Palm oil; why is it bad & how to live palm oil free

Palm Oil; why is it bad and how to live palm oil free

Living palm oil free is a huge and fantastic step towards living more ethically and sustainably. Grab a cuppa and get comfy because we're going to explore the problems with palm oil, look at where it's found, and how we can start living palm oil free and help save the planet in the process. Sound good?

What is palm oil?

This seems like a good place to start, doesn’t it? Palm oil is a vegetable oil which comes from the fruit of oil palm trees and is used in thousands of food and personal hygiene products. Palm kernel is the seed of the fruit of the palm oil, which can be found in livestock feed.

What’s the problem with palm oil? Why is it so bad?

Palm oil is grown across the world (we saw plantations in Morocco) but primarily in Malaysia and Indonesia. The map above is from Global Forest Watch and shows palm oil plantations throughout Malaysia and Indonesia - seriously recommend looking at the Global Forest Watch website if you have time.

So why is palm oil a problem?

Loss of habitat and species & animal abuse

Borneo, Sumatra, Malaysia, and Indonesia are home to majestic species such as tigers, elephants, orangutans, sun bears, rhinos, leopards and more. When their homes are cleared, they have nowhere to go, may end up being killed in order to clear the forest or during the clearing, or may end up in human-wildlife conflict situations. It’s estimated that a third of mammal species in Indonesia are critically endangered as a result of palm production.

Another big issue is that animals will be smuggled out of the forests to be sold as pets or for their body parts.

All of these are so far from ideal and it breaks my heart that humanity is still destroying habitats to make money.

Burning forests and environmental issues

One of the easiest and cheapest ways to clear-cut a forest is to burn it. Not only could that kill anything living in it, but it releases huge amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. I don’t want to get into a full-on science lesson here (though I happily will - drop me a message), but trees store CO2. CO2 is a greenhouse gas, which contributes to global warming, so trees are pretty awesome for storing it for us. When we burn those trees, that CO2 gets released straight back into the atmosphere and is allowed to do naughty things.

We’re already kicking out enough greenhouse gases into the atmosphere without making things even worse. Burning forests = bad.

Human rights issues

As if this all wasn’t bad enough, palm oil is linked with human rights violations. Typically, the development of a palm oil plantation will be made out to be a good thing for the local people. “YAY! More jobs.” Until it turns out that sometimes they’re not actually jobs, it’s slavery and child labour.

Once you know that, you just really, really don't want to be supporting it. 

Alternative names for palm oil you might find on labels

What is palm oil labelled as?

Of course, the obvious thing you’re looking out for on labels is ‘palm oil’. The problem is that palm oil and its derivatives can be labelled as 200 different things! While it’s fairly easy to identify 'palm oil' and ‘palm kernel oil’, you probably wouldn’t recognise palm oil as any of these ingredients, for example:

  • Vegetable oil or vegetable fat (not always palm oil, but it might be if the label doesn’t say ‘palm oil free’.
  • Stearic acid
  • Sodium laureth sulphate/sulfate
  • Sodium lauryl sulphate/sulfate
  • Octyl palmitate
  • Palmitic acid
  • Palmityl alcohol
  • Palmolein
  • Sodium kernelate
  • Elaeis guineensis

WWF have a guide which lists the most common names for palm oil and its derivatives.

Quite frankly, it’d be a pain in the ass to try and remember all of those and would make shopping a lot harder and more time consuming. I would recommend screenshotting the part of the WWF guide and saving it in your phone, or looking for labels which explicitly say ‘no palm oil’ or ‘palm oil free’.

Where is palm oil found?

Palm oil and its derivatives are found in thousands of food, skincare and personal hygiene products. The WWF state that palm oil is present in approximately half of all packaged products sold in supermarkets. That sucks big time and makes avoiding it hard - it’s ok, though, we’re gonna get there and remember you don’t have to do it overnight. Baby steps are fine.

