Yes you can have your pumpkin and eat it too - how to make this autumn staple an integral part of your zero waste journey
Can I say that strangely this is one of my favourite seasons?
Changes in the air, in the colours and the season of my favourite food: pumpkin!!
I am so glad that pumpkin is locally grown where I live, so I have access to all different types and qualities. I love the ones that I can get at Franken fruit , and they come in all shape and sizes - from the most traditional orange ones, to those with the dark green skin to butternut types and so on.. and you can get mini ones that are perfect for single life...
But by the time you skinned the pumpkin and removed all the seeds you are often left over with a lot less to cook than you imagined lugging that heavy thing all the way home in your bike aaand a lot of waste.
So, how to make the most of your recent purchase ?
Of course by actually using the ‘scraps’ instead of throwing them to waste.
I have to say, since I get my produce locally and from a chemical free farm I do cook the skin. I wash it off of all the dirt and then just leave it attached in my recipes. It goes soft and adds some extra fibres to the meal!
If you don’t feel like it , keep the skin and reuse it to add some bulk and texture in soups. Or if you really don’t want to be directly eating skin then you can always use it for broth making.
At a last resort, instead of putting in the bin you can use it to add some great nutrition to your garden.
Pumpkin seeds coming inside of your pumpkin are exactly the same to those sold in those very expensive plastic packets!
Yes the ones that are sold for the most part have been shelled, and have to say the shelling process does not look so appealing and sounds like an enormous waste of time ...
But wait, in foreign food shops pumpkin seeds come with all of the shell! And .. turns out is very edible and also contains some yummy extra fibres that most people on a western diet are lacking!
You can then proceed to eat them raw (delicious by the way - I like to add a little bit of chilli powder and it makes for a perfect aperitivo to snack on while you are waiting for your pumpkin to cook ). If you are not eating them immediately then I would recommend to rinse them from the pulp and dry them. They are perfect to keep for a few days (I keep them in the fridge but maybe you can also keep them out) and eat as a snack!
Raw seeds have the advantage of keeping some of their nutrient intact but if you want a tastier snack or maybe you have guests, try roast them. Two ways of doing them, usual one in the oven or a simpler one: Add a little bit of oil on a shallow pan, proceed to shallow fry them moving the pan in a circular motion often to turn them around. Add seasoning of your choice , again chilli flakes are top on my list. You can add them as a topping to soup as well!
Something I have not yet tried but really want to experiment with (help and advice appreciated in comments section please! or get in contact), is to mill them and produce my own seed powder to add in more soups and smoothies. I will update you on the results ;)
Enjoy your pumpkin season with all of its health benefits (no pumpkin spiced latte don’t count, sorry ) and make it as efficient as possible so it can be guilt free :)
Free space : how the Venice biennale made me re-think of architecture as a main tool for sustainability
As I mentioned last week I was recently in Venice. While there, I went to the Biennale of architecture.
This year theme was ‘free space’, a very broad concept that was interpreted in a variety of different ways.
Now, you have to be aware that this ‘review’ of the exhibits is not coming from an architectural mind, but my brain was stimulated by all of the things, so not only I would rate my experience very high but also will try to explain my new thoughts on how architecture can play a main role in sustainability.
Free space . What does that mean?
First of all, if you were asked to interpret the brief given these two words what is the first thing that springs to your mind?
For me is a big green field. (Weird that is not the big blue ocean , I know, that is my second thought ..)
A big green field represent a space devoid of any human pressure (note, it is not cultivated). But is that what free space is meant to be?
As a matter of fact free space could be a variety of things. Yes it can mean unbuilt areas (did you know that only 8% of Luxembourg is unbuilt??), but it can also mean a flexible space where multiple activities can take place (say for example a square that can be used for playing and then be quickly transformed as a social area and maybe as a theatre ?) or a flexible building that is resistant to earthquakes and can have inside multiple areas for citizens to use during alert periods (a library, a resting area, a communal kitchen?) or even more extreme, a church that can host multiple faiths ? (A little bit like those praying area in some airports) - it could help especially in conflict areas.
What about building to increase social cooperation particularly in areas where citizens are older? (Thinking of some areas in Sardinia as an example here), and bringing back the market square (the Irish pavilion had a great exhibit on this). And building to increase migration and welcome and integration?
What about building in a way that it doesn’t interfere with nature ways, or building in a way to incorporate nature into people views so that people will want to respect it more?
Or involving citizens in natural restoration processes that employ architectural methods (building new coastal defences for example , designing new concrete shapes for harbour developments ...).
Architecture is so important and beside the use of novel materials that are sustainable and recycled, we should start thinking beyond.
This is a call to all architects reading this. You have the power to make a huge difference , so go for it.
Venice. I love this city.
While I cannot exactly say that’s where I grew up (I didn’t go to school here, for example), I have enough family ties and Christmas memories to somewhat call it home.
I have seen it change, through the years, to become more tourist-oriented.
Yet, it still holds some secret quiet spots where to find relief from the crowd.
Yes, it is a very controversial place, where Venetians complain, yet open another ‘candy’ or souvenir store.
So, a blog article can only show a very limited percentage of this - and it would be far beyond my scope to explain it all, and get into the politics of what happens behind the scenes.
I want to, instead, focus on observations from my recent week there.
