5 things this Monday…

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  1. The picture above shows a turtle who got caught in some plastic packaging from a 6-pack of cans. It caused the his shell to be misshapen as it grew- but that’s not all. This poor guy’s organs were unable to fully form due to the constriction of his body. Even after he was liberated, Peanut has been unable to live unaided which is really sad. But now he’s being looked after and makes appearances across schools in the US to teach them about what happens to plastic waste! It is pictures like this that really bring it home that our consumption is making animals really suffer.
  2. Now for some happy news! A vegan cafe has opened in Mexico City, and is challenging the eat-obsessed culture. It’s called ‘Los loosers’ and it sounds magnificent 🙂 hopefully this will be the beginning of better availability of plant-based food in the area.
  3. Lots of people don’t have the option of visiting bulk shops where you can fill up your own bags and containers. How do you do your best to minimise packaging and landfill waste whilst shopping at your average supermarket? Zero Waste Nerd tells you how.
  4. Next up, the Independent hears about how undercover investigations are exposing the widespread animal abuse in farms. It’s time to face the reality that the vast majority of the animals we eat have lead terrible, painful and scary lives. It is not necessary to cause this suffering, and it’s about time it ended. Please take a read if you have not yet learned about what modern animal agriculture looks like.
  5. Finally, nutritional evidence shows that the healthiest diet AND the most environmentally friendly, consist of the same foods. Diets which are low in meat, dairy and oils as well as processed foods are better for your body and have the least environmental impact. Have a look for yourself!

Have a great week!

 

No poo.

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I was going to wait until my shampoo bar ran out until I tried going without, but I found I started thinking about it more and more to the point where I couldn’t wait to ditch the products! I’m pretty sure I haven’t used shampoo or conditioner since at least the beginning of November, so it’s been at least 4 months. Let’s talk about No Poo 🙂

No Poo is short for no shampoo. Some people interpret this as only using sulphate-free shampoo, bar soap, or bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) then rinsing with apple cider vinegar. I heard about water-only no poo washing and it appealed to me for its simplicity. When I travel that’s one less thing I need to bring with me!

The premise is that your hair produces sebum (oil) naturally. This method simply uses what nature produces to replace the need for shampoo and conditioner. What you normally do with conventional hair products is strip the oil from the scalp with shampoo, then replace moisture to the middle and tips of the hair with conditioner. By running water and scrubbing your scalp, then distributing the sebum down the hair shaft, you can remove oil from the scalp and moisturise and soften the rest of your hair without any products.

Method:

  1. Before jumping in the shower, de-tangle your hair with your fingers (preferable) or a comb/brush.
  2. Rub your finger tips against your scalp to warm and mobilise the sebum for 1-5 minutes.
  3. Run your fingers from your root down your hair to distribute the sebum down the hair shaft.
  4. In the shower, stand under warm/hot water and continue to run your fingers down your hair. You should be able to feel the oil spreading down away from the root and towards the middle/ends.
  5. When you are finished, lean over so your head is upside down and saturate your hair with cold water then turn the shower off.
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This kinda sums up the state my hair was in before. Dry, dry, dry, and only really curly at the ends.

A couple of years ago my hair was pretty damaged from bleach and hair-dye and I didn’t treat it too well. Since I shaved it completely in October 2015 and transitioned from a shampoo bar to water-only, I am amazed by the difference in texture. My hair has never felt softer, healthier or more curly- I love it!

Advice:

Water-only hair washing relies on sebum, so I would say if you’re used to using conventional shampoo and/or washing your hair more than twice a week, consider transitioning first. Purchase a sulphate-free shampoo or shampoo bar and use that for a while. If you wash your hair a lot, try cutting down by one wash every week (3 times this week, two times next week etc.) until you are only washing your hair once a week or once a fortnight. It is completely possible to go straight to water-only from washing your hair a lot, but you will more than likely go through a greasy stage which wouldn’t be too fun.. I washed my hair at best once a week before I started water-only and I took to it basically straight away, but everyone’s different so stick at it if you’re struggling at first!

The picture at the top of the post is what my hair typically looks like a day after a wash. For reference my hair type is 3B (see here for more info). I have seen people of all hair types use this method, but it might take some adapting. By all means do your research and find someone with similar hair on Youtube or the web who’s done it successfully for tips that suit you.

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!

