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ERIN KAY WILLIAMS

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How to be Sustainable in a Lockdown

The current climate is scary. Emotions are all over the place and its hard not to be left with worry or concern. With us all trying to ...

Sunday, 26 July 2020

10 Road Trips to Start Planning Now

I'm not sure there has ever been a better time to plan a UK or Irish roadtrip. With the opportunity to explore cities and the countryside with a bit of adventure thrown in for good measure and also a reduced risk of having to quarantine for 2 weeks upon return at the last minute. So here you a run down of some of the top roadtrip options, close to home allowing you to travel slightly more sustainably (without even having to try)!

Urban House

The South Lakes, Lake District


Easy to access by car or train (Windermere has a big station), The Lake District has been a hotspot for many and with good reason. With so many stunning vistas, a Lake District roadtrip offers incredible sights at every turn. If you're short on time, the South Lakes can be fitted into a weekend as it's based on a 20mile radius of Windermere lake, however you can easily spend a week.  Start your journey in Windermere and be sure to take a lake cruise and call in at the Lakeside and Haverthwaith Steam Railway (my Grandad was a big fan!). From there head along to Ambleside, Grasmere and then onto Hawkshead before completing the loop of the lake to end back in Windermere.  Along with hundreds of walks that you could opt to do, be sure to check out Beatrix Potter’s cottage, Hill Top. 

As you'd expect, the Lake district has plenty of sustainable options, so why not try Cedar Manor Hotel at Windermere, Waterhead Hotel at Ambleside and Moss Grove in Grasmere. As you near the completion of your loop, be sure to stop of at Porto restaurant as well, just be sure to have booked!

Ireland.com

Causeway Coastal Route, Northern Ireland


If you're still wanting to experience the away from home then why not opt for Northern Ireland’s Causeway Coastal Route. After arriving via boat into Belfast (it's so much easier than you may have originally thought), travel along the coast to Derry, stopping off at The Gobbins, Murlough Bay, a quick trip over to Rathlin Island, Ballintoy and Whiterocks Beach and coastal path, which holds a prestigious Blue Flag award. In between Ballintoy and Whiterrocks, be sure to check out the stunning World Heritage Site Giant’s Causeway, and if you're not too scared of heights why cross the popular Carrick-a-rede rope bridge. 

If you're after a sustainable hotel option along the way, be sure to book a stay at the Salthouse Hotel located in Ballycastle. The hotel has been called one of the most sustainable and "smartest" in Ireland and Europe with on sight wind turbines and solar panels, you'll be sure to say your stay had no impact due to it going beyond carbon neutral. Now that's a guild free trip!

NC500, Scotland


If you're after an adventure that leaves you in awe, then an NC500 roadtrip is what you've been looking for. Catch the sleeper train to Fort William before hiring a car to see you around 600 mile trip. You'll weave through the highlands, driving past wild beaches and inhabitated spots as you truly emerse yourself in nature. The trip requires at week at least, two if you have it and should you feel adventurous, there are plenty of camp sites on loches and hidden spots should you wish. Be sure to call in at Applecross, one of the most remote villages in the Scotland and home to one of the countries most impressive road Bealach Na Ba Route and the incredible Walled Garden Restaurant. From there head to Ullapool, and onwards to the most northwesterly village, Durness. Next head along the top of Scotland to John O Groats before heading down to Dornoch. If you make time, try and drive of the main roads into tiny villages, you'll likely find incredible hidden gems. 

Accomodation wise, The Applecross Inn or The Torridon Boathouse are a great first stop. Argyll Hotel in Ullapool, Kylesku Hotel, Kylesku, and Smoo Lodge, Durness all site along the route as you head north as well and with plenty of sustainability credentials are each, you know your trip is as eco friendly as possible.

Celtic Routes, Wales and Ireland


A roadtrip across two countries provides the perfect opportunity to d o something a little different. Celtic Routes, a heritage initiative to connect  the two countries allows visitors to explore history whilst also witnessing stunning landscapes along the way. With no set route, the options are vast however, I would suggest catching ferry from Liverpool to Dublin. Then head South calling at Wicklow to see Black Castle, on wards to  Waterford and then across to Wexford with incredible sites over Fethard Quay. From there catch a ferry back across to Wales from Rosslare Harbour ending at Fishguard. Pembrokeshire National Park has plenty of spots to explore and as you head North along the Pembrokeshire coast, Cemaes Head, Foel Drygarn, Llagrannog and Cors Caron are just a few spots worth a visit. 

If you're first stop is Dublin, be sure to stay at Iveagh Garden Hotel with great eco credentials and a stay at Brook Lodge and Macreddin Village will be bound to impress and as home to  Ireland’s largest geo-thermal hotel heat recovery system, and sustainability credentials are easy to see. Once in Wales, Llys Meddyg provides the most perfect pit stop with a beautiful hotel and restaurant just by Fishguard. Further up the Welsh coast Coes Faen Spa Lodge can be found, the perfect relaxing way to end your trip.

Visit Scotland

South West 300, Scotland


You could call this roadtrip route the little brother of the NC500, and although there are similarities (its in Scotland, it goes along the coast), it offers so much more due to the inland contrast and variety of national parks. Starting in Dumfries, head along to Colvend, onward to Isle of Whithorn then Cairgaan before heading north along the A77 to Aye. The last stretch sees you head inland again and back to Dunfries but along the way be sure not to miss Mennock Pass, Caerlaverock Castle and Mull of Galloway Lighthouse. 

If you're not sure where to stay why not stay at Nithbank Country Estate or Queensberry House along the way.

