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October 3, 2014 / Elizabeth

Spotlight on Hershey, 2 Years Later

Have a heart hersheyExactly two years ago, Hershey announced it would source only ethically certified cocoa by 2020. This announcement came after years of pressure on Hershey to prevent child labor on West African cocoa farms from Green America members and our allies Two years later, we’re checking on Hershey’s progress and on how these commitments have impacted cocoa growing communities. But first, a little back story… 2000-2009

Young boy rakes cocoa beans on a drying rack.

credit: International Labor Rights Forum

In 2001 the world was shocked by stories of horrific forced child labor in West African cocoa growing communities. In response, a “slave-free” label was proposed by US lawmakers. The chocolate industry defeated this proposal and instead signed on to the Harkin-Engel protocol, to voluntarily fix child labor in their supply chains. A decade went by with the industry missing deadline after deadline to stop child labor, as their profits soared. Very little progress was made to prevent child labor among most major chocolate companies. September 2010 Green America and our allies grew tired of waiting for big cocoa to act on its own to fix child labor. We launched our Raise the Bar, Hershey! Campaign, calling out Hershey, the largest US chocolate manufacturer, as a laggard in addressing child labor problems in its supply chain. In 2009, Mars had already committed to sourcing 100% sustainable cocoa by 2020.

anti hershey rally

credit: Celery Street Blog

September 2011 With growing consumer awareness and outrage, Green America published “Still Time to Raise the Bar” to keep the pressure on Hershey[1]. The report called out Hershey’s failure to address child labor and other labor abuses in its supply chain (a topic that Hershey failed to mention in its own corporate responsibility report). The report acted as a catalyst for tens of thousands of people to write to Hershey. Consumers and religious allies took part in protests at Hershey stores, and investors called on the company to address child labor as well. January 2012 rainforest alliance hersheys bliss certificateGreen America and our allies planned to run a Super Bowl add targeting Hershey for child labor. In response, Hershey agreed to purchase Rainforest Alliance certified cocoa for its Bliss chocolate products[2] August 2012 Consumer pressure continued to escalate on Hershey, and retailers started putting pressure on the cocoa giant as well. Green America united food coops, specialty retailers, and Whole Foods to voice their concerns regarding child labor in Hershey products. Whole Foods agreed to drop all Hershey products from its stores. October 2012 Hershey announced it would ethically source 100% of its cocoa by 2020, but does not disclose an incremental timeline or which certification it will use.[3] March 2013 In response to ongoing pressure, Hershey shares it plans to worker with Fair Trade USA, Utz and Rainforest alliance for certification, and that it will reach 10% certification by the end of 2013, 40-50% by 2016.[4] January 2014 Hershey announced it was ahead of its original goal, reaching 18% certified cocoa[5]. Today: Green America is pleased that Hershey has followed through on its plan to move to certified cocoa, and is in fact ahead of schedule. Eight years is a long time in the life of a child, so the sooner Hershey can purchase cocoa that comes from farms that screen out child labor, the better. Child labor remains an urgent issue in West Africa’s cocoa sector, and one that stems from extreme poverty. The average income of West African cocoa farmers and their dependents is well below the level of absolute poverty, according to the Cocoa Barometer.  Poverty is a major driver of child labor. In order to address the extreme poverty faced by cocoa farmers, chocolate companies must develop long-term relationships with the farmers they purchase from and pay prices that cover the farmers’ cost of production, including the costs of additional hired labor and necessary fertilizers. The added benefit of chocolate companies paying a higher price for their cocoa is that it guarantees the future supply of chocolate, for chocolate companies and all their chocolate loving consumers. Two years after Hershey’s announcement to ethically certify its chocolate products, we’re celebrating the impact consumers can have when they band together to make change happen! Over the next two years, we’ll continue to monitor Hershey, to ensure the company meets or exceeds it 2016 commitment of 50% certified. We’ll also put pressure on companies who have not taken steps to trace their cocoa supply, like Godiva. Thank you for taking action with us! [1] http://www.greenamerica.org/PDF/Still-Time-to-Raise-the-Bar-Hershey-Report-2011.pdf [2] https://www.greenamerica.org/about/newsroom/releases/2012-02-01-Hershey-Will-Offer-Certified-Chocolate-Following-Consumer-Driven-Campaign.cfm [3] http://www.thehersheycompany.com/newsroom/news-release.aspx?id=1741328 [4] http://www.thehersheycompany.com/newsroom/news-release.aspx?id=1798984 [5] http://www.thehersheycompany.com/newsroom/news-release.aspx?id=1894137

