I have curated the best podcasts on health, sustainability, and expanding your mind in the list below. I also included MY first two podcast interviews at the bottom for you to learn more about me. Whether you're interested in sustainability, the human body and mind, the environment, vegan health, social justice, or just want to be inspired; there's bound to be a podcast for you to discover. I hope you enjoy!Read More
This year, for Earth Month, I decided to experiment with going zero-waste. I began with the simple idea that anyone can do it and, by doing so myself, that I would make the world a "greener" place. Some prominent zero-waste influencers suggest that this is a possibility for all of us, so we should all try. And to some extent, I agreed. I quickly discovered, however, that a complicated set of corporate and institutional structures prevent most people from ever coming close.
I saw first-hand that waste-free living is nearly impossible if you aren't extremely diligent and privileged with free time to do so in the first place. Is striving for zero-waste on an individual level the best way to use that privilege for the betterment of our planet and society as a whole? Or should we also be demanding governments finally get involved with us?Read More
When the Ethical Writers and Creatives, a group that I'm a member of, proposed that we all do a "What we Eat and Why" link up, I was eager to participate. The questions, What is healthy?, What is morally right?, and What is sustainable?, all come with answers that are different for everyone. They are also often met with an eye-roll. I know I've asked myself these questions, on my journey to live a better life, with multiple answers that have shape-shifted and evolved over time.
My Dieting Journey (eating disorder included)
I started off on a standard American diet. Around the age of 21, I became vegetarian, then vegan, and subsequently developed "orthorexia" due to the pressures that I put on myself to be a size zero for the fashion industry. I am more naturally a size 4, so I used my vegan diet as an excuse to under-eat and make myself smaller for my work. Last year, I was able to recover with the help of my family and friends, and got back to my healthy weight. I realized that I was blogging and speaking up for the health of animals and environment, but I wasn’t treating myself with the same compassion. I decided that, in order to be sustainable for myself, something had to change.
I still wanted to be vegan for ethical reasons, but needed something different that would allow me to gain weight in a “healthy” way. You can read more about the importance of eating less meat for our environment in this post. I listened to a famous vegan YouTuber who touts, "Eat as much as you want, just very low fat and lots of fruits!" so I when I first upped my calories, I went on a high-carb low-fat (HCLF) vegan diet. I should also add that this new diet had a heavy emphasis on sugar being perfectly healthy. (Is your head spinning yet? I know mine is..)
"High-carb, low-fat vegan was actually making me sick."
Soon thereafter, although I gained the weight back and was no longer feeling malnourished, my health began to suffer in other ways. At the time, I truly believed that my new diet was the way to recover from years of under-eating, in a healthy way. In hindsight, any diet that celebrates table sugar and eating pounds of fruit probably isn't a smart idea. In November 2017, I tested positive for hormonal imbalances, had extreme fatigue, and developed Perioral Dermatitis on my face. Obviously, something wasn't working.
Instead of trying to tackle my diet on my own again, I decided to seek the help of an Institute of Functional Medicine Certified Herbalist and Nutritionist. With their guidance, I have been eating a plant-based Paleo type diet, that avoids excess sugars and increases my daily fat intake. (phew!) It appears that high-carb, low-fat vegan was actually making me sick, and the key for me is balance! I truly hope that this new diet helps me achieve sustainable health, and is also sustainable for the planet. Only time will tell.
Whole Food, Plant-Based or Paleo-Vegan?
My current diet is still plant-based and made up of primarily whole foods. Almost all plant foods, except for grains and white potatoes, are also considered Paleo. What makes my diet more specifically paleo rather than whole food, plant-based, is that I am limiting my fruit and bean intake to only once a day, and rarely eating quinoa with no other grains. You may have heard of the term "Paleo" lately and associate it with high meat consumption only. I believe that my vegan diet however, fits into that category as well.
A Paleo diet is loosely defined as a diet based on the types of foods presumed to have been eaten by early humans (1). Since we only have presumptions to go off of, it's my opinion that a vegan diet, as long as it doesn't include grains, processed junk foods, sugars, and alcohol, is also one that our Paleolithic ancestors may have thrived on.
What I Eat in a Day:
My whole food, plant-based, Paleo-type diet (again with the long labels... sorry!) gets the majority of its bulk from non-starchy vegetables. These include leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, green beans, zucchini, celery, cucumber, collards, tomatoes, etc. It also more sparingly includes starchy vegetables (legumes and root vegetables), fruits, seeds and nuts, avocados, unsweetened plant “milks,” tofu, tempeh, and oils. All herbs and spices are allowed, and a big part of my treatment is a personalized herbal tea that I drink twice daily. The biggest adjustment has been cooking myself vegetables for breakfast in the winter, instead of having lots of fruit or cold cereals.
