Inspiration for a life less plastic …

sunset surf beachIt’s easy to think that the sea will look after itself. That it’ll keep on doing what it does for millennia to come, just as it always has. And maybe we’d be forgiven for thinking that, seeing as on the surface, things look the same as ever. Big swell days, wild stormy days, sunlight bouncing off the water days. It gives, it takes and appears to be not in the least dependant on our actions, us humans that live and play by the sea, eating its fruits and taking in its beauty.

But how wrong we’d be to think that. To imagine that our actions are of no consequence and that this great body of water will cope with whatever we throw at it. The odd plastic coffee cup lid, the plastic bag, the fallen bottle top. Yet the sea is full of plastic. We see it along the tide lines – no longer the black and brown of bladderwrack and kelp, but full of the colours of every piece of plastic that has ever been made. Crisp wrappers found inside a dolphin, Epsom ink cartridges in the bellies of albatross chicks. These images are our siren calls to wake up, the ocean’s way of bringing our attention to something we’ve been doing that has to stop … now. Without this graphic visual evidence we’d carry on regardless – who doesn’t love the convenience of a tub of hummus or a smoothie on the go? It’s so easy to move with the ease and speed of ‘progress’. Being pulled along by the currents, doing what everyone else is doing, eating and buying whatever the supermarkets package up for us.

Going against the grain is hard, it takes effort to do something different. But as surfers we know what it’s like to do that. Some of us are still building up enough strength to paddle out, to get out back. And there are those of us already out there, calling us on, showing us how it can be done. Whilst I’m not one of those (yet!) when it comes to surfing, I am one of those living a life with less plastic. I heard the call of the seas and responded by doing everything I could to reduce my plastic consumption; travelling with refillable bottles and coffee cups, taking reusable bags to supermarkets, butchers and delis. I make bread and biscuits – despite being a single-mum with a busy job and a full life. I set up an organisation – City to Sea – that aims to make it easier and more fun for people to join in with this way of life – and I’d love you to come along for the ride. Even just for a month – you could start by doing ‘Plastic Free July‘ with me. It’s not easy, but the rewards are beyond what I could ever had imagined from ‘giving something up’.

A small group of people is all it takes to change the world; simple changes make waves.

good gym beach clean

 

Article first published in SURFGIRL Magazine, Summer 2016 Issue.

2016: It Doesn’t Stop Here

Natalie Fee Presenter Refill Bristol2016 got off to a great start for City to Sea, the C.I.C I founded last year to tackle Bristol’s contribution to marine plastic pollution at source. We were invited to be part of Bristol 2015’s ‘It Doesn’t Stop Here’ campaign and this week saw our campaign go viral in a big way! The Refill Bristol film made for the campaign has had over 134,000 views on facebook and keeps on climbing! And we have billboards too!

On Friday 5th February we took part in Bristol 2015’s closing ceremony, as the title of European Green Capital was passed to Ljubljana. It’s been a fantastic year for Bristol and the ceremony on Friday was testament to the hard work of all involved – with seriously great statistics on how many people and projects were supported, educated and inspired to live more sustainable lives!

I’m hugely proud to represent the team and grateful to Bristol 2015 for supporting Refill Bristol last year – it most definitely doesn’t stop here!

And here’s the link to the Refill Bristol video that made a splash on facebook this week:

Help stem the tide on marine plastic pollution! Natalie Fee from Refill Bristol reveals the scale of plastic waste on the banks of the Avon, what they’ve done in 2015 and what we can all do in 2016 to help – visit http://www.citytosea.org.uk/index.php… to learn more and get involved. It doesn’t stop here!

Posted by Bristol 2015 on Thursday, 4 February 2016

2015: people, planet and plastic!

On the TV:

2015 saw me presenting and producing half an hour of daily, prime time TV for Made in Bristol. From sewage to strictly, here are some of my highlights!

 

On the banks of the River Avon:

refill bristolIn Spring 2015, I formed City to Sea, a collective of local organisations, practitioners, scientists, marine biologists & campaigners addressing the problem of marine plastic at a city level. Our objectives are to reduce the amount of plastic litter flowing from Bristol into the Severn Estuary, by phasing out single-use plastics and creating a replicable model that can be shared with other coastal and river based cities. Have a look at the website for more info on our campaigns, Refill Bristol and Switch the Stick!

