Carrot top pesto

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I bought a bunch of fresh carrots on Saturday from one of our local farmers’ markets and was inspired to make carrot top pesto, which is something I read in one of the Zero Waste communities to which I belong. In the past, I’ve always just composted the carrot tops; this recipe is an excellent way to combat food waste.

Ingredients

  • Carrot tops (the green leafy parts) of a bunch of carrots, chopped.
  • 2 cloves garlic, or to taste
  • juice of half a lemon
  • Olive oil. I didn’t measure closely, but I think I used about 3 tablespoons
  • A handful of cashews (walnuts might work better, but I didn’t have any on hand)
  • Salt, to taste.

Method

  • You can blanche the carrot tops if you wish, but I kept them raw. Make sure they are well rinsed.
  • Place all the ingredients in a food processor or blender. I used my Vitamix.
  • Blend until everything is smooth. You decide what texture you lie; if you want a smooth pesto, blend for longer; if a chunkier texture, just pulse. It’s really hard to pulse with a Vitamix so mine comes out smooth.

Vegan pizza in Halifax

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I love pizza. I could happily eat pizza every day, including for breakfast. I often make my own pizza at home, but I do like to indulge in the occasional takeout. Neopolitan pizza is my favourite, but since this pizza requires a special oven to bake for the requisite maximum of 90 seconds, it’s not something I can make at home. In this post, I’ll discuss some of the vegan pizza offerings in a variety of Halifax restaurants. Please note that I’m not reviewing the quality of the food.

An option any vegan can follow, of course, is to simply order a pizza that contains no animal-derived ingredients, including cheese. My focus in this post is on restaurants that offer pizzas or ingredients labelled specifically as vegan. Traditional pizza dough is vegan, as it contains yeast, flour, sugar, and oil.  Let’s explore below.

Piatto Pizzaria + Enoteca has the special oven needed to make the Neopolitan pizza I love; I believe it’s the only restaurant in town with such an oven.  Piatto offers the “vegano”, which features sautéed portobello mushroom, garlic marinated tomatoes,  grilled zucchini, and topped with arugula. Piatto does not offer any vegan cheeze, which is a mark against them, as such alternatives are readily available.

Bramoso Pizza was, I believe, the first pizza restaurant in Halifax to provide a vegan cheeze alternative. Bramoso does not offer a specifically-labelled vegan pizza, but you can opt to create your own pizza and ask for their home-made vegan cheeze topping, which has the texture of ricotta. If you prefer cheeze that melts and has a gooey texture, as I do, this ricotta style may take some getting used to. The company states specifically that its white and whole wheat crusts are vegan.

Salvatore’s Pizzaiolo Trattoria makes their own vegan cheeze topping which, like Bramoso’s has a ricotta-type texture. You can assemble your own pizza and ask for the vegan topping.

On The Wedge Gourmet Pizza, which operates in Sunnyside Mall in Bedford, offers the vegan-labelled pizza “Roasted Rocket,” which has roasted eggplant, zucchini, red pepper, fresh tomato, rustico sauce, and sauteed mushrooms. Sadly, the company does not provide any vegan cheeze alternative.

Boston Pizza does not have a vegan-labelled pizza, but it has very recently provided vegan cheeze, so you could assemble your own pizza and ask for this alternative. The company also provides a vegan cauliflower crust.

Pizza Pizza provides three vegan alternatives: vegan pepperoni, vegan crumbles, and cheeze, which can be added to a pizza of your design. The company also provides a vegan cauliflower crust, and states that its regular and thin crusts contain no animal ingredients.

The Wooden Monkey offers a “veggie pizza” that contains olive oil basil, tomato sauce, spinach, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, olives, mozzarella, and goat cheese. You can order vegan cheeze instead of the dairy versions.

The Heartwood offers the “Classic Vegan” pizza, which consists of tomato sauce, mushrooms, garlic, tofu, artichoke hearts, spinach, peppers, and nutritional yeast topped with a vegan caesar dressing. The restaurant normally carries Daiya cheeze if you wanted to add that as well.

As you can see, there are plenty of choices for vegan pizza.  Remember, I’ve listed only those restaurants that have pizzas labelled specifically as vegan, or which provide vegan cheeze alternatives. If I’ve missed any, please let me know.

 

 

Are minimalism and zero-waste living wasteful?

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I have been increasingly struck by the irony of how wasteful zero-waste living, as well as minimalist living, can be. Two recent articles have helped to reinforce this thinking; their focus is on minimalism, which I will tackle first. These two articles were written in response to the popular Marie Kondo Netflix series. Benjamin Leszcz and Katherine Martinko argue that we should not dispose of items based on whether they spark joy; rather, that we should examine our possessions in the light of “making do”, a deeply pragmatic philosophy. It means asking of our things the only question we should ever ask of them: “Can you fulfill your intended use for me?” (Leszcz).

