Red Meat and Cancer

By now you’ve probably heard the piece of news stirring up controversy on every corner of the web. But just in case you haven’t, I’ll gladly share the memo with you: the World Health Organization just classified red meat as carcinogenic. You read that right. One of the most powerful international health agencies just placed eating red meat in the same cancer-causing level as asbestos and smoking tobacco.

If you’re a resident of a Western hemisphere, you know that this news is probably not going to be received well by most of our meat-loving friends and family. Lest they counter with the notion that animal consumption is a hallmark of the developed world, the U.S. government also affirmed the benefits of a plant-based diet earlier this year.

I’m thrilled that these influential organizations have used their platforms to promote plant-based eating. Food is indeed fuel for our bodies. But it’s also one of the very best ways to protect our health and safeguard the Planet each and every day. So thank you, WHO and other agencies, for disrupting and renegotiating the way we think about food.

You Weigh In

The very best thing about having a blog is engaging with you–my fabulous, insightful reader. Today I thought I’d ask you a question that’s been on my mind. I hope you’ll find some time this weekend to weigh in!

To the veg*n eaters, what is the hardest part, in your opinion, about maintaining a plant-based diet?

If you’re not yet a veg*n (vegetarian or vegan), but would like to be, what would you say is the biggest challenge holding you back?

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Weighing the fruits of my labor

Maybe it’s a lack of convenient, on-the-go types of meals that are readily available to our omnivore friends. Perhaps it’s a challenge to eat enough nutritious, filling plant-based foods. Or, it could be that you just don’t know where to start!

Whatever your reason, I’m all ears!

Pura Vida: 3 Reasons Costa Rica is Leading the Global Environmental Movement

I was lucky enough to spend a semester abroad in Costa Rica my junior year of college. The friendliness of everyone I met—from my host family to street vendors immediately took me aback. The fresh fruits were unlike anything I found at home. And it was also in this most bio-diverse country, among the cloud forests and active volcanoes, where I experienced an environmental re-awakening.

Costa Rica has proven to be at the forefront of solving national environmental challenges, setting an example not just for developing countries, but for industrial nations as well. Here are three recent efforts that remind me of what I loved the most about Costa Rica—it’s commitment to celebrating and protecting our precious planet:

1. Clean Energy During the first 75 days of 2015, the country used 100% sustainable sources of energy. Even now, Costa Rica relies on wind turbines, solar panels and geothermal sources for more than two-thirds of its energy needs.

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Time.com

2. Ban on Hunting for Sport Costa Rica is the first country in Latin America to place a ban on hunting for sport. In light of the recent outrage over the killing of Cecil the Lion, organizations all over the world are taking steps to defend animals and their right to live.

3. Promoting Eco-Tourism Forget spending your precious vacation days shopping for more knickknacks. You probably don’t have room in your suitcase for them, either! Costa Rica is a phenomenal place to be an eco-tourist. You can relax in thermal waters heated by volcanoes, zip line through the rainforest, watch sea turtles nest on the bay, or hike along a national park while monkeys play in the canopy above.

Which countries do you think are doing a good job in protecting the planet?

Meatless Monday: 4 Easy Substitutes to Make Your Meals Greener

1. Hummus for Mayonnaise
I love hummus. My love for hummus requires a post of its own. Packed with protein and flavor–I think hummus makes a fabulous sub for mayo. Hummus is made with a tahini base rather than oil, which makes it a healthier (and in my opinion, tastier!) option for spreads and dips.

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Pile on the hummus!

2. Avocado for Cheese
Avocado’s richness makes it a fabulous substitute for cheese. It works especially well in dishes like sandwiches and tacos, when cheese doesn’t need to be melted. Instead of sliced cheese in your next sandwich, why not try some sliced avocado? Throw in some cubed avocado, or definitely guacamole, in Mexican dishes and you won’t even miss the shredded cheese.

3. Tofu for Steak
Tofu is a wonder food because of the infinite ways it can be transformed. You can bake, it fry it, blend it into a smoothie. You can even grill it just as you would a steak! The beauty of tofu is that its pretty much non-existent taste and variety of texture options ranging from soft to extra firm allows you to prepare it the same way you would prepare a meat dish. Substituting a plant-based meal for a meat-based dish gives you the chance to make a healthier choice for animals, the planet, and yourself.

4. Chickpeas for Tuna
This may not seem like a natural substitute but the other day I tried a really yummy mock tuna salad–and found out that the “tuna” was made out of chickpeas! Usually imitation dishes are made with fake meat products, but the chickpeas are really neat take on this dish. Simply mash up your cooked chickpeas with a little bit of seasoning (I love this recipe!) and you have a delicious “tuna” dish.

Traveling like an Eco-Tourist

Last weekend I visited California with my parents for Independence Day. It’s been a while since I’ve spent time on the west coast, but I remembered quickly that California is a great place to visit as an eco-tourist–the beaches, mountains, deserts, all offer boundless opportunities to explore nature’s beauty.

Eco-tourism? What’s that? You might be wondering.

