How do I make a difference?
This is something I struggle with, and I know many of friends feel the same. We are, to use the controversial term ‘woke’, and really care about environmental issues. To name but a few; climate change, unsustainable fishing, environmental injustice and pollution. Sadly, some people aren’t as aware, or don’t seem to appreciate the extent of these issues, and more specifically the everyday actions that contribute to them.
Something I like to do, and have found to be effective is to live the way that I believe helps to mitigate these problems. I believe that if we all did this, then not only would the problems we face be much smaller but also that politicians and businesses will pay attention and act accordingly. I know that MPs took notice of the attention around Blue Planet 2. I know that the number of beach cleans rose and know many children who are repeating the “more plastic in the ocean than fish” statement. I haven’t seen a plastic straw in a pub or cafe in months, and reusable coffee cups have become not only fashionable but the South West coffee chain Boston Tea Party doesn’t sell coffee in single use cups anymore. Small things are changing, and I love being a part of it.
Christmas is a really wasteful time of year. Consumerism is rife, and waste piles up. This year I wanted to show my friends and family that I try to practice what I preach. I try to live as sustainably as I can, and I try to encourage others. I will share some recipes and gift ideas that I used this holiday season. They really aren’t difficult, or expensive.
*disclosure* Since finishing my masters I have been staying with my parents, so the kitchen isn’t mine and the energy costs are not my own. I try to influence and cut out certain things as much as I can without being the brat home from University.
Not only do gifts harm your bank balance, they also harm the environment. This post is supposed to be practical and cheerful, so I shall limit my ranting to bullet points:
- Gifts are often unwanted and wasted. They land up on landfill.
- Wrapping paper is single use, and not recyclable, destination landfill.
That’s the problems you can see, but behind the scenes…
- Over consumption; the planet can’t cope with the rate that the human race is using it’s natural resources to make all the pointless products we buy.
- Unethically made; most shops on the High Street are guaranteed to have made a profit on their ‘reasonably priced’ products because the people who made them were paid badly. This doesn’t include the environmental injustice problems that come from using natural resources from poorer countries, with the profits going to the rich companies.
I won’t expand on this, but if you want to read more, here’s a link to Friends of the Earth and their Resource consumption facts.
The positive part…
Since finishing my masters I’ve had a lot more free time. I have discovered baking, but not cakes. Initially I started with gingerbread men. I wanted to give people low cost, zero waste, plastic free, vegan gifts, (to practice what I preach). On my journey through Instagram and Pinterest I found a lovely lady who goes by the name Zero Waste Chef. If you want to be more zero waste and plastic free in the kitchen (which is arguably the worst place for single use products in an average home), then check her out.
I’ve now baked hundreds of gingerbread men, I baked my very first bread, I’ve started a sourdough starter and baked sourdough crackers. I was really proud of my decorations and presentation this Christmas, including a nut roast that looked like a Christmas wreath. So, I shall share with you the recipes and techniques I used.
Having just completed my masters, I had a minimal budget for xmas gifts this year. I also wanted to have a plastic free xmas.
I used and adapted this recipe that I found on Pinterest. I collected glass jars, bought some twine, made toppers out of paper napkins and collected some foliage for decoration. Plastic free presents!
Changes to the recipe – to be honest all three batches I’ve done have been so different. This is what I did the most recent time and the batch I thought were the best! The dough was really brown, but they tasted good! (photo on the left was the most recent batch)
1 and ⅓ and ¾ cups whole wheat flour (this looks really confusing, because the original recipe had different types of flour, but I used just whole wheat flour)
1/2 tsp baking powder (should have been ½ tbsp but it still worked – I found the smaller amount meant they looked less like body-builders)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup + 1 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup molasses (treacle)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
I followed the directions, except I didn’t wrap the dough in plastic wrap/cling film (I don’t buy clingfilm!). Instead I covered the bowl with a damp tea towel. In the fridge overnight.
I didn’t roll the dough directly onto parchment paper, might be worth doing this though as I squished a few (I think it gives them character).
I also didn’t freeze my gingerbread men before baking, I had a conveyor belt of dough being rolled, cut, baked and cooled.
Other presents and wrapping
Give time instead of presents. I gave my mum a voucher to take her to Afternoon Tea. I bought some card from a craft shop, and tried to use my neatest handwriting.
