Green Pioneers Interview: Yours Sustainably

To help celebrate the work of green pioneers and share great environmental achievements with the world we have decided to produce a series of interviews with a huge range of green champions from across the world.

YS LogoLynn and Jessica are behind Yours Sustainably, an online store selling carefully sourced products from around the globe. They sell only sustainable, socially responsible, recycled or eco-friendly gifts and accessories, and donate 10% of their profits each month to charities that focus on sustainable development.

Tell us about what you do?
We are the mother and daughter team behind Yours Sustainably, an online store launched in 2011 selling ethically sourced products from around the world. Our business idea grew from our love of craft and the environment and our concern for future of the planet and the people in it.

about us picWe promote ‘positive consumerism’ by sourcing sustainable products that fulfil at least one of our criteria of being fair trade, socially responsible, recycled or eco-friendly. We firmly believe that sustainable products can be beautiful, desirable and functional, and that shopping for ethical, environmentally sensitive goods shouldn’t involve compromising your wants and needs. We tell the story of each product through dedicated supplier pages so that our customers can learn more about these inspiring companies and hopefully make better-informed choices about the things they buy.

We also encourage our suppliers to write guest blogs for us and involve ourselves in charitable and fundraising activities, as raising awareness of sustainable issues and charitable endeavours are an equally important aspect of our business.

worldWhat is your background?
Daughter, Jessica:
I studied Textile Design at Chelsea College of Art and Design after which I moved to Cairo, Egypt. Whilst living in Cairo I worked for a socially responsible luxury bed linen company Malaika, which specialises in hand embroidery. The company teaches local women to hand embroider and once they have completed the training program they can work from home so that they have a chance to earn an income without disrupting their family and social norms.

Since being back in the UK I have been involved with the charity Fine Cell Work and menswear designer Trine Lindegaard on a project working with male prisoners in embroidery and design workshops. I will begin a Masters in Fashion and the Environment at London College of Fashion in September, where I hope to start a women’s embroidery cooperative.

Mother, Lynn: I have always loved craft and am very keen on knitting, sewing and gardening. I took full advantage of adult education classes in a variety of craft based subjects whilst my family were growing up and am now embracing being a business woman; making use of my banking background and developing my new found social media skills!

P1040024What work have you done so far to develop?
Our business is growing and we now have over 40 different suppliers from around the world. We are continuing our search for innovative, well designed sustainable products and learning new sustainable related information every day. For instance one of our latest suppliers is Wremade, a great charity that is part of Wre Scrapstore. By stocking their great craft kits and interviewing them for our blog we have learnt about the amazing network of scrapstores across the UK that collect waste material from local businesses and offer it for sale to schools, community and craft groups.

We were involved in the charity, Find Your Feet’s ‘Curry For Change’ event last year, which involved cooking a curry feast for friends and offering some great raffle prizes. This year we are organising a swishing event in aid of the charity Women for Women. We are always looking to increase our own awareness of sustainable issues which we can also pass on to our customers. We recently watched the documentary, ‘Trashed’ which is about the global waste crisis and was part of the UK Green Film festival. Our review and thoughts on the film can be found on our blog.

What plans do you have for the future?
For the future we would like to continue expanding our product range and produce our own range of products. This is something I [Jessica] will be exploring within my masters program. We would also like to continue with our fundraising efforts, looking at different ways and events to raise money for worthwhile causes. We will continue to build on ways to communicate our message of positive consumerism and raise awareness of sustainable issues with our customers.

cupsWhy do you think this work is so important?
It is generally accepted that the way we are living, using the planet’s resources, destroying natural habitats and exploiting developing countries is not sustainable. There needs to be a change in government and foreign policies and the practices of large corporations to place more emphasis on sustainable solutions to social and environmental issues. As individuals we can make changes in our living habits such as making an effort to reduce our waste production and recycle. We love our reusable sandwich and food wraps and reusable drinks bottles as it means we no longer need to use cling film or tinfoil for our lunches. With small changes and increased awareness we will be able to put pressure on governments and corporations to change their agendas.

What can people do to take part?
Duck_StripeSailor_HiResWe are hoping that there is a wave of people that are becoming more aware and more interested in sustainable issues. Obviously we would love people to support our business ethos and suppliers by shopping on our site and becoming more aware in general of the choices they make as a consumer. As stated previously we hope to encourage people to change their behaviour in their daily lives, whether it is carrying a reusable shopping bag so that we can eliminate the use of plastic bags, supporting ethical designers who work with developing communities or following Vivienne Westwood’s wise words of ‘buy less, choose well and make it last.’

What green issues are you most passionate about?
We strongly advocate the adoption of a ‘slow fashion’ approach and a move away from a disposable consumerist culture. We want to see more transparency in supply chains from large companies and more responsibility for the welfare of their workers and environmental practices. We highly recommend Lucy Siegle’s book To Die For, Is Fashion Wearing Out The World? for anyone that wants to learn more about the environmental and social impacts of the fashion industry. The choices and actions we make in life are all interrelated, so each ‘green issue’ is equally important to the other.

