We’re consistently told that standing up for what we believe in is the most honourable path to choose. Even if we stand alone, we must do what’s right by our internal guidance system. Live by our values. But is there a limit to this? Is there any point at which it’s no longer worth it? Would you stand up for your beliefs even if it meant risking your life?

The Guardian has been keeping pretty solid tabs on those individuals who have been killed for doing exactly this: standing up for a healthy environment. The figure stands at 197 courageous men and women in the year 2017 alone, with the rate expected to continue at 4 individuals per week for the forseeable future. These are sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers whose voices have been silenced by those who put capitalist interests before environmental preservation and it disgusts me.

On almost every continent there have been people standing up against logging, land degradation, water pollution and poaching, with Brazil the most dangerous place to be at present. It’s nothing new – since the dawn of time there has existed conflict over land and its many uses. Only, it’s 2018 and there is clear evidence that the planet’s on its last legs. Bar terraforming a new one (and quick!) unless we want to suffer a slow and painful demise, we’ve got to start getting our shit into gear.

From my safe little house in my safe little town on the (relatively) safe little English isle, I go about my days trying to lead by example. I eat a vegan diet, I only consume cruelty-free cosmetics, I recycle, I try wherever possible to avoid plastic consumption and especially the single-use kind, I promote self-care and mindfulness and I make time to help others with making more environmentally-friendly choices whenever they express an interest in learning more. But above all this (because really, none of those things are superpowers), I educate myself as frequently as I’m able to. I absorb every story and statistic I can get my mitts on.

That yearning to know more can be insatiable – is, insatiable. How can I possibly do better if I’m not learning the facts? Blame it on the scientist in me. Once you learn the truth about how devestating our consumption habits are on the planet and how problematic the animal agriculture industry is (yes, I’m a big Monbiot fan) to name just a couple, you see that you have no choice but to alter your lifestyle. It’s either that or live a miserable life. Rejigging everything is a smaller burden than living in conflict with what you know has to be done.

I am incredibly fortunate that I don’t live my life on the firing line. And you are too, if you’re in a similar situation to me. But we have an absolute responsibility to share the truths that the deceased no longer can because we owe it to them for their strength and undeniable bravery for standing up for what they knew to be right.

Indigenous people in sacred places across the globe are having their ancestral lands being destroyed quicker than they’re having time to process the trauma. From the Sioux at Standing Rock to the Ka’apor in Brazil to the mighty women of the Zambezi, the planet is littered with people trying to protect their homes however they can, even if it means their inevitable demise. If home is all you know, how can life go on without it? Home is, after all, more than a physical place. It is the history that goes along with it, the memory, the culture, the family and the soul.

As a human, you have a responsibility to do no harm to another. That’s just how it is. Many don’t live this way, of course and that’s a terrible sadness, but we know how things ought to be. And if it pains you to know that there is all this suffering going on around the world and you feel helpless and incapable of making a difference, know that that couldn’t be further from the truth. Like ripples in a mill pond, your actions can inspire others in ways that you’ve likely never considered. All you need to do is plant the seed.

What changes do you want to see? An end to logging? Buy reclaimed timber furniture. Better air quality? Support renewable resources. The end of climate change? Stop supporting animal agriculture and eat plant-based. Clean seas with healthy marine populations? Cut down on your plastic consumption. Lead by example and others will follow. Your voice is louder than you know.

Photos: Sphynx & MeltingPotSoul via Instagram

 

I am a vegan and a proud one. But I cannot stand those vegans that embody the holier-than-thou attitude that it’s their way or the highway. I understand where it comes from, I do. When something clicks in your mind that eating animals and using animal products and supporting cosmetics tested on animals is wholly unacceptable, you want to do everything you can to prevent it happening in the world. Only, it’s a process. I toyed back and forth with the concept of veganism for years and it took me taking the pressure off myself to be perfect to truly settle into this lifestyle choice that’s growing evermore popular. But there is still a grey area. I think this is probably the case for all vegans. For example, I still don’t morally have a problem with local, bee-friendly honey and I’m not afraid to say so. But as I change and grow over the coming months and years, maybe that one will be struck off the list too.

