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.
We are increasingly being told that eating meat, paricularly beef, is not very compatible with a sustainable lifestyle. And some are putting all of their efforts into reducing its consumption. Which can only be a positive sign of change (yet I am a firm believer that this is only a small part of a bigger problem and vegan diets can also have profound impacts).
But does it mean we need to turn into a vegan world? No. And that wouldn’t be sustainable either.
Yes, I believe less is more and reducing our meat consumption overall to a few times a week rather than daily can only bring benefits (to our health too!). I also believe in variety, eating a bit of everything and trying new things. Aren’t humans meant to be omnivores??
So a recent article on ‘il fatto quotidiano’ (only available in Italian, sorry foreign friends!), telling people to try and eat nutria sparked my mind. If some species become pests and are deemed safe enough to eat, then why not try? If culling needs to happen then we might as well make the most of it and commercialise this kind of meats? Of course I am not saying free for all, take as much as you want. But, since culling is usually regulated, then let’s cull with more purpose.
I remember being appalled when one fellow PhD student told me his project was to find attractants for deers, to then cull them. At the time I didn’t know that ,because in Ireland there are no more natural predators, deers are a pest, a problem. Causing car accidents etc... so allowing hunting for this species with the purpose of eating and the secon benefit of keeping the pop low should be allowed. There. Not in another places, here Italy comes to my mind, where it happens anyway (illegally?), leaving wolves with less natural prey, forcing them to turn to sheep, giving wolves a bad name amongst farming communities...
So here we go- to make wild eating sustainable we should consider it in its context, but we shouldn’t rule it out. And if you cull it - try to eat it!
Environmentalists who take actions are often either viewed as violent protesters or ‘all talk and no action’.
And this should not be the case. Apart from the fact that boxing people and ideas is rarely useful,I know many environmentalists who don’t fall into these categories.
But there is some truth in it, perhaps. Some scientists love to talk and talk, and do experiments, then more experiments. But nature is complex, models seldom model reality, experiments often raise more questions and scientists are somewhat afraid to make too bold statements that might affect their career and future (the academic system is to blame in my opinion here)... so we go to meetings, we present gloom and doom scenarios amongst other scientists, we are a bit afraid that the news will pick it up the wrong way so we choose our words carefully when speaking to journalists, and here we stop. Hoping someone will translate our papers into some actions..
Bloggers, and I will include myself, also have a bit of this no action attitude. Yes I believe that I am trying to educate, hopefully reaching a wide audience and show them easy steps to be more sustainable in an easy lifestyle way. But am I? Sometimes I believe that maybe with all of these social media filtering I am just getting to the usual people who already are plenty aware of the problems...
On the other end of the spectrum there are many activists that feel like they have to take a more active approach and end up taking disruptive actions. And here I would also like to include some big organisations and conservation societies. So I don’t blame the public which thinks ‘oh no, other tree huggers’.
But here comes some positive: you can make your voice be heard without being violent. But we can only do that by collective actions. Start writing to companies: you don’t like that a certain place doesn’t have recycling? Write to them. You don’t like that a certain shop doesn’t sell local options? Write to them! Too much packaging in that brand? Stop buying, and write to them. Perhaps one message won’t make them do anything, but if we all collectively start complaining actively but peacefully (and always respectfully) something will go through! At least I hope.
With all these, recent and not, talks on plastic pollution and reducing plastic, some of you dear readers may be convinced to start your zero waste journey.
While i want to assure you that it is a personal journey filled with daily discoveries, and not an overnight switch, I want to share with you part of my journey and a few key ‘ingredients’ of my daily attempts as a zero waster.
For some inspiration you can also find my Pinterest board, albeit not recently updated...
Step 1 - make your own
Whenever you can, make your own. Of what you ask? Of everything! From bringing a pack lunch, to making your own shampoo/deodorant/toothpaste.. basically everything that you would normally buy in a package - you can probably make a diy version
Step 2 - bring your own...
...mug/cup, cutlery, lunchbox, water bottle.. you get the gist!
