Live LAGOM Project Update

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It’s been three months since I picked up my sustainable living stash from IKEA (see here for my first post about it). Because I live on my own in a small flat it was a struggle to spend £500 (I didn’t spend it all) – I wanted to pick things that really would be useful. The changes I’ve made have been small but I’ve become a lot more conscious about everyday living. The bulk of the money actually went on soft furnishings to keep my flat warm because with old electric heaters and no double-glazing it did get chilly! I picked a huge soft rug for my living area which made the world of difference, it was really noticeable how cold my feet got elsewhere in the house. I also put up new blackout curtains in the bedroom and blind for the kitchen. The blind was a bit tricky because I had to cut it to length so that it fit snuggly in the window. This involved sawing through the (very thin) metal rod and cutting the blind with a Stanley knife. I have a recommendation for IKEA on this – print squared guidelines on the back of the blind to make it easier to cut straight! It’s a very inexpensive way to improve the look and warmth in the kitchen though so was well worth taking the time to fit it properly.

Me enjoying the view more than DIY

Me enjoying the view more than DIY

My New Year’s Resolutions

My resolutions were 1) zero food waste 2) stop wasting heat 3) achieve 100% recycling 4) save water. I’ve already discussed saving heat so let’s think about food. First, I’ve been popping down to my local weekly ‘Veg shed’ whenever I can. Not only is it supporting local growers but it’s great value for money and means I get things in season and at their best. I’ve been far more careful with portion sizes and had a clear out of the cupboards and freezer so I could keep track of exactly what I had.

On to recycling . . . Now, I don’t think I can say I’ve reached the 100% recycling zone but I’ve certainly been trying. I took the time to visit the city council website to see exactly what could go in my recycling bins (magazines – yes, gift wrap – no) and I’ve been washing out my jars and plastic tubs rather than lazily throwing them in the bin. I found out the council even have a recycling app with all the important info and collection dates. I also had a sort out and visited the City Depot Recycling Park. It was fantastic to see so much going on. I took years’ worth of broken and unusable electronics – old kettle, lamp, laptops, things that can be broken down and disposed of/reused safely.

And finally for my saving water efforts. The main change I’ve made is to reserve baths as a treat and stick to showers. I just felt so guilty sitting in a huge tub of water. I also realized that I often took a bath to warm up when I got home but by taking the steps to keep the flat warmer anyway that wasn’t so necessary.

My plans moving forward are to keep going as I have been and as spring comes start foraging more for food!

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The Growing Market for Green Roofs

If all roofs were green, cities could disappear from a bird’s eye view. Green or living roofs (by which I mean a roof laid to grass or wild flowers) are so more than just a talking point. They have a real purpose; greening city landscapes, providing biodiversity, improving air and water quality and reducing sound transfer. They could also be a way to limit the damage of future floodwaters because green roofs can retain 70-80% of summer rainfall in contrast to traditional drainage systems that are unable to cope with the increasing rain water levels. Green roofs store the rainwater in plants and substrate; releasing the water back into the atmosphere through evapotranspiration. I predict we’ll be seeing more green roofs in the future and not just on commercial buildings and garden sheds, but on residential housing too. I’m therefore happy to present Sky Garden – the UK’s leading independent green roof specialist. In the rest of this post they talk about the exciting project’s they’ve worked on (including the roof of a salad factory and Gloucester services) and the different systems they can offer.

All the vegetation in Sky Garden systems are locally grown and use recycled materials where possible. From the organic material and recycled brick in substrate, to the high density recycled polypropylene in our modular trays.

Green Roof Projects

Kanes Foods
Green roof kanes

One of our most exciting projects in recent times is the 6,000m² wildflower green roof on the construction of a new salad factory local to Sky Garden in rural Worcestershire. The building was designed to minimise the impact to the local environment and blend into the surrounding Cotswold Hills. The wildflower meadow on the curved roof contains specifically pre-grown wildflower blanket with species local to the Cotswolds.

British Horse Society
British Horse Society Courtesy of Kier Group copy

The iconic 2200m² sedum blanket system on the roof of the BHS offices just South of Birmingham was for employees to offer guidance on everything you need to know about riding, horse ownership and working in the industry. The ‘doughnut’ shaped building with an ancient oak tree taking centre stage offered many complexities however has since become one of the iconic sedum roofs in Britain.

Gloucester Services
Gloucester-Shoot-04 copy

The service station on the northbound side of the M5 between J11 and J12 was constructed to be different from typical service stations. The 4,000m² state of the art bio-diverse living roof is designed to disguise the new service station as part of rolling Robinswood Hills. The wildflower seed mix was chosen to match the abundant grasses and wildflowers in the area such as the Self Heal, Yellow Rattle and Birdsfoot Trefoil. The roof helps to support and preserve the pollinating insects as well as the heritage of our native British wild flora habitats.

Green Roof Systems

Sky Garden offers a variety of green roof systems to cater for every need. All the vegetation is grown by our experts at our local Gloucestershire nursery. We currently offer four standard green roof systems.

