My Organic Veg Box

There has never been a better time to go organic.  Daily we are hearing in the media of the rise in cases of obesity, and of the increase in Type II Diabetes.  For a long time the argument has been that organic food was too expensive.  This is simply not true and anyway can you put a value on well-being?

my organic veg box
My Organic Veg Box bursting with delicious fresh seasonal vegetables

My weekly veg and fruit box is always full of fresh, seasonal organic produce, grown in sustainable, eco-friendly ways that are supportive of the environment, without pesticides or chemicals or any kind.  Since they are not pumped full of water to increase the size unnaturally, the vegetables have more substance and body and do not shrink when cooked.  You get more for your money and stay full for longer as the fibre and nutritional content are higher.  An absolute bargain at £10.  And no plastic trays and shrink wrap to throw away either.  The cardboard delivery box goes back each week when the fresh box arrives, creating no waste while at the same time reducing my carbon footprint!

Most of the produce is grown locally on the organic farm in Purton, Wiltshire.  Purton House Organics  is a well-established business and has grown from strength to strength over the years through the support of its local customer group.  What started as a local veg box delivery scheme has blossomed over the years and now includes a shop with a full range of organic groceries, including bread and dairy products and more recently a cafe area. Buying fresh, local produce means that every penny you spend goes back into the loop, supporting the farm, helping it to thrive and grow , while creating more jobs and opportunities.  Green living at its best. When shopping in a supermarket, most of the profit goes elsewhere, with only a very small percentage benefiting the local economy.  So your food may be a tiny bit cheaper, but all the profits go somewhere else.  There is no way of knowing if the producers are being paid a fair wage or treated with respect.

In the winter months, some of the fruit comes from other countries of course, like oranges, grapefruit and bananas, this is inevitable.  But most of the home grown winter warmers in the form of hearty root vegetables, carrots, swede, parsnips, along with leeks, sprouts, cabbage and kale, are available right through until the Spring.  My kale plants in my garden planters got me through the winter and kept my quota of greens topped up, and my ruby chard amongst my flower borders has also survived and is throwing out again nicely.

More and more local organic producers are getting up and running.  Have a look around your home area, you may be surprised.  If not, there’s always Abel & Cole or Riverford Organic .

Do please leave the name of  your local scheme in the comments box to share with others!

Using Selenite Crystals to Enhance the Home

Most  people are familiar with the use of crystals in jewellery, such as necklaces, pendants, and rings, but did you know that using larger crystals as home accessories can contribute to an overall sense of well-being and harmony? Not only do crystals make really stunning decorative features, they can also enhance your environment and even clean your space and lift the energies of a room, thereby contributing to a more healthy home.

One such stone that is becoming  increasingly popular is Selenite. Selenite has a very fine vibration and a kind of ethereal quality. It is said to be excellent for meditation and spiritual work. It can help to bring clarity of mind, introducing a calming and gentle feel to a room.  In the current times we live in life seems to be more hectic than ever and after a busy day at work it is often hard to relax and wind down.  A large piece of Selenite placed in a room brings a peaceful atmosphere, creating a quiet space for some quality downtime.  It is also great in children’s rooms and soothes the atmosphere when tempers are high and helps to settle and solve disagreements.

Polished Selenite Pillar
Selenite Pillars create an atmosphere of calm in the home

Translucent Selenite is the most commonly used form of this stone and it can be found in a range of shapes: pillars, spars, polished palm stones and eggs, blocks, wands and hearts and even lamps and tea light holders. Not only is it attractive, Selenite also acts as a disperser of energy and works in a supportive capacity offering protection from electro-magnetic smog when placed close to sources of radiation , such as wifi, laptops and computers, TVs and other devices. It helps to create a safe space, protecting from outside influences and is one of the most powerful crystals for the new vibration on Earth.

Selenite Heart, Wand, Block and Small Spar
A Selenite Heart, Wand, Block and Small Spar

Small pieces can be purchased for as little as £2 as it is easily obtained and found in a number of countries, including the US, Mexico, Russia, Austria, Greece, Poland, Germany, France and even England, though I have not been fortunate to find any myself.

One thing to note:  Selenite needs to be kept away from damp environments such as bathrooms or kitchens as steam and moisture generally can cause it to dissolve or flake.  It is more accurately a chemical sedimentary mineral than a stone, and is only a 2 on the Mohs scale of hardness.  If dropped on a hard surface, such as a tiled or stone floor it will likely shatter.  Since it is readily available though, it is not difficult to replace in the event of a mishap.