And it gets worse. Palm kernel can be used to feed to livestock. According to Compassion in World Farming, the EU imports half of the world’s supply of palm kernel meal. The UK is one of the biggest users of this, along with the Netherlands, Germany, New Zealand, South Korea, and China. Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s a legal requirement for manufacturers to state whether or not meat has been fed on palm oil or not. If you eat meat and dairy, you can avoid this by buying meat and dairy that says ‘free range’, ‘pasture fed’ or ‘grass fed’ on the packaging.

This isn’t just an environmental issue because the use of palm kernel supports factory farming. Think about it, if livestock are kept outdoors they will eat what’s around them. Livestock kept indoors, on the other hand, need food to be taken to them.

 

Why do companies use palm oil?

Now you understand why palm oil is so bad for the environment, you’re probably wondering why companies still use it. Hmmm. I think you’re probably not going to be too surprised to hear that it’s because it’s cheap. Hands up if that surprised you. It’s also more productive than other oil producing plants as well - which is a double whammy for manufacturers.

 

What about ‘sustainable’ palm oil?

That’s a great question. Sustainable sounds good, right? If you look at the websites of companies using sustainable palm oil, it sounds amazing. It sounds like the solution we need to stop the deforestation of diverse rainforests. It sounds like the palm oil equivalent of rainbows and kittens. And maybe it is. But maybe it isn’t.

There are sustainable palm oil schemes, such as the RSPO - and you can see all the companies certified to their standards on their website. However, there are doubts about how effective and honest it is.

It’s entirely up to you whether or not you want to support sustainable palm oil - I, personally, am airing on the side of caution.

Ok, so you’re convinced; palm oil and its derivatives suck and you don’t want them to darken your kitchen or bathroom again. How do you do it? How do you start to live palm oil free?

 
Don’t worry, we’ve got this. Don’t try to do it all in one go because that might feel immensely overwhelming. Baby steps are cool. To help, you'll find a printable and pinnable PDF at the bottom which you can use as a handy reminder. Maybe stick it in your kitchen - and definitely make a sustainable living Pinterest board and stick it on there too. Ok, I'll quit with the shameless promotion.
 

Read labels

Before you can quit buying products with palm oil in, you need to know what it’s in. As we read earlier, it is possibly in a lot of the things you’re buying each time you go to the supermarket.

I recommend making a list of products, and perhaps even the brands, you’ve bought which contain palm oil. Don’t forget that if you eat dairy or milk, take a look at whether or not you’re buying grass-fed or pasture fed as standard.

Research palm oil free alternatives

Now you know where palm oil is sneaking into your house, you can begin to look for alternatives. There are alternatives out there, but it will take you time either researching it online or staring at labels in shops.

Start making changes as you use things up

I think going cold turkey while trying to stop buying palm oil would be hard if it is in a lot of things you buy. I recommend replacing things with palm oil free products as and when you use things up. Let’s face it - you’ve already purchased the product and paid for it, so there’s little point you throwing it out and wasting it.

Make your own

Since palm oil is found in processed food, you could try your hand at making your own. Instead of buying biscuits, cakes, or bread with palm oil in it - crack out a recipe book or head to Pinterest to find some recipes and give it a go! 

 

Some palm oil free companies

Here are a handful of companies I use that do not use ANY palm oil in any of their range. If you know of any other companies and want me to add them to the list - drop me a comment.

  • Meridian: nut butters, cooking sauces, jams & snacks
  • Pic’s peanut butter: yet more nut butters because I eat a lot of peanut butter
  • Sweet freedom: they make some pretty tasty chocolate sauce
  • Oatly: oat ‘milk’; you could argue this is a slightly grey one because they were using palm oil but are phasing it out. It’s certainly not in their standard oat milks - their website is very transparent, so I recommend looking.
  • Bloomtown: the UK’s first certified palm oil free company, selling skincare products
  • Rocky Mountain Soap Co: excellent sunscreen, soaps, skincare

Heh, that’s a pretty darn short list. Once I started thinking about the products I regularly used, I realised palm oil is still in some products I use, and while it might not be in some other products I use, the brand uses palm oil in other products. Ugh. What a minefield. This is why I don’t recommend trying to swap everything overnight.

