Would You Buy an Electric Car With Leather Seats?

riding a cowI have many different sites in my RSS feed. I noticed an article today on USAToday.com's website. The title of the article is "Will vegans drive Nissan Leafs with leather seats?"

Apparently, Nissan is offering leather seats as an option on their  electric car, the Nissan Leaf. So the article is asking if vegans will buy a car that has vegan seats as an option. So that means that you can choose to have non-leather (presumably cloth) seats on your Leaf. You don't have to have leather seats in your car.

I think the resounding answer would be yes. I would still buy an electric car, but I would opt for the cloth seats over the leather seats. Just because the car manufacturer is offering leather seats as an option, doesn't mean that you need to disregard their vehicle as an option. They (and all other car manufacturers) offer leather seats on all of their other models. I don't think it would make sense to protest Nissan under the guise that they are presumably tainting the "greenness" of the Leaf by offering leather seats.

This just feels like the media looking to drum up controversy where there really isn't any.  Am I wrong here? Do you think that the mere fact that Nissan is offering leather seats as an option on their electric car would stop you from purchasing said car?

This reminds me of an article I wrote a long time ago. The article was titled Vegangelicism — You’re Not Good Enough For My Vegan Club. Basically, vegans need to acknowledge that the world has a lot of cruelty in it and that you can't change the world all at once. 8 million people aren't going to stop eating meat all together just because you suggest that they not do that. But if you can bring some awareness to them about the cruelties, you might get them to ease back some. Let's say that you convinced people not to eat meat one day each week, every week of the year. That would be a 14.3% decrease in the consumption of meat. Logically, that probably means that, eventually, 14.3% fewer cows, chickens, and pigs would need to be slaughtered.

So just because the car manufacturer is offering leather seats on a car that would otherwise help out the environment, the newspaper is trying to create controversy as to whether this would stop people who are vegans from buying the car. Maybe I'm wrong here. Maybe a lot of people would not buy this product. Maybe there are people who would not buy Silk soy milk because Silk's parent company Dean Foods sells dairy products. (Personally, I think you should make your own soymilk, but I digress....) Maybe they wouldn't buy non-leather shoes from a shoe manufacturer who also makes leather shoes. I know there are people who are vegan who will not eat in restaurants where they serve meat.

OK, so am I wrong here? Will vegans drive Nissan Leafs with leather seats? Leave a comment below indicating if Nissan's decision to offer elather seats on their electric car would hinder you, or in any way adversely impact you, from buying such this car.

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Food, Inc. Review

Jane and I went to see Food, Inc. this weekend.  It has a limited release, so if you are interested in seeing this film here is a list of its scheduled showings.  (If you are in the Los Angeles area, it is playing at the NuArt in Santa Monica through Thursday, and will be at the Landmark in West LA starting the 19th.)

UPDATE: CLICK HERE to reserve your very own copy of Food, Inc. now:

Since we went vegan, we've been doing a lot of reading about food.  Sometimes it feels like all we do is talk about food: the way we eat, what we eat, why we changed our diet, where we get our protein, etc.  So much of the information presented in this film was familiar to us, but still, it was a worthwhile experience.  And some of the things we learned were truly shocking to us.  For instance, there are laws in place in 13 states which protect food manufacturers from people making "disparaging comments" about their food products.  Manufacturers are allowed to sue under libel laws.  Colorado takes things even further by making veggie libel a criminal rather than civil offense.  Frightening!  I guess I'm just a little naïve here, but I would expect my government to protect me against the big corporations.

Robert Kennar does a good job touching on most aspects of the food industry.  For example, the movie starts out by pointing out that the average supermarket sells 47,000 items but this is truly an illusion of diversity since 90% of the items contain corn and/or soy products, and there are only a few companies at the top level that manage agri-business in the United States.  One farmer comments that the farmer's decision making process has been outsourced to the corporate boardroom.  It's all about the bottom line, as opposed to good stewardship of the earth or animals.

