Contactless Coffee: The Way Forward

A couple of weeks ago, I was pondering aloud as to why cafes and coffee shops weren’t giving customers the option of having their coffee (or any hot drink) prepared in a jug and poured into their reusable cup, without there being any contact from either party.

I love coffee as much as the next person but I experience a pang of guilt whenever I buy a coffee in a disposable cup. Pre-pandemic, I religiously brought a reusable cup around with me in an effort to mitigate plastic waste. Now, if I fancy a coffee and a treat whilst I’m out and about, I must carry the burden of knowing that I’m directly contributing to plastic waste.

The amount of disposable crockery and cutlery used must be at an all time high. While biodegradable options are used at most establishments, it does very little in terms of battling plastic waste.

However, as society reopens and as we attempt to return to some form of normality, the question of when the use of disposable plastics will become but a distant memory, remains unanswered.

Whilst over-thinking this issue (as ever), I stumbled across the Conscious Cup Campaign – a point of information for establishments looking to start accepting reusable cups and to return to using regular crockery and cutlery once again.

A notable quote on the website from the Food Safety Authority of Ireland states:

“It is not necessary to use disposable cups, cutlery or other disposable crockery. Washing crockery and cutlery in the dishwasher will kill any virus present. Proper hygiene practices must always be observed when handling crockery and cutlery.  Using disposable crockery and cutlery can lead to a false sense of security and can mean staff are not as conscious of hygiene practices when handling these items.”

In terms of making the use of reusable coffee cups ‘contactless’, the Conscious Cup Campaign have put together a very simple step-by-step guide:

  1. The customer brings their own clean reusable cup & holds onto their lid.
  2. When placing an order they advise they have their own reusable.
  3. Customer places cup on a pre-marked spot on a table/tray and steps back.
  4. Barista prepares the drink inside the cafe in a reusable cup or jug.
  5. If the order is coffee, the barista will keep the coffee shot and milk elements separate.
  6. Barista then pours the drink into the cup without any contact with the cup.
  7. Barista steps back and customer steps forward taking their coffee away to be enjoyed.

To compliment the guide, a very helpful video can be found here, while a map of cafes accepting reusable cups can be found at this link.

While protecting each other is incredibly important, it is just as important that we make every conscious effort to protect the environment.

Three-Cornered Garlic / Leeks

Three-cornered Garlic/Leeks growing

Three-cornered Garlic or Three-cornered Leeks, as they’re also referred to, are a Spring-flowering bulb with white flowers that grow in a bell-like shape. The plant is thought to have originally been introduced to Ireland around three-hundred years ago, with it since becoming naturalised in many counties. It is part of the Daffodil or Amaryllidaceae family. 

The stems are three-sided and grow to a height of approximately 30 cm. A thin green line runs along the center of each flower petal, while between 3-15 flowers grow in a drooping, one-sided umbel, similar to that of a Bluebell. The leaves are angled, with each flower possessing three.

These beautiful edible plants can be found through sight and scent, growing along roadsides, in hedges, banks and other areas that experience large amounts of shade.

The first time I discovered it growing was in a grassy location close to a beach in Co. Waterford but I’ve also seen it growing abundantly along roadsides. You will most likely smell it before you see it, if seeking it out. It has an incredibly pungent and alluring aroma.

Such a potent scent lead to the plant being given a reputation for keeping away vampires! It was hung over windows and doors in the past to keep evil spirits at bay. Anicent Egyptians who built the pyramids thought it more useful to consume the wild and edible plant as part of their diet.

In the late 19th century, Louis Pasteur made observations in relation to its antibacterial properties. Such observations led to its use as a natural measure for the prevention of gangarene during both World Wars. It is still used as a natural remedy for the common cold.

Three-cornered Garlic/Leeks can be used as an ingredient in an array of dishes. Blanching the leaves before use will make their scent and taste less potent when using as a salad ingredient or in pesto. I’ve used them as an ingredient in vegetarian tray bakes in place of regular garlic and onions but they are also beautiful when added to risottos and pasta dishes.

