Monday, October 15, 2007

Notes from a cheap, green household

Today is Blog Action Day, the theme of which is environmentalism. I won't be explicit about the connections between veganism and the environment. All of my readers know that a vegan diet produces less greenhouse gas emissions, uses less water, and is generally MUCH better for the planet. (Look it up if you don't know about it.)

To be environmentally friendly doesn't mean paying lots of money. In fact, I think it really means consuming less and, therefore, spending less. The Australian
government is currently running ads that encourage people to turn off their computers when they're not in use, or to take 1 minute less in the shower. While these are important things that *everyone* should be doing, it's not enough. If we want to make a change, it has to be radical, and we need to address the underlying assumption that humanity can keep consuming for all of eternity. We need to remember those three R's we learned about in elementary school--Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. People often get caught up on the last one, but it is probably the least effective of the three. The other two are more important, in my opinion.

Reusing takes no energy, and it's so easy. We save all of our empty jars to store leftovers, or to use as vases, or for keeping homemade sauces. We buy used where ever possible. ALL of my furniture is used, probably 75% of my wardrobe is
second-hand, and our kitchen gear was purchased at op-shops as well. This weekend we took some time to help the environment and support the local hospital, at the Townsville Hospital Book Fair. We got all these books for $10. Included in the stack is Francis Moore Lappe's Diet for a Small Planet, written in the 70's but still incredibly timely (though very heavy on dairy and eggs!). We also got a tofu book from the 80s, a veggie book from the early 90s, and a baking book from the 80s.

Even better than reusing? Reduce. Reduce the amount of packaging you use by buying in bulk. Reduce the distance things need to travel by purchasing locally. Simply reduce the amount of stuff that you buy. For dinner the other night, we had seitan chicken salad--homemade seitan, local avocado, tomato, cucumber, and lettuce. The dressing was a local lime, homemade vegan worcestershire, and some home-grown coriander.

We did the math, and figured out that it costs less than $10 to make 8 pounds of chicken-style seitan, which usually gives us a base for 16 meals. We also buy our gluten flour from the local Organic Buyers Network, and turn it into seitan ourselves, cutting down on processing and transportation.

Keeping on with this theme, we buy just about all our fruit and veg from the farmer's market, and turn it into delicious vegan food in our kitchen. For example, these local tomatoes. Andy reckons, "This is the way tomatoes are supposed to be".
Topped with homemade vegan cheese, and a basil leaf from the garden, these were a nice summery dinner.This meal probably cost $3 for the two of us.

Although organic food and vegan food is sometimes more expensive, it isn't always. Local sources are often cheaper, and better for the environment. Plus, if you cut down on the other things you're purchasing, you'll have extra money to spend on more expensive organic things.

Now that we've dealt with consumption, we need to do something about the producers (who are really in charge of supply and demand, in my opinion). I think we can take 'em. Who's with me?


Jackie said...

Thanks for posting. I wasn't aware of this Blog Action Day.

I got Diet for a Small Planet when first published many, many years ago. Very thought provoking and a useful info source.

The Little Vegan said...

I, too, was surprised that Vegan Gourmet has no dessert section! (It was given to me as a gift a few years ago).

Here's what I think of the recipes I've tried from that book:

The grilled winter squash with millet pilaf and coconut chutney sauce is spectacular (but pretty invoved).

I like the tri-color pepper saute over polenta... but that's a pretty basic recipe, as you said.

The baked millet and sweet potato patties are just ok.

I love the tempeh with curried peanut sauce.

I haven't tried any of the appetizers... I guess I should!

VeggieGirl said...

Great post in honor of Blog Action Day, Theresa. I certainly agree with you - the producers (supply-and-demand) need to take responsibility and DO something and help to protect the environment. We ALL need to do something positive about this issue.

Wow, that tomato-dinner of yours looks delicious!! so simple, yet so good :0)

Kumudha said...

Wonderful post!

What we eat every day has such such an enormous impact on our environment. It seems vegan diet has least negative impact on th environment.

I wonder why people thrive on meat and dairy when there are so many dairy and meat alternatives in developed countries.

urban vegan said...

Isn't it amazing? What's good for the environment is also usually coincidentally animal-friendly, healthy and frugal. Everyone wins. [Except of course the large, profit-gluttons.]

bazu said...

Thanks so much for this post! For some reason, people think that environmentalism is just another yuppie hobby- finding ways to spend more money to be cool. I wish the PR would change and people could see the deep ties between sustainability, frugality, and environmentalism.

vko said...

I love your blog action day post.And we should all learn to make the sauces we are so used to buying- like worchestire- thank you for that tip!

Monika K said...

I like the new blog format! I think living frugally and reducing/reusing are fantastic ways to be "green." I've transplanted my German canvas shopping bags to Alaska and try to use them instead of plastic grocery bags. The little things really do add up - especially when we all do them. (-:

P.S. A stack of cool books for $10? Sign me up!

Emmie said...

I pretty much never buy new books anymore, unless they're cookbooks. It's amazing how many nice books you can find almost for free at charity shops and flea markets. It's a nice hobby too! Going to the flea market and early saturday morning... it's such a great thing.

Veganista said...

Hey, nice post Theresa. This is one of a few blog action day posts I've seen today that are reminding me about ways to be more environmentally responsible. I like that stack of books you found for $10,'s time I went to the second-hand bookstore again. :)

Johanna3 said...

i got great ideas from here, great post!

Amy said...

Wow, nice redesign!

I couldn't agree more with your post. For me it all starts with reducing, which tackles our environmental footprint at the source (mixed metaphor, anyone?).

I liked the book Not Buying It by Judith Levine, although it's tedious in parts. I would send you my used copy, but think how much jet fuel that would require! :)

Pink Theory said...

Great blog action day post. I wish I had had the time to participate. I love that you show that being "green" does not have to be expensive b/c I have many friends who think it is.

johanna said...

Very late in commenting here, but thank you for this post. I get really tired of the whole "you can save the world if you just BUY more of the right things!" attitude. Sure, it's important that, if we recycle things, we're able to close the loop by purchasing things that are made from recycled materials, but it's even more crucial to reduce what we consume, period.

A couple of other things I do (which you may as well & just didn't mention): reusable bags. I always keep a little cotton tote in my bag in case I buy something, & we have big ones for groceries. Reusable cloth pads for when I have my period. Hankies (cut from an old duvet cover we didn't want anymore) instead of tissues (much more durable & soft, anyway!). We don't buy ziploc bags anymore but we wash & re-use the ones we have.

I think often people think these sorts of things are really crazy & untenable, but... they're not really that hard, y'know? And the reused glass jars for bulk items in the kitchen, etc. etc. I think people worry that it'll look crappy, but I think it's quirky & cute!