Dear Reader, I, me, Tamara of this same Shades of Green, admit it. I am not a gardener.I do not have green thumbs. I confess it! I do not enjoy pottering or growing or nurturing.
I enjoy reclining in the sunlounger like a middle-class Victorian lady, wrapped in a blanket, reading my book and taking selfies.
This time spent in the garden and not gardening is occasionally broken up by doing photoshoots of my hateful, beloved cat.
and so on. I am sooooo tempted to do another reel of cat photos. Keep reading and I may put some bonus photos at the end! Hah, I know how to keep ’em keen!
Given my leisurely garden pastimes, what was I thinking by attempting some actual growing of some actual plants? Perhaps it was jealous-inspo of my Bristol friend who has made a pond in her garden from scratch.
Or perhaps the blame can be placed squarely on the shoulders of my delightful and more local-than-Bristol-aka-Pompey friend and fellow Green Partier, Tracey.
Tracey, henceforth and hereby declared She-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named, had the absolute gall to drop by some seedlings because she had too many. This intrusion into my peaceful domicile included rocket, lettuce and honeywort.
For context – this is the current status of the siblings of my seedlings, belonging to She-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named’s
I diligently watered them. Even added homemade cloches, on the advice of She-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named.
Then this happened.
An entire pot of lettuce seedlings disappeared overnight. What happened? Were they eaten? Went to visit their aunt? Did I overwater them? I don’t know. It is forever a mystery. But it’s okay. I still have more lettuce and rocket.
Until I didn’t.
My last batch of lettuce also disappeared into the night. No worries! I still have my rocket. I even planted them out in fresh compost. There is hope.
Dear Reader, I present to you – my pièce de résistance
Wait for it…..
I present to you white spider-web like mould.
Ewww and Shudder.
I wailed in disgust. How is this possible that even under the safe confines of cloches, the rocket rotted away? I bemoaned my failure for a full week straight.
Weirdly, the wildflowers are growing. But as they reside in the mouldy graveyard and I am still grossed out by that, I can take no joy in their shadowy existence.
So now, I have one man standing. My honeywort. My precious. Living in the relative safety of my window-sill, I check it twice a day, water it with filtered water and tenderly stroke it’s wonky baby leaves.
I await its imminent demise.
Congratulations! You have reached the end of this epic, cautionary tale, and so you shall be rewarded with a collage of photos of a cat you do not know.
Yes, the title is a little silly. (And when I (Emma) ran it past my first proof reader, can be misinterpreted as something NSFW!) But I think that, right now, it would be nice to have a little escape from the harsh realities of the world and get a little levity into our lives.
And this article actually tackles an area of all our homes that we perhaps do not think about as being particularly wasteful, but that may produce the most trash outside of the kitchen and bathroom. So, let’s delve right into making your letterbox a greener place.
Limiting what you get in
Obviously, the biggest way to make your letterbox more sustainable is to limit what you bring in. The more things that you bring into your house, the more things that will ultimately have to be composted, recycled, or put into the council rubbish bins for incineration. But how to do that?
Put a ‘No Junk Mail” sign on your mailbox
It won’t work all the time, but it will make the leaflet delivery person out think twice about shoving another pizza menu or double glazing advert through your door.
Some of the bigger companies use Royal Mail to deliver their leaflets, but you can opt-out by downloading and filling in this form and posting it back at the address listed. (Can’t print? No problem. You can ring on 03457 740 740 and ask for a form to be posted to you.)
Full disclosure, this shouldn’t stop you getting political leaflets or important messages from the government (i.e. the coronavirus leaflets) because they are designed to keep you politically informed. If you do already know who you’re voting for in the next election, i.e. The Green Party, you can put up a sign saying “no political leaflets”.
Opt for text or email alerts from companies
Whether it’s your bank statement, electricity bill, or even your dental practice, most companies will be happy to change how they contact you as mailing things by post costs them money. Some will even reward you for going paperless with better deals.
Take this one step at a time. As you receive the latest communication from each company, read it closely to see if there is an online option. If its not in the letter, check their website.
Lowering the eco-impact of what you do get in
We all have stuff posted to us and none of us can say, especially now, that we actually get all our shopping done at physical stores. So if how can we lower the impact of what is posted to us?
Ask for no new packaging
If you are buying something online (or even getting something sent to you by a friend or relative), ask the person posting to use some of their old packaging, rather than buying something new. After all, most packaging items can be used far more than once and it doesn’t really matter if the top you bought comes in a bubble envelope that someone else had a book arrive in, does it?
Request recyclable or compostable packaging
If the person shipping can’t provide used packaging, which can happen if you’re buying new items from a big business, then ask for your items to be shipped in cardboard and paper, rather than plastic, which will be harder to recycle.
It’ll probably just take one email to customer services with your username, order number, and a request that a note is made on your account.
Side note: If you’re getting something sent to you, request the slowest possible shipping. This means that, in the case of international deliveries, the item is sent by ship, rather than by air, or, for UK-deliveries, that the car/van/truck it is driven in is more likely to be full, than if you’d selected next-day delivery.
