Greener World Lunches

I want to share the latest update on the Plant-Based options at PPS. You can read how this initiative started, and who the partners are here.

We have met with PPS Nutrition Director twice, and have held two public meetings with various parents, students, and community members. It has been gratifying and motivating to see the amount of support that adding a plant-based option in addition to the standard meat option has garnered.

We have people who care about the environment, health and animals who range from omnivores to vegetarians to vegans. We want to make this concept something that will be appealing and available to everyone.

I believe that our Nutrition Director is committed to offering the best options to our students and that we can work together to make this successful for PPS by making this a popular choice which boosts the number of lunches served. In order for them to make this shift, we need to show that there is support for greener lunches.

We know that there is a youth-led Climate Resolution which has been approved and will be implemented in our schools, and more youth are concerned about Climate Change. This issue will not go away and we must get started now since it takes time to develop. Portland’s Climate Action Plan also highlights this need for reduction in animal products to reach our carbon emission goals. The link to factory farming’s effect on our planet is finally more understood. Project Drawdown lists a plant-rich diet as #4 on it’s comprehensive solutions. #3 is food waste. We need to make these lunches delicious, healthy and appealing so that we can tackle both of these solutions at once.

The exciting idea around bringing these climate-friendly options to our students is that we can also include the diversity and naturally plant-based ethnic foods that are very popular with children growing up in Portland’s foodie city.

Imagine Middle Eastern falafel, hummus and tabouleh, Indian chickpea curry, Vietnamese vegetables and tofu, and more. We have students from all parts of the world, and we can include this cultural education along with the meals. As we develop this appreciation and supply chains for these plant protein options once a week, we can expand it to once a day.

Does this seem far-fetched? Consider that Richmond Japanese Immersion School is already implementing a Japanese lunch day that has plant-based options with great success. And that we have other immersion programs in Russian, Chinese, Spanish and Vietnamese that could add to this variety as well. If we want to be truly equitable, this should be available for all students at all schools. We also feel strongly that those on free and reduced programs should have the healthiest options available.

What are the next steps? We are planning a meeting for MAY 20 (late afternoon, venue TBD) that will include Whitney Ellersick, Director of PPS Nutrition, Chloe Waterman from Friends of the Earth, Katie Cantrell from Green Mondays, as well as our parent, teacher and student coordinators.

We are excited to officially welcome the Raven Corps as partners, a nonprofit organization consisting of local high school environmental leaders and activists who focus on plant-based food options.

We really need YOU to spread the word about this initiative to your schools. It is important that we include the diverse communities in our area. Let’s make sure we include schools from all quadrants. Please take our poll, and join our email newsletter for updates. You can also follow along on Facebook or Instagram. You will know when there are student taste tests and how to get involved. Let’s add Portland to the growing list of the schools in our nation adopting healthier, eco-friendly lunches!


Adding plant-based options to Portland Public Schools

My children became vegetarians at a young age. I have faithfully packed them a lunch for many years knowing that the main vegetarian options were the main standard: a wrapped Smucker’s PB or possibly something like cheese pizza.

Last year, as they were in middle school and high school, I asked them to make their own lunches. They opted instead to buy hot lunch. I was helping several times a week in the cafeteria on eliminating single-use utensils and adding compost, so I had an up-close view of what is happening.

The school lunches are decided on the district level, and it seemed a huge task to try to change the system, even as I saw that menus like this were not healthy or good for the environment or animals. The official menu that is posted on PPS website, did not always translate to the actual lunches provided. I think we can all unite to agree that we can do better than these options for our children.

It wasn’t until I joined SAGE fellowship in October 2018 that I considered that I could actually try to change this system. I chose the goal of adding one plant-based option to the menus each day as my highest goal. This doesn’t mean eliminating meat for those that want that, so it seems like a reasonable request to allow one healthier option to be added as a replacement for the second meat choice or an unhealthy vegetarian option.

Why should we do this?

