LIVING LIGHT
Living Light
Welcome! You have found the site of the CreationKeepers team (Christ Church's Eco Church Committee), which shares ideas and experiences about how we can all lighten our environmental footprint. We do this because we see our planet and its resources at a breaking point and believe in the power of personal examples. Most weeks, we will reflect on some aspect of living, working, shopping, consuming, reading, learning, etc. These are all local experiences and can easily be adopted by others in our community. Our authors (Rosie and Monika) look forward to any comments or ideas that you may also have and want to share. Send us your ideas at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Blog #121: My Little Yellow Bag

May 25, 2023
Monika Weber-Fahr
Many moons ago, on a (birth-)day, it had appeared on my doorsteps: My Little Yellow Bag. Bright as the sun and visible in night-traffic, made from seemingly invincible materials that would withstand any degree of physical abuse, this bag the best of all husbands had figured would be perfect for me. And so it was. More of a purse or a clutch, My Little Yellow Bag was somewhat like Hermione’s sackerl; you may remember the Harry Potter sequel when Hermione placed an Undetectable Extension Charm on her bag, allowing her to store insane numbers of things therein that really did not seem to be able to fit. Until they did. Well, that was exactly how My Little Yellow Bag performed. And now it’s gone. Left behind and forgotten in a pub when I was in a rush, it is now in the possession of some other lucky person. And I have to go and find a new one.
There was something else that was special about My Little Yellow Bag: It had been an upcycled bag. Freitag bags are made from discarded truck tarps, left-behind seat belts and airbags. The only new materials they use are zippers, buckles, and so on. The idea to upcycle something is as old as there are materials - something breaks or cannot be used for its original purpose, and we fiddle with it and turn it into something else. A famous example was Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind who took the old velvet curtains from a plantation home and created a stunning ball gown for herself. Thirty years ago, Freitag was one of the first firms to make a business model out of Upcycling: Originally a tiny start-up, endowed with the ingenuity and energy of two students with great ideas and a little bit of money, Freitag has by now evolved into one of the leaders in the market for upcycled bags, backpacks, accessories and apparel.
 
Foto: My Little Yellow Bag had been with me on many journeys over the last years - a fabulous product of the newly emerging Upcycle industry, made from discarded truck tarps and left-behind seat belts. Now looking for a replacement, I checked out a number of Vienna's Upcycle Stores, all of them well worth a visit, notably Kellerwerk and Garbarage. Check them out!  
Having begun researching for a replacement for My Little Yellow Bag, I am somewhat overwhelmed by what’s on offer these days. A quick google search on Upcycled Bags gives me over 6 million hits; many many firms around the world offer bags and other wearables made from upcycled materials. Looking to focus, I decided to stay away from online options and go shopping in person. Vienna has at least five shops that focus on upcycled products - some of them upcycled by their own team, in other cases upcycled by others. Amongst them, I checked out two: Kellerwerk in the Gumpendorfer Strasse offers beautiful and quite extraordinary pieces of furniture while Garbarage in Schleifmühlgassetakes takes on a broader set of items, covering both super-cool looking furniture and decorative pieces as well as wearables. Located in the fourth district, its absolutely worth a visit - with the added bonus that Bobby’’s, the British food store, is right around the corner. Even if you don’t walk out with a fun and happy-looking upcycled item, you will leave inspired about what one can do with everyday items.
Where is this leaving me with my search for a replacement for My Little Yellow Bag? There is a Freitag Store in Neubaugasse 26 I where I could get a nearly-exact replica - noting, of course, that upcycled products always are unique, simply because they are upcycled. I am also contemplating something else: There is someone in Germany who is producing and selling bags made from materials used by Fire Brigades - discarded fire hoses and firemen’s uniforms - looking not only cool but also incredibly sturdy.  So it might well be that My Little Yellow Bag will be reborn as a bright red FeuerWear bag.  And while I am contemplating, I’ll keep exploring the fascinating world of upcycled products - a journey well worth perhaps also for you to go on, not just because you are doing your bit for Mother Nature (by lessening the waste we create), but also because you will discover many unique and beautiful things.
Feeling inspired? Want to contribute? Remark on or question something? Please send thoughts about or suggestions for the Living Light Blog to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Blog #120: It's wild for Wild Bees in Vienna

