The 22nd of April marked the 50th Anniversary of Earth Week! The theme for this year is Climate Action. As we were not able to run our yearly Earth Day event, we have decided to dedicate a week to sharing ideas and information around how we can personally take action in our day to day lives, given the current situation. Some of our key note speakers from our planned event will be contributing ideas, as well as individuals and organisations where sustainability is at the heart of what they do.
Green Thumb Thursdays!
A representative from Walworth Garden was going to speak horticulture and more. This garden centre is described as an urban oasis in the heart of Southwark. Established in 1987 as a community garden from reclaimed derelict land, the garden remains true to its founding ethos of providing a place of tranquillity, growth and opportunity. The multicultural hub offers education, training and therapy for the wider community as well as a place to relax and unwind in a natural environment. For more information, please see the following site:
Grow your own fruit and vegetables...
If our spring sunshine continues into the summer, consider growing some of your own fruit and vegetables!
Of course, there is always the issue of space; access to allotments or plots of land as well as the lockdown to consider. However, this site illustrates how one can also grow seeds on windowsills! See the following link for more information:
Organisations such as Rocket Gardens and Superb Herbs will deliver plants/seeds to you during this time:
Slow Fashion Friday!
Fast Fashion: inexpensive clothing produced rapidly by mass-market retailers in response to the latest trends.
Slow Fashion: is an awareness and approach to fashion, which considers the processes and resources required to make clothing, particularly focusing on sustainability. It involves buying better-quality garments that will last for longer and values fair treatment of people, animals and the planet.
Personal story, by Lara's friend Ksenia - my Slow Fashion Journey
Why is clothing industry bad for environment?
Fast fashion is one of the largest most unsustainable business sectors; its explosion of chemicals largely contributes to the water scarcity around the globe, as well as exposing employees to dangerous working environments.
I only developed a flavour for fast fashion and shopping therapy when I moved to the Netherlands from Russia. Despite having limited funds, I could always afford stuff from Primark, and I would sometimes catch myself buying things (not necessary clothes) just because I enjoyed a process of shopping.
Luckily, I quickly realised that these items didn't bring me joy, didn't last very long and didn't contribute to the value of my wardrobe. I would often feel uncomfortable wearing them and I realised that I hated the touch of synthetic fabrics on my skin. So, I made a decision to only buy natural materials like cotton, linen, wool and leather. But, these choices were not as sustainable as I thought. Apart from the fact that it is hard to find clothes made out of natural materials, I learnt that cotton, wool and leather are harmful to the environment and animals around the world. This especially applies to materials sourced from producers that lack transparency and violate workers' rights.
A year ago I decided to stop supporting fast fashion brands completely, refusing to allow myself to browse unsustainable brand's websites and unsubscribing from all their newsletters. I committed to only buying clothes made out of sustainably grown cotton, linen, hemp, cupro & lyocell.
Before I make a purchase, I assess whether I can mend what I own, upcycle (make shorts out of jeans or use a T-shirt as a kitchen towel) or shop in my family's closet instead. Otherwise, I buy only pre-owned clothing.
The sustainable brands that I would recommend, and am happy to support, are C&A, People Tree and Organic Basics.
What could you do to help?
• limit the amount of new clothes you buy;
• only purchase items that would definitely fit your wardrobe, your lifestyle & your body;
• avoid buying clothes out of polyester as it contributes to the micro-plastics in the ocean;
• give preference to the clothing made out of sustainably sourced natural materials;
• support small and socially responsible brands;
• buy second-hand clothes.
To find out more about the brands you buy from, check out the goodonyou.eco. They rate clothing producers based on their impact on planter, people and animals.
"We don't need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly.
We need millions doing it imperfectly."
Anne Marie Bonneau, the Zero-Waste Chef
Our Journey to Zero Waste by Lee Hill and Sarah Byng
Both myself and partner, like to think of ourselves as guardians of this amazing planet and as a result of this, found ourselves trying Zero Waste and getting hooked.
Below is how it all started for us:
We had moved into our new flat and having no one to answer to, we naturally made our home our own.
After we had settled in properly, we decided to make a yearly focus; to reduce our waste and eat more organic food.
It seemed like a great idea at the time, however we soon found ourselves in a dilemma.
Organic food is wrapped in plastic all the time, meaning it would increase our waste, so we found a local organic veg box option, from a small farm near us. That solved the first problem.
Then we had to reduce our waste and that wasn’t as easy to solve, but we tackled it the best way we could, with enthusiasm. We started by looking through our waste and finding out what was causing the bulk of it. We looked to find ways to reduce or eliminate the bulk of our waste, through sourcing items in recyclable packaging, through shopping at different places like zero waste shops and by also making do without some things and swapping them for things that we could get. That year our waste went down so much.
After making the adjustments in the house, slowly over that year (we didn’t try to do it all at the same time) we felt we could make some more changes too.
Sarah my partner, had started watching videos on a movement called Zero Waste and so we looked to get on the path to zero waste, it’s always about the journey right?
