What’s the Deal With Fast Fashion

With spring just a few weeks away, many of you are probably starting the “spring cleaning” process of your wardrobes— getting rid of some things that haven’t seen the light of day or been warn in years, and buying new pieces to prepare for the warmer weather.

I, on the other hand, will not be making any warm-weather purchases. What I will be doing is getting rid of more clothes that I don’t need or don’t wear. Don’t get me wrong, I love clothes. But my views on them have changed a bit as my vegan lifestyle continues to evolve. As a newbie to the world of eco-conscious living, I decided about a year ago (just a lil’ while after I went vegan) that I wouldn’t make anymore clothing purchases because I’d made a commitment to living a more minimal lifestyle. This vow spread to all parts of my life, wardrobe included. Luckily, I had a decently curated closet, and although my personal style is kind of ever-evolving (but has pretty much found its most comfortable place at this point), I was really happy with the clothing I already owned and was excited to mix and match the pieces I had in fun ways.

So, that brings me to the topic of this lovely blog post: fashion— well, a very specific type of fashion; fast fashion. “What’s that?” you might be asking. This is one of the best cases of a name being truly self-explanatory. It’s fashion that is produced quickly. Very quickly. The fashion industry is a billion dollar giant that has grown massively over the past several decades. Even if you’re a person who could truly care less about any of the clothing that goes on your body, the fashion industry likely has had some sort of affect on your life in one way or another.

Sure, some of us may scoff at an industry that is largely based on looks, status and elitism, but remember that scene in The Devil Wears Prada when Miranda Priestly tells Anne Hathaway’s character that her bargain basement sweater choice may seem like it was an independent decision made by her and her fashion-oblivious mind, when in reality, it was actually chosen for her by the very people in that room? Well yeah, that’s kinda true. You see, that’s how fast fashion is born— it’s all based off current trends, and these trends change annually, even seasonally. Giant retailers like Forever 21, H&M, and the biggest of them all, Zara, design and produce clothing that matches these seasonal, high-end trends so that everyday people like you and I can partake of the colors and styles of the season at a deeply discounted price than the high-end garments we see on the runway.

But there’s a downside. There are many problems within this seedy world of trendy clothing production. Here’s why fast-fashion is toxic for both people and the environment:

Horrible Labor Conditions

To make clothing for the masses at such a quick rate and at really low prices, cheap labor is required– and lots of it. The fast-fashion industry is notorious for using overseas labor to keep costs down. And the industry is also full of complaints of less than satisfactory working-conditions ranging from long hours in packed factories with no air-conditioning or regulated breaks, to horribly low and unlivable wages, to mistreatment of workers and even the use of child and slave labor. Many of these factories are located in countries like China and Bangladesh where the workers rights are very minimal or hardly enforced1. The 2013 Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh is just one extreme example of the poor conditions that garment and factory workers must endure. Over 1,100 people, including many garment workers died in the building collapse amid many warning signs of imminent structural failure of the building that went ignored by the building’s owners2.

Embed from Getty Images

Bangladeshi people protest in the aftermath of the 2013 Rana Plaza collapse.

It’s the knowledge of instances such as this one that make me think twice about this industry. Personally, I don’t like the idea of essentially paying for atrocities like this one to take place. After all, it kinda aligns with the reason I’m vegan. In the same way that I don’t want to pay someone to slaughter animals for me, I also don’t want to pay someone to force a child to sew my sweater for me or to have someone working in unsafe conditions for minimal wages.

They Use Animal Skin and Fur in Production

Another byproduct of the fast fashion industry is less than stellar animal welfare standards. Over the years, companies like PETA have done their part to call out the big players in the world of fast fashion. Because of this, some of them have changed their standards and policies when it comes to using products like leather, wool, and animal skins. For example, PETA came down hard on Forever 21 for using mohair, and as a result, Forever 21 joined the ranks of H&M and Zara in banning the use of the hair, stating that the company would be mohair-free by 20203. I know, I thought the same thing — by 2020? But hey, it’s a start. Zara and H&M have stopped using exotic animal skins but all three companies still utilize leather and wool, although some claim to source their wool in a humane way. The site good on you is a sick resource for seeing how a ton of companies, including the fast fashion Gods are doing ethically, giving them report cards that rate their impact on people (labor conditions), the environment and animals.

The Environmental Impact is Bad; Like, Really Bad

This one makes a ton of sense but really break it down for a sec to understand. If fast fashion retailers are producing a massive amount of clothes every season, and people are buying these clothes every season, what happens after that? Because of the quick production and cheap prices, the quality is often questionable as well. So, we have clothes that are falling apart after just a few years (and some after just a few washes… I mean, hellooo Forever 21 basic tees, ugh.) coupled with clothes that are “out of style” within a year. That leads to hundreds of thousands of pounds of clothing going into our landfills every year. In fact, the amount of clothing that Americans throw out is crippling, clocking in at well over 14 million tons annually4. It only makes matters worse that the majority of these clothes contain synthetic fibers such as polyester, acrylic and nylon, all of which are derived from petroleum. Therefore, similar to plastic, those pieces of clothing will take hundreds of decades to decompose. This is horrible news for the environment. Another disgusting byproduct is water pollution. With the massive amounts of chemicals and dyes used on these clothes, the fashion industry is by far one of the biggest contributors to toxic H2O, producing over 20% of industrial water pollution5.


We have to take care of the planet we live on — that includes trying to minimize pollution in all forms.

But I have to Wear Clothes, so What Can I do?