Resuse what you have
On a related note, if you do get any boxes or bubble envelopes or other packaging through the door, consider reusing it when you have to send something. Your friends are unlikely to care if their birthday present arrives in an old Lush box and cushioned by Styrofoam from the last time you bought electronics. Just make sure everything is clean and dry before storing and sending.
Not every piece of packaging or post can be recycled, but these are the post and packaging items you can recycle in Portsmouth’s green kerbside bins:
Cardboard boxes *
Corrugated cardboard *
Sheets of cardboard (perhaps used to keep items flat in envelopes) *
Cardboard envelopes (like the kind that DVDs or CDs are occasionally posted in) *
Paper envelopes * (including the kind with a window)
(The ones with stars next to them can be composted in your home compost bin.) (Not window envelopes!)
Bubblewrap and the stretchy plastic bags that magazines, for example, are posted in, can be recycled with carrier bags at larger supermarkets.
Well, that’s it from me today. Mainly because I’ve run out of things to say about letterboxes and partially because the spacebar has only worked 75% of the time and I need to go sit somewhere away from my laptop for a long while.
Let me know in the comments if you have any other tips for making your post box green again. Or…
This is a post free from Covid-19 mentions! Enjoy the breather as you ponder the ethicalness of mobile phones. :)
To buy new, or not to buy new?
That is the question that Emma and Tamara are tackling in today’s post, specifically in relation to mobile smartphones.
Should one buy new, or refurbish and repair? Or simply do without? (Spoiler alert, the last option isn’t a choice we explore!)
EMMA SAYS: DON’T BUY NEW. BUY REFURBISHED.
We begin with Emma, the queen of the refurbished phone.
Emma got all the phones, she got all the phones.
I have had eight phones in my short little life. (I’m still a Young Green for nine more months!) The first two – a Motorola Brick and a Nokia 3310i – were third hand. My uncle would give my mum his old phone when he got a new one and I would get it after she was done with it.
Then, I turned 16 and I asked for a camera phone for my birthday. And that was where things started to go wrong. When I went to college (and started going out later with friends), my parents and I agreed that I would get a cheap contract, so that I couldn’t claim that I didn’t have the credit to tell them the gig overran or I missed my bus. That came with a new phone, barely a year after the last. (I assume the provider didn’t have a sim-only contract then.)
When I moved to uni, my phone didn’t get signal and, after too many nights only able to phone people while standing outside the IT centre, I switched providers, which came with a new phone. This time a slider phone, which broke just a year later, and resulted in me buying my last-ever new phone.
I should, for context, tell you that I got another phone second-hand from my mum and discovered sim-only contracts at some point between 2011 and 2019. (Also, that all of my past phones have been recycled or sold on if they were working.)
Reader, she cheap.
As mentioned before, I’m cheap. (If this feels like a recurring theme to you dear reader, try being one of my friends who I refuse to pay the £4 to sit next to on a plane or who have to smile at the bartender as I order tap water at their birthday night out.)
The phones that I had bought, as opposed to getting through a contract or from a family member, only ever cost about £60, which meant that they were off-brand with lower-res cameras and would result in people going, “Is that an- oh no”, whenever I got my phone out.
So I didn’t want to buy a new phone when my old one was no longer able to support any of the social media apps that I used. But I was tired of taking terrible photos.
And yes, I know that sounds shallow, but as a writer and the co-runner of the Portsmouth Green PartyInstagram account, it was my own personal hell to continuously borrow my mum’s phone to upload pictures about your local Green Party or promote my articles on Twitter. (For 10 glorious minutes in November 2017, a picture of a cake my mum made was visible on the PGP Instagram because I forgot to log out.)
Emma discovers refurbished phones and doesn’t look back, ok bye.
So last February, I knew I needed a new-to-me phone. I was practically bullied into it by a dear friend and my mum. I opted for a refurbished one through my network provider and got a 2018 model, which supported all the apps I needed and had a great camera, for just £60.
(It came with a £10 sim card that I gave away to one of the local homeless shelters to allow the people there to call their families.) (Full disclosure, I don’t remember which one, but The Lifehouse said they would appreciate it when I asked in preparation for the post.)
So why would I buy refurbished?
More attractive and can get a cute case (although beauty is in the eye on the phone holder)
Compatible with wireless chargers (all of my USB cords are dangerously frayed)
Buying second-hand is better for the planet than buying new, even if the item you’re buying new is sustainable and eco-friendly
No matter how simple it is to repair the Fairphone (see below), I would still put it off. It’s pretty simple to clean my laptop keyboard, but I’m pretty sure there’s mould growing under there from the third year of uni.
But now, let’s hear from Tamara about the Fairphone. (She can totally trash my Huawei phone. A good place to start is, “aren’t the Chinese government using that to spy on people?”)
TAMARA SAYS: DON’T BUY BAD NEW. BUY FAIRPHONE.
Tamara argues against second-hand…wait, say what now?
Uh oh Emma, are you going all 5G conspiracy theory on me? Seriously though, she makes a compelling argument. Buying second-hand should be the default. So why even as I agree that if a phone can be reused, it absolutely should, am I arguing against? Dear Reader, let me take you down an alternative path.
