Categories
Wellbeing

Partially-sighted cyclist inspired by kids to tour UK

After 44-year-old Gavin Towers’ two children set off on cycling challenges to fundraise for Save the Children, he decided to follow up their efforts by raising money himself. So he set himself the goal of cycling the entire coast of the UK in as few days as possible. 

The distance would be a stretch for anyone, but what makes it particularly challenging for him is that he can only partially see. Gavin has retinitis pigmentosa, a condition that means this might be his last chance to cycle Britain’s coastline and witness its beauty with his own eyes.

[Read more: Fancy dress fan raises over £8k for Save the Children]

“I really wanted to test myself knowing that I might not be able to do this again in the future,” he says. “It’s been incredibly difficult, having to endure all kinds of weather. But it’s been worth it.”

Precious memories

Because of his visual impairment, Gavin has very limited peripheral vision and can’t see in darkness. In the long term, he could lose his sight entirely. This adds special meaning to the visual memories he builds up along the way.

Travelling through Scotland, the East of England and Wales, he and his support team have encountered herds of wild deer as well as a colony of seals. He has been astounded by landmarks such as the stunning scenery of John O’Groats and the view from Humber Bridge. 

To make things even better, he has been overwhelmed by the support he has received. People see their support vehicle printed with Save the Children’s logo and cheer the team as they cycle past, sometimes chasing after them to offer encouragement or give a donation. 

[Read more: How one Californian centre helps find solace after sight loss]

He sees the challenge as a way to come to terms with this mentally and to support those with similar conditions – he is raising funds for the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) as well as Save the Children.

So far, he’s managed to collect nearly £4,000. But with about 2,000 miles left still to cycle, there’s plenty of time to sponsor his efforts and push this closer to his target of £10,000.

If you wish to help Gavin meet his target, donate here. To follow his journey visit gavintowerscycling.com.

Categories
Planet

9 eco-friendly household swaps that don’t cost the earth

Luckily for the planet, the majority of people want to transition towards more sustainable lifestyles. In lockdown this became even clearer, with over a third of people adopting eco-friendly habits, according to a survey by Bulb

If you’re among the growing number of people hoping to minimise their carbon footprint and household waste, the good news is there are plenty of ways to do so. 

Every household chore, including the way you cook, clean and wash yourself, can become more environmentally friendly. Just switch your usual household essentials for more eco-conscious alternatives. Here are some suggested substitutes from the UK-based retailer, Peace With the Wild, to get you going.

Compostable sponges

While sponges help reduce the amount of elbow-grease needed to do the washing up, most are made of highly polluting, non-biodegradable plastic. To avoid the damaging impact discarded sponges can have on the environment, opt for a compostable alternative. Eco Living’s compostable sponge cloths are a durable and reusable substitute that you can use anywhere in the house.

Natural kitchen spray

Many household cleaning products contain chemicals that pollute rivers and streams and reduce biodiversity. Rather than buying environmentally harmful sprays, choose natural substitutes that permit you to clean just as effectively. Either make your own by mixing white vinegar, or baking soda, with essential oils and water. Alternatively, Iron & Velvet’s eco-friendly cleaning liquids are made from naturally derived plant extracts and are 100% plastic free.

Biodegradable rubber gloves

The primary reason for wearing rubber gloves is to protect your hands from harsh chemicals. So if you decide to switch to natural sprays you no longer need them. However, for those sticking with gloves, there are more environmentally-friendly versions available. Eco-friendly household product brand If You Care sells fair trade FSC certified natural rubber gloves that easily decompose when discarded.

Compostable bin bags

While plastic bin bags have such a devastating impact on the environment, it’s a no brainer to switch to compostable alternatives. The Zero Waste Club produces bin bags made from corn starch that are 100% biodegradable and suitable for home composting. What’s more, for every packet bought they plant a tree, restoring forests around the world that suck carbon out of the atmosphere.

