Green Manolo » Food and Drink

Archive for the 'Food and Drink' Category

Are Mock Meats Green?

Sunday, March 6th, 2011
By Christa

I would never argue that a person can’t eat meat sustainably, though I’ll certainly argue that most people don’t. Which makes sense, because for a lot of folks, organically farmed meat and humanely raised meat are cost prohibitive. So sometimes the easiest way not to be a part of the abuses and pollution that are the hallmarks of the modern factory farm is to eat less meat or even no meat at all.

The only problem is that meat is totally tasty, and it’s familiar, too. Which means that a lot of us vegetarians and sometimes vegetarians gravitate toward faux meats or fake meats or meat analogs or veggie meats. But is switching to meat analogs better from a green standpoint?

Obviously the greenest way to be a vegetarian or ‘flexitarian’ is to eat fewer processed foods and more whole foods, not to replace meat with meat analogs. According to a 2008 study:

In conventional production, a kilogram of raw [soy] beans generates about 150 grams to 300 grams of carbon-dioxide equivalent, as opposed to 2,500 grams for the equivalent quantity of edible chicken meat.

But since faux meat can also be totally tasty, people are going to eat it. And let’s not forget tofu, which some people use in place of meat and even eggs or cheese in their cooking. Speaking of, back in 2009, Slate’s Green Lantern looked into how green tofu et al. is compared to various meats. While tofu naturally beat out factory farmed beef by a mile, it performed only slightly better than chicken and fish.

Last year, the Dutch government commissioned a study of the environmental effects of vegetarian “meat substitutes,” including veggie burgers, Quorn and tofu. According to the analysis, a kilogram of tofu sold in the Netherlands produces about two kilograms of carbon-dioxide equivalent from the farm to the supermarket. That’s only a little less than Dutch chicken, at 3 kilograms of CO2-equivalent per kilogram of meat. Mackerel, herring, pollock and mussels — some of which the Lantern has already championed as low-carbon options for seafood lovers — scored about the same or better than tofu. That’s a much smaller difference than the Lantern would have expected.

Full disclosure: I love Grillers Prime veggie burgers. I loved them before I became a vegetarian. Meat analogs have always been on my menu. But green they are not. My veggie burgers come wrapped in plastic in packages of two inside a cardboard box. My veggie meatballs are sealed inside a non-recyclable plastic package wrapped in a cardboard sleeve. Some of my favorite mock meats come individually wrapped inside even more packaging.

Plus various sometimes-not-so-nice chemicals are used in the processing of all these delightful treats, they are chock-full of sodium and additives, and they’re often manufactured in Asia or some other faraway locale. Consequently, I don’t kid myself about how Earth-friendly they are and, because of that, they ARE treats, not food for every meal. *sigh*

BUT I should add that the fake meats you make at home from scratch are an entirely different… ahem, animal. We’ll occasionally make homemade seitan (from the recipe in this book and there are tons of great burger recipes out there. Do you have a favorite veggie burger recipe? How heavily do meat analogs feature in your diet?

5 Quick Reasons to Buy Organic Dairy

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011
By Christa

It’s so wallet-clenchingly painful to see the dirt cheap conventional milk on the supermarket shelf right next to the higher-priced organic milk. But there are some compelling reasons to reach for the pricier stuff if your budget can take it. Here are five:

1. When you buy organic dairy products, you’re supporting a system of agriculture that is good for animals and good for the land.

2. We already have enough hormones in our bodies without putting more in via Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH). And there’s never a good reason to take secondhand antibiotics.

3. Milk from organically raised cows is higher in Conjugated Linoleic Acids (CLAs) content – those are the good fats that have been linked to decreased heart disease and diabetes.

4. The cows producing the raw materials for organic dairy products often have access to pasture, fresh air, exercise, and other perks not enjoyed by factory-farmed cows. (I recommend looking into the farms producing your dairy to make sure it’s actually animal-friendly.)

5. Organic dairy looks better and tastes better according to some.

Do you spring for the good stuff?

Green Tips for the Homeowner

Friday, February 25th, 2011
By Christa

You may or may not be surprised that little ol’ me had a passing interest in environmental issues before I started writing Green Manolo just a few short months ago. Green topics have actually come up pretty frequently at the other two blogs I author: Manolo for the Home and Manolo for the Brides.

