A Look Back: No Meat Athlete Podcast

Plant-Based is good for the planet & athletic performance

(Approximately 6 min. read)

A year ago, I had the opportunity to speak on a podcast about being vegan. The real reason I went on the show was to raise awareness of EcoAthletes’ involvement at COP26 (which I wrote about, here). I was interviewed by Matt Tullman, half of the Matt & Matt team that comprises the No Meat Athlete Podcast – part of the No Meat Athlete organization. It provides a library of resources for people curious about reducing their animal consumption in a healthy non-preachy way. 

I was initially nervous to talk about my diet. I’ve seen how the way we eat is, often unknowingly, a key part of our identity. Just by eating vegan in proximity to people, without any comment on their choices, I’ve seen peoples’ defenses go up. If you’re feeling that way reading this, there are cute puppy pictures and I hope a few reasons to let your guard down, coming up.

My journey to veganism started with becoming a vegetarian out of concern for animals. As I recounted on the podcast, my dad had his first heart attack at just 45 years old. Upon his discharge from the hospital, the doctor recommended he try a vegetarian diet. Vegetarianism can be a great stepping stone into a whole-food plant-based diet, which is the most effective way to bring cholesterol and other cardiac markers down into healthy ranges (these dietary changes are often more effective than any available drugs – see How to Not Die by Dr. Greger).

Shortly after, we got a dog. Jack was the cutest little menace of a yellow lab puppy you could imagine. With my dad’s new diet and the puppy, I had two light-bulb thoughts: firstly, “wait, we are eating living things?” and secondly, “there is another option?” 

Growing up in the NJ suburbs, I was as disconnected from nature and agriculture as could be: food came from the grocery store, packaged and processed. I finally made the connection that my chicken nuggets and hotdogs used to be living creatures. Creatures with the capacity to love, feel pain, and have a personality, much like Jack. At eleven, I told my parents I would no longer eat meat and stubbornly held my ground.

For the next decade, as I ate vegetarian, I accepted the fact that my athletic performance might suffer so I could stay true to my values. As I got into my teenage years and hockey became a more serious pursuit for me, the pressure to eat meat ramped up. I got grilled about protein (or lack of it) relentlessly. The criticism drove me to educate myself more fully, and resulted in a slow but steady progression towards optimal healthy eating. Years later I became vegan, cutting out dairy milk and cheese.

In the last five years or so, fears of performance loss have been proven to be unsubstantiated. Documentaries like the Game Changers and books like The Plant Based Athlete (written by one of the No Meat Athlete Podcast founders) have debunked Rocky-style “steak and raw egg” thinking. High profile athletes like Alex Morgan, Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic, and retired NFL linebacker Derrick Morgan cite their vegan diet for faster recovery and injury resistance.

And while we’re on model athletes, a special mention should be made here for Blake Bolden, who now scouts for the LA Kings in the NHL and is the only other active hockey player, male or female, I know of who openly follows a plant based diet.

For starters, the constant worry about protein has never been an issue for me. At 138 lbs, the evidence says I can build muscle best with about 100g of protein-a-day (~1.6/kg). Three meals of 25g each and a daily protein shake can get me there pretty easily. Oats, beans, chickpeas, tofu, and lentils are all go-tos for me. I mix in a lot of walnuts and flaxseed to get my omegas, spinach for my iron, and I take a B-12 supplement. Not a heavy lift at all!

I’ve taken a B-12 supplement since I was a kid.  Low B-12 has been tied to depression, extreme tiredness, and general weakness but it’s easy to stay on top of. Matt Tullman, who interviewed me for this podcast, was kind enough to set me up with some products from his company, Complements. I’ve been using the Essential Vitamins for a year now and feel great. I love that the protein powder has simple ingredients without any artificial flavoring and I love that everything comes in compostable packaging.

If you are interested in checking them out, please consider using this affiliate link and shoot me a message (on WordPress or on Instagram) if you’d like an additional discount code!

While the Plant Based Athlete helped reassure me that I wasn’t hindering my athletic progress, what has surprised me most about this journey is what I’ve learned about the overarching agricultural system and how much impact our food has on the planet. 

Which brings us back to EcoAthletes and the climate emergency. What does diet have to do with it?

A vegan diet is one of the most immediate personal choices we can make to reduce our person carbon footprint. Is that surprising to you? It was to me. Between land-use, the crops required to feed so many cattle, and cow gas (AKA methane) –  eating red meat is one of the worst things we can do for the planet.


Many of our emissions are out of our individual control and the vastness of the problem can be paralyzing. We can’t change our local transit system on our own and we usually can’t influence where our power comes from on a day-to-day basis. Although we should definitely be voting for climate-forward candidates who propose these systemic measures, sometimes the bigger picture is out of our hands (Don’t forget to vote this week, America!).

What we can control, immediately and impactfully, are our food choices. By eating lower on the food-chain we can reduce the quantity of resources needed to fuel us. By eating less resource-intensive foods we can reduce deforestation and water use. The climate benefits are really astounding.


I’m not perfect and I really hope I don’t come across as self-congratulating. It took me around 6 years between the intention of moving from vegetarian to vegan before it stuck as a full time habit. I still sneak a bite of my favorite cheeses, brie and gorgonzola, here and there. Every once in a while I even have a pizza (after-all, I am living in Italy). But, and without any judgement, maybe you don’t have to eat meat every meal. Heck, maybe you don’t even have to eat it every day.  Maybe you’ll enjoy the taste of your favorites even more when it’s presented as a special treat that you only have once a week. Give it a try. Collectively we can make a difference.

Here is the interview:

Hey there!

I’m Jacquie and I’m an American hockey player living in Bolzano, Italy. I write about hockey, sustainability, and food.

More About Me

EWHL WK 2: 6 Points and Our First Setback

2022-2023 Games 3 and 4 – EV Bolzano Eagles vs Aisulu Almaty; Game 5 – vs Salzburg Eagles

(Approximately 5 min. read).

The Eagles’ early success in the European Women’s Hockey League (EWHL) has extended into our second week of play. In our second series, we faced Aisulu Almaty, from Kazakstan, followed by a game against the Salzburg Eagles. With a split against Aisulu and a dominant win against Salzburg, we’ve held the top of the early-season standings.

EWHL Standings as of Oct. 4, 2022
Game 3 – Aisulu in Austria

In the first game of the home/away split with Aisulu we traveled to Radenthein, Austria where the team centralizes for the length of the EWHL season. Unfortunately, our bus arrived several hours earlier than expected and we were left with an awkward window of time to prepare. This was reflected in the start of the game, when we were pushed back on our heals with an Aisulu goal two minutes into the start.

We fought back hard and were rewarded about 12 minutes in when I shoveled a rebound across the crease to Mia Campo Batagin (11:47), where she securely put away the back-door goal. The start of the second period was much more favorable. In the first shift, Manuela Heidenberger scored (20:51) off an assist from Marissa Massaro. Five minutes later, Aisulu once again tied the game.

With five penalties against Aisulu in the first period and five against Bolzano in the second, the game was a test of endurance and special teams. The shots reflected the difference. While we dominated the shots in the first at 7:14, the second and third proved to be a different story and we were forced to rely heavily on the talents of our young goalie, Ilaria Girardi.

Elenora Bonafini against Aisulu

Early in the third, Elenora Bonafini roofed a goal (42:28) from an improbable angle just outside the crease giving us the lead. Yet, the star of the third was our goaltender with 13 saves. With her performance, we held onto the 3-2 lead for a win (1:1, 1:1, 0:1; shots 31:27).

Game 4 – Aisulu at Home

The following Wednesday, we played a rematch in Bolzano. With girls rushing to the rink from school and work, I had a feeling we were in for a tough game. Instead, we started strongly both in effort and pace.

However, Aisulu was successfully playing the trap against us and we struggled to cleanly break out of our defensive zone. Towards the end of the first, their forecheck found success when an errant breakout pass was collected by their defenseman and thrown back on net. With the unexpected transition from breakout to defense, I lost my player out of the corner and she was able to tip in the goal unimpeded.

Marissa Massaro against Aisulu

We continued to battle back but struggled to put meaningful shots up against their goaltending. And some days, bounces just don’t go the way you hope they would. The second goal for Aisulu was definitely emblematic of that. On a two versus two rush, our defenseman successfully intercepted the Aisulu pass, yet it managed to bounce exactly to the stick of their other player, who despite being covered somehow managed to send the puck bouncing into the far side of the net.

