What Does It Even Mean Anymore?

‘Sustainability’ is becoming nothing more than a nonsense marketing term.

Sometimes I feel like the word ‘sustainability’ has been shoved in our faces so much lately that it’s beginning to lose all sense of real meaning. Sustainability this and sustainability that. ‘Sustainability’ is becoming nothing more than a nonsense marketing term. Nike or H&M or Procter & Gamble or Coca Cola has just launched a new ‘sustainability range’, so no need to worry; the planet is saved.

Coca Cola has recently started making a very small number of its plastic bottles from recycled ocean plastic. Not entirely from recycled ocean plastic mind you, only 25% of each of these ‘sustainable’ plastic bottles is comprised of recycled ocean plastic, the rest is just brand spanking new indestructible regular plastic. So basically, in the name of ‘sustainability’, Coca Cola has committed to taking a very small amount of plastic out of the oceans, only to turn it back into plastic bottles, and likely send a lot of it hurtling right back into the oceans. 

If you look up the definition of greenwashing in the dictionary, this is the image you will see!

Sounds very sustainable to me. I’m sure all the turtles and sea horses and whales and fish will be delighted to hear that the ‘recycled plastic’ soon to be choking them to death was once taken out of the oceans to be swiftly turned back into brand new marine-life murdering weapons designed to wreak havoc on their unsuspecting stomachs and throats. 

Making more plastic bottles out of ‘ocean plastic’ can never be the answer while the global recycling system remains dysfunctional and roughly 91% of plastic never gets recycled. Until Coca Cola start taking full responsibility for ensuring their plastic doesn’t end up as waste, by significantly investing in worldwide recycling infrastructure and offering financial incentives for people to recycle their products, and not just printing ‘please recycle me’ labels on their bottle caps and shifting responsibility to consumers, the majority of their bottles, made from ‘recycled plastic’ or not, will continue to end up in our oceans and rivers and landfills. 

Making more plastic bottles out of ‘ocean plastic’ can never be the answer while the global recycling system remains dysfunctional and roughly 91% of plastic never gets recycled.

Coca Cola is currently the world’s biggest plastic polluter, and is likely to remain so even with their recycled bottles and please recycle me labels. But hey, at least they’re committed to ‘sustainability’ right? Left. 

With such monstrous groups of simple-headed money-grabbing idiots like the people who run Coca Cola constantly running the word ‘sustainability’ through the greenwashed muck, it can be hard to remember what the word actually means. To help me remember the true meaning of the word, I only had to look as far as my Dad.

A Real-Life Beacon of Sustainability

Dad has always said that ‘there’s a right way and a wrong way of doing everything, so you may as well do it the right way’. He is an absolute master at fixing anything, and has always tried to fix things as many times as possible before buying new. He actually has a little corner in our utility where we can all leave anything that’s broken and magically, a few hours later, it will be fixed. 

For Dad, the true meaning of sustainability is about valuing what we’ve got, making things last as long as possible, treating everything with care and consideration, and keeping everything in moderation by only ever using what we need. 

Dad recently bought a new lawnmower. The old lawnmower was 35 years old, and had been fixed so many times it had a pink umbrella handle as the throttle trigger. The word sustainability can be defined as ‘the ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level.’ (I’m assuming that rate or level is never supposed to include millions of tonnes of plastic waste in our oceans!) And more than anyone I know, Dad certainly has the ability to maintain things. He’s a harsh critic of the modern ‘throwaway society’, and the more I think about it, the more I realise; Dad is a true living beacon of sustainability. 

The trusty old lawnmower and the man himself. The mower stopped working after 35 years of service, in which Dad fixed it multiple times. He tried to fix it again here, but the parts required were unavailable, and it just wasn’t feasible to keep it running anymore. After 35 years, Dad still wasn’t happy to see it go. Unfortunately I don’t have a photo of the pink umbrella handle, and I can’t take one now because I’m not at home, but it is there, I promise!

If Dad was CEO of Coca Cola, he would probably shut them down, and use all their money to run ‘how to do things the right way’ workshops around the world so we could all learn a thing or two about genuine sustainability. For Dad, the true meaning of sustainability is about valuing what we’ve got, making things last as long as possible, treating everything with care and consideration, and keeping everything in moderation by only ever using what we need. 

Now imagine if the Coca Colas of our world started adopting that kind of attitude towards sustainability? The difference would be astounding. But since there’s very little we can do to stop the Coca Colas of the world besides boycotting their products, here are some of Dad’s best tips for making a difference at home, adopting true sustainability, and maybe even saving a little cash along the way:

Saving Money by Adopting True Sustainability at Home

1. Be Efficient With Your Heating/Air Conditioning 

If you’re going to be spending the entire evening in the living room, then there’s no need to have the heating on in the halls, kitchen and bedroom all evening as well. 

There is a lot of energy, and a lot of money to be saved by using your heating or air conditioning sparingly. Instead of blasting it on full whack throughout your entire home at all times, it might make more sense to only use your heating/air-con in the rooms you’re currently occupying. If you’re going to be spending the entire evening in the living room, then there’s no need to have the heating on in the halls, kitchen and bedroom all evening as well. 

Keep the heating/air-con on in whatever room you’re in while you’re there, turn it off when you leave, and maybe flick it on in the bedrooms for an hour before you go to bed or something like that. And obviously turn all heating/air-con off whenever you leave the house. This will save a massive amount of unnecessary energy being used, and will also save you bucket loads of cash on your bills.

There’s also a lot to be said for wearing less/more clothes if your home is a little too hot or too cold, and forgoing the heating/air-con altogether. Nothing like wearing two jackets and a scarf while watching TV to save the planet right? I’m not entirely joking. 

One of the most cost-effective and environmentally sustainable heating systems money can buy; the good old-fashioned hand-knitted wooly jumper!

2. Unplug ‘Phantom Devices’

When the family is home for Christmas, or New Years, or just for the weekend, Dad tends to go around the house most evenings before he goes to bed to check that we’ve all plugged out whatever devices we were using, and for good reason too! 

Even when you turn off most electronic devices in your house, they will still consume energy while plugged in. It’s been suggested that roughly 10% of your electricity bill could be coming from these ‘phantom devices.’ Toasters, kettles, laptop chargers, Playstations, televisions, lamps. Even when you switch them off, if they’re still plugged in these devices are sucking up energy and costing you money, so what can you do about it?

Even when you turn off most electronic devices in your house, they will still consume energy while plugged in. It’s been suggested that roughly 10% of your electricity bill could be coming from these ‘phantom devices.’

Well it’s quite simple really; unplug these things when you’re not using them. For any devices that are difficult to unplug, or that might return to factory settings or something like that after being unplugged, you can plug them into a ‘power bar’, which are usually quite cheap and can be used to stop the flow of electricity to your devices at designated time periods. This will ensure that your devices are costing you, and the planet absolutely nothing while they’re not being used. 

Another thing to consider; does anyone really need Wi-Fi while they’re asleep? Unplugging your Wi-Fi modem before you go to sleep is another way to save a little extra energy and cash. 

3. Lights Off!

This is quite an obvious one, but can still be easy to forget. When you leave a room, turn off the lights, and there’s also no need to use a ceiling light and a lamp in the same room at the same time. Use only the lights you need, when you need them, and the planet will thank you. 

This is what a room should look like at night time when you are not in it.

Your bank balance will thank you too, as some research has suggested that in the UK alone, £4.4 Billion is wasted every year just from people leaving lights on at home when they’re not needed. This equates to over £800 per person, and is the equivalent in emissions to taking over 60 flights around the world. Madness!

So maybe stop worrying about flights, and just turn off the lights? Ok probably best to worry about flights as well, but, you know what I mean. 

4. Wash Your Clothes Economically 

Your washing machine will use roughly the same amount of energy and water no matter how full it is, so best to put that energy to maximum use and wash as many clothes as you can at a time.

When it comes to washing your clothes, assuming you’re using a washing machine, there is energy, money, and water to be saved by washing full loads instead of just a few garments at a time. (You could also try washing by hand if you really wanted to save energy)

Your washing machine will use roughly the same amount of energy and water no matter how full it is, so best to put that energy to maximum use and wash as many clothes as you can at a time. Washing on a lower temperature is also advised, as this uses less energy as well. 30 or even 20 degrees should be ideal for any clothes that aren’t caked in dirt.

Reports on sustainable clothing, as well as unofficial reports from my Dad, have also put forward the idea of ‘only washing when necessary,’ instead of after every wear. People have a tendency to think that once they’ve worn something once, even if it’s not particularly smelly or dirty after use, that they just have to wash it. I know from my own experience that sometimes after wearing a t-shirt or a shirt for half a day or so it still seems perfectly clean, so I don’t wash it, and I wear it again the next day. Now you might think that’s a smelly thing to do, but you’re wrong, it’s a trendy thing to do. It’s the new vogue baby!

For many garments it’s possible to air them to freshen them up instead of washing them straight away. Stick them out on the line outside or on your drying rack/clothes horse for a few hours and they’ll be as fresh as new without any need for a wash. 

The good old trusty clothes horse, a wonderful device for airing clothes instead of washing them, and drying clothes with minimum financial cost and energy use.

And speaking of the washing line/drying rack/clothes horse, these are far more economical ways to dry your clothes once they have been washed, instead of using a dryer, which burns through a tremendously ridiculous amount of energy

Best to let the wind do the work if possible. 

5. Use as Little Water as Possible

A lot of us might think of water as an infinite resource. We think about the water cycle, and decide that we can use as much water as we want because it will return to us as rain for us to use it again. It does come out of the taps after all!

According to National Geographic, ‘By 2025, an estimated 1.8 billion people will live in areas plagued by water scarcity, with two-thirds of the world’s population living in water-stressed regions as a result of use, growth, and climate change.’

And it’s true, there is roughly as much freshwater on earth currently as there always has been; but our population has exploded, and is growing exponentially. Water is becoming scarce. According to National Geographic, ‘By 2025, an estimated 1.8 billion people will live in areas plagued by water scarcity, with two-thirds of the world’s population living in water-stressed regions as a result of use, growth, and climate change.’

The problem with relying on the water cycle is that the water which returns as rainfall might fall in a place where it is difficult to abstract, might fall in the ocean making it unusable for drinking, and will usually need to be treated and filtered to become drinkable again, which requires a lot of energy, and therefore tax money. A lot of energy is also used for pumping water from central facilities to our houses, so basically, using as little water as possible is very important, and will only become more important as the climate crisis becomes more prevalent. 

There is also the added incentive of saving money on your water bills by using less water. So turn off the tap while you’re brushing your teeth, take short showers, put down the super soakers when the sun comes out, and generally start treating water like the increasingly precious resource that it is! 

6. Use Old Toothbrushes for Cleaning Stuff

It’s always better to fix something, or find another use for it than throw it away, and toothbrushes are a great example of this. 

The toothbrush, a very versatile piece of technology that can be used for many things once you’re no longer cleaning your teeth with it!

Whether you use bamboo toothbrushes or plastic ones, once you’re done with them, they make very effective little cleaning brushes and are great for getting into hard to reach spaces like tile grouting or the spokes on a bike. They’re also very useful for cleaning your football boots, as Dad was so keen to show me when I was a youngster.

I wasn’t much good at actually playing football, but hey, at least my boots looked good! 

7. Make a List Before You Go Grocery Shopping

When we throw away food, it’s not just the food we’re throwing away. We’re throwing away all the energy, all the resources, all the emissions, and all the effort that went into growing, preparing, packaging and transporting that food, so it couldn’t be more important that we only buy what food we need, and that we use all the food that we buy. 

I used to always go shopping and just buy what I fancied, or buy what I thought I needed. I was a crazy young spontaneous lunatic and lists were for chumps! But often I would get home and put the peppers in the fridge, only to find that I already had peppers in the fridge. This would inevitably lead to peppers being wasted, as well as money. (This didn’t just happen with peppers!)

Recently though, following Dad’s advice, I’ve been checking what I already have before I go shopping, and making a list of what I need. It’s actually quite shocking what a difference this can make. I end up buying less, saving money, eating the same, and far less food ends up being thrown out.

Another nice idea here is to get some whiteboard markers or post-it notes and actually write on the front of the fridge which items are going out of date, and therefore which ones need to be used first. This cuts down on food waste, and makes choosing what to have for dinner a whole lot easier. Just find whatever items are doing out of date, and there’s your recipe! 

Culinary innovation at its finest. 

An easy way to keep track of what food needs using, so you can reduce food waste and therefore, save money. I reckon I spelled broccoli wrong. Oh well, at least I remembered to cook it on time!

8. Keep Food Fresh by Putting Clothes Pegs on Open Food Packets 

Cookies, crisps, bread, snacks. You eat half the packet, leave it sitting out and uncovered, and you come to it the next day and it’s gone from delicious to disgusting. Such a tragic but avoidable shame. See there’s a very simple solution to this problem; clothes pegs! 

The humble clothes peg, keeping food fresh longer, and it might even keep the ants away!

By using clothes pegs to stop air from entering open packets, the food stays fresh much longer. Another way to reduce food waste and save money by making your food last. 

9. Cover Uneaten Food with Plates Instead of Cling Film  

Like everything in this world, cling film costs money. It might not be the most expensive thing, but it all adds up, and cling film is also a form of plastic so the less of it we can use, the better. 

Plate-on-plate action; keeps food fresher than cling film every could, and fantastically, uses up less plastic. The plate is super versatile and can also be used to cover bowls and other containers. Magic!

So if you’ve already munched down half your big bowl of pasta with nearly expiring tomatoes and peppers that should have been used yesterday, and you’re putting the rest in the fridge for tomorrow (or 2 hours time if you’re like me), try putting a plate over it instead of using cling film. The plate will keep the food fresh, and you’ll save money and reduce plastic pollution by not using any unnecessary cling film. 

10. Make the Most of Your Leftovers 

Dad often says something along the lines of ‘take as much as you want, but eat whatever you take,’ which makes a lot of sense. But if you do have some food left over after your meal, throwing it out is the very last thing you should do. You can always use it for something.

Have it for lunch the next day, have it as a midnight snack, feed it to your dog, or you can even turn many of your leftovers into completely new dishes just by adding a few extra ingredients. Here’s an incredible and completely free cookbook for turning your leftovers into new dishes, and there are also many great cookbooks you can buy which are dedicated specifically to leftover recipes. 

If you do have some food left over after your meal, throwing it out is the very last thing you should do. You can always use it for something.

When we throw away food, it’s not just the food we’re throwing away. We’re throwing away all the energy, all the resources, all the emissions, and all the effort that went into growing, preparing, packaging and transporting that food, so it couldn’t be more important that we only buy what food we need, and that we use all the food that we buy. 

11. Squash Down Your Bins (And Recycle)

A turtle has less chance of getting its head trapped in a squashed bottle!

Sometimes, a bin might look like it’s full, but it’s not full! There is always some extra space in there if you squash it down a little. I’ve often seen Dad actually standing in the big bin outside to squash down the contents, and it really does work. You can usually fit at least twice as much into a bin if you squash down your rubbish, and individually squashing each bottle and tin makes a big difference too. 

By squashing your rubbish down and making it as small as possible, you can fit more into each bin bag. This saves money on bin bags, means that fewer bin bags need to be produced, and also ensures that if your trash does somehow end up in a landfill or the ocean (because as we discussed, recycling doesn’t always work like you think it will), animals are less likely to get caught in it.

A turtle has less chance of getting its head trapped in a squashed bottle! (Obviously it’s better to avoid plastic bottles altogether, but it can be difficult to do this 100% of the time, so when you do have plastic rubbish, it’s best to squash it.)

12. ‘Empty’ Containers are not Always Empty! 

When things like toothpaste or tomato ketchup are ’empty’, you can cut the end off the containers with a pair of scissors and scoop out the product at the bottom. Often there is still some left. When things like shampoo or soap are nearly empty, adding just a little water can help you get a few extra uses from these products. Honestly sometimes I’ve put a little water in the bottom of a shampoo bottle and it’s lasted another week! And I have a lot of hair as well! 

Empty? Not at all! Cut the end off your toothpaste, or your ketchup, or any number of other things, and you’ll find that there’s plenty more where that came from!

These might seem like small savings, but they all add up. Financially, and environmentally. If 100 Million people were to save one shampoo bottle a year by doing this, that’s 100 Million fewer empty shampoo bottles left clogging up the planet!

And speaking of clogging up the planet……..

13. Boycott Coca Cola 

Whenever you can, try to avoid environmentally negligent companies like Coca Cola.

Okay so this one’s a bit of a bonus tip to fit in with the overall theme of the article, but it still makes sense. The fewer products we purchase from reckless, negligent, planet-destroying brands like Coca Cola, the more sustainable our home lives will be. 

Avoiding things like Coca Cola will also do wonders for our personal health, and the health of our wallets. 

Don’t Stand There With the Fridge Door Open

So there you go. 

Inspired by my Dad’s natural and consistent ability to embrace true sustainability in his everyday life, to value what he has, to make things last as long as possible, to treat everything with care and consideration, and to fix just about anything, I leave you with these nuggets of knowledge. I hope they’re as useful for you as they have been for me.

And I’ve probably left loads of stuff out so if you think of any other good tips like these please do let me know in the comments.

Goodness bless you all, may true sustainability be the future, and may Coca Cola be the past. 

And as Dad always says, ‘don’t stand there with the fridge door open.’

About the Author

Adam Millett is a freelance writer for hire who specialises in sustainability and environmental issues. He believes the economy should be circular, businesses should make the world a better place, and that effective content is the best way to spread the word about sustainability. Visit his website at wordchameleon.com if you want to bring your vision of sustainability to life.

I was inspired to write this article after seeing a video about the incredible work Justdiggit is doing to help re-green the planet. Speaking in that video was Wessel van Eeden, the Global Marketing Director of Justdiggit, so I reached out to him and he enthusiastically suggested that we should have a call. 

After talking for some time about the state of our planet, the good things, the bad things, and how we can fix it, I could tell that Wessel has a very genuine passion for the great work Justdiggit is doing.

This article is based on what I learned from our call, with a great deal of other research involved as well! It’s important to state that Justdiggit is not paying me to write this article, I just think they’re a genuinely brilliant, planet-improving, inspirational organisation that deserves a place on A Wall of Hope.

All views are entirely my own, and all facts are entirely the facts! But that’s enough of my rumbling and rambling; it’s time to start digging! 

Digging Ourselves out of a Hole 

We’re in a bit of a hole aren’t we? I mean we’re not literally in a hole, unless the entire universe is some sort of bottomless black hole or something like that, but metaphorically, we’re in a hole. A great big climate crisis shaped hole. 

Our planet is getting hotter by the second, our deserts are expanding, crops are failing, millions of people may soon have to leave their homes due to extreme weather conditions. At times the situation can seem quite hopeless, but you know what? There is plenty of hope. There are so many effective solutions out there, and some of the best ones come straight from nature. 

The name ‘Justdiggit’ comes from the work they do in Kenya, where they work with locals to dig crescent-shaped holes or ‘bunds’ in the ground to help the soil absorb more rainwater and gain fertility. It’s pretty crazy really; just by digging holes in the ground we can bring a huge area of supposedly barren land completely back to life. 

By cleverly utilising things like rainwater and natural vegetation we can cool down the planet, bring barren land back to life, and rejuvenate impoverished communities in the process. One Amsterdam based organisation doing this right now is Justdiggit, and the work they’re doing is truly inspirational. 

Justdiggit works in areas with severely degraded land to bring the land back to life. They use a grassroots approach, working with local communities and empowering them to take ownership of the land regeneration projects and carry them forward. The techniques they use are simple but effective, and are strategically designed to not only improve the health of the land, but to cool down the regional climate as well. This has major benefits for the environment and biodiversity, as well as the economic and social wellbeing of the local communities. 

The name ‘Justdiggit’ comes from the work they do in Kenya, where they work with locals to dig crescent-shaped holes or ‘bunds’ in the ground to help the soil absorb more rainwater and gain fertility. You can see from the image below how effective this simple technique has been for regenerating the land. 

An example of the crescent-shaped bunds that are dug in the ground to help the soil absorb rainwater and become fertile.

It’s pretty crazy really; just by digging holes in the ground we can bring a huge area of supposedly barren land completely back to life. 

So maybe all we have to do to get out of this climate crisis shaped hole we’re in is just, well, dig? As you’ll see in this article, it’s not always as simple as that, but Justdiggit is very good at finding suitable solutions no matter what the situation. All in all, this Justdiggit bunch are some pretty wonderful folks, but where the heck did they come from? 

Justdiggit: Founded through a Shared Optimism 

Justdiggit was founded to show the world that we do have practical solutions to our greatest problems. 

The Justdiggit story began in 2009 when Dennis Karpes, social entrepreneur and co-founder of the international youth-empowering initiative Dance4Life, met the late Peter Westerveld, founder of the Westerveld Conservation Trust, and a man who dedicated his life to fighting the effects of climate change and desertification.

When Peter showed Dennis the positive results of his own landscape restoration projects, a shared shovel of hope and optimism was lifted, and Justdiggit was founded to show the world that we do have practical solutions to our greatest problems. 

Since then Jusdiggit has thrived. With a core team based in Amsterdam, they work with small local teams, local and international partners, and dedicated volunteers to create a major impact wherever they work. 

So far they have focused their efforts in Kenya and Tanzania, where they have managed to breathe (or dig) life into lifeless land, invigorate local communities, and foster a growing local knowledge of suitable land management techniques that will remain for year and years to come. 

Pretty incredible, awe-inspiring, hope-renewing, land-resurrecting, optimism-injecting, jaw-droppingly encouraging stuff! But how exactly do they do it? 

The co-founders of Justdiggit! Dennis Karpes on the left, Peter Westerveld on the right.

How is Justdiggit Helping to Reverse Climate Change? 

Justdiggit is in the business of solving problems, and right now they’re working to solve possibly the biggest problem of all; climate change. They’re doing this by going to areas where the land has dried up, and bringing the land back to life.

On a large enough scale the increase in vegetation that results from doing this will stimulate more rainfall, lower regional temperatures, reduce drought and reverse desertification, and eventually, begin to cool down the entire planet! Here’s a rundown of how they do it. 

The Problem – Wasted Rain! 

The rain comes and goes but the land can’t manage to take a drink!

In most areas with degraded land there is rain, usually concentrated in a few heavy downpour events, but the hard top layer of dried out soil causes most of the water to flow away. The heavy rain is unable to penetrate the surface of the land, and instead washes away the top layer of fertile soil, causing erosion, loss of soil fertility, and flooding downstream. 

When the land is too dried up, most of the rainwater is unable to penetrate the hard top layer of soil, and ends up washing away as surface runoff.

So the rain comes and goes but the land can’t manage to take a drink! Just imagine being really really thirsty, lying on a bench in 40˚c heat, with a big (reusable) bottle of fresh, cold delicious water next to you, but being too dehydrated to open your mouth and take a drink. Now that’s what it’s like for this degraded land. The bottle of water is there, but the land can’t take a drink. 

Luckily, Justdiggit knows how to help. 

The Solution – Working with Nature 

By using natural rainwater harvesting, soil conservation and re-greening techniques, Justdiggit is able to improve soil conditions and bring back vegetation to degraded landscapes. The specific way they do this depends on the area they’re working in, discussed below, but here’s a generalised run through of how they bring the land back to life! 

  1. Natural techniques suitable for the local area are used so the land can retain rainwater. This prevents erosion, and allows vegetation to grow. 
  2. The increase in vegetation is complemented with the planting of trees, and improved agriculture and agroforestry. This attracts all sorts of wonderful creatures to the area, and so, biodiversity increases. 
  3. As the plants and trees grow they bring more moisture to the air, which helps to create clouds and therefore, more rain. 
  4. Renewed root systems in the ground make the soil more porous, so the rain can infiltrate more easily. This causes vegetation to spread. 
  5. As the vegetation spreads, the whole cycle of land restoration continues. Soil quality in the wider area improves, which brings more vegetation, which brings more rain, which brings more vegetation, and suddenly the whole area is thriving with life. A beautiful, natural, sustainable cycle of habitat restoration, all brought about through a few simple interventions. Tremendous. 
  6. By doing this on a large enough scale Justdiggit creates what they call ‘hydrologic corridors’, which are large scale areas of restored land. Implemented in strategically chosen locations, these corridors can impact (and cool down) the regional climate. Now that’s pretty damn cool if you ask me! Literally. 

As the vegetation spreads, the whole cycle of land restoration continues. Soil quality in the wider area improves, which brings more vegetation, which brings more rain, which brings more vegetation, and suddenly the whole area is thriving with life.

And what might happen if we cool down loads and loads of regional climates across the world? And not just cool them down temporarily, but alter them in a way that they become self-cooling? Hmmmmm. Maybe we can cool down the entire planet? Bingo! That’s ultimately what Justdiggit is aiming to do, and they’re doing a pretty good job so far. 

Here’s a graphical representation of how a ‘Hydrologic Corridor’ can alter an area’s regional climate, reducing temperature and increasing moisture by restoring the water cycle.

But they’re not just bringing land back to life and cooling down the climate. Probably my favourite thing about what Justdiggit is doing is the way they work in partnership with local communities. They really listen to what people have to say, and that’s what makes the Justdiggit projects truly sustainable. 

A Bottom-Up Approach: Working with the Locals 

“If Justdiggit leaves now and don’t do anything, I can assure you that this is a concept that will be escalated further. It will be used further by the community because they believe in it, and it is within their thinking framework.”

“Justdiggit didn’t bring a solution, they came and asked what the problem was and intervened.” – Benson Leyian, general manager of the Amboseli Ecosystem Trust

Mr. Leyian was speaking in one of Justdiggit’s documentaries (more on those later) about one of their projects in Kenya, and it sums up the grassroots approach that Justdiggit takes. 

Before deciding which interventions to use in a particular area, Justdiggit works in close collaboration with local communities, and takes social conditions and land use into account as well as climate and soil conditions. 

The aim is to create sustainable solutions that bring social and economic benefits to the communities as well as environmental ones. This ensures that the communities will embrace the interventions in the long-term. 

Mr. Leyian continues – “If Justdiggit leaves now and don’t do anything, I can assure you that this is a concept that will be escalated further. It will be used further by the community because they believe in it, and it is within their thinking framework.”

Benson Leyian speaking in the Justdiggit documentary Rainmakers II: Seeds of Change

Now that sounds pretty sustainable to me! Justdiggit has even taken advantage of ancient local techniques in some of their interventions to bring locals on side, which is very interesting. Let’s have a look at some of the specific techniques they’re using in each of their project areas. 

Justdiggit Projects in Kenya 

By managing livestock and digging some holes in the ground, Justdiggit has already managed to regenerate thousands of hectares of beautiful Kenyan land.

At the Olgulului-Ololarashi group ranch in Kenya, home to a large community of Maasai pastoralists, the land has become severely degraded by drought and overgrazing. Together with the African Conservation Centre, the Amboseli Ecosystem Trust, and the local communities, Justdiggit has formed a programme to restore the degraded areas, and improve the livelihood of the local Maasai people. Here are some of the main techniques being used. 

Grazing Management (Olopololi’s)  

The use of Olopololi plots is an ancient grazing technique used by the Maasai people in the past. The technique involved fencing off areas of fresh grass, which were used as grazing sites for calves and weaker cattle that could not make the long nomadic journeys. (The Maasai people used to be nomads!) In the years since the Maasai people have settled in one spot, this technique was forgotten. 

Bringing old traditions back to life to create a better future, Justdiggit has convinced the Maasai people that embracing this technique again can help them restore their degraded land. Olopololi plots have been created and marked with large white poles, and cattle grazing is only permitted in these areas during specific periods. Land restorations efforts are then implemented in these areas, with the lack of grazing giving vegetation the chance to regenerate. 

An example of how effective the Olopololi plots can be. The greener area to the left is within the Olopololi area, with the barren land to the right outside the protected area.

Through training and education, Justdiggit has also helped the locals set up grazing committees, so they can set up a grazing management plan together, and monitor the areas so the vegetation has a chance to grow back. 

Water Bunds 

To give the vegetation and even better chance of growing back, a series of half-moon shaped pits have been dug in the ground which capture rainwater and prevent loss of soil fertility and erosion. The increased soil moisture resulting from this allows vegetation to naturally recover. 

Here you can see the vegetation growing back in the green crescent shaped where the ‘bunds‘ have been dug.

So amazingly, just by managing livestock and digging some holes in the ground, Justdiggit has already managed to regenerate thousands of hectares of beautiful Kenyan land. A wonderful achievement. 

To learn about all the other techniques Justdiggit is using to bring Kenyan land back to life, you can go here! But what about Tanzania? 

Justdiggit Projects in Tanzania 

Below the earth’s surface, the root systems of many living tree stumps still reach the fertile part of the soil. In Tanzania, there are millions of these living tree stumps, and they all have the potential to re-grow into living trees. If they are managed properly! 

In the Dodoma region of Tanzania local communities have survived for years in the face of increasing desertification, land degradation and climate change, but in some areas lately, it has become too extreme. In partnership with the LEAD Foundation, MetaMeta, and the local communities, Justdiggit has come up with a set of interventions to help the situation, and they’re quite different to the ones being used in Kenya! Here’s some of the main ones. 

Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (Kisiki Hai) 

Below the earth’s surface, the root systems of many living tree stumps still reach the fertile part of the soil. In Tanzania, there are millions of these living tree stumps, and they all have the potential to re-grow into living trees. If they are managed properly! 

Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration, known as ‘Kisiki Hai’ in Tanzania which means ‘living stump’, is a tree management technique originally developed in Niger. (With an incredible amount of success) It involves carefully managing these living tree stumps so they grow back into full-sized trees. Once they grow back, these trees help to prevent soil erosion and increase soil fertility, boosting the natural re-greening of the degraded landscape. They also provide food, fuel, and firewood for local communities. 

Two ladies treating a tree using the ‘Kisiki Hai’ method in Tanzania.

Collaborating with the LEAD Foundation, Justdiggit is training locals to become ‘Kisiki Hai Champions.’ Once trained in the green arts of Kisiki Hai, these ‘facilitators’ then train other farmers about how to regrow trees on their farmlands, who in turn train even more farmers, creating a beautiful green wave where knowledge spreads trees and trees spread life and the whole wider area becomes a more fertile place as a result. What a beautiful way to regreen the land. 

Fanya Juu and Fanya Chini 

After mastering Kisiki Hai (I really love these Tanzanian words) farmers can learn about other methods such as Fanya Juu and Fanya Chini. These techniques involve digging different shaped contours on the farm to maximise the effectiveness of the rainwater. You can learn the details of these methods here

An example of Fanya Juu and Fanya Chini in action!

And speaking of details, if you’d like to learn more about other land regeneration methods being used in Tanzania, you can do that here! 

So that was just a little taste of what Justdiggit is doing in Kenya and Tanzania. I reckon it’s pretty groovy how they tailor their interventions to work with the land and also with the local communities. The idea is to create techniques that can be adapted and applied anywhere in the world, and by doing that we can begin to reverse the global issue of climate change. 

I suppose that’s the obvious benefit of doing this; reversing climate change. But what are the other main benefits?  

Justdiggit Projects: What are the Main Benefits? 

The work Justdiggit is doing doesn’t just come from an obsession with the colour green. I mean obviously green is a beautiful colour, and I’m sure the folks at Justdiggit absolutely love green, and want to see as much of it as possible, everywhere! But there are plenty of real-life benefits that come from these projects, for those of us who happen to live on the land being restored, and for those of us who don’t. 

Helping Local Communities Thrive 

Well managed land restoration projects provide many economic and social benefits for the local communities involved. The projects create employment and increased income, which can lead to improved health and education in the area. 

In this Justdiggit documentary a mother in Kenya talks about how money from the Justdiggit project has allowed her to take her children to school for the first time, and to feed them well. It’s hard to imagine a more significant, transformative social improvement within a community than the possibility of having healthier, better-educated children. A really incredible result! 

Empowerment 

And when the projects have been completed, the farmers retain the knowledge of how to manage the land. The restored land provides resources for the community like fruits, firewood, animal feed, and seeds etc. These resources can be used, traded and sold, ensuring the community remains financially independent moving forward, and continuing the trend of improved health and education. 

When the projects have been completed, the farmers retain the knowledge of how to manage the land.

So much like the way regenerated land is empowered with the ability to increase rainfall and maintain its regenerated state, the rejuvenated local communities are empowered with the knowledge and resources to remain rejuvenated. Sustainability at it’s finest! 

A Flourishing Local Climate 

As we’ve already discussed, regenerating degraded land improves the health of the soil and brings back vegetation. Combined with the planting of trees this increases the moisture in the air, improves biodiversity, and increases rainfall in the area. The increased rainfall brings more vegetation, and eventually the whole process has a cooling effect on the regional climate. Basically, bring the land back to life, and soon, the whole area will thrive! 

