Sustainability Sunday #30

Your guide to an Ethical Easter!

Easter used to be an exciting time for my brother and I, with Grandparents that have a spare room full of boxes of Roses, Jelly Babies and Fox’s chocolate biscuits they’re the kind of people who love to go wild on Easter, choosing the biggest eggs given with big cards with lambs and bunnies on. Mum and Dad would also do their part, Mum often baking little cupcakes or Easter nests decorated with mini-eggs and those too-cute fluffy chicks with plastic stick legs. As a child, it’s the dream – chocolate for breakfast! Er, yes! But the spirit of Easter, the story behind it AND the mountain of money and waste that goes into just one day tends to go over our heads.

It wasn’t until I realised that Creme Eggs were significantly smaller than a previous year, and that the egg I’d bought to gift was more plastic packaging than chocolate that I really thought about what the point was, and how horribly wasteful it all is. Since then, we’ve toned down Easter (and also grown up a fair bit) and now settle for a good old roast dinner, and maybe a few mini eggs for dessert. For sustainability in our household, this is great. In light of my enlightenment, this week’s post is your guide to choosing sustainably this Easter.

Top Eggs! Which ones to get:

The obvious choice here is Green & Black’s, you can get them in loads of stores so haven’t got to go traipsing about to find them and all their delicious chocky is all organic and Fairtrade – my fave is the Butterscotch because anything butterscotch is my favourite.

The runner up is Divine Chocolate‘s eggs. These guys are a farmer-owned company, producing Fairtrade chocolate and 44% of the company is actually owned by the cocoa farmers. You can find their eggs in Sainsburys, Tesco and Waitrose so super easy to get your hands on and even better, they never use plastic packaging and ensure their cardboard boxes are made of recycled materials. You should choose Toffee & Sea Salt or the Raspberry Dark Chocolate – or both πŸ˜›

My third place podium spot goes to The Co-Op‘s “Truly Irresistible” Honeybee milk chocolate egg. It’s all Fairtrade milk chocky and you get the little extra of four baby milk chocolate and honey truffle eggs which are made with Chilean Fairtrade honey πŸ‘ŒπŸΌ let’s just pretend they didn’t release their washing up advert this year so we can enjoy the eggs whether we did or didn’t do the washing up…

The Gift of Giving, how to avoid those plastic boxes: 

If you’re looking to bake, create or even just buy standalone eggs why not create your own packaging – you can recycle cardboard boxes or newspapers to create your own nest or even decorate some old egg boxes with paint and glitter and feathers and sequins and fluff, getting carried away there, but you get the idea.

If you’re feeling crafty, create your own little pouches with scraps of material or tissue paper and those super annoying ribbons you get in tops and jumpers that are supposed to help them stay on the hanger (supposed to πŸ™„).

Or, if you absolutely must choose an egg with that egg-shaped plastic, why not re-use it and use it as a mould for some papier-mache! 

Last of all, moving to sustainability is all about sharing ideas so please do comment on any other creative Easter goodness you’re into! 😊πŸ₯šπŸŒΏ

Sustainability Sunday #26

We kinda need to chill out on eating meat…

I am basically in love with burgers (especially you, Honest Burgers) but I also love nature and the planet we live on. We are now on a serious trajectory to a climate in which everything changes, and as most of you already know, we as individuals can actually help to make a difference. One of our greatest impacts as consumers is our heavy demand for meat.
Each year the livestock sector globally produces 586 million tons of milk, 124 million tons of poultry, 91 million tons of pork, 59 million tons of cattle and buffalo meat, and 11 million tons of meat from sheep and goats. These are numbers that I can’t even begin to compute. Do we really need this much? There was a time, way back when, when humans ate meat once every couple of weeks when the hunters of communities would bring home a feast, but in between meaty meals of deer and wolves humans were essentially vegetarian. And guess what? We’re still here. Our taste for meat has evolved through purely that, taste, rather than a necessity for meat protein in order to survive. The average meat-eating human now consumes meat in 14 out of 21 meals a week (based on 3 meals a day), and typically eating 3-4 times our required daily amount of 50kg. This growing consumption level is affecting the planet very seriously.
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What’s happening?
Rearing livestock for food uses a significant amount of land, food, energy and water. To put it into perspective:
  • Producing just one burger uses as much fossil fuel power as a small car needs to travel 20 miles
  • A single pig factory produces as much waste as 12,000 people
  • If we continue at our current rate of demand and in turn, production, another 3 million square kilometres of forest will be cleared for farming. That’s 420,168 football pitches or an area equivalent to 93% of the Amazon Rainforest. 
  •  The meat industry as a whole produces the same volume of emissions as all the vehicles in the world.
What can you realistically do?
  • Replace some of your meat meals with veggie meals, one of my favourite go-to cookbooks is from Irish brothers David and Stephen Flynn called The Happy Pear which is full of tasty recipes for the newly converted vegetarian and they’ve another book just come out too which I’ve no doubt will be just as great.
  • Choose poultry and pork over beef and lamb (bye burgers 😒). Beef requires 28 times more land to produce than pork or chicken, 11 times more water and results in five times more climate-warming emissions. 
  • Try vegetarian options from the menu when you go out to eat, if you’re not convinced you can make a  yummy veggie meal by yourself, how better to make sure you’ll enjoy it than by having it made by a chef? 
  • If you’re unsure how to transition to a lower meat diet, maybe begin by observing “meat-free mondays” even if it’s once a month. This will help you discover a delicious vegetarian world. 

