Thursday, October 1, 2015

What Are You Eating? Part Four

  In the past three parts of my What are You Eating? series, I've given you lots of information about the environmental and social evils of the industrial food complex and the various movements, justice-oriented and otherwise, that have sprung up in response to those evils. Today, as a capstone to all this information, I want to discuss how YOU can act on this information and what you can do to promote more just and sustainable food systems. There are two components to the options of actions available for you to take: individual and group/community actions.

     Individual Actions

    The greatest part of any individual action you take concerning your food is simply applying your knowledge to your daily life. Now that you know how unhealthy and unjust industrially farmed food is,  try sourcing your food from local, organic farms that employ just labor practices. This kind of food is best found at your local farmer's markets or at supermarkets that may source their products from near the community. Santa Cruz has a few stores like these. Look around to see if there are any in your town. You can also subscribe to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program and get organic farm products delivered to you once every couple weeks. Many people absolutely love this, and your money goes to support an organic community farm! Awesome! 
      You can also find a more sustainable food source right in your own backyard by starting a garden or keeping animals. Gardening and keeping animals both seem like intimidating projects, but many people find resources and help in their neighborhood from their neighbors, workshops at community centers, books, and the internet! The public library in my hometown regularly holds how-to workshops on vegetable gardening, and I know many people who have been able to regrow veggies indoors using tutorials form the internet. 
     Although I haven't talked too much about processed food here, I feel like it's worth mentioning at this point that processed foods are often a)full of weird mystery chemicals and preservatives, b) use lots of energy to produce and transport and produce lots of waste for packaging, and c) generally are not very healthy for you. Instead of buying processed and packaged foods, you can make alternatives at home. I do it, and it's very easy! Not to mention, much less wasteful and much healthier for you! There are recipes for just about anything you could want, from crackers and tortillas to granola bars and peanut butter. Just give it a go!
     Lastly, another wonderful thing you can do with all you've learned here is share the knowledge with others! Send them the articles I've written and share them on social media, bring up food and surrounding issues in conversation, and lead by example by eating sustainably and justly produced food. Another important piece of this is to always keep educating yourself. Keep reading books and articles and having conversations with others about food. Learn, keep yourself informed, and evolve! 

Community Actions

     For those of you looking to flex your leadership muscles, meet other people who share your interest in food and food issues, or just get involved with an organization that might already exist in your town, community and group actions are a great way to go! One of the simplest, best ways to get involved is to join a community garden. If your community doesn't have one, put your feelers out to see if there are other people interested in having one and see if you can work together to get one started in your area. Community gardens are a great option for yourself and others if you don't have any land to garden on at your home, if you want more space to garden, or if you want to create a community space. 
    You can also organize non-violent action around food issues in your area. Depending on what effects your community and what you're passionate about, this could take a number of forms, like boycotting grocery stores that stock industrially farmed food (we're looking at you Walmart) or rallying for better farm worker's rights. 
    Another great way to make an impact is to join forces with others in order to spread knowledge about food issues. Together, a group can choose to do any number of things to educate others, like publishing a zine on the evils of industrial agriculture, or hosting gardening or cooking demos to encourage others to make their own healthy, sustainable, and just food. It's up to you! 
     Whether you get involved in a food initiative near you, invite your friends over for a vegan and locally-sourced organic meal, or start a new organization to bring sustainable food to your community, food brings people together, and making it more sustainable and just is best done with companions! 

       That is really just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what you can do with this knowledge. There are all sorts of things you can do, from books to read to organizations to join, that will help you encourage better, more just, and more sustainable food systems. Just get creative, and live your life in a way that is consistent with your beliefs. Whatever you do with all the knowledge you now have about food, I ask you to act on it and actively use it in your daily food choices. There are a couple things that I either did not touch on or only discussed briefly, such as food waste, homesteading, processed foods, and foraging, for example, that will be discussed in upcoming articles, since I just can't seem to get enough of writing about food :) Until then, I hope you will be eating happily, healthily, and with justice and sustainability in mind, for my sake and yours. 


*Neither of these photos belong to me, both were found via Google

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Vegan Banana Bread!

