A Wall of Hope First!

A first for A Wall of Hope; a guest post!

In this post, Jess Lohmann, author of children’s eco-fantasy book ‘Lily Bowers and the Uninvited Guest’ discusses what the book is all about, her inspiration for writing it, and her hope that it will show children everywhere that they have the power to change this world for the better.

Have a read and spread the word about this beautifully inspirational children’s tale, which is the first of a three-book ‘eco-fantasy’ series.

Lily Bowers and the Uninvited Guest – By Jess Lohmann

“Nature inspires. Nature heals. Nature needs our help.  Mother Nature is calling upon us to tune in to nature and respect all she takes care of.”

Jess Lohmann, Speaker for Animals & Nature

Hello

I’m Jess Lohmann, Speaker for Animals & Nature – through my writing I help children and young people connect with and get active protecting Mother Nature.  A Wall of Hope exists for “positivity, for inspiration, and for reasons to believe in ourselves and this wonderful world around us”. I’m 100% aligned with this and hope I can do this justice with my own message of R-E-S-P-E-C-T. 

I’m here to help reignite (com)passion for Mother Nature, particularly through the eyes of children and young people, who’ll be responsible for stewarding our planet from today and all the tomorrows to come. I’ll be sharing snippets from my own story and also including thoughts from Lily Bowers, the ten-year-old girl in my eco fantasy books who connects so well with children, animals and nature alike.

About Lily Bowers and the Uninvited Guest

Lily Bowers and the Uninvited Guest was published on April 24, 2019: World Day for Laboratory Animals. The German version (Lily Bowers und der ungebetene Gast) was published on December 10, 2020: World Animal Day. It’s currently being translated into Spanish and Finnish as well.

When Mother Nature herself is threatened by animal cruelty, only Lily can save her. To do this, she must mobilize all her new animal friends in her beloved forest. The same forest where the Brothers Grimm once travelled. But first, there’s a horrible bully at her new school to deal with. Lily knows she’ll need to call on all her courage to convince the rest of the world that nature must come first.

Mother Nature: idea creation by Jess Lohmann, illustrated by Heather Brockman-Lee

This book is the first of an eco fantasy series that shows kids they really do have the power and influence to make a difference and change the world. And save animals. The first book is about animal testing, the second one (already in the pipeline) focuses on the animal farming industry and the third one will be about saving marine life.

Lily and her friends (2-legged, 4-legged and more) are on an urgent mission to address animal testing. We see caring Lily learn about the issue and become increasingly impassioned when she registers the impact. What to do about it? Without giving everything away, suffice to say that Lily and Co. embark on a journey, packed with learning, yet realistic in the highs and lows that she experiences in tackling a seemingly insurmountable challenge.

Lily and Alo, the wolf and her BAFF (best animal friend forever), Illustrated by Antonia Drews

Where did it all start?

My parents raised me to respect nature and animals. My mom rescued wild animals, nursed them back to health and released them. We went camping, lived near a forest area growing up on Long Island, New York. I worked for veterinarians throughout high school and college.

After they passed, I realized I wanted to make more of an impact and inspire others to do the same because right now, we’re destroying all that we need to be able to not only thrive on this planet, but also to survive.

After reading a book about creativity — Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert — I felt inspired to write.  Since I was so connected with nature, I decided to inspire children, specifically preteens/juniors, and show them they have the power and influence to change the world. It then became very clear to me why I was on this beautiful Earth:

To save as many animals as humanly possible by promoting a deep ecological philosophy that all life matters (more on this later).

Mother Nature is pleading for us to work together to create a harmonious world full of healthy choices and opportunities for all animals, humans included.

A world with no more child labour, sweatshops, animal abuse and testing, harmful pesticides, GMOs and chemicals on the foods, clothes, cosmetics, meds and other products we consume.

And a world without poverty and war.

Why ‘eco fantasy’ works

I feel that when we respect Mother Nature and all she takes care of, we’re at peace with ourselves.  When we’re at peace with ourselves, we’re at peace with others. And when we’re at peace with others, we’ll have world peace. 

This is the main message in my book and my reader newsletter (Talk about Nature!) and I feel it can help heal our souls — and our planet.

‘Eco fantasy’ is my chosen genre for communicating with my readership. I’ve taken the most fitting elements from ‘deep ecology’ and ‘magic realism’ to encourage children and young people to build a movement to help Mother Nature.

According to Britannica, ‘deep ecology’ is:

an environmental philosophy and social movement based in the belief that humans must radically change their relationship to nature from one that values nature solely for its usefulness to human beings to one that recognizes that nature has an inherent value.”

‘Magic realism’ is the perfect genre for eco fantasy as, according to Wikipedia, “it paints a realistic view of the modern world while also adding magical elements”.  In essence, I don’t downplay the state of the world today.  However, I do seek to add a touch of fantasy with Lily’s ability to speak to animals (the language of ‘Animalish’) and Mother Nature taking form through shape shifting.

Lily Bowers and ‘Mother Nature’ in one of her many human forms, Illustrated by Antonia Drews

Communicating my main message about ‘respect’

I will continue to use these creative tools and a similar approach throughout the Lily Bowers series to communicate the ‘respect’ message. I’m confident it will inspire, rather than finger wag and blame or shame, whilst despairing at the grimness of it all. For example, I’m vegan and aware that some members of the vegan community can be overly vocal at times in expressing their more militant views.  However, the fact is that every human has their own values and views and that’s a good thing, because with our differences, we have the power to help create the respectful diverse world we want to live in together. But, we can only create this world if we respect each other at all times, even those who think differently. This is my philosophy and one that I’ll be embedding in Lily Bowers’ next mission to improve farm animal welfare in the upcoming book.

Contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

The Lily Bowers series is being increasingly recognized as a vehicle for educators to engage with children and young people to help them learn about the big issues that matter and inspire them to make a positive difference. Even more effective is channelling this learning through the Sustainable Development Goals framework. The United Nation’s SDGs are “the blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. They address the global challenges we face, including those related to poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, peace and justice”.

So, where does Lily fit into all this? Mother Nature’s certainly keeping her busy and asked her to team up to contribute to Goal #12 Climate Action, #14 Life Below Water and #15 Life on Land.  If we don’t get these SDGs right, we will drive our own species into extinction and then nothing else matters.

Lily’s also taken Goal #17 Partnerships to heart – without Lily’s loyal band of animal and human friends to cheerlead and help, it would be so much harder.

Indeed, I’ve found partnering with others who are mission-aligned to be a great way to increase positive impact. There are so many active people out there who care deeply about nature and animals too. I’m teaming up with others working with children and young people to address the same SDGs, finding synergy in opportunities that present themselves, such as recently becoming Project #101 on We Make Change, a global platform of 20,000 change-makers volunteering their skills to address the challenges the world faces today.

Final words

Remember that you too can inspire others to create positive change through respectful communication, understanding and listening.

How to Contact the Author and Buy the Book!

Showing The Billionaires How It’s Done 

What would you buy if you won over £100 million on the lottery? 

A fancy car? A whole load of fancy cars? A whole load of fancy houses with fancy garages where you could store all your fancy cars and never use them because you were off sailing from impossibly over-priced pretentiously pretentious port to impossibly over-priced pretentiously pretentious port on one of your multiple super yachts drinking £50k bottles of champagne for breakfast every morning while pondering which super car and super house and superly superflous ‘super’ indulgence you should spend some of your infinite ‘wealth’ on next? (Okay maybe you’d need a little more than £100 million for this kind of nonsense, but you know what I mean.)

On new year’s day 2019, while living in a rented terrace house in County Down, Frances and Patrick won £114.9 million on the EuroMillions lottery, and have since embarked on the ‘biggest lottery giveaway ever,’ giving over half their fortune away already in just less than two years.

It’s certainly a tempting lifestyle, and I can see how you might get sucked into it. Actually having that kind of money is incomprehensible to pretty much all of us, and it’s impossible for one to know how they’d react to it. It could go either way. 

I’d love to think that I’d use the money for good; give most of it away to people in need, invest in nature conservation projects and try to fix the planet, use the money to try and end homelessness for good. Maybe even invest in alternative money projects so money would no longer be a thing and we could move on to a better system of trade that works for everybody? These are all lovely thoughts.

But it’s just as likely that I’d be off around the world dancing on diamond-plated tables wearing diamond-plated shoes, jetting off to all the best party spots and paying people to drive me around in diamond-plated super cars because I couldn’t be bothered to learn how to drive myself. Maybe I’d even try and use the money to genetically engineer a Penguin that can speak to humans and likes to party? Maybe even a diamond-plated party Penguin? I mean who flaming knows how they’d react to winning that kind of money?

Well two quietly wonderful folks who may have reacted in the best way possible to winning that kind of money are Frances and Patrick Connolly from Northern Ireland.

On new year’s day 2019, while living in a rented terrace house in County Down, Frances and Patrick won £114.9 million on the EuroMillions lottery, and have since embarked on the ‘biggest lottery giveaway ever,’ giving over half their fortune away already in just less than two years.

Here is Frances and Patrick Connolly receiving their big bad cheque on New Year’s day 2019. They have already given away over half of their winnings!

At the time of the win Frances stated that “It’s going to be so much fun giving it away”, and that “the pleasure for me is going to be seeing their faces.”

Well the generous couple have certainly lived up to that promise and put smiles on many many faces since.

Here’s a look at how Frances and Patrick Connolly are showing people with more money than sense how they can use their bewildering privilege to make the world a better place. 

Taking Care of Family and Friends

After winning the gargantuan sum of money back in January 2019, Patrick Connolly stated that “I’ve got a wonderful wife, a wonderful family and wonderful friends, so this is the icing on the cake.”

I think it’s a wonderfully wholesome way of seeing things to consider family and friends the most important thing, with £114.9 million just being a welcome added extra. And it’s clear from the Connolly’s actions since winning the money that this was far from an empty statement, because as soon as their cake was covered in icing, they started scraping the icing back off and handing it out to the folks closest to them.

The Connollys could have bought a whole array of preposterous things with their winnings, like this diamond-plated turbo-charged cotton candy machine, but instead, they decided to give a whole load of their winnings away to their loved ones. Now that’s proper diamond-plated behaviour!

Within hours of winning the big prize, the couple started compiling a list of friends and families they wanted to help. They paid off mortgages for friends and family, gave all their nieces and nephews money to buy their own homes and bought homes for other friends and family, bought direct gifts for over 150 families, and generally secured the futures of the people closest to them. An incredible showing of generosity and a great example for all of us when we win the EuroMillions jackpot too!

Like any sane humans would do, the Connollys also secured their own future, buying a large bungalow with 5 acres of land near Hartlepool in the UK where they raised their kids. Apparently their estate agents were trying to show them castles and big country manors and they were having none of that extravagant nonsense, fair play to them.

Within hours of winning the big prize, the couple started compiling a list of friends and families they wanted to help. They paid off mortgages for friends and family, gave all their nieces and nephews money to buy their own homes and bought homes for other friends and family, bought direct gifts for over 150 families, and generally secured the futures of the people closest to them.

With financial futures secured for themselves and those closest to them, Frances and Patrick decided to spend the rest of the money on a fleet of environmentally questionable private jets and seventy five penthouse apartments in Las Vegas. Haha, just kidding, they did nothing of the sort!

With their loved ones taken care of, the Connollys immediately focused their attention on helping the wider community. What a pair of legendary legend legends.

Nourishing Communities Through Charity Work

Frances has been doing voluntary work since she was 9 years old, and before the lottery win she worked for years at the Aycliffe Young People’s Centre in England, so helping people in her community has always been a big part of her life. This did not come to a stop after she and Patrick hit the big time.

After helping out their family and friends, Frances and Patrick then committed assumedly a large chunk of their winnings to setting up two charities; the PFC Trust in Hartlepool, and the Kathleen Graham Trust in Northern Ireland. 

Just as it’s incomprehensible to imagine what it’s like to win nearly £115 million, it’s also incomprehensible to imagine the scale of the collective impact Frances and Patrick’s charity work has already had on people, and the impact it will continue to have in the future.

The PFC Trust 

The PFC Trust is dedicated to improving the lives and the life chances of the people of Hartlepool. The trust (so Frances and Patrick basically) provides funding for organisations that are already assisting people in the town. The charity’s guiding principal is about ‘helping people to help themselves,’ and they also strive to give guidance and to connect other relevant organisations where possible. 

The trust has so far supported an organisation called ‘The Poolie Time Exchange’ (which ‘offers trial job interviews, advice on money management, mindfulness workshops and exchanges of skills and knowledge’), provided funds for Hartlepool College of Further Education, and assisted many other organisations as you can see on their website. (When you consider the amount of money that must go into funding all of these projects and organisations, you realise; that’s a whole lot of generosity right there!)

Just a few of the things the PFC Trust is helping make possible by supporting the Poolie Time Exchange.

The Kathleen Graham Trust 

The Kathleen Graham Trust was named after Frances’s late mother Kathleen, apparently quite a generous soul herself, and was founded ‘to support and enrich the lives of all sections of the communities in Strabane and Belfast.’ 

As you can see here, just like the PFC trust, this charity is already helping some incredible organisations to flourish, and has no doubt improved the lives of countless people throughout these communities. (I mean Lamborghinis and super yachts are super nice and all, but what about setting up charities that result in entire communities of young and vulnerable people having a better quality of life and more opportunities for success than they would have had before? My goodness, now that sounds like a proper show of wealth to me.)

Other Charity Work

As well as setting up and funding these two charities, Frances also set up a small charity shop in Hartlepool called ‘Jumpers and More’ which provides free clothes and toiletries for refugees who arrive with nothing, and for local families who lose possessions in fires. She has also helped to pull together local food providers and soup kitchens in the north-east of England into a consortium, working together to feed the hungry.

Just as it’s incomprehensible to imagine what it’s like to win nearly £115 million, it’s also incomprehensible to imagine the scale of the collective impact Frances and Patrick’s charity work has already had on people, and the impact it will continue to have in the future.

So many people have already been positively effected by this work, and when you take the butterfly effect into account, the mind actually begins to boggle. 

And the boggling doesn’t stop there! Boggle boggle boggle, boggle.

As well as pouring money into their community-nourishing charities, Frances and Patrick just can’t seem to help themselves helping even more people outside of their official charity work. 

Constant Generosity 

It seems as if the Connollys have helped out pretty much everyone in need who’s crossed their path since their lottery win. 

Apparently, Frances actually gets up at 6am these days to answer all the messages and emails she receives, and has been known to work 18 hours a day on her various charitable projects. Not exactly the kind of lifestyle you would expect a newly-minted multi-millionaire to lead!

