talking about the big picture: the amount of food that gets wasted at the front end of the food chain: during production, harvest, and processing. And we can’t talk about Zero Waste living unless we face the fact that the highest food losses are associated with livestock production. Listen to Part One to find out how there is nothing Zero Waste about garbage. (The original meaning of the word garbage had to do with “the bowels and body parts of a butchered animal considered inedible by humans — the offal.”) Enjoy!

In Part Two, we’ll talk about the food WASTE that occurs toward the back end of the food chain — at the retail and consumer levels — and what we can do about it.

Zero Waste: It Ain’t About Recycling

In this episode about my zero waste journey, I share the principles that have absolutely changed my thinking and way of living. Zero Waste is not simply about my making YouTube videos about how to make zero-waste almond milk (though I will do that!), it’s a way of thinking that profoundly changes our approach to resources and production, going beyond “waste diversion” and striving to ensure that products are designed to be repaired, refurbished, re-manufactured and reused, creating a circular economy rather than a linear economy of “make, use, dispose.”

What you will learn in this episode is that Zero Waste is not about recycling.

Recycling IS waste. Have I blown your mind yet?

The Vegan Experience: Special Announcement

The intention in my work on behalf of animals and veganism has always been to guide people to live compassionately and healthfully with joy and confidence — and without deprivation. And that’s why I offer so many opportunities for you to join me in living joyfully, fully, abundantly, compassionately, intentionally, creatively, and consciously — in other words, to enjoy The Vegan Experience. 

Tissues vs. Handkerchiefs (Zero-Waste Journey)

I blow my nose a lot. I mean a lot. 

I don’t have allergies; I just have a runny nose in the morning. Every morning. My nose runs when I run (solidarity and all that). My nose runs when I hike. When I work out. When I watch Little House on the Prairie. (Seriously, instant waterworks within 5 minutes of an episode.)

Our bathroom wastebaskets are (were!) perpetually full of dirty tissues — one blow, one toss. Use once (maybe twice), forever in a landfill. 

Why? Because used tissues cannot be recycled, and apparently there are mixed opinions as to whether they can be composted (germs that may remain and all that). I imagine the mixed opinions have to do mostly with home compost systems (which we have) versus municipal compost systems (which we have), and I just found out that used tissues can indeed be tossed into our “green bin” — the same bin we can use for food scraps, yard scraps, and even most paper products. It took me all of 5 minutes to talk to a lovely gentleman at Waste Management in Oakland (CA) to confirm this, so I recommend calling your own city if they have a compost service you pay for. 

However, not only did I not realize that all these years I could have been composting my used tissues (self-flogging scheduled), I’ve already made a decision to stop using single-use paper tissues, and I’m sticking to it. I’m going to be using something I NEVER in a million years thought I’d use: reusable, washable handkerchiefs. Yup, the very thing I made fun of my father for using my entire life. 

After all, the problem with single-use products is not just what happens at the end of their use. The problem is how they are created in the first place. 

 

Before They Were Tissues, They Were Trees

Americans use upwards of 255,360,000,000 disposable facial tissues a year (yes, that is 255.3 billion).1 That doesn’t even include North Americans. Or South Americans. Just people who live in the United States. 

Trees: Whether the facial tissue is made from virgin or recycled paper pulp it’s still made from trees, which can take years or decades to grow. Logging practices can degrade forests thus contributing to global warming, cause loss of habitat for plants and animals, and pollute waterways. And even recycled paper can be re-recycled only a limited number of times. Plus, have you ever wiped your nose with a recycled tissue? Makes me cry just thinking about it! 

Production: Paper plants use huge amounts of water and electricity. They also pollute the air and water.  Add to that the bleaching that takes place for most tissues and the packaging that contains plastic (that never biodegrades).

Transportation: Of course, the raw materials as well as the finished tissues are transported to and from factories via CO2 emitting vehicles.