The first shift of the third period, Aisulu put away their final goal, claiming a 3-0 win (0:1, 0:1, 0:1) despite the shots being 24:9 in Bolzano’s favor.

Game 4 vs Aisulu in Bolzano. Goals at 22:20, 48:35, and 59:50
Game 5 – Salzburg in Salzburg

The Wednesday loss to Aisulu was demoralizing. I personally felt I hadn’t stepped up to the challenge but upon watching the game video back, I saw a lot of positives and was hopeful the game against Salzburg would be more successful. We once again rode the bus to Austria, this time slightly farther, to the city of Red Bull.

In Salzburg, we were missing quite a few of our key players: Captain Mara Da Rech, Mia Campo Bagatin, Samantha Gius, and Elisa Innocenti were all home sick. But it proved not to be an issue as other players stepped up to the fill the gaps.

While the first was scoreless, the ice was tipped in our favor. We outshot the home team 10:17 and most of their shots were from outside of the key scoring zones.

Game 5 vs Salzburg. Approx. first period shot chart.

Early in the second, that momentum broke the flood gates and Amie Varano scored low five-hole (24:44). A few minutes later, Marissa Massaro put up her first EWHL goal (29:59) in the Bolzano jersey. By the end of the second, we headed into the locker room with a 4-0 lead and a 6:17 shot advantage through the period.

Early in the third an errant bounce allowed Salzburg on the board, but we quickly continued our offensive assault with a beautiful solo-effort goal from Perathoner (47:47). On a rush, she made a move through the defensemen’s stick and a second net front move with a backhand that found the crossbar and the back of the net. The final score was 6-1 (0:0, 0:4, 1:2).

Game 6

We have a small break from EWHL games for the next two weekends and in the meantime we will face our first three opponents of the Italian Championship (IWHL). On October 22, we head back to Austria to face the Kärnten Lakers of the EWHL.

Hey there!

I’m Jacquie and I’m an American hockey player living in Bolzano, Italy. I write about hockey, sustainability, and food.

More About Me

EWHL WK 1: 5 Points

2022-2023 Games 1 and 2 – EV Bolzano Eagles vs Silesian Katowice

(Approximately 3 min. read).

The Eagles got off to a successful start in the new season of the European Women’s Hockey League (EWHL). Last weekend, we celebrated two wins and five points against Silesian Katowice, the league’s Polish opponent. The local paper hilariously headlined us as “top of the table,” and published the standings with zero games played for the rest of the league’s teams.

The Standings

We had home advantage twice and were able to capitalize on it. However, Poland was a formidable opponent and we had to battle back from deficit in both match ups. On Saturday a 2-1 win (0:1, 1:0, 0:0, 1:0) set the upper-hand for the weekend. The Eagles outshot the Poles two-fold (32:15). The first goal came for the Poles on the back of a broken Eagles’ forecheck. The result was a 3-on-2 rush twelve minutes into the game. With lots of time to shoot, the Polish player was able to find the back of the net.

Dolomiten Article Sept. 19, 2022

Mid-second period Mia Campo Batagin equalized (22.57). A scoreless third was riddled with Eagles’ opportunities, but none managed to squeak in. In overtime, Mia and I exchanged the puck on a give-and-go drop pass to regroup just outside our defensive blueline. This caught the Polish defenders pushed back into their defensive zone and created time for me to skate in unimpeded. Thankfully, I found the back of the net and ended the game in our favor.

Game 1 of the weekend. Goals are bookmarked on the timeline.

A few hours later, our two teams faced again (11:30 the next morning). The Eagles prevailed, this time celebrating a 3:2 win in regulation (1:1, 0:1, 2:0), earning the squad the full three points for the standings. The shots were again heavily weighted in the Eagles favor (38:19).

Poland once again found the back of the net first. During a powerplay, a rebound goal gave them a 1:0 lead. Shortly after the deficit was equalized to 1:1 with a dump-in from just across center ice that the Polish goalie wasn’t able to track.

In the second period, another Polish power-play was converted, this time scored by a shot on the rush. The Eagles were not content to test their luck in another overtime performance and pressed the Polish team all through the third.

Dolomiten Article Sept. 19, 2022

Elenora Bonafini scored two in the final period, playing a critical role in the 3-2 victory. Using her decisive speed, ten minutes into the third period, she was able to edge the Polish defender and roof the puck, tying the game. A few minutes later, on an Eagles power-play, the puck moved from the right circle to Kika Stocker for a one timer shot from the blue line. Bona picked up the rebound and secured the victory.

We travel to Austria this upcoming Sunday to face Aisulu Almaty, the league’s team from Kazakstan.

Game 2 Highlights

Hey there!

I’m Jacquie and I’m an American hockey player living in Bolzano, Italy. I write about hockey, sustainability, and food.

More About Me

Sus-Days and Climate Despair

(Approximately 7 min read)

It’s a normal Thursday evening. We’ve just completed our early season five-kilometer run-test and have returned to the locker room. As we change for on-ice practice, I pause and reflect on the typical chit chat around me and wonder if I am losing my mind. It all seems so meaningless.

You see, a teammate and I had just returned from the South Tirol’s Sustainability Days Conference. Together, we listened to world renown climate scientists and activists spell out the dire situation of the climate emergency:

  • Keeping warming below 1.5°C is no longer realistic
  • Each tenth of a degree over that threshold will result in staggering increases in the amount of suffering
  • We’ve emitted more CO2 this year than any prior year in human history and are on track to do the same in 2023 and 2024
  • In 2021, we doubled public subsidies to fossil fuels

We are still running in the wrong direction; that was made abundantly clear at the conference.

After four days reiterating how serious the situation is, it felt bizarre to go to hockey practice and act like everything was normal. The reality is I’ve been feeling that strange tug of the world not making sense, climate-wise, for years… since the middle of my master’s degree in Sustainable Energy Engineering, before I quit my “innovation” job at the gas company, and maybe even at Brown while I tried to map out a major in environmental engineering that didn’t yet exist.

Around me, I vaguely feel that most people sense the worst impacts will happen far away and that things will work themselves out. That some smart engineers somewhere will figure out silver-bullet technologies, and meanwhile, we won’t have to change a thing.

Clover Hogan

On the conference stage, global climate activists spoke about this. Clover Hogan, for example, a youth activist talked about eco-anxiety. She said, it’s not just the climate crisis alone, it’s also the cognitive dissonance created by “the adults” saying we’re all going to be okay. I couldn’t help but relate. The paralysis, the hopelessness, and the grief have become unwelcome reoccurring thoughts.

Clover Hogan on the methods of creating cognitive dissonance

The recent floods in Pakistan are part of the horrifying story. An equivalent number of people as the entire population of Canada have been displaced, losing their homes and livelihoods, and over one thousand people lost their lives. Hundreds of children were killed. We are on a pathway of expecting that kind of event, regularly. In the time between drafts of this post, Puerto Rico has been hit by another catastrophic hurricane, the last of which in 2017 killed nearly 3000 people. That scale of suffering is destined to happen over and over again on our current emissions path. And for what?

Gail Bradbrook

Gail Bradbrook, the founder of extinction rebellion (XR), spoke about how our system is designed to make us feel separate and powerless. She claimed that by over-relying on the metric of GDP, the system focuses on the wrong things. The system incentivizes bad behavior by allowing pollution and biodiversity destruction to be externalized costs. When the entire goal of our economy is “more” and extraction it becomes obvious that decoupling growth from emissions has to be a myth (a conclusion backed by the experts).

Gail Bradbrook conducting an audience poll that had a surprising anti-growth consensus

She made a very convincing case for why our modern capitalist system is incredibly corrupted by monopolies and unfair advantages designed to favor large corporations over small businesses. I think we can point to the massive fossil fuel and factory farm subsidies as another example. They falsely prop up the very industries that are causing our demise. She went further still to argue that we have a dysfunctional democracy. One in which billionaire-owned media companies distort messaging to benefit their own businesses and leave people feeling that they have no agency to create change through the voting system.

Her talk was one of the most interesting I’ve ever heard. She touched on the science of civil disobedience, flaws in our economic system, and aspects of human psychology that have led us here, but I couldn’t help but feel dejected by how she framed the situation. We need to change everything if we are going to fix things, and how can changing everything not feel impossible?

When I asked, she was empathetic. She too feels despair.

Daze Agaze

With the despair, I have this strong urge to escape. I want to run off into the woods and build a little self-sustaining cabin and try to teach these suburban thumbs of mine how to grow my own vegetables.

