Four years ago, I started my yoga practice. Quickly, I fell in love with the way yoga transformed my body and mind. The first two years I practiced exclusively at yoga studios. As a newbie, the structure and guidance offered in classes helped me develop into a confident practitioner. Later on, life became hectic and I could not find the time to go to classes anymore. So instead I started using yoga videos in the comfort of my own home. Although I now enjoy going to classes again, I still keep up my practice at home with yoga videos from YouTube. Over time I have tried quite a few online teachers and can confidently say that the 4 channels below have become my absolute favourites for an at-home yoga session.View Post
Sustainability is hot. Many brands are launching ‘sustainable product ranges’ and we seem increasingly willing to buy the eco-edition of our favourite item. We diligently recycle our waste and turn off the lights when we leave a room. The hippies under us might even say goodbye to meat and sell their cars in favour their shank’s pony. But how do we know when we are doing enough?
What is sustainable?
Sustainable development is traditionally defined as ‘development that meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’. This contains three broad aspects, namely social, economic and environmental sustainability. Although all aspects are important, environmental sustainability is the one aspect most often undermined. For the purpose of this article, sustainability will thus mean environmental sustainability. Of course, this takes issues such as fuel poverty, the economic rights of developing countries and the indigenous’ rights to their land out of the equation. However, for simplicity’s sake (not due to unimportance!), it will be brushed aside here.
How can we, as individual citizens, be sustainable? Again, it depends on your definition of sustainability. Recycling, for example, doesn’t do that much for climate change, but obviously helps to avoid the big plastic soup in our oceans. Okay, so if we narrow our definition of sustainability even further down to ‘the impact on climate change’, there are four main things we can do to make an impact, according to a study by the Swedish University of Lund:
- Eat a plant-based diet
- Avoid long-haul air travel
- Go car-free
- Do not have children
This should be easy enough to do, right? Reality shows a different picture and very few people make these lifestyle choices. One reason for this is that we are herd animals and mirror the behaviour of others. If nobody else gives up their luxury holidays and breeding habits, then why should we. We also look at the government (as a form of herd authority) and are reluctant to take individual action if our governments stay complacent. The other reason is that we feel like we are giving up something by living sustainably. It might make us feel good to know that we are making a positive impact, but giving up our comfortable lifestyle will still feel like a loss.
Looking at the Lund University study revealed some interesting facts. As an ardent vegan of four years, I was surprised to see that eating plant-based ‘only’ saves 0.8 tonnes of CO2E, whereas avoiding one (1!) long-haul flight saves between 1.6 and 2.9 tonnes. Being child-free even saves 58.6 tonnes per year per child. I know many vegans who preach the sustainability of veganism that have several children. Most preachy vegans also fly around the world in the search of exotic locations. Pointing the finger at myself, I also fly around the world on a regular (if not yearly) basis and plan to have kids someday. Of course, veganism encompasses more than just the environment, but the critical voice of some vegans does come off as a tad hypocritical when looking at the figures.
A new happy
Is it possible to be truly happy living a sustainable life? I am not talking about becoming vegan when you don’t like meat anyway (moi!). Or avoiding long-haul flights when are you scared of flying. Or not having kids when you have never wanted them anyway. Can we be happy incorporating all those aspects of sustainability that feel like a sacrifice to us? According to research by the British thinktank New Economic Foundation, we should be.
The research found that there are five ways we can improve our personal well-being:
- Giving back
- Continuing to learn
- Living mindfully
Happiness = sustainable
In reality, we are thus just victims of our own minds when we think that consumerism is making us happy. Luckily, the drivers of true happiness are intimately tied to sustainability. Our need for movement ties in nicely with a car-free life. Mindful living will make us aware of our consumption patterns and decrease our need for excessive spending (on materials items, food or holidays). When we pay attention to what truly makes us happy, we will find that sustainable living will come easier. Yet living this way is not easy. Overcoming our psychological instincts is surely difficult, which is why most of us are not hardened eco-warriors yet.
