Eco Thrifty Living – Book Review and Interview

I’ve been following Zoe Morrisons’ blog, Eco Thrifty Living for a few years and know she has some great tips to share.  So I was pleased to have the chance to review Zoe’s new book:  Eco Thrifty Living – Save Money, Save the Environment and Live the Life You Want.

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Zoe has a friendly and easy to read writing style – as I read a lot for my work I admit I don’t often read a book when I get home, but I sped through an electronic version of the book in a couple of evenings after dinner.  The book is split into manageable chunks focussing on different areas of the home and different events and activities you might spend money on – so you can easily focus in on a particular area, or refer back to it again later.  There are different options for ways to reduce waste and save money in each area so you can pick the ways that will work for you, and I particularly like the way each section ends with a challenge and advice on how to take things further.

If you are starting to focus on ways to help the environment and save money, this is a great introduction.

The book is currently available to download in Kindle version via Amazon:  Eco Thrifty Living – The Book:  (note this is not an affiliate link) .  Printed copies are also now available – ideal if you want to gift a copy.

I caught up with Zoe to ask her a few questions about the book and her experiences:

1)  Hi Zoe,  you’ve been writing a successful blog about eco thrifty living for a while now.  What prompted you to turn it into a book?

I have always wanted to write a book ever since I was a kid.  The thought of actually writing one was really overwhelming though so it took me a long time to convince myself to follow through on my childhood dream!

2)  Which of the changes suggested in the book did you find easiest to implement?

There are so many changes it is difficult to pick!  There was one challenge that I took on that surprised me though. I found that not buying anything new for myself for 10 months was actually really easy!  Read more about my challenge here: https://ecothriftyliving.com/2013/11/my-year-of-eco-challenges-challenge-3.html I do buy things now, but with a different mindset to my previous one. In the book I suggest taking on a similar challenge.

3)  And which was the most challenging?

There were some changes I wanted to make that didn’t work for me – mainly in relation to cleaning and bathroom products. There are also some eco changes I haven’t even attempted yet. I’m still taking things one step at a time and doing what works for me and I recommend that approach.  I think trying to take it all on at once it can feel difficult and overwhelming. Making one small change at a time that sticks is better than trying to do too much and then giving it all up.

4)  You mention a few things in the book that you managed to find for free.  What is your favourite free find?

We have had some great free finds, including clothes,  scooters, a trampoline,  a bookshelf and more. One of my favourites is a tent we got given via Freecycle. It is a really large canvas tent with heavy poles and it’s straight out of the 70’s. A bit faded now, but in its day it was bright orange! It has three bedroom sections and a front room that you can stand up in. I love it – is perfect for my family of 4. You can read more about it here:  https://ecothriftyliving.com/2015/06/introducing-caspar-friendly-tent-and.html

5)  If you could give someone new to trying to live an eco friendly life without spending a lot of money just one tip, what would it be?

My one tip would be to read my book! It is filled with ideas for how to be eco friendly without spending much money. It covers how to be eco-thrifty in a variety of areas including in the kitchen, the bathroom, getting fit, clothes, stuff, kids and more!

Thanks Zoe – great advice.

The free tent, which looks amazing – reminds me of a camping holidays in France as a teenager.

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50 + ways to reduce waste and avoid plastic- UK

Harris and Sons Fruit and Veg Stall, Leighton Buzzard Market
Harris and Sons Fruit and Veg Stall, Leighton Buzzard Market

Are you looking for ways to reduce waste?  And single use plastic?  Then read on.  I hope my experience of making changes might help.  If you find the information useful please let me know and feel free to share –  you can find sharing links at the end of the post.

Recently someone in the Journey to Zero Waste UK Facebook group asked about ways to avoid plastic. I’ve been trying to reduce waste and our use of single use plastics for a while now and when I started reeling off a list of changes I was amazed at how long the list got! Some of these are things we have always done, or done for a long time, but many are more recent changes, made since I’ve been part of the online zero waste community. So I thought it might be useful to share our list. There are of course many other changes you can make, and not all of these may be applicable, but these are some of the things that work for us.

1) Ditch the Disposables:

  • Cloth nappies – even if you only use them part time it’s worth it. There are lots of preloved nappy groups on Facebook so you don’t need to spend big and can try different types.
  • Cloth baby wipes – again, even if you mainly only use them at home as we did it still saves loads of waste. Wet as needed and wash with the nappies. We bought some from ebay but if you have fabric to repurpose, so much the better.
  • Cloth hankies – buy vintage or make your own from old clothing. No need to sew – you can cut up old jersey T shirts and they won’t fray.
  • Washable cloths for cleaning (many of ours are the baby wipes/nappies we no longer need for that)
  • Flannel for face washing.
  • Instead of cling film, put things in a reusable container or a plate over a bowl. You can just put the cut side of half an onion etc face down on a plate.
  • Tea towels and dishcloths or going to sink to wash hands/face rather than kitchen towel.
  • Washable menstrual products – either a cup or washable pads as you prefer.
  • Dishcloth, wooden brush or sliced loofah for washing up . A metal scourer is great for stubborn things.
  • Reusable baking sheet liner rather than greaseproof paper or baking parchment.

