Today I was volunteering to paint the exterior windows at the Environment Centre in Swansea- up on the scaffolding, hard hat and everything! Perhaps the intoxicating fumes of the paint gave me dutch courage to get up the ladder because leaning over the large gaps to reach the window frames on the second floor was actually quite scary. Anyway I’m only saying this incase I sound an bit odd in my post- because I do, infact, feel very odd and lightheaded.
Anyway while I was at the environment centre I bought some eco-cleaning products and toilet roll from their shop. I’ve bought my washing up liquid and laundry liquid there for about a year as this is the only place you can refill your ecover bottles, but pre-Otesha (www.otesha.org.uk) I always bought sponges and cloths from the supermarket. Seeing as I’ve excluded myself from the supermarkets I thought about buying them from the Co-op in town, but knowing that the Environment Centre (a registered charity that I’d like to support) stocked more ethical products I thought I would check out their range.
The dish cloth, duster and sponge are all made from recyled material. Is this good though? For some reason I assumed that they were bio-degradable but actually they are just recycled so they will be going into landfill after I’ve finished with them. Now that I’m thinking about it I usually have a new sponge every two weeks so that’s about 26 sponges I put in landfill every year not to mention cloths! Another thing, I noticed on the label it says not to use the sponge with bleach. Well I usually bleach the sponge and cloths overnight so if I’m going to continue to buy this product what else can I use instead of bleach? I believe you can use bicarb of soda, vinegar, tea tree oil and lemon juice to clean your home but will I be able to give up the warm comfort blanket of bleach and use these things instead? If only I’d have known it was going to be this complicated! Some more thinking will be required.
The toilet paper on the other hand, I was quite impressed with as it is 100% recycled and comes in bio-degradable wrapping. Price wise the toilet paper was also very reasonable at £1.85 for 4 rolls or £4.05 for 9 (it’s £1.90 for 4 in Sainsbury’s btw) so I will definitely be stocking up on loo roll next time I pop down to fill up my ecover bottle (or do painting).
Oh and today it just so happened that the Swansea Evening Post came to take photo’s of us painting the centre, so tomorrow I might be in the local paper. Taking all the glory for one days work!? Shocking, I know.
Hello blog readers!?…. Bloggees?…… Oh god I’m so inexperienced in this line of work that I don’t even know how to address people in their proper roles!!! Anyway it doesn’t matter, as with most things the only wrong way to do something is not to do it at all, and making a few mistakes when your just getting started is not the end of the world!
So I guess I should start by telling you why I am writing this blog and a little bit about myself.
Ok so most of my adult life I’ve tried to be conscious and considerate about how my actions affect the planet, people and animals. I always recycled, bought most of my stuff second hand (although this has declined over the years), stopped eating meat, bought free-range eggs and so on. A paragon of virtue you could say (:p). About three and a half years ago I met my husband Lloyd who is a senior environmental planning officer. Status seeker that I am I loved the fact that ‘he saved the environment for his job!” but it did annoy me that he constantly turned the taps off when I was rinsing the washing up, moaning at me for leaving the computer on standby for days and days, protesting when I left my iphone charger plugged in, hair straighteners on standby, fridge door wide open … I could go on but I won’t bore you. At the same time, whenever Attenbrough was on the iplayer, the global warming aspect broke my little heart and I got angered why no one seemed to be taking any action.
Anyway fast forward to the 3rd of June 2012 (just after I completed my degree). While searching for volunteering opportunities to get my young career in motion I had stumbled upon a charity called Otesha that organised sustainability cycle tours. I was drawn in hook line and sinker by their approach to environmental issues and social justice. The tours themselves were operated by the same principles that were in the Otesha message. Themes of a youth led movement, sustainable energy & water use, low impact food and transportation and exercising individual power by making small changes to every day actions. I couldn’t contain my excitement as I filled in the application form and my imagination was taking me on adventures for days while I waited to hear back whether I would be accepted on the tour. At the same time I didn’t know how the heck I was going to raise the £600 fundraising target, get all the gear on the kit list and pay the £160 train fare up to Scotland- but I knew that if I didn’t give it a shot I’d be kicking myself over another missed opportunity. As you’ve probably guessed I did get accepted onto the tour and also thanks to my wonderful family and friends I raised £400 of the fundraising target. My wonderful dad deserves extra thanks as he topped up my fundraising and paid for my train fair without me even asking. I also got sponsorship from Endura and Urban Cyclery (Swansea) who provided me with some of the kit that was needed for the tour- just because I wrote to them and asked!!! AMAZING!!!
