What is Low Impact Living?

Plastic is everywhere you go, but there are always unpackaged options!  Valladolid, Mexico

Plastic is everywhere you go, but there are always unpackaged options! Valladolid, Mexico

I first heard of the idea of ‘low impact living’ when a YouTuber I love to watch, Immy Lucas of Sustainably Vegan created the ‘Low Impact Movement’. She had been trying her best to live a zero-waste lifestyle but had grown frustrated that she couldn’t reach 100% waste-free.

On the about page of her website, The Low Impact Movement, she writes: “Being plant based, low waste, minimalist and ethical, I wanted a movement that encompassed all of those values and merged them into one.”

So, she created the Low Impact Movement, combining all of these values that I also stand for. When she announced it, I remember being so excited – it so perfectly combines everything I’m passionate about too! 

For me, living a low impact lifestyle means causing the least amount of harm possible, on animals, people and the environment, while also striving to use the least amount of resources possible.

The best way to do this is to eat a plant-based diet, avoid using plastic or one-use items as much as possible and repurpose, repair or recycle items you own before purchasing new things (and looking at second hand before buying new).

These are the ultimate goals – but what I love about using the term ‘low impact’ is that it’s about intention, not perfection. We’re all on our own path, working it out for ourselves one step at a time. If we encourage and support one another to learn and grow, every change we make as individuals makes a difference. No matter how big or small your efforts are, we all have to start somewhere.

I love that the term ‘Low Impact Living’ is realistic and can be tailored to fit the individual, taking into account where they are at in their journey to low waste, plant-based living.

Being vegan greatly diminishes your use of resources and your impact on the environment. It means doing your absolute best to avoid animal products or products that use animals in testing or for entertainment. By eating as whole-food plant-based as possible, it can also be the healthiest diet, reducing your risk of heart disease, diabetes and even some cancers.

Essentially, if you want to cause the least harm possible and use the least resources, going vegan is the best thing you can do! ‘Low Impact Living’, however, is like the next level, as it takes into account your waste, too. So, if the idea of going vegan is a tad overwhelming, starting with low-waste everyday swaps could be an easier starting point.

In endeavouring to live a low impact lifestyle, I try to always reuse bags, buy in bulk and avoid plastic and one-use items to the best of my ability. I very rarely buy clothes or anything, and if I do, I buy second-hand when possible.

For me, travelling without creating waste is harder than travelling as a vegan. Especially if you’re moving around a lot! But that’s a great thing about staying in one place for longer – you can be better prepared and discover the best products to buy.

When it comes to reducing your plastic use, preparation is key. It means keeping reusable bags with you all the time, remembering to bring your reusable water bottle everywhere, and using containers for take-away food, packed lunches or bulk items such as rice.

The markets in Guatemala are actually fantastic if you want to avoid plastic bags! You can buy lentils, beans, nuts, seeds, rice and even already chopped up vegetables in bulk bins – simply bring your own bag, container or jar along with you. Aside from cutting down on plastic waste, buying in bulk at the markets here is also cheaper than the plastic-wrapped equivalents at the regular supermarkets, plus it supports the locals!

How it should be - the markets in Guatemala are fantastic for lowering your plastic use!  Xela, Guatemala

How it should be - the markets in Guatemala are fantastic for lowering your plastic use! Xela, Guatemala

Back in Australia, it’s not always the cheapest option to buy in bulk – but it is still doable! I’m looking forward to challenging myself to use far less waste now that I’m home again, so I’ll keep you all posted on how I go! While living in Xela, Guatemala, I did my best to avoid plastic as much as I could.

We even started bringing our own basket to the market, as it’s so much easier to transport the fruit and veggies home that way. There are usually spare boxes floating around too, so you can always ask to take one! I also always have my reusable bags with me where ever I go, plus a backpack.

But as awesome as all that is – there are some low-waste items that simply aren’t an option in Guatemala, that I took for granted back in Australia.

