Posts Tagged 'meat'

Lunk’d!

What the what?  Grow meat in a kitchen gadget?  I can’t tell if this sounds more unappetizing or unlikely.

Via The Economist, a study on how greenhouse gas emissions vary across some major cities.  Cities tend to use resources more efficiently than less-densly populated areas, partly because of access to public transit, but they vary widely in how efficient they are.  This study quantifies ghg emissions for some cities and identifies reasons why some might emit so much more than others.

Environmentalists and the Colombian government try to deal with the legacy of Pablo Escobar’s zoo of invasive hippopotamaii.  Poor Pepe.

Solar is sunk without water.

The EPA is pushing ahead on greenhouse gas regulations (woop woop!), but lawmakers are hoping to forestall their efforts by passing a comprehensive bill.  The Senate put out a version of their plan today, too (the hose got to Waxman Markey in June, remember?).  I just want it to get done well, so coming at it from two sides bodes well.  There is speculation that the EPA’s action will goad Congress to a bill more favorable to reducing emissions, faster, but I have great faith in Congress’s ability to disappoint and prevaricate, so I’m expecting this to be almost as painful a show as healthcare.

Party at the Solar Decathalon!  It’s happening again this year, on the Mall- 20ish solar houses from Universities all over the world will be open for tours and other sorts of envir-oogling.  Catch it October 9th-13th and 15th-18th- all the details are here.  I’m so neglecting my homework for this.

Progress: Mmm-Hmmm, Now Changes

Hey there!  I’ve missed you guys!  I realize that that’s my fault for not posting, but be assured I missed you while I was avoiding you.  So after that vacation to New Zealand, I was useless with jet-lag for a few days, then the sniffle I brought back got worse for a few days (no, not swine flu, got it checked out, but I did get prescribed this amazing cough syrup for whatever it was), and then I got inspired for a few days, and now it’s now.  More on that later.  First my July goal.

In July, that sunny month of my birth, I had pledged to travel sustainably.  And I think I did a very good job.  Bought local, stayed local, ate local, considered the sources of things, etc.  Usual behaviour, only over there, not here.  And with souvenirs.  I will be posting on some the places I stayed- all of which have excellent green practices and were run by locals.  I’ll be posting on some of the environmental issues I noticed there- fishing (obliquely related, with a book review) and pest control (I think you’ll like that one!  It comes with taxidermy photos!).  And the food I can summarize here- I ate a) well, b) meat, and c) more vegetarian than I expected.

As you have gathered, my attempts at being vegetarian- even for a little- have been largely halfhearted and begrudging.  The first meat I had after the pre-trip veg was Air New Zealand plane food.  Not terrible, and if you forget how it looked, pretty good,  and served with free wine (refills available), so rock on, ANZ.  But ordering meat again in restaurants was strange.  It felt wrong.  Wrong and freeing, but still wrong.  One nice thing about meat in New Zealand is that it’s probably locally produced- a lot of cows and sheep and plenty of seas about, and your dinner doesn’t have far to travel.  They also have deer farms too- tried the venison a lovely terrine in a pub opposite Parliament.  It was very easy to stick to local restaurants.  But transportation isn’t the biggest sustainability issue with livestock, so that’s a small consolation.

I did my time on the North Island (Auckland, Napier, and Wellington) traveling alone and thus entirely according to my own whims, but in the South Island I was hosted by the dashing D, who has vegetarian proclivities of his own.  His excellent cooking and general good behaviour about picking restaurants with tofu on our road trip inspired me to try harder myself- buddy system.  We still ate meat (oh dear I do love lamb) on several occasions.

Coming home, though, I haven’t had meat since the last ANZ meal- lamb and oh that wine- and I feel good about that. I noticed my digestive system is happier without all the meat, too, especially the red stuff.  In-teresting.  But whether it’s just too hot out to eat anything ‘real’ or I’ve actually unfurled a new petal, I’m getting my kicks from lots of fruit and vegetables (and cornbread) these days.  Even making plans to get a blender and crock pot (craigslist!) to aid me in my attempts to prepare fruits and vegetables in new and exciting ways.  This is an unexpected and pleasing development.

