The existence of refugees goes back almost as far as humanity itself. Our history is full of displaced people, escaping persecution and conflict. The European refugee crisis conjures up images of war, bombs, boats, lives, deaths, hardship and suffering. It has destroyed and divided countries, cities, families and friendships around the world. It has been in the headlines almost non-stop since 2015, and Europe has subsequently experienced the greatest mass movement of people since WWII. The result of events both within and outside of Europe, the refugee crisis seems overwhelmingly complicated. Today, it is estimated that nearly 60 million (the highest number on record and by some estimates 1 in every 122 humans on the planet) of the global population are currently displaced due to conflict, individual or collective persecution, environmental disaster, and denial of their human rights.
Many refugees undertake long and deeply, perilous journeys in order to reach safety, covertly crossing conflict zones, deserts, seas and multiple countries in various states of (non)governance, often on foot with scarce resources. Of those who make it safely to Europe, many are forced to wait to be accommodated for food, healthcare, and most importantly for their asylum applications to be processed by systems overwhelmed by demand. Refugees who stay in neighbouring countries to their own, which are many times already experiencing economic and political challenges, often suffer local persecution, limited rights and economic challenges. Compounded globally by widespread misinformation, prejudice to the point of racism, and apathy, the harmonious and safe resettlement of refugees becomes even more difficult.
I, along with many others, have followed the refugee crisis from my computer and television screens for the last couple of years, finding information in news reports, charity websites and on-the-ground reports. I’ve often wondered about the human beings being affected by policies made in London, Brussels and Washington, and wondered if I would ever be able to make any sort of contribution to the solution to this ongoing challenge. My interest was sparked further during my year abroad, where I spent time in a French asylum seekers’ centre and met a number of asylum seekers.
It was with this in mind that in January 2017 I decided to volunteer with an organisation running a newly established refugee camp in Paris (following the demolition of ‘the jungle’ in Calais). The organisation’s main work in the camp was to do with receiving, cleaning, organising and distributing clothing donations, as well as regulating the queue outside the camp, where we distributed tea, food, blankets and offered any support we could. The camp functions as a holding centre for up to 400 male refugees and migrants, women are taken to private accommodation on their arrival, paid for by the charities supporting the camp, and children are taken into separate accommodation managed by the Red Cross. Each day, a coach-load of people departed from the camp to be transported to an asylum-seekers centre in another part of France, freeing up more places inside the Paris camp. Once they arrive at their designated centre, the refugees and migrants are supposed to be provided with food and accommodation. However, these resources are often woefully scarce; one young man walked to the Paris camp from Dijon after being told there was no space to accommodate him. Due to the Paris camp’s limited capacity there was a constant queue of at least 100 men waiting to enter; they slept in line, on the freezing ground, many for up to a week and some for longer, before they could even hope to reach the front. Bearing in mind that most of these men had already journeyed for months from their countries, and many had simply walked from the point at which they first reached Europe. So one can imagine the psychological, and not to mention physical impact of being forced to sleep in the streets of Paris in sub-zero temperatures with no guarantee of admission to the camp, nor of being granted asylum. Every morning at 7am the gates of the camp were opened to admit a small number, inevitably forcing scenes of conflict and occasionally violence.
I arrived for my first evening shift with some trepidation, and was immediately thrown into action making and distributing milky, sugary tea to those waiting in the queue. I was immediately approached by a man asking for knife; he explained that he intended to use it to harm himself as he ‘didn’t want to live anymore.’ I had never encountered such a situation, and though my first response were tears pricking at my eyes, I forced them back, offered him tea and food and talked with him for as long as I could. It was a meagre and insufficient response; though I didn’t know what else to do.
