5 tips on how to declutter and enjoy a greener lifestyle

There are many benefits to decluttering your life and your home. But it’s not just about having a perfectly clean home or reducing your attachment to material possessions. Owning fewer things also helps to save our planet.

 

  1. Buy less stuff! Buy second-hand

Most of what we throw away could be used by other people. Charity shops, boot sales and jumble sales provide a great service in giving our unwanted items another lease of life.

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2. Refuse packaging when possible

Virtually every time we go shopping we are offered over-packaged items. Try to source loose items rather than prepacks or blisterpacks packaging. Your local greengrocer or farm shop are much more likely to supply loose and fresher fruit and vegetables, while local butchers typically use greaseproof paper which can be recycled or composted, rather that the plastic containers from the supermarket. In Germany, people routinely remove excess packaging at the checkout for the shop to sort out.

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3. Buy Quality Goods when you can

One way to reduce the rubbish you put in your bin is to buy better quality products. Something really well made by a local craftsperson is going to become something to treasure for life, will help support your local economy and , besides will outlast cheaper, inferior products. Avoid goods that won’t last. You can also pick up bargains at second hand shops, furniture reuse projects and auctions to. Why not swap your unwanted items for something you do want? Try www.freecycle.org—it doesn’t cost you anything and you can then get something you need, even if it is a bottle of wine or some chocolates. Some designers now talk about anti-obsolescence: meaning designs that are easily repaired, maintained and upgraded so they are not made obsolete by changes of technology or taste.

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4. Avoid anything you can’t reuse or recycle, where possible

For instance, many household and garden chemicals should not be disposed of in the dustbin. If you use materials which can be recycled or composted, then you aren’t left wondering what to do with a toxic substance.

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5. Refill

Wherever possible, buy products in refillable containers. These include a range of soap products, washing-up liquid, washing machine liquid, multi-surface cleaner, cream cleaner etc. These items are most commonly found in local health food shops, check with your local store if they offer this service. Some food shops also do a wide range of loose food products (and they’re often cheaper), so that you can take what you need with minimal packaging – even bring your own. There is a great store in London called “Unpackaged” which sell everything loose and even provides reusable containers (at a cost) if you forget to bring your own. Check out www.beunpackaged.com for more information.

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Adapted from Nicky Scott’s Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

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Urban agriculture

Today… what we can see is segregation. While organic and fair follows comparably high ecological and social standards, the way of the agricultural mainstream leads far away from widely accepted social values, with factory farming, food waste and degrading working conditions – the latter predominantly but not exclusively in the global south. By shifting these production sites to the fringes of a wider attention, an efficient repression of inconvenient consumer requests is possible. Unethical practices, which are not obvious to a city dweller’s eye are apparently not important and allow a cheap price.

On the producers᾿ side, the centralization and industrialization of the world agricultural market and an ever growing expectation of rising profits and yield returns by big agricultural corporations leads to improvements in efficiency which are following industrial production logics. By following this logic without regard to social values a cow or a hen is then treated like any other input needed for industrial production.

As consumers shouldn’t we ask ourselves at last why we tolerate all this? A considerable part of the power of the agribusiness is based on the lack of awareness of the consumer. If we do not know, we cannot act and even if we knew, sometimes there are social and physical barriers that hinder us: maybe the place of necessary action is far away or we do not feel responsible for the destiny of the people there. But meanwhile we have established a lifestyle, which relies almost 100 per cent on the limitless availability of food buying everything at any time, independent of season or region. For the sake of unlimited food supply we lost the direct connection to the producers of our food and also gave away the responsibility to care about the conditions of production. Globalized markets offer the necessary degree of opacity. Urban agriculture helps to reestablish direct producer-consumer relations and to reconnect with the place and the people to regain the capacity to act.

Can we learn from small scale mechanisms how to create socially and ecologically viable agricultural systems on a larger scale?

In the past decades there was a migration out of the western cities into the would-be rural idyll to realize the own utopia. Together with new, more sustainable lifestyles, new ways of living in community were tested. Now that migration has stopped and people are starting to develop new ways of living together inside their cities. New, urban movements arise. They are being established inside the corridors of political and economic power and the centres of media coverage as part of mainstream society. One component of this development is the urban agriculture and urban gardening movement.

