Live Lagom: New Year’s Resolutions for Sustainable Living

wind turbines

For many, Christmas is the epitome of excess. Sitting at my parents surrounded by the last remnants of wrapping paper, overflowing bins and untouched Christmas cake overshadowed by even more delectable boxes of chocolates, I could vouch for that. In contrast, January marks a month of frugality and dieting as we struggle to cling onto the last few pounds in our bank accounts whilst shedding the extra pounds round our middles. Somewhere in-between this though, we can find ‘Lagom är bäst’ – my motto for 2016 and the title of a new project lead by Ikea and Hubbub.

Lagom är bäst’ is Swedish for ‘the right amount is best’, or ‘just enough’. It’s the focus of a large new project I’m participating in – a collaboration between Ikea, the charity Hubbub, and the University of Southampton, to help everyday households live more sustainably. I’m so excited that I can finally talk about it as I was first approached to take part back in the autumn. I’ve since attended a workshop at Ikea and had a home visit by Ikea and Hubbub workers. I have a feeling I might be the smallest household in the project with my studio flat, but across the UK around 150 households are taking part over the next few months.

What does the project involve?

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If everyone lived as we do in the UK currently we’d need the resources of three planets to support us. We all have a responsibility to cut down on our environmental impact and a huge amount of time and resources are being put into research and policy to help us do this. Yes, business and industry are major perpetrators but this doesn’t take the onus off individuals – together we can make a difference.

Live LAGOM is part experiment, part awareness-building project. The participants (who were selected via an application process through the IKEA Family network or based on current involvement with similar projects) were each given up to £500 to spend on IKEA products, specifically selected to encourage and enable sustainable living at home. Available items included LED light fittings, storage for recycling, water saving taps and heat-saving curtain liners. We had to complete an initial questionnaire about our habits and awareness and will be asked to report our progress throughout the project running until summer 2016.

I was invited to a morning workshop at my local Southampton store with six other participants where we learnt about the project and got to see some of the products IKEA have developed to help sustainable living. I was really impressed with IKEA’s dedication and the knowledge of staff as they gave us a tour of the store, learning as much about their sustainable operations as they products they sold.

All three of the project leaders are directly involved in the sustainability agenda. Even Ikea, whom I’ve long had concerns about for flogging cheap stuff to consumers who have no qualms about chucking it out when they move house or fancy a change of décor, are pioneering both sustainable living and more sustainable production. For example, Ikea are a founding member of the Better Cotton Initiative, becoming the first major retailer to use 100% cotton from more sustainable sources in 2015. In addition, the IKEA Group produced renewable energy equivalent to 53% of the total energy consumption in its operations, and is on track for 100% by 2020.

HUBBUB is a new charity with a fresh approach to environmental stewardship. I’m totally on board with their ethos of focusing on the positives of making environmentally friendly choices – having fun and saving money – rather than doom and gloom lecturing. This year they ran upcycling workshops for clothing with many more activities in store for 2016. Finally, the University of Surrey have made sustainable living and sustainable development a focus of their research and engagement efforts with the Sustainable Lifestyles Research Group and brand new international Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity. I’ll be very interested to see what they do with the data from the Live LAGAOM project.

My New Year’s Resolutions

vegbasket

So that’s an introduction to the project. I had my IKEA shopping trip in December. It felt odd chucking things in a trolley for free; I couldn’t bring myself to spend my whole £500! It went a long way, even by spending nearly half of it on a massive rug to keep my feet warm. I will collect my shopping this week and will prepare future blog updates around my progress on the resolutions listed below. In general, I think I do alright with my sustainability efforts – I don’t have a tumble drier, I’m careful with water, I recycle, and I love buying second-hand goods. That said, there’s plenty of room for improvement so my resolutions for 2016 are:

1. Zero food waste. I don’t waste much food but I do waste some – the slimy lettuce, stale bread, over abundance of cooked rice, etc. Living alone it’s fairly easy to keep track of but I have a habit of buying a weeks’ worth of veg forgetting that I’m away for a long weekend so my aim for 2016 is to be scrupulously careful with food. I have some great new containers from IKEA to help. They’re glass (so no worries about leaching plastic) but with a secure plastic lid. I love them! One thing that really upsets me is the fact that living in a flat I have nowhere to put my compost waste. There’s not much I can do about this but I do plan to ask the freeholder if they’d consider a composting area outside. I also want to forage for my own food more and have lined up a course I want to take to learn more about it.