There are many reasons to change the current system: environmental, health, social equity, and animal welfare. The most obvious and irrefutable reason is that we have committed to more plant-based options as a city through Portland’s Climate Action Plan. The Climate Action Plan is a city-wide initiative to reach carbon emission reductions by 2030. Everything is clearly spelled out in 12A, B to support the addition of a plant-based option. It just needed advocates.

This was too large of an undertaking to do alone, so I looked into what local organizations might also want to be involved. I met with Katie Cantrell, Executive Director of FFAC (Factory Farming Awareness Coalition). Katie normally does presentations to schools, organizations and businesses showing the negative environmental impact that is linked to factory farming, and proposing “Green Mondays”, where a plant-based option is available once a week.

Katie introduced me to Chloë Waterman from Friends of the Earth, an international organization whose mission states “Together we speak truth to power and expose those who endanger the health of people and the planet for corporate profit. We organize to build long-term political power and campaign to change the rules of our economic and political systems that create injustice and destroy nature.” 

Chloë had been to Portland and spoken with PPS Nutrition previously. She is working on some large-scale changes on the County level and is another great partner for us.

What are the benefits?

The environmental benefits are very clear and becoming much more prominent in the news, especially as eating a plant-rich diet ranks #4 on Project Drawdown’s comprehensive list of ways to lower carbon emissions.

In addition, plant-based options will create healthier meals. This is also an important social equity benefit. Students on free and reduced meals through the school district could easily be receiving the majority of their meals from PPS. If they don’t have access at home to healthier options, they could be eating the equivalent of sugary cereal and chicken nuggets every day.

“Shifting to a diet rich in plants is a demand-side solution to global warming that runs counter to the meat-centric Western diet on the rise globally. That diet comes with a steep climate price tag: one-fifth of global emissions. If cattle were their own nation, they would be the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

Plant-rich diets reduce emissions and also tend to be healthier, leading to lower rates of chronic disease. According to a 2016 study, business-as-usual emissions could be reduced by as much as 70 percent through adopting a vegan diet and 63 percent for a vegetarian diet, which includes cheese, milk, and eggs. $1 trillion in annual health-care costs and lost productivity would be saved.” — Project Drawdown

Through the research of menus and requirements, it is shown that plant-based proteins are allowed in schools, and in fact, are implemented in many schools around the country and Canada. If we can help with the rising epidemic of obesity, heart disease and diabetes at the same time as reducing carbon emissions, that is even more reason to make this change.

We want the items we are adding to be both healthy and delicious: think about incorporating naturally plant-based ethnic food such as falafels, curries and more that students will enjoy. There is also the possibility of simply replacing a meat burger or chicken patty with a vegan version.

How do we do this?

We already have a coalition of great organizations to help with this effort. In addition to FFAC, SAGE, and Friends of the Earth, we’re also working with national organizations: Balanced, One Meal a Day, and local environmental organization, Eco-School Network.
But we need students, parents, and the local community to support this as well.

This is not an original idea! It has been implemented at public schools around the country in California, New York, and other states. There are resources such as Coalition for Healthy School Foods with guidelines available to not only help us get the approval but also work on how we can get distribution. The main issue we face is that the government heavily subsidizes certain unhealthy foods for schools creating an unfair advantage for processed meat and dairy. We are advocating for as much local and unprocessed items as part of the climate plan. It’s possible that more parents will want to buy into the hot lunch program when it makes the changes we are proposing. This is not just for vegans or vegetarian students, it is a good optio for everyone. It only adds choices, rather than limiting them.

In conclusion, the time is finally here where the awareness of the issues around factory farming, and climate action goals are aligned, mainstream and a priority in our city. We can make this happen, together.

We’re holding our first community meeting on March 1, 2019 at 4:30 p.m. at Hollywood Public Library. All are welcome, and we are excited to move forward with this initiative!


Stopping pollution before it starts

On December 13, I attended a public hearing to stop the World’s Largest Fracked Gas to Methanol Refinery, proposed in Kalama, WA.

I haven’t been involved in Fracked Gas activism before, but one of my Climate friends made a really good point. Rather than just work on lowering existing carbon emissions, it is vital that we stop new fossil fuel sources from starting.

