Jane Cook is Cardiff’s go-to sustainable foodie, putting us on to the best spots in the Welsh Capital, and encouraging others to have the best day/night out in the city, or take inspiration to do the same wherever they may find themselves, whilst also being mindful of their eco-responsibility.
She does this through her passion project, hungrycityhippy.co.uk, a bustling blog which centres around food, drink and sustainability in the city. Since its conception in 2014, hungrycityhippy.co.uk has garnered much attention, winning the Wales Blog Awards the same year and earning a spot as a finalist at the UK Blog Awards 2017, as well as being 'Highly Commended' by the WWF.
And it’s no mystery as to why - from restaurant, bar and café recommendations that tempt us to book the next train ticket to Cardiff, to mouth-watering recipes which are scrumptious and simple to make, as well as sustainability tips and info which are both fresh and practical, her one-of-a-kind blog is a regular read for us here at the Forrist. On top of her blog, from her account @hungrycityhippy she keeps our Instagram feeds regularly updated with sustainable plates of food for us to feast our eyes on, and co-curates the Hank! Podcast, bringing us ‘bite-sized stories from Cardiff’s food and drink scene’.
By day, Jane is a freelance PR consultant working specifically with clients in the food and sustainability/environment sectors, a job which functions perfectly in tandem with her blog, keeping her invigorated and informed in her efforts to promote sustainability. “Working with charities like Refill UK and The Woodland Trust as part of my day job means I am also learning new things – backed up by bodies of scientific research – almost every day.”
And, as with any eco-enthusiast, the learning never stops, taking in regular reading, watching and listening. In the beginning, TV programs like River Cottage got her into eating more seasonally, books by people like Phillip Lymbery (the CEO of Compassion in World Farming) taught her about industrial farming, and the Sustainable Food Trust podcast is her weekly listen.
“Reading up on - and watching programs about - the industrialised food system. It is staggering to realise the damage it is doing to the planet, the animals within it, and to our public health.”
This outlook is abundant in her blog, the overriding message being that protecting our planet doesn’t have to be a chore, but it is a responsibility. Her blog demonstrates that you can live your best life sustainably, enjoying your travels and experiencing incredible food and drink in all sorts of places whilst still remaining ecologically friendly, an element which ultimately enriches the experience.
“I don’t think any of us are living sustainably in the global north; our societies are built on the industrial revolution and are responsible for a carbon overspend which is now causing problems for the whole world. However, I do believe in the power of individual action at scale.”
And that is exactly what Jane does with her blog, showing there is endless fun to be had and discoveries to be made whilst still remaining conscious of how our pleasure may affect the planet. Of course, her individual action extends to her everyday life as well, from things like making sure her pension provider only makes sustainable investments, and doesn’t invest in fossil fuels, to simply refusing to buy coffee in single-use cups.
She recalls one example in particular where she’s already scored a reusability hattrick. “In our old house, we made open kitchen shelving out of some table tops we purchased from a local coffee shop, which had in turn started life as school science desks. We took them with us when we moved and are now looking for somewhere in the house to give them their fourth lease of life!”
Naturally, being such an avid foodie and environmentalist, she takes a waste-conscious approach to her eating and encourages others to do the same. “I subscribe to a diet of ‘less and better’ – we only eat meat once or twice a week. There is growing evidence to show that regenerative farming can have a part to play in capturing carbon and restoring soil health, so we look for grass-fed meat from local farms who we know work to support biodiversity.”
A big focus for her phenomenal recipes is seasonal, local and organic food, as not only does this reduce the carbon footprint of her shopping, she finds it also “can connect us with nature in a really tangible way” when you’re eating habits match natural cycle of Earth, eating what is growing as it is growing.
And you know what’s another way to reduce food-waste? Making your food so tasty that it’ll never go uneaten! And Jane has become an expert at taking whatever ingredients she has on hand and transforming them into irresistible meals. One of her personal favourite plant-based meals to cook is “a huge tray bake, which always starts with roasting a load of veg and a tin of chickpeas or beans, drizzled with olive oil. From there it’s about adding different ingredients to change it up each time – whether that be tinned tomatoes, stale bread chunks and lovely Italian herbs for a ribolita, or coconut milk and Indian spices for a simple curry. On weeknights I love tray baking as there’s so little mess to clean up!”
And those big, hearty traybakes may contain some homegrown produce in the near-future, as Jane excitedly prepares to put her new front garden to good use, raising beds to plant courgettes and tomatoes, a step up from this years windowsill herbs and some admittedly unsuccessful strawberries.
And that’s not all she’s got planned for the new year, as she’s equally excited to begin home composting. “We’re lucky to live in an area where our food waste is collected and sent to an anaerobic digestion facility, where it is turned into renewable energy to power homes and communities. That being said, I would still prefer to be composting at home, so for Christmas I have asked for a below ground composter which can compost up to 20kg of food waste a week. I can’t wait to get my worms to go in it!”
Although commercial composting is a great and necessary service, as not everything can be composted from home, nor is everyone capable of doing so to their desired degree, it is equally vital to try and compost from home as much as you can, as by doing so you reduce the emissions and energy spent when the trucks come to pick up your waste.
Jane’s taking her move to a new home as an opportunity to make her lifestyle more sustainable, and reduce her waste usage and carbon footprint, but even if you don’t feel like you have the means to grow food or compost from home, there are still countless ways for you to ensure you are doing your part to protect our planet. When asked what is the one change she would encourage people to make, Jane said: