Up-cycle a thrifted cardigan and look cute doing it

Have you seen those cute little cropped cardigans floating around the internet? Well I have and I wanted, oh how I WANTED, so when I was gifted a secondhand grey cardigan I decided to see if I could recreate it and I’m pretty thrilled with how it turned out. It’s dead simple, probably takes about 2 hours if that. Easy to customise, so if you want it tighter or with little ties at the front, for example, it’d be easy enough to do.

Unfortunately I’d made the bleeding thing before it occurred to me that I should have taken photos of the process, so the ones below are guidance photos based on another grey cardigan/jacket I have but don’t actually show any arty footage of things being cut or sewn. I’ll remember to take photos of the actual process next time, maybe…

Disclaimer: you could do this WITHOUT a sewing machine but it’d take a fair while longer!


  • Cardigan
  • Sewing machine (or a needle for the patient)
  • Matching thread
  • Fabric scissors
  • Something to mark the fabric with, e.g. pins, chalk, fabric markers
  • Pins
  • A ruler
  • An iron
  • Pinking scissors *optional
  • Any additional accessories/decorations you fancy


1. Pop that baby on and make a mark at the length you’d like the cardi to be shortened to. Take it off and add about an inch to that measurement, use a ruler to mark a straight line so you know where to cut, then cut it. It’s easier to stay straight if you lay it flat.

Mark where you’d like the length to to be.

2. Once cut, put it back on inside out (this is very important!) and pinch along the side edges starting from the bottom of the sleeve down to the hem diagonally, making a triangular shape. Pinch in as much as you’re happy with so that it fits your body and isn’t too baggy. If it’s quite big on you, especially around the arm area, you can pinch down in a straight line instead of diagonally. Again, use something to mark this line so you know where to sew, no need to add a hem allowance.

Starting from the bottom of the arm hole pinch in the edges in a diagonal line to the hem until you get your desired fit. Repeat on the other side.

Or you can take in more by doing a straight line, bear in mind this will make the arm hole SMALLER so this might only be needed if the cardigan is big on you.

3. Take it off and use a ruler to draw a line where you’ve placed your mark then sew along this line. On jersey material (or stretchy material) when using a sewing machine use a wide zigzag stitch so the material doesn’t pucker and will still allow it to stretch. You should now have what looks like a triangular flap.

4. Cut off the excess material of this flap, leaving about a centimetre of material, you can use pinking scissors to stop fraying OR you could zig zag stitch or overlock stitch the edge of the fabric. (You can look up tutorials for this.)

5. Now, return to the bottom of the cardigan and turn up half of the hem material and then turn up again so you have what is effectively a fabric roll at the end of your cardi (see below images), press this down using an iron and sew it down in a zig zag stitch or hand-sew it in place. I chose to hand-sew because it was easiest on my stretchy material.

There you have it!

If it doesn’t have buttons you could either add some or easier yet make a tube out of scrap material and turn it into a little tie closure. Remember to try on your piece at regular intervals to make sure the fit is good for you (especially before chopping anything off).

I hope this helps you make something cute and on trend! It’s a great way to avoid dishing out like £20-30 on something that’s relatively simply to do yourself and helps rescue and repurpose old cardigans. 🙂

Meg x

Vegan eats in Newcastle: Little Green

The other day I had the pleasure of going to eat at Little Green in Newcastle. It’s a bit off the main grid but not far from where I live (perhaps to my purses’ downfall).

Firstly, it has it’s own refill section (amazing), it’s very open and cosy, with a real good laidback feel. My friend and I felt very comfortable.

The owners are just incredible. We ended up having a good five minute chat about the reality of opening a cafe and how she wants to move forward stressing the fact it’s all vegan. When the cafe opened that perhaps would have been enough to scare people off, but that’s just not the case anymore – people are a bit more open and considering the high populace of students in Newcastle, they’ve got a real market. They really were lovely!

The menu was really good, everything was tempting. I was pleased with how all of it seemed like fresh choices, if that makes sense. Like even the pizzas seemed incredible – for example ‘The Fresca’ is made with fresh tomato, pumpkin pesto and mozzarella (vegan obvs).

