For those of you who have been with me for a while now you may remember back to a time when I committed one month to collecting, analysing and weighing my garbage and even followed it to the landfill to see where it ends up.
Yup… sounds crazy doesn’t it. It was a bit crazy.
However it was also one of the most informative and liberating experiences of my sustainability journey yet and one that I would recommend to every single person to try at least once.
Since completing this ‘Waste Weigh Up’ my personal waste stream has dramatically changed. I rarely commit anything to landfill without serious thought and an attempt to up-cycle or recycle. While I haven’t quite reached the ‘rubbish avoidance super-hero’ status of my favourite eco-girl Erin from The Rogue Ginger my efforts to reduce my waste consumption make me feel proud and get better every single day.
I will not lie to you, shopping to minimise waste is really hard work. It is an act of mindfulness. You must be fully present (and in some cases have the ability to see into the future especially when being plastic straw bombed with many a smoothie or cocktail) in every every purchasing decision that you make. There is this amazeballs study published in 2009 in the Ecopsychology journal that looks at the impact that mindfulness can have on increasing our green behaviours. Today’s shopping experiences are designed to help us through the crazy, busy, multitasking existence that we live in. Things are packaged for our shopping convenience so that we can race through the supermarket and pick up our goodies at lightning speeds so we get home in time to watch Masterchef, heat up our packaged lasagne, and simultaneously pat the dog, talk to your significant others, and scroll through Facebook to get up to date with your friends movements. Our world is designed in a way that really separates us from the origins of the goods we consume. This study suggests that many of our purchasing decisions are made without an examination of all the choices available to us, and offend we purchase on ‘autopilot’ or buy whatever option is the easiest.
Even if we take the time to really assess the options available (to the point of mediating crossed legged over varieties of tinned tomatoes in the supermarket isle) quite often there isn’t an eco-freindly option. I have this problem all the time when buying tofu and tempeh. As someone who opts to eat without meat for sustainability reasons it can often be near on impossible to find these items with no packaging or 100% recyclable packaging. Fortunately there are places outside the supermarket duopoly here in Australia to shop more mindfully.
While I tend to ‘get around a bit’ with my grocery shopping going to multiple farmers markets, some regular supermarkets, my local greengrocer, and a couple of packaging free stores, one of my regular haunts is Alnatura wholefoods. Alnatura is a Sunshine Coast owned and operated business that aims to help their customers shop with both their health and the health of the planet in mind. Their delicious (mostly organic) goodies are all out on display for you to choose as little or as much as you like and you are welcome to bring along your own containers, buy refillable ones there, or use their compostable/recyclable paper bags for no charge. For many of us lucky folks here in oz, there are usually bulk-food packaging free options near us. Even if you have to drive a little distance to buy packaging free your short car ride will be far less detrimental to the environment than opting for items in non-recyclable packaging, or many recyclable packaged items. Items to be recycled can travel great distances and consume vast amounts of energy in the recycling process. While this is better than sending items to landfill, avoiding packaging in the first place is the best option. My favourite thing about Alnatura is that I can purchase all my cleaning goodies in bulk. A while back I made my own laundry powder. While this was a fabulous option and lasted a long time many of the ingredients came in packaging. Fortunately for me I can now buy eco friendly laundry liquid (and dishwashing liquid) ‘on tap’and the wonderful Wolfgang from Alnatura is always happy to help me fill the bottles mess free!
For those of you who aren’t lucky enough to have a shop like this nearby there are alternatives. Shopping at farmers markets and fruit and vegetable shops can usually eliminate waste as supermarkets tend to have this awful habit of wrapping fresh produce in some sort of unnecessary wrapping. Many supermarkets now offer bulk-buy nuts, grains and pulses but usually offer plastic bags. If you don’t have cloth bags or your own paper bags handy my sneaky tip is to go get yourself a mushroom paper bag from the produce section. Then you can fill it with the goodies of your choice and avoid the plastic. When scouring the shelves of packed good be sure to check your items to see if the packaging is recyclable. Always opt for recyclable packaging and if you can’t find an option that can be recycled then rethink if you really need that item. Be sure to check with your local council if you are unsure about recycling in your area. If you really struggle with any of the above options you can shop in bulk. Buying jumbo packs of your most important goodies can cut back your packaging footprint. If you are worried that your cupboard might be a bit boring without the pretty packaging I can assure you that after a while looking at a uniform pantry of pretty homemade labels can be very satisfying! Especially as it provides a reminder of how wise you have been with your purchasing decisions.
The aforementioned study into mindfulness and green behaviours suggests that by customers taking a more thoughtful approach to shopping (as in reading all your labels and thinking about the final destination of your packaging) and by retailers like Alnatura providing one-stop-eco-shopping experiences that allow customers to shop mindfully without much serious contemplation then green shopping behaviours can be quite easily adopted.
Now that you have made it to the end of an eco-mindfulness shopping marathon read you will be rewarded with this delicious recipe from Alnatura. I prepared these bad-boys for the picture below and would just like to note that they are THE MOST DELICIOUS THING EVER.
Salted Medjool Date Caramels
- 1 cup of pitted medjool dates
- 1/4 cup coconut milk warmed
- 1/4 cup coconut oil
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract (optional)
- 1/4- 1/2 tsp. himalayan salt
- coconut flour for dusting
- 1/4 cup cacao powder
- 1/4 cup coconut oil
- 2 Tbs. maple syrup
Steps for caramels
Soak dates in very hot water for 15 minutes. Blend dates, coconut milk, coconut oil and vanilla extract until a smooth paste forms. Add 1/4 tsp. of salt, blend and taste. Add a bit more salt if desired. Place in fridge or freezer until firm and pliable, at least three hours.
Roll teaspoons of the date mixture into balls. Dust lightly with coconut flour so the don’t stick to each other. Place in freezer to stay firm.
Steps for Chocolate coating
Melt and stir together cacao, coconut oil and maple syrup over low heat until combined. The mixture may separate slightly in this case put in the fridge for just a few minutes and then stir. Let the mixture cool until thickened enough to coat the caramel balls. Place in freezer for a few minutes if mixture is too runny but keep and eye on it as the mixture hardens quickly.
One by one, roll a caramel in the chocolate and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment or waxed paper. Sprinkle very lightly with salt and place in the fridge until the chocolate coating is firm.
Eating can be a mindfulness practise in itself. If you would really like to get the most delicious mindful experience out of these caramels (if they have lasted long enough for you to have got to this point of the post) you should check out this following segment on mindful eating by Thich Nhat Hanh. Enjoy the miracle of every last morsel of caramel!
Please feel free to share any tips you may have on mindful eating or shopping in the space below. Also let us know if you become addicted to these caramel balls. We can start a support group.