Eating sustainably is not too complicated

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Eating sustainably can be delicious, beautiful and simple. Last week me and my friend Malin cooked a modified version of this Baked Aubergine with beluga lentils recipe from Green Kitchen Stories. I’m not too fond of brussel sprouts so I left those out from the recipe and added pepper and field beans instead.

It’s a myth that it is difficult to know how to eat more sustainably. Yes, if you look at minor details like knowing whether a Spanish tomato or a Finnish greenhouse-grown tomato in February is better, then I understand it might feel a bit complicated. The thing is: that’s splitting hairs. If you have time, by all means, it’s good to do research, but these choices aren’t the most important ones. If you follow these simple rules, the impact you food has on our environment is already much better!

  1. Avoid all red meat
  2. Eat less dairy products
  3. Eat less rice & less imported quinoa
  4. Eat less avocado
  5. Eat mostly local and seasonal vegetables and grains

These are very simple rules, no one needs to study a lot to make a huge impact on the environment globally by choosing not to eat certain kinds of food. Also, remember that the option with less plastic packaging is always better! For vegetables and fruit, you can get a reusable bag like this one. In the end, it does not matter if people occasionally buy the “wrong kind of tomato” as long as we look at the big picture and at the foods that really have a big impact. I managed to follow the “Vegan January” challenge and ate (mostly) vegan for a full month and only slipped twice! It actually wasn’t too difficult. So if eating vegan isn’t very difficult, then avoiding those listed things at least 6 out of 7 days a week shouldn’t be impossible for anyone. Personally, now that my one month challenge is over, I do still eat small amounts of cheese as well as avocado and rice. But only on special occasions when I’m at a restaurant or someone else treats me to food ,which is rarely more than once or twice a month.

A short reminder to why everyone should avoid the listed things…The meat industry pollutes a lot. The Baltic sea, many lakes and rivers in several countries are in such bad condition because of the meat industry. Cows consume a lot of natural resources, so cut down on your consumption of cheese, yoghurt and milk. Get oat, coconut or soy alternatives instead. Cows also produce methane. Rice is extremely water intensive and fresh water is scarce in many places, additionally rice cultivation produces methane which is even worse for the climate than CO2. Save the sushi for special occasions! Avocado plantations often lead to deforestation and acute drought. The avocado requires a lot of water, and when that water is taken from lakes and rivers nearby, they dry out. Avocados also rot really easily. 54,000 tonnes of avocado and other stone fruits are thrown away every year in the UK!! The less we buy, the less will in the end be imported and thrown away. 54 000 tonnes!!

What to eat then? Green Kitchen stories really has amazing vegetarian recipes. Vegetables grown in your own country get amazing tastes with these recipes. Just stay away from the recipes containing too much cheese, avocado or rice or replace those ingredients with something else. There are environmentally “unfriendly” foods such as quinoa, that are grown organically in Europe too so you don’t need to stop eating it, just choose the right kind.

ps. between November and February/Mars, the Spanish tomato is actually more environmentally friendly, during the rest of the year, buy the locally grown version. In northern Europe: Canned tomatoes are the most sustainable during the winter! But don’t worry about that too much if it feels too complicated 🙂

Bon appetit!

xo, Felicia

Rice is crime

Hey everyone! I’m sorry I haven’t written anything in a long time, today I went to eat sushi and I remembered a lecture I attended a few weeks ago at the university… I heard something I didn’t know about rice from a Finnish Politician, Sirpa Pietikäinen from the European parliament.

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She really had a talent to speak in a way that made you listen! So here comes something she told us, rewritten in my words because I didn’t record the lecture 😀 . As most politicans do, I think she is exaggerating a bit to prove a point but I still think there might be some truth in what she says… I really thought I’ll stop eating rice after hearing this lecture! But then again…I could not resist eating sushi today even if I know it would be better if I didn’t…

Sirpa Pietikäinen at University of Helsinki.

Sirpa Pietikäinen at University of Helsinki.

“Riisi on rikos” (rice is crime in Finnish) are Pietikäinens words. So, halft the world lives on rice. The new, in Pietikäinen ironical worlds, “brilliant idea” is to comersially grow rice in different African countries. Why? Well the labour and the land there is really cheap. The temperature is of course quite high as well, which is nice for rice. But anyone who knows anything about rice knows that it requires a lot of fresh water to grow. And anyone who knows anything about Africa, knows that there is too little fresh water in many regions there.

