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Sunday, August 23, 2015

Switching to Eco Beauty Products



























Today I went on a little shopping spree to find some more eco-friendly beauty products that I could switch to. I say ‘beauty’ but I bought a toothpaste and a toothbrush, does that count? I guess they’re used to make your teeth beautiful, so they count! :)

I wanted to document the products I was using before, and the ones that I bought today, to keep a record of my eco transition (or journey! ;) )  I bought: organic cotton pads, organic toothpaste and a bamboo toothbrush.

























I switched to a natural toothpaste before, with natural ingredients BUT the problem that I had with it was that I did not like the taste!  I finished it anyway (nothing going to waste!) and this time I chose this particular product because it is organic, vegan, cruelty free, and hopefully tastes yummy! There are quite a few natural organic options out there with various tastes like tutti frutti and aloe vera, with even children friendly ones like strawberry. I chose the mint-green tea flavour because 1. Mint is refreshing and 2. I like green tea!

Toothpaste: Urtekram



















I am SO excited about this purchase, I have been wanting one for a long long time: a bamboo toothbrush!! Bamboo is fully biodegradable and recyclable, unlike plastic toothbrushes. It came in a little paper box, also recyclable. This particular one is vegan and fair trade. What more could I want??

Fun fact: Bamboo is the fast growing plant and very abundant on our planet.

Yay for bamboo toothbrushes! Isn’t it super cute? Cute toothbrush. That’s right.

Toothbrush: The Environmental Toothbrush TM



























The last thing I bought were some cotton eye pads for removing my makeup. I always bought normal ones, but now I switched to organic cotton. The bag is also made from biodegradable plant derived material.


Cotton wool pads: Boots

Everything was so inexpensive and I can't wait to try out these products! My bamboo toothbrush is now being cute in my reused jam jar by my sink. 

:) 



Sunday, August 16, 2015

Let's talk about it: palm oil

Photo: orangutan.com


What is it? Why am I writing a post about it? Many of you might already know that in the environmental sphere it is considered “bad” and products containing it should be avoided. But why?
Apart from having a high amount of saturated fat, thus not good for the health, it is also causing massive deforestation and loss of animal habitat.

Palm oil is produced from the fruit of the oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) and the demand for it has risen greatly, leading to massive deforestation. The oil that can be derived per hectare is a lot higher than other vegetable oils and cheaper to produce, that is why it is used in so many products. From foods to makeup and shampoos!

Malaysia and Indonesia produce half of the world’s palm oil, and that is where the most damage is being caused, with demands rising and rising. By creating vast areas of plantation, they have pushed out local indigenous people, quickly destroyed rich biodiversity and a home to many various species. 
In Indonesia, a third of the mammals are critically endangered because of this unsustainable way of growing oil palms.


Photo: forests4orangutans.com


Animals such as orang-utans and tigers are injured or killed during the deforestation or by poachers. The roads created for the plantations make access to animals a lot easier where they can be killed or taken for entertainment.


























This orangutan was shot with a sleeping dart so it can be relocated to a different part of the rainforest, as his home was destroyed  and is now a danger to him.
Photo: commercialpressureonland.org


All this is why I have decided to stop buying products that contain palm oil. Orang-utans die for a cookie. Literally. I do not want to contribute to the destruction of nature, homes, and beautiful species. It isn’t easy going to the supermarket I must admit. Almost everything contains it, and it gets me super frustrated! But I’m also super determined, even if grocery shopping takes me a little longer, I leave feeling happy with my choices.

I definitely recommend trying to reduce the amount of products owned containing palm oil, from kitchen to bathroom! In the end, the consumers always have a say on what is produced and sold. I think if more people stop buying palm oil, the demand will decrease, and the amount of new plantations needed will also have to decrease. 

I don't want workers at the plantation to loose their jobs, but it is also not right for more unnecessary plantations to be made by destroying forests and their rightful inhabitants. 

There is such a thing as sustainable palm oil, but how sustainable is it really? If we keep buying products containing it, are we not still contributing to its decrease in demand? I am conflicted on this matter, if anyone knows more about it please do leave a comment!





























