Co-founder of, Raquel is on a mission to live a more sustainable lifestyle

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Now I do love a bit of urban gardening so when someone briefly mentioned the Brooklyn Grange to me I knew I had to find out more!

An urban rooftop farm, Brooklyn Grange takes growing veg to new levels. Located over two rooftops in New York City it is the second largest rooftop soil farm on the planet spanning over 2.5 acres.

They describe themselves as "an urban, rooftop farm offering relief from the CO2-ladened trappings of transported food."

Check out the video below to see more (via Curbed)

Friday, 14 July 2017

I wanted to share this video with you by the wonderful people over at Sustainable Human. "When whales were at their historic populations, before great numbers of them were killed, it seems that they might have been responsible for removing tens of millions of tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere every year."

You can watch the video here>>

Thursday, 13 July 2017

The people of Seattle seem to know where it's at when it comes to bringing the generations together. Providence St Vincent provides an award-winning child care programme, the Intergenerational Learning Centre.

Five days a week, the children and their senior residents come together in a variety of activities like dancing, art, storytelling amongst others. Providing mutual benefits for both generations, it enhances opportunities for children and people of all ages to have frequent interaction.

See more in the video below via The World Economic Forum

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

According to The Guardian a million plastic bottles are purchased every minute across the world. When you consider that on average one plastic bottle will take approximately 450 years to fully degrade, that's a lot of plastic waste!

What about recycling? Well, "fewer than half of the bottles bought in 2016 were collected for recycling and just 7% of those collected were turned into new bottles" (source). Sadly most plastic bottles that are produced end up in landfills or our oceans.

On that note, with plastic waste in the sea set to outweigh fish by 2050, I think it's time to change how we do things.

See more in the following video via The Guardian>>

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

OzHarvest in Australia have come up with a solution to their 4 million-tonne food waste problem. From shepherds pie to a black bean stir-fry, it's all available free to feed yourself and/or your family. How are they doing this? They simply rescue perfectly edible food from supermarkets and airlines amongst other suppliers, which would have otherwise been bagged and binned. 

Shockingly, a third of the world's food is thrown out each year, so it stands to reason that we really do need more sharing enterprises like this all over the world to encourage a less wasteful and conscious society. 

See more about their pop-up in Sydney in video below via AJ+

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Co-founded by Liz and Gaynor, Best Years is a wonderful fair trade and eco toy brand.  I spoke with Gaynor to learn more about how the business started and the pivot they made from a toy company supplying the giant high street stores, to one that partners with social enterprises, ensuring ethics is at the very heart of their business.
Q. Tell us a bit about Best Years

Best Years was set up way back in 2001. Liz and I met when we were buyers at Disney and liked working together so much that we decided to do it on a full-time basis

Q. What makes your toys different?

When we first started we specialised in supplying toys to the big high street retailers such as Next, New Look and Mothercare. However when the recession hit in 2008/9 and all the shops demanded better prices we realised that we had to make a fundamental decision about the direction we wanted to take the business.

Most toy manufacturers just resourced to cheaper Chinese factories to meet the demands of the multiples but ethically this was not something we were prepared to do. We, therefore, decided to focus our efforts on our distinctive knitted range of toys. We lost over 70% of our customers but gained some fabulous producers as partners and by focussing on supplying Independent retailers with distinctive and ethical toys the business is now larger and more successful than it was before the recession.

Integral to the whole move from volume manufacturer to working with hand made producers was our partnership with Pebble. Pebble had a vision to create skilled employment for people in rural Bangladesh so that they did not have to leave their homes and villages to seek work in the factories in Dhaka.

They were our first partner, we were their first wholesaler and we have grown together so that Pebble now provides fair trade employment to 6000 people across Bangladesh. Visiting Bangladesh and making friends with the people who have put together such a remarkable organisation has been the absolute highlight of our business and a real priviledge.

Q. Prior to this partnership, did you know that fair working practices was going to be at the heart of your business or did it develop from your work with Pebble?

No, our business was a normal manufacturer when we started. It's only as the business progressed that we saw what was done in the name of commerce, and conversely what could be achieved through ethical production that we moved to being a company with ethics at the core of all our product decisions.

Not all of our production partners are fair trade, but our key parameter is “would we let our own children work here”. We visit all but the very smallest of our Peruvian partners to ensure that they all conform to this very simple requirement. It’s a difficult concept to put in a procedure manual but it's central to who we decide to partner with

Q. Was the partnership with Pebble easy to establish?

We first started to work with them before they had even begun producing their first range. They had been making toys on an own brand basis for larger retailers but wanted to produce their own designs and have all the year round manufacture rather than being at the whim of a buyer. They needed a partner who would stock their toys and create a market for them, and we were completely smitten with their business model, their ethics and their toys! It has been a fantastically productive partnership. 

