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.”


What’s new?

So, Happy Spring! I haven’t posted here for a few months for several reasons (although I do share interesting articles I find on Eat4theFuture’s Facebook page). Here are the top three…

First: Our political situation. It’s like a train wreck and for the first 30 days more like a roller coaster wreck. I can’t believe some of the things happening, and from signing petitions, protests, and calls, we are trying to make sure this so-called President does not overwhelm us. I was told by a conservative relative today that I was too negative. For me, it’s like watching Hitler come into power, while people say to give him a chance. I am not trying to alienate those who don’t agree, and would like to find some common ground… like we both want clean air and water perhaps?

Second: I became very busy with work. Since December I have had so much design work, and that is great and I have no complaints about that. But it has cut into my blogging time. (-;
One of my projects involves creating illustrations for The Vegan Strategist, which I am very excited to share with you all soon.

Third: My recipes and food ideas hit a plateau. I celebrated my 5th veganniversary in March and I just ran out of creative ideas. I think it will come back, but for awhile I couldn’t wait to try all the new recipes, Indian food and more. I posted about my food plan, and I still follow that mostly. But, for example, instead of trying new cookies, I am making my favorite cookie recipe every time. I think running out of new ideas or getting tired of cooking happens to everyone.

Lastly, we got a dog! He is a 4 year-old rescue basset/pit bull mix. I love him more than I thought possible. I’ll write more about him later. he’s on Instagram along with Spring flowers.

I would really love a little motivation and push. So, please follow me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, and I will post more blogs. Also, let me know what interests you! I’m willing to try recipes, in fact, eggplant bacon will be coming soon. Also, if you want to see more food illustrations, let me know.


Goodbye 2016, a year of growth and change

2016 had some really great moments. It also had some really awful moments, personally many of us suffered losses and for a majority, we had an unpleasant end with the election.

Thinking back on some of the good times, I never wrote about my trip to Europe in October, so in an effort to focus on one of the very positive weeks of 2016, I’ll write a bit about that. This may be more personal than my other posts, but I will throw in some veg info at the end.

This trip had been on my “bucket list” for at least 5 years. My love affair with Europe began in the early 90s on my first trip there. Every country had different currency, I was 21, and had a crazy time hitting way too many countries in one month with a large backpack as my constant companion. There were overnight trips to Portugal where I “slept” on the floor of the train, and youth hostels with feral cats. I traveled for most of the time with a college friend, but we parted ways during that trip.

We don't look like American tourists or anything, right?
We don’t look like American tourists or anything, right? 

I caught the travel bug there, and especially love being somewhat lost, and decided to save my money and return alone the following year. During that solo trip I used my 3 weeks in Europe Rick Steve’s Guide and safely traveled from Amsterdam to Italy and back. I felt so confident and proud of myself for managing that trip alone. It wasn’t easy, but there was a freedom in making all those decisions myself that I really enjoyed. That trip changed me fundamentally.

I returned a couple of years later to experience life there in a different way. I didn’t want the tourist experience, but wanted to live there, and becoming a jeune fille au pair was the simplest solution at that time. That year was one of my most defining years looking back in many ways. I had never been more than a few hours away from my family before, and it was humbling to be almost unable to communicate in the first few months. I gained a new perspective on my country once I left it.

Since that very first trip overseas, I made my vacations a priority. Even when I earned very little, I saved enough to travel to other countries. I may not have had a couch in my apartment, but that was okay. Even now, I’m not interested in spending money on skiing, concerts, fancy restaurants or any luxury items. I just want to wander around and experience a new culture.

All that is to say, since having kids and owning a business, it had been 13 years since I last went to Europe. Yes, First World Problems, but that is a very long time for me and my favorite hobby. As a designer, getting fresh inspiration is very important to me, and seeing if I could dust off my French that I spent so much time learning was my goal.

We had saved up enough credit card miles that I had more than enough for a round trip ticket to Paris. My husband wasn’t interested in revisiting the places I wanted to go, and someone had to hold down the fort with kids, pets, and work. I planned my solo trip, but was with friends pretty much the whole time, and was kindly hosted the entire trip. I want to clearly thank them for this since I didn’t have to spend money that we really don’t have right now.

