Inspirations


My pallet-based-building obsession continues – and here is a great site that details every step of how to build your own tiny house out of pallets. It’s a little tricky to navigate, but if you start with the floor, it takes you through every step. I particularly like the details on building the walls.

I’ve just realised that I haven’t made enough of some of the great people I’ve met who are also undergoing this amazing green journey – downshifting or re-moulding their lives to their views of the new reality we face. There are so many of them I won’t attempt to get them all into one post, so here is a teaser for you . . .

Becoming Domestic

Living the dream – a rollercoaster ride into the realities of downshifting with a family. Inspirational and nailbiting, as well as practical and down to earth . . well worth a read – becomingdomestic.co.uk

The ultimate pantry

Green Cottage

From someone who faces the workday reality of trying to tackle climate change through the constraints of local government – and at the end of the day he walks the walk – combining low-cost renovation of a Victorian terrace with high-effort regeneration of a woodland – ourgreencottage.wordpress.com

Away from green cottage – valley wood

La Ferme de Sourrou

La Ferme de Sourrou is where I see myself in another life – without the daily schoolrun or the pressures of catchments and SATs. Amazing tales of self-building and self-sufficiency, wonderful gardens and animals – read more at lafermedesourrou.blogspot.co.uk – and have a look at the gorgeous photos.

It’s all about the chickens

I keep seeing so many pallets floating around that I ended up doing a quick search for what to do with them – and there are some great people out there doing some amazing stuff. I’ve been inspired to come up with our own project, which I’ll tell you more about as soon as I’ve got the plans sorted. In the meantime, how about this for an inspirational thing to do – a fast-build emergency or semi-permanent house where the entire structure is made from pallets.

I love the whole thing, but particularly the furniture and the sleeping deck!

Eat Seasonable Fruit & veg

Eating seasonable fruit and veg can be a great way to save yourself money, and reduce your impact on the environment. It can be hard though to work out what really is in season now that you can get pretty much anything at any time of year.

Luckily there’s a great new website – EatSeasonably.co.uk – that tells you what to eat now, and even what to grow. It’s all presented in a great format and can be printed out and stuck to the fridge. We’re going to try it out and see!

Action for Sustainable Living
Action for Sustainable Living
We’ve just had a great visit from Action for Sustainable Living. They’re a really inspirational local charity working on building a sustainable future in Machester and Trafford – they’ve even been nationally recognised for their work, winning the 2008 National Guardian Charity Awards.

They’re looking out for local people who are passionate about making their communities a better place, so we said we’d help get the word out!

Volunteering with Action for Sustainable Living is a good way to gain amazing work experience with an award winning charity. As a volunteer you’ll make a massive difference in your local community by designing and implementing a sustainable project. They’re looking for Local Project Managers to cover Stretford, Urmston and Sale areas, complementing the volunteers they already have throughout Trafford.

The role is a challenging yet rewarding one; you will develop new skills, meet new people and really feel like you are making a difference. If you are an enthusiastic, self-motivated individual able to offer at least eight hours per week to support AfSL’s activities, why not nominate yourself for this unique opportunity?

‘To me, the 8 hours per week that I contribute to Action for Sustainable Living are more meaningful than a full-time job in any non-sustainable organisation’.

AfSL Local Project Manager Manchester City Centre

You won’t need any previous experience, and there’s a lot you can get out of it personally:

  • Voluntary experience can help you get the career you want
  • You’ll get lots of support, training, resources and mentoring from AfSL
  • You’ll be able to see that you’ve made a real difference in your local area

Local Project Managers attend events, give talks and workshops and set up local action groups and projects (Don’t worry! AfSL will help you get ready for these). Previous Local Project Managers have set up community allotment projects, fair trade societies, energy action teams, composting schemes, local shop campaigns and a whole range of interesting, locally-relevant things. You just need to be able to commit eight hours a week for six months or more.

You do need to apply – the deadline for applications is on Friday 18th September at 12pm, and if you’re interested in finding out more you can contact AfSL (details below) or attend the LPM Introduction evening on Thurs 17th Sept at 5:30pm (contact them to confirm your place).

