local community

Future of our High Streets

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Over the past two decades, Britain’s high streets have been in decline as consumer behaviour has changed and economic pressures are causing retailers to close their shops. 

The Centre for Future Studies Innovation Centre, at Kent University, sponsored by Anchor, argues that it is the older generations who will be an economic force to be reckoned with in shaping the reinvention of the high street.

It says that it is those retailers who are able to reinvent their businesses who will survive and prosper. The report estimates that over the next ten years almost two-thirds of all retail spending growth will come from those aged over 55. It says that they are going to drive retail with their considerable purchasing power, shopping behaviour and preferences as retailers respond positively to the demand for elderly friendly shopping environments. Read the rest of this entry »

yang laji, ‘foreign garbage’

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China announced in July that from January 2018, it would no longer be accepting imports of 24 grades of solid waste because high levels of contamination were polluting the country’s environment. Furthermore, from March 2018, other imported materials with contamination levels above 0.5 per cent will also be banned. This is a slight relaxation of the 0.3 per cent originally announced, but it remains an extremely challenging goal. The acceptable level was previously set at 1.5 per cent.

The short notice given by China about this change in policy has been criticised as unreasonable by countries that export large quantities of waste. The EU, the USA, Canada, Australia and Korea have all called for a transition period of up to five years to prevent the collapse of the recycling industry.

Exporting recyclable waste to China has historically been extremely cost effective: firstly, because lower quality materials have been accepted; secondly, because there is a ready supply of cheap labour; and thirdly, because materials are shipped on the return journey by vessels carrying goods from China to Europe, which would otherwise be empty on their journey back to Asia. In the case of paper, a lot of this is used to make cardboard boxes for the goods that are subsequently shipped to Europe. This combination of factors has made it more cost effective to export waste to China than to process it in the UK.

The trade in waste plastic has helped fuel China’s manufacturing boom, but also contributed to the increase in UK local authorities accepting plastic for recycling in the early 2000s. However, many UK-based processing companies were driven out of business because of the Chinese market. As a result, there is now very little domestic capacity for recycling.

So, what does this mean for us?

Scotland is taking a strong stance on this, looking at alternatives to exporting our home-grown waste. A return to glass bottle schemes is being considered, along with investment in reprocessing facilities. Beyond this and other measures being considered, there is a need to go to the root of the problem and reduce our use of plastic.

We are at a watershed moment for the UK’s approach to waste. Many have acknowledged that China is quite right to take a firm stance on ‘foreign garbage’. For too long, the UK and other rich nations have allowed the booming Chinese market to mask the real issues around resource use, as well as turning a blind eye to the dumping of low-grade waste. We must start to see our waste as our responsibility, whether that is at a consumer level, a commercial level or in government.

For more information on Aberdeenshire’s approach to recycling visit http://www.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/waste/

To find out more about the impact plastics are having on our marine environment go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uDDFUZRyoIs

The 100-Mile Diet.

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Following our look at whether local food is “better,” read about a Canadian couple who experimented with this approach….

When Alisa Smith and James MacKinnon learned that the average ingredient in a North American meal travels 1,500 miles from farm to plate, they decided to launch a simple experiment to reconnect with the people and places that produced what they ate. For one year, they would only consume food that came from within a 100-mile radius of their Vancouver apartment. The 100-Mile Diet was born.

The concept of the 100-mile diet forces a mental shift from eating globally to think more locally to ensure everything you eat is within a 100 mile radius of your table. Though going cold turkey into eating within such a restricted geographical region may not be for everyone you can start with a single family meal. This forces you to research and explore what’s actually grown close to your home and you’ll begin to appreciate not only the bounty of your local region, but the major implications of eating foods from around the world.

Choosing to consume food that is produced within 100 miles of your home comes with all of the benefits of local, seasonal eating: more flavourful foods, smaller environmental footprint, better health, and support for local farmers.

Alisa and James admit that finding local food sources took a lot of time.  Very little in a supermarket can be traced to where all the ingredients come from and many of the products contain oils, sugar or seasonings that have travelled vast distances.  So they set about finding just who did produce food in the Vancouver area. Unsurprisingly, one of the biggest challenges was finding carbohydrates during the ‘hungry gap’ before the new season’s harvest began – rice, pasta and bread were all unavailable leaving only potatoes.  Between them they lost 15 pounds in six weeks and were forced to loosen the rules slightly to include locally milled flour from grain that at least came from Canada. Summertime made life a little easier, with plentiful Farmer’s Markets a wealth of local foods. This did lead to its own problems though – many hours spent preserving foods for the long Canadian winter.

Is the 100 mile diet one that is realistic for your average person leading a busy life?  No, but it was never intended to be.  Alisa and James set themselves a high challenge to discover what the real issues with local food sourcing were.  In the process they did much more, attracting a world-wide audience and making a bold political statement.  This has led some people to label local food as the ‘new organic’ – something that seems to be at odds with the founder’s values which were very much attuned to sustainable organic food production.  However, local food sourcing is deservedly gaining attention and the 100 mile diet certainly struck a chord with many who believe in sustainable production.

Get Active Outdoors

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Parks, gardens, greenspaces, woodlands and local paths are ideal settings for a spot of green exercise. Perhaps you like to relax by taking a gentle stroll or by tidying up the garden. Maybe cycling to work starts the day on a high note or you look forward to evenings playing sport in the park.

Whatever pace you set yourself, being in the outdoors and getting active is great for your physical and mental health and well-being.

It’s recommended that adults do at least five 30-minute sessions of moderate exercise per week. For children, it’s at least 1 hour every day. Getting active outdoors could be an easy way for you to meet your target.

