Seven sustainable lifestyle hacks
Living sustainably is something I work towards all the time. There’s always room for improvement and I’m constantly picking up new habits and routines; however, I do believe that the best way to live a sustainable life is to do it gradually and in a way that you find easy to maintain. As important as making the move towards sustainable living is, it’s even more important that the changes are sustainable for you. Otherwise, you’re likely to lose interest. There are a few habits I’ve managed to fit easily into my life, and if anything, have made it more exciting! Here are my seven tips for sustainable living.
Get a keep cup!
Reduce your single use plastic foot print and invest in a reusable water bottle and a keep cup. You can get rather pretty ones these days and most coffee shops will actually reward you with a discount for bringing your own cup.
Bring a tote bag
Try to bring your own shopping bag, too. They fold up almost to nothing and it means that if I’m ever suddenly doing a quick food shop on the way home, I don’t need to use (or pay) for a plastic bag. Totes worth it!
Go for sustainably sourced
This is especially relevant when choosing meat or fish but it applies to other things too. Some of your favourite healthy foods, though tasty and good for you, may not be the most sustainable – so make sure you snack wisely. Over in California they are pushing the boundaries of what can be done with this unassuming nut, as part of their journey to becoming a zero waste snack. The almond nut itself is just 30% of the grown product. But the hulls and shells – which protect the nut as it grows – are valuable products in their own right. These ‘bi-products’ can be turned into food for the bees by extracting the natural sugars and through a process called ‘cogeneration’ – can be combined with recycled plastic to give it strength. They’re even working on creating tyres with the substance – known as bio char. Water is a hot topic when discussing almonds but the water conservation techniques in California are quite remarkable. In the past 20 years the amount of water used to grow one pound of almonds has been reduced by 33%, all thanks to the research done by the Almond Board of California - and this is improving every year. So next time hunger strikes, you can reach for your almonds knowing you are snacking good with a good conscience!
Use whole veg
Try to steer clear of ready peeled, trimmed, sliced and diced products to cut down on your food waste. I say go for the whole vegetable and get creative with it. Go for carrots with their stalks and beets with stems. Carrot tops make for a wonderfully zippy pesto, and beetroot leaves are delicious when sautéed with a little garlic and olive oil. Cauliflower leaves are incredibly delicious when roasted – I like mine with a little garlic and soy sauce and sprinkled with chopped roasted almonds. Of course, there are times where we are all in a rush and choosing pre-chopped veggies are the only way anything green will hit your dinner plate. But if there is time, go for the real deal – you’ll get a lot more meals for your money too.
Eat with the seasons
Eating seasonally is something I find both challenging and inspiring. The wait for berries in their true season can feel long, but there is nothing better than biting into the first British strawberry of the summer. It’s easy to see what’s in season – a quick Google will do! The wonderful thing about being confined to the fruits and vegetables of the season is that it forces you to become creative; I’ve ended up making some of my best meals through cooking with an ingredient I otherwise would have shunned.
Ignore sell-by dates (within reason)
We have a terrible habit of obeying sell-by dates as though they were our primary school head mistress. The truth is that when it comes to vegetables, the best way to tell is not by a few printed numbers next to the bar code but by sight, smell and taste. Learn to trust your instincts, and perhaps be a bit creative with your less-than-perky veggies. Floppy carrot may not be a great match for hummus dipping, but roast it with a little soy and honey and you’ve got a delicious side dish. The same goes for sad lettuce – drizzled in some olive oil, balsamic vinegar and grainy mustard and bunged onto a hot griddle and you’ll end up with something that is really quite impressive – even more so if you have a little ricotta or goats cheese to hand, but equally delicious with a simple squeeze of lemon. If you’re really stuck, make soup. Throw it all into a pot with some water or stock (see below), add a few spices (cumin, coriander seed and turmeric are my go-tos). Let it all cook and infuse and blend – either in a blender or using my favourite piece of kitchen equipment: a stick blender.
Sunday roasts are the perfect occasions for these. Add vegetable peelings; any leftover greens; an onion; bones, if you had meat; cover with water and simmer slowly for about 1-2 hours. You can keep this in a freezer for a day when only risotto or something noodley and brothy will do the trick, or simply keep it for soup.
Invest in a snack box
I am often on the go when hunger strikes. The temptation to buy a packet of crisps when you’re out and about can be compelling, but it’s not too environmentally friendly to keep buying packaged snacks. I try to carry around a small container filled with some roasted almonds or some homemade trail mix. My favourite snack hack is to roast my almonds in the oven with a little honey and chili, and then I always have a tasty snack to tuck into when I get that mid-morning hanger!