Tag: eco (page 1 of 2)

How to eco-hack your letterbox

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.

black door with letterbox

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

man of colour looking at smartphone

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

pile of boxes
Someone clearly took old boxes from Starbucks to send these parcels

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

Envelopes
Remember that Portsmouth Green Party can recycle the stamps

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

cat on boxes
Guest starring: Tamara’s cat

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.

If you can’t use it, give it away to someone who can via Packshare or on Freecycle/Freegle/Trash Nothing.         

Recycle and Compost what you can

wheelie bins

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)
  • Junk mail
  • Newspapers *
  • Magazines
  • Directories

(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…

Post box with the text: Go send someone a love letter

Written by Emma, a Queer Freelance Writer

How to eco hack your home office

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.

Hopefully, some of these tips will inspire you to cut your carbon footprint, whether you work at home or not.

Cutting electricity

As a 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.

(Before you 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

The towel I failed to crop out is where my cat sleeps while I work

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

laptop on desk under window

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 usage

cat in  blanket
An accurate representation of me today

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.

Restricting emails

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.

Cutting waste

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:

envelope of scrap paper
The envelope was also used as a to-do list and to note down everyone I had to tell about my broken phone
  • 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
  • Recycling pens with Milton Cross School
  • 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)

Going green

two cacti
My plant babies

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.


Written by Emma, a Queer Freelance Writer

It’s not (always) expensive being green

Dear Reader, 

You may not know this about me, but I (Emma) am really really cheap. Cheaper than I, as a middle-class person with a fair amount of savings and a fairly steady income, have any right to be. 

So cheap that on the last holiday I took with a friend we would have had to have paid £4 to sit together on the flight and I rejected this completely. She didn’t even push the matter because she knew I’d bitch about it being a waste of money.

I suppose, if you’ll allow me this brief moment in a therapist’s chair, it stems back to my childhood, when my family didn’t have a lot of money and debt was the elephant in every room of our house. 

Photo of change

Sometimes this cheapness conflicts with my environmental beliefs.

For example, I have to buy some tampons because, while an advocate of reusable period care,  I will be on holiday and going swimming during one of my periods this year. (I have still not mastered the menstrual cup.)

The organic cotton tampons that I know I need to buy cost £4 for a pack of 20. By comparison, the supermarket own-brand terrible-for-the-environment plastic-filled tampons cost about 99p for 16.

And I’m outraged by this despite having to buy 1 or 2 packs of these a year. (Can you imagine if I was using tampons all the time or if I had any kind of medical issue with my period that made it heavier or more frequent?) 

What I’m saying is that I do understand why people would choose the cheaper option over the more environmental one in most cases. Particularly in such a dire economic time when the government prefers to make sure the rich stay rich and the poor stay poor. (I wrote this on my phone when it was still working, and it autocorrected my sentence to read ‘the poor stay put’ and tbh, I think that might be how the government feels too.) 

However, this article is not intended to be a depressing read on how caring for the earth can ruin your bank balance. Instead, I want to focus on how it can actually save you money. 

In a way, the money you save can pay for more expensive tampons and other eco things. But even if you only choose to do the green things that will save you money, it’s still a way to cut your impact on the planet. 

Planet earth taken from space

Switch to reusables

While plastic is the biggest problem, single-use anything isn’t great because of the energy used to create it. Plus, a one-off purchase that might be a little more expensive is still cheaper than multiple disposables. 

To start with, why not try a reusable water bottle, shopping bag small enough to fit in your handbag/backpack, a lunchbox, and a handkerchief?

More advanced reusable lovers can try period care, nappies, wax wraps, and toilet cloth.

Use what you have

Overconsumption is a big problem because it involves extra materials and energy to create a product, energy to ship and store it, and finally energy to get it from the store to your house. 

Where I can, I use what I have rather than buying anything. For example, for handkerchiefs I use the old napkins that belonged to a table cloth that had been thrown away. (Someone knocked cherryade over it when they small and the stain never came out.)

Use pre-loved

I fucking love buying second hand. Most of my clothes (and books) are from charity shops and at least three pairs of shoes came from my parents. 

By choosing pre-loved items, you are taking something already in the waste stream and giving it a second life.

