Tag Archives: food

Vegfest @ Brighton

On this cloudy Sunday me and a friend of mine went along to Vegfest – an annual veggie bonanza of deliciousness that takes place in Brighton, Bristol and London.  It was absolutely packed, like to the extent that it was hard to navigate around the place. There were 125 stalls and lots of talks and cookery demos – it was so inspiring to see so many people making vegan and natural products! And more importantly, its great that it was so popular. We enjoyed scouring all the food stalls for yummy free tasters – my boyfriend joked that they’d clock me and radio round saying ”watch out for the girl in the stripy top, she’ll eat your whole stall!” Hahaha. We had a wonderful lunch of veggie burgers and falafel wraps and then ‘put the world to rights’ over coffee. All in all it was a great day out, and if you’re around Bristol or London and want to check out the creme de la creme of plant-based goodies, I’d totally recommend it. The dates for the next two Vegfests in 2013 are:

  • Bristol – 24th – 26th May, £2 adults and £1 kids.
  • London – 5th – 6th October, £10 adults and £2 kids. Advance tickets buy-one-get-one-free.

The Brighton event was free admission for everyone, so I’m kind of surprised at the price of the others, but I still think its worth it if you’re interested. A high point for me was getting hold of some vegan fudge. I’ve always loved the smell of fudge and really wanted to eat it, but I’ve never seen any that isn’t made of butter. Today was my lucky day! I must say it was a bit too sweet for me but I guess I just don’t have a very sweet tooth. Also I tried some really yummy veggie sausages that I’ve never had before.

Next task for the day: impressing an avid carnivore and trained chef with a vegan Sunday roast.
Nuts, sweet potatoes and optimism at the ready.

Wish me luck!

Sustainable Bhutan

Hello everybody!

This evening as I was browsing Facebook after a huge portion of pasta, I came across some astounding news. Sustainable Man posted this article which says that Bhutan is set to go 100% organic!

I must confess I didn’t even know what Bhutan was until now, but a quick research session informs me its a small Asian country nestled between India, Bangladesh and Tibet. Here’s a handy map.


So anyway, their Prime Minister, Jigmi Thinley, has announced their new National Organic Policy. This means GM, pesticides, herbicides and other toxic agrochemicals will be banned within the country, leading the way for 100% organic agriculture. Apparently it’s not a very long jump for them because a large proportion of their farms have never stopped using natural and traditional methods, but they wanted to make a political point.

I’m so happy about this, and it’s the fourth piece of good news I’ve had on the sustainability front in the last week! Things are looking up guys! As if this isn’t cause for jubilation enough, Greenpeace have uncovered some other sustainability gems about this little nation:

  • It’s carbon neutral
  • It’s food-secure
  • It guarantees water and energy supply to over 95% of it’s population
  • It uses Gross National Happiness instead of Gross Domestic Product

I know the third point could be taken for granted in a rich developed nation, but I put it up there to show that people are not being denied use of resources in the name of the environment. In fact there seems to be a high level of civil wellbeing within this forward thinking country.

I’m literally so impressed.

It seems to me that Bhutan is an international leader in sustainability!
I implore my own political leaders to take note and emulate Jigmi’s positive leadership.

It's all about Google Images.

A Slice of Hope

It’s easy to get bogged down with the enormity of the problems that taunt humanity in the 21st century. Climate change, environmental degradation,  resource scarcity, species loss, pollution, environmental injustice, animal suffering, poverty, hunger, human rights violations, inequality, discrimination  corrupt governments, economic recession… The list goes on.

But over the last couple of days I’ve come across a couple of ideas that really lend weight to the “it’s all gonna be okay” dialogue.

