WebSpotlight: VegFund Helps You Serve Fabulous Vegan Food in Your Community

veganfoodYou’ve been there: the fundraising dinner to help the local humane society help companion animals; the environmental club meeting focused on helping protect wildlife; the human rights fair dedicated to eliminating oppression — all great causes working for a more compassionate, just world, and what’s on the menu? Animals.

Sometimes organizations working for a better world forget about the impact of the food we eat on people, the planet, and especially animals, so it’s great that there’s a new resource available for citizen activists.

VegFund.org helps “fund the distribution of vegan food at local events.”

If you can find an event (preferably one that wouldn’t normally have vegan food) in your community at which you can serve free vegan food, then you can apply to VegFund for possible reimbursement of your food and supply expenses. (See application details.) According to their website, VegFund grants thousands of dollars every week to people organizing vegan food at events.

If you’re someone who has cash to spare, you can also donate to VegFund, so that they can offer grants to other activists.

Image courtesy of JP Puerta via Creative Commons.

MOGO Mini-Tip: A Little Dab’ll Do Ya

toothpastebrushIn the hurry-scurry of our daily lives, it’s easy to buzz through on auto-pilot and not bring attention to the amount of stuff we’re consuming each morning — the soap and shampoo in the shower; the toothpaste; the coffee or juice in our cup — and throughout the day. Certainly, the amount of toothpaste we use in a day, or amount of drink we toss down the drain might be small, but all those little excesses add up — for the planet as well as our pocketbooks.

If we can focus on paying attention when we brush our teeth and wash our hair and drink and eat and clean the counters and scrub the dishes, and take only what we need to successfully complete the job, it might surprise us to notice how much extra we’ve been taking. We can use fewer resources and save money. And, when we put food on our plates, if we’re paying attention, we might eat less, and thus lessen our chances of gaining weight, as well as of wasting food.

I like to remember Gandhi’s statement that “He who has more than he needs is a thief,” and while some might think it’s a little harsh, it serves as a good reminder to me to pay attention to how much of the world’s resources I’m consuming.

~ Marsha

WebSpotlight: Understanding Prejudice

As much as we want to believe otherwise, prejudice is still a significant element of society. And many of us who would claim to be completely unprejudiced have biases that we may not even be aware of.

The website UnderstandingPrejudice.org offers a wealth of information and resources for students, educators and others interested in exploring issues of prejudice and bias.

The website offers activities, links to websites, articles and other readings, as well as to relevant organizations and experts. I also like that they include an exploration of speciesism as an element of prejudice.

One of the most compelling and useful aspects of the website are the interactive surveys, quizzes and tours on topics such as “Test Yourself for Hidden Bias,” “What’s Your Native IQ?” and “Where Do You Draw the Line?” (Note that most of the interactive elements require you to first register, but doing so allows you to track your responses over time.)

It’s amazing what you can discover about yourself from these quizzes and surveys. Check out the site and improve your knowledge while decreasing (hopefully) your hidden biases.

~ Marsha

Don’t Sweat(shop) the Small Stuff

While our children are all nestled in their beds with visions of sugarplums dancing about, and they’re looking forward to acquiring a whole slew of new stuff that they’ll be talking about incessantly with their friends for weeks after winter break is over, it’s an excellent time to encourage them to think critically about all that new stuff — much of which quite possibly came from sweatshops.

Several websites address issues of sweatshops, child labor and fair trade. Here are a few that might be useful for helping your family explore these issues.

Co-op America’s Ending Sweatshops Program provides information about sweatshops, tips for avoiding sweatshop products, and a sweat-free products guide.

Global Exchange Sweatfree Communities offers information about sweatshop issues, resources and ideas. Their site also has a Sweatfree Toolkit for launching a sweatfree campaign in your community.

The focus of the National Labor Committee is “putting a human face on the global economy.” At their website you’ll find personal accounts, photos, news and information about worker conditions around the world.

The Smithsonian Institution currently has an online exhibit about the history of sweatshops in the U.S. Between a Rock and a Hard Place: A History of American Sweatshops, 1820 – present, provides a variety of information and perspectives.

