Woman cooking in the kitchen

War on Waste: Alfalfa House meets Caroline Brakewell

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

Our Monthly Challenge: Be The Change

There is always more to do as the War on Waste continues.. in our homes, our neighbourhood and our community. The sharing of ideas, identifying and problem solving what’s within our reach, is a great place to start. Find a local campaign and help out. Involve our children, our neighbours, our local business owners and workplaces and begin by asking the simple question, “What can I do to contribute to the War on Waste?”

We spoke to volunteer and Alfalfa House member, Caroline Brakewell to find out how she’s contributing.

Let’s Get To Know…

Woman holding two bunches of carrots at a market

Name: Caroline Brakewell
Everyone knows her as: C
Star sign: Libra. Unbalanced!
What makes you happy? My toddler. World peace.
What do you do for work? Health coach, chef, mamma and Marketing Director at Alfalfa House.
What do you do for fun? Travel. Dip in the ocean and nature. Hang with friends.

How long have you been a member? Around a year

What made you join Alfalfa House?
I was introduced by a friend who’s been a member for years. I love the philosophy of not for profit and waste reduction. Plus the great discount on food from some of Australia’s best suppliers and knowing I’m supporting them.

What’s the main products you buy at Alfalfa?
Everything. I’m addicted to the chocolate coated macadamia nuts and turmeric paste. Knowing I’m feeding my daughter pesticide-free produce is a big pull for me.

What was the catalyst to you becoming an eco warrior?
I’ve been pretty conscious since my 20s but I think stats like plastic particles taking over the number of fish in the ocean was too alarming to ignore, so I tightened up much more.

Name 3 things you recycle?
Hard plastic, cardboard & clothing

Name 2 things you reuse?
Glass and old containers for shopping at farmers’ markets and at Alfalfa House.

Name 1 item you have repurposed?
Clothes. I very rarely buy new ones and give away mine to my Goddaughter in Scotland.

Was it hard to start?
It’s been a gradual process that started many years ago when I was living in London and I’d refuse to use plastic bags. I educated myself and made more changes where I could.

Any tips on organisation skills to reuse or recycle?
Have my bags, jars and containers packed and ready every time I leave home. Use the carriage on my pram to store shopping in.

What is that one piece of waste that irks you?
Plastic wrapped fruit in supermarkets. Supermarkets full stop.

Who in your circle do you admire their war on waste? And why?
All of the speakers and presentations at our recent open day. All doing their bit whilst educating others to create a ripple effect in our communities.

What’s your favourite War on Waste campaign that you’ve heard of?
I think the Alfalfa House Zero Waste philosophy, which has been around since 1981 is in perfect alignment with the War on Waste campaign.

What is your one piece of advice for someone who is thinking about becoming an eco-warrior but doesn’t know where to start?
Start somewhere. Refuse plastic bags. Encourage your family to do the same. Look at what you can reuse. Ask if you really need that new dress when you can buy second hand.


Going zero waste

Ruby Pandolfi is an arts and law student at UNSW and has been volunteering at Alfalfa House for a year. She’s also the volunteer coordinator at AYCC – Australian Youth Climate Coalition. Here she tells us about her journey to go zero waste.
If you are interested in zero waste and want to learn how you can do it, come you our open day on May 26.

In Australia alone, one million take away cups end up in landfill every minute. Right now, there are around 46,000 pieces of plastic in every square mile of ocean, and each year enough plastic is thrown away by us humans to circle the earth four times.

I’ve always thought of myself as someone who really really cares about the environment. I cared about the big issues: solar energy and renewables over fossil fuels, global warming, sea level rise, deforestation, overfishing, species extinction… the list goes on! And don’t get me wrong, I still 100% do. But I never consciously thought about the significance of my own individual acts, and their connection to the health of our planet. I would bring my own shopping bags to Woolies, but wouldn’t hesitate to buy my brown rice pasta in plastic packaging, my apples packaged in packs of six, or all my fruit and veg in plastic bags.

Gradually, I started to realise how crazy it is that something we use for 10 minutes to eat our lunch with, like a plastic fork and knife, will last on the earth for hundreds and hundreds of years after we die. Single use and disposable plastics like bottles, cutlery, takeaway containers, bags, coffee cups, straws, milk cartons etc, have become so normal to us in our daily lives that it seemed almost impossible to me that we could ever find a way to live plastic free.

But, as I began learning more and more about how common plastic was in my own life, I started to become aware of the choices that I had the power to make, which could have a pretty significant impact on decreasing my environmental footprint. I shifted my mindset from thinking that my own individual actions couldn’t possibly make THAT big of an impact on our earth, to knowing that everything we do has some significance – and that’s how I discovered zero waste!

Living a ‘zero waste’ lifestyle basically means trying to limit the amount of waste we produce as consumers. This includes:

  • reducing food packaging
  • saying no to disposable plastics
  • composting old food scraps
  • making your own consumables, such bathroom products to limit product packaging
  • reusing reusing reusing

After discovering this amazing but slightly intimidating concept, I quickly found that living a zero waste lifestyle wasn’t as hard as I thought if its broken up into small, achievable steps.

I started to buy all my food like grains, nuts, seeds, pastas and beans in bulk at Alfalfa House and invested in a set of reusable produce bags. I stopped buying from Woolies and Coles and bought fruit and veg loose from markets and co-ops instead. I started composting all my food scraps. Gradually, I also began to make my own bathroom products like toothpaste (it’s surprisingly easy!). I stopped using takeaway containers and bought my own reusable cutlery with me when I went out to eat.

But I still have a long way to go, and I’m not perfect by any stretch of the imagination! I still haven’t found a way to buy frozen blueberries for making smoothies without plastic packaging, or any store that sells tofu in bulk. I’ve found that sometimes we do slip up – we find ourselves in a situation where we’ve forgotten our water bottle or our reusable cutlery, and that’s totally okay. What counts is being conscious and aware of our choices and making the right ones wherever possible.

Since going zero waste I’ve become more mindful; more mindful of what I buy, what I don’t buy, where I buy it, how I store things, etc. I really believe that if everyone was more conscious about their consumption of things like disposable plastics, it would change the way we consume. This small paradigm shift would end up having big impacts on rubbish in landfill, biodiversity killed by plastic pollution and the overall state of our environment.

And it’s definitely not easy either. It takes some thinking ahead and preparation. And a lot of people won’t understand what you’re doing or why. Someone remarked to me a couple of months ago that we should be focusing on the bigger things like lobbying for fossil fuel divestment and renewables instead of wasting our time on something that won’t make much of a difference. But we have to consider both approaches; when people dismiss little acts, I feel they are missing a big opportunity. This cemented my view that we can’t discount the small things; they all add up in the end whether we realise it or not.

Going zero waste allows me to live my values and my truth; it’s about being conscious and compassionate by taking responsibility for the health of our environment. And it’s something that everyone can do. It may seem daunting at first, but when you break it down into little steps, you realise that it really is super achievable.

 


Bliss-balls

Harmonise-me bliss balls

In addition to being an Alfalfa House volunteer, Clara Bitcon is a women’s health naturopath and natural fertility educator. Her natural medicine practice, Medi.atrix Women’s Wellness, provides insightful and empowering guidance for women who want to take back their health naturally (www.mediatrixwellness.com.au).

In this blog, Clara teaches us about the ingredients in bliss balls, and introduces us to her easy recipe.

 

Bliss balls are no new kid on the block, but I’d love to share with you my version. They’re a cinch to whip up, and you can make them in sizeable batches as they’ll keep for quite some time in the fridge (up to 6 weeks). They’re perfect for a quick snack, or if you feel like a treat but would rather not reach for the dessert or chocolate, these guys can very nicely satisfy the urge. Highly
recommended with a brew of green or tulsi tea.

Based on a simple recipe, these bliss balls are meant to be played around with it as much or as little as you like. I like to rotate the nut butter, powdered herbs and spices to make something unique each time. Some people like to add stimulating herbs like guarana, matcha or kola nut. I prefer to use nourishing and balancing herbs. This particular combination of cacao and maca are excellent nourishers of the hormone and stress systems. They are two plants that have a lot going on for them.

Cacao: Elevating & Calming
As the Aztecs say, cacao is a food of the gods (and I’d say the modern world would happily agree).Unlike the cocoa commonly used in chocolate, raw cacao powder is unroasted and unprocessed. Cacao is abundant in the muscle relaxing and mind-calming mineral magnesium. It also contains a range of compounds that have a blissy action on the mind and elevate our mood. If you’re feeling a bit blue or anxious, have a project that requires a lot of mental focus or experience PMS, these bliss balls will make a fine
companion.

Maca: Energy & Balance
Maca is a herb that comes from the Andes Mountains of Peru. It is a member of the cabbage family. Many plants in this family contain a group of compounds that assist the body to process environmental toxins and excess hormones. It has traditionally been eaten as an energy enhancing food. One legend tells how Inca warriors were fed Maca to increase their strength before going into battle. After a city was conquered, Maca was prohibited to protect women from the heightened sexual desires induced by its consumption. The amount in this recipe won’t be having quite this level of intensity, but will give you a nice energy lift.

