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House Curious

Lifestyle and interior shop. Social workshops for the creatively curious.

Filtering by Tag: plastic free

Week 3. Climate Change - Be Carbon Positive

Sommer Pyne

Photo: Jacqui Scruby

Photo: Jacqui Scruby

We’re really excited to have Jacqui back with us again this week to talk about going carbon neutral and tips on how to offset your carbon footprint.

All these tips come from a non-judgemental place and are tools to help you understand what options are available. We understand that it may be hard to implement all these ideas but if you’re like me you just do what you can. Every positive action we make, not matter how small, collectively will have a big impact.

We hope you find the info below useful and do let us know what changes you and your family have made or going to make. Thanks, Sommer x

The Low Down on Offsetting

To offset a single 4 hour return flight, you'll pay about $7USD. With our current climate emergency - is there any justification for not doing this? Have a read to understand why and how you can offset your travel and your life.

Over the last couple of weeks we've focused on travelling zero waste which is a great way to reduce the environmental impact of your travel. But whilst plastic is a huge problem - Climate Change is the biggest problem facing our world and unfortunately, air travel is a major contributor to it (making up 2% of global emissions and a large proportion of your personal emissions depending on how much you travel).

This puts all of us who care for the environment, but love to travel, in a moral dilemma. Without a doubt the most eco approach is to not fly (latest UK stats show 1 in 7 people are prepared to make that commitment), and whilst you may cut back on flying, let's be real - we're human and it's likely that some holidays will be a vice we're not willing to sacrifice.

That's where offsetting comes in - paying for projects that will even the scales and take out of the atmosphere equivalent amounts of carbon dioxide that your flights produce (or defer emissions that would otherwise be going into the atmosphere but for your investment to stop them). From tree planting to renewable energy - these projects would not happen unless you pay for them to (a concept called additionality). In a nutshell if you can't plant trees yourself - you're paying for someone else to do it for you.

Photo: Jacqui Scruby

Photo: Jacqui Scruby

Don't let the haters stop you!

Sounds good in theory - but you may have heard rumblings that offsetting is a waste of money or a cop out. It's controversial for a range of reasons - including that the emissions may have been reduced anyway, the trees planted may not survive for the length of time required to sequester carbon or that the concept of offsetting fails to dissuade people from flying - acting as a 'get-out-of-climate-guilt-free-card'.

Whilst there are legitimate arguments - I urge you to rise above it and realise that at the end of the day - if someone is planting a tree on your behalf it's worth it. If you're not the person who doesn't sponsor a child with World Vision because they think the child will only receive 80% of the money - then don't be that person with offsets either. If you have serious reservations - put your money where your mouth is and pay more for Gold Standard offsets (see below).

Let's not forget, organisations providing verified offsets are audited and meet standards set by the United Nations. Like all investments, there is an inherent risk of uncertainty, similar to sponsoring a child or donating to other charities - but at the end of the day the work that is done can't be denied.

The fact is, we already have too much carbon in the atmosphere. Already too much means we shouldn't be adding any more and the only way to do that if we are adding is to take it out and avoid putting more in there. Simplistic but true. Whilst the greatest pressure should be on governments, industry and the biggest polluters to legislate and innovate - that's not happening at the moment - so if you are privileged enough to travel - then, I believe you are obligated to offset and at least make your travel carbon neutral but even carbon positive (by buying more).

Here are my tips on how and why you should purchase offsets for your travel.

Photo: Jacqui Scruby

Photo: Jacqui Scruby

1. Commit to buying offsets

Don't debate whether to offset each flight or ship travel. Have a family meeting and make the commitment upfront now as a family that you will offset your travel. If you need to be convinced - do your research, soul searching, and dinner table discussions to satisfy yourself and stop the constant questioning in your head. The best thing to do is talk to an 8 year old and try and give them all the excuses for why you think you shouldn't buy an offset. Chances are you'll find there's no real justification.

