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But Plants Have Feelings Too, Don’t They?


Do plants feel pain? Do they have feelings?

As you process these questions, you probably have a natural assumption that plants do or do not feel pain.

Whatever your stance, it may seem pretty straightforward. As it turns out, the answer to this question can be complex.

If you’re vegan, you probably cringe every time someone tells you, “but, plants have feelings too”. Or ask, “if you care about killing animals, why don’t you care about killing plants?”

Then you non-confidently mumble back a response about how plants don’t have a central nervous system so scientifically, they can’t feel pain.

While this statement is somewhat true, there’s more to consider about the sentience of plants.

I get the intent behind the questions. If plants have feelings and can experience pain, then what’s the difference between eating animals and plants? Why is there a hierarchy of suffering?

This post is my attempt to present arguments for and against the “plants have feelings too” debate, before weighing in on my own opinion towards the end.

Let’s get into it.

What’s pain, and how does it work?

To understand if plants feel pain, we must first define what pain is.

A quick Google search reveals that pain is a highly unpleasant physical sensation caused by illness or injury.

Okay, that seems pretty obvious. Let’s get a little more specific.

Animals (human and non-human) perceive pain through sensory nerve cells. The same network of cells that process our sight, touch, smell, hearing and taste.

As explained in the textbook Pain and Disability: Clinical, Behavioral, and Public Policy Perspectives, pain receptors which are present in most body tissues, respond to damaging or potentially damaging stimuli.

Messages initiated by this stimuli are transmitted by nerve cells to the spinal cord and the brain (your central nervous system). If the brain perceives the threat to be legitimate, it responds by creating a sensation of pain to direct attention to the body part so that the danger can be mitigated.

It’s like if you were to hit your big toe on the bottom of your bed frame. The impact of the connection creates stimuli. From there the nerve cells get sent to your brain, which the brain approves and creates the sensation of pain to your big toe.

With this information, you analyse the risk of further pain by avoiding repeated action. Additionally, your brain signals to not to put pressure on your toe to give it time to heal.

We must also remember that pain is a subjective emotion, not just a physical response. This is why animals can experience complex pain-related emotions like fear, sadness and anger.

For example, a cow can experience trauma from being separated from her calf after birth, much like how a human mother could experience the same emotional pain in the same situation.

To summarise, pain is the process of turning stimuli into a subjective emotional experience to mitigate future risk and promote healing.

What’s a plant?

Plants are living organisms that come in many different forms. We’ve come to know them as trees, shrubs, herbs, grasses, ferns, and mosses.

There are three basic structures of a plant:

  1. Leaf – the leaf is an organ of a plant that captures energy from sunlight. Leaves also collect carbon dioxide from the air.
  2. Stem – the stem is the core structure of a plant that supports leaves, branches and flowers. Stems have vascular tissues that move food and water around the plant to help it thrive and grow. Plants often store food in stems.
  3. Roots – the roots of a plant grow underground and help the plant stay balanced while also gathering minerals and water from the soil. Some plants store food in their roots.

There are almost 400,000 plant species, and scientists are discovering more each day.

To put it simply, plants rule the world—representing 80 per cent of the earth’s biomass.

Personally, I love plants as we owe our existence to them.

They provide food, shelter, shade, clean air and beauty. Plants, in many ways, represent life.

It’s essential to acknowledge the overwhelming significance of plants as we consider the emotions of this infinitely generous species.

A case for why plants feel pain and have emotion

In this next section, I break down three case studies that are regularly referenced when making an argument that plants feel pain.

Where possible, I’ve linked to the papers for your perusal.

1. Plants can hear themselves being eaten by caterpillars

In a paper published in 2014 titled Plants respond to leaf vibrations caused by insect herbivore chewing, researchers found plants increased their chemical response to the vibrations caused by a caterpillar chewing.

The study involved placing caterpillars on plants called Arabidopsis, then using lasers and reflective materials to measure the movement of the leaf in response to the caterpillar munching.

The recordings of the caterpillars feeding vibrations were played back to a set of plants and played silence to another set of plants.

It was found that the plants that had been forced to listen to the sound of the vibrations from the munching produced more mustard oils, which are chemicals insects don’t like.

The argument here is that plants respond to pain by producing defence mechanisms when they detect a threat.

2. Plants can communicate with each other

In a paper published in 1983 titled Rapid Changes in Tree Leaf Chemistry Induced by Damage: Evidence for Communication Between Plants, researchers found signs of communication amongst maple trees as a response to intentionally cutting their leaves.

Specifically, increased rates of synthesis and phenolic compounds were found amongst a group of maple seedlings 52 hours after having 7 per cent of their leaf area removed from tearing.

The argument here is that plants can release chemicals as a form of communication to warn other plants of the threat, as a reaction to pain.

This paper was met with a lot of controversies as early studies could not be replicated.

Then another paper published in 2014 titled Volatile communication between plants that affects herbivory: a meta-analysis, stating that they found 48 well-replicated studies since the 1983 research. Through their meta-analysis, they found overall support for the hypothesis that resistance increased for individuals with damaged neighbours.

