5 things this Monday…

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  1. When I saw this aubergine rogan josh curry recipe, I fell in love! I didn’t know it was SO easy to make chapatties! Aubergines aren’t in my usual repertoire which is why I’m definitely going to give this a go.
  2. I wasn’t in a particularly emotional mood when I started watching, but I definitely welled up towards the end of this TED Talk by two teenage sisters from Bali who managed to convince the governor to make the country plastic bag free by 2018. They are so hungry for justice and they were prepared to go extreme for their cause. It was such a breath of fresh air to watch, and why I am convinced that while this world is full of bad news, there is just as much if not more good to be found as well.
  3. I’ve never known a subject to be more hushed up than the problems with mass animal farming- I can’t believe I’m still finding out more reasons why it’s bad for the environment! This article I found explains how waste from farms is ruining our oceans.
  4. This flowchart by The Note Passer nicely shows you how to work out whether an item can be composted. It’s always more than you would think!
  5. Andrea Sanders’ instagram is lovely. Package-free food and plastic free, simple homeware never ceases to look good!
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Purple soup.

I popped into a supermarket on my way through Paris last week, spotted these purple carrots (‘carottes noires’ in France) and knew I needed them in my life! When I got home I found a recipe online combining 3 purple vegetables (purple carrots, red cabbage, red onion) and not only did it taste beautiful, but the deep, strong colour was amazing. I did my best to capture it but on my phone, but it wasn’t the same…

 

Washing up.

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After spending several months using up my supermarket washing-up liquid and sponge, I had a pretty good idea of how I wanted to replace them. I needed something biodegradable that would last an awful lot longer than a sponge, (typically a couple of months for me) as well as a way of replenishing my soap without buying new plastic bottles each time.

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The washing-up liquid was the easiest thing to sort out. I have a bulk shop near me that offers refills of Ecover, an option that would mean I could bring back my old bottle and save on the plastic. However I wanted to find a system I could follow even if I was living somewhere where refills were not available. On my travels in France and the UK I have come across many shops that sell castille or marseille soap (all natural, cold-pressed) loose or in paper. I used half a bar of soap nut castille I received from Living Naturally, diluted in 500ml hot water to create my washing-up liquid (I shake it up before every use as the soapier water tends to collect at the bottom). It is nice to know I am now washing my dishes with something that is chemical-free and harmless to the environment that I could even EAT if I wanted to! Plus it does the job, obviously.

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As for my sponge replacement, I have been popping into every homeware shop I’ve passed for weeks and weeks looking for a loose scourer and some kind of wooden brush. I finally located one in Rennes, BazarAvenue, a 30-minute journey from my house, where I picked up my wooden brush from Redecker. I picked the soft bristle one, with beechwood bristles, as the other option appeared to come from some kind of animal (horsehair). The child inside of me is very excited about using this brush with the handle and everything!

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Last but not least I needed something for stubborn marks, so I also picked up a copper scourer from the same shop. I don’t think I need to explain this one. I originally intended to knit a small cloth out of hemp (like this) just to have something soft and more sponge-like, for situations when the brush and scourer are too hard. I will think about it over the next few weeks and decide if I really do need one.

5 things this Monday..

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Lake Poopó, Bolivia 2013-2016 (Source)

I realised recently that I do way too much research to even document here. Some of it deserves to be written up in an article, but some of it doesn’t really need any introduction. I’ve decided to share 5 things I’ve learned and liked with you every week, starting today!

  1. It is easy to forget why I have chosen not to buy any more items made from animal products when they are packaged and marketed to gloss over the process of how they get to the shops. This is why, as uncomfortable as it is, I watched this 15-second video by PETA showing one of the many coyotes whose fur is used to line clothes brand Canada Goose’s coats. I am no longer happy to pretend that animals do not suffer when they have to die for me. If you’re not up to watching it, the short article is here.
  2. This recipe by Green Kitchen Stories is so up my street! Greens upon greens packed into a creamy vegan sauce to accompany that lovely-looking pasta. Healthy, good-looking, and simple.
  3. Style Wise‘s article on the 6 myths about buying ethical clothing is a must-read! I used to give myself some of these excuses in order to justify my lifestyle, others I really and truly believed. If you’re wondering how ethical shopping is really done, as well as the answers to the hard and all-too-common questions, this does a pretty good job of summing it up.
  4. What was the second largest lake in Bolivia has almost completely dried up as a result of climate change, NASA found recently. The pictures speak for themselves and remind us that we cannot afford to wait a moment longer to reduce our footprints, for the sake of the world and everything living on it.
  5. I stumbled across the website Buy Me Once not too long ago and I’m so pleased. Part of the challenge of living sustainably is investing in products that last, so that the need to replace them is eliminated. This site includes a directory of clothes, items and homeware designed to last, that have repair services and lifetime warranties- an absolute dream!

