Ever heard of kilometre zero shopping?
Maybe it's just an Italian say but what it basically means is shopping for local, low impact primary ingredients (fruit, veg, meat, milk produces..) - effectively produces that are so local that have travelled 'zero km'. (okay, maybe one or two...) .
As I am trying my best to limit my supermarket buys, while adapting to life in a new country (with a new language!!), I want to share what my latest finds have been and hopefully inspire you to search for similar or set something like this in your local area!!
I found that on Friday morning there is a really good market full of local produces - especially fruit and veg from local farmers! Farmers markets are the way to go.. Wish they had more meat, but for that I saw a sign today on the road and I will go scout it next time I cycle past (it's Sunday as I write and everything seems to be closed here..)
This, to me, was even are more peculiar and curious find - which made me really happy!
Easy to set up (you don't really need man power!) and all you need is trust! If you are growing something, just put the produces on a table with clear pricing and have a honesty money box..
This allowed me to buy some pretty yummy pears and apples for just €2 for two big bags and two squashes which I am really curious about (hey for €0.50 each!) - Okay I had to cycle 9 km back with them so technically they were 9 km food :D
Much much better than supermarket, where most times food doesn't have a clear origin, has travelled for long times (also losing some its great vitamin content if you think of fruit and vegs!), and it is kept in packages! Better for your health, better for the planet and better for your community as you are buying from a neighbour!!
I recently came across this really interesting idea: 'La Tricyclerie' .
What is it?
The word in itself it's self-explanatory - merging tricycle with recycle. It involves volunteers that use a tricycle to collect food waste from restaurants and shops, and they bring it to local composting bins.
Exercising and for a good cause.. totally my cup of tea!
But let's break it down so I can show you why I think it's worthwhile.
Composting reduces the amount of waste going to landfills, reducing methane gas exchanges (from decomposing food) into the atmosphere. Moreover, if farms use compost they will reduce the use of chemical fertilisers.. two in one benefit!
(2) Food waste
Food waste is a great problem nowadays. It has been estimated that between one third and one half of all food produced is being wasted. In developed countries it is estimated that 100 Kg of food are being wasted per person per year (no, don't look at me! I am very careful to always only buy what I am gonna eat, and if i can't eat it i donate it to friends!). So if we can at least turn some of it (especially the "waste" that is not reusable or suitable for human consumption at all) into compost, why not?
(3) Community benefits
This initiative won't only help local businesses to 'get rid' of their waste sustainably, but will also help local farmers providing them with vitamin-rich fertilisers.
Moreover, it will help building community spirit and relationships, between people. I believe that in this globalised word we are losing touch with each other and our surroundings, and our communities where we work and live, by dedicating some of the free time volunteering for this community may help putting everything back into perspective!
Yes, imagine this: fitness with an aim. No endless hours at the gym with no outcome. You exercise for a good cause while helping out the community. And if you are one of those self-proclaimed 'exercise haters', this won't feel like actual exercise while it will keep you healthy. Similarly, if you cannot afford to join a gym, this will provide you with free exercise. So, not only tackling food waste but tackling the obesity problem which is affecting many countries worldwide!
I have also found out in my searches that this initiative also runs in other places, for example in Texas you can find the "Compost Pedallers"
Interested? Why not making it a worldwide movement?
I, for one, would be very happy to join!
Last night I have decided to celebrate and treat myself to dinner out, and, when in Zeeland, mussels are a must!
You should also know that mussels are basically my job here too - so I can say that I have eaten my work! (What a weird thing to say... I know!)
First of all let's have a look at mussels nutritional values
Per 100g of uncooked mussels (source Nutrition data)
of which sugars 0g
of which fibers 0g
of which saturated 0.4
Proteins 11.9 g
They are also an important source of Omega3 and Omega6 as well as many minerals and vitamins, although be careful of their cholesterol content (28mg)
Mussels are primarily cultivated, on ropes or as bottom cultures. Cultivating mussels does not require the provision of a feed, and it is therefore different to other farming or cultivation methods such as fish farming. Mussels filter the water for food, which also contributes to keeping our water clean. Useful food!!
How exactly are they cultivated?
Seeds (or baby mussels) are collected using spat collectors: for rope culturing usually spat is collected directly on the ropes where they will grow out to a commercially suitable size, while for bottom culturing seed is relayed on the seabed, and sometimes moved between suitable locations at different life stages of the mussels. Normally seed will take two years to mature.
