The Amazon Is Burning

What on earth can we do to help?

It shocked and saddened me to the core when I heard a few days ago about the huge fires raging in the Amazon rainforest. Not only had I heard nothing about it on the news, I was also totally at a loss as to what was causing it and what I could do.

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The extent of the fires is so great you can see them from space. Source: NASA, Aug 13

 

I know I’m not alone in this – as more and more people have been sharing the news across social media, I have seen the same comments time and time again. ‘This is so tragic, but what can I do to stop it?’. Whilst Notre Dame had to be saved by private billionaire donors, we’re lucky that each and every one of us can have a part to play in the preservation of the lungs of our world.

 

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Some facts

  • The Amazon rainforest is key to fighting climate change on our planet. It produces much of the world’s oxygen and acts as a carbon sink, and without it there is no way we can expect to fight climate change.
  • The fires are often started intentionally, in order to clear land for the growing of crops and grazing of cattle. Weaker enforcement by authorities mean that farmers have been able to organise ‘fire days‘ without legal consequence.

Cattle ranching is the largest driver of deforestation in every Amazon country, accounting for 80% of current deforestation rates (Nepstad et al. 2008). Amazon Brazil is home to approximately 200 million head of cattle, and is the largest exporter in the world, supplying about one quarter of the global market.

  • Brazil has had more than 72,000 fires this year, an increase of 84% on this time last year. Brazil houses 60% of the Amazon rainforest.
  • The fires release both Carbon Dioxide (228 megatons so far this year) and Carbon Monoxide, a toxic gas, which is being carried beyond South America’s coastlines.
  • The deforestation rate in the Amazon has increased markedly since July, with areas the size of Manhattan being cleared daily, partially due to encouragement by the new far-right president, Bolsonaro.
  • If deforestation continues at its current rate, the trees will not be able to regrow, and much of what was forest will become savannah, with devastating effects on biodiversity and the future of the planet.

Carlos Nobre, a senior researcher with the Institute of Advanced Studies at the University of São Paulo, said the surge in deforestation was taking the rainforest closer to a tipping point at which swaths of the usually humid forest would become a dry savannah, with dire consequences for the climate, wildlife and forest dwellers.

Amazon burning

 

That’s depressing. So what can we do? 

Human-made fires are especially hard to stop, but there are some things we can do to help, both immediately and moving forward.

1. Donate to one of the below charities, all of which aim to raise awareness and actively protect the Amazon rainforest (edited list courtesy of cnet, which has more information, and CBS News).

The highlighted bullet points are charities that receive the highest ratings on Charity Navigator, a non-profit that evaluates financial health, transparency and accountability in charities – if you can only donate to one, make it one of these.

  • Donate to the Rainforest Foundation, which is committed to making sure donations made reaches projects such as supporting environmental defenders, indigenous advocacy organisations and deforestation monitoring.
  • Donate to Rainforest Action Network to protect an acre of the Amazonian rainforest.
  • Amazon Conservation Association accepts donations and lists exactly what your money goes toward –– whether it’s planting trees, sponsoring education, buying a solar panel and preserving indigenous lands.
  • Donate to the Rainforest Trust to help buy land in the rainforest. Since 1988, the organization has saved over 23 million acres. 
  • The World Wide Fund for Nature (known as the World Wildlife Fund in the US and Canada) works to protect the  species in the Amazon and around the world.
  • Donate to Amazon Watch, an organization that protects the rainforest, defends Indigenous rights and works to address climate change.
  • Donate to the Amazon Conservation Team, which works to fight climate change, protect the Amazon and empower Indigenous peoples. 
  • Amazon Conservation accepts donations and lists exactly what your money goes toward. You can help plant trees, sponsor education, protect habitats, buy a solar panel, preserve Indigenous lands and more.
  • Donate to One Tree Planted, which works to stop deforestation around the world and in the Amazon Rainforest. One Tree Planted will keep you updated on the Peru Project and the impact your trees are having on the community.

2. Cut your beef consumption. Much of our processed meat, e.g. burger meat, is sourced from the Amazon, and Brazil is the world’s largest exporter of beef. Although many people argue that soy is a leading cause of deforestation, as much as 80% of this production is to feed farm animals, requiring 10x the amount of land than if we were to eat the soy directly. Avoiding soy from the rainforest still might not be a bad idea either, but giving up beef (at least non UK-raised beef) is your best course of action.

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Livestock farming is an important driver of deforestation, and not just in the Amazon

3. Use Ecosia instead of google as your preferred search engine

4. Sign petitions such as the below:

5. To ensure responsible logging, only buy wood products with the FSC logo, or buy second-hand. Much of the world’s trade in wood is from illegal logging.

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A deforested plot of the Amazon near Porto Velho on Aug. 21. Image: Reuters

 

Please do share this far and wide if you can – we are not helpless, even where we are unable to douse the fires ourselves. Collective action is powerful – find me on Instagram and let me know what you’re doing to help!

EDIT: My friend Sophie Hellyer, who recently spent some time in the Amazon, mentioned two further organisations helping out on the ground, Instituto Socioambiental and Peoples of the ForestLocals that she worked with suggested these, but I have not vetted them. Woth checking out regardless!

 

London’s best lunchtime fitness classes

Waking up super early in the morning or trekking to the gym after a long day at work isn’t for everyone, which is why we’re all about those lunchtime classes. With classes from 30 to 45 minutes and studios dotted around London, ‘I don’t have time’ is no longer a valid excuse to not fit in a workout. And when the classes leave you feeling positive and motivated for the rest of the day, what’s not to love?

Here are some of the top classes for you to check out in London on your lunch break:

1. Barry’s Bootcamp

Best for: Calorie burn

Studios: West (Bayswater), Central (Euston), East (Liverpool Street), Canary Wharf, SW1 (Victoria), however not all of these locations offer reduced-length lunchtime classes.

Cost: £22 per class, with package deals for multiple class purchases.

Global fitness chain Barry’s Bootcamp is based on the science of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) to burn as many calories as possible and increase fitness. Attendees alternate between resistance training on the floor to intervals on the treadmill. Normal classes are 60 minutes, but at lunchtime (12pm and 1pm), certain locations shorten classes to 50 minutes (including stretching); to compensate for the reduced class length, free protein shakes are offered after the class. It’s a seriously intense session, but perfect for a mid-day pick-me-up if you’re feeling lethargic!

