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

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

This is not a list of educational resources. 

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

This is not an article giving medical advice.

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

This post is not a good idea. 


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

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

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


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

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

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


But first, an even bigger disclaimer than usual: 

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

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

☏ Hive Helpline: 023 9261 6709

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

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

☏ PCC Helpline: 023 9268 8004

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

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


Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Keep to a loose schedule

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: The Gender Spectrum Collection 

Limit your exposure to the news and social media

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

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

And only watch once a day. 

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

Photo by Prateek Katyal from Pexels

Stick to your routine wherever possible 

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

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

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

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

Keep connected

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

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

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

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

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


Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Put on your (metaphorical) oxygen mask  

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

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

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

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Help others 

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

Check on your neighbours

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

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

Offer your support

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

Volunteer with hive

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

Volunteer with the NHS

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

gIVE BLOOD

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

Image by monicore from Pixabay

Eat what you have

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

Photo by Designecologist from Pexels

Buy only what you need

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

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

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Minimise food waste

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

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

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

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

Try reusable toilet cloth

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

Emma suggested this to her parents, who grimaced.

Embrace other reusables

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

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

cat figurine on toilet

Skip cat litter

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

Image by bluebudgie from Pixabay

Store your recycling and donations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Support local small businesses

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

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

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

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Read for pleasure

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go outside (safely and if you can)

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

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

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

The Dutchman burpees
Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Plant something

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

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

Image by Dean Moriarty from Pixabay

Move your body

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

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

Photo by Magdaline Nicole from Pexels

Do Something Creative

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

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

Be Kind

Image by reneebigelow from Pixabay

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

Be kind, wash your hands and stay at home.


Photo by Kelly Lacy from Pexels

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


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

How to eco-hack your Christmas Presents in Portsmouth

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

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

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

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

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

Buy local

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

A completely non-scientific case-study

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

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

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

Buy Small

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

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

I have the imposter syndrome mug you can see here!

Buy Handmade

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

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

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

Buy secondhand

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

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

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

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

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

Buy charitable

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

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

Buy sustainable

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

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

Crispy McCrisp Face

A not-so-secret secret is my love for the humble potato crisp and my hate of the unrecyclable packaging they come in. While my health and the environment beg ‘Please, no more’, my treacherous tastebuds say ‘Hell, yeah!’.

I (Tamara) have been fearlessly investigating crisp snack substitutes and am pleased to report back to you, my fellow crisp-lover.

Popcorn with salt and butter

Popcorn

Thanks to Wild Thyme offering both packaging-free popcorn and nutritional yeast, I have discovered a love of cheesy vegan(ish) popcorn. When I have a snack attack, my popcorn can be ready in 3 minutes flat! I can’t claim vegan status as I have a bad habit of smothering the popcorn in buttery deliciousness. The Dutchman has expressed a love for sweeter popcorn flavours – cinnamon and maple syrup have been a hit. The only downside is my microwave seems to not approve of my popcorn discovery and keeps shutting down mid-pop. It’s a-poppin’ mystery!

 

Roasted Chickpeas

Though a bit more effort than homemade popcorn, roasting chickpeas in the oven is equally delicious and healthy – especially as, unlike my popcorn, I don’t smother them in butter! Because I am a lazy gal, I use canned chickpeas however I do have grand plans to eventually cook up some dried packaging-free chickpeas in my slow cooker. Click here for my g0-to oven-roasted chickpea recipe.

 

Crisps in Compostable Packaging

I have Emma to thank for this momentous discovery – crisps in compostable packaging. I thought it was but a distant dream but no, my dream is a reality! Hertfordshire based company, Two Farmers offer crisps in…wait for it….100% home compostable bags. I AM SO FRICKIN’ EXCITED!!!!!! (Yes, I am afraid both capitals and exclamation marks are necessary to convey my delight.) I am awaiting my first order and shall report back shortly!

 

Till then, dear reader, what do you snack on? Do you have any recipes to recommend? Let us know in the Comments section below.

 

How to eco hack your small business

Hello and welcome to a very special edition of Shades of Green, where Tamara and Emma pass the mic to one of our dear readers. That’s right; we’re taking a week off and letting someone else tell you about their eco-friendly life.

