Menu Close

Author: emma (page 1 of 4)

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.

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.

What to do with unwanted presents

Greetings all and welcome to the last Shades of Green post of the decade! (Not to sound old, but I (Emma) swear 2012 was only like two years ago.)

Now, as this is our post-Christmas blog and I’ve been focused intensely on minimalising all year, I’ve written all about the most eco-friendly ways to dispose of unwanted gifts.

What can you do when you receive two DVDs of The Greatest Showman? Or a multi-pack of plain underwear? Or a subscription to Amazon Prime? (They don’t pay their tax, I’m not paying for their TV.)

Well, read on to find the best way to re-use your present. All of them more planet-friendly than storing them in the back of your closet for the rest of time.

(Although, that ugly sweater knitted by your aunt with your initials on… you’ll have to suck it up. You can always put it in the cat basket and say “she won’t sleep without it”.)

Regifting

Some presents that you receive are unable to be returned; maybe they’ve been bought at a craft market or maybe it’s an Amazon Prime gift card when you’re a Netflix person. It might not be right for you but for someone else, it’s perfect. Especially if their birthday is close to Christmas- luckily, I don’t want presents this year.

0bb2b6984626f0fa33487d5038c5249a

Selling

eBay generally has free listings on items in January. I haven’t seen it advertised this year but it’s one of the quickest ways to get rid of your unwanted presents. (Who wants to do a car-boot in the winter?)

ddw

Returning

There is nothing to be ashamed of with returning presents. This post-holiday season, I will be returning some cosmetics that I suspect are tested on animals and this book (okay, it’s not actually this book but putting the real book up would be mean).

book

A note on store policy

Most stores will have a grace period after the holidays where presents can be returned without the receipt for the current value. Be aware that this may be less than was paid for it because stores have their sales on; you can make the most of it by buying something you’ll make use of from the sale items.

I tend to exchange at supermarkets, where I exchange the item for food.

Donate

bsafbdabbgfhs

If you aren’t keen on these options; then as opposed to putting the items in charity shops (they get so full after Christmas), you prioritise direct action groups as money is often scarce in these places due to government budget cuts. (And ones that will no doubt come in the next 5+ years of Johnson!)

Items like clothing, toiletries, and toys will be well received by your local homeless shelter, domestic abuse shelter, or children’s home; they can be rewrapped as presents for residents’ birthdays or used by residents in common areas.

Homeless shelters will generally advertise their locations but domestic abuse refuges don’t so you may have to send a couple of speculative emails before you can arrange donations.

How to eco-hack your Christmas Presents in Portsmouth

Hey all and welcome to Shades of Green’s semi-annual eco Christmas post. Now, you might remember that earlier in the year, I (Emma) vowed not to buy any Christmas presents for adults. (I was still going to buy them for my nephews and nieces.)

Now, that promise was made before what was (and contiues to be) a distressing few months for my family. My grampy doesn’t really get why I’m trying to refuse presents and my mum thought we were just doing this for people outside our immediate family.

I tried to fight back. It ended in an argument. And Tamara, after I almost screamed at her about the fact that I was now under stress to buy presents that I never wanted to in December, explained that presents are a love language and my family are probably just trying to show that they care, after our annus horribilis.

Thus I, the person who didn’t want to buy presents, am now doing an eco-gift guide for my family.

Please note: This is not an ad. No payment or gifts were exchanged for inclusion in this blog. These are simply eco-friendly companies that I have bought presents from for the three people that I live with.

Buy local

When you buy local you can often cut down on transit and CO2; even if you still buy from a national or global brand.

A completely non-scientific case-study

If you wanted to purchase an individual bath bomb from Lush; you could order online and have that one item posted to you.

Compare this to buying that same bath bomb from your local store. They order their stock in massive amounts (50 bath bombs per box, sometimes as many as 30 boxes per delivery); the carbon footprint per bath bomb is much less.

Plus, they do have a massive package free (naked!) section.