Have a great day 🙂

5 simple steps to reducing waste

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Whether you’re aim is to produce no landfill waste or just to be a bit more considerate to the environment, you’re more likely to be successful when you start small. Here are 5 simple steps to being more earth-friendly that take a little getting used to and initial effort, but will end up reducing your waste enormously!

  1. No more plastic water bottles > switch to a reusable bottle

Plastic is particularly bad for the environment as, although some of it is technically recyclable (less than 10% of it is actually recycled), it is only able to be downcycled into lesser quality plastics, temporarily delaying its arrival in landfill, where it leaches harmful chemicals. Plastic NEVER degrades, only breaking up into smaller and smaller pieces which are mistaken for food by animals or absorbed by sea creatures in tiny pieces. Since switching to my stainless steel bottle by Klean Kanteen, I’ve noticed my water tastes cleaner and I don’t need  to shell out on any more bottles- what’s not to like!

2. No more plastic shopping bags > use reusable bags

This one took some practice to remember, but I can safely say I haven’t used a plastic shopping bag in 6 months, and I won’t again. Now every time I go out, whether I know I’m going to buy something or not, I have at least 1 trusty canvas bag with me to carry it in. For the same reason as the bottles, plastic bags are terrible for the planet. Many of them claim to be biodegradable as well, which is misleading (everything is technically biodegradable– that doesn’t mean it won’t take 50 years). Due to their light weight, they often fly off in the wind to end up caught up in trees, swallowed by wildlife or floating in seas and rivers. Not cool!

3. Go paperless > digitise what you need

Whether it be bank statements, subscriptions to magazines or newsletters, or just plain junk, an awful lot comes through the door only to be dumped directly in the recycling. Recycling is great, but it still requires energy and resources which could have been avoided if you cut the waste off at the source. Most if not all banks offer online statements, and keeping magazines and newsletters online means less resources used to print and send them to you. Putting up a ‘no junk mail’ sign over your letterbox is all that’s needed to take care of the rest. Scrutinise your mail and see if you can cut it down.

4. Say no to tissues + napkins + hand towels > carry a handkerchief

I got seriously excited when I realised being eco-friendly meant I got to carry around a hanky. It always seemed really cool to me, like this was a part of history I had no idea why had gone extinct. Hankies are great- obviously you can wash and reuse them forever instead of cutting down forests for the sake of blowing your nose, but they also don’t make my nose all rough and sore like tissues do after a few days of use (did I mention they are also super adorable and picking which one to take out each week makes me happy?) My mum gave me a set of tartan ones for Christmas, and I’m not looking back!

5. Out: plastic toothbrushes > in: bamboo toothbrushes

Toothbrushes, due to their need to be replaced several times a year, contribute to a large proportion of landfill sites, where they will sit for generations in exactly the same condition as the day you threw them out. There has to be another way… And there is! Bamboo toothbrushes can be composted after use, so the wood can biodegrade naturally in the earth causing absolutely no pollution. If the concept of using a wooden toothbrush seems strange, I would encourage you to try it- after a matter of days I’d already felt like I’d been using them for years. Bamboo has antibacterial properties and is universally considered healthy, whereas the health effects of plastic as a synthetic material are as yet inconclusive.

Happy switching!

Thoughts on clothes.

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The bulk of my day-to-day wardrobe

I love clothes. They are how I express my creative side. I curated a wardrobe full of fun and inspiring pieces that suited my moods from day to day. But even with my wardrobe rammed full of beautiful items, I was never satisfied with what I had. Sure, I liked most of the clothes I had, I’d bought them after all. But did I wear half of it? No. Did I spend every evening trawling websites to find that new [insert clothing item here] that would ‘complete’ the collection? You bet. The nature of fashion these days teaches us that we must constantly update our wardrobes, and that a sale is always to be seized- it’s a never-ending cycle of buy, toss, buy, toss. My research into green living often crosses over with ethical buying, something that has further convinced me not to shop so much/at all on the high street. I never used to question the reason why my clothes cost so little, but I’ve come to understand that there are real people literally paying for these bargains with their well-being, their health, their lives (See the documentary ‘The True Cost’ on Netflix for more on this, it’s a real eye-opener).

