March 2010


It’s easy to take old clothes to the recycle banks but why not try something more creative and far more worthwhile?

A writer for an advertising agency by day, Jen Holmes spends her free time hunting out charity shop and eBay bargains and then customising her finds to make them girly, chic and eco friendly. Jen abides by the eco friendly fashion laws of ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ and exercises her green credentials by never throwing anything away.

I caught up with Jen to find out the secrets to her success and how she creates a style so unique…          jen2

Where do you shop for clothes?

I mostly shop on the high street and eBay, but I’m getting into charity shops, car boot sales and vintage fairs more and more.

Why do you never throw anything away?

It’s just so wasteful! I get bored of my clothes very quickly, but I’d much rather see them go to a happy new home rather than into the bin.

Tell me some of your favourite clothes/accessories that you have customised?

I worked in a denim shop when I was 17 and learnt how to alter jeans. While I worked there, I bought some straight leg ripped jeans. A few years ago, I dug them out and decided to make them wearable again by altering the shape. I made the legs skinnier to give them a modern feel. I love them now!

What do you do to recycle your clothes?

I clear out my wardrobe and sort things into four piles – keep, donate, sell and sister! I give some bits to charity, sell others on eBay and hand lots down to my sister, who has the best free wardrobe around!

What do you do if you have an item that has really gone out of fashion?

There are always ways to rework high fashion items – a belt can transform a dated shape, layers can be added or removed, simple cardigans and jumpers can hide fussy details. And if there’s nothing you can do, clothes can be relegated to the dressing up box!

Any tips for our readers how they can recycle their clothes?

Be ruthless. Evaluate everything in your wardrobe regularly and decide what goes and what stays. Try things on, wear them in different ways and if it’s not working – recycle! The easiest way is to donate to charity or a lucky friend, but eBay is also good. If something’s damaged beyond repair, the fabric can be recycled – this is something I’ll be doing now I’ve found my nearest recycling centre. You could even rip up old t-shirts and use them as cleaning cloths!

Have any disasters happened along the way?

I had to buy a cute clutch bag back from the charity shop I donated it to – you can be too ruthless! And many of my alterations have gone horribly wrong, so I’m a pro at unpicking stitches.

What inspired you to start recycling your clothes?

I’m always looking for ways to save money, and throwing old clothes away seemed like such a waste. My sister and I have shared clothes since we were little girls so handing things down to her was an easy progression… the rest just followed!

To read more about Jen visit her blog:

Spring is just around the corner and it won’t be long till we’re reading columns or blogs from fashionistas advising us to clean out our closet, and begin culling those accessories and items of clothing that we either no longer wear or, if your anything like me, have never worn. So I got to thinking, if spring is the time to cull clothes, why not extend this practice to our friendships?


For those of you that aren’t familiar with this term, to cull someone means to totally end a friendship to the point where you have no contact with that person again. Ok, initially this may sound like a negative initiative, and I can hear you saying “why would I want to axe my friends?”, but let me explain.

Take Facebook.  After enough time your friends list begins to clutter with people from random meetings in strange places to agreeing to be friends with the neighbour’s dog (it seemed like a great idea at the time).  After years of being subjected to zombie attacks, ‘which hair product are you?’ surveys and offers to join groups ‘against using live cats as shark bait’ by people you don’t know or shouldn’t know, like most users, you decide to cut your friends list down. No more randomers sending you banal surveys and pointless status updates.  I recently culled my Facebook list resulting in 192 friends biting the dust.  Reeling off of this success, I moved on to culling two of my “real life” friends last month.

This type of culling can be a lot more difficult and is not something for the faint of heart; you should be prepared for the impending backlash.  In my case, my relationship with the two girls was already pretty much dead in the water.  I had known them for around five years through another friend, and our interaction mostly consisted of drunken nights on the town or shopping trips – for those drunken nights on the town.