We decided to get burrito bowls and some dough balls on the side.

Oh. My. God. Those dough balls. They were freshly baked, soft, and buttery. The garlic mayo and the chilli dip were the perfect accompaniments. We were just blown away. I could have them again ten times.

The burrito bowl was super fresh and tasty. The jackfruit was flavoursome, I’m not sure what they marinated it with. Everything just mingled together beautifully.

And it wasn’t really expensive, all that coming to under £30 with drinks included.

Honestly, I couldn’t recommend it more. If you’re in the area, support a local business. It’s close enough to Heaton & Jesmond Dene parks, so why not have a lovely walk and lunch out? Or treat yourself to a guilt free evening meal, knowing you’re supporting an entirely vegan small business. They host a bunch of other things as well; I’ll be attending a clothes swap in March!

Those dough balls. *heart eyes*n

Meg x

Eco-friendly reading

Doing a Masters in Literature means a lot of reading, which means a lot of books. And I’m the type of person that prefers to have the book in front of me for annotation and the like. But generally these are books I only read once and end up donating or selling.

My problem last semester was that I was overwhelmed by coming back to university and having a reading list. It had been given to us just a smidgen too late to make ordering secondhand possible, which was an expensive bummer. On reflection, maybe panic buying them all new from Blackwells was not the best eco-friendly move. So I have a few tips for buying books that ends up costing way less, both economically and environmentally.

  • Buy secondhand (World of Books, Amazon Marketplace)

Buying secondhand means this term I’ve bought 6 books for £24, which is kind of the best thing ever for my pocket. My favourite site for finding secondhand books at reasonable prices is World of Books, normally they’re quite quick as well – I think it took four days for my order to arrive.

Another choice would be Amazon Marketplace – I know the issues with associated with using Amazon, but like seems to be the case with quite a few things, it’s the most affordable option. These are secondhand copies though, normally sold by individual sellers (remember to look at their trust rating before ordering).

I would make sure to be to looking at the quality description of the book (normally Good, Very Good, and Like New), I’m happy to go with anything that’s listed as in good condition and over. And they should arrive in the condition listed.

Obviously buying in charity shops is also a plus if you can do that. Unfortunately because I have specific books I need to get, this isn’t a plausible reality for me (boo).

  • Audiobooks (Library services & Audible, even podcasts)

Audiobooks are a recent revelation for me! I normally use them for my ‘personal books’, i.e. books I actually want to read!! I got Audible because I wanted the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series to keep for myself (Stephen Fry, Martin Freeman narrating gives me heart eyes). Audible is an expensive choice, so my alternative would be checking out your local library’s audiobook selection. Join your library and then download BorrowBox onto your phone, which gives you access to your library’s catalogue. So far I’ve listened to three good books whilst being able to potter around and do other things.

It’s great because it’s handsfree reading and takes up no physical shelf space!!

  • Libraries

This is the great obvious choice – join your local library and actually go in there! They’ll probably have loads on offer and it’s good to support a local convenience such as a library, so go on, have a look. Even go into your university library if that’s what’s there – amongst all the dry, critical tombs they’ll be fictional books that you can take out and read. Remember you don’t need to keep everything, books are nice but why not keep buying them for when you find something special that you really want to keep? Think of all that money you’ve saved. And all the trees.

  • Ask a friend or have a rummage around what you already have

You never know what a friend might have! Or even you might have buried away in the bottom of a shelf. Re-reading is no bad thing, as well, especially if you can’t remember the story or you know you enjoyed it.

I have a few other tips for your books, especially if you’re like me and a lot of them are ones that you wouldn’t normally choose for yourself:

  1. Annotate in pencil – this makes it easier for you to sell or donate them because you can erase the markings – you might not be able to sell them at all if you don’t.
  2. Donate or giveaway – if you’ve got a book you’ve not enjoyed why not ask your friends if they’d like it? I have quite a few bookish friends that would normally say yes! Or donate it to a charity shop of your choice.
  3. Sell old textbooks – you can google numerous websites that will do this for you and normally textbooks pick-up a bit more money than fiction.
  4. Crafts – if it’s damaged and worst comes to worst, then you can make your own books into decorations and use them for other craft purposes. Link to a website with some ideas here.

