Simple Swaps for Reducing Plastic Waste NOW

on
Thursday, May 24, 2018

I'm sure you've heard by now that plastic is kind of an epidemic.  Everyone has been talking about it. I worked at LUSH Cosmetics back in 2013 and we had a campaign called "Take Back the Tap" which encourage the purchase of aluminum water bottles and filling them yourself, instead of buying water in plastic bottles.  It was then that I sort of invested a little more in keeping unnecessary plastic out of my life.


National Geographic has launched the "Planet or Plastic" initiative to commit to reducing plastic waste (click the link to take the pledge!).  The numbers are absolutely staggering.  Americans contribute millions of plastic bags, straws, and other items to the environment every year.  Where does this waste go? Most of it ends up in our oceans.  If you eat seafood, you are consuming tiny bits of plastic every single time you eat something that came from the ocean (another reason to not eat seafood ;P)  Zooey Deschanel paired with the initiative to help us all realize our impact on the planet.  It's getting out of control (and has been for a while) and I am really committed to making a difference.

In the past year, I have grown more passionate about significantly reducing my plastic consumption, and waste in general.  At first, it seemed impossible and really inconvenient.  I have to carry around a water bottle? I have to drink my drink at a restaurant with no straw? (I know... the horror, right?)  How could I LIVE THIS WAY.

Let me stop you (and my past self) right there.  It takes very little effort to reduce your plastic waste, and you will feel much better about yourself, your relationship with the environment, and your trips to the dumpster. Since I made the conscious decision to reduce my waste output (especially plastic), I have found my favorite replacements.  So see, I've done a lot of the work for you!  Here are some simple substitutions that you can make TODAY as in, RIGHT NOW, that won't complicate your life in any way!

Tips:

  • Be conscious of items that you buy that are marked "biodegradable." This does NOT necessarily mean that your biodegradable garbage bag will end up as one with the Earth. In fact, most of these end up in landfills, where things are unable to biodegrade as they are (under EPA regulations) deprived of sunlight and fresh air, which are both things required for biodegradation.  
  • Recycling? Awesome! but pay attention to the numbers on the items you are recycling. No. 1 and 2 can be recycled together, but No. 7 must be separated.  These numbers have to do with chemicals in the plastic and how they interact with each other when they are melted down to repurpose.




There are compostable bags that are available for just about everything - groceries, garbage, pet waste...you name it.  Green Home has a ton and they are made from cellulose, so they don't release any harmful gases into the environment when they decompose.

Metal Safety Razor


I just recently bought one of these and I love it.  You will never need to purchase another plastic disposable razor again, and you can recycle the used blades.

Shampoo/Conditioner Bar


Shampoos are plastic goldmines (plastic mines? whatever).  If your shampoo/conditioner comes in a plastic bottle, it might be time to swap!  My favorites are Seanik and BIG solid shampoo and conditioner bars from LUSH. Alex swears by Avo Co-Wash.

Makeup Pads


I use makeup pads twice a day for toner and makeup removers. That was twice a day that I was using a disposable makeup pad and tossing it into the trash.  I've made the switch, and use one of these a day and then wash them with the laundry on Sundays.

Reusable K-Cups


Dude.  I'm addicted to my Keurig. In order to avoid contributing so much plastic in the form of single use k-cups, and also just enjoying better coffee (k-cup coffee is not the greatest...) Switch to a reusable k-cup and your favorite brand of coffee.  You can pre-make these for the mornings if you get a set of reusables!

Solid Soap Bars


There is honestly no need to use a body wash that comes in a spectacularly labeled plastic bottle.  Bar soap works just as well.  I just a bar for my body in the shower, and one for my face at the sink.  You can keep them covered if you prefer.  My favorite is Sam's Natural soap in Oatmeal, and I got mine at Whole Foods without packaging!

Reusable "Paper Towels"


Be honest, how many paper towels do you use a day? Knock it off! Get these instead.  They're perfect for cleaning up spills, wiping your hands or dishes,  and cleaning off surfaces.  I honestly use them for everything.

Cloth Feminine Care Pads or THINX 

As a woman, I experience a monthly burden on the planet.  Not like, other people, the actual planet. Using single use pads and tampons (which usually come with plastic applicators and filled with chemicals) contributes a ton of waste and is completely unnecessary.  There are so many alternatives, including washable pads, THINX underwear, and cotton tampons with cardboard applicators.  Get it together, girls!  These washable pads from Lunapads are perfect.  The packaging is even biodegradable! Plus, you can get them at Target and that's always a good thing. THINX are also super cool, and even though I haven't tried them (yet) I've heard a bunch of good things.  Both of these options will also help you save money in the long run, because pads are expensive and marketed to you as a necessity.