Like Emma, I have always taken pride in not being a brand follower or a tech upgrader. Sim-only contract, that’s me! Why get a new phone every two years when my current one is perfectly fine-ish? Again like Emma with her third-hand-me-downs, my mobile phones were always donated by my partner, the Dutchman when his work upgraded their mobile phone contracts. He always had a better, faster, shiner phone than me, with more storage space and a fancier camera. He was always the more tech-aware one in our household. I am the one who goes running with my trusty old iPod. I was the one who carried around a mobile power bank because my old iPhone’s battery would drain to 10% if I even thought about making a call. I couldn’t afford to repair these phones and most couldn’t be repaired anyway, cause they are not designed to be easily accessed.
I am now the trend-setter with a phone that I treat more reverently than a new-born baby.
‘Hah!’, I hear you thinking, ‘Call yourself a greenie? What a hypocrite. Bought yourself a new, expensive phone at the expense of the planet and those who reside on her?’
And to that, I say: New? Yes. Expensive? Definitely yes.
Planet and people destroying? Absolutely NOT!
Dear Reader, I present to you the FairPhone – a mobile phone designed to be repaired and ethically produced.
I have reached ethical nirvana.
This is not a sponsored post. Tamara is just a massive fangirl.
Tamara learns to trust again, this time by doing actual research
For many years, I trusted brands. I trusted banks. I trusted supermarkets. I didn’t question why I trusted them, I just did. I thought for a long time that Apple was an ethical green brand because it was called Apple.
Luckily a good friend of mine (the same one who I mentioned in a previous post I share a subscription to The Ethical Consumer with) introduced me to the Fairphone about 5 years ago, opening my eyes in the process to the conflict mining and child labour that go into the manufacture of the typical smartphone.
Let’s get real for a moment. Smartphones are a*mazing. But the way they are produced is definitely NOT amazing. I won’t go into it all here, it bums me out too much and I get all fatalistic and depressive. But I will try to quickly summarise, so you know where I am coming from. But as usual, I strongly encourage you to educate and inform yourself as this is just my limited understanding.
~ A Sad Smartphone Summary~
Ok, so, basically, smartphones are made up of thousands of different components and on average around 60 different metals. These metals that go into a phone are mined.
If it is mined by people, by hand, from the earth, it is called artisanal mining. Artisinal mining sounds all fancy and lovely doesn’t it, like yummy sourdough bread. Hah, the absolute literal bloody irony as many of these metals are mined in areas of conflict, such as cobalt in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The unethical mining of these metals which go into our phones fund brutal conflicts. Child and forced labour is a huge problem. Artisinal mining my arse.
That is just one part of the supply chain. Then we have the manufacturing process, mostly done in China and Vietnam. I am talking poor and unsafe working and living conditions, inadequate health and safety and low pay. The usual fun stuff.
And finally, the disposal of the mobile phone. Even if recycled, many smartphones end up in e-waste dumps which leach pollutants into the soil, waterways and the workers who are extracting the metal components for recycling. (But we still encourage you to recycle your phone with us – we have absolute trust in Recycling for Good Causes.)
~End of sad summary~
Ooof. As I said, it is a bummer. And that is why, when my second-hand iPhone kaptutted, I bought a Fairphone 3.
Tamara pitches why your next new smartphone should be a Fairphone
The Fairphone is ethical but it does not claim to be perfect. It is not 100% fair or completely recyclable. But it is the only ethical smartphone that exists in today’s current market. They have traceable supply chains for all four internationally recognized conflict minerals: tungsten, tin, tantalum and gold. The gold is also fairtrade.
The supply and production chain of the Fairphone is completely transparent and they actively support workers rights and a fair living wage. My Fairphone 3 cost £400. From that, only 1.50 euro per phone was needed to ensure a living wage bonus to all the factory workers on the Fairphone production line in Suzhou, China. Fairphone points out that they are not the factory’s only customer and probably account for less than 10% of the total production in the factory. If all the factory customers followed suit, all the factory workers would have a fair living wage. *looks pointedly over to the big phone manufacturers*
And finally, the Fairphone is designed to be repaired. By the consumer! By me! It is a modular, repairable phone.
Yep, it cost me £400. That is a shite-load of money. I have never spent that kind of money on a phone before. Remember, I am a hand-me-down kinda gal. But I saved for a long time and bit the bullet and put my money where my ethics claim to be. Not everyone is able to do that, but I am happy I could.
Demand the right to repair
I am grateful the Fairphone option exists. But why is it the only truly repairable smartphone brand available?
It is my personal opinion -not backed up by any research cause I am at the end of the article and I am getting hungry – that manufacturers do not design their phones to last. They definitely don’t design them to be easily repaired.
This is why I encourage you to support and sign this Right to Repair petition urging the European Union to require manufacturers like Samsung, Huawei and Apple to design repairable smartphones and provide spare parts and repair information to all repairers and consumers.
After signing the petition, I am off to wrap my Fairphone in bubble wrap leftover from my recent move and sing it to sleep! My precious!