That’s a great question. And honestly, I’m probably not the best person to ask. I’ll explain why that’s the case in a little bit, but it isn’t because I don’t have a few suggestions on how you can cut down on the negative impacts of the fast fashion industry. I actually do have a few tips for that:

  1. Buy American-made clothes: One way to ensure that you aren’t contributing to horrible working conditions is to buy from companies that make there clothes right here in the good ol’ U.S.A. Companies like American Apparel, Hackwith Design House, Todd Sheltonand Khloe Kardashian’s denim line Good American are all made in America. There are also plenty of designers, such as Pangaia that produce clothing overseas but ensure that working conditions are impeccable — just do a bit of research before shopping. If you’re not American but live in a thriving, Western country, purchase locally-made clothing from designers where you live.
  2. Shop second-hand: One of the biggest things you can do is to shop second-hand. It’s basically buying recycled clothing. The idea is that by purchasing you clothing second-hand, you aren’t spending your money on more mass produced pieces, thereby supporting the fast-fashion industry. If you live in a major city, shopping second-hand is supa dupa easy. There are usually thrift shops and second-hand stores all over big cities. You’re also likely to find something that will suit your taste because they usually have a wide variety of clothing. And don’t worry about wearing clothing that’s old or used because a) all hail the hipster movement of Gen X and Gen Y that has made dressing like you’re from decades past insanely cool again, and b) personal style is exactly that — personal. Fashion has at least done a few things right– that coupled with good timing because there really is no such thing as not looking stylish anymore. Thanks to creative designers, everything has practically been done in the world of fashion (although designers will continue to try their hardest to innovate and I say go for it) and so long as you rock it with confidence, you’ll always be stylish. My favorite decade is the 90s and I actually grew up during that decade so it’s very fitting. But the point is that I’d be able to find an abundance of cool 90s digs in any thrift shop and so can you.
  3. Don’t, I repeat DO NOT buy fur or leather: or wool, or angora, or snakeskin… you get the point. I specify this because just shopping second-hand doesn’t equal cruelty-free (if that’s what you’re aiming for). Many second-hand shops sell clothing that is made from animal products, skins and furs. If you want to look out for the environment and the animals, try not to purchase clothes in which animals have been killed or harmed in order to make them.
  4. Do a clothing swap: I know someone who participates in these and although I have yet to do so, it’s a great way to recycle clothing. Basically, a group of folks gets together with all the clothing they don’t want, and you swap out your pieces for other pieces– sort of like an intimate thrift store among friends. There are two benefits; the clothes are being continuously recycled as you swap them with others, and it’s also a fun way to go “shopping” as you get rid of clothing you don’t want anymore. Let’s say you got a sweater at a previous swap and by the time it’s spring (kinda like now) you already aren’t feeling the sweater or it didn’t look as great as you thought it would look no matter how you styled it. Well, now you can pass it on at a clothing swap guilt-free and get something else in return. Voila, wardrobe crisis solved.
  5. Make your own clothes: Okay, I know this may not be for everyone, myself included because I’m not really into making clothes and sewing. But you may discover you have a hidden talent or love for making your own clothing. All you need is a sewing machine and some patterns. You can also try going to a workshop or class to discover how to create your own fashions. One of my cousins knows how to make clothes (and just about anything for that matter) and seeing some of her creations solidifies that it’s completely possible to make your entire wardrobe. If you decide to go this route, don’t forget to use sustainable and, if possible, organic fabrics for your creations! The added benefit here is that you’ll have entirely custom pieces, created specifically for your body — kinda like how they used to do in the old days way before fast fashion was even a thing (sighs nostalgically).
Why not have some fun and try your hand at making your own clothing?

Where I Stand

Remember when I said I’m probably not the best person to ask about how to shop ethically? That may have been a little self-critical but I said it because I can’t guarantee that I’ll never purchase anything from a fast fashion retailer again. I also really love contemporary and modern pieces that I feel are sometimes harder to come across in second-hand stores. But I haven’t given up on major retailers yet, especially as they continue to make improvements and move toward more sustainable and ethical practices. It’s similar to the dilemma many vegans face when eating at non-vegan establishments — do we not eat there in protest? Or do we order the one vegan option they have so they don’t take it off the menu and so they realize that people want to order it? If H&M has an amazing organic cotton, chunky knit, over-sized sweater (wow, I started drooling just writing that) that is part of a line they created of American-made pieces, why wouldn’t I buy it? I want to show them that I as a consumer will gladly spend my money on that organic cotton ya know? The same goes for any other brand. My minimalist lifestyle will keep me from decking out my closet with unnecessary clothing anyhow, so now all that’s left is to make sure that the clothes that are in there are as ethical– and cute as possible.

Here’s another website I found that features a few designers and design houses that make ethical, sustainable and/or eco-friendly clothing:

https://www.thegoodtrade.com/features/ethical-workwear-for-women

References:

  1. https://borgenproject.org/facts-about-workers-rights-in-china/ and https://www.lawteacher.net/free-law-essays/employment-law/the-labor-rights-in-bangladesh-employment-law-essay.php
  2. https://ethicsunwrapped.utexas.edu/video/collapse-at-rana-plaza
  3. https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2018/06/04/forever-21-h-m-zara-mohair-peta-animal-abuse/669487002/
  4. https://www.newsweek.com/2016/09/09/old-clothes-fashion-waste-crisis-494824.html
  5. https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/water-scarcity-fashion-industry

Images:

  1. Bangladeshi people protesting image courtesy of Getty images.
  2. Earth image courtesy of pixabay via Pexels.com.

Intersectional Veganism and Why it’s Important

When most people hear the word “vegan”, they associate it with food. The choice to not consume animal-derived products. Depending on why one goes vegan, the knowledge that is accrued after that can come in bits and pieces. That is kind of what happened for me. But its actually a lot more complicated than that. Read on to find out how my vegan journey, one that did indeed start with a basis of just food, expanded into a world of activism and intersectional veganism.

