World Environment Day – increasing biodiversity from home

Biodiversity loss has been highlighted as the third biggest risk to the world both in terms of likelihood and severity this year, ahead of infectious diseases, terror attacks and interstate conflict. Let that sink in. 

As we sit in the midst of a pandemic, it is easy to look only inwards, turning our backs on the changes that need to be made in our world for humans to continue thriving. However, now, more than ever, it is outwards that we need to look and wonder how we got ourselves here in the first place.

Biodiversity is the abundance and variety of life on earth. Humans are entirely dependent on biodiversity for the air we breath, food we eat and water we drink. Almost half of global GDP – around €40 trillion – depends on nature and the services it provides.

The recent COVID pandemic has brought to light just how much this is true, with scientists positing that the increased incidences of viruses such as Ebola, Bird Flu, Dengue Fever and COVID are exacerbated, if not caused, by biodiversity loss, deforestation and the illegal wildlife trade.

Today is World Environment Day, an international awareness day built to engage and motivate environmental action within governments, businesses and the general public. Each year WED has a theme, focussing efforts on one element of environmentalism in an effort to educate, share resources and make a difference.

This year’s theme is Biodiversity, a term which has seen the light of day more and more in recent years. The United Nations even labelled 2010 to 2020 the ‘decade of biodiversity‘, implementing strategies to improve it worldwide. However, a recent report by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), found that nature is being eroded at rates unprecedented in human history, leading to the acceleration of climate change and demise of our natural world. Businesses are also not doing anywhere near enough, with most countries on track to miss the targets of the Paris Agreement.

“The more one thinks, the more one feels the hopeless immensity of man’s ignorance”. Charles Darwin, More Letters of Charles Darwin, 1903.Apt, but today we don’t have ignorance as an excuse.

Climate change, biodiversity loss and our own wellbeing are all intrinsically linked. Biodiversity loss in Europe alone costs the continent around 3% of its GDP each year, around £400m pa. It is in our best interest to do as much as we can to prevent further loss of the natural world, and start rebuilding where we can.

Biodiversity loss is not only an environmental issue, it also impacts upon many of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, including those tacking food security, poverty, peace, justice and development. As mentioned by Sir Robert Watson, chair of the IPBES, biodiversity is “a security issue in so far as loss of natural resources, especially in developing countries, can lead to conflict. It is an ethical issue because loss of biodiversity hurts the poorest people, further exacerbating an already inequitable world. And it is also a moral issue, because we should not destroy the living planet.” (Guardian, Nov, 2018). Closer to home, biodiversity in green spaces is inextricably linked to mental health and wellbeing for all of us.

“This is the assembly of life that took a billion years to evolve. It has eaten the storms – folded them into genes – and created the world that created us. It holds the world steady”. E O Wilson, The Diversity of Life, 1992.

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This destruction of ecosystems has led to a million species (500,000 animals and plants and 500,000 insects) being threatened with extinction, potentially many more (UN). Figure from Guardian 2018

 

But what can we do from home?

I would argue that most of us interested in the natural world generally already know ways in which we can help, from changing to a green energy provider, cutting back on travel, switching to an ethical bank and changing to a meat-free diet, and it’s just a case of enacting this. However, there are many more small ways to improve biodiversity from home.

Unfortunately, the COVID pandemic has turned our sights away from many parts of the world where threats to biodiversity are greatest, from illegal bycatch in fishing vessels and the deaths of those who regulate this, to the deforestation of sacred indigenous land in Sierra Nevada, Colombia, to make room for tourism (you can support a petition to end this illegal activity here). Because of this, it is important to look not only in our own backyards, but also what we can do to support efforts across the globe.

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While many backs are turned due to COVID, sacred regions within Sierra Nevada, Colombia, have been invaded and damaged by tourism projects and mining. Sign a petition to end this.

Close to home:

Leave wild spaces around your home.

  • If you have a lawn, leaving it for longer between mowing, or avoiding mowing patches altogether. This will not only improve the biodiversity of the plants, but also provide shelter for small mammals and insects.
  • Consider piling up wood, stones and garden cuttings to provide homes for more types of insect and mammal, as these are becoming rarer with the loss of woodland and increased obsession with ‘clean’ spaces. Composting organic matter also increases bacterial, fungal and other decomposers, providing a healthier garden all round.
  • Providing bird feed and water in your garden will also provide vulnerable bird species with a better chance of surviving harsh winters and being able to raise more young. Offer a mix of food for the widest variety of birds and provide protection from cats where possible!
  • Planting a window box with flowers that pollinators love can help maintain biodiversity in urban spaces. Having greenery at home is also great for your mental health!

Shop eco friendly.

Understanding how food and other crop production impacts the environment is a huge topic that deserves an entire literature review of its own. However, there are a few small steps we can make to ensure everything we buy is as biodiversity-friendly as possible.

  • Buy organic where possible. This does not always make a difference, but many of the farming practises that are intrinsic to organic farming (prohibition/reduced use of chemical pesticides and inorganic fertilisers, sympathetic management of non-cropped habitats and preservation of mixed farming) benefit local flora and fauna. On average, organic farms have 12% more biodiversity than equivalent non-organic farms. Look for the Soil Association label to make organic shopping easier. 
  • Buy shade-grown or bird-friendly coffee. This is vitally important as coffee is grown in some of the most biodiverse but rapidly changing environments, meaning that it can either support or harm endemic wildlife. Here’s how you should choose your coffee.
  • When buying furniture, only buy FSC certified wood. The FSC holds businesses to a standard that helps them carry out sustainable management practices to ensure forests thrive today and in the future (FSC).
  • Buy from ethical clothing brands. The fashion industry is immensely polluting, encourages deforestation, and if the fashion industry were a country, its emissions would rank almost as highly as the entire European continent. This is evidently bad for biodiversity. Buying less and choosing ethical companies can reduce your impact. Brands such as Veja are leading the way in supporting, rather than exploiting, the ‘guardians of the forest’ in the locations they source their materials, working with locals to promote biodiversity, instead of simply deforesting as many other brands do. Have a look at Good on You and EcoAge for other brand recommendations.

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Further afield:

Donate, support, fund, share.

We can make changes in everyday life and do what we can to maintain diversity, both close to home and further afield. However, the work of charities, NGO and certain businesses takes this a step further, keeping an ear to the ground to call out environmental injustices, hold governments to account and support local communities around the world. Here are just a few – comment your favourites below!

NGOs

  • Traffic, a NGO, supports efforts to end the illegal wildlife trade and combat wildlife crime. They focus on educating governments on sustainable wildlife management and regulation systems, reducing reliance on poaching and unsustainable trade. Donate here.
  • Amazon Watch works with indigenous people to protect large swathes of the Amazon rainforest. Recent research demonstrates that while the world’s 370 million indigenous peoples make up less than five percent of the total human population, they manage or hold tenure over 25% of the world’s land surface and support about 80% of the global biodiversity. Protecting Indigenous people is protecting the environment they live in and vice versa. Donate here.
  • African Biodiversity Network (ABN), a UN accredited NGO, accompanies Africans in voicing their views on issues such as food and seed sovereignty, genetic engineering, agrofuels, biodiversity protection, extractive industries and the rights of small-holder farmers. They ‘focus on indigenous knowledge, ecological agriculture and biodiversity related rights, policy and legislation’. I cannot find anywhere to donate but do check out and share their work!
  • National Biodiversity Network works closer to home (UK) to record and analyse data collected about UK wildlife, enabling conservation efforts to be focussed on areas that really need it. Knowledge is power! Donate or join here.
  • Cool Earth work to end deforestation and environmental degradation in rainforests, some of the most biodiverse places on earth. Rather than exerting top-down control, they work with local people to help them benefit from protecting their surrounding forests. Donate here.

