Author: Clare Bridger, Owner of Isabella's Trinkets
When I first saw on Facebook that the Hampstead Norreys Community Shop was looking for ideas to eradicate the distribution of plastic (or any other disposable) carrier bags from its premises, I decided to undertake a little research.
It was during this research that I came across a scheme that was transforming unwanted duvet covers, curtains and any other scrap material into simple cotton tote bags. Giving this fabric a new lease of life really appealed to me, particularly for such a worthwhile cause; eliminating plastic carrier bags from Hampstead Norreys Community shop for good. It provided me with a way to use my sewing skills and recycle all that unwanted fabric. I had been planning to take a huge bag of duvet covers to the charity shop and I also have boxes & boxes of scrap material.
I offered to make a few bags for Lesley and she invited me to come for a chat.
The Bring Me Back Bag is born
I had not been to the shop before, although my husband occasionally stopped off on his way to work. I arrived at the shop and must admit I was a little bit daunted when I discovered I was up in front of the Sustainability Group Committee. Lesley introduced me to Vanessa & Mary, 2 fellow members of the Hampstead Norreys Community Shop Sustainability Group.
The shop is set within the courtyard of Manor Farm with its beautifully restored barns, available to rent as holiday homes. The shop was built in 2011 and has since been extended to include a cafe and outdoor seating area.
Walking into the shop, I was greeted with such a welcoming and friendly atmosphere. It was busy and full of lively chatter. I live in a small village where there is no shop. The only meeting places are the one pub, the social club or the Church.
Set up in the corner of the cafe, we began to discuss how we could proceed. I'd brought various examples of bags I'd made. We decided to set up our very own sewing bee to make some simple fabric bags the Hampstead Norreys Community Shop could put into circulation; the idea being that customers would return them to the shop on their next visit. These community reuseable bags needed a name and what better name than to say it like it is; the Bring Me Back bag was born.
We needed to find somewhere for our sewing bee to meet, but the cost of hiring a village hall was out of the question for this group of volunteers. The answer was obvious however – with a nice long table, perfect for cutting fabric, some smaller tables where we could set up our sewing machines and plenty of electrical sockets, the community shop café made the perfect venue for our evening meet ups. So fitting! "And there was cake!" Sadly I was told that I couldn't help myself to cake when the cafe was shut.
As a couple was leaving the cafe, the lady came over and apologised for overhearing our discussion. It transpired that she was an avid seamstress and she asked if she could join our group; so now we had recruited Karen and we were 4.
Lesley asked me what I felt I would get out of the project. The truth was, I was looking forward to meeting and chatting to new people, whilst doing something I love (sewing) and contributing to a community project that would help reduce the use of plastic.
We wanted to create our own logo but the question was, how to transfer it onto the bags. I'd looked into various options such as screen printing and iron-on transfers, but both seemed pretty costly with a budget of…….zero!
Vanessa came up with some design options for a logo, while I investigated transfer methods.
We decided to set up a trial workshop to see how we got on. To my delight, Vanessa offered to bring cake!
Many years ago, I used to do stencilling and would cut all my own stencils. Vanessa produced a very simple, but effective logo, which was easy enough to replicate in a stencil. With a 2-colour design and some fabric paint, it was very easy to run off a whole batch of patches bearing the Bring Me Back bag logo.
The next step was to add the lettering. I had a printing set, but that seemed too lengthy a process. I finally decided to transfer the lettering using just a fabric pen and a light box. My daughter had used a light box at school for her A level textiles but rather than buy one, I found that a plastic storage box with a lid and a set of Christmas fairy lights was just as effective!
The logo patch also doubles as a pocket on the front of the bag.
Bring Me Back bags in circulation
Since the start of this project, we've received fabric donations by the cupboard full (Vanessa and Mary, who are storing the bulk of the fabric, will attest to that!) enabling our little sewing bee to make more than 50 bags for the Hampstead Norreys Community Shop. Customers have been incredibly positive and supportive about this creative way to reduce the amount of plastic leaving the premises.
We’ve also made a few Bring Me Back bags for other local businesses in Thatcham and we’ve started to create Bring Me Back Bag sewing kits so we can extend the reach of this project to others in the community (and keep up with the demand for these bags as the shop attracts more and more visitors with all the publicity its been receiving!)
So, if you get to GreenFest and realise you’ve forgotten your reuseable bag, pop into the Hampstead Norreys Community Shop and grab a Bring Me Back bag.
