Food & Drink, Kitchen Staples

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It goes without saying that Britain is a nation of beer lovers, with 8.5 billion pints of beer sold in the UK in 2018.

8.5 billion pints of beer is a lot of water, but that’s not the whole picture. Did you know that to industrially brew one single pint of beer, this process typically requires 8-10 pints of water? So, to produce those 8.5 billion pints of beer requires around a staggering 855 billion pints of water.

As someone who enjoys the occasional beer, I was over the moon to hear about South Bermondsey based craft brewers Small Beer. As well as producing great tasting vegan low alcohol ‘small’ beers, they have ingeniously designed a brewing system that requires just 1 ½ pints of water to brew one pint of Small Beer.

How has Small Beer managed to save so much water? In most commercial breweries, waste products are drained on to the floor, which is then hosed down the drain.⁠ Instead, Small Beer operates differently – with the country’s only ‘Dry Floor’ policy that saves hundreds of litres of water every day.

So much so, that since their first commercial brew in 2017, Small Beer says they’ve saved 1.4 million litres of water.

Why Stop At Saving Water?

Small Beer hasn’t just stopped at saving water. All aspects of sustainability have been considered. From the obvious, such as the beer labels, boxes, and business cards being made from 100% recycled materials; to the other sustainability aspects that are often overlooked, like the efficiency of their packaging.

You see, all Small Beers are packaged in stubby bottles because their design allows 672 litres of beer to fit on one pallet vs. the usual 480 litres. This helps them to reduce their carbon footprint by maximising the volume of stock per delivery. This is the kind of thinking that really impresses me.

Zero-waste principles are also employed. Spent grain is delivered to a partner farm, for use as feed for cows. Even their grain sacks, which their malt supplier can’t refill, are donated to BOST, a social and environmental charity, based locally, who use them for storing and moving gardening materials across their neighbourhood programmes.⁠

Small Beer has been recognised by their ethical production and responsible brewing practices, by, in 2019, becoming London’s first B-CORP™ certified brewery. This is a certification that recognises businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability, and help build a more inclusive and sustainable economy.

The Moral Fibres Taste Test

eco friendly beer

Of course, as Small Beer themselves say: “We’re not a ‘sustainable beer’. We’re a great tasting beer that brews with our world in mind“.

Impressed by Small Beer’s eco-credentials, and intrigued by low-alcohol beer, my partner and I sampled a few of Small Beer’s selection to test them on their taste claims. I know, I know, it’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it!

We tried:

  • The 2.1% Lager – described as a classic pilsner-style, with a crisp citrus bite.
  • The 2.5% Session Pale – a pale ale, full of juicy bitterness and a balanced tropical finish.
  • The 2.7% Steam – a rich amber style beer, bridging the gap between lager & ale.
  • And finally, the 1.0% Dark Lager – which looks and smells like a stout or a porter, but drinks like a lager.

I always imagined low-alcohol beer to taste quite watery, but this was definitely not the case with Small Beer – each beer is ram-packed full of flavour. We were blown away by the Dark Lager, which was hands down our favourite, with its hints of chocolate and coffee.  The refreshing citrus flavours of the Session Pale came a close second, however, we certainly wouldn’t turn down the Steam or Lager if offered!

As well as the flavour, what we really appreciated, being people that, let’s just say, are not in their twenties, or, ahem, thirties anymore, is that you can (responsibly) enjoy a few great tasting craft beers of an evening, and not have a sore head in the morning. All the joy, and none of the consequences!

Keen to try out Small Beer for yourself? Visit the Small Beer website, where you can shop for their beers online for home delivery, and follow them on social media. Find Small Beer on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Health & Beauty, Life & Style

Six Soaps Leading the Clean Revolution

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Today I have a post from Ethical Consumer magazine on the best ethical soaps to look out for at a time when washing your hands is more important than ever.


Who would have thought this time last year that soap would be making the headlines?  

Strange days indeed and as we lather up a little more often, it’s never been more important to choose our soap wisely. Palm oil, toxic chemicals and plastics can all creep into our soap but there are some great brands out there keeping it clean. 

Jane Turner from Ethical Consumer Magazine reveals some of the best brands out there beating the bugs with good ingredients, minimal packaging, and ethical practices. 

Breaking It Down

The humble bar or splash of liquid soap is our most important weapon in fighting COVID-19. Using science that is thousands of years old, soap works by destroying the outer membranes of the virus, killing it and stopping it from spreading. Nothing else is more effective in this fight. But although soap has natural origins, some of the soaps available today are far from natural. 

Soap doesn’t need complex synthetic chemicals, plastics or exotic ingredients grown on deforested land. Here are the nasties to look out for in your soap and the brands that are leading a clean revolution. 

