In a decidedly disappointing mid-term election for the Green American constituency, there were still a few victories to feel good about. In a traditionally energy-friendly Texas town, residents spoke up over their concerns about hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a controversial gas and oil extraction technique that has exploded in popularity throughout the US over the past decade. Texas is currently the nation’s largest oil and gas producer, and the political climate surrounding the issue is beginning to change.
The town of Denton, TX has over 270 active gas wells within its city limits. The population is 121,123, but the majority of the mineral wealth in the city does not belong to Denton residents. With the population set to almost double in the next twenty years, concerns over air and water quality, increased seismicity, and exposure to harmful chemicals have had local legislators seriously considering the benefits of gas production.
Considering that only 1% of the city’s property tax revenues come from natural gas development, and the city budget can attribute a paltry 1% to natural gas royalties, the city started to account for the implicit costs of fossil fuel development; degraded ecosystems, increased public health costs, and continued contribution to the CO2 emissions that the world is desperately trying to control. For the citizens of Denton, protecting their land, water, atmosphere, and families from the ill effects of energy production was a no-brainer.
Tuesday saw 58.64% of Denton voters raise their voices in opposition of continued fracking in their city. The passage of the measure represents the first ban on fracking in the entire state of Texas, widely recognized as one of the technology’s main champions. The gas industry is fully expected to contest the moratorium, but proponents of the measure, the Denton Drilling Awareness Group, are confident that the language in the ban will stand up in court.
While gas companies operating on the Barnett Shale in Denton have reason to be upset, the citizens have other ideas for the energy future of their city. Denton’s energy portfolio is comprised of 40% wind-generated electricity, and the town is committed to conserving resources and using their land in a sustainable manner. Green America salutes the citizens of Denton for taking a stand against a toxic, damaging, and unjust industry operating in their backyards. To learn more about fracking in Denton, visit http://frackfreedenton.com/.
The global fossil fuel divestment movement has been gaining a lot of steam over the past year, enough to elicit a response from one of the largest oil companies in the world – ExxonMobil. In a blog posted to their website, the oil giant attempted to explain why the continued use of oil, gas, and coal to power our economies is the only viable way forward, while dismissing both the potential of renewable sources of energy and the costs imposed by a changing climate. The reality is that fossil fuels still provide the lion’s share of the global energy supply, but the assertion that it has to be this way couldn’t be farther from the truth.
In the blog post, Exxon outlines their case for fossil fuels, stating “divestment represents a diversion from the real search for technological solutions to managing climate risks.” Exxon’s idea of a technological solution to managing a climate risk, of course, is the natural gas boom currently underway in the United States. In addition to creating plenty of jobs along the supply chain and accounting for a sizeable chunk of the nation’s GDP, natural gas is supposedly responsible for the return to 1990’s emissions levels that the US has experienced over the past few years. Even ignoring the obvious environmental risks to soil, air, and groundwater associated with natural gas production, fugitive methane emissions from drilling sites are often understated and likely have a greater impact on climate change than fossil fuel advocates would like to believe. And, now that the US economy has started to gain ground, tracked greenhouse gas emissions are rising rapidly.
Exxon’s other main argument is that “A moral imperative exists – for policymakers as well as large energy companies – and it is to seek economic ways to expand the use of modern energy sources to the billions of people around the world currently living without them.” Certainly, access to electricity for cooking, heating, and pumping clean water is one of the key factors in reducing widespread poverty. The post cites an IEA study that projects renewable energy sources like solar, wind, and geothermal will account for only 15% of energy production by 2035, leaving the fossil fuel industry to pick up the slack for the other 85%. What the post fails to mention, however, is that the study did not consider policy changes in support of renewables over this time period. Other studies indicate that renewables in developing nations are poised to grow much faster than in countries with established fossil fuel energy infrastructure. With the correct policies in place, it will be cheaper and faster for developing countries to implement renewable technologies that provide the electricity they need while minimizing environmental damage.
The main problem with Exxon’s argument is that while they claim to be helping and protecting the least advantaged in impoverished nations, the very nature of their business is causing harm. The developing world is often environmentally ravaged by fossil fuel production, which generates massive economic and political corruption. Developing countries will also have to increasingly devote resources to damages from climate-change related issues, like coastal flooding or droughts. In the absence of severe climate-related damages, developing countries could focus on education, healthcare, or building new infrastructure. In a future where the climate implications of continued fossil fuel use are ignored, these countries will bear the highest costs.