If you want an application pack or have any questions you can contact Helen at trafford@afsl.org.uk, or by calling o845 634 4510. And you can find out more about AfSL at their website – www.afsl.org.uk

Action for Sustainable Living Volunteers

If you only read one news item this week, make it this one. It’s the story of how Brazil’s fourth largest city moved to eradicate hunger, a great project, and a great piece of journalism highlighting it. At the time, this city of 2.5 million people was letting 20% of its children go to bed hungry. Not a pleasant thought. There are so many thought provoking quotes in this story. They really made me take a step back from my assumptions on how our society should work:

To search for solutions to hunger means to act within the principle that the status of a citizen surpasses that of a mere consumer.

Hunger is not caused by a scarcity of food but a scarcity of democracy

So what did that mean on the ground?

The city agency developed dozens of innovations to assure everyone the right to food, especially by weaving together the interests of farmers and consumers. It offered local family farmers dozens of choice spots of public space on which to sell to urban consumers, essentially redistributing retailer mark-ups on produce—which often reached 100 percent—to consumers and the farmers. Farmers’ profits grew, since there was no wholesaler taking a cut. And poor people got access to fresh, healthy food.

The city makes good food available by offering entrepreneurs the opportunity to bid on the right to use well-trafficked plots of city land for “ABC” markets, from the Portuguese acronym for “food at low prices.” Today there are 34 such markets where the city determines a set price—about two-thirds of the market price—of about twenty healthy items, mostly from in-state farmers and chosen by store-owners. Everything else they can sell at the market price.

I particularly liked their ideas for “keeping the market honest”:

They survey the price of 45 basic foods and household items at dozens of supermarkets, then post the results at bus stops, online, on television and radio, and in newspapers so people know where the cheapest prices are.

And that with the benefits of the programme come responsibilities. For the farmers who benefit from the best market spots:

Every weekend they have to drive produce-laden trucks to the poor neighborhoods outside of the city center, so everyone can get good produce.

Isn’t that a great solution to the availability of fresh food in under-served areas? The cost of these efforts must be high though?

Around US$10 million annually, or less than 2 percent of the city budget. That’s about a cent a day per resident.

And how better to end than with the emotional words of one of the programme’s managers:

“I knew we had so much hunger in the world, but what is so upsetting, what I didn’t know when I started this, is it’s so easy. It’s so easy to end it.”

Just finished listening to the first podcast from The Downshift Project – a really interesting insight into the lives of budding escapees from this oil-based rat race.

I’ve never really got into listening to non-radio podcasts so this is a new one on me, an extra, personal, dimension to a blog. This podcast is an strangely intimate confessional, and as I found the content so interesting I didn’t really think about how vulnerable the author must feel, and I hadn’t had any thoughts about the quality of her podcast until she mentioned it at the end – which must be a good sign.

In it, Tess, the creator of the podcast, discusses how she got from traditional daily life to living in a wooden cabin in west Wales. She talks about the difficulty in leaving your established career, something which often defines you in our work-based society. She confronts the fear of losing skills built up over many year, but a turning point comes when she makes the realisation that she couldn’t survive without Civilisation. That was a good point for me: how could we survive without the constant crutch of nearby shops, water and power? And I guess that really is the ultimate question we’re facing here at Gentle Descent.  I liked her advice that the best way to free yourself from the constrictions of your existing job-and-skills mindset – focus on the future, and as you develop those new skills and interests, you’l leave your old “protective shell” behind without even noticing.

The description of their Narrow-Boat life was great – I liked the intimate connection to nature. Something that I remember from our un-insulated timber house in Brisbane. The community of narrowboaters sounded fun, and I wonder if our desire for land (and therefore space between us and others) is the sort of thing that reduces community bonds. It’ll be interesting to see if they can find that kind of community again in a rural, land-based world.

Their aim to be debt free, so they can minimise the time they have to work for others, really resonates with me. And the balance that they’re striking between life and career goals is certainly refreshing. I’ll be interested to see how their paid work/life/self sufficiency work balance pans out, and whether Tess manages to spend enough time writing and composing music or will her time all be taken up with producing food & fuel? Lets watch and see!

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