Over the next few days I worked both inside and outside the camp, meeting men from a huge variety of countries – Afghanistan, Pakistan, Eritrea, Iran, Guinea, North and South Sudan, Libya, Syria, Algeria… Tackling familiar and less-familiar challenges: how to ask a person’s trouser size in Arabic, how to offer new underpants to men from conservative societies without embarrassing them, how to communicate with volunteers from a variety of European countries, how to mass-make sandwiches at triple-speed, how to try to answer as to why the French police were removing people sleeping in the streets around the camp, and how to explain that sorry, there just aren’t enough shoes for everyone to have a new pair. I also spent a considerable amount of time accompanying individuals to the hospital for medical attention in order to translate between English, French and Arabic, through which I was able to find out some more about those whom I accompanied. Farwan from Afghanistan ran out of fingers when I asked how many countries he had come through to get to Paris. Mohamed paid to travel in the back of a lorry to arrive here, but was unable to elaborate much between bouts of asthmatic wheezing. And 16 year old Assadiq from Sudan told me about his journey, which had begun three months prior, during which he travelled through Chad, Libya, across the Mediterranean ‘river’ (as he said the traffickers called it) to Sicily, where he was briefly detained before crossing to Italy and walking to Paris. There he slept rough for 10 days under a bridge near the camp before being taken to the Red Cross, encouraged to do so by his brothers in the UK who had made the journey before him.
The opportunity to get to know Farwan, Mohamed and Assadiq also provided some of the most challenging moments; I accompanied Farwan and Mohamed back to the camp at the end of the day knowing that they had not gained admission to the camp would be sleeping outside whilst I travelled back to my warm, safe accommodation on the other side of Paris. Finding somewhere for them to stay served little purpose as they would consequently lose their places in the queue to enter the camp and would have to start the process all over again. From what I have heard from Assadiq since I left the camp, he is still sleeping on a camp bed in a school gymnasium managed by the Red Cross, and has not yet gotten even close to submitting an asylum application or transfer to join his brothers in the UK.
In light of these brief but impressionable experiences, I was devastated at the decision of the UK government to close down the Dubs’ amendment scheme, through which just a few hundred child refugees were able to join members of their families in the UK. Other events in the world, borne of prejudice and fearmongering, make a quotation by German pastor Martin Niemöller (1892-1984) come to mind:
‘First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.’
We may no longer commonly speak of the persecution of socialists and trade unionists, but Niemöller’s sentiment remains pertinent to this day. Our individual humanity is bound to each other’s, and we can only progress as far as we all reach together. There can be no sustainable peace within the walls we have built to keep people out, if those walls have been built on unjust and uncompassionate grounds. Today, in this life, we are on this side of the wall. Tomorrow, who knows? If I ever find myself on the other side, I hope there is justice, compassion and kindness there to receive me.
I am a 4th year student of French & Arabic at Durham University, hoping to soon be pursuing an MA in Conflict Development. Since returning to Durham I have been involved with local refugee work in the County Durham and Middlesbrough areas through Durham for Refugee and Durham City of Sanctuary. I hope to return to Paris to volunteer this summer. Many thanks to Mariama for the opportunity to share my experiences.
 Many of whom have not yet submitted asylum applications – therefore their refugee/migrant status is undetermined.
ANNOUNCEMENT: We here at LDSB are excited to announce the 'No-Plastic-April Challenge'! In honor of Earth Day, we are challenging our readers to say no to plastic this April. During the month we will share tips, updates and photos related to how to cut down plastic from the people who pledge to do so, as well as blog posts from these people too!
If you want to get involved with this exciting project, please comment below or contact us through our online contact form for more information. Additionally, get involved with sharing your tips through tagging any photos on social media with #NoPlasticApril. This project will be an eye-opening experience for everyone involved, and will help us to see just how much plastic is unnecessarily integrated into our everyday lives.
We hope you are as excited about this project as we are. Please join us in taking up the No-Plastic-April Challenge, and always remember that together we can do something BIG!
Watch these if you need a little bit more incentive:
When I was 16, I left Alaska for the first time. I traveled completely across the United States to attend a college-prep program with one of my classmates. We were the only two students from Alaska. This experience is the one that really jump-started the development of my ability to share my experiences and advocate for my land and culture. In the years since then, I’ve continued to share my story as it’s become more relevant to others.
The truth is, and anyone from Alaska will tell you this, the land around us is changing rapidly and changing our everyday lives. Within the past 6 years, our seasons have also changed pretty dramatically, as our winters are getting somewhat shorter and less consistent. Our permafrost is also melting, shifting the land, and messing with some valuable infrastructure. As glacier melt continues to accelerate, the sea levels continue to rise and more coasts are being threatened. Ocean acidification and the impact of rising ocean temperatures is also posing a huge threat to our ecosystems and food sources.
