Leo’s Box and affordable ethics

Reports into consumer trends repeatedly show an interest and desire to shop more sustainably. Looking into how consumers shop once set loose, however, suggests the good intentions don’t always last. A 2018 Accenture surveyshowed that while 65% of consumers say they prefer to buy from brands that are ethical, only 26% of consumers will actually opt to buy from them. Similarly, a 2020 Mckinsey report into consumer views of sustainability in fashion found that the increase in people looking to purchase more sustainably did not necessarily match up to reality – sales for fast fashion retailers such as Boohoo soared during lockdown, at odds with people’s desire to become more sustainable and ethical. 

“Consumer concern about the environment does not readily translate into the purchase of environmentally friendly products. Commercial research says 46% of consumers are more inclined to buy a product if it is eco-friendly. But nearly 60% are unwilling to pay more money for that eco-friendly product.”

The Conversation

This intention-action gap is seen across industries, from more sustainable food, to fashion, to cleaning products. It’s hardly surprising, though, when both the affordability and availability of sustainable products makes them much harder to convince people to buy. Currently they are not the norm – most brands lie under ‘luxury’ products with a higher price tag and lower availability. 

There is a definite danger of sustainable and ethical living becoming one that privileged people are able to do, and those that have less privilege continue to be unable to afford. Of course, by their nature, sustainable and ethical products cost more to produce, and thus more to sell, but the climate crisis is happening now, and there must be a way of helping people shop better. 

At Leo’s Box, we believe we have found a solution to cross the intention-action gap. By selling everyday products at wholesale prices without the large markup of RRP, we are able to provide sustainable products at prices competitive with those found in supermarkets on less sustainable labels. It just seems like the right thing to do. 

Example products from Leo’s Box

Leo’s Box’s £4 monthly fee provides customers with access to all these products, and on the brand side allows regular income to order larger batches of products. The more we can buy, the lower the prices, and the better the deal for customers. 

Our refer a friend model makes the deal even better – get a friend to sign up and both of you get a free month. More people, more purchasing power, more savings. 

Doing the right thing should be easy, and with Leo’s Box membership, it can be! All the products are rigorously tested and researched, ensuring that they’re suitably ethical and sustainable, and of course that they actually work. We only provide necessary products that do good and are good, so doing the right thing is easy.

Fancy signing up? You can do so here

Tiffins

Sometimes nothing but a rich, decadent slab of chocolate will do. Although I’m partial to almost any tiffin, I prefer those with really dark chocolate. Here is the recipe I made the other day.

Tiffin topped with almond butter – deliciously decadent

Ingredients

  • 300g dark chocolate (I used a mix of 77% and 95% – I would recommend 75% minimum)
  • 100g margarine (I use Flora)
  • 50g syrup (I use maple if I’m feeling fancy, agave works too – use whatever you have)
  • 100g nuts (I used almonds but choose whatever you prefer – pistachios are lovely too)
  • 120g biscuit of choice
  • 40g raisins or other dried fruit (chopped if large)
  • Extra 80g dark chocolate for the topping

Method

  • Break up the chocolate into a saucepan, add the margarine and melt on a low heat (take care not to burn)
  • Add the syrup towards the end and combine. Turn off the heat.
  • Break up the biscuits into the mix, add the raisins and nuts and stir to incorporate
  • Line a baking tin with cling film, baking parchment or foil and add the mixture on top, flattening so it’s evenly distributed
  • Slowly melt the remaining chocolate in the saucepan until smooth.
  • Pour on top of the tiffin mix to create a thin layer over it.
  • Place in the fridge for 2h to set.
  • Remove from the tin and enjoy!

10 Veganuary myth-busters

January 1st has marked the start of Veganuary since 2014, when the non-profit of the same name started encouraging people to try a plant-based diet each January. During the 2020 campaign, more than 400,000 people signed up to the Veganuary pledge, while more than 600 brands, restaurants, and supermarkets promoted the campaign, and over 1200 new vegan products and menus launching in the UK alone.

In 2019, a scientific report released by over 100 scientists shared that plant-based diets can help fight climate change, showing that the West’s high consumption of meat and dairy is directly fuelling global warming. Diets high in meat and dairy are on average significantly more warming than diets without red meat, diets with no meat at all, and vegan diets. Food production is responsible for a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to global warming, with meat and other animal products being responsible for more than half of food-related greenhouse gas emissions, despite providing only a fifth of the calories we eat and drink. So for someone looking to reduce their carbon footprint, choosing a more plant-based diet is a great place to start.

When looking across the board, almost all plant-based foods have lower GHG emissions than almost all animal products

Health-wise, vegan diets are richer in many nutrients due to the increased plant matter, and those who choose a plant-based diet (vegetarian or vegan) are less likely to suffer from heart disease. There are lots of other health benefits of veganism too, but also plenty of things to consider, so read on if you’re thinking of going vegan, whether for one month, one year or the rest of your life!

1. Don’t forget supplements

If you’re planning on only being vegan for a month, and already eat a diet heavy in plant-based foods, the chances are you’d be really unlucky to become deficient in anything (unless you already were to start with). However, if you’re looking to become more plant-based over the long-term, it’s important to understand what supplements you need, such as B12, which is recommended for all vegans. Check out this blog post for all the recommended supplements.

2. Consider not doing veganuary….

… But instead moving to a more plant based diet over the course of a few months. It’s not as ‘exciting’ or ‘glamorous’ as a difficult challenge, but it’s my belief that slow change is usually more sustainable and beneficial than immediate change. Unless you ate a diet heavy in plant-matter prior to switching, you may suffer gut issues (thanks to the high-fibre content of most vegan diets), and slowly cutting out various animal products gives you time to reintroduce new foods and meals to your repertoire, reducing the shock to both your body and your culinary skills!