Would you like more info? Check out these websites!








Friday, June 5, 2015

Walking and biking!




“Twenty bicycles can be parked in the same space as one car. It takes around five percent of the materials and energy used to make a car to build a bike, and a bike produces zero pollution.” – Bikeradar.com

I often hear that everyone should take up walking and biking more often, for benefits to our health and our mind.  But they don’t only help us keep in shape and put us in a good mood, they’re also very environmentally friendly. And I don’t mean the stationary bikes and treadmills, but out in the open!

I was very lucky to live in a country where there are bike lanes everywhere and literally everyone knows how to ride a bike. A country where bikes are a part of the person, where they aren't left at home when it rains, or when it snows!! There is a saying that Dutch children learn how to ride a bike before learning how to walk ;)

I like both biking and walking. They give me an opportunity to explore new places, to get some fresh air and to make a good choice for the environment. When I was at school, on my lazy and unmotivated days, I would go by bus. And if I missed it (which happened very often), the bike was my saviour!




Unfortunately not all cities and countries give the opportunity to ride a bike safely or are as flat and easy to bike on. But there is always a more eco-friendly option than the car: public transport such as buses, trams, metros and trains. One vehicle could take more than 20 people to their destinations, a lot more that a car would, so you would be consuming less Co2 per person! Plus, you get to enjoy the view and not stress from the driving.


I encourage you to try and walk or bike to places more often: no pollution, exercise and a good opportunity to discover your surroundings!  :)





Monday, April 20, 2015

Storing Leafy Greens

Some say not to wash greens if you’re not using them straight away as they will go off faster, some say to place them in a glass jar, and some say to wrap them in a tea towel. 
I wrap them in kitchen roll and put them in a plastic bag! I find this method works best for me and the greens will still be fresh and crisp at the end of the week! I used collard and tried it with kale, but I’m sure it would work with other greens too!

This method is:

Simple

Fast

Great for reducing food waste!






























Step 1: I Quickly rinse the leaves under some water. I buy mine at the farmers market, so they have little flecks of soil. Soil in my food, hmm yum!































Step 2: I then pat the leaves dry with a tea towel






























Steps 3 and 4: After placing them one on top of the other, I wrap the leaves in kitchen roll and put them in a plastic bag.




































































Step 5: I take out as much air as possible, tie a knot, and voila! Leafy greens that will last me a week
:)





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Monday, March 30, 2015

Tissues v.s Hankies




I never thought I would every say this. Ever.

But I use handkerchiefs. I’m that person who blows her nose with a hankie. When I was a child I used to look at my dad using them and think: why? Whyyy when there are tissues one can use?

Because:

Because tissues have negative impacts on the environment.

Because hankies are much more environmentally friendly. And just cool ;)

But what are they exactly? They are little squares of fabric and are thought to have originated in China, in c.1000 BC where they were used to protect the head from the sun. Their use changed through time but in modern times they are used to wipe or blow one’s nose.

And why are they a more environmentally friendly choice?

Firstly because (most) tissues are made of newly cut trees, not recycled paper so they are using virgin fibres.

Secondly, tissues are whitened by using chlorine and bleach which have harmful effects on the environment.

Thirdly, they come in little plastic (usually non-recyclable) packaging.

I won’t deny it, it felt strange when I first started using hankies. It took me some time to get used to the idea and get over the ‘ew’ factor.  But now that I am used to them I couldn’t think of carrying packets of tissues with me again. I’m filled will guilt whenever I have to use one, and throw it away.

Does using handkerchiefs waste more water, needed for washing them? Nope, the key is to buy a big batch. So you can switch to a clean one often and wash them all together at once with your regular clothes wash.

Truly, buy loads. And in different colours. (Lesson learnt over the sniffing-filled winter)

Other than helping the environment, I’m saving money too. Because once bought, they’ll stay with me forever! (Well, almost.) Buying hankies that can be reused multiple times will save me from having to re-buy tissues over and over, making it cheaper in the long run.







