Episode #114 Emergency Preparedness, Vegan-Style


In this program, I talk about tips for emergencies: food, water, lighting.


Hi Everybody! I’m Caryn Hartglass and you are listening to the 114th episode of Ask A Vegan.

It’s the 4th of November 2012, and what I want to talk about today is Emergency Preparedness. We just went through Hurricane Sandy here in New York City so I thought it would be good to talk a little bit about emergency preparedness. It’s not really after-the-fact because, certainly we just went through an event, and I want to think that we will all learn from what went on during Hurricane Sandy and, that we will only get better dealing with natural disasters and maybe not-so-natural disasters. I think it’s clear now that we do have more weather events to look forward to that will cause a certain amount of damage unfortunately. More people are talking about how global warming really does exist. and there is knowledge of the connection between the more dramatic weather related events that were seeing – hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, droughts, temperature differentials – all kinds of things. Certainly New York City has not seen a hurricane of this magnitude, can I say ever? I don’t know, but it I have never seen one like this. Fortunately, government officials are talking about rebuilding and building better. I think to some extent we can build where we will see less damage but, of course, if the weather just continues to get more dramatic at some point it may be impossible to protect any life. We would like to avoid that and there’s a lot that we can do to take care of the environment.

One of the things that I talk about, on this program especially, is about how food and lifestyle can affect the footprint that each of us leaves on the planet. It could be very light and gentle, protective, nurturing footprint or it can be a very resource intensive, devastating, polluting footprint. What is it that you want to do? I’m sure most of us do want to do good, be compassionate, environmentally life-sustaining. But there’s so much in our lives today that offers great conveniences. And we don’t connect the dots and realize what the impact is on the planet and certainly food is one of those things. That’s why eating an organic, plant-based diet preferably with food that you can get as close to home as possible, is the best thing that you can do – not only for your health, but for the planet. I believe is the one single thing we can do today to mitigate, to slow down, global warming.

Certainly we need to improve our factories. We need to make transportation for people a lot cleaner – but that’s going to take time. Some of that technology exists now, some of it needs to be invented. But in order to invest in the research, invest in the manufacturing, and invest in the distribution, all that takes time and money. In order to get at that time in order to make all of that happen we need to slow down global warming today. And in my mind the only way to do it is to start by eliminating factory farming, eliminating the demand for food that is so energy intensive and polluting. We all need to do that with a plant-based diet, right now.

Let’s get back to emergency preparedness. There’s a great website that lists all the things that you need to think about and it’s called Ready.Gov. Let’s get into some details. Now that the hurricane here in New York is out of the way we have some time to put in place for the next event. Hopefully it will not be as devastating as this past event but we can plan and we should plan. I like to make my emergency kit or my emergency preparedness part of my life.

