Donna Zeigfinger, Vegan Travel


Part I: Donna Zeigfinger, Vegan Travel
Donna-ZSeasoned world traveler Donna Zeigfinger founded Green Earth Travel in 1997 with one mission in mind: to provide a wide range of travel options for people who crave adventure and care about the planet. Since then, the company has remained on the cutting edge of conscientious traveling and become the nation’s premiere vegetarian/vegan/eco travel agency.

Green Earth Travel lives up to its name by booking tours that promote sustainability, biodiversity and leaving a light footprint on the planet. Donna uses her own eco-travel experiences to meticulously plan each vacation package and turn fantasy vacations into reality. She specializes in creating customized Volunteer Vacation and Adventure Travelpackages for groups, individuals, couples and families.

Donna doesn’t do cheap cookie-cutter vacations. Instead, she consults with each prospective client to identify exactly what they want to get out of their trip, and then helps people choose from a menu of options. After that, she makes all the arrangements – taking the stress and worry of pre-trip preparation completely off of her clients’ shoulders. The personal touch Donna brings to vacation planning, as well as her attention to detail and outstanding customer relations, are all part of what make Green Earth Travel’s signature travel services special.

Part II: Caryn talks about contaminated tap water stories in the news and water purification methods.


Caryn Hartglass: Hey, Everybody.  I’m Caryn Hartglass and you’re listening to It’s All About Food.  Thank you for being here today.  You know I get all riled up because just before this program is Nature Bats Last and I love their theme song, I just like start rockin’ to it and then we move into our show with a very different kind of feeling and anyway.  I don’t know if you listen to that show. I don’t have an opportunity to, other than the last bits of it before this program comes on, but I definitely enjoy it, especially this song.

Okay.  Here we are, we’re in January and are you sticking with your resolutions?    I hope so.  Have you made any resolutions? Well, anything I can do to help?  Let me know.  I am at and if you need any inspiration or a tip or two I’m here for you especially if it has to do with eating more plants because that’s what I’m all about. That’s what my nonprofit Responsible Eating And Living is all about and we’re always trying to come up with new delicious ideas for you to make it easier.

I want to bring on my guest, she’s been on the program before, Donna Zeigfinger. She’s a seasoned world traveler who founded Green Earth Travel and we’re going to maybe take a trip today.

Caryn Hartglass: Hi Donna.  How are you?

Donna Zeigfinger: Good. How are you? Yeah, I’m back on.

Caryn Hartglass: So, the last time we spoke, it was maybe springtime last year.

Donna Zeigfinger: Yes.

Caryn Hartglass: And you were planning some adventures in Italy.

Donna Zeigfinger: Yes.

Caryn Hartglass: Tell me, how did it go?

Donna Zeigfinger: It was fabulous.  We had several great group leaders.  We had Fran Costigan who came with us one week and then we had Miyoko Schinner who is coming back with us this year as well and Matt Frazier and let’s see who else, Dr. Ruby Lathan and then Carolyn Scott Hamilton.  They all had a week where they lead us around and we lead them around but they did cooking classes and discussions and Jasmine and Mary Ann were there as well.  I think you know them, the henhouse girls.  So, it was a lot of fun.  We had a lot of fun.  It was such beautiful country.  I will tell you now, there’s a new favorite vegan travel place for me and that’s Italy.

Caryn Hartglass: Wow.  Well, you’ve been a vegan for I think over 30 years.

Donna Zeigfinger: Yikes.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah.  Yeah.  30 years plus and you’ve done a lot of traveling.  Did you learn anything new about traveling this past year in Italy?

Donna Zeigfinger: Well, I didn’t know how vegan friendly it was.  I didn’t realize why it’s so vegan friendly and the reason why in southern Italy especially the people many years ago were not wealthy enough to afford meat and cheeses so they had to be creative with what they had and they are very creative and I didn’t know you can get gelato.  I’ve never had gelato before and it was amazing.

Caryn Hartglass: And what was it made from?

Donna Zeigfinger: I think it was soy, I don’t know, I’d have to ask.  I think it was soy. It was just amazing.

Caryn Hartglass: Excellent.  Okay.  So, you’re going back, but you’re going to a different location this year.

Donna Zeigfinger: Well, we’re going back to the Amalfi Coast in July so that one’s still going in fact Julieanna Hever is going to be our group leader in the July trip and then Miyoko is coming back in the fall with us to go to Puglia and Matera. And that is like the olive and yeah that’s going to be a very cooking intensive kind of trip but, I can’t wait because I like have to hoard her cheeses whenever I can.