Step 3 - use it till the end
Let’s say you slipped on point one and two, or maybe are just at the first arm with this zero waste thing, and you have packaged things in your house. Or maybe food that comes in containers. Whatever it is - use it until there is absolutely nothing left. This means opening up containers and rasping up the insides. You will be surprised! Do that with toothpaste for example and you will be surprised but you may get one or even two more days out of it. I do it often for yogurt which I get in big tetrapak containers, and I get a whole extra portion out of it! All left over on the sides and at the bottom..
Step 4 - find it another purpose
Jars can be reused to keep food over and over again, but can also be used for a nice candle or other decoration. Use your fantasy, and if you need inspiration head over to Pinterest or other similar sites and you will get plenty of ideas!
Step 5 - think twice about your scraps
Scrap parts, whether it is bones from your Sunday roast, the head of a fish or maybe that hard part of the cauliflower or the zest of the orange.. you can definitely use it in some alternative recipe! Make some broths, enhance flavour of jam..get creative in the kitchen!
Step 6 - ditch the use by date mentality
Lastly (at least for this post) use your sight and your smell instead of the sell by or use by date of your food. They tend to be way too conservative and more often than not the food will still be good! If you have been buying away from supermarkets and avoided buying in packages chances are your food doesn’t even have one of those dates printed so you will have to use those senses, but if you happen to have a carton of milk - just smell before throwing it away. Still good? Great! Seems a little off? Why not make some yogurt or cottage cheese?
New month, new sport!
This time I'd like to investigate a sport that by no means is one of my favourites, and is actually one I dislike quite a lot. However, it is one of my bf favourites and one in which he partook quite a lot in the past so, seeing some of the locations where he used to do it gave me some inspiration.
I firstly have to say that i don't really consider motorised activities as 'sports' - but some are classified as such so let's go have a deeper look into it.
What is off-road motorcycling?
This is pretty much self-explanatory: the term off-road refers to driving surfaces that are not conventionally paved. These are rough surfaces, often created naturally, such as sand, gravel, a river, mud or snow.
What are the environmental impacts?
The first, most obvious one: fuel consumption! In my head sports should be as carbon neutral as possible and powered by human force, not engines and thus shouldn't require any fuel. Motorcycles, on the other hand, do require fuel... and I believe they may drink quite a lot of it..
Secondly, they are NOISY which means: disruption to wildlife! Not only by frightening the animals and potentially driving them away from their natural habitats, but also potentially disrupting behaviours which are reliant on sounds (e.g. mating via interruption of mating calls, predator protection by disruption of alarm calls etc...).
Other wildlife distruptions will come from ACCIDENTS. Wildlife can end up injured or even killed...
Disturbance to soil and plants: off-road vehicles can churn up soil, leading to ruts, damaged root systems, compacted soil, accelerated erosion. In addition to damaging plants in the process of driving over them, off-road vehicles can spread seeds as they churn up soil and vegetation, aiding in the spread of weeds...
What can be done to reduce these impacts?
So, if the above hasn't convinced you to switch your motorcycle for, say, a mountainbike or even better a walk in the forest, let's see at what can you do to minimise some of these impacts...
For example the use of wet trails is generally more detrimental in terms of erosion because dirt-bike wheels have less traction and spin more on slick trails.
Less throttle is usually better than more throttle, which can cause wheels to spin unnecessarily and results in excessive noise.
Always stay on the trail to avoid damaging the surrounding ecosystem.
If there is a stream crossing on a trail, riding as slowly as possible through the water will cause the least amount of habitat disruption.
Meadows and wetland areas are especially sensitive because they have fragile soil structures and are often nesting sites for animals.
To avoid spreading invasive weeds or disease, always wash your motorcycle/bike between excursions so that soil and mud are not transferred from one area to the next. Finally, ensure that your dirt bike’s engine, exhaust system and spark arrestor are functioning properly. Poorly maintained bikes are louder, run less efficiently and are not as safe as tuned-up bikes.
So.. Christmas (or the winter holidays to be more politically correct) is approaching fast, with all the stress of finding that perfect last minute present, making sure the fridge is stocked, last minute groceries shopping, ordering that turkey, catering for the vegetarians in the family..
the list of stressful things is endless..
And, let's admit it, these holidays tend to make the most of us fall into the consumerism trap.
