Single Mother Walking the Talk – Fashion

10th November 2014 by

This weekend, I watched a show called Extreme Cheapskates, for the first time, which led me to SuperScrimpers – and, do you know what I learnt?

I learnt that being conscious of our environment and saving money goes hand-in-hand. HURRAH! Now, this might already be incredibly obvious to you but as one of the newer members of the Otesha team, this was a revelation!

I always assumed that buying organic seasonal food was more expensive than shopping in a supermarket, that wearing vintage was only for trendsetters with money to burn and keeping my two children amused appropriately every weekend and school holiday was neigh on impossible without spending loads of money.

Absolutely great news for a single mother learning to walk the talk!

So walk beside me as I learn and change my family’s life, one step at a time.

My first subject (and huge passion): Fashion.


Shopping in your friend’s closets.

I’m massively lucky because my closest friends are all relatively the same size as me. When they are clearing their closets I make sure I’m sitting in the front row! I even offer to take their old stuff to the charity shop as a thank you – check me out!

When I have a special event such as a birthday meal or party, I beg and borrow clothes, bags, jewellery and shoes – that way my wardrobe has an amazing ‘rotation’ of dresses that never seem to be worn twice! Happy days.


Charity shops.

I love looking through the rails of a good charity shop. The sales assistants are always so friendly, you can always find amazing vintage and retro and as we all know, one person’s trash is another person’s treasure! And it’s cheap and cheerful and the money goes to a great cause!

Great for good quality bags, amazing chunky knit jumpers and vintage scarves.


Carboot sales.

Amazing for buying AND selling! A great day out for you and the family and you can haggle – super fun! I would recommend Capital Carboot in Pimlico on a Sunday.

A couple of weeks ago I got a pair of purple thigh high suede boots for a FIVER. Hardly worn, high quality and probably about £100 first hand in the shops. Not everyone’s cup of tea, sure – but hella 1970’s and beautiful for me!


Until next time!

Love, luck and light.


Inspiring Projects to make your own

7th November 2013 by at Otesha we’re always on the lookout for inspiration.  No doubt, there are hundreds of thousands of people, organisations, projects, and places that do the trick.  Recently we came across Revolutionary Arts and their list of 50 inspiring projects.  We like what they have to say: Revolutionary Arts is dedicated to new ideas, fresh challenges and radical thinking. It makes things for places and people.

Looking over the list below, I’d say it’s all about finding those precious moments/ideas/thoughts/people and celebrating the way they ‘inspire you to bring playfulness, pride, pop up fun, placeshaking and productivity to the place where you live‘.

Stay tuned as sources say there’s another list of 50 coming.  We can’t wait!

  1. Open a pop up bookshop
  2. Make some robots
  3. Plant more sunflowers
  4. Start a shop local campaign
  5. Walk to work
  6. Create an indoor charity market
  7. Open a cycle-powered cinema
  8. Ask people what they want in the neighbourhood
  9. Make your own roadsigns to encourage people to walk
  10. Start a weekend festival in a forgotten corner of the town
  11. Manage the empty shops to make it easier for people to use them
  12. Make the public spaces places for people to sit
  13. Turn the place you live into a Play Street
  14. Create a Cash Mob and support independent shops
  15. Print your own money
  16. Grow more food
  17. Fill the shops with swings
  18. Plant a sensory garden
  19. Think of the bicycle as transport, not just a leisure activity
  20. Install benches with bookshelves at bus stops
  21. Open a pop up playspace
  22. Design theatre posters and paste them up
  23. Find new uses for empty shops
  24. Only buy secondhand stuff
  25. Start a bicycle recycling project
  26. Tell people what’s made locally
  27. Collect photographs of things you’d usually ignore
  28. Make your street a 10 smiles an hour zone
  29. Give teenagers their own market
  30. Open a café that gives homeless people jobs
  31. Ride your bike naked
  32. Open a box shop
  33. Find the garden under the paving slabs
  34. Build your own mobile phone network
  35. Imagine what an art festival could do
  36. Meet up to celebrate local architecture
  37. Create interactive art in windows with digital technology
  38. Open a book exchange in a fridge
  39. Ensure that people can walk (not drive) to the town centre
  40. Clean up the place where you live
  41. Make buildings from shipping containers
  42. Open a pop up crazy golf course in a shopping centre
  43. Make the whole town an arts venue
  44. Turn the local park into a city farm
  45. Paint your own pedestrian crossings on streets
  46. Start a moveable museum
  47. Bring bees to the city
  48. Find out what makes a place special
  49. Make sure your high street balances
  50. Create a pop up thinktank and write your own list of ideas for making where you live better
via Revolutionary Arts

Fashion forward?

