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Author: emma (page 1 of 3)

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.

Emma’s attempts to reduce food packaging waste

One day last year, Tamara asked if I (Emma, obvs) wanted to come on an eco-expedition with her to [I’ve completely forgotten what we did, but it was definitely something green] and on the way we had a discussion about zero waste and how we could reduce the packaging on food.

I’m a keen recycler, but I still end up with an awful lot of food packaging in my bin every week and I really wanted to cut that down. (Although, I should note for clarity that my house still only produces roughly one bin liner full of rubbish per month.) I made it my goal in 2019 to cut the amount of food packaging that I’m sending to rubbish and here’s how I’ve been doing it so far.

Buying loose fruit

Red apple

We all know that we should eat more fruit and veg, but I’ve not been great at it in the past and I’m still not great at it now. I’ve been trying to eat more fruit and less chocolate for about six months now, but the problem is that most fruit comes wrapped in unrecyclable plastic.

Now, I know that the underlying principle is that the packaging keeps food fresher for longer and reduces food waste. However, I still wanted to cut the amount of packaging coming into my house. So, I’ve been buying fruit loose during my online shop, even though it annoyingly works out as more expensive.

 Obviously, there are some fruits that aren’t available loose at the supermarket (i.e. berries), so I’ve had to cut them out of my diet. (They’re probably available loose at farmer’s markets, but I don’t have the time to get there.)

Overall, I’m happy with my choice and I will stick with it, but I have had some slip-ups, like where I just really wanted some strawberries.

Baking bread

Loaf of bread

Carbs are pretty much my staple food and I freaking adore bread, so, over the past few weeks, I’ve been attempting to bake my own bread. Now, I’m no chef and the GBBO is certainly never going to accept me as a contestant, but the results have been fairly promising. Although, I have caved in to buy baguettes at the supermarket still.

Side note:  I used my mum’s breadmaker, but I know that can be a huge expense for some people so I recommended doing your research (and perhaps even borrowing a friend’s) before purchasing.

Getting a reusable water bottle

Reusable water bottle

Ever since Tamara wrote her green backpack post, I’ve been keen to replicate my own. I’ve mostly acquired all of the necessary items now, but the true turning point came with my very own water bottle.

It’s not like I never had one before, but they’ve always leaked or they weren’t dishwasher proof and it drove me crazy. Now, I have two dishwasher safe ones that I use on a daily basis and I genuinely don’t think I’ve bought bottled water since.

Okay, well that’s all from me at the moment, but I hope to check in later in the year with an update on how I’ve reduced the amount of food packaging that I bring in, whether recyclable or not. Now, I’d like to hear any tips you have about reducing your food packaging.

How to recycle with Portsmouth Green Party

It should be no secret that Tamara and I (Emma) are keen on recycling. I mean we’ve written about it multiple times on Shades of Green and we’ve even toured Portsmouth’s rubbish and recycling plant together. (Yes, we’re very cool people.) That’s why you shouldn’t be surprised that we’ve managed to transform this love of recycling into a way of making money for Portsmouth Green Party.

We’ve recently started working with Recycling for Good Causes, which helps turn trash into cash by recycling unwanted items no matter their condition, thus saving lots of items from landfill. Better yet, we can offer a local drop-off site, so that you don’t have to arrange to ship the items anywhere yourself.

What can Portsmouth Green Party recycle for you?

There are four main categories of items that Portsmouth Green Party can now recycle for you, not including the ink cartridges that we told you about in a previous blog, and they are jewellery, currency, gadgets, and stamps. Let’s look at them in more detail.

Jewellery

recycling jewelry

This includes:

  • Watches
  • Odd earrings
  • Broken items
  • Costume jewellery

How many of our readers have got pieces of broken jewellery or sole earrings in their jewellery box because you just don’t know what you do with it? I myself have two earrings that lost their partners several years ago and one necklace chain with a broken clasp, but I couldn’t put them in kerbside recycling and didn’t want to throw them in the bin.

Thankfully, I can now recycle them along with any other unwanted jewellery, no matter what material its made from or state it’s in.

Currency

recycling money

This includes:

  • Notes
  • Coins
  • Foreign currency
  • Obsolete currency (i.e. the old style pound coins, pre-Euro currency, pre-decimal currency)

I think we’ve all had that moment when you’ve come back from a trip abroad and you have $1.93 left in your wallet or €3.47 at the bottom of your bag. Unless you’re a regular visitor, you may not want to keep it in the house and it’s not really enough to bother exchanging it back into GBP, so it winds up stuck in a drawer. The same goes for out-of-date currency – for some reason we have like 20 francs in a drawer at my house because no one knew what to do with it.