Daze Agaze, a British climate activist, spoke at length about the importance of reconnecting to nature and the ways modern society tricks us into thinking we are “other” than nature. She talked about false sense of success that comes with materialism and consumer culture while at the same time our core needs are left unattended to. But she had my ear most compellingly when she addressed the urge to run away.

She was frank, “opting out isn’t a real choice,” even though she has felt the tug herself. If that isolated cabin could exist, it still wouldn’t feel right to run away. Ultimately it would be allowing others to suffer instead of fighting for what’s right. Underneath the despair, she argued, you have to stay and fight because you have to do what feels right, regardless of how achievable the end goal is.  

The Uninhabitable Earth Panel. From left to right: Daze Agaze, Clover Hogan, Gail Bradbrook, David Wallace Wells, and Giovanni Mori

David Wallace Wells

The moderator of the conference, like a lot of people communicating the climate crisis, repeatedly tried to return the conversation to hopefulness. David Wallace Wells, the author of The Uninhabitable Earth (a must read), and conference speaker, took a very different tact. He laid out the truth. In all its horror.

He provided color to the doom with statistics predicting the impending floods, fires, droughts, and heat waves, and maybe somehow more frighteningly, the likelihood of resource wars, famine, financial collapse. When I talk about those things with family and friends, I get blank stares. Surely, I’m exaggerating or have the facts wrong, they say. Crop failure and wars over water – that won’t really happen, right?

Wallace Wells writes about how those terrible outcomes are already actively occurring in the here and now. At the conference he talked about how directly we are choosing superfluous luxuries over the lives of other people. As one example, for every 1000 people provided with coal electricity, one person dies from air pollution. That direct correlation applies and scales rapidly with the climate crisis. As many of the activists reframed it, each death in the climate crisis isn’t an accident of nature, they are a sacrifice; a choice we have decided in the western world. We have sacrificed those lives in Pakistan.

(Videos of all the talks and this panel can be found, here)

The Wave

When you get diagnosed with Cancer, you don’t hold on to blind hope for a miraculous cure while continuing to smoke cigarettes, and you don’t feel relief if you plan chemo treatment for 2030 or 2050. This is no different. Hope is misplaced if we aren’t willing to act in the truly transformative ways that are required to minimize the suffering.

Asking Bradbrook what to do with the feeling of hopelessness

We do actually have the power to change things. XR cites studies of nonviolent resistance movements and historically as little as 3% of the population has to get behind a cause to produce transformative change.

Gail Bradbrook on the effectiveness of rebellion to create change

I recently read “We Are the Weather,” by Jonathan Safran Foer. He wrote, “Honeybees perform a wave to ward off predatory hornets,” much like fans at a baseball game send a wave around a stadium. “One after the other, individual bees momentarily flip their abdomens upward, creating an undulating pattern across the nest – the phenomenon is called ‘shimmering.’ The collective fends off the threat, something no individual bee could do on its own.” Later Foer goes on to say that despite it feeling like the opposite, “the impotence of individual action is a reason for everyone to try.”

Hope lies in taking action. That’s what fueled the activists. But what action?

It feels ridiculously self-righteous to frame the situation in it’s very real terms. To ask if the meat on our plates is worth the deaths by flood, or if our big houses and trucks are worth the deaths by mega storms and wildfires, but these are the choices we are making. These are the terrible choices I am still making. I still fly home to my family across the Atlantic. I still play ice hockey. None of us is doing enough. But we have to try harder.

Hope also lies in finding community who also want to be in service of the change we need. Another activist, Giovanni Mori, said “no one can take the action that you can take,” emphasizing that we all have a role and perspective that is needed and valuable. I have EcoAthletes and now I’ve joined local chapters of Fridays for Future and Extinction Rebellion.

At the conference, I took part in my first protest and my first act of civil disobedience. We urged the attending politicians to act faster and blocked parking spots to encourage use of transit. It’s not much, but it’s action.

Hey there!

I’m Jacquie and I’m an American hockey player living in Bolzano, Italy. I write about hockey, sustainability, and food.

More About Me

SPORTS@COP: Athlete Advocacy for Climate Action

(Approximately 9 minute read)

In an earlier post, I wrote about The Last Game documentary and its filming in Scotland during the COP26 global climate conference last November. That was only one reason for the trip.

Athletes Assembly

Last summer, I joined EcoAthletes, a climate advocacy nonprofit that seeks to leverage the platform and social power of athletes to build momentum in combating climate change. Their hashtag is sparking the #ClimateComeback and we have our rally caps on.

Through their organization I was invited to take part in an Athletes Assembly on the “Athletes Day of Action” at COP26 in Glasgow. At the same event, I co-presented the COP26 Sports Community Manifesto. It was a bucket-list experience for me to attend and take part in a COP event, but I wasn’t prepared for how impressed and inspired I would be by the people I met along the way. I hope by sharing their efforts, you too can be motivated into action.

The first inspirational character is a fellow EcoAthletes Champion, a young cricketer named Joe Cooke.

When I met Joe in the lobby of the Wood House in Glasgow, he immediately felt like a friendly face and helped calmed my nerves. We had been notified that BBC, Sky Sports would be among a large contingent of virtual attendees listening in and the climate stripes painted on the building across the street only added to the weight of responsibility I felt to properly represent this EcoAthletes initiative. But Joe didn’t seem nervous and very quickly we got chatting about our respective theses as students – Joe researched how climate would impact cricket and I researched how to make ice rinks more energy efficient and thus have a lower climate impact.

Climate stripes, which visualize the trend of planetary warming in the last century, displayed on a Glasgow building.

He explained how his findings essentially showed that climate change was an existential threat to his sport. Specifically, he looked at how heatwaves, droughts, and monsoons all changing in length and intensity – are expected to have a major impact on cricket.

I don’t know much about cricket, so I learned matches are played between April and September; a long season, through the heat of the summer. I was even more shocked when he said matches can last three to five days with single games taking six hours. It’s no wonder it’s vulnerable to extreme weather, and it is a wonder why   the entire cricket community isn’t up-in-arms advocating for change like Joe is.

Upon joining the Athletes Assembly we met David Pocock. Joe seemed a bit starstruck and commended David for the retired rugby star accomplishments in Australia. I had no idea who he was, so I asked what sport he played and Joe looked at me like I had ten heads. But David humbly explained that he was an Australian rugby union player and that he and his wife had done some ecosystem restoration work. Modest is an understatement, as I later Googled Pocock and discovered that among a large list of impressive accomplishments on a host of social issues, including climate, he is also a legendary former captain of the Australian national rugby union team (the Wallabies) who also holds a Masters in Sustainable Agriculture and an additional Leadership degree from Harvard.

Athlete advocates for climate action: Joe Cooke (left) and David Pocock (right)

Some other notable people taking part in the athletes discussion were Alexandra Rickham, Paralympic medal-winning sailor and Eco-Warrior (and EcoAthletes advisory board member) and Fiona Burnet a Team Scotland and Team GB hockey player. Fi and I jockeyed for a moment about which of our specialties is the default “hockey” sport, but in the UK, “field” has a clear lead over “ice”.

The discussion at the Athletes Assembly was both broad and deep. We started with some shared experiences in speaking-out about climate. In particular, we talked about fielding criticism from the public when advocating for a cause. Several of the athletes with larger followings shared about being branded hypocrites for advocating for climate action by fans, aka trolls.

Joe experienced similar unpleasant trolling.  He began to feel that his ability to have his climate advocacy be accepted was tied to his performance.  Otherwise, he would be told to, in the words of Fox News host Laura Ingraham’s infamous criticism of LeBron James, “shut up and dribble”.

The female athletes spoke up about how trolls would attack them from the double-layered “nobody cares” angle. They feel they need to 1) speak out on behalf of climate action on top of, 2) advocating on behalf of their own sport’s validity. I left this part of the conversation feeling like I was in good company and also inspired to be more courageous about being loud.

Then, the conversation dove deeper than I had expected.

We delved into the challenges of communicating the clear and present danger presented by the climate crisis and the need for real action with our individual sport federations. The talk gave me the words to express a feeling that I hadn’t been able to piece together directly: That unfortunately to sports federations, advocating for climate action can be seen as “competing” with other causes for importance.

