Wednesday, 27 June 2012

I'm migrating......

.... dont worry, just this blog. 

I'm migrating it over to another blog provider.

You can find the blog here:

See you there,


Tuesday, 26 June 2012

I have a dirty confession to make.......

...... and some of you are going to be rather disappointed........ I have started to learn how to drive!!!!!
I know, 'how can someone who constantly bangs on about being sustainable go ahead and learn how to drive, spewing carbon dioxide into the air and burning up the increasingly rare fossil fuels.'  Dont think I dont feel bad about it. 

A big part of me is saying, you dont need to do this, you easily get around Cambridge and to and from work without a car.  You get yourself a license and you'll start using a car unnecessarily and make commitments that require a car and then find yourself relying on a car, instead of continuing on with life without one.

But when I was job searching back in April, there were a number of really great environmental education jobs and nature reserve outreach jobs that I couldnt apply for because I would have needed a car to do the job, or couldnt get to the job without a car.  It was then that I started to think having a license would be a good idea, it would open up my options. 

Also there a lot of nature reserves and natural history courses around Cambridgeshire that I would love to visit and participate in, but cannot do so, as they dont have public transport links.

And now that I am going on to do a MSc in Science Communication, so that I can become a professional sustainability and environment communicator and advocate, I realise that some interviews and articles I will find myself coming to write, will require me to travel to remote places.

Also, a number of 'eco' cars are arriving on the market.  Currently these cars are classed as 'eco' cars because they have relatively low carbon emissions.  Low enough for the government to decide not to charge road tax and the car I am learning to drive in is one of these zero road tax cars.  But I think that we are starting to approach the market tipping point, where high spec. top quality electric cars will start to dominate the market - I give it ten years.

Personal behaviour and responsibility must be considered as well.  Whilst investing in learning to drive, I am also investing in my bicycle, slowing getting it into top condition and upgrading its parts, so that I can cycle more and more.  And I would have strict rules about using the car.  It would not be used for journeys within the city, or anywhere that I can get to by bus or train.

But I guess my big question here is......... are these reasonable justifications for learning to drive???  When we are adapting and changing for a sustainable future, where are our boundaries regarding what is and isnt suitable/ acceptable for this new discourse.  And is the idea that driving is not suitable the right idea, or is our discourse wrong?  Does a healthier and more realistic discourse recognise that driving will always be a part of our contemporary future and that as long as we are careful and conscious about how we do this driving, we can still make the world a more sustainable place??

What do you think? I am curious to know on which side our collective thinking lies.

Monday, 20 February 2012

EcoLent - upgrade your life 47 days at a time.

Two years ago, for the period of Lent, I became vegetarian, to see how I would respond to not having meat for 40 days. Once Easter came round, I had found it so easy to give up my carnivore lifestyle, that I became a full-time Vegetarian. Last year, I decided that Lent was maybe a good opportunity to give up another part of my life that was bad for the environment and so I gave up plastic packaging. This went pretty well, as many of you know, but was a really tough challenge, and I must confess (shrove tuesday is a day of confession) that plastics swam very quickly back into my life, especially once I started working in London. This year I have decided that I am going to permanently adopt this period of the christian calendar, as a part of my environmental calendar (christians of the world - I hope you don't mind). Every year, for Lent, I will change a part of my life that has detrimental impacts on the world, by upgrading it in a way that will preserve and protect the world. If I can successfully change for the 47 days until Easter (sundays are not a day off in my EcoLent challenge), then I can permanently upgrade that part of my life.

Why lent?
I'm not a practising christian, I don't worship God or praise Jesus, I don't go to church or pray, but I am from a culture founded in christianity.  Shrove Tuesday, Lent and Easter are all celebrations that have become a core part of the British calendar and I believe that the founding principles behind them are ones that are important regardless of a person's beliefs. Shrove Tuesday is about confessing (to yourself or others) about something you do or have done, then having one last glutinous indulgence before Lent.  Lent is a period of 40 days (you get sundays off) before Easter, when you practice self control, in the face of temptation, by giving up something desirable. Traditionally this involves giving up milk, fats and eggs.  In more modern times, this had involved giving up sweets, chocolates and cakes. Easter represents the resurrection of Christ and is about celebrating new life and spring, after a period of abstinence.  This its where traditionally ornamental eggs, carved eggs or painted eggs are given as a gift, to celebrate new life.  In modern times, this has developed into a chocolate egg frenzy.

