Remaining hopeful

It’s been a while since I wrote on this blog… One of the main reasons has been that there were so many things going on, both in my personal life as well as in the world at large, that I needed to step back a bit to take it all in. Reading the news about the mass killings of people in various parts of the world (as well as the lack of reporting on some of them), following the negotiations and disagreements at the Paris climate conference, despairing at the way the world seems to be going…

 However, recently I’ve been trying harder to remind myself that there is hope. That we have a remedy to the many problems facing the world. And of course it’s not easy or a quick fix. Of course it’ll require an effort from all of us, but I fully trust that if and when we – as the world community – start working together, truly start seeing each other as part of our “extended family” no matter our obvious differences, and genuinely recognise that this planet is our shared – and only – home… once those realisations become fully integrated into our actions, things will start to get a lot better. 

Unity is a condition of the human spirit. Education can support and enhance it, as can legislation, but they can do so only once it emerges and has established itself as a compelling force in social life. […] unity is the remedy for the world’s ills […]” (from a message from the Baha’i governing body)

No, this won’t be quick and easy. It is requiring a shift in the way we think about ourselves (stop thinking that we can’t help but engage in wars and realise that we have the capacity for love and compassion and need to put those qualities into practice), our neighbours (they share our same humanity, regardless of their skin colour, creed, nationality, gender, etc) and humanity at large (we are in this together, and we are becoming more and more interconnected). This is the only way to create a sustainable and sustaining way of living together with the beautiful and enriching diversity we have on this planet. 

And let’s not forget: there are good news already: 

It was very encouraging to read about the results from the Paris climate talks: to see that the governments of the world are making collective goals and a formulating a shared vision. 

So: I am back. And hopeful. 

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Are you judging youself? – On the need to find a way to sustainably live your actions – (part 2/2)

Last week I wrote about the importance of letting go of judgement of other people’s actions, and how, really, we can only try to improve our own ways of living. LINK

Another, related, issue with that is learning how to not overburden ourselves, or expecting more of ourselves than we can currently sustainably achieve.

Let me explain, with an example: I could conceivably stop using our car, and instead only take the bus or cycle to work. That would save me about 0.75 tonnes of CO2 emission per year. However, right now, at this time in my life, I’m not going to do that. Because right now, this would be too hard for me. I’m not going to go into *why* it would be hard for me, because what might be hard for me might not seem like any big deal to someone else.

However, what I can try to do at the moment is trying to minimise the amount of plastic I buy. I can try to avoid planes on short-ish journeys and take the train (got a trip to Central Europe planned, which will be plane free). I can make sure to put all my recycling into our (bigger) recycling bin. And I can hope that for my next job I might live within easy cycling commuting distance and/or that we’ll get an electric car soon 🙂

But for now, I’m not going to be upset about the things I can’t do and instead focus on what I can incorporate into my life in a doable long-term way…
I think that particularly with things that aren’t “normal” or that can feel quite exhausting (like always feeling like you’re fighting a losing battle, or having to deal with questioning looks or comments from other people), it is really important to draw strength from within. And, at least for me, the way to do that is to be gentle and kind to myself, to not beat myself up about what could have done better, but to look at the changes that I have made, and that I can keep up.

And yes, some days I’ll fall short of what I thought I could do (maybe because I’m tired or getting ill or feel stressed about something) – but that’s only human, and there’s always a new dawn to start afresh 🙂

You alone are enough. You have nothing to prove to anybody.
Maya Angelou

Am I judging you? – On learning to be responsible only for *my* actions – (part 1/2)

I’ve been wanting to write about this for a while because I think it’s a really important issue: the idea that we must not judge what other people do but only trying our (current) best (and even that can change from day to day).

Whether it’s about what we eat, what we wear, what goes into our bin, or what (if any) car we drive – it’s easy to judge people. To compare ourselves to others and to want to go up to them and tell them to “just do a bit more already”! And I’m not going to pretend like I don’t sometimes feel like despairing when I see people double bag their shopping, or just drop rubbish on the street – it just doesn’t make any sense to me.
But what I’ve been learning since starting my own near-0 waste journey (since I can neither claim to be fully plastic or waste free, I’m reluctant to say “zero waste”), is that judging people neither works not helps.

