By Christopher Wade
(Note: This article has been published in The Outlook, May 2022. Find it on page 14 here.)
As a kid growing up in Texas in the 1970s, I never imagined I would one day stop eating meat. Living in a state where steak and hamburgers were part of everyday meals and football was practically a religion, I took it for granted that meat was just something everybody ate.
Fast forward to the 2020s, and a lot more is known about the health benefits of eating more plants and reducing or eliminating the consumption of meat and other animal products. Many health experts encourage us to base our diets around whole plant foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and nuts.
Dr. Kim A. Williams, fellow and past president of the American College of Cardiology, said in an interview last year with the Harvard Health Policy Review, “Plant-based diets are associated with lower rates of obesity and diabetes, high quality of life and longer life expectancy, as well as less hypertension, …heart failure, stroke and death.”
And Dr. Michael Greger, founder of nutritionfacts.org, says in his recent book How Not to Diet, “...whole food, plant-based nutrition is the only diet proven to reverse heart disease in the majority of patients, opening up arteries without drugs or surgery.”
I ate a typical omnivorous diet growing up, and I didn’t really like eating vegetables. Fortunately, my mom always provided healthy food options that I enjoyed, including fresh fruit and whole wheat bread. Looking back on this now, I’m very thankful for my mom’s love and care in feeding our family. She provided the foundation for my lifelong interest in nutrition and health.
After my family moved from Texas to California, I played organized school sports including basketball in junior high and high school. I really enjoyed sports, but back then I didn’t fully appreciate the link between diet and athletic performance.
Today, a growing number of professional athletes are turning to a plant-based diet to gain a competitive edge, including NBA star Chris Paul, tennis stars Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams, ultramarathoner Scott Jurek, and bodybuilder Nimai Delgado.
Paul told Reuters last year, "Playing as many games as I play, ….everything is about recovery. How fast can my body recover? And being plant-based, the recovery changed just like that," he said, snapping his fingers.
Delgado described his diet in an interview with Muscleandfitness.com. “There’s a huge misconception that you can’t build muscle without animal protein,” Delgado said. “The moment people find out I won an overall title without ever eating meat, and did it strictly eating plants, they become very interested.” For more information about athletes performing on plant-based diets, see the documentary The Game Changers.
Nearly a decade ago, my wife Lisa and I decided to stop eating animal products. At first, this new way of eating took a little getting used to. We updated our weekly shopping list and found some easy plant-based recipes to get us started. After a while, eating plant-based became second nature. At the time, there typically weren’t many plant-based options when we went out to eat, but restaurants were usually happy to make some of their dishes without animal products when requested.
In the last few years, more and more restaurants have added plant-based dishes to their menus. A couple of the local restaurants we enjoy include Golden Triangle Cuisine in Los Gatos and Veggie Grill on Saratoga Ave. For a full list of restaurants with plant-based options, visit happycow.net.
Grocery stores also now carry many alternatives to animal products that are made entirely of plants, such as plant-based meats, cheeses, butter, yogurt, and milk. In addition, there are online meal delivery companies such as Veestro and Daily Harvest that ship ready-made, plant-based meals directly to your door.
Now that I’m in my 50s, I still love athletic activities like hiking, biking, strength training, and skiing, and I have found that a whole-food, plant-based diet is really effective for reducing inflammation and recovering quickly. My goal is to stay active and healthy into my later years, and a plant-based diet will help me do just that.
With today’s medical knowledge and the wide variety of plant-based options available in restaurants, grocery stores, and online, there’s never been a better time to eat plant-based.
Christopher Wade is an engineer and a Los Gatos resident. A health and fitness enthusiast, he enjoys exercising, learning about nutrition, and cooking plant-based meals. To learn more about the benefits of a plant-based diet, visit plantbasedadvocates.com.
This recipe by PBA member, Anita Bora, was published in The Outlook, dated May 2022. You can also find it it on page 14 of this document.
