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

Thursday, 1 August 2019

Today we have a little throwback to the "world’s largest beach cleanup project". Versova beach in Mumbai went through a drastic transformation thanks to Afroz Shah and a team of more than 1000 volunteers.

The cleanup began back in 2015, an incredible 5.3 million kg of rubbish and plastic trash was collected over a 21 month period.

The best part of all this was that back in 2018 The Guardian reported that "hatchlings from a vulnerable turtle species have been spotted for the first time in decades". (source)

Of course, I can't imagine that's the job done, sadly with our current rates of waste I imagine Shah's work is never really finished. However, looking at Afroz Shah's official Twitter page, I'd say there is a lot of determination to continue his work.

See more on Versova beach in the following video via EcoWatch

Friday, 19 July 2019

It's the small ideas that have the biggest impact, this week I learnt about an environmental initiative that has taken place in Utrecht, Holland.

The city has decided to improve its air quality and support their biodiversity by planting sedum plants on the roofs of 316 bus stops.

Making the most of these small green spaces will have a huge impact on their city. As well as encouraging pollination, the shelters will now also store rainwater and most importantly should help increase the dwindling numbers of bumblebees and honey bees. 

Even more impressive is the attention to detail when it comes to maintaining these biodiversities. The shelters are looked after by workers who use electric vehicles to get around and the stops have been fitted with LED lights as well as bamboo benches. 

With a vision of operating CO2 neutral buses by 2028, I think other cities could learn a thing or two from Utrecht and their dedication to a more sustainable environment.

If you want to try your hand at encouraging more biodiversity in your own back garden have a look at some seed options specifically designed to encourage more butterflies or bee populations.

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

This week we have asked UpCircle to guest blog about their brand. If you don't know who they are, you may be interested to know that this cruelty free beauty brand uses coffee grounds and brewed chai tea spices that often end up going to landfill to create their wonderful skincare products, in other words, they transform ingredients that would have gone to waste.

Today Anna and Will from UpCircle talk about their quest to reduce plastic waste as part of their eco brand development  >>>>

UpCircle Vs. Plastic: We Choose Change

For those of you who aren’t aware, “UpCircle” started life as “Optiat”. However, just before Christmas we took the decision to undergo a fairly dramatic rebrand – something that we had been working tirelessly on behind the scenes for more than half a year. We had outgrown the initial vision of Optiat and as part of our continuous brand development process, we evolved…

As our product ranges expand we took the opportunity to unify the brand, unveiling a fresh new look and name. We took our learnings from Optiat and built on them to create UpCircle. One of our main focuses was to reduce our use of plastic – in both our product packaging and office materials.

Since the very start our packaging has been 100% recyclable, but now as UpCircle, we’ve reduced our plastic packaging by 99%. Pretty chuffed with that.

We believe that the biggest challenge in the natural and organic industry in 2019 does not concern itself with the products being produced, but with the packaging products are being housed in. The zero-waste movement is picking up momentum and new TV programs like “Drowning In Plastic” are reminding us all of the horrors which first gripped us in “Blue Planet 2”. Finding new and innovative ways to protect and preserve products in packaging which has no detrimental environmental impact will be key in the coming year. It’s time to turn the plastic tap off!

Our signature coffee scrub range used to be housed in plastic tubes, they are now in 100% aluminium. The only thing that remains in plastic is the cap, which is fairly unavoidable at this point. As soon as viable alternatives are available, we will be straight on it - but we are proud of the 99% reduction that we have been able to achieve so far. Every little helps, as they say! The tube caps are also fully recyclable, so there’s no need for them to be ending up in landfill sites!

Not only did we banish our plastic tubes, we’ve also taken massive leaps forwards with our office materials. We send out orders from our website daily, as well as wholesale orders to our stockists. What are they all sealed with? Paper tape made from recycled fibres! 100% biodegradable. And what about our marketing materials? Well, we’ve made all our fliers, booklets, business cards and leaflets from paper made from recycled coffee cups – quite a nice tie in with our brand story, we thought! 