October 2, 2014 / Sam Catherman

GWU Invests in Washington, DC Communities

Settled in the heart of the Foggy Bottom neighborhood of downtown Washington, DC, the George Washington University is characterized by its diverse student body, robust international affairs and political science programs, and high cost of attendance. Tuition fees go towards everything from funding events on campus space to acquiring new properties, but the institution was never known for its commitment to developing low-income communities around the District. That changes, however, with 20-year-old Zach Komes’ program GW Bank on DC – a plan to funnel $250,000 of university cash holdings into community development banks around the city.

http://www.freeimages.com/photo/1225847A community development bank is different from a name-brand megabank in a few ways. Both types of institutions will offer services like checking and savings accounts, debit and credit cards, loans, and mortgages. Unlike a megabank, however, a federally certified community development bank must invest 60% of their funds into low-income communities in order to maintain their distinction. This incentivizes both sustainable and profitable investments in neighborhoods with significant infrastructural needs like housing and transportation.

There are many benefits to investing in community development banks. Research indicates that an investment in a local CDB can create jobs and channel capital to low-income communities, simply because CDBs provide more opportunities to low-income families and small business owners than other banks. Keeping that investment with an institution that serves local residents and entrepreneurs ensures that money circulates within low-income communities and not away from them.

As policy director for the GWU chapter for Roosevelt Institute Campus Network, a student-run policy think tank, Komes hopes to make the university a leader in socially responsible investment decision-making. “We don’t have to sacrifice financial return for social return. Through our proposed plan, GWU can support local neighborhoods, while meeting fiscal and policy goals,” Komes says.

Green America supports GW’s decision to take an active interest in its city and invest money where it is needed most. By keeping investments local, we can continue to build a sustainable, resilient community full of small businesses, happy citizens, and bright horizons.

Supporting local communities through banking is not only for institutions, as individuals, we can also direct our money to banks and credit unions that benefit low income communities around the country. To learn more about community investing, please visit our page.

October 2, 2014 / Tracy Fernandez Rysavy

DON’T HAVE A COW: The 10-Day Local Food Challenge

My oldest daughter a few years ago at what she calls "the Pumpkin Cart of Honesty," in which a neighbor grows pumpkins and simply sets them out on a cart with a cash box and trusts that people will pay for what they take.

My oldest daughter a few years ago at what she calls “the Pumpkin Cart of Honesty,” in which a neighbor grows pumpkins and simply sets them out on a cart with a cash box and trusts that people will pay for what they take.

We now officially come to the end of our “Don’t Have a Cow” blog series. Since many of the posts have been focusing on vegetarian or vegan eating, I’m going to take a different tack….

As part of my quest to eat healthier with my family, I’ve been spending a lot of time getting to know what my local options are. I telecommute for Green America from the Midwest, and it’s pretty easy to find fresh, local food here at harvest-time among all the family farms.

But could I eat three meals a day from local sources for ten days, with only a handful of non-local foods allowed (like, oh, chocolate?)?

That’s the question behind Vicki Robin’s new 10-day Local Food Challenge. Vicki recently published a wonderful book, Blessing the Hands that Feed Us: What Eating Closer to Home Can Teach Us About Food, Community, and Our Place on Earth, which was all about what she learned by eating food for a full month that came from no further than ten miles from her home.

The challenge she’s issuing now is less stringent: You pick any ten days in October and eat only food that has come from within 100 miles or less of your home.  And you can pick ten “exotics”, or foods from afar—like coffee, chocolate, or olive oil—“to make it doable.”

The results, says Vicki, can be a life-changing exercise in connecting to your food and community. “Why do it at all? For fun, for curiosity, for integrity, for health, for the love of farmers and community, for making friends, for encouraging others to eat local food, for building an alternative to food-as-usual, for taking a stand for the food system we-the-eaters want: fresh, fair, affordable food for all,” she says.

I’d like to try it. Because the local food producers that I’ve connected with are all sources of some of the best and healthiest food I’ve ever eaten, and dedicating ten days to being mindful about finding more can only make my life richer.

There’s Jeff, the apple farmer who smiled indulgently when I asked him for a bag of Honeycrisps and then promptly sliced up some of his close-to-organic heirloom apples for me to try. I dream of those apples all year long and am overjoyed that he just opened up his orchard store again for the season.

Mrs. D. operates a small dairy ten miles away where she sells fresh milk, butter, and every flavor of ice cream we could ever want.

Alice makes homemade bread with all sorts of wonderful flavors and sells it at the local farmers market.

Bill sells organically farmed, truly free-range chicken at the same market for when my family does eat meat, which is less and less often since my animal-loving daughters prefer to eat plant-based meals—as long as their father or I don’t mess them up in the kitchen.

