Single Mother Walking the Talk… 2014’s Lessons

7th January 2015 by

Happy New Year y’all!

Before I joined Otesha in February 2014, I think the areas of my life that were environmentally conscious and active were because of:

  1. My financial situation and my ‘make do and mend’ attitude because of it.
  2. The fact my mother raised me as (and when) she was raised (1940’s Philippines) and the influence of another culture and generation made me ‘waste not, want not’.
  3. Wanting my children to be responsible and conscious of their actions and their impacts on their local and wider environment.

So, these past 11 months as a member of Otesha HQ, has taught me a lot and I wanted to share these lessons with you all.

Here they are:

  • Eating flowers is fun… and TASTY! Allium flowers from onion and garlic chives are my favourite – they taste like little floral intense pops of oniony and garlicy goodness!
  • The water footprint of beef (15400 litres of water per kilogram of beef) and coffee (140 liters of water per 125 milliliter cup) is horrible. Calculate your water footprint here.
  • Making deodorant is really easy and no fuss! Not only does it work well, it doesn’t give you cancer! Click here for a good recipe.
  • Nestle owns BOTH Perrier and San Pellegrino!!!!!! :( :( :( These brands tend to be the only ‘easy to find’ naturally carbonated water – and since I don’t drink ‘fizzy’ drinks, I’m rather partial to carbonated water with fruit for a bit of taste.

Now both bottled ‘still’ and carbonated water are on my ‘do-not-buy’ list.

  • Nestle is stealing developing countries’ groundwater to produce its ‘Pure Life’ bottled water (oh the irony), this is leaving whole areas uninhabitable and essentially forcing people to ‘buy their water back’. Oh, and let’s not forget that Nestle’s CEO doesn’t believe that water is a human right, click here to watch him saying it.
  • Thrifting is my favourite thing of all time EVER. I’m passionate about slow fashion, recycling, reusing and rummaging around charity shops! I love a bargain, I think it’s great when everything you own has a story and a past and I love me some retro (the 1990’s were a great era for fashion)! I’ve even started chronicling my thrifting adventures on my personal Instagram account!
  • I like chutney! And, yes it takes a bit of time to make, but it keeps good for a year and goes with EVERYTHING! I personally like this recipe. I made mine with marrows from mum’s allotment and apples from the tree in my back garden.
  • The kids love making paper. The mulch is fun to play with! Thanks to Sarah at ECOactive for showing us how. We like the good ole’ fashioned clothes hanger and tights method – as outlined here. :) In 2014 we taught ourselves how to bind homemade books with string. 2015 will be handmade books with handmade paper!
  • If you take cuttings of your friend’s plants you never have to buy potted plants or seeds again! This year I got Aloe Vera (thanks Orsetta) and pineapple sage – which is great in cocktails! Here’s how-to.

Until next time folks!

Peace and bicycle grease!


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

‘Eco’ Status Quo? Why We’re Growing Our Own Food

31st October 2013 by

Our friends over at Ashoka have been supporting social entrepreneurs’ solutions to the toughest social and environmental challenges for the past 30 years.  Here, they share a series of some of their relevant learnings and top stories for our Otesha readership – the first installment is by guest blogger Julia Koskella. Enjoy!


The past few years have seen a massive increase in demand for locally-sourced food in countries around the world. Fed by well-rooted concerns that processed food transported globally and treated chemically is not best for the planet or people, consumers are driving a new localism in supply chains.

Most consumption decisions are made by individuals at the supermarket shelves. But behind this change in consumer habits is a global league of leading social entrepreneurs, innovating, creating new markets, and understanding the key drivers of human behaviour.

Michael Kelly says “Grow It Yourself”

GIY 3 - Otesha photoThe latest trend to hit the local food movement is to go straight to the source and grow your own.  Increasingly consumers are asking themselves where their food comes from and how they can be sure it is safe and healthy.  Five years ago, this prompted a real “aha” moment for Michael Kelly, Founder of Grow It Yourself (GIY) and now an Ashoka Fellow. Picking up a clove of garlic in Ireland, Kelly was bowled over to see a “fresh from China” sticker on as small and cheap an item as garlic – a product which grows naturally and abundantly in Ireland.