If you want an easy place to see palm oil free companies in the UK, Palm Oil Free is a really useful website. I don’t think every company that is palm oil free is actually on there, though.

 

Further reading

If you want to find out more about palm oil, the damage it causes the environment and the beasties which live in it, and how to avoid it, I found these resources super useful:

 

Where do you stand on using palm oil?

If you're going palm oil free, I want to hear one product you love that contains palm oil that you're switching up. For me, it's Oreos. I love them but I think I need to learn to make my own.

 
Checklist for living palm oil free

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What to do when you’ve got all the goals and no motivation & inspiration

What to do when you've got no motivation

I know, I know, it's the start of a new year and we're all supposed to be really hyped up and excited about it. What about when you're not, though? What about when you have all these goals and things you want to achieve but your inspiration and motivation well is looking pretty dry?

 

When I was younger, I used to think the whole New Year's resolution thing was daft because if you want to make a change, you should make it whenever. I still think that's true to an extent but the fact that a lot of people get a few solid days off over Christmas and New Year means they head into the new year rested and ready to tackle a new challenge. And for some people, the feel of a clean slate inspires them and gives them an extra boost.

 

Part of the reason I'm motivationally flagging is because I was working all over Christmas and New Year (January is our kind of holiday because no one wants to go out or spend money, yes!). I had Boxing Day off (we were shut anyway) and the 27th, and then I got battered by the flu for over a week, so there was no chance to rest.

 

If you're nodding along and wondering where your motivation went, this one is for you.

1. Rest

I think it's easy to feel like we're not trying hard enough when we lose our motivation or inspiration, and more often than not I'll bet that we're actually trying too hard.

You're too busy, you're too caught up in everything, you're convinced you can't possibly stop because you'll only make more work for yourself but what you need more than anything is look after yourself.

There's this bizarre and toxic perception that self-care is selfish. It couldn't be further from the truth, though. If we're not looking after ourselves, how can we ever expect to show up and give anything our best shot?

Set aside some time each day or week (depending on your schedule) to rest and do what you need to do to recharge.

When we're busy, self-care is usually the first thing that suffers, so make looking after yourself a priority. If your job is causing you problems, please speak to your manager and/or start looking for another job because no job is worth your health or happiness.

And please, if you ever say "that's just how it is in this industry", stop yourself right there. I'm sorry that's the way it is (and I know some industries have awful 'standards' that employees are just supposed to accept as part of that trade) but it sure as hell doesn't mean you have to put up with it. We're not here to be worked into unhappiness while others profit from it.

If you're not looking after yourself, how can you expect to show up and give it your best shot?

2. Identify when you're being lazy / procrastinating

I'm not going to lie to you, I can be pretty lazy. Do you want to know what I did today?  Ok. It's 18:00 now as I'm writing this and I woke up about 09:00. I got up, did some washing up, tidied the kitchen, bunged some washing in, ate breakfast, and then played on The Sims until about 17:00. Then I started watching YouTube videos instead of doing yoga, which I keep telling myself I need to get back into. I decided that if I wasn't going to do yoga, I had to get off YouTube and do something productive, so now I'm writing this blog post.

There is a difference between being tired and worn down, and being lazy. I am pretty well rested, my cold is almost gone, I'm just being a lazy barstool right now/have a Sims addiction problem.

Learn to recognise when you're being lazy, the kind of things you do when you're being lazy, how you procrastinate, and then kick your ass hard!

 

3. Plan the steps you need to take

If you're a planner or researcher, like me, this can often get the inspiration and excitement flowing again.