Lindsey and Joe operate an award-winning winery within walking distance from my house, and I’ve fallen in love with several of their sweet reds—and with the musical nights and other fun community events they throw at the winery.

I just bought a jar of the crunchiest dill pickles I’ve ever eaten at an art fair from a woman my mother’s age who cans four different types, and I’m vacationing on Lake Michigan soon, where I’ll pick up some herb-infused olive oil made only in Wisconsin.

Round it all out with mint tea and stevia syrup from my herb garden, which I swap with a friend for fresh zucchini and tomatoes (the deer got all of ours this year).

But I know I’ve only hit the proverbial tip of the iceberg when it comes to seeking out local food treasures. I can’t wait to discover more.

As Vicki says, “If we want a GMO-antibiotic-cruelty-free, nontoxic, fair to farmers and nutritious food supply, the 10-Day Local Food Challenge gives us firsthand experience of what we stand for. We know we are participating in building the world we want, bite by bite, even as we protest and boycott the food system we don’t want.”

To learn more about and join the 10-Day Local Food Challenge, visit localfoodchallenge.org. And don’t forget to ask your local growers if they farm organic or close to it, so you can avoid pesticide residues and genetically modified organisms for your health.

—Tracy Fernandez Rysavy, editor-in-chief

September 30, 2014 / Green America

DON’T HAVE A COW: New Delicious Vegan Products Coming to a Store Near You

Editor’s Note: We’re extending the “Don’t Have a Cow” blog series to this Thursday, Oct. 2nd, to incorporate a brand new 10-Day Local Food Challenge from Your Money or Your Life co-author Vicki Robin. Meanwhile, our  Food Campaigns Director Nicole McCann blogs her experience at the Natural Products Expo East 2014 below! 

As a plant-based staff member at Green America, Natural Products Expo East 2014 in Baltimore, MD, was like all of the food-centric holidays in one enormous trade show: delicious and pleasantly overwhelming. I was there manning the GMO Inside booth and schmoozing with all of my favorite vegan food companies that I know and love, as well as discovering new ones. I found some exciting vegan and organic and/or Non-GMO Verified products for which you should be sure to keep an eye out. Some of these products are so new they are not even on their parent company’s websites!

Here is a list of my top ten favorites:

  1. Thai Coconut Curry Hummus by Hope Foods (organic, Non-GMO Verified)
    ThaiCoconut-Hummus-main
  2. Cheese Louise Broccoli Poppers by Brad’s Raw Foods (organic, raw, Non-GMO Verified)IMG_3023
  3. Black Pepper Vegan Toona by Sophie’s Kitchen (Non-GMO Verified)IMG_3025
  4. O’Coconut by Nutiva (organic, Non-GMO Verified)
    O-COCo
  5. Forbidden Rice Ramen by Lotus Foods (organic)Organic_Forbidden_Rice_Ramen
  6. Sea Salt Caramel Kandy Kale by Alive & Radiant (organic, raw)
    KandyKrunch
  7. Ranch Revival Salad Dressing by RawFoodz (organic, raw)
    ranch_revival-285x400
  8. Dandies Large Marshmallows by Chicago Vegan Foods (Non-GMO Verified)
    dandies-vegan-marshmallows
  9. Red Beet & Cabbage Sauerkraut Salad by Wildbrine (Non-GMO Verified)
    RedBeetCabbageSauerkraut
  10. Acai Berry Sorbet by Sambazon (organic, Non-GMO Verified)
    Sorbet_Orig_LO_Res
Nicole McCann, Green America's Food Campaigns Director

Nicole McCann, Green America’s Food Campaigns Director

Happy eating!

Nicole McCann

Food Campaigns Director

September 28, 2014 / franteplitz

Concerned Investors Push Corporations at Record Level in 2014

This year investors filed a whopping 454 shareholder resolutions on social and environmental issues, up from 402 such resolutions filed last year. The 454 filings exceed the number of social and environmental resolutions ever filed in one year – clear testimony to the growth in shareholder action.

As reported by the Sustainable Investments Institute, not only are the numbers of social and environmental resolutions increasing, but the level of support they are receiving is also on the rise. Votes through August received an average of 21.7 percent support, well above the level of support needed for the resolutions to be refiled in 2015 if the companies continue to fail to address the issues of concern.

Green America educated investors on a wide range of resolutions, many of them filed by the institutional investor members of our Green Business Network. These leaders in socially responsible investing put forward resolutions on issues including banking practices, climate change, corporate lobbying, corporate political spending, human rights, toxic chemicals, water usage, GMOs, and more. The graph depicts the status of our featured resolutions: whether they faced a vote, were withdrawn by the filer due to progress at the company, or were omitted by the SEC for not meeting filing criteria.

