This blog post is dedicated to Durham University Triathlon team, and to anyone who has let a piece of clothing change the way they felt.
I own a £2 pink and yellow tie-dye baseball cap that I am fond of wearing backwards, with my hair in pigtails, supplemented with a wide cheeky grin. I have worn this cap many times in my life--it has been to the airport and has served to hide many a bad hair day. But the first few times I wore it were during a special time that I will never forget.
I bought it when I signed up to do my first triathlon, when I decided that I was bored of being an injured and frankly, obsessive (yep I was one of those!) runner, who was a slave to a training schedule that no longer served me. I remember sitting at my laptop, and emailing the university triathlon captain, telling him I would like to train and race with his group, shaking a tiny bit with fear and anticipation as I pressed the “send” button. I then remember leaning back in my chair, and touching the cap lightly, thinking to myself:
“Well that was a bit badass.”
I wore the exact same cap when I was the only one on the team who was old enough to drive an automatic vehicle down to one of the most important sporting events that I would complete that year, the University Standard Distance Championships. Much to the bemusement of the rest of the team, I managed to get lost on the way down to the hotel the night before, despite having a sat-nav. It became hilariously clear later on that I really should not be allowed to drive team cars, because I had no idea how to use the lights or windscreen wipers when the weather turned dark and rainy.
The race was hard, crazy and exhilarating. My open water swimming skills were terrible, my biking somewhat reasonable and there was a slight redemption on the run (which would have been more enjoyable had I not been desperate for the toilet). But none of that really mattered in the end, because the part of the whole event that I remember most fondly, was when a group of us all sat down together when we got back home (in just about one piece!) and had a beer. We laughed, and joked, passing round the trucker cap, taking the piss out of each other.
It was then that I realized that by breaking out of my old boundaries and choosing to do something different and scary, I had brought to myself immense happiness and fulfillment. I cleared my room out a couple of years later, and found the cap--muddy, folded, and looking a bit worse for wear. I went to throw it away, knowing that at 26, it was about time I started wearing headgear that made me at least resemble a female adult. But I couldn't do it.
And I realize now why I could just not bring myself to do so; because the cap means so much more to me than just a piece of headwear. It represents choosing not to follow habits that no longer serve me, demanding bravery from myself; and the intense reward of meeting some amazing people on the way.
The cap also reminds me that I am extremely fortunate to have both the time and financial circumstances to do a sport like triathlon. And so my dear reader, I invite you to think to yourself: “What have I worn that been with me whilst I have changed the way I think and feel for the better?”.
Thanks for reading!
Katherine is finishing up her studies for a PhD in cell biology. When she isn't culturing skin cells, you will find her on a bicycle, scouting out the biggest, most ridiculous hills she can find and then tackling them.
The author would like to thank Mariama Dryak for the invitation to write for her blog.
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.
When I first started to practice yoga I went because I needed to get in shape. I was studying abroad in Galway, Ireland during the coldest and wettest spring in 70 years, according the locals. I saw that there was a hot yoga studio a couple blocks from my house and decided to give it a try. Although, I have to admit that when I saw the sign that said 105 degrees, I was intimidated! I was a college student on a budget, and I knew I should probably be using that money for chiropractic, but I decided to sign up for the 30 days of yoga for $30.
Little did I know how much that those 30 days would change my life.
It didn't immediately; at first I hated it. It was hard to breathe in the heat, I was really wobbly, and embarrassed at my experience-level. But I stuck at it and got stronger every day. It wasn't just my body that got stronger, it was my mind and my soul. When I left yoga each day I was so happy walking home, it warmed me up (difficult to do in the wet Irish cold) and made my soul entirely happy.
It's one of the most challenging things I've done, and I still struggle every time I put into practice keeping my mind in the present. I try to carry what I have learned in yoga into everyday life and staying present, which has made me a better person inside and out. I have also found that with yoga I don't need to see a chiropractor nearly as much as I used to, as I align my body through my daily practice.
It is never ever too late to start yoga and it will change your life, if you give it the opportunity.