But like most research, they stated in the conclusion that more testing is required for consistency of results, and adjusted for environmental variables. For example, all of the studies reviewed so far occurred in a lab, not in nature, which may be a factor when analysing the communication between plants.

The other question mark in the testing is the lack of reciprocation in communication between the plant subjects. It appears that when herbivores attack a plant, the plant emits communications to others, but there’s no evidence of the other plants communicating to the emitter.

This suggests that the response of the emitter is more of a message or broadcast of warning, as opposed to a cry for help.

3. Plants are reportedly “screaming” when under stress

In a paper published in December 2019 titled Plants emit informative airborne sounds under stress, researchers found that plants emit high-pitched sounds when threatened.

Specifically, they recorded the sound waves over some time for tomato and tobacco plants when dry, cut, and normal.

The results showed that when the plant was under stress, e.g. dry or cut, they found the plants began to emit ultrasonic sounds between 20 and 100 kilohertz.

Plants emit sounds that humans can’t hear (without assistance), so the researchers used ultrasonic microphones to detect the sound waves in the study.

Keep in mind that this paper is not peer-reviewed at the time of publishing this post.

But the results do raise an interesting element to the “plants have feelings” debate.

If plants are, in fact, screaming when under stress, we can make some assumptions that they do at least react to pain.

A case for why plants don’t feel pain and have emotions

Whether it’s reacting to vibrations, sending warning signals, or literally screaming, we still have much to learn about plants.

These examples together are put forward a compelling case for plants being able to experience pain.

Having said that, the argument for why plants don’t feel pain or emotions doesn’t need much explaining. It all comes down to biology.

As explained earlier in this post, pain is an experience that incorporates communication between stimuli, receptors, cells, and the central nervous system.

It’s one thing to merely react to a threat, and it’s another thing to intellectualise it.

Animals suffer from pain because they consciously process pain. It’s the brain and spinal cords which make us aware of the pain, again, which is a subjective response based on complex emotions.

The examples of plants releasing chemicals and sounds without the processing from a central nervous system can be considered to be a basic stimulus-response.

It’s similar to how plants react to stimulus from the sun, water, or soil.

These responses draw comparisons to technology. For instance, when you press the button on a doorbell, it responds by making a noise.

Or when the battery on your phone gets low, it responds by flashing.

These are responses, not intellectually processed emotions.

The famous Venus flytrap plant

Another example that is perhaps more relevant than technology is the well-known plant, Venus flytrap.

Venus flytrap is a carnivorous plant that eats insects, frogs and human flesh if given the opportunity.

This unusual plant lures in prey by using sweet scent from its nectar. Once the prey is at the jaws of the Venus flytrap, the plant gets ready to snap shut.

Professors from the University of Tasmania have said that Venus flytraps don’t recognise animals; they respond to mechanical stimulation.

This is further proven by the Venus flytrap responding to a cigarette placed in its jaws.

If the plant had a central nervous system, it would be able to consciously discern its prey to consume the most optimal nutrients for its biology.

You can’t just give any animal a rock to eat—they would consciously process potential food using their sensory cells and their brain. It’s the same system used to process fear, sadness and suffering.

My final thoughts on whether plants have feelings

There’s no question that we’re learning more about plants every year, and the research about how they respond to stimuli is fascinating.

But even after reading the research, I couldn’t see any clear peer-reviewed evidence of plants showing anything beyond mechanical response to stimuli.

The examples of plants responding to cuts, munching on leaves and drought seem obvious to me. Plants also react to music, quality soil, surrounding objects and sunshine.

Does it mean that they’re consciously responding to these situations? I think not.

Now, are plants living organisms? Absolutely, and humans generally treat them that way. We often refer to a plant as happy, sad, dead or alive.

But the absence of a brain limits a plants ability to take stimuli and process a conscious subjective response. Well, as far as we know.

So while I can’t definitively say that plants don’t have feelings, I’ve seen more evidence that they don’t.

For me, the deal-breaker is the difference between a mechanical response and a conscious response.

I’d love to hear from you now. What do you think? Do plants have feelings?

What are your thoughts on mechanical and conscious responses to threats? Let me know in the comments below.

Other posts you’ll love:

  1. Is It Okay For Vegans To Eat Eggs From Backyard Chickens?
  2. Should Animals Be Kept in Zoos?
  3. Is Wool Vegan? Ethical Considerations of The Wool Industry
  4. A Letter To Vegetarians From a Vegan
  5. I Love Animals But I Could Never Give Up {Insert Blank}
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Three Incredibly Simple Silverbeet Recipes


Silverbeet also is known as Swiss chard, seakale beet or chard is a leafy green vegetable with (normally) white stems. It may seem that silverbeet might be part of the spinach family; however, it’s part of the beet family.

Silverbeet has more of an earthy, stronger flavour compared to say English spinach or baby spinach. It’s also much heartier. 

I’ve grown up eating silverbeet as it was a staple in my family home. We would have it in many different ways, and it was always prepared very simply.