2. Stop wasting heat. I have drafty windows with little if no insulation. Being in a top floor flat only one of my four windows has curtains (two are skylights) and even those are incredibly thin. I got new curtains, blackout liners and blinds from IKEA so expect a post on my efforts at fitting those!

3. Achieve 100% recycling. I have good recycling – Southampton City Council take plastic, tins, paper and glass and I’m mostly good with it but occasionally you just can’t be bothered to wash a jar, right? I’m sure I’m not alone with this? I could do more basically – very little needs to go in my bin.

4. Save water. Again, I do think about water consumption but there is more I can do. I’ve started to be innovative already, like filling up my hot water bottle with water used to steam vegetables (beware of spillage) but I can save even more by taking fewer baths and shorter showers, and using the washing up bowl acquired at IKEA rather than filling up the sink.

Some of my IKEA products will help me live more sustainably without changing my habits. I already turn lights off when I’m not in a room, but my new LED light bulbs will save me up to 80% of energy I’m currently using. Similarly, an electric timer attached to the plug will end the need to keep phones charging all night.

Watch this space for future blog updates!

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Shopping for ethical wood flooring

ethicalwoodflooring

When I moved into my flat nearly three years ago the excitement of having my own place to decorate and do up was overshadowed by a lack of time and money to really do what I wanted to it. I got a new kitchen but it was cheap, and now my oven has broken and so has the cupboard door. I’m also still waiting to have it tiled (although I have recently purchased the tiles!). However, I did find ways to put my stamp on the place, and for me that meant a lot of second-hand furniture. Your home should be an extension of yourself, so for me that means trying to live in a healthy and ethical environment, warm but admittedly a little bit shabby. Buying second-hand furniture let me ‘save’ proper solid wood pieces from landfill and give them a new home.

Part of the second-hand magic is not really knowing where that item has come from. Right now I’m sat at my 1950s desk typing this blog. Who else has been sat at this desk? What did they write? Would did they have to say? It’s mindboggling! Of course, the unknown isn’t always desirable. When I buy anything new I want the exact opposite. I want to know where that item has come from and who made it. And often that’s tricky to find out.

What’s FSC wood?

If you’re buying new furniture, wood flooring, decking or kitchen worktops you can sleep soundly at night by choosing FSC certified products. FSC stands for Forest Stewardship Council, an international non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting responsible and sustainable forestry. Founded twenty years ago, FSC work with forest owners, businesses and communities to ensure forested areas remain environmentally and socially sustainable. They provide principles for managing forests well, helping communities benefit from the land whilst ensuring that harvested trees are replaced or allowed to rejuvenate naturally.

The FSC audit forests through trusted partners such as the Soil Association, putting their name and logo to wood that meets their ethical principles. The certified chain of custody tracks timber through the supply chain so we, as consumers, can trust wood and paper products with the FSC logo as having been produced in a responsible manner. It is the only forestry scheme endorsed by major charities like WWF and Greenpeace and as such has become a desirable certification for retailers to acquire.

A great one-stop shop for FSC certified wood flooring, decking and wooden kitchen worktops is www.woodandbeyond.com. Sourced straight from the manufacturer, Wood and Beyond are able to offer a wide range of quality, ethical wood flooring at competitive prices. If you need advice on the best wood flooring options for your home, check out this simple guide.

How else can you make your home ‘ethical’?