Back in Australia, I buy bamboo toothbrushes. I wouldn’t have a clue where to buy one in Guatemala, and the postal service is literally non-existent. The only option is the ridiculously expensive DHL courier service. Best avoided, especially for the sake of a toothbrush!

Back in Australia, I buy stainless steel blades for my reusable razor. But I couldn’t for the life of me find stainless steel blades that would fit my razor in Mexico or Guatemala.

But regardless of the differences between Central America and Australia, it all comes down to this: when you know better, you can do better. It’s simply important that wherever you are, you do your best!

Look at all those fresh, pre-cut and plastic-free vegetables!  Xela, Guatemala.

Look at all those fresh, pre-cut and plastic-free vegetables! Xela, Guatemala.

Even in Guatemala, low impact living is possible. So, I feel like in Australia, where there’s even more access to awesome reusable and biodegradable products, likeminded communities that you can join, and a wealth of information readily accessible – there’s not much of an excuse is there? Why not give it a try?

Wherever you live, if you want to reduce your impact on the environment, start with reusing bags, bringing your own water bottle, using a keepcup for takeaway coffees, and buying in bulk as much as possible. Some supermarkets have a bulk section, or maybe there are delivery options near you if you can’t access any bulk shops where you are. Just avoid plastic as much as you can, as every little bit helps!

Yet as I said earlier, the best thing you can do to help the environment is to go vegan! Plastic waste is horrible, and we should minimise it as much as we can, but the sheer volume of resources that are used to raise, feed, transport, slaughter and butcher animals for meat, dairy and eggs is absolutely obscene for the small amount of food this lengthy process results in (I’ll touch more on this in a later post). Not to mention the connection between animal agriculture and the horrible fires in the Amazon jungle right now (this article by Vice explains it well!).

Going vegan may seem like the most difficult step, but it has the greatest positive impact. Minimise your intake of animal products in your own time, as best you can, and you’ll be helping not only the environment and animals, but fellow human beings too – there are so many humanitarian reasons to go vegan as well!

Changing your habits may seem very overwhelming, but if you do it gradually, in your own time, it will be much easier than you’d think. The goal is simply to do your best to cause the least harm possible. It’s about intention, not perfection!

We live very privileged lives, and I am so insanely grateful that I was born in Australia and have the opportunity to travel the world. We have the access and ability to reduce our harm on the environment, on animals and on fellow human beings, while still being healthy. Low Impact Living may take getting used to, but it’s totally worth it, knowing that you’re striving to make this world better for everyone.

Absolutely love the traditional clothes commonly worn by Mayan women here in Guatemala. So beautiful, colourful and handmade with natural dyes, much better for the environment!  Salcajá, Guatemala

Absolutely love the traditional clothes commonly worn by Mayan women here in Guatemala. So beautiful, colourful and handmade with natural dyes, much better for the environment! Salcajá, Guatemala

The one downside to low impact living is that it may not be as convenient. But as you get used to it, it only gets easier. If you go vegan, the food just gets better as you learn recipes, and as more options become available.

Is convenience truly that important, in the big scheme of things? Of course, it will be more difficult for some people than others, especially for those with ties to farming. I absolutely feel for those whose livelihood depends on animal agriculture (people are animals too – we should be looking out for our fellow humans as well!). I would love to see more efforts invested into helping these industries transition. I know that it is a complicated and difficult issue, but surely there are solutions.

Because as important as it is to look at these issues from a local standpoint, we have to take into account the entire world. We have to consider the health and wellbeing of every living being on this planet, humans and animals alike. We have to reduce global warming, or there will be no living beings on this planet at all.

Isn’t the future of this world more important than keeping things how they’ve always been? Especially if the only thing stopping you is habit. Habits can be changed, and if you’re reading this, you have the opportunity to change those habits, right now.

Now you’ve taken the time to read this, what are you going to do with this information? I know it’s a lot to take in, so just to summarise, here are a few ideas for actions you can take. I hope this helps!