It allowed me to have a little breathing space from stress, and a chance to recharge and feel like an individual again. If you are married with kids, you will know what I am talking about. I stayed with my original host family in Lyon for about 5 days, reminiscing and having deep conversations. I feel like that time really renewed and strengthened our friendship. I had to laugh when I heard the host father, Janek, refer to me as his “ancienne fille au pair“. My host mother Sylvie has a wonderful sense of humor and I loved talking to her about my life now, and “our” kids (who are now in their late 20’s and early 30’s). Staying in the same city where I had walked so many kilometers in my early 20s was a wonderful transition. Things had changed, but I always knew where I was.

Mural with famous Lyonnaise
Mural with famous Lyonnaise
My dear host family

From there, I took the train to Italy and spent a week with one of my very best friends in the world. We have known each other probably 25 years, and have always kept in touch. It is one of those friendships that even if you haven’t spoken for a year, it is like no time has passed when you finally do talk. Stefania stayed with us for a few months in Portland a couple of years ago and after all our years of friendship, she is a part of our family… literally. We joke that she is my parent’s Italian daughter. I have never met anyone who doesn’t fall in love with her spirit and personality. We have gone through ups and downs in our separate lives, but we have always been there for each other no matter the distance.

Stefania and I in her new eco business
Stefania and I in her new eco business

Italy is my favorite country, just barely over France. Mostly because I like a little chaos, I prefer their food, and I love the warmth of the Italian people. We spent many hours with her Italian neighbor, a kind and cool grandmother who made us homemade pasta and delicious meals while talking nonstop in her sparkly cardigan and apron. She served me ancient homemade liqueurs and simple, delicious vegetable and pasta dishes. We spent time with Stefania’s family who were as welcoming as when I met them decades ago, and in fact seemed mostly unchanged.

Rina making pasta
Rina making pasta

 

 

Homemade labels for homemade spirits
Homemade labels for homemade spirits

After a difficult goodbye and even worse trip back to France (my one bad travel day), I had a too short stay with my former boyfriend and his family. I was worried when he invited me to stay with him that he was exaggerating when he said his wife (who I’d never met) was “cool” with it. I did not have enough time to stay with them because of timing issues, also my trip back from Italy took way too long (the bad day). It ended up that I really wished I had more time with them, and feel like his wife, Sophie, is MY new friend. She made a delicious meal with Denis’ parents, invited me to her exercise class, we had a fondue party with their good friends, went shopping together, I rode on a motorcycle for the first (and last time), and I got to meet their sweet kids. We have a funny parallel with our lives where we each have kids the same age, sex, and similar names but completely by chance. It was during the stay with them, and seeing their family life, I started to get homesick. I’m really hoping they will come visit us in the USA!

I think you can tell how terrified I am...
I think you can tell how terrified I am…
Saying goodbye at the train station
Saying goodbye at the train station

Luckily, by that time, I was near the end of my trip. Up to that point I had been completely fine with not having the kids with me as I imagined their complaints as I logged 8-10 miles/day on my FitBit, and just all the not kid-friendly aspects of the trip. Although there were times the kids would really have enjoyed things, this wasn’t the trip for them. I did have Denis capture some French Pokemon which was a great gift for my son.

At Tobias and Melanie's house there was always at least one cat and dog on my lap.
At Tobias and Melanie’s house there was always at least one cat and dog on my lap.

My last portion of the trip was exploring a new place. After almost 2 weeks in familiar areas, I was excited to travel to Belgium and visit Tobias and Melanie in the town of Gent (Ghent). I had met Tobias originally online through his blog The Vegan Strategist. He has a philosophy and pragmatic approach that really resonated with me. We explored some work collaboration for a book he is writing and branding, and had kept in touch for about a year. When Melanie and Tobias traveled to LA last July for the Animal Rights Conference, it factored heavily into my decision to go. They had invited me to come to Ghent, and since they are European, I felt like they might actually mean it. I still felt a bit awkward since I didn’t know them that well, but decided to take a chance. Not only do I like them both personally very much, they are both doing great things for animals and are leaders in the animal rights movement. Tobias is the original co-founder of Belgium’s largest vegetarian group EVA, and started the world’s first official meatless day movement in Ghent. He is now consulting and training vegan advocates and organizations with the new group he formed with business partner Melanie Joy, CEVA, while his girlfriend Melanie works with EVA as well as volunteering with animal adoption.

Gent viewed from the castle
Ghent viewed from the castle
Selfie attempt!
Selfie attempt!

