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Category: Being an ethical business

  1. Why do we need to tell people we are vegan?

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    I've really been in two minds about sharing this meme.  It's a dig at vegans.  But it illustrates a discussion point.  Why do we need to tell people?

     

    In a nutshell - it's because there's milk in some potato crisps!  

    Animal products are in so much of what we buy and consume - even if we think we are managing to avoid them.  

    Food and drinks mostly have labels, as do products.  But would you check the label for a bag of crisps?!  You need to be on the ball as there are so many unsuspecting places for animal products to be used in things -  especially in my industry.   

    I completely understand why a client may want to make it known to those on a team specifying for a build project.  I also think that may feel like an uncomfortable thing to do for them - as that team may have no awareness that animal products  are used - let alone that sheep's wool commonly used in insulation is something a vegan may want to avoid or that animal glues are used widely, still.   People still have a block that vegan is all about diet and not a consciousness about how we live as well. 

    Even though I've been working in this area for many years and I'm familiar with what goes on - I'm learning of more all the time. 
     I recommend fellow vegan interior designer Aline Dürr's book Vegan Interior Design.   I guess the clue was in the name but I was surprised to read that bone china still contains a large percentage of bone ash from pigs and cows.  You just think these things would have been superseded over all these years.  To me it just sound out-moded.

    Even if someone is not vegan - these are still things they might want to avoid.  I've recently completed a fantastic and informative set of courses on Healthy Materials and Sustainable Building devised by the Healthy Materials Lab at Parsons School of Design.  Chemicals, wellbeing and sustainability are all interconnected.  Chemical use in interiors products mean the need for toxicity testing of the products - and that means animal testing.  Sometimes this happens once and the findings are shared between companies.  But new chemicals / combinations mean new testing. 

    So chemical use should be something we should be cautious of for many reasons if health, environment and animals are important to you.
  2. MY (RE)TURNING POINT

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    My confession

     

    I've been fortunate to help local company Kings Colleges with the design of their college buildings for many years. It's such a lovely team of passionate and creative people there. I've worked on most of their UK buildings and helped to create a template to apply to their buildings globally.  A few years ago we completed Kings Brighton.  It's a building that's near to where I live and next to the Level - so lots of green space nearby for students and staff to enjoy.

    This building achieved the BREEAM sustainable building rating of EXCELLENT. So this included specifications that were lower impact, there's a living roof, living wall, cycle parking.
     
    I know about sustainability and GUESS WHAT.....I would have loved to have done SO MUCH MORE.
     
    This project very much spurred me on to work harder to provide sustainable specifications for my clients - drawing on all that I learnt during my excellent education in working in sustainability for The Body Shop's HQ early in my career. Although I thought I was working with vegan and sustainable specifications - found I had drifted into the mainstream of unconsciously sourced and specified materials and WASTE! This project completely woke me up to that and what more I could do in my role of designer.
     
     
    May confession 2
     
    SO WHAT DID I DO?
    I took time out to study more to bump up my knowledge.
    I completed courses on vegan design, human centred design and sustainability. I'm currently nearly at the end of another course on using healthier materials.
     
    Clients want to make BETTER choices and want to be guided on lower impact specifications. They just don't know what to look out for or even what all the issues are. I feel it's my duty as a designer to guide them.
     
    So my learning is not going to stop and I'm working hard to influence fellow designers via INTERIOR DESIGN DECLARES and the BRITISH INSTITUTE OF INTERIOR DESIGN as well.
     
     
    Here's a short video about Kings Brighton - complete with a look around the building.
    If you'd like to read more - and tour the building in more detail - have a look here... https://www.materialiseinteriors.com/kings-brighton.html
  3. My business of 15 years - Part One: TREE PLANTING

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    Working with my ethical business

    I want to write about being an ethical business and what that means to me. I've been very fortunate to experience the inner workings of a successful ethical business in action during my 10 years for The Body Shop International’s head office - so it's natural for me to carry these values on into my own business.   

    This month I celebrate my 15th year in business and I'd like to use that milestone to review what I am doing and to make improvements.  Wow 15 years though.  It’s been a great experience but it’s not been the simplest path - from a housefire in my first week in business (I’ll tell you about this another time!) - to a financial crisis, Brexit uncertainty and now a pandemic!  Who’d have thought it would be so dramatic.  

     

    TREE PLANTING is really important to me and my clients love having trees planted in their name as a thank you when I've worked with them.   It is a positive although inaccurate contribution to offset the carbon used on the materials used in their projects. I’m aware it’s not in any way exact.  

    The exciting news is that there are pioneering furniture suppliers are able to give a CO2 calculation with their products.  It’s a hugely useful piece of information and I can’t wait for it to become the norm in my industry.  Clients can consider that as part of their decision process.  

     

    I want to review and increase my commitment to planting trees...

    🌳Up to now I've been planting 10 trees at the beginning and end of a full project.  This will now be 25 at the beginning and end.  

    🌳 I've also decided to plant 10 trees for each one-off consultation as I've been doing lots more of these recently - especially online.

    🌳 As a THANK YOU for anyone recommending my services I have 10 trees planted in the name of the referee for each positive CLIENT REFERRAL lead  I receive. 

    🌳 I’m planning to stay on the ground for travel for a while - but if I do fly I will I’ll follow Natalie Fee’s advice in her book ‘How To Save The World For Free’ She tells us “...if the aviation sector was a country - it would be the 7th biggest polluter in the world.” Obviously this is a pre-pandemic fact.  But it’s an alarming one.  Natalie recommends 

    • Atmos Fair - the flight is calculated and you pay to offset.  Offsetting takes the form of numerous climate protection projects such as energy efficiency, wind energy, hydro and solar power.  

    • Mossy Earth - your flight is calculated by the hour or road trip by distance and you pay for native trees to be planted and/or support their rewilding projects.

     

    Today I'm up to 433 trees planted and I'm just about to plant more for a client. 

    The project I'm supporting at the moment is PETA founder Jane Goodall's Institute initiative with OneTreePlanted - who need our help to plant 3 million trees as part of the Wildlife Habitat & Corridor Restoration Project. The Albertine Rift landscape is a diverse ecosystem which is crucial to many species and is a prominent habitat for endangered chimpanzees. It also houses over 50% of birds, 39% of mammals, 19% of amphibians, and 14% of reptiles and plants of mainland Africa. By pooling resources and combining efforts, One Tree Planted and the Jane Goodall Institute are aiming to restore and manage these incredible forests.⠀And it's not just about biodiversity, working with local communities will also include promoting agroforestry for sustainability, improving forest monitoring, and establishing community-managed enterprises and microlending programs in order to create a holistic long-term benefit.⠀⠀