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Emma’s attempts to reduce food packaging waste

One day last year, Tamara asked if I (Emma, obvs) wanted to come on an eco-expedition with her to [I’ve completely forgotten what we did, but it was definitely something green] and on the way we had a discussion about zero waste and how we could reduce the packaging on food.

I’m a keen recycler, but I still end up with an awful lot of food packaging in my bin every week and I really wanted to cut that down. (Although, I should note for clarity that my house still only produces roughly one bin liner full of rubbish per month.) I made it my goal in 2019 to cut the amount of food packaging that I’m sending to rubbish and here’s how I’ve been doing it so far.

Buying loose fruit

Red apple

We all know that we should eat more fruit and veg, but I’ve not been great at it in the past and I’m still not great at it now. I’ve been trying to eat more fruit and less chocolate for about six months now, but the problem is that most fruit comes wrapped in unrecyclable plastic.

Now, I know that the underlying principle is that the packaging keeps food fresher for longer and reduces food waste. However, I still wanted to cut the amount of packaging coming into my house. So, I’ve been buying fruit loose during my online shop, even though it annoyingly works out as more expensive.

 Obviously, there are some fruits that aren’t available loose at the supermarket (i.e. berries), so I’ve had to cut them out of my diet. (They’re probably available loose at farmer’s markets, but I don’t have the time to get there.)

Overall, I’m happy with my choice and I will stick with it, but I have had some slip-ups, like where I just really wanted some strawberries.

Baking bread

Loaf of bread

Carbs are pretty much my staple food and I freaking adore bread, so, over the past few weeks, I’ve been attempting to bake my own bread. Now, I’m no chef and the GBBO is certainly never going to accept me as a contestant, but the results have been fairly promising. Although, I have caved in to buy baguettes at the supermarket still.

Side note:  I used my mum’s breadmaker, but I know that can be a huge expense for some people so I recommended doing your research (and perhaps even borrowing a friend’s) before purchasing.

Getting a reusable water bottle

Reusable water bottle

Ever since Tamara wrote her green backpack post, I’ve been keen to replicate my own. I’ve mostly acquired all of the necessary items now, but the true turning point came with my very own water bottle.

It’s not like I never had one before, but they’ve always leaked or they weren’t dishwasher proof and it drove me crazy. Now, I have two dishwasher safe ones that I use on a daily basis and I genuinely don’t think I’ve bought bottled water since.

Okay, well that’s all from me at the moment, but I hope to check in later in the year with an update on how I’ve reduced the amount of food packaging that I bring in, whether recyclable or not. Now, I’d like to hear any tips you have about reducing your food packaging.

22 Meat Free Recipes to get you through 2019

Season’s greetings everyone, it’s Emma here again after a mahoosive break!

Alas, the festive season is nearly over and soon I’ll have to take down my beloved Christmas tree, stop playing “Home for the Holidays” and “Feels like Christmas” on loop, and actually head back to work. In a couple of days, I’ll make a resolution about spending less time on Twitter or not checking my work email after 5 pm or something else that I won’t stick to. But there is one resolution that I have stuck to since I made it in 2010, which for the purposes of this blog, we’ll say was made on December 31st. My vegetarianism. And I know that, especially with Veganuary coming up, many people choose this time of year to vow that they will cut down (or out) their meat consumption. That’s why I’ve created a list of 22 veggie recipes to get you through 2019.

Veggie Recipes to make you drool

1. Quorn Lime and Coconut Vegan Curry: If you need a bit of a palate cleanser, this surprisingly light curry is for you.
2. Seitan Pot Roast: Don’t let the vegan label fool you, this is a hearty meal, using seitan, potatoes, carrots, onions, and garlic to fill you up.
3. Vegan Pulled Pork Sandwiches: I’ve never had pulled pork, but the vegan version is delicious. You can make your own using jackfruit or buy ready-made from the supermarket (check for eggs!).
4. Vegetarian Haggis: Enjoy this warming Scottish dish with a dram of whiskey… if you’re over 18.

5. Tomato, Basil, and Tortellini Soup:  Only have 15 minutes to prep dinner before running out to work? Choose this slow cooker soup. It’s a great way to sneak extra veggies into your diet without noticing.
6. The Vegan Portobello Potroast: All you have to do is sear the portobello mushrooms before placing it in the slow cooker with vegetables, broth, herbs and (if your taste requires) red wine.
7. Quinoa Burritos: These are easy to make and even easier to eat too many of. All you need is a couple of tortillas per person, quinoa, your fave veggies, salsa, guacamole, and shredded cheese.
8. Veggie Duck Pancakes: One of my favourite dishes when making Chinese at home is veggie duck pancakes made with Linda McCartney’s shredded hoisin duck. Honestly, I rather have this than take out.

