Tag Archives: Environment

Winter Survival Guide (49) ~ Have Yourself An Ethical Little Christmas…

It’s the most wonderful time of the year”, yet we all know that this isn’t necessarily the case for everyone, and at a time of year when the disparity between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ seems all the more apparent, many of us want to ‘do our bit’ by reaching out beyond our own personal sphere of friends, family, colleagues and loved ones, to help others who we don’t know and who are in need.

However, it can be difficult to know where to start and what to do, especially if you already are on a budget over the Christmas and holiday season.

Charity begins at ‘Home’?

Consider helping out local initiatives that will benefit your community. For example, in my city there are appeals by homelessness charities that enable you to donate towards their Christmas appeal which will buy a person a Christmas dinner where they can enjoy it in the company of others, or to provide support services and winter essentials.

There are also various collections for clothes, food, toiletries and other essential supplies for homeless people, food banks, and toys for children and young people who otherwise go without. Local hospitals also hold fundraisers, events and collect donations.

These are examples of some of the initiatives happening locally to me – what about you? Are there any causes close to your heart and close to home that you would like to contribute to? Many of them are quite affordable or you can give what you are able to.

Alternative Christmas Gifts:

Maybe you want to combine gift-giving to your friends and family with helping a charity or charities.  Here are some ideas for alternative Christmas gifts (mainly UK based) that can help you to do just that. There are obviously many more, but hopefully these might help as a starting point in your search for the perfect charity gift. If in doubt, simply do an online search for the name of your chosen charity followed by ‘charity gifts’:

  • Traidcraft enables you to reach out to people in other parts of the world such as Kenya and Bangladesh as well as many others. Their ethically sourced products, handcrafted gifts and sustainable methods help to support farmers, artisans and growers in developing countries which means that you can ‘shop with a conscience’. Their website provides a background into what Fair Trade actually is and how Traidcraft started, and their shop also includes a special section for Christmas gifts:https://www.traidcraftshop.co.uk/christmas
  • PDSA (The People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals) provides millions of free treatments to sick and injured pets, including preventative treatments, and is funded entirely by public support. You can buy Christmas gifts from their shop, particularly for friends and family members who prefer animals to people! 🙂  :http://www.pdsa-shop.co.uk/Shop/Gift-Ideas/
  • Charity Gifts is a website that makes it easy for you to buy from the UK’s leading charity gift providers, including: WWF, Oxfam, Cancer Research UK, Help for Heroes, RSPB, Guide Dogs, The National Trust, and Hearing Dogs for Deaf People. Here you can easily find eco-friendly gifts, Christmas charity gifts, and ‘adopt an animal’ gifts. https://www.charity-gifts.org/
  • Online Shopping: some online shops give you the option of choosing a charity and everytime you buy from the shop they will donate a certain amount to that charity. It is worth checking your preferences when you do your online shopping to see if this is an option.

Mental Health Charities and Charities for Older People:

For some people, a time when it seems that everyone else is celebrating and having fun, can be an unbearable contrast with how they are feeling and what they are going through. Mental, emotional and psychological distress and loneliness can have a huge impact on a person’s wellbeing, as well as that of their friends and family. If you want to support UK based mental health charities, and / or charities for older people, in your giving, here are some recommendations:

Volunteering:

You don’t have to limit yourself to giving money; you can make a real difference by giving your time, skills, care and attention. Are there any local volunteer opportunities that you could give a few hours to?

Ethical and Environmentally Friendly Giving:

As well as giving charitably and buying ethically sourced and produced gifts, it might also be important to you to make sure that the way you give causes as little damage to the environment as possible. Here are some ideas that you could try out.

