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Exclusive Interview: Alex Baines-Buffery Director and Co-Founder Wines Rides

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For years Alex worked in TV as an Associate Producer. He’s worked with some huge names like Sir David Attenborough, Dr. Alice Roberts and even Len Goodman from Strictly Come Dancing. This job gave him the opportunity to work on Ray Mears Wild Britain. It was on that show that he got to explore the Weald, a fascinating place because the unique geology and geography means it has remained relatively unchanged since the Middle Ages. It is this same geology that produces such wonderful wine. He’s using his experience setting up documentary shoots all over the world to give people wonderful holidays in the UK. He speaks to Blue & Green.

In 140 characters or less – what is Wine Rides?

Wine Rides is a weekend break: You cycle to and camp on a vineyard. You drink great wine, eat local food & your tent is pitched for you

What was the driver for creating Wine Rides – what gap did it fill?

There are a lot of people who like the idea of camping but have felt let down by the reality.

That is an issue of managing different group’s needs.

Most camping in Europe happens in campsites where people are drawn together because campsite are cheaper than other accommodation.

As someone who likes the adventure of cycle touring, I realised it would be a lot nicer to camp on the vineyards we were passing by.

I’m a TV producer who has worked with Ray Mears and Sir David Attenborough, I knew I had the knowledge and skills to get it sorted. So that is what I set about doing.

I have found there is an untapped market for exclusive camping. Where other groups with different needs are excluded.

There is nothing wrong with other people having fun the way they want to have fun. It’s just that when you have had a very physical day in the saddle, you want to go to bed, when you want to go to bed. Not when a Spanish 16 year old stops playing his guitar.

Who does it primarily serve?

Everyone who is moderately fit, over 18 and likes wine. The age range we have found so far is from 24yrs old to 67 years old, although I am sure that range will increase. Most people are in the middle.

The greatest surprise of running Wine Rides has been the customers. I have been taken aback by how consistently lovely the people who come on the trips are.

What difference does Wine Rides want to make?

I really want to give the natural world a tangible value. People have busy urban lives and we have become largely cut off from nature.

Hayley and I have worked really hard to create a situation where anyone can enjoy the simple pleasures of life. Good food and great wine in the landscape it came from.

What are the barriers to making that difference?

There are the regulatory barriers. I am sort of agnostic about them. My feeling is that they just weed out a lot of the competition that aren’t really serious about doing what we do.

Another issue is that we live in a products oriented society:

When I studied to be a safari game guide I learned that you should take nothing but photos and leave nothing but foot prints, and that is how wine rides operates. As a result we are a service orientated business. But there are some people who want to see a lot of ‘stuff’ before they part with their cash.

We get around that by pursuing customers that understand quality and are willing to pay for service.

Who’s helping you overcome those barriers?

We have great support from Fraser-communications. They have really done a great deal to help a science and nature geek like me understand how normal people see the world and want to be spoken to.

However there is a lot more to do. The main thing now is to get to scale quickly. That is why we are courting investment at the moment.

We are hoping to raise finance to make some capital purchases that will enable us to reduce our costs and increase our effectiveness and I would be delighted to speak to anyone who would like to support Wine Rides by investing.

Regarding sustainability: cycling check, camping check. But is wine making a sustainable industry?

It could. I think it is important to think about peoples consumption habits and not just talk about production.

Wine is high value, none-perishable, and can be shipped rather than sent air-freight. So it is quite a sustainable way of consuming grapes.

In the context of a country like South Africa, the workers are also paid a fairly good wage, and have stable reliable incomes.

The elephant in the room is Alcohol: Alcohol is the most damaging drug on the planet. This is partly because it is the most popular and one of the only legal recreational drugs we have. None the less, I think it is important to acknowledge, that people should drink wine because it is fun. But that is best done at reasonably low volumes, in the company of others where you can benefit from the fact that it is a social lubricant.

Wine does well there because, it’s not that cheap. It’s crafted, every sip can be appreciated and above all for me, it creates stunning agricultural landscapes that enhance its enjoyment.

How can people – individuals and organisations – find out more about Wine Rides?

Email questions to info@winerides.co.uk

Visit the website winerides.co.uk

Or tweet me @winerrides

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Want to Connect With Nature? Start by Disconnecting From Busyness

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Connect With Nature

Have you ever found yourself staring at one of your (many) devices and feeling slightly disgusted with how much time you waste on technology? If so, you aren’t alone. We all have moments like these and it’s important that we use them as motivation to change – especially if we want to be more connected with nature.

How Busyness Impacts Your Connection With Nature

Whether you realize it or not, you live an ultra connected life. Between smart phones, tablets, computers, and wearable devices, you’re never very far from some sort of technology that can connect you to the internet or put you in touch with other people. That’s just the world we live in.

While it could be argued that this sort of omnipresent connectivity is a positive thing, it’s also pretty clear that being permanently tethered to technology impacts our ability to strip away distractions and connect with nature.

