We interview Ollie Hunter on his recently released book “Join the Greener Revolution”. A great read of very useful sustainable tips and also packed with more great recipes !
A must Have!
by Colin Higgs/2nd-May-2020
Good morning, I have the pleasure of interviewing Oli Hunter who’s written a new book called ‘Join the Greener Revolution’. And, Oli is with me now, and I’d like for him to briefly introduce himself and also what inspired you, Oli, to write Join the Greener Revolution.
Hi, thank you very much for asking me on this podcast. So yeah, my name is Oli Hunter, my wife and I took over The Wheatsheaf in Chilton Foliat about five and a half years ago, and turn what was a very rundown pub into now what is the most sustainable business in the UK, as sort of a thriving, modern-thinking pub that’s completely focused around sustainability and community and all things flavoursome. I wrote a first book, which was published last February called ’30 Easy Ways to Join The Food Revolution’. And then this book, which is about joining the Greener Revolution, which is living sustainably, it was more of a continuation of the first book. And I think the whole thing with sustainability is, once you have that revolution, or revelation in your own head, or in your own mind, of how to think differently, then you just see every part of your life in a different way and want to sort of make everything you do sustainable. So, you’re part of that bigger picture, for a better, more joyful world, really.
Image: Ollie Hunter the author of the book Join the Greener Revolution
Thank you. Can you tell us a bit about the three main principles you identified in the book, and why they’re the most important three as well.
Cool. So, I’ve highlighted three main principles in both books. And for me, they’re:
• zero waste,
• organic and seasonal, and
• 50% within 30 miles.
And I’ll just go into each one in their own time.
• So, zero waste is absolutely, and even David Asprey talked about just don’t waste; I see the whole world as energy transfer. And we’re constantly transferring energy from one place to the next. So, in nature, there is no waste, everything is a by-product. And it is the most, in a way, efficient system, because it is constantly turning other things, wastes, into things for nature. It’s lost that circular feeling to us, to our society, and the way we live and the way we live in harmony with nature. So, for me, and especially in foods, zero waste is so important because I really want to buy better ingredients, I want to buy organic and eat organic and local food, and sometimes they can be more expensive. So, in order to counterbalance that expense, I have to use the whole vegetable, the whole meat, the whole fish, whatever I’m using, to have zero waste in order to afford the organic,
I can do this, because I’m buying, there’s a sort of synergy between the two, because I’m buying organic and local and seasonal, it has more flavour. And if it has more flavour, I don’t need to do as much to it to create the end product that I need.
So, I’m also saving money by buying less, I buy better and do less with it.
So, I’m probably saving in the business, for example, staffing or energy cost. And then the final thing is, I create this sort of 30 food movement, 30 miles, I genuinely believe that if we all look at ourselves as a sort of a dot in a painting, let’s say Impressionism, all that dot in an impressionist painting, we all part of that bigger picture. And if you relate that back to a tree, in that sense, the mycelium that we know now has such an important role. And that whole environment and atmosphere and everything that a tree does. But it’s so small in that grand scale of what a tree does. Humans we see trees, but what’s really going on is millions and millions of little things that are making that tree happen. And each and each individual human being and atom in this planet has the power to make the world more sustainable and more joyful. So, for me, that 30 miles is really just honing in on who you are, where you’re living, and what difference you can make in those days and months.
So, what is the issue that you’re trying to address with your book as well, then?
Yeah, so I mean, so for 10/ 20/ 30 years, you know, the conversation around it has been quite scary. And there’s lots of facts and figures thrown around about what’s happening. And it’s quite hard for us in our day to day lives to sort of see the effects or the negative effects. So, we know there are bad things happening. We know that plastic is bad. We know co2 emissions increasing is bad. We know toxins and chemicals. They’re all bad for us. SO it’s about recognising that, but as I said in the book, I really want to highlight that is not- we shouldn’t individually burden ourselves with the fault of it. We should more recognise maybe the problems, but it’s a joyful movement forward rather than an anti-movement.
So, for me, this is all about sustainability equals flavour; sustainability equals a slower, more joyful life; it increases the way I enjoy living, it decreases the money I spend on a day-to-day basis, as well as in food.
So, the issue, although is to recognise the faults and the observations of what we’ve done in the past, it’s more about transferring that into a positive energy to make our lives more joyful.
