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Thursday, 18 November 2010

How do you dispose of those Cool Packs for sports injuries?

Does anyone know whether there is an environmentally friendly way to dispose of the cool packs such as the HypaCool Instant Cold Pack by SFA Group Ltd.?

I have two and I don't know what to do with them. I have no idea what is in them so I don't know if I can pour the contents away and recycle the plastic. I'm fed up with seeing them in my little pile of things I don't know what to do with that accumulates on my kitchen windowsill so today I've emailed the company that supplies them.  In the meantime please do let me know if you can tell me what is in these packs and how to dispose of them safely.


Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Green Electricity

It is many years ago now that I changed to the Power2 renewable energy plan provided by my existing electricity company, Southern Electric.

I have always made an effort to reduce the amount of electricity I use, choosing low energy light bulbs, turning off lights when we leave a room, drying my washing on a washing line rather than using the tumble dryer - you know the kind of thing.

So, a couple of years ago when my electricity provider wrote to me promoting the 'Better Plan' - a plan that rewards customers for reducing their electricity consumption year on year, I thought yes, why not?

Take a look at their website and see what you think..... Click on the tab 'Being Green', click on the tab 'Go One Step Further'.  I don't think I realised that by 'going one step further' I was actually coming off my renewable electricity plan.

So I switched plan, my electricity monitor arrived and I set about consistently trying to look in to making sure I was saving electricity wherever I could. And even though I thought I was already careful about saving electricity, I managed to reduce my energy consumption by 20% in a year.

Now, I'm not knocking this altogether, because I did make those savings and it was in part down to the awareness raising that the 'Better Plan' information provided, though, I'll also point out that some of it happened by accident -

1. My kettle (a hand me down I acquired when I went to college, dare I say it, 20 years ago) blew up and we had to get a new one.  Electrical items are manufactured to be more economical these days.

2. My computer was so old and slow that I decided to switch to a laptop -  second hand but only a couple of years old and much whizzier than what I was making do with. Laptops use less energy than desktops.

But other little things that probably helped were trying to be more organised with the washing so that I didn't leave it languishing in the washing machine when it was finished.  That way less of it needed ironing.  Oh, and trying not to boil the kettle three times before I actually remembered to pour the hot water on to my tea.

So, I'm not suggesting that Better Plan isn't a good idea - rewarding people for using less electricity  has to be a good idea. But, two years in to being a 'Betterplan' customer I enquired about companies that gave cash-back for the energy generated by my solar hot water system and contacted Good Energy.   They did a price comparison for me and although the daily rate was lower, the unit price was just slightly higher.

Readers of this blog will probably already know that my main focus is to write about greener living that doesn't cost more than the non-green option, so at that point I decided not to change, as I thought I was on a green energy plan with my current provider. However, the nice lady I was talking to at Good Energy said,  "You might like to subscribe to our news letter where we publish our prices because we constantly strive to compete and we hate it when we can't." As a parting question, she asked me if I was already on a green tariff.  

"Yes," I said, and that's when I starting asking questions.  

I checked the website to see if it said that Better Plan was renewable energy.  It didn't.  But, it did say 'Go one step further'. The person I spoke to at Southern Electric explained to me that although Better Plan wasn't renewable energy, it was green because the focus was on helping people cut down on their usage.  I don't dispute that, but, I felt a little cheated.

The cynic in me thought perhaps there had been so much demand for the Power2 renewable energy tariff with the price promise of not being more expensive than conventional tariffs that they needed a ruse to get people off their renewables given that their energy mix is only 10% renewables, but surely not?

For me, one step further has to be 100% renewables, so I switched. 

Monday, 1 November 2010

Making the most of that Halloween pumpkin

Did you buy a pumpkin this year?

I love making Halloween lanterns with my pumpkins. But I also love eating pumpkin too. So last year when we missed out on buying a pumpkin I was disappointed not to get my annual fix. This year though, we decided to convert a tatty corner of garden that used to be a compost heap into an extra vegetable patch and we grew our own pumpkins.  Not going to miss out this year!

My favourite is pumpkin soup, especially if it is a little spiced up with some chillies and ginger - it makes a lovely winter warmer.  I've just had some for lunch.

Having scooped out the flesh we washed the seeds and dried them ready to plant next year.  One pumpkin gives quite a lot of seeds, so I'll probably have plenty to give away.  They will be ready to store by the weekend. If friends and family don't want them I'll give them to my local community shop.

Having grown our own this year we have five to use, so I'm looking up other things I can do with them.  Pumpkin gratin is great and I plan to toast the seeds from the rest of the pumpkins - you don't wash them if you are toasting them as it all adds flavour

We roasted some pumpkin with Sunday lunch, but although it has a lovely sweet flavour it was a little watery. Does anyone know of any good tips for roasting? I'm sure there's a way to get a better texture.

Thursday, 21 October 2010


Looking for something to do in half term? How about fruit picking?

I recently heard about a group called Abundance which arranges fruit picking for people who either can't or don't want to pick their own fruit.

