I need your help. I have a dilemma. The answer to my dilemma is patently obvious yet I bury my head in the sand with my cute flamingo butt waggling in the petrol scented wind.
Do I get rid of my car?
I should get rid of my car.
I do not want to get rid of my car.
I will get rid of my car. Someday. Just not right now.
do it, the climate
We are in a climate emergency. At this very moment. In the here and now. Our current present. We are knowingly hurtling towards the cliff edge and rather than do an emergency stop, we turn up the radio and tell ourselves the cliff is an illusion.
According to the IPCC report published last year, we have until 2030 to limit climate change. That is 11 years to do some serious damage limitation. Global warming must be limited to a more manageable 1.5-degree increase and carbon dioxide emissions must be significantly cut. To do this requires a significant and dramatic change from government, corporations and citizens.
I am a citizen. I have a car that contributes to carbon dioxide emissions. I should get rid of my car. I don’t want to get rid of my car.
do it, #letpompeybreathe
Portsmouth is an island. A beautiful, vibrant traffic-crammed island with limited parking. I can walk, get the bus (though I baulk at paying almost a fiver just to get into town). I live near the train station. I can get the coach. Why am I contributing to Portsmouth’s poor air quality, traffic and parking problems? I don’t need a car. I am able-bodied and don’t have children. I don’t need a car to commute to work or get around.
I should get rid of my car. I don’t want to get rid of my car.
don’t do it, mental health
I have made no secret of the fact that I have clinical depression. I have been managing it and some days I even forget I have it. But in the early days of my depression and subsequent relapses, I would retreat into my bed and struggled to leave the house, sometimes for days and weeks at a time. That’s when the car became my lifeline and my freedom. I would drive to Sainsbury’s and have some chips and do some shopping and come home feeling like at least I had achieved something. I would agree to go out and do stuff, but only if my partner drove us. But that was then and this is now.
I should get rid of my car. I don’t want to get rid of my car.
don’t do it, Green-ish
My car is a hybrid. And maybe one day, I could afford to get an electric car. Also, I recycle loads and try to live an eco life. Next year, I’m even giving up flying for a year. So that’s not so bad, right? Except the car tyres still release plastic into the environment and the electric is produced from the burning of fossil fuels. And the argument still stands, living in Portsmouth, I don’t need a car.
I should get rid of my car. I don’t want to get rid of my car.
will I do it?
In my defence, I have been practising not having a car and have been using it much less. Choosing to cycle even in the rain (ergh) and to take the bus and train when I would have otherwise driven.I won’t lie, I find it expensive and it does heighten my anxiety. Though to be fair, parking in Pompey heightens my anxiety too! I worry that by getting rid of my car, I will become house-bound and isolated when I next have a depressive relapse. And there is the universal fact of convenience, sometimes it’s just quicker and easier to drive with the added bonus of not getting wet!
I should get rid of my car. I don’t want to get rid of my car.
In an ideal rosy cartoon-stylie world, in writing of this post, having faced my fears, I will choose to live a bigger life and get rid of my god-damned car.
Maybe soon. But not yet.
But if not now, then when?
Disclaimer: If you are a vehicle owner/ driver, this is not a judgement or attack on you and your reasons for owning a car. This is my story. Having said that, if I get rid of my car, will you get rid of yours?
As there is currently no national standardized recycling system in the UK, access to recycling facilities varies widely depending on where you live. It’s basically a geographical luck-of-the-draw. Emma’s best friend lives in Bolton and whenever Emma visits, she’s amazed and rather jealous about what Bolton council will divert from the rubbish bin compared to Portsmouth city council. She literally lusts over Bolton’s kerbside recycling where food and drink cartons, foil and foil trays (to name but a few) are all collected, together with the usual suspects of tins, paper and card and plastic bottles.
With countries such as China and Malaysia turning away the UK’s low-quality recycling, dumping our recycling waste on other countries is no longer such an easy option. So, though important, recycling must come after reusing, repairing, and reducing. With this in mind, donating to charity and repairing is included as a recycling option on our list.
For your convenience and our sanity, we’ve structured this list of items by which room in your house they’re most likely to be found. (We’ve included office as well for those of you looking to recycle at work.) We’ve also listed it according to the most convenient place for you to recycle items, i.e. if it can be recycled at home at the kerbside, we’ve stated that.
Prepare yourself, this is one epic post!
Tip: Please ensure items are clean and free of food residue on them. Give items quick rinse and let air dry before recycling.
Terracycle Tip: Public drop-off locations for Terracycle recycling schemes do change and some schemes are time-limited, so check the maps we have included or the Terracycle website for updated locations and information.
The Updated Ultimate Guide to Recycling in Portsmouth
If definitely dead as a dodo, recycle at the kerbside. (Leave in a standard-sized supermarket carrier bag on top of your green wheelie bin/ box.)
Broken Sat Navs, Games Consoles, Laptops, Tablets, Cameras, including video cameras, Mobile Phones, and Portable Music Devices can also be donated to Portsmouth Green Party who through Recycling for Good Causes recycle these unwanted items and raise funds.
Living Room: Leave The House
Where: Collection Points are located inside the store of most large supermarkets, including Lidl, Tesco, Currys PC World, and Sainsbury’s. (Take a look in your supermarket next time you shop)
All household batteries including ‘button’ batteries from watches.
Battery packs from laptops, mobile phones, power tools and remote control units.
Tip: Try the scrunch test - if you scrunch it up into a ball and it stays that way (like tin foil does), then it’s probably recyclable aluminium. If it bounces back open it isn't and needs to go in the rubbish bin.
Sign up for Sharewaste, which links people with organic waste like veg peelings and no compost with people with home composters! Tamara has two compost bins and is very proud of her system and many ‘regulars’ who donate their fruit and veg peelings.
What: This depends on the person who accepts your stuff for compost but to give you any idea – Tamara accepts:
Raw, uncooked fruit and veg peelings (remove stickers from fruit etc)
Uncooked eggshells (please crush)
Used tea leaves and used coffee grounds. ( just the contents of the teabags as most teabag casings are made of plastic – unless states plastic-free/ biodegradable tea bags )
Tip: Did you know that Portsmouth Foodbank welcomes donations of toiletries, Tupperware, tin openers etc for people in need - not just food.
Terracycle Drop Off Locations (Kitchen)
Ella’s Kitchen Baby Food Pouches and Snack Wrappers
Where: About four Terracycle public drop-off locations in Portsmouth and Eco Freaks Emporium in Gosport. See map for details. Alternatively, youcan sign up as a private collector and post the items for free.
Ella’s Kitchen brand of baby food pouches
Ella’s Kitchen brand baby food pouch caps (remember these can also go into Sainsbury’s Mixed Plastics Recycling or be taken to Lush)
What: Gillette is running a recycling scheme until June 2020 via Terracycle for all brands of razors, blades and disposable razors and their packaging.
Plastic Air Fresheners
Where: A few locations north of Portsmouth. See map for details.
What: all brands and sizes of-
Plastic air fresheners and air freshener cartridges
Plastic air freshener packaging
BEDROOM: Recycle Kerbside
Aerosols, such as
Deodorant aerosol containers
Tip: Take the plastic aerosol lids to Sainsbury's mixed plastic banks.
Metal Tins, such as
Shoe polish tins
Bedroom: Leave The House
Out and ABout (BEDROOM)
Where: Glass Recycling Banks can be found across the city. To find your nearest one, go to Portsmouth’s City Council Recycling Locator here.