2) Bathroom:

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My bathroom essentials

 

  • Bar soap instead of liquid hand soap or shower gel.
  • Rhassoul clay and diluted vinegar in place of shampoo – you can even make your own vinegar – more in this post: Shampoo bars are not the only option! Hard water friendly zero waste / low waste hair wash options.
  • Alternatively just use water for hair washing ( doesn’t work for me but seems to work fine for the rest of the family).
  • If neither of these appeal look out for a local refill option – I now have the option of refilling an old shampoo bottle with locally made Green Goddess shampoo at local refill shop Refilled Chichester.
  • Home made deodorant: Easy coconut oil deodorant recipe
  • Flannel and water.
  • Cloth loo wipes (part time – just for wee here). Mine are repurposed baby wipes.
  • Bamboo toothbrush.
  • Denttabs with fluoride – I buy mine from Anything but Plastic but they are available from several online shops or maybe from your local refill shop.
  • Ecoleaf toilet roll made from UK post consumer waste. In a compostable potato starch wrap.
  • Safety razor – bar soap can double up as shaving cream.
  • Oil in a glass jar for moisturising when needed (currently using a blend of oils bought in a glass bottle in TK Maxx).

3) Food shopping and baking

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Percol Coffee

 

  • Loose fruit and veg – generally from the local market. I take my own bags and a 4 wheeled Rolser shopping trolley which makes it easier to get it all home on foot. If I can’t get to the market I do my best to choose loose produce in the supermarket.
  • Dry goods and refills from local zero waste shop.
  • Meat from local butchers – happy to put it straight into our own containers. Waitrose, Morrisons and Sainsbury will also do this for meat and fish.
  • PG Tips loose tea in a card box.
  • Percol ground coffee in a home compostable bag (carbon neutral too).
  • Look for less or easy to recycle packaging.
  • Milk delivered in returnable glass bottles.
  • Make our own bread and pizza etc. I’ve been using a bread machine to make all our bread for 3 or 4 years now but have only recently got into baking sourdough – even less waste as no yeast is required. You can read more about making sourdough here: Simple sourdough bread – by a novice
  • Make yoghurt (occasionally! ).
  • Make plant milks. I tend to prefer almond milk now but I previously shared a recipe for hemp milk: How to make hemp milk that doesn’t split
  • Soda stream for fizzy drinks.
  • 5kg bags of rice from the world food section of the supermarket– less plastic and cheaper.
  • Save veg peelings and trimmings to make vegetable stock.
  • Two Farmers crisps in home compostable bags (available at Refilled Chichester)

4) Cleaning/laundry

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Refills available at Refilled Chichester

 

  • Refills of washing up liquid and laundry liquid.
  • Ecozone eco balls.
  • Soap nuts.
  • Laundry powder in a card box.
  • Dishwasher powder in a card box or make your own DIY dishwasher powder.
  • Dishwasher salt in a card box.
  • Vinegar. I mix vinegar 50/50 with water in a spray bottle for general cleaning or dab a bit on neat to wipe down food prep. surfaces immediately before using – e.g. when kneading dough.
  • Bicarbonate of soda.
  • Citric Acid – either mix to a paste with a little water as a cream cleaner, or dissolve 2 tbsp in 500ml of hot water and coole before transferring to a spray bottle for general cleaning as an alternative to vinegar
  • Borax Substitute.

5) On the go

  • Coffee cup.
  • Water bottle.
  • Stainless steel straws.
  • Empty container and cutlery if you plan to buy street food.

6) Other things

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  • Compost all food waste, and waste from herbivorous pets.
  • Grow a few things.
  • Forage a few things.
  • Buy things we need second hand first – I’ve bought most of my clothes that way for years but now we also look for other things preowned too. Our oak bed frame has to be one of the best finds when we moved house. It perfectly matches the bedside tables we had already.
  • Repair what we can.
  • Reuse – e.g. jars and tubs from food are saved to reuse for taking to refill shop, making jam, storing and freezing leftovers etc.
  • Rehome things we no longer need – via Facebook groups, ebay, charity shops etc.
  • Recycle as much as we can.

I’d love to hear about your favourite changes that have helped you reduce waste. Please let me know by commenting below and sharing.

Remember you can also follow me on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter @busygreenmum

I’m sharing this as part of the Going Green linky for Plastic Free July over at A Green and Rosie life so do check out the other posts there too. https://eco-gites.blogspot.com/2019/07/going-green-29-july-2019.html?m=1

Mixed successes in avoiding plastic – Plastic Free July.

So, since starting out with plastic free July I really haven’t had time to sit and write – instead I have been sharing some pictures of some of my plastic free efforts over on Instagram which is easier to do as I go along. Do pop over and have a look.

My 2 initial pledges were to replace plastic wrapped snacks such as crisps, and to find a local milk delivery in glass bottles.

