There’s no question that the past two years have put us all at a crossroads. No matter which side of the issues you fall on, it has been an often wrenching time of wrestling with long-held beliefs, patterns of living, relationships, and hard truths that we either naively or intentionally brushed aside in the past. Though we at Barefoot Eco Outfitters are obviously big believers in the necessity of/moral obligation to environmental stewardship and conservation, I hope that those on the spectrum from climate denier to eco warrior, or somewhere in between, will spend a moment with me here (and at the bottom of this post is a list of some suggestions you may find helpful, so keep reading!)
Most recent scientific estimates have the clock ticking at 12 years within which we must make drastic changes to avoid climate catastrophe. For a sensitive and empathetic person like me, that translates to a lot of sleepless nights and bouts of anxiety. I am a fixer by nature, always looking for ways to do better, learn more, and all of this feels very overwhelming. If we are all to be honest (and I hope we can be) I would imagine that even climate deniers have those moments in the quiet of the night that entertain the possibility that there exists some truth in that prediction.
I’m pretty sure that we all have people in our lives who have a loud voice, an influential voice (relative, friend, teacher, etc.), who keeps us stuck in historic patterns of thinking; I know I have. As someone who has had to make tough choices in her life, I have felt the pressure of people questioning or demeaning my decisions – the direction my heart was telling me to go. Believe me, I understand that forging your own path is a painful, rocky, thorn-filled journey! But may I also say that if you are wrestling with following your heart, with trying something different, at the end of the day there is peace and a sense of relief.
To get to the subject at hand, I will say again, that most of us are not accustomed to giving our daily choices much thought in terms of how they impact the world around us. We maybe have also believed that food companies, clothing companies, goods manufacturers had our best interests at heart and wouldn’t peddle wares that were harmful. Wouldn’t that be somehow illegal? But the fact of the matter is, we have lived generations with a sort of naive luxury of consuming, discarding, polluting and thinking that nature is resilient and will sort itself out. We don’t have that luxury any more. You’re right, it’s not fair! But here we are. If you still don’t believe that’s true, that’s okay, but keep reading in case something here resonates with you.
I had a journey myself in this regard. My life kept butting up against established beliefs, and relationships that kept me in a state of unease, and increasing anxiety. My personal experience, the nudging of my heart, my truth based on my life’s journey, simply didn’t line up or make sense anymore. For example, I have always been an animal lover whose relationships with furry, feathered or scaled friends were defined by deep connection. I didn’t feel good about eating meat, but that’s what you were supposed to do, right? Our bodies need it, I was told. But one day my three young children asked where bacon came from and we had to have that discussion. I felt sick explaining it to them, and their response was simply, “I don’t want to eat that any more.” I didn’t either. So, we stopped.
I started looking into meat-free options, and used standard recipes, but just replaced the meat. Our collective sense of relief was palpable, and gave us a great deal of peace. Sure, at first it seemed overwhelming (and at that time, there weren’t half the meat-free options there are now), but it quickly became our new normal, and as someone who likes to spend time in the kitchen, I was able to ensure that our meals were sumptuous, healthy and delicious. Did this cause some ripples in my family at large? For sure it did! At family gatherings, we definitely took some jabs, and I would be lying if I said it didn’t hurt, but this was our decision and we couldn’t live someone else’s belief system. Gradually things settled down, and other family members often ended up sampling the food we would bring to gatherings, finding it quite tasty and not so threatening after all.
After about 10 years of being vegetarian, my daughter and I switched to being vegan. We just became more educated and convicted about animal suffering as it relates to eggs and dairy, and about 7 years ago we decided that we could’t live with that sadness anymore. After all those years of vegetarian eating, it really wasn’t that big a deal to be vegan, and by then, food offerings had changed a lot, making it much simpler. If I’ve lost you here, it’s okay, trust me, I’ve heard all the comments, criticisms, etc., and in a different time and place I might have thought the same thing. But it’s really pretty silly to get upset about what someone else is eating, right? You get to choose and I get to choose.
We do know that the meat industry has profound impact on the environment and climate change, and it is widely recommended that people incorporate a meatless day or two into their week. I don’t expect to change anyone’s mind here, but if you are someone who is curious, or wants to reap the health benefits, or feels some responsibility to try, I am here to encourage your baby steps.
For the record, my meals are hearty and delicious, it has turned back the clock on my health, and I have more energy than ever before. I don’t eat tofu all day (though I do like it), and there are restaurants in the greater Seattle area that serve sumptuous offerings like meatless crab cakes, calamari, macaroni and cheese, burgers, blt’s, barbecue sliders – you name it (there are a number of awesome vegan/vegetarian restaurants in Seattle, and probably in your area too! We’ve listed a few below).