And that’s about it! I love reading and can’t imagine ever giving it up, but as with everything it has an impact on the earth. These are just a couple of ways you can buy into the ‘reuse’ part of ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’.

Meg x

Hello 2020!

Well it’s been a while. And I was doing so well!

Basically it’s been a rollercoaster since I started my Masters and now I’m in the midst of assessment season… Which is why I’m writing this actually, I’ve realised I need to write something more than literary analysis, lol.

I have some goals this year, but simple goals really. I know some people think it’s a bit of a fad to have New Years Resolutions, but I generally do quite well with them because I enjoy the perspective that comes with a ‘fresh start’.

My main and basic goal is to remind myself daily that my life remains firmly in my own control. There’s a lot of things that make me feel out of control, and that’s perfectly natural, but ultimately I call the shots with what I do – I can’t constantly be concerned with how slow/fast/right/wrong/odd/dull people find me.

I’ve also set myself a reading goal (books that AREN’T for university) and I downloaded Audible, which so far has led me to re-listening to Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy three times (DON’T PANIC).

Anyway I know this isn’t riveting content, this is just a way for me to get my fingers back on the keyboard.

But to make it worth your while my January recommendation is checking out Yoga With Adriene’s 30 day Home series on Youtube because it’s relaxing and it’s good to stress those hardworking muscles. Give your body a lil thank you – it does a lot for you.

Meg x

Vegan haggis: a contemplative review (lol)

Disclaimer: I apologise for the chaotic energy in this post.

Looks brown and bland – is very tasty

Just a quick post really, mainly about a) vegan haggis and b) the wider issue of vegan substitutes for inherently non-vegan things.

Haggis, as defined by Merriam Webster is as follows:

a traditionally Scottish dish that consists of the heart, liver, and lungs of a sheep or a calf minced with suet, onions, oatmeal, and seasonings and boiled in the stomach of the animal


This is honestly the least vegan thing you could dream up (except maybe black pudding – another British concoction that you can Google). And yet Scotland lured me in with the idea of a vegan version of this national dish, which is basically a menagerie of lentils, onions, seasoning, oatmeal, quite distinctly not in the stomach of an animal. In fact not encased in anything.

In fact it is so distinctly not like haggis that one food chain found it acceptable to put it in a burrito (thank you 21st century).

Can we really call it haggis?

Was it delicious? Yes. Warm and comforting? Yes. Did it make me feel like it would be sensible to purchase a kilt? Sure.

But it wasn’t haggis, come on now.

But then it made me think of other vegan subs. Vegan cheese has never really touched anything remotely cheesy, but it substitutes in its place. Plant based milk – same issue.

But then again it got me thinking, what else could we possibly call it? If we’re going to be frank, a lot, maybe even most, herbivores want some sort of substitution because we’ve not necessarily given them up because we don’t like the taste. We’ve given them up because we don’t like what they represent in this world of ours.

So I guess what I’m trying to say is I don’t have any issue with them being labelled ‘milk’, ‘cheese’, ‘haggis’. Just in a long winded way, but I’ve heard that some people actually have an issue with this labelling…? Like why. What else would we call it?

Anyway, the Scottish invented vegan haggis, so really it is a Scottish national dish. And it’s delicious in a burrito (I know, I’m revolting).

What do you think about vegan substitutes?

Meg x

Making moves!

Wahoo! I’ve done it! With my sanity intact! (Debatable.)

Basically in the last six months I have:

  • handed in my notice
  • moved out of my flat in the Midlands
  • moved back in with my parents in Yorkshire
  • moved to Newcastle in the North East (again)
  • started my Masters in Literature (!!!)