Wild Atlantic Way

Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland


If exploring 2,500 km of coastline is something you're interested in then a roadtrip along the Wild Atlantic Way is for you. Starting in LondonDerry all the way down the westcoast to Kinsale near Cork you're sure to experience some of the best Ireland has to offer. A personal recommendation, be sure to call in at Dingle a beautiful little harbour town. Along the way from the northern headlands to the surf coast beauty is to be found at every turn. There are so many possible stops and sites to visit I cant note them all but a visit to Galway and if possible a boat across to the Blasket Islands. If you want to make it a real adventure, I would encourage you to get the boat across to Ireland from Wales/Liverpool and drive across to where you will start the route. It may take a little longer but will add so much more to the experience. If you don't have time to do the whole length of the country, many would recommend The Ring of Kerry, a 120 mile loop that could take a weekend or a week depending on how much you want to see and do.

To stay, why not stop at Beach Hotel and Restaurant, Gregans Castle HotelMadra Rua which overlook Trawbreaga Bay and Doagh Island and Slieve Bloom Manor Eco B&B.

The Yorkshire Circuit, England


Through the moors and onto the dales, the Yorkshire's landscape offers a certain ruggedness not found in many places of the UK. Start your Yorkshire Roadtrip from York first visit   Harrogate followed by Grassington before heading back to Aysgarth Falls. Then head off to Ilkey and onto Wensleydale.Of course you must remember to visit the Creamery Visitor Centre after all Wallis and Grommit would approve. Finally head North to Reeth in Richmond before finishing back where you started in York. If you fancy, you can make this route even shorter by starting and ending in Harrogate. 

Top sustainable spots to stay include Beck Hall in Malham, Cambridge House in Reeth and Aldward Manor Golf & Spa Hotel in York.

Best of the Brecon Beacons, Wales


At only 50 miles, this is a short roadtrip, but don't let that put you off as it can easily be extended. Starting at Abergavenny and heading to Gwaun-Cae-Gurwens be sure to do this road North to South. Famed from Topgear this route is filled with hairpin bends and unrivalled views of the Tywi Valley. If you fancy extended beyond, upon reaching Gwaun-Cae-Gurwens head on to Tenby and along to the Penbrokeshire Coast National Park, then to Fishguard before looping back to Abergavenny. 

There are limited spots directly in the Brecon Beacons however, near Tenby the Grove-Narberth is a great spot, as is Llys Meddyg near Fishguard. Before you start your drive you could choose to stay at Drovers Rest at the far North of the national park. 

Best Of The Cotswolds, England


A backdrop for any film or media where quintessential England is depicted, a Cotswolds Roadtrip offers beautiful villages and miles of lush countryside. Starting in the North of the Cotswold area, Chipping Campden offers a great base, from there you can zigzag between beautiful villages, Medevial churches and old English pubs before ending your trip in Bath. Be sure not to miss Bourton on Water, Burford, Kingham, Chedworth or Bilbury. If you're wanting something a little less touristy though, Nauton may also be a great spot. With the whole trip being under 70 miles, you know you can stop at a different place each day should you wish!
 
You won't be sure of beautiful B&Bs to stay in on your trip, my sustainable recommendations though are The Wild Rabbit in Chipping Northon, Daylesford Kingham, and if you're feeling like something really special Thyme in Lechlade.

Atlantic Highway, England


The Atlantic Highway Roadtrip follows the coastal path through Devon and Cornwall as it winds through small fishing villages and past beautiful beaches. As you follow the A39 from Bridgewater to Bude, be sure to first stop off at Exmoor National Park. Bude will be one of the first coastal villages you reach in Cornwall, then as you continue to wind along the peninsular do not miss out getting a bite to eat in in St Issac and of course Padstow. As you head off to reach Land's End make sure you take the time to walk a small patch of the coastal path. What ever part you do, oceans views are bound to be out of this world. 

Cornwall and Devon are home to some of the most sustainable accomadation and dining options in the UK. One of the top stops is Bangors Organic located just outside Bude. If you fancy some luxury, a little further along your route be sure to stay at The Scarlet in Mawgan Porth. Then,as you reach the end Tregenna Castle in St Ives will be a perfect pit stop. 


There you have it, enjoy your trips!

E x
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Sunday, 3 May 2020

What does Fashion have to do with Biodiversity Loss and Environmental Damage?


The impact of the fashion industry is far reaching and there is no way to cover every element where it's impacts are felt, whether that be good or bad. But in light of Earth Day and Fashion Revolution Week, I thought it was about time I tried to highlight just some of the ways the Fashion industry is playing a role in from habitat destruction, water pollution and land degradation to energy requirements and waste production.

How we consume fashion has altered dramatically over the past 20 years. Our fashion consumption doubled between 2000 and 2014 (1), yet 50% of the fast fashion garments purchased are thrown away within a year. In Europe, the average number of collections per year for fashion companies went from averaging two in 2000 to five in 2011. Whilst Zara somehow manages to release 24 collections. For comparison, H&M put out between 12 and 16 out.

This excessive buying and waste was naturally going to have an impact, how could it not? From the land required to grow cotton, or the oil needed to create polyester, to the millions are new garment workers required to meet the demand and the chemicals needed to create the colours for that season. All production has had to grow.

Chemical Use in Fashion

Lets begin with cotton, I won't spend much time on this but most cotton is heavily treated with chemicals in fact although it is only grown on 2.5% of the world’s agricultural land, it consumes 16% of all the insecticides and 6.8% of all herbicides used worldwide (2). Not just that though, insecticides and herbicides also destroy the pests natural predators whilst also destroying the soil quality which in turn leads to lower crop yields for farmers. Yet with 73 percent of global cotton harvest comes from irrigated land (3) vital resources like water are also being over used and enabling pesticides and herbicides to penetrate deeper into the soils.

On top of this, chemical run of into other land areas, especially if the cotton is grown near forests eventually leads to our water system being polluted. Stacey Dooley's documentary also brought to light something I was taught at uni, that these chemicals and the high exposure is impacting on the communities that live their causing a variety of life threatening conditions and birth defects. Organic cotton is trying to help solve at least some of these problems by removing / only allowing a small number of certified herbicides and pesticides to be used on the cotton but their is still alot of the cotton growing industry that's causing damage(4).

