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GPAD-Guest Blogger-Natasha Aidinyantz-From Rches to Spades-Cover

Natasha Aidinyantz: From Riches to Spades

This is our first Guest Blog Submission. All media and written word found on this page belongs to the featured person. You’ll be able to find their links throughout the post.

This is the story of a directionless young girl finding a passion in her early 30’s. A little late for a passion some might say, but it’s never really too late to find something to live for.

For almost my entire life, I felt angry that the world wasn’t built around me. I agonised about having to learn things the way others taught it, instead of the ways I found easiest. I blamed everything negative that happened in my life on someone or something that I couldn’t control. I drank and partied and tried drugs, only to drown out my emotions. I didn’t have any passions. I just wanted to earn money easily and fuel my chemical induced numbness.

After three years of living the party life at university and scraping a pass mark, I had to decide what I was actually going to do with my life. With a little help from my mother, I was directed to digital marketing. The only skill with this job is knowing how the systems and processes work. Once you know the formula, you can add a creative twist and voila, you get success. And so, the next 8 years saw me move from job to job, getting results, asking for pay rises to fuel my lifestyle and moving on to bigger companies who could afford my requirements. Consume, pay rise, consume more.

Don’t get me wrong, digital marketing is a skilful career, everyday is different and I was certainly never left wondering what to do. I was good at my job and enjoyed the feeling of getting results. But as I got older, I realised that I had no purpose – not one that I was proud of anyway. I wasn’t helping small local businesses anymore. I was making rich people richer. I was hiding flaws in a product and exaggerating benefits to make something more sellable. I was entwined in office politics, gossip and Christmas parties for the return of a measly pay rise and a patronising pat on the back.

I was wholly unfulfilled and noticeably stressed. Now I was drinking and taking drugs to numb myself from the emptiness of being an office zombie.

Things changed when I decided to quit my job and go travelling. The original plan was to work self-employed and just keep travelling forever but I fell in love before leaving and eventually decided to make it a 4-month trip. I would work 12 hours a week which would pay for my expenses in South East Asia. It sounded like the perfect getaway, so I bought a one-way ticket to Goa, India and off I went.

Travelling was amazing in every way I expected it to be. I think back to those months with great joy. But some of the darker memories are what fuels my passion today.

During my time in India, I noticed a huge waste issue. Researching this problem only made me more furious because I learnt that Western countries like the UK, USA and EU export a great deal of waste to SE Asia and India. When you’re on the streets in India, you can see with your own eyes there is no localised way of processing trash. In fact, a lot of it is burnt. There’s certainly no categorised rubbish collection on a Wednesday when you live in a remote village out there.

Western travellers like me didn’t care much about these things it seemed. They wanted to get selfies with temples, eat street food and play drinking games at night. Hostels felt like my university experience on steroids. It didn’t matter who was getting paid or what effect Western money had on the local economies. Rich Westerners just wanted to have a bargain good time.

In some countries, Western money is funding gangs, Westerners seeking out illegal drugs are funding crime and Westerners buying up cheap land in countries like the Philippines were driving up prices for locals who could no longer afford their own land. All of this at the price of the environment around it. Once a beautiful, untouched landscape, locals were claiming tourist spots to make money selling tours, market goods and food. All of which require infrastructure that ruins the local landscape.

I met wonderful local people who were living simple lives and I finally checked myself. Years of self-righteous arrogance fell away like sand through my fingers. I wasn’t the centre of the world, I was a hugely spoiled, greedy brat who always wanted more and never appreciated what the world was already giving me.

I saw that all the way out in SE Asia, the decisions of us Westerners was making a difference. Not always a positive one. But it made me realise how interconnected we all are. And that thought was the seed that developed into who I am today. It’s only been two years since I came back home from my travels. But I came back with a new obsession.

I thought I would make a difference by focusing on reducing my plastic waste, but this became difficult quickly. Sure, I can make my own deodorant and toothpaste, but the number of vegetables in the supermarket covered in plastic leaves me with very little choice but to spend fortunes at the farmer’s markets.

I soon read an article about a guy in Devon (Martin Crawford if you’re interested) who was fully self-sufficient in food with only 4 hours a week labour. He had created his own food forest – something that sounded idealistic but very intriguing to me at the time. I soon realised he was practicing something called permaculture.