A clear example of how Justdiggit’s work regenerates the local climate. These photos were taken of the same area in Kenya. The first photo is from June 2016, and the second from May 2018. In less than two years the entire area has been brought back to life; amazing stuff!

A Cooler Global Climate 

Regenerate enough land around the world, cool down enough regional climates, and we might have a shot at cooling down the planet.

Now for all you folks sitting at home with your water on tap and your refrigerated food and your air conditioning, you may not worry too much about your luscious front lawn becoming a desert right now, but unfortunately, with a planet getting hotter by the day, that’s eventually the way it’s going. 

Land regeneration projects like the ones Justdiggit is working on have the potential to stop that from happening. Regenerate enough land around the world, cool down enough regional climates, and we might have a shot at cooling down the planet. (And saving your luscious front lawn!) (You probably live in the city don’t you?) (Don’t we all?) (Sigh)

But to make it work, people have to know about the magic of land regeneration! Luckily, Justdiggit are pretty savvy with the communication side of things as well! 

Education Should Never Stay in Your Pocket: Spreading the Word about Land Regeneration 

“Education should never stay in your pocket, you have to share it with others.” – Mzee Agustino Sagalagwe, Kisiki Hai Champion Farmer from Lupeta village in Tanzania 

This guy’s a bit of a hero!

Another great quote from a Justdiggit documentary, Mr. Sagalagwe imparted this beautiful wisdom while teaching a young farmer about the Kisiki Hai technique, encouraging him to pass on the knowledge to others as well. 

This spreading of knowledge to other farmers is absolutely essential if these techniques are to be a success, because if nobody knows about them, what use are they at all? It’s also important for people around the world to know about the potential of land regeneration for cooling down the planet, so they can show their support for these projects through donations and by volunteering. 

Justdiggit seems to realise this need to spread the word, both to the farmers and to the wider world, and they’ve come up with some really innovative ways of doing it. 

The Video Caravan 

We’ve already discussed how Justdiggit is training local farmers, and encouraging them to pass on the knowledge to other farmers, and this word-of-mouth knowledge transfer is a great way to spread the word. But they go a step further with ‘The Video Caravan’, which uses the art of cinema to spread knowledge to local communities in Kenya and Tanzania.

By showing interviews with local farmers who have already had success using the land regeneration techniques, the documentaries offer convincing evidence to the folks watching that the techniques are worth implementing. 

As I’ve mentioned a few times in this article already, Justdiggit makes some pretty nifty videos and documentaries about the work they’re doing. These documentaries are centred entirely around the local farmers and communities in Kenya and Tanzania, and they highlight the environmental issues facing these communities, and discuss potential solutions like the “Kisiki Hai’ technique.

Justdiggit then works with local partners to drive around to different villages in ‘The Video Caravan’, and play the documentaries for the locals in an outdoor cinema kind of set up. They tend to create a big carnival kind of atmosphere for these events with dancing and singing and dude’s on microphones to maximise the effect, and it definitely seems to get people interested! 

An outdoor showing of a Justdiggit documentary in Tanzania

By showing interviews with local farmers who have already had success using the land regeneration techniques, the documentaries offer convincing evidence to the folks watching that the techniques are worth implementing. 

It’s a really nice, creative way to spread the word and convince local farmers to adopt the new techniques. 

Justdiggit College 

Educating future generations about the importance of things like land regeneration is vitally important. It might inspire so many young people to get involved in these projects from an early age, and that can only be a good thing for the future health of our planet! Justdiggit College aims to do just that.

The programme covers topics like soil, water, biodiversity, CO2, and Justdiggit, and can be adapted by teachers to suit their class’s needs. 

Justdiggit College is an education programme that primary school teachers in the Netherlands can access for free and incorporate into their teaching curriculums. The programme covers topics like soil, water, biodiversity, CO2, and Justdiggit, and can be adapted by teachers to suit their class’s needs. 

Spreading that open-source environmental knowledge far and wide to the bright minds of tomorrow! Very encouraging indeed. 

The Raindance Project 

What if we could use music to raise awareness about issues like land degradation and the power of re-greening projects to reverse climate change? Wouldn’t that just be extra beautiful? Music brings people together as they say. 

Well that’s exactly what Jusdiggit is aiming to do with The Raindance Project. This is a series of worldwide musical events aimed at showcasing the potential of landscape restoration to the world. They have already held three simultaneous events in 2019, which took place in Kenya, Tanzania, and the Netherlands. The events were connected with a live satellite connection, to remind people that we are all in this together! 

The Raindance Project event in Voldelpark, Amsterdam last summer. This event took place simultaneously with two other events in Kenya and Tanzania, and the events were connected with a big screen. What an absolutely fantastic initiative.

From 2020, similar simultaneous events will be held across more and more countries every two years, with the eventual aim of holding the events all around the world. This really is an absolutely astonishing initiative to get the word out there about the power of re-greening, and as the events become more widely known, so will the potential of landscape restoration. 

The Raindance Project is a series of worldwide musical events aimed at showcasing the potential of landscape restoration to the world.

I see no reason whatsoever why all the most popular musicians in the world today shouldn’t drop their tools and offer to perform at these events for free. It makes so much sense! So if you happen to know any famous musicians, ring them right now and let them know, it’s time to make it rain! 

Marketing Campaigns 

‘Dig Green Cool’, as simple as that. This is just one example of Justdiggit’s effective marketing strategy.

Justdiggit also reaches millions of people every day with their super slick, always positive marketing campaigns on TV, cinema, radio, online and on billboards and stuff. I’m not going to go into detail on these because I’d be here all day! But they’re very entertaining, well thought out campaigns and you can check them out here if you’d like. 

So clearly, Justdiggit knows a thing or two about spreading the good word, but they’re not the only ones! They’ve got plenty of planet-loving partners and ambassadors who share their mission for a greener world. 

Justdiggit Partnerships 

Justdiggit has loads of partners. Loads and loads of fantastic partners all around the planet who are all working to make the world a better place. If you want to learn more about all of them, you can find a list here! But for now, here’s a quick look at some of the main ones. 

Timberland 

Before I even knew about Justdiggit, I had heard the news that Timberland plans to plant 50 million trees around the world over the next five years, a fabulous initiative. It was only later I found out that 10 million of those trees will be in partnership with Justdiggit in Tanzania. And yes, you guessed it! Instead of planting new trees Justdiggit will work with Timberland and local farmers to restore existing tree stumps using the Kisiki Hai method. 10 million tree stumps! There’s just no getting away from the magic of Kisiki Hai it seems! 

Timberland plans to plant 50 million trees around the world over the next five years

It also seems that Timberland is a genuine company that takes environmental sustainability very seriously, and it’s great to see such a big brand teaming up with planet-altering initiatives like Justdiggit. 

Green Up to Cool Down 

The Green up to Cool Down movement is a ‘moonshot endeavour to reverse climate change.’ The aim is to unite all the worlds largest NGOs, corporates, organisations, and key global stakeholders behind the common goal of using nature-based solutions to save our planet. 

Great organisations like Concern Worldwide, Oxfam, Conservation International, and of course Justdiggit and many many more have already signed up, and hopefully it’s the start of something really special. If all these organisations are even half as committed to re-greening the planet as Justdiggit is, we’re in with a real shot. 

These incredible organisations have already committed to The Green up to Cool Down Movement.

UN Environment 

The United Nations Environment Programme is the leading global environmental authority within the United Nations system. With the UN recently declaring 2021-2030 as the ‘decade of ecosystem restoration,’ it makes sense that they have partnered with Justdiggit. Together, Justdiggit and UN Environment will work to launch a ‘worldwide re-green revolution.’ Well, there’s only one thing I say to that; Viva La Revolución!

Together with all these wonderful partners, I reckon Justdiggit is going to be part of something big. Something really big. Something ‘save the whole wide wonderful world’ big! 

The future looks bright. The future looks luscious. The future looks green! But what kind of success have they had so far?  

Success so Far 

So far, Justdiggit has focused efforts in Kenya and Tanzania, and they have made plenty of progress in both locations!

In Kenya:

  • 123,130 bunds (crescent shaped holes in the ground that facilitate absorption of rainwater) have already been dug, re-greening over 2000 hectares of land in total. As you can see from the image below, the lasting regeneration of the local habitat is quite astonishing.

In Tanzania:

  • 5,143 bunds have been dug.
  • 145,339 farmers were practicing Kisiki Hai in 2019.
  • 279,188 farmers were trained by champion farmers in 2019.
  • 195 champion farmers are currently practicing Fanya Juu/Chini.
  • Stage three of ‘the video caravan’ reached 136,865 people in 247 villages.
  • 2,392,509 trees were protected using Kisiki Hai in 2019.
Here, in Kenya, you can see how digging the bunds helps bring back vegetation, which in turn spreads even more vegetation, which keeps the land healthy and green even when the dry season comes back. The results in such a short space of time, simply from digging some holes in the ground, really are incredible.

These are pretty astonishing numbers, and incredibly encouraging stuff! You can see from the image above the effect this work is having on the land in Kenya, and just imagine the future benefits that will come from all those farmers in Tanzania teaching, learning and practicing these land regeneration techniques.

2,392,509 trees were protected using Kisiki Hai in 2019

Millions of trees have been protected in one single year, and thousands of hectares of land regenerated, and they’ve barely even started. It’s incredible to think what might be achieved in the future. Well. Speaking of the future!

To a Greener Future 

The potential exists to re-green our planet on a scale large enough to reverse the effects of climate change globally. All we have to do, is act. 

With such major success stories in Kenya and Tanzania, there is no reason why Justdiggit’s methods can’t be applied anywhere in the world. Morocco, Burkina Faso, Benin and Ethiopia have already expressed interest in these programs on a government level. 

Globally, roughly 2 Billion hectares of our planet’s degraded soil is restorable. This amounts to an area spanning twice the size of Europe. So the potential exists to re-green our planet on a scale large enough to reverse the effects of climate change globally. All we have to do, is act. 

The World Resources Institute has identified 2 billion hectares of degraded land that offer opportunities for restoration. That’s a whoooooole lot of land!

With their easy to implement, grassroots restoration projects on the ground, incredible communications campaigns and events all around the world, and their education programs in the classroom, Justdiggit is doing everything they can to create a future where the earth is green and the climate is friendly. I’m sure that’s a future we all want to see become a reality. 

And it turns out, we can all help make it happen! 

How We All Can Help 

There are many ways that we can help spread this message of hope and rejuvenation.

We all have a role to play if we want to make the world green again. We can help spread the word about wonderful initiatives like Justdiggit simply by telling people about them. We can share the stories on social media, talk to our friends about land restoration, shout ‘Kisiki Hai’ through a megaphone repeatedly on a crowded street! There are many ways that we can help spread this message of hope and rejuvenation. 

To help Justdiggit specifically you can make a financial donation here, or you can register on their ‘re-greening platform’. This platform allows people to directly support African farmers in re-greening their land by buying ‘bunds.’ 

The Justdiggit Re-Greening platform connects people around the world with farmers in Africa and allows them to pledge financial support to farmers by purchasing the ‘bunds’ they dig.

Remember those ‘bunds’ we talked about earlier? The little crescent-shaped holes being dug in the ground that allow the soil to absorb moisture? Well on this platform you can create an account, choose the number of bunds you want to have dug, and basically invest in cooling down the planet and supporting local farmers in Africa. The farmers are paid per bund via the app, and you even receive a photo of the final result. An absolutely brilliant way of using technology to bring people together in the fight against climate change. We can all do our part. 

But after all of this, the question still stands. Can we get ourselves out of this climate crisis shaped hole we’re in by just, digging? 

Combined with all the other great work Justdiggit and similar organisations are doing around the world, and with the help of people like you and me, the answer to that question is, a regenerative, yes.

We can. 

About the Author

Adam Millett is a freelance writer for hire who specialises in sustainability and environmental issues. He believes the economy should be circular, businesses should make the world a better place, and that effective content is the best way to spread the word about sustainability. Visit his website at wordchameleon.com if you want to bring your vision of sustainability to life.

Single-Use-Madness

It’s actually quite amazing how many different materials can be used instead of plastic to replace some of the items we use every single day. It would make you wonder why on earth we ever resorted to plastic in the first place.

You use it for a fleeting moment, and then it remains as a scar on nature for the rest of conceivable time. The oceans filled, the landscapes stained, the animals strangled, a world gone insane. 

Single-use-plastic is one of the most ridonkulous, disgusting, absurd, and unnecessary evils our crazy crazy consume-as-much-as-possible-and-then-consume-some-more-just-for-the-laugh-focused world has ever dared to dream up, but thankfully, people are beginning to see sense. 

Even better than that, people are beginning to take action, and I’m not just talking about taking action as ‘consumers’. People have jumped over to the production side of the crazy coin and started coming up with innovative ideas and launching companies that offer alternatives to single-use-plastic. Alternatives that respect the planet instead of polluting it. 

It’s actually quite amazing how many different materials can be used instead of plastic to replace some of the items we use every single day. It would make you wonder why on earth we ever resorted to plastic in the first place. Sigh.

But anyways, enough with the problematic plastic past and on to the fortifying fabulous future!

Here’s what the average beach might look like in the future if these new single-use-plastic battling companies have their way. Notice? There’s no plastic anywhere! Sadly this often isn’t the case when you go to the beach in reality, but if more and more people start using the kinds of eco-friendly plastic alternatives in this article, we can start building a world where every beach looks like this! (Okay so the beaches in Ireland are never going to look this tropical, and there’s inevitably going to be the good old grey cloudy sky and raindrops in the background, but as long as they’re plastic-free that’s all the tropical I need!

Here are five fantastic emerging companies who are leading the charge against single-use-plastic, and for the purpose of outlining the sheer number of alternative materials available to us, each company I have chosen is using a different material as a plastic alternative. So enjoy and delight in the beautiful planet-cleaning variety on offer!

Biofase – Cutlery and Straws made from Avocado Pits 

Biofase offer biodegradable cutlery and straws (on the left) made from Avocado pits and biodegradable bags (on the right) made from cassava starch.

Ever go into a shop or a restaurant or a cafe on a super busy day and order your tiramisu kebab and pineapple milkshake to go and then eat it at the speed of sound with a plastic knife and fork and straw and then throw these indestructible single-use-utensils in the bin so they can litter the earth for the rest of eternity? 

Okay, so maybe you didn’t order exactly that for lunch, but we can all admit that we’ve used the single-use-utensils at least once before. We live in a pronto pronto world people, where convenience is key so we can get things done before we know we have to do them and until they pass a law stating that everyone has to keep their best silverware on them at all times (not the worst idea?), disposable cutlery is going to be a part of that world. 

So how can we make disposable cutlery that doesn’t harm the environment? Well, enter Biofase. Biofase makes biodegradable cutlery and straws out of avocado pits. Flipping avocado pits for crying out sustainably! 

By utilising avocado pits, a material that would otherwise just end up as food waste, Biofase have actually found an alternative to plastic that doesn’t require the chopping down of any extra forests or harvesting of any extra raw materials.

According to the good folks at Biofase: 60% of the material in these utensils naturally biodegrades within 240 days and the rest takes a little bit longer, but fantastically, no smelly smelly microplastics are created by these products!

The product will biodegrade into a nutrient-rich organic material called humus, which creates a healthy soil environment for new plant growth. If it ends up in the landfill it will biodegrade with the other products around it and if it goes to the incinerator it does not emit methane gas.

By utilising avocado pits, a material that would otherwise just end up as food waste, Biofase have actually found an alternative to plastic that doesn’t require the chopping down of any extra forests or harvesting of any extra raw materials. The avocados have already been produced for consumption, and Biofase is just turning the leftover bits into these eco-friendly utensils.

Whenever possible, it’s probably best to avoid disposable utensils altogether and use the good old fashioned stainless steel versions from ancient times, but when there is a need for disposable utensils, making them out of food waste is probably as environmentally friendly as you’re gonna get.

Cutlery, made from avocado pits!

And remember, no innocent avocados are harmed in the making of these planet-friendly, single-use-plastic banishing utensils, as the avocados involved have already been used for consumption. 

Biofase also offers a plastic bag alternative that looks and feels like plastic but is actually made entirely from cassava starch and other natural ingredients and contains absolutely zero plastic whatsoever. The bags dissolve in water, soil, or landfill under natural conditions. So why in the heck are we still using plastic bags at all? There’s really no excuse. Get these cassava starch bags into the shops double pronto I say!

Biofase is a Mexican company but based all around the world, and below are links to the Mexican website and also the UK based branch. To avocado pits, and beyond!