  • Instead of sending out physical Christmas, holiday or new year cards, you could alternatively send out greetings via e-cards, or combine sending e-cards or greetings via email, with sending fewer cards through the post and limiting postal cards to maybe two or three.  You can add in a message to your e-card to explain that you want to be more environmentally friendly, and this might encourage friends and family to do the same. You also don’t need to worry about cost, as free e-cards are available online, such as at: https://www.bluemountain.com/ecards/christmas and https://www.got-free-ecards.com/Christmas-ecards/ as a start – there will be many more out there.
  • Try to avoid buying and giving gifts with a lot of plastic packaging, and think about bringing a vintage / nostalgic theme into your gift giving by finding some quality second hand items, hand-making gifts, or ‘upcycling’.
  • Instead of buying wrapping paper, there are many creative ways that you can wrap presents with recycled paper, used wrapping paper, newspapers, magazines and recyclable materials. You can decorate your wrapped gifts to make them look beautiful by adding hand crafted gift tags, bows, decorations and personalised messages.
  • If you feel you have to buy wrapping paper, Christmas cards, bags, gift tags, etc. then try to make sure that the materials used are recyclable before you buy them.
  • Other ethical and environmentally friendly ‘challenges’ you could take on might include: reducing your meat consumption if you currently eat meat, using public transport, or ‘car-pooling’ to get to events, family gatherings, etc., not going overboard with outdoor Christmas lights, and remembering to turn off lights, TV and other electronics, etc.

Creative Giving:

Finally, another thing you can do is to think of ways that you can turn giving into a creative process. This might be particularly helpful in encouraging children to think of other people and what they need.

  • One way of doing this could be a ‘Reverse Advent Calendar’ where each day instead of getting something, you choose an item to collect so that at the end of the advent period you have something to give to others, such as food for a food bank, clothes for a charity shop or a care package for a homeless person.
  • If you create things to sell such as arts and crafts, you could perhaps donate some or all of your profits this month to a chosen charity.
  • You can have a festive event with friends and family, even if it is something simple, and turn it into a festive fundraiser for a cause that means something to you all, and / or to raise awareness.
  • Think of some ‘Random Acts of Kindness’ that you can do for other people throughout the month.
  • Giving, as mentioned earlier, doesn’t have to be only monetary. You can use your influence, skills and social media platforms to encourage and help other people during what might be a difficult or challenging time, and reach out to people in your life that might need a helping hand.  Maybe as a blogger you can write articles to encourage, inspire and uplift others this season, and by doing so reach out to hundreds if not thousands of people. Whatever your skills, the possibilities are numerous, so why not give it a go and have an ‘ethical little Christmas’ that will help people near and far 🙂 x

 

white ceramic mug
Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com
silhouette of man touching woman against sunset sky
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Rethinking Space

Admittedly, friends, it has been a few weeks since we last ventured together in this ‘home improvement’ series, but that’s because I have been busy with the practicalities of this venture, which I hope will bring some benefit and inspiration to you as I share my progress with you. That being said, come and join me in some musings as we together rethink our space…

Throughout the ages, human beings have both influenced and been influenced by the spaces we inhabit. I have no doubt that countless studies have been conducted into the psychology of wellbeing and mental and emotional health in relation to our external environments. How often ‘clichés’ such as ‘a tidy home and a tidy mind’ have depths of truth to them that are well worth exploring as we seek to enhance our well being and the quality of our lives. We might do well to consider the words of John Denver and similar sentiments of many before and after him, “It’s the little things that make a house a home…”. 😉 

I am keenly aware that I myself and anyone reading this (presumably) are blessed with a ridiculous amount of choice with regards to how we live and what we do with our space, in a way that despite our limitations, many others across our little planet find far beyond their grasp to even hope of experiencing. 

Presumably (and please forgive me if my presumptions are inaccurate) if you are reading this, and are a blogger yourself, your concerns relating to choice and living conditions have nothing to do with whether you will be able to maintain a place of shelter, how far you have to walk to the nearest well to obtain safe drinking water, and how many people are able to cram into that one room in your ‘house’ that your entire family and perhaps others have to sleep in. 

Put that way, we may find ourselves asking whether it is selfish, arrogant, excessive or indulgent to make much of the luxurious spaces (whether we had previously considered ‘our lot’ in that way or not) that we are so fortunate enough to inhabit. 

Well, sad to say, it can be all of the above, but equally so, rethinking our space and being faithful ‘stewards’ of what we are fortunate enough to have can have a positive impact on our well being and on the lives of those around us. 

Of course, everyone is different, and some people work well amid their ‘organised chaos’ which incorporates ‘systems’ that only they can understand. Having experience of depression, and the resultant feelings of being overwhelmed by untidiness and lack of order, I am aware that our environments and living spaces can influence our mental well being in terms of contributing, whether rightly or wrongly, to our perceptions and feelings that we are ‘unable to cope’. Conversely, establishing systems, knowing that there is ‘a place for everything and everything is in its place’ makes daily living so much more productive, less stressful, and easier to manage. Knowing that there is a place for my keys and knowing exactly where that place is (and so on for each type of item I have) and that it will always be there lessens, even marginally, my anxiety, my stress levels, and impacts my attitude as I step out of my home into a new day at work or being in contact with the outside world in some way, and means that I am better able to focus on doing things well and communicating well and patiently with people, rather than stressfully and hurriedly struggling through. 

I have found that breaking through the barriers of overwhelm that my big declutter and spring clean initially brought on while being surrounded in a mountain of chaos, has given way to the establishing of order, calmness, happiness to be in my space, which in turn makes me more available to open my doors to the people I love, to be hospitable, to reach out and not only have a place for me to rest, but for others to enjoy, be built up in, and for us all to go out a little more positively and with some clearer thoughts as we tackle the bigger issues in the world whether that be in our jobs, families, relationships or being more aware of others around us. 

Whether we allow our thinking about our space and what we do with it to become a self indulgent occupation, or something more positive has a lot to do with our attitudes, and where we place our hearts and our desires. 

I believe that homekeeping is an art, and even though I live alone, it does impact the people in my life, and if I am so blessed to one day have a family of my own, I believe that striving to maintain a peaceful and calming environment that I haven’t always had is important for creating an atmosphere of growth, wellbeing and good communication as well as orderliness, inspiration and functionality. 

But it’s all very well to be philosophical about it, but what do we do when we find things so difficult? If you have been with me for a while, you’ll be familiar with some of my earlier blog posts in this series, however if you are new, *Welcome* and I hope you find some inspiring starting points to make progress on your own journey in this regard in my series on Home & Lifestyle which you can find in my main menu. 

I will, little by little show you what I have accomplished and learned so far, including some photos along the way. So for now, here is a little glimpse of a space that I have rethought….how does it make you feel to consider what was before, and what has come after? 🙂 Much love. xx

Kitchen – beneath worktop space, before & after (please note that this space has been further updated with the addition of adhesive tiles, & some other decorative and functional pieces…the basket is used as a pantry storage area):

kitchen under sink.jpg

Daily Photo #14 ~ Catching the Thermals!

I took this photograph a couple of months ago while watching some seagulls at the beach. There were pockets where the combination of air temperature and wind direction caused thermals so the birds could simply be buoyed up, suspended in air, almost as if ‘riding the surf’ in the sky. It was fascinating! I had never seen anything like it before with so many birds (this is just a snapshot)….they stood on the ground waiting in a large group, and just at the right moment they embraced their place in the thermal and literally floated on air! I don’t know for how long I watched them, but they did this for a LONG time, and it was like watching children at play! This picture barely captures the delight of these birds at play, but I hope you find some enjoyment and inspiration from it nonetheless! x

 

birds.jpg

A straw, a turtle, and a matter of life and death: How just one small straw can be the matter of life and death…

This is not the story of the camel and the straw that broke the camel’s back. No, it begins with a turtle and a straw, a matter of life and death, and it ‘ends’ (or continues on) with you…

Confused? Don’t worry. Let me start by asking you a question. Have you ever felt overwhelmed by something? Perhaps I should rephrase that….what is it that overwhelms you? It is unlikely that any one of us can go through life without feeling that way.