If you’re interested in learning more about sweatshop issues and want to become active in promoting sweatshop-free products and communities, Sweatfree Communities has campaign materials and other information to help citizens create sweatfree communities, as well as a variety of educational resources. They also offer a “Shop with a Conscience Guide.”

Sweatfree also has announced its 2008 Sweatshop Hall of Shame, focusing on corporations that have “consistently flouted labor laws and basic worker protections.” This year’s “honorees” are American Eagle, Carrefour, Cintas, Dickies, Disney, Guess, Hanes, New Era, Speedo, Tommy Hilfiger, Toys “R” Us, and Wal-Mart.

And, for those interested in taking up legislative action against sweatshops, the NLC has been tracking anti-sweatshop legislation in the U.S. Congress. If the Decent Working Conditions and Fair Competition Act passes, it would “prohibit the import, export or sale of sweatshop goods in the U.S.” The bill was first introduced at the beginning of 2007. So far, about 26 senators and 175 representatives have signed as co-sponsors to the legislation. Students and others are invited to write their representatives to ask them to sign on as a co-sponsor (or to thank them for being one), as well as to encourage other organizations to endorse this legislation.

And, while you’re talking to your own kids about sweatshop products, be sure to take at look at your own goodies, too, and strive to make choices that can ensure that everyone — regardless of where they live — can have a happy holiday (and a happy, healthy life).

~ Marsha

Originally published in the December 2008 Humane Edge E-News.

Image courtesy of cambodia4kidsorg.

Take a Bite Out of Global Warming: Go Vegan!


Reading about the connection between eating animals and global climate change in the media has become an almost weekly occurrence. Yet Westerners are still extremely reluctant to give up their burgers, nuggets and shakes, and government and organizations are still primarily focusing on other contributors to global warming, such as the impact of transportation. Because this is still such a controversial topic, it’s important to be well-informed. Below are a sampling of research reports and news articles that have covered the topic.

Another Inconvenient Truth: Meat is a Global Warming Issue
Commentary from E Magazine that includes references to several studies about the connection between meat & global warming. Includes a link to their 2002 feature on reasons for environmentalists to go veg.

Climate Change: The Inconvenient Truth About What We Eat
Looks at the role agriculture plays in global warming and advocates a plant-based diet.

Cool Foods Campaign
A new campaign from the Center for Food Safety. Learn about steps you can take to reduce your “food print.”

Diet, Energy & Global Warming
A 2005 report from the University of Chicago compares the impact of our dietary choices and reveals the
significant contribution to greenhouse gas emissions of eating animal products.

Factory Farming & Environment
A list of links to news stories about meat eating and the environment.

Hoofprints: Livestock & Its Environmental Impacts
A report from Friends of the Earth about the impact of livestock production on the environment.

The Impact of Animal Agriculture on Global Warming and Climate Change
A research report from the Humane Society of the U.S.

Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options
The 2007 report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations that reported about the enormous impact of animal agriculture on global warming.

Meat & the Environment
Quick info on the impact of eating meat on land, water, global warming & other environmental issues.

Putting Meat on the Table: Industrial Farm Animal Production in America
The Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production has released a report (2008) about the impact of animal agriculture on health, the environment, animal welfare and family farms.

Rethinking the Meat Guzzler
A New York Times article about the environmental impact of eating meat.

Take a Bite Out of Climate Change
Information, analysis and more about the connection between the climate crisis and what’s on our plates.
(from Anna Lappe & the Small Planet Institute)

~ Marsha

Veg-Friendly Restaurant Resource Roundup

eatingpizzaEven though money is tight, my week just isn’t complete unless I’ve eaten out at least once. It used to be that vegans had limited options when traversing the restaurant scene, but that’s changing. Here are some resources to help you find the perfect veg-friendly restaurant for you.

The favorite online guide to restaurants (a VegNews winner & such) is Happy Cow. It’s an international guide to restaurants and health food stores, and also includes community areas, forums and other tidbits. It has more than 9,000 listings of restaurants and health food stores in 100 countries. The listings are sortable by alphabetical title or highest rating. Usually you’ll find contact information for the business, a very brief description, whether it’s veg, veg-friendly, vegan, etc., and some reviews. You can also add any restaurants you know about.

