I am amazed and delighted to announce that I’ve been shortlisted for the 2019 Be The Change Awards!
The Be The Change Awards are an up and coming new initiative for the social impact sector, recognising ethical & sustainable brands with a powerful impact story to tell.
Around the world independent, ethical & sustainable brands are having a positive impact on communities, people and the planet. The awards will recognise, celebrate and raise the profile of those brands who are working towards sustainable development goals and creating positive impact in inspiring and world-changing ways.
There are 12 different categories each judged by experts in their field. Love HeartWood is one of 5 finalists in the Babies and Children category. This category is being judged by Holly Daffurn Editor of Natural Mumma Magazine. It’s a wonderful magazine that Love Heartwood was featured in last year so I’m really hoping I get to meet her. My submission had to be a 3 minute video telling my story. Speaking to the camera was daunting but distilling my story, motivation and goals was a really helpful exercise in clarity. The winners will be announced at the awards ceremony in London on Friday 26th April at the Museum of Brands.
All the Finalists have been put through to the People’s Choice Awards. This is an opportunity for you to find out about all the finalists and vote for your favourite (hopefully me!) There is a Be The Change Awards YouTube channel containing all the Finalist’s entry videos. The votes will be based on how many likes a video gets, so please go and have a watch and vote for your favourite (links below). This event is all about raising the profile of some of the most inspiring, impact driven brands so please share the videos with your friends. Voting will close at 12 pm GMT on the 12th April.
Unfortunately YouTube have currently suspended the Be The Change Awards channel. While the appeal is in progress you cannot view the videos. The Awards organisers, who haven’t been informed why the channel is suspended, are working to remove the suspension as soon as possible. Follow the Be The Change Awards Facebook page for the latest info.
I hadn’t been posting on Instagram for long when I stumbled upon the #MarchMeetTheMaker challenge. I wished I was taking part. So here I am, a year on and here comes the #MarchMeetTheMaker challenge again. This time I’m ready. I downloaded the prompts sheets and planned my 31 posts, one for each day of the month. I’ve tried to make them as visually pleasing and interesting as possible and I hope you enjoy following them. If you don’t know what I’m talking about though here’s a bit of an explanation.
#MarchMeetTheMaker is a 31 day Instagram Challenge, set by Joanne Hawker (and solely Joanne!) that runs throughout March every year. But it’s more than just a challenge, it’s a creative community that comes together to show people what they can do. It’s about building each other up, making new connections, telling your small business story, growing your confidence (and Instagram following) and most importantly, it’s about putting yourself out there.
The challenge was created
in 2016 by Joanne herself. At the time, she was in bit of a creative rut
with Instagram and couldn’t find a way to pull herself out of it.
Feeling determined, she went in search of challenge aimed at small
creative businesses but couldn’t find one. Feeling inspired, she went
ahead and created a 31 day challenge which aims to show the different
aspects of her business and asked her creative, small business friends
to take part. And that’s how #MarchMeetTheMaker was born. Little did she
know that it would take off and gain 25,000 posts in 2016, a further
80,000 posts in 2017 and 165,000 posts in 2018!
It’s Fairtrade Fortnight at the moment so I’d like to share with you how and why Love HeartWood trades fairly.
I often use the word ethical to describe my business and what that boils down to for me is being fair. I need to source a lot of things from wood and finishes all the way through to gift bags, strings and labels. My suppliers fit with my values: natural, ethical and honest. Their products are not the cheapest but I know my purchase is having a positive impact. I believe my customers also share these values and are prepared to pay that little bit more for a far more superior, fairly made product.
I’d like to share a few of my choices with you to show you what I mean.
The Acorn Jewellery Collection
When I was looking for a cord to create my Wooden Acorn Pendant I could have gone with a cheap leather cord from China. That would have meant I didn’t know what conditions it was made under and how much the workers were paid. Instead I chose to support Ines Jewelry Finding, a small business much like my own based in Santarem, Portugal. Their cork is sustainable, handmade, vegan and top quality. The air miles are also a lot lower than from China.
The Blue Sky Toy Collection
During my research on wooden toys I noted they’re coated with bright, cheerful paints. One of the constituent parts of a paint is the binder. The binder imparts properties such as gloss, durability, flexibility, and toughness. Most binders are synthetic resins such as acrylics, vinyl-acrylics, vinyl acetate/ethylene (VAE), polyurethanes, polyesters, melamine resins, epoxy, silanes or siloxanes. In other words paint is plastic. I wasn’t happy about coating my beautiful natural toys in plastic so I had to look for an alternative. I eventually chose Lakeland Paints. Their website proudly states: “After 6 years of product development, Ian West and John Ashworth created the world’s first complete range of odourless, solvent free, non-toxic decorative paints. Launched in 1989, to this day we stay true to our promise. All of our organic paints and varnishes are hand crafted and colour matched at our factory in the Lune Valley, North Lancashire.”
I love the company’s passion for what they do. Their plant based wood washes give my toys a unique look, allowing the beauty of the wood to show through. Because they are a niche product their prices are higher however the benefits are worth it for me.
Ethical Gift Bags
Many of my gifts come in a printed, cotton drawstring bag. I have to confess when I started my business I ordered these from China and they cost 1p each. When it was time to reorder I decided I needed to know where my bags were coming from and how they’d been made. That was when I discovered Where Does It Come From?
Where Does It Come From? make its own brand of gorgeous, ethical clothes and accessories that are fully traceable. Jo from Where Does It Come From? helped to have my bags handwoven and constructed from ‘khadi’ cotton (a sustainable process) in a Co-operative in Bangladesh. The photo at the top of the page shows one being sewn. Soon I will receive a traceable code I’ll share with my customers to see where their bag came from. These handmade, ethical bags are fairly made and cost more in monetary terms than the 1p bags from China. But because I know they’re handmade by people receiving a fair wage, under fair conditions makes them meaningful to me and therefore valuable.
It’s important to me to support small, handmade businesses, like myself. Their eco credentials are paramount. Buying fair trade adds so much to my products. It reinforces my values and shows I’m willing to put my money where my mouth is, so to speak. Yes, it does cost more but the result is a truly handmade, ethical, sustainable product. I believe that’s a gift really worth giving.
Feeding a family who all have different dietary requirements is not easy. My husband needs as much iron as possible, my 8 year old is vegetarian, my 7 year old is extremely fussy and I’d like to eat a vegan diet. Thankfully, the 2 year old will eat whatever is on someone else’s plate. Most days I am preparing 2 -3 variations on a meal or 2 separate meals. My wish is that one day I will cook one meal and everyone will eat it and enjoy it. The following recipes give me hope that one day we’ll get there.
1. Perfect Pasta with Bolognaise Sauce
This is a firm favourite with my whole family. It’s quick, vegan and best of all everyone likes it. The Young Veggie website is run by The Vegetarian Society and contains lots of info and resources that my oldest son and I find helpful.
My picky son does not like lumps, or vegetables. Texture is a big put off for many kids. Blending the sauce means there’s one less hurdle for him to get over. The My Fussy Eaterwebsite is a very helpful site. I especially like Ciara’s idea of serving soup as pasta sauce. None of my sons like soup, mostly because it’s difficult to keep on the spoon. Changing the way something is served can often make something acceptable. It’s not just about taste.
3. Cauli Cheese Macaroni
This one isn’t all the way there yet. Mr. Fussy has the plain mac n cheese while the rest of us double up and have the cauliflower too. This is just one of 39 Vegetarian kids’ recipes from The BBC Food Website.
None of my sons like lentils. So this is a great way to get all their benefits without the texture. Hopefully, they’ll get used to the taste and eventually be able to eat them unhidden.