Q. What has been your biggest achievement that you’re most proud of?

Opening schools in conjunction with Pebble. Drowning is the single biggest cause of death for kids under 5 years old in Bangladesh. Although the concept of a childhood without constant supervision sounds great to us here in the UK where we are surrounded by kids who won’t move too far from their electronic devices, it comes with it own dangers. Kids wander off and can fall in a ditch and drown in 3inches of water which is what happen far too often.

Working with Pebble we have funded 2 pre-schools so that while the ladies crochet the Pebble toys their children are being cared for and given the start of an education. There is nothing that we have done which has made us more proud than these schools

For more information or to shop Best Year's fair trade range of toys CLICK HERE

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Last summer I was given some Seedballs and decided to grow them on my patio box, I grew some delicious peppery salads, useful herbs which I used ALL SUMMER and even some herbal teas. It was loads of fun watching things sprout and coming up with different recipes. More seeds appear to be coming up already which hadn't sprouted the first time round, it's the box of seeds that keep on giving!

On that note, recently I have been reading up on the idea of re-growing fruit and veg in your kitchen, from existing fruit and veg.

Last year, I successfully grew an avocado plant from the pit, of course, I am not expecting avocados anytime soon (not with our British weather), but it is a beautiful green houseplant all the same. But what it has done is peaked my interest in what else I could be growing from leftovers.

I found this great video from Tasty Vegetarian which is a great introduction to re-growing fruit from your kitchen:

For more information about eco-seedballs including bee & butterfly friendly flowers CLICK HERE

Friday, 16 June 2017

I loved this animation so much I wanted to share it on the blog. The Animation Workshop produced this short video to highlight the problems we face with plastic pollution in our oceans.

It is estimated that every year 10 million tonnes of plastic end up in the ocean, so it's time to step up and fight the war against plastic pollution. For more info visit the Plastic Change website here, but in the meantime, you can watch the animation below:

Thursday, 15 June 2017

I first found out about Liter of Light through Tech Insider UK. For those not in the know, Liter of Light describe themselves as a global, grassroots movement committed to providing affordable, sustainable solar light to people with limited or no access to electricity.

Volunteers teach marginalised communities how to use recycled plastic bottles to illuminate their homes and communities. To date, Liter of Light have lit up more than 850,000 homes around the world through the power of upcycled and locally sourced materials.

See more about how it works here (via Tech Insider UK):

For more information about 'Liter of Light' click HERE

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

So what is forest bathing? Well, simply put it's about being in the presence of trees and appreciating the nature around you. In 1982 forest bathing or Shinrin-yoku became part of a health programme to act as therapy.

The best part is there is no pressure on what you do, it's not about counting the miles you've trekked or the steps you've walked. It's simply about being at one with nature, whether you're meandering, sitting or meditating, the point of forest bathing is to relax and replenish.

"Forest air doesn’t just feel fresher and better—inhaling phytoncide seems to actually improve immune system function." (source)

There have been various studies on the scientific evidence behind the benefits of forest bathing. Amongst some of the results a study found that “Forest environments promote lower concentrations of cortisol, lower pulse rate, lower blood pressure, greater parasympathetic nerve activity, and lower sympathetic nerve activity than do city environments,”  (source)

For more information head to the World Economic Forum HERE

Sunday, 11 June 2017

A relatively new joiner to is the wonderful Funky Kalakar co-founded by Amit and Amey. They have taken traditional and indigenous art forms and turned them into contemporary fashion pieces. The timeless design and quality manufacturing ensure that these are pieces made to stand the test of time, providing you with a sustainable wardrobe and peace of mind because you know where your handbags and vegan shoes have been made. 

I took some time out this week to catch up with Amey and learn more about the motivation behind the brand, including the giant strides Amey and Amit are making towards a sustainable future.

Who is behind Funky Kalakar?

Funky Kalakar (Unconventional Artist) was started by me Amey Alshi and my childhood friend Amit Jain. We are both travel enthusiasts, with an enormous love and passion for different art forms. We started Funky Kalakar to produce luxury leather fashion accessories and vegan shoes whilst doing our bit, giving back to the small communities and artisans.

