Wednesday, 30 December 2009

No More Plastic Post...continued...

As some of you might remember I've been trying to STOP any post from being delivered to my house in those plastic 'envelopes' - because they offend me a LOT! I can't recycle them locally and I want to cut down the amount of plastic that I use (because it's made from oil and what not that's running out).

I'm having trouble with one magazine I am repeatedly sent (from a teaching union I used to belong to when I was studying for my PGCE, that I'm not a member of anymore, because it stopped being free and because I can't find a teaching job! Talk about rubbing salt in the wound lol!) To make it even worse, my mum is a member of the union and she gets sent their magazine every month too - so we get 24 plastic wrapped magazines per year sent to our address!! There is no way to contact this company! There are no contact details on their website or in their magazine, there is a phone number I can call, but at my own expense, so I'm reluctant to do that. I have found a semi satisfying way of dealing with their plastic post though - sending it back with a sticky label asking to be removed from their mailing list - I've done that for the past 2 months (along with the numerous membership packs they keep sending me too) so maybe next month will be teaching magazine free!!!

I also got a catalogue wrapped in plastic from who I've never heard of, but actually have a special 'remove from mailing list' contact on their website - which I'm really impressed with! I added a little note to the end of the part where I had to put my details about how I was trying to reduce waste and that an unnecessary paper catalogue and plastic bag weren't helpful and could they please reconsider their mailing methods. Lets see if it works!

Having said that The Book People have a section for managing mailings, where I opted out of getting catalogues and I still got one last month, maybe it takes a while to process or something, but I'm going to send them a quick email as well to make sure.

Someone from my old university phoned me and asked if I wanted to donate £26 a month for a student fund, which obviously I said no to, and then asked if I wanted to be put on their mailing list, I had a long conversation with the girl all about cutting down my waste and not wanting to get any paper mail, but that I was happy to be put on their e-mailing list (in case I ever win the lottery!). Three days later I received a letter, not in plastic thank goodness, but with about 5 pages in it asking again for a donation. I put it all back in the envelope and wrote an angry letter on the back of one of the sheets, asking to be removed from their mailing list and giving them my email again. I'm not usually angry - but it seems to have worked in this situation, as a couple of days later I got this email (note email not letter! hurrah!)

Dear Susan

Thank you for your letter from which I was sorry to learn that we had failed to act upon your request not to receive snail mail in future. I am afraid this was simply human error, with Sophie failing to make the requisite note on your record. I hope you will accept our apologies and I can assure you that your record has now been suitably amended. Some Aber publications, such as Prom, are not yet available electronically, but I will ensure you receive it this way once it is produced in an e-format.

Best regards

If angry is the best way to beat plastic post then I'm going to have to rethink my tactics!

What I bought this month...

A chocolate advent calendar for my mum
A lush solid shampoo bar
A TV guide magazine
A little green pottery pot - I'd seen it in the charity shop last time I was in and thought it was lovely, it was reduced to 24p this time I went, it seemed rude not to!
A book - also 20p from the charity shop (but I'll take it back to the charity shop so not to worry!)A shopping trolley - like old grannies have, to carry my food shopping home and save my arms and using the car (my old one's handle and wheel broke beyond repair and had a hole it it!)
3 more books - again from the charity shop and to be given back to the charity shop (one of these days I'll get my butt to the library and stop spending money on books!)

So, I think this is definitely better than last month. I obviously need to start going to the library because although getting books from charity shops is better than buying new, I think the whole resource sharing ideology of libraries suits my own ideas about how we should use and share 'stuff' better. Also the purchase of the granny shopping trolley worries me - I did need one, but my thought process went 'I need this, it's lovely, it's £10, I'll have it', then when I got home I started wondering where it was made and what it was made from and if I couldn't have got a more environmentally friendly one from somewhere else. Sigh. At least it will make my trips to the market more happy and arm-ache proof! And the chocolate advent calendar - the outside was recyclable, but I'm pretty sure I spotted the plastic tray in the bin, I need to think of a better alternative for next year!

