Don’t stop believin’

woman-with-globe-ben-white-unsplash

I recently found myself feeling a bit overwhelmed. You know those times where you go against the advice of Journey? You stop believin’ and you don’t hold on to the feelin’. But then this small town girl remembered a day where anything seemed possible, and she held on.

Here’s my story, with the Journey theme remaining strong (sorry).

‘Street lights, people’

Let me set the scene. It was two years ago and I was lucky enough to be smack in the middle of a conference by a multi-billion dollar corporation (IBM), showcasing technology set to change the world as we know it – artificial intelligence (AI). I was in Las Vegas at World of Watson, along with 17,000 people.

I was face to face with a future where our problems in climate, health, poverty and almost any other area of humanity you can think of were being solved by AI.

One project which stood out was a case in Japan where IBM’s Watson diagnosed a rare form of leukaemia in minutes. It saved a woman’s life whose condition had been baffling doctors for months.

Watson’s ability to absorb large amounts of information in minutes, compared to the months or even years it could take us, means that the patterns in information can be spotted immediately. If you team this with the big data we have available now you can start to see the huge potential that this technology has.

AI is already saving lives. And we did that.

I know there’s strong opinions out there about whether AI is a good or a bad thing. But it’s always going to be people who make it what it is, and I think people are incredible (you see – I’m starting to believe again).

‘Living just to find emotion’

On that same day I went to an art exhibition titled ‘Town and Country: From Degas to Picasso’ at The Belaggio (with the famous dancing fountains).

I welcomed the exhibition with open arms because this was my comfort zone – art. Up until this point there was a clear distinction in my head between technology and art. Robots and people – right? But the conference blurred these lines and I was getting confused. Maybe there isn’t a line any more? If AI creates a piece of music, is it still art?

I think that needs to be a different blog post. I’ll get back to the point…

The exhibition was about the industrial revolution and urbanization, with works from Edgar Degas, Pablo Picasso, Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet and more.

I walked around the paintings marvelling at how artists captured this turning point in time 200 years ago. Transport, travel, mass production. The world changed then just as dramatically as it’s changing now.

I can’t sit here and say that everything that came out of the industrial revolution was a good thing – when I know that this was the turning point for our climate. But back then we didn’t know what we know now, we were just changing the world for what we thought was the better.

And we did change the world.

I was walking through the paintings and it was the brush strokes of a bridge in a Monet that flipped a switch. I’d seen prints of Monet before but here I was, staring at the individual brush strokes.

The colour, thickness of paint and position of each stroke carefully thought out time after time to create this bigger picture of a moment captured that I was now staring at. A time capsule.

Before Facebook feeds, Instagram pics and even Polaroids, there were people recording time by re-creating it themselves. We have thousands of years of recorded history through stories people have told with words, art and music.

And we did that.

As we left tears had welled up and all I could say was ‘thank you’ to the friend who took me, trying to hide the tears because she also happened to be my boss at the time (here I am – finding emotion).

‘She took the midnight train goin’ anywhere’

A lot has happened in my life since then but that global thinking sparked in 2016 stayed with me. My mission now? – promote a life where we’re all living with nature, not fighting against it.

Today I spend my days flicking through news, social posts, reports and statistics getting swallowed up in the sense of urgency that is climate change.

The problem is that amidst all the pressure and worry to act now I lost sight of the beauty I’m fighting for. Worse – I stopped believing I could make a difference. I hit a wall, and normally when I hit a wall I turn to the arts (film, music, galleries). I take a train to anywhere.

But surely we don’t have time to take a minute and appreciate ‘frivolities’ like art and creativity when there’s the important business to attend to of SAVING THE WORLD!?

Yes we do. And we must.

In the book ‘How to change the world’ (a brilliant read) John-Paul Flintoff says something that I needed to hear. He gave me permission to play:

“A good world is not a world where everybody fixates on global problems according to some externally imposed framework of ‘importance’. A good world is one in which people find meaning in the particular things they do – and that means a world that has a place for beauty, creativity and play.”

So for anyone out there taking on something huge and maybe feeling overwhelmed by it, take a look at what we’re capable of if we have a go. Look at the innovation in technology, industry and art that we’ve achieved as a human race – simply because we believed we could.