ITV West Country, BBC Radio Bristol and Made in Bristol TV have been supporting and following the journey.

 

On a raft made of plastic:

On World Oceans Day I launched the music video to my song, Burden, a year to the day after the crowdfunder that made it all happen. 15% of iTunes downloads and 100% of Bandcamp downloads go to Surfers Against Sewage Marine Litter Team. Hugest of thanks to everyone who backed it, especially Bristol 2015, The Wave, Bristol Water, Wessex Water, At Bristol, Bristol Aquarium, Reflex Marine and Bristol Port for their support!

 

Here’s to 2016! Thanks for your interest and please subscribe to my youtube channel for regular updates, interviews, plastic-free tips and more!

 

Burden: a song for the Ocean

New for Summer 2015 … Burden. A music video I made to raise awareness about marine plastic pollution and funds for Surfers Against Sewage. So please download the song from iTunes and share away! x

Official video for BURDEN, the new UK single, out now. Download on iTunes http://apple.co/1dgAcuf 15% of downloads go to Surfers Against Sewage (Marine Litter Team).

Song by Natalie Fee & Lee Bartholomew
Produced by Christopher Nicholas Bangs
Mastered by Daniel Goodridge. 2015

Presenter, producer, poet and plastic-free promoter!

Thanks to all who supported my Seas Initiative campaign last summer! The film is due for release 08/06/15 – that’s World Oceans Day – and one year since I launched the successful crowdfunder. You can find me every day on Made in Bristol TV, presenting and producing The Source, Bristol’s only daily ‘what’s on’ TV show.

And often down on the riverbanks of the Avon, raising awareness about marine plastic. More on that coming soon.

This clip is from the high tide, late February 2015 …

And this one, from the week after …

Please join me at the Surfers Against Sewage BIG SPRING BEACH CLEAN 2015 this month. Event details for Bristol here.

bsbc_web_banner_400X420

Seas Initiative: krilliant news!

For the month of June I ran a crowd-funding campaign to raise £5000 for the production of a song and music video to raise awareness about marine plastic pollution.

There were huge ups and downs; keeping the momentum going for a month, the perils of an ‘all or nothing’ platform, the uncertainty, the joys of incoming pledges!

However what I hadn’t anticipated were the conversations, dreams and relationships that would unfold throughout the campaign. It’s as if the world I live in has gone from being land-based to encompassing the ocean; both life in and on the sea has opened up to me in response to me campaigning for its health.

albatross

You see I’m a total landlubber; I get seasick on barges, am a terrible swimmer and am afraid of being on the water. Or at least I was. But it wasn’t the sea that first spoke to me. It was the decline of the Laysan Albatross on the Midway Islands, portrayed so powerfully by Chris Jordan, that moved me. I had to do something.

Some months later, during a meditation, I realised a recent song I’d written would fit perfectly over a music video about marine plastic pollution. And so I set about looking at ways to fund it. Initially I tried approaching companies, one at a time, asking if they’d sponsor it. But £5000 was a lot for one company to risk on a girl with good intentions but no proven track record in smash hit singles!

Through one of my many calls to multinational companies, I struck up a rapport with a head of sustainability. We shared many of the same values and passions and whilst he couldn’t support me through the company, he encouraged me to try crowdfunding.

Initially I didn’t like the idea. Asking my friends and family for money. Times are hard, and we’ve all got our favourite charities and projects to support. So I let it go, feeling like I’d given it a good shot and just wasn’t able to do it.

Some months later, I saw World Oceans Day was approaching and with it, a gnawing sense of failure. I wanted this to happen! I didn’t want to give up! So I got in touch with Crowdfunder and spent the next two weeks getting ready to launch the campaign.seas-initiative-thank-you

Seas Initiative: the crowdfunder.

The month of the campaign was a rollercoaster however I had the support of a great friend and project manager, Ali Rowe, who kept reminding me to keep the faith, to wipe the frown from my forehead and keep plugging away! And I had the online support of Bristol Pound as I was the first Crowdfunder campaign to accept my city’s local currency via their Txt2Pay system!