When I moved cities we rarely kept in contact, except for those odd “we should definitely do something soon” text messages which never came to fruition.  In fact the only time I saw them after my move was last month when they came down to London for a night out and thought they would crash at mine at 3am as it meant free accommodation.

As a result I decided to nip things in the bud and gently told both of them the next day how I felt and that, in the nicest way possible, I’d rather not be friends anymore.  They reacted just how I predicted i.e. played on the old “oh but I need you” or “where will I come to now?” lines which I was fully prepared for. I pointed out to them that they have other friends and it’s not as if we really even speak anymore.  It was like dumping two boyfriends simultaneously.

However four weeks on and I am already seeing the benefits of my decision.  A friendship is a two way street and if you don’t feel that people are making that effort then why should you waste your precious time and energy?

“Make no mistake your relationships are the heaviest components in your life. All those negotiations and arguments and secrets, the compromises. The slower we move the faster we die. Make no mistake, moving is living.”

This is a quote from George Clooney in the latest Jason Reitman film, Up in the Air, where George plays the role of Ryan Bingham, a corporate downsizing expert.  The film is about relationships, human isolation and job loss, but I found this quote particularly poignant.

Sometimes a friendship just doesn’t last as long as you thought it would, whether it was a break in trust, or just not the right fit. Making the decision to end a friendship can be a tough call but sometimes is necessary. Although good friendships are hard to come by, deciding a friendship is over can be better for all sides involved.  After all, sometimes in life you have to be cruel to be kind.

London Fashion Week is firmly pencilled in our diaries – a fabulous adventure to discover new ethical designers who have the talent to break in to the mainstream.

Let’s take a look at what Sommerset House had to offer…

Nicola from Beautiful Soul brings vintage kimonos into the limelight for A/W 2010 – luxury fabrics the are durable teamed with a design that can be worn in a multitude of ways. Recycled jeans turned our heads – who would’ve guessed that a beautiful and elegant top could be produced from your old pair of jeans? If LFW is all about innovation, Nicola has it in abundance.

Beautiful: Vintage kimonos
Beautiful: Vintage kimonos

Lu Flux took us by surprise. Upbeat, full of energy and raring to go with their eco credentials, there’s something in this range for everyone who wants to unleash their inner child. From hand knit mittens to eccentric dresses you’ll want to touch and play with something in the range this year.

Fun: Florals are on trend
Fun: Florals are on trend

Possibly our pick of the show, Kayu Design showcased a range of bamboo sunglasses – handcrafted. As a resource that grows twice as fast as a tree and restores itself in just 5 years, we’re loving bamboo. They look hot and by buying a pair, Kayu funds one sight restoring surgery in the developing world (best not ask for a complimentary press sample then!)

Inspiring: bamboo glasses
Inspiring: bamboo glasses

From city to country it’s easy to get around in an planet friendly fashion.

Green car galore

All eco friends will know that public transport, walking or cycling is the greenest way to globe trot, however for those routes and tracks that the buses and train do not cover, or you want to get somewhere a bit faster, Lucy Wright has rounded up the best eco motors—for all sizes and needs.

Best small car

Smart for two micro hybrid drive.

Automatically switches the engine off when stationary and starts up again upon motion meaning that even when you’re sitting at the traffic lights you’re protecting the planet. This reduces CO2 and fuel consumption so not only is it planet friendly but also purse friendly.

Best family car

Volkswagen Golf TDI BlueMotion

Powerful, spacious and easy on the eye the Golf TDI is at the forefront of green technology. With a clever sensor which links gear changes to the engine reduces revs and CO2 emissions. Also boasting the start/stop feature which is useful for city cruising, the new Golf also has an aerodynamic body and low rolling resistance tyres which saves on the fuel consumption. And the best bit…only £35 road tax.