Green-America-Focus-list-graph

You can see the final voting results of our Shareholder Resolution Focus List here.

Dominant shareholder concerns included energy and climate issues and corporate political engagement. The highest climate-related vote was 39.4 percent at Valero, urging the company to set quantitative goals for greenhouse gas reductions. Shareholder action on climate change is growing alongside the Divest-Invest movement that urges investors to divest from fossil fuel companies and to invest in renewable energy and energy efficiency.

While it is rare for a social or environmental resolution to receive majority shareholder support, the four social resolutions that did receive majority support, and which were opposed by management, addressed corporate lobbying and the disclosure of election spending. These resolutions at SLM, Lorillard, Valero, and Dean Foods all received more than 51 percent support. These high votes can be attributed to the growing number of investors and investor networks that are actively confronting corporate influence on the integrity of our democracy. Their resolutions range from seeking greater transparency on corporate political actions to bans on corporate political spending.

Green America urges all shareholders of direct company stock to vote your proxies in support of the social, environmental, and corporate governance resolutions that can help push corporations toward more responsible practices and policies.

Thanks to the Sustainable Investments Institute for the shareholder resolution data cited in this post.

September 25, 2014 / Green America

DON’T HAVE A COW: Eating Healthy in No Time at All

Leslie

Healthy living educator and vegan chef Leslie Durso

Want to eat healthier but hate to cook? We know the feeling. That’s why we reached out to healthy living educator and vegan chef Leslie Durso. Whether you eat (local, grass-fed) meat or not, everyone can benefit from putting more veggies on their plates. Below, Leslie shares her advice for making healthier meals that are also quick and easy. 

What is the hardest part about eating healthy? Most people will answer: the amount of time it takes to cook or they can’t cook. My answer for the latter is that everyone can cook! If you want to be a good cook then you will! You just need some instruction, patience, and a little guidance. Most of that can come from following some good recipes at the beginning. The answer to the first is a little more complicated. Yes, cooking healthy food from scratch takes longer than heating up nutrient-less microwavable meals or eating out. My answer for you is: find a couple hours one day a week to cook. In those few hours, make things that can live in your refrigerator for a week or can easily be frozen and stored longer. This way when you get home from a long day, or have 2 minutes to make breakfast a healthy option will be sitting right in your refrigerator.  Not to mention, you will save a lot of that hard-earned money! Here are a list of things to keep in your fridge and freezer:

Freezer:

Veggie Burgers—You can pack so much more protein and vitamins in these when you make them from scratch. They are super easy to make and kids can help, too.

Sauces—Most sauces freeze really well. I recommend freezing them in single serving amounts so you don’t have to defrost a gallon of tomato sauce for one person.

Cooked Rice—Need a cup of rice for a recipe or rice to go with a quick veggie sauté? Boom.

Soup—Freeze in plastic freezer bags; reheating is a cinch!

Cookie Dough—First of all, who doesn’t want cookie dough ready in their freezers at all times?? My tip is to roll the dough in balls, then freeze in a bag so you can make individual cookies without having to chop from a cookie dough block.

Smoothies—You are probably saying, “What?” but yes, portion out a homemade smoothie into freezer bags in individual portions. When you are in a rush in the morning and don’t have too much time, throw a block of frozen smoothie in your blender with a little bit of liquid and there you have a super way to start your day.

 

Refrigerator:

Salad Dressing—When you make salad dressing from scratch you are cutting out all the preservatives and sugars they put in the packaged stuff.

Salad—Love salad, but think it takes forever to chop everything up? Pre chop loads of ingredients that you might like in your salad and store them in the fridge (this includes washing, drying and tearing the lettuce). When you need a quick lunch you won’t have to head to the vending machine.

Quinoa—Having precooked quinoa in your fridge (or freezer) is great because you can top your salad with it, you can put some sautéed veggies on top of it or mid week you can make a quick quinoa salad with the veggies you have chopped for your green salad along with some dressing. Quinoa is loaded with protein and can help you stay full when you are on-the-go.

Fruit Salad—It makes a great healthy snack and when it starts to get soft mid week, make a smoothie out of them!

Iced Tea—Don’t reach for a soda! Have a nice pitcher of green iced tea handy to give you a caffeine boost, but also deliver a cupful of super vitamin rich nutrients.

Please note that all items listed above should be kept in air tight containers to maximize their freshness.

