#ecosparkles2018 : A catch up for months 3 and 4

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I had hoped to write a weekly update on my little #ecosparkles2018 project but the reality is that whilst I am making changes I’ve not been recording them, so here is an update for the last couple of months and I will then try to write a monthly update.

I am discovering in this project that its not about buying a few green accessories but making lifestyle changes.  It is more about being creative, reusing items and reducing consumption.  It is also about sharing your green values with the services you use, nobody has minded when I’ve used a reusable cup for a takeaway drink, or that I’ve asked for a paper bag instead of plastic packaging or in a café when I have asked for plastic straws not to be put in the children’s drinks and enquired whether glass bottles are recycled, people are happy to do simple green acts when customers request them.

Over the past two months these are some of the green things we have done in the Sparkles household.

  1. We have had a Smart meter installed and it has had an immediate effect. It is now a family challenge to try and reduce the previous day’s total for electricity and gas and it has made us switch off items not being used etc..  This challenge is easier as we are approaching spring, I have no doubt that the daily cost will increase in colder and darker days.
  2. I always have a water bottle on the go in my bag.  It is easier to fill it up than I expected, there are public water fountains in the community which I had never noticed.
  3. Mr and Miss S have planted the seedlings in our garden, we have a variety of fruit and vegetables now growing ready for summer harvesting.
  4. I bought some gym clothes to replace my very worn top and leggings (they were becoming indecent!) I found some which are made from sustainable, organic cotton in Decathlon at a really good price and I’m delighted at how comfortable and practical they are.
  5. All our toiletries and cleaning products are now eco friendly and not tested on animals.    I have also replaced plastic brushes and cloths with bamboo products.
  6. At work I am now leading the Eco schools programme and I am full of ideas and inspiration! Not only is my home going green so is our school!

As well as the above I am really proud of my zero count on some key products, every little helps.

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So this has been my update and I look forward to now sharing a monthly post on how we are becoming a greener house in very simple steps.

 

 

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#ecosparkles2018 : Week 7 : Public Transport

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This week’s ecosparkles is about trying to adopt a commitment to public transport and the limitations living in a small rural town.  Whilst I have a car, my weekly mileage is very low, sometimes less than 10 miles a week, our town is small and we live centrally where everything is near and walkable.  When I do drive, I am rarely alone in my car, as I’m either with the children or on my commute I share the journey with a colleague.  I have my car for when I need to go to big town, a 50 mile round journey or to visit friends and family in other parts of the country.  As its been half term this week I have done one of my long journeys and decided to compare the costs.

This week I calculated that to go from our small town, not on the mainline train network to the train station nearest to my parents would have involved a walk, a bus journey and 4 changes on the train making it approximately a 6 hour journey, costing £51.85 for myself and the two children (we have a family rail card)

The same journey in my car, a small eco friendly model, (roughly the model in the calculator below) for 196 miles (return journey) would have cost £16.20, door to door.  It is unsurprising that given the cost and convenience I opted for the car journey.

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I also decided to calculate my CO2 omission for these two journeys to see if there was a considerable difference, however, both journeys worked out at 0.05 tonnes.

Before moving to our small town, I lived in a large city and public transport was key to travelling.  It was reasonable, reliable and regular and we used it, I think this is common in most large cities and towns.   There are times when living in a small town can feel quite isolating and transport is one of the significant issues.  We have two bus routes which serve our town and both are hourly, it takes more than an hour to travel to the nearest town and to the decent shopping town, ninety minutes.  In bad weather, the services are often suspended and in high tourist season, the buses are very popular and you have to be early to get a place.  The cost of the journey is high.  In the journey I calculated the return journey on bus of approx. 24 miles would have cost for 1 adult and 2 children, £17.40, the train stage of approx. 174 miles was £34.45, thus the bus is 72.5p a mile, the train less than 20p a mile and the car 8p.

As a family, we like travelling by train and we have a nice route which takes us to a number of resorts and shopping towns, from our nearest station we can even get to London on a direct train! We do have a family railcard and do enjoy little days out on the train, driving the 12 miles to the station and using the car park, before hopping on the train.  However we rarely use the bus for its price and poor timetabling.  Even in this challenge to try and make our family life more ecological friendly, I can’t make the full switch to public transport yet.