Aside from all the good work they’re doing through their charities, they have also paid for a local Hartlepool-based charity that offers energy advice and affordable business space to install an elevator so that wheelchair users can access the upstairs offices. They have paid for a young father who was injured in an accident to modify his electric power chair so he can go on off-road explorations with his daughter once again. And they are also covering the cost for a young refugee boy to travel to his preferred secondary school for the remainder of his education.

Considering the nature of these kind folks, I’d imagine there are many more stories like these ones that have not been officially reported.

Apparently, Frances actually gets up at 6am these days to answer all the messages and emails she receives, and has been known to work 18 hours a day on her various charitable projects. Not exactly the kind of lifestyle you would expect a newly-minted multi-millionaire to lead!

In response to the Covid19 pandemic Frances even stated that “Patrick bought another business just to make sure people had work” during the crisis; a pretty decent reason for purchasing a new business if you ask me.

And that’s not all Frances and Patrick have done to help people during the pandemic. The wee saints!

Helping People During the Pandemic 

2020 has been a challenging year for *nearly all of us. 

The pandemic has put a strain on almost everybody in one way or another, with the notable exception of the world’s super rich who have actually become much richer during the crisis, the greedy evil expletiving expletives!

But unlike many of these wealth-hoarding parasitic demon creatures, Frances and Patrick have used their money to try and limit the effects of the pandemic on those around them as much as possible.

When you add all of this up, it’s clear that a lot of lives have been improved and protected as a result of the Connolly’s generosity, at a time when generosity is needed most.

They have bought new sewing machines for charity workers making PPE for health workers. They have contributed supplies to a charity making face visors for front line workers. They have funded hot meal deliveries for folks sheltering alone and in need, gifted £50 thank you vouchers for 150 frontline workers, contributed to a befriending service for those living alone, provided laptops for secondary school students to learn online, and even helped with a teddy bear’s picnic for 400 families.

They have also paid for hundreds of iPads so that elderly patients in nursing homes can contact their families, and so young carers are able to work from home. On top of this, they donated hundreds of pairs of pyjamas, nightdresses, and basic toiletries to care-home residents who were being discharged from hospitals without these things because families were not allowed to bring things from home.

Some of the tablets handed out to nursing home patients so they can contact their families during the pandemic.

When you add all of this up, it’s clear that a lot of lives have been improved and protected as a result of the Connolly’s generosity, at a time when generosity is needed most.

With Christmas on the horizon, it seems their generosity is not about to run out any time soon! 

A Generous Christmas, and a Kinder New Year? 

As this ridiculous year of frustration, heartbreak, and sheer madness comes to an end, Frances and Patrick’s story of unrelenting generosity, kindness, and compassion has given me a welcome sliver of hope for humanity, and for a better, kinder 2021.

At the end of such a miserable year, to help make Christmas that little bit better for people directly effected by Covid in Hartlepool and Northern Ireland, Frances and Patrick have decided to start playing Santa.

They have so far purchased a thousand gift-packs of ‘sweet-smelling toiletries’ as gifts for patients who will be in hospital on Christmas day, as well as dozens of computers, laptops and internet dongles for local youngsters who are caring for their loved ones. A really lovely gesture, and hopefully one that will bring warmth to the hearts of folks going through hard times this Christmas. 

After two years of doing their charity work and countless generous deeds in relative anonymity, Frances decided it was important to ‘speak out now at the end of 2020 to help draw attention to the good work being done by so many people for charity during the pandemic.’ She made it clear here that she was talking about other people’s charity work, and not her own.

Well I’m glad she did decide to speak out, because as this ridiculous year of frustration, heartbreak, and sheer madness comes to an end, Frances and Patrick’s story of unrelenting generosity, kindness, and compassion has given me a welcome sliver of hope for humanity, and for a better, kinder 2021.

Let’s hope all the gazillionaires of the world have heard their story too.

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.

Smashing Stigmas, Making History, No Excuses

Chris Nikic says on his website that although he could use his obstacles as an excuse to limit him, he doesn’t do excuses, and his coaches won’t take them. Instead, he works hard.

It is this hard work, and his inspirational will to become a little bit better every day that has led Nikic, only 21 years old, to recently become the first person with Down syndrome to complete the Ironman Triathlon, one of the most demanding endurance events in human history.

By completing the Ironman event, Chris Nikic is helping to break through the stigmas and assumptions associated with the physical and intellectual capabilities of people with Down syndrome, and has proven that although there may be developmental delays involved with the condition, they need not be limitations! 

To complete the Ironman Triathlon, you must somehow battle through a 3.8km swim, followed by a 180km bike ride, all nicely topped off with the simple task of a flipping 42km marathon! (I tried doing 3km on a treadmill once, and you know what? I wouldn’t recommend it.) To count as a success, you must complete this absolute mammoth of a trek in just 17 hours. Mr. Nikic managed it in 16 hours, 46 minutes and 9 seconds; a truly incredible thing for anybody to achieve.

But Chris Nikic is not just anybody. As well as being a high-performance athlete, talented keynote speaker, super-determined individual and inspiration to many, he is also a person with Down syndrome, a condition that results in varying degrees of physical and cognitive delays in anybody who has it.

By completing the Ironman event though, Chris is helping to break through the stigmas and assumptions associated with the physical and intellectual capabilities of people with Down syndrome, and has proven that although there may be developmental delays involved with the condition, they need not be limitations! 

This is a keynote speech from Mr. Nikic’s website detailing his inspirational outlook on life and his progress towards completing the Ironman event. Really worth a watch. Chris delivers keynote speeches like this primarily at schools and corporate conferences.

Overcoming obstacles, smashing stigmas, making history, and making no excuses along the way, Mr. Nikic has become an inspiration to many and I’m sure a hero to kids with Down syndrome around the world.

Before getting on to the details of his glorious Ironman triumph though, first, in the interest of breaking through stigmas and assumptions about Down syndrome, here’s a little information about what the condition actually is.

What is Down Syndrome? 

Down syndrome is a genetic condition that occurs in people of all races and economic levels, and according to the World Health Organisation, ‘the estimated incidence of Down syndrome is between 1 in 1,000 to 1 in 1,100 live births worldwide.’

While people typically have 23 even pairs of chromosomes in the nucleus of each cell in their body, Down syndrome is a genetic condition in which a person has a full or partial extra copy of chromosome 21 throughout their genetic makeup. It is this additional genetic material that alters the course of development and causes the characteristics associated with Down syndrome.

Down syndrome takes its name from the English physician John Langdon Down, who was the first to publish an ‘accurate description of a person with Down syndrome’ in 1866. It is a genetic condition that occurs in people of all races and economic levels, and according to the World Health Organisation, ‘the estimated incidence of Down syndrome is between 1 in 1,000 to 1 in 1,100 live births worldwide.’

Some common physical traits associated with Down syndrome are low muscle tone and small stature, and in some cases people with Down syndrome may have an increased risk of heart defects, eye diseases, ear infections, hearing loss, and sleep apnea.

As well as these physical traits, individuals with Down syndrome also ‘possess varying degrees of cognitive delays, from very mild to severe,’ with most having cognitive delays that are mild to moderate. Here is a great resource if you want to learn in more detail about Down syndrome.

Here you can see a visual representation of what Down syndrome looks like genetically. Typically you would only see two number 21 chromosomes, but for someone with Down syndrome, there is a full or partial extra copy of chromosome 21 present. It is this additional genetic material that causes the characteristics associated with Down syndrome.

In Mr. Nikic’s case, his low muscle tone required him to use a walker frame until the age of 3 to successfully walk, but as he says on his website, and has clearly proven since, “a delay is just a delay, it is not permanent. It just means we have to work harder and that’s OK.”

And work harder is what Chris Nikic has done, day by day, to gradually become a better version of himself, and to achieve remarkable things.

Here’s a look at how he became an ‘Ironman,’ one day at a time. 

Conquering the World, One Day at a Time

Clearly, the Ironman Triathlon is no joke. I can’t even begin to comprehend the level of physical fitness and mental fortitude required to do something as crazy as that.

To become the first person ever with Down syndrome to do it is even further beyond my comprehension; an absolutely magnificent example of overcoming obstacles to achieve the unthinkable. To say it’s inspirational is an understatement, but the way in which Chris Nikic approaches these gargantuan challenges is the most inspirational, and adoptable part of it.

A video documenting Chris Nikic’s Ironman triumph. Goodness me that looks tough!

Together with his father Nik, Chris has developed what he calls the ‘1% Better Challenge,’ which encourages taking small steps towards improvement on a day-to-day basis. The idea is that by doing just a little more each day, you can sort of eliminate the pain of improvement and stay motivated by focusing on steady, gradual progress.

As Chris states on his website, if you start by walking 100 steps and get 1% better each day for a year, by the end of the year you will be walking 3700 steps per day. If you start with 1000 steps, by the end of the year, you’ll be walking a marathon, all while only having to increase your effort by 1% each day.

Chris talks about this method as a simple way of building better habits, and positively influencing what you focus on. He suggests that if you wake up every day thinking ‘how can I be 1% better today,’ you are probably going to be better off in the long run. I mean imagine if everyone woke up thinking that every morning.

“If I can do so much with so little, imagine what you can do.”

– Chris Nikic

It is this mindset of gradual improvement that drove Chris from being ‘overweight and out of shape’ at 18 to first doing a junior triathlon, to doing a sprint triathlon in 148 minutes, to then doing it in 100 minutes a month later, to doing a ‘half Ironman’ in 8hrs 25mins, and to eventually becoming the first person with Down syndrome to complete a full Ironman earlier this month, all in the space of just over two years.

Chris puts his world record breaking success down to “the culmination of consistent effort over two years,” and urges everyone that “if I can do so much with so little, imagine what you can do.”

An inarguably powerful message, and a reminder that we can all achieve incredible things with the right mindset.

And Chris Nikic is certainly not done achieving incredible things just yet! 

What’s Next for Chris Nikic? 

Chris Nikic at the finish line of the Ironman event. He completed the gruelling trek in 16 hours, 46 minutes and 9 seconds, becoming the first ever person with Down syndrome to do so; a groundbreaking achievement. But he is far from done yet!

After completing the Ironman event Mr. Nikic stated on Instagram that “I achieved my goal and now I want to help others like me.” He is currently raising money for the special olympics, Down syndrome, and RODS (Racing for orphans with Down syndrome), and you can donate to his fundraising campaign here.

Chris will also be competing in the Ironman World Championship next year as well as the 2022 special olympics, and is even planning to publish a book, titled ‘1% Better,’ in the near future. 

According to Chris’s Dad Nik, what started off as a personal goal and dream for Chris has now ‘morphed into something much bigger’; a platform he can use to make a real difference for other people with Down syndrome.

After completing the Ironman event Mr. Nikic stated on Instagram that “I achieved my goal and now I want to help others like me.” He is currently raising money for the special olympics, Down syndrome, and RODS (Racing for orphans with Down syndrome), and you can donate to his fundraising campaign here.

He has already started using that platform by launching the 1% Better Challenge, which is not just the mindset for gradual improvement I mentioned earlier, but also a campaign for raising funds and awareness for people with Down syndrome.

Here’s how you can get involved. 

The 1% Better Challenge 

To help raise awareness about Down syndrome Mr. Nikic has proposed the ‘1% Better Challenge.’ Here are the steps for completing the challenge if you would like to get involved:

1. Commit to becoming 1% better yourself for 30 days.

2. Sponsor someone with special needs to do the same. 

3. Set specific goals for what you both want to achieve in those 30 days. 

4. Purchase a t-shirt here for you and your sponsor. 

5. Post daily progress with your sponsor on social media, while wearing the t-shirts to raise awareness.

The groovy looking 1% Better Challenge t-shirts, which you can purchase here to help raise awareness about Down syndrome.

If the challenge isn’t for you, again, you can also donate to Chris’s fundraiser here, with all funds going towards the special olympics, Down syndrome, and RODS (Racing for orphans with Down syndrome.)

Clearly Chris Nikic is an incredibly inspirational human with a kind heart, and a drive to make himself and the world around him a better place. 

All I can say is, I’m looking forward to seeing what he achieves tomorrow, when he’s Ironman, + 1%.

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.

How much do we know about our world?

We know the sky is blue don’t we? And the grass is green? Except sometimes the sky is very grey indeed and the grass isn’t even there!

Maybe we don’t know so much about our world after all? Maybe we’re just silly little nonsensical humans who think we know everything but really we’re just swimming about the place without a map or a compass or half a clueless clue what direction to take to get to the next coral reef? Maybe.

A Skyscraper in the Middle of the Ocean!

Speaking of the next coral reef: Turns out just the other day scientists in Australia happened to stumble across a previously undiscovered detached coral reef that’s over 500 metres high and taller than the flipping Empire State building!

Here is a computerised image of what the reef would look like if you were a giant who could see through water. That spikey bit in the middle is the rough shape of the reef, taller than the Empire State building at over 500 metres high. Now that’s quite a beautiful monstrosity to go unnoticed for hundreds of years. Absolute mandess!

This newly found reef sits roughly 130km off Cape York at the northern end of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, and was found during a 3D seabed mapping exercise conducted by scientists Dr. Robin Beaman of James Cook University and his Co-PI Mardi McNeil, along with their team of other groovy ocean science folk. This fantastical discovery work is all being done aboard a ship provided by The Schmidt Ocean Institute called the R/V Falkor.

If you’re wondering what a Falkor is, no no no! A Falkor is not a fal-con. Falkor is the majestically majestical creature from The NeverEnding Story, a movie from the 80s directed by Wolfgang Peterson that I used to absolutely love when I was a little nipper but haven’t seen in a long time because I completely forgot about it but will now probably watch this evening after this coral reef appearing out of nowhere story has reminded me of it. Unearthing (or unoceaning?) new skyscraper dwarfing coral reefs while simultaneously reminding me about The NeverEnding Story, thank you very kindly Australian ocean science folk! 

Falkor the flying something or other from The NeverEnding Story. Worth a watch once you’re done reading this article btw 😉

Okay Falkor, bring us back to the reef now please! 

Just the other day scientists in Australia happened to stumble across a previously undiscovered detached coral reef that’s over 500 metres high and taller than the flipping Empire State building!

This new coral reef those ocean science folks just found is about 1.5km wide at the base and about half a km tall, and apparently it is the first ‘large detached reef’ to be found in the area SINCE THE 19TH CENTURY! (Have to say I never knew coral reefs were so good at hide and seek, you’d think this reef would have gotten bored after a while and come to the kitchen for its dinner, but no, it stuck it out somehow, hiding in the shadows for all those years without so much as a squeak. I guess it’s all about mental fortitude. Maybe coral reefs are just more mentally strong than humans are? I suppose, that wouldn’t take much now would it? Puny puny humans. 

