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Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Secret Santa

Looking for ideas for your secret santa this year? A few years ago someone bought me one of those wind-up torches. It is fantastic! Finding a torch in my house used to be a nightmare. I don't need a torch very frequently and so when I did need one it would invariably have flat batteries. I have found my wind-up torch to be a great Christmas present. It is in its third year now and still going strong.

I'm sure they are widely available on the High Street, but here's a link to one from Amazon: They cost just less than a fiver.

Done that already and need another idea? What about an eco-stapler? That's another thing that's really annoying. Do you ever remember when you are out and about what size staples your stapler takes? I never do, so I frequently run out. An eco stapler clips up to three pages together with a cut and fold action. Again they cost less than £5 from here: but probably available on the High Street. I like these woven juice carton purses - £5 , the Elephant Dung Notecubes -£7.95 and the colouring pencils made from recycled newspaper from 'myecostore'.

Oxfam is a great place for eco-gifts for your secret santa. Take a look when you are passing or have a look at their stocking fillers page online:

Monday, 7 December 2009

Making money from green living

I came across this great post today on saving and even making money from green living.

There are many ways that you can save money, just by spending a little, but this blog is all about the small things that cost nothing but collectively could make a big difference. On BBC Radio 5 in the UK today, this very thing was being discussed and it was suggested that governments are likely to put more effort into the bigger picture when they can see how people are making an effort with the small stuff.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Christmas Shopping

I don't even like to think about Christmas shopping until December. But December is here whether I'm ready or not.

This year I want to make a more conscious effort to ensure that the presents I give don't contribute to the ever increasing landfill problem, so I've been having a good look at the packaging of everything I buy.

Yesterday, I raided the cupboard under the stairs and retrieved all the Christmas gift bags from last year ( or the year before, or the year before that maybe!). I found 15 bags. I have now bought two rolls of wrapping paper from Oxfam, made of 100% recycled paper and which can, of course, be recycled after use.

I've bought a few bottles of wine. I know that won't go to waste and most people that I know these days recycle their glass. Every ton of recycled glass used saves 1.2 tons of raw material.
I also bought some big tins of Quality Street. It tells you on the box that the outer coloured wrapper can be composted, the inner aluminium recycles just like a drinks can and of course the tin can be used again and again until it gets so battered it too needs to be recycled.

Books will certainly be featuring in my Christmas purchases - no packaging and they can be passed on to friends or charity shops when people have finished with them. If you feel bad about writers missing out on royalties when you pass on books to friends, have a look to see if they have websites where you can donate the equivalent sum of money they would have received in royalties if the book had been bought new.

Toys are always the things I'm most wary of, packaging wise and so I've decided to try and get the shopping done this week so I'm not making last minute decisions that tend to stop me from even considering what packaging surrounds the gift. Hopefully that way, too, I won't be responsible for frustrated children and parents spending hours trying to find their way into the toys through the hundred completely useless layers of plastic and cardboard wired and glued together, supposedly to make something look better than it is.

Happy shopping and Merry Christmas!

Monday, 19 October 2009

A use for broken crockery

I save up broken bits of crockery in a tub in my garage and use them to put in the bottom of plant pots over the drainage holes. As we had a nice weekend I decided to get my pots ready for bringing in my geraniums. They are my favourite plant, not least because they need very little watering even in dry weather and if you bring them in to a shed or a conservatory or a cool windowsill in your house, then they will go on getting better and better, year after year.

A word of advice when you put your crock into your pots: wear a thick pair of gloves so you don't cut yourself!

Thursday, 8 October 2009

The kitchen compost caddy

Do you hate emptying the kitchen compost caddy?

I don't like the idea of using bags in my compost. It can surely only add to the time it takes for everything to decompose and besides, you have to buy them. But I did recently try out a new trick for my compost caddy. I have found that when I empty my compost bin and rinse it out it helps if I then tear up some egg box cartons to line the bottom. I've found that whatever gloopy mess I put on top comes out more easily when I have a cardboard layer on the bottom, making the emptying job much easier and the caddy needs less rinsing.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Bags of Life!

I stumbled upon a fantastic local campaign today when I was out shopping. I bought a few things for my daughter’s birthday party and as I was paying I came out with my usual, ‘It’s okay thanks, I’ve got my own bag,’ at which point I was handed a little voucher.

