Sun Printing: Team Up with Mother Nature for this Easy DIY

Just in time for the sunshine – here’s a brilliant way to take advantage of these sunny days. If you’re anything like me and find real struggle in sitting still, this sun printing DIY project will slow you right down. When you’re done, you’ll have a homemade eco bread bag to show for your afternoon in the garden.

Did you know: Keeping your bread in a cotton bread bag can actually keep it fresher for longer because the cotton is breathable while stopping the bread from drying out. Even more reason to go with natural fibre bread bags.

If you have little ones in the house, you can stick with the galactic theme and whip up an easy batch of Moon Sand to keep them stimulated while you team up with the for this easy DIY project.

WHAT EXACTLY IS SUN PRINTING?

Sun printing is the process of ‘exposing’ a pattern onto cloth by using a staining liquid and a catalyst. In this easy DIY I’m sun printing with plants, upcycled paintbrush packaging, instant coffee mix and soda ash (this natural crystalline salt is used to soften water and alkalise swimming pools).

WHAT YOU’LL NEED TO SUN PRINT AN ECO-BREAD BAG:

  • 4 Tbsp instant coffee powder (you can use your recycled grinds, just make sure the solution is strong)
  • 3 tsp soda ash
  • Cloth to print on*
  • Spray bottle
  • Sturdy flora from the garden (delicate fronds don’t work as well) or letter cutouts**
  • Panel of glass or small stones
  • Oven tray
  • Gloves

*Different cloths to use:
Muslin cloth – If you want to make your own item. It’s a cotton fibre so it responds well to the soda ash activator and you can cut it to any size.
Hemp bags – for personalized food or gift bags. It’s a rougher fabric and creates a subtler, earthy contrast.
Cotton fresh bags – the white cotton is super effective for a strong contrast and also makes
for nice gift.

HOW TO PRINT WORDS AND PATTERNS:

  1. Add the soda ash to a tub of warm water (about 5 cups).
  2. Place the cloths you want to sun print onto in the soda ash solution. Use a paint brush or gloved hands to saturate them – not your naked hands – this solution is highly alkaline. Leave to soak for 20 minutes.
  3. While that’s soaking, mix your instant coffee in 2 cups of hot water and pour this into your spray bottle. Make sure it’s set to mist, not jet spray, or you’ll blast your leaves and letters right off.
  4. Prepare your plant matter, cut outs and oven trays.
  5. After 20 minutes, slip your gloves back on and retrieve your cloth from the soda ash solution.
  6. Wring them out and place them on the baking trays.
  7. Place the letters and some foliage onto your cloth.
  8. Spray from the top down with your diluted coffee mixture.
  9. Optional: If you’re just doing foliage, place a sheet of glass directly on top. This creates a very cool, high contrast speckled effect. Or place small stones on the leaves to keep them in place. This creates a more solid printing effect with higher contrast and clearer outlines.
  10. Leave in the midday sun for about 2 hours.

**Note on the letter cut-outs
I wanted to print the word ‘bread’ on my bags so I first tried it with paper cutouts. Unfortunately, the paper absorbs the coffee so the negative space below isn’t kept as free from the coffee stain. In this
sun printing project, an upcycled sheet of hard plastic (like what you would get from hardware or art paintbrush packaging) can be a real win. It won’t absorb the coffee stain, creates a strong print
outline, is heavier so they won’t blow away and can be re-used time and again. The cut off bits and letters can then go into an eco-brick of course!

The next step is CRUCIAL! Are the kids still fine with their moon sand or assortment of gemstones? Go pour yourself a glass of something refreshing, find the nearest recliner, couch or hammock and lie

there for as long as you can marveling at the sound of birds, the blue sky, the dappled light of summer tree canopies and cloud shapes. If you even look at your phone your craft project will flop.

You can have a look after an hour, minimum, but it’s best to leave until the cloth is bone dry to the touch.

To set the print, give it a few goes under a very hot iron.

 

Moon Sand: The Easiest DIY Kinetic Sand to Keep Kids Happy for Hours

 

Moon Sand: The Easiest DIY Kinetic Sand to Keep Kids Happy for Hours

Sand from the moon? Well, no. But as astronomically cool and totally dreamy to play with? Yes! This astronomical craft has a tactile softness, the ability to hold form and then also crumble apart easily, the array of colours and the addition of essential oils make it a highly engaging, creative activity. One of the best things about it – it’s a non-toxic way to provide hours of entertainment for the little ones! This DIY kinetic “sand” or playdough used to be made with baby oil – but the coconut oil version is as effective, and minuses the petroleum.

You can make a batch in less than ten minutes to keep the kids busy while you do your own creative project – sun printing perhaps?

WHAT YOU NEED:

THE BASICS:

THE EXTRAS:

  • Essential oils for stimulating smells (remember this is for kiddies so use kinder, soothing scents like lavender or citronella versus more complex scents)
  • A few drops of food colouring

HOW TO MAKE MOON SAND:

  1. Melt the coconut oil in a pot over the stove.
  2. Add your choice of essential oil. Give the little ones a whiff first to find out which ones they like.
  3. Add your choice of food colouring. If you want to go all-natural try vegetable dye. I boiled a hand full of blueberries and added just the water to give mine a gentle, purple-grey tinge.
  4. Add the oil, colouring and essential oil mixture to the two cups of flour.
  5. Mix together using your hands until an even consistency forms. It should be slightly crumbly but hold when balled in the palm of your hand or pinched with fingers.

Your moon sand is now ready for the kids to play with. A large baking tray works best to keep it from going everywhere. To give them even more stimulation, give them shells and seed pods and cookie cutters. These can be used for making impressions and patterns into the moon sand.

When they’re all done with the moon sand, pack it into a container with a lid and store on a shelf, no refrigeration required.

 

Sun Printing: Team Up with Mother Nature for this Easy DIY

 

Easy Eco Beeswax Seashell Candles

A flickering flame at the center of a dinner table amid a lazy evening’s tapas spread creates the kind of charming ambiance our midsummer night’s dreams are made of. When seated at home with a flickering flame from a homemade beeswax candle cradled in one of our ocean’s collectible treasures, that’s when life reaches new balmy eco heights.

Here’s how to make these ridiculously easy DIY seashell candles, plus a handful of other tips and tricks for general eco candle making.