I only bought four ‘actual’ presents this year. I really don’t like gifts for the sake of gifts, always grateful of course, but gifts which have meaning or giving your time mean so much more and cost so much less to the environment. (Food and drink presents are always great too!)
The gifts had to be wrapped of course. I bought brown paper and string from the post office. And collected some foliage and pine cones for decoration. I wrapped carefully so as not to need sellotape. Resulting in plastic free presents!
I prepared the nut roast the nut before. I used this recipe I found on Pinterest.
It’s not only easy and tasty, it looks great too. I love that it looks like a xmas wreath.
How much chocolate does your family get through at xmas? Luckily mum cooks her xmas ham in coca-cola so I finally have a 2 litre plastic bottle to start an “eco brick”. So I’ve saved all the chocolate and sweet wrapping to go into this “eco brick”.
I tried out some natural decorations this year too. I made little wreaths for the place settings out of rosemary that I tied in a circle with garden wire and some string.
For table decorations I used the remaining foliage and pine cones from my xmas presents decorations and added the cranberries left over from my nut roast and xmas dinner.
Lots more I can do
There’s a huge amount more that I can do, and will do. Shop local, buy organic, buy unpackaged foods, like pasta and flour. I have a growing collection of jars to do this once I’m in my own home. I’m also getting an allotment, so be prepared for some allotment posts.
Eg. Food waste
I try to reduce my food waste. Here’s three things you can do with butternut squash, with absolutely zero waste, and nothing left for the compost either!
Stuffed butternut squash
Salt and Pepper
- Cut butternut squash in half
- Drizzle in olive oil and roast in oven until soft
- Roast handful of walnuts for 10 mins
- Sauté half chopped onion and 5/6 chopped mushrooms
- Add 2 chopped garlic cloves and 2 chopped sprigs of rosemary, 1/2 Tps cayenne pepper
- Add handful of spinach with little more olive oil and salt and pepper
- Whizz up half cauliflower in food processor to make cauliflower rice
- Once spinach wilted down take off heat
- Finely chop walnuts and add to mushroom mix
- Mix in cauliflower rice
- When butternut squash soft and beginning to brown remove from oven and hollow out.
- (Save flesh for soup and seeds for roasting)
- Fill hollowed squash with mushroom mix
- Bake in the oven until crispy on top.
Butternut squash soup
There’s lots of recipes on Pinterest, I’ve used this recipe.
- Clean your pumpkin seeds well
- Boil pumpkin seeds before roasting
- Keep a watch on them when they are baking (170c)
Toss seeds with olive oil. Lay out seeds in a thin layer onto a baking tray. Sprinkle with Seasoning salt. Place in oven and move and turn the seeds over about every 10 minutes, making sure they are not burning. Seeds are done after about 40 minutes or when they become firmer and are no longer soft.
**Seasoning salt** I’ve made my own and keep it in a jar:
⅓ cup Salt
1 Tbsp Black Pepper
1 Tbsp Paprika
1 tsp Onion Powder
1 tsp Garlic Powder
1/4-1/2 tsp Cayenne Pepper
I baked my very first loaf of bread (another Pinterest recipe) and it was so easy.
Home baked bread tastes so much better, it doesn’t come in plastic packaging, you don’t have to drive your car to the supermarket and you know exactly what went in it.
I’ve baked “no knead bread” twice now, here’s what I do:
375g whole wheat flour
350 ml room temp water
1 tsp yeast
1 tsp salt
Combine dry ingredients by whisking, then stirring in the water until you have a lumpy mixture.
Leave to proof at room temp overnight. Cover with a damp cloth/kitchen towel.
Scrap out the dough onto flour and form into a ball (covered in flour)
Place on parchment paper in dutch oven and bake with lid on for 30 mins
Remove lid and bake for a further 10-15 mins (230c)
It’s done when it is brown and when you tap on the bottom it sounds hollow.
Try it yourself
Everything I’ve written about was really easy and cheap to do. I don’t have much money or time. To be honest I prefer to be in the kitchen than in front of the TV, and the rewards are so much greater.
Please let me know how you get on. Together we can show others, including politicians and big businesses that we want eco-friendly options and easier means to live more sustainably!