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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.

The Battle to Bleed Green

reusable menstrual Cup vs washable period pants and pads

Tamara vs Emma

tamara: The Menstrual Cup

My menstruation journey started when I (Tamara) was eleven years old and continues to this day. It has included bleeding through my trousers when travelling solo aged 16 on a flight to Trinidad, tying a sweater around my waist and hoping that no one would notice, to being put on the contraceptive pill to try to calm my cystic acne, to always being surprised by my period every month and never understanding the myriad of tampon and pad options available to me. Too much choice = overwhelm!

Organic disposables

In my mid-20s, as I became aware of the environmental footprint of my period, I started to experiment with ‘alternative’ options. For a while, I used Natracare’s tampons and pads which are made from organic cotton and FSC and PEFC certified sustainable wood pulp. But I was the Goldilocks of periods -I was still generating waste every month and it just wasn’t right. I would often forget to stockpile when I saw them and so would often end up with a high street brand purchase.

Image by PatriciaMoraleda from Pixabay

My First Menstrual CUP

In the late 2000s, on impulse, I bought a menstrual cup for dirt cheap when a friend’s eco store closed down on Marmion Road.  

A menstrual cup is a small silicone/ rubber cup that you insert like a tampon which catches and collects your menstrual blood. You empty the cup, rinse and reinsert and after each period clean it by boiling in water.

The cup I bought was very big and plastic-y and back then I was ever so squeamish about my body. Ah, past me had to unlearn so many anxieties caused by society. I used it off and on but just found it terribly uncomfortable, it slid down all the time and I was always hyper-aware of it when I was using it. It took me many years of alternating between disposable tampons and pads and this uncomfortable cup before I decided I’d had enough.

MY FAVOURITE CUP

Reader, I am a bloody idiot! (yes, pun intended). A few years ago, I finally did some research. I spent about 20 minutes internet searching ‘tilted cervix’ (which I was told I had at a cervical smear test) and ‘menstrual cup uncomfortable’ and soon realised the menstrual cup had evolved significantly since I bought my original cup many moons ago (yes, again pun intended!).

My period has been revolutionised by one small product: the Me Luna Shorty cup. For a vertically challenged person (ok fine, I’m short!), who has not birthed any babies and who has a tilted cervix, this very specific and highly affordable menstrual cup is perfect! I think it cost me about £15. It is comfortable, hygienic and waste-free and I have not looked back.

DISPOSAL

On writing this article, I realised I do not know how to dispose of it when it comes to the end of its life as it is made of Thermoplastic elastomers (TPE) which can be used as an alternative to latex, silicone, PVC, or rubber. A quick internet search suggests recycling menstrual cups may be tricky. However, I feel the reusable aspect of the cup makes it a sustainable option. I messaged Me Luna to inquire about this. They confirmed that TPE can be recycled and suggested some creative upcycling at the end of the cups life.

One advantage of the TPE is that you can actually recycle it very well. In contrast to silicone rubber, the TPE can be melted down again. This is also practiced industrially. But you should always consider that a menstrual cup consists of only 10 grams of material. So if you drive to a collection point by car, you would have produced so much CO2 that the environment does not benefit from it. If you have no way to recycle the cup, then it depends on which country you live in, which is the most reasonable disposal. Within the EU, a menstrual cup can be disposed of with household waste because there are modern waste incinerators here.

Me Luna Facebook Response (April 9 2019)

From my personal perspective, I hands-down recommend using a menstrual cup if you have a uterus that sheds its lining once a month. But don’t be like me, do a bit of research first to find the right fit for you. I can’t believe I was such a ninny.


So Emma, have I convinced you to give the menstrual cup a try? I did look at buying reusable pads but I am so lazy – extra washing just seems like a hassle. How have you found it?


Alternatives to plastic-wrapped, single-use menstrual products do exist!

emma: Reusable Menstrual Pads and Pants

Hey Tamara, I also got my period aged 11 and ever since then I (Emma) have pondered how best to end the damn process altogether because I could not cope with the pain, the staining of clothes, and the inconvenience of it all.