Whilst I’m not able to commit to public transport, I would like to offer a few suggestions on how I would be more open to using the bus.  Firstly, fares need to be so much cheaper to make them family friendly.  The routes could be streamlined, our buses go to every village, with a double decker winding round country lanes, why not have smaller buses more frequently, offering direct services to towns and a separate stop all service too for those wishing a more scenic journey.  The sadness with the trains is that we used to have a thriving train station in town, but it was one closed after the Beeching report in the 1960s.

Despite my reservations about public transport, I am trying to minimise car journeys this year and to try and share such journeys.  I have a small car and would love to look into a more eco friendly car in the future (electric?), however my car’s emissions are low enough for me not to have to pay car tax and it is economical, so I like to think it has some green credentials.

Public transport can be so good and efficient, its just sad that many small towns and villages are poorly served by such services and that there is a genuine need for a car. There does need to be more commitment to rural communities in transport infrastructure planning.

Resources

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/interactive/2009/oct/20/guardian-quick-carbon-calculator

https://www.fleetnews.co.uk/costs/fuel-cost-calculator/

http://www.co2balance.com/

 

#ecosparkles2018 : Week 6

I was thinking this week that some of this project is not about doing but not doing.  For example, I love glossy magazines but I started to think about the energy costs involved for what these days sometimes seems to be adverts and not quality pieces.  It occurred to me that blogs are filling that void with interesting, relevant posts and do I need to have the magazines?  So one of my eco activities has been not to buy any of this month’s glossy magazines.  When I was in town last week I found myself really questioning my need for products, I bought what I needed but didn’t succumb to any other purchases.  Here are more of my ecosparkles this week .

  1. This week I have been looking at seasonal foods, rather than choose a recipe and then go shopping I did it the other way.  I chose seasonal vegetables and then looked up a recipe in my cookery bible, Good Housekeeping.  The parsnip and potato rosti was gorgeous, who would have thought of nutmeg with those vegetables?  I’ve also bought this poster to display in my kitchen to promote seasonal eating.  https://www.lizcookcharts.co.uk/seasonal-uk-fruit-and-vegetable-chart.html
  2. It was time to tidy up this week and I took all the out of date and used medicines to the chemist to be disposed of safely and not harm our environment in landfill.
  3. I have been looking at food packaging carefully.  We have lots of small independent shops in our town who do use paper bags and I always try to use these shops.  Sadly there is no independent grocer and no food market until Easter so vegetables and fruit can be quite packaged in the supermarket.  I’m finding myself frustrated with trying to prepare a green lunch, my pleas to return the tin foil have varied results.   However I have found these beeswax sandwich covers to try. https://www.asliceofgreen.co.uk/food-wraps-and-bags/robots-large-baggie.html

#ecosparkles2018 : Weeks 4 and 5

image_53930009774866Its been a busy few weeks and I haven’t been able to develop this little project as I would have hoped to.  I’m hoping to do some research on topics relevant to my lifestyle to see how I can make life more eco friendly. Despite the busyness, I have been continuing with the project and here are some of the things I’ve done.

  1. I’ve been to collect my new food caddies.  Our old ones were damaged and unable to be used, so I ordered new ones online and am now saving my food waste again.  I also got a battery recycling bag and lots of leaflets and advice on how to recycle more.
  2. Mr S has been making some new raised beds for growing vegetables and I have helped prepare them.  He has done most of the work, but I did help line them and move them into position in the garden.  We also borrowed a wheel barrow from a neighbour to move the soil rather than go and buy a new one for this job.  Sharing is caring!
  3. Disposable cups used : 0    The most difficult aspect of this is not take away drinks but the water fountain at work with its plastic cups.
  4. Plastic bags purchased : 0   I am being really good at remembering to always have bags in my bag and being prepared for my trip.

I think my focus for the next few weeks is looking at the seasonal foods for February and using less food packaging.  Happy eco living.