FEW REALIZE THAT MEAT AND DAIRY PRODUCTION DEVOUR A FULL 47% OF THE STATE’S WATER
By Karen Rubio
No one can deny that we’re in the mother of all megadroughts.
The seven hottest years on record have happened in the last seven years. The U.S. Drought Monitor just reported that 93% of California, including the Bay Area, is in severe drought and 35% is in extreme drought. Last year, dangerous heat killed hundreds of people in Oregon and Washington and nearly buckled California’s power grid. Federal forecasters say that this year conditions will worsen in California and the West with hotter-than-normal temperatures and little chance of rain.
So, where is our water going? In the midst of the turmoil over our diminishing water supply, an often-overlooked industry operates without scrutiny — consuming the lion’s share of California’s diminishing water, churning out massive amounts of greenhouse gas emissions and polluting our environment with impunity.
Few realize that meat and dairy production devour a full 47% of California’s water, their huge water footprints due to the amount of water-intensive feed required to raise the animals. In fact, the largest water-consuming crop in California is the alfalfa grown to feed animals. The third largest? Irrigated pasture — again, for animals.
Read the complete article in The Mercury News.
By Lisa Wade, Plant Based Advocates
Are you tired of spending your weekends mowing your water-thirsty grass and blowing leaves? Are you ready to make peace with wildlife foraging for food on your labor-intensive lawn?
Thankfully, there is an elegant way to save time and water, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, noise pollution, and pesticide use while co-existing with wildlife and nature.
According to the California Rural Water Association, more than half the water used in California households is for lawns. A native landscape saves money and eases the stress of water restrictions in drought-prone California. Indigenous plants have deeper roots than grass and anchor the soil, reducing runoff and erosion while also storing more carbon in the soil.
A native landscape reduces pollution from noise, water, and air. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), lawn maintenance equipment like lawn mowers and leaf blowers generate 5 percent of our country’s greenhouse gas emissions. Instead of constant mowing and blowing, you can simply sweep extra leaves onto your native landscape to provide rich mulch for your beneficial plants, helping to keep your neighborhood quiet and clean.
Native plants do not typically require fertilizers and pesticides that are regularly applied to lawns. Toxins from these treatments enter our environment, threatening the health of humans and animals alike. In addition, fertilizers are fossil fuel-based and run off into waterways where they eventually cause algal blooms, wreaking havoc on marine life.
Instead of battling to maintain an unnatural emerald lawn, we can work with nature, relying on the wisdom of indigenous plants that are pest-resistant and designed by nature to tolerate the weather and soil of the region. In addition, native plants provide important food and habitat for beneficial insects, birds, and mammals.
We are currently in the sixth mass extinction of species, with bugs being particularly vulnerable. This is mainly due to intensive agriculture, mostly growing and spraying crops to feed the animals we eat. However, urban lawns also play a role due to the use of fertilizers and pesticides as well as leaf blowers that blow insects right out of their leafy homes. Insects serve as pollinators for our crops and food for other creatures, and they are master recyclers of nutrients. The web of life is fragile, and we cannot afford to lose vast populations of our insects. Our once-rich diversity of songbird species is also declining. Native plants have evolved to provide the perfect food and shelter for our threatened native wildlife.
Although artificial turf does save water, this petroleum-based product is barren and does not support beneficial birds and insects. It cannot store carbon and can leach chemicals into our environment.
So how can we create an environmentally-friendly landscape that supports life?
Some opt for a manicured look by creating a pleasing and ordered native landscape with wood chips as mulch.
Or, some follow the advice of Nancy Lawson in her book, The Humane Gardener, and “imitate natural growth patterns by adding sedges, grasses, and native groundcovers as green mulch among taller plants… The low leaf canopy will provide food and shelter for many species, giving rabbits a place to nest….”
