Chase what you want – Reflecting on returning to university

You've got to believe that everything you want is available to you Jen Sincero

Two years ago, I had just returned to university after a three-year break to finish off a degree in forensic science; today, I'm three months into a masters course that inspires me so much.

 

The short history of that is; I didn't know if my degree was what I wanted (in terms of a career) so I dropped out and tried something completely different. And then I missed science, hard. The parts about working in marketing that I loved were analytical and problem-solving - things that perfectly fit a science degree. Earlier this year I graduated with a first; though I say graduated, my university held graduations in September, bizarrely, so I didn't get to go to graduation. Definitely bitter.

 

A couple of weeks ago, I was reminded that it had been a year since Daz and I came up to Edinburgh for the University of Edinburgh's postgrad open day. I fell in love with an MSc and was nervously excited about the idea that just maybe, perhaps, I would get accepted.

 

I'm not afraid to admit I was a little paralysed by the fear of not getting accepted. So much so that Daz had to gently nudge me into sitting down and getting my personal statement and application finished (thank goodness for that guy). I then spent the next few weeks refreshing my emails every three minutes (that's legit accurate) and trying not to get excited because it's the University of Edinburgh…they're one of the best universities in the world.

 

When I found out I'd been accepted, I was so excited and so damn happy that I may have almost cried. Only almost, because Vulcans don't leak from the eyes. And now, here we are; we moved to Edinburgh and my course constantly inspires me and maybe I seriously know what I want to do with my life. I mean, there are about a hundred things I would love to do (I WANT TO DO ALL THE PLANET-SAVING THINGS), but there's one that has captured my heart and brain.

 

I guess the point of this ramble is chase what you want. Dare to dream, and then make those dreams your reality. This time last year, the idea of being a masters student at the University of Edinburgh was "that would be nice, wouldn't it?" and now I can tell you for sure that it's pretty damn nice, indeed. What I'm aiming for at the moment is definitely more ambitious (and maybe I'll fail - and yeah, I'm a little afraid of admitting it on here yet because I've got the fear) but, what if I make it? What if I get what I want?

 

I recently listened to You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero (listen to it, it's great - or read it, but I think her voice really adds to it) and I want to leave you with my favourite quote from it:

"You've got to believe that everything you want is available to you." 

If you never thought you'd see me posting quotes like that on here, believe me, that I'm right here with you. You know what though, you and I have one life and I'm not afraid to get "cheesy" up in here if that's what it takes for us to kick ourselves in the butt and be happy as f.

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How to have a less wasteful Christmas

How to have a less wasteful Christmas

I promise, this is not a Christmas guide (we're already suffocating in them, y'all don't need another one); this is a handy little guide to help you have a less wasteful Christmas.

 

Last week, we spoke about why you would want to reduce the amount of waste you send to landfill and some of the ways you can benefit from it. Problem is, we're probably coming up to the most wasteful time of year; Christmas. From piles of wrapping paper that dwarf Mount Doom, Christmas cards flying through your letterbox like you're Harry Potter, secret Santa gifts from someone who barely knows your name, and not having enough cups for your family, your rubbish situation can get out of control quickly.

 

Let's look at a few ways we can have a less wasteful Christmas - I suspect it might also be a teeny bit less stressful too, but I'll leave that up to you to decide.

 

Thoughtful gifts & experiences

Some people dread trying to buy gifts while others are pros at picking out something to be cherished without the slightest hint. Let's be real for a sec, we all know our family will buy each other gifts, even though we all say "oh, I don't want anything." Or your Mum says "a tidy house" for the 12th year in a row.

 

We know we're all going to buy each other gifts, so let's be helpful and talk about things we'd actually use or like. If you can't find a thing to get a family member or friend, give experiences; take them out for food, go to the cinema, or take them to see their favourite band or show.

 

If you want to keep the element of surprise, give each other a list and pick one thing from it. This is what me and my vinyl-loving friend do - we give each other a list of a few albums we'd like, and we pick one off the list. Buying people gifts they need or want is a great way to reduce waste over Christmas and 'clutter' people feel they have to keep. If you do find yourself with gifts you won't use, donate them to local charities.

