Sasieology

Aim to achieve your dreams

Plant-Based Pause No 38: Supermarkets Aren’t Always the Bad Guy

Posted by Sas on September 23, 2014

In November 2011, I made the decision to progress towards a plant-based diet and lifestyle. Since then, I have learnt so much about where our food comes from, and what it does to our bodies and the environment. Along the way, I have encountered many obstacles and challenges. I have also been asked lots of questions, most of them valid and a few off them more than a little odd. One of the aims of my blog is to chronicle my experiences as a plant-based traveller. So, hopefully these Plant-Based Pauses will provide a little more explanation and maybe answer some questions that my readers may still have.

‘Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what you want them to achieve, and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.’ – George Smith Patton Jr.

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As I’ve said in earlier posts, I try to do as much of my shopping as possible from local farmers markets and health food shops. Ideally, I’d like to be able to do all my shopping like this. Unfortunately, my life does not allow it. The farmers markets are only on three mornings a week, in different parts of the city, and I can’t always get there. The health food shops don’t open in the evenings, and because of the ridiculous number of hours I work every week I can’t always get there in time. I also can’t always find what I need there. That’s when I use the local supermarkets.

When you’re trying to live ethically, I think it’s easy to see modern supermarket chains as the enemy. Certainly here in the UK, it’s true that they are responsible for encouraging modern, mass farming techniques. For many years their buying power drove out small-scale farmers and producers, and their demands for perfect produce has led to ridiculous levels of waste and prices so low that they are not sustainable. However, the tide is slowly changing. Supermarkets are waking up to the fact that their customers are becoming more conscious of their ethics. The ‘Big 5’ – Tesco, Asda, Sainsburys, Morrisons and The Co-operative – all provide organic choices in their produce departments, sell plant-based alternatives such as soya milk and are keen to label their British products with very visible Union Jack stickers. It’s now also common for supermarket brands to team up with environmental causes in an effort to do their bit and improve their public image. Tesco launched Together for Trees, a partnership with RSPB to stop the destruction of the rainforests. Customers can collect and donate green Clubcard points, and you can earn more points by re-using shopping bags and recycling ink cartridges and mobile phones.

The Co-operative is one of Britain’s biggest farmers. Their first farm, to grow their own potatoes, began in 1896. Today, as well as the potatoes, they mill wheat for their own-brand flour, oats for their own-brand oats and grow strawberries and apples. More than half of the rapeseed oil they grow on their farms is used to heat their head office. I used to work for the Co-operative, and I was pleasantly surprised at how serious they are about their ethics. They were the first business to use biodegradable bags, they designed the first ever biodegradable credit card, you can trace every coffee been they sell back to source and they even ensure they stun all the fish on their fish farms before killing them so it is more humane.

British supermarkets are making the effort to keep up with the ethical changes in shopping trends. That being said, bear in mind that most supermarkets/grocery stores are companies. Although their actions are positive, apart from businesses like The Co-operative (a co-operative, not a a company), they are doing it to increase their profits.

For me personally, there is a place on the high street for both supermarket chains and smaller, independent stores and markets.

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Plant-Based Pause No 37: Buy As Local As Possible

Posted by Sas on September 16, 2014

In November 2011, I made the decision to progress towards a plant-based diet and lifestyle. Since then, I have learnt so much about where our food comes from, and what it does to our bodies and the environment. Along the way, I have encountered many obstacles and challenges. I have also been asked lots of questions, most of them valid and a few off them more than a little odd. One of the aims of my blog is to chronicle my experiences as a plant-based traveller. So, hopefully these Plant-Based Pauses will provide a little more explanation and maybe answer some questions that my readers may still have.

‘Let everyone sweep in front of his own door, and the whole world will be clean.’ – Johann Wolfgang van Goethe

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‘Locavore’ is a word that is beginning to be heard more and more. A locavore is someone who eats local, seasonal food. If you’re making the transition to living plant-based, you will naturally find your inner locavore. 99% of the fresh produce I buy at home is British. I’d love to tell you that 100% of my shopping comes from local sources, but I have to make a compromise between my ethics and making sure I get all the nutrients I need. I’m very lucky in the neighbourhood where I live in Cardiff, Wales. We have local farmers markets every week where we can buy fresh vegetables, bread and the occasional treat such as vegan cakes and falafel. I also get a lot of my food fresh from the community garden where I volunteer, and trade produce with friends who have their own allotments.

