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Dear vegetarians,

You are awesome.  I love how you decided to stop eating meat.  Maybe you think that animals shouldn’t be tortured and eaten by people, or maybe you are trying to keep your cholesterol down.  That is a wonderful choice for you.  I was vegetarian for years, then fell off the wagon for a few more years because I felt like I wasn’t making a difference.  I started eating meat again.  I still thought it was wrong to eat meat, since I had so many other, healthy, animal-friendly options, but I did it anyway.  Oh, I’d buy free-range eggs (right along factory farmed meat), but my values were out of sync with my actions.  I had given up.

This summer, after visiting the feedlot where my brother-in-law works, I started doing some research on how animals are raised and killed here in the United States, and I was sickened by what I learned.  I went vegan this summer, and though I’ve had some slip-ups out of ignorance here and there, I’ve done my best to stick with it.

Sometimes people tell me they could never be vegetarian because they love meat so much.  Or they couldn’t be vegan because they love cheese.  I liked meat and cheese pretty well, but once I knew the reality of their production, I just couldn’t do it.

I feel better.  I lost 7 excess pounds in 2 weeks without even trying, and then my weight stabilized.  My skin cleared up a bit, too.  And I’m not sure if it’s being newly married or veganism, but I have been told that I look “glowing” by people who haven’t seen me in a while.  Best of all, I’ve discovered so many new things.  I’m cooking more and better than I ever did while omnivorous, I’ve made vegetarian and vegan friends, I’ve fallen in love with the whole Post-Punk Kitchen franchise, and I know that my food is relatively germ-free.  Best of all, I feel good about my dietary choices.

I love being vegan.  I couldn’t be happier about my decision, and I’m glad that others are out there making a difference, too.

Love,

Rad Gal

PS- Vegans, you rock, too.

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Pledges to consume less are consuming me.  Everywhere I look, someone’s giving up buying clothes for a year, shopping at the Evil Empire for a month, or buying anything ever.  I feel like I want to do a little experiment of my own and blog about it.  Why do I feel this need?  Honestly, the amount of waste produced in this country makes me a little ill.  When customers at the restaurant ask for 2 Styrofoam boxes so that they can keep their small amounts of food separate, the waste makes me cringe.  I schlep reusable bags to the grocery store, and I only bag wet, leafy produce.  I stood alone in a grocery store aisle, and I looked at all the prepackaged food and realized that all the containers were landfill-bound, and I felt a little ill and panicky.  I want to do a little more to waste a little less.

Beyond the material waste that ends up in the landfill, I am bothered by the spend-work-spend-work-spend rat race we seem to find ourselves in.  I’m not a big shopper, except when it comes to books.  I went to a big chain bookstore to purchase Taking Charge of Your Fertility yesterday, and I tortured myself by walking up and down the aisles looking at wonderful books that I’d love to own.  Maybe that’s how other people feel when they shoe shop?

From a selfish, purely monetary standpoint, I’m interested to see how much money I can save if I purposefully shop less.  I should be starting grad school in the summer, and I won’t be able to work much, if at all, for about a year.  I don’t like to be stressed about money, and sometimes I bring little money crunches on myself by spending too much.

I’ve found some guidelines in The Compact.  A movement that began in San Francisco in 2006, the Compact is a pledge to purchase very little for one year, though some Compacters may continue these spending patterns indefinitely.  According to the GOOD article linked in this paragraph, “The premise was simple: barter, borrow, or buy secondhand for a year-food, drink, health, and safety necessities excluded.”

So, the brakes I bought this year – fine, I needed them to keep other drivers and myself safe.  The secondhand jogging clothes from the thrift store – alright, it was secondhand, so no new waste was created.  The ingredients to make tamales – no problem, it’s food.  The book I bought yesterday?  Not so much.  I suppose I might argue that it was a health necessity, but that would be a pretty big stretch.

I will be an unofficial Compacter starting January 1st, 2011.  I will also write a little more in-depth about the nuances of the Compact and its aims.

Starbucks claims that they will begin to work on a recyclable paper cup, in this article available on the New York Times blog.  Some recycling facilities don’t recycle Starbucks cups, due to that waxy, plastic-y coating on the inside that makes them waterproof.  In theory and practice, I support recycling.  However, there is still so much waste and destruction that goes into creating the cups, even if, in the end, they are recycled.  The recycling process itself then takes more energy and chemicals to reengineer the cup into something else.  Sure, it’s a hell of a lot better than throwing in the landfill to slowly rot, but I think we are working on the wrong problem.  We’re operating on the assumption that it is okay to go to a place and purchase a non-essential good for pleasurable consumption in a disposable container.  Maybe it’s not.

So while the head honchos at Starbucks get crackin’ on the recyclable cup conundrum, here are some Rad Alternatives.

