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Hemp is Hip, by Bren Hamilton, VLCE

One of the things I like about being vegan is thinking much more about compassion and how this influences my choices. From my choice of words, written and spoken, to what I spend my money on and, of course, what I eat and wear. I realized that I often made purchases without thinking about what it took to produce it.

Take dog collars, leather ones in particular. It struck me that my assumption in the past was that these were made from cow’s hide and maybe that’s why some non-vegan dog owners were ok with purchasing them.

However, I recently learned much of the world’s ‘real’ leather comes from China. PETA reports that on a daily basis dogs are bludgeoned to death and their skins are used to make leather goods and accessories. It’s highly probable this includes dog collars and leashes.

Thinking about it more, it goes even deeper than this for me. What about the people producing the items? Are they paid a fair wage and working in safe and clean conditions. And the environment — is it considered at all? Probably not, since profit comes first in most cases.

Since I’m a vegan with two companion dogs, and I care about others and the environment, I wanted to provide compassionate alternatives. Having an existing pet accessories business made this decision easier. I decided to create a small line of vegan eco-friendly dog collars and leashes with organically grown, chemical-free and sweatshop-free materials made in the USA. Little did I know how difficult it would be to find materials whose end-to-end purity is guaranteed. Eventually I did find this in European-grown hemp webbing and a few organic cottons. [Read more…]

Where to Start When You’re Starting a Business, by Michaela Grob, VLCE

When I decided to start my own business – a vegan cheese shop in Brooklyn – I knew I needed a business plan to help me put a roadmap together and ensure that I was looking at all the right things.

cheese 1

But, where does one begin? Staring at a blank piece of paper is rather intimidating, even with very fully formed ideas in my head. Sure, there is a lot of information online, but I felt I needed a bit more hands-on assistance, someone to talk to and brainstorm with.

So I set out to look for resources that offer assistance to start-ups and entrepreneurs, and that didn’t cost and an arm and a leg. I was pleasantly surprised to find many at my disposal, free or low cost. My only investment was my time and effort.

The two resources I’ve turned to most often are SBS and SCORE. SBS is New York City’s department for small businesses and its purpose is to get businesses up and running faster. SCORE, on the other hand, is a nationwide nonprofit organization consisting of retired and semi- retired executives with a minimum of 10 years experience on an executive level.

At SBS I learned what to look for in a lease, bookkeeping, and which permits I’ll need to open my business . I also attended a 6-week course (called FastTrack) on how to write a business plan, how to do research at the Science, Industry and Business Library (an art on its own), and how to write my financial plan – including all the templates needed for that. And it was all free.

(I should mention that I went through several Account Managers at SBS, because not all of them are equally knowledgeable.)

And when it’s time for me to start hiring employees (soon), I will also turn to their service called “Workforce 1” which helps with job postings, candidate screenings, and interviews.

At SCORE, on the other hand, I found a mentor whom I meet with every other month to brainstorm or talk about things I’m struggling with. My mentor is named Mary, and she’s been in marketing and retail for 30 years. She’s very hands-on and likes to get involved in every detail of my business. It’s great to have someone neutral who asks unexpected questions and offers different views. She’d also never had vegan cheese and was very curious about the whole concept — another one on the hook! [Read more…]

Shirley – a Valiant Mother Hen, by Jackie Demeri Costello, VLCE

When I was expecting my first son, I read The Joy Luck Club, by Amy Tan. One of the characters in the story learns that her name translates from Chinese to mean “long-cherished wish.” This resonated deeply with me, as I contemplated the arrival of my own “long-cherished wish.”

I remember when the “nesting instinct” overtook me. As I arranged nursery decorations and read up on how to use a nasal aspirator, I thought of many things. I did not, however, think of chickens. How strange that our language expresses the knowledge that a bird can be a caring mother and yet society so often disregards this truth!

There is the omnipresent belief that chickens aren’t bright or brave. Our language expresses that, too, their species name being synonymous with human notions of cowardliness. Is that their fault? Is it based on science? Not at all. It stems from the story of Chicken Little – a work of fiction.