Digging deeper, Kelly found Ireland imports no less than €4 billion per year of produce, which could be grown locally, despite being a net exporter of food and drink. His solution was to plant garlic himself and convince thousands of others to grow some of their own food too.  Through GIY, Michael aims to make it easy and sociable for anybody to start growing food for the first time. He has created a GIY network with dozens of locally-run chapters and events and an online platform to share tips and resources.  

Five years on, the GIY network connects more than 50,000 people and 800 food-growing groups. In Ireland, GIY is not just a network but a new cultural movement cutting across age and class divides. Michael is now ready to take on other global markets. Last July saw GIY formally launch internationally, with Michael leading a day-long UK event mobilising food enthusiasts, community groups, and growing experts from across the country.

Key drivers behind the ‘Grow It Yourself’ movement

Four key insights have allowed social entrepreneurs like Michael to have real impact on human behaviour and food consumption patterns.

1. Sustainability just got personal:

Localism is having great impact on the environment, cutting down food miles and chemicals from agribusiness. But social entrepreneurs like Michael know you must tap into a range of personal motivations and interests to create a successful mass movement. In the case of GIY, foodies know that locally-grown food is more tasty and cost effective. Cutting out the commute means your food will be on your plate fresher and faster, without losing vitamins B, C, and E.  If that’s not enough motivation to get you growing, then experiencing the simple pleasures of being active outdoors might: gardening is regular exercise and a dose of sunshine. And any food grower will tell you about the glowing pride they feel at watching their crops sprout, fruit, and harvest. So whatever market you’re in, make sure to appeal to people with a range of interests.

2. Cultivate food empathy:

The first-hand experience of growing food, even if it’s just a few basil pots on your windowsill, leads to a wider mind-shift change that Michael calls “food empathy.” Growing your own cultivates a deeper understanding of the value of food, the time and effort invested, and even awareness of the seasonality of food crops. GIY impact studies have found people who grow their own food start making more sustainable and healthy food consumption decisions throughout the week, not just when they’re picking a home-grown carrot.

3. Collaborate to innovate:

When you’re in the business of changing behaviour, social entrepreneurs understand they must collaborate, not compete, to affect change. For GIY’s launch in the UK, Michael received the collaboration and support of Ashoka Fellow Rob Hopkins, co-founder of Transition Towns.  Many local Transition Town groups are also linked to the Slow Foods movement originally created by Carlo Petrini in Italy.  Petrini, originally elected an Ashoka Fellow in 2008, works through 1,300 local chapters worldwide to promote the greater enjoyment of food through a better understanding of its taste, quality, and production – again linking to the concept of food empathy.

4. Social networks on the ground, not the cloud:

Behind all of the leading local food initiatives is the act of bringing people together regularly on the ground.  Changing your behaviour away from the status quo – whether by putting up solar panels, biking to work, or growing lettuce on your windowsill – takes time, energy, and often money. To counterbalance these costs and shift behaviours on a large scale, social entrepreneurs know the power of bringing people together in a supportive community.


Social entrepreneurs are creating online communities that are just as smart, and often more vibrant, than their GIY 2 - Otesha photocorporate counterparts. But crucially, the Grow It Yourself movement is also bringing social ties back to basics at the local level, meeting a deep human need that can’t be satisfied on Twitter – especially when the sun comes out.  People are coming together in community gardens, local garden allotments, or starting their own “GIY Groups” – a structure Michael created so that any member of the public can facilitate new and deep conversations focused on lifestyle, food, and the joys and frustrations of food growing.

If you or a local group are already involved in food-growing, make sure to sign up to the GIY network and strengthen the movement world-wide. If you’d like to try growing even a small amount of food for the first time, or even set up a local GIY group, then check out the website for full, free tips and support. Happy GIY-ing!


This is part of a series of articles on Ashoka’s network of social entrepreneurs transforming environmental systems, originally posted on  Ashoka is building a movement of leading social entrepreneurs innovating for sustainability. If you know of anyone whose work will truly change the system, please consider nominating them. Find them online, or follow the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

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!


