Archive for ‘Environment’

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Quick Eco Fix – Shower without a Shower!

I just thought I’d make a quick post on the recent eco-fix we made.

This will seem a little strange to most Americans, but quite a few older British houses don’t have showers, just baths (particularly rental places that haven’t been modernised). This doesn’t mean we’re ‘less clean’ – it just means we use a lot more water for the daily rituals. Our house is one of these – we just have a bath, and the landlord isn’t willing to pay to install the electrics/plumbing for a shower.

So … we purchased a cheap spring loaded shower rail, and fixed it above the bath. Then we added a cheap shower curtain, and one of the shower heads they sell at Boots which connect temporarily to bath taps. When we find one with a longer hose, we’ll add a fitting to the wall to ‘hang’ it from, rather than hand-holding. The result means we can have a full-body wash in a couple of minutes, using far less water and thus heat as well, and the total cost was only about £30. It has an added bonus that the rails make useful additional clothes-drying space (we don’t tumble-dry).

The removable shower head also comes in really handy as it can be attached (and removed from) any taps, and used for cleaning – ours comes in really handy for cleaning the hamster cage out!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

I haven’t posted in a while, as frankly I haven’t felt I’ve anything to post about! But…

The greenhouse has been re-erected, with the help of a spare frame from freecycle. I actually ended up using many of the donated poles as they were stronger and less inclined to bend! It’s now filled with 6 ot 7 chilli/pepper plants, 2 huge tomatillo plants (in flower, but not seeing fruit yet), 2 large aubergine plants, some tomatoes, and some more aubergines which were ‘spares’, but I might pot them up if i have room, as they seem so healthy.

As for the rest of the garden -strawberries are growing, though not ripe, peas have started picking, beans are growing (still need to plant some dwarfs), onions and garlic are growing away, carrots too, though slowly, and need thinning which im scared to do ;) I’ve also got courgettes which are getting pretty big and about to go into their final pots/growbags, tomatoes (some in their final position looking a bit sickly =/ and more to put out into big pots). I’ve had plenty of salad leaves and radish, time to put some more in.

I’ve also decided to (re)learn to sew with a machine. I learnt in school but have probably forgotten all I knew! We managed to pick up a decent looking Singer machine for £18 at a carboot sale today… on the basis that it works we’ll both be very happy: Chris does live action roleplay, and loves making costume – and I’d love to make things like cloth sanitary towels. I’ve decided to start with a shopping bag – it should be quite easy, and I have some fabric in the shape of a charity shop tablecloth i nabbed for £1.

On the subject of cloth sanitary towels… my period is kicking my arse at the moment. For a couple of years taking the pill got rid of 95% of the symptoms I used to have (mostly tiredness/dizziness.. feeling like I had the flu)… but they seem to be returning. I’ve been using my mooncup less simply because using anything internally makes my cramps worse, but normal pads are both rather uncomfortable when it’s hot, and horrible contributors to landfill. Which is why im hoping to make some cloth ones. These days my flow isn’t all that heavy anyway, so it won’t have too much ‘ick’ factor. It also means I can customise them to my body shape – at the moment I generally buy the ‘night’ ones for the length, but the absorbency is way higher than I need and I frequently throw away towels with just a few spots on them, which seems really wasteful.

And, leading on from that again – today I went on a bike for the first time ever! I’m hoping to learn for both environmental and health/excercise reasons. It was rather scary but I think I did okay for a first time – using Chris’ mum’s bike with a lower crossbar (‘step through’ frame) meant most of the time I could hop off the saddle and just about remain standing, rather than falling off and hurting myself ;) However, doing this, and thus repeatedly banging your most sensitive parts into the front of the saddle, while having period cramps anyway, is not a good idea *winces*

I’m off work tomorrow so I think I’ll be popping into ashby for bag lining material, playing about with the sewing machine, working in the garden, and playing Guitar Hero on the playstation2 ;)

Monday, May 12, 2008

I have finally been converted to cleaning with vinegar!

Despite using other green / simple cleaning methods, like reusable cloths, bicarb etc, I’d held off on the vinegar because frankly, the smell makes me gag. However, some reading has reassured me that it’s not *that* bad, and last night I tried it to clean the loo. Dumped in about half of a 50p-ish bottle, left overnight, light scrub round with loo brush, and the limescale is gone! Brilliant. Now I can stop using Domestos-kills-everything-including-you. :)

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Ethics Of Rat Killing

We’ve found ourselves with a rather nasty problem – there’s rat(s) under our shed. Given its a decrepit pile of wood thats not really surprising – I’m tempted to ask the landlord if we could knock it down – but then it would leave my little veggie patch and greenhouse open to the wind that blasts down the side of the house, and we couldn’t afford to replace it (and no, our landlord wouldn’t!).

We first realised we had rats a couple of months ago – thankfully there’s no sign of them in the house, they just seem to be hanging out under the shed and chewing the couple of plastic bags that were in there! Chris has seen them dart across the lawn out of the corner of his eye once or twice. I picked up some poison the other day and have been mulling it over ever since … unfortunatly this morning as I was watching the birds in the garden through the window I also saw one of the little blighters, bold as brass, running back and forwards from under the front of the shed. After a couple of minutes quietly watching I banged on the window and yelled to see if he would be scared off – wasn’t bothered in the slightest, just looked up at me and then went back to his business. It looks like they’re getting water from next door’s water butt, which is uncovered and has things piled up next to it. I’m tempted to pop a note through the door asking them to cover it up but as Chris said they’d find water elsewhere.

After some internal fighting I went and put some poison out, inside some washed out tin cans (the instructions recommend inside some guttering, which we don’t have unfortunatly), and tucked underneath the shed.

I’m really struggling with this one. On the one hand they’re vermin, spread diseases (though apparently not much more than any other animal’s faeces does), will decimate any veggies I grow, and will breed like wildfire. On the other hand, being vegetarian, I really struggle with the idea of poisoning any animal. I admit we took the coward’s way out – neither me or Chris would be able to deal with traps, and the problem of dispatching one if it doesn’t get killed by the trap. The things that kick out a nasty noise to repel them look good – but need to be plugged into the mains (no good in the garden). We rang the local council and they don’t trap them – they just put down poison too, and charge an arm and a leg for the privilege.

In some ways I really regret seeing that one this morning, not because it scared me but the opposite – it’s the first time I’ve seen a wild rat in the flesh and it’s gone from being this demonic, terrifying creature to a small fuzzy one, with a twitching nose, that looked highly intelligent.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Well, nothing particularly spectacular to report. I’m almost out of money til payday, and buying a new fridgefreezer has used most of Chris’, so we’re not going out or anything interesting. In some ways being short of cash is a good thing – starting me off on my resolution to stop spending! I’ve checked the money I have left, and what I need to pay for (a couple bills, driving lessons, and bus tickets) put money for those aside and withdrawn the last from my account. Using just cash definitely makes the money seem more ‘real’ when spending it, so I might try and stick to that. I’m also thinking about not keeping my debit or credit cards with me on a daily basis – I like the ‘safety net’, but it also encourages me to spend more.

The major event of the last few days is of course the death of the fridge/freezer. We ended up ordering one for £149.99 from Currys, who will also take away the old one. We managed to save and use about half of the contents of the freezer – the rest wasn’t expensive stuff luckily (some frozen homemade meals, some veggies). We have a second fridge (left behind by our housemate when he moved out, and generally used just to store drinks and whatnot as it doesn’t get as cold), so all the refridgerated stuff was fine (although I took the oppurtunity to clear out some stuff, ie condiments that while not out of date probably wouldn’t be used in time).

We think the most likely reason for the death of the fridge is that it blocks the entrance to a small cupboard/pantry that contains the gas meter, and as we’re on a token/pre payment system we have to move the fridge about once a week. We’ve decided to put the new one in the only other space in the (poorly designed) kitchen – in front of the back/side door, blocking it completely. It will be irritating, but probably less so than the current situation of moving it regularly (we have patio style doors in the living room). Plus it means I get some extra storage space! (though what it’s like in there after being closed and unused for about 10 years I don’t know)

We also found out today that some lovely people have stolen the leading (the stuff the seals the ‘joints’ of tiles etc from the weather!) from above the bay windows at the front of the house. We didn’t even notice as we get home after dark, luckily the landlord noticed it and did a temporary cover as we had solid rain for a day shortly afterwards – he’s sending round a repairman next week. Apparently this is happening a lot locally – someone saw 3 lads on his neighbours roof ripping it off (in broad daylight!). He called the police but unfortunatly they didn’t manage to catch them.

Over the last few days I’ve started decluttering and simplifying some of my ‘stuff’. So far I’ve given several items away on freecycle (an old mobile phone, a bag of empty cd cases, those multiple packs of tampons and towels that I wasn’t going to use, and a skype phone I originally got from freecycle anyway!). There’s a few more items to go – such as my old scanner, once I find the leads, and then I’ll start sorting through my cds and dvds and seeing what I can sell. To be honest most of them I haven’t watched or listened to in months? years? so even a couple of quid for most of them would be fine. We’re hopefully getting a car soon, once Chris gets his bonus, so I might ask him if we can do a carboot sale or something. The ultimate goal is to really work towards clearing some debt this year – I currently have £1229 on the credit card, £300 overdraft (always used), £1575 loan – plus my student loan. Ugh. Thats a lot of debt :(

Finally, today I tried ‘old fashioned’ cleaning for the first time – I used the rough salt and bicarb scrub method on the kitchen sink, and I must say it worked well :) It’ll be good to get away from nasty chemicals – although I did purchase a bottle of bleach today for use in SMALL quantities now and then – ie today I soaked all our cloths, washing up brush etc in a basin of water with a splash of bleach added to kill any nasties. I need to research how to get rid of limescale (toilet/kettle) without using nasties, but apart from that I think it’ll be easy to switch over.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Resolutions…

Well, its about time to make some resolutions for 2008!

1) Lose Weight.

You know, I’ve resolved to lose weight every year for god knows how long. I live in eternal hope that it’ll actually happen!

2) Cut Down My Landfill

Despite the fact that we recycle most of our tins, glass, card, some plastics, and paper, we still fill a wheelie bin every 2 weeks! So my aims for this are – a) recycle ALL glass/tins, even if it means extra washing up, b) check out what plastics can be recycled – theres a lot of those shaped plastic tray things that don’t have obvious symbols on so they end up getting binned, c) compost compostables! – get a small ‘bin’ for the kitchen for veg scraps etc, and d) stop using disposable sanitary products. I already use a mooncup about 75% of the time, but I do also use some towels and pantyliners. Once I’ve run down my stocks of disposables I want to switch to washable pads.

3) Cut Out The Chemicals.

I am gradually becoming a more environmentally-friendly person, but nowhere near the extent I’d like to. So my main goals for this year will be a) to cut out nasty chemical cleaners and b) use mostly natural skincare/soap etc (anyone know a ‘green’ anti dandruff shampoo that works??).

4) Sort Out Finances.

Despite the fact my boyfriend is working, I seem to be running out of money every month, possibly even to the same extent as I did when he wasn’t! That’s totally ridiculous so my aim is to really sort out my spending and stop blowing money on useless crap. I have what to me seems like a lot of debt – £1200 or so on my credit card, £300 constantly-used overdraft, plus a student loan of £6000+ (but that won’t kick in til i’m earning more). I’d really like to make some headway at getting rid of the CC debt and overdraft this year, and hopefully starting some savings.

Then, there’s the things I’d like to do… not resolutions as such as some of them are enjoyable things, new skills I’d like to learn, etc.

1) The Garden.

I’ve decided to do a lot of growing in pots on the patio in 2008, as it worked so well in 2006. I will of course still be using my bed but for things that don’t suffer slug damage so much – ie tomatoes and beans. I’d like to get a little more serious with growing salad veg this year and try and succession sow properly so I have a little to pick all the time. I’d also like at growing peppers in the greenhouse – the sweet kind, but also jalapenos, which I’d like to learn how to bottle for mexican meals. kethry also has some mild chilli seeds which sound great for roasting and stuffing.. yum!

2) Craft.

The main thing I’d like to learn is how to sew on a machine – both for fun and for practical uses such as hemming scraps of cloth/old clothes for reusable cloths, and making washable sanitary towels.

3) Cooking.

I definitely want to improve my cooking skills. The main thing I’d like to work on is vegetarian dishes that don’t use meat replacements – Chris loves them so we use them far too much for my liking. For the sake of gradually working towards a simpler life with less processed crap I’d like to use more vegetables, pulses, beans etc.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

coke.gif

I’ve just watched a rather interesting documentary about Coca Cola – or rather, the unseen, unsavoury side of the brand. It focused on Coke’s history of causing water shortages (India), pollution, child labour on sugar plantations, and how little they care about their workers (ie, giving no protection or even showing any interest as trade union members in Columbia have been murdered). It also touched on the effects of coke on children, not least the caffeine, which has been proven to have no affect on taste, but funnily enough does give it some addictive properties.

It was rather disturbing viewing, especially given that I’m um.. rather addicted to Coke :( (or rather diet coke -I went cold-turkey on the full sugar stuff a couple of months ago). I’m going to try and make the effort to cut out coke – you’d think it would be easy given I’ve cut out meat etc for ethical reasons, but I’m not sure it will be. Still, I’ll try.

I think the documentary is available online at http://www.channel4.com/4od/ (but I can’t check as I run Win2k), or if you have catchup tv such as Virgin Media it should be on there til tonight.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Giftwrapping…

I’ve spent a couple of hours this evening starting wrapping my christmas presents. I like to really take some time with this, to make them look really special (even though they may be bought in a more money-saving fashion).

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The one on the top left is the one I’m most pleased with – the base layer is a wine red tissue, covered in clear cellophane with silver stars, and a large bow of wired-edge ribbon (the wired ribbon means that bows look really impressive, rather than flat and floppy). It’s actually a fairly ‘small’ gift for my mum – a set of two small glass vases with flower bulbs included, ready for growing :)

Next, a red tissue wrapped parcel, with a simple fabric ribbon bow in blue. This is actually a very cheap, jokey gift for Chris, but it’s too large to fit in his stocking so I’ve wrapped it ‘properly’ (even I don’t bother with *really* elaborate wrapping for stocking-gifts).

The ‘stack’ is the set for my mum I mentioned previously – this photo frame and a matching candle holder (they seem to have sold out of that, thankfully I got it in time!). Neither are especially expensive.. I got them both for £9, but they look really nice in person, and I know my mum will love them. I’ve wrapped them individually in tissue (the more expensive one with lettering is lined with cheaper plain white so it can’t be seen through), then bundled them together with some red fabric ribbon.

At the front is a gift for my sister and brother ‘in law’ – a ‘learn italian’ course on CD (they’re currently restoring a newly bought italian holiday home). Wrapped in silver tissue with red lettering, and tied with a silver ‘rope’ style ribbon. (I love the ‘rope’ – its from poundland, but looks and feels really good quality).

Finally at the front right is a gift for Chris, so I can’t say what it is :) But I do think it looks rather special wrapped simply in red tissue with a wired ribbon bow.

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You may have noticed a theme in my wrapping – tissue and fabric ribbons. There are a couple of reasons for this – 1) it looks gorgeous, and 2) it’s a slightly more eco friendly option. All of the gifts will have tags attached at a later point, with the usual ‘To/From’ information and a Christmas greeting, but also with a small note at the end explaining that the tissue is more readily recyclable than foil/plastic coated wrapping papers, and the ribbons can be reused for other gifts (I’ve tied them lightly with single knots for this specific reason). I’m hoping that my recipients will take this to heart, and that my gifts won’t contribute another sackful of waste to landfill.

(yes, I know the cellophane will be difficult to recycle. The piece used here was actually a large ‘scrap’ from last years hamper-construction. I’ve yet to think of something that will substitute well for cellophane round hampers – tissue tears too easily on odd shapes with pointy corners (although I use it inside the cello to hide the gifts from peeking!), and I just well.. don’t like gift bags much. I use them occasionally, but I don’t think they’re quite the same for unwrapping a gift on Christmas morning!)

These methods HAVE worked out a little more expensive – though not too badly as I’ve bought things on special and in cheap/bargain shops, but it’s a cost I can live with for beautiful gifts and hopefully less landfill!

 

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Feelin’ Hot Hot Hot

Well, it’s April, and starting to get too hot for me already :D It’s about 22* today, which I’m pretty sure isn’t normal for this time of yearl. A sign of global warming methinks?

We put the greenhouse up this morning, although I’ve not yet had a chance to figure out how to stop wind getting in underneath. It seems pretty sturdy though :) Out of interest I put a thermometer in there, out of direct sun … 28*C. In the sun… 36*C. I’ve stuck my basil plants in there for some sun, although I’ll be bringing them in again inthe evening.

This afternoon I’ve also planted some loose leaf lettuce, rocket and spring onions direct into the bed, alongside the previously sown spinach. This is sort of an experiment, against the leaf lettuce I’ve got growing in pots.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

That ‘Time of the Month’, or… The Mooncup

Time for a little bit of advertising.

No, not for some huge corporation, but for the Mooncup. (yes, blokes, you may want to look away now .. or you may want to read, and pass the recommendation onto your girlfriends/wives/other siginificant women).

I have to say, I bloody (pardon the pun) love this thing. I really do.

For those of you who’ve never heard of menstrual cups – a short excerpt from Wikipedia:

A menstrual cup is a type of cup or barrier worn inside the vagina during menstruation to collect menstrual fluid. Unlike more common methods, such as tampons and pads, the cup neither absorbs the flow nor catches it outside the body.

The most common [type of menstrual cup] is a bell-shaped cup made of rubber (latex) or silicone. It is reusable and designed to last for up to 10 years. Current brands include The Keeper, The DivaCup, Lunette and The Mooncup.

The one I use – the Mooncup – is made of silicone and produced, funnily enough, in Brighton. I didn’t start using it until after I moved from Brighton to Scunthorpe, but maybe the stickers and posters inside toilet doors all over Brighton had an effect on me :)

Now, up until a few months ago, I use tampons, and the occassional pad. I did use Tampax brand, until i found out about their slightly dodgy ethics and switched to Natracare products, which are biodegradeable and chemical-free (because really, who WANTS to put bleach-drenched tampons inside themselves for a week out of every month?). If you didn’t want to use a menstrual cup, these are certainly a good alternative; better for the environment and better for you. They look and feel exactly like ‘normal’ tampons/san pads, and aren’t much more expensive – they’re stocked in ‘healthfood’ type shops (even in Scunthorpe), so should be easily available in most towns.

Then, after lots of research and umming-and-ahhing I got myself a mooncup. I didn’t have any trouble ‘getting used to it’ – after cutting off the stem it’s incredibly comfortable, more so than tampons. It doesn’t ‘dry me out’ either, so no more sore bits. There’s no shedding of fibres, no annoying string, no more ‘wrong absorbency’ days, and no more rubbish!

All in all, it’s fantastic. I wear it throughout my period, cleaning it morning and night in soap and water, and during the day if I’m out and about it just gets wiped out with toilet paper. At the beginning and end of my period I soak it in a sterilising solution such as Milton (the baby stuff!). And that’s it! It may sound like a faff, but it’s really not, and I find it easier and less hassle than tampons, pads, and the associated ‘argh there’s no rubbish bin!’.

For another satisfied customer, click here.

Or go buy one from here – it’s £14.99, but will last YEARS, whereas that £15 might only get you 4-6 months of throwaway products.

What are you waiting for? :)