So, without further adieu, let us introduce our latest guest writer, Rich Pearson. Rich is the owner of Vintage Lounge Portsmouth, an online vintage furniture store based in Portsmouth, and he’s going to tell you how he runs an eco-friendly business.

When I started Vintage Lounge Portsmouth in 2010, I didn’t think too much about making it eco-friendly. After all, how much impact could a small business really have on the environment?

I’ve since changed my mind because I’ve learnt more about the importance of reducing my individual environmental impact and I want to help create a healthier world for my kids to grow up in. This meant recycling more at home and buying cloth nappies, but it also meant making some changes to my business. This is how I run an eco-friendly business.

Premises

eco premises

Go online: My business is online only. This is partly for commercial reasons, but it’s eco-friendly too. Mainly because I can work from home, so I don’t use any extra electricity for the business and I don’t have to travel to a shop. This won’t work for everyone, but it’s great if you can.

Switch to an eco-friendly energy company: Even though I’m already saving energy by working from home, I get my energy from Ecotricity as they only use solar and wind power to make electricity and frack-free gas! [Emma: You can switch to Ecotricity here and they’ll make a donation to the Portsmouth Green Party.]

Use eco-hacks to save energy/water: Low-flow taps and energy-saving light bulbs can be installed in practically any business to save money and cut your environmental impact. Luckily, my wife installed them in our house when we moved in.

Use low energy appliances: I don’t use many electrical items to run my furniture business (laptop, printer, camera, some power tools), but all of them have high environmental ratings, which means they use less energy.

Print smarter: I try not to print most things, so I’ll keep all of my records on the computer and send receipts digitally, but sometimes it’s unavoidable. If I have to print, I’ll use these hacks to reduce my environmental impact:

  •         Use vegetable inks
  •         Use recycled paper (or scrap paper if it’s a delivery label and only one side needs to be seen)
  •         Print double-sided
  •         Recycle the ink cartridges through a charity [Emma: Portsmouth Green Party can raise money through recycled ink cartridges.]

 

Goods

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bkm_B9VHt5g/

 

 

Sell preloved items: This might not be for everyone, but I buy second-hand items and give them a new lease of life – often all they need is a little elbow grease and some eco-friendly cleaning products. I mainly buy at car boot sales or from charity shops, which keeps money in the local community and prevents items from going to landfill. Some items, I’ve even rescued from places where they’ve been dumped.

 

Post and packing

eco packaging

Don’t use packaging: If I’m delivering items to people within Portsmouth or if the buyer is picking an item up, I won’t box them up. This reduces the amount of packaging I use and lets customers inspect the item (if they want) while I’m there.

Reuse packaging: I try not to buy new packaging in order to post my furniture and wherever possible I reuse boxes/bubble wrap/other packaging from friends/family members or from Freecycle. This means that all my packaging gets at least one more use before it goes to landfill/recycling!

Buy eco-friendly packaging: One of my biggest problems is that I can’t source enough bubble wrap second-hand to meet my needs, so I do have to buy it occasionally. However, I make sure to use biodegradable bubble wrap that completely disappears within two years, which is much better than other alternatives. But, if any readers have some bubble wrap, I can take it off their hands!

Combine pickups/deliveries with existing journeys: I’d love to tell you that I never use my car to make deliveries or pick up furniture, but I can’t carry a sideboard on a bus… unfortunately. I always try to combine my business transport with other things, like dropping my sons at nursery.

 

It’s often easier than you think to make your small business greener and its more than worth it to create a better world, especially for your kids.

Thanks to Rich for that brilliant article about how to eco-hack your small business. If you’d like to see more from Vintage Lounge Portsmouth, check out their Instagram, Facebook, and eBay pages.

 

If you’d like to write for Shades of Green, please see this page. If you have any more eco-hacks for running a small business, please leave them in the comments below.

 

How to Eco-Hack your Wedding

Couple in wedding outfits

 

Your dress may be white, you might have borrowed something blue, but here’s how you can make your wedding greener.

NOTE: This article, written by Emma, was originally published on Blue and Green Tomorrow and has been reprinted with permission.

Big events, like weddings, always have the potential to be unkind to the environment. As such, many eco-friendly people (myself included) can’t help but feel a little nervous about planning such an occasion.

