Is My Veganism Sustainable?

Back in October I wrote that I had recently enrolled in a new degree program, and right now I’m deep into my second full semester. One of my courses is Issues in Biodiversity. In addition to doing a lot of reading and writing, we have all been tasked with designing a personal Biodiversity or Sustainability Action Plan for the semester. Some of my cohorts are elementary school teachers, and they’re devising wonderful projects that involve their students, such as planting a pollinator garden or creating compost for a community garden.

The assignment directions note, “Making a behavior change that positively impacts sustainability can be done simply through your choice in which products you buy, or how much you use your car.” As someone who doesn’t own a car, is an all-weather bicycle commuter, shops at farmers markets for a lot of my produce, carries all my groceries in my backpack, keeps my thermostat set at 65-67 degrees in the winter, and refuses to install central air conditioning, I jokingly said to some classmates, “What? I have to give up more?” But the idea of making a personal change struck me as a terrific challenge.

Some of My Vegan Cooking

Lately I’ve been coming across articles claiming that veganism was less sustainable—less eco-friendly—than several omnivore diets. In some cases, the conclusions were based on false comparisons, like imagining that vegans lived solely on exotic foodstuffs with high carbon footprints (avocados, for example) and pitting them against omnis subsisting on locally grown organic meats and vegetables. Still, I found these articles to be somewhat troubling. Cowspiracy (2014) contributed to my decision to go vegan. Since its release, critics have debunked several facts presented in the documentary, especially the percentage of global greenhouse gas emissions produced by industrial farming. Nevertheless, it still seemed—at least to me—to make implicit sense that eating a plant based diet was more environmentally sustainable than one including animal products.

For my Action Plan, I’ve decided to investigate the sustainability and carbon footprint of my diet and see how many positive changes I can make. I’ll be blogging about my discoveries, the changes I make, and posting recipes here. This blog will also be linked to my Instagram account, so that people who like my food photos will have the opportunity to learn more about the ecology of their diet. Wish me luck!

Birthday Campaign Goes Live

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Mosha, the inspiration for the Elephant Parade — Click for a short video

I am so excited – my Birthday for Giving campaign for The Asian Elephant Foundation just went live! You can read more about it in the previous post. While the campaign won’t dominate my blog, I will give periodic updates as it continues.

If you love animals or have enjoyed any of my previous posts, please consider donating $5 (roughly the price of a peppermint mocha) to a wonderful cause. What’s more, donations pledged on Tuesday December 3 will be matched at 5% by Indiegogo as part of #GivingTuesday. Thank you for reading this, and please pass it along!

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Click to be taken to the campaign

Birthday for Giving


People always ask, “What do you want for your birthday?” or “How are you going to celebrate?” Since my birthday is November 30, I have been thinking about this quite a lot. I knew there wasn’t really anything I wanted, and after years of bar crawling and all-night dancing (on occasions not limited to my or anyone else’s birthday) I really wasn’t interested in painting the town. What I do want is something that makes a genuine contribution. I’m not a billionaire, so I won’t be able to build a hospital or arts center, but we can all do something to help leave the world in better, fairer, and more beautiful condition than when we first arrived. Right?

It turns out that Tuesday December 3–the Tuesday following my birthday–is #GivingTuesday! What is Giving Tuesday? From their website: “#GivingTuesday is a movement to create a national day of giving to kick off the giving season added to the calendar on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday.” Learning about #GivingTuesday and their partnership opportunities with Indiegogo inspired me to turn my birthday into an occasion to do something positive. I figured if all my friends, family, and fitness participants contributed $5 to a cause instead of buying me a cappuccino, a fancy cocktail (which would be more like $10 anyway), or even a card, I could collect around $500!

photo of baby elephant

Choosing the cause was easy. I love elephants, and because of the recent surge in poaching, their plight had been all over the news. Choosing the organization, however, proved rather difficult. There are countless, wonderful foundations dedicated to elephants–everything from the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, which houses retired zoo and circus elephants to Soraida Sawala’s amazing Elephant Hospital in Thailand, which adopts orphaned baby elephants and has provided prosthetic limbs to animals injured by landmines.