Rad Alternative #1: Stop drinking coffee.

Whoa, Nelly.  That is radical indeed.  I pretty much only drink organic green tea at home these days.  I love the taste, it’s quick and easy to make, and I’m not as jittery.  Plus, green tea is hella good for you.  I drink free coffee at the restaurant if I work a double shift, and I go out for a girls’ coffee night with some seriously rad friends of mine once a week.  I still love coffee, but I’m not a pot-a-day junkie anymore.

Rad Alternative #2: Make your own damn coffee.

Alright, I know this might sound crazy, but you can make your own coffee!  This is better than going to the Bucks for a couple reasons.  One, you save money, and you can invest your daily latte money in a mutual fund and retire with enough money to be able to go volunteer with the Peace Corps in your old age instead of living off Social Security and working part-time as a greeter for the Evil Empire.  Or, if you’ve got your radical retirement plan in place, you can donate that money to Amnesty International.

Okay, aside from the money you’ll save, you’ll save time.  It doesn’t seem that way, I know; you want to dash out the front door as quickly as possible so you can wait in line for five minutes.  Or you could just make your own latte in less than five minutes.  You’ll save gas, if you typically drive to the Bucks and idle there waiting for your tasty treat.  You’ll be able to control the quality of your drink.  I’m not a great barista, but I got a little espresso machine/milk steamer from one of my girls’ night coffee chicas when I got married, and I do alright.  I can use products that I know are organic and fair-trade and cruelty-free.  There’s a small upfront investment, but you’ll save money in the end.

Rad Alternative #3: Carry a reusable cup!

This option is the easiest thing in the world to do.  You don’t have to quit drinking coffee or make it yourself.  All you need to do is bring your own cup along.  This probably means you can’t use the drive-thru at some Bucks locations, but we both know a quick step inside to interact with the people is good for you anyway.  If you are worried about remembering to clean the cup, it’s no big deal.  You can put a tiny dot of soap in it in the morning and blast it with hot water if you forget to put it in the dishwasher the night before.  I will even allow you to buy 2 cups so that you always have a clean one.  (I’m firm, but fair.)

If you already have a reusable cup, you should start using it today.  From this day on, you are a reusable cup user.  If you don’t have a reusable coffee cup, the Rad thing to do is to check out the local thrift stores and see if you can find one there.  Remember, it’s all about reducing consumption, Radigans!  If nothing shows up at the thrift stores, a natural, hippie-granola store might have one.  Whole Foods and markets of its ilk probably will.  Discount stores will.  If you can wait for some shipping time, why not get a reusable mug that supports a cause you love?

Rad Alternative #3 Bonus Points

If you still plan on going to coffeehouses frequently, make sure you ask for fair-trade coffee.  The world’s coffee workers and their environments are being exploited!  Organic, shade-grown, fair-trade java gives you a boost without first stepping on the weary backs of the Third World to get it.  Ask for fair-trade.

Also, look into non-mega-chain coffeehouses in your neighborhood.  I found an adorable one down my street.  Now, girls’ coffee night features local artists’ work on gallery walls, fair-trade coffee for purchase in bulk, and the occasional local band performing.

A tampon applicator

Image by Benimoto via Flickr

In our consumerist, throwaway society, we often don’t stop to think about the true amount of waste we produce.  The packaging our goodies come in is mind-boggling, when you add it all up.  Think about all the plastic grocery bags that end up ind the trash.  Think about all the cigarette butts littering the streets and filling up landfills.  Think about the food that gets thrown in the trash instead of composted where it can clog up landfills.  It’s sad and overwhelming at times, so much so that we often don’t think about our own complicity.

Here’s one way a woman can reduce her trash output; stop using tampons and pads!  Every woman is different, but those of us in our child-bearing years go through hundreds of tampons or pads each year.  They all get thrown away.  (Unless you compost your tampons, which I know little about.  Still, tampons are made of cotton, which is not a green crop.  And the mainstream ones are bleached, which may not be good for you.)  Think of how many you use on a typical period.  Multiply that by 12.  That’s your early impact.  Then imagine all the women you know using and throwing away all those products at that rate.  It’s shocking, and we can do something about it!

According to the Keeper website, a typical year might look like this and would cost $48:

Holy frijoles, Batman! Image via keeper.com

My personal favorite option is the silicone Moon Cup from the Keeper people, a menstrual cup.  Imagine a little wine goblet made of flexible rubber or silicone.  You put it inside you, kind of like a tampon.  It creates a seal, and it collects everything.  Then you just pour it out into the toilet periodically, rinse with hot water throughout your period, and then store it away to be used the next time.  There are several different brands, including Diva Cup,  Lunette, and Soft Cup.  I have a silicone cup from Keeper, which, as far as I can tell, is the original menstrual cup, but I’m sure other women have had good luck with other brands.  The Moon Cup (and Keeper) sell on the site for $37, including shipping.

