Permission to change please, I’m heading to the garden.

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SO… it’s been six months since my last post… what have I been doing?

Well first I completed a graphic design course online which led to me dipping into surface pattern design again. I enjoyed the course – but it was still me sat a desk and staring out the window to watch birds. Then winter and Christmas happened which slowed me right down!

Then I met a few new people who listened to me ramble about my journey from AI chatbot product owner to person who wants to hug trees and save them and get other people to hug trees and save them. It turns out my big love of everything and everyone working together organically and in harmony is very much linked to permaculture.

What is permaculture you ask? I’ll tell you…

To quote The Permaculture Association it’s about “living lightly on the planet, and making sure that we can sustain human activities for many generations to come, in harmony with nature.” Makes sense right? Why wouldn’t we want to make sure our planet is happy and that the people on it can stay there?

It’s also about these three things:

  1. An ethical framework
  2. Understandings of how nature works
  3. A design approach

check, check and check! Here are three things that I am mildly obsessed with. But permaculture wasn’t the breakthrough I had when it comes to what on earth I want to do with myself now – it was gardening.

Yes, did you know that gardening is actually a career option? Now I’ve lived in a great big garden most of my life, have parents who are very keen gardeners, have always loved nature, and I’m British! So why had it never crossed my mind that I could actually choose to work with plants as a way to earn my crust?

I think I’m starting to figure this out as I begin my journey as the humble gardener…

First of all to learn about gardening you can gain a qualification with the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) – a name which immediately makes me stand up straight and speak like the queen as I say it. Second of all everyone I’ve met so far who actually does any gardening is retired or about to be retired. The conclusion: gardening is aimed at the upper class and/or people with a lot of spare time on their hands. This needs to stop!

So we have societal norms and consumerism against us – which tends to be about the exact opposite of gardening (buy this, buy that, get into debt and buy more things). Somewhere between being a care-free child and being a wise old human we lose touch with nature altogether.

So what happens between infant school – where we’re talking to the animals and planting cress, and retirement – where we’re talking to the animals and planting rhubarb? What happens is ‘we grow up’. We take on responsibilities, lose any spare time to stop and smell the roses, and most likely lose our regular access to a garden or open green space. We forget about the animals, and the cress, and the connection to anything that reminds us that we rely on plants COMPLETELY.

Don’t worry though – I HAVE GREAT NEWS! The world is changing. We’re right in the middle of a wave of global consciousness where it’s completely normal to be vegan and you’d be nuts not to want to stand up for what you believe in (I’m talking about you Extinction Rebellion protestors)! Yes this happened in the 70s too. It’s the backlash to consumerism and feeling like everything in our lives is controlled by the government, and now the digital robots.

So we’re already in good company. We already have permission to close the laptop and spend a few minutes walking bare-foot in the grass. I’ll bet £100 this is office policy in some forward-thinking organisations already.

So things are clicking into place for me. I’ll be taking the human design, graphic design and product design skills from my digital career and bundling it up with the knowledge I’m now learning about how plants work. Then maybe in a year, or maybe five years, I’ll find myself in job where I’m helping to create something that helps the planet and the people in a very real and practical way.

What a trip it’s been to get here – can’t wait for the next bit. Now where are my gardening gloves…

 

 

Your ethical beauty directory

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With social calendars filling up for holiday celebrations now is the perfect time to try out something new and give your beauty kit an ethical overhaul.

I’ll be honest I’ve been in a bit of a moral dilemma about this post. I’m not a huge fan of people feeling that they need to buy products to look good, but I have to admit I use make-up when I’m about to be seen by other humans.

I also think buying a product because a great ad tells us we need to is wrong. We don’t need most of the things we’re told we need and we’re actually killing our home as a result of buying it.

The question is – how ethical are we brave enough to be? I know people who go make-up free every day without a care in the world and they’re beautiful. There’s something about confidence in your natural self that beams out of your soul and instantly makes you shine and it’s the only sure way to know you’re not harming the planet.

