Thursday, May 31, 2012

Energy Saving Tips

Humans have a penchant for taking things for granted whether we admit it or not. It could range from our health, to our loved ones, etc. However, many people tend to take the most important thing in our life for granted that trumps anything else; our planet.

From our wanderlusts, to the shop-a-holics, our planet is probably the last thing we think about when it comes to our everyday lives. We don't think about the behind the scenes of what goes on, the pollution, the resources used to create products or to get to our destination. As the "green" trend grows, this concern is reaching the masses than it has just 5 years ago.

Here are a few tips that I incorporate into my own everyday life:

1. Turn off electronics when not in use. This includes turning off lights that I do not use at home and work. Yes, I am -that person- that turns off lights in unused conference rooms, printer rooms, kitchenettes, etc. I also turn off unused power-strips to save on energy (they use more energy than you think). As far as air conditioning and heating goes, I rarely use them unless of course in the event of extreme "unbearable" weather. Rooming with the boyfriend leads to compromises in the situation.

2. Stop watching television. I haven't watched tv in years with the exception of being over someone's house and it's on. I never realized how quick you can get sucked into watching it. Laptops and computers are excellent to watch all of your movies and favorite shows anyway. Depending on how much you used your television, the savings could be tremendous or almost unnoticeable. Another great thing about not having a television is the need for cable television is gone. How much savings would that be $50, $75, $100 a month? Plus, you'll have more free time!

3. Walk whenever possible. Living right behind a co-op has its advantages. If I need anything I am out of, I can simply walk with my reusable bags and purchase them. Living next to a park and safe area ( I live in an historic town with its own police force, outside of that however, is not so safe ) also has its benefits as well. Going for a run or walk is a breeze and the lake is always beautiful. When I am at work, I always walk (with a co-worker) to the bank or food if I'm feeling adventurous.

4. Use reusable bags. I rarely go anywhere without my reusable bags! I also reuse produce bags for you guessed it fruits and vegetables! I am not sure how much plastic and paper pollution I've saved (I'm sure there is an online generator) but I know it's a good amount! I also do not use any bags at all if I can or if I'm making a big item purchase, I can put loose smaller items inside the container.

5. Use thrift stores. If you must shop, visit your local thrift store. There are so many treasures and clothes in great condition at very affordable prices. For anyone that loves labels, I found a pair of Juicy Couture Jeans for about $11.00 (org around $150)! Your mind, wallet and the Earth will feel great since you are spending less and not purchasing new items which uses resources to produce.

There are a ton of great ideas out there to save energy, reduce pollution and save money. These are my top five favorite since I practice them myself. Even small steps can make a big impact on our Earth to make it a cleaner, brighter, better place.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Is Being Vegan Natural?

Over the Memorial day weekend, my boyfriend and I went to Great Sage in Clarksville, MD. The question that popped up in my head was "We have to eat a ton of different food to get all the vitamins and minerals and nutrients we need to be healthy so is being vegan natural?"

Since I've become more of a skpetic over the past few months, I believe it was a good question to ponder. It allowed myself to think on the other side and really look at the lifestyle decision I've been so proud I've made.

Justin gave me a great insight. He brought up the fact that being optimally healthy is not natural, only surviving. Then we proceeded to list everything that we humans engage in as not being natural such as eating food not even on this continent, wearing clothes, driving a car, flying in airplanes, working in an office, taking pills when we are sick, etc. Hearing this viewpoint about all of our behaviors, our food, our mode of transportation allowed me to switch gears and come to the conclusion, yes it is unnatural, however, that doesn't make it negative.

Speaking of the eating habits of vegans and "where we get certain things from (the b vitamins and the infamous protein), here is a list of a few vitamins and minerals and all the possible food one can consume and be unnaturally optimally healthy.

*B Vitamins: These are micro-organisms (bacteria). The most common source known to obtain this is through animal products or fortified foods and supplements. Other vegan sources not widely known as brewer's yeast, dulse, kelp, and nori (sea vegetables).

Daily intake: 2 to 3 µg per day

 *Calcium: The chemical element known for strong bones. Contrary to the dairy industry propaganda, milk leaches calcium from bones which can cause osteoporosis.  A nifty source Vegan sources include the following: almonds, asparagus, blackstrap molasses, brewer's yeast, broccoli, cabbage, carob, collards, dandelion greens, dulse, figs, kale, kelp, mustard greens, and watercress. Calcium-rich herbs include alfalfa, burdock root, cayenne, chamomile, chickweed, chicory, dandelion, fennel seed, flaxseed, kelp, nettle, paprika, parsley, peppermint, plantain.

Daily intake for ages 19-50: 1000 mg per day

*Essential Fatty Acids: Essential fatty acids" are polyunsaturated fats that the body cannot make. Vegan sources include: flaxseeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, soybeans.

Daily intake:no congruent amount. 250 mg- 500 mg for adults.

*Iodine: Used by the thyroid to maintain a healthy metabolism. Vegan sources include: soy, flax seeds, and raw vegetables (broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and cabbage). Be careful not to get too much.

Daily intake: 150 mcg

*Iron: A part of all cells and does many things in our bodies. For example, iron (as part of the protein hemoglobin) carries oxygen from our lungs throughout our bodies. Having too little hemoglobin is called anemia. Iron also helps our muscles store and use oxygen. Iron deficiency can cause fatigue that impairs the ability to do physical work as well as other issues. This might make you wonder whether the rumors of vegans suffering from anemia have truth to them; however, research shows that iron deficiency in vegans is no more common than it is in the rest of the population. Iron should be taken with vitamin C to aid in more absorption by the body. Vegan sources include: green leafy vegetables, whole grains, almonds, avocados, beets, blackstrap molasses, brewer's yeast, dates, dulse, kelp, kidney and lima beans, millet, peaches, pears, dried fruits, pumpkins, raisins, rice and wheat bran, sesame seeds, soybeans, and watercress. Iron-rich herbs include alfalfa, catnip, cayenne, chamomile, chickweed, dandelion, fennel seed, kelp, lemongrass, paprika, parsley, peppermint, plantain.