  • Keep reusable bags inside your everyday bag

  • Start using a reusable water bottle

  • Get yourself a keepcup for takeaway coffee if you need a lid, or simply use your favourite mug if you’re within walking distance to a café (a lot of people do this! You don’t need the fancy keepcup if you’re not walking far)

  • Choose the vegan option when you eat out

  • Bring food with you in containers when you’re out all day, to avoid buying packaged foods

  • Eat in at cafes/restaurants instead of getting take-away, if you don’t have a container with you

  • Minimise your consumption of animal products and try experimenting with plant-based products at home

  • Seek out buying in bulk where possible, using containers or repurposed jars

  • Try going completely vegan! (Check out the resources linked below, and stay tuned for more on Veganism here!)

The epic Vegan Tempeh Salad at Mandarina Cafe. So delicious!  Xela, Guatemala

The epic Vegan Tempeh Salad at Mandarina Cafe. So delicious! Xela, Guatemala

If ever you’re feeling overwhelmed about it all, just think of the bigger picture. Remind yourself that every little bit truly does help. Think of those who would love to be in your shoes, with all the options and choices we have in Australia.

Lower your impact for those that can’t.

Lower your impact so that at the end of the day, you will know that you did your best to make this world a better place for every living being.

Let me know if you have any questions or want to discuss anything at all! Comment below, contact me here or direct message me on Instagram. I’d love to hear what you guys think, and get the discussion going! It’d be awesome to hear more suggestions on actions we can take too! What do you do, or want to start doing, that helps lower your environmental footprint? The more we talk about these things the better!

Also, I highly recommend checking out The Low Impact Movement for more information! It’s a super helpful website, and a really supportive community.

Thank you so much for reading, and I hope you’re having a beautiful day!

Ebonie

If you’re interested, there are some fantastic documentaries you can watch too: Cowspiracy (on Netflix) from an environmental perspective, What the Health (also on Netflix) on the benefits of a whole-food plant-based diet, and for the ethical, animal-rights point of view, watch Dominion.

How to be Vegan in Mexico & Guatemala

Delicious traditional-inspired cuisine at  IX CAT IK Mayan Restaurant .  Valladolid, Mexico 2019

Delicious traditional-inspired cuisine at IX CAT IK Mayan Restaurant. Valladolid, Mexico 2019

Like most of the world nowadays, Central America is meat-centric. Most meals include some form of animal product. Cheese, cream, eggs and every cut of meat possible is heavily featured in the cuisine here. Yet surprisingly, following a vegan diet is actually really easy, in Mexico and Guatemala!

Like many cuisines worldwide, plant foods accompany every meal. So there are always vegan options! They may not always be obviously listed on the menu, but they are always possible.

In the last few months travelling in Mexico and Guatemala, we’ve managed to figure out what to order when we eat out, what to look for in supermarkets, and we’ve learnt some awesome recipes along the way too! I thought others might find this information handy, or simply be curious how we’re getting by as vegans here. So here we are – a quick guide to eating vegan in Mexico and Guatemala!

It’s worth noting firstly that tortillas are vegan. They may come in varying degrees of wheat and corn, but they traditionally do not contain any animal products! Tortilla products such a chips and tostadas (baked or fried whole tortillas) are normally vegan too, it’s only the flavoured packets in supermarkets that may not be.

Always good & traditionally vegan - homemade tortillas at  Maiz, Canela y Cilantro Vegetarian Restaurant .  Merida, Mexico 2019

Always good & traditionally vegan - homemade tortillas at Maiz, Canela y Cilantro Vegetarian Restaurant. Merida, Mexico 2019

Eating Out in Mexico & Guatemala

Holy Guacamole!

