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!

 

 

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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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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?”

staying healthy-ish on the move: how not to lose your mind when you’re travelling + airbnb porridge recipe

I travelled to 5 different cities in the last month, across two continents, and didn’t really have a home to return to. Say whaaaat?!

 

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First of all I’m not quite sure how I’ve kept going for this long. I’m a creature of habit and routine, and the slightest thing can really throw me off. I get kind of anxious and don’t feel my best when I don’t have access to either a yoga mat, porridge or a comfortable bed. You feel me?

Routine is a powerful tool for me; for my health (physical and mental), and to live in alignment with my values of sustainability and waste reduction. But you know how it goes; you go on a trip, you don’t have a kitchen or enough space for a yoga mat, and you end up neglecting everything that matters. You reach for the gross supermarket salads and plastic-wrapped deli bagels out of convenience, and your routine gets thrown out the window.

If you’ve been planning your dream trip to Italy for years and can’t wait to eat all the gelato and pizza, by all means, knock yourself out. But if you’re on the move for work, a transitional period in your life or feel it’s important to stay as well-functioning as possible without having access to your daily comforts, I’ve got you covered.

Continue reading “staying healthy-ish on the move: how not to lose your mind when you’re travelling + airbnb porridge recipe”

why I love oat milk, and you should too

If you’ve hung out with me for any length of time (read: had coffee with me), you know my love for oat milk cappuccinos runs deep. And if you’ve read the news over this past summer, you might have seen that Oatly, the numer one oat milk supplier in the UK, is struggling to meet demand in the US since it came to market! There were a couple of places I visited in California that had run out of the stuff this summer (which of course, was devastating).

 

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I’m super excited oat milk is so becoming so popular. I think every coffee shop should offer it, everyone should have it in their fridge and consider buying shares in Oatly. If I haven’t convinced you yet with the gorgeous latte art, read on!

1- It tastes so damn good

Well, no surprises here. I wouldn’t drink it every single day if it weren’t amazing. It offers a subtle sweetness (without any added sugars!), a smooth mouthfeel, and is very mild in taste, almost neutral, with a slight acidity. Dairy alternatives have been around for a while, now, and are certainly getting more out there (macadamia, hemp, pea protein…?), which are kind of hit and miss taste-wise. If you like oats, you’ll like oat milk. With porridge, it’s the dream, but also with granola or a cookie!

 

 

2- It’s eco-friendlier than almond milk

Almonds are incredible. Almond milk can also be incredible. But almonds require so much water to grow. One litre of almond milk takes roughly 6000L of water to produce. That’s 5L per almond. ONE ALMOND. That’s 6 times as much as it takes to grow oats. Oats grow in abundance in Northern Europe, and Brits love their porridge – it makes so much sense to me to be consuming milk from our large European oat supply (Swedish, in Oatly’s case) than scarce and water-intensive California almonds.

 

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3- And it’s more sustainable than cow’s milk

Cheese is truly phenomenal, and nothing compares to some shaved parmesan on a bowl of spaghetti. That being said, an astonishing amount of milk is consumed worldwide, and it turns out it isn’t super planet-friendly, either. According to Oatly, greenhouse gas emissions from oat drinks are just one third of those generated in the production of cow’s milk, and milk consumption is expected to rise by 65% in the next 30 years – a huge strain on the environment! That means less pesticides, too!

 

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4- But it behaves like cow’s milk

What I hate about soy and almond milk is that the cappuccino froth is super disappointing. It either clumps up to become tofu (yikes) or is so flat it disappears into your coffee. Oat milk is where it’s at. It’s super stable, transforms into a beautiful silky froth and allows extra beautiful latte art. In fact, I’ve often had to double check it was actually oat milk (and not cow’s) because it looks so convincing. In intelligentsia’s CEO’s words, Oatly is ‘like a blank canvas’.

 

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5- Oats are versatile af

Oatly has diversified since it launched (a whole 25 years ago!); oat cream, oat crème fraiche, oat chocolate milk, and many more to come, I’m sure (their skimmed and semi-skimmed line launched recently!). You can make a latte, and iced latte, a béchamel, a milkshake, a smoothie, a quiche… literally anything. You could even bathe in it if you really wanted to, I bet your skin would be mega smooth (in fact, here’s how).