(Peri-)urban agriculture – the production of foodstuffs inside or close to urban centres –is not new at all: the cultivation of food in highly complex agroforestry systems as part of a settlement structure was already known to the ancient Mayan culture which covered huge areas of present-day Mexico and Central America during their heyday (250–900 A.D.). Their ceremonial centres were surrounded by home gardens which can be imagined as a combination of housing structures, all sorts of forest trees for food and other purposes and smaller fields for growing staple foods. These systems were probably able to provide more than 10.000 people each with all they needed in their daily life.

The city of Tenochtitlan, one of the capitals of the Aztec empire was even populated by100–300,000 people in the 16th century (Chapin 1988). This ancient city, which is nowadays submerged by the modern constructions of the capital of Mexico, was provided with food by a system of floating islands, the so-called chinampas. By using the surrounding swamp ecosystem they were able to produce flowers, vegetables, fish and molluscs to cover all food demands of the entire city.

The ancient Americans were not the only ones to use urban agriculture as a strategy to achieve food security. Urban agriculture was particularly popular in times of crisis, the most recent example being the .victory gardens. of the Second World War. And especially where social security systems do not exist and subsistence has to reduce the risk of hunger, alternative farming concepts flourish in urban centres (Altieri et al. 1998; Baipheti and Jacobs 2009; Moustier 2007).

Conclusive statements regarding the yield potentials of urban agriculture are difficult to make. Studies frequently pick out only some aspects of urban farming systems in certain regions. A comparison of the data is therefore complicated, but suggests a pertinent potential within the range of perishable and high value products like vegetables and herbs. To date, however, it may be doubted that urban agriculture is able to significantly close the supply gap for the urban population. Under current conditions, such doubts are fully justified.

However, this is due less to flaws in the concept and more to the circumstances of today᾿ s cities. The question is not whether urban agriculture can make a city more self-sufficient. The only credible answer would be: certainly not! Rather, the question should be: In what circumstances and by what means and changes, would the future citizens of a city be able to become independent of food deliveries?. This point provides a challenge especially for local authorities and urban planners. A fundamental problem is the speculation-driven rise in the price of land in urban areas…

Undoubtedly it is time to rethink the relationship between rural and urban areas and the potential of cities to free themselves from the self-imposed and in future, disastrous dependence on huge amounts of important food supplies.

From Zoe Heuschkel’s essay ‘Urban agriculture – breaking the chains ‘ in Future of Food: State of the Art, Challenges and Options for Action

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Image credit: pixabay.com

 

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No dirty secrets this Valentines

Food for thought this Valentine’s Day: Kate Blincoe’s excellent article on why imported flowers come with a hidden cost to the environment…

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Take your average supermarket rose. That bloom was probably grown thousands of miles away – Columbia and Ecuador are major exporters of cut flowers. The result is that your well-meaning bunch of flowers this Valentines comes with a significant carbon footprint.

Those pretty flowers have other dark secrets too. Many are not grown under Fairtrade agreements, meaning that workers may be exploited. The International Labor Rights Fund found that more than half of Ecuadorian and Colombian flower workers suffered work-related health problems such as eye and respiratory problems due to high uses of pesticides and fungicides. In high season, working weeks of over 70 hours were not unusual.

Your rose, when cut, is then doused in chemicals to keep it ‘fresh’ for the flight and wrapped in masses of plastic. It will arrive with you already a week old, with quite a past. All for something that’s sole purpose is to…

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An era has come to an end

An excerpt from an essay by E.F. Schumacher

AN ERA HAS COME TO AN END . There is the end of a certain phase in the thinking of Western humanity. We have discovered ourselves now to be in a very, very deep spiritual crisis. An era which been dominated by Cartesian thinking and which has lasted for some 250 or 300 years, has seen unbelievable developments in science and technology. This era is now drawing to a close. Having worked out the consequences of this type of thinking, we find it makes us spiritually bankrupt. This thinking can be called ‘preferring science to wisdom’. To illustrate it, here are two quotations. One comes from Aristotle via Thomas Aquinas. The other is from Huygens, following Descartes. The first one, which is the traditional wisdom of mankind, says, “The slenderest knowledge that may be obtained of the highest things is more desirable than the most certain knowledge obtained of lesser things.” The second quotation, this time from the 17th Century, says, “What gravity is; what heat, cold, the attraction of the magnet, light, colours are; what elements go to make up air, water, fire or other bodies; what the purpose of respiration in animals is; how metal, stones and plants develop; of all these things little or nothing is yet known. There is, however, nothing in the world, the knowledge of which would be more desirable and more useful.”

