Massive thanks to everyone who made it along to hear me speak at CreativeMornings last month, where I gave a talk based loosely on the theme of ‘curiosity’. It was such an honour to be asked by the organisers, Melin and Talia and I’m really grateful to everyone who made the effort to come and hear me speak about how curiosity has shaped my career in content marketing, my blog, and my interest in sustainability!
For those who have never heard for CreativeMornings, the concept is simple; breakfast and a short talk one Friday morning a month, in as many cities as possible. Every event is free of charge and open to anyone. Attendees gather in cities around the world (from Austin to Edinburgh) to enjoy fresh coffee, friendly people, and breakfast. Volunteer hosts organise each local chapter that not only celebrates each city’s creative talent, but also promotes an open space to connect with like-minded individuals.
The growing archive of past breakfast talks includes all sorts – from design legends to hometown heroes, and that’s because speakers are selected by each city’s volunteer organisers, based on a global theme. The event is sponsored by the likes of Mailchimp, Wix and WordPress, and my talk was hosted in Llaeth & Swgar, the gorgeous bar & cafe based on the top floor of Cardiff’s old library (which is a cracking venue, by the way)!
There should be a video of my talk coming soon, made by the talented team at local production agency, Storm & Shelter; I will embed it into this post when it’s ready (for context). Until the video is ready and in the spirit of embracing and encouraging curiosity, I promised I would pull a blog post together after my talk with link to some of the resources and articles that I have used over the years to find out about things like animal welfare, food labelling, greenwashing etc.
General Food Labelling
The issue of misleading food labelling really pisses me off – how can consumers make better choices about what they buy if the labels are intended to dupe them? I mentioned in my Creative Mornings talk that brands like to use words like ‘natural’ and ‘farm fresh’ to make their foods – particularly meat – seem more ethical, appealing and worth paying more for. Plenty of supermarkets come up with brand names for fictional farms to make their mass produced meat and veg sound more local and appealing.
Check out this story about packs of Lidl drumsticks being opened and emptied back on to the production line. The drumsticks then re-emerged at the end of the line, repackaged with Willow Farm ‘exclusively reared for Tesco’ labels and destined for Tesco’s shelves. When challenged, a spokesperson for Tesco said ““The Willow Farm brand is exclusive to Tesco and this is clearly marked on our packaging. The wording on our website unfortunately was incorrect and we have already removed it.” AKA: they tried to get away with saying it was something it wasn’t, and got caught out.
- To get away from misleading supermarket labelling: Avoid supermarkets where possible and shop at independent greengrocers or markets if you can. By shopping at a greengrocer, you’ll get away from all that plastic over-packaging too.
- Get to know where your food actually comes from. Use a local butcher who you can ask questions of and learn to trust (but remember, just buying from a butcher rather than a supermarket is not enough, you still need to ask about how and where the meat was raised – a great butcher should be able to tell you everything you need to know).
Meat Welfare Labels
There are some labels on the market which aren’t just marketing puff, they actually guarantee certain standards or conditions of animal welfare. But, even these can be misinterpreted by the consumer, or by other stakeholders (supermarkets, chefs, restaurants) who are trying to persuade you to part with your cash. For instance, the Red tractor label is sometimes used by restaurants as a sign of good animal welfare, when in fact, it is the worst label to look for if you are trying to ensure that the meat has been reared using humane practices.
- For a definitive meat-welfare labelling guide, visit: https://www.ciwf.org.uk/your-food/know-your-labels. Also, if you hear or see a restaurant or chef making false claims about it, call them out on it and set the record straight.
- To eat high welfare meat in Cardiff restaurants: Check out this guide I wrote back in 2017.
- To buy the highest welfare meat: Look for organic labels (Soil Association) in the supermarket as organic farms have the highest standards of welfare (as a rule of thumb). Organic farming also promotes biodiversity, benefitting the wider ecosystem.
- Look beyond labels: Get to know your local butchers and suppliers at the farmers market. Some farmers aren’t organic, but still take care of their animals extremely well and use sustainable practices without the routine use of hormones, antibiotics etc (e.g. Charcutier Ltd).