     This weekend I had the chance to do a lot of cooking in my new kitchen, and one thing I got to make was vegan banana bread! I've been making banana bread since I was 10 (it's a great way to get rid of really brown bananas), but this is the first time I've veganized the recipe and it came out tasting delicious, so I just wanted to share. This is a great option for those of you trying to use fewer animal products if you are concerned about the way industrially farmed animals are treated (for more info on this, read up here). 

Madeleine's Most Favorite Vegan Banana Bread:

1 cup sugar
1/3 cup vegan butter, softened (such as Earth Balance)
1/2 cup applesauce (I use Trader Joe's Organic Unsweetened)
1 1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas (usually takes between 2 and 4 bananas, depending on size)
1/3 cup water
1 2/3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder


1. Heat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit and grease bottom only of a loaf pan, about 9x5x3 inches.
2. Mix sugar and butter in a large bowl.
3. Stir in applesauce until blended.
4. Add bananas and water and beat for 30 seconds.
5. Stir in remaining ingredients except for nuts until moistened.
6. Pour into the pan and bake for 1 hour, or until a knife inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.
7. Cool completely before loosening the sides of the loaf with a knife and slicing.
8. Enjoy!


- Try to source as many ingredients organically as you can! I use organic sugar and applesauce, and you can also use organic bananas! If you'd like to know why organic is better, you can read the first part of my food article series, here

- Speaking of the food series, Part 4, the final article in the series, debuts on Thursday. Don't miss it :)

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Story of My Etsy Shop

      If you have ever wondered how sustainability and social justice activism can mesh with a clothing shop on Etsy, I'm here to explain that today. Or maybe you know me personally or have read some of my many articles about clothing, and you're wondering how someone who discourages capitalism, materialism, and buying new things could possibly own and operate a clothing shop. Don't worry, I've got you covered. Today I'm explaining the story of my Etsy shop, and showing how sustainability and social justice have a lot to do with how and why I started the shop.

How I Started

     I have been passionate about vintage clothes ever since I visited my first thrift shop. I also learned to sew at a very young age, and I loved the combination of thrifted clothing and personalized touches and updates that made up my unique style. 

     As I got older, I also noticed that vintage clothing was worth the money, whereas newer clothing from chain and department stores continued to prove low-quality, cheap, and only wearable for a short period of time. Buying my clothes vintage and upcycling and updating pieces gave me a more durable and stylish option for clothing. 

     Then, I began to learn about sustainability, and how completely unsustainable the garment industry is. I learned that the way our fashion industry keeps constantly producing new clothes wastes tons of electricity, fuel, and other materials. It also pollutes by adding to carbon emissions in the atmosphere. Beyond that, I learned that the reason new clothing is often so cheap is because the laborers who help make it are often sorely underpaid - in the clothing factories in Bangladesh, some laborers were recently discovered making as little as 25 cents a week! 

     I began to see that not only are vintage and upcycled clothes more durable and more unique than mass-produced, new clothing, they are also a more sustainable, more socially just alternative to new clothing. 

     Without a second thought, I opened Good Vibrations to bring stylish vintage upcycled clothes to the masses, so that people like you don't have to buy boring, poorly made, unsustainable, and unjust clothing. 

How It Works

     I source most of my pieces from flea markets, thrift shops, and other people's closets (especially my parents'!). I tend to have a really good eye for pieces that others will enjoy, and I also have the patience for thrifting, cleaning, and altering clothes to make them suitable for wearing. I deeply enjoy this process, because I love being able to take something that seems old and dated and create a new life for it. Sometimes all a piece need is to be styled differently! I trust the people who shop at Good Vibrations to see the potential in items and rock them. 

     Besides working with the clothes, I manage the shop, write my blog (which often relates to social justice and sustainability, themes that I emphasize here), take care of shipping and processing orders (another one of my favorite parts!), and somehow find time to be a full-time student and leader of several social justice and sustainability-focused organizations at UC Santa Cruz in California. 