I am also not supposed to have frequent snacks throughout the day, but instead three solid meals. This was difficult the first week, but now my body is used to it. Intermittent fasting (not snacking and having a long break between dinner and breakfast) is said to allow the body to heal faster, because your energy isn't allocated to digesting all day long (3). I feel this has been very beneficial for my health. The saving grace for me, in this diet that makes me abstain from sweets, is that I don't have to give up dark chocolate or coffee. Two of my favorite things. My standard daily meals look something like this:
Smoothie bowl with paleo granola or fresh fruit in the summer. I try to use low sugar fruits such as berries, and apples, as well as fresh greens in my smoothies as well. Cooked veggies and tofu scrambles for in the winter.
A veggie-heavy salad in the summer, including kale or mixed greens, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, radishes, alfalfa sprouts, overnight-soaked legumes (peas, lentils, beans, etc.), half of an avocado, and freshly squeezed lemon, for my lunch... Or (you guessed it) more cooked veggies or a soup in the winter.
For dinner, my favorite meal is a macrobiotic bowl (sans grains) in the summer, and roasted veggie power bowl in the winter. Check out my post about the macrobiotic diet here.
I try to vary what I eat everyday based upon what's in season and listen to my body when I shop. If I look at fresh corn or green beans, for example, and my mouth starts to water than I know my body wants it. Listen to your body too! The healthier you eat, the more in tune you begin to be with what your body really needs. I have found that, during the summer, a combination of raw fruits and veggies during the day and cooked veggies at night works best. During the winter, I eat more hot, cooked veggies and tofu scrambles for breakfast, soups and roasted vegetables during the day, and cooked vegan dishes at night. I also try to combine my fat intake with salads and cruciferous vegetables so my body can process my meal more easily (3).
I hope this look into a typical day for me has been helpful for you. Everyone is different, so I am by no means prescribing my diet for you, or criticizing anyone who eats differently than me. To say this has been a fun and easy process would be a lie. I do know however, that through this undertaking, I am setting my self up for sustainable health in the long run. Let me know in the questions below if you have any questions, and check out this great book to learn more about a whole food, plant-based diet.
***This is a project through the Ethical Writers & Creatives group. Check out all of our food posts by clicking the links below!
World Threads Traveler: What I Eat in a Day and Why I’m Not a Vegetarian
Conscious by Chloé: A Day of Home Cooked Meals
Sustaining Life: How To Eat Sustainably: Being "Vegan" and Other Decisions
The Wasted Blog: My Week of Meals - Food Inspo for Health Nuts
Honestly Modern: How Much Do You Think About What You Eat and Why?
Going Zero Waste: What I Eat in a Day
My Green Closet: How Eco-Influencers Eat
When thinking of all of the possible gift guides I could provide this holiday season, I kept feeling a sense of urgency to not do your average list. Yes, buying sustainable alternatives to the normal stocking stuffers is helpful. Giving sustainable alpaca socks, handcrafted by fairly-paid, South American artisans, instead of those trendy Zara Faux Leather Gloves, made of polyester and coated in polyurethane, is important. But unless our loved ones asked for those things specifically, how do we know they need them? Does your mom or boyfriend, really want another pair of socks or gloves?
Thats why I've decided to create a list for the holidays, this year, that I can truly get behind. One that helps us all make a switch for the better, that desperately has to be made for our planet... A PLASTIC-FREE HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE! It's a win-win because you get to give to those you love (something they actually need), and at the same time encourage the helpful habits needed for our planet's sustainable future.
Help your loved ones keep our natural environments clean, by giving gifts that replace single-use plastics and encourage the helpful habits needed for our planet's future.
GIVE A PLASTIC-FREE HOLIDAY!
See below for examples of the things that I never leave my house without, that all easily fit into my purse or day bag. Together we can help our loved ones keep our oceans and natural environments clean, by giving gifts that replace single-use plastics and all that other "one-use" junk that never really goes away.
WANT TO EXPLAIN YOUR GIFT AND WHY IT'S IMPORTANT?
Check out my talking points below and give the gift of information this holiday as well!
What is a single-use plastic?
Single-use plastics, or disposable plastics, are used only once before they are thrown away or recycled. Examples of single-use plastics are plastic bags, straws, iced and warm coffee cups, soda and water bottles, eating utensils, and most takeaway food packaging.
Click the picture above to read my campaign to end the mindless consumption of single-use plastics:
How much are we actually using?