Caryn Hartglass: So, do people get to cook while they’re there or learn about cooking?

Donna Zeigfinger: Yes.  On both trips you can. I think Miyoko will be a little more intensive with that, but, yes, they get to cook hand on if they want.  They don’t have to if they don’t want because I am not a cook I just like to eat what everyone else is cooking.

Caryn Hartglass: What kinds of foods did you eat when you were there and you’re probably going to have something similar this year?

Donna Zeigfinger: Well, you know with the Fran’s trip, which by the way, we’re looking into some things. Sicily might be on the horizon as well, but I ate a lot of chocolate and a lot of gelato. You know, and I had some wonderful pasta dishes, a lot of veggie dishes.  It was just a lot of quinoa, just really good healthy stuff. I liked the fact that I could drink and not get hung over because the wine don’t have the sulfur in it, I guess is what it is, so you can drink more and not get a headache.  Sulfites, excuse me not sulfur.

Caryn Hartglass: Interesting.

Donna Zeigfinger: Yeah. I love their wines there and I’m not a big drinker.

Caryn Hartglass: Now the places that you went to aren’t normally vegan are they?

Donna Zeigfinger: I’m sorry, say that again?

Caryn Hartglass: The places where you went to for lodging and for most of the meals weren’t normally vegan.

Donna Zeigfinger: No. We had rented a villa last year and so we were able to do all of the cooking or Tierno Tours was doing all of the cooking so the dinners and such and the first couple of nights we’re going to be staying in and around the Amalfi Coast.  We’ll be in Sorrento in a hotel so you’ll be able to go out to eat if you want for a couple nights, couple days anyway.  They’ll be one dinner.   That will be in Sorrento, but then the rest of the time’s going to be in a villa in the Cilento Coast and Tierna Tours will be doing the cooking as well.

Caryn Hartglass: And who is that?

Donna Zeigfinger: Tierno Tours is the tour operator and I had kind of partnered up with them and are working with them.  We have a company name, it’s called Vegano Italiano and we’ll be doing other tours as well not just Italy.

Caryn Hartglass: Hmmm. What else, what is in there?

Donna Zeigfinger: I don’t know.  There could be a lot.  There’s a lot. We’re just brewing with a lot of things because there’s a lot of excitement.  I would like to see France that would be my next trip but we’ll see what happens.  There is another company I’ve started working with called Vegan River Cruises and they do river cruising in Europe and it’s all vegan they charter the whole boat out so a lot of exciting things happening.

Caryn Hartglass: Very nice.  Well, I recommend France.  I lived there as a vegan in the early ‘90’s and I never went hungry .

Donna Zeigfinger: Really, because it was very hard when I went there.  There was a gentleman who wrote, I don’t know if you know who Alex Bourke is he writes all of these vegan travel guides and one of the first things he would say to you is when they look at your vegan passport in France they would turn you away.

Caryn Hartglass: Ah, well, it definitely helps to speak the language and I speak French fluently and the other thing was to really stay away from Paris. But things have changed tremendously since I’ve been there.  I mean it’s been like 15 years or more 20 or 25 since I’ve been there and it’s incredible, but what I’ve found in just since you were mentioning in Italy with some of the traditional foods in the south of France especially they have many dishes that are vegetable based with olive oil, no butter no cheese. One nice thing that I’ve always liked about France is that if you have a name for a dish you know how it’s going to be made there’s no variation on a theme.  If you have Ratatouille you know what’s in it.  They’re not going to stick chicken broth in there.  It’s just not done.

Donna Zeigfinger: Right.  I’m going to back track a little bit.  Paris has really come around.  I mean, they even have a vegan Paris day so It’s really changed a lot.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, well after I left I went back for one of the first Vegan Pride Parades in Paris and I was just like, Oh, my goodness this is heavenly.

Donna Zeigfinger: Right. Right.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah.  So, things are changing.  That’s great, because I think Europe is a natural place for lots of vegan activity.  It just makes sense all over.

Donna Zeigfinger: Oh.  It does.

Caryn Hartglass: It makes sense all around the world of course, but it’s one of the areas that are known for their culinary expertise to just get their vegan thing on already.

Donna Zeigfinger: Right.  Well, you know, there’s an area and there’s another area that I want to check out.  I was just looking at Happy Cow, Germany and Berlin in particular.  I was looking at their list and they have 245 vegan and vegan friendly places to go to in Berlin alone.