And so…as always, there is a better way, and — as is often the case — it’s a bit retro. Enter the hanky

It is by far the most Earth- and animal-friendly choice for your runny nose (or for removing makeup or wiping your hands). I know this idea might be unappealing to some, but for me, what is most unappealing is the unnecessary waste we’re creating. But look at it this way: as with most things from the past, there’s a certain quaintness attached to using a bit of fabric to dry our snouts, and there are other benefits as well. 

Costs in dollars

You might be asking, “isn’t it more expensive to buy handkerchiefs vs. single-use facial tissues?” The short answer is no. The long answer is … your own calculations will depend on how many handkerchiefs you will need to buy to replace the paper tissues you normally keep. (Historically, I’ve had a box of tissues in every room of my house. No exaggeration.) But as with so many lifestyle changes, this will most likely be a one-time investment. More than that, you can buy affordable vintage hankies from a thrift store — wash them in hot water when you get them home —or you make your own hankies from old sheets and pillowcases. And that’s free! (See below!)

But let’s do some math. (Well,  ZeroWasteBackPacker already did the math, so check it out if you’re interested.) In short, using washable, reusable hankies are far less expensive than buying single-use tissues.

Costs in non-renewable resources

You might be asking: doesn’t it take more resources to wash handkerchiefs? Again, someone else did the work for me so I didn’t have to, so if you’re interested, a thorough analysis and comparison of the problem was conducted by Greenlifestylemag and they concluded that when it comes to the water use, energy use, and waste, the humble hanky was hands down the more sustainable option.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: When you are buying brand-new hankies (not vintage ones), unbleached, organic cotton will be the best choice environmentally speaking. Better yet, just cut up old sheets you have lying around or head to the thrift store for old cotton sheets or vintage hankies.

Isn’t it …  gross to use handkerchiefs?

Last time I checked: tissues are pretty gross. Basically, if — like with tissues — you blow everything out of your schnoz into a hanky then shove it into your pocket and repeat several times (and then forget it’s in there), yeah, that’s gross. But if you’re just wiping your nose, it’s really not that different than wiping your nose on a tissue and putting it back into your pocket or purse. But for serious blows, just use a clean hanky!

How do you carry them around? How do you not forget them when you leave the house?

The same way that in the past I remembered to bring paper tissues with me. It’s just one of the things I make sure is in my pocket or purse. In fact, while I use the cut-up sheets as hankies for inside the house, I bought some pretty hankies for me to keep in my purse — like the ladies of yore did — and I use a beautiful little bag my friend bought me for Christmas to keep the used ones in. (I suppose this isn’t how all ladies of yore did it. I remember my paternal grandmother usually kept hers shoved in her bra strap. Whatever works.)  When I get home, I toss the used hankies in the hamper. 

But what about for house guests and visitors? What if they want a tissue?

I had a couple sets of sheets and pillowcases sitting in my linen closet that were clearly never going to get used. Recently, I spent a few minutes cutting them up into tissue-size hankies, and I refilled all of my cute little tissue holders with them. I put a note on the inside lid of each to let people know they are washable / re-usable.

But here’s the BEST PART: the cute little wastebaskets I have in our bathrooms…have now become cute little hampers!  

I. can’t. tell. you. how. happy. that. makes. me. My husband knows, because I gave him a giddy tour of our new system! So, guests…they’ll deal

How do you wash handkerchiefs?

You can just add them to a regular load, but I would use warm water for their cycle. If you’ve had a cold or flu, use hot water. You can also use mesh laundry bags. And no, it doesn’t take more resources to wash hankies. Remember the water use from our paper products? Way. More. Water.

Permission to pasturbate (in this case)

Like most everyone, I pasturbate. (That’s my term for over-romanticizing the past.) Sometimes pasturbating is good (like how much I love Little House on the Prairie), sometimes not (like when we romanticize how we used to eat animals, tested toxins on them, and made them ride bicycles to entertain us. Oh, wait, that’s not in the past — yet).

My point is: when it comes to hankies, pasturbating is a good thing. 

