A few years ago, you probably didn't known any vegans. Most of us didn't. Now you probably have a dozen friends who have adopted this no meat/no dairy/no animal products of any kind diet. It sounds healthy; it even sounds a little tempting. But it also sounds like a lot of work and a little bland. Don't you always have to be on your guard? Is that vegetable soup made with chicken stock? Is there anything on the menu of that hot new restaurant you'll be able to eat? Do you have to snack on nothing but carrots and apples? Doesn't it mean a lot of prepping and cooking when you could just stop at the fast-food burger place ... wait. You don't want to do that! There are ways to make vegan eating not only easier but more fun, even if you can't afford Beyoncé's Vegan Meal Delivery.
Photo credit: Shutterstock
1. Make sure your cupboard is stocked with the basics, the "meat" of your meals. That means rice, dairy-free pastas, beans, quinoa, barley, all the things to which you can just add vegetables and have a terrific meal. Vary them too. Try different types of rice—just out your local Asian grocery for exotic types. And experiment with different types of whole grains like spelt, emmer or teff, which are becoming increasingly easy to find at markets as more people get to understand how healthy they are.
2. Think simple. If you get home and you're tired, there's really almost nothing to prepare than a vegan meal. Chop some fresh veggies in a bowl and top them with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar, or maybe even just a squeeze of lemon in the summer; stirfry some veggies in oil and throw them on some rice or quinoa in the winter. That's not going to take you less much more than five minutes, less time than making a hamburger.
3. That's especially true if you prepare food in advance and have it ready in your fridge to use. Pre-chop some of those salad vegetables and stash them in containers ready to toss into your salad bowl; cook up a mess of rice and have it on hand to re-heat. If you have a leisurely evening at home, cook a huge pot of spaghetti sauce or vegetable soup, letting the flavors simmer, and then freeze more of it to eat later when you just need something to quick.
4. Stock up on herbs and spices. Nothing adds zing to plain old vegetables and changes the entire flavor of a meal faster than herbs and spices. You can take exactly the same vegetables and by changing what you add to it transform it from an Italian meal to an Indian meal to a Thai meal. Just swap out the oregano for turmeric, the turmeric for lemon grass and basil. Play around and try an exotic spice you've never heard of. Not only do herbs and spices bring an almost limitless area of tastes, but most of them have health benefits too.
5. Go to the farmers market. In mid-summer when the harvest abounds, it's hard to see why everyone isn't vegan. This is the time of year when you want everything you see at the farmers market—the juicy tomatoes, the crisp peppers, the intriguing eggplants in a variety of colors and shapes, the ubiquitous zucchini. It's hard not to overbuy. But you don't have to feel guilty because it's all good for you, you're supporting local growers and you can make that big pot of soup to freeze that we mentioned earlier.
6. Join a CSA. CSA stands for "community-supported agriculture." The concept came about as a way for small farmers to plan their seasons by having subscribers pre-pay to receive a weekly bag or box of food during the growing and harvest season. Sometimes farmers join together in order to provide a greater variety of items, and some even include items like honey, jams, eggs, and meat. You won't want those latter two items, of course, but even the CSAs that offer them usually have all all-veggie option. The fun part is that you never know what you will get, and the contents will change depending on what's in season. But as long as you're pretty much OK with any kind of vegetable, that unpredictable little goodie bag can be an adventure that inspires you to try new things.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Jason Bruck
Human actions have taken a steep toll on whales and dolphins. Some studies estimate that small whale abundance, which includes dolphins, has fallen 87% since 1980 and thousands of whales die from rope entanglement annually. But humans also cause less obvious harm. Researchers have found changes in the stress levels, reproductive health and respiratory health of these animals, but this valuable data is extremely hard to collect.
Researchers work with trained dolphins to learn more about their sensory abilities, seen here testing a dolphin's hearing. Jason Bruck / CC BY-ND
A Lot to Learn From Hormones<p>When sampling the blow, we are looking for hormones in mucus as these can be used to gauge psychological and physiological health. We are specifically interested in <a href="https://dx.doi.org/10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0114062" target="_blank">hormones like cortisol</a> and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ygcen.2018.04.003" target="_blank">progesterone</a>, which indicate stress levels and reproductive ability respectively, but can also help determine overall health.</p><p>Additionally, blow samples can detect <a href="https://dx.doi.org/10.1128%2FmSystems.00119-17" target="_blank">respiratory pathogens</a> in the lungs or nasal passages - blowholes evolved from noses after all.</p><p>This health analysis is especially important in areas with oil spills as the chemicals can cause hormonal problems that harm <a href="https://www.carmmha.org/investigating-how-oil-spills-affect-dolphins-and-whales/" target="_blank">development, metabolism and reproduction</a> in dolphins.</p><p>Hormone samples can provide scientists with valuable data, but collecting them from intelligent and unpredictable animals is challenging.</p>
Cetacean Collaborators<p>To build a drone that can stealthily collect spray from moving dolphins, we needed more data on their eyesight and hearing, and this is data that couldn't be collected in the wild nor simulated in a lab.</p><p>We worked with dolphins at facilities like Dolphin Quest in Bermuda, which provides guests opportunities to learn about dolphins while allowing <a href="https://dolphinquest.com/about-us/our-story/" target="_blank">scientists access to animals for noninvasive research</a>. Here the dolphins can swim away if they choose not to work with us, so we had to design the study like a game; the way a kindergarten teacher entertains a class. If the dolphins aren't interested, we don't get to do the science.</p><p>Over the course of hundreds of sessions, we sought to answer two questions: What can dolphins hear and what can they see around their heads?</p><p>To test dolphin hearing, we set up microphones and cameras to record dolphin behavior as we played drone noise in the air. We analyzed the responses to each noise – such as how many dolphins looked at the speaker – and used these as a proxy for their ability to hear the sounds.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5f31daf07a652b8d64a093b993ee4e96"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/UjmQeH3vXHI?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Robodolphin doesn't look like a real dolphin, but it doesn't need to in order to train our drone pilots. C.J. Barton / Oklahoma State University / CC BY-ND<p>To build robodolphin, we worked with dolphins trained to "chuff" or sneeze on command to measure spray characteristics. We used high-speed photography to see the dolphins' breath as it moved through the air. Then we conducted high resolution CT scans of a dolphin head and 3D-printed a replica of a nasal passage.</p><p>Now, we have a complete robodolphin and are tweaking its sprays to be nearly identical to the real thing. This will allow us to determine how close we need to get to collect the samples, and therefore, how quiet our drone needs to be.</p>
The replica dolphin blowhole was designed from a scan of a real blowhole passage, and the spray it produces closely matches the real thing. Alvin Ngo, Mitch Ford and CJ Barton / Oklahoma State University / CC BY-ND
A Bit of Practice, Then Into the Wild<p>In the next few months, we will test flights over robodolphin with existing drones to determine the timing and strategy for collection. From there, we will fabricate a low-noise drone that can fly fast enough and with sufficient maneuverability to capture samples from wild dolphins. Like a video game, we will use the visual field data to develop approach trajectories to stay in the visual blindspots.</p><p>We plan to test our drones on a truck-mounted robodolphin moving down a runway, then using a boat to simulate realistic conditions. The next steps will involve ocean testing with dolphins trained for open ocean swimming. These tests will determine if our devices can catch and hold the hormones as the drone flies back to a researcher's boat.</p><p>Finally, we will deploy the system to collect data on wild dolphins. Our first goal is to test resident dolphins – animals that live on the coasts and deal directly with boat and oil industry noise – which will allow us to learn more about stress resulting from human impacts.</p><p>Those samples are a way off, but if all goes well we will have a specially built drone capable of flying long distances and capturing samples undetected in a few years. The samples collected will allow researchers to do better science with impact on the animals they study.</p>
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Billions worth of valuable metals such as gold, silver and copper were dumped or burned last year as electronic waste produced globally jumped to a record 53.6 million tons (Mt), or 7.3 kilogram per person, a UN report showed on Thursday.
Environmental and Health Hazard<p>Experts say e-waste, which is now the world's fastest-growing domestic waste stream, poses serious environmental and health risks.</p><p>Simply throwing away electronic items without ensuring they get properly recycled leads to the loss of key materials such as iron, copper and gold, which can otherwise be recovered and used as primary raw materials to make new equipment, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions from extraction and refinement of raw materials.</p><p>Refrigerants found in electronic equipment such as fridge and air conditioners also contribute to global warming. A total of 98 Mt of CO2-equivalents, or about 0.3% of global energy-related emissions, were released into the atmosphere in 2019 from discarded refrigerators and ACs that were not recycled properly, the report said.</p><p>E-waste contains several toxic additives or hazardous substances, such as mercury and brominated flame retardants (BFR), and simply burning it or throwing it away could lead to serious health issues. Several studies have linked unregulated recycling of e-waste to adverse birth outcomes like stillbirth and premature birth, damages to the human brain or nervous system and in some cases hearing loss and heart troubles.</p><p>"Informal and improper e-waste recycling is a major emerging hazard silently affecting our health and that of future generations. One in four children are dying from avoidable environmental exposures," said Maria Neira, director of the Environment, Climate Change and Health Department at the World Health Organization. "One in four children could be saved, if we take action to protect their health and ensure a safe environment."</p>
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