Being an Italian vegan, there are certain dishes and sauces that I had to recreate. Here are what I call the “Italian Mother Sauces”: Lemon & Spinach Pesto, Cauliflower Alfredo, and Traditional Marinara. All three sauces freeze beautifully and you can pop them out and have them defrosted before you pasta has even boiled.

Lemon & Spinach Pesto

Serves 4

1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted

2 cloves of garlic

about 2 cups of basil leaves

about 2 cups of spinach

1 lemon

1/4- 1/2 cup olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

What you’ll do:

You’ll place the basil and spinach in the food processor topped with the garlic and nuts.  Pulse a few times to break them down a bit.  Add in the zest from the lemon and all the lemon juice.  Pulse again and then drizzle in the olive oil until the pesto is smooth.  Cook your pasta to al dente, drain and return to the pot.  Add the pesto right on top and stir to coat the noodles.  Serve immediately.

 

LeslieFoodCauliflower Fettuccine Alfredo

Serves 4

1 large head of cauliflower

3 cups vegetable broth

2 tbsp. vegan butter (I use Earth Balance)

1 tbsp. olive oil

1/2 onion, sliced

6 cloves of garlic, sliced

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

1/2 tsp. salt

fresh ground pepper to taste

Cut off any bottom leaves of the cauliflower and cut out the toughest part of the core.  Then break the cauliflower down into florets.  Boil them with the vegetable broth uncovered until the cauliflower is very soft and tender.  About 15 minutes.

While the cauliflower is cooking, heat a large frying pan and sauté the onion and garlic with the Earth Balance and olive oil until soft.

When both are done, using a slotted spoon, remove all the cauliflower from the broth and place in a blender or food processor.  Add 1 cup of the cooking broth, all the contents of the frying pan, the nutmeg and salt.  Puree on high until very smooth, 3-4 minutes.  Add a little more broth at a time if it needs to be thinned.  Add pepper to taste.

Serve with fettuccine and serve warm.

OPTIONS: Drizzle the finished fettuccine Alfredo with some truffle oil for something really special!  Add red chili flakes to kick up the heat on your pasta!  Or sauté asparagus, mushrooms, squash, tomatoes, broccoli, or any other veggies you like and add on top!

 

Tomato Sauce

Serves 6

What you’ll need:

1 medium onion, diced

olive oil

2 28oz. can of whole san marzano tomatoes

5 cloves of garlic, chopped

5 leaves of fresh basil, chopped

salt and pepper to taste

What you’ll do:

In a large frying pan over medium heat, sauté the onion in some olive oil and a pinch of salt until soft.  Add in the can of tomatoes, stir and let simmer for about 10 minutes.  Using a wooden spoon break up the tomatoes.  Add the garlic and simmer another few minutes.  Stir in the basil and serve over pasta, polenta, quinoa, etc.

—Leslie Durso has walked the plant-based talk since the age of eight. After establishing herself as a private chef in NYC and Hollywood, Leslie began hosting cooking segments on television and healthy-living content online. Determined to inspire beneficial life-long eating habits for everyone, she has appeared on The Food Network, The Discovery Channel, The Hallmark Channel, Everyday Health, and Mother Nature Network, and has written for MindBodyGreen, VegNews, CNN.com, Redbook, Glamour, Maxim, and dozens more, evangelizing the benefits of a mindful lifestyle, delivered with her trademark blend of sunshiney sophistication and girl-next-door relatability. She currently broadcasts her farm-fresh recipes and warmhearted sensibilities to an extensive audience spanning more than 130 countries via LeslieDurso.com.

September 24, 2014 / Green America

GMO Debate Dominates General Mills Shareholder Meeting

On behalf of Green America, I attended General Mills’ annual shareholder meeting this morning.  Green America holds a handful of shares so that we can have a voice as shareholders.

The topic of genetically engineered organisms (GMOs) dominated the discussion, with Green America allies and me asking several questions about General Mills’ continued defense of GMOs in the face of growing public opposition.  While Ken Powell repeated last year’s rhetoric that GMOs have been proven safe by several international organizations and that General Mills supports national labeling of non-GMO products (as opposed to those with GMOs), many shareholders in the audience were on a different page.  Numerous individual shareholders voiced their concerns about GMOs and called for sustainable and safe ingredients.  As one shareholder put it, General Mills should “keep an open mind, please” about not using GMO ingredients.

GeneralMillsShareholderMeeting2014

In addition to GMOs being a topic during the Q&A portion of the meeting, there was also a shareholder resolution to eliminate GMOs from General Mills’ products brought forth by As You Sow and supported by Harriet Crosby, great granddaughter of one of the co-founders of General Mills.  Though the resolution won’t earn a majority of votes (as is often the case) and all votes are not in yet, the preliminary votes in favor of the resolution amount to shares worth $682 million.