If built, the refinery would consume more fracked gas than all the PNW cities combined, require new fracked gas pipelines across the region, pollute the air with cancer-causing toxins, and endanger our dwindling salmon and orca populations. 

Infographic: Sightline Institute/ Designer: Devin Porter

I learned that this new pipeline is proposed by Northwest Innovation Work (NWIW)  and its main investors are the Chinese government and a New York-based private equity firm. Interestingly enough, the NWIW is applying for a loan guarantee of more than 2 billion dollars from the Department of Energy (DOE) which could be borne by the taxpayers. If completed, the NWIW would create a pipeline from Canada and the Rocky Mountains to the proposed new refinery located in Kalama. The fuel would then by shipped to China where methanol is used to manufacture plastics or burned as fuel.

A similar proposal was introduced in Tacoma by NWIW, but was blocked by community opposition.

The opponents to the proposal wore red and included environmental groups such as The Sierra Club, Columbia Riverkeepers, Power Past Fracked Gas and more. Those in support had a white scarf with NWIW logo embroidered on it. There were definitely a huge number of people in red in attendance. We all signed in and were given the option to sign up for a chance to speak (tickets drawn randomly in a lottery). I listened for 3 hours while people spoke in 2 minute increments.

The mediator insisted that there be no audible cheering, booing, etc and that only silent gestures of support or opposition be shown (thumbs up, thumbs down). For Americans used to constantly clapping or yelling, it proved a challenge. 

There were so many people signed up to speak that they extended the hearing an additional hour to 10pm. I left at 9pm, and at that point there had been overwhelming opposition voiced. The reasons were very diverse and from the viewpoints of scientists, nurses, grandparents, young people, local community members, and even political experts. 

Those in favor of the pipeline were many elected officials (but notably NOT the mayor of Kalama who is opposed), local union members, and business people. Not all Kalama locals, workers or businesses were in favor. I did not hear anyone in the health industry speak in favor of the pipeline. The first speakers were all in support of the pipeline and it felt as though their arguments were being green-washed. One man made a statement how since China was already so polluted we should take this on so that they wouldn’t suffer, otherwise we were being racist. 

I definitely sympathized with the local Union members who insisted that they needed this pipeline to help their economy and provide jobs. Yet, it felt like everyone focused on the money was looking only at short-term benefits. Their children would have jobs! Sadly, they may also have cancer too. Pipelines have known risks.

The company stressed how safe the pipeline would be, held to the strictest regulations. If it isn’t built here, it will be built elsewhere with less high standards. Well, we are now watching the government dismantle EPA regulations to the point that methane leaks don’t have a short time window to fix, water may not be monitored, etc. They could be complying with legal Federal standards and it could still be a disaster environmentally. Not to mention, the Pacific NW is at high risk for earthquakes (and overdue for a major one) already which would cause major destruction beyond anyone’s control.

Many locals had a lot of scorn for the “Environmentalists” who drove from Portland or elsewhere to get involved in their business. There were snide comments made about how we use cars and cellphones and yet are hypocrites to oppose the production which allows their manufacturing. Portlanders and surrounding communities are also affected by their decision as we share water and air that are not limited to borders.

We face a crisis of needing to cut carbon emissions drastically in the next 12 years to have a livable planet, and building new infrastructure to support fossil fuels is the wrong direction at this point. We don’t have time.

The argument that this methanol refinery will have lower carbon emissions than China opening a coal plant is flawed. We can’t be certain that they won’t, but it definitely would create a huge new source of greenhouse gases. The study on risk seemed to have serious gaps and misinformation about the possibility of methane leaks, and contamination risks. Not to mention the effects on wildlife.

Another concern Columbia Riverkeeper has to this large pipeline is that it could be as bad or worse than coal.

“Why is fracked gas such a big deal? It is mostly methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. The methane leaks from fracking wells and gas pipelines are so severe that scientists found that fracked gas can be as bad for our climate as coal. Thus far, the methanol company has not explained how the Northwest’s limited gas pipeline system could supply the methanol refinery. Gas companies could propose a major new pipeline into the Northwest to supply the methanol refinery.” 