Take your code, your words, your paint, your pen, or your 1980s keyboard, and keep playing.

And for anyone who got lost on the song references throughout this post – hit play and prepare to get out your air guitar.

Ocean Sole – how your old flip flops are helping a community in Kenya

ocean-sole-3-fish

Ocean Sole is a social enterprise collecting thousands of old flip flops from beaches in Kenya and turning them into pieces of animal art. I meet Mark to learn their inspiring story.

It all started with a souvenir

Three years ago Mark was heading to Kenya for a festival and before leaving he asked his nephew if he’d like anything bringing back. After looking at a world map and seeing the animals in Africa his nephew replied with “I want a lion”.

A friend of Mark’s recommended a place called Ocean Sole – a small group collecting flip flops from the beaches in Kenya and carving them into vibrant animals that you could buy.

And so the hunt for a lion began.

Business over a Bloody Mary

As luck would have it Mark met Julie at the festival bar the next day and soon discovered she was the woman behind Ocean Sole and had studied Marine Biology in Brighton (where he’s from).

A few sips of Bloody Mary later and he found himself agreeing to take some of the animals over to the UK to see if they would sell.

Within the first afternoon at an artist’s open house all 10 pieces had sold. So Mark bought a few more the next time, and the time after that, and they’ve been so popular he now has large shipments coming into the UK.

The 60 second doc that changed everything

Business slowly grew and last month Ocean Sole worked with 60 Second Docs to share their story.

The video went viral and the following weekend the team went into work with 10,000 emails waiting for them! It was a surprise to everyone and they had to bring in friends and family to help handle the enquiries.

In just over a week the video reached 75 million views – leading to a sell-out in stock for the US branch. Mark was blown away by the response.

“It was so gratifying after talking about it in fields all this time. Now we’re looking at international expansion and people are showing a real interest.”

Over 900 Kenyans are supported by employment

Whilst Ocean Sole is plugged as a conservation group – their primary purpose is to help people in Africa make a good living. They’re known for paying a good wage to employees and people in the local community can collect flip flops from the beach and weigh them in for payment by the kilo.

It was great to hear that Ocean Sole are a project partner with the United Nations Education Department (UNEP) and are signed up to their no child labour agreement. This ensures that children aren’t being exploited for work – which can be hard to police in Kenya.

A simple idea to turn flip flops into pieces of art has now grown into an enterprise that not only provides jobs and supports local communities, but also educates people about marine conservation.

Life-size pieces promote marine conservation

One of the projects that Mark is proud of is a life-size hollow minke whale that they made for UNEP. It was built to educate children who could step inside and learn about marine conservation. Other businesses have got involved too.

“I’m hoping that these life-size pieces will become popular with businesses who have corporate social responsibility (CSR) budgets to display on their reception or at events. It’s a great way to educate people about marine conservation.”

Octopus-2560

So if you or anyone you know could benefit from showing that their business is keen on marine conservation, why not get in touch with Ocean Sole and help create their next life-size piece?

The gift that keeps on giving

As if their social responsibility and conservation education wasn’t enough, Ocean Sole donate 20% of their profits to marine charities that don’t have any products to sell.

They also fund a large beach clean up in Kenya every month to bring the community together and keep their environment tidy.

I felt truly inspired after talking to Mark, who’s passion is a clear driver for the success of the business in the UK. He left our chat with a few words that I thought were worth sharing:

“It’s all about being enthusiastic and turning up. If you do that I think you have the recipe for life.”

And with that I hope you’re all feeling enthusiastic about saving our oceans and supporting communities by visiting www.oceansole.co.uk. They have some beautiful products – I’m thinking of buying a small fish to cheer up my desk!

Dare you choose to refuse? Here’s 5 ways to join the rebels in Plastic Free July

wholefoods

It’s Plastic Free July and I’ve seen loads of inspiring stories from people saying no to plastic. From take-out flasks to innovative ways to take home plants. Dare you choose to refuse this month?

Plastic Free July started with a handful of people in Australia 2011 and now has millions of participants across the globe. The idea is that you commit to reducing your plastic consumption for a month and get inspired to share tips and make lasting change to your lifestyle.