Continuing Green America’s GMO Inside campaign’s request for General Mills to verify original Cheerios as non-GMO with a third-party, we asked Ken Powell directly why they are not doing so.  Powell replied that if they say it’s non-GMO, then it is.  What about removing GMOs from the other varieties of Cheerios?  Powell answered that oats, the only main ingredient in original Cheerios, is not genetically engineered so that’s why they were able to make original Cheerios non-GMO (though at the time, General Mills stated that it was a huge undertaking).  They won’t even bother trying to remove GMOs from the other varieties.

General Mills did speak to their efforts to reduce energy usage, water usage, and greenhouse gas emissions as well as their work with suppliers to develop more sustainable agricultural practices.  We look forward to seeing the results of these efforts.  I encouraged General Mills to include the reduction of pesticides (as well as the removal of GMOs) as a key component of improving sustainability.

The acquisition of Annie’s was also mentioned, with General Mills acknowledging the company meets consumer demand for natural and organic products and will further help General Mills’ other organic/natural lines.  General Mills also admitted that it is their organic lines that are growing most rapidly, which again raises the question of why they don’t increase the use of organics across their brands.

So the conversation for more sustainable, less toxic, truly natural products continues.

- Shireen Karimi, Green America staff

September 23, 2014 / Green America

DON’T HAVE A COW: Replacing Dairy in Your Diet

Green America's Shireen Karimi volunteering at DC's Common Good City Farm

Green America’s Shireen Karimi volunteering at DC’s Common Good City Farm

Growing up in a dairy state, I regularly saw farms with black and white dairy cows grazing in the fields on the way to my grandparents’ house.  While I never was fond of the manure smell, I loved seeing the large, calm beasts nibbling on greens and relaxing in the sun.  Throughout the years, I learned more and more about the meat and dairy industries and the ugly truth of factory farming, which isn’t like my childhood farm scene at all.  I easily stopped eating meat early on, but dairy was a bit harder to let go of.

In my family’s country, yogurt plays a daily role in their meals.  So yogurt was a large part of my diet as well.  I even made my own, of course from milk from a local dairy farm, which delivered to my house in glass bottles.  However, I couldn’t ignore the idea of cows continually impregnated to keep producing milk, their udders regularly hooked up to machinery, and their babies taken away at birth so that humans could drink the milk meant for them.  These reasons, along with the fact that dairy contributes to inflammation and congestion in the body, finally pushed me to cut dairy out of my diet.

If you are feeling overwhelmed or unsure about trying it yourself, don’t worry.  I have gone through multiple iterations with varying degrees of rigidness over the years.  Keep in mind you don’t have to stop all dairy products at once.  You can start with just one item (for example milk) and see how it goes.  Or decide you’ll give them all up in your daily life but be open to the occasional dairy treat with family or friends.  I believe you could have better long-term success if you strive for a particular diet most of the time but are forgiving instead of rigid.

Pay attention to how you feel when you don’t eat dairy and then how you feel when you do.  I’ve noticed that if I do have dairy for a special occasion (e.g. family holiday), I am noticeably congested the next day.  If you don’t feel compelled to be dairy-free for the cows or the environment, you might feel reinforcement to do it for yourself.

Dairy Replacements

The easiest way to remove something from your life is to replace it with something better, right?  So here are some of the ways I’ve replaced dairy in my food.

Butter

I love coconut oil and use it for everything.  I cook with it, bake desserts with it, and put it on popcorn. Coconut oil withstands a higher cooking temperature than olive oil and is a healthy fat.  You don’t have to worry about it being genetically engineered like typical vegetable oil which is usually canola and cottonseed oils.  And it doesn’t come from cows pumped with antibiotics and eating feed from genetically engineered crops doused with toxic pesticides and herbicides.

On popcorn, I also use flax or hemp oil to get omega 3.

If you don’t want the coconut flavor in your dessert or dish, you can use sunflower oil or grape seed oil as neither has much flavor.  Also, because the oils aren’t solid like butter, your desserts should be a little moister.

Cream Soups

This one is easy.  Instead of cow milk, you can use any of the many nondairy milks available – almond, coconut, rice, soy, hemp, flax, oat.  However, for a savory soup, make sure you don’t buy a vanilla flavored variety.  Some other things to keep in mind (I’ll just briefly touch on since they are beyond the scope of this article): almost all of the soy in the US is genetically engineered so make sure you buy organic or with the Non-GMO Project verification.  Also, some people avoid soy because vegan and vegetarian diets are often overloaded with it and because of its phytoestrogens.  In addition, carrageenan is in many of the nondairy milks, and some experts warn against consuming it.  As for flavor, rice milk is a little more watery, and coconut milk beverage doesn’t taste like the canned coconut milk.  I personally like the texture and taste of almond milk.  Hemp milk is good too but more expensive.