I’ve always struggled with this concept because all of my research tells me that the climate crisis is the most fundamental issue humanity faces. Turning the climate crisis into climate action is critical to creating social justice as well as to improving public health. I recognize that truth while also feeling it’s important to raise money and awareness for breast cancer research, mental health support, LGBTQ+ rights, among countless other important causes. The science tells us that the poorest and most marginalized communities are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Every athlete in the Assembly agreed that the intersectionality of climate justice, equity and inclusion needs much more oxygen and action.

Alexandra is the Head of Sustainability for World Sailing and has sports inclusion and diversity roles on her CV as well. She gave interesting perspective about being on the other side of the table from where she sat as an athlete. She voiced that the details of putting ideals and ambitions into practice can often be equally challenging to bringing attention to the issue in the first place. However, with World Sailing, she’s helped establish concrete targets for their organization by spearheading their Sustainability Agenda 2030, which sets a model for other sports organizations to follow.

We also discussed how climate advocacy can be perceived as a threat to an organization’s bottom line. In particular, we noted the courage and integrity it takes to turn down sponsorship funding when it comes from a company with misaligned values (like an oil company). Fiona talked about having a second job at the Scottish Parliament to help shape policy and create change. Unfortunately for most female athletes, having other work outside of sport is a necessity, but Fi talked about this as being, in some ways, an advantage because we have another route to invoke progress.

Athlete advocate for climate action, Fiona Burnet (right), summarizing parts of our conversation for virtual attendees

Several of the athletes talked about how they were already seeing weather impact their ability to compete in their sports. From the heat at the summer Olympics to the lack of snow fall in the Winter Games – it was felt across the board. As far as ice hockey is concerned, climate change is having a significant, negative impact, on the number days when people can play outdoors on frozen ponds, and increasing global temperatures will continue to drive indoor rink refrigeration costs skywards. In North America, when the only route to entry becomes organized, indoor and expensive hockey, that means fewer people will have access to the sport that I love.

We all expressed a frustration with what we were hearing about progress at COP26 so far, with politicians and representatives continuing to say it was important to act yet not committing to actual policy.  We can look to the lack of action on the demands of the Sports Community Manifesto for precisely where we felt leaders missed the mark.

The Climate Manifesto

After the private athlete discussion (and after a snack break), Joe and I returned to the stage to introduce the world to the EcoAthletes’ Sports Community Manifesto.

A screen-capture of the public broadcast where Joe Cooke (stage left) and I presented the EcoAthletes’ Sports Community Manifesto

The pledge, which ultimately garnered over 300 signatures from athletes, sports leaders, teams and more, served to urge critical action by the delegates to COP26. It had four pillars or demands:

  • The first was to secure net zero emissions by 2050 and maintain the possibility of not exceeding 1.5 degrees of global warming. Experts say this is possible only with radical and bold commitments to international change.
  • Pillar two demanded that policy makers protect communities and natural habitats. We know that species around the world are going extinct at an alarming rate and that many communities are under-threat from increasing natural disasters and sea-level rise.
  • Our third request was that leaders put their money where their mouth is and commit the financial resources required to accomplish the first two demands. 
  • Finally, the community urged leaders to finalize the Paris rule book, the framework for international action on the historic Paris Agreement made in 2015 at COP25.
The four-pillars of the Manifesto


Another EcoAthletes connection to the COP26 Athletes Day of Action was Dr. Madeleine ‘Maddy’ Orr and she is also deserving of some air time.

Maddy, is a Canadian who works at Loughborough University in London, developing the world’s first Masters degree in Sustainable Sport Business. The founder of the Sports Ecology Group, her academic specialty is  “in climate vulnerability and adaptation in the sport sector.”  Maddy’s primary research is on climate adaptation in the sports sector and how prepared organizations and athletes will be for the predicted conditions. Secondarily, she researches sport as a platform for climate communication.

There is a reason she was awarded the distinction of a Forbes 30 Under 30 – after all, she wears the hats of researcher, educator, advocate, and entrepreneur, all regarding the power of sports and athletes when it comes to climate change.

After COP26, I took part in one of her studies during which she interviewed me about my advocacy efforts. We discussed some of the challenges I’ve encountered when taking on charitable work – heart health, mental health, pride and LGBTQ+ rights, and more recently, climate change. After conducting interviews with additional athletes, she will synthesize conclusions on how to be most effective when working at the nexus of sport and climate change.

David Pocock also stepped up his game after COP26, jumping into politics.

In February, he gave a speech at the Australian Parliament and later waged an outsider senate campaign as an independent in the capital district of Canberra.  He made climate action one of the core tenets of his campaign. In podcasts, he said ‘Going up to COP26 last year was a reminder just how out of step we are’ and also expressed sorrow about how past and present climate inaction will have immediate impacts on the island-pacific home-nations of nearly half of his past rugby teammates.

Pocock website is a dream: half dedicated to rugby and half dedicated to his senate campaign, in a way that I hope to see in the future for some of my past Canadian teammates (Brianne Jenner for Canadian Prime Minister, anyone?). He speaks to the hypocrisy that Australia is still subsidizing fossil fuels to the order of $AUS12 billion annually and suggests an alternative reality in which the country dedicates that money to solutions rather than exacerbating the problems.

The landing of Pocock’s website

And if he wasn’t already oozing with integrity and leadership, I read that he and his wife, Emma, refused to sign a formal marriage contract until gay couples were afforded equal rights under the law and held true to that promise by only marrying after same-sex marriage legislation was passed.

The most fitting postscript to Sport@COP26 was when I read that David Pocock was announced the winner of his senate race. Even better, given the way the results shook out nationwide, Pocock will have a crucial vote. From what I understand of the complicated political situation in Australia, the left-leaning, sort-of pro-climate-action Labour party won the most seats, kicking out the climate-denying Conservatives (mis-named the Liberal party), but they didn’t win a majority. To govern, Labour will need to enter a coalition with the Green party and independents like Pocock.

I initially went into Engineering because I wanted to advance technical climate solutions. However, it is becoming increasingly clear to me that we have most of the technology we need. What we lack is the political will and leadership – and thanks to the voters of Canberra, David Pocock is going to demonstrate both in the most literal and committed way.

While I’m still brainstorming how I personally can do more, I recently signed a letter, in collaboration with EcoAthletes and 23 other US-based athletes, to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), urging him to get the climate bill currently under consideration over the finish line. Like any sports underdog story, we need a full team effort to see the bold change necessary to avoid and reduce the worst impacts coming in the very near future.

A very hot or inhospitably hot future – lives hinge on the choices of today
(Visualization from Chapter 1 of the IPCC 6th Assessment Climate Report)

Hey there!

I’m Jacquie and I’m an American hockey player living in Bolzano, Italy. I write about hockey, sustainability, and food.

More About Me

A Food Tour of Scotland: Vegan Edition

(Approximately 5 min. read)

I flew to Scotland in October of 2021 to take part in an event at the UN Climate Change Conference, COP26. Not one to miss an opportunity for an adventure, I extended my stay, spending some time in Edinburgh and the Highlands. I’m new to traveling as a vegan (in fact, I’m used to struggling to find meals as a vegetarian), but I was pleasantly surprised with the options even in the remote parts of Scotland.

My first day in Edinburgh began at the Grassmarket. Street food! The first vendor was offering what looked like a stuffed pastry. A quick google later, I learned that “haggis” was a Scottish specialty, typically made of the least expensive cuts of meat. Some recipes date back to the 1200s and say it was invented to utilize parts of the hunt that would spoil if not consumed near the hunting site. Not keen on eating any animal innards, as commendable as not wasting is, I was happy to see Vegan Haggis on display.

The Scotsman reported in 2019 that vegetarian haggis was on the rise, with traditional meat and vegetarian varieties becoming equally common in recent years. The modern versions substitute lentils, peas, beans, and nuts for the animal innards. Mixed with mushrooms, onions, and carrots, the stuffed pastry had a really nice taste. We followed up this very Scottish snack with vegan Gyoza Dumplings and Noodles.

The Grassmarket: Vegan Haggis and Veggie Gyoza (hi, Dom!)

Later that day we explored the famous Royal Mile. We headed to Albanach for “fish and chips.” I didn’t see any vegan options besides Beyond Meat burgers, and I did see Halloumi. Halloumi was a staple during my time living in Sweden and is not very well known in Italy, where I currently live. Embracing my self-identification as an “Imperfect Vegan,” I went for it and… as I’m surprised to find is common since making the switch, I was disappointed. Cheese just usually isn’t as great as I remembered it to be! Trust me, I’m as shocked by that as you are. The peas were completely unflavored and the fried halloumi and potato fries (“chips”) tasted pretty “meh.” On the other hand, the beer was good and Dom enjoyed the vast Scotch tasting-menu.

