Thursday, 10 February 2011

The Story of Sasquatch...

I have a friend, whom we shall call Sasquatch, for that is his name! Now I have known Sasquatch for a while now, since university - we were both keen geographers. Well... I was a keen geographer and he just, sort of, well uhm... OK well he was that friend who just cruised his way through university while just chillout out, only mildly getting stressed every now and again when deadlines were 2 hours away. Everybody has one of those friends.

I learnt a lot from Sasquatch. Mostly the value of relaxing my work ethic (which actually did wonders for my grades). As our fellow physical geography friends slaved over hard facts and figures, we sat back and took a more liberal approach. I'm pretty sure he learnt a lot from me as well. Like the importance of actually getting up for lectures. Or that, however philosophical one gets late at night in a smoky room, taking a whole module on Nietzsche is rarely a good idea unless you are actually undertaking a degree in philosophy. (Actually he learnt that by himself, but it still makes me laugh).

But I reckon Sasquatch is onto a good way of life there. He's been patient. He's worked hard but he hasn't got himself stressed. He's honed his skills and padded out his contact book. And now he's landed himself a job doing what he loves most. Gaming. (Sasquatch is no environmentalist. He belongs in a world of gaming and designing levels and technical stuff which goes completely over my head). So on behalf of all graduates out there, employed or unemployed, I applaud him. Sasquatch is getting paid to do what he wants to do. I really hope I can do the same.

I simply don't want to end up in a 9-5 job for which I have no passion. Why bother at all then? I'd be happier working in a bar where the atmosphere is buzzing... Some people have said to me that I should keep my options open and apply to anything and everything from Barclays to Tescos. I agree that I should keep my options open - it's slim pickin's out there and I'm not one to be fussy... at least in terms of where I end up in the environmental sector. From a highly-paid environmental consultant to a more modest employee for an environmental charity, I'll take whatever is coming. But I have not invested nearly £10 000 on a Masters just to end up being an accountant! It's not that being an accountant is a terrible job (I could definitely do with the pay check), it's just that some people seem to think I chose to do this Masters for the letters behind my name or for the 'transferable skills' I am learning. I'm doing this Masters because it means I can become an expert in something that I am really enthusiastic about... how people fit in and connect with their environments. Why would I want to waste all this knowledge that I have, and all these brilliant ideas that I get, just to sit behind a desk doing the daily routine.

So here's to Sasquatch... who is doing what he does best. That sounds very exciting to me.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Buying green... Is it really that hard? And Chicken Blind Date.

I love food. No I mean really... I love food. My life mostly revolves around food. I'd say that about 60% of the conversations I have had in my life have revolved in some way around food. I know people who just eat because it is a necessity and meal times for them is just a case of ensuring they have the right balance of carbs, protein, etc. I am in no way like that. I enjoy cooking and - when I have the money - I even enjoy doing food shopping. But food shopping these days has become a personal battle between my personal values, my monetary constraints and my no-time-for-anything-but-essay-writing lifestyle.

When it comes to food, I like buying as green as possible (and no I don't mean the colour). Here's a crash course in buying green for those of you who are perhaps not in the know. It's simple. Buy local. Buy seasonal. Buy organic. Buy fresh. Why do I find it important to buy green? Well it's partly because I'm an environmentalist (self-confessed), but I think mostly it's because of how I've been brought up. Half my family lives in the south of France where the food is fresh, it's Mediterranean, it's healthy... and most importantly, it's yummy! Eating like that is cheaper over there. As for the other side of my family, well let's just say that's where I get my insatiable love for food from. With them, and my Mother in particular, I think it's more about trying, cooking and experiencing new foods.

The problem is that in Britain, there is a common perception that buying green is more expensive. I'm not going to lie - it is, especially if you buy produce from local and farmers' markets. But what most people don't realise yet is that most supermarkets now increasingly cater for environmentally-friendly foods. That means there's a market growing for this kind of produce. And in return that means that prices are not ridiculously over-priced. Waitrose is, without a doubt, at the forefront of this movement but it is not alone. Next time you go shopping, actually take a look at what you're buying. Likelihood is that product will have a label on it, and on that label is probably a country/location of origin, a logo to show that it follows British food standards or the Soil Association Organic Standard Logo. And then look at the price difference between those products and the rest of the shelf.

I'm in Sainsbury's (well... online). I'm in the poultry aisle and what I see in front of me is three choices. Now let me put on my best Cilla Black accent... ahem.
Contestant Number One! Who are ya and where do ya come from? - Hello my name is Sainsbury's Basic Chicken Fillets and I come from .... [well you don't want to know where that chicken comes from. I could write a whole post on that, but I won't. If you're interested, watch 'Our Daily Bread']. You can buy me for £6.96/kg [that's £2.50 for 360g pack].
Contestant Number Two! Who are ya and where do ya come from? - Hiya! I'm Sainsbury's Free Range Chicken Breasts (Taste the Difference thank you very much).  I've led a happy and healthy life and I can be yours for £14.99/kg [that's £5.39 for 360g pack].
And finally, Contestant Number Three! Who are ya and where do ya come from? - Hi there. I'm Sainsbury's So Organic Chicken Breat Fillets. I've also lead a healthy lifestyle, but I've also been bred in a way that hasn't harmed the environment. You can buy me for £16.99/kg [that's £6.11 for 360g pack].

If you look in most supermarkets, these will be the different options that you get. So which would you go for? I would advise anyone to steer away from Contestant Number 1 (and that's coming from a student). Of course this is Sainsbury's, so all contestants are likely to come from Britain which is a good start. But the price difference between the organic and non-organic options are not actually that significant. I don't reprimand anyone who goes for option number 2, I do it myself because I'm a student who lives off £15/week and that 70p difference makes a hell of a difference. But when I'm earning (if I ever manage to get a job), I know that I will be moving onto Contestant Number 3. OK so that makes me sound a bit like a chicken-whore... but the point is that there is not that much difference in price.

I think also that's it's not only about buying organic - that's just the cherry on top. Start off slow. Buying local is really the important thing. If you buy local, then it means that the produce is necessarily seasonal, as fresh as you can find it, and it's something to be proud about! Once you start looking at where your food comes from you, you'll see it starts to become a bit of an addiction. And then it becomes a statement. And really, Sainsburys got it right when they said you can Taste the Difference... (bad joke?)

Now... what's for dinner?