Waste-Free Living: One Step at a Time

When I graduate college, one of my main goals is to live the least wasteful life that I can. While I try to be very mindful and conscious of that now, it is definitely a bit harder to live a waste-free, primarily sustainable lifestyle when you’re a broke, busy college student! There are a few relatively easy ways you can make your life more sustainable, regardless of your income/amount of free time.

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Let’s help keep all of the earth clean and pretty like this!

One of my favorite ways to live a more waste-free life is to replace the use of wasteful cleaning supplies, such as paper towels, with reusable things, such as towels and rags, that you can just wash instead of throwing away! Composting is also an extremely easy way to help reduce waste. I like to keep a “compost bucket” in my kitchen at home then dump it out into a much larger compost bin in my backyard when it fills up. This makes me feel much better about all the food scraps I produce, because now I can use them again and help make my garden better!

Another easy way to reduce your wasteful impact on the earth is to be very mindful while shopping. Obviously, you should use reusable bags while shopping. Keep a few in your car so you won’t forget them when you go to the store! I also don’t use plastic produce bags because I find them unnecessary. Also, try to shop in stores as much as you can instead of shopping online! (This is something I struggle with because I love online shopping!) Unfortunately, almost any time I order something online, even if it’s tiny, it comes in a box that is way too big for the item and also comes with way too much other packaging as well!

Be mindful of fast fashion, as well. This is also something I struggle with, because I just love clothes and keeping up with the latest trends! You can still do this, but definitely try to buy clothes that you can mix and match and wear for a very long time! Many stores that are popular with college students (Forever 21 is one that comes straight to mind) provide cheap, fast fashions in the latest trends that you will probably wear a few times and then forget about/never wear again, lose/throw away, sell or donate. Before you purchase something, imagine yourself wearing it a few years from now and ask yourself if you really do need it! Wants are very different from needs. I also try to reuse more than I recycle. While recycling may seem great, it really should be a last-resort option. Try reusing jars, cans, etc. for storage instead of just recycling them! This is a very easy way to reduce your waste.

As you can see, living a more sustainable life really isn’t as hard as it may seem! While going mostly waste-free may seem a bit extreme, you can get some really great tips from people who do live primarily waste-free lives that you can use in your everyday life! Trash is for Tossers is one of my absolute favorite blogs with lots of amazing tips from a woman who has been living an almost completely waste-free life for about five years now!

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How to Survive the Holidays as a Vegan

The holidays should be one of the happiest times of the year, but they can definitely be stressful. Being vegan can honestly add more stress during this time of the year than it seems to be worth, but I promise it really isn’t that hard! Here are some of my tips on how to survive the holiday season while living as a vegan.

  1. Bring one (or a few if you’re feeling particularly motivated!) of your favorite homemade vegan dishes to parties/family gatherings you attend. Then not only will you have at least some food that you can definitely eat, but other people will be able to try your delicious dish(es) as well! This is a great way to combat the assumption that all vegan foods are gross.
  2. You can also just prepare your own full meal to bring with you. A pre-packaged plate on Thanksgiving is a great way to avoid any sticky situations where the food being offered isn’t vegan!
  3. Act cheerful and unbothered. If your family is anything like mine then you’re in for countless questions (some rather rude) about your dietary choices. You can choose to answer these questions to the best of your ability, and I’ve found that some people just want to stir the pot and responding with short, polite answers are a good way to get them to stop.
  4. Don’t make any comments about what other people are eating! This can be very uncomfortable for everyone around you, so many times it’s much better to just avoid sharing your feelings about meat during the holidays.
  5. Don’t be too hard on yourself. My mom’s stuffing is one of my favorite foods in the entire world, and it has sausage crumbles in it. While I definitely try to pick around the sausage, this is a dish that I know I won’t be skipping out on every Thanksgiving because I just love it too much. This year, however, she made it without sausage just for me. You can always ask your family to try to make a few accommodations for you if they’re willing- for example, next year I’m definitely going to ask my mother to replace the sausage with a store-bought vegan sausage.
  6. Try “veganizing”old favorites like pumpkin pie, Christmas cookies and mashed potatoes. Do your research beforehand to make your life much easier during the holidays!
  7. Relax. One meal is not going to make or break you. Live your life and do what makes you happy!