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • Beeswax chunks
  • String or twine
  • Essential oils (I went with SOIL’s grapefruit and lemongrass for spring freshness and bug deterrent)
  • Gathered seashells from your beach adventures
  • A pot
  • Glass jar (Console or Pyrex are hot water suitable)
  • Wooden chopstick
  • Water

EASY DIY STEPS

  1. Set the pot on the stove with water in it and bring to the boil.
  2. Place the glass container in the water and pop the hard beeswax blocks into the container.
  3. Once the water is boiling turn the heat down lower so as to minimize the jar or bowl from moving about too much.
  4. When the wax is all liquid, dip a length of twine (30cm should be enough, but try to gauge based on how many candles you’re making) into the hot wax and lay it out on a tray in an elongated snake to cool. This should only take a few minutes.
  5. While this is setting, get your chosen essential oils and add about 10-15 drops into the melted beeswax. Stir with a wooden chopstick.
  6. Then cut the newly dipped wick into 3-4 cm lengths to use for the individual seashell candles.
  7. Set your shells out on a tray and pour a small amount of wax into the bottom of each candle. If you find it hard to pour, use the wooden chopstick to drop just a bit into each shell. This will act like a secure for the wicks in a minute. Leave this to set for 2 minutes.
  8. Then pop your cut wicks into the middle of each one (the wax will have settled in the deepest part of the shell, which is where you want the wick so it burns the longest). Leave to set completely for another 5 minutes.
  9. Now pour your liquid beeswax into each shell slowly until the level is close to the rim.
  10. Leave to harden for a few hours.


WHY I LOVE USING BEESWAX FOR THESE CANDLES

  • It burns much slower so our candles last longer
  • No toxic fumes around food and romancing with wine
  • Lower burning temp makes the wax safer in case of spillage and also the shells can take the heated wax and don’t break

AN IMPORTANT NOTE ON THE SHELLS

I feel it goes without saying, but then it’s always worth stressing – only use shells you find on your beach walks or adventures that have already been vacated by the living creatures who once used them as a home.
Buying fancy, large and rare shells from boutique tourist shops is also not a good idea because you might be unknowingly supporting an industry that isn’t ensuring the sustainability of the species they’re harvesting from the sea purely for commercial tourist purposes.

These seashell candles were all made from shells found on Hout Bay, Brandfontein & Umhlanga beach.

GENERAL CANDLE MAKING TIPS AND TRICKS

  • Containers you want to repurpose like broken mugs and teacups make for lovely vintage candles
  • Use a wooden wash peg horizontally and balanced on the rim of the container to pinch the wick so it stays in the center of whatever vessel you’re pouring into.
  • No pegs? Cut the top of your egg carton in strips and poke a little hole through it. Wiggle the wick through this so it can balance over the top rim of your container or shell while suspending the wick below.
  • Don’t be impatient! Let your candles set fully before trying to remove your cardboard strip for the next batch of candles.
  • If you’re making pillar candles which you want to remove from the container – remember it must be wider at the top of the container (the base of your candle) or it won’t come out

AN UNLIKELY ECO TIP ON USING NON-BEESWAX CANDLES

I would love all my candles in my home to be beeswax eco candles, but on occasion I get gifted a regular candle. When those burn down, it’s far kinder to the environment to melt that wax down, pour it into a container and put a new wick in it, than just tossing the rest away. It won’t biodegrade anywhere and at least this way you’re using it and all the resources that went into making the whole of it, up in its entirety. Burn it outdoors in hurricane lamps if you’re worried about fumes. It’s the lesser of two evils in my book.

Here’s hoping you find much enjoyment making these over the warmer months and enjoying them over pleasant evening picnics.

UPDATE: Shells are not the best conductors of heat and get pretty hot to the touch, be sure to handle gently. They could also leave little scorch marks on whatever surface they are on.

 

Feeling inspired? Take a look at these guides for more eco-friendly craft ideas.

DIY Necklace Diffusers

Holiday Crafts for Kids

 

Natural vs Synthetic Vitamins: The Great Debate

Natural vs. synthetic vitamins

We take an indepth look at what to consider before choosing your vitamin brand.

Always take your vitamins, say the grannies and doctors the world around. But questions begin to surface: “Which ones?” “And how many?” and “Don’t I get enough of this from my food?”

In our race to become such a highly capable society and species, we’ve also inadvertently over-complicated something that once was quite simple. Nature; food, water and sun, was once our only source of nutrients. But with the degradation of soil quality and increasingly demanding careers and lives, scientists and pharmaceutical companies have figured out how to offer us the nutrients we’re missing in the form of a pill.  Now that we’re returning to a period of seeking alignment with nature the inquiries into how our bodies absorb these vitamins, whether we even need them and whether it is all just good marketing are all valid concerns.

But the landscape of unraveling some of the questions around whether man-made or nature-made vitamins are better can feel like quite a complex and contradictory road. Not every vitamin can be painted with the same parameters because they’re not all created equal and our bodies respond differently to each one.

 

ARE VITAMINS AS SIMPLE AS A, B, C? 

In their most basic form there are 13 vitamins which our bodies require for optimal health (A, B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, folate, biotin, pantothenate, C, D, E and K). In their natural state, each vitamin is made up of a complex assimilation of compounds and enzymes, co-enzymes, co-factors and transporters. These work together with other compounds in your body in a synergistic manner, which is what strengthens a natural vitamins bioavailability.

When it comes to Vitamin C, scientists argue its primary compound can be extracted, yet many feel the extensive, although not currently agreed upon list of co-factors, are just as vital to the bioavailability. Dr. Ben Kim, a staunch advocate for natural vitamins only, argues that if you only ever ingested ascorbic acid, as your primary source for vitamin C, it would be like eating only the skin of the orange instead of the entire fruit.

 

THE ORIGINS OF ISOLATING AND SYNTHASISING VITAMINS

The origins to the inquiry into vitamin C dates back to the early 1700’s when a Royal Navy surgeon, James Lind, found that citrus fruits were able to cure scurvy in individuals. But of course this couldn’t be pinpointed on vitamin C alone. It was only in the early 1900’s when experimental animal studies with scurvy were conducted that results revealed that is was that fresh fruits and vegetables prevented scurvy.

Vitamin C itself was only isolated from citrus fruits in the early 1930’s, this was named hexuronic acid. Giving a guinea pigs hexuronic acid further showed that this too could stave off the scurvy effectively. Shortly after, hexuronic acid was renamed to ascorbic acid in order to accurately reflect its anti-scorbutic properties.

Once extracted and isolated, synthesising it was only a matter of years. While the chemical structure of isolated natural, food derived vitamin C vs its synthetic counterparts are identical, discussions around the comparative bioavailability are still hotly debated.

 

WHAT SYNTHETIC VS NATURAL VITAMINS MEAN FOR YOUR BODY

Ingesting vitamin C, or any other vitamin for that matter, in its isolated form doesn’t come without knock-on effects in the body.

 

HOW IT WORKS:

  1. Your body requires the other co-factors to fully absorb the vitamin to its maximum benefit. If you’re not ingesting them simultaneously the body will first try to assimilate the rest of the co-factors needed from other reserves in your tissue or from other foods you’re eating.
  2. If you don’t have sufficient reserves, this intelligent need to absorb the component of the vitamin you are ingesting can result in depletions of other necessary compounds before the excess is excreted. Generally speaking, synthetic vitamins won’t offer the entire spectrum, as the vitamin in its natural form would.

The above two points hold true for most vitamins and minerals.

