In celebration of Social Saturday, which took place over the weekend, some entrepreneurs got the opportunity to meet actor and activist Michael Sheen at London’s Borough Market.
Social Saturday is designed to inspire people to buy from British social enterprises. Well-known names include The Big Issue, Café Direct, Divine Chocolate and Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen restaurant chain. Britain is home to 70,000 of these alternative businesses, which contribute 24bn to the economy and employ one million people.
Free of shareholders, social enterprises – which include cooperatives – choose to plough their profits back into the business to deliver on their social or environmental cause, which might be getting ex-offenders back into employment, or reducing the amount of waste that goes into landfill.
Michael spoke with a number of social entrepreneurs and took part in a cookery demonstration with Brigade, a life changing social enterprise that trains homeless people as professional chefs, helping them to get off the streets and into work.
The Welsh actor, who is Patron of Credit Unions Wales, said:
“Recently I’ve been visiting social enterprises in the UK and Spain to learn more about how they’re helping to regenerate communities and change people’s lives for the better. I’m keen to understand how I can help bring some of the strengths of this alternative business movement back to Wales.”
Awareness of social enterprise is growing in the UK and the key reason for this is the rise in the number of social enterprises selling to British consumers.
Peter Holbrook CBE, CEO of the campaigning body Social Enterprise UK, which orchestrates Social Saturday, said:
“We were delighted to introduce Michael to some of the UK’s most inspiring social entrepreneurs, who are using their business acumen to positively change the communities and the world we live in. Awareness of social enterprise is growing in the UK and the key reason for this is the rise in the number of social enterprises selling to British consumers. People care about the ripple effect of their spending – it’s one of the reasons that the social enterprise movement is thriving. Social enterprises operate in communities across the UK, from coffee shops and cinemas to dentists, supermarkets and leisure centres.”
UK social enterprise facts
- Awareness of social enterprises is rising.
- The majority of the British public (51%) are now aware of these alternative businesses, compared with 37% two years ago in 2014.
- In 2008, only 1 in 5 (20%) were aware of social enterprises.
- Social enterprises are much more likely to be led by women than mainstream businesses: 40% per cent of social enterprises have a female chief executive, compared with 7% of FTSE 100 companies.
- The majority of social enterprises (59%) actively employ people who are disadvantaged in the labour market, including ex-offenders, people with disabilities and the long-term unemployed.
- Three quarters (74%) of social enterprises pay the Living Wage as accredited by the Living Wage Foundation.
Social enterprises at Borough Market on Social Saturday
- From Babies with Love – baby clothes – every purchase supports orphaned and abandoned babies to grow up in loving family homes
- Frank Water – reusable water bottles, using profits to provide life changing access to safe water and sanitation for marginalised people living in India’s tribal regions and urban slums
- Alive and Kicking – make footballs in Africa, sustaining 155 ethical jobs and using 100% of profits to deliver health education programmes
- Buy Rice Back – upcycled rice bags – use the profits to provide homes and education to children in the South of India who would have otherwise been forced into begging
- Sniffy Wiffy – hand/body creams to help in the fight against breast & testicular cancer
- The Soap Co – luxury soap and hand creams – employs people who are blind or disabled (80% of its staff) – the org behind it, CLARITY, is the oldest social enterprise in the UK, founded 1854
- Stand 4 socks – ethically made socks – profits support global causes including providing vaccines to children in developing countries
- Harry Specters – handmade chocolates, providing jobs and training to young people with autism
- Tea People – sells tea – profits help to educate underprivileged children in tea growing regions around the world
- Papi’s Pickles – sells pickles – provides women from Sri-Lankan and South-Indian communities training, jobs, support and skills for life
Borough Market is not only London’s oldest fruit and veg market, but also unique in being a charitable trust that exists to provide a market for the public. Borough works with small businesses and social enterprises, providing them with guidance and support. Currently it is home to three social enterprises – Change Please, The Golden Company and Rubies in the Rubble.
7 New Technologies That Could Radically Change Our Energy Consumption
Most of our focus on technological development to lessen our environmental impact has been focused on cleaner, more efficient methods of generating electricity. The cost of solar energy production, for example, is slated to fall more than 75 percent between 2010 and 2020.
This is a massive step forward, and it’s good that engineers and researchers are working for even more advancements in this area. But what about technologies that reduce the amount of energy we demand in the first place?
Though it doesn’t get as much attention in the press, we’re making tremendous progress in this area, too.
New Technologies to Watch
These are some of the top emerging technologies that have the power to reduce our energy demands:
- Self-driving cars. Self-driving cars are still in development, but they’re already being hailed as potential ways to eliminate a number of problems on the road, including the epidemic of distracted driving ironically driven by other new technologies. However, even autonomous vehicle proponents often miss the tremendous energy savings that self-driving cars could have on the world. With a fleet of autonomous vehicles at our beck and call, consumers will spend less time driving themselves and more time carpooling, dramatically reducing overall fuel consumption once it’s fully adopted.
- Magnetocaloric tech. The magnetocaloric effect isn’t exactly new—it was actually discovered in 1881—but it’s only recently being studied and applied to commercial appliances. Essentially, this technology relies on changing magnetic fields to produce a cooling effect, which could be used in refrigerators and air conditioners to significantly reduce the amount of electricity required.
- New types of insulation. Insulation is the best asset we have to keep our homes thermoregulated; they keep cold or warm air in (depending on the season) and keep warm or cold air out (again, depending on the season). New insulation technology has the power to improve this efficiency many times over, decreasing our need for heating and cooling entirely. For example, some new automated sealing technologies can seal gaps between 0.5 inches wide and the width of a human hair.