There was a time when people recognized that it doesn’t make sense to use something once, then throw it away. There was also a time when things were made to last…hence, my using a vintage handkerchief made 30 years ago or more. (There was also a time when dropping a handkerchief was a flirtatious act! I want to see you bring that back!)

Handkerchiefs had sentimental value, as well, and we can bring that back. When I got married, in the traditional manner of things, my mother gave me “something old,” and guess what it was? A handkerchief. I still have it today and think of her every time I use it. Prior to my zero-waste journey, I used it more as a doily; today, I use it the way it was meant to be used, and I think she would be proud. ? 

Where should I buy handkerchiefs?

  1. Ask your grandparents, parents, or an older friend if they still have some hankies at home. You might be surprised!
  2. Purchase new hankies (organic recommended) online or at a department store (usually stocked in the men’s section). Some folks like to get children’s hankies, which are usually 8×8; women’s hankies are usually 10×10 or 12×12; men’s hankies tend to be larger.   
  3. Purchase vintage hankies on eBay or Etsy or in local thrift or vintage stores. 
  4. Make your own. If you enjoy sewing or DIY, make them yourself out of an old sheet, t-shirt, or favorite fabric you have lying around. I have no patience for such things, which is why my homemade ones won’t be as pretty as yours, but they do the job! 

Resources

  1. Calculated based on 2012 facial tissue tonnage (399) from RISI – US Tissue Monthly Data, January 2013 multiplied by 20 (approximate number of facial tissues in one ounce).
  2. https://www.statista.com/statistics/284960/amount-of-facial-tissues-used-within-30-days-in-the-us-trend 

Plastic-Free Tea Thermos / / Zero Waste and Vegan

As I mentioned in my last post about Zero-Free On-The-Go / Travel, I was looking for a plastic-free tea thermos that has a strainer for tea, and I’m thrilled to have found two:

this tea thermos by NiftyCore (14 oz)

this tea thermos by Leaf Life (17 oz)

They both work beautifully, keep my tea hot, and of course both can be used for coffee, hot cocoa, or cold beverages as well. With 500 billion disposable coffee cups being produced and discarded each year, it’s the least we can do, don’t ya think?

Of the two versions, I like the larger size and warmer color of the Leaf Life thermos, but Nifty Core’s 14 ounces is also great when a smaller size is needed.

Charlie and Michiko approve, too! (Actually, they don’t really care, but they’re cute enough to justify their participation in this post!)

Get Your Own Tea Thermos (and Tea)!

Zero Waste and Vegan / / Beverages On the Go

Single-use cups and straws are wreaking environmental havoc, most of which are going into landfills or polluting the ocean and harming wildlife. About 30.9 billion disposable cups are thrown away along with 58 billion paper cups (not recycled) annually. 500 million straws are used in the U.S. every day. Having just returned from a trip I thought it would be a good time to share with you how I travel zero-waste, plastic-free, and vegan. I would never deny you your coffee, tea, or water while on the go, but we can make a huge difference by using reusables the moment we leave our house.

Water

I stopped buying single-use plastic bottles years ago — even before I officially started on my zero-waste / plastic-free venture. (The only time I’ve had to make an exception is while traveling is when the local water supply isn’t safe to drink.) So, whenever I leave my house, my reusable water bottle comes with me. I have a couple stainless steel Kleen Kanteen bottles I still use, but as they have plastic lids when and if the time comes to purchase a new one, I’d opt for the Kleen Kanteen bottle with a bamboo lid or Simple Modern bottles. The latter comes in many sizes for both hot and cold beverages and contain no plastic.

Tea

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a tea junkie who carries my favorite tea thermos everywhere I go. I was about to link to it since it’s one of the top questions I’m asked (“What is the tea thermos/infuser you use??” But in keeping with my plastic-free goal, I couldn’t in good conscious point you to it. HOWEVER, I’m THRILLED to share with you plastic-free tea thermos by NiftyCore. Now remember, there are plenty of plastic-free thermos options, but for infusing TEA, which is my priority here, the key is finding one with an infuser. (NOTE: This thermos can be used for coffee, too.)