A native landscape allows you to truly live in harmony with nature. You can even welcome gophers and moles who play an important role in keeping the soil aerated and balancing insect populations. Gopher mounds blend into the natural-looking environment and are barely visible under shrubs.
If you are not yet ready to take the plunge, you can start slowly, perhaps replacing some exotic plants with natives. You could also reduce the size of your lawn by replacing part of it with native groundcover.
A few beautiful native plants you may have heard of are coast live oak trees, California fuchsia, golden currant, and purple needlegrass.
Saratoga resident and past chapter president of the California Native Plant Society Madeline Morrow says, “ I love California’s landscapes, plants, and animals, and I want the piece of California I am responsible for to nurture our unique flora and fauna.”
To get started, Madeline recommends www.calscape.org.
“Their Planting Guide is a great introduction to native plant gardening,” Morrow said. “They have useful information for almost any native plant, and places to buy it.”
Madeline’s yard will be part of the Growing Natives Garden tour on April 2-3, put on by the California Native Plant Society Santa Clara Valley chapter in collaboration with Santa Clara County Master Gardeners. Visit www.gngt.org for more information.
“We’re back in person this year,” Morrow said. “Fingers crossed!”
“Biodiversity worldwide is collapsing,” says Los Gatos resident Kevin Arroyo, who organized a project to create a critical pollinator habitat by planting natives on a neglected strip along Los Gatos Almaden Road. To find out more or to volunteer, contact Kevin Arroyo at email@example.com
Lisa Wade grew up in South Africa where she developed a deep respect for wildlife. She enjoys native gardening and serves as president of Plant-Based Advocates, a Los Gatos-based nonprofit encouraging a shift toward sustainable, plant-based eating.
Provides a roadmap to restore health of this critical resource
By Debbie Parsons, Los Gatos Plant-Based Advocates
Many of us are drawn to the ocean and fascinated by it. We visit beautiful beaches. We love dolphins, sea turtles, and whales. We appreciate how precious the ocean is and want it to remain healthy. Sadly, our ocean is in a desperate fight for survival.
This fight is revealed in the eye-opening Netflix documentary Seaspiracy. The film, produced by Ali Tabrizi, identifies the commercial fishing industry as a leading culprit in an imminent underwater disaster. While disheartening at times, Seaspiracy is highly informative and has a positive message—we have the power to save our ocean.
Tabrizi begins by tackling a common misconception: that the ocean’s vastness ensures a safe, resilient environment for the teeming life within. Most of us have heard about “overfishing,” yet there are plenty of fish in our supermarkets. So what’s the problem? Seaspiracy reveals that, if we continue to haul our current rate of 2.7 trillion fish from the ocean each year, we will lose most fish species by 2048.
What about “farm-raised” fish? Isn’t that an easy solution to overfishing? Not so fast, says Tabrizi. Farmed fish are jam-packed into netted cages, in water polluted by their own waste, akin to “factory farming” of land animals. Seaspiracy puts a spotlight on salmon farms in Scotland, which incredibly produce as much organic waste as the entire human population of Scotland each year. Moreover, farmed fish are often fed with wild fish, contributing to declining fish populations in the ocean.
Seaspiracy highlights another commercial fishing practice called “bottom trawling.” This involves dragging giant trawling nets across the bottom of the ocean, destroying 3.9 billion acres of seabed each year. This wipes out coral reefs, causes complete collapse of marine ecosystems, and greatly impedes our fight against climate change, since the ocean is the Earth’s biggest carbon sink. Seaspiracy compares bottom trawling to bulldozing pristine Amazon rainforest.
Tragically, many sea animals never intended for a dinner plate get caught up and die painful deaths in the fishing industry’s gigantic nets. The inadvertently caught sea animals, called bycatch, include over 300,000 whales and dolphins, 50 million sharks and 250,000 turtles in US waters alone. Seaspiracy helps consumers understand the true cost in sea life of the fillet or shrimp on their plate.