As some of
you may know, I (Emma) work from home. (Normally in my pyjamas, as part of a
quest to fulfil the stereotype!) I love it because I have no commute, no dress
code, and no ‘suggestions’ about me wearing make-up.
This article will be about how I make my home office (read: corner of my bedroom with a desk) a little more eco-friendly. Although, a couple of the biggest contributors to your typical carbon footprint at work (commute, on-the-go food) are already taken out of the equation because I work 10 seconds from my bed.
some of these tips will inspire you to cut your carbon footprint, whether you
work at home or not.
writer, I spend about 7 hours a day typing on my laptop. As my laptop is from
2012 and the battery is dead, I’m sure this uses a lot of electricity, so I try
to cut my usage elsewhere.
comment, I did buy a new battery in 2016, but it died within a year and I’m not
keen on doing it again.)
Unplug items when you’re not using them
As you can see from this photo, I don’t have electronics plugged in when I’m not using them because even when the item is switched off, it still uses electricity. My printer, phone, coffee maker, and lamp only get plugged in when I need them, which is maybe one item once a day.
Also, the coffee maker is one of those horrible capsule ones. I got it from my nan’s house and I’m just using the capsules up before I sell it. To dispose of the used capsules in an eco-friendly way, I’m:
removing the lid and placing it in the bin
putting the coffee grounds into a jar and either using it as a body scrub or putting it straight in the compost
putting the plastic bottom into the Sainsbury’s Mixed Plastic bin
Work with natural light
I work directly under a window (I live in the attic like Cinderella), so I rarely have to turn either the ceiling light or my lamp on. Except when I work before 7 am or after 5 pm, which doesn’t happen often anymore because I’m getting better at this whole work-life balance thing.
Minimise heater and fan
As I live in the attic, it boils in the summer and freezes in the winter, but I try to cope with this without using the heater or the fan. (I mean, the radiator’s in the wrong place and I never feel like the ceiling fan works, but I’m still going to count this.)
During the summer, I open the window and, sometimes, soak a t-shirt in cold water at several points during the day. In winter, I wrap myself in hoodies and, occasionally a blanket.
I recently learned that emails have a carbon footprint because the internet is held up by huge data-processing sites. Therefore, I’m trying to send fewer emails (i.e. one email with all of the work from the project rather than several), clear up my inbox, and unsubscribe from all of those mailing lists I find myself on.
This is harder than I thought. The Inbox Zero struggle is real.
Of course, a neat way to offset this is with search engine Ecosia, which plants trees when you search for something.
As mentioned in a previous article, I’m exceptionally cheap. Thus, it won’t surprise you to know that I’ve kept every workbook and gel pen from my school days so I don’t waste products that could be used for writing or that I hoard used A4 paper in case I need to print anything and small bits to write my daily to-do lists.
Another way that I prevent waste is:
Putting all smaller pieces of used paper into an envelope to be recycled so that they don’t gum up the machinery at the recycling plant
Refilling printer inks at the Ink Store and, when needed, recycling them with Portsmouth Green Party
Borrowing or buying used anything that I need for work, like the tilted platform my laptop rests on
Making my own pen holder from a Primark bag and an empty washing powder tub
Composting pencils when they’re down to the last little nubs (don’t worry about the graphite, a small amount won’t harm the soil)
For my last
point in this article, I was once told that having plants in your office makes
you focus more and work harder. I don’t know if that’s exactly true, but I do
now have two cacti on my desk. (Normally, placed out of the way of the cat.)
Even if I’m not incredibly focused, I do like that it’s helping to take some CO2 out of the air. (Even if Tamara’s husband recently told me that it works the opposite way at night, so my bedroom is essentially filling with CO2 after the sun goes down.)
Okay, well that’s it from me. If you have any ways to eco-hack your office, let me know in the comments.
But first, a HUGE proviso! Though very wise, clever, smart and beautiful; I am not a financial guru or advisor. I am simply writing from my own personal experiences. This is not about me making or saving money but about me trying to be ethical in how I organise my finances and store my money.
Level 1: subscribe to the Ethical Consumer (Difficulty Rating: easy)
I share a subscription to The Ethical Consumer with a friend and it has been the number one most useful and informative resource in researching and deciding how to spend my money ethically. (This is not a sponsored post or any of that!). The Ethical Consumer does Shopping Guides, Company Profiles and basically it is where I go for clear answers when I am overwhelmed by choice. It has influenced all my choices which I will discuss below. If you can afford it, at £30 a year, get it!
Level 2: choose a bank with values (Difficulty rating: Intermediate)
Did you know that the big commercial banks are the worst? Main banking providers like Natwest, Lloyds, Barclays, HSBC etc are not the safe havens they appear in the ads. I was devastated to realise that the banks I was loyal to since I opened my first account at age 13 to save my Saturday job earnings in are funders of arms manufacturing and investors in the fossil fuel industry (to name but a few). These are powerful institutions focused on profits and not people.
I felt rather smug, many years ago now, when I decided to move away from terrible banking and opened a current account with Smile, then the best (in my opinion) ethical banking choice in a very limited pool. But the times have moved on and Smile, which is part of The Cooperative Bank, is no longer the top or only choice.
Triodos: a unicorn in the banking world
Triodos is the best. I do not mean it is the best of a bad bunch. Oh no no! Triodos is simply the best…dun… dun… better than all the rest! (channelling my inner Tina Turner!).
You see, Triodos doesn’t only choose not to invest in the bad aka unethical and unsavoury industries, Triodos actively invests in the good aka sustainable, ethical and planet & people protecting industries and projects.
Even their debit card is eco-conscious as it is made from PLA which is a plastic substitute made from renewable sources such as plant leaves and corn. But to be honest, it is their ethical policies and transparency that really give me a hard-on, though the small things are important too. (haha, that’s what she said! Sorry. #notsorry.)
I’ve had a saving account with Triodos for about ten years and will soon be opening a current account with them when I get my ID sorted. (Off-topic rant – can you believe that both my passport and my driving licence expired in the same month. Adulting is hard.)
By this, I mean member-owned banking institutions like Building Societies and Credit Unions. Unlike commercial banks which are run for the profit of shareholders, here each customer is a member and has a say in how the organisation is run.
a) Nationwide Building Society
Nationwide is my compromise joint bank account with my husband, the Dutchman. After The Co-operative bank became 70% investor-owned and seeing that the Ethical Consumer rated them fairly well, he decided to move his accounts from Smile to Nationwide Building Society.
We have a shared account with Nationwide and the rest remain with Smile because as well as not being good with change, I still felt a loyalty to Smile and I was holding out for a Triodos current account. We compromised by initially keeping some accounts with Smile and transitioning one to Nationwide with ultimately all our shared accounts eventually being moved to Nationwide.
b) Wessex Community Bank
Whenever I cycle down Fratton Road, I notice the Wessex Community Bank nestled between The Bridge Shopping Centre and Garnier Street. Each time, I add it to my mental list of things to check out and immediately forget once I have cycled past.
Writing this article meant I finally researched it and I was thrilled to discover it is a not-for-profit community bank (a credit union) that invests solely in the Hampshire and Isle of Wight region. It is a proper local bank!
I plan on joining their Christmas Club saving scheme as I am tired of always being overdrawn come January. 2020 is my year of taking control of my finances!
Level 3: CHOOSE AN ETHICAL MORTGAGE (Difficulty rating: Advanced)
I rate this as Hard/ Advanced as for me this was the most difficult decision to make in terms of prioritising ethics over finances.
It is a privilege to be in a position to hold a mortgage. It is also my largest financial burden and my biggest monthly expense. I want that money to be invested positively by my mortgage provider. I have previously held a mortgage with The Co-operative Bank but wanted to up my game in ethical finances.
The Ethical Consumer was a key tool in helping us research and ultimately decide to apply to Coventry Building Society for a mortgage. A huge bonus is that the mortgage interest with them was as good a deal as the ones offered by the usual big banks. So it was a win-win, both financially and ethically. I consider this my biggest success in walking the walk and not just talking the talk.
Level 4: CHOOSE AN ETHICAL pension (Difficulty rating: expert)
This is where my laziness really shows. I don’t really get pensions and I think the fact I even have a pension is me Adulting at the highest level.
I want a safe, secure and ethical pension that doesn’t just not invest in fossil fuels, fracking, arms trade and all that fun stuff but also invests positively in sustainable, ethical, people and planet-friendly funds. I basically want the Triodos of pensions.
Quite by chance, I hold a pension with Royal London who is currently ranked the top pension provider by The Ethical Consumer. And the Dutchman has a workplace pension with Aviva, who is rated second. But unlike Triodos, for example, these are the best of a bad bunch.
I feel my only option is to learn more about pensions (ergh) and start lobbying my pension provider to do better.
But ideally, I’d have a pension provider that is making actively positive ethical investments and so far, I haven’t found that.
And what of you, Dear Reader? What are your experiences of ethical banking? Do you have an answer to my pension quandary? Let us know in the Comments section.
You may not know this about me, but I (Emma) am really really cheap. Cheaper than I, as a middle-class person with a fair amount of savings and a fairly steady income, have any right to be.
So cheap that on the last holiday I took with a friend we would have had to have paid £4 to sit together on the flight and I rejected this completely. She didn’t even push the matter because she knew I’d bitch about it being a waste of money.
I suppose, if you’ll allow me this brief moment in a therapist’s chair, it stems back to my childhood, when my family didn’t have a lot of money and debt was the elephant in every room of our house.
Sometimes this cheapness conflicts with my environmental beliefs.
For example, I have to buy some tampons because, while an advocate of reusable period care, I will be on holiday and going swimming during one of my periods this year. (I have still not mastered the menstrual cup.)
The organic cotton tampons that I know I need to buy cost £4 for a pack of 20. By comparison, the supermarket own-brand terrible-for-the-environment plastic-filled tampons cost about 99p for 16.