Unfortunately, recently when I was reading about the environmental impact of tissues, I came across something I hadn’t thought of. Cotton hankies are not the most environmentally friendly either. Unless they’re organic or made of hemp. This is because to make, they also use a lot of water and go through chlorine bleach.

And I thought, is this ever going to end? Am I ever going to be able to make fully environmentally friendly choices? I don’t know the answer to this yet, but I do know that choosing a better option than another is a start. Even though it is not 100% sustainable.  This blog is called ‘The Eco Journey’ and this is what I am going through, a journey to make better choices. Even if they are not the best. So one day, when I will be able to afford buying organic handkerchiefs, I will, but for now I am still choosing a better option. I’ve reduced my plastic packaging and I’ve reduced my waste.

And if you really don’t want to give hankies a try, then go for recycled tissues. There is only a number of times that paper can be recycled, so it would make sense for its last recycling to be into tissues. Still a better option over normal ones.


Here’s a lovely photo of me blowing my nose: ;)


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

8 ways to reduce food waste!

In my previous post I talked about food waste and the fact that it is a big issue happening everywhere. Most of the food waste happens even before it reaches our homes, even before reaching supermarkets and even before leaving the factories and farms. So how can we help reduce food waste?

We could join organizations that fight for food waste or place pressure on supermarkets and governments. Which would be great, but something that we can do NOW and will contribute just as much is reducing the food that we waste in our homes. The following are eight ways for which we can do so, of which seven I currently do myself, and are so so simple and really do not take up that much of my time! The last one is a bit harder depending on where you live, but there’s always a way!



Knowing your portion

Filling up your plate with more food than you can eat will most likely result in the extra food ending up in the bin. How do we fix this? By filling up the plate with what you know you can eat! If you’re still hungry afterwards you can always go for seconds or grab some fruit (healthy + filling!) The same applies to eating out, ordering a meal that you know you will be able to finish, and then if still peckish you can go for desserts or a side you can share with a friend.




Eating leftovers

Ideally it would be great to cook only the amount that you will eat! But a lot of the times this does not happen. So I suggest investing in some Tupperware or glass jars (you can reuse the empty jars from your olives, pasta sauce, pesto) so you can fill them up with leftover food and pop them in the fridge! Most foods you can eat for 2-3 days after cooking them if kept in the fridge. Let out your inner creative leftover chef- there are lots of things you can make with leftovers!























Storing food correctly

A lot of food waste happens because it is not stored in the right way and so goes off before you can eat it. Bananas for example are super wasted! When a banana is brown the inside is still perfectly eatable (unless it’s really really brown) so always check before you throw! Brown bananas are also the best to cook with, as they have more flavour. What I do with my bananas is I buy them unripe, and when ripe I place them in the fridge, as the cold stops the browning. I keep two on the counter (I eat one banana a day) and replace the one I eat with one from the fridge! This way they won’t be too cold when I eat them and will be ripe enough for the flavour that I like. You can always freeze them too and use them later for smoothies.

Another tip for storing food is placing carrots in a jar of water; I found it works for me! Cutting their greens, storing them separately and keeping the carrots in water will help them stay firm and crisp for longer. A second way I have not tried myself is to keep them in water in a covered container.

Cereals, crackers and pasta should be kept in air tight containers for them to last longer, or even a little clip to close the opening is enough. That is what I do and find that it works!

Freezing

A freezer is great for reducing food waste! Did you know you can freeze bread? You can also cook or blanch the vegetables that are going to go off and freeze them. You can freeze meat and bananas too. Did I mention leftovers can be frozen?  Pretty much freeze everything and eat it later!

Sharing is caring

If eating with friends and family and you know you won’t be able to finish it, offer it to someone else, there will always most likely be someone who says yes! Students can do the same at home, where most of us live with other students. If I know I will not be able to finish my bread loaf, or have cooked too much of a dish, I’ll leave a little note in the kitchen or ask them if they want some. There is a 99% chance someone will eat it! Students are not known for refusing free food! ;)

Knowing the labels

Food packaging mostly contain labels with dates: best before, use by and display until. I used to think that I could not eat food if it was after the use by date and the best before, but oh how was I wrong!