Biofase Mexico Website: https://www.biofase.com.mx/
Biofase UK Website: https://4eco.uk.com/

VirtueBrush – Toothbrushes made from Bamboo

The VirtueBrush, a 100% Biodegradable toothbrush made out of bamboo!

Okay so toothbrushes may not be single-use-plastic, but they are ‘only-a-few-times-use-plastic’, a term I’ve just coined that’s sure to become mainstream within the week, I’m telling you, just you watch. Cough. And plastic toothbrushes are not recyclable. Every plastic toothbrush you’ve ever used still exists somewhere, clogging up some river or ocean crevice and leaking its smelly microplastics all over its disgusted neighbours. I mean I thought toothbrushes were supposed to keep things clean?

Well they certainly can. We don’t have to make toothbrushes out of plastic you know? There are plenty of alternative materials, and a very suitable one seems to be bamboo.

Not only is VirtueBrush battling the relentless plastic toothbrush army by offering a bamboo alternative that naturally biodegrades, they are also working with ‘Trees for the Future’ to plant three trees per VirtueBrush sold online and one tree per brush sold in retail shops.

When grown and harvested in the right way, bamboo is an incredibly sustainable material for a number of wonderful reasons:

– It grows flipping fast, up to 3.5 feet a day, and reaches full size in 3-5 years. 

– It regenerates from its own roots so doesn’t need to be replanted.

– It doesn’t require any chemical fertilisers for cultivation.

– It sequesters a whole load of CO2 from the atmosphere as it grows.

– It produces up to 35% more oxygen than an equivalent sized tree.

– It can be grown in nearly every region of this great green gargantuan earth.

So clearly, bamboo has a lot to offer, and there are a number of companies currently offering bamboo toothbrushes and other products, but Dublin based VirtueBrush is a particularly interesting one. 

Not only is VirtueBrush battling the relentless plastic toothbrush army by offering a bamboo alternative that naturally biodegrades, they are also working with ‘Trees for the Future’ to plant three trees per VirtueBrush sold online and one tree per brush sold in retail shops. This ensures that any carbon emissions created through the creation and shipping of the toothbrushes is accounted for. So that’s less plastic rotting in the oceans, and more trees sucking in CO2 on land. A pretty virtuous combination if you ask me.

When you use a VirtueBrush, not only are you helping reduce the amount of plastic in the world, you are also helping the not-for-profit organisation ‘Trees for the Future’ with land regeneration, community revitalising, tree planting initiatives around the globe. Now that’s a pretty wonderful combination! Above are some folks from Trees for the Future in Kenya celebrating the organisations 30th birthday party, by, you guessed it, planting more trees! It’s a really wonderful initiative and VirtueBrush are helping to make it possible.

The VirtueBrush itself is composed of a 100% “moso bamboo’ handle, and dental grade nylon bristles. The handle is biodegradable, and after removing the bristles, you can just throw the handle in the compost or use it as fire kindling once you’re done with it. The packaging is also 100% recyclable white cardboard and contains zero plastic.

Trees for the Future by the way is a not-for-profit that since 1989 has planted over 115 million trees around the world, using a ‘forest garden approach‘ to regenerating land and helping to revitalise local communities in the process. You can learn more about them and VirtueBrush through some nice little links provided below. But now that we’ve finally managed to clean our teeth without destroying the planet, it’s time to smile, and move on. (And that’s a pearly white super-sustainable smile by the way!)

VirtueBrush Website: https://virtuebrush.com/
Trees for the future Website: https://trees.org/

Ecovative Design – Packaging (and other things) made from Mushrooms 

Oh cool, just look at that, it’s a wine bottle surrounded by styrofoam packaging, how amazing. Well guess again buster! That ain’t no styrofoam, that’s mycelium baby! (Ecovative actually grow packaging and all sorts of other cool products out of mushrooms, now how amazing is that?)

Hahaha you know what? I just got the name. All they had to do was switch the c with the v and they turned ‘evocative’ into ‘Ecovative’. Clever clever super-clever. And what these guys are doing is certainly evocative, and eco-friendly. And clever. 

Packaging can be a real pain in the planet. In the EU alone in 2016, 16.3 million tonnes of plastic waste was generated, and 170kg of packaging waste (all materials) was generated per person. 170kg of waste PER PERSON in only ONE YEAR just from packaging, and a lot of that was plastic. And I’m sure we’ve all heard that notorious statistic that 91% of plastic worldwide does not get recycled! This is all very damning stuff really, but enough with the statistics, and on with the solutions! 

Ecovative Design is a New York-based ‘biomaterials company’ that harnesses the power of mycelium, the root structure of mushrooms, to grow ‘advanced materials’ that can be used to replace plastic in multiple industries. As well as packaging, this super-adaptable material can be used in the skincare industry, for textiles, clothes, and even to create meat alternatives.

No microplastics involved when it comes to the disposal of this mycelium-based packaging, just tiny pieces of nutrient-rich mushroom goodness dissolving back into the great green earth instead. Now that’s a plastic alternative I can get on board with.

With regard to the ‘mushroom packaging’, it can be grown in 9 days to a custom shape, and is flame-resistant, water-resistant, and unlike our good old arch nemesis plastic over there in the naughty corner, this packaging is completely biodegradable. Ecovative even offers a ‘grow-it-yourself’ kit where you can grow your own mushroom packaging at home! I mean does it get any better than that? It kind of does make a whole lot of sense that if you’re growing your packaging out of natural ingredients, it’s not going to do much harm to the planet when the time comes for it to break back down into little pieces. 

So no microplastics involved when it comes to the disposal of this mycelium-based packaging, just tiny pieces of nutrient-rich mushroom goodness dissolving back into the great green earth instead. Now that’s a plastic alternative I can get on board with.

You might have read recently actually that Ikea has replaced their polystyrene packaging with mushroom-based packaging? Well it’s Ecovative Design who are behind that truly wonderful development! 

Ecovative make all sorts of stuff out of mushrooms, even these super groovy looking lamp shades. I mean who knew you could make all this stuff out of mushrooms? I mean seriously, at this stage, I think it’s time to say a permanent goodbye to Mr and Mrs plastic. We don’t need them anymore!!!

Really lovely stuff altogether. And you know I actually wrote an article a while back about the wonders (or the magic?) of mushrooms and all the ways they can help both people and the planet. From treating depression to cleaning up oil spills to ‘eating’ plastic waste, it’s super interesting stuff. If you’d like to read about that in detail (go on, goooooo on, you know you want to) then just click right here, and if you wanna check out Ecovative Design and all the wonderful things they’re doing I’ve very kindly provided a link to their website below. 

Wow. This plastic-free world is looking pretty lovely so far really isn’t it? Maybe we don’t need to use plastic for anything anymore, ever again? Ever? Just wait there for a second though, I’m gonna go grab a coffee.

Ecovative Design Website: https://ecovativedesign.com/

rCUP – Reusable Coffee Cups made from Used Coffee Cups

These funky looking colourful cups, flasks, mugs or whatever you wanna call them are actually made out of used coffee cups, helping to cut down on single-use-plastic waste and lay the foundations for a circular economy for disposable cups as well. Now I’ll drink to that. Tea anyone?

Okay I’m finished my coffee. But what should I do with the cup?? It’s one of those disposable paper cups but it’s got a flipping plastic lid and the inside of the cup is lined with a plastic coating so the cup can’t be recycled. Flip it! I guess I’ll just have to throw it on the landfill then. Well not if UK based eco-friendly, planet-loving, circular economy-embracing ‘rCUP’ has anything to do with it! (Also I didn’t actually use a disposable unrecyclable coffee cup in the making of this article. I filled my ceramic cup full of tea instead!) 

As I mentioned so theatrically above, most disposable coffee cups cannot be recycled because they are lined with a thin plastic coating on the inside to stop the hot liquid seeping through the cup. Most also come with a big chunky plastic top as well, which is no fun for anybody, least of all the planet. According to the BBC last year, 99.75% of coffee cups are not recycled. I mean my goodness, that’s basically all coffee cups not being recycled. Ridiculous. 

But thankfully, rCUP has come up with a solution that not only provides an eco-friendly alternative to disposable coffee cups, but also helps put old coffee cups to good use so they don’t end up on the rubbish tip.

rCUP really is killing two plastic birds with one perfectly circular stone here because as well as creating a product that will reduce the overall demand for disposable cups, they’re also helping to form the infrastructure needed to make disposable cups recyclable, and therefore, circular.

rCUP make high-quality reusable cups out of old single-use cups. These ‘rCUPs’ are super resilient, and maintain all the qualities you would want in a reusable cup. They’re 100% leak-proof, robust, keep drinks warm or cool, and can be picked up when the contents are very hot. rCUP is the only company that makes reusable cups out of coffee cups, and the idea is to create a circular economy for coffee cups.

As rCUP states on its website, ‘by creating products from used cups we’ve stimulated the demand for the once worthless used paper cup. This demand increases the value of used paper cups, which enables recycling firms to invest in the infrastructure required to recycle them.’ 

So rCUP really is killing two plastic birds with one perfectly circular stone here because as well as creating a product that will reduce the overall demand for disposable cups, they’re also helping to form the infrastructure needed to make disposable cups recyclable, and therefore, circular. The reusable rCUP itself can also be entirely recycled into a new rCUP at the end of its life, which rCUP say will be at least 10 years. So the rCUP is not only a wonderful alternative to disposable coffee cups and the single-use-plastic they contain, it is also leading the way towards a more circular economy, which is a tremendously wonderful thing. 

Not that you ever would throw it into the bushes, because why would anyone ever do that? This isn’t just some one-time-use disposable you know! But the rCUP even looks kind of nice surrounded by leaves and plants and stuff. Something that certainly doesn’t hold true with plastic bottles and paper cups!

I’ve actually written at length about the circular economy and how exciting it is here if you fancy a peak, and you can find out more about rCUP through the link below. rCUP is created by an award-winning design company called ‘ashortwalk’ based in Cornwall in England, and they’re doing lots of other interesting stuff too so I’ve included their website below as well. Absolutely fabulous stuff so far, but to be honest, I’m getting kind of hungry now. Time for a takeaway I think!

rCUP Website: https://www.rcup.co.uk/
ashortwalk Website:  https://www.ashortwalk.com/

Ark Reusables – Reusable Takeaway Containers made from Silicone 

These Ark Reusable containers are made from 100% recyclable silicone and can be used as a replacement for disposable food containers that hold your dinner for all of five minutes and then spend the rest of eternity clogging up the planet in landfills or the ocean or your local park. The more reusables we can use, the better!

Doooooooon’t worry, I’ll leave the theatrics out this time and get right down to business. A lot of disposable food containers are made from styrofoam or different forms of plastic. Not only can this affect your personal health by leaking lots of horrible plastic chemicals into your food, but it also harms the health of the planet. According to the National Resources Defence Council in the US, 269,000 tonnes of plastic pollution is currently floating in the oceans and waterways of the world as a result of plastic litter from ‘takeout’ orders in the US alone. A gargantuan amount of plastic. 

Fortunately, a lot of food places lately seem to be adopting more environmentally friendly containers made out of compostable materials like sugarcane, wood, paper, even banana leaves, and all sorts of other things as well. But what about forgoing the disposable container altogether and bringing your own?

This may not always be the best option as reusable containers can often be made from plastic themselves and can be pretty bulky and a pain in the convenience to transport, but Amsterdam based startup Ozarka offers a nifty solution to these problems in the form of the ‘Ark Reusable’ container. 

By combining wonderful innovations like the Ark Reusable with planet-friendly disposables, we can go a long way towards making convenience food convenient for the planet as well as for us humans.

The Ark Reusable is a beautifully designed container made from 100% food-safe silicone. (Silicone is made out of sand, does not give off nasty chemicals, and does not break down into microplastics, and you can learn more about it here, and here) It is dishwasher safe, oven and microwave safe, freezer safe and pretty much folds completely flat when empty so it’s easy to transport. The ‘Ark’ also comes with a lifetime guarantee and is 100% recyclable. Ozarka also offers recycling services for the products once you’re done using them. 

The idea is that you bring this container with you when you’re grabbing your super-fast on-the-go lunch and hand it to the food vendor instead of using one of the wasteful disposable containers on offer. Ozarka say that they have ‘spoken with dozens of chefs and food vendors, and found huge excitement around reusable containers. The interest is there, it just needs the right system, the right containers, and a shift in how people think about waste.’ So it does sound promising that with a little shift in everyone’s thinking, we could make disposable food containers a thing of the past entirely. 

The Ark Reusable containers fold nearly flat when empty so they’re incredibly portable, making them very convenient. And that’s what it’s all about really isn’t it? Convenience!

But there will always be a time when you need to grab your dinner on the go and you just don’t have your disposable container with you you say? We can’t just keep these silicone containers strapped to our bodies at all times you say? Well you’re dead right, that would be absolutely absurd! But whenever we can’t use a disposable container, we can put pressure on food vendors to start using any of the plastic-free, biodegradable options mentioned above. By combining wonderful innovations like the Ark Reusable with planet-friendly disposables, we can go a long way towards making convenience food convenient for the planet as well as for us humans.

And just like with all the other sections in this article, below is a link to the Ozarka and Ark Reusables websites so ‘ye can have a wee look for yerselves.’ (Not sure who I’m quoting there, maybe myself, but sure why not?)

Ozarka Website: https://www.ozarka.club/
Ark Reusables Website: https://arkreusables.com/

To a Plastic-Free Future 

Whenever possible, it’s much better to avoid disposable products altogether and use a more permanent option, but we all know that’s not possible 100% of the time. This is a crazy world we live in after all. But when we do have to use disposable products, from what we’ve seen in this article, there is really no reason at all that we should have to use plastic.

Products such as the rCUP and the Ark Reusable are great examples of how reusable products can make the planet a better place, and Biofase, VirtueBrush and Ecovative Design show us that there’s really no need to make any of our single-use or ‘only-a-few-times-use’ (told you it would catch on) products out of plastic at all. There are plenty of other, better materials out there to choose from. 

As the chorus of this song written from the perspective of single-use-plastic itself proclaims, “Single-use-plastic, I am indestructible, a momentary use, for a permanent object.” A momentary use, for a permanent object. That explains the ridiculousness of the whole thing really. 

So it’s great to see that there are now loads of forward-thinking companies out there who are taking a moment, to come up with ideas that can lead us to a more sustainable, ‘just-don’t-use-plastic’ future. And then keep us there, permanently. 

Maybe ‘just-don’t-use-plastic’ is more likely to catch on?

Well, I certainly hope so.

About the Author

Adam Millett is a freelance writer for hire with an affinity for dressing up as Spiderman and writing about saving the planet. He likes to climb trees and stare at the stars in his spare time and likes to help businesses tell their sustainability stories while he’s working. Visit his website at wordchameleon.com if you want to tell the world yours.

We can’t do it all Ourselves.

The Amazons and the Googles of this world have got to change as well if we’re going to have any chance.

We hear a whooooooooooole lot these days about what we can do, as individuals, to help the planet. Stop eating meat, stop having kids, stop taking flights, stop using single-use-plastic. Take half as many breaths per minute and only move our muscles when we really have to. All decent solutions, but will they really make much of a difference if the big bad energy devouring corporations of the world carry on emitting like there’s no (if they do keep doing what they’re doing there actually might not be) tomorrow? Probably not. 

The Amazons and the Googles of this world have got to change as well if we’re going to have any chance. And you know what? It seems like they’re really starting to. Here’s a run-through of what some of the largest companies in the world are doing to benefit this great little planet of ours. Things really do seem to be changing on a large scale, and just maybe, we might actually have a chance after all. Have a look for yourself.

Amazon 

Amazon will order 100,000 fully-electric delivery vehicles. This is what they’ll look like. You know what? It just pretty much looks like a van doesn’t it really. (It’s what’s inside that counts I guess!)

Just the other week, Amazon, who up until then had pretty much kept its mouth shut about the climate crisis, announced a commitment to meet the Paris Agreement, a global action plan to put the world on track to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2°C and pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5°C, 10 years early. To fulfil this commitment, Amazon has pledged to do the following:

  • Commit to net-zero carbon by 2040 and 100% renewable energy by 2030. 
  • Order 100,000 fully-electric delivery vehicles, the largest order ever of its kind.
  • Invest $100 million in reforestation projects around the world to begin removing carbon from the atmosphere now. 
  • Launch a new sustainability website to report progress on commitments. 

When a big player like Amazon is the instigator, others tend to follow.