Eco-tourism asks us to visit new places in a way that celebrates the natural environment. Rather than making consumerism the focus of a vacation, you make it a priority to visit a local botanical garden, state park, or simply lounge on the beach.

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Sounds easy, right? I’ll be the first to admit that the allure of the local mall was too powerful for me to resist. I spent two hours roaming around various shops. Roaming around same stores we have in DC. Do you know how much I bought that day? Exactly nothing! While mindlessly looking through racks of clothes, it donned on me. I traveled all the way across the country only to waste my precious few days of vacation shopping for clothes I didn’t need? Right then, I decided that I wanted to spend the rest of my time taking in everything that makes California special: its outdoors.

My parents and I traveled to Catalina Island the next day. We walked around the island and watched deer playing in the trees. We splashed in the ocean and polished off scoops of homemade ice cream on the shoreline. And that truly felt like what a vacation should be: a time to relax and refresh. To spend time catching up with friends and family if you’re together. If you’re alone, a vacation should inspire you to invoke dreams lost in the quotidian.

And what better place to do so than in nature? Countless studies have shown us that spending time in nature increases our well-being. The novelty of spending time outdoors in a new place exponentially improves our happiness. You are far more likely to reminisce on that time you conquered (or got lost hiking) San Jacinto Mountain than you will remembering the pair of shoes you bought in the city.

The next time you travel this summer, or whenever it may be, travel like an eco-tourist. Take pleasure in the cacti or trees that surround you and you’ll be sure to have an unforgettable vacation.

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Meatless Monday: Gov. Brown on Veggie Burgers

You might have heard about the California drought in the news lately. California and neighboring states in the southwest (where I’m from) have been suffering years from a prolonged fresh water shortage.

Last week, Governor Brown took the time to talk with the LA Times about the water crisis.
You can watch it all here:

http://www.latimes.com/local/drought/la-me-water-in-the-west-live-htmlstory.html

Gov. Brown states that one of the best things we can do is to eat veggie burgers, rather than burgers made from beef. Producing a single burger requires thousands of gallons of water. Rather than pouring our all of our precious water into the beef industry, we can stretch it much farther by choosing a plant-based diet.

Green Washing at the Green Festival

As soon as I heard about DC’s Green Festival held this weekend, I set out to scour its webpage for more information. Touted as “America’s Largest and Longest Running Sustainability and Green Living Event,” I decided right away that this was an event I must attend.

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Boy was I in for a rude awakening when I learned moments upon arriving that this wasn’t at all what I’d expect a “green festival” to be.

Immediately as I entered the registration area, some interesting-looking furniture caught my eye.

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Unsure whether these chairs were a piece of modern art or held a more practical purpose, I took a closer look at the information post. These chairs were made from recycled materials like coaxial cable and zip ties. Fabulous use of creativity and repurposing, I thought. Then I read on. The cost per piece? $5,000! $5,000 for something that’s made out of discarded materials—I was shocked! Surely the average green-festival attendee couldn’t afford to outfit a room with furniture created from trash.

Frustrated but undeterred, my friend M(who graciously agreed to tag along with me) and I entered the festival. The very first “exhibit” we noticed was a BMW placed at the center of the hall. I wondered out loud: how exactly does a BMW contribute to a sustainable living festival?

Flipping through the event guide I found my answer. The Green Festival’s Platinum, Gold and Green sponsors (top donors) consist of Audi, Volkswagen, BMW and Ford. Coincidence? I think not! It dawned on me then—this “green festival” that was supposedly about “making ‘greener’ practical” was actually a thinly-veiled attempt at green-washing the worst offenders of global climate change: the automobile industry. It would have been one thing had these companies sponsored the event and discussed practical tips on reducing our reliance on cars. Instead, though, the hall was abound with raffles to win a car, opportunities to test drive one locally, and even lease one on the spot.

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This festival was ultimately a platform for all sorts of firms to sell products that were at best tangential to green living, and at worst, antithetical to a sustainable lifestyle. Green living doesn’t mean purchasing earrings made from upcycled glass bottles for $35. Nor does it mean using a credit card made from bio-degradable materials.

Overall, I was disappointed majorly by DC’s Green Festival. Sure the cooking demonstration by vegan celebrity chef Leslie Durso and the vegetarian food court featuring local eateries were nice touches. But these additions seemed more like an after though than a mainstay of the 3-day event.

Poor Leslie stood a cumbersome several feet above her cooking table, which was poorly equipped with a barely-functional hot plate. The lack of a camera over her work area left her audience in the dark and unable to visually follow along. Luckily she had the foresight to begin heating the water at the beginning of her demo so that it might come to a boil an hour later, at the conclusion of her show. Leslie did the best she could but clearly the organizers of the event had little interest in promoting one of the most powerful and effective lifestyle changes one can make to truly live green—eating a plant-based diet.

I had imagined much more from a Green Festival but perhaps that was my fault. Afterall, they were indeed successful in creating “the ultimate marketplace” to entice visitors in opening their wallets to spend a lot of our hard-earned green.