Caryn Hartglass: We were talking about Europe and Germany in particular and I feel that I really need to get back to Europe because so many wonderful things have happened and we’ve had a number of different German animal rights activists on this particular show and it’s always been exciting to hear what’s going on.  I think Germany is a very progressive place.  They are very progressive when it comes to human rights, animal rights and sustainability.  I’m not talking about the entire population.  I’m just talking about pockets of activism that are going on.  It’s very encouraging and as a result you have people that are interested in supporting restaurants and market.  Germany has the first all vegan supermarket and it sounds like they’re going to be coming to the United States as well.  Donna, you’re back!

Donna Zeigfinger: Yes, I am. I went there as one of my first trips as a travel agent in the mid 80’s I think it was with my mother and we found one vegetarian, I don’t even think it was vegan, restaurant and it was in Munich.  And there was like nothing basically at that time I was eating at Chinese restaurants a lot when we were traveling around we were laughing about it we were eating Chinese food in Germany.  So, it’s really, really changed and it’s very exciting what’s going on there so very excited to hear about Germany being as vegan friendly as it is I’m going to have to get back there soon.  There’s over 245 vegan and vegan friendly restaurants in that area that I was looking at on Happy Cow and I think out of that there’s like 50 or 45 vegan restaurants alone and probably like 100 that are vegetarian and that’s crazy.

Caryn Hartglass: It is crazy. You said that a long time ago maybe in the ‘80’s you went to Munich and you went to one vegetarian restaurant do you remember what is was called because I was talking about Prinz Mishkin, that Munich restaurant.

Donna Zeigfinger: I don’t know.  It was like some African.  I don’t know.  It was something different.   I can look it up. I don’t remember the name of it.  I’d have to ask my mother.  She might know.

Caryn Hartglass: Well, It’s very different now.

Donna Zeigfinger: Very different.  You don’t have to eat Chinese food the whole time like I did.

Caryn Hartglass: And you know even Chinese food, if you’re not speaking the language you don’t know how clean it’s going to be.

Donna Zeigfinger: Right.  Exactly.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah.

Donna Zeigfinger: So, there is another area that I just really started looking into and there’s a company I started working with recently and it’s Peru.

Caryn Hartglass: Ooh.

Donna Zeigfinger: Which is South America. Yeah, there’s a company called Veggie Peru that I started working with and I hope to work with them a lot more in the near future.  So, all vegan Peru.  How about that?

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, there are vegans everywhere. There are vegans everywhere doing wonderful things and we need to find them and we need to connect and I think if we go to other places and discover more people who think like we do that’s only going to be good for moving the planet forward.

Donna Zeigfinger: Yeah and I’m starting to do some local stuff again.  I used to do a local trip every year which people loved, but I didn’t have the time for it in the past year or two and I’m getting back into it.

You know, I live in the Maryland/D.C. area so the Potomac River is right there so we used to partner up with the D.C. vegetarian society and do a vegan rafting trip and it looks like we’re going to be doing that again.  It’s just a day trip, but it is so much fun.  Yeah.  It’s a lot of fun to do that.  There are a lot of exciting things going on.

Caryn Hartglass: There are a lot of fun things going on, but it never ceases to amaze me that some people still are clueless.  I got an e-mail today, just like an hour ago, from a listener and she wanted to vent and she knew that I’d pick a good place to send her frustration to, so she was looking for a spa to go to because she lives in Texas and normally goes to Lake Austin Spa and she thought she would try something new and she checked out a place in California and had this conversation that I can’t believe people are still having, where she said, I’m vegan, are you able to accommodate that? The person on the line said, “Yes, do you eat yogurt and eggs?  You eat yogurt and eggs, right?” And then said, “Yeah, but if you’re going to be working out a lot you’re going to need protein.”   It’s like wait a minute this is California.  Haven’t you gotten the message?

Donna Zeigfinger: Yeah, excuse me, this is California.  I would say.  You know, if you’re not willing working with your travel agent who usually works with you on this kind of stuff you need to speak to the chef directly.  That’s what I do you know because the res agents don’t know. You know they don’t know. I shouldn’t say that.  A lot of them do know, but a lot of them don’t know.

Caryn Hartglass: I am surprised the spas still don’t know.  That’s all.

Donna Zeigfinger: Yeah. No. A spa especially.

Caryn Hartglass: A spa is usually a groovy place that is more health conscious than other places and you think they would have heard of the word vegan.

Donna Zeigfinger: Yeah, they don’t understand it.

Caryn Hartglass: Now that I am on the subject of spas, I don’t know if you’ve seen this or if you’ve looked into it, it has been awhile since I’ve had a massage, but when I would go, some places use massage products that weren’t vegan like an oil with lanolin in it which I didn’t want on my body.