According to this article, and the opinion of the president of a natural supplements company, Schiffer, modern pharmaceutical manufacture has successfully isolated the most useful and beneficial form of each vitamin, which can be processed by the body as effectively as the vitamers found in our food*

For a healthy individual getting in the basics quantities of each vitamin would seem sufficient. Yet, in individuals where specific conditions are prevalent due to sever vitamin deficiencies, taking the synthetic isolated form of this vitamin, can be highly effective, as seen with the scurvy guinea pigs of the 1930’s.

 

BASIC DIFFERENCES BETWEEN NATURAL AND SYNTHETIC

In looking at how natural and synthetic vitamins are different, a caveat should be added that different refers to the origin of the vitamin, not necessarily the nutritional value or effectiveness of the end resulting vitamin. Dr. Thomas Levy explains this concept very well in an analogy with sweeteners:

  • Stevia is a natural sweetener sourced from plant.
  • Aspartame is an entirely artificial sweetener produced in a lab that cannot be found in nature.
  • However, sucrose can be extracted from food or it can be synthesized in a lab. The resulting sugar is the same and, providing that none of the trace elements are contaminated the laboratory-produced sucrose, both will produce the same outcome in baking (for example).

This is only true for some synthetically produced vitamins over their natural counter-parts.

 

CHARACTERISTICS OF NATURAL VITAMINS 

  • These are food supplements derived from wholefood sources like baobab powder, moringa, acerola cherry powder, spirulina.

 Pros:

  • Complete in their bioavailability and therefore not taxing on the body
  • Fully absorbed by the body because they function in a synergistic way

Cons:

  • Can be more costly
  • In order to get in an equal dose much larger quantities of the natural vitamin source need to be consumed.

 

CHARACTERISTICS OF SYNTHETIC VITAMINS:

  • They are manufactured in a laboratory through a bio-chemical process
  • They are supplements that mimic the way a natural vitamin compound reacts in the body
  • They are usually in an isolated form, also called isolated nutrients
  • The active ingredient in synthetic vitamins is identical to that in the natural vitamin

Pros:

  • Usually less expensive because they can be mass produced
  • A concentrated form of the vitamin allows for a smaller volume to be consumed

Cons:

  • Can lack the co-factors that allow the vitamin to be properly absorbed in the body
  • Can place a physical tax on the body’s mineral supply in order to process the vitamin

Synthetic supplements don’t include ‘wholefood supplements’ made from concentrated, dehydrated foods.

 

UNDERSTANDING THE VITAMIN LABEL:

Unlike with medicines that undergo clinical trials and therefor adhere to pharmaceutical labeling regulations, vitamin supplements are currently far more loosely governed.

IMPORTANT TO THINGS TO NOTE:

  • Vitamin supplements may be legally marketed as ‘natural’, as long as only 10% of the supplement is from the natural vitamin source. This means 90% can consist of the active compound from a synthetic source.
  • There is no current regulation that requires dietary supplements like vitamins to prove their effectiveness, unlike with medicine. This doesn’t mean that some brands don’t do their research, but it is worth you doing yours as well.
  • Sticking to dosage guidelines like the RDA (recommended daily allowance) is vital, because supplements can have increased quantities within them.

 

Much of the vitamin conversations out there create a somewhat misinformed outcry about these synthetic vitamins being 90% chemicals – as though chemical is synonymous with poison. Nature is rooted in chemical compounds. Just as a chemical doesn’t mean it’s toxic, so too being synthesised doesn’t mean it’s inferior. Synthesising the chemical compounds in vitamins can simply mean it’s being manufactured in a controlled environment. According to Nutrition expert, Professor Christine Rosenbloom, even natural vitamins contain some synthetic ingredients, and if they didn’t, they would be the size of golf balls.

Read the label and make sure what you’re supplementing your diet safely, but simultaneously don’t jump onto the ‘lab-manufactured equals harmful-to-my-health’ thinking.

 

NOTE THE DOSE

Higher dose supplements are not equal to high quality. A higher dose can place strain on the body in both assimilating the compounds required as well as processing on the liver. This is particularly true for fat soluble vitamins like Vitamin A. Stored in the liver, in large quantities it can reach toxic levels.

Recommended daily allowances are guidelines for a reason. Speak to your doctor if you have a condition that requires a higher dosage.

 

CAN WE REPLICATE IN A LAB WHAT NATURE MAKES HERSELF?

In its most eloquent and intelligent form, probably not. Nutrition from real foods offers a naturally aligned bioavailability to the body, which means it’s also giving you everything you need in order to process the nutritional quantity within that food. Wholefoods also contain phytochemicals that stave off the development of all sorts of other diseases. Food will always trump supplements.

 

HOW FAITHFUL TO NATURE PROCURES VITAMIN SUPPLEMENTS

Naturally occurring vitamin sources will always take precedence of synthesised ones and currently form the majority of what we stock.

 

SOME TOP SELLING NATURAL VITAMINS TO CONSIDER:

For synthesised vitamins we do our best to avoid any inactive ingredients as far as possible.

These inactive ingredients are not accepted in products we list:

  • Shellac
  • Talc
  • Colourants
  • Titanium Dioxide

A note on magnesium stearate: Magnesium stearate is a contentious ingredient currently. The research on it is very ambiguous and it hasn’t yet been proven to be as detrimental as some people are making it out to be. On this regard we would currently encourage you to use your own discretion.

 

GOOD QUALITY SYNTHETIC VITAMINS TO CONSIDER:

 

NOT ALL THAT IS NATURAL IS CREATED EQUAL

Without straying too far into the territory of an entirely different debate, I will just add that in choosing to get all your nutrient-intake from food, you do need to consider that not all foods are made equal. Some are grown in nutrient dense soils, without the use of harmful pesticides. If you are making a concerted effort to eat a balanced, organic, wholefood diet, you might find your body doesn’t require vitamin or mineral supplementation.

When it comes down to it, you will know if taking a supplement is having a positive effect on your body. As long as you’re getting in a wide range of nutrients from a varied diet, and not taking the supplements to balance out your junk food eating habits, taking a high-quality supplement just to make sure you’re ticking all the boxes, is not necessarily a bad move.

At the end of the day, you need to weigh up what you can afford and then, through trial and error, work out whether natural or synthetic vitamin sources suits your body, budget and lifestyle best.

*The biggest exception to this is natural vitamin E, also known as d-alpha-tocopherol, which is twice as effective as the synthetic version d-alpha-tocopherol.


Additional reading:

https://drbenkim.com/articles-vitamins.html

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3847730/

https://www.worldofmolecules.com/antioxidants/vitaminc.htm 

https://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/synthetic-vs-natural-vitamins/

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/do-vitamins-in-pills-diff/

https://www.peakenergy.com/articles/nh20160215/The-most-popular-vitamin-C-myths-exposed/

The Palm Oil Debate: Should Palm Oil Products Be Labelled Vegan or Not?