Businesses

While NGOs and charity organisations are excellent, some estimates suggest they receive only 10% of the funding needed to avert a biodiversity crisis. Engaging the private sector to fill in the gaps is a necessary and productive next step.

  • Treedom supports biodiversity by allowing people to purchase native trees and plant them in small, sustainable agroforestry systems around the world. Trees contribute to biodiversity by providing shelter, food and homes for animals, insects and other plants, increasing the number of pollinators and natural pest predators, like birds (thereby supporting the pollination of the world’s crops), capturing CO2, preventing soil erosion and much, much more.
    The trees people sponsor with Treedom support smallholder farmers and their families, providing either food or an added income source. For transparency, all of their trees are geolocated and photographed, and customers receive regular updates about their tree and the project where it is planted.
    Treedom have planted over 1.1 million trees across 16 countries, offsetting over 340 million kgs of CO2 and providing food security and income for over 66,000 farmers. If you’d like to purchase a tree or two, the code FLORA10 gets you 10% off! Please do let me know if you buy one, as I’d love to share 🙂
  • There are many re-wilding projects also happening in the UK, returning deforested woodlands to their former diverse glory. You can learn more about rewilding projects here.
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Trees are vital for maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem health, but also are excellent for your mental health too! Photo Johny Cook.

 

Nature provides us with everything we have, and we cannot afford to lose more biodiversity on this planet. While we may have long ago destroyed much of the biodiversity in the UK, there is still a chance to make an impact with our actions and reverse some of the damage, both close to home and further afield. The best time to at was yesterday. The next best time is now.

Many thanks to Hattie Webb for helping research this post – there was SO much more I could have put in, but in the interest of people actually getting to the end, I have saved this for another time. I hope you enjoyed reading! Please share it if you found it useful, tagging @foodfitnessflora and @hattie_eco on Instagram. Do add any ways you have found of increasing biodiversity, as well as any charities you like to support. Thanks for reading!

Reef-friendly suncreams

Many thanks to Hattie Webb for her help researching this post. Go and check out her Instagram for more on sustainability! Post contains some affiliate links, which are the only way I monetise my blog. These do not impact which products are chosen for this piece. 

As we move into summer, it becomes more and more important to take care of our skin. While up to 20 minutes in the sun without protection is great for achieving our recommended vitamin D levels, too much time in the sun can wreak havoc on our skin, both immediately (burns, sun spots) and long term (elevated risk of skin cancer, breakdown of elasticity, wrinkles etc).

Many people recommend we wear suncream year round, even on cloudy days (as up to 80% of UV radiation can pass through cloud cover), but with around 25% of the ingredients in the suncream we apply ending up in our waterways, what’s the environmental impact of this?

First off, how do suncreams work?

Sunscreens have one of two “modes of action”. Chemical sunscreens absorb ultraviolet radiation like a sponge, while mineral sunscreens containing titanium dioxide or zinc oxide reflect it back from the surface of the skin like a mirror.

Which is better?

Either can work well, but the latter is better for the environment. Dermatologist Dr Catherine Borysiewicz says:

“Mineral sunscreens with a high sun protection factor, UVA and UVB protection (the former penetrates the skin more deeply but the latter is more intense and the chief cause of sunburn) are as effective as chemical sunscreens, great for people with sensitive skin or inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema, and kinder to marine life,” she says. “They went out of fashion because they tended to leave a chalky white layer on the skin, but they are slowly becoming more popular again.”

What are the problematic ingredients?

Certain chemicals, found in many mainstream suncreams, have been found to be damaging to waterways and marine ecosystems. Octinoxate and Oxybenzone have been linked to coral bleaching, actively decreasing our fragile corals’ defences against climate change, and reducing their ability to reproduce and propagate.

Research suggests that coral reefs in Hawaii are exposed to 6,000 – 14,000 tons of sunscreen lotion every year, leading the island to ban suncreams containing Octinoxate or Oxybenzone, due to come into effect on 1st Jan 2021. These ingredients aren’t just harmful for corals though – they have also been linked to endocrine disruption in humans, as they can move through the skin and mimic hormones in the body, damaging sperm and reproductive hormones.

So what can we do?

Understanding why certain ingredients are harmful and choosing to avoid them is the best thing we can do to limit the impact our suncream has. Avoid aerosols too, as most of this doesn’t actually make it to the skin, instead coating everything around, including your lungs. Choosing to wear protective clothing to limit the amount of suncream you use not only saves money but will also help protect the environment.

Haereticus Environmental Laboratory also publishes a list each year of what sunscreens are safe for the environment, and the Environmental Working Group rates products with SPF values – including around 650 sunscreens and 250 moisturisers – on their environmental impact.

These are my three favourite brands and products that I try to buy whenever I’m in need of suncream. We may not be heading on holiday any time soon, but the sun is the same sun all around the world, so don’t think that it’s any weaker just because it’s cooler in the UK than your usual holiday destinations! So stock up and let me know your thoughts on these faves.

 

REN SPF 30

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This is the suncream I use on my face every morning if I’m spending time outside. It’s one of the few I’ve found that is truly mattifying (I like dewy, but there is a limit!), and REN really take their environmental credentials seriously. The bottle is made with recycled plastic and is fully recyclable, and the product is vegan and cruelty free, without any ingredients that are harmful to the environment. I cannot recommend this more as your go-to face suncream!

 

Tropic Great Barrier SPF 50

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Tropic’s entire range is certified reef-safe, vegan, cruelty free and has incentives for returning packaging too, to increase circularity. The brand is carbon neutral and sends very little (if any) waste to landfill), although I couldn’t see whether their packaging was recycled or not. Having used their other products before (though not this one), I can thoroughly recommend!

 

Green People SPF 30

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Green People use plant-based, carbon neutral packaging that is fully recyclable, and 30p from each of their sales goes to the Marine Conservation Society, a UK charity protecting our oceans and wildlife. This suncream is obviously certified reef safe too. Its texture takes a bit of getting used to, especially if the suncream is cold, and if you’re used to nicely scented suncreams this may be a bit strange, as it has no perfumes in. However it does the job – I’ve never burned with this suncream and love their aftersun and daily protection (SPF 15) too!

 

 

 

 

Sustainable paints

Week 9 of lockdown – how’s it going for you? What activities have you taken up, or is keeping afloat taking enough time as it is? With many of us still staying at home, working sporadically and lacking in social life, our views have turned inwards to our homes. Having worked our way through countless banana breads, sourdough starters and home haircuts, more and more people have chosen to use this time to make their living spaces more homely. It’s not a surprise either – usually we have real life to distract us from peeling wallpaper, outdated sofas and other DIY jobs that need doing, but when you pass those things everyday, they become harder to ignore.