Vegetarian “fish” and chips

I had a brief day in Dumfries to play in the Last Game, where the Costa Coffee (a chain) had options to sustain me. I then made my way to Glasgow, where the streets were buzzing with excitement and tension from the ongoing COP26. This billboard emphasized how critical our food choices are to climate action.

Advertisement emphasizing the connection between our diets and the Climate Emergency

With the “business” part of the trip complete, I made my way back to Edinburgh to explore. There I visited Holy Cow, a fully vegan spot near the Edinburgh Playhouse . The restaurant was a little tricky to find as it is located below ground, but once I found it, I was thrilled. There were lots of unique options and lots of cakes to choose from. I had a delicious pulled jackfruit burger.

Holy Cow in Edinburgh: Pulled Jackfruit Burger and Cake

The next morning I started my day at The Milkman, where I had a vegan cookie and chai latte. Thankfully, it seemed like all the cafes in Edinburgh had plant-milk varieties. Cockburn Street, where this little shop is located, is a small offshoot of the Royal Mile/High Street and one of my favorite spots in Edinburgh. It has the feeling of stepping back into a different era with stone buildings and narrow stone staircases winding in unpredictable directions.

After my snack, I hopped on a small tour bus with a driver in a kilt to venture up to the highlands. Departing from Edinburgh, we ventured to the farthest tips of the northern isles:

Our first stop was at the Kilmahog Coffee Shop, which was mostly a souvenir shop. Here, we met and fed our first highland cows. The furballs were really social and nudged our hands to demand scratches and (owner approved) snackies.

The second stop was in Fort Williams where I was shocked to find a vegan cafe called The Wildcat. They were too busy to seat us but I grabbed some goodies for the road (the muffin was great!) We stopped to visit Nessie (aka the Loch Ness Monster) before making our way up to Inverness for the night.

In Inverness, we struggled a bit to find a place that could accommodate our group (gluten free and vegan), but after a misstep at a Lebanese spot, we managed to find a cute chain called Revolution that had vegan nachos and a no-chicken burger. I really love nachos, it was my go-to in Calgary, so finding a place that made them with vegan cheese was amazing.

In the morning, I visited Blend. Knowing we were headed into pretty remote areas without many food options, I took two bagels to go. The first bagel was a vegan “bangers and hash” with vegan cheddar, hash browns, and veggie sausages. I dove into this eagerly at the Balnuaran of Clava a bronze age archeological site that had a truly magical feel to it. Vibrant fall leaves littered the ground among these mysterious stone structures. The second was a sweet bagel with a vegan cream cheese and a delicious chocolate peanut butter snack bar, which I ate in the van while we continued northwards.

Vegan “bangers and hash” from Blend (Inverness) at the Balnuaran of Clava

In Portree, with few options and many of the options closed,  I grabbed a soup and sandwich from Relish, a cute little shop with a line around the corner at lunch time.

The tour being a success, I made my way back to Edinburgh for a few more food adventures. I stopped for a lazy breakfast at Holyrood Café where they made me a vegan English breakfast. As I sat at the counter facing the window and people watching, a kind girl about my age stopped-in to ask if I was okay. I guess I looked really tired from all the adventuring! (and not sleeping, thank you dorm-hostels)

Holyrood Cafe Vegan English Breakfast

I ventured farther from my hostel to Sugar Daddy’s Bakery for a decadent brownie and then after a quick stop to see Dolly the first cloned sheep. From there, I headed to Beetroot Sauvage. Beetroot Sauvage was my favorite restaurant of the trip, although Blend was a close second for the food. To be honest, the service was really slow and they forgot about me for a long time, but the vibe of the little nook was amazing. It was bustling with people and had the sense of a place that was truly creating a community rather than just serving food. I was thankful for the slow down and quiet space to read.

A quick recap of the Edinburgh stops:

One of my last visits before heading home to Italy was Arthur’s Seat. A beautiful ridge overlooking Edinburgh. Before walking there I came across one of my favorite google reviews of all time:

So, that’s what I did: Enjoyed the view. Maybe I should have also tasted the grass.

Hey there!

I’m Jacquie and I’m an American hockey player living in Bolzano, Italy. I write about hockey, sustainability, and food.

More About Me

The Last Game

A Documentary to Save Hockey and the Planet

(Approximately 11-minute read)

“When you find out what people care about, and connect climate impacts directly to the values people have, they can see that caring about climate change is already integral to who they are.”

Katharine Hayhoe in Saving Us: A Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World

I started Hayhoe’s book while flying last-minute to Scotland on RyanAir (an 8 euro flight, if you can believe it). I was struck by the synchronicity of her message and my latest trip. Connect climate impacts to what people already care about – who they are. 

Sports, meet climate change.

How I Got Here

EcoAthletes is a climate advocacy group that I’m very proud to be a part of. The founder, Lew Blaustein, had serendipitously invited me to co-present the COP26 Sports Community Manifesto at an event called Sport@COP, a sub-event at the world UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow. The Manifesto, signed by a global roster of 300+ athletes, sports teams, sponsors, aimed to show the COP26 delegates that the sports world expected real action on climate. As an added bonus, I was also to take part in a hockey game organized by award winning film producer Jon Alpert (“Cuba and the Cameraman”, “Redemption”). 

I first met Jon over the phone, when he called me from Clary Anderson, the tiny town rink in Montclair, New Jersey where I learned how to skate. Sometimes the hockey world can feel so small! 

He told me about a documentary he was working on called ‘The Last Game.’ He and his team would be filming around the world to highlight the impacts of climate change on different countries, focusing on the hockey community itself. Now, here was an amazing opportunity to show people “that caring about climate change is already integral to who they are.” 

I relayed to him that months earlier, I had completed a Masters’ thesis exploring new technologies to make refrigeration in ice rinks more efficient. We were both sold and enthusiastically began to talk logistics.

My hockey bag departing sunny Italy vs. rainy Edinburgh

And that’s how I found myself stepping onto the tarmac with Scottish rain blowing sideways under a grey sky. Despite having only two weeks to plan the trip, I convinced a new friend, Dom, to come with me — we’ve been happily dating since! After an afternoon spent exploring the stone city of Edinburgh, Dom and I hopped into a cab to meet Jon for a drink. 

The architecture of Edinburgh adorned in COP26 banners

The Last Game Team

As I looked around the restaurant for the guy I had only seen on Google image search, I spotted a man in sweats with a feather popping out of his baseball cap. Noticing us too, Jon gave us a big wave and signaled us over to the table.

There we met Sergei Rybakov who was introduced as Slava’s personal assistant. As in Slava Fetisov: two-time Olympic Gold Medalist, two-time Stanley Cup winner, and Hockey Hall of Famer. He is a UN Environmental Patron of the Polar Regions and a key player in the Last Game project. Slava personally takes part in each game in a tour that will ultimately visit more than 30 countries.

With stereotypical Russian exuberance, Sergei handled the drink orders for the evening. He was pushing whiskey, but I managed to avoid his persistence and stuck to beer. We also met Naomi, Jon’s right hand-woman. She is his video editor, microphone tech, coordinator, and has the delicate task of keeping Jon focused. It was her birthday and so after ordering cake, we all said hello to her father in Japan over FaceTime. Jon told encaptivating stories of war time reporting, including how, in his own telling, his wife’s courage on the battlefield overshadowed his own, and I tried to wrap my head around what I had gotten myself into.

Naomi, Jon, Sergei, me and Dom

The next day we got in the car with these barely-more-than-strangers and drove down to Dumfries, Scotland – a town I had to look up on Google Maps. The drive was beautiful: autumn leaves and vines colored the long stone retaining walls and fields of green grass were occasionally dotted with fluffy sheep. The beautiful scenery was a great reprieve from the terror of being on the wrong side of the road and Jon’s driving (no offense, Jon!). We had some close calls; Dom offered to take the wheel about three times, but we eventually made it to a glass-facade rink peppered with logos of official IIHF events that had been hosted there.

The IIHF tournament logos, Jon with a Scottish Sheep, and the rink blessing, which reads, “Haste ye back to the Ice Bowl”

Jon and Naomi went into business mode. Microphones, ideas for shots, jerseys with the Last Game logo. Jon was on the phone tracking down equipment for all the special guests he had coordinated to be there. That included tracking down a stick for me to borrow after the Italian bag-check attendant adamantly refused to let me bring my own.

