Progress Isn’t Always Progress

This post isn’t about plant-based diets. This post is about being green and living simply. I feel like the two go hand in hand.

There is a certain category of activities that were commonplace 50, 75, or 100 years ago that are no longer seen as worth doing anymore. These activities are sometimes seen as “poor” activities, “old fashioned,” or even “tacky.”

Younger generations tend to blame older generations for carelessly destroying our planet, but a lot of the perfectly ordinary things that they did were quite “green.” Incidentally, these are activities that a lot of people wouldn’t be caught dead doing today. Some of these activities are even prohibited by city codes in the name of neat appearances! We need to talk about this.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but the few things I am thinking about tonight are:

  • Clothes Lines
  • Patched Clothing
  • Compost Piles

People can save a lot of electricity by hanging their clothes on a line to dry. This isn’t always practical (winter/rain/etc.), but on any calm day that reaches at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit, I’d say go for it! Not only are you saving electricity from not running the dryer, your house will stay a lot cooler in the summer months (your dryer puts off a lot of heat!). Think about it.

Patched clothing is no joke. I understand that most jobs require a (semi)professional appearance, but for those in blue-collar jobs or for our yard-work clothing at home, what harm can come from simply patching those pants instead of tossing them out and buying new ones? You’re not sloppy-looking–you’re telling the world, “Hey, everybody! I’m frugal and I can sew!” Ladies love gentlemen who can sew, because truth is, ladies can’t even sew nowadays. Think about it.

Finally, compost piles are so simple. To ensure success, feed you compost pile a raw vegan diet. These piles like raked leaves, grass clippings, coffee grounds, vegetable scraps, old newspapers, and more. Just do a little research. Also, these piles can be quite small or quite large. Consider stacking some old tires and throwing the scraps in the middle. Try buying a tumbler. Or even just stack some cinder blocks into a 3-sided enclosure that is just 2 or 3 feet tall. Composting is so simple, and it amounts to FREE ORGANIC FERTILIZER. What person with a garden wouldn’t want that? You are literally turning trash into something valuable. Think about it.

Day THIRTY: Say It

The last day!      Completion!      Achievement!

Fulfillment!      Attainment!      Fruition!

You’re done. Or you’re just beginning. Today is the last day of the challenge and the first day of the rest of your life, whether that life is back to the SAD, mostly-vegetarian, mostly-vegan, or vegan. I have enjoyed myself, and I don’t really miss anything except nice runny eggs on toast. I have decided to continue on with the vegan/mostly-vegan lifestyle, being patient with myself as I learn. Someday I may even forget the eggs, or perhaps a great replacement will present itself. One can only hope.

Sarah’s assignment for today is to simply practice saying, “I’m vegan.” You can say it now because it’s true and has been true for a few days. Congratulations on your sense of adventure, your self-control, your confidence, and your wit. Changing in ways that go against convenience and culture is so difficult, but we did it.

Hopefully I will be posting new recipes, new favorite restaurants, and about my garden for years to come. Thank you for your audience.

Day TWENTY-NINE: Clean Sweep

We’ve already cleaned the kitchen a handful of times. Do it again. Go through today and check everything, donating items or throwing them out. Anyone who shares a home with non-vegans should create separate areas in the freezer, fridge, cabinets, and pantry. After this assignment, you should have specific areas that you know are wholesome, plant-based foods. Your home should be a place with a bounty of vegan options easily available to you. Make it so today.

Day TWENTY-EIGHT: Stealth Animal Ingredients

So. Anyone transitioning with Sarah’s program should be on at least day three of total vegan eating. Whoop! Today is the day to double-check everything in your refrigerator and cabinets to make sure that everything is TOTALLY vegan. We are hunting for stealth animal ingredients. Toss anything with these ingredients, and be vigilant for them while shopping.

This list is by no means exhaustive, but here are several animal-based ingredients, many of which have sources listed. Gross, guys.

