Thursday, November 26, 2009

cashew cheese and Stella McCartnies: reflecting on two years of veganism

Wednesday was my two-year veganversary. Last year, commemorating my one-year mark, I came out of the shoe closet in a very honest post, Soy Milk and Manolos. I admitted my true vegan plight: my wardrobe is abusive to the environment.

That post was actually clever and humorous at times. However, since I'm in law school now, I have lost most of my wit in general--so forgive the dry account of the last year of my life.

At this very moment a year ago, I was wondering whether or not I could become a leather-free consumer. I was coming to grips with a very classist reality that certain high-fashion purchases felt very important to me. I was also wondering why I felt the need to purchase multiple over-priced variations of the same thing. To top it off, the miles my garments had traveled across the world to reach my department store become a bother as well.

I have not purchased any new leather, wool, or silk in over a year. I still wear my old stuff, and I still conveniently consider my mom's wardrobe second-hand and acceptable. That being said, I notice that I consume less. I realize I am inclined to make purchases when I am stressed, as if having the power to buy something will somehow make me feel more in control of my life, or more relaxed, or happier. It's just not true. It becomes one more thing tossed in the jungle that is my closet. I'll think it's ugly tomorrow anyway. No more "retail therapy" for me.

Correction: now I buy organic, colorful fruits and vegetables to channel my need to purchase and control. I find that examining all of the fruits in the bin for the brightest findings is a calming way to reconnect with myself.

I'm also discovering more and more vegan, eco-friendly, high-fashion alternatives. Stella McCartney, olsen Haus, and Vaute Couture to name my favs.

But something else has been happening in the past year. When I first became a vegan, I ignored the wardrobe issue. As I began tackling the wardrobe issue, I ignored the face/body/hair product issue. I by no means pile on loads of makeup--however I am addicted to cleansing, exfoliating, moisturizing, and conditioning. I do enjoy mascara, a good eye brow pencil and gel, and definitely rock the red lipstick on weekends. Perhaps you have read my mani/pedi experiment a few posts down.

And so, to be completely corny and not at all clever, a new chapter of my vegan journey begins. Looking forward to sharing my findings.

economies of scale and eating local

Very interesting article in Forbes magazine, "The Locavore Myth" (hat tip to Veg News). The article opens by considering other factors in calculating the energy cost of food production beside transportation (water usage, fertilizer types, processing methods and packaging techniques).

Perhaps more interestingly, the author then considers economies of scale in determining the energy cost of food transportation:

To choose a locally grown apple over an apple trucked in from across the country might seem easy. But this decision ignores economies of scale. To take an extreme example, a shipper sending a truck with 2,000 apples over 2,000 miles would consume the same amount of fuel per apple as a local farmer who takes a pickup 50 miles to sell 50 apples at his stall at the green market. The critical measure here is not food miles but apples per gallon.

The one big problem with thinking beyond food miles is that it's hard to get the information you need...This is an opportunity for watchdog groups.

This adds an interesting twist to the dilemma of organic v. local. I go for organic when I have to pick one or the other, and perhaps that might be the more eco-friendly decision, depending on the shipment. But who knows at this point? No one, really.

And so I appreciate the author's conclusion: skip meat instead.

Until our food system becomes more transparent, there is one thing you can do to shrink the carbon footprint of your dinner: Take the meat off your plate. No matter how you slice it, it takes more energy to bring meat, as opposed to plants, to the table. It takes 6 pounds of grain to make a pound of chicken and 10 to 16 pounds to make a pound of beef.

vegetarian food pyramid

The American Dietetic Association has released a vegetarian food pyramid that is vegan-friendly. The image above was taken from the site. Click here for more details.

hat tip Veg news

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Copenhagen gone bust

If your week was boring, he is something to ruffle your feathers. At the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit (APEC), world leaders "announced on Sunday morning that a legally binding deal on climate change would be impossible to achieve at the U.N. summit on global warming in Copenhagen next month."

What's going on?

The reason is simple: the deadlock between developed nations and developing ones. Developing nations refuse most responsibility for climate change, arguing that warming is primarily the fault of rich industrialized countries, and want the developed world to take on strict short-term emissions reduction targets. Developed nations, led by the U.S., argue that fast-growing developing nations like China and India will emit the vast majority of future carbon emissions, and that any deal that exempts them from action — as the Kyoto Protocol did — is a farce. Despite months of negotiations in Barcelona, Bangkok and other world cities, that gap remains vast.

At the same time, the failure of the U.S. Senate to pass carbon cap legislation leaves American negotiators in a difficult position at Copenhagen. Read the full article

ocean absorbing less emissions

Oceans are becoming less efficient at absorbing carbon dioxide, and can no longer be considered a permanent "carbon sink" for heat-trapping gases.