5. Fishless Fish and Chips with Tartare Sauce
All kids love a fish finger! The choice of sauce is up to them. There are also plenty of veggie versions of kid’s freezer favourites like non-chicken nuggets available. The Vegan Recipe Club is run by Viva! a UK-registered charity which educates people about the realities of factory farming and how it impacts our health, the planet and animals.
My 8 year old son and I are currently vegetarian. He wanted to stop eating meat last year for animal welfare reasons. When he’d suggested it the previous year I’d put him off saying he needed meat to grow properly. This is the message I had received from my mum. She comes from a generation who remembers the meat rationing during and after WWII and certainly believes you aren’t eating healthily if you don’t eat meat. So I did some research (mostly to arm myself against my mother’s objections) and found out that her fears, and mine, were pretty much groundless.
Eating a vegetarian diet for a child helps to combat childhood obesity, diabetes and tooth decay. All of which are on the increase in the UK. There are also already more than one million people in the UK following vegetarian diets. A vegetarian option is available in lots of nurseries and schools. So I made the decision to give up meat. The main health considerations with a non-meat diet are getting enough protein, iron, calcium and vitamins. Here’s a list of which foods which can help to keep your intake up:
Protein – Good choices of protein include
lentils, beans, soya and soya products, milk, cheese, nuts and eggs and they’ll
need 2 to 3 portions of these a day.
Iron – Meat is a good provider of easily
absorbable iron so you will need to offer alternative sources to ensure your
growing child gets enough. Foods that provide iron include wholegrain cereals,
dark green leafy vegetables, beans, lentils, bread, fortified breakfast
cereals, dried apricots and figs. Remember vitamin C helps our body to absorb
iron from non-meat sources so try to include fruit and vegetables at every meal
Calcium – Be particularly careful that vegan
children get enough calcium to support their growing bones and teeth. Milk,
cheese, yogurt, tofu, some dark green leafy vegetables such as kale all provide
calcium. Fortified soya drinks, as well as other dairy alternatives, often have
added calcium but remember to check the label.
Vitamin B12 – Vitamin B12 is typically found in
products from animal sources. Milk and eggs are important sources of vitamin
B12 for vegetarians. For vegans, who eliminate animal products, useful dietary
sources include fortified foods such as some fortified breakfast cereals and
My son isn’t a bad eater but he isn’t keen on lentils, pulses and nuts so most of his protein and calcium intake is from dairy foods and faux (fake) meats. I also insist that he takes a daily vegetarian multivitamin that contains nutrients, vitamins and iron. I hope to widen his food tastes as he gets older.
the rest of the family isn’t following the veggie diet, at least not all the
time. My 2 year old is pretty much vegetarian but my middle son is a fussy
eater. I don’t mean a bit fussy. At the age of 3 he only ate 8 foods and they
were all orange. He has never eaten dairy on its own and didn’t eat a piece of
fruit till he started nursery. This wasn’t for a want of trying on my part
believe me. As far as we can tell his pickiness and liking for extremely bland
food comes from his extreme sensitivity to smell and taste. He finds most foods
just too much. So I don’t limit his food choices at all. Every food that he
eats or is willing to try is a win for him. He also takes a chewy multi vitamin
and a chewy calcium supplement.
is also non veggie as he is suffering from a mystery illness which is not
allowing him to absorb iron. He is on iron tablets and we are boosting his iron
intake through his diet as much as possible. Because of this we are eating more
green leafy vegetables and whole grains but he does insist on a regular steak
This family split
results in me cooking 2 different meals, or variations of the same meal. This
requires planning on my part which I do on a Friday evening before the weekend
food shop. However, I have managed to get us all to eat veggie spaghetti bolognaise,
using soy mince, and have substituted veggie scampi without my middle son
realising. I’m hoping I can continue this trend till they are at least 50%
The main reason I support my son and became vegetarian myself is the environmental impact of meant production. I believe we must find a sustainable diet which doesn’t create global climate problems such as deforestation. Ideally I would like to move towards a vegan diet but with my family’s current situation I don’t feel it’s viable. The fact that my vegetarian son is so reliant on dairy foods means he would struggle to be healthy and the others are not ready either. I will keep moving us towards it though and help my children to understand about a healthy diet. I will keep trying them with vegetables and other challenging foods (they all struggle with spices and herbs).