I am PROUD of myself for making it through all that transition. Because change can be hella scary. And the worry doesn’t tend to be an instant ‘what am I doing, have I made the right decision’ sort of thing. It’s a slow, creeping anxiety about unrelated, and more often than not irrational, stuff. I tend to catastrophize. It’s an anxiety thing – I’m working on it. Luckily I have the skills to work on it since I did my CBT course. I can’t recommend it enough if you have issues with anxiety. Asking for help is not a weakness.

I’m on my second day living in my shiny new studio flat and it’s very exciting. Because I tend to overthink and constantly have to remind myself it’s OK to let life just happen sometimes I’m experiencing those dippy moments everyone gets when they’re not sure how they feel. But that’s life – right now I’m focussing on making sure my actions are the kind that will set me up for a fruitful year.

My first day even though I was tired from the journey, from unpacking, from saying goodbye to my parents (and dogs/cat), and from the worry about the year to come, I made myself go down to a welcome event. At first I was pretty embarrassing and pretty embarrassed, entirely uncomfortable, but then I stood there and thought ‘go on – just do it’. So I moseyed up to a couple of women and just said ‘this might be awkward, but can I sit with you?’ And you know what, they bloody well said yes because people aren’t as scary as your mind wants you to believe. So instead of focussing on being embarrassed I am PROUD of myself for doing the scary thing and not turning away at the first sign of discomfort. Plus it’s nice to think I know people in the block, however briefly.

The great thing about being back in Newcastle is that I’ve got friends I haven’t been able to see very much these last few years nearby. We went out Sunday and it was great meandering down to old haunts… we both agreed it doesn’t really feel like we’re really here yet. It’ll take a while to sink in. I think my body is confusing the adjustment to being really anxious – I can feel it constantly trying to find something to be worried about. But I keep breathing through it and reminding myself that it is OK to be worried about this. I am allowed to feel my feelings without it becoming some catastrophic event.

The studio is lovely, just big enough for me. And the view is over the train tracks, I can hear them passing by, as well as all the people and cards and sounds of life – but I kind of like that… Maybe not the drunken argument I heard yesterday, haha.

I’ve booked in lots of things to keep me busy as I sort my life out a bit, I’ve got jobs and my course to focus on. The course is scaring me a bit, but at the end of the day we can only do our best. I’m establishing a new routine with lots of built in self-care, from yoga in the morning, delicious food, and lovely skincare products.

I can’t wait to share my vegan adventures in Newcastle, as well as more on what it’s like to be a ‘mature student’ (omg since when am I mature??). In fact I might do a post on what made me really consider the change, as well as what I learn about the process once the course starts properly!

Change can be good.

Meg x

I choose positivity.

I’m writing this in the aftermath of a pretty serious discussion debate argument with a loved one. One that left me feeling not very loving.

It could have just been a debate. A back and forth of opinion, probably not without some mild frustration. In a perfect world. But subject and situation means a lot when it comes to stuff like this.

I already knew we differed on opinion in many different matters. The sort of matters that create foundations for things like political views, ethical practices, and other core human principles. But I love this person very much even when I don’t understand how they think.

I think most of the time you can brush small matters to the side, opinion is opinion. Sometimes with people you love, you kind of have to. But sometimes… well it goes one of two ways: you’re not in the mood, recognise you’re not in the mood, and refuse to engage further than saying ‘I disagree’ or get into a debate, governed by the rules of such a thing.

Oh wait… there is a third option. Blowing your f**king fuse.

I chose the third option. I wasn’t in the mood, hadn’t been in a sunshine-y mood all day, but I couldn’t thought I couldn’t ignore the situation. In the back of my mind all I could think was I couldn’t possibly sit there passively and let them think I was in any sort of agreement whatsoever. No! To say I disagreed with them wouldn’t be enough, I had to tell them in DETAIL WHY THEY WERE SO WRONG.

(And I’m not going to tell you the subject of this entire thing because this isn’t that sort of post. It would exhaust me.)

What started as me going ‘are you serious’ turned into me loudly and vocally being, well, loud and vocal.