In certain locations, seed is collected from natural seed beds forming naturally on the seafloor.
Is it really sustainable?
It is mostly sustainable. Seed collecting from areas of natural seafloor could cause some environmental impacts to adjacent habitats: for example if the seed bed is bordering an important habitat such as a biogenic reef.
Moreover, rope culturing could cause impacts on the adjacent seafloor due to high organic input from the mussels to the bottom, and could cause aggregation of predatory species that would not otherwise be present in the area.
However, mussel farming can be MSC certified and I would recommend to get your mussels from a trusted source.
I personally believe that even with these effects in mind it can be more sustainable than many other protein sources, including vegetarian sources such as soya beans!
Also, I was very happy to hear that mussels producers over here (and maybe other places but I am unaware) are investing to study and find ways to limit the environmental impacts! It's great to see scientists and the fishing industry getting along :)
The time has come to move to the new place I will soon call ‘home’ : The Netherlands!
I have just arrived (well I arrived on Thursday), and I have to say I am excited about this new chapter in my life.. One thing for sure, I am excited to get accustomed to the new foods (I will have to be careful with the cheese though!), but I am even, strangely, more excited about my first buy: a BIKE!
Because, can you live in the Netherlands without one?
Short answer: probably no. And it’s so flat, that it will be zero effort biking, just as I like it.
So I decided to dedicate this post to bikes and cycling..
Goes without saying that biking is part of a green and sustainable lifestyle. Faster than walking, you can use it as a great commuting alternative, perhaps integrating it to public transportation if your commute is too far (as they seem to do in the Netherlands a lot, with many train stations equipped with big bike lockers). Or why not go for the challenge and go the extra mile door-to-door?
According to the Queensland department of transport and main roads, cycling 10km everyday to work would save 1500 kg of fossil fuels each year..
Not only that, but parts to make a bike are less environmentally damaging (think batteries, and waste from parts that break on a car? And all the electronics… )
And you are not only saving the environment and being sustainable, you are also being healthy. Cycling can be part of your 30 minutes recommended daily exercise, you can incorporate some HIIT (high intensity interval training) as part of your commute to have some additional benefits, or maybe download a tracking app and see how you are improving, maybe challenge yourself to go faster, or maybe take your evening commute to a longer route to destress after work? And why not, maybe you will become addicted and go for weekend rides or even biking holidays or join a local cycling team…
However: CHOOSE WELL
First of all, choose a bike that is good for you: is it comfortable? Comfortability will determine how much use you will get out of the bike. Also, riding the wrong kind of bike (wrong height, wrong settings..) will potentially lead to accident or over-using injuries..
If you don’t like it, or are likely to get hurt on it, chances are that the bike will be left to rust in the garden, leading to waste. So, choose well, take your time, study. If you feel like you got the wrong one, try swapping, or sell it before changing it.
I would recommend that to limit environmental impacts, a bike should be bought second hand – why producing more if there are plenty of good ones already out there looking for a loving owner before becoming rusting waste? Maybe, if you fancy some extra work, you will bag yourself a nice bargain which just need some TLC – but hey you would have saved a bike from the dumpster and made a good action for our planet!
If you really really want a new bike (no judging here.. there are reasons for wanting a new fancy shiny bike, I get it…), then study well the company where it comes from. What are their environmental and ethical standards? Where are the bikes produced? Where are the materials sourced?
For children bikes, they will be replaced often during the course of the child growth, as the bike will need to get bigger and bigger. Thus I believe new bikes would be a bit of an unnecessary waste (of money too!). Second hand shops/online platforms should be your main point of contact – yes maybe the kid wants a shiny new pink bike, but it can always be fixed with a nice coat of paint and could do for a fun Sunday activity!
So, my aim for the next few days: find my perfect second hand bike for my everyday needs and commutes. Best point is that I love the look of Dutch bikes, and the second hand market here seems pretty good so…finger crossed!
Holiday food: trying the local doesn't necessarily mean loosing track of your sustainability and health goals!
Or better.. how to eat cheaply, healthy and sustainably while on the move...
Food, it can be hard enough to maintain a healthy and sustainable diet while at home, with plenty of preparation required, but, doing the same while travelling? While travelling abroad? Impossible.. And if you are on holiday somewhere different it goes without saying that you may want to (and you should) try the local food..
But where to start??