Alright, that’s the goal summary, now the changes:  I’m not making new resolutions for August.  Or probably for a while after August.  I’m going to keep on posting about all the other things I’m trying (there will be compost changes shortly, for instance) but I won’t add things.  I am beginning the process of applying to graduate schools of urban or city planning for next fall, starting last weekend- and with that on top of the real job, studying for an exam that’s real job related, and architecture classes beginning in three weeks, I should not have the time to make any big new changes around here.  If I do, someone please tell me to get back to my homework.  I am very excited about all of this (ok not the job exam, but I am excited about passing that as a revenge for all the boring stuff I have to learn for it), and I’ll keep you updated on how it’s going.  So far I’ve got specialties of interest identified, a list of schools to apply to, a list of deal-breakers, and I’m starting the asking-other-people-who-actually-know-planning about it.  Not bad for three days, think I’ll take a month off.  Ha ha!  Ha.

Busy fall.  I planned it that way.  But I’ll be back, and soon, and you will see some opossum taxidermy the likes of which you have probably not imagined.  At least I hope so.

Progress: It’s Been A While

Hey there!  I moved.  It took a while, because there was also a wedding and a class project in there too.  But the composter is humming away on my new balcony, my herbs are sitting in the window of my new kitchen, and I’ve got my very own separate gas and electricity bills are coming in, so pretty soon I can follow EcoCheap’s excellent example, and switch to wind power!

So, good start- I’ll post photos of the seedlings, which I expect any minute now.  I have checked three times in the past day- nothing yet.

Oh, also!  Biking to work?  I can, as soon as I mentally prepare myself to carry the bike down two flights every morning, then up the same stairs each night.  I’ll be in the weight room tomorrow morning, working on that part.  I imagine this will build me more character than muscle, really.

But the eating-my vegetables thing has been going really well.  I cooked a big vegetarian meal for the folks who came by to help me move- cheaper than pizza.  After the move, I’ve been living off of, well, cheese and crackers, but I’ve cooked two or three other big meals too.  I’ll post the recipe for my most recent tomorrow- pierogies with onions and apples.  Actually, that pretty much is the recipe, but I’ll flesh it out a bit for you, I guess.

The most important thing is, I haven’t purchased meat in a couple weeks.  And I still eat it when I eat out, and when other people cook, but I’m not missing it in my own food prep.  You can thank me later, environment!  Just make my plants grow.

New goals:  definitely gardening, this month.  I might also start harassing my apartment complex to working on the truly pitiful recycling options here.  They have three normal garbage bins for the hundreds of people who live in this complex, and they’re hidden in the back.  Now, I’d like them to fix a few things in my apartment before I get annoying, but maybe I can convince them to at least get recycling depositories in each building, or maybe even bins in each apartment!

Gonna dream big.

Progress: Eat Less Meat

I did alright this month.  I started off with a relatively poor diet and lazy cooking habits, and I ended the month a little more excited about cooking, and slightly more likely to eat my vegetables.  I had a little red meat twice, just as I planned, and stuck to eating meat at one meal a day, generally.  Sometimes visiting or lack of planning lead me to eat it more frequently, but there were plenty of vegetarian-only days, too.  Overall, I ate much less meat than last month, both by frequency and serving size.  I cooked much more, and I’m now in a pattern of planning vegetable-laden meals and plotting things to cook.

So it was a very good start for me, and I’ll be trying to keep up with it from now on.

A few strategies that helped:  First, I stopped by a grocery on the way home from work every few days and bought a few fresh vegetables, with no real plan for how to eat them.  This forced me to think of ways to eat things before they went bad.  Second, when I cooked, I made a ridiculous amount of whatever I was preparing, so that I could have vegetarian leftovers for a few days.  Third, if I cooked with meat, I shorted the ratio of meat to veggies- two peppers to one sausage, for instance.

For this next month, I’m going to focus on water issues.  Using too much, and putting gross stuff in, specifically.  It’s likely I’ll even be timing my showers.

Just so you know, shower time is very important for me.  Regulating it is going to be very difficult for me, and I am going to resent it.  But maybe with a timer and practice, I can balance the time and the relaxation.

For the next week, showering won’t even be much of an issue.  In WI, we bathe in the lake.  There is a shower, though- a tarp on a wooden frame, with a pump in a trash can of water.  We sunk a well (yes, by hand) a while back, so we can shower in pump water now- and with a few tea kettles of boiling water, it’s comfy.  Scrubbing under the pines!  It’s the best way to shower.  But prep time for carrying and heating the water is prohibitively long, so mostly we lake it, or rely on deodorant and breezes to keep us from smelling too human.