3. It’s not about cutting things out

Many people I know who have struggle with a plant-based diet are those who have seen veganism as a way to cut out half their diet (myself included, when I first tried it aged 15). Cue sluggishness, grumpiness and constant hunger. It’s true that veganism likely isn’t for everyone, but you can avoid the above ailments by introducing, rather than just cutting out, foods. Meat serves as the protein source in many meals, so this must be replaced by a number of other substitutes, such as pulses and/or meat substitutes. There are lots out there, so experiment! Find what works for you, and most of all, make sure you’re eating enough – plants are high in fibre and low in calories, so you’ll likely need to eat more volume to get enough calories from your diet. Don’t let yourself go hungry.

4. Vegan does not necessarily mean healthy

It’s perfectly possible to eat a vegan diet and gain weight. It’s also perfectly possible to eat a vegan diet and end up considerably less healthy than before, because veganism does not equate to health. Nowadays especially, it’s so easy to get confectionary and desserts that are vegan – and despite the fact that they’re vegan, a cake is still a cake. As with any diet, becoming plant-based requires thought, planning and attention to nutrient density of foods. By all means eat the cake, just don’t fool yourself into believing it’s healthy just because it’s vegan.

5. Soy won’t give you moobs/breast cancer

Another concern about turning vegan is that 50% of your diet will be soy, and soy gives you breast cancer. Except it won’t, and it doesn’t. Soy is a common ingredient in a lot of meat substitutes, plant-based milk and foods such as tofu and tempeh. However, it’s not as prevalent in most vegan diets as you might think, and has no link to breast cancer or ‘feminising’ effects on men. There is a lot to be said for varying your diet and mixing up your sources of protein, but in terms of health, soy is a complete protein, low in fat, relatively cheap and pretty damn good for you. Unless you’re allergic, you don’t need to avoid it.

The other concern about soy is that it leads to deforestation. While this is true of some soy products (deforestation linked to soy products is responsible for 29% of Brazil’s GHG emissions), it is worth remembering that around 75% of global soy production is actually fed to livestock – in far greater quantities than we consume it. If you want to reduce your contribution to soy deforestation, ironically going vegan could be a pretty effective way to do so. And, of course, vary up your protein sources so you’re not eating it for every meal.

6. Being vegan does not make you the perfect environmentalist

On average, the emissions released by a vegan diet are considerably less than those from an omnivorous diet or vegetarian diet. This is because almost all animal products result in greater emissions than almost all plant-based products, no matter where they’re from. However, some products, namely coffee, chocolate and beer, have differing impacts relating to how they’re farmed (e.g. is the cocoa and coffee grown on deforested land?). In addition, foods such as almonds and avocados are particularly water intensive, contributing to drought in the areas they are grown. However, neither avocados nor almonds are a direct substitute for meat, and vegans and meat-eaters alike are both likely to eat all of the above products – so this isn’t just a vegan issue.

Even environmentally questionable products such as almond milk fare better environmentally when compared to cows milk, so if being eco-friendly is high on your agenda, you’re still better off moving to a more plant-based diet, whilst keeping in mind that not all vegan products are necessarily good for the environment. Bear in mind that eating local and seasonal has numerous benefits and that while very beneficial, going vegan does not magically make you the perfect environmentalist.

On this note, your environmentalism should not end at changing your diet. Veganism has been co-opted as an extremely white movement, but plant-based diets have existed for centuries in other communities, long before making it to the white mainstream. Don’t let your vegan morals end at Joe and the Juice juices and quinoa – follow BIPOC creators and educators on Instagram and understand how the vegan movement currently benefits white people, often at the expense of its historical originators.

A graph showing the comparison between animal products and plant-based products, showing that how your food is grown can vastly alter its environmental impact

7. Consider why

Going plant-based is a great thing to do for so many reasons, but for some people, it can be exactly the wrong thing to do. For example, if you struggle with restrictive behaviours when it comes to eating, suddenly switching to a vegan diet can be triggering and lead to unhealthy behaviours. If you’re concerned, speak to a dietician before trying anything new. As mentioned above, eating a vegan diet shouldn’t be about restriction – it should be about expanding your diet to incorporate a whole range of delicious plant-based foods.

8. Look at other areas of your life

Scientists have said that going vegan is the single biggest thing an individual can do to reduce their environmental footprint. However, there are numerous other ways you can also benefit the environment, from consuming fewer goods overall (e.g. not buying new clothes every week), flying considerably less and moving to an ethical bank. Going plant-based was my ‘gateway drug’ to considering my other actions and their impact – and I’m still learning new things every day! Check out my vlog on some of the best ways to reduce your overall environmental impact.

9. You won’t get weak and weedy

One of the biggest concerns about veganism (at least among the fitness community) is that it doesn’t allow for ‘gains’ and fitness progress. This couldn’t be further from the truth – a vegan diet can certainly be sufficient and even beneficial for athletes – but it is something that you should consider when making the switch. When I turned plant-based I expected either massive gains at the gym or to lose all my strength and endurance over time. In reality, not much changed at all, and the diet provided enough of everything to take me through 2 boxing fights, a marathon, 2 ultra marathons and all my workouts in between. So long as you eat enough calories, ensure you eat a wide variety of foods and supplement what’s lacking, you may see fitness benefits, or at worst, just stay the same as you were before.

This guy was vegan!