Why I Went Vegan – A Recap

The beginning of my vegan journey started out as many vegan journeys start out. For health reasons. Outside of my nature, I didn’t think much further than that, and I’d finally come to realize that this wasn’t a bad thing. It’s usually best to take major changes one day at a time so as to not become overwhelmed. I became obsessed with being vegan not long after making the change. I wanted to know more about this lifestyle and everything it entailed — more than just the food. Shortly after going vegan, my reasons for doing so quickly expanded to more than just health. I was now living this lifestyle for the health of the planet and to save animal lives.

The Vegan Girl Becomes an Activist

I could say I never imagined myself as an activist — and that would be a half-truth. I’ve always been a talker (for the most part) and talking is usually a big part of activism. After all, how can you spread a message about something without speaking about it? Yet I never had the drive or confidence to be a full-fledged, outright activist. But it’s funny how life works. Once you get the ball rolling on one or two things, if you can maintain that momentum, both you and the powers that be can help everything work together to create the very things you either wanted or thought you could never accomplish, maybe even both. So, there I was. I went from being an anonymous food blogger to being the public face of “The Vegan Girl”, a platform I was now using to spread awareness of the harm that consuming animal products had on health, the environment and the animals. In a complete 180 degree turn, I could now never imagine not being an activist. The more I learn about the horrors of animal agriculture and how the body reacts to a plant-based diet versus an omnivore diet, I am so happy that I have found my voice — and in finding my voice, I am now able to be a voice for the voiceless.

Then, I Realized there were More Voiceless

As I continued growing my knowledge of veganism and activism and vegan activism, this began to expand into even more areas. I discovered the Instagram accounts of vegans and vegan groups that were specifically run by and focused on vegans of color (VOC). They were often comprised of Latino and Black persons. Veganism was still kind of new to me. But I had already been a Black female for a few decades. Discovering the connections that these groups were making between veganism and the struggles of these marginalized groups was enlightening and it felt right within my heart that this is where my vegan journey was gravitating toward.

And when it came to the diet part of things, I was a very “Americanized” person who ate a very “Americanized” diet. I was born and raised in New York City, and although I did consume a lot of food specific to (one of) my culture(s), most of the food I ate was the unhealthy junk most folks in this country consume. And when I first went vegan, I totally subscribed to the ideology that it was a hip way to eat, and for me, the word “hip” had a dual meaning. Veganism was the lifestyle of either hippies (of both old generations and new) and hipsters.

However, as I said, finding these VOC groups enlightened me to a new ideology. I was now enthralled by the idea of dismantling the notion of “white veganism”.

Now let me make this clear. Yes, I have brown skin. Yes, I identify as a Women of Color (WOC), as a Person of Color (POC) and now, as a VOC. And I am also very aware of my Blackness in society. Although I didn’t grow up in an environment that lends itself toward a lot of racism (growing up in a major, densely populated city in the time that I did equals a lot of diversity, although it isn’t void of racism and discrimination), I have had my own experiences and have most certainly seen others have theirs. But I wasn’t aware of how those injustices interacted with the world of veganism.

What’s “White Veganism”?

So, here I was now trying to understand what this “white veganism” was. Well, simply put, its the ideology that veganism is a diet and lifestyle for privileged people with money — this usually equates to people who are white. This ideology completely ignores many factors including but not limited to:

  1. The fact that most whole, plant-based [vegan] foods (including a bunch of fruits, veggies, and legumes) are grown abundantly in places that are inhabited by POC and therefore have been the basis of the diets of POC for centuries.
  2. Veganism, as a lifestyle, aims to eliminate speciesism, the belief that one species (humans) are superior to another species (amimals), thereby making veganism inherently linked to the many other “isms”, for example racism, which also exists as a mechanism to exploit some groups and have other groups claim superiority over the former groups — as has been the case for some time now, these methodologies must be fought against as well.
  3. Veganism naturally lends to intersectionality as the fight for animal equality spans other areas, specifically feminism as the bodies of female animals are often raped, forcibly impregnated, and taken away from their children.

Basically, what brown vegan folks are trying to say is get off your high horse to our white vegan counterparts. We want them to understand that veganism in not a privileged lifestyle or one that should be touted as a way of life only for those who can afford to buy acai bowls everyday. We want people to understand that “build-your-own quinoa bowls” should not be priced at $10 while there are tons of poor brown children forced to eat a family-sized pack of beef with questionable coloring from their local supermarket because it’s all their family can afford. And furthermore, a bulk box of quinoa should cost less if not equal to that container of beef so that a family of 3-5 people can thrive on it for at least a week by adding veggies and fruit and other vegan protein sources such as legumes and beans to it. And again, many POC have already been eating meals like the ones I just described, and to this day many households of color still do (albeit usually with animal protein). So why is the notion of these types of meals and a vegan lifestyle only portrayed in a “white light”?

Instead of this broken ideology of what veganism is, we want them [white people] to realize that Black, Hispanic and many indigenous people across the globe have indeed been eating this way since, well, forever— and that painting an exclusive picture of the aforementioned vegan lifestyle not only marginalizes those groups of POC from all over the globe but also the POC who live right here in America– the poor and middle-class brown people who could greatly benefit from embracing a vegan lifestyle.