If my mum wanted to make a quick meal, a silverbeet recipe was generally on the cards, next to other quick dishes like this cabbage pasta

My mum being Croatian grew up eating silverbeet too. The three simple recipes I share with you below I learned from my mum and grandmother. Silverbeet originated from Europe and is quite popular in Mediterranean countries.

Eat with the seasons

Silverbeet is currently in season here in Australia, and where we live out in the country, it has become one of the only leafy greens I can get organic at the moment. So I’ve decided to embrace this vegetable and share with you the three simple ways that you can use silverbeet at home. 

I’ve realised Swiss chard isn’t a vegetable that too many people would pick up off the shelf unless they knew what to do with it. If you wish to grow it, there are plenty of places you can buy seed for them! 

So to get you more comfortable with this delicious vegetable, I thought I’d go through and answer some common questions about it first. 

Do you eat the stalks of silverbeet?

Yes, you do! I try and use every part of a vegetable when I cook so naturally, I’ll use every part of the silverbeet.

In all three of these silverbeet recipes, I’ve included the white stalks, so nothing is wasted. They do take a little bit longer to cook, but they add a delicious depth of flavour and texture to the dish. 

My tip is to dice it up finely and make sure you add it to the pan/pot about 5-10 minutes before adding the rest of the silverbeet. This way it will cook for longer making it softer and less noticeable in your dish. 

If you’re ever using a recipe that says to leave the stalks out, you can add them later to your soup, stir-fry or stock, so it doesn’t go to waste. 

What is silverbeet good for?

Like many leafy greens, silverbeet has many health benefits. It’s a great source of vitamin K, A, B6, C, riboflavin, and folate as well as iron, zinc, potassium and manganese. You’ll also find that it’s a wonderful source of fibre.

What all this translates to is that chard is good for:

  • Your brain and nerve function
  • Can help to regulate blood pressure
  • Helping to clot your blood
  • Assists with bone metabolism
  • Helps regulate blood calcium levels
  • Will assist by supporting your immune system
  • Promotes the absorption of iron
  • Amongst many others!

Fun fact: As I mentioned earlier, depending on where you live, silverbeet is called a variety of different things. When we refer to rainbow chard, that means that instead of the stems being white, they can be an array of colours like pink, yellow, orange, red or even purple. 

Now that you know a little more about this wonderful leafy green vegetable, I hope that next time you’re buying produce you consider picking up a bunch! 

These three silverbeet recipes are so easy to make and are a quick, healthy and nutritious weeknight dinner, side or starter. I eat all of these as main meals as they’re so delicious. 

If you try any of these recipes, let me know! Would love for you to leave a comment and rating below. If you want to go that extra mile, tag us on Instagram or share your photo of the recipe on Pinterest. Don’t want to make it now? Pin it for later!

First up, we have this super creamy (without the cream) silverbeet and potato soup. With just a few ingredients that you’ll need on hand, this is perfect for those cosy evenings inside. 

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Yield: Serves 4 as Starter and 2 as Main

Creamy Silverbeet and Potato Soup

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Prep Time:
5 minutes
Cook Time:
30 minutes
Total Time:
35 minutes
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        <p>Vegan and gluten-free super creamy and simple nourishing silverbeet and potato soup that is perfect for those cooler days.
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                    ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil                    </li>
                                <li>
                    3 cloves of garlic, minced                  </li>
                                <li>
                    3 medium potatoes, cut into small cubes                 </li>
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                    1 bunch of silverbeet (around 6 large stems), thinly chopped                    </li>
                                <li>
                    Salt and pepper to taste                    </li>
                                <li>
                    ⅓ cup raw cashews                   </li>
                                <li>
                    ¼ cup nutritional yeast                 </li>
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Instructions

  1. In a large pot on medium heat, place all ingredients but the cashews and nutritional yeast and place lid fully on. Let the steam wilt the silverbeet down, stirring occasionally.
  2. After a couple of minutes, pour boiling water into the pot. Enough to just cover the produce, this should be around 750ml-1 L.
  3. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. It will be ready once the potato is cooked. Poke a fork or knife through it and it should go through easily. It should take about 20 minutes.
  4. While that cooks, pour some of the boiled water over the cashews for them to soften before you add them to the blender.
  5. Once the veggies have cooked, add all ingredients carefully to a blender and add the cashews (drain the water first from soaking them) and the nutritional yeast. Blend until smooth.
  6. Serve with some additional cracked pepper, a drizzle of olive oil and some parsley. (Optional)
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Next up I’m sharing with you something that I’ve only ever seen my mum make, and that is pasta with tomato sauce with the chard in it. SO simple, but I’m still surprised how this dish packs so much flavour! Not dry or any weird textures, who would have known that chard is an excellent addition to your tomato sauce?!