When I tell people that I try to eat only British produce, as close to the source as possible, they look at me like I’m crazy. They tell me my meals must be boring, and it must be hard to live like that. Actually, the opposite is true. Before living plant-based, I tended to stick to the same few meals on rotation because it was convenient. Now, I simply buy whatever is seasonal at that time of year and find a recipe that suits what I’ve bought. Shopping is much easier because I just look for the British labels or choose from the huge selection at the farmers market, and my diet is now much more varied because I’m trying ingredients that I would not have done otherwise.

Buying local also helps us to revert back to small scale, organic farming. This is massively important for the future of the planet, and also makes our food sources much more sustainable. Eating organic has received a lot of mixed press over the years, but when you learn the facts about chemical farming it really is a no-brainer to choose organic. At the moment it may be slightly more expensive on your weekly shop, but in the long term the price we are paying is far, far worse. Modern, chemical, mass farming has been described as the biggest case of genocide this planet has ever seen. We are literally making ourselves extinct.

Even if you choose to eat meat, buying it from small-scale organic farms is the much friendlier way to do it. ‘Silent Spring’, by Rachel Carson, was published in 1962. The real-life accounts of the effects of chemical farming read like a horror story. From children dying on farms within hours of touching farm equipment to whole species of insects and animals disappearing. The full affects of chemicals can only be seen after a few generations. In the case of some small insects, this is a relatively short period of time. However, for us as humans, we will not see the true consequences of our actions for many years yet.

It is not just the direct affect of chemicals to us that we have to worry about. Neoricotinoid chemicals in pesticides are believed to harm bees. Without the bees to pollinate crops, we cannot grow anything.

 

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Travel theme: Noise

Posted by Sas on September 15, 2014

My goddaughter trying to drown out the noise of a fire engine

I thought I would flip this week’s travel theme on it’s head. Instead of posting pictures of things that make noise, I’m using a shot that shows the effect of noise. This photo of my goddaughter was taken a few years ago when she was still a baby. We were at a charity fun day, and the local police and fire brigades had kindly come along to show the children their vehicles. All the other kids loved turning the fire engine siren on full blast, but my goddaughter didn’t look too impressed. Things have changed since then – nowadays it’s usually her making the most noise!

 

Click here to see other entries from this week’s travel theme.

 

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Humanity

Posted by Sas on September 13, 2014

This week’s Photo Challenge is chosen by Nicole from thirdeyemom (click here to see more entries). Nicole’s blog is one of my favourites that I love to catch up with every day. She travels the world, helping good causes and educating us about social issues. Her photos are beautiful, and she has an amazing talent for capturing the extraordinary in images of regular people going about their day.

Unlike Nicole, I very rarely take photos of people. I’m not sure what it says about me, but unless they are the subject of the photo I try to keep humans out wherever possible. I guess I just prefer to photograph our imprint upon the Earth rather than our actual species. One group of people I do choose to keep photos of, however, is the people I travel with. I have been incredibly lucky in my life to have lived, worked and travelled in many countries around the world. On most of those journeys I have set out alone, but I always meet interesting people along the way. I have met and worked with people from various countries, cultures and walks of life. They have all taught me about the differences as well as the similarities between us, and I believe they have allowed me to return to the UK more educated and open-minded. I hope these experiences have encouraged me to show more humanity.

