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Friday, 29 September 2017

Foraging fortnight

Autumn is a great time for foraging.  I’ve been picking apples, blackberries, pears and plums from my garden and hedgerows.  I’m planning to go blackberrying again and I’m hoping to add in some elderberries too.

We are also lucky to have a vegetable patch which is producing carrots, spring onions, beetroot, courgettes, celery, beans, and spinach at the moment. But it isn’t just the outdoor foraging that I want to invite you to think about. Now is a really great time to go foraging in your fridge and freezer. What better time to cut down on spending than after your summer holiday and before you start thinking about Christmas. Read more...

Friday, 8 September 2017

ZWW 2017 Day 5 - It's #FoodWasteFriday

It's #FoodWasteFriday and what better day to publish my book, Leftover Pie: 101 ways to reduce your food waste, hey? This was the challenge that Rachelle Strauss, founder of Zero Waste Week set me a little over a year ago.  Although I thought I'd finished writing the book a while back, there was still a lot of work to pull it together.  Chatting with Rachelle, I was sharing my concerns about the whole food waste issue.

Last summer we decided to rent out my daughter's house, in the lovely city of Bath, while she was 'back home' with us for the summer.  It was a great experience but it really made us realise that other people don't deal with waste in the same way we do. After one young couple had stayed for three nights, I was sorting out the rubbish they had left behind - wondering how the bin was full to bursting! But it wasn't just recycling that I had to pull out from the rubbish.  I was stunned.  In that bin there was more food wasted, then I would have bought for my family of four for a whole week.

That's how I came to be having the conversation with Rachelle:

"I've got to finish Leftover Pie."
"You have!" she replied. 

I was shocked into action you could say.

A few months later Rachelle decided that the 10th annual Zero Waste Week would cover a different topic each day and that Friday would be dedicated to Food Waste.

"Why not publish your book then?" she suggested.

So there you have it.  Leftover Pie is out in paperback today.

We're renting the house out again this year, but we've made a few changes.  The food waste caddy used to live on the kitchen windowsill. Now it lives right next to the general waste bin.  There's a sticker on the general waste bin, that says, "No Food Waste".  Maybe that sticker needs to be bigger!  We still have to pull out food waste on occasions.

We had a recycling bin in the garage, but we decided to put a recycling container right next to the bin too.  This has helped considerably.  I guess it is that problem of "out of sight, out of mind".

So why is food waste such an important issue?

Here's what I think...

It's not just about saving money, it's not just about respecting our food producers, or our friends and family who are preparing and cooking food for us, it is not even just about people elsewhere going hungry, while we let food go to waste.  It is those things, yes.  Of course it is. But it is bigger than than.  It is about climate change.

As Marcus Gover, CEO of WRAP, said at the All Party Parliamentary Group on Food Waste:

"If we can't fix food waste we can't fix climate change." 

So, as you see, it is important and we all have the power to do our bit and put that right.

ZWW 2017 Day 4 - Time Saving Tips for Thursday

Day four of Zero Waste Week was all about Time Saving Tips

I arranged to visit a wonderful "SuperHome" local to me prior to their open day. They have a display board featuring my book, so I nipped over with some signed copies for them to sell on the day and I was guinea pig for their guided tour around the house. Plenty of top tips there, particularly around energy saving.

SuperHomes Open Day
Sat 9th Sept, 11am-2pm
4 St Denys Close, Stanford, SN7 8NJ

"If you're interested in making your home more efficient and environmentally friendly, you might like to visit a SuperHome. 
Open days let you quiz the owners, so you can discover what worked and get frank feedback on what didn’t. There are open days across the country in September, including one in Stanford in the Vale. The Williams family’s 1950s bungalow is heated using wood pellets, and is free from fossil fuels from heating to transport. When it’s sunny they can cook with a sun oven, concentrating heat using reflection."

Some of the things I learnt:

  • I had a vague idea that chest freezers were more energy efficient than upright freezers, but I didn't realise it was by as much as 50%. 
  • I had never thought of the idea of a chest fridge - also 50% more efficient.  
  • I loved their guilt-free fairy lights, using solar energy from a battery system. 
  • I was interested to hear they had set up a local Facebook group for sharing stuff.  I think one of those would be great in my village so I'll be onto that later this month.
  • I was so delighted to hear that their local "Sustainable Wantage" group was collecting crisp packets for a craft workshop - my last fail of Zero Waste Living.  I was brimming with enthusiasm when I said to Mr Pitt, that we needed to save up his crisp packets for them. "I already am," he said.

As for my own top tips, for making Zero Waste easy here are a few ideas.

