Monday, 20 August 2012

A chest of drawers for life...

Three years ago I bought a chest of drawers off gumtree for £10. It has lasted reasonably well, but as with most cheap pieces of furniture made of chipboard that's been moved from house to house, it finally fell apart (in an unfixable way). I've been surviving with the drawers resting on top of each other for the last month or two, thinking I should probably get a new chest of drawers at some point.

Every day at work I walk through the Sofa Project to get to my office - my office is on the second floor, and I lock my bike up out the back of their office every day. They're a great organisation, collecting reusable and unwanted furniture and selling it at an affordable price to people (with a further discount for people on a low income). Added to that, they also provide work experience and employment for ex-offenders.

Last week I was walking through when I spied a particularly lovely chest of drawers. Upon enquiring, it was for sale for £50, but they offered to sell it to me for £40 due to working upstairs. I deliberated all day (I went down to see it three times) before eventually deciding to buy it. And this brings me joy for four reasons:

1) I get to support an awesome local charity that do amazing work

2) I get a piece of furniture that is made out of proper wood and will last for years. For considerably less money than it would cost to buy anything from Ikea.  

3) I get to re-use an existing piece of (perfectly good) furniture rather than buying something new. 

4) It's so lovely :) 

Sunday, 12 August 2012

A tale of three festivals - Part 2 - Cloud Cuckoo Land

Earlier this year I met a Marcus, who runs a small festival called Cloud Cuckoo Land. I'd heard good things about the festival from a few friends who were involved last year, and so I asked if theloveofit could come and run some games during this years festival. We got an enthusiastic response, and so plans were made to run some games akin to another big sporting event this summer.

I was lucky enough to get to go to Sunrise festival with Marcus and a few other people earlier in the year, and find out a bit more about Cloud Cuckoo Land and the ideas behind it. In summary, it's a community focused performing arts festival. But it's so much more than that. It's about people, about community building, about creativity, about trying to live differently. And all of the profits go into a trust called Koyaanisqatsi to be used to fund grass roots ecologically concious projects. There's also a long term plan too - "Somewhere over the rainbow, 'The Clouds' will become a land based project, hosting small festivals, performing arts productions, speakers and workshops, while developing a site infrastructure designed to nurture a small, permanent community of festival makers, growers, healers, eco builders and artists."

From the moment I arrived, I loved it. Set at the lovely Fernhill Farm in Somerset, the location itself fits the feel of the festival. Dominated by two large wooden barns, the site also had an array of marquees, tents, and of course a double decker speakeasy cocktail bar. People camped in the fields, stayed in the luxury on site accommodation  and used the eco loos that feed the reed bed system in the middle of the site.

Food was provided by the Fernhill Cafe and The People's Kitchen (who salvage food that was destined for landfill). There were workshops and talks from all manner of people from Mark Boyle to the Embercombe community. Entertainment ranged from storytelling in the woods to flash mob charletons. And then there was the music - oh the music! Hip hop, ska, gypsy, dub, acoustic - so much ear tingling awesomeness and crazy dancing fun. To top it off, Up-cycle and Scrapdragon were there to ensure the waste was dealt with responsibly, and allow create uses to be found for some of the things that were thrown out.

I've never been to such a small festival before (less than 1000 people), or one with such a large amount of crew and volunteers. It had a truly special feel to it, knowing that so many people had given their time and energy for free to make it happen. And the people were what made it such a great experience - there were so many interesting and amazing people there. Add in some local cider and some great music and you can't fail to have a fantastic time.

The whole festival for me lived and breathed the deconsumerism project - everything was so well thought through. It was local, eco, responsible and full of awesome people and challenging ideas. Definitely one I'll be back for next year...

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Collaborative Consumption and the Sharing Economy

Six months ago, certain words and phrases were completely alien to me. One of them is provenance (especially regarding the origins of food), and the second is "collaborative consumption".

So what is it? The website states that it is "...a social and economic system driven by network technologies that enable the sharing and exchange of all kinds of assets from spaces to skills to cars in ways and on a scale never possible before."

Here's a nice little video that provides a nice little summary:

A quote from the video describes it as "traditional sharing, bartering, lending, trading, renting, gifting and swapping redefined through technology and peer communities".

Several of the websites and projects I've come across and used so far this year come under the collaborative consumption banner - couchsurfing, freecycle, justfortheloveofit, liftshare, gocarshare, indiegogo, kickstarter. All my experiences have been great - I've met amazing people, saved money, borrowed things instead of having to buy things, supported projects I believe in, and felt part of a different economy. Added to that, I've contributed my own piece in a small way through the Bristol Jam Jar Network, trying to set up exchanges of jam jars between people rather than recycle or waste them.

All in all, I think learning about collaborative consumption has been one of the most interesting parts of the project so far. I've been doing a lot of research over the last few weeks about different projects for something I'm hoping to do next year, and have come across a whole array of inspiring and interesting ideas. More to come soon......