     My greatest passion here is to take care of the Earth and all the people on it by promoting a more sustainable lifestyle for everyone, one piece of clothing at a time. I hope you like my shop :)


PS: This is a scheduled post! I'll be back on the 22nd! 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

What Are You Eating? Part Three

   Continuing on with our food series, today I'm here to discuss one of my favorite things: justice!  Specifically, I'd like to talk about justice movements surrounding food. This is a quick overview of some very important and complex topics, so if any of these interest you, I highly recommend doing some research and looking into them further!
   First of all, the most obvious justice movement here is the food justice movement. The food justice movement encompasses a wide range of groups and non-profit organizations, and the general goal of the food justice movement is providing all people with access to healthy food. Though many of us take our food access for granted, according to the USDA, 23.5 million people in the U.S. live in food deserts. A food desert is defined as "urban neighborhoods and rural towns without ready access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food. Instead of supermarkets and grocery stores, these communities may have no food access or are served only by fast food restaurants and convenience stores that offer few healthy, affordable food options." This leads to many health problems for populations living in these areas, including obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. The food justice movement works to eradicate food deserts and the health issues and inequity they cause. Some wonderful examples of organizations working in the food justice movement are the Community Food and Justice Coalition, Oakland Food Policy Council, and Garden To Table. Their websites are great places to look to see food justice organizing in action! 

     Closely tied to food justice is the concern of environmental justice. Taken from its designated Wikipedia page, "Environmental justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies." When we are talking about environmental justice in terms of food, we are really talking, at least in part, about our food system. Our industrial food system, as I mentioned earlier in the series, is a bit of a mess.  Thanks to the way we grow our food, many communities suffer from polluted water and land, causing many instances of sickness among residents (an excellent example of this is captured in the documentary Thirsty For Justice, a film I highly recommend!). Often those communities most affected by harms like this are communities containing high populations of people of color, a phenomenon often referred to as environmental racism. Environmental justice movements focusing on this aspect of their work attempt to help create food systems that are not harmful to any communities, and therefore environmentally just.  The aforementioned food justice organizations are great examples of this being done! Community garden projects across the nation are also a wonderful, and widespread example of food and environmental justice enacted.
   The last cause we will discuss today is closely related to the first two: labor justice. Labor justice initiatives concerned with the food system support farmworkers and their ability to organize and secure fair treatment and wages. Over 20 million people work in the food system in the U.S., and they are among the poorest and most exploited people in the world. Labor justice movements aim to give farmworkers the rights and status they deserve. Some great examples of this project in action include the Fair World Project (which has some great info), Center for Farmworker Families, whose executive director came and spoke at UCSC last year (she's an awesome lady, very passionate), and the work of Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers union.
   So, those are the justice movements associated with food, explained to the best of my knowledge. As you can see, your food choices have social justice implications! They affect people on environmental, occupational, and access levels. In part four of the series, I will discuss how to act on all the information I've given you and what you can do to promote more sustainable, just food systems. Are you excited? I am!!

Note: I will not be in town for the next 2 weeks or so, so my blog will not be fully updated until the week of the 22nd of September. I have scheduled one post though, so come back for that!

Photos: 1, 2

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Shopping Ban Update: Month Two


  The shopping ban continues… bringing plenty of adventures with it! I still have successfully not bought anything on the list of stuff I can't buy, and it honestly is really not that challenging! The things I have bought this past month have been approved food items and DIY supplies, and that's all.

     Recently I realized that I really enjoy the shopping ban because when I see something I like and want to purchase, like a poster or cute pair of underwear or whatever, as long as it doesn't fit into one of the approved categories, I don't even have to think about purchasing it! Before, I would go back and forth in my head, thinking about how nice it would be to have the thing but how the thing is expensive and buying the thing isn't sustainable and the thing isn't going to give me any actual fulfillment and so on. The daily tennis match that occurred whenever I logged onto Etsy is now happily over. Not shopping is quite relaxing! 

    I also have really enjoyed not being able to buy new clothes because it is making me get more familiar with and more appreciative of what I have in my closet. I'm also much more sure of what I wear and what I don't, which is making it easier to get rid of things as well.

    Early in August, I had a dinner party at my parent's house, and served all my friends some delicious food. I was cooking literally all day, since I made it all from scratch, but it was all really good, and worth it to see other people enjoy what I'd made. Another thing I'm enjoying about the shopping ban is that I'm eating pretty healthy and whole - limiting yourself from most packaged foods has a wonderful effect on your diet, as it turns out! 