Plastic-free vegan toothpaste

Swap your plastic tubes of toothpaste for vegan formulas packaged in recyclable and biodegradable pots. Georganics offers a range of vegan, plastic-free toothpaste which come in flavours such as eucalyptus, peppermint and orange.

Reusable vegan wax wraps

Cling film is another source of household waste that goes to landfill only to break down into small plastic particles that harm wildlife. To keep your food fresh in a more sustainable way, vegan wax wraps made from organic cotton and plant based wax, are a reusable alternative that also looks good in your fridge. Check out eco brands BeeBee, Vegan Food Wraps, and Rowen Stillwater to browse different sizes and patterns.

Laundry eggs

Mainstream laundry detergents can harm your health as well as the environment, causing skin irritation and respiratory problems, all while polluting natural water sources. BPA-free laundry eggs are a safer alternative that can be used up to 70 times before you recycle them. To do a wash the eggs are filled with pellets of eco-friendly detergent, that are free from environmentally harmful palm oil, SLS, SLES, parabens, petrochemicals, enzymes, phosphates and microplastics.

Shampoo bars

When buying basic hair care products, it’s all too easy to grab a plastic bottle of shampoo from the supermarket shelves. To cut down on how much plastic you chuck out, shampoo bars are a more sustainable option wrapped in biodegradable cardboard packaging and made with more environmentally-friendly ingredients. With cheap, plastic-free bars readily available even at mainstream stores like Morrisons, there’s little excuse not to swap regular shampoo for this alternative.

Eco-friendly toilet roll

Packaged in and made from 100% paper, Who Gives a Crap toilet roll is a great way to improve your household’s environmental impact. Take your environmental efforts up a notch by buying the brand’s most eco-friendly toilet paper made from sustainably sourced bamboo fibres.

All of the products listed here can be purchased online from the UK-based retailer, peacewiththewild.co.uk.

Categories
Planet

‘Losing our mango orchard inspired me to protect our planet’

You’re reading Patrons of the Planet, a weekly series where we hear from climate heroes of the global south and the world’s indigenous communities. 

Growing up in the suburbs of Kolkata, eastern India, I loved to visit the mango orchard growing near our house. But over time, the green parts of the city gave way to high rise building. Eventually, property developers wished to replace the trees with concrete and tarmac. 

As a teenager, I campaigned with my friends to protect those trees. We gathered signatures from local people, asking the authorities to conserve this little plot of greenery. However, because we were young, nobody listened to us and sadly, the construction went ahead.

On a positive note, the experience taught me a lesson I’ve never forgotten – you are most effective when you collaborate with others across different communities. 

[Read more: The climate campaigner empowering South Africans]

Losing the mango orchard only spurred me to work harder to protect our planet. Most crucially, it led me to join XR Affinity Network of Asia (XRana), an alliance of different environmental campaign groups that work with marginalised people at the forefront of climate activism.

To do this, XRana connects communities across the Global South, bringing them together to protect their land, nature and the planet. These are the people most impacted by climate change as well as the most active in trying to beat it. We use digital technology to build relationships between these diverse groups and strengthen them through collective thinking. 

[Read more: Carnival will unite people for the climate]

Whether it be Bangladeshi mining protesters or Ghanaian climate campaigners, we often find that these communities face similar issues. Through meeting one another, by sharing experiences and cultural knowledge, they can overcome obstacles, strengthen their different campaigns and more successfully confront the discrimination that puts their communities and nature at risk. 

Another thing I find is that these oppressed communities are the ones with the best knowledge of how to defend our planet. They practice organic farming or sustainable horticulture, they don’t consume as much plastic or energy and, as a result, they have a much lower carbon footprint than urban-dwelling office workers, for example.

It’s for this reason that I hope to amplify the voices of rural people, allowing others to learn essential skills, not just to protect life on earth, but also to see it thrive.

