What’s in Season in Ireland?

There are a few reasons why we should eat in season fruit. Firstly, it’s good for the planet, as it promotes the balance and order of the Earth’s natural cycles. Modern food processes allow us to enjoy fruits and vegetables all year round, but this exposes us to pesticides, genetically modified foods, waxes, and preservatives. It also increases the use of energy and resources, and thus emissions, that go into transporting fruit and vegetables from abroad to our shores. This leads me to the second reason it’s good to eat in season; local economy.

When we buy in season, we can also buy locally and support our local producers and sellers. This in turn promotes community, and strengthens our local businesses and economies.

Food that’s picked and eaten seasonably is also believed to outperform in taste. Any of its counterparts consumed out of season don’t measure up, as they have been forced to grow in unnatural climates, and the longer these items sit on the shelves, the more nutrients and antioxidants they will lose.

 

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*Yes, Rhubarb is a vegetable. Sue me.

Clutching at Straws: 8 Plastics Worse than Straws

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Artwork from the documentary film about plastic.

Last year, a study showed about 8 million metric tons of plastic waste flowed into our seas and oceans, enough to grow a second Brazil.

Most of this trash comes from ten rivers that are highly populated; Yangzte, Indus, Yellow, Hai, Nile, The Ganges, Pearl, Amur, Niger and Mekong. The article states, it would be best to catch the waste at the source, but even better would be to reduce the use of plastic altogether.

Ireland, doesn’t rank high on the list of countries that produce the most plastic waste, however the sad reality is we rank as low as we do, because we choose to export our problem overseas and we are one of the top producers of plastic waste in Europe, producing 61 kilograms of plastic waste per person, per year.

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In January 2018 it was reported that Ireland was exporting 95% of it’s plastic waste to China, who have declared they will no longer be accepting it. So what can we do to help our island, the oceans and the planet? “Give up straws!!!” you say. Well if it was only that easy. Straws aren’t helping, but being a not too incaaonvenient piece of plastic to give up, the straw bandwagon is overflowing with do-gooders and part-time “eco-warriors”. Alternatively, I give you a much more worrisome list of plastics that are destroying our oceans, laying siege to our rivers and holding our marine life hostage.

  1. Fishing Nets – When a fishing net begins to disintegrate, it too often gets dumped in the ocean leaving it for marine life to eat or become entangled in, and either way starving to death. The ocean’s creatures fill their belly up with plastic and can no longer eat anything of actual sustenance, leaving them to die a painful death, or they become caught in the net’s hooks and are left to languish on the end of a spike. These nets are commonly referred to as “ghost fishing nets”, as they drift through the ocean with a ghostlike quality forcing creatures to submit to its wake. Initiatives and businesses have been set up to recycle these nets in a more efficient and environmentally friendly way, however they haven’t yet been able to fully tackle the problem. Adidas designed a runner made from recycled fishing nets, which is a good way to highlight the issue, but this will not be enough to get us out of the red, so how can we make a significance difference here? My number one way would be to give up eating fish. The second option is to eat fish that has not been caught with nets. Easier said than done. Useful source on sustainable fishing from The Irish Wildlife Trust; here.
  2. Plastic Bags – Reusable shopping bags are widely available, and in Ireland we have the added incentive of avoiding them, as we’ve had to pay for our plastic bags since 2012. Long gone are the days when you get your plastic bag for free. You can extend the policy of bringing your own bags to replace the plastic bags we place our loose fruit and vegetables in. Caught without a bag? While packing a few vegetables in a plastic bag before weighing, consider if you can leave them loose? I personally weigh all my vegetables loose, and it saves me using a plastic bag with a life span equal to the time it takes you to travel from your local supermarket to your kitchen. For me, that’s about ten minutes.
  3. Coffee Cups – It came as a shock to many that their paper coffee cups were not actually recyclable. Recent pressure has encouraged coffee chains to offer incentives for customers who use reusable cups and some coffee houses now even use recyclable/compostable cups themselves. However, reusable is still the best option, as recycling cups is thirsty business, and requires a lot of energy and resources.
  4. Plastic Water Bottles – This one doesn’t seem to get the same coverage as coffee cups have enjoyed in recent years, but it’s as bad if not worse for the environment. BPA free bottles are readily available, so save yourself money, and help cut down on waste and plastic.
  5. Disposable Cutlery – A plethora of eco-friendly cutlery is out there. Same goes for lunch boxes. Try http://www.earthmother.ie for a range of options.
  6. Single-use cleaning products – J-cloths, bounty, wipes. They all make me cringe. One simple wipe and it’s dumped in the bin. Use tea clothes and at the very least cloths that have some durability. It’s even worth throwing your j-cloths in the wash to get a few more uses out of them.
  7. Menstrual Products – As women we need these products and it’s a personal item with some proving more user-friendly than others. If a menstrual cup feels out of your comfort zone, consider tampons without the plastic and cardboard applicators. But know that most tampons are drenched in some very worrisome chemicals.
  8. Microplastics- Microplastics consist of decomposing plastic waste, micro beads, synthetic fibres, to name but a few. They are believed to absorb toxins which can be harmful to humans, and microbeads have been banned in the UK since January, 2018. We know these toxic plastics enter our bodies through the water system and by consuming fish, but we don’t yet know how it might be affecting us. What we really need to do here, is cut down on every possible plastic to make our oceans healthier and happier, as well as ourselves.

