Why You Shouldn’t Wait Any Longer to Watch Seaspiracy

seaspiracy on netflix

Seaspiracy was released only 10 days ago at the time of writing and it’s currently the number 1 film on Netflix in the UK. Have you watched it yet? This new documentary has been produced by the same team behind Cowspiracy (2014), which was about the journey of an environmentalist investigating the destructive meat industry. This time, Seaspiracy looks at the environmental impact of fishing.

So far, I thought eating fish was more “acceptable” than meat and less harmful to the planet. But after watching this documentary, I now think it’s actually way worse. Our oceans are in danger, it’s too easy to close our eyes and ignore what’s happening under water because it’s less visible. If you’re scared to get shocking images stuck in your head forever (some are hard to stomach), then at least be aware of what’s happening in the world before fish end up on your plate.

Key facts from the documentary

Taken from the film itself, below are 8 shocking facts about our ocean:

  • 90% of the world’s large fish have been wiped out by fishing
  • Slavery in the seafood industry is reported in 47 countries (abuse and murder are common practise on these fishing vessels, it’s easy to make a body disappear in the ocean)
  • Governments give $35 billion to the fishing industry every year to keep plundering our seas (when only $30 billion is needed to solve world hunger)
  • 250,000 sea turtles are captured, injured or killed by the fishing industry every year in the United States (1,000 turtles die in plastic per year worldwide in comparison)
  • 46% of the Great Pacific garbage patch is comprised of fishing nets (which are far more dangerous for marine life than plastic straws because they’re designed to kill)
  • 300,000 dolphins, whales and porpoises are killed in fishing nets every year, along with 30,000 sharks per hour
  • Enough fishing line is set every day to wrap around the Earth 500 times
  • 3.9 billion acres of seafloor is deforested every year by trawling (in comparison, 25 million acres of forest is deforested every year on land)

I think one of the things that shocked me the most was the fact that there is so much focus on the negative impact of plastic straws, when it only represents 0.03% of plastic entering the ocean. It’s nothing compared to how the fishing industry harms sea life – and therefore our planet. 70% of macro plastic at sea comes from fishing gear.

How can we save the ocean?

On their website, they indicate 3 things we should do to help save the ocean:

  1. Shift to a plant-based diet
  2. Enforce no-catch marine reserves protecting 30% of our oceans by 2030
  3. End fishing subsidies (currently $35 billion per year)

Now I know for a fact it’s not easy to shift to a plant-based diet. But it’s not as difficult as it may seem either. It has to be a decision you feel comfortable with, but when you’re ready you’ll have plenty of resources available online. Seaspiracy created a plant-based meal planner to help you with the transition if you want to join the movement. You can set up your personalised journey there and also have access to many awesome fishless recipes!

Why cutting out seafood is best

Food labels don’t guarantee anything

Another shocking fact is that we simply cannot trust labels or certifications on food packaging. There is no way anyone can 100% guarantee they’re compliant. So when you see “certified sustainable seafood”, “responsibly farmed” or even “dolphin safe” for example, it doesn’t mean it’s actually the case. Because the audit that aims to verify the compliance of the requirements normally takes place once a year, it’s virtually impossible to monitor what’s happening on vessels once at sea. There aren’t people there regularly observing and some are bribed to turn a blind eye. Bearing that in mind, stopping eating fish is basically the only way to make sure you’re not contributing to the damages caused by fishing.

There is no such thing as “sustainable fishing”

Can we really believe large-scale extraction of wildlife could ever be “sustainable”? Commercial fishing drives many other species towards extinction. It’s important to remember that when you eat fish, it’s not only that fish that dies… It’s also the huge numbers of bycatch (i.e other fish and marine animals unintentionally caught and killed in the process). Sea turtles are threatened and endangered because of fishing – not because of climate change, ocean pollution or plastic. The population of sharks, whales, dolphins, seabirds etc, also declines because of the loss of fish. If that trend continues, we will have empty oceans within the next few decades. And if the ocean dies, we die.

It’s not humane in the slightest

First of all, it’s wrong to say fish can’t feel pain. They feel pain in a similar way that humans do. Fish are sentient beings, have a nervous system, memory capabilities, they can experience fear and concern… They can even have social lives and team up with other species to find food. One of the scenes in the documentary forced me to take a break, I was crying too much and couldn’t cope with the images. It was about the way they hunted whales in the Faroe Islands, to me it was quite clear they were clever enough to understand what was going on (the whales, not the humans… unfortunately).

What are the fish alternatives?

You might think it’s impossible to replace fish in your meals but the variety of cruelty-free options we have access to nowadays is quite impressive! When I decided to go vegan, salmon was the only thing I missed… It used to be my favourite food. My Japanese roots undoubtedly influence my food habits and I’m so happy to have found a way to prepare makis without fish (see below). So far, I’ve tried 2 brands: VBites and Loma Linda and now I can say I won’t miss salmon anymore… I lost my appetite for it anyway.

There are so many fish alternatives out there, I’m yet to try many more! Below are a few useful links to get you started:

Hopefully we will see more and more fish alternatives in the coming months or so, everywhere in the world… What’s your favourite alternative so far? If you haven’t tried any yet, would you give it a go?

Big Girl x

Global Warming & Climate Change: Is the Future Vegan?

protect nature and save the planet

Environmental topics have been discussed for centuries. Although it feels like it’s only started to become a popular discussion recently, not only from “hippy activists” but from everyone this time. Not sure if we really needed a worldwide pandemic to finally open our eyes, but it seems like it had an impact on people. My recent travels in Southeast Asia & the Pacific definitely contributed in my willingness to care more, it changed my mindset forever. Avoiding plastic and chemicals in products we use every day, recycling properly, prioritising walking over driving for short distances…etc. All of these actions are great and useful, but are they enough?

Current situation in 2021

Let’s start with a definition of two key terms. “Global warming” is due to human activities, primarily fossil fuel burning, which increases heat-trapping greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere. Whereas “Climate change” refers to both human and naturally produced warming, as well as the effects it has on our planet. Now let’s move to what’s happening and what will happen if we don’t do anything. The planet has warmed by an average of nearly 1°C in the past century. Human activity is said to be the dominant influence on the environment, climate, and ecology. So far, these changes have already had drastic impacts on all life on Earth.

If we don’t do anything and the planet keeps warming up faster than the natural process, we will face disastrous consequences. It would mean floods or droughts on various areas, the destruction of rainforests, and even the extinction of many other species. This list is not exhaustive and the speed temperatures are rising is now faster than ever before. To some degree (no pun intended), climate change is a natural phenomenon. But global warming is man-made… Which also means we can do something about it. Do you want to know what your environmental footprint is? WWF will calculate it for you by taking this quick questionnaire.

isolated house on ice melting
Trust me, I wish it wasn’t true.

How our diet impacts the planet

Our diet plays a huge part in our carbon footprint. Food is responsible for a quarter of global emissions. And almost 60% of food emissions come from animal products. Beef has the biggest carbon footprint, by far. And the main issue is the amount of beef that the world currently demands. The global population getting richer only makes things worse. We are asking big agriculture for more meat than we can sustainably produce. In comparison, a portion of the highest-impact vegetable proteins emits less than the lowest-impact animal proteins…

Some figures about what we eat (provided by Friends of the Earth):

  • 14.5% of global climate changing gases are due to meat and dairy production (more than all forms of transport)
  • 50% of habitable land around the world is used to produce food
  • 45,000 early deaths could be prevented in the UK every year if we ate low meat diets
  • Over 10 million tonnes of food is wasted in the UK annually
  • 8 billion animals are killed for meat every year in the UK

These figures are shocking. The fact that half of the world’s habitable land is used for agriculture should ring alarm bells. Basically, we need to buy less meat, milk, cheese and butter – but also eat more locally sourced seasonal food, and throw less of it away. Would you be prepared to change your diet for the planet?