Firstly, this newspaper article by The Guardian claimed that if everyone ate a plant-based diet, we’d be able to feed 9 billion people. Today we have 7 billion people but 925 million go hungry*. To be honest I think it’s a shocking waste that all this perfectly good food is fed to cows and other livestock just so people can eat meat. Within the article it says:

Vegfam, which funds sustainable plant food projects, estimates that a 10-acre farm can support 60 people by growing soybeans, 24 people by growing wheat or 10 people by growing maize – but only two by raising cattle.

People tend to get very upset when I start talking about this kind of stuff, and I’m well aware that it pushes many buttons regarding free-will and personal choice for meat eaters. I don’t want to alienate any of you lovely readers, but I will just say this: don’t you think all this seems highly inefficient? In a world where so many children are starving to death every day, shouldn’t we be going for the sixty people per farm rather than the two? There, I’m done.

It's all about Google Images.

It’s all about Google Images.

More positively, I actually took this as a huge piece of good news. I’ve often heard people sigh and say ‘‘well the planet just can’t support this many people…” But this suggests that in terms of food at least, it actually can. I think the idea that there is actually enough food for everyone is greatly encouraging! It’s backed up by www.worldhunger.org as well.

The other thing I found out about was this dude’s TED talk about reversing desertification. Basically he reckons that desert-like areas in Africa and America can be brought back to fertile grasslands not by reducing grazing as ecologists thought, but by changing grazing patterns to mimic nature. Allen Savory says that in wild savannas, buffalo and other grazing mammals wander over vast areas in huge herds. They graze the grass continuously but over a huge area, so no one part gets overly trampled or over-grazed and all of it gets manured. He says it’s only when humans make their cattle and goats graze in small enclosed areas that they are forced to overgraze. The bare soil is vulnerable to wind and rain erosion and the land gets degraded.

www.savoryinstitute.com. Photo by David Nicola.

www.savoryinstitute.com. Photo by David Nicola.

Crucially, vegetation also takes carbon out of the air and locks it up in the biosphere. Allen suggests that desertification (a huge loss of vegetation occurring over 2/3 of the global landmass) is a huge contributor to climate change. He’s been working on this natural grazing method throughout 5 continents and has had some stunning results. There are some impressive pictures in his video, linked above.

The really exciting thing here is this: he says climatologists have estimated that if his method was carried out on all desertified land, atmospheric CO2 would be brought down to pre-industrial levels!

The transformation of the land is also hugely beneficial to local people who can make a living from their land again, and of course for biodiversity as well.

These two little discoveries may not be accurate. I have no guarantee that either of these people  are actually right. But they might be. And just take a moment to fully imagine how great it would be, if we  totally reversed climate change and eradicated world hunger…?

Those two achievements would really go down in the history books.
They’d be right up there with abolishing slavery and women getting the vote.

They’d make me proud to be human.


* Statistic from www.worldhunger.org

Vertical Veg

I’m loving this picture from Occupy Wall Street’s facebook page – it shows there really is no space too small for some green-fingered biological miracles. When I move to Brighton (so unbelievably excited) the flat I’m renting doesn’t have a garden but it does have a large outside-ey windowsill and I’m planning to grow kitchen herbs and salad and stuff.

So go get some seeds and get your hands dirty- where ever you live!

Veg box schemes and similar delights

A typical family-sized box

Having fresh, local, seasonal and organic fruit and veg delivered straight from the farm to your doorstep is not a novel or revolutionary idea. But it’s an idea that makes perfect common-sense, and which is very much in vogue. I thought this was worth talking about because, you know, common-sense isn’t exactly always in vogue these days.

There are currently over 600 veg box schemes in the UK and the figure is growing all the time. I guess it must be down to a combination of people feeling the pinch, the general trend towards having a go at the ‘5 a day’ target and perhaps even concern over food miles?

In case you’re ignorant to the ways of the botanical treasure-trove, let me tell you how it works. You hit up your favorite search engine, type in ‘veg box scheme’ followed by your town or county, and take your pick of the choices the lovely internet throws up for you. Shop around because all schemes are slightly different, but generally a nearby farm will offer to supply you with a weekly box of fresh produce which will change throughout the year depending on what’s seasonally available. Usually you’ll be offered a choice of a small, medium or large box, and many suppliers chuck in recipe ideas as well. Most schemes are organic and Soil Association certified.