Reusable straws


Keep one of these in your purse, car, pocket, whatever and never use another plastic straw again.  Straws are so unnecessary, and if you must use one then use a reusable one.  Plus, these straws from Pretty Candy Pin Company are friggin adorable and you'll want to show them off.  But you gotta hurry up because she frequently sells out!

And there you have it!!
My favorite super simple swaps for living a more environmentally conscious and waste-free life.  It's hard to change your lifestyle, I know (hello, I went vegan after a lifetime of eating meat!), but it's not impossible.  It's important to put in the work, but to also have supportive people around who believe in your efforts and to have faith in yourself that you're doing the right thing and helping out the world you live in.  If you have any suggestions for me as well, feel free to message me! You can email me at sara@tinywolfheart.com or hit me up on Instagram @tinywolfheart!!

Also, note that I have added a section to the site called "Environmental and Zero Waste" (check the navbar!) and I will be posting  a lot more tips like this!


xo
Sara

Back to Basics: Tomato Basil Garlic Pasta Sauce

on
Thursday, May 17, 2018


So among the things I've started buying less of is pasta sauce.  I've posted about my efforts to go "back to basics" and become more well rounded as a cook.  It's fine and dandy if you can whip up a fancy shmancy meal for a few guests, but if you don't understand the basics of cooking and the basics of developing a palate,  you'll be lost outside of your go-to recipes.  Learning how to make your owns sauces, broths, and other staples will also save you money.  I don't buy vegetable broth anymore.  I also don't buy as much pasta sauce (sometimes I'm tired, sue me).  Another perk is that you aren't getting the added sugar and sodium that is packed in pasta sauce.  Sauce in a jar is mostly awful for you, but I have found a few local brands that are pretty good for when I don't feel like boiling tomatoes.  Making your owns sauces, broths, and other basics is less wasteful as well.  You avoid the packaging from store bought, and you can toss all your old veggies that are about to turn in a pot for broth.  One of my goals right now is to reduce my waste by a LOT, and keeping glass jars full of sauces and broths is one way that I've found I can reduce the amount of trips I take to the garbage chute.

Photo courtesy of Monsieur Marcel
On Sundays Alex and I go to the LA Farmer's Market.  This is where we buy our produce for the week, get a chance to be outside, and form a relationship with our food.  The food that I make with the produce from the farmer's market is noticeably better than with produce from the grocery store (even from Whole Foods, it ain't that great).  My favorite places at the farmer's market are the produce stands of course, but also the Monsieur Marcel Gourmet Market. Here, I get a lot of handmade pasta and specialty salts and spices.  They also have a fantastic wine selection (thought their bottles can get pricey pretty fast).  They have a lot of great housemate sauces here that are a really good alternative to making things yourself.  But this past weekend, I topped their pasta with a sauce of my own choosing.


I love experimenting with making my own sauces.  There's not a lot you can do to screw them up, honestly.  And as I always say, don't be afraid! It takes a LOT of trial and error to make your own sauce recipes, and find some creative ways to make it yours.  Here's one that I created on the fly last Sunday:


Ingredients
4-5 medium tomatoes
1 medium shallot, diced
3 or 4 garlic cloves, (this is garlic sauce after all, so don't be stingy) diced
Olive oil
handful of basil, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper to taste (sometimes I use himalayan sea salt, some times I use smokey black salt)

Fill a pot with enough water to cover the tomatoes, and salt.  Bring to a boil and add in the tomatoes.  Boil until the skin starts to peel off, then drain, rinse with cold water and set aside until they are cool enough to handle.  Peel off the skins, and slice them in half.  Spoon out the seeds and insides, only the outer flesh should be left.

Transfer these into a food processor, as well as the rest of the ingredients.  Add in the olive oil slowly, so that you don't oversaturate.  Puree until smooth, or to your desired texture (I like my sauce to be as pureed as possible, but I know some people who enjoy a chunkier sauce). Mix in with your fav pasta (picture here with Capricci). I also paired mine with some grilled broccolini and mushrooms with black truffle olive oil and for dessert, grilled peaches with olive oil and paprika.  It was one of the best meals I've ever had.


Et Voila! You have made pasta sauce!
It's great to make a ton of it and store it for later use.  You can even freeze it!
It's so good and super simple.
Let me know some of your experiments, I'd love to post them on my instagram!