Buy Small

Of course, it is always better to buy from small businesses in your local area. Here, I should mention the lovely Pigeon Books, who have been supplying me with presents for my nephews and niece since the summer.

They specialise in diverse books and have a whole section of eco-saving literature. Plus, if you live nearby they’ll deliver by bike and if you live further away, they’ll package your books in reused packaging.

I have the imposter syndrome mug you can see here!

Buy Handmade

When you buy handmade you’re helping someone to do what they want for a living; you get something uber unique and you might even get lucky by picking something from a designer that’ll be huge one day.

For this, I will recommend The Beehive Portsmouth, which has a collection of designers under one roof. We visited for the launch event back in September and loved it.

Tamara particularly liked the jewellery, I liked the small prints, and from the photos, it looks like Tamara’s husband Menno liked the food!

Buy secondhand

One of the major environmental costs is the production of new items and it’s much more eco to buy products that have been pre-loved.

I used to love doing this throughout the year and having my mum put stuff away for my Christmas presents, but, like most prolific readers, I now have more books than I could read in a lifetime.

Check out eBay, Gumtree or even Facebook Marketplace. Or you can pop down to your local charity shop and do twice the good.

However, if you’re looking specifically for books, which I always am, try World of Books, which is approved by both me and Tamara. They source books from charity shops, who are often overwhelmed by books, and prevent them from going to landfill.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B5vUXyDlAKi/
I’m going to need a bigger bookshelf

Buy charitable

On that note, if someone doesn’t really have a need for more items, why not consider a charitable donation? Plenty of charities will send out cards saying that a donation have been made in their name. (Remember to add on Gift Aid if you can!)

I’ve done this for a few years for my grampy with Doctors Without Borders, but if you want to donate closer to home, there are some worthwhile causes in Portsmouth mentioned in a previous post.

Buy sustainable

We all have that friend who could use a little push to be more eco-friendly and a good way to give that push in a friendly manner is to buy them a green gift.

Looking for ideas? Check out one of Tamara’s first blogs about her zero-waste backpack.

Emma Vs Stuff: Part 2

My nan died in September.

That was a little blunt, sorry. But I put it that way mainly because it still feels incredibly blunt.

In the midst of grieving and looking after my grandad, my parents and I also found that we had to clear my grandparents’ house (and a fair bit of our own) so that my grandad could move in with us.

Picture of a messy room

Now, for most people, this is already a difficult task. What do you keep as mementoes? What would your loved one want you specifically to have? ( We gave as much as we could to family members and friends, but it was all too much really. )

For us, it was made a little more difficult due to several factors, but the most difficult thing is that we didn’t just bag things up and donate them to the nearest charity shop.

Picture of someone browsing a charity shop

This was entirely my fault because, having worked in two charity shops, I know that the sector is overwhelmed with donations because of our throwaway culture. Indeed, some of the stuff, like VHS tapes and small plastic toys, just cannot be sold by most charity shops and they have to bin them.

And because I didn’t want to do that, it meant that I had to find charities or organisations that would take donations of goods, which brings us to the purpose of this article.

I put out calls on the Green Party Instagram and my personal Trash Nothing account, sent out emails to local charities, and spent several nights Googling the words “Portsmouth + charity + donations”. (It’s been a fun month.) It didn’t exactly yield the response that I hoped for, but I want to share with you what I did find.

(I should note that this list is limited to items that I personally had to donate or items that a charity did specifically request from me. Some of these are ongoing donation needs and some are one-offs, so contact the charity before you donate to check.)

Kitchen

Image of an all-white kitchen

My nan had a lot of kitchen equipment, kitchen storage, cutlery, and crockery, which we donated en-masse to Food Cycle Portsmouth.

We also donated food that no one else liked to the local Food Bank. (Pro tip: If you pop it into the donation stations at big Tesco stores, they’ll donate 20% on top.)

However, you can also donate cutlery and crockery to Two Saints, Tupperware to the Age UK cafe at the Bradbury Centre, or pretty much any usable goods to the Roberts Centre.

