Tag Archives: Consumerism

Change the World Wednesday – 6 Ingredient Challenge

20 Feb

It’s that time of week again – a chance to see what Reduce Footprints has suggested as this week’s #CTWW. There’s a definite food theme at the moment, after last week’s Use it Up challenge to reduce food waste, as this week it’s about the 6 Ingredient Challenge that Hobo Mama is hosting.

This is a great idea – a simple but effective way to change our habits and help the planet by only buying food with 6 ingredients or less. The aim is to have more whole foods by cutting down on processed food. This is both good for our health (as it helps avoid hidden salt & sugar) as well as the environment (as less processing means less carbon dioxide produced). It’s also a great way to become a more savvy consumer, as we should all get to grips with reading food labels.

While I had never thought of it in this way, I’ve realised that I already try to do this. For instance, we mostly buy dry beans & pulses as using our magic pressure cooker to gives us that lovely “straight out of a can” taste (honestly, no amount of soaking & boiling ever got our black beans tasting “right” until we discovered the pressure cooker!). Or yogurts, we avoid “diet” yogurts, with their artificial sweeteners, by using organic skimmed yogurt and adding a little stevia or honey if we need it sweetened. I also avoid children’s yogurts and the like, as they’re loaded with sugar and additives (I’m lucky that my kids actually love plain yogurt as they don’t know any different!). We make our own salad dressing using oil and vinegar.

But after checking my kitchen I’ve discovered some foods that I hadn’t really thought about – cereals and bread.

At breakfast we generally all have porridge, but my son also loves Trader Joe’s Os. In fact, he has a bowl of porridge & a bowl of Os and eats them both (yes, we’re in the midst of the fussy food stage so he insists on the two bowls!). I’ve just checked the ingredients of the Os and there’s definitely more than 6 on there. The rest of our breakfast selection seems quite virtuous (rolled oats, wheatgerm, flaxseed, fruit) and our son doesn’t get any added sugar or honey. But it’s a reminder that these Os are processed, despite the cute box with the tasty looking strawberry garnishing a bowl of them and “wholegrain oats” in large font. Realistically, I’m going to leave him to his Os as, honestly, I just like that he eats breakfast without a fuss (which can’t be said at every meal time!). But I will make sure that his nearly 1 year old sister doesn’t get her hands on them. It’s tempting to just give her a handful to scoff while I prepare breakfast but I’ll try and give her fruit instead.

But bread is something I can work on. I just checked and yup, our organic spelt bread contains lots of ingredients including sugar (I find America to be full of very sweet bread – it was kind of a shock when we moved!). I’m lucky that my husband makes great bread. But it’s something I’d love to try. So I’ll try to do my bit for #CTWW by making my own bread this week. Hopefully by declaring my intention on here I’ll have to do it!

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Change the World Wednesday – use it up!

13 Feb

In January, myself and LowImpactPapa had a serious look at our food shopping habits. We had had an expensive few months with the move from London and Christmas and were looking at ways to tighten our belt financially. Grocery bills were an obvious area to examine (along with abstaining from eating out for the whole of January and turning our thermostat down a couple of degrees!). We were on a mission to reduce our grocery bill, reduce our waste and eat healthily. So we started meal planning and trying to find some new, simple recipes to approach our usual ingredients in new ways.

And it worked! We’ve significantly cut our grocery bills, we’ve cut our food waste by being more mindful in our eating, we’ve each lost about 9 lbs and we’ve got some new recipes that we are enjoying. Plus the kids are enjoying the new takes on familiar ingredients!

But food waste is a huge issue for the world. The NRDC released a report last year about this  called “Wasted: How America is Losing up to 40% of its food from Farm to Fork”. (see here for more information including a pdf of the report). Here’s a quote from the summary:

Getting food from the farm to our fork eats up 10 percent of the total U.S. energy budget, uses 50 percent of U.S. land, and swallows 80 percent of all freshwater consumed in the United States. Yet, 40 percent of food in the United States today goes uneaten. This not only means that Americans are throwing out the equivalent of $165 billion each year, but also that the uneaten food ends up rotting in landfills as the single largest component of U.S. municipal solid waste where it accounts for a large portion of U.S. methane emissions. Reducing food losses by just 15 percent would be enough food to feed more than 25 million Americans every year at a time when one in six Americans lack a secure supply of food to their tables. Increasing the efficiency of our food system is a triple- bottom-line solution that requires collaborative efforts by businesses, governments and consumers. The U.S. government should conduct a comprehensive study of losses in our food system and set national goals for waste reduction; businesses should seize opportunities to streamline their own operations, reduce food losses and save money; and consumers can waste less food by shopping wisely, knowing when food goes bad, buying produce that is perfectly edible even if it’s less cosmetically attractive, cooking only the amount of food they need, and eating their leftovers[emphasis in bold added my me]