Repainting is one of the easiest ways to redecorate without fear of electrocuting yourself, or having heavy objects fall on you. It’s simple enough for anyone to do with a bit of planning, but makes more difference to the feel of a room than almost anything else.

Excitingly, I’m also planning on moving home after summer, finally aiming to live with my partner, who I’ve been with for 5 years now, but whom I have never lived with full time. We’re hoping to be able to redecorate as soon as we move in, but want to do so as sustainable and ethically as possible. You can think of this article as a bit of research for myself, but hopefully it’ll help you too!

 

What makes some paints unsustainable? 

Needless to say, paints contain large numbers of chemicals, many of which are bad for both the environment and ourselves in large quantities. Research suggests that professional redecorators are considerably more likely to contract lung cancer, due to the volatile compounds and formaldehyde present in many paints and other building materials. Ingredients such as  vinyl resins, synthetic dyes, petrochemicals derived from oil, acrylics, formaldehyde, and ammonia can contribute to health issues, especially if you are prone to asthma or eczema.

Aside from the effects on indoor pollution levels, the production of paint and the ingredients therein can also have disastrous environmental consequences. Producing just 1L of conventional paint can produce around 30L of toxic waste, including solvent emissions that damage the ozone layer, and greenhouse gas emissions, whose effects we know all too well. Disposing of paints can also cause issues. Many are hazardous and cannot be disposed of in normal household waste, unless they are totally dried up. Some eco-friendly paints can be composted and/or recycled, reducing their environmental footprint. Here’s some information on how to dispose of your paint safely in the UK.

 

What are eco-friendly paints?

Currently, there is no standard for any paint company to call itself ‘eco-friendly’. Guidelines laid out by the EU have loose restrictions on volatile compound levels, but regulations do not separate out ‘eco-friendly’ and ‘conventional’ paints. Because of this, it can be hard to know if the ‘eco-friendly’ paint you are buying really is much better than cheaper conventional products.

Ethical Consumer, a site that explores the ethical and environmental credentials of companies, suggests looking out for certain terms when choosing paints. ‘Generally, plant-based, water-borne paints are the best buy, followed by plant-based, solvent-borne ones with natural solvents. Try to avoid those using titanium dioxide.’

Eco friendly paint companies also take into account the emissions and environmental impacts of paint production, not just the paint itself. The carbon footprint any toxic byproducts of production contribute to the paint’s overall environmental impact, so is important to bear in mind.

 

Best brands

Auro

Created in 1983, Auro was a pioneer of eco friendly paints, cleaning products and stains. Their paints are petrochemical free and the source all their raw materials from sustainably managed sources. Ethical Consumer highly rates their ‘gloss paint’.

 

Earthborn

Earthborn are the only UK brand to carry the EU ecolabel flower accreditation, showing their commitment to a circular economy and lower environmental footprint. Their paints are water-based, petrochemical free and breathable, making them suitable for a wide range of walls.

 

Lakeland Paints

If you’re an allergy sufferer, UK-based Lakeland Paints may be for you. Lakeland uses organic, non-toxic, no odour, volatile-compound free and are accredited by the British Allergy Foundation. All there packaging is also 100% recycled and/or recyclable.

 

Farrow & Ball

Farrow & Ball was the first in the industry to change their entire range to water-based paints. These are also low-VOC (volatile compounds), low odour and accredited by the Toy Safety Standards, meaning they’re even safe to use on children’s toys. The packaging is 100% recyclable, too.

 

Little Greene

Little Greene manufactures their environmentally friendly paints here in the UK. They have water-based, low VOC options, or oil-based options, made from sustainably sourced vegetable oils. Their wallpapers are either FSC or PEFC certified, meaning they come from sustainably managed forests, and for every tree cut down, another is planted. Their paint tins are made from 50% recycled steel and are fully recyclable.

 

Eico Paints

Eico paints was the only company I found that promised to use 100% renewable energy (geothermal and hydropower). Their production process is carbon positive, and their paints are low to no-VOC and low-odour, making them popular with allergy sufferers. They have a huge variety of colours, too!

 

Compulsory race tees – time to get shirty?

One of the highlight of signing up to many races around the world is the free branded race t-shirt that you get as part of your entry. It’s a memory, something to be proud of, and really makes you feel like you’re getting the most out of your (often pretty expensive) race fee.

 

However, people are increasingly questioning the necessity of race tees at every single event. While for many it may be their first race, or a special occasion they want to remember, for so many others it is just another t-shirt that will never be worn, adding to the pile of other t-shirts from other races.

In terms of sustainability, having compulsory race tees is a big no-no. Often made from synthetic materials originating from non-renewable resources, each wash releases microfibres into our waterways, and the energy, manual labour and chemicals used to create each and every t-shirt contributes significantly to many of the challenges we face in reducing our environmental footprint. One polyester t-shirt emits 5.5kg carbon, and although cotton t-shirts are better in terms of emissions (2.1kg), they also require much more land and water, both precious commodities in the regions cotton is grown. If the fashion industry was a country, its emissions would rank almost as highly as the entirety of Europe – it is clear that we need to change the way in which we consume clothes.

So what can we do? Here are some options for what to do with when faced with an unwanted race t-shirt (or any other sports kit for that matter!).

Image above: some shocking statistics about our athleisure, taken from ReRun

 

Opt out of tshirts

Some races now have an option to opt out of t-shirts and other race peripherals. Think twice about whether you need another race t-shirt, or if a medal might be memory enough. Some people live for race tees, and if you know you’ll love and wear it, go for it! But if you don’t feel strongly about it either way, it might be best to opt out.

Trees not Tees

Some race entry forms do not allow you to sign up without choosing what sized t-shirt you want (whether you actually want it or not). Thankfully, a company called ‘Trees not Tees‘ works with race organisers to start providing the option “I don’t need another T-shirt – please plant a tree for me instead”.

Rather than the race spending money on a t-shirt that will never be used, the money instead goes towards planting a tree on a patch of land in Scotland, contributing to rewilding the area with native vegetation. If your race entry didn’t allow you to opt out of t-shirts, why not email hello@treesnottees.com to let them know. If you have an email contact for the race you’re signing up to, send that over too – the following year you could have contributed to the planting of thousands of trees!

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Trees not Tees are doing amazing things in the name of sustainability

ReRun

ReRun is a Community Interest Company dedicated to up-cycling and rebranding old (or even new) sportswear, selling them for a fraction of their original cost. Their goal is to raise awareness of the waste generated by buying new clothes, and to extend the life of all the clothes we have. Even just a few months of extra wear can reduce the waste footprint of each item. Clothes can be taken to specific drop-off locations around the UK before being sent where they are needed.

Even the most worn-out clothes are put to good use – un-sellable clothes are donated to refugee/homeless projects and the profits from all sales go back into the running community.

Too Many T-shirts 

If you would like to keep all your t-shirts (‘for the memz’), but know that you’re unlikely to wear them all, ingenious company ‘Too Many T-shirts‘ offers a service that sews them into a throw/blanket/duvet for you. This way, you have a functioning addition to your home (perfect for wrapping up in after a long run) and are able utilise and enjoy up to 40 t-shirts at once.

