All posts by Raakhee Stratton

Homemade Mickey Mouse Cushion

A milestone in my daughter’s life; she moved from a toddler bed to a single bunk bed. Apart from the excitement of sleeping in a new bed, this also meant a whole new set of bedding; duvet, duvet cover, fitted sheets. For the first time, she got to choose what designs she wanted.

I was eventually left with a problem. What do I do with her old duvet?

I recall a notice at the recycling place stating they don’t accept duvets so my problem now was what I was going to do with it. Putting it in the rubbish and throwing it out wasn’t an option. From learning as much as I have about the environment, I know there is no thing as ‘out’. I put the duvet to some side and put my thinking cap on.

I think it must have been in the cupboard for a few days until I had that light bulb moment. My daughter was sitting on her bed leaning against the bars of her bunk bed and she said the bars were hurting her back as she leaned against them while she was looking at books.

I could make a large cushion! I’ve got loads of Mickey Mouse fat quarters, a sewing machine and pins. I had everything I needed.

I will be honest, I had no idea how to make a cushion. I explored a few videos on YouTube but I decided to go for it. I’m not a professional and it’s for my daughter, it’ll be unique.

It was easier to cut out squares and make the cushion cover to resemble a patchwork cover. That was easy enough, I’ve done that before. However, I’d forgotten how slow this bit usually takes.

But it was worth it.

After a few hours, the cover was finished. I folded up the duvet so I could fit it in the case. I have to say, this did take a while trying to get fit but it worked.

And here’s the finished product. I know it’s not perfect and the edges aren’t quite right but my daughter loves it and now she has a cushion to lean on while she’s reading.

Doing this project made me realise there is a lot of things we throw away that we could re-purpose, if we really thought about it.

If you have a look on the internet, there are so many ideas for re purposing items; old pallets made into planters, plastic bottles into vases, even up cycling old furniture with a bit of TLC.

Have you repurposed something? Share your ideas

Say No To Balloons

When you think of balloons, you think of party and celebration. No child’s birthday celebration, young or old, is complete without balloons. The different sizes, colours, shapes bring joy to people. Not only do we gift them for birthdays, but for new births, when someone is recovering, christenings. Balloons can be used at a time of sadness too. Releasing balloons allows us to show respect for our loved ones who have departed, you can’t deny that the way the balloons rise into the sky is quite grateful. However, releasing balloons like this has a downside, it hurts the environment and wildlife.

We need to say no to balloon releases

Whenever we’re at a party, friends and family tend to give my 4-year-old a balloon at the end of the night. I won’t lie, the smile it brings to her face fills me with joy, however, deep down I’m thinking ‘how on earth am I going to dispose of that’. There’s no part of it that can be recycled; the balloon, the ribbon or the weight. Although, there are some balloons on the market that claim they are biodegradable, they can usually take years to fully decompose and the damage done in the meantime can last longer than the balloon.

Reasons why we should start saying no to balloons

They are harmful to wildlife

We’ve seen it on TV and David Attenborough has told us that certain wildlife will mistake a floating carrier bag or balloon for food. Turtles will mistake them for Jellyfish. Once ingested, the damage this does to them internally can lead to starvation. The string attached to the balloons cause just as much damage. The string be ingested or wrap itself around a marine animal’s neck, eventually choking them to death. If the choking doesn’t kill them, the cuts to their skin caused by the string can cause infections and will probably kill them.

It’s littering

If you think about it, a balloon release is an accepted form of littering. You would never dream of leaving all your rubbish on the grass after a picnic (normal people wouldn’t) and sensible people would clean up after themselves but when a balloon is released and disappears from view, what goes up must come down. Where do you think it’s going to land? On a farm? In a river? If the release is by the sea, it almost certainly will end up in the ocean.

There’s a helium shortage

I was a little shocked when I found out there was a shortage and even more shocked at what helium is used for aside balloons. Helium is used in other (more important) areas of business and exploration; inside MRI Scanners, as a cooling agent for the Large Hadron Collider, it’s used in space exploration as a cooling agent for equipment and even by deep sea divers. I’m a little surprised in light of this, why the sale of helium isn’t more restricted? I hope you would agree that these other uses are more vital that filling up a balloon for a party.

What can you use instead?

Balloon releases – can be replaced by releasing flowers into the sea, or even planting a tree. Planting a tree in a quiet place can be somewhere you can come for time on your own to think and think about your loved one. They may no longer be with you but their memory will.

Alternatives to balloon releases

Birthday Parties / celebrations – Paper chains are really easy to make and your little one(s) can get involved too. Paper flowers are a really good way of adding colour to a party, there are oodles of videos on youtube to choose from and when the party is over, they can be given to the guests as they leave as memento. There’s nothing wrong with using the traditional banners, bunting and decorations you can buy on the high street and storing them in the wrappers they came in. However, the key is to not purchase decorations with a number on them, this way they can be used over and over again. Trust me, no one is going to think “Weren’t they the same banners at Wendy’s birthday last year?’

For a treat, I take my 4-year-old to McDonald’s and I recently started to explain why she shouldn’t accept a balloon when it is offered by one of the employees, my daughter now says ‘no thank you’ and it makes me so proud. It doesn’t seem to bother her that she’s not getting a colourful balloon as long as she’s got ketchup with her chips, all is good in the world.

By using alternatives to balloons, it allows you to be creative and the whole family can join in to make the day special. You’d be surprised how much stuff you already have around the house for materials.

By saying no to balloons, you are protecting the environment and wildlife too.