This all comes as part of The Climate Pledge, an initiative Amazon has co-founded with social enterprise Global Optimism. Companies who sign up to The Climate Pledge initiative agree to do the following: 

  • Measure and report greenhouse gas emissions on a regular basis.
  • Implement decarbonization strategies in line with the Paris Agreement through real business changes and innovations, including efficiency improvements, renewable energy, materials reductions, and other carbon emission elimination strategies.
  • Neutralize any remaining emissions with additional, quantifiable, real, permanent, and socially-beneficial offsets to achieve net-zero annual carbon emissions by 2040.

I can’t find any evidence of other companies signing up to the climate pledge yet, but I’m pretty sure they will in time. It’s still early days, as the pledge was only announced like 13 days ago, and when a big player like Amazon is the instigator, others tend to follow.

Google

Google is making significant investments in renewable energy across the globe. Woooooooooble for Google.

Google recently announced a major investment in renewable energy, and is currently running various other planet-friendly projects as well. Here’s a breakdown of what they’re doing, or what they will be doing to help the environment in the near future:

  • Google recently announced 18 new energy deals across the US, Chile, and Europe, which will involve purchasing energy from solar farms across the United States, and making investments in Chile that combine both wind and solar power. 1600 Megawatts of clean energy will be purchased in total, which will ‘kick-start the development of millions of solar panels, wind turbines and other construction.’
  • Google.org, the companies philanthropic arm, will gift a $500,000 grant to the Renewable Energy buyers alliance in the US, and €500,000 to Re-Source in Europe. (Haha, the Europeans got a slightly better deal there! But it’s all good for the world I suppose.) The money will be used to research new renewable energy business models and provide training for consumers. 
  • Since last year, Google have also been publishing sustainability reports about its products and supply chain processes, and has recently pledged to make its ‘Made by Google’ line of products more sustainable, claiming that all its products will contain recyclable materials by 2022. (What percentage of each product will be made from recycled material is unclear, but you would hope that whatever it is, it will increase in time.)
  • Google has also said that all of its shipments, to or from customers, will be carbon neutral by 2020. Progress has already been made on this front, according to Anna Meegan, Google’s head of sustainability for hardware, who has stated that Google managed to reduce emissions by a hefty 40% just by switching from air shipments to cargo shipments. Quite a significant number. If it’s true, that’s very impressive! 
  • Finally, Google also has a recycling programme for customers in the US, where it will send customers a shipping label to send back unwanted products so the raw materials can be re-used. 

So there we are, that was a flip load of bullet points, and that was just Google! Onto the next one.

Apple

It’s clear that Apple is making a tremendous effort to become a more sustainable operation, and as these efforts progress, they are bound to rub off on other companies as well.

An apple a day keeps the doctor away, but only if the apples are clean! Well not only do all of Apple’s stores, data centres, and offices now run on renewable energy, a milestone the company achieved last year, but Apple is also now offering financial help to the companies in its supply chain so they can switch to renewable energy as well. As part of Apple’s Supplier Clean Energy program, 44 of its suppliers have already pledged to transition to 100% clean energy, with even more to follow. Apple is also aiming to introduce 4 gigawatts of clean energy into the companies supply chain by 2020. Now that’s a whole lot of clean!

Significant structural alterations to Apple’s supply chains and production processes are also being implemented, with the company working towards a closed-loop supply chain (woooooo the circular economy!!!), and adopting more efficient manufacturing processes and materials to further reduce the raw materials needed to produce its products.

Although far from perfect, it seems Apple (the company not the fruit), have started trying to become the apple on the right.

Although far from perfect yet, and still with some major concerns being voiced about the sustainability of some of its products, and the working conditions in some of its factories, it’s clear that Apple is making a tremendous effort to become a more sustainable operation, and as these efforts progress, they are bound to rub off on other companies as well.

The Others

This has nothing to do with Lost!

Placing all these other companies in a section called ‘the others’ doesn’t mean they’re any less important or significant than the ones I’ve already described, neither does it mean that these companies care less about saving the planet, or that they’re bad guys on a very popular but questionable TV show from the mid to late noughties. It just means that I have limited time to write this article today as I’m a busy busy boy with lots of things to do and it’s Friday, so I’m giving you the gist of what these companies are up to here and then if you like, you can go research the hell out of them yourself and respond back in the comments below with the dirty (or hopefully clean) details about exactly what these companies are up to! Sound cool? Freezing. 

People are starting to demand that companies treat the planet with respect, and companies are starting to respond.

Microsoft

Microsoft is also moving toward renewable energy, and will be buying 230 MW of solar and wind power in Texas from a company called Engie. The company is planning to cut its carbon emission by 75% by 2030, and is targeting over 70% renewable energy for its data centres by 2023. Not quite as ambitious or effective as Apple or Amazon, but still heading in the right direction. Microsoft is also making it more expensive for its business units to ignore climate change by doubling its internal carbon fee to $15 per metric tonne. Tax that flipping carbon baby!

Facebook

There’s no getting away from it to be honest; Facebook is a pretty dodgy company. Scandal after scandal, privacy breach after privacy breach, Cambridge after Analytica. It certainly doesn’t look like Mr. Zuckleburgers has the prosperity of the entire human race in mind with most of his decisions, but at least Facebook do seem to be making some moves with regard to the shift toward renewable energy. The social media (data gathering) giant has recently signed a deal for 200MW of Texas wind power as it continues its ‘track record as a major buyer of renewable energy.’ Now if they could just stop all the other dodgy business, they’d be golden! (Or green.)

Ikea

Ikea probably deserves a much bigger section, as they seem to be doing quite a lot of amazing stuff with regard to the planet, but I’m running out of time! So here’s a headline that pretty much sums it up: ‘Ikea has invested in enough clean energy to power all of its operations (plus extra). The company believes that ‘the future is renewable’, and they are doing loads of brilliant stuff for the planet right now. You can read more about that here, and maybe I’ll dedicate a whole article to Ikea sometime soon, so look out for that one!

Nike

Nike have just opened a 1.5 million square foot distribution centre in Ham, Belgium, which will be powered by 100% locally sourced renewable energy. Now that is a flipping massive massive operation to be powered by 100% renewable, and incredibly impressive. Wind, solar, geothermal, hydroelectric, and biomass energy will be utilised.

The Other Others

McDonald’s, Dell, Wall-Mart, Honda, Starbucks, Coca Cola, and plenty of other companies, to varying degrees, have also started to incorporate sustainability into their business models. This list suggests that the big companies of 2019 know they have to start taking sustainability seriously. They know it’s not just some optional extra shiny green string anymore that they can add to their business portfoli(bow) to make them seem more environmentally conscious. People are starting to demand that companies treat the planet with respect, and companies are starting to respond. Their sustainability efforts and initiatives, will only increase from here. So it seems the future of business, is very much so, looking like a sustainable one. (If it’s not then we better get out the butter and jam, and the marmalade, chocolate spread, possibly peanut butter too. Maybe some cheese?…. Cause if it’s not, then, we’re toast!)

Sustainability: The New Normal

The next time you question whether the changes you make to your own lifestyle will make a difference, just remember that a lot of the big bad companies are starting to make changes too.

A combination of evolving consumer expectation and the increasing financial viability of renewable energy and green technology is making the drive for sustainability an unavoidable reality for big companies today. Sustainability, in every sense of the word, is going mainstream.

Another apple image. Why am I using so many apple images? Anyways, green is becoming the new normal, and in 2019, the companies that aren’t trying to become more sustainable are the ones that stand out, for all the wrong reasons!

Whether the companies listed above are finally starting to clean up their act because they care about the planet, or because it’s saving them money is anyone’s best guess (it’s probably the money thing), but either way, it doesn’t matter too much. The important thing is that change is happening. Some of the biggest companies in the world are starting to move towards a more sustainable future, and that will only push other companies to follow suit.

So the next time you question whether the changes you make to your own lifestyle will make a difference, just remember that a lot of the big bad companies are starting to make changes too.

We’re all in this together, and to truly make sustainability the new normal, we will all have to evolve. Human, and corporation, alike.

About the Author

Adam Millett is a freelance writer for hire with an affinity for dressing up as Spiderman and writing about saving the planet. He likes to climb trees and stare at the stars in his spare time and likes to help businesses tell their sustainability stories while he’s working. Visit his website at wordchameleon.com if you want to tell the world yours.

Too Many Sick People, Not Enough Beds

I arrived at the A&E ward of Sligo General Hospital (my local hospital in the west of Ireland) last Monday morning after a weekend of stomach pain and no idea what was wrong with me. I remained in A&E for over 36 hours, propped up on a makeshift trolley bed in a brightly-lit, loud and frenzied hallway packed full of sick and suffering people. I was awake all night, and in quite a lot of pain. I was told by nurses that they had 24 people waiting for beds at the time. Poor bastards. (The nurses, as well as the patients.)

My Super-Comfy Hallway Bed

I was finally given a bed in the surgical ward on Tuesday around midnight after the doctors diagnosed me with a perforated colon. (Shit happens I suppose.) (Unfortunately, in my case it wasn’t happening quite as it was supposed to!) (I guess I was shit out of luck?) (But who gives a shit really?) (It’s all bullshit in the end.) (Everything comes down to poo.) (Okay, that’s enough!) (Enough of my shit!) (Right that’s it now.) (That’s shit now.) (haha).

I have been moved to three different rooms since then due to overwhelming patient overload and limited beds. (And once because they needed to check me for MRSA.) Due to cutbacks cutbacks cutbacks implemented over the last decade or so, this hospital, and the majority of Irish hospitals it would seem, really are not equipped with the necessary facilities to provide proper care for the growing number of patients admitted, and as most of the nurses have said; it is not even winter yet. Things will only get busier in the coming months.

The Staff here have Superpowers!

The genuine care, love, and warmth shown by the staff here spreads to the patients, and creates a wonderful atmosphere of ‘we’re all in this together’.

All of this really should make for a truly horrible experience for me. A hole in the colon and an overrun hospital doesn’t exactly sound like a winning combination, but honestly, I have found the whole experience to be quite lovely, and incredibly inspiring. When I said Irish hospitals aren’t equipped with the necessary facilities, I was not talking about the human facilities. The staff here are the very best of the best. Top-notch, dedicated, talented professionals, and top-notch down to earth human beings as well. You can tell that everyone really gives a shit, and all colon jokes aside, that’s not something you find everywhere. It’s not something you find most places.

The genuine care, love, and warmth shown by the staff here spreads to the patients, and creates a wonderful atmosphere of ‘we’re all in this together’. It feels like everyone is looking out for each other, everyone really cares for each other; nurses, cleaning dudes, patients, doctors, everyone. It’s really very uplifting, which I’m sure in itself helps with patient recovery, and it all stems from the incredible people who work here. I mean it’s not like their jobs are easy! I found it hard not to be miserable when I worked on the tills in SuperValu. These people are under constant stress and pressure, and they radiate love and togetherness. They are legends.

The staff at Sligo General Hospital

Feeling the Love

In hospital, life gets ramped up a bit. People are in serious situations, and it becomes clear as people interact how much they genuinely care for each other. The atmosphere in this place is so real, and so full of love and sincerity between strangers that it makes you feel like you’re at a music festival or something. Sligo General Hospital, it’s the new Body & Soul! 

Just like all the crazy beautiful characters you meet and instantly fall in love with at a music festival, the same is true at the hospital. Since I’ve been here I have met some really wonderful people. Nurses, cleaning dudes, restaurant staff, doctors, fellow patients, all sorts. Warm bonds have been instantly formed between people of all shapes, ages, sizes, and walks of life. You can really tell that everyone cares for each other. The patients as well as the staff. People in pain showing concern for others in pain. People in shit situations coming together to joke about it and make the most of it. Philosophical conversations with roommates about how we all take things for granted and collectively remembering how lucky we really are. 

Warm bonds have been instantly formed between people of all shapes, ages, sizes, and walks of life. You can really tell that everyone cares for each other. The patients as well as the staff.

The Best of the Best

Every staff member I have so far come into contact with is a legend.

And my goodness we are so lucky, certainly those of us living in Ireland and in need of medical assistance anyway. People complain about the makeshift beds in the hallway (and to be honest the government can and should flipping do something about that, it’s really not fair on the staff, or the patients), but with regard to the quality of person that works in Irish hospitals, we are second to none in the universe. And that’s quality of wholesomeness, as well as expertise.

Every staff member I have so far come into contact with is a legend. A big wholesome beautiful legend with kindness in their heart and a passion for what they do. And that goes for the nurses, the doctors, the cleaning staff, the restaurant staff, everyone. They are all so very kind. They are doing a colossal job with limited resources and managing to care for far far far more patients than the hospital is really equipped to deal with. These people are at the very top of their professions, the work they do is ridiculously difficult in so many ways, and they deserve much, much better. 

If the staff at Sligo General were a footballer, they would be this man, Lionel Messi; the very best in the world.

The staff here manage to create an atmosphere of love and kindness that rubs off on the patients, and it transforms what should be a poopy poopy experience (I just can’t stop with the poo jokes!), into an inspirational, truly heartwarming one. I’ve met some great people here, and have actually made some fond memories. If the staff weren’t so superhumanly uplifting, everyone here would be miserable, and I probably wouldn’t have the will to be writing anything right now. Yet I’m sat here, buzzing.

I thank the staff wholeheartedly for doing what they do. I’m lucky in that my condition isn’t serious, but for the unfortunate souls in here who do have serious conditions, I wish them a full and speedy recovery, and I know the staff will make that as likely as possible. They inspire a tremendous amount of hope.

These People are the Best, and They Deserve the Best

If the staff at Sligo General Hospital ran the world, life would be like a great big music festival. There would be love all around us, people would feel uplifted, people would feel inspired, people would genuinely care for each other and want to help each other. There would be joking, laughter, philosophical conversations about the meaning of life and death. There would be pain and sickness but people would be nursed back to health by those around them. There would be realness. There would be life. There would be connection.

The people here, and most likely the people in the majority of Irish hospitals and medical facilities, are brilliant at what they do. So how about giving these inspirational people the appreciation they deserve, financial compensation that mirrors the deep technical and emotional work required of them, and the facilities they need to really work their magic and take care of everyone properly?

It wouldn’t be the worst idea on earth. My goodness, they certainly deserve it.

(The non-stop supply of Tay and Toasht makes all the difference as well. You’d know you’re in the weshht.)

About the Author

Adam Millett is a freelance writer for hire with an affinity for dressing up as Spiderman and writing about saving the planet. He likes to climb trees and stare at the stars in his spare time and likes to help businesses tell their sustainability stories while he’s working. Visit his website at wordchameleon.com if you want to tell the world yours.

What’s in a Name Anyway?

B Corporations. I’m not so sure about that name. Sounds like they’re just slightly better than average corporations. Like they didn’t quite make the A grade, but they’re not quite as bad as a C, so we gave them a B. Maybe they’re named after the Bumble Bee, since Bumble Bees are so important for the future of our planet? Or maybe the B stands for Brilliant? Or Better? Or Bloody Brilliant and a much Better Bet? Maybe. I suppose I could just check really couldn’t I? But it doesn’t matter anyway, forget about the name, because this isn’t just some jumped-up marketing campaign. This is the real deal yo! Like a bee pollinating the flowers so the forest can grow. B corporations are changing the business world, and by doing that, they can change the real world too. So what’s the deal B?

What the Flip is a B Corporation? 

B Corporations must be officially certified to ensure that they ‘meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.’

Well I looked it up and it turns out that the B in B Corporation doesn’t seem to stand for any particular word. They just have B stamped all over their website with no explanation as to what word it stands for at all. So it’s just ‘B’. I guess that makes the first paragraph seem a little silly, but I like the first paragraph, so it’s staying just as it is, and we’re going to move on from here. Like the human race focusing on building a beautiful future while leaving our negligent past behind us. Is that first negligent paragraph a mistake, or my motivation to write the rest of the article more prudently? Well does a bee shit in the woods? Does a bee even shit? You know I’m not entirely sure. Maybe B Corporations can help us find the answer?

A Certified B Corporation is basically a for-profit company that works to help the world instead of destroying it. As stated in ‘The B Corp Declaration of Interdependence’, The B Corp vision is one of ‘a global economy that uses business as a force for good.’ Now I like the sound of that!

The B Corp Declaration of Interdependence basically states that B Corporations strive to work together to build a better world instead of working independently to mess everything up. A pretty wonderful break from the planet shattering norm if you ask me!

These companies make it their mission to solve social and environmental problems as well as making a profit. B Corporations must be officially certified by a not-for-profit, The B Lab Company, to ensure that they ‘meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.’ B Corporations must also re-certify their credentials every two years to keep in line with evolving standards if they want to hold onto their precious B. 