 

 

1 year on: Ecoegg laundry egg

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(Source)

It’s been a while since I reviewed a green product, and this’ll be the first non-toiletry related ‘1 year on’ I’ve done too! Ecoegg is a replacement for washing detergent, and is a hollow egg shape filled with pellets. As your machine fills with water, the pellets release a natural foam and mild fragrance to make your washing clean and fresh. I bought my Ecoegg just before I moved to France, and it was super useful not to have to worry about buying washing powder/tabs/whatever at all during my time there. Here’s what I think after over a year of using this.

Price:

I bought mine on Ebay for £18, which is more or less retail price. As is the case for many of my other reviewed products, I did have to initially spend more than I usually would in one go, but when you consider that what I bought should last me approx. 720 washes, you can imagine the saving! (Ecoegg calculates their product to cost about 3p per wash)

Durability:

So how it works is that you buy the egg along with refill pellets (I bought 10 refills which you replace every 72 washes, hence it all lasting me 720 washes). The mineral pellets should wear down by 72 washes, so then you just top it up with another refill. After all my pellets have run out I simply have to buy more to refill my egg 🙂 The egg itself will last a lifetime- that’s as reusable as I could hope to be!

Verdict:

I appreciate the simplicity of the Ecoegg; now all I need to remember is that (and the clothes obviously hah) not to mention it makes travelling a doddle.  I can’t imagine having to even think about regularly buying detergent! They both go in the drum and no need to worry about fabric softener either! The pellets are made from natural minerals and are 100% hypoallergenic- so if you have sensitive skin or babies, no problem 🙂 My only gripe is that the pellet refills came portioned out in 10 small plastic wrappers. If it wasn’t for that, they would’ve been completely waste-free! ARGH! Even so, it’s less plastic than individually wrapped tablets or bottles of fabric softener. I will however be shooting them my feedback via email after this to see if something can be done about the wrappers 😉

Leather.

Okay, so let’s talk about leather. It’s pretty much been a staple of our wardrobes since the beginning of time, and I have to say I didn’t bat an eyelid about buying and using leather up until a year ago. I used to think it was the only quality, durable, smart material to go for, especially when it came to shoes and bags.

Lots of people justify buying leather for its long-lasting qualities and think that it’s a byproduct of the meat industry, however whilst I can’t dispute the first point, the second is an over-simplification. You can read about how the meat and leather industries have a bit more of a complex relationship here and here.

Now that I am a vegan, I try to avoid using animal products wherever possible, for environmental and ethical reasons. but I have had a few exceptions. For instance, I have a few pairs of leather shoes that I bought before becoming vegan that I wear regularly. I don’t intend to buy any more new leather, however I think it would be a waste not to continue using these shoes because the damage has already been done and I do value them. On the other hand, I have donated a few bags and pairs of shoes that I don’t make enough use of or that I no longer feel comfortable owning anymore. Basically, it’s up to you how you deal with the leather in your home. In my opinion there are no wrong answers.

As for buying new items of clothing and shoes, here are a few of your options…

Secondhand leather– there are plenty of leather products on the secondhand/vintage market with a heap of life left in them. If you really like the way leather looks/feels/performs, this’ll be your best bet as you don’t need to contribute to and encourage the leather industry by buying new.

PROS: you get leather, secondhand can be cheaper

CONS: may have to search longer/harder to find what you want, promoting leather by wearing it

New leather alternatives– nowadays it is possible get good quality, sustainable and ethical vegan leathers. This means that no animal skins went into the making of that material- woo! Buying new does mean more energy is required to produce it, but sometimes it’s necessary; besides, it’s good to support brands that are contributing positively to the fashion scene.

PROS: no cruelty, better ethical/environmental credentials generally, encouraging good companies

CONS: can be expensive, requires more energy to produce than buying secondhand

If you are interested in new vegan leather alternatives, here are some highlights from the places I’ve found online…

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Cream Kate Loafers, Beyond Skin, £99
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Citibag, Wilby, £70

 

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Melissa elastic heeled boot, All Sole, £72

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Ville- Carbon, Matt and Nat, £84

5 things this Monday…

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Hello friends!

