First #INSPIRECHALLENGE completed!

Zero Waste

Reading time: 4 min

The first challenge of the Inspire challenge came to an end: 21 days of eating local and vegetarian food.
Once a month the Inspire team will come up with a challenge that I need to do. These challenges are thought to help people to be more conscious and inspire a shift towards a Zero Waste life or at least a more sustainable one! You can participate in this fun game too!

How did it go?!
Well… to be completely honest with you, I feel I could have done better, but I am also happy about the results.

Vegetarian or Local – what’s more difficult?

Between local and vegetarian what scared me the most was the local food. I’ve been vegetarian for years and loved it, I love to cook and prepare different dishes, always research new recipes, and experiment. I still eat vegetarian most days and usually eat now and then some meat or fish at the restaurant. Going back to full vegetarian life wasn’t that difficult. And for the ones that are wondering, yes, I am also very careful with my protein intake (even if they are vegetarian proteins)… of course being on a Spanish island, I got used to very tasty Jamon Iberico, but I know I can live without it.

When it comes to local products, that was a bit more of a challenge. I’ll give you a bit of background – I’m currently living on an island – Tenerife, half of which is kind of like a desert. On top of this, I live in a very small town on the seaside, so you can imagine that it can be a bit of a challenge. Island life is limiting as we import a lot of products and when you are on a small island the amount of locally produced ingredients diminishes a lot. So I had a few difficulties in finding all ingredients.

A few funny things happened:

  1. I discovered that my morning tea was produced in Poland… WTF.
  2. As it’s summer I was really craving an ice-cream… most are imported and even at the ice-cream shop the ingredients are not from Tenerife – imagine chocolate, strawberries… nope, but I found the Gofio (a cereal from here) ice-cream which was good…I still prefer chocolate eheheheh.

But let’s start with the very positive sides of this challenge.

Break the supermarket cycle

Vegetables at the supermarket

First of all, it helped me break the cycle of just going to the supermarket to buy my food. Don’t get me wrong, it’s the most convenient option you have, because it’s always open and you can go there any time you need, satisfying all sorts of desires you have in the culinary arena.
But then, the downside of this is that inevitably you are going to (or at least me) spend more than needed. If you are a foodie like me, then every time you go to the supermarket, you will end up buying more than it’s necessary just to treat yourself. Also, I noticed that I would throw away more food, as I would go to buy new products more often.
I went from going to the supermarket 3 or 4 times a week to going to the markets on Wednesday and Saturday morning. This led to a more organized grocery which made me spend less, waste less food, and increased the quality of my food.

There is a decent variety of vegetables in Tenerife, let’s be honest it barely changes, as we don’t have seasons, but they are very tasty. In terms of fruit, it is quite poor there are mainly bananas and papayas (which I cannot eat) and watermelon which costs double than the supermarket one. Now and then I would find something new and different. You should have seen my face of pure joy when I found figs! So unexpected, so tasty! Recently, I discovered that you can find local apples, apricots, and peaches…. Peaches are at 4 euros per kg… I had to donate my liver to buy some peaches!

At the market, I was able to buy local goat cheese which is amazing which made me very very happy! I discovered that at one of the markets I would be able to buy, if I want, local fish and meat (some kinds, not all of them).

The downside was that it’s almost impossible to find local legumes, couldn’t find any lentils, chickpeas, etc., and I couldn’t find a local option for milk or butter, olive oil, and other basic products that we use to cook.

Big PRO – the amount of plastic packaging was reduced by 80% and as a consequence also the trash I generated was way lower.

Home-made lunch

Another aspect was that I was spending quite some money on buying lunch, since I started the challenge, I started also to bring to work every day my lunch. And thanks to this I was able to reduce cost and also eat healthier as I was used to eating a sandwich almost every day.

Drinking local

Let’s talk about the water we drink. The tap water in the village where I live is terrible and I’m pretty sure you’ll die of cancer if you drink it but also taste terrible. So we are used to buying 8-litre bottles of water. Every week we use 3 or 4 large bottles of water. To my surprise, at the market, I could refill the empty bottles with potable water from a local source! Cheers to that!

Talking about drinking, another beautiful surprise is that the island has a local brewery (well…this wasn’t a surprise), it’s actually cheaper to drink beer than water on this island hahahah, but I discovered several local incredibly tasty wines like Bodega Frontos! And love them all!

Other local products I introduced to my purchase list

During the 21 days, I finished the shampoo, the conditioner, and the toothpaste and I was able to find local sustainable options! This made me happy, because I always wanted to buy these kinds of products, but it was never a priority until now. And trust me, now that I’ve tried them, I would never go back. Alma guanche is a local producer of soaps, shampoos, conditioners, creams and toothpastes. All her products are simply awesome!

The downside of the first toothpaste I found in a shop, was the price … like 13 euros – WTF, I mean I understand it is sustainable, but it’s not sustainable for my pocket!!! So I looked for a cheaper solution with Alma Guanche 🙂 The thing is that you need to invest time to find the right products…

I recently finished the laundry detergent and I discovered that in another town, 25 min drive from where I live, there is a shop where you can bring your jars and bottles for refill. So I will make sure that in my routine, once a month, I’ll go there to buy all the products I need that I cannot find at the market.

Overall, I think I enjoyed this challenge because it made me discover new interesting stuff, appreciate local ingredients, and helped me better plan my weekly grocery, and reduced waste. Did I mention that the quality of the food I ate increased incredibly?!

Restaurants were less locally focused

As you might have understood by now, I like to eat a lot of tasty food. So one of the biggest challenges was not to go to the restaurant. I know I sound spoiled, but for me eating at the restaurant now and then is a treat, and when the food is good I think it’s worth it!
But thinking again about the fact that I live on an island very far away from everything, you can understand that most restaurants don’t use local ingredients and there are very few good vegetarian options in town. If you think about it, even pizza cannot be local on Tenerife as the mozzarella is imported… and no, I’m not eating a pizza without it eheheheheh I’m so Italian! So I avoided as much as I could going to the restaurant, declined several dinner invitations, but at the very end of the challenge there were some social work events I had to attend and the only option was to try to order the most local dish I could find.

Dinners with friends – OUCH!

The other downside of this challenge is that I had a few dinners at home and friends would bring some food too and it was not local, not vegetarian and I have to say that I am guilty of having succumbed to temptation…

Overall a wonderful experience

In general, I think this challenge helped me to open my eyes a bit when it comes to buying products. To not just select immediately the first one and the cheaper one I find, but I started to check where it’s coming from and if it is from far away, I started to ask myself if I really needed it and if it’s really worth buying it. Then I tend to ask myself, “can you find a more sustainable solution?” It’s a challenge because you need to invest a bit more time while buying what you need and be more conscious. 

Also, I think that I like the fact of being able to contribute to the local economy and buy as many local products as I can, however, I am also aware that it takes extra effort, because you have to break a convenient routine built around a frenetic life where we don’t have much time to waste to go to the market, find the right shops, find better local products. But if you manage, it’s really rewarding!

I’m very curious to hear your opinion, so please leave a comment!

The first challenge is behind me and on Monday at 7pm (Italian time) the Inspire ladies will give me the next one! Can’t wait to hear which one is it!!! Keep you posted!

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