What we can do about it

Eating more sustainable meat can already make a big difference. But less meat is nearly always better for your carbon footprint than sustainable meat. It is absolutely essential to reduce your meat consumption to curb climate change. Is going vegan the answer? The climate impact of plant-based foods is typically 10 to 50 times smaller than that of animal products. So of course a plant-based diet would drastically help reduce emissions. Switching to veganism (completely plant-based) would deliver the largest emissions savings, followed by vegetarianism (including eggs and dairy) – It’s no surprise. Bearing that in mind, you don’t have to go that far if you’re not willing to. To sum things up nicely:

“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

Michael Pollan

The bottom line

For some people, completely cutting out meat and dairy is not an option. If that’s your case, thankfully there are plenty of other ways to contribute! For example:

  • Go flexitarian
  • Eat vegetarian one day a week
  • Ban meat from your breakfasts
  • Eat more whole and locally grown foods
  • Reduce food waste
  • Eat less junk food
  • Eat smaller portions

I previously shared 3 awesome tofu recipes if you’re willing to give plant proteins a go to help reduce your meat consumption. You could also just cut out beef from your diet. Switching to pork, cod, chicken or soya beans could drastically reduce CO2 emissions. But personally, I do think the future is vegan. It’s a matter of time before consumers force food industries to adapt to the new demands. Have you already taken a step in that direction?

Big Girl x

Declutter Your Home to Free Your Mind

couple packing boxes

In less than 3 months from now, we will have to move out because our rental contract is coming to an end and the landlord would like to sell the flat. It’s a situation that could be stressful for some, but this is routine to me. I would need more than 2 hands to count how many times I moved to a different place in my life… I just like a regular change of scenery! Now I can tell you that: it doesn’t matter how many times you did it before, the packing part is always the most painful. In between moves, I always seem to find a way to accumulate too many things.

Letting things go is not an easy task

I have so many clothes that I need 2 big wardrobes to fit everything in. Not because I buy too much but because I never get rid of anything. T-shirts I used to wear 10 years ago (it’s almost sentimental), dresses I never wear (but I might some day, we never know), the list is long. My desk is full of “stuff”, drawers and cupboards are overflowing. A lot of free space represents danger: I will find a way to fill up the space somehow, it’s like a pattern that keeps repeating itself. I now realise it’s very similar to how my mind works: I’m constantly overthinking.

Everything happens for a reason so I’ll use my next move to declutter properly. There’s no better motivation to make a start than when you have a countdown hanging over your head. There is only so much I can procrastinate this time, I have no choice but to do it! And the last thing I want is to fill the emptied space with more things again. My new objective is to keep a more minimalist approach to life. Because at the end of the day, you don’t own things, they own you.

Why should you declutter and learn how to live with less?

Below are some good reasons why:

  • It’s an excellent exercise to learn how to let things go (physically but also mentally) – You will get more space to move around.
  • A home with less stuff will make you feel more calm, peaceful and relaxed – Your energy levels will rise.
  • It’s easier to clean and tidy up when there is less stuff – You will have more time for yourself.
  • Choosing to own less means choosing to buy less – it will also save you money!
decluttering: less is more

In so many ways, decluttering your space will help free your mind and have a positive impact on your wellbeing. Not only you’ll clear up the mess but it will force you to come to terms with things you subconsciously link with the past. And who knows, maybe you will find some hidden gems in the process too: things you forgot you even had under that pile of clutter!

Tips to make a good start

From my own experience, this is what I would suggest:

  1. Break down your home into smaller areas
    • List what requires decluttering: closet, desk, bookshelves, etc
  2. Start with small and easy things you can get rid of easily
    • What doesn’t have any value and is utterly useless, contributes to the mess and doesn’t make you smile when you look at it
    • No difficult decisions at this point
  3. Prepare 2 boxes: one for unwanted things you want to sell, one for unwanted things you want to give away
    • Does it have monetary value? Put it in the “to sell” box
    • Do you have someone in mind who could use it? Any charity who could benefit from it? Put it in the “to give away” box (to prioritise if you don’t need the money)
  4. Ask yourself the right questions
    • When was the last time you used the item? What are the odds you’re ever going to need it again? What do you feel when you touch the item?
    • Remember you need much less than you think you need
  5. Don’t stop until your space looks spacious and harmonious
    • Organise what’s left to keep the space clean

How to do it in a sustainable way

Going through a big decluttering will help you realise how much you own but have never used, and will prevent you from doing the same thing again. By consuming less, you’ll reduce your carbon footprint and contribute to a greener world. Not buying things that are unnecessary helps improve the environment!

“As consumers we have so much power to change the world by just being careful in what we buy.”

Emma Watson

REUSE
Before you make a purchase, you should commit to using what you have first. Do you really need to buy this new jumper? Does your kid really need this new extra toy? Some things are obviously reusable, but some others would need a bit more imagination. Look at them with a creative eye: maybe that old piece of linen can be used to wrap up a gift?

DONATE
Some things you own might not be of any use to you, but someone else will definitely use it. Whether it’s a family member, a friend or someone you don’t know via charities, it’s definitely a good thing to do. What’s a better feeling than supporting local non-profits in your community? This is also probably the best chance to give your unwanted items a second life.

RECYCLE
If there’s no better option than discarding it, do it the right way. Recycling stuff will reduce the amount sent to landfill, and make use of resources already available. Remember to keep your cardboard and other recyclables clean and read your local recycling guide.

If you are thinking of decluttering too (whether you’re moving out or not), I know it can seem daunting but you can do it!

Big Girl x

Surprising Things I Discovered After Going Vegan for a Month

Every year since 2014, some people commit to Veganuary by adopting a vegan diet for a month – in January. I would have never considered it in the past but this year I was intrigued… We all have preconceived ideas about the unknown, so why not try and see if they’re actually valid? And if it’s the most effective way to save the planet, it’s probably worth keeping an open mind. But not at all costs! Food is one of the greatest pleasures in life, I want to keep enjoying it. Sticking to what you know is always easier… So let me tell you the main 3 things I learnt after trying it myself for a month:

1. It’s actually quite easy to eat vegan every day

If your main reason for going vegan is the environment and/or the animals, then it’s not difficult to stick to it. First of all, many popular foods are already vegan (potatoes, rice, pasta, fruits…). Treats and things that are not especially good for you (like biscuits, sweets, etc) are easy to fit in a vegan diet too, if you read the labels properly. Secondly, more and more companies diversify their range to offer vegan options. Meat alternatives are everywhere nowadays (especially in big cities like London) so it’s really not difficult to avoid animal products. They’re not always the healthiest as some of them are highly processed, but they are a great way to help you while you’re transitioning. You won’t have to eat fries everyday to have a clear conscience.

Basically, if your health is not the main reason, the switch will be relatively easy. It’s when you want to have a healthy and balanced diet (as you should) that things can get a bit more complicated… Especially if you’re a fussy eater like me. But even that turned out to be a lot easier that I anticipated.

2. A vegan diet is very varied and not boring at all

If you asked me several months ago what I thought about a vegan diet, I would have said I wasn’t interested in eating lettuce everyday. I didn’t understand how you could enjoy life with “boring” food. I thought it was a sacrifice not worth doing. It was made worse by the fact I’ve always disliked vegetables (especially the green ones…).

Now I wish I did it sooner

Take it from someone who had a lot of negative opinions about veganism not so long ago. Someone who would never willingly put vegetables on their plate… I realise how ignorant I was to have never tried most of the foods available! Don’t get me wrong, it seems daunting to remove from your diet all products derived from animals. Because they’re literally everywhere. But I can honestly tell you I eat a lot more varied now than I ever have in my entire life.

I’m always looking forward to my next meal

I now feel I have almost too much choice when I prepare the food plan for the week. Before it was a lot easier to plan our meals, it was always the same thing (roast chicken, beef burger or salmon, with either rice, fries or pasta). Now I feel like I should do a food plan for the entire month, just so I can fit in everything I fancy. And my cupboards have never been so full of varied things!

In fact, I added so many things in my diet by going vegan. Things I didn’t even know existed. Things I’m now willing to try because I realised I don’t even know what it tastes like. It also forces me to play more with spices and sauces, giving amazing flavours to every meal.

3. Eating cruelty-free makes food more enjoyable

I’m not sure if it’s the fact that no animals have been killed to feed me… But something makes the whole eating experience very rewarding. You know when you feel guilty after eating too much for example? It’s usually because you know it’s not good for your body to overeat. But I wonder if it could also be because most of the time food industries control what you eat, not you. By cooking with plants I don’t experience that guilt anymore. And eating used to make me feel a bit lethargic after each meal… Like I would need all of my body’s energy just to digest it. That feeling is gone too.

Eating vegan also makes cooking more enjoyable, because I don’t have to deal with what used to put me off before: blood from a steak, nerves from chicken, fat from bacon, etc. When I cook with raw ingredients only involving plants, the smell in the kitchen feels a lot more “natural”. I eat more for less calories and feel full for longer, without any sluggish feeling afterwards. It means I have more energy and feel “lighter” at the same time. It’s a win in all aspects!