The middle two weeks were the hardest, pledges dropped off almost altogether and I had regular freak outs, melt downs and wobbles. Then it all kicked back in and I got the buy-in of an amazing array of Bristol businesses; one after the other came on board and before I knew it, I’d reached the target with a few days left to overfund.

In total, Seas Initiative raised around £2000 in personal pledges, and £4500 in business pledges – smashing the £5000 target!  

The support I received means that I can now go forth and produce the song, music video, website and outreach programme to help switch hundreds of thousands of people on to restoring and protecting our oceans from plastic pollution. Which makes me very happy indeed.

Back to the ocean. A week before the end of the project I spent a weekend with Ali by the sea. We played, rested and prayed … knowing that we’d done all we could do and the rest was in the hands of the gods. In typical ‘the ocean is a scary place’ style I got stung by something unidentifiable during the one time I went in for a swim; happily I lived to tell the tale. Since then I’ve dreamed of the sea every night for ten days; boats, ocean journeys, whales, dolphins and last night … sharks. Nice dreams, bold dreams, facing my fear dreams.

exxpedition-natalie-fee

And, as a result of my campaigning, I’ve been offered a place on board eXXpedition: an all women’s voyage to make the unseen seen, from the toxics in our bodies to the toxics in our seas. To me this is perhaps the ultimate reward from putting my heart and soul into a project I’m passionate about – the gift of expanding my comfort zone! Of course I’ll have to raise my passage first, for which I’ll be approaching some of the bigger companies who support this kind of research and mission. If you’re reading this with business investment eyes then you can read more here – and of course I’d be happy to hear from you!

For now though, the focus is on the production of the song, the film and the website. Watch this space for more news and …

THANK-YOU FOR SUPPORTING SEAS INITIATIVE!

natalie-dave

x

Seas Initiative: a song for the ocean

seas initiative natalie fee

It’s June! And it’s World Ocean Day! And the start of my mission to reduce the amount of plastic ending up in our seas. This month sees the launch of my first Crowdfunder campaign … to raise £5000 to produce a song for the ocean. Along with a stunningly beautiful, awareness-raising music video to take it out to the world.

I’ve been down on the banks of the river Avon lately, picking up litter, and I’m often overwhelmed at how much plastic there is … even here in Bristol, flowing out of what will be European Green Capital next year! So I decided to put my talents to task.

I aim to reach thousands of people through the campaign film, people who might not usually think about marine plastic pollution. And I’m delighted (and EXCITED!) to be collaborating with Verity White, an award-winning environmental campaign filmmaker and one of Bristol Old Vic’s best loved composers to produce the song and film!

I’m inviting individuals (like you!) to sponsor the campaign as well as local businesses. Here’s a nice and lovely quote from Nick Hounsfield, founder of The Wave, the UK’s inland surf lake: “Natalie’s inspiring to us all – switching people on to thinking more consciously around how we use and dispose of everyday plastics. We think it’s a great project to support. It gives businesses the chance to reach new audiences, supports Bristol’s creative industries and has a positive social and environmental impact.” … Thanks Nick!

And guess what else! I’m THE FIRST CROWDFUNDER TO ACCEPT BRISTOL POUNDS! Yay! People can donate using Bristol Pounds, the city’s community currency. Here’s another nice quote from the brilliant Bristol Pound Director, Ciaran Mundy. “The Seas Initiative project is exactly the kind of thing we get excited about. New ways to use Bristol Pounds and an easy way to sponsor a great campaign using our TXT2PAY technology!” Cheers Ciaran!

No idea what crowdfunding is? Well it’s a term used for funding a project or venture by raising many small amounts of money from a large number of people and businesses via this interweb thing that you’re looking at right now. In exchange for your contribution, you receive rewards or gifts!

Come and have a look at the Seas Initiative campaign and watch the film!

www.crowdfunder.co.uk/seas-initiative 

P.s. If you’re in Bristol or thereabouts, I’m giving a live stand-up show on the theme of marine plastic at the Alma Tavern, 20 + 21st June, as part of the amazing Becky Walsh’s sell-out ‘Stand-Up Intuitive Show’! I know it’s not a funny subject per se, but we’ll be looking at it from a number of intriguing and obscure angles!

thoughts from brandon hill

bathe-yourself-in-birdsong

How to Make a Moss Shower Mat

Oh yes. Inspiration can take many forms. As can madness.