Today I thought I’d change things up just a little bit with a Veganuary themed 5 things this Monday! I’ve been amazed at the hype surrounding Veganism this year and I think it’s really picking up steam! Here are some things that have crossed my path so far…

  1. First up, you can never have too many reminders of why giving up animal products makes a HUGE difference to the planet. According to this article from the Telegraph, even just going vegetarian can cut global food emissions by two thirds and save millions of lives! If more people make positive changes to their diets their could be up to a 10% reduction in global mortality! Say no more.
  2. For anyone just starting out on this vegan adventure, this is a list of simple tips that’ll help you transition more easily (complete with memes!). Take a look even if you haven’t taken the plunge, because even doing one of these is a step in the right direction.
  3. Here’s some really exciting news. There are so many restaurants and food places releasing special vegan options and offering deals on meals out! Now you’re speaking my language 🙂 It’s reached the point where wherever I go in the UK I can either find a vegan option or ask them to change the veggie one so that I can eat it, but having more than one option- let alone a whole menu!- makes me wanna go on a food tour of all of these places! This is the future!
  4. The BBC asks the question ‘is following a vegan diet for a month worth it?‘ and asks 2 experts from both sides of the spectrum to weigh in. It’s quite a balanced argument, covering the many health benefits of veganism as well as things to look out for and possible challenges. I enjoyed that read.
  5. Finally, I found this video of primary school aged children being shown pictures of animals in factory farms. Children are great for opening our eyes to things because they are not so accustomed to the images that adults come to accept and become desensitised to. It’s a perfect reminder of what we should feel when we see animals suffering.

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!

Vegan November feat. My sister

So last month, my sister Naomi decided to eat vegan for the entirety of November. I thought it might be interesting to ask her some questions for anyone wondering what it’s really like to switch diet, or anyone on the fence about the whole thing. Naomi kept me updated on how she was getting on during November, so I had an idea of how it was going, but her answers are pretty great and not what I was expecting! Take a read…

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Did I mention my sister’s an awesome cook, baker AND photographer? Here’s her vegan banana and chocolate cake!

Why did you decide to be vegan for November?

You’ve been a vegan for ages now! And I’ve been watching loads of documentaries over the last six months or so. I’d stopped drinking cows milk a few months ago, and I’ve tried to cut down on meat because of both the ethical and environmental impact meat and dairy production has on the environment, but I realised that I wasn’t really cutting down at all. Going completely meat and dairy free was the only way I could see that I would actually put the time and effort into searching for and trying out new recipes, and hopefully make a change for good.

What were your thoughts/reservations before you started this challenge?

I actually thought it was going to be harder than it was! I ate meat probably three times a week, and dairy every single day, and I couldn’t see how I was going to like food without these things in them. Also, most people I told said that they wouldn’t be able to do it, which I think added to my fears about it.

What’s been the hardest part of being vegan?

Cheese! I love cheese! I thought I’d miss chocolate and meat the most, but there are substitutes for both, I found finding cheese substitutes really difficult, and it was definitely what I missed the most.

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Vegan toad in the hole. Cooking and photo by Naomi 🙂

Are there any recipes or products that you’ll keep using?

All of them! Apart from one disaster lasagne, the rest of my meals turned out really well. I found they filled me up and were actually fun to make. I will definitely still be making my vegan toad in the holes and my macaroni for years, and the bean curries. I don’t think I will ever bake with dairy again either, my vegan baking was probably the most successful part of the month!

How did your friends and family react to your decision?

As I said earlier, most people said they wouldn’t be able to do it (some people said they would “die” if they had to be a vegan), which I sometimes found a bit annoying, but a lot of people were also very supportive. I took quite a few cakes into work and everybody loved them. It was definitely a talking point, people were always interested in what I was eating and how I’d made it. A lot of people thought I’d lose weight as well, but I actually put weight on!

What differences (health/mood/outlook etc.) have you noticed since you changed your diet?

I noticed a massive difference in my energy levels! I didn’t feel bloated or heavy after eating large meals (no laying on the sofa for the whole of Sunday afternoon!). Mood wise, I didn’t notice a huge difference, but I think overall consciously thinking about what’s going into your body, and knowing that you are eating things that are not only healthy for you but also making an impact on the environment would naturally improve anyone’s mood and outlook. I definitely feel healthier overall.

Would you recommend this challenge to others?

Definitely! A month isn’t a huge amount of time out of your life. It gives a goal to aim for which is manageable without committing completely, which is just what I needed. I was really surprised that I hadn’t had any chocolate or meat cravings after the first week or so, and so proved to myself that those things aren’t going to affect my mood negatively if I don’t have them in my diet. I really feel that I was stuck in a rut with my diet prior to starting the challenge, and I am really excited to keep trying new recipes, especially the cake ones!

 

Thoughts on Black Friday.

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Ooh, so artistic.