So this week’s Change the World Wednesday (#CTWW) over at Reduce Footprints really chimes with the current food philosophy here at Chez Lowimpactparenting. This week’s challenge comes via Mrs Green’s Half Term Challenge over at My Zero Waste. It’s about taking stock of what’s in our fridge, planning some meals around it and enjoying them, knowing that we’re saving money and protecting resources. It’s sounds like what we’re trying to do anyway, so how could I not join in :). But seriously, we were away visiting the in-laws at the weekend, so we’ve been a bit more lax this week than usual as we didn’t have the time to meal plan as thoroughly as usual so this challenge is helping me to refocus on this.

I hadn’t realised quite how many different leftovers we had lurking until doing this. We have some leftover pizza sauce, some leftover rice, some leftover egg whites (from Pancake Tuesday last night!) as well as some homemade black beans. So for lunch today I think I’ll do some bean quesadillas with rice & beans on the side.

Vegetables-wise, we have some courgettes & leeks that I bought last week so should really use up. So I think it’ll be homemade courgette & leek pesto for dinner tonight (which conveniently gets some veg into my nearly 3 year old who’s going through a fussy food stage…though he’ll eat pesto til the cows come home!).

In the fruit bowl, we have some bananas that are on the turn, quite a few grapefruits and some pears, including one that’s half cut already. Luckily, neither of my kids turn their noses up at brown bananas though sometimes we’ll mash them up and serve them on toast if they’re just too mushy to eat from the skin. So afternoon snack will  be bananas and pear and a grapefruit (my 10 month old loves her citrus fruit so I’ll share it with her as the boy only likes grapefruit in juice form!).

Though I’m hoping to get some messy play aka baking in this afternoon too (since Valentine’s Day tomorrow is the perfect excuse for some heart-shaped baked goods!) so afternoon snack may well end up being derailed by that…

Let’s celebrate unspending

17 Nov

All of my American friends and family have been talking up Black Friday – the day after Thanksgiving when shops open crazy early offering mad discounts and people lose their heads in the rush to spend, spend spend. Quite frankly, it sounds pretty hellish.

So this year I’ll be happily celebrating conscious unspending instead. Who needs Black Friday when you can have Buy Nothing Day 2012 instead? Just think of all the lovely unshopping you can do, all the brilliant free things in your life which are so much more fun than frantically shopping just because our economy depends on it…Hug someone you love. Read a book (even better if it’s from a library!). Take a walk and look at the sky. Cloud spotting is good for the soul. Or examine a tree. Especially good if the leaves are off and you can actually see the shape of the branches. Mmmm, I’m looking forward to Friday already!

Easy eco resolutions

4 Jan

The new year is a time of making (and breaking!) resolutions. I think that resolutions can be great – taking the time to review your habits or lifestyle and deciding what you’d like to do differently is interesting and productive. But I don’t like how resolutions can set you up for failure. There’s nothing worse that making a long list of resolutions about the “new you” only to then feel terrible when you wake up in February having not changed anything!

Resolutions should be realistic and achievable. Setting realistic goals then gives you the great satisfaction of achieving them. And small steps can take you on a long journey, if you’re prepared to take it slow.
So here are some my top five easy eco resolutions that will help you have a greener 2012:
1. Bin bottled mineral water. Give up buying bottled mineral water. It’s tremendously expensive compared to tap water and eats up oil to package, store and transport. Not to mention that the bottles are usually sent to landfill so hang around the planet far too long. So buy a reusable BPA-free water bottle (we’ve got some lovely ones from One Green Bottle) and go tap. Chill it overnight in the fridge and bring it to work. Flavour it with slices of lemon or lime. And enjoy all the money you’re saving while you avoid the environmental pollution associated with the bottled water industry.
2. Go cold turkey on plastic bags.  This is perhaps a controversial one, as it takes a lot more energy to make a resusable bags (see Wikipedia for more info) so you need to use your bags as much as possible. But I just hate single use plastic bags. I hate the mindset it encourages – use something once and then chuck it. I hate seeing plastic bags blowing in the street or hanging off trees. And I just love my resuable bags. I use envirosax and I’m a huge fan of them. They’re lightweight but super sturdy – I have two that I’ve used for 4 and half years and they’re still going strong – and very easy to stash in handbags/car/work desk drawer/bike bag so you’re never without a resuable bag. If you do end up with plastic bags, try to reuse them when you’re shopping and recycle them via your supermarket.
3. Consume less. Buying less stuff is a great way to help save the planet. Becoming more conscious in what and how you consume will help you to minimise your waste. In our house we’ve resolved to have (at least) two “buy-nothing days” a week. This should be super easy, with just a little bit of planning in terms of bringing lunch to work and having a dinner meal planned, and will hopefully help us (by saving money) while we help the planet.
4. Avoid meat at least one day a week. Food production is a huge component of global green house gas emissions, with livestock being responsible for most of that (see Meat Free Mondays for more info). So the more meat you eat the bigger your carbon footprint will be. Avoiding meat helps to cut your carbon footprint, with added benefits for your health and your wallet.
5.  Turn down the thermostat. Turning down the thermostat on your heating is a really great way to save both money and energy (see the Energy Saving Trust for more info). If it’s not appealing then consider turning it down gradually, so you can adjust to the heat. So reach for a jumper or cardy if you feel a little chilly. Keep throws and blankets handy for when you’re sitting on the couch. And rediscover the joys of warm flannel pjs.
Small changes can add up to big benefits, so I hope this provides some inspiration on how to make 2012 a greener year. And if you have any eco resolutions or tips I’d love to hear them.