While using whole foods (or foods like vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, etc., in their natural, unprocessed state) for recipes is my main preference now, people new to going meatless might find meat substitutes an easier way to transition (you can find a list of meatless product recommendations at the end of this article). As someone with a sweet tooth, I can also say that I make some killer chocolate chip cookies and cinnamon rolls, so you needn’t totally deprive yourself!
Here is one place that being patient with each other comes into play (and thank you for being patient with me while I arrived at this point!). Established vegetarians or vegans need to be patient with those just dipping their toes into these waters. It’s easy for people to forget that it is a very small minority who have practiced these habits from day one. If people are honest, it is a process of learning, trying new things, finding new products and recipes, breaking old habits. It’s not easy at first! And while my heart hurts daily thinking about the loss of animal life, I understand that I can’t expect someone else to abandon long-held traditions or habits overnight. I am impressed by people who dare to try something new, and who understand that it doesn’t make them weak, weird or broken, but rather courageous and adventurous. Life is too precious to be stuck in patterns that may not serve us well, or to be stuck in patterns at all.
The same thing goes with other lifestyle choices. The road to more intentional, eco-friendly living has also been a journey for me. It started out with making the choice to find non-toxic household cleaning products. That was hard to find at first, but now healthier alternatives are much more available. It takes time to figure out which are truly earth-friendly and which resort to a bit of “greenwashing” or bending of the truth to make their eco-friendly claims, but for the health of my children and myself, I kept doing research online until I found what worked best for me.
I understand that you may be tied to your conventional laundry soap for example, but maybe switch out your bathroom cleaner, hand soap or dishwashing soap. Start small, but don’t be afraid to start. If you get criticism, I will tell you right now that though the process may be uncomfortable, you will survive! There will also be a sense of satisfaction that comes with making a difference, with being part of the solution. You’ll probably feel better physically too! Plus, believe it or not, your courage will inspire your friends! I’ve found that more people than you know are curious about this, but they don’t dare make the change; they probably won’t admit it at first, but watch when you see the power and influence you have by taking that first step. And ps., if someone ends a friendship/relationship with you for daring to break out of established patterns and trying something new, then, well, you know.
Do I want things to magically change overnight? Yes, my anxiety reminds me daily that I do! But that simply isn’t realistic, and it’s not fair to cheat someone else out of their own journey, their own timeline; to expect them to undo years of ingrained beliefs, habits or attitudes overnight. If you believe the current research as I do, it’s true that we don’t have the luxury of time. But with kindness and understanding, and the realization that we are all in this together, perhaps we can move compassionately to making choices that will better serve our health, the health of our families and community, and ultimately of the planet. Maybe too, the act of being patient with each other will foster camaraderie, a sense of community, and the realization that we have more in common than we have been led to believe.
This life is a gift. No matter the circumstances, we were meant for more than staying stuck, for staying small. We all have a role to play, and no matter what you may have been told, yours is not insignificant. May we open our hearts and minds in these challenging times, and live boldly, compassionately and as partners in healing the broken places.
Tracy Strandness, Owner/Founder
Meatless Brands to Try:
- Gardein https://www.gardein.com/has a variety of vegan meatless products that are delicious and familiar. Try their Porkless Bites, Chick’n Tenders, Chick’n Strips and Madarin Crispy Chicken. Also delicious are their Fishless Filets and Mini Crabless Cakes, Beefless Ground Beef and Beefless Sliders. Available at many grocery stores in the freezer section
- Field Roast https://fieldroast.com/ offers a variety of vegan sausages and deli slices. Their Smoked Apples Sage Sausage and Italian Sausage are delish, and they also offer Apple Maple Breakfast Sausage!
- Lite Life https://lightlife.com/ Gimme Lean Veggie Sausage. This sausage can be sliced and pan fried for breakfast sandwiches or broken up and sauteed in place of ground beef in recipes.
- Morning Star Farms has some tasty breakfast sausage patties and other products but note that they are vegetarian and not vegan as they contain egg whites
- Quorn https://www.quorn.us/ has some tasty options that allow you to make your favorite recipes meatless, and still taste amazing! Despite the sound of their name, their products are derived from mycoprotein. Their Meatless Pieces are little cubes that are perfect for stir fries, tacos, soups, pot pies. Previously only available vegetarian (they contain egg), they are now available in vegan and in meatless filets!
- Impossible Foods https://impossiblefoods.com/makes the Impossible Burger that you may have seen in the news or increasingly as an option at your favorite restaurant. If you don’t believe that a meatless burger can taste like (or better) than the real thing, TRY THESE!
