November 2009


“I’ll be home for Christmas…if I only in my dreams,” croons Bing Crosby on this classic holiday song staple.For many of us getting home for the holidays may be more of nightmare than a dream,  often times including headache-inducing travel.  Whether you take to the sky, the rails or the highway to get to your loved ones, there is no denying that the holiday season can send the ‘ol carbon footprint soaring higher than Santa Clause on Christmas Eve.

While one could make the environmentally friendly choice of forgoing the trip home altogether, that would likely result in enduring an avalanche of guilt brought on by e-mails and phone calls from a disappointed mom for weeks and months to come.  Trust me, “I am worried about my carbon emissions” is not an adequate excuse for skipping out on the holiday festivities unless your Dad happens to be Captain Planet.

So, you suck it up, and travel the hours and miles that it will take to make your family happy, and if you are lucky, you are glad to do so. So what can one do to assuage the gnawing green guilt over the amount of fossil fuels your holiday trek will release into the environment?

One option to easing this guilty conscious is purchasing a Carbon Offset, which is a financial instrument aimed at a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. In simpler terms,  you  give money towards projects whose aim is to reduce Green House Emissions. At first glance this practice appears to be the perfect solution to the sometimes unavoidable toll our day-to-day actions, such as that cross-country flight home for the holidays, take on the environment.

Critics and cynics alike, however, are quick to point out the flaws to this seemingly positive system. While regulations for this field do exist, some say they are not strenuous enough, allowing certain greedy individuals the opportunity to scam money off well-meaning environmentally minded individuals. It is also argued that a program that allows people to feel better about their less-than environmentally friendly habits only encourages people to continue to make poor choices.

It seems clear that this industry, like many, is far from perfect.  And although it is not without its faults, one could argue that any money put towards a thoroughly investigated Carbon Offset is money well spent.  As long as you, as with any purchase, know who you are buying from- check credentials and check how funds are allocated towards benefiting the environment. It is also important for people to remember that while it is nearly impossible to keep your carbon footprint at zero, one should try to make as many environmentally responsible choices as you can possibly make.

While a trip home for the holidays may be good for the soul and for a mother’s happiness, it does end up costing a little more than the plane ticket or gas for your car. Try making environmentally responsible choices in your day-to-day life,  choose to travel for only one holiday- spend Thanksgiving locally and Christmas with the folks, or vice versa.

Nothing clears a guilty conscience as much as living well, and if you try your hardest, you can keep both your mother and Mother  Nature happy as clams.

-Meghan Hurley

Thanksgiving can sometimes seem gluttonous and maybe you don’t want to spend your day overeating and drinking. Never fret, however there are great and charitable events you could attend instead. In case you want a break from the loud family chatter, the mounds of food, and the holiday shopping sales, you might want to take look at this list. There other ways to celebrate the holiday that reminds us of our gratitude for all we have.

Turkey Trots: All over the country, in most cities there are marathons on Thanksgiving Day and many of them are to raise awareness or money for a charitable causes. For instance Boston has its annual 5K Road Race to benefit the  Central New England Chapter of the MS Society. There are hundreds of these Trots all over the country. Find one near you on this helpful Turkey Trot website, which lists local races as well as helpful running tips.

Turkey Day Rides: If running is just not your style, there are also hundreds of Turkey Day Bike Rides. Before feasting upon a meal, burn some extra calories while promoting alternative transportation and raising money! For example, Milwaukee hosts its annual 2 hour ride which is free to the public. Sacramento, CA also hosts a huge Turkey Day Ride, it is in its 23rd year. It’s a family event and people of all ages are welcome and is followed by a feast. The ride is really underground and grassroots and proceeds go to local and national charities. Guaranteed your town has a local ride as well and you can find many on your local bicycle associations.

Charity Yoga: Maybe runs and bike rides have a little too much cardio action. If you are looking for a little something more relaxing and soul soothing way to spend your holiday check out charity Yoga. Tacoma, WA hosts such an event. The yoga classes are free Thanksgiving Day with a suggested donation of $25 and all proceeds go to the Tacoma Rescue Mission. Other cities have similar events and check your local listings for Thanksgiving yoga.

We want to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving and no matter how you spend it. And it makes total sense to kick back and enjoy your family or to get involved in charity events. Either way use the holiday as a time for reflection and to give thanks to those who came before us and for what we have today.

What better way to get into the holiday spirit than to bake?! This week’s vegan recipe is the delectable dessert: Pecan Pie. A perfect autumn pie that works at the end of an meal or feast you may be celebrating. This traditional fall dish can be served with Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas dinner, or just to add some sweet to the end of any dinner. It is also a simple recipe to convert vegan and you will surprise your guests with how close it tastes to the “real thing.” So put your aprons on and start your baking. Happy Holidays!

Vegan Pecan Pie

Prep Time: 20 minutes   Bake Time: 1 hour

Pie Crust:
2 Cups Organic Unbleached Flour
1 tsp of Salt
2/3 Cup, plus 1 Tbls of Soy Margarine (we suggest Earth Balance)
1/4 Cup Ice Water (more may be needed)

Filling:

1 Cup Organic Pecans

Equivalent to 2 Eggs with Ener-G Egg Replacer

1/2 Cup of Organic Evaporated Cane Juice (or other sweetner)

1/2 Cup Organic Vegan Brown Sugar

4 Tbls Organic Soy Milk (or other non dairy milk)

2 Tbls Organic Flour

1 Stick of Organic Earth Balance Margarine

1 Tsp of Organic Vanilla

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare the pie crust by combining the flour and salt. Blend in 2/3 cup soy margarine until the mixture is crumbly. Add in the water until mixture starts to hold together (you may not need all the water or you may need more-play it by ear!). Next roll out the crust with a rolling pin (or in times of need a washed wine bottle can substitute). Place the crust in a 9 inch pan and use your fingers to make even patterns in the dough.

In a large bowl beat the Ener-G Egg Replacer until it is frothy much like eggs. Add in the soy milk, water, and vanilla into a bowl. Add in evaporated cane juice and brown sugar into the bowl. Next mix in the margarine and flour and finally the pecans. Bake the pie in the oven for 4o minutes, reduce the temperature to 275 and bake for another 10-20 minutes. Check with a fork to see if cooked.  Let the pie cool and refrigerate for 4-6 hours and serve with vegan ice cream.

Thanksgiving is the time of year to give thanks and express gratitude. It is a time for relaxation as well as spending quality time with friends and family members. During holidays such as this it’s important we pay attention to our purchasing choices and habits just as much the rest of year, perhaps even more.  Even though, Thanksgiving can feel like an indulgent and gluttonous holiday, what it represents is far more deep. And its the lesson of appreciativeness for what we have and where life has taken us should transmit to the way we celebrate, as well as our daily choices. I n honor of this holiday, we at AP have put together tips on How to Have an Ethical Thanksgiving below. So savor the suggestions below just as you savor your Thanksgiving meal and remember to extend your conscious choices beyond the holidays. Happy Thanksgiving from us at AP and thank you for all your support!

Autonomie Project’s Tips on How to Have an Ethical Thanksgiving:

1) Eat Organic: As you are shopping the aisles of your market, keep in mind how important purchasing organic can be. Most products and definitely most vegetables and fruits come certified organic these days. Not only is it helpful to the environment to eat organic, it is terrific for your body. Non organic foods can contain harmful chemicals and pesticides which can do a number on your body and seep into our soil and eventually into our water supply, thus harming our entire environment. Of course we would encourage you to eat vegan this holiday and provide many great vegan holiday recipes and a guide to surviving the holidays. However, if you are going to eat meat or dairy, we suggest you purchase organic and free range choices. You can find organic items such as these at your local co-op, natural foods store, Whole Foods, and sometimes your regular grocery store. Just be sure when you are making an organic purchase, you look for the USDA Certified Organic label, anything else is not officially certified.

2) Shop Locally: When you are making your holiday food purchases try your hardest to shop local. Meaning, skip the major corporate grocery mega stores for your local store, including co-ops and natural foods stores. But also pay attention to the products you purchase and support your local farms and companies. When you purchase locally, you are stimulating your community’s economy and are supporting a transaction which cuts shipping pollution. This is very helpful to both our environment and to the cost of your product! So be sure to support your local farmer and market.