10. Remember, everyone takes their time

Once you’ve made the huge step to becoming plant-based, it can be frustrating to watch others choose not to do the same. When you’ve educated yourself on the myriad benefits and made the effort to switch, it’s easy to get up on your high-horse and judge others who haven’t done the same. Getting angry at people, however, rarely leads to positive, long-lasting change – think back to the number of times someone suggested that you try vegetarianism or veganism. It’s likely you didn’t suddenly change your way of life and immediately turn vegan, so why would you expect the same from someone else? People have their own reasons for living the way they do, and trying to force someone into your way of thinking can have the reverse effect you want it to. By all means educate if someone enquires, but I find living my best life and leading by example is enough.

I feel great eating a plant-based diet. I love it for so many reasons, but that’s because I’ve planned it, researched extensively, listened to my body and learnt over the years. It’s undoubtedly the right thing for me. I’m still learning everyday and wouldn’t dream of considering the way I do things the ‘best way possible’; everyone is unique, everyone moves at their own pace and what works for you won’t necessarily work for someone else.

Good luck with your Veganuary or the start of your plant-based way of living! I’d love to hear if you found this useful and if you have any pieces of advice of your own! Comment below and don’t forget to share this on Instagram! If you enjoyed this article, please consider making a small contribution to the running of my blog.

Supplements for vegans

As we take the first tentative steps into January, many people will be making their first forays into veganism. And with all the many health benefits, environmental benefits and ethical considerations, it’s not surprising that more and more people are moving towards plant-based diets each year.

However, as with any diet, veganism is one that should be planned, in order to make it as balanced and varied as possible. One of my favourite things about eating plant-based is that it forces me to be more imaginative with my cooking. When I ate a pescatarian diet (no meat, just fish from the age of 5 to around 22 years old), I often cooked the same few meals over and over again. When I started eating plant-based, however, I had to reconsider the flavours, cuisines and types of food I wanted to eat. It was probably one of the better things I ever did for my cooking, but also for my health, as I had to start eating lots of different types of foods to remain healthy.

If you’re considering veganism just for a month and know what you’re doing, the chances are you won’t become deficient in anything. It’s also accepted that well-planned vegan diets are sufficient to get enough nutrients (and more!) into your system. However, if you would like to eat a more plant-based diet more of the time or are just starting out and unsure what you need, taking supplements is highly recommended, as well as aiming to introduce more foods into your diet. It’s not enough to just cut out meat and dairy, and continue eating all the parts of your previous diet, just without these elements with without adding anything new. Not only would it likely be bland and uninspiring, it’d also leave you at risk of deficiencies, and likely swearing you’ll never go vegan again. But alongside extra foods, there are some supplements that it’s recommended that vegans take. Read on for more!

Supplements you should consider as a vegan

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is recommended for all vegetarian and vegans, and if you’re not sure whether you’re deficient you’re unlikely to cause yourself any harm by supplementing. Because of this, it is good to take whether you believe you are deficient or not, as much of the population is lacking B12. Some people suggest that you can get enough from unwashed vegetables, mushrooms, spirulina etc., but there is no scientific evidence for this belief.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is recommended for everyone living in the UK or northern latitude countries due to reduced sunlight hours in winter. It assists with calcium absorption and is vital for healthy bones, so should be supplemented by anyone – vegan or otherwise – living in northern latitudes over winter.

Long-chain Omega 3s

Long-chain omega 3s play a part in brain and eye health, so are pretty important to get right. Reduced levels have been linked with depression, breast cancer and various other conditions. Omegas are mostly found in fish oils, which explains why vegetarians and vegans have up to 50% lower concentrations of EPA and DHA (long chain fatty acids) than omnivores. Because of this, it’s recommended that vegetarians, and vegans especially, supplements with algae oil, high in essential fatty acids, to maintain healthy levels.

Iron

Iron supplementation, especially for women, may be advisable if you don’t eat red meat. Too little iron can lead to anaemia and symptoms such as fatigue and decreased immune function. Vegans can absolutely get enough iron from foods such as cruciferous vegetables, beans, pulses, dried fruits, nuts and seeds, as well as fortified foods such as plant-milks, but if you’re suffering from symptoms of anaemia, consider seeing a doctor to see if iron supplements would help. Don’t take iron supplements if you don’t feel you are deficient – having levels too high can be also harmful, so seek medical advice if you are unsure.

Iodine

Iodine could be beneficial for vegans, especially those who are pregnant. Since iodine is mostly found in seafood and dairy products (due to iodine used to clean farming equipment), vegans are at risk of becoming deficient. Reduced iodine levels can lead to hypothyroidism, so although it is possible to reach the RDA with vegan foods such as seaweed and iodine salt, if you don’t eat these regularly, it may help to take a supplement.

Thankfully, it’s easy to find supplements nowadays containing all the recommended vitamins and minerals required as a vegan so you’re not popping five plus pills each morning. Many non-vegans are also advised to supplement (e.g. for vitamin D) so provided you take supplements as recommended, you’re really not missing out on anything while eating a plant based diet! It can seem daunting having to take supplements, but in reality it’s quite simple – supplements such as Wellwomen Vegan and Boots A-Z contain almost all the required minerals in one capsule and would probably be beneficial for many people to top up their diet.

Of course, supplements should not replace a balanced and varied diet – many things are better absorbed when consumed in food form, not to mention better tasting – but getting any diet right is key to living a healthy, energetic and happy life, and the same goes for veganism, whether just for January or for the rest of your life.

I’d love to hear if you’re giving Veganuary a go, and whether you choose to supplement or not and why! Comment below and share this on Instagram if you found it helpful.

Can wool be sustainable and ethical?

