Impress loved ones with these homemade foods for holiday gifts

December 5, 2019 by  
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Many eco-conscious people face a quandary over the holidays. In a consumer-driven society with too much waste and houses overcrowded with stuff, shouldn’t we axe the gift-giving tradition? Then again, our inner Santa-loving child may feel neglected, unloved or just ripped off by a giftless December. Fortunately, there’s an easy solution: the gift of food . Everybody has to eat, and a food gift doesn’t hang around forever, taking up space. To make food gifts more special — and to save lots of money — consider making your own. Here’s a roundup of some ideas for handmade food gifts. Baked goods Fruitcakes are probably the most traditional holiday food gift. This recipe by Gretchen Price features lots of dried fruit chopped up into impressively small bits, and the loaf is strongly spiced with grated ginger, cloves, anise, cinnamon, allspice and cardamom. Gretchen kindly suggests subbing apple juice for rum if you happen to operate an alcohol-free kitchen. However, while fruitcakes are traditional, many people find cookies more delicious. If you’re feeling extra creative, get out your cookie cutters and decorate with frosting, sprinkles and candies. Ellie of My Healthy Dessert offers a trendy spin on rolled cookies with her recipe for crispy matcha Christmas cookies . Scones, muffins and fruit breads also make good holiday gifts , but don’t make them too far ahead, because they’re best eaten within a couple of days of baking. Related: A guide to the best eco-friendly holiday gifts for foodies You could go a little healthier by making a fresh batch of granola for folks on your list. My basic recipe starts with preheating the oven to 450. Put about six cups of old fashioned oats in a baking pan, add a cup of raw seeds and a cup of raw nuts and mix them up. Then, combine about one-half to three-quarters of a cup of vegetable or coconut oil with the same amount of sweetener: brown sugar, coconut sugar, agave, maple syrup, molasses, etc. I might throw in ginger, cinnamon, unsweetened cocoa and/or a little cayenne pepper, too. Once that mixture melts, combine it in with the oats and nuts. Stick the pan in the oven for 8 minutes. Take it out, stir and bake for another 8 minutes. If you want it well done, continue cooking but be sure to check it every minute or two after that to prevent burning. Candy If your friends, family, office mates and other gift recipients have a sweet tooth, it’s fun to make candy for them. Peanut brittle is delicious and easy with this recipe from Loving it Vegan. Use up extra candy canes with this peppermint candy cane truffle recipe from Where Do You Get Your Protein. For friends with slightly more adventurous palates, Vegan Gastronomy offers a recipe for chocolate-covered dates stuffed with orange cream and topped with orange zest, sea salt and shredded coconut . Nutty gifts Freshly toasted and spiced nuts are simple to make and more nutritious than cookies. All you need are raw pecans, walnuts, cashews or any other nuts, some vegan butter or coconut oil, sugar and/or spices. For a sweet nut, add brown sugar and cinnamon to your skillet of nuts. For savory nuts, experiment with paprika, chili powder, cumin or turmeric. Trail mix is even easier to assemble. Just choose some nuts, seeds and dried fruits from the bulk section of a grocery store, and pour it all into an attractive, reusable jar. Tamales Native Americans ate a food similar to modern-day tamales as far back as 8,000 B.C.E. Corn was considered the substance of life, and consuming it could be a spiritual experience. The love of tamales has continued through the ages and is now tied to Christmas celebrations in Mexico and the American Southwest. Making tamales isn’t especially hard, but it takes a lot of time. Consider doing what the tamaleras , or tamale makers like to do: throw a tamalada, or tamale making party. You’ll need a tamale steamer, access to Hispanic foods like corn husks and masa and a gathering of loved ones who also want to give the gift of tamales. Check out 18 vegan tamale recipes from Dora’s Table, including red chile jackfruit, jalapeño and cactus, and sweet pineapple tamales. Coffee syrups It seems like every financial advice article highlights how much money you could save by making coffee at home. Help your friends break their high-cost habits by gifting them with homemade coffee syrups. This is an easy and unusual gift. All it takes is water, sugar, extracts, a saucepan and a stove. Check out these recipes from Royal Cup Coffee for flavors like vanilla, peppermint, blackberry and cinnamon brown sugar. Related: 10 recipes you can gift in jars Infused oils Infused oils are another easy-to-make food gift. Luci’s Morsels tells you how to infuse olive oil with lemon, garlic, chili or rosemary in less than an hour. Hot sauce For the friend who just cannot get enough spicy food, homemade chili pepper sauce is a thoughtful gift. From ghost pepper to scotch bonnets, Chili Pepper Madness answers questions about crafting hot sauce at home. You might want to have a dedicated blender or food processor for this, unless you like your smoothies spicy. Spice mixes Custom-blended spice mixes are one of the easiest handmade food gift ideas. Your friends who like to cook quick dishes will thank you when your homemade jerk seasoning blend perks up their tofu , or your barbecue seasoning breathes new life into their kale and chickpeas. Real Simple offers 10 simple spice mix ideas. Chocolate-dipped treats For those on your list who believe chocolate makes everything better, dip some snacks in chocolate and call it a gift. Strawberries, nuts, pretzels — this is easy, messy fun. Melt dairy-free dark chocolate chips for the vegans on your list, dip the snack and let it cool. Use your creative license. Have you ever wondered what ghost pepper potato chips dipped in dark chocolate would taste like? Packaging for your homemade food gifts Think about what you can reuse here. Do you have extra mason jars on hand? Bottles you can wash thoroughly and remove the commercial labels? Excess Tupperware? Scour your nearest thrift shops for secondhand festive cookie tins or pretty tea cups to fill with truffles. If you like making food gifts this year, start a collection of your old jars, bottles and garage sale finds for next year. Images via Shutterstock