We started finding ways to clean our house with simple products and not having to buy so many different things for different rooms. We started making our own deodorant. I thought it would be so bad to make our own deodorant, no one wants to be smelly, but to my surprise the stuff is great. We make our own soaps. I now have a safety razor, meaning that I don’t have to throw away plastic bits every few months.
We found so much information online and like I said above, made the changes slowly, we knew if we tried to do it all at once we would just give up. We still have a long way to go, but our black wheely bin at home goes out once every four months. Nothing beats the look on the bin mans face when he checks the bin every week to see it empty almost all the time. This doesn’t mean we just have a hugely full recycling bin either. Using zero waste shops we avoid new packaging, and when we shop we aim for minimal packaging. Recycling isn’t very efficient, lots of plastic cannot be recycled at all, so recycling should only be a last resort.
Check your waste, see what you throw away and take notes.
Try to buy products ether loose or in recyclable containers or packaging.
Take your own bags shopping for those loose fruit, veg, rolls and bread.
Go to zero waste shops with your own containers and buy what you need, these shops have so many different things you may need, plus you’ll be helping more ethical companies.
Consider making your own tooth paste, deodorant and soap (its much simpler than you think).
Join Facebook groups, ask questions and get help on so many things.
Get a composter or use a friend or relatives, this way you can turn that veg into some lovely garden soil.
Learn to do without certain things if you can, make swaps. If your veg isn’t loose this week, try something that is loose.
Move away from plastic tubs or pots where possible and try to use glass or tins instead as they are much easier to recycle.
When you need something new, try to find second hand or used items, they’re greener and often much cheaper too.
“The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.”
– Robert Swan, Author
A trip upstairs with Colin revealed these...
60 solar panels on the roof of Samye Dzong London.
Although Solar Panels are not an option for everyone, this led us to thinking and sharing a list of other day to day sustainable home ideas that can be applied during the lock-down. This quote addresses the thought we know all to well; that our actions won't make a difference and so what is the point. However, Our goal is to try practice these habits while our lives are a little quieter, so that it will be easier to continue after lock-down:
- Use cold water to wash clothes.
- Have shorter, cooler showers - which will be easier as the weather warms up! Low-flow shower heads will also help with this!
- wash only full loads of dishes and water.
- We don't have a dishwasher, but it is recommended to use a dishwasher to wash dishes, but leave them out to dry naturally (air dry) opposed to using the drying setting.
- battery chargers, such as phone and laptop cables, can be unplugged when not in use.
- Opposed to leaving computers on, set them to sleep or hibernate.
- Decide what you want from the fridge before opening it. I.e don't stand in front of an open refrigerator door.
- Keep your appliances clean.
- Turn off lights whenever possible
Meat Free Monday
"Every sentient being is equal to Buddha"
~Chamgon Kentin Tai Situ Rinpoche
Ana Carolina is our latest resident to move in at the centre. Here she speaks about her journey to a meat-free and reduced animal products lifestyle....
When did you start reducing your meat consumption?
Since I was a teenager actually. In Brazil we have a very meat heavy culture and I really didn't enjoy having beef or chicken. It wasn't a decision that just happened like, "I'm not going to eat meat from now on." It was more like, "Ah I would prefer not to have it now". and then I realised that I hadn't eaten meat for a while. In my 20s I realised I was actually a vegetarian. I used to eat fish sometimes but chicken and beef, red meat, I haven't eaten for over 20 years now. And i don't miss it at all. Now when i smell barbecue, my brain or senses don't read that as something that is nutritious or edible.
And reducing your intake of dairy and eggs?
With dairy it's been two and a half years. But that was a conscious decision. For instance, "from tomorrow, I'm not having it any more". I used to be addicted to cheese and have it at every meal. However, I was trying to identify what was causing my body to feel bloated and slow all the time. I used to have stomach pain so I was trying to figure it out. I had started to run as well at that time so I was more aware of how I was feeling in every single run. In a nutshell I was paying attention to my own body - what did and didn't work. And so I cut dairy, removed butter, cheese, yoghurt (but it wasn't a big thing of mine) and at that time I didn't have normal milk anyway. A week later I started feeling much better. I felt lighter and I had more energy so I decided let me try for another week, and then another week and then eventually it just became my way of life. And I haven't had stomach pain since then. After that I thought I'm almost there anyway so I removed eggs.
I also started to educate myself more on the industry behind what I was eating and I saw how much suffering was involved. I mean I knew it already but I didn't want to take a look at it let's say; like a lot of us, not only with regards to meat but with other factors as well, we turn a blind eye to a lot of things. You're paying for something in a super market but actually you are paying for an animal to suffer so much for the whole live and so I decided to go vegan all the way and it's been fantastic. I take B12, I had blood tests since I started, three times and it's been perfect, there is nothing missing.
Any final comments ?
I think we need to find a balance; a healthy balance. We need to get our nutrients and proper vitamins through foods that don't come from suffering. There are resources out there, I think its all a question of balance. I think nature is balanced. I believe we can find natural elements or food that will help us balance our system and be healthy.
1. Research - A great motivator is to research what is actually going on behind the scenes. What does it take for your meat to be produced, to be on your plate. We are talking about suffering, we are talking about environmental damage. See if it is actually worth it for you to put all that into your body and for you to be contributing to that kind of industry.