Let’s start with canned food. It’s always a recommendation to keep at least a three-day supply of food and water on hand. We always have very specific canned foods in our home that we move through and restock so it’s not something that’s getting old. It’s something that we use but we continually replenish and that’s beans and tomatoes. Very important point here – the beans and the tomatoes we purchase here are salt-free. One thing they mention at Ready.Gov is when you’re eating in a disaster, when you’re eating the foods that you left for emergencies, you don’t want them to contain salt or a lot of salt. You don’t want to eat foods that make you thirsty. You want to certainly drink water and you should have a certain amount of water on hand for emergencies. But you don’t want to use up your supply quickly or at least be uncomfortable in short supply. Salt will make you thirsty. So the idea is to keep foods on hand that don’t contain salt, or a lot of salt – that are going to make you thirsty. Now in my home, I don’t like to eat a lot of salt. So it’s easy. All the beans that I buy are organic and salt -free. The canned tomatoes that I use are organic and salt-free. It just fits into the natural lifestyle here and works as great foods for emergency preparedness. While we are talking about cans, and I brought this up before, something to keep in mind, certainly something not to stress about when you just want to have food to eat during a disaster, but most canned food is lined with an industrial chemical called BPA or bisphenol A. It was used to make plastics and resins since the 1980s and it’s used in containers that store food and beverages, like water bottles, baby bottles, and cups. It is found in toys, in consumer goods, all kinds of things, but unfortunately there’s been research that has shown that BPA can seep into food or beverages from containers that have it, and they can get into the body and wreak a little bit of havoc. The national toxicology program at the Department of Health and Human Services says that it has some concern about the possible health effects of BPA on the brain behavior prostate gland of fetuses and infants and children and it can range from serious to negligible. There are a lot of companies that are moving to become BPA-free in their canned food. My favorite is Eden. Eden Organic has been BPA-free since 1999. That’s incredible. And Eden offers no salt added, BPA-free, organic beans. A wide variety and – if you’re clever you can find stores, or even buy them in bulk online at very, very reasonable prices. What we do is order a dozen of one bean, a dozen of another bean, a dozen cans, and I typically have maybe 24 to 36 cans of beans at any one time. I do like to use dried beans a lot, but I also use cans for two reasons. One is everybody enjoys convenience and sometimes I don’t think ahead and it’s just handy to have canned beans around. I comfortable using canned beans, because the Eden canned beans are organic, salt-free and they don’t have BPA in the liner. But the other reason is, this is a great food for emergencies. Beans have everything you need in them. They are very satisfying to eat them right out of the can. You don’t have to cook them. They are a really great emergency food. There are some other companies that offer canned foods with out BPA liners. It’s just a little more challenging to figure out who they are because some of them don’t label. It’s a mix. Trader Joe’s does offer some products that do not have the BPA liner but they are not labeled. and it’s not with all of their products. Apparently there are canned corn and, green beans, coconut milk, all beans, tuna, poultry, and canned tomatoes are BPA-free. The best thing to do would be to call them and find out specifically because I believe they are changing all the time. Here at Responsible Eating And Living we don’t promote eating animal foods, but there are a number of companies that do package tuna and salmon that do not use the BPA liners. Edwards and Sons is a great company for a lot of organic foods. Not all of their canned foods are BPA-free with the BPA-free liner but they have a bran called Native Forest and all of their Native Forest products that come in cans are BPA-free. We use their coconut milk a lot. Bionaturae is BPA-free with their canned tomatoes. Natural Value all organic tomatoes and their food products are BPA-free. Here it is – you are thinking about what to do in planning for an emergency – canned beans, BPA-free and salt-free is the way to go now.

Now what else? There are whole grains out there that don’t necessarily need to be cooked. I like to keep a number of different whole grains on stock all the time. Now we don’t eat a lot of grains but we do eat them everyday in small amounts. They are very satisfying and nutritious. Quinoa is a great one because you can soak quinoa and it will soften to the point where you can eat it. It does not have to be cooked. That’s good to know. Also if you can get your grains in the flaked form, like oatmeal, the most popular form here in the United States and you can get rye, barley, wheat and I’m sure there’s some other whole grains out there, when they are sliced thinly, thinly like that, like rolled oats, they don’t have to be cooked. They just can be soaked in water or juice or whatever nondairy milk you might want to use. Those are really good to have around.

Of course water – it’s so important to have water. Now I guess for an emergency, keeping water in plastic bottles is okay for an emergency, but I don’t really encourage, number one drinking water that is not from the tap and drinking water that’s been put in a bottle through a manufacturing process. Water in plastic bottles takes up so much water, so much more water than what’s in the bottle. It’s not an environmentally-friendly process. It’s an expensive process and the plastic can leach toxins into the water. Drinking water from plastic bottles is not really a healthy thing to do, it’s not an environmentally-friendly thing to do. I mention using tap water. There’s a caveat there because even though the source of your water may be clean, when it flows through the pipes and gets to your faucet it picks up a lot of things on the way. If there are any bacteria or toxins you’ll get them. Most places add chlorine and fluoride to water and the chlorine will kill most of the bacteria. But then do you want chlorine in your water? We distill and filter our water here at home. Certainly we can’t distill our water if we don’t have electricity although there are, out there, if you really want to invest, they are a little expensive – there are some gravity filtration systems or systems that you can use gas to heat your water and then put this, I want to say, in a contraption, there are companies that sell things were you can distill your water from a gas stove top and in an emergency that would be handy to have. What I like to do is fill up a few glass jugs with filtered water for emergencies. I have a point-of-use filter on my tap. And I’ll fill those up. I’ve saved a few gallon glass cider jugs and they really handy to store a lot of water. If you don’t have a lot of space you can just put them up against the wall somewhere in emergencies, just to have them or put them in the bottom of the closet, in an out-of-the-way place where they won’t break. I really like to save water in glass containers.

Another thing that we like to have is light and the recommended source for light, of course, is batteries – in flashlights. There are a number of recommendations that are made where you don’t want to turn on a flashlight, in the place where you might think there’s a gas leak. Flashlights are also convenient because there is less chance of a fire hazard with respect to candles. There are a lot of places that don’t recommend using candles because there’s more chance of starting a fire. We do light candles here and we use them a lot. I just wanted to mention this, just talk about candles a little bit, while we are on the subject of candles, because there are a lot of interesting things that are in candles that you may not know about.