Kennar takes you through a tour of what farming means today in America.  And here we were feeling all good about ourselves for being vegan.  What this movie says Monsanto does to the soy farmers makes me want to give up tofu entirely. Monsanto, the manufacturers of Round-Up, have modified and patented "Round-Up" ready soybeans.  As of 2006 90% of the soybeans produced in the US carry that gene.  Monsanto aggressively protects their patent going so far as to prosecute farmer's who's crops have been cross-pollinated by neighboring farms.  The people who were interviewed claim to have been persecuted by Monsanto, these include "seed cleaners" - Seed cleaners allow farmers to clean and store the seed from their fields to be replanted.  The reason is that, according to patent laws, Monsanto owns the seeds since they own the genetically modified gene.  Yikes!  If you're interested in learning more about Monsanto, check out this video:  The World According to Monsanto.  (Here's a link if you'd like to buy The World According to Monsanto.)

The CEO of Stonyfield Farm, Gary Hirshberg, talks about how many of the eco-conscious companies are now owned by mega conglomerates.  Tom's toothpaste is now owned by Colgate.  Stonyfield is now owned by Groupe-Danone (that's Dannon to you and me). He also defends Stonyfield's decision to sell their organic yogurt to Wal Mart by pointing out that the positive pesticide impact can be measured in tons rather than pounds. So while many people decry Wal Mart as the evil empire, Hirshberg points to the environmental impact, and the fact that this allows more people access to organic foods at a lower price.

Although we don't expect this movie to be as successful as Super Size Me," Morgan Spurlock's McDonald's expose, we hope it will get some additional exposure.  This message really needs to get out to the general population.

The movie doesn't touch on veganism at all, which was kind of surprising to me.  I guess they were concerned their movie might be played in one of the 13 states with veggie libel laws.  There is some exposure to CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations).  However, the "natural" farmer's method of slaughtering chickens didn't appear all that humane to me or Jane.

We give the movie two thumbs up.  See it if you have any interest in food.

For Further Information:

And there are plenty of interesting videos on YouTube.

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Revel With A Cause

santa monicaIf you live in the Los Angeles area and you're looking for something fun to do this weekend, you may want to consider heading over to Santa Monica on Saturday, May 9th.  The Santa Monica Festival: Revel With A Cause will be held from 11am - 6 pm on 5/9/9 at Clover Park.   Although the festival isn't vegan, they're serving meat, there will be plenty of other eco-friendly activities and attractions.

If you are interested, here is a link to the Revel With A Cause site.  It doesn't look like they're promoting a vegan/vegetarian agenda (why doesn't the green movement get on this bandwagon yet?!?!), so there may be an opportunity for some vegans to start a discussion.  If not, there's always the Los Angeles Vegan Bake Sale (more details coming).

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Vegan Eating Advocated On Commercial!

sosIf you've been reading this blog for any length of time you'll know that I tend to get on my soapbox about the global warming thing. I find it incredibly ridiculous, that for the most part, the media is ignoring meat production as a prime contributor to the problem. (See: Reduce Your Carbon Footprint, Vegan Eating Trumps Eating Locally, Reducing Your Carbon Footprint, etc.)

Imagine my shock today, when I saw a commercial on the Sci Fi channel for Let's Act Now. The commercial came right out and said your SUV causes less impact to the planet than eating meat. Woo Hoo! Someone came right out and said it on a national television! I'm not sure who is the target demographic for the Sci Fi channel, but we watch it in our home.

Here's their commercial (Thank You Red One for passing it along!)

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Mark Bittman And Less-Meatarianism

mark bittman food mattersIf Jane ever leaves me, I'll know where to find her. She'll be back in NY looking for Mark Bittman. She loves the man, even if he's older than the typical male who might turn her head. Why does she love him? Well, there's his cookbook, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. She religiously reads his blog, Bitten (he's not the only one writing posts), and column, The Minimalist, in the NY Times.  But more importantly, she loves his message -- "eat less meat." Bittman is not vegan, nor is he vegetarian, but his message may do more to get the average person to consider eating vegan occasionally than appealing to peoples' ethics.

Bittman's new book, Food Matters, talks about the importance of eating less meat, and how that trumps every other action: eating locally, eating organic, eating "humanely" processed animal product (if there is such a thing).  He talks about the 60 billion animals that are killed annually to produce food, and how that is conservatively estimated to double by 2050.

His message to omnivores is to be a "less-meatarian,"  and vegetarians should strive to be "less-dairytarians."  And we should all strive for incremental (and therefore, sustainable) changes.