At the other end of the garment process fluorinated chemicals are still being used even though they are among the world most toxic materials in the world (YES, THEY ARE STILL GOING INTO OUR CLOTHES). Formaldehyde, a known carcinogen which can lead to cancer and is known to be an endocrine disrupter is also still being used in our clothing production to get certain effects like waterproofing or crease proofing that customers demand, although I cant imagine they would if they knew the risk (5)!

There are some brands now fighting the norm though and choosing to stay away from these dangerous chemicals. Levi's chose to not add a fluorinated chemical which helps create stain resistance because they felt the environmental impact was too high, just like Patagonia opted to not add a formaldhyde chemical which prevents creasing to their garments.

Sadly though, we still have a long way before the majority of brands are putting planet and peoples health above the look of the garment they are choosing to create.

Water Pollution created by the Fashion Industry

Chemicals and water pollution for the fashion industry tend to come pretty much hand in hand. Textile dyeing is the world’s second-largest polluter of water, since the water leftover from the dyeing process is often dumped into ditches, streams, or rivers. In fact, the fashion industry is responsible for 20% of all industrial water pollution worldwide (7).

Lack of legislation in many of the countries where the dying and tanning processes takes place leads to this issue and illegal dumping of waste and the heavy metals is common due to regulation (if there are any) not being well enforced. The result?  The  world’s largest clothes exporter, China have declared that nearly one third of the countries’ rivers are classified as “too polluted for any direct human contact”. The same pattern is seen all over the world, and the documentary River Blue is a real eye opener into the true scale of the problem.

Water being polluted isn't just an issue in the process of making our clothes though sadly. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) estimated that 35% of all microplastics in the ocean came from the laundering of synthetic textiles like polyester which is a staggering. Although we are creating clothing our of old plastic fishing nets for example this doesn't stop them shedding in the wash.

Due to the size of of the microfibres that are shed as well, the filters used to clean our water are unable to capture them resulting in microfibres being found in every river studied to date along with being in the vast amount of ocean species. A scary reality check for us all.

At the moment, there are only a few options to try and reduce microfibre shedding with the likes of guppy bags (although some studies don't believe they work well). The best option though, is choosing fabrics with low levels of elastin and plastic fibres or are made completely of natural fibres such as  cotton, wool, bamboo and hemp being fantastic options. That way, no shedding would take place because there is no plastic is in the garment to begin with. For those items that you can't help needing, be sure to try and wash garments less frequently to reduce how often shredding can take place.

The Effect of the Fashion Industry on Biodiversity 

The impact the fashion industry has through out the creation process is pretty obvious to most. The destruction of biodiversity during the growing of crops used and the the degradation of soil mentioned before due to the use of pesticides and herbicides has lead to rapid species decline (7).

To meet the growing demand, land has also had to be cleared to enable new cotton and fabric plants to grow, which will have inevitably caused habitat destruction and in some cases, the creation of habitat separation. The issue with this island style clearing that can take place, is if the remaining pocket of habitat for the species is not big enough, the species will be unable to sustain themselves with genetic diversity and result in eventual species extinction. We also can't ignore the fashion industry demand on oil, which is a result of fibres like polyester (the most common fibre in the world) and nylon. In turn, this means that they are partially responsible for the the oil spills that still happen on a regular basis (even if they are not regularly broadcast to the public). Now this may not be a direct result of their actions, but as we know, demand leads to creation and supply.

The impact sadly doesn't end with cotton or polyester though, leather and viscose have been linked to the deforestation of the Amazon due to clearing for cattle grazing and trees to meet viscose demand. Desertification is also taking place due to unsustainable agriculture practices taking place. Cashmere goats overgrazing in Mongolia’s grasslands provides just one example, and thy have been found to be responsible for more than three-quarters of the decline in grasslands, which is intricately linked with soil erosion (9).

The devastating consequences felt from the growing need for materials is most obvious in Uzbekistan. With the demand for cotton in the region, new farms were set up and water filtered from the rivers and away from the Aral Sea. So much so that in 50 years, the sea had completely vanished. Once one of the world’s four largest lakes, the Aral Sea is now little more than desert and a few small ponds. This of course not only had a dramatic impact on the people that relied on the lake for their livelihoods but also all of the unique species that once called it home which are sadly now all gone (9).

Biodiversity has also taken a hit in so many of the river systems due to the high levels of pollution pumped out during the dying and tanning process. In rivers like Bangladesh's Buriganga, that see vast amounts of chemical waste disposed into it from the buzzing garment industry on its shores, the river is incapable of supporting almost any animal life and this is not a one off event (10).

There is hope for Bangladesh at least though, with the announcement last year that The Bangladeshi Supreme Court has given all rivers in the country legal rights. This means that "people who damage a river can get taken to court by the government-appointed National River Conservation Commission. They’ll be tried as if they’d harmed a living entity, because each river now has the right to life. That means the river’s government-designated human representatives can sue on its behalf when it’s being endangered" (11). It's early days as to whether this will rapidly help reduce pollution and enable species to return back to the waters but at least its a start.

Waste Produced by the Fashion Industry 

The equivalent of one garbage truck full of clothes is burned or dumped in a landfill every second. Or in numbers, it's estimated that the fashion industry produces 92 million tons of textile waste annually or 4% of the global waste. Now for products that we should hold on to and cherish, 4% is ALOT.

With only around 30% of clothes going to charity shops, its easy to see why and how so much of our clothing ends up as waste yet this doesn't solve the problem. Poor quality clothing that is produced quickly means that even though garments may be unwanted, they can not go onto new homes due to them being unable to last and instead, end up as waste.

Fast fashion and its poor quality is just one side of the story. The trend driven market is another. With fashion collections coming out so regularly, a recent survey found that on average, women are only wearing clothing pieces 7 times before getting rid of them shedding light to just how much of our wardrobe is not used or simply wasted.