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Yield: Serves 4-5

Vegan Pasta with a Chard Tomato Sauce

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Prep Time:
5 minutes
Cook Time:
25 minutes
Total Time:
30 minutes
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        <p>Quick and easy tomato-based sauce with chard folded through pasta of your choice. A twist on a basic tomato sauce that adds more nutrients to your meal. 
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                    ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil                    </li>
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                    1 onion, diced                  </li>
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                    3 cloves of garlic, minced                  </li>
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                    500g penne pasta (or pasta of your choice)                  </li>
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                    1 bunch of silverbeet (around 6 large stems), thinly chopped -  separate the leafy part from the white stems                    </li>
                                <li>
                    1 can of diced tomatoes (400g)                  </li>
                                <li>
                    Salt and pepper to taste                    </li>
                                <li>
                    2 tbsp nutritional yeast (optional)                 </li>
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Instructions

  1. In a large pot on medium heat, add the olive oil, onion and garlic and saute for a couple of minutes.
  2. Bring a separate pot of water to a boil and add a pinch of salt. Add the pasta and cook until al dente and drain. Mine took 11 minutes. Follow your packet instructions.
  3. Add the can of diced tomatoes to the onions and garlic and fill half the can with water and add that to the pot as well. Give it a good stir and let it simmer for around 5 minutes.
  4. Add in the white chard stems and cook for a further 5 minutes.
  5. Stir in the leafy greens and season. Cook for a further 5 minutes.
  6. Pour the pasta into the sauce pot and stir well. Add in the nutritional yeast if using.
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And lucky last, the simplest of them all. This classic Croatian dish that I was also raised on has been something that reminds me fondly of my mum. Better known to me (or others from that part of the world) as “blitva sa krumpirom”, it’s great accompanied by some pan-fried tofu and drizzled with tamari. 

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Yield: Serves 4 as a side and 2 as a main

Croatian Swiss Chard & Potatoes

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Prep Time:
10 minutes
Cook Time:
30 minutes
Total Time:
40 minutes
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        <p>Croatian style super simple dish that can be served as a side or a main. With 4 humble ingredients, this is a budget-friendly meal. 
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                    4 medium potatoes, diced large                  </li>
                                <li>
                    1 bunch of silverbeet (around 6 large stems)                    </li>
                                <li>
                    ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil                    </li>
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                    2 cloves of garlic, minced                  </li>
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                    Salt and pepper to taste                    </li>
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Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add a pinch of salt and the potatoes.
  2. Cut the white stems from the chard and thinly slice them. Set aside.
  3. Roughly chop the rest of the chard. Set aside.
  4. After 10 minutes of the potatoes cooking, add the stems to the water and cook for a further 8-10 minutes.
  5. Add the chard leaves and cook for 3-5 minutes. Make sure you push the leaves into the water and put the lid on to help it wilt down.
  6. Once finished (the potatoes should be soft), drain well and add back to the pot and put on low heat for a couple of minutes. This will help the excess water to evaporate.
  7. Using a spatula, mash some of the potatoes and mix really well, adding in the garlic and olive oil.
  8. Season to taste and stir well before serving.
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How easy are these? Which silverbeet recipe caught your attention? Have you had any of these before?

Other recipes you’ll love:

  1. 3-Ingredient Cabbage Pasta
  2. Vegan Bruschetta Toppings Done Four Ways
  3. Vegan Sweet Potato Gnocchi With a Capsicum Tomato Sauce (Gluten-Free)
  4. Creamy Vegan Mushroom Risotto
  5. Vegan Mushroom & Thyme Soup
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What’s The Future of Minimalism? Episode 046


We know we say it all the time, but minimalism has changed our lives in ways we didn’t think was possible.

But for all of the clutter we’ve reduced and money we’ve saved, it’s the essentialist mindset of minimalism that has been perhaps to most valuable gift.

Although minimalism as a lifestyle has gained momentum in the last decade, we often wonder what the future of minimalism looks like. Does it have a future? Or is minimalism merely a trend that will eventually go away?

In this episode, we discuss how minimalism has grown over time as well as our thoughts on what we think minimalism will look like in the future.

“Minimalism as a lifestyle is ambiguous which makes it difficult to measure.”

“Use the concepts of minimalism to limit your footprint on the planet.”

“Removing the unnecessary is a great starting point on your path to simplicity.”

Listen to the episode

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Valuable Insights From The Most Sustainable Countries In The World

With consumer-driven climate change, it’s critical to use our collective resources to make a positive impact on our planet.
 
There’s no point reinventing the wheel if others are already doing the work to make their country more sustainable.
 
I recognise that the application of these ideas isn’t universal. Every nation has different resources, climates and challenges. But it doesn’t mean we can’t draw inspiration from shared knowledge and experiences.
 
I hope this post reminds us to keep sustainability front of mind when it comes to systemic change. Whether it’s through global policy, or competition to “be the best country in the world”, we need to move with urgency.

 Below I share five valuable insights from the most sustainable countries in the world.
 
Most of these insights are not only applicable at a systemic level but also at an individual level.
 
Note: If you’re more interested in how countries rank against each other when it comes to sustainability, check out the Environmental Performance Index (EPI).