Where the Intersectionality Comes In

With veganism being my primary concern, as I educated myself I began to expand my activism to include these aspects of intersectionality that I was becoming more aware of. In the summer of 2018 I went to the first annual BlackVegFest. This was even more of an eye-opening experience. I discovered groups like Veggie Mijas and La Raza for Liberation, and began to learn more about terms like decolonizing your diet, and how veganism also trickled over into the LGBTQ community. It all started making sense. You know the saying “call a spade a spade”? Well I realized that a marginalized group was a marginalized group no matter the reason of why they were marginalized.

Pioneer activist and feminist Kimberlé Crenshaw first introduced the theory of intersectionality, and for many, it has grown to include (although not formally) this idea of veganism. Intersectional theory attempts to understand how the social identities of minority groups such as women, minorites (POC) and those within the LGBTQ community overlap and how these overlapping identities interact within an oppressive society and oppressive social and structural systems. The following chart beautifully expresses how the struggles of these many identities and groups overlap:

With the help of this graphic, it should be easier to understand how all discriminatory processes are manifested within various groups and how they overlap. As touched on earlier, when referring specifically to veganism, the notion of “white veganism” creates that systemic and social barrier which excludes other groups such as those who are poor, and those falling into this latter group more often than not tend to be communities comprised of predominantly POC. This exclusion takes place in various ways. It spins the story, changes the value and lessens the accessibility of veganism to marginalized groups.

This discrimination also manifests itself in other ways such as environmental racism. Environmental racism occurs as a result of hazardous waste being exposed primarily to persons who live in and around areas where massive animal agriculture takes place. The location of these factory farms are predominantly found next to areas that house minorities and poor people, and the waste that is expelled from them has caused sickness and illness to many. Another major concern is the exploitation of slaughterhouse and factory farm workers, who are largely Hispanic and oftentimes immigrants. They are subject to poor working conditions and must work in an environment in which they must carry out gruesome procedures to kill and

Instagram screenshot courtesy of vegan community via veggie_kittyy

subdue animals. All these things and more come together to make a complex web of interconnected people and groups who must fight oppression– but imagine how much harder it is for those who can’t even speak in a language that any human understands?

But You’re Black– Don’t you have more Important Issues you Could be Fighting For?

For a brief moment (okay, maybe a few brief moments) in my short-lived vegan history, I thought the same thing. That was until I continued to realize what I’ve already stated. A marginalized group is a marginalized group. I’ve lived my life as a Black female for my entire time on this Earth. And that will never change. So including others in the fight will not lessen the plight of the two groups (well, three groups, as I’ve now come to openly acknowledge my queerness on the spectrum of sexuality) I already belong to, but strengthen it because there is strength in numbers. I’ve been blessed to be born at a time in this world where so many of the generations before me have fought tirelessly to give myself and those other Black and brown persons who share this time with me the abilities and privileges to live as freely as we do. There is still and will like be for some time progress and change to be made. But in being blessed in that way I have also been blessed with a choice. I can join those freedom fighters and continue the work that has been going on for decades and even centuries. Or, I can take the blessings I’ve been given and pass the torch to another area that is admittedly newer– veganism and it’s intersectionality. Now, some do scoff at Black vegans fighting for animal rights when our people are still shot by police officers when they are unarmed, thrown into prisons for minor offenses, and discriminated against on a daily basis. However, as stated, these areas all interconnect if we really think about it. And so, fighting for the freedom of ALL living beings, including animals is truly the future of freedom fighting and activism. Why should we wait for a world where being Black or brown has no discrimination attached to it to start helping our brothers and sisters of another species when they so often suffer similar plights as we do as humans? Why are their voices deemed less important?

My belief is that their voices shouldn’t be less important. We are all fighting the same fight and therefore we must help each other whenever and however we can. Each new generation will be tasked with taking on the problems, issues and fights of the last generation. Yes, this time animal liberation is at the forefront, more so now than it has been in the past. And as veganism continues to grow, it will become an even bigger force just as the issues of all the marginalized groups before them have become. All I know is that I want to be able to say that I listened to both my heart and my brain and tried to help and live as compassionately as I could during my no doubt brief time on this planet. I make it a point to showcase my activism through veganism as much as possible. On my Instagram page and here on this blog, I create recipes that include many of the whole foods that many Black and brown people may already be familiar with, making the recipes easier to create for vegans and making it an easier transition for non-vegans. I also try to follow Black and brown vegans who are doing their thing and/or are living an upper middle class or upper class lifestyle. I see this as a form of activism as well, as it shows us all that POC can also live a “luxe (vegan) life” that is often only attached to white vegans– and those POC are usually including some form of activism in their own vegan lifestyles, which also goes to show that no matter one’s station in life, there is always an opportunity to pay it forward when living a vegan lifestyle whether it be through humanitarian work, animal activism, or showing others the beauty of veganism. I will continue to try and leave a mark in this lifestyle and I hope it will be seen as a hugely inclusive mark; one that aimed to help as many people, and species as possible.

* Animal figures cover image courtesy of pexels.com

Updated September 14, 2019

Green “Holiday” Nog

I named this drink a “holiday” nog because I wasn’t sure that people would get the nog reference without the holiday present. Sure, we know about egg nog — and for us vegans, we know about almond nog. But when you just hear the word “nog”, does your mind automatically go to the famous holiday drink? Actually, I don’t think that word is used anywhere else except for that drink! But maybe I was worrying a bit too much. Maybe I should have more faith in people and their ability to identify extremely specific holiday drinks out of season. I mean, I’m sure anyone could recognize a pumpkin spice latte in, say, the middle of July? Sure they could. I think the thing that may throw them off about this drink is the color. Most “nogs” are a creamy, tan color — not a creamy green color. And maybe the green hue and holiday reference could even make this drink seem a little grinch-y… but with three simple ingredients, and a dose of iron and vitamin C, this drink is anything but mean.