New Forms of Life

From what they have found so far, the reef is home to plenty of reef fish, and is thought to have ‘an incredible abundance of sponges, sea fans, and soft corals,’ which suggests that the area is ‘rich in nutrients carried by strong currents and upwellings of deep waters.’ (Hmmm, rich in nutrients. So maybe that’s why the reef never came to the kitchen for its dinner?) (Crafty crafty reef!) (Well done reef, very well played) (The dinner was full of processed chemicals anyways.)

Turns out the groovy ocean science folks onboard the R/V Falkor are currently on a year-long exploration of oceans surrounding Australia and have already discovered what they believe is the longest sea creature ever recorded, a 45-metre long siphonophore, as well as dozens of ‘yet-to-be described’ species such as black coral, sponges, and scorpionfish.

As you would imagine, the discovery of this reef will probably lead to years of study, and who knows, at this rate, they may even end up finding a thriving ocean dinosaur colony down there somewhere, as well as the main dragon from Game of Thrones, the lost city of Atlantis, my Monday morning motivation, and possibly a few alien spaceships for good measure to go along with what they’ve already discovered.

Turns out the groovy ocean science folks onboard the R/V Falkor are currently on a year-long exploration of oceans surrounding Australia and have already discovered what they believe is the longest sea creature ever recorded, a 45-metre long siphonophore, as well as dozens of ‘yet-to-be described’ species such as black coral, sponges, and scorpionfish. So maybe finding the thriving colony of ocean dinosaurs isn’t so unrealistic after all? Certainly far more likely than finding my Monday morning motivation I would imagine. Or Tuesday morning for that matter. Or Wednesday. You get the out of focus picture; mornings themselves are the main culprit here! Leave the damn days alone! (This whole ‘coffee helps you focus’ talk is nothing but nonsense-flavoured malarky.)

On the same expedition, these researchers have already found this 45 metre-long siphonophore, which is thought to be the longest sea creature ever recorded! Seems this expedition is finding all sorts of hidden treasures.

Plenty Left to Discover

Our understanding of things is not always correct and seemingly dark and empty spaces are sometimes teeming with colour and life.

Anyways, it’s nearly the afternoon now so it’s time to focus on what’s important here. It’s incredible discoveries like this one that really serve as a reminder that there is so much we do not know, about ourselves and about the world around us. Nothing is guaranteed in this world. The sky isn’t always blue and the grass isn’t always green. Our understanding of things is not always correct and seemingly dark and empty spaces are sometimes teeming with colour and life. New forms of life that we’ve never even witnessed before.

Some video footage from this newly discovered reef.

Tom bridge, a principal investigator on the expedition that discovered this reef said ‘We know more about the surface of our moon than we do about what lies in the depths beyond our coastlines.’

I would imagine that statement also rings true in a figurative sense; the internal exploration of human potential has yet to even leave the harbour!

How much do we know about our world? Probably nothing much at all, yet.

But as this expedition has demonstrated, yet, can be a very important word indeed.

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.

To begin, it’s important to say, that just like all the articles I write for A Wall Of Hope, I am not being paid to write this article by Forest Green Rovers F.C or anyone else, nor am I a die-hard fan of the club or anything like that. 

I am writing the article because I’m genuinely impressed by what this organisation is doing (I mean if you read the article you’ll know what I mean), and I believe they deserve a place on the wall.

Because come on, making football environmentally friendly? If that isn’t a cause for hope, then what the heck is? 

Football, Sustainable, Really?

Football doesn’t seem like the most environmentally sustainable thing in the world does it? 

One football club in particular sits top of the table by quite a margin when it comes to their sustainability efforts, and that club is little known (for now) Forest Green Rovers F.C.

I mean not the game of football itself of course; the sustainability of the game itself really depends on the fitness and willingness of the players playing it! Environmentally speaking, all you need to play a game of football is one small spherical piece of suitable material, a number of somewhat enthusiastic human beings, a couple of ‘jumpers for goalposts’, and a bit of space; hardly an earth-shattering combination in fairness. 

But no, I’m talking about the football industry. Like many industries, the football industry certainly isn’t one that screams ‘ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY!’ from the stadium terraces to the commentator’s box. The resources required to keep the football industry running (and scoring?) at full tilt are actually quite substantial:

Great big stadiums often constructed at a monumental environmental and financial cost that require a gargantuan amount of energy to operate. Brand new replica kits and merchandise made from planet-pummeling materials like polyester (plastic) that always look pretty much the same as last year’s ones but are still released every year and shipped all around the world and sold for extortionate prices while usually being manufactured in ‘sweatshops’ by workers who get paid next to nothing. Football teams and fans travelling in their gas-guzzling cars, planes, boats, buses, trains, helicopters, yachts, and private jets to attend matches all around the world on a regular basis.

All these fancy new Premier League football kits might look nice (although some of them are actually fairly revolting), but pretty much every one of them is made out of plastic, manufactured in a third world country under questionable working conditions, and is shipped around the world to be sold for an absolute fortune. And most of them look pretty much the same as last year’s design! Ridiculous really.

And then there’s the actual, physical footballs themselves, the football boots, shin pads, gloves, corner flags and all the other equipment required so that a professional game of football can take place. All of this equipment has a life-cycle and an environmental impact, and it all adds up.

Now of course the football industry is really no more environmentally damaging than any of a million other industries out there and probably doesn’t deserve to be singled out. And just like many other industries around the world, thank goodness, through encouraging initiatives such as Life Tackle, the football industry seems to be making some significant strides forward when it comes to limiting its environmental impact.

But one football club in particular sits top of the table by quite a margin when it comes to their sustainability efforts, and that club is little known (for now) Forest Green Rovers F.C, based in a small town called Nailsworth in Gloucestershire, England.

Haven’t heard of them? Well you probably will soon, but here’s a little look at the club’s substantial history before we get into all the great stuff they’re doing for the environment and their local community. 

Who Are This Club? And Where Did They Come From? 

The Forest Green Rovers F.C. official club crest; quite a slick design if you ask me.

Referred to by world football’s governing body Fifa as the ‘greenest football club in the world,’ Forest Green Rovers are currently competing in League Two, the fourth tier of professional English football. At the time of writing they sit 10th place in a table of 24 teams, four points off the top of the table. (It’s early in the season yet, only four games have been played so far, so anything is possible!)

Although the ethos of the club is distinctly modern, futuristic even, Forest Green Rovers is actually a very old football club with a long and storied history.

The club was founded all the way back in 1889 in Gloucestershire England, and since then has competed in various local and regional leagues and competitions, while changing names a number of times (Forest Green Rovers was their original name, which they reverted back to in 1992 after going by the name of Stroud FC for a short time), and winning multiple trophies along the way.

Despite such a substantial history however, it was only in 2017 that Forest Green Rovers gained promotion to the national English ‘Football League’ for the first time, and they have remained there since.

Significant to this recent rise to relative prominence was the willingness in 2010, with the club facing financial difficulty, of Dale Vince, founder of Ecotricity, to get involved with the club. Ecotricity is a British-based green energy company with a mission to incorporate sustainability throughout society wherever possible.

Forest Green Rovers is actually a very old football club with a long and storied history.

It is no surprise then that since Mr. Vince and Ecotricity have been involved with Forest Green Rovers, the club has been on the up. Now financially secure, environmentally aware, winning games of football on the pitch, and winning multiple business and environmental awards off it, it’s clear that in recent years, Forest Green Rovers F.C. has become a very special football club indeed.

But what is it, exactly, that makes Forest Green Rovers so special?

So What Makes Forest Green Rovers So Special?

To be honest, pretty much every aspect of Forest Green is worth a mention. It seems that environmental sustainability and community wellbeing is paramount to every decision the club makes, but let’s break it down bit-by-bit, starting with a big one, the stadium. 

The Stadium 

Operating a stadium can use up a whole lot of energy and other resources like water to keep the lights on, the turnstiles turning and the pitch trimmed and in good condition. If care is not taken, this can have a significant cumulative effect on the environment.

But with Forest Green Rover’s current stadium, ‘The New Lawn’, care is certainly taken! Here’s what they’re doing to ensure their stadium is as kind to the environment as possible: 

  • The pitch is irrigated using recycled rainwater, making it independent from the water mains, and saving a whole lot of water in the process. 
  • The grass on the pitch is cut using a solar-powered ‘robot lawnmower’ so no smelly petrol fumes will be seen anywhere near The New Lawn when grass cutting time comes around. 
Amazingly, the grass at The New Lawn stadium is cut using a solar-powered ‘robot lawnmower‘ as seen above. Madness! Green green madness!
  • The pitch is also ‘organic’, meaning no artificial pesticides or chemicals are used to treat the pitch.
  • Solar panels have been installed on the roofs and around the stadium to generate fossil fuel-free electricity. 
  • Along with this self-produced clean electricity, 100% of stadium operations are powered using green wind and solar energy provided by Ecotricity, ‘the greenest energy company in Britain.’ 
  • The stadium is also electric vehicle friendly, with EV charging points available for fans who need them. 
  • The club even runs what they call ‘Eco Trails’ ahead of every home match which are designed to educate anyone who’s interested about Forest Green Rover’s sustainability efforts. 

All-in-all, it seems ‘The New Lawn’ is a pretty tremendous example of what should become ‘The New Blueprint’ for operating a sports stadium. 

But what happens when the players get out there to play?

The Kit 

The Forest Green Rover’s kits are made from 50% bamboo, with the eventual aim being to produce their kits from ‘100% sustainable high-performance material.’

Most football kits are made out of polyester and other forms of plastic. These materials are non-biodegradable, and like to stick around on this great green beautiful earth of ours for thousands of years, clogging up the oceans and rivers and animals and breaking down into microplastics that might even be causing damage to human cells!

So maybe it’s not the best idea to make football kits out of plastic? Well Forest Green Rover’s seem to agree with that sentiment, as currently, their kits are made out of 50% bamboo, with the eventual aim being to produce their kits from ‘100% sustainable high-performance material.’ Goodness I do hope the Manchester Uniteds and Real Madrids of this world pull their big bulging heads out of the bottomless money pit soon and start to follow suit. (Or follow kit?) (Couldn’t resist!)

The Forest Green kits manufactured by PlayerLayer, a British-based sports apparel company with a focus on eco-friendly materials and making products that last, are also deliciously beautiful.

The home and away kits, as you can see below, take their inspiration from nature, sporting a lovely looking ‘zebra pattern,’ as well as the Ecotricity sponsor logo on the front, and a logo for ‘Sea Shepherd’ on the back.

The three super-slick Forest Green Rover’s kits, made from 50% bamboo. The home kit on the left in green, the away kit in the middle, and the third kit in blue on the right. Very tasty indeed.

Sea Shepherd is an internationally-renowned marine conservation not-for-profit, and official partner of Forest Green Rovers. This wonderful organisation helps to protect marine wildlife all around the world, and if you purchase Forest Green’s third kit, available here, and also deliciously beautiful, 100% of the proceeds will go directly to Sea Shepherd, helping them carry out their essential work.

The third kit’s ‘camouflage design’ actually takes its inspiration from Sea Shepherd’s flagship vessel, the Steve Irwin.

Inspiration for Forest Green’s third kit; Sea Shepherd’s majestic flagship vessel, the Steve Irwin! ❤

Well when a football club has a kit that’s inspired by anything associated with a legend of a human like Steve Irwin, you know they’re doing something right.

Tremendousness all around I would say; the most beautiful kits in world football, in far more ways than one. 

But there’s no point looking the part if you’re not actually the part? Right?

Well here’s a massive reason why Forest Green Rovers are actually the part.

World’s First Officially Certified Carbon Neutral Football Club  

Slick, sustainable, sexy green kits are one thing, but they won’t do much good if the rest of the club’s activities are destroying our sexy green world. Luckily, it turns out, Forest Green Rovers is a slick, sustainable, sexy green football club from top to bottom, worthy of their sexy green kits. (Okay I’ll stop with this sudden obsession for the word sexy now.) (Sexy!) 

Forest Green Rovers has now been certified carbon-neutral for over two years (standards must be maintained to retain certification), so it seems like their commitment to this cause is very serious, and a lot of work has gone in to constantly reducing their carbon footprint. 

After signing up for the United Nation’s ‘Climate Neutral Now’ initiative in 2018, an initiative aimed at encouraging society to work towards a climate neutral world by mid-century, Forest Green have gone on to achieve official certification from the UN as ‘the world’s first carbon-neutral football club.’ 

Achieving this certification would have required the club to implement the following three actions:

  • First, they would have been required to measure their total greenhouse gas emissions. (This would include everything from operating the stadium to merchandise-related emissions to team travel-related emissions.) 
  • The next step would have been taking action to minimise these emissions. (Things like installing solar panels, and powering 100% of stadium operations with wind and solar energy would have gone a long way to achieving this!)
  • Finally, for any emissions that couldn’t be eliminated through direct action, emissions from fans travelling to attend games for example, the club would have been required to invest in UN certified emissions reduction projects to compensate. (This might involve the club investing in tree planting schemes for example, offering support to regenerative farming projects, or investing in wind and solar farms. The idea being that by investing in projects that reduce the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, any emissions that the club couldn’t eliminate through direct action would be cancelled out.) 

Forest Green Rovers has now been certified carbon-neutral for over two years (standards must be maintained to retain certification), so it seems like their commitment to this cause is very serious, and a lot of work has gone in to constantly reducing their carbon footprint. 

In light of this unwavering commitment to environmental sustainability, Forest Green’s Chairman, Dale Vince, was appointed as a ‘Climate Champion’ for the UN in September 2018. Mr. Vince has since helped launch the ‘Sport for Climate Action’ initiative which aims to engage the world of sport in the fight against climate change. He has also been giving talks on climate action as an official UN ambassador.

Forest Green chairman Dale Vince, second from left, working as a UN ambassador at a Sport for Climate Action event in Poland in 2018.

This all points to a genuinely holistic commitment at Forest Green Rovers to becoming as environmentally sustainable as possible, and this commitment to sustainability can also be seen (or tasted?) in the club’s attitude towards food.

Meat pie and sausage roll while watching the game anyone? Maybe at most football clubs around England, but not at Forest Green Rovers F.C. 

World’s First Officially Certified 100% Vegan Football Club 

What’s on the menu at a football ground (or anywhere for that matter) might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about sustainability, but it can have a significant impact. 

In 2017, Forest Green Rovers became the first football club in the world to be registered with the official Vegan Trademark.

According to United Nations statistics, livestock farming alone accounts for almost 15% of all human-related greenhouse gas emissions globally, which is quite a chunk. So those half time meat pies might actually be doing more damage to the environment than you think! 