Glass jars and bottles such as body cream and face cream jars. Remember, you can leave the metal lids on.
What + Where: Donate jewellery including costume jewellery, odd earings, broken pieces, and watches to Portsmouth Green Party. Of course, other organisations and charities also collect for these types of recycling schemes.
*Prioritise* donating to charity shops and shelters if items are in good, reuseable condition.
In Good to Bad Condition?
Textile Recycling Banks
Where: There are many across the city, check here for your nearest one.
What: Any materials (clothes, shoes & bags and household linen) no matter how old or worn (Please ensure items are clean and place them in a bag).
Not Fit for Use?
Where: Charity Shops and Textile Recycling Banks
What: Rags, materials and textiles not fit for use – including old towels, bedding, clothes, etc
Tip: Put in a separate bag and label it rags, so staff don’t waste time going through it.
Swap for Rewards:
Where: Most M&S stores, including M&S Outlets, and at Oxfam stores offer a ‘Shwop Drop’ box, usually by the tills. Nearest M&S Outlet is in Gunwharf and Oxfam Shop is in Southsea.
What: They accept any item of clothing (even if it’s damaged) from any retailer, including shoes, handbags, jewellery, belts, hats, scarves and bras. You can also Shwop soft furnishings (bed linen, towels, cushions, curtains, throws, aprons, tablecloths and napkins)
Where: +What: H&M accept unwanted clothes by any brand, in any condition, at any of their stores. Nearest H&M is in Commercial Road, Portsmouth.
Others reward schemes exist. Google is your friend.
As well as the options above, you can also donate your preloved bras to specific bra-focused organisations and charities that redistribute and recycle them.
Tamara particularly likes Against Breast Cancer and Bravissimo, having used both in the past. Freepost your bras to Bravissimo to this address: FREEPOST RLYT-YCYR-YGUH, Bravissimo, 1st Floor, Imperial Court, Holly Walk, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, CV32 4YB.
Towels, Bedding, and Other Large Soft Materials
If it’s not good enough to be sold in a charity shop, but too good for rags, donate to your local animal shelter.
Donate to charity shops or homeless shelters, if in good condition and fit for use.
If not able to reuse, you could take some time stripping it down into individual parts, giving the material to rag bags and the metal to scrap metal collectors.
Or you can take it to the tip.
Electric ones, i.e. vibrators, can be recycled with Love Honey. (Read more about socially conscious sex here.)
Tip: As electric/battery-operated sex toys are electrical items, they can be recycled kerbside. Leave in a standard-sized supermarket carrier bag on top of your green wheelie bin/ box.
A friend of Shades of Green, Emma, alerted us that plastic plant pots can be recycled at B&Q. Let us know if you try!
Further afield in Havant, you can take all shapes, sizes and colours of plastic plant post and trays to Dobbies Garden Centre. Give them a quick wash first and ensure it is plastic and not polystyrene.
Compostable Garden Waste
Where: As mentioned in the Kitchen section, Sharewaste links those with organic waste and no compost with neighbours with home composters.
What: This depends on the Sharewaste neighbour but they might accept –
Leaves, grass cuttings, hedge and tree cuttings etc
Any woody material under 10cm (4 inches) in diameter
No vegetable peelings, animal waste such as droppings etc or animal bedding
Where: Isle of Wight based Wyatt & Jack turn inflatables, destined for the bin, into cool bags. Post smaller items and they refund your postage. They can collect large items from you using a courier service. See here for address details.
What: punctured and beyond repair –
Punctured paddling pools,
Inflatable unicorns etc.
Water wings/ armbands
All sorts of other beach paraphernalia, inflatables and water toys
Well, that was a major read. Congrats if you made it to the end. Let us know any questions you have in the comments below or via email.
We’re especially interested to hear from people who want to share other recycling locations, other products to be recycled, and if you’re a local business able to take any products (i.e. paint, wood, etc) for reuse.
Following our Green Wins, join Emma and me as we bare our souls and reveal our Eco ‘Oopsies’. But as eco-shame is never the aim of our game, we also set our positive intentions with personal enviro challenges for the next 365 days of Shades of Green.
So, first, the waggy-ish finger – What Eco ‘Oopsies’ have Emma and I (Tamara) made in the last year in our attempts to live green?
Confessions of Shady Greens
Emma’s Eco Oopsies
Chauffeur Hire: I have been persuaded to share a taxi late at night, rather than get the bus, which I feel guilty about. (Tamara says: You are SHARING a taxi. That is fine. I absolve you.)
Flying McFly Face: Two of my holidays in 2019 have involved air-travel and I cannot pretend that I feel good about it. Before my holidays, Tamara and I discussed offsetting the carbon, which Tamara feels is greenwash. I can’t prove that the companies would have planted a tree with the £10, so I donated it to Portsmouth Green Party instead.
Single-Use Trees and Leaves: I do routinely forget to tell restaurants that I don’t want paper napkins, so I end up taking my unused napkin home and using it for emergency toilet paper if I haven’t washed my cloths. Otherwise, restaurants will just throw them in the bin because they don’t know what you’ve done to them.
Strike a Pose, Vogue: I bought three *new* items of clothing that were definitely not made from sustainable materials. I wish my swimsuit had been made from recycled materials and that the other items had been bought second-hand.
Tamara’s Eco Oopsies
Cat vs Food: My stupid cat has stupid ongoing urinary problems. She is now on stupid urinary food for life and though I have sourced it in a can and not in a stupid plastic pouch, it is not ethical meat. Gutted. Farewell to Yarrah‘s organic, grain free and MSC wet cat food!
Who Needs Teeth?: I am pleased to report that I have sourced zero waste toothpaste and floss. I have been using Toothtabs (with fluoride!) for a while now and am very happy with them. I’ve been buying them online and was so chuffed to buy them locally from Refill and Replenish – a fab mobile plastic-free shop run by the lovely Laura and Alice.
Fish are Friends, not Food: But my biggest oopsie is that I’ve been eating illicit fish here and there, mostly eating (delicious) sashimi at Sakura Southsea – and it’s not even ethical or MSC fish. It is a massive fail. And I dare to still consider myself a vegetarian. It is a complete identity crisis. Who even am I?
We learn from our mistakes and we are not about eco-shaming, so Emma – please lift us back up – what will you be focusing on for the next 365 days of Shades of Green?
365 Green Challenges
Emma’s Green Challenges for Shades of Green 365
A lot of the green progress I’ve made is a case of thinking more about what I need and do not need. That’s cut down on packaging, as well as the creation of new items. I want to continue this thoughtful thinking next year.
I’m taking a stand against presents. Over the next year, I’m going to be telling all of my friends and relatives that I’m not going to be buying them birthday or Christmas presents, nor do I wish to receive them. (Actually, I’m just linking them to this post.) I will be making exceptions for my niece and nephews, but in order to ensure they get something that they’ll cherish, I’ve asked their parents what they want.
I will continue to cut down on:
packaging, even stuff that can be recycled, by buying naked products
animal byproducts, by eating vegan meals more often
Water-saving is a challenge indeed as hopefully, I will be moving this autumn (hence the new mortgage green win in our previous post) and my new-fingers-crossed-home has a water meter. This is something I haven’t experienced since living in Tobago when we would bathe using a bucket. I am going to become a water-saving bully, I know it! I am taking inspiration from Emma’s post on ‘How to Eco-Hack Your Bathroom’ and her tips as her household are water-saving champs!
