eric

The Meat Powered Bicycle

a guy drinking gasThe bicycle is a fantastic piece of human invention. It represents simplicity, freedom, reliability and an economical way to get from point A to point B. Worldwide it reigns supreme as the most common form of personal transportation and estimates show there to be almost 1 billion of them around. Besides walking, bicycles are the most environmentally friendly way to get around. They produce no emissions (maybe a little more CO2 from heavy breathing while going up hills), and the fuel needed to power them comes from the people riding them.

You may see where this is going….If the “fuel” powering the person riding the bike consists mostly of meat, the environmentally friendliness factor goes down quite a bit depending on how much meat the rider eats and where the meat comes from (local vs. distance).

It is actually quite astounding how much energy is wasted by the standard American diet-style. Even driving many gas-guzzling luxury cars can conserve energy over walking — that is, when the calories you burn walking come from the standard American diet! This is because the energy needed to produce the food you would burn in walking a given distance is greater than the energy needed to fuel your car to travel the same distance, assuming that the car gets 24 miles per gallon or better. (1)

So what does all this mean?

It means that the amount of gas you use isn’t just related to how you get from place to place, it’s also related to what you eat. Meatless diets require half as much fuel to produce than the standard American diet. Pimentel calculated that if the entire world ate the way the U.S. does, the planet’s entire petroleum reserves would be exhausted in 13 years. The typical American could save almost as much gas by going vegetarian as by not driving. (2)

So, fine….I’m not going to walk, what about the bike?

The same is not true of bicycling vs. driving, because bicycling is more than twice as efficient as walking (calories consumed per distance traveled) — bicycling uses less fossil energy than driving even if the cyclist were eating nothing but beef. But to focus on this misses the point. It’s no bombshell that cycling uses less fossil energy than driving. What’s important is that meat-eaters use twice as much fossil energy as pure vegetarians — whether they’re bicycling or not. (3)

While bicycling and walking may reduce tailpipe emissions, overall if your diet is “meat heavy” you are using twice as much energy just reading this post. On the most basic level, it’s actually better to be a vegetarian that drives a Chevy Tahoe, than to be a meat eater that bikes or walks everywhere. Even going vegetarian one day a week has a pretty good impact to reducing fossil fuel consumption. And while I’m not advocating that vegetarians run out and buy Hummers and meat eaters throw their bikes away, I am trying to demonstrate in real terms the impact of what a meat centered diet has on our environment.

(1,2,3) These quotes are excerpted from “Bicycling Wastes Gas?” by Michael Bluejay for more detailed information, including the research on how this was calculated, please visit his website above.

eric

Charlie Is One Sad Tuna

The next time you visit Japan you could be surprised at what’s in your sushi. You may ask, is that octopus or crab, no wait it’s catfish!? Actually, it’s horse meat…but don’t worry, it’s still raw (in the words of Homer Simpson….mmmm horse meat). That’s right, the Japanese are starting to feel the effects of over-fishing and now they’re trying to find a suitable substitute for sushi. Tuna is becoming rare and expensive, and other markets like the US and Europe are demanding more of the fish. Currently, the Japanese fishing fleet is having to compete more than ever to fill Sashimi rolls.

Make no mistake about it, Japan is not the only country responsible for the over-fishing of tuna. The two other big consumers, the US and the EU are pointing fingers, accusing each other of abuse the fish stocks…and both are correct.

“The Bluefin tuna quota shared between Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal and Spain was set at about 17,000 tons. That is the maximum amount recommended by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, an international organization with more than 40 member countries. But it is roughly twice the limit stipulated by the commission’s own scientific advisers.”

…and

“Tuna experts like Carl Safina, the president of the Blue Ocean Institute, a nonprofit conservation group based in New York, places much of the blame for the collapse in west Atlantic Bluefin tuna stocks on the United States, which, he said, continues to allow fishing in spawning areas in the Gulf of Mexico.”

It’s plain to see that as this trend continues, tuna (and most marine life) are in trouble and as supply drops further down, prices and illegal poaching will increase. Last November, the NY Times published a report predicting a global collapse of fish species by 2048…given the recent news on the declining tuna population, this prediction may be well on its way to being realized.

eric

Farmer’s Market Shopping Tips

What better way to spend part of your Saturday or Sunday (or Mon-Fri) than paying a visit to your local farmer’s market? Going to the market is a mix of culture, community and of course, free tastings. One of the huge advantages to shopping at the farmer’s market is being able to ask the farmer questions about the food that he or she is selling. Another major benefit is knowing that the food you are about to buy is fresh, humane, and locally grown (as opposed to being shipped 1,800 miles). These are important things for our environment, and they are important for our farmers and our local economy.

