Sometimes I think it’s easy to bumble along through life and forget to stop, look and enjoy our environment. I wear a ring that I had engraved with the phrase “find inspiration in nature” in an attempt to remind myself to stop and look. This weekend, in line with the nice weather, I decided it was time to go an enjoy nature up close. I went down to the beach and had a little exploration around that weird environment where the beach and all its rocks become a meadow. Enjoy my findings!
Something I’ve started to realise since working at Compassion in World Farming is that one of the biggest issues with getting consumers to purchase high welfare food is they just don’t know what to look for. It shouldn’t be complicated, but sadly it is. There are so many different labels designed to convince you of the good standards to which the animals were raised, when they really guarantee next to nothing above basic animal welfare laws. If in doubt, there’s only one real option and that’s organic.
Lots of people think that organic means ‘chemical free’ and it just a posh people’s version of fruit and veg. In practice, however, it means so much more than that. The term ‘Organic’ is covered by EU legislation and a big part of that legislation lays down the best standards for animal welfare that exist by law. ‘Organic’ guarantees that animas have had access to the outside, and have not been crammed into tiny cages or barns or tethered to posts for their whole life-time. If you really care about the welfare of the animals that produce your food, I implore you to choose organic. Where you can, opt for Soil Association or The Organic Growers Association; they have even better animal welfare standards than basic EU organic produce.
Of course, there are a heap of other reasons to buy organic, that doesn’t fall in to that fluffy ‘it tastes better’ or ‘its better for you’ category. Organic means no synthetic chemicals that screw up our environment, kill our bees, and poison our water. Animal welfare is just another huge, huge reason to choose organic if you love this beautiful world we inhabit.
Just over a month ago, I was trying to work out what little gift I could give to those I love on Valentines Day. Of course, the obvious thought is chocolate but I found a site that allowed me to one-up chocolate. On Valentines Day I sponsored Cacao trees for my nearest and dearest. CoolEarth.org is an AMAZING website which allows you to sponsor trees, or whole acres of rainforest. With the money they raise for this they train up locals in the Amazon to protect their forest and teach them how to make a living from the forest without destroying it. Thank you Cool Earth for the fabulous work that you do (and for all the handy facts on your website that have allowed me to create this infographic).
I watched a documentary last night that made me want to crawl in a bin. If you're American, I'm talking about the trash.
'Dumpster diving' (I'm going to use the American term, because I can't quite bare to use the British alternative 'skipping' as in "I'm just going out skipping") has been around for as long as there has been rubbish - there is always someone less fortunate who is forced to seek food from the waste of others.
More recently however, dumpster diving has become about more than saving money. For 'Freegans' (those who dumpster dive) it's about preventing more waste and reducing your ecological footprint, it becomes an environmental endeavour. There is so much waste that could be saved, so much food that is still good to eat.
This video inspired me, I would love to go 'dumpster diving'. The problem is I've never once seen a 'dumpster' that looks like it might be worth diving. Perhaps I just need to open my eyes a little wider (and look that little bit crazier than I already do).
Meat production entails a huge carbon footprint, a huge water foot print, pushes up the price of grain, and of course is often extremely detrimental to animal welfare.
Today was a beautiful sunny day, and it was actually pretty warm for February in England. It got me longing for the spring and to be doing something green… but what to do?
I heard about the guerrilla gardening movement towards the end of the summer last year. Sadly it was a bit too late for me to have a go myself. This year, however, I am hoping things go differently. I have already found a perfect spot near where I live! The council recently changed the paving’s a few minutes walk from my house and they left a nice big gap around the base of a tree. I’d guess it’s just over 2m sq so it’s a pretty sizeable little area. However, it’s quite near a bus stop, so I don’t know how badly it will be affected by passers by. I suppose that remains to be seen.
I’m planning on doing some more research and my first port of call will be the first guerrilla gardening blog I discovered: GuerrillaGardening.org There are some amazing examples, and some are just minutes from where I live!
There’s a few options for routes I could go down. I could ask the council for permission, that way I don’t have to be afraid of getting ‘caught’ (I’m a goodie-two-shoes so getting ‘caught’ would embarrass me so much!) but I’m guessing there are pretty strong odds the council will say no. But if I’ve already asked, they will know who I am. Richard Reynolds of GuerillaGardening.org said that he could have asked for permission from councils, but they told him that if he had asked they would have said no, but when they saw his work they ended up giving him permission. In fact, he said that often the police drive-by when he is doing guerrilla gardening just to check out what’s going on, but he says they have never stopped him.
I can also pick between planting actual plants (more time spent on the site committing the deed!) or sewing seeds (the odds of getting caught are super slim!). Sewing seeds might be a good way to start, and Perhaps seed bombs are the way to go!
There’s lots more for me to read up on and learn about, so watch this space for some updates in the spring about my progress as a guerrilla gardener!