There’s lots of ways to get involved and it all starts on your shopping trip. Here are 5 ways you can stop plastic ever leaving the store. The less demand there is for plastic, the less plastic gets produced. It all starts with you and your buying power!

1. Remember your flask

flask

If you haven’t already invested in this eco warrior essential this is the perfect time!

2. Choose unpackaged fruit and veg

apples

Next time you’re choosing your five a day why not skip the ones that come in plastic wrapper and grab an armful of your favourites instead? Just remember your re-usable carrier bag…

3. Pack a re-usable carrier bag

bag

A safe home for all your apples! I recently fell in love with this bag at plasticfrreedom.co.uk but you can have fun finding your perfect carrier.

4. Take your own pots to the garden centre

cacti

This is a tin for sugar or tea, but it’s taking a sabbatical to live life as a plant pot for a while. Do you have something you could take with you on your next trip to the garden centre to leave the plastic pots behind?

5. Find your local package free shop

jar

Your local package free shop or food market might not be on your usual route, but why not try it just once this month? You could find something completely new and you’ll probably save some money by buying in bulk. Don’t forget a few jars to store your porridge!
The Zero Waster has done the hard work for you with a list of packaging free shops across the UK.

I hope you feel inspired, even one of these swaps will make a huge difference and maybe you can get your friends and family involved by sharing this page?

Happy Plastic Free July you rebel.

Choose the right sustainability course for you + 10 to get you started

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I just started a sustainable development course and my head nearly exploded. So I thought I’d share some tips with you guys to make sure you choose the right course for you and your head stays nice and head shaped.

Here are my 5 top tips and 10 courses I found online.

1. How much do you already know?

When it comes to sustainable development I am very much at the bottom of the class and I think it’s important to recognise where you are. I didn’t study this at school or University and my only training in this area was on my voluntary placement with Raleigh International.

So, I’m a total noob, which brings me nicely to my next point…

2. What are your objectives?

Because I’m a total noob my objectives are to learn the basics about how the world works, including globalisation, the economy and our natural resources.

You might already specialise in one of these areas and want something more specific – like urban development. Or you might know that you need a specific qualification for a job you’re applying for.

Having objectives set at the start of your search is important because it’ll help you choose the right course to meet them.

3. How much can you afford (in time and money)?

Be realistic with how much money you can spare to make it worth it, and how many hours a week you can dedicate to learning.

If you get this nailed you won’t be cramming in the long hours after you get back from work when the closing date draws near, eating jam sandwiches because that’s all you can afford now.

Or maybe you just like jam sandwiches.

4. What’s your learning style?

If you’ve been lucky enough to have enough experience to know your learning style, that’s great – you’ll already understand the benefits of choosing the right material for you.

I know I’m a visual learner so a list of facts stop me in my tracks. But give me a video or a relatable story around the facts and I’m on the train to bigbraincentral.

If you don’t already know your learning style take this free quiz at howtostudy.com

5. Do your research

There are a lot of online course out there these days (how lucky are we!?) so do a little investigating into ones that are credible and have good reviews. Some things that might be important to you could be:

  • access to online support
  • learning with others in real time (so you have a community group)
  • regular quizzes throughout

Luckily for you I’ve already done a bit of research that might help (I’ll take that jam sandwich as a thank you)…

10 sustainable development courses

Here are 10 courses I found with all the info you need.

1. Diploma in Sustainable Development (level 3 – 16 CPD points)

Who: Study365
Where: available at reed.co.uk
How much: £29 (reduced from £199).
How long: 20 hours with access for a year.
What you’ll learn: Life cycle costing methodology, governance, integration, social life cycle analysis and countries involved in sustainable development.
Material: Study 365 claims to offer audio, visual and written learning. However, this happens to be the course I’m doing and so far it’s all written apart from a couple of illustrations (mind = blasted). There’s a multiple choice test at the end.