Thank you. And also, obviously, you’re a chef, and I did expect the book to be about eating sustainably. But you go further than that. And is there a reason you chose to write about being sustainable in so many ways? And do you practice each step yourself?
It’s a good question. And I should be completely honest in this sense, I mean, just to live life can sometimes be difficult, because you just got to get on with the day to day living of it. So, to constantly think of all these different decisions I’ve got to make each day, the important thing is to recognise that we do need to make decisions. And actually, what I was talking about earlier, that revolution in the head, and then revelation, and once you actually get into a habit of making good decisions, making a decision becomes easier and easier.
So within a month, two months, six months, a year, of making decisions, then it’s not a chore anymore, it becomes easier. And in that sense, the reason why I always wanted to speak more about living sustainably, because we’ve been running the pub for five years, it is not just about food and drink, it is about a business, and it is about people. And when you run a business, it all comes down to that sort of, in a way, that bottom line. And what we found with the pub was, again, that whole transfer to living and running the pub sustainably means that I’m increasing my profits, I’m giving my staff a better way of life. And I’m creating a more unique product. I’ll give you a quick example, we’ve got the in-house sparkling system at a pub for our water. And what that did was well, initially, it was just to sort of reduce carbon emissions and glass packaging. So, that was sort of good for the planet. So that was all tick. Two other side effects came alongside that; one was that it was good for my staff because they were carrying less bottles up and down from the cellar every day. And they were having to, you know, work harder as it were, for their buck. So, they were happier. And then on a third point, it was pleasure. And what we were doing with our own sparkling systems, we created our own soft drinks and mocktails. So, we’re creating a unique product that, where we use local ingredients, let’s say rhubarb in the season now to create a rhubarb cordial, we’ll make a rhubarb soft drink. So, we’ve now got a unique product. So, this system that we’ve changed the planet, actually affects us as people too.
So that system that you’re talking about, is it water that’s just got carbonised or something like that?
Yeah, exactly it is quite simply just is tap water that’s been filtered through the system. And then you’ve got a filtered water and you’ve got a carbonate course; it’s like a soda stream, really.
But that’s far cheaper than just buying the water off the shelf?
So, it’s not, well, there is a cost. And with all things, when I talk about business, there’s a capital change and a systematic change. So, for this was a sort of capital change, but in the long run, it will be cheaper. And as long as we use it proactively, like doing the cocktails and mocktails and soft drinks, then yeah, it is a lot cheaper in the long run.
What does that actually look like as well? In some large receptacle or something?
Yeah, it’s a great big metal bit of equipment underneath the bar. It’s only about 50 centimetres by 30 centimetres and 50 centimetres tall, for example. Makes no noise. It’s just a really great system and obviously is made our staff happy because they’ve got sparkling water on tap- so they can have, you know, getting the chefs perked up for service. You know, everyone loves a bit of sparkling water for that.
Yeah, thank you for that as well. I never knew of that. So, thank you. Also, in your book when I saw number 27, you talk about how technology can save the world. Could you elaborate on what technology you found to be particularly of use and inspiring as well?
Yeah, so I remember this talk, it was a book actually by Ken Robinson, who is one of the leading professors in creativity in education. And he said this thing once- and he said that Mozart, no amount of technology can improve the way Mozart plays his music. His music was only- he could only play his music as the first thing anyone else could ever play in the world. And no amount of technology can improve that. So, there’s one side of that argument- where you go: you know what, just living in harmony with nature can’t be all the things we do with technology.
But there is so much advancing technology at the moment, it’s going so quickly through demand that it is making our lives easier. One obvious one that you know, I know lots of people use as an app called Olio, which is a an app where you can sort of share maybe food that you don’t want- so you can share with your neighbours to avoid food waste, again, it’s one of those fantastic technology that we should celebrate because it connects people in that sort of mycelium way that I was talking about earlier within the tree. But it’s also doing a function by taking that waste product, or let’s call it a by-product to someone else.
