Recycling Rundown

Nowadays you can recycle just about anything from yard waste to paper products to plastics.  Figuring out what materials your local curbside pick-up will accept is fairly easy with the help of the internet.

You can find your local recycling center by using this handy tool: Find a Recycling Center.

You can find out what items are picked up curb-side by using this handy tool: Who Picks Up My Recycling?

Once you establish what you can put out front on garbage day, remember to check every item before you toss in in with the trash.

Recycling Symbols:

Plastic containers are clearly labeled with  numbers 1-7.  Below find a brief overview of what each of these symbols mean.  Most curb-side recycling will collect all numbers except  6.

PETE 1 (Polyethylene Terephthalate)

Found in most single-use soft-drink and water bottles.  Also found in other household containers.

Recycled into fiber, carpet, and paneling.

HDPE 2 (High Density Polyethelene)

Found in motor-oil bottles, juice jugs, detergent bottles, and cereal box liners.

Recycled into other bottles, lumber, fencing, drain pipes, and floor tile.

PVC 3 (Poly Vinyl Carbonate)

Found in cleaning solution bottles, shampoo bottles, clear food containers, and sometimes windows and piping.

Recycled into lumber, mats, and highway fixtures.

LDPE 4 (Low Density Polyethelene)

Found in squeezable bottles, plastic bags, and carpets.

Recycled into garbage bags, bins, package padding, and floor tiles.

PP 5 (Polypropylene)

Found in medicine containers, some syrup or ketchup bottles, sipping straws.

Recycled into trays, pallets, and other plastic goods such as bins, wire covers, ice scrapers, etc.

PS 6 (Polystyrene)

Found in Styrofoam containers, Styrofoam cups, and other Styrofoam-like materials.

Difficult to recycle and non-biodegradable.  Avoid using PS 6 until better recycling programs are available.

7 (Miscellaneous Plastics)

Found in plastic items such as computer parts, 5-gallon jugs, and nylon.

Recycled into end-use products such as lumber and highway materials.

Number 7 plastics contain the group of plastics so often in the news for containing Bisphenal-A or BPA a type of Polycarbonate, or hard plastic.  Studies have shown that these types of plastics can leech hormones and other carcinogens into the environment making them dangerous for use around small chidren.  Many sites now list items that are specifically manufactured without the use of BPA.  One example of BPA-free children’s products can be found here.

10 Ways to be More Green

This Earth Day try some of these easy tips to be more eco-friendly in your daily life.

  • Eat More Vegetables! The Union of Concerned Scientists cites eating meat as the most eco-destructive activity in which humans take part.  The United Nations states that cattle-rearing generates more green-house gases than transportation.  If all Americans replaced just one meal per week with vegetarian food, the impact on the environment would be equivalent to taking more than a half-million cars off the road.
  • Eat Locally! As well as eating more vegetables, it’s important to eat locally.  An average dinner travels more than 1,500 miles from farm to your table. The environmental impact of this transportation is significant.  Check labels at the grocery store and opt for items that are grown close to where you live and choose items that are in season in your area.  Another option is to purchase fruits and vegetables from local farmers markets or co-ops.  Not sure where to go?  LocalHarvest.org has a list of local farmers markets across the US.