As the fashion industry continues to grow, the amount of waste we are producing is only going to increase but there are brands and initiatives trying to help the cycle. From HURR to depop, rental and resale platforms are increasing helping to find new ways of utilising fashion whilst also reducing the amount of waste that may have originally been created. Now though, we need brands to step up and take control on their waste in the supply chain and their wasted stock. In recent years, luxury brands have made headlines because they've chosen to burn their stock to help retain brand value without thought of the impact on the environment. We need better!

The Fashion Industries Energy Demand 

With ever growing demand for fashion it is not surprise that the industry is responsible for 10% of humanity’s  annual carbon emissions. That's more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined! What may be even more staggering is that at this pace, the fashion industry’s greenhouse gas emissions will surge more than 50 % by 2030 (3). A figure that most definitely is not in line with the Paris Agreement and 1.5 degree temperature rise which is what the world is meant to be aiming for.

The energy demand and carbon emissions produced by the fashion industry mainly comes down to the size of the supply chain and its complexity. The shipping, and travel expense and emissions for each part of the fashion journey means that small adjustments to each stage could have a large impact. From using lighter storage boxes, to streamlining vehicles to reduce drag, to switching to electric vehicles that are powered by renewable energy. There are lots of options to explore and ways for the industry to do better, if they are determined.

Take Away on Fashion and the Environment 

The impact of the fashion industry is far reaching and at a larger scale than most people can imagine. It doesn't have to be this way though, if the demand for fashion was not continuously growing, then the need for further habitat destruction would vanish. If we could help create the infrastructure and regulations in the countries producing the clothing, rivers would not be polluted and instead wildlife would be able to come back. If we reduced our dependency on pesticides and herbicides through education and partnerships, crop yields would remain stable, soil would be in better condition and the risk to those living in the areas of production would be far lower. If we could learn how to mend our clothes, and create a system which enabled real recycling of fibres to be used again we would be able to dramatically reduce our waste. Finally, if all of the billion pound companies invested in their supply chain to encourage renewable energy supply, especially considering many of these countries experience a lot of sunlight, they could not only help reduce fashions footprints but also ensure clean energy for their workforce. A win win.
There is a long way to go. yet there are brands working to improve the industry through transparency and changing the system. We need clothes that last, that are beautiful and that are able to be enjoyed from generation to generation. Clothing is part of our identities, it how we express ourselves yet the fast fashion industry and its constant new trends every month, means many of us do not know what is our own style and what we have been sold. We need a fashion revolution back to slower times, where our environment can sustain our demand and that we can get to wear clothes that make us truly happy (as well as being well made and environmentally friendly).


 

References

1. https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/sustainability/our-insights/style-thats-sustainable-a-new-fast-fashion-formula
2. http://assets.wwf.org.uk/downloads/thirstycrops.pdf
3. https://organiccotton.org/oc/Cotton-general/Impact-of-cotton/Risk-of-cotton-farming.php
4.https://www.pan-uk.org/cottons_chemical_addiction_updated/
5. https://www.voguebusiness.com/technology/fashion-remove-toxic-chemicals-from-clothing
6. https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/assets/downloads/publications/A-New-Textiles-Economy_Full-Report_Updated_1-12-17.pdf
7. https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2019/09/23/costo-moda-medio-ambiente
8. https://www.voguebusiness.com/sustainability/fashion-biodiversity-problem-wildlife-stella-mccartney-kering
9. https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/sustainable-fashion-blog/2014/oct/01/cotton-production-linked-to-images-of-the-dried-up-aral-sea-basin
10. River Blue Documentary
11. https://www.vox.com/future-perfect/2019/8/18/20803956/bangladesh-rivers-legal-personhood-rights-nature
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Friday, 1 May 2020

Easy Herbs, Fruit & Veg You Can Grow At Home


Last year was the first time I really embraced growing my own veg and boy was it an enlightening experience and with my belief that everything I grow should be organic, soil, fertilisers and pest controls all had to be considered.

There were a fair few lessons learned and a numerous guides and books read in the process to try and learn what an earth I should be doing. So I thought, I'd share what I learnt as you enter into the veg and herb growing season.

One thing to remember though, it doesn't have to look super neat! Just look at my mayhem from last year below!



Time of year to grow veg?

April is often the time that most people will start considering planting out veg. Be careful though of frosts as these could kill of your seedlings. If you are wanting to grow from seed you may therefore need to just consider whether you can cover your plants to stop them from getting frost bite, or whether you have a small space inside for seeds which are not very hardy to get growing in the warmth. Once the weather is a little water you can then get planted out. If possible though, buy them from a garden centre.

Why Grow Organic?

Wit hall the talk of growing our own food, one thing that I believe to be really important is ensuring what we grow is organic. We do not need our food to look perfect, it can be any shape or size. By growing organically it means you can avoid harmful chemicals which are not good for your body and also means that you are not having dangerous chemicals leach into the environment around us which is causing severe damage to our water systoms. So please, always opt for organic options if you can afford it. There are also lots of organic pest control methods as well which should always be your first point of call! We want to work with nature, and that should mean we try not to kill other organisms that live there! Deter yes, kill no! For more info on organic though, there are lots of good online resources including this guide for reasons why to eat organic.



Easy Herbs to Grow at Home

One lesson to mote below starting with herbs is that if purchased from a super market, they will not be suitable for the outside. They will likely also need a lot of love and care, and very little harvesting in the first few weeks of ownership to allow the plant to become properly established. After this time period you can then introduce them gradually to the outside (by leaving them out only in the day). Alternatively, you can just keep them on the kitchen side. 

Mint

Super quick growing, Mint in some ways can survive on a fair amount of neglect. One thing to be aware of though is that have roots that love alot of space. This means they can kill of other herbs if planted in the same space. Therefore, be sure to keep mint in its own pot and avoid window boxes (unless there are clear separations).

Rosemary

Best bought as a plant due to slow growth (like Lavender), Rosemary is a great herb to grow which will leave a lovely scent in the garden. The plant can be kept in small or slightly bigger spaces and this makes them the perfect windowsill plant.