“Aside from the financial cost, NWIW also poses significant environmental risks, according to Riverkeeper. In a report that it prepared about the refinery, Riverkeeper identifies hazards related to extracting fracked gas from across North America, storing millions of gallons of highly combustible methanol in one location, and transporting toxic chemicals via the Columbia River, which people rely on for water, food, and recreation.”

As far as health, the residents of Cowlitz County already have an increased rate of cancer and other issues caused by coal trains running through their area. This should be of significant concern. Especially as we have had increased wildfires in the area, air pollution is getting exponentially worse.

Yes, they need jobs, but there are jobs in renewables. Will the trade-off be worth the 200 permanent jobs? Until we stop opening new sources of carbon emissions, we won’t transition quickly enough away from fossil fuels. It is an unfortunate fact that climate change will impact those in the poorest areas first, and by promising short-term profits, they will be impacted the worst either way. It’s a complex problem that we will also need to address by a drastic change in our consumption in order to reduce the need for these types of refineries.


We Don’t Have Time to Wait

The report issued this month by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) should be the top news. IPPC was established in 1988 as an international organization that reviews and assesses the most recent information around climate change from scientists and research from all over the world. This is a strictly reviewed and objective assessment. It affects our children, animals, social justice, health, food systems, people in the US, and all over the world.

From The Climate Reality Project “Truth in 10” presentation.

We basically have 12 years to keep this planet from warming to unmanageable levels which will no longer sustain life as we know it by the end of this century. The children alive now will face the worst of this. We’re already seeing the effects in increased heat waves, stronger intense storms, more floods, droughts and wildfire. This will get exponentially worse, and fast.

I’ve been giving a few presentations locally about climate change after completing Climate Reality Leadership Training. The idea is if we go into our communities and talk face to face about what is happening, why it is happening, and what the solutions are, we can work together for our future.

Photo: ELAINE THOMPSON, AP / Seattle, WA on August 14, 2018

In the main two States I have lived in, Oregon and Washington, we have initiatives on our ballot to work towards decreasing our reliance on fossil fuels. Are they perfect? Possibly not yet, but they are our best chance to start moving in the right direction and moving faster towards lowering carbon emissions before it gets worse. And we’ve been seeing it get worse in front of our eyes in this region too. The main arguments against making change seem to be based around economy. Coal miners will lose jobs, gas prices will rise. Well, our economy will be shifting now or later, regardless. We can embrace renewables and clean energy and lower our costs now. Or, we can continue to pay rising costs of natural disasters, health issues from pollution and diseases like Zika which are spreading in a warmer climate, and pay more as crops decline from drought and dwindling water resources. Think about who really profits from our dependence on fossil fuels. Solar and wind energy are available to us and the prices keep coming down, which is not profitable to those who have been reaping the rewards of polluting our planet without paying. Our current leadership is full of people directly linked to these fossil fuel industries and they have a financial interest in keeping the public from taking action.

Climate deniers like to say that the climate is always changing, that there is nothing to be done, and that we are alarmists. The proof is here, we were told 30 years ago this was happening, and now we are witnessing it. Trump has now moved from saying it is a hoax made up from the Chinese, to something that it goes “back and forth”, is not caused by us, and might harm the economy. We’ve been told not to make the message too scary, but fear seems to motivate about half our country. And we still have hope and solutions available if we can understand how urgent and massive our challenges are, so we can stop stalling. I would say one of our biggest challenges is our political division, and that environmental protection is only embraced by one party. If there is one uniting issue, it should be clean air, water and a livable future for our children.

Mobilization against this climate crisis is now being compared to World War 2 as far as the type of wide-scale and global efforts needed. We need to radically shift to lower carbon on a federal, state, city and even individual level. We can have the motivation to work for something so much larger and more important than ourselves. When you look at history, there have been times when people have been faced with ethical choices such as in Nazi Germany and the Civil Rights Movement, for just a couple of examples. They could resist, they could go along with the mainstream, or they could ignore it. Since facing extinction is a pretty heavy concept for us to really think about, it feels better to ignore it and think someone else will fix this. That hasn’t happened in the last 30 years, and at this point we have a government intent on rolling back our EPA regulations and creating more fossil fuels for very short-term benefit. My theory is that the very wealthy think they can be protected from the worst since they can afford to move, have bunkers, etc. This planet is our home, and if we destroy our environment, the economy will be the least of our problems.  If you aren’t part of the solution, you are part of the problem.