Dairy-free Dairy Products:
- GO VEGGIE http://www.goveggiefoods.com/products/cream-cheese/vegan/classic-plain cream cheese can be used in all the ways you use cream cheese – spread on a bagel or whip it up in frosting
- Toffuti https://tofutti.com/ makes delish cream cheese and sour cream substitutes that won’t make you miss the real thing (don’t let the name fool you, they’re tastier than they sound!) Also, these products contain no dairy so they are a good choice for the lactose intolerant
- Califia Farms https://www.califiafarms.com/?utm_source=product&utm_medium=sem&gclid=Cj0KCQiA1NbhBRCBARIsAKOTmUsFQyVKOL0a0aJI0scbOnScK58nqoXJlMXzWM8OU9uZu-p3EnPYhmIaAj7qEALw_wcB is our favorite choice for almond milk, but they offer other plant-based milks, flavored coffee creamers and more!
- Silk https://silk.com/ offers soy milk, coconut milk, almond milk, and now most recently oat milk! Look for varieties without vanilla flavoring as they have higher sugar content. They offer a wide variety of products including coffee creamers, holiday egg nog (it’s actually really good), and yogurt
- Our two new favorite butters are Miyokos https://miyokos.com/ and Melt https://www.socialnature.com/dairy-free-butter, but Earth Balance https://www.earthbalancenatural.com/ makes good substitutes also. The Miyokos and Melt both hold up well in place of butter when baking, which is sometimes not the case with dairy-free substitutes.
- The best egg substitute for recipes that we’ve found is Bob’s Red Mill Egg Replacer https://www.bobsredmill.com/vegetarian-egg-replacer.html. This is tricky to find, but Whole Foods does carry it. Another added benefit? No cholesterol (and you can eat the cookie dough!). Just FYI, I add a little more water to the powder/water ratio than what they suggest and it seems to work a little better for me.
- For an outrageously good treat, try So Delicious Almond Milk Salted Caramel ice cream bars!
- Seventh Generation https://www.seventhgeneration.com/ is probably the most accessible brand for more earth-friendly household products such as laundry soap, dishwashing soap, toilet paper & paper towels. We know it costs a little more, but when you weigh the benefits, it’s a no-brainer
- Ecos http://ecos.com/offers a variety of earth-friendly household products
- Our new favorite liquid hand soap is Live Clean http://www.live-clean.com/Argon Oil – it’s creamy and not overly scented or drying. In Washington state you can find it at Bartell Drugs, or go to their website to find out other locations/ordering options
- Using BioBags http://biobagusa.com/compostable trash bags and resealable sandwich bags have given us HUGE peace of mind. They are stronger now and do a fine job of holding our trash. They also have pet waste bags and lawn and garden bags. In the Kroger family, Simple Truth also makes compostible trash bags. If you’re going to make one change to make the biggest difference, this is it!
- Mad Hippie https://www.madhippie.com/ is an absolute favorite. Forget your mainstream anti-aging creams – their Vitamin C Serum and Antioxidant Facial Oil used together will turn back the clock, and it’s cheaper and very pleasant to use! Can be found at Whole Foods and various other natural markets as well as online
- Gabriel Cosmetics https://gabrielcosmeticsinc.com/has beautiful vegan, gluten-free, cruelty-free makeup and skin care products, as well as products for kids. Available in store at the Gabriel Natural Beauty Lounge in Redmond, and at most Whole Foods
- Andalou Naturals https://andalou.com/ – Our favorite facial moisturizer is their Probiotic + C Renewal Cream. It feels fresh and light, but keeps skin hydrated. Available in store at Whole Foods and PCC Markets in the Seattle area
- Juice Beauty https://juicebeauty.com/ – Their Cleansing Milk Cleanser is creamy and leaves skin feeling super soft. May have to use with a washcloth to gently rid your face of all traces of makeup, but it’s gentle and lovely. Available in store at Ulta
Awesome Vegan/Vegetarian Restaurants to try in the Seattle Area:
- Plum Bistro https://plumbistro.com/– Outstanding food beautifully presented in an industrial-chic setting
- Veggie Grill https://www.veggiegrill.com/– Great for more casual dining with sumptuous dishes and some of the best vegan burgers around. Also has locations in several others states – check their website to find one near you
- Cafe Flora https://cafeflora.com/– Voted Best Vegetarian and Gluten Free Place to Dine by Seattle Magazine, September 2018
- The Wayward Vegan Cafe http://www.waywardvegancafe.com/– Serves veganized American diner-style food
For a fascinating and comprehensive resource that was life-changing for me, about the factors that contribute to longevity (gleaned from extensive studies in “Blue Zones” or places on earth where people experience longer than average life expectancy), and for practical resources and recipes for plant-based living, check out The Blue Zones Story at https://www.bluezones.com/