So what to do? Well, of course! Let’s drain a lake, and take all the fresh water from there! But what about the local fishermen getting their livehoods from the lake? Well too bad, the world wants rice,damn it! Sub-saharan Africa is also famous for different insects and these can be a bit hard on the rice. The solution is of course pesticides! Isn’t it amazing how the pesticides that have been forbidden in Europe for tens of years are still allowed in most African countries! Cheap and wonderfully toxic pesticides, now we can make money! But whoops… The rice plants die from the pesticides. What to do? Alter a few genes of course, now the new improved GMO rice can stand the pesticides! And what about the rice-plantage workers whose health suffer from the pesticides? Luckily they don’t have that strict work-health laws in most African countries.

Everyone in the audience laughed when she continued: and after the rice is sold to Europe half of it ends up as bio-waste, we do want to avoid carbs so it’s best to eat just half of the portion!

Yes I did eat all that rice..once it's on my plate it's no point throwing it away!

Yummie dinner at Nepalese restaurant.Yes I did eat all that rice..once it’s on my plate it’s no point throwing it away!

Tadaa, the product is cheap rice to throw away and destroyed African communities! Maybe if rice wasn’t so cheap it wouldn’t be thrown away? I hadn’t thought of this the times I ate rice, it’s good to get a wake-up call! Besides, growing rice in excessive amounts can contribute to climate change because when the rice-plants roots start to rotten underwater it produces greenhouse gasses. At least here in northern Europe, I think we should stick to potatoes that are easily grown here! As a sushi lover it’s unfortunately easier said than done. Though, my wallet would also love it if I stopped eating sushi 😀 Maybe I should have a “sushi-strike”…


Which one is worse, plastic or yoghurt?

I couple of days ago I wrote about an oatmeal pudding that I like to eat instead of yoghurt, you can read the post here. The post about the oatmeal-pudding led to an interesting debate on Facebook where the topic wasogImage whether it’s better to buy normal yoghurt packed in a tetra pak (or some other cardboard package) or an oat-pudding in a plastic pot.

So which one is better? This depends on what environmental problem we are trying to affect by our choices. If it’s climate change: the oat-pudding packed in plastic is definitely better. If it’s littering we want to decrease, then the tetra pak might be better. But actually, the tetra pak is made of both cardboard and plastic. Otherwise the yoghurt would just melt the paper. I have done a documentary about plastic, as soon as it is published I’ll let you know. I certainly learned a lot about plastic when I did the documentary, but this post focuses on diary products.

iso_mango_vanilja_200g_smoothieI want to explain why I think we should it less yoghurt, butter, cheese etc. I still eat cheese (I love it <3) so you shouldn’t think, I think dairy products are all bad , but I do try to eat less of them than before. The world is not black and white! Some people participating in the mentioned discussion said that cows (and therefore also yoghurt) are natural and that they don’t harm our environment. That’s true. I absolutely don’t think we should get rid of all cows, not at all! The keeping of cows has been what started saving Finland from several episodes of starvation in the 19th century.

But…here comes the big but. Everything is sustainable only up to a certain level. We are about 5 times more people in Finland, than at the point of time when cows saved us from starvation. I’m sure you all know the basic food chain: a certain amounts of plants are required to produce a lesser amount of meat. As long as the cows only eat grass we don’t really loose as much energy, but in that way the cows don’t grow that fast. Growing food that could be eaten by humans to feed cows is waste of natural resources. Globally, we have destroyed enough forest to make fields out of them. Growing food only for humans (not so much for cows) means less demand of new fields. Also when many animals are put in a small space their excrement become a problem. A big pile of cow-shit needs to be turned in order to get oxygen. Otherwise the decomposing turns into a chemical process producing a lot of ammonium, which results in acidification. In most Finnish farms, I’m sure they do their best to make sure the pile of excrement gets enough oxygen but there are always places that cheat.

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Many people argue that it’s okay to eat cheese but not to eat beef. This something of a paradox. Me being a vegetarian (not eating beef) but eating cheese is a bit paradoxical, I admit it. Especially cheese requires so much milk that it uses almost the same amount of natural resources as beef. And if the argument for eating dairy products but not meat, is that cheese does not require killing, I am sorry to tell you that most male calves (born to make sure cows produce milk) are killed. But yes, it’s true that milk cows get to live longer that beef cows. And that’s why I the end,in my opinion dairy products are a bit more sustainable than beef!

I still eat cheese because it’s one of my favorite foods. I don’t think I need to stop doing it, but I’m also aware that an excessive consumption is not sustainable. But instead of eating cheese on a daily basis, cheese has become a food for special occasions, when I really want to spoil myself. On Monday I was on an international food event and oh my god that Dutch cheese with mustard, I just couldn’t resist!

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Do you want to read even more about the sustainability of cheese? Check this one out!