‘Don’t bring my life to an end. Re-use me!’ was the slogan and a cheeky little picture of a polythene bag, bright eyed was pleading to be saved from the dreaded landfill.

It turns out that several of the shops on the high street have joined in a campaign with local schools to give out these vouchers to people whenever they refuse a bag. The vouchers can then be handed in to local participating schools and there’s a competition to see which schools collect the most with environmentally friendly prizes for the most successful.

A visit to the OTCN website shows this is just one of a number of schemes being run across the county aiming to reduce the number of plastic bags produced and thrown away. It is all too easy to forget that plastic bags are made from natural gas or oil, precious resources we can’t just keep throwing away.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Bottle tops

I checked out with my local recycling people today and found out that, yes, we can put metal and plastic bottle tops in our curb-side recycling boxes*. I delved a little further and found out that the best thing to do is to collect them up into a can – for steel caps use a steel food can such as a baked bean tin - then squash the can with the tops inside it so they can't fall out. This apparently helps to make sure they are efficiently recycled and don't get in amongst other materials such as paper and plastics. I'm told it helps not to have small bits of materials (of any kind) on their own as they fall through the holes in the separation process and end up being dealt with as mixed "fines" which are either land-filled or incinerated.

I also enquired at a local craft supplies place – they turn scrap into art and craft materials – and they take metal beer bottle tops there. So, if your local council don't collect them maybe you could find a place like this near you.

* Your local authority may have a different policy so, if in doubt just email them and ask.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Plastic Bag Recycling

Did you know that......?

'Flat plastic bags are hard to remove from paper and are easily contaminated by the leftover liquids in beverage containers. If plastic bags are to be collected in a program, residents should be required to place the bags within other bags and only set out full bags,not loose individual ones.' Source:

You may have noticed that larger branches of Sainsbury have plastic bag recycling facilities. In my local branch it is situated just inside the main door, rather than at the recycling point. Have you also noticed that on a lot of plastic bags that form the packaging e.g. of fruit and vegetables Sainsbury now print 'Recyclable at larger branches of Sainsbury'?

I try to buy fruit and vegetables without packaging, but I find this is not always practical. When I do have plastic bags from such packaging I check they are clean and store them for reuse. I use them for wrapping sandwiches and storing garden produce in the fridge or freezer. I haven't had to buy food bags for over a year as even though I try to minimise the packaging I acquire from shopping it provides me with enough bags for whatever I need.

I did wonder if my children would complain at having their sandwiches packed in an apple bag or the film from bread rolls – children are always so conscious these days of how things look – but they don't. I conclude that it must fit with the new eco-chic.

As these bags are only intended for single use, I only re-use them once or twice. I then rinse them and collect them into a largish plastic wrapper which has fulfilled its reuse already, then take them with me a couple of times a month to put in the recycling container at Sainsbury.

Does anyone know of other supermarkets that have similar recycling materials? My intention is to promote waste reduction, not Sainsbury, but I just happen to live near one. I'll be on the look-out if I am out and about elsewhere but please let me know of similar facilities in your area.



Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Charity Shop Chic(k)

I have two children, and children are constantly growing out of clothes, toys, books, games. I take all the grown-out-of goodies to my local community shop. This community shop gives out grants to various organisations. In the two full years that it has been running as a community shop it has given out £14,000 each year to local organisations such as the pre-school, the school, the Brownies, the cricket club, the playground, and many more. It is a fantastic resource for our village.

I have been making environmentally conscious decisions about what I purchase for a while now. Like most people, though, I feel I have been taking it a step at a time. I decided that over the coming year I'm going to change the way I shop for clothes. I felt that I hadn't really, up to now, checked out the ethics and sustainability of the clothes I buy. Time to change all that. From now on, I will make a point of thinking about where clothes have travelled from, what the lives of the people who make those clothes are like, who benefits from my purchase and who and what suffers from it.

I was out for the day with a friend in a nearby town last week and strolling down the quaint high street we spotted a shop called 'Resource'. The name caught my eye and we had a look. The shop was a 'fifty/fifty' style second hand shop where you can take along your quality second hand clothing and if the shop can sell the item they give you fifty percent of the sales price. I parted with twenty pounds for a lovely designer skirt. I'll admit I have no idea who benefitted or who suffered from the original purchase, but I did feel that as I was reusing resources it was a move in the right direction.

