Wednesday, August 20, 2014

12 step process to slowly switch from a meat-based to vegan diet

If you had asked me 5 years ago that I would be eating a vegan diet, I would have laughed out loud, and bet you a million dollars you would be wrong. And you would be a millionaire now...

Although I've only been vegan for one month, I don't see any way I will go backwards, as I think it's the only diet I can live with now, and not feel guilty.

I'd like to share the process I went through to get to this point, to show you how you can transition, even if you love meat and don't think you can live without it.

What is vegan?

A vegan diet does not require any animals or animal by-products. That includes meat (beef, chicken, lamb, fish, etc), dairy (milk, cheeses, yogurt, cream, etc) or any animal by-product (honey from bees, eggs from chickens and other birds, sugars grounded using animal bones, food coloring and dyes made from insects, etc). If an animal was required anywhere in the food production process, then it is not vegan, and I do not eat it.

I won't show any gross images, but there are plenty online of what animals go through
The reason I am choosing this diet is so I can help reduce the animal cruelty that takes place (often behind the scenes) to provide us with these food sources. You can learn more reasons to go vegan at Bite Size Vegan >>>

My food story (the short version)

When I grew up, I hated fruits and vegetables. I recall only eating bananas on a rare occasion, and nothing else. That was until I went to college. I slowly added a few more fruits and vegetables, like broccoli, watermelon, raspberries and carrots. But I still preferred a meat-based diet.

When I met my wife, she was a really good cook, and started making more meals without meat. Before I realized it, I didn't eat that much meat anymore, and I didn't really mind. As I became more aware of the environmental impact of meat (destroying trees for pasture, emitting methane), I decided to stop eating meat completely, and try to go vegetarian. It was very difficult, since I enjoyed eating meat. But my desire to help the environment kept me motivated.



As it became easier to eat vegetarian (it took about 5 years), the idea of going vegan became more realistic. At first, I never thought I could, because I really like cheese. In fact, I ate at least one meal every day that had melted cheese on it (pizza, burritos, grilled sandwiches and subs, egg and cheese breakfast sandwiches, veggie burgers, etc).

After watching Bite Size Vegan (Emily Moran Borwick) and Gary Yarouvsky videos (see below), I could no longer ignore what was going on with my food decisions. My wife had been vegan in the past after watching Meet your Meat videos, but had trouble maintaining it where she lived.


When we moved to Portland, Oregon, we had many more options for vegan food. In fact, I didn't even realize that my wife only made vegan dinners at night since we moved. I realized that all I had to do was adjust my breakfast and lunch routine, and I could actually be vegan. So one year after we moved to Portland, we decided to give it a try.

It's been one month now. I've now figured out vegan options for breakfast and lunch, and managed to get through some business and family trips without a problem, so I am now confident that I can maintain the diet for a long time. I am motivated based on the animal cruelty, and I have the setup and education that makes it easy to keep it going.

Based on what I went through, here is a 12 step "roadmap" for how anyone can transition from heavy meat eater to vegan, without feeling overwhelmed or too frustrated.

Note: Any steps towards becoming vegan (even if you never get there) is better than doing nothing, so give it a try and see how far you can get! In addition, no one is 100% perfect on their diet, so if you have a slip up, or make a mistake, don't beat yourself up. Learn from it, and don't throw all your hard work away just for one minor mistake. If I'm about to starve to death, you can bet I'll eat a juicy steak!

Step 1: Meatless Mondays - Try to choose one day per week where you don't eat any meat. Look for meat alternatives (which I love!) that taste and look like meat, but aren't actually meat. Popular items include veggie or bean burgers, tofu, seitan BBQ, textured vegetable protein (TVP) wings, vegan jerky, and tempeh bacon. Check your local grocery store or food co-op for these options. I think the meat alternatives were critical for me to become vegan, as it allowed me to still eat the food I love.

Step 2: Meatless Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays - Simply increase the number of days that you don't eat meat, adding one additional day per week as you feel comfortable.

Step 3: Eliminate beef and lamb - Beef and lamb require a lot of grains and food and water to keep them fed, and they have the largest environmental impact.

Lamb and beef have the highest environmental footprint of all food items, followed by cheese and pork.

If you can simply remove these items from your diet completely, and switch to chicken and fish instead, over time you will not even miss them. Excessive amounts of beef and lamb are not good for your health either, so removing them from your diet does more than just reduce your impact on nature.