Vegan Supplements

While being vegan is an awesome way to improve your health, you have to make sure that you’re going about it in a safe and healthy manner! Going vegan can actually deplete your body of some of the necessary nutrients it needs to function properly, and nutritional deficiencies are never fun! In order to combat this, vegans need to take a number of supplements to make up for these missing vitamins and minerals.

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Here are some supplements that most vegans should be taking:

1. Vitamin B12

B12 is a vitamin necessary to keep your blood cells and nerves healthy. Without this important vitamin, you can suffer tremendous nerve damage without even realizing it for a long time.

2. Vitamin D

Vitamin D is necessary for your body to absorb calcium and is obtained through sunlight or fortified milks. Some vegan milks may contain this vitamin, so you can also obtain your recommended daily intake that way as well.

3. Iron

Iron deficiencies (anemia) are very common, especially in athletes and women of child-bearing age. It is very easy to take too much iron, however, so make sure you check with your doctor before taking this supplement regularly!

4. Zinc

Zinc has many health benefits, including helping keep your immune system healthy. Eating zinc-rich foods such as whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes and tofu is a great idea for everyone, but many vegans can especially benefit from taking an additional supplement as well.

5. Calcium

Calcium is necessary for strong, healthy bones and teeth. Most vegans unfortunately do not get enough calcium in their diets, making them more prone to bone breakage and fractures as long as many other health issues. As well as taking a calcium supplement, vegans should make sure to eat calcium-rich foods such as chickpeas, broccoli, kale, mustard greens, turnip greens and some fortified plant-based milks.

6. Iodine

In order for your thyroid (and metabolism!) to function properly, your body needs iodine. Your body actually can’t produce iodine on its own, and along with supplements, iodized salt and seaweed can also help you meet your body’s iodine needs.

It is important that you discuss any health concerns and possible deficiencies with your doctor, especially if you have a feeling that something is off with your body. Your doctor can recommend proper supplements for you in particular and can also tell you how much of those supplements you should be taking.

Myths About Being Vegan

Ever since becoming vegan I constantly have people asking me questions about why I choose this lifestyle and what it’s really like. A lot of people can be pretty judgmental because of their preconceived ideas about food and health. Here are some of the most common myths I’ve heard about vegan diets:

  1. All vegan food is expensive

First of all, I’m a broke college student, and I’ve really had no trouble affording vegan foods. Whole foods are already much less expensive than packaged products, and foods like pasta, quinoa, tofu, beans, nuts, and fruits and veggies are very unlikely to break the bank. It’s actually quite easy to find cheap vegan foods, especially when you’re cooking for yourself.

2. Vegans have trouble getting enough protein

There are plenty delicious sources of protein that are vegan. Lentils, tofu, beans, nuts and nut butters, quinoa, green peas, artichokes, oatmeal, tempeh, spinach and chickpeas are just some of these foods that can provide vegans with the protein our bodies need.

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3. Dairy products are necessary for strong bones

This is definitely one of the biggest myths out there. Humans really aren’t even meant to consume cow’s milk- baby cows are! (And we’re meant to consume our mother’s milk when we’re infants) Much of what we have learned about dairy products is from dairy companies who advertise to children in schools. (Remember that milk carton you got every day with your school lunch?) While it’s true that milk and cheese are good sources of calcium, there are plenty of other ways to get this mineral without harming animals or the earth. Foods like kale, spinach, collard greens, broccoli, almonds, calcium-fortified cereals, pinto beans, figs and oranges are high in calcium and can help keep your bones strong and healthy!

4. One person going vegan won’t make a difference

Each day, a person who eats a vegan diet saves:

1,100 gallons of water

45 pounds of grain

30 square feet of forests

20 pounds CO2 equivalent

and the life of one animal.

Not bad, huh?

5. Your body needs meat to be healthy

Eating a plant-based diet can help reduce high blood pressure and high cholesterol as well as your chance of some cancers, obesity, diabetes, heart attack and stroke. Humans actually have no biological or nutritional need for animal products, and in 2016, a study conducted at Oxford University found that by 2050, widespread adoption of plant-based diets could prevent around 8.1 million premature human deaths each year.