I, myself, love this time of the year with the presents under the tree, and mostly I love to find the perfect present for my loved ones and that feeling of anticipation for them to open it (honestly I love giving more than receiving). This year will be extra special as I am going away to spend it with my partner's family which I will also meet for the first time, and I will visit a new country and a new city.. lots of new!
So, how can we ensure our holidays are a bit more ethical and sustainable?
Here are a few simple rules I live by:
Books.. to me they are like magical creatures.
I have always been an avid reader, and since I had been a child if I book catches me it doesn't let me go - not even to break for dinner! (I remember my mother having to literally take the books off me when it was time to eat).
Even now, when I enter into a bookshop I am fascinated, attracted by the graphics of the cover, catchy titles, that smell, that so-important font size, and aspect ratio of the book. Sometimes with books it's love at first sight - even before reading the little summary, you just know that's the one for you.
Whether is entering a good bookshop selling new books, or even better some used book fair, old old bookshop, or why not that quirky independent bookshop in the corner, there are some great feelings that come with it.
The best thing that happened to me this past weekend was getting to do yoga in a bookshop, a very nice, independent bookshop with cool displays, great colours, hanging old typewriters...
Yet, these places are at danger.
If they were not already endangered enough from the large library companies (thinking of La Feltrinelli and Mondadori in Italy, or WHS smith and Waterstones in the UK and other parts of Europe and similar), or from the fact that people don't read as much anymore (with other activities such as watching TV and playing videogames taking over their spare time), the internet and the buy-now-with-one-click-and-receive-tomorrow society that we have become is further burying these sacred places.
I admit, I am one of those people who owns an e-reader. I have to say, it is pretty handy for travelling (no longer having to drag with me a whole extra suitcase of books for the summer holidays abroad is a big advantage!) and for the time being living abroad and not speaking much Dutch it does make it easier. But it is a different feeling, choosing a book to read is no more a question of love at first sight, but an endless search through the recommendation based on previous buys from Goodreads or Amazon, which often result in half read books, which has never happened with a shop-bought book before! It is perhaps the fact that an ebook comes from so cheap that buying gets easier and 'throwing away (/archiving)' half-way also gets easier? Perhaps!
But as soon as I have a chance, I try to sponsor these small libraries, or anyway try to get in and find their (unfortunately somewhat limited) English section to see if my next love is sitting there waiting for me. And I try to smile at the owner, maybe have a silly chat, make them feel worth it. And breathe it in, with the nose, with the eyes, the books, the colours, the arrangement of the place, get inspirations, find ideas, look through that art book and discover something new.
I encourage you all to take a step away from your next amazon order and find your quirky corner bookshop!
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!
Countless times I have been told that cooking healthy and sustainably is only for the wealthy,
that is too expensive to follow the sustainable life,
that people have family so how can they afford to eat well ?
Today’s recipe is not only yummy and full of goodness, it’s also zero waste and sustainable as well as being very very cheap (about €2.50 everything included for one very large portion or two smaller ones).
Ok, I am telling you in advance is not really suitable for the faint of heart and it’s not super quick
( it does require a little preparation).
Firstly, you will have to go find yourself a local fishmonger – ‘fishmonger?’ I hear you scream ‘but everyone knows that fish is expensive, how can this be a fish-based recipe?’.
Simple! We are using "scraps"
So, here goes the second task: ask them for some scrap parts. I got myself a nice fish head (full of meaty parts as well!) for a whole €0.50!!!
I added to it a couple of crab claws as they are very tasty, but see what takes your fancy. Some molluscs would make a nice addition.
Now, onto the preparation. To divide the meat from the bones I firstly gave the head a quick boil. It stayed intact, and took it out (keep the water though!!) and divided the good meat from the bones.
I kept the bones (more on this in a minute).
Then added the meat and other good parts from the head to the water, together with the crab claws, a can of peeled plum tomatoes, a shallot and a hint of chilli. Back on to cooking and it’s done!
With the bones that I previously kept – they are still full of goodness, so why not make some fish stock for later-on in the week? Just add water and boil for as long as you can (the longer the better but be wary of losing too much water) – then sieve the bones out and done! Freeze or refrigerate and you have some nutrient dense stock to add to your next meal!
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!!!
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