There are so many decisions to make, and it can be more stressful when you’re also worried about how those decisions will affect the world around you.

Luckily, this eco-friendly guide will help you plan a wedding that your inner (or outer) hippie will be proud of.

Vendors

In any wedding, vendors will be in control of the majority of decisions that could negatively impact the environment (such as using disposable cutlery/crockery at your reception or blasting the heat/aircon in every room, as opposed to just the ones you are using).

This means that it’s a good idea to look for vendors that share your values. A quick look using your internet search engine of choice should bring up a wealth of results for “eco + florist/caterer/venue + your town”.

If it doesn’t, then turn to Plan B. Create a small list of vendors that you’d like to pick and contact them individually to explain that although you’d like to hire them, they’d need to agree to certain eco requirements on your big day. After all, there’s one type of green that all businesses care about — and they’ll work hard to earn it from you.

In that case, what sort of requirements should you consider? Well, it’s naturally all up to you, but here are some things that eco-friendly people want from the vendors at their wedding.

Venue

venue - Eco Hack Wedding
While many eco-friendly people would enjoy having their wedding outside to cut down on energy usage, there can be various local laws or adverse weather conditions that make this impractical.

As such, for this article, we will focus on what should you look for in a venue for an indoors wedding.

Recycling Bins

Your guests will need somewhere to dispose of empty drinks bottles and cans during the reception and most guests will find something in their bag or their pockets (invites, receipts) that needs recycling.

Low-energy bulbs

While your venue is unlikely to replace every light bulb with the earth kind alternative, they may be convinced to change out the bulbs in the ceremony and reception rooms for you. After that, they might even choose to keep them installed.

Alternative heating/cooling methods

Rather than switching on the AC/ electric heaters at the first sign of a change in temperature, have your venue open the windows, set up a log fire, or provide blankets to keep your guest comfortable.

Caterers

Wedding Cake - Eco Hack Wedding

Animal Products

Depending on your own version of being green, you might be okay with giving your guests the choice of eating hand-reared meat, line-caught fish, or small-farm dairy. However, you should ask the caterers where their animal products came from so that you can ensure any animal products were sourced through humane and sustainable methods.

Locally-sourced, organic ingredients

One of the biggest environmental challenges when it comes to food is how it is grown/reared, and how far it travels to get to your plate. In order to make your food greener, have your caterers use only produce from a local farm that uses organic growing practices.

Pro Tip: If you’re having your cake created by a separate baker, ask for them to use only local and organic ingredients.

No disposable cutlery/crockery/napkins

If you’re having a sit-down formal dinner, it’s unlikely that the caterer will serve it on paper plates with plastic forks and red cups for your champagne toast. If you’re having a less formal dinner, say from a food truck, then the caterer might just serve the dinner on the dreaded Styrofoam products.

If china plates would be a problem, or the caterer is a small vendor that doesn’t use real plates, consider buying reusable plastic picnic sets for everyone to use. They can always be used by the guests for future picnics, or donated to a good cause after the wedding.

Florist

Woman in Wedding Dress holding flowers - eco hack wedding

Dried Bouquets

The beauty of dried flowers is that they do not have to be discarded after the wedding and can be used in home décor or placed in your wedding memory box.

Limited Floral arrangements

Cut flowers are never going to be good news for the planet, so if you’re going for fresh over dried, you’ll likely want to limit the amount you have to just the bridal bouquet.

Potted Plants

You might consider having potted plants make up the floral decorations in the ceremony/reception.

Pro tip: The plants will also make nice gifts for the wedding party.

Choose naturally-grown, locally-sourced plants

As with your food, you’ll want to make sure that your plants are locally-grown without pesticides. As a result, you may have to compromise on the type of flowers you select depending on what’s in season and native to your area.

Couple’s Choice

So we’ve discussed what you should consider from your main wedding vendors but what can you- the happy couple- do as individuals? Well luckily, there are still many ways for you to eco-hack your wedding on your own.

Outfits

women in wedding dresses - eco hack wedding

No animal by-products

When choosing your wedding outfit, you probably want to avoid items that contain animal by-products (i.e. leather shoes, fur stoles, silk gloves), but you may also wish to avoid items that have been dyed or treated with casein (a protein found in milk and used to make some plastic buttons) or lanolin (a wax produced by wool-bearing animals).