May 18, 2023
Monika Weber-Fahr
On the wall of my study there is a picture of a bumble bee. The sentence below the picture reads “A Bumble Bee has a flight level of 0.7 cm2, at a weight of 1.2 gramm. According to the known laws of aerodynamics, it is impossible to fly under these circumstances. The bumble bee does not know this. She just flies”.  No, I am not normally someone who would surround herself with aphorisms on the walls of her flat, it was a present. And no, also the sentence itself is not true, not anymore anyways. Many of you may know that it goes back to a statement by French Physicist August Magnan who in the 1930s made the point that according to science known at the time  one could not explain how the flapping of their wings would keep their hefty bodies in the air. Fast forward 90 years, and science’s now improved technologies have allowed us to find out what’s behind the supposed mystery: It’s simply an unconventional combination of short, choppy wing strokes, a rapid rotation of the wings, and a very fast wing-beat frequency.
Why contemplate about bumblebees today? Next Sunday - May 20 - is the UN’s World Bee Day, a day meant to raise awareness of the important role that bees and other pollinators such as butterflies, bats and hummingbeards have in contributing to our food security. And that includes bumblebees. 75% of the world’s food crops and 35% of global agricultural land depend entirely or at least in part on animal pollination - and yet the pollinators in our cities and countrysides are under threat. Much attention during World Bee Day goes to the honey bee, and as a beekeeper myself I have written two LivingLight blogs - last year and the year before - about beekeeping, honey bees, and honey. This year, instead, I’d love to take you on a quick little journey into the world of the Wild Bees. Not just because it makes sense and it is interesting - but also  because there is a special place right in our Christ Church neighborhood where many of them live, the Vienna Botanical Garden.
 
Foto: Here you see one of the many Wild Bees that live in the Vienna Botanical Garden, around the corner from our church building, in a picture taken by Hlompho during our Walk in the Park on April 29. And no, we neither remember the name of the flowers nor know the name of the Wild Bee species. If you recognize either, do send a message to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  
Probably more than 100 different species of Wild Bees live in the Botanical Garden alone - quite a feat for what are just 8 hectares in the middle of the city. In 1912, some 70 species were observed, and by the 1990s - when another study was conducted - there were 129. As more and more plant species were added over the years, the hope is that also species diversity among Wild Bees has been either sustained or even increased since then - a study currently ongoing will tell us in about a year. How do I know? Three weeks ago, at our guided Walk in the Park, the Director of the Botanical Gardens, Professor Michael Kiehn introduced us to some of nature’s treasures over there - and these include quite a few Wild Bees. Globally as well as in Europe Wild Bees are under threat: In Switzerland and Germany, about half of the species’ are formally considered under threat, and in Austria, where about 700 Wild Bee species live, the assessment is currently ongoing. In the meantime, the Botanical Garden - just like many other groups and organizations - does two things specifically to help them out: Firstly, they invest in having a truly diverse set of flowers and trees, offering nectar and pollen throughout the entire (bee) year. And secondly, they have created spaces for Wild Bees to nest and reproduce, including a quite visible Bee Hotel. 
Why are Wild Bees so fragile - or seemingly so? It’s mostly about food. While the Honey Bee can access food sources within a radius of about 3 kilometers, most Wild Bees forage only a few 100 meters away from their nest. On top of that, they are much more selective than Honey Bees, highly specialized in drawing food only from a few types of flowers and trees, most of them equally considered wild. With agricultural spaces growing in size and both agriculture and also our gardens focusing on less and less varieties, there are simply less and less spaces where a Wild Bee can find enough flowers and trees in her proximity that would - in combination - offer blossoms with nectar and pollen throughout the year. What we can do is simple - plant local wildflowers on our balconies and in our gardens, and, if there is space, put up a little BeeHotel someplace. That does help, as does, quite frankly getting politically active or supporting those that are, lobbying for laws that support biodiversity and limit pesticides. But that’s maybe for another day and another blog.
In the meantime, even if you have no garden or balcony but would want to learn more about and observe Wild Bees in Vienna, you are in luck: Several of the local Gardens and Parks have a large and diverse population of Wild Bees. In fact, across Vienna, Europe’s Wild Bee capital, you can find some 450+ of the 700+ Austrian Wild Bees, and aside from the Botanical Garden there are also other great places to check out, including the Donauinsel, the Garten der Vielfalt in Esslingen, or the Blumengärten Hirschstetten. And if you have time this weekend, do also check out some of the public activities on offer this Friday and Saturday, May 19 and 20, organized by the City of Vienna for those curious to learn about Biodiversity in town. Of course, you can always go and visit the Honey Bees, also: At the Vienna Tag des Offenen Bienenstocks, on Sunday, May 21st, between 11 am and 5pm in the Amundsenstraße vis-a-vis # 14, where the Vienna Imkerverband will introduce you to everything you always wanted to know or never knew you wanted - about Bees in Vienna.  Enjoy!
Feeling inspired? Want to contribute? Remark on or question something? Please send thoughts about or suggestions for the Living Light Blog to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Blog #119: The Green Man in our Churches