As someone who eats a plant-based diet, I might be considered the type of person who would avoid wool and other natural animal-based fibres from an ethical standpoint. However, as with almost everything in life, I find reality refuses to conform to the categories we attempt to put it in; veganism isn’t always more sustainable than a non-vegan diet, plastic isn’t always worse than glass and organic isn’t always better than non-organic. As with everything, I try to make my decisions based on the evidence in front of me – and as always, the evidence is rarely black and white, and always content dependent. 

Wool is one of the oldest textiles in human history, with clothing made from wool dating back 10,000 years from across the world. As with all products produced today, wool should be placed under heavy scrutiny to call into question its ethical and sustainable credentials, but as with all products, the answer often depends on a myriad of factors. 

How sustainable is wool?

One of the major benefits of natural fibres such as wool is that they are made from renewable resources, biodegradable and require minimal amounts of chemicals for processing. These are all issues that plague the majority of synthetic materials production, alongside the issue of microfibre release – where tiny pieces of plastic are released into our oceans eat time synthetic fabrics are washed. 

However, the majority of wool’s impact comes from the keeping of livestock on land that could otherwise be left wild, or cleared to feed the ever growing human population, rather than livestock (a notoriously inefficient method of feeding humans). The sustainability issues of wool come from the sheer quantity in which we want it, as this leads to large amounts of land clearing and environmental degradation, as well as greenhouse gas emissions. When combined with the eutrophication caused by large amount of animal faeces damaging local waterways, wool is on average one of the least sustainable materials when assessed pre-consumer

However, as with many fabrics, the method of cultivation makes a huge difference to its environmental footprint. Unfortunately the majority of tools used to assess the environmental impact of textiles, such as Higg Index, end pre-consumer, giving only a limited picture of real-world environmental impact. The consequence of this is that short-lived, low quality items are equated with better-made, durable products, simply because of the fibres used. With many fabrics, the majority of the difference in environmental footprint is dictated by the length of life of the garment and the number of times it is worn. This indicates that the consumer has a huge amount of power in altering their own environmental footprint, not only by choosing more sustainable fibres, but also by choosing to buy less overall, and keep what they own for a long time. Buying quality clothing is key to this, and as wool products tend to have long lifespans, the environmental footprint is considerably reduced over its lifespan. 

When you look post-gate at consumer use and end of life options, wool’s sustainability credentials start to improve. During its life, wool tends to need washing much less frequently than synthetic fibres, especially in sportswear as it has natural odour-resistant and antibacterial properties. After its longer than average lifespan, wool is also easily recycled unlike mixed-fibre synthetic garments, providing options for a second or third life. Aside from this, it also biodegrades both on land and in water, meaning that provided it is disposed of properly, it has extremely low impacts after its useful life. 

In conclusion, there are many ways in which wool’s sustainability credentials could be improved, from raising sheep through regenerative farming to methane gas mitigation. However, provided woollen items are worn for a number of years, environmental impacts could be minimal, and reduced further by 50% simply by wearing items more. 

How ethical is wool?

PETA claims that there is no such thing as ethical wool, and there are certainly ethical implications of raising animals for human use. In Australia and some other places around the world, there is a common but inhumane practise called mulesing, the practise of cutting away areas of skin on the buttocks, in order to prevent flystrike. This is often done without anaesthetic and can lead to death, or at least immense pain for the animal. Not only is this cruel, it is often also unsuccessful. The US has also been highlighted to carry out this procedure, through footage released by PETA.

New Zealand, on the other hand, has some of the best animal welfare standards globally, and the country’s Animal Welfare Act strictly prohibits mulesing. Choosing free-range, hand-shorn animals reduces lifetime stress and anxiety to the sheep. Similarly, it is also banned in the UK.

Because of the variation in animal welfare standards globally, it is important for brands to have transparency throughout the supply chain, all the way back to the farms their wool comes from. Without this, it is impossible to know how they are treated in order to choose brands wisely. To help with this, there are a number of globally recognised certifications and accreditations that provide third-party verification of humane and ethical wool production through regular audits. Examples of these include Responsible Wool Standard (RWS)Certified Organic WoolCertified Animal Welfare ApprovedCertified Humane® Label, the ZQ Merino StandardSoil Association Organic Standards and Climate Beneficial by Fibershed. Some of these also look at the environmental impact of the wool too, ensuring minimal environmental degradation in the raising of flocks too. 

On a side note, it is extremely important to understand what type of wool you are buying. Merino wool comes from Merino sheep, which are bred to have wrinkly skin to increase wool production. In hotter conditions, this can cause heat exhaustion and extreme discomfort, so ensure you buy your merino from sources accredited by ZQ Merino Standard or the Responsible Wool Standard. 

Angora ‘wool’ comes from rabbits, and if often harvested by plucking the animal, which can cause distress. In addition, 90% of the world’s angora comes from China, which does not have the same ethical standards as some other parts of the world. In 2013, many brands ceased angora product releases, after footage was released exposing the extreme animal cruelty existing in farms in China. Similar footage has been released from farms in France. Needless to say, while it is possible to collect naturally-moulted fur from rabbits for wool, it is hard to guarantee the ethical nature of this type of wool.

Cashmere (including Pashmina and Cashgora), made from goat’s hair,  has been linked to environmental degradation in Mongolia. In an effort to improve its sustainability credentials, brands such as Patagonia and Stella McCartney opt for recycled cashmere instead of virgin options. Cashmere’s environmental impact is roughly 100x that of wool.