Jon had arranged for two hockey celebrities to be at the game. The first was Slava.; the second was… me.

Me and my rockstar d-partner

In addition to not feeling equal caliber on the ice, I can promise that my acting career will not be taking off anytime soon. My off-ice segments included a tour of the Dumfries rink with Straun (pronounced “Stroon”), the rink manager. 

Feeling uncomfortable and embarrassed, my memory appeared to have stopped functioning. Much to Jon’s frustration, I struggled to repeat the simple lines he suggested. The experience did, however, force me to refresh my memory about my Masters’ thesis. 

Straun and Slava with his Soviet Union jersey

Straun walked me through some of the efficiency upgrades the rink had implemented to lower its carbon footprint. He pointed out the new LED lighting and the reflective ceiling insulation which reduced radiation. I knew from my thesis that the ice’s thermal interaction with the ceiling was a surprisingly high heat load on the ice. 

The main contributors to refrigeration needs in indoor rinks, based on a 2014 study and a graphic representation of the main types. The largest contribution often comes from radiative interactions with the ceiling.

We made our way to the back of the rink, where the equipment room is housed. I explained that I had studied an innovative refrigerant, called aqua-ammonia and we both stumbled to remember the more common refrigerants (Apparently, I was as mentally rusty as a typical mechanical room). This rink was utilizing another environmentally friendly fluid called ethylene glycol. My thesis research helped validate that aqua ammonia requires even less pumping energy to meet the cooling needs compared to several other refrigerants, while also considering the global warming impact and safety. (If you have further interest in this topic, please consider contacting my colleagues at EKA who are true experts in eco-friendly ice rinks.)

Finally, we made our way into the curling rink housed in the same building. There we met Stewart a wheelchair curler. Similar to the plight of the ODR (outdoor hockey rink), Stewart recounted how they used to be able to curl outside on local lakes, but how global warming had prevented that from happening in years. Stewart also tried to show me how to curl. Let’s just say I need a bit more practice. 

Stewart and me after my rock didn’t make it the full length of the pitch

The Good Ol’ Game

After the curtain came down on my acting debut, it was time for the fun part.

As far as eco’-rinks go, facts are important and nice but, 

“Instead, when we’re talking about contentious, politicized issues, study after study has shown that sharing our personal and lived experiences is far more compelling than reeling off distant facts. Connect who we are to why we care. Bond with someone over a value we already possess and share, one that is already near and dear to our hearts. Tell them why you care about climate change and why others might, too.”

Hayhoe, Katharine. Saving Us: A Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World (p. 19). 

Sport is the greatest unifier. I’ve been lucky to play professionally in five countries and for fun in Barcelona, Germany, and Japan, among others. There is nothing better to break the ice (pun intended) than lacing up with new friends. Straun and his teammates were all the energy you would expect from a bunch of Scottish lads and this game I had the bonus of being joined by two local girls: Naomi who had only started skating at 21 (and was now crushing it) and Megan, who is a rising star on team GB. Jon joined us on the ice. He wore no helmet and had his face glued to his camera which made us all nervous on every play. Then the hockey was hockey. 

Fun, old-school, love-the-game hockey. 

It didn’t hurt at all to be playing with Slava. He’s definitely still got it. 

Every single pass was directly on my tape and he was a master at setting our teammates up. On the bench between shifts, he would whisper to me who he was going to have score next and sure enough the next shift he would feed that player the puck over and over again until they scored. He had that effortless hockey-IQ of someone who has played at the highest level.

As most informal games can be, The Last Game: Dumfries was high scoring. As the goals were announced in a thick Scottish accent I couldn’t help but chuckle thinking about a skit in which a voice activated elevator can’t understand the commands of two Scottish Riders. Each time I assisted or scored a goal, we would hear, “red, number 11” over the sound system and I would think of these guys trying to reach the 11th floor. “Eleven! Eleven! SCOTLAAAAND!” The  VIDEO is definitely worth a watch.


The COP26 All-Stars

Jon also brought in two Climate All-Stars for The Last Game:

Max Dilley is the Director of the Climate Programme at the UN’s World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The WMO is responsible for coordinating climate measurements among the globe’s countries. They co-hosted the COP26 Science Pavilion with the IPCC providing a platform for negotiations on climate action. This suave man with a thin goatee and earring was friendly as could be while explaining how exhausting the first few days of the COP26 conference had been. The difficult negotiations continued after the game as he rushed back to Glasgow to continue. Many people, myself included, felt not enough commitments were ultimately secured, despite the relentless efforts of scientists like Max.

The full crew. Max is in the front row, second from the right.

Sian Prior (pronounced “shawn”) is a marine scientist who studies the climate impact of arctic shipping routes. In a car-ride chat after the game, Sian explained to me how the critical arctic ecosystem is under increasing threat from a source I hadn’t previously considered: as the arctic ice melts, the area becomes more navigable to shipping. These ships are often propelled by heavy fuel oil, which has extremely high levels of air and climate pollution. The incompletely combusted residue of burning heavy fuel oil creates what she called “black carbon” particles, which are deposited onto arctic snow and ice, accelerating the heating and melting of this globally critical region of earth. This great article summarizes the situation.

Sian, Slava and me

Impact and Climate Dread                                                       

I’ve tried to change some habits to reduce my personal carbon footprint. I bike instead of drive and I buy groceries in small batches to cut waste. More broadly, I try to buy as few “things” as possible. I’ve even gone so far as to reuse my plastic game-sock tape and now only need one roll per season. But I still play ice hockey in high consuming rinks. I still fly for the pure enjoyment of traveling and often inefficiently for hockey (like our 4-day trip to Japan from Calgary for mid-season friendly games). 

Scientist after scientist have made clear that individual behavior changes, while laudable, won’t move the needle enough on emissions. Rather, what’s needed is system change, which requires pro-climate corporate and governmental policy signals and actions. Those system changes that will reduce peoples’ footprints whether they care about climate or not.

That may be true but we shouldn’t minimize the need for individual climate-friendly behaviors as well as starting conversations that will get more individuals to care and act. After all, millions of micro-actions will get the attention of business and political leaders and who is to say where the tipping point will come from. 

Hockey players come in all shapes – maybe it’s the Hockey Hall of Famer who can convince Putin to change Russian climate policies, maybe it’s the Scottish climate scientist who pushes policy about arctic shipping routes, or the Swiss WMO director who borrowed a full set of gear just to lace up during COP26. Or maybe it’s a random hockey playing engineer who tips the scales. Each of us will be only part of the puzzle.

I want future generations to be able to skate on the nearby lake and fall in love with hockey in nature, or bond with their parents on a backyard ice. Yes, the game of hockey has moved indoors but everyone who has experienced it knows, nothing compares to playing outside with no time limits and no coached drills, just freedom and freezing toes.

Hayhoe provided a perfect conclusion, 

“We care because the cascade of events triggered by that warming affects everything we already care about: where we get the food that we eat and how much it costs; how clean or dirty the air that we breathe is; the economy and national security; hunger, disease, and poverty across the planet; the future of civilization as we know it. 

We’ve woven a million reasons why we already care about climate change into the very fabric of our society. We just haven’t fully realized it yet.” 

Hayhoe, Katharine. Saving Us: A Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World

Epilogue: Ukraine

When I originally drafted this post back in November 2021, the thought of Putin and Russia’s climate policy was detached from Russia’s unprovoked assault on Ukraine. The thought of the aggression and violence wasn’t yet imaginable to most of Europe. Upon revisiting the post and getting it ready for its publication, it feels incomplete without making mention of the situation.

I can’t speak to Slava’s opinion, but Jon has been vocal about disagreeing with the war. He asked hockey players from around the world to film themselves condemning the attack. My team in Italy, the Bolzano Eagles, contributed a video adding our voices to the call for peace. As Jon put it, “Hockey players stand up to bullies. Blood on the ice, peace in the world.”

*A special thank you to Lew, EcoAthletes founder, for his support and time in editing this piece*

Hey there!

I’m Jacquie and I’m an American hockey player living in Bolzano, Italy. I write about hockey, sustainability, and food.

More About Me

Farm to Kitchen: 5 Lessons from a Vegan Restaurant

My Experience as a Kitchen Helper at a Vegan Restaurant

(Approx. 6 min. read)

An Instagram Ad

Last November, as my time at the Brunnenburg farm was winding down, I scrolled past an instagram story: “kitchen helper wanted.” It was the only vegan spot in Bolzano. I had just returned from a mid-hockey-season trip to Scotland and my search for engineering jobs had thus-far been sidelined by my monolingualism (I know, typical American). I texted the number from the ad and quickly got a phone call. To my surprise, the voice on the line responded in English.