Alternatives to Cling Film

Majority of homes in the UK will have cling film in their kitchens. Used to wrap sandwiches and cover left over food, we’ve been using this product for decades. It’s not a friend to the environment and there are alternatives out there.

What exactly is cling film?

Cling film is a single use plastic that cannot be recycled. As with other plastics, it is harmful to the environment. As it breaks down, the particles get smaller but will never fully disappear. The smaller the particle, the more chance of it being ingested by animals and even a possibility of it entering our food chain.

Cling film is usually made from Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) and there has been some concern about these materials attaching to food and drink. It’s believed the main issue arises when it’s heated up in the microwave.

I stopped using cling film about a year ago and although I’ve still got a roll in my kitchen drawer, the thought of using it makes me a little queasy. I’m not sure what I will do with it but it’s in the drawer not getting in anyone’s way.

What are the alternatives

Lunch box of fruit

Another thing I’ve done before is to cover the dish containing the leftovers with a plate or a bowl. I’ve done this for years and I know my mum does too. The benefit of this is that you can stack another dish on top.

Something that has appeared in the last few years are silicone lids. I have never tried these myself but I’ve heard some really good things about them. They come in different colours, shapes and sizes allowing them to cover dishes in various sizes. As someone who hasn’t tried them yet, I can’t personally recommend them but the small downside I can see is that you can’t stack on top of them. Although, that is a small price to pay for saving the environment.

I have been told wax paper is a brilliant alternative to cling film. It works very well with wrapping cold foods, but don’t use it for anything hot, the wax will melt.

Bees wax wraps

The long term

Not using cling film may seem small, but the difference it will make to the environment is huge. It really does matter. Wildlife won’t get wrapped up in them and suffocate, if they blow into rivers and eventually drift into the sea, marine life won’t confuse them with food. Cling film may not cost a lot of money but by using the alternatives, you will be saving yourself some money in the long-run and make a massive difference to the environment.

Our Plastic Problem

A few months ago, I watched a film on The Discovery Channel which made me feel very sad. It was aired on Earth Day 22nd April 2020 called The Story of Plastic.

We are familiar with images of where plastic ends up; in rivers, on landfill, in the oceans and wrapped around sea life, but it’s not often we see where it comes from.

One thing that was very striking to me was that a lot of leftover plastic used by richer countries are shipped to the poorer countries to deal with, we are looking at them to sort out our mess without taking ownership of our own rubbish. I was acutely aware of the rubbish being sent to Asian countries but I wasn’t aware of how much. Recently, China have said they don’t want anymore and the problem has been dumped onto other smaller nations in the region.

These plastics are shipped off to Asian countries and end up polluting their waterways endangering wildlife and drinking water or burned in incinerators which brings a whole host of health implications to local residents; shorter life expectancy, skin conditions and respiratory conditions to name but a few. Imagine living next to an incinerator?

It appears the producers of plastics are shifting the blame onto the consumers because we are not disposing of them correctly. By shifting the blame onto the consumer, it eliminates the company’s ownership of the plastic problem ‘I didn’t use it, not my problem’. According to the film, 14% of plastics are recycled and a mere 2% is recycled effectively, which means it’s recycled into something as usual as it previously was. What we’re not being told is that majority of plastic degrades and cannot be reused into something useful second time around.

The film also focused on the source. As 99% of all plastic is from fossil fuels, the corporations behind plastics are the same who drill of oil and gas; Shell, Exxon and others. Due to some of their extraction plants being located in or close to residential areas, the impact on the health of local residents are almost inevitable.

Who is to blame?

I don’t know if it’s constructive to assign blame because they are both reliant on each other; these companies produce the products and we consume them. If one side changes, the other side will have no option but to change. This brings us to the introduction of the UK’s plastic bag charge. A 5 pence levy was introduced in October 2015 and on 31st March 2020, parliament released a report stating sales of carrier bags in major supermarkets have dropped 87%. Could this have happened without parliament introducing a levy? I don’t think so. As we all know, if there is going to be any kind of substantial change, it really needs to come from government. In April 2020, the Evening Standard reported the UK government decided to postpone the ban on single-use plastic straws, cotton buds and stirrers from April to October

A Defra spokesperson said:

Given the huge challenges posed to businesses by coronavirus, we have confirmed we will delay the introduction of our ban on plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds until October 2020.

We remain absolutely committed to turning the tide on the widespread use of single-use plastics and the threat they pose to our natural environment. This ban is yet another measure to clamp down on unnecessary plastic so we can better protect our precious wildlife and leave our environment in a better state for future generations.

 Does it sound like there’s more to this?

Why are companies not made to deal with the problem?

One of the most frustrating things I keep asking myself is why aren’t companies like Procter and Gamble, Unilever and Nestle (the three companies singled out in the film) aren’t being forced to find a solution to this. Surely we need to stop waste from entering the system in the first place, I don’t think recycling is really the answer. The film talks from the point of view from United States but I’m interested in the point of view for the United Kingdom.

The decisions made locally have an impact globally.

How can we live plastic free?

This thought kept cropping up for me throughout this film; how can we live plastic free? Is it even possible? Without realising, we have become so used to plastic that we use it everyday. If you look around your home, I bet it wouldn’t take long before you find something that is made out of plastic, this is worse in bathrooms and kitchens.

Can the plastic container be repurposed?

Ways to ditch the plastic

In 2018, Prime minister at the time, Theresa May, pledged to eradicate all avoidable plastic waste in the UK by 2042. This was their commitment to the environment for the next 25 years.