In conclusion I think going veggie or even vegan as a family can be done and gives great benefits to your health and the planet. The younger your kids are the easier it will be. However, you need to read up to make sure you are eating a ‘healthy’ veggie or vegan diet. You also have to consider if your family are ready for such a change. Mealtimes should be an enjoyable, social time of the day for everyone in the family. Introducing such a big diet change could cause a lot of unhappiness and stress if not done in the right way.
If you’d like to give it a go I recommend starting
off going meat free one day a week. Launched
by Paul, Mary and Stella McCartney in 2009, Meat Free Monday is a
not-for-profit campaign which aims to raise awareness of the
detrimental environmental impact of eating meat, and to encourage people
to help slow climate change, conserve precious natural resources and improve
their health by having at least one meat free day each week. If you start
there who knows where you’ll end up?
Guidelines on Vegetarian Weaning and how to keep healthy:
My aim when designing and making the Blue Sky Toy Collection was to create beautiful, functional toys that are safe, healthy and as eco friendly and ethical as possible. I am happy to announce that the collection is:
– Sustainably Produced Blue Sky Toys are made from locally sourced Beech and Ash wood. The wood is Beautiful, durable, safe & sustainable.
-Natural It seems a shame to make a beautiful wooden toy and coat it with conventional paint and varnish since these are essentially plastic. The paint and oil used on Blue Sky Toys is plant based and organic. That means zero VOCs, zero solvent and zero heavy metals ! No Fumes, No Smell and No Toxins. The toys are safe for everyone including babies and those with Asthma, Allergies, CFS, MCS.
– 100% Safe All toys sold within the EU must conform to the Toy Safety Directives and be CE marked. Sadly most handmade toys are not. The Blue Sky Toy Collection has been designed to be safe and proved so by thorough testing. The collection conforms to Toy Safety Standards and is CE marked to show this. We know that children do not play with the toys that are designated theirs. Siblings of different ages often play together and share toys. That’s why all Blue Sky Toys are safety tested for ages 0+.
– Plastic free, Recyclable & Ethical I reuse postal boxes, or if that’s not possible, the new ones used are made of 78% recycled fibres sealed with paper tape. Inside the box is recycled tissue paper, invoice paper and stickers. The postcard that comes with some toys is digitally printed by an eco friendly print service on 100% recycled board using eco friendly inks.. The gift/storage bags which come with some toys are also handmade ethically from ‘khadi’ organic cotton in a farm co-operative in India.
Are you going for an ethical, plastic free Christmas? Want to buy the kids something which won’t break after a few days? Want a toy with real play longevity that encourages them to use their creativity and is safe for a range of ages? Then the Blue Sky Toy Collection will definitely strike a chord with you.
Love HeartWood is located in rural Berkshire and uses sustainably sourced, local Beech and Ash wood. But why take the time and care to hand make a beautiful, wooden toy and then coat it with plastic? Unfortunately, that’s what happens when wooden toys are coated with conventional paint and varnish as they are basically plastic. That’s why Blue Sky Toys are finished with organic, plant based paint and oil. The eco paint contains zero VOCs, zero solvents and zero heavy metals. This means the toys are non-toxic, odourless and safe for everyone, including babies and those with Asthma, Allergies, CFS, MCS.
The oil is pressed from hemp seeds. It nourishes and protects the wood from dirt and marks and allows the children to benefit from the tactility of the wood. A further benefit for the planet is that the toys are completely biodegradable.
All toys sold within the EU must conform to the Toy Safety Directives and be CE marked. Sadly most handmade toys are not. Blue Sky Toys bear the CE mark to show they’ve been thoroughly tested and conform completely to the required safety standards.
