Thursday 31 January 2019

Veganuary 2019 🌱 How did I get on? Am I staying vegan? What am I still unsure of?

So #Veganuary is over! This year it seemed to reach peak popularity, as more and more people go vegan, or see at least trying veganism for a bit as a viable option. So how did I get on? Read on to find out...

Why did I want to do Veganuary?

For me, 2019 is about aligning my morals with my actions. I have always considered myself an animal lover (and I'm very much that basic bish that will squeal when a dog walks past), and I can no longer justify to myself only believing that domesticated animals should have the right to live and not be abused. I started being 'flexitarian' in 2016, as I used to live in with my bestie, who was vegetarian. At the time I was massively lazy with cooking, and she used to share with me whatever she made for dinner - which was always veggie. That accompanied with the fact I've never enjoyed chopping up raw meat, and an experience with a poor quality chicken meal deal sandwich - I stopped eating chicken, and went flexitarian. Progressively on from that, most meat became unappealing to me (I've always been fussy with cuts of meat being well cooked, and would avoid anything cooked medium rare or with visible fat). The only meat I would eat was cured meats like ham, salami and pepperoni, and fish. 

I cut out normal milk in my tea and cereal around the same time and switched to soy, because I thought it was healthier. I classed myself as pescatarian for most of 2018, although I definitely lapsed a few times on nights out where I ended up having a Maccies and then felt terrible the next day - definitely a lesson learnt that I need a 'fake meat' substitute in my diet! The last time I had meat or fish was August 2018 when I went on holiday to Italy, where I ate a lot of seafood and had a few slices of salami (clearly a weakness). The last few months that I've been completely veggie, I've done more research into the dairy and egg industry, which has thrown up some pretty uncomfortable truths. 

Most people are aware of factory hens and how the egg industry can be cruel, but learning things like how all male chicks are killed en masse (as they serve no purpose as they can't lay eggs), and how dairy cows are forcefully inseminated and then separated from their calves repeatedly (and often the male calves killed, as again they serve no purpose), in order to ensure milk continued milk production, really opened my eyes. In my opinion, the fact these animal products taste good, should not legitimise the suffering animals go through in order for us to procure them. Reading studies about the health and environmental implications of consuming and producing animal products also were massive factors in me being sure I wanted to try Veganuary in 2019.

What did I eat?

First of all I cleared my cupboard/fridge of anything I wouldn't be eating - mayonnaise, super noodles, honey, some ProteinWorld products and some Quorn bits that had egg/milk in them. I ordered my first Tesco shop to arrive before new year's eve, so I wouldn't be tempted to order a massive cheesy pizza if I had a hangover on new year's day. My nearest big supermarket is an Aldi; so I went there for fruit & veg throughout the month, however for things like vegan cheese, fake meat and oat milk, I had to walk into town to a Sainsburys/Tesco/Asda. 

I also bought some Iron and Vitamin C, and Vitamin B12 supplements from Holland & Barrett, and ate spinach quite a lot for extra iron; and I didn't notice feeling tired of lethargic at all.

 Carbs / Dairy alternatives
 Fruit and veg / tofu and jackfruit
Sauces and condiments / meat and junk food alternatives

Not pictured is the canned pulses I bought: black beans, kidney beans, tinned tomatoes and A LOT of chickpeas. Some items I repurchased and were definite staples were: Agave nectar, chickpeas, oat milk, soya yoghurt, pitta bread and nutritional yeast. 

If you want to see my Twitter thread of everything I ate, click HERE.

Some of my breakfasts/snacks/sweets

Some of my favourite recipes were:

Vegan Chilli (honestly the best I've ever had)
Vegan Garlic Bread (super simple and easy to do)
Vegan Margherita Pizza (I added vegan pepperoni slices too)
Mexican Black Beans (good to go with the tacos)
Vegan Cheese Sauce 

How I got on

I didn't think I'd find doing Veganuary that hard because I was already vegetarian, I wasn't eating that many dairy products to begin with, and I've never been a huge fan of eggs. What I didn't realise is that milk in particular, is in EVERYTHING. I became very used to checking product ingredients thoroughly, luckily milk and egg is usually always listed as an allergen and so will be in bold - but a lot of products will very confusingly be labelled 'suitable for vegetarians' (in something that wouldn't contain meat anyway) so you really have to check what you're eating is actually vegan friendly.

To begin with I did crave chocolate (especially with leftover Christmas chocolate still around), but this happened less and less. To be honest, the more research I did into the dairy industry and efforts they have to make to remove pus/blood from milk (and seeing videos of how sore and bloody cows' udders can look after milking), milk products began to seem almost repulsive.