Well, so far so good.  We had our first glass bottle milk delivery last Monday.  There is no denying that it is considerably more expensive than plastic bottled supermarket milk, but the additional cost is more than offset by the saving we have made since we swapped from individual plastic bottles of fizzy water to a Soda Stream back in September.  And it somehow seems really nice to open the fridge and see a couple of glass bottles with nice green foil lids.  Plus, we are supporting a local dairy.

Finding a feasible regular alternative to crisps and other plastic wrapped snacks has been a little harder, although I have managed not to buy any more once I finished off the couple of bags in the cupboard already.  In the first week I was really enthusiastic and made flatbreads, cut into triangles and baked with cajun spices and  popcorn – seasoned with a little melted butter, salt and plenty of black pepper.  In the second week I managed to buy cashew nuts loose (into a reused plastic bag – most suitable thing I could manage to find) to last me the couple of days in the office.  But I can only buy them near my work, not near my home which means my half hour lunch break was pretty much taken up with getting these.  In the 3rd week, things were getting really busy at work so I didn’t have a chance to buy nuts.  I baked some cake at home but then had no time or energy to make savoury snacks too so ended up taking along the spare crusts cut off son’s sandwiches as an extra filler – it did stop me being hungry but was a bit dull as snacks go.  I had one go at making my own crisps but managed to burn them and even the burnt ones were soft rather than crispy by the time I wanted them at work the next day – so I clearly need to practice this!

I haven’t asked the rest of the family to join in with giving up crisps etc but my son did enjoy popcorn in his packed lunch a few times instead of usual crisps.  Another week I gave him tortilla chips from a larger bag for less pro-rata plastic but he got bored with that after a couple of days and didn’t eat them.

At the start my husband forgot and bought home plastic wrapped chocolate a few times – but now he is remembering to look for the card or paper packaged ones which are fairly easy to find.

Looking back at the instagram pictures has helped me see how many plastic free things I have managed including:

  • Switching to glass bottled milk
  • Washing my hair with gram flour and vinegar
  • Using lemon balm from the garden to substitute some cups of tea, and drying some to use later on
  • Making yoghurt in my Wonderbag
  • Accidentally making granola – started out trying to make some raw energy bites ( oats, honey dried fruit and seeds) but I just couldn’t get them to stick together so baked the crumbly mess instead and it tasted great.
  • Making sweet and savoury popcorn ( the kernels were in a plastic bag but makes lots of portions) – my favourite is to coat in a little melted butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Making flatbreads, and baking some into “tortilla chips” seasoned with Low Salt Cajun Spice Mix
  • Buying a lovely bar soap in a card box
  • Buying fruit and veg from the market in my own cloth bags, as usual
  • Buying coca cola – which we buy quite rarely – in glass bottles
  • Only buying paper wrapped chocolate
  • Buying loose nuts
  • Finding that a local shop sells recycled toilet roll in compostable packaging – with no plastic!

I’m quite pleased with that and although I am not going to promise never to eat shop bought crisps, I will be making some of these changes on a more regular/permanent basis.  Next I am going to try loose tea to avoid the plastic in the bags.  I already buy our coffee this way and the same shop sells loose tea so will be trying that this afternoon.

When I wrote this last week we were about to go off to a festival which I suspected would rather ruin my plastic free efforts – more about that in another post as this one’s getting rather lengthy.

Giving up Shampoo

It has now been 7 months since I last used a commercial shampoo to wash my hair.

My experimental journey towards “no poo” as they call it, started off fairly easily.  I decided to try living without commercial shampoo shortly after I had applied a colour to my hair, which handily means I know that where the colour ends is also pretty much where the shampooed hair ends.  I had read a few blogs about it, including washing with baking soda and apple cider vinegar either long term or as a transition to using water only,  and washing with honey (at blog High Heels and Training Wheels ), and as the honey method seemed to be popular with curly hair and suitable for use with hard water (ours is really, really hard) I decided to start with this method, with the ultimate aim of getting to water only washing. I also liked the fact that I know exactly what the honey is and where it comes from (within my small town), unlike many of the shampoo ingredients.

It started off really well.  I began by spacing out my conventional washes from approx 3 times a week to once a week, washing with just water once or twice in between.  I did this for a few weeks until I had used up a bottle of Bodyshop Rainforest shampoo that had been hanging around for a while (this shampoo contains no sulfates, silicones or parabens).  Then  I switched to a dilute mix of honey and boiled water to wash my hair (approx 1tbsp local honey dissolved in about 3 times the amount of warm water and left to cool) once a week.  And it seemed to work pretty well.  Initially I continued with a water only wash once in between.

I joined an international Facebook group of people living without shampoo and learnt so much more. They have a whole host of files with more information and shampoo recipes here , where you can find out more about most of the methods I mention.  I learnt to expect that my hair might feel waxy to start with as the silicones are gradually removed (although I was using a natural shampoo my curl serum did contain silicones), and that apple sauce could be used as a treatment.  I learnt that hard water can be a challenge, and can also cause waxiness.  I also learnt that tea or coffee can be used as a rinse between washes so gave both of these a try, along with rosehip tea, and lemon and ginger tea as I had these already.