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  • Ditch those plastic bottles! Using re-usable water bottles filled with tap or filtered water eliminates thousands of bottles that would otherwise end up in a landfill.  Sigg makes a sturdy and user friendly reusable water bottle.
  • Ditch those paper cups! Most coffee shops now offer reusable options for your morning latte.  Buy a reusable travel mug and refill it when you get coffee.  According to statistics from Starbucks, if just 50 customers at each Starbucks location used a reusable mug, it would save over 150,000 paper cups per day which translates to over 1.7 million pounds of paper waste each year.  At the very least don’t take a sleeve or allow your Barista to double-cup your beverage!
  • Use reusable take-out containers.  If your favorite restaurant gives you your doggie bag in Styrofoam, consider bringing a reusable container with you and bringing home your leftovers in your own ware.
  • Reusable Lunch Containers.  Ditch that brown-bag and opt for a reusable lunch container. Try Lock & Lock containers they are BPA free and they give back to the community via treeplanting campaigns, senior citizen  events, clean water actions, etc.
  • Bring Your Own Bag to the Store.  The easiest approach is to buy a reusable bag at the grocery store, they usually sell for around 99 cents.  Get one!  If you would like something a little more fashionable, try Environsax reusable bags.  They fold up into small pouches that can be easily stored in your purse/bag for use at the grocery store/mall/skate shop/etc.  I always carry one with me in my purse and use it every time I make a purchase.
  • Use a cloth hand towel in your kitchen/bathroom.  Replace your use of paper towels with a cloth towel.  Worried about germs?  Buy 7 of them and put out a new one each day.  This will save you money and reduce the amount of paper waste headed to the landfill.
  • Carpool/Walk/Ride a Bike. Think about where you need to go and how you can get there in the most efficient manner.  Carpool to work, arrange your errands so that they are completed in one day or in a small number of places.  Take public transportation where you can.  If your destination is within a mile from your home, consider walking or riding a bike.  Unsure how to get to your destination via the bus/bike/walking?  Use Google Maps – they have options for driving, walking, and public transportation!
  • Recycle. This seems so obvious, but only about 32% of waste was recycled in 2006.  Cities are constantly expanding recycling programs.  For example, my city recently spread their program to include all plastic types except PET#6.  That means that I can recycle PET#1,2,3,4,5,7,8,&9 in my curb-side pick-up.  Check with your local recycling program to see what types of plastic you can recycle each week!

Replacing your current habits with only one of these can significantly improve your impact on the environment.  Try it out and I am sure you can find ways to decrease the amount of resources that you consume each day.

Price is Right Goes Green

I am sure you’ve heard it, Bob Barker signing off The Price is Right by telling folks to be sure to spay and neuter their dogs and cats.  When Drew Carey took over, he continued the tradition, and this Wednesday he is taking his ecological message a few steps further.

With Ed Begley Jr. guest starring, the Price is Right will feature Earth-Friendly products such as a Toyota Prius, an electric cart, cell phones made out of recycled materials, solar charging equipment, an electric bike, and a recycling cabinet.  The trips given away will be paired with carbon-emissions credits to offset the ecological impact of traveling.

While this is all, of course, in recognition of Earth Day, I hope that the producers see the benefit of being green and incorporate more eco-friendly products into future episodes as well!

5 Misconceptions About Veganism

I have been Vegan for over ten years but some stereotypes/misconceptions still get under my skin.  For me, choosing not to consume animals or animal products (such as meat, dairy, eggs, leather, etc.) was an easy choice.  Once I became aware of the cruelty inflicted upon animals in factory farms, the devastating environmental impact of eating meat, and the health concerns over meat consumption, the choice was obvious.

I love being Vegan.  I feel healthier, I feel like I am very aware of the food that I eat and how it affects my body, I have a greater sense of where my food comes from and how it got to my plate, I have no fear of things like Mad Cow Disease, Salmonella, or high cholesterol/heart disease, and I have a clear conscious about the ethical consequences of my food choices.

However, whenever I tell someone new that I am Vegan, I am often hit with a number of misconceptions and stereotypes.  I would like to take this opportunity to address some of the most popular misconceptions.

  • Vegans are crunchy-granola-loving hippies. I cannot tell you how many times someone has said to me, “You don’t look like you’re vegan.”  I assume that is because I do not look like a hippie.  There are a number of stylish, hip, trendy vegans as evidenced by some of the more popular vegan websites such as
  • Vegans eat ‘twigs and branches.’ Okay, this stereotype tends to get under my skin.  I pride myself on being a bit of a foodie so for someone to assume I eat bland, tasteless leaf vegetables for sustenance irks me.  I eat interesting, delicious food.  I eat out at fancy restaurants such as the Candle Cafe in New York City and I can assure you, they do not serve twigs or branches.
  • Vegans cannot eat chocolate or dessert. Again, I LOVE food.  I love dessert even more.  There are a ton of vegan chocolates including just about any brand of dark chocolate and a number of specialty chocolate brands such as Terra Nostra chocolates, Sjaaks chocolates, and Rose City Chocolatiers.  True, Vegans do not eat “milk chocolate” but many chocolates (especially high end/gourmet chocolates) do not contain milk.  As for desserts, I can assure you, I eat delicious desserts, either that I make at home or that I purchase from upscale vegan bakeries such as Vegan Treats.  My sweet tooth is always satisfied!
  • Vegans are terrorists. Lately there has been a lot of press about so-called animal rights activists partaking in “ecological terrorism,” “domestic terrorism,” etc.  This has gone as far as FBI agents ‘infiltrating’ vegan potlucks to do reconnaissance.  Puh-lease.  I just don’t see Gweneth Paltrow, Jason Schwatzman, or Ed Begley, Jr. as terrorists.  This particular misconception reeks of right-wing fear-mongering.
  • Vegans cannot get enough protein/B12/D/etc. It is very easy to eat a well-balanced, healthy vegan diet.  In fact, studies show that eating a vegan diet can lower cholesterol and reduce the risk for heart disease.  The American Dietetic Association has officially stated that a vegan diet is healthy.  Still not convinced? Check out the Vegan Food Pyramid.