What You’ll Need:

  • 3 cups sweetened, vanilla flavored almond milk*
  • 4 cups fresh baby spinach (I prefer fresh spinach for this recipe over frozen)
  • 2-3 tsp
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • More nutmeg to garnish

What to Do:

  1. Place almond milk, spinach, sugar and nutmeg in a blender and blend until smooth.
  2. Pour into a serving glass, then, sprinkle with a layet of nutmeg to garnish and enjoy.

* Almond milk is thicker and creamier so I suggest using this milk over a thinner milk like rice or coconut milk (coconut milk might also affect the flavor). Maybe oat or hemp milk might work, but make sure you get the sweetened vanilla varieties to achieve the flavor of the nog. If you can not get the sweetened vanilla variety, you can add 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract to this recipe and then add agave or another vegan liquid sweetener to taste.

Date posted on Instagram: 1/15/19

Being Vegan Doesn’t Fix Everything

When I first went vegan, I thought it would make me invincible. I envisioned myself being thinner, stronger and a whole lot healthier. Armed with the menial amount of knowledge I’d picked up when first researching a vegan lifestyle (after I’d already made the decision to go vegan), it seemed like a cure all for practically any and everything. Unfortunately, I hadn’t realized that I was heavily idealizing veganism. Yes, I still believe it is by far one of the healthiest diets that most humans can thrive on, but I was taking an unrealistic approach to what veganism was truly about. I was met with a rude awakening after a couple of events that caused me to realize that being vegan, in fact did not make me a superhero.

Throwback image of what I was supposed to look like after going vegan.

The closer I got to my one year #veganniversary, the closer I got to the realism of veganism and the fact that it was indeed an entire change of lifestyle, but it was not something that could change everything that was capable of occurring in life. In early fall of 2018, I injured my leg. The injury wasn’t life-threatening, and because of that, I continued to live my life with the same gusto I had been for the past several months. The same gusto that had allowed me to become physically, mentally and spiritually stronger. After all, a positive by-product that came out of me going vegan was that I was able to not only lose weight, but prove to myself that I had the discipline to stick with something that took work– an entire overhaul of how I approached eating but also how I approached many other aspects of my life. Losing weight was tangible evidence that I could make a change in my lifestyle and achieve my fitness goals.

The more I focused on my physical activity, the stronger I became. I was sooo diggin’ that feeling! I actually felt my body changing and felt myself being able to do things I couldn’t do before. But too much of a good thing too soon is the best way I can describe the series of events that happened next. I suffered a mild leg injury from what I eventually determined had to have been overuse of my muscles and ligaments. In my mind, I had to push myself to the limit to keep feeling and being stronger. And pushing oneself is not a bad thing, but it depends on the circumstances and the person. In my case, I was starting to push too much, too soon, not giving my body enough time to rest throughout the week.

Summer 2018. Working out 3-4 days a week, I was at my most fit since I’d started my journey.

So, I’d come to terms with the fact that I’d sprang a ligament in my hip/thigh area. And you would think that I learned my lesson. But almost two months after the initial injury, I re-injured the same spot. However, this time, it was worse. Self-diagnosing, I felt really strongly that I knew what happened. The initial injured area never fully healed and I either tore or pressured that same area even more. The first sprang wasn’t debilitating, but it was definitely painful. But this time, I was literally stopped in my tracks for almost 48 hours, limping around with a wrapped up leg in agony. My body was telling me it had had enough.

This sent me into a depressing tailspin. I knew I couldn’t work with this injury but I also couldn’t afford not to work. I wasn’t sure what to do and the thought of not working for awhile terrified me. Then, I had an epiphany. I was seriously considering possibly permanently injuring myself for the sake of a job and some money. It was true that I couldn’t afford to be out of work for long, but I could afford to let myself heal for a bit. In fact, I had to do that.

This knee brace and wrap became staples in my life. Both are covered in yellow stains from the balm I made containing turmeric, that I would rub all over my leg before wrapping it up.

I made the decision to leave where I was working. Eventually the pain started lessening in intensity but it was far from healed. I was back at work within a couple of weeks and I continued to really hone in on my homeopathic routine to help with healing. The pain is about 90% gone as of the publishing of this blog post. It just goes to show that letting “food be thy medicine” has really showed value in my life, in spite of my initial anger that being vegan didn’t make me invincible.

A more recent occurrence happened within months of me going off birth control. I decided to make the switch before going vegan actually, because remember, I had already decided to do a health overhaul — going vegan ended up being the last step. Supposedly, the body adjusts within a month after going off the pill. Hormones should be back to normal and all should be well. But for me, it didn’t happen that way. I had lived for a few years with the crystal clear skin and light periods that come as a result of birth control. I had actually forgotten what my body was like pre-pill. Well, I stopped taking the pill in late 2017. It wasn’t until almost a year later that that I experienced a full comeback of my pre-pill self. Really heavy periods and acne. A decent amount of acne. So much so that I was ashamed of myself for being so vain in my hatred of it and also surprised that I had gotten so used to having no acne so quickly, completing forgetting that this was all part of my normal before I ever started the pill. But after several long months, it was as if the birth control had finally flushed out me, taking all the lingering hormones out and now I was really me again. This was a blessing I was happy about, but I kept thinking “how can this be! Everyone on vegan Instagram has beautifully light periods and no pimples!”