One of my key considerations was convenience. I couldn’t choose a charity that didn’t accept U.S. dollars or required a complicated bank transfer to a foreign bank. I’ve done that myself once before to pay for a yoga retreat in Veracruz–and while the process made me feel like James Bond, it’s a bit complicated, complicated enough to deter potential donors. I ultimately decided on The Asian Elephant Foundation. TAEF not only supports Soraida’s work, they also work in tandem with the Elephant Parade, which is an international open-air art exhibit that brings awareness to the Asian elephant and raises funds for all of TAEF’s projects. I was lucky enough to visit the first U.S. Elephant Parade in Dana Point, CA this past October.

photo of me at the U.S. Elephant Parade
Floppy and me at the Elephant Parade!

Since we had visited the Elephant Parade as a sort of early birthday celebration for me, it seemed only right to use my real birthday to give back to the organization that made the parade possible. I am so excited to share with you my first (and hopefully annual) Birthday for Giving. The Birthday for Giving campaign is live and will last for approximately 30 days. Click on the image to see it.

photo of cupcake
Click on the image, please!

More information, more yoga, and more recipes forthcoming!

Where have I been?

Funny how I can jet off to Chicago for a weekend and still have time to write 3 posts, but give me a week to spend at home, and all you get is internet silence. What have I been doing with my time? I’ve actually been working on a longer post about my recent pixel laser treatment.

The short version: I got a pixel laser done on my face on Thursday June 13. The pixel laser is far more aggressive than glycolic peels and microdermabrasion. It basically “nukes” your skin cells in a pinpoint pattern, forcing them to regenerate. Even though the pixel laser only blasts 20-25% of the skin’s surface, you probably would not want to be out and about for 3-5 days post-pixel (unless you happen to be the kind of person who doesn’t mind stares). Honestly, it looked as though I had run face-first into a burning screen door. Since I can be shameless when I believe I am helping people, I taught all my regular fitness classes – first with a red face (like nightmare sunburn) then, as it started to heal, with flakey patches of brownish and burlap-textured, dead (fried!) skin. Not surprisingly, a few participants told me that they might want more information, but only after they could assess the final results.

Before going “under the laser,” I managed to squeeze in a night out with my boyfriend to celebrate our 31 month and one day anniversary (and people call me “un-romantic!”). If you look at a photo he shot, you will notice that my face changes color to the left of and below my cheek. Behold the ravages of time, genetics, and tropical excursions!

NOTE: suspecting he would shoot a few photos, I slathered on the BB cream. What you see here is an un-retouched photo with makeup.

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You can expect a longer and more detailed post (with gruesome photos!) about my pixel at a later date. In fact, I’m making a whole separate category called TMI for posts like that.

Also in the works are posts (with recipes) about our weekly CSA. What is a CSA? Enrolling in a CSA (community supported agriculture) basically amounts to investing in a “farm share.” You pay up front for a regular “share” of the harvest, guaranteeing a market for the farm and a regular supply of fresh produce for yourself. CSAs are also a sly way to rack up some karma points since you will: 1. support local farms, 2. eat cleaner and greener. So what if you don’t believe in karma? Joining a CSA will probably force more nutrition and variety into your diet. Here’s how ours works. Every week we pick up a bunch of locally grown, organic produce at our farmers market. But there’s a catch – although we know the produce will be seasonal, we never quite know what we will be getting until we pick it up. In that way, a CSA can be a little like a weekly Iron Chef challenge. And who doesn’t enjoy a fun challenge when the prize is a healthy and delicious meal? This week we received broccoli, green beans, tomatoes, garlic scapes, blueberries (our share always includes one fruit item), a huge cucumber, a little bag of spring mix, and fresh sage. Since we have some potatoes leftover from a previous share I’m looking forward to Salad Niçoise … and then maybe pasta with broccoli and garlic-scape pesto for a quick mid-week dinner. Once in a while you might find something mysterious (like garlic scapes) included in the share.  Luckily, the man who hands over the produce will identify unusual items such as sorrel or mizuna and even offer cooking ideas.

Anyway, I’m quite green at this blogging business, so my writing and posting probably seems a bit irregular. But in the immortal words of Shri Patthabhi Jois, “Practice and all is coming,” which is my way of saying,  “Thanks for your patience – more posts soon.”