Other things I discovered:

  • Because I eat a lot more fibre than I used to, my digestive system has improved a lot (my guts are happier)
  • I haven’t missed meat at all, not once…
  • Cooking with tofu is actually quite fun, it’s such a versatile ingredient and an excellent source of proteins
  • I would pick a plant-based burger over a beef burger without hesitation
  • Cauliflower can be an amazing snack
  • Cashews are used a lot in vegan meals to give a cheesy flavour
  • We can “learn” to appreciate healthy food and even thrive for it
  • I get to be more creative with my cooking skills and it makes me feel proud when my partner enjoys a home-cooked meal – I can’t wait to invite friends & family to try
  • There is so much more to vegan food than simply tofu, cauliflower and cashews… These are my personal favourites for now, but I still have so much more to experience and discover (a month is far from being enough!)

Going forward

I considered Veganuary like a test and I passed it. So I’ve decided, I’m not going back to my previous diet! Why would I even consider eating meat again with all the benefits I discovered from a plant-based diet? Long term, the only thing I may find hard to never eat again is salmon. It’s difficult because it’s an obvious source of omega-3 and also it tastes great (I especially love salmon sushi). It’s still an animal product though! And if we don’t do anything, our oceans will be empty in the next few decades. It’s as simple as that. Making the wrong choice would be a way to contribute to this huge killing machine that is destroying our planet.

Would you not consider changing your eating habits if it meant saving the planet, the animals and yourself at the same time?

Big Girl x

Honey: Health Benefits vs Negative Impact on Our Eco-System

Honey: Health Benefits vs Negative Impact on Our Eco-System

I absolutely love honey, it’s something I’ve always considered “natural” and healthy (if consumed with moderation, of course… like most things). Many years ago, I met a vegan guy who told me that honey was a no-go in their diet. I thought it made no sense… Bees produce honey anyway, right? It’s a very natural thing for them to do, so we might as well include it in our diet. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to explain to me the reasons why they didn’t consider it ethical. It’s only now that I’m wondering how I have stayed in the dark for so long. Information is key, so I finally tried to find out more on the matter. What are the health benefits and what impact does it have on the planet? Does it compensate? Shouldn’t we care?

Honey has health benefits

On top of its appealing golden texture and delicious taste, honey is good for many things. You would have to get a high-quality one to get the most of it though, as in not mixed with syrup – just be careful and read the label properly before buying it. Honey is rich in antioxidants and is a great alternative to sugar, or is “less bad” for diabetics. It can help reducing the risk of heart disease by lowering blood pressure but also help to lower cholesterol. Honey can help with your throat when you catch a cold too (in your tea, as a form of a sweet you can find in the pharmacy, etc).

Note that the health benefits of honey are counterbalanced by the fact it’s very high in calories and sugar, so moderation is always key! Otherwise, it is known that honey is a good antibacterial and can treat burns, wounds and other conditions when applied directly to the skin.

Why honey is not vegan

People would often assume honey is vegan-friendly, but it’s not. I used to think it was purely because this product came from bees (insects do matter too, you know) and in my opinion, it was pushing the will to “defend nature” a bit too far and at the time I simply discarded the idea, shrugging my shoulders at it. I was convinced bees would produce honey for us anyway so what was the issue?

Today, I know that was a common misconception that couldn’t be further away from the truth… Honey is something bees produce for themselves as a source of energy to survive during winter months, not for humans. But as the health benefits of honey are becoming common knowledge, the whole industry needs to meet increasing demands. It means that beekeepers, like any other businesses, will aim to increase their revenue and decrease their costs to maximise profit. How do they do that?

  • They specifically breed honey bees to increase productivity. This selective breeding narrows the population gene pool and increases susceptibility to disease. So, if you thought honey production was good for the environment, the diseases spread to the thousands of other pollinators we rely on would show otherwise.
  • When they remove honey from a hive, they replace it with a sugar substitute for the bees, who don’t even get the essential micro-nutrients of honey they produce for their survival.
  • They clip the wings of the Queen bees so they can’t leave the hive and produce a new colony elsewhere, as it would reduce their profit.
  • Post-harvest, it’s common to cull the hives to keep the costs down.

We’re basically using bees as our slaves to produce food that is not even meant for us. We’re disrupting our eco-system by artificially increasing production so we can steal away something that is not ours (and not even in a nice way). Veganism doesn’t just seek to exclude cruelty but also exploitation. Good news is there are several good alternatives to honey that are plant-based: date syrup, maple syrup, agave syrup, golden syrup, butterscotch syrup, etc.

Why bees are so important

We actually owe many thanks to these hard-working and under-appreciated insects! Some plants can rely only on the wind to pollinate but the big majority of them have to rely on animal pollinators such as bees, but also bats, moths, butterflies, hummingbirds, ants, and beetles. They need their help to produce fruits and seeds. If bees were to disappear, our food options would look much different. Do you want to know what would be missing? Foods that rely on bees include: apples, avocados, broccoli, cantaloupe, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers, eggplant, green onions, honeydew, kale, leeks, lemons, limes, mangos, onions, watermelons and zucchini (just to name a few!). At least a third of our food supply would no longer be available… In short, bees are easily amongst the most important insects to humans on Earth, and if they’re in danger, we have a big problem.

Further reading & Useful resources

So… Should we eat honey?

Whether you’ve decided to go vegan or not, honey stays a debatable topic that raises ethical questions. On my end, I’ve decided to finish the big pot of honey left in my cupboard and then replace it with maple syrup in the future. The rule is quite simple for me: if it’s an easy swap, then it’s definitely worth doing. What matters the most is to ask yourself the right questions, so you can be in a position to say that you know exactly WHY you’re choosing to consume this product – or not. Just remember that everything you buy is a vote for the industry which made it.

Would you replace honey with a vegan alternative?

Big Girl x

10 Easy Eco-Swaps I’ve Made in My Bathroom

There are a lot of things we can do to be more conscious of the environment, like recycling, turning the light off when not in the room, avoiding the car for short trips, etc. These are good actions that hopefully most people have already adopted, but how about the easy swaps we can all make in our home? Our consumption of plastic worldwide keeps increasing and that results in more and more pollution. Maybe another day I’ll write a post about how badly plastic affects human health as well as wildlife. In the meantime, I’ve tried some eco-friendly products and see how they compare with the usual products we can find in supermarkets, starting with my bathroom. Are they worth the swap? Let’s find out below:

Dental care

1. Toothpaste tablets

I tried: Toothpaste tablets (with fluoride) by EcoLiving
My review: I loved the idea of using tablets instead of the paste we’re used to, but I wasn’t sure how effective it would be. It feels a bit like you’re eating a mint at first, then it surprisingly foams once you start brushing with a wet toothbrush. If anything, it can sometimes feel like you haven’t got enough toothpaste in your mouth but that’s probably because a unique tablet forces you to consume no more than the right amount (we’re probably all guilty of putting too much toothpaste on our toothbrush). I really like this product and will 100% keep using it. Not to mention it’s super convenient to travel.
Why it’s good for you: I don’t think I got to the bottom of what’s best between toothpaste with fluoride and toothpaste without (both options are available anyway so you choose what you prefer). Apart from that, it’s great to know exactly how long it’s going to last. It’s as effective as a classic toothpaste and keeps your mouth fresh after use.
Why it’s good for the planet: You can keep the tin box and refill it every month or so, the refill bag is plant-based home compostable so you can recycle it easily. This product is vegan and plastic-free.

2. Mouthwash tablets

I tried: Mouthwash tablets by Georganics
My review: It’s also a great idea to use mouthwash with tablets but the inconvenience is you need a glass to dissolve it into water, and it takes a while. It’s good to start dissolving it while you’re flossing then brushing your teeth to give it enough time to be ready on time (you might forget about it if you have to wait another 3 minutes after you’ve finished your dental routine!). I was used to Listerine and the burning sensation associated to most mouthwashes that made me feel like it killed all bacteria (without distinction between the good and the bad ones). In comparison, these mouthwash tablets feel very gentle and don’t burn at all so it’s probably safer to use in the long term.
Why it’s good for you: Unlike mouthwashes which contain alcohol, these natural tablets help to restore a healthy pH balance to your mouth. Without being aggressive, they maintain good oral health and freshen your breath, a little bit like after you chew a spearmint gum!
Why it’s good for the planet: It’s PETA cruelty-free and vegan certified. The packaging is plastic-free, recyclable & biodegradable. The product itself is only made with pure, natural and organic ingredients, sourced as locally as possible.

