We highlight the best in environmental art; including both painters and writers. We give you the low down on the green figures within the creative world, and what makes them so special. They all seem to have tireless energy, genuine passion for natural beauty and appreciate life’s often overlooked simple hidden wonders.

Eco artists and writers
Eco artists and writers

Joseph Beuys  (pictured above) – sculptor and installation artist

The hat wearing conceptual German environmental artist is an inspiration to artists and environmentalists alike. Many of his creations have environmental themes – notably “I love America and America loves me” where he spends 8 hours over three days locked in a room with a coyote.  He produced possibly the most eco art work ever with “7000 Oaks” where he and his assistants both highlighted and regenerated the poor environment by planting 7000 Oak trees around the city of Kassel. However, Beuys makes this list not only for his art, but also for his work towards environmental action. He helped setup Germany’s Green Party, and was elected as a candidate for election in the European Parliament. He spent much of the profit from his art on conservation causes, and protested for environmental matters all throughout his life.

Thoreau – Writer (1817 – 1862)

The American transcendentalist nature writer, inspiration to everyone that has ever thought of nature writing or ecology in the last 100 years, he remains a voice of reason.

Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify

That man is the richest whose pleasures are the cheapest

What is the use of a house if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it on?

Typical Thoreau quotes, emphasising his stand point that the more rewarding pastimes are often the most basic. A rhetoric speaker of unusual common sense, fearlessly out spoken and well ahead of his time – he is arguably the person who forged the main stream back bone of Environmentalism more than any other.

Annie Dillard – Writer

A person that always aims to get as much out of everyday as possible – she teaches, writes poems essays and novels and draws and paints. Her most famous novel, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek – a purposely slow paced book paying attention to the often overshadowed wonders of the natural world, she brings the reader into the reality and daily life of insects and frogs. Dillard is a much needed opposition against the impatient and throw away culture the seeps through much of today’s world.

Spend the afternoon. You can’t take it with you.

John Constable – Painter

Painting in a time when artists were expected to produce portraits and depict religious scenes, Constable went against the grain and painted beautiful and wild landscapes. He was exceptionally talented and would have become wealthy as well as being admitted entrance into the Royal academy early on in his career, if not for his love and burning desire to capture the rugged atmospheric landscape. At the time the idea environmentalism may not have existed, however many who gaze at his paintings maybe left with a longing for loose natural scenery and become aware of the slow pace of life and that used to exist prior to the industrial revolution.

Andy Goldsworthy – sculptor/photographer

Using the environment to make his works – most are of a temporary nature and so a photograph or video is the only way to preserve them long term. Sometimes it seems sad that his work will melt away or be washed into the sea, but this is the real beauty of his work – allowing people to appreciate the moment. He emphasises sustainability in his works – as they leave no trace on the landscape apart from the occasional cluster of flowers, plants, or mound of stones. Often his works are huge and require many people to make them and as such are full of community spirit. A true environmental artist, Goldsworthy is a leader in the field today.

New research shows that about half of the UK population feel they have lost the practical skills of their grandparents’ generation with 45% admitting they have fewer cooking skills and 47% say they are less able to grow their own food.

Eco kids composting
Eco kids composting

The Food for Life Partnership works with more than 1,300 schools across England to ensure the next generation will be better equipped for the future than their parents by getting them growing and cooking in school.

Through the extensive Food for Life Partnership award scheme, schools get the guidance to transform their food culture and engage pupils, parents and the local community along the way. From Bronze, through Silver to Gold, schools set up organic gardens, cooking clubs and pupils visit farms and eat healthy, climate-friendly school dinners.

Late last month, the Food for Life Partnership launched the Food Growing Manual, which is a comprehensive growing resource, produced by one of the Partners, Garden Organic, for all schools enrolling on the Food for Life Partnership. The Food Growing Manual will enable schools to successfully develop their own gardens and produce edible crops for children, parents, teachers and communities to enjoy.

Food for Life Partnership manager at Garden Organic, Colette Bond, says:

“Teaching children to grow food puts them in touch with the land, familiarises them with the seasons and encourages healthier eating. On a wider level it also engages them with the food supply and helps them understand that food isn’t instant or ‘fast’ but that it takes time, energy and nurture to produce something edible.”

“Using the expert content of the manual, as well as the suggested activities and planting advice, we hope to develop a successful school garden, which will help the children to learn about growing their own food and eating seasonally. We also hope to use the garden to teach the curriculum and to reach out and involve everyone from staff and pupils right through to parents and the community.

The Food for Life Partnership aims to reconnect young people with growing, cooking, eating and appreciating climate-friendly, healthy and real food. Many schools in the Partnership are now using produce they have grown in their canteens, helping to make fresh, seasonal, organic produce a regular appearance on school dinner menus.

From now on, all schools signed up to the Food for Life Partnership will receive their own Food Growing Manual resource pack for free. To find out more or to enrol visit www.foodforlife.org.uk

In my quest to become a super eco-consumer I’ve run into the problem of eco-friendly fashion. Ever since green became the new black, a slew of labels have come out boasting organics, recyclable, re-used, biodegradable, chemical-free fashion products. Reading the labels I can do, but making sense of them proved to be a challenge.

After doing some vital research to sooth my mind, I put together some textile puzzle pieces and busted a few advertising tricks.

Confusing label #1– “100% organic wool”

Wait a minute: Wool is already all natural. It’s a natural material sheered from an animal.

Answer: Yes. But, a label advertising organic wool is referring to the animal itself. When an animal eats organic substances like grain or grass and is not injected with any hormones, then their wool is considered organic. These farmers are also usually “organic farmers” and are more conscious of the animal crop size, ensuring they have enough freedom and natural substance for growth and success.

