Tag: plasticfree

Zero Waste, Plastic-Free Tips for Living with Cats

I get so many questions about what I feed my kitties from a vegan point of view as well as how to care for them from an ecological point of view, whether we’re talking about toys, litter, or food. 

Check out this video, as well as my podcast episodes for answers. 

As for the resources I mention, here they are below:

▸CAT ENRICHMENT & TOYS
*Make your own toys if you can
– Cat Scratcher Lounge Collapsible: https://amzn.to/2yK3MZ6
– Cat Scratcher Lounge: https://amzn.to/2KkyTiw (best thing I ever bought!)
– Plastic-free lint brush https://amzn.to/2MqsOyu

▸ CAT LITTER
-okocat https://amzn.to/2KlmKJT

▸ PLASTIC-FREE LITTER BOX
https://amzn.to/2yEl0ad

▸PLASTIC-FREE LITTER SCOOP
https://amzn.to/2KaSG4q

▸HOW TO COMPOST YOUR CAT’S LITTER
http://bit.ly/2IsnQOZ

▸ CAT FOOD
-Natural Balance Cat Food https://amzn.to/2IyzZSS
-Tiki Cat (for when the kitties just want a little extra) https://amzn.to/2KrXNJT

▸ Cornell University on flushing cat poop
http://bit.ly/2N1evRI

Don’t do nothing because you can’t do everything. Do something. Anything. 

Your Plastic-Free Journey Begins Today!

Welcome to Plastic-Free July! Don’t worry if you didn’t plan on making some changes this month. I’ve got you covered.⁠

Whether you’re consciously following #plasticfreejuly or just want to reduce (or be aware of) the amount of plastic you use, consume, and buy, you can join the journey at any point. ⁠

I’m going to be posting content to guide you wherever you are, and I encourage you to ask questions, provide resources, or support someone else — either here or on Instagram or Facebook.

FIVE TIPS TO GET STARTED! Watch this short video that provides the foundation for living with intention and compassion: ⁠

1. Take a look at where you’re at (and start there). ⁠
2. Have fun with it. Gamify it!⁠
3. Create an intention — what do you want to bring to this experience? What do you want to take away from it?⁠
4. The journey isn’t about buying all new plastic-free things.⁠
5. Value / use what you already have. ⁠

Ready to get started? ⁠
How can I help? ⁠
What are you looking for? ⁠
What are your challenges?⁠

👇 (COMMENT BELOW)⁠

🌿🌿🌿🌿🌿🌿🌿🌿🌿🌿🌿⁠

Don’t forget to: ⁠

Compostable, Biodegradable, Zero Waste Phone Cases

I first heard about Pela’s compostable, biodegradable, non-plastic, non-toxic phone cases from my friend Kathryn Kellogg over at Going Zero Waste, and I didn’t waste anytime ordering one. (I have an iPhone, but Pela makes phones for Google and Samsung phones, as well.)

For me, choosing ecologically friendly, animal-friendly products is always top of mind when I’m making purchases, but I also want them to do the job they’re designed for. 

I’ve had the Pela case for more than two years now and can attest to its efficacy — it has absolutely protected my phone, which I’ve dropped MANY times and use constantly each and every day. But a little more than two years in, it’s time for another, as the wear and tear is beyond cosmetic. 

Zero waste is about making choices based on responsibility and value, and while two years doesn’t seem like a terribly long time to own a phone case, there are a few other things to consider:

  • I’ve had other phone cases made of plastic that lasted about as long (or less).
  • Other (plastic) phone cases I’ve had didn’t actually protect my phone, so worse than having to replace the case, I’ve had to replace my phone (several times). Maybe I’m just a klutz, but still.
  • When I was done with previous phone cases, I couldn’t compost them!
  • The manufacturing needs to be considered in addition to the discard options, and Pela cases have 25% less carbon emissions, 35% less water usage, and 70% less waste production than conventional plastic smartphone cases.
  • Pela cases are free of lead, cadmium, BPA and phthalates. They are made of a proprietary blend of Terratek Flex and Canadian Prairie flax shive.

So, in all ways, they come out on top, and two years later, I’m ready to compost my case.

While we are lucky to have a municipal / industrial compost system in our city of Oakland, CA, I’m going to add my old case to one of my backyard compost bins to see how long it will take for it to break down. According to Pela, it could take between 6 months and 2 years, so I’ll report back! 

Two years after my initial purchase, Pela has increased their line in terms of colors, and some also have designs created by artists Pela commissions to beautify their products. They also have other biodegradable accessories, including  phone grips, which perhaps I should buy considering how often I drop my phone. Again…klutz. 

Pela is offering a special right now that gives you two cases for the price of one — the intention being that people need to wash their cases more than ever to avoid spreading Covid-19. I took advantage of this offer and picked two pretty cases, which arrived in compostable non-plastic packaging!

 

As with being vegan, aspiring to zero waste isn’t about being perfect; it’s about doing the best we can. It’s also not about buying more stuff — including everything marketed as “zero waste,” but when it comes to prolonging the life of necessities — and yes, my phone is a work and life necessity right now — then I’m grateful for companies like Pela who is providing an option that is ethical for human and non-humans alike. 

10 Favorite Countertop Appliances

It’s true that small appliances require some space, but it’s also true that they can make it easy to prepare and eat delicious, nutrient-dense, and cruelty-free vegan, plant-based dishes. While you can get along without them, I do think a couple are worth the space they take up on your counter, and their price points are really reasonable. 

I also recommend — if you can / if you have space — keeping those you use often (like the air fryer and blender) out on your counter. If you have to dig around a closet every time you want to use them, you never will.

If we don’t have time to be sick, we have to make time to be healthy.

NOTE: This blog post also corresponds with a podcast episode I did by the same name, but also include LESSONS FROM A KITCHEN REMODEL. Listen and learn more here.

In no particular order, here are my favorites and why. (Disclosure: while no one pays me to make these recommendations, if you purchase them through the links provided, I make a small commission.)

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  1. Air Fryer: Circulating air up, down, and all around, an air fryer is essentially a compact convection. I had the space to add this appliance, but if you are choosing between a small convection oven (toaster oven size) and an air fryer, you’d be better off choosing the convection oven. Having said that, I love my air fryer and use it every day, the main benefit of which is not having to preheat it before using. While it’s a great way to cook without oil, I still find that a little oil adds moisture and flavor to my veggies that are too dry without it. But you just need so little! Favorite things to cook in my air fryer: 
  • Brassicas: cauliflower, broccoli, broccolini, Brussels sprouts. Just a small amount of oil rubbed on each floret, tossed with a sprinkling of salt is all you need for crispy bites in 10 minutes.
  • Carrot fries: Cut carrots into matchsticks, toss with a little olive oil, salt, and chili powder. 
  • Kale chips: Seriously, in just a few minutes (and on a lower heat), you will have the most glorious, nutrient-dense kale chips. Again, a little oil rubbed onto each leaf, plus salt, AND golden flakes (aka nooch; aka nutritional yeast). 
  • Japanese sweet potatoes: Bake them first and store in fridge. When it’s time for dinner, split them open on the top and smash down the flesh with a fork OR I just slice the potatoes up into discs — and put in the air fryer for about 10 minutes. No oil. Crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside. 

Top choice: Ninja Air Fryer (4 quart) – perfect size and fits on counter nicely. Only issue is that I often have to cook in separate batches. If you want a larger size, I recommend my 2nd choice. 

2nd choice: Ninja Air Fryer (5.5 quart) – If you have the space, go for this “family size” air fryer. You can cook a lot at once, and it comes in lots of fun, pretty colors. 

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2. Pressure Cooker: Game-changer in no uncertain terms. It is not an exaggeration to say that getting a pressure changed everything for me. Beans (without soaking!) are ready in 30 minutes and taste better than any bean in a can or even cooked on the stove for hours. The pressure just seals in the flavor and makes the world taste good. 

Top choice: Instant Pot (8 quarts) I’ve had others. This is the best.

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3. Blender: A blender is best for liquefying or blending liquid ingredients. Because the blade is all the way at the bottom, it doesn’t do as good a job as a food processor. However, I use my blender to make smoothies, shakes, and nice cream on a regular basis, which the food processor isn’t meant for.

Top choice: Vitamix. Nothing beats this blender and its tamper. Period. Full stop. 

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4. Food Processor: As I mention below, I love my Kitchen Aid food processor because it has a large bowl with a large blade and a small bowl and blade that fits into it. I LOVE the versatility of that. I use my food processor for quickly chopping onions, carrots, and garlic; for pureeing soups; for making peanut butter; for pulsing chickpeas for Better-Than-Tuna…just name it. The only thing I don’t use it for is blending (like for making smoothies and nice cream). 

Top choice: Kitchen Aid 11-cup. I have had this machine for almost 20 years and haven’t had to replace any parts — ever. That’s the first reason I recommend the Kitchen Aid brand; the second is because one machine has two bowls and two blades – large and small – a convenient feature that not all food processors have. 

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5. Soy Milk Maker: While you can make soy milk without a machine, it’s INFINITELY easier to do so with a soy milk maker. 

Top choice: Joyoung Soy Milk Maker. I’ve come around to having the milk made in the stainless steel pitcher and then just straining at the end. It’s super easy to do, and you won’t have to worry about the holes in a strainer cup getting clogged. This one also enables you to make milk with unsoaked beans, but you’ll get more milk with soaked soy beans. 

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6. Countertop Toaster / Convection Oven: Before we renovated our kitchen (someday I’ll share before and after photos), we didn’t have space for a toaster oven, and I really really missed having one. Not a TOASTER, mind you — a toaster OVEN. Basically a small convection oven. I don’t like using my large wall ovens unless I have to; they use a ton of electricity, and the fan is loud. So, I use our countertop convection oven for everything from baking Japanese sweet potatoes and drop biscuits to toasting ciabatta!

Top choice: Oster Toaster Oven. Digital, easy to use, lots of options and settings. No complaints.

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7. Popcorn Air Popper: I don’t hide the fact that I eat popcorn several times a week, and while I grew up on Jiffy Pop, there comes a time you grow out of your childhood habits. I have had an air popper for 25 years and while it looks a little worse or wear, it’s perfect in my eyes. 

Top choice: Presto Air Popper. My original air popper is so old (25 years?) that I can’t find it anymore, but this one has the same features I love!

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8. Electric Stand Mixer: A stand mixer is essentially the same as a hand mixer but with more powerful motors than their hand-held counterparts. I’ve had my machine for at least 20 years — also a KitchenAid — and while I technically could live without it, I use it frequently: for kneading bread dough, for whipping up aquafaba for “egg whites,” and for making quick, large batches of cookie dough. Most stand mixers come with a variety of various additional blades, whisks, and hooks.

Top choice: Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer

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9. Juicer: We’re probably getting to the “nice-to-have’s” at this point, but I have to include a few other countertop appliances, including my juicer. I juice at least once a week. My favorite combination is carrots, ginger, and apples. My juicer is decades old, so I can’t recommend it — literally. It doesn’t exist anymore. I do know, though, that you’ll want to choose between centrifugal juicers and masticating. 

Centrifugal juicers have one blade and works a lot like a blender. Masticating juicers, which I have, make use of an augur instead of a blade and grind food instead of slicing it. In short, centrifugal juicers tend to create much more food waste than masticating juicers and are not able to break food down as well as masticating juicers. Personally, I would recommend a masticating juicer, which have also been called slow juicers — mostly because the slower process is believed to preserve nutrients better than high speed juicers that generate heat. And also because it requires a little more prep (quartering an apple, for example, rather than shoving an entire apple into the shoot). I’ve never found that to be an issue.

I started researching masticating juicers, but because there are so many to choose from, I think it’s just easier if you pick your own.