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The Hardest Parts About Being Vegan

Becoming vegan has definitely been one of the more difficult things that I have done during my lifetime. The main challenge that I’d say I’ve faced as a vegan so far would be the social stigma that comes along with being vegan. I am often subject to ridicule, and while I don’t mind talking about being vegan at all (I really enjoy it, if you couldn’t already tell), intrusive and prying questions do get quite annoying. Most people aren’t trying to be rude, but it can get tiresome to answer countless questions every day about your eating habits. I’ve learned over time to surround myself with people who support my lifestyle choices, even if they don’t follow them themselves.

Going out to eat out to eat can be a burden at times, as well. There have definitely been a few times when I’ve gone out to eat with friends and realized that there was nearly nothing on the menu that I could order. Luckily I am not very picky, but it’s always nice when my friends keep my dietary restrictions in mind and choose a restaurant at which we can all happily eat.

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Watching your friends eat food that you choose not to can be a bit disheartening at times, which is why I always make sure to have vegan snacks with me and to remind myself that there is some sort of vegan substitute for anything my friends are eating that I think I can’t. Traveling can also be difficult because unfamiliar areas and regional differences can definitely cause some discomfort.

Being vegan is a lifestyle choice that comes with many challenges but, in my opinion, even more rewards. Knowing that there are cruelty-free substitutes for almost every food imaginable makes life as a vegan a lot easier, even though it’s sometimes more work. I have found this to be incredibly rewarding, though, and I would recommend this lifestyle to anyone.

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Vegan Apple Cider Donuts

My favorite foods are the ones that bring back happy memories from my childhood. Whenever I smell apple cider donuts, my mind is immediately brought back to when I lived in Illinois as a young kid and my family would visit a cider mill and pumpkin patch every autumn. It is by far one of my favorite childhood memories, and eating fresh, warm apple cider donuts was the best part of it. This made me want to create a vegan version of this delicious fall treat because what’s better than an amazing fall dessert? An amazing fall dessert that’s cruelty-free, of course!

Ingredients:

  • All-purpose flour
  • Baking powder
  • Baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp allspice
  • Salt
  • Maple syrup
  • Apple cider
  • Applesauce
  • Canola oil
  • Vanilla extract
  • Powdered sugar
  • White sugar

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Instructions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350° Fahrenheit, then coat a donut pan with nonstick spray.

  2. In a small bowl, mix 1 cup flour, 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder, 1/2 tsp. baking soda, all the spices spices and a pinch of salt.

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  1. In a separate bowl, whisk 1/3 cup maple syrup, 1/4 cup apple cider, 1/4 cup applesauce, 1 tbsp. canola oil and 1 tsp. vanilla extract. Mix the wet ingredients with the dry until just combined.
  2. Spoon batter into the donut pan.
  3. Bake for 8-10 minutes then remove from oven and let cool in pan for a few minutes before moving donuts onto a cooling rack to cool completely.
  4. To make glaze, whisk together 1 cup powdered sugar and 2 tbsp. apple cider.
  5. For the cinnamon sugar topping, mix 1/2 cup white sugar, 1 tbsp. cinnamon and 1/4 tsp. nutmeg in a separate bowl.
  6. Once the donuts have cooled, dip the tops of each into the glaze then sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.
  7. Enjoy! 🙂

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What Going Vegan Has Taught Me

I have been vegan for about a year and a half now, and it has completely changed my life. I decided to go vegan the summer after my sophomore year of college. After being vegetarian since the age of nine, I decided that trying to take that extra step and cut out all animal products sounded like a good idea.

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Going vegan has taught me countless things about myself. It has taught me that I am much stronger than I originally thought- veganism is a lifestyle which some may call extreme, and it definitely isn’t easy. I have learned that it’s okay to fail and to live a little sometimes, though. When I first started being vegan, I would get really upset with myself whenever I ate something with any animal products in it, like eggs or cheese. Over time, I have learned that I enjoy life a lot more when eating vegan doesn’t seem like a burden. Now if I really want to eat something with cheese in it, I’ll do it (and won’t hate myself later)! I think that being vegan is about doing the best you can. It’s nearly impossible to be a “perfect” vegan, and I really think that every little bit you can do to help out animals/the planet is very important.

