Green’s The Way to Go

Author: Green Cyprus  //  Category: Green Cyprus Blog

With the current financial crisis and predictions for 2012 looking bleak, you may begin to wonder what the future holds for Cyprus. The state of the world economy is apparent and we too have our own economic issues such as the price of food, electricity & petrol which has soared. Even if you adopt an optimistic outlook, it is fair to say that the state of affairs isn’t good and we know that there is no quick fix. Many complex economic factors come into play so it’s not always possible to change things for the better, certainly in the short term.

Economics aside, what we can begin to do, is look at aspects that we can have some influence over. We can turn our attention towards making positive things happen which will help our country bounce back in the longer term.

Where do we begin? That’s a tough one and as I’m not an economist, I don’t have the answers. But like most people, I have my opinions. We could start by cleaning the place up a bit, for example. Yes, really! There’s one big reason for doing this and that’s tourism.

Tourism is our biggest export. Tourism has suffered in recent years for a number of reasons. Cyprus has become expensive and is therefore not as attractive as it was but there are other factors too which from what I can see relate to the overall holiday experience here. Yes, we have the sun, sea and culture but do these aspects alone give us the edge over competing holiday destinations? Not any more. Attracting tourists is a crucial for boosting our economy so we need to take action.

That’s why I am talking about cleaning up our act; the roads & pavements, the beaches, the parks, countryside and other open areas, shopping areas – you name it. Let’s face it, we don’t have a reputation for being very clean and so many places you come across are badly maintained or scruffy, not to mention all the graffiti everywhere you look. Rubbish seems to be dumped anywhere there’s spare land, cigarette ends litter many pavements and beaches and it’s not uncommon to see people throwing their rubbish out of car windows. We seem to continue turning a blind eye to these goings-on. Isn’t it about time we implemented a zero-tolerance approach on littering, with hefty fines for offenders?

Recycling also needs to play a more important role in the way we deal with our rubbish. Although the authorities here do have a recycling programme, we could do much more, such as installing recycling bins (and lets face it, more refuse bins!) throughout the towns, countryside and beach areas. Obviously cleaning up the environment means more than just cleaning up the streets, but it’s a start. Cleaning up is good for the environment, good for us and good for tourism!

If you need evidence that this is the case, here’s an example. In preparation for hosting the 2012 Olympics, London has installed interactive recycling bins across the capital in a bid to reduce waste. The bins deliver electronic information such as breaking news, transport timetables andadvertisements via an LED screen on the side. By the start of the London 2012 Olympics, they will have 200 installed which will extend their reach to over 3 million people.

It’s not all bad though. Things are beginning to happen. There are some good initiatives currently under way like the Limassol Marina and Nicosia’s application for the 2017 European City of Culture. This in particular is great because it promotes our culture around the world…but it would be far better if, in addition to showing off our culture, we could show everyone how clean and green we are too!

Establishing more venues with an emphasis on nature is important too because these are the kind of things people want to see. Several years ago whilst holidaying in Cancun, Mexico, I visited Xcaret eco theme park. Although it was a theme park, it was not one with all the rides as you might imagine. It was superb because it promoted the flora and fauna of Mexico in an educational and fun way for adults and children alike. I bought the best chemical-free sun lotion ever in one of their souvenir shops because you weren’t allowed to swim in their streams with chemical sunscreens. That’s how strict they were but it was their all-round eco-ethics that made the park memorable! Just goes to show; if you are committed, it works! Visitors want to see the real Cyprus and cleaning up the place will certainly help. It is also worth mentioning that agrotourism is becoming increasingly popular so it makes sense to step up our marketing activities in this area. We already have an agrotourism industry which is ideal for both tourists and residents wanting an eco-break.

While I am by no means imagining that a blanket application of green policies will solve our economic problems, I do believe that adopting greener practices could play a key part in safeguarding the future of the island.

There are lots more ideas that could be put into practice to make for a cleaner and greener Cyprus and I have merely scratched the surface but these are a few steps in the right direction which I believe will definitely have long-term positive repercussions on the country as a whole.

What’s Up With Our Kids’ Diets?

Author: Green Cyprus  //  Category: Green Cyprus Blog

Because I’m involved with food on a daily basis, I regularly make a point of posting on my about food issues. I have on several occasions commented on the Cypriot diet and in particular, what our children eat.

Years ago, the Cypriot diet with its abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables, pulses and lashings of olive oil was much healthier than of recent times. Nowadays, evidence has shown that we are shunning the diet that is part of our culture. The Greek/Mediterranean diet is known for being one of the healthiest in the world but here in Cyprus, it seems to be going out of fashion, particularly with the younger generation. No prizes for guessing what kinds of food have become more popular in recent years! Unfortunately, it is our children who are now paying the price.