3. Dental floss

I tried: Dental floss (vegan) by Bambaw
My review: It wouldn’t change much in your routine to use a vegan dental floss instead of any other similar products, so I’d say you might as well make the swap, it’s the easiest one! If there is a tiny difference, it’s the fact that the floss might be a little bit thicker than the ones I used before. I feel like it’s working better and is more efficient than others.
Why it’s good for you: On top of doing the job properly, it’s a very affordable product too compared to what you can find in supermarkets. It also has a refreshing peppermint touch. It’s a super easy eco-swap that won’t change your habits and you’ll do something good for the planet.
Why it’s good for the planet: This dental floss is made from bioplastic (corn starch), which is as strong as plastic but made from renewable resources and compostable in an industrial compost. You can keep and reuse the refillable dispenser, made of glass and stainless steel. Refills are packaged in a cardboard box.

Hair products

4. Shampoo bar

I tried: Shampoo bar (mango) by Superfly Soap
My review: I’ve been warned about the transition period when you swap from traditional liquid shampoos to shampoo bars, but I actually thought it was really easy to use! I was a bit worried it wouldn’t foam enough or that I wouldn’t feel like I was washing my hair properly, but it’s working wonders. I suppose your hair type could influence how easy the transition will be for you. I love the fact that my hair feels drier than usual (they usually get oily easily), keeping a subtle “waxy” feeling on the touch that is actually quite nice. Some people advice to use apple cider vinegar to remove all residue but I didn’t feel I needed to. Using a shampoo bar also decreases the frequency I wash my hair. Finally, I always thought getting water in my eyes was the reason they got red after washing my hair but it turns out it was more likely to be my previous shampoo! There are so many chemicals in traditional mainstream shampoos, I threw mine away immediately when I realised my new shampoo stopped my eyes from being irritated.
Why it’s good for you: Traditional shampoos in plastic bottles strip away the natural oil production of your hair with too many chemicals within the ingredients. Stopping the use of these nasty products will allow your hair to produce its own natural oil again and it will eventually feel softer and more manageable. Plus a shampoo bar seems to last forever (I have yet to find out how long exactly as I’ve only just started using it last month). It’s available in a lot of exciting fragrance options, according to your hair type: normal to dry (mango, orange spice, coconut, avocado & banana or unscented) or normal to oily (lemongrass).
Why it’s good for the planet: For a start, there is no plastic there. It’s vegan-friendly and free of nasties such as SLS, palm oil, and of course cruelty-free. It uses a cold process method that excludes the animal fats that are traditionally used.

5. Conditioner bar

I tried: Conditioner bar (mango) by Superfly Soap
My review: First impression: it smells amazing! I don’t like the taste of mango but I’ve always loved the smell of this fruit, which I think is even better with the conditioner bar (this is fine because that’s what you use last). I find this product quite difficult to use though, it doesn’t foam and it’s hard to tell if you’ve put enough on your hair. I don’t feel it detangles my hair either, so I probably need to keep using it and see how it improves over time.
Why it’s good for you: The size is smaller than the shampoo bar (40g vs 100g) and the shape is also different (round vs rectangular) so there’s no way you can get confused between the two! You have matching fragrance options available too: mango, orange, coconut, banana, lemongrass or unscented.
Why it’s good for the planet: Same as above.

6. Shampoo & Body wash bar

I tried: Beauty kubes (unisex) shampoo & body wash by Eve of St Agnes
My review: I’ve heard a lot about this product so I was really keen to try but I personally didn’t think it was as good as the shampoo bar. The texture is way different, it falls apart under water so you can crush it very easily. It’s probably meant to be that way though, as a full “kube” is recommended per use. I suppose it could be a great alternative if a shampoo bar is not right for you and it’s also super convenient to carry if you’re travelling somewhere.
Why it’s good for you: There are 27 “beauty kubes” in the box and it’s suitable for all sexes. You can use it for both hair and body, which is always convenient. The fragrance is super nice: an infusion of lemongrass, bergamot, cedarwood and sweet orange essential oils. You can also buy it as a sample / travel size of 3 cubes.
Why it’s good for the planet: It’s vegan, cruelty-free and doesn’t contain any nasties: no palm oil, sulphate or silicone. The packaging is 100% plastic-free & plant-based, the home compostable film is derived from the cellulose of wood pulp.

Face & Makeup

7. Facial soap

I tried: Facial soap salvia green (vegan, for oily skin) by Amorphous Soaps
My review: This is another easy swap to make in your bathroom, it works just like a soap you would use to wash your hands but for your face. It doesn’t smell as good as fruity fragrances but I picked salvia green because of my skin type. The soap makes my skin drier, to a point I need to moisturise afterwards so I would say it works quite well! But maybe I should have picked the soap for combined skin (rhassoul rose) instead.
Why it’s good for you: These soaps are handmade and formulated with especially selected ingredients for different skin types, using an unique essential oil combination to soothe and nourish your skin. Salvia green is suitable for vegans but the other fragrances are not, because they use honey within the ingredients.
Why it’s good for the planet: It’s obviously plastic-free, the packaging and labels are made from recycled brown paper. The soap is also free of palm oil. Only salvia green is vegan-friendly.

8. Reusable make-up remover pads

I tried: Bamboo reusable make-up face pads by Bambaw
My review: I thought it would be great to have reusable make-up remover pads instead of buying cotton pads or wipes, but the truth is I didn’t have the occasion to try them out just yet… It’s been lockdown for a long time and no need to apply make-up in the first place (not that I wear much of it usually anyway…). I’m very excited by this product though. There are 2 different types of pads: one for sensitive areas and one for cleaning more tenacious products. What I like about it is the cotton laundry bag provided with it, it allows you to clean them all together in the washing machine once used. More information on this product in their manual.
Why it’s good for you: Despite the fact that you won’t have to constantly buy new cotton pads? Classic cotton pads lint very easily, which could be annoying, and they’re also chemically treated to make them soft and white. At least this product doesn’t involve any harmful chemicals.
Why it’s good for the planet: Cotton shouldn’t be used only once: it takes 20,000 litres of water to produce just 1 kg of cotton and requires 16% of all insecticides in the world. On the other hand, bamboo is considered the world’s most renewable material, absorbing 5 times more carbon dioxide and producing 35% more oxygen than trees. These pads use only 20% cotton and up to 80% bamboo viscose.

Deodorant

9. Crystal deodorant

I tried: Potassium Alum Crystal Deo Stick by Biork
My review: I was already convinced by this product as I’ve been using myself a crystal deodorant using potassium alum too (from Salt of the Earth). But it’s the fiancé I was trying to convince with this product! It’s quite expensive but I wasn’t taking too much risk by buying it. Potassium alum is a mineral compound made up of potassium and alum crystals, which means it’s a completely natural deodorant. I think it’s important to be careful with the type of product we use on this sensitive area of our body. My partner is now very happy to use it instead of classic deodorants available in supermarkets, which means you can trust the fact it’s working well (he’s not the most inclined to any type of change usually!). You basically just have to wet the product and glide it gently right after your shower. Then just let it dry for a few seconds and you’re covered.
Why it’s good for you: It’s completely natural so you know it doesn’t contain any alcohol or harmful chemical ingredients. It lasts forever… Just remember to dry the stick after use to preserve it even longer. It’s hypoallergenic so perfect for sensitive skin, and fragrance-free.
Why it’s good for the planet: Vegan and cruelty-free (which I suppose go together), it doesn’t include any aluminium chlorides and is 100% natural. The container is made of cork, which is a renewable resource, recommended by nature conservation associations. Given how long it lasts, you won’t need to buy another one for a very long time!

Reusable Cotton bud

10. The last swab

I tried: LastSwab Basic (peach) by LastObject
My review: I’ve been looking for such a product for ages and this is the one everyone was talking about so I had to give it a go. The case provided is cute and super convenient, allowing you to protect it and carry it around if needed. It was smaller than I expected but it’s quite solid. There are plenty of colours available so everyone can have their own within the family. After use, you simply have to clean it with soap and water and put it back in its case. I feel like it actually cleans way better than traditional one-use only cotton buds.
Why it’s good for you: It’s easy to make things worse with a normal cotton bud by adding extra cotton strands in your ears… A reusable one is not only more efficient but also more practical.
Why it’s good for the planet: The swab ends are TPE, the rod is plastic, and the case is PLA which is made of corn and is biodegradable. It’s so durable that it is meant to replace thousands of single-use cotton swabs!

