Just a quick one today. And slightly ‘off topic’ from food and drink, but still worth a mention. Spotted some eco fashion on the front page of the Guardian. Front page!! Hurray! And it has some really nice stuff too. Worth a look.
Wednesday, 30 June 2010
Friday, 25 June 2010
- British strawberries from Cambrideshire – big tick for the local.
- Free range organic eggs (tick and tick)
- Cream cheese (cross for not organic, but tick for being from small local shop and not big evil supermarket)
- Organic milk (tick)
- Organic butter (tick)
- I even remembered my own bag, so another tick for no carrier bags!
- In the interest of reducing food waste, my flatmate let me use her fair trade caster sugar, fair trade icing sugar and organic flour. As well as vanilla, bicarbonate of soda and salt (pinch of only).
Monday, 21 June 2010
Over the years, I have repeatedly done the following: cancelled on friends at the last minute; stood people up; forgotten I was supposed to meet them; turned up very late for dinner; forgotten important dates; given away friends’ present, and much, much more.
And so I considered who I would possibly offend more, and only went for Dina because she was the one I had cancelled on the last time. On that occasion I learned in no uncertain terms how difficult it is to find a babysitter on Proms night, and Dina listened to Mozart on her own.
Whilst I had a really lovely lunch with Dina and Kathryn and Mr Schemthical and little Lukas, I did feel terrible for contributing to Leticia’s membership to the over-subscribed I Hate Renata facebook group.
Feeling that my sincere apologies would never be enough, I decided this was the perfect opportunity to find out about a subject that’s been nagging me for a while: ethical flowers. Can I send flowers the sustainable way?
It is difficult to imagine anything less than lovely behind a bunch of daisies. It’s as if the world of underpaid labourers and pesticide overuse could never touch the romance of a bouquet.
Sadly, this is an industry capable of some serious environmental damage. In countries like Kenya, for example, the impact of flower farms on the water quality and wildlife around the lake Naivasha Riparian has brought devastating consequences to the local community. Under pressure from European importers and terrible publicity, growers have created a voluntary council to develop more sustainable farming practices. The Kenya Flowers Council uses a code of practice to self regulate the industry’s use of pesticides, workers’ rights and impact on local communities.
This is an area where Western consumers can be particularly influential, considering that massive volumes of cut flowers consumed here are produced in developing countries with weak legislation and too many ways of not complying with them.
In Europe, the Fair Flowers Fair Plants label attests to the sustainable credential of flowers.
I have some reservations with this kind of certification. As with the Organic Soil Association label, it becomes difficult for very small producers to display the coveted logo. Not having the FFP label does not necessarily mean that flowers weren’t grown organically, or that workers were treated unfairly. But the certification process costs money. It demands time and dedicated personnel to work on it. If you’re a small cottage business, you may not be able to afford the extra red tape.
But of course it is a very good start, and if you’re buying from Interflora or large supermarkets, then there’s no excuse. Look for the FFP logo before you send those roses.
Interflora had a very limited range of fair trade flowers, but I did find these gorgeous antique pink roses, which unfortunately could not be delivered before Tuesday. Who sends flowers with that much notice?
Arena flowers were highly recommended as a leading ethical florist, but the arrangements didn’t really do it for me.
So I settled for this vase of fair trade roses and lisianthus, from the lovely Forever Flowers along with a crawling, self-humiliating note begging forgiveness.
To finalise the mea culpa, here’s a list of overdue apologies:
- Leti, you come first: SORRY for not showing up to your barbecue!
- Julia: I’m sorry for forgetting your birthday practically every year.
- Sorry Vale, Jason, Kathryn and half the population of London for arranging drinks I never showed up to.
Wednesday, 16 June 2010
Oh, what a joy it was to watch Brazil finally play their first world cup match.
It’s a funny thing, Brazilian football. It inspires passion from the most unexpected corners of the world. I've lost count of the times I met people of all sorts of nationalities who insist on supporting the team of Kaka and Robinho.
Watching the ecstatic crowds celebrate a pretty predictable – but far from easy -victory over the heroic Koreans last night, it made me smile how well loved the boys from Brazil seem to be.