Now this is not to say that simply eating meat is bad for the environment. A great deal of global livestock-related emissions come from animal feed production, processing, transportation and things like that. So of course, eating low-quality processed meats that come from factory farms on the other side of the world is most definitely bad for the environment. But it is possible to eat locally-sourced meat that comes from ethical, organic, regenerative farms in your area, without worrying too much about the carbon footprint involved. And on ethically-run farms, animal welfare is also inherently a top priority, so by eating meat in this way you can be sure that the animals are well taken care of too. 

Saying that, after doing a little digging on one of the most popular football stadium meat pie suppliers in the UK, Pukka pies, a staple in over 40 stadiums across the country, things don’t look too promising environmentally-wise. After quite a bit of searching around I was unable to find out who Pukka’s actual suppliers are (is that an alarm bell I hear ringing?), but often in these situations it’s about what isn’t said, as opposed to what is.

In the (limited) section about the environment on the Pukka website, there is no specific mention of who their meat suppliers are, and there is no mention of the meat coming from organic, or regenerative farms. These are the kinds of things that would almost certainly be mentioned prominently on the website if the company was actually doing them.

They do mention that all their meat is ‘purchased from suppliers who are accredited to the highest standards set by the British Retail Consortium and EU legislation.’ And while these standards are quite rigorous in terms of animal welfare (whether or not the standards are actually implemented is another matter), they do very little in terms of limiting emissions and environmental damage from livestock farming in the EU. So even if the meat in Pukka pies does live up to these standards, it would mean next to nothing in terms of environmental sustainability.

There is also no mention on the Pukka website of their meat being sourced locally, or whether it is even sourced from the UK for that matter, so chances are, this is probably not the case either.

So the likely reality at best is that the meat in Pukka Pies, and possibly other popular football stadium meat brands, does not come from environmentally sustainable farms, and may also be imported from outside the UK. This would point to quite a high environmental impact for these meat products. 

(I have reached out to Pukka requesting information about their meat suppliers and will update this article accordingly with their response!)

But goodness goodness, I have significantly digressed. Back to Forest Green Rovers! So in response to this potential (probable) non-sustainability of popular meat-based football stadium dishes, and for a number of other reasons, Forest Green Rovers decided to remove all meat and dairy products from the match day menu back in 2015. And in 2017, the club became the first football club in the world to be registered with the official Vegan Trademark

Vegan pizza, just one of the plant-based foods available on the Forest Green Rover’s vegan menu.

The club states that they were driven to become a 100% vegan club ‘because of the huge environmental and animal welfare impacts of livestock farming, as well as to improve player performance and give fans healthier, tastier food on matchdays.’ 

And so, since 2015, Forest Green have been using locally-sourced, plant-based ingredients to create award winning menus for their fans, and for the players. (It is actually forbidden for any of the players to consume meat-based products on the premises, and with some evidence suggesting that a strictly plant-based diet can be beneficial for athletic performance, maybe that’s not a bad idea!).

So if you ever find yourself feeling peckish, and you happen to be in the stands at ‘The New Lawn’ watching Forest Green Rovers (hopefully) win, expect to find anything from veggie burgers, vegan fajitas, vegan pizzas, salads, sweet potato fries, and all sorts of other locally-sourced vegan treats on the menu. 

Apparently, after initial complaints from a small number of supporters about ‘the banishing of the meat,’ the vegan menu has been widely accepted and embraced by the fans, and has even encouraged some members of the community to go vegan full-time.

How wonderful it is when a football club works to have a positive effect on the local community. 

Active in the Community 

Forest Green Rovers is clearly very aware of this wonderfulness, as they seem to do all they can to give back to their community. Here are some of the main ways they are doing just that: 

The FGR Community Trust 
Forest Green Rovers helping to bring senior citizens and young school children together at their local lunch club to celebrate the ‘EFL day of action.

Through the FGR community trust, Forest Green is working with people of all ages in their community to use football as a medium for education, motivation, and inspiration.

The club is actively working with schools, community organisations and sports clubs to help run programmes relating to sport and education, health and wellbeing, inclusion and community cohesion, education, and environmental sustainability.

Sounds like the full community package if you ask me! 

Fit2Last Programme 

Fit2Last’ is an educational programme that Forest Green Rovers delivers to local schools.

Not only is this programme sports-related, it also puts an emphasis on humanities, technology, and science subjects, and provides information about healthy eating, and environmental sustainability. Certainly, the kinds of subjects I wish I was taught a little more about in school!

Soccer Camps  

For kids aged 4-14 years old, the club also runs soccer camps where youngsters can build up their footballing skills.

The camp sessions are run by former Forest Green midfielder Rob Sinclair, and apparently players from the current squad also regularly drop by. 

Free Shirts for Schools 

Every year, the club hands out 400 free replica shirts for local children in year 3 (about 7 years old), as well as a free match ticket for each child. 

The club even admits on their own website that this is somewhat of a ploy to encourage these kids to support their local team, but still, free football shirts for the kids, from a club that may well encourage them to learn about healthy living and taking care of the environment.

Not exactly a bad thing is it? 

Ambassador’s Scheme 

Forest Green Rover’s ambassadors attend matches, learn about the ethos of the club, sustainability, healthy eating, and the benefits of all these things, and then share these experiences with family, friends, teachers, and fellow students.

Each year, through the Forest Green Rover’s ‘Ambassador’s Scheme’, the club recruits a team of young people from about 50 schools in the local area.

These ambassadors then attend matches, learn about the ethos of the club, sustainability, healthy eating, and the benefits of all these things, and then share these experiences with family, friends, teachers, and fellow students.

The scheme also allows each ambassador to invite a Forest Green Rover’s player to their school to give talks, and at the end of each year awards are given out to reward the ambassador’s achievements.

Seems like a great way to communicate the benefits of sustainability and healthy living to young people in an inspirational way. Tremendous stuff.

Supporter’s Club 
A quiz night for Forest Green Rover’s supporter’s club.

Like most football clubs, Forest Green Rovers also has an official supporter’s club, which offers subsidies to fans for away travel, as well as social events, and a say in how the football club is run.

An essential part of any football club that truly values its fans. 

Indirect Benefits 

It seems clear from all of the above that Forest Green is taking direct action to engage with their local community and give back as much as they can.

But it is also the indirect benefits like sourcing the ingredients for their vegan menu locally that can have a really positive effect on things. By sourcing ingredients locally, this will no doubt help provide jobs and economic income for local farms and producers, which is essential for any small community to thrive.

Apparently, local businesses have also benefitted from an increasing number of visitors to the area, brought about by the media attention generated around the club’s sustainability efforts.

You would swear that doing good things makes other good things happen! Well that’s exactly what seems to be going on regarding Forest Green Rovers.

And speaking of making good things happen, Forest Green’s partners aren’t doing too bad in that regard either!

Partnering with Positivity  

Football is a team sport after all, isn’t it?

Now I won’t go into this in too much detail (I know I’m a devil for doing that!), otherwise we’ll be here all day! (We’ve already been here all day haven’t we?) But I’ll provide all the URL links so you can check out each one of these fantastic organisations in more detail if you so wish!

As I’ve already mentioned, two of Forest Green’s main partners are the green energy company Ecotricity, and the international marine conservation not-for-profit Sea Shepherd, but Forest Green also partners with other organisations who share their ethos like Quorn, Grundon, and EESI.

Football is a team sport after all, isn’t it? But what’s the point in playing if the results aren’t up to scratch?

Some Promising Results 

Well Forest Green Rovers have certainly been getting pretty decent results on the pitch lately as can be seen from their continued presence in the football league, and off the pitch, they’re not doing so bad either.

It seems like all of Forest Green Rover’s sustainability efforts are paying off, and that the club is headed in the right direction both on and off the pitch.

According to a UN article from 2018, the club’s absolute carbon footprint (the absolute total amount of emissions created, regardless of GDP) had decreased by 3% since 2017, and the carbon footprint per spectator had decreased by 42% since the 2011/12 season. The club had also managed to recycle 8% of water used from the main water supply in 2016/17, and they decreased the amount of waste produced in the 2017/18 season by 14.7% compared to the season before.

There have also been some huge reductions in emissions and waste during the current season compared to last year, but comparing this year’s emissions statistics to last year’s is not really a valid exercise to be honest because of the COVID lockdown. As a result of everything shutting down for a number of months this year, it is to be expected that emission levels would have significantly dropped.

But still, the results so far are promising, and it seems like all of Forest Green Rover’s sustainability efforts are paying off, and that the club is headed in the right direction both on and off the pitch.

And what direction might that be now?

Always Moving Forward (Into The Greenest Football Stadium in the World!) 

Above are concept images of Forest Green Rover’s proposed new stadium, Eco Park, which will be constructed almost entirely out of wood, and is touted to become ‘the greenest football stadium in the world.’ Well my goodness, it certainly looks the part!

We have already seen in detail above all the efforts Forest Green have made to ensure their current stadium, The New Lawn, is as environmentally sustainable as possible. But as the club grows bigger and attracts more fans, they are planning to take their stadium sustainability efforts to a whole other level.

After recently receiving the go-ahead from their local council earlier this year, the club is pressing ahead with plans to construct what they expect to be ‘the greenest football stadium in the world.’ 

This new stadium will be known as ‘Eco Park’, and will be made almost entirely out of wood, which is a world-first for a football stadium. Wood is a renewable resource with a low carbon impact, low embodied energy, and the ability to store carbon, and is considered a much more sustainable building material than stainless steel, concrete, and most other materials commonly used in stadium construction.

Eco Park will be built to accommodate up to 5000 fans, and as well being built from sustainable materials, will also be sited in parkland, where 500 new trees and 1.8km of new hedgerows will be planted. 

Club chairman Dale Vince has suggested that the stadium will look like ‘the ribs of a prehistoric animal’, and as you can see from the concept images above, he’s not far off! (Maybe, soon, stadiums made from carbon-heavy concrete and stainless steel might become prehistoric animals too?)

Wood is a renewable resource with a low carbon impact, low embodied energy, and the ability to store carbon, and is considered a much more sustainable building material than stainless steel, concrete, and most other materials commonly used in stadium construction.

Construction is yet to start on Eco Park, and only preliminary details of the project have so far been released, but Forest Green Rovers insist that this stadium will ‘take their sustainable thinking to a new level entirely.’

I for one, am very excited to see what exactly they mean by that! 

Sounds pretty inspirational if you ask me, and you know what? I reckon there’s plenty of folks out there who agree with me! 

Inspiring Others 

It’s clear that Forest Green Rovers has already become an inspiration to many.

“So many people feel there’s no solution to the world’s problems, but Forest Green are already doing plenty. I’m so excited to be part of the FGR family. I’ll be helping where I can, supporting people who want to change the world for the better.”

– Hector Bellerin, Arsenal FC Football Player

In their local community they have inspired young people through their various ambassador programmes and educational initiatives, and they have also introduced healthy eating and environmental sustainability to their fans, convincing some to adopt these concepts in their everyday lives.

And all of this fantastic work seems to now be inspiring people on an even larger scale. As just last month, Arsenal F.C. football player Hector Bellerin was confirmed as an investor in the club, becoming the club’s second-largest shareholder currently. 

Bellerin, who himself adopted a plant-based diet back in 2016, stated after the deal was announced that “Forest Green are showing others the way”, and that “so many people feel there’s no solution to the world’s problems, but Forest Green are already doing plenty. I’m so excited to be part of the FGR family. I’ll be helping where I can, supporting people who want to change the world for the better.”

Current Arsenal F.C. defender Hector Bellerin has recently been inspired to invest in Forest Green Rovers, becoming the club’s second biggest shareholder, and stating a desire to help the club ‘change the world for the better.’ Good man Hector!

Bellerin will reportedly be working with Forest Green chairman Dale Vince to ‘raise the environmental agenda in football – among clubs, leagues and fans’.

So it seems that as Forest Green Rovers continues to grow as a club, they will continue to inspire others to follow their trailblazing, issue-raising, planet-saving lead.

But what happens if the club grows a little ‘too big?” 

What Happens if the Club Grows ‘Too Big?’ 

Club chairman Dale Vince states in the club’s official environmental policy that ‘in any apparent conflict between the environment and money – we put the environment first.’ 

Being considered the ‘greenest football club in the world’ is certainly no mean feat. It’s clear from what we’ve seen in this article that the effort and commitment required to achieve this reality is substantial.

But I wonder if it is possible (or feasible) to maintain such levels of environmental integrity as the club continues to grow and grow? When it comes down to it, understandably, the main focus of a football club will always be to win football matches. Keep winning these matches for long enough, and the money, pressure, and attention will inevitably start to pour in.

If in 15 years time for example Forest Green Rovers somehow find themselves top of the Premier League, competing in the Champions League final every second year, and signing world-class footballers for millions an millions of pounds every summer, it is likely they will require a much larger stadium, will have fans flying in from all over the world, and will be selling their merchandise on a global scale. A reality that would be much more environmentally precarious than their current one.

This is an extreme (and unlikely) example of course, but I am curiously excited to see whether Forest Green Rovers can stay true to their environmental roots, as they continue to climb the increasingly money-focused footballing ladder. 

Painting Europe Green: Could Forest Green Rovers one day go on to lift the European Cup, while still remaining ‘the greenest football club in the world?’ I mean anything is possible, right?

Club chairman Dale Vince states in the club’s official environmental policy that ‘in any apparent conflict between the environment and money – we put the environment first.’ 

If they can remain true to that, and continue to progress in a sustainable manner while inspiring others to do the same, then hopefully before long Forest Green Rovers F.C. will no longer be considered ‘the greenest football club in the world.’ 

Hopefully, before long, there will be many more football clubs just like them.

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.

Oh What A Year  

2020; the absolute opposite of 20/20 vision. 

2020 hasn’t been the best year so far has it?

Corona has been a disaster for basically everyone who isn’t a billionaire

The heatwaves seem to be getting worse. The wildfires, the hurricanes, the seemingly uncontrollable melting of the ice sheets; the climate in general seems madder than ever. 

The deep-rooted systemic racism entrenched deep within our societies is clear for everyone to see.

People are protesting all over the world for one reason or another, and mostly with good cause. From Hong Kong, to Chile, to Belarus, to Lebanon, to the US, and all over the world; there seems to be inequality and injustice everywhere you look.

People have been violently turned against each other over something as harmless as having to wear a piece of cloth on our faces. Hatred and distrust seems to be spewing from all corners of the globe. The supposed shining light of international ‘democracy’ has become a despicably racist illiterate potato-head led totalitarian military dictatorship equipped with a weaponised secret police force and a licence to maim. 

And honestly, sometimes it’s really hard to know what at all to think, because large sections of the media have clearly become more interested in spreading fear and generating clicks than reporting anything that even remotely resembles some form of reason or truth. 

2020; the absolute opposite of 20/20 vision. 

I reckon this pretty much sums up 2020 so far.