 

Support local businesses

Where you can, shop locally to support local businesses, put money back into your local economy, reduce your environmental footprint, and reduce packaging. If you do order online, consider adding a "please use non-plastic packaging where possible" note to your order.

 

Christmas tree

Make sure everyone understands you're trying to have a less wasteful Christmas

Being British, this is likely to be an awkward conversation unless someone else brings it up for you. Ah, I don't even know how this country developed, let alone conquered places and built and empire - we hate asking for anything or being a mild inconvenience.

As awkward as you might feel (or not if you're from anywhere else on the planet), bring the topic up with your friends and family. Explain you're trying to have a less wasteful Christmas and why it's important to you. No one is going to be a dick about having less rubbish that isn't going to be collected for another two weeks because of how the bank holidays fall. Who knows, you might even inspire your friends and family to give it a bash too. 

 

Shop ethically and sustainably

For a lot of people, Christmas is probably the most expensive time of the year, and ethical and sustainable items are often more expensive than their non-ethical counterparts. BUT, it doesn't mean your gifts have to break the bank at all.

  • Look for cruelty-free, toxin-free skincare and makeup - some of my favourite skincare brands are Lani and Antipodes
  • Instead of buying multiple gifts, by one gift that will stand the test of time - buy one snuggly, ethically made jumper instead of more smaller gifts 
  • How about a cozy-looking pair of handknit vegan socks? Tell me you don't want to wear them, I dare ya.
  • Dad, brother, or boyfriend need a new wallet? Etsy is your friend.
  • Make something - why not challenge your family and friends to make all your gifts; socks, scarves, jams, cake, Skittles vodka, candles…whatever. Get your Pinterest on and become a crafting wizard.

 

Rethink wrapping paper

I dread to think how much wrapping paper we throw away every year that can't be recycled. It can be really tricky to figure out whether or not you can actually recycle your wrapping paper. I used to think all wrapping paper was recyclable - turns out it's not and even Recycle Now can't give you a definitive answer. If you want to use wrapping paper, buy recycled paper that can also be recycled.

If not, how about:

  • Using newspaper
  • Using gift bags that can be reused
  • Cloth wraps
  • Not bothering - I love this idea because my wrapping skills are B- on a good day (and that's just wrapping cubes or oblongs) and I get tangled up in sellotape

 

Ask everyone to bring a cup/cutlery

Fifteen people turning up on Christmas Eve? Don't buy paper cups or plastic cutlery; ask your family and friends to bring their own. It's not weird. Unless you're hosting dinner parties all the time, there's no need for you to buy more glasses or plates that you'll have to sift through all the time. And you sure as hell are not buying plastic cutlery on my watch. I'm sorry, but you signed up for this kinda ass-kicking when you read this blog.

Friends Joey fork GIF

 

We do not use plastic cutlery in this house blog community. We get everyone to channel their inner Joey Tribbiani and carry cutlery in their coat pockets. Joey gets it. 

 

Eat those leftovers

Make sure you chomp up those leftovers and send your favourite people away with doggy bags for when they can finally look at food again - usually around 4 pm on Boxing Day.

 

Dispose of your tree responsibly

I can't figure out how I feel about Christmas trees. Daz and I have an artificial one; it's plastic, and I'm sure there are all kinds of things in it that I'd rather not know about. On the other hand, the thought of chopping down a tree makes my stomach knot. Though, if it gets turned into woodchip or used as a biofuel afterwards, it's good for the ol' carbon sink...
Friends - Phoebe and the Christmas Tree Chipper

If you have a real Christmas tree, check out your local council website to find out if they are collecting Christmas trees kerbside, or if there's somewhere you can take your tree.

 

Turns out, it's not as hard as you think to have a less wasteful Christmas. I mean, we get to save the planet a little, find ourselves surrounded by a small hill of wrapping paper instead of a mountain, and you're less likely to find yourself grumbling in the cold on Boxing Day night that the bin is too full and the wrapping paper is blowing around. Who doesn't enjoy the thought of that? 