3) Fair Trade Groceries: Unfortunately not all products can be found Fair Trade at this time. However, there are many food products used for the holidays which you can find Fair Trade Certified. Some Fair Trade products you may be able to incorporate into your meal are Fair Trade rice, olive oil, chocolate and fruit. You might also want to switch your baking supplies over to Fair Trade such vanilla, baking powder, and sugar. You could even make your centerpieces with Fair Trade flowers! Also, serve your guests Fair Trade wine with their meals and coffee or tea after. For a full list of Fair Trade products and where to find them check out Transfair’s list of stores.

 

4) Stay Put: Instead of flying all over or driving far distances to see your family, stay put this year! You can cut down your carbon output by not leaving your home for the holidays. Heck, this will even save you money from pricey gas and plane tickets. You might ask, “But what about my family? The holidays aren’t the same without them?” Well, we have the answer for you! Try skyping with them. We know that word sounds foreign or perhaps made up. But if you haven’t already signed up, check out Skype. It’s a free internet video chat service that is surprisingly clear and makes long distance shrink! The lines are much clearer than any cell phone and you can actually SEE and interact with your family. Trust us, we live thousands of miles from our loved ones, and it really does almost feel as if you are with them. So skip the crowded airports and traffic ridden roads, and catch up with your family virtually. Look at it this way, you can always turn them off when they get on your nerves.

5) Volunteer/Donate Goods: Even though more people volunteer at soup kitchens and shelters on Thanksgiving Day than any other day of the year, we suggest you call your local shelter and use the holiday as a reminder to volunteer on other days of the year. The shelters need help all year-round and would happy to have extra volunteers. However, if Thanksgiving is one of the few days you can spare, go out and volunteer! Also, there are a number of organizations that collect food donations for the less fortunate and their families. Check your local charitable organizations for Thanksgiving Food Drives,  but also check out these organizations as well: Food for Others and Feeding America.  Also, if you have plenty of leftovers call your local shelters to see if they will accept any leftovers. Some states have laws about donated food, but some shelters may be able to accept some home-made goods.

Beyond all the other let downs, failures and disappointments of the most recent recession, the collapsing Automotive Industry has been the poster child of the weakening U.S economy.

As American as apple pie or overeating, the automobile has served as an emblem of success to the U.S citizens for generations. As the industry imploded in on itself, encompassing with it all the lowlights of this so-called Great Recession outsourced jobs, lay-offs, people buying foreign products all culminating with the big wigs of the industry demanding bailout money from the cockpit of their personal jets- one could not ignore that America as we knew it might be changing permanently.

When the government announced its Cash for Clunkers program, a stimulus bill that encourages the purchase of new, more fuel-efficient vehicles by offering cash vouchers (up to $4,500) to consumers when they trade in their less fuel-efficient automobiles, it sounded like a win-win situation for everyone involved. People who may not normally be able to afford a new vehicle would have the resources to make purchases that would stimulate the automotive industry and a number of gas chugging vehicles would be taken off the road.

While on the surface this bill appears to be an environmentalists dream, upon further inspection, the facade of eco-friendliness begins to crack. While the Cash for Clunkers program has been declared by its supporters as a raging success, both as an economic stimulus program and as a green initiative, a recent AP story reveals that a majority of trade ins involved a pick up truck being exchanged for a marginally more fuel-efficient pick up truck. Opponents of this initiative now argue that this is like trading in poisoned apples for slightly less poisoned oranges.

“So what! Less is still more when it comes to gas consumption! The environment is giving this two thumbs up, why can’t you?”, you are likely shouting at your computer screen right now. And you’d be kind of right, until you consider the perplexing fuel-efficiency paradox, which explains that increased fuel efficiency does not translate into decreased oil demands. This is because when people are faced with a bargain at the pumps the simply respond by driving more.

Perhaps dear old Cash for Clunkers and its inventors had their hearts in the right place, hoping to alleviate the toll the recession was taking on the automotive industry, while simultaneously helping out the battered environment and did not intentionally green wash this bill in an effort to appease Economists and Environmentalist alike. Some may even argue that the immediate needs of the economy outweigh the long-term needs of the environment, while others could counter that the benefits or disadvantages of this program will remain to be seen for some time to come.