My first ever big trip overseas on my own was when I went to work in Brant Lake, NY for the summer. I was young, naive and I didn’t have a clue where I was going or what I was doing. I travelled around North East America and through Canada for a month with Kate, a seasoned traveller from New Zealand who had grown up in the UK. I will forever be indebted to Kate for everything she taught me about surviving on the road when you’re on a budget…

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Gabriella, a Hungarian, helped me to understand what it’s like to grow up under communism. She taught me to live life for the moment and never take my freedom for granted. She also introduced me to some fun activities in Seefeld, like feeding the local wildlife…

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In 2010 I took the trip of a lifetime from Los Angeles to San Francisco via Joshua Tree, the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas and Yosemite. 13 women from all over the UK, France, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, The Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand plus our guide Casey (the only male!). We started the week as complete strangers, but by the end of the trip we had shared an experience and made a connection that some lifelong friendships don’t have…

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I certainly met some interesting characters when I lived in Greece…

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I can’t talk about travelling companions without mentioning Malcolm the Monkey. He’s been everywhere with me since I was 12 years old and, although he’s not really able to teach me anything, he’s certainly a talking point and leads me to meet lots of new people…

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Plant-Based Pause No 36: Shop Ethically

Posted by Sas on September 9, 2014

In November 2011, I made the decision to progress towards a plant-based diet and lifestyle. Since then, I have learnt so much about where our food comes from, and what it does to our bodies and the environment. Along the way, I have encountered many obstacles and challenges. I have also been asked lots of questions, most of them valid and a few off them more than a little odd. One of the aims of my blog is to chronicle my experiences as a plant-based traveller. So, hopefully these Plant-Based Pauses will provide a little more explanation and maybe answer some questions that my readers may still have.

‘Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.’ – Voltaire

Once you become plant-based, you naturally start to question other areas of your life. It’s no longer just about the food you choose to put in your mouth. Before I became plant-based, I rarely questioned where the goods I consumed came from. Food just arrived in my kitchen and on my plate, and clothes and other goods were in the shops ready for me to buy. I blindly trusted the people that put them there.

As consumers, we hold a massive power over producers and sales outlets. When I was a kid, the issue of clothes retailers using sweatshops to produce their goods was highlighted in the British press and the nation reacted angrily. Many people vowed to boycott shops that were revealed to use sweatshops. Nowadays, clothes shops have to be open about their ethical policies and practices to be successful on the high street. They may not yet be perfect, but things have certainly improved. That’s the result of consumer action.

Living ethical does not necessarily mean making your own gifts from recycled waste or pickling your own vegetables, although these are both respectable ventures if you choose them. There are plenty of honest, environmentally friendly businesses out there who provide plenty of options. Here are a few of my personal favourites:

Ethical Superstore – This is my one stop shop for all things ethical. They can deliver almost everything you need to live ethically, right to your front door. I regularly stock up on toiletries, biodegradable baby wipes and kitchenware. And at Christmas, Ethical Superstore is one of my first stops for great gifts. The site is also great value for money, with lots of offers and promotions to help you make more ethical choices.

Vegetarian Shoes – In an ideal world I would own every pair of women’s shoes from Vegetarian Shoes. I regularly order shoes, belts, accessories and even biodegradable pens from their website. They also have a fab shop in Brighton, which I use as an excuse to visit one of my favourite towns whenever I can.

Playmobil – If you’re looking for suitable children’s gifts, Playmobil is a great choice. It’s made in Europe, and they have a great ethical policy which you can read on their website.

Hipo Hyfryd – If anyone ever tells you that vegan chocolate is boring, send them in the direction of Hipo Hyfryd. I use the excuse that I’m shopping for gifts when I buy chocolates from this local Welsh company, but I’m actually just treating myself.

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Travel theme: Merchandise

Posted by Sas on September 7, 2014

Ailsa’s travel theme this week is Merchandise (click here to see other entries). This one’s got me thinking. I don’t usually take photos of this subject. It’s not that I don’t want to, but I’m generally not allowed to. Retailers think I’m a shoplifter at the best of times (I’m not, but apparently it’s something about the way I look), so if I start taking photos they panic and think that I’m planning a break-in. However, I’ve had a dig through my photos to see what I can come up with.

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Adventure!

Posted by Sas on September 6, 2014

This has to be the ultimate photo challenge. Adventure is what we’re all about. Whatever the focus of your blog, you’re blogging about your adventures in life. I’m lucky to have had many adventures, and I’ve got a whole lot more planned to share with you all. As I always say – ‘Aim to achieve your dreams’.