22nd May 2013 by

I wouldn’t really classify myself as a fashion-forward person. I don’t ‘shop till I drop’, take any notice of the upcoming seasons or Fashion Week and I generally hate wearing anything that has a label in sight. So that said, I would classify myself with more of the ‘make-do-and-mend’ category. Which brings me to my shoe story.
My shoes are falling apart and I wonder where to draw the line of giving them up vs mending them. Let’s start from the beginning.

I purchased the leather sneakers in 2010 from quite an expensive shop. I wouldn’t normally go in there but I was given a gift card. I was already torn from the start because:

a) although I’m not a vegetarian, I try not to purchase items which are made from leather. Most of their stock was leather.
b) I was curious about the ethics of the company.
c) I didn’t really need a new pair of shoes.
d) Should I just re-gift the gift card?

After much umming and awing I came to the conclusion that I would go and do it. I resolved myself by doing a bit of research and taking the plunge. Fast forward to the present and honestly they are the most comfortable sneakers I’ve ever had. I’ve worn them every single day and they’ve been really good to me thus far. I’ve realised DSC_0005that feet are very important, after all they support your whole body. I hadn’t been treating them very well and these sneakers were easing the pain. I’ve already taken them to a cobbler once to glue the fronts of the shoes back together and now the seams are breaking open and unfortunately the glue’s coming apart. My question now is what to do. Do I try to keep mending them? When do you let them go?

Fair and ethical fashion is quite a topic these last few decades, some would say not nearly enough. In light of the very recent tragedies in Bangladeshi clothing and shoe factories, the debate has heated up.  Here at Otesha, we have our very own workshop on getting ethical about fashion, we blog away about  it, and have alumni involved in brilliant fair fashion projects.  But how do I get into the act myself?

On our site, we’ve got a brilliant fun action list for Fashion.  I definitely try to keep to it although I’m the first to admit I’m not perfect.  Keep in mind our tips when going out and buying something.  And remember, you can make a difference out there in what you purchase.  And if you think you’ve got it all down, check out our challenges to keep pushing yourself towards sustainable living.

Sewing-Needle-and-ThreadFor now, I’m going to get my needle and thread out, ignore my friends teasing me about my gaping shoes and attempt to sew the holes together.  Wish me luck!

Spring Fever

24th April 2013 by

Spring is upon us… finally!  You may vaguely recall that for the first day of spring, which was the 20th March, there wasn’t much hope in the air. These past few weeks however, have put a ‘spring’ in my step and a smile on my face as I get on my bike and ride.  So with that in mind, I’ll jot down a few spring tips to get into the groove.

Spring Tips:

1. Tuning up your bicycle
bike04You may think that the first thing to do when you read ‘tune up’ is to take your bicycle to the shop but wait – that might not be necessary at all. Here at Otesha, we’re big fans of doing it yourself or at least having a good go.  If you’ve been riding all winter long, the first place to start would be to give your bicycle a good clean.  It will do wonders!  Some of us have even been known to take our bikes apart and clean all the little bits as well.  It’s a joy having a gleaming chain.  Don’t knock it till you try it.

The next tip would be to make sure you take a good hard look at your tyres and your brakes. Make sure the tyres are at the proper pressure and test out your brakes.  You can do a search for tips online although I particularly enjoyed this article.

And if you want a hand, come along to our free Dr Bike sessions at our new home, Workshop 44, 44 Marlborough Avenue, E8 4JR. We’re here to help on Tuesdays 5-6pm.

2. Spring Cleaning
Some of us, and I do emphasise the word some, enjoy a little spring cleaning when the sun’s out.  That could include a wide variety of activities.  Generally though, I’m a big fan of de-cluttering my closet, and wiping down those barely seen corners of the room.