Best people carrier

Peugeot 5008

For larger families and those who transport friends, look no further than Peugeot’s latest offering. The gear shift indicator reduces the number of revs and helps drivers to be more eco friendly. A bespoke particle filter processes gases from diesel engines Spacious, versatile and environmentally conscious, this is a clear winner for those needing a multi purpose vehicle.

Best Van

Ford Transit Connect Electric

The first fuel free van, the 2011 Ford Transit Connect is powered entirely by electricity. The hybrid vehicle can travel up to 80 miles on full charge and emits a planet perfect zero emissions.

The mileage range is perfect for companies which travel around central locations or have structured routes planned. The van is also paving the way for the eagerly anticipated 2012 Ford Focus electric.

During Christmas I discovered GOLD; a healthy snack that actually tastes good.

Conscious food: considerate and tasty
Conscious food: considerate and tasty

I consider myself a pretty healthy person. I work out 5-6 times a week and have a pretty balanced diet, my problem however is that I just love snacks. I have to have a chocolate bar or potato chips in the evening…and sometimes at night (oops!) Not only is this bad for my health, but my teeth as well. I’ve tried different types of snacks that they offer both at the gym and different health food shops, but they all taste the same; artificial.

¨Conscious Food UK¨ offer a wide range of healthy Indian powersnacks that is just AMAZING. All their snacks are wheat, dairy and gluten free.

Made from millet, rice, nuts and seeds the snacks feature ingredients sourced from small organic farms and communities through India. The snacks are specially handcrafted using traditional family recipes adapted to make them healthier. Just pure, natural ingredients handmade in small batches filled with love. I just have to say it again, it is just AMAZING! Hallelujah!

Owner of Conscious Food UK, Kristina Locke worked in PR for many years and while on yoga holiday in India she discovered some delicious millet biscuits in a health food shop in Mumbai. Conscious Food is originally an Indian company that has pioneered organic farming and food in India since 1992.  It was set up by Kavita Mukhi because her son had a number of allergies and healthy unrefined ingredients were hard to come by. Kristina met with Conscious Food in India and has since then imported the magic of millet to the UK. She is now working closely with Conscious Food in India to develop new recipes for the UK and Europe.

Conscious Food UKs bestsellers are: Soya sesame sticks, sorghum millet crackers, pearl millet crackers, sesame chews, coconut nuggets, cashew nuggets and finger millet biscuits with cinnamon. Personally I prefer the sesame chews -yummy!

You can find a list of all of the places you can get these healthy, cute bags filled with love on their website and you can learn more about the company too!

I must warn you; you will get addicted…

Here I list 5 easy to grow fruit and vegetables that are both super healthy and useful to cook with. I’ve not gone into great detail regarding the best ways to grow them as seed packets are full of info and advice on this topic. Instead I have highlighted some little known facts and health benefits that should enrich your appreciation of these crops.

Celebrate organic food
Celebrate organic food


Wild carrot is likely to have been a native of Afghanistan and through selective breading over thousands of years, has become sweeter and less woody. Requires very fine and deep soil to guarantee full size produce – strictly no manure, as with most root vegetables they will divide, carrot fly is the major pest. Rich in antioxidants, carrots also contain B-carotene which converts to vitamin A – however, digestion only releases a small amount of this, so pulping or cooking is a better way to get this great nutrient to absorb. Carrot cake, stews, Sunday lunch, juiced or simply eaten raw are all great ways to enjoy the carrot!


The tear jerker of the bunch. Used by ancient Egyptians 2000 years before Christ, it was worshiped as a symbol of eternal life. Such an important food source that in the middle ages the Onion could be used to pay rent. It initially came from India. Arguably the most used and versatile of Vegetables, can be stored for a few months by hanging up. Easiest grown from sets, allow plenty of space between them for big bulbs although you’ll get more yield from the area if they are closer together.