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Impress loved ones with these homemade foods for holiday gifts

Study shows how plant-based catering can greatly reduce events’ carbon footprints

December 5, 2019 by  
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A recent analysis published by the Center for Biological Diversity’s Catering to the Climate report finds that replacing meat with plant-based menu offerings at conferences, corporate gatherings and holiday parties can greatly reduce the impact of these events. Production of meat and dairy contributes to nearly 15 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, which play a drastic role in the planet’s current climate crisis . The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has repeatedly warned that reducing meat consumption and its accompanying emissions can help countries meet their climate goals. In the U.S. alone, half of all consumed water goes toward meat production. Did you know that 80 percent of agricultural land is set aside for raising animals and feed crops? As a result, there is a vital need to improve current agricultural, food and environmental practices. One such initiative is to address the catering sector. Related: IPCC landmark report warns about the state of the oceans, polar ice content and the climate crisis Last year, revenues for catering surpassed $11 billion, with industry growth in the past three years accelerating toward an annual 10 percent climb. By shifting the catering sector away from meat-dominant menus and toward more plant-based items, there’s likely to be a noticeable dent in accompanying emissions. “Avoiding meat-heavy menus at holiday parties and conferences can make a surprisingly big difference for our planet,” explained Jennifer Molidor, the Center for Biological Diversity’s senior food campaigner. “With Earth-friendly catering that focuses on low-carbon, plant-based choices, we can save wildlife habitats and avoid a lot of climate pollution.” Through plant-based catering, a 500-person event could minimize its carbon footprint by 10 tons of greenhouse gas emissions, equivalent to the amount emitted by a car driving 22,000 miles. The move will also conserve 100,000 gallons of water from food processing and irrigation, save 5 acres of habitat from animal agriculture and prevent 17 tons of manure pollution . “Public demand for plant-based, low-carbon menus is growing quickly,” Molidor said. “Even small changes in purchasing, like replacing dairy with plant-based milks and cheeses, can bring substantial benefits to suppliers and their clients. When the event and catering industry serves plant-based menus, it’s an environmental and culinary success.” + Center for Biological Diversity Image via Pixabay

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Research raises animal welfare concerns over "humanely" raised turkeys

