Please can you tell us a little bit about yourself:
I’m Ruth, I’m 26 years old and I work as a Strategy Consultant in London. I adopted a plant-based diet 6 years ago when I was still at University, and wanted to document some of the dishes I was preparing to try and change the perception that it was restrictive or too demanding to pursue alongside an intense schedule (I was studying for my finals at Oxford at the time). Since moving to London my online presence has become more lifestyle focussed and where possible I look to promote small behavioural changes we can make to tread a little lighter on this Earth! I often work very long hours, so I always try to make sure my suggestions are practical and not too time or money intensive.
Can you tell us about your journey to becoming eco-conscious? Is it something you’ve always been aware of?
I grew up in the countryside and spent a lot of time outside as a child, which I’m sure prepared me with an underlying respect for nature, but I really started to think about my position relative to others and relative to the environment when I started to travel. Aged 18 I travelled to Zanzibar to work as an English teacher, and observing the way they lived made me question a lot of the behaviours we take for granted in the West, like the way we buy and waste food. Once you start to be more mindful of one behaviour it tends to spread to others, and I became more attuned to other ways in which humans impact their environment. A couple of years later I travelled for the first time to Bali and saw the plastic pollution. It impacted me in two ways – I felt a huge amount of guilt that such a beautiful country was adopting consumptive practices presumably impacted by Western standards, and from a selfish perspective I realised that I wouldn’t be able to continue to enjoy some of the pursuits that I love if we didn’t do something – no one wants to scuba-dive to see an ocean full of plastic.
You’re an avid traveller, how do you reduce your plastic waste and remain as eco-friendly as possible whilst on-the-go?
One thing that’s really important to me when visiting a country is to leave as little trace of my visit behind as possible. My holy trinity of has always been a reusable water bottle, a reusable cup and a tote bag, but over the past years I’ve built up even more resources to help me travel consciously, like grocery bags for zero-waste shopping which I buy from Agnes Ldn. In the bathroom I have also started to use Holland & Barrett reusable cotton pads to take off my makeup, packaging-free soap, and the Ethique shampoo and conditioner bars, so that I’m not leaving behind half-used plastic miniatures!
What are the biggest changes you’ve made in order to live a more sustainable lifestyle? And what have been the biggest challenges for you personally?
The biggest change I’ve made has probably been in the kitchen since I now try to shop completely plastic-free (which definitely isn’t easy!) I built up a good range of glass jars (a combination of new ones for ingredients like rice and pasta and old reused peanut butter jars!) and now make monthly trips to bulk food stores to replenish dry goods and ingredients. My ideal Saturday is going to the market to stock up on packaging-free fruits and vegetables, but it can be tricky to make sure other plans don’t get in the way. In those cases, I try to go to supermarkets with good plastic-free options, like Lidl, or rely on frozen fruit which I can buy in bulk. Without falling into the realm of ‘eco-anxiety’, I’ve set some rules for myself which help me live by my values, like if I don’t have my reusable cup on me, I just won’t buy the tea or I’ll sit in and drink it.
What are the biggest challenges you still face now?
My biggest challenge is remembering to factor in the time it takes to pursue some of these activities, like zero-waste shopping, especially if you don’t live close to a bulk food store. It doesn’t have to be a significant change to your weekend schedule, but leaving aside a couple of hours on a Saturday to plan your food and make a visit to the market really helps. If I don’t manage to get myself prepared over the weekend and end up buying lunch during the week I try to go to shops, food markets or restaurants where I can take my own Tupperware – it’s just a question of being confident enough to use it! M&S, for example, has just started to offer a discount if you bring your own container to their salad bars, so mindsets are changing.
What are your favourite sustainable brands and why?
In terms of food brands, I love companies who are using food waste or bi-products to make something new, like Rubies in the Rubble. I also try to be cognizant of which brands are B-Corp certified, so I’ll go out of my way to support those like Rebel Mylk, Seed & Bean and Percol. In the realm of beauty, Disciple products are excellent and packaged in glass, Beauty Kitchen invests a huge amount of energy in offering an end-to-end sustainable solution (and has just introduced re-fill stations!), and Ohne is doing an amazing job in raising awareness of the pitfalls of traditional feminine health products. I’m still haven’t found my holy grail shampoo and conditioner, but I use the Ethique bars when travelling!
What are your top tips for living a life that’s as kind to the planet as possible?
Introducing a daily mindfulness practice has actually helped me lead a more sustainable life because it helps you slow down, and when you slow down you question things more and notice the little ways in which you might be contributing to a problem. I’ve also found that through doing some of these things alone I’ve met like-minded people, and we can help each other out, like buying tempeh in bulk and splitting it up, or doing our shopping together.
What are the Instagram accounts that you follow that inspire you?
I find Instagram an amazing source of vegan food inspiration, but Venetia Falconer, Livia Van Heerde and Claudia Ayuso always inspire me in the more heavy-hitting facts that they share. East of Indigo is also a current favourite for a good dose of energy healing and affirmations!
What eco-focused podcasts and/or books can you recommend for us to check out?
Claudia Ayuso and Venetia Falconer both have excellent podcasts, and I’ve just started listening to Conscious Chatter which I’m excited about. I’m always on the lookout for new podcasts as I listen to them before I go to bed (the 15-minute timer is a godsend!)
What is your favourite We Are Tea flavour and why?
I love the process of making loose leaf tea, and you can’t beat the Earl Grey Supreme, but if I’m going for a teabag I find the Ceylon with Vanilla a perfectly sweet take on a traditional black tea – it’s so comforting after dinner!
What’s your favourite plant-based restaurant in the UK?
London is obviously a foodie destination and I have several favourite restaurants in the city which you’ll see scattered across my Instagram page, but one of best meals has been at Terre à Terre in Brighton. The whole city is a plant-based heaven!
Follow Ruth on Instagram @_rutheve