I began my no poo journey towards the end of October.  By Christmas I was still washing with honey and water once a week but was finding the waxiness beginning to build up (which unexpectedly gave my hair loads of volume so didn’t look at all bad but felt pretty yucky).  So I tried an apple sauce hair mask.  Basically I chopped up a cooking apple and microwaved it until soft enough to mash up really well with a fork (generally advised to use a blender although I didn’t bother) .  Once it had cooled enough to not burn me but was still warm I spread it all over my hair and covered with a shower cap.  I rinsed it out thoroughly after about half an hour and hey presto, clean hair (if much flatter than with the wax).  Around this time (can’t recall if before or after) I also tried an egg wash which was also pretty effective – an egg mixed with an equal amount of cold water (hot water will cook the egg!), and applied to the hair (in the shower or over a sink as it will drip everywhere) then rinsed off after about 10 mins, again with cool water to avoid cooking the egg.   Due to the protein content this is generally not recommended more than once a month but it depends on your particular hair needs.  After new year I also tried a beer rinse as we had an open can left over – my hair loved this!

After another month I used the apple sauce and egg again.  A few months into the new year I was starting to find the honey was not as effective – I think this may be  because the new hair growth was not as dry as the coloured hair – and that my hair was becoming much greasier.  At this point I tried  using  a wash of chick pea flour – 1tbsp of chick pea flour dissolved in warm water.  I added some lemon juice which my hair seems to like ( in moderation).  This was the cleanest my hair had felt yet.  Sadly the next week it didn’t work so well  – this is because it has similar protein issues to the egg.  So I went back to the honey wash, but adding lemon juice, and at one point also tried using the olive oil bar soap I use for washing (not best in hard water and needs to be followed by an acidic rinse such as diluted vinegar) when I didn’t have anything else to hand.

Anyway, 7 months and a fair bit of trial and error later, I have found a different routine which is working really well  for me.  I am now using a wash of soapnuts with added honey and lemon juice alternating with a wash of tea (currently teapigs liquorice and peppermint bags I rescued from being thrown out at work) with a capful of distilled white vinegar.   At the moment I use one of these every 6 days and in between avoid wetting my hair by wearing a shower cap when I shower (to minimise the chance of hard water build up).  Towards the end of the 6 days I might wear my hair up, and brush with a bamboo brush or boar bristle brush at bedtime.  I mainly use soapnuts I have already used for laundry to make up the soapnut shampoo but find adding a couple of new soapnuts does help to make it lather sufficiently.  I make enough around once a month to fill an old small shampoo bottle – then  I use half and then pop the bottle in the freezer to keep the rest fresh for the next wash.  Since the soapnuts contain saponins which produce a lather and also work well in hard water this method seems to work much more like a regular shampoo than some of the other methods did for me and I am quite happy my hair is getting a good clean.  I have been using soapnuts for my laundry since last September and find they clean well so perhaps it should be no surprise that they also work well on my hair.  The effectiveness of the liquorice root and peppermint tea and a little vinegar is perhaps more surprising but smells great too (mint sauce!).

I am hoping this method will continue to work for the moment, at least until I finish the large bag of soapnuts I am using for the laundry.  At that point I intend to experiment with the more local alternative of soapwort, or ideally attempt to go water only.

Along the way my son also gave up shampoo – at the same time as going from long to short hair – he just uses water and had no transition issues (he’s 9 so was ecstatic at me allowing him to not use shampoo); and I found out that my dad had already switched to water only washing a few years ago.  My husband has just decided he’s going to give it a try too so we might well soon be a shampoo free household.

Have you ever tried giving up shampoo?  How did you get on and what method did you try?

If you enjoyed this post please let me know by commenting or liking.  You can also follow me on Twitter or Facebook.

I have also started putting together a Pinterest Board on Natural Haircare .

 

A Spring Foraging Adventure with Hedgewitch Kat

Kat starting off our walk with some borage
Kat starting off our walk with some borage

On a lovely hot and sunny Saturday morning I walked across the water meadows and along the canal to meet Kat and a small group of fellow foragers keen to learn from her experience.

She began by showing us some borage, which she told us is used to flavour Pimms.  This was one I know for adding to a drink- you can freeze the pretty purple blue flowers in ice cubes or just pop into your drink as a garnish.  We all took a taste of the stalk which is slightly cucumbery.  The leaves are slightly furry.

We then took a look at ground elder, growing close to the ground as the name suggests.  As leaves look similar to those of the elder tree it is important to check that the plant is not actually a young elder tree sapling (in which case it would have a more woody stalk and likely be under or close to an existing elder tree), as the tree leaves are not edible.  The young ground elder leaves had a lovely tangy taste.  This plant was brought in by the Romans as it is apparently good for gout.

We then had a look at a young burdock plant – the root is used to flavour dandelion and burdock and can also be used as a vegetable, but remember you should not dig up a plant without the landowner’s permission.  You can also eat the young leaf stems, first stripping off the hard outer peel.

