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Tamara Vs Lockdown: Gardening Edition

Dear Reader, I, me, Tamara of this same Shades of Green, admit it. I am not a gardener. I do not have green thumbs. I confess it! I do not enjoy pottering or growing or nurturing.

I enjoy reclining in the sunlounger like a middle-class Victorian lady, wrapped in a blanket, reading my book and taking selfies.

Like so.

This time spent in the garden and not gardening is occasionally broken up by doing photoshoots of my hateful, beloved cat.

Like so.

and so.

and so on. I am sooooo tempted to do another reel of cat photos. Keep reading and I may put some bonus photos at the end! Hah, I know how to keep ’em keen!

Given my leisurely garden pastimes, what was I thinking by attempting some actual growing of some actual plants? Perhaps it was jealous-inspo of my Bristol friend who has made a pond in her garden from scratch.

Like so.

Or perhaps the blame can be placed squarely on the shoulders of my delightful and more local-than-Bristol-aka-Pompey friend and fellow Green Partier, Tracey.

Tracey, henceforth and hereby declared She-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named, had the absolute gall to drop by some seedlings because she had too many. This intrusion into my peaceful domicile included rocket, lettuce and honeywort.

For context – this is the current status of the siblings of my seedlings, belonging to She-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named’s

I started off with the optimism of one who has forgotten their past failures. Planting something – it was even one of Emma and my tips on How to Cope with the Covid-19 Lockdown in Green-ish Style. What sweet, naive fools we were.

So full of optimisim and hope.

I diligently watered them. Even added homemade cloches, on the advice of She-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named.

Then this happened.

An entire pot of lettuce seedlings disappeared overnight. What happened? Were they eaten? Went to visit their aunt? Did I overwater them? I don’t know. It is forever a mystery. But it’s okay. I still have more lettuce and rocket.

Until I didn’t.

My last batch of lettuce also disappeared into the night. No worries! I still have my rocket. I even planted them out in fresh compost. There is hope.

Dear Reader, I present to you – my pièce de résistance

Wait for it…..

Boom!

I present to you white spider-web like mould.

Mould.

WTF.

Ewww and Shudder.

I wailed in disgust. How is this possible that even under the safe confines of cloches, the rocket rotted away? I bemoaned my failure for a full week straight.

Weirdly, the wildflowers are growing. But as they reside in the mouldy graveyard and I am still grossed out by that, I can take no joy in their shadowy existence.

These wildflowers in their mouldy home.

So now, I have one man standing. My honeywort. My precious. Living in the relative safety of my window-sill, I check it twice a day, water it with filtered water and tenderly stroke it’s wonky baby leaves.

Tamara’s precious.

I await its imminent demise.


Congratulations! You have reached the end of this epic, cautionary tale, and so you shall be rewarded with a collage of photos of a cat you do not know.

You are welcome.

Written by Tamara, a Green Hairy Feminist

How to eco-hack your letterbox

Yes, the title is a little silly. (And when I (Emma) ran it past my first proof reader, can be misinterpreted as something NSFW!) But I think that, right now, it would be nice to have a little escape from the harsh realities of the world and get a little levity into our lives.

And this article actually tackles an area of all our homes that we perhaps do not think about as being particularly wasteful, but that may produce the most trash outside of the kitchen and bathroom. So, let’s delve right into making your letterbox a greener place.

black door with letterbox

Limiting what you get in

Obviously, the biggest way to make your letterbox more sustainable is to limit what you bring in. The more things that you bring into your house, the more things that will ultimately have to be composted, recycled, or put into the council rubbish bins for incineration. But how to do that?

Put a ‘No Junk Mail” sign on your mailbox

It won’t work all the time, but it will make the leaflet delivery person out think twice about shoving another pizza menu or double glazing advert through your door.

Some of the bigger companies use Royal Mail to deliver their leaflets, but you can opt-out by downloading and filling in this form and posting it back at the address listed. (Can’t print? No problem. You can ring on 03457 740 740 and ask for a form to be posted to you.)

Full disclosure, this shouldn’t stop you getting political leaflets or important messages from the government (i.e. the coronavirus leaflets) because they are designed to keep you politically informed. If you do already know who you’re voting for in the next election, i.e. The Green Party, you can put up a sign saying “no political leaflets”.

Opt for text or email alerts from companies

man of colour looking at smartphone

Whether it’s your bank statement, electricity bill, or even your dental practice, most companies will be happy to change how they contact you as mailing things by post costs them money. Some will even reward you for going paperless with better deals.

Take this one step at a time. As you receive the latest communication from each company, read it closely to see if there is an online option. If its not in the letter, check their website.

Lowering the eco-impact of what you do get in

We all have stuff posted to us and none of us can say, especially now, that we actually get all our shopping done at physical stores. So if how can we lower the impact of what is posted to us?

Ask for no new packaging

pile of boxes
Someone clearly took old boxes from Starbucks to send these parcels

If you are buying something online (or even getting something sent to you by a friend or relative), ask the person posting to use some of their old packaging, rather than buying something new. After all, most packaging items can be used far more than once and it doesn’t really matter if the top you bought comes in a bubble envelope that someone else had a book arrive in, does it?

Request recyclable or compostable packaging

Envelopes
Remember that Portsmouth Green Party can recycle the stamps

If the person shipping can’t provide used packaging, which can happen if you’re buying new items from a big business, then ask for your items to be shipped in cardboard and paper, rather than plastic, which will be harder to recycle.

It’ll probably just take one email to customer services with your username, order number, and a request that a note is made on your account.

Side note: If you’re getting something sent to you, request the slowest possible shipping. This means that, in the case of international deliveries, the item is sent by ship, rather than by air, or, for UK-deliveries, that the car/van/truck it is driven in is more likely to be full, than if you’d selected next-day delivery.

Resuse what you have

cat on boxes
Guest starring: Tamara’s cat

On a related note, if you do get any boxes or bubble envelopes or other packaging through the door, consider reusing it when you have to send something. Your friends are unlikely to care if their birthday present arrives in an old Lush box and cushioned by Styrofoam from the last time you bought electronics. Just make sure everything is clean and dry before storing and sending.

If you can’t use it, give it away to someone who can via Packshare or on Freecycle/Freegle/Trash Nothing.         

Recycle and Compost what you can

wheelie bins

Not every piece of packaging or post can be recycled, but these are the post and packaging items you can recycle in Portsmouth’s green kerbside bins:

  • Cardboard boxes *
  • Corrugated cardboard *
  • Sheets of cardboard (perhaps used to keep items flat in envelopes) *
  • Cardboard envelopes (like the kind that DVDs or CDs are occasionally posted in) *
  • Paper envelopes * (including the kind with a window)
  • Junk mail
  • Newspapers *
  • Magazines
  • Directories

(The ones with stars next to them can be composted in your home compost bin.) (Not window envelopes!)

Bubblewrap and the stretchy plastic bags that magazines, for example, are posted in, can be recycled with carrier bags at larger supermarkets.

Well, that’s it from me today. Mainly because I’ve run out of things to say about letterboxes and partially because the spacebar has only worked 75%  of the time and I need to go sit somewhere away from my laptop for a long while.

Let me know in the comments if you have any other tips for making your post box green again. Or…

Post box with the text: Go send someone a love letter

Written by Emma, a Queer Freelance Writer

Ethical Tech: Mobile Phones

REFURBISHED VS FAIRPHONE

Emma vs Tamara

This is a post free from Covid-19 mentions! Enjoy the breather as you ponder the ethicalness of mobile phones. :)

To buy new, or not to buy new?

That is the question that Emma and Tamara are tackling in today’s post, specifically in relation to mobile smartphones.

Should one buy new, or refurbish and repair? Or simply do without? (Spoiler alert, the last option isn’t a choice we explore!)

Photo Credit: The Gender Spectrum Collection 

EMMA SAYS: DON’T BUY NEW. BUY REFURBISHED.

We begin with Emma, the queen of the refurbished phone.

Emma got all the phones, she got all the phones.

I have had eight phones in my short little life. (I’m still a Young Green for nine more months!) The first two – a Motorola Brick and a Nokia 3310i – were third hand. My uncle would give my mum his old phone when he got a new one and I would get it after she was done with it.

Then, I turned 16 and I asked for a camera phone for my birthday. And that was where things started to go wrong. When I went to college (and started going out later with friends), my parents and I agreed that I would get a cheap contract, so that I couldn’t claim that I didn’t have the credit to tell them the gig overran or I missed my bus. That came with a new phone, barely a year after the last. (I assume the provider didn’t have a sim-only contract then.)

When I moved to uni, my phone didn’t get signal and, after too many nights only able to phone people while standing outside the IT centre, I switched providers, which came with a new phone. This time a slider phone, which broke just a year later, and resulted in me buying my last-ever new phone.

I should, for context, tell you that I got another phone second-hand from my mum and discovered sim-only contracts at some point between 2011 and 2019. (Also, that all of my past phones have been recycled or sold on if they were working.)

Reader, she cheap.

As mentioned before, I’m cheap. (If this feels like a recurring theme to you dear reader, try being one of my friends who I refuse to pay the £4 to sit next to on a plane or who have to smile at the bartender as I order tap water at their birthday night out.)

The phones that I had bought, as opposed to getting through a contract or from a family member, only ever cost about £60, which meant that they were off-brand with lower-res cameras and would result in people going, “Is that an- oh no”, whenever I got my phone out.

So I didn’t want to buy a new phone when my old one was no longer able to support any of the social media apps that I used. But I was tired of taking terrible photos.

And yes, I know that sounds shallow, but as a writer and the co-runner of the Portsmouth Green Party Instagram account, it was my own personal hell to continuously borrow my mum’s phone to upload pictures about your local Green Party or promote my articles on Twitter. (For 10 glorious minutes in November 2017, a picture of a cake my mum made was visible on the PGP Instagram because I forgot to log out.)

Emma discovers refurbished phones and doesn’t look back, ok bye.

So last February, I knew I needed a new-to-me phone. I was practically bullied into it by a dear friend and my mum. I opted for a refurbished one through my network provider and got a 2018 model, which supported all the apps I needed and had a great camera, for just £60.

(It came with a £10 sim card that I gave away to one of the local homeless shelters to allow the people there to call their families.) (Full disclosure, I don’t remember which one, but The Lifehouse said they would appreciate it when I asked in preparation for the post.)

So why would I buy refurbished?

  • Cheaper
  • Lighter
  • More attractive and can get a cute case (although beauty is in the eye on the phone holder)
  • Compatible with wireless chargers (all of my USB cords are dangerously frayed)
  • Buying second-hand is better for the planet than buying new, even if the item you’re buying new is sustainable and eco-friendly
  • No matter how simple it is to repair the Fairphone (see below), I would still put it off. It’s pretty simple to clean my laptop keyboard, but I’m pretty sure there’s mould growing under there from the third year of uni.

But now, let’s hear from Tamara about the Fairphone. (She can totally trash my Huawei phone. A good place to start is, “aren’t the Chinese government using that to spy on people?”)


TAMARA SAYS: DON’T BUY BAD NEW. BUY FAIRPHONE.

Photo Credit: Fairphone

Tamara argues against second-hand…wait, say what now?

Uh oh Emma, are you going all 5G conspiracy theory on me? Seriously though, she makes a compelling argument. Buying second-hand should be the default. So why even as I agree that if a phone can be reused, it absolutely should, am I arguing against? Dear Reader, let me take you down an alternative path.

Like Emma, I have always taken pride in not being a brand follower or a tech upgrader. Sim-only contract, that’s me! Why get a new phone every two years when my current one is perfectly fine-ish? Again like Emma with her third-hand-me-downs, my mobile phones were always donated by my partner, the Dutchman when his work upgraded their mobile phone contracts. He always had a better, faster, shiner phone than me, with more storage space and a fancier camera. He was always the more tech-aware one in our household. I am the one who goes running with my trusty old iPod. I was the one who carried around a mobile power bank because my old iPhone’s battery would drain to 10% if I even thought about making a call. I couldn’t afford to repair these phones and most couldn’t be repaired anyway, cause they are not designed to be easily accessed.

Until now.

I am now the trend-setter with a phone that I treat more reverently than a new-born baby.

‘Hah!’, I hear you thinking, ‘Call yourself a greenie? What a hypocrite. Bought yourself a new, expensive phone at the expense of the planet and those who reside on her?’

And to that, I say: New? Yes. Expensive? Definitely yes.

Planet and people destroying? Absolutely NOT!

Dear Reader, I present to you the FairPhone a mobile phone designed to be repaired and ethically produced.

Photo Credit: Fairphone

I have reached ethical nirvana.

This is not a sponsored post. Tamara is just a massive fangirl.

Tamara learns to trust again, this time by doing actual research

For many years, I trusted brands. I trusted banks. I trusted supermarkets. I didn’t question why I trusted them, I just did. I thought for a long time that Apple was an ethical green brand because it was called Apple.

Luckily a good friend of mine (the same one who I mentioned in a previous post I share a subscription to The Ethical Consumer with) introduced me to the Fairphone about 5 years ago, opening my eyes in the process to the conflict mining and child labour that go into the manufacture of the typical smartphone.

Let’s get real for a moment. Smartphones are a*mazing. But the way they are produced is definitely NOT amazing. I won’t go into it all here, it bums me out too much and I get all fatalistic and depressive. But I will try to quickly summarise, so you know where I am coming from. But as usual, I strongly encourage you to educate and inform yourself as this is just my limited understanding.


~ A Sad Smartphone Summary~

Ok, so, basically, smartphones are made up of thousands of different components and on average around 60 different metals. These metals that go into a phone are mined.

If it is mined by people, by hand, from the earth, it is called artisanal mining. Artisinal mining sounds all fancy and lovely doesn’t it, like yummy sourdough bread. Hah, the absolute literal bloody irony as many of these metals are mined in areas of conflict, such as cobalt in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The unethical mining of these metals which go into our phones fund brutal conflicts. Child and forced labour is a huge problem. Artisinal mining my arse.

That is just one part of the supply chain. Then we have the manufacturing process, mostly done in China and Vietnam. I am talking poor and unsafe working and living conditions, inadequate health and safety and low pay. The usual fun stuff.

And finally, the disposal of the mobile phone. Even if recycled, many smartphones end up in e-waste dumps which leach pollutants into the soil, waterways and the workers who are extracting the metal components for recycling. (But we still encourage you to recycle your phone with us – we have absolute trust in Recycling for Good Causes.)

~End of sad summary~

Ooof. As I said, it is a bummer. And that is why, when my second-hand iPhone kaptutted, I bought a Fairphone 3.


Tamara pitches why your next new smartphone should be a Fairphone

The Fairphone is ethical but it does not claim to be perfect. It is not 100% fair or completely recyclable. But it is the only ethical smartphone that exists in today’s current market. They have traceable supply chains for all four internationally recognized conflict minerals: tungsten, tin, tantalum and gold. The gold is also fairtrade.

The supply and production chain of the Fairphone is completely transparent and they actively support workers rights and a fair living wage. My Fairphone 3 cost £400. From that, only 1.50 euro per phone was needed to ensure a living wage bonus to all the factory workers on the Fairphone production line in Suzhou, China. Fairphone points out that they are not the factory’s only customer and probably account for less than 10% of the total production in the factory. If all the factory customers followed suit, all the factory workers would have a fair living wage. *looks pointedly over to the big phone manufacturers*

And finally, the Fairphone is designed to be repaired. By the consumer! By me! It is a modular, repairable phone.

Yep, it cost me £400. That is a shite-load of money. I have never spent that kind of money on a phone before. Remember, I am a hand-me-down kinda gal. But I saved for a long time and bit the bullet and put my money where my ethics claim to be. Not everyone is able to do that, but I am happy I could.

Demand the right to repair

I am grateful the Fairphone option exists. But why is it the only truly repairable smartphone brand available?

It is my personal opinion -not backed up by any research cause I am at the end of the article and I am getting hungry – that manufacturers do not design their phones to last. They definitely don’t design them to be easily repaired.

This is why I encourage you to support and sign this Right to Repair petition urging the European Union to require manufacturers like Samsung, Huawei and Apple to design repairable smartphones and provide spare parts and repair information to all repairers and consumers.

After signing the petition, I am off to wrap my Fairphone in bubble wrap leftover from my recent move and sing it to sleep! My precious!


Written by Emma (l) and Tamara (r)
I’m Queer. I’m Brown.
And we’re both Feminists.

Happy (Covid-19) Birthday

My Mother loves her birthday. She has been known to celebrate for over a month. When she turned 60, she demanded sixty presents and Reader, her best friend did it by cleverly wrapping up sixty one-pound coins! So, you can imagine – given her indignation at being considered elderly and therefore told to stay inside for 12 weeks – how impressed she was at having a coronavirus birthday. Not impressed at all. Not at all. Trust me.

Having only moved here from Devon at the end of last year to live with her favourite son-in-law and me, she was resigned to her first birthday in Pompey being a bust.

Let me tell you how I (Tamara) attempted to give my sulky mother the 74th Birthday of her isolation dreams whilst trying to keep it green (ish).


A loose schedule

One of the biggest lessons my depression has taught me is that a day can be a very long time. I made a loose plan for the day and informed the household Official Birthday Celebrations would begin at 1300 hours. They were instructed to be washed, dressed and hungry.

A Surprise Birthday Sign

I wanted to make it feel festive without resorting to plastic balloons. A huge roll of paper that I randomly acquired many moons ago, and knew would one day come in handy, formed the basis of a homemade ‘Happy Birthday’ sign. I might be child-free but I can draw hearts and flowers that a 5-year old could be proud of.

Breakfast-in-Bed

My mother is a woman who likes to take her birthday phone calls whilst reclining in bed with a sweet coffee in hand. I presented to her, again with the pride of a 5-year old, a birthday breakfast consisting of filter coffee bought from Wild Thyme, a glass of Prosecco, a birthday cookie and snowdrops picked from the garden. (I totally acknowledge here our extreme privilege in both living together and with a garden.)

A Treasure Hunt with Booze

At 1300 hours, Official Birthday Celebrations kicked off with me kicking Mother out of the house… with a glass of bubbles… and instructions to maintain 2m from any passer-bys. This was to allow me to rush around hiding clues and prizes for her birthday treasure hunt.

Clues were stolen from the internet and prizes were books and small bottles of booze wrapped in cloth. Clues were solved and prizes located and it set up a playful and fun energy for the rest of the day.

Afternoon Tea

I made cucumber sandwiches and devilled eggs y’all! It was simple but tasty and went down nicely with bubbles. We sat in the garden and I put a tablecloth on to make it feel fancy.

I was aiming for a zero waste meal but that wasn’t possible and I didn’t stress about it. The fact I even found the main ingredients of bread, eggs and cucumbers was a huge win! The bread bag and cream cheese pot can be recycled after the lockdown is lifted. The cucumbers came in a mix of recyclable and non-recyclable plastic but I made sure we ate it all – no squishy cucumbers in the back of the fridge this time, thank you very much! I even made sure the crusts that were cut off to make the sandwiches posh were eaten by the Dutchman later.

Scrabble

The afternoon was spent in a lovely drunken haze playing scrabble. This is the only game my mother will play and she is convinced that the drunker she gets, the better she plays.

She has owned this scrabble set since 1982. I don’t think you can get much more eco than that!

Digital Gift

https://www.instagram.com/p/B-uTmdjJMEk/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

My Mother has recently self-published a book of stories. (I will gloss over the fact she did it through Amazon.) We surprised her with a framed print by the Southsea Gallery of her book cover in early February and I wanted to incorporate her achievement into her birthday celebrations.

A very talented friend and local artist Sarah Sayers Creative designed a digital portrait of Mum in her writing nook. She emailed it to me and I was able to print it and gift it to Mum, with the promise of it being properly printed and framed after the lock-down.

I won’t mention the fact that Mum considers it a gift from her favourite son-in-law, because he gave her his card at the same time as the portrait. It was my idea but I’m not bothered he got all the credit. Not bothered at all.

Dinner and a show

Following two games of scrabble and an alcohol-induced nap, the best Indian food was delivered for further birthday delight. My Mum was gutted not be able to go out for dinner and so Blue Cobra brought dinner to her. We are lucky to have the funds to be able to order this and to support local business during the lockdown. I was pleased to be able to order directly from them as then I know they get all the money, but if that isn’t possible ordering from a delivery service is the next best option.

Finally, we went to the theatre! The National Theatre is making selected performances available on Youtube and we thoroughly enjoyed the performance of One Man, Two Guvnors. It is bloody hilarious and I hope you got a chance to see it. With the ‘National Theatre at Home‘, shows are being released on a Thursday evening and are available for one week and other theatres and cultural venues are also releasing bodies of work.

Surprisingly, there were still queues for the toilets!


The next day, it was back to coronavirus-life-as-usual. We stayed in our own rooms and barely spoke to each other. There is only so much togetherness you can handle in a lock-down. But I overheard her talking to a friend and as she listed the many moments and laughed over finding a book in the washing machine, I felt pleased that I managed to make her Covid-19 birthday one to remember.


And what of you, Dear Reader, have you any tips on how to celebrate and mark those special moments in the current lockdown? We always love to hear from you. Stay safe.

Written by Tamara, a Green Hairy Feminist

How to Cope with the Covid-19 Lockdown in (Green-ish) Style

This is not a Covid-19 article for your eyeballs to panic scroll through. 

This is not a list of educational resources. 

This is most definitely not an article exploring the very serious impact of C-19 is having on the NHS, care and medical workers, retail and restaurant workers, vulnerable people, people with disabilities, children, the elderly, people with mental health issues and underlying health problems, gig-workers, the self-employed, freelancers, small businesses…

This is not an article giving medical advice.

This is a light-hearted post on how Emma and Tamara are trying to survive the lockdown whilst still trying to be green.

This post is not a good idea. 


When Emma suggested an article on how to survive the lockdown, Tamara’s reaction was to hide under the duvet. For Covid-19 is serious stuff. Here at Shades of Green, we discuss how to live green in Portsmouth. We can be serious at times, yes, but not global pandemic serious!! 

Covid-19 is impacting on all aspects of life- how we eat, how we shop, how we work, how we play, how we exercise, how we parent, how we socialise, how we date, how we sleep. Like literally, everything! 

And writing about it, even for you Dear Reader, is scary. It makes it real. And that is why Emma coaxed Tamara from out under the duvet and together, we are writing this. 


For many in Portsmouth, their lockdown began last week on Friday evening when the UK Government instructed all clubs, pubs restaurants, bars and gyms etc to close. This is also true for people with kids and for those who are self-isolating. For the rest, this week has been the start of Covid-19 forcing us to change how we carry out our daily routines.

How the bloody hell will we survive the lockdown? Together. (Except, you know, apart.)

With the possibility of social-distancing and self-isolating lasting months rather than weeks, we (Emma and Tamara) wanted to share our small perspective on how we are attempting to maintain our equilibrium in these strange and worrying times.


But first, an even bigger disclaimer than usual: 

1. Keep yourself informed on up-to-date UK Government advice as well as local Portsmouth City Council advice.

2. Ask for help. If you need assistance, please contact the Hive helpline: 

☏ Hive Helpline: 023 9261 6709

Hive are leading a coordinated local community response to the Covid-19 pandemic in Portsmouth and are working with Solent NHS, Portsmouth Clinical Commissioning Group and Portsmouth City Council.

You can also call the Portsmouth City Council dedicated helpline if you are in need of support during the coronavirus outbreak and can’t find help online:

☏ PCC Helpline: 023 9268 8004

For more informal help and support, join the online Facebook group “Portsmouth Coronavirus Support Group. This group was set up and is run by local people and members ask for and offer informal, ad hoc support. 

3. And finally, remember that we are writing from our own individual perspectives as child-free people with relatively few physical health issues and fairly secure finances. (Even if Emma is self-employed!)  Hopefully, elements of this will be relevant to you, whatever your personal situation may be, and do take everything we say with a pinch…nay…a handful of salt! 


Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Keep to a loose schedule

Think back to the last time you didn’t have a fixed schedule (i.e. having to be somewhere most days for a particular time and duration). This might be during the summer holidays at school, during parental leave, or it might be during a period of unemployment in your adult life. For Emma, it was way back when in 2012, before she got an adult job. (In an office, ya’ll!) (She just realised that’s not a massive deal for most people.) 

When you don’t have a loose schedule it can mean that you are getting up later than you normally would, not having regular meals, and perhaps not practising the self-care that you need to. The last time Emma wasn’t in employment, she woke up at about 11 am most days but she guarantees it was after lunch on some days. That doesn’t do you any favours at all and the readjustment will be hard after a few weeks. 

Get up a little later than you normally would but not so late that it messes up your sleep schedule. Try to strike a balance between doing fun things, like binge-watching a show you’ve been meaning to catch up on or reading that book, with stuff that you need to do but generally don’t get the chance. (Emma’s neighbour is probably really looking forward to her tidying the garden.)

A lot of people online are saying that you shouldn’t be advising people to be productive during this time. The way Emma sees it, if she gets the curtains washed now and all of those other fun chores on her to-do list, then once the lockdown is lifted, she can make the most of the time with her friends and family. 

Photo Credit: The Gender Spectrum Collection 

Limit your exposure to the news and social media

Be selective. As a journalist, Emma is not telling you to not be informed. She’s saying that there is so much information out there that it can be overwhelming and depressing. It’s not going to do your mental health any favours to be watching the news constantly or scrolling incessantly on your phone and seeing the myriad of stories (fake and true) being shared on social media. 

Where possible try to schedule a specific time to look at the news and seek out unbiased sources. Did you know that UK TV news is legally not allowed to have bias whereas newspapers are? So opt for ITV, the BBC, Channel 4 News etc.

And only watch once a day. 

Emma’s chosen to watch the evening news, so it’s not so early that it will depress her during the day and not so late that it’ll make her anxious at bedtime.  She’s also deleted all social media apps from her phone, so is keeping in touch with friends via text and WhatsApp only. Tamara followed her example, deleted Facebook from her phone and felt an instant relief.

Photo by Prateek Katyal from Pexels

Stick to your routine wherever possible 

If, prior to the lockdown, you got up early to go for a run every morning, try to do that still (while maintaining a healthy distance). Prior to the crisis, Tamara was working on controlling her diabetes through exercise and was love-hate-running through the free NHS Couch to 5K plan. She has continued this safely during the lockdown as current government guidance allows for once-a-day-exercise outside.

If you and your bestie go to the movies every Tuesday, you can have a watch party and check out something on any of the multitude of streaming services. (you can even share a streaming service to save money.) Tamara and Emma are both huge fans of Canadian comedian Mae Martin and had a digital mate date night with wine and whiskey and watched the first episode of Martin’s excellent new show Feel Good

If you usually get drinks with friends on Friday nights, try to Skype/Zoom/Facetime/HouseParty and digitally connect with them and learn to make yourself a cocktail. (Or just Whiskey and Coke.)

If you normally go out for dinner as a family on Sundays, order in from that restaurant. (Many local businesses are now offering takeout options and it’s great to support them.) 

Keep connected

Covid-19 has forced us inside and to physically distance ourselves from our loved ones and frenemies. Luckily, we are in a digital age and the internet offers us a myriad of opportunities to connect. 

Tamara is having group video chats with friends and also spending time with her godson, who lives abroad, by doing a weekly Whatsapp reading session together. She’s also started doing PE with Joe with her friend J, who is also doing it with her nephews. She has also discovered the joy of playing online games with friends and has been playing the game Ticket to Ride almost every night with one friend or another. (She has yet to win a game.)

She is also enjoying a week-daily ‘Coping with Covid-19 conversations’ live Instagram stream by her favourite self-help guru and podcaster Gretchen Rubin and has plans to try a local online pub quiz with Dan Churchley. Joining an online book club is also an idea, and local independent bookseller Pigeon Books are considering setting up one with Sam’s Place (if you are interested, let Pigeon Books know via their FB page or Instagram).

Though we are in a digital age, remember not all of us are online. Tamara’s mother is phoning all her friends and family old school style – using her landline. Classic! (Also, a great way to reduce the strain on mobile networks, which are seeing spikes right now. Not overwhelming spikes, but still.)

The UK Government also says there is no evidence that the virus can be passed via post and no extra precautions are needed when handling, so you can still send letters, gifts, and cards; particularly if it’s someone’s birthday.


Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Put on your (metaphorical) oxygen mask  

Like those airplane safety videos, first put on your own oxygen mask. 

If you are a parent with children at home, keeping them safe, happy and entertained and yourself sane is more than enough to be getting on with.  Perhaps you are overwhelmed and scared, or a key-worker dealing with a lack of safety equipment, experiencing financial difficulties, living with mental health issues, supporting a relative or friend who is self-isolating – only you know your situation and circumstances.

Whatever your situation, don’t beat yourself up for not doing more or worrying you are not doing enough. We understand the impulse. Tamara has a lot of guilt from feeling she should be doing more. But she will do what she can, when she can. For now, to keep her mental health on an even keel, she is being mindful to put her own (metaphorical) oxygen mask on first before offering out her help. Just trying to cook a meal a day, be kind to family, connect with friends, do a bit of exercise, do something useful or productive no matter how small and not face plant into a bag of crisps is enough for her at the moment. Soon she will look outwards, but she can’t yet. And that is okay.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Help others 

Portsmouth is a fantastic place to live and Covid-19 highlights this. Neighbours and strangers are reaching out to those who are vulnerable, self-isolating or alone. People care. 

Check on your neighbours

Check on your immediate neighbours. Assuming you are not self-isolating, pop a note through their door letting them know that you are there and you care. Click here or download from below for a free printable template ‘Viral Kindness’ that you can use.

Many thanks to Becky Wass who designed the Viral Kindness template and made it available and free to print, share and download online.

Offer your support

Last night, Clap for our Carers brought a tear to many an eye. We have seen this kindness and community spirit strongly in the online communities that have popped up, like the Portsmouth Coronavirus Support Group on Facebook, which is where Tamara first heard of the Clap for our Carers idea. The group aims to be a space “where those who are affected can share what support or supplies they need, so for those of us who have been unaffected so far, can offer help. This includes everything from dropping off food, hot meals or supplies to those who are isolated – as well as emotional and peer-to-peer support.” It is a fantastic local way of connecting people in a scary time. When Tamara finds it overwhelming, she steps back but knows it is there when needed.

Volunteer with hive

People are so kind in offering their support and if you have the headspace and capacity to look further than your immediate family and circle of loved ones, you can sign up to volunteer through Hive who is coordinating a community city response. You can donate time, food or money or all three!

Volunteer with the NHS

The NHS are also looking for volunteer responders and you can still volunteer even if you are in a higher-risk group (including those over 70, those who are pregnant or with underlying medical conditions) as you will be able to offer support by telephone.

Give Blood

Give Blood. You can still give blood! (obvs restrictions apply.) The NHS and vulnerable patients still need blood and there is no evidence of any type of coronavirus being transmitted through blood donation. Check the Give Blood website for more information. Emma is keeping her appointment to give blood in July, although she does hope this will be over by then anyway.

Image by monicore from Pixabay

Eat what you have

Yes, that means all the tins at the back of the cupboard and the random frozen meals that you have no idea what they are because you didn’t label them. Hey, it will be a lovely surprise. Looking to Tamara’s friend E. as inspiration who ate a random homemade frozen meal that past-her had lovingly cooked but omitted to label. She had no idea what it was – curry maybe, or possibly stew? But it was delicious. Seriously, E. is winning at life.

Photo by Designecologist from Pexels

Buy only what you need

Tamara has no dependents and so only needs to worry about feeding herself and her partner, and sometimes her mother who lives with her. (She realised that makes her sound like she is starving her elderly mother. Be reassured, she’s not, her mother prefers to cook for herself and also hates it when Tamara calls her elderly!) Tamara is trying to continue to shop as low waste as possible and this means seriously thinking about if she truly needs something. 

Emma also has only adults living in her house, but due to advice that people with certain health conditions shouldn’t really be going to the shops and there being no online delivery slots for the next three weeks, Emma is slightly worried about running out of food. (Don’t worry, Tamara and one of Emma’s neighbours have picked up bread and milk for them, but please keep in mind that there are people much worse off than Emma, who will either run out of food or risk going to the stores and catching coronavirus.)

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Minimise food waste

Tamara’s partner (The Dutchman) has been making bread using back-of-the-cupboard-and-out-of-date yeast and Tamara made soup from cauliflower leaves and broccoli stalk. The bits she normally put in the compost are edible! Who knew? Probably most people, but not her! 

Emma’s mum has been making soups out of “out-of-date” fresh veg, cooking fresh and wilted spinach as a veg for dinner, and they have actually started using the lasagna sheets in the cupboard. Don’t want lasagna, but the sheets are the only pasta that’s available? Break them up and boil in water.

We’re not suggesting that you eat gone-off food. Use your noggin. But with panic buying and supermarket restrictions, we are trying to eat the food we already have in the house. 

(Also, regarding cat food, which Emma is finding harder to find on delivery. If someone has selfishly bought enough cat food to last them until the end of time, you can order from specialist pet food stores, but if you run out before then, you can make your cats a special meal of boiled chicken and rice. (Note: Cats require taurine in their diet and the internet informs us that you should only make your cat this basic meal infrequently.))

Try reusable toilet cloth

With toilet roll becoming a black market commodity, perhaps now is the time to give reusable, washable toilet cloth a try.  Emma wrote an informative post a while back, which you can read here, with her advice on using cloth instead of disposable toilet paper.

Emma suggested this to her parents, who grimaced.

Embrace other reusables

If you have a period or live with incontinence, you might be finding it hard to get the products you need.

You can read a past post of ours on reusable menstruation products here and get reusable products from various small businesses. In the past, Emma has bought from Thinx, Ngozi Sews, Cloth Mama, and Age UK

cat figurine on toilet

Skip cat litter

In addition to milk, Emma is finding it hard to get cat litter, which is particularly hard as Tiny Tim is an indoor cat (and Rooney is not allowed out after dark, but still needs to use the little cat’s room). She has enough at the moment, but if that runs out before she can get some in, she will look at tearing up newspaper for their trays. (If the poop is scooped into the bin, she thinks this might even be compostable..? The internet is very divided on whether this is safe.)

Image by bluebudgie from Pixabay

Store your recycling and donations

In Portsmouth, collections from textile and clothing banks have been suspended. Many charity shops and direct donation places have closed their doors.  We are sure many of us are using our enforced time at home to do some sorting out and decluttering. (We know because Emma is and contacted two direct action groups, who said they couldn’t collect now.)

Keep your donations at home until the lockdown is lifted and normality has resumed. Charities will need your help more than ever in the months to come.

At the time of writing, kerbside rubbish and recycling collections in Pompey are unaffected however we wouldn’t be surprised if collections of kerbside recycling and that of cartons and mixed plastics banks is also limited/ suspended. If that happens, wash your food packaging and store them at home, if you are able. (You can probably store this in boxes in your car if you’re not using it right now.)

Don’t forget that the council makes money off recycling and will need this money in the next year.

Make sure to crush tins, cans, plastic bottles, and cardboard boxes to get more stuff in your green bin. If your green bin gets full, it will be safer and easier to store paper and card in your house, while keeping your green bin for cans and plastic bottles.

Emma also suggests that if you have a compost bin, you can compost paper and card, especially stuff that is perhaps ‘contaminated’ with a small amount of food waste and can’t go in the recycling.

A number of Tamara’s friends with children reminded her that the more difficult items to recycle (i.e. yoghurt pots) can also be used in crafts and in the windowsill/ garden.  

A. + S. planting seeds in the lockdown using toilet rolls inserts.
Photo used with permission from their mum E.
Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

Support local small businesses

If you can, please support our local small business in Portsmouth, especially those who have been forced to close. This is invaluable to the traders in keeping their business alive. Many local restaurants and retail shops have switched to offering home deliveries, which is perfect for customers who are self-isolating.

Tamara treated her partner to the final book in a trilogy he is reading from Pigeon Books and bought some shampoo bars from Southsea Bathing Hut. Emma bought her niece and nephews their birthday presents from Pigeon Books, who gave her a contact-free delivery. (This is not a sponsored post by Pigeon Books – we just adore them.)

With handwashing going up by a gazillion percent, why not buy some soap bars from the aforementioned Southsea Bathing Hut, or Wild Thyme who Tamara regularly buys naked Faith in Nature soap bars from or Herbies health store (the new-old Southsea Health Food shop). Shop local and still be green!

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Read for pleasure

As mentioned above, Pigeon Books are doing contact-free delivering! (We promise, not a sponsored post. Just buy their books!)

Though libraries are sadly closed for now,  you can find a great selection of books and audible books on the free library app Borrow Box.

This together with Pigeon Books means Tamara is not tempted to buy e-books for her Kindle e-reader (She’s boycotting Amazon, which is why the betrayal of The Dutchman subscribing to Prime to watch the new Picard is just…..divorce!!!.) (Emma asked if she could borrow their Prime login to watch the new season of The Marvelous Mrs Maisel and Tamara locked her out of the blog.)

You can also access newspapers and magazines with another free library app Pressreader.

And finally (though, Amazon) we thought you might like to know that Audible is offering free selected stories for all ages. Take the free stuff and run! Run I say!

eBooks is an Ethical Consumer Best Buy e-book alternative to Amazon so why not give them a try instead?

Go outside (safely and if you can)

Tamara moved house just before Christmas (read about it here) and is super privileged to have a garden. After a good tidy-up, she has been chillaxing on a sunlounger that Emma kindly lent her.

The Dutchman’s regular exercise class with Portsmouth Outdoor Fitness has started live-streaming exercise sessions on Facebook and this morning he was burpee-ing away. Tamara drank coffee. 

At this time, government guidance allows for an outdoor once-a-day exercise and as mentioned earlier, Tamara has been doing a daily-ish run. She tries to go very early in the morning and is stringent about maintaining social distance from others. In anticipation of this becoming restricted,  she has been adding in indoor Yoga with Adrienne and PE with Joe Wicks. She may have to join The Dutchman in the burpee-ing. Ergh.

The Dutchman burpees
Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Plant something

A lovely friend of Tamara’s dropped off some rocket seedlings for her to ultimately kill. That’s ok, fun will be had in trying to grow them.

Try window-sill gardening for those of us who do not have access to outdoor space. Tamara also intends to sow some wild flower seeds and will let you know how it goes!

Image by Dean Moriarty from Pixabay

Move your body

We have already mentioned exercise throughout this article so far. But the most fun Tamara had was when she put on some music and had a boogie in her kitchen. Obvious advice, we know. But it really helped boost her mood when she was feeling overwhelmed and anxious about life, the universe and covid-19.

Friends with kids have been playing classic games like the Floor is Lava and trying ballet with The Ballet Coach There are so many free exercises and dance videos available online like this to pick from. Whatever floats your boat, give it a go.

Photo by Magdaline Nicole from Pexels

Do something creative

You can draw, colour, paint, cross-stitch, write, or anything else you want to. Creativity is calming and gives you something else to focus on. (Emma is writing a book, something she shoehorns into every conversation now.)

See if any local hobby shops, like The Stash By The Sea, are open for online orders and deliveries. You can even get creative with your trash, i.e making necklaces out of sweet wrappers. 

Be kind

Image by reneebigelow from Pixabay

And finally, be kind – to yourself, your loved ones, neighbours and strangers. It is an understatement to say that these are tough, strange times.

Be kind, wash your hands and stay at home.


Photo by Kelly Lacy from Pexels

And that is it from us folks. Let us know in the Comments section what you are doing to keep your head in this crisis and bonus points if you have parental, green or eco-tips to share!


Written by Emma (l) and Tamara (r)
I’m Queer. I’m Brown.
And we’re both Feminists.

How to eco hack your home office

As some of you may know, I (Emma) work from home. (Normally in my pyjamas, as part of a quest to fulfil the stereotype!) I love it because I have no commute, no dress code, and no ‘suggestions’ about me wearing make-up.

This article will be about how I make my home office (read: corner of my bedroom with a desk) a little more eco-friendly. Although, a couple of the biggest contributors to your typical carbon footprint at work (commute, on-the-go food) are already taken out of the equation because I work 10 seconds from my bed.

Hopefully, some of these tips will inspire you to cut your carbon footprint, whether you work at home or not.

Cutting electricity

As a writer, I spend about 7 hours a day typing on my laptop. As my laptop is from 2012 and the battery is dead, I’m sure this uses a lot of electricity, so I try to cut my usage elsewhere.

(Before you comment, I did buy a new battery in 2016, but it died within a year and I’m not keen on doing it again.)

Unplug items when you’re not using them

The towel I failed to crop out is where my cat sleeps while I work

As you can see from this photo, I don’t have electronics plugged in when I’m not using them because even when the item is switched off, it still uses electricity. My printer, phone, coffee maker, and lamp only get plugged in when I need them, which is maybe one item once a day.

Also, the coffee maker is one of those horrible capsule ones. I got it from my nan’s house and I’m just using the capsules up before I sell it. To dispose of the used capsules in an eco-friendly way, I’m:

  • removing the lid and placing it in the bin
  • putting the coffee grounds into a jar and either using it as a body scrub or putting it straight in the compost
  • putting the plastic bottom into the Sainsbury’s Mixed Plastic bin

Work with natural light

laptop on desk under window

I work directly under a window (I live in the attic like Cinderella), so I rarely have to turn either the ceiling light or my lamp on. Except when I work before 7 am or after 5 pm, which doesn’t happen often anymore because I’m getting better at this whole work-life balance thing.

Minimise heater and fan usage

cat in  blanket
An accurate representation of me today

As I live in the attic, it boils in the summer and freezes in the winter, but I try to cope with this without using the heater or the fan. (I mean, the radiator’s in the wrong place and I never feel like the ceiling fan works, but I’m still going to count this.)

During the summer, I open the window and, sometimes, soak a t-shirt in cold water at several points during the day. In winter, I wrap myself in hoodies and, occasionally a blanket.

Restricting emails

I recently learned that emails have a carbon footprint because the internet is held up by huge data-processing sites. Therefore, I’m trying to send fewer emails (i.e. one email with all of the work from the project rather than several), clear up my inbox, and unsubscribe from all of those mailing lists I find myself on.

This is harder than I thought. The Inbox Zero struggle is real.

Of course, a neat way to offset this is with search engine Ecosia, which plants trees when you search for something.

Cutting waste

As mentioned in a previous article, I’m exceptionally cheap. Thus, it won’t surprise you to know that I’ve kept every workbook and gel pen from my school days so I don’t waste products that could be used for writing or that I hoard used A4 paper in case I need to print anything and small bits to write my daily to-do lists.

Another way that I prevent waste is:

envelope of scrap paper
The envelope was also used as a to-do list and to note down everyone I had to tell about my broken phone
  • Putting all smaller pieces of used paper into an envelope to be recycled so that they don’t gum up the machinery at the recycling plant
  • Refilling printer inks at the Ink Store and, when needed, recycling them with Portsmouth Green Party
  • Borrowing or buying used anything that I need for work, like the tilted platform my laptop rests on
  • Making my own pen holder from a Primark bag and an empty washing powder tub
  • Recycling pens with Milton Cross School
  • Composting pencils when they’re down to the last little nubs (don’t worry about the graphite, a small amount won’t harm the soil)

Going green

two cacti
My plant babies

For my last point in this article, I was once told that having plants in your office makes you focus more and work harder. I don’t know if that’s exactly true, but I do now have two cacti on my desk. (Normally, placed out of the way of the cat.)

Even if I’m not incredibly focused, I do like that it’s helping to take some CO2 out of the air. (Even if Tamara’s husband recently told me that it works the opposite way at night, so my bedroom is essentially filling with CO2 after the sun goes down.)

Okay, well that’s it from me. If you have any ways to eco-hack your office, let me know in the comments.


Written by Emma, a Queer Freelance Writer

Green Money

In a recent post, Emma shared her tips on how to save both pennies and the planet. Today, I (Tamara) am continuing the theme of money by sharing my attempts to ‘green’ my finances.

But first, a HUGE proviso! Though very wise, clever, smart and beautiful; I am not a financial guru or advisor. I am simply writing from my own personal experiences. This is not about me making or saving money but about me trying to be ethical in how I organise my finances and store my money.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Level 1: subscribe to the Ethical Consumer (Difficulty Rating: easy)

I share a subscription to The Ethical Consumer with a friend and it has been the number one most useful and informative resource in researching and deciding how to spend my money ethically. (This is not a sponsored post or any of that!). The Ethical Consumer does Shopping Guides, Company Profiles and basically it is where I go for clear answers when I am overwhelmed by choice. It has influenced all my choices which I will discuss below. If you can afford it, at £30 a year, get it!

Image by Jörg Hertle from Pixabay

Level 2: choose a bank with values (Difficulty rating: Intermediate)

Did you know that the big commercial banks are the worst? Main banking providers like Natwest, Lloyds, Barclays, HSBC etc are not the safe havens they appear in the ads. I was devastated to realise that the banks I was loyal to since I opened my first account at age 13 to save my Saturday job earnings in are funders of arms manufacturing and investors in the fossil fuel industry (to name but a few). These are powerful institutions focused on profits and not people.

I felt rather smug, many years ago now, when I decided to move away from terrible banking and opened a current account with Smile, then the best (in my opinion) ethical banking choice in a very limited pool. But the times have moved on and Smile, which is part of The Cooperative Bank, is no longer the top or only choice.

Triodos: a unicorn in the banking world

Triodos is the best. I do not mean it is the best of a bad bunch. Oh no no! Triodos is simply the best…dun… dun… better than all the rest! (channelling my inner Tina Turner!).

You see, Triodos doesn’t only choose not to invest in the bad aka unethical and unsavoury industries, Triodos actively invests in the good aka sustainable, ethical and planet & people protecting industries and projects.

Even their debit card is eco-conscious as it is made from PLA which is a plastic substitute made from renewable sources such as plant leaves and corn. But to be honest, it is their ethical policies and transparency that really give me a hard-on, though the small things are important too. (haha, that’s what she said! Sorry. #notsorry.)

I’ve had a saving account with Triodos for about ten years and will soon be opening a current account with them when I get my ID sorted. (Off-topic rant – can you believe that both my passport and my driving licence expired in the same month. Adulting is hard.)

Community-owned banking:

By this, I mean member-owned banking institutions like Building Societies and Credit Unions. Unlike commercial banks which are run for the profit of shareholders, here each customer is a member and has a say in how the organisation is run.

a) Nationwide Building Society

Nationwide is my compromise joint bank account with my husband, the Dutchman. After The Co-operative bank became 70% investor-owned and seeing that the Ethical Consumer rated them fairly well, he decided to move his accounts from Smile to Nationwide Building Society.

We have a shared account with Nationwide and the rest remain with Smile because as well as not being good with change, I still felt a loyalty to Smile and I was holding out for a Triodos current account. We compromised by initially keeping some accounts with Smile and transitioning one to Nationwide with ultimately all our shared accounts eventually being moved to Nationwide.

b) Wessex Community Bank

Whenever I cycle down Fratton Road, I notice the Wessex Community Bank nestled between The Bridge Shopping Centre and Garnier Street. Each time, I add it to my mental list of things to check out and immediately forget once I have cycled past.

Writing this article meant I finally researched it and I was thrilled to discover it is a not-for-profit community bank (a credit union) that invests solely in the Hampshire and Isle of Wight region. It is a proper local bank!

I plan on joining their Christmas Club saving scheme as I am tired of always being overdrawn come January. 2020 is my year of taking control of my finances!

Image by Shutterbug75 from Pixabay

Level 3: CHOOSE AN ETHICAL MORTGAGE (Difficulty rating: Advanced)

I rate this as Hard/ Advanced as for me this was the most difficult decision to make in terms of prioritising ethics over finances.

It is a privilege to be in a position to hold a mortgage. It is also my largest financial burden and my biggest monthly expense. I want that money to be invested positively by my mortgage provider. I have previously held a mortgage with The Co-operative Bank but wanted to up my game in ethical finances.

The Ethical Consumer was a key tool in helping us research and ultimately decide to apply to Coventry Building Society for a mortgage. A huge bonus is that the mortgage interest with them was as good a deal as the ones offered by the usual big banks. So it was a win-win, both financially and ethically. I consider this my biggest success in walking the walk and not just talking the talk.

Image by TheDigitalWay from Pixabay

Level 4: CHOOSE AN ETHICAL pension (Difficulty rating: expert)

This is where my laziness really shows. I don’t really get pensions and I think the fact I even have a pension is me Adulting at the highest level.

I want a safe, secure and ethical pension that doesn’t just not invest in fossil fuels, fracking, arms trade and all that fun stuff but also invests positively in sustainable, ethical, people and planet-friendly funds. I basically want the Triodos of pensions.

Quite by chance, I hold a pension with Royal London who is currently ranked the top pension provider by The Ethical Consumer. And the Dutchman has a workplace pension with Aviva, who is rated second. But unlike Triodos, for example, these are the best of a bad bunch.

I feel my only option is to learn more about pensions (ergh) and start lobbying my pension provider to do better.

But ideally, I’d have a pension provider that is making actively positive ethical investments and so far, I haven’t found that.


And what of you, Dear Reader? What are your experiences of ethical banking? Do you have an answer to my pension quandary? Let us know in the Comments section.


Written by Tamara, a Green Hairy Feminist

It’s not (always) expensive being green

Dear Reader, 

You may not know this about me, but I (Emma) am really really cheap. Cheaper than I, as a middle-class person with a fair amount of savings and a fairly steady income, have any right to be. 

So cheap that on the last holiday I took with a friend we would have had to have paid £4 to sit together on the flight and I rejected this completely. She didn’t even push the matter because she knew I’d bitch about it being a waste of money.

I suppose, if you’ll allow me this brief moment in a therapist’s chair, it stems back to my childhood, when my family didn’t have a lot of money and debt was the elephant in every room of our house. 

Photo of change

Sometimes this cheapness conflicts with my environmental beliefs.

For example, I have to buy some tampons because, while an advocate of reusable period care,  I will be on holiday and going swimming during one of my periods this year. (I have still not mastered the menstrual cup.)

The organic cotton tampons that I know I need to buy cost £4 for a pack of 20. By comparison, the supermarket own-brand terrible-for-the-environment plastic-filled tampons cost about 99p for 16.

And I’m outraged by this despite having to buy 1 or 2 packs of these a year. (Can you imagine if I was using tampons all the time or if I had any kind of medical issue with my period that made it heavier or more frequent?) 

What I’m saying is that I do understand why people would choose the cheaper option over the more environmental one in most cases. Particularly in such a dire economic time when the government prefers to make sure the rich stay rich and the poor stay poor. (I wrote this on my phone when it was still working, and it autocorrected my sentence to read ‘the poor stay put’ and tbh, I think that might be how the government feels too.) 

However, this article is not intended to be a depressing read on how caring for the earth can ruin your bank balance. Instead, I want to focus on how it can actually save you money. 

In a way, the money you save can pay for more expensive tampons and other eco things. But even if you only choose to do the green things that will save you money, it’s still a way to cut your impact on the planet. 

Planet earth taken from space

Switch to reusables

While plastic is the biggest problem, single-use anything isn’t great because of the energy used to create it. Plus, a one-off purchase that might be a little more expensive is still cheaper than multiple disposables. 

To start with, why not try a reusable water bottle, shopping bag small enough to fit in your handbag/backpack, a lunchbox, and a handkerchief?

More advanced reusable lovers can try period care, nappies, wax wraps, and toilet cloth.

Use what you have

Overconsumption is a big problem because it involves extra materials and energy to create a product, energy to ship and store it, and finally energy to get it from the store to your house. 

Where I can, I use what I have rather than buying anything. For example, for handkerchiefs I use the old napkins that belonged to a table cloth that had been thrown away. (Someone knocked cherryade over it when they small and the stain never came out.)

Use pre-loved

I fucking love buying second hand. Most of my clothes (and books) are from charity shops and at least three pairs of shoes came from my parents. 

By choosing pre-loved items, you are taking something already in the waste stream and giving it a second life.

I also love sites like Freegle, Freecycle, and Trash Nothing to get pick up cool things for free. 

You can also get rid of items on there, that you might otherwise have to take to the tip or pay for the council to collect. (Think about broken furniture, which some could repair or use for firewood.)

Repair

My main repairs are small sewing things for clothes, holes in leggings, underwire springing free from bras, and rips in the seams of jumpsuits. I can (sort of) do these myself. Or with supervision from a more seasoned sewer.

For anything more complicated, like my currently glitching phone, I defer to the repair cafe, which is donation-based. (Excuse me, while I cry over my phone.)

Public transport

I never learnt to drive and it was primarily because I didn’t have the money or the time. (Now, I have the money, it’s mostly an eco thing.)

What with all the costs associated with driving, from lessons to car purchase to tax to insurance, it’s so much cheaper for me to take the bus, coach, or train. (Or even walk on a dry day.)

As an added eco benefit, you can use e-tickets for the bus and coach to save paper. (I don’t know if you can with the train.) The First Bus app also saves you money on day passes (often less than a return), singles, and passes (week, month, year).

Okay, that’s about it from me. Do you have any other ways to save pennies and the planet? Let me know in the comments below.

The Big Green Move

Moving house is one of the most stressful things a person can experience. I am sure I read it on an internet listicle, so it must be true.

In the past three months, I (Tamara) have:

  • moved all my worldly belongings and crap into storage.
  • moved all my worldly belongings and crap out of storage 8 weeks later into my new Pompey home.
  • moved my mother-dearest from her home of twenty years in Devon to my new Pompey home
  • travelled by train to The Netherlands (#NoFly2020) to help my mother-in-law move house within her local area.

That is a lot of packing of boxes, hiring of vans and moving of people and their stuff.

My move was the only one I had any real control over and I was determined to make it as environmentally light as possible.

We did our own packing and moving. This was primarily because it was cheaper than hiring professional movers but also because I wanted to keep the materials used and waste generated within my control.

This meant using as little plastic as possible, not buying new and reusing and recycling after the move.

It wasn’t a perfect move by any means, but I did my best within my limited budget. *pats self reassuringly on back*

Here are Tamara’s (somewhat obvious) Top 3 Tips on How to Green Your House Move:

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Tip 1: Eco Packing Tape

If you stop reading after this tip, that is fine by me. Because you will now know that paper packaging tape exists and that you can buy it locally from mobile plastic-free shop Refill and Replenish for £2! I bought a ton from online eco-shop Anything But Plastic as Refill and Replenish hadn’t yet started stocking the paper tape – and though I bought loads… I still managed to run out. You are going to use a crazy amount of tape. So much tape. Might as well make it plastic-free. There’s no excuse now you know.

Image by Dirk (Beeki®) Schumacher from Pixabay

Tip 2: Collect (LOTS OF) SECONDHAND Boxes and Newspapers

I managed to not buy any bubble wrap. Not one roll! Of this, I am very proud and owe to friends and neighbours who collected newspapers and bubble wrap for me to use.

I started collecting boxes long before I moved house. My partner, The Dutchman, has moved his work office a number of times in the past few years and after each move, I have collected the cream of the crop of the discarded archive boxes. He thought I was crazy. I knew my day would come.

I kept a beady eye on online reuse sites such as Freegle for offers of moving boxes and also posted a few requests. I sourced most of my boxes through Freegle and some Freeglers also kindly messaged me with tips on where to get boxes, particularly Lidl and PC World.

And now I have moved, when I am unpacked, I will offer out the useable boxes to others to be reused via Freegle.

The used newspaper will be recycled at kerbside as I unpack…which I am doing…slowly.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Tip 3: Tap Into Your Community

Collecting such a plethora of boxes, newspaper and packaging material would not have been so easy without the support of others.

One friend donated a load of bubble wrap she had been saving. Another collected newspapers from the neighbours in her apartment block. One volunteered her husband to help on moving day. Another friend let me stay in her flat while she was travelling and we needed a place to stay for a month whilst our house purchase went through. One loaned her garage for my excess stuff to be housed while I staged the house ready for sale. My cousin who was visiting from Trinidad on training for work helped us lug furniture from storage to the new house.

After the death of her beloved nan and the clearing of her belongings which she writes about here, Emma kindly gave me towels and bedding and other linens to use as packaging material. As they were not good enough to be donated for use by people (i.e. it had rips or was stained or had faded), I was gifted them with the strict instructions that once unpacked, I must donate them to The Stubbington Ark for their animals. In the midst of her grief, she would send me texts checking if this or that would be useful for my move. And she helped me move on moving day. Words cannot begin to say how valuable her help and support was. I couldn’t have done an eco move without her.

I tapped into the local Zero Waste Facebook community when I needed help and advice. As mentioned above, Freeglers gave me their boxes and advice. So many boxes.

And finally, when my mother-dearest’s ridiculous oversized antique armchair couldn’t get through the front door, local joiner and carpenter Aaron of Aaron’s Wood ‘N’ Stuff took it apart and reassembled it, saving it from my exasperated idea of taking a hammer to it. My mother-dearest and her armchair thank you Aaron.


And you, dear Reader, what tips and tricks do you have for making a house move an eco one? Let us know in the Comments section.


Written by Tamara, a Green Hairy Feminist

New Year’s Resolution – Reducing Plastic in the Bathroom

Hello and welcome to the first Shades of Green blog post of 2020. Emma is a bit snowed under this week, so we’re happy to present a guest post from Polly at Your Waste Gone, an environmentally friendly and eco-conscious waste clearance company for commercial and domestic waste. So, let’s hand over to Polly.

So much plastic

Personal hygiene and beauty products are major culprits of wasteful plastic packaging, making the bathroom a dominant source of plastic consumption. Thankfully, however, there are many things we can do to reduce plastic waste in the bathroom. So, why not start the year off right and make your new year’s resolution one that benefits your environment?

Why Plastic is a Problem

Unfortunately, even with climate change concerns growing, many people still see little point in making the switch to plastic-free products. It’s easy to feel helpless in the war on plastic, but by making small changes now, we can make a difference to the future health of our planet.

Microplastics – a Hidden Danger

dolphin

Plastic is not biodegradable, but plastic does break down into tiny, sand-like grains called microplastic. Some microplastics are actually even smaller than grains of sand, and can only be seen under a microscope. As it makes its way into the ocean, toxic microplastic is ingested by fish and other sea life, and if we eat seafood, we end up ingesting microplastics too. Microplastic is also in the air we breathe, and scientists are concerned about the health impacts, with research suggesting that they could be a contributing factor to lung cancer.

Threat to wildlife

Plastic waste poses a major threat to wildlife across the globe as wild animals’ natural habitats are invaded by our plastic waste. Because of this, animals ingest plastic, which causes major problems to their digestive systems. Animals can also easily find themselves permanently trapped or entangled in pieces of plastic waste, with little chance of survival thereafter. Plastic pollution also continues to harm aquatic and marine life. Sea turtles, dolphins, whales and marine birds are particularly vulnerable, as these creatures often ingest plastic when mistaking it for their prey.

How can I reduce my Plastic Consumption in the Bathroom?

shopping cart

When it comes to wasteful plastic packaging, the bulk of the responsibility rests on the shoulders of large industrial companies. However, we as consumers are not exempt. If we think of our shopping habits like a voting system, every time we buy a non-recyclable plastic product, we are voting for companies to continue producing them. By changing the way we shop, we can have our say. Opting for sustainably-packaged, plastic-free products tells the big companies “we want more of this!”.

Many of us don’t have the time to inspect every package label when we’re out shopping. This is why we recommend making the permanent switch to greener options. That way, you always know the products you are buying, don’t contribute to plastic pollution. To help, we have created a guide here.

Hair Care

Black woman with natural hair
It takes a lot of work to have hair that looks this good

Shampoo Bars

Eliminating the need for plastic bottles, these handy bars work just like a normal bar of soap but are designed specifically for your locks!

Angel Hair shampoo bar – Lush £8.00

The shampoo bar may be a little pricier than your go-to bottle, but this mighty little bar is said to last up to 80 washes. That’s the equivalent to three large bottles of standard shampoo. Lush sell packaging-free shampoo bars in various scents, each targeting different hair types and hair dilemmas.

Sunny Orange Bain and Savon Shampoo Bar – Peace with the Wild £5.50

The Bain and Savon shampoo bars are packaged in wax paper and recyclable, recycled cardboard. The bars are made using 100% natural ingredients, are vegan-friendly and made in the UK!

Conditioner bars

Just like shampoo bars, conditioner bars offer all the benefits of conditioner, without the plastic guilt.

The Golden Cap Pressed Conditioner – Lush £8.50 – £9.00

To use the conditioner bar, simply hold the bar under warm water and work between your hands until a silky formula is released, then smooth through your strands as normal and rinse, simple!

Lavender and Geranium Friendly Soap Conditioner Bar – Friendly Soap £4.95

Just like their shampoo bars, the conditioner bars from friendly soap are packaged in recycled card. They can even be turned into liquid conditioners and stored in a glass bottle or old conditioner bottle at home by dissolving in water.

Grooming and Personal Hygiene

Shaving beard
That’s not a safety razor, but you get the idea

Cotton Buds

Despite their convenience, cotton buds are a big contributor to plastic pollution. Whilst the bud part of the cotton swab is made from cotton, the stem is often made from non-recyclable plastic. According to Cotton Bud Project, cotton buds are also one of the most commonly-flushed household items and they pass easily through the fine mesh screens in our sewage filtration systems, landing them in our oceans and contributing to more microplastic pollution, as well as threats to marine life and human health via toxic release…scary!

We encourage you to ditch those plastic cotton swabs for swabs with paper stems. Even better, why not try a reusable bud. LastSwab is looking for supporters in their latest endeavour, a reusable bud made from medical grade silicone.

Razors

Packaged in plastic and made out of plastic, disposable razors are one of the least environmentally friendly beauty products in our bathrooms. They’re simply tossed into the bin at the end of their short lifespan and only to add to the growing plastic pollution problem.

A more sustainable and economical alternative is the safety razor. Safety razors made from wood and metal and are designed to last a lifetime. Once they do reach their end, they can then be recycled and turned into new razors or new products. The blades of safety razors can also easily be recycled using a razor bank. Just be sure to check with your local council first, as some areas have other ways of recycling blades.

Mutiny Double Edge Safety Razor – Peace with the Wild £14.00

Bambaw Double Edge Safety Razor with long bamboo handle – &Keep £16.99

Skincare

Image of a genderqueer person using a makeup remover wipe
“There’s got to be a better way to remove makeup!”
Image of a genderqueer person using a makeup remover wipe by Broadly’s The Gender Spectrum Collection

Cotton Pads and Cleansers

Although cotton pads themselves are usually made from 100% natural cotton, they are often wrapped in non-recyclable plastic packaging. Plus, to actually remove makeup and cleanse the face the pads are used with a makeup removal solution, often from a plastic bottle. To reduce plastic consumption in your beauty routine, swap the cotton pads for a reusable makeup removal pad and the cleanser for one in a recyclable glass bottle instead.

Pack of 10 Imsevimse Reusable Cotton Cleansing Pads – Natural Collection £12.50

These pads are made from soft organic cotton terry and are a generous 8cm size.

Flawless Micellar Water – Wearth London £4.95

This beauty staple is handmade in the UK and packaged in a recyclable glass jar with a recyclable aluminium lid.

Eye Makeup Remover – The Zero-Waste Maker on Etsy.co.uk £3.00

A skin-friendly, effective eye makeup remover packaged in a recyclable brown glass bottle.

Deodorants and Body Sprays

Asian woman in exercise class
Royalty-free images of armpits with hair are hard to find.

While aerosol deodorant cans are often made from aluminium and can easily be recycled, most roll-on deodorant and non-aerosol sprays are sold in a wasteful plastic shell. Aerosols are also a harmful air pollutant, so even with their recyclable packaging, they aren’t the most environmentally-friendly choice.

The good news is, there are many eco-friendly alternatives to both deodorants.

Grapefruit and Lemon Natrual Deodrant Stick – & Keep £7.00

Packaged in 100% recycled cardboard, the earth-conscious deodorant range offers a selection of delectable scents that are vegan and cruelty-free as well as plastic-free!

Fit Pit Tea Tree & Orange Natural Deodorant – The Green Woman £4.00

These are plastic-free and handmade in the UK. They stock a variety of scents and cater to those with more sensitive skin with their ‘Fit Pit Sensitive’ products.

Your Waste Gone specialises in waste removal. Their range of services includes house clearance, rubbish removal, refuse collection and more. Your Waste Gone will never send your recyclable waste to landfill.