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But what about those of us who need a little help to feel confident (me included)?  If we’re going to buy beauty products wouldn’t it be great if they weren’t full of harmful chemicals and weren’t tested on animals?

60% of what we put onto our skin is absorbed into our bloodstream so let’s make sure we stay close to nature and choose products that don’t harm us. I’ve done a bit of investigating and put the below list together so that you can do the same.

I haven’t tried all of these brands myself and I’m not getting any kind of commission, but I’ve had fun discovering new products and thought you’d love to explore too. Not because a flashy advert is telling you to, but because you’ve decided on your own terms what you need and what you can afford.

I will say this though, before reaching for a product to feel and look your beautiful self try to get these five key things into your regular routine first:

  1. lots of water
  2. lots of vegetables
  3. lots of fresh air
  4. lots of laughter
  5. lots of loving

They cost very little money but take a lot more effort. Hey, you’re worth it 🙂

Now here are a few brands that you can turn to if you need something extra. If anyone out there has something they’d like to recommend please get in touch and comment at the end of the post. I love to hear your stories and beauty finds.

A-Z of ethical beauty brands

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akamuti.co.uk
Akamuti are inspired by the power of trees and use chunks of beeswax, slabs of tree butters, loose herbs, barks, resins, flowers, jugs of golden oils and aromatic distillates for their handmade products.

akinbeauty.co.uk
A’kin create beautifully aromatic skin care, without parabens, sulphates, artificial colours or fragrances – designed to nourish the appearance of your skin just as nature intended.

aureliaskincare.com
Aurelia Probiotic skin care is made in Britain, with the purest of BioOrganic ingredients sourced sustainably from around the world.

bluelabelle.co.uk
Bluelabelle are a small company specialising in botanical oil blends. Everything is natural, vegan and organic.

bodhiandbirch.com
Bodhi & Birch is a niche, independent, eco-luxury skin care brand, synonymous with natural organic skin care and wellbeing.

botanicals.co.uk
Botanical’s aim is to provide a range of personal care products which are as close to nature as possible, harness the pure power of plants and reflect their belief that nature really does know best.

bybi.com
BYBI create skin care using only ingredients that we know will directly benefit the skin; high quality ingredients that are 100% natural, vegan and cruelty free. I was psyched to see them using eco-friendly biodegradable sugarcane tubes too!

bwcshop.com
Beauty Without Cruelty have been creating cruelty free make-up for 30 years. They use natural, pure ingredients and are committed to minimising their footprint on the environment.

floracurl.com
Flora & Curl blend high-grade botanicals, cold-pressed plant oils, butters, herbs, flowers and seeds derived ingredients for healthy hair that’s naturally textured.

georganics.co.uk
Georganics is a natural and plastic-free oral care company. They believe it’s unnecessary to use harsh chemicals to maintain healthy teeth and gums.

greenpeople.co.uk
Experience the best of nature with Green People organic beauty products. They use sustainably-grown plant ingredients that are clinically proven to care for your skin.

lush.com
A personal favourite of mine – I’m old enough to have been around when it launched! Lush make fun and fabulous smelling fresh handmade cosmetics.

naturaldeoco.com
The Natural Deodorant Company make – you guessed it – natural deodorant! All free from preservatives, alcohol, artificial fragrance and palm oil. There are three formulas to match your lifestyle.

noughtyhaircare.co.uk
Noughty’s range of 97% natural products always consider sustainability and are free from parabens, silicones, petrochemicals and sulphates, all at an affordable price.

odylique.co.uk
Odylique is a family run business which uses organic herbs, plant oils and natural active ingredients that are compatible with the most sensitive skin.

optiat.com
Natural, sustainable and handmade in the UK, Optiat create skin care products from quality ingredients such as coffee grounds, that would otherwise be discarded.