These misconceptions have been the most common reactions that I have gotten from people in my own experiences.  While of course there is always a small grain of truth hidden somewhere behind some of these stereotypes, overwhelmingly, they do not describe the vast majoity of vegans and certainly do not describe me!

Fast Food Information

I follow @Veganism on Twitter and today they posted a link to a list of vegan options at most any popular fast-food restaurant (you can find it here). The list seems pretty up-to-date, noting Burger King’s recent change to non-vegan Morning Star burgers from their previous use of Vegan Boca Burgers and other updates.

While I am not necessarily a proponent of financially supporting places that are responsible for so much enviornmental damage nor am I a fan of the Standard American Diet, sometimes when you’re on the road or need something to eat late at night, it’s nice to know what options are available.

Oh, and check out the URL for the Fast Food List, clearly the list must be infallible.

The Obama Dog.

I am more than disappointed that the First Family did not opt for a shelter/rescue dog to join them in the Whitehouse.

According to the Associated Press, the Obamas are in a “gray area” because the dog they adopted was returned to its breeder before finding its way to the Whitehouse.  In my opinion, that area is not gray.  They were given a dog as a gift from the Kennedys and the Kennedys got the dog from a breeder.

The press is arguing that it was from a reputable breeder (as opposed to a puppy mill) which is true, but I would argue that even reputable breeders are creating an excess of animals.  There are around 3 million dogs euthanized in shelters every year.  3 Million!  Out of those 25% are purebred, single-breed dogs.

Right now on Petfinder there are a number of purebred Portuguese Water Dogs listed in DC shelters.  Those are just the dogs listed on the site.  Rescue groups and other animal welfare organizations have more dogs ready to be adopted.

I find it unacceptable that the Obamas chose to use their daughter’s allergy as their excuse for not adopting from a shelter.  I feel that it sets a bad example for the rest of the public and uses a weak excuse as a reason not to act responsibly. It is absolutely possible to find not only a hypo-allergenic, but a purebred dog in a shelter or from a rescue organization.

Oprah was able to find her companion in a Chicago-area shelter, it’s a shame the Obamas could not follow suit.

Looking for a dog or other pet?  Try Petfinder.com, the largest online listing of shelter/rescued animals.

Want more information on adopting a dog?  Try The Humane Society of the United States for material.

What’s Up With Water Bottles?

I’m sure you’ve seen it, the crunchy-looking thirty-something coming back from yoga sipping on an aluminum water bottle as she gets into her Prius.

Pretentious? Perhaps. Trendy? Sure. Necessary? Absolutely.

According to the Chicago Sun Times, it takes over 1.5 million barrels of oil to manufacture the plastic bottles that supply Americans with bottled water for just one year. That amount of oil is equivalent to the amount needed to fuel 100,000 cars.

Making matters worse, out of the billions of bottles consumed, only about 20% are recycled, with the rest making their way to landfills or even worse, to the world’s oceans.

Earth 911 makes an interesting argument by pointing out that if everyone in New York City alone gave up water bottles for just one week, they would reduce the number of bottles headed to a landfill by 24 million. Giving up plastic water bottles for a year would reduce the number of water bottles headed to a landfill by over 1.3 billion bottles.

But water in bottles is so much better/healthier/cleaner than my local tap water, isn’t it?

Probably not. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC),  out of more than 100 brands of bottled water tested, the overall quality was “spotty” with a third containing contaminants. Tap water, on the other hand is a tightly regulated alternative. If you don’t like the ‘taste’ of your tap water, you can easily use a filter.