My recycling centre
I love my little recycling centre for the few things that don't go into the kerbside collection. The biscuit wrappers I save for a friend who has a Teracycle collection point at work.  I'll need to add in crisp packets to my collection now.

I have a reuse centre with these lovely pull out boxes on a shelving unit, for things like envelopes, notebooks, and sewing accessories for mending.

One thing that is wasting time at the moment is my collection of tubs - none of which seem to have the right lids attached, so a sort out of these is needed to get back to an easy life.  I use these all the time for buying meat and cheese from my local butcher, buying dry goods in bulk, freezing extra portions of things like casseroles and curries so I have home-made ready meals in the freezer for days when I have to visit clients or schools. Just a quick sort out and I will no longer be wasting so much time finding a box and lid that go together.  If I end up with lid-less containers I'll relegate them to the tool shed.

That's my top tips for tidy zero waste life.  Onto #FoodWasteFriday.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

ZWW Day 3 - #WorkWithWasteWednesday

I love 'up-cycled' stuff but I'm not good at making things myself.  "Working with Waste Wednesday" was the theme for yesterday's Zero Waste  Week. I am still busy sending out books, booking talks and events and following up all manor of requests prior to my publication day tomorrow. So I decided that rather than even think about trying to find time to make anything myself, I'd contact the people I collect things for and arrange to meet up to hand over my goodies to them, knowing they will transform them into something far more wonderful than I could create.

I collect broken jewellery, buttons, bits of fabric and ribbon for a wonderful lady called Laura Hounam.  I have blogged about her jewellery creations before here. She raises money for Against Breast Cancer charity by selling her jewellery at craft fairs around the county. The charity also collect stamps and old coins, so I give these to Laura too.

Another favourite up-cycling business of mine, also local to me, is Lane End Vintage. Sue of Lane End Vintage sells lovely hand made cards which reuse bits of games, stamps, buttons, maps, books and the like.  As I am local I can even go and stock up with my clear plastic wallet before Sue puts them into their protective wrappers.  If I buy them in wrappers, I give the wrappers back and Sue reuses them.  I also bought several Christmas gifts from Lane End Vintage last year.  I love the postage stamp art kits that she does and so have my nieces and nephews.

Postage stamp art kits by Lane End Vintage

Not so local is the Woolly Pedlar run by Sue Reed. I have two of Sue's creations, which were both sent by post. The quality of her work is beautiful and I love the quirky designs.  Sue says:

"Upcycling means to use waste and transform it into something new, more pleasing and with a new use. It is the process of adding value to preloved items through design. I gather locally sourced recycled wool knitwear for upcycling. There are so many textiles just shipped abroad or thrown into landfill. I am on a mission to recycle waste wool, be it from the second hand clothing sector, or from the few remaining UK factories that manufacture wool knitwear in the UK."

Here's my jumper made by The Woolly Pedlar
I like to support small businesses and so when you get the combination of small businesses and up cycled treasures, it makes me very happy.  Lane Ends Vintage's picture below, sums it up.

On to Top Tips Thursday.  I'm planning on taking a good look at the ZWW Top Tips Thursday Pinterest board.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

ZWW 2017 Day -2 #TrashlessTuesday

For #TrashlessTuesday, I'm continuing my theme of using the boxes from my signed book copies to clear out some space in my understairs cupboard (obviously known as Harry Potter's Bedroom).

I'm a bit concerned that by venturing anywhere near my cupboard I'll be finding waste that could otherwise stay hidden - out of sight out of mind, and all that.  But I have the advantage of living in an area of the UK that really cares about maximising use of resources and minimising waste. I live in Oxfordshire and here we have brilliant kerbside collection services and a very extensive offer at our Recycling centres across the county, which were recently given a reprieve to stay open, in the face of continuing budget cuts.

From delving into my cupboard each time I empty a box of books, I'm realising that there's a lot of packaging materials in there.  Does that happen in all households?  I keep things for reuse and I do go to my cupboard rather than go to the shops any time I send anything anywhere or gift anything.

I really don't need all this packaging.  It would take me years to reuse it and anyway, my stock of gift bags and packaging tends to grow every Christmas because we are usually hosts for the family gatherings and for some reason, no-one seems to want to reclaim their gift bags.  So these are going into a box to be taken to the charity shop on Friday morning.

Box 1 ready for the charity shop
Added to the gift bags, I've found bubble wrap which I know my charity shop can use as they sell quite a bit of crockery and other breakables. In goes the brown paper that I'm finding in my boxes of books too.

As for my plastic bag of trash to be carried round all day, I am following with interest the posts on the Zero Waste Heroes Facebook group and realising that my own zero (well nearly zero) waste is clearly made a lot easier because of where I live. I've seen people add yoghurt pots and flyaway plastic to their #TrashlessTuesday list.  I had both of these today and both go into my kerbside recycling box.