Of course, it was so worthwhile and memorable. Even though they are very busy, and I came at a time when they had a lot going on, they made time to show me their city. We each cooked dinners for each other, and I got to meet all their permanent and foster animals. They even loaned me a cat buddy to sleep with in their wonderful Air BnB on the lower level of their home. Ghent is an incredibly charming city with historic architecture and youthful vibe. It was just perfect for walking with a castle right in the center of town. I spent one day exploring on my own, and then headed back to Paris for my plane ride home. It was incredibly generous of Tobias and Melanie to invite me into their home, and I look forward to hosting them in Portland some day soon.

Tour of the city. Could it be more charming?
Tour of the city with my guides.
Amazing architecture details everywhere!
Amazing architecture details everywhere!

I loved being in people’s home, having conversations, eating traditional foods, and experiencing their life. I skipped the most popular touristic destinations, spending the majority of my time in Lyon, Modena, and Ghent. We took day trips into nearby small cities, like Annecy and the Italian countryside.

Annecy
Annecy
Italian castle detail
Italian castle detail

Now for the food portion. This was the first time I had traveled to Europe since becoming vegan. Our family visited Japan in 2013 but I apparently did not write about it. Let’s just say it wasn’t the easiest and we were all pretty sick of udon by the end!

So, let’s talk about veganism in France. Not that popular in Lyon, a city known for it’s meat-centric cuisine. I found a few bio grocery stores which offered some very interesting French twists to their cuisine- Tofu a la Provencale and such.

When I lived in France in 1994-95, I was not making enough money to eat at fancy restaurants, and probably ate more at the local kebab stands than anywhere else, if I even ate out. Mostly I had meals with the family where I had a wide experience. I enjoyed their wine, breads, cheese and desserts very much. They tried introducing me to cuisses de grenouilles (frog legs), boudin (black sausage), escargot, andouille, and one memorable day, tiny little whole birds.

Trying frog legs in Marseilles very hesitantly.
Trying frog legs in Marseilles very hesitantly, as you can see, the French do not typically use a fork for this.

Looking back, I now realize I was a closet vegetarian my entire life. I would only nibble a sample of these specialty items, and in the case of the birds I had to excuse myself completely. The kids complained bitterly about the way I cooked their bifteck haché (ground beef patties) until they were very well-done with no blood rather than the very rare meat they preferred. I didn’t want my food to have association with animals- no blood, bones or veins, no fish, shrimp or birds with heads especially! I know there are people who change to veganism who didn’t have these issues, but for me, I did not want any close associations with animals when eating meat.

During my trip, I did the best I could. I found one strictly vegan restaurant in Lyon, and it was mostly deserted. Our vegan food in Portland is so good and plentiful, it seemed to be more difficult to me, just because it is usually so easy.

In Italy, it was a lot easier to find vegan food, and their meals were more naturally able to be vegan. My friend doesn’t eat parmesan, so we had a lot of delicious pasta and vegetables. Most restaurants there had vegan food too.

Homemade pasta, naturally vegan
Rina’s delicious homemade pasta, naturally vegan

In Belgium, Ghent is one of the most veg-friendly cities in Europe, and since I stayed with vegans, it was no problem.

Tobias' homemade pumpkin lasagne
Tobias’ homemade pumpkin lasagne

There were a few times in people’s homes or at a train station, I had a vegetarian option. I know that the conversations about veganism that I had with my friends in France were more worthwhile than my personal purity. They went out of their way to accommodate me, and I did my best to make that not too onerous. The interesting thing about having some dairy and egg, was that I didn’t feel like, “I have missed this so much”. My taste buds have changed so much that it just isn’t something I want to eat anymore. If I wanted to eat it often, I would become vegetarian.

The Vegan Society, the oldest society formed in 1944 by Donald Watson defines veganism as “…a way of living that seeks to exclude, as far as possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing and any other purpose.” I think the definition of possible and practicable are up for interpretation, and I feel that I follow this.

I came back to Portland excited to see my family. I had renewed bonds with my new and old European friends who I treasure, and a comforting sense that even though I am not 24, I can still walk all over the city and navigate foreign cities alone. After almost two decades of leaning on my husband to navigate and give input, it was nice to know I can be independent too. Conversely, this trip actually would not have been possible without my husband’s support. He had to manage everything in my absence including two pets that needed veterinary care.