I would like to introduce you to a hen who has demonstrated the bravery and motherly devotion any human would be proud to claim. Although she is not unique among chickens in her love for her brood, the circumstances surrounding her little family are — and could possibly dispel those “chicken-little” fallacies.

Shirley, a feather-footed bantam chicken escaped a sad fate and went to live at Lewis Oliver Farm. She hobnobbed with the other hens and roosters. They scratched, and sunbathed and dust-bathed to their hearts’ content. It seemed an idyllic life, but Shirley wished for something more. She wanted a family of her own. She was broody. [Read more…]

My Juice Cleanse (and Tips for Yours), by Victoria Moran

Meals are navigation points in my day, the way stars were for sailors long ago. When I stopped binge-eating in my early thirties, free-for-all food consumption was replaced with order: breakfast, lunch, dinner. That’s proven a very good thing in my life, and yet from time to time I like to break the pattern and do a juice cleanse.

I seldom look forward to these forays into food-less-ness, but the little cleanse I just completed – five days, with light-and-raw the day before – was different. I was remembering the peacefulness of some past periods when mealtimes were erased and I rested in the assurance that I’d be all right anyway. Most of my recent juice feasts, as some people call them, were just three days, around the change of seasons – and when it was cold, I’d sometimes skip a season. Although three-day stints were fine to give my digestive system a rest and be off caffeine, salt, and all processed foods for seventy-two hours, it’s not until the fourth day, for most people most of the time, that the bliss sets in. I hadn’t experienced that in a few years and I was craving it.

My husband, William, wanted to do this one with me, which made a huge difference. We could commiserate. The timing was perfect: a holiday weekend and the beginning of the corporate quarter for William, a light time workwise. We opted for a packaged cleanse. It wasn’t a full-fledged juice fast because every day the package included a nut milk at bedtime. One of the key ideas of a cleanse is to free the digestive apparatus of having to do anything, and nut milk has to be digested. But I was willing not to be a purist. I figured they put in the nut milk to assure restful sleep, which seemed like a good thing.

So we started. The first day was okay; I slept a lot. The second day I felt tired and weak, but also really calm; I slept more. The third day was better – even more peaceful — but I still wasn’t running any races. I joined a juice-cleanse support group on Facebook. It said “no nut milk.” Oh well….Early in the morning of day 4, awake but still lying in bed, I knew I’d come to the bliss point. The phrase that kept coming up was “peace that passes understanding.” This has to be why “prayer and fasting” go together so often in religious teachings. That lovely sensation persisted through the next two days. Truth be told, I have it now, but the work day will start soon and the stresses will accrue. Maybe I’ll handle them better.

Here’s what we’ve been consuming:

Pre-cleanse day 0:


  • Wheatgrass shot (I know I said in The Good Karma Diet that I don’t do those; for a cleanse, I make an exception)
  • Banana
  • Matcha-chia pudding
  • Pint of blueberries
  • Shangri-La Soup from Main Street Vegan (greens and avocado)
  • Watermelon juice

Cleanse days:

  • Wheatgrass shot
  • 2 green juices
  • 1 red juice (carrot, beet)
  • 1 cayenne lemonade
  • 1 watermelon juice
  • Nut milk

Today. . .isn’t over yet, but my plan is 2 juices (one green, one red), Shangri-La Soup, and some whole fruit. Tomorrow I’ll add salad greens and steamed vegetables, and bring back beans and soaked nuts the next day. After that, I’ll be on the road (well, rails) heading for Vegetarian Summerfest. I’ll have a fresh green juice before I leave, take salad with baked falafel, along with fruit, flax crackers, and a couple of raw bars and bags of ginger tea for the long trip. That’s pretty much business as usual.

If you’ve never gone through this process, here are my tips:

(1) Be sure you’re a candidate. Most people are, but if you’re pregnant or nursing, or under a doctor’s care for any reason, consult with him/her before embarking on a juice cleanse of any length.