Gadgets

recycling electronic equipment

This includes:

  • Sat navs
  • Games consoles and games
  • Laptops
  • Tablets
  • Cameras
  • Video cameras
  • Mobile phones
  • Portable music devices

Importantly, it doesn’t matter about the age or condition of the item. We can still recycle it.

This is actually fantastic because most places only recycle mobile phones. A friend of mine has been looking for somewhere to recycle her broken laptop for ages and the nearest place she could find to take it was Chichester and she certainly wasn’t going to make a special trip.  (I don’t blame her.)

Stamps

recycling stamps

This includes:

  • Loose used stamps
  • Stamp collections
  • First-day covers and presentation packs
  • Postcard collections

Yes, the things that you usually leave on the envelope to be tossed into the recycling can actually be used to earn money for PGP.

What will Portsmouth Green Party do with the money raised?

All money that PGP earns from these recycling efforts will be used to help make Portsmouth a greener (and Greener) place because while PGP is entirely volunteer-run, we do have a fair amount of expenses.

We will use the money to:

  • stand candidates at elections
  • create flyers for our candidates
  • print our newsletters
  • create protest banners

How can I get the recycling to you?

Just email me at blog@portsmouth.greenparty.org.uk and I’ll get in touch with a drop-off location.

The Lowdown on Reusable Toilet Cloth

What is reusable toilet cloth?

A while ago, Tamara wrote a blog post in which she mentioned that she carried around a reusable hanky book to blow her nose and that this grossed everyone around her out. Not to be outdone, I’ve also found a way to reduce my paper consumption that others think is gross and I’m actually fine with.

This article is about cloth toilet roll, otherwise known as family cloth or reusable toilet roll. If the topic makes you cringe, I (Emma) understand, but I actually found it to be a fairly easy way to massively reduce my paper (and water) consumption and it doesn’t gross me out as much as I thought it would.

I realise that’s hardly a ringing endorsement, but I seriously recommended giving this a go. I started in September when my parents went on holiday, thinking that this would be a short-lived experience, but I actually found it so easy that I never stopped.

But wait, don’t you get like *stuff* on your hands?

No, because the cloths I cut are big enough to cover my hand while I wipe. Plus, they’re more absorbent than paper, so there’s less soak through – if that makes sense.

What did you use for the cloth?

There are a number of online stores that sell cloths or you can make your own by buying fabric, cutting it into squares, and sewing the edges off.
I didn’t want to spend any money though, so I cut up old clothes that would have only gone into rags anyway (i.e. underwear with snapped elastic or socks with holes). An added benefit was that the cloths had been washed enough times that they were soft enough for those delicate areas.
I do recommend sewing up the edges of the fabric though, otherwise, they start to fray and then you have a lot of fibres to remove from the filter. It’s a hassle.

Do you use them all the time?

Most of the time. Obviously, I can’t use them when I’m out of the house, but I’d estimated that I’ve used them 95% of the time when at home. The only times I haven’t have been when I got up in the middle of the night or when the cloths have actually been in the wash.

I keep the cloths in the downstairs toilet because no one else in the house uses it. I have an old plastic washing powder tub that, because it has a lid, serves as the “washing basket”.

How do you wash them?

I followed general guidelines from cloth nappy companies, which was to wash at 60 degrees centigrade, with my regular cleaning products and then line dry. I honestly thought that 60 might be a little low, but baby skin is far more delicate than mine and nappies are designed for longer contact with skin, so what do I know?

These should be washed separately from other clothes/materials to avoid any staining (and because your clothes should be washed at lower temps to keep them in good nick). Full disclosure: I did put cleaning cloths in the load so the drum was full and I did put cloths that had only been used for pee into regular washing loads. It was fine, seriously.

But what about the wasted water when you wash the cloths?

I’m glad you brought that up. If you’re concerned about the potential water waste from washing these cloths to reuse them, it might help you to know that there’s an awful lot of wasted water in the creation of toilet roll! And that because there wasn’t toilet paper in the loo, causing a clog, I was able to flush the loo less.

Okay, well that’s it from me on the topic of reusable toilet roll. Let me know your thoughts in the comments section.

Green Cat Paws

I am not a cat person. Cats are evil creatures that glare batefully for absolutely no good reason. They take pleasure in toying with innocent birds, will attack you with no warning, and oh my gosh, their fur just gets everywhere. The Dutchman, my partner for the last sixteen years, loves cats. Adores them. He will greet every cat he meets in the street and loves a good tussle with a playful kitty. Reader, I married him. I must have been distracted at the time.