There is a small part of me that will always think I’m right this time, despite the delivery being less than perfect. Their entire argument was riddled, riddled I tell you, with illogical fallacies and hypocrisy.

…actually, I don’t think it’s such a bad thing to have thought that my argument was sounder than theirs. I don’t think that’s a negative thing to think, I believe I can be proud of myself for having passionate opinions that can be factually backed up and given as a sound case. What I do think is so negative is the timing and the delivery.

I wasn’t feeling very positive in the beginning, and it was about a tough subject to be in such a negative frame of mind about, so my manner of speaking was never going to be very diplomatic. I even had to leave the room at one point, I believe I threw word ‘sickening’ in there as I left. And, ho, when I heard the suggestion that maybe I ‘couldn’t take it’ I was in there like a rocket. I was on fire I tell you. Aggressively so.

And I got that last word, you better believe.

And then I went upstairs and fumed. Thinking all the nasty things in my head that I could. I have tinnitus and stress makes it worse, and, boy, it felt like a train was setting off in my head. I knew I had to calm down.

So I rolled out my yoga mat and put on Yoga With Adriene’s most recent video and let all the witty and nasty things I should have said down there roll around my head. Then realised that even as my mind dwelled my body had moved on, it was going with the flow of the yoga moves, my breath was deep and even. I was actively keeping my mindset from calming down. With that realisation my thoughts turned less vengeful and more to how I could get over these negative feelings. Feelings that weren’t necessarily brought on by their ‘bad’ opinions but my willingness to match that with aggression. Which actually if you knew the topic of the conversation would have been quite ironic.

I could have said everything I felt I had to say in a different way, without the frantic urgency of needing to tell someone that they’re wrong. Without the defensiveness.

This negativity I had during and after felt so heavy and slimy, made me feel out of control. Spending those moment actively seeking positivity made me feel stable and light. I can move on from this moment now without dwelling, but accepting it happened and learning from it. Maybe next time I can consciously dial it down before it gets to that point.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not ashamed of my opinions and I think they should be heard. I think all people should speak for themselves. But I also think that a positive mindset wouldn’t go amiss. More for myself and my health than anything. I want to come away from a confrontation, no matter what it is, knowing I’ve kept my cool and said my piece in a way I can be proud of. That the words of someone else should not have the power to drain me and make me feel bad. Because, ultimately, I let that happen.

With that being said, I choose positivity.

Meg x

Vegan in Lille, France

So I went to Lille for two nights a while back and knew from the outset that relatively thorough research was needed to ensure I didn’t have to survive on frites et pain. France, as we know, is the land of cheese, meat, and oh la la (please forgive me).

I promptly googled the key phrases – mainly knowing vegan is végétalienne and how to say ‘no cheese!’ (‘sans fromage!‘).

I travelled with two friends who eat meat and I didn’t want to deny them French food in France, so I didn’t feel we could consistently stick to the places that were just good for me. There didn’t seem to be mainstream ‘blended’ restaurants, where they have a token offering for us herbivores.

But here’s a few things I found:

La Luck

So La Luck markets itself as a French/American bar (according to Trip Advisor), where you can play boardgames and listen to live music. It was a pretty jazzy set up and they did have some English speaking staff (which was not an expectation, only that our French was well intentioned but a bit shit).

I couldn’t have ‘French food’ but I did have a pretty delicious hot dog. Only downside is that they were having some sort of music event (which we bopped along to after dinner – very fun) and service took forever. Also the vegan dessert was all sold out, boo.

Apparently their brunch is tres bien so I do recommend.

Wally’s Coffee

Ok, so I thought they were going to have vegan options but no. They were accommodating when I asked for the avocado on toast minus the egg and cheese (though I still had to pay full price *sigh*). The cafe itself was beautiful, airy, and modern, and the food was good and tasty. Also the kitchen was open plan and they were cooking brownies so it smelt like HEAVEN.

Friterie Meunier

Literally just fries. Now, I was debating whether I should even put this one up because I am assuming they were vegan. I know, I know – this is very naughty. But the kitchen was open and looking at it, they fried all the chips plain in the same oil and added toppings after.

And so on…

So my friends could actually eat some local food, we went to a restaurant we found in the centre and I, in some stilted but enthusiastic French, asked for pizza without cheese. I did some research on pizza dough to find that about 9/10 the dough is made vegan. I’ve also never made pizza dough that needed animal products in it.

On the flip side, one morning I had to have fries for breakfast, which made me feel a bit ill and isn’t advised as a breakfast food. This is because it was a Sunday and, unlike the UK, the shops actually close. I was originally going to grab a bagel I’d seen advertised, so I was pretty sad the shop was closed. But lunch made it better, since we realised that these small, organic food markets I can’t remember the name of (lol, so helpful) did a) refill stations (!!) and b) vegan food. So we bought baguettes, hummus, and spread cheese for a picnic in the park. It was tasty.

Not a surprise, but there are lots of patisseries and confectioners, so I bought some candied fruit (one pineapple slice was 7 euro – I died) and a sorbet – the vendor confirmed it was dairy free.

I don’t feel like I ate the absolute best but at least I ate and it was only a couple of days. It’s the sacrifice you make sometimes, I guess. But I’ve gotten so used to how accessible it all seems in the UK. Happy Cow voted London the most vegan friendly city in the world, which shows that demand drives accessibility.

Since I went, the Trip Advisor page I used seems to have been updated with more restaurants than what were on there before. A link is here. I think it’s hard to go travelling with people who aren’t vegan to places like this because I so didn’t want to stop them having a choice in what they could eat. I think next time, since I know what I’m doing now, I’ll do more research and plan it out a bit more before I go. Lille is beautiful though, and only a couple of hours on the Eurostar from London.

If you have any comments on vegan food in your home country then please let me know, I’d love to hear!

Meg x

Spotty vegans: breakouts + dietary change?

Now, I can only correlate the outbreak of tiny, angry second-heads on my face as a direct result of going vegan. Deep, under the skin spots on my chin, a smattering of small pimple like constellations across my forehead, trickling down into angry, welt like lumps on my temples. Even a few rearing their ugly heads on my cheeks (how dare they!!).

Ah, nothing like the power of words to make you sick.

But honestly the sudden onset of these nuisances really affected my mood and the way I viewed myself. I’d never have spots, so why now? Eating all this wonderful plant-based, easy to digest food?

Queue much googling.

Apparently it’s ‘normal’ to have an outbreak when encountering dietary change of any sorts. One source even said it could be a sign of detox – if I believed in things such as detoxing (hello I have a liver for a reason, thank you). Another said vegan diets sometimes means a switch to a more carby based foods, which can contribute.

Either way, it wasn’t so easy for me to start scouring shops for products to rid me of these evil things – what with trying to be plastic free and (as much as poss) zero waste in the bathroom. But there’s a couple of things I started doing that I thought – hoped & prayed – might help.

  • Double cleansing – once to get rid of my makeup with a facial soap bar and another with a Lush oil cleanser I found in a bag of toiletries I had.
  • Toning with witch hazel diluted with water, as it also helps reduce inflammation and smells like a witch’s workshop.
  • Mixing sudacrem with my moisturiser as it’s anti-bacterial and apparently a bit of a cult product in the murky world of pots & potions. Not plastic free but very cheap and one pot lasts for like a millennia.

I also tried altering my diet, thinking ‘oh no what if it’s the bread, processed vegan cheese, and *gasp* soya’… but I quickly scuppered this plan. I’ve only just started enjoying food again, veganism helping rid me of several unhealthy fears I’d had about food – contributing to a frightening weight loss in 2017/2018. I don’t want to start restricting myself by demonising food I’d enjoyed. I can’t do that to myself. I know I am balanced (for the most part) and healthy (for the most part) – I will not punish myself for eating food I have enjoyed.