Summer 2017. Chock-full of birth control hormones, I wasn’t cheesing because of my super clear skin, but I might as well have been.

But that wasn’t true. The more I explored, the more I saw many vegans with skin problems and period issues. I wasn’t alone and that was comforting. But it was another wake up call that simply being vegan doesn’t fix everything. It was also a motivator to try to find out how I could use food as medicine for these issues. Maybe I hadn’t been vegan long enough yet to notice a change in these areas. Maybe I had to wait for my body to fully detox from the hormones. Maybe I was still eating too much processed food and not enough fresh produce. Maybe I wasn’t eating the right types of produce. There were so many variables to think about. The body is essentially a giant science experiment, and I was and still am determined to figure it all out.

Through my health journey I realized I didn’t want to thrive on body-altering hormones any longer.

After I come back from Europe, I plan to start a regime with more produce to combat the severity of my menstrual cycle, along with the acne that comes along with it. I’ve heard some things about celery juice and how it can help fight acne (among many other things). It will also serve as a nice detox post decadent euro-vegan eats so I’m trying to reap all the benefits. I’ve already started using a menstrual cup and honestly, I noticed a slight difference during my first cycle using it. That may sound weird, but we as women and humans don’t give ourselves enough credit for making small changes. Bad things happening shouldn’t be considered “normal”. If you notice a positive difference after making a small change, keep going! I’m still amazed that I was able to cure a ligament sprang that felt so severe with herbs! But I shouldn’t be so surprised because people have been doing things like this for centuries. The longer I’m vegan, the longer I eat raw and fresh, the longer I stop putting man-made and chemical-filled things in and on my body, I’m certain that I’ll see amazing changes, probably beyond anything I could have ever imagined. Please stay tuned for more updates on my path to actually becoming an invincible vegan!

Edit**: As of March 21, 2019, I feel very comfortable saying that my leg is at 90%-95% when it comes to being healed. I’ve continued to do all that I can to help it get better, including using it more– something I was initially afraid to do until I recently read an article stating that the ligament will actually become stronger once it’s in use again. I plan on upping my physical activity even more soon, hopefully being back in the gym by summer. I don’t think I’ll start running again, but I will continue to listen to my body and maybe running will be something I can enjoy again by next year. I don’t want to over exert the ligament being that it’s freshly healed.

Bodybuilder image courtesy of: Pexels.com

Pills image courtesy of: Pexels.com

Creamy Butternut Squash and Chickpea Soup

Soup is my jam. But not just any soup. I don’t really like those plain, mostly thinned-out brothy-y soups. I need a hearty, chunky soup. And if there’s a thin broth, there better be a whole bunch of goodies in there and not just a few straggly pieces of noodles. Enter this amazing creation. This could almost be classified as a dump skillet meal because I had this squash in the fridge for so long I forgot about it. When I rediscovered it, it didn’t look as brightly orange as it had been, but I wasn’t in the mood to make squash so I threw it in the freezer. Then, the next day it just didn’t sit well with me and I felt like I needed to create an amazing meal with it. And outta nowhere I came up with this amazing soup. But here’s the crazy part: After I made it and let it sit for awhile, the broth ended up tasting exactly like tikka masala sauce! If you know my food vibes, I’ve mentioned a bunch of times that Indian food is hands down one of my favorites. And I’d unintentionally made the sauce to one of favorite Indian dishes! I couldn’t believe it. So a random science experiment of a creation ended up yielding not one, but two recipes. And although the sauce is very tikka “masala-y”, with the squash and chickpeas, it definitely has it’s own vibe and holds it’s own as a soup. But, feel free to only create the sauce and add some tofu or vegan chick’n cutlets for a bomb chick’n tikka masala. I mean seriously, look how far I’ve come. I went from making a tikka masala dish that included using a jarred version of the sauce, to accidentally and unintentionally making that very sauce from scratch while trying to make a completely different recipe. Started from the bottom, now I’m here!

butternut squash and chickpea soup

What You’ll Need:

  • 2 cans of chickpeas, drained (15.5 oz)
  • 4 cups cubed butternut squash
  • 3 cups fresh baby spinach (frozen spinach can also be used)
  • 1 can tomato paste (6 oz)
  • 1 can coconut milk (13.5 oz)
  • 1 tbsp. +  1 tsp. curry powder
  • 1 tbsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 heaping tbsp. salt

What to Do:

  1. Place a large pot (at least a 3 qt. pot) on low heat.
  2. Add chickpeas, squash, coconut milk, and tomato paste to pot and stir together gently until well mixed.
  3. Keep uncovered and reduce heat to a low simmer. Let soup begin to heat up and once it starts to bubble, begin adding in seasonings.
  4. Add salt, pepper, cumin, cinnamon, and curry powder to soup. Stir and mix until well blended. Let soup simmer for approximately 3-5 minutes.
  5. Add spinach to soup and mix until well blended.
  6. Continue to simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally until squash and chickpeas are tender, approximately 20 minutes.

*To Make Tikka Masala Sauce Alone*:

  1. Combine coconut milk, tomato paste and all seasonings in a pot over a simmer heat.
  2. Mix all ingredients together until well blended, and let simmer until sauce begins to bubble.
  3. Remove from heat and let sauce cool. Store sauce to use for homemade tikka masala, or for any other dishes.
  4. You can also use this sauce for my tikka masala recipe instead of the jarred sauce!