Donna Zeigfinger: I haven’t seen lanolin oil in massage.  That’s weird.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. I am sure it’s still there.  It’s probably at that place in California that my friend just checked into.

Donna Zeigfinger: There you go.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah.  You have to ask. That’s the key thing. You can’t be shy.

Donna Zeigfinger: You do have to ask and ask them to look at the product and they usually will show you if they have any inkling of what you’re about.

Caryn Hartglass: For those of you who are wondering lanolin is a sheep product it comes from the oil on their coat.

Donna Zeigfinger: Yeah.

Caryn Hartglass: Anyway, they create an oil and it’s on their skin and their coat and we harvest that, probably not in the most loving way, and put it in bottles and it’s in a lot of interesting products and I don’t like it.

Donna Zeigfinger: No, I don’t either.  I’m trying to think if there are any other products offhand that would be in oils that would make it non-vegan, but most of the spas especially when you go to the higher end spas like Canyon Ranch and maybe somebody can prove me wrong, but all of these higher end spas typically have eco-friendly and vegan products.  You just really have to check though before hand or bring your own.  That’s the other option.

Caryn Hartglass: Or bring your own.  I do that a lot when I go to a hair salon.  I bring my own products.

Donna Zeigfinger: Right.  Right.

Caryn Hartglass: And I want to empower people because the world is only going to change when we make people aware of what is not quite right and we don’t have to do it in an argumentative or confrontational way.  It can always be done in a polite manner requesting to have products that are more compassionate and vegan.

Donna Zeigfinger: Yeah.  I actually used to take groups of people out to Best Friend’s Animal Sanctuary and afterwards we went to kind of a spa-ish type of place out in Zion National Park and because I was taking so many people that were vegan or vegetarian there they actually put permanently on their menu a tofu scramble so they would have a vegan option.

Caryn Hartglass: Oh, that’s smart.

Donna Zeigfinger: Yeah.  Yeah, it is smart.  They realize there’s a need for it.  So, the more it’s asked for the more they’re going to do it.

Caryn Hartglass: Right.

Donna Zeigfinger: Don’t be shy.  I’m not.

Caryn Hartglass: Don’t be shy. Thank you for not being shy and for finding places people can travel comfortably to and discover wonderful things and eat wonderfully, too.  Anything else we need to know about you and Greener Travel and where you’ll be going.

Donna Zeigfinger: Well, as I said we’re going to Italy in July, July 2nd through July 9th with Julieanna Hever and then Miyoko Schinner in the end of September, September 24th through October 1st and we would love to have you guys out there with us.

Caryn Hartglass: And where do people find out about it?

Donna Zeigfinger: Well, you can go onto my website at Actually, I’m updating my website in the next month or so. it’s going to be beautiful but in the meantime you have to deal with my ugly old website.  I’ll be putting up the cruise as well as the vegan rafting trip and hopefully Peru in the next couple months.  So, just be patient.

Caryn Hartglass: Very nice. Well, updating websites that’s always a fun project.

Donna Zeigfinger: Yes.

Caryn Hartglass: And you always have to keep updating because the Cyber world is always changing.

Donna Zeigfinger: I’m looking for interns.  .

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, for help.

Donna Zeigfinger: For help. I’m always looking for help.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah.  So, anyway.

Donna Zeigfinger: Yeah, but it will be a beautiful website once it’s done.  I’m really happy with it so far.

Caryn Hartglass: Okay, well, looking forward to that destination.

Donna Zeigfinger: And Caryn, you should come with us.

Caryn Hartglass: Yes, well, maybe.  We’ll have to see about that.  Okay, well Donna, thank you for taking us on a little journey around the world of vegan possibilities.

Donna Zeigfinger: Anytime.

Caryn Hartglass: We look forward to learning more about it all on your new website:

Donna Zeigfinger:

Caryn Hartglass: Great.

Donna Zeigfinger: All right. Thank you.

Caryn Hartglass: Okay.  Take care!

Donna Zeigfinger: All right, bye bye.

Caryn Hartglass: Bye. Bye.  That was Donna Zeigfinger founder of Green Earth Travel.  So, if you’re interested in that, those luscious sounding trips, go to

Transcribed by Nanette Gagyi, 1/20/2016


Okay let’s continue, shall we? All right. Sorry about all of that stuff that went on earlier with the Skype coming in and out. Fortunately, I have different means of communicating, so I’m on my cell phone right now. Very good.