I also love sites like Freegle, Freecycle, and Trash Nothing to get pick up cool things for free. 

You can also get rid of items on there, that you might otherwise have to take to the tip or pay for the council to collect. (Think about broken furniture, which some could repair or use for firewood.)

Repair

My main repairs are small sewing things for clothes, holes in leggings, underwire springing free from bras, and rips in the seams of jumpsuits. I can (sort of) do these myself. Or with supervision from a more seasoned sewer.

For anything more complicated, like my currently glitching phone, I defer to the repair cafe, which is donation-based. (Excuse me, while I cry over my phone.)

Public transport

I never learnt to drive and it was primarily because I didn’t have the money or the time. (Now, I have the money, it’s mostly an eco thing.)

What with all the costs associated with driving, from lessons to car purchase to tax to insurance, it’s so much cheaper for me to take the bus, coach, or train. (Or even walk on a dry day.)

As an added eco benefit, you can use e-tickets for the bus and coach to save paper. (I don’t know if you can with the train.) The First Bus app also saves you money on day passes (often less than a return), singles, and passes (week, month, year).

Okay, that’s about it from me. Do you have any other ways to save pennies and the planet? Let me know in the comments below.

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.

How to eco hack your Walt Disney World vacation

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

Getting there

Plane flying

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

Packing List

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

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

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

Transport

The monorail driving

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

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

Hotel

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

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

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

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

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

Food

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shopping

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

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

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

Green Cat Paws

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

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

Cat and human high five

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

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

CAT HITS

cat food

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

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

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

¾  Cat Paws

cat figurine on toilet

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

¾  cat paws

cat staring through catflap

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

4/4 cat paws

cardboard box

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

4/4 cat paws

cat sitting on chair

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

4/4 cat paws

drawing of girl and her cat

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

5/4 cat paws

Cat Bombs

pill packets

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

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

2/4 cat paws

 

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

Tamara’s Trio of Food Smugness

This week’s post is a celebration of food and community. First pat on the back in my trio of food smugness goes to Foodcycle Portsmouth and my friend Alexa, a fellow Green Party member, who organised a Portsmouth Green Party meal ‘takeover’ of Foodcycle which I participated in recently.

Portsmouth Foodcycle

 

Foodcycle is a fantastic food waste charity that creates free meals for the community from donated food waste. Foodcycle  Portsmouth provides the local Pompey community with tasty, free vegetarian meals made from surplus food that would otherwise go to waste. They do this twice a week: on Tuesdays at the John Pounds Centre and Thursdays at King’s Church on Somers Road.

 

It was a blast! A group of us Greenies were welcomed with open arms by the regular volunteers and guided by a calm and knowledgeable Team Leader, we cooked a three-course meal of veggie soup for starters, pasta bake with potato wedges, garlic mushrooms and wilted spring greens for mains and fruit salad for dessert. The entire meal – the cooking, prepping, serving and cleaning up – took about four and a half hours and was attended by about 45-50 guests. The evening was both wonderful and exhausting. I took the mountain of veggie scraps for my compost and left on a complete high and with the vow to volunteer there once a month.

 

Trash Cafe Food Hamper

Credit: The Real Junk Food Project South East (Facebook)

 

The Real Junk Food Project South Coast run a number of pop-up ‘trash’ cafes in Gosport and Portsmouth dedicated to collecting and repurposing food waste.  They are part of a global network aiming to abolish surplus food through a variety of Pay As You Feel concepts. I bought my first veggie food hamper from their Portsmouth pop-up cafe, which can be found at  Buckland Community Centre on Wednesday afternoons, for a £10 Hamper fee paid in advance when I ordered online and a Pay What You Feel on collection.

There was so much food – a great mix of fruit, veg, proteins such as tofu and also snacks. It was so fun to receive as it contained foods and brands I haven’t tried before. There was some fancy fake-chicken that I would not have bought in the supermarket as it is rather pricey! All that perfectly good food would have been destined for the bin but instead was destined for my belly! Double win! They also offer gluten and dairy-free hampers and can deliver for an extra fiver. As you know, I’m not a big fan of leaving the house, especially now winter is coming, so I will definitely be using their delivery service!