Step 4: Go meatless and become a vegetarian! Hopefully you've found some good meat alternatives, and are getting up to 5-6 days per week without meat. Take the last step, and go meatless altogether! This took a very long time for me, so don't rush this step too quickly, or you will likely give up the entire effort. Take your time, and keep looking for alternative meat options, try new food dishes, and check out new restaurants. You will also realize that you will need to plan your meals ahead of time more than you do today, so you aren't caught off guard. The hardest part is social events, family get-togethers and dinner out with friends.



Step 5: Milk-free on Mondays - This is the same as Meatless Mondays. Pick one day where you eliminate dairy, and replace it with dairy alternatives, such as soy milk, almond milk, or rice milk. This was an easy switch for me, as I like the taste of these milk options.

Step 6: Milk-free and cheese-free on Mondays - Cheese was a more difficult option for me. There are vegan cheese options, such as daiya, cashew soy and nutritional yeast options. I've had the most success by eliminating cheese as much as I can, since even in Portland, vegan cheeses are difficult to find.

Step 7: Vegan Mondays - This was a difficult step, as I didn't realize how many products were vegan, even after reading the ingredients. Many people I talked to at restaurants do not know either. Some bread is vegan, but not all. Most baked goods are not vegan (cookies, brownies, cakes, muffins, etc). Honey is not vegan, but it shows up in a lot of products. Creams, dressings, and many other items are not vegan, so it can be difficult to figure out. I've already made a bunch of mistakes, but every day gets better. Again, if you make a mistake, learn from it, and try not to repeat the mistake next time. Check the restaurant websites, or visit "Accidentally vegan list of foods" from PETA, or download the "Is it Vegan?" app to help you out.

Step 8: Go milk-free and cheese-free more than one day per week - Continue to increase the number of days each week where you eliminate cheese and dairy from your diet, and replace with alternatives if necessary.

Step 9: Eliminate milk - Stop drinking milk that comes from cows, and replace with milk alternatives. I was already adding soy milk to my coffee each morning, so that wasn't a very difficult step.

Step 10: Vegan Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays- Continue to add days to the week that you are vegan, so you start to learn all the foods that are acceptable, and those to avoid or check the ingredients closely.

Step 11: Eliminate cheese - Replace cheese with cheese alternatives. I found that it helped to replace cheese with other sauces on sandwiches, and only eat pizza when I could find vegan cheeses or no cheese frozen pizzas (Amy's No Cheese Pizza).

Step 12: Go vegan! Now that you are vegan more than a couple days per week, and have replaced milk and cheese, the final step shouldn't be too difficult now.

As a reminder, this process can take years to complete, so don't go to fast and get too frustrated, but make sure you revisit the list often, so you don't lose sight of the ultimate goal. If you stop short of the goal, and only get to vegetarian, or Meatless Mondays, you're still doing something positive!

Does this roadmap seem reasonable? Did you take a different route that worked for you? Does it still seem difficult to accomplish? Let us know in the comments section below...

Friday, August 1, 2014

How to make health care industry and hospitals more green

If you work in the health care industry, and feel there are opportunities to make it more environmentally-friendly, or would like to learn what is being done, check out a new book written by Kathy Gerwig, VP, Employee Safety, Health and Wellness and Environmental Stewardship Officer for Kaiser Permanente.



She describes a couple ways that hospitals are greening themselves, and presents practical solutions for health care organizations and clinicians to improve their environments and the health of their communities. Topics include: making food services sustainable, managing hospital waste, and relevant impacts/mitigating measures related to climate change. 

  1. Energy and Climate - renewable energy, energy efficiency and how it impacts carbon emissions
  2. Food - making cafeteria and patient meals more sustainable
  3. Purchasing - environmentally preferred purchasing agreements with medical suppliers
  4. Safer Chemicals - dealing with chemically laden products, such as exam gloves, plastic tubing, cleaning products, and disinfectants
  5. Waste - managing the numerous waste streams in a hospital



You can read an article about the author and the book at:  http://www.corporateecoforum.com/hospitals-can-heal-planet/

You can order the book on Amazon at: Greening Health Care: How Hospitals Can Heal the Planet

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Where is all the eco-friendly luggage? Found one...

I've been traveling for work, and my old luggage is finally wearing out on me. The zippers are breaking and losing their grip, the handle doesn't stay up, and the inner plastic is broken (making the luggage less sturdy). It did a good job for me, and I don't see any reasonable way to salvage it.

I looked for something local, but the luggage companies did not have anything "eco-friendly." I was surprised, since I live in a place that is really good about offering eco-products. I guess "eco-luggage" has not caught on yet with the average consumer.

I found quite a few luggage options online, but many are no longer available (again, didn't sell well apparently), didn't meet my personal needs, or were really expensive (over $500).