This has been a truly exciting and successful initiative and a lovely way to gather as a community, for our community, doing something we enjoy.
4 Common Negative Emotions driving your Climate Anxiety and how to FLIP them into something Healthier and more Sustainable for you and the Planet
Author: Natalie Roberts, Relationship and Mindfulness Coach
When you picture in your mind’s eye burning Amazonian rainforests, starving polar bears in the Arctic, beaches and oceans littered with rubbish, mountains of unrecycled plastic, indigenous people uprooted from their homes to farm cattle and grow cash crops… what emotion arrives in you most quickly?
Overwhelm? Worry? Anxiety? Panic? Anger? Guilt? Grief? Shame? Apathy? Numb?
When we experience these negative emotions, our brain and subsequently our body is in stress mode. This is not a mode conducive to good decision making, healthy relationships or effective, lasting change – the very outcomes that will resolve the issues that extend from global governments to the dinner table and the very issues I know those of you reading this are so passionate about.
As a Relationship Coach, clients often ask me how they can escape these negative emotions that have often plagued them for much longer and in relation to many more issues than the planet – the planet has simply become the next in a long line of situations that trigger them. They know that feeling like this is costing them their happiness, health and their closest relationships….and in many homes, green issues and recycling have become the latest daily battleground!
For the most part, our society focuses on managing symptoms and it’s certainly a place to begin, as we’ve seen with the success of programmes such as Blue Planet to raise awareness and influence our behaviours in relation to single use plastic. The problem is that managing symptoms only gets us so far and often not very far at all. As we’re beginning to see with recycling, it simply hides the real and bigger problem.
Unravelling and resolving causes can create lasting and sustainable recovery and flourishing for individuals, families, communities and ultimately the planet. It turns hopeless into hopeful and powerless into empowered.
A better planet is dependent on better relationships and though it can be really tough to admit, it begins with the relationship closest to home; with yourself.
So can I ask you a couple of questions?
What’s the truth? How’s your relationship with YOU?
On a scale of 0 of 10… 0 being it’s dreadful and 10 being it’s so good I can’t stop smiling… where are you? ...and what’s going to happen if you keep feeling like that?
Ask yourself the questions again if you need to!
If you picked anything less than an 8, this quick guide can assist you to make some immediate and potentially lasting changes that go beyond managing symptoms. I’m exposing four dangerous and scarily common habits that create negative emotionality and how you can flip them into something healthier and more sustainable for you and the planet… ready to get started?
These dangerous habits don’t just apply to making changes to help the environment – they show up in all areas of our life and you can use the same flip strategies to confront all sorts of issues in your life.
When we convert negative emotionality into positive, we can react and respond from a more loving and peaceful place inside us. LOVE not fear is in the driving seat then and we can write a whole new story about ourselves, our relationships and our world from there.
Questions? Head for my coaching caravan on the Dean Meadow at GreenFest. I’ll be there all day and at 2.30-3.30 I’ll be leading a Mindfulness in Nature workshop. If you’ve never had a go at being mindful or you want to start flipping dangerous habit number four, come along and join in (all ages welcome)!
Are you feeling stuck in your relationship, unable to resolve challenges that are impacting you and your family? Natalie is an award-winning, accredited Master Coach and mentor, assisting individuals and couples to resolve issues and thrive in their relationships.
m: 07977 585072
Author: Vanessa Collins, GreenFest Organiser
As the world heats up around us, we realise there is no magic bullet to stop what we’ve started. There is a lot of work to be done in many areas to ensure that the world is hospitable….indeed habitable for our children. But, while the scientists look to more and more extreme ideas such as mechanical trees, turning CO2 into fuel and even fertilising the sea with iron salts to promote plankton growth, there is something we can all be doing to a greater or lesser degree that will lower CO2 levels in our atmosphere dramatically. That is to plant more trees!
In the UK, our woodland cover is just 13%. Globally, forests cover only 31% of the planet. A study by Tom Crowther at the Swiss university ETH Zürich (this study was actually inspired by Felix Finkbeiner, child founder of the global movement Plant for the Planet) found that there is enough land on the planet to plant 3 trillion trees without impacting land in use. That would mean a doubling of our tree cover, something scientists all agree will play an important part in tackling climate change.
It’s not just their appetite for CO2 that we love about trees. Did you know each tree provides enough oxygen for three people to breathe? They provide shade (after some of the temperatures we’ve experienced this July, we can all agree this is a definite benefit!), a home for our wildlife, natural flood defences and I don’t know about you, but given the choice between mechanical or REAL trees, I know what’s better for my wellbeing.