Every year, the use of plastics is increasing. According to Project Drawdown, “The total production of plastics is estimated to grow from 311 million tons in 2014 to at least 792 million tons by 2050. This is conservative, with other sources estimating over 1 billion tons if trends continue.”
Why is it a problem?
Single-use plastic utensils, straws, bags, bottles, and cups are polluting our planet. Recent studies estimate that "by the year 2050 there will be more plastic—by weight—than fish in the ocean," WEF, New Plastics.
Together we can help our loved ones keep our oceans and natural environments clean, by giving gifts that replace "one-use" junk that never goes away.
Now I know what you’re thinking... What if my friends and family already made the sustainable switch? They don’t need another reusable bottle or straw... If that’s the case, Woo Hoo!! Might I suggest that you make a donation in their name to charity instead? The Pachamama Alliance is doing amazing work to protect the Amazon Rainforest, it's people, and the Amazon River.
"The rainforest's rivers play a central role in feeding hydrological cycles (the circulatory system of the planet) and are central to regulating the global climate. In partnership with many other organizations, Pachamama is developing a plan to secure permanent protection for the Sacred Headwaters of the Amazon River region of the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador and Peru. This area is recognized as containing the highest levels of biodiversity in the entire Amazon basin and perhaps in the whole world. I want to protect that area from any more clear-cutting and oil exploration, and my guess is, so do you and your family. Pachamama is one of the BEST charities to donate to, making a tangible difference for our planet’s future through their efforts. CHECK THEM OUT HERE: Pachamama Alliance.
This decadent, vegan pie is the perfect dessert for holidays spent at home.
It's the holidays, and for me that means spreading compassion however I can. Even with food! If you're at all like me, then you may be the only vegan in your household too, and you want to make dishes that everyone loves. This pie is sure to please everyone who has a sweet tooth... and watch out, because it will disappear fast! It's so good that it may even convert your non-vegan family members... or at least encourage them that plant-based doesn't mean boring.
Made with chocolate and hazelnuts, it fits just as well with warm holiday dishes as it does with a pile of raw greens and fruits. Thankfully it's a pretty straightforward one to whip up and you probably have the majority of the ingredients hanging out in your pantry already. Even in a blizzard, a skip down to the bodega or corner store for hazelnuts is not out of the question. These measurements can be changed to fit your dietary needs and tastebuds also, so feel free to adjust as you see fit. Bon Appétit!
This post originally appeared on Sustaining.Life, where you can find simple vegan recipes, a sustainable shopping guide, and holistic musings about living a sustainable lifestyle. All images are by Faye Lessler.
Vegan Chocolate Hazelnut TortE
Prep time: 60 minutes. Cook time: 30 minutes.
• 1 cup flour
• 1 1/2 cup hazelnuts
• 6 oz dark chocolate (75% - 100%) - you can sub up to half of this with cacao or cocoa powder if you're running short on chocolate chips/baking chocolate
• 1 tsp vanilla extract
• 2 tbsp maple syrup
• 1 cup sugar
• 3 tbsp coconut oil (cold, slightly solid)
• 2-6 tbsp ice wate
1. Grind 1/2 of the hazelnuts in a blender until powdered. Add flour, hazelnut powder and 1/2 of the sugar to a large mixing bowl and incorporate.
2. Add 2 tbsp coconut oil and iced water, adding one tbsp at a time as you mix with a wooden spoon. Dough should form, smooth but a little crumbly. Roll into a ball and refrigerate for 1 hour.
3. Once cooled, roll out as much as possible before pressing dough into the pie dish. Heat oven to 350*F.
4. Prepare a double boiler by placing a smaller pot inside of a larger one, 1/3 full of water. As the water in the bottom pot boils, the smaller pot will float without touching the bottom of the larger pot. Add chocolate, vanilla and 1 tbsp coconut oil to the small pot and let melt.
5. When chocolate is 1/2 melted, add remaining sugar and maple syrup, stirring as you go. Remove from heat just before all of the chocolate is melted and stir vigorously until smooth (or as smooth as you can get).
6. Add remaining hazelnuts, roughly chopped, to the melted chocolate and mix thoroughly.
7. Add chocolate mixture to the crust, even out with a spatula, then top with more chopped hazelnut pieces.
8. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until the center of the pie settles and the crust is browned.
9. Let cool for 20 minutes, then slice and serve with a generous helping of vegan ice cream! This torte is even better served cold the next day.
