my eco-friendly favourites of 2019

Happy 2020! It’s a new decade! How eco-friendly have you been this year? How much has it mattered to you, compared to the year 2010?

My habits have changed enormously over the past 5 years. With so many more of us taking action to reduce waste (even practicing zero waste), eating local and/or plant-based, using our cars less (or buying electric), it’s felt increasingly easy to see & adjust where I was going wrong.

cool reusables

Reusables weren’t always cool. No one’s ever wanted to be the kid with the stinky tupperware. So many reusable cups have appeared on the market in the past few years, from those that recycle waste (like coffee husks or paper cups) to those that promise a warm drink for several hours. My favourite is still my trusted glass keepcup; it’s easy to clean and doesn’t take on a funky taste with use, like plastic does.

slow travel

I’m not setting the best example of #slowtravel (I flew multiple times in 2019), but my awareness to its possibility has increased. Whilst interrailing has been around for several years, it’s so easy to live a life of double standards, recyling every orange peel but travelling to the end of the world in the very same years. Talk about controversy! Slow travel is exactly what you think it is; it takes longer to get to your destination (train, bus, boat, bike, etc) but the travel is as much part of your holiday as getting to your end goal.

 

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bamboo toothbrush

Yes, these might totally be a token item. Amongst the plastic waste you produce in a year, your plastic toothbrushes might not account for *that* much. Yet still, they’re a small change you can make easily. They’re sold online and in health food stores, and you can brush your teeth with a slightly clearer conscience.

 

oat milk explosion

It’s no secret I’m Oatly’s number one fan and greatest advocate. Oatly reached the US market at full speed and proved hugely successful in 2019. Other oat milks have appeared on shelves, too. I’ve discussed why I love oat milk in a previous post; I’m a huge fan because the carbon footprint of oat milk is limited (compared to almonds, especially), particularly in northern Europe and wetter parts of the world, where oats can be grown abundantly and at low cost.

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soap nuts 

Detergent bottles are annoying for several reasons. They’re waste (and need to be replaced frequently), and often loaded with toxic chemicals. I haven’t *yet* ventured into the realm of making my own detergent, but soap nuts are a good start. I found mine in store, but amazon has a wide selection. These berries are grown on Himalayan trees and contain a natural cleaning agent. Just pop a few in with your clothes and reuse multiple times!

 

veganuary

Veganuary 2020 is to be the largest veganuary to date, which makes me so happy. And I’m taking part, like I did last year! You don’t need a reason to consume fewer animal products, but having a community behind you is hugely important to making sustainable changes. After 31 days, many realise it’s really not so hard to avoid animal products in many cases, rediscover their love for cooking and feel great.

As an indication, by going vegan for a month, you could save 30 animal lives, 620 pounds of harmful carbon dioxide emissions, 913 square feet of forest, and 33,481 gallons of water. That’s a lot!

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ecover refill stations

I switch between aforementioned soap nuts and ecover detergent, softener and stain remover. But that’s only ever since I found a local refill station! Ecover now has refill stations in many UK cities, find your nearest one here and bring your own bottle to fill up. I buy fragrance-free and add a few drops of lavender essential oil.

 

down-like material

Winter gets cold in northern Europe. Doesn’t mean you absolutely must wear fur, wool or down to keep yourself warm! I’m a huge fan of my Qimmik jacket made of thinsulate, an alternative to feathers. Frank and Oak have a whole range of men and women’s thinsulate coats, made from recycled polyester.

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more local, less dogmatic

2019 has been the year of picking battles. And with the rise of vegan processed foods (like cheese, yoghurt, fake meats etc), leading a low-impact life has become harder. We know beef is water intensive, but how does it really compare to an ultra-processed meatless diet? So my priorities have changed; it’s less about what is is I’m buying and more about where it’s from, how it was processed and how it got to my plate. Scrambled eggs from the farm down the road or a meatless patty produced god knows where? I’ll have the eggs!

 

bring your own oatmeal (#BYOO. I invented it.)

There are some things I don’t want to compromise on, and one of those is the comfort of having my morning oatmeal exactly the way I like it. Having started work this year, and commuting to London twice or so a month, I’ve bought Pret a Manger porridge and almond butter countless times. Bad, I know. All those little pots. The great thing about oats is that you can prep them in advance and bring them along.