TL;DR

  • Wool can be both sustainable and ethical, or neither, depending on where you buy it from, though of course your personal ethics will dictate in part what is deemed ethical. The bar has to be set very high to ensure both ethical and sustainable production.
  • As with most elements of consumerism, the sustainability issues of wool are derived from the quantities in which we consume it, not necessarily the wool itself.
  • Choosing brands that are transparent about their sources and can trace their wool to particular farms is the best option if you want to buy it – there are many places that do not produce ethical wool, and the practise of mulesing is still commonplace. If a brand does not specify no mulesing, do not buy from there.
  • Opt for wool that has been accredited and audited by a third-party certification, such as Responsible Wool Standard (RWS) or ZQ Merino Standard, to ensure its ethical and sustainable production as much as possible. 
  • Alternatively, buy recycled wool or second hand – this is always preferential when it comes to buying clothes.
  • Wool’s environmental impact is dictated for the most part by how many times it is worn. The longer the lifespan of a garment, the smaller its environmental footprint, and this is especially true of wool. 
  • Due to wool’s internal properties, it is both highly durable and needs washing less frequently than other fibres, improving its sustainability credentials. 
  • Wool has better end of life options than synthetic fibres, due to ease of recycling and being biodegradable. 

As with all things, there is no simple answer or perfect solution when it comes to sustainability. We should all be buying less overall and wearing for longer. With knowledge we can call for brands to do better, and choose great quality products that will last a lifetime and beyond.

What are your thoughts on wool? Would you buy it, secondhand or otherwise? Many thanks to Hattie (@hattie_eco) for helping research this topic! Go and check out her Instagram for more sustainability info.

Homemade peanut butter

Making your own peanut butter is so easy and yet so rewarding – I would recommend it to anyone looking who gets through inordinate amounts of peanut butter and wants to reduce the amount they have to buy. This can be made in large batches (I put mine in old 1kg peanut butter tubs) and lasts for a lot time (or not, if you’re anything like me).

I find most recipes on the internet recommend blanched peanuts, peanut oil and honey, but unless you really enjoy ‘Skippy’-style peanut butter, ditch the honey. Vegetable oil works fine – the roasted peanuts is where all the flavour comes from anyway, and using peanuts with skins on gives the peanut butter more texture (not to mention nutrients).

IMG_4447

Peanut butter and cinnamon on soda-bread – heavenly!

 

Ingredients

  • 1kg peanuts (you can use blanched if you prefer a smoother texture, but I like redskin peanuts, or a mix)
  • 2 tbsp Vegetable oil
  • Pinch of salt

Method

  • Preheat oven to 200 degrees C
  • Pour the peanuts onto 2 baking trays, ensuring they are are evenly spread out. Cook for 10 – 12 minutes.
  • Check the peanuts after about 6 minutes and give them a stir to ensure none get burned (this can happen very suddenly so watch out!).
  • When they are cracking and browned, remove them from the oven. The longer you cook the easier it will be to get a smooth nut butter, but you don’t want them burned or it ruins the taste.
  • Carefully pour 75% of the nuts into a food processor (if you want crunchy peanut butter, otherwise add them all) and blend for around 5 minutes until it is the consistency of couscous.
  • Pour in the oil and salt, mix around the blended nuts and blend for a further 5 minutes, or until smooth. If need be, add some more oil.
  • To make crunchy peanut butter, now add the remaining 25% of the peanuts and blend on a low speed until they are roughly chopped – this should take less than a minute.
  • Spoon out in to a jar and you’re all done! Enjoy 🙂

 

If you decide to give this recipe a go, don’t forget to tag me on Instagram so I can see!

 

Soy wax candles – the best startups

One of my favourite things about having a bit of a following on social media is being about to crowdsource information, like the best veggie restaurants in Copenhagen, what headphones you’d recommend and what podcasts I should listen to. I recently asked you guys what soy wax candles you’d recommend, after getting saddened by the dearth of ‘home comforts’ at my boyfriend’s place.

Screenshot 2020-04-16 at 12.39.19

Candles are a bit of a cliché when it comes to self care, but I have to say, I really, really feel better when I have a bunch of candles lit. I think it’s something to do with dedicating that time to myself, which I don’t often do in London – once a candle’s lit, that’s it, it’s ‘me-time’.

Anyway, I also wanted to support some small businesses and start-ups, but sadly can’t buy from all of them, so I thought I’d share with you some of the recommendations!

All of the below brands are vegan, eco-friendly, cruelty free small businesses. From what I can tell, they are all handmade, often by people with other jobs, such as NHS workers and students. I think they’ve all done an amazing job and I hope you agree! 🙂 Let me know if you buy from any of these companies- I’d love to feature you on my Instagram!

The Good Aura Company

The Good Aura Company was set up to create candles that melt evenly, and are made from a natural soy wax designed with specially blended scents created to actually last once lit. Each candle and wax melt is hand poured by us in house and are vegan and cruelty free.

Shmood

Handmade in the Lake District, Shmood provides sustainable and natural candles at an affordable price point. All ingredients are locally sourced and the candles smell divine! Each candle purchase also donates 50p to Mind charity.

W + W Workshop

If you’re looking for a fancy candle that’s also zero-waste and eco-friendly, look no further. A portion of the profits also go to charities such as Black Minds Matter and Fare Share UK. The packaging is made from 100% recycled glass and all packaging is made from recycled paper.

The Eco Witch Co

From the founder: “The Eco Witch Co. candles have been created with both environmental and ecological consideration at the heart of the making process. Each candle is based on a positive intention which an individual may wish to draw into their life and every material element of the candle can be repurposed once it has burnt down. Hand poured from soy wax and scented with essential and fragrance oils that are both vegan and cruelty-free, you can enjoy a candle by The Eco Witch Co. with the knowledge that it has been created with thought and care, leaving minimal impact on the Earth.”

The Red Fox Candle 

Feu Candles 

Feu is a super small candle business based in Manchester who use crackling wood wicks, natural soy wax and a unique blend of fragrances. All the design and packaging was sourced or created in the hopes that all aspects of Feu can be used around your home, whilst burning your candle and after it’s finished!