Insight 1 – Switzerland’s approach to wastewater management

It’s hard to talk about sustainability and not address our global water crisis, especially wastewater.
 
Wastewater systems pump micropollutants into our streams and rivers—disrupting the ecosystem.
 
These micropollutants include things like:
  • Human waste
  • Pharmasuaticauls
  • Feminine products
  • Beauty
  • Toxic chemicals from cosmetics and cleaning products
  • Plastic
  • Pesticides from agricultural activities
Switzerland is a pioneer when it comes to preserving water quality. They solve wastewater problems through the National Surface Water Quality Monitoring Programme. They’re also aggressive in their expansion of wastewater plants across the country.
 
Wastewater plants are responsible for filtering out micropollutants, and turning it into useable consumable water, while also limiting the amount of wastewater going back into rivers and streams.
 
Establishing a network of quality of wastewater plants is a massive undertaking for any country. Yet, Switzerland has made it a priority, and are starting to see results.
 

Results from Switzerland’s wastewater implementation

In 1967, wastewater treatment was written into Swiss law. Formalising legislation shows that water quality has been a priority for many decades.

The Swiss followed through on their laws by building wastewater plants across the country. Creating access to more plants ensures high connection rates to their residents.

There are approximately 900 wastewater treatment plants across Switzerland. As of 2005, 97% of the Swiss population was connected to a sewage treatment plant.

Key takeaway: prioritise water preservation through legislation and research. Also, build wastewater treatment plants across the country. We can measure the results by tracking the percentage of residents connected to treatment plants, as well as the percentage of waste going into nature.

What can we do at an individual level? Limit our use of micropollutants in our daily lives.

Insight 2 – How the French address fashion waste

Big-name fashion brands have been incinerating unused inventory in an attempt to uphold scarcity.

Yes, you read that correctly.

Brands like Burberry dare to light 40 million dollars worth of product on fire. Even after considering all the resources and waste from producing their products in the first place!

Read more: The True Cost of a $10 Garment

Luckily, the growing population of mindful consumers are challenging fashion brands to move to more sustainable practices.

Deadstock waste comes from overproducing garments—miss calculating trends and forecasts.

France is a global leader in high-end fashion. According to Forbes, $730 million of unsold stock is destroyed each year!

So the French created a groundbreaking law to ban designer clothing and luxury goods brands from destroying unsold or returned items.

The bill requires producers, importers and distributors, including online firms such as Amazon, to donate unsold non-food goods except those that pose a health or safety risk.

Also, part of the bill encourages brands to be more transparent about the resources used to make their products. This includes the estimated lifespan of products to help consumers make better decisions at the point of sale.

Key takeaway: write legislation to make retailers reuse or recycle unused products to reduce waste. Challenge companies to use clear labelling about the sustainability of their products. We can measure results by tracking the percentage of remaining inventory saved within a given period.

What can we do at an individual level? Support sustainable fashion brands or opt to shop second hand. Additionally, ask retailers how they deal with their deadstock to spark a conversation through feedback.

french retail

Insight 3 – France, Italy and South Korea tackle food waste

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) a third of the world’s food is wasted each year including;

  • 45% of all fruits and vegetables
  • 35% of fish and seafood
  • 30% of cereals
  • 20% of dairy products
  • 20% of meat

It’s terrifying how inefficient our food waste systems are considering that 1 in 7 people on the planet is undernourished!

What’s interesting is that much of the food wastage in developed nations happens at a consumer level. Conversely, most food wastage in developing countries come from production.
 
In other words, developed nations have a robust infrastructure for food production but are picky eaters.
 

A third of the world's food is wasted each year, while 1 in 7 people on the planet are undernourished.
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How the French approach food waste

To combat food waste, France has emerged as one of the leaders with what they’ve implemented.

In 2015, France passed a law that stops grocery stores from discarding food that is approaching the used-by date. Instead, stores must donate their food to charities and food banks.

France imposes contracts on supermarkets that, if violated, will lead to hefty fines and even prison sentences.

While this bill is a positive move in the right direction for food sustainability, there’s still work to be done. For grocery stores to meet the requirements of the French government, all they need to show that they have donated food within a period. This could be a little as 1 per cent of their total food wastage, to merely tick a box.

It’s not like retailers want to do the wrong thing. A lot of the issues around food waste in supermarkets is around the health risks of distributing food. These grocery stores are understandably trying to avoid lawsuits.

How Italy approaches food waste

Six months after the French law was established, Italy made legislation of their own.
 
Unlike the French law, which penalises supermarkets that fail to follow the rules, the Italian law focuses on making it easier for companies to donate unsold food.
 
The Italian’s have more relaxed regulations. For example, food passed the used-by date can be donated—giving food companies more confidence to reduce their food wastage.

How South Korea approaches food waste

 
While Italy is more subtle in its approach to addressing food wastage at a commercial level, South Korea has been far more aggressive to address consumer behaviour, and they have results to show for it!
 
Between 2013 and 2017, Seoul reduced its food waste by 10%!
 
How did they do it? Well, the government enforced a law that requires residents to pay for the amount of food waste they generate.
 