I once got my period on a 12-hour flight to South Africa at age 12 and hadn’t packed any pads in my carry on. At 13, asked my mum if I could have a hysterectomy because I was in so much pain, which resulted in a hasty trip to the doctors for prescription painkillers that I was on for six years around my period. I didn’t honestly think about the eco-aspect of my period until my early 20s because I was far too concerned about the searing pain that I had every month. (If any younger period-havers are now freaking out, it did get better with age, but go see a medical professional if you have any worries.)

At roughly 23, I bought a menstrual cup online that was recommended for uterus owners under 30 who hadn’t given birth vaginally. And I had a similar first experience to Tamara, where I was like “this is uncomfortable”, except I could never really get it inserted properly at all. It has sat unused in a drawer ever since.

Photo by 🐴chuanyu2015 from Pexels

pERIOD pANTS

At 25, a friend started using Thinx period pants, which work by absorbing the blood into a secret chamber in the pants through a process that they scientifically explain on their site, but I believe is some sort of magic. They claim to hold between 0.5 and two tampons’ worth of blood depending on the style that you go for.

I was sceptical because I often am. Doesn’t it leak? Doesn’t it smell? She assured me that they didn’t and I took a shot because I trusted her. I ordered two pairs (they have bundles available for better value). And I was amazed. It was a freeing experience not having to worry about the pad shifting or my tampon leaking and ruining the lower half of my outfit.

Now, I’m not going to lie to you. They can leak and/or smell if you wear them for too long. (The same as with regular pads.) You need to change them every four to eight hours depending on your flow. If you’re using them in conjunction with tampons/cups, then you can probably stretch this out to a day.

REUSABLE MENSTRUAL pADS

Just last month, at a package-free larder event in Southsea, I also bought some reusable menstrual pads from Ngozi Sews, that work in the same way as Thinx, except you can use them in any underwear. Now, I’m covered for every day of my period and I don’t have to buy disposables anymore.

Image by Brenda Geisse from Pixabay

wash-a-dub-dub, pants in the tub

“What about washing them?”, I can hear Tamara cry. Well, I’m glad you asked. It’s really simple.

  1. Soak them after using to rinse off the majority of the blood. I soak them in the “greywater” that we use to flush the toilet in our house. (I realise that is a weird as fuck statement, so here’s a blog post to explain.)
  2. Wash them at 40 degrees or lower without fabric conditioner (it affects the absorbency) and then air dry. You can put them safely in with the rest of your washing, but I toss mine in with a darks wash just to be safe.
Image by Hans Braxmeier from Pixabay

dISPOSAL

Now, how should they be disposed of? Well, I haven’t had to dispose of any of my items yet, but I believe that you should wash them and put them in with the “rags” bag for charity shops.


Readers corner

One of the (many) reasons we love our reusables is the money-saving aspect. Once purchased, they can last years, if not a lifetime. Periods cost money. For many, this cost can be debilitating and dehumanising. Following sterling work by period charities such as the Red Box Project, the Government has recently announced that free sanitary products will be made available to secondary schools and colleges.

But why stop there? Anna T, a lovely Shades of Green reader, emailed in with the fantastic idea for secondary schools to introduce students to reusable sanitary towels and nappies by incorporating the making of these items into Design + Technology and Textiles lessons.

The sanitary products would be something that young girls can take home, or donate to the period poverty cause. In the long term, hopefully, this will become mainstream and making disposable sanitary products the alternative.


The nappies could be donated to the food/baby bank which would really help low-income households as disposable nappies are very expensive and not good for our environment.


I really believe that some of the other benefits would include boosting skills for young people, understanding and tackling period poverty, help demystify periods for all genders, and positively contribute to our community.

Anna T. (Shades of Green reader)

Thank you, Anna, for writing in with your thoughts. Locally, earlier this year, Zero Waste Portsmouth and Nina of Ngozi Sews hosted a free make-your-own-reuseable-pad workshop. Get workshops like these into schools and empower and educate our young people. This is the future, people!

Two students in a gender neutral bathroom

A note: This article was written by two cis women and we would really like to invite any trans men or non-binary people who would feel comfortable discussing any green or eco period products that they use to get in touch for a future article. You can speak anonymously if you wish or we can link to your socials, business, etc, as we do work with all other contributors.