2. Introduction to Sustainability

Who: University of Illionois at Urbana-Champaign
Where: available at Coursera.org
How much: FREE or £36 certified
How long: 8-10 hours per week over 8 weeks
What you’ll learn: Key knowledge areas of sustainability theory and practice, including population, ecosystems, global change, energy, agriculture, water, environmental economics and policy, ethics, and cultural history.
Material: 5 videos, 5 readings and 2 practice quizzes

3. Global Warming – the science and modelling of climate change

Who: The University of Chicago
Where: available at Coursera.org
How much: FREE or £36 certified
How long: 52 hours
What you’ll learn: The science of global warming and the forecast for humans’ impact on Earth’s climate. Insights and perspectives from physics, chemistry, biology, earth and atmospheric sciences, and some economics.
Material: 71 videos, 5 readings, 56 quizzes

4. Our Earth: It’s Climate, History and Processes

Who: University of Manchester
Where: available at Coursera.org
How much: FREE or £36 certified
How long: 16 hours
What you’ll learn: A greater appreciation for how the air, water, land, and life formed and have interacted over the last 4.5 billion years.
Material: 65 videos, 20 readings, 5 quizzes

5. Sustainability, society and you

Who: University of Nottingham
Where:
available at Futurelearn.com 
How much: FREE or £37 certified
How long: 5 hours per week over 6 weeks
What you’ll learn: The knowledge and skills to investigate sustainability from multiple angles, exploring the small steps you can take to have a real impact. Activities such as measuring your water footprint, conducting a waste audit and researching.
Material: Videos, readings, activities and discussions.

6. Sustainability in everyday life

Who: Chalmers University of Technology
Where: available at edx.org
How much: FREE or £36 certified
How long: 6-8 hours per week over 6 weeks
What you’ll learn: How to make more informed choices about your ecological footprint and how your choices impact on our world. The five key themes are: chemicals, globalization, climate change, food and energy.
Material: Archived – future dates to be announced

7. Urban Water – innovations for environmental sustainability

Who: The University of British Columbia
Where: available at edx.org
How much: free or £38 certified
How long: 3-4 hours per week over 6 weeks
What you’ll learn: The water-related dimensions of environmentally sustainable urbanism. The course features Vancouver, one of the world’s leading cities for green design.
Material: Archived – future dates to be announced

8. Concepts in Sustainable Development: An introduction to the key issues

Who: University of Leicester
Where:
available at Futurelearn.com
How much: free or £42 certified
How long: 3 hours per week over 6 weeks
What you’ll learn: The conceptual foundations of sustainable development. The flow of energy and materials worldwide; social and political issues; wealth inequality; the impact of geography, history and culture on sustainability today.
Material: Videos, readings, activities and discussions.

9. Sustainable Living Diploma Course (150 CPD points)

Who: Centre of excellence
Where: available at reed.co.uk
How much: £49
How long: 150 hours
What you’ll learn: The unsustainable ways in which we use our natural resources and the steps that we can take, as individual consumers and as a global community, to change this through various practices (including your own wellness products).
Material: Not described in detail, but 7 modules with tutor support.

10. Globalisation and Sustainable Development

Who: Curtin University
Where: available at edx.org
How much: free or £75 certified
How long: 2-3 hours per week over 4 weeks
What you’ll learn: Theoretical and real-world insights into why and how globalisation can be used as a conduit for sustainable development. The impact of the UN Sustainable Development Goals on current and future economic, environmental and social trends.
Material: Readings, videos, discussion and interactive learning.

10 UK festivals for eco warriors

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Wondering what to do without Glastonbury this year? Here are 10 festivals that are sustainable and still available. So grab your ethical wellies, put on your biodegradable glitter and find your camping gear because we’re going on a road trip!

In date order…

1. Latitude festival

www.latitudefestival.com

When: 12 – 15 July
Where: Henham park, Southwold, Suffolk
How much: £197.50 per adult for the weekend/ £77.50 per adult for the day
Highlight: The Killers/Solange/alt-J are the headliners

What’s their jam?

Latitude was the winner of the Best Major Festival 2017 UK Festivals award and holds around 35,000 people. They’ve teamed up with Street Feast so expect some tasty eats from around the globe. As well as several stages for popular and upcoming artists you’ll find comedy, poetry, film nights, lake swimming, ballet, interactive art and kids areas.