 
 
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8 reasons why you should produce less rubbish

8 reasons why you should produce less rubbish and how you and the planet can benefit

Since the start of 2017, I’ve been on a mission to reduce the amount of waste we send to the tip/landfill. It’s not quite zero waste (which is about producing no waste whatsoever, including recycling), but it’s an important step in the right direction.

One of the things I really want to do with Girl In Awe is help you figure out how to live a more conscious, eco-friendly, and ethical lifestyle, if that’s your jam. Starting with the basics.

When I write a blog post, I sometimes forget that not everyone has read exactly what I’ve read, or even knows what the hell I’m on about. When I began working with Jasmin as my blog coach, she suggested I take some things back to absolute basics in case you lovely folk were completely beginners to some of my wafflings. I’m sorry if I bamboozled you; I kinda turn into an over-excitable puppy sometimes. I’m gonna make it up to you though. We’re gonna smash sustainable and eco-living together. Are you ready for it...? (Yeahhhh, you got the T-Swift reference.)

Today’s topic, is waste reduction and how you can benefit from it/why you should do it. Together, we’re gonna reduce the amount of crap in our general waste bins that gets send to landfill, and here’s why.

 

1. No one likes pollution

How much do you love the delicious smell coming from a landfill site when it’s mildly warm? It’s delicious, isn’t it? I used to live in a town that had a tip and my dog, you could smell it all over town on a mildly warm day. And on one of those hot, humid British summer days, you could taste it.

That smell is the stink of things breaking down (note that not everything sent to landfill will rot away). During this process, methane is created. Methane is a greenhouse gas which is even better at trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, which means it’s not really something we want to be creating more of than necessary. Though, some tips harness this methane for energy purposes, which is better than letting it escape into the atmosphere.

There are additional risks of soil and water pollution due to the gross, toxic soup of liquid that forms when things break down. I don’t think any one wants that to end up in local streams, ponds, lakes, rivers, and killing anything that lives in it.

While landfill sites now are fairly well regulated, old landfill sites are polluting waterways and could impact local wildlife. Experts have also warned that coastal erosion at old landfill sites could expose us and wildlife to toxic chemicals. Not cool. I did not sign up for historic rubbish coming back to fudge stuff up for us like the plot of the fourth sequel in a horror movie franchise.

SaveSave

2. ‘Things’ take a lot of time, energy, and resources to make

Whatever it is you’re throwing away - that thing had to be created and packaged. We are now so far removed from manufacturing processes that 1) don’t even think about it, and 2) when we do, we probably wouldn’t have a clue how it was actually made.

Just some of the steps that might go into making a ‘thing’ might include:

  • Mining something from the Earth (which can be rife with slavery, human rights, and environmental issues)
  • A lot of water being used in the manufacturing process; clean water is a precious resource
  • Time and energy from every person involved in the entire process (again, this could be linked to slavery, human rights, and environmental issues, such as the Rana Plaza collapse)
  • Forests or grassland being cleared to grow or extract a material used in that thing
  • The use of fossil fuels; for example, plastics can be made from fossil fuels, which are a nonrenewable source

3. It’s not just about throwing less away

For me, this is an offshoot of the last post. I used to think waste reduction was about putting less things in the bin, and it is in one way. It’s also about being more conscious of what you’re buying. You learn to really research things to find out what they’re made from, how long they will last, if they can be repaired, what you need from something, or if you even really need it in the first place.  

Reducing your rubbish definitely leads to a more conscious lifestyle, and, if you want it, it can lead to a minimalist lifestyle.

 

4. Less clutter is always good

For me, living more consciously has meant having less clutter in the house. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying our house is a clutter free zone. It’s a work in progress but I’m happy knowing that anything I bring into the house is something I’m happy with, confident will last, and fulfil its purpose.

5. We all have to do our part

We all share this planet and are equally responsible for looking after it. It isn’t just about us as individuals though. It’s about us holding companies and governments accountable.

Don’t like that your favourite biscuits come in non-recyclable packaging? Tell the company how much you love to dunk those biscuits, but are so disappointed in their packaging choices. Change might be slow, but if everyone does their part it will happen.

  • Tell your local MP that you want something to be done about all the litter thrown out of car windows and into hedges.
  • Complain to your local supermarket if you can’t buy the produce you want plastic-free.