Water bottles have become such a source of wasted resources that some stores have refused to stock them.  Food Fight Grocery, an all-vegan grocery store in Portland, Oregon, recently stopped carrying bottled water.  Instead, the owners opted for a more eco-friendly alternative, Food Fight Aluminum Water Bottles.  They allow customers to refill them in the store at any time.

Purchasing a reusable water bottle such as the trendy Sigg bottles available here, is a great alternative to consuming water in disposable plastic bottles. You can refill it with tap or filtered water and can drink with a clear conscience, knowing that you did not contribute to the wasted energy or resources that go into the plastic water bottle industry.

5 Super-Easy Ways to Lower the Amount of Cholesterol You Eat

This is a guest post by Sarah of Living Vegan:

According to William Roberts, MD (Baylor Cardiovascular Institute, Baylor University Medical Center), a well-renowned cardiology expert, the most significant risk factor for heart disease is the lifetime presence of a blood cholesterol level above 150.  In fact, the Framingham Heart Study further illustrates this conclusion.

The study monitored 5,000 people in Framingham, Massachusetts beginning in 1948.  It considered risk factors for heart disease including cholesterol levels, obesity, diabetes, smoking, etc.  Throughout the forty-year study, no person whose blood cholesterol was less than 150 suffered from a heart attack.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the average cholesterol level for adults in the US is 199.  People who eat a plant-based (vegan) diet have an average cholesterol level of 128.

Lowering the amount of cholesterol you consume is easier than you would think.  Consider this, cholesterol is only found in animal products.  Plant-based foods do not contain cholesterol.

While you may not be ready to give up all animal products entirely, here are 5 super-easy substitutions you can make that will have a significant impact on the overall amount of cholesterol you consume.

1. Egg Substitutes.  While eggs are often touted as “incredible” they contain 6 grams of fat, 86 calories and a whopping 257 mg of cholesterol per egg.  It is incredibly easy to replace eggs in most recipes, thereby eliminating that source of cholesterol.

  • Ener-G Egg Replacer is a commercial product that works in just about any recipe calling for eggs.  You simply mix 1.5 tsp of this flavorless powder with 2 Tablespoons of water for each egg in the recipe.  This is especially good in baking since it does not carry it’s own flavor and efficiently binds and leavens cakes and other confections.
  • Mashed bananas are another great egg replacer, but do carry a banana flavor into the recipe.  This is ideal for some recipes, such as banana bread, fruit muffins, and pancakes but will give other recipes, such as vanilla cake, a weird banana flavor.

2. Veggie Burgers.   Long gone are the days of cardboard-tasting veggie burgers.  Today, the selection of faux burgers in most grocery store freezers is unsurpassed, with most grocers carrying several dozen varieties and flavors.  Try a couple until you find one you like. Beef-based burgers contain upwards of 600 calories and 100 mg of cholesterol each.  With 100 calories and 0 mg of cholesterol, the veggie burger is a far superior choice when you are looking for ways to eat healthier. Feeling particularly adventurous?  Try a SmartDog in place of your hotdog!

3. Sandwiches.  Replacing just one ingredient in your favorite sandwich with a plant-based product can significantly reduce the amount of cholesterol you will consume.  For example

  • Opt for extra lettuce and tomato and less cheese and meat.\
  • Use avocado in place of mayonnaise.
  • Use Follow Your Heart Vegenaise in place of mayonnaise.  It’s creamy, rich, savory, and studies show the main ingredient, grapeseed oil, works to lower LDL (bad cholesterol) levels and raise HDL (good choleserol) levels.  It’s win-win.
  • Try vegetarian lunch meat.  Just as the number of high-quality veggie burgers has increased over the past  few years, the number of faux lunch meats has increased as well.  My personal picks include Tofurkey Hickory Smoked turkey slices and Yves Meatless Bologna slices.
  • Try a vegetarian cheese.  In the produce section of most grocery stores, you can find a wide selection of cholesterol-free, dairy-free cheeses.  Try a few varieties until you find one that you love!

4. Try Soymilk.  Silk Soymilk is the most innocuous soymilk on the market today.  While it does not mimic the taste of cow’s milk, it provides a smooth, creamy beverage that can be used in any recipe (it’s also great in coffee or tea!).  Silk is most widely available in Plain, Vanilla, and Chocolate.  Their newest advertising campaign touts that “It only takes one taste” and I whole-heartedly believe them!  Try it in your next recipe and I truly believe that you will not notice the difference.