The two things I struggled with were alcohol and honey. I tried to check as much as possible in restaurants if wine was vegan, but occasionally forgot. I also realised at the end of the month that the granola I'd been having for breakfast every day had honey in it (which I hadn't clocked in the ingredients as honey isn't an allergen). 

The free from/gluten free ranges in supermarkets were a godsend for snacking - as these will often be egg or milk free and means you can find a choc bar without hunting too hard. Always check the ingredients though!

Some of my lunches and desserts

Pros of going vegan

There's so many pros of going vegan so I'm just going to keep it short and link to info where I can!

- It's good for your health. There are so many studies that link animal products to really serious health issues. Processed meats are technically in the same WHO carcinogen category as cigarettes. Regular consumption of red meat has been linked to a considerable increase in your chance of getting prostate cancer, and bowel cancer. I also found I just ate more healthy in general as you have to 'hunt' a bit more for junk food, i.e it might be easier for me have an apple instead of find a supermarket that does dairy free chocolate. And of course, you're eating more fruit and veg, so you're definitely getting your 5 a day in.

- There's literally vegan alternatives for everything. Steak lover? Vivera do a steak which literally bleeds (this weirds me out a little I must admit). Cheese fanatic? You can get vegan versions of most types of cheese. And Papa Johns have just released a line of vegan pizzas too. 

- It's good (and probably essential) for the planet. 80% of rainforest deforestation is caused by the animal agriculture industry. A new study by Oxford University has said that avoiding meat and dairy is the single BIGGEST way to reduce our impact on earth.

- If you're looking to lose weight, going vegan can help. I personally found I lost the weight I gained over Christmas and a little bit more (and I wasn't going to the gym for the first few weeks in Januaryeither), just from the switch in diet. I also never went hungry, and I still kept up regular snacking and sweets/pudding.

- Clearer Skin. I don't know if I personally noticed a change in this, but this is often used as a solution for those with acne (who might not be going fully vegan either) - there seems to be quite a strong link with skin problems and dairy consumption.

- Save money! The vegan or vegetarian option in restaurants tends to always be cheaper, and often your food shop will be cheaper too - even if you buy vegan meat/cheese.

- Improve your cooking skills. I found myself looking up new recipes to try to keep things exciting, and I prepped a lot more in advance. Asides from one or two cooking disasters (e.g incinerating an entire chickpea curry), I've definitely improved my cooking skills and learnt new go-to quick recipes.

- Save the animals. If you're an animal lover, veganism is for you. No animal wants to die, or be abused. There's no such thing as a 'humane' or 'ethical' slaughter. By going vegan you won't contribute to any cruel practices. 

- Help your stomach. I'm pretty sure there's meant to be a stereotype of vegans pooing a lot (lol), and I definitely noticed this in the first week or so! I think this is as your body gets used to the extra fibre in your diet, and things have calmed down since. I've suffered with IBS type symptoms for most of my 20s and I'd say my stomach has definitely improved since going vegan.

For a list of 100 reasons to go vegan check out this thread HERE.

Some of my dinners

Cons of going vegan

- Other people's opinions. The same way you can end up debating politics & religion with people, and especially when you've discovered something new you're excited about - the lifestyle change does seem to rile people, and I've even found myself worrying new people I meet will assume I'm preachy and holier than thou because I'm eating vegan. I've definitely a few times justified myself with 'but I do miss salami' or 'I'll probably crack soon and have some cheddar lolol'. As someone who lives in a perpetual state of worrying what others think of me, there does seem to be the negative of making sure to prove to others that you're not one of THOSE vegans. Which is silly really, because it's just what you're eating.

- The eating out conundrum. If you like looking at the menu before going to a restaurant, you're in the luck - because you're going to be doing a lot of that. If you're going out for dinner with friends you may end up having to ask to go to restaurants with more options, or even just a restaurant with AN option. Hilariously, veggie friends have had multiple experiences where they've found fish was considered the vegetarian option on the menu, and suggesting otherwise completely bewildered the staff. If you're in a big city however you shouldn't have an issue with this at all, most big chains now have a vegan menu, and there will be plenty of speciality restaurants.

Some more of my dinners

My recommendations

Take it slow. If you're thinking of cutting out animal products - don't immediately go vegan, because the shock to the system will probably mean you fail (see above where I ended up getting cheese burgers after a few vodka cokes). Try slowly, work your way in with things like meat free mondays, switch to a plant based milk (my favourite is oat, and it tastes the most realistic to cow's milk imo), go pescatarian, go veggie, and so forth.