(2) Get information. Joe Cross’s enchanting documentary Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead chronicles his 60-day fast for healing an autoimmune disorder, and Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead 2 follows up with his many juice devotees around the world and with Phil Staples, the truck driver we met in the first film. I watched both movies this week, even though I’ve seen them before. I also kept helpful books nearby: The Juiceman’s Power of Juicing (Jay Kordich), The Reboot With Joe Juice Diet (Joe Cross), The Ultimate Book of Modern Juicing (Mimi Kirk), The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Juice Fasting (Steve Prussack and Bo Rinaldi), Soak Your Nuts (Karyn Calabrese), and the classic: Fresh Vegetable and Fruit Juices (Dr. N.W. Walker) There are two great juicing podcasts that I know of, as well: JuicingRadio with Angela Von Buelow and Shane Whaley, and JuiceGuru Radio with Steve Prussack.


[Read more…]

REVIEW: The Good Karma Diet + Pie in the Sky recipe, by Marissa Podan, VLCE

I can’t recall when I first heard of Victoria Moran, but I remember that her work really caught my attention when she started her Main Street Vegan Academy. I had been looking for a new path, a chance to start fresh, after healing from the worst stages of my chronic illness. I was looking at pursuing life as a health professional, but that was a bigger commitment (both in terms of energy and finance) than I was able to give at the time. The more I looked into the Academy, the more I was completely convinced that it was the perfect fit for me. It’s a 5-day intensive, and while it’s a monetary investment, it’s far more affordable than a masters degree. Most importantly, her style jibed with me. Her faculty was impressive and inspirational. The value was immeasurable in monetary terms.


After I was accepted, I read as many books of hers as I could to familiarize myself with her message. One of them, Main Street Vegan, was part of the curriculum, but another three of them I eagerly devoured for purely my own pleasure.

There’s something so special about the way that she writes, the way that she thinks, and the way that she sees the world. Not only is this vegan veteran a healthy, shining example of what a gift this lifestyle is, she has this way of presenting these potentially big lifestyle changes in an extremely accessible manner. When you listen to her speak, or read one of her (now 12!) books, any doubts about the seemingly daunting shifts in lifestyle will wash away. Don’t believe me? See, listen, read for yourself!

Her newest book, The Good Karma Diet, is an important addition to the vegan book world. The good karma diet is actually not a diet but a full lifestyle change that begins with consuming a plant-based vegan diet, light on the processed foods and generous with the raw foods. Why does it start with a vegan diet? She explains, “…I contend that only a vegan meal is capable of producing in the person who consumes it the deepest level of well-being, satisfaction that comes without any glimmer of conscious or unconscious guilt.”

Not sure you can make the shift? Never fear, there are tons of user-friendly tips sprinkled throughout the book as well as a few sections that outline clear steps to help you on your merry vegan way. Like I said previously, the Good Karma Diet isn’t just about a diet. You’ll learn about food justice, treatment of animals, emotional eating, nourishment beyond food, vegan beauty and fashion, and more topics that round out the lifestyle of a good karma dieter. [Read more…]

Ageless Living in a Culture of Youth, by Victoria Moran

I had a birthday recently and I’m ready for a great year. Even so, the culture tells me I shouldn’t be. I’m over the hill, maybe even the whole mountain range, but I don’t see it that way even one little bit.

One of my mentors on this is Cherie Soria, director of the Living Light Culinary Institute, training gourmet raw-food chefs.

ageless 1

When people comment on how well time treats Cherie, she says, “But that’s not it: I’m aging normally. Everybody else is aging too fast.”

She has a point. The typical American lifestyle couldn’t be more pro-aging if we tried. We’re stressed. We don’t sleep nearly enough. We drink coffee and soda and dirty martinis, figuring our kidneys will accept these as water. Much of our food has been either literally slaughtered or simply processed to death, and yet we expect, either through good genes, good luck, or good medicine to get that full-of-life glow. It’s an illogical premise.

Enter the feel-great/look-amazing/age-later lifestyle encapsulated in the acronym MEND: Meditation, Exercise, Nourishment, Detoxification. Anyone who incorporates these regularly can make peace with the calendar.

ageless 2

Meditation. One study showed showed that people who’d meditated regularly for five years or more were a whopping twelve years younger physiologically than non-meditators. Meditation is the simple process of focusing on your breath or a word or sound, and gently bringing your mind back there each time it wanders. You can start slowly – ten minutes in the morning – but know that people in the youth study did twenty minutes upon awakening and another twenty in the late afternoon or early evening.

ageless 3

Exercise. The complex machine you’re living in was designed to move. In their book Younger Next Year, Chris Crowley and Harry Lodge, MD, contend that, at a cellular level, only two states are recognized: growth and decay. If you’re moving, cells sense growth and do their best to take care of you; if you’re sedentary, they sense decay and help you “rot.” [Read more…]

VIDEO: Main Street Vegan Academy Slide Show, by Diana Goldman, VLCE

Reading through my class notes from Main Street Vegan Academy, I realized they contain dozens of inspiring and informative quotes from the wonderful presenters. Attempting to consolidate them in a visually meaningful way, I created this “memories” video.