Learn about green exercise and its benefits.

Step to it

Parks and woods are a brilliant backdrop for your walk, cycle or jog. Soak up the surroundings and say hello to your neighbours as you get your daily dose of green exercise. You can probably reach your favourite local greenspace via a traffic-free route – so you can leave the car at home.

Active travel is another option if you struggle to set aside a specific time for outdoor exercise. Just choose to walk or cycle whenever you have to go somewhere and you’ll soon start to clock up the miles.

Discover your local path network today.

INTERNATIONAL DAY OF HAPPINESS

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A profound shift in attitudes is underway all over the world. People are now recognising that ‘progress’ should be about increasing human happiness and wellbeing, not just growing the economy.

March 20 has been established as the annual International Day of Happiness and all 193 United Nations member states have adopted a resolution calling for happiness to be given greater priority.

In 2011, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution which recognised happiness as a “fundamental human goal” and called for “a more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach to economic growth that promotes the happiness and well-being of all peoples”.

In 2012 the first ever UN conference on Happiness took place and the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution which decreed that the International Day of Happiness would be observed every year on 20 March. It was celebrated for the first time in 2013.

In 2017, the Smurfs joined the UN in celebrating the International Day of Happiness as well as the 17 Sustainable Development Goals – #SmallSmurfsBigGoals

The details of 2018 celebrations have not yet been announced, but whatever you have planned for the day, be happy!

Community libraries

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The town of Chapelton recently welcomed its first community library just in time for National Storytelling Week 2018.

The books, which will be located in a quiet corner of the popular Teacake Café, will act as a community library corner, or a book swap, where it is hoped residents of all ages will be able to swap, read and discuss some of their favourite books and stories. So why libraries are so important in today’s digital world?

Many people believe libraries to be a thing of the past due to the digital revolution and the rise of a gadget enamoured society. However,

“The National Literacy Trust says that children who go to a library are twice as likely as those who don’t to read well. It is not just picking up a book. It is the social experience of reading, talking about the books, browsing, comparing what you have read with family and friends. Librarians are gate keepers in that process. They open doors to new worlds, new possibilities. They ask library visitors to evaluate the information on offer. Most importantly, they give access to narratives. Children and adults do not just need information to thrive as thinking beings, but stories. Libraries are the temple of story. They are not in decline because of some natural, historic progression, but because of the monstrous cultural vandalism of savage cost-cutting. We will pay a terrible price for the behaviour of our masters.” (Alan Gibbons)

Libraries are seen by many as a lifeline and a crucial public service, especially if you are elderly, socially isolated, poor, vulnerable, or all of the above.

So why are libraries so important and why must we protect and improve them?

  1. They’re accessible

 The obvious advantage of having a local library is that it is local. Accessibility is crucial if you have mobility problems and/or haven’t got the money for bus fare.

  1. They help to bridge the digital divide

People in rural areas face significant challenges when it comes to IT access, including infrastructure problems and set-up costs. The vast majority of public libraries offer free IT access and basic IT training to the public.

  1. They help to combat social isolation

Libraries are social places where people can chat, read and keep in touch with the outside world. For elderly people who can’t access a static library, mobile and housebound services can fill the gap. Sometimes a friendly smile from a library worker can make all the difference to an isolated and vulnerable persons day or week.

According to C.S. Lewis “You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me”. So next time you’re in Chapelton pay a visit to the Teacake Café and sample what both have to offer.

Don’t Try This At Home.

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It’s never too late to rectify those ill-fated New Year’s Eve resolutions in which you swore to lead a healthier life. But if traditional spas leave you cold and meditation bores you, don’t worry, there are plenty of other options out there.

  1. Prison pampering, Thailand

While a visit to a Thai correctional institution may scream holiday hell rather than whisper wellness, in Chiang Mai a trip to prison is an unorthodox experience.

Inmates at the women’s correctional institution are given holistic training that will aid job prospects once released. They pamper visitors using the skill learned. It not only soothes aches and pains, but any tips earned are kept for prisoners on their release.

 

  1. Wine Spa Japan

At the end of a hard week, for many people one of the best ways to relax and unwind is with a glass or two of red wine.

But why not go one step further than drinking the stuff, and book a trip to the Yunesson Spa Resort in Japan?

It’s a self-described ‘spa theme park’ where you can legitimately bathe in hot tubs filled with Merlot or Bordeaux.

 

  1. Laughter Yoga

Invented by Indian doctor Madan Kataria in the mid-Nineties, laughter yoga now has thousands of devotees. Many sessions, are free for anybody to join, providing newcomers don’t mind an early start. Propelled by the philosophy that laughter gives humans huge spiritual and medical benefits, its main objective couldn’t be simpler – to set you’re giggling, howling, chortling and smirking instincts free.

https://laughteryoga.org/

 

  1. Buried Alive; a shamanic death & rebirth

With hopes of experiencing a closer connection with Mother Nature, pilgrims journey to the northwest coast of the US to take part in a shamen led burial ceremony.

Free spirited individuals are taken into the wilderness and covered fully with earth. After re-emerging individuals are said to feel a deeper connection and knowledge of spirit and creation.

http://thepracticalshaman.com/buried_alive/

 

  1. Cryotherapy, Slovakia

Nothing shouts health kick like freezing bits off in temperatures of -120c. Sportsmen and women have been using cryotheraphy to aid recovery for decades but now the public can don gloves, a face mask and step into a giant fridge.

Benefits are said to include the natural productions of enzymes and hormones as endorphins, adrenaline and testosterone are released. It’s the coolest wellness trend in town.

http://www.aquacity.sk/