Here some hints and tips that I have learned from some of my travelling
Choose your accommodation well
Hotels or B&Bs type situations are not very friendly for the careful eater, you don't have anywhere to cook anything for yourself, or a fridge to store any fresh fruit or vegetables to snack on. You will rely on restaurants and fast foods, which is not only going to be costly for your wallet, but your health too! This is not to say you should never go enjoy a nice meal out, but perhaps not every lunch and dinner for a week. Instead, choose some kind of self-catering/apartment/airbnb/travel with a stove if you are camping. This way you will be able to cook for yourself sometimes
Cooking for yourself - grocery shopping!
Here comes the fun! Now you have to go find some ingredients.
What better to soak up even more culture than finding a local market? Plunge into the unknown and try some vegs or fruit you have never seen before - and don't be afraid to ask the locals how are they prepared.. In my Greek travels, I have encountered 'Horta' - which is basically a term for many different types of green leaves to be boiled (and often have a lot of stem to be cut off), I find the local people at the market are always so friendly and useful telling me how to clean them in advance. In the Seychelles I have eaten amazing pink fruit which was white inside and so crunchy and watery (no, not dragonfruit and i have no idea what it is called) sold by some women near the beach.
For proteins, if nothing at the market or there isn't a dedicated market for fish and meats and cheese (like the awesome meat market in Athens), try to go to the fishermen for fish, or find a fishmongers, and the butcher. Again if you happened to befriend some locals, ask them where best to go! And here again, let yourself be surprised by trying new things..
Basically, what am I trying to say is.. be brave!
But only with the raw ingredients.. if you are going to a supermarket and buying some ready mixed things (you should try to avoid but some local delicacies may come ready made) then the following advice applies
Learn some basic local language (google translate helps)
This is very useful if you are, for example, trying to steer clear of some ingredients such as sugar. Or maybe you are trying to avoid grains - learn how they are called so you can scan through the ingredient list and find something suitable! I promise, it's not that hard... And can be quite fun!! I love going to local supermarkets and challenge myself. Also, I believe supermarkets can be quite entertaining and give some insights into culture and demographic of the place... just me?
Lastly.. enjoy! And enjoy your meal out (or two) without worrying too much.. you are on holidays after all, right??
Holidays.. for many it means a trip to some foreign city or some sun-kissed destinations. For me, holiday-time= travel and explore new destinations, and while you will not find me sunbathing on a beach as I have always been the beach-walker type, holidays often mean trying the local foods and relax a little... which often has meant coming back with some extra weight, and not just in my bags! But I have recently learnt how to enjoy the local foods healthily (next post- stay tuned) and that you can easily incorporate fitness into your holiday too (of whichever nature it is!).
So, let's have a look at some of my favourite activities
If you are a runner (and if you are not, there are many reasons to become one, or try) then my best advice is to get up early and get a little run in before your day begins, a 20 minutes should do fine. If you are on a city-break type holiday, seeing the city as it awakens has the added benefit to help you paint you a better picture of it, enhancing your experience (but don't be too tempted by those bakery smells, maybe on your way back). If you fancy running longer distances, I find that exploring a new place by running is great, especially if you are short on time, I like to call them run-explorations, and if you map it well you may even get to see all the sights on one go which is perfect for weekend breaks or small stops.
If you are somewhere remote, you may even be lucky enough to find some trails to challenge yourself on and reward yourself with beautiful views!
Instead of renting a motor-powered vehicle to roam around, rent a bicycle and use it to go explore, or to go to far away beaches, You will appreciate them even more after you worked hard to get there! Roadtrip anyone?
Beach walks are a great way to burn down some calories while effectively sunbathing (make sure to walk in both direction to achieve some tanning both back and front), it will be amazing on your legs and bums as walking on the sand is a lot harder than walking on hard ground!
And by swim I don't mean just splash around.. Aim to do one longer swim everyday, maybe have a goal in mind such as swim the length of the beach and back, or go round the buoy (once, twice.. maybe increase it everyday?) - afterwards feel free to splash around!
Even better - find an open air swimming pool, and find a good time when it isn't too busy to get a 40-60 minutes session in!
In these days and age is possible to find gym equipments outdoors pretty much everywhere! Or you can make your own if you find a fixed bar high enough that allows you to do some pull ups and some benches for push-ups, triceps dips etc... children playing areas are actually pretty amazing gyms (just make sure to go when no kids are there if you don't want funny looks from the parents!)
Whilst I don't really like to call yoga 'exercise', it can definitely be aaand you can do it anywhere! Your hotel room, outside the tent, the park, the beach.. choose your spot!