Check them out online http://www.yourssustainably.com/

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Green Pioneers Interview: Tristan Titeux on Eco Furniture

To help celebrate the work of green pioneers and share great environmental achievements with the world we have decided to produce a series of interviews with a huge range of green champions from across the world.

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This week we’ve interviewed Tristan Titeux who has developed a range of eco furniture, which uses more environmentally friendly materials and reduces waste.

What do you do?

I design and build fitted furniture. In the winter of 2011 I decided to follow my heart and passion, which is for the environment and safeguarding it for my children and the future. I decided to bring out an eco friendly option for customers who feel the same. I researched materials and methods and really tried to uncover just how eco friendly they all are; I now take great interest in discovering all the different available eco materials around the world [you can find out about them here].

I also decided to look into the waste we were producing as a fitted furniture company. We use big sheets of wood that are cut up to make things like wardrobes, bookcases and home offices and are often left with lots of small useless pieces. I took inspiration from the materials and concluded that the most environmentally friendly method was to use as many of the small pieces as possible so that very little would be thrown away. This is how the Milo series of furniture was born: using pieces of wood glued together face to face, leaving just the ends and edges of the wood. It creates a really beautiful effect with all the varying colours and textures. I exhibited at the Surface Design Show and had a Milo shelf on display. Everyone kept coming up to the shelf and stroking it and asking questions. The way it leads people to ask questions about the materials is what I love about the Milo series. People often don’t know what many of these materials are, let alone where they come from and how they are made. It gives me great pleasure to explain all about them.

What is your background?

My father was an ecologist; he spoke about wild plants on the radio for many years and he taught me what nature has to offer us, we had our own garden for food, chickens and goats for eggs and meat. We picked mushrooms in the countryside and found salad leaves and medicine too. This experience cemented my deep care and understanding of nature.

Later on I moved back to London and worked as a photographer for 12 years. This very much helped my creative side, which now helps me when designing fitted furniture. I work very visually and can see if things look right just like when composing a picture in the camera.

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The first Milo table

What work have you done so far to develop your eco friendly line?

Milo was the first piece of furniture in the Milo series, and I have since then designed a larger Taro table that would go in front of a sofa, as well as many other bespoke pieces such as a wine display unit for the Naturally Chinese restaurant in Kingston, floating shelves for private clients and a bedside Milo table made from a client’s old wardrobe. We are currently building a huge Milo boardroom table and we have just finished making some awards and a lectern for the Pea business awards.

My dream would be to broaden the market for the Milo series and train disadvantaged young people to make them. I am already in talks with a charity that could make the latter part a reality.

I also give talks in schools and businesses that are really interested in learning more about eco materials and waste.

Why is this work important?

It is vital to get children and teenagers involved as early as possible, that is why I want to talk in schools more and get young people making Milo tables. As well as giving them practical skills, it would empower them to have made beautiful furniture that they are proud to have their name on. Children need to understand as early as possible about what is happening to the world. The mainstream media doesn’t offer enough of the truth of what is really going on and how serious it is. We all know that the world is warming and we are running out of natural gases, but people don’t realize how seriously affected we will be in the near future from pollution, deforestation and climate change. If I can help children to want to find solutions to all of this then they can take charge of our planet’s future.

What can people do to take part?

I would love visit more schools and give talks tailored to them about my work, the Milo table and eco materials. I would also welcome requests from anyone wanting to work with me to promote the eco range. People looking for eco fitted furniture (including children’s bedrooms) should check out my website: www.customcarpentry.co.uk. Anyone who wants advice on what eco materials and products they can use to transform their house into a dream eco home should go to www.EcoDesignerHome.com. This is my other website that helps curate local craftsmen, eco materials and products.

What green issues are you most passionate about?

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A football pitch sized area of Rainforest is chopped down every second

For me, green issues are actually a case of justice. I am passionate about green issues because I am passionate about justice to others and to the environment, so really that covers everything from food production to growing crops to making eco materials. It affects everything, the environment is everything, so I can’t pick one because it is one. One that is relevant to my work is the deforestation of the rainforests. Many materials, such as plywood, are still sourced from trees in the rainforests and we are losing an area the size of a football pitch every second in order to fill demand for it. This is simply not acceptable. Not only are rainforests the lungs of the world but also they contain so many species that could benefit mankind; from food to medicines and plants, there are materials that we will be able to use to replace plastics and petrol. To squander this resource as if there was no tomorrow is selfish. This is why it is so important to me to tell people about the all the many alternatives there are to using wood for making furniture. We can’t just rely on one type of material, we will need many.

Tristan is working with us to create some special eco book displays for our Books for Free centres, we look forward to sharing the results with you when they have been built.