Acetate

Albumen: eggs, milk, and blood

Bone Char: bones

Carmine: crushed beetles

Casein: milk

Cochineal: crushed beetles

Crimson Lake: crushed beetles

DNA

E120: crushed beetles

Fatty Acids

Gelatin: skin, bones

Glycerin

Lactose: milk

Lanolin

Lard: fat

Lecithin

Lipase

Methionine: eggs, milk

Natural Flavoring

Natural Sources

Natural Red 4: crushed beetles

Olean

Olestra

Palmitate

Pepsin: stomachs

Rennet: stomachs

Rennin

Retinol

RNA

Stearic Acid

Stearic Alcohol

Sterol

Suet: fat

Urea: urine

Whey: milk

Some are pretty obvious. We all know that BONE CHAR doesn’t come from plants. Some are just gross. Are we really putting URINE in some of our processed foods? Or crushed beetles? And for any Christian or Jewish readers, Albumen should be a special concern, considering that we are forbidden from consuming BLOOD. Today is definitely the day to start checking for these yucks on all ingredient labels. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Learn as you go, increasing your awareness everyday.

Day TWENTY-SEVEN: Learn to Say No

Hopefully this won’t be a big issue. One month (or more) in, your friends and family should all know about your diet and lifestyle choices. This means that for the most part, you shouldn’t have to say no to things at home, because your loved ones probably won’t buy or make things for you that they know you can’t have. That being said, perhaps today is a good time to make sure those that are close to you are clear on what “vegan” actually means. This doesn’t have to be awkward, it could be as simple as talking about how good you feel since omitting (insert specific foods here) from your diet. Or just post your definition on Facebook or Twitter.

The one place where I am saying no over and over again is at work. There has been a potluck since I made my official switch, and one of our admin. assistants is always bringing nummies in for everybody. You may feel pressured to at least try something that is out on display at work. Luckily, I’ve found that it is so easy to say, “No thanks, I don’t eat meat/eggs/dairy/etc.” From what I have observed, a lot of people don’t know what “vegetarian” and “vegan” mean, so it’s easiest for me to just say plainly the exact things that I do not eat. Then, if they follow-up by asking if I’m vegetarian/vegan, I say yes. I don’t feel like that’s a cop-out.

As for the potluck, I played it safe and packed a lunch (chili) that day. This was insurance in case there was nothing I could eat at the party. In addition, I brought a vegetable tray (not so creative). So, I knew for sure from the very start that I would be having some awesome meatless chili and fresh vegetables for lunch that day. With the pressure being off, I was able to graze on a few items at the food table without my stomach growling and trying to get me to eat everything.

Remember, even the most awkward situations can be negotiated with tact. Just remember to always be both HONEST and KIND and to never apologize for your diet choices.

My New Favorite Breakfast

I have eaten the same breakfast three days in a row now. It takes 5 minutes to make, with almost no hands-on prep and just three ingredients. Not to mention it’s super cheap. I calculated this nutritious, fiber-laden meal at around $0.68 per serving.

I’m talking about BROILED GRAPEFRUIT. Oh my gosh. I don’t even like grapefruit. Here it is:

  • 1 Grapefruit
  • Agave Nectar, to taste
  • Cinnamon, to taste

Cut the grapefruit in half. Place it cut-side up in a toaster oven. Set to “broil” and cook 3-5 minutes. Pull your delicious feast out of the oven, drizzle your sweetener on top, sprinkle with cinnamon, and dig in!

NOTE: I run a knife around the outside of the fruit between the peel and the meat to facilitate removal of the tasty fruit bits.

The nice thing about the recipe is that it is so versatile. It can be as sweet or as bitter (forgo the sweetener?) as you want. You can sub in another spice for the cinnamon. Or go no spice.

Eat this delightful hot-fruit with some whole-grain toast topped with nut-butter for a filling breakfast.

Day TWENTY-SIX: Share the Love

Make plans today to cook vegan for some people you know. Whether it’s cooking an elaborate meal for your friends, contributing a dish to a potluck, or simply bringing some healthy vegan snacks to work, find a way to share vegan food with people in your life. There is the misconception that all we eat is salad and rice. Show your friends, colleagues, classmates, and neighbors how untrue this is!

