Go Meatless One Meal Per Week

Last week I introduced you to a cool project I’m participating in called One Million Acts of Green (OMAOG). If you haven’t yet read my intro post, I invite you to check it out.

Today I want to talk briefly about one of the ways we’ve chosen to “Go Green” in my house and that is by rarely, if ever, eating beef. Here’s a weird but true fact from OMAOG about cows:

Cows are a major contributor to greenhouse gases. As the old adage says, what goes in must come out, and for cattle, a lot of what comes out is methane gas. And just like carbon, methane gas gets trapped in our atmosphere. Since the 1960s, the amount of methane in the air has increased by 1% per year—twice as fast as the build up of carbon dioxide. As worldwide demand for beef increases, so do the number of cows and the methane they produce. Also, in many countries around the world, forests are being clear cut to make room for growing beef. Cutting down trees reduces the planet’s ability to absorb carbon dioxide.

GO MEATLESS ONE MEAL PER WEEK

Also, if you haven’t yet heard of Meatless Monday, you might want to schedule your vegetarian meal of the week for Mondays to coincide with it (and maybe even plan on going meatless for the entire day). Meatless Monday is a non-profit initiative (totally unrelated to OMAOG) that provides recipes and info to start each week with healthy, environmentally friendly meat-free alternatives. The goal of Meatless Monday is “to help you reduce your meat consumption by 15% in order to improve your personal health and the health of the planet.”

At our house for dinner tonight we had eggs with spinach, salsa and cheese. We tend to eat about 50% of our meals without meat and although I don’t always schedule them to coincide with Meatless Monday, today it just worked out. (In other words, I was feeling lazy and eggs were a quick and easy dinner. *wink*)

If you eat meat, do you take a meal or day (Meatless Monday) off from it each week? If not, would you try it?

  • Register at One Million Acts of Green and log your first Act of Green: Eat a Vegetarian Meal This Week. Remember, you can see the impact of each of your Acts of Green. They all add up and will help the United States reach its goal of completing one million acts of green (and beyond!). :)
  • For more simple ways to go green, check out Green U: Simple Ways to Be Green (for beginners and experts).

Photo via CALM Action on Flickr.

Disclosure: Rockfish Interactive, in partnership with Cisco, is compensating me for my considerable time on this project. However, my ideas, words, and opinions are my own and are not influenced by this compensation.

Don’t miss a single CDG post, subscribe to my blog.

Guest post: The World You Want is at the End of Your Fork

While I’m on vacation until Aug. 9, I’m featuring several guest bloggers. Today’s guest post is from Tiffany who writes at the Natural Family Living Guide.

The World You Want is at the End of Your Fork

Most people spend a lot of time thinking about food. They think about meals they need to plan for their families, food they need to add to their grocery list, new restaurants they need to try, and the carb and calories counts of the foods they love. They have a lot of opinions about their food and what they like and dislike. But many are still not thinking about food in a meaningful way. They are not thinking about where their food comes from, how it gets to them, under what circumstances, and at what cost. There are social, environmental, and ethical considerations that often go unnoticed. The food you eat is important and it does have an impact on the world around you.

One particular quote that seems to sum it all up is taken from John Kinsman, a Wisconsin organic dairy farmer, who said “Every time you spend money on food you are voting for the world you want.”

So what can you do to make your dining experiences more ethical and sustainable? I have a few ideas about that.

Eat Organic – It is a sustainable method of food production and helps to ensure that our farmlands will be rich and productive for future generations. Most times when you hear any mention of organic food it is in relation to healthful eating and chemical exposure. It is usually a health related issue. This issue is actually much deeper than that. Organic agriculture is a strict form of sustainable agriculture; a way of producing food products without harming the land. Its main goal is to work the land without preventing future generations from being able to use it as well. Organic farmers try to conserve water and preserve the soil. They also sell locally many times helping to conserve energy and fossil fuels. Organics are a health issue AND an environmental one.

Eat Local – Eating local is better for air quality and pollution. Let’s face it…if your food has to travel thousands of miles to you then the planet is being needlessly polluted. Estimates on how long the average food travels from pasture to plate range from 1200 to 2500 miles. A lot of energy is expended freezing, refrigerating, and trucking that food around. Eating locally grown food means less fossil fuel burned in preparation and transport. Also, Supporting local farmers, especially organic farmers, means supporting sustainable agriculture.