I wanted to talk today about water. I’ve had a number of listeners mention things about water and want more information about water, and we’ve talked about water before. I like to say that food, to me it’s all about food, but, connects to food, actually, more importantly than food, we need to breathe, and when we stop breathing the game’s over, you cannot do without breathing. And then the second most important thing is water. We need water, more than food, because you can go much longer without food than you can without water. So water is really important. There has been a couple of items in the news that have been very disturbing about water so I wanted to review them first and then talk about what we might do about it.

Maybe, I’m sure you’ve heard about what’s going on in Flint, Michigan, a very very sad story about how a couple of years ago, the state decided to save money and they switched the Flint’s water supply from Lake Huron, and they were paying the city of Detroit there for that water, and they switched it to Flint River, and apparently that river was known by everyone for its filth, and no one really realized that that’s where their water was coming from. And now it’s come to a head, unfortunately, and people have been drinking this water apparently for over 18 months, and now they’re being given filters and they’re being given bottled water. People are wondering what kind of damage it’s done to children who are more affected by toxins in the water than adults, but it’s affected everyone. Apparently, the water in the Flint River is highly corrosive, and it contains lots of iron, people saw that the water was brown. But worse than the iron, apparently, was the lead that was in this water, and people have been drinking, unfortunately, high levels of lead. And this is here in the United States; it just seems so hard to believe. Apparently, to avoid this problem, they could’ve added an agent that cost a mere hundred dollars a day to avoid about 90% of the problems of using Flint’s water. Okay, so that’s Flint, and I’m sure we’ll be hearing a lot more about it.

The other story that came up in the news recently was a phenomenal article in New York Times Magazine called “The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare” and this is a story – it came out this week, January 6, and it covers several decades. I think the problem actually started in the ‘80s, and it’s taken so long to follow this through and find out what’s really going on, but apparently some 66 acres were sold by a couple to DuPont back in the early 80s and they wanted to use this land for a landfill for waste from its factory, and what happened was they ended up polluting the water severely, and it’s a very very compelling story. I don’t want to go into all of it but I’ll touch on some of the main items that were spoken about.

So this one lawyer who would normally take on cases that supported corporations, he found himself on the other side and was supporting some couple that had a problem with the water and wanted to sue DuPont as a result, for their negligence. And the lawyer took on the case, they go into his history and what he was all about and why he did this, and he ultimately filed a federal suit against DuPont in the summer of 1999 in West Virginia. Lots of different things happened, and he won his suit, and then he wanted to take it further, because originally it was about the water affecting some animals that were drinking out of the river and then it turned into all these different people who were affected by the water. And the settlements that they got involved, actually, in the long run, testing thousands of people who might have been affected by the pollution in the water. Now a particular item that was in the water that came from DuPont was something known as PFOA, perfluorooctanoic acid, also known as C8, and it’s used for the manufacturing of Teflon. I’m sure many of you know that Teflon, that nonstick coating that we all loved decades ago, we discovered is not a healthy item to have on pots, and it has since been phased out of products. But in the meanwhile, in the decades that Teflon was being made, this particular PFOA was being dumped into the water, and DuPont had instructions, according to this article, that it specified that this PFOA was not to be flushed into surface water or sewers, and then over the decades that followed, they did pump hundreds of thousands of pounds of PFOA powder into the Ohio River. The article goes into, it’s very long, and definitely worth reading. There isn’t exactly a happy ending. There is a class action suit that this lawyer brought, and he won, but it takes a really long time to settle a lot of these cases.

So why am I bringing up these different issues? These are two issues that came out recently in the media about our water supply and how they have affected different people in different regions. And, unfortunately, things like this do happen all the time, and some of them don’t get the media press that these particular two incidences got. Some of them may not be as severe, and some of them we just never even know. I offered a webinar last year, I was supporting it via a company called Aquanui and they did a webinar on why you want to purify your water and one of the things that was covered was that there are many, many different cases throughout the United States of water being contaminated and people not knowing about it. So, sometimes there’s a leak, it gets cleaned up, and everybody forgets about it. And sometimes it could be more complicated than that. So what I wanted to talk about is, how do we protect ourselves from this? And you may know, I am very, very passionate about purifying water, because I believe water is essential. We know it is, and we want it to be clean. So what do we do?