The people of Seoul must dispose of their waste in a special bin which is accessed using an identification card. The container weighs the waste and generates a bill to the resident based on the weight.
 
I can only imagine how motivating it would be to reduce your waste if you were charged for it.
 
With any leftover waste, the South Korean’s devised a recycling system that turns food waste into animal feed and biogas, which is burned to produce energy.
 

Seoul has reduced its waste by 10% as a result of charging residents for the amount of waste they produce.
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Key takeaways: at a commercial level, create laws to ensure grocery stores are recycling food products, and establish clear standards on how to do it. At an individual level, charge residents for the amount of waste they produce.
 
What can we do at an individual level? This easiest thing we can do is to eat all of the food we purchase. Don’t let any food go to waste, whether it’s in your pantry, fridge or on your plate.

Insight 4 – Denmark’s approach to sustainable heating

Providing adequate heating for our day-to-day lives is a huge consideration when it comes to sustainable living.

Heating dwellings using individual heat boilers are inefficient. That’s where district heating comes into play.

District heating is the process of using large centralised heating plants to distribute hot water through underground pipes to each property in the district.

These shared boilers are far more efficient than individual boilers.

District heating has been around since the 1870s and has evolved many generations over time.

The benefit of district heating is that you can combine electricity and heating in the same plants—enabling more efficient production.

What’s impressive about these heat networks is the ability to redistribute heat that would be otherwise wasted. For instance, the excess heat produced by electricity generating stations, factories, server farms, and public transport goes back into the network. This process helps reduce waste, lower carbon emissions and fuel consumption—all while saving everybody money.

Furthermore, the energy source in the heating plants can be adjusted, which makes it easier to add renewable sources.

While district heating has many benefits, the challenge remains the cost of implementation. This is particularly expensive when trying to retrofit properties to support the infrastructure. It’s more cost-effective to establish district heating when building new properties.

Results from Denmark’s district heating strategy

One country that has taken district heating to the heart is Denmark. Up until the oil crisis in the 1970s, 90% of Denmark’s energy came from imported oil. 90%!
 
So as you can imagine, once the oil stopped coming into the country, residents suffered.
 
From that moment, Denmark has invested heavily in district heating networks with a focus on renewables and efficiency.
 
Today 63% of Danish households are powered by district heating. That is an incredible turnaround, considering how dependent this nation once was on imported oil.
 
To put these results into perspective, only 2% of the households in the UK are powered by district heating.
 
A report by Buro Happold in 2013 found that the wasted heat in London alone is enough to meet 70% of the city’s heating needs.
 
Now that Denmark has established a heating network, they have plans of expanding to as many districts as possible. At the same time, the Danish are improving the sustainability of the fuels they use.
 

Key takeaways: many developed nations are already trying to increase district heating services, but it’s about putting a long-term plan in place to understand the return on investment and environmental impact over many years to come, and committing.

Insight 5 – Sweden’s controversial approach to recycling household waste

When you think of the most sustainable countries in the world, recycling usually comes to mind.

What percentage of waste does a nation recycle? That’s the metric used to measure how “green” a country is compared to others.

While there are many more factors to sustainability, it’s understandable why the measure of household waste is close to our hearts. After all, recycling is one of the first things we’re taught in school to help the planet.

When reviewing waste allocation, we’re looking at the lifecycle of waste with four different outcomes:

  1. Waste which ends up in landfill – this is the worst-case scenario, as burying waste emits an incredible amount of greenhouse gases.
  2. Waste which gets incinerated – it’s commonly argued that a better alternative to dumping waste in landfill is to burn out waste instead. Sounds crazy, I know! Landfills generate methane which is a more potent greenhouse gas than CO2 due to biodegradable waste going in and decomposing without oxygen. While not ideal, incineration is another viable option for household waste.
  3. Waste which gets incinerated and then turned into energy – at least with this option the CO2 emissions are a byproduct of producing recycled energy. Again, it’s not perfect, but it’s a better path than landfill or incineration without the production of energy.
  4. Waste which is successfully recycled or composted – by far the most sustainable destination for waste is to recycle by reusing or composting completely.

And that’s where the Swede’s come in…

Sweden has long been a pioneer of household waste, with less than 1% of waste ending up in the landfill.

At a consumer level, Sweden has installed recycling stations no more than 300 metres from any residential area. These stations have far more options than bottles and cans.

They have separate bins for plastic, paper, metal, glass, electric appliances, light bulbs, and batteries.

It’s through these stations and focused media attention about the importance of sustainability; Sweden has developed a culture of recycling.

With this implementation, Sweden now successfully recycles 50% of its waste.

What happens to the other 50% of their waste?

This waste gets incinerated in fire chambers and then turned into energy thus almost no waste going to landfill.

If you’re interested, check out this video showing the Swedes philosophy when it comes to recycling.

Key takeaways: install recycling stations within walking distance to residents with options to distribute household waste. Weigh up the pros and cons of incinerating leftover waste and turning it into power.