I either use a glass jar or a thermos coffee cup (swivlit also make a cute little thermos) and add my own recipe (available on my instagram highlights). I add slighlty more liquid and undercook my oats to allow them to absorb more liquid and not dry out. I eat them on the train about an hour or two after leaving home!

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What were your favourites of 2019? How did you make the past year a greener one? I’d love to know, and keep up with my future discoveries on instagram

farmers’ market pasta salad (V, GF)

August is the best month for spending time making salad. So much fresh produce to use, form ripe tomatoes to herbs, lettuce and hot radishes.

But what to do with all your gorgeously ripe vegetables? A solid pasta salad, that’s what.

Pasta salad is literally the answer to every summer mealtime question – what to eat for lunch at the office? Pasta salad. What to eat on a busy Saturday? Pasta salad. What to bring to your friend’s barbecue? You guessed it.

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5 sustainable things to do in Berlin | green travel guide

Germany ranks high on the eco-conscious ladder, from promoting eco-design to penalties for not following home recycling rules, and is in fact Europe’s greenest city. As an eco-conscious consumer, travel can become limiting. All those plane miles can really start adding up to your carbon footprint, not to mention the consumerist behavior we often engage in when abroad (think buying crappy souvenirs, getting sucked into convenience food and drinks, or overusing uber!).

Enter, Berlin! Berlin is a fantastic destination for your next eco-conscious city break. It’s exciting and diverse, with lots of things to do for history buffs, foodies and eco-geeks alike. 

I don’t think my 3-day trip to Berlin even scratched the surface of everything the city has to offer, but it’s a great place for a laid-back break. It isn’t crazy busy once you start venturing into neighborhoods, and I found it a great place to stroll around in the shade of the city’s many trees, stop for coffee and travel ‘slow’. I posted more of my everyday adventures on instagram; don’t forget to follow me on there too!

 

drink & buy coffee at THE BARN

For excellent coffee, I couldn’t recommend THE BARN enough. THE BARN has several locations in Berlin – the roastery doubling up as their distribution centre, so expect a more industrial atmosphere than their other commercial locations. The space itself is extremely minimal. The whirring of the roasting behind you, sipping your coffee from a mason jar sat on a wooden box… it has its charm. 

 

5 sustainable things to do in Berlin | THE BARN Berlin

 

The inherent nature of coffee farming is unfair, and many coffee buyers around the world are attempting to improve economic and environmental sustainability of the sourcing process. THE BARN are committed to paying fair prices and supporting farms and facilities they work with. Education lies at the heart of their environmental sustainability, with a focus on educating farmers on agronomy to ensure preservation of the ecosystem. 

5 sustainable things to do in Berlin | THE BARN Berlin

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plastic-free july: a guide for the busy | week 1

Week 1 of plastic-free July is already over! How did it go for you? 

Being organized is my number 1 tip on effectively starting your plastic-free journey (as you may have seen on my instagram story). That being said, I was underprepared, and things went relatively well.

I didn’t have access to an open market all week long (although my amazing boyfriend did, and bought vegetables and meat in our own containers), and didn’t have much time to cook or prepare food in my busy working schedule.

But of course, living plastic-free is not limited to food preparation. Doing laundry, keeping your house clean and tidy, and keeping yourself clean can all be very heavy on plastic, depending on your lifestyle.

In this post, I’ll be giving you a few shortcuts to make the most of a plastic-free month, without having to spend hours and hours planning your days out or traveling for miles to find an unpackaged cucumber.

 

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step 1: do a quick and dirty plastic audit 


Where in your life do you use the most plastic? You should try to reduce your plastic consumption in the most plastic-intensive area of your life. For me, it’s food, and animal protein, more specifically, that I buy to prepare at home.

A quick look at your recycling/refuse bin can help, but spending a few days being extra aware (without being obsessive about it) can help you identify where to pay more attention. Maybe it’s the plastic lid of your daily takeaway coffee. Maybe the lunchtime salad box.

It’s systematic use that matters, here. Going the extra mile to be plastic-free for occasional purchases has far less impact than creating more sustainable habits. It’s also not time-efficient.

