All That Baggage

A reader recently asked what he should do about luggage. Are there any sustainable suitcases? I did a little bit of research, and came up with a few bags that seemed to fit the bill, and run the spectrum from affordable to expensive. Keep in mind that one of the most sustainable things about luggage is whether it will last a lifetime. Buying poorly-constructed suitcases requires frequent replacements, and thus more garbage and more resources needed to make more. In addition, never forget the almighty favor; most people don’t travel at the same time as their friends – so ask if you can borrow!

The first stop on this search is the most eco-friendly one: used or vintage luggage. Ebay, Craigslist, thrift stores and yard sales are sometimes the best places to get luggage. It’s often quite affordable, too. For example, if you like the aesthetic of an old, beat-up hard-shell or vinyl bag, you may want to go this route. The images above are from Ebay of a burgundy vinyl, and a black hard-shell with canvas straps. These have already proven their longevity, and they have a lot of character. They even look nice when you leave them out on display.

If you are someone that wants to buy a new product, consider these options:

Heys USA Eco Case. Made from 100% recycled plastic, expandable for up to 20% more space and had 360 degree swivel wheels. $340 retail, only $283.99 at luggage.com

Eco Traveler 2-piece Expandable Carry-on Luggage Set. Hemp canvas carry-on bag set, only $49.99 at Overstock.com (a fur-free online store!)

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• Patagonia Freewheeler and MLC lines. Made from 100% recycled fabrics. $300 range at patagonia.com


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It’s Good to be Nice

by Ari Solomon

Last week, Los Angeles’ first vegan ice cream parlor opened its doors. Sandwiched halfway between Hollywood and the valley, NiceCream is situated in a cozy strip mall right around the corner from the amazing SunPower Natural Café.

NiceCream, which has been in development for a couple years now, has been anticipated by vegans and health-conscious eaters alike since their marquee went up about a year ago. Pulling up to this modern ice cream parlor, I could barely contain my excitement! Of course, living in LA, I immediately noticed that there was ample parking in their lot, with spaces allotted just for NiceCream.

The first thing you see when you walk into this delectable depot is the glass case filled with over 12 flavors of ice cream! We’re talking maple pecan, mocha, mint chocolate chip, ginger basil… it’s bananas!! And they taste even more amazing then they look. One spoonful of the mint chocolate chip and I nearly passed out. So refreshing, so creamy… I was told by Mollie, the mastermind behind NiceCream and the daughter of Café Gratitude’s Matthew Engelhart, that the mint is organic and picked from her own garden. Indeed, all of NiceCream’s ice cream is homemade and mostly raw and organic. Some flavors are made using a cashew or almond base, but don’t let that deter you if you have a nut allergy, they also serve coconut-based flavors as well.

After nearly having an orgasm over the flavors in the case, my eyes were then drawn to a huge — wait for it — soft serve machine! Oh girrrrrl, say it isn’t so! Out of this machine came the most fluffy, the most silky, the most insane vegan soft serve EVER. Seriously, you have to strap yourself in for this one. The day I came the only soft-serve flavor they had was chocolate but more flavors are on the way. And the soft-serve is also homemade. Can you handle it?

But NiceCream isn’t just about ice cream and soft serve (though we’d be fine with just that); they also offer banana splits, brownie sundaes (raw brownie upon request), smoothies and juices. There are also truffles and a freezerful of pints for sale.

According to Mollie, this week’s opening has been incredible but not without controversy. NiceCream, which does have the words “vegan ice cream” on their marquee, uses honey in three or four of the their flavors (you can read their explanation here). But, the varieties that contain honey are clearly marked if you wish to avoid them.

My two cents, get your asses down to NiceCream and eat that shit! Take your dairy consuming friends and let them see just how incredible vegan ice cream really is. And for Café Gratitude fans, I also got scooped on a Los Angeles Café Gratitude coming our way this fall.

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Ari Solomon is the President and co-creator of the celebrated vegan candle line A Scent of Scandal®. After graduating from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, Ari first worked as an actor in New York and Los Angeles, and later hosted the wildly popular ARI’S HOLLYWOOD UPDATE on Miami’s Y-100FM. Now a prolific activist and writer for animal and human rights, Ari’s letters have appeared in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Miami Herald, and The Advocate. He regularly blogs for The Huffington Post.

Eating in Omaha, Part II

I made it to the weekend brunch at Daily Grub in Omaha just before heading off to Indiana. The brunch was delicious and featured three kinds of waffles, three amazing  specials, great coffee, juices, and smoothies. I had a banana, strawberry, blackberry and blueberry smoothie, and classic waffles with fruit and maple syrup served beside tofu scramble with asparagus, mushrooms, scallions and fresh herbs.

Later for dinner, I had the chance to grab some grub at McFoster’s Natural Kind Cafe, also in Omaha. I had a veggie-melt sandwich with tempeh-bacon, mushrooms, eggplant, peppers, zucchini, pickles and Tofutti cheese, and for dessert, a piece of chocolate tofu-cheesecake.

McFoster’s is a bit old-school hippy from food to decor, and not entirely vegetarian. It was good, but not amazing. Regardless, my opinion of Nebraska is forever changed for the better, and I hope to come back!

Daily Grub in Omaha, Nebraska

Today I ran on foot about 15 blocks to Daily Grub and got there right at 2:50pm (they close at 3:00!). Thank goodness, they still served me even though I was sweaty from my run, and forgot cash (it’s cash-only). Omaha’s very own vegan, slow-food champions Elle Lien and Joey Lynch prepared for me a delicious white-bean paté with harissa, mole-roasted vegetable tacos with vérde sauce, and pineapple-spinach-ginger juice.

The food was excellent, and being that they only opened three days ago, I was impressed with the atmosphere – featuring flowers in antique bottles, a wall-sized chalkboard menu with a lightening-chirping-chick, and simple, warm, country influenced wood furniture.

Elle, the creator and chef, began her career in food with a word-of-mouth raw-vegan food event, Clean Plate, in Omaha in 2009. Daily Grub was an evolution of Clean Plate and is a permanent fixture on the corner of 20th and Pierce. Joey, the right-hand-man, is a visual artist who makes gorgeous paintings, prints, and posters.

The menu changes daily depending upon what’s fresh at the farmer’s market, and the ingredients are always local, organic, and usually vegan. They even have a weekend brunch featuring vegan waffles! The best part was that Elle and Joey were so friendly, Joey even offered me a ride back to work, how could could I say no?

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Night Flight Pizza in Omaha, Nebraksa

I am out in Nebraska for a gig, relaxing in my Omaha hotel having just finished a surprisingly delicious meal at Night Flight Pizza. I found the place using the Veg Out App on my iPhone, and I was informed by the gentleman working behind the counter that the family who owns the pizzeria are all vegans. Go figure. They have Daiya cheese, veggie sausage, tempeh-bacon, and lots of veggies. I ordered the works, plus mushrooms and artichoke. Yum! Who says you can’t eat great vegan food in the Midwest?

Also in Omaha, I just found out from a friend, that a new vegan place just opened yesterday called Daily Grub. I really hope I have time to go eat there and report back to you guys! Cyclists get 1/2 off any one item and it’s only 5 blocks from my hotel. They have weird hours, so fingers crossed!