Our entire business model revolves around collaborating with artisans from economically challenged backgrounds. Such alliances have been labelled as fair trade, ethical fashion and much more. But for us, it is a chance to create prosperous ties with endowed artists and share their stories.

Why did you start your brand?

Funky Kalakar is the conception of a long journey fueled by enthusiasm and devout respect for ingenious art forms. We have come to understand that the world without the beauty of art and its principles is a world lacking life. That being said Funky Kalakar aspires to make a mark in the grey blur of the convention.

We work out of a handbook that mirrors our outlook of the world. Our principles are not rooted in the origins of the people we work with, but with the heart, they put into their craft to create something magnificent.  Funky Kalakar has been built upon three strongholds, those being a hope for sustainability, a vision for empowerment and of course a sanctuary for the artistic temperament. 

Obviously, this quality craftsmanship is important to you, did you always know that was the type of business you wanted to go into?
Both Amit and I come from families engaged in a saree business in Mumbai, and we always wanted to start our own enterprise but were unsure of how to go about it. Things took a turn when I visited the Victoria and Albert Museum in London back in 2015. The V&A was then hosting a show titled 'The Fabric of India'. Apart from showcasing painted fabrics from 1590 to 2015, the exhibition also detailed the ways in which cotton and silk fabric were produced, along with the vegetable dying process, handmade embroideries and so on. 

The entire process during pre-industrialisation was handmade, sustainable and environmentally friendly. That visit sparked a light-bulb moment, with the possibilities of sustainable fashion. In order to understand the different facets of sustainability in fashion, I enrolled for a short course in fashion design from the renowned London institute Central Saint Martins. 

What makes you different to the high street alternatives?

The theme of our brand is "Bringing Back the Classics". We believe Our forbearers did not always lead lives admixed with adventure and excitement but they had a wonderful trove of stories to tell. Stories of amazing ingenuity and unparalleled passion. We recite those stories by reviving the art forms they birthed and amalgamating them with contemporary designs and trends of craftsmanship.

Our handbags are made from full grain leather, they are hand made and hand painted by the traditional madhubani artists.

Our range of shoes have an interesting development process, as the designs are block-printed on cotton using the Ajrakh technique and the soles are made from scrap tyres. The production unit, based in Mumbai, has also employed four roadside cobblers for this purpose. These cobblers were struggling to earn a living due to increase in branded machine-made products. It is not just about employing four men, but providing for four families.

You’ve obviously spent a lot of time getting to know your artisans what has that been like?

Once the concept of Funky Kalakar was finalised, we started a journey that took us deep into the interiors of Northern India, as part of our extensive research that included studying various indigenous art forms and meeting local artisans who still practice these crafts.

We went to villages which didn’t even have local transport or road infrastructure. We came across several artisans who were extremely talented but still struggled to meet ends. Demonstrating enormous love and passion for the art form, which was inherited by them from their ancestors, we realised that the medium they used to display their art form was not able to fetch them adequate returns. 

What has been your biggest achievement to date? And where do you see Funky Kalakar in 5 years?
To date, we have up-cycled 105kgs of rubber from scrap tyres for our vegan shoe collection, which would have otherwise ended in landfill. Funky Kalakar has directly or indirectly affected the life of 25 to 30 artisans. We are extremely proud of our collaborations with designers, artisans, NGO's and groups, they are the sole reason for our existence. We are also thankful for our collaboration with you guys at, as we know you're helping us to communicate our message to our customers.

For one week only Funky Kalakar are offering a 15% discount on their bags and tablet covers, to take advantage of this offer or more information about the brand CLICK HERE

Thursday, 8 June 2017

This is the only packing guide you'll need this summer, if you're tired of hoarding your entire wardrobe on holiday only to wear just a fraction of what you've packed then we've put together this guide to give you a helping hand when it comes to the packing essentials.

1. Clothing 

If your destination is somewhere hot, then think lightweight casual wear that you can accessorise easily for a night out.

Think about packing just one or two dresses, that you can wear with flat pumps when you want to do some exploring during the day. Or with a pair of wedges in the evening, teamed up with your favourite piece of statement jewellery and a glamorous clutch bag.

Another must have on the list are a simple pair of lightweight shorts or a mini skirt that can you can work from day through to evening. Team them up with a vest or an organic cotton slogan t-shirt when you think your shoulders have had enough of the sun rays.  On that note, sometimes a light sweater that you can throw over with a pair of shorts in the evening when you start to feel the sea air chill also won't go amiss.

2. Jewellery

Be careful not to over pack the jewellery, you most likely won't be wearing them too often during the day on the beach, and for the evening a couple of key pieces is all you'll need for the holiday.

