I’ve been away…

Standard

You might have noticed that I haven’t posted anything in a long time. I’ve been away on a 6-month sabbatical making the most of this beautiful planet. When it comes to my endeavours towards eco-friendly living, air travel is most definitely my big downfall. It’s one of those tragic dichotomies in life; I’m one of many who care about the future of the planet because they love to travel whether by plane/car/ship, and have seen how amazing the world is – and how vulnerable some ecosystems and civilisations are – and they want to protect it.

So, I spent 4 months of this time doing a ski season in Meribel, French Alps – something that I have wanted to do since I started skiing aged 14. It gave a whole new meaning to the word ‘work hard, play hard’; I worked such long hours and I was physically exhausted about 90% of the time, but being able to ski every day and avoid the miserable winter months in London was SO worth it.

Meribel end of season photo.jpg

Spot me and my tattoo!

With the tips that I made, I managed to save most of my actual wages (something I could never have done living in London!) and I booked a 3-week trip to Singapore and Lombok, and a 5-day trip to Copenhagen for the space of time left before starting back at work. I used to live in Singapore; I spent the two years of my A-levels living with my Dad out there and going Tanglin Trust British International School. But that was 6 years ago now, and I was desperate to go back and see what had changed/see all my favourite things about Singapore again.

South Lombok was exactly what we wanted; it was a quiet, surfer’s paradise. We’d been told by friends of ours to forget Bali and go to this less developed island where you’ll find less drunken Aussies and generally less people in the water to compete with for waves. So we chose a place called Gerupuk which had a secluded bay with 4 main breaks and was supposed to be better for intermediate surfers.

Wooden surf boat Lombok

Every morning we woke up at 6am for a sunrise surf. We’d hire one of the colourful wooden boats to take us out to the reef break called Inside. Then we’d hop out, surf for a couple of hours then jump back in the boat and get back in time for an omelette and fresh fruit breakfast. Paradise!

The only thing that concerned me about Lombok was the amount of plastic that I saw floating in the water whilst we sailed through the bay. In Kuta, there was also often a shocking amount of plastic waste dumped at the side of the road. There didn’t seem to be any sort of recycling system put in place by the Indonesian government, and it made me wonder whether this was just the case in Lombok or whether it was Indonesia-wide. I really hope that the government does something to resolve this issue soon, and that Indonesians can see the benefit of sorting their waste properly, for the good of the environment but also for tourism – tourists are expecting a tropical paradise island after all.

The highlight of the trip for James and I was definitely our 2 day trek up the Mount Rinjani volcano. It was probably one of the best things I have ever done, or will ever do. I found this article on The 50 Best Hikes in the World and it’s featured there. We started the hike from 600 metres, camped at the crater rim, and woke up at 2am to reach the summit at 3,726 metres in time to watch the sunrise. There’s nothing like 3 hours of trudging up steep volcanic sand in the pitch black to test your personality. That view though was unlike anything I have ever seen though! You could see the entirety of Lombok and beyond to Bali and the Gili Islands.

IMG_3837

IMG_3840

Mount Rinjani is a somma volcano, which means a new active volcano has formed in the caldera.

But now I’m home, Flickthegreen is back from her hibernation and itching to get writing again. I’ve got some article ideas on sustainable clothing, so these should be up on the blog in the next couple of weeks!

Advertisements

Eco Interview: Debbie Luffman from Finisterre – cold water surf clothing

Standard

 

Finisterre's Debbie Luffman

Debbie Luffman, Product Director at Finisterre

 

James and I spent a weekend down in St Agnes, Cornwall, a couple of weeks ago to take advantage of the hefty swell that Storm Abigail was sending our way. We surfed with a seal down at Carbis Bay, sampled the finest in local beer at Driftwood Spars Brewery, and generally had the most relaxing, lovely time despite the grim weather.

After our morning surf on the Saturday, we decided to check out the Wheel Kitty Workshops in St Agnes which we knew were home to the Surfers Against Sewage and Finisterre HQs.

Surfers Against Sewage is an environmental charity which aims to monitor, prevent and clean-up the pollution of British seas and coastline, and Finisterre is a clothing brand focussing on keeping cold water surfers toasty warm – whilst keeping their environmental impact to a minimum.

We had a peek in Finisterre’s workshop and had a chat with some of the team. When I got home, I emailed Debbie Luffman, the Product Director, to ask a few further questions about Finisterre’s product and the environment…

 

Finisterre stands for, and commits to, three things: Product, Environment and People. How do you ensure the brand has minimum impact on the environment?