What are your favourite crystals? Do share your ideas and experiences.

My Eco Home

My new home is a project and a half:  An older, 17th century stone cottage in need of a lot of TLC.  It stood empty for about a year and had been seriously neglected prior to that. The cobwebs would have made Miss Haversham green with envy.  It does have great potential, though, and I am busy renovating with a view to creating  a quirky yet stylish living space and at the same time a healthy home.

One big attraction to the property in spite of it’s rundown state, is the fact that it predates the use of modern, building materials.  I am a great lover of green low impact living and this enables me to keep my carbon footprint low and the amount of chemicals in the home to an absolute minimum by using eco-friendly organic lime based natural paint and plaster to repair and update. Auro natural paints, decorating and finishing products are fantastic and easy to order online, with fast delivery.

By using natural materials I aim to keep embedded energy values as low as possible.  Stripped back style is one that really appeals to me, with elements of ‘industrial’ thrown in, and Country Living’s Special Edition Modern Rustic Magazine, Issue 2, has been one of my sources of inspiration.

Where to start? Using the Permaculture principles enabled me to come out of overwhelm and start to take some action. Principle 9, Small and Slow Solutions, was my starting point: moving in and making gradual changes would enable me to keep costs to a minimum as I had been living in rented accommodation while looking for a project. It didn’t take long to decide that the 80’s style gas fire needed to go, to be replaced by a traditional log burner.

log burner in gunmetal grey
Log Burner in Gunmetal Grey

Continue reading “My Eco Home”

Do Co-operatives offer a Way towards Sustainable Business?

At Designer Cushions and Throws we make all our products on site and our business is run according to ethical principles.  We also use organic, natural, recycled, upcycled, pre-loved and vintage fabrics for our collections. We have recently been reading about co-operative business models and are excited to share some titbits with you.

Flip book preview

You can read all about this topic in “People Over Capital: The co-operative alternative to capitalism”.  A highly recommended read, particularly for small artisan businesses.  Ethical Consumer offer free postage and packaging.

Did you know:

  • The co-operative movement consists of approximately 1billion members in over 100 countries and it is estimated that co-operatives account for approximately 100million jobs world-wide.
  • The first modern UK co-operative was established in 1844 by the Rochdale Pioneers against the backdrop of industrial hardship and economic depression.
  • Workers’ cooperatives hold the potential to promote the economic, social and ecological pillars of sustainable development through supporting and co-operating at the local, regional and global level with individuals, communities and other co-operative and social-economy organisations.
  • The co-operative movement helps to promote economic, social and ecological ethics where national policies have been eroded through the unaccountable power of modern corporations.
  • Within a worker’s co-operative, any situation that arises affecting the community is represented internally by the co-operative members representing the wider concerns of the local or regional community

Co-operatives the world over adopt and cultivate democratic equality and participation as an internal organising principle. The values of the global co-operative movement are defined through the International Co-operative Alliance as follows:

‘Co-operatives are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity.  In the tradition of their founders, co-operative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others.’

Sounds great to us.  What do you think?

Sustainable furniture

Is there really such a thing as ‘green’ furniture?  As many of us seek a more sustainable way of living we are beginning to evaluate our material needs, which can evolve throughout the course of our lives.  How does this affect our choices when buying furniture? Where do we buy if the furniture in mainstream retail centres can’t be reused or recycled or maybe is not manufactured according to our own personal set of criteria regarding responsible production methods, ethics, and toxicity?

ShabbyChicChairBlue2P1060039
Shabby Chic Chair in Grey with Blue Patchwork Seat Cover

The most straightforward route to a new look and feel to a home might be first and foremost giving the chairs and sofa you already have a revamp, provided the pieces are sound and still match your requirements to some degree of comfort and practicality.  Wooden dining chairs can be painted or stripped and revarnished, using healthy and environmentally friendly products that will not harm you, your family or the planetary ecosystems, and seat pads or cushions can be recovered with organic, vintage and preloved fabrics.  Then there is the life cycle to consider, how long can we keep it in our homes, in a closed loop? Can the item be re-upholstered or painted to fit with evolving tastes.  Can it be disassembled and refashioned at some point in the future or at least recycled if you no longer want it or it becomes surplus to requirements if you downsize or move?  What looks fabulous in one home might not work in a more modern or traditional space.