Write down your goals and then begin looking into what you need to do to achieve them. From there, you'll probably find something that gets you feeling fired up again.

  • If your goal is to exercise more than maybe researching new classes you could go to, or workout gear will get you excited
  • If you want to save up to travel, looking at destinations or starting to plan your trip might get you giddy and swearing off unnecessary purchases.
  • Maybe you want to go back to university or take night classes, so looking at courses or places you could study will get you hyped up.

Whatever your goal is, there will be something that ignites a fire under your ass and helps you start moving in the right direction.

4. Accept the possibility of failure

This is probably the hardest thing for most of us when it comes to trying to reach our goals. The fear of failure can be so paralysing that we don't even try, or give it our all if we do. We have all heard the phrase "you miss 100% of the shots you never take," and we like to remind ourselves of it occasionally, but actually meaning it can be hard.

One of the best things we can do is accept that we might fail. Failing doesn't necessarily mean it's the end of the road; it means there's another route we have to take. As someone who loves planning, I like to research the other options so I don't feel the fear so much because I know there are other routes.

Talking about it seems to help me as well. Sometimes saying it out loud (to yourself or another person) or writing it down can help unpack it and make it feel a little less overwhelming.

This year I want to apply for a PhD. And me being me, I have a specific university and department in mind and I am terrified that I might not get in because I WANT that university and that department. The acceptance rate is about a third, I believe, so I have to do every damn thing I can and I think that understanding that I might fail is driving me, too.

 

5. Find someone to keep you in check; your 'accountability partner'

I first heard about accountability partners on the Earth To Us podcast (all of their episodes are well worth a listen). The idea is you find someone who you know will be honest with you and will keep checking in on you and your goals, help you out, and motivate you.

The episode is well worth a listen because Hannah and Evan talk about why they picked the people they did and why they didn't pick certain members of their family.  One of them said they wouldn't pick their Mum because they know they'd get their back up and instantly get defensive, so you do need to be smart about it. Just listen to the episode, it explains everything.

Find someone who's happy to keep checking in with you about your goals and keep you on track.

For me, Daz is a fantastic accountability partner because he knows when I'm being lazy and can guide me back on track. He's also just as curious as me so he keeps asking questions (so I can't really lie to him, and I'd only forget what I told him anyway) which gets me excited to get things done so we can talk about it and work through any issues I've got.

Vegan Doc Martens on frozen grass and leaves

6. Get out a pen and paper

Though I do most of my writing on a laptop, I find planning on paper a lot more helpful than using calendars on my phone or laptop. If I can write something down it clears my mind and allows me to focus much easier.

 

I think of my brain as a forest with a lot of over-excitable forest critters, aka my ideas and thoughts. They're all running around, climbing trees, playing, and breeding, and sometimes it's just too much with them all competing for attention. If I can remove one or two mind-squirrels and put them on paper, the forest is much quieter and I can focus without tripping over that pesky "wash uniform" squirrel that's always causing trouble. Making daily lists is really helpful for that because it groups things together and makes them easier to tackle. And then I'm left with a calmer forest full of well-behaved squirrels.

 

7. Create your optimum motivational conditions

Think about the last few times you felt ready to take on the world; what did they have in common? The place? What time of day was it? Was there music, or do you like complete silence? Were you warm and cosy?

 

Notice the things that make you feel most motivated and create those conditions. I feel most motivated when I wake up before 10 am (otherwise I tend to 'write the day off' - daft, I know), have a shower in the morning, get through some housework, know I don't have to go to work or leave the house for more than half an hour, and the house feels like a fresh winter morning. 

These few tips have really helped me get back on top of things and I think that by far the most important one is to rest. You can accept failure and create the best motivational conditions all you want, but if your mind and body aren't showing up on form, there's no point.

 

What makes you feel motivated? 

