14 March 2018

The Plastic Audit

Milk From Horrington Milk Hut, just one off the changes we are making to reduce our plastic usage.

We are a humble coffee and health food shop in a little town in Somerset called Shepton Mallet, people live here, people pass through here and people visit here. The footfall in our little town is low, with Mendip District Council refocusing the centre of town up by the retail park. The retail park is crammed full with well known brand names, whereas the high street still retains a certain innocence, there is still a bakery, some really good places to hang out for coffee and some cool vintage shops. The high street is worth a visit for it's quirkiness and character. It is a very different shopping experience and I would say it is a cheap place to shop, cheap and friendly. We also have a little market on a Friday, with fruit, vegetables, bread, meat and other local traders and we have a much bigger Sunday Market on every 3rd Sunday of the month, this is when the town really comes alive and all those people that were so busy working on the other days of the week are able to come and enjoy spending their money in their local community. It's so special that people even make the effort to visit from further afield.

So, that's a bit of a background to the location of our shop, just an independent shop on a very independent high street, driven by the passions and obsessions of the owners and what has captured my imagination is the challenge to reduce our reliance on plastic and to reduce the amount of it that we send out into the world as post-consumer plastic.

When we first opened 9 years ago, originally in Enfield on a train station platform, one of our main aims was running a sustainable business and we have stuck to that ethos and we hardly produce any waste. Gardners love to take our coffee grounds, we recycle or reuse our cardboard boxes, we make sure that we recycle our bottles, compost our food waste and so on, it takes weeks to produce a bin liner of rubbish but wouldn't it be great if there was no bin liner of rubbish and wouldn't it be great if the world saw everything as resources rather than rubbish?

Reducing Plastic in our Business and Post-Consumer waste

I have been going through the items that we sell and working on reducing our plastic and day by day making little changes. It is a matter of slowly transferring and changing but some things have been cut with no transition. So here is a list of the things we have done so far recently to try to reduce plastic usage in our business, or to reduce the amount of plastic that is released into the world post-consumer.

Washing up liquid is available on tap for you to fill your own bottle with and reuse.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil is available on tap for you to refill your own bottle with.

Dr Bronner's Castile Soap Bars are in stock, they have up to 18 different uses from washing your hair to even, if you are brave enough, brushing your teeth.

We don't use plastic straws, we use stainless steel straws in people's smoothies and fruit juices.

Stainless Steel and Bamboo Straws are available to buy.

We sell Bamboo Reusable Coffee Cups, with a 20p discount off your hot drink when you use your own cup.

We recycle any of our paper cups that have been used and left with us and we will be using plant made cups in the future, if people still need take out cups and lids.

We recycle any tetra packs that we use and make sure we pass on information to our customers, where they can recycle theirs after use.

We have stopped buying in products that have the misleading arrow symbol on them that looks like you can recycle the packaging but actually you can't and it just means the company has paid a subsidy.

We have sourced local milk that is supplied in refillable glass bottles and are phasing out our milk in plastic bottles, if this goes well.

We are committed, in future, to buying items in bulk that we usually store on our shelves in small packets and refilling your jars and packets with them instead. We are transitioning at this time. Lentils and buckwheat flour are already available like this.

Herbs and spices are now available for you to fill your own jar for 50p (Unless it is a very expensive herb or spice, then the price will be higher), or you can use one of our jars and it will be 70p. If we haven't got what you want, we will order it in.

We used to buy flapjacks in wrapped in plastic, they are now made by us everyday. They are vegan, gluten free and have no sugar in apart from the dates and bananas used in the very simple recipe.

We have teabags that don't have plastic in BUT they still come presented with a plastic film around the cardboard carton. Yogi Tea have been brilliant and don't have plastic in their teabags or around them.

We sell Toilet Rolls in home compostable film, made with plants.

We have If You Care parchment baking paper, that can be used again and again and can be home composted.

Our take out bags for cakes and toasties are paper bags with a home compostable film window.