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10. An electric kettle:  This is one of those small appliances you don’t think is necessary until you have one, and then you realize you use it all the time! It’s more energy-efficient than boiling water on the stove, and 10 times as fast. If you drink a fair amount of tea, it’s a game-changer. What I love about both of these is that you can change the temperature depending on what type of tea you’re drinking: green, oolong, white or black.

Top choice: Miroco Temperature Controlled Electric Kettle 

2nd Choice: Breville Variable-Temperature Kettle

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NICE-TO-HAVE’S BUT NOT ESSENTIAL

NEXT, I wanted to include countertop “appliances” that may not be essential, but I’m happy I have them, and I definitely use them. I’m walking the line between “appliances” and “tools” here, but I make the rules, so it’s okay if I break them. 

  • Coffee Grinder (for grinding flax seeds): I’ve never had a cup of coffee in my life, but I use this handy-dandy gadget on a regular basis for grinding up the small, nutritious flax seeds that are good for eating and using as “eggs” in baking. (see blog post) 

Top choice: Krups is a good, reliable brand.

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  • Panini Press: Wonderful for making hot panini and even pancakes.

Top Choice: Breville is my recommended brand. 

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  • Electric Handheld Mixer: As the name implies, this is a hand-held device, where two stainless steel beaters are immersed in the food (in a mixing bowl) to do the mixing. 

Top choice: Dash has lots of great reviews and really pretty colors. 

2nd choice: Kitchenaid  – there are also versions that have a detachable whisk. I really like this stick blender — and those like it — where you twist to separate the body so all you have to do is put the blade part in the sink to wash it — and not the whole thing that’s attached to the plug.

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  • Immersion Blender also called Stick Blender: This is great for when you want to puree a pot of soup (or a portion of the soup) and don’t want to take out your entire blender or food processor. The one I link to below also has a whisk attachment, which is convenient, but there are many to choose from.

Top choice: Kitchen Aid Stick Blender

  • Waffle maker: This one was pretty close to making it an essential appliance, but in the end…are waffles really essential? I dunno…maybe they are. You might want to consider this #11 in my essential countertop appliances. 😉 I searched high and low for the right one, and I love the one I landed on. I did a ton of research for this, and it paid off. I love the one I got — it’s super easy, makes perfect waffles every time, and it’s a pancake maker as well! (It comes with pancake plates you can easily replace the waffle plates with!) 

Top choice: Cuisinart Waffle Maker with Pancake Plates

  • Wine fridge: Because we are wine drinkers, and we are members of a few different wineries, it’s nice to have red, rose, and white wines chilled at exactly the right drinking temperature, we did buy a wine fridge for our pantry but definitely a luxury and not a necessity. We were close to getting it built in when we re-did the kitchen, but I’m glad we didn’t. We did a ton of research for this one, as well, and it suits us perfectly — exactly the size we need and sits on top of our counter in the kitchen (and my soy milk maker sits on top). 

Top choice: Ivation 

  • Portable butane burners: So, I’ve had these for DECADES because it made teaching my cooking classes sooo easy in that I didn’t have to rely on the space I was renting to have a stove top, so I bought these little burners, and I’ve used them on picnics and sometimes even in our own back garden. It’s a bit of a hike from our kitchen to one of the outdoor spots we entertain, so I’ve brought the burners up there to make crepes or tortillas — things I wanted to serve hot when we were all outside, so in that way they’re very convenient. Now, there are definitely electric burners you can get, but I just prefer cooking over an open flame, so that’s why I gave these, and it also means you don’t need an outlet to use them! You just get little canisters of butane, and that’s what they run on. Now that I’m teaching the online cooking classes, it’s been super helpful to have my set-up such that I can point the camera down to my counter / cooking space. Otherwise, it would be awkward to constantly tilt the camera toward my stovetop. So, yeah, the little portable burner is great and a nice to have!  

Top choice: Burton Butane Burner – I’ve had 3 for years; you just have to buy the cartridges separately.

2nd choice: Coleman Butane Burner — I haven’t used it, but it looks very similar, it’s a lower price point, and it’s a good brand.


