Sustainability

Sustainability is a hot topic nowadays.  It’s something that has always been on my radar – all the way since my high school days in South Africa when my aspiration was to be a game ranger!  I even presented a talk on herbal medicine and sustainability back in 2007. 

It’s a big word and seems to mean different things to different people.  When I think of sustainability, I think of walking lightly and gently on this earth and living within our means.  No mean feat and something I am constantly striving towards! 

In terms of my practice, these are the standards I work to: 

Medicine sourcing 

Where possible I like to use plants that can be grown in the UK.  I do my best to avoid using endangered herbs and am careful about the sourcing of the endangered herbs I do use.  I buy organic dried herbs and tinctures where I can and love biodynamically grown herbs – this means no pesticides, natural fertilisers and where possible more of a closed system of less stuff being transported around to make the same stuff! 

I reuse as much packaging as I can from my suppliers, compost what I can and recycle what I can.  It isn’t unusual to find flattened cardboard boxes spread out in my herb garden and vegetable beds – they act as week suppressants and help retain the moisture in the soil.  I usually add a layer of grass clippings on top, which makes them look more attractive and means I have the perfect ‘green to brown’ ratio for the two to compost down together and nourish the soil directly in-situ. 

Corn starch chips go in our green waste bin for composting, bubble wrap gets reused for posting medicines on to patients, small boxes and jiffy bags get reused for posting out medicines. 

Plastic bottles are reused were possible and the surplus are recycled – this is something I would like to keep badgering my suppliers about.  One of them used to send out medicines in brown glass bottles, which was great, but this needs to be offset by the increased weight and therefore travel cost implications.   

Medicine making 

I am passionate about making as many of my own herbal medicines as I can – by providing you with medicines that may consist of 50% tinctures I have made myself you are supporting this aspect of sustainability.  About 70 medicinal plants grow onsite where I live, we don’t use any chemicals on our land and we produce approximately 2 cubic tons of our own compost, which gets worked directly back into the soil.  We have chickens and their waste and bedding goes in the compost too!  Occasionally I get horse manure in as an additional top up. 

I produce approximately 75 litres of my own herbal tinctures per annum using organic grain alcohol. 

Wild harvesting 

Medicines made from everyday common plants in our local fields and hedgerows mean minimal transport miles, come from a sustainable source and are stored in glassware that is reused. I am very careful about where I wild harvest from to help ensure low pesticide and pollutant contamination 

Home grown 

A number of the medicinal herbs I use regularly in my practice I grow myself.  Their growth styles and habitats vary and their progress is lovingly and carefully monitored by me.  Harvesting occurs when they are at their prime and a proportion of the ‘crop’ is always left for the bees!  Wildlife and diversity thrive and I grow using a mix of permaculture and organic techniques. 

Medicine bottles 

Glass is used in most cases and patients are encouraged to return their glassware so that it can be thoroughly cleaned and reused.  Natural cleaning products are used wherever possible. 

Plastic is only used upon patient request or for posting out medicines or those travelling abroad.  I do have plans to reduce plastic use even further and therefore it is likely that the stock I have will still last a considerable amount of time as it’s use become less frequent. 

Supplements 

Where possible I prefer to use companies who focus on organic and sustainability sourced supplements, those that supply in glass and those that give back to the local communities where the plants were grown or reinvest in charities / communities. 

Waste 

Pressed out plant matter from tincture making is an asset to the compost bin too.  On the rare occasion tinctures go past their best date they are used as compost activator! I compost as much as I can and if I have any concerns about vermin it goes in our green recycling bin, which takes food waste to be composted in a mega-heap. 

Pressed out plant matter from tincture making is an asset to the compost bin too.  

On the rare occasion tinctures go past their best date they are used as compost activator! I compost as much as I can and if I have any concerns about vermin it goes in our green recycling bin, which takes food waste to be composted in a mega-heap. 

Shredded paper gets added to our compost and layered up with grass clippings.  As previously mentioned, brown cardboard is used as a mulch and weed suppressant – which means a reduction in recycling needing to be carted offsite! 

Summary 

Reducing my personal footprint, along with that of my business is an ongoing refinement process.  I am by no means perfect, but I do make a conscious effort to do what I can, where I can, and it’s a practice I have been doing for since moving to the UK over 20 years ago before household recycling existed, when I used to walk just under a mile with heavy bags of paper and glass to drop into the nearest recycling collection units!  That and using fabric shopping bags for approximately 25 years.  It’s about conscious living, rather than faddish living, and as the saying goes ‘every little helps’!