Green your tech.

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credit to my sister 🙂

I’m not gonna lie, technology is a hard one to get around. Without it, we wouldn’t create nearly as much energy waste as we do. And yet, we can’t live without it now (or at least I couldn’t). I thought I’d share a few ways that I know about, that can help to cut down on electrical/technology waste, that aren’t “change to LED light bulbs”…

Cor(d) Blimey! (I’m so sorry)

One of the many things that really bug me about chargers and earphones (Apple are the worst from my experience, but most phone brands tend to be terrible) is that the cords come loose at the base or split at some point after a few months. I’m sure you’ve probably heard of ‘planned obsolescence’: manufacturing a product to deliberately last only a few months or years. Nowhere is it more rife than in the technology industry. One way to avoid replacing these cords with yet more tat, is to invest in ones that are designed to last.

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House of Marley – I bought a pair of /house of Marley earphones a few months ago and there’s no looking back now! The wire is covered in a fabric cord rather than the rubbery plastic tube they are usually enclosed in. Not only does this mean that it is likely to be more durable over time, but you don’t get those awful tangles every time you put them away! They use recycled materials and wood where they can as well, so that’s a plus.

Syncwire – my brother bought himself a pair of phone charging cords from this brand and I thought they looked cool with the mesh-like, thick casing around the wire. He told me they had lifetime warranty too and he needn’t say any more! I love products that guarantee themselves, because it says something about the quality. They do cords in a variety of lengths for Apple and micro usb port phones (most Androids).

Phones

As far as perfect solutions to the phone problem goes, there are next to none. However, that doesn’t mean we don’t try to resist the current trends and vote with our wallets.

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Fairphone – this brand speaks to me on multiple levels. Firstly, they are basically the only brand I know of that sources its materials fairly. That in itself is amazing and commendable. Considering that the minerals used in phone manufacture are likely to be contributing to conflict in countries across the planet, hence the term ‘conflict minerals’, this represents probably the best way to show that you are against profiting from that situation. Besides that, Fairphones are modular and easy to take apart. The idea is that when one part of the phone reaches the end of it’s life or breaks, you can simply purchase that one bit and replace it yourself, diverting a whole phone from landfill which is what usually happens. Normally when a phone breaks, it costs almost as much as the selling price to replace, or there is no option for repair and you have to buy new. Fairphone does things differently and restores the power back to the consumer and it’s awesome.

Another cheaper option is to buy a phone secondhand. Due to contracts, meaning that customers upgrade their phones annually or bi-annually (basically before it reaches the end of its shelf-life). technology moves fast, and the temptation to have the newest model is strong in much of the population. It’s just a waste of materials and energy and is a symptom of today’s consumerism which produces and sells new things at a rate that the planet can’t keep up with. You buying secondhand is obviously cheaper than buying new, and often you can find a phone with little to no problems (because it was likely just discarded due to an upgrade rather than fault). You would be using something already in circulation rather than encouraging the production of more new things. Here’s an example of a UK shop shelling refurbished phones.

A deceptively simple tip

buy only the gadgets you neeeeed – I used to have a phone, tablet and a laptop which was just silly. I’d also casually own a billion chargers and accept more willy nilly. There is no need to own more than one of something, and while we’re at it you probably don’t need all the gadgets you have. The less you have, the less you’ll need to use, charge and replace. Simple.

Cut down on that usage – I’ll be honest, I’m a bit of an internet addict. I check my phone way more than I should, and sometimes I just open my laptop and do absolutely nothing cos it’s comforting. But you know what else? Whenever I find myself checking Facebook more often or mindlessly surfing the web, I also realise that I am bored or sad or in some way dissatisfied. It’s emotional! Whenever I think ‘ooh Netflix will make this better’ I find myself 3 hours later feeling exactly the same (unless I watched something depressing in which case I feel worse!) I could’ve done something helpful like spoken to a human, gone for a walk, or read a book- all of which waste no energy or money, people- but that would’ve been too easy! Anyway, what I’m saying is I’m working on it, and you should too.