Bedroom

Image of a bedroom

The biggest things here were clothes, towels, and bedding, but thankfully they were pretty easy to donate.

The clothes, shoes, and accessories all went to Stop Domestic Abuse, where they will benefit survivors who may have had to leave an abusive situation without packing.

Clothes and shoes can also be donated to The Life House, while Two Saints are looking for coats at this time of year.

Towels, bedding, several spare duvets, and curtains all went to The Roberts Centre. They could also be donated at the Moving On Project.

The towels and bedding that was not good enough to be donated for use by people (i.e. it had rips or was stained or had faded) will eventually be donated the Stubbington Ark for their animals. However, at present Tamara is using it for eco house move (blog post to come).

Living Room

Image of living room

My nan had so many books, she wanted Grampy to build her a library. I’m talking over 200 books after the family had chosen the one we wanted to keep.

We donated the hardbacks to the Portsmouth Library Service and the paperbacks to Stop Domestic Abuse. They can also go to any homeless shelter.

While we’re in the living room, PARCS said that they would take part-used art supplies, i.e. pens, pencils, paints, play dough, for their art therapy.

HOPE not Hate Portsmouth will also take donations of knitting needles and dark yarn to make hats and other items for refugees, while Age UK will take donations of any wool, which volunteers use to make items for sale.

Boardgames can be donated at Two Saints.

VHS tapes can be donated at Barnardo’s charity shop, but they can’t take 100 in one go, so I am selling them at St Mark’s Church’s tabletop sale tomorrow (if you’re reading on the publishing date) to raise money for Nan’s favourite charity, the RNLI.

(Also, I know that there’s another charity shop that takes VHS tapes, but they’re anti-LGBTQ and I have a rule against helping organisations that wish I didn’t exist.)

Bathroom

Image of a bathroom

There were so many toiletries in my nan’s house that I was honestly a bit freaked out. We separated them out between two worthy causes, as shown below:

  • Wrapped soaps: Will be dropped off at various homeless shelters in December as part of a Christmas parcel.
  • Hair products, shower gels, and deodorants: Stop Domestic Abuse

As for part-used toiletries, the family have chosen to use them up ourselves, but you can donate them via Trinity Winchester’s Toiletries Amnesty. (I honestly would have done, but they never got back to me about whether I could post them.)

My nan also used Tena pants and had a big collection in her bathroom. As they were in sealed packets I donated them to the Food Bank, also using the Tesco drop-off point.) This is actually something, like menstrual products, that the Food Bank doesn’t regularly get donations of and can really help someone in need.

Furniture

Image of two chairs and a table

While we haven’t gotten around to donating the furniture yet – still not sure if we’re moving to a bigger place – we have found several places that will take it, including the Moving On Project and the Roberts Centre.

Also, for those of you who might run food-type businesses, the Age UK cafe is looking for cafe tables and chairs, as well as chilled display cases.

Office

Picture of a computer

While Nan didn’t have an office, she does have a printer and several other pieces of computer equipment, which will hopefully be donated to The Life House soon.

Unwritten postcards can be donated to Postcards of Kindness, which is volunteers writing postcards to people in carehomes.

Garden and Garage

Image of a garden shed

Nan loved her garden when I was younger, about as much as Grampy loved his workshop, so there were plenty of tools that needed donating.

We donated them to Tools with a Mission, but the Southsea Green can also take some garden equipment and Work Aid will take tools or all sorts (including sewing equipment and buttons).

There are also a lot of plant pots and broken ceramics (for drainage) that I’m currently giving away on Trash Nothing, but will give to the Southsea Green if they’re not gone by the New Year. (They had a stockpile when I called them.)

Hopefully, this has been helpful to you. I’d also like to highlight the Droppoint service, which is helpful for pinpoint specific items. If you have any other suggestions about where to donate items, comment below.