Since the beginning of September this year I haven’t bought any clothing, excluding a coat (vintage) and a pair of shoes (ethically and locally produced) that I really did need. Although at first I found myself thinking I have nothing to wear and feeling drab (poor me right?), I have found that I honestly don’t need any more clothes than I own. I like my current, small collection; I look good and feel good, and I can interchange everything. In fact I’ve noticed even now, that there are pieces sitting in my wardrobe almost completely unused. I think a little clear-out is due…

It took perseverance and a conscious decision to avoid window-shopping and to unsubscribe from newsletters, blogs and vlogs centred around buying clothes. It was a massive change, but it has been great for me. Realising that it doesn’t matter what you look like that much, that no one even notices that you’re wearing the same stuff over and over, as well as freeing up time and money are but three of the reasons I’ll be doing my best to keep it up.

 

 

Zero Waste Nail Polish?

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(Source)

I think I’ve found the closest you can (currently) get to zero waste nail polish- Little Ondine! This British brand (local, double win!) has formulated a nail polish that not only uses all natural ingredients but is peelable, eliminating that whole annoying removal process entirely, woo hoo! No more using cotton pads and toxic nail varnish remover! (Can you tell I’m excited!) Isn’t the nail varnish itself still destined for landfill though? Actually, no. Before buying, I contacted Little Ondine asking if, as the products are all natural, if the varnish could be composted- I received a confirmation that the peelings are biodegradable!

I bought 3 colours in December (Pacific, Back to Black and Cuddle) and so far so good. The colours are nice and it dries seriously quickly. Obviously, being peelable means that it doesn’t typically last longer than 3 days, but my nails are in way better condition than when I used to wear nail polish everyday so I don’t mind having them bare more. I paint my nails maybe once a week now. The few times that I have smelt traditional polish or remover since using Little Ondine, I have been shocked by the pungent chemicalness– I can’t believe I used to inhale that so often! I’ll update again when I have an idea of how the polish holds up over time.

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Currently I believe they are only available online which is not the most ideal, but still. Worth it if you’re looking for an eco alternative. See Little Ondine’s website here.

Is it more expensive to be a vegan?

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A recent market haul

I am often told as I whip some nuts/dried fruit/a smoothie out of my bag to eat, “wow! How do you afford to eat like that all the time?” At first I thought wait a minute, how AM I doing this? Before becoming vegan or trying to buy food package free, I didn’t buy a fraction of the whole foods I now consume. I too would have looked at someone eating certain things and assumed they were rich (ha)! Here are a few observations on how I eat like I do on a student budget.

Freeing up money

Being vegan and buying food loose means that, although I don’t consider myself to be missing out (on the contrary!), there are a lot of things I used to eat that I no longer do. Meat used to be the hardest thing for me to buy- it took up so much of my weekly budget, but I would only go about 2 days a week without having it for dinner. It was a must. Now that I don’t eat it, I can use all that money to buy other things. The same goes for sweets and takeaways. I kind of had a health revelation at the same time as going vegan and realised that little by little, the packet of Haribo here and the burger there were actually making a dent in my wallet (as well as obviously making me unhealthy). Every time I crave some sweets or chocolate now, I try and get my hands on some fruit. You can get so much more for your money!

One in one out

It is completely possible to spend the same amount of money or even less than before by trading in the things you’re indifferent to/don’t like/are unhealthy. It’s a question of deciding that you are going to make it work. I was a crisp-fiend before I discovered Zero Waste, but since I found bulk dried mango, raisins and nuts in my local shop, I haven’t looked back (much)! I swapped crisps and cheese at lunch for a smoothie and some dried fruit and nuts, I swapped chocolate cereal at breakfast for oats and fruit with nut milk. It all works out about the same because for every item I’ve introduced to my diet, something else has gone.

Myths

People seem to think being healthy is much more expensive than not. Whilst in certain ways I can understand their view-point, for me it was more that I didn’t know where to look. Fruit and vegetables can be very cheap; some of my favourite go-to meals include spiralized courgettes in place of pasta, and red pepper (one pepper per person). That rivals a £5 McDonald’s meal any day! Also, natural whole grain food registers in the body to let the brain know that the stomach is full. The more processed a food is, the less the body will be able to detect whether you have eaten enough and the less you will absorb any nutrients. A burger may well be cheaper than a vegetable stew, but when you consider that the former option will be followed up with more cravings for snacks (hence more money spent), it is overall cheaper to just fill yourself up properly in the first place.