Considering how closely our fun and cleanliness are linked to the quality of water in the lake then, we’re careful about what we put in it.  I need to consider the toiletries I take up, and how well they’ll break down into non-harmful materials in the lake.  Same with toothpaste and dish soap up there- we discard it a few meters from the lake, so it all gets back there pretty quickly.  My showers and soap use should be similar at home, so here’s the toiletry rule:  if I wouldn’t want to stick it in the family lake (how would this shampoo effect that sunfish?), I’m not sticking it in my water at home.  I’ll fill you in on what those are when I get back.

Wisconsin Has My Place

beaver lake

That’s Wisconsin.  Specifically, Beaver Lake, just southeast of Hayward– also home to the Lumberjack World Championships and the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame/60’s time warp/2-story tall fiberglass Muskellunge.  My father’s grandfather built a cabin on this lake in 1940, and every summer when I was a kid, we’d go up for a couple of weeks to live out of a tent, get introduced to relatives, swim, run around, read, nap, eat…

It’s the most wonderful spot on Earth.

I’m headed up for the big three-year reunion this weekend (complete with a who’s-this-relative? quiz), with the Gentleman Friend, a tent, and a box of books in my car.  Even with gas at $4.-, it’s cheaper to drive 1120 miles than fly, or take a bus or a train.  Go go Honda Civic Hybrid!

So here’s the way I see the themes:  We’ve got use of gas/travel to discuss, some major water/lake quality issues, the Magic of the Great Outdoors (this qualifies, since it hasn’t got a bathroom) (just a nicely-decorated hut with a board with a hole) to wax eloquent about, the issues of connectivity/computer hiatii to praise, and probably more.  See, Wisconsin has everything!  Especially cheese!  Which reminds me.

I’m pretty stoked that the month of being a very good occasional vegetarian is up, since the family culinary traditions involve a) fantastic cooks and b) meat.  I’ll do my very best to eat animal sparingly and vegetables like whoa, but let it be known that falling off the meat wagon is a distinct possibility at this camp.  Though, what with a few loved ones favoring bizarre diets, alternatives won’t be impossible to find.  I am not eating their fake cheese, though.  It is not just as good as real.

So, I’ll spend the next few days exploring those ideas- it’s getting me more and more excited for this trip as I think it through- starting with a monthly goal wrap-up and new goal next time.

olson cabin at night

There’s the cabin itself- one room and a porch, and can’t you just hear the crickets and feel the peace?

Progress: Activism

I haven’t attended any protests, or signed any petitions, or called my congressperson.  Yet.  That Climate Bill is before the Senate, and John Warner’s a sponsor- but the bill’s pretty weak, not going to go anywhere, and Warner’s retiring this year anyway (go go new Warner!).  So, no federal agitation here for now.  But I’ve been better about local stuff.  I now know who the mayor of Alexandria is, for instance, and I think I could recognize a couple of the members of the Environmental Planning Commission.  I’ll stay involved with the Eco-City planning.  And I’m on the lookout for local activities and organizations that advocate things.  I’d like to check out a CCAN meeting, if they have them. 

I’ve been looking for other local sustainability/earthluv blogs, too, and you’ve seen the new links go up.  The Green Miles is particularly close and topical- he’s over in Arlington, blogging the good fight.  If you know of any other region-specific pages I haven’t found yet, I’d love a link.

So, I didn’t become a serious activist this month.  But I’ve got an inkling of what kinds of activism I’d like to engage in, and a better understanding of who around here is setting a good example.  Fortunately, I’ve got the rest of my life to build on my tiny foundation, and eventually I’ll be waving signs and writing to the editor like the best of them.  And of course, voting Really Hard.

This month has been very effective in giving me a sense of shared place, though.  I’ve lived in Alexandria for two years, but I’ve felt like a squatter.  I work here, I go to school here, and I’m planning to go to graduate school here.  I’m hoping to buy a little place someday.  But only in the past month have I considered seriously taking root, connecting to Alexandria actively, and being that engaged citizen that the Founders were so on about.  Not that the Founders were huge fans of the concept of landless females as citizens, but as the world turns and all.