Listed below are some tips to help you make the most out of the food you buy and the experience you enjoy, (they are not in any particular order). If you have any more to add, please let us know.

  • When was this picked?- Usually farmers pick their produce the day before or the morning of the farmer’s market. Knowing when it was picked will give you an idea of how ripe it is. Generally speaking, farmers want to harvest produce when it’s perfectly ripe, so you shouldn’t have to wait very long before you can eat it. It’s not a bad idea to ask. Also here is a guide on how to choose perfectly ripe fruits and veggies.
  • Where’s the farm?- This is another important question to ask. Our assumption is that all the food at the farmers market was grown locally. This is not always the case. If the food was trucked in from hundreds of miles away, then shopping at the farmers market will be no better than shopping at the supermarket.
  • Organic- Not all the foods at the farmers market are organic. The best practice is to ask. Many times, local farm representatives will tell you that their food is “organic,” despite the fact that they do not carry a “certified organic” label. The reason behind this is that for some small farms these certifications cost a lot of money that can prove financially prohibitive. In general I trust the farmers at the market, and in most cases, I think their hearts and practices are in the right place. If they say their produce is organic, I believe them. However, even if the food is not organic and was grown conventionally (using pesticides and fertilizers) and locally, this is still a good thing and definitely the next best choice in environmentally friendly agriculture. You may just want to subtly ask your farmer if they have plans to go organic in the future.
  • Sustainable- If you’re interested, you can ask your farmer if they perform crop rotations and employ bio-diversity on their farm. These practices usually help the farm become a closed loop where the plants, animals and soil all benefit from each other.
  • Are those free range eggs- There is a stand at our farmers market that sells eggs. If yours has one also, it may not be a bad idea to ask all of the above plus whether the chickens are allowed to roam about freely. I noticed the last time we were at the market the egg stand put up a sign that listed all of these answers, so they must get these questions frequently.
  • Is it in season- Because most food at the farmers market is grown locally, generally it’s in season. Just in case you are curious, here is a link to check what’s in season in your area.
  • Recipes and Storage- Who better to ask how to prepare and store the food than the person that grew it? Farmers usually enjoy the produce they grow and have some good tips and tricks on cooking it and making it keep for awhile. Who knows, you may even walk away with an old family recipe.
  • Create a list, and get those items first- Sometimes the excitement of the farmers market can send us into a buying frenzy…I think cheap, fresh food has that effect. However, stick to the list. If you’ve got your meals planned out for the week, get those necessary ingredients first. After that, you can check out some other treats. The key is not to buy so much food that it spoils before you can eat it. Since most of the produce is ripe when you buy it, it’s shelf life is probably only a few days.
  • Give the kids a couple bucks- Let them choose and purchase some fruits and veggies on their own. You never know, they may be more inclined to actually eat the healthy items that they picked it out and paid for.
  • Bring your own bags- Globally, we use 1 million plastic bags per minute. They fill up our landfills, open spaces and oceans. If you take one thing away from this post, let it be this, please use reusable bags to help reduce this number.

Overall, these tips should help you make an educated decision on the food you are about to buy. You’ll probably only need to ask them once, as you’ll purchase from the same farmers from week-to-week. After awhile, you will get to know them and they will usually take special care of you in pointing out the best produce and give you more tips and suggestions.

Happy shopping!

eric

Veg BBQ Tips

grilled veggies

With Summer upon us, the season for the traditional backyard BBQ is in full swing. If you’re a vegetarian (or on your veg day), never fear…here are some tips to make your BBQ experience deliciously enjoyable.

  • A clean grill is a happy grill- If sharing a BBQ with meat eaters, some vegetarians are not too keen on having their veggie burger or dog tossed on a piece of old meat. It doesn’t need to be spotless, but it’s the thought that counts. A separate “veg section” will help to keep things in order and apart. Also, this will help with the next step.
  • Use a little oil or cooking spray- Besides the fact that mock meats and vegetables are meatless, they also have very little fat and oils in them. This is good for your belly…but the grill doesn’t like it. To prevent sticking, start with a cool grill, use a paper towel and some oil to wipe the grill, or you can use a bit of cooking spray (just make sure the grill is turned off or you’ll create a miniature volcano on the patio).
  • Keep your utensils clean- To helps spread contamination between raw and cooked foods….especially meats.
  • Make sure your mock meat is grill-able- Some are…some aren’t.
  • Don’t forget about the sides- potato salad, pasta salad, grilled veggies, cole slaw, etc. These are what make a BBQ.