The consoling thing here, is that all these plastics have more environmentally friendly alternatives. Please see a list to get started with below;

Fishing Nets (Further Reading) – https://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/fish-net-recycling-money-for-old-rope-407047.html

Plastic Bags – https://littlegreenshop.ie/?product_cat=bags

Coffee Cups – https://eu.keepcup.com/?countryNameChange=Ireland&countryChangeType=auto

Wipes – https://ie.iherb.com/pr/Charlie-Banana-Organic-Cotton-Multi-Usage-Wipes-10-Reusable-Wipes/76798?gclid=CjwKCAiA8rnfBRB3EiwAhrhBGqzlagENDvTLSxzR4c9BQhgd9N1M7kTJLGhUOf8JinwLeFdC1M-wZRoCkioQAvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds

Water Bottles – https://www.independent.co.uk/extras/indybest/outdoor-activity/sports-equipment-accessories/best-reusable-water-bottles-for-work-running-cycling-hiking-reviews-a6717726.html

Menstrual Products –

https://gladrags.com/

https://www.shethinx.com/

https://www.bodykind.ie/browse/brand/17-mooncup.aspx?Referer=Google_ie_moon-cup&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIzdKYxI6L3gIVybHtCh2j_wgmEAAYASAAEgL7A_D_BwE

Microbeads – https://www.elle.com/uk/beauty/skin/articles/a31140/7-alternatives-to-microbead-exfoliants/

Demystifying Cruelty-Free Cosmetics

Going vegan is very daunting for most people, and it’s often forgotten that going vegan isn’t just about your diet. If you are really behind the vegan message, you will most likely want to cut out products that aren’t vegan and those tested on animals. Unfortunately, the truth is that virtually every ingredient has been tested on animals at some point and time, even water, so labels can only demonstrate a companies’ desire not test in the future.

Why go vegan and cruelty-free?

For vegans, this question is a simple one to answer. However, you may not be vegan, and want to know the benefits this would have for you. One reason is to cut out harmful chemicals from your daily beauty routine. Many skincare products contain toxic chemicals that can affect fertility and even cause birth defects. Parabens, lead and formaldehyde are just some of the dangerous ingredients that can be found in your everyday products. Generally vegan means more naturally based products, and moving in a more natural direction can help remove a lot of harmful chemicals from your everyday regime. However, if you care for the welfare of animals and the environment, switching to vegan, cruelty, organic and natural cosmetics will have a lasting affect on your planet as well as your body.

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Why do we test on animals?

Animals share similar DNA to humans; chimpanzees share 99% of their DNA with humans and mice 98%. Some would use this as an argument NOT to test on these animals, but it’s often presented as a an argument for animal testing. Other than the ethical issues surrounding using humans for testing, animals are seen as beneficial for testing because of their shorter life-spans in comparison to humans. They suffer the same diseases and issues as humans, and a mice that lives two to three years allows scientists to study certain affects over a lifespan in a much shorter time than a human.