I have signed up to be #flightfree2020. I have warned my friends and family who reside abroad and am mentally preparing myself from now! Did you know that there is a new Sweedish word for the feeling of shame experienced when flying – flygskam. 2020 shall be flygskam free for me!
And so concludeth our anniversary introspection! Emma and I will report back on our green challenges in approx a years time in August-ish 2020 Till then, here’s to another 365 days of living in various Shades of Green!
And what of you Dear Reader, what are your green oopsies and challenges? – tell us in the Comments Section.
In the last two years since we started Shades of Green, Emma and I (Tamara) have become firm friends with our shared love of milkshakes so thick the straw remains upright, theatre-trips and of course, recycling!
In this two-part anniversary post, we will be celebrating our green wins, commiserating our ‘oopsies’ and setting challenges for the next 365 days of Shades of Green.
Today’s focus is on the individual changes and progress we have made since last year’s anniversary posts (check those out here and here) and so Emma and I discussour green wins over the past year.
Emma’s Green Wins
I’ve had a lot less food waste, not because, as was the case last year, I’ve been repurposing slightly out-of-date food, but simply because I’ve been eating more food before it goes “off”.
Compost + Recycling
Thanks to your insight and my mum joining the Zero Waste Portsmouth Facebook group, I’ve learned how to compost and recycle a lot more (Shameless plug for our next post – a refresh on everything that can be recycled in Portsmouth!). Also, thanks more to me wanting to lose weight than any green aims, I’ve been eating a lot more apples and carrots for snacks, rather than chocolate and crisps. And due to more careful shopping and better recycling/composting knowledge, we put our bin out on a monthly basis.
I’ve continued to prioritise bus travel and walking around Portsmouth over getting lifts from my parents. Although, I will admit that I have planned my social schedule slightly around when my mum will be using the car anyway. (“Hey Tamara, do you want to go to the cinema on Tuesday? Not because my mum is driving near Gunwharf anyway…”).
I’ve also created a portable zero-waste kit, a’la Tamara’s magic green backpack. I keep all of the stuff, bar my cloth bag and my water bottle, inside an old lunch box that can be used to transport leftovers home in. This goes with me everywhere: to the beach, to restaurants, to Disney World.
Emma, that is a*mazing! It is so important to notice and celebrate our daily achievements and success. You have made so many lasting changes and are generally kickin’ ass. Nice one dude.
Tamara’s Green Wins
Recycling – Cartons + Foils
As you may recall, until this February, I was taking a car-load of cartons every few months all the way to Chandlers Ford. But no longer, as there are now three carton recycling banks in the city! And the newest one is near Emma by Alexandra Park in Alex Way car park. *Happy dance*
I also took foils on those recycling runs and I am happy to say that I don’t even have to leave my house to recycle these now, as I am doing a serendipitous exchange with the lovely Sarah via ShareWaste. She drops off her organic waste on a weekly basis for my compost and takes my foils for recycling at St Mary’s Church, Fratton. Boom! The barter economy – well kinda!
Emma, as you know flying is our shared Achilles heel! I am pleased to report in the last year I travelled by train from Fratton to Amsterdam to visit the Dutchman’s family. The Eurostar cost me £40! Bargain! I did have the luxury of time – I travelled on a Wednesday and it took me basically all day. And Full Disclaimer – I flew home to Southampton.
1. A huge win that I am very proud of is sourcing an ethical mortgage that is actually cheaper than my current mortgage! I will soon be the holder of a mortgage with Coventry Building Society which is ranked 3rd best ethical and environmental record of 37 mortgage providers by the Ethical Consumer. CBS scored 13.5/20 compared to my current mortgage provider The Co-operative Bank which scores a depressing 7/20. I have been with Co-op Mortgages for ten years and had believed them to be super-duper ethical. I was not impressed when I realised that I had been completely taken in by greenwash, the curse of not doing my research. A mortgage is the largest financial investment I will ever make and I am so pleased to be putting my money where my mouth is.
3. Till last year, my Amazon boycott was very ad-hoc and convenience often won over values. For the last 9 months or so I simply ignore Amazon’s existence in my internet search results – a head-in-the-sand tactic that works for me. The Dutchman wants to watch some tv-shows on Amazon Prime, but that’s his problem. I now buy books second-hand from World of Books which is recommended by Ethical Consumer (though definitely not perfect as books I purchased were delivered wrapped in plastic. Sigh!)
1.Crisps! Oh, how I love thee! I had a short-lived love affair with Two Farmers crisps which come in home compostable packaging and even set up a little crisp-buying group with a fellow Zero Waster Emily. That has come to an end at no fault of Two Farmers or Emily. I have The Diabetes and crisps are now but a memory! I have made some kale crisps since The Diabetes Diagnosis as chickpeas are a bit too carb-heavy at this stage in my Diabetes Recovery Journey. The kale crisps were tasty but more like crispy seaweed than crisps!
But my proudest moment this year was repairing the underwire of my bra which had poked through and was trying to murder me. Usually, I put murderous bras in the rags donation but not this bra! I HATE sewing. It confuses me and gives me a headache. Yet I even sewed a little pad onto it to stop it rubbing under my armpit. I AM AMAZING!
Whew, that is a lot of positive vibes from the Shades of Green. This post has been such a joy to write, especially as I often experience eco overwhelm. Shades of Green has been such a positive focus in my depression recovery. But the flip side of this eco-coin is that try as we may, we are incredibly fallible in our green efforts. So tune in on August 23rd for the second part where Emma and I admit to our not-so-green oopsies and discuss our challenges for the year ahead.
And finally, Dear Reader, we love to hear from you – what are your green wins? – tell us in the Comments Section Let’s celebrate together, dudes!
Weigh Fill Pay Infographic provided by The Package Free Larder
EDIT: They did it! On 13th August 2019, The Package Free Larder successfully raised £43,765 with 905 supporters in 56 days. Watch this space for updates on this new not-for-profit plastic-free shop in Portsmouth.
Shades of Green readers were introduced to The Package Free Larder earlier this Spring when we wrote about their launch event. We promised more information on how to support this fantastic community-led project through their Crowdfunding campaign and dear Reader, their campaign is live and now is the time to donate, donate, donate!
The Package Free Larder (PFL) is a labour of love, borne out of trying to make a meaningful contribution to Portsmouth, a place I (Delphine) have been calling home for the last 4 years.
My foray into a zero-waste lifestyle started when I realised the amount of waste I was producing. Though I am aware of my plastic consumption and doing my best to reduce it, it is really challenging to live plastic-free or zero waste especially when you have children – I have two. This is what led me to start Zero Waste Portsmouth (ZWP) with the aim of finding like-minded people, share ideas and spread the message of leading a zero-waste lifestyle.
The Package Free Larder (PFL), at least to me is a natural extension of ZWP. There is a barrier to entry to leading a fully plastic-free / zero-waste lifestyle, which PFL is trying to address. The difficulty involved in buying plastic-free products is putting people off due to the effort it requires. PFL is trying to address this by being a one-stop-shop where people can buy commonly used food product and household items, all plastic-free.
It has been a long 10 months since our first community meet-up at Southsea Coffee, where I introduced the idea of starting a plastic-free store in Portsmouth. The meeting led the creation of a group of like-minded volunteers (now friends) who have helped me bring PFL closer to reality than ever before. Everyone involved in this has contributed their time, skills and money to get to the stage where we are today. I really hope this project is going to be successful, at least for the effort we have all put in.