So a B Corporation pretty much has to help communities and the environment at all times while always being transparent about their actions and legally committing to not being greedy, and they have to prove that they’re doing all these things every two years through a rigorous assessment from an independent not-for-profit organisation. I mean we probably should have made every corporation since the very dawn of corporating follow these kinds of rules but we’ve got to start somewhere haven’t we? And thank goodness, it seems, we have started!

Okay so this whole B Corporation thing seems like a truly fabulous planet-altering idea, but one thing I was wondering was this: Hmmmmm so the B Corporations are monitored by ‘The B Lab Company’, but who the hell is monitoring those guys? How do we know they’re not the devil in disguise? Or worse, politicians, or flaming lobbyists? Well after checking out the governing bodies and advisory bodies that oversee the work of B-Lab, it seems that all the people involved come from different independent foundations, companies, and initiatives that all have to do with good things like sustainability, philanthropy, and improving the environment. The B Impact assessment is also overseen by an independent committee of 20-22 members, each with deep industry or stakeholder expertise.

So it seems like the guys keeping the B Corporations in line are legit, which suggests that the good work the B Corporations are doing must be genuine. But what exactly sets them apart from regular companies?

What Makes B Corporations Better?

When a company is certified as a B Corporation, you can be pretty sure that they’re treating both people, and planet, with respect.

As we’ve already discussed, to become a ‘Certified B Corporation’, a company has to commit to doing things differently. So what exactly do they have to do? Below are some of the commitments wannaB (haha) B Corporations have to make and genuinely implement in order to pass the ongoing B Impact assessments.

  • Directors are required to consider the impact of their actions on all stakeholders, including the social and environmental impacts, as well as the financial. So if a project is proposed within the company that will make bucket tonnes of cash dollar, but will also pollute a couple of rivers or negatively affect the local community, the company cannot go through with the project. Actions must be beneficial for everyone involved. 
  • The company must publish regular reports outlining overall social and environmental performance assessed against a third-party standard. So there’s really no hiding if you wanna be a long term member of the B Brigade!
  • The company must achieve a minimum verified score on the ‘B Impact Assessment’, and must maintain this score every two years against evolving assessment standards. And these assessments aren’t just a short walk through a supposedly un-polluted corporate park, they involve measuring a companies entire social and environmental performance, and evaluating how the companies operations and overall business model impacts their workers, community, environment, and customers. From supply chain and input materials to charitable giving and employee benefits. You can even find a directory on the B Lab Website where you can find every single Certified B Corporation, and view their exact impact scores over time in areas of governance, workers, community, environment, and customers. So when a company is certified as a B Corporation, you can be pretty sure that they’re treating both people, and planet, with respect.
Here you can see an example of Patagonia’s profile on the B Corporation directory page. You can see exactly how they score in very specific areas of their business (if you scroll down on the page there are breakdown scores for workers, community, environment, and customers as well), and you can view past records to see how they’ve scored in the past in each of these areas too. The overall score is visible at the top of the profile, which is compared against the median score for non B Corporations (50.9), the score required for B Corporation Certification (80), and Patagonia’s score of 151.5. Not a bad score at all. Most of the businesses I’ve seen on here score way higher than the required 80. I think the fact that B Corporations are transparently compared against each other is another motivation for them to keep raising their number and doing better things for the planet.

The B Lab website states that the positive impact of B Certified Corporations is supported by transparency and accountability requirements, so the B Corp Certification doesn’t just prove where the company excels in the present, but also commits it to consider stakeholder impact for the long term by building it into the companies legal structure. So to become a B Corporation, a company has to make itself legally responsible for improving the environment and the communities in which it operates.

The B Corporation model represents a way for us to utilise the structures and institutions we already have in place to do good instead of bad. To build instead of destroy.

You know I was going to do a section after this one titled ‘So how can B Corporations save the world?’, but I don’t think there’s any need for a whole section on that. I think it’s quite simple really: If every single business on earth had a legal obligation to improve the environment and the communities they operate in, thereby working to heal the planet and the human race, as opposed to destroying them, what do you think would happen? I think we’d probably save the world, that’s what. 

The B Corporation model represents a way for us to utilise the structures and institutions we already have in place to do good instead of bad. To build instead of destroy. We don’t have to come up with great big revolutionary systems of commerce or governance to create the change that’s needed. We can use the structures we already have to save the world, we just have to start holding them to higher standards; standards we should have held them to from the very beginning. Some might argue that this is all fanciful idealism, and that it can’t possibly work in the real world. But those arguments are invalid. It’s already working in the real world, and there are some really big Certified B Corporations already who are fully operational, profitable, and absolutely thriving! Do have a look below.

To become a B Corporation, a company has to make itself legally responsible for improving the environment and the communities in which it operates.

Who’s on Board Already? 

Ben and Jerry’s are just one big company already helping to save the world by committing to the B Corporations Movement. There will be many more to follow.

There are currently over 2,500 Certified B Corporations in over 50 countries around the world, and you may have heard of a few of them. Ben and Jerry’s, Patagonia, Etsy, Danone North America, and so many other companies are all Certified B Corporations, which means that all of these companies are actually improving the health of the planet and the people around them, as opposed to causing damage.

Danone really is an incredible example of how a huge multinational corporation can operate in a way that helps the world instead of harming it. Danone North America, a business unit of Danone which contains 14 subsidiary companies, is entirely B Certified, while Danone have many other B Certified subsidiaries around the world, and are working towards becoming entirely B Certified. This is proof that the B Corporation model doesn’t just work for the little guys. Danone is one of the largest multinational food production companies in the world, spanning over 120 markets worldwide with a reported yearly profit approaching €25 Billion. If they can fundamentally change their ways and operate successfully while also healing the planet, then surely everybody can. The question to ask though, is will everybody try?

What’s the Future Looking Like for The B Corp Movement? 

Just last week something completely out of the norm happened. Something quite incredible. And it directly involves the B Corp Movement. Over 30 Certified B Corporations, including Ben and Jerry’s, Patagonia, and Danone North America, took out a full-page advertisement in the New York Times urging members of ‘The Business Roundtable Lobby Group’, which represents pretty much all of the US’s biggest companies, to ‘get to work’ on making real change happen. This follows the recent decision of The Business Roundtable to ‘shift its statement of the purpose of a corporation to include all of its stakeholders, including employees, suppliers, and broader society.’ That was big talk from a group which contains the CEOs of companies like Apple, Amazon, Coca Cola, AT&T, Chevron, Exxon, Deloitte, Pepsi, Pfizer, Ford, and pretty much everyone else, and The B Corporation movement has now officially, and publicly, challenged these influential companies, to start walking the walk. 

This is the incredible full page advertisement taken out in the New York Times last week by a large group of B Certified Corporations. As you can read, since I went to the trouble of finding a super high quality image of the ad, it wasn’t easy, it took a while, but I thought everyone would want to see it, not that anyone’s actually reading this, I mean if you are, well fucking done! Anyways, just read the text in the ad, it’s really an incredible, heart-warming, optimism pumping, re-assuring message, but there’s no need for me to re-explain it here. I’m not your mother. Or am I? What an ad! Bravo Bravo to the B Corporations! Wait a minute? Maybe the B stands for Bravo? ….. Bravo Corporations. Yes, I’m going with that. A Certified B Corporation from here on in will now officially be referred to as a ‘Certified Bravo Corporation’, courtesy of your friendly neighbourhood Spiderman, Adam Cats. 😉 Bravo.

The fact that these kinds of things are happening in the business world is absolutely astonishing really. The big guys claiming they’re going to start changing their ways is one thing, but being publicly challenged to actually do it by companies who already have is another (B)east entirely. (hahaha)

So with thousands of companies around the world already B Certified, many more in the process of joining, and huge multinational companies like Danone and Ben and Jerry’s banging The B Corp drum, I’m inclined to think the future is looking pretty bright for The B Corp Movement, and dare I say it, for our planet as well?

About the Author

Adam Millett is a freelance writer for hire with an affinity for dressing up as Spiderman and writing about saving the planet. He likes to climb trees and stare at the stars in his spare time and likes to help businesses tell their sustainability stories while he’s working. Visit his website at wordchameleon.com if you want to tell the world yours.

Where is the Magic?

You know I’m not a huge fan of mushrooms. The one’s Mam puts in the dinner at least. White mushrooms I think they’re called? It’s the texture you see. Too squidgy. (No not squidy, you heard right the first time, I did say squidgy. With a g before the y. I think this word accurately sums up that spine-tingling huffy puffy mushy feeling you get when you bite into one of those funny-looking fungus bumps.) Portobello’s are the same, too squidgy for Adam. But you know what? Mushrooms are a whole lot more magical than a hearty bowl of stroganoff with fungi soup on the side, and I’m not just talking about that 60’s kind of magic.

A bunch of innocent looking ‘white mushrooms‘. Ugh, Squidge Squidge Squidge.

The world is in such a state these days that we could do with a little magic. Or a lot of magic. I mean where to even start? Micro-plastics have been found floating around from the bottom of the oceans to the top of the highest mountain peaks (so basically everywhere). A red-faced wig-wearing racist alien masquerading as a president wants to actually purchase Greenland, an island that contains so much ice that its own fate may very well determine the fate of the entire world. Another red-faced chaos declaring racist alien masquerading as a headmaster wants to financially strangle his own country while potentially starting a war in another. The arctic is on fire, Spain is on fire, the world is on fire! More people suffer from heart problems, obesity and diabetes than ever before, while nearly a billion people go hungry every day. Anxiety is rife. Depression rates are at an all-time high. 1% of the human population hold 45% of the financial wealth and 3 flipping men in the United States hold more wealth than the entire bottom half of the population. 3 men. 

It seems the world has categorically lost its flipping mind. Our species has lost its way. The indigenous mycelium chefs have lost the magic recipe. So what I’ll explore in this article, is how mushrooms might help us get some of that magic back. The magic of being at peace with ourselves, each other, and the world around us. 

Now obviously mushrooms aren’t going to stop a no-deal Brexit from happening, unless somebody spikes the tea bags at number 10 Downing Street, in which case all those overpaid pompously educated goober heads might actually have a genuinely enlightening epiphany for the first time in their pampered lives and finally figure out a way to stop being egotistical apathetic parasites, but since that’s not going to happen, let’s discuss how mushrooms can help us with some of our other issues. We can start with the one closest to home, our personal health. 

A Mushroom a Day Keeps the Doctor Away: Healing Ourselves 

We can’t expect a world full of sick people to heal a sick planet, so improving our personal health could be seen as the first step towards a planetary recovery. Embracing the versatile magic of the mushroom has so much potential to heal each one of us, physically, mentally, and spiritually, and if we can learn to heal ourselves, maybe we can learn to come together and heal the planet as well. Here’s how mushrooms can help. 

Healing the Body 

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death worldwide, and is responsible for a third of all deaths. A quite remarkable statistic. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, and diabetes are all conditions that can lead to cardiovascular death, and can all be prevented or treated one way or another using mushrooms.

High blood pressure and cholesterol for example, can be treated with the shiitake and maitake mushroom strains, which contain various vitamins and minerals linked with reductions in blood pressure and cholesterol levels. The reishi mushroom can be used to treat diabetes and obesity by lowering blood glucose levels, and by reducing inflammation and insulin resistance. This truly magical (and legal) reishi mushroom has also been found to help treat arthritis, liver damage, and the second leading cause of death worldwide, cancer.

The reishi mushroom, a curious looking medicinal wizard.

Now it must be stated that some of these mushroom strains can cause significant side-effects, and people should always consult with their doctors before using them, and also that mushrooms are not the holy grail for disease prevention, and that a relatively balanced lifestyle is of course required as well, but the potential of mushrooms for healing the most widespread physical health problems we face as a species is clear to see. Here’s a list of all (or at least most) of the conditions mushrooms can be used to treat

  • Cardiovascular disease.
  • High blood pressure.
  • High cholesterol.
  • Obesity.
  • Diabetes.
  • Cancer.
  • Arthritis.
  • Liver Damage. 
  • Asthma.
  • Renal Failure.
  • Stroke Damage.

As well as treating these diseases, mushrooms also provide the following benefits

  • Boosted Immune System.
  • Improved gut health.
  • Increased Vitamin D.
  • Provides antioxidants. 
  • Boosts metabolism.
  • Protects bladder health.
  • Increased energy.
  • Decreased stress.
  • Improved cognitive function.

Even if we leave the medicinal benefits of mushrooms aside for a second, merely incorporating more edible mushrooms into our everyday diets would provide all sorts of valuable proteins, vitamins, and minerals that are essential for achieving and maintaining sound physical health. It’s actually quite fascinating to contemplate how compatible these little fungus filled friends really are with the human body, and how they can work to heal it.

You would swear it was all connected or something.

The potential of mushrooms for healing the most widespread physical health problems we face as a species is clear to see.

Healing the Mind 

It is a truly disturbing and saddening reality that mental health problems such as depression and anxiety disorders are more common throughout the world now than ever before, and are showing no signs of disappearing any time soon. There is no single factor behind these troubling statistics, and I’m sure many of the problems I mentioned in the opening paragraph play their part. I mean how can people not be depressed and anxious when the planet is on the brink of collapse, everyone’s eating a poisonous diet, and the marketeers keep reminding everyone that they’re just not good enough?

It’s a bit of a catch 22 really; the sorry state the world is in is making people depressed and anxious, but we can’t really do anything to improve the state the world is in because everyone is depressed and anxious. So what to do? Mushrooms can certainly be a part of the solution.

Up until now all the mushrooms strains I’ve mentioned could generally be classified as ‘legal’, whereas the mushrooms that can help us overcome depression and anxiety disorders are generally considered ‘illegal’. Just remember though that slavery was once legal, women voting was once illegal, and condoms were illegal in Ireland up until 1985 for christ’s sake (literally), so sometimes ‘the law’ might not be designed with everyone’s health and wellbeing in mind. With that in mind, let’s talk about how ‘illegal’ psilocybin mushrooms can help to heal the mind. If you wouldn’t mind. 

A poster declaring that allowing women to vote would be detrimental to men’s employment and the business world. Sometimes, the law is nonsense.

Psilocybin mushrooms are the mushrooms more commonly referred to as ‘magic mushrooms’, and increasingly are showing capabilities for treating depression without the ‘dulling’ side-effects of conventional antidepressants. The psilocybin compound in these mushrooms works to activate a specific subtype of serotonin receptor, the 5-HT2A receptor, which is known to play a key role in regulating mood, anxiety, schizophrenia and consciousness.

Recent studies have found that when administered in a supportive environment, psilocybin mushroom therapy can be effective at facilitating emotional breakthrough and renewed perspective, and treating psychiatric conditions including: 

  • End-of-life anxiety and depression. 
  • Alcohol and tobacco addiction. 
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder. 
  • Treatment-resistant major depression. 

Multiple trials, volunteer studies, and clinical studies have shown that these treatments can have a rapid and lasting positive impact on mental health, often after just one or two doses. A truly incredible reality.

It seems quite obvious to me that these ‘illegal’ mushrooms can help. We keep trying to treat mental health conditions with chemical-ridden pharmaceutical drugs that often just make the conditions worse, when there’s a completely natural solution right in front of us. These mushrooms grow in the ground, not a lab, and are clearly designed by nature to connect with us, work with us, and heal us, physically and mentally. 

We’ve barely even scratched the surface when it comes to the potential of psychedelic mushrooms for healing our minds. Maybe if we legalised them, studied them more deeply, and started sharing their healing properties with the world, they might gift us the mental clarity and wisdom to grow as individuals, and then, as a collective as well.

We keep trying to treat mental health conditions with chemical-ridden pharmaceutical drugs that often just make the conditions worse, when there’s a completely natural solution right in front of us. These mushrooms grow in the ground, not a lab, and are clearly designed by nature to connect with us, work with us, and heal us, physically and mentally. 

(Thankfully the legalisation of these magical little friends is already well under way in the States, and once the Americans do something, the dominoes tend to start falling all over the western world.)

Healing the Soul 

Can mushrooms bring us closer to ‘god’? I mean nobody knows really but this picture sure is groovy!

I’m not going to dive too far into this one, as obviously there can be no objective evidence that mushrooms help to ‘heal the soul’ or to ‘deepen ones spirituality’, regardless of how many people claim that they’ve ‘tripped out on shrooms and talked to god.’ I mean we don’t even know for sure if the soul is actually a thing.

So all I will say is this: Regardless of spiritual or religious beliefs, it’s easier to be happy when you’re healthy, and mushrooms can help us achieve that. Connection to a ‘higher power’, or ‘deeper purpose’ may very well come as a result. Maybe that deeper purpose might come in the form of a collective effort to save the planet? 

