Hello and happy weekend y'all.
Yes, the weekend.. that time when there is no alarm, and you can gently wake up and do whatever it is that you want to do with your day. Sounds wonderful, doesn't it?
Shame it is only two days long. But thankfully it comes at frequent intermissions, 5 days off two days on..
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 :)
If you follow a zero waste and ethical lifestyle you might also often shop organic. But... should you?
Firstly, entering an organic supermarket might trick your mind that everything inside is healthy. Think again: organic really is not the synonym of healthy. Even organic products can be full of unhealthy fats or full of sugars.
Secondly: you may think that is all ethical and will contribute to a better world. Well, wrong. Some ‘organic’ products have travelled for miles and miles, sometimes for no reason whatsoever as the same produce can be found in season growing nearby.
And organic labelling is not always that clear, with honey coming from mixtures of eu and non eu blends, just to give an example : what exactly does that even mean?! Where is it coming from ?
Not to talk about packaging - often as exaggerated and not recyclable, same as a normal shop..
Moreover, you may notice the same brands and big names in commerce through all of the organic shops, at least Europe-wide. This tells me that ‘organic’ is a capitalism-fuelling business.
I am somewhat lucky enough to have had some insights into organic certification. One thing for certain is expensive! So your local farm might still not use any chemicals or pesticides but may also not be certified as organic.
Moral of the story?
Don’t trust all that ‘organic’ shops throw at you. To be truly sustainable is important to use your brain and your own judgment.
Deodorants and perfumes are at the centre of beauty routine for most people (or at least the former I would hope). While they should not replace basic hygiene (ie please don't spray on hoping for a cover up - it won't work!) they can be pretty useful tools to keep you fresh through your crazy work day or amazing adventure.
But these can come with a variety of chemicals, some more harmful than others - from parabens, triclosan, propylen glycol to aluminium. Fragrances by themselves can be toxic, containing a mixture of acetone, benzaldehyde, benzyl acetate,benzyl alcohol, camphor, ethanol, ethyl acetate,limonene, linalool and methylene chloride, and aside from cancer worries these can also cause allergic reactions and severe headaches, to the point that in some work places fragrances have been banned, and I, myself, have happily worked in a university where these types of perfumes were not allowed.
Going back to the deodorant, did you know that your armpits have a great concentration of glands in your body? Which means that chemicals there will go into circulation in the whole body pretty soon - so treat your pits with care and respect! And especially for women, some chemicals found in deodorants have been linked to breast cancer. So hope you think twice and read the labels well next time you are in the deodorant aisle! Perhaps go check now, and throw your chemical one in the bin! Head to your local health food / organic store to find something more suitable - but even there be careful! Organic doesn't always mean healthy, and unfortunately even in these kind of shops you can find chemical-laden products...
So if you want to be even a little more extreme go DIY with the following advice:
As a lover of essential oils I find they are great natural deodorants due to their antibacterial and antifungal properties (most oils will have one or the other or both!!!), however, using them in pure form is usually not recommended, as they can cause skin burns or simply be too powerful!
Another great natural deodorant is sodium bicarbonate, also known as baking soda or baking powder. It is a great odour absorber, and you could simply rub it under your pits for a fragrance-free deo.
But I wouldn't recommend wearing black or dark coloured items, as the powder tends to leave marks and show..
As always, solutions are on hand! Why not make your own roll-on deo combining the power of the above two? How..you ask?
SIMPLE! Mix 1 tablespoon of baking powder with 1 tablespoon of maizena (cornflour), add enough warm water to make a thin paste consistency and add 15-20 drops of your favourite oil or combination of oils.
I personally love a citrusy smell for myself, so have gone for lemon, sweet orange and grapefruit. I have also added a couple of drops of tea tree oil for extra deodorising properties (it is the antimicrobial oil!). For a more manly smell, you could go for bergamot - another from the citrus family! Then pour into a roll on bottle and VOILA' - done!
Some separation may occur over time, but all you do is give a little shake. I can tell you - it works wonders!!!
Now, do you want to make a matching perfume?