* Remember to listen to my podcast of the same name that also includes lessons from our kitchen remodel. *

For more on living and cooking vegan, my books are here to help:

The Joy of Vegan Baking 

The Vegan Table

Color Me Vegan

Vegan’s Daily Companion

The 30-Day Vegan Challenge

The Joyful Vegan

Homemade Plant-Based Milks

Plant-based milks were the original disruptor to the dairy industry until coronavirus came along, knocking cow’s milk off its already shaky legs. As dairy operations are dumping milk and consumers are finding empty supermarket shelves, people are cooking from scratch more than ever. While commercial plant milks are faring well during this pandemic, making plant milks at home is even more economical and sustainable, and the basic ingredients may already be in your cupboards.

They cost less, have less (or no) packaging, and can be flavored or sweetened to suit your taste. Zero-waste and plastic-free. It’s a win-win!

Different types of milk vary in terms of taste and texture, so if you don’t like one, try another. All plant-based milks are interchangeable for drinking, baking, or adding to coffee/tea, though some are creamier than others. Oat, almond, cashew, and soy are the creamiest, with rice milk being the thinnest.

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ALMOND OR CASHEW MILK
Used widely in the Middle Ages in regions stretching from the Iberian Peninsula to East Asia, almond milk has long been valued for its ability to keep better than animal’s milk, which has a short shelf life. The same process for almond milk can be used for other nuts, such as cashews and hazelnuts.

Ingredients

1½ cups raw (not roasted) almonds or cashews
4 cups cold water (use less water for thicker, creamier milk)
Pinch of salt (optional, but it enhances the flavor)
Optional ingredients such as vanilla extract, cocoa powder, dates, maple syrup, agave, etc. 

Directions

Soak the almonds in water for a minimum of an hour or up to 24 hours. Soaking is optional for cashews, though they will yield more milk if you soak them for at least 30 minutes in hot water.

After soaking the nuts, discard the water. Add the almonds or cashews and the 4 cups of water to a blender. Add other ingredients such as vanilla extract or cocoa powder, if desired, and blend well on high speed. Optionally, you can sweeten the milk with your favorite sweetener (dates, sugar, maple syrup, agave, etc.).

If making almond milk, you’ll want to strain the mixture with a cheesecloth, nut milk bag, or fine sieve/strainer over a large bowl. This isn’t really necessary with cashews. 

Refrigerate for up to 5 days in an airtight container. Give a little shake before serving. 

Yield: 4 cups

[envira-gallery id="9227"]

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OAT MILK
Rolled, quick-cooking, even steel-cut will work. Oat milk can become gummy (which is why it’s so effective at combating high cholesterol), so be sure to use cold water and avoid over-blending.

Ingredients
1 cup oats
4 cups cold water (use less water for thicker, creamier milk)
Pinch of salt (optional, but it enhances the flavor)
Optional ingredients such as vanilla extract, cocoa powder, dates, maple syrup, agave, etc. 

Directions

Soak the oats in water for at least 30 minutes or overnight. After soaking, drain the water from the oats, and rinse well with cold water. 

Add fresh cold water and oats to a blender, and blend just until smooth. As with the nut milks, you can add liquid or dry sweeteners or other flavors at this time, but be careful not to over-blend the oats.

Strain the milk using a cheesecloth, nut milk bag, or sieve/strainer over a bowl. Refrigerate for up to 5 days in an airtight container. 

Yield: 4 cups

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RICE MILK
By now, you’re getting the idea that you just need grain/nut/seed/bean + water to make delicious, nutritious milks. 

Ingredients

3/4 cup uncooked long grain brown or white rice
4 cups water (use less water for thicker, creamier milk)
Pinch of salt (optional, but it enhances the flavor)

Optional ingredients such as vanilla extract, cocoa powder, dates, maple syrup, agave, etc. 

Directions

Soak rice in 2 cups very hot (not boiling water) for 2 hours. The rice should be soft at the end of 2 hours. Drain and add to a blender. 

