We’re consistently told that standing up for what we believe in is the most honourable path to choose. Even if we stand alone, we must do what’s right by our internal guidance system. Live by our values. But is there a limit to this? Is there any point at which it’s no longer worth it? Would you stand up for your beliefs even if it meant risking your life?

The Guardian has been keeping pretty solid tabs on those individuals who have been killed for doing exactly this: standing up for a healthy environment. The figure stands at 197 courageous men and women in the year 2017 alone, with the rate expected to continue at 4 individuals per week for the forseeable future. These are sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers whose voices have been silenced by those who put capitalist interests before environmental preservation and it disgusts me.

On almost every continent there have been people standing up against logging, land degradation, water pollution and poaching, with Brazil the most dangerous place to be at present. It’s nothing new – since the dawn of time there has existed conflict over land and its many uses. Only, it’s 2018 and there is clear evidence that the planet’s on its last legs. Bar terraforming a new one (and quick!) unless we want to suffer a slow and painful demise, we’ve got to start getting our shit into gear.

From my safe little house in my safe little town on the (relatively) safe little English isle, I go about my days trying to lead by example. I eat a vegan diet, I only consume cruelty-free cosmetics, I recycle, I try wherever possible to avoid plastic consumption and especially the single-use kind, I promote self-care and mindfulness and I make time to help others with making more environmentally-friendly choices whenever they express an interest in learning more. But above all this (because really, none of those things are superpowers), I educate myself as frequently as I’m able to. I absorb every story and statistic I can get my mitts on.

That yearning to know more can be insatiable – is, insatiable. How can I possibly do better if I’m not learning the facts? Blame it on the scientist in me. Once you learn the truth about how devestating our consumption habits are on the planet and how problematic the animal agriculture industry is (yes, I’m a big Monbiot fan) to name just a couple, you see that you have no choice but to alter your lifestyle. It’s either that or live a miserable life. Rejigging everything is a smaller burden than living in conflict with what you know has to be done.

I am incredibly fortunate that I don’t live my life on the firing line. And you are too, if you’re in a similar situation to me. But we have an absolute responsibility to share the truths that the deceased no longer can because we owe it to them for their strength and undeniable bravery for standing up for what they knew to be right.

Indigenous people in sacred places across the globe are having their ancestral lands being destroyed quicker than they’re having time to process the trauma. From the Sioux at Standing Rock to the Ka’apor in Brazil to the mighty women of the Zambezi, the planet is littered with people trying to protect their homes however they can, even if it means their inevitable demise. If home is all you know, how can life go on without it? Home is, after all, more than a physical place. It is the history that goes along with it, the memory, the culture, the family and the soul.

As a human, you have a responsibility to do no harm to another. That’s just how it is. Many don’t live this way, of course and that’s a terrible sadness, but we know how things ought to be. And if it pains you to know that there is all this suffering going on around the world and you feel helpless and incapable of making a difference, know that that couldn’t be further from the truth. Like ripples in a mill pond, your actions can inspire others in ways that you’ve likely never considered. All you need to do is plant the seed.

What changes do you want to see? An end to logging? Buy reclaimed timber furniture. Better air quality? Support renewable resources. The end of climate change? Stop supporting animal agriculture and eat plant-based. Clean seas with healthy marine populations? Cut down on your plastic consumption. Lead by example and others will follow. Your voice is louder than you know.

Photos: Sphynx & MeltingPotSoul via Instagram

 

I am a vegan and a proud one. But I cannot stand those vegans that embody the holier-than-thou attitude that it’s their way or the highway. I understand where it comes from, I do. When something clicks in your mind that eating animals and using animal products and supporting cosmetics tested on animals is wholly unacceptable, you want to do everything you can to prevent it happening in the world. Only, it’s a process. I toyed back and forth with the concept of veganism for years and it took me taking the pressure off myself to be perfect to truly settle into this lifestyle choice that’s growing evermore popular. But there is still a grey area. I think this is probably the case for all vegans. For example, I still don’t morally have a problem with local, bee-friendly honey and I’m not afraid to say so. But as I change and grow over the coming months and years, maybe that one will be struck off the list too.

My point to all this is that while it’s painful when you adopt certain beliefs and see people living their lives in conflict with them, you have to realise that making true, lasting change depends upon huge levels of empathy and patience. We are all living a process or journey of one kind or another and it’s no man’s (or woman’s) place to judge anyone else based on their own perspective. Try putting yourself in that other person’s shoes first.