purepotions.co.uk
Great for those with sensitive skin. Purepotions use ingredients that are close to their natural state to reduce the risk of reaction that can occur with processed substances.

sisterandcoskinfood.co.uk
Sophie started Sister & Co after a homemade coconut oil remedy cleared her skin breakout better than anything had before. Their mission is to give you the knowledge and confidence to choose the products you actually need.

soeco.co.uk
So Eco are focussed on principles that ensure a lower impact on the environment through responsibly sourced product and packaging solutions. Great for make-up brushes.

sukinnaturals.com
Sukin products are Australian made with ingredients that are naturally derived, cruelty free and vegan. All formulations are 100% carbon neutral and biodegradable.

thegreenwoman.co.uk
The Green Woman creates Fit Pit natural deodorant which is handmade in small batches in the UK and is 100% organic, vegan and earth kind. It’s free from aluminium salts, parabens, BPAs and petrochemicals.

tintsofnature.com
Tints of nature make naturally healthy hair colour and hair care products that are not only affordable, ethical and as natural as possible but kinder to you and your hair.

urbanveda.com
Urban Veda use natural ingredients and Ayurveda principles to ‘pollution proof’ skin leaving it less vulnerable to the environment.

zaomakeup.co.uk
Zao is inspired by the philosophy of respecting nature in Zen Buddhism and Taoism. They use bamboo for its casing and formulas, with 100% natural and organic ingredients.

 

5 things you should know about your clothes

I used to take my clothes for granted but now I’m way more conscious about who made them, what they’re made of and their impact on the environment. The story starts with a single seed. Here are a five things you should know about your clothes.

1. What are they made of?

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It starts with a single seed

In the documentary The True Cost, Dr Vandana Shiva (environmentalist) explains why today’s cotton crops are reliant on chemicals, and the impact this has. I thought it was quite interesting, so I’m sharing it with you…

Nitrogen fertilizers were marketed to the third world by western countries who needed to use the factories laying abandoned after the war (the same industries that made explosives now needed something new to make).

But the fertilizers didn’t do very well with native crops and so they re-designed the plant to be able to take on more chemicals.

So now we have re-engineered plants such as BT cotton that is owned by large corporations (e.g Monsato) who sell them to poor farmers in the third world at 70,000% more cost than their native seeds. Yes, 70,000%. The farmers have to buy these crops because they bought into fertilizers way back when and now they’re reliant on the fertilizers for their crop to survive.

I’m telling you this because the film also explains that in the last 16 years there have been 250,000 recorded suicides in India of farmers who can no longer afford the seeds.

It’s important to know that everything we wear has a long story behind it, and with cotton that story starts with a single seed. Take 10 minutes to hear more from Dr Vandana Shiva and her work towards organic farming in an interview for France 24. Organic cotton initiatives are helping to relieve these farmers of the never-ending debt large corporations are putting them in.

Today the clothing industry has huge demand of synthetic fibres over natural because they’re cheaper and we’re buying 400% more clothes than we did 2 decades ago (thanks to fast fashion).

Here are a few common fibres to know about:

Polyester

Synthetic fibres are mostly made of polyester which is a plastic and by-product of petroleum. The process of turning petroleum into polyester is long and toxic for the people producing and wearing it. Polyester is also strongly linked to hormonal disruption.

Nylon

The production of nylon emits nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 300 times more dangerous to the ozone layer than carbon dioxide.

Rayon

This organic fibre is made from wood pulp. Wood might look un-harmful and non-toxic, but the clearing of large forests to get wood for rayon has an adverse effect on the environment.

2. Who made them?

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The shift towards a way of producing clothing to only look after business interest, and not the people making them, was clearly demonstrated in the tragic Rana Plaza incident in 2013. This structurally un-sound garment factory collapsed and killed over 1,000 people. It was widely covered by global news and alerted us all to the reality of our cheap clothes.

