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How to be a conscious gardener

“We may think we are nurturing the garden, but of course it’s our garden that is really nurturing us” Jenny Uglow.
Gardening is good for our mental health and physical wellbeing so as we continue to seek natural havens to escape the stresses of day-to-day life, it is not surprising that gardening has become a huge trend. While adding more green to our world is helpful and great for the environment, it is essential to do it well in a way. We have put together some tips for your to become a conscious gardener.

 

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5 sustainable & stylish fitness brands to know

The fashion industry is labelled one of the most polluting industries on the planet. As an extension of the fashion industry, athleisure is no different. Good news: the activewear industry is slowly moving in the right direction. Brands big and small are innovating with recycled materials, eco-friendly dyes and low-impact fabrics . Keep in mind, nothing is more sustainable than the activewear you already have at home. We put together a list of our favourite sustainable and stylish fitness brands for the next time you need some new pieces.
Remember, recycled polyester still sheds microfibres so it’s important to launder it carefully. We recommend a Guppyfriend washing bag.
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A runner’s guide to sustainable nutrition

At its core, running is the ultimate sustainable sport. It requires not much more than your legs and a pair of trainers, it’s hard to wonder what could be so unsustainable about running. However, between wearing out shoes, constant new kit, travel to races and plastic food packaging, the climate impact can quickly build up. 

As we lead up to marathon season, one of the most common issues eco-conscious competitors will face is the number of plastic wrappers on all things to do with running nutrition. From energy gels to drinks and protein bars, the single-use packaging adds up, but it doesn’t have to be this way, as evidenced by the number of  brands who are switching to more eco-friendly formulas and sustainable packaging. As a runner myself, I’m constantly on the hunt for products that work well and are kinder on the planet. Here are some of my favourites.

Energy gels

Finding eco-friendly fuel for long runs has been the number one question I get regarding nutrition. It’s a tough one – any extra weight when you’re running is detrimental, so single-use, disposable sachets have long been the packaging of choice when it comes to running gels. The problem is, not only is this packaging reliant on harmful fossil fuels, it’s also damaging (and unsightly) when it accidentally falls onto the trails.

A natural alternative to modern sports nutrition, Lucho Dillitos is my go-to trail ‘gel’, although in reality it is a solid block more than a gel. Based on the traditional Colombian dessert Bocadillo, this fuel is made from guava fruit (85%) and sugar (15%). Because of its ingredients, it’s super high in vitamin C, vitamin A and potassium – useful for when out on a run. Most importantly, it’s wrapped in a dried leaf which is completely compostable. Once the block is eaten, the leaf can be discarded on the trail like any other leaf, where it will biodegrade. The blocks also avoid the problem of sticky wrappers and half-eaten gels in your running pack – a huge bugbear of mine! 

If you prefer liquid gels, one alternative could be to create your own, either with a gel mix or using home ingredients. Active Root is a small brand providing eco-friendly electrolyte and gel mixes. Its powdered gel can be mixed with water to create a natural energy gel, completely erasing the need for single-use gel sachets. They sell soft-flasks for mixing, holding the equivalent of 3 – 4 gels, and some flavours even have caffeine in, too.

Protein

Most protein brands package their products in plastic or mixed-material packaging, making it harder to recycle and (again) heavily reliant on fossil fuels. Additionally, whey protein relies on carbon-intensive animal agriculture. Opting for vegan proteins can reduce the overall impact of the product itself, and choosing plastic-free compostable or recyclable packaging lessens the environmental cost further. 

Introducing Vivo Life, a specialist in supplements that don’t cost the earth. Not only are its proteins all 100% plant-based (using a mix of protein sources including hemp protein, pea protein and soy protein) to minimise the impact of animal agriculture, it is also a certified carbon neutral company, including delivery. As much as possible, Vivo uses organic ingredients, and its delivery boxes are cut from recycled card. On top of all this, Vivo has ditched plastic scoops and is switching to home-compostable packaging within the year – a positive change which will pave the way for others in the supplements industry. 

Hydration/electrolytes

For longer and warmer runs, hydration in the form of electrolytes is vital, both out on the run and when you return home afterwards. Electrolytes are not only important to allow your muscles to contract and relax (hence why athletes get cramps if they don’t have enough), they’re also key to recovery after each run. If you don’t take rehydration seriously, your next run will suffer. 

Active Root is a small UK-based brand providing eco-friendly electrolyte mixes. Each pack contains 1.4kg of powder (cane sugar, ginger powder and sea salt), enough to make 40 500ml electrolyte drinks. The refill sachets are 100% compostable too, making this an entirely plastic and waste free option. And, because of the ginger, it’s a great option for people who get upset stomachs on the move! 

Vivo Life also provides hydration mixes (Sustain), using coconut water mixed with EAAs (essential amino acids, providing further recovery benefits). The orange & baobab flavour is my absolute fave post-workout for muscle repair and rehydration.