I have been talking more about climate change than food lately, but moving to a plant-based diet actually makes a very large difference. We won’t be able to reach our carbon goals without factoring the animal agriculture industry into this. It’s important to do whatever we can to push with our marketing power towards sustainable food, packaging, minimizing waste, and choosing the most green transportation, energy sources and building options. The market will respond to this, and is already. It’s not Option A, B or C, it’s Option A + B + C

We can’t fix this with only individual lifestyle changes while the biggest polluters continue to spew carbon, but we can move the needle using our purchasing power. Most importantly, we need to realize the power that each of us has, both inherently, and as part of a democracy, and use your vote! This is our time in history to step up to this challenge and choose which side we will take.

 

 


What will we tell our children?

What will we tell our children? When they are faced with the effects of climate change gone unchecked?

We were worried it would hurt the economy. We didn’t want to change the way we travel, eat or live. We didn’t think it would actually happen — even though we had all the evidence needed, by scientist and directly witnessing storms growing more intense, record-breaking heat temperatures for the last 4 years, coral reefs and wildlife dying, drought and more wildfires.

The children being born now, they don’t even get a chance to make a difference. But we still can. This is not a Republican/Democrat issue, this challenge has no boundaries between countries, and it requires immediate action. This is our generation’s crisis.

I spend a lot of time researching and working on this issue because it affects us all. By addressing Climate Change we help social justice issues, animals, health, really any issue we face just gets intensified as Climate Change gets worse. We need to make Climate Change the biggest priority because without it- black lives, standing for the flag, abortion, LGBQT, women’s rights, all of that won’t even matter. We can still care about these issues, but put Climate Change first as a central mobilizing cause for which we can all unite.

I’m already quite worried that my young teenagers don’t have the hope and potential we all had. But I will be able to face them and tell them I did know, and I did not ignore this.

Whether or not you have children, how can we let the future generation inherit a future so bleak? How can we let all the amazing animals who share our planet go extinct when we can do something? Let’s take drastic measures and prolong what may be inevitable, but doesn’t need to be sped up.

We have to stop talking about what will happen if we take action on climate change, and start talking about what will happen if we don’t.


LA Climate Reality Training / Part Two

I didn’t know what photo to use for this post, but this sums up so much for me: family, nature, my sea life t-shirt, my son’s Japan t-shirt.


Wow, where to start?

Since I returned from LA, I have been on fire. Something ignited in me, and all the pieces of the past 6 years or so have come together in a pretty profound way.

There was a lot leading up to this culminating event: focusing on animal cruelty and factory farming, sustainability work in schools on Eco projects, personal advocacy, and a lot of research and education. What I was missing was clear direction and purpose. I wasn’t sure what to do with the disparate parts of my life and personality. I care about animals, the planet, I am good at strategy, branding, illustration and really enjoy ongoing learning around social media.

After my trip to Japan last April I also realized that I really love being part of a team, the structure, the collaboration and interactions.

The trip to LA showed me that this huge challenge we face must be tackled en masse. It’s okay to have different groups and varying agendas but we have a common goal. And I felt a sense of belonging to this group of dedicated and authentic people in a way that I haven’t always felt in other groups.

What I did not mention in my last post (part one), was a physical sense of dread, almost nausea I had right before going to this conference where I knew absolutely no one and would have to shmooze and network for 3 days with strangers. I even had the cliché nightmare, where I suddenly found myself walking through the convention ballroom with all the round tables completely naked! However, I also believe in say yes to opportunities and knowing that the primitive inner voice is often just trying to keep us “safe” from the unknown adventures in life.

