Fall is in the air, and soon it will be time to cozy up in front of the fire, bundled up in plastic and sipping liquid sugar. Wait…what?
You were probably thinking more about sipping a pumpkin spiced latte wrapped up in your favorite sweater or blanket. That’s fair, but in the interest of being informed about what you put both in and on your body, let’s look at that a little more closely. It’s a great opportunity to talk about the actual contents of these seasonal favorites. Don’t worry, you’re still going to be able to get cozy. It’s just that after you read this, your “cozy” is going to be much healthier and sustainable in several ways.
Let’s start with the ubiquitous PSL, that siren song of our take-out coffee culture, introduced by Starbucks in 2003. So what’s in it? In order of the greatest quantity to the least, it has;
Pumpkin Spice Sauce
(sugar, condensed milk and pumpkin puree, which was added to the recipe in 2015 replacing caramel)
Pumpkin Spice Topping
The whole combination in a 12 ounce serving ends up being 300 calories and 39 grams of sugar (more than the American Heart Association recommends for an adult in an entire day). Obesity and diabetes are both chronic diseases which have escalated to epidemic proportions in the United States, and these sugar- filled beverages are clearly not helping these statistics.
According to The CDC, the rate of obesity in the United States for the year of 2018 was 42.4%, a 12% increase from the prevalence of obesity in the year 2000. This article points out that coffee contains polyphenols which are believed to prevent inflammatory illnesses such as type 2 diabetes. So why do big coffee houses counteract this beneficial property with drinks packed with sugar?
As for those cozy fleece blankets and sweaters, let’s take a closer look. In today’s textile industry, these comfy fall essentials that are labeled “fleece” actually have little or nothing to do with the natural coating from an animal. The “fleece” that is so prevalent now in cold weather gear and bedding is made of synthetic fibers, which means it is fundamentally polyester, or plastic. Even top brands such as Patagonia are acknowledging the effects fleece and fleece alternatives have on the planet, as seen in this post they wrote about microfiber pollution. It’s true that these fabrics are sometimes blended with natural materials such as wool or hemp, but it’s up to the consumer to read the labels carefully to understand what they’re actually getting. Now, here’s a really good question that usually comes up in this discussion.
“But aren’t these synthetics often made out of water bottles and other recycled plastics, which means I’m helping the environment when I buy them?” Check out our previous post on having a conscious closet, where we dive into the truth about synthetics and why we think that argument is greenwashing.
In addition to the production of these materials, the care and maintenance of polyester products, virgin or recycled, has created a major environmental problem. In the process of machine washing a polyester garment, more than 700,000 plastic fibers can be released into the environment. These fibers pollute our waterways and are consumed by marine life, much of which makes its way into our food supply and atmosphere. According to this 2011 study, microfibers are responsible for 85% of human-made waste along shores throughout the entire planet.
If this seems like a lot to take in, don’t worry! There’s no reason to let any of this information get in the way of all the cozy fall feels. The whole point is to be conscious of what we’re consuming and be empowered to make better choices. As for our beloved autumnal experience, here are some easy alternatives for creating the real thing without all of the sugar and plastic.
Choosing natural fibers such as organic cotton, wool, hemp, flax/linen, jute, and ramie will have your body and your planet thanking you. Check out this blog post or this one to learn more about the importance of putting natural materials near and on your skin. Reduce your amount of plastic consumption and disposal by quitting synthetics. And consider real food alternatives to your take-out coffee beverages, like our recipe for a homemade pumpkin spice latte below!
Homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte
12 oz of whole, grass-fed milk (or coconut or other non-dairy milks)
½ cup of pumpkin puree
¼ teaspoon of ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
Sweetener of choice (stevia, maple syrup, honey, etc)
Mix together milk, puree, and spices. Sweeten to taste – I like ½ teaspoon of stevia extract, but you can also use maple syrup, honey or whatever you have on hand!
Combine thoroughly (a hand blender works wonders!) and place in a 16 oz container with a lid. Keep refrigerated until ready to use, concentrate keeps well for around 5 days.
When you get the urge for that PSL, combine 8 oz coffee and ½ cup of the concentrate in a saucepan and heat.* When it’s nice and hot, froth it up using your hand blender or a vigorous whisk. Pour into a mug and enjoy!
*For a delicious, BBB (Brain-Boosting Bonus), melt in 1 tablespoon of grass-fed butter before frothing.