The slowdown in the rise of the absorption rate resulted from a gradual change in the oceans’ chemistry, the study found. “The more carbon dioxide the ocean absorbs, the more acidic it becomes and the less carbon dioxide it can absorb,” said the study’s lead author, Samar Khatiwala, a research scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University and a professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

“It’s a small change in absolute terms,” Dr. Khatiwala said. “What I think is fairly clear and important in the long term is the trend toward lower values, which implies that more of the emissions will remain in the atmosphere.”

...Yet much work remains to be done to confirm the results and to expand upon them, Dr. Khatiwala said. read the full article

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

going nude: an un-manicured social experiment

Before this experiment began, I did not remember the last time I saw my own bare fingernails. Yes, I had a more grungy phase where I let my nails chip and found this to be rebellious--but that's about it.

Ever since I posted about the toxic chemicals used in nail products--including harsh effects on both human health and the environment--in the pedicure predicament, I knew the time had finally come to address the elephant in the room. And so began my cuticle cold turkey.

Before I get into my thoughts of being mani/pedi-free (and nail polish all together) for three months now, I thought I would address the need for poisonous pedicures in the first place.

1. Classism. Whether or not one chooses to use words such as "lady-like" or "classy," the fact of the matter is that outsourcing your manis and pedis makes a statement about a) your extra resources and b) your extra time.

2. Sexism. Related to classism, gendered relations of power create a standard wherein culturally praised "femininity" entails specific (costly and waste-producing) hyper-grooming (I say "hyper" because I think a certain degree of grooming is inherent in any social creature, including animals). While regulation of the body may be mirrored in men (see re-thinking the beefcake: weight lifting and the regulation of male bodies) the manicure mandate has no hegemonic male counterpart. While men may receive manicures and pedicures, I believe there is a different social psychology behind it that can be debated later, if my readers so desire.

3. OCD. I think the ocd/conception of hygiene/need to control element of this issue is likely related to class, but it creates its own life force all together. Most of my manicure compulsions have to do with control, perfection, thorough removal of cuticles and dead skin, completely evenly filed nails, no flaws expressed through the chipping of nail polish.

4. Let's not forget, happy colors make people happy. I do believe this is similar to sunny weather.

Throughout my experiment, I have found that all four factors have come into play. I made a rule that I couldn't tell many people about my experiment, because then it was like I was just making excuses for the deplorable condition of my nails. It's been interesting to track my own thought process over the months. In the very beginning, I was dreading bare toenails more than bare nails. I think it had to do with the idea of making my feet "cuter." You know, because they are so gross and germs jump all over them when you walk in flip flops...or perhaps because my mother always respected women with painted toe nails in open-toe shoes. Who knows.

But surprise, surprise--once I finally took off the polish, I realized that I had really cute, fresh, happy-looking feet, even if my toes were not painted. In fact, I was very fascinated by the look. This even forced me to get over my foot phobia and touch my own feet (raw shea butter to cope with the lack of pedicures).

This lasted for a good 2 months. Now we're in month 3. I have to say, life is more peaceful without having to worry about chipped nails and making appointments and scheduling the gym around my appointments. But the whole fascination with the natural is getting old. I got a cuticle infection on one of my fingers because, let's get real, I'm not very skilled at cuticle removal. I occasionally and increasingly envy a good cherry red polish with a perfect file. And now, all sorts of thoughts are creeping in.

What about all of my job interviews coming up? What about when I meet people I want to impress? What about when I'm stressed studying for finals?

I'm thinking about breaking. What kind of break? Should I bring my own eco-friendly products? Should I go for the maintenance, but not apply a polish? Will I eco-justify an occasional mani-pedi as better than a biweekly visit?

I haven't decided. I'm letting the chips fall where they may. But let me just say, I never thought I would make it this far, and am definitely happy that I have broken the "need."

In any event, if you are addicted to nail polish, I encourage you to take the challenge and let The Colonic know how it goes.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

it doesn't get much cooler than this

How cool is this? I have never seen brussels sprouts on the stalk. Who knew they even grew this way?

I am so excited to bake these. Word on the streets is it's easy and yummy to throw the stalk on the BBQ.

By the way, I happened to purchase this beauty at Trader Joe's--which is nice, seeing how frustrated I have been that most of the vegetables at TJ's come wrapped in plastic.

strange humor

I was watching a youtube clip from The Little Mermaid, and I realized that this scene is actually very traumatic.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

hot for Vaute

I always say that the hardest thing about being a vegan is not eating--it's dressing. Well-made, high fashion pieces are harder to come by in the world of the animal-friendly and eco-conscious.

Enter Vaute Couture. Beyond striking, this collection of coats is made for cold weather (wind resistant, snow resistant, heat retaining, and soft for sensitive skin). You can also get your coat of choice in a recycled version.

Will give you the final verdict when I get mine in the mail.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

party favors with a purpose

My roommate came home from a baby shower the other night and, as she caught me up on the chocolate bar and drinking games, set down a party favor on the counter.