Every piece of the plant can be eaten, including the bulb, stem and the delicate flower.

They’re pretty, they taste wonderful and they’re not easily confused with other wild plants, making them a beginner forager’s delight.

Information taken from: www.wildflowersofireland.net

Exploring Nature for Wellbeing

Take a walk. Walk in the early morning, when there’s no one about, except you. Enjoy the sound of your footsteps, appreciating every step that you get to take and every moment that you are fortunate enough to experience on this earth.

Take a walk at night, when the buzz of the day is receding and allow a wave of peace to wash over you. Know that a new day awaits you tomorrow.

On your walk, take in your surroundings and appreciate the small details which you may have overlooked before. While these details may be small and previously insignificant, they can be incredibly impactful and thought-provoking.

During Winter, notice the snap of branches beneath your feet, the crunch of frozen grass. Feel the crisp air against your skin, the cold breeze making you feel alive.

During Autumn, become aware of vibrant leaves falling to the path laid out before you. Hues of brown, orange, yellow, red and green – all presenting their beauty to you, adding a pop of colour to your day.

While in Spring, notice the birdsong, the soft colouring of newly blossoming flowers as they prepare for their awakening – another wondrous opportunity to bloom – both for them and you.

Feel the warmth of the sun on your skin during Summer and allow it to fill you with happiness and gratitude. Allow it to warm your heart.

On your walk, know that you are a part of nature. You are the earth and the earth is you.

Ballyvooney Cove, Co.Waterford photographed by Loren O’Brien

Buying In-Season & Local Produce

Maybe it’s just me but I recall a time when I didn’t think twice about reaching for that shiny avocado at any time of year, tempting me with its rich green hue and the unspoken promise of its silky, luxurious texture.

However, since there has been a shift towards supporting local growers and producers, particularly in Ireland, naturally I’ve begun to think twice before reaching for fruit and vegetables which are readily available on supermarket shelves all year round.

Of course, our ability to grow practically every variety of fruit and vegetable at any time of year is a gift that our ancestors would no doubt have appreciated greatly. We want for nothing. I can go to my local supermarket or corner store and pick up a pineapple or a bunch of bananas which have been grown at the other side of the world and are available to me for a ludicrously cheap price, despite the sheer distance which they have travelled to reach my shopping bag.

However, such convenience and endless choice comes at another price. A price which was previously invisible but is now coming to light, as we begin to realise and understand our impact on the earth.

Questions such as why are we choosing to buy fruit and vegetables shipped from foreign lands, when we produce our own beautiful, in-season produce? Such produce does not need to travel far to reach our plates – it is a simple change to make.

Now, I am not suggesting that you completely stop buying exotic produce. I love a slice of watermelon and I am impartial to a side of guacamole. All I am asking is that you reduce your reliance on imported produce.

Local foods can be found at farmers markets (Tramore Farmers Market), in artisan food stores (Ardkeen Quality Food Stores in Waterford are a great retailer supporting local growers) and even on the shelves of large retailers. I found Irish, seasonal apples for sale in Tesco recently! A quick label check for the country of origin when buying packaged fruit and vegetables in supermarkets will inform you of where your food has come from.

In terms of cost, many people think that local food is expensive and unaffordable, compared to the low prices we pay in the likes of Lidl and Aldi. However, this is not the case. As the produce is seasonal and often organic, farmers need to move their product quickly when they harvest an entire crop and in order to do so, they sell them at affordable prices. You are also more likely to buy only what you need when you shop for local produce, as the number of choices isn’t overwhelmingly large, unlike in supermarkets. You are presented with what is in season which results in a simpler, more mindful shopping experience.

If you are ever in doubt about what is in season in Ireland, Bord Bia (The Irish Food Board) have all of the information you need and they provide a breakdown for each month.

Progress comes by taking small steps. Maybe in November you could swap those oranges for some Bramley apples or reach for a celeriac as opposed to an aubergine.