Bliss balls ingredients

Makes about 10-12 bliss balls

  • 1 cup nut butter (almond, tahini, cashew, brazil, sunflower or hemp are all good – if you can’t find the butter, process the nuts and add 1/4 cup of hemp seed or flax oil)
  • 1/2 cup honey (local, raw & organic). If you are vegan, you can replace honey with maple syrup. You may need to add more powders to get the right consistency.
  • 2 tablespoons of raw cacao powder
  • 2 tablespoons of maca powder (organic)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of powdered cinnamon and/or cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (optional)
  • A couple of twists of sea, Celtic or Himalayan salt

Method

  • In a mixing bowl, combine the nut butter and honey and stir until smooth.
  • Add all the powders, spices and salt and mix.
  • The consistency should be thick enough to make into balls but not dry enough to feel crumbly. Play around with adding more powders or nut butter to get the consistency you need.
  • Roll into balls and roll in extra cacao powder or hemp seeds to cover. I like to store in a Tupperware contain and cover with extra cacao powder (you can use hemp seeds for this too). Keep in the fridge.
  • You can even throw a couple of these into a smoothie for a blissy herbal lift!

Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut: nourishing your inner-health

In addition to being an Alfalfa House volunteer, Clara Bitcon is a women’s health naturopath and natural fertility educator. Her natural medicine practice, Medi.atrix Women’s Wellness, provides insightful and empowering guidance for women who want to take back their health naturally (www.mediatrixwellness.com.au).

In this blog, Clara tells us about the wonders of sauerkraut, and treats us to a simple and tasty recipe.

 

Sauerkraut is ultimate gut supporting food.  It’s a member of what I like to call ‘elemental basics’: ancestral foods that have been largely lost to modern living yet offer so much to our health. It’s brimming with beneficial bacterial and the cabbage itself is rich in a gut supporting protein called glutamine. You can add healing herbs and spices to support your body in whatever way it is needing. It is food that nourishes our internal soil; our microbiome.

The recipe below will create enough for about two large jars of sauerkraut. You can make it in larger batches too. Making your own is easy and makes eating it daily so much more affordable.

 

Jar of sauerkraut

Materials

  • 1 large bowl or food grade bucket
  • 1 plate that snuggly fits the bowl/bucket
  • knife
  • pounding device (meat hammer, rolling pin, pestle etc.)

Ingredients

  • 1 head of cabbage, red or green, shredded
  • good quality salt, such as Celtic or river salt

Optional extras

  • For calming the digestion: caraway seeds or fennel seeds and grated ginger, dill or fennel tops
  • For firing up the appetite: umeboshi plum paste
  • Anti-inflammatory ingredients: grated ginger and turmeric

Directions

Part 1: Prep the Cabbage

Boil some water and fill the bowl you are going to use to ferment the sauerkraut. After a few minutes, pour out water.

Place a couple of handfuls of shredded cabbage into the bowl. For every cup of cabbage, add two teaspoons of salt.

Pound well with a wooden pounder/meat hammer/rolling pin (anything that will serve the purpose of pounding!). You want to pound enough so that you bruise all their cell membranes and release their juices.

Add the next round of shredded cabbage and salt and repeat pounding. Continue these steps until you have used all your cabbage. African drumming music recommended for this part!

Part 2: Tuck it Away to Ferment

With a spatula, wipe down all the sides of the bowl. Find a plate that fits over the top of the sauerkraut – this is important because you want to create a completely oxygen free environment. If there are gaps around the side, the sauerkraut will rot rather than ferment.

Push the plate down with force, so that the fluid released from the cabbage rises above the plate. This will create a perfect seal.

If not enough juices are rising, either pound a bit more and try again. Or pour some boiled water over the plate to create the seal.

Place a heavy weight on top of the plate. As it ferments, more juices release, and you’ll notice the fluid level rise. This is very good. Wrap in a tea towel and set aside.

Part 3: Patience

Check on your kraut every few days. Don’t be alarmed if mould is forming in the liquid; because the vegetables are sealed off, it won’t affect them. Pour off the liquid, wipe down the sides and refill with freshly boiled water.

After 8 – 10 days your kraut should be ready. If you live in a cold climate, it may take longer. If you’re in the tropics, it may be shorter.

Holding plate down, pour off the liquid and have a taste, if it is not sour enough for you give it a couple more days.

Part 4: Bottle Up

When ready, spoon the sauerkraut into sterilised jars and cap. You can store these in the pantry for up to a year, but once you have opened them store in the fridge.

How to eat sauerkraut?