The one thing I ended up with that can't be recycled or reused was this packing tape on the bubble wrap. I pulled off the packing tape carefully to save as much of the bubble wrap for reuse by my local charity shop.  The tape itself will end up in the general waste bin - that always pains me, but the bubble wrap isn't useable in the mess it was in, so this is the sacrifice.
A mess of bubble wrap
Tape (on the left)  removed - that will go in the bin and the untidy edges of the bubble wrap (on the right) will recycle.
It made me think about how I was packing up my books for postage as I was using a lot of sellotape.  The #TrashlessTuesday bag challenge really works does't it?  By making me focus on waste, I realised by folding the very old envelopes (40 years plus, I reckon) a different way, I use less tape and that will maybe make the envelope more likely to be reused by the recipient.  Open your books carefully please, lovely people, and apologies for the excess tape of the books I've already posted.

One of the ways that I have managed to cut down on both my trash and my recycling over the last few years is to take my own containers to the butcher's, my own reusable vegetable bags to the greengrocer's or supermarket and to buy dry goods in bulk, again in my own containers.  Our two daughters will shortly be returning to university, so we had a family outing to the nearest dry goods store with almost every plastic and glass container that we had in the house and we have stocked up on all things like oats, dried fruit, nuts, rice,  and I can't think what else, but lots more.  The only packaging from that entire enormous shop was a large tub that contained peanut butter.  Senior daughter is running a marathon in a couple of weeks and she's getting through a lot of peanut butter.  We decided the tub looked like a useful container and it was probably equivalent to three of the glass jars we've been buying.  So it seemed like a reasonable packaging option.

Once you get into the Zero Waste idea, I think you shop differently. If we can shop packaging free, we do.  Otherwise, I think we always ask ourselves the question: what will happen to the packaging post use? If it can be reused (then recycled) then we'll buy it.

The one exception seems to be shop bought crisps.  My solution is to retrain my brain to not eat them. But that's not something I'm going to ask the rest of the family to do.  However, quite by coincidence no crisp packet was finished on #TrashlessTuesday so it is just the tape in the bin.

Monday, 4 September 2017

Zero Waste Week 2017 has started

It is here again.  It must be September already! This year sees the 10th annual Zero Waste Week and each day will tackle a different theme.

The theme for today was #MakeItMendItMonday.  Jen Gale, one of the 40 contributors in Leftover Pie is the queen of "Make do and mend".  I followed her progress and stories during her year of  buying nothing new and she was the inspiration behind my pledge a few years ago for Zero Waste Week to get mending.

I had quite a bit of success back then with my mending pledge, but things have lapsed a bit recently, and I know I have a whole lot of aspirational mending in a pile, ready and waiting for some ZWW inspiration and support. Trouble is, I can't get to it as we are having some building work done.  So while I can't get at the pile of stuff that I know needs mending, I thought I would tackle the dreaded cupboard under the stairs.

It started off as a fairly organised storage area, but over the years it has become a general dumping ground for mainly my own things that I can't decide where to put, haven't got room for in the place they belong or didn't make the time to put away properly prior to having visitors!

Oh what a mess.

I put in an order for 250 copies of my new book, Leftover Pie, and some of these are for the events I have coming up over the next six weeks. So that they don't spend up to six weeks in the middle of the floor in my lounge, I thought I ought to clear some space in the cupboard.  My plan is that each time I empty a box of books, I will sort out part of the cupboard and fill the box with things to go to the charity shop.Taking part in the Zero Waste Week Twitter chat today, I shared my desire to declutter and found lots of support and ideas. So during the week I will share my zero waste declutter progress and how I manage to act on these ideas, which hopefully I will.

Having a whole lot of pre-ordered books to sign and pack up today, I have managed to empty two boxes.  Unfortunately my cat, Smokey, had different ideas for the first box, but I started with a nice easy declutter of the growing gift bag collection.  Some to keep, some in the box for the charity shop.

Another coup, was a big box of envelopes, that had belonged to my grandfather.  I did wonder how I was ever going to use foolscap envelopes, but with a reel of sellotape and a bit of folding, I am managing to use them up to send out my books. Knowing that the first sales of my book are very likely to be people who are already on the path to zero waste, I feel the recipients will only appreciate the reuse element. (Well I guess they were once new, but that was very many years ago.  I think they might be older than I am!) 

More books to sign tomorrow - so what will be in the next box, I wonder? Slowly I will make my way through the mess and rehome, redeploy, mend and put away the contents.

That's my zero waste week day one.  How was yours?