La Fortuna, Costa Rica

Destination number two in my adventures in Costa Rica was La Fortuna, the town at the foot of one of the most iconic, and for 43 years, the most active volcano in the country, Arenal. Although Arenal has been dormant since 2011, at 1657m tall with its classic conic shape it is still a awesome sight to behold and well worth a visit.

How to get there: As I said in my previous blog about San Jose my friend and I hired an SUV which made getting there much easier! From San Jose, it was 2 hrs 30 – 3 hr drive. the roads really weren’t bad much easier to drive out here than in the capital. other ways – you can get the public bus which is pretty cheap, best paying in colones, but takes more like 4 hours. You can get the bus from terminal 7-10 and if you’re unsure use, an offline map, to track your journey so you know when to get off. Alternatively, you can pay more and get a shuttle, if you’re Spanish is non-existent or bad and you’re worried about getting lost maybe this is the best option. They will give you door to door service and will probably take about the same time as the car depending on how many people you have to pic up and drop off and you sometimes stop off for food and or a bus change. But for these added extras you’ll need to spend about $50. If you’re going in peak season decide in advance and book because they’ll fill up fast. If you’re going in rainy season, don’t worry, you should just be able to book the night before.

Where to stay: We stayed in a great little hostel called La Choza Inn. Its fairly central, La Fortuna is pretty is small so no matter where you stay you’ll be close to the shops and restaurants. The rooms in the hostel are fairly small but the breakfast is free, and tasty, Pinto de Gallo and some fruit. It has a lovely garden with hummingbirds and hammocks, the dining area and kitchen are pretty decent and added bonus there’s a TV and sofa to chill on and watch Netflix!

La Fortuna town: its quite a small town but there’s a few supermarkets, plenty bars and restaurants to try out and loads of souvenir shops to wander through!

Things to do

There’s loads to do in the La Fortuna area, we spent 4 nights there and felt that was perfect. There’s a range of things to do for various budgets.if you’re on a tight budget, don’t worry there are free things to do –

Hot springs

If you want to chill out and relax in some hot springs but don’t want to spend a fortune on a spa resort then there are some free hot springs you can access. All the hot springs here are situated on Rio Arenal, or one of the smaller rivers that split off it, as this is the one that comes from the volcano. has the free hot springs on the map which is pretty handy but the entrance is pretty hard to spot. If you’re coming from the town centre keep going until you reach the second Tabacon resort, the ‘grand’ one. There’s parking on the side of the road here and guys who stand by the road and gesture you to park (you can top them like 500 colones to watch your car). After here you cross the bridge and a little way up there will be a little path on your left hand side. It might be marked by a bit of tape or cloth. Follow this down for a minute and you’ll reach the river. There’s quite a few built up little pools of varying depths that you can lie in. It’s quite a walk from the centre of la Fortuna (nearly 3hrs) so when booking your hostel check for shuttle services, La Choza Inn offers a free one.

Cerro Chato

This is the smaller volcano next to Arenal and you can hike up this one. If you’re lucky enough to have a rental car then drive to the waterfall car park. From here hike up the hill, you will soon see a little security post on your right beware here if there is a guard at the post to Green Lagoon they will ask you to go in and pay a $10 fee as it is apparently their land, they will direct you and tell you to follow the red arrows, if no one is there just head straight up and feel lucky you get to walk for free! the first part is outside the jungle and takes about half an hour up a steep slope. then you cross a tiny bridge and head into the jungle. This is where it gets tricky. From here on its more of a mixture of climbing and hiking, so take plenty water and some snacks! I think it took us about 2 hrs to get to the crater from here, but I know other people made it faster. The path is pretty clear but you can see it on and google maps (if you have internet) so you can track your progress. Once you reach the top you can hike back down to the centre and cool off in the lake in the middle of the crater. It’s pretty cold but feels so good after a long hike! Although we only saw 2 others coming down while hiking we saw a few in the crater. Getting up from the crater was probably the hardest part but we made it! and getting down from the top was not too bad, the whole way back took us about 2 hrs so you’re looking at around 4 and a half hrs round trip plus time in the crater, if you’re used to tough hikes or are really fit you’ll do it faster. However, if you’re starting from the town centre add an extra hour on each way to get to and from the start that I mentioned! You’ll need the full day for that hike but its worth it and I met plenty people who did it.

Lake Arenal

You can go to a few points round Lake Arenal and you’ll just have to pay a bus fare or taxi there. We didn’t end up going but its another free/cheap thing too do.

If you have a bit of a bigger budget and are looking for a few more things to do there’s the Arenal National Park, where you just pay entry and get to walk about. Alternatively you have El silencio mirador. Theres also some guided boat tours and other water sports on Lake Arenal. We thought about doing this but didn’t think it would be worth it, bit beyond our budget and never enough time to do everything.