Beer Candle UK

Pause UK

From the founder: “PAUSE aims to be a reminder to slow down. In this hectic, mad world we live in, it’s so easy to get caught up in the frantic twirl of everyday life and responsibilities. We forget to take mindful time to ourselves and we overlook the importance of caring for the places we spend most time in, in a way that they feel clean, safe, welcoming.

“It was both as a reminder to ourselves and the wish to reach out in small ways and help other people that PAUSE was born 🧡

“Personally, making candles and running a small business has been a wonderful tool in helping me deal with depression and anxiety. It gives me a sense of purpose and allows me to pour love into my craft.”

Twinings Home

Wildheart Organics

Ignite Candle Bar

From the founder: “My fiancé and I started this upcycling program earlier this year. Our goal was to reduce the amount of bottles going into the landfills. Living in Hawaii we’ve learned to become more sustainable and have done our best to reduce our eco footprint. We partnered up with local bars and restaurants on Oahu and collect all their empty bottles. We basically dumpster dive! We then turn each bottle into beautifully handcrafted candles with hand poured all natural soy wax, scented with our intoxicating scents”

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Vegan Bunny Co

Aery Living

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The Power of Aromatherapy. Envelope yourself in soothing environments and elevate your mental and physical wellbeing. Choose from 6 deeply relaxing and uplifting fragrances. . Essential oils can reach deep within the mind to restore inner peace, instil calm, evoke positive feelings, aid relaxation, anxiety, stress and sleep. . Aromas are sent directly to the centre of the brain, where it is processed and releases neurochemicals that can be calming or stimulating or sedative depending on the oils used. . There are many simple ways to look after our wellbeing from exercising to yoga and walking the dog to socialising with friends or harnessing the power of aromatherapy! . Our candles not only have amazing aromas but also proven wellness benefits. . Our fragrances are a blend of pure essential oils and fragrance oils designed to fill your room with effective, beautiful aromatic scents. . Why is Aery Different? . We take the time to perfect and craft all our original and totally unique and beautiful blends. . All our candles are made from sustainable European grown GMO free soy. . 100% Pure Soy Wax Candles Made in England. . We test our candles for the optimum amount of fragrance throw so as not to overpower and just the right amount of essential oils to yield the greatest wellness benefits. . We believe a balanced holistic life is vital to all our wellbeing. . We use 100% soy wax from sustainable European-grown soy for an eco-friendly, clean burn with lead-free cotton wicks. . Our candles are hand wicked and then poured and labeled by our team of experienced makers. . Our candles are: petroleum-free GMO free Cruelty-free 100% Vegan. . We are eco-conscious: We are Plastic Free Our Glass is Recyclable . We use: FSC, Recycled and fully recyclable plastic free packaging and Eco Shipping Materials including Paper Packing Tape. #aery #aeryliving #soycandles #soywax #sustainable #aromatherapy #mindful #calm #relax #heavilymeditated #happyspace #positiveenergy #andrelax #essentialoil #scentedcandle #madeinenglsnd #gmofree #plasticfree #vegan #meditation #yoga

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Avanti Candles

The Burning Bean Co

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Chelsea Candle

Lemon drizzle cake

Lemon drizzle cake was once a staple recipe of mine, but for a long time I didn’t want to make it, because of how ‘unhealthy’ it is. This cake is, however, extremely good for the soul (doctor says so) and cheap and easy to make. Don’t forget to buy unwaxed lemons or you’ll be grating wax into your mixture.

Tag my Instagram if you give this recipe a go!

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Ingredients

  • 225g margarine (I use Flora, obviously)
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 1tbsp almond butter
  • 2 unwaxed lemons
  • 250g self raising flower
  • 50ml non-dairy milk (I use soya)

For the drizzle

  • Juice 1 lemon
  • 100g icing sugar

 

Method

  • Pre heat the oven to 180 degrees (fan)/160 (gas)
  • Semi melt the margarine for 30s in the microwave
  • Add the caster sugar and beat (a fork is fine)
  • Add in the almond butter and try to mix in evenly. A few lumps aren’t the end of the world but will affect the final cake texture
  • Add the flour to the mixture and fold in, before adding the zest of both lemons
  • Pour in the soya milk slowly as you mix, until the mixture is a good consistency. I use the full 50ml.
  • Let the mixture sit for 5 minutes before pouring into a lined loaf tin and placing in the oven for 45-55 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean. If the top starts to burn but the insides are still wet, place tinfoil over the cake and continue to cook until a skewer comes out clean.
  • While the cake is cooking, mix together the juice of 1 lemon and the icing sugar and set aside
  • Once the cake is done, remove it from the oven and place the loaf tin on a wire cooling rack. Prick the tip with the skewer or a fork, and pour over the drizzle.
  • Once totally cool, remove from the cake tin and serve. Enjoy!

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Don’t forget to let the cake cool before turning it out of the tin!

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This photo was taken for an ad but I liked it enough to post here too!

The Epicurean Club – New Forest

It was my pleasure to be able to collaborate with The Epicurean Club on this blog post, but, as always, all views are my own.

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The New Forest is reminiscent of my childhood – free-roaming ponies, long country walks and an endless sky. I’ve always felt at home in this gorgeous national park, and have recently taken the time to visit it more and more. With over 218 square miles to explore and 141 miles of footpaths, I’ve never felt like it could get boring.

When I heard that The Epicurean Club had listed a number of hotels in the area, I immediately knew that I had to visit again – there’s something about exploring childhood memories as an adult that adds a new magic to them.