It’s important to me to live in a healthy, sustainable environment. Another thing I looked into when I redecorated my flat was environmentally friendly and healthy paint. According to the Guardian the constituents of conventional paints may include formaldehyde, heavy metals and volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. None of those things are particularly good but luckily there are plenty of alternatives available from the likes of Ecos Organics Paints and earthborn. Plus, if you can’t live without Farrow and Ball, they do eco paint too!

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Uni Project Turned Brit Business: Get Made in Britain Clothes Online

British manufacturing UK design shirt

The British Clothing Co is a brand new online retailer of sustainably sourced, British manufactured accessories and clothing.

The idea was originally dreamed up as part of a university project in 2013, as Hollie, then studying Fashion Marketing at Nottingham Trent, wanted to research into an area she felt strongly about; ethical and sustainable fashion. At the time, there was becoming slightly more awareness of British manufacturing due to the likes of Mary Portas’ “Kinky Knickers” campaign, along with some major retailers releasing British made ranges.

From here she researched into consumer attitudes towards fashion consumption, whilst also speaking to a range of manufacturers within the British Isles. She found that most of these manufacture small-scale production lines and even bespoke products, making sure they are of the highest quality, and meaning they will last for season after season. This is the complete antithesis of the disposable, fast-fashion many British consumers have become accustomed too.

After graduating, gaining industry experience and doing some traveling, Hollie decided in early 2015 to put the ideas into action and started The British Clothing Co. Putting together a brand with a strong ethos and range of suppliers who resonate the same values of quality and craftsmanship. The mission being to educate and inspire consumers of the wide selection of quality garments produced from a variety of brands within Britain, proving that fashion can be sustainable, for the environment and their local economy.

At present, The British Clothing Co stocks pieces from a variety of brands from across the British Isles. For the sartorial gentleman they stock garments by Meccanica Cycles and Quantock Clothing, including Chinos, Polo Shirts, Merino Knitwear and Polo Shirts, along with a small preview-collection from Living in Light. For the classically stylish woman, there is a wider range of boho-inspired dresses from Living In Light, along with Hugget Jackets and incredibly feminine workwear by Client London. Along with accessories, including hard-wearing canvas backpacks by Sidewinder Apparel and up-cycled clutch bags by Reniqlo.

Check out these pieces and more at www.thebritishclothingco.co.uk. Additional lines to be added soon!

100% British wool pencil skirt, £69

100% British wool pencil skirt, £69

Made in London stripe backpack, £139

Made in London stripe backpack, £139

Made in Britain menswear

Made in Britain menswear

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Spring Beauty: The Story of the Daffodil

"Narcisa 0012" by Martinas Angel

“Narcisa 0012” by Martinas Angel

Signs of spring are starting to shine through. On the way to work today I passed lots of daffodils. Daffodils are my favourite flower! They are a sure sign of spring, a bright yellow beacon of life emerging from the (wet) ground. I love how they ‘spring’ up all over the place – at the side of the road, on roundabouts, outside your window. When people plant daffodils they provide pleasure year after year.

Daffodils have quite a history. They are more than just a sign of spring, they have other symbolism attached to them. Daffodils are officially known as by the name ‘Narcissus’ and native to Europe, North Africa and West Asia, traditionally appearing in woodlands. Narcissus is a figure from Greek mythology who drowned whilst gazing at his own reflection in water. It’s not known if the two are actually related but certainly in the West the daffodil is seen to symbolise vanity and egotism. In popular culture the two are often associated, for example in the Metamorphosis of Narcissus by Salvador Dali. The oil painting depicts Narcissus sitting in a pool, gazing down. Not far away there is a decaying stone figure which corresponds closely to him but is perceived quite differently; as a hand holding up a bulb or egg from which a daffodil is growing. Could a story of such gloom be related to a flower of such life?