The Experience

That English voice had a bit of an unfamiliar flare to it. Stephen, the founder of Rockin Beets, is a high-energy Irishman who first moved to Bolzano almost 30 years ago to open its first Irish bar. After a brief chat with him, I found myself on my latest adventure, assistant in an Italian vegan kitchen.

Pasta Mountain

No matter how stressed or busy the kitchen is, Stephen is the kind of guy who’s always got a smile on his face and is quick to make a joke. He and his wife, Petra, opened the restaurant inspired by the thought of leaving behind a better future for their two young boys and frustration with the lack of movement on climate action.

On my first day, Stephen wasted no time messing with me. Our head chef was out sick and there was a lot to do. Equipped with my stylish hairnet, Stephen tasked me with my nemesis of vegetables – butternut squash. Prepping the three massive gourds took me over two hours. Not yet knowing Stephen well, my internal dialogue was something like “Don’t embarrass yourself. You can’t chop off your fingers on the first day.” And trust me, I came close. Only weeks later, when Stephen gave me a giant can of crushed tomatoes, a broken can opener, and a smirk, did I catch on to his Irish humor.

Thankfully, my fingers survived unscathed and our head chef made his return to the kitchen. Chef Mario is, in a lot of ways, opposite to Stephen. An enduring rain cloud lingers above his head. Each morning my cheerful “Buon giorno! How are you, Mario?” was met with “Shit! Everything is shit! There is so much to do!”

I quickly learned that Mario’s raincloud demeanor is not representative of his character – he’s one of the most generous people I’ve met since moving to Italy. For one example, upon finding out I was having some delays with Italian bureaucracy, he promptly took it upon himself to call the police station and negotiate an appointment several months earlier than I was able to arrange for myself.

Seriously nice guy, but seriously stressed out. That has a lot to do with our business model. The kitchen is a waste-free food delivery service that sells meals in glass lunchboxes around the city. All of the packaging gets reused, the meals are delivered by high-energy Stephen on an e-bike, and by being vegan the carbon footprint is even lower. This system introduced a few challenges that Mario wasn’t used to in the traditional world of being a chef.

Each day, we awaited the forecast of meals required, which Stephen estimated based on which dishes were selling best earlier in the week. This helped us reduce the number of wasted meals, but also required agility with the preparation. We had to cook and fully cool the meals in time to plate them and pack them with labels. Often, we needed to wait for the previous day’s lunchboxes to be returned, collected, and then cleaned and dried in short time for repacking. But the rush works: Rockin Beets is producing significantly less waste than the average restaurant. Stephen estimates that 80 less bags of garbage are sent to the landfill each month compared to a comparably sized traditional restaurant.

On top of creating a better model for the environment, Chef Mario and Stephen’s meals taste damn good. With a menu that changes weekly, I was exposed to a new world of vegan cooking. Here are my top five take-aways:

The Lessons

#1 – Use Tools: Veggies require a lot of prep work (see above, battle with giant squash). Washing, peeling, and chopping are all really time consuming. To combat this we utilized a lot of tools, but surprisingly, we used mostly household appliances. This multi-blender, in particular, was amazing for shredding beets, slicing carrots into rounds, and most importantly finely dicing onions. We chopped a lot of onions in the kitchen. Chef Mario could barely stand to watch me crying my eyes out each time and would often go to lengths to give me other tasks so he could have the burden of the onion chopping. The blender saved me a lot of tears on days when Mario couldn’t.

#2 – Do It By Hand: Despite the first bit of advice, somethings are better done by hand. For example, combining mixtures, especially in the quantities we were working with, were best done with gloves. When you have a delicious container of rainbow salad with six different veggies, a grain, beans, and greens, a spoon just won’t do the trick. The same goes for veggie burger and veggie meatballs: the mixture will just not come together right unless you squish and squeeze it in your hands.

Spinach, tricolor quinoa, string beans, black beans, lentils, and cherry tomato salad

#3 – The Illusive Burrito Folding Technique: I’m a big fan of burritos. Breakfast burritos filled with tofu scramble or dinner burritos with black beans and rice (Chipotle style). But I could never quite get the folding down. In the kitchen, I got my practice and finally have the technique sorted.

We often sent out 40 wraps in a single day and this influx of volume gave me enough testing ground to understand how to actually wrap a wrap. It’s a trapezoid, not a rectangle! Let me explain. With your ingredients centered, pull the two sides into the midline and smear the ingredients flat. With the sides creating a kind of bowling-alley-bumper preventing anything from spilling sideways, bring the edge closest to you all the way over the ingredients and tuck them in. And now, here is the trick, tuck the left and right sides of the top edge inwards, creating a trapezoid, before closing the final side (Video from TikTok). Voila! Spill-proof wrap, ready to go.

#4 – Un-boring Leftovers: Food waste is a big problem. Globally, about one-third of all food grown for human consumption is either lost or wasted. Food waste alone accounts for 8-10% of all greenhouse gas emissions.

I dutifully did my part by taking home leftovers whenever offered. But the real success was in the freezing and the strategic planning of the weekly menus. One technique was to make an incredibly versatile array of veggie burgers and “meat”balls (or as the Italians call them polpette). Did we make too much rice for our curry dish? Too much orzo or couscous? Too many beans or chickpeas? Combine nearly any grain or veg into super yummy unconventional falafels. The trick is in using chickpea and rice flour to give it the proper stickiness such that it forms a ball. Spray with a bit of olive oil and pop it in the oven for a great addition to your meals.

#5 – Acidity: This last lesson learned surprised me the most. Although I used to follow recipes exactly, with a bit of experience, I’ve learned to mix in audibles: I will substitute alternatives for missing ingredients and adjust quantities to my own taste preference (subtext, I’m going to double the garlic). However, I never really knew what to add when something tasted a little bland or a little heavy. Chef Mario taught me that vinegar is the addition you didn’t know you needed. It makes bowls taste lighter and sauces a bit more saucy. Apple cider vinegar has now become a staple in my personal cooking.

Final Thoughts

My bonus sixth lesson was one that applies to much more than the kitchen: you simply can’t make everyone happy. When we asked for feedback we heard all sorts of contradicting opinions about spice levels, quantities, and menu selection. The fact is, when you set out to do something different, like create a vegan restaurant for non-vegans, it’s going to set off lots of opinions. Thankfully, the interest of Bolzano locals to do their part in reducing the impact of their meals has spurred a lot of interest in Rockin Beets.

At over 1000 meals served each week and demand rapidly growing, the company continues to make a big impact from a small idea.

Hey there!

I’m Jacquie and I’m an American hockey player living in Bolzano, Italy. I write about hockey, sustainability, and food.

More About Me

  1. veganducks Avatar

    Wow very interesting, thank you! I can so relate to using tools… Sometimes the longest thing can be peeling potatoes. Looking for a revolutionary device that will peel potatoes for me please! 😀


    1. jpierri11 Avatar

      Thanks for reading, veganducks! My “secret trick” for potatoes, and something we did often at the restaurant, is to use yams or sweet potatoes and leave the skin on 🙈


  2. greensportsblog Avatar

    What a great and tasty story, Jacquie! Are you still working at Rockin’ Beets? Also why did you go to Scotland last November? Love The Trapezoid! YUM!!!


  3. Rosio Delphia Avatar

    Hi, I do believe this is a great blog. I stumbledupon it 😉 I’m going to come back yet again since I book-marked it. Money and freedom is the greatest way to change, may you be rich and continue to guide other people.


EWHL Weeks 5 & 6

2021-22 Games 8 and 9 – EV Bolzano Eagles vs HC SKP Bratislava and KEHV Lakers

(Approximately 4 minute read)

[This posted was drafted in December and forgotten about. Better late than never.]

After a break for Team Italy’s qualification bid to the Beijing Olympics (which I wrote about for the Ice Garden, here), we returned for a home game against a top team in the league. Due to a Men’s game, we had one ice time before heading into competition. The practice was marked with imprecise passing and some well-deserved yelling from our coach; which was unfortunately predictive of the game’s results.

Return from Break: Bratislava

Although we had little time to prepare specifically for Bratislava, we went into the game with a lot of respect for how high our opponent stood in the standings. Nevertheless, an awareness of their skill didn’t translate into the play we needed for an upset. We started strong in terms of effort but struggled with turnovers and confusion about our d-zone coverage. The chaos and mistakes quickly devolved into blame and negativity.