2. Fly Less

Some people are committing to no longer flying but most of us won't or can't do this. What we can do is commit to really trying to reduce our flights and cutting any unnecessary flights as well as critically analysing whether we need to fly into holiday planning. If you fly for work - try to reduce those flights first by using video conferencing. If you travel to Europe why not travel by train and opt for it even if it is a little bit more expensive. Make the rest of your life as carbon neutral as possible so your overall footprint isn't huge.

3. Offset Even When There's no Box to Tick

Unfortunately offsetting isn't as easy as ticking a box. Some airlines offer offsetting but many don't. By all means make it easy for yourself and offset and tick the box when it's there. But when it's not - have a short list of companies that provide offsets that you can go straight to in order to calculate your own emissions and offset independently. If possible support airlines such as KLM, Air New Zealand and Qantas that have an offset program and are leading the way in cutting single use plastic and investigating how to reduce carbon emissions.

4. Pick an Offset Company and Stick with It

Check out the companies that offer offsets and calculators and choose the ones you want to support to make it efficient each time you offset. My favourite companies are below - they offer a range of projects that you and your kids can choose from. If you want the highest standard then you can choose Gold Standard that are rigorously verified by the UN as projects worthy of countries to purchase to meet the emission requirements under the Kyoto Protocol. These are approximately $18USD/per tonne of CO2. However, it's not necessary to choose these projects for your offsets as there are other schemes and projects that are excellent and meet other standards that are audited and verified - but they are about half the price at about $7USD/tonne. Our family pays $7USD/tonne.

5. Pick Project that Resonate with Your Values - Get the Kids Involved.

I personally love tree-planting projects as I love the idea of regenerating the earth. However, these weren't included under the Kyoto protocol as there are issues of permanence (they could burn or be cut down in the future) and don't address shifting away from fossil fuels. Don't let the politics of it all confuse you - if they are listed by a reputable company just trust in the process and go for it. My kids love purchasing from projects that also help communities in developing countries.

Getting the kids involved each time helps them understand Climate Change and the connection between emissions and how to get CO2 out of the air.

My Favourite Websites Are:

FlyGreen - If you book your flights through this website to company uses its commissions to buy your offsets meaning your offsets are free.

Cool Effect - Cool Effect has a very simple carbon calculator and affordable offsets at about $7/tonne CO2 (about a return 4 hour flight). There are a range of projects to choose from and all your money goes to offsetting.

World Land Trust - If you want our national hero David Attenborough's stamp of approval go with World Land Trust. They have a carbon calculator and offer offsets and David Attenborough himself states "The money that is given to the World Land Trust, in my estimation, has more effect on the wild world than almost anything I can think of".

Gold Standard - These offsets will be more expensive as they undergo the most rigorous assessments designed for nations to use to help them meet the Kyoto requirements. I don't think you need to go this far - but if you have doubts - spend the extra money and go with Gold Standard.

Offset Earth - This company is a great resource for offsetting your emissions on a monthly basis. It also helps you track and reduce your impact. Depending on your lifestyle you can offset your emissions for £4/week

5. Keep Calculating Simple

Don't get confused about calculating. Use a simple calculator such as Cool Effects or World Land Trust to calculate your flight and annual emissions. Don't get bogged down in detail - just use a calculator and roll with the estimates. If you want to err on the side of caution or be carbon positive (because we need to do more than just be neutral), then purchase a few more offsets. For ship travel - assume it's the same as airline travel and go with that.

6. Pay as You Go

I'm a big believer in paying for your offsets as you go. Firstly, this approach means you don't cop the cost in one big hit but it also means that you are engaged with the impact of each flight. If kids are involved it helps build the direct connection between actions and impact.

7. Don't stop there

It doesn't cost a lot to make your life carbon neutral. Go through life and teach your kids the attitude "do your best, offset the rest". Use the World Land Trust calculator to determine your emissions for the year - it doesn't need to be perfect.

Doing your best in your normal life means:

- Reducing meat intake

- Purchasing certified renewable electricity for the home - my favourite company is Ecotricity - with the added bonus that they have great customer service.

- Having no car, one car or a hybrid and opting for public transport when you can.

- Hanging clothes out and instead of using the dryer.

- Flying less.

- Generally buying less things, taking up less space (not having a huge house) and buying locally to reduce transport emissions.