Get a small roll on bottle, and mix your oils of choice with some carrier oil (I used almond). My autumn-winter smell of love includes sweet orange, clove and some vanilla! I apply a little bit behind my ears every morning and gives me uplifting happiness - and best of all no headaches typical of commercial perfumes (possibly due to the alcohol content or other chemicals...). Even better it doesn't change during the course of the day, or goes bad! Just make sure to keep it away from extra warm areas, treat as you would treat your nice cooking oil...
Spoilers alert: if you have not seen the latest episode of blue planet and you are waiting for it then you may want to skip this. If, on the other hand, you have been touched by the ending then this is for you!
Plastic, it's everywhere. Anything we buy in stores has plastic one way or another, whether the product itself contains it (hey it's found in anything from your toothpaste to your clothes!) or is at least packaged with it. Moreover, it has multiple ways of ending into the environment: from the classic 'thrown on the ground', to more hidden 'windswept'. From transport (apparently 4 containers are lost every day at sea) to its end, plastic creates a problem.
Yes, we can do beach cleans, and yes we can pick up rubbish everytime we are out walking the dog but the problem is a lot bigger than that.
First of all, plastic and ocean plastic in particular is not just what we see washed out on beaches (which can already be a lot depending on where you are!) but it also is a great presence in the higher seas, being trapped in the conveyor belt of currents, and, as we have seen with the bath-ducks in yesterday's episode, can be transported in many directions as well as just remaining trapped in ocean gyres...
more than that, we have the visible plastic, but also invisible (unless you have a good microscope) one known as microplastic which can be as detrimental. And lastly all plastic degrades and leaves pollutants behind. These are persistent organic pollutants, which can act alone or in combination with other pollutants already present in the environment, with disastrous consequences..
These are in fact known to be endocrine disruptors, affecting reproduction and they are also fat soluble, which means they get passed up the food chain and can end up in mammalian milk thus affecting future generations of the ocean giants as we have seen in blue planet. And can you think of another fish-eating mammalian? One that inhabits land? Yes you are right: us! Our plastic will end up back to us...
This has the potential to affect our reproduction, not just causing infertility (in men as well as women!) but also affecting fetal development, and impacting their hormones which will have negative consequences for generations to come...
Surely, we shouldn't stop our good small everyday actions , including trying to go as zero waste as possible and reduce packaging. But we should ask for more from our governments and higher institutions, we should make demands, if not only to keep our planet healthy for the future generations, but to keep them healthy too!
At the end of April, I was sitting in the famous Fiddlers Green pub in Portaferry (Northern Ireland by the way for those new to my blog) to celebrate the end of yet another successful fieldcourse. It was my first (and only) Guinness of the week, and little did I know that it would also be my last (for 6 months anyway..).
As someone known to 'hold her drinks well', after my sporty and healthy life led me to reduce my intake, I was surprised at how one (just one!) drink seemed to affect me, so adding to tiredness of a week of early mornings and late evenings working with the students I was ready to collapse in bed pretty early. But even so, after just one drink and an early night, my morning run was somewhat disturbed from it and the all of the following day I felt less than my normal strong self. And that's when I decided that maybe I just shouldn't drink for a while. And this while has lasted 6 months, in all honesty without me noticing or without me missing it!
Let's have a look at some changes that it made in my life:
I recommend for everyone reading to try, not necessarily forever, at least one night out without drinking and see that you don't need it to be funny/liked/dance/talk to people - and if you do find yourself thinking that you need the booze to do all these things, then, maybe, is time to tackle the issue instead!
Most of us are aware that exercise should be incorporated in our busy schedules if we want to lead a healthy life. Guidelines recommend a min of 30 min of daily moderate exercise (something that increases your heart rate).
Exercise is often viewed as something "too expensive" to be included in daily routines, and that's true if we look at gym memberships, swimming pools, clubs and classes...
And if you include the fact that eating healthy is also more expensive than eating junk food (on this note I believe something really should be done by higher authorities!) - it may seem that healthy lifestyles are not affordable!
But let's have a look at ideas to exercise for free :
So - no more excuses - get on your gear and get out!!!
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!
Disclaimer: some posts may contain affiliate links. At no extra costs to you, buying through the link will help me in this blogging journey!