Tag: plant-based

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?

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.

Spend the Weekend with Me!

Back by popular demand: The Compassion in Action Conference! Register early to receive perks, including:

  • bring a friend for 50% off 
  • videos of all presentations
  • 30-minute conference call with speakers 
  • 20% discount to Millennium Restaurant 

The intention behind Compassion-in-Action is to connect like-minded people with each other and to give you the tools and resources you need to reflect your deepest values in your daily behavior so that we can create the compassionate world we all envision — for all animals, both human and non-human. 

Through lectures, Q&A sessions, and group work, we will address such topics as:

  • Powerful Ways to Advocate for Animals
  • How to Practice Self-Compassion
  • 10 Habits of Highly Effective Advocates
  • From Personal to Professional Advocacy
  • Choosing Unconditional Compassion
  • The Principles of Zero Waste 

By the end of this weekend together, not only will you have connected with dozens of incredible like-minded people and connected with your deepest, most authentic compassion, you will also have tools for living purposefully, boldly, passionately, and compassionately — in a way that is both effective and joyful.

Our presenters are the best, and I’ll be sharing more with you about them. In the meantime, I hope you will begin following Kathryn Kellogg of Going Zero Waste, Stephanie Redcross of Vegan Mainstream, and Ari Nessel of The Pollination Project. Register today!

     

How Going Zero-Waste Changed my Breakfast

Breakfast is my favorite meal. I’ve perfected my decades-long ritual of making my tea (a future post, indeed!), preparing my food, and sitting down for my morning read. This all usually comes after my morning run or workout. (Yes, I wake up early and love mornings!) 

My breakfast choices (like with all my meals) tend to change with the season — I prefer fresh fruit and smoothies in the warmer months and oatmeal in the colder months, but one thing that has filled my freezer (and belly) every day for years is Trader Joe’s frozen blueberries. Versatile, inexpensive, perfect for smoothies, oatmeal, muffins, or just eaten straight from a bowl. That’s right. One of my favorite breakfasts is a huge bowl of frozen blueberries, drizzled with some agave nectar, and tossed about with some nuts and/or seeds. However, my freezer is now devoid of these once permanent bags o’ berries.

 

Changing one of my most regular pleasurable habits is indicative of how serious I am about this zero-waste, plastic-free endeavor. Yes, I could buy fresh blueberries and freeze them, but here’s the rub: blueberries aren’t in season year-round, even in produce-rich California. 

And you know what? It turns out it’s fine, because it has forced me to make choices at the farmers market and for my breakfast that are revolved around criteria other than just simply habit or routine. Criteria that include:

  • zero-waste
  • plastic-free
  • seasonal
  • locally grown (when possible)
  • and vegan, of course

I’ve talked often of the benefits and beauty of eating seasonally, but even *I* made exceptions over the years: frozen blueberries encased in plastic being Exhibit A. And so with making choices based on all of my values — not just some of them and only when they’re convenient — I’m buying fruit at the market that’s in season rather than buying a plastic bag filled with fruit grown out of season and out of my region. 

It’s February, and the farmers markets are filled strawberries (among other fruits such as citrus and apples — yum!), and that’s what I’ve been centering my breakfasts on. And it’s been lovely. In fact, I never, ever ate oatmeal with strawberries, and now that I have, I love it!  

 

(The components of my recent breakfast: rolled oats, raw almonds, strawberries, brown sugar, cinnamon, homemade soymilk, ground flax seeds — missing from photo.)

Imagine that! Being open to something new actually reaps other rewards. Get out!  

I do very much look forward to finding blueberries again at the farmers markets (anthocyanins and all that!), and I do plan on freezing some for future consumption, but in the event that I get to have blueberries or other seasonal foods only certain times of the year makes having them all the more special. And that’s just another added bonus. 

DON’T FORGET: When you’re at the farmers market, you don’t have to take home the berries in the container they’re sold in. Simply dump them into your own reusable bag or container, and hand the basket back to the farmer. They’re happy to reuse them.

What are your favorite zero-waste breakfasts?

 

No doubt about it: blueberries not trapped in plastic are a helluva lot prettier and tastier!

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 

How Zero-Waste Has Changed My Grocery Shopping and Kitchen

 

Before I started this zero-waste journey, I shopped in the bulk section of local grocery stores. I brought my own (plastic) bags to fill up with dried beans, grains, and nutritional yeast, but when I didn’t have my own plastic bags to re-use, I tore one of the gazillion plastic bags off the roll in the bulk section, filled it up, and wrote the bin code on the twisty tie. And repeat.

Before I started this zero-waste journey, I shopped at Trader Joe’s (among other stores) and — as I placed the plastic-wrapped fennel bulbs and the plastic-packaged lettuce into my basket — lamented about how much plastic packaging there was in the produce section. Trader Joe’s isn’t the only store that sells plastic-wrapped produce; in fact, you’ll often find that organic produce is wrapped in plastic where non-organic is not. (More on that in a subsequent post.)

