Getting in touch with nature, the community, and ourselves with WEN.

Women’s Environmental Network work in the borough to improve health, connectedness, environmentalism and women’s issues. We spoke to Clyo, a coordinator at the organisation, about what environmentalism, gardening and cooking can do for all of us.


What is the Women’s Environmental Network? Such as the ethos behind it, the services provided…

Women’s Environmental Network (WEN) is the only charity in the UK that links women’s equality with environmental issues.

Global environmental problems such as climate change and plastic pollution are still affecting women and men in a disproportional way, unfortunately with a different and more negative impact on women. Let’s think, for example, about the different education that a child can receive based on his or her gender in some part of the world and how this can affect his/her personal skills to face an environmental crisis or simply be able to choose a more ecological approach to their daily life.

WEN tries to reduce these issues through campaigns, workshops and various activities aimed to improve education and awareness.


Why did you join, and what is your role within the organisation?

I entered the Organisation as an intern last year. I was already volunteering as community garden coordinator for my local area and I was often involved in some of the projects WEN supports through the Tower Hamlets Food Growing Network, one of their local project for community gardens, green spaces and local food in East London. When they offered me a job as an intern I saw the possibility to learn and develop what I already love to do.

Today I am the coordinator of the Live Well courses at Limborough Green Hub: a series of free cooking and gardening workshop for people that want to improve their lifestyle in a healthy way, enjoying the company of new friends in a beautiful community kitchen and garden.


What does being environmentally conscious mean to you, and why is it important for us all to be aware of the impact we’re having on the world around us? Do you think that being connected to the Earth and the environment is beneficial for our own wellbeing?

I personally feel that any impact we have on the environment is so deeply connected to every aspect of everybody’s life that it should not be ignored.

Being environmentally conscious means being aware of the resources we have and trying to use them in the smartest and most sustainable way, knowing that every choice we make has an echo on our personal wellbeing, but also on our economy.

In my eyes, being connected to the Earth, growing plants, trying to improve how people and nature interact, and being generally environmentally conscious is the most natural way of being and a core part of my code of ethics.

Furthermore, studies have found that gardening can be very beneficial for wellbeing and mental health. It entails physical activities that can regulate blood pressure and improve your body, but growing plants can also help us to understand how nature works, relax, and follow a routine. I personally think it can also help to overcome failure.


The organisation places a special focus on gender and the way that this interacts with wellbeing and the environment. Why is this, and how does this focus affect the way you provide services and community spaces in East London in particular?

WEN tries to take on environmental issues through a gender prospective because women are affected by and can contribute to these issues in a different way than men. From the use of chemical free cosmetics to sustainable menstrual products, but also through the way to feed and grow a family, women can really make a globally difference in the environmental field.

Some areas in East London are deeply affected by poverty and health issues. Many women with barriers to access education or employment face these situations in their everyday lives. Many women with low education or unemployed single mums are facing these situations in their everyday lives.

WEN has been working very actively on local based projects in order to study and tackle these kinds of issues in a more tailored way. We have been creating a green network that can help promote healthy and economical ways to grow food, organising and supporting wellbeing activities and supporting other organisations in the area, all to improve and grow a better community.

Sometimes I’ve been asked if WEN’s activities are for women only: they are absolutely not! They are open to everybody, because everybody deserves the chance to feel better, be part of the community, and improve their life.

I like to see young men taking cooking courses: this is the way for equality!


What do you enjoy most about working with the organisation and with the people of Poplar?

I really enjoy being a part of WEN as it is a very friendly and stimulating environment. I’m working with people that share my values and from whom I can learn to improve myself, besides my skills, every day. I also love the fact that my work gives me the chance to be creative, promote and organise activities that can be an input to building something different and fun every time, meet new people and learn from other cultures.


WEN not only works to increase awareness of the environment and gender issues, but also provides services like the community hub at Limborough that are there to improve wellbeing.

What is currently available for people in Poplar to get involved with?

As I said before, I personally organise the Live Well courses, an enjoyable way to discover new healthy recipes and be active in the garden. We end every class eating a delicious (vegetarian) lunch together. Each course is spans four weeks, taking place at 10:30am till 1:30pm.

We also organise a gardening workshop around Tower Hamlets to learn how to produce local and organic food, support community gardens and organise Seasonal gatherings for the Tower Hamlets Food Growing Network: a seasonal meeting to discover and catch up with the local grower community.


How can getting involved in the community, eating well and gardening help with wellbeing?

I think giving people the opportunity to stay in a social and positive environment helps them feel like part of the community, improves their social and communication skills and brings a twist into ordinary days. Sharing recipes and food is an amazing way to try and learn new tasty combinations and reproduce them at home for the all family. All our recipes are vegetarian because of safety hygiene rules in the Limborough Kitchen, but we also promote it to increase the consumption of vegetables and make a sustainable and healthy choice.

Being involved in a gardening session gives so many benefits to people that may not have a proper garden: they can spend some time outdoors, do some soft physical exercise, and connect with Nature’s pace.


Any tips for being environmentally friendly?

Find a bin: don’t leave your rubbish on the place you are standing, that’s part of your home, you’d never want to live in your own trash!

Recycle when you can.

Be creative and find a way to reuse things like glass jars, plastic containers, and newspapers.

Remember to carry on one or two tote bags for your groceries, it’ll save you from spending money on shopping bags and will reduce your use of plastic.

Plan your weekly meals and measure the right amount of food: you’ll avoid to have expired or wasted food and you will eat better.

Take a 15 minute walk every time you can: it helps your body and your mind work better and you’ll be able to connect with the present season and discover places you might never have seen before.

Lastly, sow a seed!


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In my eyes, being connected to the Earth, growing plants, trying to improve how people and nature interact, and being generally environmentally conscious is the most natural way of being and a core part of my code of ethics.