Tag Archives: green

Part of a nappy stash

Cloth Nappies – the Full Crunchy

I’m sure it will surprise no-one to hear that we use cloth nappies. They reduce landfill, save money and are all round more environmentally friendly options.  Here is a great article from Which? describing the circumstances under which reusable nappies are 40% better for the environment (unless you use a tumble drier, but I’ve never needed to.)

Part of a mighty nappy stash

I thought I’d pop down a few thoughts on them and how we do it in case anyone is interested.  I’m not really trying to persuade people either way though.  In fact I get sick of all the baby advice articles. Especially those titled “the top 10 baby essentials”, or “the 10 baby items I bought and never used”.  Because whilst I think cloth nappies are better for the environment I think that all parenting choices only come down to two things – does it work for your baby and does it work for you.

Since every parent and every baby is completely different I just don’t see how the top 10 anything can be so universal. My favourite baby advice articles are 1) those which teach you how to find out enough about you and your baby in order to make the right choices and 2) those which freely give hints and tips without making judgements.

We have found reusable nappies to be pretty simple and hugely money saving! But it has only been successful for our circumstances because –

1. We had a lot of practical support and advice from an experienced friend – including many hand me down nappies to get us started.

2. We could afford the start up costs for cloth nappies. We’ve spent about £250 in total on nappies from birth to potty (mostly second hand thanks to Ebay!). You can do it cheaper – we have chosen to have a lot of spare nappies in case of emergencies. I wanted to make sure we weren’t running on fumes at any point.  A significant chunk of money this was used to buy cloth night nappies as normal cloth nappies wouldn’t do it and the only nappies which were absorbent enough were not available second hand.

3.  We have a very easy going and sleepy baby (now an easy going and still pretty sleepy toddler).  Anything else and we could easily have been too frazzled to make it work.

4. We have a lot of space in our house/garden – and cloth nappies need space to dry.  In Summer this is easier than Winter and both are easier than Autumn/Spring.  Why are Autumn/Spring so bad… it is too rainy to put the nappies outside and too warm to put the central heating on.  Drying a bamboo nappy takes AGES under these conditions… that is why we have so many nappies.

5. We both work from home and we both work part time. There is always someone available to take 10 mins to hang out a washing load or put one on.

6. We have solar panels (told you we were crunchy!) and a really energy efficient washing machine.  Any increase in energy use due to the washing machine being on a lot is offset somewhat by the solar energy savings and the more efficient appliance. We only do full washing loads to save energy and it is perfectly ok to put nappies in with your other clothes.

The most important thing I discovered in over a year of doing cloth nappies… most people use far too much washing powder/liquid in their machines.  If you use too much powder in a nappy wash then bad, bad things will happen, so you only use about 1 level tablespoon per wash.  If 1 tablespoon of powder and a 40 degree wash can get poo out of a nappy, then 1 tablespoon will get sweat out of a t-shirt.  Since we started this our washing powder consumption has dropped so much that we use less than 2 boxes of Ecover powder per year.  Much less than we used before we starting washing all those nappies.

If you are still interested after all that then you can get a free consultation from the Nappy Lady here – worthwhile as one size of nappy won’t fit every child. We didn’t buy many new nappies – but thanks to her advice the ones we got were perfect.

Cloth Nappy Tree is also a very helpful community if you need any extra support and they have a great second hand sale section on the site.

How I’m Beating Eco-Burnout: 5 Ways

I’m having one of those days.  One of those days when trying to live a sustainable life feels impossible.

Beating Eco Burnout

I’m doing the No Plastic July challenge.  I am rocking it!  I am meeting my goals, we are having fun and despite that all I can see is a tidal wave of plastic. Everything seems to be pushing me to spend and consume at an alarming rate.  Every day I find out something else horrible about the sickening conditions we keep animals in, about human slavery in the the food chain, human slavery in the clothing chain, plastic killing our oceans. I’m not even going to link to the stories today.

I just feel so full of rage and then utterly powerless.  I can’t imagine what sort of person would run a corporation that does these things happily for profit.  I can’t imagine how we have evolved an economy that looks like this.  I don’t understand how politicians in this country look at the budget and say “well we’d better cut benefits for these poverty stricken people because that subsidy to the arms trade won’t pay itself.”

It saddens me that we have all become so good at compartmentalising our compassion.  If a neighbour or friend is in trouble then most people will move mountains to help and support them.  But if Primark is selling clothes that are being made in horrible and unsafe conditions then people don’t have the same motivation to buy a fair trade or second hand T-shirt instead.  It isn’t like Primark’s business model is a surprise any more,  there have been lots of news stories about how their clothes are made.