Where’s Milo? Q&A

25th September 2012 by

Here at Otesha, we’re always trying to take small actions in our lives to contribute to a cleaner and greener world.  Some days, our paths cross other inspiring people and Tristan Titeux is certainly one of them.  He so kindly offered to tell us his story and explain the Where’s Milo? project.  Read on…

My name is Tristan Titeux and I was born in London in 1976 but very shortly moved to the Belgian countryside for 13 years. I lived in the oldest house on the street made from local flint stone – the walls were the thickness of your lower arm; We had one cold tap in the whole house, 2 wood fires, no fridge, no tv, an outside detached loo and bathroom, a garden full of food, and animals that gave us eggs, honey, cheese and meat.  The wild around us gave us flowers and leaves for our salads, the best mushrooms, fruit and medicine when I was ill. My dad never went or took me to the doctor.  The rest of our food was brought from the health food shop in Maastricht in Holland just across the border from where I lived.

My dad used to talk on the radio for years, every Sunday about wild plants.  He had a great following and published three books on plants, their history, folklore, medicinal and value as a food. From these beginnings, close to nature, I learned where resources came from, where the wood came from and not to waste it.  My dad would also tell us not to waste water – turn the tap off when cleaning our teeth, bathing in just enough water, not a sea.

Ever since leaving Belgium I have carried on the values my parents gave me, I have always eaten organic food, my house and business has run on 100% renewable electricity from Good Energy for the past 13 years now. I was a photographer for 12 years before I decided to live in France.  In preparation for this, I did all sorts of courses such as basket and cider making, Permaculture, straw bale building and many others including carpentry. I never went to France and instead started riding around Notting Hill with my tools in two bags hanging on each side of my bicycle, a screw box on top and a ruck sack.  And so began my career as a handyman.

People asked me to do bigger and bigger projects in their homes and now for the last 5 years my business specialises in bespoke fitted furniture.

In January 2011 I decided to start an eco friendly option for my customers. I went to a day seminar a couple of months back with many people talking, mostly ethical business people.

One in particular made me think about what I really wanted to do. I was happy making money in my business, but deep down it didn’t entirely fit my true passion, which is the environment. From then on I decided that I would become a pioneer in my field and so I started researching eco materials, and designing and building some fitted furniture that, with no compromise, demonstrated the ultimate eco friendly fitted furniture you could currently make if you had the desire to.

What is eco furniture?
Simply put, eco furniture is furniture that is made from materials that are less harmful to the environment by using raw ingredients that can decompose back into nature without polluting it and its inhabitants in the process.

This definition is broad and can branch out into several other discussions:

  • using sustainable materials that can be regrown or reused again and again with as minimal impact on nature as possible
  • making furniture that will last as long as possible and not easily break, and if it does break, it will be easy to repair and maintain
  • thinking about the way it is initially put together for example, if it’s screwed together with no glue, then it makes it possible to take it apart with minimal damage to either be rebuilt, modified or even deconstructed with the pieces reused and recut to make other furniture
  • extending the piece of furniture’s life by thinking carefully about the design; it must be as multi-purpose as possible, with adjustable shelves inside a cupboard for example, or a unit that can be changed from a TV media unit to a wardrobe or a storage cupboard just like I demonstrated in my project “Flexi Straw
  • have an eye for beauty and design which is quite different from being fashionable. Fashion is an enemy of sustainability because it encourages constant change. Good design is timeless and does not rely on fashion. If something is simple and beautiful, people will love it for longer.
  • Finally, when all the mentioned options have run out, the materials must be easy to recycle and lastly harmless if burned to heat our homes. Waste in the future will not exist, everything will be reused, just like nature has always told us to do.

The Milo Project
Milo came about soon after I decided to look into eco materials. I never liked waste and would keep spare waste materials until they were degraded and no good to use any more. So I decided to tackle this problem and designed Milo, a small coffee table made from all these small pieces. The materials dictated the design, and I made it in a way that would use up the smallest of pieces, making use of much more wood. Milo was born in April 2011 and his name was inspired by the birth of my third son a month before.

#WheresMilo is a photo project which combines my love of photography and the eco coffee table.  I’m always looking for interesting people, celebrities and locations to shoot pictures with Milo and feature it in the photo project.  Search Google or social media for #wheresMilo and see what he’s up to.