What can we do at an individual level? Make it our top priority to reuse and compost our household waste where possible.

Half-insight – Germany, Denmark, Sweden considering a meat tax

Whether its greenhouse gases, deforestation, water quality, or air quality, meat (particularly beef) is a huge contributor to many of our environmental issues.

In an attempt to combat the detrimental impact of meat production, nations such as Germany, Denmark and Sweden are entertaining the idea of introducing a meat tax, to reduce the consumption of meat.

I’ve added in this strategy as a half-insight, as of the time of publishing this post, meat tax hasn’t been fully developed.

We’ve seen the effectiveness of taxes on alcohol, cigarettes and soft drinks to control consumer behaviour. The basic premise is if you want to reduce the consumption of a good, make it more expensive.

Germany seems to be the most outspoken about their plans to increase their meat tax from the reduced rate of 7% to a standard rate of 19%.

However, there’s still much debate on the effectiveness of raising the value-added tax on meat as nations continue looking at creative ways to reduce meat consumption.

In the meantime, a study from The University of Oxford found that going vegan is the single biggest way to reduce our environmental impact on the planet. The study is the most comprehensive analysis to date when it comes to reviewing the detrimental effects of animal agriculture on the environment.


A study by The University of Oxford found that going vegan is the single biggest way to reduce our environmental impact.
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Meat tax or not, we have the power to dramatically help the future of our planet by adopting a vegan lifestyle. Luckily, it’s never been easier to become vegan. Check out my comprehensive guide below to help you get started.

Read more: How To Go Vegan: A Guide On How To Transition To a Vegan Lifestyle

There’s so much to learn from the most sustainable countries in the world

The race to a more sustainable future is well on its way, and while not any strategy is perfect, the insights shared in this post show that nations are really trying to solve environmental problems.

And the most exciting part is, this is only scratching the surface. So many countries are doing incredible things to create a sustainable future.

Again, if you’re interested, check out the complete ranking of the most sustainable countries in the world via the Environmental Performance Index (EPI).

I hope this post has given you hope that change is happening at a systemic level, and your individual efforts to reduce your footprint is not a complete waste of time.

I’d love to hear from you now. Did you learn anything new in this post? Is there anything your country has implemented successfully to improve sustainability? Let me know in the comments below.

Valuable Insights From The Most Sustainable Countries In The World

Other posts you’ll love:

  1. Where is Away? The Epidemic of Plastic
  2. 100+ Simple Tips To Live a More Sustainable Lifestyle
  3. Lindsay Miles Shares How To Get Started With Sustainable Living
  4. Over 45 of The Best Ethical & Sustainable Clothing Brands in 2020
  5. A Beginners Guide To A Zero-Waste Kitchen
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High Protein Vegan Salad with Sweet Potato, Quinoa and Satay Tofu

As a vegan, one of the most common questions that you’ll get asked is “where do you get your protein from?”. It’s funny, all the people that ask that question generally don’t pay too much attention to their protein intake and have all of a sudden become experts on the topic when they hear of your lifestyle choice.

However, let’s leave that debate for another day, shall we?

I have been including more protein in my diet in the last few months and have been making a lot of salads. They will typically include either tofu or tempeh, some nuts or seeds, a grain like quinoa, buckwheat, or millet, some kind of bean, and lots of leafy greens.

This salad, in particular, has been created to give you a high protein intake. You’ll get it from the quinoa, sweet potato, tamari, tofu, peanut butter, green peas and leafy greens.

High Protein Vegan Salad with Sweet Potato, Quinoa and Satay Tofu Satay Dressing for a High Protein Vegan Salad with Sweet Potato, Quinoa and Tofu

How much protein do I need as a vegan?

This question gets asked a lot, and you want to make sure that you’re covering yourself. I know I need around 55 grams of protein each day. According to the DRI (Dietary Reference Intake), this is calculated by your body weight. So for every 1 kilo (2.2 pounds) of body weight, you need 0.8 grams (0.36 grams per pound) of protein. So for me, this would be 0.8 x 68, which is 54.4 grams of protein daily.

If you want to learn more about plant-based protein, our friends over at Nutriciously explain it very well.

High Protein Vegan Salad with Sweet Potato, Quinoa and Tofu with a Satay Dressing

I don’t pay too much attention to numbers as I eat legumes, beans, fermented soy products, grains and vegetables every day. I did the calculations a while ago just out of curiosity and got a rough idea of how much protein intake that was, and it was more than enough.

I would, however, encourage you (for self-awareness) to track what you eat on a typical day and calculate how much protein that is to see how much you’re getting. This way you’ll know if you need more or if you’re doing well.

High Protein Vegan Salad with Sweet Potato, Quinoa and Tofu with a Satay Dressing

How much protein is in this salad?

This salad has at least 70-72 grams of protein. It will serve 2-3 people, depending on the portion size. In our house, this would serve two people as we are big eaters. 

Now, I can’t say how much of your daily protein this will cover for you, as you can see from the calculations above that it will vary from person to person.

But for me, this covers around 66% of my daily protein intake (which would be half of this salad). 