Ultimately, trees of any shape, size, or genetic origin help absorb CO2. Most scientists agree that the least expensive and easiest way for us to offset the CO2 we generate is to plant a tree...any tree, so long as it is appropriate for the given region and climate.
And the best thing? It doesn’t take years of scientific development and testing to get this underway. We can do it now. There’s plenty of ways anyone and everyone can get involved whether, you have no time to spare or you’re willing to give some hours to get hands on and dirty!
How can you get involved?
1. Start Using Ecosia
Planting trees couldn’t be any easier than this. Ecosia is a search engine that uses at least 80% of the profit it makes from your searches to plant trees where they are needed most. In June 2019, 10 years after its conception, it hit a planting milestone of 60 million trees. And, as if these green credentials weren’t enough, it has built its own solar energy plant to power every search; so no CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels here either!
Are you ready to start planting? Just click here to add the Ecosia extension to your browser now.
2. Get your School Planting Free Trees
To achieve its target to plant 64 million trees over the next 10 years, the Woodland Trust is giving away tree packs to schools, colleges, nurseries, outdoor learning centres and any other not-for-profit community organisation you can think of, official or not. The important bit is that your group is willing to take on the planning, planting and care of the saplings….and provide the land to do it on of course.
The Woodland Trust's tree planting campaign
Newbury local Jackie Paynter and a team of Thatcham and Newbury volunteers have, between them, approached 48 schools, scout groups and village committees in West Berkshire and the surrounding areas over the last couple of months, providing them with all the information they need to take part in this greenest of schemes.
What can you do? Why not provide a copy of Jackie’s comprehensive information pack to your child’s school or local schools in your area and see if they can be persuaded to take up The Woodland Trust’s free trees offer. The only limitation is space. Beyond that, it gives children a hands on educational experience, while empowering them to make a positive difference to the world around them.
Email Jackie to request her information pack at email@example.com. Jackie is one of our GreenFest volunteers, so please ask one of our volunteers to introduce you if you’d like to chat with her about what she’s up to.
3. Write a Letter to Your Council
Believe it or not, China (alongside India) is the country leading the way in afforestation. It’s been planting trees for years, committed to its goal of increasing its national forest coverage to 26 percent by 2035. It recently announced plans to deploy 60,000 soldiers to plant 32,400 acres of trees in addition to other initiatives, which include a National Tree Planting day and a commitment to build 300 new eco-cities.
On a more local note, Cornwall Council revealed its plans to create a 20,000-acre forest in July 2019 following its climate emergency declaration back in January 2019 where it committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2030.
West Berkshire declared a climate emergency on 2nd July with the same goal as Cornwall - to become carbon neutral by 2030. However, with this forest plan costing Cornwall an estimated £30m, how can we be sure our local government will make tree planting a point of priority?
One thing we can all do to influence change in our local area is write to our local councillor. Ask them whether they have plans to commit funds to an afforestation project and if not, kindly ask why not. If you’re willing to take part in a tree planting project to make this happen, flag this aswell. You can find your local councillor’s contact details here.
4. Get Involved With a Community Orchard Project
Community growing projects are soaring in popularity. They’re the epitomy of low carbon food, a hands-on educational resource for children and adults alike and they unite communities, combating social isolation and promoting well being.
Community orchards are one such type of project and provide the perfect excuse to plant more trees in your neighbourhood. There are already a number of community orchards up and running in the Newbury area, so why not join a work party one evening or try and get to their next event…..the apple days are brilliant fun for the kids.
Andrew Howard, owner of The Heritage Fruit Tree Company in Banbury, has plenty of experience getting community orchards off the ground and will be sharing his advice on this very topic in his talk at GreenFest.
Both Hampstead Norreys and East Ilsely are exploring opportunities to get a community orchard underway, so if you’d like to get involved in this project, drop us an email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
5. Help Landowners Create Small Native Woods
Going back to The Woodland Trust for a second and this mission they’re on to plant 64 million trees in the next 10 years; they’re currently piloting a scheme that offers landowners expert advice and grants of up to £4,000, to create small, new native woods.
West Berkshire Climate Change Committee (WBCAN) has plans to start spreading news of this scheme to landowners. These plans are still in their infancy, but if you’d like to find out more about what they’re doing and even how you can get involved, come along to their GreenFest talk or visit them at their stand.