As we know children don’t play just with their own toys. Siblings often play together and share toys. To encourage this all Blue Sky Toys are safe for ages 0+. This means no worries about little parts going where they’re not meant to and everyone can play together safely.
The Collection includes the Kinderpins Skittle Set, the Gnosi Rattle, Tip Top Spinners, Go Go Crafty Cars, Pipkinds Peg People and Craft Pipkinds. Prices range from £5 – £52. To find out how the toys encourage physical development and creativity visit https://www.loveheartwood.co.uk or why not send the link to a family member who needs a nudge in the right direction?
Wood comes from trees. Yes I know you knew that but just think about it for a minute. That means it is a material that was once alive. It was part of a tree and so subject to the seasons and weather that tree experienced through its lifetime. You may know that the rings inside a tree mark each year’s growth. In good growing years the ring is wider, as the tree grows more. In bad growing years the ring is narrow as it grows less. Thus the tree’s history can be seen in its unique ring pattern. The trees location effects its growth, the number and position of branches and its eventual shape. It can also be marked by disease, bugs or fungus. This means each tree is completely unique and by extension so is each piece of wood. Your wood has its life story written right through it. Much like the wrinkles on an old face, this is where its character is.
When new and unfinished, oak will naturally appear quite light with a slightly yellowed hue. All woods however can have significant colour variation from one piece to another, as with any natural product. Over time, sunlight will cause the wood to darken and mellow throughout its life. Oils in the skin will accelerate this process with any areas that are regularly touched, gaining a noticeably darker tint.
Compared to oak, walnut is quite dark when first cut, especially the American black walnut varieties. Sunlight will cause walnut to lighten overtime, often bleaching into a light brown, with perhaps a slightly red tint to it.
In all other respects, walnut behaves much in the same way as oak (see above).
Ash behaves in all respects nearly identically to oak, the main difference is ash has a slightly narrower grain. It starts off very pale and again, as with oak, ash will darken over time. The grain also becomes more pronounced.
The colour can vary from creamy white to a very pale tan; it may darken to a pale pink or pale brown. It has a straight grain with a fine even texture and a characteristic fleck.
Colour tends to be a light cream to yellow, which tends to darken slightly with prolonged exposure to light. Boxwood has a fine, even texture with a natural lustre. The grain tends to be straight or slightly irregular. Boxwood’s ability to hold crisp details, in combination with its colour and silky-fine texture truly make it a classic.
Spalted Silver Birch
The wood has a silky lustrous appearance and delicate grain pattern. The ‘spalting’ is caused by invading fungi. These fungi are stopped when the wood is dried. This creates dramatic colouring and patterning effects. It mellows to a light tan after a while, but retains its natural lustre.
Sapwood is usually a thin band of pale yellow or tan colour, while the heartwood is an orangish brown, sometimes with a darker brown or purplish hue. Colour tends to darken with age. Grain is straight, with a fine uniform texture. Good natural lustre.
Some of my collections include stained versions of the woods described above, usually in Ash or Beech, adding colour and a little more protection.
Staining also adds a greater level of colour control, however, there will still be some level of natural variation between pieces.
Finish: My pieces are either finished:
by sanding silky smooth and leaving completely natural,
with a protective nourishing, food safe, eco-friendly hemp oil or
with a more durable eco-friendly wax oil.
These are all healthy, easy to care for finishes that don’t compromise the natural beauty of the wood grain.
Care: solid wood may expand and shrink with differences in temperature and humidity. Take care not to place your wooden item on top of, above or next to radiators or anywhere subject to excessive changes in temperature or moisture content. Avoid the dishwasher.
In the event of any spillages, wipe up all liquids as soon as possible before the liquid has the opportunity to soak into the wood.
Cleaning: to clean, wipe with a damp cloth before buffing with a dry cloth. Silicone based polishes should not be used on the wood as they will build up and leave a sticky residue on the surface.
Treat your wooden item with care and respect and it will grow old as gracefully as I hope you will.
I describe my products as sustainable. But what does that mean and why does it matter?
