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!

Anna

‘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 Forbes.com.  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.

The Veritable Veg Patch

8th May 2013 by

Food. It’s what feeds us and keeps our body going. Over the years my concept of food production has changed. Let’s rewind to the beginning shall we?

I came to the UK over five years ago and one of the first things I noticed was how all the veg seemed to be packaged pre_packed_displayin the shops. I didn’t understand why this was the case. Upon being introduced to the Otesha Project, I started questioning my food even further – what a food mile was, the journey of food from field to plate, where things came from, how they grow etc. In primary school I learned a wee bit about the basics (planting a seed etc.) but I never really understood or felt the connection between my own personal life and the choices I had.

Fast forward to the last year and I was fortunate enough to move into a flat which had an outdoor area. When I first moved in, it was pretty derelict and I couldn’t even see the garden through the wild growth. The previous tenant was an artist and loved being nestled in amongst the branches to paint – first lesson learned: everyone has their own definition of a garden.

It took me six months to get the gumption to tackle the area. And I did it in bits and pieces. I’m by no means a horticultural expert but I was patient with myself and took it in turns to clear the area.

More lessons learnt along the way: I could go to my local library and pick up brown waste bags and get all the green waste taken away and mulched; good tools are a great investment (shear, lopper, secateurs, gloves etc.); my local shops sold plants and small bags of compost at a particular time of year – ie. when I should be tending to the garden.

It still took me another 3 months to reveal the ground but I felt a sense of satisfaction as a raised bed emerged out of the wild state. Whilst the clearing was going on, I also kept an eye out over the months of how much sun hit the garden patch. I knew enough basics that sun, soil, water and seeds are what I needed and I was trying to ascertain what I had to work with. Next lesson learned: my garden didn’t get that much sun. Hm, this could be problematic I thought. But alas I plowed on.

I decided that the first year would be my season of experiment. I went out and bought seeds that I fancied growing – peppers, tomatoes, beans, peas, broccoli, courgette, carrots, salad, strawberries. It was a wide array of things and I admit, I got a little over excited. I read the instructions on the packet and tried my best to follow them thoroughly. And then waited to see what happened.

Long story short things grew but they didn’t necessarily grow well nor did I have a massive harvest. Over the summer period there was an intense deluge of rain (too wet), and then a drought (too dry). I learned about slugs, feral cats and pests the hard way but I certainly don’t regret the experiment. I would however be lying if I said I wasn’t discouraged by the end of the season.

And now fast forward to the present. After pondering about what to do next, I took inspiration from Otesha’s blog including the tales of horticultural training as part of Branch Out, the Tastetastic! cycle tour as well as the brilliant Newcastle-based Vertical Veg to try once again. I’ve learned to actually do a bit of research about things I might be able to grow with the little sun I had and I’ve accepted that Mediterranean vegetables just won’t work.

broad beanThis year I’ve chosen spinach and salad (which don’t need much sun), strawberries (in a container so I can move them around to catch the sun), tomatoes (in a container high on a shelf I’ve built to get the most sun exposure as possible), peas, beans and broccoli (all of which I’ve moved elsewhere in the garden where I hope it does better than last year). So far, so good. But I recognise it’s early days yet and I have a feeling there will be more lessons to learn.  Here’s hoping for the best!

Have any tales or tips for your food growing? Drop us a line, we’d love to hear about it.

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!

 

Branch Out Blog: Rolling around in Tilth!

17th April 2013 by

Branch Out participant Phil tells us all about their first week in the Gardens!

st marys signToday was my first visit to the St Mary’s Secret Garden for Otesha’s Branch Out Programme. It is tucked away behind the overground railway line between Hoxton and Haggerston stations, and the garden has all the mod cons a horticulturist needs: a large greenhouse, poly-tunnel, shed and a small headquarters equipped with library. Casting a sweeping glance, I can see the garden itself currently consists of grassy expanse, raised beds and trees intermittently punctuating the perimeter. There are St-Marys-Secret-Gardenalso occasional hints of the urban environment such as the car tyres re-used as soil containers. I am already looking forward to exploring and re-exploring these areas over the coming weeks to acquaint myself with the changing environment during the Spring growing season. Vibrant vegetation is only just beginning to emerge after the extended winter temperatures continued into April. However, I can confirm buds are appearing, and vegetable shoots are starting to reach for the sky. We met Liam, our friendly course co-ordinator and gardening guru in HQ, where I booted and gloved up. I was ready to Branch Out. 20130415_143540

