How strong is a Bag For Change?
 

Hi everyone!

Last week I met with Connor, Harper and Will from Active Vegans and we put our Bag for Change to the test... I always knew these bags were strong but I must admit that this completely surpassed my expectations! 60 kilos!!! (or 132 pounds!) And since exercising with a 60kg bag wasn't challenge enough, they kept going with every exercise they could come up on the spot that would incorporate a bag :D

Needless to say, I had a lot of fun making this video! I hope you guys enjoy it too, hit me up with your thoughts on the comments!

Ana xx

 
It's not waste until it's wasted
 
 Another company who shares our approach is  w.r.yuma

Another company who shares our approach is w.r.yuma

The term 'Waste' as we nowadays think of it doesn't have a place in this millennium. Arguably, it never had a place in the world at all - given how we must think of our world as everything from the deepest corners of the ocean to the barrier of the stratosphere, 19km high. Because very little ever leaves our little corner of the universe, and very little that is new ever enters it.

Here are some of the ways in which the Collins Dictionary defines the word

WASTE: 1. to use, consume, or expend thoughtlessly, carelessly, or to no avail 2. to fail to take advantage of 7. the act of wasting or state of being waste 8. a failure to take advantage of something 9. anything unused or not used to full advantage 10. anything or anyone rejected as useless, worthless, or in excess of what is required 11. garbage, rubbish, or trash 17. rejected as useless, unwanted, or worthless 18. produced in excess of what is required

Looking at such definitions of the word, when we employ Waste almost everyday it is not to refer to something of no actual value, but rather something we have thoughtlessly or carelessly consumed and then disregarded, or something we have failed to take full advantage of. When we waste, it is not simply because of a failed system - it is due to a failure in our own perception and imagination. We have failed to see the value of the resources that we are casting aside, or we have failed to imagine a more purposeful use for them.

Let's think about it for a moment: a container doesn't seize to be useful the moment it is empty. It is only because we never intended to buy a container, but rather its contents, that we see it as being of no value to us. In reality, wouldn't most of us be happy to carry that plastic bottle back to the supermarket and bring it back home refilled with fresh orange juice? But instead we have taken the opposite route, and designed containers which are by design useless once they've been open (ie. single serving yogurt cups).

Personally, I love the notion that Nothing is waste until it's wasted.

In other words, even if a product has reached it's end of life, or outlived its intended purpose, the materials it is made of aren't waste until we 'dispose' of them in such a way that they cannot be reused. But just because materials can be recycled, we should not rush to send products to that destiny any earlier than need be - as recycling is itself a resource-intensive process.

There is a limited amount of resources in our biosphere, and so one of the most important areas to focus on is making sure that the resources currently in use are used to their full extent, and then reused.

For me, this has been a given from the start: our bags are made out of fabric scraps that would have been thrown-away precisely because I think it is incredibly wasteful that we go to the trouble of weaving and dying fabrics, only to then not use as much of them as possible and instead throw them away. By the time these fabrics are being wasted, they have accumulated a considerable carbon and water footprint - not to mention the chemicals and even unethical labour in their history. To simply throw away tonnes and tonnes of fabric each year is to disregard all of that, it is to say that all of that is in the past and doesn't matter, even though the cycle will repeat itself as the world continues to have a demand for more textiles. It is the very definition of mindless consumption.

 Fabric waste at the company that produces our bags - one man's waste is another man's treasure

Fabric waste at the company that produces our bags - one man's waste is another man's treasure

In issue 002 of One Aware magazine, we also wrote about the history of plastic and our relationship with this pesky material that has infiltrated itself into every area of our lives, and seemingly into every ocean and waterway too. We discuss in the article 'Plastic, Beauty in Disguise' some companies who are transforming our plastic crisis into an opportunity for long-lasting plastic products which are anything but disposable. One such company is w.r.yuma, who is 3D printing sunglasses out of plastics which until recently were barely ever reused or recycled, such as car dashboards and fridge doors.

Supporting businesses such as ours is only one small way in which you can contribute to an economy where resources are fully used. It all starts with your own ingenuity, by questioning what you are doing each time you are about to throw something into the bin 'can I still get good use out of this?' And if not, maybe it is time to Refuse that product the next time you are shopping.

How will you contribute to a circular, closed loop system where nothing is ever truly waste?

Let me know in the comments >>>

Ana xx

 
Massive, plastic fail... right here

Just... watch the video and you'll see what I mean...