My point to all this is that while it’s painful when you adopt certain beliefs and see people living their lives in conflict with them, you have to realise that making true, lasting change depends upon huge levels of empathy and patience. We are all living a process or journey of one kind or another and it’s no man’s (or woman’s) place to judge anyone else based on their own perspective. Try putting yourself in that other person’s shoes first.

The angry vegan does no good for anyone. They might be able to rile up a rally at PETA HQ, sure, but in terms of encouraging others to explore the possibility of reducing their carbon footprint and consuming less animal products, it is just intimidating and rude. There are no benefits to guilt-tripping someone into living differently. Plus, it’s cruel! I always find success fates are far higher by pointing them in the direction of a documentary to do that anyway. A documentary doesn’t judge you. It simply aims to inform you of the facts.

I bring up all this because I’m seeing this angry behaviour taking place in another environmentally-friendly lifestyle: that of the zero-waster. This is also another lifestyle choice that has been a process for me and one that I’m still not doing perfectly. I don’t think any of us physically can. After all, I say it all the time but there’s only so much that you can do in a broken system. You can only do what you can with the means you have available to you.

Getting angry about anything you believe in can be incredibly powerful if it’s concentrated at the decision-makers. Power to the people and all that jazz. But when it’s directed at each other, it only causes greater divide and hostility. With our environment suffering to no end from our decades of plastic consumption, many are awakening to the absolute requirement to start adopting a life free of the stuff. Things like Blue Planet II helped massively in terms of making the general public more aware. I can’t tell you how many conversations I have now – on a daily basis (!) – revolving around plastic consumption. It is my life and all, but half of these I genuinely don’t even initiate!

If you care as much as I do about eradicating plastic from our planet and saving the preciousness that we’ve got, remember that it’s far better to get angry at the decision-makers and not someone else who’s not doing as much as you. It’s OK that he or she isn’t quite there yet. When we’ve been raised to believe that a certain lifestyle is the norm, it’s incredibly hard to change that. Relearning how to do things takes time. I’ve had to change everything about where I shop, when I shop, how I give gifts, how I ‘do’ my social life and so much more. You might be in the same boat. You also might see then how you giving someone a hard time about their trash-production habits is a bit like a 12th grader giving a 3rd grader a hard time for not being able to do algebra. Comprende?

By all means keep the anger going. It’s an emotional vibration above hopelessness. It means you’ve still got the fight in you. But direct it at the companies you want to change their packaging, your government, your school, your workplace. And lead by example. Show others how easy it is to make some pretty impactful choices. You’ll likely spark their interest. Plus, have a small list of worthwhile documentaries to watch at the ready to slip over when the moment is right. Never hurts.

Photo by Taras Zaluzhny on Unsplash & Sphynx

I recently turned 27 and I can’t quite believe it. What a dynamic, turbulent, eclectic 27 years it has been on this earth thus far…

I thought in celebration of my aging (and impending wisdom that I swear should be appearing on the horizon sometime soon) I’d share with you 27 things I do to try not to be a douche bag to our planet. There might be something in there that you haven’t thought of before, so without further ado:

  1. Switch to natural cleaning products. The amount of carcinogens and endocrine disruptors in modern-day chemical-laden household cleaning products is not even worth looking at. Opt for environmentally-friendly store-bought blends, or DIY your own with ingredients like baking soda, and apple cider vinegar. You’d be amazed how well these two work on pretty much everything in your life.
  2. Use bamboo toothbrushes. I change my toothbrush every couple months. That’s approximately 6 x a year. That’s a lot of toothbrushes headed straight to landfill if I were to still be using traditional plastic ones! I am in love with bamboo toothbrushes because they clean just as well and can be composted when they come to the end of their life. Totally biodegradable, no microplastics in sight and my dentist says my teeth are shit hot so, I’m happy (BTW that’s 4 years of using these bad boys that I’ve got under my belt, so I’m fairly confident they do the job just fine).
  3. Support slow fashion. The fast fashion industry is one of the most polluting on our planet. By switching to buying only second hand or ethical brands, you are choosing sustainability over wasteful and mindless consumerism.
  4. Opt for organic. Wherever possible in my life, I now choose organic over pesticide-laden. Whether it’s the food I eat, the skincare I use, the clothes I wear or whatever else. While it isn’t always possible, I try to buy organic versions to look after my health and the environment.
  5. Use mesh bags or food wraps. The number of times that little plastic baggies are used for carrying snacks, purchasing loose produce from the grocery store or pastries from a coffee shop is staggering. I keep a spare mesh bag or two in all the places I might need one and use again and again.
  6. Prepare real food. There is nothing worse for an aspiring zero-waster than being hangry, realising you have to purchase something wrapped in single-use plastic and then beating yourself up about it. Be sensible and prep food beforehand (carrying around snacks in one of your mesh bags!) and avoid this happening to you again.
  7. Do less laundry. You’d be amazed at how many wears you can get out of clothes if you simply air them out between wears. Don’t worry, I’m not encouraging you to wear your undies more than once between washes, but for many items, this works a treat.
  8. Use bulk bins. For nuts, grains, pulses and seeds, find a local bulk bin store (take your mesh bags with you!) and load up to avoid plastic packaging.
  9. Purchase a safety razor. These things look terrifying, but as soon as you use one, you realise that they aren’t at all. Purchase one that’s well-made with a long handle, a heavy weight and good grip and it will last you a lifetime. All you need to do is change the inner stainless steel blades (which can be purchased wrapped in recyclable paper!) and be sure to lather up first with lots of soap.
  10. Support innovative textiles. I love a good vintage leather bag, but at the end of the day it is still leather and if someone sees it and wants something similar, they’re likely to buy a new leather version, thus keeping the demand there for these goods. Support alternatives like piñatex, cork or mushroom leather where you can, to show others that there are sustainable alternatives.
  11. Learn about the Venus Project. An incredible resource-based economy model created by the late architect, Jacque Fresco, The Venus Project is an incredible insight into how our economy could operate free of the limitations of capitalism.
  12. Cycle or walk. I know it isn’t always possible with the circumstances you find yourself in (hence why we desperately need electric, self-driving cars already!) but cycle or walk wherever possible. It’s better for your health and the planet’s.
  13. Choose vegan. The animal agriculture industry is incredibly wasteful from an energy point of view, but also a place of great cruelty. Have a watch of Cowspiracy, What The Health, Forks Over Knives or In Defense Of Food for food for thought (see what I did there?)
  14. Use reusable cloths. While there are some great brands of paper towel like EcoLeaf who use 100% recycled paper, 100% renewable energy and 100% biodegradable packaging, consider cutting up old towels, t-shirts and other textiles and using to mop up spills, clean surfaces etc. Simply toss into the washing machine after use and they’ll last you years to come.
  15. Use reusable cotton rounds. These can be bought in some larger healthy living stores or purchased online. Ideal for removing makeup, cleansing, removing nail polish. Use, wash, reuse.
  16. Paper cotton buds. Most cotton buds have a plastic stem that runs down the middle. Yuck! If you feel cotton buds are absolutely essential to your routine, opt for completely biodegradable ones.
  17. Change your gift-giving. Unless you know that special person is in desperate need of (fill in the blank), give them something edible, drinkable, or experiential instead and watch them beam!
  18. Learn about minimalism. And the joy and liberation it can give you in your life. As well as the psychological benefits, it’s environmentally-friendly because it places emphasis on less, not more.
  19. Upcycling for your home. If you’re in need of furniture or decorations, consider recycled materials and get creative! No one likes a show-home. Make your space unique and truly reflective of you as an individual. Use recycled wood to save demand on tree-felling and recycled scrap metal to add a modern, industrial aesthetic.
  20. Grow your own veggies. Even in the tiniest of apartments you can find a windowsill to grow some herbs. Plant, nurture and watch flourish. It’s good for your mental health, diet and wallet.
  21. Support vegan & cruelty-free cosmetics. Unfortunately, many cosmetic brands are tested on animals in some parts of the world. Choose a kinder option for your moisturiser or mascara by using the guidance that can be found here.
  22. Sustainable holiday decor. There’s a lot of pressure to fill your home with an array of trinkets for each and every holiday occasion. From Halloween to Christmas, the shops are filled with aisle upon aisle of cheaply-manufactured, plastic-based rubbish. Get in the spirit by focussing on seasonally-appropriate plants and flowers, foods, scents and music rather than a bunch of ‘stuff’ that you have to find place to store for the majority of the year.
  23. Support plant-based candles. Most candles are made of paraffin wax which is derived from crude oil (the same stuff that makes our petroleum fuel). Instead of burning that and contaminating your home, opt for candles made of sustainable beeswax (if non-vegan), soy, flax, or other plant oils for cleaner burning.
  24. Have a zero waste period. Ladies – forget tampons and nasty plastic sanitary pads. Have a read of my post here all about how to have a cleaner period without any throwaway items.
  25. Use bamboo water filtration. Forget plastic cartridges. Try charcoal water filtration for a completely biodegradable, waste-free way to purify your water.
  26. Say no to hormonal birth control. A recent gripe of mine, but consider the Fertility Awareness Method instead of your current hormonal birth control. Resources to look into here.
  27. Item swaps. Whether it’s amongst colleagues or friends, swap books, clothes and other unwanted items to cut down on waste and save you money.