This is so do-able for everyone.  If you've been trying to convince the people in your life to go vegan, you probably haven't met with much success.  But THIS message doens't require any major "sacrifice."  We can save 6 billion animals if every human cuts down their meat consumption by 10%.  (And 1 billion if we get Americans to eat 10% less.)  10% doesn't seem like an unattainable goal.

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Taking A Bite Out Of The Global Financial Crisis

These days, you can't look at your reader, or turn on the news, without seeing stories of financial implosion or economic crises.  Then there's global warming and the costs associated with fighting climate change.  All of this gives us another reason not to eat meat (at least most of the time)...  Turns out that eating less meat could wipe $20 trillion off the global cost of fighting climate change.

Earlier this month, "Climate Benefits of Changing Diet" by Elke Stehfest and colleagues was published in Climactic Change, a journal out of the Netherlands.  (Source:  New Scientist Magazine.)

The underlying premise is that raising animals for consumption causes climate change.  By cutting our consumption of animal products, much of that farmland could then be devoted to growing food crops.  Vegetation helps to absorb carbon dioxide, and there would be a significant reduction in the methane gasses produced by livestock.   These gasses are responsible for global warming.

The current goals to stabilize carbon dioxide emissions by 2050 are 450ppm.  The estimated cost to achieve this goal is $40 trillion, and it will require a 2/3 reduction in emissions..

Cutting our consumption of animal product will reduce the need for expensive retrofits, such as "clean coal" power plants and other carbon-saving technologies.  It certainly seems advisable, in this economic environment, for all of our governments to consider promoting a less-meat based diet.

Of course, there are other factors which will mitigate the levels of greenhouse gasses saved by producing few animal products... Will the land be given over to vegetation or urban development?  What about the increase in pesticide use to grow additional plant-based food crops?  Does this report take into account any projected improvements in animal-farming technologies?

Regardless of all this, there are many reasons to consider eating less/no meat.  If you haven't already done so, Jane and I would urge you to read Livestock's Long Shadow, and The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted and the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and Long-term Health.

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Reduce Your Carbon Footprint – Go Vegan

As a follow up to my post, "Reason 812,417 To Go Vegan," here's a quote from one of my favorite resources... New Scientist Magazine.

So for the average American, buying local every day of the year would cut their carbon foot print by only around 4 per cent or 400 kg of CO2eq per year. By comparison, shifting just one day a week from eating red meat and dairy to either chicken, fish, eggs or vegetables lowers your emissions by between 252 kg and 400 kg of CO2eq.  ~  Source:  New Scientist - What is Your Dinner Doing to the Climate?

And if you're one of those people who's having trouble making the jump from vegetarian to vegan, here's an interesting tidbit...

333 grams of CO2eq is emitted to make one hard-boiled egg. Compare that with a bowl of cereal with milk: 1224 grams of CO2eq - equivalent to driving a typical SUV 6 km.  The main culprit in the bowl isn't the cereal, it's the milk. That's because the most emissions-intensive foods are red meat and dairy products. In general, red meat emits 2.5 times as much greenhouse gas as chicken or fish, since rearing cows and other livestock requires a lot of energy. It takes 2.3 kilograms of grain to make every kilo of chicken meat, 5.9 kg of grain for a kilo of pork, and 13 kg of grain plus 30 kg of forage for a kilo of beef. Worse still, they produce methane and their manure releases nitrous oxide.   ~  Source:  New Scientist - What is Your Dinner Doing to the Climate?

(Note: the science of calculating the carbon footprint of food items is not an exact science as it does not necessarily take into account the manner in which foods are produced regionally.  What's been used here is a specific formula not based on generalized data.)

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Reason 812,417 To Go Vegan

I don't consider myself a "hippie," nor was I raised by hippies.  My parents were average middle class Americans, far from hippie.  But I do have a fond memory of my childhood that could be characterized as "hippie."  My mom used to collect cans and bottles for recycling, and when we had a bunch we would ride our bicycles to the recycling center.  This was way before recycling was popular, and no one had even had a thought of curbside recycling.  I credit my mom for my environmental bent.