Some other things you can try out in the area that quite costly but are totally awesome:

White water rafting

This costs round about $80 depending on the length of trip and company. We went with Costa Rican Descents which cost $85 for level II and III rapids. I’m so glad we went with these guys cause it was awesome! I think we chose Rio Sarapiqui but ended up doing the Rio Balsa trip, it really depends on number of people on each trip and water levels. If too few have booked on your trip or your river isn’t very full then they’ll move you onto another one. Really It makes no odds as long as you’re doing the same level. You get picked up from your hostel in the morning then driven to the rapids where you get geared up and given a safety briefing and demonstration. After you’re all happy you jump straight into it! On Rio Balsa you’re straight into the rapids for about an hour or so then you hit a much more shill bit of water where they guides try and point out sloths, iguanas, birds, even a poison dart frog and if you’re lucky monkeys! Our guide, Orlando, was great! His English was really good which helps but he was so knowledgeable, friendly and funny! A guide can make a good experience great and that what he did. After the rapids, we went back to their organic farm for lunch and some traditionally made coffee. We then got a tour of the farm and shown how to juice sugar cane. It was amazing, you get to taste some and it actually tastes good! We even got to try a shot of his homemade 50% rum and bite on a stick of sugar cane after. Well worth the money, I would definitely recommend this company!

Hanging bridges tours

Unfortunately, you can’t do a free version of this. We were hoping that a self guided tour would be free of like $5 park entry but, alas, no. It was $26 entry for a self guided tour!! It was nice, we saw some beautiful scenery and animals – mostly butterflies but we saw a snake too. But after our amazing super jungly hike up to Cerro Chato this felt a bit fake. About half way there’s a nice waterfall, best viewed in rainy season though, but you will also get rained on quite a bit. The path was paved the whole way and the bridges were alright but not the beautiful hanging bridges I had in mind. I wouldn’t say it was entirely worth $26 but I’m also glad we went.

Hope you enjoyed this and found it useful! Next stop: Monteverde! Come back soon for my next article!


San Jose, Costa Rica

I’ve just started a 4 month trip in Costa Rica and thought I’d make a blog series about my time here. I begin my trip with two weeks travelling with my friend. So we start our trip in the capital – San Jose. As this is the easiest place in Costa Rica to fly to from the UK this is what we chose, we flew from Edinburgh to Paris then from there to San Jose, in total about 13hrs flight time, quite a long hall. When we arrived in the SJO airport I got myself a sim, I went with Kolbi, they gave me 30 days worth for $8.

After a lot of research and deliberation we decided to hire a car. Public transport isn’t great in Costa Rica; it’s cheap but you’ll spend half your trip on buses, for instance a 3hr journey turns into 8hrs. You can get shuttle buses too but they’re a lot more expensive. If you’re travelling solo I wouldn’t rent a car but if there’s 2 or more I’d say its worth it, it’s not cheap but we’ve really enjoyed the freedom. So, if you do go for the car, adobe car is good, they own various companies so we went through easycar, I compared various ones on and this was the best option for us.

San Jose is a little crazy to drive in but we made it. We used waze instead of google maps as its better for traffic and is more up to date with road changes than google maps.

Now getting onto San Jose itself. There’s really not much to do, if you’re visiting Costa Rica it’s not for this city. We just stayed one night, the night we arrived, in Hostel Del Paseo on Paseo Colon. It was fairly nice; it was clean, a 20min drive from the airport (providing you don’t take several wrong turns) and walking distance from the main stretch Avenue Central. In the morning we went to a food court for breakfast and had some pinto de gallo con huevo, a traditional Costa Rican breakfast that consists of rice and black beans with some form of egg. We walked along central avenue to the central market which was ok, there’s a few places to buy food and few other stalls that sell differnet types of food and some other clothes and accessories stores. Then from there to the national theatre. Its quite a pretty building, you can walk into the entrance hall which holds some nice statues and an ornate ceiling. We wandered about some more and found a nice cathedral that was beautiful inside. There’s really not much else to see. There’s some shopping on the central avenue and in the surrounding streets and I’m sure the night life is good enough, but nothing to keep us there longer than a few hours. We left for our next stop before lunch.

So sure, spend a morning or afternoon in San Jose as a little pit stop between places, there’s a couple of really nice places to see, but don’t waste your time by staying there more than one night.

Keep an eye out for more blogs on Costa Rica! It gets more interesting I promise!

Eco Travel

So, if you don’t know already, I’m a big traveller. I love seeing new places, getting to know different cultures, meeting new people, exploring and just getting to see how each country differs. I’m at my happiest when I have the privilege of exploring somewhere new. I think travel is important too as it helps open your eyes to how other people live, it allows you to grow, and gives you opportunities to learn and expand your knowledge.

But as with all things in life, there are definitely ways you can make your travelling greener.