Priorities

I have been having so much fun experimenting with vegan meals over the last few months that I have noticed my spending increase. But I’ve also come to a new decision: not to police myself on the money I spend on good food. When I go shopping, I buy what I need for the week, but I don’t allocate a budget. It works out the same-ish usually anyway. I don’t want to deny myself the opportunity to go out later in the week for a few extras for a smoothie or some snacks. Now that I am reaping the benefits of being healthy, and having struggled with eating problems in the past, I am finally ready to give food the positive place it deserves in my mind and my wallet. Before food was just another thing I had to budget for, whereas now it comes before clothes and items. It’s what keeps me alive- I need to make sure it’s good and that I can have as much as I want!

Getting creative and changing my perspective have been key to making a success of this new way of eating, and have brought excitement and positivity back to food for me.

When Zero Waste is beautiful.

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Saturday farmers’ market

For a lot of people, when I tell them about my zero waste goals, their first reaction is to say ‘that must be difficult! I don’t think I could do that’. To be honest, I didn’t know it was possible either until I saw it done by others. But what you learn once you begin to change the way you live, is that there are unique rewards to living waste-free (or as close to that as you can manage).

Initially, the excitement of seeing your bin gradually become less and less full as you find waste-less alternatives is enough to keep you going, but eventually as you settle into it and there is not a lot left to modify, there has to be something else to motivate you. If it meant nothing more than choosing a (sometimes) harder and certainly non-conventional route, the Zero Waste movement would not have caught on like it has. The reason I have remained committed to it is because my life is simpler now, and although certain things require more effort, most aspects of my life are easier and more natural now. One of the great things about Zero Waste for me is that it is beautiful.

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Shopping in bulk is exciting for me, because unlike 6 months ago when I shopped at the supermarket for everything, I now frequent the local farmers’ market and a local organic cooperative shop for my groceries. I am so much healthier and I have developed an interest in experimenting with new foods and learning about the properties of fruit and veg. Today I passed a bulk container of quinoa and some purple potatoes in the shop, and I can’t wait to find a way to introduce them into my diet! My dinner plates are colourful and fresh and I bombard my family with pictures of them almost daily, (poor things!) because I can’t keep to myself how nice they look!

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3 apples in a homemade mesh bag

I store all my dried foods in glass jars and bottles rather than the plastic and tins I used to buy from the supermarket. It’s such a nice feeling to empty my bulk bags into the jars and display them in my kitchen. Also, two cashiers complimented me on my home-made mesh produce bags today, and one of them said I’d inspired her to make some of her own- this is what it’s all about!

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Homemade hummus in a jar

Good quality items that serve a purpose mixed with fresh, healthy food. No plastic packaging or brands to spoil the view. It is a simple pleasure, and one that I wouldn’t have appreciated a year ago. But I can safely say it brings me enough satisfaction to want to continue to live this way wherever I go.

 

Earthlings.

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Quote on Earthlings documentary (source)

If you haven’t heard of Earthlings, it’s a well-known documentary narrated by Joaquin Phoenix which looks at all the ways humans interact with animals (food, pets, medicine etc.). You don’t have to do much research at all to establish that this documentary is powerful. And by powerful I mean harrowing.

A few months ago I stumbled across it, got into it, and quickly turned it off! It was too much. Today I thought you probably should know what goes on, Lydia. It’ll help you with motivation, Lydia. I psyched myself back up, and pressed play. I watched as much as I could, and when I couldn’t face to watch, I listened (which was traumatic enough!) I’m glad I made it through. It is horrible to witness, but it’s definitely enough to reinforce why veganism is so necessary.

Everyone should watch this. The myths about the food industry, animal-testing, leather and even circuses and zoos are so prevalent in society and perpetuate the illusion that we can continue to use animals how we please because they are treated fairly or they don’t feel pain or their purpose is for us to exploit them. Mind blown. I don’t have the words to describe how I feel. As a society, we don’t do nearly enough sharing with our fellow humans or earthlings as we should; we take and take, leaving the planet worse off than when we received it.

Before we all get depressed though, there is a lot to be hopeful for! Since autumn 2015, I have discovered beautiful communities of people passionate about the environment and the earth and being healthy and ethical, and they’re growing and gaining strength every day. Living by example and talking about your findings is infinitely powerful. Consumers are powerful and voters are powerful. We need to demand the kind of world we want to live in.

watch ‘Earthlings’ here