We’re a big fan of using our very own cleaning products.  Did you know that everything you need to disinfect and clean your home is probably already in your store cupboard? There is a silent genius lurking on the supermarket shelves.  Click here for some ideas and recipes to make your own.

In all the cleaning flurry, also consider our new and improved “3-Rs”:

  • Rethink: Do I need this?
  • Refuse: “No, I don’t need a bag (I brought my own).”
  • Restore: Try to fix things instead of just throwing them out. Or better yet, transform things into something else.  We’ve mastered the art of turning a tetrapak into a lovely wallet.
  • Reduce: Get library books instead of buying new ones, and buy vintage clothes instead of new gear. If you’re a woman, you can also reduce your waste by buying yourself a keeper, mooncup or luna pads.
  • Reuse: Scrap paper, lunch containers, etc.
  • Rrrr-Compost: It’s like reusing food.
  • Then, only when you’ve exhausted all the other options: Recycle!

3. Plant something
As “Otesha” is a Swahili word that means “to plant something and make it grow”, try your hand at plantingp-stmaryssecretgarden.jpg.270x270_q95_crop--50,-50_upscale something.  It can be something as small as a sunflower seed to growing your own veg.  For those with small spaces, I absolutely adore this inspiring site based in Newcastle Vertical Veg. And if you want further help, sign up to our Bimonthly Bemusings newsletter here.  May’s newsletter is coming out shortly and includes great links to our challenge to plant a seed.

4. Go through Otesha’s Fun Action List
It’s been a while since we’ve gone through our Fun Action List so try it out. There are great things to do in and around your house, some you may have forgotten about.  See how many you can tick off.

Have any more tips for us?  Drop us a comment below.

Happy Spring!


The Cotton Film: Dirty White Gold – When you bag a bargain, who pays for it?

30th September 2012 by

One of our Cycle Tours alumni Cressida Kinnear, is involved in an amazing and important film about cotton.  She so kindly offered to tell us her tales and background about Dirty White Gold.

One of my favourite Otesha workshops to facilitate is the fashion workshop – I love the part  when everyone in the group takes a look at the labels in their clothes and marks the ‘made in’ origin on a big world map. It’s a great way of visualising how globalised our wardrobes are and starkly displaying the imbalances within the supply chains that deliver our socks, skirts and shirts to our toes, bums and backs. The workshop goes on to raise discussions around the exploitation (see War on Want campaign against Olympic providers adidas) and the waste (500,000 tonnes of clothes end up in UK land fills every year) that are intrinsic to the supply chains behind fashion fads and luxurious labels.

Imagine one of those items of clothing festering in a landfill – a crumpled, dirty, white t-shirt. Zoom right in on it, further than the eye can see – to the individual matrix of threads that make up the material, and then imagine back along the production line to the seed that was sown to grow the cotton plant which produced the fibres of that thread. That seed is the start of the commodity chain and invisible on the map plotting where our clothes were made. There is a strong possibility that that seed was planted in India, where cotton is predominantly a small holder crop grown by the rural poor. In India, almost 300,000 farmers have committed suicide since the mid 1990s – a large proportion of those deaths are among cotton farmers.

These farmers are mostly killing themselves to escape debt – debts which are largely due to the ‘liberalisation’ of Indian trade policies from the early 1990s onwards and the corporate take over of small scale agriculture. This neo-liberal phase of policy has neglected agriculture (on which 60% of the population rely) by removing subsidies and exposing farmers to the volatility of the global market. Multinational corporations have been ushered into the Indian economy and now totally dominate the input market for growing cotton and seem negligent of the lives on which their commercial activities and continuing expansion impact. Increasingly severe droughts and soil degradation via pesticides (54% of the total pesticides in use in India are used on cotton, including many classified by the WTO as highly toxic) are making the situation worse.

These suicides are so far removed from the finished product which is strutted up and down a catwalk, or donned to keep cosy on a wintery walk that they almost seem removed from the supply chain of our clothes – which of course they are not – consumers are complicit in these deaths.