But 2020 has certainly not been a completely hopeless year:

For the first time since I can remember, the deep-rooted issue of racism in our societies is finally being discussed openly, and at length, with a view to actually taking action and doing something about it. Renewable energy has now become widely economically viable, and seems to be taking over from fossil fuels for good. Cities around the world have decided to ditch the cars and embrace the bikes. And the numerous random acts of kindness we have witnessed during the pandemic have been truly heartwarming. 

Not only this, there have also been many unsung heroes of 2020. Just your ‘regular’ ‘everyday’ people who have done incredible, inspirational things, but who may not have gotten the air-time they deserve.

I’m sure there are inspirational people like this doing inspirational things all around the globe every single day, and that reality is something that can truly bring us hope. But since many of these stories are probably never even reported, and since I can’t possibly cover all of these ‘everyday heroes’ in one article, here are eight heartwarming examples I was able to find. 

What a bunch of absolute legends!

The Unsung Heroes

1. Taco Bell Employee Sonja Frazier Saves Man’s Life in the Middle of the Drive-Thru

Sonja Frazier on the left, saved a man’s life in the middle of a Taco Bell drive-thru!

Imagine working at a fast-food drive-thru and finding someone passed out in their van with blue hands and barely a pulse. I reckon I’d probably panic in that situation myself, and I think a lot of people would probably do the same, but that wasn’t the case with 37-year-old Sonja Frazier.

Just last week, while working at a Taco Bell drive-thru, Frazier and her work colleagues noticed that something was stopping the queue of cars from moving forward. When they investigated what was causing the blockage, they found a man passed out in the driver’s seat of his van. Instantly, they called an ambulance, and pulled the guy out of the van and lay him down on his side.

“I don’t look at myself as a hero. This is what I was supposed to do. It doesn’t matter who he was or what skin colour he had. I knew I was there to save his life. But it really was overwhelming emotionally. After I just smoked a cigarette and cried.”

– Sonja Frazier

Instead of just waiting for the ambulance to arrive, Sonja was quick-thinking enough to check for a pulse, which she found to be very weak. The 911 dispatcher on the phone asked if anyone knew CPR, and Sonja who had previously worked for six years as a home healthcare worker, stepped forward. 

She performed CPR on the man for roughly 11 minutes until the medical professionals arrived at the scene, and the man survived to tell the tale. 

Of course it was the teamwork and quick-thinking of Sonja Frazier and her follow employees that ultimately saved this man’s life, but if Sonja hadn’t administered the CPR before the medics arrived, it’s likely that the man in question would not be alive today.

Looking back on the incident Sonja modestly confessed: “I don’t look at myself as a hero. This is what I was supposed to do. It doesn’t matter who he was or what skin colour he had. I knew I was there to save his life. But it really was overwhelming emotionally. After I just smoked a cigarette and cried.”

A well deserved cigarette if there ever was one. What could have been a real tragic story, turned out to be a happy one, all thanks to the heroics of Sonja Frazier and her colleagues. Legends! 

2. 6-Year-Old Bridger Walker Saves His Little Sister From Vicious Dog Attack 

The now Honorary WBC Champion of the World, 6-year-old Bridger Walker stepped in to save his sister from a vicious dog attack, sustaining serious facial injuries in the process. What an absolute warrior.

Okay so you may well have heard about this one already, as the story did go viral not so long ago, but this guy Bridger Walker is far too incredible not to include in any article about inspirational people and heroes. 

Just last month, while playing in a friend’s garden with his 4-year-old sister, 6-year-old Bridger Walker stepped between his little sister and a vicious dog who was charging towards her. The dog ended up biting Bridger repeatedly in the head, face, and cheek, and he required serious surgery and roughly 90 stitches as a result of the attack. Importantly for Bridger though, his sister was completely unharmed.

He was even quoted as saying after the attack that “If someone had to die, I thought it should be me.” A ridiculous showing of courage and self-sacrifice for someone so young, and surely an inspiration to us all.

This story has since gone viral, and Bridger has received many messages of support and gifts from folks around the world and from ‘Avengers’ Mark Ruffalo (The Hulk), Chris Evans (Captain America), Robert Downey Jr (Iron Man), and various other celebrities. Clearly Bridger Walker is the real-life superhero in this story.  

Bridger has even been officially named as an ‘Honorary WBC Champion of the World’ by the World Boxing Council, and received an official belt from them, as well as other gifts and a call from Mike Tyson! A well-deserved honour if you ask me.

Unfortunately the dog involved in the attack has since been put down. This was against the wishes of Bridger who ‘didn’t want to see the dog hurt,’ which just illustrates even further the level of kindness and compassion in this little warrior’s heart. I was going to say I reckon this fella Bridger Walker will surely grow up to be a truly incredible human being, but it’s clear to see that he already is. What an absolute hero.

“If someone had to die, I thought it should be me.”

– Honorary WBC Champion of the World Bridger Walker, after saving his little sister from a vicious dog attack.

And to add even more layers of heartwarmingness and inspiration to this story, Bridger’s family took advantage of the worldwide coverage the story received to send this beautiful message of love and togetherness to the world:

“After Bridger’s actions, our family has settled on a simple request: may we each actively strive to bear one another’s burdens; stand up for and protect those that are weak, oppressed, or those whom the world might forsake; mourn with those that mourn, comfort those that need comfort, and love one another. May we follow Bridger’s example, approach the world as a child, and bring greater peace to our own homes, communities, states, and countries.”

Incredible words. I really hope one day we will all strive to live by them. 

3. Teenager Hita Gupta Sends Care Packages to 23 Nursing Homes During Pandemic 

15-Year-Old Hita Gupta has been sending care packages to over 23 nursing homes during the pandemic in an effort to show the elderly residents some love. She plans to continue sending the packages until the pandemic is over. Incredible effort, from a super-kind soul.

Loneliness is a terrible, sometimes unbearable thing, and it is often most prevalent with elderly people. Unfortunately, because of the pandemic, issues of loneliness, boredom and anxiety within the elderly community have only gotten worse, as many vulnerable elderly folks and nursing home residents have been unable to receive visitors.

15-year-old Hita Gupta has long been aware of the isolation faced by many elderly people, and had been volunteering at a local nursing home for over a year before the pandemic hit. (What a kind kind soul.)

When she was no longer allowed to visit as a result of corona-related restrictions, she decided to go above and beyond to ensure that nursing home residents in her surrounding area were not without human contact and entertainment.

“Loneliness is now a bigger problem than ever with our pandemic and social distancing guidelines. We need to let nursing home residents know that they are not being forgotten, and that they are not alone. As a community, we need to work together to make seniors feel loved and valued.”

– Hita Gupta

Hita started putting together ‘care packages’ containing colouring books, puzzles, and handwritten notes from her and her little brother, and delivering these packages to all of the nursing homes in her area

She has so far sent packages to 23 nursing homes, and says she will continue sending them until the pandemic is over.

I can only imagine what a difference it must make to the folks in those nursing homes to receive the handmade packages. The amount of love, care and attention put into them must be clear to see, and I’m sure it lets everyone receiving the packages know that they are loved, and that they are not alone. What a wonderful thing that is.

As Hita says: “Loneliness is now a bigger problem than ever with our pandemic and social distancing guidelines. We need to let nursing home residents know that they are not being forgotten, and that they are not alone. As a community, we need to work together to make seniors feel loved and valued.”

Hugely important words, and what a special human being.

Also, after initially paying for all the supplies out of her own pocket, Hita has now set up a GoFundMe campaign, so if you fancy chipping in to help her on her wonderful mission, just click the link in the text above! 

4. 96-Year-Old Giuseppe Paternò Graduates Top Of His University Class 

Giuseppe Paternò fulfilled a lifelong dream this year by graduating top of his University class with first class honours, proving that it is never too late to chase, and achieve your dreams. Really wonderful stuff.

Wow. I have to say this one really did impress me. The sheer determination and drive this guy has shown to achieve his dream when many would have long given up is truly inspirational. Really incredible stuff.

Just a few weeks ago, 96-year-old Giuseppe Paternò fulfilled a lifelong dream by graduating top of his class with first-class honours in philosophy from the University of Palermo. He has now become Italy’s oldest ever graduate.

Although being able to study was always Giuseppe’s ‘greatest aspiration,’ he was never able to do so as a child because he came from a large family and was ‘very poor.’ After working at his father’s brewery as a child, Giussepe then worked as a telegrapher for the Italian army during World War II, and went on to work for the state railway service after the war.

Giussepe recalls that while he was working for the railway service after the war he always had ‘an overwhelming desire to dive into books and read, study and learn,’ and at 31 he graduated high school as a surveyor after attending evening classes. (All the while working during the day and supporting his family!)

It wasn’t until 2017 that Giussepe finally found the opportunity to follow his dream and enrol in University. (Meaning he started a four-year University course at the ripe young age of 92!) 

Incredibly, Giuseppe is now considering carrying on for a master’s degree, as he says: “my mother lived to be 100. If the numbers and the genetics are on my side, then I still have four years left.”

– Giuseppe Paternò

Fantastically, he proved that sometimes you don’t have to teach an old dog new tricks, as he completed all his assignments on an old typewriter! 

Apparently, during his studies his neighbours used to ask ‘why all this trouble at your age?’ And he explains that ‘they couldn’t understand the importance of reaching a dream, regardless of my age.’

Giuseppe considers the day he graduated top of his class as ‘one of the happiest days of (his) entire life,’ and astonishingly, he is now ‘considering carrying on for a master’s degree.’ He says, “my mother lived to be 100. If the numbers and the genetics are on my side, then I still have four years left.”

What an incredible story, what an incredible human. Proof, that it is never too late. 

5. 10-Year-Old Chelsea Phaire Has Sent Over 1500 Art Kits to Kids in Homeless Shelters and Foster Homes 

10-Year-Old Chelsea Phaire has already set up her own charity, and with the help of her parents, has sent over 1500 art kits to children in homeless shelters and foster homes. Truly incredible.

Much like the story above about Hita Gupta sending care packages to nursing homes, 10-year-old Chelsea Phaire is doing something similar; sending art kits to children in homeless shelters and foster care homes.

After nagging her parents about wanting to start a charity since she was seven years old (my goodness, at the age of seven I was nagging my parents for nothing but sweets, Playstation games, and Spiderman toys; what a thoughtful, generous, mature soul this Chelsea girl really is), they finally helped her to launch ‘Chelsea’s Charity’ last year. 

Chelsea’s charity began (or was born!) on Chelsea’s birthday when she asked party guests to donate art supplies instead of giving her gifts. She then began making art kits and sending them to children who really need them.

“I have definitely grown as a person because of this. Now my dream is to meet every kid in the entire world and give them art. Who knows, maybe if we do that and then our kids do that, we’ll have world peace!”

– Chelsea Phaire

Before the pandemic hit, Chelsea actually used to go with her mother to meet some of these kids in person to share drawing techniques! She has since sent over 1500 art kits to homeless shelters and foster care homes as she wants to ‘give children something uplifting to do when they’re feeling down.’ Amazing stuff. 

Chelsea explains that “I feel good inside knowing how happy they are when they get their art kits.” And that “I have definitely grown as a person because of this. Now my dream is to meet every kid in the entire world and give them art. Who knows, maybe if we do that and then our kids do that, we’ll have world peace!”

Using the power of art and expression to unite the human family; I truly hope that Chelsea Phaire one day achieves her dream. What an inspirational soul she is.

If you would like to help Chelsea achieve her goals, you can donate to her wonderful charity here

6. Trumpeter Shamarr Allen is Giving Free Trumpets to Young People in Exchange for Their Guns 

Musician Shamarr Allen has launched a program where young people can trade in their guns and receive a free trumpet and free music lessons from local musicians. An incredible initiative with the aim of giving disadvantaged young people an outlet beyond violence.

Art is certainly something with the power to bring people together and to promote love and creativity over violence. Another thing that certainly holds that power is music.

Proving this to be the case, trumpeter Shamarr Allen is working to literally harness the power of music to reduce gun violence among young people by offering to give them trumpets in exchange for their guns. 

To do this, Shamarr has set up a ‘gun-for-trumpet’ exchange program called Trumpet Is My Weapon. Although the program has only been active for one month, it has already collected four guns which have been turned over to police. That is four young people who now have a creative outlet in place of a violent weapon in the space of a month, incredibly encouraging news!

“People don’t understand that these kids are trying and wanting to do other things, but there’s just nothing for them to do.”

– Shamarr Allen

Shamarr was compelled to start the Trumpet Is My Weapon program after the tragic death of 9-year-old Devante Bryant from gun violence just last month. Shamarr has a 9-year-old son himself, so the tragic news of Devante Bryant’s death was even more cutting for him.

With some extra trumpets lying around, Shamarr posted on social media: ‘To all the youth in New Orleans, bring me a gun and I’ll give you a trumpet, no questions asked.’ The program is set up in such a way that any young person who wants to hand over a gun can do so with no questions asked, as Mr. Allen stresses how important it is that the kids who come to the exchange feel safe, and know that they won’t get into any trouble. The local police are also on board with this method, as they realise that the most important thing is to get the guns off the street.

What makes this program even better is that beyond providing these young people with trumpets, local musicians have also volunteered to offer free music lessons. As Shamarr put it, “People don’t understand that these kids are trying and wanting to do other things, but there’s just nothing for them to do.”

Well thankfully, now there is something for them to do!

Just imagine as this program progresses how many lives it might save. Imagine in ten years time we might have a world famous musician in place of another tragic story of violence and death on the streets. I feel like the butterly effect will be incredibly prevalent here, we can’t imagine all the good that will come from something like this. A truly amazing idea.

Here is the link for the Trumpet Is My Weapon GoFundMe page if you would like to contribute. 

7. Michelle Brenner Makes Over 1200 Free Lasagnas to Feed Her Community 

After being laid off work due to the pandemic, Michelle Brenner, or, ‘The Lasagna Lady‘, started making free homemade lasagnas for the folks in her community. By the end of June, she had delivered over 1200 lasagnas, and she is still going strong!

We’ve seen the power of art and music to comfort people and bring people together, but let’s not forget about the power of food!

Michelle Brenner certainly didn’t forget about the power of food. After being furloughed from her job because of the coronavirus, Michelle, like many people, was left with a lot of time on her hands. She began by using this time to help her neighbours out with their shopping, and after delivering some store-bought lasagnas to her neighbours she had an idea.

Apparently Michelle’s grandmother had given her a top-notch lasagna recipe, and being a ‘die-hard, full Italian lasagna lover’ herself, Michelle decided she would offer to make her grandmother’s lasagna for anyone in her community who wanted one.

“The world as we know it is falling apart, but my two little hands are capable of making a difference.” “I can’t change the world, but I can make lasagna.”