What’s the best reaction you’ve had so far for the work/talks you’re doing with Milo?
Milo has had nothing but positive reaction and reviews, people are not only interested in the design of it and say it is beautiful, but also the materials it is made of.  Because of the way it is designed, in layers where you see all the different materials, it encourages people to get right up and close.  I love this because my aim is to educate people about what these materials are made from, where they come from, how they affect our world and what the solution is. People are surprised and not pleased to hear that many plywoods are made using non replaceable trees from the Rainforest.

What’s your stance about design and the designer’s roles in shaping consumption patterns and behaviour?
Like I mentioned above, it is important for designers to be aware of and separate design and fashion clearly in their minds and not design something that will be obsolete in one year – that defeats the point of sustainable design. Designers are in a very strong position to make change because they design something not just for themselves but for many others. I hope that other designers can learn these rules of sustainability so that they can pass these onto the consumer.

For those of us who wouldn’t necessarily be able to afford eco furniture, what else could we do to support it or get involved?
Eco fitted furniture is very labour intensive and the materials can be costly, but so is traditional fitted furniture, so the difference isn’t much on the whole. But for those who can’t afford it, you can support it by helping to spread the word about why it is important to use eco friendly options, not just with fitted furniture, but in all the shopping choices you make. It is better to do without for longer and buy quality than buy cheap; we are all sucked into the notion that we have the right to have what we want when we want it.

Some people can’t afford fitted furniture, or eco paint to paint their houses, but they save up and then invest in a way that makes them healthier, and happier for making a positive choice. Buying any eco friendly goods makes you feel very good mentally, you get a feeling that you are not just buying something for yourself but you get that satisfaction that you are, bit by bit, making a difference in the world. You have to spend your money, you might as well use it to make a difference.

Another alternative is the idea that you don’t even have to spend any money at all!  If you are a bit practical, look in the streets and you will see so much stuff thrown away.  You can easily revive it with a new coat of paint or take the many pallets and use your creative mind to make any amount of furniture. If you are into sewing, cut up some old clothes and make some patchwork throws or cushions for your new furniture. Don’t believe that you can’t do it because you can.

And finally, buy second hand furniture instead of new.  There’s nothing more eco friendly than buying second hand.

What’s next for you and Milo?
I am looking to help young people in schools build Milo tables.  I’d like to educate them about sustainability in furniture and give them something creative to do and hopefully pass on the passion that drives me to do what I do.

What’s your future vision look like?

I hope that one day all bespoke fitted furniture will be totally natural and recyclable and that I was part of that process.  I am trying to spread the word through practical examples, exhibitions, networking, blogging and through a book I’m currently writing. I am developing a new eco website called that will bring together local crafts people who use sustainable materials, organic carpets, fair trade curtains, clay plasters and natural paints, eco fitted furniture, upcycled furniture etc. for customers to be able to create their ultimate eco home.


Monthly challenge: Revive your ride

2nd April 2012 by

It’s officially spring. And that means lovely cycling weather.

Now perhaps you’re a committed year-round cyclist (if so, hold tight for your challenge). On the other hand if, like many people, you haven’t exactly been riding all winter, before you dust off your panniers and break out the high vis you’ll want to show your bike a little love to get it ready for the road.

So this month, we’re challenging you to revive your ride: get your bike shipshape for spring or help a friend do the same.

If you’ve had a little winter break (and who can blame you? It’s been cold, dark and wet out there) your bike is likely rusting in a shed or languishing in a basement with a puncture that’s gone unrepaired since last November. Sound about right? If this situation doesn’t sound familiar (you hardcore winter cyclist you) then it probably describes at least one friend, family member or colleague – or heck, probably dozens of people you know. Instead of making your own bike road-ready, we’re challenging you to help a friend do the same.

But where to start?

If you’re not a regular DIY expert, never fear – there are plenty of places where you can get bike-fixing help and advice. At bike kitchens spring up around the country, you can rent tools, a bike stand and anything else you need for a pretty small fee. And if things get out of control & you find yourself standing there with a derailleur in your hand and no idea how to reattach it, you’ve got expert advice on hand.

DIY bike repair spaces around the UK

  • The Bristol Bike Project, which has a weekly DIY bike kitchen alongside their more traditional bike repairs and sales
  • The (brand-new) London Bike Kitchen, where you’ll have access to their tool library, space to fix your own bike and even WAG (women and gender-variant)-only classes
  • The Edinburgh Bicycle Co-op (which also has locations in Newcastle, Aberdeen, Leeds and Manchester) also run more traditional maintenance courses.

