Baby steps to better world

Liz Nicholls

shopping

Lucy Todd tells us about her journey from journalism to founding sustainable children’s clothing site My Little Green Wardrobe which has just turned one

Within a year, I went from being a mother of two with a steady job (and income), to the owner of an online business start-up in sustainable baby and childrenswear.

I have no background in fashion, sustainability or e-commerce. So what prompted such madness? Well, it started with a pair of wellies.

I learned of the impact the textile and fashion industry was having on the environment in my job at BBC News. The fashion industry is the third-largest manufacturing sector in the world, and one of its most carbon-intensive and polluting. It is also responsible for some of the most appalling working conditions, with child labour and forced labour among the litany of abuses. The change towards fast fashion over recent years has only made these problems worse.

While reducing my clothing consumption was fairly easy (after all, I already had a wardrobe of clothes that fit me), it wasn’t quite so simple for my children. They grow. ALL. THE. TIME.

My Little Green Wardrobe sells only brands that act more ethically than the current norm.

Deciphering the more sustainable brands from those that were greenwashing was hard. It took me a whole afternoon to buy just two products – a pair of wellies and a puddlesuit – from brands I was happy with. I’d gone down so many internet rabbit holes checking a brand’s ethos, where they manufactured, materials etc… Each time, I found the product or brand weren’t as planet-friendly as they made out. Why wasn’t there a website that sold only ethical and more sustainable kids clothing from pre-vetted brands? And when I eventually bought those wellies (from a lovely Swedish brand, by the way), I decided that’s what I’d do.

My Little Green Wardrobe sells only brands that act more ethically than the current norm. I’ve come a long way since buying those wellies, when I felt like I needed a degree in materials science to understand the info some brands were giving. I’ve tried to make sustainability accessible to explain what brands are doing to improve their impact across the supply chain.

And don’t just take my word for it. Whether it’s organic cotton or recycled materials, all the brands I work with are certified, or use materials certified, by third-party organisations that guarantee environmental and social criteria. There is no perfectly “sustainable” item. – we’re looking for progression, not perfection.

What I lack in knowledge, I make up for in passion. And, if in doubt, to fall back on my old journalistic training: to ask questions. That’s what I’d urge you to do of the ethical brands you shop from too. After all, without transparency, there can be no sustainability.

Find out more

To shop My Little Green Wardrobe see their website mylittlegreenwardrobe.com

Cheers! Best wines for summer

Round & About

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Columnist Giles Luckett recommends some sensational summer sippers available locally.

Hello.

Summer is a brilliant season for wine lovers. There’s nothing quite like being able to sit in the sun and sip some time away in the company of a diverting glass or two. Over the last 30 years, I’ve written dozens of best of the summer wines columns, most of them under strict deadlines.  Not because of pressure from my editor, but because spells of good weather have often lasted about as long as a bottle of Graham Beck Rosé (Majestic £11.99) lasts in my house. The current two-person record being 14 minutes and 18 seconds.

That certainly isn’t a problem this year. And with the forecast for our part of the country giving better odds on cloudy with a chance of meatballs than rain, here are some summer sipping wine recommendations that should bring a smile to even parched lips.

First up, a fizz. I’ve always been passionate about sparkling wines, and the last few years have proved a golden age. When I joined the wine trade, Harrods’ wine department reflected the mood of the times by listing a wide range of Champagnes but virtually no sparkling wines.

This was great for tastings – the evening we spent tasting every Champagne in the shop was one of the best tastings I’ve ever attended – but woeful for the wallet. Good (drinkable) sparkling wine was rarer than a hen’s dentures, but how things have changed…

South Africa, Australia, California, France (who knew?), and Italy all offer great tasting; great value fizzes these days. For this column, though, I’m going to recommend a homegrown wine, the Denbies Whitedowns (Waitrose £18.99). This is everything you could wish for in a sparkling wine. From the fresh, floral, white berry nose to the refined, zesty palate with its flavours of pears, citrus, and peach stones, it’s complex as it is and refreshing.

There's nothing quite like being able to sit in the sun and sip some time away in the company of a diverting glass or two.