Unplug – when you go on holiday, unplug everything that doesn’t need to keep running while you’re away. Try plugging things in, or switching on the socket just for the time that you need whatever it is you’re using. The little things add up in money and energy terms. Same goes for just going to work, or out for the day; if you can unplug/switch it off without anything getting messed up, do it 🙂

Alternative energy

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Energy providers – Sorry, I live with my parents so I don’t know about all this stuff yet, but you can switch to renewable energy providers and it makes a big difference. You can make a substantial monetary saving whilst doing your bit and all it takes is switching providers and carrying on as normal! The easiest thing.

Rechargeable batteries – I know, who even uses batteries anymore?! (except people with children and/or TV remotes, so almost everyone) Rechargeable batteries used to be a faff, but you can get USB ones now! They’ll save you money, and they’re better for the environment than single-use ones.

Solar- my sister just got a solar-powered portable phone charger. She’s gonna try and see if she can power her phone off the sun alone. That’s awesome. Imagine using the sun to charge your phone forever! It’s free! I found this brand which seems good quality and is a B Corp, meaning it uses its power to do good in the world. The profits from Waka Waka solar chargers (above) are used to provide power to those who do not currently have the option of electricity worldwide. The price would make it a bit of an investment, but it would pay for itself after that…

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Small efforts.

Sometimes taking steps for the environment seem like massive sacrifices. Sometimes we think it’s only worth it we make a big impact. Today I thought I’d share a few things I’m trying that still count towards my effort, however small they may be.

 

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Spring onions and a leek 🙂

The window sill shenanigans are starting again! I know it doesn’t really make a major difference to the amount of food I have in, but re-growing veg in water is the first step in what I hope will be the beginning of growing food. It’s pretty amazing watching things grow! In a week my spring onions went from an inch long to a foot long and I chopped them up to use in a curry (below); now the roots are back in water again! Next week I’ll find a use for my regrown leek, and I also want to get a lettuce growing. See here for all the veg you can regrow in water.

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‘curry’ made completely from scratch!

I was eating a peanut butter and jam sandwich for lunch today when I noticed the peanut butter has palm oil in it. It’s so annoying! Ever since I watched Before the Flood (see my review here) I’ve been super motivated not to endorse that industry, but I haven’t been too successful. It’s in so many things! However, the next time I buy peanut butter I’m hunting down one without palm oil.

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The debris from a paper cull I did recently…

In general I’m alright at avoiding printing. My train/plane/coach tickets are always on my phone, and other than that I have very few reasons to actually print anything… eeeexcept for uni. We get a lot of handouts, which there isn’t a lot I can do about, but I also have to do a lot of reading from online books. I used to print out the readings every week so that no matter where I was, I could get to them. A week ago, I decided to just try and read off the screen and take notes instead, then print if I really felt the need. I have yet to feel that need. I think I used to tell myself ‘it’s all very well trying to be better to the environment, but I NEED to print this stuff for my degree!‘ when actually it turned out not to be such a massive thing. Hoping to keep this not-printing thing up as much as possible going forward!

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Sneaky cinema shot!

Every Wednesday I go to the cinema on my own to watch a foreign film. It’s my me-time. Part of this mid-week treat is buying myself some popcorn. I could make it myself, but I don’t have that much time on a Wednesday, plus it’s nice to give back to the uni cinema whose prices are insanely cheap and staff are lovely. Since the beginning of the year I’ve been bringing back the same box that I bought popcorn in for the first film. They refill it and at the end of the film I pop it back in my bag for next week. The cardboard has softened a little but it works just fine, and I must’ve saved a good dozen other boxes from going in the recycling. It’s super simple and easy, but it all helps!

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GO WORMS GO!

I got a worm bin back in the Autumn, and whilst that has helped to absorb a bit of my food waste, they don’t eat quite fast enough at the moment to deal with everything I create (and then there’s the odd thing they can’t eat like onions and citrus). I resigned myself to the fact that I’d have to chuck that stuff in the general bin in the kitchen until it hit me recently that I could take it into uni where they have food waste bins. About once a week, when I have a decent amount of scraps, I’ll take them onto campus and put them in one of their bins. Landfill diverted again, woo!