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Image courtesy of Too Many T-shirts

Wear before you race

In colder races, it is commonplace to wear and then discard items of clothing at the start line. This saves carrying around extra weight you don’t want, or arriving at the start line completely freezing (this brings back memories of Tokyo marathon, and it’s no fun). Thankfully, many races are now collecting discarded items and donating them to charities. If you like to do this, why not wear an unwanted race t-shirt to the start line before donating it – just double check they are donated rather than discarded at your particular race!

The Swap Box

This community project based in Cornwall aims to extend the life of pre-loved (or even unused) sportswear, allowing runners to donate their own clothes, and/or swap items with other local runners. Sadly this is only available in Cornwall (currently) – the shop pops up Penrose Parkrun every 3 Saturdays, and can be found at numerous other local events.

Runners Renew Programme

This isn’t strictly for t-shirts, but I thought I’d add it here as I get asked a lot what to do with old trainers. The Runner’s Renew Programme collects secondhand trainers (and other bits of kit) and donates them to women. This initiative also breaks down barriers for many women looking to get into running. Shoes and other sportswear can be expensive, so donations such as these can be invaluable to those in need. DM them on Instagram to get involved!

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Runner’s Renew providing some much needed trainers!

Freecycle/local charity shops

You’ve received your race tee and race pack at home, and want to ensure it doesn’t end up in your drawers, unused, but many people struggle to find the time to send off to the above initiatives. As a last option (and one that is significantly better than chucking your clothes, or having them sit unused), try putting up clean t-shirts on freecycle, a website that offers free items to anyone who is willing to collect them. This means that someone who is in need of a sports t-shirt can come and relieve you of your burden, and you are doing good in the process. An alternative to this is donating to your local charity shop.

 

I would love to know whether you opt in or out of race tees, and what you do with all the ones you have been given! I’m sure there are loads of other great initiatives out there, and if we all called for more responsibility from race organisers, the difference we could make to the sustainability of our sport would be immense.

 

Looking for more information on sustainability in the running community

Exhausted – The effect of air pollution on running

What is green energy and can it save the planet?

8 environmental influencers you should follow

 

Come and find me on Instagram for more

Dharana Wellness Centre, Hilton Shillim Estate, India

Travelling has always been something I love, and spending too much time in one place gives me itchy feet to explore anywhere else, be it the Surrey hills or half way across the world. For a long time, I have wanted to visit India. The cuisine is one of my favourites, focusing heavily on vegetables and plant-based foods, exquisitely flavoured and perfectly balanced.

I recently had the privilege of being able to travel to the Dhahran Wellness Centre (the Dharana at Shillim estate near Mumbai), partly as a birthday present to my partner, and partly for work. With its focus on wellness and conservation, I knew it was the perfect fit!

Shillim was originally a conservation project by two brothers, who bought land to protect it from slash-and-burn, the practise of cutting down forests and burning them in the summer to create more fertile land for agriculture. Over time the brothers were able to buy and reforest more and more pieces of adjacent land. Now the site is around 3000 acres, within which sits the 330 acre eco retreat (of which 70 acres is the wellness facility).

Location & accommodation

We travelled from another local retreat, but the drive from Mumbai airport is around 3 hours. It’s long considering the distance, but compared to some of the other local roads, the journey was smooth and seamless! The hotel provides airport transfers for a fee.

The surrounding forests are what make this retreat so special for me. It creates a supremely idyllic setting, somewhat more humid than the surrounding areas, and brimming with local wildlife. The rooms are tucked away off the road that winds through the centre of the site, and thanks to the fact that they are all low-rise, all of them are quite well hidden in the forest. We were lucky enough to be placed in one of their pool villas, although all the rooms look spectacular – the spa villas have beautiful balconies with views over the surrounding valley.

The villa was gorgeous and spacious, sleeping 2-3 (a spare bed can be added on request). Ours had a private pool and was situated close to the wellness centre – perfect for guests on any wellness programme.

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Not a bad place to enjoy the sunshine! Swimsuit from Davy J

Wellness programme

Dharana seeks to help guests reconnect with nature and their bodies thorough a range of wellness programmes. Whether your stay is 3 nights or 2 weeks, programmes are available for all health goals.

Each stay commences with a questionnaire (completed in advance) and a Ayureveda/naturopathy consultation to determine the best diet, treatments and activities each guest should take on. Once drawn out, the guest is given a daily plan complete with activities, massages, treatments etc., and after the stay there is a departure consultation aiming to provide each guest with simple steps to continue the dharana way of life at home (both dietary recommendations and naturopathic suggestions).

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Treatments are incredibly varied and are planned for you after your initial consultation

Since both Fiann and I already eat healthily and enjoy staying active, our programme was focussed around relaxation (plenty of treatments), increasing focus and enjoying the nature reserve. I couldn’t think of anything better!

Food

One of my favourite parts of travelling is the food! However, in the past I have struggled with ‘healthy’ or ‘wellness’ menus, which provide watered-down versions of dishes, or portions so small they are finished before you know what’s happened. Thankfully, after speaking with our doctor, we were assured that the food would be healthy, but in line with our desires – that is to say delicious, traditional and filling.

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The food was incredible – one of my favourites was the traditional (but healthified) thali

The food certainly did not disappoint. Although the individual dishes were sometimes smaller than I would help myself to (not hard, considering my normal portion sizes), I never came away from a meal feeling like I hadn’t had enough. In fact, I was full for almost our entire stay! This was some of the best food I have ever eaten and a wonderful introduction to all the dishes India has to offer!

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My favourite breakfast was dosa and paratha

One thing I would say is that if you want traditional, large, ghee-filled Indian meals, this isn’t the place – the meals are delicious but delicate. In the Green Table, the dharana (wellness) restaurant, traditional ingredients are cooked using modern culinary knowledge to create traditional-tasting food based on Ayurevedic traditions with modern-day health benefits. All I know is that it tastes blooming amazing.

The hotel has one more restaurant, Terrazzo, which serves a combination of Indian and global cuisine. We ate here once (from the buffet) and it was delicious, but does not compare to the home-grown, fine dining feel of the Green Table. However, if you’re looking for somewhere that serves alcohol or coffee, this is your place (or head to the Mountain Bar & Bistro – bruschetta pictured below). The Green Table is for wholesome ingredients only!

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The Green Table gets many of its ingredients from its on-site organic farm (complete with friendly farm cat).

Activities

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Hike to Shillim peak – we hiked up in 18 minutes and ran down in 9!

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You can also practise yoga on the peak

I was amazed when I found out that most of the activities held at Dharana are privately run. From bird-watching to block painting or pottery, if you choose to sign up you can guarantee a personalised feel. We loved every single activity we tried – I’ll let the photos speak for themselves, but so you know, we did:

  • Forest Bathing
  • Birding trail
  • Sunrise hike
  • Hike to shillim peak (above)
  • Cycling trail (below)
  • Block painting (below)

Our only problem is that we didn’t stay longer! We heard about a 6 hour hike on our penultimate day, but didn’t have time to fit it in, which was a real shame!

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We cycled at 6:30am to see the sunrise!

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Our birding trail didn’t just involve birds!

I adored our stay at the Dharana Wellness Centre, and would love to go back for longer after the rainy season sometime, where the activities are focussed around the rejuvenated forests, waterfalls and rivers. I can imaging coming back here over and over again and never getting bored, which is what I now plan to do!