Secondhand

Many thrift stores and vintage shops have wedding dresses/suits that have been donated/sold after only over being worn once, and that is a waste of resources. The prices will be reasonable and you might even find a gem from a long-gone era.

Alternatively, take a look through the family closet to find the items that a beloved relative wore at their own wedding, from grandma’s dress to your brother’s cufflinks. After all, as the old saying goes, you will need “something borrowed” for your wedding.

Buy a reusable outfit

If you want to buy new, consider something that you will wear again and again as the years go by. You can always have your outfit altered slightly to be worn as a cocktail dress or a business suit.

All of these tips can, of course, be applied to the whole of the wedding party- not just those getting married.

Invites

wedding invites - eco hack wedding

Evites

If you think paper invites are a waste of a tree, send e-vites instead. Not only is it a lot more eco-friendly, but you’ll save a ton of money on stamps.

Recycled Paper Invites

If you do want to send paper invites, use recycled paper in order to lower your environmental impact.

Postcards

Alternatively, send postcards without an envelope to cut down on paper. Perfect for a kitsch wedding.

Gifts

wedding presents - eco hack wedding

Set up a wish list

If you and your partner have been living together for a while, you likely have everything that is traditionally bought as a wedding present (i.e. dinner sets, bedding). To avoid receiving duplicate gifts, set up a wish list. That way you can ensure that you get something that you really want, and prevent wastefulness.

Charity donations

Ask for donations to your favourite eco-charity, like Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, or Earthjustice, (or even the Green Party) as opposed to gifts.

 

Hopefully, this guide has shown you that it’s relatively easy to eco hack your wedding. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section!

 

How I Eco-Hack My Kitchen – A Green Goddess Series

In my household eating is a much-beloved activity and cleaning is most definitely  not. In this series on eco-kitchen hacks, I (Tamara) will be focusing on my attempts at green kitchen living. I will share with you my tried and tested tips – from how to eat sustainably, to where I buy food for me and my husband, to food storage and food waste, and of course the ever-dreaded cleaning.

In this post, I will be focusing on five easy and sustainable changes I have made. So, as they sing in Oliver, let’s get started with Food, Glorious Food, magical Food, Wonderful Food!

Man eating strawberries and cream

  1. Buy Sustainable & Certified Foods

fair trade Madagascan cacao bag

My requirement of food is simple –  I want the food I eat to cause me transcendental bliss, to tickle my tastebuds into spasms of delight, to satisfy my stomach and my mind. Surely that’s not asking for much?

What I do not want to taste is worry and guilt in every bite about the unfair treatment of producers and farmers, horrific animal welfare, industrial-scale deforestation, overfishing, air miles, and pollution, and the overall negative ecological impact – ain’t nobody got time for that!

This is why, wherever possible, I buy certified and sustainable food that can relieve both my conscience and my hunger. Whatever your food preferences, whether you are a meat-lover, meat reducer, pescetarian, vegetarian, vegan or fruitarian (not an exhaustive list!) – my first nugget of green wisdom is to be on the lookout for food produced to certified and traceable standards, ideally that goes above and beyond the legal minimum.

Logos and marks I look out for include Fairtrade, the green frog of Rainforest Alliance, the bluefish of MSC (Marine Stewardship Council), RSPCA Assured, Free Range and Soil Association Organic.

Yes, some certified foods can be more expensive as there are higher welfare and environmental standards involved with the farmers and producers are being paid a fair living wage. Yes, I have to make choices and yes, compromises also have to be made. This is why I have my ‘non-negotiables’ and my  ‘if-money-allows’.

My non-negotiables include free range eggs, Fairtrade or Rainforest Alliance bananas and coffee, MSC fish and seafood, and free-range or RSPCA-assured meats.

If money allows, I have organic eggs, vegetables, meat and cheese, and Fairtrade flowers and wine for when I am feeling fancy.

And finally, I always buy local if that option is available to me – this Christmas I had family visiting from Trinidad and so as it was a special occasion, I splashed out on a local free-range goose for them from the family-run Ashford Farm near Petersfield. I won’t lie, it was expensive but (I am assured) delicious and so worth it!  I also regularly buy fresh produce from my local Milton Market greengrocers Portsmouth Fruit and Flowers who stock veg and flowers from Titchfield. My Titchfield-grown daffodils from them are nodding happily to me as I type!