I don’t know what goes on in the life of another person to make them do something I might judge as bad. I don’t know if they’re having a really hard time right now, or if they even know about the impact of their action – I for my part didn’t have any idea about e.g. the impact of plastic or animal products (more on that coming soon) until I started looking into it, and to be honest: life was easier before I learned about plastic islands in the oceans and deforestation and the ethical issues of waste disposal…

And so I’ve come to this conclusion: I’m going to try to not judge people for what they do, even – or maybe especially – when I think I can see where they could try harder. And I’m going to try to find ways to change that I can actually keep doing, i.e. something I can actually incorporate into my life long-term, not something that’ll burn me out after a few weeks… And I’m going to try to gently educate others about ways in which they could live with less rubbish (like bringing their own shopping bags or basket, storing food in glass jars, checking to see what can be recycled and putting it into the recycling bin, becoming aware of and switching out any disposable items etc…).

Because in the end, judging people isn’t going to change behaviour, it’s not going to save the planet, it’s not going to reduce our carbon footprints, it’s not going to help humanity grow. So let’s stop judging people (including ourselves!) and get on with taking the actions needed to create a more sustainable future…

Let deeds, not words, be your adorning.
(Bahá’u’lláh)

On letting go & striving for “good enough”

For probably most of my life I’ve felt like I didn’t quite fit it, like the odd one in a group of “normal” people (see “On feeling like the odd one out” post). And with that came a whole bunch of do’s and don’ts and should’s and must not’s. Like: don’t tell people you’re a veggie who doesn’t drink; don’t say that you’re a scientist who has a spiritual side too; don’t let people hear you get all excited about trees and clouds and the little holes between tree roots; laugh at people’s jokes and don’t make ones they won’t get; don’t talk about life and death with people you’ve just met… Basically: don’t be weird!

But recently, when I started to get more into the plastic-free/zero waste idea, things started to shift. I was walking around with a travel mug, I had a refillable steel bottle, I was eating finger food with no plates, I had a glass jar with solid deodorant… And it hit me: basically, I was being totally weird. A tree hugger, one of those nuts people who think they can change the world (well, sort of a little bit anyway). And: I was fine with this. Because this is who I am. I do get excited about the beauty of this planet, I do care about reducing my foot print, and I do want to make a difference – and now also: I don’t care anymore whether I have someone else’s approval for it or not.

Puddle
I also got very excited when I realised that sometimes beautiful things like that happen – taken after a rainy day in Battersea park in London.
What happened from there (though it’s been happening slowly for a while) was that I let go of a whole lot of these should’s.
I let go of striving to do things 100% and instead allowed myself to listen to my body’s and my heart’s needs, for example: while I mostly eat vegan, sometimes I just want some cheese – and I won’t beat myself up about it or make myself feel deprived or like I’ve somehow failed at some strange competition of not eating cheese (which would be a very weird thing in itself 😛 ), but instead I’ll savour the moment, and try to practise mindfulness in it.
I let go should’s around my spirituality: was I praying enough, or reading the Writings enough? I don’t know, but I’m trying to listen to my inner guide and find what will work for me right now in a sustaining and sustainable way.
In terms of exercise, I let go of rigid rules about how long and I how much I should work out, and instead started seeing movement as a gift to my body that I could enjoy in a self-compassionate and nurturing way (another post coming soon on that topic).

And yeah, I’m still weird, I still get excited about crazy things, I’m still the odd one out in a lot of places who doesn’t drink and who has a glass jar and cloth bags in her backpack. But that’s ok. I’m not trying to pretend I’m someone else, and I’ve learned that first and foremost I need to stand behind my choices, I don’t need to justify them to anybody else.
And I’m very happy to have friends who accept me for who I am, with all my weird tree-hugging, somewhat spiritual, overly-excitable-about-stars-and-the-Universe kind of personality.

Sure, I’ll continue to make mistakes, and sure I might change my views on things – but for now, I’m happy with following my values in a way that is “good enough” for me. Not perfect, just “good enough”…

And I’m excited where else this journey will take me 🙂

Going shopping at Unpackaged & 5p Plastic Bag Charges

When I first started learning about zero waste and striving for minimal plastic, I looked around for shops where I could buy food etc with no/minimal packaging (and made a list of all the food items I could think of)

One shop I came across online was Unpackaged in London. So when I recently took a trip down there, I decided to “pop” by (ok, it was a 90-minute return detour – but that’s alright 😉 ).
Unpackaged
It was so great to have not only “standard” things like dried fruit and nuts, but also refill stations for dish washing liquid, all purpose cleaner, fabric softener (they also have refill stations for wine, but as someone who doesn’t drink I was more excited about being able to fill my glass bottles with cleaning liquids 🙂 ), as well as things like muesli (which I can buy in my hometown too though), various types of grains and pulses (red lentils, put lentils, white, brown and Risotte rice, white, red, and black quinoa, beans), or popcorn (of which only about half a jar is left, because… have you ever heard the cacophony of noises a pot makes when you make popcorn on a stove?! Also: it’s yummy! :P)Unpackaged

Et voilà the fruits of my adventures:
ShoppingAtUnpackaged

Glass bottles refilled with all purpose cleaner and washing up liquid. Glass jars with vegan chocolate buttons, popping corn, and quinoa. And cloth bags filled with chickpeas and coconut slices (one of my favourite snacks 🙂 ).