3. Bags and Accessories

When it comes to a bag, you need one clutch for the evening a tote or leather backpack for daytime sightseeing and a beach bag for all those hours of lounging on the sand or by the pool.

A lightweight scarf is the perfect packing partner, pick a summery colour, one that you can throw over your shoulders when the sun is getting a bit too much or wrap around you to protect you from the night air.

One pair of sunglasses will be more than enough, as long as you choose just the right style. I love these retro style sunnies made from upcycled denim. You can wear them with absolutely any outfit and they have Zeiss Polarized Lenses so they'll keep your eyes safe in all that sunshine!

Keep your phones safe from all knocks and bumps along your travels, a hardcover or a smart phone case with credit card space make the best protectors for your phones and are super handy on your hols.

Outfits we love:

Cream Chiffon Strappy Dress: team with tennis shoes during the day and wedges at night - BUY NOW 
Geometric Drop Earrings: perfect for day or evening - BUY NOW
Marble Vegan Leather Clutch: neutral tones for all your evening outfits and just the right size - BUY NOW
Tribe Brass Cuff Bracelet: the only bracelet you'll need for your holidays - BUY NOW


Mosaic Empress Dress: team with flat metallic silver sandals or sandal wedges - BUY NOW
Natural Leather Tote Bag: Just the right size to hold camera, maps and books during the day - BUY NOW
Shibori Lightweight Silk Scarf - throw over your shoulders after a long day sightseeing in the sunshine - BUY NOW
Silver Star Necklace: pretty little piece of jewellery you can wear throughout your holiday - BUY NOW

4. Beauty 

I'd always recommend finding one really good wash bag that has ample room to fit all your travel-sized toiletries, something that has been made well, is fully lined and ultimately you can use year and year again. 

The great thing about holidays is that you can take advantage of beauty products you've had your eye on but don't want to invest in the full-size bottles until you try them. Travel size beauty products are great for testing out new products, or just to ensure you can continue with your beauty regime without having to cart large bottles everywhere you go.

It's important to also look after you hair on your holidays, after all the sun and sea water/chlorine will definitely hurt your lovely locks. So take a nourishing conditioner to use every evening and a hair protector that you can spray on before whipping out your curling iron or straightener. 

When it comes to make up less is more when you're sporting a golden tan, so keep things simple. Add some face glitter to your cheek bones, a little dusting of gold eyeshadow to your lids or try experimenting with stick on face jewellery (as a modern twist on the cat flick eyeliner).

When it comes to fragrance, sometimes our everyday perfume can seem to heavy, so think about natural organic fragrances with hints of Jasmin and Vanilla, this boxed collection of travel sized perfumes just screams summer! 

Beauty products we love: 
Cockatoo Beaded Wash Bag - BUY NOW
Leopard Queen Purple Wash Bag - BUY NOW

Jet set travel set - includes Organic Peppermint & Lemongrass Lip Balm, Roll-On Perfume Oil & a jar of Mini Heart-Shaped Travel Soaps (~40 washes) - BUY NOW

Natural Facial Discovery Range - set includes Cleansing Gel, Eye Makeup Remover & Restoring Cream - BUY NOW

Travel Size Kit - includes clear zip travel pouch, Cleansing Balm, Orange and Aloe Toner, Coconut and Rosehip Calming Cream and luxurious Night Cream - BUY NOW

5. Getting organised

It's important you get organised, so if you need to have printouts (for hotels or flight confirmations) make sure you have these and keep them all in one place with an organiser

But think about what really needs to be printed. Can you use your phone to pick up your boarding passes at the airport? Do you have all the email confirmations of your hotel on your phone? If you booked through a website check and see if they have an app you can install to make it easy. The less paperwork you have to carry the better for our planet but also the less confusion for you.

Don't forget your passport, and if you're travelling involve backpacking through deserts or jungles (having trekked through South America myself) I thoroughly recommend a passport cover

Finally but certainly one to keep in mind, when I go on holiday I get through so much water, of course in some areas it's important you drink solely bottled water. But large gallon bottles aren't very practical to take out and about, so often we find ourselves getting through a vast amount of small plastic bottles every day. Whilst we're thinking about the environment, why not invest in a re-usable water bottle, you can refill it every day and you won't have to worry about the footprint you're leaving behind.

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Ethical Living is your destination for ethical fashion, sustainable living and top tips for an ethical home. With interviews and guest blog posts, it's the perfect addition to your coffee break! Ethical Living is brought to you by

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