I was having a discussion today with someone about carbon-offset credits.  The person I was chatting with thinks they're a great idea and will be buying them as holiday gifts for all his friends/family members.  For many reasons, I am not a fan (not the least of which is the lack of oversight).  The person was going on and on about how important it was for me to buy these things especially every time I travelled (I fly more than he does).  I finally reached a point where I got impatient with the conversation and asked him if he ate steak (knowing full well he does).  I then told him that since I am vegan my carbon footprint is a tiny fraction of his.  That effectively ended the conversation.

Everyone needs to make their own decisions, and hopefully there will be some thought behind the decision making process.  I strongly believe that veganism has a much more positive impact than most any other "environmental behavior."  That's not to say that I won't do other things that I consider important to the environment.  I collect rainwater.  I compost.  I recycle.  I am not a "consumer."  But the thing that will make the most impact over the course of my lifetime, is that I don't consume animal products.

Then I got me to wondering which is better for the environment, recycling or veganism, both of which are behaviors I believe in.  Well, it looks like recycling is becoming cost prohibitive because of the current recession.

So my environmental slogan is now:  reduce your consumption, reuse what you can, and don't eat animals!

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Combat Global Warming – Eat Vegan

Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the US blogged about "Your Plate, Your Planet" (in other words, what you eat affects the environment) tonight.  It's something I ranted about a few times over the summer. Eating lower on the food chain is a very effective tool to reduce our individual carbon-footprints.  Apparently, this is still such an unpopular choice that we're looking for a high-tech solution, rather than go the easy route and reduce our meat consumption.

Meat consumption is expected to double, across the global, between 2000 and 2050.  Yikes!

Farm emissions, one of the major contributors to global warming, will be one of the main topics discussed in Poznan, Poland as 187 nations gather for talks on a new treaty to help combat global warming.

In releasing its latest figure on emissions last month, United Nations climate officials cited agriculture and transportation as the two sectors that remained most “problematic.”

“It’s an area that’s been largely overlooked,” said Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, head of the Nobel Prize-winning United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. He says people should eat less meat to control their carbon footprints. “We haven’t come to grips with agricultural emissions.”  -- Source NY Times

Hopefully there will be some forward progress towards a reduction in the number of animals being produced for food.  Perhaps Mr. Pacelle and the HSUS will take on this challenge after their successful campaign to get Proposition 2 passed in California.  Or maybe the skyrocketing cost of food will drive more people to consider the cheaper alternative of vegetarian-based meals. Trust me people, it's not that hard to go vegan.  We've been at it for almost 1½ years, and we're not going back!

For more on this topic, see our posts "More Reasons Not To Eat Meat," "Vegan Eating Trumps Eating Locally," "Climate Change and Meat Consumption -- Eat Vegan."

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Buyer Beware

Everywhere you look, products are labeled "green."  Most of the people Jane and I are friendly with seek to leverage their spending as part of a commitment to improving the environment (or at least, helping to stave off disaster). We jokingly refer to this as middle-class guilt.  Marketers are, of course, aware of this trend in consumer thinking and seek to exploit it.  I recently heard a term which describes this practice quite well... "Greenwashing."

The term is generally used when significantly more money or time has been spent advertising being green (that is, operating with consideration for the environment), rather than spending resources on environmentally sound practices. This is often portrayed by changing the name or label of a product, to give the feeling of nature, for example putting an image of a forest on a bottle containing harmful chemicals. Environmentalists often use greenwashing to describe the actions of energy companies, which are traditionally the largest polluters.  -- Source Wikipedia

This can also hold true for the issue of animal welfare. We've all seen egg cartons labeled "cage free," and you know what that means!

Cage-Free:As the term implies, hens laying eggs labeled as "cage-free" are uncaged inside barns or warehouses, but generally do not have access to the outdoors. They have the ability to engage in many of their natural behaviors such as walking, nesting, and spreading their wings. Beak cutting and forced molting through starvation are permitted. There is no third-party auditing. -- Source HSUS

We should be saavy consumers. The EnviroMedia Greenwashing Index suggests that we look at a companies website and look for information on their environmentally sustainable practices.  They also suggest running an internet search using the company name and "environmental."  This should indicate if there are any serious concerns against that company.  This can also hold true for those of us looking to purchase products that are animal-friendly, simply replace "environmental" with "animal welfare."

As our dollars seem to be buying less, I'm sure most of us want to make sure that when we spend a bit extra to do something good for the animals or the environment, that extra money is actually benefitting those causes!

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