I have been tempted to rehash topics I’ve covered at those blogs of mine, but then I thought that wouldn’t make a lot of sense. The content and, when appropriate, gorgeous images are already there, waiting for your eco-friendly eyes! So here’s a list of links in case you’re looking specifically for environmentally conscious housing:

Green Tips for the Homeowner:


Oyster Reefs In Decline, Gourmands Everywhere Weeping

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011
By Christa

I may be a vegetarian now, but I wasn’t always. And back when you could find meat, fish, and fowl on my plate, I loved me some raw oysters. (So much so that thinking about eating them makes me miss my time as a devil-may-care carnivore, actually. *sniff*) Maybe you love oysters, too? In which case, consider nibbling on the wild caught variety now while you can still afford it because a survey of oyster habitats around the world has found that the tasty mollusks are disappearing at an alarming rate. In fact, 85% of their reefs have been lost due to disease and over-harvesting.

That’s worldwide, not just in my or your backyard.

In fact, if you want to talk about backyards, it’s mine that’s the least affected by pollution, overfishing, and the introduction of non-native invasive species. Seventy-five percent of wild oyster beds can be found in just five locations in North America, according to a study published in BioScience, the journal of the American Institute of Biological Sciences.

“Oyster reefs are at less than 10 percent of their prior abundance in most bays (70 percent) and ecoregions (63 percent),” said the study. “They are functionally extinct — in that they lack any significant ecosystem role and remain at less than one percent of prior abundances in many bays (37 percent) and ecoregions (28 percent) — particularly in North America, Australia and Europe.”

But of course it’s not just about making sure there are plenty of tasty halfshell platters to go around – particularly from my perspective as someone who doesn’t get to slurp them down anymore – oysters are important to the ocean ecosystem because they filter impurities from seawater. If you’ve heard of declining oyster reefs in your area, do these mollusks in decline a favor and ask your local politician to look into a harvesting hiatus until the oysters have had a chance to rebuild their numbers.

P.S. – Check out today’s post over at Manolo for the Home – Karl Zahn has created a beautiful way to recycle shipping pallets. Too bad all that recycling is so pricey!

Fiji Water: Another Reason You Can’t Believe Every Piece of Green Press

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011
By Christa

Have you heard that Fiji Water is the latest company to find itself on the wrong end of a lawsuit for greenwashing? The water co. is apparently going to court for deceptively marketing itself as “carbon-negative.” As it turns out, Fiji Water’s self-proclaimed carbon-negativity is wishful thinking since, according to a US District Court class-action suit filed by a Newport, California firm, the company is giving itself credits for carbon reductions that haven’t actually been secured. Sounds interesting, right? But is it true? According to Mother Jones, Fiji Water has said in a press release that the offsets necessary to make it carbon-negative will not be realized until 2037.

Bah, it’s crap like this that made me say no to bottled water – especially bottled water that has to be shipped around the world to get to my mouth – in favor of the classic Brita Pitcher and a still-trendy stainless steel water bottle. Municipal tap is where it’s at.

Cork vs. Plastic vs. Screw Tops: What’s the Greenest Way to Seal a Wine Bottle?

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010
By Christa

Who hasn’t popped the cork on one bottle of wine, only to unscrew a second, and wondered what’s the greenest way to seal a wine bottle? There’s nothing quite like the pop of a cork, of course – though nowadays it’s quite likely that the cork that pops out won’t be cork at all, but rather a plastic cork. And even some nicer wines are showing up on the shelves wearing screw tops instead of the more traditional corks. Now I’m not about to get into a debate about which method of sealing works best – cork lovers will mention bottles coming unscrewed and brettanomyces, while cap lovers will bring up the percentage of “corked” wines, ease of use, and it being the least expensive option – but I would like to talk about which method is the most eco-friendly. I thought the best way to do that would be to highlight the green pros and/or cons of corks, plastic corks, and screw tops.

Natural Cork: Cork is a renewable resource – in fact, cork oaks are the backbone (and protector) of unique and bio-diverse Spanish and Portuguese ecosystems. Cork is harvested from cork trees every nine years by hand – part of what makes it the most expensive option – in a process that leaves the tree alive and able to continue absorbing CO2. It also has the smallest carbon footprint. The main con of natural cork is that its failure rate is higher than that of the other options – some say as high as 5% – and that means waste.

Plastic Cork: Plastic corks are made of, well, plastic, and manufacturing that plastic is as environmentally unfriendly as producing any other plastic. Plastic corks are furthermore not recycleable – or at least, many of them aren’t and there are usually no numbers on the bottom or sides to tell the consumer that is can or can’t be tossed in the recycling bin.

