Monthly Archives: March 2017

HOMEMADE HUMMUS (and a little spiel on food cans)

I am somewhat addicted to hummus. It’s great as a starter or party finger food with carrot, cucumber and celery sticks. I love it on toast with sliced tomatoes, a dribble of olive oil, salt and pepper. A perfect light lunch!

Homemade hummus tastes slightly different from shop-bought hummus in little plastic pots. To avoid single-use plastic packaging for the recipe below, your best option would be to source unpackaged dried chickpeas. Since this is difficult for the majority of us in the UK, the recipe is made with off-the-shelf chickpeas in cans. Nearly all food and drink cans are lined with a plastic coating but I cannot be certain that all chickpea cans are. Food cans in the UK are made from steel or aluminium from over 50% recycled material and are fully recyclable. The majority are lined with epoxy resins to prevent acidic food like tomatoes from reacting with the metal. A building block of epoxy resin is Bisphenol A (BPA) which is a controversial ingredient in plastic products. If we bear in mind the environmental impact of industrial packaging of any kind, unpackaged dried chickpeas would be the best option for the environment and well worth sourcing if you use them as regularly as I do. I am fortunate that I am able to buy unpackaged chickpeas, spices and olive oil.

I make hummus in a food processor and keep it in the fridge for a few days. You could choose all organic ingredients. Tahini (sesame seed paste in glass jars) is optional but really helps with that authentic hummus taste. I recommend using Tahini ‘light’ which is less intense.

  • 400g canned chickpeas, reserve a few for decoration
  • 6-8 tbsp of the water or brine from the can
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 2 tbsp tahini (optional)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika

Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and blend to a creamy purée. Add more lemon juice, garlic, cumin or salt to taste. Drizzle with olive oil, scatter with the reserved chickpeas and sprinkle with paprika. Enjoy!

An here is another very delicious hummus recipe: http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/hummus_80249

Further reading:

How cans are made in the UK today:
http://www.cannedfood.co.uk/how-cans-are-made-today/

About Bisphenol A:
http://www.bisphenol-a.org/human/epoxycan.html

Why does my tin can have a plastic liner and is it bad for me?
http://plasticisrubbish.com/2010/10/08/why-does-my-tin-can-have-a-plastic-liner-and-it-it-bad-for-me/

Unpackaged food:
Whole Food Market UK
Harvest Natual Food, Bath and Bristol
Totnes Zero Waste shop
Farmers markets, Asian food markets, healthfood shops

Packed lunch with homemade hummus and homegrown sprouts

PET FOOD – PLASTIC FREE

There is a shop in Stroud that sells pet food straight from sacks and boxes. The shop owners are happy for you to bring your own boxes or paper bags and scoop and weigh at the shop. I don’t have a pet, but that strikes me as a brilliant plastic-packaging-free idea. There are also a multitude of pet treats and biscuits as well as pet bedding. And, because it is Stroud, there is of course a lovely man in one corner of the shop, happily spinning wool at an old-fashioned spinning wheel…

Cornhill Pets and Country Crafts, 7 Threadneedle Street, Stroud 01453 757322

FOOD & DRINK CARTONS ARE 20% PLASTIC

Food and drink cartons look and feel like they are made from cardboard but the 184 billion single use cartons produced annually by market leading giant Tetra Pak contain 20% polyethylene and 5% aluminium. In addition, there are the billions of plastic ‘closures’ (lids to you and I).

Before saying anything else, let me tell you that a mere 23% of those 184 billion cartons are recycled worldwide according to the Tetra Pak website. That means that the other 138 billion cartons are simply wasted, burned, dug into the earth, or worse. Tetra Pak’s overall objective is to double the rate of recycling to 40% by 2020, still leaving a whopping 60% going to waste. Whatever else Tetra Pak claim about the goodness of their products, I think their commitment to sustainability is compromised by these facts and figures.