    One thing that's been surprising and delighting me since I started the shopping ban is how easy it is to find stuff for free. I've gotten free underwear, free candles, free produce (check out those pear slices up top, heck yes) and lots of free kitchen items, to name a few things. Free stuff is everywhere, especially since everyone has so much stuff, they're constantly getting rid of it! Buying things is looking less and less necessary these days. Also, public libraries are the BEST THINGS EVER. I've gotten so many great and wonderful books from the library lately, and none of them has cost me a cent. Yay!

     I do have one thing I'm still stuck on, however. I have not tried out any shampoo/conditioner alternatives yet, and since most of this month will be filled with travel and then school starting, I probably won't get to try one this month at all. However, I do have a few DIYs up my sleeve, so when I try them, I will report back on the results. Speaking of DIYs, I made candles! They are awesome and were very easy to make, and I'm planning on showing you all how I did it in an upcoming post. I also made a text banner, as you see above, declaring "Satan is my homeboy". One thing you might not know about me is that I can't resist a good Satan joke! I made it to decorate my wall rather than buying a banner, poster, or something else for decor. It was very fun and easy to make!

    I didn't do much grocery shopping this month since my parents are back in the house right now, so I did not track my food purchases as planned. However, I will begin to do so when I move into my apartment towards the end of the month. I'm in the midst of packing up all my things as I write this post, and I'm so excited to move in and really put the food aspect of the shopping ban into greater action.

   On the whole, this has been a really good month of no-shopping. I'm realizing that I find it very relaxing to not buy things. I made several gifts for people's birthdays, which they seemed to appreciate, and I feel no need to purchase anything on the don't buy list! Life is good :) I hope the next month goes just as swimmingly. What do you think of all the points I've just made? Would not being able to buy things be relaxing and simple, or limiting and stressful? Why? Let me know what you think! 
Photos: Both are mine, the first one is a pear that I sliced up that came from our pear tree (it was delicious!) and the second is a banner I made to decorate my wall and add a little humor :)

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Aesthetics For Activists

    Have you ever thought about fashion and personal style as activism tools? I sure haven't, but last week I was listening to a very interesting podcast my friend pointed me to (check it out) about re-imagining the fashion industry as more sustainable. The speakers hit on a lot of interesting topics, but one that really stuck out to me came up when they were talking about the punk movement. The guest speaker, Joshua Katcher, said "When you appear to be an enigma, when you appear to be mysterious, when you command attention with your aesthetics, that can heighten your influence as an activist"

     That sentence totally blew me away. They went on to discuss how activists often see caring about aesthetics as base, especially when compared with their more noble concerns and causes. This also caught my attention, because I am completely guilty of that. Often I have so much going on in terms of activism-related meetings, classes, and events that I don't even think about trying to look interesting. I also often dismiss dressing fashionably and adorning myself on the grounds of my beliefs - I want everyone to be accepted for who they are and what they look like. I feel like if I dress up in some way, I'm being contradictory.

    However, what the podcasters were discussing totally adds up. In our culture full of Hollywood movies and flashy advertisements, graphic design principles and high fashion, it makes sense that people are going to pay more attention to something or someone that looks good. Beyond that, if you've been reading my blog for a while, you know that I encourage self-expression as both a form of activism and a method for self-care. Putting all this knowledge together, suddenly it seems really evident that looking good is good for you! 

    Commanding influence through aesthetics is an exciting prospect - suddenly caring about how you look is part of your higher calling. It seems that anything that gets positive attention or creates intrigue or mystery is likely to get people to notice your cause. If support a cause that has a direct tie with clothing, like veganism or sustainable fashion, then making sure your clothes are both stylish and conforming to your cause can double your effectiveness.

    Cultivating an air of mystery to further your activism is definitely an interesting point to ponder. I have definitely seen examples of people who do this effectively on my campus. Can you think of any activists who call attention to their cause through their aesthetics? One example of the type of mystique one might aim for here is that of popular musicians, like those in punk bands or rock icons. Though it might seem a bit silly, capturing and using this essence can have a far reaching effect. And if it gets people to care and change their behavior, why not?

