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EcoVegan Mama

What’s this Vegan Certified Logo all about?

I have noticed recently more food products are being labeled Certified Vegan. While this particular certification makes me happy, I became curious about what it actually meant.

This is what I found…

Who Certifies Something Vegan?

The label is issued by The Vegan Awareness Foundation, founded in 1995, and is only currently permitted on products made by companies in the US, Canada and Australia. Their website is Vegan.org and they also go by the name Vegan Action. 

What does it mean to be certified?

Technically, the Vegan Certified logo means the product does not contain animal products or byproducts and that it has not been tested on animals. That last part pleasantly surprised me. I also had to clarify exactly what byproduct meant. Turns out it is pretty much anything from the animal other than meat. Examples of this would be flesh, bones, eggs, honey, feathers, you get the point.

How do companies get certified?

So they don’t actually certify companies, they certify specific products. You have to submit an application and paperwork to be considered for the certification. The cost for certification is based on annual revenue.

Can I trust it?

The application to obtain permission to use the Vegan Certified logo is pretty simple and straightforward. Companies are required to list their ingredients and where they are sourced. They also don’t allow any refined sugar that has been filtered through bone char(I’m like what the heck is this?…stay tuned for that post). If equipment is shared with non-vegan food items, they have to provide information regarding cleaning methods to prevent cross contamination. They have to sign some statements saying that yes, their product is vegan and no, they don’t test it on animals. I sent them an email inquiring if they ever go to the companies, either before or after certification, and see if they are legit. I will update the post when I hear back.

In the end, I’m still happy about the certification and I will keep looking for it on products I buy. It makes the process of shopping vegan so much easier. I also like the fact that it’s a thing. That something should need to be certified vegan is encouraging.

Have you seen it on the products you buy? Let me know your thought on the Certified Vegan logo. 

What does sustainability mean anyways?

I’m not going to lie, this term confused me for the longest time. I just couldn’t wrap my head around what sustainability meant and how it even applied to me. I knew it had to do with the environment and that it was important. That was about it. Maybe I didn’t try to learn more initially because I was afraid what I would discover. Or because I felt like it was a term beyond my intellect. Well, turns out it’s not such a scary term to understand but an extremely important one to be aware of. 

Dictionary.com defines sustainability (in enviornmental terms) as the quality of not being harmful to the environment or depleting natural resources, and thereby supporting long-term ecological balance. Yeah, ok, that’s nice but let’s break it down. 

Harmful to the environment 

This would be pollution, including but not limited to what we are putting in the air, water and earth. From huge factory waste to what we personally pour down the drain is all incorporated in pollution.  Why is pollution so harmful to the envirment? Because it doesn’t just disappear. No one thinks about landfills when they put out their garbage to be picked up, but that doesn’t  mean they don’t exist. An “out of sight, out of mind” mentality when it comes to waste is dangerous. Pollution has been attributed to things like global warming, sickness, garbage littered beaches, danger to marine life and ozone depletion. 

Depleting Natural Resources 

Natural Resourses are anything that’s on earth that we didn’t make ourselves: water, air, wood, oil, iron, coal, etc. They are natural because they come from the earth and they are resources because we can use them to make stuff. Resource depletion refers to using up resources before they have time to be replenished. To go even deeper, there are renewable and non-renewable resources.  A tree would be renewable because you can cut one down and another will grow. Non renewable resources include oil, natural gas and coal.  Technically non-renewable can be replenished but it would take billions of years so…you get the point. 

Long-term Ecological Balance 

Ecological or ecology is(in a nutshell) the relationship living things have with each other and their surrounds. So a balance of this would mean it all works the way nature intended. You could then say an imbalance would disrupt this harmony and in turn affect all living things. So, to make sure the balance stays in effect for the long term, we don’t want to mess it up. 

So basically, if something is sustainable, that means it doesn’t pollute, it uses resources wisely and we all get to live on a healthy planet with healthy people. In the end, sustainability is a word we should be using more. It’s not scary, it’s not unreasonable. It’s a caring word used by people who love other people and their planet. 