If you made it till the end of the video (first of all, thank you!), you've read that I'm not happy at all about this plastic packaging fail. I'm so incredibly disappointed at myself for not even thinking that the company I'm working with would do this. Very silly mistake with a very annoying consequence... Anyway, moving forward I shall always make sure that nothing gets sent to us in plastic again.

One Aware mag update - what's changing

Hi all!

I was going to write a long post about what changes we've made from issue 001 to issue 002, but I tend to overthink things when I'm writing, so I've quickly made this video instead! I hope it addresses all your questions and what you can expect from One Aware 002 Origins. And apologies in advance as it is just me talking to the camera, but if you guys enjoy this update on video I'll start using this medium more often and put more effort with an interesting edit.

Do comment with your thoughts, I'm always looking for your feedback

Ana xx

PS: as of now the issues available for pre-order have sold out!!! Thank you so much to everyone who has bought theirs, more copies will be available tomorrow (11th of April) on the shop >>>

New Leather Goods
 
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Now that I've got your attention ;)

I recently posted about being given some leather to experiment with, to test the feasibility of using scraps of leather from the automotive industry to make new products with. You can read all about that here. Now I'm answering that question: yes, it is feasible. In fact, it worked perfectly for homewares.

Once I got over my initial repulsion to the leather (because I've mostly given up leather unless I previously owned it, it is not aligned with my values), I quickly got into the rhythm of quite enjoying working with it. Initially I was attempting to make a rug... and while I still love the idea of it, my crafts skills just didn't live up to the challenge. So I turned directions, and created the three products in this post instead.

They are all made from scrap leather off-cuts, and to best make use of the material properties of leather I decided to make the kind of products that I hope you guys will love and want to keep for a really long time.

First up are drinks coasters, by far the easiest and therefore most affordable items that we're launching. They'll be up on the shop as soon as there are a few more sets finished, and I'm looking to potentially collaborate with a lettering artist who can customize them. (If you know of anyone London based who might be interested, let me know!)

Second on the list, beautiful and dainty leather bags for the home. These are made from long yet relatively narrow off-cuts sewn together. What I really enjoy about these bags is just how adaptable they are: you can turn them inside out, fold a cuff to show both sides of the leather, use them for just about anything from keeping frequently used items to displaying your favourite plants in. Amazing feedback has already been coming in on these, which will be made on request for the time being.

The third and more expensive item on the list is the leather cushion. It has leather on one side and swede on the other, it is incredibly hard wearing and much comfier than I expected. It beautifully displays the material. It really does have the feel of a luxurious product. I've only made one so far - and that is because my cute little home-sewing-machine is just not strong enough for me to be sewing through 3 layers of leather... So, again, if you know a skilled leather worker who might be interested in partnering up for this product, let me know!

So, what do you think? Would you buy them? Do you know of potential retailers?

This is my first time creating and launching homewares with Be For Change, so any advice and feedback will be most appreciated!

PS: backdrop and beautiful cocktails kindly provided by Qbic Hotel

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New bags in a snowy London
 
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This morning, Londoners woke up to find the city covered in a fresh sprinkling of snow! Every now and then it snows in London, but I've only seen it with this much snow 5 years ago and therefore proceeded to turn into a small child. I left the house even before breakfast to have a walk around the empty streets, and as it became apparent that it wasn't melting away anytime soon I whatsapped one of my flatmates to please, please, please model the new bag models for me... outside... Thankfully she was up for it and I proceeded to start the day in one of my favourite ways: camera in hand!

The rest of the day has mainly been spent on my laptop editing text and photos, but it made me realize how much I missed starting the day doing something creative! Not emails, or text editing, or sorting through the mess of papers I left all over the desk the day before... But something that actually gets me excited and which I find meaningful. Sometimes it can be tricky to balance the 'business' and 'creative' aspects of what I do at BFC, but today will definitely be on my mind as a good example of what to do.

What gets you excited to kick start the day in the morning?

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Waste leather: what to do with it?
 
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'We believe there are enough resources on Earth for everyone to live comfortably and without depleting the planet of its resources. So we are exploring what it means to live mindfully in our age and developing long-lasting, high-quality products that keep fine materials away from the landfill.'

That is the opening statement in our website. For over a year now, it's been my intention to continue taking materials which would have been wasted and make products from them. But I'll be the first to admit that using leather had never crossed my mind... until recently, when a company got in touch with me, inquiring if I'd be interested in creating products from their waste leather.

The company in question, which shall remain unnamed, is a well known car manufacturer with production in the UK. Their offer took me by surprise, and made me feel flattered that they should choose to contact Be For Change. Flattery aside though, leather as a material is a divisive topic of conversation for those seeking to live sustainably. So I approached the subject with caution, and asked them for more information on the leather itself and on their proposition.