It is an unusual choice of country to shout about in this blog.
Brazil is the worst offender in a recent Australian study ranking countries according to their impact on the environment.
Forget deforestation, carbon emissions and water pollution for a moment and you’re still confronted with 14% of workers earning under the USD 100 monthly minimum wage and child labour a reality for over a million Brazilians under 13 years old.
But there is some happy news too.
As with so many positive aspects of Brazilian life, the real improvements in the terrible ethical track are driven by individuals and voluntary organizations, as independent from government corruption and bureaucracy as possible.
One success story: recycling. Despite legislation being unclear and not progressing any day soon, Brazilian rates of paper and aluminum recycling are comparable to those in notoriously green Germany. The effort is led by poverty, not environmental conscience. The very poor and unemployed rely on cash generated by collected paper, tins, metal and bottles.
Bottletop project made headlines in Britain when the bag started turning up on famous arms – from Peaches Geldoff to Miriam Clegg. The charity works with local homeless communities in the state of Bahia, teaching them to manufacture the bags with recycled ringpulls. Metal ring collectors are paid around £1 per kilo and each bag produced is bought by the project and re-sold at around £50.00 in Europe. All the proceeds go back into the project, which helps people out of poverty, as well as funding education programmes in Brazil. You can get your ringpull bag from Fenchurch.
Despite the horror stories of acres of rainforest giving way to cattle farms, Brazil has a 70% recycling rate of plastic bottles (against 20% in the US) and is the world's top recycler of aluminium.
Tamar project, which is bound to make you smile. Running since 1980, it has single handedly saved marine turtles in the coast of Brazil from extinction. Organised as a partnership between the Brazilian government and the private sector, the place is a complete joy to visit, as well as an example of how conservation initiatives can be successful. It relies heavily on the work from students and volunteers, as well as the funds generated by visitors. If you plan a visit to Brazil, please make sure you include Tamar in your list. I had to be dragged out of the place kicking and screaming, unwilling to leave the cute baby turtles and Bounty-advert beaches behind.
If that didn’t work for you, I defy you not to melt at the sight of the sloths from the Sloths Rehabilitation Project. Also set in the state of Bahia, it’s been increasingly successful in re-introducing these animals into the wild.
So, get that yelllow shirt on, cheer for Brazil this Sunday and keep faith that all is not lost yet.
Monday, 14 June 2010
We managed to follow Kathryn’s suggestion on how to irritate your fellow fotball fans, even adding a few helpful tips by:
8. singing vindaloo out of tune every time 10 to 12 minutes;
9. shouting furiously: “even I could have scored that one!”;
10. luring your companion into a false sense of security by remaining quiet and pensive for 10 minutes, then suddenly blaring out : “I’m sorry, but the offside rule is stupid.”;
11. (bonus points for this one; bank £10.00 and advance to “GO”) pre-fixing all your football observations with: “if I were the referee/manager/goalkeeper/FIFA president…”;
12. "what do you think Cheryl Cole is doing right now?"
100 mile diet.
A nice stroll to the allotment bagged us plenty of nettles for the ultimate ethical dish: the free one!
As the afternoon wound down to a less then comforting breeze, we warmed ourselves up to the England match with very delicious cake of Sussex strawberries (score), washed down by… wait for it… a blend of English grapes in a glass! Double score, with grapes from Essex, Kent and Sussex, and perfectly crisp wine too.
Friday, 11 June 2010
The World Cup makes everyone happy. Even people who hate the World Cup seem to enjoy hating it - talking about which match they did not watch, which team they won’t be supporting, which work sweepstake they haven’t joined in. So really, it makes them happy too.
Despite not being a massive football fan, I love the World Cup and am very excited by it.