IkeaBedtoSofaP1060778
Ikea Child’s Bed refashioned as a Sofa

With the eco furniture trend growing, an increasing number of companies now specialise in contemporary furniture that is sustainable.  Things to look out for are making sure that the wood comes from a certified sustainable source, checking whether it’s made with recycled materials, how easily it can be disassembled and ensuring that it is low in or free from toxicity.  Another route to consider is buying good solid vintage pieces and also wherever possible buying local.  There are some amazing finds on sites such as Freegle, Freecycle, and local community run schemes are popping up all over the place.  If you are handy with a few tools there are some inspirational things to be built from old palettes  and recycled wood.  Second hand furniture can often be refashioned at little effort and expense.  A table can be made by using palette wood for trestles with an old door as a table top.  An old blanket box can be cleaned and polished or painted and used as a window seat with a comfy box cushion in pretty fabric.  Old wooden crates can be stacked in creative configurations to create a wall unit or mounted on the wall directly for books and small collectables.  A garden bench can be made from two old logs with a scaffolding plank across.  All sorts of ideas are being shared online at open source sites such as Pinterest, and even many magazines now do articles on recycled and vintage projects.

Also good news is that many furniture designers are rethinking the way they work and taking into consideration a range of criteria to match consumer’s higher levels of discernment.  There are some great British designers using recycled and scrap wood, giving antique furniture a new lease of life, making pieces more functional and adaptable by allowing several chairs to be joined together to create a sofa,’re-imagined’ chairs made from recycled public transport seating, to name just a few. There are even green initiatives to create furniture from waste such as coffee grounds.

How lovely to have so many choices and the potential for such unique furnishings.  Could this finally bring back the life into our ‘community streets’?  Imagine instead of shop after shop stocking the same old pseudo chic, an eclectic mix of inspired creations made with loving care by gifted and talented artisans and craftspeople.  I’m in, how about you?

We can Change the World by the Power of our Purse

In these unsettling times we are becoming ever more aware of the pace of change and it’s easy to feel that things are beyond our control and that we don’t have a say.  But what if we decided to make our mark in our own way – not in the ‘old fashioned’ way of protest marching or casting the ballot for the same old party politics just with different coloured rosettes, but in a new way – with our purses and our feet.  What if everyone decided all at once that “same old, same old” wasn’t good enough, wasn’t what serves us or the planet, and from that moment on we all did things differently?

Take the example of textiles.  We all know just how much the textile industry pollutes clean water and how all the clothing and soft furnishings we buy are saturated with toxic chemicals which offgas into our rooms and are absorbed by our bodies through the skin.  We think we have no alternative, but you may be surprised:

Clothing

  • Buy vintage:  There are so many shops springing up offering good quality vintage clothing and often vintage fabric which predates the chemical saturation era.  Most is so well made that it may even have a longer shelf life than something you buy today.  And anyway who wants to be a High Street clone?  Oxfam offer a selection of vintage online.  Google vintage clothing with your town name or look on Yell in your local area or Freeindex.
  • Organise a swishing party with friends:  It’s the perfect time of year to declutter your wardrobe and have a fun evening trying on and swopping clothes with a group of girls over your favourite tea or a glass of wine.  Find out how to organise a swishing party here, or if there is one local to you. Some more info and rules
  • Revamp your wardrobe:  lay out anything that looks and feels a bit tired and step back.  That T shirt that’s always annoyed you because the sleeves were too long, could you just make it a short sleeve for the Spring?  What about adding some beads, ribbon, trim, embroidery, buttons to freshen it up or to match the colour of a favourite cardigan or skirt?  Or make one top into a vest, to wear over another.  Make a skirt out of a pair of jeans by opening up the inside leg seams, or get ahead with a new pair of shorts.  Use a scarf as a belt or make a bag out of an old felted pullover.  The ideas for upcycling are endless, like this
  • Jumble sales, community sales are making a comeback.  Check out your local newspaper or parish magazine for boot fairs many of which will be in full swing by Easter.

