Lifestyle

My New Year’s Resolution 2018

I spent a lot more time thinking through these personal goals that this post got really long. I think I’ll just discuss my New Year’s Resolution briefly here and then give it its own post.

My New Year’s resolution for 2018: Be a more conscious consumer.

By “conscious,” I mean my first focus is going to be on reducing my impact on the earth’s resources by NOT partaking (as much as I reasonably can) in products that can’t be re-used, composted, or repurposed, or in products that take a lot of resources to make. (Hence my specific goal of not buying any clothes.)

Next focus will be on supporting necessary products that support sustainability.

When I’ve obtained as much information as I need, we will be investing in some kind of tool that will help us compost our food waste.

Why?

I grew up in a small town. In a forest. In the 90’s, when every year the whole school would gather in the cafeteria and watch that video with the dinosaurs singing “Recycle, Reduce, Reuse!”

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Recycle Rex is kinda proud that stupid song was stuck in my head for 20 years.

One of the first rules I learned at school was “Don’t litter.” Any kind of store besides the local grocery store was about 12 miles down the hill. I did not grow up consuming a lot. I didn’t even realize that I lived my life exceptionally close to the natural world.

I went to college in a town that shared very environment-focused views. I walked everywhere. I brought my own grocery bags with me (10 years before they even made that law!). I re-used plastic produce bags and bought my kitchen supplies at a thrift store.

Then when I moved to this larger town where I currently live, with more amenities, and started making money, I started to lose it. I fell into the consumerism pit. I bought nice clothes for work. I bought so many craft supplies. (I paid off my car!) I started clicking on advertisements on Facebook and getting the things. No, Stephanie. It’s a trap!

Sometimes the silliest things can bring you back to your original principles. Luckily I know some people in the world who really hold themselves to that which we should all strive for – a life where our existence as an individual and species makes as small of an impact as possible so others (human and not) can share the space. And I saw a video about straws and how devastating they are for the wildlife in our oceans.

And then I saw a video about microplastics. (That link isn’t the video I saw, but it explains some of it.) Basically, when we throw away synthetic textiles they don’t decompose. But as those polyester jumpsuits in the landfill start to come apart over time, tiny synthetic particles get washed away into…you guessed it…our oceans. Microscopic organisms eat the particles, bigger organisms consume those and collect more particles over their lifetimes, and the particles accumulate more as we go up the food chain.

And that’s when I became horrified.

Watching “Planet Earth II” hit the nail in the coffin for me. Now there’s no way I’m not going to do everything I possibly can to reduce my personal impact.

“Zero Waste”

A childhood friend of mine is part of the Zero Waste movement – a movement where individuals reduce, reduce, reduce, then reuse, then recycle (or compost), in that order, with a goal of sending as little waste into the landfill as possible.

I’ve been checking out a number of Zero Waste blogs and Youtube videos. It’s very doable but requires a bit of work in the beginning. I’m excited to make this part of my life. I find the name “Zero Waste” a bit deceptive – it really is just about taking steps toward “Minimal Waste.”

I’m going to share some of the steps I’ve been taking and plan to take to reach this goal. (I created a very comprehensive checklist for my house – If you’d like me to share this let me know!)

Refuse/Reduce

One very big way I plan to reduce my impact this year is to not buy any clothes. New or used. I don’t need any new clothes, especially after buying all those clothes for my surgery recovery time. It takes a huge amount of natural and human resources to produce new clothing, and again can we mention the synthetic fibers in the ocean? So this year, no new clothes.

I bought one pair of flats last month for work and those are the only new shoes I will have this year. I bought some fancy secondhand sunglasses off of eBay and I’m pretty sure I’m set for life there.

I will reduce my purchasing of new craft supplies for work. I have all the supplies I will need, for several years probably, to write nice notes for my students on fancy paper.

I’m switching all of my bills to electronic statements. I took my name off the mailing list for junk mail.

Reuse

So, that closet full of clothes? I don’t wear them all. I plan to actually repurpose some of them into produce bags for myself and maybe others if my sewing skills are up to par. Brian’s old ratty undershirts are going to be rags for when the kitties have an accident.

We got two lovely sets of cotton napkins for our wedding, which have already proven not only great for traditional napkin purposes, but for tea towel purposes.

Anything that comes in a jar will be repurposed to hold raw ingredients. I plan to reuse spice jars for spice mixes. Later I will buy spices in bulk.

I’ve been using my own water bottle for years! (It’s a plastic Camelbak, unfortunately.) I like the straw for drinking water while driving…but if I lose it I’ll replace it with a steel one.

I’ve been baking oil-free muffins in silicone baking cups for months. They are amazing!

I have invested in reusable feminine pads. Unfortunately they didn’t arrive in time for me to try them, so it’s one last cycle with conventional protection. My remaining feminine products will be donated to a local shelter.

Still to Do

SO much. Including establishing a compost system, figuring out a routine for buying in bulk in our town which is a bulk bin desert, and creating little car kits for eating out. There is a lot to be desired about how we handle our pet waste.

It seems overwhelming to move toward this lifestyle, but I think we can check something new off the list fairly often. Every check is a step that reduces our impact. Everything we do is important and we have to acknowledge the small steps we take. I’ll be updating on this regularly.

Have a lovely day!

Stephy

Lifestyle, Veganism

On My Veganniversary

Good evening friends,

Today for me marks the anniversary of a surprising doctor’s visit. She said, “I wanted to talk to you about your cholesterol. It’s high.”