Next up, the first of two whites. CUNE is one of the great names of Rioja. Wines such as Vina Real and Imperial are the stuff of wine trade legend, and even their entry-level Crianza (Sainsbury’s £7.50. No, seriously £7.50, I couldn’t believe it either) is brilliant. Their whites can be just as compelling, and the Cune White Rioja is deep joy Barrel fermented; this traditionally styled white Rioja offers masses of peach, red apple, and honeydew melon fruit, with overtones of spicy vanilla. Versatile enough to partner with white meats, fish, or creamy cheeses, it’s also lovely on its own.

My second white couldn’t be more different. It’s the Wine Society’s Vihno Verde (£6. ) Portugal’s wines have been a trade secret for years, though attention has focused on the reds. I’ve had quite a few of their whites of late, and if you’re looking for value and excellence, look no further. The Society’s Vihno Verde is a wonderfully pure, clean, fresh-tasting wine that is light, delicate, and has a touch of spritz to it Fruit-driven; it has a pear and almond flavour to it that finishes with a twist of lemon. The perfect summer evening sipper or elegant aperitif.

If you’re looking for a serious rosé for summer sipping, I can wholeheartedly recommend the Domaine des Echardieres (£9.50). This is made by Vineyard Productions, which is headed up by Liam Stevenson, the youngest ever Master of Wine and someone who holds world records for rowing across the Atlantic. Hero worship is due, especially when you try his wines. The dedication to the cause of creating great wines with a ‘taste of place’ shines through this delicious Loire Valley wine. Made from Cabernet Franc, Gamay, and Malbec, it offers an intriguing blend of blackberries and green peppers from the Cabernet, cherries from the Gamay, and a richness and a hint of ripe plums from the Malbec. This is an outstanding choice in a cluttered and often disappointing rosé market, where presentation counts for more than contents.

And so to the reds. My first choice is a perennial summer favourite of mine, the Zuccardi Los Olivos Malbec (£11.50 Oxford Wine Company). I’m a massive fan of Argentinean Malbec, and Zuccardi is one of the finest producers of it. Inky purple, the sumptuous nose is a combination of stewed black fruits, offset by notes of raspberries and rose petals. In the mouth, it’s generous, full, multi-layered, and offers everything from blackcurrants and chocolate to red berries and charcoal. This is an absolute must for barbecued red meats.

And finally, another wine from Liam, the Petite Immortelle (£11.95 Vin Cognito). This hails from the South of France’s Roussillon region and is a traditional blend of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, and Carignan. Earlier this year, I tried this with its big brother, the Immortelle (£20.95 Dawe Wines), and I knew that both would make my top ten wines of the year. The Petite Immortelle is approachable now (its big brother is a beast that needs time to show its full beauty) and offers up masses of sweetly toned black fruits, plum skins, smoke, herbs, and a long minerally finish. This is another outstanding wine from a winemaking team that is doing some fantastic things.

Until next time...

Well, that’s me, for now at least. Given a following wind and an available glass, I’ll be back soon with a few words on affordable fizz.

Giles

Get on Newbury town trail

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Newbury BID launch new Town Trail Maps to support Local Businesses

Newbury Business Improvement District (BID) is supporting the local independent retail sector with the launch of its brand-new Newbury Independent Retail Map.

The handy pocket is helping to raise awareness of Newbury’s growing independent scene and to support the local independent retail sector.

The handy pocket is helping to raise awareness of Newbury’s growing independent scene and to support the local independent retail sector.

Physical copies of the map have been distributed in matching display boxes to the 44 independent businesses featured. The map includes a brief description of each retailer and also signposts to specialist markets that take place in the town centre. You can view the map online here: visitnewbury.org.uk/independent-retail-map.

The aim for our Town Trail Maps is to help support and raise the profile of our local independent businesses and our wonderful town centre

Copies of the map produced by the BID are being introduced as part of a series of town centre maps for Newbury under the umbrella term ‘Newbury Town Trail Maps’.

Newbury BID, the not-for-profit organisation behind the Visit Newbury brand, is happy to announce the theme for the next map in the series will be a Dog-Friendly Trail Map. This map will promote 26 dog-friendly hospitality venues across the town centre and highlight five prominent dog-walking routes within walking distance of the town.

The map will also highlight the location of dog waste bins in the town centre and its surroundings to discourage dog litter and to encourage dog-walkers to use the map on a regular basis. With National Dog Day 2022 coming up in late August, the map is expected to launch in time for this nationally recognised day for dog-lovers in West Berkshire and across the country.