Candles were used we way, way back, ancient Egyptians and early Romans used candles that were made from tallow which comes from animal fat. In China as early as the Tang Dynasty they use beeswax. Beeswax at the time was very expensive. In Japan they used candle wax from tree nut extracts, isn’t that nice? In India they boiled the fruit of the cinnamon tree for candle wax. People have been making candles for a long long time Tallow, which is from animal products, was used very frequently. Then in the 18th century, oil from the sperm whale was used and was a very popular clean-burning low odor wax from the fairly unfortunate sperm whale – from their head, head oil of the sperm whale.

Stearin wax, which is from stearic acid from animal fatty acids was widely used and is still used. Then of course we came along with paraffin wax because chemists found a way to remove the naturally occurring waxy substance from petroleum. That’s a very standard candle wax today in the Western Hemisphere. Most recently in the late 1990s vegetable-based candle waxes came on the scene, (hurray!) soy wax and palm wax, they were developed for commercial use in the candle market during the late 1990s by hydrogenating soybean oil and palm oils respectively. Paraffin which is a pretroleum-based wax, is the most frequently use candle was today. Beeswax is very popular. And stearin wax is largely limited to Europe. Now I like to use the soy-based version because it doesn’t contain animal products. When you’re looking for candles either for celebration or for creating a nice atmosphere or even for emergency preparedness, even though I want to underline that it’s important to use flashlights for light for getting around because you don’t want to create a fire hazard, soy is the way to go. I guess some people out there would be concerned about using palm wax for candles because palm oil is used for so many things and is a very environmentally-destructive so unless you can find a source that is using palm oil from a sustainable palm tree farm, soybean – organic soybean wax would be ideal. It can be expensive and sometimes I just like looking to see when they show up on sale in one place or another. That’s my favorite choice. Now fortunately there was some concern about lead and lead wicks were banned from the United States marketplace in 2003. We don’t really have to concern ourselves about lead wicks in our candles.

A couple of tips while were talking about emergency preparedness, here are a few things that I have figured out. Most of us today, if we have landline for telephones, most of them are plugged in to the electrical outlet because they have all kinds of “bells and whistles” on them that run on electricity. Do you remember the old fashion phones that were either rotary dial or push button but didn’t require being plugged into the wall (electrical outlet), they didn’t have a voicemail, they didn’t have caller ID, they ndidn’t have the little screens on them that tell us a variety of things, they didn’t have any memory. Well I recommend having one of those very simple telephones, if you have a landline to plug in, when there is no electricity, because you may have access to your phone line but not electricity. If your phone doesn’t work unless it can be plugged into an electrical outlet you won’t be able to use that phone. Just something to think about. I have very, very inexpensive phone that I got at drugstore that does not require electricity. I keep it in the cabinet and wait for the power to go out and then I plug it in the wall and exchange it for one of my other landlines that uses electricity.

Another thing to think about, now, before the emergency comes along, is to have transistor radios. Many more of us are using our smart phones, our computers to listen to radio, to listen to news and when you don’t have electricity or you are not able to charge these devices, sometimes a good old-fashioned, very simple transistor radio that runs on a regular little battery that you can replace, is a very convenient thing to have. I’ve got a few of them here and every time I do some purging, trying to make more space in the apartment and not keep things that I don’t use I look at them and go, “No, no that’s part of my emergency kit – you’re not going.”

One of my favorite recommendations that I’ve heard a few times during this hurricane season, is make sure you have a manual can opener. You know I talk about having cans on hand, but if you only have an electric can opener and you lose power you’ve got a problem. We don’t use an electric can opener here. We have a very nice manual can opener and it does a very, very excellent job.

