Monthly Archives: April 2012

Earth Day 2012: simple ways to honour our planet

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It’s Earth Day today!  Although I would argue that every day is Earth Day – it’s the choices we make every day of the year that carry real clout.

Here’s just a few ideas for ways we can effect positive environmental change by making small changes in our daily routines:

  • Walk or take public transit for your travels, to the grocery store or when running errands
  • Use reusable cloth grocery bags and produce bags when shopping for your food
  • Compost food scraps or find out if there is a food scraps drop off program in your community
  • Refuse to buy products (food or otherwise) that are unnecessarily packaged, particularly in plastic
  • Wash laundry in cold water as often as possible – as an added benefit, washing in cold will not only save energy but will prolong the life of your clothing!
  • Store and then EAT your leftovers, so as to minimize food waste
  • Make coffee at home, or if you buy coffee at a coffee house, be sure to bring your own reusable mug!
  • Buy organic fruits and vegetables – organic produce uses less pesticides in production which means less chemicals and toxins are left in the earth, in humans who produce and harvest the produce, and finally, those of us who consume them.
  • Stop using single use plastic, and try avoiding consuming plastic altogether
  • Consume less meat and dairy, or go vegan and don’t consume them at all!
  • Recycle as a last resort.  Consider donating items that can be reused to charitable organization, or giving things to friends and family (if they want your stuff!)
  • Use a Diva Cup
  • Use 100% recycled toilet paper.  Contrary to my husband’s belief, recycled toilet paper is not recycled from used toilet paper. Ha.
  • Consider eliminating commercial cleaners from your home and make the move toward cleaning simply with soap and water.  Vinegar works great for windows and mirrors.  Homemade cleaning solutions work just as well as commercially prepared ones, without all the chemical toxins left behind in your air and on your skin (and not to mention in our water)
  • Get to know the thrift stores and consignment stores in your area, and get comfortable with the idea of buying clothing and accessories used, for both yourself and your family.  My kids love shopping at the thrift shop, and actually don’t have a clue that it is any different than other conventional stores.  I myself have been known to find a treasure or two in the clothing department at my local Value Village.

Happy Earth Day everyone!  Hope you made it a great day!

link love: becoming vegan

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I’ve been spending the last couple of months absorbing a ton of information about eliminating meat and dairy from my diet.  I came upon the decision to begin avoiding meat and dairy after reading the book Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal, by investigative journalist Eric Schlosser.  Fast Food Nation explores the industrial food production system in the United States and how it is intertwined with the fast food industry.  It is a fascinating read, but be prepared to read about some ugly truths about the meat and dairy industries in the United States (I’m sure that the industrial meat and dairy production systems are similar in Canada, but the book only tackles the US).

After absorbing the information in Fast Food Nation and deciding to eliminate meat and poultry from my diet, I stumbled upon the documentary Forks Over Knives.  A good friend of mine had actually recommended it to me months earlier, but after we’d discussed it, I didn’t think about it again.  Then, within a week of finishing reading Fast Food Nation, I came across the complete Forks Over Knives documentary movie online and watched it in one sitting.  The premise behind Forks Over Knives (by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn) is that consuming a plant-based diet can prevent and reverse heart disease.  Dr. Esselstyn recommends a diet free from meat, dairy, oil and sugar, and he has done a lot of research and testing on his own patients over the past 25 years to support his claims.  After finishing watching Forks Over Knives, I became convinced that I wanted to continue trying to overhaul my diet and make conscious choices to eat better for my own health and well-being.

Here’s some sources from which I’ve been absorbing a ton of information about the benefits of adopting a vegan lifestyle:

How It All Vegan – A fabulous vegan cookbook with some additional information on making this lifestyle change.  What I liked most about this cookbook is that the recipes are very simple.  Since I don’t believe in complicating things unnecessarily, I appreciated the tone of this book.  How It all Vegan contains a chapter on vegan recipes that might appeal to children, which I thought was helpful.  I also particularly appreciate the authors take on considering the environmental impact before “veganizing” your lifestyle – like consider using what you have  and wearing it out (leather shoes, leather belts, etc.) before making additional vegan clothing or lifestyle purchases.  One of the authors of How It All Vegan currently runs a website that includes a blog and an online store too (from Victoria BC) if you are interested in that sort of thing

The Kind Diet – Alicia Silverstone is a celebrity vegan, and she has written her own book, The Kind Diet.  You can also check out Alicia’s blog, The Kind Life – she tackles lots of other subjects in addition to veganism, like environmentalism and conservationism.  Be sure to read her timely Earth Day post for lots of great ideas on how to be kind to our planet!