Patrons of the Planet is a weekly series to amplify the voices of heroes on the frontline of climate campaign work, as told to Blyth Brentnall. Every Tuesday, we meet individuals from the global south and indigenous groups who have risen above increasing adversity to support their communities, conserve nature and protect the planet for future generations.

Categories
Planet Wellbeing

Asda offers free nappies for premature babies

Asda has become the first retailer to offer free nappies to the parents of premature babies. 

The supermarket has partnered with Pampers to offer this from its 254 instore pharmacies across the UK. The Asda & Pampers partnership is a first for a UK retailer as nappies for babies born pre-term have previously only been available in hospitals or from healthcare providers.

The nappies are available free of charge and parents can pick them up by visiting an Asda pharmacy, which are open from 8am – 8pm Monday – Saturday and 10am – 4pm or 11am – 5pm on Sundays. Parents can find their nearest pharmacy by visiting the Asda website.

[Read More: ‘Art therapy’ bus supports children’s mental wellbeing]

Around 1 in 13 babies are born prematurely in the UK, meaning that 60,000 babies each year require specialised care and need smaller sized nappies to protect their delicate skin during critical stages of their development. Pampers Preemie Protection Nappies are Pampers’ smallest nappy and are up to three times smaller than a regular newborn nappy.

The nappies have been specially designed in collaboration with neonatal nurses for the most delicate skin with all over fastening for a customisable fit which adapts around medical leads and lines, helping minimise disruption and irritation during nappy changing. A contour fit core provides a narrow, contoured fit between the legs, allowing baby’s legs and hips to rest comfortably and support their healthy development.

Faisal Tuddy, Asda’s superintendent pharmacist, said: “We are proud to be the first retailer to partner with Pampers, and hope that by offering these nappies for free to new parents from our 254 Asda Pharmacies, those early weeks with a premature baby are made slightly easier. Within our in-store pharmacies, customers can also speak to trained professionals for healthcare advice relating to baby and parent.”

Nicole Hallak, brand director, Pampers UK & Ireland commented: “We are thrilled to be partnering with Asda Pharmacies to offer our Pampers Preemie Protection Nappies free of charge to new parents with premature babies. Pampers is committed to the happy, healthy development of every baby and this partnership allows all UK parents to access quality nappies with our trusted Pampers promise for their precious little ones.”

[Read More: 10-year-old to chop 30cm of hair for charity]

Pampers continues to work with their long-term partner, Bliss, to support parents with the resources to help them feel more involved & confident in the care of their premature or sick babies and give them the best start in life. For more information and advice, please visit https://www.bliss.org.uk/ or call their careline on 020 7378 1122.

Categories
Wellbeing

‘Art therapy’ bus supports children

An “art therapy” bus is launching to support the mental wellbeing of young children. 

At The Bus’ is a small charity based at The Cherwell School in Oxford. It uses a unique art as therapy intervention to support children and young people who suffer from anxiety, depression, trauma and loss; those who have been bereaved, the withdrawn, the bullied and the bullies; and those who have recently arrived in this country and struggle to engage with their education.

On 11 September 2021, At The Bus will officially launch its art as therapy double decker bus at the school. The bus will be launched by three patrons of the charity: artist Jenny Saville, actor Juliet Stevenson and designer Camille Walala who designed the exterior of the bus.  

[Read More: 5 good news stories to cheer you up]

Other patrons include artist Grayson Perry, journalist and broadcaster Jon Snow and Mark Thompson, former Chief Executive of the New York Times.

Why the bus?

Rates of depression and anxiety continue to increase amongst children and young people, and there’s limited access to mental health support.

At The Bus works in partnership with schools to support education, enhance mental wellbeing, alleviate anxiety, and develop resilience, self-esteem and independence. The Covid crisis also means that therapeutic support for vulnerable young people is more vital than ever before. 

The project is directed by a unique approach, the Beattie Method, devised by Juli Beattie OBE, founder and director of the charity. It’s a proven and evaluated methodology which focuses on each student’s individual challenges and difficulties. The emphasis of The Beattie Method is group intervention. It empowers young people to manage their lives and gives them the tools to face challenges supported, and alongside fellow students.  