Being English, I will of course be cheering on England. I have South Africa in the sweepstake so they will get a little shout from me too. And for Renata’s sake I will discover some Brazilian heritage. However if you have no alliance to a team in the World Cup and want one to support, then World Development Movement have helpfully come up with a guide so you can support the most ethical team:
Now as it says ‘It is intended to be a fun and interesting way to think about serious issues. Please
take it in that spirit.’ So please do take it that way. Am not suggesting you throw out your England flag, wipe off your Spanish face paint or put down your South African Vuvuzella so the whole world can get behind Ghana. But it is worth having a read of. Oh and fans of the ABE craze please take note, England may be 27th but the USA is 31st..............! J
So teams decided, what to eat. This Saturday, as we watch the World Cup, Renata and I will be attempting to stick to the 100 mile diet. This means we will be eating food sourced within a 100 miles of London. It's not going to be easy. And the first few thoughts that pop into my head are ‘tea/coffee, chocolate, and wine (by which I mean nice wine. That you want to drink)’
For now though, we are having fun compiling a list of ‘questions to ask that will annoy the person you are watching the football with’
So far we have:
- What side do we have to kick the ball to?
- Am sorry, I still don’t get it, could you explain the offside rule for a 5th time?
- (Group stage only) So is Team X out if they lose this match?
- Oh we’re going to watch all of it? But I think E4 is live streaming from the Big Brother house with no sound?
- Doesn’t the goal keeper have nice legs?
- But surely, if he takes the penalty from there he will be offside?
Tuesday, 8 June 2010
This being the British summer, I am covering all bases by planning a range of actual barbecue food, as well as plan B indoors lunches.
In other words, I am setting myself up again for a fridgefull of leftovers.
As I considered the merits of my own potato salad versus WholeFoods' hummus this morning, I asked myself: how ethical can I really be if half of all that local, organic, fair trade, seasonal food is ending up in a landfill?
Does my own home food waste matter much, when measured against the tons of rubbish churned out by big food chains, restaurants and supermarkets?
Let’s see. If you enjoy illustrative examples to help you understand statistics, here are a few*:
- On average, each person in the UK throws away their own body weight in rubbish every seven weeks;
- The amount of fit-for-consumption food we throw away each year in the UK could fill 4,700 Olympic sized pools;
- Most of the world's waste is produced by the developed world, which accounts for about 5% of the world's population;
-the amount of food thrown away in Europe and America could feed the world three times over.
Not terribly ethical, is it? *sources:
Food Ethics Council
So, what can we do to?
Waste reduction advisers WRAP offer plenty of practical tips and recipes to use up your leftovers.
One of my favourites is the same one sang by women’s magazines for centuries: never visit the supermarket on an empty stomach. You are more likely to buy on impulse and go for the fattening stuff.
Talking of supermarkets, they could try a bit harder too. Yes, most of them are cutting down on plastic bags – although they’re still happy to charge for them. But I don’t understand why we still buy fruit and veg in plastic wrappers and cardboard boxes that resemble armoured vehicles.
A nice initiative by Tesco (why do I keep talking about them? The place drives me mad! But they do know how to grab a headline.) last year seems to have mysteriously disappeared. A few branches of Tesco decided to ask customers to leave all their food plastic wrapping behind, to be recycled by the store. Sadly, it was a temporary measure and they decided not to continue or expand it.
And we’re told over and over again of the 3 golden Rs: to reduce, re-use, recycle.
But I feel that some of these ideas are very much out of place for too many people.
Take London, for example. How many Londoners live on their own, in minute flats with not even a picture of a garden? How are they expected to compost? And why do they have to enjoy cooking?
But switch the telly on and you will find someone insisting on taking us back to a time when life was simpler and persuading us to brew our own beer.
If you crave the feeling of living in a village, why not go live in a village? London is a very busy city of 11 million people; it is not a village.
We would not create the amount of money that we do here if the entire population were to spend their afternoons feeding their tomatoes.
Which is why it is so unrealistic to leave it up for people to re-educate themselves in order to reduce their food waste.
People will do what they can. If local authorities start collecting our food waste, a lot more of us will be happy to separate them into composting bins. And yet so many councils still fail to do so. And if I like to eat ready meals, why can’t supermarkets offer them in biodegradable packaging? Why not increase the choice of individual portions?
Sure, the waste we produce should shame us all, and will get anybody thinking.