The ‘best before’ date indicates the quality of the food: so it is at its highest (taste, appearance and texture) up to and including the date. But it’s still absolutely perfectly edible after!

The ‘use by’ date refers to the safety of the food, you should try and eat it before the date. If you can’t, you can cook it and freeze it, or store it in the fridge for 2-3 days. Foods like vegetables and fruit will be fine to eat after the date, it’s the meat, fish, eggs and milk that needs to be eaten before. Or frozen! (Again with the freezer! ;) )

The ‘display until’ or ‘sell by’ are used by the supermarket staff in the rotation of the stock, so it is not related to the quality or safety of the food. Ignore it!




Meal planning

Planning a rough idea of meals you want to make will avoid buying too much food that will just go bad and that you’ll have to throw away. I like to buy my food over the weekend for a week worth of meals, then maybe during the week I will buy things like bread and yoghurt when I finish them. Shopping lists are great too: they help in buying only what you need. This not only allows me to eat everything that I buy, but it saves me money too!

Composting

Compost is a soil-like material created by decomposed organic material and used for providing nutrients to plants and their soils. At home one can use a separate bin for this organic material (vegetable and fruit peels, tea bags) but it can sometimes be difficult in a small apartment or in a big city. Some cities pick up the house’s food waste bins on set dates, but for the ones who don’t there might be a food scrap drop off point.
I recommend reading how Lauren from Trash is for Tossers composts in a big city, it’s actually quite simple, she freezes her food scraps!
Composting reduces the food waste going to landfill – where while breaking down it releases methane – a harmful greenhouse gas! So if possible, I say give composting a try!


I hope these tips on reducing food waste will be helpful to some, and encourage you to start thinking about the food that goes in your bin and how to prevent it! :)

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Food waste facts






Yes, this post is going to start by sounding very cliché, but there are people starving out there, are you really going to throw away that plate of pasta?

That plate of pasta that you could pop in the fridge and have tomorrow for lunch.

That plate of pasta that took 185 litres of water and deforested land to make. Let’s not forget the 280g of CO2 released for its production and transporting. Of course, no, you cannot feed that plate of pasta to a malnourished person. But I would definitely call that waste. Waste of our resources. Resources that could be used to feed many others and in a much more responsible way.

So every time you throw away perfectly edible food, you’re wasting lots of energy, time, fuel and water that went into its production, transportation and even cooking.

Yep, that amount of fossil fuels used in bringing that pasta to your house- POUF. Gone, absolutely useless. But no worries, fossil fuels are an unlimited resource right?
(WRONG. That was me trying to be sarcastic, just in case, anyone took that seriously ;) )

Unfortunately food isn't just wasted in homes, it’s wasted everywhere. And by everywhere I mean on the fields, in the farms, factories, supermarkets, shops, schools, everywhere.

Here are some pretty shocking facts for you:

Did you know that the aesthetic criteria of supermarkets cause 20-30% of the fruit and vegetables from the UK to be thrown away even before it leaves the farm? Either because they are too small, too funny looking or too ‘ugly.’  Ugly fruit, really? I retain myself from thinking people are that picky as to only choose ‘perfect’ looking food. If you find yourself thinking that you might be one of these people then I must let you in a little secret – ugly vegetables are just as yummy as pretty ones! J

Did you know that if you took one quarter of the wasted food in the UK, Europe and the USA you could feed all malnourished people in the world, and keep them nourished? Say whaat?

Or that one third of the food produced in the whole wide world is wasted every year? Approximately 1.3 billion tons. That’s a lot of food.

Or did you know that the water used for irrigating all wasted food can supply domestic needs of 9 billion people?? That’s more people than there are on the earth right now!!! And there are people who don’t even have domestic water supply!!!