All these things have a massive impact on life here in Alaska. Many rural Alaskans live off of the land for food. It’s vital, considering the lack of job availability in many communities and high grocery costs. It also has a big impact on our culture, as subsistence hunting is such a big part of it and many values are taught to young people through hunting and gathering resources from the land.
Currently, the United States holds the chairmanship of the Arctic Council, a body made up of international governments to address issues regarding the Arctic. I think that most people in the US often forget that we are an Arctic country and don’t know much, if anything, about Alaska or the Arctic. Throughout the past two years, the government has made a lot of effort in creating awareness about Arctic issues, a topic that’s becoming more popular among politicians. The Arctic Youth Ambassadors program was created to give young Alaskans a voice in all these discussions and to educate non-Arctic citizens about our experiences and challenges.
Despite all the attention and politics, there is still not enough effort going into finding solutions for the situation we are facing. Rural Arctic communities still receive little to no funding for infrastructure and little support when it comes to climate issues. Currently, there are a few small villages, like Shishmaref, that are being drastically threatened by coastal erosion and rising sea levels. Within the next few decades, Shishmaref will be washed away and the Inupiaq residents will be forced to relocate, leaving their homes and many traditional aspects of our culture behind.
I think the thing that most people don’t realize is that what is happening with Shishmaref will soon be happening everywhere else as well. With the Arctic warming at twice the rate of any other region in the world, what happens here sets a major precedent to what happens elsewhere. And what is happening is the rate of change in these areas is accelerating. These changes will happen more rapidly, and within the next century, other coastal cities in the rest of the United States will start facing similar threats.
Even though it’s still appears to be a big controversy, a majority of scientists have agreed that humans have contributed to the warming planet. How much man-made carbon emissions have contributed to that change is another debate. Either way, with the state of the planet currently, we cannot afford to continue to add fuel to this fire. We need to continue moving towards renewable energy sources by investing in them and divesting from the oil and gas industries. It’s also imperative that we reduce our waste in order to save our safe, natural food resources that will continue to be threatened as ocean acidification becomes a larger problem.
I will always talk about my home and I will always do what I can to protect it. Unfortunately, I cannot do this all by myself, nor solely with the twenty-one other Arctic Youth Ambassadors. It’s going to take a major global effort amongst individuals everywhere to create a change that will make a difference. So as an individual, I will continue to advocate for such sustainable changes with my knowledge and experiences to educate a broader audience and hope that they will be inspired enough to do their part. Let’s do something big, together.
Macy is a US Arctic Youth Ambassador and university student. She is from Kotzebue, Alaska, and has spent a large portion of her 20 years at her family camp in Sisualik, AK where she has grown in her culture, as well as in her love of the outdoors and the ocean.
“Eat local” is a phrase commonly thrown around in our generation, but what does it actually mean and why should you do it? There are many benefits to eating locally, and here are just a few:
1. Supporting local farmers
The consumer has so much power. By deciding how you spend your money, you are indirectly voting for what you think is right and what is wrong. By buying locally, you are supporting local farmers and food producers, as well as their families. You can rest assured that the money will not be kept by a ‘middle man’ with the actual producer receiving very little. Additionally, local and small farms are already struggling to compete with big farms who mass produce their goods and can afford to keep their costs low. Therefore, local farms need as much support as they can get to stay in business.
2. Reduced carbon emissions
In a world faced with climate change, primarily caused by increased carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere as a result of man's activities, the transport of goods is a significant contributor to rising CO2 levels. Globalization has meant that we can buy any vegetable/fruit in stores, regardless of season. However, this is only possible by having food produced in other countries where climate is suitable for growing a given crop. The produce then needs to be transported via plane, ship, rail or trucks, all of which emit CO2 either directly or indirectly. Perishable produce needs to be shipped quickly. By buying locally, carbon emissions are reduced, as the produce is no longer shipped over long distances, and therefore you are reducing your impact on climate change!
3. Less plastic
In big supermarkets, fresh produce is often sold in pre-packed plastic bags to facilitate transport and selling in stores. However, plastic is a major issue in our world. Plastics are produced by fossil fuels and they take thousands of years to decompose, with most plastic living indefinitely. This means more waste in landfills or more carbon emissions from burning of waste (incineration). When buying locally, produce is not wrapped or packaged in plastic – a win-win!