Trying new activities
trying new activities can be a great perk of a holiday, so why not go and get a paddleboard or a windsurf lesson?
Or... Choose a sporty holiday
Surfing, Climbing, Skiing, Snowboarding, Windsurfing, Hiking, Canoeing.... you can go on a sporty holiday where the main aim is, well.. to do the sport of choice! They are great choices, not just in term of fitness but they will also help you improve on such sport, dedicating one week or more to it. You can choose organised trips which have the added benefit of introducing you to like-minded people, or plan your own with some friends.. so what are you waiting for? Stop reading and go out to enjoy!
I am not sure what is happening to me lately, perhaps the sun is giving me some heat-stroke, or perhaps is the many hours spent in the water looking at marine life, but I cannot stop thinking about the things around me as 'good dinners'.
Yes, I am on hunter-gatherer mode.
In a previous post, I mentioned how eating seafood isn't really sustainable when bought from commercial sources who fish intensively. But what if you catch it yourself? What if you catch just enough for you and your family to eat? In that case, it seems to me to be a pretty sustainable way of life.
Think of scallops, for example, hand caught by divers - no damage to the environment by trawls and dredges, no by-catch, no excessive catch. And you can use a ruler to check the sizes so you can live the undersized ones in exactly the same spot they were in - sounds great no?
Same goes for other seafoods and for fish, catching one with a speargun will allow you to catch just the one you wanted, of the right size, and no more lost fishing nets (see previous post on ghost fishing). Just be careful of protected species, especially with regards to molluscs, and inform yourself on the right sizes. In France they have posters on most beaches dedicated to the 'pêcheurs à pied' where they indicate sizes and quantities allowed for each species. Needless to say, follow the rules of the country you are in and inform yourself of any licence needed.
I find that this 'hunting-gathering' mode also helps you gain appreciation for what you are eating - if you spent some time searching and collecting your dinner you will have more respect for it than if it just came out of a package from the refrigerator section in your local supermarket. If you fatigued, at least just a little, or like me ended up covered in spines (just for one bite of succulent sea urchin eggs), then you will better realise that you are eating something which was just alive.
Should I mention the health benefit of eating fresh food who hasn't seen pesticides and preservatives?
I think I am heading out to fish soon...
It's THAT time of the year again: sunshine and warmth can only signify one thing, summer holidays!
As you might have already guessed from previous posts on travelling and taking local holidays I am not the classic holiday maker.
And there is only one place that I can travel to where no matter how long the journey was I feel 'at home'. The sea, but more precisely, my father's boat (or as I like to wishfully call it.. my boat..).
Living on board:
Now, this 'home' is not a mansion. It's a reasonably large sailing boat, being 12.6 m in length, with two cabins and all the commodities such as kitchen, a living area and two toilets - and you can, I swear, live very comfortably on it. However there are a few lessons to be learnt, and I will share with you those learnt in the past 19 summers on it (wow, how time flies...). These lessons will apply mostly to spending just a few summer months on the boat, not to full-time life on board, although I guess some could be applied to both situations equally
1) Pack light: lesson number 1 and possibly the most important one to cohabit well (more on cohabiting later..). Storing space on board is limited, and often priority for storage is given to items that are required for boat maintenance and other essentials - and this rule is of particular importance if you are going on someone else's boat. Using little space as possible and being tidy is often seen as a sign of respect, and this is one of the most common arguing causes so... So don't expect to bring your whole summer wardrobe and have space for it (plus, do you really need all of those clothes? Think about donating some to charities and feel lighter overall). Bring only essential items, plan to wash them often as you go, living on board often does not require glamour. If you really want bring just one outfit for those rare occasions where you will moor in a nice town and think you will want to go out for dinner feeling nice. If you don't like wearing the same things too often think about getting some 'double-face' items (two colours or fantasies depending on which side you wear), or a dress that you can wear in multiple ways - they are great choices. To be honest I usually end up wearing the same 2-3 t shirts, the same pair of shorts and a bikini all summer long and usually space in my bag is taken over by studying books and electronics (the kindle is an amazing choice for reading books...).
2) on the same topic use a fold-away bag: a backpack is perfect, or any other kind of bag you have that you can hide away in a storage compartments. Trolleys and other wheeled bags are a waste of space....