I was so surprised to hear that at the time. I had been a vegetarian since 2005, the day after I graduated high school. But the truth was, I still ate eggs for breakfast every morning. And cheese with a few meals a week. And put half and half in my coffee.

I asked, “Is there anything I can do?” The doctor, also a vegetarian, suggested a plant based protein powder for breakfast instead of eggs.

I chewed on that information for awhile. And I used the protein powder for awhile. I started to think about why I stopped eating animals in the first place. I thought about how much I had wanted to give up all animal products, but I knew so little in 2005 about what a plant-based lifestyle was.

I made a plan to “eat plant based two meals a day.” That escalated quickly to veganism. Quickly, like within two days. Because, I figured, if I’m going to eat in a way that’s health promoting and reduces suffering in the world (the latter of which eventually far outweighed the former), why only partake 2/3rds of the time? Why only do the best thing most of the time when you can easily and happily do the best thing all the time?

Starting Out

What had stopped me from taking the full leap to veganism in 2005? Lack of education. When I was a kid, in college grocery shopping for the first time, I had no idea legumes could be a cheap and easy staple. I looked at packages of vegan cheese and thought, “That’s so much more expensive than cow milk cheese!” I just didn’t know.

This time, as a 29-year-old woman with a job and an Amazon Prime membership, I knew what I wanted. I did not want a diet full of processed food. I wanted something that would support my active lifestyle and keep me healthy for as long as possible. So I typed in the search engine, “Vegan whole food cookbook.”

(And quickly learned that the term was “Whole foods plant based.”)

I bought an embarrassing number of cookbooks. Some of them were way over my head with the amount of work the recipes required. Some of them called for ingredients that were already in my house! (I gravitated toward those ones.) I liked “Forks Over Knives” for the simplicity in their recipes. I loved “Oh She Glows” because it helped me branch out when I wanted something more impressive.

I read “How Not to Die” by Dr. Michael Greger. Twice. I learned about food that has been shown to be health promoting through science.

I changed what I bought at the grocery store. Beans of some sort are always on the list. Instead of two eggs for breakfast every morning, it was now overnight oats with berries, ground flaxseed, chia seeds, shredded wheat cereal, cinnamon and walnuts. Replaced 1/2 and 1/2 with the soy creamer from Trader Joe’s, easiest switch ever. I warmed back up to grains like rice, quinoa and barley, which I had mistakenly dismissed under the influence of my keto and paleo friends. Nutritional yeast, which I had loved in my days at Humboldt but slowly phased out when my partner expressed a distaste for it, came back with a fierce yellow vengeance. Instead of any oil for cooking, vegetable broth became my jam.

I got better at bringing my lunch to work. Unconsciously I had started relying on a bagel and cream cheese from Starbucks to eat for lunch in between sites. It became easy to bring last night’s leftovers to work because I would throw just about everything in the fridge into my dinners.

I experimented a lot but also had healthful fallbacks. I’ve developed a love for creating food.

My mom and stepdad gave up meat and dairy this summer. I relished in an opportunity to put together a vegan Thanksgiving for them. It was truly the least stressful Thanksgiving I’d ever had.

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My Thanksgiving plate, complete with Tofurky on my husband’s request
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I made a friggen’ vegan pumpkin pie from scratch!

Beyond Plant-Based

Inevitably I ran into the awkward situation of saying I was vegan while wearing leather shoes. They were thick-soled black Mary Janes, shoes that I had bought before I went vegan. Shoes that I wore to work nearly daily. (Extra shame points for being a vegetarian so long and still partaking in this.)

I came to realize there was more to be done in this journey to be less of a burden on the world. I donated my jackets that had down feathers. I switched my leather purse I’d purchased in a thrift store for a nylon bag. I realized it wouldn’t be practical to donate my leather shoes because I needed them for work, so my plan is to use my shoes until they become unusable, and not buy any leather in the future.

I thought about toiletries. I changed to a more ethically produced soap that isn’t tested on animals. I switched to a natural deodorant. I’m still trying to find the right hair products for me, but you can bet when I find the one it will have that starry bunny logo on it.

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This is the logo to look for!

The Hardest Parts

For me, by far the hardest part about going vegan has been my fear of judgement from non-vegans. I try to have a thick skin and stick to my guns and research but I’m a really sensitive person and care about what people think. For that reason, I generally avoid mentioning veganism unless it comes up.

I don’t like when people say sorry for eating meat in front of me. My lifestyle choice doesn’t have to be the source of your sorrow, and now you’ve shined the awkward spotlight on me. I’m still brainstorming better ways to respond to this behavior.

The restaurants in my area are not incredibly vegan-friendly. The one a few towns up that is, sells mostly salads and smoothies. (No thanks, for $8 I can make my own at home, plus 3 more for my friends.) Dining out is a chore and I generally try to avoid it if I can. I much prefer to cook a nice meal for others. I want to open friends’ eyes to the fact that vegan food can be nourishing, filling, and delicious.

After 1 Year

Now I feel like I don’t have to work so hard to navigate this lifestyle. I can put together any kind of meal. I’m not afraid to ask if something is dairy-free. I feel supported by my loved ones and enjoy seeing the changes they have made in their lives, too. I look forward to enjoying a lifetime of veganism. There are still challenges when it comes to people who are less educated about the horrors of factory farming and what it takes to get animal products to the table. I still struggle to find the right words when people sincerely ask me “Why are you vegan?” But I’m working on those things. It’s always a process.

I haven’t followed up with my bloodwork yet. I’d be interested to see if it’s changed since last January.

Thoughts? Questions? Please feel free to share! See you next time.

Stephy