Find your inspiration & information. Find resources to help and inspire you. There are plenty of vegan influencers, vegan twitter is always informative, and there are loads of vegan documentaries. Don't torture yourself with abbattoir videos if they're going to upset you/make you feel sick, you can educate yourself about the cruelty without having to see it. I try to focus on mind over matter, yes I want that dairy milk bar - but was has been the ethical cost of it?

Documentaries I watched

- Cowspiracy (the environmental impact of commercial livestock rearing)

- What The Health (health and animal products)
- Forks Over Knives (health and animal products)

Influencers I followed

- Grace Fit (Vegan Fitness Influencer)

- Lucy Watson (Ex-MIC, has her own vegan ready-meal range and often has loads of good info on her insta stories)
- Amy The Vegan (V active on vegan twitter, creates insanely useful threads with loads of info)
- Vegan Beauty Girl (all things vegan & cruelty free beauty, great if you're trying to switch out your products to ethical alternatives) 

Accessibility & failure. Only do what is within your means, and accessible to you. While I don't think veganism is more expensive, certain factors can affect your ability to follow any diet - whether this is a vegan diet or not.

Don't beat yourself up if you fail, even the smallest changes make a difference to animals and the environment. Find vegan alternatives to combat your weaknesses (i.e cheese, chocolate, burgers...). No one is under the impression that it's possible to be completely vegan, due to how to how most human living is structured around the utilisation of animal products. Just do what you can!

Find your local vegan spots. My favourites in Manchester include:

City Centre

- V Revolution (vegan diner)
- Folk and Soul
- Ancoats General Store (good selection of vegan food and ready meals)
Eighth Day (health food shop)
- Bundobust (veggie & vegan Indian food, cannot recommend this place enough!)
- Black Milk (has dairy free milkshake and dessert options)


- Lotus Kitchen (Vegetarian/Vegan Chinese food)
- Fuel Cafe Bar
- Dosa Express


- Zad's (vegan pizza and burgers)
Unicorn (health food shop)

One I tried recently in Leeds as well is El Marchador Tacos, which also does vegan tequila/cocktails.

Bundobust in Manchester - image source

Parts of veganism I'm still unsure of

- The commercial egg industry is horrifying regardless if your eggs are organic/free range/caged. However, if you keep chickens in a non commercial setting in your garden, they have lots of space to roam, are treated well, and there is no cockerel to fertilise the eggs - does this make the eggs acceptable to eat? Tbh I think I've been put off eggs from the health aspect now, but from having chickens throughout my childhood, if the eggs aren't fertilised a chicken will either ignore them after laying or destroy them out of boredom. Does this justify eating them?

- Commercial honey production can be problematic, as the honey is a resource the bees create to feed themselves over winter, and bee keepers can often cull the hive over winter anyway, as they won't be producing honey. However, again if you keep bees as a hobby, don't cull the hive or remove all the honey that the bees create, can this be acceptable? I need to do more research but I can consider myself continuing to eat honey if it was farmed locally, non-commercially, organically etc - due to the health benefits of eating it (and agave nectar is still a little difficult to get hold of).

- Not related to food, but wool is another aspect I'm unsure of. My impression was always that sheep NEED to be shorn (I've occasionally seen those articles where sheep are found after being lost for years and are so fluffy they can't actually see/walk properly). However I've read a few articles recently on cruel/reckless shearing practices that can even mutilate sheep.

An example of said overgrown sheep. Image source.

Am I staying vegan?

Yes! For me, I can't see a reason not to stay vegan. The key for making a permanent switch has definitely been educating myself. I now know what happens in the dairy & meat industries from my research (and also from growing up in a farming community, plus living on a small holding with pigs and chickens during my teenage years) - and knowing what happens, I cannot justify to myself eating animal products anymore. I'm going to be carrying on my vegan journey, and I'll keep updating you guys as I go!


Did you try Veganuary this year? Georgie x


Tuesday 22 January 2019

14 ways to be an eco-friendly millennial in 2019🌍

We're royally buggering the planet. Obviously, this isn't a recent revelation, but scientists have now estimated we have 12 years to drastically change our harmful habits before climate change is irreversible. I think this year we will see the zero-waste movement becoming more popular, i.e forgetting recycling, and stopping the use of single use plastics all together. I'm trying to make a conscious effort in 2019 to really think about how my lifestyle affects the planet, and align my morals to my actions - so I've put together a lil' list of ways I'll be trying to change in 2019 and be an eco-friendly millennial. 