Being Neighbourly

 

At the Dutchman’s (my hubby) work, his office has a plastics-free fruit box delivered each week. I hadn’t realised that if the fruit isn’t all eaten or taken home by a colleague, it goes in the bin. Sacrilege! About 40 apples and pears were destined for the bin. Not on my watch!  I offered the fruit on the  Zero Waste Portsmouth discussion group on Facebook, with Foodcycle Portsmouth and the Olio app as my backup.

In less than an hour, the apples and pears were collected by a Zero Waster who turned out to be a neighbour who lives on the same street as me! We’d never met before and both happened to be members of Zero Waste Portsmouth. And as a kindness, the next day she gave me a bag of parsnips that she’d won in a hamper and did not want. It gave me the warm fuzzies and I am loving the green community in Portsmouth!

 

And what about you, dear Reader? Have you had any experiences with FoodCycle or the Trash Cafe Network? Or any tips and tricks on reducing food waste? Leave your thoughts in the Comments section below. We really do LOVE hearing from readers. It gives me such a buzz! Byeeeeeee buzzzzzzzzz 🙂

How to make your dog more eco-friendly

Did you know that your dog is ruining the planet? It’s true, sneak up on your dog at any given moment and you’ll find them throwing plastic bottles into the bin or forgetting to turn off the lights when they leave the house… Okay, that’s not quite true. But our four-legged children do contribute to the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere thanks to the meat raised to feed them and the “presents” they leave.

According to a study by UCLA, dogs (and tbf cats) are responsible for 30% of the environmental impact of meat eating in the US, which has the environmental impact of an extra  13.6 million cars on the road, and produce 5.1 million tons of faeces annually, which produces methane and increases the amount of rubbish that we produce. And the bigger the animal, the bigger the problem.

puppy in plant pot

But look how cute!

So, should you give up your beloved puppy? No. That would also have a less-than-green impact on the environment. Instead, you should find ways to lessen your dog’s carbon paw print and I (Emma) am going to outline some steps for you below.

Disclaimer: The links in this piece are not affiliate links, but things that have been tried and tested by my friends/family with dogs. As always, feel free to do your own research on top of this article to find out what is best for your furry friend.

Food

piece of meat

While dogs love their meat, some dogs can actually live on a vegan diet. Just ask your vet for advice before you make any massive changes to your dog’s diet.

If your dog can’t go vegan, then you can still reduce their meat intake by putting more (home-grown) vegetables onto their plate. My aunt’s dog goes crazy for a carrot, eating them whole and raw. You can also opt for organic dog food, which will be made from animals/plants that were raised/grown without added chemicals.

You can also do your bit to reduce packaging waste for their food by:

  • Cooking their meat yourself
  • Seeking out recyclable packaging (and rinsing it before popping it in your green bin)

Accessories

dog playing with ball

All good dog parents like to spoil their babies, so my first advice is to think about what you have before buying more. Does Fido really need a third ball to play catch with?

If you are buying something that your dog does need, look for a retailer that has long-lasting, good quality products that can stand up to your puppy’s standards. After all, there’s no point in buying a lead that will break the first time your dog pulls on it or a toy that will fall apart after mere days. Always remember to compare the products and read reviews to find out which is the best for your pup.

And finally, when your dog doesn’t need an item anymore, be sure not to bin it. Instead, donate the toy/cage/raincoat to your local animal shelter, where they can either sell the item or use it to help their dogs.

Waste

A dog pooping

Who took this photo? Why is it on a stock image site? So many questions.

Pick up your dog waste! I had some friends in school, who I assume have since learnt the error of their ways, who wouldn’t pick up their dog’s waste and when I questioned them about it, they told me that the waste would naturally decompose/wash away. Turns out that your dog carries toxoplasmosis, which is harmful to people with compromised immune systems, and when you don’t pick their waste up, it can pollute waterways, coastal areas, and even the parks where children play.

