After we got back from our trip to Normandy, we went to our local supermarket to stock up on fresh food, but that’s not the only fresh things we got.
Maybe we unconsciously wanted to keep being surrounded by plants like we were on holiday…
We bought fresh basil and parsley pots and a new flower plant that was reduced to clear to 29p as it was looking past its prime, (the previous week I had bought another orchid for 39p!) and a cyclamen.
Out window sill is now fuller than ever with pretty flowers!
During the journey back I also caught up reading a Stylist magazine issue from the end of July called “The Good Life?“. It was full of information on how to take steps to lead a healthier, more sustainable life.
Stylist is a free magazine distributed in London on Tuesday evenings/Wednesday mornings that is always full of well-written, interesting articles and I found this one particularly inspiring. It was about Stylist staff slowing down and staying in Launceston Farm in Dorset for a few days and I felt I could partly relate to their experiences, having just left our nature-filled break.
These Stylist editors, the junior writer and the photography director had some rules while staying at this farm:
- No mobile phones, smartphones or any other electronic equipment
- No internet or e-mail access
- No sat navs or GPS equipment
- No credit or debit cards, just simple cash
- Only eat food they could pick or kill themselves or source from an independent retailer within a 15-mile radius
- No contact whatsoever with their office
I think it sounded like a great challenge / experiment, especially for people who rely on constant updates and news via social media platforms, internet and e-mails as part of their jobs and lives.
I did something similar: -I didn’t use my phone on holiday except to briefly check my e-mails a few times to let my mum know we had got there safely and what we were up to, -we didn’t have a sat nav and ended up driving around maize crops in the pitch black a bit longer than planned; -I only used cash; -most of the vegan food I had was local, including organic vegetables from the neighbour and I didn’t have any contact with my office.
The “I’m a journalist…get me out of here!” article tells about how everyone got on with “no phones, laptop, TV or radio”.
It’s actually quite funny, as the author describes the panic they all felt when prompted to hand over their phones, knowing they wouldn’t be able to whizz them out at any moment to Tweet, post on Instagram, or check the news.
It goes on to describe how they sourced their food. They were all brought up to eat meat but none of them had ever shot a living creature. In the evening they had rabbit pie, as for the farmer rabbits are crop-ruining vermin.
Being away from all sorts of devices helped them sleep really well, they picked their own vegetables from a nearby farm, foraged for elderflower and told each other ghost stories after their made-from-scratch, locally sourced dinner.
One thing I notice a lot at my office is that people are always tired…no matter who it is, even after the weekend or a holiday people are generally tired! Could it really be linked to our super-stimulated world where we just can’t relax properly?
By the end of it all some realised they normally find it hard to relax in our tech-filled world, or that they spend their free time on the phone. Some enjoyed it but would have loved to document some of their experiences by posting photos and messages about them and others noticed they didn’t get their daily headaches.
The next article I enjoyed reading in this issue was “Where does your garden grow?”
It starts off by saying that after they spent a little while in the countryside it was really easy to feel like start growing their own vegetables, making lovely meals from scratch (I do too, even more after going to Normandy)…then it snaps to the reality that makes up many of the readers’ lives: we work long hours and things like these take a lot longer than grabbing convenient pre-packed food.
Convenience shop numbers in the UK confirm this, we’re never too far from somewhere that offers packaged, ready-to-eat products that take a few minutes to be ready in the microwave.
However, after issues such as the horsemeat scandal and news of processed meat being linked with early death earlier on this year, fortunately people are starting to be more careful with what they purchase and consume.
According to the article, more and more people are “flexitarians”, that is, people who mainly have a vegetarian diet but occasionally eat meat and fish.
The meat available for us to buy comes in glamorous, clean packaging making it easy for us to forget where it comes from. I agree with the author when she says that “if we are prepared to eat something, we should know how the animal has been killed to get it”.
She writes about going to an abattoir, describing something similar to what the French farmer explained to me last week as animals are checked, inspected and treated with respect, but adding that unfortunately other abattoirs operate cruelly, with a member of the team telling her we should get meat from a local butcher to know animals have been treated with such respect.
Another interesting point: what’s the cost of our demand to have fruit and vegetables all year-round, out of season? Have you noticed that asparagus, one of the most sensitive vegetables, are imported from Peru and only come from the U.K. in May-June?
Our quest for cheap food also means that we often bring down the economy of our own country (and not just for the U.K.). One of the well-known examples are of New Zealand lamb being a fraction of the price of British lamb, despite travelling so far to reach us.
If we bought higher welfare meat and dairy, we would support British farmers. Have a look at the Red Tractor Logo website to know more about the benefits that come with choosing products that bear it. It’s actually Red Tractor Week from 16th to 22nd September.
Finally, the article ends showing what we can do to directly make “a big difference to the environment, your health and your friendly local farmer”.
- Buy British lamb (better if from a local butcher or the farmers’ market)
- Cut down on your meat intake maybe start by not having meat a couple of days a week
- Buy fruit and vegetables in season
- Avoid chicken that just says “fresh” if it’s not organic of free-range it was factory farmed 😦
- Check the label carefully such as the Freedom Food label
- Buy British (or your own country’s) dairy
- Choose free-range eggs (or organic) “free-range eggs are actually healthier and less likely to harbour salmonella”
- Local Foods.org to know where to buy local food to where you are
- Meat Free Mondays to try having meat-free days during the week
- Cook Veg for recipe inspiration
- Riverford Award-winning organic veg boxes
- Soil Association healthy soil, healthy people, healthy planet
How do you think you’d feel with no electronic equipment for a few days?
What can we learn from the past to improve our future?
Which steps would you consider taking to lead a healthier and more sustainable life?