Monday, March 7, 2011

What’s stopping us from being greener?

Writing a blog about green living is hard! Let's face it, while the message is worthwhile, it's tough to talk about environmental issues without sounding like a "broken record". So, when I found It's Not Easy To Be Green, I was thrilled. Jennifer, the creative force behind the blog, brings a fresh new voice to Eco-living. She speaks with an incredible honesty, sharing her views in posts such as Can Good Intentions Save the Planet and the delightfully inquisitive Does Going Veg Make Your Tastebuds Mutate. Sometimes Jennifer's articles make me a little uncomfortable because they push me look deeper into my own heart and help expose those areas where I could do better. She tackles every subject head on ... and in the process she opens her readers' eyes.

I'd like to thank Jennifer for stopping by, today, and sharing some of her thoughts with us. And now ... Jennifer:

What’s stopping us from being greener?

When it comes to greening our lives, we are highly selective. We accept some of the suggestions we come across and reject plenty of others. I was perfectly happy to embrace cloth dish rags instead of paper towels, but the idea of cloth toilet paper continues to gross me out. It was this inconsistency that made me think: what's stopping me from doing other things I know I could be doing to reduce my impact? Where am I drawing the line, and more importantly, why am I drawing it there?

From the comments on a recent post I wrote about bulk bins and how to use your own containers, I've begun to suspect that the barriers that keep us from being greener are sometimes very small. It's true that we do have real limits on our time, energy, and resources, but in the case of the bulk bins, it was my dislike of having to ask questions that kept me from bringing my own jars instead of taking plastic bags. For a blog friend, it was a single awkward encounter with a checkout clerk. After taking a long look at all the things I know I could do but choose not to (ride a bike, compost indoors, join local green committees, etc.), I came up with the following list of lame hang-ups that derail my greenest intentions.
  • Squeamishness. Not so much a fear of germs as a dislike of dirt under nails, creepy crawly things, and my own identity as a biological being.

  • Hating to talk to strangers. I am more introverted than some of the kids with Asperger's that I've worked with. Enough said.

  • Hating to ask stupid questions. I ended up tweeting Whole Foods about how to use my own containers, and they were kind enough to reply. (It's very simple, actually. Ask customer service to give you a tare weight for your empty jars before filling them up. You're welcome.)

  • Dislike of changes to routine / inconvenience. I finally figured out why I don't like loose tea, which I can get packaging-free from the bulk bins: my tea ball is fiddly and difficult to use, especially in the early morning when hand-eye coordination is proving elusive.

  • Kneejerk reaction. Like the one I had when someone first mentioned composting toilets. (I believe my exact reply was, "You can take my flush toilet from my cold, dead hands.") I have since realized that composting toilets are essentially litter boxes, one of which I clean every day and have no major issues with.
Of course, being able to identify a hang-up isn't the same thing as doing something about it. But seeing the things you choose not to do as a problem means that you can start looking for solutions or alternatives. At the tutoring center where I work, we teach a ridiculously simple problem solving strategy that goes: 1) identify the problem, 2) brainstorm possible solutions, 3) pick one to try, 4) evaluate how well it worked, and 5) try another solution if necessary. It seems totally obvious, but I've found that it really does help me wrap my head around things, from cloth pads to reusable produce bags.

It's easy to think, "I'm already doing so much for the environment, I don't need to do everything," but that shouldn't keep us from pushing ourselves to keep making more changes. It's not easy to be green, after all.

What are your green hang-ups? How could you get around them?

Friday, March 4, 2011

Vegan Recipe - Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

It's the first Friday of the month and that means it's time for a delicious vegan recipe. Are you surprised to find a vegan recipe on a "Green" site? Well, consider this statement which I recently read on Wikipedia in an article entitled Environmeantal Effects of Meat Production: "According to a 2006 report by the Livestock, Environment And Development Initiative, the livestock industry is one of the largest contributors to environmental degradation worldwide, and modern practices of raising animals for food contributes on a "massive scale" to air and water pollution, land degradation, climate change, and loss of biodiversity." Simply put ... it takes less natural resources to produce plant-based foods than it does animal-based foods.

This month's recipe comes from one of my all-time favorite sites, Cooking Rut. You might be surprised to learn that Cooking Rut isn't a vegan/vegetarian blog ... it's a cooking site which includes something for everyone. The owner and "top chef", Marcy, offers delicious recipes like Falafel and Chile Relleno. In a series of posts called Culinary School Friday, you'll find very informative articles, such as All About Flour. In another post (and one of my personal favorites), Potatoes, Explained, you learn all about the different varieties of potatoes and how to use them. But that's not all ... in every post you'll find Marcy's unique sense of humor and joy in cooking.

Marcy kindly agreed to share one of her recipes with us. It looks so good ... I hope you'll give it a try. And if you have a few minutes, be sure to visit Cooking Rut ... I just know you'll love it! And now ... here's Marcy:

Greetings from a faraway land called Montana. Small Footprints asked me to provide a vegan recipe. I have many recipes, most of which are not vegan. I’m what you call a “flexitarian.” You know… one of those people who eat vegetarian on cool days of the week like Meatless Mondays or Tofu Tuesdays. But this brings up a question (I have many)… why doesn’t every day have a cool “veggie” name? I can come up with a few: “Sans meat Saturdays,” Salad Sundays,” or “Fennel Fridays.” And why are flexitarians only supposed to eat vegetarian meals on Mondays and Tuesdays? I tend to plan meatless meals during the week and not necessarily on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Anyway… Here is a simple, vegan recipe for Roasted Butternut Squash Soup. It’s one of those simple soups with just a few ingredients. It’s important to note that when making recipes with a small list of ingredients, that you pay attention to quality. For instance, you want a good vegetable stock (homemade preferably), freshly ground black pepper, and sea salt (or Kosher… but definitely not iodized). Also, if you can, be sure to buy locally/organically/sustainably grown vegetables. Using high quality ingredients will set your cooking apart from the rest.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

1-2 carrots, peeled, sliced
1 butternut squash, peeled, diced into ½-inch cubes
3 leeks, washed thoroughly and sliced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt – pinch or so
Freshly ground black pepper
2-3 cups vegetable stock
Cayenne pepper – to taste (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.

Place the carrots and squash on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Toss together to distribute the oil and seasonings. Bake in the hot oven for 10 minutes.

Remove from the oven and toss in the leeks and garlic. Roast for another 15 minutes or so or until the carrots and squash are tender.

In the meantime, heat the stock on the stove. When the vegetables are done, puree them in a blender or food processor. If using a blender, you will need to add some of the stock to the vegetables and you will probably need to work in batches. The amount of stock used depends on how thick you want the soup. I like thick, hearty soups, so I add around 2 cups of stock. Others may like it thinner… it’s up to you.

Adjust the seasonings with the salt and pepper. Add a pinch of ground cayenne pepper (or ground ancho pepper) for a little heat and to counteract the sweetness of the squash.
If you want a super-smooth soup, push the pureed soup through a strainer to remove the solids.

Serve with crusty bread or croutons.


Doesn't that sound yummy? I'd like to thank Marcy for sharing this delicious recipe with us. If you have a vegan recipe which you'd like to share, please send it to me HERE.

Hungry for more? Check out all of our vegan recipes HERE.