 The Cotton Film: Dirty White Gold is a documentary feature film by trouble maker and journalist Leah Borromeo which will tell the story of how we get out cotton and find out what we can do to, not just look good, but to do good. Filmed in the fields and factories of India and on the high streets and catwalks of London, it will trace the entire supply chain of cotton products, from seed to shop, exploring the roles played by all parties – from multinational seed companies and fashion empires to farmers who cultivate just a few acres of land. Issues including the intense use of pesticides, the debate around GM Bt cotton, fairly traded cotton and the viability of organic cotton production will be explored in a bid to answer the question – ‘When you bag a bargain, who’s paid for it?’.

Because the film is being made by Borromeo – friend of The Yes Men and The Space Hijackers – it’s not all cotton loom and doom. It may not be your average Saturday night date movie, but it will be quirky, funny and have a subversive twist – think Newsnight with some brandalism in the background.

The film has recently launched a crowdfund appeal, each £1 donated will unlock £3 in funding and there are loads of great rewards up for grabs including limited edition art works, t-shirts and tickets to future screenings.  Check out their trailer.

And click the link to find out more:

Spread the word and help a project aiming to make ethics and sustainability in the fashion industry the norm, rather than the exception.


The Craftivism Q&A

23rd March 2012 by

We’ve had a hankering recently to know all about this thing called craftivism, so we’ve kidnapped Sarah Corbett, founder of the Craftivist Collective, locked her in the Otesha dungeon and turned our interrogation lamp on her. Here’s what we learned… [Thanks, Sarah!]

Oh, and if you can’t get enough craftivism, watch what happened when Otesha patron and comedian Josie Long got crafty with the collective.

Alright, then. What’s craftivism when it’s at home?

Craftivism is activism through using craft methods: provoking people to think about global injustices in a non threatening, non preachy way, normally as street art or as gifts to people, and through cross-stitch (like mini protest banners left in public), hand-embroidery (like our Don’t Blow It hankies to give to MPs, teachers, bankers etc) and other craft methods (bunting, shrink plastic gifts etc).

What’s this collective, and what led you to get involved in craftivism?

The Craftivist Collective came about in 2008 when I came to live in London for a job. I felt like a burnt-out activist like many do, going on lots of marches, signing lots of petitions, going to activism meetings and not feeling like we were getting anywhere.

Plus I’m not a natural extrovert, so didn’t like doing stunts, dressing up, talking to strangers, asking them to sign petitions, going on marches, and I don’t like some forms of activism that are aggressive and demonise people. Craftivism was also a reaction to clicktivism and slacktivism and not feeling I fitted into some groups – I’m too scared to ride a bike, I’m not vegan and I love fashion and reading Vogue.

I also got really into cross-stitch because I’m naturally creative and didn’t have space to paint, plus I could do cross-stitch in my room, on public transport and to calm me down after a stressful day at work.

You also get time to reflect and think when crafting and it feels achievable, so I wanted to craft items with social justice messages in them that I could think about whilst stitching – but then leave them in public places for other people to think about the issue.

So I went to see my nan in Shetland in August 2008 with a bag of craft and a burning desire to be an activist again but in a sustainable and fun way, and in Shetland I came up with the idea for Mini Protest Banners to make and put up in public. I googled craft and activism groups and the term craftivism popped up. I contacted Betsy Greer, who coined the terms, and asked if there were groups I could join but there weren’t, so I just started doing it alone.

The banners wouldn’t tell people what to do or be negative but would be quotes or facts to provoke people to think about our global neighbours. I cable-tied them to places linked to the issue (e.g. flagship unethical stores if the fact was about sweatshops; outside financial districts talking about extreme, unbridled capitalism etc).

People started commenting on my blog asking if they could do it too, so I set up the collective for people to email me their banners, or join me in London to do craftivism, and its snowballed from there. We now sell kits, create instruction videos, workshops, events and people around the world deliver our projects, which is amazing! :) I’ve gone part-time in my job to have more time to give to it.

The ‘collective’ is a loose term for people who get involved, whether they are abroad or meet us at our monthly stitch-ins in London. We want everyone to feel part of our collective and encourage people to email us a photo and blog about their craftivism piece for us to put on the website, tweet, fb etc.

What’s the nicest public reaction you’ve ever had to your craftivism?

So many to count! :) People often ask us what we are doing when we are in public in a group or as individuals. When we explain it, most of the time people are really interested, ask more and then leave telling us to keep doing it. Some people take photos to send to friends or take a flyer to give to someone they know who is crafty and would love to hear more about us.