NOTE: When it came to buying flour, I used to buy Trader Joe’s brand flour wrapped in paper. But once I bought Bob’s Red Mill and assumed that surely a company as socially aware as Bob’s Red Mill would use sustainable packaging. NOT SO. They recently changed their packaging for such things as flour to be completely UNsustainable: plastic, non-renewable, non-recyclable. Not. Okay. Just thought you’d like to know.

I can walk to Trader Joe’s from my home, so it’s been a convenient place to shop, especially when in need of frozen blueberries, tofu, or … fennel bulbs, which is often. (I kind of eat fennel every day.) I also didn’t think twice about buying a head of organic cauliflower wrapped in plastic from Whole Foods. 

But all that has changed. Now, instead of complaining about all the plastic wrap on veggies and fruits while I’m in the middle of purchasing them, I just don’t purchase them. (Brilliant, I know.) I simply forego buying a vegetable wrapped in plastic and buy a non-plastic-wrapped vegetable instead or I wait until I’m at the farmer’s market or see a non-plastic version at another grocery store — and it turns out I’ve survived. It’s no different than the choices I make as a 20-year vegan. It’s not that I can’t buy / eat something that’s wrapped in plastic / that’s not vegan. It’s that I don’t want to.

Many habits have remained the same: I shop at our local farmer’s market every week, I stop in the bulk section of grocery stores, and I walk to Trader Joe’s. Then, I turn right — to a little locally owned produce store that has what I need when I’m in a pinch. And guess what? They have fennel bulbs NOT wrapped in plastic!  

The main difference is that I don’t just take my canvas bags with me for the groceries I buy; I take with me my mesh bags for fruits and veggies and my cotton sacks for the finer-sized bulk items like flour. And I love it.

I was a late bloomer when it came to what I used to call the Trader Joe’s cult anyway. When I taught my vegan cooking classes years ago and would recommend where people could buy products, students would invariably ask me if they’re available at Trader Joe’s. “I have no idea. I’ve never been to Trader Joe’s,” I would reply — to the shock of my audience. I would explain that I shopped at (what was at the time) my local (and locally owned) neighborhood grocery stores such as Farmer Joe’s and The Food Mill — both of which are on Macarthur Blvd. in Oakland. (Farmer Joe’s also opened a second larger location on Fruitvale Ave.) 

So, since I started this endeavor, I haven’t really shopped at Trader Joe’s. I get how convenient they are. I get how cheap their products are. I get how many vegan products they have. But I also really get how much plastic is harming wild places and animals — only a small portion of which is getting recycled or even can be recycled at all. (See my post on why recycling is not the answer.)

Just because it’s convenient for me doesn’t mean someone else isn’t inconvenienced. And when it comes to the waste we humans create, we’re inconveniencing millions of non-human individuals. 

As for cost, it’s astronomically more affordable to purchase bulk items. So, just as there’s a myth that eating vegan is more expensive, there’s also a myth that zero-waste is more expensive. 

Because I live in a city, I’m lucky to have a number of grocery stores with bulk sections near(ish) me, including Whole Foods and Berkeley Bowl, but as Whole Foods is expensive and Berkeley Bowl is just too far for me (I hate driving), I started thinking about where else I could shop in bulk. So, I started making a list in my head.

  • There are a number of small produce / convenience stores that have bulk bins, but I treat them as such: places of convenience; they’re just too expensive for regular groceries.
  • Sprouts opened on Broadway not too long ago, and their bulk bins are vast, so they’ve become a regular store for me.
  • Farmer Joe’s also has bulk bins and a good variety at that.

But I also started wondering where I would find smaller bulk items, such as unsweetened cocoa powder, baking powder, active yeast for baking bread,  maple syrup, olive oil. 

And then it hit me. I had completely forgotten about a staple in Oakland known for its bulk bins: The Food Mill, which I used to shop at all the time when I lived in that neighborhood. Not only are they even closer to me than any of the stores mentioned above and not only do they have the most affordable bulk items (including organic), but they also have the items I didn’t think I’d be able to get in bulk, namely unsweetened cocoa powder, yeast, baking powder, olive oil, and…maple syrup! (They also carry a huge variety of spices and dried herbs, but I also love my Oaktown Spice Shop for those.)

My husband makes fun of me all the time, because I do get pretty excited about this stuff, but I was giddy with delight filling up my jar with maple syrup and cocoa powder. (I realize other stores have these items in bulk, so this might not be news to some of you, but it just feels good to returning to support a neighborhood store in my beloved city of Oakland.)

 

     

Still, the point is: I have options — and more than I realized or remembered. I understand that I live in a city, so my choices tend to be a little greater than someone who lives in a more suburban or rural area, but even I had forgotten about some stores that are right in my backyard. Perhaps you have, too.

Have you explored stores near you that have bulk bins? What are some near you? What are your favorite bulk finds? 

 

SHOP SUMMARY* 

  • Organic Cotton Mesh Produce Bags (variety of sizes)
  • Organic Cotton Muslin Bags (great for flour and fine bulk items — in a variety of sizes)
  • Cotton Flour Sack Towels (great for wrapping and storing veggies / bread)

*if you buy from Amazon, you can send them an email telling them that you would like a note added to your account that when you place orders, you would like to avoid plastic packaging and avoid extra packaging when possible.

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)!

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