• Sedum Systems – The traditional green roof system can be either a sedum blanket or sedum plug plant green roof system. Sky Garden’s sedum blanket is a pre-grown mat of mature sedum plants compared to the sedum plug plant system being individual sedum plugs planted across the roof.

• Wildflower Systems – Sky Garden’s wildflower system includes a wildflower blanket that is sown with a seed mix of 38 species of wildflowers and grasses to create a vibrant array of colour on your roof.

• Bio-diverse Systems – Sky Garden’s bio-diverse system, also known as a ‘brown roof’ system, mimics the surrounding environment that has been lost due to development in order to reduce the ecological impact as much as possible. Often left to self-seed, the substrate is contoured to allow for a variety of native species to establish.

• Modular Systems – The modular system is made up of pre-formed cells that easily ‘click’ together to create a complete green roof quickly and without fuss. Each recyclable polypropylene tray has build in water retention and includes a filtration layer, growing substrate and sedum plants.

All green roof systems follow a similar template. A protection fleece layer adds an extra layer of defence to the waterproofing layer. Drainage and water retention layers designed specifically for living roofs. This includes a filter fleece layer to prevent blockages to the drainage of excess water. A substrate layer created from recycled brick with organic material allows for nutrient and moisture retentive growing medium. On top of this would be your vegetation layer, whether it’s a pre-grown blanket, seeded or plug planted.

For more info see www.sky-garden.co.uk

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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

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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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Bigging up Braintree Clothing the Sustainable Clothing Brand

Emma Waight Bthoughtful ethical fashion blog

Braintree Clothing is now THOUGHT CLOTHING

A couple of months ago I was featured on Braintree Clothing’s Bthoughtful blog, not just once, but twice! First of all they asked me to share some of my sustainable living tips in conjunction with World Environment Day 2015. You can read my tips here, which include buying second-hand, collaborative consumption and shopping locally.

Then they asked me for my top 5 picks from their SS15 ethical fashion collection, not a laborious task I must say! I went to visit their headquarters and studio last year for an interview later published in their SS15 magazine. Although born in Syndey, Braintree are now based in London where they design and sell beautiful ethical clothing using bamboo, hemp and organic cotton.

Visiting the Braintree Studio last summer

Visiting the Braintree Studio last summer


Braintree's ethical fashion range

Braintree’s ethical fashion range

Many of the pieces I selected as my top picks are now on sale so I thought I’d share with you my top sale picks available now (see below for the pics).

Dharma organic cotton wrap dress, £35 from £69. One to twirl around in!
Marley stripe batwing knitwear top, £24.90 from £49.90. One of my original picks and I still love the colours.
Hip zip throw cardigan, £28 from £49.90. One to totally see you through autumn, winter and back round to spring again.
Dashka hart bamboo leggings, £11 from £22. Braintree are my go-to brand for soft, bamboo leggings and these ones are on sale.
Inkkas high top trainers, £37.50 from £75. So cool, but not many sizes left so be quick!
Men’s Floyd stripe grandpa top, £15.95 from £29.90. One for the boys, Braintree have a good range of ethical menswear basics too.

Braintree are also famous for their natural bamboo socks so be sure to check them out and more ethical fashion at www.braintreeclothing.com

Braintree ethical fashion sale picks

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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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Brand Watch: Naturally Selina Scott Mohair Socks

It seems everyone has been a bit ill recently, including me, so it really cheered me up when I received a gift from Naturally Selina Scott. What better for winter than some cosy luxury socks, they have been worn many, many times already I can tell you. Knitted from a mohair/nylon blend, these socks are sustainably produced and ethically sourced and most importantly will keep my feet warm even on the coldest of days.

SelinaScott Socks

Famed as a BBC journalist and presenter, Selina Scott was one of the first female newsreaders in the 80s. It was whilst filming a documentary in Scotland twenty years ago that she came across and subsequently adopted 6 Angora goats! Back at her 200 acre farm in North Yorkshire, Selina decided to start selling beautiful Mohair socks, using the lustrous Mohair fibre from these gentle animals.

The business has gone from strength to strength and as her own goats have hit retirement (I’ve been assured they still live happily on the farm!), the Mohair is now sourced from selected farms in South Africa where the socks are also made. The brand also sells cashmere shawls and scarves from Outer Mongolia and hat, glove and scarf cashmere sets sourced from Afghanistan.

Mohair makes a great choice for socks. Sheared from Angora goats in ‘long glamorous ringlets’ twice a year, Mohair is a strong, sustainable fibre. It washes well, not that you’ll need to wash them every wear, the anti-bacterial properties of the fibre keep your feet smelling fresh for days! Providing warmth when you need it, but still being breathable, these are the most comfortable socks I’ve ever worn.

Ankle socks start at £9.95, Kids day socks are £14.95 and long walking socks are £17.95.

You can also buy their superfine cashmere shawls and support the Born Free Foundation. In super glam leopard and snow leopard prints, £25 is donated to the wildlife foundation for each £149 shawl. Cost per wear, I don’t think that works out too bad as I’d want to wear it every day.

https://www.selinascott.com/

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