If you love avocado, you’re going to be just fine eating in Mexico! Majority of menus have guacamole listed, and it is always, naturally vegan! Including the tortilla chips that it comes with. Sean and I have mastered the art of making awesome, delicious guacamole now too, as it’s even cheaper to make at home – and it’s become a staple in our diet! My favourite recipe for guacamole contains minced garlic, coriander, lime, diced red onion, diced tomato and salt mashed into the avocado. So good!

Tacos and Burritos

Most restaurants in Mexico will have tacos and burritos on the menu, and even if they appear to only be meat-based, it’s super easy to ask for a veggie option without cheese! Tacos and burritos are always made with a base of refried beans and veggies, so it’s really quite easy for them to simply add more vegetables and leave off the meat and cheese. We’ve never had trouble ordering vegan tacos or burritos anywhere! Usually the fillings for both tacos and burritos include assorted grilled or sautéed veggies, rice, beans, salad and avocado.

Tortas

Essentially, a torta is a toasted bread roll filled with lots of veggies! Same as tacos and burritos, it’s always possible to order vegetarian without cheese. One thing to note on these though – they usually use mayonnaise. It could sometimes be vegan, but if you’re unsure, I’d recommend asking for no mayo as well as no cheese. If you’re in the mood for an epic sandwich, then a torta is the way to go! 

Complimentary Salsa with Tortilla Chips served at  El Vegetariano Mar y Tierra .  Tulum, Mexico 2019

Complimentary Salsa with Tortilla Chips served at El Vegetariano Mar y Tierra. Tulum, Mexico 2019

Pica de Guio

At some restaurants in Mexico, this really simple yet delicious tomato and lime salsa is offered with the guacamole, or alongside your meal. It usually consists of diced tomato, loads of lime, coriander and onion. It’s super fresh and tasty! Ridiculously easy to make at home too.

‘Plate of the Day’

Typically a heaping plateful of veggies, beans and rice, with tortillas on the side! We just simply ask for no cheese, mayonnaise or meat. Here in Xela, Guatemala, we have a favourite little local cafeteria where you can enjoy this daily feast for 10 Quetzals ($2 AUD). Amazing!

Aside from the local comedors serving more traditional food, there are a variety of cafes that also offer a menu of the day too, with different cuisines and usually a good price - so it’s worth looking out for! One place I recommend in Guatemala is Xela Green - their menu of the day includes a three course meal for 25 Quetzals! It includes fresh juice, soup, tortillas and a main meal (which varies but is always interesting), plus dessert. Pretty good deal, at a lovely vegetarian restaurant!

Vegan Street Food

If you get peckish while out and about, never fear – food is always near! Street food carts are everywhere, and often include some of the following delicious, accidentally vegan options:

Plantains

Think caramelised fried banana, but a little chewier… I’m not sure that does it justice, just trust me, they’re awesome! I usually get them plain or with cinnamon, but if you’d like it sweeter, they often have sugar to dust on top.

Rellenitos de Platano

Plantain fritters stuffed with refried beans, fried and delicious! I am so excited to say that I’ve learnt how to make these! It is essentially mashed, cooked plantains, with a touch of flour to help form them into balls, with refried beans in the centre. They’re sweet and savoury at the same time! I know they sound strange, but seriously, they are so damn good. Especially when freshly fried!

Churros

Oh heavenly donut-y goodness! Luckily (and dangerously) churros are traditionally vegan, in Spain and in Central America. They have various toppings for them that are not so vegan friendly – but cinnamon and sugar is truly all you need! Occasionally we’ve come across vegan chocolate sauce though, so if you’re craving that chocolate hit with your churros, be sure to ask just in case!

Guatemalan Tostadas (or known in Guatemala as Enchiladas)

Fried or baked whole tortillas loaded up with toppings, easily made vegan! The base is a simple tomato salsa and/or refried beans, topped with beetroot, cabbage, carrot, onion and garlic. Surprisingly, some stalls will even use ground soy protein instead of beef, so always ask if it’s soya in case – it looks so meaty! Ask for no cheese/dairy on top, and you’re good to go!