Have you ever been to India? Would you like to visit somewhere like this? Comment below!

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Too many photos, not enough space

This trip was very kindly gifted by Dharana at Shillim, but as always all views are my own.

nb/ I offset my total carbon footprint from general living monthly, and offset the flights from this trip. Although not a perfect alternative to not flying at all, you can read my thoughts on Carbon Offsetting here.

 

Shopping rules

With each of our wallets, we have a choice: to buy or not to buy. In fact the choice gets even better – with so many shops having so many ranges year round, the choice gets larger and larger. What should we buy? How often should we buy? Should we buy at all?

Everyone is different in their purchasing habits, which is why I can only speak for myself, but I am trying to make a conscious change at the moment to buy better. I find myself mysteriously wanting a midi leopard-print skirt the moment I see it being put on in fast-forward on Instagram, and thinking about buying a new gold mirror when I see a Made-dot-com advert on the tube. However, in this age of consumerism, waste and neglect, I am desperately trying to come up with ways to spend my money better.

As an ‘influencer’, I think it’s important to remember that gifting (when a blogger/influencer will get sent something for free in the hope that they might post about it) is not impact-free. Just because it didn’t cost anything, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t have an impact, so for the purposes of this post, I am including accepting gifting as purchasing something.

I am not perfect, and have constant cognitive dissonance with my job – do I work with a brand that promotes consumerism? What brand doesn’t? Am I perpetuating the problem by advertising stuff or by using my platform to educate and provide greener alternatives am I actually helping? I don’t think the answer is simple or clear-cut, but I hope that I can at least have some positive impact while I’m here on this earth.

So, without further ado, here are some of my self-imposed purchasing rules for non-essential items.

  1. Ask myself if I can imagine myself using/wearing an item when I am in my own house in 5 years time. At 5 years it has already significantly beaten the average lifespan of an item of clothing in the UK (2-3 years), so may well be worth buying. Timeless pieces and the perfect jumpsuit are often worth buying. Everything else is often not. Basically, you can do consumerism as well as you like, but if you’re still buying stuff, you’re still contributing to having more things. We don’t need more things, we need less.
  2. Message a brand if their product arrives in excess packaging. This isn’t to seem like a dick, but I think it’s actually really important to make your voice known when it comes to your purchases. I recently received a very generous amount of fitness clothing from a brand (that I didn’t know was being sent) and each item was individually wrapped in plastic. So I messaged the brand to ask if they had any plans to reduce plastic packaging in future – hopefully if enough people ask, they will consider taking the requests onboard.
  3. Share amazing brands doing amazing things. Small brands rely on dedicated people and word of mouth. I work with an incredible brand called Freda that sells sustainable and ethical period products with a social mission. For me, buying from a brand like this is a no-brainer – they’re not significantly more expensive than Tampax, have a MUCH lower environmental footprint and have a ‘giveback’ (a proportion of the profits go towards ending period poverty in the UK). However, as start-ups, brands like Freda don’t have huge advertising budgets, or the ability to gift to hundreds of influencers in the hope that they’ll post. It’s by getting loyal customers who share by word of mouth that the message gets round, and each and every one of us can provide that service to brands we love and that we feel should do well. Put your money and your mouth where your values lie – it’s only in this way that small brands that do good can compete with big brands that don’t!
  4. If a highstreet brand has a ‘sustainable/ethical’ range, purchase from that (if you have to buy something). If I’m just looking for ‘something’ (e.g. for an event), I will often head to highstreet stores. Ideally I would be able to shop in advance in more sustainable shops, but sometimes it’s not possible in time, so the highstreet offers a speedy alternative. Whilst a ‘sustainable’ range from Zara is unlikely to have anywhere near the positive credentials as something from a small eco-friendly brand, imagine if Zara suddenly find that 25% of their customers are preferentially buying from their small ‘eco’ range compared to their ‘normal’ clothes. The proportion of ‘eco’ clothes are going to increase, and at that point we can ask for more from them. We have so much purchasing power and brands really are listening!
  5. One in, one out. When it comes to clothes, the vast majority of us have too many. We forget what we own, end up buying more and then check everything back into the same drawer. I do quarterly clear-outs to friends and charity shops, and then maintain that level of clothes – a level where I know what I own, know my special-occasion outfits and try not to buy more. If something new comes in, something I haven’t worn recently goes out. It’s a good system that means everything gets worn!

These are just some of the ways I try to improve the way I live through my purchasing power. I’d love to hear your ideas and tips!

3 ways to reduce your climate impact

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when it comes to facts about climate change. We’re told left right and centre about the inevitable demise of the natural world, and let’s face it, sometimes it makes you just want to throw your hands up in despair and just assume that nothing you do could make the slightest bit of difference. However, the facts say otherwise. Small changes done everyday (especially by the ‘worst offenders’ when it comes to carbon footprint i.e. the people who probably won’t be reading this post) are enough to make small changes. Back in 2003, the Environment Agency reported that small efforts made by a sufficiently large number of people can make a big difference. For example, if every driver took one fewer car journey a week, average nine miles, it would cut carbon dioxide emissions from traffic by 13%.

Barbara Young, the agency’s chief executive, said: “Some aspects of the UK’s environment are improving. Air and water quality is better now than it has been for decades.

“The 20th century’s peasouper smogs and toxic rivers are gone for good. But in some areas progress is slower. And some things are getting worse. If we all resolve to do something where we live for a healthier environment, then together we can make a difference.”

Of course, it is important for governments and policy makers to take action, rather than allowing environmental issues to be marginalised in favour of unsustainable economic policies. However, we don’t need to wait for the law to catch up with what we already know – here are five simple ways youcan reduce your environmental impact every single day!

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Eat less meat

It’s now widely acceptedthat the agricultural industry has some of the biggest negative impacts on our climate today. Feeding over 7 billion people who have an increasing hunger for meat is hard, and it’s taking its toll on our planet and our health.

Reducing your meat and dairy consumption could be the best way to reduce your impact on the environment. New research shows that without meat and dairy consumption, global farmland use could be reduced by more than 75% – an area equivalent to the US, China, European Union and Australia combined – and still feed the world.

The impact of meat on the environment goes far beyond the greenhouse gas emissions too: loss of wild areas to agriculture is the leading cause of the current mass extinction of wildlife, and animal husbandry worldwide leads to environmental degradation through over-grazing, eutrophication, excess water usage and deforestation.

Luckily, in the west we are incredibly lucky to have alternative options to meat and dairy. Substitutes such as tofu and quorn are far less damaging than meat, and are being created to satisfy even the most avid meat lover. Giving up all meat and dairy is the ideal, but even without giving it up entirely it is possible to make a difference. Red meat is the worst culprit, so should be the first to go, followed by lamb and crustaceans (things like crab, prawn, shrimp etc.). It’s easy to make a difference when you make small changes everyday, like choosing vegetarian meals and only having white meat twice a week. The world will thank you and so will your body.

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An interesting graphic to show the impact (in terms of greenhouse gases) our food has

 

Use less plastic

An obvious but important one. In 2018 the European Parliament voted for a complete banon a range of single-use plastics, such as straws, plastic bags and cotton buds. The move was aimed at reducing our impact on our oceans, and targeted plastic products that have either reusable of non-plastic alternatives.

An estimated 8 million tonnes of plastic enter the world’s oceans annually. Since they don’t break down, this is becoming a huge issue in our oceans globally. 8 million tonnes is hard to imagine, so picture this: there is expected to be more plastic than fish in our oceans by 2050. Wow.

So what can you do? Read this post on how to reduce your plastic consumption, including alternatives for some of the worst offenders.

Examples include always keeping a coffee cup in your bag instead of using takeaway cups, and paying attention to the makeup products you use, since many made overseas (outside the UK) contain microplastics. Giving up fish could also have a knock-on effect on your plastic consumption, since 27% of all plastics found on beaches are washed up fishing gear. Less fish consumption = less fish caught = happier oceans with less plastic in. It’s all about awareness, so being away of the impact of your actions is the first step. The next step is doing something about it!

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The depressing reality of the impact of plastic

 

Pay attention to your clothes

The fashion industry contributes to 8% of global gas emissions yearly. It’s a huge industry that we allbuy into. However, rather than viewing this as a negative, it also means that we can all make a difference every single day with our purchases and decisions. Today we are buying 4x the amount of clothes we were 10 years ago, and wearing them for half the time. This means that fashion is becoming increasingly unsustainable and with the rise of fast fashion it’s incredibly popular to have a constantly new wardrobe, rather that respecting and re-wearing our clothes as we did when they cost a lot more.

In addition, washing our clothes as much as we do releases microplastics into the ocean – the fashion industry is the second largest contributor of plastic to our oceans. This is subsequently consumed by fish, which ironically, a lot of us still eat. So technically, we are eating the remnants of our clothes, which is fun.

The good news is that there are other ways of living and stil wearing fashionable clothes. Buying from sustainable fashion labels can reduce the impact you have on the environment when you buy new clothes. However, purchasing new clothes still will always have an impact, so alternatives are still useful. Buying second-hand or borrowing clothes (e.g. via Wear the Walk, where you can rent your dream wardrobe for a fraction of the price of buying even one piece) for special occasions are two great options to reduce your impact. When you are finished with clothes, donate them to charity shops or swap with friends. Fresh new wardrobe, no waste. Win win! To clean your clothes (and make them last longer), try freezing them. The cold disinfects the clothes without washing out microplastics. Washing should be reserved for stains that you can’t remove by hand and done at the coldest temperature possible. These steps will also allow your beautiful, sustainable clothes to last longer too!

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Companies such as Wear The Walk allow you to have an almost endlessly rotating wardrobe without the climate impact of buying everything. Other companies are popping up left right and centre too!

 

If you’d like to hear more about the simple everyday changes you can make to reduce your carbon footprint and impact on the environment, listen to the BBC’s new radio series on everyday solutions to the climate crisis. Well worth a listen with many inspirational speakers!

Conscious brands – my favourites

Ethical fashion is tough to get your head around – faced with conflicting information and often unachievable price points, it’s a little bit of a minefield. However with the right attitude (i.e. smaller, longer lasting wardrobes filled with classic items), and a little pointing in the right direction (this post), it’s possible to start making a difference with your purchases right away.

People Tree – High neck jumper

£199 £92

People Tree has long been one of the better known faces of sustainable fashion. It’s one of the first that I knew of and argues against fast fashion as a concept. It is both ethical and sustainable, so really ticks all the boxes if you’re looking to shop more consciously. It’s not cheap, but if you’re buying one well made jumper instead of 4, the cost per wear (and durability) is significantly better!

People Tree is recognised by customers and the fashion industry as a pioneer in ethical and environmentally sustainable fashion. For over 27 years, People Tree has partnered with Fair Trade producers, garment workers, artisans and farmers in the developing world to produce ethical and eco fashion collections. Fair Trade is about creating a new way of doing business; creating access to markets and opportunities for people who live in the developing world.

Shop now.

 

Girlfriend – Indigo high-rise set

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This set is TO DIE FOR. Shop the leggings and top now.

Leggings ($68)

Top ($38)

The Girlfriend Collective has to be my favourite sustainable activewear shop. The leggings are to die for, made from ridiculously soft materials, in beautiful colours. The models are of a range of sizes and shapes, and the brand prioritises ethical and sustainable production. These are the PERFECT WORKOUT CLOTHES. Full stop. The leggings are made from 25 recycled bottles – read more about their sustainability work here.

 

Girlfriend – bodysuit

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This bodysuit comes in a range of colours. Shop now.

$58

 

H&M – hooded jumper 

HM jumper

Quite obsessed with how warm and cosy this looks. Buy now. 

£19.99

I’m not entirely sure how sustainable this could be, but H&M has recently launched their ‘Conscious’ range. However, I do always think supporting any effort at being more conscious is a good thing! Here’s what they say about the range:

The collection comprises of high-end environmentally friendly pieces, aiming to move H&M’s fashion and sustainability development towards a more sustainable fashion future. We are committed to showing that sustainable fashion has a place on the red carpet as well as making it part of our daily offer in our stores. One of our goals is for all cotton in our range to come from sustainable sources by 2020.

Shop the jumper.

 

ASOS X Made in Kenya

£32 £9.50

I’m always sceptical of big fashion labels/corporations jumping on the sustainability bandwagon, but this collection is so beautiful it had to make it in. Here’s what Asos says:

The ASOS Made in Kenya line (originally named ASOS Africa) was borne in 2009 in partnership with SOKO, a clothing manufacturing unit founded by Joanna Maiden. Since its inception, a commitment to ethical production, sustainability, and community empowerment have been crucial parts of the brand’s ethos.

We’re continuing to work closely with SOKO Kenya in Rukinga, Kenya, who not only make our collection but also run a stitching academy to upskill people, as well as provide training and access to healthcare for the local community. As they grow, more jobs and training opportunities are created in this remote area – and SOKO Kenya has grown from four to over 50 employees in the last eight years.

Shop now.

 

Veja – V-10 trainer

£122

I have discovered Veja relatively recently thanks to a recommendation from a friend when I asked about vegan trainers. This French company has made a pledge to create the most sustainable trainers in the world, which I love! Some of their trainers are vegan, but others are made from even more sustainable (but arguably less ethical) materials:

But make no mistake about it; every component of Veja footwear has a story. The cotton comes from an organic farm in Brazil, where workers don’t have to worry about harmful pesticides poisoning their villages. The rubber is tapped by people in the Amazon using traditional techniques. The brand tries to use the most sustainable uppers possible, including the skin of the tilapia fish and a leather-like material made from curdled milk. Even the way the shoes are boxed, warehoused, and shipped is unconventional: Veja partners with Atelier Sans Frontières, an organization that helps people who have been incarcerated or are otherwise struggling to find work, to employ workers to prepare orders.

 

Nobody’s Child – jumper dress

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Perfect for winter/sprint cold! Shop now

£30 £9

Nobody’s Child is one of my favourite ethical ‘fast fashion’ chains. As stated on Amplify:

New company Nobody’s Child are tackling a difficult task: fast-fashion that isn’t unsustainable or unethical. Their quick turnaround when it comes to trends means that their Latest In and Sale sections move fast.

The prices are low and they pride themselves in creating Great looking, great quality clothing, which is fast, but not throwaway.