November 18, 2019 by  
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While many meat eaters don’t want to think about the actual slaughter of a turkey, they might comfort themselves with the thought that their Thanksgiving dinner was humanely raised. Think again. The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) has just released a new report showing that poultry producers are deceiving customers by making unfounded animal welfare and environmental claims. The report used Freedom of Information Act requests to procure the USDA’s label approval files, then analyzed them for supporting evidence regarding these claims. Unfortunately, things haven’t improved since the AWI petitioned the USDA in 2014 to require third-party certification of animal welfare in order to earn the “humane” label. Related: Is your Thanksgiving turkey putting your family’s health at risk? “The system is easily manipulated by producers who want to make higher welfare claims on their packages and charge a premium without improving the treatment of animals raised under their care,” said Erin Sutherland, staff attorney for AWI’s farm animal program. “Because of the USDA ’s lack of oversight, consumers are often thwarted in their attempts to use labels to guide their food-buying decisions.” In its new report, the AWI evaluated label approvals for claims like “humanely raised,” “free raised” and “sustainably farmed” on 19 poultry and meat products. The AWI concluded that the USDA failed to enforce labeling standards and that producers’ definitions were often vague and irrelevant. Using its own scoring tool, the AWI gave 12 of 23 claims an F score. Two turkey product lines, Diestel Turkey Ranch Organic Turkey Products and Empire Kosher Natural Ground White Turkey, fared slightly better with D grades. The AWI pointed out that the current label approval process harms honest farmers , because producers who make false claims can undercut them by selling inhumanely raised turkeys disguised as humanely raised at lower prices. Part of the problem is that the USDA doesn’t visit farms to see if practices conform to the claims made on labels. Instead, the USDA relies on information about animal treatment provided by the producers themselves. It’s ironic that while meat producers lobby against “deceptive” fake meat labeling, they’re practicing some fakery of their own. + Animal Welfare Institute Image via SJ Baren

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Deciphering wine labels: the differences between organic, natural, biodynamic and sustainable wines

November 15, 2019 by  
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‘Tis the season for holiday celebrations, cocktail parties and family gatherings. But before you pop the corks on those bottles of wine, take a moment to understand what you are about to drink. If you are hoping to serve wine made with sustainably grown, organic grapes , read the label carefully before committing to the purchase, or you might not be getting what you expect. With words like “natural,” “organic,” “biodynamic” and “sustainable,” it can be hard to decipher which wine is truly best for the planet. Here are some tips to understand sustainable wine labels. Marketing is a powerful tool, and companies will advertise characteristics of their wines that they think will appeal to the consumer. However, the terminology can be so confusing that a winery might misguide you without meaning to. Some words are so similar that you (and they) might even assume they all mean the same thing. Related: This is how climate change will impact wine Fortunately, steps have been taken to standardize the verbiage on these labels so you can better understand what’s in the bottle. But there is still variation throughout the food and beverage industry, especially for wine. Here is the terminology you are likely to see and exactly what it all means for the wines you imbibe. Organic or 100 percent organic wine In the U.S., the term organic is regulated and must fit into specific criteria. However, even within that criteria, you will find different wording. For example, wines made from organically grown grapes are grown without the use of pesticides , fungicides, herbicides, etc., and these wines do not contain sulfites added during wine production. (Organic wines do contain naturally occurring sulfites.) Note that the standards for “organic” classifications in Canada and Europe allow for a small amount of sulfites to be used during production. Biodynamic wine Biodynamic wines are organic, and these wines also follow farming ideologies dating back to the 1920s, when Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian philosopher and academic, presented scientific support showing that in order for a grape to reach its potential, the entire vineyard must be taken into account. In addition to growing grapes without chemicals or common additions such as yeast, the lunar and astrological cycles are often considered when making decisions about the health of the vineyard . These wines are also produced without interference to adjust for acidity. For example, instead of making changes during fermentation and flavor development, the focus is on healthy roots, soil and the atmosphere of the vineyard as a whole. Like the term “organic,” “biodynamic” wines have earned certification by meeting specific requirements. The governing board that approves the label is the Demeter Association, a branch of an organization dating back to 1928 during Steiner’s efforts to bring societal awareness about biodynamics in agriculture. Sustainable wine This label is fairly subjective and typically refers to the way the vineyard is managed more than the way the wine is produced. A vineyard (or farm) that aims to grow crops sustainably is concerned with the impact on the planet. This means using natural methods of balancing the soil, such as crop rotation. It can also mean using energy or water-saving practices . If your wine is made “sustainably,” it likely means it was made organically in accordance with the typical goals of sustainable farming, but don’t assume it’s organic without the label identifying it as such. Natural, all-natural or 100 percent natural wine When you see the word “natural” on a label, be aware that there are limited regulations surrounding the use of this term. There is no distinction between “natural,” “all-natural” or “100 percent natural.” Manufacturers of all types of food can slap this wording on labels. But most producers in the wine industry see the “natural” classification differently. For wine-making, a natural wine is the result of a natural process, meaning that process involves as little intervention as possible throughout the stages. In other words, the wine is fermented grapes in their most natural form. That means that a natural wine is organic and sometimes biodynamic, but organic and biodynamic wines are not always natural. Furthermore, any of these wines may or may not be sustainably produced. Because there is no oversight committee for a “natural” label, selecting a wine is all about getting to know the winemaker and asking questions at the tasting room. If you live in a wine region, buy locally so you can see the vineyard and know the source of your bottle. If you don’t live near a winery, do you research online. Most wineries are proud to share their growing practices and provide transparency if they are using sustainable, organic, natural or biodynamic methods. Via Wine Spectator , Eating Well and The Guardian Images via Shutterstock