Instagram Avocado

There’s no denying that these days there is a particular ideal that we strive for. Or feel we ought to strive for. It’s the kind of lifestyle that all the healthy lifestyle ‘become a green goddess’ sites are flogging. All the top Instagrammers are snapping it. All the popular Youtubers are promoting it. It’s the chia-seed-sprinkling, smoothie-bowl-consuming, yoga-doing, quinoa-basking lifestyle. Haven’t you heard of it?

What ever happened to eating local? That one fell by the wayside some time ago, I guess. It’s not trendy enough to consume different variations of root vegetables in the UK in winter time. God forbid we shine the spotlight on bread and potatoes to get us through the coldest months! No, let’s focus on imported goods that really aren’t that fresh or tasty by the time they get to us. At least in comparison to their foreign brothers and sisters. Eat a Mexican avocado and you won’t even be able to look at the ones in Sainsbury’s next time you’re in there.

So I’m totally going to put it out there: I AM GUILTY! I am a maple-syrup-drizzling, almond-milk-drinking, tofu-wolfing, guacamolivore through and through. I love food and am forever experimenting with new recipes, preferably void of animal-derived ingredients.

However, the gut instinct tells me that it really is best to eat local. Because local is fresh. Fresh is highest in nutrients. Nutrients = body love. So I’ve compiled some research on some of my fashionable, imported staples to look at the environmental footprint that I am contributing to.

  1. QUINOA: a grain generally eaten like rice. It’s gluten-free and easy to digest, plus packed with loads of essential vitamins and minerals. Is it any wonder that this crop with the frequently-butchered name is so popular amongst the healthy-eaters across the globe? But let’s talk about origin. Quinoa has been a staple of the Andes since way back when. Bolivians, Peruvians and Ecuadorians happily chowed down on quinoa without qualm until it rose in popularity around the world. Now, this cash crop is causing devestating effects. The demand for quinoa increases and farmers are selling more and more of what’s being grown. The local stash is dwindling because of it. And because it’s a source of income, farmers sell their quinoa for export and are eating nutrient-poor staples like rice and pasta instead, thus depleting their health. And for locals wanting to eat it, sadly now because prices have increased so much, many can’t afford it.
  2. AVOCADOS: those sensitive green souls. Yes they infuriate us, doing the dance to perfectly ripe so quickly that many of us miss it, but get a good one and you almost feel as though you can die happy right then and there. Rich in many vitamins and healthy fats, they are delicious on their own or used in many recipes as a dairy substitute due to their exquisite creaminess. But the problem is that demand is sky-high, with so many of us wanting them several times a week as part of our normal diet. And this is bad news for the Mexican landscape. Because farming avocados is so profitable, many farmers are ignoring the law and destroying mature pine forest to make way for more avocados. And there’s also the issue of pestiside use and water consumption, specifically 272 litres per handful of mature avocados produced. For drought-ridden California, it means growth isn’t such a smart choice.
  3. ALMOND MILK: an excellent dairy substitute for your morning cereal. I adore almond milk. I think out of all the dairy alternatives, almond is my favourite. But much like the aforementioned water-guzzling avocados, most of our almonds come from California and they too drink up all the water you can throw at them; 5 litres per almond to be exact. Not only that, but California’s almond bloom – which occurs every February – relies on 85% of US honeybee hives to pollinate them. It’s the largest managed pollination event anywhere in the world. Pretty mind-boggling! But there are many concerns with bee health declining due to pesticide use and time on the road being ferried to California from across the country.

