Sunday, 10 January 2016

My food battles. Act I.

Last Monday, I cycled to Maida Vale and ended up in Clifton Greens, an independent greengrocer located on Clifton Road. The selection of fruit, vegetables, fresh herbs, dried fruit and nuts you find there is absolutely incredible. I always feel like a kid in a candy shop whenever I step into into Clifton Greens. All the produce are beautifully arranged. It's a real pleasure to browse around the shop. 

Clifton Greens
I was all the more happy to have stopped there for some shopping that I managed to buy almost exclusively "naked" items - items sold without any packaging.  Thyme was the exception. It came wrapped in a plastic sleeve. It just made me more determined to grow my own. A few days later, I bought a small thyme plant. Growing my own herbs is one of my resolutions for the year ahead.

My vegetable shopping from Clifton Greens

Bulk Peruvian quinoa vs packaged British quinoa
On Wednesday, two days later, I managed to do some more plastic free shopping. Yeah, baby! I bought some nuts and grains in bulk from the Whole Foods Market in Richmond. However, on this particular food shopping trip, I was faced with a pretty tough food buying dilemma. Should I buy quinoa in bulk from South America or British grown quinoa wrapped in a non-recyclable plastic bag?

It didn't take too long to make my mind up. I went for Hodmedod's British grown quinoa on the basis that it doesn't make sense to ship a produce from the other side of the world if the same produce is grown at home.

Still, I felt frustrated. First, the packaging is clearly not recyclable. Second, this product is only available in one size. I'd rather buy a bigger bag if possible - in order to reduce the amount of packaging used overall. Third, as the majority of food brands out there, a lot of Hodmedod's products are sold in tins. I love their British vaal dhal but they don't sell in small Tetra Pak cartons. It's a shame because NOT buying cans is another one of my resolutions for 2016.

Why I kicked cans out of my life
It may sound a bit strange as a resolution. In fact, it's probably the one thing I am the more determined to stick to for health reasons. In the UK, cans are lined with bisphenol A (also known as BPA). BPA is a very nasty chemical responsible, among others, for breast cancers. It is also linked to a range of other conditions including obesity, heart disease, infertility, diabetes and recurrent miscarriages. In France, since last year, BPA is banned in food packaging.

So, unless I move back to France (which I am not planning to), how am I going to avoid buying tin food this year? One solution consists in buying dry beans, soaking them and cooking them. Let's be real. It's not going to happen very often. I'm not that organised. Another possibility to avoid tin food is to buy Tetra Pak cartons of chopped tomatoes, for example, instead of tins of chopped tomatoes. (You can find some in Sainsbury's and in some Tesco shops.) Cartons don't contain BPA.

The very annoying thing is that there are very few brands which sell their products in cartons. So I've decided to start a list of the brands that do and write to all the brands I except to sell their products in Tetra pak packages. My first email will be for Hodmedod's. And this is just the beginning.

Living a zero waste life is not just a way to collect pretty glass jars. It's a way to protect both the planet and my own health. It also implies lobbying industrials to force them to take our health into consideration. Don't expect them to do this off their own initiative.

Check out the Breast Cancer UK website. It has a whole section dedicated to easy steps to reduce risks linked to chemicals. 

Do you make your own cleaning products or beauty products? Let me know. I am always curious to know what other people are doing to reduce their exposure to toxic products.