While Popeye never seemed to enjoy its taste it seems the iron in it was the source of his legendary strength. A very nutritious food source full of vitamins, it is better steamed than boiled. “A la Florentine” is anything served on a bed of Spinach as a result of famous 16th century figure Catherine Medici who moved to France to marry the King and took both Spinach, and Spinach cooks with her, such was her love of this leafy crop. Probably originating from Nepal and historically popular in the Muslim world, yet fairly unknown to the Ancients, it is a good early crop that grows fast. Leaves are best eaten young as can get bitter – more important than other crops to only plant a few seeds every few weeks to ensure you’re not getting all of the crops at once. Can be dug back into the ground to improve soil quality.

Chilli Plants

From south and Central America, used as a domesticated food since as far back as 7500 BC, it was until Christopher Columbus took it to Spain. It then went to Portugal; Vindaloo the famous hot Indian dish is actually thought to be a derivative of a Portuguese meal, as it was the folk from Portugal who took it East. One plant should provide enough chillies for the year, the ultimate money saver, grow on kitchen window sill, re pot every 6 months, and water regularly. Grow a few varieties for more interesting cooking, can be dried or eaten fresh and has many health benefits when eaten in moderation. Capsaicin is the heat substance that gets you sweating and releases endorphins which make you feel great! Measured in SHU’s, the hottest in the world is the bhut jolokia at around 1 million units, the standard Mexican chilli is only around 1,500 SHU, while Jalapeno comes in at 2,500– 8000 SHU and the Scotch bonnet at around 200,000 SHU.

Black Currants

A real super fruit. In the UK, during the second world war, Oranges and other sources of Vitamin C were hard to come by and so blackcurrants were grown, made into syrup and given to children for free and is still a very popular cordial. Very low maintenance once established, though can get white pine blister rust, will need a little pruning. Currents are fairly bitter and tart when eaten raw, however they are great to make jam with, milkshakes, pies and pancakes! They contain a massive helping of Vitamin C; 100grams contains 300% of recommended daily value, as well as many other essential nutrients. Possibly beneficial at preventing the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, and are also thought to reduce dark circles under eyes by increasing blood flow to capillaries. Currents juice is often added to Cider, Champagne and Guinness to increase flavour.

Since its launch in 1994, the Fairtrade mark has become recognized as a trustworthy, independent consumer guarantee for products that help producers in developing countries get a better deal from international trade.


For the past three years the Fairtrade Foundation have held an annual campaign called Fairtrade Fortnight, a two week long celebration of everything Fairtrade where they encourage the nation via a series of events, activities and other resources to choose Fairtrade products.

This year I was fortunate enough to attend the launch event for Fairtrade Fortnight 2010 (22 February – 7 March), held at The Royal Institute of British Architects, Portland Place, in London.

On arriving at the venue, which was right in the heart of London, I was taken aback by the luxurious pinkly lit entrance.  Once I’d collected my name badge and visited the cloakroom, I was led up a marble staircase to be greeted by a host of drinks – wine, beer, orange juice, apple juice and water – all of which were Fairtrade and donated by various companies such as Calypso and Fairhills.  In the main hall impeccably dressed waiters waltzed about offering various Fairtrade canapés, which again were donated.

According to the invitation, this reception would be “a unique opportunity to meet and hear from people from across the movement”, and indeed it was.  The first half hour of the evening was spent networking, and on my rounds I met a number of interesting people, one of whom was the Media and PR Manager for the Fairtrade Foundation, Martine Julseph.  When asked what made her decide to get involved with Fairtrade, she replied:

To be honest, even before I knew much about Fairtrade I have always preferred Fairtrade products because of what they stand for.  I think it is important that producers get a fair deal and by buying Fairtrade it makes you feel connected to the producers

Among the many other Fairtrade supporters, retailers, manufacturers, producers and consumers in the room, I also met Claire Hamer and Janine Passley who run a company called ei8ht.  Collectively they have spent 15 years buying for the UK’s leading fashion retailers including Topshop, and River Island.  During this time they implemented sustainable strategies at Topshop, introducing Fairtrade Cotton and collaborating with small communities in Africa on projects such as Global Mamas.  More recently they have been instrumental in launching The Green Room and ASOS Africa on