9. Vegetable Lasagne: I might have lived off this in uni. All I had to do was layer the ingredients and shove it in the oven. Even I couldn’t mess that up and I’m almost certain that my flatmate isn’t reading this, so you can believe that it was perfect every time.
10. Crock-Pot Baked Potato Soup: I didn’t even know this was a thing until recently and I don’t know how I lived without it.
11. Thai Vegetable Curry: Fresh vegetables and coconut milk will make this dish one that you’ll keep coming back to.
12. Wild Rice Salad with Haloumi and Grilled Fruit: Refreshing, but filling, sweet, but salty; this salad is perfect for those late spring/early summer days.

13. Vegan Barbeque Pizza: There is nothing that I don’t like about pizza, but with a barbeque sauce base, it is even better. This isn’t an opinion, it’s fact.
14. Honey-Sesame Tofu and Green Beans: I used to think tofu was a dirty word, but it turns out I just couldn’t cook it. Now, I love it and this recipe is one of the reasons.
15. Vegetarian Bibimbap: Tender vegetables, fried eggs, and soy-sauce infused rice. It’s not fancy, but it’s quick and delicious.
16. Goat’s Cheese and Red Onion Tarts: It’s creamy, sweet, and takes under than an hour from start to finish, so why wouldn’t you want to make these?

17. Pesto and pine nut pasta: As Tamara can attest to, I’ve actually had vivid dreams about this dish after first having it at MAKE cafe in Fratton. But, it’s also simple to make at home in less time than it takes to decide what to watch on Netflix.
18. Bamboo shoot, Mushroom, and Long Bean Stir-Fry: Be warned, the cayenne chillies that give this dish a kick should be added slooooowly.
19. Clear Soup With Bamboo And Tofu: Here, the tofu will absorb all of the flavours of the seasonings (bonito dashi, soy sauce, sake) meaning that each mouthful is incredible. (Omit the bonito dashi for veggie + vegan)

20. Pumpkin Gut Soup: It’s one for Halloween. Turn the leftovers from your Jack O’ Lantern into a warming soup, along with vegetable stock and any vegetable cut offs that might be going to waste (carrot tops, celery tops). After 30 minutes, strain and serve with crusty rolls.
21. Kitchen Cupboard Curry: Just pick your veg of choice, dump in a pot with curry powder, and cook for about 40 minutes on a low heat. Oh, and don’t blend it. It’s better chunky.
22. Nut Roast: It’s a classic veggie Christmas dish that everyone will love.

Okay, that’s it from me because I’m actually getting really hungry. If you have a veggie or vegan meal you’d like to share, leave it in the comments section.

How to eco hack your wedding

Couple in wedding outfits

 

Your dress may be white, you might have borrowed something blue, but here’s how you can make your wedding greener.

NOTE: This article, written by Emma, was originally published on Blue and Green Tomorrow and has been reprinted with permission.

Big events, like weddings, always have the potential to be unkind to the environment. As such, many eco-friendly people (myself included) can’t help but feel a little nervous about planning such an occasion.

There are so many decisions to make, and it can be more stressful when you’re also worried about how those decisions will affect the world around you.

Luckily, this eco-friendly guide will help you plan a wedding that your inner (or outer) hippie will be proud of.

Vendors

In any wedding, vendors will be in control of the majority of decisions that could negatively impact the environment (such as using disposable cutlery/crockery at your reception or blasting the heat/aircon in every room, as opposed to just the ones you are using).

This means that it’s a good idea to look for vendors that share your values. A quick look using your internet search engine of choice should bring up a wealth of results for “eco + florist/caterer/venue + your town”.

If it doesn’t, then turn to Plan B. Create a small list of vendors that you’d like to pick and contact them individually to explain that although you’d like to hire them, they’d need to agree to certain eco requirements on your big day. After all, there’s one type of green that all businesses care about — and they’ll work hard to earn it from you.

In that case, what sort of requirements should you consider? Well, it’s naturally all up to you, but here are some things that eco-friendly people want from the vendors at their wedding.

Venue

venue - Eco Hack Wedding
While many eco-friendly people would enjoy having their wedding outside to cut down on energy usage, there can be various local laws or adverse weather conditions that make this impractical.

As such, for this article, we will focus on what should you look for in a venue for an indoors wedding.

Recycling Bins

Your guests will need somewhere to dispose of empty drinks bottles and cans during the reception and most guests will find something in their bag or their pockets (invites, receipts) that needs recycling.