Some of these alternatives are a bit more pricey, or less accessible - so I recommend just doing what's within your means, and not beating yourself up when you can't! I'll try and link to research for everything as well, but feel free to suggest any more!

1) Reduce waste in your beauty routine

In 2019 I'm going to try and say goodbye to the following: face wipes, cotton balls and Q tips. Unless the cotton balls are organic, like most sanitary products the cotton has probably been bleached and treated beforehand - which isn't going to be great for sensitive skin. Plus most cotton balls will be brought in non-recyclable plastic bags that will end up landfill. Wet wipes & face wipes are a known scourge on the environment, as they are woven with plastic fibres, making them non biodegradable and a major contributor to sewer blockages and fatbergs.  Cotton buds/Q Tips similarly are made from plastic and cotton - there's a great blog post here on their environmental damage and alternatives.

Alternatives you can use

Muslin cloths and a cleanser, or biodegradable face wipes

Biodegradable q tips/cotton buds (or stop using these at all, as our ears clean themselves naturally!), reusable cotton balls/pads (these get popped in the wash and can be used again)

You can also try switching to package-free soap for your body and hair. Lush have just launched a range of soaps for skin/hair/body that are package free, or try your local health shop. This will massively reduce your plastic waste from shampoo, conditioner and shower gel bottles.

Consider switching to a bamboo toothbrush. It’s estimated that 3.6 billion plastic toothbrushes are used worldwide every year, with the average person using 300 in their lifetime. Unfortunately, roughly 80 per cent of these end up in the sea. Here's a good list of eco-friendly toothbrushes that are either semi or fully biodegradable.

2) Switch to sustainable and non-toxic beauty products and toiletries

In 2018 I made a big effort to only purchase beauty products that are 100% cruelty free, and this year I want to make sure everything I purchase is cruelty free AND vegan - while also being sustainable where possible (i.e packaging). I'm also trying to cut down on the amount I buy - do I realistically need a new lipstick? Probably not. Only buy something if you NEED it. 

3) Switch to bio-degradable glitter

When festival season comes around again, we all start going mad for glitter and gemstones to liberally coat ourselves in. But what happens once you peel/scrub/eventually manage to get the glitter off? It most likely ends up in the ocean, as most glitter is a form of microplastic. If you can, go for biodegradable glitter and gems where possible. There are loads of great brands that do it (and it's equally sparkly!). 

4) Switch to a mooncup or organic sanitary products

The impact of sanitary products on the environment is really not great. Menstrual cups last for years, saving you money, and the environment! They also don't contain the chemicals found in tampons and pads, such as bleach and dioxin, and aren't associated with TSS. Menstrual cups might not be an option if you suffer with Vaginismus or sexual trauma, so another option is switching to organic pads & tampons (you can usually find these on the very bottom shelf under Always and Tampax etc). 

5) Think about how you dispose of your contact lenses

Turns out, contact lenses have an impact on the environment too. If they are disposed of incorrectly (flushed down the loo or put down the sink), they can contribute to the microplastic levels in our oceans. To counteract this, just make sure you put contacts in with general waste - and recycle the packaging where possible. I'm personally going to try and wear my glasses more this year (especially as I finally replaced the pair I've had since I was about 18).

6) Switch to a safety razor

Plastic disposable razors are non-biodegradable, and their manufacture is also fairly harmful to the planet. Try switching to a safety razor, which should last a lifetime - and the blades can last for months if properly dried between each use. It can be a little more tricky to use than a conventional razor but worth saving the money and waste! There's a good blog post on switching to a safety razor here. Sugaring, waxing and epilating are also meant to be better for the environment. Bamboo handle razors are also a good option if you're a little freaked out by trying a safety razor (not the same as a Sweeney Todd style straight razor btw!). 

7) Ditch your fast fashion habit

Is anyone else guilty of going full *treat yo self* every pay day and ordering from fast fashion brands? I used to see this as my reward at the end of each month and get a massive buzz off knowing I had a package (or 4) coming. I would pretty much always end up disappointed with the quality of the stuff I ordered and return 90% of my package, or just think 'meh' and put it in my wardrobe anyway. 235 million items of clothing were sent to landfill in 2017, 1.5 trillion litres of water are used by the fashion industry each year, and every time we wash a synthetic garment 1,900 microfibres are released into the water, eventually making their way into the ocean. And those are just a handful of stats on how damaging the fast fashion industry is to the planet.