Other things off the top of my head, I mean, that sort of material called Tencel, which is now a plant-based clothing material that we use. So, we’re moving away from crops or animal products into trees. And obviously trees, more tree growth is great for carbon sequestration and oxygen production. Even in packaging, I mean, I get, I use a Lush shampoo, and they come in packaging with little monkey nuts, you know, packaging, but they’re not made of plastic. They’re made of starch, which are totally biodegradable and compostable. So, I think the technology is there, both on a scientific level, and also, you know, on the sort of internet level, but also in the natural level, to help us to improve the way we live our lives. And I think many companies are sort of taking that burden upon themselves to make those changes for us as, as consumers. Now consumers is an interesting word, I actually want to sort of change that word, to a transferer, because I didn’t think that we are consumers of energy, I think we are transfers of energy. Like I was talking earlier, we don’t, our role isn’t just to consume and waste, our role is to transfer and part of that circular economy and circular energy is to transfer it into something good. So, I sort of think we should be called transferers now, rather than consumers.
Above images; Example pages from the book Join the Greener Revolution and Ollie’s pub the Wheatsheaf and some example dishes to expect by eating at the pub
Thank you for that as well. Do you think your staff- was it hard to get your staff on board with all of these ideas and concepts as well?
Yeah, they always tease me because my three top words always, you know, organic, local, and sustainable. And they never hear the end of it, I think it’s going to be led by people who care, and we’ve all got to care really, at the end of it. As long as the food and the product is good, and the customers aren’t complaining, then, and they get and they understand why we’re doing it, then it makes total sense. If, for example, I was doing it, and the food didn’t taste any good, and we’re getting complaints, then there’s no point in working there. For me, I just see everything that we’re doing with sustainability is all about flavour, is all about making our lives easier, cheaper, better, more enjoyable. And I think hopefully, we make their lives better. And we have a better work-life relationship to go alongside that.
In your book, obviously, you’ve got so many different ideas that are coming out of that book, what is your actual favourite tip from the book as well?
It’s a really difficult question to hone in on all those different tips. I think there’s a chapter in there, which, and I’m just going to talk about it briefly. But it genuinely sort of has changed my life. It’s one of those moments where there’s a pre and a post moment. And it’s called Transcendental Meditation. And it’s a form of meditation that I was recommended to do by lots of friends previously. But when it did happen, it has just changed my life and is a really simple, non-religious technique. It’s a, you get given a mantra that no one else knows, it’s completely unique to you. And you just repeat this mantra. And you transcend down to this unified field, which is you go through the in the physics terms from, alpha waves down to theta and beta, and this part of that unified field, and it’s just you do it twice a day for 20 minutes, and it’s completely changed my life really.
Can you tell us how it’s changed your life though? In what way?
It’s in the same way about you know, slow food and slow life. It’s made my life, made my head and the way I make decisions clearer and more powerful. I’m less stressed. I’m more in control. I see things, I guess, clearer. I don’t worry as much. I guess I’m less angry. And yeah, I think it has both a metaphysical and a physical difference to the way I live my life.
Thank you; from the book, obviously, we’ve got so many tips on being sustainable- what would be your top five best tips for new people to try and use?
Cool. So, number one changed my life. And there’s a funny story to alongside that, but I now use a shampoo bar from Lush. Lauren, my wife, well, I’m a very curious person to try and experiment as much as possible. And for about a week and a half, I tried experimenting with vinegar and bicarb in my hair. To the extent that Lauren, my wife, was so angry and upset, by the smell of my hair that she told me to get out and go have a shower, which I did and had to find another solution. So anyway, there’s shampoo bars just made a big difference, because I enjoy, I don’t know why, but the quality of ingredients just means I enjoy shampooing my hair so much more. And I don’t have plastic in the bathroom anymore, and actually last longer than non shampoo. So, it is again, cheaper in the long run.
What is that? What’s the brand called? Lush?
Lush, and it’s a bar. It’s a shampoo bar- cruelty free, animal free, made of vegan ingredients, and all their packaging is biodegradable, and compostable. So, they don’t use organic ingredients, but I completely believe in what they do. So there’s that. I’ve gone away from toothpaste to toothpaste pills, which I can now buy in glass containers. So that’s all recycled for that as well. I don’t have the brand for that. Actually, I never looked at the brand, I sort of just pop in my mouth and brush my teeth.
Toothpaste pills. You can get them anywhere online, can you?