Eat Less Meat – You don’t have to go vegetarian if you don’t want to, but it does help the environment to reduce meat consumption. We feed more than 70 percent of the grains and cereals we grow to farmed animals. Our taste for meat is also taking a toll on our supply of fuel and other nonrenewable resources: about one-third of the raw materials used in America each year is consumed by the farmed animal industry. In my opinion the problem is not that we eat meat or animal products but the volume to which we consume them and the way we go about producing those foods. A good book that discusses this is Full Moon Feast which talks about eating according to the phases of the moon and eating the way we did hundreds of years ago.

Eat Whole Foods – Eating foods that have not been processed and packaged helps the environment by reducing the amount of garbage going into landfills. Shop the outer section of the grocery store to avoid the processed foods.

Garden – Eliminate the middle man all together and grow your own food…organically of course. It is one of the most rewarding things you can do.

Try It Out! Tips for Sustainable Eating:

  • Try your hand at organic gardening. If you have no space for an actual in-ground garden then try to do container gardening. There is nothing like homegrown food!
  • When planning your weekly menus try to see if you can incorporate at least 2-3 meatless meals a week. Reducing your meat consumption is a great leap towards greener living.
  • Don’t just change what you eat: change how you package and store your food to. Reusablebags has a great selection of reusable food storage containers such as bento lunchboxes, wrap-n-mats, grocery totes and stainless steel water bottles.

So pick up your fork and join the revolution of people who want to change food and farming, creating better health and a better world.

You can read more from Tiffany at her blog, the Natural Family Living Guide, where she writes about green family living, parenting, natural health, safe children’s products, and homeschooling. Subscribe to her blog here.

Guest post: Veganism and AP – Peas in a Pod

While I’m on vacation until Aug. 9 (and quite possibly for the day or two after I get back), I’m featuring several guest bloggers. This guest post comes from To-Fu who blogs at Attachment Living.

Attachment parenting is really just permission to parent intuitively, as Dr. William Sears has noted: “When I first began using the term ‘attachment parenting’ nearly 20 years ago, I felt ridiculous giving a name to a style of baby care that parents would naturally practice if they followed their own intuition rather than listening to the advice of others.” If AP is about child-led living and intuitive parenting, then I think it’s easy to see how veg*nism fits right in (“veg*n” is shorthand for vegan/vegetarian).

If I look at the world from the eyes of a child as I often try to do now that I have a babe of my own, I can’t imagine a child saying “I want to eat dead animals,” or “I want baby cows to be taken away from their mamas so I can have their milk,” when given the choice. Children tend to feel a natural fascination and connection with other animals and, I would argue, they intuitively understand on a very basic level that the difference between the family dog and the veal calf in a factory farm is an arbitrary one. After all, anyone who lives with companion animals knows that they are sentient and have feelings, moods, desires.

I figure that’s why a lot of APers are veg*ns, too. Learning to see the world through our children’s eyes lays at our feet the great and terrible potential for a larger sense of compassion and empathy. As a friend on another forum said, “Without embracing compassion for my son, I would never have moved my sphere of compassion beyond our family and beyond the human family.” It’s a fantastic joy, and it comes with its share of responsibility.

I know several APers who came to question society’s ways of doing things vis-à-vis attachment parenting, and that act of questioning turned into other sorts of activism and advocating. For me, it was the other way around: veg*nism led me to AP. As a vegan, it was not difficult to understand the concept of seeing dignity and value in non-human animals, that a calf and mother would not want to be separated from one another, or that animals (like children) do not exist to be used as objects or accessories.

As a fellow vegan and APer says, “In every single interaction I have with [my son], I try to see where he is coming from and what he might be thinking and feeling before I decide what the best course of action is. And it’s the same with veganism. I think about the cows and how it would have felt to have my baby taken away from me at birth and then forced to pump milk for however many hours a day, have mastitis, live in cramped quarters, etc., etc.” To put it simply (quoting another vegan APing friend here): “It’s all overlapping expressions of the same idea.”

Through veg*nism and the AP lifestyle, I have cultivated a sense of awe for life and a connection to the world around me. A fellow vegan and APer puts it best: “The connection I see [between veg*nism and AP] is simply considering things from the side of the other. If my baby cries, she would prefer to be soothed than left alone. So I soothe her. If an animal doesn’t want to be eaten or commodified (which s/he doesn’t), I’m going to respect that, too.”

I recall understanding this sensation most acutely during pregnancy and labor when I felt a remarkable affinity with all pregnant and laboring females—non-human animals, especially. There was something primitive and feral about me in those days, and there was something about relating to all kinds of female animals that empowered me to carry on even in the face of blinding pain and the white terror of the unknown. I have since learned it is not an uncommon feeling.