A Mushroom a Day Keeps the Apocalypse at Bay: Healing the Planet

Mushrooms are the ‘great facilitators’, the ‘glue that holds everything together’, the ‘bridge from sun to plants to human prosperity’.

So mushrooms can make us healthy, but what good is that when the planet’s already drawing up our eviction papers? The planet is becoming inhospitable and we need to do everything we can to reverse the damage we’ve done. We still have time to save ourselves, and yes, you guessed it, mushrooms can help us do it. 

Fungal mycelia holds the soil together, helps it retain water, and makes its nutrients available to vegetation. Certain species use their mycelia to envelop or penetrate plant roots, contributing nitrogen compounds and mineral salts in exchange for sugars from the host organism. Mushroom-producing fungi also feed animals, and animals return the favour by spreading fungal spores. Basically, mushrooms make everything work. They are the ‘great facilitators’, the ‘glue that holds everything together’, the ‘bridge from sun to plants to human prosperity’. 

Mushrooms were the first organism on this planet to live on land, and they are responsible for creating a liveable environment for plants and animals to prosper. Unfortunately, we have done our very best to push that environment to the verge of destruction. Here’s how mushrooms can help make it liveable again.

Boosting Reforestation 

As I’ve mentioned already, mushrooms make everything work. They allow plants and trees to grow bigger and stronger by helping their roots absorb nutrients and water from the soil. This, in turn, allows plants to absorb energy from the sun through photosynthesis, which makes it possible for animals to thrive as well. Mushrooms can even be used in micro-forestry to kill sickness in other plants, as they can live off the bacteria that make other plants sick. 

Mushrooms and trees are connected through their root systems, and they help each other prosper.

As well as the natural maintenance of forests and other ecosystems, different types of fungi are already being used in human-led reforestation efforts in Scotland and China. It seems clear from these examples that if we’re going to grow enough trees in time to rebalance the CO2 levels in the atmosphere, mushrooms are going to be essential to our success. 

Tackling Toxic Pollution

Through a process known as mycoremediation mushrooms can be used to clean up all sorts of polluted areas and damaged habitats. Different types of fungi are able to secrete digestive enzymes which work to break down various contaminants. Mushrooms are incredibly effective at the following: 

  • Cleaning polluted water.
  • Removing pollution from soil. 
  • Cleaning up oil spills. 
  • Remediating radioactive contamination and waste.

It’s incredible really. We have made such a royal mess of this planet, spilling oil and filth and radioactive waste all over the rivers, oceans and lands, and it turns out, mushrooms are actually capable of ‘eating’ all these toxic chemicals and converting them into harmless organic matter. Now if that doesn’t sound like magic, I don’t know what does? 

Turning Plastic Waste into Organic Matter and Food 

Here’s something else that sounds like magic. What if I told you there was a way to just wave a magic wand, and make all the mountains of plastic we have piling up around the world simply disappear? Okay so it’s not quite as simple as that, but it’s still pretty magical: there is one particular species of mushroom that can survive on a diet of pure plastic. A flipping mushroom that eats plastic! I mean isn’t that surely the answer to all our problems? Our single-use plastic packaging problems at least? 

This truly majestical ‘Pestalotiopsis Microspora’ mushroom can also live without oxygen, making it perfectly suitable for landfill clean-up. Scientists are hopeful that mushroom-based community composting centres and home recycling kits will soon replace landfills altogether, which could go a long way to eradicating rubbish entirely. I mean imagine if we could just use mushrooms to eat all the garbage? It really just might be possible. 

The plastic devouring ‘Pestalotiopsis Microspora‘ mushroom. What a beautiful beast.

There’s actually another type of mushroom called the ‘oyster’ mushroom that can transform plastic waste into an edible biomass that’s completely free of any toxicity. I mean my goodness gracious me, a mushroom with the ability to turn plastic waste into food? Just imagine the possibilities. The more plastic we remove from the world, the more mouths we feed? It’s just simply incredible. 

Revolutionising Consumer Products (In a Sustainable Way)

There’s an initiative called the FungusChain project that’s transforming mushroom waste into usable eco-friendly products. There’s a company called Ecovative Design that uses mycelium to produce compostable packaging, skincare products, leather alternatives, clothes, bags, shoes, and all sorts of other stuff. It’s really quite astonishing how many things you can make out of mushrooms. Here’s a list:

  • Plastic bag alternatives.
  • Cling film.
  • Cleaning products.
  • ‘Rubber’ gloves. 
  • Food additives. 
  • Building bricks.
  • Material for clothes, bags and other accessories. 
  • Robust and compostable packaging.
  • Skincare products. 
Is this a nice bag? I don’t know. Is it even a bag? Maybe it’s a purse? Why don’t we just call it a smooner? Anyways, I think it’s as stylish as style itself, and it’s made entirely out of mushrooms. Woopa!

The possibilities really do seem endless. It could very soon be the reality that instead of carrying your new pair of plastic-based rubber gloves home in a plastic bag wearing a polystyrene (plastic) outfit to clean your house with artificial chemical-based cleaning products, you could be carrying your brand spanking new mushroom gloves home in a mushroom bag wearing mushroom clothes to clean your mushroom house with your mushroom-based cleaning products. Okay so maybe you won’t be living in a mushroom house, but who knows what the future might hold right?

Point is, we can make a whole lot of products that would normally be made out of plastic and chemicals, with mushrooms instead. And we should.

Making Batteries more Powerful and Better for the Environment

Is there anything mushrooms can’t do? It seems like their magic knows no bounds. 

As if the mushrooms haven’t done enough for us already, they can even be used to make batteries more efficient; helping conserve energy while also replacing non-renewable materials such as graphite. 

In 2015, researchers created a new type of lithium-ion battery using portobello mushrooms, which are inexpensive, environmentally friendly, and easy to produce, replacing the high-cost and environmentally damaging graphite. 

The mushroom batteries are actually more powerful than the graphite ones, and last longer, all while being much cheaper to produce and better for the environment. I mean is there anything mushrooms can’t do? It seems like their magic knows no bounds. 

I Take it Back 

I started this post by saying I’m not a huge fan of mushrooms. Well, I take it back. Entirely back. I’m a tremendously big fan of mushrooms. I couldn’t be a bigger fan of mushrooms. Mushrooms are God. Mushrooms are everything. Mushrooms are my one and only true love. Mushrooms, simply put, are life. 

Mushroom tea anyone? Yes please.

Mushrooms may not be able to stop a no-deal Brexit, de-clownify a presidency, or immediately solve inequality, but they can make us healthy, help the trees grow back, remove toxic pollution and plastic waste from the world, offer sustainable product solutions across multiple industries, power all our phones and gadgets and electric cars more efficiently, and maybe, even offer us a little drop of ancient cosmic wisdom as well.

They may not be the answer to all our problems, but mushrooms can go a long way to helping us live on this planet for years to come. And it wouldn’t be the first time.

We would certainly be lost without them.

About the Author

Adam Millett is a freelance writer for hire with an affinity for dressing up as Spiderman and writing about saving the planet. He likes to climb trees and stare at the stars in his spare time and likes to help businesses tell their sustainability stories while he’s working. Visit his website at wordchameleon.com if you want to tell the world yours.

We are what we Eat – and that’s why we’re Fucked! (But Kelp can Help)

I don’t think it’s news to anyone these days that our planet is in trouble, and that one of the reasons we find ourselves in such a mess has to do with the way we eat. How we choose to farm our food, how we process it, package it, transport it, and what it is we actually choose to eat has a massive effect on the world around us, for good or for bad, and lately we’ve been putting all our red-meat-wrapped, methane-soaked, factory-farmed, chemical-ridden, anti-nutritional eggs in the bad basket. Well if a quite brilliant man named Bren Smith has anything to do with it, the good basket might soon be gaining some weight, and he’s going to fill it with seaweed!   

Bren Smith is a fisherman turned ‘restorative ocean farmer’, and quite honestly is such an inspirational figure I wanted to just write this article about his unrivalled suitability for the role of ‘president of the world’, but I think he would agree that it’s more important to talk about what he, and many like him, are trying to create; a food system that works for everyone, including the planet. 

How we choose to farm our food, how we process it, package it, transport it, and what it is we actually choose to eat has a massive effect on the world around us, for good or for bad.

At the age of just 14 years old, Mr. Smith left school to become a fisherman, and spent over 20 years working within the industrialised fishing economy, ‘tearing up entire ecosystems’ in ‘one of the most unsustainable forms of food production on the planet’. When the cod stocks crashed in the 90’s, thousands of fisherman were thrown out of work, and Mr. Smith knew that something had to change.

Today, he has envisioned exactly what that change needs to look like, and is leading the push to make it a widespread reality. As an alternative to plundering the oceans and polluting the skies in search of ever-dwindling fish stocks, Mr. Smith has designed a method of ‘3D Ocean Farming’ which involves growing kelp and high-value shellfish in a way that actually improves the health of the oceans. Not only that, he has set up a not-for-profit called GreenWave that aims to help others become 3D Ocean Farmers by giving the designs away for free, as well as providing all sorts of other financial and educational support. Pretty amazing stuff, but I did say that I wasn’t going to write this post as a stars-in-my-eyes tribute to the magnificence of Mr. Smith, so I think it’s time we talked about kelp.

What’s so Great about Kelp?

Kelp can sequester up to 20 times more CO2 per acre than forests.

Kelp is a type of seaweed, or ‘macroalgae’, and has a whole load of benefits. Not only is it an extremely nutritional food, it also helps de-acidify the oceans, can sequester up to 20 times more CO2 per acre than forests, and can be used as organic fertiliser, animal feed, biofuel, and a number of other wonderful things. Sounds tremendous right? But what’s the catch? You know what? There is no catch. Just more details below about how great it is!

Great for the Planet 

Kelp draws in so much CO2 from the water around it that it actually helps de-acidify the ocean, which provides an ideal environment for shell growth, which in turn help to clean the water as well. I don’t think there’s any need to elaborate on why sequestering CO2 from the atmosphere and cleaning up the oceans is an essential thing for the future of the planet, and since Kelp seems to do these things so effectively, I think it’s very reasonable to start yelling from the rooftops: ‘All hail master kelp! All hail master kelp! We need seaweed we need seaweed to grow and save the planet’s health! 

Great for the Health

Kelp is good for you. Very good for you. It is packed full of calcium, copper, iodide and iron, and is also rich in protein, fibre, and vitamins, while being low in calories and fat. Sounds pretty ideal. It is thought to help lower blood pressure, promote heart health, assist the body in fighting illness and disease, and ultimately lead to increased life-expectancy. Sounds like it could be worth our while munching down the odd seaweed salad or two. 

Other Uses and Benefits 

Kelp and other seaweed’s can be used as natural fertilisers so beautiful fruit and veg like this can be grown without the use of artificial chemical poison.

Kelp seems to dramatically improve the health of everything it touches, and it’s possible uses stretch far beyond just super-nutritious food and saving the oceans. Here are some of the main ones. 

  • It works well as a natural fertiliser, improving soil quality while negating the need to use pollution heavy industrial fertilisers.
  • It can be used as animal feed, and it has even been reported that ingestion of kelp can significantly reduce the amount of methane produced by cows. (Methane is a very potent greenhouse gas; so kelp-fed farts are happier farts! 
  • Kelp can be used as a biofuel, and may have the potential to one day replace fossil fuels! 
  • Another huge advantage of kelp is the speed at which it grows; at rates more than 30 times that of land-plants, making it a super-efficient option. 

So it’s pretty damn clear that kelp, can help! In a number of incredible ways. But it’s not just kelp we’re talking about here, it’s the innovative method of ocean farming designed by our main man Bren Smith that might really help to save the world. So what exactly is 3D Ocean Farming? Well we’re about to find out.

3D Ocean Farming

3D Ocean Farming is a restorative method of ocean farming where seaweed (kelp) and mussels grow in the water on vertical floating ropes, with oysters and clam cages underneath. By de-acidifying the water around it, the kelp creates the ideal conditions for the cultivation of the shellfish, which in turn help to further clean the water. This is all done in a vertical design that utilises the entire depth of the water, so maximum produce can be farmed from a significantly smaller area. Where as most agricultural systems are often quite resource-intensive, and can damage the environment through use of fertilisers and pesticides, 3D Ocean Farming requires very few resources, and actually restores environmental health. You can see in the image below how it might work. 

A groovy illustration of how a 3D Ocean Farm might look.

The Benefits of 3D Ocean Farming 

According to GreenWave, the not-for-profit founded by Bren Smith that is working to help grow and improve 3D Ocean Farming around the world, farming roughly 5% of US waters could achieve the following: 

  • Produce the protein equivalent to 3 trillion cheeseburgers. (That’s a whole lotta beef!)
  • Sequester 135 million tonnes of Carbon and 10 million tonnes of Nitrogen a year.
  • Reduce the methane output from cattle by over 58%.
  • Create 50 million new jobs.

3D Ocean Farms can also serve as storm-surge protectors, artificial reefs that attract more than 150 species of aquatic life, and they require absolutely no fresh water, fertilisers, pesticides, or feed, adding to the already monumental list of environmental and economic benefits of growing food this way. Referring to his move from traditional farming methods to 3D Ocean Farming in a wonderful article he wrote on Medium, Mr. Smith states that his farm ‘used to be 100 acres; now it’s down to 20 acres, but it produces much more food than before.’

So 3D Ocean Farming really does seem like a great idea both economically and environmentally, and the good news is, it is growing in all the right ways. 

3D Ocean Farms require absolutely no fresh water, fertilisers, pesticides, or feed, adding to the already monumental list of environmental and economic benefits of growing food this way.

A New Economy 

Okay so I know we’re not talking about tomatoes here, or maybe we are talking about tomatoes? I just don’t know anymore. Either way, I chose this photo to illustrate the act of sharing, which is exactly what Bren Smith did with his 3D Ocean Farming design. Sharing is an essential ingredient of the community-driven ‘new-economy’. (I also chose the photo because I fugging love tomatoes!)

As I mentioned earlier, although Mr. Smith is responsible for designing this innovative method of farming, instead of opting to patent or franchise it, he decided to make the design available to others for free. He set up a not-for-profit called GreenWave which is dedicated to helping other people start their own farms, using his design! This is such a refreshing break from the usual capitalistic tendency to maximise personal profit above all else. In that same article he wrote on Medium, Mr. Smith repeatedly talks about ‘the old economy’ and how it is ‘built on the arrogance of growth at all costs, profiting from pollution, and the refusal to share economic gains with 99 percent of (people.) Rejecting the principles of this old economy, it is through ‘new-economy’ principles of collaboration, community-driven innovation, shared profits, and meeting social needs that GreenWave is helping to proliferate the 3D Ocean Farming revolution. 

GreenWave guarantee to purchase 80 percent of all farmers crops for the first five years at triple the market rate.

They have open-sourced the farming model so that ‘anybody with 20 acres and a boat and $30,000 can start his or her own farm.’ That may sound like a lot, but it would be a whole lot more if Mr. Smith had decided to patent the design instead of sharing it. GreenWave also provide all new farmers with startup grants, access to free seed, gear donated by Patagonia, two years of free consulting, and most incredibly, they guarantee to purchase 80 percent of all farmers crops for the first five years at triple the market rate.

Now I’ve never bolded something in the middle of a blog post before, but I just find that last bit absolutely astonishing, and entirely worthy of a good bolding! One of the biggest factors that’s likely to deter new farmers from joining this planet-saving aquacultural revolution is likely to be the fear of economic struggle or failure, and GreenWave have absolutely unanimously incredibly mitigated that fear by virtually guaranteeing all new farmers economic stability for the first five years of their venture. I mean that really is something. 

So it’s clear that 3D Ocean Farming and the absolute Goddess of the ocean that is kelp can have a big part to play in solving the climate crisis, and could also play a significant role in ushering in the circular economy. (A fascinating economic system of the future that you can read more about in this blog post.) It’s also clear that a whole lot is being done to ensure that 3D Ocean Farming becomes a popular and profitable farming method, for the people, and not just for the big bad corporations. So what could possibly be stopping it from instant global domination? Well, more than anything, it’s that same old pesky pest that just loves itself a bit of planet bashing trouble……. Us.

Help Kelp to Help Us

If we want to harness the full potential of kelp’s planet-saving capabilities, we have to start eating the flipping stuff. It may not be a big juicy steak, but this does look at least a little delicious?