 

6. Does anyone actually enjoy going to the tip?

I can’t imagine anyone enjoying having to load a car up, fight for a parking space, not find a parking space near the bin you want, and have to haul a load of stuff down the other end of the car park to put it in the right bin.

How about we just bring less crap and things that will break easily into our homes, so the only time we do have to go to the tip is when something is legit old and past it. And even then, you might be able to rescue it; I turned some wood from an old wardrobe into two stunning hairpin leg bedside tables.

A company, and the government, is responsible for their actions the same way you or I am (whether or not they try and shirk that responsibility). By telling them that their efforts aren’t good enough and that it’s not what their customers/the public want, we encourage the kind of change we want to see. Maybe that sounds a bit ‘away with the faeries’ to you, but let’s all try it and see how it works out.

DIY Hairpin leg mid century nightstand

7. You learn new skills

Instead of throwing that broken thing away, figure out if you can fix it first. In Edinburgh, we have the Shrub Coop and Edinburgh Remakery, both of which offer ways people can learn new skills, repair, and purpose items. Maybe there's something similar near you? If not, does one of your friends or family know how to fix something?

If something can no longer be used for its original purpose, can you repurpose it? Maybe you can...

8. You can save money

Hands up who loves saving pennies? I thought so. 

There are plenty of ways to save a penny or two by reducing your waste. For example:

  • Keeping tabs on your food waste by making sure you don’t buy food that will spoil before you use it
  • Trading single-use items in for forever-use items
  • Buying something higher quality that will last, instead of you replacing it in a few months
  • Fixing something instead of replacing it

And then, you can spend those well-saved pennies for adventures, seeing your favourite band, buying The Sims 4 and proceeding to spend your spare time cleaning up after pixel people instead of cleaning your own house, or treating you and your Mum to a long day exploring record stores. 

 

I need your help!

I’m toying around with running a waste reduction challenge next year and I want to know if that’s something you’re interested in? If it is, please tell me what kind of things you’d want it to include or what kind of questions you want answering. 

As ever though, if you have any questions or suggestions, fire away and lets produce less waste! 

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Reminder: take some time for yourself & 8 acts of self-love

8 acts of self-love

We are all great at telling our loved ones that they need to take some time for themselves when they're feeling stressed and run down; we are awful at making time for our own self-love, though. 

Let's take a show of hands; how many of you regularly schedule time for yourself? Where you don't have commitments, studying, or chores to do? Just time to do whatever you want or need to do to relax and love yourself? I'm truly interesting to hear from any of you that do and would love to hear some tips.

I am about a month into my masters degree and while I wouldn't classify myself as being on the wrong side of stressed right now, I'm getting there. Relaxing is beginning to get lost amongst coursework, reading, my job, trying to finalise a dissertation idea, and looking at PhDs already. Don't get me wrong, I was never expecting a masters to be a walk in the park; I am a strong believer in getting the best results when you take care of yourself. Though I'm not entirely sure why I don't do that as often as I should do.

A few weeks ago, I listened to the first Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert podcast. The topic was "do what ignites your soul" and it spoke about trying to find a balance between your passion and what you consider your obligations to be, and how you can release yourself from them sometimes to indulge your passion. Elizabeth shared a profound quote that I can't stop thinking about and that I need to share you with you:
 


"I think of my writing simply in terms of pleasure, it's the most important thing in my life; making things. Much as I love my husband and my children, I love them only because I am the person who makes things. I am who I am, is the person who has a project of making a thing. And because that person does that, all the time, that person is able to love all these other people."

- A S Byatt, British author.


 
What Byatt is saying here is that if she couldn't do the things she loved doing, she wouldn't be able to love  the way she does. I think that's such a powerful idea and it makes sense when you think about the big picture.

Consider something you truly enjoy doing, your passion, your love in life. If you couldn't do that thing, how would it impact your life? Would you be unhappy? Would you be able to love your family and friends the way you want to? It's worth thinking about.

I think quotes and ideals like that are vital for helping us as a society get over this idea that spending time on ourselves or being "selfish" is a bad thing. Being "selfish" in this context is not a bad thing at all. Being a selfish dick is something else entirely. We all have the right to be happy in our lives and to deprive ourselves of that is pointless and destructive.