Eating Less Meat
The above two points apply for people who eat meat but want to try and do it in a more sustainable and humane way. But we all know that as a society, we should be eating far less meat overall. The WWF put it succinctly when they said “‘The world is consuming more animal protein than it needs, and this is having a devastating effect on wildlife.“ In fact, 60 per cent of global biodiversity loss is down to the food we eat – the biggest issue being the amount of land used to grow crops to feed to the animals we go on to eat. Incidentally, the impact is far greater from factory-farmed, mass market meat, than of meat produced from local, sustainable and organic farms.
If the thought of clearing a thousand-year-old rainforest for the sake of feeding a cow doesn’t put you off your takeaway cheeseburger, I don’t know what will.
- To eat less meat: Take a look at these helpful tips from Friends of the Earth, which include trying out meat alternatives like Quorn and Tofu, learning how to make the meat you eat last longer, and making cooking from scratch a routine part of your daily lifestyle.
- To find great veggie restaurants: Take a look at this alphabetised list of veggie restaurants in Cardiff which I compiled last year.
Single Use Coffee Cups
I mentioned in my talk that 2.5 billion single use coffee cups are sent to landfill by the UK every year. That stat was taken from this article in The Telegraph, which also revealed that many consumers believe they are recyclable when in fact, it is very difficult to do due to the coating on the inside of the cup to make it waterproof. Lots of Cardiff independents have started using biodegradable cups in response, but sadly, these can be complicated; the cups can still take up to 15 years to break down. What’s more, putting them in the green bags (as many people do) is not the right way to dispose of them (and ‘contaminates’ the bag), as these cups should go in the food waste bin in order for them to eventually biodegrade.
- To avoid creating a trash problem every time you fancy a latte: Carry a reusable mug (like these) with you wherever you can – lots of cafes will give you a discount for saving them the cost of the disposable cup / washing up, so it’s a win-win! If they don’t, lobby them to start. We’ve all got to chip in.
- The same goes for buying bottled water: Here in Wales we have lovely soft tap water that tastes great – there is no need to buy bottled water, other than convenience. The plastic may be recyclable, but producing that bottle and getting it to you uses a ton of unnecessary CO2. Buy a refillable bottle and take it everywhere.
In my Q&A at the end of the talk, I touched on the issue of food waste. This is a big problem because in a world where we have a rapidly rising population, limited land and resources, plus the threat of more extreme weather on the way thanks to climate change, we need to be making the very most of everything we grow and produce. Instead, we waste £13bn of food every year in the UK (at home), and farmers end up throwing 16% of their crops away before it even gets that far.
- To help UK farmers waste less veg: When crops are in season, there is often a glut of a specific fruit or veg, but supermarkets will not take what they can’t sell. Therefore, we need to be voting with our wallets and eating home-grown UK produce as and when it is grown – this calendar from the Veg Society can help you pick what to eat when.
- To waste less food at home: Check out Love Food Hate Waste for loads of recipe ideas, storage tips and life hacks to help you waste less food. For me, because I am out so much, minimising food waste comes down to batch cooking, using my freezer a lot, being creative with what I cook (read: making recipes up from what’s left in the fridge) and only doing a small fresh-food shop each week.
- To feel inspired: Check out these awesome Cardiff businesses tackling food waste, and grab a ticket to the ‘Wasteless Supper’ from Green City Events at the end of March. A host of Cardiff chefs will be cooking up an exciting three course menu using food that would otherwise have ended up in the bin (so that’s surplus veg, offcuts of meat, cheese at the end of its sell by date). I’m going to one of these supper clubs on Saturday night and will be writing it up for the blog, so keep your eyes peeled for that post, coming soon.
Thanks for stopping by to read this post – if you came to my talk and there was anything else you wanted to ask please leave me a comment and let me know and I’ll do my best to answer you. Similarly, if you have any ideas for topics you’d like me to cover in future, let me know! And if you like, what you’ve read here today, you can subscribe to this blog for future updates using the form below 🙂