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What Does it Mean to be ‘Connected’ to Nature?

Having a meaningful connection with nature is essential to our mental health and wellbeing, but what does that really mean?

This May, Mental Health Awareness Week was centred around an important and intriguing subject – nature. Whether one finds it in time spent in green spaces, by a meandering waterway, or lovingly tending to your houseplants, your connection to nature is a crucial element of supporting good mental health in all of us. 

Spending time in nature can have some astounding effects on one’s mental health, significantly reducing anxiety, depression, stress, and anger, as well as greatly improving feelings of self-actualisation, relaxation, and your self-esteem. 

However, interestingly, the Mental Health Foundation states that it’s not necessarily the quantity of time that we spend in nature that counts, but the quality of that time. 

In other words, it’s really important that we connect with nature

two people in field

‘Connecting with nature’ is a term that can get thrown around a lot. So much so, you’d be forgiven if it conjures images of ‘hippy-dippy-tree-huggers’ rather than your own relationship with nature. Although trees definitely give some of the best cuddles, these kinds of connotations tend to be more abstract and out of reach, which isn’t particularly productive when we’re talking about something that is very real, and very important to our relationship with ourselves, our minds, and our world.

 So, what does it really mean to connect with nature? 

Connecting with nature is all about feeling like you have a close relationship and emotional attachment with the natural world. These can be feelings of empathy, care, and even love. 

We can bring this about through mindful, focused, sensual activities in nature: really paying attention to the way that your houseplants are growing, listening intently to the beauty of birdsong and the wind in the trees, feeling the grass and soil beneath your feet and fingers, or a tree’s bark beneath the palm of your hand. 

It’s important to stop, turn your attention to nature and really feel the impact it has on you – the feelings of peace, prosperity and partnership. We call it a connection to nature because it’s about realising that we are connected to it in a way that the modern world doesn’t often acknowledge.

We are, in the most objective sense, animals. We grew up in nature, depended upon it, and lived amongst it for hundreds of thousands of years. In many ways, we still do. It is our natural habitat and that hasn’t changed in the last couple of centuries. 

But more than that, we are a part of nature, not apart from it, in just the same way that the trees, the birds, and all the animals of the world are. 

It can be incredibly easy to forget that – each of us becoming so trapped within the cube of human civilisation with our phones, jobs, and everyday worries that we lose that sense of being a piece of the world that we live upon. 

Even with our words, we draw a sharp distinction between ‘the natural world’ and our own, as if we are inhabiting an entirely different place, born of some different ancestry, utterly apart from all else that we know of the universe.

It’s here that problems start to arise. 


Returning to our ancestral home can be a wonderful antidote – noticing the place from which we come, the incredible beauty within it, and therefore within us. There is an astounding amount to be learned from nature, and an inconceivable amount of solace to be found in it. 

One can see everything in the world around us and draw comfort in it. You can see seasons and weather come and go with beauty and wonder, heartbreak and horror, but must importantly, an infinite capacity for healing and growth. 

All you have to do is look.

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Stating the Obvious: Why do Sustainable Products Cost More?


Ethically and sustainably sourced items may be a little more expensive, but it depends on how we judge the true cost of our purchases. 

We’ve all been there – stood in the toothbrush aisle of the supermarket, confronted by hundreds of options in a brain-frazzling array of colours, with nothing to really differentiate between them except price. Obviously, you instinctively reach for the cheapest one, perhaps available for a grand total of 50p.

But then you catch yourself, silently scold yourself, and reach dutifully for the only bamboo toothbrush on the shelf, pretending not to wince when you see that it’s £3.50…on sale. 

Although living sustainably is so much cheaper in so many ways, the fact of the matter is that if you want to buy new products that are good to both the planet and the people on it, there’s a bit of a premium attached. 

But why? 


Well, there’s a number of reasons, most of which come down to materials and processes.

First of all, the widespread commercialisation of sustainable products like bamboo toothbrushes is a fairly recent occurrence, and as such, neither the consumer demand nor the infrastructure for sourcing the materials is as readily available as it is for more traditional items. For all the countless factories that make plastic, there are sadly only a limited number of bamboo farms thus far.

However, as demand grows for sustainable products, so will the infrastructure around their production. This means you get to feel twice as good when you do buy ethical alternatives, because on top of saving the planet, you’re also helping to build a future in which they’re the norm. So good job!

The second reason, whilst similar, is a bit more complex. It concerns greater problems relating to the state of capitalism and commerce as a whole, and is the primary reason why you should buy from small, ethical businesses

The standard argument for free market capitalism reads a bit like this: increased competition pushes prices down, which is better for consumers because then they pay less and lead happier lives.

In an idealistic haze this makes a lot of sense, but we all know that in reality it doesn’t quite work like that. 

In an effort to reduce their costs, big companies will outsource production to developing countries with lax environmental and labour protections, poisoning the local environment and running sweatshops with horrific working conditions that essentially amount to slave labour. This is particularly prevalent in industries such as high-street fashion. It also means that they will use low quality – ergo environmentally harmful – materials like polyester or plastic, both of which are made from fossil fuels.

Take a moment for that to sink in. When you’re wearing a cheap t-shirt, you’re actually wearing reconstituted oil.

Most small businesses don’t take this route; in an effort to create high-quality products that represent their work as artists, they will take the time and effort necessary to source good materials and create their pieces with loving care. 

This is especially true for small businesses that are specifically devoted to a more ethical and sustainable means of production, as they will make sure that they use high quality organic materials, and either pay their workers fairly or make the items themselves. 

This translates to a higher price-tag, but its cost is significantly lower.  Allow us to explain.

If we begin framing our purchases within the context of its cost rather than its price, we begin to see that in actual fact, ethical and sustainable products cost a lot less.

In monetary terms, if you buy one high-quality item for £50 and it lasts for years, does that actually cost more than buying a low-quality £10 version if you have to keep replacing it every few months? 

But more importantly than that, what is the true, larger cost of the materials and processes behind these ‘cheap’ products? 

What is the cost of a changing climate and complete ecological breakdown? 

What is the cost of inhumane working conditions, where children are forced to work 16-hour days for 11p per hour in a building that can collapse and kill over 1,000 people

What is the cost to a society that can justify the reprehensible consequences of our actions in the name of fast fashion and cheap products? 

These may not be the quantifiable, numerical costs of our purchases – but rest assured, it’s the people and planet who pay the price. So, in the end, are ethical and sustainable products actually that expensive? 

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Why Is Supporting Sustainable Businesses So Important?

man packing product

Shopping from communities of ethical and sustainable sellers is one of the best ways to start living in a more sustainable way.

Amongst the countless complex issues that need to be solved in the face of the climate crisis, the nature of how we buy things is one of the most important. The wasteful and environmentally damaging practices of mass-manufactured, fast paced consumerism simply cannot be allowed to continue.

However, that doesn’t in any way mean that we have to do away with shopping entirely. Our creativity is one of our greatest traits, and we should be able to buy beautiful things to decorate our lives with, as it is both an expression of our own creativity and a celebration of other peoples’. 

However, the way that the biggest companies in commerce conduct themselves has cast a dark shadow over that fact, and needs to be put to rights. Luckily, there is an almost absurdly straightforward way to buy and sell in a more sustainable way – placing communities and small businesses back at the centre of shopping.

This is the key to nurturing a more sustainable form of world economy; downscaling, localising, and making consumerism more cyclical. Hugely destructive forms of commerce, such as fast fashion [link to other blog], are so devastating because of their gargantuan, open ended, top-down approach. Like a polluted river, products flow from sordid factories in the developing world, along lengthy supply chains to the shops where they’re sold for a low price, before they degrade and need to be thrown away, ad infinitum.

There is a better way, and it doesn’t mean giving up on all the luxuries of modern life and heading off into the woods to live off the land. All that we need to do is elevate community to play a bigger role in the process of buying and selling. This isn’t a novel idea at any rate; if you get things from places like Olio or Depop, or buy from the small businesses in your area then you’re already onto a winner, as these types of shopping centre around a community. Whether it’s buying and selling between people in an online community or purchasing things from people in your actual community, those items have likely travelled only a short distance, plus ethical and sustainable production is much more likely to be the standard.

Things tend to be handmade, are of a much higher quality, and, lets be honest, it’s unlikely that Sarah who runs the organic clothing shop is exploiting workers in Asia or decimating habitats. If you outgrow those clothes or fancy a change-up, don’t throw them away, but pass them on to someone else, either by selling them online or giving them away. By placing community, and particularly small businesses, at the centre of a model of consumerism, sustainability becomes an organic by-product.

Living smaller does not have mean reducing the quality of your way of life, but should instead be considered as choosing smaller; choosing smaller businesses to buy from, choosing smaller distances that your items need to travel, choosing items with a smaller environmental impact.

Choosing smaller puts the celebration of creativity back at the centre of the shopping experience, because who wants to feel guilty about the things that makes their life beautiful?

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Stating The Obvious: Fast Fashion & Throw Away Consumerism


The climate crisis is everyone’s problem, and everyone has the power to help solve it through their choices as a consumer.

As the realities of the climate crisis have become more prescient, a sharp light has been cast on the scale of wasteful and devastatingly harmful practices of our global economic practices.

Whilst much of the onus is on producers who exploit the workforces and lax environmental restrictions of developing nations, consumers’ habits are equally to blame. There cannot be a seller without a buyer, and the willingness for customers to embrace the fast-paced, throw-away consumerism that industries like fast fashion play upon gives these companies little motivation to change their ways.

Fast fashion is one of the most environmentally devastating industries in the world, and the epitome of the consumerism practices that desperately need to change if we hope to build a better world for us all.

With the annual emissions almost equal to that of the whole of Europe, it pumps out more Co2 than global aviation and shipping combined. That’s without even mentioning the rampant poisoning of rivers across Asia, nor the atrocious working conditions in sweatshops that so many people are willing to ignore so that they can buy a terrible quality t-shirt for a fiver.

 All of this feeds an incomprehensibly damaging culture of throwaway consumerism, one that the U.K. invented and is the main proponent of; one in three young women consider clothes worn once or twice to be old, with the British population sending 350,000 tonnes to landfill and recycling enough wearable clothing each year to fill 459 Olympic-sized swimming pools

It’s not difficult to see how these two problems create a negative feedback loop, benefiting only the corporations that ascribe to it as they line their pockets at the expense of the environment and worker conditions across the globe.

However, it’s also an incredibly easy loop to break out of.

By supporting sustainable brands like those featured on Ethical State, the need to throw away clothing after only a couple of wears disappears, whilst also ensuring that neither the environment nor those making the clothes lose out.

It’s remarkably simple, and requires only the desire to have a positive impact on the world.

We can no longer afford to accept this sorry state of affairs as the status quo, and we must cultivate habits that begin the work of dismantling the system which is upheld by the abusive standards inherent in the modern consumer culture. The sad fact of the matter is that it doesn’t need to be like this, and all we need to do is take the power out of the hands of the abusers and put it back where it belongs – with the small, ethical businesses that are worthy of our support. Our planet deserves better, and so do we.

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Sustainability: What Is It & Why Is It Important?

Painting of the globe on a sign with caption ‘one world’

It’s likely you’ve heard the term ‘sustainability’ crop up more and more in recent years. 

And with the climate crisis only becoming a more pressing issue by the day, that’s little surprise. 

But what is sustainability? Why should you care? And how does it relate it to you and your choices? Let’s explore… 

What is sustainability?

Put simply, sustainability is the concept of utilising available resources to meet our own needs, without compromising the ability of future generations to do the same. 

Sounds simple, right? Well it’s a tad more complicated than that…

Sustainability can be better understood by being broken down into three fundamental pillars: 

  • Environmental sustainability – the environment and its eco-systems should be kept in balance by utilising natural resources at a rate in which they are given the appropriate time to replenish 
  • Economic sustainability – the guarantee thatcommunities always have access to the resource they need to survive 
  • Social sustainability – the acknowledgement and protection of basic universal human rights, in addition to personal, labour and cultural rights

More often than not, when you hear the word ‘sustainability’, it’s being used in its environmental context. But it’s easy to see how one play into the other. After all, they all follow one basic principal – act today in a way which ensures a tomorrow. 

Some everyday examples of environmental sustainability include: 

  • Recycling 
  • Bags for life
  • Organic diet / vegetarianism / veganism   

Why is sustainability important?

As we’ve laid out above, sustainability encompasses the very foundations of ethical living. So why is sustainability important? Because it acts in the interest of everybody – both today, and in the future. 

Recently, over 1 million young people around the world have urged governments to prioritise climate measures in Covid-19 recovery efforts. Why? Because they recognise the time to act is now. 

The reality of the situation is that we’ve been living in such drastic and selfish excess for so long, that it’s simply not – well, sustainable – any longer. We’ve drained the world of its natural resources, and adopted production and consumption habits that have further damaged anything remaining. Continuing at this rate would accumulate in the destruction of the environment and, ultimately, the destruction of us. 

The answer to why sustainability is important, then, becomes perfectly clear – it ensures the survival of both Mother Earth and the humanity that inhabits her. 

Why is sustainable living important?

“The climate crisis has been caused by governmental mismanagement and unethical large-scale corporations, right? It’s nothin’ to do with me…” 

Well, not exactly.

To understand why sustainable living is important, you must first understand that a blame game doesn’t help anyone. A ‘clean up your own mess’ mentality unfortunately doesn’t suffice – after all, it’s to the detriment of everyone. 

It’s key to understand too that, while the big boys rightly deserve most of the blame, that’s not to say you don’t play a part – from purchases with fast-fashion brands to a boot-full of plastic bags after every shop, none of us have lived a completely sustainable life. 

Instead, recognise that we all have a role to play, no matter how small. Sure, global companies and international governments can (and indeed should) make more of a difference than you – but that’s not to say you should’t look to make any at all.  

Sustainable living is important, then, because sustainability requires everyone to do their bit. Now we know what you’re thinking – “that sounds like a whole lotta effort”, right? 

But the truth is that even making the smallest of changes in the interest of sustainability can make a big difference in the wider picture. Sure, alone you’re not going to save the world – but the small changes you make today reduce the impact on tomorrow.  

And after all, that’s what it’s all about – acting today in a way which ensures a tomorrow. 

Ethical State are committed to making sustainable shopping easy and convenient, helping you to start making more of those little changes – so why not start today?