     

3 Awesome reasons why you should help back Safia Minney’s Kickstarter campaign. 

Safia Minney, founder and CEO of People Treee, has a new campaign on Kickstarter raising funds for a book titled ‘Slave To Fashion’. Safia has also written two other books, Naked Fashion and her latest Slow Fashion. She is a well known person in the fair trade clothing industry and an advocate for garmet workers. So why help support her latest venture? Her are 3 awesome reasons:

1. Support an Awesome Cause

“Who makes my clothes?” is the question Safia Minney wants us all to ask. The harsh treatment of garment workers overseas is not a well know issue. Safia’s Kickstarter campain has a goal to fix that. The book and campign want to expose the reality of modern day slavery in the fashion industry with stories and facts. Not only does it aim to spread awareness but she also claims to offer specific actions people and business can take to reverse such atrocities. 

2. Safia is Awesome

She actually started her UK fair trade clothing business, People Tree, in Japan. Awesome. She has a love for people and has built her company around fairness, transparency and quality clothing. She has won numerous awards including, Top 5 Ethical Retailers in UK, Eco Warrior Award, and Cosmopolitan Best Ethical E-tailed Award. Lots more awesome. 

3. Awesome Rewards

If you pledge towards the campaign, not only do you get to help promote awareness, but if you pledge over a certain amount, they give you stuff! Awesome stuff. Rewards include a copy of the book, 100% organic cotton top, name printed in the book as a supporter, and even an invite to attend the Slave To Fashion success party with Safia herself. 

If these reasons aren’t enough to convince you, check it out using this LINK or watch the video below and tell me what you think!
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/947623622/slave-to-fashion/widget/video.html

Review: Oh She Glows Cookbook


Over that past few years since switching to a vegan lifestyle, I have tried many a cookbook. Unfortunately, most of them were disappointments.  Angela Liddon’s Oh She Glows, however, is a favorite in my kitchen. I have personally made 20 of the over 100 recipes. I can say that about 90% of the ones we made were a huge hit with my family. 

Angela has a blog with the same name as her cookbook. In her blog, she talks about how she tries each recipe multiple times to get it right. Her quest for perfect is definitely evident and I feel so grateful that she has put the time in. It makes it so much easier for me to trust her reciepies and worth the money for the book!

I haven’t made too many of the smoothie or appetizers, however the falafel bites and the hummus recipes are very good. We have made many of the soups and enjoy all of them. Some favorites are On The Mend Spiced Red Lentil-Kale Soup(my daughter even gave this recipe to one of her 6th grade teachers) and the Indian Lentil-Cauliflower Soup. Entrées that we enjoy and have made multiple times are the Veggie Burger, Lentil-Walnut Loaf, Tomato Basil Pasta and Chana Masala. The Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas with Avocado Cilantro Cream Sauce are my definite go-to when I have company. Her Double-Layer Chocolate Fudge Cake is amazing and my absolute favorite indulgence are the Crispy Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies. 

Double-Layer Chocolate Fudge Cake. We make this for any special occasion we can come up with. 

Chana Masala. Easy last minute dinner. Falafel Bites. One of my family’s favorite. 

I very much appreciate the fact that she has a finished product picture of every single recipie in the book.  I know it must be a tedious and time consuming task. However, it really makes all the difference when deciding what to make and then knowing what it should look like at the end! 

The Oh She Glows Cookbook also includes sections on recommended kitchen tools and equipment, homemade staples and a basic cooking chart. The ingredients she uses in most of the reciepies are pretty standard for a someone who makes vegan dinners regularly. There are a few that I had to go get especially for a particular recipe but since I end up making most recipes multiple times, it’s not a big deal. 

I recommend this cookbook to pretty much everyone. I’m excited about her new cookbook coming out in September of this year!

Make Earth Day Just Another Day

Today is Earth Day and so I felt pressured to posts something extra special. But then I got to thinking…why only today? Why is today the only day we publicly care about what we are doing to the planet. It’s a little like only being truely thankful on Thanksgiving. Don’t get me wrong.  Earth Day is a great way for organizations to get exposure for their cause. But if it’s all forgotten after tomorrow’s alarm clock, what the point? 

I don’t claim to know everything about living an Eco friendly life. I’m still learning and often frustrated that the operating practices for some industries are not more widely realized. Sometimes it feels impossible to live 100% sustainable. Either the products aren’t available or they just aren’t affordable. The fact that it’s easier and cheaper to buy a fast food meal and then just throw away the trash and excess food is genuinely disturbing. We can’t go on this way forever. Not only do we need to educated ourselves about our products, we need to demand that sustainability is the ONLY way. 