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Handmade Christmas..Part 2...Bags, Mouse Doorstops, Ivy Garlands...

Hello! I hope you've all had a wonderful, magical, happy Christmas time - we certainly did in our household :)
My homemade gifts went down quite well, I think, as well as the few shop bought presents I gave as well, so hopefully next year I won't feel so worried about giving things I've made myself.

As well as the LED fairy lights, earrings and coasters I posted about last time, I also sewed some things....
A couple of reusable shopping bags (all made from fabric from my stash and an old men's shirt bought from the charity shop).

Some mice doorstops, for my mum, these are the most complex things I've ever sewn and I unpicked the seams several (million!) times, but I think they were kind of worth it! Every thing in these are reused, except the eyes, which I bought from a local, independent sewing shop. The fabric is from an old blouse and skirt bought from the charity shop, they're stuffed with some fleece left over from another project, the noses are round beads covered in fabric and I sneaked some gravel off our patio (when mum wasn't looking!) to make them heavy enough to stop doors! I even reused some plastic bags that catalogues and magazines are sent through the post in to contain the gravel before I put it in! See - plastic 'envelopes' are useful for something!!!! the pattern for these is from Sew Hip magazine.

My two best friends and I gave extremely zero waste presents to each other - nothing! We went for a Christmas drink instead!
I also managed to get a photo of the ivy garlands I mentioned before, after the house I volunteer in closed for winter they gave us the ivy ribbons because we worked so hard on them! They've been very beautifully decking our hall (and kitchen) and have just started to wilt after about 2 weeks!

This year we managed to recycle all our Christmas wrapping paper, the council is picking it up with the kerbside recycling. I saved all the foil 'paper' my mum used last year to wrap my presents, and I had enough of that plasticy shiny ribbon to wrap all my presents tightly without sellotape - except three round ones that wouldn't play along! My brother and his girlfriend watched in confusion and amazement as I coordinated a 4 bag system (paper for recycling, foil for reusing, ribbon and tags for reusing and unrecyclable stuff) for collecting and sorting all this wrapping on Christmas morning - they do no recycling in their house (I know!!) and made lots of 'oo we really should start recycling' type noises - I do hope they do!!

We also had no food waste! That isn't unusual in my house (as I usually eat it all!) but seeing as it's Christmas I think it's an achievement! We sent the turkey home with the meat eaters, the left over quorn has gone into the freezer and I ate all of my vegan sausages on the day anyway! The veggies became soup and some of the millions of potatoes fed the birds. We do have a LOT of plastic wrapped snacks hanging around though - I'm not in charge of food shopping and couldn't convince my mum to stop buying them! Maybe next year!

Monday, 21 December 2009

Handmade Christmas...Button Earrings, Perler Bead Coasters, Origami Fairy Lights...

This year I've tried to hand make a lot of my presents, especially taking into consideration being more eco friendly. I'm a bit wary of giving homemade stuff, I'm the only one in my family who does it, so I generally supplement the homemade present with something bought as well, which kind of contradicts my point of handmaking something to cut down on consumption...hopefully by next year I'll have convinced my family to tone down the buying presents thing so I don't feel so guilty when they give me something shiny and expensive and I give them something wonky and weird and made with something from the depths of the drawer! Or even better - convince them to make stuff from the tat in the depths of their drawers too! Here are some of the things I've been busy with...

Button earrings - I had the buttons (from my Grandma's button tin), earring backs and glue already so it was just a case of putting them to good use!

Perler Bead Coasters - I already had the perler beads and felt and glue I used to make these - I copied a pattern on the internet that I can't find anymore (my laptop's died and I've lost all my favorites!), but if you google 'perler bead mario mushroom' then examples come up that are easy to copy - These are for my brother, he likes computer games so I thought he could use them in his games room, that is if boys use coasters at all!?

