After last weekend we can gladly say that summer has officially started. This asks for celebration! TBYW closed off the season before the summer break starts by hosting one of the biggest events of the year: the TBYW Summer Festival. The theme for this edition was Zero Waste, a topic that was used as broad as it gets. From making DIY eco-friendly cosmetics to growing your own plants and herbs, a wide range of DIY crafts and interactive sessions prepared everyone for a sustainable, waste-free summer. Doing so, we set ourselves free from the waste through recycling, reusing, reducing and reconnecting. In this blog you’ll find a review of the day through 4 lessons I learnt at the first-ever summer edition of the TBYW Festival
#1 Zero-waste DIY’ing does not have to be expensive, difficult and time-consuming
DIY’ing? Isn’t that for people who have a lot of time, money and specific skills? Well, the answer is no. Using only some necessary ingredients, visitors DIY’d their way to a pantry filled with dish soap, all-purpose cleaner, deodorant, toothpaste, menstrual pads and much more. The main ingredients that were used were ones you can find in your cupboard, such as towels and jars. The rest of the raw materials was bought in bulk at the Soap Queen. The eco-friendly cosmetics workshop was a massively popular one during which, in about one and a half hours, the participants learnt to make sunscreen, toothpaste and deodorant. No artificial ingredients were used, just the necessary ones. And the fun thing is, from there on it was just a matter of putting everything together in the right quantities and you’ve made yourself the ecologically-approved, natural, environmentally-friendly, waste-free version of the cosmetic products you use the most. Win-win!
#2 Bacteria can be good for you
Bacteria are generally linked to disease and food decay and we should do as much as we can to avoid having them! Right? Well, no. Some bacteria are actually essential to stay healthy. Large amounts of ‘bad’ bacteria can get you sick, or make food go bad, but ‘good´ bacteria can make sure that the bad kind does not stand a chance of growing. These good bacteria are referred to as probiotics. Probiotics provide healthy bowel flora which is essential for healthy digestion, bowel movement and a well-functioning immune system.
Fermentation is a process that provides for ready-made, natural probiotics. Through the use of micro-organisms a metabolic process takes place, changing organic materials make-up. Kombucha is the perfect example of a fermented product with great health benefits due to the high levels of probiotics. The base consists of hot water mixed with sugar and black or green tea. After the mixture has cooled down to about 20°C the micro organism is added: the SCOBY. A SCOBY is a Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast and looks as funky as it sounds. However, this is the essential component that eventually causes fermentation to take place. The SCOBY ‘eats’ the sugars that are in the liquid, and produces alcohol (the alcohol percentage remains at a maximum of 1%), enzymes, carbon dioxide, a range of acids, vitamin C and B-vitamins. Not all claims such as the detoxing and cleansing properties are supported by scientific research, but in any way a refreshing drink with probiotics, vitamins and far less sugar then usual sodas can’t be wrong!
During the festival a one-hour kombucha workshop was provided by one of our beloved volunteers. As TBYW hopes to give more in the future, keep an eye out for more workshops after summer!
#3 Kimchi is one of the healthiest foods in the world
Kimchi is a Korean side dish with pickled vegetables. The slightly sour taste might remind you of the previously named kombucha, and that is because kimchi is fermented as well. At the Summer Festival a kimchi workshop was held, given by non other than the founder of The Table For Kimchi who is Korean herself. Her level of knowledge and passion for the product was contagious for all participants who after the workshop could take a jar of the good stuff home.
Kimchi is prepared by dehydrating vegetables first, in salt. After that, a mixture, known as the kimchi paste, was prepared using seventeen (!) ingredients. To put that into perspective, most kimchi recipes use five or six ingredients. For this session, a vegan and sugar-free version was prepared using apples and kiwi instead of sugar and vegetable broth, sea greens (kelp, seaweed) and soy sauce to provide for the umami taste that fish sauce or shrimp paste can have, which are commonly used.
