Four hundred and fifty

The problem with trying to make ethical, sustainable choices…

Last year I examined a lot of different topics that changed me to the core and I hope will influence the choices I make for the rest of my life – for instance the information I learned when I lived at the poverty line and during good deed month, some of the videos I watched during vegan month, and what I learned about food during many of the months.  I’ve tried to make as sustainable and ethical choices as I can since learning this information, but it’s hard to draw a line between what is sustainable and what isn’t.  I’m reading Vanessa Farquharson’s book Sleeping Naked is Green (how an eco-cynic unplugged her fridge, sold her car, and found love in 366 days) and she mentions the problem with spices:

Things like basil, thyme, and coriander can all be grown locally, but garlic and ginger usually come from China, cinnamon from Sri Lanka, cumin from the Middle East, vanilla and curry powder from India, and so on, which means the more flavourful your meal, the bigger carbon cost it may have.

So unless you are a raw vegan who adds only locally grown herbs to your food, you are leaving a carbon footprint.  I never even thought about the environmental impact of spices.  The more I find out, the more it becomes overwhelming.  It feels like no matter what you do, you are screwed.

I recently went on a rant about TOMs shoes (for every pair you buy, they donate a pair to an underprivileged child in a developing nation somewhere) and how they might be doing more harm than good by giving shoes instead of helping bring jobs to poorer countries by manufacturing the shoes there (they are made in China).  I was upset that I tried to make the ethical choice and instead my purchase could be supporting something that hurts not helps.  Sometimes it’s so overwhelming I feel like giving up and just buying whatever I want to without the thought of where it comes from or how it’s affecting the environment and other people.

A friend of mine and former roommate who is more educated in ethical and sustainable products than anyone else I know (she owned a company that sold these kinds of products, as well as has a degree in nutrition, and has influenced me to use natural products and eat organic over the years) had an interesting opinion about it.  She told me that yes, TOMs doesn’t do everything perfect, but at least they’re doing something.  They are better than buying a pair from a company that makes their shoes in sweat shops and doesn’t try.  And her husband is from Africa and he often brings shoes to give to the kids because even if they were made there, there’s a lot of corruption and often the kids don’t actually get anything.  “You can only do what you can do.  Try to make the most informed decisions you can and continue to try to choose sustainable, ethical products.  None of them will be perfect.”

It made me think about how making simple choices can help.  If we all made simple choices, like used vinegar and water for cleaning instead of chemicals (which cleans just as good and is cheaper) or chose to buy shoes that were trying to help people instead of hurting them, the world would be a better, cleaner, nicer place to live – and might actually be around longer for generations to come.

So, here are my TOMs.  And I’m going to continue to do what I can do and make the best choices I can with the information I can find out.  Maybe my great grandchildren will thank me for that.

Three hundred and ninety-four

Blogging used to be my ritual.  The one thing I had to fit in every day.  My release.  Now it’s my writing the book and blogging seems a little foreign.  I forgot what it felt like when I first started sending my thoughts out into the internet abyss – like I am sharing a part of my soul for the world to read and judge.  Happily, it turned out most people out there are supportive and encouraging, or are genuinely interested in an intelligent debate.  But it’s still more difficult every week now than it was once blogging became a habit.  By the end of the year I just wrote, whereas now I’m constantly questioning what I’m sending out there.

Around this time last year, at the start of the Toronto Football Club season (because my pub gets very busy for the games), I read some of my posts and think of how I managed to post something despite working twelve-hour shifts at the pub running around like crazy.  I figure if I can do it then, I can do it now.  When you’re passionate about something, you make it happen I guess.

Speaking of passionate, because I’m writing about my experiences extreme couponing right now, I’m starting to see coupons everywhere I go again.  There was a time last March when I would see anything to do with a grocery store and instantly think “coupon” in flashing lights in my head, like what I’d picture a Las Vegas wedding chapel to have.  (As a side note, friends of mine from Australia just had their second wedding at one of those.  The average number of weddings per day in Las Vegas is 300+, with the cost of a Nevada marriage license only $35.00.  It’s still a very popular wedding destination.  Although how much electricity those neon signs must take I’m sure is ridiculous!)  I still keep the occasional coupon in my wallet, but I’m now remembering the advantages of using coupons.