The angry vegan does no good for anyone. They might be able to rile up a rally at PETA HQ, sure, but in terms of encouraging others to explore the possibility of reducing their carbon footprint and consuming less animal products, it is just intimidating and rude. There are no benefits to guilt-tripping someone into living differently. Plus, it’s cruel! I always find success fates are far higher by pointing them in the direction of a documentary to do that anyway. A documentary doesn’t judge you. It simply aims to inform you of the facts.

I bring up all this because I’m seeing this angry behaviour taking place in another environmentally-friendly lifestyle: that of the zero-waster. This is also another lifestyle choice that has been a process for me and one that I’m still not doing perfectly. I don’t think any of us physically can. After all, I say it all the time but there’s only so much that you can do in a broken system. You can only do what you can with the means you have available to you.

Getting angry about anything you believe in can be incredibly powerful if it’s concentrated at the decision-makers. Power to the people and all that jazz. But when it’s directed at each other, it only causes greater divide and hostility. With our environment suffering to no end from our decades of plastic consumption, many are awakening to the absolute requirement to start adopting a life free of the stuff. Things like Blue Planet II helped massively in terms of making the general public more aware. I can’t tell you how many conversations I have now – on a daily basis (!) – revolving around plastic consumption. It is my life and all, but half of these I genuinely don’t even initiate!

If you care as much as I do about eradicating plastic from our planet and saving the preciousness that we’ve got, remember that it’s far better to get angry at the decision-makers and not someone else who’s not doing as much as you. It’s OK that he or she isn’t quite there yet. When we’ve been raised to believe that a certain lifestyle is the norm, it’s incredibly hard to change that. Relearning how to do things takes time. I’ve had to change everything about where I shop, when I shop, how I give gifts, how I ‘do’ my social life and so much more. You might be in the same boat. You also might see then how you giving someone a hard time about their trash-production habits is a bit like a 12th grader giving a 3rd grader a hard time for not being able to do algebra. Comprende?

By all means keep the anger going. It’s an emotional vibration above hopelessness. It means you’ve still got the fight in you. But direct it at the companies you want to change their packaging, your government, your school, your workplace. And lead by example. Show others how easy it is to make some pretty impactful choices. You’ll likely spark their interest. Plus, have a small list of worthwhile documentaries to watch at the ready to slip over when the moment is right. Never hurts.

Photo by Taras Zaluzhny on Unsplash & Sphynx

I am all about that upcycled life and I figure, what better way to get more people doing the same than to show you all what I’ve got going on in my own home?

One woman’s trash is certainly another woman’s treasure. I’m always looking for ways to reuse things I might be passing towards the waste pile, or unwanted things someone else is trying to get rid of, thus preventing them ending up in landfill. All it takes is some patience and creative thinking to transform something old into something new. And when it comes to interior decor, why opt for mass-produced and flat-packed when you can display something truly unique that you’ve designed yourself?

Minimalism and streamlining are two passions of mine and I find that having items that I’ve made myself and put my creative energy into are the ones that stand the test of time. See, trends come and go and we change our minds about things as time passes, but if you’ve created something yourself, chances are that you’ll want to keep it around. Or, if there comes a time that it’s truly incompatible with your aesthetic, you can gift it to someone special where it’s likely to be gratefully received.

So, as I was saying, here are three features I’ve introduced into my home. They were cheap, easy to make and get many compliments paid their way.

1. Industrial displays

These came straight from the laboratory that I work in. They were headed to landfill, but I managed to seize them just in time and make a fun project out of upcycling them into some industrial-style shelving. They are made of stainless steel, but with a copper theme in mind, I picked up some spray paint from a local craft store and sprayed them from all angles. They’re strategically placed on the walls with a simple pair of nails and great for displaying smaller, interesting items.