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 🙂

18 Green Resolutions for 2018

Every January, social media feeds are full of people pledging to run more often, learn a new language, or how to sculpt their eyebrows perfectly. I (Emma) can help you with none of those resolutions but if you want to learn how to be more green in 2018, then I have a few ideas of where to start.

Beauty

1. Bypass toiletries with microbeads: The UK Government has recently banned the use of microbeads (tiny plastics) in cosmetics/toiletries because they’re a big contributor to plastic pollution in our oceans. However, the ones that were already produced are still on the market. Don’t buy them! Need a good scrub? Look for products with salt or sand instead.

2. Save your bathwater: If you have a bathtub- even if you use the shower all the time- try leaving the bath plug in and save the water. You can use it to water the plants, clean your sports equipment, or even flush your toilet.

3. Turn off the tap: You’ve heard it before, but don’t leave the tap running while brushing your teeth, shaving your face, or removing your makeup.

FOOD AND DRINK

4. Meat-Free Mondays: If you’re not already vegetarian/vegan, consider cutting out the meat for just one day a week. Not only is it kinder to the animals but it’s also better for the environment because producing meat uses more energy and creates more greenhouse gases than a plant-based life.

5. Avoid clingfilm: Instead of keeping your food fresh with clingfilm, use reusable sandwich boxes or even put one plate on top of another.

6. Refuse straws: Many people don’t use straws at home but it’s a little hard to escape them when you’re out and about. Ask your server not to use a straw when you order a drink- you could even put a note in your purse to remind you.

7. Make it reusable: Not all plastics are created equally. A reusable bottle to fill up with tap water is going to be 100% better than disposable bottles. The same is true of reusable coffee cups because takeaway cups are hard to recycle and most end up in landfill.

Shopping

8. Refuse plastic bags: I know, I know. They already have the 5p charge on plastic bags so you’ve definitely got your reusable one on you at all times. The thing is that the plastic bag charge doesn’t go far enough. Smaller shops and takeaways are exempt from the charge, which means that the cashiers there often bag your purchases without asking. Produce your reusable bag before they start packing and let them know that you have it.

9. Cut down on packaging: When you’re shopping, look around for items with less packaging or packaging that is easily recyclable like buying loose fruit or snacks sold in cardboard boxes rather than plastic/foil wrappers.

House and Home

10. Print double sided: Many printers are still not set up to print double-sided automatically but very few documents will need to be printed on just one side.

11. Switch energy suppliers: If you want your energy supplier to use renewable energy and oppose fracking, then make the change to Ecotricity or Good Energy. Bonus: You can even get them to donate to the Green Party on your behalf at no added expense.

12. Use less energy: Whether its remembering to turn off lights when you leave a room, drying clothes on the line rather than in the dryer, or putting on a jumper rather than turning on the heating, everyone can do something to cut down on their energy usage. Find out what your energy Achilles’ heel is.

13. Go paperless: Sign up for online banking and get your statements delivered via the internet (remember to check them) and use your mobile devices to store your tickets (you can’t lose them if they’re in your email account).

14. Recycle more: There’s no doubt that Tamara and I love recycling and that we dream of living a zero waste lifestyle, which is why we’ll continue to show you how to recycle more on both the PGP blog and Instagram. If there’s anything that you don’t know how to recycle, ask us and we’ll let you know.

15. Use your dishwasher: If you have an energy-efficient dishwasher, then running a full load is actually less wasteful than washing by hand in terms of both water usage and heating.

Community

16. Cut down on car usage: A lot of public transport is overpriced (#RenationaliseTheRailways), but getting the train or the bus may actually work out cheaper than the parking prices in some parts and it’s much kinder to the planet. Try buying season/annual passes if travelling for work (ask your company if they offer loans to cover the initial cost) or buying in advance, using discount sites for one-off trips, and walking/cycling wherever possible.

17. Do a beach clean: When rubbish gets into the ocean, it gets into the sea life and into the human food chain. If you live near a beach, volunteer a few hours a month to help remove trash from the area. Pro tip: Take separate rubbish and recycling bags.

18. Join the Green Party: One thing that we can all agree on is that while individual green acts are important, the real change needs to come from government. By joining the Green Party, you can help fund the election campaigns for the next round of Green councillors and MPs to pressure the government into making Green choices that will make your eco-friendly life a little easier.