I’m so thankful I did take that chance because I learned a lot about what needs to be done on a personal and political level and how to achieve this. One thing Al Gore said that really stuck with me was, “Money doesn’t vote, people do.” It feels like the large corporations and wealthy individuals have all the power, but that is not how America’s democracy was intended. And when the former Vice President tells you this change is indeed possible, he has had the ultimate inside view on how everything works for decades. When I returned home, I joined Citizens’ Climate Lobby and our Portland Chapter of Climate Reality (open to all by the way). I’ve met many wonderful new people and am working with them to do everything we can to protect our future.

This network has aligned my heart and mind and I can’t wait to take this to the next level and find a way to work on environmental issues full-time. I believe my branding and marketing background can be an asset to this movement, but more importantly my willingness to commit fully and with passion to the most important cause — sustainable life on our planet. Although I have been committed to this for years, I felt alone, fearful, often hopeless, and lacked focus. Now, I’m just really energized… and not nervous. Let’s do this!

 


Getting out of your bubble

I just returned from a week in Branson, Missouri where we had a large family reunion. We stayed in two large houses in a nice area near Silver Dollar City called StoneBridge Resort. There were about 30 of us total. It was a wonderful gift from one of my aunts, providing lodging and airfare to a central location to celebrate some big milestones of other family members.

The trip itself was a fantastic experience overall of re-connecting with all the families who were coming from Missouri, New York area, Washington State and Oregon. Young cousins who barely knew each other became best buddies. We reminisced about childhood memories and played games.

This post isn’t about the personal family experience though, it is about how important it is to leave your city- especially if you live in a very liberal area, and see what is happening in other parts of the country. Branson may be particular in that it appears to be mainly a tourist destination. Think of a religious, child-friendly Las Vegas. It is in the Ozarks – a beautiful wooded area surrounded by lakes. The natural setting is lovely, and we saw deer and turtles during our visit.

As you wind through hills, there are signs for “Vigilante Watchtower Zipline” located on Shepherd of the Hills street. A little further on, and there is a very long strip of buildings featuring attractions like Dolly Parton Stampede, Tribute Concerts, Go Karts, Water Parks, museums and more. Funky buildings like a replica of half the Titanic complete with fake iceberg, a giant meatball restaurant, a huge King Kong statue perched on a building are lining both sides of the street.

The largest grocery store option is Walmart Super Center. At the Walmart, there is no counter space at checkout for bagging groceries into reusable bags, simply a carousel of plastic bags that rotates allowing the cashier to put a few items into each small bag. Every time a group of us went to the store, we returned with at least 8 bags.

The most popular dining options feature BBQ and Pork tenderloins. At the main BBQ restaurant: Danna’s BBQ, all the food was provided with styrofoam cups and plastic utensils, and most people also got styrofoam containers for the inevitable leftovers due to the huge portions of meat. Their t-shirts proclaimed proudly, “Go Pig or Go Home”, a clear directive to the vegetarians in our group. The vegan option was a salad without the added chicken. In most restaurants that was the only option.

Our resort had no recycling options- just dumpsters. So, all bottles, cans and recyclables for our large group for a week went directly into land fill.

It was very disheartening to see how most people rely on plastic water bottles and throw everything away without a care. In Portland, OR we are used to having a veggie burger substitute option even at the meatiest of restaurants, reusable cups are a given, and every residential home has curbside compost and recycling. This trip made me realize how easy it is for us to be environmental here, and how much work is left to be done. Sustainability is a non-partisan issue that all of us must embrace, or our children will pay the price.

At one point during our trip to Silver Dollar City, my teenage son and I spent a lot of time around the water blaster ride. You basically ride down a water path on a boat equipped with blasters while people on the shore of the ride blast you with their water guns, and you blast them back- or hit unsuspecting people strolling in the area. You are mostly a sitting target getting hit from both sides. Seeing grown men who were clearly on the opposite political spectrum exchange blasts with my kid made me realize that no matter how divided we are as a country — we both willingly put those issues aside to just have fun. When face to face in a fun setting, we all want to enjoy life. It is just behind the anonymity and distance of the screens of our computers and phones, or when lines are clearly drawn at protests we feel free to hate on each other.