While the UK has banned the sale of microbeads in rinse-off products, this is a very small step towards doing enough to turn the tide on plastic. Yes, we’ve begun to address the microplastics inside our cosmetics, but what about the plastic that houses them? Last year we saw an increasing amount of our customers requesting non-plastic containers and refillable products. It is now not enough that a product is natural, organic, vegan and cruelty-free, the packaging must also be planet-friendly.

We’ve made a name for ourselves as being the brand creating circular skincare solutions using by products and ingredients which would otherwise be discarded. We are bringing the circular economy to the beauty industry! And that’s where our new brand name came from. We felt UpCircle succinctly summed up our circular skincare mission. A play on upcycle, up as in uplifting, and upcircle as a circular economy. Genius? We think so.

Our rebrand has really unified our look and feel, the products now all belong in a clear family – which means we can start to grow that family. We love developing new products, so we’re keen to see what other circular skincare creations we can come up with!

Coffee was a great starting point for our brand, but we’ve got a lot more than just coffee in our sights! We’ve since released a range of soaps made from residual chai spices used to brew chai tea, the soaps came out just before Christmas and have done extremely well so far! We’re also working with hemp seed husks which are a by-product of hemp manufacture – so there’s lots going on!

We promise that our focus will remain on not only our eco-friendly packaging, but also our eco-friendly formulations. So, a huge thank you from Team UpCircle for all of your love and support on our journey so far. Because of superstars like you, we’ve been able to save (literally) TONNES of good stuff from landfill, helping to leave the world better than we found it.

To read more about UpCircle and shop their range of cruelty free beauty products 

Friday, 30 November 2018

Our wonderful Pebble toys are made by a fair trade organisation in Bangladesh that provides fairly paid employment to women in rural areas. Most of the women who work for Pebble are young or newly married with children. Pebble are happy to offer work to people of all ages and there is a wide range of women of different ages do take up the opportunity to work with Pebble.

All of us at Best Years have just turned 50 so we are the same age as Provati Rani Mondal in this picture. We all have children, but in many ways that is where the similarities end. We have all led privileged lives which means we both feel 25 years old much of the time! What we all have in common is the desire to make sure our children have the very best start in life we can give them – a desire that most parents around the world will have in common. We are also now linked by both being part of the Pebble family.

Three women over forty years of age.

It’s a controversial subject in the West. Never ask a woman her age – that’s the rule. In the West we are bombarded with advertisements for anti-ageing products and articles on the quest for everlasting youth. You would be forgiven for thinking that you have failed if you succumb to the inevitable process of ageing! No wonder people are sensitive about asking a woman her age. This seems to be a First World concept and it’s a much less sensitive issue in rural Bangladesh where the women are happy and indeed proud to tell you their age.

Pebble work with predominantly young women. Some of these women are trying to finish their education or delay their marriage into their twenties and some are young women who have young children and want to ensure that their children will be educated and given opportunities that perhaps they did not have. But they also provide a very useful opportunity for women who are slightly older as well. Women in their forties in rural Bangladesh can find it more difficult to find suitable work. Much of the employment available to women is heavy labouring work or work in the fields and women in their forties in rural Bangladesh are often no longer physically able to do this type of strenuous work. Knitting and crocheting Pebble toys is really ideal for them as it does not require physical fitness. More mature women will often have more time available to work as their children are no longer so young. These women do still need to earn money to provide for their families – perhaps to help improve the future prospects of their grandchildren too. We are delighted to introduce you to three of the Pebble artisans who are over forty years of age and to share their stories with you.

Provati Rani Mondal - in the centre with glasses 
Provati Rani Mondal is 49 years old and has two sons. Provati’s husband works in farming and their family income is very low. At certain times of the year their income drops as there is little farming work. When she was younger, Provati was a day labourer but the work was extremely strenuous and she found it increasingly difficult as she got older. Pebble came to her village to open a centre and teach crochet and Provati took up the opportunity to learn and earn an income with her new skills. She is working to contribute to her family expenses and ensure that her children go on to further education.