4. Greater variety
Large supermarkets often offer a limited variety of local fruits and vegetables, depending on consumer demand and availability in large quantities. In contrast, local farmers produce a greater variety of seasonal vegetables and fruits, providing you with a larger range of nutrients and vitamins.
5. Better tasting
Fruit and vegetables that are grown elsewhere and transported over large distances have to be harvested before they are fully ripe to prevent them from going bad. Locally produced fresh food can be harvested when ripe, as it is sold in close proximity to where it was grown. Fruits and vegetables that have had the time to ripen naturally taste better and will also have more nutrients and vitamins!
So how do you go about eating locally? Let me share with you my story pertaining to doing so while living in the UK. I used to buy fruits and vegetables at Tesco, but soon realised they only sold British onions, potatoes, carrots and parsnips, with the majority of their vegetables sourced from elsewhere. I got bored very quickly of the limited choice of relatively ‘local’ produce. Also, it was all wrapped in plastic. It was then that I decided I needed to find a better alternative. I started looking at the local market halls but even the greengrocers there sold vegetables and fruit bought from large suppliers, with foods coming from all parts of the world. I was getting frustrated with the situation and was beginning to feel hopeless, so I decided to search for local farms on Google. Many results came up, and after having a look at the websites, I emailed one of the farms. Soon after, I ordered my first fruit+veg box from 'The Paddock' and since then have been receiving them weekly at my doorstep! I always look forward to receiving the fruit+veg box every week, as it makes me happy knowing that I am contributing to the five benefits listed above.
If you would like to make a positive change in the world, why not try eating locally? Based on my experience, here are some tips for facilitating your journey to doing so:
Good luck with eating locally, and hopefully you will quickly see the benefits! If you have any other tips or advice on how/where to get started, please feel free to comment below. I look forward to hearing about your experiences!
Leona grew up in eight countries on three continents, making the world her home. This has given her the chance to see so many amazing places, which she is passionate to protect. Apart from being a student at Durham University, she loves playing basketball and hiking.
Being conscious of your waste is completely possible whilst you’re in school y’all, and I am living proof! Here are a few of the things that I try very hard to do whenever the opportunity presents itself, and are things you can implement into your lifestyle as well.
Get some at a thrift store for $1-2 or reuse some old sauce/peanut butter/salsa jars and let them change your life. Take them with you when you bulk grocery shop, pack food to go in them, use them for water and smoothies and coffee (the handled ones with a cuppow lid do wonderfully for this!). Seriously, go find/buy some jars. Wash them. Use them. Again and again and again.
I bring my mason jar (outfitted for coffee), water bottle, cloth bags, and utensil kit with me everywhere. During the week I carry them in my backpack and if I go out exploring off campus I make sure to transfer it to whatever bag I am using. I accumulated my set by the way of gifts and thrifty finds, but if you want a brand new everything this is a good place to start.
Find your nearest thrift store and always check it first before buying something brand new. For me, this is a Goodwill that is about a mile up the road. It is where I bought pots and pans, some room furnishings, mason jars, and where I went when I splurged on a new dress for the holidays. Speaking of clothes (also outdoor gear, if you’re outdoorsy by nature like me), buy second hand! If you can’t get yourself to do that, then do some research into the clothes/gear you buy and make sure they are ethical and sustainable brands.
College Dining Halls
One good thing (look at me, finding a silver lining and all) about dining halls is that the food is sold to you without packaging (I try not to think about all of the plastic waste that results from the kitchens) for the main courses. I try really hard to not buy any of the ‘grab-n-go’ items that are packaged in plastic. Sometimes I will grab a drink in a glass bottle or a Clif bar (see below) and I’ve yet to rid my usage of paper napkins.
So as much as I hate to admit this, books do have quite an eco impact and they can add to the general clutter of your living space (although, do they really count as clutter if you love them like children?). This semester, I have been using the local library to borrow books--for leisure and school. It has saved me tons of money on school books and for my leisure books it allows me to know if I like a book enough to purchase it to have and to hold. Plus, the fleeting time you have with a book makes you appreciate all the more with the time you have. Ignore that sentence, I am just rambling and don’t even really know what is going on.