If we can all just agree that we all want the best for our kids and their future, we can put down the hateful rhetoric and work towards solutions that benefit all of us.

If you live in the comfort of a bubble that conforms to your ideals, you are living in a false reality. If you surround yourself with an echo chamber, you aren’t getting the full picture. Sometimes you have to go to places that make you uncomfortable to get a better understanding of what challenges we face. Then you can come home to appreciate your own city with its unique bubble of veg options, cannabis, and environmental focus that you realize is just as bizarre in its own way as the biblical Vegas you left behind.

 

 


6th year veganniversary

I just realized that I had my 6th veg-anniversary. In February 2012, I planned to try a vegan diet for one month., but just kept going. Although I am not always perfect, I have remained consistent to the ethics and philosophy. I don’t want to contribute to the horror that is CAFO (factory farming) and how it affects animals, people and the earth. I vote with my money for a more compassionate world. It’s not just about what is humane, it also makes sense in a scientific, factual way based on resources, antibiotics, pollution, carbon and health.

In all honesty, I wasn’t sure I would be able to stick with this. For the first year I wondered if I would just lapse, as is somewhat common. The biggest hurdle has always been the social one for me. It isn’t comfortable to go against the mainstream, and when dining with others have specific requests that are not always simple. In the last 6 years there have been big changes. It has become easier and easier to get good vegan food almost anywhere in Portland (plus, my food drawings have improved). The vegan restaurants are amazing and plentiful. I really appreciate the friends and family who have gone out of their way to make vegan-friendly options.

In the last few years I have become more depressed and hopeless about climate change. It is the most important issue to me because it will impact everything, including the animals. The animals in this case keep me motivated to continue to speak up for them. My socially awkward issues are nothing compared to the torment they endure at our hands. As we approach Easter and Passover, please consider that lambs are innocent baby animals taken from their mothers. And that egg production on a large scale involves killing all the male baby chicks, while crowding the egg-layers in cages. This is just the tip of the iceberg. I try to post positive images, but it’s important to acknowledge the reality, and possibly it will help others think about these animals as more than products.

Male chicks are ground to death or suffocated since they are not needed for eggs in large-scale production.

 

We have the worst administration to help these issues right now as they care about profit over anything and refuse to acknowledge facts about climate change (despite the rest of the world moving away from fossil fuels). Please know that even as they roll back the small amount of humane laws that existed, you still have some control. You can make sure these companies adhere to higher standards than the law mandates by affecting their bottom line. I know that no one would want the suffering that is happening, which is hidden from the consumers with advertising and lobbyists. I can’t believe I went through decades not knowing what is happening. In fact, even the humane farmers talk about “harvesting” animals to avoid the reality of slaughter.

The good news is that it has never been easier to move away from animal products. There are more and more products in the market every month. There were no vegan yogurts at Fred Meyer 6 years ago, not there are 3 or 4 different brands! The alternative milks is the easiest switch to make, so many delicious choices. Socially, the more people who want a plant-based option, the easier that has become as well. I have found it helpful just to be involved in planning events and volunteering so that I can make sure that there are vegan options available for everyone.

Thanks for following along on the journey!


Choose to be a little inconvenienced

Posters from the war have never been more relevant.

 

I’ve been thinking a lot about how doing the most earth-friendly, healthy thing is often a bit more “inconvenient” than just maintaining status quo. Like remembering to bring your bags to the store, making a dinner from scratch rather than processed or take out, dealing with recycling and composting… things like that.

When you think about what our grandparents (or parents depending on your age) had to do during the depression or war times, it is just laughable. We throw away items all the time that they would have been saved or mended. Even foil would have been washed and saved and reused. It’s time to get back to that mentality. People could get behind it in the past because they felt their efforts were helping with the war, or they had to do it out of no other option. We have the luxury right now, or choosing to do what is best and of making that inconvenient choice. And the more times you make that choice, it becomes less inconvenient.