 

 

Review: Food Choices (2016)

 

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What did people do before Netflix, eh? (don’t answer that question, they probably were a lot more productive!) At least when it comes to documentaries, it’s really the place to go! In the theme of Veganuary, I thought I’d watch a foody documentary that’s been sitting on my watch-list for a while. Food Choices follows Michal Siewierski on his journey to discovering the most healthy diet for humans. It felt like an extension of other Netflix food documentaries, featuring interviews with Joe Cross of ‘Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead’ and Dr.T. Colin Campbell of ‘Food Matters’. Here are the stand-out points for me:

Whilst it has been made complicated through all manner of fads and ‘studies’, it seems the perfect diet for humans consists of the following 4 main food groups: fruit, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. The ideal foods are high in fibre and unprocessed.

Doctors are not trained in nutrition hence why they focus on treating health problems with medicine (what they are trained in). This only tends to control the symptoms and adds others. Especially in America, but across the West, corporations interfere and confuse the situation by trying to make money through false food information as theor primary focus is profit.

Myth= we (humans) are hunter-gatherers designed to eat meat

Reality= those closer to the equator and most of the planet relied on starchy foods (corn, potatoes etc.) to survive. Only in the far North and South in places such as the Arctic did people have to eat large quantities of meat due to the scarcity of other food options in the extreme cold.

Our bodies are designed to eat fruits and vegetables. Some animals ave sharp teeth and claws to kill and eat animals, whilst we see in colour to detect fruit and vegetables, and our hands are perfect for picking and peeling them.

Myth= you can only get protein from animal products

Reality= it is impossible to be protein deficient especially on a plant-based wholefood diet as long as you’re getting enough calories per day. Humans do not need a lot of protein, not nearly as much as we are made to believe. In fact we get health problems as a result of too much! Our kidneys, and liver are put under stress by over consumption of protein and we are at a far larger risk of cancers.

Myth= we need milk for calcium

Reality= the higher the calcium intake from dairy products, the higher the risk of osteoporosis. There is calcium in all sorts of food, such as oranges!

All of the nutrients generally lacking in the population can be found in plant-based foods, whereas all of the over-consumed ingredients come from animal products/processed foods

We are the only creatures on earth that consume the milk of another species AND that consumes milk after infancy- IT’S NOT NATURAL! It’s designed for baby cows to rapidly gain weight! High fat, high cholesterol, no fibre- it’s just like liquid red meat.

No wonder people are addicted to cheese! The casein used to bind cheese together has been proven to be as addictive as heroin! (paraphrased from Karyn Calabrese)

‘Eggs are the most concentrated source of dietary cholesterol in the average person’s diet’ Dr. Michael Greger

Cholesterol only comes from animal products, and additional cholesterol causes heart diseases.

Commercial chickens are fed antibiotics, genetically modified corn and soy.

We are the only species on earth that does not live in harmony with nature.

Anyway, those are my notes. If you haven’t seen any food documentaries, I would recommend Food Matters, Cowspiracy or Forks Over Knives. This one I enjoyed the first half of, but I’d say there are others that deliver the message a bit better. I did like the humble approach of the guy and the way he asked simple, common questions and tried to find the answer.

2016. 2017.

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me feeling smug with 2 baguettes in France

Hey all. Sorry for kinda disappearing for a month (and then some). The end of the year gets so crazy!

I don’t know about you, but there seems to be a general feeling that 2016 was a pretty terrible year. Granted, lots of depressing things did happen in 2016- in politics especially- but I don’t like the thought of allowing some of the not so great things that happened this year overshadow the good. I for one am not willing to write this year off as a waste of time, 365 days I wish I could get back. So I thought I’d write a list of things I am personally grateful for from 2016 (off the top of my head!)

In January I committed to becoming vegan! That was a massive decision that I struggled with initially, because it meant reteaching myself how to cook, learning about food and nutrition and letting go of my addiction to meat. But it was so worth it! I don’t regret my choice at all and it gets easier by the day. Not eating animal products has lead to more compassion for animals, a healthier lifestyle and I’ve finally started living in alignment with my values (still got a way to go but this is a step)

I returned from 9 months in France in April, which was a massive learning curve for me. When I first came back I wasn’t sure if it had been a great experience or if I’d used my time well. But looking back I learned a lot about myself and proved that I could push through large amounts of fear to make a life on my own in another country.

