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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.

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.

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.

 

365 days of Shades of Green- Part 2

Here at the Shades of Green headquarters, we are still in celebration mode as we pat ourselves on the back for one year of green-ish living! In our previous anniversary post, we focused on Emma as I (Tamara) asked her about her eco changes and choices.

Today Emma puts me in the hot seat as we continue our two-part series in which we discuss our Shades of Green journey.

 

Talk with Tamara

Hey Tamara, Happy Blogiversary to us! I’ll start off with a softball question. What’s the problem with me throwing compostable materials in the bin? (Also, I don’t actually do this. I’m asking for a friend.)

vegetable peelings

As this is my first question, I will refrain from speeding down Rant Road and instead will meander down Sensitive Street and say, there is no problem at all with you throwing compostable materials in the bin if there is absolutely no other option.

If you can compost, here’s why you should. First, let me set the scene…imagine The Lion King’s ‘The Circle of Life’ playing in the background. Why send organic, compostable matter to landfill or to be burnt when it could instead be composted down to produce the most boootiful natural fertilizer for the soil. From the earth, back into the earth – what could be better?

I am so lucky to have space in my garden to compost my organic waste. I haven’t always been in such a privileged position and I appreciate that not everyone in Pompey has outdoor space to compost. This is why I have signed up to ‘Share Waste’ and currently have four people, who do not have outdoor space at their homes, dropping off their veg peelings once a week to be composted in my home compost bin.

My biggest bugbear is that Portsmouth City Council don’t offer a food waste collection. This would mean that ALL food waste, including cooked food and leftover meat and bones, could be rotted down into compost. I compost as much as I can in my garden but I still throw away bits of cooked food as this cannot go into a home composter. Also, realistically – Pompey is full of flats and home composting is not an option for them! I did try a Bokashi Bin when I lived in a flat but you still have to dispose of the fermented waste.

Another bug-bear is how bio-plastics i.e. plant-based compostable or biodegradable plastic is marketed as a much more eco-friendly plastic version. It can be – if it is composted in an industrial composter. If it is thrown into the bin, it is not being composted! It is just going to landfill or the incinerator or finding its way into the sea. Sigh! The best one I have found locally is sold in Wild Thyme – their packaging for takeaway food is home compostable. That makes me happy. Ok, rant over! 

 

Eeek! Start composting now, everyone. Organic material doesn’t rot properly in landfill.  Okay, let’s move onto your green journey. What do you feel you’ve learnt about eco issues over the past year?

I have learnt that reducing my waste and what I buy needs to come before recycling. I aim to recycle as much as possible but when China banned imports of our trash that we send to be recycled, I realised I had to reduce my waste first and recycle second. This is a difficult mindset change for me and I have been helped with this by joining the local Zero Waste community. For example, I now try to buy my fruits and veg in no packaging, use soap and shampoo bars and refill my laundry and washing up liquid bottles at Wild Thyme and Southsea Health Shop on Albert Road. I’ve also joined a Bulk Food Buying group. 

 

 

That’s incredible – I’m sure many of our readers would join you with that! So, I think I already know the answer now, but lay it out for me: why should we cut down on plastic consumption if we can recycle it (I.e. plastic bottles)?

In one word, China! Recycling is a good option, where facilities exist. But what happens when we can’t recycle it – it goes to landfill or is incinerated. Therefore, reducing at source is the better option. Plastic production is resource intensive and plastic does not biodegrade, it just breaks down into microplastics and pollutes our oceans and seas. Think of the turtles!

 

I do love turtles. Okay, you’ve convinced me; not more bottled water! Let’s move on to something positive. What eco changes would you like to see PCC adopt on the next year?

Well, I have already ranted about the lack of food waste recycling! So that would be amazing. A few recycling banks for tetrapaks and food/drink cartons across the city would make a huge difference as well. I don’t expect miracles – but a trial such as the one in Southampton shouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility. And my third change would be more split bins on the street which would have a recycling section. And in case anyone from PCC is reading this, I’d also like a million pounds…. 😉

 

I hope you’re planning to share that million pounds – some of us have un-eco holidays to pay for, lol. Okay, final question, what eco changes would you like to adopt in the next year?

I am a person who has lots of intentions, tries to do it all, gets overwhelmed and then hides from the world in shame. So, keeping it manageable is key for me!  

I was tempted to say I will give up flying but with friends and family living abroad and my love for swimming in a warm sea, that would not be honest of me. But for my Europe trips, I am aiming to only fly one way and to get the train/ferry one way.

I have a weakness for crisps (cheese and onion mixed with prawn cocktail is mah jam!) but the packaging is not recyclable. So making my own crisp substitutes is a priority for me, as well as meal planning and cooking more as my local chip shop knows my order before I open my mouth!

I would also like to buy more clothes from ethical companies. I really hate clothes shopping and never have any money – which means twice a year I grab a load of clothes from Sainsbury’s and call that George!

I also have a few recycling options to explore such as Terracycle and stretchy plastics in the Carrier Bag recycling banks – this has been on my list for a while and I need to get round to it! That’s why I love doing this blog with you, it keeps me accountable.

 

As always, we love to hear from our readers. What are your top Pompey recommendations? What eco changes have you made in your life? What are your guilty pleasures? Tell us in the Comments Section Below.

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