The Epicurean Club lists a collection of the very best boutique hotels, pubs and inns across Britain. Each place is situated in beautiful surroundings and boasts superior food (just wait ’til you see) and interiors. One of my favourite features about The Epicurean, however, is the ease in which they allow you to make the most of the local surroundings. We see so many images of foreign lands and white sandy beaches on social media, forgetting, somehow, that we have so much of our own culture and beauty (and yes, white sandy beaches) just on our doorstep. The Epicurean Club hosts experiences in each location, designed to help you get the most out of your stay, be it riding in the New Forest or a helicopter flight over the South Downs. There really is something for everyone.

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Nothing like an evening stroll to relax after a long drive!

The Mayflower, Lymington

Our Epicurean experience took us first to The Mayflower in Lymington, a harbourside inn known for its al fresco dining and delicious local food.

Upon arrival, Fiann and I took a walk around the local wetlands, tucked behind the yacht harbour. It was amazing to see the yachts, but I loved the fact that despite all the wealth, the wetlands were preserved and protected. If you’re a bird-nerd, you’ll love it here.

Our room was beautiful and cosy – who doesn’t want a huge bathtub in the room? Despite the antique feel, everything was beautifully presented and modern, with a traditional twist. Think low ceilings and wooden beams, but walk-in rain shower, huge double bed and espresso machine. Win-win.

By far my favourite part about our stay at The Mayflower was the food. Forget what you know about pub food – this was deserving of a Michelin star! In fact, the hotel has a one-rosette restaurant, which sources many of its ingredients locally – a big selling point for me, as sustainability is something I’d like to see thought about more in the hospitality industry.

If you’re vegan, fear not. We were handed the vegan menu which is extensive (rare for a British pub anywhere!) and aided in choosing a vegan wine. Our waitress really knew her wines, and we ended up with a gorgeous red and one portion of everything on the vegan menu (I’m not joking).

The food was impeccable, possibly the best vegan food I have ever tasted. We ate three courses each, so it was great that the food wasn’t too heavy, but rich enough to be immensely satisfying and warming. My favourite dish was the smoked celeriac and mushroom orzo (centre image above), which tasted so much like a smoked-salmon dish I nearly sent it back. The sorbets could do with tasting a little more natural, but they were the perfect end to a rich and delicious meal.

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We ate dinner in front of the cosy log fire – perfect for a winter’s evening!

Experience

The Epicurean Club’s specialty is the experiences they combine with local stays, chosen to make the most of the surrounding countryside and towns. As Fiann and I are pretty active, we decided to head out on a self-guided bike ride with Cyclexperience.

Booking includes bike hire for a full day, and we were blessed with such amazing weather we took full advantage of this! Jon and the rest of the helpful crew at Cyclexperience helped us choose a sufficiently challenging route and send us on our way, complete with map, GPS, mountain bikes, helmets (optional) and toolkit. Thankfully they provide a breakdown service for free, so it was good to know we were safe if we got lost/anything broke!

We had so much fun exploring the woods and grasslands on the bikes, saying hi to the ponies and, of course, sampling the recommended local pubs (thanks Jon!). It was also nice knowing that the majority of the route was off the roads – as an unconfident road cyclist, I much prefer sticking to trails so our route was perfect.

I love the pictures we took – it was such a fun day and the perfect way to build up and appetite for what was to come!

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Am I a pro photographer now?

The Mill at Gordleton

After handing back the bikes shortly after the sun went down, we headed off to our final hotel stay, The Mill at Gordleton. After hearing from a few friends this was the place to go in the New Forest, it’s fair to say I was pretty excited!

The Mill is beautifully situated next to a river (hence its name as an ex-mill), with ‘secret’ gardens and lovely interiors with ‘country-house’ charm. Our room was the perfect mix of the original 17th-century cosiness and a totally modern bathroom (the one place you maybe don’t want 17th-century vibes!).

We were luck enough to be able to experience a suite in the main building, which had a bedroom, ensuite bathroom and a living room, complete with a smart TV (we spent our time after dinner enjoying some Netflix in front of the fire).

We moved our dinner earlier simply to be able to enjoy more of it, after experiencing the delights at The Mayflower. We were not disappointed!

Sadly the fresh bread on the menu was not vegan, but we were instead offered fresh focaccia and butternut squash ‘bread’ – more like a cake, but who’s complaining. I could have just eaten the bread all evening, but we moved onto starters and mains after devouring the contents of the bread basket.

In contrast to The Mayflower, the food at The Mill did not feel ‘healthy’ as such – it was a great recreation of British pub-food made vegan. We were pleased with the number of options available, and once again got one portion of everything. As someone who prefers some ‘lighter’ options, the meal was a little more fried than I’m used to, but my boyfriend loved it a lot! Regardless of the level of frying, the food was delicious, which is what I’ve come to expect of hotels in The Epicurean Collection! I have to make a special note here to please try (and devour) the vegan ice-cream. It is without a doubt the best I have ever had.

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We were given a ‘taster’ of each of the sorbet flavours, as well as the new vegan ice cream – the best I have ever had!

Our stay in the New Forest was the perfect getaway from city life, and I truly feel like i could return again and again across all the seasons and explore something new each time. Next time I would go horse riding and perhaps head back to my former stomping grounds, Salisbury Cathedral (I was a chorister there for 5 years).

Thanks again to the wonderful and helpful staff at The Mayflower, Cyclexperience, The Mill and The Epicurean Club for making this stay so perfect – I hope to be back soon!

 

Seasonal produce – worth the hype?