This article covers a topic that I have wanted to write about for a while, and when @LonelyWhale reached out to me to participate in their newest campaign, I knew I'd been waiting to publish it for the right reason. Lonely Whale is doing excellent work raising awareness and challenging us all to rethink our plastic consumption for the sake of our oceans. I've teamed up with Lonely Whale for their #stopsucking campaign because drinking through a straw when you have a perfectly good mouth seems pointless. It's even more absurd when you learn that 500 million straws are used in the U.S. each day and that an estimated 71% of seabirds and 30% of turtles have been found with plastics in their stomachs. I don't want to suck anymore, and neither should you. Join me in the challenge, and help mitigate your effects on ocean environments, by saying NO to straws.
Make your pledge by visiting My custom Model4greenliving link: [ stopsucking/model4green ] and clicking the "Create Challenge URL".
STOP MINDLESSLY USING PLASTICS!
Stop mindlessly using single-use plastics already! Seriously, it's driving me insane. According to a report by the WEF and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, "There could be more plastics than fish in the ocean (by weight) by 2050." This is a worldwide problem. With serious consequences being felt now, lasting last far into the future, we can no longer afford to let our society's plastic-use go unchecked.
"There could be more plastics than fish in the ocean by 2050."
We're in 2017 with great affordable alternatives, yet plastic consumption continues to grow. And it's growing fast. “Global plastic production has increased from 2 to 380 metric tons (Mt) annually from 1950 to 2015.” This according to a recent global study by Roland Geyer published in Science Advances. And "half of the total plastics manufactured during this period (3900 Mt), was produced in just the past 13 years.” Our ever-growing addiction to plastic is causing a massive shift in our ocean and terrestrial ecologies but is being widely ignored for convenience and societal norms. Not only is it being ignored, but oftentimes being sold to us as the best way to consume.
Throwaway-plastic use is even being glorified and promoted in modern, celebrity/influencer culture. Many Instagram stars and celebrities take food photos and post shots of themselves with plastic coffee cups, straws, and other forms of single-use plastics on a regular basis. When I see a picture like this, not only am I completely baffled, but I want to cry. These images are the most lucrative form of advertisement in our social-media driven world. People of all ages look to them for inspiration for how to live and behave. So why are there so many plastics being promoted in these shots? Mindless plastic consumption isn't glamorous. On the contrary, it's burying our planet alive and suffocating the Earth's creatures. Big and small.
"Mindless plastic consumption isn't glamorous...
... on the contrary, it's burying our planet alive."
I know the problem exists far beyond the consumer. If our governments would step up and call for a single-use-plastic-ban, the burden would be more fairly placed on companies to innovate alternatives. I also know first hand that celebrities are not the only ones mindlessly consuming. Even I am forced to use single use plastics anytime I want to shop in a grocery store for anything packaged, or at a restaurant and forget to repeatedly ask for NO STRAW with my drink. I get frustrated with myself that even I, someone who makes a conscious effort and plans ahead in many ways, end up with some sort of single-use plastic use every day.
"Maybe you've been taken out of your mid-vacation-bliss when you've seen more plastics on the beach than sea shells."
You've probably experienced frustration with plastic-use at some point too. Maybe you've been taken out of your mid-vacation-bliss when you've seen more plastics on the beach than sea shells. Or possibly wondered why your grocery store insists on bagging your ONE item in double plastic bags. We all have a problem. The reason I am using influencers and celebrities as an example is to show how widely we all are collectively ignoring and promoting our bad habit together... ignoring it for convenience and comfort. And the sad truth is that plastic's use is more likely to continue if it's glamorized by those who can most easily avoid it.
Although many plastics aren't easily avoided in our daily lives, some of the most common ones can be. Celebrities or anyone else that isn’t struggling to make ends meet, myself included, have the financial means to avoid many single-use plastics by simply planning ahead. If you (read celebrities) have enough wealth that you have someone planning your outfit for you every day, you can have someone plan for you to use a reusable coffee cup or metal straw. If you make enough money and have enough free time that you’re reading this blog post, you can do the same. If you make minimum wage, saying no to plastic straws doesn't cost a thing and eliminates the waste they would create from their 10 minutes of use.
"Make it a trend to avoid single-use plastics."
We all can say no to many of the main culprits that are filling our oceans and sea life with waste. Buy a reusable cup, straw, grocery bag, and utensil set and take it with you when you leave the house. Ask influencers to stop glorifying its consumption when you see them. Make it a trend to avoid these single-use items, and join me in the #stopsucking challenge. We all need to be more accountable with our own waste for one another, and stop thoughtlessly participating in our planets' pollution.
"We all can say NO..."
Stop mindlessly using plastics, and together and let's help clean up the Earth. It's the least we can do, it benefits us all, and it's the only place we have to call home.