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Shows like the Big Allotment Challenge can be more than just good TV



I thought I would take a quick break from writing about my travels (even though the inspiration for this article came from an advert I saw while at a Haven holiday park) to discuss the television. Specifically, The Big Allotment Challenge.

Waves of nostalgia seem to have hit Britain, and with it, the British media. The Big Allotment Challenge, The Great British Bake Off, The Great British Sewing Bee: is it trashy TV, or can this back-to-basics-style programming help to encourage greener and more sustainable behaviour across the nation?

Although feeling briefly positive, I am starting to wonder. Firstly, the main driver of these programmes and a retreat to the ‘good old days’ appears to be monetary, not a concern for the world around us.

The economy, rather than the environment, is the cause of apparently green behaviour, and so, as economists and politicians tell us an upturn is ostensibly on the cards, I have doubts as to whether it will continue.

I’m the same, and find my desire for more sustainable behaviour often crippled by economic realities. A visit to Hampstead’s farmers’ market saw me head instead to Tesco, I admit.

Four English pounds for a turnip? £3.50 for one cupcake? I may want to support local communities, reduce pesticides and feel fuzzy about my purchases – but I also have to support my pocket. Money seems to be an instigator of this ‘homesickness’ and these back-to-basics desires, but also a barrier.

There are also the practicalities and bureaucracy acting as obstacles. Allotments were first brought into being as a result of the 1809 Enclosure Act when Rev Stephen Demainbray asked George III to spare six acres for local provision. Formalised in the 1908 Allotment Act when local authorities took over from the church and were required to set aside land, it saw its heyday during the second world war.

A million and a half allotments were tended to during this period, not to mention the turning over of gardens and a productive Dig For Victory campaign. Allotments today are certainly popular, and although only 154,000 still exist, demand far outstrips supply.

In a society where the £25-125 annual allotment fee palls in comparison to the sale and sweeteners offered by large-scale developers, cash-strapped councils are selling off acres.

According to the Independent, the communities secretary Eric Pickles has rejected only two of the 83 applications for developments upon allotment space. We may campaign for greater self-sufficiency, but the opportunities to achieve this are often hamstrung, and as many pledges to cease such a waning in allotment numbers there may be, the actual outcome is different.

We want to grow produce in our back gardens, but gardens are a luxury for new-build developments, or those in houses now converted into flats – as well as the time poor.

Or maybe it’s a fantasy. The idea of baking your own cakes, growing your own veg and sewing your own clothes evokes images of a whirlwind halcyonic Cath Kidston-style existence. The marketeers know this, with window box kits costing upwards of £90 from some retailers, or baking classes being circa £40 per hour.

How many of us have the time or inclination to actually undertake this behaviour on a regular basis? Especially when a banana imported from Brazil or a vest from Primark is available at a minimal cost and effort outlay.

Although sales of baking goods and kitchen equipment apparently went stratospheric last Christmas, the majority of people still only have a repertoire of five dishes – most revolving around meat and packet goods.

Is the nostalgia trip television just that – television, entertainment, and soon to be resigned to UK Gold once a new fad hits us? I fear so. ‘Keep calm and…’ may be the mantra of our age, but it’s not one we live by; merely say.

Come on great British this and that, let’s see some measurable outcomes.

Francesca Baker is curious about life and enjoys writing about it. A freelance journalist, event organiser, and minor marketing whizz, she has plenty of ideas, and likes to share them. She writes about music, literature, life, travel, art, London, and other general musings, and organises events that contain at least one of the above. You can find out more at

Further reading:

The ‘nude food’ revolution: an investment for our future

We need to use Grandma as inspiration to bring sustainability back into food

The way you cut your meat reflects the way you live

How fruit and veg auctions are putting ‘real food’ on tables every day

The Guide to Sustainable Spending 2013

Francesca Baker is curious about life and enjoys writing about it. A freelance journalist, event organiser, and minor marketing whizz, she has plenty of ideas, and likes to share them. She writes about music, literature, life, travel, art, London, and other general musings, and organises events that contain at least one of the above. You can find out more at


Road Trip! How to Choose the Greenest Vehicle for Your Growing Family



Greenest Vehicle
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When you have a growing family, it often feels like you’re in this weird bubble that exists outside of mainstream society. Whereas everyone else seemingly has stability, your family dynamic is continuously in flux. Having said that, is it even possible to buy an eco-friendly vehicle that’s also practical?

What to Look for in a Green, Family-Friendly Vehicle?

As a single person or young couple without kids, it’s pretty easy to buy a green vehicle. Almost every leading car brand has eco-friendly options these days and you can pick from any number of options. The only problem is that most of these models don’t work if you have kids.