Date posted on Instagram: 12/26/18

Easy Chickpea Scramble

It’s funny how we idolize some foods but never think outside of the box with what can be done with those foods in a different context, or how we can use other foods to recreate the idolized foods. That was a lot to take in just now, but hear me out. Eggs. I used to love eggs. So many people love eggs. But eggs are actually one of the easiest foods to veganize. My favorite is definitely tofu scram, but there are also a few vegan egg substitutes on the market and if tofu isn’t your thing, there’s chickpeas. Yes, I said chickpeas. I get it, I was surprised when I first found out about chickpea scrambles too. I mean, they’re chickpeas. But, in keeping with one of my vegan mantra’s which states that most of eating is a psychological experience, visually, a decent chickpea scram can remind someone of eggs. Now the texture is a different story. That may not feel as “egg-like” but maybe an exact replica isn’t what you’re looking for.  And anyway, the secret to a really bomb chickpea scram (or any vegan egg sub) is one key ingredient: black salt. Also known as kala namak. This amazing Indian salt has a flavor that’s extremely reminiscent of eggs because of its sulfur content. But let’s not make this a science lesson (although the nerd in me does love a good science lesson!). Let’s just say that with this salt in hand, you hold the key to making anything taste like eggs. So vegans rejoice because yet again, animal harm: 0, plants providing a way: 1. And non-vegans who think they’re precious eggs can’t be replaced? Come at me.

chickpea scramble

What You’ll Need:

  • 1/2 cup chickpeas, completely drained of liquid
  • 1 tsp. oat flour
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp. black salt*
  • pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tbsp. avocado oil (or other high-heat oil like peanut or high-oleic sunflower oil)

What to Do:

  1. Add chickpeas to a medium bowl and smash them with a fork until most of the beans have been crushed (see picture below). A few solid parts are okay and actually recommended.

    smashed chickpeas for chickpea scramble
    chickpea prep for a scramble.

  2. Add oat flour to the bowl and mix into the chickpeas until well blended.
  3. Add turmeric to the mixture and mix until well blended. Set aside.
  4. Heat a saucepan over low-medium heat with the avocado oil. (I used a spray can of avocado oil and sprayed a light layer on the pan).
  5. Once hot, add the chickpea mixture to the pan and use a (non-metal) spatula or cooking tool to spread the chickpeas in an even layer, similar to a tortilla.
  6. Let the chickpea cook for about 2 minutes, then, flip and the opposite side for another 2 minutes.
  7. Start to break apart the chickpea “tortilla” into chunks, similar to scrambled eggs, and let the scramble continue to cook.
  8. Cook the chickpeas for about 3-4 more minutes in the chunky pieces or longer to achieve some browning on the chickpeas.
  9. Transfer chickpea scramble to a bowl and mix in the black salt. Then, transfer salted scramble to serving dish and add pepper to taste OR transfer chickpea scramble straight to serving dish and sprinkle with black salt and pepper.

* You can purchase black salt from several sources online. The salt is also sold in Indian and Asian markets. At the ethnic markets, you are likely to find a bulk amount for a decent price. I found a good amount on Amazon for an amazing price. Do a little research so you aren’t overcharged because it’s definitely possible to get a good deal on this amazing seasoning.

Date posted on Instagram: 12/31/18

Keeping it Clean the Eco-friendly Way

Okay. I am going to preface this post by saying that I am single. That may seem irrelevant for the topic of eco-friendly cleaning products, but it’s actually very relevant when it comes to some of the measures I’ve been taking as I attempt to continue to lower my carbon footprint on my zero-waste journey. As I mentioned in my last zero waste post, I’ve started making my own cleaning supplies and I decided that I would no longer use products that contained chemicals or ingredients that weren’t friendly to the earth or plant-derived (except for bleach, which I still use to clean and do my laundry with). That plan has been working so far.

I created two homemade cleansers and they both work well— actually, surprisingly well, when it comes to keeping things clean. I use them for general purpose cleaning, so stuff like countertops but also to clean the less grungy stuff in the bathroom (sinks and what not). One is citrus-based and the other is soap-based. The citrus-based cleanser is better for cutting through grease because citrus oil is great for greasy and grimey stuff.

IMG_4273
These babies are grease-cutting machines!

I’ve been using the citrus cleanser for several months now. I started experimenting with the recipe just a few months after I went vegan. The other solution I only started using in the past few months, after I discovered the wonders of  castile soap. Here’s the recipe for each cleanser:

Citrus cleaning solution:

  • 1:1 ratio of citrus solution* to warm or room temperature water. I use my own amber spray bottles and they hold 16 oz. of liquid, so that’s about 8 oz. (or 1 cup) of solution and 8 oz. of water.

Castile cleaning solution:

  • 2-3 tablespoons of castile soap (I use Dr. Bonner’s hemp almond castile soap)
  • about 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • the rest of the bottle is filled with warm water

You might want to adjust these ratios and amounts depending on the size of bottle you’re using, but these are pretty good general measurements.

I’ve also switched to using homemade, natural stuff to clean my laundry. The result of this was probably the biggest surprise because I’ve been washing with this solution for almost two months now and I’m being 100% honest when I say that my clothes are actually coming out cleaner and fresher with this new type of detergent. What’s in it you’re wondering? Well, it’s essentially the same mixture as the castile soap cleaning solution described above, except I add about 2-3 tbsp. of baking soda to the mix. Here’s the full recipe:

Castile laundry soap:

In a 32 oz. mason jar I combine:

  • 2-3 tablespoons baking soda
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 1 1/2 cups white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup castile soap… then close the jar and shake!