I think the glue I used for both of these projects was definitely NOT environmentally friendly (judging by it's smell!) but I think it's best to use up what I already have then I'll have to do some research on eco glue!

I've made two sets of these fairy lights for two of my old roomates - LED plug in lights (no batteries and LEDs are more eco friendly) covered in origami paper lanterns - I used white computer paper and I had to buy the blue starry paper - but it's 100% recycled gift wrap from Oxfam, so I think that's OK! I started making the lanterns from magazine pages but only managed to find 2 magazines in my house and they didn't have nice pictures - at least my magazine diet is working!!!
I still have a bit of sewing stuff to finish off tomorrow, I can't believe I've left it so late! Is anyone else having a homemade gift meltdown!!?

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Zero Waste(ish) Christmas Decorations...Pine Cones...

This week my mum, me and the head gardener at the National Trust place I volunteer at made some Christmas decorations for the house. Because it's a historical house everything has to be authentic, so no tinsel! We made holly wreaths for the doors and some ivy garlands, but some of the other volunteers made flower arrangements, holly garlands, mistletoe balls and dried orange and cinnamon ornaments to go on the Christmas trees (there are 3 - the biggest is 25 foot!!). Sadly, you aren't allowed to take photos inside, but there's one from the local paper to advertise the event so you get an idea....

To make the wreaths we made some weaved hoops out of twigs then we raked some moss off the lawn, tied big handfuls round and round the hoop till it was covered really well, then stuck lots of holly into it! It was really lovely to make them in such a traditional way and to know that all the materials came from the garden (and that the hoops would be kept to reuse next year and the holly would go into the compost bin).

Mum was so inspired she decided to make one at home! We're going to use holly and fir from our garden, but she couldn't be dissuaded from buying some of that green oasis that florists use as a base instead of some nice twigs and moss (even when I offered to make the base myself and even after a heated 'discussion' in the middle of Wilkinson's!) Ahh well, I suppose it's better than buying a completely plastic wreath, and she says she's going to reuse the oasis each year to make her Christmas wreath, but I know her and as soon as it starts looking tatty it'll go in the bin (cue another 'discussion' here!)...I'm just disappointed I suppose because we've seen how easy it is to make a more natural version for free but she refuses to use it!

Anyway, we also made a LOT of ivy garlands, which involves hand sewing individual ivy leaves onto a strip of fabric! They look really gorgeous though and are also very traditional and very biodegradable! The house looks lovely for it's Christmas opening and I have lots of inspiration for when I have my own house to decorate! The ivy garland was inspired by this TV programme, which is actually filmed quite near where I live, The Victorian Farm, Christmas specials.

After being all inspired and christmassy I also made a Christmas tree decoration. I have a little tree in my room each year and make it a new decoration each year. I took a pine cone from my national trust garden - they have massive redwoods down each side of the driveway leading up to the house, they're beautiful - washed it, dried it, tied a slipknot in a piece of ribbon from my ribbon jar and stuck the stem of the cone into the knot before pulling it tight all the way, then tied a bow with the ends of the ribbon and wrote in biro the name of the place and the year so i can remember when I'm old where it came from. I'm still debating whether to glitterfy it a bit.

To glitter or not to glitter, that is the question?!

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Handmade Christmas Postcards...

This year some of my friends organised a Christmas card making party, which turned out to be an excellent method of cutting down consumption. We all brought crafty things we already had at home and shared them, so no one had to buy anything new! Some lovely cards were made by everyone and it was really good fun (my inner eco obsessive also thinks that 7 people in one room saves the energy of those 7 people sitting in 7 rooms in their own houses - we only used one light bulb and one cd player, rather than the 7 we might have used if we'd have stayed home by ourselves!)