The reaction I am most proud of is from a banker who is quite high up in Goldman Sachs. He was given one of our prints by his long-term friend from uni. He emailed her to thank her and said it prompted him and his wife to have a thoughtful long conversation about what they can do in their position to help the most vulnerable. = amazing! :)
And have you ever had a very bad reaction to the craftivism you’ve done?

Sometimes, very rarely, we get comments from more hardcore activists saying we are too positive, too cute, too fuzzy to make a difference. We try and have a dialogue with these people to say we are not campaigners but rather there to provoke people to think about an issue in a non-threatening way We also see our value in reaching new audiences who might be nervous of activism and don’t feel they belong to other groups that might be louder, more extrovert or just into different things.

We are passionate about engaging shy, creative types into activism and being that stepping stone. Plus we reel through the list of benefits of craftivism. Normally that ends in the other person understanding our benefit in the activism world. But you can’t please everyone.
There seems to be a bit of a craft revival – knitting, bodging, cross-stitch, sewing – they all seem pretty zeitgeisty right now. What do you put that down to?

There is always a resurgence of craft in a recession- mostly it links to the Make Do and Mend ethos. But I also put it down to people feeling stressed, disempowered and wanting to do something. Crafting really helps people’s confidence, helps them feel valued, helps reflection, creativity and feeling you have achieved something.

I think I’m a bit rubbish at making things. Shall I not bother?

I didn’t go to art school and was never taught any formal craft skills. I learnt by doing and watching YouTube videos and still get lots wrong (my nan always tuts when she sees the back of my messy cross-stitched pieces). I make sure that all of the projects I create are accessible to all regardless of craft skill or political experience.

We create instruction videos for people to learn from, kits people can buy with instruction sheets and suggested content and we offer talks and workshops. If you really don’t want to stitch with us you can be an honorary ‘Craptivist’ who buys our postcards, gift cards, prints, ‘Craptivist’ badge (our mentor Sam Roddick came up with that name!) and spread the word through giving these gifts to people.

What’s the collective got planned – anything coming up you’d like to shout about?

Lots! :) All our events are on our website and Facebook and tweeted. We do monthly free Stitch-Ins at Royal Festival Hall every 3rd Thursday of the month, 7-9pm, where people can come and bring their own craftivism project do to, buy one of our kits and get a free tutorial from one of our experienced craftivists or just come and have a look, chat and see if they want to get involved.

We also do paid workshops that have more structure where you learn about the history of crafitivism, the benefits, some craft skills and can discuss justice issues with other attendees (for our June and September Sunday workshops 2-4:30pm email to find out more).

Plus I get booked in to do talks and workshops for organisations (in the past they have been with Southbank, Tate Gallery, Hayward Gallery and others) so I’m looking to book more this year (if any one knows anywhere that might want a craftivism talk or workshop please get in touch!).

I’m off to Berlin in May to do a talk and workshop at an event have asked me to do; some craftivists in Glasgow are planning on getting me up in October to deliver a workshop and teach them how to deliver them; I’m working with St Fagan’s museum outside Cardiff to deliver a workshop to complement an exhibition they are doing in June; and Ink-d Gallery, Brighton, have asked for more artwork and prints from me to show – I’m looking to book a workshop in the Gallery with them and stitch on my own underneath my craftivism work and tweet people to join me.

What’s your big dream? If craftivism achieved what it’s setting out to do, in its entirety, what would a craftivist utopia look like?

So many dreams: to be featured in Vogue, to deliver a TED talk, to have our products selling in lots of shops and e-shops across the world especially non-political shops, to deliver talks around the world on the power of craftivism, have more exhibitions, get funding to do Craftivism Bootcamps to train people up to deliver projects, workshops and talks so it’s not just me (I would make them a certificate at the end to prove they are a craftivist!).

My dream is that everyone knows the benefits of craftivism and it is seen as another great tool to encourage people to be the best people they can whilst they are on this planet. Encourage people to fulfil the world’s potential to be a just, fair and sustainable, beautiful place. Oh and I would, selfishly, like to be a full-time craftivist rather than have a part time job to pay my rent!