Common culprits tend to be:

  • food packaging from the supermarket (meat, berries, fish, hummus, yoghurt, milk, snacks, ground coffee, butter, leafy vegetables…)
  • takeaway coffee cups – lids and straws, as well as the inner lining on paper cups or iced drinks cups
  • regular toiletries – shampoo, hand soap, lotions, toothpaste
  • house cleaning – dishwashing liquid, laundry liquid, any spray cleaners, sponges and dishwashing brushes

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step 2: setting a one-time slot to feel prepared

I invested several hours figuring out where I could find what I’d need plastic-free. This included all of the previously mentioned;

  • hummus and baba ghanoush: the lebanese deli, with my own container (1/week)
  • vegetables, fruit and eggs: the sunday farmer’s market, where everything is in paper (1/week)
  • bread: a bakery which wraps bread in paper (1-2/week)
  • the coffeeshop: bringing my KeepCup (every day)
  • sparkling water: a supermarket which sells them in glass (every day)
  • bulk grains: a bring-your-own-container shop (1/month)
  • household items: a local shop where I can bring my own bottles to refill or buy plastic-free sponges, brush heads and soap (1/month)

For meat, tofu, yoghurt and oat milk, I have to admit, I haven’t found an effective solution yet. So I prioritize what I can control for the time being.

 

step 3: creating habit

My Sunday routine has become pretty essential to making sure my week goes as planned. By creating weekly, monthly and annual routines, you’re removing the element of uncertainty by knowing where to find what you need at what time.

On Sundays, I go to the market to get all my vegetables, fruit, meat/fish/eggs and sometimes a loaf of bread. I used to make lists, but I now shop more intuitively depending on what’s in season.

I cook up a frenzy for my lunches, which usually last me until Wednesday. By then, I reassess what’s in the fridge to make sure nothing spoils (since I don’t really plan meals ahead of time for evenings).

I bring my KeepCup to the coffeeshop, and a metal straw if having an iced drink. At some point in the week, I go to the Lebanese deli to restock on hummus and the bakery for extra bread.

About once a month, I refill my laundry detergent at the refill store, and buy large bags of lentils and rice.

Rinse and repeat!

 

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step 3: planning for when things go wrong

It’s easy to get super excited and optimistic about how smoothly things will go, at the beginning. I am by no means the expert in this department, but an essential part of my success has been to always have a plan B.

Making packed lunches for 5 days is not realistic for me, because I don’t want to eat 4-day old chicken towards the end of the week. Instead, I might grab lunch outside – and I choose to go where I can sit and enjoy my meal, plastic free. Otherwise, I might pack a leftover dinner in a tupperware for the last couple of days of the week.

Owning lots of reusable bags, cups, straws, cutlery etc is not the same as remembering to bring them. Which I’m sometimes terrible at! To avoid being caught unawares, I keep some items in multiple places (it could be your home, your bag, your office, your car…):

  • several reusable mugs/keepcups at home and the office
  • reusable cutlery in my bag
  • a metal straw at the office
  • reusable containers at home and the office
  • oatmeal at the office to avoid having to buy breakfast on the go
  • reusable bags in every imaginable place
  • tins of chickpeas, tuna and beans in case of empty fridge!
  • I never leave the house without my reusable water bottle

 

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step 4: making choices

I have found in the past few months that investing my time, effort and money in some things have had a huge impact on my waste, whereas others have been a hindrance and made my life much more inconvenient. And I’ve had to make choices.

Some items that have really helped me reduce my plastic use:

  • vegetables from the farmer’s market, which don’t take more time to buy or cost more than the supermarket
  • occasionally making my own hummus, which is fun and enjoyable for me
  • buying pulses and grains in bulk, which is cheaper and more convenient
  • refilling my detergent bottle, which is cheaper than a fresh bottle
  • growing my own herbs, which is cheaper than buying them all the time
  • Buying a KeepCup, which sometimes even gets you a discount on drinks!
  • a reusable bottle, which is cheaper than buying bottles and more convenient
  • buying body oil in glass bottles instead of cream/lotion, which is a direct substitute for me personally
  • buying natural fibers for clothes and home furnishings, which are more durable and nicer to wear

 

Some items are just not worth spending my efforts on for the moment, but may become so if my situation, location or life changes:

  • making my own yoghurt, which still requires me to buy milk in plastic
  • making my own oat milk, which never turns out as nice as my favorite one from the shop
  • making bread and many other baked goods, unless I have time
  • Buying a sodastream for my obsessive consumption of sparkling water, as I can buy glass bottles instead
  • finding lentil and chickpea pasta, and sometimes more unusual grains, in bulk
  • buying tofu and tempeh plastic-free is essentially impossible
  • buying beauty products plastic-free – I’m pretty low maintenance and only replace the absolute essentials when they’re empty. I return empty bottles to Kiehl’s, as they have a recycling programme!