Add the 4 cups of water, salt, and any additional ingredients. Blend well. Taste for sweetness and adjust accordingly. Strain using a cheesecloth, nut milk bag, or sieve/strainer. 

Yield: 4 cups

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SOY MILK
Possibly the oldest of the bunch is soy milk, which originated in China thousands of years ago and was used long before we have written records to document the precise “day of discovery.” You can certainly make soy milk without a machine, but it is oodles easier to invest in a simple soy milk maker. (Here’s my favorite.) You’ll make back your investment in no time with the amount of delicious, nutty milk you will make. 

Though water is really the only beverage we have a physiological need for (beyond our own human milk when we’re young), it is certainly convenient and tasty to be able to make creamy, nutrient-rich milk from nuts, grains, legumes, and seeds. No packaging, no additives, no pregnant cow required. It’s a win-win during times of crisis or anytime. 

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PLANT MILK? LEAVE YOUR COMMENTS BELOW!

 

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Colleen Patrick-Goudreau is an author whose topics include animal agriculture, animal protection, and plant-based eating. She has written seven books, including several cookbooks, is a regular contributor to National Public Radio and LiveKindly, and has published letters and commentaries in The New York Times, The Economist, and The Christian Science Monitor. 

*Photos by Marie Laforêt

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!


Enjoyed this post & want to show your gratitude? Then please support me on Patreon!

 

 

How to Host a Zero-Waste Holiday Dinner

It’s no secret in our home and among our friends: I love to host — parties, dinners, dinner parties, happy hours, anything that brings our loved ones together. 

I blame (READ: credit) my mother. She was the consummate hostess, and I have very fond memories of constant parties at our house — in every season.

*In the summer, she hosted neighborhood picnics and potato sack races in our backyard!

*At Christmastime, she hosted holiday parties and even arranged visits from Santa!

*In the spring, she hosted brunch and Easter egg hunts.

*And I have oodles of photos of my mother in every Halloween costume imaginable as she this holiday very seriously.

She loved bringing people together, and I just wish I could tell her how much she inspired this quality in me — without even realizing it.   

And so this Thanksgiving, eight of us will sit down to dinner together, and in keeping with my intention to live “zero waste,” I thought I’d share with you how I’m able host dinner without buying any “stuff.” Now, for me the term “zero waste” is aspirational rather than rigid. No one is truly zero waste, but for me it means:

  • valuing what I choose to bring into (or already have in) my life/home
  • giving away or refusing what I don’t or can’t value/use
  • taking responsibility for whatever goods I do bring into my life/home
  • avoiding single-use plastic/plastic packaging as much as possible

With that as my guide, it’s very easy to look around my home and see what I already have that can be used for decorating and table-scaping.

THE TABLE

I have had the same couple sets of plates for decades — and one in particular is perfect for fall and winter.  I let the season, my mood, and the light dictate the decor, and this year…it’s  warm greens and browns. ?

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–>CENTERPIECE: This beautiful stag is our year-round centerpiece,  because…deer! But for the Thanksgiving dinner, I added height by propping him up on a cake stand and created a bed or rosemary for him to stand on. 

[envira-gallery id="8662"]

–>ELEMENTS FROM NATURE: On that note, I use a lot of natural materials whatever the season — going outside and gathering leaves, pinecones, flowers, branches — and in this case, cutting rosemary from the numerous rosemary plants we have.

–>NAPKINS & TABLECLOTHS: We use cloth napkins every day as a matter of course, and of the yellow, brown, and green ones we rotate, the brown seemed perfect for this table. I’ve had these leaf napkin rings for eons, and they’re perfect for fall and winter. I have a few different runners for the table, but I don’t tend to like to use placemats. I find it’s just easier to wipe the table than wash table linens. That’s just me.

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–>PLACE SETTINGS: I wanted to personalize the place settings, which also makes it easier for everyone to know where to sit, so I printed out everyone’s names on cardstock — using paper I already had and ribbon and string I picked from my “gift-wrap” drawer. I also pulled out these little bud vases, which you can easily find these in thrift and second-hand shops. Or, alternatively you could just tie the rosemary together and lay down on the plate.

