Mar(k): Travel, Hiking, and "Doing Good"

musings on our life of travel and volunteering

Getting into Ethical Altruism

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With the EOFY rapidly approaching (that’s “End of Financial Year”, for those not into silly acronyms!), it is also a time when many people (in Australia, at least), look at making donations to charities they want to support with much needed (and appreciated!) funds.  For the last few years, we have embraced a concept which is known as “Ethical Altruism”.  This is a term coined by ethicist, philanthropist, animal rights activist, and other “ists”, Peter Singer.

Essentially, it is about making sure that the hard-earned money you donate does as much “good” as possible.  For simplicity, let’s just say this is all about helping the MOST people, who are in the MOST need.  Not a tough concept, and one that we subscribe to.

why not cartoon for giving

To help you along, there is a very cool online calculator which can assist you in determining how MUCH you should give (well, it’s a guideline, anyhow).   Don’t freak out – it’s not like some religious tithing system of 10%.   It works out to about 1 or 2 % of your gross income generally, depending on how much you earn.   Obviously, the more you earn, the greater “good” you are capable of doing, so the percentage goes up accordingly.   Seems fair to us!   Have a play with the calculator here.

Like many others, we want to know that the money we are donating is doing the “most good”.  So one tool that we found super helpful was this research / analysis on a number of different charities.   Saved us having to do the research!  (spoiler alert:  the Give Well website ranks the Against Malaria Foundation as one of the best (and it is tax deductible in Australia).   But there are many other wonderful organisations here, as well.  One consideration for us was to find charities that were Australian based, and many of the ones researched are based in America.   However, there is a handy link to the Effective Altruism Australia site, where you can make your Aussie donation tax deductible, and ear mark it against the approved charity of your choice.   What could be easier?  (you’re welcome!)

How do you make your donations each year?  What sort of criteria do you use?  Let us know in the comments section – would love to hear from you!

Happy giving.

Written by Mar(k)

June 20, 2016 at 4:00 pm

The worshipping of chocolate rabbits – happy Easter!

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Not 100% sure where the chocolate easter bunny and the eggs came from – suspect it may have been from the original Pagan fertility celebration in (northern hemisphere) Spring.   Nonetheless, as I was getting groceries yesterday, the amount of shopping trollies that were literally overflowing with chocolate Easter treats was quite amazing.   I am quite glad that I don’t have a sweet tooth – one piece of dark chocolate will do me quite well, thank you!

 

But for the rest of you choco-holics out there – enjoy this holiday weekend, which seems designed just for you!

There might even be a few Christians for whom Easter egg hunts and chocolate overloading isn’t front and centre.  These same folk may even see it as THE most important Christian event on their calendar.   The death and resurrection of their saviour Jesus Christ.  Good on you.

If you are celebrating Easter this weekend in whatever form, enjoy it!   Of course, here in Australia, rabbits are pretty widely regarded as a feral pest, so we would prefer the Bilby to be the representative fertility symbol.   But oh well.   Enjoy the rabbits.   easter-bilby-and-rabbit

Written by Mar(k)

March 24, 2016 at 5:43 pm

Just in time for the next arrival – Barbie finally getting real about body image

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Screen Shot 2016-02-12 at 4.51.24 pm

Mark’s son will shortly be entering fatherhood for the first time!   Very exciting times, and we wish them all the very best with their birth of their little one.   To celebrate, I thought I’d give a wee update on Mattel and their recent move to make Barbie more “realistic”.   I really love the fact that Mattel finally succumbed to consumer pressure to introduce more realistic body shapes into their line.   It has only taken them 57 years, but power to the people!   Wonderful to see consumers voting with their wallets, and equally good to see businesses savvy enough to realise what will keep the dollars coming into the door – give the consumers what they have been asking for!

Finally, the Fashionista’s line for 2016 includes different skin tones, body types, eye colours and hair styles.   Wow.  Imagine that!  Dolls that start to look a little bit more like the wonderful wide world out there!   Go figure!  Nice to see some options that aren’t blonde haired and blue eyed.  NOT that there’s anything wrong with being blonde haired and blue eyed!  Someone has to be in the minority!  ha ha ha.

We have no idea if the newest arrival is going to be a girl, or a boy, and their gender will not matter at all, if s/he wants to play with a Barbie doll.   But if we ever do give the new addition a doll, it will be a great feeling to be able to get one that maybe even looks a little bit like the child!   How cool is that!

 

Written by Mar(k)

February 12, 2016 at 4:59 pm

Post Veganary: Where to from here?