 

#Ecosparkles2018 : Week 3

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Its been a quiet, simple week here and I’ve not done anything big for this project.  As promised last week, I went onto the council website to discover all the materials I could recycle.  I was also able to order a replacement food bin as ours is damaged and a bag for recycling batteries. Other green activities last week include

  1. Driving fewer miles.  I’ve calculated that I drove less than 10 miles in the whole of last week after making a conscious effort to walk more.  Living and working in the same small town means that shops, school, work, beach etc.. are all in a mile radius of home, so walking becomes a realistic option.  My main need for the car is mornings when I take the children to school and need to be at work very quickly.  Very few of my car journeys are alone, I either have the children with me or share the ‘commute’ with a colleague.
  2. Recycling foil.  I didn’t know that I could recycle my kitchen foil so that is now being done.  I’ve asked the children to bring the foil home from their packed lunches so we can recycle or reuse but its been met with mixed results this week.
  3. No plastic bags purchased nor disposable cups used.  This is a target I’m trying to maintain for the year, so far so good.

#ecosparkles : Week 2

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Whilst I wrote earlier this week of my attempt at a green shopping trip, I have had some little green successes this week.

  1.  No disposable cups! Not only did I take a cup on my shopping trip, I also took it on my weekly lunch treat. Once a week, my colleague and I head to the gorgeous little café in town for a takeaway homemade soup and bread.  Today we both took our reusable mugs and the owner was more than happy to fill them up with the tastiest lentil, coconut and sweet potato soup!
  2. Decluttering. Yep its that time of the year when I am working my way, room by room through the house to tidy and sort each area. I did the children’s bedrooms this week and sent some clothes, clean and in good condition to the charity shop.  There were some stained and damaged clothes and rather than throw these away I cut the t shirts up to make some rag cloths.  The jeans which were worn through at the knees have become a pair of denim shorts to wear whilst mucking around in the garden.  As well as the clothes, I sent some games and books to the charity shop and recycled paper. There was very little thrown away, apart from used pens for which I need some ideas.
  3. No plastic bags.  Whilst I haven’t bought a plastic bag Mr S insisted on buying one despite my alternative offers when he bought some trousers in Next.  I was really annoyed with him, it felt like he was ruining my little project, something he is a bit bemused about at present.  I just hope that my positive action will rub off on him soon.

    I have a few little ideas for next week’s ecosparkles I’m going to see exactly what I can recycle at my local tip and see if I can reduce our landfill.

Trying to be green

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My resolution this year is to try and be more environmentally friendly and I have created a little hashtag #ecosparkles2018 to illustrate my efforts over the year. I want to see how easy it is to be more ecologically aware by adopting very simple habits, for example I’m hoping not to buy any plastic bags this year or use any disposable cups.  Today was my first big test with a trip to big town.  I was prepared, I had several bags for my shopping, a reusable coffee cup and I even cheekily took some spare coat hangers I had from my decluttering yesterday to see if I could recycle them in a shop.  There were some successes today, I used all the bags and didn’t need any additional and the Sainsbury’s cashier happily agreed to recycle my hangers.

However there were some little things I hadn’t prepared for, the trip took longer than anticipated and Little Miss and I needed a quick bite to eat.  The green and more comfortable option would have been to pop into a café but I was on a tight timescale so we ended up with a takeaway, my daughter’s lunch was served simply in a paper bag, a pretty good packaging option and I had a takeaway salad in a plastic box with a plastic fork, not great eco packaging.  However to try and make the best of the situation,  I took our used packaging to the recycling area of a supermarket as there were no recycling bins in the shopping precinct.  Unfortunately the area was only for recycling clothes, paper, books and silver foil.  I couldn’t take the used tub home as it had dressing in it which might spill onto my other shopping, so despite my best intentions and search for a green option I ended up throwing it away and feeling guilty.  That was frustrating as I had looked hard for a recycling option and it wasn’t there.  This was in a busy town centre and I would have expected some recycling bins around the shops, takeaways etc.. to help people make little green gestures.

My other observation from today was around cruelty free make up.  I went to Superdrug today which has a good reputation for cruelty free products.  I found some of the brands I was looking for and bought a new foundation and mascara which I needed.  What surprised me was the air miles involved in these products as some were made in China.  To me this also raises the ethical argument of China being the country which is insisting on testing on animals, producing cruelty free make up which I presume cannot be sold in the state.  It just doesn’t sit right with me on a number of levels so as well as cruelty free, I’m now looking for make up not made in China and with as few air miles as possible.

Today’s trip has shown the need to be prepared, that you can ask shops to help you be more eco friendly, eg the recycled coat hangers but that there is much more to be done by councils to encourage recycling in busy town centres.