Once open, PFL will not only be a store for your daily needs but it will also be an inclusive community space to show people how to lead a zero-waste lifestyle. Once the store starts to make a profit, we plan to invest the money back into community projects tackling plastic pollution.
The response from the Portsmouth community has been overwhelmingly positive. To date, we have raised more than £20,000 all from the donations made by people who want to see a positive change happen in their community. We still have a long way to go before we reach the target amount of £40, 000. I hope people reading this article can help us raise the money we need either by donating or by spreading the word about the project
To donate to the Package Free Larder’s Crowdfunding campaign, click here and for more information on PFL go here.
Follow us on social media:
Thank you, Delphine, for taking the time to update us on the Package Free Larder project. We at Shades of Green have donated some pennies and pounds and now Tamara won’t stop going on about how she is famous (see Instagram post below for evidence of her fame!)
At the time of writing, a huge £21,519 has been pledged to the Package Free Larder. This is 54% of its target and as an all-or-nothing Crowdfunding campaign, they must reach their target of £40, 000 by the deadline of August 6th or receive nothing.
So you see, even a small amount really will make a significant difference to the PFL receiving it’s funding or walking away with nowt. Please do donate now to enable this fantastic project to be made a reality.
reusable menstrual Cup vs washable period pants and pads
Tamara vs Emma
tamara: The Menstrual Cup
My menstruation journey started when I (Tamara) was eleven years old and continues to this day. It has included bleeding through my trousers when travelling solo aged 16 on a flight to Trinidad, tying a sweater around my waist and hoping that no one would notice, to being put on the contraceptive pill to try to calm my cystic acne, to always being surprised by my period every month and never understanding the myriad of tampon and pad options available to me. Too much choice = overwhelm!
In my mid-20s, as I became aware of the environmental footprint of my period, I started to experiment with ‘alternative’ options. For a while, I used Natracare’s tampons and pads which are made from organic cotton and FSC and PEFC certified sustainable wood pulp. But I was the Goldilocks of periods -I was still generating waste every month and it just wasn’t right. I would often forget to stockpile when I saw them and so would often end up with a high street brand purchase.
My First Menstrual CUP
In the late 2000s, on impulse, I bought a menstrual cup for dirt cheap when a friend’s eco store closed down on Marmion Road.
A menstrual cup is a small silicone/ rubber cup that you insert like a tampon which catches and collects your menstrual blood. You empty the cup, rinse and reinsert and after each period clean it by boiling in water.
The cup I bought was very big and plastic-y and back then I was ever so squeamish about my body. Ah, past me had to unlearn so many anxieties caused by society. I used it off and on but just found it terribly uncomfortable, it slid down all the time and I was always hyper-aware of it when I was using it. It took me many years of alternating between disposable tampons and pads and this uncomfortable cup before I decided I’d had enough.
MY FAVOURITE CUP
Reader, I am a bloody idiot! (yes, pun intended). A few years ago, I finally did some research. I spent about 20 minutes internet searching ‘tilted cervix’ (which I was told I had at a cervical smear test) and ‘menstrual cup uncomfortable’ and soon realised the menstrual cup had evolved significantly since I bought my original cup many moons ago (yes, again pun intended!).
My period has been revolutionised by one small product: the Me Luna Shorty cup. For a vertically challenged person (ok fine, I’m short!), who has not birthed any babies and who has a tilted cervix, this very specific and highly affordable menstrual cup is perfect! I think it cost me about £15. It is comfortable, hygienic and waste-free and I have not looked back.
On writing this article, I realised I do not know how to dispose of it when it comes to the end of its life as it is made of Thermoplastic elastomers (TPE) which can be used as an alternative to latex, silicone, PVC, or rubber. A quick internet search suggests recycling menstrual cups may be tricky. However, I feel the reusable aspect of the cup makes it a sustainable option. I messaged Me Luna to inquire about this. They confirmed that TPE can be recycled and suggested some creative upcycling at the end of the cups life.
One advantage of the TPE is that you can actually recycle it very well. In contrast to silicone rubber, the TPE can be melted down again. This is also practiced industrially. But you should always consider that a menstrual cup consists of only 10 grams of material. So if you drive to a collection point by car, you would have produced so much CO2 that the environment does not benefit from it. If you have no way to recycle the cup, then it depends on which country you live in, which is the most reasonable disposal. Within the EU, a menstrual cup can be disposed of with household waste because there are modern waste incinerators here.
Me Luna Facebook Response (April 9 2019)
From my personal perspective, I hands-down recommend using a menstrual cup if you have a uterus that sheds its lining once a month. But don’t be like me, do a bit of research first to find the right fit for you. I can’t believe I was such a ninny.
So Emma, have I convinced you to give the menstrual cup a try? I did look at buying reusable pads but I am so lazy – extra washing just seems like a hassle. How have you found it?
emma: Reusable Menstrual Pads and Pants
Hey Tamara, I also got my period aged 11 and ever since then I (Emma) have pondered how best to end the damn process altogether because I could not cope with the pain, the staining of clothes, and the inconvenience of it all.
I once got my period on a 12-hour flight to South Africa at age 12 and hadn’t packed any pads in my carry on. At 13, asked my mum if I could have a hysterectomy because I was in so much pain, which resulted in a hasty trip to the doctors for prescription painkillers that I was on for six years around my period. I didn’t honestly think about the eco-aspect of my period until my early 20s because I was far too concerned about the searing pain that I had every month. (If any younger period-havers are now freaking out, it did get better with age, but go see a medical professional if you have any worries.)
At roughly 23, I bought a menstrual cup online that was recommended for uterus owners under 30 who hadn’t given birth vaginally. And I had a similar first experience to Tamara, where I was like “this is uncomfortable”, except I could never really get it inserted properly at all. It has sat unused in a drawer ever since.
At 25, a friend started using Thinx period pants, which work by absorbing the blood into a secret chamber in the pants through a process that they scientifically explain on their site, but I believe is some sort of magic. They claim to hold between 0.5 and two tampons’ worth of blood depending on the style that you go for.
I was sceptical because I often am. Doesn’t it leak? Doesn’t it smell? She assured me that they didn’t and I took a shot because I trusted her. I ordered two pairs (they have bundles available for better value). And I was amazed. It was a freeing experience not having to worry about the pad shifting or my tampon leaking and ruining the lower half of my outfit.
Now, I’m not going to lie to you. They can leak and/or smell if you wear them for too long. (The same as with regular pads.) You need to change them every four to eight hours depending on your flow. If you’re using them in conjunction with tampons/cups, then you can probably stretch this out to a day.
REUSABLE MENSTRUAL pADS
Just last month, at a package-free larder event in Southsea, I also bought some reusable menstrual pads from Ngozi Sews, that work in the same way as Thinx, except you can use them in any underwear. Now, I’m covered for every day of my period and I don’t have to buy disposables anymore.
wash-a-dub-dub, pants in the tub
“What about washing them?”, I can hear Tamara cry. Well, I’m glad you asked. It’s really simple.
Soak them after using to rinse off the majority of the blood. I soak them in the “greywater” that we use to flush the toilet in our house. (I realise that is a weird as fuck statement, so here’s a blog post to explain.)
Wash them at 40 degrees or lower without fabric conditioner (it affects the absorbency) and then air dry. You can put them safely in with the rest of your washing, but I toss mine in with a darks wash just to be safe.
Now, how should they be disposed of? Well, I haven’t had to dispose of any of my items yet, but I believe that you should wash them and put them in with the “rags” bag for charity shops.