I make my own cards every year, and this year I'd been thinking of ways to make them more eco friendly - I saw these in the Amnesty International Catalogue and thought I could probably whip up something similar.
These Christmas postcards use 50% less card (because they have no back!) and no envelopes, I used some foam stamps I bought last year, an ink pad I found in my mums drawer and some card I already had to make these. I figure because I managed to hold back on adding glittery sparklyness they can go in with the normal cardboard recycling (correct me if I'm wrong!). I'll draw a line down the middle of each at the back and write instructions, so people know it's eco friendly (and not just weird!) and that they can leave it as a postcard or fold it down the line to make a stand up card (it'll be quite small then - each postcard is about 1/4 of a sheet of A4 - but I think they'll be cute)

Has anyone got any other tips for eco friendly card sending? I know I could just not send any at all - but it's Christmas!

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Book review - How to Grow Fresh Air.

This month's eco book was 'How to Grow Fresh Air' by Dr B C Wolverton.

I liked...

1. It's based on the results of a NASA experiment to use plants to create an atmosphere that create the right balance of gases to sustain human life in a sealed unit, so you get to read all the sciencey thoughts behind it, in the first few chapters.
2. It has a growers guide section that gives you tips about the kinds of light, watering and pest control you need to take into account when growing houseplants (excellent for serial spider plant killers like myself!)
3. It then moves on to look at the top 50 plants that put oxygen back into the atmosphere and remove harmful toxins like formaldehyde that are present in modern buildings (in the carpets, furniture, paint, etc - scary thought!), there is a paragraph about each plant, as well as tips for it's care and it's rating out of ten, which is averaged from 4 areas - removal of chemical vapors, ease of growth and maintenance, resistance to insect infestation and transpiration rate (rate it releases oxygen into the environment).
4. The ratings are really helpful in choosing which plants you want to grow - I've decided to try to break my terrible spider plant killing spree and this little fellow has been living happily on my shelf for the past two weeks!
Spider plants have an overall rating of 5.4 - 6s for removal of chemical vapors and ease of growth and maintenance and 5s for resistance to insect infestation and transpiration rate - maybe I'm onto a winner!?
5. I found it really inspiring, to be told explicitly and in detail how important houseplants can be to creating a healthier environment inside our homes and then being given practical tips so you feel more confident in having a go yourself.
I didn't like that some of the sciencey bit was sooo sciencey I had to skip it! And that most of the plants found to have the best rates for removal of chemical vapors and transpiration of oxygen seemed to be the hardest to grow, but I think that has more to do with my skill level than any problem with the book!
Overall, I really enjoyed this book and it's opened my eyes to a whole new world of indoor gardening!

But it was free!!!

So, I kind of went a bit squiffy on Buy Nothing Day and was pressurised into going Christmas shopping with my mum, and although I really wanted to avoid the shops altogether at least I didn't buy anything (she did though!) and I talked to some really cool girls on a council recycling stall about what the council's doing for the environment in my area. In return for filling in one of their questionnaires I got a free green goodie bag (even when I leave the house intending to come back empty handed I still managed to get something, even if it was free!)....

Inside the Act on CO2 reusable shopping bag I got a Fat Trap (not too sure about this device, it's a cardboard box with a plastic bag liner that you pour your used cooking oil and fat into, rather than down the drain where it clogs up the pipes and sewers - I very much dislike the plastic bit though, although it probably is less waste than putting used oil in an old plastic bottle in the bin, which is what we do on the rare occasions we have oil to throw away - anyone else have any opinions on the fat trap or what to do with old oil???), a water saving device for the toilet cistern - you put it in and it swells up and displaces 1 litre of water, so you save a litre per flush, we already have at least one in each loo here so I'm saving this for when I move out (not sure about this one either - I think you could put a brick in your loo and avoid the plastic this things made from), an energy saving lightblub - another item for the 'when I move out' pile! And some leaflets about 100 ways to save energy, ways to keep warm (this ones really fun cos it has a thermometer that tells you when it's too cold, ideal and too hot so you can experiment and get your heater settings to the right levels to stay warm and save energy) and a leaflet about what the council's doing to be more eco.
Not bad for a days work!