So whats Ecolent?
In Ecolent, on Pancake Day, you identify something you do on a daily or weekly basis which has some negative impact on the environment or the people of the world, such as buying fish from an unsustainable source or purchasing clothes from a shop whose ethics you know are questionable. Then you make a commitment to change that part of your life in a way that will preserve the environment or human societies.  So you could buy your fish but with an MSC stamp on it, thereby supporting sustainable fishing practices and increasing the consumer demand for it. You could go charity shop hunting for your clothes, thereby putting money into charities and reducing the degredation of natural resources and the consumption of energy through increasing recycling activity, or you hit the vintage clothes stores which also increases recycling activity, AND supports your local economy. You commit to this life upgrade for the 47 days until Easter.  Its a short-term contract with yourself, giving yourself the opportunity to trial a better alternative.  If you manage to successfully upgrade within 47 days, why downgrade after?

Peer Pressure!
You may be worried about what your friends will say, but in my experience, my friends and family have admired and been impressed with the resolve and determination the EcoLent challenge requires.  It's also a really great way of raising awareness, because, when asked, you can explain to people why you've embarked on the challenge, focusing on your own experiences, instead out preaching to them.  People are really interested.

Picking your challenge.
The key is to make the challenge achievable and specific, giving yourself some clear boundaries on what is and isnt permissable during the 47 days.  I made the mistake with plastic packaging of saying ALL plastic packaging, which is a really hard thing to do, as plastic really permeates every part of our lives. Next time I do plastic packing, it will be more specific, for example, I will only buy naked vegetables (not wrapped in plastic) or I will trial having milk delivered in glass bottles.

My Challenge:
This year however for EcoLent 2012, I will be focusing on chocolate and will only eat organic and ethical chocolate.

This counts for:
Cakes, Desserts, Yoghurts, Biscuits, Chocolate Bars, Ice-Cream and Sweets.
It includes even the tiniest bit of chocolate in any of the above items.
It includes Dark, Milk and White chocolate.

Permissable brands - Green & Blacks, Traidcraft, Divine, Montezuma's, Booja-booja, Organica, Cocoa loco.

Non-permissable brands - Cadburys, Nestle, Mars, Thorntons, Frys, Kraft, Foxs, Maryland, Gu.

The list of permissable brands are those that I am confident have ethics at the heart of their production.  The list of non-permissables are those I suspect or understand have poor ethics in their production.

During the next 47 days I will be taking the opportunity of the challenge to research all aspects of the chocolate industry and I will post my findings here on this blog.

Joining in:
Ideas for newbs
• Join me with chocolate.
• Eat sustainable fish.
• Charity shop (and vintage shop) shopping.
• Trial the milkman ; ).
• Naked veg only.
• Movie lover? - rent from your library.
• Go veggie -its easier than you think.
• On your bike (take the peddle of faith and leave the car at home).
• Magazine mad? - go digital.

If you'd like more of the EcoLent action and would like to take on a challenge or have questions or comments on any of the above, comment on this blog or tweet at me @jadelaurencawth #ecolent.

Until then, wish me luck,


Monday, 23 January 2012

Cherry Hinton Chalk Pits

Went out filming Cherry Hinton chalk pits this weekend.  What a place it is.  I didn't realise that its a SSSI (site of special scientific interest).  Chalk habitats are quite rare in the UK these days, and this site is a reasonably undisturbed place, providing opportunity for moon carrot, common bird's foot trefoil, the six spot burnett moth, the speckled wood butterfly and glow worms, with a wonderful habitat in which to live.  Although its the wrong time of year for these (I can't wait to see the glow worms this summer), there was an abundance of what I believe to be st. johns wort, self heal and weld.

I'm looking forward to finishing off the film this weekend.  Will be wear ing an extra pair of socks, though, brrrr.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Lost something? - Try the leaf litter.

For my lunch break today, I decided to do a spot of gardening.  Its a surprisingly brilliant way of distracting the brain from work and the front garden was in desperate need of a tidy up.

Anyway there I was grubbing away in the leaves and what should I discover but my long lost, sorely missed, hemp body shop lip balm.  I really don't know how long its been there, but at least a month.  As I continued with my leaf clearing, what should I find but the little golden lindt chocolate bear, that was a devastating loss to a working from home day, back in November!! Do you think he is still edible?