They promptly arranged a conference call with a manufacturing specialist who could answer my questions, and assured me that they have no 'proposition' other than providing me with free off-cuts of leather, with which I can do whatever I want. They have no interest in seeing tonnes of leather continuously go to waste if there is a chance that someone else can make use of it. They sent me two bags of off-cuts from their production line so I could get a better understanding of the material and make an informed decision.

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The off-cuts consist of pieces of hide that have been die-cut. There is as little space as possible in between cuts, but there are also big pieces of leather marked to signify there is a flaw - to be honest, these were initially hard to spot by my untrained eye. The leather itself is thick and a lot less supple than what you see in bags or wallets - not at all the kind of leather used in the fashion industry (which is more heavily chemically treated to become very supple and malleable).

As a vegetarian, it feels weird for me to handle these pieces of leather, to lay one big hide on the floor and see the shape of an animal that has been cut. But I still own a bag and several pairs of shoes made out of leather (bought in previous years), and I continue to use them. Given how I'm comfortable with those items, I push myself not to be hypocritical and acknowledge that all leather is part of an animal now dead. I focus on the fact that upon killing cattle, it's more ethical and sustainable to use every part of the animal.

Personal new-found feelings for leather aside, and I'm still feeling conflicted. On the one hand, of course I want to divert as much usable material from landfill as possible. On the other hand, do I want to put my time, energy and money in the creation of another leather product?

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I briefly told you this situation on Instagram stories, and asked you guys what your thoughts on the matter were - feeling more than a little bit afraid of what your reaction would be. Much to my surprise, 83% or you replied that you would buy products made out of waste leather.

Having now gathered your opinion and having spoken to the manufacturing specialist, I decided to go ahead and design a couple of pieces made out of leather. (Probably homewares given the thickness and quality of the leather.)

Here are the facts on this leather and my considerations on it:

  • all of this leather is a by-product of the meat industry and comes from cattle in the UK and Ireland. In case you don't know, it is illegal in Europe to kill cattle for the leather alone, or in the words of the specialist I was speaking to, 'If there was no meat-industry, we would have no leather industry in the UK'. With the decline of the meat-industry, we can therefore expect less and less leather to hit the market and its prices to increase. This would make leather too expensive to use in mass produced items, and with a decline in the use of leather the cost of the animal's meat would in turn increase as well. It's a cascading effect that begins with less meat being consumed, so if this is an issue you want to address that is the best place to start.
  • This leather processing factory disposes of roughly one metric tonne of leather per week - that's 52 metric tonnes of leather a year. That is A LOT of processed material currently being thrown away. And though it doesn't all go into landfill (the company burns a percentage of its solid waste to produce heat and therefore reduce its use of fossil fuels), quite a lot of it is still wasted - an issue which they seem keen to address. Among other things, I imagine that giving their leather waste away is less expensive than paying for waste disposal, which explains their interest in giving anything away.
  • The leather tanning process is very resource intensive and includes using a number of harmful chemicals. Leather tanning and dying requires a lot of water, and this company supplies both chromium treated and chromium free leather - curiously though, the chemicals used for chromium free tanning are more toxic and harder to safely dispose of. This company uses almost half the European average of water and has its own water ultrafiltration plant, which enables them to reuse 40% of their waste water and keep a lot of chemicals from ever living their site. To me this speaks of their understanding of how polluting they are and shows an interest in improving - though there is still a long way to go.
  • All the leather being offered is tested to meet automotive standards, which are some of the strictest health and safety requisites to meet. It is tested in a confined space without much ventilation to make sure there are no chemicals polluting the air or seeping into other materials (as a result of friction, for instance). This leather is extremely chemically stable, safe enough for infants and pets to spend hours in close proximity to it and not be negatively affected (and yes, safe enough for your dog to lick it and not be poisoned).

All in all, this is not the worst kind of leather in the world. None of this makes me a fan of the leather industry, and indeed my decision to use some of this leather is based on wanting to keep it away from landfill when it can still be used. I also know that it is safe to handle and won't negatively affect my health or the health of customers (or their pets) which is very important to me. Knowing its provenance, the efforts this company is making to be more sustainable than its peers and them not wanting their name stamped on everything makes me comfortable that Be For Change isn't about to be used for a greenwashing marketing campaign. Finally, I just want to say that by using this leather I don't want to in any way legitimize the meat or leather industries - which we know to be incredibly polluting, not to mention the many ethical issues they raise. I am, however, acknowledging the current state of affairs in our imperfect world and doing my best to keep a resource intensive material from ending up in landfill where it is of no value to anyone.