Check out http://www.lexiconofsustainability.com/ for more!
What a fantastic house. This should have been on Grand Designs.
I’m living in a funny old world at the moment. My life is split between two totally different environments. My home (or what I call home-home, the place where my parents are and most of my worldly possessions) is in west London. This is where I spend my weekends. We live in a dense suburban area; everything is paved with concrete and tarmac. My garden is all paved over too so I can only grow in pots. Admittedly, I live in one of the greenest boroughs, but it still seems mostly grey to me. During the week while I’m working at Compassion in World Farming I lodge in a house in a small town. The house I’m staying in has a nice big garden (with chickens!), and so do all the houses on this street. Within five to ten minutes I can be driving through country lanes and alongside beautiful fields.
For the last few years I have agonised over my desire to live in the country; I wanted to get away from the crush, the dirty air, the noise. I want my own little flock of ex-battery hens, my own vegetable garden and much more. Now I count myself as pretty lucky, I get the best of both worlds. A home in the city, and a home in the country. But it’s making me think and start to realise that life in the country might not quite be what I thought it was.
Im a vegean (that’s what I’m calling it now, 70%vegan and 30%vegetarian) and it turns out getting my preferred foods in the country is painfully difficult. Back home in London I can walk ten minutes to both my closest health food shops. I can buy all the organic vegetables I want, oodles of organic tins, jars and boxes and the all important vegan alternatives to chocolate, milk, butter and meat. Back in my country abode I avoid shopping for food – my only shop selling some organic and vegan alternatives is Waitrose, a 25-minute walk away. They don’t even have a good selection of things like vegan chocolate, vegan ‘honey’ or vegan butter. I’m also hard pushed to find British vegetables – most of it is from Spain even if it’s seasonal at the moment.
Another draw back is that if I want to go anywhere (the cinema, a decent restaurant or basically anything that isn’t on the mini highstreet) I have to drive. In In London most things I want are genuinely within walking distance, and if they aren’t it’s a short trip on the train.
The long and short of it? I’m starting to think living in the country is just not sustainable - and I'm reading more and more articles that just back my theory up.
Can we find a way to bring farms back to the cities?
If I live in the city I can walk, cycle and use public transport – avoiding the use of a CO2 heavy car. My friends are never far away and we can meet half way without needing a car, and stay out as late as we want knowing there is always a night bus to get us home and street lights to keep us safe(ish). Where everyone is densely packed in the air temperature increases, I can have my heating a little lower. There are so many environmental benefits to life in the city… But what about my chickens, my dog(s), and my vegetable patch (all very important future plans)?
Perhaps its time for me (all of us!) to think about an urban future, but one that embraces the world around me and utilises it for all it’s worth to help me live a minimally destructive life… If I can find a way to grow my own food, keep my own chickens, make my own energy and more in the city, maybe I can convince some of the rest of the densely packed population around me to do the same. Maybe, in the city I can have a greater influence on those around me as we live so close to one another in our cosy (cramped?) urban lives. Who knows, I’m still making my mind up on this one. Perhaps there will be more to come on this in the future, keep your eyes peeled.
Two years ago I decided to have a go at growing my own food. As a novice (and someone who always thinks I can just do anything without prior instruction) I screwed it up pretty successfully. I spent hours tending to my beloved seedlings I was growing on my chest of drawers by my window. As well as hours catching and releasing the baby grass hoppers that hatched out of the soil I bought from ASDA and ran (or hopped) riot in my room. Sadly, knowing next to nothing about gardening I ended up with a bunch of non-viable crops. I managed a few tomatoes and a bit of swiss chard and some salad, but that was really it. The beetroots, carrots, radishes and all the other hopefuls failed miserably.
To cut a long story short, my second attempt (with the aid of 2 books on how to manage an allotment) was MUCH more successful. I had a bumper harvest of potatoes, tomatoes, beans, lettuce, swiss chard, peas and carrots all of which were absolutely delicious. Sadly, beetroot failed again.
It's January now so I cant grow anything (I know this because of consulting my much loved books). After months of eating ONLY supermarket food I'm starting to pine for the wonder of growing food from seed to plate and for the joys of rooting around in the soil excitedly picking out potatoes while my next door neighbour watches out of her window and comments on my insanity.
Below is a little video that I came across yesterday which has made me even more hopeful for the year ahead, with my added knowledge gained from previous years mistakes (namely - don't bother trying to grow beetroot). The more I have learned about gardening the more I love it. The idea of being able to make food from a seed, some sun and lots of love fascinates me. I cant wait to reduce my carbon footprint even more this year by growing a little more cleverly and changing my diet a bit so that I can really shop less, spend more time outdoors, and invest less in carbon heavy farming practices. Best of all, the whole time I'm outside tending to my veggies, I'm not sat inside watching tele, or out wasting my money on things I don't need.