The average lifestyle in America is based on convenience. We either need to make sustainable living more convenient or change our mindset. This requires more than one day a year devoted to the issue. As parents, we are out of our comfort zone daily with our kids. They test and exhausts us. But why do we still do it? Because they are important. They are flesh and blood and they warm our hearts. I would argue, just like we do for our kids, we need to rise above our own selfish desires and start caring for this planet and ALL of the people living on it. Daily, weekly, monthly. 

Like anything else, it’s best to start small. Pick one product or part of your life and find out how to improve how you are currently doing it. Whether it’s changing to cloth diapers, shopping at thrift stores and avoiding fast fashion, or even just utilizing the already established recycling program in your neighborhood. The point is to start. Get educated about where you products come from, what’s in them, who made them and what was the cost to people and the planet. 

One important aspect of starting to care about sustainability, is to stop caring what other people think. There is still a very negative stereotype for people who care “too much” about Eco living. It’s ok to recycle or join an organization who feeds the poor. But give up shopping at the mall and buying clothes at a thrift store or through fair trade companies…that’s a little extreme. If your confused, I recommend watching  The True Cost on Netflix for a crash course in fast fashion. People will have lots of opinions when you start changing your life for the better. Don’t take it personally. Know you are making positive choices and stand by them. Find other people in your community or online with similar concerns and connect.

My new goal? Make Earth Day just another day of making informed choices and purchases. Make it a point to care everyday how your choices are affecting your children’s future. We won’t always get it right. Some days, we will just plain fail. But don’t let ignorance or convenience be an excuse any longer. 

Review: Thrive Magazine 


The checkout line is always littered with magazines beconing me to buy them. For the most part, I’m pretty resilient and I resist. That is until I saw Maranda Pleasant’s Thrive. A Plant-Based magazine of culture, food and lifestyle. Celebrities on the cover that caught my eye were Joaquin Phoenix, Jared Leto and Erykah Badu. Plant-based magazines are so rare that I had to check it out. What I immediately found when I picked it up was that it’s almost like two magazines in one. Along with the cover I was initially drawn to, when I turnned in over and upside down, there was a similar cover with huge close up of Jaoquin’s face. So how does it work? Well, when I started reading from a particular cover, it only took me halfway through the magazine before things started to be upside down.  So I closed it, flipped it over and started from the other side. Interesting concept and a bit strange to me at first, but also clever and not your typical magazine. It’s definitely something that stands out.

Let’s move on to quality. There is a short edgy editor’s letter and a list of who is on the team. I couldn’t find a contributors page. Personally, I like a contributor’s page(even if it’s just a list). It gives props to those people and also lets me know who is out there doing what I support. The interviews are decent. What I did notice is there are no articles. Only interviews and quotes. As a person who actually reads the articles in magazines, it left me a little wanting.

The photography overall is very much on the artsy side. So, you really have to like that sort of thing. I wondered why the article with Joaquin and his sister Summer didn’t have one of them together. They were each shot separately in different settings, so the pictures don’t really meld well.  Nonetheless, they are creative and fun. The idea to have Joaquin interview his sister was a great one. Other interviews included: Erykah Badu, Sharon Lawrence, and Bonnie Raitt. All done by Maranda Pleasant herself. The photos taken for the shark article were by far the best. They were raw and terrifying. Michael Muller(who is credited for other pictures in the magazine) shares from his new book Sharks. He also talks about his passion for helping to reduce their slaughter. I thoroughly enjoyed the section on vegan athletes. It was inspiring to see quotes from such accomplished high performing athletes. They describe how their vegan diet has been such a benefit to their energy, as well as injury recovery!

The flipside of the magazine is primarily recipes. There is a good range from uber healthy meals to treats that satisfy your sweet tooth. Some that I will be trying soon are the Curried Garbonzo Bean Tacos by Dreamy Leaf creator Maya Sozer, the Turmeric Smoothy by Chef Lena Ksanti, creator of Pureveganfood, and Raweos by Taline Gabriel, creator of the food app Hippie Lane. There are many more fabulous featured chefs throughout the recipe section.