Both the AP lifestyle and veg*nism require a person to strip away tradition and ignore well-meaning but faulty advice. Talking about veg*nism can be tough for the same reasons it’s hard to talk about extended breastfeeding, sleep sharing, gentle discipline, and all that is AP: People who aren’t into it (for whatever reason) tend to feel judged or indicted. My mother has had similar defensive responses to both my eating and parenting styles, and my guess is that she sees the choices I make for my family as criticisms on what she fed me and how she raised me. As such, AP and veg*nism have had other surprising lessons in store for me that went beyond how I fed my baby or what I put on the dinner table.

It’s hard sometimes, living as an attached veg*n parent. I want more than anything for my family to be united and buoyed by a sense of kindness, connection, and compassion for the world and all its inhabitants—human or otherwise—even though it sometimes causes problems in my interpersonal relationships, and even though it sometimes leads to feelings of isolation. I think most APers can understand these sentiments, veg*n or not. As John Robbins once said, “if you carry vision […] you’re a pioneer, and you can always tell the pioneers by the arrows in their back.

But you don’t need me to tell you that it’s all worth it.

Further Reading

Assuming that most of Amy’s readers are already familiar with the AP lifestyle, I offer here a few links relevant to veg*nism and parenting:


Veg*n since 1995 and APing Little-Fu since January 2008, To-Fu shares an AP/NFL blog with her Mothering Dot Commune due date club ladies: http://attachmentliving.blogspot.com/. Other things she feels strongly about that fit into the scope of attachment living (and therefore living compassionately) are: veganism, feminism, women’s sexual health, and social justice.

Raw broccoli salad with raw cashew dressing – recipe

When I tasted the raw broccoli salad my friend Melissa of Nature Deva brought to our attachment parenting picnic a week ago, I knew I had to get the recipe from her. I’m not usually a big fan of raw broccoli, but she shredded it in her salad, and that combined with the raw cashew dressing was a match made in taste bud heaven.

I made it for dinner on Sunday and the family gobbled it right up. I’m still enjoying the leftovers.

Here is the recipe, courtesy of Melissa (who recently wrote about her experiences eating a raw foods diet for the past six months).

Raw broccoli salad

Broccoli Salad

5 cups shredded broccoli
1/2 – 1 cup red onion
1 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/2 cup raisins

Add all to a bowl.

Dressing
1 cup raw cashews
3T raw agave nectar
2T raw apple cider vinegar
1/4t sea salt
1/4 cup water

Blend the dressing in a *blender (you may want to soak the cashews in water for an hour just to soften them up if your blender is not high speed to make it easier to blend or you can try first in the food processor then the blender). Pour over the broccoli mix and mix well with your hands to really coat it. Enjoy!

*My notes: I used my food processor to shred the broccoli, chop the cashews and mix up the dressing. My blender isn’t a super wowee one (though Jody and I were ogling a BlendTec at Costco this weekend – ooooh, ahhhh), but I heart my food processor (that Julie from Chez Artz sold me last year when she upgraded to a bigger one). Hope you like it!


Women, Children Resort to Eating Dirt Cookies in Haiti: The Global Food Crisis

This post is part of Bloggers Unite for Human Rights

If you live in the United States or North America and are reading this blog, chances are you’ve never known what real hunger feels like. Sure most of us have uttered things like, “I’m so hungry, I could eat a horse,” “I’m starving!,” or “There’s nothing to eat” while staring into a refrigerator or cabinet full of food (I know I’m guilty of all three), but the reality is that the majority of us always know where our next meal is coming from and we don’t truly want for much.

We may also complain about the rising food costs (again, I am guilty) and perhaps have had to scale back on the groceries we buy or forgo other luxuries, but we are still able to provide nutritious meals for ourselves and our families. We are very fortunate.

HaitiElsewhere in the world in developing nations, people are not so fortunate. The rising cost of food is taking it’s toll on the poorest of poor. In countries like Haiti, people are resorting to literally eating dirt in order to fill their bellies and stay alive. “Cookies” made from dirt, salt, and vegetable shortening have become regular meals for many Haitian men, women and children.

The price of food continues to rise and even the dirt to make the cookies, which comes from the country’s central plateau, has gone up in cost.

At the market in the La Saline slum, a two-cup portion of rice now sells for 60 cents, up 10 cents from December and 50 percent from a year ago. Beans, condensed milk, and fruit have gone up at a similar rate, and even the price of the edible clay has risen over the past year by almost $1.50. Dirt to make 100 cookies now costs $5, the cookie makers say.