How to eco hack your blood donation

Donating blood is a wonderful act that doesn’t take a lot of effort and can save a life. I (Emma) have been donating blood for ten years now, when my iron counts allows, and was thankfully able to donate last on September 23.

However, as with most aspects of my life, I’m looking to make my blood donation more eco-friendly and these are the steps I’ve taken over the past couple of sessions to improve the greenness of my blood recycling. (I know, it’s technically reuse, but blood recycling sounds better.)

(This is the closest thing Shades of Green has to a Halloween post in 2019. Don’t worry, we’re not going to talk about blood.)

hands covered in blood
Except this one… Spooky

Change locations

I used to donate with a friend at Fratton Park, which would mean she’d pick me up on her way home from work or I’d have to get down there via a lift or public transport. However, given that I tend to feel really faint (or actually faint) after giving blood, getting the bus home by myself is not an option, especially when the buses from there to my house are fairly lacklustre.

After my friend got pregnant and couldn’t donate, I switched to the Mountbatten Centre, which is close enough to walk to and I take one of my parents with me.

There are blood donation locations all over Portsmouth, so there should be one close enough to you to walk/get the bus from home or work. (Just take someone with you.)

Drink up

person holding pink reusable water bottle

You’ve heard me and Tamara talk about water bottles for two years now and I’m going to encourage you to get one again. In my experience, you can fill up your water bottle with squash or water from the dispenser on the snack table before your donation and have the nurse refill it from the jug after donation. No need to use unrecyclable plastic cups.

If you like hot drinks after donating blood (you can only have them from your second donation onwards!), then take a pre-filled flask because the hot drink machines don’t look like they can accommodate a traditional or travel mug, only the disposable cups.

However, if you do want a hot drink and forget your thermos, you can always take the cup with you to be disposed of in the carton banks, at Gunwharf, or at Costa.

Chow down

half an orange

It’s highly recommended that you have a snack before and after donating blood, preferably something that’s very sugary or very salty. With that in mind, why not take some sweet fruits, like an orange, with you to enjoy and avoid packaging?

If you’ve forgotten your snack, opt for one of those provided that comes in recyclable packaging. As spotted on an earlier donation, Portsmouth’s blood donation team will take crisp packets for recycling as long as you put them in the right box or you can opt for a chocolate bar or popcorn if you plan to take the packaging home to recycle.

Two-minute recycling pick

Nurses don’t often have the time to sort out the bins for plastic bottles and other recycling that others have thrown in the bin by the pre or post-donation snack tables. While you’re waiting there, see if there’s anything in the bin that shouldn’t be and move it.

Full disclosure, my dad actually did this while I was complaining about feeling faint (weakling!) and not wanting to leave, so he should get the credit.

Recovery time

And finally, remember to compost the cotton pad that they stick over your arm. (importantly, not the plaster or the tape), rather than throwing it in the bin.

That’s it from me this month, but let me know in the comments if you have a blood donation coming up and if you have any more eco tips about it for me.

How to Fix Your Stuff in Portsmouth

I (Tamara) am not a fan of sewing. Actually that is a complete under exaggeration. I frickin’ hate sewing! It is the worst. I hate trying to thread a needle. I hate trying to tie a knot in the thread. I hate having to squint as I attempt to sew. I hate how I stab myself, no matter how careful I am. And don’t get me started on the terrifying pricks that are sewing machines.

sewing machine

It will come as no surprise to you that I have begun attempting to sew. This is purely a means to an end. I am tired of throwing away murderous bras with underwire as it’s weapon of choice. Bras for bigger boobs are bloomin’ expensive. But I hate sewing, so how do I solve this #firstworldproblem? 

Dear Reader, there are a breed of folks who enjoy sewing!!! I have found and befriended these strange and wonderful beings and learnt their magical ways.