Our customers are expected to use their own bags, or use a box from us, if we have one to hand, for their shopping.

We will continue to buy in things to order, if you want them but we will contact the manufacturer to remind them to update or change their packaging, if it is made of plastic, especially non-recyclable plastic.

Future Aims to Reduce Plastic in Our Business and Post Consumer-Waste

We want to buy our coffee in sacks, not in plastic bags but I still want it to be fairly traded and organic.

We want more fresh fruit and vegetables for people to snack on spontaneously, instead of wrapped in plastic snacks. The fruit and vegetables must be sourced from local and independent wholesalers, so that we can make sure that more of your pound stays circulating in the local community.

We want to write to the companies where i think the products are good, it's just a shame about the packaging to ask them to change it.

We have written to St Paul's School to ask if they will be come a collector of old writing materials in our area.

We will take responsibility for the plastic that we still have in the shop and take it off for the customer and recycle it, or if not able to be recycled, send back to the manufacturer of the product with a note to ask them to change their packaging.

We will continue to reduce the amount of things we buy which use plastic, especially once use plastic.

We will continue to research the best way that old plastic can be used and look at the details of what we are doing through internet resources and information.

We will continue to be transparent in this subject and to share with our customers what we are doing and the blocks we are experiencing in making changes.

We will stop buying hand towels wrapped in plastic and will either use kitchen rolls in compostable film if we can find some,  or we will use old but clean rags for spillages and cleaning.

Instead of plastic sponges we will source loofah sponges for cleaning, from our supplier and we will also stock them in the shop.

We are looking to find a wholesaler for tiffin boxes, so that you can use them for take out food, not only from us but from other local outlets.

Turning Back the Plastic Tide

It is hard and it is challenging, to make these changes. When I look around me at the world we live in and I see the amount of plastic we are surrounded by in our everyday lives, I feel very sad and upset and I really don't know how we can make a difference, when even as I write this, there is a factory somewhere, churning out plastic things. I think the people that have seen the light and know that this just can't go on feel very passionately about this and we do have to do what we can as each individual do, to reverse the plastic tide! So, whether you take one step, or several steps, it is worth doing. We have to do it, this is the only way we can communicate to the decision makers, to the manufacturers, to the factory owners. Our little actions together, will make big changes. Sometimes it can feel hopeless and it can feel futile and it can feel very overwhelming, especially as a business owner to try to make those changes but in it's turn, it can also feel empowering.

I have been inspired by other people in my community to make bigger changes and more focused changes, so hopefully, we can keep inspiring each other and sharing ideas and good practices. I am not saying it is easy, it isn't and it can feel very challenging in a mental health kind of way, like an I'm turning into a crazy woman type of way and the worst thing is the guilt but we just have to keep thinking positively and thinking about what we can do and what we have done to make things better and that is why I have done a plastic audit in my business and my home.

Please let me know about the changes you have made and the solutions you have found to the plastic problem.

Thanks for reading. xx

12 March 2018

Natural Deodorant for Plastic Free Living!

Oh yes, this is just brilliant because it's cheap, there's no plastic involved and it's fun too! I love the way you can choose exactly how your homemade deodorant will smell and it is so effective at keeping you smelling fresh and clean. I use this stuff and it is great.

This is how to make your very own Natural Deodorant.

1/ Clean out a jar, one that is big enough to get your hand into and out of, as you will be spreading the deodorant on to your underarms, with your finger tips.

2/ Blend together the following in your jar:

1/3 cup of Coconut Oil (I use deodorised oil, as I really cannot stand the smell of coconut!)
1/4 cup of Arrowroot Powder
1 Tablespoon of Bicarbonate of Soda
5 drops of your chosen Essential Oil, good suggestions are Tea Tree Oil, Lavender, Grapefruit, Orange, Rosemary or Clove.

Yup, that's it! That is all you have to do. Mine lasts for ages and ages. So although the initial outlay on the ingredients might seem a lot, it really is a very economical and eco-friendly way to keep your armpits fresh!