Whether it’s a Prius or Smart car, most green vehicles are impractical for large families. You need to look for options that are spacious, reliable, and comfortable – both for passengers and the driver.

5 Good Options

As you do your research and look for different opportunities, it’s good to have an open mind. Here are some of the greenest options for growing families:

1. 2014 Chrysler Town and Country

Vans are not only popular for the room and comfort they offer growing families, but they’re also becoming known for their fuel efficiency. For example, the 2014 Chrysler Town and Country – which was one of CarMax’s most popular minivans of 2017 – has Flex Fuel compatibility and front wheel drive. With standard features like these, you can’t do much better at this price point.

2. 2017 Chrysler Pacifica

If you’re looking for a newer van and are willing to spend a bit more, you can go with Chrysler’s other model, the Pacifica. One of the coolest features of the 2017 model is the hybrid drivetrain. It allows you to go up to 30 miles on electric, before the vehicle automatically switches over to the V6 gasoline engine. For short trips and errands, there’s nothing more eco-friendly in the minivan category.

3. 2018 Volkswagen Atlas

Who says you have to buy a minivan when you have a family? Sure, the sliding doors are nice, but there are plenty of other options that are both green and spacious. The new Volkswagen Atlas is a great choice. It’s one of the most fuel-efficient third-row vehicles on the market. The four-cylinder model gets an estimated 26 mpg highway.

4. 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

While a minivan or SUV is ideal – and necessary if you have more than two kids – you can get away with a roomy sedan when you still have a small family. And while there are plenty of eco-friendly options in this category, the 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is arguably the biggest bang for your buck. It gets 38 mpg on the highway and is incredibly affordable.

5. 2017 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Diesel

If money isn’t an object and you’re able to spend any amount to get a good vehicle that’s both comfortable and eco-friendly, the 2017 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Diesel is your car. Not only does it get 28 mpg highway, but it can also be equipped with a third row of seats and a diesel engine. And did we mention that this car looks sleek?

Putting it All Together

You have a variety of options. Whether you want something new or used, would prefer an SUV or minivan, or want something cheap or luxurious, there are plenty of choices on the market. The key is to do your research, remain patient, and take your time. Don’t get too married to a particular transaction, or you’ll lose your leverage.

You’ll know when the right deal comes along, and you can make a smart choice that’s functional, cost-effective, and eco-friendly.

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How Climate Change Altered this Engineer’s Life



how climate change affect our lives
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Living the life of an engineer likely sounds pretty glamorous: you are educated and highly regarded, typically have high paying gigs, and with the breadth of knowledge and array of fields of specialty, your possibility for jobs is usually immense.  But what if there was something else that needed your attention? Something bigger than just being an engineer, going to work every day and doing the same technical tasks typically associated with the profession?

For Kevin McCroary, that is exactly how it played out.  A successful engineer, gainfully employed in a prosperous job, a simple trip to the Philippines made him see that there was a bigger issue at hand than using his engineer training in a traditional profession.  This bigger issue was that of climate change.  And working as a volunteer for underprivileged children in the Philippines, he saw first-hand the extensive pollution and poverty that existed here and that impacted the livelihood of these kids and their families.

Upon returning home, from his trip to the Philippines he had a new perspective of the impact we as individuals and as humanity have on the earth, and more than that Kevin wanted to know more.  He started to do some research and study these human-environmental interactions, and shortly thereafter ended up in Greenland.  There, he spoke to a man who had lost his home in a tsunami, and, who, through consistent weather tracking could indeed confirm that the current weather trends were “strange:” there was undeniably a general warming tendency happening in the arctic, causing an array of negative effects.

The combination of these observations, as well as his own research, led Kevin to conclude that something had to be done.  With that in mind, he launched his project Legend Bracelet.  The mission is simple: create a reminder of the legacy we are leaving behind.  As individuals and as humanity, we are leaving behind an imprint on the earth, and the magnitude of it is something that needs to be brought to the forefront of public awareness.  The idea is to have a bracelet that can serve as a daily reminder of the impact on the earth that each of us can have every day, regardless of how big or small.  The bracelet has two capsules: the first is filled with sand or earth, and the second is empty.  As the owner, you are to fill the empty one with your own earth, carrying it with you as a reminder and symbol of your connection and commitment to helping look after our environment.

We are all impacted by climate change, and we all have a responsibility to help.  And it can start with something as simple as putting on a bracelet.  Support Kevin on his Kickstarter campaign for Legend Bracelet, tell others about it, or take action in your own way and play your part in slowing down the effects of climate change.  You may think “but I’m just one person!” You are indeed.  But so is he.  Every change starts with one.

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