Repair Café Portsmouth

This is a free monthly pop-up event where you can bring your broken items and learn how to repair them. If you can carry it, we will try to repair it. I say ‘we’, for I have volunteered at Repair Café Portsmouth since it started. As I have no actual repair skills, you will find me in the café serving up nibbles provided by local food waste champions Foodcycle Portsmouth

I have cleverly befriended the textiles team (shout out to Denise, Laura, Sarah and Meg) who have kindly mended a number of peculiar items for me – my many reusable bags have been strengthened and repaired by Denise and my backpack has been given a second chance at life thanks to Laura. They gently and patiently encourage me in my attempts to repair easier items, like ripped pillowcases, and cheer me on when I get annoyed and discouraged, which I do constantly because I bloody hate sewing!

The regular monthly Repair Café Portsmouth sessions are at the Buckland United Reformed Church, 174 Kingston Road, Portsmouth every 3rd Saturday (except for August) from 10:30 am to 1:00 pm.

Claire of Sustainable Textiles

Sustainable Textiles

I am on a mission to repair my headphones as the foam ear cushions have completely disintegrated. My initial reaction was chuck them and to buy new headphones. Luckily my cheap instincts overrode my consumerist ones! It occured to me that rather than buying new foam ear cushions I could make them! Except of course, I can’t make them as I am incapable and I hate sewing.

So I found someone who could help. And that someone is my friend, the lovely Claire, who runs a sustainable textiles drop-in group. Annoyingly, she is keen to empower me to make the headphone covers myself. I admit I was hoping she would just do it for me. Sigh! But she will walk me through the process and hold my hand (not literally as that would make the actual sewing quite difficult).

The Sustainable Textiles sessions are drop-in and can be found at The Garden Room at St Judes Church, Kent Road, Southsea. Beginners and experienced sewers are welcome. Bring an item and have a chat while repairing it, or join in with the organised activity of the session.

Upcoming dates are October 21st 10am-12.30pm, November 15th 11am-3pm and December 3rd 5pm-8pm. Come for as long as you want and sessions are free with donations welcome.

To book a place or for more information, contact Claire on 07814 864973. 

Knit More in Common

I am trying to change my attitude when it comes to skills like sewing and knitting. As you can see, it currently is: ‘It is too hard, I hate it, I can’t learn, I can’t do it and please someone do it for me.’ My attempts to repair my bras and my headphones are a positive and deliberate attempt to change my narrative to: ‘I will try, I can, please someone help me’. 

Knit More in Common is a craft group that meets at Southsea Library to make warm blankets, hats and scarves to send to migrants living rough across Europe. And the best bit (for me!) is if you can’t knit (which I can’t), they can teach you! Hosted by HOPE Not Hate Portsmouth, the next session is on Saturday 9th November, 3 pm-5 pm at Southsea Library, Palmerston Road.

And you, dear reader? Have you visited Repair Cafe Portsmouth? Can you sew? Will you fix my stuff for us please? 😉 Let us know in the comments below.

The eco-friendliness of Walt Disney World

This is a follow-up piece to my How to eco-hack you Walt Disney World Vacation post and focuses on how Walt Disney World (WDW) is attempting to be green.

Basically, when I (Emma) wrote that post, I was very much aware that the onus should not be on the individual visitor because the entity with the power to make real change is WDW itself. And they are doing a lot, don’t get me wrong, but they can always do better.

Conservation isn’t just the business of a few people. It’s a matter that concerns all of us.

Walt Disney

What is WDW doing to make itself more eco-friendly?

Disney does do a lot to make itself a greener place and has over the years, especially at Animal Kingdom and EPCOT theme parks educated guests about issues like conservation, renewable energy use, and animal welfare. (Around one-third of WDW’s property is a conservation area.) They also take time to drum this into employees during training and have donated millions of dollars to animal and conservation charities over the years.

Giraffe ambling away from safari car
Spotting giraffes on the Kilimanjaro Safari at Animal Kingdom, where you can learn all about animal conservation

They’ve had recycling bins all across property since at least 2011 and their sanitation crew still hand sorts the rubbish bins to remove recyclables. Their hotels are Green Lodging-certified, which means that they are helping to conserve water and energy, reducing waste, and educating the public.

They’re also doing a lot to reduce energy use by utilising energy-saving fixtures, like florescent or LED bulbs. To be clear, Disney managed to save enough energy to power their Animal Kingdom theme park for a year. And they’ve created a Mickey-shaped solar panel field.

As mentioned above in our previous piece, they are committed to growing a lot of food on property, which they do using reclaimed water. However, Disney also helps to reduce food waste by distributing excess prepared food to the Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida. Their buses even run on a renewable fuel made from non-consumable food waste.

Recently, WDW has pledged to completely eliminate all single-use plastics by the end of 2019, which means that for the most part, we were served with cardboard/paper plates anddrinks came without lids or straws. (On the one occasion that we got a plastic bowl for our salad, I assume it was because that location hadn’t yet run out of the plastic bowls and they were just using up what they had.)

It’s a penguin statue made from plastic waste (click through to see more)

What could WDW do better?

In my ideal world, Disney would serve every counter-service meal with reusable cutlery and crockery, but I definitely understand why that wouldn’t work. People break things and metal knives would be unsafe and how would washing up on such a major scale be done? Also, I fully accept that it would be a logistical and health and safety nightmare to place meals and (most) snacks in reusable containers that people had brought in.

The best option would, I feel, be for WDW to use compostable food containers/cutlery and put a compost bin at all rubbish bin locations. Not only would this be a bonus for the environment, but Disney could use the soil produced for its on-site food production. Yes, it would take time for people to get used to, but so did the recycling bins and those were a great idea.

https://www.instagram.com/p/By3SM2Qg-vT/

They could also encourage people to bring their own reusable cutlery/bottles by offering a discount. Disney could even sell branded ones at food locations as they do popcorn buckets and soda mugs. Also, Starbucks is happy to fill my mug in the UK, so why can’t the Starbucks in Disney do that?

Anyway, so that’s my thoughts on the subject, but now I want to hear from you. Are there any more green initiatives that you know Disney is taking? What do you think Disney could do better? Let me know in the comments below.

How to eco hack your Walt Disney World vacation

You may not know this dear reader, but Shades of Green shares its name (quite by accident) with a Walt Disney World golf resort. In fact, every time I (Emma) Google our blog that is what comes up. Why am I telling you that? Because WDW is the subject of today’s blog.
There’s no getting around it, taking a holiday in a place that is several thousand miles away and is a major tourist trap is hardly the greenest thing that I could do, but what can I say? I love Disney – I even worked there for a time – and I’m not going to stop going. So, last month I went.
However, I did want to make my trip as green as possible and this is what I did to make that happen.

Getting there

Plane flying

The only practical way to get to the USA is via plane, so I offset my flight’s carbon footprint. As it turns out, flying direct and in the economy cabin is better for the world than having a change or flying in premium/business/first class, which is good because I flew there direct and economy class. (Although, I did have a change on the flight back, which I didn’t think about until I’d booked it.)

Packing List

Suitcase with period pants, reusable pads, cloth napkin, lunchbox, spork, and kayak bag
Missing: One water bottle

I was never going to be able to take just hand luggage with me to the USA for three weeks, so I took a suitcase. Although I’ll admit it could have been a bit lighter because I over packed on cardigans for the evenings – two would have been enough – and I could have washed some clothes (underwear, socks) in the shower. (I am considering just taking a carry on next time because of this.) However, these are the things that I packed to make my trip greener

  • Reusable water bottle: WDW is filled with water fountains, meaning that you never have to buy a plastic water bottle or ask for a cup of ice water. Plus the Chillys bottle (recommended by Tamara) kept my water cold even in the Florida sun.
  • Fabric tote bag: While I didn’t buy a lot on my trip (two t-shirts and a postcard, I think), I wanted to make sure I didn’t have to take a plastic bag at the store. (No one batted an eye in WDW, but outside of Disney, cashiers were really shocked when I kept refusing a bag for things like food and one even tried to force me to take one because he’s already put my crisps in the bag.)
  • Period pants/ reusable menstrual pads: While this didn’t entirely cut my need for tampons – I couldn’t wear these at water parks and I didn’t have the luxury of changing my pants/pads during the day, as I do at home – it really helped me cut down on the disposable pads that I would have worn in the parks to avoid an accident while in a two-hour line.
  • Lunch box: I took this to carry in snacks to avoid buying something with packaging in the parks, but also to take back food that would be wasted at the end of a meal.
  • Bamboo straw: Given that I was generally drinking water, I didn’t have much of a chance to use this. However, it did save me from taking a straw when we sat down at a table service restaurant and I ordered a soda.
  • Spork with knife edge: I used this so that I wouldn’t have to take disposable cutlery. Then, I washed it every night at our hotel. (My parents didn’t bring one, but they did reuse the cutlery that they got on our first day for the rest of our trip.)
  • Cloth napkin: I took a few of these so that I wouldn’t have to use paper napkins. Each one lasted about three days, before being put in the washing pile.

Transport

The monorail driving

While in Orlando, I travelled on the hotel shuttle and WDW transportation (buses, monorails, boats) with dozens of other people, so it was just like using public transportation back here.

We took a taxi to and from the airport, but I did try to get a shuttle. It was just too full by the time we got there and couldn’t accommodate my mum’s wheelchair and the next one wasn’t for like an hour. Not great when you’ve been up for 16 hours already.

Hotel

The Hollywood Tower Hotel
This wasn’t my hotel, I just wish it was.

I will admit that this was probably my greatest green failure. (It kind of wasn’t even my fault, but it was really annoying.) I didn’t choose the hotel for its eco standards, but rather price and proximity to WDW, but I figured all hotels must have the same basic guidelines of not changing your bed linen every night, having recycle bins, and not changing towels that were hung up on the rack.

When we got there I realised there were no recycling bins but figured that it was okay because we could recycle stuff like the milk bottles in WDW. (We just had cereal in our room each morning, which was more eco than eating in the park or at the buffet.) However, their coffee cups were the disposable kind, which is annoying because I was expecting a china cup.

Still, I left a note for the housekeeper (with a tip!) asking them to leave the cups, as we would rinse and reuse, and to not empty the bins unless they were full. If all, I’ve put in the bin is the flight tag from my suitcase, it doesn’t need changing. When we got back, the housekeeper had taken the note (and the tip!), but completely ignored my request by replacing the cups and emptying the bins. They also, despite the eco-guidelines that were in the hotel welcome folder, changed towels that I’d hung on the rack. I had a little bit of a freakout that my mum found funny.

We worked around it by hiding the cups in the microwave and putting all our rubbish in one bin, as opposed to using the kitchen and bathroom one, but I couldn’t do anything about the towels. It still annoys me.

Food

https://www.instagram.com/p/BypbeVjgU0b/

As we all know, one of the best ways to lower your eco-impact is through being careful with what you eat. Eating locally, choosing the option with low or no packaging, and eating fewer animal products all help to lower our carbon footprint.

Now, I ate vegan about half the time and vegetarian for the rest of the time. There are a lot more options than you might initially suspect, especially if you seek out the sites I’ve linked for help.

 As for packaging free, that’s difficult in Disney. Cast members aren’t allowed to take things like bottles or boxes from guests so they can’t place your vegan burger into your lunch box or fill up your bottle with soda. There are ways to limit your packaging though, including:

  • taking your own non-packaged snacks in
  • taking reusable cutlery, straws, bottles, napkins, and boxes (for leftovers)
  • opting for your ice cream in a cone rather than a cup
  • dining at table service restaurants (be warned, this does take longer and will eat into your park day, which is why we only did it once)

You might think it’s hard to eat local in WDW, but it’s easier than you think. See WDW grows a lot of its produce on property and the Living with the Land ride at Epcot shows you how they’re always looking for new ways to grow food using less water, less soil, and utilising permaculture.

Shopping

As mentioned above, I didn’t really buy anything when I was in WDW. A couple of tops for me, but nothing for anyone else. Not even my nephews and niece. (Sorry kids!)  Also, on a related note, I will sound like the sourest person in the world, but I’ve never understood why adults buy other adults gifts from their holiday.

By limiting what I bought, I reduced the amount of packaging to just a couple of price tags and limited the amount (in a very small way) that Disney would have to replenish with brand new items largely made from virgin materials.

Well, that’s it from me on how to eco-hack your WDW holiday, but there will be a follow-up piece on how Disney is working to reduce its eco-impact. Now, I’d like to hear about any tips you have for making your WDW vacation greener. Let me know in the comments.

Interview with Portsmouth Green Party’s Fratton Candidate: Tim Sheerman-Chase

It’s that time of year again, dear reader. The local elections are less than a week away and all of us at Portsmouth Green Party have been fighting away to get you a Green councillor to represent you and hold the main parties to account.

With that in mind, I (Emma) sat down with the PGP’s Fratton ward candidate Tim Sheerman-Chase to find out why he’s running and what he would do to improve Portsmouth for its residents and the world at large.

Hey Tim, I was wondering if you could tell the readers of Shades of Green why you’re running for office?

I decided to get involved in politics and local campaigns after seeing worrying signs of environmental and social breakdown. With my background in science and engineering, I am also well aware that, without drastic change, climate breakdown is a huge problem. The good news is that pressure from campaigners can be effective and real improvements can be made.

I learned so much from authors like Noam Chomsky and Naomi Klein about how current politics isn’t working for most people, so I aim to be an independent voice in politics that is a change from business as usual.

That sounds like just what we need. Now, I know that PGP have been out in Fratton talking to people to find out the main problems they have in the area. Can you tell me what those are?

Based on our survey, the main concerns of residents’ are:

  • crime
  • antisocial behavior
  • fly tipping
  • street cleanliness

Residents also face the danger of illegal levels of air pollution, which causes a wide range of health problems. All of this is against a backdrop of devastating cuts to local services under the banner of austerity.

That’s just terrible. So, what would you do to address these problems?

Fratton Green Party Candidate Tim Sheerman-Chase talking with local police about issues affecting local residents.
Fratton Green Party Candidate Tim Sheerman-Chase talking with police about issues affecting local residents.

I talked to the local policing team and they heavily depend on information provided by the public. I would help coordinate residents’ concerns with the police and other council services. On cleanliness, we need to provide more convenient recycling and waste disposal options, rather than having to travel to Port Solent or pay steep fees for waste collection. I would work to coordinate council services to keep the streets clean.

On air quality, I have been campaigning for a number of years with the #LetPompeyBreathe group. I have been pressuring the council to make significant improvements, beginning with producing a realistic plan. Unfortunately, the council has been slow in producing results. Since we need to transition away from private car usage, we need good transport alternatives, including better bus services. We also need to investigate the feasibility of introducing a charging clean air zone as quickly as possible.

Why is the Green Party the party to address these issues?

Many people are disillusioned with mainstream politics because it only offers superficial change. As Einstein said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” The Green Party is different because of its emphasis on long term planning, while valuing people and the environment. This has allowed it to be an earlier adopter of many beneficial policies that have since gone mainstream.

That’s a really good point. If I wasn’t already a member, I’d join. Is there anything else you’d like to tell our readers and the people of Portsmouth?

I’ve been encouraged by canvassing feedback and the hard work of our campaign team. This means we have a good chance of getting a first Green councillor for Portsmouth. We can win and we can hold the mainstream parties to account.

Well, there you have it folks. If you care about Portsmouth, if you care about our planet, and if you’ve had it with politics as usual, get out there and vote Green on May 2. If you’d like to read more from Tim, Tamara did an interview with him about air pollution in Portsmouth, which is an important (and scary) read.