Ultimately, Bratislava capitalized on a power play opportunity in the 2nd period. Mia Campo Bagatin was able to tie the game in the third: a strange (and fortunate) bounce off a backhand from the slot bounced off their defender. Mia didn’t even realize it went in (see the video for her adorable goal celly). Only a few shifts later, Bratislava regained the lead and coasted to victory. All things considered, the game was a reminder that we are capable of playing with some of the best teams in the league but we certainly need to clean up some aspects of our play if we want to be successful.

Game Report

Game Video

(Goals: 1-0 Istocyova L. (6) 54:40 1-1 Campo Bagatin M. (60) 1:42:50 2-1 Istocyova L. (6) 1:48:25)

Countering Disappointment

The game had me thinking about a study I recently heard about: one of the best predictors of NBA playoff success is the number of early season high-fives and celebratory touches between players. I know; it sounds like feel-good wishy-washy, maybe-this-doesn’t-matter-once-you-hit-a-certain-level type advice. But this study found that when you support your teammates, encouragement is actually predictive of your success as a team (Link: NBA study).

I definitely could feel the deflation of my teammates from the way our bench’s energy swayed during this game. There are very important differences between accountability and negativity, which primarily comes down to expectations we have of one another. Accountability is holding your teammates to a standard that you know and believe they are capable of; negativity is believing everyone is incapable and disappointing. Both are contagious – quickly rippling across a locker room.

At this point in the season (and every season has it’s ups and downs), we seem to have swung too far towards the “criticize and put-down” mentality. We will need to find a way to battle through our frustrations and back to supporting one another if we hope to find success going forward. After goals-against we need to come together, not to cast blame, but rather to figure out what to fix as a group to move forward. We are a young team and I am confident we will get there.

On the Road Again: Lakers

The following game, we hit the road for Villach, Austria, right next to the Ossiaicher See Lake, where we would face an opponent much closer to us in the rankings.

While it is often the case that on the road we find ourselves with a truncated roster, this road-trip was notable for how many players we were missing. Sara Kaneppele, Emily Decristofaro, Anna Bertoluzzo, were all out with injuries. Our roving players Marta Mazzocchi and Elena Perry, whom only join for EWHL games, were with their home Italian League clubs. And three leaders, Chelsea Furlani, Valentina Bettarini and Sammy Gius were all not able to join on the road.

After hours on the bus, I was shocked to step into a rink with no glass. This game, the puck would be live off of the netting, a sure-indicator of strange bounces and unpredictability. I worried that battles along the wall would be dangerous, but surprisingly, I didn’t actually notice a difference once play began.

I started the game on center and being that we were short on players, my endurance was tested from early on. The first period moved at a fast pace with good passing, but very few scoring chances for either team. After a scoreless first, we lost some of the wind in our sails and found ourselves sinking to a less skilled opponent. Just as we rose to the challenge of Bratislava, despite coming up short, we were letting our opponents dictate the play.

The Lakers got on the board first off a short-handed goal, but it wasn’t until the end of the third that Mia Campo Bagatin was able to tie up the game (again). We went into 5 minutes of overtime, knowing we should have secured the win in regulation and, on the shoulders of an amazing job by our goalie Danni Klotz, we just barely squeaked by in the shootout

After the game, I returned to find my mom in the family group chat, hilariously trying to troubleshoot watching the game-feed. It turns out the feed was broadcasting sideways, making watching/studying game tape really interesting.

Game Report

Game Video / Part 2

(Goals: 1-0 Payne H. (3) 1:37:50; 1-1 Campo Bagatin M. (60) Part 2 20:18; Shootout Pierri J. 39:11; Stocker K. 40:02)

The Last of 2021

We have one more game before we head into the New Year. We will face our toughest opponent yet, at home, against MAC Budapest. Let’s hope we can rally together for this final fight of the calendar year.

EWHL Standings Nov 29, 2021

Hey there!

I’m Jacquie and I’m an American hockey player living in Bolzano, Italy. I write about hockey, sustainability, and food.

More About Me

Very Italian Vegan Christmas

Arese, Lombardy, Italy – Family Christmas

(Approximately 4 minute read)

I’m finally free from two-weeks of Covid prison and ready to tell you about the most delicious and varied holiday meal I’ve ever had. My Aunt Antoinette is an amazing cook and always impresses me, but this multi-course Christmas extravaganza really brought things to another level.

The holiday began with a BlaBlaCar from Bolzano to Milano. I piled into the back of a stranger’s car, just a few blocks from my apartment, squished with my backpack by my feet and a bag in the middle. I was joined by a woman to my right with a special guest faintly panting from a cloth sack: a greying old-doggo, content to rest in her lap.

BlaBlaCar is an interesting European ride sharing service that operates very differently from Uber. When going on a trip, normal every-day drivers can rent out available seats of their personal car to help supplement their costs. They post their departure point and destination and then the app matches passengers going either the entire distance or somewhere en route. It’s usually cheaper and more direct than public transit (when one isn’t traveling between two major city centers). I also love when simple ideas like this make sustainable options accessible for people.

After a quick journey, my uncle picked me up at a nearby roadside AutoGrill (Sidenote, Italian gas-station-shops have fresher bread and food than most grocery stores elsewhere). As soon I walked through the door I was hit with that warm feeling of being surrounded by family, the relief of feeling home… and the smell of fresh focaccia from my favorite bakery.

The next morning, Christmas Eve began with a slightly heated debated about covid protocols and testing. Something I’m sure was felt by many families this year. Once that was sorted, we hit the dog bath so Zero would be feeling fresh for the holiday. By mid-morning, we were in the kitchen and started on a full day of cooking. Christmas Eve is when the main celebrations typically happen in Italy, and family-friends, who I’ve known since childhood, were to be joining for dinner.

While most of the family ate fish, my vegetarian cousin and I got our own special menu. Giulia and I were spoiled with vegan dish after vegan dish (followed by vegan dessert).

The first course was a vegan pate. It was a colorful little bowl with layers of yellow, red, and green consisting of mango, beet, and avocado. Our second dish was, roasted potatoes, topped with bright pink beetroot hummus and contrasting black sesame seeds (I confess, I ate my share of these before they hit the table. The kitchen is a tough arena for self-discipline).

Next came homemade focaccia: one with cherry tomatoes and another with roasted onions; both incredible. Addicting and deliciously salty; soft and crunchy. But the main appetizer event was a buttery and flakey pastry shaped into a Christmas tree. The crust was stuffed with a delicious sun-dried tomato and tofu cream cheese. The twists of the branches pulled off easily for delightful snacking.

Of course, we weren’t done yet. These were accompanied by grilled zucchini, turnip fries, and babaganoush (a Mediterranean eggplant dip). And then, although the waistband of my jeans was protesting, we had bruschetta (bru-SKET-ah, said with italian finger pinch gesture), topped with multi-colored tomatoes, shaved artichoke, and a duck shaped polenta. We hadn’t even gotten to the main course yet.

When it was time for the main course, I contemplated throwing in the towel, but we had spent half of the day making a delicious polpetta, and who are we kidding, of course I was going to try it. Lentils and nuts blended together, formed the heart of the dish. The filling was artfully braided in flakey pastry dough which was served as a delicious loaf.

We’re we done? No, of course there had to be desert. But this time I really did throw in the towel. We had prepared beautiful cinnamon rolls to cap off the meal, but I was too stuffed to try them just yet.

The next day, my cousins, Matt and Giuli, and I traveled to Bolzano where the feast continued. I finally got to try the delicious cinnamon buns, but we weren’t only eating leftovers; my aunt would never allow that. We also had a special lasagna that Aunt Antoinette sent us away with. Homemade soy béchamel, pumpkin, and local chestnuts filled the layers of lasagna sheets and we topped it with homemade cashew ricotta for a little extra deliciousness.

And for the dessert I couldn’t manage on Christmas Eve? Homemade dough, topped with cinnamon sugar, rolled, cut, and baked. They were eaten so quickly, I didn’t even get a picture.

Most of the recipes came from Cucina Botanica. She is an Italian vegan chef named Carlotta, who’s calming voice is like an ASMR experience. Check out her “per natale” videos on YouTube.

Hey there!

I’m Jacquie and I’m an American hockey player living in Bolzano, Italy. I write about hockey, sustainability, and food.

More About Me