When you’re always within arm’s reach of a device, you feel a sense of busyness.  Whether it’s browsing your social media feed, uploading a picture, reading the news, or responding to an email, there’s always something to do. As someone who wants to spend more time in nature, this is problematic.

4 Practical Ways to Disconnect

If you want to truly connect with nature and live a greener lifestyle, you have to be proactive about finding ways to disconnect. Here are a few practical suggestions:

1. Switch to a New Phone Plan

It’s not always practical to totally unplug from the world. Family and work responsibilities mean you can’t go off the grid and continue to fulfill your responsibilities. Having said that, there are some ways to scale back.

One suggestion is to switch to a prepaid phone plan. When you have a prepaid phone plan, you’re far less likely to spend hours and hours of your time making phone calls, sending texts, and surfing the web. It forces you to be more conscious of what you’re doing.

2. Get Rid of Social Media

Social media is one of the biggest time wasters for most people. Whether you realize it or not, it’s also a huge stressor. You’re constantly being exposed to the best snapshots of everyone else’s lives, which makes you feel like you’re missing out on something (even when you aren’t).

If you want to feel a sense of relief and free yourself up to spend more time in nature, get rid of social media. Don’t just delete the apps off your phone – actually disable your accounts. It’s a bold, yet necessary step.

3. Create Quiet Hours

If you aren’t able to get rid of social media and disable various online accounts, the next best thing you can do is establish quiet hours each day where you totally detach from technology. You should do this for a minimum of three hours per day for best results.

4. Build Community

Do you know why we’re drawn to social media and our devices? Whether consciously or subconsciously, it’s because we all want to be connected to other people. But do you know what’s better than connecting with people online? Connecting with them in person.

As you build real life, person-to-person relationships, you’ll feel less of a need to constantly have your eyes glued to a screen. Connect with other people who have an appreciation for nature and bond over your mutual interests.

Untether Your Life

If you find yourself constantly connected to a device, then this is probably a clear indicator that you aren’t living your best life. You certainly aren’t enjoying any sort of meaningful connection with nature. Now’s as good a time as any to untether your life and explore what a world free from cords, screens, and batteries is really like.

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6 Tips for an Eco-Friendly Move

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Moving can be a stressful and challenging time. No matter how many times you’ve done it in the past, the process of packing up, transporting, and unpacking isn’t very fun. It’s also not very eco-friendly. As you prepare for your next move, there are things you can do to ensure you leave less of a footprint behind.

6 Tips for a Greener Move

Because of the stress and pressure felt when moving, it’s pretty common for people to rush through the process and focus on getting it done. In fact, a lot of people take an “at all costs” approach; they’ll do whatever it takes to make the process as cheap and fast as possible. Don’t be one of those people. It doesn’t take much effort to turn a standard move into an eco-friendly move.

1. Maximize Each Trip

When moving across town, it’s imperative that you make as few trips as possible. Each trip requires more gas, more emissions, and more waste, and more time.

If you’re taking your personal vehicle, consider pulling a trailer behind it. You’d be surprised how much stuff you can fit into a small trailer. Not only will it make your move greener, but it’ll also save you a lot of time.

2. Donate Things You Don’t Want to Keep

The longer you live somewhere, the more junk you accumulate. This isn’t always obvious until you start packing for a big move. Instead of bringing all of these things with you to your next home, get rid of the stuff you don’t need! If the items are useful, donate them. If the items don’t have much value, toss them.

3. Reuse Moving Boxes

Not only are moving boxes expensive, but they’re also wasteful. If you need a bunch of cardboard boxes, consider looking around on Craigslist, asking friends, or checking the dumpsters behind stores. You can usually find a bunch of recycled boxes of all different shapes and sizes. Here are 12 places you can get them for free.

4. Get Creative With Packing

Who says you need moving boxes? You may find that it’s possible to do most of your move without all that cardboard. Things like storage containers, trashcans, filing cabinets, buckets, and dressers can all store items. Blankets and sheets can be used in lieu of bubble wrap to prevent your items from getting damaged.

5. Use Green Cleaning Supplies

Once you arrive at your new place, resist the urge to pull out a bunch of harsh chemicals to clean the place. You can do yourself (and the planet) a favor by using green cleaning supplies instead. Ingredients like vinegar, baking soda, and ammonia are great to start with.

6. Forward Your Mail ASAP

Don’t delay in forwarding your mail from your previous address to your new one. Not only is it wasteful for the Postal Service to route your mail to a place where you don’t live, but the next owner is probably just going to toss your letters in the trash.

Moving Doesn’t Have to be Wasteful

Most people only move once every few years. Some people will go a decade or more without a move. As a result, the process of moving often feels strange and new. The less experience you have with it, the less likely it is that you’ll be as efficient as you should. But instead of just diving into the process blind, take some time to learn about what an eco-friendly move looks like. That way, you can leave behind the smallest footprint possible.

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