How does it work?

The programme is devised along the theme of transformation: young people work with everyday objects rather than blank canvases. Vinyl records become self-portrait clocks, old chairs can become works of art based on well-known artists or thrones for children facing a terrible lack of self-confidence.

[Read More: 10-year-old to chop 30cm of hair for charity]

The object of transformation is part of the therapy, and in the process of transforming the objects, the young people undergo a transformation of self-worth.

“This is a much-needed resource, and we are looking forward to working with children across the county,” says Dr Juli Beattie OBE. “The mental wellbeing of our young people is in crisis. At The Bus will make a real difference to support their wellbeing and education. This is an exciting chapter for Oxford and we hope it will grow into a national provision.”

To find out more about the bus or to support the charity, visit its website.

Categories
Planet

Meet the plastic-hunting ‘pirates’

There’s millions of waste plastic littering our oceans and beaches, killing sea life and getting into our food chain and our water supplies – that’s not news.

So one family, who call themselves plastic hunting “pirates”, have a mission to paddle to remote, inaccessible places to clean up the coast by collecting plastic from the shores and sorting, recording, reusing, and recycling it.

Steve Green, 47, from Cornwall, is the main pirate of Clean Ocean Sailing, the group of volunteers are determined to get rid of the increasing amount of plastic in our seas. His partner, Monika Hertlova, is also on board, along with Simon, two, Ula, six, Benny, 13, and Charlie, 16. 

[Read More: Fashion platform asks shoppers to buy less]

Clean Ocean Sailing started back in 2018, when the couple built their website to inspire other sailors to join them fishing for marine litter. They also wanted to spread awareness of the problem, to try to influence people – business and governments to make changes to their polluting ways.

How do they do it?

Steve Green and Monika Hertlová reside on Annette, their 112-year-old schooner. “We have owned our beloved boat The Annette for just over 13 years now,” says Steve. “She was built in 1908, a gaff rigged schooner, 66 foot, 55 tonnes. She was made to sail in the harshest conditions and is, to this day, extremely seaworthy.

“We’ve been working very hard to restore our mother ship for five years. She has just about held together for some clean up missions within that time, but she’s been out the water all summer this year for major works – relaunch very soon! Then she’ll be good to go anywhere.”

Steve says they’re aiming to remove as much of the deadly plastic pollution from our coast and ocean as possible – in a super low negative impact way, by sailing, rowing, and paddling for it.

[Read More: Inside the UK’s first disabled animal rehab centre]

One of the biggest problem they deal with is comercial fishing gear. “Massive tangled nets, weighing hundreds of kilograms, stuck under boulders, trapped in caves and floating free in the ocean,” says Steve. “It’s a massive danger to marine wildlife.”

They collect it all, then sail it back to their HQ where they sort, count, and weigh all their finds. “Then we sail the recyclable materials up to the materials reclamation facility in Exeter where it is processed and handed on to organisations like Oddyssea innovations who make it into sea kyacks,” says Steve.

Steve says they are also finding a lot of single-use plastics: plastic bottles, food wrapping, plastic bags, straws, and fast food containers. “That’s the area we hope everyone could get involved in and use less plastic in everyday life,” he says.

How to help

“We’re always looking for volunteers to join us on clean up missions near and far,” he says. “People can join our ocean clean up community on patreon.”

You can also help Clean Ocean Sailing by donating on their JustGiving page.

Categories
Planet

Mountain runner covers 120km to save nature

Chilean mountain and trail runner, Felipe Cancino, went to live in Cajón del Maipo, a canyon in the Chilean Andes, for tranquility – to run along high passes, and enjoy nature. But all that was disrupted when a hydroelectric project came to the area.

In a recent film from clothing company Patagonia, Run to Save a Watershed, Felipe explains why he ran the length of the project’s tunnels, raising awareness of the issues it will cause.