- Using the search engine Ecosia - for phone and desktop - they plant a tree every 45 searches.

The Bigger Picture

At the end of the day, individual action is a drop in the ocean - but where it really comes to play is the impact it has on influencing huge government and industry changes. By modelling climate aware practices at home - you're creating a trend that will cause governments to act, supporting companies who are doing the right thing to grow and creating little humans that grow up into industry and country leaders that rule the world with this ethos.

Photo: Jacqui Scruby

Photo: Jacqui Scruby

To get daily inspiration follow Jacqui on instagram @jacqui.scruby or if you want extra help to live a plastic free luxe life check out her 6 weeks online course to going plastic free www.6weekstoplasticfree.com @6weekstoplasticfree and www.jacquiscruby.com

Also if you missed the previous blog posts in this series you can check it out here:

Week 1. Plastic Free Travel - What you need to pack

Week 2. Plastic Free Travel - Mindset and Behaviour

Week 2. Plastic Free Travel - Mindset and Behaviour

Sommer Pyne

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Turtles in Kastellorizo swimming through rubbish and microplastics. We regularly get nets to clean the harbour but are ridiculed by locals who refuse to do the same.

Turtles in Kastellorizo swimming through rubbish and microplastics. We regularly get nets to clean the harbour but are ridiculed by locals who refuse to do the same.

Be vocal

A lot of locals in remote islands or in other places around the world are not as aware of plastic and environmental issues as the UK. Often they have the mentality that if they didn't put the rubbish there it's not theirs to clean - when it's a responsibility for all of us. They care about tourists but don't see any connection between the environment and tourism. That means tourists have a huge opportunity to make a difference and make locals care by realising it may impact tourism. Speak up and say that you don't want single use water cups or straws at a seaside restaurant. If you're at a water front restaurant, tell them nicely that you're not eating with them if the water is filthy or if there are straws all over the beach. On the flip side - speak up and tell them how much you love their efforts if they are making efforts. We found places in Sri Lanka and Formentera with metal straws and glass jars for smoothies - so we wrote great reviews for them on Tripadvisor.

Mention in person and then rant or rave on Tripadvisor - business owners and locals will soon see that the environment impacts tourism.

We factor in extra time to sit down for a meal rather than grab takeaway - Sushi is more fun with a sushi train.

We factor in extra time to sit down for a meal rather than grab takeaway - Sushi is more fun with a sushi train.

Beach Cafe in Formentera serving smoothies in glass with metal straws.

Beach Cafe in Formentera serving smoothies in glass with metal straws.

Be a Slow Traveller

Be a slow traveller and sit down for meals. As convenient as Pret and M&S are, we now get to the airport a little earlier (totally out of character for me) and sit down to eat rather than grabbing take away. We have our takeaway containers and usually order extra to take as leftovers as we avoid plane food and snacks. It also means you are less likely to miss your flight!

Campo di Fiori, Rome - we looked for Airbnbs that were next to Rome's largest food market

Campo di Fiori, Rome - we looked for Airbnbs that were next to Rome's largest food market

Trapani in Sicily, again we chose an airbnb near the local market.

Trapani in Sicily, again we chose an airbnb near the local market.

Seeking out bulk food and zero waste shops - in Lyon.

Seeking out bulk food and zero waste shops - in Lyon.

Stay Near Markets or Agritourismos

We love picking Airbnbs so we can cook and select those that are near markets so popping downstairs each morning and collecting everything we need whilst immersing ourselves in local life. In Rome we stayed above Piazza Di Fiori and in Trapani we have the local market downstairs. It makes a huge difference living by a market as you have a real local experience every day and don't have far to carry the groceries! In Mallorca we stayed at an Agritourismo with chickens and a veggie garden that the girls could access every morning to help collect eggs and food.

Freshly picked coconut cut to make its own spoon in Sri Lanka.

Freshly picked coconut cut to make its own spoon in Sri Lanka.