The map will also highlight the location of dog waste bins in the town centre

The BID has also confirmed that the third map in the Newbury Town Trail Map series due to launch this year will be an up-to-date and reformatted version of the Vegan-friendly Map. First launched in October last year, the updated map is due to be released around the year anniversary of the initial launch and will come in the new fold-out pocket size format.

Kirsty Lemberger, Marketing Manager at Newbury BID, says: “We’re delighted with our new Independent Retail Map for Newbury and hope these handy and beautifully illustrated maps will be kept in the pockets and handbags of local residents and visitors alike for their next visit to the town centre.

“The aim for our Town Trail Maps is to help support and raise the profile of our local independent businesses and our wonderful town centre, and we hope the new look and feel of these pocket maps will make it even easier to do so.”

Maps are available to collect across the town centre at most businesses featured on the map, and from Newbury Library, West Berkshire Museum, and in the Old Town Hall.

If you run a business in Newbury town centre and would like to be included on an upcoming map, please email:

Find out more

To find out more about what’s happening in Newbury this summer, please visit: visitnewbury.org.uk/newburys-calling.

Gilt trip!

Liz Nicholls

shopping

Liz Nicholls chats to Nat & Ko, whose emporium Gilt & Grain in Southmoor is adding style & pizzazz to homes big and small.

Forget the pub… for more than 2,000 interiors fans, the Friday evening new stock email from Gilt & Grain is the real start of the weekend.

The weekly mail drop of fresh treasures has a sales rate most businesses can only dream of, with more than 60% of items snapped up this way. If you see something you like, you’d better buy it quickly as the beautiful, eclectic items go like hot cakes, as I learned to my cost recently.

I am now primed for buying, which is how I became proud owner of an enormous Tudor-meets Bridgerton upholstered headboard last weekend.

“Customers often refer to the Friday evening email as one of the highlights of their week due to the eclectic list of items,” Ko tells me. “When it arrives they know it is the beginning of their weekend!”

If you see something you like, you’d better buy it quickly as the beautiful, ecletic items go like hot cakes

Gilt & Grain has a gorgeously curated bricks-and-mortar shop in a lovingly restored 19th century chapel featuring a steel mezzanine. But one of the reasons Gilt & Grain has such a loyal fanbase is the couple’s decision to have a strong online presence by operating a website that is updated daily with multiple photographs and dimensions of each item of furniture.

After turning 40, after 24 years as a self-employed carpenter mainly working on period houses, Nat decided to start selling antiques and paintings on Ebay. After 18 months, a run-down shop became available in Oxford which he thought would be good for storage.

And after 20 years in retail Ko, who was at the time manager for TOAST on the High Street, was looking for a new challenge. The East Oxford treasure trove won a loyal customer base (me included) for a few years before the Old Chapel called…

The couple still live in Oxfordshire, and their two-year-old cocker spaniel Millie can often be found lending a paw in the shop.

“Our own interior aesthetic is eclectic,” adds Nat. “Our home is full of what I love whether mid-century or Georgian period furniture. I’ve always believed good design from any period, if carefully selected, can always look good together. We take very little notice of trends so this means interior designers often pick up rather good buys from us! Bamboo and rattan furniture is still selling very swiftly as is furniture with bobbin-turned legs. Due to Instagram, trends are now so swift that they come and go without us even noticing!”

Buying antique and used furniture is sustainable: a lot of the furniture Gilt & Grain sells is at least 200 years old and still perfectly usable, practical and very attractive.

“In recession people look around to save money and antiques are still very affordable,” adds Ko. “For example we recently sold a beautiful Regency sideboard for £185 with the original receipt from a LAPADA member dealer which the previous deceased owner originally purchased in the late 1980s for £1,895. We also often sell used modern good quality or designer pieces as greatly reduced sums.”

Find out more

Thanks to their good eye and high turnover, the shop attracts people from all walks of life, including some high-profile celebrities… And you might hear Ko practising the cello with Millie. Or else join the club of subscribers. Fight you for the best bits!

Visit giltandgrain.com

M&S Food collaborate with Tom Kerridge

Karen Neville

shopping

M&S Food has joined forces with Michelin-starred chef, and father, Tom Kerridge on an exciting new partnership, kicking off with a brand new meal planner to help customers serve up delicious, pocket-friendly family meals this summer.