Daily intake for ages 19-30: 18 mg per day.
Daily intake for men 19->70: 8 mg per day.

*Protein: Studies show that most vegan diets provide the ideal amounts of protein recommended by the World Health Organization. On the other hand, many omnivores eat more protein than guidelines recommend, and this may have disadvantages for their health. Excessive protein consumption may be associated with health risks. Kidney function can be compromised by too much protein in older people and in patients with kidney disease; also, a high protein intake may adversely affect calcium balance and contribute to osteoporosis.Vegan sources include: legumes/pulses (peas, beans, lentils, soy), nuts (brazils, hazels, almonds, cashews), and seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, sesame). Many vegetables and grains also contribute significant amounts.

Daily intake: suggested around 50 mg per day.
For athletes:  1.2 and 1.7 g/kg (0.5 - 0.8 grams per pound)

To calculate your own daily intake:

1. Weight in pounds divided by 2.2 = weight in kg
2. Weight in kg x 0.8-1.8 gm/kg = protein gm.

There are a great number of nutrition websites out there solely on vegan/vegetarian health. One that I used to gather most of this information can be located here:Veg Health Guide

With all of these delicious and available foods out there, there really is no excuse not to be optimally healthy. Most of these foods can be found in your regular grocery store with nearly all of them available at specialty grocery stores such as Roots, MOM's & Trader Joe's.

 Happy eating!


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Minimal Living 101

Music is a huge part of my life, it always has been. Whenever I have the chance, I reach for my laptop or phone and jam out to music from the 60's and 70's. Those decades of such inspiring influence on the music scene speak to me the most. I feel cool, calm and relaxed.

Recently, I have been looking for ways to declutter my life in every way possible. I find myself been pulled to gather unnecessary objects that I've been collecting over the years to recycle, sell and give away. Each time, I finish, I feel I need to do more as if the job isn't done yet.

I have been reading tons of online articles on tips and advice on what I can do to purge once and for all and to make it a habit to living a successful minimalist lifestyle.

Here are 10 great tips.

  1. Your Possessions - Too many material possessions complicate our lives to a greater degree than we ever give them credit. They drain our bank account, our energy, and our attention. They keep us from the ones we love and from living a life based on our values. If you will invest the time to remove nonessential possessions from your life, you will never regret it. For further reading on this, consider Simplify: 7 Guiding Principles to Help Anyone Declutter Their Home and Life.
  2. Your Time Commitments – Most of us have filled our days full from beginning to end with time commitments: work, home, kid’s activities, community events, religious endeavors, hobbies… the list goes on. When possible, release yourself from the time commitments that are not in line with your greatest values.
  3. Your Goals – Reduce the number of goals you are intentionally striving for in your life to one or two. By reducing the number of goals that you are striving to accomplish, you will improve your focus and your success rate. Make a list of the things that you want to accomplish in your life and choose the two most important. When you finish one, add another from your list.
  4. Your Negative Thoughts – Most negative emotions are completely useless. Resentment, bitterness, hate, and jealousy have never improved the quality of life for a single human being. Take responsibility for your mind. Forgive past hurts and replace negative thoughts with positive ones.
  5. Your Debt – If debt is holding you captive, reduce it. Start today. Do what you’ve got to do to get out from under its weight. Find the help that you need. Sacrifice luxury today to enjoy freedom tomorrow.
  6. Your Words – Use fewer words. Keep your speech plain and honest. Mean what you say. Avoid gossip.
  7. Your Artificial Ingredients – Avoid trans fats, refined grain (white bread), high-fructose corn syrup, and too much sodium. Minimizing these ingredients will improve your energy level in the short-term and your health in the long-term. Also, as much as possible, reduce your consumption of over-the-counter medicine – allow your body to heal itself naturally as opposed to building a dependency on substances.
  8. Your Screen Time – Focusing your attention on television, movies, video games, and technology affects your life more than you think. Media rearranges your values. It begins to dominate your life. And it has a profound impact on your attitude and outlook. Unfortunately, when you live in that world on a consistent basis, you don’t even notice how it is impacting you. The only way to fully appreciate its influence in your life is to turn them off.
  9. Your Connections to the World - Relationships with others are good, but constant streams of distraction are bad. Learn when to power off the blackberry, log off facebook, or not read a text. Focus on the important, not the urgent. A steady flow of distractions from other people may make us feel important, needed, or wanted, but feeling important and accomplishing importance are completely different things.
  10. Your Multi-Tasking - Research indicates that multi-tasking increases stress and lowers productivity. while single-tasking is becoming a lost art, learn it. Handle one task at a time. Do it well. And when it is complete, move to the next.

I find that possessions ring the most true for me in the above list. I have cleansed myself if you will of a lot of possessions over the past few months but I still feel consumed.

The main inspiration of this direction in my life is my constant moving. I have moved 3 times in less than a year and packing was a nightmare for me. In fact, moving back to Laurel from College Park really showed me how living a minimalist lifestyle looks and feels better. Two weeks before the move date, everything I did not need or use was in boxes in a closet. All that was left in my room was a bookcase with a few things, my nightstand which had my alarm and lamp, my bed, my desk with nothing on it and my aquarium and stand. The feelings I had each time I entered my room were, calm, relaxed and not stressed.

There are plenty of great writers and websites out there to gather more important and tips to start and live a minimalist lifestyle. The list could go on if I compiled such a thing.