– Michelle Brenner, or, ‘The Lasagna Lady’

So she posted on her community Facebook page: ‘If any of you want some fresh homemade, no calorie counting lasagna, please let me know and I will gladly prepare it,’ and she started buying ingredients using her unemployment stimulus cheque. 

Michelle began by funding the project herself, and initially offered lasagnas for people to collect in her front yard, but soon enough she was offered a community clubhouse kitchen to work in, and people started donating whatever they could while collecting their lasagnas. 

She also started a Facebook fundraiser for the project, which is no longer active, and people ended up donating from all over the world. By the end of June Michelle had already made over 1200 lasagnas, and had been working eight hours a day, seven days a week feeding the hungry folks in her community! As a result of her efforts, she is now well known in her community as ‘The Lasagna Lady.’ 

In her own words: “The world as we know it is falling apart, but my two little hands are capable of making a difference.’ ‘I can’t change the world, but I can make lasagna.” Amazing what two little hands can be capable of! 

Back at the end of June Michelle hoped to ‘be making lasagna for many months to come.’ And considering that she now has a dedicated Facebook page for the project which seems to be very active, it looks like she still is! 

What a kind, generous, loving, inspirational human. I have to say though, I’m feeling pretty hungry after writing all that! 

8. Dr. Zhang Hong Saves Man’s Life Mid-Flight With a Makeshift Catheter 

Dr. Zhang Hong saved a man’s life mid flight by fashioning a makeshift catheter out of a straw, a syringe, and parts from an oxygen mask. Incredible, lifesaving actions!

The first real-life hero I included in this article was Sonja Frazier, who saved a man’s life just last week, and our final hero is also someone who saved a man’s life, at the very beginning of 2020. (I believe the incident actually took place near the end of 2019, remember those simpler times? But still, I’m including it because it’s a worthy story.)

Only seven hours in to a thirteen-hour flight late last year, a man with a history of prostate enlargement was in severe pain, and at risk of his bladder exploding.

Alerted to the situation, Dr. Zhang Hong was very quick to figure out a clever, if unusual solution, and he fashioned a makeshift catheter out of a straw, a syringe, and the plastic tube of an oxygen mask. 

Following the incident Dr. Hong insisted that ‘saving lives is in his instincts and so the extreme nature of the intervention never crossed his mind.’ 

Dr. Hong then used this homemade (planemade?) contraption to suck urine out of the patient’s bladder over the course of over half an hour, surely saving the man’s life in the process. 

Following the incident Dr. Hong insisted that ‘saving lives is in his instincts and so the extreme nature of the intervention never crossed his mind.’ 

Those are some pretty fantastic instincts if you ask me. If I’m ever in a similar situation to the man in this story, I really hope there is somebody like Dr. Hong around to help out. 

A true, understated, lifesaving hero. 

Here’s to a Better 2021 (I Realise It’s Still Only August, but Desperate Times and All That)

Maybe, just maybe, if enough of us follow the lead of the inspirational people in this article, 2021 might look a little more like this. 

And so there you have it. 

2020 has been a truly terrible year so far, and it seems like the worst of it isn’t over yet. But there is hope within the madness, light within the darkness, and calm beyond the flames.

It is ‘everyday’ people like the beautiful folks in this article that give me faith for a better tomorrow. 

The courage, love, kindness, selflessness, and downright shining humanity displayed by all of these people really is something to behold, and an inspiration for us all.

And these are just a few stories. There are countless other examples just like these from all around the world if you go looking for them, and many more that have never been documented. 

2020 has been a truly terrible year so far, and it seems like the worst of it isn’t over yet. But there is hope within the madness, light within the darkness, and calm beyond the flames.

If we can all take a little encouragement from the actions of these kind people, and try to incorporate a similar kindness into our own everyday lives and interactions with our fellow humans, we can create a beautiful butterfly effect, and you never know, maybe 2021 will be our best year yet. 

Love, peace, prosperity, happiness, kindness, and friendship to all in these challenging times.

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 must be clear from the beginning that I do know the folks who run this salon (they’re wonderful folks), but I promise you I am not allowing that to cloud my judgement here. They are not paying me to write this article, aside from giving me a super groovy haircut which we will get to later.

I would happily be singing the praises of Salon Sassafras regardless of whether I knew the owners or not, and the salon absolutely deserves its place on A Wall of Hope. For me, it serves as a perfect example of how a hair salon, or any small business for that matter, should be run with environmental sustainability in mind. So with all that out of the way, go have a read of the article below and see what you think!

More than Just a Name

Ever hear about a thing called ‘sassafras’?

Sounds wonderful doesn’t it? Just rolls off the tongue like toilet roll rolls off the shelves during a pandemic.

Salon Sassafras has a really genuine, business-wide focus on environmental sustainability, minimalism, and a strong commitment to reducing waste as much as possible. 

But not only is sassafras an incredibly pleasurable word to say, it is also the name of a very special type of tree. The sassafras tree is incredible because every single part of it can be, and has been used for something. Sassafras provides food for wildlife, its wood and bark has a variety of domestic and commercial uses, tea can be brewed from its roots, the leaves can be used for thickening soups, and the oil can be used in perfumes and soaps. Sassafras has many other reported uses as well, so in a way, you could call sassafras a kind of ‘zero waste’ tree.

This article is not about the sassafras tree however (although that could be a very good idea for a future article), because see, not only is sassafras an incredibly pleasurable word to say, and a very special type of ‘zero waste’ tree; sassafras is also the name of a very special new hair salon that’s recently opened up in the Bos en Lommer region of Amsterdam. 

Salon Sassafras in the Bos en Lommer region of Amsterdam; Groovy name, groovy logo, and even groovier ethos.

But what makes this Salon Sassafras in Amsterdam so special? Well just like the sassafras tree, this salon has more than a touch of the zero waste about it. Salon Sassafras has a really genuine, business-wide focus on environmental sustainability, minimalism, and a strong commitment to reducing waste as much as possible. 

From running on renewable energy, to refusing to use single-use-plastic, to only working with the most sustainable brands around, Salon Sassafras really is a near-perfect (perfection is impossible really isn’t it?) example of how to incorporate environmental sustainability into a hair salon. 

So here’s a look at all the things that make Salon Sassafras a true salon of sustainability. 

Embracing the Circular Economy

Salon Sassafras was established from the very beginning with the circular economy, and therefore, the environment in mind. 

If you haven’t heard of the circular economy you can learn all about it in this hilarious article I wrote a while back, but basically the circular economy is about making much better use of our raw materials. The circular economy is the economy of the future, where we build things to last, and we find a way to use the same raw materials over and over again instead of constantly extracting new ones and destroying the planet. And it is with this kind of ‘circular’ ethos that Salon Sassafras, the physical salon itself, was put together. 

Basically, Salon Sassafras has been, and is being, put together in a way that removes it from the ‘consumer cycle’ as much as possible.

In true circular fashion, the majority of Salon Sassafras has been fitted and furnished with recycled, reused, and repurposed materials, or built by hand with locally produced and sustainably managed ones:

  • The washbasin, chairs, mirrors and cutting stools have all been recycled or repurposed by finding high quality used pieces and ‘fixing them up’ to suit the salon. 
  • The reception pillows were handmade by repurposing leftover cushions and wrapping them in velvet fabric. 
  • The shelving, desks and counters were hand-built from elm tree wood, a tree that grows in abundance in the Netherlands. The wood was locally harvested to reduce travel-related emissions and to ensure the sustainability of the wood. 
  • The folks at Salon Sassafras even plan to decorate the place with hand made ‘natural-fibre’ macrame decorations by repurposing some old rope and twine, so even the bells and whistles at Salon Sassafras are circular bells and whistles! (I wonder if they could make some decorations out of actual bells and whistles? Could be a nice circular idea?) 

Basically, Salon Sassafras has been, and is being, put together in a way that removes it from the ‘consumer cycle’ as much as possible. They try to recycle, reuse, and repurpose wherever they can, and if they are ever forced to purchase any mass-produced furniture or appliances, they make sure to only purchase from brands with ‘solid environmental policies and a strong sustainability rating.’

Now just imagine if every business were to adopt this same level of commitment to respecting and making better use of raw materials. That, my friends, is how we can move towards a more circular, hospitable world.

But this commitment to circularity and sustainability does not begin and end with the procurement of raw materials, of course, it involves what we do with those raw materials once we have finished using them as well.

At Salon Sassafras, they take this very seriously. 

A Constant Commitment to the ‘Zero Waste’ Journey

Creating absolutely no waste whatsoever is virtually an impossible thing to achieve, especially when running a business. But constantly striving to create as little waste as possible, to always choose the least wasteful option, and to always be on the lookout for new ways to reduce waste is about the best a business can do. Here’s a look at how they’re doing just that at Salon Sassafras throughout the salon experience: 

Towels 

Towels really seem like such an innocent thing. The truth is; as a hair salon customer you’re probably not overly concerned about the environmental sustainability of the towel that’s wrapped around your soon to be beautified hair. You are there for your hair, and I suppose that’s fair enough.

But if you’re running a business and you want to reduce waste as much as possible you need to consider absolutely every aspect of your operation, and in salons, that definitely includes towels! At Salon Sassafras it seems, a whole lot of consideration has been put into their towels.

Instead of using reusable towels, Salon Sassafras has opted to use disposable towels from a brand named Scrummi. Now on the surface, it may seem more wasteful to opt for a disposable towel as opposed to a reusable towel, but when you really look into it, that’s not necessarily the case. 

Reusable towels are usually made from either cotton or synthetic microfibres (plastic). Of course, we all know why plastic towels are a terrible option; they take thousands of years to break down and are usually produced with all sorts of damaging and wasteful chemicals, but cotton is a highly unsustainable material as well. Cotton production involves an incredible amount of water use (and waste), and also requires all sorts of pesticides and herbicides which severely degrades soil quality and damages natural habitats. 

Cotton is often grown in large monocultures (where a single crop is grown at a time) and this is detrimental to the health of the land and the biodiversity of local habitats.

So it turns out reusable towel production is more often than not, very wasteful, and very damaging to the environment. Add to this the fact that in a salon, each reusable towel must be washed at 60-90 degrees after every use, which uses a whole lot of water and energy on a regular basis, and you can see why reusable towels are not exactly the most sustainable option.

The disposable Scrummi towels in use at Salon Sassafras however, are a whole different story! These towels are 100% biodegradable and compostable, and will harmlessly dissolve back into the environment within 8 weeks. They are made from natural wood fibres, derived from Central European Forests that have been certified sustainable, so they are as kind to the environment as possible when it comes to raw materials used. The Scrummi towels are also produced without the use of synthetic chemicals, and 95% of the water used during the production process is recycled using a filtration system. 

If you’re running a business and you want to reduce waste as much as possible you need to consider absolutely every aspect of your operation, and in salons, that definitely includes towels!

So all-in-all, it seems Salon Sassafras has made a very sustainable, waste-friendly choice when it comes to their Scrummi towels. 

Coffee

At Salon Sassafras, even the coffee they serve you is as waste-free as possible!

Now while you’re sitting there in the salon with a super-sustainable towel wrapped around your head, becoming more glowing and more beautiful by the second, it might be quite nice to indulge in some tasty refreshments. How about a nice hot cup of coffee while you’re waiting? 

At Salon Sassafras, even the coffee they serve you is as waste-free as possible! To save on energy and reduce waste, they use a ‘pour-over’ method of making coffee where they brew one big batch a day and then keep all the coffee hot in thermos flasks. This means energy is saved by not having to brew multiple batches, and the substantial amount of waste that comes from single-cup espresso coffee and pod-coffee is also avoided. (I’ve always thought those usually unrecyclable George Clooney pods are one of the most wasteful things the human race has ever created, I mean what the flaming goodness are we thinking?)

They also only serve fair trade coffee at Salon Sassafras, and they try to support the local coffee roasters as much as possible too, so you can enjoy your mid-makeover refreshments with a calm, planet-friendly state of mind.

Toilet Paper

Coffee often makes you need the toilet doesn’t it? Pretty sure it’s a natural laxative or something? Does the job for me anyways!

Funnily enough, much like towels, toilet paper also seems like a perfectly innocent thing, but some have estimated that roughly 10 million trees are used to wipe human bottoms around the world EACH YEAR! Which makes you realise that toilet paper can actually be an incredibly wasteful thing.

This has been considered at Salon Sassafras though. They always use eco-friendly, non-bleached, recycled toilet paper in the salon, and will soon exclusively be using toilet paper made by a company called ‘The Good Roll,’ who make their toilet paper from 100% recycled paper (so no new trees have to be cut down), and free from chlorine, colour or fragrances. So if the waste-friendly coffee runs through you at Salon Sassafras, you can go to the toilet safe in the knowledge that you’re doing your thing for the trees! 

Toilet roll made from 100% recycled paper by The Good Roll; looks super funky too!

The Good Roll also donates 50% of its profits to building toilets in developing countries, so really, the toilet roll at Salon Sassafras isn’t just reducing waste and decreasing deforestation, it is also helping people in need too. 

Who knew our choice of toilet paper could make such a difference? 

Would you like a Receipt?

Toilet paper isn’t the only kind of paper that makes a difference. According to some statistics, up to 10 million trees are used each year in the US alone just for the production of paper receipts, and a whole lot of water is used too. While these statistics may not be entirely accurate, it’s not hard to imagine the vast amount of paper, and therefore trees that must be used to print paper receipts on a daily basis all around the world. It’s actually completely bonkers how wasteful that is when you think about it!

But Salon Sassafras has decided not to be bonkers, and to only offer digital receipts, which for me makes a whole planet’s worth of sense. 

According to some statistics, up to 10 million trees are used each year in the US alone just for the production of paper receipts, and a whole lot of water is used too.

So you can walk out of there with your hair held high and your receipt on your phone, knowing the world is a slightly better place because of it. 

Taking out the Trash (Without Taking out the Planet)

By the time you get home and you’re showing off your new look to everybody, it’s probably already clean up time at the salon. Surfaces need to be wiped down and empty containers need to be dealt with.

To do this in the least wasteful way possible, Salon Sassafras always uses non-petroleum based bin bags that are biodegradable, while recycling all plastic, glass and paper properly. They also stick to all-natural, chemical-free cleaning products wherever possible to minimise their environmental impact.

As I said at the beginning of this section; it is virtually impossible to completely eliminate waste, but by taking these measures while cleaning up and dealing with trash, and taking all the other measures mentioned above to reduce the amount of waste in the first place, Salon Sassafras seems to be doing all they can to limit their impact as much as possible. 

How About a Bottle Refill Scheme? 

Incorporating environmental sustainability and ‘zero waste’ into a business will always be a journey, never a destination.