You can read more about this on greenjottings

If you know people who don't pick their fruit it is worth putting them in touch with one of these groups. They can choose to keep the fruit that has been picked for them. Unwanted fruit is then given to charity.  Windfalls and damaged fruit is made into pies, crumbles, chutneys, jams and all in a good cause.

I will try to find out whether there is a nationwide list or website where people can find details of their nearest group.  When I do I'll be sure to post it here but in the meantime a few groups are listed in this article in Time Out.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Wind Power for Free?

I've been looking into ways of generating my own energy.  The depressing thing about this is that it costs such a lot of money.

Every now and then I research the latest on micro-generation, and love the idea of wind power.  I live in a windy spot on top of a hill - the only hill for several miles around.  So wind power would seem to make sense.  But, I know it is going to take me a long time to find the necessary information, save up the necessary money and work out whether the new 'feed-in tariff' will make this a worthwhile investment.

However, we can all be using wind power at no cost to all. How?

Just by hanging out our washing.  Yes, it is October, yes it is freezing cold but I hung out some sheets and pillow cases and tea towels and dishcloths about an hour ago and they are nearly dry now.

It is not going to save mega-bucks,  and by the way, you can find out how much it does save here but to me the best saving of all is that line dried clothes need far less ironing and that makes it even better.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

More Packaging? Is it really necessary?

I took my grandmother on a shopping trip yesterday and was tasked with looking for her face cream by Oil of Olay. She was bothered by the fact the packaging seemed different as she likes to stick to what she knows.

I was bothered by the 'new' packaging too.  To my horror, in addition to the cardboard box that surrounds the pot that contains the cream, was yet another layer of packaging, a clear plastic box.


Please, someone tell me what possible reason there can be for adding yet another layer of packaging to a product. I had considered looking at their range, BUT, I've changed my mind.  I refuse to buy anything that is so much more package than product.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

One Man's Junk....

.... is another man's treasure.

Well my local community shop certainly proves that to be true. Each year they are able to give away in excess of £10,ooo to local charities and organisations.

When I decorated my children's bedrooms several years ago, one wanted a sea theme and the other wanted a jungle theme. The community shop was just the place to make these themes come alive. I found cushions, soft toys, stick-on insects, a fish mobile, and all sorts.

My children have grown up, and the rooms have been decorated, and now look tastefully teenage. So, today, I'm taking all these things back there to the community shop, in the hope that another child will be able to have their dream jungle theme, or seascape all for the sake of a few pounds which might end up funding their Guide Camp or the next bit of park that needs a revamp.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Soap Opera

If you stay in a hotel / motel kind of thing, where they have those little guest soaps, do you take with you the one that you have used?

If not, why ever not? I just wrap it back up and pop it in my wash bag. Otherwise, it is just going to get thrown away. Seems such a waste!

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Composting Teabags

My hubby told me, the other day, that green guru Lucy Siegle reported an alarming find that 'tea bags (the stalwarts of compost bins and wormeries) are only 70-80% compostable thanks to the polypropylene webbing on today's bags. '

My first thought was Oh shit! That's probably going to mean that 70-80% of people stop composting their tea bags. Not a good thing.

I checked out her article and her links online and dug around a little further. I found various articles suggesting you should tear open the tea bags and just compost the tea, I found several mentions that people had stopped composting their tea and equally I read that various organisations such as WRAP that are supposed to know about these things say we should carry on composting our tea bags.

My plan is to firstly use up the tea bags I have AND I will certainly be composting them, and secondly to look into what tea bags don't use plastic in their bags.

Probably the words I read that most annoyed me were these:

"Teadirect’s Whitney Kakos said: “Most consumers don't notice (the polypropylene) and probably don't care.” (reported in Beverage

I do understand that this plastic is there for a purpose as it is to do with the heat sealing of the teabags. I do understand that people don't want to have bits floating in their tea, but I do think that there are likely some perfectly viable biodegradable options.

Manufacturers do have to respond to market pressures and it is up to consumers to speak up and speak out about what they do and don't care about.

I want my teabags to be 100% biodegradable. Do you?

Take a look at this link for a new lease of life for an old (tea) bag:)

Monday, 10 May 2010

So many bags?

I am tidying out a messy cupboard today and wondering how I have so many plastic bags. It was a long time ago - several years - that I joined the growing number of people who choose to use reusable carrier bags everywhere for whatever kind of shopping they do.

In the last 6 months (because I can't remember much past that) I have accepted one new carrier bag with a big sigh as I couldn't be bothered to repeat myself having told the lady serving me that I DIDN'T NEED a bag, thank you.

So, I really don't understand how I have a cupboard that seems to be full of them. How do they all get here? Do they breed?

I have heard people say that they continue to go shopping without taking their own reusable shopping bags because they find plastic bags so useful for other things. If I am out shopping with them this is the point at which I usually try to thrust one of my spare plastic bags into their unsuspecting arms. As I pull out bag after bag from my bulging cupboard I find I just have to say that IT IS A VERY LAME EXCUSE.

I am pretty confident based on today's haul that anyone would be able safely STOP using 'single use' carrier bags now and they will still have a lifetime's supply of plastic bags. If not, they can always have some of mine!