2. Try - First remove dairy, and the second week no meat - see how your body reacts to it. Try to reduce one day here and one there. Try to pay attention to your body.
3. Be creative - there is so much out there for us to cook with. Try something new.
But I think the most important thing is educating yourself, because then you don't want to become part of that industry.
Personal Story by Lara Vincent
Environmental awareness has been a priority in my life for as long as I can remember, I even made my parents separate their waste into plastic, paper, tin, organic and general waste bins at home in Zimbabwe. You can imagine they were slightly annoyed with my insistence in the beginning, but they eventually came around. However, sustainable transport was not something I thought about until last year.
I was in my final year of my masters at a University in the Netherlands and I started researching about the amount of waste produced by airplanes. My lecturer put me onto the topic of air travel and carbon emissions. Air travel has been increasing by approximately 6% annually in the last 50 years. The downside of the increased air travel, however, is the environmental impacts. Predictions are that air travel will account for 15% of global warming by 2050, an increase from the 3.5% documented in 1992. But air travel is just one part of the transport industry.
The transport industry has been recorded as the fastest growing contributor to climate emissions with pollution levels in cities largely being caused by this sector. The grounding of airplanes and a reduction in the use of other forms of transport during this epidemic, has seen a significant decrease in pollution levels. As an environmentalist, this news made me appreciate all the individuals who continue to raise awareness of the impacts of climate change. This epidemic has brought many people a lot of heartache and pain, but it has also brought understanding that humans can do better for this world.
"Be part of the solution not part of the pollution"
You may be asking how you can make a difference? You may be frustrated at me for implying that you need to cut all forms of transport. But, my aim for this blog post was not to tell you to abandon all forms of transport. Rather, I wanted to ask you to
- consider reducing how much you do travel, whether it be by plane, train, car etc.
- be more mindful of what forms of transport we rely on most, whether there are more environmentally options whether we need to travel, are just a few suggestions for questions we can ask ourselves.
Not sure if you have seen from this write up but, I am extremely passionate about this topic and I aspire to work in the sustainable transport industry one day. I love having discussions about this so if you want to know more let me know!
Worker Bee Wednesday
Bermondsey Street Bees
Founded in 2007 by Dale Gibson and Sarah Wyndham Lewis, Bermondsey Street Bees is a multi-award-winning sustainable beekeeping practice and apicultural consultancy. Still based in Bermondsey Street, they have 15 urban and country apiaries and produce a range of raw honeys using traditional methods and keeping their environmental impact as low as possible. Here Sarah answers some questions they’re often asked:-
Like us, our honeybees are locals, flying a short radius of around 2.5 miles from the hive, collecting pollen to raise their brood and nectar to make honey.
Globally, there are 25,000 different bee species, of which just 7 are honeybees (in the UK, 275 bee species, of which 1 is a honeybee). Honeybees differ from their cousins in living as a colony all year round, their honey stores seeing them through tough times such as winter. With all other bees, including the bumblebees and solitary species, the Queen overwinters on her own, starting a new colony every year. The honeybee is the only bee providing humans with honey.
As urban-based beekeepers, there are questions we’re often asked … Can honeybees thrive in cities? What do they eat? Should we be taking honey from them? Is city honey polluted?
That last one is quickly answered. We regularly put our urban honeys through independent laboratory analysis. Compared to the countryside, cities use relatively few horticultural chemicals and generally the bees process/excrete pollutants they encounter, giving our honey a clean bill of health. Bees can thrive in cities…as long as they have enough to eat to sustain their immune systems….
For us, as a sustainable beekeeping practice, lack of urban forage is the burning issue. Amazingly, London officially now has the greatest density of beehives anywhere in Europe… but our green space shrinks continuously.
Every year, every single hive needs to bring in at least 50 kg of pollen and 250 kg of nectar, just to survive. In a crowded cityscape, the risk is that hungry honeybees rob from other hives or, worse, forage at the expense of wild bee species; the far more vulnerable bumblebees and solitary bees. To offset the environmental impact of our own hives, we’ve planted extensively over many years, providing forage for our bees and for wild pollinators. We’ve also helped and advised on many other planting projects. Locally you’ll find several public areas we’ve planted in parks around Bermondsey Street. Not wildflower patches, which so often fail…but dense and durable plantings of flowering trees, fruiting bushes and herbaceous perennials which support a wide range of other invertebrates, birds and mammals as well as feeding pollinators.
Alongside our concerns about environmental impact, we manage our hives for the bees’ welfare not for the honey; another core element of our sustainable approach to beekeeping. Honeybees don’t have an ‘off’ switch, continuing to make honey as long as flowers are giving them nectar. We never remove the stores (around 25 - 30 lbs) that the bees need to see them through winter, but if they’ve produced a honey surplus, then we can safely take a harvest. Some years this is bountiful, some years scarce or even non-existent. It’s all part of the natural cycle of living closely with our bees…
For more information see bermondseystreetbees.co.uk
Sarah’s book ‘Planting for Honeybees’, with advice on planting anywhere from a windowsill to a large garden is published by Quadrille and available from all good book sellers.