More pro tips:

  • Dairy free? Although the organic Oatly milk is just as tasty as the original, it isn’t fortified in calcium. If you’ve cut out most dairy like I have, make sure you’re meeting your calcium needs!
  • Price conscious? I get my milk in bulk, in a 6-pack, from amazon here!
  • Not keen on buying it? Try making it yourself – it’s a little labour intensive, but here’s a good recipe: https://minimalistbaker.com/make-oat-milk

sacramento city guide to healthy living

Sacramento is definitely under the radar. With its excellent coffee scene, many yoga studios, easy connections to the Bay area and ‘farm-to-fork capital’ status, I really appreciated the convenience of living there this past summer!

That being said, with Mexicans and breweries on every street corner, it’s not always been easy to make healthy choices. Over the past 4 months, I’ve really searched  for the most health-friendly spots in the city. If you’re like me and will hunt down the best avocado toast and oat milk latte wherever you’re visiting, this post is for you. I still fully encourage you to enjoy some of the city’s best pizza and ice-cream. Because life (and especially travelling!) isn’t about being restrictive. And rest assured, I’ve certainly had my share of taco plates, pizza and indulgent brunches during my time here (and yep, my jeans are feeling a little tight!)

 

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You can find my top Sacramento finds on my public yelp list here!

For a nice, light, italian-inspired weekday lunch or dinner, head to OBO’. They have a great deli salad selection for lunch that is not to be missed! I also really like their evening entrees; yes, there’s pizza and the like, but the portions are very reasonable and often packed with vegetables and interesting grains. It’s a little harder to navigate if you’re 100% dairy-free (hello cheese) but if you’re just looking for a fresh alternative to your average italian, this is your spot!

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Salad trio from OBO’

 

Ethiopian and Indian food are always great options for vegans and vegetarians in my opinion, and tend to offer dishes with lots of vegetables, less dairy and plenty of pulses and whole grains. Queen Sheba and Bombay are two local favourites. I really fell in love with the Ethiopian injera, which is much lighter than naan bread. Make sure you order the spicy red lentils. Bombai does a mean vegan dhal, too!

 

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Platters from Queen Sheba

Continue reading “sacramento city guide to healthy living”

10 timeless reads to escape the daily grind 

Ah, the daily grind. Isn’t it just so easy to slip into it? You wake up, brush your teeth (hopefully), make coffee, get on the bus, work, get on the bus, workout, make dinner… And so it goes, day in, day out.

I’m a huge advocate for adding variety to your life. Whether it’s through diet, exercise, socialising, nail colour… But sometimes, even changing up your morning coffee order isn’t enough to make you feel alive. And then you are faced with those days you just want to pack a suitcase and genuinely escape.

Reading is a powerful practice. It’s been a pretty uncertain and unsettling time in the history of our world, and many of us are in search of a deeper meaning. And think about it, when was the last time a book completely blew your mind? Wouldn’t you like to feel that way again? So consumed by a story you couldn’t put the book down, or stop think about it?

 

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This year, I made it my resolution to read at least one book a month. For someone who often finds themselves on instagram instead of reaching for my bedside read, I’ve done pretty well. [I’ve read 10 books, and we’re in September!] And the best reads were those that made me forget who and where I was, or reminded me how amazing life can be, or taught me a valuable concept that I could apply to my life. They’ve all left a lasting impression, and changed the way I see the world.

I love a good book recommendation, so I thought I’d put together a list of my own favourites. I would love love love for you to contribute and drop your own favourites in the comments!

Happy reading!

 

1. when breath becomes air, Paul Kalanithi

 

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Well this was an emotional read. If you’re in the mood for a dramatic introspection and exploring the journey of life and death through the eyes of a neurosurgeon turned terminal cancer patient, this one’s for you. I marvelled, I smiled, and yes, I even cried a little bit. A great reminder that life is beautiful but fleeting, and that science and faith are not polar opposites.