Advertising isnt overkill, which is nice.  There are however, some full page ads promoting their other magazines(Origin and Mantra) and inviting in advertisers.

On a whole, I enjoyed reading Maranda Pleasant’s Thrive. I will come back to it again for its recipes and the list of 10 greatest vegan restaurants in the US. The $5.95 cover price was worth it. In a country that is primarily meat/dairy focused, it was refreshing to find Thrive. I am very interested to see what their next issue will include.

Maranda Pleasant is a former artist now rising entrepreneur who wants “us to come together to connect, conspire and build community around compassion for animals, endangered species and habitats, organic nonGMo gourmet food, health and performance and natural beauty”. -quote taken form Thrive website mythrivemag.com

The Truth about Chocolate

My previous post was a review on Endangered Species chocolate. That got me thinking more about what fair trade chocolate really means and why it’s so important.  What I found was disturbing. I felt so incredibly ignorant to the issues surrounding the chocolate trade that I wanted to share my findings here.  First of all, there is a lot of controversy about whether “fair trade” certified chocolate is in fact completely fair trade. Turns out 70% of all cocoa is sourced from west Africa. This is also where cocoa farming conditions are the worst. Reports of child labor, beatings, slavery and human trafficking are common in this region. Since the farmers are paid only $2 to $4 a day, they are having to do whatever it takes to survive. Some experts argue that requirements for being Fair Trade certified are not enough to make a huge difference amoung the farmers. Is it becoming more of a marketing strategy than a real concern? I would definitely say that buying a Fair Trade certified chocolate product is better than one that is not. However, there is now a new option altogether. It’s called direct trade. There are companies showing up around the country who work directly with the cocoa farmers. They truely have a vested interest in the farmers and their workers. This farm-bar approach is said to produce better chocolate because the farmers are motivated to produce better beans. While these type of chocolate bars are more expensive, I like to think of it as a donation to someone else’s chance at a better life.  Two direct trade vegan chocolate companies are Manifest Chocolates and Taza Chocolate. These are great companies with inspiring stories. I would encourage everyone to check out their websites. 

If you choose to buy fair trade certified or farm to bar direct chocolate, the important thing is to be educated about the company and where it sources its ingredients. The cost has to come from somewhere. I am definitely willing to pay a few extra dollars on my end than spend someone else’s life to feed my sweet tooth.

Source articles include the following:

http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/the-human-cost-of-stuff/a-sweeter-deal-for-cocoa-farmers

http://www.foodispower.org/slavery-chocolate/

Review: Endangered Species Chocolate

imageAs a Vegan, the quest for good dark chocolate can be a challenge. Endangered Species has certified vegan chocolate in many different flavors. So far I have tried their Dark Chocolate 88% cocoa, White Forrest Mint, and Almond and Sea Salt(my personal favorite).  I have to say that this brand is by far my favorite. Most I have tried up to this point are bitter, crumbly or just lack flavor. Endangered species is smooth, rich and creamy. I am also a huge fan of the company and their promise to donate 10% of all net profits to habitat and species conservation.  To see my full review, check out the YouTube video.

DIY Recycling

When I put my plastic bottle in the recycling bin, I honestly have no idea where it goes from there. What does it become? Is it even recycled!? (Definitely a post for another time) Innovator Dave Hakkens has officially taken the mystery of far off recycling and brought it home. He has developed an actual DIY recycling machine. Not only can you build it at home but the blueprints and videos on how to make it are free! What can you make with your recycled bits you ask? While he does provide instruction for specific molds, the possibilities are endless. Some examples are bowls, lamp shades, clipboards(my personal favorite…perhaps because my mother was a teacher), hats, tools, and the list goes on from there.

While this product is great for those of use wanting to be more DIY, I can’t help but think this handy machine will ultimately help those who do not have easy access to recycling programs. Hakkens videos show him around the globe helping areas plagued with trash pollution. What a great way for people to make a business using recycled items. All you need is a little elbow grease and a great idea.  But don’t take my word for it…check it out at Preciousplastics.com

Hakkens also has a self titled blog if you would like to learn more about him and his other projects  davehakkens.nl

**picture used from precious plastic website.  

 

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