Like I said, I love this mixture for doing laundry. My clothes smell fresh. And not the way they smell when you use those popular name brand detergents. Those smell like scented

IMG-6692
My castile soap laundry detergent.

chemicals — fake floral scents and mock lavender. No, my clothes actually smell clean— like this is what clean is supposed to smell like! I may sound a little obsessive but this is what happens when you start opening your mind to what can be done with natural products and not the chemical filled stuff we’ve been conditioned to use through the use of advertising and societal influences.

Keeping my home and clothes clean with no chemicals is truly refreshing. Even though they aren’t things that we notice on a daily basis, I know big changes like better air quality are occurring with the use of less chemicals. This is, of course, important for personal health, but it’s also a big deal for me because I don’t want Atreyu (my cat!) breathing in a bunch of chemicals either.

But, there’s a small catch…

… everything hasn’t been entirely lavender and roses (cleaning and natural product pun completely intended).

Another major concern when it comes to my new vegan lifestyle is affordability— and that’s been the case from the beginning. I’ve always been more of a

2018-12-31-2-e1546280293393.png
Oranges are cheap year-round so a homemade citrus cleanser is a great investment.

budget girl, and that hasn’t changed since going vegan. I know I’m saving money when it comes to cleaning supplies— I mean, I could buy an entire barrel of oranges to make a billion batches of my citrus cleanser and it probably wouldn’t at all compare to the amount of money I might spend buying a bunch of bottles of a packaged, chemical cleansers over time. But even still, my other new cleaning innovations were signaling some red flags.

So, this is where me being single finally becomes relevant. I know, you probably forgot about that important little tidbit but I told you it’d be back. Currently, I’m doing a few loads of laundry as a single person. And cleaning as a single person. And cooking as a single person. Yes, I’m doing everything as a single person. So quantities haven’t been a huge problem so far. But, castile soap isn’t cheap. And using all that good soap for cleaning solutions and laundry was starting to add up.

So, I started researching cruelty-free and vegan detergents. As of the publishing of this blog post, I’ve narrowed it down to two brands that are ethical, contain vegan  ingredients and are cruelty-free. I’ll post what they are and what I decided to go with in another blog post. I figure now is the best time to make the switch so I can start saving more money but I’m also thinking practically for the future. When I have a family, what will be more likely to stick? I don’t wanna start doing things that get me closer to a zero-waste lifestyle now, then fall back a few steps— or a bunch of steps— or several staircases worth of steps because I made a few changes as a single gal that I couldn’t keep up with once more people were in the picture. I’m still using my castile detergent for now, but I’ll be switching over to a bulk detergent shortly. I hope my clothes will smell as clean as they have been while using the castile soap. The fact that the ingredients will be natural gives me some hope that they might. And anyhow, I thought of an idea; I can mix some of the castile soap (and maybe vinegar?) in with the bulk detergent to make it a “super-detergent”, able to rip through dirt in the blink of eye and tear apart soil particles with the snap of a finger! As for my cleaning solutions, those are actually doable labor and price-wise, and I’m 100% gonna keep making them to clean with. And finally, I don’t think I’m gonna give up bleach anytime soon, but as with everything else on this journey— baby steps.

So that’s where I’m at when it comes to cleaning my space and my clothes. It hasn’t all been easy-peasy, but then again, nothing that truly matters ever is. In fact, I remember the first time I heard about the “cheap, fast, good” diagram. It was on a t.v show, and although the show isn’t at all relevant, the purpose of that lil’ venn diagram remained with me for years and still resonates with me when I think of everything in life, because it’s truly applicable to everything in life.

**

If we want something to be cheap and fast, it ain’t gonna be the best quality. If we want something to be fast and good quality, it ain’t gonna be cheap, and if we want something to be cheap and good quality, it definitely ain’t gonna happen overnight. The point is, you can’t have all three; only two of those amazing things are achievable at one time and so there will always be some form of work required on our end— either patience, funds (monetary or otherwise), or acceptance. That’s how I’m approaching my zero-waste journey. I’ve invested in a few items like hand towels, and bottles of castile soap, knowing that in the long run these changes will reap great (quality) benefits when it comes to my health, my zero-waste goals and my overall moral feels. I’m already spending less money on things like paper towels (a product I believe is one of the biggest kept secrets as a “big money waster”) and cleaning products, and I know I’m making progress as I try to head into more of a zero-waste life for my current situation and my future, unknown life. I’m very proud of myself and I know future Tiffany is waiting to pat me on my low carbon footprint back too.

* To make the citrus solution: In a 32 oz. mason jar, I combine the peels of 5-6 medium to large sized oranges with vinegar. Make sure that the peels are free of any fruit, or that will make the solution sticky. You only want pure orange peel because it has the citrus oil in it. Once the peels are in the jar, fill the jar almost to the top with white vinegar. This mixture will yield you four cups of citrus solution, but as you use it you can add more vinegar and let the mixture become stronger over time. The same peels should last for a few months before you need to replace them. With a new batch, I let the solution sit for at least 24 hours before using it for cleaning. It should reach maximum potency after about a week.

[Edit:] As of January 21, 2019, I have decided to use detergent and other products from the Seventh Generation brand. This line of products is entirely vegan and cruelty-free. The parent company of Seventh Generation, Unilever, was at one point known for its animal testing. However, as of 2019, the company is pioneering the global ban on animal testing, and PETA has now classified them as a company that is “working for regulatory change”. The company will only perform animal testing where required by law.

** Venn-diagram chart photo courtesy of: pyragraph.com.

Unilver information courtesy of PETA: https://www.peta.org/blog/dove-earns-cruelty-free-stamp-of-approval-added-to-beauty-without-bunnies-list/