I’ve been watching the Middle School kids during lunch a couple of weeks ago as we rolled out the composting and real silverware instead of disposable plastic. It’s added a little extra work for them to not just dump everything into the garbage, but instead take a few seconds to drop their silverware off, dump just the food waste into one bin, recycle any cans, and finally throw all garbage into the last one. It’s annoying. I can see it in their faces as they have to think about where to put everything. There is also a place to leave any unopened food items and fruit. I’m not even sure this will work without an adult monitoring it every day. I’ll post more about this soon.

 

We have to do the right thing, simply because it’s the right thing to do. Not because someone makes us or watches us.

We are actually at war. It’s an inconvenient war that doesn’t want to be acknowledged. We are going to run out of resources for our population and our planet at our current rate of consumption.


Do what you can… start where you are.

Just add your one small drop… that’s it.

 

I’ve had some discouraging times during the last few years where it felt like my efforts towards encouraging veganism and sustainability efforts have made very little impact. I stopped drawing for awhile, and writing. When things matter so much to you, but you see your dog’s instagram get more notice, it can be demoralizing!

I did have something extremely positive happen that I’ll share. When my youngest son started middle school, I was able to work from home and had some ideas of creating an Eco club at his school. I imagined having an after school group with amazing kids wanting to make a difference in their school and families. I talked to the Principal, Sun coordinator, art teacher and science teacher. I created a t-shirt design and monthly project plan. Then I tried to find someone to do the project with me. And I tried to find kids who would be interested. Not even my own son and his friends wanted to do it.

The next year I talked to the interim Principal, it wasn’t a big priority to her understandably. I wasn’t clear on my vision or next steps.  And then this last year, I tried once again (a little sheepishly) with the new Principal and the Green team Science teacher. This time though, I had a plan. It wasn’t as exciting or fun as I initially imagined with kids being involved. But, it had solid actionable ideas and a plan. And this time, progress was made.

A lot of this was due to connecting with Eco School Network. A local organization founded by the Center for Earth Leadership to create change leaders in the community by providing them a community of parents, tools, resources and training. Jeanne Roy and her team led the course which took place over 4 evenings, with about 18 parents. Every meeting was very organized and gave us an opportunity to learn and ask questions. We had a mentor to check in with, and a partner as well.

The other parents inspired me, while at the same time I realized some of the reasons that I wasn’t succeeding. I was the only parent attending from a Middle School. Elementary school parents tend to be more involved in volunteering. Middle School parents are less likely to even enter the school and many have gone back to work full-time, or burned out on volunteering by that point. Also Middle School is only 3 years here, so there is less time. At my son’s Elementary school he was there 7 years (one year was preK) and I walked him into that building and hung our often after school on the playground.

We chose goals as part of the training, and I picked the simplest one: renewing the Oregon Green School certification that had lapsed 3 years ago. As part of the application, we would stop using single-use plastic silverware. A secondary goal was composting, although that sounded more complicated.

It sounds small, but when I thought about how all that plastic was being thrown away every single day for the last 2.5 years while I dithered about what to do, it seemed critical not to lose another moment. Composting was needed as during one single lunch observation, I saw kids throwing away multiple pieces of whole, unpeeled fruit into the garbage.

We now have collected over 800 forks and spoons (most of those actually donated from the Eco Network), ordered compost bags and bins, conducted a waste audit, and have the 8th grade science team creating training materials for all the students to follow.

Mr. Valenti’s 8th grade green team doing a waste audit with Sami Springs from PPS Environmental Bureau.

Great posters from the science class. Note the small reminder in lower left!

 

I realized all it really takes is one person to start a ripple effect. There are others who can help you and make this happen such as:

  • Our amazing green team science teacher who had accomplished the initial Oregon Green School certification
  • Supportive Principal, cafeteria and custodial staff.
  • PPS’ Americorps volunteer
  • Parents and kids who donated silverware and made posters
  • The amazing local Eco School Network who answered every question and even supplied silverware when we came up short.

My biggest concern now is finding parents to take over the green school efforts, and hopefully do even bigger and better ideas. I want to take this experience and keep doing what I can, no matter how small it seems, to create a better world for the kids and the animals. As one of my favorite inspirational people, Colleen Patrick-Goudreau says, “Don’t do nothing because you can’t do everything. Do something. Anything.”