As a brand in the business of creating product, we know that all our sourcing, design and manufacturing decisions will have an impact on the environment, but what we can do is select fibres, processes and products which have the least impact possible. This is not a simple selection however, but it comes down to three essential design questions:

  • Fit for purpose? A product which is designed to perform to its required needs and built to last will be more durable and last over time and will not need to be replaced by the user. This is the most sustainable design achievable.
  • Is an alternative fibre available? When we develop new fabrics, where possible, we source organic, cellulosic or recycled fibres.
  • Can it be easily repaired/recycled? We design product with components which can be easily broken down and repaired, and we offer a repair service at the Finisterre workshop. We also try to select fabrics which can be recycled.
  • Can it be produced closer to point of manufacture? We are committed to shrinking our supply chain, this sometimes means working closer to home, but also sourcing the best fabrics and components from the same region as the factory assembling our products. This minimises processes, transportation and the overall carbon footprint.

giftguide_women

 

How do you go about sourcing sustainable and durable materials?

We work with some of the best mills in the world, including Belgium, Italy and Japan. Japan in particular pioneered the business of recycled polyester and nylon, and also carbon-free membranes and water-repellent finishes, through our longterm relationship with our Japanese mills, we are able to improve and control the chemical processes used in our products.


 

Back in August, in accordance with your iSpy transparency programme, you announced that you’ve moved some of your production to China. It caused quite a stir, especially with some of your Facebook fans. Is there anything that you do to try and minimise that carbon footprint?

The move we made was in the assembly of our garments, for some reason the standard and accepted label on all garments ‘made in’ only calls to question where product is assembled – Our fabrics and zips were always sourced from China and Japan and therefore we were shipping these fabrics and components to Europe for garment assembly. There is a larger impact on made up garments, but our products use lightweight insulation and don’t weigh as much as heavy jackets and we minimise this impact by shipping, rather than airing goods. We are also committed where possible to sourcing fabrics and components closer to our China factory to minimise transportation impact within the supply chain.

w_shirts

 

Unfortunately we live in a society where ‘fast fashion’ has fostered a love for large wardrobes at low prices. Finisterre clothing may be considered a little pricey, but it’s built to last. What goes into ensuring that Finisterre clothing has that lasting quality?

We don’t believe our products should only last a season, so we avoid prints and fabrics which have a fleeting aesthetic. We work with our suppliers to develop the highest spec fabrics to ensure durability and all fabric is testing against pilling, stretching, fading and shrinking. We don’t believe in washing fabrics to create pre-aged or distressed effects and prefer that our products are delivered new and can be worn-in individually to the wearer.


 

British wool is at the centre of Finisterre’s fabric development. What’s so rad about using wool?

Don’t get me started! It is fair to say we are a little obsessed with wool. It is just the best fibre for building products designed for surfers and suited for the British climate. It handles moisture incredibly, whether from an activity point of view, absorbing and moving away moisture from your skin, as well as externally – holding onto humidity in the atmosphere and converting it into heat. It maintains the perfect body temperature, creating a personal climate system for the wearer. This fibre lends itself perfectly for next-to-the-skin baselayers, weather-resistant chunky knitwear mid-layers, as well as technical warm and waterproof outer layers. Wool is naturally biodegradeable and we work closely with all suppliers to ensure that animal welfare is at the heart of all our wool sourcing and to ensure full traceability.


 

I visited your factory in St Agnes, Cornwall this weekend and was blown away (almost literally, it was so windy) by the beauty of the location you work in. What’s the best thing about working in the Wheel Kitty Workshops and St Agnes in general?

I feel lucky to work and live in St Agnes, Cornwall. It is a special place and the perfect testing ground for our product. We are all very active people from surfing to dog-walking, the team are a bunch of outdoor nuts and our product is designed around constant feedback and improvement. The workshop can be a very buzzing, dynamic and frenetic environment to work in, but at the end of the day when it is time to switch the lights off in the workshop there is always the welcome sight of the beautiful wild coastline and ocean right in front of me.

women_featured

 

You’ve collaborated with some fantastic, innovative brands recently, such as Dritek. Are there any other brands we should be keeping our eyes on?

We have a number of new colabs underway at the moment, but I’m afraid I can’t give away too many details just yet, but keep your eyes peeled for an innovative new umbrella project, an original cap concept, more PVC free luggage and a very exciting longterm shoe colab.


 

And finally, when can we expect the release of the women’s Nieuwland wetsuit? I’m keen to make it my next winter wetty!

We are anticipating women’s tester suits being ready by AW16. We actually approached the design for the women’s suit adjacent to the men’s. But it was important to us that the women’s wetsuit was given dedicated design focussing on fit, testing, and needs specific to the female surfer, rather than rushing the women’s suit designed around the men’s, so the design is taking a little longer. We’ll be looking for female testers, so watch this space.

 

Finisterre wetsuit

 

Photos borrowed from the Finisterre website.

World Oceans Day 2015

Standard

Wow, it’s been 2 weeks since I last blogged, sorry for the radio silence but you know how it is…

Surfing Putsborough Beach

Heavy lines at Putsborough on a NUSurf trip

Watergate Bay

An almost-tropical day down at Watergate Bay

 

Today is the UN’s World Oceans Day, and this year the theme is ‘Healthy oceans, healthy planet.’