Take advantage of the seasons. Produce tastes even better when grown in season. Not only will you have a positive impact on the planet but your taste buds will scream with delight.

Amazon Rainforest Deforestation and the Beef Industry

Fire on a farm in the region of Novo Progresso, Pará, on 25 August.
Photograph: Lucas Landau/The Guardian

A Brief Introduction

60% of the Amazon rainforest lies within Brazil – at least it used to. This figure was once accurate, before the deforestation of the Amazon began to rise at an alarming rate, largely due to the growing interest in cattle ranching. Europe, North America, Central America, China and Russia are the biggest importers of Brazilian beef. This has resulted in a reliance on the importation of Brazilian beef, thus supporting and encouraging widespread deforestation throughout the Amazon Rainforest. These facts lead to an important question and one which needs to be addressed quickly if we are to repair the damage already done: Why are we supporting such unsustainable farming practices and the destruction of one of the most important ecosystems on earth? Read on to find out more and about how to make change as a consumer by voting with how you shop.

THE FACTS – CLEAR AND SIMPLE

Brazil is now the world’s largest exporter of beef. This is something that should warrant celebration. However, there is little to celebrate. The Amazon has lost approximately one-fifth of its forest in the past three decades, according to One Green Planet. As a result of cattle-ranching, trees are being cut down on an exponential scale. Beef farming is responsible for 70 per cent of Amazon deforestation. Such extensive farming is encouraged and supported by the government of Brazil. This support comes in the form of grants and loans worth billions of dollars – it is hardly a surprise that farmers and normal, working people accept these grants in a bid to secure a source of income to provide for their families.

It is clear that education, a reform of government in Brazil and investment in the development of sustainable industry, are required in order to prevent the destruction of the rainforest. The purchasing power of consumers also plays a vital role in protecting the Amazon – by choosing to purchase beef which has originated in your home country, you are making a stand against the unsustainable beef farming methods used in Brazil.

Bolsonaro, Brazil’s president, has rejected the fact that the Amazon is burning (a method used to clear the rainforest for cattle ranching). He is intent on claiming that it is a lie. However, a four-month ban on setting fires in the Amazon was announced by the government of Brazil (quite a contradiction of their previous statement), after the country was put under pressure to protect the rainforest.

Such a ban has proved to be a futile effort in protecting the Amazon, after satellite imagery captured in August 2020 showed more than 7,600 fires in Amazones (one of the nine states which forms the Brazilian Amazon).According to an article by Lucus Landao and Tom Philips published by the Guardian, more than 29,307 fires were recorded across the entire Amazon region in August.

A very pessimistic read, I know. But this is a crucial topic which needs to be discussed. If there is to be a world for future generations to live in, issues such as this must be addressed and acted upon now. The rainforests are vital for carbon dioxide absorption. Less trees = higher levels of CO2 in the atmosphere and a subsequent rise in temperature, ultimately leading to an uninhabitable earth. Not to mention the beautiful species, such as orangutans which we are losing along with the earth’s precious rainforests.

However, consumers have more power than they think. Make a stand with your money. You have purchasing power and you must use it. Buy locally produced beef where possible. If you’re on a budget – reduce your beef consumption or opt for vegetarian alternatives which are very affordable and widely available. Educate yourself on where your meat comes from. In the EU, we are lucky enough to have a great food traceability system in place. You are able to trace the origin of your meat from farm to fork. Do not hesitate in asking your local butcher where your beef has come from. Check the packaging in your local supermarket. Statements such as ‘packaged in Ireland’ probably means that the meat has been imported and has only been packaged in Ireland. If you’re from Ireland, buy Bord Bia quality approved beef where you can – you’ll know it’s Irish beef.

Action is needed immediately in order to save the earth’s rainforests. But change can be made through small steps, taken by ordinary people such as you and I. Educate others on this topic and encourage them to make a stand and fight for the rainforests and every species within them.

Photo by Stuart Jansen on Unsplash