A skirt needs something to wear with it and a rummage through my wardrobe came up with nothing, so the next time I was out on an errand I checked out the nearest charity shop. For the grand sum of £3.75 I bought two designer label tops to go with my new skirt.

As my attention had been turned to charity shop clothing I decided it was time I checked something out that had been at the back of my mind for some time. I remember seeing an advert in the window of Oxfam advertising that they'd give you a £5 Marks & Spencer voucher if you brought in a bag of clothing or soft furnishings (towels, sheets, curtains, etc) containing a Marks and Spencer item. Sounds great, doesn't it. So what's the catch, I thought? I had several bags of children's clothes to take to my local community shop. However, there is an Oxfam in my nearest town, so I kept one bag back which contained a Marks and Spencer children's dressing gown amongst other bits and pieces and I took it along to Oxfam today. It was gratefully accepted and I was given my £5 voucher. The voucher can be used on clothing, home and beauty products when you spend £35 pounds or more. Fair enough, I thought. However, it is only valid between 1st and 30th of September 2009. Well, a fiver won't even cover the bus fare to my nearest Marks and Spencer and as I don't have a trip planned before the end of the month it is most unlikely I'll get to use my £5 voucher. Ah well! There had to be a catch.

But of course, forewarned, you'll know to hang on to your charity shop bag until you know what you're going to redeem your voucher on and when (or you could just enjoy the satisfaction of knowing that your unwanted items are being given a new lease of life and helping relieve poverty – there's no catch to that bit).

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Where do you recycle your printer cartridges?

According to the Centre for Alternative Technology's July bulletin, printer cartridges account for about 15,000 tonnes of waste plastic and metal in the UK. Many could be recycled and reused, reducing landfill, saving raw materials and minimising CO2 emissions

They say that if you would like to help, you can send your used ink cartridges and mobile phones to "Centre for Alternative Technology, Empty Printer Cartridge & Mobile Phone Appeal, Freepost Nat 16879, Po Box 575, Ipswich, IP8 4WR" or call them on 0845 330 4593 to receive some Freepost envelopes.


You can also recycle your printer cartridges with the RSPB here or with Traidcraft here or with the RNIB here to name but a few. Why not check out your favourite charity to see if they do a recycling scheme and then set up a recycling box at your school or workplace.

Of course the other side of the equation is buying recycled printer cartridges. So, where can you do that?

Lasertech, a UK printer cartridge manufacturer, reuse the outer shell of their printer cartridges saving on landfill and saving on raw materials. They have a returns facility for empty cartridges.

Choice Stationery send a recycling envelope with all their cartridges and ask customers to return their empties to them.
They also supply
'Think' Inkjet cartridges which are recycled. These are available for Epson, Canon, HP, Lexmark, Brother, Dell and Xerox. I've used these myself and they are 100% guaranteed. inkcycle also offer a 100% guarantee and take back the cartridges.


So next time think before you order your ink and let's try to reduce the estimated 30 million empty inkjet cartridges that get thrown away into landfill every year in the UK alone.





Friday, 12 June 2009

Does excessive packaging affect your purchasing decisions?

Yeo Valley Organic
claims to have saved 109 tonnes of unnecessary packaging from its products in the 12months from January 2008. They have reduced the amount of plastic used in their pots, increased the amount of packaging which is made from recycled material and removed all avoidable cardboard sleeves. Read more.

I have recently bought the Waitrose organic natural live bio yoghurt which does have a removable cardboard sleeve which is recyclable and the pot and lid are stated as recyclable too. This is certainly a move in the right direction, for people like me who are obsessed with reducing waste, particularly waste that gets sent to land-fill. According to online industry magazine DairyReporter.Com a spokesperson for the group suggests that the future of its ongoing green commitments may lie beyond pack reductions, particularly in development of compostable alternatives.

Do excessive packaging, recyclability or compostability affect your purchasing decisions?

Saturday, 6 June 2009

At last an eco tip that saves effort too!