Genevieve currently lives in the driftless region of Minnesota, but since university has lived everywhere from Alaska to Ireland. In her spare time she loves practicing yoga, going for hikes with her dogs and exploring in the great outdoors.
I awoke today to the calm after the storm. Snow drifts lay piled three to four feet high, shining in all their glory--the effects of the worst storm of this winter in Wisconsin, so far. What last afternoon and evening was the tremendous howling of wind and whiteout conditions of snowfall, now lay in silence; with only the occasional chirping of the chickadees, junkos and cardinals at the snow-ladened bird feeders breaking the peaceful dawn.
After casting a look outside at this snowy abyss, my stalwart husband proceeded with the morning watering of the pigs and lighting of the outdoor wood stove. He was led by our cocker spaniel, Mocha, who trail-blazed through the mounds of deep snow, and was further accompanied by one of our german shepherds watching out for him in the new landscape. He plunged into the whiteness, and came back 20 minutes later, covered with snow from head to foot due to misjudging a drift, and tumbling into it.
Later in the morning, I repeated the hog watering with the faithful dogs by my side. The pigs were more interested in playing in and eating snow, than worrying about the warm water I poured for them. They hopped and squealed and rooted in the snow drifts within their pen.
My next morning chore was to remove the six inches of snow and ice from the solar panels on our farm. Plodding slowly and carefully through the mounds of cresting white waves sculpted by lasts nights wind, I made my way to the panel framework across the yard. It took genuine effort to remove the caked snow and underlying ice from the slick black surface. As the snow chunks fell toward the ground, my companion, our older shepherd, jumped around, biting at them in the air whilst barking joyously.
Pigs watered and panels cleared, I headed back to the warmth of our home. There, I relished the warmed floor in our kitchen while drinking steaming hot tea. This is living!
Organic farmer, artist, and mother of four--this fabulous woman has seen it all.
With a new year comes new goals, renewed enthusiasm for fulfilling these goals and possibly some apprehension towards making these things happen. Because, like it or not, change is difficult. Challenging norms, either in society or those set by ourselves, is difficult. But, these things are entirely achievable if you remind yourself why you set those goals in the first place and do not let yourself slip back into old routines.
If there is anything I have learned from my competition in university cross country and orienteering, it is that consistency is key to success. So, if we know what we want to do, and we also know what we have done in the past that has inhibited us from fulfilling such goals, we know what we need to change. So let's change it. It really is that simple, yet I understand so entirely not simple in our brains.
Let's be honest with ourselves this year, and hold ourselves accountable for the goals that we set. Because you know what? The feeling at the end of the year after having accomplished these things will make us happier human beings.
Let's make a change. Let's hold ourselves accountable. Let's be consistent. Let's 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.
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.
Sometimes it’s hard.
Sometimes it’s hard to care so much and feel so connected to the environment. Sometimes convenience almost wins over doing the 'right' thing. Sometimes, it sadly does win over. But ultimately, it is worth it to be a mostly-plastic-free, minimalist, vegan. It’s worth it for the EARTH, for the animals, for the future human generations (if you’re into that sort of thing), it’s worth not generating new trash that sits around for eons.
But I have to admit, sometimes I just really want a cup of coffee, or a scoop of ice cream and the shop may not have reusable dishware and utensils, and I may have forgotten my cup or my bamboo utensils and I may may get bummed that I cannot (or rather choose not) to get the food. Sometimes I crack and I get a plastic-wrapped sandwich. But at these times I have to remember:
It. Is. Worth. It.
For the sea turtles that eat plastic bags thinking they are jellyfish.
For the piglet who has a canine best friend.
For the oceans. The oceans that are choking with plastic.
It’s worth it to choose love and compassion.
Sometimes I get annoyed that people leave trash literally everywhere, and I get annoyed that I feel obligated to clean up after them.
But it’s worth it.
Worth it to have clean natural spaces.
Worth it to remove plastic so that wildlife won’t eat it mistakenly.
It’s worth it to choose love and compassion. Because Love Trumps Hate.
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.
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.