Vegan in Vegas

on
Friday, May 4, 2018

Last weekend Alex and I took a much needed short holiday to Las Vegas with my sister and brother-in-law.  I had just had a 6 day work week setting up a show at the gallery, and needed to unwind.  We left on Saturday night after my opening, and made the 4 hour drive into Sin City.  I hadn't been in years, and this was honestly the most fun I had (my last trip was a total bust and not really any fun at all, so this was a nice do-over).  I've been to Vegas on 3 separate occasions, and the first two were a blast, but something about this trip made it so much better. Maybe it was the company, or maybe it was because I'm older and enjoy different things, who knows. Or maybe it was because I have a newly acquired taste for different food, and it was kind of an adventure.  I thought that being vegan in Vegas would be a little bit of a challenge, but HOLY CRAP the food is amazing!! And really couldn't be easier to find.

On Sunday morning we ate at the Modern Vegan, a brand new place that just opened up. They have a huge menu and I was a little overwhelmed, but I think we made the right choices.  That day we hit up one of those psycho pool parties that's basically like Dionysian madness set to a contemporary remixed soundtrack.  I was completely out of my element (Sundays are apparently hip hop day, and while I recognized a couple songs I had no idea what was going on most of the time) but it was actually a lot of fun being immersed in a subculture I am in no way a part of.  Also, when you have a couple drinks by a pool you tend to just have fun regardless.  That night, we went to the Wynn, which was GORGEOUS and had dinner at Lakeside. Every restaurant inside the Wynn (including room service) has a vegan menu, which you'll read more about later.  This was probably the highlight of the trip.  The Wynn is colorful and cute and really creates an atmosphere, and every single restaurant is elaborately decorated and themed...and you know how I love a good theme.  In our Vegas last day haze, we made our way to Nacho Daddy at the Miracle Mile Shops on our way out, and did a little shopping.  I sasn't expecting a ton of vegan options...but they delivered and then some.  And it was all delicious.

Anyway, here are the details. And don't ever let anyone tell you that you can't find good vegan food in Vegas.


Vegan at the Happiest Place on Earth

on
Monday, April 30, 2018

I lived in Orange County for 7 years.  It was an absolute MUST to have Disney pass, to hit up Disneyland whenever you were feeling blue/bored/Tuesday and we always knew the best places to eat.  The chicken nuggets at the Golden Horseshoe, the turkey legs everywhere, the Mickey Pretzels, the big ass corn dogs at the Little Red Wagon on the way out....oh shit, those aren't vegan are they? (Well, the Mickey Pretzels actually are!)

Lagom Är Bäst

on
Sunday, April 29, 2018

Who else is a little tired of hygge, the Danish trend that took over last year inspiring many an Instagrammer (yours truly included) to post photos of warm drinks, cozy socks, and faux fur accent pillows and throws?  I know I am. And let's face it, I love everything Scandinavian, from Norwegian Black Metal to lingon berry jam and back again, so if I'm over it you know it's done.

So why am I buying into another Scandi trend? Well, because this one is more than just a trend, and it's something that I have been working towards for about a year without actually knowing it.  Lagom is a Swedish word meaning just the right amount.  Something that has really been a struggle for me since entering my 30s is figuring out what I need as opposed to what I want.  I graduated from my MFA program this past winter and without the aid of student loans and the looming inevitability of paying them back for the rest of my life, I'm beginning to figure out how to properly budget not only my money, but my time, stress level, workload, etc. Hygge is about making cozy moments, while lagom is about a more balance lifestyle.

Am I Still Vegan If....?

on
Friday, April 13, 2018
Recently I found out that one of my favorite vegan products, Impossible Meat, was tested on animals to submit full transparency to the FDA.  (I will unpack this later in detail, and what it means to me).


Learning this, and grappling with the ramifications and affect on the vegan community as well as the meat-eating community, and expressing my thoughts on an Instagram post of an Impossible Umami Burger, caused a few people to take issue with my comment (My comment was as objective as I could make it. I always try to be as compassionate and moderate on social media as possible about these things, as I know they are sensitive issues).  One individual, whom I have never spoken to or heard of in my life decided that I was somewhere on the spectrum of pure evil and left a series of comments not only calling into questions my "right" to be vegan, but also leaving sarcastic comments about my posts, and implying that I'm only vegan because it's "trendy."  I was honestly genuinely hurt.  I have been meat-free for 2 1/2 years, and have been vegan since December (I'm still a newbie, sure) but it seems ridiculous and counterproductive to treat being vegan and plant-based like an elite club that you have to pledge and be inducted into, and you are only allowed if you fit someone else's strict criteria.

