By Damien Pestell

During the 18th century the Industrial revolution changed the world, bringing wholesale changes, both economic and social. A huge, life-altering upheaval for those who lived through it. Over 200 years later, the digital revolution created similar sweeping changes to the way we communicate, work and live. 

Some of these changes may have overstepped the mark and, in our haste to transform things, we perhaps forgot to keep what was most valuable to us, like telephone calls and the human connection. 

Twenty years on, it feels like we are entering a new phase of human history, driven by an urgency to do things more sustainably, enabled by new ideas and technologies.

I hope we’ve learnt from human history and are able to make this next phase the best yet; doing things more elegantly, simply and beautifully to create a world which is fair and enjoyable for everyone, not just the few. I also enjoy seeing how large global issues play out on a smaller scale in our communities. This makes me feel connected to everything that is going on in our world, both good and bad. With this in mind, I’ve spoken to some local businesses who are seeking to be a part of the future.

Brewing cider from locally produced apples

Cider with Sassie

While studying for an MA in Sustainable Design, Sassie Yasamee noticed a lot of apples on the ground from a tree during her walk into university. That Newtonian realisation planted the seed which has grown into a wonderful business, Eve Apple Press, an enterprise that’s beautiful in its simplicity.

Eve Apple Press is a mobile service that comes to your garden and presses your fruits into juice. It is then pasteurised, enabling the juice to be preserved in bottles for up to two years. Incredibly, an apple tree is able to yield as many as 150-200 bottles of juice. 

Sassy says of the project, “waste food is assumed to be from the kitchen, people don’t think about the waste fruit”.

There is also the option of making cider or apple cider vinegar from the juice. Sassy, a former ceramics teacher, is able to identify the type of trees people have in their gardens and offers beautiful handmade ceramic tags which can be hung on a branch, helping to connect people and future generations to nature and the natural world as a source of food.

A by-product from the process is leftover pulp from the apples, used as feed for pigs and other livestock at local farms and smallholdings. Any surplus juice is sold through local retailers and restaurants, including Wonderfill, Sea Kale and St Clements in St Leonards, and Only Coco in Hastings. 

An outstandingly smart business, elegant but simple in its design and beautiful in its own right.

Stephen & Helene at Stonelynk Organics

Natural produce

The agricultural industry has recently been on ‘the naughty step’ for carbon emissions, releasing around a quarter of the global output. Industrial farming in its drive for greater output has damaged the health of our soil and impacted on biodiversity. 

One answer may be to return to organic produce from local farms, not only healthier but better for the land. Stonelynk Organics is based in Fairlight and run by Stephen Atkinson and Hélène Maerschalck. I went to meet them to find out more about the project.

Stephen previously worked in London for a food waste charity, redistributing surplus provisions to the people who needed it most. He says of his job, “it was good work, but also kind of heartbreaking to see the size of the problem, and I started to feel a bit disenfranchised”.

Hélène studied Bio-engineering and food technology in Belgium, but wanted to do something more practical that would help the world.

After meeting in Dorset in 2017 and sharing the same passion for making the world a better place, they hatched a plan to get their hands dirty and started looking for some land. Events moved faster than expected and, in April 2018, the pair opened the gardens, Stonelynk being the old geographical name for the area.

“We do what we do out of hope, a deep hope,” Stephen says of the project. “The reality is the prices we charge are more than you would pay in the supermarket, but that reflects a difference in the product”. 

Indeed, the vegetables really couldn’t get any fresher and frankly better, picked each morning for sale that day – a ‘farm to fork’ time similar to that our ancestors would have experienced. 

They’ve so far doubled their size to two acres and are now looking to expand the project by building a barn for storing their produce and exploring how to make it more community based. 

There’s a click and collect service, accessed by signing up to the weekly email list on their website and current produce being picked includes: french beans, broad beans, courgettes, cucumbers, fennel, beetroot and leafy greens. 

Sadie creating her locally crafted sustainable furniture

Sustainable furniture

“They don’t make things like they used to,’ is something my wise old Gran almost definitely once said, and she was right: things we buy no longer last whole lives, but merely a few years. Nowadays, breaking or becoming obsolete is engineered into product design. 

One person trying to stem this tide is Sadie Dorchester, who makes sustainable furniture that’s built to last. 

A former director of Marie Clare and someone who has always had a passion for making things herself, Sadie founded her furniture company in 2017. 

“All of my furniture is sustainable. I don’t use foam or polyester in the internal stuffings. I use a coir and animal hair mix with latex instead, as well as cotton felt and a wool barrier cloth. The frames are made from FSC certified solid pine – no MDF or OBR and the external upholstery fabric is a recycled Italian wool.”

Sadie’s furniture is available in a number of styles and sizes and she also offers a re-upholstery service through Knitted Seaweed Studios. 

Local businesses are making some wonderful sustainable products and services and I find it poignant that all have one thing in common: that they’re keeping things simple and looking to the past for inspiration. After meeting them I feel optimistic about the future and am looking forward to the journey…

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