Procon.org says 26 million animals are used for scientific and commercial testing each year. Peta estimates the figure at 100 million. The reality is, both figures are scary and colossal. These animals include mice and rats to monkeys and pigs, and anything in between; birds, dogs, guinea pigs, rabbits, cats, fish, etc. They experience being restrained, put in cages, burns, cuts, holes drilled in their skulls, crushed bones and spinal cords, forced inhalation of toxic fumes, and the list sadly goes on. Noted, not all of these injuries for just the cosmetics industry.

The reality is that the majority of animal testing that is currently done isn’t applicable to humans or even useful, as animals are so vastly different to humans. Drugs that have passed animal testing, have still been found to be harmful to humans in the past. 95% of the animals that are used in testing are not protected by the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), leaving birds, mice, rats, reptiles and fish vulnerable to abuse, however I think it’s undeniably that any animal being used in animal testing, protected or not, is being both used and abused.

So as you can see, the reason for animal testing is not clear and arguably not in anyway necessary for something as trivial as cosmetics, particularly if we have alternatives. If you would like to research the topic further, I’d advise reading Procon.org’s pro and con list.

What do the different symbols mean?

An important thing to remember is that just because a product is marked “Vegan” does not mean that isn’t tested on animals. Furthermore, virtually any company can label their products “vegan” or “cruelty-free”, but sadly this might not consider beeswax or commissioning animal testing to a third party. Also some of the certifications, do not test or probe into the companies’ statements about their products, so they cannot be fully relied upon unfortunately.

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The most reliable is the leaping bunny surrounded by a blue circle. It does not mean the product is vegan, however companies that have the leaping bunny on their products have to agree to be audited every three years, it is internationally recognised, and seemingly the most rigorous for following up with companies to stick to their promises. So, the best way to go is to team this symbol with a vegan symbol when buying skincare products.

Screen Shot 2018-07-09 at 20.42.55.pngUnfortunately many well-known brands that produce potentially vegan products end up being testing on animals by selling products in China. China requires all products manufactured outside of China to be tested on animals.

So where can I shop?

The truth is that in the world we live in, it is a bit of a minefield. Lines offer cruelty-free, but use animal products, so labels and ingredients have to be scrutinised if you want to get it 100% right. However, it is a worthy cause to work towards, and joining locally based vegan facebook groups will help you and others share information about the newest and best products.

THE BODY SHOP

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The body shop is not exclusively vegan, but they are committed to cruelty-free products. Furthermore, the brand is committed to high quality that is both sustainable and ethically produced. They test by computer data, on human subjects or lab produced tissue. Currently they are leading a global campaign to bring 8 million signatures to ban animal testing to the UN, you can read more about their mission and sign the petition on their website.

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Map of countries that have currently banned animal testing.

SUPERDRUG

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There’s not much to say other than Superdrug’s vegan and cruelty-free products have gone from strength to strength. Their skincare range was always strong, but they’ve recently launched a vegan and cruelty-free make-up line called B., offering everything from foundations and powders to lipsticks and mascara, and it has a men’s skincare range too.

HOLLAND & BARRETT

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Readily available, reasonably priced, and regularly offering special offers like, buy one get one half price or the one cent sale, Holland & Barrett’s Dr. Organic range is worth the visit alone. The range offers; toothpaste, moisturisers, face wash, toner, lip balms, shampoos, deodorants, soaps, and much more. Not all their line is vegan, also offering beeswax, honey and snail slime, but most of their line is in fact vegan friendly, tested on humans and organically produced.

ELF @ BOOTS

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Elf is a reasonably priced cosmetics line on Peta’s cruelty-free list. All their products are vegan friendly, including their brushes. You can find them in Boots and Sam McCauley’s stores around the country.

The last word…

It isn’t easy changing everything in your makeup bag and bathroom shelf, however it’s also never been easier than it is now. More and more companies are heeding to the demand from consumers to supply vegan friendly and cruelty-free products, so the more we buy and vote with our dollar, the more we’ll see on our shop shelves. Happy shopping!