3) Choose your company : I recommend that for on-board living the boat isn't filled to full-capacity. Might be good to make it cheaper if you are renting a boat for a week, however space is not only limited for objects but for people too - and when people are space-limited often conflicts arise. For prolonged periods I recommend to go with someone you know and go-along with well. Bear in mind that in this case by 'going along with well' I don't mean you laugh a lot together, but you know and respect each other spaces, you know how the other will react in certain situations, some that might be more stressful than others, and know how to act accordingly. I.e. don't bring your new partner on it if you care about your relationship.. just my suggestion.
4) Learn how to cook and by this I don't mean cooking gourmet meals worth of a Michelin star. I mean learn to cook with basic devices and basic ingredients. Fridges on board are small and in summer time the fridge should not be overloaded, and more often than not is hard to find ingredients. However I am not a fan of ready dried meals (have some in case of emergency) - so I learnt how to make pretty decent meals out of cans (fish, tomatoes, pulses.. which can be a lot healthier than ready meals...). Same storage problems apply to kitchen items, you will only have one pan and pot to play with, often no oven (unless you want to consume a lot of gas and warm up the boat even more) and definitely no electric devices (the boat has some electricity however you don't want to overload the batteries with blenders, food mixers etc...). So all by hands, and sometimes you will have to use your fantasy: little village markets may sell some vegetables you have never seen before, and perhaps the person selling it only speaks in a foreign language (I must say it's really fun to try to understand a recipe from someone trying to explain it to you with a mixture of Greek and gestures..), or if you are lucky enough to find a fishing boat in a little bay you will have to buy the catch of the day, whatever it is. So be corageous! In this Internet era it's probably a little easier, as you can always find some recipes online... so go ahead and start experimenting!
5) Be resourceful! Things will happen, things will break and will need fixing. It's a rule: your time fixing on the boat is proportional to the amount of time you spend on said boat. There is no escaping it, better be prepared.. But no matter how much equipment you carry, you will have to make it up as you go - so just use some DIY knowledge (i recommend having at least some basic one, like sewing and using some handtools) and your creativity
6) Be patient: schedules don't really work, especially if something important like the engine breaks, or if you are relying on the wind. Take it as you go and try to enjoy the process :)
7) lastly but not leastly, and this encompasses many other things within: BE FLEXIBLE! Living on board may throw you down some new routes, take them, figure them out, some may have steep curves where you have to slow down, others will have pits to avoid. Go ahead, be careful and remember to have some fun in the process!
In our modern Western world we are used to have water running from our taps. Most of us in the West have clean fresh running water in our kitchens and bathrooms as a minimum. If you have a garden you probably use running fresh water to keep the grass green and the flowers happy, or maybe use some to grow some vegetables. Either way, we are used to having water on demand. And we abuse it.
We (I am using we to indicate most people in this case, I know some of us are more careful than others..) take long showers in summer, sometimes two or more per day, leave the tap open while brushing our teeth or doing the dishes, water the gardens for longer than necessary etc..
And then, due to an incredibly dry year, some countries find themselves with very limited resources.
People in the U.K. shopping at mayor supermarkets should know about Spain's drought as the stocks of iceberg lettuce were low because of it and this was widely reported in the news. Similarly, in Rome (where I find myself right now, being my home city) an extended period of incredibly low rainfall this year and a warm summer means that water levels are dangerously low (I have never seen the Tiber this low before, or the parks so dry!). This means that the ration of water between houses (meaning for many having access to water only a few hours per day) is a possibility, and citizen are in caos because of it. Bottled water surely isn't a better alternative due to all the plastic being involved...
So what can we do?
First of all - make sure your toilet is a water saving one: you can choose to change yours with a smaller water container, or if house renovations of any kind are out of budget a good idea is to occupy some of the volume of the existing one with an object!. Another clever idea is to change the flushing system to one with a double flush (a short or longer one). However I am a strong believer that, at least all new builds and as many houses as possible, should have a system in place to use the grey water from showers and sinks to flush the toilets, because it is a waste to flush clean water!
Secondly - education is key. We should teach our children where does our water come from? We should make sure things like correct water usage are taught in school from a young age - perhaps they are as important as teaching math! If everyone remembered to use only what needed we will have less problems...
Lastly, although this is a responsibility of governments more than individuals, we should ensure that we find sustainable ways to collect water to drink, using as many sources as possible rather than depleting single sources (i.e. a specific lake, as in the Rome case). As I said, it's nothing we can personally directly change, but we can make sure our voices are heard when it comes to sustainability and as we have the right (and duty!) to vote our governments, maybe we should think about these sort of environmental and communitary au pair with economical and other political issues at the next elections!
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