Textured Soy Protein i.e. fake mince

It’s hard to believe how popular this stuff is in Guatemala! Textured soy protein (a.k.a. TVP) – that absurdly cheap packet of dehydrated soy ‘mince’ found on the bottom shelf of most supermarkets Australia-wide – is really popular here! It can even be found in bulk amounts at the markets. At street carts, it’s used as a topping for Guatemalan tostadas as mentioned above. I’ve been experimenting with it in the kitchen here too, it’s super easy to use and makes an awesome bolognese pasta sauce!

Vegetarian and Vegan Places

Scattered across Mexico and Guatemala, a vegan community is rapidly growing and along with it, many cafes and restaurants are appearing! So many places are catering for vegans, and we’ve found actual vegan options marked on menus in the most unlikely of places. Everywhere we go, one of the first things I do is type vegan into google maps in the area. It’s amazing to see how many options there are now! Check out the photos on this post for a couple of awesome cafes and restaurants we’ve been to. Let me know if you’d like a full list of places I recommend - I think that’d need it’s own post, there are so many!

El Vegetariano Mar y Tierra .  Tulum, Mexico 2019

El Vegetariano Mar y Tierra. Tulum, Mexico 2019

So as you can see, it’s not hard at all to eat out! I’ve honestly just scraped the surface of vegan possibilities here. And of course, you can buy pretty much any ingredients you need to cook whatever you heart desires!

Here in Xela, Guatemala, I’ve even found vegan chocolate chips at a local health food shop, and they’re decently priced. There’re also two huge supermarkets here (Walmart and Paiz) that sell a range of Daiya goodies, a completely vegan brand – all kinds of vegan cheese, frozen pizza, three flavours of cheese cake and multiple sauces and salad dressings. It’s a little pricey, but it’s fantastic that it’s so easily accessible! 

As tempting as it is to eat out all the time, we usually make our own meals too. We buy our fruit and veggies at markets, go to bigger supermarkets for soy milk, flour, sugar, etc., and buy locally made fresh tortillas. In Mexico, tortillas are usually in an esky by the counter at most stores and fruiterers (to keep them hot and soft - they’re made and delivered every day). Here in Guatemala, we’ve found an awesome place to buy fresh homemade corn tortillas at the cafeteria near the markets where we often have lunch (the 10Q menu of the day place!)

At any of the smaller stores or grocers, it is always worth asking at the counter if you’re looking for something and can’t see it, as usually things like herbs, spices, nuts and seeds are behind the counter. Often the fridge is too and can have freshly made juices hiding behind all kinds of veggies. So always ask!

In Valladolid, Mexico, we also went to a huge local market to buy our pure cacao (more about cacao coming soon if you’re curious!), and buy anything we couldn’t find there at the nearby stores. There’s a huge variety of fruit and veg at the markets in Central America, with countless stalls full to the brim!

The awesome Mercado Municipal!  Valladolid, Mexico, 2019

The awesome Mercado Municipal! Valladolid, Mexico, 2019

When you’re travelling for as long as we are, it’s really worth looking around for the local places. Step outside the more touristy areas and you’ll not only get a more authentic experience, but the prices will also drop dramatically!  

Small, local restaurants may not seem that appealing, with their plastic plates and wonky tables, but the cuisine there is far more authentic, and heaps cheaper. The people are super welcoming and are more than happy to accommodate for our vegan diets. We’ve never had any trouble ordering vegan so far, even at the most unlikely of places. Speaking Spanish (or attempting to at least) with a smile and friendly attitude goes a long way, too!

Everywhere in the world, the vegan movement is growing, and it’s only getting easier to be vegan. Even in Central America!

Though I can’t comment on the rest of Central America as I haven’t been there (yet!), I’d say there are more similarities than differences. I can’t wait to find out!

If you’re planning to travel as a vegan, I hope this helped you see how easy it can be! If you’ve already travelled, do you have any tips you could add? Or anything you really missed/struggled with while travelling? I’d love to hear your experiences!