Among these 10 products, there is nothing I regret trying… I fully intend to keep using them so I would say these eco-swaps were definitely worth it! I think starting with the bathroom was probably the easiest for me, although there are still many things I can still swap in our home. It’s not as straight forward as simply buying these products in a classic supermarket, it requires a little more research and a specialised online shop (preferably based in your country) to order them from. But if it’s good for you and the planet, why wouldn’t we all give it a try?

Big Girl x

Veganuary: A Great Way to Start the Year

Veganuary, A Good Way to Start the Year

Veganism is on the rise… Could it be because of 2020 events, leading many people to realise the effects of climate change and/or the importance of being healthy? I don’t know about you but that was definitely the trigger for me. I started doing more research about our impact on the environment and how we could save the planet. David Attenborough contributed a lot in people’s awareness with his movie “A life on our planet” where he advised everyone to adopt a more sustainable diet based on plants. Veganuary (Vegan + January) aims at educating non-vegans about veganism by creating a community of people who will share their feedback, tips and recipes throughout the month. Veganism is actually way more than just a diet but I’m going to focus only on food & nutrition in this post.

Why is it a good idea to take part in Veganuary?

It gives you the opportunity to try something new

If you eat a lot of meat and dairy (like I used to), it seems daunting to stop consuming any products derived from animals. You’re probably thinking: “It includes too many foods I love, how can I be happy eating lettuce every day? I want to keep enjoying food and have a normal social life! It’s not worth such a huge sacrifice”. Veganuary is here to give you the opportunity to be open-minded and try a vegan diet just for a month, with the help of people who have done it before. How many times have you had a strong opinion on something before even trying, then changed your mind after you finally tried?

It’s the right time to do it

There are 3 possible reasons why someone would decide to become vegan (even for a month): for the environment, for the animals, and/or for their own health. I think it’s extremely important to know and remember why you’re doing it. To me, it would be all of these reasons. Not everyone would find this diet suitable (and that’s fair enough), but at the very least everyone should open their eyes on what it’s really about. Switching to a diet powered only by plants is like re-learning everything you thought you knew about food & nutrition. It’s quite difficult in a non-vegan and extremely industrialised world where meat and dairy are everywhere. My main concern is how it will impact my social life when eating out. But we are being locked down anyway (at least in England…) so it’s actually the perfect time to do it!

There is a huge community online here to help

This month, more than 500,000 people committed online to do Veganuary and we can expect even more people doing it by themselves without signing up. It breaks the record of 400,000 people who registered in January 2020, across 192 countries. It means the food industry has to follow the trend and offer more interesting no-meat options, more restaurants will offer additional vegan meals, etc. There are tonnes of vegan recipes online and advice on where to start, but what’s better than a community of open-minded non-vegans who share their own tips & feedback on their findings? It’s not always that obvious what’s vegan or not, so there are also some mobile apps and tools online to help you check if you have any doubts: isitvegan.net, doublecheckvegan.com or barnivore.com (for alcoholic drinks).

The impact it had over the past 7 years is powerful

Since Veganuary was created in 2014, this is the impact the previous one million participants had on the planet:

  • 103,840 tonnes of CO2eq saved – which is equivalent to driving around the world almost 15,000 times
  • 405 tonnes of PO43-eq (eutrophication) saved – which is the same as 1,645 tonnes of sewage
  • 6.2 million litres of water saved – which is the same as flushing the toilet almost half a million times
  • more than 3.4 million animals were saved

Even if you’re not prepared to make such a drastic change in your life, think about how much positive impact it would already have to do it just for a month! And who knows, you might feel healthier too.

vegan food platter

Becoming aware takes a lot of intellectual humility

There are many preconceived ideas when it comes to veganism. I would know because I was among the ones who thought they would never be converted… ever. And yet today I’m writing about veganuary and why you should do it too. Everything changed in my head after I did my own research and found out I was wrong. Until then, I made the mistake to automatically discount any information that was conflicting my own beliefs, even if it was objectively more credible. So I wanted to share 3 important facts:

You don’t need to eat meat to get enough proteins

“Where do you find your proteins?” is a very common question, because we’ve been told our whole life that proteins only come from animal products. Now I know it upsets vegetarians & vegans and I finally understand why. Plants do have all the essential amino acids we need in our daily protein requirements. Think about it this way: if all creatures need protein to live, then where are the plant-eating animals (such as cows, bulls or oxen to name just a few) getting their protein from? The answer is simple: plants.

You don’t need to drink dairy milk to get enough calcium

Most of us were encouraged to drink milk to get strong bones, because it’s a great source of calcium. It was definitely a big part of my childhood, until I realised I didn’t digest it very well. Not surprising, given the fact that 70% of the global population is indeed lactose intolerant. It strikes the question: do we really need dairy milk? I don’t think so, especially if we look at the many alternatives we have available that are way healthier and at least as rich in calcium than dairy. I compared 4 vegan milks in this post if you’re wondering which one you should go for.

Vegan food is actually very varied

The main reason I always discarded a vegetarian, or even worse, vegan diet, is that I’ve always been a fussy eater. I dislike most vegetables like mushrooms, broccolis or any sort of green leaves, which I don’t think I’ll ever like. But by going through all ingredients that could be part of a very healthy vegan meal, I have to admit I haven’t tried half of them yet. For the ones I’ve never been forced to eat when I was a kid, there is a chance I will actually learn how to appreciate them as an adult. I’m actually excited to learn many new recipes and find new flavours I like! So far, I have loved every vegan meal I’ve had!

Somehow it seems to make me feel fuller without the heavy, sluggish feeling I used to have after eating meat. I also feel happier and proud to make a positive contribution to all living beings, as well as my own health. But doing it at home is easy. I will use the extra time in lockdown to become knowledgeable enough to keep doing it in social life (the hardest part), among meat lover friends, colleagues and family. I even considered opting for a flexitarian diet for that reason, but making exceptions whenever suits me is probably not the right way to fully commit to it. Plus I don’t really have any excuse, I live in London, the most vegan-friendly city in the world. If others can do it, I also can!

colourful fruit bowl vegan

Educate yourself before making your mind up

Doing your research is the only way to understand why some people would give up on all animal products. Are they crazy? I will let you be the judge of that. Below are some useful resources so you can make up your own mind with a much better knowledge.

Documentaries:

Books:

Blogs:

Hopefully this is useful to the curious minds among you! But if you’ve adopted a plant-based / vegan diet already and have any more advice or recommendations to give from personal experience, please feel free to do so in the comments below!

Big Girl x

What If I Told You 2020 Has Been a Great Year?

I know we won’t really look back at 2020 thinking “What a great year!” but if we look at how much we learnt from it, I would say it wasn’t such a bad year in the end. As today is (finally?) the last day of the year, I thought it was time to reflect and try a different outlook on what’s now almost behind us. When I started this blog, I was very frustrated by how much the pandemic impacted my plans. Today, I’m glad I managed to use the second part of the year the best way I could possibly have. Let me go through why I think 2020 has been a great year on reflection.

2020 started with awesome travels

It would be easy to focus on how the pandemic interrupted my travels and dwell on the fact I couldn’t finish my trip like initially planned. Because of it, I didn’t go to Japan this year. I’ve been before though, and I will definitely go back again – this is where my mum was born after all. Instead I’ll focus on what I was able to do: an amazing month spent road tripping along the east coast of Australia, from Sydney to Cairns. I even got the opportunity to finally go back to Brisbane, where I had so many fond memories from 2006. And after that, we were lucky enough to spend another 6 weeks in New Zealand, which is probably one of the most beautiful countries on Earth. With happy memories I will carry for the rest of my life, 2020 didn’t start too bad!

It opened my eyes on the urgency to save the planet

What would seem like bad timing may have actually been a great eye-opener for me: I was in Australia during the bushfires that caused a lot of damage on the planet and wildlife. It also reminded me that some sunny countries like Australia don’t get as much rain compared to what we’re used to in Europe, therefore they have no choice but to make constant efforts to save water (which we may take for granted elsewhere in the world…). I was already starting to question our impact on climate change when the pandemic happened. If anything, it confirmed how urgent it has become to take responsibility on our actions and their consequences on the planet. It is quite simple: if we don’t do anything and keep ignoring the facts, there will be nothing left to see for the next generations.