One of the (many) reasons we love our reusables is the money-saving aspect. Once purchased, they can last years, if not a lifetime. Periods cost money. For many, this cost can be debilitating and dehumanising. Following sterling work by period charities such as the Red Box Project, the Government has recently announced that free sanitary products will be made available to secondary schools and colleges.
But why stop there? Anna T, a lovely Shades of Green reader, emailed in with the fantastic idea for secondary schools to introduce students to reusable sanitary towels and nappies by incorporating the making of these items into Design + Technology and Textiles lessons.
The sanitary products would be something that young girls can take home, or donate to the period poverty cause. In the long term, hopefully, this will become mainstream and making disposable sanitary products the alternative.
The nappies could be donated to the food/baby bank which would really help low-income households as disposable nappies are very expensive and not good for our environment.
I really believe that some of the other benefits would include boosting skills for young people, understanding and tackling period poverty, help demystify periods for all genders, and positively contribute to our community.
Anna T. (Shades of Green reader)
Thank you, Anna, for writing in with your thoughts. Locally, earlier this year, Zero Waste Portsmouth and Nina of Ngozi Sews hosted a free make-your-own-reuseable-pad workshop. Get workshops like these into schools and empower and educate our young people. This is the future, people!
A note: This article was written by two cis women and we would really like to invite any trans men or non-binary people who would feel comfortable discussing any green or eco period products that they use to get in touch for a future article. You can speak anonymously if you wish or we can link to your socials, business, etc, as we do work with all other contributors.
Welcome to the continuation of my personal investigation into Green Death. For the last few months, I (Tamara) have been trying to figure out what is the ‘greenest’ option for my funeral and body disposal as well as generally empowering myself with end-of-life research and planning. I have spoken to funeral directors, cemetery staff, visited a natural burial site and even seen ‘behind the curtain’ of two local crematoriums.
However, trying to figure out which is the most earth-friendly option sent me spiralling down the internet rabbit hole. Dudes, I have to admit I got bogged down with stats and info on energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions in body disposal. I opened ALL the links and it was tab city all up in here!
So, as this is about my personal green journey, I hope you will enjoy my statistic-lite ramblings on Body Disposal and feel free to do your own due diligence if anything sparks your interest, and let me know what you find in the comments below.
The Demystification of Body Disposal Options
To be buried or to be cremated, that is the question! Actually, there
are a few other interesting options I considered. But I’ll start with the most
traditional option of burial.
The Traditional Option: conventional Burial
In my introductory post on Green Death which you can read about here, I visited the South Downs Natural Burial Site and found it an inspiring and peaceful place. Elements that appealed to me such as the rough and ready nature of the site, the lack of headstones and grave adornment and the openness to coffin-free burial are not features that will appeal to all – I’m thinking of my mother and mother-in-law particularly here. A friend of mine spoke to me about their in-law’s burial in a Hampshire churchyard a few years ago – the family viewed a traditional coffin, headstone and all the conventional add-ons as being the respectful, loving and dignified choice. Being able to visit the grave has also been essential in their grieving process.
Green space in Portsmouth is an ecological and emotional necessity on our densely populated island. Portsmouth’s cemeteries are oases of calm amid our urban landscape – the working cemeteries of Milton Road and Kingston and the historic Highland Road cemetery offer green and reflective spots to stroll and for the bereaved to visit loved ones. However, as Portsmouth is so densely populated, I have never really considered it as an option for myself or my family, especially as we do not have any particular leaning towards traditional burial.
This impression was reiterated when I met with a Portsmouth cemetery staff member to talk through the burial process. With approximately 20,000 burial spots available, Portsmouth’s two cemeteries could be full in approx 20 years.
Unlike at the natural burial site, my visit and questions were unusual to cemetery management who are more used to dealing with funeral directors. This was made clear by management’s strong preference that a funeral director is used by the bereaved, with some religious exceptions.
Family cannot be involved in the grave preparation with only trained
staff allowed to lower the body or ashes into the ground. Use of a shroud or
alternative coffin-free funeral would be at the discretion of the cemetery
manager and cremated remains must be buried in a wooden casket.
I left much more informed and very clear that this would not be the right option for me. There are some faiths where the deceased must be buried – as an agnostic, I am happy to leave those spots in Portsmouth’s cemeteries to those who prefer traditional burial and require it in the next 20 years.
GreenDeathPros: Both Portsmouth’s cemeteries are located within the city. This means minimal emissions in transporting my body and the mourners, and for my local friends and family to visit my graveside over the years. As my husband has expressed the desire to have a spot to visit, a clearly marked graveside for the duration of the plot lease is a positive.
GreenDeathCons: Portsmouth cemeteries are running out of space and so I cannot justify being buried there. The leaching of toxic embalmed fluids into the soil and waterways can prove a danger to groundwater. Fuel and energy would be used for the long-term maintenance of my grave and the cemetery, including the use of fertilizer and pesticides. As DiY funeral elements are discouraged and the use of coffins are preferred with shroud usage unconfirmed, the element of involvement in the process would be missing.
Eco Burial Tip: Go for low-impact elements that are within your control such as a cardboard coffin, local (or no) flowers and a monument (or no) made from British stone.
the popular option: Cremation
Now cremation is another familiar concept to most of us and
is the most popular body disposal option with 77% of all deaths in the UK
resulting in cremation. Judging
the environmental impact of cremation vs burials is not one I have found easy. Cremations
use fossil fuel energy to incinerate the body and release carbon emissions and
pollutants into the environment. However, burial takes up valuable land space
and with an ever-growing population, we certainly can’t all be buried!
A side note is that I intensely disliked all the cremation funerals I have attended so far due to the conveyor-belt vibe. Crematoria are busy places, for example, Porchester Crematorium is a high-volume crematorium with more than 3000 cremations take place there a year. Most crematorium services are only 20-30 minutes long, though some offer the option to book a longer slot (at a cost).
As cremation is my mother’s top choice for her body disposal, I needed to gain some clarity and address my conveyor-belt concerns. I visited my two local crematoriums – Porchester Crematorium and The Oaks in Havant, both of whom have an open-door policy, an attitude I found very refreshing in comparison to my cemetery visit.
I was given a tour around the facilities which included ‘behind the curtain’. My friend Chris, who has been with me on my death planning journey, accompanied me on this behind-the-scenes tour of Porchester Crematorium. She remarked how comforting it was to see the process, as both her parents were cremated there. Reader, I recommend everyone does a behind-the-scenes tour of a crematorium. It was so interesting, educational, respectful and not at all frightening or macabre.
Both Chris and I found the process of cremation fascinating and were walked through the stages. Here’s a debrief of the cremation process:
After the committal – the concluding rite of a funeral service – the crematorium has 72 hours within which to cremate the body.
The body is cremated in the cremation chamber (also known as a crematory, crematorium, cremator or retort) which is essentially a large industrial furnace.
Using fossil fuels (most likely natural gas), the cremator is pre-heated to around 1,400 – 2,000 degrees Farheight.
The coffined body is slid into the cremation chamber where it will self-ignite, taking approximately 2-3 hours for the body’s soft tissue and the coffin to burn, leaving the remains of bone fragments and metals.
Emissions are filtered through a flue system, collected in barrels and then disposed of as hazardous waste or recycled (though I am not sure how it is recycled or if that was green wash).
A magnet is used to collect metals from the bone fragments and the remains are then ground into ‘ash’. I had always assumed the body burns away completely and that the ash is like when you burn a wood fire. Boy was I mistaken – the ash is essentially ground-up human bones.
