Archive for April, 2009

FYI

I’m riding the bus anyway. I’m pretty sure I won’t get swine flu.

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Monday Link Roundup

Here are my favorite Minneapolis/St. Paul green headlines from the last week:

  • Minnesota ranks 5th in the nation in terms of number of organic acres harvested in 2007, according to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service. Read more from MPR.
  • Robbinsdale, Minn.-based Backyard Harvest turns your backyard into a produce-producing haven for a little over a thousand dollars. Read more from James Norton at The Heavy Table.
  • Minnesota paper mills will benefit from an alternative energy tax credit. But is this credit of hundreds of millions of dollars encouraging good or bad environmental practices? Read more from Cynthia Dizikes at MinnPost.
  • The vegan restaurant Greenway Cafe made a brief appearance in the Twin Cities from April 15 to 18. Read more from CityPages.

And worldwide….

  • Somniloquy lets your computer stay connected to the network while saving energy in sleep mode. Read more from Dan Nosowitz at Gizmodo. And while we’re talking inventions.. how about this inflatable shower curtain that, ah… encourages you to conserve water? Read about it from Sean Fallon, also of Gizmodo.
  • Heather at The Greenest Dollar breaks down the drinking water treatment and delivery process. We Americans are so lucky that we can afford to be so distant from this process in our everyday lives, and knowing more about it is a good thing. Find her post here.
  • Peer pressure helps people make green choices. Read more from The Green Workplace.
  • Bon Appetit posted a list of 50 Ways to Eat Green (via CityPages).
  • daily dose of imagery posted this snapshot of a chandelier decked out with thousands of upcycled plastic containers at Brookfield Place in Toronto.
  • The publisher of Utne Reader has launched Great Green Careers, a green jobs search engine nationwide.

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Vegan Week Wraps Up

Top Ten Things I Learned by Being Vegan for a Week

vegan pizzaAll vegan!

(You can read Regi’s list here!)

1. Being vegan, even temporarily, is a good way to force yourself to eat more fruits and vegetables. When I’m hungry, I tend to reach straight for the cheese. The ratio of effort to chew to calories in stomach = very low. I tend to forget the slightly more effortful carrots, kiwi fruits, and apples. This week re-set my brain a little bit. It’s like Michael Pollan’s dogma from In Defense of Food: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

2. Non-animal foods can be surprisingly filling and delicious. Walnut-based cookies? Soy milk? Potatoes roasted in olive oil? Home made whole wheat pizza crust? Yes, please!

3. Vegan does not necessarily mean healthy. For instance, vegetable shortening? Soy White Russians? Yeahhhhh….

4. Little bits of animal products are in everything. Processed food and restaurant food are rarely as simple as they could be.

5. It’s fun to swap food, especially if your friends are good cooks.

6. Being vegan takes time, and it takes thinking ahead. Shopping for groceries, spending time at home, bringing lunch from home, throwing away less, and planning more – all these things go together.

7. If you are vegan, you can compost lots of your food waste. Composting worms eat a vegan diet.

8. Being vegan isn’t impossible. It is hard if you don’t have a strong belief that you shouldn’t ingest animal products.

I feel a little bit like a traitor here – as a pragmatic vegetarian, I know that the system of meat production in the country isn’t good for the environment in terms of greenhouse gasses (shipping and, well, methane), crop and water use (a pound of beef equals 20 pounds of corn equals 1000 gallons of water), health (antibiotics required to fight off illness for crowded herds), animal rights….

Milk and eggs don’t bother me. I know dairy farms and egg farms aren’t where I’d choose to spend my life as a cow or a chicken, but it doesn’t sicken me to think of cows and eggs loaning us their reproductive products. It’s a compromise I’ve decided to make. I should probably schedule visits for myself to see where my milk and eggs are coming from, and I know I’m probably opening myself up to angry tirades about constantly impregnated cattle. Maybe I’m not educated enough, and maybe that would change my mind.

Being vegan reminded me of trying to fast for Ramadan in Morocco. I think it’s really difficult to deprive yourself of food without a strong belief system. My whole Arabic class started Ramadan 2006 fasting earnestly – we each other, we had host families, and heck, we had a whole country to fast with – but none of us in that class was Muslim. We all lasted about a week before we crumbled. It was so frustrating to feel foggy during class, to feel hungry before sundown, and to forgo coffee breaks with the other Arabic students without a religious framework.

9. Even progressive people aren’t necessarily sympathetic to veganism. Vegetarianness has pretty much made it in mainstream culture, at least in cities. In some circles, veganness is still treated as an affront to human eating. For example, WordPress thinks “vegan” is not a word. To be fair, WordPress also thinks “WordPress” is not a word.

10. You can’t necessarily trust the USDA food pyramid. You can be happy and healthy by eating any number of ways, and the USDA isn’t immune to political forces. I am sure the grain lobbies had nothing to do with people “needing” 6-11 servings of carbohydrates per day. 11 servings of pasta?! Are you kidding me?

 

My next adventure: spending every dollar in May at a local business! Target and Best Buy don’t count.

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Green Job Roundup, 4/20 to 4/26

Green Jobs (image from http://www.dailyecotips.com)

Green Jobs (image from http://www.dailyecotips.com)

Looking for a green career? Here is a selection of green jobs posted in the last week for Saint Paul and Minneapolis.