- Better lights. Fluorescent bulbs were a dramatic improvement over incandescent bulbs, and LEDs were a dramatic improvement over fluorescent bulbs—but the improvements may not end there. Scientists are currently researching even better types of light bulbs, and more efficient applications of LEDs while they’re at it.
- Better heat pumps. Heat pumps are built to transfer heat from one location to another, and can be used to efficiently manage temperatures—keeping homes warm while requiring less energy expenditure. For example, some heat pumps are built for residential heating and cooling, while others are being used to make more efficient appliances, like dryers.
- The internet of things. The internet of things and “smart” devices is another development that can significantly reduce our energy demands. For example, “smart” windows may be able to respond dynamically to changing light conditions to heat or cool the house more efficiently, and “smart” refrigerators may be able to respond dynamically to new conditions. There are several reasons for this improvement. First, smart devices automate things, so it’s easier to control your energy consumption. Second, they track your consumption patterns, so it’s easier to conceptualize your impact. Third, they’re often designed with efficiency in mind from the beginning, reducing energy demands, even without the high-tech interfaces.
- Machine learning. Machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies have the power to improve almost every other item on this list. By studying consumer patterns and recommending new strategies, or automatically controlling certain features, machine learning algorithms have the power to fundamentally change how we use energy in our homes and businesses.
Making the Investment
All technologies need time, money, and consumer acceptance to be developed. Fortunately, a growing number of consumers are becoming enthusiastic about finding new ways to reduce their energy consumption and overall environmental impact. As long as we keep making the investment, our tools to create cleaner energy and demand less energy in the first place should have a massive positive effect on our environment—and even our daily lives.
Two Ancient Japanese Philosophies Are the Future of Eco-Living
Our obsession with all things new has blighted the planet. We have a waste crisis, particularly when it comes to plastic. US scientists have calculated the total amount of plastic ever made – 8.3 billion tons! Unfortunately, only 9% of this is estimated to have been recycled. And current global trends point to there being 12 billion tons of plastic waste by 2050.
However, two ancient Japanese philosophies are providing an antidote to the excesses of modern life. By emphasizing the elimination of waste and the acceptance of the old and imperfect, the concepts of Mottainai and Wabi-Sabi have positively influenced Japanese life for centuries.
They are now making their way into the consciousness of the Western mainstream, with an increasing influence in the UK and US. By encouraging us to be frugal with our possessions, (i.e. using natural materials for interior design) these concepts can be the future of eco-living.
What is Wabi-Sabi and Mottainai??
Wabi-Sabi emphasizes an acceptance of transience and imperfection. Although Wabi had the original meaning of sad and lonely, it has come to describe those that are simple, unmaterialistic and at one with nature. The term Sabi is defined as the “the bloom of time”, and has evolved into a new meaning: taking pleasure and seeing beauty in things that are old and faded.
Any flaws in objects, like cracks or marks, are cherished because they illustrate the passage of time. Wear and tear is seen as a representation of their loving use. This makes it intrinsically linked to Wabi, due to its emphasis on simplicity and rejection of materialism.
In the West, Wabi-Sabi has infiltrated many elements of daily life, from cuisine to interior design. Specialist Japanese homeware companies, like Sansho, source handmade products that embody the Wabi-Sabi philosophy. Their products, largely made from natural materials, are handcrafted by traditional Japanese artisans – meaning no two pieces are the same and no two pieces are “perfect” in size or shape.
Mottainai is a term expressing a feeling of regret concerning waste, translating roughly in English to either “what a waste!” or “Don’t waste!”. The philosophy emphasizes the intrinsic value of a resource or object, and is linked to hinto animism, the notion that all objects have a spirit, or ‘kami’. The idea that we are part of nature is a key part of Japanese psychology.
Mottainai also has origins in Buddhist philosophy. The Buddhist monastic tradition emphasizes a life of frugality, to allow us to concentrate on attaining enlightenment. It is from this move towards frugality that a link to Mottainai as a concept of waste can be made.
How have Wabi-Sabi and Mottainai promoted eco living?
Wabi-Sabi is still a prominent feature of Japanese life today, and has remained instrumental in the way people design their homes. The ideas of imperfection and frugality are hugely influential.
For example, instead of buying a brand-new kitchen table, many Japanese people instead retain a table that has been passed through the generations. Although its long use can be seen by various marks and scratches, Wabi-Sabi has taught people that they should value it because of its imperfect nature. Those scratches and marks are a story and signify the passage of time. This is a far cry from what we typically associate with the Western World.
Like Wabi Sabi, Mottainai is manifested throughout Japanese life, creating a great respect for Japanese resources. This has had a major impact on home design. For example, the Japanese prefer natural materials in their homes, such as using soil and dried grass as thermal insulation.
Their influence in the UK
The UK appears to be increasingly influenced by thes two concepts. Some new reports indicate that Wabi Sabi has been labelled as ‘the trend of 2018’. For example, Japanese ofuro baths inspired the project that won the New London Architecture’s 2017 Don’t Move, Improve award. Ofuro baths are smaller than typical baths, use less water, and are usually made out of natural materials, like hinoki wood.
Many other UK properties have also been influenced by these philosophies, such as natural Kebony wood being applied to the external cladding of a Victorian property in Hampstead; or a house in Lancaster Gate using rice paper partitions as sub-dividers. These examples embody the spirit of both philosophies. They are representative of Mottainai because of their use of natural resources to discourage waste. And they’re reflective of Wabi-Sabi because they accept imperfect materials that have not been engineered or modified.
In a world that is plagued by mass over-consumption and an incessant need for novelty, the ancient concepts of Mottainai and Wabi-Sabi provide a blueprint for living a more sustainable life. They help us to reduce consumption and put less of a strain on the planet. This refreshing mindset can help us transform the way we go about our day to day lives.