My first task was to identify some tools and cover aspects of safety. First up, were a selection of rakes: soil, leaf and grass. Liam then (carefully) re-enacted a range of classic ‘Tom and Jerry’ inspired rake related slapstick for our amusement, and to demonstrate the dormant danger of a stray rake. Liam thrust two large digging tools in my direction. At first this seemed an easy one and I took my chances on ‘spade’, but eagerly swapped my answer to ‘shovel’ when this was met with expecting silence. This too received a headshake and I was put firmly on the back foot; my ego felt like I had trodden on one of Liam’s proverbial rakes. I was holding one of each, but didn’t know where to start to split the synonymy. Liam grabbed the spade, the more narrow of the two, and plunged it into the earth like a guillotine. Purposefully pushing his weight onto the spade’s shoulder, he explains that spades are sharper and primarily designed for vertical incision into the soil, to ease its working for later on by breaking it up with a decisive first strike. The shovel has a wider platform with a slight curvature to its side edges, making it excellent for scooping. This is the tool to transfer a loose soil, compost, leaf mould or any other pile for that matter, from one place to another.

20130415_143428The group began working on a raised bed that needed to be prepared for the planting of seeds/seedlings. The soil was uneven, clumpy and peppered with pebbles, and it was our objective for that session to achieve a good tilth. This is the all-encompassing property of the soil that was spoken with a mixture of fondness and reverence by the gardeners. When I pushed Liam for a more precise definition, I was slightly overwhelmed by a volley of descriptions concerning soil receptivity, moisture, topography, texture and permeability. The lesson I took away from that discussion was not only the importance of all of the above, but also the particular emphasis on uniformity-working the soil to give all that is planted an equal chance to thrive in the micro-ecosystem. Tilth is a loaded term and demands more than a single definition; it is multi-dimensional and has personality almost as if it embodies some ancient god. However, Liam probably best described it with a great cake baking analogy involving the meticulous preparation required to ensure the even spread of currents, chocolate chips, cherries and blueberries within the well mixed sponge.p-stmaryssecretgarden.jpg.270x270_q95_crop--50,-50_upscale

To that end, we spent the next 20 minutes digging the soil; turning in some leaf compost which aids moisture retention; removing stones; raking the surface; and most importantly gently treading down the soil. We were interacting with the soil, feeling for troughs and rises with every micro-step, so we could repeat our tilth-preparing ritual. The site of four grown men jauntily bobbing about like chickens, within the confines of one small raised bed should have raised many eyebrows. Fortunately, the secret garden was empty, and the four of us, whilst looking extremely silly, made short work of the bed. We probably didn’t achieve the holy grail of breadcrumb texture, but our work was certainly approved by Liam and the other gardeners.

20120101_124233The first day was a success. A combination of practical work; time for reflection on our learning; preparation for assessments; the eating of delicious dates (for some of us); sunshine and visits from inquisitive robins made for an enriching start to the Branch Out Programme.

 

Drunken Damsons

31st August 2011 by

My garden is home to just a few fruit trees.  One makes apples of a slightly-less-than-delicious variety (still great for Apfelmus though!).  There’s a mini Golden Russet tree, which makes much more delicious apples, just never quite enough of them!  A pear tree hangs over from a neighbour’s garden, and there’s the occasional windfall from an apple tree slightly further afield.  This apple tree I watch longingly, as each year hundreds of apples fall to their fate: slug food! I’ve many times considered the climb over a couple of fences and onto a shed.  There must be many more back gardens across the UK harbouring unloved fruit.  At a time of year when most shops have apples flown in from New Zealand, this is something we should be challenging.