Since I wrote my posts last year, TLC has aired an Extreme Couponing All-Stars, pitting two couponers in each episode against each other with the person having the highest percentage of savings named the winner of the round.  The three couponers with the all-around top percentage of savings advanced to the finale.  It really is a sport now!

And an extra little photo of my vegan baking yesterday before I head off to serve beer to soccer hooligans:

Recipe from  So delicious (and yes, I couldn’t wait and ate one before I took this photo)!

Two hundred and forty six

Welcome to my month of holiday celebrations and Happy World Vegan Day!

When a friend originally suggested this idea as something I could do during my year of month-long social experiments we had talked about picking random holidays and matching them up with random days during the month of November.  Celebrating Christmas on the 1st, Easter on the 2nd, Bring Your Child To Work Day on the 3rd (no I don’t have a child, and I’m not sure it would be legal to have a child following me while I’m serving pints at the pub, but would be a very amusing blog post), etc.

The more I got to thinking about it, though, and the more this year has developed, I realized the blog is about learning just as much as about my silly experiments.  So instead of random holidays, I’m going to celebrate holidays that happen around the world on the actual days of November (yes, there is a holiday for each day).  Not only can you follow along with my bizarre escapades, you can also have an excuse to celebrate every day in November.

I’m going to set things up a bit differently this month.  Every day I will write about the holiday – history, traditions, etc.  Then the following day I will share any fun stories that came from my celebrations of that holiday (and hopefully photos and videos).  Therefore, every day (besides today) will have two parts: information about the holiday of the day, and a recap of what I got up to celebrating the day before.  If this is confusing, follow along and you’ll see what I mean… I have a feeling this month will once again have some embarrassing moments in it…

Happy World Vegan Day!

It worked out perfect that I can celebrate World Vegan Day the day after I finish my first month ever of being vegan.  November 1st marks the start of World Vegan Month, the creation of the term ‘vegan’ and the founding of The Vegan Society in November, 1944.  It’s a way for people to celebrate being vegan and get their message out to the public through events around the world (check out The Vegan Society’s list for some of these events).

I wrote yesterday about some of the things I learned about veganism, so I won’t go into too much detail.  I do want to mention, however, that although I don’t believe everyone can be vegan (and I won’t be strictly vegan), we should all be aware of the health benefits, the environmental benefits and the animal rights issues that vegans preach.  Eating more vegetables, fruit, whole grains, nuts, seeds, quinoa, etc. can only be good for our bodies and our planet.

So Happy World Vegan Day!

Two hundred and forty-five

I made it through vegan month!

I started this month thinking that it would very difficult to get through and that most likely I would jump right back in to eating meat at the end of it (“drooling for that medium rare prime rib” is how I put it).  I knew that it would be annoying to have to look at every label, ask chefs what ingredients are in their cooking, to eat at the Irish pub where I work at.  It turned out not to be that hard.

After the first week of detox headaches and the research figuring out what I can eat and what I need to eat to stay healthy, it wasn’t difficult to stick to the vegan diet.  Sure, there were a few times when I felt like I was missing out (Thanksgiving, pizza at work, birthday cake), but generally I loved being in charge of what I was putting in my body and knowing every ingredient that I was consuming.

There were a few significant physical and emotional changes that happened to me this month.  I’ve lost weight, although I don’t have a scale, so will have to check the exact number when I go visit my folks this week.  I’ve been told my skin is radiant and glowing now.  Because of all the fiber, my “number two”s are great (I know, gross, but worth mentioning).  My period symptoms have been less – less pain, bloating.  My mood has mellowed out – I tend to be happier and can deal with upsets better.

I rarely have a craving for something unhealthy.  My need to eat dairy is non-existent and my desire to eat meat is very minimal.  I eat smaller portions.  I feel healthy and therefore, unlike every other month, I wasn’t counting down the days until the month was over.  I loved this month for what it taught me and how it changed me.