On another – though no less awesome – note: last Monday (5th Oct) a compulsory 5p charge has been introduced in England for the use of plastic bags in supermarkets (though some exceptions apply)! *wheee* It was so great to go shopping the other day and see loads of people with bags-for-life! And it made me so happy to think that the generation of kids that are only little now will always associate shopping with bringing your own bags now (I hope)…

So, overall a good week for plastic-free-ness 🙂

[Tasty Tuesday] Rice Quinoa Miso Soup

Some days I just want some miso soup… I love the simplicity of this, and that I can prepare all the bits and take it to work and just add hot water at lunchtime.

The recipe

Miso soup ingedients

This really isn’t a definite recipe; it’s more a case of “whatever I’ve got at home/what I think might taste nice right now”… Here’s how I made it a few days ago and it was very yummy – but feel free to leave out or add in anything you fancy.

Ingredients: miso paste, rice, black quinoa, mushrooms (any mushroom works, but I’m guessing that something like shitake might be nice, though I didn’t have those), cherry tomatoes, spring onions.
Could also add e.g. paprika, cabbage, courgette, seaweed or tofu (haven’t found the last two without plastic yet)…

Boil the rice, quinoa and mushrooms (optional). Stir the miso paste into hot water until it has dissolved. Add the rice, quinoa, mushroom mix, and any other vegetables.
Enjoy 🙂

MisoSoup
Bon Appétit 🙂

If Not Me Then Who…? – What Can ONE Person Do…?

(sorry about the rhyming title…  😉 )

“Don’t try to save the world…”, I was told recently when telling someone about my quest to live with less plastic and rubbish in general… And it got me thinking:
Am I trying to save the world? Well, sort of. I’m trying to do my part in making this world a tiny bit better. I’m trying to smile at people and be patient when driving. I’m trying to not assume the worst about people, and I’m trying to not focus on the otherness of strangers but on our shared humanity. And often I don’t quite manage these things… So no, I’m not trying to save the world, I’m just trying to make this little bit of the planet around me a little bit better… Continue reading

[Tasty Tuesday] Potatoes and Savoy Cabbage

This is such a super easy recipe, but I was utterly amazed by how delicious it was!
I got both the potatoes and the savoy cabbage in my vegbox one week (and I realised I’d never cooked cabbage before…), so I made up this recipe, and then ate it for three days straight because it was just so yummy (maybe because the potatoes were organic… don’t know, but those potatoes were amazing!… and I don’t normally say those things about potatoes… I’m not that weird 😛 )

The Recipe

some large potatoes
some cabbage leaves
salt, pepper, paprika (optional), olive oil, (balsamic) vinegar

Chop the potatoes into thick slices (or cubes if you prefer), toss them with the olive oil and spice, and put in the oven (I left them for about 20 mins at about 200C, sorry didn’t make a note of this). While they’re baking, chop the cabbage into thick stips (say 3 cm wide), place in pot with a little water and simmer the water for about 5 mins or until the cabbage gets a little tender. Once the potatoes are done, toss the (dried, tender-ish) cabbage leaves and potatoes with some more oil and vinegar – and enjoy.

(more or less) Plastic Free Foods List

[From now on Saturdays are going to be my general blog post days, but I will also be starting a series of recipes which can be made using only loose or minimally-packaged items, which will be published on Tuesdays.]

Going plastic-free means avoiding pretty much all ready meals and convenience food. It feels a bit like going back in time to what I imagine my (great-)grandparents’ generation would have lived like: buying only loose fruit and vegetables, cardboard boxes, or recyclable aluminium tins.

Unfortunately, as I recently realised, tetra paks aren’t all that great either (though for now I will continue to buy my vegan coconut milk alternative in them because I haven’t found anything better yet…): while they can (and should) be recycled, the process means that the different layers of the tetra pak are separated and then used in another type of product, such as cardboard, and hence (as far as I understand) for each new tetra pak, new materials are sourced. If you’d like more information, other people have written much better on this than me – see e.g. here or here or have a look at the official website.

So in order to know what is available to me, I made a list of plastic-free foods. I would think that a lot of them should be available in most supermarkets, though some things (like bulk rice, nuts, chickpeas, oats, or refillable olive oil/vinegar might require specialist shops: I use gaia and Holland&Barrett).

— The List — Continue reading