As we collectively work towards a greener world, we will often have to choose between immediate pleasure and long-term sustainable happiness. Some long-term forms of happiness (such as having children) might still be terribly bad for the environment. We will have to make choices and not every choice will be perfect. But knowing that we can be happy and sustainable (at least in theory) makes a better world possible. Imperfect decisions or not trying our best is all we can strive for.
What are your thoughts on this matter?
Yesterday was the two-year anniversary of my boyfriend and I. To mark the occasion, we decided to have a meal out at the vegan fine dining restaurant ‘The Allotment’ in Stockport. Funilly enough, my boyfriend and I have bonded over our love of fine dining during our relationship. What started out as a crazy idea to visit a vegetarian Michelin Start restaurant during a trip to Milan, turned into an incredible experience for both of us and a shared love for haute cuisine. The Allotment had been on my list of places to eat at for a while and our anniversary was the perfect excuse to make the splurge.
The Allotment is situated in the heart of Stockport, a charming medieval town just outside of Manchester. The restaurant recently changed their opening times from evening to afternoon, which makes it easier to visit from further away as a day out. The interior is fresh and clean and the open kitchen gives you a glance into the marvelous work that chef Matthew Nutter and his team are doing. The large windows give you a lovely view onto the cobbled street outside and simultaneously fill the restaurant with light. The menu contains a seven and ten-course tasting menu that changes seasonally. Each week the chef also offers a changing three-course menu for those with smaller wallets and stomachs. We opted for the seven-course tasting menu and were not disappointed.
The first course in our tasting menu was a white gazpacho, made from grapes, peas, and almonds. It was almost 30 °C on the day we visited, so this soup was a refreshing start to our meal. I never thought grapes and garlic would have made a good combo, but this course definitely proved me wrong.
The next course was my boyfriend’s favourite and consisted of fried courgette, an avocado cream and a little side salad consisting of fennel, pea, and cucumber. This course tasted of summer and was packed with fresh flavours that reminded me of a summer garden party.
Course number three consisted of celeriac spaghetti with parsley sauce and fried capers. Unlike zoodles (zucchini noodles), I thought the celeriac spaghetti tasted very similar to normal pasta. The parsley and fried capers gave the dish a zinginess that made it another perfect summer dish.
The next dish was my absolute favourite one and consisted of a shitake mushroom pâté with raw crackers on the side. The dish was flavoursome, rich and decadent and I could not believe it was made of mushrooms! Before I became a vegetarian at the age of eleven, I loved eating pâté. When I realised it was made of liver, my fondness quickly waned. But eating the mushroom pâté at The Allotment reminded me of my childhood pâté sandwiches and made me question why these mushroom pâtés are not sold in shops instead of the ones containing animal intestines.
For the ‘main course’, we were served an oyster mushroom stir fry with pomme dauphine (crispy potato puffs), a cream cheese stuffed roasted red pepper and a spicy carrot side salad. I absolutely loved the oyster mushrooms and the stuffed red pepper. The pomme dauphine and carrots were tasty pallet cleansers but in comparison to all the other wonderful flavours on my plate, they were a little underwhelming. Overall a lovely dish though that I would gladly have served again.
Next up were the deserts that started with an orange and coconut milk sorbet that was sprinkled with a generous dusting of cacao powder. It was another very fresh dish and the coconut milk added an icecream-like creaminess that is hard to find in most sorbets.
The last dish of the meal was a visually impressive platter of goodness. The plate included some hibiscus ice cream, dehydrated beetroot, vegan merengue, blobs of jelly and a lovely nutty cream. All the flavours were so creative and different from your standard dessert. I was really impressed with the vegan merengue. Knowing that these are made of chickpea water (Aquafaba) still blows my mind and I cannot wait to attempt making my own merengues soon.
The great thing about The Allotment is that their menu changes periodically, so in a few months they will have a completely different set of dishes that I can try out. Their current menu is clearly inspired by summer, as all the dishes are fresh and light. I have eaten tasting menu’s before that left my belly very uncomfortable, but at The Allotment I left the restaurant satisfied, yet not overly full. My carnivorous boyfriend loved the food just as much as I did, so this is definitely not a vegan-only type of restaurant. If you have a special occasion to celebrate or if you are just a foodie who wants to treat themselves to an amazing meal, I highly recommend giving The Allotment a go.