Still, at about 5 cents apiece, the cookies are a bargain compared with food staples. About 80 percent of people in Haiti live on less than $2 a day.

I thought long and hard about what topic to cover for Bloggers Unite for Human Rights. Given that I’ve already written extensively in the past about maternal health both because of my personal interest and CE position with BlogHer, I wanted to step outside of my comfort zone and tackle something I didn’t have much knowledge about. While there are so many human rights crises going on in the world right now – the Myanmar cyclone and China earthquake just to name a couple of the most recent – I decided on something slightly less in the spotlight, though no less significant, in hopes of educating myself as well as others.

Emerson - age 1Clara (age 3)A friend of mine named Heather is personally invested in the situation in Haiti as she and her husband (along with their two biological children) have been trying to adopt two children – Clara (age 3) and Emerson (age 1) – from an orphanage there since March 2007. I took the opportunity today to ask Heather some questions about their adoption experience thus far and find out more about how the food crisis is affecting the lives of the children in the Haitian orphanage. She was kind enough to share personal information and provide me with some pictures of her children.

Amy: Have the living/food conditions changed between your first visit to the country (and/or orphanage) and your most recent visit? If so, how? And when, roughly, were those visits?

Heather: Our last visit was in January 2008. The visit planned for April 2008 was canceled due to the rioting in Port au Prince over the rising costs of food. We have also visited in July and October 2007 and plan to go again in July 2008.

We aren’t able to see much of the country during our visits as our orphanage only allows us to visit on escorted trips and we are not allowed to leave the hotel while in the country. From what we see driving from the airport to the hotel, Port au Prince seems cleaner and there are more functioning traffic lights. There are still canals filled with garbage and wild pigs eating that garbage. There is still the stench of burning garbage.

The conditions in the orphanage appear about the same since our first trip in April 2007 with the exception of there being 50-75 more children in the 3000 square foot house where they live. We believe there are now approximately 150 children living in what is a mansion by Haitian standards. There is no yard – the house is surrounded by concrete which extends about 10-20 feet from the walls of the house. The property is surrounded by a 15-20 foot tall cinder block wall topped with broken bottles. Laundry is done by hand and hung anywhere possible to dry.

The infants are all kept on the main floor of the house – probably in what used to be the living and dining rooms. Children who are walking up to about age five live upstairs. They sleep in double- or triple-decker cribs with at least two children in each. The orphanage’s directors and their children also live upstairs. There is one bathroom. Older children generally live in one of the other two buildings the orphanage leases in the suburbs of Port au Prince.

Amy: How is the current food crisis affecting the orphanage?

Heather: Parents are given very little information about the daily life of their children, however, we know that they usually eat two meals per day and one snack. This food is usually rice and beans – little to no protein, dairy, or fresh fruits and vegetables. Their water is rationed as they do not have a safe source of water other then bottled water which is expensive. Infants are weaned off formula well before they would be in the US as the costs of formula are astronomical compared to rice and beans.

Parents are attempting to collect 36,000 pounds of food to be sent by container ship to the orphanage in July.

Amy: Have your visits to Haiti changed the way you look at food and food waste in our country of plenty?

Heather: Every interaction I have with other people, every show I watch on TV, every news report I hear or read, every purchase I make reminds me of the overabundance we have in our country and how just a small fraction of what we have would provide Haitians with “luxuries” they’ve never experienced – daily protein, fresh fruit and vegetables, proper medical care, shoes, and so on. Listening to people complain about the hardships in the US makes it ever so clear that we have absolutely no idea what true need is.

Amy: Is there anything else you’d like to share about your children, the orphanage or your experiences visiting Haiti in general?

Heather: This is the most painful process I’ve even participated in – politics taking precedence over children’s lives, the different value placed on children in a country where it is common for children to die, the lack of urgency, difficult communications, arbitrary laws enforced (or not) at someone’s whim. Every day we live with the reality that our children might die before they come home. Clara, at age 39 months, weighs 18 pounds. She has not gained any weight in 15 months. She has TB. This is in the orphanage where her biological mother brought her to receive better care than she could provide at home. International adoption is not an undertaking for the faint of heart. I’m not sure I will survive it with my sanity intact.

Heather’s children are at Foyer de Sion orphanage. She doesn’t expect Clara and Emerson to get to come home to the United States until 2009. If you’d like to make a donation (PayPal accepted) to the orphanage, please visit Sion Fonds.

What can we do here at home to help with the food crisis?

Aside from making donations to charitable donations, there are other things we can do in our own part of the world that can have an impact on the global food crisis.