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Barry’s Bootcamp ‘red room’

2. HIIT – Another Space

Best for: Fat burn

Studios: Bank and Covent Garden

Cost: £22 for a one-off class, or monthly passes available.

HIIT at Another Space combines boxing and MMA moves with floor-based resistance training. This high-intensity class is short (35 minutes at lunchtime) and incorporates a variety of exercises to keep your body working. The studios are also beautiful, so perfect to enjoy a shake and shower in post-class.

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HIIT at Another Space, Bank

3. Hot yoga – Another Space

Best for: Flexibility

Studios: Bank and Covent Garden

Cost: £22 for a one-off class, or monthly passes available.

Held in the same studios as HIIT, hot yoga at Another Space is the perfect option if you’re looking for a less intense workout. Don’t be fooled though – expect to work on both your flexibility and strength in this dynamic, heated yoga class. The heat is held at 32 degrees for 45 minutes to gain maximal muscle benefits without the extreme heat of other hot yoga.

4. F45

Best for: HIIT

Studios: All over London! You’d be hard pressed not to find one near your office.

Cost: Cost depends on your membership, which are available as monthly to biannually. The eight-week challenges are priced separately. Intro offers available at most studios.

A concept born in Australia, F45 provides groups classes of functional high-intensity circuit training. F45 has 27 different ‘genres’ of workout, each focussing on a different aspect of fitness, such as HIIT, cardio or resistance training. At the front of each class, screens display each exercise, while multiple instructors roam the class and are on hand to motivate and correct where needed. Most studios also offer an ‘eight-week F45 challenge’, aimed at reducing body fat over the course of eight weeks. This may be too extreme for many (it encourages the cutting of carbohydrates for quick results), but could be the kick needed to get back into shape after some time off.

5. Signature Express – Barrecore

Best for: Barre

Studios: All around London, including Chelsea, Islington, Kensington, Mayfair, Notting Hill and Moorgate.

Cost: Membership starts at £200/month for 9 credits. Introductory offer available.

Barrecore’s Signature Express class promises to strengthen, lengthen and tone muscles in the space of 45 minutes. This class incorporates barre (ballet-like) moves coupled with resistance training.

6. Define Express – Define London

Best for: Low-impact sculpting

Studios: Great Portland Street, Fitzrovia.

Cost: Single credit £28 (excluding £10 off offer for new clients).

If you’re looking for a quick and dynamic workout, the Define Express classes offer all the toning and strengthening of their longer classes in just 30 minutes. Depending on the day, you can expect barre, floor workouts and strength workouts to target specific muscle groups. Lunchtime classes run from 12:30 – 1pm and 1:05pm – 1:35pm.

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Define London

7. Shake & Ride – Boom Cycle

Best for: Mood boost

Studios: Hammersmith, Holborn, Battersea, Monument.

Cost: One ride is £18 with package deals available. A one-month unlimited pass is £135.

There’s nothing quite like spinning to raise the heart rate and get the blood pumping. Boom Cycle is akin to a party on a bike, with loud music, coloured lights and an instructor who practically dances at the front. If you’re into high intensity cardio, Boom Cycle is for you – expect to leave grinning (and sweating) from ear to ear. Lunchtime classes vary in length – they are either 45 minutes or 30 minutes, and the latter includes a free shake after the class!

8. Quick HIIT – Metabolic London

Best for: All-round everything

Studios: Mornington Crescent.

Cost: Monthly membership is £100/month for unlimited classes. Single class is £20.

If you’re truly strapped for time, this 30-minute class could be exactly what you’re looking for. With a mixture of cardio and strength training, this class will leave you burning fat long after leaving the studio, and the endorphins with power you through your afternoon at work. This isn’t for the faint-hearted, but you get out as much as you put in, and at only 30 minutes long, what is there to lose?

Is your bank unethical?

Banking isn’t exactly short of negative press – with the 2008 recession, news of shady investments and excessive pay, people are seeming more and more disillusioned with mainstream banking. But are there alternatives? Are they safe? That’s what I set out to answer.

I had never considered how banks use money until recently, when I found out about an ‘ethical bank’. My first question was ‘if there are ethical banks, what are the rest doing that is so unethical’?

Here’s a little insight into my research, which will hopefully help you make more informed choices about what you want your money to be doing in the future!

All of this information is from talking to people and doing research online. I’m not a professional but have put in references and links for you in case you want to do further reading.

What makes most banks unethical?

Banks are a business like any other. Their primary goal is to make money while providing a service to users. In general, the unethical part of most banks becomes visible when you look at where they invest their money, and there have been a few court cases in the past with banks that have been caught being complicit in illegal activities, such as funding drug cartels (and more recently too). Most of the business they carry out however is totally legal, it just might not be in line with your personal values.

Ethical Consumer magazine released a report in 2018, stating that the UK’s biggest 5 banks ( Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds, RBS and Santander) are hindering our efforts to tackle climate change by profiting from some of the world’s most harmful industries, such as fossil fuels.

As if that weren’t bad enough, most mainstream banks also use money from consumers to fund various other industries, such as nuclear weapons, tobacco (full report on why this does harmful than good) and fracking.

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Would we be in a better position to fight climate change if it weren’t for big banks?

Worryingly, there is little incentive for banks to disclose where their money is going, and as such it has been incredibly hard for the average consumer to even begin to figure out which banks might be morally bankrupt, and which might actually be able to benefit the world we live in. Thankfully, Ethical Consumer has done the reports, and these are the banks that came out on top:

Triodos

Triodos is one of the most transparent banks out there, meaning that every investment decision they make can be seen by everyone. It publishes details of every organisation it lends to, and is known for specialising in sustainable energy, organic farming and culture, helping local communities.

“We want people to really think about what their bank is doing with their money. Money doesn’t have to be invested in the arms trade, fossil fuels and tobacco – it can be used to do good things that help build the society we want to live in,” says the bank.

Triodos has 715,000 customers across Europe, lending £6.5bn to projects making a positive impact on the world. The only downside is that it costs £3 per month for a current account. Huw Davies, head of retail banking says that there is ‘no such thing as free banking’, and that someone always pays, e.g. via hidden penalty charges and hidden fees. Triodos is about as transparent as it gets.

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Co-op

Co-op bank is the only highstreet bank with an explicit ethical policy, including (but not limited to) never investing in fossil fuels, companies that test on animals or arms manufacturing.

In 2011 the bank suffered huge losses and was sold off to private shareholders, leaving its ethical policies in doubt. However, as of 2018, the bank proved that it was able to continue running with ethical investments only, and is watched closely by a customer union, to ensure no dodgy investments get made. It seems to be making a comeback, so could still be a good option.

Monzo

If you’re a millennial, there’s a chance you might recognise Monzo’s eye catching ‘hot coral’ banking cards. Launched in 2015, Monzo has been breaking crowdfunding records since, and is a ‘fintech unicorn‘ – one of the rare British startups to be already valued at over £1bn.

Similar to Triodos and Co-op, Monzo is all about transparency. Anyone can read minutes from Monzo meetings, and they have just hired a diversity inclusion leader – 26% of Monzo’s staff identify as non-straight, and 45% of the staff are female.

Whilst no doubt better than the majority of banks, Monzo appears to focus less of sustainability and ethics than the above two options. However, if you’re looking for an intuitive, user-friendly option that has all the functionality to help you save, use money abroad and soon even pay off your mortgage (once you’ve saved enough to get one), Monzo could be for you.

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The easily identifiable online banking card of Monzo (ft. Lily Allen’s hand)

Handelsbanken

This Swedish bank has been operating in the UK since 1982, with over 200 independent branches. As each branch is decentralised, customers belong to a local branch rather than an umbrella bank, meaning that each customer is known by the local bank, leading to better and more ethical lending decisions. Unlike many banks, staff at Handelsbanken are not pushed to sell dubious packages to customers that they don’t want or need – this has led to the highest rating among personal and business bank customers for satisfaction and loyalty.

Charity Bank

Charity Bank is an ethical bank that ‘uses savers money to lend to charities and social enterprises’. They have lent over £278m to these causes since 2002, funding community projects, the arts, education and training, the environment and more.

Similar to Triodos, they are incredibly transparent about their lending, and you can read up about how each penny is spent here. Not only this, but they also provide practical support and free seminars for those working in the charity sector, helping them achieve their goals and help others. If you’re interested in helping out local communities, this could be the bank for you.

 

Summary

Many people don’t want to change banks because of the faff of having to change account number, sort code and PIN, and for good reason. When we get a phone we get to keep the number for life – why is it not the same for banks? Unfortunately, despite the increasing number of ethical options out there, bank switching appears to have remained relatively stable, perhaps because of the complications involved in switching.

I cannot recommend more choosing to switch banks, even if only for some of your money, especially if you are with one of the main banks, e.g. HSBC, Barclays, Nationwide etc.

We choose to spend our money the best we can day to day, and yet fail to realise that the rest of our money, no matter how small, is still being spent on investments that likely don’t align with our values.

Is it not more important that the bulk of our money goes towards projects that have positive impacts? Perhaps this is over simplifying, but I cannot help but think that it is really the least we can do, if we are able.

TL;DR

Mainstream banking is pretty bad for the world. I’ve switched to Triodos Bank and you should too.

Read more here.

 

I would love to hear your thoughts on this! I know it’s a huuuuuge topic and I’ve tried to cover what I can in here. Essentially I wanted to share that there are options, so we don’t have to all be stuck in the abusive relationship that is mainstream banking. Please do comment and share, and come and find me on Instagram to let me know what you think!

Hvar & Split, Croatia

I was recently lucky enough to travel to Croatia with one of my closest friends for a beautiful holiday for good food, sunshine and relaxing, and we had SUCH an amazing time!

It seems that this year, Croatia is a very popular destination for tourists, and rightly so, so I thought I’d list the best places we visited both on the island of Hvar and Split, on the mainland.

The food recommendations are primarily places that offer excellent vegan and vegetarian options, but none of them are fully vegan/veggie. I’ve just put them down in the order we visited them 🙂

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Zoe and I had an amazing time in Hvar!

Food

Giaxa – When we first arrived in Hvar we headed to Giaxa for a light lunch, upon recommendation that it does great vegan food! It was certainly not a light lunch (we ended up getting a full three courses!) but the food was delicious. You can get everything from mixed veg to full gnocchi and meat, so there’s something for all tastes. The staff are also lovely, and the chef was a vegan Argentinian, which explains the great variety of food!

Lola bar and street food – For a ‘good night’ we were recommended Lola bar and street food. The staff here are the most energetic and smiley waiters I’ve ever seen! Options were good – both the veggie curry and falafel and hummus were great 🙂 If you’re vegetarian go for the veggie burger and don’t forget sweet potato fries (we got 2 portions). These guys also know how to mix drinks. Not sure what to have? Ask them for a recommendation.

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Veggie burgers are always a winner. I had the falafel!

Fig restaurants – Fig have restaurants in Stari Grad (Hvar), Hvar Town and also in Split, and you can see why it’s so popular! I was told to book in advance and am glad I did – queues were stretching down the street! Zoe recommends the chicken wrap and I would recommend the roast veg. Apparently brunch is great too! Also, get the sweet potato fries (ask for garlic mayo on the side). Fig in Split (yes we went to both of them) is in a beautiful courtyard and one of the only vegan places there. Head inside and see an ancient drain from the original building – it’s cooler than it sounds!

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You can’t go wrong with the food from Fig!

Spice – Final recommendation from Hvar was Spice, a pan asian restaurant situated in the main square. I was worried that it would be over priced, but it wasn’t bad at all. My recommendation would be the veggie pad thai and definitely the spring rolls! If you’re not a fan of Asian cuisine, they also have a ‘western’ menu that you can choose from, so something for all! Excellent service too.

Things to do

Hvar adventure – We were told that one of the best things to do on Hvar was to leave Hvar and visit the nearby islands of Paklinski. Hvar Adventures is a tour company recommended by google and well situated just off the main port. We went on a day tour (9am-3pm) on one of their beautiful yachts (not a massive group party boat!) to visit nearby deserted coves with the most beautiful water you’ll ever see, and go snorkelling and cliff jumping in various places. The day was truly idyllic and if I could repeat it 10 more times I would! They also offer sunset tours and various other adventure options.

Spanish Fortress – If you get the chance, run (or walk) up to the Spanish Fortress. It’s free to go up and you’ll be greeted with amazing views of the whole town and nearby islands. You can go in the Fortress too, but the views are the same out the front. It’s 50kn to get in.

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Not a bad view to hike/run up to!

Hvar Cathedral – You’ll definitely walk past this if you’re staying around Hvar town, but it is worth stopping and taking a good look at! If you eat at Spice restaurant for dinner you’ll see the sun setting on the cathedral and it’s beautiful!

Split old town – Split is home to one of the best preserved Roman remains in the world, the Diocletian Palace. Wander around dodging tourists and taking in everything that the town has to offer. It’s busy but beautiful, so enjoy!

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Look up in Split old town and you’ll see the remnants of the original palace! Spot Zoe!

Marjan Forest Park – If you’re less of a people-person and more of a nature-person (like me), the Marjan Forest Park is perfect.

Drinks

Carpe Diem beach/bar – if you’re into clubbing, head to Carpe Diem nightclub at 12:30am for a night of dancing on the beach. If, like me, you’re more of an evening drinks in the sun kind of a person, take a water taxi over at around 5pm to grab some drinks on the island. Make sure not to leave it too late – the beach shuts at 7pm to turn it into a club for the party-goers later in the evening.

Carpe diem bar is situated on the sea front in Hvar Town. It is picturesque but potentially overpriced for what you get. The island is more unique (although still pricey).

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At the beautiful (but expensive) Carpe Diem nightclub

Beaches

Dobovica – a short bus ride from the centre of town is Dubovica beach, which has a lovely bar (Dubo Beach Bar). Thoroughly recommend for an intimate homemade feeling (not surprising as the owner, Ivek, serves drinks out the front of his house)! This is a really lovely beach which is much less busy than those closer to town. We had an amazing day here! There’s a long, steep path down, so probably not suitable for anyone who may struggle to walk (see pic)

Pokonji Dol – Much closer to the main town is Pokonji Dol, a small beach that is often packed, but still very beautiful. Many people recommended this to us when we went out!

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The rocky part of Pokonji Dol is a lot less busy, but also somewhat less comfortable!

 

Kurhotel Skodsborg, Copenhagen

This trip was gifted by Kurhotel Skødsbørg but as always, all views are my own!

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I first visited Denmark a year ago, tagging along to a work trip my boyfriend was on in order to see Copenhagen. At the time I had grand plans to visit other parts of Denmark, as I had heard so much about the stunning countryside and national parks, but it was not to be – there is too much to see in Copenhagen!

Thankfully, I got the chance to return this summer on a family holiday, joining family members in the beautiful countryside and coast of Denmark. After spending a week cycling and trail running my way through the local countryside, Fiann and I headed to Kurhotel Skodsborg, which I had singled out the year earlier and added to my ‘to visit’ list.

Kurhotel Skodsborg is located a quick 20 minutes from Copenhagen and is situated on the sea front, between the ocean and the forest. Its main draw for me were the spa and fitness facilities, both of which it is known for. Booking a room for the night (double rooms start at £190) includes not only breakfast but also access to the most extensive spa facilities I have ever seen. On top of this you have access to the incredibly well stocked gym (better than most gyms I’ve been to) and classes. Most other hotels that have this option charge extra for it, so it was great to see how ingrained in the hotel’s features spa and fitness are.

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Not a bad view from the hotel jetty!

Food

Our stay began with an afternoon tea, ‘Tea with Georg’, where my first thought was how healthy most of the options are – aside from the well-stocked bar, the vast majority of afternoon tea options are healthy (including the famous Danish Smørrebrød) and include plenty of options for vegan guests. The hotel has two main places to eat food – The Lobby (a centralised quasi-sitting room with sofas and a relaxed atmosphere) and The Brasserie (at the top of the hotel with a more dressy feel). We enjoyed one dinner and our lunches at The Lobby, and one dinner and our breakfasts at The Brasserie. If you go, ask for the three-course dinner with wine pairing – the food is spectacularly put together, and our waiter deserved a raise for being the most friendly and helpful waiter I’ve ever met! Fiann and I never saw the standard set menu for the wine pairing but received three perfectly formed vegan dishes with various wines to our table – I’m not sure if vegan options are standard on their menu, but they certainly deliver if you ask!

 

Accommodation

Our room was situated looking over the courtyard inside the horseshoe shaped building, catching sunlight pretty much throughout the day. Thankfully this didn’t affect my sleep thanks to the blackout blinds, and I actually had some of the best sleep of my recent life on the incredibly comfortable bed in the total silence of the area – it makes a nice change from central London where 5 sirens a night is a quiet night! Because the hotel is situated just behind a front line of small houses on the beach front I can’t imagine that many would have a clear view of the sea, but the views we saw from our balcony (a mix of hotel, forest and sea) were perfect. The bathroom was huge, consisting of a free-standing bath-tub, large shower/wet room area and two sinks. It also had underfloor heating which I can imagine in the Danish winter is much appreciated!

Spa

Kurhotel Skødsbørg is known for its spa facilities, which are extensive and comprehensive. Not only can you lounge by the pool or sit in a sauna, the hotel also provides a ‘spa concierge’ service called Skodsborg Flow. This is what the press release has to say: ”Designed for both seasoned spa-goers and first-timers, this new bespoke service guides you through Kurhotel Skodsborg’s eight best hot and cold experiences: maximising each treatment so that – when practiced in sequence – their combined benefits are even more powerful and effective. Think: Nordic stretching, ancient breathing exercises in the salt cave, body scrubs in the steam bath and Kurhotel Skodsborg’s signature SaunaGus led by your very own ‘Mist Master’.” Sound a bit wishy-washy? The sessions are in fact designed to strengthen the immune system, stimulate blood circulation and improve sleep, and many have been used for millennia for these functions – all I know is that they were very enjoyable and relaxing. My favourite was the SaunaGus, which I can only describe as a mix between a sauna, aromatherapy and interpretive dance. After entering a sauna, the ‘Gusmester’ (the leader) infuses the air with essential oils, circulating the heat using a towel (the interpretive dance part of the treatment), before leading the attendees down the the hotel jetty for a dip in the Baltic Sea. It certainly felt Baltic at 11 degrees, but I’m told that in winter the whole area is covered in ice! Thoroughly chilled by the sea, you head back into the sauna for the second instalment of aromatherapy. Not surprisingly the sauna feels much nicer second time round! Even if you just visit the hotel for a day, make sure a couple of hours are spent in the spa – you absolutely won’t regret it.

 

Fitness

Another of Kurhotel Skodsborg’s specialties is its fitness facilities. With two gyms, a trainer who is the world number 24 in Crossfit and a local national park, Skodsborg is perfect for active people. With the fantastic facilities it’s hard to believe they’d need much more, but Skodsborg also provides a weekly regime of fitness classes open to all abilities. With 1800 members, it’s perhaps not surprising that each fitness class we saw/attended was full, but it’s also testament to the incredible teaching that every class was booked out. Our favourite was the TRX class, done in a crossfit style – both Fiann and I had huge DOMS the next day!

For those more interested in a low impact fitness regime, the hotel also provides Aqua Fitness classes (aquarobics) in their cooler ‘sports pool’ and Nordic stretching, a yoga-like stretching class aiding concentration and, of course, flexibility.

Sustainability

One think I have started to pick up on when visiting hotels are the sustainability aspects of each. As we become more and more aware of the impact we have on the world, I think it’s important for the hospitality world to keep up. In general, especially thanks to the fact that plastic bottles are obsolete in Denmark because you can drink the water, Skodsborg seemed quite sustainability-focussed. Many of the dishes were vegetable based, with plenty of plant-based options available. However, I would make some suggestions about housekeeping, e.g. not changing towels everyday, our soaps were taken each day and replaced with a new one wrapped in plastic, providing reusable rather than disposable slippers etc. Many of these changes would be easy to make, and would have a large positive impact on both the energy consumption of the hotel and other sustainability aspects.

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Spot the swift photo bombing me!

Local area

Skodsborg is situated in North Zealand, the wealthiest part of Copenhagen. Not only is the area peaceful and beautiful, it is also home to Dyrehaven, the most beautiful park and UNESCO Heritage nature reserve. If you’re in the area, make sure to walk around the forest – keep an eye out of any one of the three types of deer that live there. The forest was breathtaking and I feel like I could have spent another week wandering through!

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TL;DR

Would you recommend Kurhotel Skodsborg? Absolutely, especially for those fitness-obsessed or who appreciate a really good spa.

Cost: A double room starts at £190 including breakfast and full access to spa and fitness facilities. You can book here.

Highlights: The incredible gym (a rarity), excellent vegan food (also a rarity) and the local forest.

What I’d improve: I would prefer a larger focus on sustainability.

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We had a great time at the hotel and are so grateful for our stay!

Carbon offsetting

We all know flying is bad for the environment – it’s suggested that commercial flights account for just above 2% of global carbon emissions, including the large proportion of the world that don’t fly at all. Whilst shaming people about flying is not the answer, those of us who are able to do something about it probably should. Not flying is not always possible (and let’s be honest, we all love a holiday every now and again), so carbon-offsetting is becoming more and more popular, with new organisations popping up with various solutions to the problem.

Below are some that you suggested, with some honest input about my flying habits, costs and plans for the future. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!

 

Hometree.ie at Moy Hill Farm

If you’re looking for a relatable, home-grown feel, Moy Hill Farm tree planting is perfect. My friend knows the owners and frequently visits, seeing her previously planted trees. “By pledging you will be supporting a regenerative eco system” – Moy Hill also works with community to grow food and regenerate woodland to benefit the local community and wildlife. So far the charity has planted 14,000 native trees, such as Oak, Hazel and Birch. It’s difficult to know exactly how much carbon 10 trees (the minimum amount you can pledge) will offset, but knowing you are contributing to an amazing community project to the benefit of the local wildlife and environment is great.

 

Chooose.Today

Chooose uses your donations to fund the best UN-verified COreducing projects in LEDCs. Just £2.50 per month (their ‘climate neutral’ option) offsets approximately 3 flights from Oslo to London per month. Donating different amounts per month allows you to be ‘climate positive’ (£3.99 per month) or a ‘climate champ’ (£7.98 per month), offsetting different amounts of flying. The website is easy to use and offers both subscriptions (donations per month) and one off donations (e.g. 6 month or 1 year options), depending on the amount you’re looking to offset and how much money you’re willing to part with. I love this idea and it’s super easy to use, but also think moving your money to an ethical bank (e.g. Triodos) could have a similar effect without actually costing you any money.

 

My Climate.org

The Swiss not for profit organisation Climate.org works with partners both locally and globally to educate and consult on climate-protection projects. For individuals, it also provides a calculator for you to be able to calculate accurately your emissions, whether flying, driving, or simply living at home. After putting in your details, it provides a cost to offsetting those specific journeys, supporting international projects and sustainable development worldwide. There is some choice as to where your money goes e.g. helping smallhold farmers reforest areas or enable efficient cookers for women in Kenya.

I love this idea because it is very specific as to how you can offset your lifestyle. It also makes you think twice about longhaul flights. If I were to offset all my flights this year, according to this calculator it would cost me £153, the vast majority because of travelling to Tokyo for the marathon. For shorter journeys (e.g. Copenhagen) a payment of £5 was enough (bearing in mind this doesn’t include other travel).

 

Climate Care

Climate Care turns ‘climate responsibilities into positive outcomes’ providing tailored programmes to help organisations and individuals offset carbon emissions. This isn’t their only selling point though – they also work with governments to deliver large-scale emissions reduction projects and work with communities in LEDCs to build sustainable projects, improving the lives of people and benefitting the environment.

They also provide a calculator, which once you’ve calculated how much carbon you want to offset, gives you a cost for doing so. On this calculator it would cost me £53.40 for this year’s flights, compared to the £153 of MyClimate.org, but this could reflect the type of projects they’re funding. If you don’t know how much carbon you need to offset, Climate Care also provides flight, car, energy, event and business to calculate approximate carbon emissions, before allowing you to checkout, funding various projects around the world.

 

Atmosfair.de

Atmosfair is a German non-profit organization that actively contributes to CO₂ mitigation by promoting, developing and financing renewable energies in over 15 countries worldwide. They rely on donations from individuals and businesses, working with both to mitigate emissions, with an emphasis on air travel, as currently there is no technological solution for greener air travel (e.g. electronic planes, although interestingly hybrid planes may soon be a reality). Atmosfair uses donations to fund the creation of renewable energy sources in countries where they hardly exist, but could be successfully utilised (e.g. solar power across the equator). In this way, atmosfair saves COthat would otherwise be released by the use of fossil fuels in these countries. Meanwhile, locals benefit by being able to access clean energy around the clock, often for the first time.
For personal offsetting, Atmosfair provides a calculator which separates out emissions by airline, so is even more personalised than the other calculators. As I travelled to Tokyo with British Airways, I found that I released 60% less COthan the average airline, taking my offsetting cost for this flight down to just £42.20, from £79 via MyClimate.org. The calculator gives an excellent breakdown of emissions, comparisons and costs for each flight taken, which I love.

 

Trees For Life

Slightly different to the above few organisations, Trees For Life focuses specifically on helping the Scottish Caledonian Forest ecosystem, providing a home for wildlife and regenerating old forest. Regenerating forest is a long process, but provides a multitude of environmental benefits. Whilst there is no calculator on the site to offset your specific emissions, donations to their accredited ‘Carbon Offsetting’ location are used to plant trees in their conservation estate, with the capacity to offset over 50,000 tonnes of CO2. Trees for Life also links to this carbon calculator to calculate how many trees you should plant to offset your particular emissions.
If you’re looking for something close to home (and are based in the UK!), this could be the project for you – it’s relatively small scale with measurable impacts, and speaks to my ecology brain!

 

TL;DR

I was interested to see that most of these companies don’t simply plant trees to offset carbon (what I thought might be the easiest and most marketing-friendly way of offsetting carbon). Most fund global projects to reduce future carbon emissions in one way or another, which means you’re not exactly offsetting your own carbon, but rather reducing carbon that might be released in future.

I love the idea of this, because offsetting carbon does nothing to actually change the fact that COwill always be released as long as non-renewables are still being used. Atmosfair, Climate Care and Chooose fund renewables and energy-saving projects in place of projects that would otherwise use non-renewables, thus changing the future potential emissions.

It’s hard to tell which is my favourite – Moy Hill Farm is close to home, easy and cheap, and provides the option to see the impact you’re having first hand, but no calculator or personalised offsetting that I can see. The Chooose Today subscription model is reasonably priced, scalable according to your income and travel plans and incredibly easy to use – I would say perfect for a present for a climate-conscious friend. MyClimate.org is expensive but comprehensive, and I can’t help but think trying to save money whilst offsetting carbon just means that you’ll be offsetting less carbon, but it’s hard to tell. Climate Care might be a favourite, because it costs less than MyClimate.org and seems to do a similar thing. German brand Atmosfair works closely with airlines, which I love – I think it’s time for the worst emitters to take responsibility for the own emissions, and I would feel more comfortable flying with an airline that I know offsets their carbon. It also provides the most comprehensive calculator that I saw, and reasonable costs too.

 

So, what did I do?

I pledged 10 native trees with Moy Hill Farm, because I love supporting small businesses (and to be honest it was the first one I saw and I wanted to do something there and then). This cost €30.

I offset my flights to and from Tokyo using Atmosfair, as it was the only one that allowed me to specify my airline. This cost €47.

The remaining 3.5T of carbon to be offset for this year’s past and upcoming flights, I used Climate Care. This cost £25.

In future I think I’d just use Atmosfair or Climate Care for all the reasons mentioned above and for simplicity. Don’t forget that if you don’t have money to spare like this, simple changes such as which bank you keep your money in can have huge impacts, either funding things such as arms and tobacco or more sustainable and ethical projects, such as renewable energy. The best one I’ve found is Triodos but I’d love to find some more!

Please comment below with your thoughts, questions and recommendations – I’d love to hear them all!

 

A trip to Fes – Riad Fes & Hotel Sahrai

Recently I was lucky enough to be taken on a press trip to Fes, Morocco’s second largest city, to review two sister hotels in the area. Having been to Marrakech twice, I was excited to visit somewhere new in Morocco and with its rich and interesting history, Fes seemed like the perfect choice!

Some background: Fes was founded in the 8th Century and for a while was one of the largest cities in the world. Now, with a population of 1.2 million, Fes is known for its medina, probably the largest pedestrianised site in the world, and its university, the University of Al Quaraouiyine which was founded in 859 and the oldest continuously functioning university in the world.

This trip was gifted but as always all views are my own! We flew directly from Gatwick with Air Arabia. All images by the incredibly talented Tamsin Hurrell. Follow her on Instagram!

 

 

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Riad Fes

We arrived late in the evening to Fes airport, and after a short drive arrived at our first hotel, Riad Fes. Despite being late, after a short walk down a dark alleyway, we found ourselves in the most spectacular courtyard. We later discovered that the Riad had previously been someone’s home, and the original architecture had been painstakingly removed, cleaned and replaced, each tile by hand!

Our room was beautiful and overlooked the pool (a rare feature for hotels within or surrounding the medina). When the hotel had been bought, the surrounding houses were purchased too, making the hotel significantly larger (and maze-like!) than a traditional riad. If you ever visit Riad Fes you will be blown away by the architecture – I know I was!

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Breakfast buffet

After a good night’s sleep and a hearty buffet breakfast, we headed into the medina for a 3h tour of the sights. The first thing I noticed was the number of chickens for sale on every corner – meat eating in Morocco is very much a matter of pointing at the one you want to eat and then taking it home with you. Being vegan this was quite tough to watch, but I also noted that the chickens all seemed in much better shape than any commercially raised chicken I’ve seen in the UK. The reality of eating meat may be tough to witness for some, but the same thing happens here in the UK, only under much more intensive (and often cruel) production methods, out of sight.

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Walking round the medina was incredible – having visited Marrakech’s medina multiple times, I was blown away by the size of Fes. One of our first rules was ‘if you get lost, stay where you are. If you move, you will only get more lost’. Needless to say, I stuck to the group closely! Within the medina are thousands of stalls, run by locals selling all sorts of products, much the same as Marrakech. However, each city has its speciality – a key product to trade between cities (and now around the world). In Fes, it is the tanneries, producing leather that is now exported across the world.

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The tanneries operate in much the same way as they did when they were first built in the early centuries. Stone wells contain liquids designed to strip hides of fur and flesh, before being softened in ammonia (which I am told is bird poo!) and dyed. They’re visually appealing for sure, although perhaps not for everyone.

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You are offered mint to smell as you head up to the tanneries

Hotel Sahrai

Following our tour of the medina, including the oldest continually running university in the world, we headed back to the Riad to be transported to our second hotel, Hotel Sahrai. Both hotels are owned by the same group, but they couldn’t have been more different! Where Riad Fes is traditional and cosy, Hotel Sahrai is expansive and modern. Situated on a hillside outside the medina, the views are also amazing, looking out onto the huge city of Fes.

 

 

We were lucky enough to be able to try their Namaste yoga package, providing yoga sessions morning and evening for hotel guests – the best way to wake up and warm up into the day! I’m not an avid yoga fan but when it’s on the roof terrace of a gorgeous hotel in the early Moroccan sun I can make exceptions!

Here are some pics from around the gorgeous hotel – you can see why I loved it so much 🙂

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The pool overlooks the medina

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Enjoying the second, smaller pool with Tamsin

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Have you ever visited Fes? Comment below or head over to my Instagram!

10 eco-friendly household brands

It occurred to me the other day that whilst I was doing my best to eat green and wear sustainable brands etc., my daily cleaning habits are doing a significant amount of harm to the world. With so many options out there that don’t cost the world, I think it’s high time that changes, so I did some research about the best eco friendly and sustainable cleaning brands for you to use in your home.

Cleaning makes me happy and I want it to make the planet happy too

 

Cleaning products: 

Greenscents

British brand Greenscents is the only cleaning brand to have certification by the Soil Association, meaning it has been certified organic. While ‘organic’ and ‘certified’  don’t necessarily equate to ‘eco friendly’, the brand also has a number of other standard that make it significantly better than a lot of mainstream cleaning brands.

Greenscents was named the most ethical brand of cleaning and laundry products in the UK (Ethical Consumer, 2017). The brand is also vegan, cruelty free, transparent in its sustainability and has a hypoallergenic range for those who require it. Read more about its certifications here.

 

Eco-egg

When I first heard about eco-egg I was amazed the idea isn’t already more popular. The premise is that laundry detergent is wasteful (not to mention harmful to the environment), so an eco-egg (an ‘egg’ filled with mineral pellets to clean clothes) saves huge amounts of plastic, packaging and reduces the amount of harmful chemicals used in washing.  The egg is refillable too, and lasts over 200 washes.

I’m yet to use it on my clothes (and have heard some mixed reviews about efficacy on very stained clothes) but keep an eye on my Instagram to see what I think! They also have a dryer egg that reduced tumble-drying time, thus saving energy, and cleaning products that are better for the environment, such as bamboo towels that are washable, cutting out the need for disposable kitchen towels.

 

Bio-D

Another UK brand, Bio-D is fully transparent about their credentials. Here is what they say about their products: “None of Bio-D raw materials are tested on animals, they are all GM free and wherever animal by-products are used they are at the scrutiny and approval of The Vegan Society, Naturewatch Trust, BUAV and the World Wildlife Foundation. Likewise the bottles that Bio-D use are recyclable and contain optimum levels of recycled material”.

Bio D produces pretty much all products you would want to use around the home at an affordable price, so is a good option if you want to start making a lot of difference sustainablity-wise! Also they provide refill bottles of many of their products, reducing packaging waste.

 

Ecover

One of the best more environmentally friendly household brands, Ecover is a global company committed to providing more eco-friendly options when it comes to cleaning. From reducing single-use plastics to changing ingredients to reduce pollution to waterways, Ecover makes a big point of being more ‘green’. In 1992, Ecover opened the world’s first ecological factory, which provoked much media interest. Despite some controversy about animal-testing in the past, the brand now labels itself as cruelty free, and it looks like all animal testing has stopped (as of 2018).

 

Method

Method was merged with Ecover in 2012, to become the biggest green cleaning company in the world. I am naturally sceptical of big brands when it comes to green credentials (the bigger they become, the more they seem to move away from their original purpose), but both Method and Ecover seem to have some pretty good credentials and positive press. For starters, Method is a B Corp company, meaning that it has withstood rigorous testing into the ethical and eco credentials of the brand. They have seemingly high levels of transparency when it comes to improving their eco credentials, so I would say this is a safe bet if you’r looking for a mainstream/global eco brand!

 

Ecozone

Another UK based brand here (yay!). Ecozone is vegan and certified cruelty free, and make the home toxin free products that are also pet friendly, plant based, palm oil free and safe for aquatic life, which is one of my main concerns about mainstream cleaning products. They have a range of accreditations, so a safe bet whatever you’re looking for!

 

Mangle & Wringler

If you’re UK based and looking to support a local, handmade brand, this is where to look! Handmade in the Cotswolds, each Mangle & Wringer product is non-toxic, free from fragrance and colour and uses only food grade ingredients. All of the products are also biodegradable, from renewable/sustainable sources and not tested on animals. I love the idea that it started in the early 1900s from a home soil recipe and is still going!

 

Bathroom products:

Who Gives A Crap

Not a cleaning brand, but I had to include it after discovering it recently. Who Gives a Crap is a loo paper brand (as its name suggests) that gives back. Not only are the products made from 100% recycled materials, meaning no trees are used to create the loo paper, wrapping or packaging. Not only that, but 50% of profits go to charities working to improve access to hygiene, water and basic sanitation in developing countries. Not only this but the products actually work out a lot cheaper than loo paper from your local shop, especially if you buy their big rolls in bulk online. I have a huge amount of love for this brand.

 

Modibodi

Women – Modibodi is a brand that was recently brought to my attention as part of a collaboration, but looking into it I’d like to share more about it. Modibodi is an alternative to disposable period products. With their different absorbencies, Modibodi can be used as an alternative, or in addition to traditional period products to absorb blood. They also have products to stop butt sweat at the gym and wee for those who suffer from incontinence. Having worn their pants before I can say that not only do they work, but they’re also actually super comfortable and flattering! There’s honestly something for everyone on their site.

 

Freda

If period pants aren’t your thing and moon cups scare you, look no further than Freda, a brand that provides sustainable, organic and bleach free period products. Freda has a subscription service to provide you with a personalised box of products through your letterbox in time for your next period (there is an algorithm to predict exactly when it’s going to be)! In addition, a proportion of the profits are used to support UK-based period poverty initiatives, helping asylum seekers, homeless people and school children have access to period products even if they can’t afford them themselves. Sustainability-wise, although there are small amounts of recycled (and recyclable) plastic wrapping the applicator-free tampons, everything else is biodegradable and made in factories that use renewable energy and have a zero-waste policy.

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Let me entertrain you

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I was recently invited to comment on a new phenomenon, ‘entertrainment’ by the Telegraph, who were writing a piece on the rise of boutique fitness classes and the potential side effects of using these classes as your main source of training. I had first come to understand the concept of entertraining via my friend, personal trainer Lawrence Price, who published this post on the subject. It’s an interesting one to comment on, because there are two very valid sides to the argument.

So I just thought I’d share with you a little of my thoughts on the subject. What is it? Is it bad? Can it be good? Read on:

What is entertrainment?

Entertrainment is the concept of working out in the way you want to workout (often very high intensity, randomly strung-together exercises) for fun rather than function.

Why do we love it so much?

The endorphin hit we get from an intense workout, such as boxing or a Barry’s class, leaves a lot of people feeling incredibly positive. When it’s at the start of a day it can set you up feeling upbeat for your day at work, and when it’s at the end of the day it can be a way to shake off frustrations and get the body moving after sitting down all day.

Why has it increased in popularity and what are some examples?

As the wellness sector has expanded, more and more people are opting to go to fitness classes after work instead of home, the pub or even the gym. The classes provide a pre-planned workout (ideal if you’re not sure what you should be doing at the gym), a motivating trainer and, for many, a chance to catch up with friends. It’s like the gym and a club rolled into one. Many even have the flashing lights, loud music and (post-workout) drinks to match! One Rebel, Barry’s Bootcamp, Kobox, F45 and Boomcycle are just some examples.

Why is entertrainment not necessarily a good thing?

When we workout at 100% intensity, 100% of the time, something has to give. Our bodies are not very good at coping with sitting down all day, handling stressful situations, and then smashing out a day’s activity in one (often very intense) hour. Whilst workouts such as these can FEEL good, they often don’t provide the body with other things it needs, such as mobility work, stretching, and rest.

In addition, the vast majority of boutique fitness classes are done in large groups, often reaching up to 50 people. In these groups it’s impossible for a coach to be able to assess whether everyone is doing the exercises right, with the right form at their particular level. If you’re an experienced gym goer that might not be a problem, but tiredness coupled with bad form and heavy weights is a recipe for disaster.

Whilst many of us are inactive all day, our nervous systems are very much active, thanks to work stresses, juggling tasks and everyday demands. Intense workouts just put these systems under MORE pressure, ramping up our sympathetic nervous system further. Your sympathetic nervous system is also known as your ‘fight or flight’ response, and gears you up to tackle stressful/demanding situations. In the short term, this is incredibly helpful, and can help you think on your feet, run away from danger or handle stress effectively, but an excess of time spend in this state can lead to a range of acute and chronic issues, from hypertension (high blood pressure) to insulin resistance. Therefore it’s not recommended to add more stress to your body if it is in a state of heightened physical or mental stress already. Both types of stress (physical and mental) illicit a physiological response e.g. even if you’re not stressed physically, chronic stress such as that from work can have the same negative effect as extreme physical duress.

For a lot of people therefore, a calming yoga session or meditation would be far more beneficial than a sprint session, switching on the parasympathetic nervous system and calming down the body. Without rest our bodies are far more prone to burnout, injury and illness, so a daily HIIT class might not be what’s best for you, especially at particularly stressful times of the year.

 

TL;DR

  • Basically, not all fitness classes have your best interests at heart, and it is incredibly difficult for a coach/trainer to be able to assess your physical state or form during a workout catering for 30 – 50 people.
  • Since we all lead such stressful lives already, sometimes smashing out an intense HIIT class may not be best for our bodies in the long term, and we may benefit more from yoga or a stretching session at stressful times.
  • However, in general, some form of movement is better than no movement, and it’s up to each and every one of us to check in with ourselves and just be mindful of how our bodies are feeling. Still fancy that Barry’s class? Go for it 🙂

 

I would love to hear your thoughts on the above! Check out my Instagram and YouTube for more.

Notes on living as a human

What I learned from a night of spirituality

I wrote some Instagram stories about what I learned after a panel discussion with a number of leading life coaches, and thought it might be valuable to write them down here too, since I have received so many messages about how useful they are. If you like them, save this page to refer to when you’re feeling a bit down!

Before I get started I think it’s important to say that spirituality definitely isn’t for everyone – for me certainly I like to have a very ‘fact-based’ view of the world, and I find anything as ‘wishy-washy’ as spirituality quite overwhelming and confusing. If you’ve ever suffered from depression, you probably know what it’s like to sit with seemingly millions of thoughts rushing around your head, trying to make sense of them all and feeling like you might be going a bit crazy. Sometimes sitting with those thoughts is the worst thing you can do, and (at least for me), getting out of my own head was the best way to stop the ‘feeling crazy’ thing. So, if you’re suffering I would really recommend trying CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy), which retrains your mind to get out of those thought clouds and into a healthier way of thinking. Either way, I think there’s some really valuable insights below, so here goes! 🙂

On reaching your full potential

There are a lot of things that hold us back from reaching our full potential in life, but most usually stem down to not feeling ‘worthy’ of achieving something, and lots of self-doubt. A great way of reducing those thoughts is to understand your limiting beliefs and question why you feel them- only by understanding the cause of limiting beliefs can we start to question them.

How to challenge beliefs:

  • Understand that a belief is just a thought – a lense through which we view the world. Our beliefs are OUR truths, but they are not necessarily THE truth. Thoughts are not reality and they can be changed.
  • Speak to people – we have a lot of blind spots in our thinking and the echo chambers in which we live don’t help that. Having people who challenge our beliefs (about the world and about ourselves) helps challenge beliefs. This can be from friends, family, a therapist and/or random strangers.
  • Physically challenge beliefs. Often the best way to change the way you view your abilities is to push yourself outside your comfort zones. Many of our beliefs about ourselves are outdated (e.g. failed a presentation at school and therefore unable to present in public in adult life) and need updating. Push outside your comfort zone and view ‘failures’ as learning experiences.

 

On authenticity:

Authenticity is incredibly hard to come by if you spend your life worrying about what other people think about you. Our ‘true self’ is diluted by trying to bend to the wills of other people. Know that perfection is impossible and chasing perfection is a fools folly. Stop caring so much about what other people think and be true to yourself.

 

Takeaways:

  • When your mind is in the right place and your mindset open to growth and learning, any and every experience in life is an opportunity. From the darkest places grow beautiful things and from the hardest times strength is made.
  • Trust the process
  • Your purpose in life is to be the fullest expression of yourself in everything you do. Fuck what anyone else thinks. As long as you are staying true to your values and remain open to potential other truths, you do you.
  • You are already enough, just the way you are.