It is my hope that this project can bring increasing attention to how much leather is being wasted, and add value by creating quality, long lasting products from it.

I've opened up comments for this post, and I would very much like to hear your opinion on this issue and on my decision.

Ana xx

 
Be For Change goals for 2018
 

I've always found it helpful, fun even, to use certain calendar milestones to look at my life, ask myself questions and renew my intentions before committing to a number of things that make my day-to-day life. You may call it goal-setting. I do it around three time a year: around my birthday in April; mid-September when a new school year used to start; and, you've guessed it, around New Year's Eve. Most years, my New Year's goal-setting is only completed in January - and this year is no exception. I find it hard to take the necessary time in between Christmas and the 31st of December, and to be completely honest and raw with myself as I look at my progress and question my direction I do need a large window of time spent by myself and without interruptions.

There's been a lot of talk this year around the usefulness of New Year's resolutions. To be honest, I find that resolutions are helpful any time of the year, but I always enjoy doing it around 'the start of the year' simply because there's something nice about reading, reflecting and writing while it's cold outside and I'm wrapped up in a knit with a hot cup of tea nearby. Plus, imagining how life will change once my goals have been implemented helps me fight the winter blues and gives me the soaring motivation I need to get out of bed early in the morning, when it's dark outside and the house is freezing cold.

This year, in addition to my personal goals, I've decided to set some Be For Change goals as well - or rather, I decided to separate the two. Now that this company is properly set-up and running, it feels like the right move. As to why I'm sharing them with you, I'm hoping to get your opinions on these goals: which are most relevant to you? is there anything else you'd like to see on this list? do you have tips on how to make any of these become a reality? Let me know in the comments :)

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So, here are the my 2018 goals for Be For Change (in no particular order)

  • To really get One Aware magazine off the ground - last year I set myself the goal of creating this magazine, and now that it has been started it's time to fulfill my vision of how One Aware is meant to be. I want to make it as great as I know it can be, as well as make it more widely known and available.
  • To become closer to the community that has started gathering around this small company - even at such an early stage, there are some of you who consistently like BFC's posts, take the time to reply to my Stories, and introduce my work to others!!! This has been an incredible thing to witness and I know that I've been really fortunate to have your attention (I never had a social media strategy and I wasn't consistently adding value through any platform). Now I'm determined to get to know you better and add value more consistently - which I'm sure will be a work in progress! So if you have suggestions of topics you'd like to see me approach or themes you'd like One Aware to focus on next, don't be shy and let me know! Let's all grow together!
  • To sell all of the Bags For Change currently in stock - there are a few new bags coming out, and once those are out I'm not producing any more unless they sell out. To be honest, despite the amazing reviews everyone gives the bags, they've been a tough sell. So I'm going to give the bags one last push in the next 5 months - and if sales don't pick up and everything gets sold, I'll have to cut my losses and stop stalling money on these bags. This was a tough call for me, and one that I should probably have made last year.
  • To launch two new products - this is where I'm getting a bit ambitious... but it's basically the challenge that keeps me going when the going gets tough. I've got a few options in the pipeline, products I've started working on and didn't see through (partially because I determined One Aware to be the priority). I would love it if I could work some magic with the numbers and launch two of these products this year!
  • My last, and perhaps most ambitious goal, is to have a small team working with me by the end of the year - The last couple of months I was stretched thin, working on the magazine, marketing the magazine, collaborating with a client on their project and doing some freelance work here and there for some cash in my pocket. I'll be completely honest: I'm not very good with numbers, but hiring two people doesn't look very achievable right now. On the other hand, I know that if I had a couple of other committed people working with me we'd be able to get more done and move faster - which would allow BFC to grow, to work on more client projects each year and with a quicker turnaround, and to deliver more to its growing audience.

That's it! My list of goals, some of them set high up, waiting for the taking... I reckon I can get there with your help :P

Now I'll enjoy the rest of my Sunday, and get back to work tomorrow to make this happen :D Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on this!

Ana xx

 
One Aware 002 - Origins
 
 Motion Collage by  Ana Rita Ramos

Motion Collage by Ana Rita Ramos

It's time to unveil the next issue of One Aware magazine, and it will be themed Origins!

Origins is a controversial topic within the mindful living community. If on one hand you can only fully understand something if you know its origin, on the other it is often said that contentment is found in accepting the things we cannot change such as they come to us.