With all of this in mind, I want to share some simple acts of self-love. The list is by no means exhaustive, it's what works for me so I'm interested to hear what you do and what your thoughts are.


Planning & Organisation

A really easy way for me to decrease my stress levels is to plan and organise my life properly. If I don't know what I need to do and when, it makes me anxious and I end up not having time to get everything done. I also hate not being able to remember when I'm working; if I think I have the day off work and then I realise I'm at work in the evening, it puts me in a rubbish mood.

I try to set aside some time each week to use my planner and look at what I need to do in the week ahead, look at longer-term plans / commitments I've got, and break up larger tasks into smaller tasks to make them more manageable. When I do this, I can identify time to spend on doing something I want to do and it makes me feel so much better.

I'm also finding this is a good way for me to figure out how to make sure I get "time off". Anyone who is (and ever has had to) balance studying with work quickly realises that it's important to make sure you have at least one day off from everything each week.

Get outside

One of the greatest joys in my life is being outside with nature. And moving up to Scotland has made it even better. We are now less than 15 minutes from a beach! It's pretty exciting because we were about 3 hours away from a beach before. We're trying to take time to get outside for a bit each week, though living in Scotland means the weather does not always play ball. If it's a bit of drizzle, I can deal with it, but driving rain? No.

 

Last week, Daz and I visited Aberlady Bay and it felt so good to stand on the sand again and listen to the waves. The last time we did it was in Tofino in June. I didn't realise how much I needed that walk until I stood there and felt myself relax. I might even go as far to say that almost I understand what all those young adult authors were referring to when they kept saying "I let out a breath I didn't know I was holding in." Almost.

Talking a walk outside is a great way to destress

 

Change your scenery

Similar to getting outside, I think it's easy to go a little stir crazy sometimes. I find this is especially the case if I'm working on assignments and spend the whole day staring at my laptop. If you've got studying to do, do it somewhere else occasionally; use the library (gasp!), go to a coffee shop, get outside if you can.

Pamper Yourself

I feel like this is such a cliché but it's true. I feel a lot better after sticking on a face mask, actually adhering to my skin care routine, and remembering to put oil in my hair after a shower. The great thing about pampering yourself is that you can do it at home and it doesn't have to take up much of your time if you're short on it.

Take some time each week (I feel like Sunday is always good - if you don't have to work, that is) to pamper yourself and read a book or magazine while you're at it.

Talk

I am one of those people who gets convinced that what I've got to do is completely insurmountable and horrendous, until I say it out loud. Talking to someone about how you're feeling about something can really help.

Often, I'll start telling Daz about "all this shit I've got to do" and after a few minutes I've switched to "actually, it's not that bad." Saying things out loud and working things through with someone else can help you see the forest for the trees.

Read

A look at my Goodreads challenge for 2017 will quickly inform you that I have been terrible at reading books this year. I mean, I have read goodness knows how many journal articles (can you include those in your Goodreads target?) this year. It's not to say I don't enjoy reading those papers because they're really interesting, but some of them are horrendously dry to read and there are no wizards.

 

Daz and I are both huge Harry Potter fans, and Daz is the kind of person who remembers everything. He remembers things like who Mrs Weasley's favourite singer is. When that question came up in Harry Potter Trivial Pursuit, I didn't even remember Mrs Weasley's musical taste coming up. We have at least three copies of the series between us and we're planning to start reading it together.

Last Friday, I took part in the Cosy Reading Night on Twitter and started reading John Green's Turtles All The Way Down. It was so nice to read something other than journal articles, and I hadn't realised how much I'd missed John Green's writing. I don't think I'd realised how much I missed the feeling of escaping when you read too. A couple of years ago, my blog was primarily books and I've finished one non-fiction book this year; how did that happen? Life. 

Reading is one of my favourite acts of self-love

Finding the yes & no balance

A couple of years ago, I remember the blogging scene going through a huge phase of encouraging people to say yes more. Saying yes can be great sometimes because it gets you out of your comfort zone; you shouldn't always say yes though. 