Search for Zero Waste Shops

Unfortunately markets don't usually have everything. So I do a quick googles search for zero waste or bulk food shops when I arrive somewhere. The website https://www.bepakt.com/ is a great reference for a list of locations. We then spend time in our first few days checking them out and doing our shopping. Often we visit a few to cover all our needs, finding ones with milk in glass is a real treat. It gives us a sense of direction as soon as we arrive somewhere and it is a bit of an adventure.

Collecting eggs in the morning from Son Mesquida Vell.

Collecting eggs in the morning from Son Mesquida Vell.

Seeking out plastic free cheese in the markets in Sardinia.

Seeking out plastic free cheese in the markets in Sardinia.

Make Zero Waste Fun

Whether it's at a bulk food shop and supermarket, we make it a treasure hunt seeking out food with either no packaging or in glass or tin (that is readily recyclable). My kids love going on the hunt for yoghurt in glass or finding nuts at the markets to make nut milk. We also seek out local activities related to food production, such as cheesemaking or mushroom foraging and of course embrace local foods for breakfast - such as olives, cucumbers and eggs.

Foraging in Greece - carob, pomegranate and figs

Foraging in Greece - carob, pomegranate and figs

Foraging in Greece for wild figs

Foraging in Greece for wild figs

Forage

Ok, it sounds a little wanky but it's anything but! If you're in a location that lends itself, engage with your food and forage for some. If you have kids it's a great way to connect them with the environment and teach them about local flora and cuisine. Have a forage and then include what you find in your next meal. My kids hated pomegranate until they picked it off the tree themselves. The Mediterranean islands are full of wild herbs, succulents, figs and carob and of course the allusive prickly pear. France has mushrooms and sunflower heads full of seeds, everywhere has something. My daughter and I have spent a good 2 hours trying to remove the micro-needles from our prickly pear foraging experience - but it hasn't deterred us, the harder to get, the more you want it right?

Foraging in Greece - local succulents to use in salads.

Foraging in Greece - local succulents to use in salads.

Foraging in Greece - Sage.

Foraging in Greece - Sage.

Learning how to say 'no plastic' in the language of the country you are in, this is Italian.

Learning how to say 'no plastic' in the language of the country you are in, this is Italian.

Get Down with the Lingo

The best way to communicate that you don't want plastic is to learn how to say 'no plastic' in the language of the country you are in. I find people so responsive when we have clearly made the effort to learn a little bit of the language! I get the girls to look up on google translate how to say 'no plastic' in which ever language we need to use.

Beach Clean in Sri Lanka. We limited the clean to outside our house - otherwise the kids would have cleaned all day.

Beach Clean in Sri Lanka. We limited the clean to outside our house - otherwise the kids would have cleaned all day.

Do a Clean and use Hashtags

You're on holiday - it's not your responsibility to clean all the time but I feel that I can't let my kids think waste in nature is normal - and the only way to get that message across is to do something about it. We mix it up with small cleans and larger beach cleans.

For a larger clean, get in touch with a local Facebook group to see if there's anyone who can join you - just search your location and there are likely to be groups. Take pics, post on social media and use hashtags such as #2minutebeachclean #TAT #TAT*yourlocation* #trashchallenge or #3forthesea. Don't let unattractive pictures stop you posting. If you have a pretty social media account hide the waste pics in a gallery and make the leading pic pretty - the end result.

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Unfortunately sometimes the only way to do a clean is to use plastic bags as hessian aren't available. But it's a judgement call - it's better to do that and remove the waste from a vulnerable area such as a beach than leave it in nature.

Quick 2 minute clean in Croatia at the Krka Waterfalls.

Quick 2 minute clean in Croatia at the Krka Waterfalls.

My kids pick up waste all the time so I actually have to put rules around it i.e. 2 Minute Beach Clean, and teach them it's not their job to do it all the time everywhere. I also make sure that if they are building a sandcastle of fairy house they only use items from nature to decorate, not trash.

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Offset your travel

Finally - as much as plastic is a problem, the greatest challenge of our time is climate change. One of the greatest ways we as individuals can reduce emissions is to reduce air and boat travel. There is already too much carbon in the atmosphere, so there's a moral imperative to not add to the problem. Offsetting comes in because we can't plant our own trees en-mass or create renewable electricity in developing countries. We offset all our travel and more using Cool Effect https://www.cooleffect.org/ and their simple calculator, getting our kids involved in choosing a project. It's a small cost - sometimes as little as £7.

Then remember - have fun! It's almost impossible to be plastic free - but your efforts to be imperfectly plastic free will make a difference far beyond the actual trash you save. You'll be influencing your children, friends and over time - regulators. When you do use plastic - do it mindfully, like you would having a treat if you follow a healthy diet. If you have a plastic binge - like one trip to M&S in desperation - use it as a time to reflect on how much plastic is created in a single purchase and how far you've come by usually avoiding it. Awareness is everything.

Turtles in Kastellorizo - who often swim through rubbish and microplastics with no effort made by locals or the municipality to clean the area.

Turtles in Kastellorizo - who often swim through rubbish and microplastics with no effort made by locals or the municipality to clean the area.

To get daily inspiration follow Jacqui on instagram @jacqui.scruby or if you want extra help to live a plastic free luxe life check out her 6 weeks online course to going plastic free www.6weekstoplasticfree.com @6weekstoplasticfree and www.jacquiscruby.com

Also if you missed last weeks blog post you can check it out here Week 1. Plastic Free Travel - What you need to pack.

Week 1. Plastic Free Travel - What you need to pack

Sommer Pyne

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Like me I’m sure you’re trying to do your bit for our beautiful planet and I’m a huge believer if we all make little changes it can have a big positive impact. Like most people I try not to use single use plastic, we’re slowly making the switch in our kitchen to go plastic free and we don't use plastic bags (unless I forget and then I feel super guilty but that's just the away it is sometimes). Where I fail most dramatically is when I go on holiday and this really hit home on our most recent holiday to Mallorca. The amount of plastic bottles being sold is frightening and worse still most of that won’t end up being recycled. So over the next four weeks my good friend Jacqui Scruby is going to share her tips and hacks to traveling plastic free. Jacqui inspires me every day with her eco warrior spirit and her war against plastic. To get daily inspiration follow Jacqui on instagram @jacqui.scruby or if you want extra help to live a plastic free luxe life check out her 6 weeks online course to going plastic free www.6weekstoplasticfree.com @6weekstoplasticfree and www.jacquiscruby.com

Travelling with young children in tow has it's challenges. Add plastic free travel to the mix and it may sound like more trouble that it's worth (my husband definitely thought so). But what I thought may be challenging has turned out to be an incredibly fun journey. Travelling plastic free immerses us quickly into local life as we go on the hunt for local, sustainable and zero waste food, it teaches the children so much and is incredibly satisfying knowing we're not contributing to local plastic pollution.

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So how did it all start? Like most of us, my Pinterest Board was full of pictures of Mediterranean islands - dream worthy locations with crystal clear waters. But when I started to make these Pinterest dreams a reality, a cruel irony dawned on me. I suddenly realised that the most beautiful places in Europe have the worst waste management. On the island of Vis, Croatia, we rounded a coastal bend only to find a landfill site on a cliff within 200m of the ocean, directly above where MammaMia 2 was filmed (I've since found out this is standard on most Mediterranean islands). We've seen turtles swimming through plastic and beaches covered in trash and microplastics. But - it's not just these small islands - so many places you travel from Lisbon to Sri Lanka have a plastic water bottle culture - with tourist and locals buying litres per day instead of installing water filters.

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Personally, I felt I couldn't unsee the waste I'd seen whilst travelling. Couple that with knowing what I know about waste management, I wasn't comfortable contributing to it. It's become overwhelmingly important to me to show our kids that playing in sand full of microplastics is not normal but also that you can't criticise a local culture's waste management and then be part of the problem. So instead of acquiescing, we decided to embraced plastic free living both at home in London and in our travels.

Travel looks a little different now. Instead of arriving in a destination and planning visits to top restaurants as I did pre-kids - we now seek out bulk and health food shops, local markets and supermarkets. As ridiculous as it sounds, we actually get off on discovering what we can get without packaging or in glass. The kids treat it as a treasure hunt, running around markets and supermarkets to see what they can find. Every destination has it's unique challenges and unexpected bonuses which enriches our visit and provides invaluable insight into global waste management issues. Some places refuse to use our container to put meat in, other times we can't find yoghurt in glass which limits desserts. But then other times we'll walk into a supermarket and find some local homemade ice cream in glass which of course I can't say no to!