Here are some quick and easy no-recipe, recipes that both vegheads and carni’s will enjoy.

pineapple rings
(sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar)
portobello mushrooms
(brush with oil or marinated in vinegar and garlic and serve like a veggie burger with all the condiments)
sweet potatoes or yams
(wrap in foil, or, slice in half, pre-bake, brush with maple syrup for extra sweetness and grill)
asparagus
(soak in water for at least 30 minutes before grilling)
corn on the cob
(pull the husk back, but don’t remove it (use it as a handle), wrap the opened end with a little aluminum foil and turn frequently)
apples
(slice in half and sprinkle with cinnamon and brown sugar or drizzle with maple syrup)

For more elaborate, delicious sounding vegetarian and vegan BBQ recipes go here.

The short answer is yes…but it takes understanding and compromise. There are times when the politics of food can cause some tension in a relationship, so being able to settle on a common ground is essential. This article from Newsweek is about just such a relationship, the only difference is the author is a vegan and her husband is a meat eater.

Feb. 26, 2007 issue - When my husband, Ken, and I were planning our wedding two years ago, we toiled over the menu even more than most anxious couples. As a Jewish vegan who doesn’t eat meat, poultry, fish or dairy products, I wanted to share vegan delicacies without feeling I was pushing an agenda. My Chinese-Japanese-Hawaiian husband wanted to be sure his relatives would have enough to eat, and to incorporate Chinese banquet foods.

In the end, our caterer served a gorgeous organic vegan meal, complete with Chinese long noodles (representing long life). We added line-caught wild fish, served whole to symbolize abundance and good fortune (in Chinese and Hawaiian tradition). After a Jewish blessing over wine and challah, Ken worked the room, teaching people to extract and eat the fish delicacies: the eyes and cheeks.

I became a vegetarian as a teenager, with the mixed motivation of loving animals and wishing to confound (and inconvenience) my meat-eating parents. Then, five years ago, I became a vegan. Today chili, stews and endless variations of salads are my staples. While Ken’s diet is more varied, his philosophy is simpler: without claiming any trendy labels, my husband is passionate about fresh, flavorful food. From fish cheeks to tripe and oxtail, he consumes everything, but he does so with appreciation and attention.

continue at Newsweek

 

eric

What’s with the labels?

Some “ethical” labels on foods can be a bit confusing (and unverifiable). There are labels for cage free, organic, dolphin safe, fair trade, grass-fed…and the list goes on. I stumbled on this article last night while reading this weeks Newsweek Magazine. It helps to decipher what some of these labels mean and how trustworthy they are. You can get more information on this subject and a pocket guide at the GreenGuide.

Organic: “This is the gold standard of labels,” says Pennybacker. Organic crops are free of genetic engineering, sewage sludge, most conventional pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. Livestock used for milk, eggs and meat are fed 100 percent organic feed, raised without antibiotics or growth hormones, and have access to the outdoors. (See ams.usada.gov.)

Bird Friendly: Some coffee growers plant their crops on land stripped of its natural vegetation. But the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Council of the National Zoo verifies that all coffee bearing the Bird Friendly logo (see nationalzoo.si.edu) is grown under a canopy of trees that provide shade for the coffee and a habitat for migratory birds. Coffee grown in the hot sun requires more pesticides and chemical fertilizers to flourish, but it costs about 20 percent less.

continue reading at Newsweek.

eric

Ban the bag

I normally try to avoid putting non-food related posts on the site, but I feel that it needs to be said.  Plastic bags are the worst.  I just read a statistic that globally we use 1 million plastic bags per minute.  That is mind-blowing!   The other amazing fact is that the amount of energy and petroleum that would be saved by halting the production of these bags would have the same effect as taking hundreds of thousands of cars off the road. 

Beyond the energy cost there is also an environmental cost of plastic bags.   These bags are filling up our landfills and oceans.  Animals mistake them for food, eat them and suffocate.  

The only feasible way to get people to stop using them is to start charging for them.  I am firm believer that if it cost us 20 cents (or more) per bag every time we went to the grocery store, it would not take long to figure out that reusable bags are the way to go. 

There are times it seems like retailers practically force you to use a bag….or they look at you like you have three heads when you tell them you do not want one.  I mean, who needs a bag to carry a CD out of the store?  Sure, I forget my bags in the car on occasion and if I do I will either just carry the product out in my hands or go back to the car and get the bags.  I think the key to helping us stop our bag addiction is to buy four or five reusable bags and always leave them in the car (or preferably on the bike). 

I use this trick to remind myself to put them back in the car after using them….whenever I come home from the grocery store and empty our bags, I will drop them next to the front door so that the next time I walk out to the garage, I will remember to toss them back in the car.