Yes, it is shocking that people go hungry while we chuck whole packets of food away.
But would all that food be so cheap if the gigantic European and American subsidies on farming were to be removed? Would we not be fairer on the developing world by allowing them to compete in a real market with their products, rather than worrying we waste too much? Surely that would help those countries to help themselves.
Well, we write this blog from a striving ethical consumer's point of view, so I will try to stick to the consumer bits on this one.
But I can’t be less than cynical in thinking this is not a problem to be tackled by individuals alone.
As for the England v US match on Saturday, I will be watching it with non-committal cheers, so as not to offend sensitivities of any of my nomadic family members. And my friends will be eating my specially devised, ultimate waste-not-want-not world cup menu.
Monday, 7 June 2010
Thursday, 3 June 2010
Wednesday, 2 June 2010
Tuesday, 1 June 2010
The beauty of bank holidays is this: if it’s sunny, you can enjoy a glorious day out. If it’s miserable and rainy and grey – and guess which one we had yesterday? – you have the perfect excuse to stare at the telly/a book/Heat magazine/the wall all day.
I used my day off wisely: slept late, spent an inordinate amount of time at breakfast, gave it a good couple of hours start at Shutter Island (scary!), and then dived into an ambitious task: to empty my entire wardrobe on the floor, handbags and all, and re-organise the lot.
Sadly, a bit too over-ambitious, as it turned out.
The Ladywell Tavern, with the
And before you ask, I had a great time on Friday, also known as The Big Opening Of Sex And The City 2 Film Day (T.B.O.O.S.A.T.C.2.D.).
Is the film good? Well, the first 10 minutes are exhilaratingly fun, the clothes are out of this world, some of the dialogue is sharp and hilarious, some is forced down the script with a hammer, some characters have no reason at all to be there but to pull in audiences (what was that with The Great Aidan Return??), some bits are frankly a little bit racist, and Samantha is back on her very top form, with laugh out loud one liners, and also looking fantastic. So, all in all, I’d go again next week if you ask me out. But I can see why some critics – I am only reading them now, having stopped reading film reviews beforehand some years ago – had a problem with it.
(glamorous Kay did her own version of Carrie about town in her tutu – only this time the town was London and the double deckers did not splash water on her, because British bus drivers are true gentlemen)
Back in South London, the Ladywell Tavern was a complete delight because:
2. the good selection of organic drinks.
I know we should never speak ill of the dead, but take this, Dr Atkins! This is for putting yourself between me and carbs.
This is when this business of eating ethically starts getting a bit murky. I’m glad to read on their menu that ingredients are all traced back to origin. They also reassure me all vegetables come from the local market, fish from Billingsgate and meat from the local butcher. But, lovely as they are at the Tavern, is there a way to confirm these claims? And is it a good idea to introduce yet another (expensive) certification process to reassure customers they are eating genuinely local food?
Personally, I think the quality and freshness of their food will be reflected in happy (and plenty of) customers, which is worth more than a million certificates. And if I really want to be absolutely sure, a simple solution would be to ask for the name of their butchers. If I’m running a kitchen, I’d have no problem showing the public where I get my ingredients from.
Special mention to the duck liver pâté, served with caramelised onions, green salad and bread. The reason they dispensed with the de rigueur butter to accompany the pate is this: it was served in an individual ramekin, covered in a healthy layer of pure, yellow, shiny duck fat. Just my kind of dish! If you’re going to be ladylike about duck dishes, please don’t bother serving them. It was delicious. With the added bonus that I didn’t have to share its deliciousness with The Vegetarian.
(and goat's cheese tart for the veggies)
The Pacific. Again, I fail to understand those with the irrational need to maintain they dislike Spielberg.
Not without stopping on the way for a father-of-all-ethicals Ben and Jerry's Monkey Walnut to eat in front of the telly.
(note to self: in future, stick to the golden rule of never mixing ingredients that don’t grow side by side in their natural form. Bananas and walnut? Do not go together.)
All in all, a very enjoyable long weekend, mostly within the principles of ethical living.