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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oil_spill

What should be the purpose of our mainstream news providers? I’m talking about the major players: those stations that are accessed by the millions? One would think, to provide unbiased, accurate news. They should be reporting to us what is happening around the world. If we are well informed, we get a good grasp on the state of play and can offer aid where needed etc. Surely that’s logical: see a problem and cooperate with others to come up with a solution? Preferably there would be some good stuff thrown in there too, as opposed to pure doom and gloom. It’s important we don’t forget that there are so many people doing great work every day.

The thing is though, our news providers are funded by large corporations. And in the best interests of these corporations, the various media through which our new reaches us are manipulated like puppets on a stage.

The world is a large place. And it’s inevitable that big news happening close to home will get more emphasis than what’s happening abroad. Floods disrupting rail travel in the UK are of little concern to a man in Norway, for example. Or a strike by fishermen at a French port irrelevant to the land-locked of Poland.

But when an issue is global – thus affecting all of us – it should go without saying that it’s top of the newsreel. This doesn’t happen though.

Did you know there have been two major oil spills in the Southeastern and Gulf areas of the United States this month? Over 5,000 gallons of crude oil have leaked in the Bay Long area of Louisiana and secondly a pipeline has ruptured in Alabama, spilling 338,000 gallons. What makes it to the ocean has the potential to spread around the world.

In Bay Long, the pipeline owned by Harvest Pipeline Company was accidentally cut during a restoration project that’s been taking place since BP’s massive spill in 2010. The Coast Guard are still working to recover the area and prevent further environmental damage.

In Alabama, a pipeline running oil from Texas to New York has ruptured, forcing the states of Alabama, Georgia and North Carolina to declare states of emergency on the basis of fuel shortages and environmental destruction. Supposedly the rupture occurred in the most ideal location of anywhere on route, but the cleanup has only just begun and the area hyper-sensitive to the point where overhead air space has been closed.

Our environment is what connects us all. We all have it in common. It is home. We only have one planet to support us and so it’s only fair that we each offer it respect and maintain it’s well-being. Without it, there is no us.

Insatiable greed for monetary wealth unfortunately ranks higher on the priority list than environmental care for big business tycoons. And this is why we have the issue of our news providers not putting such environmental disasters top of the list. If an oil spill isn’t a favourable broadcasting topic for a large monetary provider, it’s going to get the cut.

As much as we aspire to live in a society based on truth and the well-being of the masses, unfortunately the current state of affairs is not up to par. It’s important that we remember that the messages we’re getting on repeat every 30 minutes on the radio or on the morning and evening news are manipulated in the favour of those paying for the service. Unbiased, fact-based news isn’t always what’s placed on the table. In fact, it rarely is.

So what can we do about it? I believe in our current society, in order to know what is going on around the globe we must be active. Passively sitting on the couch and being fed the news will never give you the full picture. It’s sad, because things really should be better than this. We really should be placing environmental welfare top of the ranks. A healthy home equals a healthy heart for each of us. But take a look at two of the largest news providers: CNN and BBC. Neither of which have a news tab for the environment on their main website. The former has nothing of relevance and the BBC has ‘Science’ as a tab, which it places its environmental articles under.

Corruption, biased representation and suppression are all common themes today. But it’s nothing new. Since the dawn of the monetary age, man’s weakness for greed has driven the world to a division. Spinning in fear is not the answer and remember that as much bad as there is happening, there is more good. Educate yourself, sure, but most of all remember that all is not what it seems.

A good friend of mine recently gave me some food for thought. She said, it’s easy to feel like everything is chaotic and the apocalypse near approaching, but it’s only because we are all so connected today. If something tragic happens, ripples are felt across the internet-connected world. But if something wonderful happens, this also can be shared. This can be used to our advantage if we’re switched on enough to get our priorities straight.

Photo: NOLA

 

 

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Consumerism

Consumerism. That’s a word that gets thrown around pretty frequently and fashionably these days. And in an unpretentious manner, I feel it a great thing that we’re talking about it. Mass-production, monopolisation, advertising, and the endless quest for the next best thing. All of these create the ideal formula for a culture of mass-consumerism.

If we feel something is missing in our lives – a state all to familiar to most of us – one of the easiest ways to temporarily overcome that is to buy something to try to fill the void. There’s eating too, which is a weakness for many people, but generally speaking shopping is the major culprit. Retail therapy, anyone?

Whether it’s a gadget, a pair of shoes or an extra cushion for the bed, there’s always one more thing we’re led to believe will make our lives more complete. Complete and happier. But how often is this really the case? Think about your own experience. How many times have you tricked yourself into thinking that if you just buy that one thing, you’ll feel content? What do you find actually happens? Once you buy that one thing, you want another and then another. The cycle is vicious and never-ending.

What is it that we’re trying to achieve with all these purchases? Ultimately it is happiness, although the exact aspect we’re going for varies for each of us.

If I consume I’ll be worthy

Depending on how we were raised, some of us struggle in life with self-worth. Eternal perfectionists, we feel we’re never good enough. We’re never whole enough. One extra purchase to embellish our person or our surroundings offers the juicy hope that we can go in the direction we want. We fool ourselves into believing that one more item will improve us.

The reality is that this will never be the case. No amount of material goods is going to satiate your poor inner child’s habitual belief that he or she is not good enough. No item adds to or depletes you of value. You are good enough exactly as you are.

One of the most unavoidable and detrimental ways of basking in a lack of self-worth is through comparing yourself to others. In this digital day and age and it being rarer and rarer to be truly off the beaten-track, we are bombarded with everyone’s ‘best side’. Everyone’s attributes are flaunted and their flaws disguised. It’s no wonder so many of us consistently do not feel good enough!

If I consume I’ll find purpose

This is a pretty common one too. So many of us walk into adulthood or leave university feeling hopeless. We settle into jobs that don’t fuel our passions. Before long we feel defeated entirely. It’s easy to settle into a trap of feeling sorry for yourself. It’s so easy to accept a miserable shell-of-yourself existence. You live for the weekends and repeatedly suppress your hopes and dreams with drinking and drug use. It’s simply too painful to live wide-eyed and fully aware of how wrong a path you’re on and how impossible getting onto the right one feels.

Aside from suppressing your emotions with drugs and alcohol, there is the temporary high from buying. Clothes, cars, bigger houses, jewellery, the latest phone; all of these things offer a momentary welcome relief. However, ultimately they clog our environment and further emphasise the gaping void inside each of us.

Purpose is not found at the mall. Purpose comes from getting to know yourself fully, forming meaningful relationships with others and focussing on what feels good. If that is buying a particular item to  allow you to live your purpose then of course that’s a wonderful thing. But buying for the sake of buying is not.

Meaningful Consumerism

Open your eyes and you will see that the sales are permanent, there is always a deal on somewhere and there is no need to succumb to the urgency of ‘BUY IT NOW!’ that retailers and advertisers aim to bestow upon you. Purchases should be well-thought-out, meaningful and without the air of impulse.

When you buy an item, you are supporting all aspects of the industry that got that item within your grasp. That’s the ethos of the individual or team who dreamed the idea, the people who worked to make it come to fruition, the stockist and so on and so forth.

Something that I have grown rather passionate about is this idea of ‘fast fashion’ and how many of us are totally oblivious to where our clothes come from. We see an item within our price range and purchase it. But we don’t really think about how long it’ll last, who made it for us, what environmental impact it has had. And that’s sad.

I discovered the idea of a capsule wardrobe a while back and found it utterly brilliant. A capsule and slow fashion are synonymous to me. Creating a capsule is a process of bringing consciousness into your wardrobe. Less is more. Quality over quantity. Ethics over greed. Check out this post here, written a while ago for how I created a capsule wardrobe from Cladwell’s excellent ‘Capsules’.

There are so many areas of my life that I want to transform to something more ethical; living more harmoniously with the planet. Consumerism on a mass-scale for toxic reasons is so not the one. Funding large-scale corporations who rate how much profit they make higher than their environmental impact is not something I believe in and I am committed to supporting sustainable industry entirely.

 

Photo: Flickr

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