My health & wellbeing became a priority

Focus on mental health

I never got to know myself better than this year. I usually don’t panic easily, I know what I want and (maybe more importantly) what I don’t want in life, I have a strong temper and sometimes strong opinions on things I feel passionate about. I like to be organised and plan everything so I can keep my head on my shoulders. In short, I’m a control freak. That’s probably why the level of uncertainty caused by the pandemic hit me hard. I lost all sense of anticipation, torn between a naïve optimism and a desperate need to stay hopeful, struggling with the feeling of being completely helpless. But I learnt how to deal with this uncertainty, I overcame my new anxiety and faced my fears in a way that developed new strengths in me. I’ve found that my patience, resilience and courage have grown. Thanks 2020 for this life lesson.

… But also physical health

An invisible killer threatening the most vulnerable people was all it took for me to prioritise the right things. I knew I indulged myself too much during our travels, I needed to do something to avoid falling into the category of those who have “existing underlying health conditions”. It freaked me out so much that I gave myself 3 clear objectives:
1 – go back to a healthy weight by the end of the year (below 68 kg according to my BMI)
2 – eventually aim for 60 kg (I’m 165 cm tall so this is roughly what I need to be at)
3 – keep a sustainable and improved lifestyle that will guarantee I will never have to lose so much weight ever again.
But one thing at a time. I’ve been focussing on the first objective this year and these are today’s figures:

I use the app VeSyncFit to track progress
All data is now in “green” (= healthy)

I wouldn’t usually share publicly such information about me, but I’m hoping it would inspire someone else on the same journey. On Sunday 2nd August 2020, my weight was 84.80 kg and today, Thursday 31st December 2020, I’m at 67.55 kg, which means I lost 17.25 kg in only 5 months. My BMI came down from 31.1 (obese category) to 24.8 (healthy category). My body fat went down from 37.9% (way too high) to 28.2% (acceptable). I also lost almost 15 cm around the waist, where you store the most dangerous fat that can significantly increase the risk of chronic diseases. I’m happy to be starting 2021 on a healthy base, because 2020 put me back on track. That’s my first objective smashed! Now I’m ready to tackle the next two.

I identified who I really wanted to keep in my life

It’s either make or break

Being locked down with a special someone, even if you picked that someone to be your partner for the rest of your life, could be a challenging situation for many couples. No wonder why the divorce rate has increased drastically in 2020! It does make me wonder how long people stay married without really knowing each other. You only get to know someone fully when you travel with them, but our recent 6-month trip was never a test for us. We knew what our families and friends still needed to see: we were never meant to break. Being stranded abroad was a stressful experience but it only made our relationship (even) stronger, staying at home together was always going to be a piece of cake in comparison. If we couldn’t tie the knot in 2020, we’re determined to make 2021 our year.

I cut off ties with toxic people

It’s always easy to identify who you really want to keep in your life: some close family members, your partner, some of your best friends, kind people who make a difference, etc. But what about people who don’t deserve you / hurt your feelings / bring you down with their negativity and/or judgmental behaviour / don’t make any efforts to stay in touch? My tolerance level decreased because I realised I didn’t have to accept the unacceptable, I don’t have to forgive easily either. Raising your standards when it comes to relationships is an excellent thing, it’s so important to surround yourself with like-minded people. Of course there are always going to be people you’d rather detach yourself from but can’t: some family members or even colleagues… Just keep in mind kindness is contagious. Oh, and I also deleted my personal social media accounts. Freedom!

My conclusion on 2020

Looking back, I can’t really say it’s been a bad year… I used to blog between 2007 and 2017 but had to stop eventually, because I didn’t have enough time for it anymore. 2020 gave me the extra time I needed to start this new blog and it’s been a powerful form of therapy to help me heal from my wounds. Now I know I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. 2020 has changed me forever, in a very positive way. I’m ready for 2021, bring it on!

Have you turned the negatives into positives too? What learning(s) do you want to apply in 2021 and onwards?

Big Girl x

Which Plant-Based Milk Is the Best for You and the Environment?

It is particularly difficult to be dairy-free these days, because dairy milk is literally everywhere. We’ve all been told to drink milk to have strong bones and up until a few years ago, I didn’t suspect it could actually harm my body. I did a food intolerance test to confirm what I suspected and dairy was at the top of my list. Did you know that almost 70% of the population in the world is lactose intolerant? Some people probably are and don’t even know about it. So here it is, even Santa will get a glass of plant-based milk this year.

I can’t tell you how much better I feel since I stopped drinking milk and avoiding dairy products. As a cheese lover, this is not always easy but my guts have been thanking me and I decided it was my priority. When you think about it, why would we even drink something that is naturally designed as a growth hormone for baby cows, not fully grown humans? Also, dairy milk production has a huge negative impact on the planet, on top of being cruel to cows. There are many reasons why I think every adult should choose to consume plant-based milk instead, it’s definitely worth considering and at least trying (more research needs to be done for children though). From all options you can find in most supermarkets, the main ones are: soy milk (the original plant-based alternative), almond milk, rice milk and oat milk. Let’s go through a quick comparison:

What alternative is best for me?

Soy Milk

Pros: high in protein, fortified in calcium and potassium, source of vitamins B2, B12 and D, available unsweetened or flavoured (chocolate, strawberry, vanilla), contains all the essential amino acids, easy to find in supermarkets.
Cons: soy is one of the most common allergens, and not everyone likes the taste.
Best for: baking, cooking

Almond Milk

Pros: contains more calcium than dairy milk, high in vitamins A, D and E, high in monounsaturated fatty acids (considered helpful in weight loss and weight management), low in calories, has a popular nutty taste.
Cons: low in protein compared to other plant-based milk, nuts are also a common allergen.
Best for: cereals

Rice Milk

Pros: contains as much calcium as dairy milk, has a naturally sweet taste, non-allergenic so it’s a good option for people with dairy, soy and nut allergies.
Cons: low in nutrients, rich in sugar, high in carbohydrates.
Best for: smoothies

Oat Milk

Pros: good nutrition and includes more calcium than dairy milk, good source of soluble fibre (which supports heart and digestive health), fortified with vitamins A, D, B2 and B12.
Cons: high in calories (as much as dairy milk) and unsweetened options can be hard to find, not suitable for gluten-free diets (unless specifically labelled as such).
Best for: coffee, tea

What alternative is best for the planet?

Now let’s have a look at the impact it has on the environment. The production of a plant-based milk cuts the water use by at least half compared to dairy milk, the emissions by at least two thirds, and significantly decreases the land use too :

From the article: “Climate change: Which vegan milk is best?” – BBC UK

It’s time to make the switch!

From what I gathered, soy milk and oat milk seem to be the best alternatives by far. But no matter what plant-based milk you pick, it will always be a much better option than dairy milk, for the planet but also for yourself as an adult. What’s your favourite milk alternative and why?

Big Girl x

Christmas Tips to Have a Festive Season That Won’t Cost the Earth (literally)

It’s that period of the year when most of us consume more than usual. Maybe we could expect this Christmas to be even more shameless than usual because of what we’ve all been through with the pandemic. It’s not yet behind us but we all deserve to indulge ourselves at the end of the year, right? It feels like a legitimate reward for surviving 2020 so far. It would be great to do this without harming the planet too much though, especially if it doesn’t represent too much of a hassle. After all, Christmas is about sharing and we all have to share the same planet (at least until they find another planet we can move into… but I wouldn’t count on it too much personally).

Transport

In the UK, people are allowed to mix with 2 other households during 5 days (23rd-27th December). Chances are many will travel long distances to meet with their family and friends. Taking the plane is one of the largest carbon impacts an individual can have, so if possible it’s always better to avoid it. Sharing a car would lower the carbon footprint for each passenger and create less traffic on the roads. And if you can’t meet with everyone at the same time because of COVID restrictions this year, there is also the possibility to video chat!

Christmas food

I know it’s hard and not in line with Christmas indulgence habits, but try and estimate food portions more appropriately. Don’t over cater if there is a good chance it’s going to end up in the bin. I know it’s tradition but do you really need all these Brussel sprouts on the table (who really likes them anyway…)? Don’t forget that beef and cheese have a very high carbon footprint, so if you can think of a better alternative, go for it instead. Make sure you use leftovers after Christmas, share them around if there’s too much to eat (hence why it’s a good idea to prepare the right amount of food beforehand).

Electricity

Cooking that big turkey requires the oven switched on for hours… Which is an excellent opportunity to turn the heating off as the oven will warm up the home nicely. No one wants to wear their festive Christmas jumpers if it’s too warm inside anyway! Choose LED lights for your illuminations as they can be used for years to come.