How are they eco friendly?

They take part in Julie’s Bicycle creative green certification and are committed to reducing their carbon emissions. They also partner with Big Green Coach to reduce travel and use 100% LED lighting to reduce energy waste. You can read more about how green they are here.

2. Buddhafield festival

www.buddhafield.com

When: 18 – 22 July
Where: Blackdown hills, Culmhead, Somerset
How much: £145 per adult for 5 days/ £40 per adult for the day (available on site only)
Highlight: Discussion and study of Buddhism and meditation

What’s their jam?

Buddhafield Festival is an intimate gathering of around 3,000 people, celebrating community and connection with the land. Expect to take part in song, dance, arts and crafts, yoga, meditation. No drink or drugs are allowed as they aim to create a loving and life-affirming space with vegetarian/vegan cafes and plenty of workshops to try.

How are they eco friendly?

As much of their power as possible is acquired from renewable sources including the sun, wind and wood burner. They don’t use generators and operate a ‘take your landfill home’ policy – last year they only used one landfill-bound skip. You can read more about how green they are here.

3. Larmertree festival

larmertreefestival.co.uk

When: 19 – 22 July
Where: Larmertree gardens, Cranborne chase, Salisbury
How much: £179 per adult for the weekend/ £55-75 per adult for the day
Highlight: Flamingods/Jake Bugg/First Aid Kit/Public Service Broadcasting are the headliners

What’s their jam?

Larmertree sells itself as the quintessential Summer party and won the Small festival of the year 2015 National Outdoor Events Association award – holding 5,000 people. They have local, national and international artists in music, outdoor theatre, live performances, art, comedy as well as a brand new Larmer Spa to relax in.

How are they eco friendly?

They’re the winner of Greener Festival Awards and take the Drastic on Plastic pledge. The site has water taps and you can buy a FRANK bottle for refills of filtered and chilled water. All of their catering uses biodegradable packaging and material that can’t be recycled is baled for waste production – so nothing goes to landfill. You can read more about how green they are here.

4. The Green Gathering festival

www.greengathering.org.uk

When: 2 – 6 August
Where: Piercefield Park, Chepstow, Wales
How much: £100 per adult for the weekend/ £35 per adult for the day (available on site only)
Highlight: The whole festival is a renewable energy showcase

What’s their jam?

Comissioned by the Green Gathering charity this is a festival organised by environmentalists, activists and artists – with a capacity of 5,000 people. They have an eclectic mix of performers including politically conscious singer-songwriters and protest bands. You’ll find expertise in permaculture and alternative technologies as well as health and wellbeing.

How are they eco friendly?

Winner of the Greenest Festival accolade at the UK Festival awards – the whole festival showcases green energy with areas for gardeners, chefs, teachers and artists who want to learn about living sustainably. They use any financial surplus generated to further its educational and environmental objectives. You can read more about how green they are here.

5. Cambridge Folk festival

www.cambridgelivetrust.co.uk

When: 2 – 5 August
Where: Cherry Hinton Hall Park, Cambridge
How much: £175.50 per adult for the weekend/ £29 – 72.50 per adult for the day
Highlight: First Aid Kit/ Patti Smith/John Prine are the headliners

What’s their jam?

Cambridge Folk Festival has been running since 1965 and attracts around 14,000 people. It’s known for its eclectic mix of music with traditional folk artists, cutting edge contemporary acts and the finest American country, blues and roots artists. There’s also workshops, family fun, T’ai Chi and all things therapeutic.

How are they eco friendly?

Winner of a Greener Festival Award they’re committed to reducing their carbon footprint. For their caterers they have Sustainable Stand Awards, no plastic is permitted, eggs have to be free range, meat British and fish sustainable. Their taps automatically switch off and water coolers are used back stage instead of bottles. You can read more about how green they are here.

6. Wilderness festival

www.wildernessfestival.com

When: 2 – 5 August
Where: Cornbury Park, Oxfordhsire
How much: £189.70 per adult for the weekend
Highlight: Nile Rogers & Chic/Bastille/Justice are the headliners

What’s their jam?

