Monday, 21 February 2011

Monday's Musing: how can green issues have meaning in a recession?

Photo courtesy of
Recently Lori Shook co-facilitated a fascinating discussion to illustrate the deep democracy process.  It left me with a burning question how can we make green issues funky?  There have been well researched articles on the decline in interest in environmental issues in this country.  At around the same time as I was reflecting on that question, I found out about The People's Supermarket and am very excited about the concepts that Arthur Potts Dawson is promoting.  Most recently this was supplemented by my discovery of freegans.  Let me continue by unpacking this further.

I have long been concerned by the amount of waste that we in the West produce as those who know me well are aware.  In a small way my family does what it can to counter that through recycling, using freecycle, tending an allotment, shopping as much as possible from smaller, local retailers rather than the monopolies such as Tescos and Sainsburys.  That said my concern is that we do not go far enough and that was brought home to me by reading the Evening Standard today in which it was quoted that British households throw away a third of the food they buy and supermarket waste adds almost 25% to that.

If we consider that the world's population is to grow by another 2 billion to 9 billion by 2050 then we need to change how we live.  It is clear that in the UK we are conditioned into believing that we need loads of choice when we shop.  We expect to see supermarket shelves groaning with fresh produce.  This is brought home by the experience of The People's Supermarket which has struggled to make money because it is asking consumers to shop in a different way.  The idea is that we need to base our shop around the fresh fruit and veg in season and where necessary add meat for flavour.  To that end the People's Supermarket has very little choice of meat and fish available and it is all sustainably sourced so appears far more expensive then a battery raised chicken from Tescos which costs £3.

I really hope that Potts Dawson's social revolution is successful because he, like freegans (who employ alternative strategies for living based on limited participation in the conventional economy and minimal consumption of resources) is challenging the way we live.  He suggests we can eat well without the level of choice given to us by Sainsburys and Tescos.  Furthermore he is endeavouring to implement a zero food waste policy by cooking up produce that is about to go beyond its sell by date in the People's Kitchen which is then sold as ready meals to customers of the supermarket. 

The People's Supermarket is offering us another model for life because it is a co-operative so all members have an equal share in the business and give four hours of their time to work in the shop thus cutting the overheads and so enabling Potts Dawson to offer produce at a much reduced rate.  This makes the produce affordable to a greater range of local people.

So what can my family do? My pledge is to stop being seduced by the two for one offers and just buy what we need for our weekly consumption and be more creative about how I use stuff that is coming up to its sell by date.  And what are you inspired to do going forward?  I would love to know.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Monday's Musings: what's love got to do with it?

We all know that love is an over-used word to the extent that it can have very little meaning. So from that perspective Valentine’s Day, a commercial take on that quality just compounds the cynicism or does it? We don’t have to respond as expected by going out for a romantic dinner or sending cards. Elaine Gast Fawcett has written a fabulous article which gives a very different slant to it all. In it she mentions Random Acts of Kindness (RAOK), something I came across about two years ago when Jessica Chivers a fellow coach and colleague wrote about it on her blog. RAOK are celebrated for a week in February, however my view is that we don’t have to be conscious of it for only one week of the year but can practise it more regularly.  That said I want to share with you my approach to it this year as an example of another way we can look at 14 February.

Love can begin at home and perhaps ought to when we have a family.  What follows is my take on Valentine's Day.  On Saturday, I went with three of the women in my extended family to the Melting Pot. I had organised and paid for us all to do a chocolate making workshop for  Christmas. I did it because I thought it would be fun but also because we all celebrated the marriage of a close family member to a person from another country and in both cases our relative has decided to make his life in their partner's country. What better way to mark this change than to bring other members of the family together. I also love to support local businesses where I know the owner and love what they do. As you can see it was a win:win on a number of levels.

What I did not foresee even though it was the Saturday before Valentine’s Day was how it would have further ramifications. I was able to give those close to me and those who support the Griff/ Mac household a special treat: handmade chocs by me. Our au pair got some, our cleaner got some and my OH got a bumper lot as well as the girls. It was lovely to be able to share out what I had handrolled or covered in cocoa dust on Saturday!

And yet there was more.  Before getting out of bed this morning, the girls brought me some pressies: delicious expensive chocs and what was best of all, a beautiful heart mug. It had taken the OH ages to find it because he wanted one with loads of hearts on the inside so that I would be able to see them as I drank my morning coffee and know that there were people in my life who loved me.  I realise that at this point some may be saying pass the sick bucket because in some ways it seems so cliched. However I maintain it is very important to receive daily doses of affirmation and appreciation. This is not only important when we have dark times in our lives. Nancy Kline who wrote Time to Think has said that one of the ten qualities we need present to ensure quality thinking is acknowledgement by others. In other words when we receive recognition, the quality of our thinking increases. So as you go through your week, think about how you can affirm those around you.  It may just be with a smile, through listening and/ or a comment.  I would love to hear how you get on or about stories of what has worked for you.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Inspiration can come from the most unlikeliest of sources