I have one more little tip and this isn’t necessarily for emergencies, but what made me think about it is that some people use battery operated toothbrushes or electric toothbrushes that need to be plugged in or charged by plugging them in. I just use regular toothbrush. Something I heard a long time ago but didn’t really put it into practice until recently was brushing for the three minutes. Most of us just do a really quick brush that’s just a few seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds. Try it. Use a little three minute timer or put your oven timer on for three minutes or just count slowly to 180, for 180 seconds, and brush your teeth. It is amazing what will happen. The difference is so tremendous you will feel like you had your teeth professionally cleaned. It is really important to brush that long because whether you use a manual toothbrush or battery-powered one, statistically it has been shown that greater plaque removal following three minutes of brushing then following one minute of brushing. I use just a dab of toothpaste. I went through a period where I wasn’t using any toothpaste that all. Sometimes I use baking soda and hydrogen peroxide. This where I’m at right now. I find just a tiny little bit, like a pea size and brushing for three minutes, twice a day. You don’t want to brush hard. Gentle strokes covering every area you can over three minutes is really is powerful. I don’t like going to the dentist, getting my teeth cleaned. If my teeth can stay clean and as clean as possible, then it will be less of a problem when I go in to have my teeth professionally cleaned because there really won’t be very much plaque to be removed.

When we talk being prepared, I think some people forget – you may think about getting your home prepared. But where do you spend time? Are you in the home most of the day? Do you work in an office? Do you drive in a car? If you’re using an office, if you’re using a car, those places need to be prepared as well because in times of an emergency you don’t know where you’re going to be stuck.

I remember I lived in California in the 80s and early 90s and I was in the San Francisco Bay area during the 1989 earthquake. That was really an incredible time. I can’t say that I was prepared, because I wasn’t but fortunately nothing really serious happened to me I was working. I was in a semiconductor manufacturing facility in Santa Clara and the earthquake came it was scary, it was big. I will dressed in a clean room suit and I was thinking of all the little baths that we had there that were filled with hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, all kinds of specialty chemicals that were not well-contained in case the earth really moved and things started to break or splatter. I knew I had to get out. Plus there were lots of the gases so if there was a break in of a pipe or something, it was time to get out. I left the building and I I had my clean room suit on and everyone else left the building as well. It was kind of a funny sight seeing everybody in these white coverups. If you’ve seen them, it covers you from top to bottom. From booties to gloves to a hood that covers your head. It was a scary time because I thought if I need to leave the area or escape I wouldn’t be able to because all of the roads were highly trafficked. There were cars everywhere. People were trying to get from one place to another. Fortunately nothing really happened to me during the earthquake but it made me think about what to do in the future. Be prepared with things in your car, in your office, as well as at home.

One of the things that happens to some when you lose electricity is, unless you have a generator, you can’t use the television, you can’t use the computer. What do you do with your time? It is really a great opportunity to talk to your family, bring out some boardgames if you could play them by candlelight, read books, talk to your neighbors and just be. I think many people don’t know how to amuse themselves without electricity. This is a great opportunity to figure out what to do. There are some really wonderful book lights and headlamps that operate by battery and can be used during this time for reading.

One more tip – and that is solar lamps. I have some property in Costa Rica and when I was first spending time there I would do a lot of camping. I bought a few solar lamps – you get these in garden stores. They stick in the ground and they’re pretty much used just to light a walkway in the dark. You set them out and they absorb energy and they charge batteries with little tiny solar panels during the day and then at night, if you turn them, on they will light up. I’m thinking you can get a few of these to keep outside and get them charged and then bring them inside during the time when you don’t have electricity and that will give a little light during the dark hours. Certainly you can’t keep these things out in a storm, but perhaps after the storm and the damage is done, and you can get outside safely, and there is some sun, you can charge these things up and have some light to bring in during the evening. They are really inexpensive and so that’s why I thought they would be a useful thing to have a few of those around.

Okay, enough of the discussion on disaster or emergency preparedness. A while ago on this program I talked about coconut oil and how I love to use it on my skin, as a makeup remover and on my hair. I am so in love with coconut oil. I think it is the best product out there for personal care rather than buying all these different kinds of expensive hair care, skin care products that have all kinds of things in it that you never heard of. Frankly, I think organic coconut oil works the best. I keep a little of it in the bathroom in a jar. In the colder days it’s solid at room temperature and you need to run a little hot water on it. What I like to do is keep it in the shower or the bath when I’m taking a bath or shower, keeping it in warm water, so that when I’m done I can use it when it’s all liquid. I put all my skin, I put on my hair and it’s just great. Recently I saw an advertisement for L’Oreal. They were looking for models or people to test some new hair products. I’m not a fan of L’Oreal. They do a lot of animal testing and there are lots of animal products in most of their hair and cosmetic lines. At some point, they purchased Pureology which is a vegan line of hair products. They were going to be testing Pureology. I thought, okay, it might be fun. I don’t usually use Pureology is because it’s really expensive. But I’d heard good things about them so I thought why not go in for a free styling with Purerology? I’m sitting in the chair and this woman is working on my hair. She started a conversation with me and she asked me what I typically use on my hair. I said, “Well you may think this is a little bizarre, but I like plant-based products – products that don’t have animals in them. And my favorite thing is coconut oil.” Okay so here’s the funny part. She said that she used coconut oil and she really loved it. Then the woman next to me, also one of the testing models, she piped in and she said she used it too, especially for her daughter’s hair. Here we in the L’Oreal facility, three of us are raving about simple, natural coconut oil.