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Foie gras ban to take effect in New York

November 1, 2019 by  
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Fancy feasters in the Big Apple will have to acquire new tastes because New York will soon follow California’s example in legislating for a foie gras ban. Earlier this week, the New York City Council passed a bill calling for the ban, and Mayor Bill de Blasio will soon sign it into law. Animal activists have been rejoicing, calling the new legislation a win, although it won’t take effect until 2022. Those not in compliance by then will face a $2,000 penalty fine per violation. Foie gras is a rich, extravagant dish that has been appreciated since Ancient Roman times. The French have even defended it via article L654 of France’s 2006 Rural Code, which states, “Foie gras is part of the protected cultural and gastronomic heritage of France.” Related: Foie gras ban in California stands after court battle But foie gras production has met with criticism from animal welfare advocates. Foie gras is produced by forced overfeeding of ducks or geese to fatten and enlarge their livers. Feed volume is in excess of a bird’s normal voluntary intake, making the process unnatural because it overrides a bird’s typical preferences and homeostasis. The Canadian Veterinary Journal , for instance, has documented that this unnatural overfeeding process spans a two-week period and involves “repeated capture, restraint and rapid insertion of the feeding tube” that causes discomfort and increased risks for esophageal injury and associated pain. All of this produces a duck or goose liver that is “seven to 19 times the size of a normal liver with an average weight of 550 to 982 grams and a fat content of 55.8 percent,” while a normal liver is just “76 grams with a fat content of 6.6 percent.” In 1998, The European Commission recognized that these force-fed birds were up to 20 times more likely to reach mortality than their normal counterparts. If the same fatty cell buildup would occur in humans, it would be likened to alcohol abuse or obesity. New York’s ban follows at the heels of California’s foie gras ban. The Golden State’s legislation, however, has met some choppy waters. Initially passed in 2012, it was later overturned in 2015, then upheld by a circuit court judge in 2017, followed by further support earlier this year when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of California’s ban. On the other hand, Chicago’s ban on the delicacy was not so successful. Passed in 2006, it was repealed by 2008 via concerted efforts from foie gras producers, celebrity chefs and high-end restaurants that pushed back to sway public opinion. Their lobby strategies centered around the argument that if the foie gras ban persists, then other delicacies like lobster and veal might be in jeopardy, too. Chicago’s former mayor, Richard Daley, eventually called the ban “the silliest ordinance” his city’s council ever had, making the Windy City “the laughingstock of the nation.” It remains to be seen whether New York’s foie gras ban will succeed like California’s or be overturned like the ban in Chicago. Via Time and Fast Company Image via T.Tseng

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Foie gras ban to take effect in New York