Reduce, reuse, recycle… up-cycle!

8th December 2011 by

Guest blogger and friend of Otesha Alice Nicol gets us up to speed on the world of up-cycling, and argues that designers and businesses must put reduction of resource use at the heart of their work

In a world where we are continually putting strain on our resources, I have come to question what my role and impact is as a designer. For me, this means taking a holistic view and acknowledging the social and environmental impacts my choice of fabric has on the world. Which fibre did it start off as? Does it have longevity? Where will it end up?

One place to start is by working with what we already have, as using a material that already exists is more sustainable and environmentally friendly than buying new. Our stage of mass consumerism and fast fashion provides a mountain of perfectly usable cast-offs, for example… I am hinting at ‘Up-cycling.’

So what is up-cycling? In a nutshell, up-cycling means using materials with a low value to create a new product with a higher value. Essentially giving something old a new lease of life.

My up-cycling venture began whilst in my final year of printed textiles at the Glasgow School of Art. I wanted to print onto knitwear, yet knitting my own pieces (even from lovely chunky hemp/wool blends) was too timely and buying too costly. What could be used that, in both senses, didn’t cost the earth? My resolution to this conundrum was to venture into a charity shop, where suddenly I found many sizable pieces of knitwear for bargain prices. At the same time buying from charity shops means re-using a product, reducing shipping to external markets and supporting many a just cause through the likes of the Red Cross, Barnardo’s, Oxfam and Shelter, so much more than just bargain knitwear…

A few samples of printing onto re-claimed knit

But the material is only one part of textile design. My design work has been inspired by the bicycle ever since I wandered into the Glasgow Transport Museum and set eyes on the most beautiful penny-farthing I’d ever seen. Whilst I was influenced by the aesthetic design of bicycles (in all shapes and sizes), they also go hand in hand with reducing negative impacts on the environment. Bicycles have negligible carbon emissions, use few materials and resources and make us all that much fitter and healthier! (Though perhaps not all of us will ride a penny-farthing to work!)

Digitally printed silk handkerchiefs

But back to the knitwear… after using jumpers as material for my designs I began to think of other creative ways to use them. This started an enterprise of making hot water bottle covers from the sleeves and cushion covers from the main body. I also became curious about other designers in the world of up-cycling. This led me to discover Goodone, a company which I have been working for this year.

Goodone was established by Nin Castle in 2006 and has appeared at London Fashion Week for the past 6 seasons. Nin has recognized the need to address the environmental impact of the fashion industry and developed a method that is informed by the use of recycled fabrics, but not restrained by it.

The majority of materials are sourced from a textile-recycling unit in East London. Many of the garments are 100% recycled materials, others are mixed with faulty or end of the line fabrics. All garments are made to order in the studio in North London, with a bespoke option, so that only the fabric needed is used.

Despite already using end of the line materials Goodone has even gone a step further, or several leaps, when thinking about its own post production waste. Jerseys/T-shirts are used as cleaning rags, a children’s toy project is on the go and all those jumper sleeves… you guessed it, hot water bottle covers!

Hot water bottle covers made from Aran jumpers

These are inspiring examples of how the role of a designer can help make a more positive impact on our planet: up-cycling; made-to-measure; managing post production waste. Clare Farrell’s article, ‘Peak Fibre?’, on the goodone blog, highlights the necessity of such business models.

Should you wish to discuss your own ideas of up-cycling (or just come for a chat and see what we do!) there are a few events on about town that you can visit:

Full circle: products that are made with recycling in mind

19th October 2011 by

Written by Otesha alumni Andy Hix and cross-posted from The Guardian Sustainable Business blog

Imagine an old pair of shoes that grows into flowers, a carpet that cleans the air and clothing that becomes food for plants.  These are the kinds of products being developed by Dutch designers inspired by the Cradle to Cradle concept.

I have spent a month in Holland interviewing businesses that are creating products that benefit the environment, improve people’s health and are profitable.

Developed by American architect William McDonough and chemist Michael Braungart, Cradle to Cradle envisions an economy based on closed-loop cycles of materials. The concept gained widespread popularity in the Netherlands following a documentary in 2006.