My mum recommended Evening Primrose Oil based on rave reviews from colleagues at her workplace and I decided there was no harm trying. After some research I found there was a double whammy of it (potentially) helping with cramps during menstruation. It’s a mixed bag of scientific evidence but I can only review based on my experience. Having one pill a night before bed seems to be really helping the hormonal (?) outbreaks of spots I get on my chin, especially the deep under the skin ones. The science behind it is that it contains Omega 6 fatty acids that help keep the skin plump and soft – and I think that’s what is helping my skin as it’s naturally quite dry. Also, the pre-menstrual/ovulation related pain doesn’t seem to be as bad as normal; my periods have been appearing out of thin air with little cramp notice. The only change has been the oil, so I think it’s helped in that way. Though my pain during periods is still pretty horrible. I’m not going to start raving about it though – there’s a lot of claims of what this oil can do and a lot of science refuting it as a miracle cure.

Lastly, and perhaps most effectively, is the cheapest, simplest, and most accessible solution of them all: steaming and hot compress! After cleansing my face I’ve been soaking a reusable cotton round in hot water and then wringing it out and applying the heated cloth to my chin area. The science is that it helps release the oily sebum by opening up the pores and helping clean these gunky spaces out. I’ve also been steaming my face once a week for the same reason. I have seen the biggest difference. It helps bring the pimples to the surface on those nasty under-the-skin spots and helps soften the skin so it doesn’t feel tight and dry. I cannot recommend doing this enough. I really do think this simple remedy has made the biggest difference, especially in culmination with my other solutions.

Some say that diet related spots will clear up by themselves, and whilst I didn’t want to wait months feeling a bit uncomfortable and painful in my own skin I was not going to sacrifice the healthy relationship I’d built with my food. Life, as they say, is for living.

How do you help get rid of spots?

Meg x

Article review: How the world got hooked on palm oil

Sorry I’ve been pretty much AWOL from here for a couple of weeks. I burnt out, I’ve got to admit – things have been HECTIC.

But I have been reading up on things, continuing my eco-journey by educating myself. Which leads me to this article from The Guardian.

Worldwide production of palm oil has been climbing steadily for five decades. Between 1995 and 2015, annual production quadrupled, from 15.2m tonnes to 62.6m tonnes. 

Paul Tullis, ‘How the world got hooked on palm oil’, The Guardian

Now I’ve been aware for a while of how bad palm oil is for the environment and have somewhat tried to avoid it. But I haven’t really been awake to the ins-and-outs of why palm oil is as bad as it is.

So this article was very enlightening. I want to try and outline the reasons that, accordingly to Paul Tullis, palm oil came to be a bit of a miracle ingredient, and through that an environmental nightmare:

  • As a combination of different types of fats it is almost completely versatile, it can be used in baked goods, soaps, detergents, cosmetics, adhesives… the list goes on…
  • On top of that it has ‘low production costs’ (due to the ease and quantity of which is can be grown in comparison to other seed oil) – meaning it’s as cheap as all hell.
  • It’s a healthier additive to processed foods / as a cooking oil than the butters that preceded it. So when pressure was placed on the food industry to remove trans-fat and make products more heart-healthy, palm oil was a good solution.
  • In light of the rise of animal rights campaigning and a desire to buy more ‘natural’ products, in cosmetic etc., palm oil has replaced animal-derived fats.
  • It can be used as a bio-fuel:

A similar thing happened with biofuels – the intent to reduce environmental harm had unintended consequences. In 1997, a European commission reportcalled for increasing the percentage of total energy consumption from renewable sources.

Paul Tullis, ‘How the world got hooked on palm oil’, The Guardian

The good, the bad, and the humanitarian crisis

Can there be anything good about palm oil? Well, yeah in a way:

  • Palm oil production is centralised in Malaysia and Indonesia, giving a boost to economy that was much needed. Palm oil accounts for ‘13.7% of Malaysia’s gross national income’, says Tullis. It has also aided in reducing poverty in the nation.
  • In areas such as India, the use of palm oil is almost symbolic of the country’s economic growth. Studies have shown that national wealth increases, so does the consumption of fat. That being said, it has moved from being used as a cheap, accessible cooking oil to also being used as a staple of new junk food chains that have appeared in wake of the economic growth.