From an early age, Felipe has been involved in environmental campaigning and has a strong affinity with nature. “If we continue this rhythm of consuming, consuming, consuming the truth is there will be nothing left for those who come in the future,” he says.

“We are the ones who can do something and can change the situation.”

[Read More: 5 good news stories to cheer you up]

So when he started to see the negative impacts of Alto Maipo, the hydroelectric project, he had to act. 

First, the trucks arrived, bringing noise and disruption to the valley. Then signposts emerged, prohibiting access to certain parts of the valley. 

The valley he lives in will be one of the worst affected areas due to this project. “It’s like living in a mining operation,” he says. 

The president of environmental NGO Ecosistemas, Juan Pablo Orrego, describes how the project will take a terrible environmental toll on the Maipo River, destroying local livelihoods. Meanwhile, there’s only a minute market for electricity in Chile, so the power will just be exported, making it a useless profit-making scheme. 

“It would be impossible to imagine my life far from the mountain,” Felipe says, “and if they take that away from me I think that’s the end of me.” 

[Read More: 10-year-old to chop 30cm of hair for charity]

Rather than stand by and watch disaster unfold, he decided to campaign against it. “The impact that Alto Maipo has in these natural places is painful,” he says. “I intend to do something about it, within my capabilities and my way of action – to run.” 

Felipe ran 120km, the full length of the Alto Maipo tunnels, to show people the impact it’s having. It’s a treacherous journey requiring much stamina. But he achieved his goal, reaching an audience of hundreds of thousands around the world.

To watch the film visit patagonia.com.

Categories
Planet

Fashion platform asks shoppers to buy less

When four lovers of beautiful clothing fell out of love with fast fashion’s environmental impact, they put their heads together to come up with a solution. Fashion photographer Felipe Huertas and sustainable fashion specialist Jack Wolton, along with fashionistas Faris Hamadeh and Ronae Fagon, dreamed up SlowCo. This online platform for independent brands sells only eco-friendly clothing and encourages shoppers to make more considered purchases.

Each item sold on the platform comes from independent brands and must meet at least two of SlowCo’s sustainability criteria – that they are recycled, upcycled, organic, vegan, socially beneficial, made from natural fibres, third party certified, small-scale, low-impact or locally produced.

“We basically just wanted to create somewhere we wanted to shop where people can find beautifully curated sustainable fashion brands in a place that’s visually pleasing and has a true values-led philosophy,” explains co-founder Faris.

[Read More: The ‘slow fashion’ brand that helps Peruvian women]

Putting the breaks on fast fashion

Not only are their products more sustainable than others, they also take a bolder approach by discouraging shoppers from buying so much. On their website they invite people to buy less, saying: “We invite you to take your time, browse slowly, and get to know the brands at your leisure. And if you feel so inclined, you can always add something to your no-pressure-basket.”

“At SlowCo, our starting point is a ‘less but better’ philosophy. This means encouraging people to reduce consumption by purchasing fewer, better quality items,” co-founder Jack adds.

All four SlowCo founders developed the platform off the back of their dissolution with fast fashion. The textiles and garment industry accounts for around 20% of global water wastage and 10% of annual greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile, nearly 90% of the fibres used to produce clothing are incinerated or end up as landfill, according to the World Bank.

In addition to their environmental concerns, the founders design the platform to fit modern understandings of sex and gender. Rather than categorising products by ‘women’s’ and ‘men’s’ clothing, the website homepage offers users the choice of browsing items by gender identity.

[Read More: Inside the UK’s first disabled animal rehab centre]

“I’m openly gay and over the years I’ve suffered homophobic abuse,” says Jack. “I’m passionate about creating an inclusive online environment where everyone is welcome and where we promote acceptance and celebrate being “different”.”

By creating a more inclusive shopping experience, they hope to give people more freedom to express themselves as who they are. Felipe says: “The way you dress is an expression of what you stand for, who you are and I love the idea of creating art out of style, dressing each day to express yourself, no matter how you like to dress, I think is a beautiful way to be.”