Palm Oil_web

THE PALM OIL DEBATE: SHOULD PALM OIL PRODUCTS BE LABELLED VEGAN OR NOT? WE SHARE OUR STANCE AS AN ONLINE RETAILER

The ubiquitous vegetable oil has been a contentious ingredient for several years, sighted as a key contributor to the destruction of rainforests. In recent months the palm oil debate has made a resurgence in the world of conscious consumption, in particular, within the vegan community. Many are of the opinion that products containing palm oil should not be listed as vegan due to the impact it has on biodiversity, the poor stewardship of natural habitats and resulting animal suffering for certain species.

Being a retailer in the wellness living space means our product offering caters to a wide pool of consumers, each with their own green-living needs and expectations. While we are not retail powers that be, consumers look to us to assist them in navigating the space of what is or is not considered green living choice, and we’re thankful for the trust you invest in us.

Consumers do carry a collective responsibility of holding retailers accountable, so we applaud our customers for raising this particular concern with us, as we do believe it is an important topic to address. We’re happy to share our perspective and hope it provides clarity to those looking for a way to traverse this space with us.

The question “Should Products Containing Palm Oil be Listed as Vegan?” comes down to two criteria for us as the online store; namely (a) Labelling Standards and (b) Ethical Values.

FIRST SOME BACKGROUND CLARIFICATIONS FOR THOSE ENTERING INTO THE CONVERSATION:

SHEDDING SOME LIGHT ON PALM

Palm oil is a vegetable oil extracted from the fruit of the African oil palm and is a primary ingredient in more than half the products in most homes. (Side note: palm kernel oil is extracted from the seed of the palm fruit, whereas palm oil is extracted from the fruit itself). The 62 million tons of palm oil required by today’s product and food industries are produced by Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea as well as central and South America. Palm oil is actually one of the most planet friendly oils to farm, producing more oil per square meter than sunflower, soy and rapeseed oils, for example. It also requires less pesticide use, water and fertiliser than other vegetable oil plantations. While this does make it one of the most efficient oil producing crops, this has also unfortunately made it a lucrative industry giant, with horrific implications.

Within many poorly supervised communities, massive tracts of forest land have been and continue to be burnt in order to make room for the ever-growing palm oil demand. This has not only impacted the orangutans, but rhinos, tigers and a host of other biodiversity. Since the global increase in this awareness, there has been much effort to establish deforestation-free, sustainable palm oil. Organisations such as the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) closely monitor crops hoping to be listed as sustainable sources, but even here there is concern about how sustainable the industry can truly ever be. WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) is also working hard through the ranks of bodies like the Palm Oil Innovation Group (POIG) to establish models for sustainable palm oil production in mainstream farming communities.

SO WHY ARE SOME MEMBERS OF THE VEGAN COMMUNITY PUSHING FOR PALM OIL AS AN EXCLUSION CRITERION TO VEGAN LABELLING?

Palm oil, in and of itself as an ingredient is vegan because it comes from a fruit. But to understand why this conversation is becoming a tricky place for vegans to navigate, one needs to fully appreciate the spectrum the term ‘vegan’ can encompass.  As noted by the Vegan Society, “Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.” Palm oil’s agricultural animal cruelty implications has justifiably become a hotbed for scrutiny in the vegan community.

BUT WHAT’S THE CURRENT PROTOCOL WITH VEGAN LABELING?

In order for a product to be certified as vegan it needs to uphold the production standards of organisations like V-label or Vegan.Org  that no animal product or byproduct was used in the manufacturing process. These are the same current best-practices we as a company implement when deciding whether to list a product in a vegan filter. Currently ‘animal suffering’ doesn’t fall within the vegan labeling criteria.

The debate regarding the excessive animal suffering or biodiversity impact incurred by the palm oil industry is a necessary one. And we agree that serious attention needs to be given to better management practices.

However, we cannot begin to approach product ingredient filtering with such disparity, looking only at the damage palm oil incurs versus the potential negative impact of soybean oil or coconut oil, for example. Is it true that palm oil is produced in far greater quantities and is therefore possibly responsible for more animal suffering? Yes. But if we make the quantity of animal suffering caused, the measure for exclusion as a vegan product, are we not then indirectly condoning animal suffering if it occurs to a lesser degree?

The unfortunate reality is that any mass produced agricultural commodity, will in all likelihood have a negative impact on our natural world at some point during its manufacture. It is a bitter pill to swallow.

For a product to be completely cruelty free throughout the entire process of its lifecycle is an immensely challenging feat. And this is where this conversation reaches its crux. If we as a business begin to apply this filter to palm oil, then the light needs to be cast on any and all vegetable oils in equal measure.

It is for this reason that we have decided not to exclude products containing palm oil from our vegan category at this juncture in the conversation. For now, we feel this is the most considered approach that takes all factors and shopping preferences into account.

HOW ARE WE ABLE TO HELP YOU NAVIGATE THIS PALM KERNEL OIL/CRUELTY FREE/VEGAN SPACE?

We deeply respect how passionate members of the vegan community are about cruelty free living in every aspect possible. But requesting retailers adopt the task of safeguarding this execution during the shopping process by simply automating the omission of palm oil products in the vegan filter, we believe will do more damage in terms of raising awareness on the matter for future shoppers.

While entirely well-guided, the answer isn’t to restrict the term veganism to exclude any and every natural resource that can incur animal suffering consequences if mismanaged. While that might seem like the simpler solution to our current admittedly complex palm oil sustainability issue, the more intentional but far harder ask is that you, the consumer, remain in the mindset of questioning ingredient ethics and scrutinising their sources.

We believe in cultivating a shopping environment based on transparency. We build on that by offering you as many product filtration functionalities as is feasible.

Our online shop offers a ‘Vegan Filter’, a ‘Palm Oil Free Filter’ as well as a ‘Cruelty Free Filter’. All three can be applied to any product search. Read more about the filter search here.

We are also currently working on adding a section addressing these concerns under our FAQs. In our newsletters and content channels we also continually strive to keep you abreast of new developments in the sustainability industry.

THE BOTTOM LINE:

The bottom line is (and we really do want to stress this): you are doing the planet a justice by reducing your reliance on palm oil products. While we do our best to verify our supplier’s ingredient sources, there are twenty-two derivatives of palm oil (bi-product ingredients that some manufacturers aren’t even aware stems from raw palm oil), so if you feel strongly about its impact avoiding it is your best approach.

Ultimately however, we leave the decision of whether or not you want to include an omission of palm oil products to your vegan living approach up to you. We hope this leaves you feeling equipped to finetune and uphold your own chosen levels of ethical consumerism.

It is not for us to dictate how our customers navigate their personal ethical journeys.

We at Faithful to Nature wholeheartedly believe, strive for and continue to work towards the self-awareness and responsibility that emanates from being empowered through diligent and consistent transparency.