Why they’re quite so great:

  • They’re cheap. A small box can be as little as £7 per week. Because they come straight from the grower they cut out the middle man and this results in a much cheaper price, undercutting most supermarkets. It also means lower income households are more likely to afford a healthy array of fruit and vegetables.
  • Even though they’re cheap, the growers are getting a better deal than if they sold their crops to wholesalers. Again, because that pesky middle-man is cut out the loop.
  • They’re local. This means less food miles and less carbon emissions from transportation. It also means you’re directly supporting your local economy. It’s important to give local farmers and growers all the support possible because as oil prices rise, it’ll be increasingly important to have food security within your own country and region.
  • They’re fresh. Most of the produce in a veg box will have been harvested in the last few days. This means they’re way healthier for you than shop-brought veg that could have been sitting on the shelf for literally weeks!
  • It’s convenient. As you can order the box online and have it delivered straight to your doorstep, it requires minimum effort on your part. This will be a major plus if you’re very busy or very lazy.

So yeah, they’re a pretty good all round really. And the best thing is they’re just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to sustainable and forward-thinking foodie solutions. There’s also Community Supported Agriculture schemes, farmer’s markets, food co-ops, allotments, community gardens, seed swaps, ‘’100-mile diets’’, locavores, hydroponic window farms, and a renaissance in growing your own vegetables… All of which are on a happy upwards curve.

So isn’t it time you ditched the packet white bread and air-freighted un-fair bananas? Throw yourself mouth-first into the future of food!

I Am a Herbivore

 I’m vegan.

The first question annoyingly asked by many upon hearing this is “oh my god, what do you eat?” I’ve finally decided that trying to list every foodstuff that I enjoy is pointlessly tiresome, and that “well, plants…” is a better answer.

For those wanting elaboration, I suggest listening to this song.

The second question is usually “why?” and this is more interesting and more long-winded. This blog post is an attempt at a concise and lucid answer.

Firstly, I feel that the conditions in which farm animals live (and die) are incredibly cruel, and I don’t wish to condone this practice in any way. Even with organic and free-range farming, the welfare standards are not high enough in my mind. It is just a case of bad rather than barbaric.

Secondly, the environmental impact of farming animals is shockingly high. The  industry is fuel, water and chemical intensive, and creates a large amount of pollution. It is also unsustainable for everyone on this planet to eat animal foods, as it takes up so much more land than a plant based diet. It may have been workable in other parts of history, but for the modern day it is not an efficient or fair use of land and resources.


Once you’re used to being vegan it’s really not hard at all. I have been for about 5 years now and I find it perfectly easy. I don’t really see why people struggle so much. Plus it’s healthier, as long as you have some basic ideas about nutrition, which I do.

Anyway here’s an example of what I might eat in a typical day:

Breakfast: bananas on toast.
Lunch: minestrone soup with bread.
Dinner: vegan sausages, mashed potatoes, gravy and vegetables.
Snacks: biscuits, fruit.
Drinks: water, juice, hot chocolate (with soya milk).

I don’t see any major self-sacrifice in that to be honest.

The only real advantage to eating meat, dairy etc is that you might like the taste of it. And that’s fair enough, but is it really worth it?


Of course you don’t have to agree with me, this was just me explaining my reasoning. But take a moment to consider that although you are entitled to your own opinion, animals and the Earth are apparently, not.  They don’t get the choice.

Window Farms

This is a window farm. A hydroponic creation involving a lot of plastic bottles hanging in your window with fresh food growing out of them. You should go to


to find out more about them. Hydroponics has never been my cup of tea, I have to say, only because I prefer the more natural and well, down to earth feel of the Earth. But Window Farms originated in Brooklyn, where gardens are a privilege a lot of apartment dwellers don’t have, and there’s no denying these are innovative. There’s a whole online community to support the worldwide network of urban food growers.