This story starts several months ago when I was sitting round a room with other members of our Hitchin book club and volunteered to put together a list of books to decide by vote what we would read next when we met in a month's time.  I have read quite widely and have often been the member of the group that had read a particular suggestion in the past.  So it is fair to say that the other members expected some interesting, possibly stretching choices.  At a loss as to what to put forward I asked my followers on twitter who came back with a whole host of suggestions, one of which was The Necklace by Cheryl Jarvis.  When I read the synopsis of the book, it sounded intriguing so I put it forward.  On the night of the vote, I had the casting vote and plumped for The Necklace.  As it turns out, the book is not very well written and it became clear at the book club's Christmas party that it had not been a popular choice.  I could not attend the January meeting where it was discussed because I was at a family funeral but I get the feeling that it was panned unanimously.  I share that partly to give you a laugh because it is funny how things turns out sometimes and also to give you some context to what follows.

I want to spend the rest of this post exploring with you what resonated for me in the book, not as a defense of my choice, more because I found it inspirational.  All that in spite of the execrable writing style.  In essence it is about 12 to 13 women who led by the vision of one decide to buy a $20,000 necklace between them and share it, which in itself is an amazing example of collaboration.  They each have the necklace for a month before passing it on to the next person.

What was so powerful was the symbolism of the necklace and the different values each woman placed on it,  which sometimes led to situations that they had to confront and resolve in order to move on.  For example one woman realised that there was very little joy in her life and over time she found a way to open up within the group and participate.  There is a lovely scene towards the end where many of the group come together to support her in hosting her daughter's wedding by offering up their many talents to ensure the day runs smoothly.  In the end the Necklace took on something more than had ever been intended.  It became a vehicle for fundraising in the area of the US in which they lived and in different ways brought light, love and laughter to many women's lives outside the original baker's dozen.

What it revealed to me was our ever present need to find community and meaning in our lives and how the power of an idea can go much further than was intended at the outset.  For these reasons alone the book is worth a read. Now you have heard from me, I would love to read comments about what has inspired you recently.

Photograph courtesy of Federico Stevanin /

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Calling all parents with a special announcement

Who doesn't love a secret?  We all do don't we.  Secrets can unlock puzzles and give us understanding.  Just like this phoot which represents discovery of the earth. 

I am thrilled to be able to give all you parents the opportunity toshare a secret.  When you hear it, it will seem simple as many truths do.  It has the potential to enable you to support your child reach their full potential.  Who doesn't want that?  You can discover the secret out by signing up for a FREE one hour webinar with the lovely Lisa Pearson by clicking here.

Those of you who read my blog regularly know that I rarely ever do a sponsored post like this.  The reason I have agreed to do this is because I have known Lisa for a few years now and I trust her.  She is genuine and is one of those few who have found their purpose in life and are living it for all to see.  I know that whatever the secret is it will be of value and so I too have signed up for the webinar as anything that helps my girls grow up to be shining lights in this world gets my vote.  Find out more about what the mummy whisperer is offering by watching a short video by Lisa herself

Do come back and tell me what you thought of it afterwards.

With thanks to Filomena Scalise / for use of the photo.


Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Moving from the Year of the Tiger to the Year of the Rabbit

Today as I took the train up to Leeds, it occurred to me that it was almost Chinese New Year - 3 Feb - and I was curious to see which year was coming up so I got out my smart phone and did some surfing.  It was also the first step towards stuff clicking into place.  2010 was the year of the Tiger.  I don't know how much you know about the characteristics but I think the following characteristics have proven to be themes for the year - mood swings, honesty and hard-work. Tigers are reknown for their passion and there have definitely been huge vicissitudes in the energy levels this year.  For that reason alone, I am looking forward to the year of the rabbit which will be calmer and where there will be a focus on diplomacy - much needed in certain parts of the world right now.  As it happens, it is unlikely to be one of the best years for roosters albeit one with a very different energy to the current one.  I shared those thoughts with you because they give some context to the first month of 2011 which seems to have been a challenging one for many in different ways. 

It certainly put certain things into perspective for me and for that I am grateful.  The other big learning came through a major setback.  As alluded to in a previous entry the main thing I have been working towards over the last six months has failed to come to fruitition.  Naturally I was pretty shaken up about it for a while and what helped were the words of a wise woman, Pamela Mattsson.  Her comment was that it is important to give space for the disappointment and then to reflect on what I wanted to create.  This seemed illogical initially as all I could do was think what's next and even when I had peace and quiet nothing came to me.  My patience and persistence was rewarded (thought of your words at this point Michael) and a vision came which links many of the things that I am passionate about and builds on what I am good at.  It is so exciting and Nigel Botterill, the founder of the Best of Franchise and multi-millionaire, would approve because it is big.  This is so key to finding the energy to move forward because the vision is compelling and provides a focus in which to frame the next 12 months which will be my planning phase to put all the pieces in place so that it happens. So watch this space for more info.

Remember if you feel that the world is going to end, take a breath and try to see it from the perspective of opportunity.  Yes the destruction of all that could have been or that was is painful but in death there is rebirth - the phoenix arose from the ashes.  I had to let go much of what I had considered important for many years but in so doing cleared a space to allow what I really want to manifest.