Green Pioneers Interview: Catherine O’Brien on Sustainable Happiness

To help celebrate the work of green pioneers and share great environmental achievements with the world we have decided to produce a series of interviews with a huge range of green champions from across the world. 

To kick-start our series we have interviewed Catherine O’Brien who developed the concept of sustainable happiness – a theory which examines the integral link between happiness and sustainability.

Catherine O'BrienSustainable happiness reinforces the fact that we are interdependent with one another and with the natural environment and therefore our mutual well-being is in-explicitly interconnected. 

Catherine defines her concept as:
”Happiness that contributes to individual, community and global well-being and does not exploit other people, the environment, or future generations”.

Sustainable Happiness

So Catherine, what is your background? How did you come up with this concept?

My background is in sustainability education. Whilst I was at the Barefoot College in Rajasthan, India I began to think about the relationship between happiness and sustainability during my doctoral research. The college itself had an award-winning and extraordinary education process for sustainable community development. I lived there with my husband and two young children and truly felt that we were living in a culture of joy. This therefore inspired my first notion back in 1995, that people might be happier if we lived sustainably.

Later, as I became more familiar with positive psychology I realised that happiness research was very consistent with sustainability. However, most of the happiness literature didn’t make a connection with sustainability and the sustainability literature didn’t make a connection with happiness.

Also, the media had picked up on the happiness buzz and were often equating their products with happiness. It struck me that it could be valuable to have a concept that reinforces the connection between sustainability and happiness. I felt that sustainable happiness could assist individuals, organisations and nations to find new ways to foster happiness, well-being and sustainability.

The Happiest Cities in the World [Infographic]

What work have you done so far to help develop this concept?

I have created a university course on sustainable happiness that I teach at the Cape Breton University in Canada. I have also co-developed a course for UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health that integrates sustainability, happiness and health. Whilst developing these courses I was frequently asked about creating a course for the general public so I worked with colleagues, Rick Foster and Greg Hicks, and my husband Ian Murray who is a filmmaker to create an online course for everyone.

Since my field is education, I have also developed a free education resource for teachers which includes sustainable happiness lesson plans. In addition I have been involved in research that investigated the emotional experience of children and their parents on the trip to school. I see the positive emotions that children experience while walking to school as an example of sustainable happiness. Our research has found that children who walk to school reported more positive emotions than children to who were transported passively. The results were even more dramatic for parents. Parents who walked to school with their children reported more positive emotions than parents who drove their children.

You can see a full list of my publications and presentations on my website.

What plans do you have for the future?

I will be publishing a book very soon called ‘Lessons in Sustainable Happiness’. The first part of the book is specifically for teachers to enhance their happiness and well-being. The remainder of the book includes sustainable happiness for grades K-9.

I am very interested in encouraging municipalities to recognize how they are currently fostering sustainable happiness and also what measures they could take to enhance this. I’ve teamed up with 8-80 cities to create a brief brochure that outlines sustainable happiness for municipalities. We often see reports about the world’s happiest cities. I’d like to see the conversation expand to incorporate sustainability with happiness.

Why do you think this is so important?

It is important for all of us to understand that every day our life touches and is touched by other people, other species and the natural environment. We are deeply interconnected, but those interconnections aren’t always visible or obvious. Consequently, in a consumer society we can lose sight of the fact that we are all making daily choices that contribute or detract from, well-being.  I believe that sustainable happiness can make those connections more clear, and encourage people to make choices that contribute to their well-being and the well-being of other people and the environment.

196649_361785440564836_1765972281_nOur formal education systems haven’t taught us explicitly about happiness and I think it is important for all of us to develop a happiness literacy. I also believe that learning about sustainable happiness can assist with positive mental health.

Another factor is that indulging in over consumption is neither the path to happiness nor sustainability. Sustainable happiness can assist us to shift towards more sustainable lifestyles whilst maintaining a high quality of life.

Sustainable happiness week

Sustainable happiness week

What can people do to take part?

There are lots ways that individuals can have a sustainable happiness lifestyle. One of the activities that I give my students is the Sustainable Happiness Footprint Chart. They can use that to chart their activities for a day, a week, or longer to notice how daily choices are impacting their well being.

There are a range of other activities on my website and suggestions in a recent article entitled ‘Sustainable Happiness? 6 ways to Get There‘ in YES! magazine.

You can also take part in Sustainable Happiness week from April 13th – 20th
http://www.happycounts.org/about-sustainable-happiness-week/

Are you passionate about green issues if so which?

Absolutely! That’s part of sustainable happiness!

A key area where my work has focused is on child friendly planning and creating municipalities that support active travel for children. I also co-developed Child Friendly Planning Guidelines for Canada. Sustainable happiness links happiness and sustainability together. It reinforces the fact that we are interdependent with one another and the natural environment – that our mutual well-being is interconnected. It can also be used as a road map to explore what truly makes your heart sing.