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On Sunday we will have (successfully!) concluded our month of Vegan living.  So where to from here?

Well, that is a bit of a tricky question. Are we “ready” to embrace veganism as our default diet at the moment? Probably not. However, our lacto-ovo vegetarian diet will probably be amended somewhat based on our experiences during Veganary.

People choose veganism (or vegetarianism) for a variety of reasons. For us, harm to animals is a key driver. Which is why this article was of particular interest to us. If you are also driven by animal harm (and how to reduce it), you can also read this more detailed (but not overly long) article here.   In reading this article, I realise that the life I have been living for the past 22 or so years (and for Mark, about the last 8 years), actually has a name!   Go figure.  Environmentarianism.   Who knew?

It has been great engaging online through the Veganuary website with others, and their journey during this past month.  For us, it hasn’t been hugely life altering.  But I have used this month to learn more about vegan substitutes (my vegan friends who enjoy coming over for meals will thank me!), and getting more knowledge on the environmental damage that animal husbandry causes.

Did we die from lack of cheese?  um…. no.   Did we think we would miss it more than we did?  Definitely.   Although Mark is probably going to be happy to get back in the (bicycle) saddle with his cappuccino apres bike ride, we aren’t going to be rushing out to gorge ourselves on a cheese omelette just yet!   However, we WILL be changing up some staple items in our pantry, such that our already vegetarian lifestyle is more vegan friendly at home.  We have an added incentive to shop at our local all-vegan shop, as we love to support local small businesses.   So that will probably keep us using things like bio-cheese and other staples.   And all the online research has turned up some fabulous recipes, which have been real winners!   Always good to add those into the arsenal of yummy eating options.

Finally, we don’t feel like we need to be evangelical about anything – vegan diets included.  We aren’t really turned on by fanatical preaching in any form – religious, vegan or otherwise.  We are also clear that our choices are exactly that – our choices.  We don’t need to make a big deal out of it – and we do listen with wry amusement when others feel they need to comment on our dietary choices.   What they say, says much more about them, than it does about us!   We will leave you with this lovely sign that really embraces what we try to practise on a daily basis.   Happy Veganary everyone!

 

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Written by Mar(k)

January 29, 2016 at 5:07 pm

Veganary Update: Week 3

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We are trucking along quite nicely. Interestingly, we don’t really feel “deprived” (like we thought we might, missing out on cheese, in particular!). Mark is probably still missing his cow’s milk in his coffees, though. But overall, we are doing well.

I was trying to think of what is “different” this month in our diet, and some observations I have noticed (coming from a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet), is this:

Mexican food – one of our staples during Veganary

  • we probably eat more Mexican themed meals – the refried beans are a great and easy source of protein, along with the avocado. We don’t miss the cheese addition much, because the Mexican flavours pack a punch
  • a bit more of a focus on snacking to include protein sources. So for me, that means having a handful of nuts every now and again. Mark is already pretty nuts about nuts, so probably no difference for him!
  • way more diligence about label reading at the grocery store. Some surprises in the ingredient lists on some staple items – like olive tapenade. Was hard to find one that didn’t have anchovies as an ingredient!
  • bought a chewable B12 supplement. Probably not a huge deal if we revert back to our vegetarian diet, but you can’t be too sure! A good (vegan) friend of ours has pernicious anaemia, and requires B12 injections, so we are aware of the necessity to have enough B12 in our diet.

Was pleasantly surprised to hear that other friends of ours are also having a go at Veganary. Word is clearly getting out! And much love to our dear militant vegan friends (who shall remain nameless), who have been delightfully supportive of our attempts. We love ya!

We watched the great documentary “Conspiracy” last night.  It has been on our “to watch” list for quite a while now, but we thought it a good idea to make sure we viewed it while we were actually vegans!   Both of us thought it would be quite brutal re: graphic shots on animal cruelty.   And although there were two moments when both of us closed our eyes, overall this documentary is great, and it ISN’T all about abattoir shots, caged hens, etc… it is all about the number one causes of climate change (spoiler alert:  it ISN’T what you might think).  Highly recommended.  Particularly if you call yourself an environmentalist!

Finally, I feel “lighter”.   And I know this probably won’t be a surprise to fellow vegans.  But I was a bit surprised at this change.   Have to assume it is associated with the lack of cheese in our diet (rather than the eggs).   A good friend has suggested that when we re-introduce cheese and eggs into our diet, we do it one at time, just to see what it is that causes the heavier feeling.   A good idea!   Will let you know how it goes.