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I have also learned that other people’s opinions really don’t matter at all. Tons of people judge me for being vegan, but I’ve realized that’s mostly because they don’t know much about it. When people judge me for my lifestyle choices I just brush it off and politely move on, because I am proud of my choices and will always stand up for myself. Surround yourself by people who make you feel good about yourself and who support your lifestyle decisions! I am very lucky to have family and friends who are extremely supportive of my veganism.

Becoming a vegan has honestly been no picnic, but I hope that I will remain one for the rest of my life. I am very happy with the way I look and feel due to veganism, and I also feel very good to be helping animals and the earth. Being vegan has taught me so much about what I am truly capable of, and it is a decision that I will always be happy I made.

Vegan Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

One of my favorite breakfast foods growing up was my mom’s banana chocolate chip muffins. She constantly had fresh ones at our house, and it was always one of my favorite snacks even though I don’t really like bananas that much. I decided that vegan banana chocolate chip muffins would probably be pretty easy to make, and delicious too!

Ingredients:

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  • Nonstick spray or vegan butter
  • 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
  • Salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 cup mashed bananas
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° Fahrenheit.
  2. Coat a muffin tin with non-stick spray or vegan butter. You can also line with paper muffin cups.
  3. Mix the sugar, brown sugar, flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and baking soda together in a bowl.

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  1. In a separate, smaller bowl, mix the mashed bananas, non-dairy milk and canola oil together.

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  1. Add the banana puree to the flour mixture and stir until combined. Add vegan chocolate chips.

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  1. Fill muffin cups with the batter.

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  1. Bake for 30-35 minutes.
  2. Enjoy! 🙂

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These vegan banana chocolate chip muffins are a very simple and delicious breakfast and/or snack and are also much healthier than your typical muffins! The fact that they’re also cruelty-free makes them even better, as well!

Vegan Buffalo Dip

It’s football season! A dish everyone seems to love at tailgates is buffalo dip, so I decided to make a vegan version! I don’t want to miss out on all the delicious foods served during football season, so of course this was the only answer!

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For my vegan ranch dressing:

  • 1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/5 cup vegan mayo
  • 1.5 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 3 cloves garlic crushed
  • 1/2 Tbs parsley
  • 1 tsp dill
  • Salt
  • Paprika
  • Pepper

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Buffalo Sauce:
  • ⅔ cup hot sauce
  • ½ cup vegan butter
  • ½ tsp chili powder
  • ½ tsp worcestershire sauce
Vegan Buffalo Jackfruit Dip:
  • 1 can jackfruit in brine
  • ½ cup + 4 tbsp buffalo sauce
  • 1 8oz container vegan cream cheese
  • ¼ cup vegan ranch
  • ⅓ cup vegan shredded cheddar cheese
Instructions:
  1. Simmer all the ingredients for the sauce on medium until the butter melts. Remove it from the stove and set aside.

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2. Preheat the oven to 350.

3. Drain and rinse the jackfruit. Cut off the center core part of the fruit and throw away.

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4. Using your hands, shred the jackfruit until it looks like shredded chicken.

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5. Heat the jackfruit in a pan with 4 tbsp buffalo sauce until it becomes colorful and some pieces become crisp.

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6. Combine the jackfruit in a mixing bowl along with the rest of the ingredients and transfer to a glass baking dish.

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7. Bake for 25 minutes.

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 I served this with tortilla chips, but it’s great with things like celery, carrots and pretzels as well!

How to Camp Sustainably

Going camping is one of the greatest pleasures life can offer, at least in my opinion. This past weekend, a few of my friends and I decided to go on a spontaneous camping trip in Colorado, which inspired me to start thinking about ways to be more environmentally-conscious while camping.



“Leave no trace” is a motto that many campers try to follow, but what can we be doing to make sure that our time spent in nature has as little impact on it as possible?


1. Bring reusable dish ware, utensils, etc.

2. Buy used camping gear

3. Use eco-friendly toiletries (making your own shampoo, deodorant, makeup, etc. is a great way to do this!)

4. Pack vegan snacks and look up vegan recipes you can make over the campfire

5. Use as much solar-powered energy as you can (solar-powered chargers and lanterns are a great way to do this)

6. Try hiking or biking whenever possible instead of driving

7. Use homemade or nontoxic bug spray and sunscreen

8. Use biodegradable toilet paper

9. Use a refillable water bottle and limit plastic use as much as possible

10. Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but pictures!