May 11, 2023
Monika Weber-Fahr
It had stirred quite a few controversies, over the past months: The picture of a Green Man - or rather: of his face - on invites to King Charles’ coronation festivities. I had not really followed the debate, mostly perhaps because it seemed more of a British-tabloid tempest-in-a-teapot kind of thing. But last week’s coronation events themselves - which I did follow, as a good member of the Anglican Communion - brought a lot of the opinions on this mythical creature into my social media feeds. So I decided to do a bit of research to find out what’s up with this Green Man - after all, the gentleman seems to feature as decoration, if not as a symbol, in many of our churches while also reminding us of the omnipresence and beauty of our environment, perhaps featured as some male version of Mother Nature.
What I found was beautiful. Firstly, no one seems to really know where the Green Man as a symbol or a picture comes from originally. Some claim celtic origins, whispering words like paganism or naturalism. Yet, the rather widespread use of the symbol seems to suggest a certain universality of meaning, related to nature and its nourishing forces. Secondly, the term itself, used for what really is a “foliate head design seen everywhere in European medieval church decoration of the eleventh to sixteenth centuries” was apparently introduced or popularized by a British aristocrat, Lady Raglan, in an article she wrote in 1939  for the British journal Folklore, titled The “Green Man” in Church Architecture. Thirdly, the image of what seems an ancient archetype symbolizing nature, birth and rebirth, perhaps representing the cycle of new growth that occurs every spring, can be found well beyond the British Isles or even Europe - there are examples of similar figures from the Lebanon and Iraq, dated to the 2nd century, and similar figures in Borneo, Nepal and India. Fifthly, the Green Man and its symbolism seem to occupy people’s minds well beyond the coronation invitation: When you google Books on the Green Man, you get well over a 100 million hits, Goodreads lists 45 books on the topic, and hundreds and more come up on Amazon when searching for Books Green Man. And sixthly, there are even songs and poems featuring the Green Man.
 
Foto:Foto: A foliate head was depicted on the invitation for the coronation of King Charles III and Queen Camilla, designed by heraldic artist and manuscript illuminator Andrew Jamieson - an ancient figure, symbolic of spring and rebirth.   
Interestingly, though, I could not find any reference to Green Man pictures or sculptures, or even gargoyles, in Austrian Churches - neither in our Christ Church building nor in the older churches across the country that would have been built in a period when foliate heads were part of the decoration. But we don’t have to go too far to find them - Green Man symbolism features in a few churches in neighboring or nearby countries - such as in Germany’s Bamberg Cathedral and in Romania’s Richis’ church. Wherever we find the foliate heads, and whatever you think about them: For me, the Green Man in our churches is a lovely reminder that our natural environment has been present in our faith for long and perhaps anchored somewhat deeper in people’s minds and hearts than today. Maybe the invitation to King Charles’ coronation can also be an invitation to re-kindle our relationship with some of these connections.
So today’s is kind of an unusual LivingLight Blog - inviting you to explore history and art around the Green Man, a truly beautiful environmental symbol, joining us in many olden churches with so much positive presence - and yet a symbol that meets controversy. Despite my research, I can’t give you proper conclusion - but rather an invitation: To join me in exploring the resources I have shared above, and maybe to enjoy a poem, written by Charles Causely.
"Green man in the garden
Staring from the tree,
Why do you look so long and hard
Through the pane at me?
[..] [..]
But when I softly turned the stair
As I went up to bed
I saw the green man standing there
Sleep well, my friend, he said." 
Feeling inspired? Want to contribute? Remark on or question something? Please send thoughts about or suggestions for the Living Light Blog to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Blog #118: The Miner's Daughter says...