While the cabbages were dehydrating, the kimchi paste was prepared. Sea salt is an important ingredient that will eventually cause the ‘bad’ bacteria to not win the competition with the probiotics. The fermentation process takes around four months on 3°C, so you have to have a little bit of patience if you let it ferment in the fridge. However, if you store in at room temperature you can speed up the process and your kimchi is ready after about one week.
The health benefits of kimchi come down to the facts that it’s high in fiber, low in calories and packed with nutrients. We don’t have to get into the benefits of probiotics that are present due to the fermentation process again, but it’s worth naming that kimchi is full of it. With regards to the nutrients, kimchi stores among others; vitamin A, B1, B2 and C, and essential amino acids and minerals such as iron, calcium, and selenium. Continuing onto a range of components that are hard to pronounce, kimchi contains capsaicin, chlorophyll, carotenoids, flavonoids, and isothiocyanates that a.o. aid hormonal balance, digestive health, lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels and the list goes on and on. Finally, an important component to name is sea greens. Sea greens have been rising in popularity in the health food section, and serve as a great alternative for animal-based protein due to their richness in protein and minerals.
At the festival the mixture was tasted right after it was made, and people loved it already. Traditionally kimchi is used as a side dish, for instance with fried rice, inside dumplings, in a spicy stew (kimchi jjigae, 김치찌개) or as kimchi with udon, a thick wheat noodle (김치 우동). Last saturday the freshly made kimchi was served simply on a bit of toast and it didn’t take long before the whole dish was empty. To fully benefit from all those health impacts however, we should (unfortunately) be a bit more patient and wait until fermentation has taken place, properly.
#4 A plastic-free lifestyle is adaptable for anyone
Late in the afternoon the TBYW-festival visitors were invited to join an interactive session during which four volunteers shared their experience with a plastic-free lifestyle. Whereas the title of the session, plastic-free, might sound frightening, what became clear in the discussion is that plastic-free does not have to be taken as strictly as it sounds. It is a process, and in this process we try to refrain from speaking in terms of ‘doing it perfect’ and ‘failure’ because these make it seem like there is one way to do it, all or nothing. This is not true. Easy swaps from disposable, single-use goods can be made, to reusable and sustainable. For example, make a linen bag, coffee-to-go cup and prepared meals part of your standard packing list when you’re on the go. This way you can decline the plastic bags, disposable coffee cups and plastic-wrapped meals and you’re already well underway on your journey to keeping plastics out of our natural environment.
The most striking findings of the discussion are the following:
- All participants spent LESS on their groceries this past plastic-free month. By buying in bulk and choosing your products more wisely, it was found that everyone lowered their grocery-expenses this past month. Also, as many prepared the meals and took them when they were on the go, less money is spent on plastic-wrapped sandwiches and salads.
- All participants had a healthier diets during a plastic free month. It was found that buying package free largely directs you to the fresh produce-aisle or the markets where mostly non-processed foods are sold (bread, nuts, fresh fruit and vegetables etc.). This automatically causes you to stick to a diet reliant on non processed, fresh food. Isn’t that a great side-effect!
- Most participants learnt new food preparation skills. Examples of this are: making sourdough bread, making pasta, preparing plant-based milk, etcetera. It was found that after the third time it’s not even that much of an extra effort anymore to make your own bread or milk, and it saves you a lot of money.
- Plastic-free requires mutual effort of both people and politics. Policies could drastically decrease plastic use. With the choices we make on the consumer-level, we can show that there is a demand for for instance decreased plastic packaging and more zero-package shops. We vote with our wallet, so to say. It requires politics to push plastic-free policies and it requires people to make plastic-free decisions. This way, the consumer cán make a difference.
All in all, I can really say that not only the festival was very learningful, it was great fun as well. And what was highlighted in this blog was just the tip of the iceberg. The TBYW Festival offered not only workshops, also an informative wall about the future of food, a clothes swap corner, a yoga session, a food market, music in the evening and let’s not forget the great food that was provided throughout the entire day. The atmosphere was very relaxed, and the setting felt intimate, even though most of the workshops were pretty much full. I would like to thank all the people who came, and the TBYW team for the great organization! I am looking forward to the next version of the festival that will probably be held in autumn/winter, and I hope to see you there!