Recap of the month

Each day I tried to touch on a different topic about veganism and what that meant to me.  If you want to check back on a certain area, here are some of the big ideas I covered: history of veganism; detoxing (here and here); vegan recipes (here and here); the honey debatequinoareasons to become vegan; interviews with vegans (Amy and Sheri); small town veganism; beer, wine and spirits – are they vegan?; makeup and skin care (and here); celebrity vegans; animal rights; freeganism; vegan travel; vegan clothing; raw foodism; Skinny Bitch and other vegan books; is vegan right for everyone?.

What did I learn?

One of the reasons I loved this month is there was so much to write about.  I though I’d have a hard time thinking of an interesting blog post every day, but there was so much information I could easily do more research and write another month’s worth of posts.  The amount of facts, statistics, reports, blogs, websites, and interviews that I read this month is huge.  Everything I looked at had new information that changed the way I look at food (and beauty-care products), what I consume, and what kind of food is generally available at the local grocery store.  Some of it shocked and appalled me.  Some of it made me happy and inspired me.

I learned that eating healthy affects not only your physical body, but also your energy, mood, and emotions.

Where do I go from here with veganism?

I’m not that good at doing anything”black and white” – I’m a shades of grey kind of girl.  I believe there are exceptions to every rule.  I will definitely be taking what I learned this month and applying it to my eating habits.  I will eat more raw foods, have vegan meals, read labels for ingredients, choose organic produce, and generally be aware of what I’m putting in my body.  I will not be eating any dairy.

I won’t be as strict, though.  If there is chicken stock in something at a restaurant, I won’t make a fuss.  I will have the occasional egg and meat, as long as I know exactly where it is coming from – free range, local, organic, etc.  I will probably still wear leather and keep my warm wool socks.  If I’m at my nana’s house, I will eat what she cooked for me.

I recently became aware of ther term “flexitarian“.  This is someone who eats a mostly vegetarian diet, but occasionally eats meats.  I’m not much of a label person, but I suppose that is a good way of describing what I believe my diet has transformed into.

Tomorrow I start 30 Holiday Celebrations, starting with World Vegan Day!

Two hundred and forty-four

Is Vegan right for everyone?

Many of you know that I have recently been struggling for the first time in my life with health problems. When I discovered that my problems were a direct result of my vegan diet I was devastated.  2 months ago, after learning the hard way that not everyone is capable of maintaining their health as a vegan, I made one of the most difficult decisions of my life and gave up veganism and returned to eating an omnivorous diet…” – Tasha, A Vegan No More,

As I was checking out vegan recipes on the other day, I started reading about Tasha’s journey from being a “vegangelical” to a meat-eating omnivore.  Despite being so pro-vegan, a slew of health problems required her to start eating animal products again (despite many tears and trying for months every alternative possible), and her health returned immediately .

It’s a long but fascinating read on one woman’s story of how both her eating habits and her beliefs changed.  If you have time, vegan or not, it’s a great other side to the lifestyle I’ve adapted over the past month and a good balance to the hardcore vegans I have talked to and researched.

After writing the post, Tasha had tens of thousands of views, hundreds of comments, e-mails and tweets.  She had people encourage her, and others threaten her family’s life (funny that a vegan who is opposed to killing animals threatens human life).  She retorted with another post: Vegan Defector Talks Back, answering questions and responding to some of the negative comments she received.

I think it’s important to show the other side of the vegan story.  Humans do need certain vitamins that can only come from animal products (specifically B12, although this can come from supplements if your body accepts them).  And we are omnivores, coming from the Latin ‘omni’ or everything, meaning we eat what is available – opportunistic eaters.  Therefore, we can thrive on a vegetarian/vegan diet, or with meat.

I’ve read a lot on veganism over the past month and I do agree that it is a great choice to make for your health and your body (and factory farm animals and the environment), as long as you are very aware of what you are eating and making sure you get all the nutrients you need.  I also believe that a little bit of meat, in moderation, and that is free-range, local, organic, and you know where it is coming from, is not necessarily bad.  More on this topic tomorrow for my final post of my vegan month…