Low-energy bulbs

While your venue is unlikely to replace every light bulb with the earth kind alternative, they may be convinced to change out the bulbs in the ceremony and reception rooms for you. After that, they might even choose to keep them installed.

Alternative heating/cooling methods

Rather than switching on the AC/ electric heaters at the first sign of a change in temperature, have your venue open the windows, set up a log fire, or provide blankets to keep your guest comfortable.

Caterers

Wedding Cake - Eco Hack Wedding

Animal Products

Depending on your own version of being green, you might be okay with giving your guests the choice of eating hand-reared meat, line-caught fish, or small-farm dairy. However, you should ask the caterers where their animal products came from so that you can ensure any animal products were sourced through humane and sustainable methods.

Locally-sourced, organic ingredients

One of the biggest environmental challenges when it comes to food is how it is grown/reared, and how far it travels to get to your plate. In order to make your food greener, have your caterers use only produce from a local farm that uses organic growing practices.

Pro Tip: If you’re having your cake created by a separate baker, ask for them to use only local and organic ingredients.

No disposable cutlery/crockery/napkins

If you’re having a sit-down formal dinner, it’s unlikely that the caterer will serve it on paper plates with plastic forks and red cups for your champagne toast. If you’re having a less formal dinner, say from a food truck, then the caterer might just serve the dinner on the dreaded Styrofoam products.

If china plates would be a problem, or the caterer is a small vendor that doesn’t use real plates, consider buying reusable plastic picnic sets for everyone to use. They can always be used by the guests for future picnics, or donated to a good cause after the wedding.

Florist

Woman in Wedding Dress holding flowers - eco hack wedding

Dried Bouquets

The beauty of dried flowers is that they do not have to be discarded after the wedding and can be used in home décor or placed in your wedding memory box.

Limited Floral arrangements

Cut flowers are never going to be good news for the planet, so if you’re going for fresh over dried, you’ll likely want to limit the amount you have to just the bridal bouquet.

Potted Plants

You might consider having potted plants make up the floral decorations in the ceremony/reception.

Pro tip: The plants will also make nice gifts for the wedding party.

Choose naturally-grown, locally-sourced plants

As with your food, you’ll want to make sure that your plants are locally-grown without pesticides. As a result, you may have to compromise on the type of flowers you select depending on what’s in season and native to your area.

Couple’s Choice

So we’ve discussed what you should consider from your main wedding vendors but what can you- the happy couple- do as individuals? Well luckily, there are still many ways for you to eco-hack your wedding on your own.

Outfits

women in wedding dresses - eco hack wedding

No animal by-products

When choosing your wedding outfit, you probably want to avoid items that contain animal by-products (i.e. leather shoes, fur stoles, silk gloves), but you may also wish to avoid items that have been dyed or treated with casein (a protein found in milk and used to make some plastic buttons) or lanolin (a wax produced by wool-bearing animals).

Secondhand

Many thrift stores and vintage shops have wedding dresses/suits that have been donated/sold after only over being worn once, and that is a waste of resources. The prices will be reasonable and you might even find a gem from a long-gone era.

Alternatively, take a look through the family closet to find the items that a beloved relative wore at their own wedding, from grandma’s dress to your brother’s cufflinks. After all, as the old saying goes, you will need “something borrowed” for your wedding.

Buy a reusable outfit

If you want to buy new, consider something that you will wear again and again as the years go by. You can always have your outfit altered slightly to be worn as a cocktail dress or a business suit.

All of these tips can, of course, be applied to the whole of the wedding party- not just those getting married.

Invites

wedding invites - eco hack wedding

Evites

If you think paper invites are a waste of a tree, send e-vites instead. Not only is it a lot more eco-friendly, but you’ll save a ton of money on stamps.

Recycled Paper Invites

If you do want to send paper invites, use recycled paper in order to lower your environmental impact.

Postcards

Alternatively, send postcards without an envelope to cut down on paper. Perfect for a kitsch wedding.

Gifts

wedding presents - eco hack wedding

Set up a wish list

If you and your partner have been living together for a while, you likely have everything that is traditionally bought as a wedding present (i.e. dinner sets, bedding). To avoid receiving duplicate gifts, set up a wish list. That way you can ensure that you get something that you really want, and prevent wastefulness.

Charity donations

Ask for donations to your favourite eco-charity, like Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, or Earthjustice, (or even the Green Party) as opposed to gifts.

 

Hopefully, this guide has shown you that it’s relatively easy to eco hack your wedding. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section!

 

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