Here's the kind of handy hint I like. Reading the Homeserve customer magazine I came across this:

"Don't spend ages washing paint brushes if you're going to be using them again tomorrow. Just wrap them tightly in clingfilm so they don't dry out and carry on with the job the next day."

Well, I wouldn't use clingfilm personally, as I feel that is using new resources needlessly. But a bit of plastic film packaging that, hard as I try, I don't seem to be able to avoid, did the trick perfectly well, even though it was quite the next day that I went back to the painting. As I paint today with my unwashed brushes I think of all that water and energy (I mean my own) that I've saved. So what am I doing writing this, when I should be getting on with the decorating? Well, you know what they say about watching paint dry....

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Be Nice to Nettles

Hey folks! It's 'Be Nice to Nettles Week'. Well, in a way, I'm being nice to nettles this week as I'm decorating. That means I haven't got time to go out into the garden and wage war on all those nettles that are taller than I am. I'm always relieved to hear people say how important it is to keep a patch of nettles in a garden as nettles are so vital for a range of wildlife, but in my garden most of the time the word patch would better describe the nettle free zone. I do have the odd patch of garden that nettles have not yet taken over.

It was only recently, however, that I found out about 'Be Nice to Nettles Week'. There is a wealth of information about these useful plants at I'm going to celebrate 'Be Nice to Nettles' week by trying out nettle quiche.

Thursday, 30 April 2009

After the feast

My blog has been sadly neglected of late, due mostly for the need to meet the deadline for my latest university assignment. But that done, I have no excuse for not getting down to the other neglected task of late... the housework. Uhh!

Task number one was to take two bulging bags of too small clothes (not mine – I haven't had time to eat Easter Eggs) to my local community shop. Task two, to take another two bulging bags – this time Tetrapaks – to the Tetrapak collection point in the car park near the centre of town.

Task three is to tackle the pile of packaging produced from this year's Easter Eggs. Before Easter I was pleasantly surprised to read about the efforts some companies are making to reduce packaging. But after the feast I find that this is by no means universal. I noticed that Nestlé's Smarties egg (211g) proudly announces the 'Same size egg, 25% Less packaging, No plastic' which gets my vote, but then why couldn't they do the same for their After Eight egg?

I popped a Cadbury 'Creme Egg' 197g on my kitchen scales to find it weighs in at 264g. Of the 264 grams, 24 grams is the moulded plastic insert, 40 grams is the cardboard box. I'm guessing that makes 3 grams of foil. When it is all packed up, you can barely see what you are actually buying – the Easter egg inside. I estimate that of the 26 cms in height of the cardboard box at least 6 cms of that is just air.

But really, the worst thing about the abundance of packaging was, for me, summed up when I asked my children why their Easter egg chocolate hangs around for so long.

    "It's not that nice. It tastes of plastic."

I'm sure quality control is of high importance to chocolate manufacturers, and taste must surely be top of the list. But do they ever bother to taste their products after they've been in their packaging for a few weeks? I guess not.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Put your drains on a diet

I went to meet a friend at a café today. She asked me why I always took my napkin with me. Well...

Some time last Autumn I remember reading about the millions of pounds water companies are spending clearing sewers blocked by fat, oil and grease from cooking. In the article it suggested wiping grease and fat from pans before washing them. So, thinking that I'd rather have those millions redeployed for flood defences, river de-silting, ditch clearance and general improvements to the infrastructure I decided to do my bit to make sure I wasn't adding to the fat problem.

It is good for the compost to add paper products regularly, so after spooning out any hard fat to put out for the birds, I would wipe round the pan with kitchen roll. I also started saving paper napkins that we sometimes use - rather than throwing them in the compost, I put them into a basket at the side of the compost and so I generally had one available when I needed to wipe the grease off something. This saved on kitchen roll, but we don't use napkins very often at home.

When out and about I started to take napkins home with me if they were barely used – or even there just to look pretty! What's going to happen to it when they clear your cup / plate away? It will probably be thrown in a bin. So I think it is good to make your napkin work a little harder.

Okay I will admit to a few blushing moments when going to retrieve something from my handbag and finding the last lot of napkins still in there!

Friday, 27 February 2009

Beat the Credit Crunch

Are you trying to cut food bills? These credit crunch tips will help you cut down on food waste as well as helping you to save money.