[Read more…]

Decoding “Never Again,” by Sherry F. Colb

Decoding “Never Again”

by Sherry F. Colb*

I. A Child of Survivors

When I try to sum up my identity as a Jew, for purposes of determining whether and how that identity has affected my scholarship, a disturbing image comes to mind. The image I have is of a woman and a man in their 50’s: my paternal grandparents. They are in the process of being murdered simply for being Jewish. They are not being killed in death camps but, instead, standing face to face with their executioners, the Einsatzgruppen, the death squads that accounted for 1.5 million of the Jews killed in the Holocaust.[1] My brother, Abraham Mark Colb, M.D., has referred to this more “personal” killing as “Mommy’s Holocaust.”

In the image that continues to haunt me to this day, my paternal grandparents are first instructed by their killers to dig graves for themselves. My grandfather, a devout Jew, attempts to delay the digging until he can recite a prayer confessing his sins to God in his last moments, knowing he is about to die. For this failure to follow orders, he is kicked and forced to continue digging. Once both graves are complete, my grandfather and grandmother are each shot to death into those graves, thus sparing the men who killed them the trouble of burying them. I know of these deaths because an eyewitness who survived this action reported it to my family. The report was the closest thing to a funeral that my father had for his parents.

As if this is not enough, I stumble upon another image in my mind when contemplating my Jewish identity. This one is of my maternal grandmother, lying in her bed at home with a broken hip. While she is lying there, absolutely helpless, her home is invaded by Nazis and she is shot to death on her mattress. At that time, my mother is seventeen years old.

At the risk of further depressing my readers, I have yet another image to share. This image is one of my father’s brother, identified as one of the wealthier “Juden,” Jews, being taken outside of his parents’ home and being shot to death, while my mother (whose presence is undetected) hides, quaking with fear, under her mother-in-law’s blanket. The fate of my other four uncles, children at the time, remains unknown, although our best guess is that they met their end choking to death in a gas chamber, as did so many other Polish Jewish children. Images of those deaths haunt me to this day as well, images based on a combination of footage, film depictions, and the workings of my own fertile imagination.

I have held these pictures in my consciousness for as long as I can remember. My mother told me about my family’s fate when I was perhaps three or four years old. This was undoubtedly too early in a child’s life to be learning of extreme violence to her kin in such graphic detail, but my mother did not know that. She herself was traumatized, and she intended only to honestly answer my questions about why I had so few relatives.

As a child, I attended Orthodox Jewish schools for nursery, kindergarten, elementary, and high school. This education gave me the opportunity to learn a great deal more about Judaism than simply the nature of the Holocaust and the degree to which my family members were well-represented among its victims. However, the disturbing imagery stayed with me and became, for me, as it has been for many other children of Holocaust survivors, a defining feature of my Jewish identity, one that has outlasted my commitment to observing commandments.

II. A Daughter of a Rescuer

At the same time I acquired my identity as part of a catastrophically victimized group, I learned that my own father ran an underground operation during the War. My father rescued three thousand Jews from Eastern Europe, including hundreds of children, and arranged for their smuggling and safe passage to non-Jewish homes and other safer venues.[2] Because the Nazis had no use for Jewish children, they, along with the elderly and infirm, were the most likely to be killed immediately upon arrival at a death camp. This was a reality that made rescuing them prior to their transport to the death camps especially urgent. Knowing of my father’s rescue work was extremely redemptive for me, because it meant that I was an heir not only to the Holocaust but to heroism as well.

