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ravenousveggie

Thoughts on veggie food, work, play and life in general

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Environment

Monthly Loves – October

October was a busy month for me as I was concentrating on setting up a new business offering.  This has taken a lot of time and didn’t leave much time for going out and finding new things. Hopefully I will have more to report on next month!

  • I did attend The Ethical Consumer conference which was very good.  I came away with loads of ideas on how to make my company more ethical and sustainable.  Not sure I will be able to convince my directors to take any actions, but I’m working on it.   
Photo by Monika Grabkowska on Unsplash
  • Now the days are drawing in we are revisiting the roast dinner on a Sunday.  I’d forgotten how much I miss roasted beetroot!
  • Had a lovely family meal at The Wheatsheaf, Esher.  Good veggie options, including a roast.  A very popular pub so if you go do book in advance.  The low points are the lack of parking and it gets quite hot and stuffy so wear layers!  The food is definitely worth going for though!
  • A client meeting that didn’t last as long as I thought it would meant that I could visit Seasons, Forest row.  Probably my favourite organic supermarket, which I have been visiting since the late 1990s.
  • If you are looking for another great  place to eat out tryThe Horse Inn, Hurst.  This pub has recently been refurbished and offers a great selection of food, from tapas and bar  meals to lovely dinners. The Vegetarian and Vegan menus are well worth a look at. The christmas menu also looked really inviting.

Reducing Travel

My job involves meeting people and therefore travelling.  Where I live and work is well connected to London, but not so much to the South Coast or the surrounding towns and villages.

I go to a lot networking events, plus I like to meet clients in person.  This means I spend a lot of time in the car travelling between appointments and events. Although I have a hybrid car and try to drive efficiently, I am still concerned about the impact of my travel on the environment.

I’d like to take public transport more, but the journey times and the cost start to make it look more prohibitive.  A thirty minute drive to Brighton equates to just under two hours by either bus or train. The bus is the cheapest option but the WiFi is not stable so precludes much working on the way. The train costs twice as much as driving and is generally unreliable.  

Of course I am looking at this cost in terms of time and money and not the impact on the environment.  

But I need to have a mindset change.  A lot of my client conversations can be quite personal  and detailed. I like to meet face to face as I can see their full reaction to questions and suggestions.  In my previous corporate life I used to use video conferencing a lot. The picture quality was ok, but time lag could make conversations difficult.  I have tried Skype over the years but always found that the system drops out after about 15 minutes.

Recently I was introduced to Zoom.  I joined a group call and was amazed by the quality and stability of the system.  So I have started to book Zoom calls with existing and potential clients. This has so far been met with enthusiasm.

Using video conference to reduce travel
Photo by Alejandro Escamilla on Unsplash

Looking at my diary this is freeing up much more time in the office and means I can walk to work more.

There will still be days where using the car will be the only practical option, however I am committed to making these days the exception rather than the norm.

Recycling

I tend to see lots of eyes roll in my office if anyone mentions recycling.  Many years ago I was a volunteer for Greenpeace. I would spend my weekends standing in town centres across Sussex speaking to people about how they make less of an impact on the environment, highlighting the  issues around nuclear power, GMO food, melting ice caps, BP drilling for oil in the arctic and the dangers of drinking water from plastic bottles.

So you could say I have an interest in working out what can be recycled and where.

To this end I am able frequently to enlighten my colleagues on where you can recycle things they thought couldn’t be recycled – pens, crisp packets, cat food pouches etc.  The reason they think they can’t be recycled is that they get all their information from what the local council can recycle on the doorstep.

Recycling
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

In this climate of increasing calls for everyone to do more, I find this lack of wanting to find more solutions quite depressing.  From a selection of people who don’t want to be over controlled by the state, they are looking to the council to provide the information they need to make changes that could help the planet.

Ask them about buying a new car, then they are all over it.  But ask them to do something to look after the environment then there is a severe lack of motivation.  Why is that? When asked they say it won’t affect them. But they are not thinking of their children and grandchildren.  I am the only one in my office without children, but I still care about the future of the planet.