   I'd love to see a world where people creatively express themselves more fluently, and I think this realization is a step in the right direction. Imagine scores of well-dressed and stylized activists, idolized and publicized like today's musicians and actors. Pretty exciting, right? This is definitely a concept I will have to toy with, which is why I will soon be unveiling a new feature. I haven't done an outfit post in a long time, but recently I've realized that between this new revelation about aesthetics and all my work to encourage people to buy used clothes as an alternative to the garment industry, I should! It makes sense to advertise that you can wear sustainable clothes and still kick ass with style. I hope you all are looking forward to seeing my outfits more regularly here, I know I am!

    What do you think about all this? Can aesthetics be an important activism tool, or are they rubbish? Would you cultivate your aesthetics if you knew it would increase your influence as an activist? Let me know what you think!

P.S. The food series will resume next week! Look out for parts 3 & possibly 4!

Photos: 1, 2

Thursday, August 27, 2015

What Are You Eating? Part Two

   Continuing on with our food series, today I'm going to talk about some of the various food movements and alternatives that have arisen in recent years to combat the dangers and injustices of the industrial food system which I spoke about on Tuesday.

   You may have heard a term like "localism" or "locavore" before. The local food movement has been emphasizing the importance of buying food locally from farmers who use safe, organic practices at least  since 2000, when the movement gained serious traction. For good reason, too, because local, organic foods cut down on pesticide usage, water pollution, "food miles" (aka your food doesn't travel as far to get to you, making it less of a contributor to global warming), and many other evils of industrial agriculture. They also deliver more nutrients to your body than industrial produce and stimulate the local economy. Farmer's markets, an excellent source of local food, make shopping for food a social experience, socially stimulating the community.

    In response to the local food movement, community gardens and restaurant gardens are popping up profusely in some parts of cities and suburbia, and 35% of American households are growing food at home or in a community garden. This figure increased by 17% in the past 5 years! Why the increase? Perhaps because growing your own is another great way to contribute to the local food initiative! Household and community gardens offer fresh, local, and safe produce as well as opportunities for exercise and social interaction. They are definitely a great solution to the harms industrial agriculture has wrought.

  Some people also choose to raise animals in their home gardens, keeping chickens or goats or other animals for their animal product needs. While the sustainability of animal agriculture in any form is a hotly debated topic, those who do choose to consume animal products will find that raising animals and harvesting from them on their own is at least more sustainable - i.e. healthier, less harmful (emphasis on less - there seems to be no animal agriculture method that is completely harmless to the animal) for the animals, and less harmful to the environment than conventional agriculture methods.

  Those who want to consume animal products but are unable to raise animals can look for local alternatives. At a farmer's market I recently attended, I saw several booths selling cheese and milk, as well as free-range grass-fed meats. My advice is to see if any of these exist at your local farmer's market, and investigate to make sure their practices are organic, safe, and as humane as possible!

   Either way, these are two local sources for animal products, a great alternative to industrially produced animal products (for more on how bad those are, please read Part One). Another option you have is to go vegan! Though I am not an expert on the subject, I suggest reading up on the pros and cons (I find this article helpful), talking to vegans who've successfully and healthfully made the switch, and consider the sustainability aspects of veganism - how much waste, packaging, and oil is used to get your food to you? Where does it come from? If it's plant-based, are those plants grown sustainably? Do some research, weigh your options, and decide what's right for you - as long as you are making a conscious decision to somehow up the sustainability game of your food choices, I'm 100% behind you!

    Just as veganism is a food movement, so too is vegetarianism. Like veganism, it requires research and ultimately your own decision to make the switch. Since vegetarianism offers an alternative to at least some industrially produced animal products, it is a more sustainable option.

   In the next part of this series, I'll be discussing food justice as well as labor and environmental justice movements surrounding food. Isn't it fascinating how far-reaching food and its influence is? That's why so many movements have sprung up around it!

   If all of these options and info is intimidating to you, please wait until the last part of the series, when I will outline in better detail what you as an individual can do to have an effect on our food systems. Also, just remember that the most important thing is to be aware and make conscious decisions about your food, where it comes from, who and what it affects, how it affects you, where it goes, and what you do to effect all of that. Make sure that your food choices align with your values, and you are well on your way to living a healthier, happier, more kick-ass life!


P.S. I highly encourage further research into any of these topics if they interest you! Click on the links provided and do your own searching too :)

Photos: 1,2