This September I got round to organising therapy for myself. I’m still trying out different avenues, but just proactively seeking help and acknowledging that you need it in the first place makes a significant difference to your mental health. Also, the more you talk about it with others, the more you realise it’s not uncommon to need support.

The great thing about starting to look critically at your lifestyle is that it opens up your awareness to other good causes. Not 4 months after I learned about zero waste, I decided to be vegan, and now I’m learning about minimalism. They all go hand in hand. The materials and working conditions used to produce the things I buy have become factors that I now think about and I’m so pleased.

Looking to the future, I’m learning not to be so hard on myself. When you first start out with a new lifestyle/goal, especially around New Year, you want to have a clean slate and keep it clean. Like forever. But there’s nothing wrong with admitting it might be more realistic to think that you might slip up or need time to transition. Over this holiday period I dread to think how much packaging I’ve sent to landfill (some of it unwillingly, some of it I’ll admit I saw it coming) but I’m picking myself up and saying ‘let’s start again’. We’re human, and we have to gentle on ourselves.

Leading on from the previous point, I’ve learned that the best way to motivate is to learn why. It’s all very well knowing that recycling is better than trash, but I had no drive to change anything significant in my consumption habits until I had a personal connection to the people and animals who suffer most at the hands of climate change. The same goes for finding out the truth about animal welfare on mass farms and high street shopping. The key is finding out the whole truth, and then deciding whether to support or withdraw from contributing to that situation based on what you now know. It’s pretty cool that we are so empowered with all this information at our fingertips!

Anyway, that was me getting back on this blogging bandwagon 🙂 Happy New Year friends!

My natural christmas tree.

Guys! It’s the first of December! In my house that means Christmas music on loop and going into full festive mode 🙂 I’ve had my tree up for about a week now, but I thought it was about time I shared…

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the tree after I put it up in our living room

I was inspired by the smart people of Pinterest (what was life before Pinterest..?) who did a similar thing. I think I started collecting sticks from about the beginning of November. It was easy to get most of them, but the two longest ones at the bottom I had to really scavenge for in the park! Then I used a natural twine I had in the house to tie them together. They could’ve been arranged more neatly, but I really like how it turned out- it has character! I used some foil chocolate wrappers wrapped around a cardboard cut-out I made to get the star.

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Gold foil star 🙂

I’m trying to decide if I should decorate it, and if so, what with. But yeah, I hope you feel inspired to use what you have around you to have a bit of fun and decorate for the holiday season! The best thing about this tree is that when Christmas is over nothing goes in the bin- the sticks go back to the park, and string goes back in my stash 🙂

 

Thanks for reading!

Review: Before the Flood (2016)

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I recently watched this documentary and I was blown away. I mean, I’m pretty open-minded, and I like to try and see the best in things anyway, but I really just loved every part of it. It follows Leonardo DiCaprio as he travels all over the world as a UN representative on Climate Change, uncovering the effects of our consumption so far, as well as the struggles and triumphs of efforts to combat global warming.

I found it really interesting to hear about China. They have serious problems with air pollution in their cities from factories and power plants, but at the same time China is leading the way in developing green energy and practices. It was sad to hear people talking about their health worries caused by the smog, but the overall message was hopeful. The people are beginning to realise how powerful they are, and hopefully companies and the government will listen. Protests by citizens directly and quite quickly forced the government in Sweden to commit to becoming the first fossil-fuel-free nation- there’s hope for all of us!

A massive lesson I got from the documentary was about palm oil. I’ve spoken to a few people about it and read a little about the harmful effects of its extraction, but to see the reality  was a different story entirely. They told us that 80% of the forests in Indonesia have been taken over for palm oil, destroying the wildlife. Leo met an organisation that was looking after orangutans, saved ‘from forests that no longer exist’. Our demand for palm oil has killed off an atrocious amount of animals, and the lucky ones have been made refugees, homeless. The reason they continue to burn down forests is because we keep purchasing products that use it. Now that I really understand importance of not buying into that industry, I now have a renewed enthusiasm to try and avoid palm oil as best I can.