But back to the environmental considerations around cremation – technological advancements mean mercury and carbon emissions can be more effectively filtered out and by 2020, as part of the Oslo-Paris Commission (OSPAR) agreement on eliminating mercury emissions from crematoria, all crematoria within the UK (roughly 240 facilities) will need to have a zero emissions rate. This means either installing entirely new cremation equipment, and/or integrating mercury abatement systems.
With Environment Agency targets, regular monitoring and reporting and strict rules for crematoria to limit emissions, mercury emissions seem to be contained to an acceptable level.
The crematoriums can even utilise the heat generated by their
cremators through a waste heat recovery system. I was inspired by the story of
Redditch Crematorium – in 2011 ish, when installing new equipment to meet the laws to reduce mercury emissions,
they also installed a system to divert the waste heat, produced by the
cremators that escapes from the cremator chimney, to heat a nearby swimming
pool, reducing the leisure centre’s gas bill by aver 40%, equating to a saving
of about £15,000 a year.
I was delighted, therefore, to read The Oaks have a heat exchange system but was disappointed to hear that it was not in use. Talks have been ongoing for four years with the nearby hospital to utilise and heat the hospital but I am not confident given The Oaks has been open for five years!
In the UK, the body must be cremated within 72 hours after
the service of committal. This enables the crematorium to ‘hold over’ coffins,
which basically is a more efficient way of utilising the energy generated
through the pre-heating and using of the cremators by putting through as many
cremations in one day as possible, rather than cremating the bodies on the same
day of the funeral.
After the cremation, metals are separated from the cremated
remains for recycling. This can include hip joints, pins/ nails from the
coffins and precious metals. Porchester Crematorium raise £5,000 to £6,000 a
year for charity from recycling these metals.
I was interested to learn that the cremated remains are basically
everything that is left in the cremator at the end of the cremation process
following the removal of any metal and is essentially barren material. Though scattering
of ashes takes up no land space and ashes can be buried in urns made from 100%
biodegradable materials, in large amounts and scattered in sensitive
ecosystems, there is an ecological impact to consider.
Green Death Pros: Disposing of my body by cremation means there is minimal land usage and there is no long-term maintenance of a grave and cemetery. Regulations mean mercury emissions are being more effectively filtered and with innovations in Waste Heat Recovery systems, the heat generated can be utilized somewhat. The Service Hall at The Oaks was simply breathtaking with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the semi-natural woodland beyond. And they have bees!
Green Death Cons: At the end of the day (no pun intended), I can’t get away from the fact that cremation involved high energy consumption with the burning of natural gases and fossil fuels that releases carbon emissions and pollutants into the environment. Added to this, most crematoriums insist that the body is in a coffin when incinerated. The Oaks in Havant was open to a body being cremated in a body pouch/ shroud if it is sealed from any leaks and mounted and secured onto a hard-combustible board.
Eco Cremation Tip:
Best to dress the body in natural fibres. The more synthetic the clothes, the
Bequeath My Whole Body to Science
I am very tempted by the idea of bequeathing my body to science
as this practical use of my corpse will enable medical students and researchers
to study anatomical sciences. If my body can be of use after I’m gone, well why
not! Surgeons gotta learn somehow! And to parrot my dear marmar ‘When you’re
dead, you’re dead!’
Conveniently, I could donate my body fairly locally to the Centre for Learning Anatomical Sciences (CLAS) at Southampton University. Here my body would be embalmed and then utilised for anatomical examination. When that is complete, the University of Southampton can arrange and pay for my remains to be cremated and have my ashes returned to my next-of-kin, or to be scattered in Southampton Crematorium’s Garden of Remembrance. If I wanted a private funeral, they will return my remains to my next-of-kin/ executor.
Green Death Pros: There are a plethora of pros in choosing to bequeath my body to science: benefiting research and humanity, being useful even after I’m dead, a no/low cost cremation with my next-of-kin receiving my ashes. If I changed my mind, withdrawing consent is simple and easy.
Green Death Cons: There is no guarantee that my bequeathed body will be accepted post-death, so I’d need to have a back-up plan. I also couldn’t both donate large organs for transplantation and also bequeath my body to science. My hubby, The Dutchman, considers it more valuable to donate his organs for transplantation than to donate his body to science – but his organs are probably healthier than mine, to be fair! My donated body would be embalmed, which I am not keen on, and (most likely) cremated. Donating my body to science means my friends and family may miss having a traditional funeral with the body present. A contender, but I am not completely sold on the option for myself.
THE WILDCARD OPTION: Alkaline Hydrolysis
Also known as “Water Cremation”, “Flameless
Cremation” or ‘Aquamation’, alkaline hydrolysis is a new body disposal system
and a challenger to flame cremation.
My basic understanding, which comes straight from…surprise, surprise….my death guru, Ask a Mortician’s Caitlin Doughty, is that the body is placed in resomation machine that contains a high-pressure mixture of 95% water and 5% lye (potassium hydroxide/sodium hydroxide) which is heated to 365 degrees Fahrenheit (compared to the 1400 to 1800 degrees Fahrenheit of flame cremation).
The process, which takes about three hours, mimics the chemical decomposition the body would undergo if buried and leaves behind bone fragments (about 30% more than a flame cremation) and an inert neutralised liquid of amino acids, peptides, sugars and salts, with no human DNA. The bone fragments that remain are ground down to a white ash and returned to the family, while the liquid can be repurposed as fertilizer or flushed down the drain.
The eco credentials (according to Caitlin’s sources of the Funerals Consumer Alliance), alkaline hydrolysis uses an eighth of the energy used in flame cremation.
However, though legal in 16 American states as well as three Canadian provinces, it has yet to reach the UK, though applications have been made.
“A public crematorium operated by Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council at Rowley Regis, central England, was the first to receive planning permission to offer the process but in March 2017 the local water utility, Severn Trent Water, refused the council’s application for a “trade effluent permit” because there was no water industry standard regulating the disposal of liquified human remains into sewers.”
‘Ask a Mortician’s Caitlin talks about the misconceptions behind water cremation here and here and the BBC has a fascinating essay on ‘Dissolving the Dead‘.
Green Death Pros: Water cremation results in lower emissions than flame cremation and also uses fewer fossil fuels.
Green Death Cons: It’s new technology and regulation hasn’t yet caught up. The eww factor of disposing of the inert liquid is a barrier that will need overcoming.
This raised the question for me about the disposal of the blood and bodily fluids removed from a body in the embalming process. In the USA, according to my guru and LA mortician, Caitlin, it is disposed of down the drain. Try as I might, I couldn’t find out what happens to the blood and fluids in the UK. Methinks it is probably the same!
So, dear Reader, you might be wondering, where am I in my green death process? There are a few more factors I need to consider around the death acrutements – coffins, embalming, flowers, monuments/ remembrance but the actual body disposal is the main decision. Now I have done my due diligence, I’m taking some time to consider my options, chat with my family about what I have discovered and I will report back soon.
In the meantime, as you wait with bated breath for my concluding post, check out these upcoming events.
Green Death Events in Pompey
May 18th 2019: Free Screening of Griefwalker film at The Coastguard Studio
June 4th 2019: Nights of Grief and Mystery tour at The Groundlings Theatre
November 14th 2019: Greener Funerals with Emma Collins at Green Drinks Portsmouth at The Southsea Village
Grief Whisperer Emma Collins, is offering a free screening of the film, Griefwalker about the life of Stephen Jenkinson on May 18th at The Coastguard Studio. Click here to book a free ticket and for more information about the event.