I think eventually there will be a "tax" on using plastic bags.  I hope this day is coming soon.  Until then, we can all be stewards of the Bag Free Movement and bring our own, encourage others to do the same and refuse plastic bags when they are offered to us. 

eric

Grow your own food

happy cowWe started watching a documentary film called "Animals" last night.  It is about a Canadian urban dweller that decides to become a rural farmer.   One of the reasons he wanted to become a farmer was a decision that if he is going to continue to eat meat; he’s going to raise and slaughter the animals himself.  This practice is easier said than done…and this is the focus of the documentary.  The farmer ends up enlisting the help of some of his neighbors to show him how to slaughter and "dress" his animals.  Although I’m not a huge fan of seeing animals get killed, this is the humane and correct way to do it.  These animals all lived happy long lives on a farm and were killed with respect (they all had names).  And while it is not feasible for all of us to move out of the city to start a farm, it is our responsibility as compassionate (and healthy) people to buy meat from farmers who support this way of farming.  Even for larger scale farms, this is still a viable way to raise animals. 

The documentary is worth a watch and gives us city slickers a view on what it is like to live on a farm.  We will finish watching it tonight and I will let you know if anything else of interest comes out of it.

eric

unhappy meals

cowsinpasture

This editorial is written by Michael Pollen, author of "The Omnivore’s Dilemma,"  for The New York Times Magazine.
Published: January 28, 2007

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

That, more or less, is the short answer to the supposedly incredibly complicated and confusing question of what we humans should eat in order to be maximally healthy. I hate to give away the game right here at the beginning of a long essay, and I confess that I’m tempted to complicate matters in the interest of keeping things going for a few thousand more words. I’ll try to resist but will go ahead and add a couple more details to flesh out the advice. Like: A little meat won’t kill you, though it’s better approached as a side dish than as a main. And you’re much better off eating whole fresh foods than processed food products. That’s what I mean by the recommendation to eat “food.” Once, food was all you could eat, but today there are lots of other edible foodlike substances in the supermarket. These novel products of food science often come in packages festooned with health claims, which brings me to a related rule of thumb: if you’re concerned about your health, you should probably avoid food products that make health claims. Why? Because a health claim on a food product is a good indication that it’s not really food, and food is what you want to eat.

Uh-oh. Things are suddenly sounding a little more complicated, aren’t they? Sorry. But that’s how it goes as soon as you try to get to the bottom of the whole vexing question of food and health. Before long, a dense cloud bank of confusion moves in. Sooner or later, everything solid you thought you knew about the links between diet and health gets blown away in the gust of the latest study.

Last winter came the news that a low-fat diet, long believed to protect against breast cancer, may do no such thing — this from the monumental, federally financed Women’s Health Initiative, which has also found no link between a low-fat diet and rates of coronary disease. The year before we learned that dietary fiber might not, as we had been confidently told, help prevent colon cancer. Just last fall two prestigious studies on omega-3 fats published at the same time presented us with strikingly different conclusions. While the Institute of Medicine stated that “it is uncertain how much these omega-3s contribute to improving health” (and they might do the opposite if you get them from mercury-contaminated fish), a Harvard study declared that simply by eating a couple of servings of fish each week (or by downing enough fish oil), you could cut your risk of dying from a heart attack by more than a third — a stunningly hopeful piece of news. It’s no wonder that omega-3 fatty acids are poised to become the oat bran of 2007, as food scientists micro-encapsulate fish oil and algae oil and blast them into such formerly all-terrestrial foods as bread and tortillas, milk and yogurt and cheese, all of which will soon, you can be sure, sprout fishy new health claims. (Remember the rule?)

continue at New York Times Magazine

eric

Vegetarian is the New Prius

By Kathy Freston,  published on Saturday, January 20, 2007 by the Huffington Post

President Herbert Hoover promised "a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage." With warnings about global warming reaching feverish levels, many are having second thoughts about all those cars. It seems they should instead be worrying about the chickens.

Last month, the United Nations published a report on livestock and the environment with a stunning conclusion: "The livestock sector emerges as one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global." It turns out that raising animals for food is a primary cause of land degradation, air pollution, water shortage, water pollution, loss of biodiversity, and not least of all, global warming.

That’s right, global warming. You’ve probably heard the story: emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide are changing our climate, and scientists warn of more extreme weather, coastal flooding, spreading disease, and mass extinctions. It seems that when you step outside and wonder what happened to winter, you might want to think about what you had for dinner last night. The U.N. report says almost a fifth of global warming emissions come from livestock (i.e., those chickens Hoover was talking about, plus pigs, cattle, and others)–that’s more emissions than from all of the world’s transportation combined.

continue at Huffington Post

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