Traditionally sauerkraut was added as a side to most meals, especially if it contains meat. I like it on toasted sourdough, avocado and cracked pepper, in buddah bowls, on jacket baked potatoes or as a garnish to any Asian inspired dish. It’s versatile, so sneak it in in unexpected places.

 

Facebook: www.facebook.com/clarabitconnaturopathy
Instagram: www.instagram.com/mediatrixwellness


Vegan mayonnaise

Vegan mayonnaise and me

Steve Sobolewski is a data analyst by day, and a writer and food fanatic by night. He’s also a regular contributor to our blog where he’s chronicling for us his journey into the world of sustainable food. In his second blog post, Steve talks about his food philosophy.

This week I’m going to be talking about an obsession of mine – food. Of course food is an obsession for a lot of us, just look at the variety of restaurants in Newtown and you will see we are a community that loves to eat. The exciting thing about Newtown is how many places cater to vegetarians, vegans, conscientious meat-eaters and everything in between.

My personal philosophy on food has changed quite significantly in the past 5 or 6 years. I grew up in a family that loves eating, whether it was my mother’s home cooked meals, a Friday night takeaway or going out to a restaurant. My sister and I were unusual children, quite happy to sit quietly and calmly in a restaurant, presumably because we wanted to keep being taken out!

But we never spoke about where our food came from and how it was produced. I saw my mother purchasing prepackaged items from the supermarket: meat came in little polystyrene trays covered in cling film, salad came in sealed bags, vegetables were pre-prepared and packaged, cereal boxes covered with the beaming faces of the Rice Bubbles’ elves and Tony the Tiger. All of it went in the trolley. This was normal. This was how we fed ourselves with meat and two vegetables on a daily basis. The supermarket was a filter, separating what I was eating from the reality of where it came from. I didn’t care because it didn’t register. Our primary concern in what we chose was taste and enjoyment.

As I got older things didn’t change much. I was a huge fan of the doner kebab (and as a student in London this was a standard dinner out after a few beers). I loved McDonalds and Hungry Jack’s, I’d pop into KFC whilst out and about to get a box of popcorn chicken without a second thought. Not once would it register about how this food was being produced and at what cost. Into adulthood my tastes changed but my attitudes didn’t. I was eating at better quality places but where my food came from was simply beyond my concern.

When I met my partner I was still eating like this. I wasn’t as unhealthy as I sound, I ate a lot of restaurant food and take-away but I also ate a lot of vegetables and home cooked meals. I was omnivorous but most of all thoughtless.

My partner explained to me that she had been thinking more and more about her environmental impact. She wanted become a more conscientious consumer and had decided to take her first step towards this. It was a simple thing; from that point on she was only going to eat free range chicken. She didn’t try to make me do the same thing, she simply explained her reasons (animal welfare and the effect of meat farming on the environment) and that slowly set off a chain reaction in my own thinking. How had the animal been killed, how had it lived? Had it suffered? My partner opened the door for me to begin seriously looking at where my food came from. In terms of energy consumption, water and land use, greenhouse gas emissions and wildlife, meat farming is proven to be much more damaging than the equivalent in non-meat agriculture.

My partner led the way and I followed. We followed eating free range chicken to only eating meat if we could guarantee it was responsibly and ethically produced. We cut down the amount of meat we ate by 95%. As a result over the last few years we have essentially become what I like to call “mostly vegetarian”. Our primary sources of protein are vegetable based, I learned to love tofu and, more recently, by discovering the range of things available at Alfalfa House we’ve replaced other items with vegan and vegetarian alternatives. Vegan mayonnaise, made from chickpeas, is better than I ever could have imagined.

As I’ve changed my approach to what I eat, I’ve realised that I don’t have to compromise on enjoyment – smoked tofu salad with roasted broccoli, beetroot, pepitas, and tahini and honey dressing is one of my all-time favourite dinners. (Shameless plug: season dependent, all of the ingredients are available at Alfalfa).

Everything we get from Alfalfa House is delicious. A weekly veg box encourages us to experiment and try new things with what’s in season. They have a huge selection for such a small shop and you can be sure that everything you buy has been produced with reducing waste, maximizing health and helping the community in mind.

I am still a meat-eater but it’s a rare occasion, and I only buy from places where I know that the animal has been treated with respect and with care. Perhaps that will change in the future; I know there is more that I can do. I worry about dairy and what milk cattle are put through to produce milk but I haven’t stopped eating cheese yet. Some might say that I’m not doing enough, and they would probably be right, but this is a journey that I’m still taking.  One thing I have learned is that places like Alfalfa House offer people food options they can enjoy knowing that they have taken a small step.

And if my own experience is anything to go by, a small step can be the first of many.