As I’ve already mentioned a tremendous number of times in this article, the benefits of kelp float (haha) far beyond just providing us with a nutritious meal, but we do still need to start eating the stuff if we want to increase it’s production. More demand for kelp equals more 3D Ocean Farms, equals more kelp in the water, equals less CO2 in the environment and acid in the seas. The biggest immediate increase in demand for kelp can be created by choosing to eat it, and that’s where the main problem might lie; will people really be willing to swap the sweet big mac’s for the seaweed snacks??

Your guess is as good as mine on that one. Mr. Smith suggests that ‘as the price of fertilizer, water, and feed goes up, zero-input food (such as 3D Ocean Farmed Kelp) is going to be the most affordable food on the planet. The economics of it will drive us to eat ocean greens.’

So maybe the supply is destined to create the demand in this case, as opposed to the other way around, but either way, adding the odd seaweed sandwich or two to our diets certainly won’t do our chances of saving the planet any harm.

About the Author

Adam Millett is a freelance writer for hire with an affinity for dressing up as Spiderman and writing about saving the planet. He likes to climb trees and stare at the stars in his spare time and likes to help businesses tell their sustainability stories while he’s working. Visit his website at wordchameleon.com if you want to tell the world yours.

Gone Farming 

I haven’t posted on the wall for a while, my goodness, it’s been a month and a flaming half! But worry not, I certainly haven’t stopped building it, and the posts will be coming thick and fast and skinny and quick from now on. I’ve been pre-occupied the last few months volunteering on sustainable farms in Portugal while also setting up a freelance writing service which focuses on helping planet-conscious businesses with their communications. So it’s been busy busy busy times but I have returned from the farm with a wealth of knowledge, experience, sunburn, aching muscles, questionable tattoos, a couple of vineyard related scars, a hankering for fresh fruit and veg, and bucket loads of sustainable agriculture shaped joy and appreciation that I’m very keen to start sharing with the world. (I did manage to keep the Facebook page regularly updated with heartwarming, hope-restoring news from around the world if you’re in the market for daily bouts of positivity and hilarious posting skills.) (Wink wink.)

A quality farm selfie.

What the WWOOF?

Now that I’m back from the farm and writing full time again I shall be posting much more regularly on here about all sorts of interesting stuff but first I wanted to do a little post about my farming experience, because that’s interesting stuff too! I was farming as a member of what’s called the ‘WWOOFing’ community, making me a ‘WWOOFer’, which because of my extreme fondness for daft and ridiculous words made the whole experience even more rewarding; I’m a flaming WWOOFer for Spiderman’s sake, I mean what could be better than that? Nothing, that’s what.

WWOOF stands for ‘worldwide opportunities on organic farms’, and it’s an international movement that links curious volunteers such as myself with organic farmers and growers around the world. WWOOFing gives people with an interest in sustainability, green business, and self-sufficient living a chance to learn about and experience these things hands-on, while also providing organic farmers with a cost-effective way of finding enthusiastic ‘helping hands’ to work on their farms. (Believe me, there’s always plenty of work to be done.) So how does WWOOFing work? Well if you’re brave enough to move on to the next paragraph, I’m about to explain the whole process! (Don’t worry, it’s not too scary. Actually, it’s not scary at all. It’s like, the opposite of scary. It’s yracs? Time to move on.)

‘WWOOF’ is an international movement that links curious volunteers with organic farmers and growers around the world.

How does WWOOFing work?

So how does WWOOFing work? It’s actually incredibly simple to become a WWOOFer (hahaha, it gets me every time, WWOOFer!), and if you decide it’s something you want to do, you could be off around the world WWOOFing within weeks. First I’ll give you some of the main things you need to know about WWOOFing, and then I’ll give you a step-by-step run-through of how to set up your WWOOFing adventure. And yes, I am trying to type WWOOF as many times as possible in this post, because why the WWOOF not? Hehe, here’s some of the main things you need to know about WWOOFing. 

Things you should know

  • You don’t get paid.

You won’t earn a wage as a WWOOFer, but you will receive free room and board (accommodation and food) in exchange for your effort on the farm. I WWOOF’d in two different places and the food and accommodation in both was tremendous.

  • It’s (basically) free to sign up.

It’s 15 euro for a years membership on the Portuguese WWOOFing site, which allows you to apply to as many farms as you want within the year. I mean 15 euro for a year? That’s organically grown, sustainably produced beans if you ask me!

  • It’s incredibly affordable. 

Once you’ve arranged transport to your farm of choice, you can actually survive without any money. All meals are provided, as well as a place to sleep, so if you’re not flush with cash all the basics are there. There’s no reason you couldn’t WWOOF for a year on 500 euro or so (transport between farms and a little spending money), but if you’re like me, when I WWOOF’d in the Algarve, a little extra cash came in handy. (Wine wine wine.)

  • You can WWOOF nearly anywhere.

Seriously, you can find WWOOFer friendly farms in most countries in the world, so set sail, we’re going on a WWOOFventure! (couldn’t resist.)

All the green and yellow countries are WWOOF friendly. Now that’s quite a portion of the globe!
  • You will live on the farm. 

Maybe this one was obvious, but just in case it wasn’t, as a WWOOFer, you will be living on the farm with the people who run it, so get ready to meet your new farming family! 

  • It’s easy to organise, and incredibly fun and educational. 

How to sign up

It’s as simple as sausages

So how do you sign up? It’s flipping simple. Here’s a step-by-step guide.

1. Choose your location.

Because WWOOFing basically spans the entirety of the globe, each country organises it’s own community, and has it’s own website, so you need to choose your location and sign up to the WWOOFing community in your country of choice before you can start applying to farms. You can choose your location here.

2. Register with your chosen community. 

Whichever country you choose to WWOOF in, you will have to sign up to that particular website before you can start applying. Just sign up, pay the very minimal yearly fee, and then you’re ready to move on to step 3!

3. Create your personal bio. 

You will then have to create a bio with some information about you. What you’re all about, why you want to be a WWOOFer, previous farming experience, dietary requirements, all that kind of stuff. Don’t worry, it’s very light-hearted, and pretty much all the farms are happy taking people on who have no farming experience whatsoever. (Like me.)

The bio section looks like this!

4. Find a farm you like. 

There are loads of different farms, and it’s important that you find one that suits you. I for example wanted to work on my writing while I was WWOOFing, so I needed somewhere with WIFI, and a room to myself so I had a quiet place to work. I also wanted a farm where I was the only WWOOFer there in order to limit distractions. This was easy to organise. Each farm has to set up their own WWOOF profile, where they detail things like accommodation type, cooking arrangements, number of other WWOOFers staying, work schedule etc, so it’s easy to find a farm that’s suited to your needs.

5. Reach out to the farm. 

Once you’ve found a farm you fancy, send them a message through the WWOOF platform explaining your motivations for choosing them and boom, you’re nearly done. It doesn’t usually take long to receive an answer. 

6. Get accepted. 

Not all farms will accept you, as they may be booked up or not accepting WWOOFers at that particular time. (you can check their calendar before you apply.) Just wait for your ‘visit request’ to be confirmed, and hey presto! You’re ready for your adventure. (My goodness I haven’t said ‘hey presto’ in a while. I wonder how presto’s doing these days? Hey Presto, how’s it going? Aaaaah good man Presto, good to see you. Nice hat Presto, I’m pretty impressed yo, did you buy it in Tesco? Okay, let’s go. (To number 7.) 

7. Sort your transport. 

Once your visit request has been accepted all you have to do is book your transport, pack your bags, and gooooooooooooooo farming. Woooo, see, told you it was flipping simple!

8. Go. 

This may involve getting on a bus, or a plane, or a combination of the two, maybe even a train, but basically, put one foot in front of the other, repeat for an unspecified number of steps, and voila, you’re a WWOOFer. 

No particular reason why I’m putting this photo here, I was just pretty proud of the photo and wanted to include it somewhere. This flower was queen of the vineyard! (In this photo at least)

So that’s pretty much everything you need to know about setting up your WWOOFing adventure, it’s as simple as sausages, but what are the main benefits of becoming a WWOOFer? And what can you expect to learn from your WWOOFing experience? Well now, you’ll just have to wait and see won’t you? Just kidding, all shall be revealed in the next section.

Why go WWOOFing? 

The main benefits 

I’ve gone bullet point crazy in this post, but it’s that kind of post isn’t it? Is it? Who knows. But anyways, here are the main benefits of going WWOOFing. (In bullet points!)

  • Learning

From my experience, WWOOFing is incredibly educational. From running a farm using only natural methods, to processing, bottling, and marketing organic wine, to living a self-sufficient, planet-friendly lifestyle, I really did learn so much. If you choose a farm that’s aligned with your interests and learning goals, and you approach your WWOOFing experience with an open mind and a willingness to soak up information, you will learn a tremendous amount. 

  • Travelling (on the cheap)

WWOOFing presents the opportunity to travel the world on the smallest of budgets. After paying for my flight to Portugal (about 50 euro one-way), and my bus from Lisbon to the farm (about 20 euro), I’m pretty sure I only spent about 20 euro in the first month I was there, and that was on a beer, an ice cream, and a flowery cork hat (which I ended up losing at the beach, don’t ask me how!). The point is, WWOOFing allows you to pretty much travel the world for nothing more than the cost of the transport. 

My wonderful flowery cork hat, currently owned by some lucky randomer who must have found it on the beach!
  • Experiencing the local culture (for real)

This isn’t just a regular holiday where you barely scratch the surface of the place you’re staying. You will be living with the people/family who run the farm, and they are likely to be connected and immersed in the local community. One of my favourite things about my WWOOFing experience was meeting the locals and experiencing their way of life. At one point I found myself in a neighbours house with their family drinking homemade wine, cracking fresh walnuts straight from the farm, and cooking chorizo sausage over a tray filled with burning alcohol. Apparently this is a post-work tradition in the area of rural Portugal I was staying. I was there with my WWOOFing family and the neighbours family, and I could really feel that I was having a genuine experience of rural Portuguese family life. Now you certainly won’t get that on your all expenses paid three-star package holiday to tourismville. WWOOFing is the way to go if you’re looking for an authentic insight into local life, wherever you may choose to WWOOF. 

  • Meeting wonderful people

I met so many fascinating characters and lovely people while WWOOFing. Not just the people who hosted me, but their friends and neighbours as well, and the locals I met while adventuring around on my bicycle. I really did make some friends for life, and I couldn’t say a better word about any of my hosts. I think something like WWOOFing tends to attract kind, wholesome, insightful, knowledgeable people who share a passion for helping the planet and sharing their experiences. I would imagine that wherever you decide to WWOOF, you would be surrounding yourself with top-notch humans. 

A selfie with one of my hosts, a wonderful woman named Christine.
  • Staying healthy 

Working on the farm, any farm, inevitably involves being outdoors and constantly exercising, and it’s likely this will be coupled with eating mainly fresh, healthy, organic food. Not a bad combination for staying healthy. The peace of the farm and working with the land is also great for nourishing the mind and spirit, and I would highly recommend it. 

So those are the main WWOOF shaped benefits I can think of, and there really are no downsides. Also, if you’re a host, you get enthusiastic people to help you on your farm for the very reasonable price of a bed and a bit of food; not a bad deal all in all I would say. 

What did I learn? 

Everyone is different, every farm is different, and every WWOOFing experience is different, so I’m not going to go into detail about the specific work I was doing on each farm or anything like that. You can read about the kind of work you can expect to be doing on each farm’s WWOOFing profile, so instead, here are some of the main insights I picked up while working on the farm and learning from my hosts. 

  • Nature is beautiful. (And can surprise you)

Okay so I didn’t learn this for the first time on the farm, but I was certainly reminded of it. Nature is beautiful, and I’m not just talking about big wondrous landscapes and brightly coloured flowers; one of the loveliest things I saw on the farm was ants. I was in the middle of placing bio-degradable sheeting around wine trees in the vineyard to control weed growth and direct as much energy to the wine trees as possible when I noticed three particular ants. (There were a whole lot of ants.) One of the ants was injured, and the two other ants were carrying the injured ant back to the nest. This really reminded me that things like intelligence, awareness, love, and compassion are very much present all around us. Humans are not ‘the be all and end all’, and we’re not the only ones who care for our neighbours and friends. I think it’s important to remember that. 

Okay so this isn’t a picture of the ants, I didn’t get a picture of that, but I did get this picture of wasps/hornets/bees/superheroes building their nest. I mean wow. The colours of the insects and the geometric shapes in the nest, it’s just flaming flipping flooping wonderful.
  • Everything we do has consequences. (The butterfly effect)

On the farm you quickly realise that every little action has consequences, and this is a lesson that applies to everyday life as well. If I use too much water while watering the plants in the orchard there may not be enough water for the neighbour to water her plants, and if she can’t water her plants they may wither and die, meaning the bees and insects will lose their home, meaning the birds will lose their source of food, meaning bigger plants and trees may have trouble dispersing their seeds, meaning plant life and wildlife in the local and wider area may begin to disappear etc etc etc. This of course is an extreme example, but you get the point. What seem like insignificant actions in life, can have significant ‘knock-on’ effects. Everything is connected, and this becomes much more obvious on the farm. 

  • Change is the only thing that’s constant. (Nothing lasts, and that’s okay)

When dealing with crops and plants that give fruits and flowers and then shrivel up and die it becomes crystal clear that everything has it’s day in the sun, however long that may be, and then it dies and decomposes, so that other things can grow. (And that includes us!) There was one particular plant I saw that only flowers for one night in the year. You could actually see the flower appear over the space of 12 hours, open up gradually, bloom, and then close and fall off by the following day. I think there are lessons to be learned here for everyday life as well. We tend to worry so much about change while trying to cling on to what’s familiar, we forget that change is inevitable and natural. Whether it’s a failed relationship, an old job or house, whatever it is, old ways will die, and new ways will bloom, and the more openly and willingly we embrace this constant change, the more enjoyable our lives will be. Think like the flowers maaaaaaaaaaaaan; and you will bloom.

(WordPress doesn’t let you put a caption below a ‘gallery’ for some reason, the silly sausages, so I shall put the caption at the top instead. The gallery below consists of photos taken over a 12-15 hour period. The flower was fully shut around 3pm, began opening around 6pm, was in full bloom by midnight, and was already half closed when I found it at 7am the next morning. By that afternoon it had fallen off the plant. This is a wonderful illustration of the fact that nothing lasts, but it can be beautiful while it does, and then, when it’s finished, we move on, and wait for the next bloom! (Such a beautiful flower though and the smell was something else.)

  • People can make a difference 

The first farm I volunteered on had been neglected before my hosts moved in. The land was basically barren and the trees were so diseased they weren’t giving fruit. The previous owner had left the land idle for over three years. But within a year, my hosts had transformed the place. The trees were giving more fruit than they could handle, there was veg growing everywhere, and there were newly planted trees growing all over the place. The insects and birds had moved in, and the place was a wildlife paradise! This really underlined for me the incredible effect people have on nature, either positive or negative. If we work with nature as a species, everyone, we can absolutely save this planet and turn it into a haven for humans, plants and animals alike. 

  • There are brilliant people out there in the world. (And they want to save the planet!)

It brought me great hope and comfort to witness first hand the passion and commitment people can have for making the world a better place. All my hosts and their friends and neighbours are incredibly dedicated to doing things as naturally and organically as possible. Not using chemicals, treating the land and nature with respect, minimising waste and plastic use, only buying ethically sourced goods. All of these things and much much more. These people are more than willing to put in the extra time, effort, and finances to make a real difference for the planet, and it’s inspirational to witness. I will try my best to do the same myself. 

Happy WWOOFing

Here’s a heart-shaped leaf I found while working on the farm. At first I thought it was a special leaf because it was shaped like a heart, but then I realised that all the leaves from that particular tree were heart-shaped, but then I realised that all the leaves were special, because everything is special, especially a bunch of hearts, which is what the human race is.

So that’s it really, it’s been an absolute WWOOF of a time writing this post, and I hope you found it WWOOFfull (that works as useful doesn’t it?) Haha, anyways, if you’re interested in sustainability or self-sufficiency or green business or even if you just wanna travel on the cheap, I would absolutely recommend WWOOFing as an option to consider. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and intend to WWOOF again in the near future.

Aaaaaaaaah, it sure is nice to post on the wall again. Do stay tuned for plenty more interesting posts in the near future. Cheerio dudes.

WWOOF WWOOF.

About the Author

Adam Millett is a freelance writer, blogger, and published poet with an affinity for dressing up as Spiderman and writing about saving the planet. He likes to climb trees and stare at the stars in his spare time and likes to help sustainable businesses tell the world their stories while he’s working. Visit his website at wordchameleon.com if you want to tell the world yours.