Tyme

Another absolute cooking classic, tyme us super easy to look after and can be grown from plant or seed. The benefit is that they are evergreen and so can last all year round. Perfect for when you need some extra flavour in food in winter!

Basil

Basil, unlike other herbs should really be kept inside as they do not like the cold. If you live in cities, where the summer temperature will not fall very low though, you can leave them outside during this period should you like. Their love of warmth also means they will take as much sunlight as possible. Just remember to water regularly due to soil drying out!

Coriander

Obviously if you hate the taste of this plant, growing it is probably not going to be for you, but if you do like the taste, its a super easy herb to grow. All it needs is sunlight for some of the day and regular water and a medium depth pot.

Sage

A pretty sturdy herb, sage just like tyme last throughout the year and can be picked well into the winter seasons! 

Some maintenance tips for herbs

1. Most herbs will want well drained soil (where water will not pool and can easily run off). If you do not have this it is best to plant your herbs into large pots or window bays. One way to guarantee run of is place some pebbles at the bottom of you pot before adding your compost and plants, this will prevent the roots from sitting in any water if there is a lot of rain.

2. Regular water is essential. This may sound obvious but watering in summer time is an intense process and if you forget you could risk them drying out. Best times are to water first thing in the morning, or at night. Pretend its like having a rabbit who needs to be checked on once or twice a day. If the soil feels to dry, it probably is!

3. Provide organic fertiliser feed every 2-3 weeks to give them a boost. The one often recommended is Seaweed fertiliser but there are other alternatives.


Easy Fruit & Vegetables to Grow at Home

Veg and fruits can be a little more demanding due to the nature of what they are growing. You need to be more aware of pests, ensuring they've have plenty of fertiliser, that they are in good soil and are encouraged to grow in the right places (tomato plants can get out of control, I found this out last year!).
One great thing about veg though is you can buy seedlings from many garden centres if you do not want to grow from seeds yourself! 
One word of warning, if you have regular cat visitors to your garden be careful to make sure everything you grow is not near where they spray or sleep. I lost all my courgettes and a strawberry plant to this which was heartbreaking!

Strawberry

Provide them with a spot where they get both some sun and shade and if possible slightly clay like soil and they will thrive. You may need to protect them once they are a little further developed as birds may try and grab them and as they sit very low on the ground, you could need to put some fleece down to protect them against the frost. 

One idea I love, why not plant them in a hanging basket, this means the fruit can then grow down over the sides! A pretty sight and a space saver if you only have a small outside spot. 

Lettuce

My mum has been telling me to grow cut and grow lettuce for the past 2 years and I'm still to fulfill this objective, but I will certainly be trying to this year. The super easy crop can be continuously harvested throughout the year allowing you a steady stream of fresh veg!

Courgette

So long as you dont let cats squish the seedlings, you will find courgettes expectionally easy to grow. If you're planting straight out as a seed, best to wait till May time, they will need a fair amount of space between each seed (each seed can grow 3-4 courgettes each) and so better to give more space than not enough! If you want to plant in containers, just be sure to one plant one plant per container instead of multiple in the same spot!

French Beans

Another classic which I learnt the hard way how not to grow (my plant grew a singular bean and it was adorable!). Climbing french beans will need a support and something that they can climb up as they grow, this could be a few canes to create a triangle over the plant so that it can weave through. I would recommend planting in their own pot, and be sure to put down organic slug wool (or if you're vegan there are other alternatives to wool), because snails and slugs will try their best to much on your seedlings!

Tomatoes

My greatest success was without a double by 3 tomato plants (that did get a little out of control). Like beans Tomatoes are best if they have something to grow up and so when possible place them on a frame where you can ensure they grow straight. When you have enough offshoots (3 or 4 is enough) be sure to brake off any of the other new branches trying to grow. This will prevent the plants energy into growing bigger and instead encourage the fruits to grow! You can just strap to canes but be sure they're sturdy as the plants will have some weight when the fruits are nearing maturity. 

Just like with strawberry's you can also grow tomatoes in a hanging basket, just be sure not to end up with too many branches hanging down! 

Broccoli

One of my successes last year was definitely my broccoli plant. Be sure when planting out as a seedling that you provide it with protection against snails and slugs until it is slightly more developed and off the ground! One thing to remember is to harvest as soon as the head looks ready, this will allow the plant to then grow another head. If you do this too late, the second sprouts will not grow. The plant only takes around 12 weeks to grow and is super rewarding!

Some maintenance tips for fruit and veg

1. Most veg, like herbs will want well drained soil so be sure that where ever your planting water can drain away. That includes grow bags as well!

2. Regular water is essential. I'll stick with my pet analogy from earlier!

3. Provide organic fertiliser feed every week. More fertiliser is required due to the highly nutrient crop that is being produced. Different crops will respond better to different fertilisers. Organic Seaweed fertiliser is recommended in general, but specific tomato and potato fertilisers are also available for those crops.

Other Fruit and Veg that you could try growing at home

1. Potatoes - perfect for a grow bag, a big pot or if your got enough depth the garden soil! Be sure to buy potato seedlings just to gaurentee no diseases on your crops! Better to be safe than sorry.

2. Beetroot - Easy for container growing or the soil, you can continue to plant seeds through out the summer so that you have crops all season long.

3. Radish - Be sure to give space and beware of slugs and snails as the crop starts to grow!

4. Chillies - So long as they're kept warm chillies can be easily grown in the UK. So just sow seeds inside and grow indoors until summer time before putting them outside! Be sure to harvest regularly to ensure the plant puts the energy into growing seeds not just branches.

So there you have it. Some garden inspiration that I hope will show you whether its just a windowsill or a garden, you can try your hand at growing any food you fancy!

Love
Erin
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Sunday, 19 April 2020

What is Fashion Revolution Week All About?

What Is Fashion Revolution and Fashion Revolution Week?

Fashion Revolution Week runs every year in the week surrounding the 24th April.