Seaspiracy won’t let us hide behind “sustainable” fishing labels either. According to Tabrizi, the ocean is too vast for authorities to verify that sustainable fishing practices are being used. Tabrizi illustrates the point by highlighting an Iceland fishery whose pricey products bore a sustainability “checkmark.” However, approximately 269 harbor porpoises, 900 seals and 5000 seabirds were killed at this "sustainable" fishery in just one month.
Social justice issues caused by the commercial fishing industry are brought to light as well. There is heartbreaking footage of fishing communities in Africa starving due to overfishing by giant boats from faraway countries, Viewers learn about enslavement of people by shrimp boat owners. We learn, ironically, that the fishing industry receives $35 billion in annual subsidies while the UN estimates that it would cost about $30 billion to combat world hunger.
Despite the harsh reality portrayed, Seaspiracy does offer hope for the future. Tabrizi reminds us that marine ecosystems have the ability to bounce back very quickly. The prospect for rewilding our ocean is exciting and attainable.
Naturally, there is controversy about Seaspiracy, and pushback in the media by the commercial fishing industry. This confirms the age-old adage that there are at least two sides to every story, especially when profits are involved. Either way, Seaspiracy has started a critical conversation about the future of our ocean. Watch Seaspiracy to be in on this critical conversation. At the very least, you will be an informed consumer who is aware of the true cost of seafood. The first step in healing our ocean is to understand the enormity of the problem by educating ourselves.
Seasonal and Sustainable Dishes Made by Your Favorite Local Chefs
Date: Sunday, November 7, 2021, 4 PM
Acterra will host a holiday cooking forum featuring a diverse set of notable Bay Area chefs that will demonstrate how to prepare their favorite plant-based holiday dishes. Each chef will be sharing personal stories and cultural significance of the dish, talk about the benefits of plant-forward eating and the importance of using induction cooktops.
Two moderators will be joining us to interact with the chefs and ask questions posed by audience members, for an overall interactive and engaging experience.
Acterra's social media handles:
Instagram and Twitter: @PlanetActerra
Facebook and LinkedIn: @acterra
Registration link: https://hopin.com/events/holiday-refresh-2021
Website with more info: https://www.acterra.org/holiday-refresh
We will be reverse trick-or-treating where you’ll be in costume, but you’ll be the one giving treats to our rescued animal residents. Watch us smash some pumpkins, see the animals devour them, and help us give our residents an all-around amazing day!
This event is open to all ages, and we’ll also send you home with your own vegan-friendly goodie bags.
The best news is that the proceeds from this event go directly towards the continued care of the 130+ rescued animals who call Charlie's Acres home!
• Costume Parade - Show off your costumes as you walk the sanctuary loop, saying hello to rescued animals.
• Animal Treats - Reverse the trick-or-treat tradition and hand out treats to rescued animals as you stop by each pasture.
• Goat Greeting - Hang out in the pasture with some of our goat or sheep residents.
• Pumpkin Smash - Watch the animals enjoy eating pumpkins tossed into their yards.
• Goodie bags - Don't leave without taking your gift bag of candy with you!
For more info or to purchase tickets, go to:
Penned by PBA Core Member, Mythri Ramesh for the Los Gatos Outlook in August 2021.
One lazy Saturday afternoon, I called a local restaurant and asked to hear their vegan options. I then heard, “Is chicken okay?” and took it as an opportunity to explain the nuances between different plant-based diets. This article will explore those differences, and share some reasons why my Los Gatos family and I have personally chosen a vegan diet.
So what are the different plant-based diets? How do they differ from a vegan diet?
Plant-based: Focuses on foods primarily from plants like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, oils, whole grains, legumes, and beans. Doesn’t completely exclude animal products, but prioritizes choosing foods from plant sources.
Vegan: Excludes all animal products, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, and dairy products.
Lacto-vegetarian: Excludes eggs, meat, seafood, and poultry and includes milk products.
Ovo-vegetarian: Excludes meat, seafood, poultry, and dairy products and includes eggs.