2. Driftwood & Air Plants

Living by a beach, I am exposed to nice strolls, of course, but also some epic driftwood finds, such as this one. Initially I picked this up without knowing exactly what I wanted to do with it, only knowing that it would become a feature in due course. With some air plants lying around, I decided to combine the two and it makes for an epic piece of living art. I’ve seen similar things on a much smaller scale whereby the plants are glued onto the wood. This makes for a quick fix, sure, but just seemed so cruel to me. The best way to water air plants (Tillandia spp.) is to soak them in a bowl, sink or bathtub (depending on the quantity that need watering) for half an hour or so. During this time they absorb what they need. Follow this by letting them rest on a towel, then replace in their display. I had this idea for mounting them on driftwood in a way that would allow me to remove them every couple weeks for watering. I used a reserve of some wire Christmas tree ornament hooks that I had to hand, supergluing these to the wood in the locations I knew I’d want the plants. Then, after allowing to dry overnight, used the maleable nature of the hooks to coil around the plant and hold them firmly in place. I mounted the driftwood onto the wall with two hook brackets (which I plan on spraying copper eventually to tie everything in together).

We have a really ugly thermostat smack bang in the middle of the wall. I used a tumbling air plant to strategically drape over and cover this.

3. Unexpected Art

The final way that I’ve upcycled came when I had a card that I couldn’t bear parting with. The message inside was nice, but the image on the card itself even nicer. It felt such a shame to throw it into the recycling bin when the colour scheme was exactly my aesthetic. A quick look through the frames I had lying around revealed one that was a perfect fit. This made its way out of the rubbish pile and onto my wall. Buy someone a really beautiful card from an independent designer and be sure to include a little note inside suggesting they hang it on their wall afterwards. Throw in a frame too if you’re feeling super generous.

I am excited for all of the upcycling projects that I’m sure 2018 will bring with it. Never let yourself think that a small budget needs to stand in the way of you and the home that you want. Take a walk on the wild side and let your creativity come out and play.

 

 

Happy New Year!

Whether you rang in 2018 with vodka shots and an all-night bender, a glass of bubbly next to the fire or slept the midnight chime, might I suggest taking some moments during this first week to meditate on the year that’s passed and plan for the year ahead.

Trust me, I am not about to be all resolution-preaching. In fact, 2017 was a year of monthly challenges for me instead which culminated in something pretty big. Take a read over here to see what I mean. Over the years, I’ve seen resolution after resolution dissipate into nothingness; sometimes before January has even come to a close. We have these really powerful intentions and know the ways in which we want to better ourselves, but there’s just something so completely impossible to adhere to. General resolutions are vague. We humans need a little more structure, I’ve come to realise.

So, if you want something a little different, here are some ideas for things you can do in 2018. See if one resonates with you. All offer the opportunity for self-growth and actualisation. Plus, the challenge likely will appeal to the competitive amongst you. So, without further ado.

1. Read 52 books. 52 weeks in a year, 52 books you can get through. This is a pretty hefty goal and it really might not be possible for the busiest of folks. However, if you have the luxury of time, put it to use by doing something you’ll be incredibly proud of come this time next year. Select a mixture of fiction and non-fiction. Some could be classics, others instructional, others historical. Learn about our world, bask in creative genius and study something new.

2. Daily Journal. Even if it’s only a few lines while you’re sipping your morning coffee, buy yourself a journal and record your thoughts every day for the next year. These are always immensely satisfying to look back over and see how you’ve grown, what’s bothered you and what you’ve enjoyed. Time has this way of slipping through our fingers and with it goes those beautiful little daily moments that we soon forget if they aren’t recorded. In 10 years time, you’ll treasure this creation.

3. Learn something new. Sign up to a class in that one thing that you’ve always wanted to learn and dive in. No one likes feeling like a newbie, but you must remember that we all have to start somewhere. In a year from now, you’ll thank yourself a million times over that you took the plunge.

4. Volunteer your time. One of the best things I did for my mental health in 2017 was volunteer my time for one day a week. Learn some skills, meet people you wouldn’t otherwise and experience the joy of hard work that you’re doing for free. There’s something really beautiful about putting your all into something simply because you want to. If only we could do that full time, eh?

5. Cuisine a month. One of the best parts of travelling around the world is the food IMO. Having your tastebuds tantalised by something foreign and interesting is truly enriching. But even if you can’t make it to India, Italy or Indonesia to try out the local culinary delights, there’s no reason you can’t bring the flavours to you. Focus on a cuisine you have little experience with for each month of 2018. Perhaps seek out an appropriate restaurant to head to at the start of the month for inspiration, then take to Google and get creative, trying out new spices, sauces and cooking techniques that you’ve never used before. Creativity at its best. Wow friends and family by hosting a dinner at the end of the month to share what you’ve learned and convert others.