Coffee

500 billion disposable coffee cups are produced every year.

I’m not a coffee drinker so I can’t personally recommend a favorite plastic-free coffee thermos or to-go cup; however, there are plenty out there including the thermos I recommended above, which can be used for coffee as well as tea (or a hot toddy)!

All Beverages  

Living plastic-free / zero-waste isn’t about buying new plastic-free items. It’s about using what is already available to us, being innovative, and checking out secondhand / gently used items at thrift stores. (Asking friends and neighbors is another great idea.) One way to enjoy beverages on the road is to just use Mason or Ball jars along with an EcoJarz lid that replaces the flats on jars with those that are secured with a rubber ring (if you need a lid). Glass jars won’t necessarily insulate hot or cold beverages, but if temperature isn’t an issue, they’re perfect — and tried and true. 

Beverages on Airplanes 

First, when traveling with your beverage container, be sure it’s empty before reaching the security line. There’s nothing more heartbreaking than seeing all of the un-drunk water bottles being tossed into the garbage. (There’s also nothing more heartbreaking than having to dump out your favorite tea because you forgot about security!) Once you’re through security, you can fill up your water at a filling station or water fountain. 

Second (for tea drinkers), head to the nearest cafe and ask them to fill up your thermos with hot water (FREE!). Add your own tea leaves. I usually have that part done before leaving my house, but I also carry my own tea with me. Second (for coffee drinkers), head to the nearest cafe and request your thermos or whatever your beverage container be filled with your favorite coffee (NOT FREE)! 

I drink a fair amount of tea, so whether or not I’ve gotten hot water for my tea thermos at the airport, I usually want more tea once I’m on the plane. During the beverage service, I simply ask the airline attendant to fill my tea thermos with hot water. HOWEVER, I have two things to say about this:

  1. Even though I have my tea thermos, in the past, I’ve also requested an empty hot cup to pour my tea into once it’s steeped because it’s just too hot to drink straight out of the thermos. (Plus, I don’t want the tea to oversteep). To avoid this in future, I’ll start traveling with a mason jar or small ceramic mug so I don’t need to request a disposable cup.
  2. This seems to vary according to the whims of the attendant, but occasionally I’ve been told that they’re “not permitted” to handle customers’ own cups in order to refill them. Most of the time, they refill them, but sometimes, they still grab a (most-likely-plastic-coated) hot cup to put my hot water into and then hand the cup to me to pour into my thermos. Grrrrr! I’ve noticed the easiest way to avoid this is to not ask for my hot water while seated during the beverage service but to go to the galley where the attendants are always happy to refill my thermos straight from the hot water tap. HOWEVER: Sometimes they still grab a disposable cup because it’s shorter than my thermos and easier to stick under the tap, but this is when my trusty jar/mug will come in! 

Zero-Waste Snacks, Drinks, and Comfort

 

Making an effort to be zero-waste / plastic-free means being mindful in ways you never thought possible. But just as I advise people who are looking to eat vegan/more healthfully, it’s just a matter of planning ahead, and truth be told: when we’re traveling, that’s what we’re doing already. It’s just a matter of adding a few extra things to your packing list. 

  • Bring your own snacks in their own containers rather than buy food on the plane. My favorite waste-free snacks are those that come in their own compostable packaging: fruits and veggies.
  • Apply what we’ve learned about being responsible campers/hikers: “pack it out.” Whether I’ve accumulated recyclable or compostable waste, I take it with me and dispose of it properly once I’m off the plane or at my destination. Yes, that means I always have a couple biodegradable compostable bags on me. 
  • Bring your own utensils. Truth be told, I’m not a fan of the bamboo utensils sold on many sustainable websites. Just get some stainless steel flatware from a thrift store or garage sale, wrap them in a cloth napkin, and keep them in your bag. 
  • Bring your own cloth napkins. 
  • Bring your own pillow/neck rest and blanket. Rather than open up the plastic-packaged blanket offered on some flights, I just bring my own blanket that folds down compactly in my bag. As for the pillow, apparently many are just thrown out after the flight, so just clip a travel pillow onto your backpack, and you’ll have a comfortable flight wherever you’re traveling!
  • Carry your own stainless steel straw! It’s rare that I ever feel compelled to drink through a straw, but we do have some at home for summer cocktails, and I’ve started carrying one around with me. Ya never know.