The total contrast is clear. Until the 17th Century they said that even the slightest, vaguest knowledge of the highest things was infinitely more desirable than the most precise knowledge of material things. Suddenly, there is a change and it is stated that there is nothing more desirable or useful in the world than the knowledge of material things. There is no longer a distinction between ‘higher’ and ‘lower’ things but only the thought of usefulness, desirability derived from usefulness. And so there has followed an era of violent dogmatism, a dogmatism which excludes from what may be considered real or scientifically acceptable everything except that which can be weighed and dealt with by that very small, useful instrument we call reason.

This change in the way of thinking has to be laid at the door of so-called ‘scientific development’. The senses for enjoyment count no longer as an instrument for gaining knowledge. The feelings affection, love, don’t count any more. Character and will—these are both out. And so everything in reality, every subject, whether it is politics, economics, or any particular science becomes an isolated and separate system, because the only thing that henceforth is acceptable is what Descartes called “clear, certain and distinct ideas” and there is nothing really clear, certain and distinct unless you can put it into mathematical terms. (…)

This is the era that is now coming to an end. It has also been described as the ‘reign of quantity’. I learned a lesson during the war when I was a farm labourer up in Northamptonshire and one of my jobs every morning before breakfast was to go up a hill to a field nearby and count the cattle. So I trotted there, half asleep, and counted thirty-two and then I went down to the farm, touched my cap to the bailiff and said, “Yes, sir, thirty-two”, and he said, “Go and have your breakfast.” One day, when I arrived there, there was an old farmer standing at the gate and he said, “Young man, what do you do here every morning?” I said, “Nothing much, I just count the cattle.” He shook his old head and said, “If you count them every day, they won’t flourish.” So I went back, murmuring to myself, “Those country yokels! How stupid can you get!” I mean, I am a professional statistician—he didn’t know that. One day I came up there and I counted; I counted again and again, and there were only thirty-one. I wanted my breakfast so I went down and said to the bailiff, “There are only thirty-one.” He was very angry and said, “Have your breakfast—we’ll go up there after breakfast.” We did and searched the place and, under one of the bushes, was a dead beast. I said to myself, “Wait a minute—why have I been here every morning counting them? That hasn’t stopped that beast dying, has it? Maybe that old farmer had a point here which I missed.” Perhaps he didn’t put it very cleverly, “If you count them every day, they won’t flourish!” What he may have meant was that if you train your mind on the quantity of them, you won’t stop them dying. What does the quantity matter? What could have happened if I hadn’t counted? A beast might have strayed away, but somebody would have brought it back. No, I ought to have looked for the qualitative factor, looked at every beast to see whether she was alright, whether she had a sheen on her coat, and so on. I ought to have been able to go back to the bailiff and say, “Oh, they seem alright except that one looks a bit mangy.” Then we would have gone up and done something sensible. Quantity had got the better of me and had filled my mind instead of what really mattered, which is the quality of things. (…)

We all need to realize that we need a different attitude to nature and we must practise a different attitude to nature in our gardening, our horticultural and agricultural activities. This is a very deep matter, not just a utilitarian matter. What has grown up, particularly over the past 30 years, is no longer a friendly co-operation with nature, but a battle against nature, a battle in which, if by chance we win it, we will find ourselves on the losing side. The much-praised modern agriculture has no long-term future, and there are material facts to support such a view.

 

This excerpt comes from E.F. Schumacher’s This I Believe, now available in e-book format from all the major retailers: Amazon , Kobo and iBooks  or in paperback from our website.