The final fruit tree in our garden is a Damson tree.  Damsons are delicious, but there are just so many of them!  And although delicious, I don’t find them the most satisfying fruit.  They are pretty small, which makes them very time-consuming to chop and turn into delicious crumble, pie, jam, or anything else that could use large quantities at once.  Time is passing though, and I don’t want these damsons to meet a similar fate as the neighbour’s apples, so this weekend I went in search of something to do with them.  The result: damson gin!  I found this recipe for wild damson gin which lured me in with talk of an ‘irresistible liqueur’. You do have to acquire some gin, but the only other ingredients are sugar and damsons.   Aaah, simplicity.  Oh wait, I forgot, one final, most crucial ingredient: patience.  I’m not allowed to touch it for at least three months.  Already it’s a beautiful deep red colour, I keep thinking to myself  ‘Surely, surely it’ll taste divine already with a colour like that!’.  But I’m holding out, the sugar has almost all dissolved, and then I will hide it away in a dark place (from the light, and myself!).

There are still a mighty fine number of damsons on that tree though, anyone got any ideas?

The Third Epic Tartan Trail Tour Journal

30th August 2011 by

Why hello there, Tartan Followers

We last left you as we made our journey towards the big bright lights of Edinburgh. Whatever happened we hear you ask??

We were welcomed immediately by Ali (an Otesha alumni) and her other wonderful housemates. We rejoiced in sharing their very cosy house with them and pitched our tents in a higgildy-piggildy fashion in their garden. By the end of our stay most of us had migrated inside with our sleeping bags because of everyone’s generosity. We also enjoyed the rare luxuries: a stove, oven and easy access to a well needed shower.


We had traveled to Edinburgh as the Fringe festival was dominating the city, and the highlight of our agenda was that we were going to have our debut performance on the Royal Mile.  This prospect began to fill us all with excitement and fear and we got on with rehearsals, occasionally interrupted with thunderstorms and hail. Staying with Ali meant we were a short cycle ride away from the city centre so on the day of our first performance we donned our Otesha t-shirts and cycled into town, a tangible feeling of being a part of something bigger struck the group. The Royal Mile was bustling with performers all strutting their stuff and working hard to keep a crowd. We found our spot, did a classic Otesha energiser (the banana game!!) and started the day. Our energy was fantastic but given the setting we found we had passers-by strolling right through Gilly’s bedroom. We set to work on adapting the play to make it a bit more Fringe friendly.

We found help with this challenge from a surprise source – Ben- a friend of a housemate was keen to get involved and debuted his song ‘we’re all gonna die’. Some were dubious at first but the whole group became enthusiastic to the irony and we invited Ben to join our play and bring his musical talent.

Ben also brought the rain; the next day the rain poured down. But in true Tartan trail fashion we sang, acted and danced through it, having an amazing uplifting time.

We grabbed our free time where we found it and ventured out to see what else the Fringe had to offer. We found comedy, street performance and free events. Somehow we found time to also visit a city farm, a stark contrast to Whitmuir’s values and approach to farming. The city farm’s main purpose is to allow diverse groups to see animals in their environment.

We left Edinburgh with a fond farewell to our hosts, armed with an amazing herbal first aid kit from Ali, almost taking one of them with us for a jolly. We traveled over the Forth bridge and to new ventures. We spent our next night at the Ecology Centre and Earthship at Kinghorn Loch. Our home for the night was a yurt! A new experience for many of the group. The Ecology Centre was a project originally set up to engage young people with their environment, run by voluntary members of the local community. The earthship itself was the first of its kind in the UK, made from tyres to be super insulated, running on solar gain (no heating needed) and renewable energy.