Milk – Cereal, Baking, etc

Any nondairy milk that you like can replace cow milk.  See Cream Soups above for more info.  Vanilla varieties work well with cereal and some baked items, though you might want to check the label and make sure it doesn’t have lots of extra sugar.

Vegetables and Dip

For that quick appetizer, snack, or potluck dish, don’t buy the premade dips with sour cream and/or cheese.  Buy hummus or make your own tahini dip to mimic the richness and fattiness of the dairy dips.  See my recipe below.

Cheese in Sandwiches/Wraps

Use avocado for healthy richness.  For those who don’t like avocado (apparently they exist) or for a slightly less expensive option, make a tahini spread.  See my recipe below. (This tahini spread is really versatile.)

Cheese Sauce

You can make “cheesy” broccoli, cauliflower, etc. with your own vegan cheese sauce.  You can also make a vegan alfredo sauce.  See recipes below.

Ice Cream

Coconut ice cream is a fantastic replacement for dairy ice cream.  It is very creamy and rich, and there are many flavors available without artificial and genetically engineered ingredients (corn syrup and sugar from sugar beets) like many dairy ice creams have.  The only downside is the price.  Rice and soy ice cream exist as well but are not as similar in my opinion.

Recipes

Disclaimer: I don’t actually measure when I prepare food so these are estimates.  Feel free to adapt.

Tahini Spread/Dip/Salad Dressing

½ cup tahini

¼+ cup apple cider vinegar (could also use red wine vinegar or balsamic)

¼+ cup lemon juice

Dried herbs of your choice – tarragon, parsley, oregano, basil

Spoonful mustard

White or black pepper

Salt

Few squirts of flax or hemp oil for omega 3

Water to thin

Blend all ingredients, ideally with an immersion blender.  A fork doesn’t work as well to fully blend the tahini with the liquid.  If the mix is too thick and won’t blend, add a little bit of water or more lemon juice or vinegar.  Make it as thick or runny as you want for a spread or dip.

This same base can we used for a salad dressing.  Just add water, lemon juice, or vinegar.

Cream of Broccoli Soup

My mom doesn’t like broccoli, but she loves this soup.

1 onion or 1 bundle of green onion or 1 leek

3-5 cloves of garlic (depending on preference)

Pound of broccoli, both stalk and florets chopped and separated

3-4 carrots, roughly chopped

3-4 celery stalks, roughly chopped

vegetable broth (2-3 cups of liquid or 2-3 teaspoons of powder. I like Seitenbacher because it doesn’t have palm oil, which is often unsustainably grown)

2 tablespoons tahini

1-2 tablespoon olive oil

2 cups almond milk

white or black pepper

salt

  1. Fry the onion in coconut oil or oil of your preference. Add garlic and fry.
  2. Add broccoli stalk, celery, and carrot. Add vegetable broth liquid or water mixed with broth powder to barely cover vegetables.  Add salt and pepper.
  3. Simmer until almost tender but still a little hard, about 10-15 minutes depending on how big chunks are.
  4. Add broccoli florets and cook a little longer until florets are bright green. Overcooking will turn broccoli dark green/brown.
  5. Add tahini, olive oil, almond milk and blend. An immersion blender right in the pot is the easiest, but you can use any regular blender or food processor.

Vegan “Cheese” Sauce

1 tsp Braggs Liquid Aminos, tamari, or soy sauce

2 Tbsp tahini

1 Tbsp nutritional yeast

½ – 1 Tbsp lemon juice and/or apple cider vinegar

1 Tbsp coconut oil, melted (optional)

Optional seasonings depending on what you’re putting it on:
turmeric
onion powder
paprika
garlic powder
water, if desired

Blend until smooth.

Alfredo Sauce

From the Raw Food Community 

2 Cups Cashews, Soaked

¼ Cup Bragg’s Liquid Aminos or Nama Shoyu to taste

2 Tbsp Nutritional Yeast

1 – 2 Cloves Garlic

1 Tbsp Onion Powder

2/3 Cup Water

Pinch Sea Salt

Blend until smooth.

 —Shireen Karimi

September 23, 2014 / Todd Larsen

You Don’t Have to Be a Rockefeller

It’s not often at Green America that we highlight members of the 1% as an example to follow, but recent action by the Rockefeller family now serves as a model for many Americans. The Rockefellers have instructed the Rockefeller Brothers Fund to divest its holdings of fossil fuels, joining a growing list of foundations that are taking this stand against irresponsible fossil-fuel polluters. Since the family’s wealth — much of which is now in charities — was made from Standard Oil (now Exxon), the move is particularly meaningful.