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E.F. Schumacher (1911-1977), a groundbreaking economist and philosopher, is best known for his book Small is Beautiful: Economics as if people mattered, which introduced the idea of the human scale and became an international bestseller. A pioneer of sustainable development, E. F. Schumacher took a profound interest in education, farming, energy, industry and philosophical thought.

Image credit: Pixabay.com

 

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Meet the pioneers of natural babycare

Samantha Quinn and Holly Daffurn know all about dealing with morning sickness while getting the kids to school and working full time. They are two ordinary mums, wanting what’s best for their children. Yet their knowledge of natural babycare is something quite unique.

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Samantha Quinn’s first child was premature and was immediately transferred into the specialist baby care unit. It was here that a nurse introduced Sam to baby massage, which helps stabilize a baby’s breathing and heart rate. Natural baby care was so beneficial for her child, that it inspired Sam to make it the focus of her life, creating an award-winning babycare company.

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Holly Daffurn found the active childbirth of her first baby to be the most exhilarating experience of her life. For her, as well as for Sam, the birth of her first child was a source of inspiration. All her life she had been enthusiastic about natural remedies, aromatherapy and yoga and now she put her knowledge into practice in natural pregnancy care and babycare as a teacher and writer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These two inspired and inspiring women not only run businesses based on natural babycare, they have also written a book entitled The Natural Baby, which draws on all of their experience and knowledge of holistic pregnancy and postnatal care.

 

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The book includes:
  • Recipes for massage oils, tips for safe aromatherapy and yoga exercises to keep mums-to-be fit for the big day.
  • Ideas on how to prepare for a home birth and how to make a hospital birth feel more like home
  • First-hand experience of hypnobirthing, waterbirthing and writing birth plans.
  • Advice on choosing a birth partner or doula
  • Helpful guidance on breastfeeding, weaning and cooking for both parent and baby, once the little one is born
  • Recipes that explain exactly what nutrients are needed for oneself and one’s child
  • The ‘Natural Dads’ section ensures that no-one is left out, so both parents can spend plenty of time bonding with their baby
  • Recipes for homemade soap and nappy rash cream that are both effective and safe for the baby’s skin.
Natural babycare and holistic parenting are about making the best choices one can without getting hung up on what one can’t manage. Aiming for perfection is a mistake. The tone of their book is always gentle and informative, because parents always want what’s best for their child, and should do whatever they feel works – as long as they are making informed choices. Be it breast-feeding or bottle-feeding, home birth or hospital birth, reusable nappies or disposables, parents are informed about all their options and encouraged to feel satisfied with the choices they make. In order to take care of a child, the parents need to first take care of themselves – and Sam and Holly have natural beauty recipes and short mindfulness meditations to keep parents relaxed and positive.

Based on both experience and expertise, The Natural Baby is a warm and supportive guide to the joys of pregnancy and parenthood.

The Natural Baby is every parent’s best friend.

 

Click here for to join the Goodreads Giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of the book!

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The Natural Baby by Samantha Quinn

The Natural Baby

by Samantha Quinn

Giveaway ends February 26, 2017.

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It’s time for you to rediscover the beauty in life

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How can we search for and encounter the beautiful? Are there ways in which its discovery can be cultivated? The answer is: undoubtedly so.

It is important to realize that the consolations of beauty are more dependent on our mindset than the subject under observation—in certain circumstances, a greasy puddle can be more soulful than a view of the Cheviots on a summer’s morning. The importance of the right frame of mind cannot be exaggerated: a meditative mood, a measured slowness, a lack of distraction, patience and calm are essential attributes of the necessary attentiveness. With hurry, fidgeting and anxiety, nothing is to be gained. ‘Attentiveness,’ Simone Weil reminds us, ‘is the heart of prayer.’ It is certainly at the heart of any search for beauty. Meanwhile we live in a society that is probably the least congenial for the discovery of this, the most elusive of aims. We rush around like water boatmen scurrying across the surface of a pond—we dash to the shops, commute back and forth to work, drive the children to school, heat up prepared suppers, practice one non-stop activity after another and all the while we leave too little time for the enjoyment of a state of meditative calm.

