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ravenousveggie

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

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Environment

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?

 

Attention to Detail

Attention to Detail

As you may have seen from my Twitter feed I have recently enjoyed a few days break in Belfast.  Belfast? Yes Belfast. Not a place you often hear of on the top city break destinations. I too was a bit dubious when my other half suggested it.  

I was pleasantly surprised.

Belfast has so much going for it – architecture, shopping, history, great  vegan and vegetarian food (at almost every restaurant!), The Titanic Quarter and interesting walks taking you through the troubles from both view points.  And the people. They are lovely and friendly and really do give you a warm welcome.

Our hotel was brilliantly placed – close to transport links, the heart of the city and in easy reach of the sights.  We had pushed the boat out for this trip and booked a five star hotel. On entering it was plush, inviting and very organised.  Suitcases disappeared, maps handed out to help with our planned excursions, we were made to feel welcome and comfortable. It felt like luxury.  But to an extent that is where it stopped.

Attention to Detail

At breakfast each morning we were left searching for spoons to eat cereal with, or  jam for toast. The restaurant was designed with booths and larger tables.  The booths were lovely – giving you some privacy, however also putting you out of sight, making it easy for staff to forget you had asked for something, or were ready to order.

The designer rooms were great and very comfortable (decorated in the current fashion for dark colours) but some items left us wondering.  The light system was so confusing we usually had a short disco sequence trying to switch them on or off. A tea tray in a cupboard which was too heavy to pull out and manoeuvre from the small space it is stored in  And the only place to put it down is on the other side of the room. The bathroom was beautiful and spacious but in some cases impractical – only one flannel for two people, toilet roll holder in one of those positions that make you feel you should take up those yoga classes. A candle holder with matches in it, but no candle to light, until our last day. At the evening room turndown it was pot luck whether or not chocolates turned up.  OK some of these are first world problems and not the end of the world. But they are below expectations. And all of it down to a lack of attention to detail.

But the bit that really made me angry was the waste.  The compulsory leaflet saying please help us save the world by not wanting your towels washed every day was superseded by changing the small soap bar everyday.  A small bar, in a plastic wrapper, inside a cardboard box was replaced everyday even though we never got close to using it up. It would have quite easily lasted for the whole of our trip. And we would not have minded.  In addition we would come back most days to find the air conditioning on full, the windows open and all the lights on.

Honestly do they think that washing towels less is going to make the difference? 

On looking at the hotel website there is no published environmental policy, so I haven’t been able to check reality against their goals in this area.

I know the hotel star rating system is mainly judged on the amenities at the venue and the mix of rooms, however I think we all expect service to go with it.  A little more thought, joined up thinking and attention to detail at all levels could have really made our stay special.

Instead it was good.

But not special.

And I think special is what you aim for when you pay over the odds for any product or service.

Practice What You Preach

I am lucky to know a lot of people who are aware of and concerned about the environment and our impact on it.

Increasingly I am beginning to realise that for some this is all talk and there is little/no action.

I have a friend who is concerned about the environment and buys  environmentally friendly cleaning products,  her cleaner, however, uses the main brands, so defeating the main purpose of buying the eco friendly products.

I have recently met a lovely lady who lectures on climate change, and what we can do as individuals to lessen our impact on the Earth.  It turns out that she doesn’t source any of her electricity from renewables, her latest car is a diesel, and she is just in the process of looking at installing solar panels.  Looking around her house there are a few eco friendly/ethical brands appearing but not much.  However she wants us all to be kinder to the planet.

I see may parents worrying about their children’s future and the environment, but who find it difficult to do basics such as simple doorstep recycling, or picking goods with less packaging.

Its as though they want the best  but don’t want to have to put the effort in.  Why is it so difficult for people to take actions in accordance with their environmental beliefs.  Or is it that by making the right noises they can gloss over the fact that they don’t practice what they preach?

Practice what you preach to look after the planet
Crystal Planet In Green Forest With Sun

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