If you don’t have DIY bike repair facilities near you, then you can also take your trusty steed to a regular old bike shop. You never know, they might have maintenance classes or DIY evenings – or be persuaded to start them up. You’d be surprised how far asking nicely can get you!

And if you know of any other DIY bike spaces around the UK, please leave us a comment so we can add ‘em to the list.

Warm our cockles

30th October 2011 by

So we had an October heatwave, but let’s not kid ourselves, we all know what’s coming. So this month’s challenge, inspired by our own office ‘winter box’ of communal jumpers, is that we want you to show us all the clever, low-energy, no-energy and low-cost ways you can keep toasty during the chilly months.

Have you knitted yourself a beanie or some slipper socks? Stitched and stuffed a colourful draft-excluder? Done some crafty energy-saving DIY? Or maybe you know what you want to do but need some tips from the Otesha community? Whatever you choose, it’s a great opportunity to save money, cut carbon and learn a new skill (or get even better at an existing one).

We want to see your work and hear your tips and questions, so email us your photos, videos or words. Get cracking!

Get a hobby

1st September 2011 by

This month, we’re challenging you to make the most of your spare time, hone your hobbies, lend someone else a hand or try yours at  a new skill. Is this a sustainable action? Well it’s a little two fingers up to ‘the man’ action, dossing about in DIY style, escaping the rat race and making, not buying.

We’ve been inspired by Ella Gibbs’ Spare Time Job Centre. In 2003 the Chisenhale Gallery was transformed into an agency that catered only for Spare Time positions. Visitors to Spare Time Job Centre were invited to seek Spare Time Advice, browse the Spare Time Resource, look for Spare Time Tips and chat to the Spare Time Team. Applicants could then create their own unique Spare Time Job Opportunity, and apply for a position, all under one roof. The exhibition explored the boundaries of art and the community. The project provided a platform for a range of activities, from spontaneous communication to archiving. Crucially, the project’s outcome was determined by the input of Spare Time Job Centre’s participants, rather than being a creation of the artist’s singular, isolated vision.

Mark your productivity by what you achieve (in loaves, jam, mended bikes, miles covered on a rainy day and smiles), not what you get paid. And tell us about your spare time occupations.

Spruce up your spring clean

5th May 2011 by

There’s a spring in our step this month as we challenge to you to make your own cleaning products. Conventional cleaning products are a pollutant and a health risk (just look at the warnings on the labels). So rid your cupboards of chemical cocktails, feel good about what you’re rinsing into your water supply and make your cleaning cupboard an edible one too.

These four natural cleaning products will give you surfaces you really can eat off:

Bicarbonate of Soda

  • has natural deodorising qualities (can be used to remove smells from shoes, sinks, cupboards, toilets, carpets and fridges)
  • mixed with water Bicarbonate of Soda or Baking Powder creates an alkaline cleaning paste that cuts through grease (good for cleaning ovens, kitchen and bathroom surfaces)
  • used neat or in a solution of vinegar and water it also works as a stain remover

Lemon Juice

  • also a good deodoriser (particularly good at deodorising smelly kitchen drains)
  • known for its grease-busting qualities
  • removes hard water marks
  • leaves behind a better smell than vinegar
  • works as a metal polish
  • freshly squeezed or bottled lemon juice works equally well


  • works much like lemon juice, should be used in a 1:1 mix with water
  • advisable to opt for a subtler-smelling white vinegar (such as white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar)
  • removes limesale and other mineral deposits (fill your kettle and leave it over night to descale it, left overnight vinegar will make your toilet bowl look like new)
  • will make your taps, sinks and ceramic tiles sparkle (don’t use it on marble surfaces)
  • makes the best best window cleaner ever and leaves no smears
  • also brings mirrors and glass up shimmering and shining
  • works as a fabric conditioner

Olive Oil

  • use neat or with lemon juice as a hardwood furniture polish
  • mixed with grape seed extract (a disinfectant), water, soap and lemon juice makes a good car cleaner for both inside and out (as it can be used on both metal and leather)

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