Saying no is really important sometimes, and I think it's something most people have a hard time doing. We want to please people and help them out but if you keep doing that, you're the one who suffers in the long run when you're burned out and exhausted. I understand that sometimes there's a trade-off; you say no to an extra shift and you lose out on extra money. Try to take a step back occasionally to look at the bigger picture, and ask yourself what you really need right now. If it's some time off, say no. 

 

Ask for help

Our inability to ask for help is probably one of the biggest drivers of stress. At school, we're taught that we shouldn't be afraid of asking for help but as we get older we buy into this perception that asking for help makes you week. No, it doesn't. I like to remind myself of something a chef at my old work used to say, "no one likes a hero." Don't be afraid to ask for help.

Whether it's school, work, or your home life; if you're struggling with something, speak to someone and ask for help. I know that in the workplace it's a conversation people fear having because they worry it makes them look like they're not good enough, or they can't cope. Your job should not involve being paralysed by stress and a huge list of things to do and not enough time. 

The same goes for school too. If you're finding yourself overwhelmed and need some breathing space, speak to your tutor as soon as you can. If you can do that, they can help you and you can keep on top of your grades.

Make time to take some time out

Ok, I'm really curious and want to hear your thoughts on this topic; are you good at spending time on yourself? What do you like to do to de-stress?

 

8 acts of self-love

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Eating meat does not make someone a ‘bad person’

Vegan advocacy

I want to approach a really negative and counter-productive kind of vegan activism I keep seeing that is driving me up the wall.

A couple of weeks ago I saw a tweet which I will paraphrase as, “If you’re not vegan, you don’t honestly care about the environment.” That instantly riled me up. I’m studying a degree alongside people who are the future of protecting our planet, and you want to tell me they don’t truly care because they eat meat? I’m being taught by researchers who have done / are doing fascinating things and because they eat meat they don’t actually care?

I do get where that tweet came from. We know that animal agriculture is a huge polluter which increases greenhouse gas emissions, damages water quality, damages and pollutes soil, is cruel to animals, and slaughter houses are an awful place to work. I don’t dispute any of that for a single second. I wholly believe the best diet for the planet is a vegan one. My problem is the approach some people take towards trying to ‘convert’ people.

When you think of a vegan, tell me what you honestly think of. I’m willing to bet a lot of you think of the stereotypical aggressive vegan who is constantly attacking people. That kind of activism generally doesn’t encourage change; it might for some people, but for the majority of people it makes them defensive and not open to change. I’ve experienced it myself and it is counter-productive. 

Earlier this year, while I was trying to switch to a vegan diet, I was really struggling with cheese. We know that cheese has some addictive qualities and I think it’s one of the main foods people struggle with ‘giving up’. I commented on a vegan blog post about tips for moving to a vegan diet and said I was struggling with cheese. I was essentially told by the blogger that I didn’t truly care about the animals because I was struggling with cheese; if I truly cared about the animals, I would have been able to quit cheese in a jiffy. Maybe that wasn’t how they meant it but that’s how it came off to me. I was asking for help and that was not what I received. I remember my mindset being, “well, why should I bother trying seeing as I don’t care about the animals apparently?”

When someone is attacking your choices and telling you you’re wrong, you are about as far away from being receptive to change as you can get. Especially if you have asked for help and are open to change, but what you get is made to feel stupid and not good enough. 

I do understand why some vegans are so aggressive about it; once you understand the horrors and negatives of the meat industry it’s hard to unsee it and understand why some people don’t get it the same way you do. That said, that approach doesn’t work well. 

The majority of vegans were not born vegan. It’s important to remind ourselves that we used to chow down on chicken nuggets and turkey twizzlers (they were horrendous) and one day we made a choice to stop. What encouraged that choice? I can’t imagine it was someone saying you that you can’t care about something you do care about because of your dietary choices. 

As a kid, and even now, I hated being told what to do. My Dad and I used to constantly butt heads because he would tell me to do something, and I already knew I needed to do it but because he told me I wasn’t going to do it. No one likes being told they have to do something.

