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.

Minimalism.

Maybe you don’t need to purchase the latest electronic device in order to feel fulfilled. Maybe you don’t need to buy the newest skincare product, promising to meet society’s expectations of beauty. Maybe you don’t need that latest fast fashion piece to give you a fleeting moment of happiness. Maybe you don’t need to live up to the expectations laid down for you not only by society but also by that little voice in your head that says you’re not enough. Maybe it’s okay to be happy with less. To want less. To live with less. To be happy with what and who you have.

Fulfillment will never come from material items. It will never come from spending. You might feel exhilarated when purchasing something new but that feeling rarely lasts. Perhaps this momentary high is filling a void that exists for another reason. Maybe that reason is anxiety, not being content with oneself, attempting to live a life in line with society’s ideals, unaddressed issues in ones personal life, not taking time out to do nice things for yourself – the list of possibilities goes on.

Be gentle and kind to yourself and most importantly, try to be content with simply being.

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.

Beetroot Brownie Love

I’m very enthusiastic about simple recipes that are quick and easy to prepare. If they contain something as nutrient dense as beetroot, it’s a bonus. Beetroots contain fibre, manganese, potassium, iron, and vitamins B9 and C. They can be incorporated into both sweet and savoury dishes. Some of my favourite ways to use them are by pickling them, adding to salads, blending in a smoothie and of course, casually using them to make a cake. They contribute a wonderful richness to brownies and they also add sweetness due to their natural sugar content. As a result, you can add less artifical and refined sugars to your brownies without compomising on flavour. My favourite beetroots to use are purchased from Ardkeen QFS and grown by Tom Cleary, a local Wexford vegetable producer. They are deliciously sweet and abundant in flavour, derivatives of being grown with love and care. I’ve attempted to do them justice through my beetroot brownie recipe. The recipe and method are as follows:

Let’s get this kitchen party started and turn up the beet!

Ingredients:

For the brownies:

  • 2 medium beetroots, cooked & peeled
  • 150 ml golden/agave syrup
  • 150 ml sunflower oil
  • 180 g plain flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 50 g cocoa powder

For the frosting:

  • 100 g dark chocolate
  • 100 ml boiling water
  • 100 g icing sugar
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder

Recipe (Makes around 9 brownies)

For the brownies:

  • Preheat the oven to 180C.
  • Line a square baking tin with baking parchment.
  • Cut the cooked and peeled beetroot into chunks and add to a blender/chopper with 150 ml syrup of your choice. Blend until smooth.
  • Pour the mixture into a bowl and stir in the oil. Sift in the dry ingredients (plain flour, baking powder, cocoa powder) and mix until combined. The mixture should be a dropping consistency (add more oil if required), which will result in a more dense, fudgey brownie. You can add more flour if you prefer a brownie with a more cakey consistency.
  • Add the mixture to the prepared baking tin and spread out evenly for a consistent bake.
  • Cook for around 18-20 minutes. The brownie will continue to cook as you remove it from the oven and leave it to cool. Once I remove the pan from the oven, I normally pick up the brownie using the baking parchment and place it on a wire rack to cool, leaving it in the parchment until you have cooled, frosted and sliced it.

For the frosting:

  • Add 100 g dark chocolate and 100 ml boiling water to a pyrex jug or bowl and mix until melted.
  • Sift in 100 g of icing sugar and 2 tbsp cocoa powder.
  • Either whisk in by hand or by using a mixer (with a whisk or paddle attachment) and mix until the frosting has a whipped, velvety consistency. You can alter the consistency of the frosting by either adding more hot water (for a softer frosting) or by adding more icing sugar (for a thicker frosting).
  • Spread the cooled brownies with the frosting and dust with icing sugar, if desired.

These are wonderful served with vegan cream or yoghurt and some berries. Beetroot bliss.

The goods.

Homemade Dry Shampoo

Hi All,

Beauty related post incoming!

I am definitely impartial to buying an array of hair care and beauty products. However, after realising just how much dry shampoo I was getting through each week, I decided to make a small change which would significantly reduce the amount of packaging waste I was creating. Not only that, but I would also be using a natural hair product which would be of benefit to both myself and the environment.

This eco-friendly, natural dry shampoo can be made using a mixture of 3 parts cornflour to 1 part cocoa powder. It’s incredibly effective, cheap and sustainable. I apply mine to dark coloured hair at the root, with an old make-up brush. For light coloured hair, just cornflour by itself works a treat. I store mine in a glass jar that I’ve reused, with a bow (because it’s cute). I also have a very small jar that I fill with the dry shampoo to take with me whenever I’m travelling. I generally make a large jar once every 2-3 months. This is definitely a positive change, as I used to get through at least one tin of dry shampoo per week. Plus, smelling like cocoa powder is a dream!

Please see cute jar attached. 🙂

Much love,

Loren x

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