I’m a big thinker, right? And I’d say my brain is at capacity most of the time. I’m constantly mulling over how I can improve things. Not just the goings-on of my inner world through various mediums of self-improvement, but also the outer one. From a vegan diet to living plastic-free, I’m on a constant mission to try to do my best with what I have. The world needs to change and I’ve dedicated my life to helping that come to fruition. But there’s an extra element that’s thrown into all this. Guilt. And it eats away at me from time to time.

Let me back-pedal a bit to talk about my time in university. Whilst there, I was a key member of the Amnesty International Society – a society that I still very much support. Nowadays, however, I do so from the sideline rather than actively. When I was heavily involved, my perspective was rather different to how it stands today. When day in, day out, you’re following the stories of the most broken of humanity, you are grateful for simply having a roof over your head and food in your belly. And freedom, of course. Just having those basic things is incredibly wonderful. If you get choice added in too, you’re flying.

But as I say, time went on and I left university and began placing more and more focus on environmental issues. The causes I was fighting for were marine habitats, rainforests, native woodland, animals facing extinction, coral bleaching and microplastic pollution. It became less about the people and more about the environment. If I think about it logically, without a planet there are no people and so of course these are worthy causes to be fighting for. But as I sit here with a regular income, enough money to pick and choose my food, my clothing, my lifestyle, I can’t help but feel an element of guilt.

Millions of people around the world – including many on these wealthy British Isles – can’t afford the luxury of choice. They can’t afford the time to even think about being able to shop in fancy food stores that offer aesthetically-pleasing vegan foods and household cleaners and beauty items that are made with an array of delightful natural ingredients. Their priority is getting food on the table for hungry mouths that need feeding. Their priority is being able to afford the rent each month. Their priority is being able to make it through each day. Living on the breadline is no place to be.

So I can’t help but feel guilty when I preach about how we should all be eating vegan foods and living waste-free as much as possible when in truth I don’t understand what it’s like not to have the choice. I don’t come from a wealthy family and in fact growing up I witnessed the stress that a single mother goes through trying to put food on the table for her kids. Her priority was keeping her children healthy and happy. But even with this, I don’t know what it was like to be her. I can’t fully understand.

My dilemma is not wanting someone living a polar opposite life to my own to look at me and see naivety and an unachievable goal. It makes me sick to think that I could evoke anger in someone over my lifestyle choices, values and priorities. It’s this fine line to teeter along, with compassion for humanity on one side and an inner environmental warrior on the other. I don’t yet know the best way of figuring all this out. And in truth, I might never. (To clarify: no one has raged at me. This is purely hypothetical.)

But one thing I do trust in is my gut instinct; as should we all. It guides us. The reality is that there’s no way I could compare my life to that of a low-income single mother with 4 children where the fight for survival is first priority. I’m not living that way – fortunately. So all I can do is what feels right to me, based on the scientific evidence I have ready, with wthe resources I have. If I can afford to choose the most ethical foods to eat, not consume plastic that ends up in the oceans and write about my lifestyle choices in the hope that it might influence someone else who can also make those choices to start living differently, then why not do it? It seems logical…

I’m part of a whole generation wanting to do life differently. We want to live more harmoniously with our planet, improve our infrastructure using renewable energy and live lives that place emphasis on creativity and passion rather than the mind-numbing and mundane. I frequently refer to it as ‘the vagina lottery’ because we don’t know what kind of family we’ll be born into. All we can do is the best we can based on what we know.

We don’t all fight for the same causes and in a way that’s actually kind of great. If some of us could keep doing the great work for humanity while others clean up the environment, we should have a sound future ahead of us. Perhaps that’s all I need to trust in; the fact that we’re all different for a reason and it’s best to just embrace it, even if it does seem flawed. We need each other; that’s the simple truth of it. We’re stronger together.

Save

Save

Save

Save

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.

 

 

 

 

Save

Save

Before I lived in this apartment, I was in a shared house. In this shared house, the communal areas were cleaned by our gracious landlady. It was great – she did an incredible job and it meant that we the housemates never fought over who’s job it was to clean. Everything really was scrubbed to perfection and it made living with so many others relatively pleasant.

The only thing was, after she’d been there would be that familiar, lingering scent of bleach all up the stairwell and into the kitchen. I get it – I do – she was just sanitising the surfaces. This is what most people do. However I loathe the smell of bleach. I think I always have, but especially after working in a laboratory where bleach becomes a cling-on on the first day.

So the house would be clean, but the bleach would be etched into the surface of my nostrils for hours post. It would almost make me want to hibernate for a little bit before venturing out of my room. It physically made me nauseous and would induce a headache.

When I moved into an apartment with Jonny, I saw the opportunity to consciously think about which cleaning products we were going to use. Hardly the most exciting aspect of moving in with the person you love, but important none-the-less. There’s nothing romantic about sharing dinner and a glass of wine if your surroundings are disgusting, right?

By the time we came to shop for essentials for our totally unfurnished space, I had compiled a list of environmentally-friendly, non-toxic cleaning products that I was determined to place under our new kitchen sink. It is now a year later and bleach hasn’t even tried to make an appearance. Irritation no more!

Below are my essentials. I totally encourage you to consider these if you’re wanting to make the move to products that keep agitated skin and environmental pollution to a minimum.

  1. E-cloths – These are by far the best discovery. Long-lasting, machine washable cloths interwoven with the finest of fibre threads that remove bacteria from surfaces. All you need is cloth + water to do the job. No product required. I use this for wiping down surfaces and cleaning windows and mirrors.
  2. Ecover & Method – these are two cruelty-free, plant-based brands that produce a whole array of cleaning products. When water just won’t cut it, or for bathroom cleaning products, I reach for these natural brands. Most supermarkets will stock the basics from these brands, otherwise I recommend Ethical Superstore if you want to pick up some more specialist items.
  3. Baking soda & Vinegar – When the drain is blocked, instead of reaching for those life-destroying, vomit-inducing ‘solutions’ that annihilate everything in their path, try something more fun: baking soda and vinegar. These two will clean just about anything, from a kitchen sink to a carpet stain. Check this article out for great recipes.
  4. Michael’s Original – these scourers are made from biodegradable plant fibres and do an awesome job at everything from scrubbing limescale in a shower to cleaning root vegetables. These are great because there’s nothing to throw away from them…they just wear away over time.

I feel that a home should be a safe and sacred place. Treating it with kindness and respect is a great start. I wouldn’t say that I have a passion for cleaning, by any means, but I do care about my impact on the planet. Oh, and my health. For me, it starts here.

Photo via Unsplash

 

Save

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

 

 

Save

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

Save