Muchas gracias,

Ebonie xx

Hola de Guatemala!

Tikal Mayan Ruins, Guatemala

Tikal Mayan Ruins, Guatemala

Bienvenido - welcome!

If you’re just meeting me for the first time, hola! I’m a 28-year-old writer, photographer and musician from Australia. Right now, I’m living in Guatemala, at a Spanish school.

On weekdays, I hear the chatter of students learning Spanish as it echoes from the courtyard below my window. Upstairs in our room, I sit on a plastic chair, at a desk covered in a colourful, handmade tablecloth, and I edit photos and write about whatever I feel inspired to write.

I have no job, no boss. I spend my days ‘working’ on what makes me happy, simply because I want to. There will come a time when I’ll run out of money and have to return to the real world – but until then, I’m making the most of it!

For my first blog post, I thought I’d give a brief overview of what this site is about and explain how I’ve ended up living at a Spanish school in Quetzaltenango (commonly known as Xela), in Guatemala.

My boyfriend Sean is studying Spanish, and though I’m not taking lessons myself, I’ve really enjoyed living at Miguel de Cervantes Spanish School! We’ve been living here for two months now, but that time has gone really quickly, and we’ve met so many awesome people. We feel at home here, with a nice mix of routine and adventure.

Some of the awesome people we’ve met at Miguel de Cervantes Spanish School!  Santa María Volcano, Guatemala

Some of the awesome people we’ve met at Miguel de Cervantes Spanish School! Santa María Volcano, Guatemala

Right now, our weekdays are structured – we have routines to follow and goals to reach. On the weekends, we go sightseeing with other students here, hiking and climbing volcanos, relaxing at hot springs, or wandering through colourful and sprawling markets. There’s an endless stream of activities and opportunities!

Prior to living here at the school, we spent two months in Mexico where we did a Workaway (volunteer work in exchange for food and accommodation) for a month (I’ll share about that experience on here soon). Before Mexico, we spent 2 months in Europe – mostly in Spain, travelling around the coast for 5 weeks. It’s been an awesome 6+ months of travel, and we still have until September in Guatemala!

One of my favourite cities!  Granada, Spain

One of my favourite cities! Granada, Spain

The Palace of Alhambra.  Granada, Spain

The Palace of Alhambra. Granada, Spain

Over the time we’ve been travelling, I’ve learnt so much – hacks on saving money and budgeting, how to be vegan while travelling and how very little material possessions one needs.

We started our trip with only so much money to spend – whatever we could save while working full time in Australia. Instead of ‘settling down’ with those savings, Sean and I bought one-way tickets to Berlin, Germany! It was a little nerve-wracking, but it’s been completely worth it.

Travelling the world on a budget is certainly not as difficult as it may seem!

I’ve created this blog to show you that it is possible, and that travelling is far less scary than the news would have you believe. From our experience, it’s also been super easy to be vegan while travelling.

Vegan crepes at Sama Sama!  Lisbon, Portugal

Vegan crepes at Sama Sama! Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon, Portugal

On this blog, you can expect to read about all things travel, wellness and low-impact living. I like the term ‘Low Impact’ to summarise living a vegan, minimalist and low waste lifestyle.

So if you’re curious about Veganism, looking for plant-based recipes, or any tips and tricks for lowering your environmental footprint, then you’re in the right place!

You’ll also see lots of photos that I’ve taken in our travels so far – with many more to come.

I am so grateful to have the freedom to travel the world, spending my days doing whatever I want to do. I know that I’m privileged to have been born in Australia, that I had the opportunity to live a comfortable life while working full time and saving money.

I’m also so very grateful to you, for reading this, for being here, for supporting me. I hope I can bring some value to your day with my photos or my words! Please let me know if there’s anything you’d like me to cover, any particular recipes you’d like me to share or experiences we’ve had travelling. I want this blog to be helpful! 

Thank you so much for being here,

Ebonie xx