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.

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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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DSCF8055

Ahhh festival season. The summer vibes of sunshine, good music and cold beer. And of course getting together with all your buddies. It sounds a dream, right? I mean, it is. Floating out of everyday life and into utopia really does lead to the greatest of ‘ups’. Though tragically this is followed by the a contrasting, nightmarish down as you have to wake up the next day and ‘resume life’.

Festival environments are absolute pinnacles of creativity and connection. They are an opportunity for us to put forth intention for the creative kind of life that we would like to lead. Plus – of course – immerse ourselves in a hedonist music scene. My problem, however, is the trash.

You have no doubt seen the horrendous photographs of festival grounds left looking like a post-apocalyptic no man’s land on the day the crowds disperse and make their sorry way home.

Daily Mail

What we see left behind is anything and everything not considered of value to these people: cheap tents that were bought with the intention of only being used once, cheap fancy dress costumes only intended of being used the once, food and drink packaging, clothes, shoes, sleeping bags and pretty much any other item you can think of that one would need to survive at a festival for a few days at a time.

There are three main issues that lead to this wasteland. These are problems in society at large; not simply for the few days of a year at a festival.

Packaging – especially the non-recyclable or non-biodegradable kind

You need to replenish yourself between seeing your favourite artists. This means you’ll likely hit up one of the food stalls on-site and purchase a meal and maybe a drink. It’s important to think about the packaging these are served in. One-use Styrofoam or plastic containers will outlive you. At the very least 500 years. Think about that. And you’re just one person at one music festival! That’s a hell of a footprint you’re leaving on the earth.

Some festivals are doing things oh-so-right. By this I mean only providing biodegradable or recyclable packaging. They also offer a plethora of bins specifically for these items, with the intention of encouraging the crowds to make smart choices in their disposal.

There is a way around using any packaging at all. This is what I’m determined to do for my next festival: bring my own containers for food and beverages. Vendors often don’t care what they put your portion in. Give them the cash and bring your own container. This reduces your demand on resources.

Mentality – if it’s cheap, it doesn’t matter if I only use it once

This is something that spreads far wider than a 3 day festival. It is the drive behind our fast fashion industry and cheap superstores offering bargain-price shit that won’t last. We have got it so wrong when we live by this logic, because we are leaving a lasting pile of crap to accumulate, all because we somehow think we’re getting a better deal. A cheap alternative of whatever material item will never be as good as one made well and built to last. And surely it’s better with things that will stick with you through the times than having to go to the effort to compile a collection of new one-use items each time the demand calls?

What we need – globally – is conscious consumption. Think about each purchase you make. Do you really need it? Where was it made and why whom? Will this last? Is it made well with attention to detail?

What will you leave behind when you die? The earth will keep on spinning and future generations keep on blooming, but our pile of waste on this rock continues to grow at alarming rates. It is filling our oceans, smothering our land, destroying our wildlife and ridding our planet of its natural beauty. Think about the bigger picture when you next sway towards a one-time-use object that will lie around without decaying for the rest of your life.

Responsibility –it’s an organised event so someone else will clean up, right?

This is one of the toughest conundrums, because festival organsers plan for their grounds to be destroyed by the end of the event. They thus make sure they have ample back-up support in place to implement ‘mission clean-up’ once the crowds have left. It’s a safe assumption to make, because there is indeed an ocean of litter left behind. But this also backfires because all the guests know that someone will clean up that bag of camp trash they leave behind, that water-logged tent or that welly missing a sole.

The only way I can think to get around this is to allocate a spot to each group of campers. This way, there is a name attached to that specific plot of land and so someone who has no choice but to take responsibility for the miscellaneous items left behind for someone else to clean up. But this would be a massive change to typical ‘free for all’ camping festivals so the process of implementing such a practice massive and with many aspects to plan for.

I walk the city streets and don’t generally see people throwing rubbish on the ground. Most people wait for one of the bins scattered along the pavement and do the right thing by throwing it in. At a festival, it becomes acceptable to throw your waste wherever you feel like because there is this unspoken ideology that someone hired for the job will throw it away for you, dispose of it properly.

One of the most powerful things you can do is live by example.

  1. Make a point to throw your trash away properly
  2. If you see a friend leaving stuff on the ground, politely ask them if they would like you to throw their rubbish in the bin. It’ll bring their awareness to what they’ve done without causing conflict.
  3. Think about containers you can bring with you to fill with food and drink and re-use.
  4. Think about your purchases pre-festival in preparation for the big event. What will be the life story of those items once the festival is over?

If you have any environmentally-friendly festival ideas worth sharing, please comment below as I’d love to read them!

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