Ah, summertime …
The season to wonder where the spring went so quickly, to flirt with heat stroke on long meandering rambles into the countryside and to duck with stoic tenacity between downpours on traditional day trips to the British seaside.
For me, it’s also an opportunity to hook up with old friends at wood festivals around the country, and there spread word of the Environmental Investigation Agency to the curious.
Before I was ‘EIA Press Officer’, I was more widely known as ‘The Soap Lady’s Husband’; my wife Stephanie and I (although, in the interests of honesty, I should admit it’s mostly Steph) have for more than a decade run a small handmade soap business from our home.
We mostly sell through local health food stores and at farmers markets, but in recent years we’ve become regulars on the summer wood festival circuit, a gentle round of traditional wood crafts, smoky campfires and starry nights under canvas.
Steph’s a native New Yorker with enough pizzazz to singlehandedly power the national grid at Christmas, so in the early days there wasn’t much for me to do beyond skulking at the back of the stall with my head in a book, selling the occasional bar of soap while she got on with the more useful business of attracting punters and giving lively talks on the history of soap-making.
We’ve always made a point of not using palm oil in our soaps because of the devastating impact palm oil plantations are having on South-East Asia’s forests, but it wasn’t until I fell into a long conversation with a customer at Weird and Wonderful Wood in Suffolk a few years ago that a light bulb flickered on as to how we could perhaps do some good for EIA and spread a little awareness of the issue at the same time as enjoying a delightful weekend in the country.
The customer in question was completely unaware that palm oil was even a cause for concern and, after chatting with her, she was very keen to know more and asked if we had any suggestions as to what she could best do to help. We pointed her in the direction of EIA.
Since then, our soap stall has added a second string in the form of a display table for EIA reports such as Up For Grabs, growing steadily each year to incorporate copies of Investigator magazine and membership forms. And I get something more constructive to do than working my way through a stack of old paperbacks.
EIA is a small, hardworking NGO and what’s most heartening is the generally enthusiastic response to word of its work, not just in relation to its hands-on campaigning to prevent deforestation around the world but also for its practical efforts to effect meaningful change and proper enforcement in the other issues on which it focuses.
Many people attending wood festivals have a general awareness of conservation issues but often express frustration at trying to turn that concern into something more concrete, wanting to put their money where it will actually do some good.
With that in mind, it’s always a pleasure and never a chore to advocate EIA and its work at the cutting-edge, even more so when converts return year after year to ask for verbal updates on campaigns.
EIA Press Officer