Jenkinson, whose work in palliative care and wonderings about what might be in the way of people dying well in our culture has been very meaningful in Emma’s life. He is the author of Die Wise, the founder of the Orphan Wisdom School in Ontario, and who for five years headed the counselling team Canada’s largest home-based palliative care facility.
And finally, Green Drinks Portsmouth 14th Nov @ The Southsea Village (back room). We’ll be joined by Emma Collins who will be inviting us to dive into a discussion about what we might want to do about our own and our loved ones bodies when we die. We will be exploring the options for greener funerals and the rules about how caring for our loved ones after they die, both in the immediate hours and days after and our options for where and how we bury our dead. We will explore the costs associated with funerals, both environmental as well as financial, and wonder about whether having greater involvement with caring for the bodies of those we love might support us in our grieving and loss.
 According to the Cremation Society of Great Britain 77% of deaths (in 2017) resulted in cremation. https://www.havant.gov.uk/sites/default/files/documents/Infrastructure%20Delivery%20Plan.pdf Enjoy this solo footnote. Never to be seen again.
Changing the world. It can be as simple as looking around your local community and not just seeing what could be better but actually doing something about it.
Delphine Laveyne and The Package Free Larder Committee members are exemplars of being the change you want to see. Coming from France, Delphine has firmly embedded herself as a leader in the green community in Portsmouth.
In 2017, on meeting like-minded sustainers at regular monthly event Green Drinks Portsmouth, she set up Zero Waste Portsmouth, enabling those interested in responsible consumption to meet once a month to share ideas, tips and tricks on living zero waste, ethically and sustainably. It was here she talked of her dream of a one-stop packaging free community run shop. I know ‘cause I (Tamara) was there! Last month, that dream took a major step towards becoming a reality with the launch event of The Package Free Larder, hosted by The Southsea Village.
It was an absolute blast! Emma, her lovely Mum, and I hung out and nibbled on dirty fries whilst listening to local environmentalists and activists speak passionately to a packed-out audience.
Serena Cunsolo, marine biologist and PhD researcher at the University of Portsmouth educated us about micro-plastics in the ocean. (Did you know that there is a Great Pacific Garbage Patch three times the size of France between California and Hawaii? I didn’t and I was horrified.) She also spoke of the effects closer to home, of microplastics in wastewater in Portsmouth. It highlighted to me the urgent need to look into my closet to see what my clothes are actually made of.
Clare Seek from Plastic Free Portsmouth (amongst her many ventures!) spoke about the growing plastic-free community in Pompey and of the importance of educating on how to reduce and then reduce some more.
Daniel Nowland of The Southsea Deli spoke about his ethical food ethos and sustainable food systems. Listening to him inspired me to encourage my household to eat less but better – specifically cheese, as we get through a lot of it!
Emma and I got a taste for local produce and went into a buying frenzy: purchasing plastic-free floss from Wild Thyme, hand-made pasta from Antica, package-free rice and coffee beans from Refill and Replenish, and reusable menstrual pads from Ngozi Sews. And we heard from Connie, Ella, and Delphine of the Package Free Larder Committee about the journey from a kernel of an idea to the reality the Package Free Larder will be.
The work that has gone into getting the Larder this far is incredible. In September 2018, Delphine hosted a meet-up for interested parties at Southsea Coffee and in 6 months The Package Free Larder was born. There is still a way to go but the foundations have been laid. The next step is to raise funds and source a property for this bricks and mortar community-led venture.
This fantastic community project needs YOU! For this to get off the ground and become a success, it needs people across Portsmouth to support it – financially, with time and resources, and through social media. But (in my opinion) mostly finances.
The Package Free Larder will be launching a crowdfunding campaign in the next few months and I will be there to support them. I hope you will too. Go to their website here and subscribe to their mailing list to be kept in the loop.
Let’s put our money where our mouth is. Let us be the change.
Tamara’s Takeaway To-Dos:
Research and buy GuppyFriend bags (assuming it isn’t greenwash) for my synthetic fibre clothes
Rediscover buying clothes at charity shops (I hate clothes shopping generally but love charity shops!)
*This post is in honour of Mike Wines, Green Party activist and an all-round good guy. We valued your dedication to the environment, your willingness to stand up as Portsmouth Green Party coordinator and council candidate, and your dry sense of humour. You are missed. *
(Disclaimer: Unsurprisingly, the following post is about death and funerals. Please be mindful and look after yourself. I am going to say it like I see it, so be prepared!)
Let us begin at the end
I am going to die. My loved ones will one day die. The people sat chatting around me in this café will all eventually die. You too, dear reader, will die.
Why are we so surprised by this? I (Tamara) don’t see any point in beating around the bush about this inexorable fact and I don’t understand why death is such a taboo subject; to only be discussed when one is very old or in the process of actually dying.
I think now is the perfect time to consider the shape of my
funeral. I am not ill, and neither is anyone close to me. The Mothers of the
Dutchman and me are in good health and happily living their lives. While
friends procreate, I have the epic responsibility of a cat. The time is now!
So many of my friends have no idea what they or their parents and partners would want if they became ill or died suddenly. This baffles me but then I grew up with an outspoken Trinidadian mother whose catchphrase whenever death planning is mentioned is ‘When you’re dead, you’re dead. Just burn me – or whatever is the cheapest.’ As you can see, we don’t stand on ceremony in my family!
Death shopping is a thing. Even in
death we are consumers and I am determined that my death and body disposal
should be as earth-friendly as possible. When the Dutchman and I wrote our
wills, about ten years ago now, we stated our preference for an ‘environmental
funeral’ and thought no more about it. But recently I realised it would be
useful for my friends and family to have specifics as to what I mean by ‘an
Dear Reader, I went so far down the
rabbit hole with this one, this blog post will be in two parts!
My Initial Green Death Requirements
I want a funeral with friends and
family talking and laughing. Lots of alcohol and speeches. Basically, a raucous
wake that will make my neighbours complain. No whispering allowed. The Victorian style funeral with a black
hearse and pallbearers in top hats does not appeal to me at all.
I want it to be earth-friendly with minimum impact. I don’t want it to be a conveyor belt of death and whispers. No embalming (unless absolutely necessary). I’d love my body to stay at home. Minimum death purchases – no plastic flowers, no tombstone, no crap. Locally sourced food and drink. A biodegradable coffin made in the UK.
So armed with my list, I started my
research…and immediately fell into the rabbit hole that is the internet –
tabs galore were opened, never to be closed. I decided to take myself out of
the internet and talk to real people with knowledge about this funeral
Friendly Funerals R Us
I visited a local funeral director who kindly talked through my many random questions and allowed me to a look round the viewing room – a subdued space with low lighting and a strategically placed box of tissues. I left understanding why so many of us use funeral directors when we are amid a loss – they are experts in the mysterious ways of the funeral world, whilst most people will organise only one or maybe two funerals in their lifetime. I can imagine it is incredibly soothing to know that it will run like clock-work with minimal stress to the family.
Not for me – I left knowing what
they were selling wasn’t what I wanted. But I am aware I must be mindful of
what I am asking of my loved ones who may not be able to do the DIY funeral I’d
prefer. If my mother decides she needs the support of a funeral director, I
hope she will go to a local independent that is understanding of my
environmental wishes. I want more than just an eco-coffin, I want a
lifestyle…or should that be…deathstyle?