After a night’s sleep in the yurt we embarked on some work exchange at The Ecology Centre to help out our hosts – weeding was their task of choice but weeding ragwort quickly turned into playing in a massively idyllic field by the sea with two very very cheeky ponies. Later that night the playing continued as we went to a BBQ of a friend of the centre. The vegan diet was not entirely maintained by all…

After the BBQ we cycled on a few short miles to Kircaldy, and took up residence in a vast church hall, we were all hyper at the thought of turning the rooms into bedrooms and again using the luxury of a kitchen. The mood was particularly high given the news that Arthur had got his A- LEVEL results and would now be going to the University of East Anglia (well done Arthur!!)…

Here we must leave our adventures but please read on in the next edition of the Tatarn Trail adventures! Love from Luciana Banana, Leah-Pop, Jenny Tree, Jenny A, Lucy Colbiz, Zoe, Kimberley (Eco), King Arthur, Colin-der, Dina the Dinosaur, Andres, and Catherine xxxxxxx

Sally forth with seasonal feasts

1st August 2011 by

This month, whilst the freshest, crunchiest, fruitiest, deliciousest, localest produce is in abundance, we challenge you to hold a seasonal feast.

Find a friend with an allotment or a neighbour growing in their garden and beg some excess off them (we can almost guarantee that they’ll have more courgettes than they know what to do with). Visit the market and buy up as much British produce as you can carry home. Scramble in the brambles for some blackberries. Take all your bundles home and invite your people over for a feast of plenty.

Seasonal recipes here

Find out what’s in season here

Why we forgot how to grow food

We are heading towards The End of Days, and you’d better get yourself an allotment
an unexpected piece of wisdom from that great environmentalist Jeremy Clarkson.

Northern Soul's School Days – part 3

8th July 2011 by

Fun Facts:

Bicycle Punctures: 5 regular punctures to date (4 go to Erin, 1 goes to Heni, both have purchased new tyres). 2 inexplicaple inner tube explosions (both on Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres….uhoh!)

Trailer Punctures: 4… the thorns got us good.

Miles cycled: 420

Schools and youth clubs visited: 10

Bee attacks: 1  (but well compensated for by honey and mead)

Minor bicycle mishaps:~5

Kilos of peanut butter eaten: 8 (that’s 1 per person)

Baby hedgehog saves: 1

The real blog:

Last Tuesday morning the entire Northern Soul team wriggled out of a tiny two-man tent to find 100 primary school children sitting in neat rows (this may have been planned).  It was one of many great visits to schools over the past couple of weeks.  The performances and workshops always remind us why we’re on tour.  The children’s and teachers’ laughs make the performances so much fun, and their ideas and initiatives inspire fantastic conversations during workshops.

Although the funniest part of the play for the children is repeatedly a tree in the Amazon being cut down, interactions with the children after the play and during workshops assure us that they are really engaging with issues of sustainability.  The only thing children don’t like about our Fairtrade workshop is the reality that many people in the production chain of a non-fairtrade banana don’t get paid fairly!  Children have told us about significant changes they will make in their (and their families’) transport choices; they’ve also told us (half-way through a workshop) that they’ve just used less toilet paper!

It’s great to see so many projects going on in schools already, led by students and teachers alike.  From gardening projects to bike-ability classes, and keeping chickens to composting, the schools really impressed us with their knowledge, motivation, and desire to learn and share with us.

We’ve experienced such wonderful hospitality from schools: from donuts for breakfast, to moving meetings for us to use their staff room, to letting us camp in the school hall or field, and even gifts of Fairtrade chocolate, juice and oatmilk.  These school visits along with the hospitality from all our other wonderful hosts has given us new faith and hope in humanity.

Pretty things corner

2nd March 2011 by

Is this giant clothes peg real? Does it matter? Twee is all I need sometimes.

In the spirit of twee I’ve been making baskets out of some pretty old welsh maps that my housemates found through freecycle (join up to your local group here) using these instructions.

I didn’t have a craft knife or mat and found that, contrary to the instructions, scissors were fine (all you need is: paper, scissors, ruler and some thread/string. Sorted). Good for bike bits. Good for giving as present. I find that the old wallpaper I got from a charity shop works well too.

When it comes to crafting, making, fixing, the internet is your (ethically caught) oyster! The incredible website instructables will tell you have to make just about anything yourself from food, to fashion, to furniture. Go forth with thy search engine and craft!

I felt inspired by the Otesha HQ’s car park garden so for my next act of twee I will be planting garlic bulbs in old colourful shoes that are beyond repair (plantable now and foolproof, apparently) to brighten up my concrete back yard.


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