– I wrote a couple weeks ago about why growing even a little bit of our own food is so important. Even if you only start a container garden for some herbs and a tomato plant, every little bit makes a difference.

– We can also reduce our meat consumption. Meat is much more costly to produce than grains and energy is lost in the process of feeding grains to animals. “Though some 800 million people on the planet now suffer from hunger or malnutrition, the majority of corn and soy grown in the world feeds cattle, pigs and chickens. This despite the inherent inefficiencies: about two to five times more grain is required to produce the same amount of calories through livestock as through direct grain consumption, according to Rosamond Naylor, an associate professor of economics at Stanford University. It is as much as 10 times more in the case of grain-fed beef in the United States.” – Rethinking the Meat-Guzzler

– Become aware of your food waste and look for ways to reduce it. Take smaller portions and go back for seconds if needed. Buy only what you will consume so you aren’t throwing away produce once it goes bad. Teach your children about food waste and how to reduce it.

Compost your food waste.

I want to hear from you too. What do you think will help with the food crisis? What are you personally doing to make a difference?

Typical North American diet is deficient in omega-3 fatty acids – fish isn’t the only solution

Cross-posted at BlogHer

New research from the Child & Family Research Institute has shown that the typical North American diet (think meat and potatoes) is deficient in omega-3 fatty acids. This information is especially important to pregnant and nursing women since the deficiency may pose a risk to infant neurological development.

salmonOmega-3 fatty acids are unsaturated fats that are typically found in some types of fish like salmon as well as in eggs and chicken in lesser amounts, and in some seeds and plants which we’ll explore later. The fats are especially important for the baby’s developing eyes and brain.

The study revealed that babies of mothers who consumed a lot of meat and little fish and were deficient in omega-3 fatty acids didn’t score as well on eye tests as babies who’s mothers were not deficient.

Dr. Sheila Innis, the study’s principal investigator, head of the nutrition and metabolism program at the Child & Family Research Institute at BC Children’s Hospital, and professor, department of pediatrics, University of British Columbia, says “During pregnancy and breastfeeding, fat consumed by the mum is transferred to the developing baby and breastfed infant, and this fat is important for the baby’s developing organs. Our next task is to find out why the typical North American diet puts mothers at risk. Then we can develop dietary recommendations to help women consume a nutritious diet that promotes optimal health for mums and babies.”

This news follows studies that have showed that pregnant women and children need to limit their fish consumption due to high mercury levels. And then, as Katy Farber of Non-Toxic Kids points out in “Do You Eat Fish?” there’s the question of the safety of farmed salmon. So what’s a mama to do?

Dr. Innis believes the key to health for all of us may lie in the old adage – everything in moderation. “For better health, it’s important for pregnant and nursing mums — and all of us — to eat a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, eggs, and fish while minimizing consumption of processed and prepared foods,” says Dr. Innis.

To my knowledge, no vegetarian or vegan women were included in this study. However, vegan mothers also have ideas on how to stay healthy and get in their RDA of omega-3 fatty acids without looking to fish for the answer.

Debbie Took of Raw for Life points out that omega-3 fatty acids are found in many plants.

The good news for the raw vegan or vegetarian is that omega-3 is contained in many plant foods, such as dark green vegetables (like spinach and broccoli), walnuts, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds and wheat, but one of the very best sources is…flax seeds (also known as linseeds).

Flax seedDebbie includes two tasty recipes on her blog for a Rocket (Arugula) and Mango Salad and an Orange and Flax Energy Drink, both high in omega-3 fatty acids.

Vegan mother Half-Pint Pixie discusses the merits of hemp, wonderful hemp. She adds the seeds to her 1-year-old vegan daughter’s mashed bananas and her daughter happily eats them up.

Vegan mother, cook and best-selling author Dreena Burton is a big fan of hemp seeds and discusses some of her creations such as Hemp-anola!, Hemp Burgers, Chocolate Hemp Squares and Energy Cookies on her blog Eat Drink and Be Vegan.

I consider my kids and myself “flexitarians” in that we eat a lot less meat (and no beef) than the average American. While I already add ground flaxseed to our smoothies, I’ve yet to try hemp seeds. However, all of this talk about chocolate squares and cookies has motivated me to pick some up on my next trip to Vitamin Cottage. I’m highly in favor of any time I can justify eating chocolate and cookies in the name of good health!

Related links:

Safe Fish CHEC List For Children, Teens and All Women of Child-bearing Age
Yorkshire Hemp Limited: Hemp Food Nutrition
Women’s Health: Omega-3 Fish Oil