A survey conducted late in 2011 by the Research and Education Institute for Child Health monitored about 2,500 children in Cyprus as part of a five-year Europe-wide €13 million project funded by the European Commission.

It concluded that children in Cyprus eat fattier and saltier foods, exercise the least and on top of that barely get enough sleep in comparison to those in northern Europe. Children in Cyprus topped the chart when it came to eating salty snacks and chocolate and brought up the rear when it came to cooked vegetables. Seven in ten children replaced healthy food with crisps, chocolates, pastries and other similar snacks.

We appear to have abandoned the core Mediterranean diet of fresh fruit, vegetables andpulses in favour of what is basically fast or ‘junk food’. It was even found that children’s consumption of olive oil lies just at the European average when surely you would expect it to be higher. Children in Cyprus also ranked low in terms of calcium consumption andomega 3 fats which are necessary for healthy cells. About three in five did not get enough vitamin C or A. These vitamins protect the organism against fat oxidisation which causes cancers as well as clogging up arteries. The overall finding in this study was that one in six Cypriot children who participated in the survey was considered obese.

This is a worrying statistic. I made a point of looking around– schools, restaurants, cafes, play zones andother places that children frequent as well as taking into consideration the general day-to-day activities of, let’s say, a ‘typical’ family. I quickly came to the conclusion that these statistics appear to be pretty accurate.

You only have to look around yourself to see what I mean. Observe any school playground and you’ll see more overweight children than ever before. Unhealthy diets fuelled by nutrition-less, carb-filled, calorie-laden snacks which children often buy from kiosks and school tuck shops don’t help matters, nor do unhealthily packed lunch boxes. There is also a huge fondness for all things sweet. There are cake shops and bakeries virtually on every street in Cyprus and they are always busy – many of the items you can buy there like cakes and pastries are making their way into the lunch boxes I spoke about!

I believe that these items have become for many people like an addiction, as has the fast food so much loved by the younger generation. Add to this, the general reluctance to go anywhere on foot and you begin to see where the problems lie and indeed, that it’s us adults who are to blame!

Will we be able to turn this situation around? Yes, because we have to. Striving for good health and adopting a healthy diet is common sense. Unfortunately it doesn’t help that there is an apparent lack of education on health issues and I for one would certainly like to see this change, but in the meantime, we cannot ignore the situation as our children will continue to pay the price for bad eating and lifestyle habits with their health.

As parents, it’s up to us to make healthier dietary choices because we influence what our children eat. And we need to jump on board too by setting good examples. It’s not difficult. It just requires commitment and awareness of bad food choices that are so readily available and making sure you and your children avoid them. There’s plenty of healthy food, fruit & vegetables, snacks anddrinks in the supermarkets & health shops andit goes without saying that many items are available organically-grown, including olive oil. And of course these days, you can even get The Yum Company organic fresh ready meals which are healthy, nutritious and great for kids too! 

Here are my suggestions for a healthy school lunch box:

Include: nuts, chopped fruit or vegetables e.g. apple, banana, carrot, cucumber tomato, dried fruit e.g. apricots, dates, mini rice cakes, piece of cheese e.g. halloumi, small pot of organic yogurt. If I am including a sandwich, I usually add mashed avocado and mix in a splash of Cool Oil omega 369 (available from Holland & Barrett) or flax or pumpkinseed oil. I always use organic where possible. As for drinks, juices are best avoided as they are full of sugar and bad for your children’s health as well as their teeth. Mineral water is ideal.

Exclude: pastries, processed meat products e.g. sausage rolls, salty crisps, sweets, cakes, sugary, fizzy drinks andso called ‘energy’ drinks. As if you didn’t know!  

From Google to Pangasius

Author: Green Cyprus  //  Category: Green Cyprus Blog

There are some things in life that can be described as green and others which at best, can only be described as a murky brown. A variety of foods come to mind that fall into both categories and in this instance, there are two food-related topics on which I would like to focus; Google (the company) and Pangasius (the fish).

You may be wondering what Google has to do with food? Well, one of the most often cited perks of working at Google is….the food. Google feeds its employees well. If you work at the Googleplex, you can eat breakfast, lunch and dinner free of charge. There are several cafés located throughout the campus and employees can eat at any of them. Each café offers different kinds of cuisine ranging from vegetarian dishes to sushi to ethnic foods from aroundthe world. Google’s culture promotes the use of fresh, organic and healthy meals. That’s a great green approach and it gets my vote.

I wonder how many other companies are following their example by offering their staff organic food. Perhaps more than you think. I say if Google is doing it, there must be plenty of others following suit…life tends to work that way.