Moreish Flapjacks

So, I am getting sick of all the plastic in our shop and day by day we are gradually cutting back on plastic, either products that are packed in plastic, or plastic straws, or shower gels in plastic bottles, or takeaway cups and so on.

We used to buy in some great flapjacks, gluten free, wheat free, vegan they ticked most of the food boxes but they were wrapped in plastic.

We sold the last one over the weekend, so it looks like if we want to sell flapjacks they'll have to be made from scratch. I made some and they taste amazing. They are very easy to make.

1/ Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
2/ Line a 9" x 9" square brownie tin with grease proof paper.
3/ Place the following ingredients into a blender:
1/2 a cup of just boiled water
1/2 a cup of pitted dates, leave to stand for about 5 minutes.
4/ Add a ripe banana and 1/2 a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda to the dates and water.
5/ Heat 4 tablespoons of coconut oil and pour into the blender.
6/ Blend it all together, I use the smoothie setting.
7/ When the mixture is properly blended, add 2 and a half cups of gluten free oats and stir in well by hand.
8/ Scrape the mixture from the blender and press it evenly into the prepared baking tin.
9/ Cook for around 20 minutes. 

17 October 2017

Spicy Apple Cake Vegan and Gluten Free

This cake recipe is Vegan and Gluten Free and has no oil, which means it's less calorific but lovely and moist and completely enjoyable. There's no refined sugar but there is raw cane sugar, which takes a bit longer for the body to process and so means the GI will be lower than if it was made with refined sugars. You do NOT have to avoid cake if you eat cakes like this but you still want to eat healthily, you can enjoy them on a calorie controlled diet and still lose weight, just as I have been doing.

This is the first time I have made this cake and it is still in the oven, while I write this and that's why I will have to update this blog with a picture later.

1/ Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

2/ Take a 9" x 9" square brownie tin, line with grease proof paper.

3/ Place the following ingredients into a blender:

1 x Cup of water

1 x Cup of Biona Apple Puree

1 x Cup and a 1/2 cups of Buckwheat Flour

1 x Cup of Raw Cane Sugar

1/4 teaspoon of salt

1/2 a teaspoon of Bicarbonate of Soda

1 x teaspoon of Doves Farm Gluten Free Baking Powder.

1 x teaspoon of Vanilla Extract

A pinch of ginger.

1/2 of the contents of a Classic Yogi Tea teabag.

4/ Blend it all together, I use the smoothie setting on my blender.

5/ Meanwhile, cut up two small apples into chunks, I like to leave the skins on..

6/ Then pour the whole mixture into the brownie tin and lovingly sprinkle the apple chunks randomly but evenly on top, then sprinkle some cinnamon and sugar over the top. 

7/ Cook for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, carefully cover the pan with foil and cook for another 10 minutes. 

Don't forget, you can buy all the ingredients you need in our shop, online and instore.

Enjoy but if you can't be bothered to make them yourself, just pay us a visit in Shepton Mallet and we will make them for you.

16 September 2017

Kefir and how to make it!

The year I go on a Vegan diet, one of our customers decides to go to Thailand and needs someone to pet sit her live kefir granules, which involves keeping metal away from them, keeping all the utensils for dealing with them extremely clean, I sterilise mine with the coffee machine frother and making sure you feed them and give them milk and also strain the milk off from them.

I was torn between whether to do it or not, I mean, you do have to keep feeding them milk! I decided to see it as a good deed to look after the cultures for someone and not to think it through any further, sometimes trying to make the right decision for the greater good does me head in, so I have to stop trying to work it out like a Rubik's cube puzzle and just solve the one colour instead of the whole thing.