Well, there are a number of things that we can do. So, the first thing is – let’s talk about bottled water, shall we? Because I don’t think bottled water is the solution. Now, it’s a solution in emergencies, and in this case, for Flint, Michigan, it’s a decent solution. But bottled water comes with so many other issues. It takes a tremendous amount of energy that gets wasted when we bottle water. In addition, it takes lots and lots more water to put water in bottles, so in areas that are concerned about droughts, bottling water is really not a good solution. It’s very, very wasteful. Even if you’re not concerned about drought, it’s a big waste of water to bottle water. And a lot of people like bottled water because they believe it’s cleaner, that it’s better for them, that it tastes better than tap water. And some bottled water does taste better than tap water, but there have been many studies that have shown that the cleanliness of bottled water is not guaranteed, and there are different makes that have different issues, it’s not guaranteed, you don’t know what’s in your bottled water. Water bottled in glass is a better choice than plastic, because plastic can degrade, and the products from the plastic can leech into your water and then you drink that, too. So, there are lots of reasons that drinking bottled water is not a good idea. And, oh, I’ll admit I drink bottled water on occasion, but I really work very hard to avoid it at all costs. I have my own glass bottles here, Takeya bottles that are, that have a rubber coating around them so that if I drop them they don’t break, and I fill them all the time with when I’m going somewhere. Some people might say, “oh they’re so heavy!” but I think it’s really worth it to have clean water that’s not in plastic – that’s not environmentally friendly, then you have to recycle these bottles after they’ve been made, it’s a disaster! Okay, so that’s bottled water. You’re not guaranteed that it’s any cleaner, and it’s an environmental nightmare.

Most of us have access to tap water. And tap water is a beautiful thing. We are very lucky to live in a society where we can turn on a faucet and have water. There are places all over the world that do not have this luxury. I am very, very, very grateful for tap water, no question about it, and I use tap water. The thing is, I clean it. I purify it to use it. And there are lots of different ways to purify your water, and I wanted to talk about some of them. Now, some people think that boiling their water is a good thing to do. And, if you’re doing it to get rid of some bacteria, that might be okay, but as far as toxic chemicals in the water, all you’re doing is concentrating them. When you boil water, water evaporates off the surface, and what you do is concentrating everything else in the remaining water. So boiling water is really not a good idea for purifying water. Now something very close to that, distillation, is an excellent way to clean water. I’m a big proponent of distillation and I distill my water here at home, every day.

So there are different forms, different ways to filter your water, there’s also something called reverse osmosis, and there’s distillation. And I believe that reverse osmosis and distillation are probably the best choices, and even better, if you do them in conjunction with some sort of carbon filtration. The thing that you have to decide, if you want to purify your water, is what makes the most sense to you. The thing about reverse osmosis that I don’t like, is that every time you use it, the membrane that’s used in reverse osmosis will be collecting contaminants and keeping – and separating them from the water that you’re going to be drinking, and it collects over time. And there are lots of systems that clean the residue that’s collecting, but still, over time, it becomes less and less efficient. So you have these specs on your appliance on how well it purifies water, and those specs are only accurate the first time you use your reverse osmosis appliance or any kind of filtration system, and it degrades over time. With distillation, that’s not true. Distillation is the same every time, and that’s what I love about distillation, and that’s why I use a distiller. I filter my tap water through an under-sink, charcoal-base filtration system, and then I distill my water after that. I’ve heard some comments that reverse osmosis has its advantages over distillation and distillation has its advantages over reverse osmosis, and again, it’s something that you have to decide what’s right for you if you’re looking into one or the other. But I really believe that it is very important to use tap water and filter that water. So there’s a range, like any product, there are a range of systems that you can get, and I have a personal favorite for distillers, and you can go to and scroll down on the right side and see the one that I personally like and recommend. I believe, what I like about this particular company that I recommend is that they’re based in the United States. A lot of these other distiller machines are made in China, and I like to buy as locally as I possibly can. I also think that this particular distillation company, Aquanui, that I like a lot, is very, very reputable.

Now there’s a lot of questions about distilled water or filtered water with reverse osmosis, versus minerals in the water, because these methods remove minerals. And this is something that always amuses me because the amount of minerals that come in mineral water is like, so negligible, tiny teeny tiny amounts of minerals. And we need minerals, but we get minerals from a whole plant-based diet, fruits and vegetables, raw nuts and seeds, we get minerals from a healthy diet. I would not recommend looking for mineral water, or even sea salt, for that matter, for the minerals that you need in your diet. They both come with trace minerals, and it’s not the place to look for – or even, it’s not even necessary to add minerals back into the water. Some people talk about how the pH of the treated water, in distillation, for example, is too acidic. And it’s really, it’s not a problem. But if you want, there was not, there was one study – I read about it from Dr. Michael Greger on, where he saw that – he reported a study that was done, where people that added baking soda to their water, and it was just a tiny amount, I think it was about ¾ teaspoon of baking soda to a liter of water, plain tap water, they had great results in reducing cholesterol. There is a link that has to do with eating acidic foods like meat and high processed foods that leads to your arteries being clogged and coated and causing higher cholesterol, and so this seems to be like a similar scenario that alkaline water, more alkaline water, can reduce cholesterol. Aside from that, there really seems to be no problem in drinking this water. But if you wanted to, you could a little baking soda to your tap water. I thought about it, I haven’t done it. And, I can’t report on that at all.