May 4, 2023
Monika Weber-Fahr
Yes, it’s me: I am a coal miner’s daughter. My dad worked in the coal mines in the German Ruhr area, and even though I have myself never been down in the shafts (women supposedly bring bad luck, or so they said at the time) I distinctly remember the black spots that had become permanent fixtures on his skin, and that could not be washed off, just like the semi-permanent dust in the air that made my mum wash our curtains once a week. This was in the late sixties, of course, before we had regulations that forced the coal fired power plants next door to install filters, but even then I grew up with the pride and sense of belonging that characterizes so many mining communities around the world, stemming from the undeniable fact that a miners’ hard work is truly indispensable - simply because our world does not function without the ores and minerals that are being dug up and extracted from the earth. And yes, the machines get bigger, the locations are more remote, but the personal risks that people take and the environmental damage that mining causes do remain - as does the fact that practically everything, from the spoon we use to eat through to the chair we sit on and the bicycle that takes us around, is built on mining.
And yes, as odd as they may seem, these were indeed my thoughts yesterday when I walked through the exhibition Mining Photography that is currently on display in the Vienna Kunst Haus in the third district (Hundertwasser Museum). If you don’t know much about photography - or much about mining - there is lots to learn here, in particular if you are young enough to not remember how film cameras used to look like, and how much the shops where we would pick up the prints would smell like really weird chemicals. At the time, we should probably have realized that taking pictures requires resources that others dig up someplace or produce in a chemical factory - but as it were, it all seemed rather far away. In the really early days of photography though - sometime between 1717 and 1800 - the inventors and early users were of course acutely aware of the use of salt, copper, and silver, to name but a few, if only because that is what they were experimenting with in order to figure out how to fix an image captured by a camera. The exhibition traces the pathways of the early inventors, looking at materials and where they came from (incidentally, did you know that for many years cotton was used for prints?) and already this material history is fascinating enough to make a visit at the Kunst Haus worthwhile.
 
Foto: One of the spectatular pictures on display at the Mining Photography exhibition at the Kunst Haus Wien - shedding a different light at the beauty that photography tends to convey.   
The curators also take a look at what the extraction of mineral resources involves, in particular the often dismal working conditions underground and above, the destruction of the environment, and the all too frequently ruthless treatment of people who live or make a living where someone else may want to mine.  I still wonder about that part of the exhibition, though.  Not because it’s wrong: Well beyond my personal history as a miner’s daughter I had the chance to spend part of my professional life working with mining companies around the world on the environmental, social and economic impact that their activities resulted in, and I can confirm the story that the pictures in the Kunst Haus tell us. It’s true: the process of mining mostly is ugly. Many companies have managed to improve it - but at their core, the extractive industries do destroy things. They do so to create other things. Wealth, beauty, practicality, mobility.  Whatever makes modern societies tick. Including the beauty of photography. It’s worthwhile spending some time to reflect on this - because it means that there is a responsibility innate in every item produced using these resources. The responsibility to care!
Nicely, the exhibition picks up on this theme - the theme of caring - when taking us into the 21st century part of the history of photography and its materials. Because these days, the environmental footprint of photography has more to do with what it takes to produce a smartphone than with the sliver and cobalt used in the early photographic processes. And the big story about phones is the story about waste: About five (5!) billion phones are expected to be thrown away this year, turning phones and the metals used inside them to e-waste that in many places is neither recycled nor safely deposited. The exhibition has interesting perspectives to share on e-waste management, the incentives for doing the right and the wrong thing, all things we would want to know about because they involve our responsibility to care. And just in case you were wondering: Here in Vienna, e-waste - including phones - is not only collected systematically but it is also stripped off all valuables and recycled; Austria has rules for this, and so does the EU.
Should you go and check out the exhibition? Well, it’s not your typical photography exhibition - and even though it does contain much beauty it also is very much an exercise in learning. You won’t be disappointed, though, on that end, I promise! Curious? If so, then hurry: You only have about three weeks left - it’s only open until May 29. Then the entire museum will close for six months for energy efficiency renovations.  Even more reasons to go right now - and to enjoy some of Hundertwasser’s extraordinary works while you are at it.
Feeling inspired? Want to contribute? Remark on or question something? Please send thoughts about or suggestions for the Living Light Blog to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.