Finally, I found something that would provide what I needed, even if it wasn't as "green" as I was hoping for.
McBrine Eco Friendly Three Piece Luggage Set 

I wanted to have the spinner wheels and a hard exterior shell. The eco-friendly part is the 50% recycled plastic on the outside. The best part was that the price was reasonable for a 3-piece luggage set made from recycled materials, about $150 US.

I was a little unsure about ordering it online, but I am very happy with what I got. It is exactly what I was hoping for. The inside has a nice liner with pockets and straps, to help separate the clothes, and prevent them from spilling out when you open it. That was a nice bonus. This is a sturdy product and well made, not something that feels cheap or that will get easily damaged. That being said, it is also lightweight, which helps reduce the weight of the aircraft, and is nice when the escalators are down at the airport : )

The smallest piece will fit under the seat, so I can carry it on the plane, without checking my bags, which was one of my other concerns.

Hopefully, if more of us start asking for "green" luggage, the manufacturers will start providing more options for us. You can help out by ordering the luggage above (or something similar).

Now, what to do with my old luggage...any ideas?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Top 10 most fuel efficient vehicles for 2014

The latest "Model Year 2014 Fuel Economy Guide" was released on November 19th by the US Department of Energy, listing the fuel efficiency of over 1000 vehicles, including plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles.

The winner was the Chevy Spark EV, with a 119 mile per gallon (MPG) rating.


Here are the top 10 vehicles based on the combined MPG rating. Vehicles with an asterisk are listed with their MPGe rating. MPGe is used to compare energy consumption of advanced technology vehicles (alternative fuel, plug-in electric, etc) with the fuel economy of conventional internal combustion vehicles expressed as miles per US gallon.


You can also search the fueleconomy.gov website by vehicle type, to find the most fuel efficient vehicle by category (trucks, SUVs, sedans, hatchbacks, vans, etc).

http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/findacar.shtml

Monday, July 29, 2013

Sustainable Buying and Disposal Decision Guide for Non-Environmentalists

Do you have friends, family or co-workers who have no sense of being sustainable or environmentally-friendly? That can be very frustrating, especially when you have to see the decisions they make on a regular basis. You drop hints and ask questions, but nothing seems to get through to them.

The other frustration is when they dispose of items that could have been recycled on-site, or recycled by taking somewhere else. They look for the nearest trash can, and the item goes off to a magical place, never to be seen again. Ugh!

Even when I make decisions, I don't always choose the best decision for the environment. I might buy something in anticipation of a need, and it turns out I didn't need it after all (microphone for recording audio). Other times, I'll forget to ask to borrow an item for a short-term use (video camera). In other cases, I'm buying products that have packaging that is not recyclable, or I throw something away that I could have taken back home and recycled.

Since my background is in process improvement, I decided to think about what the purchasing and disposal decision process should be, and document it. We've tested it out on a few purchases, and it works really well.

SUSTAINABLE PURCHASING AND DISPOSAL DECISION GUIDE

SUSTAINABLE PURCHASING AND DISPOSAL DECISION GUIDE

Download the PDF file here and try it out!

The document is broken into two sections: Purchasing an item, and Disposal of an item.

On the purchasing side, the idea is to use existing resources first, before buying anything. Once you've tried all of these options with no luck, then you can evaluate buying something new. The next set of questions evaluate the environmental impact of the item, and the last section focuses on the packaging.

PURCHASING - I NEED A NEW ITEM

  • SHOULD I BUY NEW ITEM?
    • Do I really need it, and do I need it right now?
    • Can you borrow or rent the item (item not needed very frequently)?
    • Can you buy it used or refurbished?
  • MINIMIZE ITEM IMPACT?
    • Are you buying the minimal quantity or amount of this item you possibly can?
    • Is there a compostable or biodegradable option?
    • Is there an option made from recycled content?
    • Is there a sustainably produced option (organic, fair trade, chemical free, or carbon offset)?
    • Is there a local option to minimize transportation distance?
    • Is there a high quality/durable option that will last a long time?
  • MINIMIZE PACKAGING?
    • Is there a package-free option?
    • Is there a compostable or biodegradable packaging option?
    • Is there a packaging option made from recycled content?

If you've fully evaluated all of the above questions, then you can proceed and make the purchase (hopefully making the best environmental choice)

On the disposal side, the idea is to find as many ways to avoid the landfill, from fixing, donating, and including storing and waiting for the future when it might be recyclable.