One of the reasons that I call my lifestyle low waste and not zero waste is because Clif bars are my weakness. They are DELICIOUS and VEGAN and CONVENIENT and just overall add to Things That Are Good In LifeTM. It is actually a bit ridiculous how many clif bars I consume now that I am reflecting upon this... ANYHOW, the point IS is that you can actually recycle the wrappers over at Terracycle, as well as a myriad of other packaging that no one really knows what to do with, besides contributing it to the massive piles of garbage from this consumerism-driven-society-that-ruins-every-green-place-in-this-world.
I am lucky to live in a place that has city-wide composting (go you, Portland!), but if you don’t have this privilege, then make your own compost bins and smile because you are making a difference for this wonderful planet!
Bulk Grocery Shopping
Bring your containers/bags/jars and get to your nearest store with a bulk section. Even more and more ‘regular’ grocery stores are starting to have bulk sections. Bonus: going into a grocery store and refusing to buy anything with packaging forces you to be healthy. Although, I’ve still managed to find bulk chocolate chips…and we all know how that goes.
As I am a first-year student, I live in a dorm. Among many other things (kitchen cleanliness anyone?) the paper towel waste in the bathroom is something that really bothers me. My environmental club, Greenboard, is trying to get campus-wide paper towel composting and/or switch to real towels, but in the meantime I either use my clothes as a towel or make sure I take the paper towels I use to the compost bin nearby in the kitchen. Portland allows for paper towels to be composted, but definitely check with whatever system you are using to be sure that this is okay. Or just use a regular towel--bonus points: this might help with making your dorm seem less like a prison and more like a home as well.
That’s all I have for now folks. Sometimes it’s hard to live a low waste life and you have to make some compromises, but let’s just remember that by implementing earth-friendly habits we do make a difference, no matter how small it may outwardly seem! We are keeping plastic out of the oceans and coffee cups out of the landfills and helping the animals and the wild places and I suppose the human race by default. If we stick together, together we can do something big!
Mahalia is a college student living in Portland, OR and enjoys eating vegan food, wandering the wild and petting ALL the animals. She is going to save the oceans.
My first experience of the tragic amount of food that supermarkets waste was a couple of years ago on an adventure to the Co-op with my Mum (exciting I know) to buy food for my Grannie. But it’s not every day that you go to the shops and come back wanting to change the world just a little bit. It was all because I attempted to buy some Love Hearts from the reduced price section. I was actually pretty excited by the prospect of getting a bag of Love Hearts for 29p as I always love a good bargain. However when I got to the till the cashier told me she couldn’t sell them to me because they were 2 days out of date. She said they’d have to be binned. My mum asked whether they could go “in her bin” but the cashier refused. It probably wouldn’t have bothered most people but I came out of the shop annoyed. I would have understood if they had been 5 or 6 years out of date, but 2 days past an over-cautious best before date was just ridiculous. I know that one packet of love hearts wouldn’t solve the world’s hunger crisis if it was given away instead of binned, but it made me stop and think about how much food is being wasted and about how many people go without food every single day.
So here are a couple of positive things we can to do to combat the problem of food waste:
FoodCycle – I signed up to help out with Food Cycle in Durham, a charity that cooks meals for people at risk of food poverty, and am so glad I did. Here are a couple reasons pertaining to why it's a great thing with which to get involved:
The reduced section – If you are a student reading this, I doubt you need any help at understanding the concept of the reduced section! Look for the yellow labels and buy them up (otherwise they’ll be binned by the end of the day!).
Be creative with your meals – If you see something in the reduced section that you wouldn’t normally cook with, buy it and make something different. 'BBC GoodFood' is a life saver for figuring out what you can make with what you have. Just type in the rogue ingredient, sift through a couple recipe options and try to make something different! If you don’t have something from the recipe, Google alternatives for it and you may find that you already have what you need! For example, you can use 1 teaspoon of baking soda mixed with 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or a banana to replace 1 egg. Multiple other substitutes exist for things you might not have in your refrigerator/pantry; don't be afraid to pop the ingredient in a search, you may be amazed with what you find!