As I returned in the plane, stopping in Iceland on the way back, it felt incredibly indulgent to take this types of pleasure trip. Along with my fellow travelers, some who fly more often and stay a shorter time it has become something we don’t necessarily consider a huge privilege or luxury.  I’m glad I took that trip, but at the same time felt quite guilty about the environmental impact. Especially thinking about how it cost me nothing for that flight that was the biggest carbon footprint for my year. It reminded me of the idea of the collective concept around veganism, and also societal acceptance: “Why shouldn’t I fly, everyone else does”, or “It won’t make a difference if I don’t take the plane, it will fly regardless”. Why shouldn’t I eat meat, everyone else does”. “It won’t make a difference if I stop eating animals”. I don’t know the answer, but being aware and thoughtful about the impact of our choices, trying to balance our actions, and lightening the burden when possible will cause some change. Ultimately, I think economic pressure will be the deciding factor in both animal products as well as travel. If you can’t fly across the country for $300, or halfway around the world for free, you will make changes.

Flying over Reykjavík, Iceland
Flying over Reykjavík, Iceland

Wow, I am all over the place with this post. I need to wrap up the ramblings. 2016, you were a crazy, memorable year for sure! Thank you for the great moments, and let’s hope 2017 will be even better. Keep your minds and hearts open. Happy New Year!


Well that’s inconvenient…

iced-coffee-410323_1920

Remember the movie An Inconvenient Truth (Al Gore’s documentary from 2006)? What a perfect name for how we prefer to ignore facts which are uncomfortable for us, such as climate change. I was recently struck by how very little we are willing to give up for either the greater good, or for the future, simply in the name of convenience.

Even though our population has doubled since I was born, and I am not yet 50, we use all our resources as if they are infinite. We buy and throw so much away with abandon because it is cheap, but there is a hidden price.

We need to adapt. And we need to do it quickly. I’m definitely not perfect, but I try to do what I can and think about my choices every day. It may be a little annoying to remember to bring your reusable bags… but is it really that difficult? It’s easier just to grab that one-use cup for your coffee drink, but that plastic will live on for 500 years.

waste-1741127_1920

We’re fortunate enough in our city to have compost pick up from our house. It has reduced our garbage by more than half. This is not a hardship to scrape our scraps into a compost bin rather than the garbage. If you don’t have curb side pick up, you will need to make a larger effort for the same result. Throwing away food, napkins, and other compostable materials means this waste goes into landfill and because it cannot biodegrade inside a plastic liner, it will create methane. There are many reasons to compost.

I heard a recent news article on the radio about autonomous driving, and how in the future we won’t need multiple cars per family just sitting unused most of the time at great expense. Cars are driven by a single occupant 75% of the time, and are parked 95% of the time. So, ride-sharing, public transportation, and the idea of community cars makes a lot of sense. Change is coming.

We need to get over our sense of entitlement and start living like we do not have instant gratification at our fingertips.

There are always steps we can each take as we think about what we consume. Reduce, reuse and recycle.

And, three times a day, you can choose to eat less (or no) meat. Feeding, watering, transporting, medicating, disposing of their waste, and slaughtering animals takes more water, land and resources than plant-based foods. Not to mention the pollution and carbon output.

If making such a small change, such as eating less meat is too difficult, we are in for a very rough time ahead.

 

 


We are not the United States of America

 

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It has now been almost a month since the elections. I started this blog post on November 14, but needed to sit with it awhile. I’m reading the news, tweets, comments and how each side spins it. Basically Trump can do nothing right for those who oppose him, and can do nothing wrong for his supporters. In fact he bragged about this during the primaries “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters, okay? It’s like incredible.”

I read a comment the other day about the controversy over the Hamilton/Pence speech, “America stood up and spoke. There will always be those who don’t like what was said, scared of change, being held accountable or worse, not being able to force ones views onto the masses…” I couldn’t tell at first what side this person was choosing. It turns out they feel “America” chose this President, but right after the election we had almost half of eligible voters not even voting, and then around 25% each for Trump and Clinton, so believing that the majority who did not want Trump will now happily accept him, is just wishful thinking.

I spent the week after the election results feeling distraught. Not like a cry baby or sore loser, but sick to my stomach. I’ve lived through many elections that “didn’t go my way” in the last almost 30 years that I have been able to vote. I have felt annoyed, angered, frustrated, incredulous (especially Bush Jr- 2nd term), but this is the first time I have felt genuinely afraid. And I’m not even on the list of groups under attack.