If you are concerned about the environmental impact of put dog waste into a plastic bag and then into a bin, then you could:

  • use biodegradable bags
  • use flushable bags and put the waste down the loo
  • use a pooper scooper
  • reuse bags that would have gone in the bin anyway, like the bag that your frozen chips came in

Some top tips

dog on lead

When I polled my friends and family for their top tips on raising an eco-dog, some didn’t fit neatly into the sections above, so I created a new section for them.

  • “Upcycle products for your dog. You can easily make an old t-shirt into a rope toy.” – Andy
  • “Buy a dog brush that you can easily remove the fur from and use the fur to line birds’ nests or for your compost.” AND “Don’t choose plastic when buying their toys/bowls/etc. Use metal or glass or china” – Yasmin
  • “Incorporate your existing eco-hacks into your pet’s life, i.e. not using single-use bags to buy their food/toys.” – Meg
  • “You can buy/make eco-friendly flea and tick treatments.” – Sarah
  • “Ditch the gym and use the twice-daily walks as your exercise.” – Debby
  • “Buy microfibre cloths to clean up after or dry your dog.” – Steve
  • “Adopt, don’t buy.” – Hayley

Well, that’s it from me (and my friends) about raising an eco dog, but now we want to hear for you. What tips do you have for raising a green dog? Let us know in the comments.

Reducing Food Waste: Eggs

A couple of months ago, my mum bought a couple of dozen eggs meaning to make cakes for her clients, but then caught a virus before she could do any baking. Soon, the virus was passed onto every member of the household, myself (Emma) included.

The smart thing to do at this point would have been to give the eggs away on an app designed to prevent food waste (i.e. Olio) or to a friend or family member, or frozen the eggs which apparently you can do if you separate the whites and the yolks. I could even have fed some eggs to my cat. But alas, you never know how long a virus will last. By the time anyone had recovered, it was well past the Best Before date on the carton.

A safety warning about eggs

Unlike most foods, eggs can be very dangerous if you eat them when they’re out of date and you should use your best judgement about consuming them yourself or allowing immunocompromised people to eat them. But, as with most foods, the Best Before date is only a guide. This means that you can often use them a little bit after the date and suffer no ill-effects, but my mum didn’t want to use them in her cakes in case it did make anyone ill – can you say lawsuit?

So our choices were to pretty much eat the eggs asap! As Oscar Wilde once said: “Eating an egg is always an adventure!”

via GIPHY

The trouble is that my dad doesn’t eat eggs – although he does like to complain about food waste – and my mother is out at least three nights every week. So here I am, eating roughly 45 ‘expired’ eggs on my own in a month. When I told Tamara this, she literally made a retching sound and said: “eww, eww, eww please shut up”.

At this point, I was more egg than person. I made a big batch of peanut butter cookies and ate some sort of egg dish every other day. It all came to a head about three weeks in, when I burnt two eggs and the yolks went mouldy in the frying pan – yes it happens! Before you ask, I did crack the eggs into a cup first and saw no problems.

I threw these out because… of course, I did. But there were still 5 eggs left in the box.

 

My mum suggested throwing those out, but I resisted, determined to find some way of using eggs without eating them. So, I turned to the internet. Some people joked that you could use rotten eggs to egg someone’s house – I hope that was a joke. Others were more helpful.

 

You can use apparently use a gone-off egg to help your tomatoes or eggplants grow – the shell will deter insects and provide calcium to the soil, while the egg will provide the nitrates needed for growth.

Egg whites can also be used as a proto glue, for craft projects. Another use is to provide a shiny coating for smaller ornaments.

For those of you who own leather products, you may also be interested to know that you can clean using egg whites. And for those of you with silver jewellery, you can use the yolks to oxidise your silver jewellery. I won’t bore you with the details, it’s a chemical reaction involving sulphur and… Hey, don’t click away, I’ll stop. If you do want to know more, just click here.

 

You can also use also use them as a strengthening and conditioning treatment for your hair because of the protein in eggs. Add a couple of drops of essential oils if you’re worried about the smell. Another beauty hack is using egg whites as an anti-ageing cleanser, which should also reduce puffiness, and egg yolks as a rinse-off moisturiser. Although, I should tell you that the idea of putting gone-off eggs on my face irked me out too much to try.

 

I hope this has helped those of you who find yourselves throwing away eggs to reduce your food waste. Let me know if you have any other tips for reducing food waste in the comments.