Well, I didn't know. Before taking on my journey I knew some of the consequences of wasting food, but I didn't realise their extent. And now I know. And to whoever reads this, now you know too! And we can stop wasting food together. For the environment, for us.

I will also be creating a post with some tips on how to reduce food waste at home. Small acts that can do so much! J

If you want to know more about food waste, I definitely recommend watching these two videos:

1.  FAO food waste footprint: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IoCVrkcaH6Q (only 3 minutes long!)

2.  Tristan Stuart (founder of Feedback) Ted talk: http://www.ted.com/talks/tristram_stuart_the_global_food_waste_scandal





Saturday, February 14, 2015

Why go Eco-friendly?



Happy, healthy, fun.

These are three words I’ve come to associate with an environmentally friendly lifestyle since I’ve decided to take my journey, about three months ago. But firstly, what does being eco-friendly really mean?

A lot of the times it is put side by side with ‘sustainable’ and ‘green’. I personally think that the principle of all three is to live a life by taking actions that don’t damage the environment, or at least do less damage than other options. They mean living in harmony with the world, its environment but also its people. We live on a beautiful planet, with such a diverse nature: gorgeous forests, lakes, mountains, all in every shade of blue, green, brown, red, yellow, pretty much all the colours! And don’t get me started on the animals, so many unique, cute, bizarre, sometimes scary, wonderful creatures! Why are we trying to destroy it?

Have you ever found yourself just staring out into the ocean, or from the top of a cliff, or into a dense forest of trees and just stood there, out of breath, thinking wow, how is this even possible? I know I have! Quite a few times.

Unfortunately a lot of the times I’ve also found myself contributing by buying products and doing things which I didn’t think or know how harmful they were to the planet and to the people as well. When I decided to go more eco-friendly I started researching and was overwhelmed by the amount of things I owned in my room, kitchen, bathroom and wardrobe, that played part in destroying forests, harming animals and polluting oceans.

Since I’ve starting taking more care in what I buy and do (like buying local produce, walking everywhere, reducing plastic,) I’ve definitely noticed some positive changes that have affected me. I can say that these are three results of going eco-friendly:





















Increases happiness

I genuinely leave the farmer’s market with a super mega smile on my face. Knowing that I supported a local farmer and seeing all that fresh produce, just lying there, all naturally pretty saying ‘look at me! No plastic wrapping!’ just puts me in a good mood.

After I bought my very first canvas bag I might have jumped around like a little excited puppy?

I have also started buying more fair trade products, and knowing that I'm trying to not contribute to someone’s 1$ a day wage, is sort of making me more proud of my choices.



























It’s healthier

This comes without saying, ditching the car and bus and taking up biking and walking is definitely going to give you those leg muscles!

You also get to observe and admire the city or town you live in and notice things you hadn't before. While walking I love looking up at the buildings (while making sure I don’t bump into anything!) There are so many beautiful details that I would not have noticed if I was on a bus or in a car.

I currently do not buy organic produce, but that would be ideal! Organic vegetables are grown without the pesticides and fertilizers that can be harmful to us and to animals, so going organic would also be giving a healthy treat to our bodies.

It’s fun!

Buying food from the maker is a lot more fun than buying anonymous products at the supermarket. You can smile and get a smile back, have a chat, compliment that baker because his pain au chocolat is a.m.a.z.i.n.g. Even work on your French skills when you do so! Merci beaucoup, ils sont tellement bons! Or improve on your Italian when thanking the market ladies for that delicious focaccia. You may even receive a compliment from the farmer’s boy for re-using those little brown paper bags (yes this actually happened!)

It’s also fun to go on quests: for that palm oil-free peanut butter, for those zucchinis without plastic wrapping, for those dried apricots in a recyclable bag (still searching for those!) It gets you out and about, where you discover shops and places in your town that you didn't even know were there. Whole Foods in Canterbury? Whaaat?

So here they are, three positive outcomes that I have noticed of my eco, sustainable journey so far. But I would say the best one would be the overall feeling of doing something good and something that I feel is right. :)