Christmas gifts

When it comes to giving, you want to do things right. Below are a few ideas on how to make someone happy, buy smart and preserve the planet at the same time:

  • If you’re clueless what to buy, it’s a good idea to ask what they need
  • Don’t buy anything that is unnecessary or will not be used
  • Opt for gifts that are made locally and close to home
  • Think of activities or experiences like a nature day out, a cooking class, etc
  • If you’re looking for electrical equipment (such as TV, fridge, etc), pick the most energy efficient
  • Do your shopping online, it will save you a trip and reduce your emissions from travel
  • Use recyclable wrapping paper, or make your own with old newspapers, magazines, etc
This year I’m using naturally degradable craft paper to wrap my presents, before putting them under the tree (I have my little elf to help me out, as you can see).

Of course you might receive gifts that are really not good for the planet because they’re full of plastic or contain harmful ingredients, especially products for the bathroom. You can’t educate everyone on the matter and it might ruin Christmas spirit to tell them off for that mistake. Just be thankful it comes from good intentions and if you’re not happy with it, why not give them away to charity? You could also re-gift them to someone who would enjoy it more than you (no one will know unless you tell).

Christmas tree

Finally, there is also the debate: real vs fake Christmas tree. Opinions differ but no matter what you go for, there are many ways to make it more sustainable. Basically, a real tree is better for the planet but you’ll have to recycle it properly. A fake tree is also an acceptable option, as long as you’re planning to make it last at least 10 years (so pick a good quality one!).

What action(s) are you taking this year to be more environmentally friendly?

Big Girl x

Christmas Debate For The Environment: Real or Artificial Tree?

real or artificial tree for christmas

I remember walking down a residential street in London after Christmas, 2 years ago. It was full of pine trees left on the pavement, waiting to be collected… Not only was it annoying for pedestrians, but it really looked like a long tree cemetery. I imagined them talking to each other: “Oh you’ve been chopped too? Now they’re getting rid of us like a vulgar piece of rubbish”. Ok, I know it’s weird to imagine trees speaking… But they used to be living things after all. I think it’s cruel to cut them just for a few weeks. For that reason, I’ve always preferred a fake tree for Christmas. But now I’m starting to wonder if it is indeed the right choice for the planet. What if fake trees are actually worse for the environment? I have gone through the pros & cons for both options below.

Should I buy a real tree for Christmas?

Buying a real tree would allow me to have different decoration styles at home if I ever fancy a change. Maybe I’ll go for a different size, shape and/or type of tree each year for example. It smells good too. It makes me feel like I’m bringing nature inside and that is not something a fake tree can provide. And maybe it’s actually good for the planet, because if people didn’t buy them, farmers wouldn’t plant them! Pine trees take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen during the 8-12 years it takes to grow to a reasonable height, which is cleaning the air and helping slow climate change. But then, what do I do with it once Christmas is over? I’m sure I can recycle it, somewhere, somehow… but it seems like a hassle. Also, I can’t help but thinking it’s not right to remove these trees from their roots.

… Or should I buy a fake tree instead?

Most artificial trees are made of plastic and manufactured in China, so it’s actually not the best option for the planet because its contribution to global warming is much higher than a real local tree (if it’s then recycled properly). They sell really nice looking ones though, real trees don’t always look better. And they’ll probably be cheaper in the long term depending on their quality. Not to mention it will save me from doing tree shopping every Christmas. I’ll already have it at home ready to be unpacked and reused. Of course they don’t smell as good as a real tree but at least they don’t lose their needles (my 2 cats would definitely spread them everywhere). But then, keeping it means I need to store it and it takes quite some space…

I opted for an artificial tree myself a few years ago. It comes with artificial snow, fake pine cones, fake berries and LED lights all around (really convenient!). It has 3 parts that are super easy to assemble or dissemble, it takes less space that way. But according to the Carbon Trust, we will have to reuse it at least 10 years to have a lower environmental impact than that of a real tree. Challenge accepted. Below our (fake) Christmas tree and our (very real) cats wearing their Christmas jumpers, proudly for one, reluctantly for the other…

my cats wearing their jumper in front of our christmas tree

The bottom line: what’s the better choice?

I mean, the lowest carbon footprint would be to ditch the tradition and not having a tree at all… But it doesn’t really feel like Christmas if there’s no pine tree, does it? Below is my conclusion on the matter:

If you opt for a real tree:

  • Look up where the tree is coming from before you buy it (although it seems there is no need to worry so much about deforestation anymore as most of them come from a horticultural crop and aren’t felled from pre-existing forests).
  • Buy local so your money helps providing employment in the agricultural sector, it will have a lower carbon footprint too because less transport is needed.
  • Find out beforehand how to recycle it so it can be turned into compost – does your local council offer a Christmas tree collection service for example?
  • If you have space in your garden or on your balcony, why don’t you keep it as a permanent tree? (You would need to buy a potted tree with roots in that case).

If you opt for a fake tree:

  • Keep using it and make it last as long as possible!
  • When it’s time to replace it, consider other options like a real tree or decorating existing plants you may already have at home.

What did you go for? Did this post make you change your mind about your decision?

Big Girl x

How to Improve Your Diet to Positively Impact The Planet

burger and fries

Have you decided to become a healthier version of yourself? If so, I’m proud of you and I’m looking forward to sharing that journey with you! What if doing that also gave you the opportunity to take actions and save the planet? I hope you are interested because you can actually do both at the same time. Sustainable nutrition is the future we need.

What is sustainable nutrition?

What I mean is changing your food choices provides the simplest and largest impact you can have on the world and your body. Meat production has a heavy impact on the environment and it’s no secret to anyone that red meat (especially beef) requires a lot more land and more water to produce than poultry, resulting in significantly higher climate-warming emissions. By simply choosing chicken over beef for example, you could reduce your dietary carbon footprint by half! Or you can simply remove animal products from your diet to have an even bigger impact on the planet.

Is a plant-based diet the only solution?

I’ve always found it annoying when someone who chose to be vegan tries to make you feel bad for eating meat, but the truth is their diet is the least damaging for the planet. After a lot of research on the matter, my view on the topic has evolved quite a lot over the past few years. I think it’s all about limiting your carbon footprint without necessarily having to remove your favourite foods from your diet, sometimes it makes a vegan diet easy to adopt, sometimes it feels impossible. So for now I’ve decided to go halfway and have at least one plant-based meal a day.

Huel, short for Human Fuel

huel products in my kitchen

One of the reasons I love this brand so much is that they really care about the environment and are making an effort to talk about it more: “Halting climate change is possible, eating for our health is achievable and lowering our carbon emissions is simple. It all starts with changing the way we eat. It’s time to change the way we think about food.” Huel is 100% plant-based and any food waste becomes renewable energy. They provide all nutrients you need and they constantly innovate with new flavours, no wonder why they keep growing (and it’s really good news for the environment).

What can you do to improve your diet and reduce your carbon footprint?

  • choose fish/poultry over beef/lamb
  • choose plant proteins over animal products
  • eat less food high in sugar/fat
  • avoid fried foods
  • limit your consumption of alcohol
  • eat more fruits, vegetables, legumes (lentils, beans, peas and chickpeas), nuts and seeds

How I choose to contribute

Personally, I skip breakfast as part of my intermittent fasting so I have only 2 meals a day (which is not recommended for everyone so make sure you talk to a dietician if you have any doubts). I have Huel for lunch (I love their coffee caramel black edition, I add matcha powder to it) and I eat mostly fish or poultry for dinner (more and more rarely red meat compared to before but it still happens occasionally).

I have nuts as a healthy snack and include a lot of fruits in my diet. Also, I don’t eat gluten anymore and avoid dairy products as my body doesn’t seem to tolerate any of these very well. Gluten-free & dairy-free diets are not always easy to follow but it also benefits the planet, not just me. Bearing in mind I want it to be a lifestyle I can adopt in the long run, not just a temporary measure.

Want to find out more?

If you want to read more on the topic, check out the links below:

What positive change for both your health and the planet have you made so far?

Big Girl x

How Our Big Adventure Changed My Mindset Forever: Memories, Regrets and Tips

This is the end of 2 weeks of daily travel throwbacks I promised to write about. Our big adventure happened between November 2019 and April 2020, but now I can finally say I have some closure. This experience ended like an unexpected breakup in a relationship, like I was forced to turn the page despite some unfinished business. We planned 6 months of travel but only managed to do 5 before the pandemic interrupted us. Some would say we didn’t have much luck. I would say we actually got very lucky because at least we completed the biggest part of it.