It’s easy to understand why Exxon is pushing back against the growing divestment movement. To date, over 181 institutions and local governments, and 656 individuals have pledged to divest over $50 billion from fossil fuels. This number is not nearly enough to halt production of fossil fuels in the years to come. That is not the intention of the divestment movement. Divestment is not about suddenly severing the world from the availability of fossil fuels; it’s about putting pressure on oil and gas companies to adopt better practices, treat developing nations and their natural environments with more respect, and devising and executing a plan to move the world and the way it consumes energy forward while confronting the reality that Exxon and its competitors’ products put the global climate at serious risk.
Clearly, the fossil fuel divestment movement has caught Exxon’s attention. We need to build pressure – both from individuals and institutions. To learn more about fossil Fuel divestment and how you can invest your money towards a greener world, visit http://www.greenamerica.org/fossilfree/.
You may have taken our “carbon food-print” quiz and wondered how well it reflects your personal level of “green-ness.” The truth is, not very. In the quiz we focused down on the biggest indicators of your carbon food-print – mainly the type and quantity of the animal products you eat.
Yet there are so many other choices we make that influence our impact on global warming, our local economy, the well being of animals, our own health, and the health of other people. You wrote to us to tell us stories about your ways of greening your food supply. And your sustainability tips go far above and beyond what’s captured in the quiz. We like to share some of these solutions:
1. Growing and Raising Your Own Food
Some survey takers reported growing a significant amount of food they eat – even raising their own animals including backyard chickens. In addition to removing the transportation cost of food, home gardening has a number of other benefits such as creating a market for heirloom seed stock, serving as a great source of organic food, reducing your dependence on industrial agriculture, connecting with neighbors, exercise, and even increasing your intake of healthful bacteria via the soil!
According to the Environmental Working Group’s Meat Eaters Guide to Climate Change, “buying locally can significantly reduce the climate impact of vegetable production (10-30 percent).”
In addition, eating locally and sustainably grown foods supports your local economy, protects the health of your community by reducing the amount of pesticide sprayed and creates an alternative to the incredibly destructive industrial agricultural practices. For more resources, take a look at some of the articles in our issue on local food.
3. Eating Sustainable Meat and Dairy
According to the Meat Eaters Guide to Climate Change, buying locally raised meat has only a 1-3% impact on the amount of CO2 produced. Yet buying locally produced meat is important for number of reasons.
As author, Denis Hays told us in an interview, “raising cows correctly, whether for beef or milk, is incredibly hard work. Doing it on a small scale eliminates economies of mass production. Organic, grass-fed and -finished beef operates on deep commitment and small margins. If no one is willing to pay a premium for a healthy product from a local rancher who treats his cows as sentient beings, sustainably raised cows and their keepers will disappear.”
One of our member related walking down her own driveway and across the street in order to buy beef – about as local as you can get. “These animals are treated very, very well,” she told us. “I know because I see them whenever I want.” Another member noted that she eats “grass-fed, free-range, hormone free, locally grown beef, pork, lamb and turkey.” Check out this article to get tips on lowering the environmental impact of the dairy you consume.
Do you go above and beyond what is captured in our food-print survey? We want to hear about it! Leave your ideas in the comments section below!
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?)?
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.
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!
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:
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.
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
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
2 cloves of garlic
about 2 cups of basil leaves
about 2 cups of spinach
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.
Cauliflower Fettuccine Alfredo
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!
What you’ll need:
1 medium onion, diced
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
You can make “cheesy” broccoli, cauliflower, etc. with your own vegan cheese sauce. You can also make a vegan alfredo sauce. See recipes below.
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.
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
White or black pepper
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
Fry the onion in coconut oil or oil of your preference. Add garlic and fry.
Add broccoli stalk, celery, and carrot. Add vegetable broth liquid or water mixed with broth powder to barely cover vegetables. Add salt and pepper.
Simmer until almost tender but still a little hard, about 10-15 minutes depending on how big chunks are.
Add broccoli florets and cook a little longer until florets are bright green. Overcooking will turn broccoli dark green/brown.
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:
water, if desired