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We've embraced slightly slower travel. We sit down to eat rather than grab takeaway, we remember to bring our water bottle, smoothie jar and cutlery when we're out and we take the time to go to markets or local farms. We do one beach clean where we go and also get in contact with local sustainability groups via Facebook to see if there's any support we can give and to get their tips.

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We're not perfect - sometimes I give into the kids or if I feel they're really missing out I'll grab them something in plastic occasionally. Some things we still buy despite having a small amount of plastic like nut butter with a plastic lid if we can't find an alternative (after trying hard) - but all in all, we have nothing but organic waste and high quality recycling (glass, paper, metal) and NO plastic recycling as it's not readily recycled. We have hardly any waste going to landfill and I actually love leaving a place with the original plastic bag still in the bin (if I've been able to find composting for our organic waste)... and that's a great feeling when you're in places where you know waste management is, well, not managed at all.

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So what about your travels? You don't need to get obsessed to make a difference. One of my favourite quotes is "the world doesn't need one person doing zero waste perfectly, but a million people doing zero waste imperfectly". So here are my tips on how to reduce your plastic consumption whilst you travel and reap the new dimension it adds to your travel and family.

What to pack

My husband is as obsessed about travelling light as I am about travelling plastic free. Somehow we've managed to reconcile these two opposing interests and take a few essentials that allow us to significantly reduce our plastic use.

Here are my must-takes for any eco-conscious traveller.

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1. The 'Berkley Go' Water Filter + Water Bottles

This has to be the single best thing you can do when travelling to avoid plastic pollution - especially when in locations where you can't drink tap water. From Lisbon to Sri Lanka - people are purchasing millions of bottles of water each year when you can avoid all that plastic by simply filtering. The 'Berkey Go' filters everything from heavy metals and chemicals to parasites and bacteria. We just keep filtering and filling up our water bottles. If we're out and about and run out we either asks restaurants for filtered water or buy water in glass bottles.

I was recommending this product way before I was offered an affiliate code - but I now have one. So if you want free shipping just click here.

2. Market Bags and Tupperware

Markets across the world suffer from what I like to call 'The Market Paradox'. On one hand they are paradise for zero wasters with huge sacks of everything from nuts to rice, crates of veggies and fruit and deli cheese and meats, yet the only bags offered to put your produce in are plastic - completely undermining the plastic free potential (it drives me insane)! I always carry at least one cotton tote and four cotton bags that can be used for rice, cherry tomatoes or nuts. We also carry one tupperware container that we can take for meats or cheeses. Being the smoothie addicts we are - we don't go anywhere without our Yeti smoothie / juice jar - especially to the beach (this is the one item the kids don't complain about carrying!).

You might need to sacrifice one or two pairs of shoes to squeeze these items in but that's it!

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3. Mini Blender - optional!

For the diehards out there I love my mini blender to make nut milks as it's almost impossible to find milk - dairy or no dairy in glass (tetra is the worst for recycling). It's far more efficient that an hand blender and charges with a USB on the computer! It's also great for smoothies on summer days. I bought a glass one on Amazon.

4. Toiletries - Using Less is Best

I'm all for eco alternatives to toiletries - as a lifestyle switch not just for travel - but overall the trick here is to simply take less so you're not disposing of empty bottles as you go. I refill my shampoo and conditioner at The Source Bulk Foods and then ration it out (with lots of non-washed hair days) The best advice here is try to reduce what you take. You probably don't need all your beauty products for a short holiday, or to wash your hair every day when you're swimming the whole time anyway. And of course, don't touch the small samples in hotels or the plastic cups.

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Jacqui Scruby is a health coach and personal eco shopping advisor in London. She's on a mission to make zero waste and plastic free living aspirational yet also efficient, easy and effective.

Prior to having her two gorgeous girls, she was an environmental lawyer and management consultant and has also owned her own homewares business.