The lady explained to me that she has found the kefir drink that she makes from the granules to be extremely good for your health. Since doing some research on the internet, I have found claims stating that it is full of probiotics and plenty of vitamins. I am not sure if scientific research is available to back up these health claims but seeing as funding would be needed and this is a cheap and easy way to maintain your health, I do not see who would be motivated to provide the funding, unless Dairy Farmers reckon it could be a good idea, due to milk's declining popularity with the rise of veganism and excellent alternatives to milk which taste amazing and are much less calorific. A hot chocolate made with almond milk in our shop for instance is only about 100 calories but with full fat milk it is around 200 calories.

If you want to try the perceived or real health benefits of Kefir for yourself, it is relatively easy to create your own fermented kefir drink, once you have got hold of some live kefir granules. The granules are far better than the powders that you can buy as once you have the live culture it creates many more probiotics and vitamins than the powder and if you look after it properly, the culture will just keep growing and going, whereas with the powders, the culture stops after a few times.

If you do want some fresh, live Kefir granules, you can get some from us and continue to make your own fermented, live yoghurt style drinks at home, with no need to keep purchasing granules again.

You will need the following items:

Wooden Spoon, Nylon Strainer, Kitchen Towels, Tea Cloths, Large Glass or plastic Jar that can hold two pints or more, Elastic Band and a plastic jug that you can keep the kefir drink in that fits in the fridge door, with a cover on.

It's best to have a jar with a plastic lid but if your lid is metal, just put a piece of kitchen towel between the jar and the lid, Kefir granules don't like metal! (I bought my items from our local hardware store Dredge and Male and I hope you choose to shop independent too).

How to create your own kefir:

1/ Place your jar of granules and milk in a warm place/body temperature is best. The milk is just feeding the granules until you are ready to start.

2/ Prepare your equipment, wipe down all surfaces, clean and rinse well all your equipment.

3/ Put the plastic strainer over your special storage jug for the kefir and gently pour the mixture from the jar containing the granules and milk into the seive.

4/ Use the wooden spoon to encourage the milk to drain through into the jug and give a little stir to encourage the liquid to drain through.

5/ When all you are left with in the sieve are granules that looked like well cooked cauliflower, then you know you have finished draining the granules.

6/ The liquid in the plastic jug is kefir and can be drunk as it is or perhaps made into a more palatable concoction, like a cherry smoothie, or something, that is up to you!

7/ The remaining granules in the sieve must then be put into the large jar.

8/ Now pour one and a half pints of WHOLE milk into the jar with the granules and stir with the wooden spoon.

9/ Then place a paper kitchen towel over the top of the jar and secure with an elastic band.

10/ Keep your kefir granules snug and in darkness by wrapping them in a couple of clean tea towels.

10/ Now place the jar wrapped in tea towels in a nice warm place. Around body temperature, remember! (Around 68 to 78 degrees)

11/ After about 24 hours or so, it will be time to drain off the kefir, especially if it has separated into whey at the bottom with liquid and lumps on top.

12/ When draining the kefir, do it as described from step 2 onwards.

Don't Forget:

The Kefir culture does not like metal, do not use metal spoons or sieves and do not allow metal lids to contact the kefir.

The warmer the temperature that you store the culture at, the more quickly it will ferment.

DON'T drink the granules, that will mean you haven't got your starter culture and you will have to get some more!

The culture will grow and you will then be able to share some with your family and friends, so that they too can make their own fermented milk drinks.

Please make sure that you send them the link for this blog, so they can follow these easy instructions.

20 July 2017

The Dark Side Anti Unicorn Smoothie! A Deep Dark Vegan Smoothie full of Goodness!

This smoothie comes out looking so deep and dark and is rich in goodness. There's only so many Unicorn Hot Chocolates a girl can cope with in one day, so I've created the complete antithesis to the Unicorn Food Trend, this is my backlash, in a splash! Sometimes, I just can't keep that rebellious streak down. 

So to feed the rebel in you and escape the sweet light pinks and prettiness of all things unicorn, sip on this!

Before I go and make one of these delicious creations for myself, here's the recipe so that you can make one too!