Confusing label #2- “Eco- friendly polyester”

Wait a minute: Polyester is a synthetic fiber, so how can it be eco friendly?

Answer: Correct, sort of. Synthetic fibers are processed through a series of highly toxic chemicals and will not decompose naturally. A label that boasts eco friendly polyester (or any other synthetic fiber) is often recycled polyester which is either re-used polyester or made from discarded products such as plastic bottles. But it is important to note that it isn’t biodegradable.

Confusing label #3– “100% biodegradable silk”

Wait a minute: Isn’t all silk biodegradable?

Answer: Yes. Don’t be fooled by this label. Silk comes from silk worms which are boiled alive to preserve their cocoon fiber. Processing the silk takes several steps including chemical baths, bleaching and degumming process. More eco-friendly alternatives are ahimsa or peace silk. This technique allows the silk worms to transform into moths before the cocoon is used. Peace silk is still processed using degumming and bleaching, but companies usually take more responsibility for the chemicals they use. All silk is biodegradable. The more important thing to look for in a silk product is how it was manufactured.

With so many variables relating to this topic, you’d think there should be a standard that had to be met before a product claims to be green. There isn’t one tell all label to let shoppers know that the product they are purchasing was made ethically with good intentions and little waste. But Earth Pledge, which launched a Fashion Forward movement back in 2005,  did release a list of labels that meet different standards.  Some of the world wide labels are:

  • “GOTS” ensures the standard of organic status from harvesting to manufacturing to garment labeling.
  • “WRAP” is a non-profit organization dedicated to the certification of lawful, humane and ethical manufacturing throughout the world.
  • “Ecocert” label means the textile must contain 95% natural fibers and a maximum of 5% synthetic fiber.

I caught up with Leslie Hoffman, director of Earth Pledge (US) to ask some advice;

When looking to purchase fashion items it is wise to understand where it came from, what it is made of, what resources it took to create, and who made it. The more you know, the better choices you can make about its environmental and other impacts. Knowledge is power. Labels are but one way to become informed, but they help a lot if you are browsing in a store.

Ethical choices aren’t easy as Orsola de Castro, owner of the ethical label ‘from somewhere’ and co-curator of estethica (UK) stopped to give some jargon busting advice;

A little common sense goes a long way: pre-bleached, fake-wrinkled Denim? Very polluting. A piece of clothing without a country of origin? That too is dodgy. A dress under a tenner that isn’t on sale? Odd. Look for UK made, fairtrade and organic. Rememeber that Ethical labels will want you to know that they produce ethically.

As consumers like myself turn to those ethical choices and are demanding in knowing how and where are clothes are made, creative directors must keep up with demand.

Angie Kraft, Creative Director at Gecco Interiors also spared some time to give us some valuable consumer advice that can go a long way.

We are seeing the beginning of a move towards ethical fabrics but it is just the beginning. It is encouraging that large textile names such as Malabar, Camira Fabrics and Ian Mankin are investing in the development of sustainable fabrics, but many other well known companies are yet to be convinced and want to be shown that the market is there before they invest. Luckily, there are enough brave smaller textile mills who have accepted the fact that we cannot continue to produce fabrics as we have in the past and that all production will eventually have to go this way.

If we look at the growth of the organic food and fashion industries it shows that the ethical consumer is a growing group and one that needs to be catered for.

Shock yourself! – with these Halloween and Bonfire Night recipes with a spooky twist. These recipes are so simple to prepare, you can even get your kids or grandchildren to help you.

We’ve been speaking to the lovely people at Alpro to bring you these fabulous recipes in time for Halloween. Their products are naturally low in saturated fat and the products used here are also rich in calcium and vitamins. They also contain no artificial colours, preservatives or sweeteners. Of course, if you don’t want to use Alpro, then you can choose a suitable alternative – we’ll leave that up to you!

So let’s get down to business…

The Chocolate Mud Pie is served with mini apricot pumpkins, the Pumpkin Soup is obviously crammed full of pumpkin and the Witches Hat Meringues are… well, a little bit of what you fancy does you good – it is party food after all.

Pumpkin and Sweet Potato Soup

Makes 4 big bowls

2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
700g (1/b 6oz) pumpkin flesh, roughly chopped
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
1.2 litres (2pts) water or vegetable stock
200ml (7fl oz) Alpro soya alternative to milk
4 tbsp Alpro soya alternative to cream

For the breadsticks:
4 assorted part baked bread sticks
2 tbsp olive oil

1 Heat the olive oil in a large pan, add the onion and garlic and cook for a few minutes to soften.
2 Add the pumpkin and sweet potato and cook for a couple of minutes, then add the water or stock. Season with salt and ground black pepper, cover and bring to the boil, then simmer for 25 mins until the pumpkin and sweet potato are really tender.
3 Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200ºC (180ºC fan, Gas 6). Cut the bread in half lengthways, then make several cuts one third of the way up the length to look like broom bristles. Repeat with the other bread, put onto a large baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Bake for 5-8 mins until becoming golden.
3 Stir the Alpro soya Light into the soup, whiz everything together in blender or processor in batches until smooth. Return to the pan, gently warm through to serve. Pour into bowls and finish with a swirl of Alpro soya alternative to cream.

Chocolate Mud Pots with Pumpkins and Ghosts

Serves 4

2 pots Alpro soya dessert, chocolate flavour
8 ready to eat dried apricots
8 white marshmallows

1 Spoon the Alpro soya desserts into 4 small glasses.
2 Use a small sharp knife to cut out triangular eyes and a mouth (as you would carve a pumpkin face).
3 Dip a cocktail stick into the dessert and push twice into the marshmallows, to make eyes.
4 Thread an apricot and a marshmallow onto a cocktail stick. Repeat with the remainder and serve with the chocolate mud pots.