I can appreciate the cultural need to send guests home with some sort of gendered doo-dad--but honestly, does it need to be something that is headed straight to the landfill? What about a party favor with a purpose? Perhaps a reusable water bottle with ballet slippers on it? A rosy coin pouch? A pink pill holder? There is room for creativity and personality here.

Resources: limited. Landfill space: limited. Room in your friends closet: limited. So what's with all of the worthless junk? How about handing out something that can be used (and better yet, re-used).

tell Obama to attend Copenhagen in person

Tell Obama it's game time, and he needs to attend Copenhagen in person. Sign the petition here.

Monday, November 9, 2009

would you like water or air pollution with that?

In response to respiratory illnesses caused by yellow smoke emissions from coal-fired power plants (and several lawsuits), Allegheny Energy tried a new approach: installing scrubbers to clean the plant's air emissions.

The "victory" was short-lived.

Each day since the equipment was switched on in June, the company has dumped tens of thousands of gallons of wastewater containing chemicals from the scrubbing process into the Monongahela River, which provides drinking water to 350,000 people and flows into Pittsburgh, 40 miles to the north.

...Much power plant waste once went into the sky, but because of toughened air pollution laws, it now often goes into lakes and rivers, or into landfills that have leaked into nearby groundwater, say regulators and environmentalists.

...The Environmental Protection Agency projects that by next year, roughly 50 percent of coal-generated electricity in the United States will come from plants that use scrubbers or similar technologies, creating vast new sources of wastewater.Yet no federal regulations specifically govern the disposal of power plant discharges into waterways or landfills.

Read the full article

Sunday, November 8, 2009

are you eating beef that's eating poop?

A coalition of food and consumer groups that includes Consumers Union and the Center for Science in the Public Interest has asked the Food and Drug Administration to ban the practice. McDonald's Corp., the nation's largest restaurant user of beef, also wants the FDA to prohibit the feeding of so-called poultry litter to cattle.

Members of the coalition are threatening to file a lawsuit or to push for federal legislation establishing such a ban if the FDA doesn't act to do so in the coming months.

Farmers feed 1 million to 2 million tons of poultry litter to their cattle annually, according to FDA estimates.

Using the litter -- which includes feces, spilled chicken feed, feathers and poultry farm detritus -- increases the risk of cows becoming infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease, said Michael Hansen, a senior scientist at Consumers Union. full article

hormonal milk is not safe, says cancer expert

Special thanks to Organic Consumers Alert for the tip:

The Cancer Prevention Coalition is criticizing a widely publicized recent report, "Recombinant Bovine Somatotropin" (rBST) which claims that milk from cows injected with this genetically engineered hormone is safe.

The report was authored by eight paid consultants to rBST companies, including Elanco and Monsanto, points out Dr. Samuel S. Epstein, Chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition. "All of these consultants were paid for their so-called 'safety assessments,'" he says.

What's the big deal? Well...

* rBST makes cows sick. Monsanto has been forced to admit to about 20 toxic effects, including mastitis, on the label of Posilac, the rBST product that when administered to cows makes them produce more milk. Monsanto's Posilac product was acquired by Eli Lilly in 2008.

* rBST milk is contaminated by pus, due to mastitis, an infection of the udder commonly induced by the hormone, and also by antibiotics used to treat the mastitis.

* rBST milk is chemically and nutritionally different than natural milk.

* Milk from cows injected with rBST is contaminated with the hormone, traces of which are absorbed through the gut into the blood of people who consume this milk or products made from it.

* rBST milk is supercharged with high levels of the natural growth factor (IGF-1), which is readily absorbed through the gut.

* Excess levels of IGF-1 have been incriminated in well-documented scientific publications as causes of breast, colon, and prostate cancers. Additionally, IGF-1 blocks natural defense mechanisms against early submicroscopic cancers. full article

Does Monsanto sound like a familiar name you've read about on The Colonic? Recall a recent blog post regarding Obama, Monsanto, and the FDA.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Maine votes against equality

Maine voters repealed the state's same-sex marriage law:
With 87 percent of precincts reporting early Wednesday morning, 53 percent of voters had approved the repeal, ending an expensive and emotional fight that was closely watched around the country as a referendum on the national gay-marriage movement. Polls had suggested a much closer race. full article

Sunday, November 1, 2009

many apologies

Dear readers,

The Colonic is really slacking. I've been slaving away doing legal research for a predictive memo.

Perhaps if I had the time, I would tell the story of how I was pied with dead animal flesh this weekend. While this was particularly offensive and disgusting for a vegan to endure, I imagine anyone would be disheartened to get baconed.

Slaughtered pig aside, the gravamen of the offense was the utter disregard of my boundaries and sense of bodily security.

Back to work.