Sustainability Sunday #25

Fairtrade Fortnight – show your support for people who give us some of the best things in life.

As the great and wise Martin Luther King said “before you’ve finished your breakfast in the morning you’ve already depended on half the world.” In the online button clicking,  fast food delivering and 24-hour opening world we live in it’s sometimes difficult to remember to stop and think about how our consumer goods got to us. Behind the scenes of the bananas you’re grabbing from the 24 hour Tesco’s or the flowers you treat yourself (or someone else) to on a weekend we can go right back to the farmers who more often than not are subject to unfair trade.

Fairtrade is a global movement that has been going nearly 25 years and works with ft_teabusinesses and consumers to implement fair trading for international farmers. These international farmers are subject to unreasonable price points, work unethical hours and for the most part are unsupported by end retailers. In a modern world, there is no need for people to live as slaves to their work simply to survive. To make a change, consumer demand is key and tomorrow (27th February) marks the start of the annual Fairtrade Fortnight which is a worldwide awareness campaign that inspires businesses and consumers on the importance of Fairtrade and how easy it is to add Fairtrade products to your shopping basket. The Fairtrade Foundation encourages us to educate others through interactive activities such as breakfast briefings or coffee breaks – if you’re keen to organise your own they’ve produced a little booklet to give you some ideas.

As an individual, you are part of the step change and can so easily make your own headway towards switching to Fairtrade, here’s the 7 easiest Fairtrade items to buy:

  1. Bananas – literally everyone everywhere has heard of Fairtrade bananas, grown by millions of smallholder farmers and plantation workers in the tropics.
  2. Tea – in China alone, 80 million people work in the tea business in some shape or form and they rely on a fair business to afford to live.coffee_ft
  3. Coffee – millions of us depend on coffee to get us through every day, we manage to pull through thanks to over 25 million smallholders.
  4. Cocoa – 6 million people earn their living from growing these precious beans, and these people have an average age of 50 thanks to a decrease in young people being interested in growing a low income crop.
  5. Flowers – flower producers working with Fairtrade use their Premium payments to access education and financial services to maintain their businesses.
  6. Sugar – sugar is a difficult crop to make a profitable living from, yet we can purchase bags of the stuff from every grocer, by buying Fairtrade we’re supporting national incomes for poverty-stricken countries such as Cuba and Malawi.
  7. Wine – We all love wine, and again it is a product sold in almost every food and beverage store. Making wine is a strenuous and time-consuming process which is extremely labour-intensive so it’s only fair that we reward those who contribute getting it to us for our alcoholic pleasures.

It is essential to ask yourself whether you would work 17 hour days in the blazing sun, earning only a couple of pounds just to get a coffee (which wouldn’t even get you a coffee in Starbucks). We’d all agree that wouldn’t be FAIR on us, so why is it fair on others?

bananas

It is easy to spout statistics, to consider Fairtrade perhaps on your next shop but then forget or disregard the next time so to bring it to life a little more, I highly recommend watching this 2 minute clip from Fairtrade to give you an insight into what goes on behind “a good deal and pretty packaging”.