I think part of the reason we are so good at compartmentalising is that there is too much bad stuff, too much injustice and unless you live off-grid on a totally self-sufficient farm then at some point you’ll have to make compromises you don’t want to. When that happens it’s easier to switch off and not think too hard about what you’re doing. And I do that too, and I feel terrible about it.

And most consumers are either so far removed from the means of production that it is becoming easier and easier to pretend it doesn’t matter that other humans are dying to make a cheaper T-shirt or the consumers themselves are so poor that all they can afford is the most unethical, unhealthy food and the cheapest clothing regardless of how they would like to live.  At the same time corporations are making massive profits, some have a bigger GDP than many countries but I see little evidence of that wealth being put back into the communities they are living in.  In fact I see zero hours contracts, no living wage and a mountain of waste which is choking the life out of us by inches.

Pretty depressing stuff and easy to get overwhelmed.  Like I said, I’m having one of those days.  And it is on these days I need to remind myself to come back to my values, be grateful for what I have and carry on with actions which are right until I feel better again. Because making changes to my life, living differently to the usual systems, writing about it… all these things do matter and in a couple of days I’ll believe that again.

I decided to come up with 5 ways to make it easier on myself until I’m back in the groove.

1. Take it one decision at a time. When we were interviewed for the Guardian I said that if you miss the chance to make a good choice about something (fair trade, organic cotton etc.) then there will be another choice coming soon.  This is a double edged sword, on the one hand there are hundreds of traps every day, hundreds of choices you have to make because everything we consume is somehow tainted, by poor labour conditions, bad animal welfare, toxic chemicals, plastics that lives forever in landfill.  The task is daunting.  So break it down, don’t look at the sea of decisions, look at just the next decision you have to make.  Can you make a good choice here, can I fill up my water bottle to take out with me instead of buying another Evian?  Take it one decision at a time and if you mess up then don’t think of all bad options you have, see how many opportunities you have left in your life to minimise the harm.

2. Start with what you love – I love eating good food, I like cooking but I love eating.  So when I feel overwhelmed I go back to what I enjoy.  I don’t mean comfort eating, I mean I cooking.  I’ll make something from scratch like roasted almond nut butter from fair trade almonds which means I’ll reuse a jar rather than buying a new one and make something tasty that I love.  Something I can’t buy in the shops because it doesn’t taste the same as when I make it. You might enjoy writing campaigning letters or blog articles, walking instead of driving (I love walking, I’ll walk anywhere as long as the weather is fine), vegetable gardening.  Take the part of being green which you enjoy for its own sake and prioritise doing that.

3. Prune your Social Media – sometimes when I am feeling overwhelmed it is because I’m getting too many bulletins and messages about how bad things are.  I’m not suggesting hiding away and pretending things aren’t happening.  I’m suggesting you limit your exposure.  Work out what your values are, then work out what your priorities are according to those values and concentrate on those campaigns only. Un-subscribe from everything which isn’t in your list of priorities.  Maybe tomorrow you can resubscribe.  But if you concentrate your available energy on a smaller list of causes then you will take some action.  If you feel like you should be taking action on everything that floods your inbox, facebook, twitter, blog feed with issues then you’ll take action on nothing.

4. Check in with your People – no one wants to live in an echo chamber, but sometimes we need a community of support.  A community where you don’t have to argue with people or persuade them that we do need to ditch plastic and we do need to invest in green energy or that climate change is real and we can do something about it. Sometimes you need to be with a group of people who support you and who you can support in return.  I have argued for many years that protests and marches and petitions DO make a difference, they make a huge difference.  They might not change a politician’s mind or make a new law but they do make me feel less alone. They give me and many others the strength and energy to continue fighting for what is right and that is priceless.

(To be honest I’m really sceptical when people throw about the accusation that people just “want an echo chamber”.  Last time I looked although lots of people agree that climate change is real and slave labour is bad – no-one with the power is doing anything about it, in fact they are coming up with lots of reasons why we can’t change. I see and hear people arguing against climate change all the time and I’ve rarely felt they had said anything truly interesting or challenging to contribute.)

5. Celebrate your successes – I’m not going to pretend I’m perfect and there isn’t more to be done.  There is plenty! But I could do with sitting down and feeling proud of the things we have achieved and how we’ve changed in the process.  Because when I remember how much I have achieved I remember I can achieve some more!

I think I feel better already getting this post out – it is a long one but I hope someone finds it useful.

I’d love to know if anyone else gets a sort of eco-social-justice burnout and how you get over it.