 

How to Make Your Own Homemade Vegan Turmeric Gummies

Turmeric-Gummies4

It’s safe to say turmeric is a super spice, well known for its anti-inflammatory properties.

And as superfoods go, I think most of us are becoming ninjas at sneaking them in wherever we can. While I’m a huge fan of adding chaga in coffee because the taste is so mild, the same can’t be done with turmeric. With this golden spice, there’s no sneaking involved. If turmeric is going into your falafel balls or breakfast smoothie, it’s going to taste potently of Ayurvedic root.

That’s where these little star turmeric gummies come in. If you’re a health nut or in-touch foodie, you’ve probably seen these gummies of goodness cropping up on your feed. My version of this recipe offers you all that anti-inflammatory power, but uses agar powder instead of natural gelatin and date syrup instead of honey to keep them vegan-friendly.

 

SOME NOTES BEFORE YOU BEGIN:

  • Agar doesn’t make the gummies quite as ‘bouncy’ as gelatin does (and what you might be hoping for if you’re searching for a sweet treat substitute for wine gums). They’re still firm turmeric gummies none the less.
  • You can either set these in a pyrex glass dish and cut them into simple homemade squares, or you can use an ice cube tray or silicone moulds of your desired shapes. I played with shapes using cookie cutters.

 

INGREDIENTS:

Prep time:  15 minutes | Setting time:  30 minutes

 

METHOD:

  1. Add the hot water to a small pot. Hot liquid helps dissolve the turmeric powder better.
  2. Add two tablespoons of turmeric powder. You can, of course, use less if the flavour is too potent for you.
  3. Add in the date syrup. I would suggest adding in two tablespoons at first and then tasting to see if you prefer it sweeter before adding in the third.
  4. Give it a good whisking.
  5. Next, add in the ginger, lemon juice and orange juice.
  6. Again, whisk the mixture well.
  7. Lastly, add in your agar agar powder.
  8. Take your pot to the stove and continue whisking the mixture on a low heat until the liquid thickens into a syrup-like consistency.
  9. Pour your turmeric gummy liquid into either a coconut oil-greased pyrex glass dish, or into any silicone moulds of your choice.
  10. Leave to cool for 10 minutes, then place the dish or trays into the fridge to set for a further 20 minutes.
  11. Once cooled, you can pop out your gummies into a container for daily quick health boosts before your cuppa coffee or when you’re feeling immune battered.

turmeric-gummies1

If you went the pyrex dish route, I found it easier to slice them into cubes with a sharp chef’s knife while still in the dish and then flip it over and coax them out. I got a little playful with one of my batches and used mini gingerbread moulds I had lying around from Christmas. I simply stamped them out of the gummy sheet while still in the pyrex dish. The offcuts or in-between bits went into a separate jar for snacking. I’m sure I could make an interesting healthy chocolate with chewy gummie bits interspersed or a vanilla ice cream with turmeric jellies in it too. The health world is your artichoke!

OPTIONAL DUSTING: If you would like to transform these into a sweeter dessert treat like those gummy fruits with sugar dusting on them, try grinding cinnamon and coconut sugar very finely and just dip the tops of your turmeric gummies into them. Or for a white dusting a’la Turkish delight you can pulverize xylitol and arrowroot powder. Both make them quite tasty and could help you fob them off as sweets over health snacks.

I must be honest though, unless your kids are used to more natural flavoured foods, I’m not sure they would take to these as a healthy alternative to wine gum sweets in a blink. I ran it by a few dads, and they pretty much laughed at the thought of their kids enjoying these.  While they’re totally palatable for adults – I’d be keen to see how your kids respond to them. Leave us a comment below if you’ve tested these on little humans to great success.

Turmeric-Gummies3

Water Crisis in Cape Town: Life on 50L

Cape Town Water Crisis: Life on 50L of Water

Reflections on the realities of Life on 50L of Water in Cape Town

We were sitting at the kitchen table, the newspaper, splayed out in every direction. A story in the Toronto Star reads ‘Crisis in Cape Town: It’s about to run out of water’. I look up at the snowflakes swirling outside – frozen water. “That’s my home,” I hear my own thoughts reaching into the stark reality of what I will be returning to. Day-to-day water conscious living practically doesn’t need to exist in Canada. Rinsing dishes happens as a background event to stimulating and distracted conversations. The water keeps filling the sink, even during the long, awkward pauses – the kind where you turn your back to the running faucet. Did you know the average Canadian uses 360 litres of water per day? Sure, they’re practically living on a melting glacier. I quickly realised how easy it is to take abundance for granted. The truth about circumstances back here at home settled in quickly upon my return. It was 100L of water per person when I left. That was only 6 months ago.

So, when is Day Zero actually?

Day Zero is currently earmarked at 11 May 2018*. The reason the date for Day Zero shifts is because water consumption in various allocated sectors is decreased. The most recent shift from April to May is due to a decrease in agricultural water usage. Many Cape Townians have also taken the call to decrease usage seriously, but the city estimates that some 40% are still not adhering to the 50L per person per day.

Head on over to DA Leader Mmusi Maimane’s #DefeatDayZero campaign page for further info on overcoming this deadline date. Here is a great overview of some hard questions surrounding Day Zero.

*article published on 7 February 2018, date subjected to change.

Consider printing out and sticking up this How to Defeat Day Zero Poster at work.

Food for thought

Reality sinks in in strange chunks. Before I left a block of butter cost R39.99. Last week, on a mission to bake my granny’s rusks, I discovered butter now cost just over R60. Rusks have become a luxury in my life. A water crisis affects everything. Absolutely everything. Why? Because every single food item requires water to get from where it’s farmed, harvested, produced – whatever it may be – to you in the supermarket aisle.

So, if you don’t believe your taps are going to run dry – look at your grocery bill. Feels a bit pinchy, doesn’t it? The less water there is, the more expensive food becomes. Best cut that meat out sooner rather than later – if for no other reason than to save our proverbial drought-ridden bacon.

War for water?

I recently heard a story on the radio about a man hastily filling up his trolley at a Pick ‘n Pay with 5L water bottles. He had packed in all their remaining stock. An elderly lady walked up to him, “Can I at least just have one?” He barked a short, two letter response back at her, “No!”

While an incident like that might seem ‘tame’ it can stir notions that we’re entering an ‘each to their own’ mentality, the reality is, avoiding Day Zero can only be done as a collective. If we don’t take the required responsibility for the remaining resources, that daily allocation will be given to us. And it will be ALL you have. Daily. Get clear on this, folks. It’s not a political conspiracy. Day Zero is a worst-case scenario. It is the beginning of what life without an essential resource looks like. I for one don’t want to see the desperation of human nature tested in a crisis climate of water-fueled crimes.

When it comes down to it, I’d like to believe we’ll show that ‘SA-blood runs thicker than water’. Will we act with foresight to avoid a life where those who can’t afford escalating food prices have no other options?

The DAM truth of it

I took a hike up to De Villiers Dam recently. It’s the higher of the two catchment dams above Constantia Neck. In September 2016 it was so full barely any of the rocks were visible. Currently, that water level is about one meter below the overflow to the second dam. Sure, this one doesn’t supply any major regions, but the truth is always harder to ignore closer to home.

I urge you to take a hike with family and friends to your nearest favourite waterfall or swimming hole and engage with these realities. They will 100% compel you to take action – maybe even in ingenious ways. Have you heard about 60-something-year-old Milly Meltzer who invented Loo Me? Don’t let it be said that South Africans aren’t entrepreneurial, even in the sh******st of times. A boer maak a plan.

For more visual presentation of the drought situation there are countless images and videos online, showing the state of primary dam levels that feed our water supply.

An overview of Streenbras, Theewaterskloof, Voelvlei and Berg River Dam:

Our dam levels | Birds Eye View | Steenbras | Teewaterskloof | Voelvlei | Berg River

A water surplus in the Groenland Water User’s Association will be made available to the city. Some 10 billion litres will be pumped into the Steenbras Dam. However it’s good to maintain perspective: the city of Cape Town’s current daily water allotment is 450 million litres. The quantity being supplied by the Groenland Water User’s Association is enough for 22 days water usage for all of Cape Town. And that’s in our current state of restricted 50L p/p water consumption, not willy-nilly usage. So, while some relief is great news, let’s no rest any laurels on this.

Sometimes I think, the ‘be careful what you wish for’ adage operates in devious ways. As a society, we have gone through a spate of seeking more intentional living. Did we wish for a drought? No. But we sure got a collective call to mindful living arms.

If you can recognize the problem at hand, and accept that blaming the mismanagement won’t get us out of the dwang now, you can get on with this business of making 50L work. Make it damn-well work. The alternative is an even bigger dwang.

Surviving the Water Crisis: Discover The Essential Products That Can Prevent Day Zero

Avoiding Day Zero in Cape Town*

Getting on board with the water crisis is no longer an option. It’s a must. Nobody wants to arrive at the prospective Day Zero and wish they had done more to avoid queuing for water. While there is still water coming out of our taps it is completely possible (and at this point essential) to live off the required 50 litres of allocated water per person per day. And believe it or not, you can do so quite comfortably.

In fact, while it might not facilitate a blissfully ignorant existence, it brings with it a powerful lesson in using resources wisely and just what we, as a collective, can get through when bringing a heightened sense of intentional living to our day-to-day actions.

Let’s do this thing and prevent Day Zero from becoming a dire reality. These are the essential products that will make the task that much easier.

 

TAP INTO THE TRUTH

DIY tip: Disconnect the S-bend pipe from your sinks and place a bucket below it. You’ll be shocked at how much water gathers from a simple task like brushing your teeth. That’s because the average tap flow rate is 15 litres of water per minute (essentially 1/3rd your daily allowance).

1. Ecoflow Adjustable Aerator

This one fitting allows you to change the flow rate to 2, 4 or 6 litres per minute saving you about 90% of water usage in that area.

2. Eco Swiss Aerator

The tap aerator that will save you up to 95% of the water you’d ordinarily use from a tap. The eco-spray technology gives a powerful water flow with a low volume rate, so you’re still able to wash your hands or clean dishes, while using far less water.

REALITY SINKS IN

Even with a container in the sink and water flow rate reducers, there are some tasks that don’t even require you to open those taps. Be a smart cookie with these products.

1. Nu Eco Hand Sanitiser

This eco hand sanitiser doesn’t need water and keeps your hands germ-free without any nasty toxins.

2. Amco Houseworks Odour Eliminating Rub Away Bar

Cutting onions or garlic? The stainless-steel bar neutralizes odour transferring molecules for a quick waterless hand cleanse.

NEW LOO LOGIC 

Got your hippie outhouse all rigged up? Not there yet, hey? These guys can help with water-wise flushing (which you should be using your shower grey water for to fill the cistern by now, if you have the kind of loo that allows for that).

1. Better Earth Toilet Tamer

Yellow, mellow and all that jazz, but phew – it can become a smelly business. Freshen up the natural way.

2. Dry Planet Flush Away

Fill some space in your cistern with this expanding baggie that won’t degrade the inside of the cistern and displaces about 1 l of water. 

SHOWER POWER

Say your goodbyes to long, drawn-out showers. I hate to say it, but I think even the ‘shower with a buddy’ fun times are over for a while (unless you can both fit into your water collecting bucket that is). The 50L daily water allotment allows for a 90 sec –2-minute shower depending on your taps and how well you do the switch-off-while-you-soap-up dance. Here’s how you do short showers successfully.

1. Boa Water Pebble

This nifty invention provides a good visual colour indication of what stage of your shower you’re in. The three stages: green, orange and red amount to a 4-minute shower, but depending on your shower head you can hop out at orange.

2. Ecoflow Showerhead Flow Rate Reducer

Shorter, sweeter showers are yours with this unique showerhead that makes use of 3 varying pressure flow-rates 2lt / 4lt / 6lt per minute

3. Pure Beginnings Wet Wipes Bulk Pack

Unless if you’ve done a seriously sweaty workout, you can probably get reasonably clean with a wet-wipe down. These aloe-infused wet wipes are biodegradable so they can go straight into your Bokashi or composter afterwards.

DRINK UP

Thirsty much? Us too. Bottled water may be the way of the Day Zero future (which makes plastic avoiders shudder), but if we stick to our allocations, we can still drink tap water once it’s been filtered.

1. Waterwise 4000 Countertop Distiller

If you take your distilled water seriously, the travel-friendly water distiller will decontaminate your drinking water and can do so from anywhere.

2. Stefani Flex Water Filter 6L

Will filtered water do? This countertop filtration system is lightweight, travel-friendly and BPA free.

3. Kuro-Bo Activated Charcoal

Prefer your own container? Then an activated charcoal stick – which lasts you 3 months, will certainly do the trick.

 

RAINWATER TANK ‘STANK’

Anyone else’s rainwater collection tank becoming a little smelly? If you’re not collecting any yet – get on that asap – and then prevent the odour with these clever inventions.

1. Water Conservation Systems Gutter Mesh

Keep the leaves and debris out of your rainwater to limit organic matter rotting in there with this clever and easy to install gutter mesh that only lets the water flow into your tank.

2. Earth Probiotic Drain Septic Tank Treatment

Your rainwater tank might not be septic, but these probiotics can certainly do their thing keeping the odours at bay and could assist in reducing a mozzie breeding ground.

 

DREAM MACHINES

One load of laundry every odd week is where it’s at on the bulk cleaning people. Don’t let that greywater go to waste. You can water the flower beds with it or collect it for toilet flushing.