There’s been a lot of talk in the last few years about the best diet for the planet – is flexitarian better than vegan? Can you eat meat sustainably? Is fish OK? – but within each of these diets is so much variability that it’s hard to determine one diet that could save the day whilst keeping people happy. Eating seasonally is another ‘lifestyle choice’ that has been touted as potentially being the answer to our sustainability questions, with people singing its virtues and even willing to pay more for it, but does it stand up to scrutiny?

Seasonal eating is not a new idea – in fact, before we had well established trade connections across the world, it was the only way people ate. Foods were restricted to certain times of year, and were almost always locally produced. Nowadays, there’s always something in season somewhere, so it’s hard to know what’s available in the UK (or wherever you live) at the time of purchase.

In fact, a survey by the BBC suggested that whilst 78% of Brits claim to shop seasonally, only 5% could name when blackberries ripen in the UK. In addition, it seems not all of us are even aware what ‘seasonal’ and ‘local’ means anymore, so where do we begin?

Seasonal produce tends to be foods grown ‘locally’ at the time of year that they have traditionally been abundant, without the aid of poly tunnels or artificial heating etc. Typically, there is a glut of this produce at a certain time of year when it is ‘seasonal’, thus driving prices down in that area.

So, is it important that we eat seasonally? There are a number of arguments, not all of which stand up to scrutiny, but let’s take a look at them all.

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Local/seasonal veg boxes are now very much the mainstream

It tastes better. One of the main arguments for seasonal, locally produced foods is that it tastes better, since it is growing in conditions that it has evolved to grow optimally in. Local food should, in theory, also be fresher, as it has less far to travel to get to our plates. It’s hard to determine whether on a blind taste test any of us could truly tell the difference between a local and foreign tomato, for example, especially when cooked into a meal, but when in salads or eaten without too much flavouring, local/seasonal produce may well have more depth of flavour.

It is more nutritious.It is thought that locally produced foods have more nutrients in them, since there is a shorter time between them being picked and arriving on your table. Locally produced foods are also given more time to ripen, increasing nutrient levels further. However, this is not the case with all produce – anything that is frozen tends to preserve more nutrients than fresh counterparts, as they are frozen immediately after being picked. Similarly, more ‘hearty’foods such as apples, oranges, grapefruit and carrots are able to retain their nutrients even if they travel long distances.

Purchasing locally produced food helps support the local economy. Since much seasonal produce is also grown locally, buying seasonal helps support local farmers and aids the local economy. If you are also buying from small farms, you’re likely to get a variety of produce you might not find at your local supermarket. Buying from local farms may help boost the economy in the area.

It’s more sustainable. Or is it? It is true that if you were to grow your own vegetables in season, they would be about as sustainable as you could get (growing veg at home is historically very important too!). Thankfully, the energy demand for UK grown vegetables is generally lower than their imported equivalents, aside from a few notable exceptions. Aubergines, cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes in the UK are often grown in heated greenhouses, which are extremely energy intensive. In these cases, transporting the produce from Europe over long distances consumes less primary energy than cultivating them in the UK, provided they are sourced from Europe and transported by road and sea, not air. Cabbage, celery and Brussel sprouts are environmentally the most sustainable veg we can eat in the UK, and asparagus the least.

It’s cheaper. Whilst ‘locally produced’ produce doesn’t have the same ‘premium’ price point of organic produce, people are still willing to pay more for it, despite the fact that intuitively it should be cheaper. Because of this, although intuitively it should cost less this is not always the case.

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Historically, local produce has been very important!

So when is it best to eat seasonally?

When eating raw/fresh produce, local and seasonal vegetables may taste noticeably better and may even be more nutritious. Foods that are able to be picked when fully ripened (as opposed to harvested early so they can be transported further) may be higher in nutrients, and thus have a better flavour. If you are eating a lot of foods raw or unflavoured, this difference in flavour may mean it is worth picking up local produce over imports.

Cabbage, celery and Brussel sprouts are the most sustainable UK produce you can eat, and should always be consumed in season if possible. Aside from that, importing vegetables grown in unheated greenhouses in Europe has a lower impact than UK vegetables cultivated in heated greenhouses (e.g. aubergines, cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes), despite the transportation.

Air freighted vegetables have around a five times higher impact than domestic produce, so in the case of a choice between locally produced vegetables and those air freighted, always choose local produce.

It is important to bear in mind that despite all this information, eating vegetables is always more environmentally friendly than eating red meat, and the confusing nature of food labels should not put you off eating a plant-based or plant-heavy diet. Despite any complications, plant-based diets are the best suited to fight climate change.

In addition, food waste is one of the worst culprits for increasing food impact on our environment. Reducing food waste overall, rather than focussing on purely buying local produce, may have more of a beneficial impact on our environment. 4.2 million tonnes of avoidable food and drink is wasted each year in UK households, worth £12.5 billion.

Wasting food and drink hits our wallets and is a financial drain on local authorities who have to pay for food waste collection and treatment. It has a detrimental impact on the environment, wasting the materials, water and energy used in its production. Rather than spending more on local produce, try wasting less of the produce you already have.

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How various vegetables impact the environment looking at different factors 

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The overall energy consumption of various vegetables (PED MJ/kg)

TL;DR

  • Local/seasonal produce is generally seen as superior in multiple ways, from taste to sustainability to economically.
  • When choosing produce, buy British except in the case where heated greenhouses are used.
  • Avoid air-freighted vegetables always. Opt for sea and land-freighted vegetables when imported.
  • Plants are generally better than meat, especially red meat.
  • Reduce food waste. If you do one thing to eat more sustainably, stop throwing out so much food.
  • Want to know the best seasonal veg boxes to get in more greens? Check out this article I wrote for Bustle.

 

Thanks for reading! Let me know if you have any thoughts on locally/seasonally produced foods. It’s not nearly as simple as I was expecting!