Ethical Consumer Recommends…

Following an intensive investigation into over 50 soap brands that are included in our ethical shopping guide to soap, we recommend the following six brands as our Best Buys. 

Lucy Bee

Lucy Bee is a business founded on the humble coconut, providing everything from milk to sugar, skincare, and soap. Lucy Bee soaps are organic, vegan, and Fairtrade and contain no palm oil or palm oil-derived ingredients or nasties, such as parabens, phthalates, or triclosan.

The whole range carries the Leaping Bunny mark and no ingredients are tested on animals. The soap bars come in generous 150g chunks in paper packaging with four delicious scents to choose from. 

Odylique

Skincare brand Odylique uses virgin olive oil to create plant glycerine as the basis of its organic, vegan, castile soap bars. Although the bars do have palm oil-derived ingredients, these are present in small quantities and are from RPSO-assured sources. Ingredients are locally sourced wherever possible and Fairtrade when sourced further afield. The bars are free from synthetic chemicals and come wrapped in non-toxic recyclable packaging. 

Friendly Soap

Friendly Soap certainly knows how to bring the fun to handwashing. Not only can you find a wide variety of bright, scented soap bars on its website, but also a range of travel soaps, shave, shampoo, and conditioner bars. Friendly Soap uses an ancient cold-press method, pouring, cutting, and stamping the soaps by hand and maintaining a small carbon footprint. 

The ingredients are biodegradable so there’s no waste; poppy seeds and hemp take the place of microplastics to gently exfoliate the skin. None of the products or ingredients are tested on animals. The soaps are Vegan certified, contain no palm oil and the shea butter is sourced from a women’s cooperative in Ghana. 

Bio-D

Bio-D supplies a wide variety of household and personal care products and the brand is sold on the high street, as well as in various independent health food and whole food stores. Vegan and cruelty-free, Bio-D soap bars and liquids contain no plastics. Although some products contain palm oil derivatives, Bio-D is actively reducing its use and uses only RSPO-accredited supplies. The liquid soap is sold in bulk online at just £18.99 for 5 litres, and is also widely available through refillable liquid soap stations. 

Caurnie 

Caurnie Soap uses organic herbs and essential oils to produce its rustic, handmade soaps. The bars and liquid soaps are chemical-free, containing only pure vegan ingredients and no palm oil or derivatives. Many of the ingredients are sourced locally. 

ALTER/NATIVE

ALTER/NATIVE is the own-brand soap line from wholefood collective Suma. Choose from a huge variety of vegan, cruelty-free bars and liquids and access refillable soap stations in health food stores.

Suma is a vegetarian company and uses only RPSO-accredited palm oil in its products. You won’t find any plastics in these soaps and all packaging is 100% recycled and recyclable, although we strongly advise the refillable route with the hand wash option. 

For more on these companies and to see the full list of brand researched visit Ethical Consumer’s guide to soap.

Make Soap a Hobby

If you’re looking for a new hobby, why not make your own soap bars? Take a base recipe, and then once you’ve mastered that you can experiment with different natural fragrances, and drop bars off as gifts for your friends and family.

What Else to Look Out For

If these brands aren’t easily available to you there are some top tips of things you can look for in some of the more widely available brands.

Plastics

Microplastics have been banned in soap in the UK since 2018 but companies can still use non-degradable liquid plastic polymers and petroleum-based chemicals. And of course, plastic packaging is a clear problem, especially when it comes to liquid handwash and non-recyclable pumps. 

We recommend bars of soap over liquid handwash. Bars work just as well and come in a fraction of the packaging (mostly paper) and some with none at all.

Animal Products

Although plant-based ingredients are just as effective as animal-derived products, some manufacturers continue to use substances like sodium tallowate and stearic acid, while glycerine may also be animal-derived. The good news is that there are loads of vegan brands out there, many from purely vegan companies.

Look out for the Leaping Bunny label endorsing cruelty-free soaps. Some brands carry this label across their entire product range, showing a strong commitment to avoid any ingredient that has been tested on animals. 

Palm Oil 

Although many companies source palm oil sustainably and are members of groups such as the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), these accreditations have been criticised for not doing enough to break links with deforestation. 

Whether to buy or boycott palm oil remains a controversial subject and you can find out more about the issues in our palm oil section. Palm oil-derived ingredients are trickier to identify but there are companies out there who use neither. See our palm oil free soap page for more.

Fairtrade

Many ethical brands choose locally sourced ingredients to cut their carbon footprint. For those who use ingredients such as coconut, cocoa or soy, look for the Fairtrade logo to be sure that the farmers are getting a fair price for their crops. 

You can find out more about all the companies and issues in our guide to soap on our website, where you can also find over 130 other ethical shopping guides covering everything from bread to banks.