Perhaps what overwhelms you is just the very fact of life itself and trying to make sense of it all, perhaps you’ve been overwhelmed by personal issues such as exams, family conflict, illness, job stress, death of people you know, job loss, uncertainty, or becoming a spouse or a parent and having the responsibility to care for someone else’s life.

Perhaps other things to add to the list of what overwhelms you may include injustice in the world, the terrible things you hear about on a daily basis in the news, broken societies, melting polar icecaps, cruelty to children, the poaching of endangered animals, global commercial sexual exploitation, bonded labour and sex trafficking. Sadly, very sadly, the list goes on and on. On a daily basis we are overloaded with information that we can barely handle the severity of, and we find ourselves morphing from one stage of ‘coping’ to another, from anger, fear, outrage, passion to make a change, despondency, compassion fatigue, and numbness and desensitisation. What is the right way to react?

And what does a straw and a turtle have to do with any of this after all, you might wonder.

Let me explain. Today I felt overwhelmed. Yes, there are so many issues in the world, our own personal world and the world at large, that vie for our attention and response. We cannot possibly handle them all. But sometimes, one particular thing stands out in our day and calls us to take notice. For me today, it was seeing a picture online of a seabird’s decaying carcass which clearly showed that the poor creature had swallowed batteries, shards of plastic, and pieces of packaging. Yes, there are so many other important things that we need to change in the world, but this, this made my heart sink. Poor little bird. What it must have suffered. The image was an accompanying picture to a petition, that I chanced across, calling for shops to ban the production and selling of plastic straws. Plastic straws are not biodegradable and cause much suffering to marine life. We are suffocating ‘our’ (?!) oceans with packaging, things we as wasteful human beings do not even need, and sea creatures ingest or get caught in such packaging and die because of our negligence and greed. I guess that the person or people who drew up the petition realise that to call for an end to the use of plastic packaging altogether would probably be met with mockery, scorn, and a closed door. So they went on to explain that there had already been small successes with calling certain retailers to stop producing cotton buds with plastic attached, and several retailers took notice and responded positively to a previous petition. They described the suffering of a sea turtle that had to be rescued by professionals and have a plastic drinking straw extracted from its nose, while it winced in pain and bled due to the damage the straw had caused.

One straw. One turtle. One rescue. And ultimately a matter of life and death.

It made me think of the passion behind such movements and calls for change. Can something so small really make any difference at all? Yes. It can make the difference to a turtle’s life, to a child’s, to yours, to mine. While there is so much that we can be overwhelmed by, drowning in a sea of our own mistakes and the degradation of mankind as it is today, there is still so much to be empowered and impassioned by.

Dare to believe that the removal of one small straw made a difference to a turtle’s life and relieved it of its suffering. Dare to believe that for good or bad the ‘power of one’ goes far beyond itself. That the power of one bad thought or one good thought can have a ‘ripple effect’ that reverberates and impacts so much more outside of itself.

What if we were to do one small thing for good rather than for bad? To think one positive thought in place of a negative one? To do that one small thing, so small, as small as a plastic straw that you wouldn’t even think it significant? What would that be for you? What difference could one apology make to a relationship? What difference could one smile or kind word make to someone’s life? What difference could one act of repentance make to your life? What difference could that one letter, phone call, text message to someone you care about make? What difference could signing a petition make? What difference can one blog post make? What difference could that one prayer, one conversation, one reconciliation make? What difference could one small step in the right direction make? We could think of it negatively too….what difference could one ‘small’ lie, harsh word, bullet make?

Perhaps a ripple on a pond moving outwards. Perhaps the matter of life and death.

What one small difference will you make today?