5. Eat more vegetables! Increasing the portions of vegetables on your plate at every meal will inherently lower the amount of cholesterol you will consume.  Try a new vegetable side dish (there are thousands available online, simply Google “vegetarian side dish”) once a week or increase the amount of vegetables you are used to making.  If you have a small salad every night with dinner, double your portion, the same goes for a side of asparagus, broccoli, beans, etc.

Utilizing just one of these suggestions will be a first step in reducing the amount of cholesterol that you consume.  Eating more plant-based foods is healthier for you and can significantly reduce or even possibly eliminate your risk for heart attack.  A great cook book to keep you on track is Delicious Food for a Healthy Heart: Over 120 Cholesterol-Free, Low-Fat, Quick & Easy Recipes.

Cooking Brings Peace Tonight

I have not spent a lot of time cooking lately, so today I decided to make soup from a recipe recommended by Mike here at Randomn3ss.

My work day was spent mostly sitting, and mostly designing (graphic design), so it was refreshing to stand for about two hours rinsing, boiling, dicing, chopping, measuring, stirring, smelling and being quiet. Silent, actually. My workplace is a fairly loud place at times, with lots of interruptions, lots of laughter, lots of activity going by my desk all day, and so making my brain concentrate amid all that takes a lot of work. While cooking tonight, I didn’t even turn on any music. I just took in the quiet, enjoying the sound and feeling of the knife cutting the herbs and vegetables, hearing my boyfriend working on a bicycle upstairs, and actually hearing the quiet of my own mind, which I quite honestly have not heard lately.

The concentration cooking required of me tonight was perfect. It stopped my racing mind, put all the true concerns and true nonsense on a shelf somewhere, nowhere to be found, thankfully, due to focusing on the tasks at hand. That kind of peace, the peace of being in the moment, was easy to attain for me tonight, which reminds me that I need to create this for myself daily. Cooking is a natural way to get into the peace zone, though it’s not always possible or doesn’t always happen. Cooking is also a perfect way to talk about the day, be silly, laugh and enjoy the comfort of relationship, which is another type of inner quieting needed (even if it’s not quiet outwardly), a lovely peace inside from connection.

Cooking tonight brought me the reminder that I must have peace like this regularly, and to use cooking as the means more often. My whole self, all my senses are telling me this, and for once, I’m quiet and peaceful enough to hear it and take it in, as I eat the wonderful results of peace-filled cooking.

http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Moroccan-Chickpea-Soup-104356

Breast Cancer Prevention – The Quick Overview

I’ll save you some time during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month: In reading several blogs regarding breast cancer and its prevention, and in reading several nutrition books lately, it boils down to eating less animal foods, eating more vegetables and fruits, and exercising frequently.

– Research shows there is almost no breast cancer in populations that consume less than 10% of their calories from fat, and that meat and dairy continue to be strongly implicated as a causal factor in breast cancer; it’s not just animal fat, it’s animal protein, too. Eating lots and lots of vegetables, especially green vegetables, and fruit, preferably raw, offers the most protection, even if you do eat animal foods. (You don’t have to be a vegetarian or vegan to prevent cancer, although this is best – just add a lot more plant foods – a whole lot more than the standard American diet, that is.)

– In one study, women 20-54 who exercised regularly had over 60% less risk than sedentary women to get breast cancer, and for those who exercised more than 4 hours per week, their risk was over 70% less. (There are countless studies that support the assertion that regular exercise is crucial to health and disease prevention.) Walking at a good clip (lazy strolls don’t count really) at least 4-5 days a week for 30 minutes or more is the starting point, for example. It’s best to vary your workouts with different types of exercise, including cardio, strength training and stretching, to get the best benefits.

One last note: Don’t confuse mammograms with prevention: Mammograms are for detection; they are important but they can’t prevent cancer. Only reducing your risks (i.e. if you smoke, quit now and permanently), eating raw vegetables (leafy greens give the most protection; skip the starchy ones) and fruits (but eat more veggies than fruits to get the most superior nutrition), and regular exercise will truly lower your chances of getting breast or other types of cancer, as well as other diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.