Between 1993 and 2013, Indian per capita GDP expanded from $298 to $1,452. Over the same period, fat consumption in rural areas grew by 35% and in urban areas by 25%, and palm oil has been a major ingredient in this escalation.

Paul Tullis, ‘How the world got hooked on palm oil’, The Guardian

So: economic growth, higher employment, a dependable wage, and more filling food – all very good things, all very necessary good things. How much can we weigh this against the very clearly bad side of palm oil?

In my opinion, whilst economic development in these countries is absolutely no bad thing, the fact is that the product, the contributing factor, isn’t sustainable. Demand is outgrowing production capacity, and just think about the consequence of very vital environments being razed to the ground. Eventually we’ll run out of area to chop and burn, they’ll be hundreds of thousands of animals killed, and ecosystems shattered. Resultantly, wouldn’t this cause an economic collapse? I’m not sure I can safely say, considering I have no experience in economics apart from paying my bills on time every month, but it seems like a tall, rickety tower.

The bad:

  • Pollution – when trees are burnt, a huge amount of carbon is released into the atmosphere.
  • Deforestation – again just another example of how humanity thinks it can shape the earth with ignorance of the consequence its destruction brings. I don’t think I need to go on about how heart wrenchingly bad deforestation is for the environment. But here’s a link to National Geographic’s article – according to them 502,000 square miles of land has been lost between 1990 and 2016.
  • Humanitarian issues – yes, palm oil can be associated with a global economic rise, yet children are working on the farms being paid barely more than a pittance…?
  • ‘Sustainable palm oil’ – the idea of sustainability is a bit of a myth, as per the below quote. It doesn’t make sense to me that a mill can be classed as ‘sustainable’ but this doesn’t necessarily stretch to the raw ingredients… Additionally, standards of sustainability are set ridiculously low by the organisations governing it (the RSPO).

For instance, a product can earn a “certified sustainable” label even if 99% of the palm oil it includes came from freshly deforested land.

Paul Tullis, ‘How the world got hooked on palm oil’, The Guardian

Is it too late?

As the population of the world increases dangerously, so does the demand for resources such as palm oil. According to the article, demand will have nearly quadrupled by 2050. And it’s not easy to turn to other resources, especially considering these will mean deforestation still, but with less yield and more expense.

I think what shocked me most about the article, is how it’s also pointed out that schemes implemented by organisations, such as Iceland, have failed so far. It’s hard to not use palm oil – it’s going to take a long, sticky time to separate ourselves from the web of convenience it has created.

Additionally, the cost of labour on palm oil farms will increase… the boost in the economy ultimately means a class shift, with people having a steady income and accessing opportunities and products they weren’t able to before. It only makes sense that eventually there will be a demand for increased pay in line with their hard work on the farms and in the factories.

But that model isn’t sustainable. If things continue, the forests and their creatures will be gone, and the cost of labour will increase as some workers move up the economic ladder and realise there are better things they could be doing than picking fruit.

Paul Tullis, ‘How the world got hooked on palm oil’, The Guardian

So, what do I think?

Well, this article couldn’t have been more of a wake-up call for me if it had tried. I think, on a personal level, what I can do avoid buying anything with it in. This is already a bit stressful, I don’t know what I’m going to do about vegan spread – it always seems to have a high quantity of it in. At least I know why now.

Also, support organisations that are campaigning against deforestation. It isn’t sustainable, it’s a short-term benefit, it’s a long-term crisis. We can’t give back the ecosystems and lives we take away.

I hope this post was a bit helpful, the article was a bit meaty and I wanted something shorter to come back to when I needed a reminder of how bad palm oil is for us and the environment (one and the same, really). But I thought Tullis laid it all out there perfectly, nothing like statistics to make me feel all righteous and empowered – lol.

Let’s just avoid palm oil, shall we? Yeah, sounds like a good idea. Drive down that demand a bit and invest in finding sustainable alternatives that still prosper economic growth without pushing the environment into the pits (*desperately googles ‘sustainable alternatives to palm oil’*).

Your thoughts?

Meg x