Imagine each time you stepped out of the bath or shower you felt like you were in a magical woodland. I liked the sound of that and having seen a photo on facebook of a moss shower mat, I thought I’d turn my hand to it. And share the results, as the instructions I could find online were rather limited. So here’s how to make a moss shower mat … A weird and wonderful cushion for your soggy feet.

What you’ll need: 

  • A father, or friend, who is a builder and who has lots of random scraps of useful Moss Shower Matthings lying around. Failing that, a skip to rummage around in. If neither of those are available, put a shout out on Streetbank or Freecycle.
  • A spare couple of hours.
  • Some random tools, such as a stanley knife and a ruler.
  • Some glue (or sealant).
  • A friend to take photos of you and tell you when you’re about to make a HUGE mistake. (Optional.)
  • MOSS.

Natalie-MossSTEP ONE. Moss from the Boss.

Dad’s house. He had a lot of moss to spare. If yours doesn’t, try foraging in a local woodland for some. Just take what you need – ideally from different spots so as not to leave a hole in the forest floor, and also to give your mat some variation!

 

Moss-shower-mat_1

STEP TWO. Measure Up.

This is where the ruler comes in handy. Measure the size of your dripping area. Mine is quite large. More of a dripping platform. Yours might just be a foot or two wide. Either way, get the measurements written down.

 

STEP THREE. Attack.

For the base I used some scraps of ceiling insulation, to make a kind of tray for the moss. So it had a ledge (about half and inch high) to keep the moss and water in. Once I’d made the tray, I lined it with an old yoga mat, to give the moss ten or so years of nice vibes and also something squidgey to hold some water.

STEP FOUR. Withdraw. 

making a moss shower mat 2

At this point it might be worth seeking some advice. Or just remember to do the tray bit first. The thing with using old bits of scraps is that they are limited, so you can’t waste your materials. My friend John spotted that I hadn’t made the ledge at this point, so it was time to get back in the kitchen, and get gluing.

 

IMG_4859Once I’d made the tray (out of ceiling insulation) and laid the yoga mat inside the tray, I needed to seal the edges and make it waterproof. I had some plastic sheeting to wrap around the outside of the tray. Then, to seal it, I used a bathroom sealant – again because it was leftover from a previous job. You could use waterproof glue.

This whole process took some effort, some open windows and a silly face.

STEP FIVE. Wait. 

The hard part. “JUST LET ME PUT THE MOSS IN ITS NEW BED!”
John made me wait. The sealant had to be dry.
So we went for a roast dinner instead.

Moss Shower Mat

STEP SIX. Make Your Bed. 

Take your moss in your hands, welcoming the spirit of the moss into your bathroom (along with the woodlouse, the bugs and the beetles) before laying in its new bed. Or just whack it in. Water … and voila! Enjoy! Shower up and smell the forest!

 

 

 

** EIGHT WEEKS LATER **

Before posting this I wanted to make sure it didn’t just die the next day. It didn’t. I love my moss shower mat. It feels nice under my feet. But it’s very thirsty. It likes to drink more often than we can drip on it – even if we bathed and showered twice a day. All this watering may negate the environmental benefits of having a recycled, natural moss shower mat. But if you use the water from the bath it’s worth it. Happy moss shower mat making.

Need more inspiration? Or proper, actual instructions? Have a look here.

moss-mat


** THREE MONTHS LATER **

I sent a little update to John.

nat-john-moss-shower-mat

the everyday alchemy of … GoodGym!

I wrote this article last month for the Bristol Post (see below) after being super inspired by GoodGym! Here’s the full version, followed by the version that recently appeared in Bristol Post ‘Weekend’.

 

Happiness Matters.

Local Happiness Champion Natalie Fee tries out Good Gym and finds there’s more to exercise than ever before …

What makes a gym ‘good’? The quality of the equipment? The proximity to your house? Low monthly fees? Or can it measured by how good you feel when you’ve been? Strictly speaking, Good Gym isn’t actually a gym. It’s a very clever way of getting people to do things for the good of their community.

I first heard about Good Gym around six months ago at the Green Mingle at Bordeaux Quay, a monthly networking event run by the Green Capital Partnership. Chris Bennett, the local organiser, had moved down from London, where Good Gym has been running (excuse the pun) since 2010 as a not-for-profit organisation. Set up by a group of runners who believe gyms to be a waste of energy and human potential, Good Gym aims to redirect that energy towards the neglected tasks and people in our communities who would benefit from it. To be honest, it’s taken me six months to get with the programme. I helped promote the launch of Good Gym Bristol on Twitter as it seemed like such a marvellous idea – get fit, do good, meet people. In actual fact, it ticks all five boxes from the ‘Five Ways to Wellbeing’ research that Cameron’s Happiness Index is based upon. More on those later.

As one of Bristol’s Happiness Champions, I felt Good Gym was well worth championing and promoting it online was a pleasure. But as is often the case when I hear of a good idea, it stayed in the realm of good ideas while my busy life raced on. That was until a few weeks ago, when I spotted a flock of lycra-clad gardeners, grazing on the weeds of Brandon Hill. Or at least that’s how it looked. I called out them to in good humour, ‘Is this the latest sport, extreme gardening?’ To which a familiar face looked up and replied, ‘Natalie, I was wondering if you were going to join us!’ Which is how I ended up at the Good Gym meeting place last night, outside Bristol’s newest cycle cafe, Roll for the Soul. I reluctantly chained up my bicycle; despite running my son to school most days I don’t consider myself a runner – I’d much rather be on two wheels than two feet. But I was glad to see the group of Good Gymmers gathering and I was looking forward to a new experience. I love exercise, I enjoy meeting people and I’d been meaning to do some voluntary, community action since moving to Bristol last year. Tonight the stars were aligned with my shoes and it all came together in one sweaty, sociable session.

We headed out from the fountains of central Bristol up Christmas Steps towards Redland, stopping for a much needed warm-up stretch en route. The pace was steady and the stitch in my side kept it that way, but nobody seemed to mind. The run was fun, people were chatting, getting to know each other and remarking on new sights – never before noticed trees, buildings … and a lot of quaint-looking pubs! About 3-4k later we arrived at the Metford Road allotments for our evening’s task: to clear an overgrown plot and dig over some new ones. A volunteer from the allotment met us with tools, along with food for the local foxes. Last week’s group had been happily distracted from the task in hand by the proximity of the local wildlife – two young vixens dropping by for some dog biscuits! We split up into two groups and for 45 minutes enjoyed some extreme pruning, hacking and digging. It’s down to the individual which task they take on, usually depending on how many calories they want to burn or simply which thing they like to do the most. I opted for the saw and spent my time rescuing an old apple tree from the grips of a feisty young damson. I think he’d of thanked me for it if he could.

The run home was, thankfully, mainly downhill, as by this point my legs were well aware that they’d run further than my usual distances. But that’s just one of the great things about doing things in groups, you spur each other on, distract each other, inspire each other to go that little bit further. I don’t think I’d ever run 6k before last night. The other benefits were becoming obvious too – by the time we got back to Roll for the Soul our spirits were high, bodies energised and the endorphins were positively dripping off us. Which brings me back to the Five Ways to Wellbeing. Good Gym really does meet all the criteria for ‘what makes us happy’. You connect with people, be active, take notice of new routes, wildlife and changing seasons, keep learning from each other, be that gardening skills, running techniques or wild food and give, by doing something nice for someone, just because you can. And all in under 90 minutes, with the added option of a refreshing local beer at the end if you choose! Good Gym is a brilliant model, getting people off the treadmills and into their communities, harnessing the desire to look and feel good with the genuine need for more connection with our communities. I for one will definitely be doing it again, from now on my Wednesday evenings are dedicated to the cause. Not because I should, or ought to, but simply because it was good, clean fun. And because happiness matters.

For more info about Good Gym visit goodgym.org

 

Natalie Fee is is one of Bristol’s Happiness Champions, a presenter and author of ‘The Everyday Alchemist’s Happiness Handbook’ (Findhorn Press). Find her at nataliefee.com or twitter.com/nataliefee. For more info about Good Gym visit goodgym.org