You just want to say that it’s intuitive. We have, especially here in New York City, the pipes have been around for a long time, and pipes degrade, there’s all kinds of things that go through the pipelines when the water’s coming through. I think our tap water system is phenomenal, and even if the source is pristine, the fact that it has to travel so long, through so many different pipes, the water can’t help but pick stuff up. And add to that that we add chlorine products and fluoride products to our water; I don’t want to drink those things. I guess I’m glad they’re there in order to remove different kinds of bacteria, but I don’t want to drink it.

Now another thing, not just when it comes to drinking water, but when you’re showering with water, or bathing with water, I use a filter on my bath water. I like to bathe, I’m not a big shower person, but I also, I’m aware of filters for shower heads. And I really think it’s a good idea to filter bath water. You know skin, our skin, is the largest organ that we have, and when we shower or when we bathe or when we swim, some of that water will find its way into our bodies, and not as much as if we drink, because our skin is designed to keep things out, but things can find their way in, and the cleaner is the water that we clean ourselves with, the better. I remember talking to Charlotte Gerson, who is the daughter of the doctor who came up with the Gerson Therapy, which is a juicing method in order to heal people from serious disease, and one of the things she talked about was, if you’re going through a healing crisis, to avoid bathing in water that has chlorine and fluoride in it, and she recommended just cleansing yourself, you can have, like they did in the old-fashioned days, you either pour purified water, distilled water, into the sink, and then with a cloth, you can bathe that way without require a tremendous amount of water. It’s not as comforting as taking a bath, and it’s not as invigorating as taking a shower, but for some people who really want to stay clean and avoid toxins, that might be the best way to go.

I remember, speaking of DuPont before, I remember, I worked for DuPont as an engineer back in 1980-1982 an I lived in Delaware, and the thing that I can never forget, was the water that came out of my tap, came out of my showerhead, in my little apartment, was so horrible to smell. I’ll never forget that smell, I’ll never forget that taste. And back then, I wasn’t as plugged into the alternative health community, and I don’t know that we had as many options at that time. I didn’t know what to do, I just drank it. I drank more tea, I covered up the taste. It was harder when I was taking a shower, of course, to cover up that taste, to cover up that smell, but it was horrible. And I wonder to myself today, what was in it? I don’t know. And I hope that it is not there today, because it was really offensive, and I imagine if it smelled bad, it couldn’t have been too good for anybody.

So before we go, I had a few more things to I wanted to talk about that isn’t water-related. I just came upon an article today that I thought was really fun to read, and I thought was really positive. So a friend of mine, Jim Corcoran, had an article, he didn’t even know that it was published today, when I shared it on my Facebook page, which I thought was really amusing. But he wrote an inspiring article in the Dow News and it’s about how more people are accommodating and becoming accustomed to the vegan diet, and how vegan offerings are everywhere, and I just wanted to highlight a few of them. For example, in fast food, we’re surrounded by Taco Bell; they now have 26 vegan-certified menu items. Is that amazing? 26! Subway has vegan sandwiches available at a thousand locations, and more to come. Wendy’s has a black bean burger. Come on, this is awesome! All 7Eleven store sandwiches are made with vegan mayo. That’s Hampton Foods, Just Mayo, we’ve talked about that company a number of times, and 7Eleven uses their vegan mayo, and so many more things. IKEA, the furniture store, they’ve introduced vegan meatless meatballs, at all stores. Can you say “meatless meatballs”? It’s like everywhere. GQ, months earlier in the year, named a vegan burger here in New York City, the Superiority Burger, the best burger of the year! And one of my favorite beers, Guinness Stout, we thought it was vegan but then we learned it wasn’t vegan, and then everyone go outraged and let them know and now they’ve decided to go all vegan. And I just recently read that Ben and Jerry’s is making a vegan ice cream line! Ben and Jerry’s, a vegan ice cream line, this is awesome. And TCBY is rolling out their second vegan frozen yogurt flavor nationwide. This is really exciting. And of course, there are lots of people that we’re hearing about that are going vegan for lots of different reasons. We have the latest president of the American College of Cardiology, Tim Williams, MD, vegan. Miss Universe 2014, Barney Duplessis went vegan for muscle-building benefits. This is awesome! And here is two more here. Where did it go? Hahaha. Here it is. Oh, right. The ex-McDonald’s CEO joined the vegan company, Beyond Meat, and then we have celebrities like Stevie Wonder, vegan, Bono, vegan, Liam Helmsworth, vegan, Miley Cyrus, vegan. This is absolutely wonderful! So, I’d like to say we’re winning. We are making strides, we are making headway, and it’s all good. So, if you’ve got a resolution this year to go vegan, if you’re not there yet already, I say “yay!” to you, and let me know how I can help at That’s really good news.