Now I want to hear from you. Are you going to adopt any of these resolutions? Do you have more to add? Let me know in the comments.

How to Eco-Hack your Halloween

Hey everyone and welcome to this special Halloween edition of Shades of Green, where you too can learn how to be spooky and sustainable from someone who dresses up like a witch all year long (Emma).

As with all big holidays, there is a lot of waste created over the Halloween period; from far too many candy wrappers to cheap costumes that are made to be worn only once to perfectly edible pumpkin pulp, which is far too often thrown in the bin when carving Jack O’ Lanterns.

With that in mind, here’s how you can susty-hack your Halloween.

 

Costumes

halloween costume

Many store-bought costumes are mass produced and designed to be worn just the once (that’s how big business stays big) but that’s an incredible waste of materials and money.

Here are some alternatives:

  • Create your own costume using items you already have to hand i.e. a black dress, stripy socks, some temporary hair dye, and a cat necklace makes you a modern-day
  • Swap costumes with your friends so that you can save your costume from landfill without being the person who has dressed as a pirate for four years running.
  • Buy a costume from a charity shop to save money and do some good.

 

Trick or Treat

Unfortunately, the time when you could give handmade sweets out on Halloween is long gone. Parents will assume, no matter how nice you are, that something has been done to it and will throw it out. But does this mean that you’re stuck with giving out individually wrapped sweets?

No, there are plenty of other options.

If you have kids, ask them if they’d like to throw a Halloween party, complete with spooky homemade treats, rather than trick or treat. They can invite their friends and you’ll save a mountain of candy wrapper from landfill.

If you don’t have kids, consider only allowing children you know to trick or treat at your house, like a friend’s child or younger relatives, so that you can give out unwrapped sweets. Alternatively, you could give out fruit or sweets with eco-friendly wrapping or small toys.

If you have let your children go trick or treating (or your own trick or treaters never arrived and you ate all the mini chocolate bars) and you’re stuck with a tonne of wrappers, you could always recycle them via TerraCycle (fees apply) or upcycle them into a craft project (perhaps even next year’s  Halloween costume).

Decorations

pumpkin

As someone whose house is perpetually Halloween-ready (by which I mean, there are always cobwebs), I love creating Halloween decorations rather than buying them.

One of the key things here is pumpkin carving which I adore, even though I’m not that good at it. In order to keep my Jack O’ Lantern susty and scary, I make Pumpkin Gut Soup but you could make pumpkin spice latte, sweet pies, or even a body scrub with the leftovers.

Other ghoulish Halloween decorations include:

  • Making tombstones from painted cardboard boxes
  • Cut up laddered tights to create spiders
  • Make ghosts out of old sheets

 

One last thing, remember that our animal friends don’t enjoy Halloween as much as we do. Keep all pets (especially black cats) inside this weekend and on Halloween; away from fireworks, chocolate, and people who may cause harm to them.

 

So what are your tips for a green Halloween? Share them in the comments below.

What’s in Tamara’s Magic Green Backpack?

This is a short one from me (Tamara) this week. With the autumn drawing in and my depression coming out to play, I’m focusing on the small wins. So let’s play, what’s in my backpack?

Inspired by my zero-waste experiment earlier this year, I made myself a zero-waste pack that lives in my backpack. The aim is to actively reduce my use of single-use plastic and as I mentioned in a previous post, it started with a straw!

 

 

 

Reusable Bamboo Straw

Luckily the lovely people in my life are used to my green ways and do not bat an eyelid when I decline a straw and triumphantly pull out my huge bamboo straw from my backpack. I am slowly getting used to the texture of it and have found that chocolate milkshakes are the way to go!

 

Bag in a Bag

I first discovered these on a visit to my in-laws in Holland for 1 euro! Needless to say, I bought way more than I could use in a lifetime and felt very smug when they started making an appearance in the UK following the 5p charge on plastic bags. I keep one in my backpack, my car, and my husband’s motorbike and I heart them! Zero waste win!