The first meeting I had was with Erica Bol, co-founder of Rewrap, a company that makes Cradle to Cradle laptop covers. The sleeves are made from biodegradable wool from eco-sheep(!) and non-toxic dye with the minimum of materials. They are manufactured in a workplace that helps reintegrate disabled people into the workforce.

The next week I travelled to Venlo, where the city council has decided to make the whole region Cradle to Cradle. Previously young people were leaving Venlo in search of work. Now the city attracts the leading businesses in Cradle to Cradle and has become a hub for sustainable innovation.

Roy Vercoulen, the Managing Director of Venlo’s Cradle to Cradle Exposition Centre, explained that the city’s procurement criteria stimulates innovation by stating intentions – such as a building that produces oxygen, sequesters carbon, purifies water, improves the health of its occupants and promotes local biodiversity – whilst allowing as much room for creativity within that as possible.

If a company meets some of the procurement criteria they score thirty points, if it meets all of the criteria it scores seventy points, and up to a hundred per cent by coming up with solutions the city hadn’t even conceived of. The average score is eighty-three.

I met Richard van Dijk from the Dutch waste company Van Gansewinkel, whose corporate slogan roughly translates as ‘there’s no such thing as waste’. They realised some years ago that most of the materials being brought to them as waste can be turned into other products, which it turns out is very profitable. Now they advise manufacturers on how to design their products to be more easily made into new ones.

Lex Knobben, co-founder of laladoo, a baby clothing company, said he came across Cradle  to Cradle when he was trying to find out if it was possible to buy non-toxic apparel. He told me even clothing made of organic cotton is often soaked in toxins during the dying process.

None of the high street brands he researched could guarantee that their clothing is one hundred per cent toxin free so now he is designing and selling onesies and bibs made from Cradle to Cradle materials.

When I asked Stef Kranendijk, whose carpet company Desso has boomed since adopting the Cradle to Cradle philosophy, what inspired him, he gives the same answer as almost everyone I ask. It was the documentary.

He is brimming with enthusiasm as he recalls watching it and thinking ‘this is fantastic. Fantastic! But I’m going to have to change my whole company!’ Which is exactly what he did. Cradle to Cradle is one of the key drivers of innovation at Desso, who have developed a carpet that helps asthma sufferers by collecting dust from the air and can be easily disassembled and made into new carpet.

The company Oat Shoes have deigned stylish trainers with a packet of seeds in the tongue. The idea is that when they are worn out you can bury them, water them and “watch wild flowers bloom out of your old kicks.”

What’s impressive is how these companies have made the environmental and social outcomes of their businesses a core part of their strategies and a driver of innovation. Instead of aiming to reduce their impact to the environment they are actively seeking to have a positive impact, and are making money in the process.

Cradle to Cradle has made me realise that we need to redesign everything and in order to do that we need a level of collaboration never seen before between chemists, designers, architects, waste companies and manufacturers.

While this is very ambitious, the fact that is can profitable gives me hope that businesses can be persuaded to it.

If you’re interested in finding out more, The Ellen MacArthur Foundation is a good place to start.

World Fair Trade Day

13th May 2011 by

To celebrate World Fair Trade Day on Saturday 14th May, the Fairtrade Foundation (in collaboration with international Fairtrade licensing organisations) have created this short film, A Fair Story. It’s as sweet as a Fairtrade chocolate bar with the production values of the finest Fairtrade coffee.

Tomorrow the Fairtrade are celebrating with Bunting for Justice in Battersea Park, London, 12-2pm.

Gee Whiz, Hi Viz!

28th February 2011 by

After some great events last year, we’re back at Drink, Shop & Do on Wednesday 9th March from 7 to 9 pm. We’re going to be breathing life into some new, but very dull messenger bags, turning them into things of beauty.

There’s reflective material available to help make them perfect for cycling, as well as loads of other fabric and stencils to make fancy shapes and patterns. So please come along and create your very own masterpiece!

Please feel free to bring your own bag if you don’t fancy using one of ours.

When: Wednesday 9th March from 7:00-9:00pm
Where: Drink, Shop & Do, No 9 Caledonian Road N1 9DX (close to King’s Cross station)
Cost: £5.00 including all materials and a bag. For Otesha members, it’s free!

Search Blog

Get Social