When I declutter my home, my approach mirrors more closely the concept that Leszcz and Martinko propose. I’m a pragmatist at heart: If something doesn’t serve a purpose, I don’t need it. I’m actually more concerned about the waste that minimalism and zero-waste living can generate. In our rush to declutter our homes, how much of our possessions end up in the landfill? It could be argued, of course, that they are destined for the landfill at some point; we’re simply doing it now rather than later. At the very least, we should donate as many of our decluttered items as possible, which is what I have tried to do.

The move to zero-waste living can generate a large amount of waste. The graphic above for a zero-waste kitchen is an example of what I mean. I know that I have been guilty of buying “zero-waste swaps” instead of making do with items I already have in my home. So, for example, I’ve bought sets of travel cutlery, when it would have been simpler to use cutlery I already owned. It’s tempting for us to want the shiny stainless steel or bamboo items that proclaim “zero waste,” but aren’t we simply creating more waste when we do this? We have, in fact, fallen prey to zero-waste marketing.

I’m cautious about articles such as the two above because I fear that they will encourage people to not declutter their homes. The article could reinforce the “I might need it someday” mentality that continues our hoarding habits. Rather, I think we need to consider the “do I use it approach” when we assess our possessions, and the “do I need it” approach when we consider purchasing something new. This is where “making do” comes in. I think the bigger question we need to tackle is why we purchase so many items that we don’t need and that we never use. I’ve been fighting this tendency for the past several years; I’ve made significant progress, but I do need to constantly question myself. Let’s look at a recent case in point. While I was in Ottawa this past month, I stopped by a favourite store, Zone, which sells home accessories. I absolutely love home accessories and, in particular, linens, so this type of store is my achilles heel. I know this, yet I still went in, as I love to look. While there I came across these linen kitchen towels. I absolutely love linen, and the price of these towels was very good. I grabbed two and walked around the store: I forced myself to take this time to mentally run through my kitchen linen drawer. I could see the large stack of perfectly usable kitchen towels in this drawer. I already have far more towels than I need, thanks to my past shopping behaviours, so I put the towels back on the shelf. Yes, they were an excellent price, and they were pretty, but I DID NOT NEED THEM. Thankfully, I wasn’t shopping with a friend, because I likely would have been convinced to buy them. It’s taken me a long time to get here. I think I go to stores such as Zone to test my resolve; it would be easier, of course, to simply avoid the stores completely, but I love beautiful things and enjoy looking at them (hence my fondness for art galleries). It’s a dangerous line, however, and I have faltered once or twice.

Making do is a philosophy I want to continue to explore and embrace. Something I’ve considered doing is creating an inventory of certain items I own that are the most tempting to buy; in my case, this would be handbags, kitchen and bathroom linens, and makeup. I can check the inventory to see whether I already own it, or something like it,  e. g., do I need a third shade of this colour lipstick? I think all of us need to make a clear distinction between wanting something and needing it; just because something is pretty, or on sale, or a steal, doesn’t mean that we need to bring it into our homes. Can we reuse what we already own, or put it to another use? Case in point: When I switched to loose-leaf herbal tea, I explored tea infusers in the stores, but I found them all to be too fiddly and awkward.  I looked at the French press in my kitchen cupboard and thought “why not use this, instead?” In other words, I shopped from my kitchen and made do with what I already owned. I recently sewed old napkins into produce bags. I have turned into my grandmother Georgina and am perfectly happy with that.

Simplifying my cleaning products

I have gone through various processes to simplify my household cleaning products. My goal is to find a solution that is as minimalist and zero-waste as possible. I’m happy to say that I’ve boiled down my cleaning to two products: Laundry detergent and liquid dish soap.

I’ve used a variety of cleaning products in the past. I’ve made my own products but, frankly, found that I needed to buy too many items in the process, which is hardly cost effective or efficient. I’ve used soap nuts in the past to clean clothes and to make an all-purpose cleaner, but now that I’ve switched to a high-efficiency front-loading washing machine, I don’t find that the soap nuts work as well anymore, especially since I wash all my laundry in only in cold water. I used a bar of Savon de Marseille to wash my dishes for the longest time, but this meant having a separate product to clean surfaces.

Organic Earth market to the rescue. I am beyond excited that Organic Earth now has a refill station for Down East laundry detergent and dish soap; I take my own glass jars, which they weigh that the store (after deducting the tare weight). These two products are all I need to clean my home. The laundry detergent works very well for my HE machine as well as for hand-washing my clothes. I use the liquid dish soap to wash dishes, as well as to clean counters, the toilet, the windows, etc. It’s a simple matter of adding a small amount of dish soap to a spray bottle of water. A nice bonus: Down East products are made across the harbour in Dartmouth. I much prefer to use dish soap than the more popular castile soap. I can buy liquid castile soap in bulk from The Tare Shop, but I think it creates a little too much lather, and is also more expensive than the dish soap. Two products; that’s it.