Alright, first things first – packing. Now there’s only so many things we can change here. Few things I would suggest are if you’re needing to buy luggage either buy second hand or if you’ll be using more than just a couple times get good quality items that will last you so you hopefully won’t have to buy more in the future. Another tip -instead of buying travel toiletries buy refillable bottles and just decant from your large bottles, or you can one up that and buy a soap dish and use bar soap, although it’s important to remember to buy soap that isn’t packaged in plastic, that will kind of defeat the purpose. This shouldn’t be too hard to find, here there so many little locally run shops that sell soap and of course, you have lush. For your soap dish go for either a tin one as these will last for pretty much ever, (as long as they don’t rust!) and once you’re done donate to charity, or if it breaks recycle it. Lush is just about the only place I’ve found them though apparently napiers does them too. Alternatively, you can buy a biodegradable & compostable one here which sounds pretty cool! And why not buy a couple extra dishes then you could also use them for your shampoo and conditioner bars!

I want to move on to probably the second most important part of this post – travelling to and from your destination. I was talking to a friend recently about this and it got me thinking, it was actually this that inspired me to write this blog! So you should be aware of the fact that pretty much every mode of transport is bad for the environment. Now if you feel up for walking or cycling to your next holiday destination then great, round of applause for you! But personally I’ll pass, I love exercise and all but I don’t think I can cycle that far. Next best options are train (electric not steam of course) and sailboat. Now, these do both take quite a bit of time, but you can’t deny the train is not a bad way to travel. If you get seasick like myself by boat might not be the best way to go, it’s also quite rare to find sailboat crossings. Check out Slow Travel who provide various alternative methods of travel such as by freighters transporting goods across the seas. This reduces your impact as this ship would be crossing anyway you’re just tagging along. Ferry’s and cars aren’t great as they produce CO2 and other harmful gas and then you have planes which produce the most emissions. So if you really want to do that road trip, cruise or maybe you can only get to your destination by ferry or plane then you can offset your carbon emissions. My friend gave me a link to a company that allows you to do this called Atmosfair it calculates the amount you should donate for you if you put in your departure and arrival cities and allows you to donate to 3 different carbon offsetting projects. A cool feature on this site is for some routes it shows you the differences between airlines. On one of my flights, it said that easy jet had the lowest CO2 emissions, so you can use this to help you choose between flight as well. After a bit of research, I also found United nations site which offers a wider range of projects at varying prices per tonne of carbon. I didn’t find this site as easy or accurate when it came to calculating how much carbon you should be offsetting, however. I ended up using the two in conjunction with each other.

Moving on to my final section. I would regard this as arguably the most important choice you have while travelling. What attractions do you see? For the best part, your choice has little impact besides maybe choosing to see stuff within walking distance of your accommodation or choosing public transport to get there over a taxi. But, when it comes to some attractions you definitely need to do your research first. I am primarily talking about animal attractions. I cannot stress enough that you should avoid certain attractions that use animals for entertainment. I am talking about circuses that use wild animals. Camps that allow you to ride elephants. Anywhere that allows you to get up and cuddle with an animal in particular predators. And avoid anyone walking about with an animal offering to take your photo with it.

I’ll go into these in a bit more detail because it’s important that you understand why these things are wrong and cruel.

Circuses. For wild animals such as lions, elephants and bears to perform such tricks, they need to go through more than just the training you would use to train your pet dog. These animals are wild, it is not in their behaviour to do what their told, you, therefore, need to control their wild side first. To do so these animals will be tortured into submission, drugged so they are calm enough to not kill their captor, often teeth and claws will be removed for humans protection and they will be kept chained up in confined and inhumane spaces. These are wild animals and should not be used for our entertainment.

Camps and “sanctuaries”. Often in areas of Asia including Thailand and India, you will find camps and sanctuaries that will allow you to bath an elephant, give it its lunch then it’ll take you for a ride, or something along those lines. Sounds tempting right? Getting to be up close to the beautiful, majestic animals. They all look great, the elephants look like they’re having a great time. However. 9 times out of 10 there’s a lot going on behind the scenes, and there’s a reason you don’t see it. The most obvious thing is the use of chains, generally, they will say they are just there for your safety in case the elephant tried to escape and that they’re not chained up over night. What you don’t see is them being chained up at night in confined, inhumane conditions. Diet – in the wild elephants eat mostly different types of grass. Here they will most likely be given fruit which is highly addictive and, although good in small quantities, can be harmful in large quantities. Training – as with the circus the elephants need to through brutal training to get to a stage where they are controllable. In Thailand, the elephants will be put in what is called a “crusher” which is a small wooden cage in which, as the name suggests, the elephant is crushed. They will do this until the elephants’ spirit is broken. It’s said that the Mahouts can see their spirit leave in their eyes. The elephant is then trained through negative reinforcement via the use of a bullhook to obey the trainer. It is then able to do things like paint for you, lift you up with its trunk and even take you for a ride. Sometimes, overworked elephants who are continually carrying people on the arch of their backs will end up with broken backs as their spines are not designed to carry excess weight. So next time you plan to visit one of these places, please do your research first. Do they allow you to ride them? If so this should be an instant no. Check reviews. Look at photos – elephants shouldn’t be constantly kept in the sun, nor should they be chained to a fence, and they should not be kept alone as they are very sociable animals and solitude can cause them great stress and anxiety.