Read when: you’re experiencing change in your life, or are trying to find meaning to your life. It was also a great plane read, although make sure you bring along some tissues!

Continue reading “10 timeless reads to escape the daily grind ”

my 10-day social media detox | the why and the how

So here I am in the Sierras, hiking my way up to a bunch of lakes. It’s hot and dry and I stop to admire the mountains every few minutes. And my phone has no signal. And I’m living my best life.

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See, the whole point of taking a break from social media is not to feel deprived. You want to feel like you’re fully participating in your own life. You’re taking an amazing hike and it’s not on Instagram and that’s totally cool because memories last a lifetime. That’s exactly how I’ve felt these past 10 days.

 

It was both reaching for my phone a little too often and the opportunity to spend time in places where phones aren’t such a big deal that made me realise I wanted a break. It’s 11.25 and it’s not lunchtime yet and I Just. Need. Something. to pass the time, so I watch a few Instagram stories. That started happening a lot. My weekend away in Lake Tahoe (post coming soon!) made me realise I wasn’t always connecting to myself because I was so busy trying to connect with others on social media. Does that sound familiar to any of you? Continue reading “my 10-day social media detox | the why and the how”

june favourites

Happy July and happy summer! It’s been a busy month, filled with some exciting changes and revelations. Read on to find out! 🙂

mindful shopping

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This is definitely easier said than done if you’re edging on compulsive shopping, which many of us do without realising. It looks good on the mannequin, or it seems useful at the time, but when you get home you realise maybe you didn’t need it after all. Or you use it once and then it gathers dust at the back of a cupboard. I’ve done a lot of work on myself to reduce my attachment to stuff, but I’ve always been frugal, so it hasn’t been excessively hard for me to be more selective in my shopping. I had run out of summer clothes to wear and so went on many more shopping trips than I would have in the past, and most of the time, I went home empty handed. It’s life-changing to walk out of a shop knowing you didn’t feel pressured by the shop assistant, having carefully thought through any purchases (‘is it useful’, ‘is it durable’, is it worth the price’, ‘will it match my style’…).

Continue reading “june favourites”

this is how you pack exactly what you need

Holiday season is upon us once more! I’m super hyped becauseI have actually planned a couple of trips this year, which means my suitcase will be more than just a weekend bag for a few days spent with a friend. Or will it? Is packing a huge suitcase, 5 pairs of shoes and both a hair straightener and curling iron really necessary?

Having less is seriously cool. I’m no longer worried about stuff not matching in my wardrobe, or that pink jacket I never wear: if I’m not using it, I’m not keeping it.

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But then comes your exotic trip, and you think you need the entire asos swimwear department to survive it. (Just a piece of friendly advice before we start: you don’t.) I take more long weekend trips than weeklong holidays so I’ve become accustomed to packing a small carry-on and making the most of what I bring! Here’y how you can apply underpacking to longer holidays like I am this year!

1. Think ahead

Beautiful view of Ostuni, Puglia, Italy. Photo: Kate Holstein:
Ostunia, Puglia © Kate Holstein

If you’re not one of those people that starts packing or thinking about packing at least 2 weeks before you leave, start now. Honestly, this is a huge help – ask yourself where you’ll be, what you’ll be doing and how often, think of what you already have and what should be replaced or bought for the occasion. I’m leaving for Italy in a couple of days for a super casual poolside reading and city exploring break. Realistically, only 3 scenarios are likely: a day out, for which I’ll need some comfortable, functional and breathable, a day at the pool, for which I’ll need swimwear and a cover up and a classier option for the evening to wear to a nice dinner. My make-up and hair routine can be adjusted accordingly by increasing the intensity rather than the amount of products used. Instead of just slapping on some mascara and eyebrows, I might spend longer on some eyeliner or contouring. And then there’s the airport days, where you should think of wearing something comfortable and layerable, for example the only thicker jacket you’re bringing in case of colder weather, and to keep yourself warm on the flight, over a t-shirt you can wear on a city day later on. Write it down, draw it out, whatever you need to do: just think!

Continue reading “this is how you pack exactly what you need”