To reduce their impact even further, although it is not active yet, there are plans being drawn up at Salon Sassafras to introduce a bottle refill initiative. This would involve having clients bring back their empty bottles (shampoo, conditioner etc) to be refilled in store, in order to reduce or nearly eliminate packaging waste. 

A simple but sensible idea, and a great example of how Salon Sassafras is always looking for new ways to minimise their waste. Incorporating environmental sustainability and ‘zero waste’ into a business will always be a journey, never a destination. It’s all about constantly trying to move in the right direction, and the folks at Salon Sassafras are clearly committed to doing just that. 

And speaking of businesses moving in the right direction….. 

Working with Sustainable Brands and Suppliers 

For a business to be truly committed to sustainability, it’s important that it chooses to work with brands that share this commitment. Whether it’s suppliers, contractors, B2B Customers, decorators, whatever it is. What’s the point in building a salon out of repurposed materials and pursuing a zero-waste policy if you stock that salon with brands that are destroying the planet? 

The shelves at Salon Sassafras are stocked with some of the most sustainable, environment-friendly brands around.

By choosing to work with brands and suppliers that truly value sustainability, it not only makes your own business more sustainable, it also increases the demand and pressure for other businesses to embrace sustainability; thereby enabling a much wider ecosystem of sustainable business practice. As Salon Sassafras has only been open a few weeks, they are still figuring out the most sustainable brands to work with, but they are already making plenty of progress:

  • To minimise plastic use, they have decided to only work with brands that come in glass or metal containers whenever possible. 
  • When they are forced to work with plastic products (as sometimes alternatives simply are not available), they will look for brands that use post-consumer plastic only, and they will always make sure that the plastic is recyclable. 
  • To further reduce packaging waste and water usage, they are currently testing out a range of solid products that require little or no packaging. They hope to bring a line of professional standard solid products into the shop very shortly. 
  • Salon Sassafras only works with brands that are certified cruelty free, and are not tested on animals. 
  • Basically, at Salon Sassafras there is a real commitment to only working with brands and suppliers that take sustainability seriously. They are only interested in working with brands and suppliers that make a genuine effort to: Offset their carbon footprint, give back to the community, reduce their plastic usage, reduce their packaging waste, and minimise or eliminate harmful chemicals from their products. 

They also do their research at Salon Sassafras. All potential brands are fact-checked extensively to make sure they are not greenwashing, and that their sustainability efforts are genuine. (I can absolutely ensure you that this is true; I spent a few hours in the salon the other week and overheard the girls discussing the environmental pros and cons of a particular shampoo/conditioner brand they were thinking of using, and my goodness, it was a fiery, in-depth conversation. It’s clear that they don’t make any decision lightly, and that environmental sustainability really is at the heart of every decision they make. The passion for sustainability at Salon Sassafras runs deeper than the roots of a sassafras tree!)

By choosing to work with brands and suppliers that truly value sustainability, it not only makes your own business more sustainable, it also increases the demand and pressure for other businesses to embrace sustainability; thereby enabling a much wider ecosystem of sustainable business practice.

And since we’re on the topic of working with brands and suppliers that take sustainability seriously, isn’t the most important supplier of all, the one that actually powers your entire operation? 

Powered by Renewable Energy 

Salon Sassafras’s entire operation is powered by Greenchoice, which generates all its energy from local wind, sun, or biomass sources, as well as ‘forest-compensated’ gas. Greenchoice works to provide energy from renewable sources wherever possible, and when gas does need to be used, they invest in forest restoration and protection projects around the world to help compensate for any emissions. They have also established their own projects where they plant new forests, and have so far planted over 2 million trees, offsetting 100% of their customer’s gas consumption in the process. 

By sourcing their energy from Greenchoice, Salon Sassafras is ensuring that all their operations are powered by renewable energy, generated locally in the Netherlands.

So it’s pretty safe to say that everything that happens at Salon Sassafras is powered in a way that respects the environment. They also use LED lighting in the salon, and only buy appliances with an A++ energy efficiency rating in order to reduce their energy consumption even further. 

Amazing how simply by switching your energy supplier you can make your entire business so much more ‘planet-friendly.’ And there’s another very simple way you can do that too! 

Saying No To Single-Use-Plastic 

Single-use-plastic is a material built to last for over 1000 years, yet one that is only ever intended to be used once, and is often never recycled. It clogs up the oceans, beaches, rivers, lakes, parks, forests, cities, ANIMALS, and even our own bodies and brains when it breaks down into microplastics. 

Not a whole lot needs to be said about this one really, but it deserves to have a separate section with a big bold title because it’s such an important thing to do regarding sustainability, and such an easy thing to implement.

Salon Sassafras refuses to use any single-use-plastic products, and there’s no reason why every single business on earth shouldn’t try to follow suit. 

Single-use-plastic is a material built to last for over 1000 years, yet one that is only ever intended to be used once, and is often never recycled. It clogs up the oceans, beaches, rivers, lakes, parks, forests, cities, ANIMALS, and even our own bodies and brains when it breaks down into microplastics. 

This is the kind of scenario we can move to avoid, if we do as Salon Sassafras is doing, and say NO to single-use-plastic.

Salon Sassafras says NO to single-use-plastic, and we should all try and do the same. Here’s an article I wrote a while back about alternatives to single-use-plastic to give you an idea of the other, better options out there. There are many! 

Bringing Barter Back?

So I mentioned in the blurb at the top of the article that I did get a super-groovy haircut at Salon Sassafras, and here it is in all its wonderful glory. I reckon they did a pretty good job in fairness? I was certainly over the rainbow with it. (Couldn’t resist)

Now of course this wasn’t exactly an act of barter. My mates had just opened up the new salon, and I’d always wanted rainbow hair, so I asked if it would be possible, and they were happy to do it for free if I let them use me as a ‘model’ for their portfolio. (The photoshoot was actually a whole lot of fun)

It’s like sharing is caring and caring and sharing can help save the world? And even better than that, the products used to create my rainbow hair are helping to save the world too. (Or at least make it a little less toxic!)

And after spending a full 8 hours in the salon it became very clear that this was exactly the kind of business I would usually write about on A Wall of Hope. It is a business with a genuine commitment to sustainability, and one that is leading the way in their field and acting as a kind of blueprint for sustainability that hopefully other businesses in their field can emulate.

So I decided to write about them, and I think it’s pretty cool that I got some wonderful rainbow hair, and they got some genuinely deserved exposure without any money having to exchange hands.

It’s like sharing is caring and caring and sharing can help save the world? And even better than that, the products used to create my rainbow hair are helping to save the world too. (Or at least make it a little less toxic!)

Cutting Out the Chemicals 

As we’ve already discussed, Salon Sassafras is very committed to only working with brands that are as kind to the environment as possible, and this commitment remains strong when it comes to colours and chemicals.

The colouring products used to dye my hair are from a brand called Organic Way, or Oway. These products contain fairtrade and organic ingredients grown on biodynamic farms in Italy, where no pesticides or toxic chemicals are used. Obviously there must be other more chemical-based ingredients involved as well, (I can’t find a full ingredients list so it’s hard to know exactly), but it seems like these Oway products are some of the most natural, and least toxic hair-colouring options available for hair salons today.

That is why Salon Sassafras has chosen to use them, and the salon takes the same approach of choosing the least toxic, least chemical-based options for all the other products they use as well. 

Circular, Zero Waste, Minimalist, Sustainable: Sassafras

It is impossible to be absolutely perfect when it comes to sustainability, but the constant endeavour for perfection regardless is probably the most important part of the blueprint.

So there you have it, Salon Sassafras, a near-perfect blueprint for how to run a hair salon sustainably:

  • They furnished and fitted the salon from the very beginning with the circular economy in mind.
  • They are constantly committed to the zero waste journey, and to pushing their boundaries and altering their processes to minimise their impact. 
  • They only work with the most environmentally friendly brands and suppliers available. 
  • Everything they do is powered by renewable energy sources. 
  • They refuse to use single-use-plastic.
  • And they do all they can to eliminate as many chemicals from their business as possible. 

They also take a minimalistic approach in general, only replacing old supplies when absolutely necessary, and only ever buying what they need. They even encourage their clients to bring in any unwanted plants to the salon so they can give the plants a loving home. (I would imagine that is a policy that any self-respecting sassafras tree would approve of!)

It is impossible to be absolutely perfect when it comes to sustainability, but the constant endeavour for perfection regardless is probably the most important part of the blueprint. I’m sure the folks at Salon Sassafras would be the first ones to tell you, there is always room to improve.

And it is that mentality and desire for constant improvement that ensures, without doubt;

Salon Sassafras, lives up to its wonderful name. 

Contact Details for Salon Sassafras Amsterdam 

Website: https://www.salonsassafras.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/salonsassafras/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/salonsassafras

Twitter: https://twitter.com/salonsassafras

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 am one of the extremely lucky ones. I have a safe roof over my head, food to eat, a bit of an income, work to do, and I don’t know anyone who has been critically ill because of the coronavirus. 

I say thank you from the bottom of my heart to all the heroes working to keep people safe during this crisis, all the heroes working to find cures and solutions to the many problems we now face, and all the heroes who have remained kind and loving to their fellow humans and creatures throughout these challenging times. 

Even more than that, I feel I was pretty much built for self-isolation. Before anyone had even heard of the coronavirus, I had been working from home for months as a freelancer because I couldn’t stand working in an office. (And I wanted the freedom to move around at will without having to find a new job each time, but we won’t get into that one right now!) I had even been exercising from home before coronavirus hit because I don’t like going to the gym. 

So you could say the lifestyle changes I have had to make as a result of the lockdown have been pretty minimal. (Haha, that probably makes me sound like a bit of a nutter, but you know, who actually cares?)

As far as the evenings and weekends go, I absolutely love getting out and about and meeting folks, and I do miss the pints and the laughs and the odd yoga class here and there, but I’m usually just as happy with long bouts of horizontalism on the couch as well; something self-isolation makes very possible indeed. And at least I have a couch to be horizontal on in the first place. 

So the lockdown hasn’t directly affected me nearly half as much as it has a lot of others, and for that reason it’s probably quite easy for me to write this article and try to tell everyone it’s all going to be okay. 

But the truth is, we don’t know if it’s going to be okay; I suppose we never did. People are really suffering through this, many are dying, and the economic and social ramifications of the crisis are yet to be fully known. 

For those who are working on the front lines, those who have lost loved ones because of this, those who are really struggling financially and may have lost jobs or businesses, those who are struggling mentally and psychologically through the lockdown, those who are suffering from domestic violence and abuse, and anyone else who has been deeply affected by this crisis, the things I cover in this article may be of little consolation. 

The coronavirus is a fucking disaster when you take it all into account. It is causing unimaginable pain and suffering in so many ways to so many people. 

I say thank you from the bottom of my heart to all the heroes working to keep people safe during this crisis, all the heroes working to find cures and solutions to the many problems we now face, and all the heroes who have remained kind and loving to their fellow humans and creatures throughout these challenging times. 

The real, beautiful heroes

We need to try and remain positive, together, if we’re going to get through this, and it is virtually impossible to do that without finding at least some cause for hope. So here are a few things that have happened since coronavirus hit that I think offer some reason for hope and optimism. 

Nature is Making a Comeback

The lockdown has given us absolute proof that our current way of living is incompatible with nature, and that we need to make some changes moving forward if we’re to have a prosperous, sustainable future.

Many of us have probably seen the pictures and heard the stories, and some of us have maybe even witnessed it first-hand. As people are forced to stay inside, nature seems to be flourishing. 

The canals in Venice have gone crystal clear for the first time in years. The fish have become visible and the swans have returned. Goats, wolves, deer, monkeys, coyotes and all sorts of animals have decided to wander further than normal into cities around the world in the absence of humans. Wildlife is filling up open spaces in Yosemite park in the US that would normally only be occupied by tourists.

The list goes on! In the absence of big cargo ships the oceans are now quieter, which is helping whales and marine life communicate more effectively and navigate their habitats better. Endangered sea turtles in Florida are now thriving and laying more nests than usual due to the lack of humans and harmful waste near the beaches. The Himalayas have even become visible in parts of India that haven’t seen them for 30 years because of air pollution, and geoscientists have found that the Earth’s crust is actually vibrating less due to reductions in human activity. 

The absolutely gorgeous Himalayas, as seen from a small town in India for the first time in over 30 years.

The examples of nature thriving while the human world has been on lockdown go on and on, and on top of all this, living in a city where you normally can’t see them, I’m nearly sure the stars are much more visible than they were before corona!? Or maybe that’s me going a little mad? 

The point is, nature seems to be thriving in our absence, and while some would see this realisation as a great big horrifying spotlight that reveals how damaging our current way of life is to the world around us, I would see it as a gift, and an opportunity. To change our ways.

The lockdown has given us absolute proof that our current way of living is incompatible with nature, and that we need to make some changes moving forward if we’re to have a prosperous, sustainable future. 

And you know what? It seems we’re already starting to change for the better, in a really big way! 

Renewable Energy is Taking Over 

During the lockdown, it has become quite clear (in more ways than one) that air pollution is a huge problem for us normally, and for nature. 

Amazingly, according to the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, during the month of April, in Europe alone, there have been 11,000 fewer deaths than normal from pollution as a result of the lockdown and subsequent reduction in fossil fuel-related emissions. And that’s just for one single month in Europe. The worldwide number since the lockdown began is sure to be much larger. 

‘The authors of the report say the response has offered a glimpse of the cleaner, healthier environment that is possible if the world shifts away from polluting fossil fuel industries.’ And it seems we are already starting to do just that. 

Solar and onshore wind power are now the cheapest new sources of electricity in at least two-thirds of the world’s population.

In January and February in the US, renewable energy sources produced 10.6% more electricity than coal, with solar-generated electricity expanding by 32% compared to the same period of 2019, and wind growing by 19.8%. Wind power produced 32.5% of Ireland’s electricity in 2019, compared to 29% the previous year, and just this week, Britain has broken its record for coal-free power generation, going over 20 days so far without using any coal at all to produce electricity. And these are just some of the examples. 

A report this week by BloombergNEF stated that ‘solar and onshore wind power are now the cheapest new sources of electricity in at least two-thirds of the world’s population, further threatening the two fossil-fuel stalwarts — coal and natural gas.’ A report from the International Energy Agency this week even suggested that ‘the outbreak of Covid-19 would wipe out demand for fossil fuels’ and that ‘the steady rise of renewable energy combined with the collapse in demand for fossil fuels means clean electricity will play its largest ever role in the global energy system this year, and help erase a decade’s growth of global carbon emissions.’

I wanted a groovy photo for this section and I found this, which I think is astonishing. I also think the wind turbines make the landscape look even more impressive? (Especially when you contemplate what their purpose is)

The evidence of this can already be seen as just this week, the oil company Shell ‘has slashed its shareholder dividend for the first time since the second world war and warned it is facing a “crisis of uncertainty” following the collapse of global oil prices.’ 

