Tag Archives: sustainable

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.

Mending, Mending, Mending

I’m having one of those months where the pile of mending is definitely growing faster than I can manage it.  Which has got me to thinking about mending a lot…

So far I’ve finished:

1. Sewing a busted seam on R’s swimming costume

2. Sewing a busted seam on R’s PJs

3. Sewing two busted seams on Josh’s green cabled  jumper

4. Sewing a busted seam on my PJ bottoms

(Sensing a Theme right!)

5. Darned 4 socks with about 8 to go more holely socks.

6. Invisible mending on my best jeans 3 times (and they have just blown a forth hole – totally my fault, I thought that my last patch was too close to the hole, turns out… it was!)

Which leaves darning my lightweight Spring jumper, sewing a seam on R’s duffle coat, patching my other PJ trousers, patching Josh’s black jeans, patching my combat trousers and patching another PJ top of mine.  Oh and probably a whole load of horrors lurking that I haven’t found yet.

Most of these items I’ve had for years (that PJ top, did about 20 years hard service in my normal wardrobe first! before it got downgraded to PJs). Sometimes I bought them second hand expecting a fair amount of wear and tear in them. But others, like R’s duffle coat were brand new – worn once or twice at most before the seams split. These were not cheap throwaway clothes from Primark or Tesco but brands you would think better of like Marks and Spencer. There is only so many times I can mend those items before it gets me down.

If you are reading this blog then I probably don’t have to tell you why I’m mending.  But just in case… the short story is that I don’t believe in throwing away useful things, I don’t really care if people see me wearing patched jeans (because I’m lucky enough that any judgement they make doesn’t really affect me) and I don’t want to waste money buying clothes I don’t need.  But it is exhausting sometimes.  I don’t really mind mending all the socks – I knitted them in the first place and the mending maintenance is expected (socks often last several years round here before a darn is needed) – but I am angry that brand new clothes seem to fall apart with a harsh look. Believe me it isn’t because I’m washing them at 60 degrees!

I’m not entirely sure where I’m going with this post – I think it is a shame people don’t mend clothes much anymore but part of me empathises with them, mending is endless with the poorly constructed garments available today.

I’m just going to drop a few useful links on mending down here – to make this post slightly more useful and slightly less like I’m just having a rant for no reason 😉

– There is a huge amount of amazing resources in Jen’s Make Do and Mend website here.

Repair Cafe, a fantastic movement which is connecting people who can mend with people who need mending to happen!

This is the you tube video which taught me to darn socks about 7 years ago (it is still a great video and the only technique I use).

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.