If I had to sum my passion up, I’d say I’m passionate about reducing my carbon footprint. Something I learnt can be done without necessarily living like a caveman or a hippy – a criticism often used by climate change deniers. My long-term goal is to start a small holding where me and my partner will grow everything we eat on our land, but for now we’re living in a flat without a garden and growing our food on a nearby allotment site we rent from the council. We’ve learnt a lot in a year, including the fact that seedlings need more light than our apartment can offer. Every minute of our journey so far has been exciting for both of us and in many ways, it has brought us both even closer together as a couple.

Technology isn't all that bad. We use it here in the form of grow lights to help us maximise our harvest and get tomatos, chilies, aubergines and peppers a head start in life.

We imagine our future together a lot. We would create our own compost and focus on perennial crops which would enrich the soil life and, in turn, would contribute to higher crop yields and create the perfect environment for local wildlife and plants to flourish. We’ll live more simply but I expect we’ll still have many luxuries such as a TV, various kitchen gadgets and our beloved Google home device. Being mostly self-sufficient would mean little money on bills and groceries which would mean less need to work and more time to spend on the land (which is still working, but for ourselves instead of lining the pockets of some already rich alien you’ll never meet at the top of a corporate chain).

The most effective ways an average person can reduce their carbon footprint is by growing their own food and reducing the amount of meat/dairy they eat. Food travels a long way from other countries and often gets thrown in a bin when it reaches its best-by-date (an arbitrary date with little meaning in my world). Growing your own reduces the need for intensive agricultural practices which are destroying the planet – even something as little as balcony grown lettuce or indoor potted herbs can make a difference.

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Without any chemicals or fertilisers, my vegetables seemed much bigger than anything I ever bought.

By collecting our own rainwater and making use of our own wastewater, we could reduce the strain that exists in our current systems. Aquifers are struggling to refill and water is scarce, even though it might not be noticeable when we run our taps. Solar panels and wind turbines are getting progressively cheaper and help reduce our reliance on burning fossil fuels for energy. If you can’t afford to get your own then you can at least move to a renewable energy only company like Octopus Energy.

Me and my partner got our allotment almost as soon as I came back from my travels and we were so grateful to have it during lockdown. It has brought us so much peace and joy. We have grown so much of our own food, reduced our weekly grocery payments, watched nature, had BBQs and found a new connection with ourselves and the environment around us. I’ve even started studying once a week to get my RHS Level 2 qualification and turn my passion into a full-time career.

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Some of my best Parsnips

It’s amazing that we grow up learning so much at school and yet our knowledge about the inner workings of the world is completely non-existent. I can build a website and write content for a blog but I can’t grow my own tomatoes. I don’t know how much energy or water I use. I can’t distinguish a poisonous plant from an edible one. Heck, I didn’t even know where the food I ate came from half the time. These seem like essential skills to have lost.

I’d trade a lot of my comforts today for the chance to work with the soil and cook with my own produce full-time. Not only is there an inner peace that comes from working with nature and not against it, but there’s also a resilience you build. While I don’t expect an Armageddon style event, the pandemic has taught me that anything can happen and the more self-sufficient I am, the more resistant I am. After all, it seems crazy that we rely on singular systems to survive without a plan for what we will do when those systems fail. I think about food shortages and water supply issues as the most likely to happen in our lifetime.

I guess you could say I have grown a passion for learning how to give back as much as I take from the earth. I’m not sure I’ll ever make up for the consumption of my younger self but I can try and be an example that will inspire others – that would be enough for me.

*To enhance site load speed and optimisation, some of the submitted images have been resized and/or slightly altered

Thank you for taking the time to submit your story and your passion Natasha. For our first ever Guest Blogger, you’ve certainly set the standards high. We think your story will resonate with most viewers and make us think a little bit deeper when we’re eyeing up our vegetables in the supermarket.

You’ll find Natasha’s links below if you want to follow her Carbon reducing lifestyle and immerse yourself in her beautiful allotment.

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Natasha Aidinyantz
Hi, I'm Natasha and I've been in marketing and communications for over 7 years. I specialise in copywriting (content marketing), SEO, social media and web sales. I have trained many people and consulted for several different businesses including Greene King Pubs and Non Profit Organisations in Kent. But I'm here to talk about my passion, not my career. I hope you enjoy the insight into my life.

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