For most people the 24th April does not signify anything major but this date is the anniversary of the 2013 Rana Plaza collapse, a catastrophic tragedy which really brought the reality of the lack of rights and transparency in the fashion industry to the forefront of many peoples eyes and minds. Rana Plaza, a building in Bangladesh, housed a number of garment factories, employing around 5,000 people. Those working there were producing clothes for many of the biggest global brands.

The building collapse saw over 1,100 people loose their life and another 2,500 people were injured making it the fourth largest industrial disaster in our history. The victims were predominantly women.

The most heartbreaking part of the tragedy was that the loss of life was preventable. In the aftermath, survivors came forward and publically explained  how all the employees knew the building was hazardous and showing cracks in the days leading up to the collapse. Multiple workers told their supervisors that they were afraid to enter the building but were forced to continue working or were threatened with loosing their jobs. The retails shops and banks on the ground floor shut down their operations due to building safety concerns, but the demand of global brands and an insatiable fashion industry called garment workers back inside to meet the never ending deadlines. The factories remained open and sadly many of  these workers who made our clothes lost their life as a result.

The truth of the situation was that many of the clothes made during this period of fear before the building collapse actually happened were packed in boxes and shipped to brands and retailers around the world and many of us bought and wore these garments stitched together in tragedy. One thing to be very aware of though, is that the culpable brands weren’t limited to ‘fast-fashion’, but included mid-price retailers. The attribute that unified all of the brands wasn’t the low price, but lack of transparency within their supply change .

Fashion Revolution as a movement was born because of the disaster. To raise the voices of those who are suffering and to change the way we look at the industry to prevent something like this ever happening again.

You can find out more about Fashion Revolution Week on the Fashion Revolution Activist Guide


What are the conditions actually like in the Fashion Industry?

The fashion industries supply chains are complex and global. Our clothes pass through the hands of cotton farmers, spinners, weavers, dyers, sewers and many more before they reach the shops where we come into contact with them (whether that is virtually or physically) and it is unknown how many people work within the industry as a result and child, trafficked and forced labour is something that is sadly rife.

77% of UK retailers believe there is a likelihood of modern slavery in their supply chain

Of the estimated 300 million people who work in the clothing industry, only around 25 to 60 million people are directly employed according to The Ellen MacArthur Foundation and most of those employed in the paid work are young women. With nearly 1 in 3 (or 8 in 10 from a more recent poll) female garment workers having experienced sexual harassment in the past 12 months, a statistic which should shock us all, the fashion industries contribution to gender inequality should be clear. Sadly though, harassment isn’t the only aspect their work garment workers have to fear. Fashion Revolution's website states "The Garment Worker Diaries project has found that less than half of the workers in their Bangladesh sample felt safe in their factories and 40% reported seeing a fire in their workplace." Demonstrating that those working in the factories are still regularly put at risk!

Over 90% of workers in the global garment industry have no possibility to negotiate their wages or conditions.

For the low pay, often below living wages in the countries where they work, garment workers are still exposed to so many risks that they shouldn't have to face and yet unable to demand better. Even recently their has been battles around unionisation.


How to get involved in Fashion Revolution Week 2020?

This year, Fashion Revolution Week is having to be a little different due to the current lock down climate. That doesn't mean that there aren't lots of things to get involved with though, it can just take a little longer to find out what's happening.

There are some simple things that we can all do though.

1. #WhoMadeMyClothes - On any social media platform you can join in to ask brands #WhoMadeMyClothes? and #WhatsInMyClothes? Be sure to tag them, as although only a few may respond, demonstrating the need for more transparent supply chains for fashion.

2. Email specific brands to ask #WhoMadeMyClothes? and #WhatsInMyClothes? using this email template. If you want to go further, be sure to ask questions on issues that really matter to you. For me that's biodiversity and sustainability. Fashion Revolution created a list of brands email address which makes it very easy to reach out.

3. Join in some online events. Fashion Revolution have pulled together lots of events online which vary from educational talks to panel discussions. Just a few which I think sound fantastic are below but there are SO many more:

20 April

13.00 Virtual Conversation With Kirsten Scott & Nina Van Volkinburg.

Kirsten Scott interviewed by Nina Von Volkinburg on the future relevance of heritage knowledge, materials and techniques in formulating a new, alternative paradigm of luxury fashion that aims to be pro-actively positive for people and planet.

14.00 Making Clothes Without Making Waste

Learn the basic principles of making a simple zero waste shirt, using scaled paper patterns. 30m Q&A with Holly McQuillan + Cassandra Macindoe.

18.00 Meet the Innovators – Fashion for Good

learn more about the start-ups at the cutting edge of sustainable fashion innovation. More information can be found on the Fashion Revolution website.

21 April

16.00 Fashion Supply Chains: What's Next?

How is Covid-19 impacting the fashion supply chain? This virtual panel discussion, sponsored by Sustainability at GSA, will explore how each stage of the business model is shifting, and focus on positive actions to make much-needed changes post-crisis.

19.30 A practical Guide to Ethical Trade

Natasha Staddon from TOC will show you how to maximise your potential to positively impact working conditions in your business and supply chain, learning the foundations of ethical compliance guiding you to online resources to support you on your journey. 

22 April

12.00 Live Q&A with Bethany Williams 

British fashion designer Bethany Williams joins us for a live stream Q&A on Earth Day to discuss her innovative and inclusive creative practice. 

13.00 Heritage & Style Talk with Alice Wilby

Alice Wilby is a stylist, creative and activist in fashion.
She has been working closely with Fashion Revolution over the years.
A woman on the frontline of fashion politics and she recently panelled at Show Studio and spoken at Conde Nast about her consultancy called "A Novel Approach " which integrates sustainable practices in fashion.

22.00 Natural Dye Workshop: Dyeing w/ Kitchen Compost with An 

Late on due to the time difference with America. the workshop will cover the fundamentals of natural dyeing with a focus on kitchen compost as the primary source for colour. A demonstration walking through the steps of prepping fabric, extracting dye from avocado skins, pits, and onion skins, and a Q&A will close out the session.