Their lack of care for the world around them leaves me feeling frustrated, despondent and thinking I should not bother myself.  Luckily this doesn’t last very long, but I still don’t understand why they are not motivated to do more.

Monthly Loves – June

June was a busy month at work, but I also managed a cheeky weekend away.  It was good to get some warm, dry weather at last, and so I managed some time out in the garden.  I can definitely feel my energy returning with the warmer weather. In June I loved the following:

  • Earth Kind – In my effort to cut down my plastic use I am always on the look out for hints and tips.  Earth Kind provide a consultancy service to help you reduce your plastic use.  Definitely worth getting in touch if you would like a helping hand in moving towards a zero waste lifestyle.
Jason Leung – Unsplash
  • We managed a few days away in Cornwall and were taken to The Coddy Shack in Looe.  This is a fish and chip shop which also has a fully licensed restaurant.  It sells more than just fish and chips and has a really good vegetarian menu.  The cakes are good too!
  • Brewers Fayre – On our few days away we ended up staying at a Premier Inn with very little food choices nearby.  However I was pleasantly surprised by the Veggie/Vegan offering from Brewers Fayre. The price and portion size were good, and there were even starters I could eat (one for Beefeater to take note of!)
  • Greggs Vegan Sausage Roll – another reflection on time spent out and about!  I finally succumbed at a motorway service station and tried the vegan sausage roll.  I have to say I was not expecting to like it, but now if I am hungry, and in a hurry, it will probably be my go to ‘on the run’ snack.  The first time ever I have liked something in Greggs!

Day Off

So I have a day to myself.  A rare day off with nothing planned.  One of those days I dream of.

But what should I do with the day?  I have a list of mundane housework items that need doing.  Part of me knows they need to be done. The other part of me goes “no, relax, do something for yourself.  Take some time out”

I also have a long list of things I’d like to do.  Sitting in the garden and reading is always top of this list.  Now the day has come I can’t remember anything else on this wish list.

I’d like to do some gardening, but this is beginning to feel like a chore, rather than a joy now I have the time.    My front garden tends towards the more wild side and I suffer from gardeners embarrassment. I grew up in a garden that was completely surrounded by hedges.  No one could see you working. My front garden has none of this. The neighbours and anyone going past can see exactly what I am doing. I can hear them thinking “Oh at last she is doing something!  You don’t want to weed like that !”.

Photo by Sandy Millar on Unsplash

This gardening anxiety puts me off doing anything.

I know that I fancy driving to a lovely spot on the South Downs, taking a stroll and sitting down in the sun with a good book and some tea and cake.  But I spend so much of my time during the week driving between meetings, that I can’t face getting into the car.

I resolve to clean the bathroom and then move into the garden.  I may end up sitting and reading if the weather is good enough. I may attempt to tame some borders (but not in the front garden!) .

Photo by Tina Dawson on Unsplash


But whatever I do I will give myself permission to do what i want and not feel guilty for not achieving anything.

Green Stationery

In my bid to leave less of a footprint on the planet I have been looking for environmentally friendly stationery.  I am a great user of refillable notebooks, pens, recycled paper and making scrap pads out of leftover paper.

I have recently put together a new package for my clients.  It helps them write a robust business plan and then to review it every month.  My task was how to package it. I wanted to find a way that the package can be stored and added to each month.  To keep it neat and tidy, but also easily identifiable and looking good so it motivates you to use it. It didn’t need to be big either.

So I started looking. It turns out that there are no really smart, colourful folders that don’t contain plastic.  Document wallets are either fully plastic, or of a cardboard design that are too big and clunky, or look like something that an official in a stuffy office would use.

Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

I searched various green stationery sites.  Some items such as pens and rulers can be made from recycled plastic.  But not in the case of presentation folders. Even some of the ones that look nice and appear to be made from card have a plastic coating.

Now I  know that stationery should not be seen as a one use plastic, but a lot of people don’t see it that way.  My company recently moved office and in the move we reduced the number of files we needed. This left a pile of twenty plus hardly used ring back files.  My co-directors were happy for these to be simply binned and put to landfill. They can’t be recycled due to the plastic coating. I balked at the idea and took it upon myself to find a new home for them.  I am happy to say that a week later I had homes for all but three of them.