Although they may seem like a relatively new company, it’s taken 10 years for them to build their own supply chains and production sources. They weave and dye their own fabrics, design prints and make the clothes in their own factories. In owning the entire production process, not only can they make claims on sustainability but also be held to account. Their knitting plant, dye house, print facility and distribution centre are all based in the UK and they own factories in the UK, Europe and Asia.

Shop Nobody’s Child.

 

Nobody’s Child – leopard print bodysuit

£16 £9.60

 

Palladium X Christopher Raeburn – Neoprene black boots

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I want every item in this collection.

£219  £157

I am totally obsessed with this collaboration and LOVE that all the pieces are unisex and made from recycled rubber. I have 3 pairs and I am not ashamed because I wear them all the time.

Shop the boots.

 

 

Top 8 eco-influencers

This post was originally written for Freda, a brand I’ve been working with for the past month or so. Freda is a sustainable menstrual product subscription service that allows you to choose exactly what you want/need and get it delivered through your letterbox for exactly when you need it. The eco-credentials are amazing, and the brand also works with UK-based period poverty initiatives to provide menstrual products to those who can’t afford them, from school girls, to refugees, to homeless people. An amazing brand with amazing values. Give them a follow!

I’ve always preached supporting the people who you want to see grow. Whether that means sharing their pages, spreading their message or buying their products and services – it all helps! So I thought I’d share some of my favourite eco influencers, big and small. These are the people making waves. Share share share!

Venetia Falconer – @venetiafalconer

Producer and presenter Venetia Falconer is queen of sustainability and eco-friendly living, from food to fashion. Her captions are educational , funny and relatable, which is something we should all be looking for a little more on Instagram. Follow for sustainable outfit ideas, vegan food and a little thought-provoking education. Want more? Subscribe to her podcast, Talking Tastebuds.

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Natalie Glaze – @natalieglaze

Natalie is a model and founder of the eco brand Stay Wild Swim. She always promotes reusing clothes for as long as possible, as well as buying from charity shops. What I love about Natalie is that she’s balanced – for the vast majority of us, a zero waste lifestyle where we live off only what we already have is not possible, but Natalie shows us how to live that little bit more sustainably in everything we do. Follow for beautiful fashion, lots of plants and travel.

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Kate Arnell – @kate_arnell

Zero waste eco blogger and YouTuber Kate posts about all things eco, especially in the fashion industry. She promotes repairing clothes and purchasing on the basis of ‘cost per wear’ – expensive clothes are worth buying if you’re going to love and wear them for decades to come! She provides links and recommendations of plastic-free alternatives to some things you wouldn’t even thing are very damaging to our planet, including chewing gum and plastic toothbrushes. Well worth a follow.

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Clare Press – @mrspress

Clare Press is the sustainability editor of Vogue Australia but based in the UK, where she hosts her podcast, Wardrobe Crisis. She is passionate about conscious living, and being aware of what goes on behind fast fashion. She has also published multiple books on the topic of fast fashion, ethical clothing and issues within the supply chain. Well worth a follow as someone who really knows her stuff both in terms of sustainability and ethics in the fashion world.

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Immy Lucas – @sustainably_vegan

Immy first started her account to talk about living a zero waste lifestyle and veganism. Since then, she’s founded Low Impact Movement, an educational platform that uses social media to help reduce person waste and raise awareness of the issues surrounding our intrinsically wasteful lifestyles. Both pages are worth a follow, and if you like it, you can find her blog and YouTube too.

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Jo Becker – @treesnpeace

“You have two homes, the earth and your body. Take care of them”. You can find this quote in Jo’s Instagram bio, and it summarises nicely what she stands for. Jo actively campaigns for living more sustainably, including calling for a reduction in unnecessary plastic packaging in supermarkets. Did you know that UK supermarkets generate 59 BILLION pieces of plastic annually? This is just one of the many pieces of information you can learn on Jo’s page. Support her work by supporting her pages.

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Zanna Van Dijk – @zannavandijk

Zanna has recently co-founded the Stay Wild Swimwear range with fellow top eco-influencer, Natalie Glaze. Zanna is vegan and regularly donates part of the profits from other collaborations to charities invested in helping the environment. It’s great to see people with larger followings maintaining an eco-friendly lifestyle. Follow for workout ideas, recipes and information about how we can all help save our oceans.

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Gemita Samarra – @gemitasamarra

Gemita is one of those girls that just does it all. Stunt performer, documentary film maker and founder of the My Name Is Human project, she appears to be superhuman. Gemita works tirelessly to help refugees and homeless people, and acts as a voice for both, in between campaigning for everybody to live more consciously. There are some hard hitting truths on Gemita’s page, but unfortunately that’s the reality of caring about the plight of the environment and people less fortunate than ourselves. Follow and learn.

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Where to visit in Copenhagen

If you know me or follow me, you’ll know that I’m queen of long weekends away – a short flight or drive to a cute hotel somewhere I’ve not been is all I need to refresh and reset entirely! My most recent escapade was to the city of Copenhagen in Denmark. My boyfriend was working out there the week previously, so I jetted off after work on Friday to join him. Copenhagen lends itself perfectly to long weekends away, because it is small, nearby and doesn’t contain 6 million tourist traps you feel obliged to see. It’s cute, friendly and oh so Instagram!

 

If you’re lazy and ‘just want the bloody recommendations’, scroll down to TL;DR 🙂

 

Saturday
On Saturday we decided to walk half way across Copenhagen to Østerbro, located to the north of the city centre. It as a 45 minute walk (very doable if you’re looking to build an appetite!), and from the city centre could take you via a bunch of city parks and Torvehallerne, a cute market between the parks. We travelled via the botanic garden, which was a lovely tropical respite from the cold. It’s free to get in and if you like plants (who doesn’t?), it’s beautiful. In Østerbro we headed to Souls, a restaurant that was recommended to me by multiple people. It’s relatively new but is clearly doing well – apparently it’s absolutely packed all day everyday. After trying the food I could see why – it was absolutely incredible! The restaurant is plant based but doesn’t sell itself like that. It’s just really good food in a really lovely restaurant (aesthetic goals!). 10/10 would recommend. On our way back to the city centre we managed to miss the little mermaid statue (basically the main reason tourists visit Østerbro), which was slightly disappointing, but then again, apparently so is the statue. Instead, we headed to the Art museum for a little look around, and saw Rosenborg castle. I can imagine the gardens surrounding them would be lovely for picnics in summer, but as it was, it was a little too cold for a sit on the grass! After much walking we were super hungry for dinner, so after a visit to the hotel spa, we headed to a Thai restaurant called Baan Thai Isarn just around the corner from the hotel. I am SO happy we found it – I have to say it was the best thai food I’ve eaten since being in Thailand, and really generous portion sizes too!