Browse SlowCo’s ranges at slowcosustainable.com.

Categories
Culture

This new ethical delivery service puts riders first

When 32-year-old Rich Mason quit his job to pursue something more meaningful, he needed flexible work in order to get by. Like many in this situation, he signed up as a food delivery rider, launching himself into the gruelling waits in return for minimal pay that it entails.

“You end up sitting around waiting for your phone to buzz for five hours or so and in the end, you walk away with about £20 all day,” he recalls. 

Rich started to wonder how this sector might be transformed. After moving on to work for a think tank, examining this area of work, technology and how this could evolve, he came up with an idea. 

“Pulling threads together with a team of three others interested in this area, we decided to create Wings, a cooperatively run delivery platform that puts workers first,” he says.

[Read More: The activewear labelled with its carbon footprint]

Riders are paid a guaranteed hourly London living wage of £10.85. But what really sets Wings apart as an ethical delivery service is that workers have complete control over how the company is run.

“The main difference for our riders is that, rather than feeling like you’re an automaton managed by an algorithm, you are in control,” he explains. To give everybody an equal voice in the company, they use consensus-run decision-making processes that Rich learned from activist groups he is a part of and keep everybody in close communication with one another.

A future for flexible working

Wings also gives riders the opportunity to progress in their careers. “Delivering with Wings could quite easily be a young guy’s first job aged 18,” he says. “Then later, we might train him in an operational role, teach him about leadership and consensus decision making and he could arrive in a back-office job. I think we’re losing this culture of giving people the opportunity to gain skills and rise up in their work.”

Among the first riders to join Wings, is 18-year-old Yunus Khan, who Rich saw cycling fast through Finsbury Park one day when he decided, on the spur of the moment, to involve him in the company.

After sprinting to catch up with Yunus, Rich said: “You’re going really fast – have you been doing this long?” He gave the young man his business card and asked him if he’d be interested. “But it wasn’t a job offer,” he clarifies, “it was the start of a conversation.”

[Read More: Football fans to drink out of edible coffee cups]

Another rider, Faycal Ariouat, joined Wings after being made redundant as manager of a Starbucks branch during the lockdown. 

“He’s in his 50s and flexible work really suits him, because it means that he can share childcare with his daughter’s mother,” Rich explains.

Currently, Wings delivers only in the Finsbury Park area in London, but with time the team hopes to build in numbers, scale up and serve a larger part of London.

For more information about Wings or to download the app and order food locally, go to wings.coop.

Categories
Planet

Football fans to have coffee out of wafer cups

Premier League football team, Manchester City, has introduced 100% recyclable and zero plastic beer cups – and will even trial an ‘edible coffee cup’ this season at the stadium. 

“For the first time on Campus, an ‘edible coffee cup’ will also be introduced,” said a statement from the Etihad Stadium. “This fantastic and innovative solution provides an amazing solution to waste, just eat your cup.”

The cup is one made by a Scottish startup BioBite and it’s actually a biscuit in the shape of a cup. No joke.

[Read More: The activewear labelled with its carbon footprint]

It’s made with wafer, and stays leak-proof from any liquid for up to 12 hours. It apparently stays crunchy for 45 minutes, too, so if you can drink your coffee within that time, you’ve got a crunchy biscuit to eat afterwards. 

“A biscuit and a cup. A drink and a snack. All in one small and delicious package. The ultimate option for every coffee lover,” writes BioBite on its website.

The recyclable paper label around the cup provides the safe handling of the cup before you drink it, and it also keeps the wafer away from the surface it is placed on (so you don’t need to worry about contamination). 

In the UK there are approximately seven million paper coffee cups used every day, which equates to 2.5 billion every year.

“Apart from all the environmental benefits, zero waste movement, and coffee experience, the biscuit is just absolutely delicious and a must-try for every coffee lover,” writes BioBite.