Another attraction Thailand was famous for was it’s Tiger Temple. This has recently been shut down due to its abuse of the tigers. Any place where you can get that close to tigers is almost guaranteed to be bad news. Many of these tigers were cubs taken from mothers or orphaned due to poachers. They would then be drugged and chained up to allow visitors to get selfies with these beautiful creates. Many were also found with wounds from abusive keepers.

Finally, you often get locals walking about with animals, most commonly monkeys, by beaches or in towns offering to take your photo with it for a small fee. Do not accept this. This is wrong on so many levels. These animals will have been initially stolen from their natural habitat by poachers, they might have been orphans due to the illegal pet trade or bush meat trade. Now they are forced to walk in direct sunlight for hours on end for your benefit. These animals often suffer from dehydration, starvation, exhaustion, anxiety and stress from crowds of people and not being able to socialise with their own species, the list goes on.

So if your guilty of any of playing into any these tourist attractions, or if you’ve been blissfully ignorant until now, next time ask yourself – if it worth it? All this suffering for your latest Instagram post or profile picture? All that pain so your entertainment?

Go green for summer!

Now that the weather is picking up we’ll all be getting ready to enjoy the sunshine so here are a few things to remember while you’re enjoying that heat!

When it comes to the sun it’s important that when you’re protecting yourself you’re not simultaneously destroying sea life. If you’re not already aware there are chemicals found in the majority of the main sunscreen products that cause damage to aquatic life, primarily coral reefs, which are already on the brink of extinction. Choosing the right sunscreen is a bit of a minefield right now because for some chemicals there isn’t a lot of research on how they affect corals. I’m going to try and make it a little easier for you.

First things first why protect the corals? In terms of how they affect us, corals are so important when it comes to tides and wave control. They greatly reduce the strength and speed of the waves that hit the shore by acting as a wall to the forces of the ocean. Without corals, the beaches would receive the full force of the ocean. They also provide us with large quantities of food, but only if this is well maintained and not overfished. Corals are the habitat of such a range of species, they’re a biodiversity hub in our great oceans. If we lost the coral reefs we would lose an immense amount of species the use them for shelter and coexist symbiotically. Coral reefs are vital in nutrient cycles in their ecosystems. They clean the oceans by removing particles, provide by releasing important nutrients as well as fixing compounds such as nitrogen into usable forms for other species, creating balance. It is their ability to remove particles from the water that puts them at risk to the chemicals found in sunscreen. We apply sunscreen, go for a swim, the sunscreen gets washed off and the corals clean the sea, absorbing the sunscreen and with it the damaging chemicals.

So what chemicals should you avoid to help protect our oceans? various organisations have created lists based on research on what chemicals to avoid. Haereticus environmental lab (HEL) has created a list of damaging products that can be found here. Environmental working group (EWG) believe that sunscreens that use zinc oxide, titanium dioxide nanoparticles are the preferred product. Research shows that coral reefs cannot absorb these nanoparticles. However, there is some research that shows they can cause damage to your cells and organs if absorbed. Although, most research does state that less than 0.01% makes its way into your bloodstream meaning there won’t be any effect on your organs so I wouldn’t worry about suddenly dropping dead after using a sunscreen with either of these in it. Using these two lists the most important chemicals to avoid are oxybenzone, octocrylene, homosalate, octinoxate

Brands to avoid include, but are not limited to, Nivea (contains homosalate, octocrylene), Garnier Ambre solaire (contains homosalate), P20 (contains homosalte and octocrylene) Piz Buin Tan (contains octocrylene) and hawaiian tropic (homosalate and octocrylene). Essentially the majority of sunscreen you can buy from your local store is going to be bad for the environment. Brands that don’t look so bad are Ultrasun, they have none of the listed chemicals; Tropic sun balm is almost totally natural ingredients; Incognito, this double acts as a mosquito repellent; and Weledaa Edelweiss. A good place to shop is holland and barrats, I only found one cream on their site with any of the listed chemicals and that was Jason Sunbrellas. In addition to being mindful of the ingredients, its best to choose cream over spray as with aerosols you tend to lose a lot of the spray to the beach where it gets washed into the sea. You can also reduce the amount of sunscreen you need to use by getting clothes with UV protection if you’re going to be walking lots or doing any sports in the sun this is an easy choice to make. If you’re going to the beach then wearing a hat or lying under an umbrella will also help reduce how much sunscreen you use. Finally, if you’re going swimming in the sea try to do it before you put on sunscreen (it’s just going to get washed off anyway) or after its been on for a while and reapply after you’ve had your swim. This will help reduce how much goes into the sea.

Another tip for the summer: Don’t forget to take bottled water with you and remember most cafes will refill your bottle with nice cold water so no need to buy more! Keep your water cooler for longer but shoving some ice in (from an ice tray, not a bag!) or get one of the bottles that have a freezer stick in it.