I decided to spend my week of holidays at home and, between the historic regata, the film festival and the biennale of architecture I have had a very culture filled one.
La regata storica (The historic regatta):
I was so surprised how this was kept so traditional. Strangely, however, many venetians consider it ‘just for the tourists’ but many tourists were completely unaware of what was happening on the canals and were, well, shopping instead! What a shame (?) . Result: not as many spectators as expected, still a lot but not an impossible-to-wade-through crowd. Good for us. Not sure for the regata’s future...
Have to admit: I didn’t catch any film at the actual lido, but watched some that caught my attention at the cinema nearby where they were screened the following day. The films I watched were definitely worth of a film festival, but I have heard the critics against some of the more ‘Hollywoodian’ ones...and then there is all of the costs that the film festival brings and while it does also brings some money in, the beneficiaries of this are limited, as breaks were not long enough to allow for money spending activities in the more central parts.. so who benefits from hosting these kind of events? For sure, not the citizens...
This year’s theme: free space. Sub-topic, sustainability. So interesting. Every country had a pavilion at one of the two locations (giardini or arsenale), and was very inspiring and mind spinning how the interpretation of this free space theme was very different between the different countries. But mostly, a general interpretation seemed to be that the space should be design to serve the people and the environment and be of multiple uses. Yet, in Italy in particular and in a city such as Venice even more, space can be limited and much of the space is dedicated to money. Money money money. Not for the citizens advantage but for the capitalistic system. And that more and more useful commercial activities and public palaces are getting shut down to leave space for restaurants, hotels and shops selling candies, masks and general ‘made in China’ objects. Controversial that exactly this was the city in which an exhibition about the free space was held....
Have you experienced similar things?
I'd like to hear...
As an advocate of sustainability and as somebody on the quest for health- I often wonder: how can I make the most and combine both worlds?
My answer has often been: spend more times in the great outdoors! Go for a walk for some wild picking, cycle around instead of driving, so some exercise in nature instead of using the gym...
So you can imagine my surprise when in my ‘google scholar alerts’ this morning I received a paper titled ‘Nature as a commodity: what’s good for human health might not be good for ecosystem health’ (van Heezik & Brymer) - say whaaat? Of course I decided to open it and see what they had to say.
Some good points (and my counterpoints):
more people wanting to be in ‘nature’ means......
- more artificial paths
-true but it doesn’t have to be. People can be in real nature and adventure instead? True it might lead to trampling but nature should recover. After all its trampled by animals all the times?!
- Less space for 'unattractive' wildlife (i.e. spiders)
Again possibly true, but same as above - enjoying nature should mean nature in all of its aspects, spiders and all, no?
- 'greening urban environments will introduce vegetation based on an easy-to-manage or economic approach, rather than an approach that considers local biodiversity'
Perhaps. But this is something 'wrong' with society as a whole in my opinion. We destroy nature to urbanise to then try recreate 'nature' within the urban structure. Should we not reconsider and de-urbanise more and more? Going back to basics...
And in this the authors I believe do have a point and are right in saying that "nature" shouldn't be viewed as a commodity, but should be appreciated as what it is meant to be, respected for it, and hopefully restored one day to more pristine conditions.
To leave you with their wise words:
"Viewing nature as a ‘pill’ is short-sighted; more meaningful gains for human well-being can be achieved through appreciating the reciprocal human-nature relationship, developing stewardship rather than exploitation, and lifting biodiversity baselines through ecological restoration. From a psychological health perspective what is urgently needed is a principled theoretical framework, combining ecological and psychological related knowledge, to guide a more enlightened program of research and practice. Only through an interdisciplinary approach and the development of frameworks that support this approach will we promote and protect the health and well-being of people and nature."
What is the first thing that comes to your mind when this word comes up?
For me is white empty room, with just one or two pieces of furniture
Maybe hidden storage space for a wardrobe consisting of just a couple of pieces, white and black, maybe one navy blue.
I always thought that minimalists were some crazily organised people living in an alien planet far far far away from my lifestyle.
Until I encountered a minimalist facebook page and I realised, that, wait a minute - I am a minimalist!
Let me explain:
My favourite definition of mimimalism is this: "Minimalism is a tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important—so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom."
This is the key. Minimalism in itself is not a thing, it's a journey that different people take in different ways but with the unique goal - reducing excesses.
The first step towards this is to reevaluate one's life.
From possessions to daily activities.
And this will lead to a reduction of consumption, of things (less buying!!) and in turns of fuel (think, less trips to the shop in the car for example), electricity (less things will potentially means going back to basics, less tv time, less kitchen appliances etc..). So this to me is pretty much what a sustainable, frugal life is all about!
Also, mimimalism might make you healthier.
Firstly buying less might make you reconsider your food choices. Not in terms of eating less, but eating real things and less processed. Back to basic. Less packages, less ready made, less ingredients.
Secondly, pursuing what make you happy might make you decide to limit online time thus spending time with real friends and family. Which means, maybe a nice walk with your real friend, or your dog, or playing with the kids.
Also, think of all of that free time not stuck in traffic to go to the shop! You can now maybe exercise instead? Do some yoga perhaps.
Or clear your head with some meditation..
Think about it. The world is your oyster but time is precious so use it for what is most valuable.
It will make you happier, healthier.. and if you are helping the environment in the meantime, added bonus, right? :)
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