Supermodel and TV presenter Lisa Butcher who is spearheading the Fairtrade Foundation’s cotton campaign for Fairtrade Fortnight was also at the launch, having returned from India after visiting the Agrocel Pure & Fair Cotton Growers’ Association.  Commenting on her visit Lisa said: “Now that I have seen for myself the difference Fairtrade can make, I believe that the fashion world should consider using more Fairtrade cotton. I was really struck how people here often forget about the people behind their clothes. Anything new is never easy, and we need to work a little harder to achieve the unknown. But it’s not impossible to change the way we view cotton and the challenge is back to the industry”.

Each year Fairtrade Fortnight has some kind of theme, last year’s being “Go bananas for Fairtrade”, which saw people organising banana eating events (Fairtrade ones of course) and a record was set for simultaneous Fairtrade banana eating over a 24 hour period.

For this year’s Fairtrade Fortnight people in the UK and Ireland are being encouraged to swap everyday shopping basket items such as tea, coffee, chocolate, cotton tee-shirts, pineapples, bananas, cakes, sugar and a host of other products for Fairtrade ones during Fairtrade Fortnight 2010. During the two weeks, the Fairtrade Foundation will be totting up product swaps on a special online swap-o-meter, which can be accessed by going to their website.

The aim is to get people in Britain to make one million and one swaps over the two-week period and change the lives of millions of farmers around the world.

Prior to the launch event we were told to bring our favourite Fairtrade item along with us to swap with someone else at the event.  I took a big bar of Cadbury’s Diary Milk chocolate and swapped with a lady called Kerry Fuller who is from Dorset Cereals.  In exchange for my chocolate bar I received a couple of boxes of Dorset Cereals’ Fairtrade chocolate granola cereal and a box of Fairtrade Clippers teabags.  My breakfasts are sorted for the next month now!  If you would like more information and want to get involved, visit the Fairtrade website above and get swapping!

When you think of eco hotels you may think of the extreme – reusable everything, notices to turn off the already dim lights… and taps… and under no circumstance do you dare think about taking a bath!

I personally prefer a bit more luxury, but a hotel that still maintains eco credentials, which is why I was led to the Lancaster, London.

Hopping off the tube at Lancaster Gate, the hotel was less than 1 min walk away – bonus points for a proximity to sustainable transport.  The welcome was more than warm and the check in took minutes – efficiency superb.

On arrival at the thirteenth floor, we opened the room door to be greeted with a magnificent view of Hyde Park. Being in ‘the big smoke’ it was positively refreshing to have a view over one of the City’s greenest public spaces, and to take a walk in among runners, inline skaters and even horse riders.

This hotel doesn’t ‘scream’ green by any means, but if you look closely out of the window you will see 4 neatly places bee hives on the lower roof, slowly making some scrumptious honey for use in the hotel’s very own restaurants. (You can keep up to date with the life of the bees by reading the hotel’s very own ‘bee blog’.

The toiletries are natural and a bar of neatly placed vegetable soap on the side of the bath made for a pleasant change.

On offer is a selection of walking and cycling maps for seeing London the ‘sustainable way’ and I hear that they’re working with taxi companies who use hybrid vehicles in an effort to reduce emissions.

The Lancaster is working closely with all of its staff to ensure that everyone is working towards making those next green steps that we all need to make.

Given that this hotel is a 4* luxury haven in the heart of the City, it’s doing a pretty good job of making the right steps towards being green while not being ‘pushy’ to guests. It hits a balance that manages to maintain solid eco credentials while blending in top end luxury. With a ‘silver’ awards from Green Tourism for London, it’s a place I’d like to see again once it gets to ‘gold’.

To book your eco trip, you can call 0207 7262 6737 or visit