Everybody’s favourite of the day was Garlic Mustard or Jack by the Hedge – there was a plentiful supply of this along the canal and the river and it tastes just as the name suggests.  It’s best to take just the top few leaves from any individual plant  – these can be eaten raw and can also be used to make a great pesto. I later spotted these a little closer to home so will definitely be out for some more of these in the next week.

The leaves of ground ivy, a low growing creeping perennial with small purple/blue flowers can be used to make a herbal tea and were used to flavour beer before the use of hops became widespread.

Nettles are the wild edible most people will be familiar with but I didn’t know that stinging nettles are actually unrelated to the white and purple flowering deadnettles ( which don’t sting) although all are edible. The young shoots and leaves of deadnettles can be added to salads or stir fries.  Stinging nettles are popularly used for soup but can also be used in a variety of other dishes such as risotto, or to make a syrup.  They are very high in iron and a range  of other vitamins. It is best to use young plants in their first year, and remember to bring gloves for picking them.

We also had a look at the hawthorn – a familar sight in British hedgerows.  The leaves can be dried in summer and used to make a tea.  The leaves contain a chemical which helps you to feel full and are known as “bread and cheese”.  The small fruits which appear later in the year are edible but fairly bland ( when I have tried them before I found them to be like a very small floury bland apple).  They can be used to make hawthorn jelly or added to other fruits and dried to make a fruit leather.

Still alongside the canal, we took a look at the large leaved comfrey plant.  The leaves can be boiled and used like spinach but it is also known for its medicinal properties ( for healing bones).  You can also cook the leaves tempura style in a little batter.

As we moved away from the canal and onto the watermeadows Kat showed us the important difference between hemlock (which is extremely poisonous) and cow parsley.

She then showed us broadleaved plantains growing in the meadow grass.  We have a smaller version of these growing in our back garden lawn.  And cleavers/goosegrass/stickyweed which can be gently steamed in a little butter when young (before the seeds appear)

Dandelions are another one everyone will easily recognise.  All parts of the plant are edible apart from the seeds.    I remember spending a whole day collecting the flowers as a child for my dad to make dandelion wine. Another of the foragers told us of a recipe for dandelion marmalade.  The young leaves can be used in salads.

We had a look at some young himalayan balsam plants emerging near the river.  These are an invasisve species so are being removed in many places.  You can help stop them spreading by collecting the seeds in late summer (shaking into a plastic bag as the seed pods explode) .  Adele Nozedar’s book mentioned at the end has recipes for Himalayan Seed Curry and Himalayan Balsam Seed Rissoles .  You can also just eat the seeds as they are, and can also eat the leaves and stems.  The stems are apparently a little like rhubarb although as we always have a surfeit of actual rhubarb in the garden I have never felt the need to try.

Kat also showed us tansy which is antibacterial ( and tasted so) and common hogweed.  The young unfurled leaves and flower heads  of the common hogweed can be cooked gently like asparagus. This plant should not be eaten raw. It is important to be sure you have correctly identified common hogweed as the larger giant hogweed is poisonous.

We finished up our walk with a taste from a large thistle – Kat cut and trimmed pieces of the stalk for us to sample.  And it was surprisingly tasty – I would say a little like celery.

We then made our way back to the pub for a quiz on what we had learnt that morning – with the prize of a lovely pot of jack-by the hedge pesto made by Kat – which I am looking forward to using this week .

This walk really helped me, giving me the confidence to try some plants I knew were edible but was not so confident about identifying and also showing me some I was unfamiliar with.  A top tip for me was the fact that pesticides cannot be sprayed close to waterways which makes the river and canal edges a great place for foraging ( although as they are also popular places for dog walkers, try to avoid the spots dogs are likely to wee or be sure to well wash/cook  your finds).

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Disclaimer and additional references:

This is a brief overview so please do not rely on my images for identification purposes, or rely on this information for the appropriate use of each plant – be sure to check with someone who knows or if using books and online images use several sources to be sure you have a clear image of any unfamiliar plants and sufficient information on which parts of the plant are edible and how to prepare them.  If in doubt don’t eat it.

Information from Kat’s fascinating walk has been supplemented, and my memory refreshed as necessary, by reference to  Richard Mabey’s Food for Free.  Other useful foraging reference books are Alys Fowler’s the Thrifty Forager and Adele Nozedar’s The Hedgerow Handbook – recipes, remedies and rituals.

A link to Kat’s blog is below.  Eat the weeds is also a useful reference site for more information on individual plants

Kat’s blog: Hedgewitch Adventures

Hedgewitch Adventures Facebook Group

Eat the Weeds

If you enjoyed this post please let me know by commenting below – you can also follow me on  Twitter or Facebook

 

 

No new clothes – learning to love the clothes I have and realising I actually don’t need more.

Full wardrobe
Full wardrobe ( and I don’t just have the one)

I have always been a bit of a shopaholic and a bargain hunter when it comes to clothes.

A few years ago I spent a year not buying new clothes – there’s a little about it on my separate (now discontinued)   blog https://prelovefashionandrecycling.wordpress.com/

That time my challenge was to only buy second hand clothing for a year.  Excluded from this were shoes and underwear, and things bought with birthday gift vouchers.  As I went through the year I found I couldn’t get leggings second hand so allowed these new (loosely under the underwear category since I tend to layer them under dresses).