6. Look After The Trees We Do Have
Now, it’s hard to talk about planting trees without also mentioning that it would be great if we could stop chopping so many down. Did you know that the equivalent of 40 football fields worth of tropical forests were lost every minute in 2017? And for what? The leading causes of deforestation include:
Soy: Around 70 percent of the world’s soy is fed directly to livestock (not to veggies as tofu!). Soy and corn are the two go to crops that are used to help livestock reach market weight in record times.
Palm oil: It’s literally everywhere – in our foods, cosmetics, cleaning products and fuels. And its not always so easy to spot. Here are just some of the other names it goes by: palmate, glyceryl stearate, stearic acid, sodium lauryl sulphate and hydrated palm glycerides. A comprehensive list can be found here.
Beef: Meat and dairy production is a huge driver of forest destruction as trees are cleared for grazing land as well as to grow crops such as soy to feed the livestock.
So how can we prevent this devastation? One of the easiest ways is to be more mindful in our consumption and purchasing habits. Lawrence Woodward’s GreenFest talk ‘Food and Farming choices for Health and Environment’ will look at farming practices for a healthy planet and population. He’ll also be joining our panel discussion so when you register, remember to share any questions you have on this topic.
Another easy way to make more educated purchasing decisions is via the buycott app. By scanning barcodes, you’ll be able to access manufacturer information and assess how they match up against your values and principles.
So, let’s all unleash the treehugger within and make a pledge to plant trees in some way, shape or form. At GreenFest we’ll be sharing stacks of other information and ideas on manageable steps we can all take to better care for ourselves as well as the planet. Don't miss this fabulous day on the 7th September.
Author: Helen Spriggs, BANT and CNHC Registered Nutritional Therapist & Owner of Spriggs Nutrition in Newbury.
There are many factors to bear in mind when considering how to eating sustainably, including; what you eat, where it’s from, how you cook and making sure you minimise waste. As a BANT Registered Nutritionist I often get asked: Is organic better for you? Should I go vegan? What’s the ‘best’ diet to follow? In answering any of these questions, there are three important points I always consider:
1. Your budget 2. Your health 3. Our planet
You don’t have to go out of your way to find vegan options these days. You’ll find good choices in supermarkets, bars, cafes and restaurants. However, veganism is more than just not eating food derived from animals (i.e. not meat, fish, dairy, eggs). A true vegan won’t eat honey, use products tested on animals, or wear materials that come from animals such as leather and wool. Veganism goes way beyond food. So, when a well-known fried chicken company decides to put a vegan burger on its menu, I can’t help but wonder, would a vegan eat a ‘vegan’ burger from an establishment whose main business is chicken? Honestly, no. Are there better non-meat options for your health? Most definitely. And are companies simply jumping on the bandwagon to make more profit? I’ll let you decide on that for yourself. However, does it provide an opportunity for someone to try a non-meat option? Yes! The upshot is, these things are never black and white.
The same holds true when considering whether veganism or vegetarianism is the most sustainable way to eat. There are many factors to weigh up. First of all, if you’re a regular meat eater, switching from one extreme to the other can be hard, so your best intentions may be short lived. Secondly, you need to consider whether it fits your health status. There are nutrients that are harder to come by in a vegan diet, so supplementation may be required. There are also many other dietary options out there; NOMAD (no meat and dairy), climatarian, flexitarian, reducatarian…..although I’m not a fan of having to put a label on it!
The general ethos of these ‘tarian options and why they fit the sustainable eating model, is that they’re not just about eating less meat and more plant-based food, but also focus at sourcing more local produce, reducing plastic and food waste and generally just being more mindful of your impact on our planet. We can all take some steps towards this ethos; considering zero waste shops, local markets and suppliers to buy our groceries, understanding the best ways to store food so it keeps longer. Planning your meals can mean less food waste and saving money. Every DAY in the UK we throw away over 1 MILLION bananas, 5 MILLION plus potatoes and glasses of milk, 24 MILLION slices of bread. We have an annual wastage of 178 MILLION bags of salad (so food and plastic waste there!). If you want a simple way to eat more sustainably, start by looking at these foods and think, do I buy more than I need? Do I plan my meals? Do I store it appropriately?
I’ll be discussing all of this in more detail at my talk ‘How to Eat Locally, Seasonally and Sustainably’ on Saturday 7th September at GreenFest in Hampstead Norreys. I’ll also be around all day to answer your questions and be handing out top tips and recipes on ways to eat healthily and sustainably.