We travelled to Singapore (1 week), Kuala Lumpur (1 week), Bali (2 weeks), Perth (10 days), Melbourne (2 weeks), Sydney (10 days), then drove from Sydney to Cairns (4 weeks) and finally visited New Zealand (6 weeks). But we got stranded in Fiji, where we planned a 5-day holiday and ended up staying 3 weeks as we couldn’t fly anywhere because of the pandemic. Finally, anyone with a passport from Europe got their access denied to Japan, where we were supposed to visit many cities from Tokyo to Fukuoka during our last 6 weeks of travelling.

What my best memories are

This travelling experience by itself was the best project I’ve ever put together. Among the 6 countries we went to, the only 2 places I’ve been before were Brisbane and Surfers Paradise (Australia) so 99% of it was a complete discovery. I’ve been impressed by Singapore and enjoyed New Zealand way more than I thought I would do. My best memories overall would include:

  • Singapore – Admiring the illuminated super trees in Gardens by the Bay and listening to the evening Rhapsody show
  • Malaysia – Being spoilt for choice in various food markets
  • Bali – Enjoying a private romantic diner for two when I got engaged
  • Australia – Driving along the Great Ocean Road, arriving just on time to watch the sun set over the 12 Apostles
  • New Zealand – Witnessing the natural beauty of the turquoise glacial water of Lake Tekapo

Apart from specific places, I would say my best memory is how I felt when we were travelling: free, happy and very lucky.

What I would do differently

In hindsight, there are always some things you would do differently when you put a plan in motion for the first time. I have no regrets in general, but if I knew better, I would have…

  1. …picked a better time to travel. We left when it was convenient in our calendar but sometimes overlooked the season in the country we were going to. In Southeast Asia & the Pacific, their winter is our summer. So their summer is something we’re definitely not used to and it was a bit difficult for us to cope with so much heat and humidity at times.
  2. …planned ahead for events to celebrate. Our Christmas plan was a bit last minute and my birthday was overlooked. You don’t think of it when you’re planning an entire trip but on the day you can regret it. I would have planned better for these special occasions!
  3. …worked harder to be in a better shape. Fair to say we were not in our best shape when we left travelling and I think we missed out on some physical activities that required a good fitness level, which was a bit of a shame. No need to be able to run a marathon but improving our cardio beforehand would have been a good idea.
  4. …allocated some rest time in the planning. When you’re travelling you also need some time to properly rest. We neglected that part and as a result we felt like it stopped us from enjoying our experience fully. Also, I wouldn’t book accommodation for only 1 or 2 days anymore – or only if it’s just a stop to break down the journey.
  5. …travelled lighter. As much as we tried to take only the minimum in our backpacks, we realised there were some things we never used during our trip. We took too many clothes for example, travelling is not a fashion show and we wouldn’t have minded wearing the same thing regularly if it meant carrying less heavy bags with us.

What you need to know before doing it

If you’re thinking of going on a similar adventure, I thought I would give you some tips (on top of what I would do differently from our own experience) as some things can be easy to forget:

  • Do your research properly: watch videos on YouTube, read travel books but also blogs because they will give you more personal advice, ask people around you who have already done such a thing.
  • Check the vaccination(s) you’ll need early on: sometimes there are several injections needed per vaccine and a deadline for when you need to be vaccinated by, depending on the country you’re going to.
  • Book popular excursions or activities in advance: don’t wait until you’re there as it can get fully booked easily and read reviews carefully before you book, to avoid nasty surprises.
  • Work out how much cash you need with you: some countries are not very familiar with card payments and the airport doesn’t offer the best exchange rate, also keep your cash in various places (in case you get robbed).
  • Pick carefully what bank cards you want to bring: when travelling, traditional banks are not necessarily the best option – Monzo worked great for us as it matches the live market rate with no extra fees when you pay abroad. Take several cards if possible (preferably a VISA and a MasterCard) just in case.
  • Talk to the locals when you’re on the road: they would know some cool places to go to that are not in any travel books, they would also know about the local events happening during your stay.

Finally, you have to accept some level of uncertainty, some things will remain out of your control and you’ll have to adapt. We haven’t always been lucky with the weather or natural disasters ourselves for example… We drove through burning trees in Perth, breathed smoky and unhealthy air in Sydney due to bushfires, drove through torrential rain and got stopped by flooded areas. As a result, there are some places we wanted to go but couldn’t: The Pinnacles near Perth (bushfires), The Blue Mountains near Sydney (bushfires), Cedar Creek Falls near Airlie Beach (flooding), Whitsunday Islands (storms) and Milford Sound in New Zealand (flooding) to name a few. I’m not even mentioning the 6 weeks in Japan we couldn’t do because of the pandemic.

How it changed my mindset forever

This season in Australia has been a very dark summer for the country who’s suffering first from the global warming and climate change. It’s been a real eye opener for us, it’s always easier to face the truth when you witness it yourself… It was not only in the news, it happened just in front of us. We were not really worried about our holidays, we just felt sorry for the locals who lost their homes and all the defenceless animals we couldn’t save. It made me want to care more for our planet, because if we don’t, there will be nothing left to visit for the next generations.

It also taught me how important it was to be grateful in life and how to prioritise things better. Having a healthy body and a healthy mind offers you the best chances to make the most of everything, not only when you’re travelling but in life in general. That’s what triggered my drive to become the best version of myself.

Travelling is key in self-improvement and this is why it’s one of the main categories in this blog. Travelling makes you a better person, it’s the only real way to unlock your mind from preconceived ideas and be more open to the world. Would I do it again if I had the chance? Yes, I wouldn’t hesitate for a second. Have you done it yourself or is it in your plans too?

Big Girl x

How Can We Have a Positive Impact on the Environment?

Let’s face it, we’re in this situation partly because we haven’t taken care of our planet well enough so far. Our environment and the current pandemic are strongly linked together and it’s more important than ever to act before it’s too late. I know this is just another post on the matter but the more people talking about it the better.

How can we help the planet as individuals?

I’m not going to talk about what the Government should do, they’re often too slow to react and I believe individuals can make a huge difference already. It’s a matter of making the right decision when you do have a choice that doesn’t really affect your life. It’s about bearing in mind that your actions do have an impact and making small changes in your routine is definitely worth it! It has more impact for the planet if everyone changes their lifestyle a little rather than a minority taking drastic measures.

“In a world of more than seven billion people, each of us is a drop in the bucket. But with enough drops, we can fill any bucket.”

David Suzuki

Use your car less

Ask yourself if you could you walk instead, or take your bike. Otherwise public transport would still be a better option, if you can. Maybe you could commit to use your car only during the weekend for example? There is also the possibility to drive an electric car rather than one using petrol or diesel. On our end, we don’t have a car anymore and most of the time, we don’t miss it. When we do need a car, we hire just for a day or two.

Eat less meat

It’s not about becoming vegetarian or vegan (unless you really want to!) but at least limit your consumption of meat, especially beef and lamb. You can read this interesting article talking about how beef is way more damaging to the planet than white meat for example. Dairy is not great either, personally I’ve replaced cow’s milk with plant-based milk in my diet (it’s also more digestible and better for your health so it’s a win-win).

Shop less often

Everything we buy has a carbon footprint. You could shop more “green”, but sometimes it’s even better to just shop less (and live more – to save the planet). Think about reusing things a bit more for example, like selling rather than throwing away, buying second hand rather than new.

Use more reusable accessories

We have a tendency to buy some things out of habits or tradition without even thinking of the impact it can have on the planet. Some things are easy to change though, for example: use silicon lids instead of cling film, a reusable coffee cup instead of a disposable one, metal straws instead of plastic ones, tissue paper instead of wrapping paper etc.

Talk more about it

Don’t underestimate the impact of your words on your friends and family, or even colleagues. Maybe you’ll inspire someone else? When you make a sustainable-oriented decision, other people around you do too because we influence each other.

Sometimes you just can’t avoid that car trip, really crave for that steak or forgot to bring your reusable cup to the office. It’s fine, you can always compensate with a green initiative! Here’s a few suggestions:

  • Donate to an environmental charity (here are a few options)
  • Recycle items for DIY or give old objects a second life
  • Plant a tree if you have a garden
  • Opt for sustainable energy in your home (solar panels, low carbon heating options etc)
  • Volunteer to be part of a green charity
  • Educate yourself more by reading about 30 Ways to Be More Eco Friendly in 2020

What small changes have you already made in your habits?

Big Girl x