1. Slightly Greenish Water Warrior

You can redirect your laundry load grey water with this nifty attachment so the garden doesn’t entirely wither away during the drought. It basically allows you to connect your hose to the outlet pipe. If you live in the Western or Eastern Cape you’ll need this PVC pipe reducing ring too.

 

A huge factor you’ll quickly realise is how integral fresh flowing water is to a sanitary existence. It cleans us, our dirty dishes, dirty laundry and flushes away waste of all kind. Now that things have become necessarily stagnant, make sure you’re also keeping things as hygienic as possible, by pouring some grey water down the sinks every now and then and using the water in your rainwater drums on the plants. And don’t forget your pets – keeping water bowls out the sun will help their daily allowance not to evaporate.

Lastly, let’s get some Clearwater Revival going. Hit play and turn up the volume. Perhaps if we all belt it out together the rain gods will hear our plea and send some showers our way. Either way, let’s band together in our any-and-all action around preventing Day  Zero.

*This article was written and published in February 2018 when Cape Town City had just implemented their Level 6 B Water Restrictions

Leather Up: How to be Fashionable and Still Wear Ethical Leather

Handbags, belts, boots, wallets, luggage – the leather industry has held the manufacturing monopoly on most of those lifestyle items for some time now. But as a global urgency towards environmental sustainability grows and an awareness toward eco-living becomes an ever-present fore-ground thought in most mindful consumers, the question of ‘which leather is best’ warrants some serious inquiry. Depending on where on the vegan, veggie or flexi fence you’re sitting, you may have various factors of importance to think of here. But coming from a purely environmental impact stance – here’s a look at the leather options out there, and which ones offer what it terms of wearing ethical so you can make clearer and lighter decisions.

Vegan Leather

The anti-animal leather movement exploded with a veritable buffet of vegan leather brands, all made from synthetic materials. That’s all good and well if not wearing leather that supports animal cruelty is your objective. But let’s clarify something quickly. Vegan doesn’t mean ‘naturalist’ or ‘eco-conscious’. Of course, you can be those things too if you are vegan, but as an adjective to leather ‘vegan’ simply means ‘not using or containing animal products’.  It is certainly not synonymous with sustainable.

Most vegan leathers or leatherettes are made from a polyurethane, a less toxic plastic than PVC, with a fabric backing. These fabric names are common players on the vegan leather scene:

Lorica – a synthetic microfiber often used in sports footwear – also a blend of polyurethane and polyester

Kydex – this is PVC based vegan leather – waterproof and scuff resistant

Environmental Pros

  • Requires far less energy to produce synthetic materials (it is said about 20 times less)
  • It’s still a relatively breathable fabric if made with PU (polyurethane)
  • You’re not contributing to animal cruelty

Environmental Cons

  • It’s still a synthetic material so it’s not ticking any natural boxes
  • Polyurethane, while far less toxic than PVC, still has its origins in fossil fuels
  • Not necessarily biodegradable, depending on which plastic blend is used (purely veg plastics might be)

Silver lining

Word on the street is that scientists are working on a vegetable polyurethane that’s made from plant oils, which will offer a far higher biodegradability component.

Animal Leather 

Once you start peering under the hood of this beast, you’ll realise it’s not a pretty picture.  In fact, it’s rather complex. Almost every ‘genuine’ leather lover will tell you that their boots are a by-product of the meat industry and therefor absconded from any real implications. But this is simply not true.

Environmental Cons

Leather supports the meat industry

Since leather, unlike meat, doesn’t actually require refrigeration, it ends up being the most profitable part of the beef industry, essentially subsidising the continuation of animal husbandry. Even on ostrich farms, about 80% of their profits come from brightly dyed ostrich leather products. So, it’s probably more accurate to consider animal leather a major co-player of the meat industry, contributing healthily to the billion-dollar annual leather industry.

Co-product = shared responsibility

As a co-product, you have to accept that leather carries at least half the burden of the 18% contribution towards greenhouses gases, deforestation for farming and crop growth and the depletion of water resources. And then there’s the tanning.

Toxic tanning

Leather tanning, a process that makes the leather durable so that it doesn’t decompose, is actually one of the most detrimental parts to the creation of leather items and is cited by Scientific America as one of the top 10 pollution issues in the world today. Most tanning involves a process using chrome which leeches carcinogenic chromium (VI) into the water table. Even the leather products that advertise their vegetable tanning origins don’t always get a squeaky clean bill of eco-health according to the BLC eco leather rating. Chromium tanning also poses a massive health risk, directly affecting 1.8 million people.

Bottom line is if you even give half a hoot about the environment, you can’t make like an ostrich and stick your head in the ground on this front for the sake of fashion.

Environmental pros of real leather?

Hmmm. Unless you’re buying items made from second-hand leather or from a game animal that perhaps died of natural causes, you’ll be hard-pressed to find any environmental merits to creating this ‘natural’ but not so nature-oriented fashion fabric.

But surely it’s biodegradable?

Much of the toxic process it goes through ensures it’s an enduring material. Animal hide garments are often found in archaeological digs and those date back thousands of years. I imagine the next evolution of earth species will be able to find hard evidence of our love of leather fashionable buried by our sides.

Best approach if youre a leather lover

Simply Bee Leather Polish
  • Look after your leather products with natural beeswax polishes if you do already own any. The kindest thing you can do to the environment is to make those products last and really serve a purpose.
  • If you’re going to buy animal leather products, check if it has the EcoSure mark. This means it’s manufacturers actually subject themselves to stringent testing for environmental impact. This brand, however, doesn’t mean it has no impact on the environment. Just that in terms of leather production it has as low an impact as possible.
  • Shop for upcycled leather items that have been made from post-consumer leather items (like bags that were once couches).
  • Buy second-hand leather items – vintage is also very fashionable (if that weighs in on your decision making)

Vegetable & alternative plant leather

Vegetable leathers are quickly becoming the solution to the fashion industry and consumer need for a durable, wearable and sustainable leather-like material. Veggie leathers can be made from anything plant-based. A company in Rotterdam called FRUITLEATHER is making leathers from fruit waste. Asian markets are experimenting with banana skin leathers. And by now you’ve probably heard of Piñatex ™ – the pineapple leather that’s bringing additional income to subsistence farmers in the Philippines? There’s also MuSkin, a suede-like leather made from mushrooms and yet other leather alternatives are even being produced from recycled rubbers. On the whole, it’s a sunny outlook when it comes to fashionable alternatives to animal leather.

A closer look at two other plant leathers

Cork

Items made from cork are made from a material harvested from cork trees.

  • One of the most sustainable materials available
  • Trees aren’t cut down in the harvesting, as it is the bark that produces cork
  • Highly durable material, so good substitute for bags and furniture
  • Has a unique look compared to vegan leathers

Check out some cork products

Paper

Yep, paper. Since paper originally comes from trees, this falls under a plant leather of sorts. Paper leather also goes through a tanning process but a non-toxic one at that.

