Ask Gaia About Mice and Meals

This is the second installment of your new favorite advice column, penned by resident eco-expert and celestial goddess, Gaia. Submit your own question here

"Hey Gaia, I recently had a mouse problem in my apartment. My landlord wants to set traps, but I don't want to hurt them. What is the best way to deal with my rodent roommates?"

— Mousey in Massachusetts

Dear Mousey,

Illustration by  Elizabeth Stilwell .

Illustration by Elizabeth Stilwell.

Mice, often thought to be adorable as clever pets or cartoons, can be unnerving as unwelcome guests. I get it! You are BBC dad and these mice are brazenly busting in on your safe space. So close your eyes, collect yourself, and get to work because this is going to take a some time and effort. (For this advice, I’m assuming you have an isolated mouse or two, not an infestation.)

As Mama Earth, I cheer your decision to manage their breach humanely when the most common ways people deal with rodents are poison (coagulants that cause them to bleed internally), snap traps (that break their little necks), or sticky traps (that leave them to starve or dehydrate in pain). Effective and humane pest-control programs are integrative and focus on ways to repel, deter, and exclude mice from your home.

REPEL | The first step is to try to drive them out the way they came in. Mice have a keen sense of smell and people report success using strong scents to repel them from certain areas. Put 20-30 drops of a strong essential oil, like peppermint or clove, on rags or cotton balls and place them in areas where you have seen mouse droppings. (Only use this method if you do not have pets or children, or if the cotton will be out of their reach.) Refresh or replace the oil every week.

DETER | Rodents are attracted to messy areas that contain adequate food, water, and shelter. Take away those comforts and your home will become a less attractive a place to crash. Remove anything like papers, fabric, or yarn, that can be used as nesting material. Keep your kitchen as free from crumbs as possible, and seal up food in plastic, glass, or metal containers. Do the same with pet food. Take your garbage out every night (use these bags!) and keep cans away from your doors. Disinfect the surfaces of your kitchen regularly and thoroughly.

EXCLUDE | A lack of food and places to feel safe, along with the essential oils, may be enough to get your mice to move out. If this happens, quickly find the holes where they came in — look around pipes, floorboards, and behind appliances, searching for droppings, hair, or stains. Working from the inside to the outside (the other way around may trap them in), fill holes tightly with aluminum foil or copper mesh. If that doesn’t seem snug enough — the common house mouse can slip through openings just slightly wider than a pencil — fill the rest of the space with low VOC caulk.

If you can’t encourage them to head out on their own, you will have to make use of a humane trap. These cubes are highly rated and effective. Mice are often portrayed in the media as loving cheese, but they actually prefer vegan foods like peanut butter, anise seeds, and dry oatmeal.

Bait the cube with food all the way in the back and place wherever you have seen mice or droppings. Check them hourly, as mice can die from stress or dehydration within just a few hours, and be sure to disable them if you will be gone for the whole day. You can also try out different traps made from everyday items (think Milton Bradley’s Mousetrap game). A favorite is books stacked along one side of a plastic bucket with bait at the bottom — the mouse climbs up and into the basket, but won’t be able to climb back out. Be patient and problem-solve because mice are quite clever. Once you have caught the little intruders, release them outside at least 100 yards away. Rinse and repeat until all of your extra roomies are gone.

Gaiaspeed to you, gentle earthling!

"As I work toward eating a more plant-based diet, what are some staple, filling foods or recipes I can cook with my boyfriend (who thinks meat is the cornerstone of any hearty meal)?"

— Ample Appetite in Austin

Dear Ample Appetite,

It’s true, sweet earthling, that going straight to tofu dogs is probably not the best way to convince someone to eat a more plant based-diet. I believe little tweaks at a reasonable pace make for a more smooth and lasting transition. Many people report feeling hungry as they cut out meat; if you don’t mimic the same level of fat and protein you are used to eating, you may well get that empty feeling.

Begin by upping into rotation foods that are always deliciously vegan — hearty roasted veggies like sweet potatoes, broccoli, or brussels sprouts. When you reduce meat or dairy in dishes, you can make up for those flavors in several ways. Spices and salt become incredibly important, so taste as you go. Add a little heat with paprika or chili flakes, or kick up the umami factor with a sprinkle of tamari sauce (similar to soy sauce) for a savory taste.

Next, make little changes towards more plants within your favorite meals. Use meat substitutes, beans, mushrooms, grains, or any combination to fill in where meat usually is. Gardein’s meat alternatives are palm-oil free (except for their new pocket meals). Our editor-in-chief, Magdalena, proclaims, “The Szechuan Beef is the most authentically meaty. Sooo good.” Dishes like tacos can easily be kept vegan with fillings like beans, mushrooms, beefless ground, or quinoa taco meat. Replace the creaminess of cheese with cashew crema or guac. Our food editor, Irvianne, highly recommends Isa Chandra’s Curry Tofu Taco recipe.

Asian dishes like fried rice or ramen naturally work with well-seasoned tofu. Our web editor, Elizabeth, confesses her lazy chef tendencies and reliance on The Minimalist Baker.  “This curry is already filling AF with it’s high fat content from coconut milk; add chickpeas and tons of veggies for a tummy-warming meal,” she advises.

Below are some more favorite go-to recipes sure to keep you and BF full and happy!