The Green Hairy Feminist

For the past two summers, I (Tamara) have been experimenting with plastic-free deodorant and today’s post is about the highs and lows of that experience.

 

Simultaneously, I have been challenging my previously unquestioning acceptance of societal female beauty expectations by no longer shaving my armpits and legs. As I have mentioned in previous posts, I am lazy-as, and this is reflected in my makeup routine which is basically non-existent. A beauty guru I am not! I don’t wear perfume or nail polish and my hair is curly, wild and free. So it was not a leap for me to grow my pit-hair.  But even so, I was surprised at how self-conscious I felt as my armpit hair peeked out and waved in the wind.

women's march

Last summer, a month or so into being shave-free, one friend commented on my hairy hippy-dippy ways and I had to make a conscious effort to be blase about both her reaction and my choices. This summer, feeling much more comfortable with my underarms  I was disappointed with myself for feeling momentarily inhibited when at Victorious Festival with my stylish ex-housemate. Why? She was too busy having a good time to care about the state of my armpits. So why did I hesitate before putting my hands in the air and waving like I just don’t care? My hubby certainly had no qualms about his equally hairy armpits. Why do I care about internet trolls opinions on grooming? Why when standing next to a sleek and chic stranger do I feel less-than? Damn you society with your ridiculous double-standards and expectations! Removing body hair should be a choice, not an expectation. And with that, I move on to the point of today’s post – my deodorant/antiperspirant experiences!

*Disclaimer, as always, I will be discussing my experience of certain products. This is not sponsored or affiliated, it’s just my random experience.*

 

Green Deodorant

Since my teenage days in the 90s when the ozone was a hot topic, I have avoided smellies in aerosol packaging and also any with aluminium. For a while, I tried crystal deodorants but didn’t find them effective. Post-crystals, my brand of choice for many years was Bionsen roll-on as it was aluminium and paraben free, I liked the light scent and it kept me from being a sweaty betty. But….the plastic packaging. Sigh!

natural deodorant

After some thorough and very scientific research, I decided on Earth Conscious Natural Deodorant Mint. It ticks a lot of my boxes as it comes in a tin, is made in the UK, smells lovely with all the essential oil ingredients and most importantly, it dealt beautifully with my sweaty tendencies. I was in love. Problem solved? Nope.

Unfortunately, I developed a dark underarm rash. I tried alternating it with my previous Bionsen deodorant but no joy. The darkening under my arms together with my new hairy pits meant I was just too self-conscious. I gave it to my husband to try who loves it and has no issues with it at all once he got used to the direct application (it is applied with the fingertips directly to the armpits). It is very cost effective as a tin is about £6 and has lasted him forever. So while it didn’t work for me, I still thoroughly recommend it.

I continued my very thorough and scientific search. Deciding on convenience, I headed to Lush in Cascades and purchased T’eo, a deodorant bar. No more searching for the elusive earth-friendly deodorant – this was it! Packaging free, ethical company, smells good, and the shop is cycling distance. Nuh-uh, not this time Missy! I was so disappointed when once again the dark rash appeared, but now with itching!

 

Success!

I started to think maybe I should try making my deodorant and so I did some actual research. I noticed a common ingredient in both my the Lush and Earth Conscious deodorants and the online deodorant recipes – sodium bicarbonate. Perhaps this was the cause of my rash?

 

natural deodorant

 

Finding a deodorant that was both sodium bicarbonate and plastic packaging free was tricky but I did it. And boy, it was expensive. £12.50 for a 68g jar of Meow Meow Tweet Baking Soda Free Grapefruit Deodorant Cream. Gulp! But this time folks, no joking, this is the one. I’ve been using it for two and half months now and I am ecstatic to report no dreaded rash, no smelliness and no sweating – and this summer in Pompey was hot hot hot!  By George, I think I’ve got it! *does a happy dance*

 

I am off on my holidays and when this post is published, I shall be sunning myself in Turkey in all my hairy glory. Yeee haw!

 

hairy legs

 

What about your deodorant experiences. Have you made your own? Can you recommend a plastic-free brand? Tell us in the Comments section below.