23 April

14.00 Shaping Fashion: What’s in my Clothes Webinar

five industry experts come together to discuss what clothes are made of.
- Carry Somers - Founder & Global Operations Director at Fashion Revolution
- Morten Lehmann - Chief Sustainability Officer at Global Fashion Agenda
- Sandra Capponi - Founder of Good on You
- Mariana Anacleto & Kyra Vennings - Part of 'Dirty Laundry' student collective at the Amsterdam Fashion Institute

18.30 Sustainable Fashion in the Wake of a Global Pandemic

A panel of small fashion business owners will discuss the state of sustainable fashion in the wake of the global coronavirus pandemic.

18.30 Manifesto for a Fashion Revolution

After Coronavirus, what kind of world do we want to return to? With this opportunity to reset our priorities, what do we want fashion to look like?

24 April

11.00 Mass consumption: The end of an era

Fashion Revolution is to stage a digital version of its annual Fashion Question Time event because of the current measures in place to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic

15.00 Craftivism – Collective Action in the Making

We will discuss the power of doing craft during these uncertain times and discuss some ideas of craftivism projects you can do at home.

25 April

11.00 Deconstructing Fast Fashion

This online workshop we will unpick an unwanted or damaged garment from our own wardrobes, so please bring an unpicker or small scissors and a garment.

15.50 Fashion Open Studio X Somerset House

Bethany Williams explains how to disrupt the system and make new business models with a social purpose.

All Week Tickets 

Ethical Brands for Fashion Revolution - £15 for week pass

The event showcases brands doing good through ethical practices, sustainable sourcing and circular production practices. Running from 20th to 26th April 2020, we have 7 days of virtual talks, workshops and virtual tours. The event will cover Why?, What? and How? we can all take action for the biggest movement that has no plans on stopping due to coronavirus.


So there we have it. I hope this guide proves useful and that you can understand why Fashion Revolution Week is so important!

Love
Erin

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Saturday, 28 March 2020

How to be Sustainable in a Lockdown


The current climate is scary. Emotions are all over the place and its hard not to be left with worry or concern. With us all trying to adjust to this new way of living, working and socialising it is perfectly normal to need to stop and take stock of the situation. I for one have felt afloat over the past week, with the realisation of the current situation really hitting home and the scale of what is at risk becoming more and more apparent.

With only one task on the to do list - avoid physical contact with others - I thought I'd use my only outlet on here to share with you some ideas and projects that you could undertake, should you feel so inclined to help you move towards living a more sustainable life as we emerge out of these times. Some are simple and some are pretty fun to!

So without further a do, here's a few simple things you can do to live more sustainably at home... 

1. Change your energy provider

It maybe some thing that people have been banging on about for a fair amount of time but changing your energy provider is one quick fire way to make a difference. With working from home, there has never been a more important time to ensure that you're using renewable energy to power your activities.

2. Create a compost bin

Have a garden? Why not spend some time clearing a small space to create you're own compost bin, you will need some wood to make it but it will save you a fortune on compost and help you to add value to your waste. If you don't have a garden, making sure you spend time to separate out your food waste is still really important. You can even get a little indoor composter to create what you need indoors!

3. Plant some seeds 

Empty yogurt pots, and toilet rolls are the perfect starter pots for seedlings. If you're visiting the supermarket you can grab a pack of seeds that you really think you will eat. Even better, order some organic seeds and have them delivered through the post and you can support one of your local businesses in the process.

4. Grow new from your waste

If you don't fancy growing food from seeds, why not grow food from your food waste instead. This buzz feed guide to growing food scraps is a great place to start. Foods such as lettuce, spring onion, leeks and lemongrass are a great place to start, and if your feeling adventurous, you can even turn to mushrooms and avocados!

5. A wardrobe clear out

With one truck of clothes being burnt or sent to landfill every second we all have a responsibility to do more. So why not have a wardrobe clear out, photograph your unwanted garments and sell them to to people who do whilst earning a little bit of cash on sights like ebay or depop.

6. Empty the cupboards

As people go crazy bulk buying things they really don't need, why not go the other way. Go through your cupboards and finally pull out the cans that you never use and instead donate them to your local food bank. 

7. Mend your broken clothes

We can spend a whole load of time scrolling through online shopping websites but why not put the phone down and pick up a needle and thread instead. Add a button to that shirt which you've been meaning to do for months, sew up that small hole that gradually growing on your bottoms. A new lease of life and saved your bank account from the hit. Win win.

8. Educate yourself

Have you been wondering about some of the issues surrounding sustainability? Do you not understand why there is a fashion revolution? Why you should by organic? Why we need to include privilege in the conversation around sustainability? What are the real issues with plastic? If not, now is the perfect time to learn and be able to have those insightful conversations. I'm always happy to chat away on the topic should you need someone. There are also loads of fantastic free courses out their at the moment including edx

9. Make it yourself

Why not have a little you time, and create your own scrubs or cleaning products. You will be amazed at how easy it is, you pretty much just need essential oils, coconut oil and sugar for scrubs or vinegar, orange skins and essential oils for cleaning products. EASY!

10. Stay indoors

Yes, something we are all doing anyway will massively help. Less cars on the roads means fewer emissions and therefore better for the environment. The caveat to this though, be sure to put extra layers on/ grab a blanket if you get a little chilly instead of putting on the heating.

I hope what ever you're up to in this weird time, you find comfort in knowing we are all in this together!

Love
Erin
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Sunday, 19 January 2020

A Weekend in Newport, Pembrokeshire; A Guide


It's been a while since I wrote any type of guide. It maybe more accurate to say it has been a whole since I wrote anything though with my lack of blog posts this year.

With so many incredible hotels and restaurants embracing sustainability though, I thought I'd pick up my guides around the UK. Afterall, I've done Cornwall, Applecross in Scotland, Llandudno is North Wales, Keswick in the Lake District and so here we have a guide to Newport village in Pembrokeshire, Wales. A beautiful place by the sea, moments from the hills and somewhere I will most certainly be visiting again.