  • Plan meals before you shop and only buy what you need, not forgetting to plan for when you might use leftovers, eat out or with friends.
  • Take shopping bags with you. Some supermarkets are starting to charge for bags, others give you loyalty card points for re-using your own bags.
  • Don't forget to take bags you can use for fruit and vegetables. Loose fruit and vegetables are often cheaper and you can buy the quantity you really need.
  • Use up leftovers.
  • Put out peelings, apple cores, bread crumbs, bacon rind, and fat for the birds.
  • Make your own compost from kitchen and garden waste.
  • Grow your own herbs.
  • Go shopping with a friend and share those buy one get one free offers.

Monday, 23 February 2009

Fairtrade Fortnight 2009


The Fairtrade Foundation has announced Fairtrade Fortnight 2009, launched on London's South Bank on 22 February.

The theme this year is "Make it Happen – Choose Fairtrade".


Ethical Superstore have put together an A-Z of all things Fairtrade: See it here.


Lucy Siegle asks whether buying fair trade is a waste of money. It is always tempting to ask what difference do my actions actually make in the grand scheme of things? Last week Nicky Campbell was asking if we are all too grumpy to be green.

It is a worry that people are going to use the 'credit crunch' as an excuse to give up on any attempt to be green. I have already heard many people talk about recycling being stockpiled because prices have dropped. Some are talking about that being reason in itself to just bin their rubbish rather than recycling. I disagree.

Fair-trade products are often more expensive than other products, but I plan to keep buying. In my view there shouldn't be unfair trade, but there is. Maybe, my actions make very little difference in the global scheme of things, but I plan to keep trying.



Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Eco Valentines

The Energy Saving Trust have some great ideas for going green this Valentine's Day. And once again, these ideas show that going green is often a way to beat the Credit Crunch.

Thursday, 22 January 2009


Water is something that in many parts of the world is seen as the most precious commodity. Yet in the UK, often we take it for granted. Be honest, how many times have you poured away water that you've taken out with you on a trip or taken up to bed with you and not drunk?

A while ago it occurred to me that I could be using this water rather than pouring it down the sink.

I found an old plastic watering can – the kind that was used for watering houseplants – and I keep this on the windowsill by the sink. So now when I take bottles of water out school bags and sports bags or glasses of water from around the house I tip the water into the watering can rather than down the sink.

I use this water to rinse the sink and to rinse out glass bottles and other packaging for the recycling. Best of all, when the watering can is full I use this as my cue to water my houseplants. They are looking a lot healthier since I introduced this new system, which probably goes to show just how much water we used to waste.

Monday, 12 January 2009

A Hole New Font

A friend sent me this link today.

This got me thinking about printing in general.

I try to print as little as possible – to save paper and ink, but I hadn't really thought about my printer settings. I often print things for proof reading in best quality, whereas I could use draft.


Testing out the ecofont!


Saturday, 3 January 2009

New Year’s Resolution

This time last year we decided to get rid of our rubbish bin. It was feeling a little sad and underused already so we gave it flash label "Plastic Recycling" and bought it a friend "Metal Recycling". In addition to this we had a basket for burnable rubbish, a compost bin, various containers to collect bits to put out for the birds, and the bottles collect in a cupboard until someone can be bothered to carry them out to the kerbside collection bin.

Okay, we do get some funny looks when someone asks "where's your bin?" but we are all getting used to saying that we don't have one.

Feeling smug that we had no rubbish, I felt tempted to ask for an extra recycling bin. However, I realised that was probably not the answer. Just as rubbish has a cost, so does recycling, and the thing that is going to drive manufacturers to reduce packaging is consumer demand. So, as a consumer, I decided that I was going to demand less packaging. Most shop assistants no longer give me strange looks when I insist on using my own bag, or plonk my fruit and veg bagless at the till (though I draw the line at sprouts!). I have managed to cut down the amount of packaging I produce for recycling.

However, the sin I plan to attack in 2009 is the food waste.

I have a compost, a wormery and I feed the birds with my food waste, which is better than it going in the bin. I already plan for leftovers to be used as much as I can but I think there is still room for improvement. So among my New Year's Resolutions this year is to focus on food waste.

Want to join me? Have a look at Love Food Hate Waste for some ideas.