NO one is perfect. No vegan is perfect.  We all do the best we can, and when we make a decision to alter our lifestyle in a way that invites criticism from the general public, it helps no one to being criticizing others within that community.  There is no such thing as "true veganism."  We all adapt the lifestyle to ways that fit our lives.  Of course, if someone eats eggs occasionally they are not vegan, but that doesn't mean that they deserve to be ridiculed and made to feel "less than" because of it. But on that same note, if you kill a bug in your house that doesn't mean you aren't vegan (contrary to a recent conversation I had with someone who isn't vegan or vegetarian...)  The goal of being vegan is to live as compassionately as possible, and do as little harm as possible.  I try to live this way everyday, in the best way I can.  The vegan community should not be elitist and exclusionary, we should all be welcoming, informative, and above all compassionate.

Which brings me to my thoughts on Impossible Meat.  You can read the company's statement here.  Let me start by saying that my first experience with veganism was in high school, when my first boyfriend ever was vegan.  It was difficult (to say the least) to find vegan options that didn't taste like cardboard to cook at my house for him when he came for dinner, and also going out to eat in our small, Central Valley town was a real task.  There was a time when plant-based burgers were gross and bland and plant-based food in general was difficult to come by if you weren't in a metro area.  In 2018, we have  so many meat-free options it's almost overwhelming.  One of the biggest innovations in recent years is the burgers offered in restaurants by Impossible Foods.  Impossible foods uses a unique ingredient called soy leghemoglobin.  If part of that word looks familiar, it's because heme is an iron carrying molecule, and it's what gives meat the "meat" taste.  Impossible Foods found a way to isolate this molecule in plants, which was a huge discovery. This heme is identical to the heme found in your blood.

In an effort to be "fully transparent,"  Impossible Foods submitted additional data tests to the FDA.  These tests included testing the heme on rats.  I, like most vegans, do not condone animal testing and will not use products that are tested on animals (I do make one exception: I wear Chanel No. 5 as a tribute to my grandmother who recently passed. Chanel has no statement on animal testing on their website, but like many high end cosmetic and fragrance brands, they sell in mainland China, which requires animal testing by a 3rd party.  So, though Chanel may not test on animals stateside or in the EU, which actually prohibits animal testing of any kind, they allow their products to be tested by others in mainland China. So, judge me as you see fit). However,  I fully believe that Impossible Foods is making great strides to reduce and hopefully one day eliminate the human consumption of animal products.  A meatless product that tastes like meat? This is revolutionary!  So many people can't tell that they are not eating an animal, and it could be one of the first major steps to introducing the plant-based lifestyle to the general public.  The founder of Impossible Foods expressed his moral dilemma with this animal testing, and in the end I agree with his decision to "advance the greater good." Impossible Foods has also ceased testing their product on animals, as it was a one time certification requirement.

In fact, most medications that you take are tested on animals. Of course, I try to keep my body healthy to avoid illness and medication, but I take hormonal birth control and OTC medication for migraines.  The medication keeping a lot of people alive has been tested on animals.  I would never shame someone for taking a medication that keeps them happy and healthy because it doesn't align with my personal life choices. You would really have to be a special kind of asshole to do that (pardon my French...).

I think my takeaway from this is that no one is perfect, not even vegans. Not even gluten free vegans. Not even gluten free raw vegans.  I always like to live firmly in reality, and while I will never support animal cruelty, or killing/harming of animals for human consumption, I am not perfect.  I have done everything I can to help animals by abstaining from consuming them or their byproducts.  But I support Impossible Foods' decision to complete these tests in order to present the world with a product that could quite possible convert more people to a plant based lifestyle, then I'm here for that.

And let me urge all of you to remember that being vegan is above all, about compassion.  If you disagree with someone or don't think they are the picture of plant-based perfection that you are, please keep that to yourself. If you want to educate someone on their food choices and what it means for animals and the environment, engage thoughtfully and tread lightly because no one wants a stranger interrupting their day by making them feel bad.  Being vegan is about feeling GOOD.  It's about helping, and educating, and informing, not judging and pointing fingers. I frequently voice my opinions about animal rights and welfare, and my post about "Selective Compassion" is probably as aggressive as I'll get. But I do make it a point to remind everyone that I'm not judging by expressing my opinions, and we can still be friends if you eat meat.

I would love to hear others' thoughts on this, do you support Impossible Foods, or have you given it up?

For more information about volunteering to save farmed animals, and for ways to explore ta plant-based lifestyle, visit Mercy for Animals.  They have all kinds of great resources, including the Vegetarian Starter Guide.