There is such high competition for these third world factories to produce garments cheaper than anyone else, that costs have to be cut in people’s pay, factory up-keep and material. If we keep insisting on buying clothes at £2.99 the issues that come from producing the garment at this price will remain.

Here are 5 tools to check if your clothing is ethically made.

3. What happens when I wash them?

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When we wash our clothes we’re impacting the environment with the energy needed to heat our water, the chemicals we use in the detergent and the microfibres from the clothes that go into the ocean.

In an ideal world we’d all be handwashing our clothes as this has far less impact on the environment, the reality is that we don’t have the time. But you can make sure that when you use your washing machine it’s a full load and set at a lower temperature (30 degrees).

You can also choose a detergent that isn’t heavily packaged or full of chemicals. I recently read about soapnuts. They’re 100% organic berries that produce a soapy liquid when mixed with water (just when you thought nature couldn’t get more amazing). Get a free sample of soapnuts here.

Studies are increasingly showing that microfibres are impacting our food chain. According to research by Plymouth University, washing 6kg of clothes can result in anything between 137,951 fibres (for polyester-cotton clothes) to 728,789 fibres (for acrylic clothes) released as oceanic pollution. These are then ingested by fish, eaten by bigger fish, eaten by us.

In short, the more natural fibres we wear, and the less chemicals we use, the better.

4. What happens when I get rid of them?

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Fashion should never be thought of as a disposable product, yet the average American throws away 82lbs of textile waste a year, adding up to more than 11 million tonnes from the U.S alone. Most of this is non-biodegradable so it sits in landfill for at least 200 years releasing harmful gases into the air.

Only 10% of the clothes you take to charity is sold in local charity shops. The rest gets shipped to developing countries like Haiti – which has now lost it’s local clothing industry.

The best thing you can do is buy less to begin with, and be very conscious of what you’re buying when you do treat yourself to something new.

5. What can I do to help?

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  • Buy high quality less often rather than cheap clothes frequently, making sure every garment is something special to you and not a quick retail therapy fix.
  • Buy clothes made from organic cotton.
  • Buy from ethical and fair trade brands.
  • Wear your clothes at least three times before washing them.
  • Wash your clothes at 30 degrees on a full load with something eco friendly such as soap nuts. Get a free sample of soapnuts here.
  • Watch The True Cost to get more understanding of the impact of fast fashion.
  • Use #whomademyclothes in social media and post about your conscious fashion choices, spreading the word about ethical fashion.

Sources

The True Cost  is available for download and is on Netflix.
Superegoworld.com
Dailymotion.com
Mashable.com
TheGuardian.com

Lessons I learnt living off-the-grid in the middle of nowhere

As part of my voluntary placement with Raleigh International this year I got to live in a remote village, without access to my phone, for 2 months. Here’s what I learnt from the experience.

Big respect to the sun

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Keep it on the down-low because this is the kind of world-empowering knowledge that starts wars… but it turns out that everything we use to survive is regulated by a giant ball in the sky known as THE SUN.

That’s correct. The thing that most of us can see rise every morning and set every day is giving life to everything we touch. And we don’t even say hello to it.

Accept I do now. It gave me strength as I drank chai tea at 6am and looked at it rise through the mountains, preparing me for whatever lay ahead. It taught me something important – any scary or challenging situation you’re in is temporary, but a new day rising is guaranteed. Never take your new day for granted.

HELLO SUNSHINE, THANK YOU FOR TODAY!

People have amazing stories

When you don’t have Netflix, or podcasts, or Facebook, or Pinterest, or access to a local newspaper, or any media, you’re left with two things – nature and people.

People are pretty awesome. We’ve all taken a set of wonderfully unique steps to get to where we are today and every step has a story.

Some stories are small and some stories are huge. Some are told many times, and some are beyond our wildest dreams. Some are expected and some are very much out of the blue (like someone you’ve been friends with for a month suddenly telling you they’re married).