If the majority of people see stationery as disposable, or don’t think that others can use items at the end of their life, then we need to come up with more recyclable options.

So this is a call for designers out there to come out with an alternative to the clunky, dull card presentation folders.  

In the meantime I have asked my clients who are using the new package how they would like it presented.  It turns out that as I have raised the issue, they have thought about it and are happy to find their own storage solution for the documents.

A good solution I think!

I have recently put together a new package for my clients.  It helps them write a robust business plan and then to review it every month.  My task was how to package it. I wanted to find a way that the package can be stored and added to each month.  To keep it neat and tidy, but also easily identifiable and looking good so it motivates you to use it. It didn’t need to be big either.

So I started looking. It turns out that there are no really smart, colourful folders that don’t contain plastic.  Document wallets are either fully plastic, or of a cardboard design that are too big and clunky, or look like something that an official in a stuffy office would use.

I searched various green stationery sites.  Some items such as pens and rulers can be made from recycled plastic.  But not in the case of presentation folders. Even some of the ones that look nice and appear to be made from card have a plastic coating.

Now I  know that stationery should not be seen as a one use plastic, but a lot of people don’t see it that way.  My company recently moved office and in the move we reduced the number of files we needed. This left a pile of twenty plus hardly used ring back files.  My co-directors were happy for these to be simply binned and put to landfill. They can’t be recycled due to the plastic coating. I balked at the idea and took it upon myself to find a new home for them.  I am happy to say that a week later I had homes for all but three of them.

If the majority of people see stationery as disposable, or don’t think that others can use items at the end of their life, then we need to come up with more recyclable options.

So this is a call for designers out there to come out with an alternative to the clunky, dull card presentation folders.  

In the meantime I have asked my clients who are using the new package how they would like it presented.  It turns out that as I have raised the issue, they have thought about it and are happy to find their own storage solution for the documents.

A good solution I think!

Monthly Loves – April

April – a month of holidays, warmer weather and a special party

  • Seville – My partner and I managed to escape the cooler weather and spent 6 nights in Seville.  It is a lovely city, easily discoverable on foot (and lot of trams to get around on) plus great train links to other cities.  We also managed a day trip to Cadiz by train. Eating out as a vegetarian was interesting but not overly difficult. The restaurants in the centre generally had a better vegetarian choice.  The restaurants used by the locals were more limited, but did have better atmosphere. Our hotel also had an excellent environmental policy……

  • Dance In The Hurricane – I am a  big fan of Toyah and have been since 1980.  Her latest album, In The Court Of the Crimson Queen, is a great re-working of a previous album with some great new tracks added.  Dance In The Hurricane is probably my favourite new track. It is deeply personal and poignant and brings back memories to me of my own family.  
  • We celebrated my Aunt Meg’s 90th birthday, and I was put in charge of organising the cake for the party.  To be honest I was a bit daunted by this. I love cake and am great at eating it, but cooking or ordering one was a whole new world for me. I also had to please both my sister and my aunt.  No pressure then. Making it myself was an immediate no go. Time constraints and my inability to cook any cake that doesn’t come our brick-like were my biggest issues. But trying to find a cake maker who could do produce one was much more of a struggle than i expected.  Apparently they get fully booked up months in advance. Luckily for me I found Putty Cakes, who produced the most amazing cake, beautifully decorated and conveniently located on the way to the party venue.

Is the increase in vegetarian and vegan options a good thing?

Everywhere you go people are talking more and more about the need to eat less or no meat.  On a daily basis my social media streams are filled with people showing the latest vegetarian and vegan options available in their local supermarkets and from local suppliers.    

As a long time supporter and volunteer with Greenpeace I occasionally feel like screaming when people talk about how they have changed their diesel car/reduced plastic/eat more organic food/reduced their meat intake.  Don’t get me wrong these are all good things, but also subjects I have been talking to people about, and taking actions on, for the best part of 20 years. I almost want to say ‘why are you only just becoming aware of this? Have you not been listening?’

It sometimes feels that actions are being taken because it is fashionable do so.