Actually the challenge was far easier than I expected and by the end of the year I had amassed loads of “new to me” clothing, along with far more new shoes and underwear than I possibly actually needed.  And I felt good because I had spent lots in charity shops. Although I went back to buying some new clothes, I continued to get well over 50% second hand.

Back in September last year I signed up for zero waste week and shortly after decided that perhaps it was time for a new clothes related challenge.  This time I was not just going to not buy new clothes, but not buy, or acquire, any additional clothes, shoes or underwear, whether new or pre-owned ( with one exception – see below).  Because this was a tougher challenge ( certainly one my husband thought I had 0% chance of sticking to), I set a more modest timescale – until Christmas, and set myself one exception which was a pair of specialist shoes needed for an arthritic toe as the old pair had started giving me blisters.

Actually I had only bought one item of clothing since July – a second hand dress which turned out not to fit and was donated back to charity.  So effectively my challenge began in July.

Allowing myself an exception for shoes in advance was perhaps not such a great idea as I quickly ordered a pair online (mistake to browse ebay after a glass of wine – I should know better) .  In the end I didn’t keep them – my old boots turned out to just need breaking in again for the winter and soon became comfortable again, and the new shoes didn’t really fit so after a few weeks I listed them back on ebay and sold them on.

Christmas came and went.  My only challenge really was a Christmas do at work which required a posh outfit.  I already had a gorgeous black satin fishtail wiggle skirt from Coast in the cupboard, picked up in a charity shop a few years earlier and never worn as I had struggled to find any shoes to go with it that I could actually walk in (I’m usually in either summer Birkenstocks or clumpy MBT boots).  A friend came up trumps with a pair of flat pointy court shoes she’d picked up in a charity shop which she lent me for the evening.  And my auntie lent me a lovely black lace top and a silver scarf (since we had a black/white/silver theme).  My auntie is a bit skinnier than me so the top was a bit on the tight side but altogether I was really happy with the outfit and I could even walk (and dance) in the shoes which friend now has on standby for me to borrow again should the need arise. And I had a lovely evening.

So, I made it until Christmas, and do you know what, I still couldn’t really think of anything I needed or even particularly wanted by way of clothing.  I unexpectedly received a gift voucher from work for long service and really struggled to spend it. After buying some things to help with my zero waste journey such as lush deodorant bars and storage tins, a loofah, a soap dish and replacing a really scratched wok with a hopefully longer lasting enamelled one,  I could only think of looking for clothes for the remainder  (I was limited to a specific shopping centre) but really wasn’t inspired by anything so aside from a nightdress ( as I had got rid of 2 just before starting zero waste – as my mending efforts had failed)  I bought some “functional” items – a thermal underdress, a pair of leggings and a couple of pairs of bamboo socks.  Aside from those I have still not acquired anything new, or even second hand.

At the start of this I shared my challenge with the folk over at the  Zero Waste Heroes Facebook Group to give me some motivation.  Someone commented that I would learn to really love the clothes I had.  I wasn’t sure, I thought I might get bored , but actually they were spot on.  I have culled quite a few things I wasn’t so keen on ( to charity shop) and most of my wardrobe is now things I really like (including the purple woollen dress in my post from a few years back).

So, my challenge has extended to cover 9 months, and I have to say that it has really changed my attitude towards buying new clothes.  I found that:

1)  I already owned way too many clothes

2)  I could donate some and still have more than enough

3)  Asking whether I need something really helps, and has extended way beyond clothing

4)  Because this attitude has extended beyond just clothing I have saved an average of £250 per month on my personal spending.  Considering I was mainly buying cheap second hand clothing to start with that is a phenomenal amount!

Going forward I will continue to ask myself how much clothing I really need and when I do need something be sure it is something I really love, and which fits me really well.  I like the recycling element of buying second hand so will continue to do this but where I do need new I am going to focus more on buying such new items from ethical companies – it may cost more, but I will be buying fewer items.

I have been invited to a charity clothes swap party next week (arranged by the good friend who kindly lent me her shoes).  So I am going to have a day off, at least, from not acquiring anything new to me.  But I am determined that I will bring home fewer items than I donate to the swap.  More about that in a future post.

I am still sorting out items to swap but so far have picked out 2 coats, a pair of velvet trousers (freshly dry cleaned and embarrassingly still unworn from the last clothes swap a couple of years ago) and a skirt to go:

Starting to gather items for the clothes swap
Starting to gather items for the clothes swap

What is your approach to buying new clothes and how often do you clothes shop?

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Post featured on  Thrifty Thursday

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Water Saving Week #1

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This week, I’m excited to be sharing a guest post from my dad who is really good at saving water.

Water Saving Week 2016 runs from 21st – 25th March and is being promoted by Waterwise  who have loads more water saving tips to share every day this week.

Now, over to dad:

SAVING WATER

Water Butts:-Firstly get some water butts to collect as much ‘free’ water as possible. You won’t usually need to water the garden in the winter so the water can be used to flush toilets.