If you want to up the protein in this salad again, you can sprinkle some pepitas (pumpkin seeds) or hemp seeds. That will take it (per ¼ cup) by another 8-10 grams of protein.  

High Protein Vegan Salad with Sweet Potato, Quinoa and Tofu with a Satay Dressing

This high protein vegan salad is a great on the go meal.

This recipe is wonderful for when you’re on the go and want to prepare some food ahead of time. It only takes 40 minutes to make, and it’s super easy. The best part is that most of these ingredients will already be in your fridge and pantry!

It’s great for lunch at work, school (if peanuts are allowed, otherwise leave the dressing off or swap the peanut butter for tahini in the recipe), out for a picnic or packed in a thermos for walks/hikes.

High Protein Vegan Salad with Sweet Potato, Quinoa and Tofu with a Satay Dressing

This salad is:

  • Filling
  • Hearty
  • Healthy
  • Full of flavour
  • Great balance of nutrients
  • Beautiful
  • Easy and quick to make
  • Colourful
  • PACKED with protein

High Protein Vegan Salad with Sweet Potato, Quinoa and Tofu with a Satay Dressing

I have fallen in love with this salad so much that I’ve added it to my weekly rotation and will often make it for my husband Michael and I for lunch. It’s great as leftovers as well. I leave the leafy greens and dressing separate, adding it just before eating.

This high protein vegan salad is perfect both warm or cold.

If you try this recipe, let me know! Would love for you to leave a comment and rating below. If you want to go that extra mile, tag us on Instagram or share your photo of the recipe on Pinterest

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Yield: Serves 2-3

High Protein Vegan Salad with Sweet Potato, Quinoa and Satay Tofu

        </header>
Prep Time:
10 minutes
Cook Time:
30 minutes
Total Time:
40 minutes
    <div class="mv-create-description">
        <p>This high protein salad is full of flavour and plant-based protein. Easy and quick to make, it's great for lunch. 
    </div>
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<div class="mv-create-ingredients">
    <h3 class="mv-create-ingredients-title mv-create-title-secondary">Ingredients</h3>

                                        <ul>
                                <li>
                    2 cups (half of a medium) sweet potato, cut into cubes                  </li>
                                <li>
                    Neutral frying oil (I like grapeseed or rice bran)                  </li>
                                <li>
                    Salt                    </li>
                                <li>
                    2 cups (250 gr), firm tofu cut into cubes                   </li>
                                <li>
                    ¾ cup tri-coloured quinoa (or white is fine), washed                    </li>
                                <li>
                    1 cup fresh or frozen green peas                    </li>
                                <li>
                    2 large handfuls of leafy greens - I used half baby spinach and half rocket (arugula)                   </li>
                                <li>
                    2 radishes, finely sliced (optional)                    </li>
                        </ul>
                                            <h4>Tofu marinade:</h4>
                    <ul>
                                <li>
                    2 tbsp tamari (or soy sauce if not GF)                  </li>
                                <li>
                    1 tsp garlic powder                 </li>
                                <li>
                    ½ tsp sweet paprika                 </li>
                        </ul>
                                            <h4>Satay dressing:</h4>
                    <ul>
                                <li>
                    3 tbsp peanut butter (crunchy is better)*                   </li>
                                <li>
                    1 tbsp tamari (or soy sauce if not GF)                  </li>
                                <li>
                    ½ tsp maple syrup                   </li>
                                <li>
                    ½ tsp apple cider vinegar or lemon juice                    </li>
                                <li>
                    ¼ tsp garlic powder                 </li>
                        </ul>
        </div>

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 220C (428F) and add the sweet potatoes to a baking dish. Add about a tablespoon of the neutral frying oil and season with salt. Put in the oven to bake for around 30-35 minutes. 
  2. Place the tofu in a bowl and add the marinade ingredients, tossing well. Set aside. 
  3. In a small saucepan, add the washed quinoa with 1.5 cups of water. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. It should take around 20 minutes to cook. Let all the water evaporate.*
  4. Bring a small pot of water to a boil and add in the green peas. Turn the water off and let them blanch for a couple of minutes before draining.
  5. Add the peas and the leafy greens to a large bowl. 
  6. Mix all ingredients for the satay dressing, whisking well together. Set aside. 
  7. On medium heat in a frying pan, add enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Let it warm up and add in the marinated tofu. Fry for around 5 minutes, flipping the tofu chunks every minute or so. Add to the bowl. 
  8. Once the quinoa and sweet potato are done, add them to the bowl as well. Toss well. 
  9. Add the radish (if using) and drizzle with the satay dressing. 
  10. Serve warm or cold. 
<div class="mv-create-notes">
    <h3 class="mv-create-notes-title mv-create-title-secondary">Notes</h3>
    <div class="mv-create-notes-content">
        <p>*Using crunchy peanut butter will add an extra dimension to the salad. I always like that surprise of a crunch in there.  
  • This is how I cook quinoa, alternatively follow the instructions on the packet or how you like to cook it.