Those who voted for Trump should be happy and not needing to also dig a further trench between us. Even if you think you were mocked. You “won”. But, it’s not a sports game, and we are all actually on the same side. This partisanship makes me sick. Calling each other deplorable, libtards, demorats, ignorant: all the insults lobbed back and forth. It didn’t help, and it shut us off from actually listening to each other. This article sums up the divisiveness that split the nation especially hard for this election:“Politics is the art of compromise, and in this age of red-hot emotions and customized news feeds — really, you don’t have to ever read anything that conflicts with your beliefs — compromise is too often scorned…”.

At first my biggest concern was for the climate because as it changes for the worse, everything worsens. Black Lives Matter, Women, LGBQT, animals, we all are going to suffer. We all would love to believe that the world will always be habitable for us, but unless you also don’t believe in dinosaurs, we need to do what we can to extend our window. I’m worried for my kids, my young niece, and all those who will face the consequences.

After seeing how this is all unfolding, I am starting to be more concerned immediately about our foreign relations. I would be happy to be proved wrong, believe me. I’m not seeing what his supporters are seeing, and it is truly hard to fathom how this will end well.

The idea of compromise has played a large part in how I try to interact with basically everyone since 2012. I researched what was happening with animal agriculture and welfare, and took a stance that is not shared by the majority of people. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to be persuasive and bring awareness and information about how serious this issue is without making others feel alienated. The meat and dairy industry absolutely do not want us to think about this impact, and they have all the money and political power. The animals and planet can’t speak. I watch as we destroy our earth and our fellow inhabitants and understand the frustration when people won’t listen. For years, I’ve been in the minority of people concerned about this link with animals/pollution/destroying the rain forest. I have heard that people don’t stop eating meat because they were yelled at, called names or shown facts. They need to feel like they are listened to and find common ground before they will accept a different view.

I would apply that same lesson to politics. No one will listen to you if you attack them. We need to find some common ground to unite. Hopefully on the issue that we should all be able to agree on: clean water and air.

Those of us who do have serious concerns about this new administration are not going to go away or be quiet, and mocking us won’t change that. We’ll be here, working on change. I can only hope we can reach out to others and work towards a better future.

 


An ode to my electric car

2013-nissan-leaf

The story below is reposted from January 2013. We are now on our second lease with a newer Leaf, and it is now around $200 month, but the battery is much better and goes farther. We continue to love this car! When our lease runs out, the 2018 looks very promising. The electricity cost has not been noticeable at all- we charge it at our home and it takes about 2 hours. We charge it every 2-3 days.

I never expected to love the Nissan Leaf. We needed to replace our second car, and I had my heart set on a Prius. I realize it is not that sustainable to even own one or two cars, but if I drew you a map of where we live, work and the two separate schools our children attend, they are all in completely different directions about 4 miles apart. Somehow, with just commuting around, we were driving at least 50 miles/day.

Neither my husband or I even get excited about cars at all. In my perfect world, I would love to be in walking distance of everything, and we may get closer to that ideal. For now, I was ready to go into the Prius dealership and walk out with a car. Then my husband mentioned the Leaf. And to be honest, I didn’t consider it to be a strong possibility at all. It just seems too early adopter (to me), and confusing. But to be fair, I said I would check it out. We did a little test drive, and I was surprised by how much it just seemed like a regular car. Quieter, but accelerating and driving normally, and the interior was familiar but much cooler than any of our other cars.

I started thinking seriously about it. But, $36,000 was way more than we wanted to spend. Right now there is a $7,500 energy incentive that knocks that price down quite a bit. But still high for this new technology. There was a 2011 used Leaf for $20,000 on the lot with only about 6,000 miles on it. But, the other concern is what happens in 4 or 5 years when everything has progressed even further and you are stuck with an old model?

We went home and thought about it, and saw an ad in the paper for a lease option. Usually I feel like leasing is a bad idea since we are the type to keep the car until it dies of old age. In this case, it would give us the opportunity to try it while not being locked into it. Two years down the road, prices may be lower and battery life longer.

If you are even considering trying electric, it is a really good time to lease right now. We got ours at Nissan of Portland for $89/month (plus almost $4,000 down payment). I am almost embarrassed to admit how cheap it was. Literally, that would be our cost of gas anyway in a month, so I feel like we get to try it for practically nothing. The guys there were great!