Written by Mar(k)

January 22, 2016 at 3:59 pm

Veganary Week 2 – finding an all vegan shop

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Well, we have finished about half of our Veganary month. In my last post, I mentioned a real score, which was finding an ALL VEGAN store literally just up the road from where we live. We had actually known it was there for a few weeks, but hadn’t gotten around to dropping in to check it out. Mighty glad we have now, though!

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The shop is called La Vita Vegan Grocery, and you can check out their Facebook page here. Natalie (pictured in the shop), is the owner, and was super friendly, helpful and pretty much just amazing!

This small place ticks a lot of boxes for us, Vegan or not! Here are just a few:

  • It is small, local place to shop for groceries.   We already boycott Coles and Woolies, and enjoy getting most of our fruit and veg at the local farmer’s market.   Whatever we can’t find there, we buy at the independent grocery stores (IGA or Farmer Jack’s).   But this is also going to be a go-to place for us.   Small businesses only succeed when people vote with their pocketbooks.
  • It is wonderful to see a niche like veganism being filled!   Perth doesn’t have the “big city” options like our other big cities do, so we are always going to support ventures that open up Perth’s doors just a little bit wider to the wonderful world out there!
  • Go the girls!  Love to see young women succeed in their business ventures.  Natalie is ambitious, friendly and happy to share her experiences as a vegan with her customers.  I can see that she will be a success in this venture.

In other news with our Veganary journey this week, Mark is slowly expanding his world view of soy milk with coffee.   He has now tried (two successes, one failure) a soy long macchiato.   So options are opening up for the man.  Yay.   But we did have to turn down two beautiful looking bites of yumminess yesterday at a coffee shop who gives you little bites of delightfulness when you order your coffee.   Alas, no vegan options there.   On the plus side, it probably saved some calories.

Two weeks down, two weeks to go.

Written by Mar(k)

January 15, 2016 at 9:32 am

Week 1 of being Vegan – the good, the bad, the ugly

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Well, week one is now behind us.  No major dramas, but thought I would quickly summarise some of what we experienced:

The good:

  • Success at our dinner out on Saturday night with friends.  Went for Thai, and had no dramas with ordering.  Pretty much everything in the vegetarian section was also vegan.  Hint:  if ordering Pad Thai, just order it without the egg.
  • Major score!  Finding a Vegan store only a few blocks from our home.   I won’t say any more in this post – because I plan to write it up for NEXT week.
  • Had one of our (militant) vegan friends over for dinner this week.  She was so stoked that we are doing the vegan thing.   AND loved the Mexican themed meal.   (sweet potato quesadillas and vegan chilli served with homemade vegan sour cream – which was a real hit).

The bad:

  • Mark went on a long (100 km) cycle ride, and they stopped at a small cafe for coffee and breakfast.   No more cappuccinos for him!  Bugger, because he doesn’t like soy milk, so he will have to rely on long blacks for the month, I guess.   The breakfast options were there, but not in abundance.  What he WANTED was eggs, but alas!  No can do.   So he settled for a muffin, although he didn’t realise that it probably wasn’t vegan (eggs, butter, possibly milk).  Oh well – he was at least conscious of TRYING to make the right choice, so that counts as OK in my book!   Mushrooms on toast would have been an option, but they weren’t available.   And no toast and avocado, either.   Never mind!   Onwards and upwards.
  • Update on the coffee situation:  Mark continues to be traumatised at the end of week 1.   I think this says more about how addicted we are to our coffees outside of the home.   Oh well – this is definitely a First World Problem.
  • We inadvertently “slipped up” the other night for dinner.   Prepared a yummy lentil salad, and had prepared a simple green salad to go with it.   Feeling a bit lazy, so just drizzled some pre-prepared Japanese sesame salad dressing on it.   After drizzling, I then thought to read the label (note to self:  read label BEFORE drizzling).   Yup – hidden “powdered egg yolk”!   (yuck).   Oh well.   We did our best!

The ugly:

  • Sheese.   For the uninitiated, this is one of those “dairy free cheese substitutes” that is a cross between sh*t and cheese.  Ha ha.  Only joking. We bought it, and we are using it in sandwiches, etc…   We just need to get past the mindset that it will taste like cheese.  Because it doesn’t.  Because it isn’t.

    Not our cup of tea.  Or block of Sheese.   Or whatever.

    Not our cup of tea. Or block of Sheese. Or whatever.

That’s all for now!  Week 2 is now underway.  Bring it on!

Written by Mar(k)

January 8, 2016 at 11:22 am