Posts Tagged ‘environment’

Up Shit Creek

March 11, 2010 Leave a comment

In 1995, Smithfield spilled more than twenty million gallons of lagoon waste into the New River in North Carolina.

In 1997, Smithfield was penalized for a mind-blowing seven thousand violations of the Clean Water Act… One violation might be an accident. Even ten violations might. Seven thousand violations is a plan. Smithfield was fined $12.6 million… but this is a pathetically small amount to a company that now grosses $12.6 million every ten hours.

– Jonathan Safran Foer, from page 178-179 of Eating Animals

Smithfield is the biggest pork producer in the United States. It annually produces at least as much fecal waste as the entire human population of the states of California and Texas combined (p. 175). This pig shit is pooled into football-field sized open-air lagoons. The lagoons can be overwhelmed. The shit then goes into local waterways. Bacon tastes good.


Vegan Food Bars

February 11, 2010 1 comment

I’m a big fan of energy bars. They are a compact way to get some solid food in your stomach. From the vegan perspective, eating a Clif Bar, Odwalla Bar, Lara Bar, or whatever, is a good way to get some protein and nutrition. Of course there tend to be drawbacks to such convenience. The biggest for me: wrappers. Every bar comes in it’s own super-sealed foil/plastic landfill fodder. If you eat one a day, you can just imagine how much indestructible non-biodegradable trash you send to landfills and maybe the oceans. Hence, my new project: DIY energy bars.

My goals for making my own vegan food barzz:

  • Filling snack for work
  • Nutrition packed
  • All organic
  • No wrapper
  • Protein the way I want it (soy-free)

It turns out this is pretty easy. If I can do it successfully, you can too. The beauty is that you can modify your recipe every time to try different flavors and ingredients. I have done a sweet cranberry bar, a simple banana-nut bar, and I’m excited to try more variations. Here’s a basic recipe:

Vegan Food Barzz:

Ingredients (all organic for me, and almost all from the bulk bins at Whole Foods):

  • Dry:
    • Rolled oats (I like quick oats)
    • Walnuts
    • Almonds
    • Ground Flaxseed
    • Dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, apricots, etc.)
    • Sunflower seeds (or others if you want, optional)
  • Wet:
    • Medjool Dates
    • Apple Sauce
    • Agave Nectar
    • Peanut Butter
    • Bananas
    • Fruit Juice (optional)


Pick whatever ingredients you want from these lists, and in whatever amount seems good to you. I would say the key ingredients are rolled oats, dates, and nuts.

1. Chop nuts. I just use a knife, but a food processor might speed things up.  2. Preheat oven to 325-350ish (I just do whatever seems to work).  3. Mix dry ingredients in a bowl. Set aside.  4. Chop dates. I like to slice them lengthwise, then into smaller bits.  5. Mix wet ingredients in a small pot over low heat on the stovetop. Apple sauce, dates, peanut butter, etc. This makes the dates easier to work with, and gives you a consistent thick liquid.  6. Add wet mixture to dry ingredients. You want just enough wet stuff to make a thick dense batter.  7. Press batter into a small baking pan after greasing it with Earth Balance or coconut oil. It should be about a 1/2-inch thick. Think Clif Bars.  8.  Bake for 25-40 minutes, until it looks good.  9. Allow to cool, cut ’em up, throw ’em in the fridge.

I know, this is a weak excuse for a recipe. But this is basically how I do it. I know what I want in the end and try to keep that in mind while I chop, mix, and bake. This may mean taking the pan out of the oven a few times to touch-test, experimenting with covering the pan or leaving uncovered. The point for me is to experiment, and have a nice little food brick to nourish me on those short work breaks. They are tasty, healthy, and come with a little pride every time you avoid throwing out a wrapper. My bars have tons of vegan Omega-3’s, protein, whole grains, and fruit. You can’t argue with that.

Cows and Methane. Heating up.

January 27, 2010 Leave a comment


Today’s Morning Edition on NPR had a great story on one of the most overlooked causes of global warming: methane. They even mentioned (although it was almost completely glossed over) how about half of all methane released is from human-related causes including belching cows.

Molecule for molecule, methane is much more effective than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere. And that’s just part of the trouble.

Methane-releasing wetlands are largely to blame for the 150% (since pre-industrial times) increase in methane floating up to the atmosphere, and they are showing the first signs of the vicious cycle of the greenhouse effect:

“The higher the temperature, the more efficient they are at producing methane,” he says. So global warming is causing these wetlands to produce more methane. And the methane is causing more global warming.

Little has been done to control methane because, apparently, governments and climate-change policy makers have been afraid of diverting attention away from the threats of carbon dioxide. But NPR’s story mentions how methane-reducing initiatives would pay for themselves because of the myriad other benefits to public health and the energy sector.

So here’s what I think: isn’t it obvious why governments are afraid to demonize methane? If you read last month’s Mother Jones article on the most powerful lobby in Washington, the reasons are clear. The industry with the most clout? BIG AG. The agriculture lobby. Any legislation fighting global warming would certainly threaten the meat and dairy industries because of how much they rely on oil, and the amount of methane they release through their milk-machines (aka COWS). So this may never happen, but it would make sense to me for many reasons if:

  • COW TAX: put a tax on every gallon of milk. Milk is already at unsustainably low prices, so this wouldn’t even hurt milk-drinkers. I would advocate for a big increase in the price of milk to reflect the damage it causes the environment and public health. It would lower demand and make people think twice about that white liquid, which they have grown up hearing is as pure and harmless as fluffy snow. I’m no economist, but it just makes sense to me. Revenue from these taxes should go to further climate change initatives.