Flushing toilets is one of the heaviest uses of water. Try to do it only when necessary. Keep a bucket handy to fill with rainwater or other ‘saved’ water and use that to flush.

Have your cisterns fitted with dual flush and/or adjust the float to use the minimum amount of water necessary (don’t overdo it or you’ll end up flushing twice, so defeating the object.)

Some people put a brick or similar in the cistern – again don’t overdo it or you’ll be flushing twice.

Bathwater Don’t empty the bath when you’ve finished – use the water to flush the toilet.

Shower better than a bath. Why not keep a washing up bowl in the shower. Stand in it to wash your feet and then pour it in a bucket to use to flush the toilet.

Hot water When turning on the hot tap you usually let it run until it gets hot. Catch that cold water in a jug and add it to your bucket for toilet flushing.

Dirty water In the summer dirty water, e.g washing up water, water that has been used for cooking, tea dregs, can be kept in a bucket and used for watering the garden. Very few plants suffer from this. While water used for cooking is usually contaminated it is worth checking if it usable for toilet flushing or cooking other things.

Aerated water You can buy taps and shower heads that mix air with the water thus minimising water use.

Plug in It is usually better to put the plug in rather than wash your hands under running water. You could use an antiseptic handwash that doesn’t need water although I haven’t checked the environmental impact of that.

Share a bath. Could be romantic

Outflow In the past I have diverted the outflow from washing machines and dishwashers to use on the garden although this isn’t always practical – depends on the plumbing.

Dishwashers People have different views but I feel they use water more efficiently than washing up in the sink. If used make sure they are as full as possible – ditto washing machines.

Re use plates, cups etc. Do you really need to wash that cup before having another cup of tea? Can that plate be used again for the next meal?

In general think about any liquid before throwing it away– can it be reused?

Thanks Dad. Really useful stuff.

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Waste and money saving since Zero Waste Week

It has been a couple of months now since we stepped up our efforts to reduce our household waste (more about our reasons for this in a forthcoming post) so I thought it was time to do a bit of an audit of what these changes would save from going to landfill or needing to be recycled over the course of a year, and also to see if we are saving any money along the way. We had already been doing quite a few things to reduce our waste, but today I’ll just cover the new ones.
Since the UK’s zero waste week in September we have:

1. Replaced individual bottles of sparkling water with a Soda Stream. This comes with just 2 plastic bottles that can be reused for around 2 years (not sure what happens to them after that if you continue to reuse but they are labelled with a date).

This Soda Stream replaces over 500 plastic bottles a year
This Soda Stream replaces over 500 plastic bottles a year

Based on an average of 10 x 50cl bottles per week this has already saved quite a few bottles. Over a year we will be sending 520 fewer plastic bottles to our recycling centre.

With the Soda Stream costing us £40 and the gas refills costing £7.99 (enough to make 60l each), we will also save around £150 in the first year, more thereafter.

2. Swapped boxes of Lyons individual coffee bags for loose coffee roasted locally and ground straight into my own container.

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Individually packaged coffee bags – convenient but lots of packaging waste
Freshly ground coffee
Freshly ground coffee with no packaging

We were buying around 1 box of 18 bags most weeks as well as less frequent packs of ground coffee so will be saving around 50 cardboard boxes, plus 900 foil wrappers and paper bags, and around 6 foil ground coffee packs over the year. In terms of cost, the freshly ground coffee is more expensive than buying ready packed ground coffee but compared to the coffee bags we were buying there is probably around £1 per week saving – so approx £50.

3. Been making all of our own bread in a bread maker. We had been making it about once a week before and making it all saves approx 2 plastic bread bags per week – 100 over the year. More tricky to work out the cost here since we are eating more bread (as also being more determined to pack lunch each day) and the loaves aren’t the same size as the purchased ones so I have not assumed any saving. As far as possible this is put on during the day to use solar power.

4. Purchased re-useable coffee cups to use when we get takeaway coffee. Between us we use them for around 3 coffees per week – a saving of around 150 paper cups and plastic lids. No cost saving here.

5. Been reusing a bag to put fresh croissants in each week instead of putting them in a fresh one each week. This will save approx 50 paper bags with plastic windows. Cost neutral.

6. Avoided packaged fruit and veg more conscientiously than previously. Although I did already buy loose fruit and veg most of the time, just choosing not to buy some packaged items probably results in around 3 items less of plastic fruit and veg packaging per week – 150 over the year. Since the prices vary I haven’t worked out if any saving – generally loose veg is cheaper but bizarrely it is sometimes more expensive.

7. Cut down the frequency with which I use shampoo from every 2 days to once a week (washing with water in between), with the intention of transitioning to a “no poo” (no shampoo) routine as described here.No poo information This has the added benefit of saving water and electricity as showering is quicker without the shampoo, and less styling product as I only use it after the shampoo. Since son had his hair cut very short he has gone straight to a water only routine for haircare. Shampoo always lasted me ages anyway so perhaps I used less than most but at a guess this will save around 4 plastic shampoo bottles each year plus the same again of conditioner. In the longer term I expect to cut out other hair care products too. Approx financial saving of £15-£20, and potentially a saving on our water and electricity bill too.