So on 3rd August I set off on the three week cycle tour and met up with 18 other volunteers to learn about sustainable food, energy, transport and social justice and learn how to deliver the Otesha workshops to children and young people. It was an amazing experience, too many things to tell you about all in one go, but basically I wanted to start this blog to write and share about a few of the ideas and behaviours that I want to change in myself and whether they are easy to do or not and generally what happens along the way. Here are the ideas so far:
- get the gas and elec changed to a green/er energy provider
- use less- switch things off when not being used
Use of food budget
- have a supermarket ban! Dun.. dun.. daargghh!!!!!
- support local businesses
- buy locally produced food as much as possible (veg, dairy, eggs, some fruit, honey)
- buy organic as much as possible/ when it’s affordable/ when it’s food produced abroad.
- buy fair trade sugar, bananas, chocolate, coffee etc.
- minimise packaging by buying raw ingredients in bulk and reduce buying processed prepackaged food.
- Start an organic food co-operative???
- Prioritise a vegetarian diet (vegan is more low impact- but one step at a time!!) We don’t want to rule out eating meat if we know where it’s come from and that the animal’s welfare has been a priority during its life.
- only buy organic local free range meat (this will be quite rare and only for special occasions as it’s really expensive).
- when food is given to us it’s down to individual choice to be flexible about organic/free range/local/packaging etc so as to minimise food waste.
- Grow some of our own food – quick & easy stuff like lettuces and herbs indoors and bigger longterm stuff outdoors.
- Do research on forest gardening and permaculture to get the most from our teeny weeny garden space. This will also increase beneficial insects and reduce the naughty insect population without using pesticides. Yay!
- use my bike more
- use the train/ bus more
- only use the car when it’s necessary
Other behaviour changes
- Clothes shopping in charity shops- use the sewing machine more.
- Get my overdraft paid off and move to the Co-operative bank
- Find a use for thrown away items that are useable- see the value in everything!
- Make and fix stuff before buying new
- Use free cycle
- Give thanks!! Show appreciation for all the stuff I receive- make cards and presents more!
- Start a project in Swansea- but what?
Okay so that just about does it for now. I have been back in Swansea for just over a week and here is a list of my achievements.
- Started baking my own bread using the much neglected bread maker
- Bought organic dried food from the local health shop in Swansea Market
- Bought local veg, honey and bread at the Local Produce market in Sketty (1st Saturday of the month).
- Started a sourdough starter mix inspired by our talk by Andrew Whitely at Bread Matters (click here)
- Foraged for blackberries and made a mountain of blackberry and apple jam
- Decided to make apple peel wine from peelings left over from jam making.
- Asked for and received 4 x 15litre containers from The Kardomah Cafe in town which also turned out to be my new supplier of fair trade, organic, forest alliance coffee beans.
- Used one container for wine making- other three could be used for bulk food storage or growing veg in.
- Asked for and received 12 x wine bottles and corks from La Parilla so I can bottle my wine- if it’s any good they only want to know the recipe in return for the bottles.
- Showed thanks to the guys at Urban Cyclery by making vegan tahini cookies and a rubbish card (card made from rubbish).
- Did all my shopping by bike
- Did a wood cruise in the car looking for wood suitable for making a shelf. We got a shelfing unit and a shelf with brackets- so expectations were exceeded by the kindness of strangers yet again.
- Got a free hair cut from my regular hair dressers (well I only wanted a trim at the back) so my hairdresser did it for me in about 5 mins and in return I bought him cupcakes from the new (locally owned) cupcake shop in the market.
- Researched bulk dry foods online from Survival Wholefoods
- Got eggs from a friend who keeps chickens
- placed an order with a local organic veg box scheme who also deliver milk cheese and butter from an Organic Welsh co-operative of dairy farmers and welsh flour.
Anyway that is definitely enough for now and I’ll update the blog whenever I think there is something noteworthy happening in the local area or I’ve had a particularly good or bad experience in trying to achieve the ideals I’ve listed here. Thanks for taking the time to read this blog. Any questions will be welcomed.
Over and out- Ellie