Anyway, the moral of this story is: If you lose something, check the leaf litter.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Recycled Paper Journals

For 2012 I have decided to keep a diary.  I havnt kept one in years and whenever I did I wasnt very good at keeping up with it.  But I feel like I am coming to a part of my life now where I have to make really exciting decisions.  The path is no longer laid out for me like when I was in education, but is at such a place where anything could happen.  I feel that now I am really my own independant little woman and the ruler of my own destiny, without feelings of responsibility or expectation stifling me.  Also I have finally made the decision to follow my heart careerwise and pursue a career in sustainability communication.  I feel that this is going to be a really exciting journey, that needs recording and will benefit from the gravity and reflection provided by a diary.  So because sustainability is my passion and my life, I obviously needed to get a sustainabily produced journal.  

Well what a bloody flop that retail exploration was.  I was looking for something with recycled paper and, if possible, a recycled cover.  I started in Paperchase, thinking they would have something beautiful and Eco, or if not Remarkable notebooks.  Nope.  Something exceptionally beautiful with a hand embroidered bird, but absolutely nothing sustainable.
Then WHSmiths, Nope.
Then Waterstones, Nope.
Then Rymans, Nope.

In Cambridge we have a shop called 'One World Is Enough,' which sells clothes and some other bits and bobs that are fairtrade and imported from South East Asia and the Indian Subcontinent.  I thought 'atleast that will be a socially ethical choice.'  But unfortanately the product just wasnt up to requirement.  They were beautiful Sari covered notebooks, but they were either too small or had a fraction of the number of pages I needed to make it worth buying.

So I popped across to OXFAM.  Yey!! they have recycled paper....oh.. they are diaries, all dated and divided up, so there isnt enough room to write.

One last port of call......JOHN LEWIS.... not exactely my preferred option, due to the size of the company, the exquisite way it fuels capitalism and the price it charges for its product.  Having said that the other companies I was looking at were just as bad.  But I thought I would 'just check.'  And there was nothing, not a smidge of an eco journal, not even any Remarkable notebooks!!!

But then I found two sea green and white polka dot notepads that had been demoted to the bottom  shelf at the end of an aisle, because they were reduced to £2 each and were made of FSC paper. 

And I'm afraid thats the best I could do, and I do feel that I sold out on price. I do like the polka dot though.

So if any of you know where you can find recycled paper journals, I would be glad to know.  I think next time I'll buy Remarkable pads online, well in advance, and decorate them up myself.

Friday, 30 December 2011

Cooking my first ever christmas dinner

On the 27th December my dad came to visit us for christmas.  We decided that I would cook christmas dinner, my very first.  In preparation I decided to go to Mill Road to collect all my ingredients.  Unfortunately these days I end up buying food in supermarkets like Budgens and Sainsburys, due to availability of time, so to peruse the local shops of Mill Road was to be a real treat.

I had planned to go to Northrop's butchers for the chicken, because they can tell you exactly how it was reared and where it came from. But the queue trailed out the door and down the side of the building (it was Friday 23rd). Then I remembered Al-Amin had a butchers and thought at least I would be supporting a local business and the chicken will have had a prayer said for it (Al-Amin is run by a muslim family so the butchers is Halal).  Then I popped to my old work place Arjuna for the veggies; potatoes, brussel sprouts, onion, parsnips and orange (I'll come back to this later) AND what a delight RAINBOW CARROTS, I picked an orange, a white and a PURPLE one. GREAT! All organic.

I popped into Urban Larder, for some home made mince pies, that I had tried at my friends house, who works there.  And then I trundled down to Co-op for the bits I hadn't found in the previous two shops.  Organic chicken stock cubes, Paxo sage and onion stuffing and Aunt Bessie's yorkshire puds, before going home to freeze the chicken.

On the 27th I roasted the chicken whole in the oven. Added roast potatoes into the tin an hour later, with some parsnips.  Then when I took the chicken out to rest I put the brussels on, got the stuffing cooking and them chopped up the carrots, added them to a pan with a big knob of organic butter and then squeezed the whole orange over the top.  I then covered the carrots with water, just so the water covers the carrots, then boiled them for 5 minutes with a lid on and 10 minutes with a lid off, before draining and mixing in freshly chopped tarragon. Mmmmm. It was delicious. And finally my Dad worked his magic on the gravy, making it lovely and thick with cornflour.

What I was most happy about however was the portions I served. Even with all the different veggies, not a thing was left in the pans, note on the plates.  So my Zero Waste christmas pledge to serve perfect portions, was accomplished.

Next year, I would like to make my own yorkshires and have organic, free-range meat.