How to cut down

Stop seeing shopping as a hobby! Constant scrolling through shopping apps is super tempting and I definitely love updating my ASOS saved list whenever I'm bored. One thing that I've found has really helped me cut back is unsubscribing from all email marketing from brands, who are constantly bombarding you with new lines/sales, which will tempt you into buying crap you don't need. Out of sight, out of mind. Also turning off app notifications from these brands, or even deleting the apps themselves will massively remove temptation.

Instead of contributing to the supply/demand of fast fashion, try buying vintage or from charity shops. I'm definitely going to stop buying my jeans new when it's so easy to get hold of vintage jeans from good brands like Levis. OR shop sustainable/ethical fashion brands! There's a good article on UK based sustainable brands HERE, and check out this amazing swimwear brand called Batoko who make swimwear from recycled plastic.

8) Go pescatarian, vegetarian or vegan

Asides from the health and ethical benefits of cutting down on animal products, more and more research is showing now that cutting down our meat and dairy consumption is essential to save the planet.  Scientists at Oxford University have said that following a vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce our impact on planet Earth, because it cuts out not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification, eutrophication, land use, and water use. Going vegan is even more effective than cutting down on flights or buying an electric car. The BBC has a fab calculator which shows you the climate change impact of different food and drink HERE, which is really interesting. Even doing something like meat-free Mondays in 2019 will help make a difference!

9) Bring your reusable coffee cup / water bottle EVERYWHERE

This is a pretty standard and easy one to do. It's no secret that disposable coffee cups are not great for the environment. Most coffee places are now introducing an extra charge for a disposable cup (or even a small discount if you remember your flask). Stopping buying single use bottles of water is also a great way to make a positive change for the planet. Bottling water releases 2.5 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere each year and billions of water bottles end up in landfill each year. Buying a reusable water bottle and filling it from the tap will cut out this damage, and filling a larger bottle to take to work and drink throughout the day is also a good way to get your daily water intake in. 

10) Invest in a tote bag

I barely use a handbag anymore. Having a big-ish tote bag fits all my crap, is more easier to carry than a standard handbag, and is big enough that I can shove a small food shop in there. What plastic bags?

11) Stop using cling film/plastic wrap

Cling film is non-recyclable annoyingly, so once you chuck it - it ends up in landfill. Stock up on tupperware, use upturned plates and bowls to cover food - or even invest in biodegradable cling film. Or use tin foil, which can be recycled.

12) Practice zero waste

I definitely want to try and practice a zero waste lifestyle where I can in 2019. This is a little tricky especially in the UK, but there are some good resources available online. Try using refill stores for things like pulses & spices, taking old containers to fill again rather than purchasing new plastic. THIS blog has a list of spots you can do this in the UK, but it's also worth trying your local health food shop. 

Buying your fruit & veg loose is also a great way to cut out plastic packaging. Some supermarkets may make you put loose fruit & veg in plastic bags to weigh it, but you can cut this out by going to a market and request your items are put straight in your own bags. Plus this may be cheaper, and support local farmers!

Check if your teabags are biodegradable. Some teabags are biodegradable and compostable, but some brands contain plastic. There's a good list of plastic-free brands HERE - luckily that includes big brands like Twinings, Clipper and Aldi own brand! You can also consider switching to loose tea to cut out a teabag all together.

If you can (say if you get an option at a self-checkout), don't print a receipt! Receipts are usually coated in BPA which cannot be recycled, and will contaminate recycled paper if they are. If you do need a receipt with an in-store purchase, see if you can just get a digital copy. Try also going paperless with 
bills & bank statements to cut down on paper usage. 

13) Switch out wrapping paper to brown paper

I saw this little tip floating around Facebook just before Christmas, but it's a good one to use for birthdays too. Most wrapping paper can't be recycled because it is often dyed or contains plastics. You can check if your wrapping paper can be recycled by doing a 'scrunch test' (see here) or switch to brown paper, which can be recycled.

14) Buy non-toxic cleaning products

There's been a surge recently in stockpiling cleaning products, and doing hauls - but what are a lot of these products doing to the environment? Asides from the extra plastic, the chemicals in a lot of household products are pretty toxic, and can end up in the ocean. Some more eco-friendly brands to try in 2019 are Ecover, Method and Faith in Nature (all of these you can usually find in supermarkets). Or you can make your own non-toxic cleaning products at home! This can also cut out extra plastic by using reusable spray bottles. Here's a super simple 3 ingredient cleaning product from the zero-waste blog Trash is for Tossers.

So there's my list of ways I'm going to try and be a bit more eco-friendly in 2019! If anyone has any more tips please send 'em my way.

Georgie x

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