And I’m outraged by this despite having to buy 1 or 2 packs of these a year. (Can you imagine if I was using tampons all the time or if I had any kind of medical issue with my period that made it heavier or more frequent?)
What I’m saying is that I do understand why people would choose the cheaper option over the more environmental one in most cases. Particularly in such a dire economic time when the government prefers to make sure the rich stay rich and the poor stay poor. (I wrote this on my phone when it was still working, and it autocorrected my sentence to read ‘the poor stay put’ and tbh, I think that might be how the government feels too.)
However, this article is not intended to be a depressing read on how caring for the earth can ruin your bank balance. Instead, I want to focus on how it can actually save you money.
In a way, the money you save can pay for more expensive tampons and other eco things. But even if you only choose to do the green things that will save you money, it’s still a way to cut your impact on the planet.
Switch to reusables
While plastic is the biggest problem, single-use anything isn’t great because of the energy used to create it. Plus, a one-off purchase that might be a little more expensive is still cheaper than multiple disposables.
To start with, why not try a reusable water bottle, shopping bag small enough to fit in your handbag/backpack, a lunchbox, and a handkerchief?
Overconsumption is a big problem because it involves extra materials and energy to create a product, energy to ship and store it, and finally energy to get it from the store to your house.
Where I can, I use what I have rather than buying anything. For example, for handkerchiefs I use the old napkins that belonged to a table cloth that had been thrown away. (Someone knocked cherryade over it when they small and the stain never came out.)
I fucking love buying second hand. Most of my clothes (and books) are from charity shops and at least three pairs of shoes came from my parents.
By choosing pre-loved items, you are taking something already in the waste stream and giving it a second life.
You can also get rid of items on there, that you might otherwise have to take to the tip or pay for the council to collect. (Think about broken furniture, which some could repair or use for firewood.)
My main repairs are small sewing things for clothes, holes in leggings, underwire springing free from bras, and rips in the seams of jumpsuits. I can (sort of) do these myself. Or with supervision from a more seasoned sewer.
For anything more complicated, like my currently glitching phone, I defer to the repair cafe, which is donation-based. (Excuse me, while I cry over my phone.)
I never learnt to drive and it was primarily because I didn’t have the money or the time. (Now, I have the money, it’s mostly an eco thing.)
What with all the costs associated with driving, from lessons to car purchase to tax to insurance, it’s so much cheaper for me to take the bus, coach, or train. (Or even walk on a dry day.)
As an added eco benefit, you can use e-tickets for the bus and coach to save paper. (I don’t know if you can with the train.) The First Bus app also saves you money on day passes (often less than a return), singles, and passes (week, month, year).
Okay, that’s about it from me. Do you have any other ways to save pennies and the planet? Let me know in the comments below.
Moving house is one of the most stressful things a person can experience. I am sure I read it on an internet listicle, so it must be true.
In the past three months, I (Tamara) have:
moved all my worldly belongings and crap into storage.
moved all my worldly belongings and crap out of storage 8 weeks later into my new Pompey home.
moved my mother-dearest from her home of twenty years in Devon to my new Pompey home
travelled by train to The Netherlands (#NoFly2020) to help my mother-in-law move house within her local area.
That is a lot of packing of boxes, hiring of vans and moving of people and their stuff.
My move was the only one I had any real control over and I was determined to make it as environmentally light as possible.
We did our own packing and moving. This was primarily because it was cheaper than hiring professional movers but also because I wanted to keep the materials used and waste generated within my control.
This meant using as little plastic as possible, not buying new and reusing and recycling after the move.
It wasn’t a perfect move by any means, but I did my best within my limited budget. *pats self reassuringly on back*
Here are Tamara’s (somewhat obvious) Top 3 Tips on How to Green Your House Move:
Tip 1: Eco Packing Tape
If you stop reading after this tip, that is fine by me. Because you will now know that paper packaging tape exists and that you can buy it locally from mobile plastic-free shop Refill and Replenish for £2! I bought a ton from online eco-shop Anything But Plastic as Refill and Replenish hadn’t yet started stocking the paper tape – and though I bought loads… I still managed to run out. You are going to use a crazy amount of tape. So much tape. Might as well make it plastic-free. There’s no excuse now you know.
Tip 2: Collect (LOTS OF) SECONDHAND Boxes and Newspapers
I managed to not buy any bubble wrap. Not one roll! Of this, I am very proud and owe to friends and neighbours who collected newspapers and bubble wrap for me to use.
I started collecting boxes long before I moved house. My partner, The Dutchman, has moved his work office a number of times in the past few years and after each move, I have collected the cream of the crop of the discarded archive boxes. He thought I was crazy. I knew my day would come.
I kept a beady eye on online reuse sites such as Freegle for offers of moving boxes and also posted a few requests. I sourced most of my boxes throughFreegle and some Freeglers also kindly messaged me with tips on where to get boxes, particularly Lidl and PC World.
And now I have moved, when I am unpacked, I will offer out the useable boxes to others to be reused via Freegle.
The used newspaper will be recycled at kerbside as I unpack…which I am doing…slowly.