First thing that comes to mind is why does it take 25 years? The plastic problem is happening now and a solution is needed now.

What are you doing to reduce your plastic? 

Want To Understand Climate Change? Watch these films

As someone who takes a keen interest on the effects of climate change and how global warming is effecting our lives, I try to watch anything I can to learn more about the subject and be better informed. Here are some films I enjoyed watching.

Cowspiracy : The Sustainability Secret

I will be honest, I didn’t actually read the synopsis for this, someone suggested I should watch it. Unlike other documentaries, it answers the questions it asks. I was aware of the impact agriculture is having on global warming but I didn’t realise how much and the amount of water that goes into producing a burger, it’s huge! Water is a limited resource! This really opened my eyes in terms of the price we pay to the environment from eating meat and shows the need for drastic change to our lifestyles.

A Plastic Ocean

I felt this documentary was very powerful, watching this I was absolutely shocked and saddened by the amount of plastic in our oceans and the effect it’s having on marine life. This documentary is beautifully made and makes you question your choices as a consumer; is it really worth it?

Our climate change problem

Climate Change – The Facts

This is narrated by Sir David Attenborough and for me, if Attenborough is talking, I will listen. Attenborough and the team looked at the science behind climate change. No politics, no NGOs, just science and it’s pretty grim. The last 20 hottest years have occurred in the last 22 years. The documentary interviews some of the world’s leading scientists to analyse the changing weather patterns. It gives us a stark warning of what is in store for us if we don’t make a change. If there is one documentary you should watch, it’s this one.

Before the Flood

Leonardo DiCaprio, as the narrator, uses his celebrity status by bringing attention to the plight of the planet due to climate change. He travels the world and looks at the effect of climate change first hand and how it’s changing societies forever and explores our dependence on fossil fuels. It’s a very well thought out documentary and he doesn’t pretend to have all the answers which is evident when he is talking to an environmentalist from India. I won’t say anymore, I don’t want to spoil it.

Films to help understand climate change better

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power

I absolutely loved An Inconvenient Truth, it was probably one of the first documentaries I watched where I started to understand we have a serious problem and not many people were talking about it. This is the sequel for An Inconvenient Truth released 11 years later, it follows on from what happened in the last 11 years; the flooding of the World Trade Centre site, the changing weather patterns and how people are being affected.

The Story of Plastic

This film was aired on Earth Day 22nd April 2020. Watching this made me very say because it was a stark reminder of what we are doing to the planet and how a decision on one side of the planet can impact another side. This film not only focused on where plastic ends up; rivers, oceans, inside sea life, incinerators, it talks about the start of the plastic journey too and the health implications of residents local to these plants.

If you have watched any films and want to shout about them, please share!

Can Shopping Receipts Be Recycled

I recently came across an article published on Wired about the 11 billion receipts printed every year in the UK being an environmental nightmare. For someone who makes sure the recycling is separated, this caught my attention.

Whenever I make a purchase in a supermarket, I always request a receipt and I’m sure I’m not the only one. There are quite a few stores that ask whether you would like a receipt and even giving you the option of having your receipt emailed to you. These options make the consumer ask the question; do I really need a receipt?

Recycling to a better world

I’ve never had to refer back to receipt after I’ve checked to ensure my points have been added on and they end up all crumpled in the receipt graveyard that is my handbag. Every few months or so, I have a clear out. I scribble out the bank and loyalty card details and discard them in the recycling bin. Something else that didn’t go to landfill, little tick for me.

But it’s not a tick at all. Apparently, they can’t be recycled!

It turns out the vast majority of supermarket receipts and some small shops are printed on a special kind of paper called thermal paper, they are anything but environmentally friendly and the best place for them is landfill. Thermal paper, just like coffee cups, can’t be recycled because they contain more than one material.

These coffee cups can't be recycled

They’re coated in a substance which reacts with the printer head leaving our shopping list, card details, date, time etc on the paper. These substances are called BPA and BPS and after some research, they have been banned from other products such as toddler cups because they are dangerous when ingested in large amounts and can even be absorbed through the skin. Which begs the question, why are stores still using this paper?

With alternatives like having the receipt emailed to you is a great option but giving away your information, even if it’s an email address, can make us nervous because we have no idea if we’re going to get bombarded with junk email from the company or what they’ll do with our information. Having a receipt is protection for the consumer. If your purchase is faulty or damaged, there’s more chance of the store exchanging the item or refunding your money with a valid receipt. With no receipt, you’ll be lucky if you get store credit.

If the use of this paper for this purpose is to cease, the change will need to come from top. Once legislation is been passed, only then will this force processes and mindsets to change, until then it will keep happening.

This has really made me think how much I really need a receipt. In most places, you don’t get a choice as to whether you get a receipt or not but some businesses do give you the choice.

The question to ask yourself; do I really need that receipt?

The Story of Plastic

The Story of Plastic was aired in the UK on Earth Day 22nd April 2020. I found the film to be incredibly moving giving us the story of not just where plastic ends up but also where it begins.

Since the 1950s, plastic was seen as an incredible invention with multiple uses and since then it has weaved itself into every aspect of our lives. We are starting to discover the true cost of this material that never actually goes away.

We have been encouraged to separate our rubbish and ensure we recycle as much as we possibly can. As well as metals, glass and paper, we put our plastic in our recycling bins in good faith believing it is being taken away and something useful is made from it, after all, that’s what the word recycle means, doesn’t it? This film shows us what happens to our plastic once it has been collected from our bins.

The focus at the start of the plastic journey was a plastic processioning plant in Texas, USA, where toxic chemicals are released into the local water and air. Tiny plastic pellets end up into local rivers and will eventually be ingested by local marine life which will inevitably enter the food chain. The cancer rates and health issues in the local areas are shockingly high; child leukemia, infertility and respiratory issues.

What I found shocking was that a product sold in a European country displays that it is recyclable but the same product sold in an Asian country in sachets which cannot be recycled. Decisions made in these boardrooms are adding to the plastic problem faced in Asia and companies should be responsible for installing the necessary waste infrastructure.

What is plastic recycling?

The film shows plastic sorted from India and the Philippines discussing the issues faced when it comes to recycling. One point that struck me was that the whole recycling industry is only possible because there is poverty in the world, who else will do it? Most of the plastic from the West is shipped to Asian countries to deal with and it is hand sorted. Unlike other materials, there are around 80 different categories plastic falls into and therefore the sorting process is a time-consuming one.

When a plastic is sorted and can be ‘recycled’, it is washed, melted down and chopped into plastic pellets; the dirty water used to clean the plastic is dumped into a local waterway leading to pollution, the melting process emits harmful chemicals to the workers, who do not have any protective clothing. Incinerators come with their own set of problems too; skin rashes, increase in cancer rates and other health issues.

It turns out that plastic recycling is a myth.

Who does the buck stop with?

Fossil fuel companies have aired their concerns about the pollution caused by plastic but they seem to prefer shifting the blame onto consumers rather than admitting their products are ill-designed. The film shows that these companies aim their products towards the Asian market flooding them with single-use plastics forcing them to be reliant on these products while hiding behind the excuse of a rise in demand.

I would highly recommend everyone watching this film. The plastic issue is everyone’s problem, not just Asian countries (where the west are dumping their plastic).

If you’re interested in this eye-opening film, click below for the trailer

16 Easy Ways To Go Green

In the last year, I have actively changed my habits to go green but sometimes it’s not cheap. We can’t all afford solar panels on our homes or a brand-new electric car (or just a brand-new car for that matter) but there are things we can all do to take a step in the right direction.

One mistake I made was trying to do too many at once, it’s a case of training your mind to start thinking differently. Make two to three changes and then add to it. You will start noticing you have changed your old habits and the new ones are automatic.

Here are my tips to go green

Take your own bags to the shop

You can purchase little tote bags everywhere nowadays and they come in handy little pouches that fit in your pocket or bags. Some even have a clip that you can attach to the outside of your bag.

Change your light bulbs to LED

It’s well known that LED light bulbs used up to 80% less electricity than traditional bulb. Traditional bulbs need more electricity to function.

If you have a condenser dryer, use the water to water the plants

The water tank that collects the water can be used to water your plants rather than throwing it down the sink. Or even, if you have one, add it to your water butt.

Turn off the lights when you are not using them

There is no reason why you should have the lights on in a room you’re not using. It’s a waste of electricity.

Fix any dripping taps

Sometimes, it’s only a case of replacing a washer but the amount of water that is wasted due to a dripping tap is eye-watering. Water is not an infinite resource and shouldn’t be wasted. If you have a dripping tap, call a plumber.

Reuse your old mobile phone

We all have old mobile phones gathering dust in a draw somewhere. Why no utilise it? I downloaded an app so I could use my mobile phone as a CCTV camera. It now sits at the back of the house and alerts me when anyone comes near the back door.

Buy fruit and veg with no packaging and only what you need

A few months ago, this really got to me. I wanted to buy a lemon but the supermarket didn’t have any loose ones, they were only available in packs of four; I didn’t want four. So, I went to a local greengrocer and bought a lemon. The pack of four lemons were sold in that plastic netting that can’t be recycled. No thanks! I wrote a blog about eating seasonal food.

easy ways to go green and towards greener living

Stop Junk mail

What do you do with junk mail? I have a quick flick through and put it into the recycling. What an absolute waste. The easiest way is to create your own sign saying ‘no junk mail’ on your door.

Energy efficient appliances

Appliances are now tested and improved to ensure their efficiency. There are many appliances that now come with a rating of A+, A++ or A+++ tells us that the products has a lower energy consumption.

Clean the back of your fridge

I didn’t know this until very recently. All fridges gather dust at back but how often do you clean the dust? Probably once? Never? The dust makes the fridge work harder which uses more energy. Dust every so often to keep your fridge working efficiently.

Check your tyre pressure regularly

If your tyre pressure is too high or too low, it makes the car work harder to compensate, which uses more fuel.

Print on both sides of the paper

If you have to print something, and it’s not confidential. Keep the paper to one side and if you need to print something else, use the other side. I do this all the time and had saved me quite a bit of money on paper.

Go Green, Go paperless

Do you really need a printed copy of your bank statement? You will probably look at it once, file it then you will eventually shred it. Bank/credit card/ energy statements are all kept online. If you don’t want to keep logging onto your bank to view them, you can download them to your computer or even save them to a cloud storage. Ask yourself, do you really need a printed copy?

Insulate your loft

A lot of heat is lost through the roof due to poor insulation. If this isn’t resolved, you are more likely to increase the thermostat to keep warm. You are best to get a professional in to sort this out for you.

Buy second hand where you can

This is one that I’ve embraced a lot recently. When something is no longer needed but still useful, it can be ditched at the tip, which is a complete waste. I needed a new set of chest of drawers and instead of buying a brand new one for £55, I found a second-hand one on Facebook Marketplace for £8. It was in very good condition apart from a little dent at the back that no one will see. You can also save a lot of money by doing this.

Make do and mend

My favourite go green tip! In my grandmother’s time, she would always say ‘make do and mend’ and I feel that this has been lost through the generations. How many times have you thrown a sock away because it has a whole in them? It won’t take long to sew them up and keep wearing them. You don’t need a sewing machine; a small sewing kit will suffice.

These are my easy tips, of course, this is a subject that I can do on and on about. I will look at writing another blog with further tips.

In the meantime, why do you share your tips on how to go green!

If you’re interested in reading about what I’m doing to be greener, check out my blog and if you’re interested in signing up to my newsletter, click here, I promise not to spam you.

Will The Coronavirus Make Us Think Differently About Our Food?

The coronavirus or COVID-19 has gripped the world changing all aspects of society; school, work, visiting friends and family, and even just going out for a walk.

When we started learning about the effect this pandemic was having on the citizens of China, there was fear that this virus may spread. Why wouldn’t it? We are a global society. We are always on the go, whether it’s commuting to work, travelling for business or going on holiday, we don’t stay in one place so something like spreading a virus is always a strong possibility. Each country has been handling the crisis in the best way they know how, although, this has differed between countries.

If a county you rely on for exports are having a problem and affects the supply chain, especially in terms of food, this can be disastrous. Not just for economies but for people too. People start to panic.

As well as many other countries, people in the UK started panic buying. Before we knew it, you had more chance of seeing a Unicorn than a pack of toilet roll and shortly after that other products were proving difficult to come by; flour, eggs, bread and pasta. Supermarkets just couldn’t cope with the demand.

Since supermarkets finally limited the number of each item per customer was allowed to purchase, the shelves seem to be stocked although some products are still hard to come by.

A local service I signed up to in January was for milk delivery from a local dairy. I had always thought about having my milk delivered, purely as a way to reduce my plastic and someone knocked on my door offering this service. Having milk delivered twice a week is a real benefit to us (they’re in glass bottles too, no plastic!) and as they are a local business, the service has been unaffected. If anything, I think they’ve become busier since the coronavirus outbreak as they offer fruit, vegetables and bread. Demand for services like this has skyrocketed.

Fifty or so years ago, towns and cities had a local food supply infrastructure; butchers, family dairies, greengrocers but in that time majority of these services have disappeared as products offered by these businesses can be found conveniently (and cheaper) at supermarkets resulting in small family run businesses shutting down.

It's time to support local businesses

When normal services resume, and they will resume, I really hope this will encourage consumers to change their buying habits as well as their mindsets and purchase food from local businesses. I hope #SupportLocal takes on a whole new level and consumers will do this automatically.

Will this encourage us to look at maybe growing our own vegetables in our back gardens, will the waiting list for allotments become longer? Will we start eating food that is in season in the UK rather than shipping in strawberries from Spain all year round?

I hope this will make us look at our food and allow us to do things differently.

Have we forgotten the fight against single-use plastics due to the coronavirus?

A plastics problem – since the outbreak of this pandemic, there have been some environmental benefits. I read an article on the BBC website about the canals in Venice starting to clear and fish are visible for the first time in years thanks to the massive drop in water traffic, the drop in air travel and the only people using their cars are essential workers so the traffic will be significantly reduced which means pollution has been reduced too. NASA reported that airborne nitrogen dioxide had sharply declined over China and this was partly due to the slowdown of the economy.

Shopping habits have drastically changed recently and we may have to buy a product because that’s the only one available on the shelves, not really taking into account the extra packaging this products comes in. We need food, we need produce, we will buy what we can get. Households have been encouraged to wash their hands frequently, leading to millions of extra hand wash containers headed for recycling or landfill.

PPE Plastics problem

People have started wearing face masks and rubber gloves when they are out in public, we are all taking precautions to ensure we do whatever we can not to catch this virus and not pass it on to someone else. However, I noticed the other day at the supermarket someone had left a discarded purple latex glove in the trolley. Over the last few days, I’ve noticed discarded gloves by drains, stuck in a bush or left on the pavement.

single use plastics latex gloves

I appreciate people feel the need to use this protective equipment but there are some people who are taking no care in disposing them properly. These will all end up on landfill, I can’t see where else they will end up but it heartbreaking to see that someone would wear this to protect themselves but just don’t care about how they dispose of them.

Yes, we are in the grips of a pandemic and thousands of people are dying worldwide daily but we need to think about what we are still doing to our planet and how single-use plastics have an impact on our society and the planet.

single use plastics bottles

The single-use plastic problem hasn’t gone away, we still need to fight that fight.

If you’re interested in reading about what I’m doing to be greener, check out my blog and if you’re interested in signing up to my newsletter, click here, I promise not to spam you.

How to be eco-friendly during a lockdown

This coronavirus pandemic has resulted in people ditching the cars they used for the commute and school run. This has led to empty roads and less air pollution.

We are all isolating at home and using this time could really benefit the environment allowing you to make eco-friendly choices during this lockdown.

Grow your own vegetables

If you have an outside space, growing your own veg isn’t as difficult as you think. There is a wealth of information about how to grow veg; potatoes, carrots, spring onions, lettuce can all be grown in the UK. This is also a good way to support your local garden centre as some of them are still doing deliveries. There’s nothing more satisfying than eating something you’ve grown yourself. If you don’t have a garden, the kitchen windowsill also works well.

Explore your cupboards

This is a great time to see what you have in the back of your cupboards, what’s the point in buying lots of new products when you’ve got food already at home and also means you don’t have to queue for the supermarket. If you found something you don’t particularly like (and it’s in date) donate it to a food bank so someone else can use it.