Home

  • Many of the above will apply:  local garage sales, swop shops, vintage shops, second hand shops.  Check if there is a local curtain exchange.  Look up eBay, Freecycle, etc,
  • Make patchwork curtains and cushions:  If your budget is tight and you have fabric to hand but not enough of any one, make a pretty patchwork or bands or stripes of colour.  Buy a small piece of fabric to enhance what you already have and to create a coherent theme, for example, if you have lots of pink or red florals, buy some blue striped fabric, or polka dots as a contrast. Great for completing that shabby chic look.  If your skills are a bit rusty, ask a friend or neighbour to help you.  It’s fun sewing together, with tea and cake!
Pink Patchwork Fabric
Pink Patchwork fabric
  • If you are just bored of the style and feel of the room, how about making a Roman Blind out of an old curtain?  This will make a room feel more fresh and modern in an instant.  You don’t have to spend lots of money on tracks either.  A wooden baton works just as well.
  • Prefer a minimalist look?  Wooden shutters are becoming more popular.  They last a lot longer than curtains and are easy to maintain.
  • When it comes to warmth and elegance, you just can’t beat a good pair of hand-made, interlined curtains though.  They can set the tone of the room, and bring a softness and feeling of intimacy to a space.

    Curtains in organic hemp by OEcotextiles
    Curtains in organic hemp by OEcotextiles
  • Organic fabrics  for are becoming more readily available and gradually more affordable as the technologies improve, demand increases and production prices of cheaper fabrics worldwide begin to rise.   You often only need to spend a little more to get healthy, quality organic cotton, linens and organic hemp which will last for years, meaning that over the  product life cycle they actually work out much cheaper, and don’t cost the earth. Get together and help each other to make curtains and clothes, or find someone local who has the skills and get them to teach you.

Being creative and sitting back in the warm fuzzy glow of having made something yourself beats any shopping spree. It’s fun, it’s satisfying, it’s original and is often a fraction of the cost.   So why not be the change and make more from less,  make conscious choices how we spend, who we give our energy to, how we share our resources?  Have you got an idea, a resource or a site to share?

We love wool

Cushion in Purple Tartan Wool
Cushion in Purple Tartan Wool

What a fantastic renaissance wool is having this season in the soft furnishing sector.  Thanks to it’s unique natural properties it has stood the test of time and is one of the oldest textiles known.  We hope you will also be inspired by the wonderful virtues of this fibre,

Blue and Green Tartan Wool Bag
Blue and Green Tartan Wool Bag

The fact that wool will only smoulder and not burn means it is naturally flame retardant, making it the perfect chemical free eco-friendly choice for upholstery and for creating a healthy home environment,  unlike synthetics which can be highly flammable.  On top of this the natural fibres absorb dye very easily, deeply and uniformly, without the use of chemicals.

Wool is such a versatile fibre as it is soft and light and drapes brilliantly making it ideal for both clothing and soft furnishings, including curtains, cushions, throws and blankets, as well as upholstery and a whole range of accessories such as bags, scarves and much more.  The fibres are naturally elastic and will stretch under pressure and then spring back into shape so that anything made from wool will not sag or bag.  And on top of that it is also dirt resistant!  The fibres have an outer layer of scales that are resistant to  dirt and dust penetration, so any stains will sit on top and not embed, making the fabric easier to clean.  Soiling is easily removed by gentle washing in warm soapy water. And even though it absorbs moisture, the scales have water repellent properties, perfect for rainy days, and your sofa.  Wow!

Grey wool cushion with hemp
Grey Wool Cushion with hemp

And just when you were thinking it can’t get any better, it does, because wool is also hard wearing.  The fibres are strong and less likely to break, and resist piling and snagging, so wool fabrics will look good indefinitely and typically have a longer life span than synthetic fabrics.  No wonder fathers used to hand their overcoats down to their oldest sons!  What mileage.  Great for both your wardrobe and home soft furnishing budget then.

Oh and I almost forgot to say, that wool is also a natural insulator, so it keeps us warm!  The crimp in the wool fibres mean tiny air pockets heat up when any moisture in the centre of the fibre heats up, thus holding the warmth.  This works both in a wool jacket as well as for curtains.

And last but not least the acoustic and insulation properties deserve a mention.  Wool carpet helps minimise noise levels in the home, while the fibres are also making their mark as insulation for loft spaces and walls, as a natural alternative to petro-chemical derived products for those wishing to become more green.

Let us know what you love about wool.