In modern times, the daffodil is used as a symbol of Easter and iconic for Mother’s Day. It’s also the national flower of Wales, chosen because it is in bloom for St David’s Day on March 1st. From the sixteenth century, the daffodil was given fun synonyms such as ‘Daffadown Dilly’ and ‘Daffydowndilly’. Narcissus has had various uses from ancient times. Romans used narcissus ointment to create a fragrance called Narcissinum. Arabs used it in their perfumery, as well as to cure baldness. In India, the oil of narcissus, as well as fragrant oils of sandal, jasmine, and rose, is applied to body before prayer. In France it was used for treating epilepsy and hysteria. The scent of the oil is strong and rich, and is used in some famous perfumes although you probably wouldn’t have noticed.
Personally I think the best use for daffodils is to leave them be. Even with their dark mythology, I still see them as happy, playful flowers and a sure sign of the changing seasons. Their beautiful yellow hue brightens up the dullest of settings. They grow easily here in the UK so you can snip off your garden surplus and bring them into the house, carbon footprint free!

With Mother’s Day coming up, Marks and Spencer have the most beautiful bouquet of 80 sunny daffodils and 20 purple tulips, currently on offer for £25.

Daffodil bouquet, M&S

Daffodil bouquet, M&S

You can also check out my recent post for Fairtrade Fortnight on Ethical High Street where I look at Fairtrade cut flowers and why such certification is necessary in an industry we rarely consider past the beauty of the blooms. Fairtrade flowers are available from a number of places including Marks and Spencer and online at Arena Flowers who offer free delivery 7 days a week, perfect for Mother’s Day.

Arena Flowers are currently offering 15% off all products. Click here to browse and enter MUM15 at the checkout to apply the discount, until 15th March.

I’m currently writing about a different Fairtrade product each day for Fairtrade Fortnight, see them all at ethicalhighstreet.co.uk

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Nominate your Eco Champions for Observer Ethical Awards 2015

Observer Ethical Awards 2015 - nominate image

I’ve taken an interest in the Observer Ethical Awards for years, but I don’t think I’ve ever submitted a nomination. Which is terrible considering a) how easy it is to nominate online and b) how many brilliant people and projects I know deserve recognition. Perhaps that’s why I never nominated, because I simply couldn’t choose one over others, but then that’s an awful excuse too considering you can submit multiple different nominations for each category. With this in mind, I don’t feel entirely comfortable sitting here and telling you to vote, but, you really should vote.

For a start, it’s the tenth anniversary year of the awards. And secondly, Ethical High Street (my ‘baby’) was asked to be an official supporter for 2015. Ten years ago the Observer Ethical Awards launched with the idea that a lot of good people were doing brilliant things for environmental and social justice in the UK and that such acts should be celebrated. Despite national policies to cut carbon emissions and support the vulnerable, it is often up to pioneering individuals and small enterprises to make a real difference to local communities and the environment.

The Observer Ethical Awards celebrate individuals, businesses and groups. You can check out all of the categories below. Nominations have been open since the end of January and are only open for another month, but who has the tricky task of picking the winners? Well, in part you do. Three of the awards will be voted for by the public, that’s,

Best Ethical Product of the Decade
Campaigner of the Year
Green Briton of the Year

The responsibility of awarding the other categories falls on the shoulders of an exceptionally strong team of judges, including:

Stuart Bailey, head of sustainability and climate change, National Grid plc
Dr Damian Carrington, head of environment, the Guardian
Camila Batmanghelidjh, founder and chief executive, Kids Company
Liz Earle MBE, founder, Liz Earle Wellbeing
Ben Fogle, TV presenter, writer and adventurer
Livia Firth, creative director of Eco-Age Limited, founder of the Green Carpet Challenge®
Jane Goodall, primatologist, ethologist, anthropologist, and UN Messenger of Peace
And more!

They will be wading through the nominations for the ethical wildlife award, sustainable style award, community energy project, and categories for arts and culture, film and television and the Ecover Young Green Champion.

The results will be announced at a packed awards ceremony in July. Stay tuned for more updates and get online to vote for your favourites.

Find out more: ethicalhighstreet.co.uk/observer-ethical-awards-2015/

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