On the First Day of Christmas…

2 Dec
I know, I know…it’s crazy early to be writing about Christmas. But it is Advent, and we’re now into December…and my childminder put her tree up today so my toddler thinks it’s getting festive…and..well…I just love Christmas! I love getting together with family and friends, celebrating and feasting together, and generally brightening up the gloom of mid-winter. What’s not to love?
Well, quite a lot really. I don’t love all the consumerism and stress associated with it. I don’t love all the angst and waste and general greediness as people try to celebrate the “perfect” Christmas (whatever that is!). And I definitely don’t love the idea of my son growing up with the idea that Christmas is all about consuming and spending and taking. So I thought I’d do a series of posts over the next few weeks on how to have a low-impact Christmas (ahem, set to the tune of The 12 Days of Christmas). With a tiny bit of thought and effort, it’s easy to green your Christmas (and green is a festive colour after all!).
So, on the first day of Christmas my true love sent to me..a partridge in a pear tree. Actually no, it was a turkey in a pear tree instead.
Turkeys are synonymous with Christmas. Ever since Mr Scrooge treated Bob Cratchit to one, we’ve been enjoying turkey on Christmas day. 10 million turkeys are eaten every Christmas and the vast majority are reared in pretty dire battery conditions. So the first thing you can do to green your Christmas is to try to only buy a turkey reared in humane, free-range conditions. Turkeys are sociable birds and need space to flock together properly.
Ideally, the turkey should be from a local supplier (to keep food miles down) and be organic too. You can buy turkeys from local farmers through your butcher or even from the farm directly. Free-range and organic turkeys are also available in most supermarkets. Though, realistically, when you’re feeding the hordes, cost can be an issue. So just buy whatever best suits your budget and your conscience.
Of course you don’t have to have turkey. You could serve goose, which was traditionally served long before turkey became ubiquitous (“Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat”). Or something like venison. Where I’m from, the ham and spiced beef are as important as the turkey so we have had turkey-free dinners in the past.
You could even do the greenest thing and have a meat-free Christmas (any vegetarians or vegans reading will be thinking, er, that’s not so radical…). In our household we try to keep the amount of meat we eat low, and organic/free-range/local where possible. So at Christmas I don’t feel so bad about sitting down to a Christmas dinner of turkey, ham and spiced beef.
Little known turkey fact: Did you know that male turkeys are called stags? They’re called toms in the US but stags in Europe. Turkey chicks are called poults. I  know this seems like useless info but you never know, it could pop up as a pub quiz question some day!

Buy Nothing Day: Give your wallet a rest!

17 Nov
https://i0.wp.com/www.adbusters.org/files/downloads/jpgs/bnd2010-black.jpg

Source: Adbusters

Buy Nothing Day is on 27 November and it’s as simple as it sounds – the aim is to not spend any money for 24 hours. It’s a great way to remember that weekends shouldn’t just be all about shopping, especially with Christmas looming and TV groaning with adverts to try and get us to spend, spend, spend.

Buy Nothing Day highlights the environmental and ethical consequences of consumerism. Particularly the fact that those of us in the developed countries – only 20% of the world’s population – are consuming over 80% of our planet’s resources. Anything that tries to get that message out is A Good Thing in my book.

I try to regularly have buy nothing days, though this isn’t so much a choice as the simple fact that I don’t have much time for shopping on my daily home/work/childminder/home loop! But Buy Nothing Day is a day to celebrate conscious unspending. And unspending is fun if you get creative about it.

We’ll be celebrating Thanksgiving, London-style, this Buy Nothing Day (my husband’s American). So we’ll have to be sure that we don’t run out of anything last minute or we’ll be doing without!