The divestment decision comes after years of the Rockefellers engaging with Exxon and trying to encourage the company to be more sustainable, without much success (for 10 years Green America and its members also put direct pressure on Exxon). Exxon and the other major fossil fuel multinationals have made it clear that they plan to pursue a strategy of increasing the production of fossil fuels for decades. That means increased drilling in fragile ecosystems, with the inevitable major spills on land and seas. That means more fracking and more tar sands fields. It also means pumping way more carbon into the atmosphere and warming the planet to levels it hasn’t experienced in millions of years, creating massive disruptions to civilization as we know it, and speeding the extinction of thousands of species.

ThatFossil Free’s why more and more philanthropies, universities, houses of worship, and individuals are saying “enough is enough” and moving their money out of fossil fuels and reinvesting in a green economy.

You don’t have to be a Rockefeller to take part. Here’s four steps to take action with your money:

  1. Divest from climate polluters and reinvest in clean energy. 
    Green America’s Fossil Free Investment campaign has the most complete resources available.
  2. Break up with your megabank.
    Megabanks continue to invest billions in coal and other fossil fuels, even after pledging to go carbon free.  Green America’s Break Up With Your Megabank Campaign has all the resources you need to move your money to banks and credit unions that invest in local communities and green companies.
  3. Take the Divest/Invest Pledge.
    The Divest/Invest coalition is asking people to take their pledge to divest to demonstrate the growing numbers of individual investors who are saying no to fossil fuels in their portfolios.
  4. Share this information widely.
    Encourage family, friends, your house of worship, school, etc. to divest their money from fossil fuels as well.  The faster the movement grows, the more pressure there will be on polluters.

The People’s Climate March – 400,000 strong – demonstrated that Americans are willing to take action for climate change and are not going to wait for Washington or all Street to take action. We can all take action with our money for the climate. In the 1980’s the divestment movement made a huge impact on ending Apartheid in South Africa. Now, it’s our turn to divest our money from fossil fuels and invest in the clean energy economy we need.

Take action today!

September 22, 2014 / Elizabeth

Patience and Action for iPhone 6 Workers

Some iFans may have called out of work last week in an effort to snag a new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, which went on sale last Friday. Sales of these devices topped 10 million last weekend–higher than the first weekend sales of the iPhone 5 last year.

The line at NYC's 5th Avenue Apple Store on September 19, 2014.

The line at the 5th Avenue Apple Store in NYC on September 19, 2014. (Credit: Kathy Harget)

There is no question that demand for the new iPhones is strong, but some analysts have pointed out that these high sales figures are not an indicator of demand, but supply. With the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus selling out at locations around the world, its clear Apple is limited by how much it can supply, and how quickly.

Apple shareholders may be excited about the frenzy generated by the release of the iPhone 6, but workers experience this frenzy differently.  A spike in demand for these phones puts greater pressure on Apple’s supplier factories and the estimated 1.5 million workers who work in them, either making parts or assembling the phones.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Foxconn, one of Apple’s final assembly partners, has been operating roughly 100 production lines around the clock in Zhengzhou. “We have been churning out 140,000 iPhone 6 Plus and 400,000 iPhone 6 every day, the highest daily output ever, but the volume is still not enough to meet the preorders,” said a person familiar with the matter.

“The challenge is to manufacture two complicated new iPhones on a large scale at the same time because Foxconn is the sole assembler of the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus [and assembles a majority of the 4.7 inch iPhone 6.]”

While Apple boasts profit margins as high as 69%, as was the case with the iPhone 5s, Foxconn’s profit margin is closer to 1.5%, according to Bloomberg.  Apple expects high volume, high quality, and high Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) standards of its suppliers, however, not in equal measure.  When these expectations come into direct conflict, the CSR policies most likely lose out.  This is especially common during times of peak demand, when workers are found to be working excessive overtime, well beyond legal limits. This can also take the form of mandatory overtime, as we found at Catcher, another Apple supplier.

Consumers who didn’t snag a phone last weekend can expect to wait several weeks or months for a new iPhone. We encourage Apple to allow its suppliers the time they need to meet this demand, without compromising working conditions. With worldwide demand well over 10 million units, its clear that consumers of these devices won’t be disappearing anytime soon.

As iPhone 6 workers labor around the clock, you can support them by pushing Apple to take action to improve conditions for workers. You can also share “9 Reasons Not to Rush your Next Smartphone Upgrade” with your friends.

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