I adore my Moon Cup.  First of all, it is incredibly comfortable, unlike a dry, yucky tampon or a hot, confining disposable pad.  I just pop it in there and don’t think about it much.  I think it’s good and interesting to see how much you actually bleed, rather than just guessing by how many disposable products you used that month.

I’ve had my Moon Cup for over two years now, and I haven’t had any major spills or accidents; a couple wayward drops the first couple days of my period can happen, but no more than I experienced with tampons or pads.  On those first couple days, I admit that I sometimes use a small pantyliner in addition to the cup.  Nevertheless, I spend a lot less money than I would if I was buying tampons every month.  I’d guess I’m down to 3 or 4 little pantyliners each period, so I’m saving a lot of money

Another big plus is that menstrual cups last a long time!  The original packaging with my Moon Cup said that it should last me ten years with proper care, unless I have kids and need to buy a different size.  Ten years!  Imagine having a magical box of tampons that gives you a whole clean set each month.  It’s like that.  My own little eco-friendly tampon fairy.

For those of us who might not want to insert something, why not consider a reusable pad?  There are some really stylish and cute ones out there.  I can’t really recommend any techniques or brands over the others, since I’m a Moon Cup gal, but I’m thinking of getting some as backup for my first couple days.  To all you vegans out there, just make sure that if they use fleece that it’s synthetic.  Bonus Radigan points if you make your own!  If, like me, you can’t sew, I’d check out Etsy.com and give your money to some crafty lady.  There are some adorable pads out there!  I just want to give them to every gal I know for the holidays!

Do what you can, and spread the word.  Then you can avoid leaving this behind you:

30-40 years worth of tampons! Image via keeper.com

Vegan MoFo

Posted: November 16, 2010 in Uncategorized
Vegan pumpkin pie with pecans.

Image of vegan pie via Wikipedia

I just found out that “Vegan MoFo”  (Vegan Month of Food) was November, and I totally missed it.  I tried writing a NaNoWriMo novel this year, and I bailed out after a week or so.  What can I say?  I’m not a fiction writer.  I have a hard enough time coming up with fake names to protect my friends in this blog.

Anyway, unlike NaNoWriMo, Vegan MoFo would have been completely possible.  I could have written about how my omnivore sister asked for my vegan pinwheel recipe, about my various Moskowitz and Romero recipe escapades, about the joys of tofu, the thrill of quinoa, and the warm contentment of split peas.  Maybe I would have taken a picture of some food and become one of those beloved, fancy-dancy food bloggers.  As it is, I’m still trying to figure out how to make this liberal-vegan-feminist blog work.  Luckily for me, I only get a few page views a day, so I have plenty of time and privacy to experiment.

Vegan MoFo?  Maybe next year.

Lovely lady turkey at Farm Sanctuary

Image by CETFA - Canadian for Ethical Treatment of Food Ani via Flickr

In a few weeks, Americans will sit down and enjoy a meal together.  We will take time from our busy schedules to get together with friends and family, and we will break bread.  We will donate our time and money to charitable organizations that help the less fortunate so that they can enjoy a similar feast.  We won’t buy junky candy, energy-sapping decorations, or unneeded gifts made in a sweatshop.  Anyone can enjoy the day; any faith and any creed can be thankful.  In some ways, Thanksgiving is the ideal holiday.  Thanksgiving themes are simple and universal.

My only complaint about Thanksgiving is the waste of life.  Every year, so many turkeys lose their lives for our selfish gluttony.  My sister’s co-worker was telling her about how she was going to celebrate this year without a turkey, since neither she nor her son enjoyed turkey and didn’t eat any of it the past few years.  Her son insisted that they have a turkey; it just isn’t Thanksgiving without turkey.  What a sad death that turkey endured, and for mere tradition.  A local food bank where I occasionally volunteer is giving out thousands and thousands of turkeys this year, which saddens me.  I’m happy that people have been so willing to donate, but the sheer loss of lives is heart-breaking.

I am only one person, and I can only do so much.  One thing I can do is take this coming Thanksgiving day and make it a day that all creatures I touch can be grateful for.  I have decided to donate and symbolically “adopt” a turkey through Farm Sanctuary this year.  I will bring a vegan dish to our Thanksgiving gathering, and I will be truly thankful that day.

Check out this article about an article on the lovely feministing.com.  The women look great, sure, but where are the radicals?  Why are the women featured styled, pinched, squeezed, and coiffed so immaculately?  Yes, women and men alike should be afforded a bit of drag here and there, but this post makes me a little sad.  It feels like feminism defanged and sanitized.  Yes, we want to be accessible.  But how far should we go in our desire to be accepted and influential?

More magazine photo, via feministing.com