Make sure you are connected with me on instagram to stay up to date with my plastic-free July on the daily!

 

 

how to become a zero waste hero when you *literally* have no time

Hey friends – it’s sustainability talk time! I’m really excited to share some easy, accessible changes to become an eco-conscious superhero.

If you’ve been around this space for any length of time, you know I feel strongly about sustainability. But I’m also a realist. And I know that most of us don’t have time to recycle rainwater, raise chickens or turn all their food scraps into vegetable broth every Sunday. Including myself.

I’ll be releasing a 30-day zero-waste challenge that takes you through a whole month of daily sustainable actions that don’t cost a lot, take a lot of time or are restricted to certain geographical areas in April. Want in? You can sign up to my newsletter and get it sent straight to your inbox!

To me, becoming more eco-conscious has to be:

  • flexible – if I mess up one day, I don’t want to feel like a complete failure
  • attainable – I need to feel like my lifestyle can practically accommodate any changes
  • interesting – I need to feel engaged and motivated to carry on

I have a job and I live in a shared house, which often translates in having to find time-efficient solutions that aren’t going to drive me crazy (like trying to figure who put a dirty can of beans in the recycling bin), and not getting caught up in feeling that I’ve got to change everything. 

It’s easy to feel discouraged looking at instagram feeds and other sources of zero waste inspiration. It’s awesome that it’s gaining more traction, but less awesome that it’s becoming a bit of a commercial thing, with all those fancy containers and soaps.

With all that being said, there is so much you can do, day in, day out, that’s really low effort upfront with big payoffs for the environment. And I’ve put together a handy list which might inspire you to lead a greener life!

You can download the infographic, print it out, stick it on your fridge or save the image on Pinterest!

 

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supercharge your oatmeal for gut health & the environment

A while ago, I wrote a post about how to make the best gut healing oatmeal and, believe it or not, it’s the most popular post on the BARE. blog! I guess there are lots of oat lovers out there, just like me.

Things have changed a little since then, and I’ve experimented with way more combos (and so have many food bloggers). Oats are here to stay: they’re cheap, filling and super versatile. I’ve experimented with soaking and making my morning porridge even more digestible. I’ve made savoury porridge. And all the while, I’ve been finding ways to make oats a sustainable and planet friendly dish.

Oats are really fabulous if you live somewhere wet (check) and dreary in the winter months, where not much produce is grown (check). It’s also great if you’re vegan/vegetarian (almost check!) and like a bargain (check). And well – oats are recommended by many heart and diabetes associations, as well as being routinely recommended to boost fibre intake. In conclusion, we should all be consuming oats.

So, whether you already enjoyed my previous post or not, here are 5 further ways to supercharge your oats and be even kinder to your body and the planet!

soak overnight with lemon juice

Well it wouldn’t be my blog if we weren’t talking about good ol’ digestion. Oats are high in both soluble and insoluble fibre. The former absorbs water and lubricates your digestive tract, whereas the latter adds bulk and speed. In other words, you should be expecting better digestion. However, if you’re prone to bloating, there’s more you can do: soaking. It’s really simple – just add 2 parts liquid (water or milk!) and 1 part oats to a bowl and soak in the fridge overnight. You can add chia seeds for an extra fibre boost. And adding a squeeze of lemon before soaking reduces the amount of phytic acid in the oats, which may prevent your body from producing digestive enzymes. Some people claim it helps with bioavailability.

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what does ‘carbon footprint’ actually mean?

Global warming is the phrase on everyone’s lips these days. The trendy buzzword that’s both convincing us the end is near and inspiring us to reduce the waste we produce to just a jarful

I recently had a conversation with a friend about waste reduction and generally saving the planet (#GreenGoals) when she suddenly asked “But what is your carbon footprint actually defined by?” and, well… I couldn’t answer. I know that our lifestyles are unsustainable given the planet’s current resources. And I’ve taken the online test that told me we’d need 3 planets if we all lived like me (ouch). But I couldn’t tell you how it’s actually measured. And isn’t the first step to reducing our carbon footprint actually understanding its components?


I figured; if I’m confused, I can’t be the only one! So here you have it; your no-nonsense guide to what ‘carbon footprint’ really means. You’re all set to confront the awkward Christmas dinner questions.

Continue reading “what does ‘carbon footprint’ actually mean?”