Click here to share other adventures.

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Plant-Based Pause No 35: Why Living Plant-Based is Better for the Planet

Posted by Sas on September 2, 2014

In November 2011, I made the decision to progress towards a plant-based diet and lifestyle. Since then, I have learnt so much about where our food comes from, and what it does to our bodies and the environment. Along the way, I have encountered many obstacles and challenges. I have also been asked lots of questions, most of them valid and a few off them more than a little odd. One of the aims of my blog is to chronicle my experiences as a plant-based traveller. So, hopefully these Plant-Based Pauses will provide a little more explanation and maybe answer some questions that my readers may still have.

‘Pollution is a symbol of design failure.’ – William McDonough

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So far in these plant-based pauses I’ve talked a lot about how eating plant-based is better for your personal health, but did you also know that ditching the animal products is also much better for the planet? This week, I thought I’d share with you some of the things I’ve learnt during my research into plant-based living. Rather than me rant on too much, though, I think I’ll just let the facts speak for themselves.

By eating plant-based, you reduce your carbon footprint by a third. Livestock production is responsible for 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions (more than the entire transport sector put together). Animal protein requires 11 times more fossil energy to produce than plant protein. Cows’ milk is 5 times more carbon intensive to produce than an equivalent soya drink.

A hectare of vegetable based foods produces five times as much food as the same area devoted to animal protein production. And, if we all went plant-based we wouldn’t even need as much land for the vegetables. 45% of worldwide grain production and approximately 66% of soya is fed to livestock in the form of animal feed. It takes an average 16 pounds of grain to produce just one pound of beef.

Animals require 10 times more water than plants to produce the same amount of protein. It takes no less than 4000 litres of water to produce a single steak. Factory farming wastes so much water that you can save as much water by not eating a pound of beef as you can by not showering for almost six months.

Animals raised for food in the US produce more manure than people. This manure is not treated and is stored in lagoons or sprayed onto crops. As it decomposes, urine and manure from farm animals releases hazardous gases into the atmosphere. Manure from factory farming operations contains pollutants such as antibiotics, pathogens, heavy metals, nitrogen and phosphorous which enter into the environment and threaten water quality.

Years the world’s known oil reserves would last if every human ate a meat-centred diet: 13
Years they would last if human beings no longer ate meat: 260

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Travel theme: Edge

Posted by Sas on August 31, 2014

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A quick Welsh lesson for those who don’t already speak the language this week. If you learn just one word in Welsh, make it ‘Peryglus’. And, if you ever read it on a sign – STAY AWAY!

Click here to see other entries from this week’s travel theme.

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The Taff Trail

Posted by Sas on August 27, 2014

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We are extremely lucky here in Cardiff. We live in a beautiful capital city with all the amenities and facilities that you would expect to find in such a place, but we also have some amazing green spaces to explore and relax in. Standing in front of the Millennium Stadium and looking up the River Taff, you’d be forgiven for thinking Bute Park is completely surrounded by the city. However, it hides a secret that is there to be found by those willing to venture a bit further.

The Taff Trail, as the name suggests, follows the River Taff from Cardiff all the way up to Brecon, a whopping 55 miles. I’d love to be able to tell you that I’ve walked, or even cycled, the whole route. Alas, for now, the first stage from Bute Park to Llandaff North will have to do.

Most of the trail allows you to forget that you’re anywhere near an urban centre, although the occasional tall building and the spire of Llandaf Cathedral peeping above the treetops don’t let you completely forget. Your surroundings change with every twist and turn of the path as you walk past tree carvings, under roads through beautiful gardens. On the day of my walk we were enjoying some hot, sunny weather and lots of the local kids were cooling off in the weir, daring each other to jump of the bridge.

My Dad and I are already planning to catch a train to Llandaf and tackle the next section of the trail, and I’m hoping to cycle to Castell Coch (8 miles from Cardiff) next time we have some good weather.

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