‘Before the Flood’ also reiterated what I know already about how much of the world’s land is used to raise cattle or grow food for cattle. One of the experts they interviewed said that the best way to make a difference to the planet without getting involved in politics is by changing your diet. I can attest to the fact that making better food choices 3 times a day is a good start to feeling like you’re changing the world (and you are!)

The filming is amazing, and you see so many incredible images of animals, past and present, whose lives are or will be in grave danger if their habitats aren’t protected. DiCaprio is very honest about his personal failures and hypocrisy as well as that of the US in particular. He doesn’t pretend to be perfect or to have all the answers. What he does have is an eagerness to learn and an accurate sense of the urgency required if we want to protect and restore this world for the future.

Let me know what you thought of this documentary if you’ve seen it. If you haven’t it’s available to rent or buy here

 

Review: Live and Let Live (2013)

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This documentary in a nutshell is people telling stories about how they came to veganism. What makes it really special is that it draws from a variety of different people (activists, dieticians, ethicists, athletes, farmers) but feels like an honest, laid-back conversation.

Among the interviewees was a guy who worked his way up from washing dishes to cooking in restaurants to owning his own. At that point, responsible for the most minute details of his establishment, he realised he was authorising the death of animals needlessly. The life he now leads is not only cruelty-free, but he is passionate about organic, local produce that’ll bring nourishment to his customers and honour the lives of the creatures he shares the earth with.

None of the subjects claim to be saints, nor do they preach; they simply tell their stories. They explain how they used to live, the moment they realised that consuming animals was wrong, and why they continue to live that way. Often they mention health, but the overwhelming reason is that, to paraphrase from the film, they finally opened up their circle of compassion to include animals.

The concept of carnism (eating meat) is broken down in the documentary. It requires the covering up of the inherent violence involved in bringing meat to our plates, the denial of the logic that- at least in the west- we would be horrified to learn that the meat we were eating came from a cat or dog, but completely satisfied to hear that the burger we’re eating is made from the flesh of a cow. It’s good to be reminded that there is a whole system keeping people in this destructive practice, but that it’s completely possible to become aware and break free as well.

Watching people, in some cases decades on from the point I’m at, reminded me that my level of compassion still has room to grow and that I have things yet to learn- but in a really exciting way.

I could go on, as usual, but if you’re interested I hope you’ll watch it yourself. It’s available on Netflix UK now.

Unhelpful comments.

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Have a picture of the motorway in Spain in 2014, go on.

This is an issue that I was aware of, but never considered writing about until a pang of frustration hit me whilst scrolling down my Facebook feed and I read a post saying something like ‘you call yourself an environmentalist but you still eat meat HAHAHA’. The tone was very belittling and aggressive and I just don’t see the need.

I would be lying if I said knowing what I know now doesn’t make me want to shake all my friends and family and say ‘do you realise what this does to the planet?!’ but that would make me two things; 1) disrespectful of the fact that everyone comes to their own decisions. Just as they respect my decision to not eat meat, I have to accept theirs. 2) arrogant considering that less than a year ago I couldn’t fathom why anybody would want to stop eating meat.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have conversations about the effect of meat eating on the environment, it’ s just about adjusting your attitude. Until every aspect of your life is faultless, it is unfair for you to make anyone feel lesser because of something they do. No one wants to feel that someone else’s opinions are being shoved down their throat, and it doesn’t really work anyway.