If someone asks me about my diet, I kind of dread saying I’m vegan because of the stereotype so many people associated with it. It shouldn’t be that way. I’m not going to preach to anyone. If people ask questions about why and want a genuine discussion about it then I love talking about it. I find those discussions so interesting because usually people will say “I think I could live without eating beef,” or “I think I could eat less meat”, and you can see people evaluating their choice in their head. I find that so fascinating.

A few weeks ago, my sister and her boyfriend came up to visit. We were trying to find something to watch on Netflix when one of them saw Cowspiracy and we ended up watching it and talking about it. Since then my sister hasn’t brought any dairy milk because she can’t stand the thought of it. She’s exactly the same as me and if I’d said to her, “you can’t drink milk that because of x, y, and z,” she’d have said “yeah, alright,” and not even thought about it.

Eating meat does not make you an awful person or mean you can’t possibly truly care about the environment. All that idea does is completely turn people off being open to a vegan diet, or a diet containing less meat. Becoming vegan requires huge lifestyle changes and it’s very hard for some people. 

What I would love people to associate with vegans is people who are not judgemental, people who encourage every small change someone makes, and are helpful and educational. That’s what the core of the lifestyle is; love for everyone and everything, and we’re being damned hypocritical if we’re shutting people out instead of helping them.

If anyone has questions or wants to talk about veganism, hit me up in the comments or on social media – I’d love to chat. 

Vegan or not; what do you think, or what are your experiences, with vegan activism?

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Share The Love – September 2017

Share The Love - September 2017

Are you fed up of hearing that autumn is finally here yet? Ok, I won’t say it – but I’m definitely thinking it and I’m really excited about it.

September was our first full month living in Edinburgh, and it’s been a great month. We’re getting our bearings, are loving living here, work is good, and my masters is equal parts fascinating and horrifying. NB: we’re fudging the planet big time and need to stop being dicks to it.

In September, I decided to give being fully vegan another go and it’s going really well so far. We’ve made some delicious vegan food, like soup and butternut squash “mac n cheese”. 

 

Blog – What Is Maria

I found Maria’s blog towards the end of September and it fast became a favourite. Maria covers a range of topics, such as vegan food and recipes, anxiety, and overcoming exercise addiction to name a few.

What drew me to her blog was how absolutely honest it feels. It feels like you’re talking to her in person. She isn’t trying to be someone else at all. My favourite blog post from September was her top 10 vegan pantry essentials.

 

Links

 

Listening

September was an amazing month for new music.

 

Watching

Our TV signal is rubbish where we live, so Daz and I have been watching a lot of Friends re-runs and documentaries on Netflix / iPlayer. We really enjoyed BBC’s Life at the Extreme, Chasing Coral (it’s a hard watch), and being the Canadaphiles we are, we chuckled hard at Being Canadian.

Like most of the UK, we are pretty undecided on our feelings towards Channel 4’s Great British Bake Off. On one hand, it’s a baking show; what isn’t to love. On the other hand, it belongs on BBC and WHERE’S IS MARY BERRY?! At least it isn’t as bad as the reboot of Top Gear.

 

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What did you enjoy in September?

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Zero waste so far; what we’ve learned

Fruit and veg stall - zero waste

Over the past few months, I’ve been trying hard to reduce my waste significantly and move towards zero waste. Zero waste living is something I’ve always wanted to do, but it is pretty difficult at times!

I have always strived to recycle and thought I was pretty good at living fairly sustainably. The more I learn about zero waste and being sustainable, the more I realise there’s still a lot more I can do. Daz and I certainly don’t have a zero waste household, we are slowly reducing the amount of rubbish we send to landfill though. Moving house created a whole load of rubbish and we did donate or sell whatever we could, and only send to landfill what we had to.

Rubbish and waste is something we all have in our homes and trying to reduce it can seem really daunting. We’ve been trying to move towards zero waste for a few months now, so I wanted to share some of the biggest things we’ve learned.

 

What is zero waste?

If this is the first time you’ve heard of zero waste, here’s a brief introduction for you. The basic idea is that you produce no waste. Nothing in your refuse bin. Nothing. Nada. Zero waste is bigger than not producing waste though, it’s about buying products and food with less packaging, reducing the amount of plastic and waste you bring into your home, buying more thoughtfully and so much more.