Which reminds me, I went to the Coral Reefs: Secret Cities of the Sea exhibition at the Natural History Museum a couple of months ago, and haven’t mentioned anything about it yet. It was a really interesting and eye-opening exhibition – I had no idea just how much our planet’s ecosystem relies on the conservation of the coral reefs. For example, if the coral reefs were destroyed there would be no barrier to absorb the energy of powerful waves before they hit our shores and, in turn, coastline settlements would be uninhabitable. These populations would then be forced to move inland, putting further pressure on our planet’s already over-stretched resources… you can see how a domino effect would ensue.

Recently there’s been a lot of talk about the dredging which threatens The Great Barrier Reef. The Australian Government is allowing tens of millions of tonnes of seabed to be dredged in World Heritage waters, to make way for 4 mega ports, serviced by up to 7,000 industrial ships crossing the Reef every year. I’ve always wanted to dive The Great Barrier Reef but soon there may not be anything to see. If you think this as upsetting as I do, please sign this petition.

Another thing explained in the exhibition is Microplastics, which have been a hot topic within the environmental debate over the past couple of years. Microplastics formed from the break up of larger plastics is one thing, but we’re increasingly using primary microplastics which are purposefully created on a microscopic size. In the cosmetic industry some companies have replaced natural exfoliating ingredients with microplastics, usually in the form of “microbeads” or “micro-exfoliates.” Facewashes and toothpastes often contain these microbeads which make their way into the water systems, to the seas, and are then digested by sea creatures. This poses a threat to fish, the human beings whose diet is dependent on fish, and therefore, the entire food chain. Scientists are currently uncertain of the effects microplastics could cause… but it’s not looking good.

As a surfer, one of the most important environmental battles for me is the protection of the world’s oceans. Already we are seeing that pollution is making some surf breaks inaccessible and dangerous, such as in the case of Uluwatu in Bali.

At this rate, the reality that I may not be able to surf without fear of catching a water-bourne disease is not far on the horizon…

In fact, I read a BBC article today which made me squirm a little. Scientists are launching an investigation into antibiotic-resistant bacteria, known as “superbugs”, by gathering data from surfers’ rectums. Surfers are being asked to volunteer to provide rectal swabs to help scientists to find out the effects of marine pollution on human health. Maybe I should offer my services… 😛

There are plenty of ways to help the fight for healthy oceans if you want to get involved; I am a member of Surfer’s Against Sewage and my mum is a member of the Marine Conservation Society. Both of which hold regular beach cleans, which are a fun way to make a difference and a great way to meet new, like-minded people.

Still, the ocean is there to enjoy, and it’s going to take some seriously slimy seas to stop me from getting out there in the waves. So, in celebration of our wonderful oceans, here are some of my favourite seaside photos…

BUCS student surf competition

BUCS Student Surf Competition in Newquay ’13

 

Broken surfboard

She’s a cruel mistress…

 

surfing Ilfracombe

The sun setting over Woolacombe

 

surf couple

I love to be by the seaside with this goon…

 

At the end of the day, oceans are the life-blood of the planet. They must be treated with the respect they deserve.

Living the simple life in Lanzarote

Standard

So this happened a little while ago now, back in March. But I seem to have been storing thoughts for this blog for a long time, without doing much about it.

James, my boyfriend, and I went to Lanzarote on the search for sun and surf. Neither of us have much money, being graduates and living in London, so we went for the cheapest accommodation we could on Airbnb – this campervan near La Santa, north of the island:

Campervan La Santa, Lanzarote

Our home for the week

Inside the campervan… cosy

It cost us just £7 each per night to stay in this little gem. It came with a make-shift outdoor loo, a solar powered shower, a cooking area sheltered by old wooden crates, and a BBQ.

Turns out, no one really needs more than that to have an amazing, relaxing holiday. In fact, sticking to the bare necessities might just be the only way to truly relax.

We had no internet or electricity, so James and I played Scrabble by candlelight and drew shockingly-bad pictures of each other with the pencil and notepad that was left inside the Scrabble box. We filled our evenings with trying to keep the wind (which is strong in the Canary Islands) from blowing out the flame on the camping stove and our nights staring at the stars (which are at their brightest in the Canary Islands).

Here’s James washing up while I lie in bed…

This charming vehicle is owned by Kerry and Kevin, a welsh couple who retired to Lanzarote a few years ago – leaving behind their stressful corporate lives to start a sustainable farm. They live in a finca, a short walk away from the campervan so James and I saw them pretty much everyday, and they charged our phones for us using their solar-generated electricity. Kez and Kev are almost 100% self-sufficient, apart from the use of their cars. Their lives are so stripped-back out there, consisting simply of farming, seeing friends, hiking and surfing.

Kevin surfs everyday, and the both of them look like the happiest, healthiest people on earth. Here’s a couple who are doing life right. Take note. We certainly have.