As a Jew himself, rescuing others exposed my father to grave risks that he could have easily avoided by simply hiding and taking care of “his own.” But like other people who rescued Jews at great risk and cost to their own safety, my father did not see how he could possibly have done otherwise, given that he had the opportunity, foresight, and means to do what he did.

My father died when I was six years old; he had been very sick with heart disease for several years before that so I never had the chance to get to know him. What I know about my father is mainly from other family members. From them, I know that my father was extremely generous and caring even though he had some flaws that made living with him a challenge.

One of his qualities that people liked to share with me, given my own sympathies, was that my father loved dogs. My mother showed me a photograph of my father standing next to a beautiful German Shepherd. She told me that when my father could no longer safely keep a dog with him, he drove this dog twenty miles away to a home where the dog could live. Later that night, however, the dog escaped from her new home and found her way back to my father, running across miles of unfamiliar terrain, so that my father found her the next morning waiting for him outside the house.

These were some of the bits and pieces that make up my sense of my father’s spirit. He was a man who suffered unimaginable tragedy in losing almost everyone he loved. But, despite all the pain, he stepped in and saved the lives of those he could. Lastly, my father was a man who had a place in his heart for animals. This is naturally an oversimplification of a complex person, but it is the spirit that I inherited, which has remained with me after twelve years of Jewish education, even as I became a secular Jew who doubted (but could never arrive at any certainty about) the existence of God. My mother, by contrast, was convinced of God’s existence and enraged at what she regarded as His callous indifference to suffering.

When I applied to college, I wrote an admissions essay about my father as the person with whom I would want to spend an afternoon if I could choose a stranger with whom to enjoy an extended conversation. My hypothetical conversation with my father consisted mainly of my telling him about everything of significance that had happened to me up until that point in my teen years. I would also let him know how much I admired him for what he did and how proud I felt of his rescue work. I would ask him for his approval of my life so far, and, finally, his forgiveness for the resentment that I recalled harboring towards him when I was five and six years old, when my mother had to split her caregiving attention between an ailing husband and a demanding daughter.

Once I left home for college and law school, and particularly when I began my career as a law professor, I thought I had left much of my Jewish identity as well as my internal connection with my father behind me. For a number of years, I wrote about issues in constitutional criminal procedure, evidence, and women’s equality, all of which continue to interest me as subjects of study and analysis. My sense of moral revulsion on behalf of women suffering rape and discrimination resonated with my view of my father as a person who pursued justice, as did my thinking about criminal procedure, but the resonance was tenuous, as anyone pursuing a vision of law and justice could plausibly characterize that pursuit as inspired by her father’s heroism. Until now, in fact, I rarely even considered the possibility that my legal scholarship interests in criminal procedure, feminist theory, or evidence law had anything at all to do with my identity as the child of a Holocaust survivor and savior.

III. A Journey of Discovering The Plight of Nonhuman Animals [Read more…]

How to Love a Dog, by Forbes Melton-Moran

My names is Forbes and I’m four years old, give or take. I was a stray in Georgia, rescued from death row by a sort of underground railroad and a woman who smoked a lot and fed me chicken soup and hot dogs. She didn’t know I had heartworm disease when she put me up for adoption in the front of a Petco in New York City.

That’s where I met my mom. It was love at first sight, although I tried to maintain my autonomy on those first walks (I didn’t want to seem desperate). She and my new dad found a really cool vet to cure my heart without doing anything scary, and for my part, I’ve tried to teach my adopted family how to love a dog. This is what I tell them, and I’ll bet your dog is trying to say some pretty similar stuff to you.