 

Midweek Menu

Homemade Ice-Cream. Yes, in winter, genius right?!Β 

I am not a fan of all the Valentine’s Day hype, I don’t believe that romance and love should be displayed just for one day by 10 chocolates for which the box cost you more than the actual treat. I’m not disputing with people who like to indulge in this however, it’s just not for me. Go on, tell me I’ve a heart of stone, it won’t be the first time I’ve heard it.

What I AM a fan of however, is making people happy. And ice cream makes people happy. I’m telling you, this ice cream is going to make people SO happy you’ve no idea, AND it’s going to make you especially happy as it needs only 4 ingredients and no churning! πŸŽ‰

Wanna have a go? Thought so…

You need:

  • 600ml double cream
  • Half of a 397g tin of condensed milk (the other half you can eat with a spoon directly from the tin if you don’t tell anyone)
  • A teaspoon of vanilla essence or paste
  • 100g dark chocolate chopped roughly


You also need an electric whisk (or pretty strong guns) and a medium sized loaf tin/Tupperware. My tin pictured here measures about 7 x 3 inches and I used half the recipe mix.

How to:

  • Once you’ve got all this together, pour all the cream into a bowl, spoon the condensed milk and vanilla on top and whisk until it’s fairly thick, about the consistency of clotted cream or buttercream icing.
  • Then, add your rough chopped chocky, leaving a handful for sprinkling on top, and mix it all in.
  • Plop into your tin or Tupperware, sprinkle the remaining chocolate on top and cover with cling film.
  • FREEZE! For at least 24 hours, and then eat it all in one sitting πŸ˜€ with your partner, obviously…. it’s Valentine’s Day after all.

Midweek Menu

When healthy January leaves you craving pizza, switch dough for cauliflower…

Cauliflower?! I know right, a controversial vegetable that many, like me, had to grow into. That unpleasant pungent smell when cooking, the broccoli shape but parsnip colour and the large number of leaves that make you wonder whether you’ve bought a cabbage are all a little offputting. But, cauliflower is in fact a staple winter veg and I tried to make pizza with it (successfully by the way).
Now this recipe does take a little time but I promise it’s yummy:

You’ll need:Β 

  • A medium size cauliflower – feel free to peel back the leaves in the shop as I ended up with a minuscule one πŸ™„
  • 2 handfuls of grated cheese
  • Mozzarella
  • An egg
  • A handful of plain flour
  • Tomato purΓ©e
  • Salt and pepper
  • Desired toppings (chorizo, tomato, spinach, sweetcorn, ham, you name it!)

How to:

  • Cut all the florets off your cauliflower and boil until soft
  • Pop in the fridge to cool down for 10 mins.
  • Grate the cooled cauliflower throughΒ the graters finest holes into a bowl
  • Add your grated cheese bit by bit and mix in.
  • Once combined add your handful of flour and an egg, and your salt and pepper then mix together until you’ve got a sticky mixture.
  • Pop a little oil into a baking tray or pie dish and spread it on all the surfaces of the dish. Flatten your mixture into it.
  • Bake in the oven on 200 C for about 10 mins or until it starts to colour.
  • Have it out the oven and spread the tomato purΓ©e over the surface, slice your mozzarella thinly and add a rough layer of that too.
  • Add your toppings.
  • Pop back in the oven for 10-15 mins or until your toppings are done.
  • Slice up and eat (you might need a knife and fork as this dough is somewhat squishier!)

Sustainability Sunday #19

I can’t stop thinking about food.

I’m not sure what it is, whether it’s the physical shock of not continuing the Christmas grazing or whether I’m subconsciously super pleased with myself for committing (more or less) to a much healthier diet than I was maintaining at the end of last year.

Since the New Year, by which I mean the 3rd of January as the 1st and 2nd totally counted as last year, I’ve been making juicy fruity smoothies to go along with my morning porridge, soups full of veggies and metabolism-pleasing spices and simple, low-carb dinners. Despite the odd craving for chocolate, salt and vinegar chipsticks and the salivation that comes with seeing Creme Eggs in shops (come ON retailers, really?!), I’ve been really satisfied by what I’m eating AND have really enjoyed actually shopping for all the delicious fruit and veg for each meal. What I like even better is the higgledy piggledy selection of produce you can pick up on the markets, they’re brighter, cheaper and usually local.