Tetra Pak asserts that their products are “GOOD FOR YOU, GOOD FOR THE EARTH”. Their ambition is to develop a package made entirely out of material from renewable sources, including polymers derived from sugarcane ethanol. But for now, most of their purchased volumes of polymers are still derived from conventional oil and gas sources. And, whilst the cartons are in theory fully recyclable, Tetra Paks cannot be made with recycled material. If you take the term recycling to mean “recycling of a material to produce a fresh supply of the same material” (Wikipedia), Tetra Paks do not qualify.

I am not a fan of recycling. A better way to protect our natural resources and avoid pollution is to produce less packaging and to curb our consumption. Recycling just means that the disposal of packaging becomes someone else’s problem. Of the miserly estimated 30% of consumer packaging that is actually placed into recycling in the UK, over 67% is exported to other countries, much of it to Asia.

Screenshot from the Tetra Pak website: http://www.tetrapak.com/

Tetra Pak says: “food processing with Tetra Pak is all about helping customers turn their bright ideas into exciting new food products”. Their customers are the global food and drink companies who want to grow their market share. I question why we need these brightly coloured and highly processed products in the first place. What’s in it for us?

The alternative is local, seasonal food and drink, milk delivered in bottles, water from your tap and things made freshly at home or preserved in the old fashioned way. With these simple maxims you don’t need a long shelf life, easy transport across the globe or recycling technologies.

Sources and further information

Tetra Pak recycling data:
http://www.tetrapak.com/in/sustainability/recycling

Tetra Pak facts and figures:
http://www.tetrapak.com/in/about/facts-figures

The Guardian: Only a third of UK consumer plastic packaging is recycled:
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/nov/21/only-a-third-of-uk-consumer-plastic-packaging-is-recycled

The Guardian: 67%+ of UK plastic packaging waste exported in 2016:
http://energydesk.greenpeace.org/2017/03/13/data-uk-exporting-two-thirds-plastic-waste-amidst-concerns-illegal-practice/

UK Environment Agency’s packaging waste report:
http://npwd.environment-agency.gov.uk/Public/PublicSummaryData.aspx

Treehugger blog on Tetra Paks (from 2009):
http://www.treehugger.com/corporate-responsibility/in-what-world-can-you-call-tetra-pak-green.html

OLIVE OIL REFILLS

Until I started looking for alternatives to groceries packaged in plastic, I didn’t even know that there are places where you can get oil ‘on tap’ in the UK. In the town where I live, there are two such places alone. I just take along my own 1 litre bottle and refill it. As with many other grocery items, bulk buying and refilling seems much easier in the States where regulations are different and homesteading and bulk bin shops are more common.

Perhaps you think this is not a big deal since most cooking oils are sold in glass bottles anyway. But if you are going zero-plastic, you have to consider the little plastic pouring device inside the bottle and the tamper-proof plastic seal on the outside of most bottles of oil and vinegar – I’ll wager that none of that is recycled far and wide. So, if you’re going for the Nobel prize in sustainability, you’ll have to find where your nearest oil refill station is and take your own bottle. I love it because one of the sellers in my town produces the oil at their own farm in Spain which makes me cherish it even more.

TWO EXCELLENT NEW SHORT DOCUMENTARIES

‘A Plastic Tide’, Sky News Ocean Rescue, January 2017

If you are going to watch a documentary this weekend, make it this one!  Sky News Ocean Rescue have produced an excellent 45 minute special report, first aired on TV in January 2017, with the latest research from the UK and abroad. Intelligent, accessible and to the point – be prepared to feel crushed, moved and called to action all at the same time. It also makes you realise that there are a lot of amazing and inspiring people out there. If you have kids, do watch it together. Read more about Sky News Ocean Rescue here.


‘The Smog of the Sea’ by Jack Johnson

The Smog of the Sea chronicles a 1-week journey through the remote waters of the Sargasso Sea in search of the infamous “garbage patches” in the ocean’s gyres. it is beautifully shot and accompanied by Jack Johnson’s lovely music. Marine scientist Marcus Eriksen invited onboard an unusual crew to help him study the sea: renowned surfers Keith & Dan Malloy, musician Jack Johnson, spearfisher woman Kimi Werner, and bodysurfer Mark Cunningham become citizen scientists on a mission to assess the fate of plastics in the world’s oceans. A mesmerising and very interesting 30 minute documentary.