NOW HIRING

Eureka Recycling
– Composting Outreach Intern (unpaid, Minneapolis) (posting)

– Research Intern (unpaid, Minneapolis) (posting)

– Health and Safety Intern (unpaid, Minneapolis) (posting)

– Customer Relations Intern (unpaid, Minneapolis) (posting)

– Communications Intern (unpaid, Minneapolis) (posting)

Community Action Minnesota
– Home Energy Conservation Tech (paid, Minneapolis) (posting)

Blue Green Alliance
– Development Associate (paid, Minneapolis) (posting)

D&R International
– Project Manager, Utilities and Energy Efficiency Partners (paid, Minneapolis) (posting)

Emmons and Olivier Resources Inc.
– Senior Water Quality Specialist (paid, Oakdale) (posting)

Looking for more jobs? Search last week’s post.

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Is it already Vegan Day 5?

Another day – a work event – when eating vegan is tough. I’ve started to get a taste of what food allergies must be like. I’ve gotten a little snippier with servers who don’t care. (“Would you care for some vegetarian bean soup?” she asks. “Do you know if it’s cream based or veggie stock based?” I query in return. “It’s vegetarian,” is my only answer. ARGH!) I’ve gotten a lot pickier with things I’ll eat, and often end up deciding I’ll just eat at home. This works well, except when I’m stuck somewhere from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Luckily, Regi and I swapped food, which means she brought over delicious sweet potato and mushroom lasagna (and I forgot to give her her soup). I ate, like, half of it last night. I made homemade vegan Reese’s again – a spoonful of peanut butter covered in melted vegan chocolate on a tinfoil covered plate in the freezer for 15 minutes. I love them. They are so easy, and yet so convincing.

I have also put my camera down somewhere mysterious! I promise more pictures from vegan pizza night when I find it.

Have I really survived 5 full days as a vegan?  I think I have…!

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Easier Being Green

So today, I heard Joel Makower of GreenBiz.com forecast the future of green business. I heard about the importance of communicating green efforts, and the ways in which businesses are good – or not so good – at broadcasting their “random acts of greenness.” 

But that’s not what I want to talk about! Makower displayed a slide of Kermit the Frog, then explained that the search phrase, “Easy being green,” results in millions of results on Google. And yet, if it’s so easy to be green, asks Makower, why are businesses having such a hard time strategically greening their operations and marketing themselves as eco-friendly companies?

Then a scary thing happened. Makower started showing slides of articles and BLOGS called “easy being green.” Thankfully, my “easier” saved me, and my blog did not make it on to the hot seat. I do think, however, the ball is in my court to explain what exactly I think I mean by calling this blog “easier being green.”

When I started writing in the fall of 2007, I was, shall we say, pretty green about the whole “green” thing – as in, I was not an environmental studies major, and I certainly had never protested the building of anything on wetlands. I’d been a vegetarian for years, mostly because I didn’t like the taste of meat, but I left all my cell phone and computer chargers plugged in overnight. As I started reading about “green” for my job, I learned that “green” is a lot of common sense – a different kind of common sense than traditional capitalism, but not much different – just smarter.

My goal is not to gloss over the difficulty in being “green,” or in figuring out exactly what “green” is. Quantifying your electricity, water, waste and carbon savings is tough enough, but that’s not even the whole picture. How sustainable is your product? How toxic are the materials used? What does the supply chain look like? Being “green” is not easy. I know this. In my day job, I call Minnesotan men in greater Minnesota to try to help them green their businesses (I say men because 90% of the women I talk to are secretaries). The ratio of positive responses to angry ones is pretty bad.

I think what I mean by “easier being green” is “I think it’s easier being a little bit more green than you are right now,” and “It’s easier to become a little bit more green than you think.” Green is tainted by finger pointing and claimed by the elite. Green in the past has meant wealthy – activist – Marin. But the tides are turning. A green mindset is easy. Achieving green perfection is less easy. But we human beings are smart. We’ll get there.

In de-mystifying “green” by making it easier, I hope to democratize it. That’s all.

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Vegan Day 4: Compromise

Today’s savior: Chipotle vegetarian bowl with black beans. Hopefully vegan. No cheese or sour cream! If not, well, it’s better than not eating.

homemade vegan pizza

Today’s discovery: home made whole wheat pizza crust. Surprisingly easy. Mix 2 cups wheat flour, 2.5 cups white flour, 3 tbsp. yeast, and 3 tsp. salt in a bowl. Add 2 tbsp. olive oil and mix while adding warm water. Knead, cover, and let rise for an hour. Then pull it out, cut it into the number of pizzas you want to have, and flatten/toss.

 

Also, home made Reese’s (spoonfuls of peanut butter topped with melted vegan Boom Choco Boom chocolate) – surprisingly delicious!

There is lots to talk about that isn’t related to what I ate today. And it is a MetroTransit Wednesday! I legitimately have nothing interesting to say about the 21 this week. There is road construction which has resulted in much confusion along the route. My bus nearly got into a scuffle with a bulldozer this afternoon. 

Until tomorrow – Happy Earth Day!

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