It’s proactive, and I like that. In big cities there isn’t room for community gardens so here is a fantastic example of people taking what they have a making use of it.

(All images from the official website linked to above).

What Are We Aiming For? Part 1:

You cannot have infinite growth on a finite planet, so the MORE MORE MORE stratergy of capitalism will not work. We need to live within the bounds of our natural resources, as a part of the global ecosystem. That’s just a fact of life.

But neither can we go backwards- we can’t regress back to some kind of fantasy rustic idyll: there’s too many people and it’s not in the nature of things anyway. Forwards is the only way.

We need to find ways of not just surviving, but thriving. Living WELL within our means. We must not suffer for the sake of the environment, but rejoice in it and develop societies that are good all round. I’m going to post about some of the things I think we should aim for. But I’ll do it in sections because there’s quite a lot…


  • Organic agriculture – switching all farming to organic would create less pollution, standards of animal welfare would be better and food would be healthier.
  • Local - less food miles means less carbon emmisions, fresher food and stronger local economies. Community gardens, fruit trees in parks, food outlets being encouraged to buy from local sources.
  • Less meat and dairy – although coming from a vegan perspective, I don’t “just” say this because of the shocking cruelty of this industry. Plant based foods are more sustainable as they take up so much less land. There isn’t enough space for the whole world to be meat eaters.
  • Good food for schools, hospitals and care homes - these institutions notoriously have awful food, but they should have the highest quality! Children, elders and the sick need fresh, organic and home cooked food more than anyone.


    • Energy saving – all houses retrofitted for free with insulation. Double glazing.
    • Solar panels – on South facing roofs.
    • Heating by efficient woodstoves or groundsource heat pumps
    • All new builds “eco houses” – passive solar gains etc, made from natural materials e.g. strawbale, hempcrete, natural paints. Composting toilets fitted, rainwater harvesting systems…


  • All apliances A+ energy efficiency – and working on improving this all the time. It’s easier to reduce energy consumption than generate it.
  • More energy generation in the home - solar panels on roofs, solar hot water heaters, small windmills in windy areas, pedal powered devices.
  • Investments in localised renewable energy systems – a 1/3 of electricity generated is lost as heat in transportation. A more localised grid would reduce this loss. Depending on conditions, sun farms, wind farms, hydroelectric stations and etc can be used to power the urban areas closest to them.
  • Gyms should convert all that human-power into electricity - I really don’t know why this isn’t done.
  • All landfill sites generate electricity from the methane gas that’s produced – this is already done in some landfill but it should be all of them.
  • Phasing out nuclear, coal, oil, gas


In my last post, I wrote about cute ‘product image’ and use of humour making green products more lovable and successful. And of course you can’t really talk about this cutesy friendly style of marketing without mentioning who brought it to popularity: Innocent Smoothies.

I love Innocent smoothies. They have adorable ingredients lists reassuring the noble drinker that there are no rubber ducks or kitchen sinks inside, and I am instructed to “shake it, baby” before I open the carton. And not to mention, they’re verrryy delicious, especially the banana and strawberry. Mmm.

And yet, I didn’t put them in my list of favourite green brands because they aren’t organic, and I feel they should be, and that this lack threatens their innocent status, if you will. Also selling smoothies to McDonald’s was a bit of a sin.

So as you can tell, I was under the impression they didn’t do much in the way of championing respect for the environment. But happily, their website reflects otherwise. Take a look at their ethics page. They actually do all sorts of stuff like using recycled plastic for their bottles, using renewable energy in their offices and donating 10% of profits to the Innocent Foundation, which funds rural development projects in the countries they get their fruit from. How good is that? I must say my opinion of them is very much improved and they may even of earned themselves an honorary place in my list. I bet they’d be thrilled.