 

Spork

This had been languishing in the back of my kitchen drawer for millennia and has found a new lease of life simply by being rehomed to my backpack. Is it a fork? Is it a spoon? No, it a super spork! I also had a disposable plastic knife but they kept breaking as they are so flimsy and also didn’t fit my lovely little dedicated purse – so when I saw a plastic take-apart-able knife, fork and spoon set in the sales I added the knife my pack. The fork and spoon live in my car and are great for unplanned chip shop visits!

 

Reusable Water Bottle

Finding this bottle was a labour of love and I will tell you all about it in a future post. But its key points are it’s a stainless steel, BPA-free bottle that keeps my water chilled to perfection without condensation! I never leave home without it!

 

Collapsible Coffee Cup

This is my pièce de résistance! A reusable, collapsible silicone coffee cup, I use it whenever I am tempted by the free coffee at Waitrose. This together with the fact that Costa Coffee offer in-store recycling of ANY brand of paper cup means that my coffee cup waste is practically zero! Huzzah!

 

Hankybook

This is probably the most controversial item in my backpack! Those lovely people I mentioned earlier who are so accepting of my plastic straw war baulk at my hankybook. Beats me why! It is a reusable and washable cotton cloth ‘book’ that I use instead of… ok, honestly – as well as- disposable paper tissues. It has a protective cover but to be doubly sure I store it in a cute little pineapple purse a friend gave me for my birthday.

 

Disclaimer: The links to the particular items that live in my backpack are not sponsored or affiliated or anything like that – just my personal choices purchased either after lots of research or after no research whatsoever! They all have their pros and cons and some are quite pricey, so please do your research! Or don’t – it’s up to you! 🙂

3 Common Green Goofs and How to Fix Them

This series of blogs is entitled, “It’s easy being green” but sometimes it’s just as easy to mess up. Everyone makes mistakes and we can either beat ourselves up over it or we can work to reduce the problem.

In this blog, I (Emma) will explain how we can turn these trip-ups into triumphs.

1. Accidently Taking a Plastic Bag

While I’m sure that everyone reading keeps a stockpile of reusable bags in their car and has at least one in their purse/backpack, there are always times when we trip up.

Sometimes you’ll already be on your way to a barbeque or a dinner party when the host texts and ask you to pick something up at the last minute and you don’t have a canvas bag or you’ve been to Subway and you were so caught up choosing which cookie to have that you forgot to say “I don’t need a bag, thanks”.

So what can you do?
· Reuse the bag but if you’re already overflowing with reusable bags you probably don’t want to
· Donate it to a friend that doesn’t have an outstanding reusable bag collection
· Donate it to your local charity shop, as smaller causes don’t have the money to create their own
· You can also recycle used and broken carrier bags at most supermarkets

2. You bought bottled water

 

I know, I know.

You were in a rush when you left the house and your reusable bottle is still on the table. If you go back, you’ll be late for work but you can’t go without water until you get back. You’ll just have to stop into a shop on the way and grab a bottle.

Now you could reuse it but you already have a metal bottle and you’ve been scared by some of the unsubstantiated cancer claims on the internet. Regardless, you don’t want to just recycle it. What can you do?

DIY Water Filter

A Stiff Broom

Scooper

3. You ordered take-out and you’re worried about how to recycle the containers

 

I am as lazy as you and I love take-out; all kinds. But the packaging, oh no.

I’m eternally grateful that Portsmouth City Council will take chip-shop paper and pizza boxes as long as you don’t leave any food remnants on the packing (I have never left remnants of take-out in my entire life).

If you are a little worried about melted cheese on your paper and cardboard, then you can compost the -tear it up first or it will take ages to degrade; you can even soak it in a little water to speed up the process.

 

No compost bin? Not even at your local dump? You could offer it to local gardeners on Facebook. It helps to keep weeds down.

If all else fails, tear the top of the box off; it’s usually less greasy and can still be recycled. It at least cuts down on the waste.

If you have plastic boxes from your Chinese take-out, then they unfortunately cannot be recycled at the kerbside. Once you’ve washed them out, you can reuse them as lunchboxes and craft storage or if you order Chinese food as much as I do, you can recycle them at your local Sainsburys.

I hope that this has solved some of your common sustainability slip ups Have you got any other eco mistakes that you’d like help solving? Let me know in the comments below and we’ll try to answer your problems in a future blog.

This post was inspired by a post on my personal blog.