Pizza Hut is testing plant-based Incogmeato sausage pizzas served in round boxes

October 23, 2019 by  
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The plant-based meat wave is sweeping the nation, and Pizza Hut is the latest fast food franchise to join the meatless bandwagon. The alternative protein pizza will be unveiled in Arizona and will feature MorningStar Farm’s “Incogmeato” Italian sausage. The new menu item will be placed in more sustainable, circular boxes rather than the customary square ones. Featured in a Garden Specialty Pizza on a hand-tossed crust alongside banana peppers, mushrooms and onion toppings, the Incogmeato Italian sausage is 100 percent meat-free. The new pizza is certain to delight flexitarian , vegetarian and vegan taste buds. Related: Pizza Hut unveils a zero-emissions delivery truck that makes pizzas on the go Forward-thinking innovations, where food is concerned, are nothing new for Pizza Hut. “We innovate for human’s sake and we’ll win on taste — period,” said Marianne Radley, Pizza Hut’s chief brand officer. “When we talk about feeding more possibilities, we mean it.” As for the signature round boxes, Pizza Hut partnered with sustainability company Zume. Not only will the round box be industrially compostable , but its round shape will cut back on packaging sizes, making it more environmentally friendly. The round box, which has been in development for the past two years, will also snap shut to ensure fresh delivery and will likewise interlock with other round boxes for stackable stability. With less bulk, the round box is also easier to carry and store in the refrigerator when there are leftovers. “This revolutionary round box — the result of a two-year journey — is the most innovative packaging we’ve rolled out to date,” said Nicolas Burquier, Pizza Hut chief customer and operations officer. “The round box was engineered to make our products taste even better — by delivering hotter, crispier pizzas.” Alternative meat substitutes have been growing in popularity across the United States. According to a recent joint report from Plant-Based Foods Association and the nonprofit Good Food Institute (GFI), the U.S. retail market of plant-based foods is worth $4.5 billion and, in the past year alone, grew five times faster than all retail food sales. What’s more, total plant-based meat sales now exceed $800 million, with a 2 percent share of U.S. retail packaged-meat sales that continues to grow. For a limited time, the Incogmeato pizza and its signature, sustainable, round box will “test” launch first in a single branch location of the Grand Canyon State — 3602 E. Thomas Road in Phoenix. Customers can purchase the new item for $10 in-store, while supplies last. Proceeds will go to Arizona Forward, a sustainability organization. + Pizza Hut Via CNN Image via Pizza Hut

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Pizza Hut is testing plant-based Incogmeato sausage pizzas served in round boxes

Stroodles lets you eat your straw

October 21, 2019 by  
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Now you can one-up your most eco-conscious friends. Instead of composting your straw after you finish your drink, now, you can just eat it. Stroodles , a new straw made out of pasta, solves the ethical straw problem. Made in Italy, the pasta straws are made out of only two ingredients: durum wheat and water. So vegans are in luck, but people with Celiac disease aren’t. Other than a possible starchy taste, Stroodles are flavorless. If you choose not to eat your Stroodle, it will decompose in days rather than a month, like a paper straw, or never, like a plastic straw. Stroodles are stronger than paper straws, lasting up to an hour or two in a cold drink without getting soggy. But don’t use a Stroodle in a hot drink, as it will turn into an ordinary noodle. Related: Tooth: the eco-friendly toothbrush made from recycled and biodegradable materials The UK-based company donates a share of sales to Ocean Plastic, an organization fighting plastic waste, and other charities. When they arrive from the supplier, workers manually sort the pasta straws. Those deemed imperfect or inferior are donated to food banks through City Harvest and, presumably, turned into spaghetti . According to the Stroodles website, “With Stroodles, you don’t have to change behaviours and compromise on your drinking experience. By stroodling your drink , you can do good, the easy way. We call this ‘drink-easy.’” Americans alone use about 500 million plastic straws per day. Around the world, countries, states and cities are banning single-use plastics, including straws. Stroodles has picked the right moment to turn the world on to pasta straws. As they claim, “Stroodles is not just another straw company! Stroodles is a movement. Stroodles is here to help fight plastic waste and straws are just our first channel of choice. We want to inspire the world and show how easy it is to do good – with just one Stroodle at a time.” + Stroodles Images via Stroodles

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Stroodles lets you eat your straw

Africa’s first sustainable chocolate brand plans to sell in the US

October 7, 2019 by  
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While Africa grows 70 percent of the world’s cacao, very little chocolate is made on the continent. Instead, most of the raw material is shipped to other countries that then produce delicious chocolates. But De Villiers Chocolate is now working on becoming the first African-made, sustainably sourced chocolate brand available in the U.S. “Once we discovered the cocoa beans of the vibrant Bundibugyo region in Uganda , we began to realize the potential of the journey we had embarked upon,” said Pieter de Villiers, CEO and master chocolatier at De Villiers Chocolate. “It became our mission to create a chocolate brand true to its origin and the exotic taste of Africa .” Related: Cargill announces plan to reduce deforestation from cocoa De Villiers Chocolate currently sells its products at its studio on a historic Cape Dutch estate, online and through an upmarket grocery chain in South Africa. Now, De Villiers Chocolate has launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $10,000 to help bring its chocolate to the U.S. From humble origins in a garage 10 years ago, De Villiers Chocolate has now grown into a Capetown, South Africa-based business producing chocolate, ice cream and coffee in South Africa’s Cape Winelands region. The cocoa and coffee qualify for three voluntary sustainable standards: Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance and UTZ . De Villiers ethically sources all ingredients. It does not use palm oil, for the health of rainforests and the planet in general. It does not add artificial flavors, colorants, stabilizers, preservatives or hydrogenated vegetable oils to its chocolate. The company uses unrefined brown sugar as a sweetener, and the De Villiers dark chocolate is vegan. In a press release, De Villiers noted that Africans have not historically profited much from chocolate, despite the fact that most of the world’s cacao crop is grown there. “So how does Africa achieve sustainability ? Not by charity; charity to Africa is not sustainable. The only truly long-term endeavor is to facilitate and allow Africans to do it for themselves,” the press release reads. Through its sustainable sourcing and mission-driven products, De Villiers Chocolate is trying to put Africa on the map as a home to world-renowned chocolate artisans. + De Villiers Chocolate Image via De Villiers Chocolate

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Ecosistema Urbano designs a digitally integrated eco-campus for the University of Malaga

October 7, 2019 by  
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The University of Malaga in Spain will soon be home to a high-tech campus that will redefine the urban fabric with digital connectivity and renewable energy systems. Designed by Ecosistema Urbano to regenerate the underused Louis Pasteur Boulevard area, the project will not only enhance the city’s infrastructure, but it will also create new spaces where everyday university activities, including classes, can take place in public areas. Spanning a total surface area of 52 acres, the Malaga University Campus planning project will improve the climatic comfort and digital connectivity of currently underused public spaces. The plan targets four main strategies: a Connected Campus strategy for opening the university to its urban surroundings; a Green Campus strategy that seeks to create, restore and enhance existing green space; an Interactive Campus strategy that will allow users to visualize real-time information and manipulate physical aspects of public space with technology; and an Open Campus strategy to make educational meeting spaces and devices in the public areas available for use by both students and local citizens. Using a network of sensors and interactive technologies, the outdoor spaces can be manipulated to support both educational and playful programming, as well as improved outdoor comfort that can be enhanced with solar-powered climate conditioning systems. Related: Ecosistema Urbano’s amazing LED Energy Carousel is powered by play “One of the key aspects of this project is its commitment to using technology as a way of improving the interaction between people and the environment,” explained the architects, who were inspired by the smart cities approach. “It will be the first public space that users can control through an application. In parallel with the construction of the project, the official UMA app will be extended with open source modules that will allow access to an augmented environment of interactivity and information.” To reduce the environmental footprint of the project, the architects have proposed installing photovoltaic panels to power the campus’ bioclimatic conditioning systems, such as evaporative cooling and geothermal air circulation. Passive bioclimatic strategies will also be used, including shading elements like green walls and sculptural canopies. The first construction phase, which covers 17 acres, is planned for December 2020. + Ecosistema Urbano Images via Ecosistema Urbano

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Ecosistema Urbano designs a digitally integrated eco-campus for the University of Malaga