Where to Stay in Newport?

For such a small town, Netport is filled with quaint little B&Bs and Inns. We stayed at Llys Meddyg Hotel and Restaurant which was incredible. With bulk toiletries in the bathrooms to reduce waste and beds which you never want to get out of, it was splendid. Finally, beautiful little lounges are available for use and are perfect for a board game or private conversation after you've visited the basement bar.

If you're wanting other options try  The Castle Inn which has a great menu of locally sourced food or Cnapan Guest House, a beautiful B&B

Where to Eat and Drink in Newport?

Our experience at  Llys Meddyg was second to none. Beautiful food sourced locally and an incredible bar where the herbs are foraged from the garden.

If you fancy pub grub, The Golden Lion or The Castle Inn both have delicious menus. Or if pizza is more your thing, The Canteen offers eat in or take away.

Finally, Tides Kitchen & Wine Bar a small restaurant right in the centre of town which runs selected menus which change daily depending on what they can get in. Perfect for a romantic get away.

What to do?

Why not rent a board and head out surfing at one of the beaches or instead go to the Witches Cauldron where you can even swim through the caves at low tide. Some would call Barafundle Bay the most beautiful beach in the country so it is also definitely worth a visit. Alternatively you could visit one of the RSPB sanctuaries at Ramsey Island and Skomer Islands.

With so many walks in the local area you have many options to choose from, whether that's a Circular walk around Dinas Island from Cym yr Eglws, or the Blue Lagoon at Abereiddy and head along the coastal path through Porthgain. Alternatively, why not walk to the top of Carn Ingli over looking Newport Bay. Finally, you could opt to walk around St Davids Head, a firm favourite and renown for its beauty.


If you happen to be their over New Years as well, then be sure to join in the Mayors Swim, a very cold but exhilarating dip in the ocean with the rest of the community.

There is so many things to do in one of the countries most beautiful areas and it's clear to see why the Pembrokeshire coast is a firm favourite for outdoor fans and ocean lovers alike. I for one, will definitely be heading back soon, who knows I may even head to a foraging course at the Llys Meddyg that they offer!

I hope this inspires you to head Pembrokeshire way, I can guarantee you wont regret it!

Love
Erin
1

Sunday, 5 January 2020

My Personal Journey; A Zoologist's Road to Sustainability


It all began whilst watching big cat diaries when I was seven or eight. I had always been a fan of animals in a big way, but in that moment, watching Simon King chase through the plains to follow a cheetah, I knew that nature in all its beauty and darkness was what I wanted to spend my life working in.

From rabbits, fish,cats, dogs and snakes, animals filled my after school time just like nature filled my holidays. Trips to Ireland, Snowdonia, Cornwall. Whether I realised it or not a the time, my favourite memories were created whilst surrounded by incredible beautiful scenery.

I attacked veterinary experience with vigor (most of the time), from lambing to assisting in theatre. When grades didn't reach requirements soon I was enrolled in Zoology at Leeds with no turning back. Three years in and my placement year saw me experience more than some do in a lifetime. I lived in Louis Trichardt, South Africa following and studying Samango and Vervet monkeys dawn till disk and witnessing the wildlife conflict and illegal farming first hand. From there I worked as an assistant keeper in the Rhino team at Chester Zoo where I saw the power large charities can have but also the weaknesses of workplace politics and the true saying of you are only as strong as your team became something of great importance to me.

Finally, I headed to the Wildlife Heritage Foundation in Kent, a private big cat charity working to build populations and work with global projects for endangered species programmes in the hope that some may be able to be part of wild rehabilitation projects in the future. At the end of that glorious year though I was left with a dilemma. Although I wanted to work with wildlife and nature, I didn't want to be a zoo keeper and however much respect I have for researchers I knew it wasn't for me. I was left with the feeling that you need big businesses to buy in to truly change the world.


That is what led me to my masters in Sustainability and Consultancy. A way to learn about business and the built environment. It was a steep learning curve into a corporate world I never expected to enter.

Two years on, I'm 26. I live in a city I never thought I would head to, London. I've left vast open forests and spaces, for sky scrapers and crowded streets. Bizarrely enough I work for one of the largest real estate consultancies in the world as a sustainability analyst working with clients to create sustainability strategies, tackle their emissions, improve practices, create conversation and push for better business.

I cant say that its been easy because it most definitely hasn't been. I may not be on the front line saving a cheetahs as what eight year old me may have hoped. I am however in what I would call the sustainability capital of the world, working for a company really trying to drive positive change in an industry which accounts for 40% of global emissions and real progress can be made.

What I've come to realise on my windy journey into sustainability is that there is no use saving a species that the world in 40 years time will be uninhabitable for. As our oceans rise and cause coral to vanish, and vast swaths of forests burn across the world, trying to just save them alone will not work. We need to change how we live in the world first. And that is down to each and every one of us, both in work and at home, in every decision we make to ensure that our natural world can survive.


I am still a Zoologist first and a sustainability professional second. Being immersed in the natural world brings me the greatest joy, turning my stress to calm and taking my worries with it but for now I know where I can have the biggest impact to create change. We need people in companies who care about where materials are coming from and questioning why people put cost savings above the planet, researchers inventing new ways to use our waste, experts offering advice which stretches clients to go further than they may feel comfortable, individuals who really want change pushing forward new policy and all of us collectively raising our voices and awareness for the issues that matter. Without us, change will not happen quick enough.

We all want a future that is bright, where we can raise families without the concern of air pollution, habitat destruction, species collapse, food shortages, empty oceans and uninhabitable places we once called home. This may sound extreme but it the reality of the challenge we are facing. We can all be part of the solution, doing something however big or small is better than doing nothing and so I encourage you to join me in being part of the solution.

Till the next step in my journey, your sustainable zoologist,
Erin

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