So, you’re probably not surprised to read that I (Tamara) now have a cat. A hateful creature that I utterly adore called Popster, Poppet and, officially, Poppy. When my depression made itself known to me, I turned to ‘ye ole Internet to find a magical cure. The internet told me pets can help with positive mental health. Well duh, I kinda knew that already. As the Dutchman had waited patiently for fifteen years for me to relent, I felt I owed him at least an attempt at having a cat. But as a cat is for life and not just for Christmas, I did my due diligence, investigating cat behaviour, needs, costs, etc. I decided that fostering a cat would be the perfect compromise. The Dutchman would get his cat-fix, we’d be helping with animal rescue and if I didn’t like it, then no problem as the foster cat would go to its forever home.

Cat and human high five

We approached Second Chance Animal Rescue, a local cat rescue charity based in Southampton and Portsmouth, and after a thorough house-check and interview, we soon received our first foster cat. The only problem is within 24 hours, we were in love and adopted her. So now, our vegetarian household had an obligate carnivore to cater for. This was the first of many challenges at rearing an eco-conscious cat.

Here are my top hits and bombs on cattifying my life whilst attempting to be environmentally aware!

CAT HITS

cat food

Food: I did A LOT of initial research when it came to choosing the food for the Poppet. I decided that though vegan cat food is available, as cats are obligate carnivores, I would feed my animal other animals. But I didn’t want her to be responsible for the poor treatment of these other animals so her cat food had to be organic or free range. It also had to come in packaging that could be recycled in Portsmouth – that ruled out pouches immediately. I also was keen to feed her a low-grain diet, but that together with my animal welfare requirement was more difficult to source. Price was also a consideration as I had a budget to stick to.

I use Yarrah Organic for both wet and dried food, bought in bulk online. It contains organic meats and Marine Stewardship Council sustainable and certified fish. The cans are recyclable at kerbside here in Pompey, but the dry food comes in a plasticy bag so unfortunately cannot be recycled. I try to balance that bomb by ordering their largest bag available.

As a new cat person, I did attempt to make cat food with pumpkin, tuna, sardines, added taurine, and other vital cat vitamins and minerals but Reader, the bloomin’ cat wouldn’t eat it. I also tried cooking up a meat bone broth for her – but again, she turned up her hateful nose at my offerings. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

¾  Cat Paws

cat figurine on toilet

Litter: I was disappointed to find out that I could not compost the Poppet’s poop because of parasites in cat feces, which cannot be destroyed in a normal home composter. However, I was determined to use environmentally-responsible litter and settled on Cat’s Best, which is made from PEFC-certified secondary raw wood materials.

¾  cat paws

cat staring through catflap

Cat Flap: Thanks to Freegle, I was able to source a second hand cat flap for free. It then turned out the glass in the door wasn’t safety proof and had to be replaced – but that’s another story and not the cat flaps fault!

4/4 cat paws

cardboard box

Toys and Enrichment: I don’t deny, I wanted to buy the Poppet all the toys and all the things! I just about managed to restrain myself and discovered that boxes and string are Poppet’s favourite toys! Cheap and cheerful and not plastic – boom! The cat scratcher is made of cardboard and a longer lasting one made of sisal.

4/4 cat paws

cat sitting on chair

Cat Visits: A local pet sitter visits Poppet when the Dutchman and I are out of town with friends also popping in to check on her as well. This means she is less stressed and in a familiar environment with her familiar organic food and we are supporting local business. Ahhhh, it’s a cats life!

4/4 cat paws

drawing of girl and her cat

Mental Health: My hateful Poppet has brought an unmeasurable amount of happiness into my life. Just having her around on days when depression is engulfing me makes it better. She is our constant companion, she makes me laugh, and though she punishes us for going away by peeing in the hallway – I still love her!

5/4 cat paws

Cat Bombs

pill packets

Packaging: As mentioned above, the packaging the litter and dry food comes in is not recyclable. At the advice of the vet, Poppet is given regular preventative flea and worm medicine. This is in a plastic tube and packaged in unrecyclable foil.

After having four teeth removed, Poppet is on a daily diet of edible cat toothpaste. Whilst I have managed to source plastic free tooth tabs with fluoride for my human household, the cat toothpaste is unfortunately unrecyclable. Sad!

2/4 cat paws

 

Do you have a cat or other pet in your life? Any hints and tips on how to lessen their environmental paw-print? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.