Some not so good news is the 2015 Dietary Guidelines. We talked about them last year. I was so excited when the original science and the original study and recommendations came out, and sure enough our politicians got involved, and as Dr. David Katz writes in his very excellent article, “2015 Dietary Guidelines: A Plateful of Politics,” the guidelines are a national embarrassment. Ha. And what do you do? What do you do about it? The unfortunate thing is that a lot of government organizations and schools base the foods that they’re going to serve on these dietary guidelines. Now, we have control over the foods that we choose to buy, in most cases, in our homes, and I hope that you choose organic, whole foods, minimally processed plant foods. One of the annoying things, really annoying things about the 2015 Dietary Guidelines, what was recommended was to include the concept of sustainability, and there were many people that said, “how can you link the environment with food?” and then, “why do we need to talk about sustainability when it comes to food?” and these people really have their heads in the sand. We know. We all know. I know that you know that our food system is very unsustainable, and we need to talk about sustainability when we’re talking about food, and they didn’t want to bring it up because, well, there are companies that have a lot of power, a lot of lobbyists, and they know that if we start talking about how unsustainable meat production is, how unsustainable dairy production is, how unsustainable egg production is, how unsustainable etc. etc. and all products are, that will affect their bottom line. And yes it will, but it will make us healthier, it will make our planet cleaner, and we’ll be a lot kinder to the species that currently we treat so horribly to make something that is considered food. And, the 2015 Dietary Guidelines are actually – there’s some hypocrisy involved because many people said that, “why are we including sustainability? What does sustainability have in food?” and yet they taught that physical activity is recommended, and what does physical activity have to do with food? So if sustainability isn’t related to food, physical activity shouldn’t be either, and they both shouldn’t be in the guidelines. But I think they both should be, but unfortunately only physical activity recommendations made it, and not sustainability. There’s a lot more that’s wrong, unfortunately, with the 2015 Guidelines, and I really recommend reviewing this article by Dr. David Katz, “2015 Dietary Guidelines: A Plateful of Politics” and so you can read for yourself in deep what went wrong.

Okay, I’ve got about a minute or two left, and I wanted to bring you over to Responsible Eating and Living, that’s where I live, and talk about some really great food that we prepared this week and included some recipes for you. One recipe, we have a fun name for it, “I didn’t have a backyard to cook my vegetables so I baked them in our oven instead,” that’s the name of one recipe, actually it’s a “verdure al forno” or baked, oven-baked vegetables, and if you look at the picture on our website for this, you’re going to want to lick the screen, I know I do right now. But it’s such an easy recipe, and really stunning to put all these wonderful vegetables together and bake them in the oven with the seasonings that we recommend for you. We actually use something called za’atar. Are you familiar with that? It’s a Middle Eastern spice, and then there’s a condiment of the same name, which is a mix of thyme, oregano, marjoram, toasted sesame seeds, something called sumac, and salt, and it’s a wonderful seasoning mix, and that’s what’s in our oven-baked vegetables. And another recipe I wanted to point out, ‘cause it is just amazing, is this pudding recipe, it’s really easy, Gary mentioned that he thought we should try making it, and we did. I’ve never had the quote “real” version, but we made a veganized version of it, and it’s just a creamy, rich vanilla pudding that’s flavored with – traditionally it’s flavored with rum and brandy, and we didn’t have rum or brandy, we used bourbon and vermouth, and the result was phenomenal, and I highly recommended it. So again, it’s delicious, and it’ll make you happy! Okay? It made me happy, I wish I had some more.

Anyway, thank you for joining me today on It’s All About Food and I’ll be back next week and we’ll be talking to – oh it’s so exciting, we’re going to be talking about The Herbivore Butcher, a new plant-based butcher store, so it’s not really a butcher store, but they’re selling plant-based meats and it’s really exciting and I can’t wait to talk to them. That’s next week. So join me! Until then, have a delicious week.

Transcribed by Marissa Sheldon, 1/19/2016

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