The Dark Side, Anti-Unicorn Smoothie

1/ Throw the following ingredients into a blender:

A handful of frozen cherries.
A handful of frozen banana
One and a half tablespoons of Spirulina
Half an avocado
One Tablespoon of Raw Cacao Powder
Half a tablespoon of Agave Sweetner
250ml of Almond Milk

2/ Whizz it altogether and you get a really dark, almost black smoothie that tastes AMAZING! 

Nutrition Facts
Servings 1.0
Amount Per Serving
calories 204
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 4 g6 %
Saturated Fat 0 g2 %
Monounsaturated Fat 0 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0 g
Trans Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 0 mg0 %
Sodium 386 mg16 %
Potassium 789 mg23 %
Total Carbohydrate 27 g9 %
Dietary Fiber 6 g24 %
Sugars 22 g
Protein 3 g7 %
Vitamin A35 %
Vitamin C16 %
Calcium65 %
Iron13 %
* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.

11 July 2017

Unicorn Vegan Natural Hot Chocolate Recipe!

I like natural food, natural healthy food, without food colouring. Food that you can see what it's made from, cakes that are easy to make, no icing, or marzipan, or layers of rainbows, or thick dollops of cream, I like my drinks the same, uncomplicated gorgeousness. I am completely against those hot chocolates that other people seem to love, those ones made with powder, topped with spray cream, sprinkled with sweets and stuff. Yuck! It all seems a bit too elaborate and a bit too over the top and it just looks very, very bad for you it seems tacky and unhealthy. So, when the Unicorn food fashion for rainbowed items came along, I thought I'd just hold my breath, continue making my black bean brownies and simple hot chocolates and wait for it to go away. I was pleased to see in one of the Sunday Times magazines their barometer pointed to the Unicorn trend going down! Yippee!

What happened then and why was I inspired to create my Vegan, Unicorn Hot Chocolate?

What happened was the weather! After several sunny days, we woke up to a dull overcast day, with rain on and off through the day. One of the first things that I thought this morning was, 'This is a hot chocolate kind of day'. I am still continuing my plant based diet, since Veganuary and this hot chocolate had to be Vegan, mostly healthy and taste deliciously comforting and it had to be sparkly too. First of all, I created a spirulina based hot chocolate with cashew nut butter and although I enjoyed it and so did my children and even Miranda, of Ido-Vintage, a very cute Vintage shop down the road from us, had one and thought it was delicious and I have to say she was instrumental in inspiring me to experiment with colourful Unicorn stuff in the first place! Today, however some new ingredients came in from a new supplier and now instead of using spirulina to create a mint green colour, I'm using beetroot powder to create the deeply pink topping and edible flowers! So, if you want to make one of these as a treat for yourself at home, here's how you do it!

Mini Unicorn Vegan Hot Chocolate

1/ Into a small cup place the following:

1 teaspoon of melted Cacao Butter
1 teaspoon of Agave Nectar

2/ Mix together well.

3/ Warm and froth up around 100ml of almond milk.

4/ Pour the almond milk into the mug and make sure it is foamy on top.

5/ Top with a little Beetroot Powder and  Golden Chocolate Powder.

6/ Of course, if you want to you can treat yourself to some vegan sprinkles and really go to town but I would prefer to sprinkle some edible flowers on top.

Take lots of pictures and post them everywhere.

Then sit back and enjoy.

Oh and I have to tell you, that my two boys loved this hot chocolate! Absolutely loved it and so do I, which is a first in a long time, for us all to enjoy the same thing! I might not have mentioned that the deep pink stuff on top is beetroot powder!

Nutrition Facts
Servings 1.0
Amount Per Serving
calories 141
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 7 g11 %
Saturated Fat 3 g14 %
Monounsaturated Fat 2 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1 g
Trans Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 0 mg0 %
Sodium 136 mg6 %
Potassium 198 mg6 %
Total Carbohydrate 19 g6 %
Dietary Fiber 1 g5 %
Sugars 1 g
Protein 2 g3 %
Vitamin A0 %
Vitamin C0 %
Calcium26 %
Iron0 %
* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.