During my time with volunteers and fellow villagers I had many morning digs, slow afternoons and spontaneous nights listening to people sharing their story. Stories of bravery through difficult times, of happy memories being re-lived, of political views from passionate beliefs, and of small things that happened that day.

Many, many stories which could have gone un-heard if we went back to our rooms to watch Netflix.

We’re nothing if not resourceful

When you want food but you don’t have a car, or a main road or a bus to your local shop, you do what needs to be done. Here I am carrying 18 eggs, crisps, juice and tomatoes for an hour through the forest, over rocks and downs steep banks. And in case you’re wondering, having eggs was the equivalent of ordering Dominos – so those things had to make it back in one piece!

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During the end of our stay our daily work started to reduce and the team were getting a little restless. Amazing things started to be born out of boredom. We had evening meals, dancing by the fire and skill sharing sessions. But my absolute favourite was a bespoke edition of Cards Against Humanity that featured scenarios and people from our trip that only we would find funny.

When you’re given the freedom and necessity to conjure up new ideas, trust me, you’re capable of anything.

You might know more than you think

I don’t know about you but in my ‘real world’ in the UK I rarely have a meet-up with friends where our phones aren’t within reach, or actually being held. Our phones have become our security blanket.

When was the last time you had a conversation and something came up that left you feeling baffled? You can’t remember because you looked it up and the feeling evaporated before it had a chance to even exist.

Access to instant information is BRILLIANT, don’t get me wrong. But if I’m in a situation where I don’t know something I don’t even give myself three seconds to figure it out. I’m straight onto Google.

This is not only messing with our memory retrieval skills (probably, I don’t know I’m not a scientist), but it means we have far less of those joyous moments where we surprise ourselves with our own knowledge.

Next time you’re meeting your friends try challenging yourselves to turn off the phone and have a real human brains only rule? You might be surprised with what you didn’t know you knew and I bet you pay a bit more attention to what the human faces are saying.

We really don’t need ‘stuff’

I’ve written about this a few times now but I really can’t tell you how freeing it is to realise that we don’t need ‘stuff’ to be happy. Every day all day the media is telling us that a couch, a kitchen, a coffee machine, a handbag or a pair of jeans is going to improve our lives.

Imagine a day where you’re not being told by anyone what you need. The only voice you have to listen to is your own and the only things you have are essential. Suddenly you have empowerment over where your mind is. You really start to think about the things in life that actually make you happy and time kind of slows down.

You’re not thinking about what you don’t have any more, you’re thinking about everything you’re grateful for. Like the big ball of fire in the sky and the people in your life that make you smile. Time becomes the most precious thing, and the only thing you can’t buy.

Take your time

Time.

It’s something none of us have right? Because we’re all busy. And busy people are successful people.

Nooooooooooo!

Happy people are successful people.

Are you taking the time to do the things that make you happy? In a world where we’re encouraged to think we don’t have any time, we rarely stop to consider the idea that we might have some. When we can get milk delivered to us in a few hours, a pair of shoes delivered the next day, an Uber within five minutes, and a meal within three, we get trapped in ‘instant’ mode.

Some things, like the really important things, take time. Don’t feel guilty for using it on what brings you joy.

Convenience isn’t always convenient

There’s a theme here, and the theme is ‘be grateful for the little things’.

When you’re having to ration a jar of chocolate spread between three people over a month, and it’s the only sweet thing you have access to, things can get a little ‘heated’.

But the joy of that tiny spread of chocolate on a piece of leftover roti is the kind of joy that takes you back to being a kid. A time where you weren’t old enough to get whatever you wanted and you had to wait for your ‘ration’.

I think it’s good, as adults, to go on a fast of some kind every now and then, just to remind ourselves to appreciate those small joys that we’re so lucky to have.

Your seven days to savings

A woman reading with a cup of coffee

In a world where we see thousands of brand messages a day and everything is a click away it can be difficult to save money. But saying no to spending can be made easier if we fill our time with other, more fulfilling, things.