The freezer – The freezer is a fantastic way to reduce our own personal food waste. You can freeze almost anything! Cook or roast vegetables that are beginning to turn and then save for another day.
These are only a couple of ideas of how we can promote a culture of food use not food waste, although there are many more out there (feel free to share your tips in the comments below)! So why not take up the challenge of implementing some of these habits into your lifestyle? Have fun whilst cooking, eating with friends and feasting on great conversations!
Roseanna has lived near the sea in the UK for most of her life, which has grown her love for walking along the coast and swimming in the sea. Exploring and finding beautiful places in both the countryside and in towns makes her super happy too!
“I change myself, I change my world”
- M. K. Ghandi.
These words by Ghandi embody the theme of my article. I want to argue that looking after yourself should come before looking after our beautiful world. When I say 'looking after the world’, I mean helping the environment through our lifestyle choices, although the point I want to make can be applied to other world issues too.
At face value, looking after yourself sounds like common knowledge, right? However, I think we easily forget this--as we are “too busy” trying to solve monumental world issues to focus on our own happiness. Therefore, I want to remind you of a crucial concept: we need to look after ourselves in order to help anyone, or anything, else to the best of our ability. And a great way to 'look after yourself’, from my own recent experience, is to say hello to mindfulness! You may sigh and think ‘oh gosh, not another one talking about mindfulness!’, but hear me out. I think the current craze for practicing mindfulness is partly the result of it being so simple, but also effective and genius. So don’t give up on me just yet.
I have the most amazing opportunity right now to dedicate time to really thinking about how I perceive myself and the outside world. I am very lucky to have this valuable time. That being said, a lack of time is no excuse not to consider the following ideas. Even if you take just 5-10minutes a day to incorporate mindfulness into your hectic life, you will reap many benefits of the practice. Plus, as I was told by a friend, 'if you don’t think you have 10 minutes to set aside for yourself in the day, then you need to set aside an HOUR for it'.
Another way of putting it can be found in a book called 'Follow Your Heart' by Andrew Mathews. He explains that not looking after your mind is like being lost and not bothering to look at a map you have, whilst continuing to run in the same direction. See my point?
What is mindfulness?
If you are unaware of the current craze I spoke of, here is a quick definition to get you up to speed: mindfulness is learning to live in the present. It really is just being more mindful.
Simple, right? But think about how often in your day you multi-task to save time: texting whilst walking, being on social media in lectures, or eating whilst reading an academic paper--I could go on. Our society encourages saving time in any way possible. I want to show you that by taking a few minutes out of your day to slow down and focus on your breathing, you will enhance your ability to multitask when necessary (at work, for example). And I hope it will show you that life is so much better when you are being mindful and "in the moment" rather than doing two things half heartedly.
What mindfulness has also taught me is that there is no reality, only the reality that we create for ourselves. Mindfulness has made me realise how much power we have of our own minds and thoughts. You control how you perceive things--and that is such a powerful piece of knowledge. When I realised I have the power to alter my thoughts and think positively about the myself and my choices, my whole perspective on life changed - and the victim mentality was flushed down the toilet. I wouldn't class myself as someone who blamed circumstance for negative outcomes; however, I would say I have shied away from some opportunities because of certain barriers that kept my rooted in my routine--like my training, money, and other 'ties'. However I have realised that if you want to do something, anything, there is always a way to make it happen. Learning to be adaptable is an amazing life skill.
With this being said, I didn't alter my perspective with the wave of a magic wand, and I realise that altering your perception of yourself and the world is not a quick-fix. Think of it always as a work-in-progress; in a similar way to if you don't exercise your muscles for a while they will become weak, the same applies to our brains and our thoughts. But, if introducing mindfulness daily to your life is going to make you happier in the long run, then isn't it worth it?
What isn’t mindfulness?
I want to quickly diffuse some myths about mindfulness:
Why am I talking to you about mindfulness?
No, I am not a qualified mindfulness teacher - and this I openly admit - but I want to share with you the positive experience I have gone through in hopes that others can benefit from it too. I have read a fair few books on mindfulness, have recently been on a day course on how to introduce mindfulness into your life, and have been speaking to a close friend who has also discovered the benefits of mindfulness. And thus would like to share my findings with you.
So, how do you practise mindfulness?