Yeah, I’m sure if you type in toothpaste tablets, toothpaste pills online, and then something will come up. Again, for those who are sort of conscious about fluoride, then looking for fluoride is good and just making sure that ingredients they use are also good. On the food side, I just, if you want to make one big difference on food, it’s to buy local organic vegetables. No matter what you do in every part of the food world. For me, I just think that whole synergy between when you buy good vegetables, your whole foods, and your whole dish just completely changes in flavour it completely uplifts and is totally delicious. And at the same time, you’re also just making a big difference within your own 30 miles to improve the landscape and improve the environment. Another tip I like is, for me, is upcycling, it’s not necessarily you’re not defined by what we consume, but what we create. There’s this new movement, this new creative moral renascence I call it, about creating things in a very ethical conscious way. So, it could be I mean, the latest one I did, I’ve got an old terracotta cake mould, which has sort of turned into a flowerpot for the time being, with some, you know, bulbs in, look pretty right now, or some herbs in the summer. And then really good storage, especially in food, you know, if you’ve got grain storage facilities, just bulk buying grain, pulses, beans, and stocking up on that will just again, change your diet and change your larder.
Okay, brilliant. Obviously, you’ve got food recipes as well in the book, and they look really interesting. What’s the ethos behind the different food recipes? And what are your two favourites from that book?
So yeah, so I’ll go back to those three main principles and that’s zero waste, organic and seasonal, and within my 30 miles. For me, sustainability equals flavour.
If it’s local, it is fresh, and if it’s fresh, it has more energy, it has more energy, it has more flavour.
So those things are really super important to me. Doing less with more, again, is that sort of revelation in the head where you’re suddenly, buying better and you don’t have to do as much to it to achieve maximum flavour.
Two things that sort of really strike a chord for me, one is the chickpea scotch eggs. So the chickpea scotch eggs, they’re made with English chickpeas, there’s a great company called Hodmedods who are the pioneers of the pulse and grains in England and they make their English chickpeas, and I buy it in a tin, sometimes I use dry, but for this recipe I buy in a tin, so the chickpeas go in to make the scotch egg and they use certain herbs and spices to make it taste like that sort of meat umami flavour, but then the most important thing is that I use the by-product, the waste product, which is the aquafaba from the tin of chickpeas to make an aioli, which is my source for the chickpeas. So, it’s a great example of just how one tin can basically save two egg yolks or two eggs. And if imagine everyone in the world saving two eggs, that’s millions and millions of eggs that we’re saving suddenly and using vegetables that are fixing nitrogen and part of a great crop rotation in England, I mean, that is only just a great change in the way we live our life.
And then another recipe is really super simple, sweet corn cob ice cream. So, once I’ve sort of roasted the sweet corn, and I’ve grated, I’ve taken the kernels off for another dish, I then use that sort of waste cob. And I simmer that in my milk and cream, to flavour the milk and cream. And then using the traditional recipe, just some eggs and sugar making an ice cream. And when we gave it to our customers, they we sort of asked them, you know, what do you think it tastes like? And they said vanilla, crème brûlée, custard. It was amazing, we had created a, an equivalent to vanilla, but using a by-product that was grown within our 30 miles. So again, for me, it was a really simple way of sort of saying, Well, what can we create around us that we don’t need to import? Vanilla, for example?
That’s amazing as well, I like that one. Finally, where can listeners find out more and purchase your book? Where can they go to purchase it? And also, do you have a website, which they can find out more as well about this?
Yeah, so to buy the book is really easy. Obviously, the best way is to ask your local bookstore to purchase it for you and to stock it in the local bookstore. Otherwise, it’s always online. Bookshop.org, which supports local book shops, are very good. It is also in Waterstones and other retailers and brands are available. And then the best way to sort of follow what we’re doing is www.30food.co.uk So, 30 foods all about my mission about 30 miles and the three main principles that I was talking about earlier.
Ollie. Love your book. And also, there are so many recipes in there as well. So, it’s a really good read. There are so many things to learn. And also, you seem to have found a wealth of knowledge that’s, that’s going inspire other people to try and change their lives as well. So, I do highly recommend other people to buy the book. And just one last thing is it is it possible to buy a digital copy if you didn’t want to have a hard copy?
Yes, eBooks are available.
Oli. What a great bookl. A great read. I highly recommend it. And thank you, Oli, for being on our podcast. Thank you.
Pleasure. Thank you very much.