Forbes + Victoria, 1st Meeting

Meeting my mom, October 2012

  1. When I’m alone, I’m miserable. Yeah, I sleep some (I’m up in the night quite a bit looking out for you guys) and it helps to have music playing and a chewy to gnaw, but dogs didn’t evolve to appreciate solitude, so we don’t. A few hours I can deal with; more than that – well, I get it why some dogs tear stuff up.
  1. Make a big-deal reunion about coming home. I’m always up for it, even if you just went to the store for a carton of almond milk.
  1. Snuggle with me. Rub my tummy and under my arms, around my shoulders, and behind my ears. Other than tail and paws, I am one hundred percent massage-ready. I know you talk all the time and you probably tell me you love me, but when you rub me, I know you do.
  1. Try to understand what it’s like to live in two distinct cultures. Most of the time, I’m in the human world. I’ve learned what humans want – no growling, no licking my private parts when company comes, no barking unless there’s a serious threat (and I’m supposed to know that how?) – but when I go to the dog park, I get into running and rolling and chasing and digging and sniffing other dogs like I’m one generation removed from the wolf. It’s my nature. Transitioning from dog rules to people rules and back again is tough. Give me a break.
  1. I communicate with you all the time. Tail up means happy; tail down means sad or afraid (or that the music is really awful – like that guy on the street who plays the saw). Wagging my tail is the way I smile. If I whine or cry, it’s serious: I’m either sick or terrified. And when I look at you like you’re the best person anywhere, that’s what I mean.
  1. Skateboards are my mortal enemy. I go nuts when I see or hear one. You’ll never understand it, but let me give you some keywords: spiders. Heights. Dark alleys at night. Snakes. An IRS audit. Get it? We’re all afraid of something.
  1. I love having different experiences and seeing (and smelling) new places. If you’re going anywhere that dogs are allowed, please take me. I can go to the farmers’ market, Bed, Bath, & Beyond, the Apple store, and the fancy department stores where you may not want to buy anything, but we can look (and sniff).
forbes 2

Photo by Dianne Wenz, VLCE,

  1. As much as I hate to admit it, I need you to take care of me. Even though I survived as a stray eating scraps off the street, my survival skills don’t extend to knowing how many treats are too many or that chocolate, which sure smells good, is bad for me. Just because I act as if you’ve gravely offended me when you clean my ears, or put that anti-flea-and-tick stuff on me – well, thanks.

[Read more…]

Studying Your Passion: A Master’s Thesis on Vegan Product Certification by Carmella Lanni-Giardina, VLCE

On Wednesday, May 20, 2015, I officially earned my Master’s degree from New York University. It was one of the most rewarding experience of my life. It gave me the opportunity to connect my passion to my studies, in ways I didn’t think were possible.


My original research social media influence on e-commerce shopping patterns. I was less than two weeks away from submitting my initial proposal when I took a trip to Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, NY and fell in love…hard…with Michael the calf. When I returned, I emailed my then professor to share that I had an epiphany and wanted to change my topic. I wouldn’t have felt “right,” if I didn’t include veganism in my study. His response was “Go with where your passion lies.” After those 2 weeks, I presented my class with my new proposal along with a photo of Michael the calf. That would begin a crazy adventure of challenges, debates, analysis, tears, laughter, stacks of notes and sleepless nights.

With the help of my thesis supervisor, I shifted my topic away from social media to explore how vegans felt about government intervention in vegan product certification. I would see social media posts from people complaining about products not being labeling as vegan, yet not understanding what’s involved in certification processes and liability. I posed a seemingly simple question to a group: “Do you think the government should certify vegan products?” The answers were a bit puzzling:

  • “If it says ‘vegan’ on the label, it’s good enough for me!”
  • “The government lies and would want to profit off of veganism”
  • “I can just read the label and tell if it’s vegan”
  • “If you eat a whole foods, plant-based diet, you don’t need to be concerned about certification”
  • “I trust the brands I buy.”

If this was how vegans felt, then why were these same people upset when a product would not be labeled as vegan?

The United States doesn’t have standards to define vegan products at this time. Neither the FDA nor the USDA seems to have approached the subject for food or non-edible items. While vegans account for 1% of the U.S. populations, there is a demand for companies to reveal if their products are vegan. There are non-profits and private companies who conduct their own certification with disclosure of procedure being varied. However, if people don’t know what to find and if the certification processes are different, then how can we trust what’s labeled as vegan? Can we trust the government to do that for us?

To answer these questions, I examined vegan self-identification and the influence of health and ethics on consumer trust. I surveyed 150 participants by posing questions on their perceptions of vegans, current non-profit and private product certification and shopping behavior. I proposed a government-regulated certification process with a standardized definition of veganism to measure consumer trust and support for government intervention in vegan certification.

The survey results and findings were great. The analysis revealed a number of commonalities amongst the vegans in this study: [Read more…]