8. Used my own containers a few times so far for buying cakes, and once for sausages and chosen unpackaged alternatives where possible. This is difficult to quantify but even if I only manage this once a week it would save 50 items of packaging.

9. Made my own cleaning liquid – from the recipe here: How to make eco cleaning spray. I reused an existing spray bottle. If I make it up once a month this will save 12 bottles. Also made a pet-safe cleaning solution which will save a further 6 bottle. Cost saving of approx £20

10. Reduced our use of kitchen towel and cling film/foil – replacing with washable cloths and abeego beeswax wraps/ existing plastic boxes/reusing other packaging. Estimated reduction, not giving these up totally, of 12 kitchen rolls and 2 rolls of clingfilm/foil.

11. Committed to not buying any new clothes (even second hand or swapped) until at least Christmas. This hasn’t saved anything from landfill since I would give my unwanted clothes to charity or sell or give away, but it has definitely saved money. My personal credit card bill has only had 4 items on it apart from my train fare to work since Sept, and those 4 items have all been to do with reducing waste (abeego wraps, reusable coffee cups, a Lush deodorant bar and a book for the Sustainable Book Club). My average bill has dropped by £250 per month over the last 3 months, due to a combination of not buying any clothes/shoes and just by being in the mindset of not getting other stuff I don’t need. Whilst I don’t expect to sustain that level of savings, an average saving of £100 per month is reasonable, even if I reintroduce more occasional clothes buying after a few months. £1200 if sustained over a year.

12. Switched to soap nuts for clothes washing. The size bag I bought should last over 300 washes compared to around 20 for the laundry detergent I was buying before. At an average of 5 washes per week this should last me all year. The soap nuts did come in a plastic bag, but just one compared to 13 boxes or bottles (varied which one I used) of my previous detergent. The soapnuts are compostable when they have been used, and can be poured on the garden to deter slugs. In terms of cost the detergent I bought before varied from £2-£5. Over the year the soap nuts should save around £25.

13. Only used a flannel and water for facewashing. I was doing this a lot of the time anyway but switching to this full time will save around 15 packs of cleansing wipes per year, and around £30.

14. Tried using a cloth handkerchief – since I only own one at the moment ( thanks to a friend who gave me it as a gift probably around 20 years ago and I had kept it in a drawer unused till now) I haven’t yet saved many tissues, but have hankies on the Christmas list!

15. Purchased a machine washable washing up sponge.

16. Buy our eggs direct from the farm and return the boxes for them to use again. Approx 50 boxes per year, and as they are also cheaper around £20 saving.

17. Eked out a stick deodorant that had gone past the point where it fell out of the plastic dispenser for at least a month after I would have normally thrown it away. I’m now about to move on to the Lush deodorant bar but after that I will try making my own – I already have the ingredients anyway for this recipe.How to make your own deodorant

18. Replaced frozen chips with fresh ones made form a sweet potato (as quicker to cook than regular potatoes). We don’t eat chips all the time so maybe 6 packs per year.

19. Replaced shaving gel with coconut oil in a glass jar.

I’m sure I have forgotten some things but over a year just these changes will save around:
550 plastic bottles and sprays

100 cardboard boxes

900 foil sachets and paper coffee bags

12 rolls of kitchen towel

2 rolls of clingfilm/foil

15 packs of face wipes

150 coffee cups

Plus a variety of other assorted plastic and paper packaging.
These changes should also save us around £1500 which is an added bonus.

We also made around £200 selling items we no longer needed on ebay.

And we still have way too much in our bin!

The changes described above are in addition to the waste reduction measures we already had in place. I’ll save those for the next blog entry as this one is getting really long, but these included:

Cloth Nappies
Cloth Baby wipes
Cloth sanitary pads
Cleaning cloths
Composting food waste, garden waste and rabbit litter
Making homemade pizza

There are links to loads of ideas on my Pinterest Boards:

Reduce, Re-Use, Recycle

Eco Ideas

10 ways to save energy and reduce your bills

10 simple ways to save energy and reduce your bills.  Installing a smart meter to help you understand how you use your energy will help.

  1. Only put as much water as you need in the kettle.
  2. Don’t leave anything on standby.  If your appliance doesn’t have an accessible off switch you can get  a remote to turn it off. This includes turning off your WiFi overnight. Nigel’s Eco Store has a range of energy saving gadgets and remotes to make this easier.
  3. When you leave your computer for a while remember to put it into sleep mode or use an energy saving button such as the Eco Button
  4. May seem obvious but switch off the lights when you leave the room.
  5. Change your lights to low energy LEDs.
  6. When choosing a new appliance go for the lowest energy option you can.
  7. Check your thermostat and timer settings to be sure you only have the heating on when needed. Turning the thermostat down a degree and wearing an extra layer makes a noticeable difference.
  8. Turn radiators off or at least to low in little used rooms.
  9. When cooking use a steamer to cook more than one thing on a single ring.
  10. Take a shorter shower.

More tips are available from the Energy Savings Trust