No Plastic July – The first days.

As you know I have pledged to give up 5 areas of plastic consumption for No Plastic July.

I have been watching blogland and the key to all these challenges (No Plastic, No Waste, Buy Nothing New, Give Up Supermarkets) is research, planning, organisation and preparation.  Sometimes something unexpected will upset those plans, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth doing, it just means sometimes you have a blip.

This is day 6 of the challenge but there is already plenty going on …

1. Crisps and Savoury Snacks.

I already have a selection of tins and airtight contains to keep the homemade ones in and Josh has been getting very excited about trying to make our own corn tortilla wraps and turning those wraps into tortilla chips.  The problem being that we would still have to buy the cornmeal in a plastic bag but it would probably be less plastic than bags and bags of tortilla chips.

As soon as I thought of this challenge I knew I wanted to make cheese straws.  They are delicious, we both love them and I also wondered how cheap they would turn out to be.  They were a huge hit and far from feeling like No Plastic July was deprivation at this moment it felt like luxury.

I used this recipe and made a very large amount of very rich cheese straws (which are more filling than the ones you get in foil, plastic packets in the shops).

But the problem I am hitting is that even making things from scratch does eliminate plastic.  I don’t have a co-op type shop nearby where I can take my own containers and weigh our flour from  big bins.  So the local supermarkets supply butter, baking powder, cheese, cornflour etc.

I think I can take my own container to the cheesemonger in town and I’m going to give that a go next week when I go to the market with my own bags.  I’ll report back!

We also went to a local farm shop with lots of lovely artisan cheese crackers.  As we have guests coming at the weekend we would normally pick some up.  Not this time as every single variety had some plastic in the packaging.  Crackers are next on the “to make” list.

2. Children’s toothbrushes – “I’ve found only one bamboo toothbrush in a child’s size.  I’m going to give it a go but he will only be 1 so it might still be too big for him.”

I wrote the above sentence in a fit of hubris.  I didn’t buy the lovely bamboo one I bought the silicone baby brush.  Is silicone plastic.  If so then I have already failed a little.  Basically R has decided to meltdown every time someone tries to brush his teeth.  He doesn’t really object to the toothbrushing, he objects to relinquishing control of his toothbrush.  He had to have a bath with it the other day so close is his attachment.  The baby brush is supposed to allow him to clean his own teeth so I don’t need to hold his toothbrush for him.  I’m hoping this doesn’t boot me out of the challenge – we have speculated it might be better than a plastic one as it might last longer… but who knows.  We will be trying bamboo again when this interesting phase is over.

[Update: I really not convinced that the baby brush is working.  R loves chewing on it but he doesn’t seem to be working the actual bristles into his actual gums and teeth. I knew there wasn’t going to be an easy solution to this.]

3. Yoghurt – I’ve already got some recipes for this and as I posted about here, in a recent charity shopping trip I found an original vintage 70s Yoghurt thermos flask for £1.95. I had one go at making yoghurt as a test run.  It was a total disaster.  Turns out a) you don’t need to sterilise your yoghurt making equipment and b) you can’t sterilise a vintage 1970s yoghurt maker.  I just made a £1.95 donation to the charity shop as I killed the yoghurt maker and will be going back to the glass jar in a haybox idea.  I also learned that Greek Yoghurt doesn’t have the cultures to get you going, milk powder can curdle! and my sugar themometer says 180F but this is a lie.  Luckily I did all this learning before the challenge.  I am now ready with some definitely bio yoghurt, more tips from the internet and a glass jar in a haybox!

4. Bottle Drinks – Well I didn’t buy lots and lots of bottled drinks to get me through the next month in my last shop.  That would obviously have been a cheat.  In fact I’ve been trying to get through my stock to make this a real challenge.  My key piece of preparation was getting a jug (I broke our last one).  My Mother Out-Law had a heavy glass jug which was too heavy for her to life and so I gratefully took it home and filled it with warm water and herbal tea bags.  It has been chilling overnight and I can now enjoy iced spearmint and chamomile tea whenever I like.

For people coming at the weekend I ordered juice in a glass bottle from Abel & Cole and a couple of posho drinks like “presse” which come in glass bottles.  But I am disappointed to learn via polytheenpam that they all have plastic in the caps of the bottles.  I’ll also be using the juice in some homemade hummous later in the week.