What is undeniable by parties on both sides of this debate is that there is nothing more American than consuming more than you need, and until we address this inclination to overindulge programs like this, our economy and the environment will continue to suffer.

-Meghan Hurley

Burgos 213 Photo By A. www.viajar24hHospitals are uninviting by nature, assaulting one’s senses almost immediately upon entry.  The inescapable odor of antiseptic wafting through the corridors,  the glaring fluorescent lights overhead that accentuate startlingly white walls, and the constant wailing beeps of machines that give the impression that someone is in mortal peril every 1.2 seconds tend to make even the healthiest of visitor feel as though their heart might explode.

Another Life Saved Photo By SarahMcD ॐA recent visit to the hospital saw my father rushed into a very serious emergency surgery. As I paced the floors of the Shapiro Cardiovascular Center, a facility that is part of the world-renowned Brigham and Women’s Hospital, I felt overcome with the extreme anxiety provoked by the fear of losing a loved one. At the time I was too preoccupied with hand-wrenching, constant clock checking, and nervous wood knocking to notice that this anxiety was in any way abnormal.  Worrying yourself sick is to be expected in these type of scenarios, what was notable, in retrospect, was that this anxiety was in no way punctuated by the normal agitating factors of a “normal” hospital environment. The air smelled fresh. The waiting room – even though located next to a busy street- was as quiet as a church on a Friday night. The walls were painted with a soft palate, the kind of hues that make you want to curl up with your favorite blanket and a good read. Not the typical institutional white that would ever leave someone remarking to their realtor, “Gosh Linda, it looks like a hospital in here!”, unless that sentence was followed up by, “And I love it! Let me go put on my jammies.”

BWH SHAPIRO PREP DAY4 from Brigham & Women's HospitalThankfully, my father pulled through his surgery. He spent his recovery in a room that if it were to be stripped of its adjustable bed and monitors would easily be mistaken for a high-end loft apartment. The spacious room had breathtaking views of the city, hard wood floors and stainless steel appliances.  The furthest thing from my mind at this time was this hospitals eco-friendliness, so grateful was I to see my father make it through a complicated surgery, I could have been told then that this magical place was run on the tear drops of children and been entirely fine with that knowledge. ( Hey- it was a rough time, in my defense,I would have sent these alleged children candy. Thanks imaginary crying children, you have made a huge difference. Now, remember, there is no Santa…try to cry towards the generators.)

As a couple of months passed and my rational,  less-selfish side was again accessed, I noticed an informative wall mural as I entered the Shapiro Center with my father for a follow-up visit. In a rush, due to a morning traffic jam, I only could read a few words of this educational section of wall…”Green…Hospital…Taco Friday”, as I made my way to the second floor.  Well I may be mistaken by some of what I gleaned, I made a mental note to look into this hospital’s green attributes when I returned home that evening. 

A week and half later I did a Google search. What I discovered made me love this hospital even more than I had before, a cherry on a sundae of awesome.  The Shapiro Cardiovascular Center is not only one of the most advanced cardiovascular care facilities in the world, but it is also the first Green Hospital building in all of New England.

Light09 Photo By Gong DiFrom its inception, the Shapiro Center kept  eco-friendly construction and practices in mind. The Center is not only LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified, but followed The Green Guide for Health Care meticulously in its construction.   Low emitting adhesives, carpets and paints were used. More than 90 percent of construction waste was recycled.  Over 75 percent of the interior is exposed to natural light, which, while helping cut down on energy costs, also promotes positive mental health for quicker recoveries. The roof is painted white to deflect heat.  Forgoing the use of the commonly used  and toxin-emitting vinyl, the floors of this building are constructed of rubber. Staff also, whenever possible, use the least harmful cleaners available. 

Aluminum Winged Caduceus (Silver Spring, MD) Photo By takomabibelotA little more Google style detective work and I discovered that The Shapiro Center is also a member of the non-profit organization, Healthcare Without  Harm, which focuses on implementing change in how the Health Care industry operates. Elaborating on the pledge physicians take to do no harm, Healthcare without Harm is attempting to amend this oath to apply to the environment as well as patients, encouraging its members to see the impact one has on the other. As their mission statement  surmises, “ Together with our partners around the world, Health Care Without Harm shares a vision of a health care sector that does no harm, and instead promotes the health of people and the environment.”  