I want to remind you that if you’re looking for a great product for your skin, for your hair, just think about coconut oil. It really is wonderful it smells great. Like I always say – I really don’t want to put things on my body, on my skin, that I wouldn’t eat, because the skin is our largest organ and it takes in everything you put on it. That’s coconut oil!

Here we go REAL recipes for this week. I bought organic dried apricots recently. I buy a lot of items online – things that aren’t fresh, like my produce. If I can, if the shipping is affordable, I get it online. I bought a 5 pound bag of organic apricots. They’re a little pricey, but I got a reasonable deal and was so thrilled. They’re really, really delicious. I thought, okay, it’s time to make apricot butter! Now I’ve got a recipe for prune butter on the ResponsibleEatingAndLiving.com website. I raved about making prune butter, which what’s in my prune butter Prunes – prunes and water, that’s it, no sugar, nothing else and the results are fabulous and so easy to make. I thought why not do with apricots and wow! I made the best apricot butter I have ever, ever had. Certainly cost effective. It’s much less expensive than any apricot jelly or jam that you’ll get in the store. I find it’s much better. It’s got no sugar, no other fruits. It’s just apricots and water. I put the dried fruit on the bottom of the saucepan. I just barely cover them with water. I cook them at a medium heat, stirring occasionally, covered, let them soften up and then with a hand blender I purée them. Then I add a little bit more water and voilà I have apricot butter. Now you can put them in the jar and refrigerate them or if you’re really good at canning you can can them and not refrigerate them until they are opened. So simple and so satisfying. I made some homemade vegan gluten-free bread this weekend and we had toast with a little Earth Balance and apricot butter. And I will tell you it tasted like this the luscious buttery caramel, so good. Why do we have to consume junk in our food? Why can’t we keep it REAL? Most jelly manufacturers will use sugar or high fructose corn syrup or some other fruits, apple juice, grape juice to sweeten – any kind of fruit jam, jelly, butter that you’re going to purchase. Now sugar high fructose corn syrup are cheap. They can lower the cost of making these jams by adding sugar. I don’t want sugar. I don’t want high fructose corn syrup. I just want the fruit and I want it organic. I want it good for me and it’s so, so simple to make. Why not? Dried fruit, water, saucepan and and a hand mixer – that’s all it takes. You could use a blender, if you don’t have a hand mixer. It’s that simple and so worthwhile.

That’s the REAL recipe for today. We continue to sprout here at Responsible Eating And Living. I’ve got lots of sunflower seed sprouts growing. In the wintertime, I like to sprout more than in the summer time because I feel like I’ve got a little fresh produce going in the cold weather. We’ve got yogurt being made on the weekends. I like to do my yogurt making, my soup making, my breadmaking. It’s really worthwhile to have simple, delicious, nutritious, healthy foods where you know what’s in them.

Okay we got election coming up in two days and I hope you vote, and vote early, and vote often! The big thing that’s going on right now, of course, is the Proposition 37 in California and gosh, I really really hope that turns out well. I am personally rooting for labeling, not just of genetically modified food, but I think more information is better than less information. Why not know what’s in what were getting? Then we could make a choice whether it’s something that we want or we don’t want. I’m for full disclosure.

There you go. Thank you so much for joining me on this episode. Please remember that you can comment any time, ask a question, offer up some information to share. This is our community – be a part of it. I love hearing from you – the email is info@realmeals.org. Also we are still in our fundraiser drive, we are going to keep going until we raise what we need to get our work done. You can visit ResponsibleEatingAndLiving.comclick on the donate button. You can read our real appeal letter. Any contribution is welcome and so so appreciated.

Thank you so much for joining me – its World Vegan Month folks – just keep that in mind. November 1 was World Vegan Day and the that just gives the whole vegan thing a little more concentration, a little more focus. I just wanted to mention that before I go. Have a very enjoyable World Vegan Month. Thanks again for joining me and have a delicious week.

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