About a year ago I stripped my life back and moved into my parents to help me do just that. I stopped my contact lens subscription, quit my gym membership and didn’t re-new my phone contract. I made a decision to stop spending un-necessarily and I’ll never look back.

Here are a few of my favourite free things to do to help you with your own money saving challenge. Try going just a week without spending – you can flip the suggested days around depending on your mood or the weather.

Day 1

Cook something from your store cupboard and have friends over

This is your time to experiment and create new dishes you would never have known about. You get the satisfaction of using up your leftovers and store cupboard essentials you’ve had for months – clearing space for real treats when you do buy things again.

Invite friends over and ask them to bring a bottle!

Day 2

Create a new play list

Think of an occasion that would benefit from an awesome playlist. Maybe you’re going on holiday and could listen to something on the drive? Maybe you can surprise your partner with a list of songs you think they’d like?

If you’re signed up to Spotify or Amazon Prime you can take some time to discover new music without buying anything. You could find a new favourite artist to introduce to friends and simply start a list ready for a special investment later.

Day 3

Have a nature adventure

Getting out in nature is always good for the soul and our hot weather right now makes it that much easier. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Find a four leaf clover.
  2. Identify a flower.
  3. Identify a bird.
  4. Make a picnic.
  5. Get lost in your own town.
  6. Walk barefoot on grass.
  7. Set up a treasure hunt.
  8. Find your nearest water source.
  9. Smell the lavender and roses.
  10. Plant something.

Day 4

Read a book or listen to a podcast

Whether it’s a book you’ve been meaning to read and haven’t got round to, or an old favourite you love to revisit, grab a cup of tea, curl up and get lost in another world for a while.

Alternatively podcasts are great for learning something new and there’s loads out there. The Guardian has a list of the 30 best podcasts of 2018.

Day 5

Have a film-fest

You might have a subscription to Netflix or Amazon Prime, or have a stack of DVDs piled up in the corner, but most people have access to a film (or two!). So gather some folks and get out the crazy store-cupboard snacks you made earlier out of Rice Krispies and peanut butter.

You could even get your geek on and do a little research online beforehand to introduce the director and what the film’s about. Or play bingo with famous scenes/phrases.

Day 6

Get creative

You might be surprised to hear that the world isn’t divided into those that are creative and those that aren’t (WHAT!?). Turns out – we’re all creative!

  1. Draw
    Drawing tends to be the litmus test of creativity. Many of us think we can’t draw, but we can. Check out this short video of how to draw anything by Dan Roam.
    Drawing helps everyone communicate their ideas, no matter what area of work you’re in. So grab your pencil and dive in with 5 basic shapes – a circle, a square, a line, a triangle and a blob. With these, you can draw anything (according to Dan).
  2. Write a poem
    Start with a haiku and see where you end up. You could get others involved or keep it all to yourself.
  3. Create a new outfit
    If you think your wardrobe’s a bit tired and the latest H&M sale is calling then swap your mindset and see this as a creative challenge. I can’t sew but I’ve had a go at customising some t-shirts (see my blog post about a wardrobe change) and found it much easier to pick outfits after getting rid of tired threads. Maybe you can turn it into a fashion show for your friends or family?

Day 7

Get out of breath

We all know that exercise releases those endorphins that make us feel HAPPY. The key is to find something you enjoy doing. I’m a fan of hula hooping, yoga and walking in nature. Anything that gets you a little out of breath will work its magic.

You don’t need a fancy gym or the latest Sweaty Betty gym wear to do exercise, throw on anything comfy and try something new. Free salsa class anyone?

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There it is – seven days to savings! I hope you feel armed and ready to set yourself a ‘money diet week’. I guarantee you’ll feel really proud at the end of it and maybe pick up a few good habits that stick. That holiday you’ve been saving up for will be that much closer too 🙂