BBQ season is well on its way. There are a few things to think about here. Let’s start with cut back on waste. There are a few ways to do this – instead of buying disposable BBQ’s invest in a portable BBQ. These are becoming more and more common and are available on amazon or in shops such as IKEA, M&S, John Lewis, Lakeland and Homebase. Why not take actual plates, cups and utensils from your kitchen to replace throw away paper or plastic versions. When buying your food think packaging – buy loose rolls in a reusable bag, make burgers – vegi or meat, alternatively take a container to butcher or counter at your supermarket to pick up packaging free meat.

To reduce CO2 emissions when it comes to choosing food, try eating a vegi burger or sausages over meat ones as cattle produce staggering amounts of CO2, if everyone even just reduced their consumption of meat, allowing us to reduce production, it would make such a substantial reduction in the CO2 produced. If you are choosing meat choose local as this will reduce CO2 emissions due to reduced transportation.

A big part of having a BBQ is the smoke, generally, people choose BBQ for that smoky taste. Ideally, you would buy a non – coal powered BBQ such as electric or solar, however, this might not appeal to everyone so there is an option for reduced smoke coal such as Brazier or Homefire. You can also buy biomass firelighters here instead of the usual ones, further reducing the fuels from the fire.

A final summer tip: Fresh fruit and veg are the best in summer, but when you’re buying it buy it whole to avoid packing and loose to avoid waste by only buying what you will eat. You can then prep it before you go out and use a reusable container. Look out for locally produced fruit, it’s much easier to find at this time of year and cuts CO2 emissions as well as supporting local farms.

Hope this has been helpful! As always, thanks for reading!

Easter Egg Guide!

Now that we’re approaching Easter I’m sure you’re all buying or thinking of buying Easter eggs, unless you’re giving chocolate up for lent or you’re one of those wierdos that doesn’t like chocolate… you guys should probably just stop reading now…

For those of you who are planning on eat chocolate this Easter this year, try and think about two things: packaging and sustainable ingredients.

Packaging is easy to think about as you can see it at quick glance,, but its harder to buy a well packaged egg. Most large eggs come in an unnecessary amount of packaging – foil then plastic then cardboard! Why? Shouting out to all the chocolate companies here PLEASE START USING FOIL AND CARDBOARD ONLY!! I mean really how hard is it? We’ve seen our eggs for years from the outside of the packing, I’m sure we can trust you by not to put the chocolate inside without using a sheet of plastic so we can peer inside before purchasing. From what I’ve seen just 2 brands are doing this – Divine and Green and Blacks.

Finding chocolate that uses sustainable ingredients is harder, but much more feasible. So, how do you find out who is sustainable and who to trust? I’ve just found a great app called Giki, it has around 250,000 products and rates them on their sustainability! they rate their chocolate based on a variety of categories or badges including: responsibly sourced; better packaging; organic; healthier option (never actually seen this selected for chocolate…); low carbon foot print; and sustainable palm oil.

I’m going to do my best to clear things up for you and make your Easter egg shopping this year easier!

Lets start with palm oil, arguably the most important one. It’s so important that, if palm oil is used, it is sustainably sourced. Palm oil plantations are one of the leading causes of deforestation, subsequently aiding the extinction of hundreds of species of animal! This has been a major issue for animals such as Orangutans in Sumatra and Bourneo and the Sumatran Tiger both of which are critically endangered largely due to habitat destruction for palm oil plantations. Unfortunately, this is a difficult ingredient to ditch all together as the substance, if grown sustainably, is a lot better for the environment than the alternatives such as coconut oil. It takes relatively little land and water to grow high volumes, it doesn’t have much taste and has a low melting point, saving energy. This just calls for an even bigger effort to grow it sustainably. Alternatively, strip back the ingredients completely, back to basics. Palm oil or alternatives are not actually essentials in cooking and baking! It’s just become common use.

So, what chocolate brands actually use sustainable palm oil, or even better no palm oil? To assist me in working this out I have used the combined powers of WWF Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) score card and Giki. RSPO investigate different brands, retailers and manufacturers palm oil supply chain and categorise how they source it. If you want to get into the detail of it, it’s quite hard to get your head around. Essentially, there’s only three brands that use 100% segregated sustainable palm oil – Ferrero, Danone and Arnott’s. So well done to these for making such an effort! Other brands that are actually making an effort to switch opt for Mass balance, which is a blend of sustainable and “conventional” or book and claim where they use “conventional” palm oil but contribute the same amount to production of sustainable palm oil. But the way I see it, this isn’t good enough. The reason I use quotation marks for the word conventional is not just because that’s the term they used, but because it really is about time conventional palm oil is sustainable palm oil. It’s about time companies get their act together and fully commit to the swap or change their recipes, back to basics.