The increase in vegan food available is also added to this list. Not because I don’t believe that eating less or no meat is a bad thing.  It is more to do with the ethos of being vegan – to ensure no harm is done to animals. Or as per the Vegan Society “Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.”

The majority of food manufacturers are now offering vegan options. Hurray you say?  Well possibly not. An increasing number of these companies are ones that have low ratings on the Ethical Consumer scale, often for animal testing, factory farming and animal rights on the rest of their products.  By buying these vegan friendly products from such manufacturers you can be inadvertently funding the animal harm vegans fundamentally aim to avoid.

Vegan Burger

Photo by Deryn Macey on Unsplash

In the past the truly vegan product suppliers have not sold their products through the large supermarkets because they do not hold the same ethical stance.

My other issue with a lot of the products is the amount of processing involved.  People often site the health benefits of going vegan but potentially they are eating more processed foods as the food producers bring all these new food to market – vegan margarine, vegan ‘pulled pork burgers, vegan cheese.  This rise in ‘functional foods’ started with the convenience of Quorn style burgers – to appeal to meat eaters who want to reduce their meat intake easily. I feel this has now spread to the vegan menu.

The same happened with FairTrade foods.  Nestle made their Kit Kats from FairTrade chocolate and everyone cheered.  Very few were aware of how much damage Nestle does as a company. And many don’t mind as they have the Fair Trade badge on some of their products so all must be good, right?

Wrong.

From environment, animals, people and politics Nestle is one of the lowest ethical rated companies you can come across.  Tesco and Asda don’t score much better.

Back in 1944 when The Vegan Society began I wonder if the founders dreamt of such a wide variety of foods being available?  And would the founders be happy with them today?

For me being vegetarian or vegan is about more than the food you eat.  It is about the ethics behind the food and products you buy. To do this you need to be aware of the companies behind the brands.  The Ethical Consumer is an eye opening read, and a useful tool if you want to make more ethical decisions about your lifestyle.

Perhaps I yearn for a time when vegetarian and vegan food was simpler,  less processed. You bought a lot of it from your local health food store as it was too specialised for the supermarket.

Having more variety and access to veggie and vegan foods is good.  Just make sure you are happy with the companies behind them, and how they are made.

Shop Local

I like to use my local shops.  I am lucky where I live as I have a small Co-Op, a Tesco Express and a One Stop all within a short walk of my house.  I like using these shops as you get to know the staff and members of my local community.

When I was married I would make the weekly trip to the local large supermarket. It was always stupidly busy and I would lose an hour of my life to doing the weekly shop.  People lost as the quarterly aisle reshuffle has taken place. Those more interested in their phones than watching where they are walking, or the food on the shelves. Those deep in conversation, seemingly unaware that they are blocking the aisles for those of us who just want to shop and go.

Moving out on my own gave me the chance to change this.  To explore my local shops more. To avoid taking the car out. Be kinder on the environment.

The problem with shipping local as a vegetarian is the lack of variety.  The supply of fruit and veg is fine, but some things I just don’t understand. All of the stores have a really good range of ‘free from’ gluten  free products. The variety of canned pulses is small, but then I wouldn’t expect it to be large. My biggest bug bear is gravy granules. None of my local shops stock vegetarian gravy granules.  Not even their own brand.

I once queried this with Tesco and Co-Op.  Tesco came back and said it was to do with waste – not enough people bought them.  The Co-Op gave me the impression it was a blip and would be sorted soon. Needless to say nothing has changed.  

I just find it hard to believe that with all this current trend towards cutting out meat, going veggie or vegan there is no demand for gravy granules locally.

I’m sure from the picture below you would agree that it wouldn’t take much effort to start with even one row of veggie friendly granules?

 

shop local
Apparently no room for vegetable gravy granules

Also if you don’t stock an item then there won’t be any demand for it.

You may well think I am bonkers at wondering at the lack of such an ingredient.  But for I don’t believe there is not a market for it. And the lack of it locally means I have to make a special trip to a larger supermarket on the otherside of town.  Not something that I find enjoyable or have the time for.

So this makes me wonder what other products are missing for vegetarians/vegans.  What do you wish these smaller stores would stock?

 

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