On the go snacks

Created to help you hit your long term health and wellness goals, nutrition brand Human Food offers up natural snacks packaged in home-compostable packaging made from plant-based cellulose. The wrapper can be disposed of in your food-waste bin or compost, and if it flies out of your running pack on the move it won’t wreak havoc with the local ecosystem (although it’s better to find a compost bin rather than throwing in a hedge as conditions are better for decomposition in the former). 

I really like making my own snacks at home, too. Homemade ginger cake or flapjacks are my favourite, and make a nice change from pre-packaged foods during an ultra-marathon. Storage can be difficult but beeswax wraps or reusable zip-locked sandwich bags tend to do the trick. Snacks that can be bought in bulk, like trail mix also make for decent food, but remember that high-fat foods such as nuts are processed slower than sugar, so best for long and/or slow expeditions. 

It can be hard to find what works for you on a long run, and harder still to find eco-friendly options. Thankfully, so many brands are coming out of the woodwork and stepping up to the mark when it comes to sustainability, and hopefully soon running can be the simple, eco-friendly sport it was meant to be.

Follow @foodfitnessflora for more tips.

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London Design Biennale 2021

Tuesday 1st June saw the launch of the London Design Biennale, 15 months in the making. The theme was ‘design in an age of crisis’ exploring issues around the world, from climate change, to global inequalities, to COVID. 

Most striking, upon arrival, is the Forests for Change installation, a forest of 400+ trees in the central courtyard of Somerset House. Designer Es Devlin came up with the idea when told about the one founding rule of Somerset House – that no trees should be planted in the central courtyard. Naturally, her first idea was to do just that, to show that we cannot keep nature out. Biennale director, Victoria Broackes, said about the exhibit “We now know we have to live with nature, so by bringing a forest into the heart of the courtyard, we’re presenting that idea very, very clearly”. These trees, post exhibition, will head to inner-city boroughs for various causes – there’s no waste with the exhibits. 

As you walk through, there is bird song from around the world, curated by Brian Eno, singing as and when they would in their natural habitats at various different times. Each visit will therefore be a different experience – and a deeply relaxing one.  

At the end of the forest sits a ‘henge’ of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals, each tackling a separate issue faced by our population and planet today – no poverty, gender equality, education and clean water being just a few. Guests then have the chance to add their own voice at pillar 17 – partnership – to share which goal they have chosen to focus on and why. After all, we cannot all solve all problems, but individually we can tackle what matters most to us. 

Heading inside, there is more evidence of goal 17 in action. While not all were able to travel to the UK in the current circumstances, various countries were able to exhibit through the halls and rooms of Somerset House, each showcasing a separate issue. Germany’s installation featured plastic spoons through the ages ahead of next month’s EU ban on plastic cutlery. It looks at the culture of disposability, and how we might shift our mentality to view the full lifecycle of products, not simply dispose of them with an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ approach. 

Finland’s display looks at the echo chambers we find ourselves in so often on social media. Seeking out those who actively reflect the views we already hold, we lose out on seeing different perspectives. Maintaining the COVID safe 2m apart, viewers are invited to sit opposite a complete stranger in a reflective ‘bubble’ and be faced with a view different to their own. 

Most compelling of all was the Design in an age of Crisis gallery, filled to the brim with a myriad of solutions to many of our most complex issues. Created in response to the COVID pandemic, contributors were asked to submit applications to the gallery within five categories: Environment, Health, Society, Work and Young Person. It was especially compelling as all the submissions displayed contained existing solutions to problems, leaving attendees feeling uplifted as they left. Favourites included the Pop-Up Ecosystems – green spaces attached to existing buildings to improve mental health, Glasir – a community-based, modular system for affordable and equitable food production in urban areas and Draft – a natural, sustainable alternative to home cooling systems. Biennale Director Victoria Broackes noted, following on from the postponement of the Biennale in 2020, that “this is a moment when people are listening and looking for ways to improve things”. Because of this she created an entire exhibition within an exhibition, which will later go on tour. “When we couldn’t do a biennale last year but could see people responding creatively to the crisis we sought to make something of that,” said Broackes.  

Finally, on the river terrace outside, American designer Ini Archibong displays his sail-like Pavillion of the African Diaspora. Inspired by conches traded along the African coast, it will stand as a platform for educators, performers and other events for the next few weeks, before going on tour. 

Despite the social distancing guidelines and timed entries, the London Design Biennale packs an incredible amount in, with the varied and often uplifting exhibits preventing the experience from becoming too overwhelming. Sadiq Khan promoted the exhibition as “one of the first major cultural events to take place following the easing of lockdown” in his speech during the launch, as part of his Let’s Do London campaign. To account for the limited capacity thanks to COVID, the Biennale has been pushed to improve its online presence, sharing information about exhibitors who were unable to make the show in person, as well as all entries to the Design in the Age of Crisis Gallery.


If you’re unable to visit, make sure to check them out online!
The London Design Biennale is open to visitors until the 27th June. Book here.