So I’ve at least wrapped my head around being an active member of the community, and that’s all right for now.  Maybe I’ll find a petition to sign soon.

For June, I’m going to get serious about eating less meat.  I’ve discussed it before, and I’ve made my rules: meat once a day, and red meat twice a month.  Last month, I was good about having meat once a day, but I broke the red meat twice a month rule.  I mean to say, I deliciously broke the red meat twice a month rule at a Memorial Day cookout.  And there was one iffy day, when I had seafood at lunch and chicken for dinner.  I’m not going to worry about seafood right now, though- I rarely eat it to begin with- and it’s got a whole different set of sustainability issues I need to examine carefully.

To kick off the month, here’s what I ate today:

Breakfast:  peanut butter sandwich

Lunch: Pasta with tomato sauce and some tofu fauxsage bits I was hoping to disguise the taste of

Late Lunch:  Ham Sandwich (with lots of vegetables and mustard), because I didn’t finish the pasta- tofu was not disguised well.

Dinner: Peanut butter sandwich, apple, cookies

Oh, goodness.  It would appear that records of my eating habits are most likely to make me appalled at myself, and to worry my mother.  Here’s hoping the month gets better.

 

More On Meat

Found a couple interesting articles on the environmental impacts of eating meat today. First, from Wired, an argument that eating meat is an ethical issue because of its impacts on the global food supply. Livestock require lots of food to eat and big areas to hang out in, so that prompts deforestation, decreases farmland, and drives up grain prices. There are plenty of other things driving up food prices (corn-based ethanol, argh), but the rising demand for meat is certainly one of them. After describing food riots in a dozen countries:

Even before this crisis, food experts said the world could not feed itself in coming decades if growing populations in developing countries insisted on a meat-rich western diet. That time may already have arrived — and largely without climate-change induced agricultural disruption. Add droughts and years of failing harvests, and things get seriously scary.

So maybe it’s time for taste to take a back seat to conscience. I know that sacrificing meat for veggies won’t solve the problem on its own, but it’s certainly just as meaningful as using compact fluorescent bulbs or cloth shopping bags, and I do that without hesitation.

I dig. Fauxsage for dinner it is.

Ok, so cut back on the meat, check. And when we do get meat, organic free range meat is neat! Right? No. The BBC makes a case that organically raised beef and poultry might produce more greenhouse gases, consume more food, and produce more waste that’s harder to clean up than livestock sequestered indoors.

Housing animals gives humans control. The diet can be precisely manipulated to maximise growth and minimise polluting gases.

Animals do not waste food energy on running about and keeping warm. Their manure can be collected and burned as a fuel, avoiding damaging evaporation and seepage into rivers.

In the future, it is hoped that sealed barns would have exhaust vents where the harmful gases could be captured before they entered the atmosphere.

This combination of precision husbandry and species advantage is what puts commercial indoor poultry sheds at the top of the climate chart.

Peter Bradnock of the British Poultry Council says: “Organic poultry meat has about 45% more global warming potential than indoor-reared poultry meat.

My first reaction: Well, *expletive*.

We have to keep the animals indoors and still for us to reduce emissions? But that makes them sick, and unhappy, and unhealthy, and and and. The way they raise non-organic pre-meats today, they inject them full of hormones and feed them weird stuff to fatten them up. Plus, do poultry farms really feed their birds to maximise growth AND minimize emissions already? Or are they just focused on maximizing growth? Most farms don’t have biomass heaters or other waste collection/conservation systems in place to actually get rid of the emissions: the article points out that they might, later. So for now, they’re just pumping the animals full of chemicals, and keeping them immobile in a barn so the greenhouse gases probably aren’t reduced, but they are all emitted from the same general area.

Do any of these environmentally friendly barns exist? And are the animals in them treated humanely?

With none of those questions really answered for now, I’ll have to pick my poison: emit more gases (maybe?), or eat healthier food. I’m sure the meat-makers, if they are interested in their carbon impact, will find a way to raise healthier meat in a less greenhouse-gas intensive way. Maybe that will be indoors. Maybe it will be humane. I’m not holding my fork.

Conclusion: I’ll keep buying hormone-free chicken, and free-range if I can find it. Same with beef. Until I find one animals from one of these wonderful indoor gas collection barns.


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