Yet even when this proves elusive, the beautiful can honour us with a visitation. Stuck in a traffic jam or leaning over a bar for a drink, we can always, in absenting ourselves, flick over into a different world. John Cowper Powys provides good practical advice about this technique. ‘The thing to do,’ he writes, ‘is to use your will to force the passing moment to become a medium for the eternal . . . These ‘eternal moments’ of lying back upon the soul and letting ourselves become nothing but pure awareness, nothing but a conscious mind face-to-face with the fragment of the inanimate that happens to be near us, are moments which, if we want to be happy and to live long, we ought to snatch from the flowing of time. Snatch them in buses, in waiting-rooms, in railway-trains, on park-seats, in hallways, in the entrances of hotels and theatres, in public lavatories, on ferry-boats, in taxis, in carriers’ carts, in churches, on your bed, in a chair, in your kitchen, on the steps of your house, over the fence of your garden; snatch them whenever and wherever you can!’ (John Cowper Powys, The Art of Happiness, The Bodley Head, 1935)

What we happen to discern in such moments—the reflections in the back window of the car in front of us or the glitter of a row of spirit bottles—could seem banal, but does it matter? All things await to be enjoyed—if, that is, if we seek to see them. The American painter Edward Hopper saw beauty in petrol pumps and cheap hotel bedrooms; Vincent van Gogh saw it in a billiard table and a rush-seated bedroom chair; Claude Monet in a Parisian railway shed; Stanley Spencer in a scrap-heap of rusting iron, Picasso in a coiled sausage. (…)

To see things clothed in their fullest beauty it is imperative to approach them with an open-hearted receptivity; to jettison all negative and selfish feelings and the prejudice of unfeeling habit. And always, always, to try to see things as if for the first time. (…)

Another procedure is also valuable: the deliberate cultivation of a path to the source. Encounters with the beautiful can take place unexpectedly, but sustained preparation—looking at beautiful images, listening to beautiful music, reading beautiful poetry, collecting and taking delight in beautiful things—can encourage a necessary receptivity of soul.

Beauty teaches beauty; it teaches us wonder and, of course, humility. It carries secrets that we cannot fathom with all our analytical tools. It reveals, as nothing else does, the poetry of truth and calls forth an alertness and generosity of attention.

 

This is an excerpt from John Lane’s  classic book Timeless Beauty. To find out more visit https://www.greenbooks.co.uk/timeless-beauty

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Image credit: Pixabay

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Do you love fruit and parties? This ancient winter tradition was made for you.

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In Anglo-Saxon English, ‘waes hail’ means ‘be you healthy’. Wassailing has been used for hundreds if not thousands of years, to wake the trees and ensure a good harvest. It usually takes place between New Year and the old Twelfth Night, which, before the introduction of the Gregorian calendar in 1752, fell on what is now 17th January. The tradition is still practised today.

The oldest or best tree is chosen as the orchard guardian and its roots are ceremonially nourished with cider. Pieces of toast are then placed in the branches by the Wassail Queen or the youngest boy, the Tom Tit, to honour and feed the robin, which represents the good spirits. The revellers fire shotguns through the branches or bang vigorously on saucepans to frighten the evil spirits away. They serenade the trees with traditional wassail songs and partake liberally from a communal wassail bowl containing hot cider, sweetened and spiced, topped with slices of toast as sops. An alternative wassail ritual concerns the villagers going door to door, singing and drinking the health of those they visit, and generally kicking up a rumpus. The roots of wassailing may go back a very long way. A Celtic myth sees apple trees as providers of life and energy, linked to rebirth after winter. Such rites as taking an earthenware cup of wassail and roasted crab apples, drinking half then throwing cup and contents at the tree, are sometimes represented as a sacrifice to Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit.

To learn more about orchard lore and to find out how you can start an orchard in the tiniest of spaces, reach for Naomi Slade’s gorgeous book An Orchard Odyssey.

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For a classic guide to fruit trees for both amateur and expert, reach for Ben Pike’s The Fruit Tree Handbook

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Image copyright:

Wassail ©Ben Pike The Fruit Tree Handbook

Apple Trug ©Naomi Slade An Orchard Odyssey

 

 

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