Sunday
We walked to Christianshavn via Nyhavn docks – pretty, quite touristy but well worth a visit. Christianshavn is located on lots of different islands, giving it quite a nautical feel. It was pretty much empty when we went there but there were some nice looking cafes – it looks like it might once have been pretty run down, but was kinda bohemian and gentrified in a lot of the areas. We found the Church of Our Saviour, which has a cool spiral spire. We went down to Christiania (recommended by some, told to avoid by others) and had a little wonder around. Christiania is the hippy ‘freetown’, where the inhabitants live free of the constraints of Danish government. Drugs are unofficially ‘allowed’ here, and it’s got a bit of a reputation as an unsafe place, but during the daytime it seemed fine! Lots of cool homemade houses, bicycles and greenery – would recommend a little visit if you’re passing by. After Christiania we went back city centre way (pilestræde), heading for lunch at 42 Raw. This restaurant has three stores around the city, but has a trendy independent vibe to it. It’s not cheap (but where is in Copenhagen?), and has some truly delicious vegan food, without being too hippy raw style. It doesn’t seem faddy, just has lots of great food and is filled with a ridiculous number of young, good-looking people! Again, would recommend if you’re looking for good healthy food, but don’t forget to book – this also gets incredibly busy (testament to how good it is). There are lots of places to eat around this area/Strøget (the main pedestrian shopping street) if you have a look around.

Vækst hosted us for dinner, and treated us each to a full set menu (we forwent our veganism for one night to try their vegetarian and fish menus), paired with a wine per course. I have to say, Michelin stars seem to mean nothing once you’ve been here – it was absolutely on par with the best restaurants I’ve been to, and the service was incredible too. Really friendly staff makes the difference between a stuck up restaurant and an excellent one. This was definitely the latter!

Monday
After a pretty large breakfast, Fiann and I headed to the north to fælledparken in Nørrebro, the largest park in Copenhagen. Apparently in the summer it’s super popular, but we only saw a few walkers in the cold! It’s very pretty regardless. We headed via the lakes back down to Grød (groed), a famous porridge bar in the Torvenhallern market we passed on the first day. It’s kind of like a more upmarket Spitalfield’s market (and much warmer as it’s in a glass building and heated). The porridge options were so good, and perfect after a cold walk! I was recommended Grød by just about everyone who has been here, so it was nice that it lived up to expectations.

Monday was a relaxed day – with the icy weather and large amount of porridge in our bellies, we didn’t fancy staying out for too long, so instead headed to the hotel for a spa afternoon, followed by a quick visit to the prohibition bar Ruby and then dinner in the room. Very conveniently there is the Tivoli food hall just around the corner from the restaurant. The food hall itself contains lots of different restaurants, but most of them didn’t serve vegan foods. One that did, however, was Gló, a new restaurant to Copenhagen that was founded in Iceland. We got takeaway ‘salads’ (huge bowls of deliciousness with added vegan ‘meat’ from oumph – if you haven’t tried this yet you really need to!).

Tuesday
As Tuesday was our last day we loaded up on the delicious breakfast buffet before heading out for a long walk to explore any unknown corners of Copenhagen. It turns out it’s really not that big – to get anywhere you want to go as a tourist it’s really only going to be 1h maximum to walk, although I can see why people cycle too. There are bike paths everywhere and unlike the other great cycling city, Bristol, it’s totally flat.

We ended up meeting my cousin for lunch at falafel factory, a small chain selling delicious falafel sandwiches and platters. My cousin, having previously lived in Edinburgh, was able to give us plenty of insight into what it was like to move to Copenhagen for an English person. She’s only been there for 6 months, but to be honest, all it took was 4 days for me to consider living there!

 

TL;DR

Restaurants/cafes:
Souls – One of the most aesthetic restaurants, with a huge focus on sustainability and conscious eating. It has an Australian vibe (perhaps no surprising when you realise the owner is in fact Australian), mixed in with the classic Danish ‘hygge’. Not cheap, but full of flavour. It’s not just another ‘trendy vegan place’, it actually serves fantastic food.

Baan Thai Isarn – I knew nothing about this restaurant before heading out on the hunt for dinner, but I’m so glad I found it! It’s almost certainly not fully vegan, but we were able to find plenty of delicious vegetarian dishes. If you’re in the area, grab one of their red curries (basically a green curry but red). The portion sizes are big enough to have more for lunch the next day too!

42 Raw – This café has three stores around Copenhagen and seems to always be packed. It sells completely plant based foods, as well as catering to other intolerances too (dairy, coeliac). I loved the veggie burger, but also think their sandwiches are probably underrated – Fiann’s was incredible! Get the sweet potato fries with aioli.

Väkst – Whilst not completely vegetarian, Väkst bases all its dishes on local Nordic vegetables, meaning I was drawn to it straight away. Their evening menu is done in a way that I’ve only ever seen at Michelin starred restaurants. The flavours blend together amazingly, and the wine pairings are perfect! If you’re looking for somewhere a little special this is the place. Also note the incredible greenhouse and plants (read: v instagrammable).

Grød – Think porridge is boring? Think again. Grød is a porridge bar that provides delicious flavour combinations and ‘make your own’ porridge bowls. It also serves other breakfast dishes, such as chia pudding, as well as savoury risottos etc. If you need a good warming up, this is where it’s at.

Gló – The ethos of Gló is to allow busy people to find healthy, delicious meals on the go. It’s not totally vegetarian or vegan, but provides plenty of options for both, with the main emphasis on the vegetables of a meal. Try their Buddha bowls if you’re looking for something filling but light, or their wraps for on the go goodness.

Naturbageriet – This small and unassuming bakery is so adorable I wanted to take everything home. They sell traditional Danish and Nordic pastries but without dairy and/or gluten. It’s just really cute and the lady who runs it is so sweet. Remember to go before lunch so it’s not all sold out!

 

Hotel
We stayed at Axel Guldsmeden, one of a chain of eco hotels dotted around the world. The main ethos is that they’re sustainable, providing bamboo toothbrushes, non-bleached bathrobes and even recycled loo paper. None of this detracts from the beauty of the place though, with it managing to feel like a fantastic boutique hotel, instead of a chain. The customer service is second to none (although I’m not sure if this is a Danish thing or specific to the hotel!), and we even got upgraded because our bathroom door handle fell off (the one issue we had during our stay). The rooms are like mini apartments, containing four-poster beds as well as a little sitting room and beautiful bathrooms that are unbelievably aesthetic. If you’re not interested in soulless hotels and want something a little different (but still upmarket), this is the place for you! Also check out their Manon les Suites hotel – it’s basically instagram in a hotel.

Things
Little mermaid statue – diminutive and not even got a tail, but it is the most famous statue in Copenhagen (fun story: we walked all the way there, then forgot why we were there and ate brunch instead. Never actually saw the statue so we just googled it instead).

Nyhavn – canal docks with pretty cobbled streets, big wooden boats and colourful houses.

Strøget – A good shopping street, mostly pedestrianised

Parks – Kongenshave, Botaniskhave (botanical gardens), Øster anlæg and Fælledparken are all pretty and worth a visit!

Tivoli – one of the world’s oldest amusement parks. Not that pretty but quite cool to imagine how terrified you’d be on all the rides.

Carlsberg brewery – not something I have much interest in visiting, but Denmark is the home of Carlsberg, so perhaps worth a visit!

Christiania – the ‘freetown’ where lots of the Danish laws don’t exist. Fun fact: you can’t buy a house there, you have to apply and then you might get accepted and given one. It’s strange but actually pretty cool. Go in daylight.

Torvehalle – a great market filled with stalls selling food and drinks.

Round tower, Rosenborg castle, Church of Our Saviour, Amalienborg (the queen’s winter residence).

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Bye bye Copenhagen, we’ll be back!