Rina Bala Mondol is in the centre of the picture 

Rina Bala Mondol is 42 years old and has one daughter. Her husband works as a day labourer but this work is intermittent and does not provide a consistent or guaranteed income. Before Pebble came to the village, Rina used to go to the forest to cut down trees and collect wood to sell and provide some additional income. Now that she is trained as an artisan and is working for Pebble toys, Rina provides a consistent income for her family which means that they can keep their daughter in school and save some money – something that was not possible in the past. An added environmental bonus is that she has stopped collecting wood from the forest which is very important in ensuring climate change resilience in Bangladesh.

Ayna Rani Mondol - sitting in the middle of the picture
Ayna Rani Mondol is 42 years old and has two daughters and one son and her husband is a farmer. Farm work is seasonal and affected by natural calamities such as flood, cyclones and drought so it is hard to plan and save. Having children is expensive, and Ayna and her husband are keen for their children to have a good education and to improve their prospects in the future. Before she started making Pebble toys, Ayna was a day labourer but she found the work physically exhausting and every day had pains in her body after work. Now that she makes Pebble toys she is very happy that her health has improved and that she can earn the money she needs for her children’s education without sacrificing her own health.

We are so delighted that these ladies shared their stories with us, so that we could share them with you and explain how buying Pebble toys helps this group of women over forty to realise their dreams – as well as numerous other women in rural Bangladesh of all ages.


>>This Guest Blog Post was brought to you by ethical fair trade toy brand Best Years

Sunday, 12 August 2018

For those not in the know, Milochie is an activewear brand with a difference; creating fitness gear that is ethical and eco-friendly, made from natural fibres. We got the lowdown from founder Angela about their new Wanderlust range.

Tell us about your latest collection...

Our latest collection, Wanderlust, explores the heart of four fascinating cities. 

What makes it different?

Our new range is made with our own developed fabric, Miloflex®. Made from 92% Tencel®, Miloflex® is incredibly sustainable and great for your skin. Tencel® is created from wood-pulp which comes from sustainably harvested trees that are turned into fabric using a super-efficient closed loop system, that re-uses 99% of its waste. Tencel® fibres are naturally anti-bacterial, sweat-wicking, biodegradable and luxuriously soft! No compromise; our new collections feels and acts like high performance synthetic activewear without all the damages to the environment. All our new pieces come with a Tencel label to certify its sustainability.

Why the new fabric?

We believe in getting fit and caring for the planet without compromising on style or performance.

Why did you launch the new collection now?

Summer is a great time to start on a healthier path. With an ever growing fitness industry I believe it is more important than ever to choose a more sustainable and ethical path and I think that your blog readers care about what they do and wear.


Monday, 19 March 2018

Agriculture thriving in a rather unexpected place, this hospital in the US have built a farm on their building rooftop to feed patients, staff and the community.

The farm is estimated to produce 7000kg of food this year alone. It is an enterprise that I wish more organisations could get behind, wouldn't it be great if more buildings aimed to do the same to help their communities?

See the full story in the video below via World Economic Forum

Monday, 12 March 2018

(image source Deliciously Ella)

If you are trying to make sustainable lifestyle changes in 2018, then #MeatFreeMonday is a good intro to vegan/veggie eating that you can easily include into your weekly routine.

What better for this time of year than this warming soup from Deliciously Ella's Facebook page.

See the full post here

Sunday, 4 March 2018

You probably won't get a chance to forget, what with all the banners in shop windows and adverts on the TV, but just in case you've somehow missed them it's Mother's Day on Sunday 11th March.

It's always hard finding the perfect gift so I have done the hard graft and sourced ethically made gifts to let your mum know just how special she is!

Handmade Personalised Family Tree Framed Wall Art

Our wonderfully stylish Handmade 3D wooden Family Tree has three separate layers choose from 4mm Cherry or Natural Oak. A gift that gives back, this is handmade by people who are either autistic, past retirement age or have encountered difficulties obtaining employment.