There are so many misconceptions
surrounding the funeral industry. Did you know you don’t need to engage the
services of a funeral director anyway? A deceased body does not have to be
embalmed within the UK and can be transported via any vehicle – it doesn’t have
to be a hearse, if the vehicle is safe, a suitable size and the body is covered
– you are good to go!
My biggest learning curve was the
costs associated with a funeral –so unnecessary, so much gentle up-selling and
so very very expensive. I hadn’t realised how much a coffin could cost. You
gotta have money to die.
Lay ME in Lavender
To bury or not to bury, that is the
burning question! I have always thought burial was an unsustainable option due
to the sheer impact on the land, waterways and green spaces. The earth is for
the living, so why take up precious land space once I’m dead and with an ever-growing
population, we certainly can’t all be buried!
Being pumped full of chemicals for
short-term preservation which will leach into the soil and water, being housed
in a coffin which could last longer than my decomposing body – nah mate, burial
isn’t for me.
Until I went on a road trip to the South Downs Natural Burial Site with my wonderfully open-hearted friend Chris. We met the manager, Al Blake, in a dusty cluttered office for a quick-fire round of conversation and questions. It couldn’t have been more different from my visit to the friendly funeral director. Here was a natural burial expert in walking boots and jeans who understood my distaste for the conveyor-belt style funeral, wasn’t fazed by the request to have the body at home and has a database of natural burial and DIY funeral friendly Funeral Directors.
At the South Downs Natural Burial
Site, embalming and cremated ashes are not allowed. To be buried here, my
coffin or shroud must be 100% bio-degradable. My unmarked grave will be dug by
hand and my body taken to its resting place on a hand-drawn bier or horse-drawn
cart. It will be the only funeral that day. My loved ones can lower me into the
earth. When I asked this of the friendly funeral director, I was told this
wouldn’t be possible due to health and safety. At the natural burial site, it
seems anything is possible.
Chris and I wander down to the Natural Burial Site, originally a conifer and beech plantation planted about 40 years ago by the Royal Navy, now being replanted with species that belong on the South Downs. The re-stocked woodland will consist of native species that may eventually be coppiced and harvested for rural industry and wood fuel. Coppicing is a traditional method of woodland management where trees and shrubs are cut back to ground level periodically to stimulate growth.
We meet ‘Young Chris’ who is
hand-digging a grave under the cover of a flappy tarpaulin. This is too good an
opportunity to miss and I leap down into the grave. It doesn’t feel scary or
weird or morbid. It smells of damp earth and chalk – not surprising,
considering the burial site is on chalk land. With both cemetery and national park
status and the whole park belonging to Earth Trust, the 1985 bodies buried here
aren’t going anywhere. Most natural burial sites shallow bury but here they dig
deep into the chalk. Al comments that it might not be the most eco but
with the local wildlife he considers it the most secure option.
There are considerations – I know my Mum will hate the steep walk down to the burial site. On a wet day, the chalk path is slippery. My guests will need to be prepared to rough it with walking shoes and sticks. But I don’t care – this is the place where you can stand in your sorrow and no one will rush you. I am in love.
But the price pulls me short. Back to reality. Can I really justify £2000 to be buried here? Holy guacamole, that is a lot of money. A cremation at Porchester Crematorium costs £615. Cost is my one big concern and I am still mulling it over. I will continue my death investigation into cremation and other body disposal options before I make my decision.
Let me put it this way – it’s going
to take a green death extravaganza to top this.
Have you visited a natural burial site? What were your impressions? And where do you stand on funeral directors and the associated costs of death? Let us know in the Comments section.
The Second Part of my Green Death investigation will be published at the end of April. Probably. Who knows?!
My household has been doing a happy dance since I (Tamara) found out that Portsmouth now has a carton recycling bank. My stockpiling of cartons and monthly recycling runs to Chandlers Ford can finally cease. Many thanks to our lovely readers who wrote to us with this encouraging news!
My household has been doing a happy dance since I (Tamara) found out that Portsmouth now has a carton recycling bank. My stockpiling of cartons and monthly recycling runs to Chandlers Ford can finally cease. Many thanks to our lovely readers who wrote to us with this encouraging news!
What cartons can be recycled
This beautiful lone ranger of a bring bank can be found at the Asda Superstore at the Bridge Shopping Centre in Fratton. Recycle your cartons (like Tetra Paks) including:
paper coffee cups
soup, tomatoes and other food cartons
other beverage cartons
( N.B.caps + lids can be lefton )
Wash and squash them as the washing helps reduce contamination and squashing helps to fit loads more cartons into the recycling bank. You can even leave the caps/lids on as they will be removed in the recycling process. My foster teens think I am cray-cray cause I rinse out my rubbish for recycling but its got to be done.
By the way, Tetra Paks manufacture cartons but a bit like hoover/vacuum and google/internet search, the name seems to be synonymous with cartons.
why i am so happy about carton recycling
Previous to this installation of this new joy-of-my-heart, you would find me doing a monthly 50 mile round trip to Valley Park Community Centre Cartons Recycling Bank in Chandlers Ford with a car full of soya milk, soup and beverage cartons. My reusable drinks cup means that my disposable coffee cup use is limited, but any takeaway paper coffee cups were also stored and either taken to a Costa coffee shop or to the Valley Park bank.
Crazily, this was the nearest and easiest cartons recycling bank for me to get to. I would stockpile cartons in my conservatory and soon started collecting cartons from my car-free friends and Portsmouth Green Party members. If I’m going to drive all the way there, I may as well take a car-full and so I became the ‘Cartons and Foils’ gal who would collect black bin bags full from across Pompey. Luckily, in the two years that I have been recycling cartons at Valley Park, I only experienced a handful of wasted trips due to an overfull bank.
Please sir, can we have some More (carton recycling) please?
I have written to Dave Ashmore, the current Portsmouth City Council Cabinet Member for Environment and Community Safety, to express my delight but also to ask for more details about the roll-out of further cartons banks.
You may remember I wrote wistfully last year about the Southampton trial of 10-12 mixed plastics and carton recycling banks. I was gutted when that came to an abrupt end, as reported by the Southern Daily Echo, “because the company that provides the banks says it is having ongoing difficulties in disposing of the materials.” and I was convinced this failed trial would mean carton recycling would take even longer to come to Portsmouth. Hence the extra-happy dance when the carton recycling bank at Asda Fratton was installed. Green wishes can come true!
A few recycling banks for tetrapaks and food/drink cartons across the city would make a huge difference as well. I don’t expect miracles – but a trial such as the one in Southampton shouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility.
ACE UK is the supplier of the carton recycling banks in Asda Fratton and Valley Park Community Centre. Though I do not know which company supplied the Southampton trial carton and mixed plastics banks, I don’t believe it was ACE UK. Regardless, I asked Dave Ashmore for reassurance that we in Portsmouth will take lessons learned from the sad ending of the Southampton trial. I’ll report back when I hear back from him.
Do your bit
And finally, to ensure this cartons bank is a success and that more are installed across the city, I ask you dear reader to:
Use the bloomin’ carton bank regularly. (Yes, I know it is a pain there is currently only one for the entire city but if it is used it will show there is a need for it and hopefully more will be installed. One is better than none!)
Write to your local councillors to say Yay for the lone ranger and to request a carton bank near you. (Click here to find out who your three local city councillors are and their contact details.)
And do let us know in the Comments section if they reply !
Promoted by T Sheerman-Chase, 99 Pretoria Road, PO4 9BD on behalf of Portsmouth Green Party. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other party, agency, organization, employer or company.