Skinny Bitch – Ignore the sensationalistic title, and read this book!  While the title might be misleading, the information contained in this book focuses on the benefits we can derive from eliminating meat and dairy from our diets.  It is written in a “girlfriend-conversation” style, which I find makes it pretty light reading.  There are some facts about the horrors of factory farming, but for the most part, the content of this book is a lot of common sense interspersed with dietary facts.  This book is a great reference for those looking for other titles on the subject of veganism – peppered throughout the book are titles of other suggested reads on the subject.

Eco-Vegan Gal - I first discovered Whitney’s informative video posts on YouTube, and skipped over to check out her website.  She has lots of great inspirational videos on her YouTube channel, with additional posts about veganism and reviews of vegan products on her website.  I would recommend Eco-Vegan Gal as a good resource for anyone looking for other voices in the discussion on veganism.  Whitney also writes about eliminating gluten, soy, oil and sugar from her diet, so there are posts on those subjects as well for those who are interested.

Loving Simple Living is another recent discovery for me.  Blog author Lorilee Lippincott posted recently over at Rachel’s blog The Minimalist Mom about simple living with children.  I enjoyed reading Lorilee’s post and skipped on over to her site… to discover that she is also a vegan!  I spent some time exploring her site and she has some fabulous, kid-friendly vegan recipes.  Lorilee also eloquently writes about how simple eating dovetails nicely with simple living.

Oh She Glows - I’ve been a fan of Angela’s website for years.  Hers was the first vegan cooking blog I read that made vegan food look so amazingly delicious.  Her recipes are awesome, and she even shares her inspirational journey to healthful eating and living.  Plus, she’s a Canuck!  Lots of inspiration and recipe ideas at Oh She Glows, and I think Angela may even have a vegan cookbook in the works for the future.

Hungry Hungry Hippie - I’ve just started reading Hungry Hungry Hippie, but I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read so far.  Lot of great, simple food recipe ideas – even though Elise doesn’t describe herself as vegan, a lot of her recipes are free of meat and dairy products.  I recommend her seitan recipe – I made seitan (or “wheat meat”) for the first time yesterday using her recipe and it was a hit, even with my six year old son!

I’ve also subscribed to the Facebook feeds for Fat-Free Vegan and Engine 2 Diet - they provide inspirational recipe ideas daily, and it is to know where to find a community of people striving for the same goals.

Watch Forks Over Knives here.

I feel like I’ve read and learned so much about going meat-free and dairy-free in the past weeks, and I’m coming out on the other side – I’m no longer overwhelmed by the amount of information out there on the subject, and it feels great to know there are a TON of resources on the internet just waiting to be discovered.  If you’ve ever considered not eating meat or dairy, I encourage you to try one recipe at a time – there are vegan recipes for literally EVERYTHING your heart might desire.  I’ve lost 10 lbs in the past month, and the only changes I have made are dietary.  My goal is to lose another 20 lbs, and I am hoping that by eating healthfully in this manner my goal will be a lot easier to attain.

striving for zero waste: a trip to the Food Scraps Drop Spot

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When I heard that Vancouver was launching a project to collect food scraps for composting, I got a little excited.  My husband had vetoed the idea of composting in our condo, as we have very little room on our outdoor deck and he was afraid it would attract pests.  I’ve been considering the Food Scraps Drop Spot as a great alternative to composting – all we would have to do would be to collect our fruit, vegetable and meat scraps for the week (or two, depending on how often we could get to the drop off) and take them to the Food Scraps Drop Spot location on Saturday mornings (they are there from 10am to 1pm).  As I’d been collecting our family’s food scraps for the past two weeks, I decided it was time for a trop to the drop off location this morning.

One of the Food Scraps Drop Spot locations is at the Gordon Neighbourhood House in the West End neighbourhood of downtown Vancouver.  Although this is a bit of a hoof on foot from our home, the weather is beautiful today and we took advantage of incorporating a family walk into our jaunt over to drop off spot.  We dropped off several pounds of food waste and it felt good to be able to divert that waste from the landfill and towards a renewable, sustainable purpose.  They do ask for a two dollar administration fee – the program is run by community volunteers, but they require a truck to pick up the food scraps drop off and take them to the location in Delta where the food scraps are converted to compost.  The Food Scraps Drop Spot program also has a location at the Vancouver Winter Farmer’s Market at Nat Bailey Stadium, which takes place every Saturday – so if you are thinking of doing some shopping at the farmer’s market in the coming weeks and you aren’t yet diverting your food waste from the landfill, consider dropping off your food scraps at the drop spot!