Zero waste Shops

These shops are popping up all over the place and you are able to buy food without the packaging. The food is usually stored in large jars and you only pay for what you need, kind of like the old fashioned sweet shops (showing my age, aren’t I?) and you may find a lot of these shops are better stocked than supermarkets so why not take some empty clean Tupperware boxes with you and see what they’ve got. Most of these shops are independent businesses so you’ll be supporting a local business too. Win win!

Cooking

This is a great time to start cooking again. Dust off those cookbooks and give a new recipe a whirl. If you’re anything like me and are rubbish at cooking, you could try an app called Supercook where you add in the ingredients you have and it comes up with a recipe for you. Why not try something new for dinner? Cooking also reduces waste because you’re not throwing away packaging you would get from a microwave meal. Anything you don’t eat, you could put in the fridge and eat the next day.

Ditch the car for a bit

As the only reasons we would use our car is to commute (for key workers) and shopping, if the supermarket is within walking distance, why not try walking to the shop instead of taking the car? This will contribute to your daily exercise too. A bit of fresh air, exercise, pop in your headphones and catch up on The Archers, what’s not to love? Also, if you filled up the car before the lock down, imagine how long it will be until you need to fill up again! You’re saving money too.

Make do and mend

I have to say, I do love this one. Do you have a top or shirt that has lost its button an you never got the chance to repair it, now’s your chance. If you don’t have a sewing machine, get your needle and thread out and make repairs to clothes that are sitting in your wardrobe you can’t wear because a button is missing or a part of a hem has come undone. Have you been meaning to finally put the new kitchen cabinets on or do the weeding in the garden or change one of the spotlights in the kitchen that stopped working a year ago. Have a wander around your home and look at what needs fixing and try to fix it.

The Paddling Pool Water Problem

It’s Easter Weekend and the weather is glorious. The only problem we have is that the corona virus pandemic is stopping us from going about our normal lives. We are on lock down and we must stay indoors. Of course, when the weather is as lovely has it has been today and yesterday, staying indoors is a shame but we are in exceptional circumstances and must collectively do what we all can to ensure this virus doesn’t spread any further.

For those who have gardens, this is the next best thing. Having an outside space is a wonderful thing to have. And if you do have one, this is your chance to make the most of it and do something different with the people who live in your household. Enter…the paddling pool.

I’ve never had a paddling pool before as wasting the water was always an issue for me. However, it’s quite a challenge trying to explain that to a 4-year-old. She just wants to have fun, especially as her school has been shut for 3 weeks now and you can’t deny that a paddling pool is an amazing source of fun.

I knew the weather was going to be nice for two days so we set it up on Friday, covering it Friday night to enjoy it on Saturday as well. I have to say, it was a great success. My little one absolutely loved playing the water and I have to admit, I enjoyed it too. Hopefully all the excitement tires her out for bedtime tonight!

Now the question, what do we do with the water?

I decided to save as much water as I could find containers for and use the water to water the plants over the next few days/fortnight. I would’ve used the water directly from the tap to water my plants anyway, why not try to save what I could from the pool? The water has just taken a slightly little detour.

So, I tried to find as many buckets and tubs from the shed filling them with water until I ran out and had to let the rest of the water go to waste. I can only imagine what the neighbours thought I was doing but I didn’t care. I managed to find enough containers for half of the water from the pool. Maybe I should invest in a water butt?

This lot will keep me going for a bit.

This is a good opportunity to update on my potatoes and strawberry plants. I was a little concerned about the strawberries a few weeks ago as we had some frost but I got a fleece blanket and ‘put them to bed’. I never thought I would be doing that for strawberries but there you go. There’s a flower on a strawberry plant so I’m guessing that’s a good thing. Also the potatoes have just started to sprout. I’m making a extra effort in watering them a lot more than I did last year.

Busy in the garden

As the weather is starting to change, this is the perfect opportunity to start planting in the garden.

I planted potatoes last year and they went okay. A mistake I made was that I didn’t water them enough and it was very hot last summer.

This year, I decided to get my daughter involved and although I don’t have a particularly big garden, we can still grow things so that’s what we’re doing. I remember when my ex-husband’s nephew was about five or so, he was asked where eggs came from and his reply was ‘Tesco’. The rest of the family thought this was hilarious and never bothered to correct him, he genuinely thought eggs came from Tesco. My daughter is five and I want her to know where our food really comes from. Also with the current Corona virus crisis, it’s something to do in the garden rather than being stuck indoors all day. Luckily, I had already bought supplies before the lock down so we were all set.

We started with the Strawberries and I have to be honest, I didn’t realise there were so many different varieties of Strawberry! Who knew! I stood there trying to figure out what I should be buying so I decided to buy three different varieties.

Planting them was pretty straightforward to do, especially for someone who isn’t particularly green fingered. And volia! We have planted strawberries.

Although, the tags state they can be planted in March, we’ve had a few nights of frost so I bought a fleece and covered the strawberries on the nights that were particularly cold. I felt as if I were tucking the plants to bed that night. LOL

My next project was to plant the potatoes. But I was doing it a bit differently to last year.

I had a plastic storage container where the lid was broken and wasn’t suitable for stacking but instead of taking it to the tip, I decided that I could use it for my potatoes!

Strawberry plants - busy in the garden

Of course drainage is needed so I got my drill out and drilled some holes at the bottom. I collected the leftover plastic bits from the drilling and put them in a little pot which will be deposited in my ecobrick, don’t want that getting into nooks and crannies out in the open. Wildlife may think it’s food!