Screw Tops: Often cited as the most environmentally friendly wine bottle closure, screw tops have the highest carbon footprint of the three options thanks to how they’re prpduced and are many times non-recyclable because the screw tops contain both plastic and metal. The main pro of screw tops is that, according to some wine bottlers, they have a failure rate of close to 0% which means less wine is poured down the drain.

I think the winner is pretty clear. So why aren’t wine producers everywhere clamoring for natural cork? For one, it’s expensive – or at least more expensive that a plastic cork. Two, demand is starting to outpace supply, which is driving prices up even further. Three, plastic corks and screw tops offer branding opportunities because they come in colors other than cork. And four, the makers of plastic corks and screw tops launched an aggressive marketing campaign a while back that had the effect of decreasing the use of natural cork (90% to 70% of bottles over a shortish period of time).

As for me? I’ll take a nice organic wine with a real cork from a reliable producer that doesn’t let a lot of corked wine make it out into the world. Seems like the greenest way to get a tipple on, no?

Dreaming of a Greener Christmas? Target Holiday Trash First

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010
By Christa

Overflowing garbage cans are a common sight on post-Christmas trash days. Bags of boxes and plastic packaging sit beside bags of unloved leftovers and wreaths getting brown around the edges. Even recyclables like cardboard boxes and Christmas cards find their way into trash bins instead of that other bin that we at Green Manolo love so much. But Christmas doesn’t have to be wasteful – a little mindfulness goes a long way prior to and on December 25.

Cut or Fake?
Both real and artificial Christmas trees can end up in the trash. Honestly, neither is a truly green option, though real trees come out a wee bit ahead – particularly if you cut your own locally-grown tree from a nearby organic evergreen farm or buy a tree with a root ball and plant it after the holidays. If your city has a Christmas tree mulching program, take advantage of it. Artificial Christmas trees are frequently made of non-recyclable plastics and many are made in China where standards for paints and plastics may be low or non-existent. Eventually, they all end up in landfills. If you have to have a fake (because you won’t be home to water it, for example) then choose one that you’ll use for years and years to come to minimize the impact. Or better yet, go for something like this.

Ditch the Packaging
Who else can remember throwing out bags and bags of torn, wrinkled wrapping paper on Christmas? That’s a lot of waste! Nowadays I like using recycled wrapping paper that is also recyclable – which not all wrapping papers are. Wrapping papers that contain laminates and non-paper additives, and super thin wrapping paper may not be accepted for recycling in your area. I use plain brown kraft paper with embellishments of pine branches and cotton ribbon (very rustic) and reusable cloth wrapping bags. Even though people secretly diss on old aunts and grannies for smoothing out and reusing wrapping paper and ribbons, it’s totally the green thing to do.

Beware What You Buy
As difficult as it can be, buying stuff – food and gifts – that comes in less complicated, single-material packaging will mean a lot less waste. Look for products in packaging that can be recycled or things that don’t have any packaging at all. Sometimes spending more money means less waste – look for durable, long-lasting gifts that will be appreciated by the recipients, and think in terms of longevity when it comes to accessories. Will it need a constant stream of batteries? Can you get a reusable filter? If possible, buy recycled, fair-trade, sustainable gifts for the people you care about. And don’t forget when you’re shopping to BRING IN THOSE REUSABLE SHOPPING BAGS!

Don’t Pig Out
Or at the very least, pig out thoughtfully – because, come on, pretty much everyone who celebrates Christmas is going to pig out a little. At those ubiquitous buffets, don’t take more than you’ll finish, since it’s not like you can put it back. And if you’re wearing the apron this year, try not to go crazy cooking way too much food since there’s no guarantee your guests will want to take a to-go bag home. All those tips for a greener Thanksgiving I shared last month still apply – go local, go organic, go vegetarian or vegan if you’re up for it.

Honestly, eating green is probably the easiest way to have a greener Christmas this year because decorations and wrapping paper are non-negotiable elements of most peoples’ holidays. Don’t think you have to adopt an all or nothing attitude about green holidays – even reducing your Christmastime waste a little bit is better than doing nothing at all.

8 Ways to Have a Greener Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010
By Christa

Eat Locally
Depending on where you live, you may be able to get your turkey from a turkey farm that you can actually go and visit. How far did that shrinkwrapped Butterball travel, anyway? And the same goes for everything else on the Thanksgiving table. Sure, a locally-sourced Thanksgiving meal may mean choosing only seasonal items, but that’s how whoever really held the first Thanksgiving would have ate (whether they were in Massachusetts, Virginia, or Florida, as some claim).

Eat Organically
Farming as it exists today can be a dirty business – even if you’re not terribly worried about eating pesticides, how about all the pesticides and weird chemical fertilizers that end up in the soil, then the ground water, then pretty much everywhere else as that water makes its way toward the ocean?

Eat Vegan
Okay, I know it’s not the most popular green Thanksgiving option – even The Beard and I can’t manage to make the jump to veganism. But if you create a vegan menu that does not include all the weird processed faux meats and pre-packaged products that often go hand-in-hand with veganism, you can create some amazing organic, locally-grown foods that comes with less of an environmental impact than meat and animal product farming (even the cruelty-free kind).

Opt for Dry Over Canned
Canning food takes more energy and more water (duh) than drying, so whenever you’re using something like rice or beans or lentils in your menu, look for dried alternatives in bags. With all the cooking already going on, how hard is it to soak your beans overnight? And in some recipes, no pre-soaking is required. Bonus: Dried X is almost always less expensive than canned X.

Think Whole Foods
I secretly think that cooking Thanksgiving dinner is a huge pain in the butt that’s usually not worth the trouble, but I understand that not everyone feels the same. So I can absolutely understand why many people are driven to use a lot of convenience foods – bottled gravy, cranberry sauce in a can, etc. – but whole foods are a whole lot greener. Cranberry sauce? So easy to make. Gravy, a little trickier, but not impossible, and so much tastier.

Cook Less and Use the Leftovers
Do you really need the biggest, baddest turkey out there? Some people do, but not everyone. Do you really need to make sure everyone at Thanksgiving can go back for thirds? That’s how Americans manage to pack away 4,500 calories at Thanksgiving dinner. Sure, it’s one day of excess, but most families end up working their way through leftovers until they can’t take the turkey any more. Don’t forget to compost those food scraps!

Use the Good Stuff
It’s Thanksgiving! So bust out the nice plates and the real napkins! Paper plates and napkins may be convenient, but they’re not all that Earth friendly and they don’t exactly contribute to a festive holiday atmosphere. And while we’re on the subject of grandma’s silver, skip the harsh, caustic polishes and try cheap white toothpaste instead.

Keep Clean-Up Green
If you’re not already using eco-friendly cleansers and soaps, now is a great time to start! How about a bar of organic goat’s milk soap in the bathroom and a spray bottle of Biokleen All-Purpose Cleaner for the countertops?

12 Foods That You Should Buy Organic

Monday, November 8th, 2010
By Christa

No pesticides? Healthier land management? Small farmers thriving? Biodiversity? Organic eating sounds great, until you get to the market and see just how much organic food can cost over its conventionally grown cousins. And while the gap between the price of organically grown foods and conventionally grown foods is narrowing, sometimes organics just aren’t available.

So why making eating organically a priority? Easy! You can reduce your exposure to pesticides by as much as 80% by avoiding just the most contaminated foods at the market. Even if you can’t find your favorite fruits and veggies in organic form or simply can’t afford the extra cost, it pays to opt for pesticide-free choices when you’re talking about produce with thin skins, produce that is prone to insect damage so blasted with multiple pesticides, and even produce that can absorb pesticides through the soil (ewwww).

The compromise:* Go organic when it matters most. Here’s a list of 12 foods that you should buy organic whenever possible to promote your health and the health of the world around you:

1. Celery
2. Peaches
3. Strawberries
4. Apples
5. Imported Grapes
6. Potatoes
7. Cherries
8. Kale
9. Spinach
10. Bell Peppers
11. Blueberries
12. Nectarines

Want to know more? One of my favorite books on the subject is To Buy or Not to Buy Organic: What You Need to Know to Choose the Healthiest, Safest, Most Earth-Friendly Food by food journalist and former chef Cindy Burke. It’s a short book – nothing heavy – that still packs a punch in the information department. Burke doesn’t just tell you what to buy; she gives you the dirt on what the organic label means these days, explains why pesticides and fungisides are the yuck, and tells you just why we should all be buying this instead of that.

*Remember, going green should always be about compromise. If you’re a committed eco warrior wearing a hemp shirt you grew and wove yourself on your off-the-grid farm, sweet. The rest of us will be over here, taking it slow, balancing the need to, for example, get to work or afford food with our desire to make the world a better place.

Disclaimer: Manolo the Shoeblogger is not Manolo Blahnik
Copyright © 2004-2009; Manolo the Shoeblogger, All Rights Reserved

  • Recent Comments: