It’s difficult to put into words just how amazing the LUSH Spring Prize was this year, but I’ll give it my best shot.
A bit of background
LUSH have a fund which they very cleverly call the sLUSH fund (love a pun), which is a grand total of £200k that they distribute to fantastic projects all over the world that are taking part in social and environmental regeneration over four different categories:
Young Projects award – 3 projects, each awarded £20k
Established projects award – 2 projects, each awarded £25k
Intentional projects award – 4 projects, each awarded £10k
Influence award – 2 projects, each awarded £25k
The idea of distributing this money is to empower those who are working hard in both social and environmental regeneration.
Ecosystems are being torn-up and disregarded due to short term profit, and human rights abusers and gross destruction of the environment affects us all. LUSH are acting in an exemplary way, supporting social and environmental standards, offering significant funding and resources to support causes worldwide. These projects are chronically underfunded and under-supported by governing bodies.
What did you do there?
The three day event consisted of talks and workshops with the winning businesses from around the world, educating us on their achievements, where they are now and what they are planning to do. Many of these people come from very little, and have very little, but they make the best of what they have, inspire others and work damn hard to regenerate land and social endeavors.
The event was held at the most beautiful and inspiring Emerson College in West Sussex, surrounded by gorgeous wild flowers, rolling hills and countryside, which was just perfect for this event. We even tied in a gorgeous walk around the forest surrounding the college, which was a bit intrepid at times, but also great to be out in the sun exploring and having a good giggle.
As well as all the talks and workshops, there were members of one of the LUSH spa centres there, so you could sign-up for a head, shoulder and neck massage, or an arm and hand massage (I did both! Would highly recommend). I have to also give a shout out to the wonderful vegan food served at Emerson college as not only was it visually pleasing, it was absolutely delicious to boot! Hoping they may release a cookbook some time.
On the third day we got involved in some digging and planting on the grounds of the college and then had options as to where we wanted to go next from a list of interesting activities. I went to a local permaculture farm which is very much community lead, working together to plant food and also let nature do it’s own thing and not disturb it’s natural processes too much.
On the Wednesday afternoon we took a Big Yellow Bus (solar powered) to London for the evening awards ceremony and celebrations at LUSH (London) HQ.
Where did you stay?
I stayed at the gorgeous Ashdown Park Hotel, which is seriously one of the most stunning places I’ve ever had the privilege to stay at. I could happily move in!
Projects that inspired me
It wasn’t possible to listen to every project give their talk, as most of them were running in different rooms at the same time, though the ones I got involved in really hit me hard and made me rethink the way I live my life and I most definitely felt a whole heap of white privilege! Some of these people live in villages where there are frequent murders, kidnapping and receive death threats as what they are doing is perceived to be too unusual and weird for the local community.
Two of the sweetest guys I’ve met! Guaracy is a project which empowers youth about sustainable agriculture and gives them the knowledge and tools to be able to plant their own food. They run courses and offer consultancy programs, bringing more knowledge in for young people and building capacity. They enable people to train others and encourage city dwellers into their settlement, which helps diversify their income sources. Mainly working with private schools in Brazil, teaching children how to plant, they also work with schools in poor communities on a volunteer basis to impart knowledge.
CEJUDHCAN supports 97 Indigenous communities with land rights and conservation projects.
Settlers are coming into Indigenous communities and displacing them for their land. LAND RIGHTS ARE THEIR HUMAN RIGHTS! CEJUDHCAN encourages people to stay in their communities and work to regenerate the land as well as helping with social regeneration. They mainly support agreocology training for women (200 in 21 communities in Nicaragua), educating them, leading to better food security.
Right now, the situation is very complex. Nicuargua has been suffering with repression and criminalisation for years. Lottie, who runs this project, receives regular death threats as there is a misunderstanding about what she is trying to achieve. More than 58 people were killed over the past few weeks (I now expect that death toll to be higher), and many women go into the forests to forage for food and sadly never return.
Permaculture and regeneration
We had a fantastic talk one afternoon by two of the Spring Prize Judges: Precious Phiri and Warren Brush. They spoke about the complexities of growing food in harmony with nature, how nature is constantly sensing and evolving to it’s surroundings. They spoke of TOPS (USAIDS) program, based around agreocology and permaculture, to build gardens in community settings.
Warren talked about a project he took on in April 2018 in Turkana County, Kenya. They told him nothing could grow there. So to be able to regenerate land, they looked at what resources were already there, walking around the grounds and mapping to gain knowledge of the soil and the area. They then look at the land and formulate by the shape, context and figure out what is influencing the land, then planted the rain first, before planting the plants! This involved deep soil prep, double digging and putting nutrients in the soil, then adding fencing around the area, mulching the ground and adding any cover required. They integrated a waste water system which took 4 hours to construct and within 2 days there was plant growth and within 2 weeks they were eating produce from the garden.
What I took away from this
Sustainability seems to be such a hot word at the moment, though we also need to consider REGENERATION. Whether this be environmental or social. As it stands we’re exhausting our finite resources at such a rapid rate that if we don’t think of solutions to regenerate land and communities, then how can we even start to be sustainable?
I also met so many amazing people over the three days I spent, including members of LUSH staff, the judges (the customer judge Darcy is only 15 and from Australia, very inspiring young woman) and the project coordinators. The event really brings people together, building life long friendships and educating each other to make a better and brighter future for us all.