Sustainability is based on a simple principle: Everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment. To pursue sustainability is to create and maintain the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony to support present and future generations.1
In 2012, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development met to discuss and develop a set of goals to work towards; they grew out of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) that claimed success in reducing global poverty while acknowledging there was still much more to do. The SDG eventually came up with a list of 17 items which included amongst other things:
The end of poverty and hunger
Better standards of education and healthcare – particularly as it pertains to water quality and better sanitation
To achieve gender equality
Sustainable economic growth while promoting jobs and stronger economies
All of the above and more while tackling the effects of climate change, pollution and other environmental factors that can harm and do harm people’s health, livelihoods and lives.
Sustainability to include health of the land, air and sea.
Finally, it acknowledged the concept of nature having certain rights – that people have stewardship of the world and the importance of putting people at the forefront of solving the above global issues through management of the environment and of consumption (for example, reducing packaging and discouraging food waste as well as promoting the use of recyclable materials).2
Clearly sustainability is a complex issue which touches almost every aspect of human life not just the environment. Sustainable development is carried out on a global, national and local level.
So how does Love HeartWood tackle sustainability?
As I developed my hobby into a business I’ve had to make many decisions. Deciding what type of wood to turn? Where I would get it from? What sort of finishes I would use? What sort of presentation boxes I should order and who from? How would I package items? Through the process of making these decisions it became clear that I was subconsciously making sustainable choices.
To me it just makes sense to choose that which is most beneficial to myself, my home and the wider world. In consequence I have chosen to turn local wood from tree surgeons or recycled wood. This is for the following reasons:
– I hate waste. If I didn’t use the wood it would be thrown in the chipper or burnt. By using it, it can become useful.
– I could use exotic timbers such as Iroko, Ebony, Rosewood and Mango wood, bought from a wood blank supplier. However I would have no way of knowing if that timber had been harvested in a sustainable way. Sourcing close to home means I know where my wood comes from and the supply chain it’s been through.
– Why ship timber half way round the world creating a large carbon footprint when I have perfectly good wood on my doorstep?
– From a health point of view it is safer for me to turn native wood. Exotic timber is often more hazardous to the turner’s health. Although I have to wear protective clothes and guard against dust inhalation to turn any type of wood. Exotic woods have more risk of skin and eye irritation, sensitization, and poisoning.
Many waxes and oils currently used for sealing wood are usually labelled hazardous. I have spent a fair amount of time finding healthy alternatives. I do not want to be compromising my health or anyone else’s. This has meant going back to more traditional, natural finishes which do not have modern chemicals added to them. These chemicals are added to speed up drying and curing times. I take this extra time into account in my production schedule because I believe the benefits outweigh the saving in time.
Once I realised I was making sustainable choices I continued this ethos throughout the whole business. For example, I reuse shipping boxes and packing material but when I have to use a new one it is 100% recyclable. I also use paper tape, not plastic, to seal boxes. When selecting a packaging supplier I chose one whose cardboard boxes contain a minimum of 75% recycled contents.
This is just a few of the ways Love HeartWood attempts to reduce, reuse and recycle to ensure it operates in a sustainable way.
Love HeartWood’s Sustainable Future
The more I research about running a sustainable business the more opportunities I find.
For example, I am planning to switch my website hosting to a server powered by 100% clean wind energy from UK wind farms. You might wonder what impact this change can have. But the powering of data centres and cloud computing run on fossil fuels is coming close to rivalling the aviation industry as a major contributor to global carbon emissions.3
There is also the possibility of switching to a green, ethical insurer.
I hope after reading this piece you understand why sustainability is so crucial to us and the planet. It matters because sustainable solutions help us manage the balance between the environment and consumption. In conclusion, the issues might seem global and out of our reach but I believe the simple choices we make, day in and day out, can have an effect. The choices we make collectively have a huge impact. Moreover, from a personal standpoint I am happier knowing that what I do had a positive effect on the world, not a negative one.