Basket of Daffodils

So whether it is choosing Fairtrade bananas in your a weekly food shop, or making the choice to buy RSPCA ham from Lidl or MSC certified fish fingers from Tesco’s or buying locally grown sprouts and daffodils from Portsmouth Fruit and Flowers greengrocers; each ethical, sustainable and local choice you make means an unsustainable food item is being left on the shelf. And that my friends, is the power of consumer choice. Boom!

For more information on the various certifications I mentioned and many that I didn’t, I found this list on the Love British Food website useful.

 

  1. Make Your Own Bread

Bread Rolls

Keeping on the topic of food, mine is a bread-loving household as the Dutchman (my husband) would eat bread for every meal if he could. Bread with cheese, bread with peanut butter, bread with chocolate spread – I think I’m married to a man-child!

Last February 2017, he was gifted a bread machine from a kind friend and it has seriously changed our lives! He makes a bread every 2 days and as we no longer buy shop-bread, we no longer have to deal with the plastic bags they come in, thus reducing our plastic waste. I salute those who make bread by hand – we tried it a few times and failed miserably. I’m happy with the convenience of the bread machine, for us it’s revolutionary!

 

  1. Use cloth napkins

cloth napkin with flowers and cutlery

Another small change that has helped reduce the amount of waste we produce is using cloth napkins instead of paper kitchen roll.

I am a mucky pup and spillages are a common occurrence. Cloth napkins are reusable, can be chucked in with my laundry, and it looks fancy shmancy!

I sourced mine from charity shops and my Mum who had more cloth napkins than one person could ever need. I have greatly reduced my (FSC and recycled) paper towel usage as I just use tea towels or cloth napkins instead.

 

  1. (Re) Fill Your Own

refill spice jars

As a prolific user of herbs and spices (smoked paprika makes everything taste yum!), I was delighted to find I can refill my spice jars at Wild Thyme Wholefoods who offer an amazing self-service for herbs and spices as well as a refill service for laundry and washing up liquid.

I recently refilled my Ecover laundry and washing liquid at Southsea Health Shop and it was cheaper than Tescos! Trust me, I checked! This does require a tiny bit more planning, and I am aiming to have one bottle in use and one pre-filled under the sink so I don’t run out and have to do a supermarket dash.

 

  1. Composting

compost heap

I have been lucky that the majority of places I’ve lived in here in Pompey had outdoor space for a compost bin. I compost all uncooked fruit and veg peelings and for years had been also innocently including tea bags made from polypropyleneNow if I am unsure if the material of the tea bag is made from plastic, I just add the tea leaves to the compost and discard the bag. I am currently working my way through a back-supply of tea bags and will be moving onto loose tea to save myself those 5 seconds of extra work.

Other than that, I just throw in my veg scraps every few days with some newspaper and let the compost do its magic. I might aerate it once a year if it’s lucky, but the rest is up to the worms! So far, so good! Though eggshells and coffee grounds can also be added to the compost, I add these to my garden as snail and slug deterrents. Those little bastards eat everything except the bloody weeds!

For those of us in flats or with no outdoor space, you could experiment a wormery or bokashi bin. Years ago,  I used to have a bokashi bin, but was too lazy to look after it properly and so it went horribly wrong. I’ve been thinking I might give it another go as you can add almost all food waste in a bokashi bin including cooked food. I need to research it first as it needs to be convenient for my lazy ass!

Alternatively- or as well as- find a friend or neighbour with a compost bin who you can donate your organic waste to! Try signing up with ShareWaste, a free app that links together people with organic scraps with people who have compost bins, wormeries, or chickens. So far, there are only a few of us in the Pompey area on there, but the word is getting out there, so sign up! Coincidentally, the first request I received was from someone who has the fermented organic waste from her bokashi bin to donate to my compost.

In this post , have just scratched the surface on the many small changes that I have made to green-ify my kitchen. What green kitchen tips do you have? Do you compost and if so,  do you just chuck it all in and hope for the best like me? Have you signed up to ShareWaste or know of any other similar useful apps? Let us know in the comments below.