 

Untitled Photo By SarahMcD ॐI for one can attest for the effectiveness of this movement.  While gorgeous views, plentiful sunlight and lack of irritants in the air can not take the place of knowledgeable surgeons and skillful nurses, it does play an important role in the recovery process.  Beyond the benefits of an environment that discourages depression and other mental issues that can slow or sometimes even halt recovery times, healthy air is an invaluable benefit for most patients. My father suffers from COPD, a chronic respiratory condition. It is a complication that factors into any and all health problems he has.  A hospital that provides nearly pollutant-free air for his battered lungs is priceless to his overall well-being and his success in the recovery process.

Green Hospitals are not yet the norm, but hopefully the benefit of such institutions will soon be seen.  A building that promotes the health of its employees, patients, and visitors while keeping an eye out for mother earth  is almost enough to make up for the fact they run this place on the tears of children….oh, right, it doesn’t.  

Sorry about the Santa Claus thing, kiddies.  He is totally real, the Easter Bunny too, they hang out on weekends and talk about what a good kid you are. Honest. (No children were harmed in the making of this blog.)

-Meghan Hurley

Vegetables for dinner Photo by Sandy AustinWith movies like Food Inc which expose the way food and meat are produced in the US and fears of Global Warming brewing, vegetarianism is growing. In fact in 2008, there are 7.3 million Vegetarian Americans and 22.8 million Americans eat a vegetarian inclined diet. In 2008 Vegetarian Times conducted a study on the statistical breakdown of vegetarians. This interesting study broke down the statistics on vegetarians in America. The study reported that about 1% of the population are vegetarians, with a million of those following a strict vegan diet.

And if you are curious to who is a vegetarian the study broke down this diet by gender, age, and the length of their commitments. It was shown that more women and younger Americans have chosen vegetarianism. 59 percent of reported vegetarians are female while only 41 percent are male. It was appears that the majority of vegetarians are between 18 and 34 years old. 42.0  percent of vegetarians are age 18 to 34 years old while 40.7 percent are 35 to 54 and 17.4  percent are over 55. And on top of the showing that vegetarians are made up of mostly a younger female population, the study reported that most of these committed vegetarians have been following this diet for 10 years or more. 57.1 percent have followed a vegetarian diet for more than 10 years while 18 percent for 5 to 10 years; 10.8  percent for 2 to 5 years, and 14.1 percent for less than 2 years. These figures are compelling because it is evident that most Americans who decide to follow a plant based diet do so as a long or lifelong commitment.

stop eating animals Photo By striaticAs well as showing who is a vegetarian in America, the study explained the reasons most Americans are choosing to live an herbivorous lifestyle.  The 2008 study reported that over half, 53 percent, are currently vegetarian for health reasons. Environmental factors were also played a huge part in American’s decision, showing 47 percent as their reason to become vegetarian. It was also shown that 39 percent cited “ natural approaches to wellness” while 31 percent cited food-safety concerns,  54 percent cited animal welfare; and finally 25 percent cited weight loss while 24 percent reported weight maintenance as a reason. There are so many reasons to chose a vegetarian diet, as it is clear by this data, but it seems that most Americans choose to live a meat free life for a variety of reasons.

The study provides great information about those Americans who are eating a vegetarian or vegetarian inclined diet. Perhaps the most encouraging statistics to come out of this study is that the 11.9 million non vegetarians who were surveyed stated they  are “definitely interested” in eating a vegetarian diet in the future: meaning more and more people are interested in the lifestyle. Finally, the editor of Vegetarian Times, Elizabeth Turner said “the vegetarian sector is one of the fastest-growing categories in food publishing,” In fact magazine sales for Vegetarian Times has been growing after the last few years while the mainstream publishing industry has been hurting.

Now that we know the breakdown of Vegetarian Americans it makes  fact that this trend is growing incredibly exciting. Looking at concrete data showing that more and more Americans are changing their lifestyles, makes the excitement all the more real. So in the words of Brain, we vegetarians are “trying to take over the world.” Look out, American we are taking over…well in the end at least we are a growing population.

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