In the aftermath of this Black Friday weekend, I thought it’d be interesting to write about it this year. Partly because of the blogs and organisations I follow nowadays, and partly because many people are starting to wake up to the reality of marketing ploys, I’ve witnessed more anti-consumerist responses to Black Friday this time around.

The likes of Greenpeace, Buy Me Once and Balloons Blow all published alternatives to the craziness of the buying frenzy, and inspired me to recommit to my conscious spending aim. Here are some things to think about when faced not just with Black Friday, but sales in general…

A sale doesn’t mean you’re saving money. By this, I mean that every time you buy something- whether it’s been reduced or not- that company has succeeded in taking your money. It’s no coincidence that you saw that ad online for 50% off, it is not lucky that you happened to click on it and find a bargain; it’s exactly what they planned to happen. Sales are designed to play on that part of your our nature that scavenges and hoards to survive (or at least did in the past), but most of us could do without another top or necklace in our lives and be just fine. I find that the more aware I am of my feelings and temptations when it comes to shopping, the more likely I am to be able to challenge myself to resist.

Believe in what you buy. It is no secret that we buy and own way more than we did even 50 years ago. But it’s gotten to a point where the planet can’t handle our wasteful ways (see this video showing what happens to much of the West’s discarded clothing for example). The solution is two-fold; it involves buying less in the first place, and then when you do need to buy something, choosing good quality things. Researching items that are ethically made, made of natural ingredients/materials and that are minimally packaged is really important because every time you spend money you are casting a vote for the type of world you want to live in. If you care about the process and workmanship that went into making that product for you, you should be prepared to pay for it full price.

Forward planning when you’re low on funds. By all means, if you want or need something but you don’t have a whole heap of spare cash lying around, a sale can be a glorious thing. If you hang on long enough and look in the right places, you can find pretty much anything at a reduced price. The good thing about being patient is that you have the space to evaluate and reevaluate whether you want that item. By the time you come across a good deal, you will know clearly what you need and whether you’re going to make use of it. I suppose what I’m saying is that there’s nothing wrong with sales if you look at them differently. Instead of them influencing you to spend money when you didn’t even want or need anything, consider shopping around and waiting for the appropriate (and inevitable) sale to roll around to get a deal on something you know you need.

Those were just a few things that sprang to my mind during the weekend. Do you have any tips for not giving in to the spending frenzy?

Homemade zero waste mascara.

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Yeah guys, I finally got round to replacing it! I talked about my plans to see if I could make my own mascara in my review of LUSH’s ‘right eyes’ version. It came in such a nice little glass bottle that I thought I should try and reuse it before I resort to buying another. I have to admit, I was quite sceptical about how well it would turn out, but credit to the people I stole the recipes from- they done good!

My priority here was ease and simple ingredients, (surprise surprise, laziness came into play!) because at the end of the day making your own products requires effort enough without the added hassle of sourcing weird and wonderful ingredients package-free. Everything I used for my mascara came from my home and took next to no forward planning (win!)

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I started of with a handful of almonds that had gone soft because I didn’t eat them quick enough, a glass of tap water and a bar of castile soap from Living Naturally that I had in my stash.

As for my recipe, I used this video by Gittemary Johansen to make activated charcoal, which involves blanching the almonds, chopping them up and burning them in a frying pan until they’re black all over (my mum was so pleased when she came home to find the kitchen smelling of burnt almond!) I then crushed them up into a mush.

After that, I just followed these instructions by The Rogue Ginger. It’s just a case of heating up a pyrex in a pot of boiling water and mixing the charcoal, water and oil (I used olive oil). At the end it was a kind of peanut butter texture, so i ended up putting in more water than recommended until it was thin enough. I think I got it just right!

The texture is more watery than normal shop bought mascaras, but is more or less the same as the LUSH one originally was (easy to apply, but also easy to smudge). While applying, it still smells like burnt almonds haha, but after it dries you can’t smell a thing.

As for its wear, I get no flaking and it’ll stay for the whole day. It also passes the cry test, although I would avoid wearing it if I thought there was a decent chance I would end up crying! It comes off easily with coconut oil and a cloth as well. Due to the soap component, getting any of this mascara in your eyes will sting, but I find that generally this isn’t a problem.

I like a relatively ‘natural’ look, so this mascara suits me perfectly! It basically makes my lashes slightly longer, spreads them out and makes them stand out a bit more, which is all I really want. Excuse the image quality, but I hope the photos below give some sort of indication of how well this mascara performs.

Before:

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After (1 coat of mascara):

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