Lacto-ovo vegetarian: Excludes meat, seafood, and poultry and includes eggs and dairy products. 
Pescatarian: Excludes meats, like beef, pork, or chicken, but includes fish. May include dairy products and eggs pescatarian diet may include dairy products and eggs.
I had been a lacto-ovo vegetarian all my life, but now I am a proud vegan with all my heart and soul. Through this journey of discovery, I learned some eye-opening, jaw-dropping and heartbreaking facts. I will break it down into three parts, to make it look clean, easy to understand and to be frank, not to bore you!
Vegan for My Health and My Family’s Health
According to researchers, “unhealthy diets are the largest global burden of disease,” having surpassed even tobacco use as the leading cause of death and disease worldwide. Eating more plants and fewer animal products could prevent 10.9 to 11.6 million premature human deaths from heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic conditions every year.  After learning this, I decided to change our diet to plant-based to protect my family.
Vegan for Our Planet
It takes 460 gallons of water and 64.5 square feet of land crops to produce a 1/4-pound hamburger.  Imagine how many humans we can feed in that same amount of land with a plant-based diet! And every year, we raise 29 million cows for beef and dairy. When we factor in all the land used to graze animals and feed crops grown to sustain livestock, as well as the waste produced from all these animals (cows are responsible for 62 percent of agricultural emissions5) it becomes obvious that eating animals is simply unsustainable for our planet. These are the facts about cows. What about other farm animals?
Vegan for Animals
Who doesn’t like the classic children’s song, “Old-McDonald?” We all teach our kids about farm animals and take them to petting zoos. The feeling of seeing a jumping white baby lamb or a goofy tiny pink piglet tends to generate happiness and love. But somehow there is a disconnect from seeing them physically alive, versus having them on our plates. Animals are sentient beings, and they feel emotions just like us through their nervous systems. They are no different from our pampered dogs or cats with their own cute little beds. Why treat one as companions and others as products?
Am I asking to throw out everything in your refrigerator? If you are up for it, yes! It really depends on what you’re comfortable with. Some people convert to a plant-based diet completely on day one, while others ease into it by starting to switch out some traditional meals with plant-based meals. You can start with meatless Mondays or kick-start your diet with a month of plant-based meals. Need recipes? There are countless online that are super easy, quick and delicious. There are several pure vegan restaurants around the Bay Area as well as vegan options provided by various local restaurants. If you need help getting used to eating plant-based, there are many resources available to help you: Challenge 22 (www.challenge22.com) and Vegan Outreach (www.veganoutreach.org) are just a few. You can also find support and recipes through Plant-Based Advocates, a grassroots group that I am part of in Los Gatos.
I encourage you to give the “plant-based lifestyle” a chance. Who knows? Maybe you will love this new way of living because of your improved health, as well as knowing your diet minimizes harm toward animals or our environment.
Plant-Based Advocates is a grassroots group in Los Gatos that is working to mitigate climate change by reducing the traditional reliance on meat and dairy. We're taking action in the community by doing things like helping restaurants increase their plant-based options, working with local legislators, and sharing plant-based meals with unhoused communities. This is our way of sharing the benefits of plant-based eating and giving back to the community during these unprecedented times.
Email me your thoughts: firstname.lastname@example.org
In partnership with Plant-Based Advocates of Los Gatos, the Los Gatos library presents a one-hour virtual Zoom tour of Charlie's Acres Farm Animal Sanctuary (located in Sonoma County). Tune in to see all the wonderful animals and hear their rescue stories, learn about caring for rescued farm animals, and learn more about plant-based eating to create a kind, compassionate, and green planet.
At Charlie's Acres, the goal is to rescue farm animals who were abused or destined for the dinner table. They strive to teach people about the beauty and intelligence of these animals and how to leave them off your plate.
Email email@example.com with any questions!
Here is the Zoom link to join!