 

What our zero waste journey has taught us so far

Over the past few months we have noticed a decrease in how full our refuse bin is come collection day. Up here in Edinburgh, in addition to a general waste bin and recycling bin, they also have food waste caddys and a glass recycling box. That means our recycling bin is pretty much plastic, paper, and cans. And boy, is there a lot of plastic. Too much plastic. 

 

Packaging – y u no use eco-friendly packaging?

My biggest recycling peeve is packaging. I think Daz kind of dreads going shopping with me because I go off on a rant every time I see “not currently recyclable” on packaging. There are so many recyclable and biodegradable packaging options that I cannot comprehend why a manufacturer would choose to use something that isn’t recyclable. Actually, I can; I suspect it’s to do with money.

When it comes to skincare, cosmetics, and vegan / dairy free food items, it’s really easy to find products in minimalist and recyclable packaging. The brand is well aware of their impact on the environment and usually uses packaging which is environmentally friendly.

It’s when you come to other items or food products that aren’t associated with the environment or special dietary needs that it gets trickier. It’s not impossible, but it does mean you might have to do some research and maybe stop buying a product you loved. If that’s the case though, I would definitely recommend emailing them and asking why they’re using non-recyclable packaging. You might think that one email might not make a difference, but if enough people tell a company they aren’t buying their products because of their packaging choices they will make a change.

A Plastic Planet are running a really interesting campaign and are trying to encourage supermarkets to offer a plastic free aisle. How wonderful would that be?

 

Plastic bags – learn to juggle or forward plan

By this point, I think we can all agree that plastic bags are bad. I’m slowly getting better at remembering to take reusable bags to the supermarket with me. Daz is much better than me, and remembers to keep some in the car.

 

Chemicals & microbeads

I stopped buying products with microbeads in last year when I read about how rubbish (excuse the pun) they are for the environment and marine life. Microbeads are used in a lot of exfoliating cosmetics and are small plastic balls that are absolutely pointless because there are so many natural exfoliants, like; rice, charcoal, coffee, sugar, oats, bamboo, walnut shells, the list is very long.

Being a science student I have always enjoyed reading the ingredients list on products, and it always scares me when I see something and think “hmmm, I feel like I used that in the lab and needed to wear gloves…” The long and short of it is that harmful and unnecessary products are causing damage in two ways.

  1. Your body is absorbing all those nasties, and they’re not good for you.
  2. All those nasties are ending up in the water supply when they get washed down the drain.

I’m sure they’re also causing damage in other ways as well, such as the manufacturing process. I’ve not really had to buy many skincare products recently but when I do I’m going for natural and sustainable products. It is my goal to now only buy natural and sustainable products; which means saying “bye bye” to some LUSH stuff. Le sigh. Since the start of the year, I think the only places I’ve purchased skin / hair care and beauty products from are Holland & Barrett , 100% Pure, and Antipodes

If you want to learn more about being eco-friendly in your bathroom, check out my updated 8 tips for being more eco-friendly in the bathroom

 

Don’t just throw stuff out

While we were relocating, we noticed there are a load of things we didn’t use or need. Some of it we sold on eBay, a load of it was donated or given to friends, and what was of no use went to the tip. 

 

Forward planning

The biggest thing I’ve learned so far is that I need to plan. Living in Edinburgh means we have access to a couple of stores that have bulk options – something we definitely didn’t have before. We haven’t needed to use them yet because we have so much flour, sugar, and oats, it’s ridiculous. At some point soon we’ll get through them all and I’m looking forward to bulk buying – that’s kind of sad, isn’t it?

  • By forward planning, we reduce our food waste by buying what we need and using things up.
  • I remember to take some suitable bags for putting loose produce in.
  • I can go a little out of my way to get something without packaging or with packaging that’s actually recyclable.  

 

We have a long way to go on our quest for zero waste, and maybe we won’t ever truly reach zero. We’re really happy with where we’re at so far. It was bin day a couple of days ago and our waste bin was less than half full.

If you want to cut down on your waste to landfill, here are a few blog posts that I found helpful:

 

If you’ve got any tips or want to share a useful blog post / blog, please do 🙂

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