Save the date and put Saturday 7th September 10am – 4pm in your diary. Check out the Facebook event page @ourGreenFest and website for more details and I’ll see you there!
Author: Victoria Lochhead, Owner of personal styling and dress agency Frankie and Ruby
In 2006 I was due to return to work after maternity leave and I was looking through my wardrobe to see what I could wear. Nothing I owned fitted or suited me anymore, I had no clue what to buy and found no joy in the prospect of shopping for new clothes. I felt completely stuck. A good friend of mine suggested a trip to see an image consultant to help me and that visit completely transformed my confidence, my style and my enjoyment of being creative with clothes. The stylist showed me the colours that complimented my own tones, the shapes of clothes to look for (and those to avoid) and gave me pointers on how I could develop my own style, whilst also keeping things practical for work and for home. It was a revelation!
This experience was so impactful that I decided to train to become a personal stylist myself, which eventually lead to me leaving my job and setting up my business Frankie & Ruby full time. It was around this time that a neighbour told me about a conversation she’d had with a young girl who had thrown her jacket in the bin because a button had fallen off. My neighbour was horrified and asked her why she hadn’t sewn a new button on to which the girl replied, she didn’t know how to and since the jacket had only cost her £4, it was just as easy to go out and buy a new one. Upon hearing this, I decided to research the facts and figures on how much the fashion and textile industry impacts the environment and whether this was a one-off event or perhaps a sign of something more common.
What I found out shocked me. The UK sends enough clothing to landfill each year to fill a hole the size of Wembley Stadium. (Source: www.dailymail.co.uk). On top of this, we donate and recycle enough clothing annually to fill 459 Olympic-sized swimming pools. And, with clothing production being named the second largest planetary polluter after coal and oil production (Source: BBC1 “Fashions Dirty Secrets” 2018), its plain to see that the way our society currently uses and disposes of clothing is simply not sustainable.
As well as the environmental impact of clothes production and manufacture, owning too many clothes can have a detrimental effect in our homes. I’ve seen inside many a rammed wardrobe to know that space is a definite issue and when we have too many clothes, it can often lead to us forgetting what we do have and sticking to a few select favourites. In fact, most people only wear about 20% of their wardrobe on a regular basis.
When I found out more about what owning too many clothes actually meant, I realised I was in a great position to help do something about it. In 2014 I started a campaign called ‘Say No to New’ and committed to not buying new clothes for a year (apart from the basic and personal) and instead, to either use what I already had, or buy from second hand sources. The campaign attracted nearly 500 others committed to doing the same and I was fortunate enough to be interviewed by Anne Diamond on BBC Radio Berkshire and featured in Good Housekeeping Magazine.
My year of saying no to new came with some surprising benefits and some great learning. I realised that in my position as a stylist, I could help my clients to have fun, learn about their individual style and create a unique wardrobe, while at the same time reducing the environmental impact of their clothes choices. In 2016 I published a book called “In the Jumble”, all about the joys of finding, buying and wearing second hand clothes. The book shares many of my stories in the world of second hand shopping, as well as tips and suggestions about how to do it. I talk about how to develop your own unique sense of style and how to bring all your treasures together in a wardrobe that makes sense and is well coordinated.
As well as not buying new clothes myself, I wanted to make it easier for my clients to do the same. I started offering Eco-Shopping trips, taking clients to some of my favourite treasure hunting spots. I also added a Dress Agency to my business to give my clients a way to sell their unwanted clothes and to pick up some pre-loved bargains in a relaxed environment. This year, I also started running an online course. Sustainable Style Studio is a 12 week programme designed to help participants commit to not buying new clothes for 3 months. Instead, I encourage them to understand their own style, experiment with making outfits out of what they already have in their wardrobes and to explore the delights of second hand shopping.
I firmly believe that once you know what suits you in terms of colours, shapes and styles, you can shop anywhere. And if you can shop anywhere, then the ultimate in guilt-free, fun shopping, lies in exploring the treasures available second hand. Having a wardrobe you love, you enjoy and that is practical, really needn’t cost the earth – and I mean that in both the financial and environmental sense.
I’m really looking forward to speaking at GreenFest in Hampstead Norreys on September 7th and sharing some of my tips on how to create a sustainable wardrobe that is fun, practical and really reflects your own unique style.
Victoria will also be running a Teen Styling Workshop at GreenFest so don't miss your chance to pick the brains of this talented personal stylist. All talks and workshops are free.