If it is something you are thinking about- the special ends Jan 31. And, we are hoping that we also get a free charging station installed at our house as part of this deal (we applied for it). Either way, last night it charged completely on our 110 volt outlet. After that, the 2013 comes out, which is probably an even better car, and it’s price is way lower than the 2012.

What is the downside? Well, honestly, I wouldn’t do this if this was our only car unless you never want to go more than around town. And, I would only do it if your commute is mostly city street driving. It seriously hogged miles on the freeway going to Tigard yesterday (hills plus speed plus climate control and 4 people). But on the streets, it is perfect. And the electric chargers are scattered around at some Fred Meyers and other spots, I expect there to be more as there are more adopters.

We are fighting over who gets to drive it. Kids love that the back seat has seat warmers. There is much to learn about this car, as it is a little like driving around a giant cell phone. Like programming it to warm up in the morning (from your phone). I feel great about never going to the gas stations, zero emissions, and the lack of maintenance like oil changes.

Well, that’s my unpaid commercial for Leaf, as a complete amateur to electric cars, and mostly cars in general. I feel I owe them something for giving us this amazing car for almost nothing. I’ll be honest and update this if there are major issues. So far, it just requires more thoughtfulness as far as charging it and miles driven. It’s definitely a trade off I feel good about.

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AR2016 / The Joyful Vegan

Yes, I could photoshop the ostrich popping out of my head, but was just too funny.
Yes, I could photoshop the ostrich popping out of my head, but it was just too funny.

Colleen Patrick-Goudreau holds a special place in my heart. One reason is because I used her book, The 30 Day Vegan Challenge in March 2012 to start my own journey. It was helpful, practical, and positive. Her tagline is “Don’t do nothing because you can’t do everything. Do something. Anything.” Her message is about compassion, and people choosing to align their actions to their own beliefs, not hers.

I’ve met CPG before, at Portland Veg Fest last year. I listened to her talks there and became even more of a fan. She is clearly very intelligent, funny, and has an almost therapist approach at times. I love her message, I love that she is such a positive and beautiful role model.

When I met her, I talked to her about how I felt about the word “vegan”, and she gave me some helpful insight around that, and actually remembered me. I had hoped to go to her 1st summit that happened last Memorial Day weekend, but there is only so much California Dreamin’ I can do within a couple of months! I did end up sharing a room with a new friend who went, and it sounded like an amazing experience. Hopefully I can make it happen next time.

I recommend listening to her podcast “Food for Thought” here, and check out her website to get more information and resources. I’m waiting for AR2016 to post their videos of her newer talks there.

At this conference, I attended her “10 Habits of Effective Vegans” session. I loved her delivery, it was quick-paced and concise. She makes her points logically, and gives clear tips about how to be effective. I would love to link to her video, which should be posted soon on the AR conference website.

I wasn’t able to go to her second talk on a panel called “The Power of Language”, but I have heard her speak to this at Veg Fest. In the Portland talk she discussed how calling plant-based meats “fake meats” can be detrimental. That instead of milk being the default name to describe dairy milk, it can be designated as cow’s milk which makes almond milk, soy milk, and other milks on the same plane. Rather than being the lesser “faux” option, plant proteins are a healthy, normal option. I’ve seen the plant-based meats called clean protein, which I agree sounds much more appealing.

Colleen also discussed in Portland how the idioms we use continues to reinforce negative images around animals. “Killing two birds with one stone” for example, could be changed to “Cutting two carrots with one knife”. It sounds funny or maybe not the top priority, but it makes sense how the ideas around animals are part of our culture and language. I was impressed at how much research she had done around this, and it is clearly a fascinating topic for her. I believe she is writing a book around this subject. In any case, it has made an impression to the point where I am more conscious about language.

On the final day of the conference, I attended her joint session with Dr. Melanie Joy called “Advice on Vegan Lifestyle”. I really enjoyed seeing the relationship these two women have forged over time. They may cover different aspects, but they seem to share a very similar philosophy. It was entertaining and informative. There was so much great energy and hope in the room. It is a breath of fresh air to focus on effective positive changes and inclusiveness; not blame or focusing on differences.

I’m very inspired from these sessions. Thank you Colleen for being such a smart, strong, joyful voice in the movement.

 

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