  • If made from recycled paper, it climbs on the sustainability scale
  • Quite durable
  • Easy to clean (washes like fabric)
  • Paper products are biodegradable
  • Has quite a convincing leather-like look

Check out some paper leather products

Pros and Cons?

It’s hard to accurately consider the pros and cons for each of these as their processes are all still relatively new, so measuring true impact is tougher. Since each process is vastly different there are also so many other factors to consider. In time it might warrant another article, but for now, at least they’re providing beautiful and far more sustainable alternatives to animal leather.

But as with anything, if produced in excess, something else will have to give. Just because pineapple leather is a great alternative now, doesn’t mean it’s inconceivable that years from now, forests could be reduced for more slow-growing pineapples plantations, bananas or mushrooms for that matter. “Is your banana wallet organic and pesticide free?” Questions like this will, I’m sure, be raised in time as the leather tides change.

Once you know better

As I sit here writing this, I notice the aged, brown, plaited strap wrapped around the neck of my battered Klean Kanteen water bottle. It certainly looks like leather. That’s what everyone thinks the first time they see it. But it’s not. It’s actually a plant they called Tsonso in Mozambique near a village in Vilankulos. Our guide on the walking tour told us the villagers used to pull strips of bark off the Tsonso tree and, once dried, they could use it for pulling heavy objects through the unyielding sand.

I like this strip of ‘fake’ leather on my bottle. It was the first time I personally encountered a leather alternative and found myself astounded by how similar it looked. Now I keep it on my bottle to remind me that kinder alternatives almost always exist and to not simply accept things at face value.

At the end of the day, you can only do the best with what you know at the time. So if you’re getting as much information as you can and buying the most sustainable for what you can afford with your own moral compass as a guide, that’s all anyone can really ask for.

Is Being a Flexitarian Really Just a Cop-Out?

I did something recently I’m not very proud of. I cheated. On my chickpeas. With a giant bowl of saucy chicken livers. It was late, I was clearly craving it and I might even try to blame it on one too many beers.

This wasn’t my first relapse but it was okay. Because technically, I was a flexitarian. That’s a thing now right?

Growing up, my diet was like most German-South African hybrid children –  a bountiful spread of schnitzels, bratwurst, tjop and biltong. Both parents came from high meat-consuming nations so I can’t even hold it against my folks, and back then the gaping hole in the ozone and the reality that earth’s resources were, in fact, limited, weren’t exactly dinnertime conversation.

Somewhere in my early-twenties, it dawned on me, however, that the neatly cling-wrapped meat I was mindlessly consuming probably didn’t have such neat origins. I did some investigating, and, after witnessing the ghastly process of animal cruelty involved, I swore off all meat for all eternity. But it was a daily challenge for me because my entire family and friends still ate meat and, truthfully, I missed it. Would Christmas ever by the same again without a roast?

About three years later I experience my first relapse. We were at a casual farm-braai themed wedding, and I was embroiled in an emotionally draining relationship. Between steeling myself against our not-so-cushy reality amid all the ‘happily forever afters’ and resisting the juicy, 200g beef patties on offer that night, something inside my twigged. The next thing I knew, my choppers were sinking themselves into an obnoxiously large medium rare burger, dripping with juicy fat. I felt awful. Mainly because it tasted so goddamn delicious and it had, at least temporarily, released a pressure valve on one front.

But what was beginning to formulate below the surface, as my self-loathing yet insatiable relapse into meat tortured me for weeks after, was that, on an intrinsic level, I wasn’t clear about why I had chosen to be a vegetarian in the first place.

I had ricocheted into vegetarianism out of sheer revolt. My decision to not eat meat was born from an inability to process what I had seen on those meat industry documentaries, not from any principles I had established or even bothered to understand. In not confronting my abhorrent disgust I had also neatly avoided asking myself any hard questions and instead had simply taken refuge in the predefined camp that is ‘being a vegetarian’. Without really knowing why I was there, there was little holding my foundations in place.

My career in the online food content space gradually began to dictate my diet, where anything and everything that is trendy, smoked, infused and paired with beer and wine effortlessly steered me further and further from my tryst with vegetarianism. As long as what I was eating was good quality, free-range meat, I justified my new gourmet diet as something that didn’t contribute to the animal cruelty in those videos and left it at that.

But the bottom line was that eating meat just didn’t sit well with me anymore. My energy levels weren’t what they used to be on my lentils only lunch and all my jeans were beginning to feel like skinny jeans.

During a scout for trending food content one day, I stumbled upon Treehugger founder Graham Hill’s video on being a weekday vegetarian. So much of what he said resonated with me.

By this point, I understood I didn’t want my existence to have a detrimental impact on sustainability and that I too longed to feel light in my own body again, but there were so many aspects of being vegetarian that I still grappled with. My pants were held up by a leather belt for goodness’ sake. Did I now have to give that belt away to be an honest veggie? Still, as I tumbled these thoughts in my mind, I steadily lost all appeal for bacon, then beef, the other meat groups following suit one by one and somehow I slipped back into being a vegetarian. I was doing better than Graham at this rate.

That is until the night with the chicken livers. I had heard the term flexitarian tossed around in conversation and decided then that that should be my new culinary moniker.

Basically, this allowed me to follow a largely vegetarian diet, eating fish on occasion and very rarely, when the craving hit, allow myself a piece of good quality meat without the scold afterwards. It also allowed me to not be a rude guest when invited over for dinner and the lovely hostess had added chicken to the stir-fry because she didn’t know I was more “vegetarian” than not. Travelling became a whole lot easier too when I could try what the locals ate for a more authentic experience – nasi goreng in Bali, pho ga in Vietnam, ramen in Hong Kong or bitterballen in Amsterdam. Eating became less of an issue and more enjoyment again.

Yes, I go through phases where I feel like a hypocrite. But I also know that every day is a journey of making a concerted effort to kinder and still enjoy the overall picture of what living and experiencing our time on earth is about for me. In trying to unravel the nuances of what I believe, I’ve come to realise something about committing to predefined absolutes. You’re imposing a set of rules on yourself today that you’re expecting will be true for the version of who you are in weeks, months and years to come. Labels were a way of aligning myself with an idea of who I thought I should be because I didn’t yet fully understand who I was in my own skin. You may call it being a flexitarian. I prefer to call it living mindfully. What this whole human journey is about for me is rediscovering what staying in balance means, every day with each new set of challenges. And label or no label, that is possibly the most sustainable version of myself I can bring to the party, every day.

I’ll leave you with one of my favourite quotes by Cheryl Strayed that reads, “Our work, our job, the most important gig of all, is to make a place that belongs to us, a structure composed of our own moral code. Not the code that echoes imposed cultural values, but the one that tells us on a visceral level what to do.”

Some days that’s figuring out how to create a dish I once loved with plant-based alternatives. And other days, it’s eating the damn chicken livers because my body is asking for it. But one thing this way of intentional living most certainly is not – and that’s a cop-out.