The environmental cost of transporting foods around the world is one of the fastest-growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions. And a diet consisting of imported foods uses roughly four times the energy compared to a local diet. But trying to grow tropical foods in the far north and south or vice versa isn’t the answer either. The change in climate and biodiversity from where the foods are naturally grown means intensive temperature, pesticide and fertiliser use is required. That ultimately outweighs the costs of shipping them in.

And if you want to look at another aspect of what is considered inefficient energy distribution of food, this study from Cornell published 20 years ago found that the grain currently used to feed US livestock could instead be used to feel 800 million people. To put that into perspective, the current US population is just over 300 million.

So what’s the answer? Let’s be honest; we can’t really revert to living on an entirely local diet because we’ve developed a palate satiated only by the colourful variety of produce we’ve come to know and love. The variety is healthier and more exciting, after all. It would simply cause uproar if we had our exotic foods taken away. But rather than reversing things – which human nature rarely has a tendency to do – what about progression? What about renewable energy, intelligent farming and zero-carbon transport? What about taking new approaches to the old-school way we’re doing things? Or, if you want to go local, I bow down to you.

 

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soy_tofu

Today I’m addressing soy. It’s unbelievably common, massively in demand and certainly a part of my diet. But it’s controversial and there’s wide concern over the implications of consuming this plant on such a large scale.

Soy beans are legumes native to East Asia. Process them in various ways and you’ve got everything from protein-rich tofu to dairy-free milk, emulsifier soy lecithin to flavour-enhancing soy sauce.

The problems

There are more than this, but below I’ve listed the two main concerns that we seem to have regarding the consumption of soy.

  1. Rapid Deforestation to keep up with global demand
  2. Phytoestrogens in the body

Deforestation & Demand

There is a huge global demand for soy products. Firstly, there is the Asian market who have always used soy – particularly in place of dairy for many who are lactose-intolerant. Next up there is the increasing demand for plant-based or vegan alternatives to traditional protein sources. Next there’s soy used in candles, adhesives and other industrial practices. Then, as an emulsifying agent in various processed snacks. But finally, overtaking them all as the number one demand for soy is as an animal feed.

Each year, large areas of South America and Asia are cleared of native rainforest to make way for soy (and palm) plantations. This happens in much the same way as these areas are cleared to make room for livestock. The two go hand in hand, with the soy being grown and harvested to feed the livestock. In lands where the grass doesn’t flourish, but food is needed to plump up the cattle, soy is the alternative feed. And much of the time the soy has been genetically-modified to be herbicide resistant.

A great argument for plant-based or vegan living is that you’re missing out the middle man. I completely agree with that. It’s much better to be eating the soy bean than eating the cow that’s eaten the soy bean. If everyone did that, we wouldn’t cause so much deforestation. We wouldn’t need the land for the livestock, so you can forget that. We’d only need to be cultivating soy for human consumption.

Phytoestrogens

When I worked in skincare, I had a client once who approached me very concerned about finding a product that didn’t contain soy. She explained to me that she had miraculously overcome a battle with breast cancer and her doctor instructed she be sure to avoid soy. She explained how soy is a phytoestrogen (a hormone not produced by the body, but rather ingested). Her doctor had informed her that some studies had shown the consumption of soy (and other phytoestrogens) could increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer.

This was the first time that I had heard of such a thing. I did my research that night and have read much on the subject since then, but the studies seem inconclusive. There’s about the same level of evidence as studies on parabens. There’s no concrete evidence that eating soy will make you more likely to develop cancer. At least not that I’ve found.

***

Try as I might, the carnivorous males in my life still moan at me when I prepare tofu. They exclaim with flailing arms that they don’t want to grow boobs. Based on the research I’ve done, I can’t see my weekly soy intake as being a problem at all. But I am mindful where I purchase my soy from. I have a responsibility to make ethical purchases, after all.

What can you do to eat soy sustainably?

  1. Avoid GMO. A quick search on the websites of Cauldron and Alpro – two large soy retailers here in the UK list commitments to staying GMO-free. So thumbs up from me on that one.
  2. If you eat meat, buy local and grass-fed to reduce your potential GMO soy demand.
  3. Reduce the number of processed foods you’re eating – especially those that contain soy. Eating whole foods is better for so many reasons, but this is a good one for sure.

 

 

 

 

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