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–>CHAIRS: As we have only 6 chairs for our small dining room table, instead of buying additional chairs, we borrowed 2 from a neighbor.

THE FOOD

Even though we’re hosting, our friends are also contributing dishes (such as  bread stuffing, green bean casserole, mushroom gravy, salads, pumpkin pie, and apple cobbler. I, however, am in charge of the main dish and some sides:

Oh, and cranberry sauce. Here’s a confession. My husband loves the cranberry sauce from a can, which actually works out well from a zero-waste perspective. As I said, it’s not that zero waste dictates we don’t buy anything; it means we take responsibility for what we do buy.

(SIDE NOTE: Because glass and aluminum are both materials that still have a value in the marketplace and are thus recycled again and again and again (unlike plastic, which is either NOT recycled or able to be recycled only once or twice before losing quality and thus being sent to the landfill). Plus, most plastic is just packaging and just goes straight to the landfill. Listen to my podcast episodes on this topic in Food for Thought.)

–>That means if I have the choice of buying something in a glass container, aluminum can, or plastic container, I’m going to choose glass first (because I wash and keep the bottle/jar), aluminum second (it gets properly recycled), and never plastic (if I can avoid it). 

–>Because I wanted to add corn kernels to my cornbread and because David wanted cranberry sauce, I was able to find each in a can. (Corn on the cob is not in season right now.)  In the past, I used to buy corn and cranberries (to make fresh sauce) in the frozen section in a plastic bag. Being mindful of packaging now, I would rather buy in aluminum cans. Hence…

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–>Everything I needed for my lentil loaf was already in my cupboard and had been bought in bulk (lentils, herbs, onions, etc.), but we had just bought walnuts that David cracked open as his contribution to dinner. 🙂 

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–>The milk for my cornbread (and potatoes) came was homemade soymilk using my 2nd-hand soymilk maker and dried/soaked soybeans. 

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–>The flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda all came from the bulk sections of my local grocery store, and Miyoko’s butter actually comes in paper packaging that I can compost.

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–>As for my carrot soup, I’m thrilled to have found a few grocery stores in my neighborhood that sell carrots in bulk — meaning NOT in plastic bags! Yellow potatoes are also easy to find not in plastic (especially at the farmers market but also in stores, as are ginger and garlic (the other ingredients for the soup). 

–>We also serve wine and spirits, all of which are in glass and thus recyclable. 

–>Finally, all of our food scraps are added to our own compost bins OR to our city’s green bins (Oakland has a robust compost program). 40% of food brought into our homes goes straight into the garbage (and thus the landfill), causing additional problems such as the creation of greenhouse gases. (Listen to my podcast episode Food is Not Garbage for more on food waste.)

And so there you have it. It’s not about being perfect, but it is about doing the best we can. Don’t do nothing because you can’t do everything. Do something. Anything. 

Happy holidays!

What are your favorite zero-waste tips for decor, tablescaping, and cooking? PLEASE ADD YOUR COMMENTS BELOW!

 

Why Are You Vegan?

I don’t know about you, but I didn’t look at this thing called vegan and say, “now that’s a club I want to join!”

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I Could Never Give Up Cheese!

When people say “I don’t eat a lot of meat, so I could really live without it, but I could never live without cheese,” here’s what I say in response. (I also say take The 30-Day Vegan Challenge to receive the tools and resources you need to make a change sustainably, joyfully, healthfully, and deliciously.)

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Why Are Vegans So Fussy (and Weak)?

Another question FOX News’ Tucker Carlson asked Gene Baur during their interview that a number of people asked what my 1-minute response would be went like this:

“I don’t like the way factory farms treat animals, so I’m kinda sympathetic to what you’re saying. And then I meet people who are vegan, and #1, there’s a super high level of fussiness, which I find a major turn-off, and #2, they all look pretty easy to push over, so you can’t tell me that it’s that good for you if they all look like they fall over in the wind, right?⠀
~⠀
You asked for it, so here is my response. ⠀
~⠀
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