Personally, I believe in the importance of knowing and understanding the origins of things. I enjoy discovering the background of the art I consume, the provenance of the food I eat, the kind of thought put into the clothes I wear and the stories behind the people I meet. I'm also interested in the origin of my internal dialogues, in where thoughts and feelings come from, if they are really my own or the result of external influences.

It is only by knowing the origin of something that I can identify if it aligns with my values, if it creates joy, or if any part of it bothers me and I should look for alternatives. We cannot change the past, and therefore we can't change the origins of the products, food items and feelings that we encounter on a daily basis - but we can try to understand it, learn from our experiences and the knowledge available, and avoid that which doesn't sit well with us.

Issue 002 of One Aware magazine will explore the origin of what unites us and what makes us unique. We'll look into preconceptions, personality, mental health problems, habits and moods. We'll reflect, and either accept or renew our commitment to change our opinions and habits, one article at a time.

Personally, I'm already getting giddy with excitement for our first issue of 2018!

Ana xx

PS: If you would like to submit work to One Aware magazine, read here! If you know of anyone or any company who might be interested in getting involved, please forward this page their way or let me know of their name/contact.

 
One Aware Launch Party at Qbic
 
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I initially didn’t know where to hold a launch party for One Aware. Sam and I had discussed having a party at length - but as the days rushed past and the magazine costs went up, a party looked more and more like something we'd have to say farewell to. I was looking into different bars in London, but didn’t feel happy about what I was finding. I was working on a tight budget and needed the venue to be aligned with the brand’s values. For some reason, I had failed to consider Qbic until this one day I was browsing Instagram and saw a post about Friday’s at their bar.
The bar is quirky and stylish, without being one of those places that is ‘trying too hard’. And because it is part of London's most sustainable hotel, they are already aligned with Be For Change values in everything they do - down to using metal straws in their drinks!

Making preparations with Qbic was surprisingly simple and painless. Their Community and Social Manager, Nathalie, was there for me every step of the way and made me feel confident in how things were being handled ahead of the event. From making the cocktails vegan to re-arranging the furniture, my requests were quickly turned into reality. The two following photos were taken at our meeting the week before launch - and yes, I did finish one of those cocktails... You know, just to make sure that every last drop of it was delicious ;)

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On the day of the launch I took plenty of photos ahead of the event... but completely forgot to grab my phone or camera anytime after the first guests arrived! So here's a mix of my photos and those taken by our guests - there's even a surprising number of photos with me in them (something really has changed here!).

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This was not my first time at Qbic London - I initially found out about them when I was looking for the perfect set for the photos in the article 'My Relationship With Desire'. I knew I wanted every aspect of the magazine to be sustainable, including the bedroom setting of our photos. After considering ordering new bed linen to use in someone's house (would anyone let me photograph their Airbnb property for free?), I thought 'how about a hotel?'.

My first instinct was to question that thought. 'Does London even have a sustainable hotel?!' I decided to Google it. 'Is this search going to show me all the green-washing advertisement of big chains?!' I wondered as I typed. Google gave me a list of 'sustainable' hotels, and I was breathing deeply to calm myself as I undoubtedly entered into a goose chase. I opened the first five websites into separate tabs, and stupidly started from the bottom. As I read the third website, I was actually feeling calmer - this one doesn't look too bad! It genuinely looked like they were making progress in the right direction. The fourth was even better! And by the time I opened the 'sustainability' tab of the last one, I realized my mistake in not looking at it first.

As surely you've guessed it by now, this tab belonged to Qbic. I was immediately impressed by their long list of 'Green Credentials'. Solar panels on the roof, recycling done independently from the burrough, no plastic bottles in sight, 100% chemical free cleaning products,... the list goes on! Their water and energy savings probably rival most households, let along what is the industry standard. Just to put things into perspective, in 2016 they saved: enough electricity to boil 321k+ kettles, enough water to fill almost 217k bathtubs, enough gas to bake 216k cakes and enough CO2 to drive around the world 125 times!!!

And... drum roll... they have recycled bikes that their guests can use for free! (I want that in every city I go to, please!)

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If you ever find yourself in East London, I highly recommend stopping by Qbic. In fact, I highly recommend going to East London on purpose - make a date of it with your favourite friends, because their zero-waste cocktails are worth it! (and each cocktail is a fiver during happy hour *wink wink*). Is there anything better than an amazing new find that is aligned with your values and fairly priced? Life just doesn't get better than this.

While you're there, help yourself to a copy of One Aware and have a look! They are there to be read :D

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