Mother's Day Prosecco Aromatherapy Pamper Gift

The Vegan friendly and Cruelty Free 'Prosecco Pamper Collection' contains a selection of natural bath and pamper goodies scented in our own unique blended Prosecco & Clementine fragrance. 

The set includes a mini bottle of natural bath oil which is made using 100% natural plant oils, two decadent bath truffles which are handmade and loaded with cocoa and shea butters for superior moisturisation. Finally the set is complete with a popular olive oil soap which retains all the natural glycerin to leave your skin feeling soft and supple.

Dark Purple Long Kimono Bamboo Dressing Gown

Made from sustainable Bamboo and digitally printed with AZO-free dyes this eco dressing gown is handmade and features invisible pockets, two side slits and kimono style sleeves.

Geranium And Lemongrass Candle In A Porcelain Geometric Pot

A beautiful geranium and lemongrass essential oils, natural soy wax candle, vegan friendly in a pink porcelain, Square Top, geometric pot. Hand poured and only made to order, the aroma is soft and flowery and has an uplifting effect on the mind. 

The pink porcelain, geometric pot has been handmade in the UK. 

Monday, 26 February 2018

As we say goodbye to February, I think it's fair to say we're in anticipation for beautiful Spring. In light of this, I have curated a collection of fashion, jewellery and homeware inspired by the environment that surrounds us with light Spring tones. From foliage to succulents this collection is inspired by the natural world, you can view the full collection here but below are a few of my favourites.

Agave Geometry Vegan Leather Purse
fairly made // vegan // handmade // eco-inks

Leaf Print Eco-friendly Socks For Women
fairly made // chemical free // eco-inks

Fairmined Sterling Silver Leaf Earrings
fairly made // handmade

Bumbling Bee Print Purse And Makeup Bag
fairly made // organic // handmade

Personalised Bee Pendant Necklace in Recycled Silver or 9ct Yellow Gold
fairly made // recycled // handmade

Monday, 19 February 2018

We are all aware of plastic pollution, we know we need to cut down on its usage and we need to invest in finding alternatives. But it's only when you see footage like the video below via BBC Earth that you really get a sense of how bad things are. The video is of turtles on Christmas Island having to battle a wall of debris to reach the ocean.

It's a shocking sight, but one that should be shared wide because it really is time to stop and think about how we do things.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

As it's Wednesday, inspired by the movie Mean Girls (which I happened to watch again over the weekend), I decided to curate a mini collection of pink fashion ideas. Featuring hues of  hot-pink to pastels and rose we have tones to suit all tastes.

   Hot Pink Velvet Turban Headband
fairly made // handmade

Women's Rose Organic Cotton Geometric Reindeer T-shirt
fairly made // organic // eco-inks //sustainable

Dusty Pink Rose Women's Screen Printed Tights
fairly made // hand printed

Handwoven, Geometric, Merino Wool Scarf 
fairly made // handmade

And pink doesn't have to stop at fashion, I also found an array of natural and vegan beauty products that I had to share with you.

Vegan Nourishing Tinted Lip Gloss
fairly made // organic // vegan // cruelty free

Natural Pink Clay & Rose Face Mask
fairly made // handmade // vegan // cruelty free

Orange Blossom & Rose Organic And Natural Facial Wash
fairly made // organic // vegan // cruelty free

Monday, 5 February 2018

There is nothing I love more than coming across wonderful illustrators using their skills to create really unique cards and prints. So I have curated a collection of unique Valentine's Day cards, there's something for everyone, from the uber romantics to the Valentine's Day defeatists. You can see the full collection here but below are 5 of my favourites.

Ultra Fine Pen Funny Valentines Card Linocut
fairly made // hand printed

Let's Make Sexytime Greetings Card
fairly made // sustainable

Happy Sodding Valentines Day Card
fairly made // hand printed

British Bake Off Inspired Anniversary Card
fairly made // recycled // sustainable

Get Them In Your Bed! Valentine's Day Card
fairly made // recycled // sustainable

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