Time to name and shame. Cadburys first. In 2019 all of the palm kernel oil was uncertified and their crude and refined palm oil was all book and claim. Now they’re not horrendous, RSPO gives them a middle of the road rating, but really, get a grip guys, not like you cant afford the sustainable stuff you’re just too lazy to make the change. Nestle has improved since last year from 76% uncertified, just 19% sustainable and only 5% book and claim to 41%, 33% and 26% retrospectively, so I’ll give them their credit for trying but I would still never choose them. Mars does a little better being 100% mass balance but its still room for improvement. Throntons are now partnered with Ferreo (as are nutela) meaning they are doing really well being one of the first, and only, to be 100% sustainable. Lindt aren’t too far behind with 65% segregated sustainable and the remainder 35% mass balance but this still isn’t good enough. Green and Blacks are great as that use the back to basics approach and don’t use palm oil or any alternatives so bravo guys. Divine chocolate doesn’t use palm oil either

In addition to Palm oil the cocoa used should be sustainable. This is monitored through companies such as Cocoa Life and World Cocoa Foundation (WCF). Both companies support local farmers ensuring fair trade and also helping to protect the environment by creating farms that can be reused by maintaining soil quality and the landscape. Chocolate brands have signed up to cocoa life inc Cadbury, Green & Blacks, see list of main brands here. Throntons, Godiva, Lindt and Ferrero are members of WCF as well as lots of other chocolate brands you can find here. You should also look out for the rainforest alliance certificate as that indicates that the product uses sustainable farms. Brands that are certified by this organisation, such as galaxy (owned by mars), can be found in the full list here.

So what does this all mean? What chocolate should you buy this Easter? It is hard because no brand is perfect. Palm oil wise I would go for Thorntons and Ferrero, second to these I’d go for Lindt then probably Mars. But packaging wise Thorntons and Ferrero always use plastic! where as Lindt does use only foil on their little Easter bunnies. But, my top two brands that stand out above the rest are Green and Blacks and Divine. they both receive 4 badges on Giki (instead of the 2 the rest receive!) and avoid palm oil or alternatives in their products.

If there are any other brands you want me to research just comment below! I’ve made it mainly UK orientated as that’s were I’m from and what is most relevant to majority of my readers but if there’s the demand I’ll make it more international!

Thanks for reading and enjoy your chocolate!!

Best Eco-Buys: On The Go

This is the first of the ‘Best eco-buys’ series where I will show you all of my favourite eco-friendly products that I’ve bought to replace the wasteful singe use products or the unsustainably made ones you would normally buy from the shops. As the title suggests this particular blog will include everything I use when I’m on the go.

This the the Big Bamboo travel mug to replace single use coffee cups. I chose this one because of the materials its made from. the main body is made from a steel inner and bamboo outer. bamboo is a great product to use as it grows so fast, is sturdy and natural! Steel is also easily recycled. It does have a small amount of plastic in the lid and for the seal. I love this, and it does keep things nice and warm for ages! It is leak proof to an extent but I wouldn’t suggest putting it in your bag. You can buy the new version here.

Headphones aren’t one of the things that you think about when aiming to buy things that are better for the environment, but anything can be made more sustainably. Woodbuds are made from wood, recycled silicone, and recycled cables and can be bought here. Another good brand is The House of Marley (these can be bought in shops in the UK such as HMV). I chose woodbud initially as they are UK based, its always good to buy things from your own country, as it reduced your carbon footprint.

These little jars are great for carrying snacks out and about. I mostly use it for fruit but sometimes for nuts or sweets too. If you buy big packets of fruit or other snacks and portioning it out for yourself in a little jar it can save you a little money as buying in bulk is overall cheaper and packaging as there’s a lower ratio of packaging to food. If you live near a refill shop you can take it a step further and pip in there t fill your jar with a days snacks! I prefer kilner jars, I use them for so many things! I’ve also got a couple from IKEA ad Sainsbury’s. The good thing about kilner is that they never packaged in plastic like with some of the other jars.

Above are the reusable produce bags I chose to replace the plastic ones you get free in the shops. If you buy loose fruit and veg (which you should do if you don’t!) I would strongly suggest buying yourself some produce bags! Most of the ones you can buy are made of plastic too but this is still loads better than single use plastic ones! You can also quite easily get cotton ones but i chose hemp as it grows a lot faster and uses less water and pesticides than cotton. Buy here!

This is a natural bottle. The main section which is usually made from plastic or metal is made from renewable sugar cane, a grass like plant that grows fast and absorbs CO2. The outer part of the lid is made from FSC bamboo, one of the fastest growing plants that can be used as timber. Its also sustainable as once harvested more bamboo shoots will grow from the remaining roots. The bottle 500ml, sturdy, and when youre finally done with it, its recyclable! I love it! For more information and to buy click here!

This is a travel bamboo cutlery set. It rolls up nice and small, its light, its super easy to take anywhere! It comes with everything you need and more; spoon, knife, fork, chopsticks, straw and cleaner! What more could you want? The cutlery is all made from bamboo, the pouch is most likely organic cotton (couldn’t find any hemp ones) but I’m waiting to hear back from the company to confirm. So if you fancy yourself one of these head over to green little things or you can do your own search because there’s quite a lot of versions out there!

Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.

Reduce, reuse, recycle. I’m sure you’ve heard that phrase before, it’s been about as long as I can remember! But, have you ever broken it down? really thought about it? Or do you just take it for granted?

The part people seem to remember most is recycle. Maybe it’s because it’s the last part of the phrase, the part that sticks in your mind. Or maybe it’s because it’s simplest of the three to do. Well, hopefully in this article I will show you that all three can be done easily!


Firstly, lets talk about this in terms of food. Reduce how much you buy. Generally, everyone buys more than they need or use. You go to the shops for just a few things and come back with 4 bags full! So easily done! Yet so unnecessary. Now some of these things you probably set out for (though half the time we forget what we actually intended to buy in the first place!), some other things you probably only realised you needed it when you saw it, but, guaranteed, there’s always some stuff that you see and put in the trolley because you just kinda fancy it or its on a good offer and so on. It’s these items we need to cut out. It’s these things that often end up going out of date and just end up in the bin. Such a waste.

Reduce what you buy.

Good ways of doing this is by plan ahead, write a lists while in your kitchen checking your cupboards, meal plan for the week and buy only what you need for these. then when you get to the shops: resist! It gets easier. Doing this reduces your waste, the packaging you inadvertently buy and ultimately your carbon footprint.

Moving on from this, you can apply the same theory when shopping clothes. Not something that’s often thought about it but clothes are very costly to the environment to make. They use lots of water, dyes, factories that produce horrible chemicals and often poorly paid labour. It’s really a terrible industry. So try and only buy what you need when you need it. 

Another way to reduce is with things you buy on the go: bottled juice and water; coffee; sandwiches and ready meals. Try taking your own bottle, travel mug and meals, that way you’ll not only reduce your expenses but your waste in terms of packaging. (One to watch: majority of black plastic, often used to package ready meals, cannot be recycled as the machines cannot read the code! Click here for more details)


It may not be the most obvious of the three but it is relevant to so many aspects of our day to day life.

A good example it with food: a lot of this can actually be reused. For instance, if you’ve cooked up a whole chicken for a big meal but not all is eaten, use the rest for sandwiches or other meals another day. Once all the meat is off, use whats left as a chicken stock to make soup or broth with instead of buying cubes or pots of stock. If you’re veggie you can also turn scraps into stock, such as any leftover veg. Same goes as above too, if you cook up a Quorn roast you can reuse whats left in a sandwich.

Any leftovers you have from a meal can be eaten another night of frozen for later if you don’t think you’ll eat it again soon.

One we’re worst with is teabags, They almost always get thrown away after one use but you can reuse that teabag 2 or 3 times at least, just leave it on a little tea plate for the next time you have a cuppa. Then when you’re done with them you can compost them. Though watch here as a lot of tea bags cannot be composted! generally you can tell by looking at the tea bag – the silky ones are compostable the round rough ones are not. Brands such as teapigs and phuka can be but most of the main brands have plastic in the bags which is toxic to compost heaps, and some of it goes into the tea you drink! If you do buy these ones tear them and empty the tea into the compost and the bag into the bin. However, the best solution is loose tea as this avoids adding to your carbon footprint with the production of the bag and avoids excess plastic.

If you eat a lot of food from jars or tins you can clean these up, take the labels off then they can be use as plant pots, candle holders or even to put little fairy lights in. the photo on the right there was taken at my friends who has done just that.

Come back to clothing, we can reuse clothes in different ways, it could be as simple as choosing to shop in charity shops or vintage shops over high street brands. If you’re good with a sewing kit then fix clothes instead of binning. The same can be done with furniture. If you don’t like the way second hand furniture looks, a fresh lick of paint paint can make a world of difference.

Another aspect where we can reuse more than we do is actually with plastic. In no way do I suggest we should be using plastic. It really is so bad for the planet. However, lots of this “single use” plastic doesn’t have to be single use. Take sandwich bags for instance, any fairly sturdy bag can be hand washed and reused or if it’s to be used for the same item again there’s really no need to wash it, depending on what was in it. One bag of sandwich bags could last 5 x longer by doing this, reducing how much goes to the landfill, production and how much you spend on them. If you have to accept plastic cutlery because you have nothing else then take it home, clean it and reuse it another day. Any tupperware you get from takeaways, for example, can be reused for ages.
Now, obviously, it would be better to buy more environmentally friendly things such as; beeswax wraps; bamboo cutlery; or glass or stainless steel tupperware, but these things cost a bit more so if you’re not willing to spend that much or simply cannot afford it these are good alternatives that help protect the environment more than our usual habits.


Finally we come to recycle, the one we’re best at, but still plenty room for improvement!