M&S Food has joined forces with Michelin-starred chef, and father, Tom Kerridge on an exciting new partnership, kicking off with a brand new meal planner to help customers serve up delicious, pocket-friendly family meals this summer.

Tom’s meal planner is packed full of products from the M&S Remarksable Value* range and includes a shopping list full of great value, quality ingredients with easy-to-follow recipes that’ll give you five mid-week meals for a family of four, with handy tips for any leftovers.

Each of the recipes comes in at under £2 per person – giving customers an M&S-quality meal, created by a Michelin-starred chef, for less than the price of a cup of coffee and all prices of the ingredients in the meal planner will be locked for the whole summer.**

Developed around ‘ALL taste, less waste’ the planner includes recipes such as Chipotle Chicken Thighs with Herby Rice, with tips to turn any leftovers into a burrito bowl for lunch the following day, and Sweet & Spicy Sausage, Carrot & Broccoli Bake, with an amazing hack for turning the leftover broccoli stalk into its very own pesto.

Tom knows a thing or two about how to create delicious family meals on a budget

Following the success of his recent Full Time Meals campaign with footballer Marcus Rashford, Tom knows a thing or two about how to create delicious family meals on a budget. He told M&S Food Magazine: “One of the big things is having a shopping list and an understanding of menu prepping and meal planning, knowing what you’re going to cook over the next five or seven days. Build together the recipes you’re going to cook, and only buy what you need – a little bit of structure works really well.”

As well as being famous for his Michelin-starred ‘pub classics’, Tom is well known for his stances on sustainable farming, supporting British farmers and reducing food waste.

M&S won’t compromise on quality

He said: “I think people are always surprised when they realise prices at M&S are much more competitively priced than they’d expect, especially on most of the things you’d buy on a weekly shop like milk, butter, cheese, bread, pasta and veg. And I think the quality behind those products is still absolutely top notch. The eggs are still free-range, the mince is completely traceable. M&S won’t compromise on quality even with its Remarksable Value ingredients, and that’s something really important to me.”

All taste, less waste

Pick up the shopping list in store and scan the QR code to find the recipes and meal planner online, or find it on the Marks & Spencer website

Make Mother‘s Day Lush 

Karen Neville

shopping

From Thursday 17th March, Lush will be offering an immersive pop-up experience in the lead up to Mother’s Day at Oxford’s Westgate shopping centre. 

There will be Lush gift concierges and product experts on-site to help customers handpick the perfect ethical gift for every need and guide them through the Lush Sleepy & Spa Pop-Up. 

Running until Sunday 27th March the activation is just in time for National Sleep Day on Friday 18th March when customers and their mother figures will be able to find a place to relax and unwind.

The Sleepy & Spa pop-up will host a tunnel where visitors can take a moment to immerse themselves into the space and learn practices to help them feel more calm and grounded. The journey will be an introduction to mindfulness including a complimentary hand and arm massage area for visitors to sit and relax with a Lush Spa therapist who will be teaching self-massage techniques. It’s time to slow down to speed up!

Lush Sleepy Range and limited products

Alongside Lush’s popular Sleepy range, customers will have access to purchase a limited amount of the Sleepy Candle, the Sleeping Giant Bombshell that is only available in Lush Anchor shops and Dreamtime Temple Balm, only found in Lush Spa locations. 

Customers will also be able to purchase vouchers for Lush Spa treatments. 

Lush Spa Treatments

Created to transform mind and body, Lush’s luxuriously pampering spa treatments are the perfect way to rejuvenate and revive. With eight Lush Spas to choose from and with treatment vouchers available in Lush shops nationwide, you could say that the Lush Spa is Lush’s best-kept secret.

Tell us your local news here

Decor delights

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Treat yourself to a day out and some shopping at Henley Decor Fair over the late bank holiday weekend 27th to 31st May 2021

Gary Wallis Reality TV star of The Restoration Workshop, UKTV Yesterday channel, is bringing back The Henley Décor Fair to Henley-on-Thames, held over this May Bank Holiday. Located by the Riverside in Henley-on-Thames RG9 3AP. Situated between Marlow and Henley-on-Thames, opposite the temple Island Henley Royal Regatta start.

This is no ordinary Antique and Decorative Salvage Fair, Gary has combined his love of all things decorative with live musical entertainment and fabulous food to create a lifestyle festival of all things that inspire us all!!

The event has a vibe like no other and having such a picturesque riverside location is simply a bonus.