Then I set about filling the tub. I’m really glad that rather than sending something to landfill, I was able to utilise it in a different way. It may be not be how the professionals do it and my neighbours probably think it’s a little odd too but I don’t care. I like it.

Strawberry plants - busy in the garden

I remember from last year how satisfying it was to be able to go into the garden whenever I needed potatoes and hope it’s better this year than last year.

The mistake I won’t make this time is to neglect watering these. I will check them everyday and report back.

If you’re interested in reading about what I’m doing to be greener, check out my blog and if you’re interested in signing up to my newsletter, click here, I promise not to spam you.

No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference by Greta Thunberg – Book Review

I was lucky enough to receive a copy of No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference for Christmas from a friend who knows me very well.

It’s not that often I write book reviews but as the subject is relevant today, I would like to make an exception. Plus, I really enjoyed it!!

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For those who don’t know (where have you been?!), Greta Thunberg is a Swedish teenager who has shot to fame for her climate activism. It started by sitting outside the Swedish Parliament with a simple sign “School Strike for Climate”. Her persistence gained worldwide recognition at attracted attention from the media. This has inspired other students around the world to join her #FridaysforFuture demonstrations.

What struck me from the outset is the anger or maybe the intense passion she possess in her fight to protect the environment. This book is essentially a collection of her speeches and when you read them it is clear that she’s not trying to be a scientist, she wants the world leaders to listen to science rather than thinking about how much revenue will be lost if a government’s policy changes.

As she is not old enough to vote, this is the only way she can get her voice heard and her actions are being replicated around the world. I admire anyone, young or old, for standing up for what they believe in. They’re not hurting anyone, but our actions are hurting their future. The amount of criticism and abuse she has received is awful and no one, not even a teenager, should have to put up with that.

Overall, I felt her words were very powerful and I really enjoyed this book.

If you’re interested in reading about what I’m doing to be greener, check out my blog and if you’re interested in signing up to my newsletter, click here, I promise not to spam you.

My Carbon Calculator

Let’s talk carbon calculators. I recently started a course with The Open University to study for a degree in Environmental Science. I’ve always wanted to study for a degree but I had no idea in which subject. I had my eye on this degree for about six months. Eventually I got bored of talking about it and signed up. Six years of studying! Eeek!

One of my activities was to work out my carbon footprint. This was something I was really looking forward to doing and I was curious how high (or low) my carbon footprint was compared to the national average.

The calculator was quite easy to navigate, it asks about the number of people in your household, information about your home; insulation, doors, windows, heating, they energy rating for your appliances, your travel habits, food and income.

There were a few areas I had to make an assumption, for example, how long I spend in the shower? I don’t know about you but I’ve never timed myself in the shower. So, I decided to put 7 times a week for 7 minutes. Another assumption I had to make was my salary, if you’re self-employed, you will know that your income fluctuates all the time, so I worked out the monthly average and went with that.

My carbon calculator - easy peasy greeny
© 2018 The Open University. Developed by Peter Harper with Robin Roy from a calculator produced by Peter Harper for The Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) with acknowledgments to CAT. Software and graphic design by Callum Lester and Vicky Eves, The Open University

According to the calculator, the UK average carbon footprint is 14.60 CO2 emissions per year. It turns out that mine is well below the national average of 8.80 CO2 emissions per year. I had a feeling it would be low but I didn’t realise how low it was until you visualise it.

If you look at the bar chart on the right-hand side of the image, you will see that my travel is non-existent, I do travel and I do have a car but I don’t use it that much, only at the weekends and even then it’s few and far between. I live close to Ashford town centre so most things are within walking distance for me. I haven’t been on a plane in two years and I haven’t got any plans to go on a plane anytime soon. The only time I use public transport is when I use the train, which isn’t that often anyway, mainly for networking opportunities.

The OU calculator also allows students to enter in their own personal reduction target, I set mine at 20%, to find areas where they can reduce their carbon footprint further by amending your answers; making sure your loft insulation is efficient, not using the dryer as much, showers instead of baths (or quicker showers), changing your travel habits, buying some clothes or furniture second-hand instead of brand new and looking at changing your diet by eating less meat.

By looking at these, it allows you to identify areas you think you can make the changes in order to hit your personal reduction target.

Areas where I have / will be looking at are as follows:

Room Heating – Loft insulation

In order to work out whether my loft insulation was efficient, I got the ladder out, went into the loft and quickly realised my loft insulation is woefully inadequate. I’ve been in the loft many times but the insulation was something I had never noticed. I wondered if that would explain why the upstairs rooms in my home are always noticeably colder during the winter periods, despite living in a terraced house.

According to the National Insulation Association, the recommended depth for loft insulation is 270 millimetres for glass wool, 250 millimetres for rock wool or 220 millimetres for cellulose (https://www.nia-uk.org/understanding-insulation/loft-insulation/). I’m working out the figures and looking to get this fixed soon.

Appliances

Next, I looked at the appliances I have in the kitchen. It appears that most of them have an A++ or A+++. The only one that I couldn’t find the energy rating was my tumble dryer, it’s an old tumble dryer so I don’t think it’s a good energy rating. When the weather is good, I would always hang my clothes out in the garden, what’s the point in using the dryer when the sun and wind dry your clothes for free.

However, during colder weather is a different story and always used my dryer when I am not able to hand the clothes outside. Since doing the calculator, I’ve stopped using the dryer and hang my clothes in the house to dry. At the weekends, my house looks like a laundrette but it doesn’t bother us that much.