Tip 3: Tap Into Your Community
Collecting such a plethora of boxes, newspaper and packaging material would not have been so easy without the support of others.
One friend donated a load of bubble wrap she had been saving. Another collected newspapers from the neighbours in her apartment block. One volunteered her husband to help on moving day. Another friend let me stay in her flat while she was travelling and we needed a place to stay for a month whilst our house purchase went through. One loaned her garage for my excess stuff to be housed while I staged the house ready for sale. My cousin who was visiting from Trinidad on training for work helped us lug furniture from storage to the new house.
After the death of her beloved nan and the clearing of her belongings which she writes about here, Emma kindly gave me towels and bedding and other linens to use as packaging material. As they were not good enough to be donated for use by people (i.e. it had rips or was stained or had faded), I was gifted them with the strict instructions that once unpacked, I must donate them to The Stubbington Ark for their animals. In the midst of her grief, she would send me texts checking if this or that would be useful for my move. And she helped me move on moving day. Words cannot begin to say how valuable her help and support was. I couldn’t have done an eco move without her.
I tapped into the local Zero Waste Facebook community when I needed help and advice. As mentioned above, Freeglers gave me their boxes and advice. So many boxes.
And finally, when my mother-dearest’s ridiculous oversized antique armchair couldn’t get through the front door, local joiner and carpenter Aaron of Aaron’s Wood ‘N’ Stuff took it apart and reassembled it, saving it from my exasperated idea of taking a hammer to it. My mother-dearest and her armchair thank you Aaron.
And you, dear Reader, what tips and tricks do you have for making a house move an eco one? Let us know in the Comments section.
Hello and welcome to the first Shades of Green blog post of 2020. Emma is a bit snowed under this week, so we’re happy to present a guest post from Polly at Your Waste Gone, an environmentally friendly and eco-conscious waste clearance company for commercial and domestic waste. So, let’s hand over to Polly.
Personal hygiene and beauty products are major culprits of wasteful
plastic packaging, making the bathroom a dominant source of plastic
consumption. Thankfully, however, there are many things we can do to reduce
plastic waste in the bathroom. So, why not start the year off right and make
your new year’s resolution one that benefits your environment?
Why Plastic is a Problem
Unfortunately, even with climate change concerns growing,
many people still see little point in making the switch to plastic-free
products. It’s easy to feel helpless in the war on plastic, but by making small
changes now, we can make a difference to the future health of our planet.
Microplastics – a Hidden Danger
Plastic is not biodegradable, but plastic does break down
into tiny, sand-like grains called microplastic. Some microplastics are
actually even smaller than grains of sand, and can only be seen under a
microscope. As it makes its way into the ocean, toxic microplastic is ingested
by fish and other sea life, and if we eat seafood, we end up ingesting microplastics
too. Microplastic is also in the air
we breathe, and scientists are concerned about the health impacts, with research
suggesting that they could be a contributing factor to
Threat to wildlife
Plastic waste poses a major threat
to wildlife across the globe as wild animals’ natural habitats are invaded
by our plastic waste. Because of this, animals ingest plastic, which causes
major problems to their digestive systems. Animals can also easily find themselves
permanently trapped or entangled in pieces of plastic waste, with little chance
of survival thereafter. Plastic pollution also continues to harm aquatic and marine
life. Sea turtles, dolphins, whales and marine birds are particularly
vulnerable, as these creatures often ingest plastic when mistaking it for
How can I reduce my Plastic Consumption in the Bathroom?
When it comes to wasteful plastic packaging, the bulk of the
responsibility rests on the shoulders of large industrial companies. However, we
as consumers are not exempt. If we think of our shopping habits like a voting
system, every time we buy a non-recyclable plastic product, we are voting for
companies to continue producing them. By changing the way we shop, we can have our
say. Opting for sustainably-packaged, plastic-free products tells the big companies
“we want more of this!”.
Many of us don’t have the time to inspect every package
label when we’re out shopping. This is why we recommend making the permanent
switch to greener options. That way, you always know the products you are
buying, don’t contribute to plastic pollution. To help, we have created a guide
Eliminating the need for plastic bottles, these handy bars
work just like a normal bar of soap but are designed specifically for your
The shampoo bar may be a little pricier than your go-to
bottle, but this mighty little bar is said to last up to 80 washes.
That’s the equivalent to three large bottles of standard shampoo. Lush sell packaging-free
shampoo bars in various scents, each targeting different hair types and hair
Just like their shampoo bars, the conditioner bars from
friendly soap are packaged in recycled card. They can even be turned into
liquid conditioners and stored in a glass bottle or old conditioner bottle at
home by dissolving in water.
Grooming and Personal Hygiene
Despite their convenience, cotton buds are a big contributor
to plastic pollution. Whilst the bud part of the cotton swab is made from
cotton, the stem is often made from non-recyclable plastic. According to Cotton
Bud Project, cotton buds are also one of the most commonly-flushed household
items and they pass easily through the fine mesh screens in our sewage
filtration systems, landing them in our oceans and contributing to more
microplastic pollution, as well as threats to marine life and human health via toxic
We encourage you to ditch those plastic cotton swabs for
swabs with paper stems. Even better, why not try a reusable bud. LastSwab is
looking for supporters
in their latest endeavour, a reusable bud made from medical grade silicone.