With over 150 of the top UK traders, including Antiques, reclaimed items, art, one off design pieces, bronzes, decorative mirrors, lighting, fireplaces, garden statuary, vintage fashion, leather jackets and quirky items not found on the high street to classic boats, cars and motorbikes.

Antique celebrities from Salvage Hunters: The Restorers will be on hand to give advice. Plus, featured experts from the show Restoration Workshop Stitch and Twine and Zinc Décor will have items from the TV series on display and for sale.

Something for Everyone!

BOOK YOUR TICKETS NOW at www.henleydecorfair.com

EVENT TIMES
THURSDAY 27th MAY 8.30AM TRADE ONLY DAY
FRIDAY 28th MAY 10.00AM to 6.00PM
SATURDAY 29th MAY 10.00AM to 11.00PM
SUNDAY 30th MAY 10.00AM to 9.00PM
MONDAY 31st MAY 10.00AM to 5.00PM

LoLo app

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How about being rewarded when you shop and eat? That’s the simple idea behind a new app – LoLo which has just launched in Reading.

The loyalty app encourages customers and businesses to be true to their high street and buy and eat at local retailers and restaurants.

And it couldn’t be simpler to use, all you need to do is download the app and you’ll get free access to £20 of ‘loyalty tokens’ to receive discounts at multiple participating businesses.

The mobile app has three functions: LoLo Local – for local high street retailers businesses, tradespeople and more all giving discounts by accepting local loyalty tokens; LoLo Eats – whether eating in or enjoying a takeaway at home there’s a discount to tuck into too; LoLo Mall – major retailers will offer exclusive discounts to members.

The app means shoppers enjoy discounts and businesses get to connect with customers to help them build creating vibrant communities.

LoLo co-founder and CEO, Ian Jones said: “The beauty of LoLo is the more local businesses and customers that join the free loyalty platform, the more they will all benefit.  Each time a customer makes a purchase with a local business using their loyalty tokens, they receive more tokens back that they can then spend again at the same business or redeem at another participating shop, mechanic, butcher or restaurant. LoLo is the gift that just keeps giving.

“Every time people spend money they are casting a vote on the future community they want. If we want vibrant local communities then we must support the local businesses who employ local people and pay local business taxes.

“When we spend money with international online giants we send the money away from our community and add to the local decline.

Supporting local businesses helps to keep the money circulating in our local community.”

You’re a winner and the business is a winner too – so what are you waiting for! 

Download the app

Autism hour

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For autistic people every day experiences such as trips to the shops can be challenging which is why the National Autistic Society is asking everyone to do their bit and help.

October 5th marked the start of Autism Hour which runs over the course of the week until Saturday 12th.

Shops and businesses are asked to dim their lights and reduce noise to help create a calmer atmosphere for autistic shoppers.

The campaign is being sponsored by The Entertainer for the second year. The toy shop chain holds autism hours every Saturday to make the experience less overwhelming.

There are more than 700,000 autistic people in the UK but only 16 per cent feel the public understand them. Last year, more than 11,000 businesses including The Entertainer, Argos, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s took part in the National Autism Society’s autism hour campaign, taking the first steps to create autism friendly communities in the UK.

Why not ask your local shops to join in? The NAS website has a prepared letter you can hand to local retailers asking them to take part and explaining what’s involved.

There are two key parts to autism hour:

Make adjustments to the shop so it is less overwhelming, turn down any music and other background noise and dim the lights if it is safe to do so

Share information about autism with staff
Autism Hour can make a real difference but many businesses go further by holding the hours every week or month.

Among those extending this commitment is Reading’s Oracle shopping centre which last week launched a weekly ‘quiet hour’ to make shopping accessible for all.

The Quiet Hour will take place between 9.30am and 10.30am every Tuesday when the new initiative will see ambient lighting, music and tannoy announcements either turned off or down to a minimum to ensure the centre is accessible to all shoppers in Reading.

Andy Briggs, general manager at The Oracle, said: “At The Oracle we pride ourselves in offering a fantastic shopping and leisure experience for everyone.

“We strive to offer a safe and comfortable space for friends and family to shop, connect and have fun and the introduction of our weekly Quiet Hour is just another step in our ongoing efforts to ensure a great experience for all.”

Find out more

For more information, visit the Customer Service Desk on Level 1 or call

0118 965 9000