Goods

This is where I looked at my buying habits and how often I replaced things. I’ve never been one for having the most up-to-date phone or the latest fashion. I tend to wear my clothes until they fall apart. But one thing I could change is making an effort to buy certain items second-hand. I had been looking for a chest of drawers for a while and thought I would wait until Black Friday for any deals. It turned out that my Mum had one she never used so I now have hers.

Food


I’ve eaten meat all my life and have never been a big fan of vegetables. But I have looked at what I eat. Eating meat/not eating meat can be a contentious issue for many people and we don’t like to be dictated to regarding what we should/shouldn’t eat. I believe, as an adult, it’s up to you to eat what you want and respect other people’s choices. I have friends who are vegans and friends who probably won’t ever give up eating meat. That’s their choices, and I respect them. What I am trying to do is to slowly change a 40-year habit.

I don’t know if I will ever be able to cut meat from my diet completely but I am making an effort to eat less meat. In the last month I haven’t eaten beef, which probably doesn’t sound like a major achievement but for me it is, I don’t miss it and by looking at what I eat, it’s allowing me to have a more varied diet and try different foods I have never eaten before. A month ago, was the first time I had ever bought a parsnips.

Since doing this calculator, my carbon footprint is constantly in the front of my mind and I do look at what I do and the impact it has on my environment. I look at the packaging we get when we purchase food in a supermarket and I do wonder why a melon needs to be shrink-wrapped. I make more of an effort to buy loose fruit and veg and have started to ‘make do and mend’.

If you’re interested in reading about what I’m doing to be greener, check out my blog and if you’re interested in signing up to my newsletter, click here, I promise not to spam you.

My First Litter Pick

On a very bitter, cold Saturday morning, I joined my first ever litter pick in Ashford. The area targeted for litter picking was a park in Ashford called Victoria Park.

The litter pick was organised by a local group who have a Facebook page called Keep Ashford Clean. I’ve seen their litter picking events on my feed for a while and this time I decided to stop thinking about it and just do it. It’s only two hours of volunteering.

We all met by the fountain at Victoria Park at 1pm and there were in total about 10 volunteers.

We were all provided with the equipment; a high-visibility vest, a litter picker, gloves, a bag for rubbish and a bag for recycling. We were split into teams of two and sent off on our way to cover areas of the park. Although, we were in pairs, it wasn’t really easy to have a chat with your buddy because there was so much ground to cover.

Here’s how I got on with my litter pick

Once I got underway, I put my headphones in and started listening to a playlist I had downloaded; *Nysnc, East 17, Jon Bon Jovi, Backstreet Boys and Timbaland, I was in my element. No judgement, please 😉

I was under the impression that I would mainly find drink cans and bottles, but this wasn’t the case. I found so many crisp packets and sweet wrappers, the items that can’t go in the recycling bag for Ashford Borough Council, and these wrappers get everywhere! You really have to look in hedges, fencing, play areas. It was a little sad to see.

About 45 minutes into my litter pick, my fingers started going numb. We had been provided gloves but despite wearing my own gloves underneath, the tips of my fingers were struggling. Despite this, I carried on.

Victoria Park Ashford my first litter pick
Me with my numb fingers trying to take a selfie!

With the rise of knife crime in this country, I did wonder whether anyone had ever found any knives, I asked my ‘buddy’ and she said there had been cases of knives being found. And not just knives, needles too. She said needles were mostly found in the play area! Imagine taking your child to the park to play on the swings and slides and finding a needle!

About an hour and a half in, I started noticing other volunteers moving towards the water fountain so I started litter picking in that direction and arrived back to the fountain about an hour and 45 minutes after we started.

I was astonished by the amount of bags we filled!

Victoria Park Ashford my first litter pick

The blue bags were rubbish and the clear bags were for recycling. The volunteers even found a TV, bicycle tire and what looks like part of a child’s scooter. In just two hours, this is what we collected!

It doesn’t make sense

I never understand why people litter? When I was growing up I was always taught to put your rubbish in the bin and if you couldn’t find a bin, put it in your pocket and wait until you get home and throw you rubbish away. When I’m on the school run, I do see kids drop things on the floor and it really annoys me, but it’s not always kids, it’s adults too. Just because they have no pride in where they live, they have no respect for others.

People dropping litter isn’t the only way litter in found on the roads. Council’s clearly aren’t emptying the bins quickly enough so when they are overflowing, and bit of wind and the rubbish goes everywhere. Council’s need to take more responsibility too. There also needs to be an element of common sense, although that seems to be lacking nowadays, if the bin is overflowing, don’t keep trying to add to it!

I hate littering, always have done always will do and I will ensure my little one knows not to litter.

Despite the cold, I enjoyed myself. I felt a sense of achievement just for two hours volunteering and hopefully the people who use Victoria Park regularly appreciate it the work that was put in to make their park nicer.

I look forward to the next week and hopefully it won’t be as cold next time!

If you’re interested in reading about what I’m doing to be greener, check out my blog and if you’re interested in signing up to my newsletter, click here, I promise not to spam you.

My first blog post

The reason I decided to start a blog is because I’ve been making small changes to my lifestyle in order to go greener. I don’t have the money to get solar panels on my house, buy an electric car or stick a wind turbine in my garden, although I think my neighbours would have something to say about that! But there are small things we can do to make a different.

I’m not good at gardening but I will attempt to grow my own potatoes, I’m not good at sewing but I will ‘make do and mend’ where I can and I will take part in local litter picking too.

If I can do this, there’s no reason why you can’t!