A mindfulness teacher told me that you need to work your brain like you work your body with exercise and these breathing exercises are like the bicep curls in the gym, but for your brain. View mindfulness as a fun gym-brain-workout! An added plus is that mindfulness is accessible to everyone, because all we need to exercise it is the power of our minds!!
I was taught a number of different techniques including breathing exercises, meditation, and attention exercises. I am going to outline two breathing exercises here. They are both simple and easy to incorporate into your day:
Mindfulness can be be incorporated into daily life too. For example, you can practise mindful walking: focus on the steps you take, your feet hitting the ground, your posture as you walk, and have your head up whilst taking in the surroundings (rather then having your head in your phone, which many of us are guilty of).
You can even include mindfulness into sport! I was taught how to be mindful in swimming, doing so by focusing your attention to the feel of your water on your head, or on your fingers entering the water.
I will admit, initially I struggled to figure out ‘how to do mindfulness right’ before I went on the day mindfulness course, but I then learned that there is no ‘right' way to do it. It is literally just you breathing-- you can’t fail! Try it and see the benefits. I have done at least 10 minutes of mindfulness every day since I went on the course, and it has had such a positive impact on my life so far! There are great apps like 'headspace' which can help talk you through some exercises, if you want some more guidance on where to start.
So how, again, does mindfulness help the environment?
How can I argue this, you may ask? Here is my experience of it…
I have been on and off vegetarian for a few years, because I felt that being a vegetarian could be one way to reduce my carbon footprint on the world. But each time I cut out meat, I became more miserable and tired and felt drained of energy. For some reason being veggie didn't fit with me - even when I tried combatting certain deficiencies that came with it as best I could (taking liquid iron, for example). I had created an internal dilemma in my head that I either have to help the environment and be miserable, or not help the environment but then still be miserable because I wasn't living according to my values!
Mindfulness allowed me to diffuse this internal dilemma that I had created. It taught me that I can change my perception on the situation, still contribute to helping the environment and be happy at the same time!
So, with more research and discussion with close friends on he topic, I am currently not labelling myself as a vegetarian. Instead, I limit the meat I do eat to locally produced organic meats. This means I don't have the tiredness effects, but I am still doing my part to limit my carbon footprint on the environment. So I can be happy AND do my bit for the environment.
Mindfulness allowed me to have a much healthier approach to myself and my choices in life. It made me realise I couldn't go and solve world issues if my head wasn't in the right place, first. Positivity and happiness comes first. Although this may sound obvious to you, it took me 21 years and a mindfulness course to figure it out!
You can’t help the world until you have helped yourself. Being kinder to yourself comes first and focusing on being mindful in life will make you a happier person. From there you have the power to take baby steps to help the environment and save the beautiful world we live in from thoughtless consumerism. Neglecting one's self to put more time into solving world issues may work okay in the short term, but in the long run by approaching lifestyle with a mindful attitude you will create a happiness that is sustainable in more than one way. At the end of the day, we are here to be happy - not to punish ourselves! Most importantly, it is not selfish to set aside time for working on yourself, because it helps you, helps the world and helps others.
So, why not see what this mindfulness malarky is all about?
A positive and bubbly gal from the Lake District, UK, with a love for running in the mountains and doing triathlons. Lauren is currently traveling along the east coast of Australia whilst helping out on farms participating in the WWOOF program.
Do you want the world's oceans to become cleaner? You can start by creating your first one clean meter right now! 'One Clean Meter' is a project that encourages people all around the globe to make a difference together by cleaning one square meter of contaminated coastline. It's a great way to share all our love to the sea, the ocean, lakes and rivers all over planet Earth!
What is One Clean Meter?
One Clean Meter is a global non-profit volunteering project that was created to motivate people to look after the world’s beaches. The project works as a link between tourism and ocean-cleanup. Anyone, anytime and anywhere can join our community and support the idea. The project started in March in 2015, and now it is truly developing a wonderful community of people all around the world. The project is primarily based in social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. One Clean Meter is absolutely certain that just a small step forward will help the oceans!
One Clean Meter is an active community that is raising awareness around the global problem of ocean pollution. The organization posts facts, motivational pictures, videos and other people’s 'clean meters' to encourage people take action. The community is very responsive and it has more than 960 people involved with the project already.