So how do you challenge the people around you to think about meat consumption? Here are 3 ways that respect other people’s autonomy:

  1. Recommend a documentary- Netflix was the main source of evidence that convinced me to become a vegan. Unlike books or articles, most people will find it easier to sit and watch a documentary because it’s quick and passive. Whether you watch together or leave them to themselves, the hard facts speak for themselves and it could be the spark that gets their minds ticking. Netflix has a good range of documentaries to suit personality types, priorities (health, planet, animals) and depth of scientific knowledge. I’ll leave a list at the end of this post of places to start.
  2. Be an example- I don’t go very long without having to mention my dietary requirements somewhere, and at least half of the time when I do, someone asks me why. That’s your permission to -briefly- explain your reasons. It might end there, or it might be the beginning of a discussion; either way that person has registered the choice you have made and you never know if further down the line it might trigger a change.
  3. Make + bake- Food is the way to the heart, as they say, and what better way to demonstrate your lifestyle than by showing its best bits? I’m compiling a collection of cake recipes and have made 3 birthday cakes in the last few months for family members. Making food to share with others means that firstly, you can eat it (unlike shop-bought birthday cake for instance) and secondly others will see that veganism doesn’t require any more effort or sacrificing taste.

Basically, stay respectful and remember that when it comes to any subject, we are only ever responsible for our own decisions. A little creativity goes quite far though!

 

Documentaries to recommend:

Cowspiracy– focuses on the impact of animal agriculture on the environment, quite science-y

Vegucated– an all-round introduction to issues related to meat-eating. Follows a group of diverse meat-eaters as they learn more as an experiment to see if they change their diets.

Food Matters/Forks Over Knives/Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead– focus on the effects of eating meat  vs. plant-based (vegan) diet on health. Food matters is stats heavy with lots of case studies and graphs. Forks Over Knives is a bit more testimony based with facts to support. FS&ND follows 2 men’s dramatic journeys towards better health through a plant-based diet.

Earthlings (not on Netflix)– morality/animal focused, it goes through the main ways that animals are used in society (food, pets, experiments etc.) showing real-life typical scenarios for animals. It’s harrowing and exposes a lot of suffering that we are shielded from in everyday life.

Do YOU believe it’s possible?

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I recently heard someone talking about change. She said if you want to see something transformed, beit yourself or the world, you have to believe that it can be changed in the first place.

It just made me think, do I believe the world can be changed? I think that often- all too often, unfortunately- I forget to believe that. I start believing only what I can see in front of my eyes. I was cycling yesterday and I saw a woman open the door of the car she was about to get out of, and toss a load of tissues out onto the road before she stepped down. It made me really angry to see. It’s important to be passionate about injustice, sure, but I don’t seem to register the hopeful news in the same way sometimes. It’s about where you choose to look.

So, back to the question- do I believe the world can be changed? Wholeheartedly yes. If I didn’t think that, I don’t think I would try so hard on a personal level. I don’t think I would be here reaching out to more people. The sheer fact that I have come to this point in my life where I being kind to the planet is one of my top priorities is testament to the fact that change is happening! Little over a year ago I was consuming a great deal more, and I knew virtually nothing about the impact. If this can happen to me, it can happen to other unsuspecting people (haha!)

I came across this video this morning, which I suspect I will save somewhere so I can return to it when I’m low on hope and motivation. Narrated by Morgan Freeman (I’ve already hooked you in!), it describes the world we strive for and how we can get there. Big steps or small, the key is to keep moving. Enjoy.

London discoveries #2: Cornercopia

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I took a walk through Brixton Village recently, as it had been quite a while since I’d last seen what was in there. I approached this plain-ish looking frontage and there were gorgeous multi-coloured handmade candles displayed outside. When I popped in I thought it was going to be a gift shop, but I spotted a selection of Redecker brushes (including my dish brush) and realised that this place has all sorts of plastic-free homeware!

I didn’t come away with anything on my trip, as I am trying not to buy impulsively, but I plan to revisit when I run out of bar soap, as well as to invest in a cast-iron pan and a plastic-free dustpan and brush during the summer.

Cast-iron pots and pans, brooms, kitchen utensils, and bar soaps to name but a few of their stock, Cornercopia is a must-visit if you are transitioning to more eco-friendly home equipment or setting yourself up for the first time. I would highly encourage checking this shop out if you’re based in South London (or even London, as it’s so close to Brixton tube station) because I saw things here  I’ve only seen online previously, and shopping in store saves on the pollution and packaging created by delivery.

Cornercopia Homestore

Address:

Units 37-38, 2nd Avenue
Brixton Village
SW9 8PS

Website:

http://cornercopia.myshopify.com/

Opening hours:

Wednesday-Sunday 11-6