Packaged in plastic and made out of plastic, disposable
razors are one of the least environmentally friendly beauty products in our
bathrooms. They’re simply tossed into the bin at the end of their short
lifespan and only to add to the growing plastic pollution problem.
A more sustainable and economical alternative is the safety
razor. Safety razors made from wood and metal and are designed to last a
lifetime. Once they do reach their end, they can then be recycled and turned
into new razors or new products. The blades of safety razors can also easily be
recycled using a razor bank. Just be sure to check with your local council
first, as some areas have other ways of recycling blades.
Although cotton pads themselves are usually made from 100%
natural cotton, they are often wrapped in non-recyclable plastic packaging.
Plus, to actually remove makeup and cleanse the face the pads are used with a
makeup removal solution, often from a plastic bottle. To reduce plastic consumption
in your beauty routine, swap the cotton pads for a reusable makeup removal pad
and the cleanser for one in a recyclable glass bottle instead.
A skin-friendly, effective eye makeup remover packaged in a
recyclable brown glass bottle.
Deodorants and Body Sprays
While aerosol deodorant cans are often made from aluminium and
can easily be recycled, most roll-on deodorant and non-aerosol sprays are sold
in a wasteful plastic shell. Aerosols are also a harmful
air pollutant, so even with their recyclable packaging, they aren’t the
most environmentally-friendly choice.
The good news is, there are many eco-friendly alternatives
to both deodorants.
These are plastic-free and handmade in the UK. They stock a
variety of scents and cater to those with more sensitive skin with their ‘Fit
Pit Sensitive’ products.
Your Waste Gone specialises in waste removal. Their range of services includes house clearance, rubbish removal, refuse collection and more. Your Waste Gone will never send your recyclable waste to landfill.
Hey all and welcome to Shades of Green’s semi-annual eco Christmas post. Now, you might remember that earlier in the year, I (Emma) vowed not to buy any Christmas presents for adults. (I was still going to buy them for my nephews and nieces.)
Now, that promise was made before what was (and contiues to be) a distressing few months for my family. My grampy doesn’t really get why I’m trying to refuse presents and my mum thought we were just doing this for people outside our immediate family.
I tried to fight back. It ended in an argument. And Tamara, after I almost screamed at her about the fact that I was now under stress to buy presents that I never wanted to in December, explained that presents are a love language and my family are probably just trying to show that they care, after our annus horribilis.
Thus I, the person who didn’t want to buy presents, am now doing an eco-gift guide for my family.
Please note: This is not an ad. No payment or gifts were exchanged for inclusion in this blog. These are simply eco-friendly companies that I have bought presents from for the three people that I live with.
When you buy local you can often cut down on transit and CO2; even if you still buy from a national or global brand.
A completely non-scientific case-study
If you wanted to purchase an individual bath bomb from Lush; you could order online and have that one item posted to you.
Compare this to buying that same bath bomb from your local store. They order their stock in massive amounts (50 bath bombs per box, sometimes as many as 30 boxes per delivery); the carbon footprint per bath bomb is much less.
Plus, they do have a massive package free (naked!) section.
Of course, it is always better to buy from small businesses in your local area. Here, I should mention the lovely Pigeon Books, who have been supplying me with presents for my nephews and niece since the summer.
They specialise in diverse books and have a whole section of eco-saving literature. Plus, if you live nearby they’ll deliver by bike and if you live further away, they’ll package your books in reused packaging.
When you buy handmade you’re helping someone to do what they want for a living; you get something uber unique and you might even get lucky by picking something from a designer that’ll be huge one day.
For this, I will recommend The Beehive Portsmouth, which has a collection of designers under one roof. We visited for the launch event back in September and loved it.
Tamara particularly liked the jewellery, I liked the small prints, and from the photos, it looks like Tamara’s husband Menno liked the food!
One of the major environmental costs is the production of new items and it’s much more eco to buy products that have been pre-loved.
I used to love doing this throughout the year and having my mum put stuff away for my Christmas presents, but, like most prolific readers, I now have more books than I could read in a lifetime.
Check out eBay, Gumtree or even Facebook Marketplace. Or you can pop down to your local charity shop and do twice the good.
However, if you’re looking specifically for books, which I always am, try World of Books, which is approved by both me and Tamara. They source books from charity shops, who are often overwhelmed by books, and prevent them from going to landfill.
On that note, if someone doesn’t really have a need for more items, why not consider a charitable donation? Plenty of charities will send out cards saying that a donation have been made in their name. (Remember to add on Gift Aid if you can!)
I’ve done this for a few years for my grampy with Doctors Without Borders, but if you want to donate closer to home, there are some worthwhile causes in Portsmouth mentioned in a previous post.
We all have that friend who could use a little push to be more eco-friendly and a good way to give that push in a friendly manner is to buy them a green gift.
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.
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.
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.)
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.)
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).
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.)
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.
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.
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
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.
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.