Letting go of balloons

At a recent convocation event, I entered a room that was filled with balloons in the university’s colours. My first reaction was “oh no, this is not good.” Of course, I felt like the grinch. I appreciate all the effort that went into decorating the room for this special event, but I can’t help feeling concerned when I see so many environmental hazards being used in this manner. It’s easy to get caught in the excitement of the moment, but we really do need to consider what happens to all those balloons once the event is over.

The environmental hazards of balloons have been well documented. Someone in the room told me that since the balloons would not be released, there isn’t that much of a problem. Certainly, the largest environmental impact of balloons is caused when they are released, but the balloons themselves are made of non-sustainable materials, which makes them an environmental hazard regardless of their methods of disposal. This article outlines nicely the environmental impacts of balloons:

  • Balloons travel over great distances:  Balloons have been found to travel hundreds, even thousands of miles.
  • Balloons are a danger to wildlife: Birds, marine life, and terrestrial animals often eat latex balloons that have fallen into their habitat. The latex blocks the digestive system-causing a slow agonizing death.
  • Ribbons and strings, including biodegradable cotton string, become entanglement hazards.
  • Wastage of helium: A finite resource
  • Degradable balloons are NOT the solution: Ordinary latex balloons will not start to degrade for about five months in the ocean, and shiny Mylar balloons last for years.

I’m sure a few eyes will roll when I do this, but I do plan to have a chat with the organizers of this event to see whether we could try to use more sustainable forms of decoration next year.

Trapping microfibres with the Cora Ball

I have been considering for quite a while how to deal with microfibre residue in my washing machine. Although most of the items that go into my washing machine consist of natural fibres, I do have some faux-fur throws that are made with synthetic materials. These throws are an essential component of keeping my furniture and bed clean, as my cats are allowed to sit wherever they like. The cats love the softness of the faux fur throws,  and in my household it’s all about spoiling the non-human animals.

I had considered purchasing the Guppyfriend washing bag, but was concerned that it would not hold large throws.  I have come across what seems to be a far more practical alternative: The Cora Ball. As you can see from the image, the Ball consists of a number of layers of plastic that trap mibrofibre particles during the wash; you simply toss the Ball in with your load of laundry. You clean it by pulling out the fuzz from between the layers. The product reviews have been promising; you do need to be careful of placing more delicate items with tassels, straps, and so forth, into a laundry bag so that they don’t tangle in the Ball. Since I do this anyway, I don’t anticipate any problems.  The Ball should capture human and cat hair as well, which is a nice bonus.

The Cora Ball is not available in any local stores, so I ordered it online from Canadian company Ahimsa  Eco Solutions. At $49.00 CAD, the Cora Ball is more expensive than the  Guppyfriend, but will likely last longer than the bag. I look forward to seeing the results.

How to reduce carbon emissions when flying

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This video from BBC news discusses some of the ways you can reduce carbon emissions while flying:

  1. Avoid flying
  2. Fly direct
  3. Fly economy
  4. Pack light
  5. Use local airports

When you live in a country as large as Canada, avoiding flying may not be an option. I will be taking the train from Halifax to Ottawa in June for a birthday trip; the leg from Halifax to Montreal is 18 hours. In Europe, an 18-hour train ride would probably cover a few countries. Mind you, it’s not an ultra fast train. Train travel in Canada is not very good and can be much more expensive than flying. Driving several hours is also not a very comfortable option. Someone I knew drove from the south of Denmark to Italy in about 20 hours; it took me 18 hours of driving to travel from Toronto to Halifax when I moved here (a two-day trip with two overnight stays). The other four alternatives mentioned above are more feasible in Canada.

Another option, which I am interested in exploring, is to compensate your carbon footprint by donating money to environmental causes. There are a number of companies that can help you do this. These companies usually provide tools to help you determine the carbon footprint of your mode of travel. So, for example, a flight from Halifax to Montreal for one person equals a  CO2 amount: 0.392 tonnes. Based on this CO2 amount, the company will ask you to donate a set amount to contribute to an environmental project, e.g., reforestation in Nicaragua. The company MyClimate, for example, calculates a contribution of $11 USD for a Halifax to Montreal flight. it’s important to choose companies that have Gold Standard certification,  as this ensures that key environmental criteria have been met by offset projects that carry its label. Only offsets from energy efficiency and renewable-energy projects qualify for the Gold Standard, as these projects encourage a shift away from fossil-fuel use and carry inherently low environmental risks.  There are two Canadian companies that offer Gold Standard offsets;

I could find only one Canadian airline that has a carbon offsetting program, namely Air Canada (which uses Less). This site lists airline companies that have carbon offsetting programs.

I have been meaning to use these carbon offsetting programs; it’s time I put this into practice.