A look into the reality of male cows in the dairy industry
By Kathleen Willey of Plant Based Advocates
I made a new friend recently, a beautiful and gentle soul with long eyelashes named Argyle, who loves to have his head scratched. He is a male dairy cow, and was considered a waste product to the industry because he will never produce milk. He is one of the rare lucky ones who was rescued and will live out his days at a farm animal sanctuary called Sweet Farm in Half Moon Bay.
Even though I have always been a passionate animal lover, I grew up eating a Standard American Diet of meat, dairy and eggs. As a teenager I made the connection and stopped eating “anything with a cute face,” occasionally eating fish or chicken, but was still consuming lots of dairy. I assumed I wasn’t hurting cows because they “needed to be milked.” Packaging assured me dairy comes from “happy” cows and showed pictures of loving moms serving their children a glass of milk.
Then I learned the truth. A female cow is forcibly impregnated and her calf is taken away at a day or 2 old so humans can take her milk. The mother cow cries out for weeks as she mourns the loss of her baby. She will live in a windowless shed or a manure-filled yard with thousands of others just like her, and will be hooked up to painful machines two to three times a day to be milked.
If her baby is female, she will be put in a lonely crate and fed formula instead of her mother’s nurturing milk. Once she is old enough, she will also be forcibly impregnated and then suffer the same fate as her mother. This cycle repeats itself over and over again until she is so exhausted her milk production wanes. She is then sent off to slaughter at around 5 or 6 years of age. A normal life span for a cow is around 15 to 20 years.
If her baby is male like Argyle, he is either killed right away or confined to a tiny crate—those white hutches you see near farms, where he can barely move to prevent developing muscle tissue. He will become someone’s veal dinner at around 4 months old.
I also suffered from many health issues my entire life including painful heartburn, IBS, unexplained hives and asthma. My asthma was so bad that as a teenager, I could not participate in PE class with my friends. Even after a severe asthma attack I was never told to try giving up dairy. Instead I was just prescribed powerful drugs and inhalers that made my heart race so quickly I thought I would have a heart attack! I was also given prednisone which made my face swell up and led to weight gain which triggered a terrible eating disorder as a teenager. Now when I see drug commercials for asthma medications listing all the horrible side effects, it makes me sad wondering how many people would get better if they removed dairy from their diet.
There is a lot of misinformation about dairy, even among medical professionals. It causes a lot of inflammation in the body, including the bronchial tubes. It increases the risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, asthma and certain cancers. Marketing tries to convince us we need dairy for strong bones, yet the countries with the highest rates of osteoporosis are also the countries with the highest dairy consumption. There is a similar correlation with cancer.
I initially gave up dairy for health reasons and then I was horrified to discover the cruelty I had been supporting for so many years. No matter how cleverly it is marketed - organic, humane, ethical etc., there is no dairy milk unless the cow is forcibly impregnated and her baby is taken away. I don’t miss it because there are so many excellent non dairy cheeses, yogurts, ice creams and plant based milks that are so much healthier and kinder to the animals and our planet.
Once I adopted a whole foods plant-based diet, my lifelong asthma, heartburn, IBS and hives all went away. I am medication free and I run faster than I did 20 years ago and beat people half my age up hills on my mountain bike!
So, waste product Argyle, thank you for being an ambassador to the approximately 20 million male dairy cows that are killed globally every year in the dairy industry. I may cry sometimes as I hug you and think about the others that are not so lucky, but I am so glad you are here on this Earth to be my friend.
About: Kathleen Willey is a busy mom of twin boys and lives locally with her husband and her beloved vegan Labrador retriever, Honey. Her passion for plant-based eating led her to start a local Facebook group, Plant Based Friends, and then Plant Based Advocates, a Los Gatos-based group that serves plant based meals to some of the local homeless communities. She received a certification in plant based nutrition and works for a non profit to educate kids about their food choices and the impacts they have on the environment, health and animals.