5. Handwash – I took the plunge and ordered some Dr Bronner plain organic soap (it is the baby soap so R can use it as well).  I already have a huge stash of essential oils.  I’ve been using them since I was about 17! and I’ll use boiled water from the tap to make up the handwash according to this recipe and just put it in my existing dispensers.  I’ll be posting more about it when I make it but so far I’m impressed because the soap bars come in paper wrapping only and the company I ordered it from  (The Ethical Superstore) sent it through the post with recycled cardboard wrapping in a recycled cardboard box and although there was a little bit of tape to keep it closed even the invoice didn’t have the stupid plastic backed peel off bit on it.  A win all round!

Green, Frugal, Sustainable Round Up

What have we done this week to live sustainably!

1. Some of our neighbours came round to have another look at using our orchard to site their beehive.  They kindly brought us a box of 6 eggs from their rare breed Derbyshire Red Cap hens!  Huge thank you all round. Then, later in the week, when we went to pick up some pig feed our pig mentors also gave us eggs from their Light Sussex Hens.  We eat a lot of eggs so this was all very welcome! Since moving here we have been given lots of eggs from local smallholders and I’m looking forward to having our own flock so we can reciprocate.

2. Sock Mending – the sock mending saga continues I am now down from 13 outstanding pairs to 7 pairs. I’d have done more but I got waylaid by successful patching some jeans for the first time.  I won’t talk about that too much as I have a whole exciting How To! blog post planned.

3. A free bottle of wine! – some lovely friends of ours are moving to London and they don’t have time to drink all their homemade wine before they leave and they don’t want to take it with them… So we are the lucky new owners of a bottle of elderberry wine from last Autumn.

4. A few months ago our neighbours (with a chain saw) trimmed our ornamental Cherry Tree to within an inch of its life.  I asked them to leave the cuttings with us and earlier this week I spent one hour (of many), stripping the long straight branches into bean poles, cutting some of the bigger bits into kindling and shredding the thinnest branches into mulch for our fruit bushes.  This is part of my work to reduce what we bring on to and take off the property and trying to close the cycle of waste, my new saying… Nothing Green is Waste!

5. Filling the cake tin – I made a big pile of cinnamon sugar and thumb print biscuits for the cake tin.  We haven’t bought any cakes or sweets from the mini-tescos all week.

As well as all the other things we have already blogged about with the compost, the charity shop finds and using up leftovers.

Mostly above we have been given things rather than done things to live sustainably.  Part of sustainable living is great community.  This week we have really benefited from our community which means that in the next few weeks it is on us to find ways to support our neighbours, be generous and give back to others.  The wonderful cycle of living side by side with people.

A Frugal, Green and Self-Sufficiency Round Up

How have we been Green, Frugal and Self-Sufficient this week?

1. Wellies* for R – a kind lady advertised a pair of wellies size 18-24 months on freecycle (and other assorted bits – but it was the wellies that caught my eye!) She was pregnant and about 5 days off her due date.  How that feels in a hot June is very fresh in my memory so I took over some of my homemade Black Forest Brownies as a thank you present for the wellies.

Wellington Boots for little Dinosaurs

Wellington Boots for little Dinosaurs

(*Wellies is a UK slang term for waterproof rubber boots, that is because in the UK such boots are called Wellington Boots.)

2. Gooseberry and Elderflower Jelly – I’ll do a proper write up of this later.  But inspired by Dawn of Doing it For Ourselves making Elderflower Jelly and the birds having eaten most of our Gooseberries, I decided to make up a Gooseberry and Elderflower Jelly recipe. That saved me a job of topping and tailing as well.  Doesn’t it look fabulous!

Gooseberry and Elderflower Jelly

Gooseberry and Elderflower Jelly

3. Birthday Bunting – I finished making bunting to decorate the house for R’s birthday in a couple of weeks.  It is re-useable (I’m going to keep adding to it each year until it is a huge family joke) and has no packaging and it looks bright and silly.  Perfect!

4. Comfrey – we don’t have any in our garden, but it is the best of all the Green Manures and a staple of permaculture nutrient design.  Luckily my Father Out-Law has a huge amount with pretty blue/pink flowers.  As always I only have to ask for a cutting or a bit of root and he is back with a spade and a pot before I know it, generously dividing some up for me.  That saved me from buying some seed/plug plants from a garden centre. We also took our tetrapaks over to put in their kerbside recycling scheme (they are on a different scheme to us and we can’t recycling tetrapaks easily) and I went home with some spare jam jars – which came in handy for 2 above.

5. Straw from the Pig Pen – The straw we get for our pigs is a waste product from a local farm.  After it has been used as pig bedding it goes in the hot composter and the cold composter as important dry, woody material. I am so pleased we get two uses out of something which would otherwise go to waste.