The ‘One Clean Meter’ page has been translated to three languages: English, Russian and Chinese. This supports people from different parts of the word and makes the information more accessible so that everyone can join in and understand the concept of the idea. From the very beginning, One Clean Meter has received massive support from all around the world that was absolutely amazing. Now there are more than ten new clean meters from different places in the world and we are looking forward to get many more in the future!
How to make a One Clean Meter?
1. Go to the nearest beach.
2. Measure 1 meter of any contaminated area. Outline the area using your foot or a wooden stick.
3. Take a picture of the place “before” and “after” cleanup.
4. Send a photo to us, to inspire others!
5. Specify the location where you did your cleanup. Done! You've joined the game.
Get Involved with the project:
Official hashtag: #onecleanmeter
This is a really exciting project in which you can get involved wherever you are in the world! Join the community now, and let's start cleaning this planet up together. And always remember that, together, we can do something big.
Kate is from Minsk, Belarus and is currently studying at Durham University in the UK. She enjoys travelling around the world and exploring new cultures. She is the founder of the One Clean Meter project.
For the past year I have been learning more and more about the negative impacts plastic has on the environment and our oceans, about 'zero waste' lifestyles and people who put their values into action. Following this gradual process of environmental education I decided that I wanted to live according to my values.
In order to do this, I resolved to live for a month with limited plastic consumption, especially reducing my intake of single-use plastics. As I began I was met with a challenge much more difficult than I had expected, and started to notice plastic everywhere.
There is plastic on our food (milk, pasta, grains, pre-packaged foods, lots of vegetables, produce stickers).
There is plastic on our parcels.
We put our trash in plastic bags.
We put our groceries in plastic bags.
We eat our food with plastic utensils.
We get our plastic utensils wrapped in plastic.
We chew plastic in chewing gum.
And we love to throw plastic away.
As I plod along on my daily runs I see it in the river, on the river banks and in the streets. I see recyclable bottles tossed aside and I see a large majority of people who don't care. Many of us don't think twice about it, this normalized part of our society.
But would we think twice if we knew that birds and fish eat our plastic--filling their stomachs and leading them to starve? Would we think twice if we knew that the plastic we consume breaks down into tiny, tiny pieces in the ocean, making it nearly impossible to clean up? Would we think twice if we knew it was created from fossil fuels, feeding even further into the problem of out-of-hand CO2 emissions?
There are sources of plastic I didn't consider the difficulty of avoiding: gifts of plastic-wrapped chocolate from friends, plastic linings inside milk cartons and the packaging of online orders. I didn't expect that asking for the things you buy to be put in alternative packagings (i.e. bringing your own mug for coffee, your own cloth bags to put bread into, your own jars in which to put coffee beans), would be met with skepticism and sometimes outright refusal. But I also didn't expect the moments of recognition by others of an issue, and interactions with people that left me glowing with hope for the future.
Change will only come when we stand for what we believe in, and I believe in the benefits to our planet of adopting a plastic-free lifestyle.
If we believe in reducing our plastic intake, we need to approach skeptics with confidence and explain why adopting this lifestyle matters. After all, why feel embarrassed to be saving the oceans and reducing our environmental impact? That's right, we shouldn't.
Over the course of the past month I wasn't entirely successful in my attempt at a plastic-free me, but I have learned a lot and plan to implement plastic-free habits into my everyday lifestyle. Some simple things I've found that each of us can do to reduce our plastic intake are:
In conclusion, plastic has many negative effects on our oceans and the wider the environment, and it will only be when we collectively stop using it that positive change will begin to occur. Sometimes it is difficult to remain positive about the state of the environment, especially as we find ourselves living in a world seemingly so oblivious to the negative impacts we are inflicting upon our natural resources. However, there are people out there that care, and positive changes actions are being implemented every day.
For example, very recently France banned plastic cups, plates and cutlery. In order to work towards similar positive actions, get involved and write to your local government representative about why banning single use-plastics is important to you, your country and the planet.
Stay positive and determined, and remember that together we can do something BIG.
Mariama lives in the UK whilst studying ice and other earthy things. She enjoys running through wild places, going on adventures and learning stuff.