And while all this has been going on, solar cell technology has smashed three big efficiency records in the last few months, becoming more productive and cost-effective than ever before. 

So it seems clear we are on the brink of a world that runs on clean, renewable energy, where air pollution is reduced for good, lives are saved, and nature can finally breathe again. And importantly, it now makes more financial sense to use renewable energy over fossil fuels, and we all know money makes this world go around; so the transition to renewables is pretty much a sure thing. 

But what was that I said about nature breathing again?? 

The World is Going Tree-Crazy 

Fortunately, it seems, the trees are unable to catch coronavirus, and will continue to grow while we all stay inside! 

Although most of us have been stuck inside these past few months, many great organisations around the world have been trying their best to continue regenerating the earth by strategically planting trees and implementing carefully designed re-wilding projects. 

Organisations like Justdiggit, Mossy Earth, Ecosia, Eden Reforestation Projects and so many others have been sharing updates and promising results from projects initiated before the lockdown began, as well as working on plans to implement new land regeneration projects once the lockdown is over. 

Here’s a super-recent update from Ecosia (Ecosia is a search engine you can use instead of Google where every time you search for something you contribute to the planting of a tree) detailing the heartwarming results from their current ongoing tree-related projects, and discussing some of their plans for future projects. It seems, the future is green!

Because these projects are very carefully designed, and involve planting only native trees and implementing interventions that specifically benefit the local environments in question, they are helping to increase biodiversity worldwide, improve air quality, and ultimately, cool down the entire planet! Fortunately, it seems, the trees are unable to catch coronavirus, and will continue to grow while we all stay inside! 

In other treemendous news, in order to provide income for workers who lost their jobs in Pakistan as a result of the coronavirus-lockdown, the government there has offered unemployed day labourers work planting trees as part of their ‘10 Billion Tree Tsunami Programme.’ Officials say the move will create more than 60,000 jobs, and is seen as ‘an example of how funds that aim to help families and keep the economy running during pandemic shutdowns could also help nations prepare (for climate change).’ The aim is to plant a ‘10 billion tree tsunami’ throughout Pakistan over the course of five years. 

And if that’s not enough trunk for your junk, they’ve also recently announced in Wales that they’re going to build a national forest that will run the entire length of the country, ‘in hopes of preserving nature, improving biodiversity, and sequestering carbon from the atmosphere, among other goals.’ Now that’s a whole lot of trees! 

And I’m sure there are plenty of other tree-related projects going on around the world right now that I haven’t mentioned if you ‘do a little digging’ yourself, haha, so basically it seems that a lot of wooded areas are flourishing during the lockdown. 

But what about urban areas?

Cities are Going Car-Free 

Who needs smelly cars when there’s trees and bikes? Here’s what Utrecht will look like in a year or two.

Well it seems like a lot of city-centres could be cleaning up their acts too post-corona. 

After witnessing air pollution and traffic congestion drop dramatically during the lockdown, the city of Milan in Italy ‘is to introduce one of Europe’s most ambitious schemes reallocating street space from cars to cycling and walking, in response to the coronavirus crisis.’ The city has announced that 35km of city streets will ‘be transformed over the summer, with a rapid, experimental citywide expansion of cycling and walking space to protect residents as Covid-19 restrictions are lifted.’

It seems like we could be moving towards a world where even city centres have clean, healthy, breathable air.

This is a very encouraging example of how humans are already planning major, positive changes to our behaviour in response to the environmental truths the corona crisis has bestowed upon us. 

And these changes aren’t just happening in Milan. The city of Utrecht in the Netherlands announced plans in January for a completely car-free neighbourhood at the centre of the city which will house 12,000 residents, and is to be constructed over the next couple of years. 

Combine these examples with the many other cities around the world that are working to eliminate cars from their streets in different ways, and it seems like we could be moving towards a world where even city centres have clean, healthy, breathable air. 

Now if you ask me, that sounds like something worth celebrating. 

Airport Expansions are Being Denied 

It has seemed for so long in this world that the financial bottom line always wins, but from these examples of community, people, and common sense triumphing over the money men, it could be that the old, ‘profit-over-all-else’ reality might well be starting to change.

Something else that’s always worth celebrating is a win for the little guy, and there have been plenty of those going around in the last few months when it comes to local residents and environmentalists campaigning against airport expansions in the UK! 

London Heathrow, London Stansted, and Bristol airport in England have all had major expansion plans rejected since January because the environmental and societal impacts of these proposed expansions outweighed the economic benefits. 

It really can’t be stated what a massive result this is for anyone who values human wellbeing and environmental health over relentless and unsustainable economic growth. It has seemed for so long in this world that the financial bottom line always wins, but from these examples of community, people, and common sense triumphing over the money men, it could be that the old, ‘profit-over-all-else’ reality might well be starting to change. 

And if it’s examples of the little guy triumphing over the tyrant you’re looking for, what about a peach grower winning a huge lawsuit against an all-powerful multinational corporation? 

Even Monsanto is Taking a Beating  

Well that’s exactly what happened in the US back in February

Turns out, Davo can beat Golio.

I don’t know if you’ve heard about Monsanto, the American agrochemical company acquired by German multinational pharmaceutical company Bayer in 2018, but it’s a pretty infamous name. 

Monsanto has been ridiculed for years for producing harmful pesticides and herbicides, and it has recently been revealed through the release of internal documents that Monsanto was ‘aware for years that their plan to introduce a new agricultural seed and chemical system would probably lead to damage on many US farms.’ 

The documents also revealed how Monsanto ‘opposed some third-party product testing in order to curtail the generation of data that might have worried regulators,’ and that they downplayed risks ‘even while they planned how to profit off farmers who would buy Monsanto’s new seeds just to avoid damage.’ 

According to industry estimates, several million acres of crops in the US are thought to have been damaged by Monsanto’s dicamba-based herbicides. 

Monsanto was ‘aware for years that their plan to introduce a new agricultural seed and chemical system would probably lead to damage on many US farms.’ 

So it was really great to see Missouri-based peach farmer Bill Bader taking Monsanto’s new owners Bayer to court earlier in the year, saying his ‘1000-acre orchard was irreparably harmed by herbicide that they produce,’ and winning the case. 

Mr. Bader was granted ‘$15 million in actual and $250 million in punitive damages’ as a result of the court case, and herbicide providers Bayer and BASF will face ‘at least 140 similar cases’ in US courts later this year. (Or whenever the lockdown is over)

A truly massive win for the little guy, and hopefully a warning to big corporations in the future that they can’t just continue placing financial profits over everything else moving forward. 

Scuba Divers are Planting Coral Reefs in Australia 

Coral reefs are an essential component of underwater ecosystems, as they support biodiversity by providing habitats and shelter for marine animals.

Speaking of folks who reckon there are more important things in this world than just making money, without any paying customers during the pandemic, instructors working for Australian scuba diving tourism company Passions of Paradise have been using their free time to plant coral in the great barrier reef. 

They have so far planted over 1,000 pieces of coral on Hastings reef near the city of Cairns in north-eastern Australia, and are working to bring as much life back to the reef as possible while the lockdown continues. 

Look how absolutely flipping fabulous coral reefs can be.

Coral reefs are an essential component of underwater ecosystems, as they support biodiversity by providing habitats and shelter for marine animals. Hopefully, with more efforts like this beyond the pandemic, we can work together to ensure that coral reefs stay healthy around the world for years to come. 

Rival Gangs call a Truce in South Africa 

This one is really quite astonishing. 

Since social-distancing restrictions were implemented in South Africa, violent crime has gone down by roughly 75% across the country. But going a step further, in one of the most dangerous neighbourhoods in the country, two rival gangs have called a truce, and have actually started working together to help distribute essential goods throughout the community. 

Some of the gang members involved have ‘expressed hope that this current ceasefire in gang violence could be permanent in the post-lockdown future,’ while a local pastor who works with some gang members in the community has stated that “what we’re seeing happen here is literally a miracle.”  

This is worth a watch. Hate is never permanent. Love.

Well if not an actual miracle, then certainly this is an incredible cause for hope. You would imagine that by working together, and becoming familiar with each other as humans, that these violent gang members might start to see the similarities in each other, and the common struggles that they all share. We are all human, after all. 

And surely if it is possible for opposing gang members who have directly hated each other and murdered each other for years to put their differences aside, for the greater good of their community in a time of crisis, it might be possible for all of us, as a species, to put our differences aside and call a collective truce, in order to build a better world for everyone after this pandemic is over? 

This beautiful truce in South Africa would suggest that it is possible for us to come together and love each other.

Surely if it is possible for opposing gang members who have directly hated each other and murdered each other for years to put their differences aside, for the greater good of their community in a time of crisis, it might be possible for all of us, as a species, to put our differences aside and call a collective truce, in order to build a better world for everyone after this pandemic is over? 

If that is going to happen though, we will need to start being kind to each other, and as it turns out, there has been plenty of kindness going around during this pandemic. 

There’s Been a Kindness Pandemic too 

It has become very apparent in the past few weeks and months, that in times of shared crisis, human beings can be tremendously beautiful creatures. 

This pandemic has really highlighted the human capacity for kindness, and there is no better example of this than the pure and distinguished selflessness and bravery being shown by front-line health professionals around the world. 

From a small corner shop in Scotland spending £2000 to give away free protective equipment to vulnerable pensioners, to an anonymous donor giving every household in an IOWA town $150 in gift cards for food, to a San Francisco man serving free coffee from his window to essential workers, to an Irish hotel delivering free meals daily to elderly and vulnerable locals, to a 16-year-old pilot flying much needed medical supplies to rural hospitals in Virginia, to a Georgia bar owner removing nearly $4000 worth of bills stapled to the walls of her bar to give to employees, to a Youtube gamer helping to raise nearly $660,000 for Covid-19 relief efforts, to a Brooklyn landlord cancelling rent for hundreds of tenants because he ‘didn’t want residents to stress about payment’ during the pandemic, to people across the US stocking ‘little free libraries’ with food and toilet paper to help their neighbours, to Sikh volunteers in Australia sending over 1.5 tonnes of free food to people struggling during the lockdown, to people in Italy using ‘suspended shopping’ to pay-it-forward and anonymously help pay towards groceries for people in need, to even multi-billionaires showing real generosity with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey donating $1 Billion, about 28% of his wealth, to Covid-19 relief efforts, it is clear that the coronavirus pandemic has also released a kindness pandemic across the world. 

There are so many people being kind to each other and helping each other as best they can during this crisis. If the examples above aren’t enough for you then there are plenty more here, here and here’s some more and there are countless other examples out there if you look for them. 

This isn’t even specifically corona-related, but does everything need to be right now? Honestly, I think this is such an incredibly beautiful example of the kindness we are all capable of showing each other. This video is full of the realest heroes on earth. And we all have the capacity to do the same. Love.

This pandemic has really highlighted the human capacity for kindness, and there is no better example of this than the pure and distinguished selflessness and bravery being shown by front-line health professionals around the world. 

Thankfully, regular people around the world are also being kind enough to show their love and appreciation for these real-life superheroes.

Essential Workers are Finally Being Appreciated 

These people deserve our utmost respect, and finally, that seems to be happening on a widespread scale. But they also deserve to be able to do their important jobs in the comfort that they are financially stable, and that their working conditions will always be maintained at an acceptable level.

I can’t imagine what it’s like to be on the front lines of this war our species is currently fighting. All I’m doing is sitting at home being useless. 

But there are incredible super-humans out there risking their lives, their health, and I’m sure their sanity every day to help keep us all safe, and save as many lives as they possibly can. 

The thing is though, they have been doing this long before this pandemic started, and they will be doing it long after it finishes. These people make so many sacrifices, and dedicate their lives to maintaining the health and wellbeing of their fellow humans. 

More so than actors, musicians, athletes, celebrities, and all the kinds of ‘famous’ people we tend to idolise in this world, it is the healthcare workers, the firefighters, the teachers, the honest police officers, the delivery people, the folks working the bin lorries, the shop workers; the people who keep our society actually functioning that we should be praising and idolizing. 

There have been many beautiful examples around the world of police officers showing their appreciation for healthcare workers, New York residents applauding healthcare workers from their windows, people in Spain and Italy doing the same, and many other examples too, and this really is a beautiful thing to witness. The people who do the most important jobs in our society, starting to receive some of the credit they deserve. 

Beautiful, but we need to do more than clap. Love

But we must not forget, in non-crisis times, the reality is that essential workers are rarely ever given the financial or social compensation they deserve, and this is something that must change once the pandemic is over. 

These people deserve our utmost respect, and finally, that seems to be happening on a widespread scale. But they also deserve to be able to do their important jobs in the comfort that they are financially stable, and that their working conditions will always be maintained at an acceptable level.

Hopefully, once the pandemic is over, we will realise how much we owe these wonderful people, and this will start to become the new reality.  

We Have Been Given a Chance to Change our Ways

A terrible end, for a beautiful beginning?

We will get to go outside again. We will get to hug and embrace each other again. 

There are plenty of incredible minds working on vaccines around the world as we speak, and some reports have suggested that a vaccine could be available for limited use by the end of the year. Human trials have already begun. 

Of course, things will not be exactly as they were before when ‘normal’ life does finally resume. People are suffering all over the world, and it’s hard to tell what the world will really look like when all this is over. 

People will have lost loved ones, lost businesses, lost jobs. The global economy will take a huge hit. There is nothing but uncertainty ahead of us. 

But with uncertainty, comes opportunity. It’s hard to argue that we were heading in a generally prosperous direction before this pandemic began, so maybe we should try our best to see all of this as an opportunity to reset. Reset as individuals, and as a collective. 

In a world torn to shreds by cultural and political division, war, environmental destruction and financial inequality, this coronavirus crisis which has affected us all, has the potential to become the great equaliser. 

The coronavirus lockdown has shown us that by changing our ways it is possible for us to work together, with nature, and with each other, to create a cleaner, healthier, better world for all. 

In a world torn to shreds by cultural and political division, war, environmental destruction and financial inequality, this coronavirus crisis which has affected us all, has the potential to become the great equaliser. 

If we all allow it to be. Surely, if anything, that is at least, a cause for hope. 

Places to Donate and Contribute 

If you’re interested in donating financially to the fight against Covid-19, or to people in need during the coronavirus crisis, here are some useful links:

A place to buy groovy posters where all the proceeds go to women and children in need.

A Forbes list of ways you can donate to people during the Corona crisis.

A collection of non-profits and companies helping to fight the pandemic.

Donate to World Health Organisation efforts.

A list of charities who are offering relief during the pandemic.

Thank you, and goodness love bless you all. ❤

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.

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.