DISPOSAL - I WANT TO GET RID OF AN ITEM

  • SELL OR DONATE?
    • Can the item be fixed or repaired so it is still useful?
    • Can the item be resold?
    • Can the item be donated to a charity or given to someone?
    • Can the item be repurposed for something else?
  • SAFELY DISPOSED?
    • Can the item be composted or biodegraded?
    • Can the item be recycled locally?
    • Can the item be transported where it can be recycled?
    • Can the item be broken down into smaller pieces that can be recycled?
  • AVOID LANDFILL?
    • Can the item be stored until a recycling option is made available?
    • Can the item be burned safely to extract the stored energy?

If you've fully evaluated all of the above questions and didn't find another viable solution, then you can proceed and safely dispose of the item in the landfill.

Download the PDF file here >>>

Please share this document with your family, friends and co-workers, to help them make better decisions about buying and disposing of items with the environment in mind.

What do you think? Did we forget some questions?

Monday, January 14, 2013

Key West organic cafe hits the spot

One of the best drives I've ever taken is between Miami and Key West. It takes about 3-4 hours to drive down there, but it's definitely worth it. All you can see is bright blue water on either side of the highway, with many different beaches to stop at along the way.


When we arrived, we wanted to find someplace unique to eat. After we found a place to park, we started walking towards the famous Duval Street, and lucked out by finding Le Petit Paris Organic and Natural Cafe, one of the newest french-themed eateries in town.



Their menu includes organic smoothies, coffees and juices, along with crepes, sandwiches, paninis, salads and omelets (made from cage-free eggs). I ordered the Portabellawich (mushroom panini) and the Very Berrylicious fruit smoothie. They were delicious and very filling, and as always, eating organic makes it even better. The location of the cafe is also ideal, since there is seating outside, so you can do some serious people-watching.

To learn more, visit their website at http://www.lepetitpariskeywest.com

Le Petit Paris on Urbanspoon

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Organic and vegan options on your next Yellowstone vacation to Jackson Hole

On our visit to Yellowstone Park this summer, we stayed in nearby Jackson, Wyoming. If you haven't been there, it's a great place to visit. Very quaint and cozy. A little expensive, but you get what you pay for, and it was well worth it. We would definitely go back, so plan a trip if you haven't been there. Jackson is located on the south end of the Yellowstone Park entrance, and it was where we flew into, before heading to the park.

There are many great places to visit and eat in town, but one place we ate twice, the Lotus CafĂ©. They offer fresh organic and natural meats, vegetarian, vegan, and raw choices. Their dishes are from around the world including American, Asian, Indian, Thai, and Latin. They prepare everything in house from scratch including all sauces, dressings, curries, soups, dumplings, breads, pitas, kimchi, sauerkraut, chai tea, coffee syrups, juices and more. They also organically grow greens, herbs, and sprouts. They offer vegan and gluten-free options, and most of their selection is vegetarian. 

For breakfast, I had the "2, 2, and 2", which was a tofu scramble with toast, handmade veggie patties, strawberry jam and roasted "zesty" potatoes. It was delicious, and a healthy way to start our trip. My wife has the "Flap Jackson", which was eggs, veggie patty between two blue corn griddlecakes, served with organic maple syrup. The griddlecakes were amazing! I also had a fresh extracted juice, made from parsley, celery, beets, green apples, and carrots.



We stayed in Jackson at the end of our trip, so we went back for dinner. I ordered an appetizer, the bison wontons, that came with sesame-tamari and korean BBQ sauce. I've never had them before, but it was really good! I also tried the Snake River OB-1 (Organic Beer Number 1), and my wife ordered the Snake River Lager. It's nice to have an organic beer choice for a change.


On a side note about organic beers, on our way back from Jackson, we had a layover in Denver, and ate at the New Belgium restaurant. I was saddened to hear that they will no longer be making the organic Mothership Wit beer. Better stock up at your local grocery store, if you like it. Read more about this story >>

For dinner, my wife ordered the gluten-free Bombay Bowl, which was steamed brown basmati coconut rice, broccoli, red pepper, zucchini, red onion, spinach, and carrots. The tikka sauce was made from grapeseed oil, lemon, cinnamon and ginger. I ordered the Indian gluten-free dish, Chicken Tikka Masala, made with grapeseed oil, lemon, cinnamon, ginger, tomatoes and spices. Both dishes were large helpings that we couldn't finish (and I can eat a lot of food)!

If you want to support a great local restaurant that minimizes their impact on the environment, this is the place to go.Visit their website to view the full menu at http://www.tetonlotuscafe.com
The Lotus Cafe on Urbanspoon