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Share The Love – November 2017 edition

Share The Love November 2017 collage

I know, I know, November was a bit of a quiet month around here; assignment deadlines crept up on me and then all of a sudden I had no time to blog. I’m trying to get back into it for December and want to plan in advance in case things get hectic around Christmas. 

November was a lot of research and writing. I had two 3,000 word essays, which isn’t that much for me to write (thanks, years of taking part in NaNoWriMo!); it’s the research and refining bit that takes the time. 

I got most of my Christmas shopping sorted, and some of it is all wrapped up – it looks like a six year old wrapped them, but they’re wrapped. Apart from that, Daz and I have been playing Horizon Zero Dawn, which is pretty excellent, though we keep calling the main character Alloy or Aioli. I’m also putting all my effort into not buying The Sims 4 on console until my exams are over. 

The past few weeks have treated us to some incredible sunsets. I’m not sure if it’s the time of year, or there are just better sunsets in Scotland, but I feel like at least 4 times a week I’m seeing amazing sunsets. Definitely not complaining. 

A couple of sustainable living posts went live in November, which I’m really proud of and wanted to point you towards if you’ve missed them: how to have a less wasteful Christmas and 8 reasons why you should produce less rubbish.

 

Blog – Kalyn Nicholson

I think this is a first; I’m listing a YouTube channel this month instead of a blog. Kalyn does have a blog too and she did just recently post about 10 TV shows worth binging, which is spot on. I found Kalyn’s channel a couple of months back and she’s become an autowatch YouTuber and that is something for me. I don’t think there’s anyone else whose videos I will always watch. 

Kalyn’s videos have a nice, chill vibe; her editing is en pointe, and her videos are chock full of legit useful tips and inspiration. Plus, Bentley is adorable as. Watch one of her videos and tell me you don’t want to light about a hundred candles and throw on some comfy clothes? I dare you. 

Links

Listening

When I wrote October’s Share The Love post, I was truly expecting this section to just be me fangirling about Taylor Swift. I only really liked Ready For It before the album came out, but I was expecting myself to get swept up once I heard the album in full and just love it. Nope. Sadly, that did not happen. I just don’t like the new style. I respect her for changing, I won’t knock that, I just don’t like her new sound, and I’m gutted about that because I’ve been a fan since Love Story was released.

I do like Don’t Blame Me and I Did Something Bad, but the rest of it is quite forgettable for me. And the less I say about End Game, the better. 

My Autumn Bop playlist has had a slight update, but not much. A couple of weeks ago, I started listening to the podcast S Town and it is brilliant. If you loved Serial, you will love S Town even more because the storytelling is outstanding. I can’t remember exactly when I finished off You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero (might have been the end of October, I dunno); the audiobook is well worth a listen and I fully attribute listening to that to Kalyn’s videos, too. 

 

Watching

Really having to wrack my brains for this one because we haven’t been watching a huge amount of TV, aside from Blue Planet 2. How incredible is the cinematography on that? We’ve mostly been playing Horizon Zero Dawn when we’d be watching TV. 

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December Goals

Report on November goals

In November I wanted to finish off my masters dissertation plan, do yoga at least three times a week, and read more. I did not finish my masters dissertation plan because it took me a while to find time to sit down with my tutor to hack things out. I’m definitely closer to finishing it though, which is great. Yoga fell off when I stopped scheduling it, so it seems I need to schedule it to actually do it. And I read a little more this month but not as much as I wanted. 

 

December goals

  • Finish masters dissertation plan; my exams are before Christmas, which gives me some time to finish things off. 
  • Be prepared with my blog; I want to get the posts going up around Christmas scheduled in advance so I’m not rushing and taking time out of enjoying Christmas. 
  • Schedule in and do yoga; scheduling it seems to work really well for me, so I need to do that again because I still love those yoga pants and want them in my life. But I’m putting my foot down with myself; it ain’t happening unless I’m doing it regularly. 

 

Phew. That felt like a long one. Ok, you go: tell me about how November was for you and what your goals are for December.

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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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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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