6. Buy only secondhand. We’ve got far too much of everything accumulating on our planet, so why not commit to a year of purchasing only secondhand. Whether it be clothing, furniture, a car, appliances or whatever else, spend a little more time researching and swipe a good deal in the process. Know that by doing this you’re living completely waste-free and preventing yet another item end up in landfill.

So whether you try a year of monthly challenges, one of the above or something else entirely, know that you have the power to absolutely kick this year in the booty and become the person that you want to be. All it takes is hard work and dedication; nothing you can’t do with a little focus.

 

 

When you make any kind of lifestyle choice that you believe will lead to your happiness and wellbeing, it can be really jarring when family either don’t understand or disagree with said choice. It’s easy to go about your life as you so choose when you’re in the comfort of your own home, but throw family gatherings into the mix and it can get a little sticky.

Living an unconventional life takes courage because it means that you often face disagreement or confusion. Friends you can choose, but family are kind of there. If they don’t understand, that’s not a problem. Take some time and educate them, using whatever resources you found worked for you. Most of our confrontation comes from a lack of understanding, so you may find this will suffice. But if they disagree with your choices (which unfortunately is the case for many of us) then try to come to some sort of agreement where both parties can coexist amicably to keep the peace.

One of the most potent times of the year for said aforementioned conflict is, of course, the holiday season. Dinners, lunches, brunches, soirées, parties and more mean that there can be a multitude of opportunities for blood to boil. In my own life, this includes the shock of seeing others so carelessly use single-use plastics when in my house it’s a big no-no. Or, being mocked for having an ‘awkward’ diet when I have to cook my own little nut roast next to all the meat. Finally, being gifted things like beauty products from pro-animal testing brands and fast fashion that makes a little part of my soul die when I realise I must do the polite, British thing and graciously accept.

The thing that you’ve got to remember is that the choices we make are done so based on the belief that it will make us happier. This applies to everyone, So, while my logic might be: make less waste > save planet > enjoy beauty of planet > keep it alive for future generations to enjoy, someone else’s might be: buy convenient foods (packaged in plastic) > save as much time > get to hang out with the family. It’s all a matter of perspective.

But even when you’ve had the talks and agreed to disagree, problems can still arise when it comes to gift-giving. Specifically, when you’re on the receiving end and it’s something so not you. We all encounter these situations, regardless of our lifestyle specificities or not. It’s something that can actually, often, be laughed about years later. But if, like me, you’re trying to do the low waste thing, trust me, I know how frustrating it can be when you have the thought pattern of: man, she went and bought x which is supporting an industry that I totally disagree with, all in the hope that it would make me happy…It’s not easy!

However, of course there is light at the end of the tunnel. Those unwanted gifts can gain a new lease of life in the arms of someone else. It’s not that you’re ungrateful, it’s just that your beliefs resonate with a different kind of gift-giving. Don’t ever let anyone make you feel guilty! You’re just trying to do a good thing. It’s something I have to remind myself of too.

Below are some tips to help you get things on track before this weekend’s New Year celebrations. Clutter no more.

  1. Donate to charity. Anyone who buys second-hand knows that January is the time to do the rounds. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, as they say. If you’ve got books, clothes, toys or whatever else that you know will simply sit and collect dust, support a cause close to your heart and donate the items to a charity shop or charity raffle.
  2. Give to a friend. Perhaps even more satisfying than donating to charity is re-gifting an item to a friend because you know that x,y, or z is right up his or her street. If you want to have a bit of fun, make an evening of it. Grab your girlfriends and some wine and host a swap.
  3. Empower women. Give a woman a head start in life by donating unwanted clothes to Dress For Success or a local women’s shelter. The latter is also a great place for those unwanted perfumes, make-up and skincare gift sets. While the shades might not be your taste, for a woman who might have had to leave everything behind, they could be just what she needs to develop a self-care routine.
  4. Distribute to the homeless. This is another great option for unwanted clothing. It sure is cold this time of year, so any extra layers are often gratefully received.
  5. Make some money. Finally, if you’re really strapped for cash, consider selling on those unwanted items. Choose eBay, a yard or car boot sale and raise some money to pay for something more meaningful instead.

How was gift-giving in your family this year? Do you and your family have disagreements over your lifestyle choices?