I’m going to base this on what I know from where I’ve lived; in and around Edinburgh, but I know it can very quite a bit. So here we either have access to our own recycling bins that get collected by the council or there will be communal ones every couple of streets. So, if this is the case for you too, you have not excuse not to recycle. Simply collect your recycling in a reusable bag or a bin and take it out when it’s full. Majority of people these days are pretty good at this. Always check your plastics because some plastic that cannot be recycled with the on street recycling can be taken with your carrier bags to supermarkets to be recycles when you do your next shop.

One part we’re not so good at is recycling while out and about. If you’re finished with a recyclable item do you wait until you find somewhere to recycle it? or do you just put it in a landfill bin? It’s easy to become complacent here, so next time hold onto it until you can recycle it!! 

Another mode of recycling that is becoming more common is food waste recycling. Certainly here in Edinburgh it has become relatively easy in the past year or two. If you don’t have the luxury of your own little caddy bin that gets collected weekly you should have a communal bin with a grey lid next your recycling bins where you can put loose or bagged in a compostable food waste bag only. You can collect this in your house quite easily – either have a little bin, you can even put the compostable bag in as a liner or use a little tupperware is you’re limited on space.

Finally, when it comes to clothes if you’re a crafty person you can turn them into something else when you no longer like the way it looks on or it doesn’t fit anymore. Alternatively, donate old clothes give them to charity to be sold or sent to places like Africa to the areas that cannot afford their own clothing. If its no longer good enough quality for either of these, most large supermarkets and some schools now have cloth recycling points where your clothing gets turned into stuffing for seats and such like. Other recycling points are batteries and electrical, all of which can be found on this website. Furniture can also be recycled or given to charity if its in good enough nick. Alternatively, sell it or give it away on gumtree and freecycle. Or if you can turn it into something else that you do need!

Thanks for reading! Hope you’ve sound this helpful and look out for my other blogs!


It’s that time of year again! Now if you’re like me you’ll barely have started your Christmas shopping yet, but maybe your super organised and are all done. Either way I’m going to give you a few tips that you can hopefully use this year, if not next, to help you be more environmentally conscious over the festive period!

So lets start with presents the area that most people are keen to make a start on/have already finished… 

When buying gifts there’s a few things you can change that make the gift not just better for the environment but more meaningful and heartfelt! To start with why not give them a day out or a some of your time as a present, this is very valuable as time is one of the few things you cant get back. If not try something homemade? If you’re not very crafty or don’t have the time to take them out then the next best solution is to buy sustainable.  
To the right is a great little pyramid created by Just Little Changes, these guys have a great environmental page with products and tips that can be found by clicking here or you can find them on facebook!

When it comes to wrapping your presents you need to be very careful. As pretty as all the wrapping paper can be the majority of it is not recyclable and contains things like glitter that is very harmful to the environment. What I would suggest is using brown paper instead. If you are going to buy wrapping paper, ensure it is recyclable, there are some.  To wrap the present try not using tape at all, try folding the paper to hold it together then using string to tie it up. alternatively you can use eco-friendly tape, you can find this on amazon, I have not yet tried any myself so I can’t unfortunately give suggestions but just read reviews and ask questions. Things to look out for: is it made from 100% recyclable materials? some are just 60%; is it solvent free; is the product itself recyclable? 

Otherwise, you can reuse gift bags you’ve been given, even wrapping paper if you unwrap carefully! and if you’re looking to make your present a little prettier reuse bows and ribbon or try gifting brown paper packages tied up with string?
For addressing these presents you can just write on the paper itself. Alternatively, try making your own tags by cutting up this years Christmas cards and using them on next years presents? In the mean time buy gift tags that allow you to donate to charity and make sure they’re made from sustainable paper! Just look out for the little FSC logo.
You can do similar for handing out your own Christmas cards, try making some, and if you don’t have time to make them all or any at all then buy sustainably made one that give to charity. 

My favourite part about Christmas is when you get to decorate! This year when you go out to buy you tree make sure its been sustainably farmed, or do one up and buy a potted one that you can keep year round in the garden and decorate at Christmas! As for the decorations themselves make sure you reuse them each year, don’t go for the cheap ones that you know you’ll have to throw out in a year or two, get the ones that will last! Try and go for the ones with least plastic as well. Even better, go out and forage for your decorations, but make sure you don’t steal too much, particularly berries as the birds will need them this time of year!!

Christmas is the time where we all indulge a little. but try and only cook what you need, or make sure you use the leftovers! Make turkey and cranberry sandwiches. make a broth with left over vegetables and potatoes. Eat a second roast the next day. When you get sick of eating Christmas food freeze it and eat it in the new year. Anything that can’t be eaten compost or put in your food waste. Always ensure you buy a free range turkey or goose or whatever you’re eating for you Christmas dinner. With your vegetables go organic where you can. Why not try making your own roast potatoes or Yorkshire puddings! All these things add up and make your dinner more environmentally friendly, and they’re all generally a bit healthier for you and your family too!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this article, I may add bits to it over the festive period if I see fit. While you’re being conscious about the environment over Christmas (well…hopefully) don’t forget to enjoy!
Merry Christmas!