Wildnerness is passionate about the wild and hosts up to 10,000 nature lovers. There’s a huge mix of music, workshops, debates and wellbeing sessions but it’s the wide selection of outdoor activities such as wild swimming, fly fishing, medicine walks and archery that really make this festival unique.

How are they eco friendly?

Set in a deer park and nature reserve they take their Leave No Trace policy seriously and pick up every item dropped. All of their food stalls must use fully compostable packaging and they aim to use the estate’s water reserve as much as possible. They also have a dedicated electrician to stop overnight energy waste. You can read more about how green they are here.

7. Sunrise Celebration festival

When: 17 – 19 August
Where: Kentchurch Estate, Hereford
How much: £76 per adult for the weekend
Highlight: A focus on sustainability and organic living.

What’s their jam?

Sunrise celebration have won various awards, including the Guardian Observer’s Ethical Travel Award, The Shelter Award for Most Socially Responsible Festival and The Green Parents Best Green Festival Award. They have a plethora of musical styles, inspirational talks, educational workshops and opportunities for spiritual exploration.

How are they eco friendly?

They have site wide compost toilets and a ‘local then organic’ food policy to minimise the carbon footprint of your meals. Ethical living is a very important part of their ethos so everything traded and used on site is ethically sourced, boycotting large and/or unethical brands in favour of smaller more conscientious businesses. You can read more about how green they are here.

8. Greenbelt festival

www.greenbelt.org.uk

When: 24 – 27 August
Where: Boughton House, Northamptonshire
How much: £170 per adult for the weekend/ £26 – 55 per adult for the day
Highlight: Pussy Riot/We Are Scientists/Ozomatli are the headliners

What’s their jam?

‘Acts of the imagination’ is the tagline for the Greenbelt festival – with artistry, activism and belief at their core. Originally a Christian festival it’s now a more inclusive affair and has around 20,000 people show up. It celebrates art, faith and justice with music, yoga, circus skills, Bollywood and much more for the whole family.

How are they eco friendly?

You can pre-order a Greenbelt water bottle to use on site and buy a refillable cup for your other drinks. All food packaging is compostable and you can get colour coded bags for your own waste to be recycled. Winner of a Greener Festival Award they even use recycled tents by Camplight. You can read more about how green they are here.

9. Into the Wild Summer festival

www.intothewildgathering.com

When: 24 – 27 August
Where: Chiddinglye, West Hoathly, Sussex
How much: £99 per adult for the weekend
Highlight: Over 100 workshops to take part in

What’s their jam?

Into the wild is definitely for nature lovers who want to get outdoors and meet a creative mix of people. It’s a drug and alcohol free event with workshops that include circus skills, hip-hop Shakespeare, Mongolian throat singing and bee keeping. There’s also music from around the world – so there’s something for everyone!

How are they eco friendly?

There’s free drinking water from communal taps and everyone is asked to take their rubbish home with them – encouraging as little waste as possible. They use permaculture toilets and have no light pollution at night. Into the Wild also host fundraisers for various charities including the Nepal Earthquake Appeal. There isn’t a green info page but you can read their FAQs here.

10. End of the Road festival

endoftheroadfestival.com

When: 30 August – 2 September
Where:  Larmertree gardens, Cranborne chase, Salisbury
How much: £195 per adult for the weekend
Highlight: Vampire Weekend/St Vincent/Feist are the headliners

What’s their jam?

End of the Road celebrates a love of great music and song writing. Their literary and film programmes are rich in musically-related material and there are no VIP areas so musicians often hang out with everyone else (I wouldn’t mind a beer with Vampire Weekend). Workshops include Aardman Animations, mosaics and cross stitch. There’s a separate healing garden for massage and reflexology.

How are they eco friendly?

Instead of transaction fees you’re given the option to plant a tree when buying your ticket as part of the Festival Wood initiative. They ensure all waste on site is generated in an environmentally friendly way and all caterers have to use biodegradable packaging. Over 50% of their non-catering traders also offer eco friendly products. You can read more about how green they are here.

So there you have it, the ultimate countdown of eco friendly festivals. I hope you found your ideal trip and don’t forget to share this post with all of the other festival lovers you know.