Straw-Free in Restaurants and Bars 

More and more restaurants are becoming aware of people requesting straw-free water (!), but it’s still too common and servers and bartenders are often too busy to stop and ask if you want a straw or they do it out of habit (or restaurant policy), so to preemptively avoid straws, it’s probably best just to say to the host who is seating you: “if water will be brought to us automatically, can you please ask them to not bring us straws? Thank you.” 

At bars and restaurants, now when I ask for water, I just add “no straw” at the same time: “Hi there. May I have a water — and please no straw. Thank you.” It’s rare, but I’ve also noticed that in some bars, cafes, restaurants — even though they have pint glasses all over the place, they still serve water in plastic cups, so just being even more conscious of this than ever before, when I ask for water, I also explicitly ask for it to be served in a glass. This is not an unreasonable expectation. (Yes, it means they have another dish to wash, but adding another glass to their dishwasher is far less destructive than putting another plastic cup — often made of petroleum-based virgin plastic — in a landfill. Period.)

YOU CAN DO THIS! Although it might feel uncomfortable at first, you’ll quickly get used to asking for something in a reusable container.(Plus, it always sparks a wonderful conversation!) Kudos to you for doing more than just declaring yourself a friend of the animals but for actually manifesting your values in your  behavior. After all, what’s the point of having values if you don’t stand up for them? 

Shop Summary

Stop Underestimating Compassion

Being compassionate doesn’t mean we get to be compassionate only to the people who agree with us or whose values we share. Compassion means being compassionate to everyone, even those who are not compassionate — even holding compassion for people who hurt animals or who contribute to animal cruelty. 
 
The animals need us to be more compassionate — not less — and spewing anger, hatred, vitriol, violence, judgment, and arrogance in the name of compassion just means we create more anger, hatred, vitriol, violence, judgment, and arrogance in the world. 
 
We don’t get a pass because we say we are on the side of the animals.
 
Compassion is not weakness. Compassion is not passive. Compassion does not condone cruelty. Compassion is strong. Compassion is fierce. Compassion can stand on its own and blot out bigotry and hate. It doesn’t need bigotry and hate to do so. 
 
Don’t underestimate compassion. It contains everything we need to create the world we all envision for animals — both human and non-human.

 

What Do Vegans Eat?

If you’re vegan and you’ve ever been asked, “what do you eat?”

If you’re not vegan, and you’ve ever asked, “what do vegans eat?”

There is a very simple answer.

[Tweet “Food. It’s What Vegans Eat.”]

Buying In or Selling Out? When Meat and Dairy Corporations Buy Vegan Companies

The animal-based meat, dairy, and egg companies are not committed to killing and hurting animals as much as they’re committed to making money. If the meat, dairy, & egg industries could make as much money NOT killing and hurting animals, they’ll do it. Buying into the success of vegan companies enables them to do that. Isn’t that what we want?

The plant-based foods market recently topped $3.1 billion in sales and is slated to reach over $5 billion in just a couple years. As a result, the animal-based meat, dairy, egg, and other large corporations see vegan companies and the plant-based products they make as competitors they should fear, emulate, learn from, collaborate with, invest in, or even purchase. They recognize they need to “buy into” the success, growth, and future of the plant-based market. Some, however, see it as vegan companies “selling out,” choosing profit over principles and betraying their loyal vegan customer base. On today’s episode, we explore the many perspectives of such business decisions and speculate about who the biggest winners are in the end.