VegGuide.org is a community-maintained guide to restaurants (and other veg-related businesses) around the world, with more than 6600 entries in 67 countries. The primary focus is in the U.S., but you’ll find some coverage of other countries. Entries provide contact information, a short description, some reviews, “how veg” it is, and other types of info. There’s also an “Internet” category for online stores. You can add your own entries and/or reviews, and you can also get an RSS feed to your favorite categories.

Less comprehensive but still useful is the Veg Dining Guide, which lists veg-friendly and veg restaurants around the world. The interface isn’t as easy to use as the others, but it also includes some veg-friendly fast food restaurants and natural food stores in the mix. There’s the opportunity to submit reviews, but I didn’t see many.

If you’re like me, occasionally you want to load up your body on some nice junky fast food. PETA offers a list of chain restaurants that have vegan options. My husband and I have survived many a trip to rural Kansas and rural Maine thanks to Taco Bell and Subway. If you’re willing to pay a little money, the Vegetarian Resource Group sells a “Guide to Fast Food and Quick Service Chains.” (It’s currently being updated.)

Many of the larger cities are establishing their own online veg restaurant guides, so be sure to check. For those of us in the Portland, Oregon, area, there are some great options. Of course, being a NW VEG board member, I have to mention our dining guide. Two of my favorite blogs to visit for restaurant recommendations are Vegan Fabulous and Stumptown Vegans. Both offer detailed reviews of area restaurants. Vegan Fabulous is especially notable for including restaurants that may only have a couple vegan options (for those times when your carnivorous friends are choosing), and because entries are tagged by ratings, geographic location, lunch or dinner and other useful keywords. Stumptown has instituted a rating system that includes categories such as overall, service, food quality, atmosphere, and vegan options.

Of course, no resources will have every veg-friendly restaurant, so you can always fall back on the time-honored strategy of doing an online search for the city/state/country and keywords such as “vegan” and “restaurant”; I’ve come across a few little-known gems this way.

It’s important to remember that restaurants regularly close down, alter their menus, and make other transitions, so, if you’ve never been to a restaurant before, or it’s been awhile, be sure to call ahead and check in. Also be ready for people to not have the slightest idea what “vegan” means. I’ve had many a phone conversation with a restaurant worker who assured me that they had vegan options: “Sure, we do. We have chicken.” And, even if you end up in a restaurant that’s not so veg-friendly, a lot of times the chef is happy to accommodate your needs, if you ask nicely.

~ Marsha

Image courtesy of JuliaRosien.

Happy World Vegan Month

November is World Vegan Month, a celebration of all things vegan and a means for educating others about the power of a plant-based diet. In honor of WVM, I’ll be sharing more veg-related news, resources and such throughout the month.

To start us off:

There’s an article in Time offering a brief history of veganism, and while the history lesson is informative, the tone of the piece is not so vegan-friendly. Unfortunately, the author of the article categorizes veganism as “an extreme form of vegetarianism,” uses words like “strict” and “fringe,” and implies that it’s just another radical type of diet, along with “mono meals” (eating only one kind of food at a time). Still, the fact that World Vegan Day is being mentioned more often in such mainstream publications is progress.

Time also posted a feature article called “Should We All Be Vegetarians?”, which includes a fair amount of misinformation and misleading information, but still is worth noting for not automatically dismissing vegetarianism as a valid, healthy and meaningful choice.

Recently, there was a featured article in the Eugene (OR) Register about Oregonian vegan chef Beverly Lynn Bennett, who has written books such as The Idiot’s Guide to Vegan Living and Vegan Bites: Recipes for Singles. Beverly has her own website, Vegan Chef, and does a column for Veg News.

Speaking of Veg News, they have revamped their website to include more features, content and interactivity. The new site includes news, recipes, video clips, blog posts and more. Much of the content is repackaged from the print versions, but it’s great to see the premiere veg magazine spiffing up their website.

A couple excellent websites for vegish news include:

Vegan.com, the site run by vegan author and advocate Erik Marcus. Erik does a great job of keeping readers informed about the veg-related news to know, and he frequently posts tasty recipes, too.

Farmed Animal Net offers a weekly e-newsletter (Farmed Animal Watch) about farmed animal issues in the news (You can read the archives here.), often including stories and commentary from the animal agriculture industry.

More to come! What are your favorite vegan resources?

~ Marsha