I chose the simple option and brought in some goodies to work–TWICE. One day I brought in some Carrot Muffins, which are unbelievably moist and sweet. Another day I brought in hummus with snap peas and crackers. People were hooked, and everyone was shocked to hear that the muffins were vegan! I consider both of my bring-ins a win.

Day TWENTY-FIVE: Fearlessly Eating Out

I thought this would be one of the hardest things for me to learn how to do! This is actually not too difficult. Today’s assignment, straight from Sarah’s book Vegan in 30 Days, is to go out to eat somewhere and order a vegan meal. Don’t be shy, it’s actually pretty easy.

I have successfully eaten vegan at Applebee’s, Domino’s, McDonald’s, Panera Bread, Q’Doba, Subway, Fazoli’s, Taco Bell, and even Olympic Steakhouse and Lalo’s! Here’s what I do:

  • Get on Vegan Eating Out and see what options you have.
  • Scan the menu for vegetarian options that can be modified.
  • Scan the menu for salads that can modified.
  • Scan the menu for sides that are vegan (ex. Plain Baked Potato).
  • See if there is a salad bar.

I have yet to be stumped with this, and this includes family-owned restaurants in the middle of the Midwest. It is possible. Do a little preparation, and don’t be shy.

Day TWENTY-FOUR: Dairy-Free For Life

This is the last big, big step. Today is the day to axe milk and all remaining dairy products. The assignment comes in three parts:

  1. Remove all dairy products in your home or at least set them away from your food.
  2. Buy a dairy substitute. Be brave, you’ve probably already tried a milk replacement. Go for coffee creamer, margarine, or yogurt today.
  3. Make a vegan version of your favorite dairy-heavy meal. Try mac n’ cheese, a creamy soup, or vegan ice cream.

An optional fourth item for today can be to research the relationship between high diary consumption and osteoporosis. The American Dairy Council doesn’t care about your bones, your teeth, or your waistline. Their main objective is to sell milk.

To prepare for your defense against milk-pushers, here are some good facts to remember:

  • Humans are the only animal to consume milk past infancy.
  • Humans are the only animal to consume the milk of another species.
  • Vitamin D isn’t naturally found in milk. It’s an unnecessary additive. Your body can manufacture enough Vitamin D on its own by simply spending 15 minutes outside in the sunlight. Vitamin D can also be purchased as a vegan supplement.
  • The high amounts of protein found in milk more or less cancel out the calcium found in milk.
  • Plant-based protein can be found in almost everything vegans eat: Bananas, Rice, Corn, Potatoes, Pasta, Bread, Peas, Lentils, Tofu, Broccoli, Spinach, Beans, Nuts, etc.
  • Plant-based calcium can be found in many vegetables: Turnip Greens, Collard Greens, Kale, Romaine Lettuce, Broccoli, Cucumber, Cauliflower, Carrots, etc. as well as Soy Products, and Many Types of Nuts and Beans. Calcium can also be purchased as a vegan supplement.

Day TWENTY-THREE: B12

Vitamin B12 is essential for the normal function of our blood cells and nervous system. The primary source of vitamin B12 for humans is consumption animal products. A person might reasonably assume that this is a good reason to go back to eating the SAD and to forget this whole vegan thing altogether, but wait–Where do you suppose the herbivorous animals that we used to eat got their vitamin B12? It turns out that the true source of B12 is from bacteria that live in the soil and on the plants that herbivores eat. Because we tend to wash our produce and not eat dirt, vegans will have to take B12 supplements that can be bought at any grocery store or pharmacy. Just make sure that the source of the B12 in the pills is bacteria, not animals.

Vitamin B12 deficiency is very rare, even among vegans, because our bodies can store it for quite a long time. However, it is important to know and watch out for the symptoms of B12 deficiency:

  • Weakness
  • Light-Headedness
  • Fatigue
  • Rapid Heartbeat
  • Rapid Breathing
  • Pale Skin
  • Sore Tongue
  • Easy Bruising
  • Bleeding Gums
  • Nausea
  • Weight Loss
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea

If this topic makes you uncomfortable with continuing your vegan lifestyle, do a little more research before you give up. Veganism can be safe, and many vegan B12 supplements are available. Just use your head here.