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It wasn’t until I really started reading in to food sustainability a couple of years back that I understood the importance of buying local produce over supermarket chain produce. The international food retail market is a complex one, with many players – and alongside it, a pretty hefty environmental footprint. What’s great about it though, is that we as consumers have the power to make changes in this market. For Western nations in particular, food is abundant, therefore if we start choosing some products above others, we can change the demand for those products or brands. I’ve done a lot of reading and research, and found out a thing or two through my job, so to help you with your first step toward demanding sustainable food, we’ll start with a few pointers on shopping for local produce.

It’s important because:

You’re supporting your own local economy. In general, for every pound you spend with local independent sellers, there is roughly three times the amount of money returned to the local economy than if you spent that pound at your local supermarket. Visiting the markets also reduces the distribution footprint of your food; its more likely to have done a few miles in a little white van than sat with thousands of other tomatoes and bananas travelling thousands of miles through the air. Alongside this, local producers are better for the environment as not only are their products covering less distance, they usually use less land for growing and typically provide what’s in season i.e. not heating greenhouses to Mediterranean temperatures all through winter.

It makes a difference to you by:

It’s cheaper! Market produce often costs the growers less to yield, they haven’t got to pay as high a delivery cost and don’t face international trade taxes so they’ll be able to give you a better price. Your potatoes may have a few bumps and your tomatoes may have what can only be described as nipples, but they’ll be the juiciest, most flavoursome, naturally ripened fruit and veg you’ll ever have.

It makes a difference to producers by:

Simply supporting their business. Local producers are people-sized businesses, they tend to be those that care most about their product and their customers, good for you and good for them.

It makes a difference to the food retail sector by:

Increasing the demand for more sustainable products. More people choosing local changes the market dynamic: increasing the presence of those amazing suppliers in the food retail market and encouraging larger supermarkets to adapt their supply chain so you can get what you want.

You can shop at:

Every local market ever! I go to the Leather Lane market in Holborn, London where there’s a few select stalls that have an amazing array of fresh fruit and veg for super cheap.

All you have to do is Google “food markets near me” (other search engines are available) and you’ll be able to find the closest one to where you live or where you work, what they sell and when they’re open.

Go on, try it! 🌽 πŸ… πŸ“ πŸ₯• 🍎 πŸ₯” πŸ† πŸ’ 🍊

 

Sustainability Sunday #14

Why it’s way cuter to make your own Easter gifts this year.

The UK uses around 5 MILLION TONNES of plastic every year; that’s the equivalent of the weight of over 83 million people who weigh the same as me.  Statistics like this make waste geeks like me freak out, as does going grocery shopping anytime from the beginning of February when the first little Lindt bunnies start appearing on the ends of aisles in supermarkets.

Easter eggs are a packaging crime, surely everyone else out there is thinking the same thing: “Why am I paying Β£10 for a box that has 5x more paper and plastic than egg?” Every year Cadbury, Mars, Nestle, Thorntons etc. etc. all claim to reduce packaging by 20%, 25%, 40%, but how much is true? They still look the same to me. 

To make this whole debacle a little more sustainable, I’m suggesting a little forward planning for next Easter, and a little DIY: homemade treats!

All you need is a pile of chocky, some balloons, mini marshmallows, sprinkles and glitter, a couple hours playtime and some fridge space (optional depending on how high you have your heating):

  • Blow up a couple of balloons and stand them knot-side down in some mugs, best stood on a wipe clean work surface
  • Melt your chocolate in a bowl over a pan of boiling water – be careful if you do this in the microwave in case you burn the chocolate
  • Once melted and slightly cooled (or you’ll pop your balloon!) use a spoon to pour the chocolate over the top of the balloon, spreading it down the sides as low as you can. Decorate with sprinkles, glitter and marshmallows 
  • Either leave these to cool on the side or pop in the fridge if you’ve space. 

  

If you fancy a little bunny more than an egg, you can also get some chocolate moulds from most kitchen shops (or for no more than Β£3 off of eBay). Melt your chocolate as before, fill the moulds and pop them in the fridge to set. 

If you’re not feeling creative, or simply don’t have the time to get in the kitchen in the run-up to Easter, Sainsbury’s have a short-term recycling programme specifically for Easter packaging that they started in 2014. So if you’re not going to make an egg, buy one from Sainbury’s and take your bits back next time…. But it is better to make them πŸ˜€

Happy Easter! 🐣