Given the power of big Ag money in Washington, the political suicide it would take for any Rep or Congressperson to take a shot at Big Food, and the fact that almost all Americans have been brainwashed into believing that we actually need milk to be healthy, I do not have high hopes for this grand scheme of mine. But I do hope that more and more people start seeing through the clouds of BS we have been fed in milk-industry ads, and school-lunch-program pints of chocolate milk, and realize there are other options. The 8 ounces of Pacific Foods Organic Oat Milk I had with my cereal this morning had 35% of my daily calcium, as well as good amounts of Vitamins A and D. Soy milk, rice milk, hemp milk, and others boast similar nutrition stats, or better! There are many other reasons (taste among them) that I think cow milk is an obsolete foodstuff, but I’ll leave the nasty bits up to PETA and the shock-value vegans. To me, this is about common sense, and not being lied to. Encourage your friends to educate themselves and opt out of the dairy addiction.

Ingrid Sums It Up

December 30, 2009 Leave a comment

Ingrid Newkirk, president and founder of PETA, is often characterized as radical and maybe even irrational. I tend to avoid using PETA rants and tactics when I talk about being vegan, but this American Chronicle op-ed from Newkirk struck me as a great roundup of all the ways going vegan benefits not only animals, but ourselves and our planet as well. She quickly covers all the things most critics of vegetarianism don’t even consider at first: all the environmental impacts of an industrial meat-eating diet. From water pollution to climate change to ocean disruption, she hits all the key issues in this little article. It is not angry or exaggerated. To me, this seems to be an accurate summation of all the issues I have learned about in my vegan education, which I try to get from non-PETA sources for authenticity. The issues she speaks of are being covered more and more in the NY Times, CNN, Time, and even Oprah. I see this article as a great thing to bookmark of you want to have a quick guide to the environmental benefits of gong vegan.

It shouldn’t be news anymore that the most important thing that we can do for the planet is not to use less holiday gift wrap — it is to go vegan. That’s because it is impossible to be a meat-eating, milk-drinking environmentalist.

– Ingrid Newkirk

Manure Management: New Mexico’s Dairy Row

December 9, 2009 Leave a comment

From today’s Morning Edition on NPR:

Farms dispose of waste in two ways.

First, workers hose the muck off the concrete floor of a milking barn, and it flows into a plastic- or clay-lined lagoon where the liquid evaporates.

Second, waste from the feedlot where the cows live is collected and used as fertilizer for grain crops.

But the New Mexico Environment Department reports that two-thirds of the state’s 150 dairies are contaminating groundwater with excess nitrogen from cattle excrement. Either the lagoons are leaking, or manure is being applied too heavily on farmland.

On Dairy Row along Interstate 10 between Las Cruces, N.M., and El Paso, Texas, more than 30,000 cows live in 11 farms located one after the other.

In the past four years, the EPA has repeatedly cited these dairies for violating the Clean Water Act because manure-laced stormwater was washing into tributaries of the Rio Grande.


Everyday, an average cow produces six to seven gallons of milk and 18 gallons of manure. New Mexico has 300,000 milk cows. That totals 5.4 million gallons of manure in the state every day. It’s enough to fill up nine Olympic-size pools. Every single day.

That’s a lot of poo, eh?

Homemade Bike Fender

November 17, 2009 Leave a comment

It took a while, but I finally finished my DIY bicycle fender made out of shampoo bottles. At first I thought one bottle cut in half and bolted together would do the trick, but it wasn’t long enough. I put it off a while, and then I had to add on that last segement a little haphazardly, due to a coming snow storm. I am pleased with the results, though. It’s nice to have a place to slap on all those stickers I have been saving, and so far it seems to be working!

It attaches to my seat post and frame with a bike pump attachment that just happens to snap perfectly in that spot. I had to secure it to the shampoo bottle base at 4 different spots to make sure it was straight and didn’t wobble.

I realize I could have bought a real fender for around ten bucks. But when I saw them on other bikes, I had one of those “I could make that” moments. It is just a piece of plastic, after all.  It took some tinkering, but shampoo bottles were the perfect solution, I think. Voila: upcycled bike fender. Not the prettiest, but I’m proud to have turned potential garbage into something useful. Now I can get to work and back when the road is wet without having my whole backside soaked. And I can still recycle the fender whenever I am done with it.


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How To Buy in Bulk

November 11, 2009 Leave a comment


I promise, I am not talking down to you. I do not think you are stupid, but if you are like most customers I see every day at my job as a Whole Foods cashier, you do not know how to properly buy food in bulk.

In this case, I am using the word proper ro refer to the ideal methods which will save you money, lower your carbon footprint, and reduce your landfill waste. The bulk section at your local natural foods store gives you an opportunity to vastly cut down on the amount of packaging you use (and quickly discard) when buying food. If used improperly, it gives you a way to acquire more evil plastic bags than you could ever atone for by bringing a reusable shopping bag. Maybe I shouldn’t sound so discouraging; deciding to buy bulk rice, grains, cereals, nuts, or whatever is automatically a big step forward in reducing your environmental impact, so you should feel good about any product you enjoy purchasing in bulk as opposed to conventially-packaged. I just want to offer some of my own tips that might help you take the amount of packaging waste you create down closer to zero; I want you to know that it is OK to make more eco-friendly decisions than the grocery store seems to want you to. It all ties into the three Rs we know so well: reduce, reuse, recycle.

Click here to read my tips after the jump.