Whilst we’re unlikely to see anything on this scale in Cyprus, supplying our ready-meals to companies is one area that we, here at The Yum Company are looking at expanding into, making organic healthy meals a reality here too – you know who to call!

Now….that murky brown colour I was referring to earlier. Still on the subject of food, there’s one particular item that does not get my vote; Pangasius – yes, the fish – the one you see so much of here in Cyprus. It’s everywhere; supermarkets, restaurants, take- aways, you name it. Why? Because it’s cheap. Fish has become an expensive luxury item, especially if you wish to buy locally-caught wild fish. Wild prices I’d say! However, perhaps a price worth paying when you begin to look into the conditions of the Mekong River, Vietnam where pangasius is farmed, rumours of a multitude of toxins in the river, hormone injections to make the fish grow quickly and highly suspicious feed. I’m inclined to think no smoke without fire. I started to have my suspicions about this fish a while back because of the large quantities available and the low prices. By all means, draw your own conclusions. There’s a lot of information about it on the internet, one article even suggesting it’s all propaganda but there’s enough evidence to suggest as far as I’m concerned that pangasius is permanently off my menu.

So what is on my menu? As always, I try to eat as healthily as possible. Pangasius may be off limits but there are a few types of fish which I consider safer to eat and these include organic salmon which, incidentally, we use in our Creamy Salmon Pasta at The Yum Company. Carrefour now stocks wild frozen salmon which although doesn’t compare to the fresh, high quality organic steaks you get in the US, they are at least a step in the right direction if you’re looking to eat cleaner fish.

So, thumbs up to Google for being green. Talking of green, it’s time to break for tea….green tea of course. My current favourite is Althaus Green Oolong (leaves), an amazingly flavoursome green tea with milk undertones. Highly recommended!

Not Just Food…It’s a Green Thing

Author: Green Cyprus  //  Category: Green Cyprus Blog

As the owner of an organic food company, I guess it’s natural that I’m interested in organic products in general. Certainly on the food side of things, I have been a supporter of the organic movement and eaten organic food for many years. It just makes sense – I mean, why would you choose to buy adulterated food, ingesting potentially harmful chemicals into your body? By adulterated, I mean food that is grown using pesticides i.e. organophosphates (the worst kind), growth hormones and antibiotics.

I am very cautious about buying non-organic food. Admittedly, sometimes you have to when there isn’t an organic option and I guess, certainly here in Cyprus, it can be very expensive. Nevertheless it does pay to be careful about what you eat. I have a list of the worst offending fruit and vegetables on The Yum Company’s Facebook Page so even if you don’t buy organic, you can try to avoid the items that are on top of the list. Please feel free to contact me if you would like me to email you a copy. As for animal products, that’s an easy one to work out. What these animals are fed or pumped up with is well documented and doesn’t bear thinking about! Although I refrain from eating meat, even if I did there’s no way I would touch non-organic meat!

Thankfully, for a small island we now have access to more and more organic produce and you can purchase a wide selection of organic fruit and vegetables in specialist shops and in one or two of the supermarkets. It goes without saying that you can now buy organic ready meals too and we’re the first organically-certified ready food manufacturer in Cyprus!

If you are a meat eater, that’s a bit trickier because I am not aware of an organic farm that rears organic meat at the time of writing, although you can now buy organic chicken (and eggs) produced in Cyprus.

Because my interest in organic extends beyond just food, what about other organic or eco-friendly products? There are many good organic or eco-brands available both from health stores and now supermarkets whom until recently hardly stocked any of these products. Now you can find some really good brands in-store such as cleaning products and toiletries too. Carrefour recently introduced their own branded range of eco-friendly cleaning products which are reasonably priced such as washing up liquid, surface cleaners and a great shampoo which my children use, all of which are really effective and smell great. Nice to know you can clean up without the overuse of harmful chemicals! PLANET range is good too as is Ecover which, let’s say is top end price-wise.

And finally, what about organic clothing? Isn’t that going a bit too far I hear you say? Perhaps, but whenever I have bought any items made from organic cotton, the quality and texture feel divine! Trend-setting mums might want to check out BabyLegs adorable organic arm and leg warmers. All the rage in the US, Angelina Jolie’s kids wear them as do the children of Halle Berry, Gwen Stefani and Angie Harmon. Baby Legs uses organic cotton and dyes and make a fashionably green baby gift. I’m not sure if you can find them in Cyprus but you can purchase them online at

And now back to food….It’s Monday morning, we’ve a busy production week ahead and it’s time to start cooking. Now where did I put that Organic Red Lentil & Vegetable Soup recipe?