Vancouver Food Tour showcases the city’s vegan side

September 30, 2019 by  
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As we sit at MeeT in Gastown eating sweet-chili cauliflower, Hannah Enkerlin tells me she thinks vegetarians are more evolved people than omnivores, more in touch with animals and environmental health. My guide on Vancouver Food Tour co-founded this vegan tour in 2017, after an explosion of new local vegan businesses. She’s excited to show off some of the best vegan food the city has to offer and to share vegan fun facts with tourists. For example, the world has entirely too many methane -producing cows headed for dinner plates and that the term “veganism” was coined in 1944 by a British gent named Donald Watson. Vancouver Food Tour’s most popular offering is the Gastown Tasting Tour. Despite the recent uptick in vegan consciousness, the company gets far fewer bookings and participants on the vegan tour. Enkerlin’s average Gastown Tasting Tour routinely gets up to 30 participants. For the vegan tour, eight’s a crowd. But the company is committed to offering it and will even conduct the tour if only one person signs up. Related: The pros and cons of going vegan Enkerlin, a long-time vegetarian , and company owner Carlos Gomes dreamed up the vegan tour together. They visited all the new vegan restaurants, thoroughly vetting menus to decide which dishes would be best to offer guests. Then, they put together a five-stop tour that adds up to more than enough for a filling lunch. First stop, MeeT in Gastown. “It’s a very, very busy restaurant, no matter what day of the week,” Enkerlin said as we found a table on a rainy September afternoon. MeeT serves burgers, bowls, fries and the ultimate Canadian comfort food, poutine (French fries covered in cheese curds and gravy). If you just wandered in off the street, you might not realize it’s a vegan place, as it looks more like a hip comfort food joint. Vancouver Food Tour pre-orders the food so that it’s ready for tour-goers when they arrive. Enkerlin told me that cauliflower is very trendy right now in Vancouver. In addition to its nutrients, it has a reputation as a cancer -fighter. Plus, when beer-battered, it’s delicious. “But MeeT has something no one else has,” she said. “Tamarind sauce.” On the tour, the appetizer comes with a small glass of beer or wine. For non-drinkers like me, you can substitute something off the menu. I opted for a ginger shrub. After MeeT, we walked about 10 minutes through Chinatown to the vegan pizza parlor called Virtuous Pie. This fast-casual restaurant has modern, industrial decor and specializes in creatively topped, single-serving pizzas. Vancouver Food Tour’s chosen pie is the ultraviolet, which has a thin crust topped with walnut arugula pesto, cashew mozzarella, dried tomatoes, kale, caramelized onions and pine nuts. Virtuous Pie opened in 2016 as the first of a new batch of non-Chinese businesses in Chinatown. Known for its pizza and homemade ice cream, Virtuous Pie has since opened shops in Portland, Victoria and Toronto. By this point in the tour, it feels like lunch is over, but there’s still one more entree before dessert. After another short walk, we arrived at Kokomo , also in Chinatown, which specializes in healthful vegan bowls and smoothies. Options include a coastal macro bowl and hemp Caesar salad. I chose the photogenic Nood Beach Bowl, with noodles tossed in tahini sauce, snap peas, pickled carrot, furikake, mint and green onion and topped with cilantro, sesame seeds and watermelon radish. Owner Katie Ruddell opened Kokomo in 2017. As we waited for my bowl, Enkerlin told me Ruddell built the serene, understated spot out of an old automotive garage. Now, it looks more like an upscale yoga studio. Diners sit on stools around an off-white boomerang table encircling huge indoor plants. Next comes the highlight of the tour, at least for dessert lovers — a visit to Umaluma . This small shop makes dairy-free gelato in everything from familiar flavors, like mint chip and dark chocolate truffle, to exotic options like black sesame, drunken cherry and lemongrass kaffir. The owners use organic ingredients whenever possible. They go the extra mile by making their own nut milks, squeezing oranges or pressing espresso, depending on what the flavor in question requires. How much vegan gelato did I eat on the food tour? I don’t want to talk about it. The tour ends at an all-vegan grocery store called Vegan Supply . Enkerlin gave me five dollars of spending money. I recognized lots of familiar products imported from the U.S., but I also discovered many Canadian brands. I asked a worker which products are local, and he just happened to be in charge of inventory. “I love to show off our stuff,” he said cheerfully, taking me on a full tour of cases and shelves. Many of the plant-based faux meats come from British Columbia , plus some prepared sauces like Golden Glop, a turmeric and cashew blend, are produced by Vancouver-based KAPOW NOW! . The tour is a fun way to get on the inside track of vegan Vancouver, and Enkerlin, vivacious, warm and well-read, makes a fascinating guide. I hope that in the future, Vancouver Food Tour gets more “evolved” visitors who choose the vegan tour over the company’s meatier and craft beer-focused offerings. + Vancouver Food Tour Photography by Hannah Enkerlin and Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat

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