How To Give Up Plastic by Will McCallum

How To Give Up Plastic by Will McCallum is another little environmental gem of a book.

Broken down into short, easily digestible sections of text, this book offers solid reasons on why we should give up plastic, followed by a comprehensive way to go about that.

Natalie Fee’s book, How to Save The World for Free, and Lucy Siegle’s Turning The Tide on Plastic both do similar things, but are somewhat… meatier. This isn’t a criticism of any of the books – McCallum’s, or the others – but it’s worth keeping in mind as some people have time constraints.

I think the main points of difference in this book are the calls to action, and the interviews – I found the one with Jamie Szymkowiak from One in Five regarding plastic straws particularly enlightening

Whilst I’m not likely to set up any protests, the practical help for setting up a beach clean is very much appreciated, as is the letter writing advice.

As pictured above, there are lts of easily quotable statistics, but a favourite bold printy bit is;

There isn’t a single path to giving up plastic and the routes will vary across countries and communities, but there is a single message: that we need to stop producing so much of it.

And honestly, that’s one of the truest things I’ve read that’s been written on the subject.

Have you read this book? If you have, did you fill in any of the plans? I didn’t, because I borrowed this copy from the library, but I would love to see what others out there have come up with! As ever, get in touch here, or on Twitter.

The Garden

I touched on our plans for the garden a long while back, whilst chatting about my kitchen. Since then, we’ve been busy scheming, and now that the new year is on us, it’s time to get to work.

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Using Allotment Month by Month, by Alan Buckingham as our main source of information, I sat down one night and tried to make a month by month plan of what we could realistically achieve within a year as total novices.

Hardback cover of Allotment Month by Month

Then yesterday, with help from our absolutely amazing neighbours at the farm, work began.

Firstly, the conifer hedge at the back of the property came out. I’m not normally one for removing trees, but I’m going to call this one a win – the maintainence of this border was getting increasingly difficult given the trees’ height, it was interfering with the farm’s electric fencing, and now it’s gone, I can plant a variety of native trees and bushes which will flower and provide food for us and various wildlife.

The plan so far is to purchase a ‘Scottish Mix’ of trees from the Woodland Trust.  This includes a holly, a rowan, a silver birch and a juniper. I had also hopes to plant a yew, however it’s potentially unsafe for grazing animals on account of the apparently toxic alkaloids in the foliage and seed-coats (if anyone knows more about this, I would love to hear from you – I’m just reading things online!) so for now, the yew will have to go on hold.

Without the constant maintainence of the hedge to worry about, we can devote our time outdoors to raised beds, which is precisely what we intend to do. Husband planned and built the containers from a mixture of scrap wood and new, treated timber, and we have – so far – filled them with a mixture of shredded branches and rotted manure from the farm up the track.

The next stage – roll on pay day! – will be buying some (peat free) compost as the top layer and planting all manner of exciting things. Because of the chippings and the manure, I shouldn’t need to bring in an awful lot of compost. Eventually, I hope we’ll be able to keep topping this up with our own from the compost bins we’ve managed to source but for now, I’ll be prioritising large sacks and recyclable plastic.

In addition to the compost bins, I hope to purchase a wormery so that the cooked food waste and dog poop can also be processed here – less to transport off site on bin-day. Obviously, you can’t use the resulting soil on food beds (because dog poop), but I’m sure this new earth would be welcome beneath the little bee-buffet I’m trying to cultivate around our deck.

At some point, we absolutely want to get a greenhouse, but as with so many other things, money is a (huge) factor. I think, to begin with, we’ll see how we go with the raised beds and assess the greenhouse situation after that, but given the climate in the north east of Scotland, in all liklihood, we’ll need glass to grow anything beyond potatoes…

I will keep you updated on our progress over the coming months. I would also like to take this opportunity to point out that what I’m doing here is far from a tutorial – we have absolutely no idea what we are doing! – so please don’t copy me! In fact, feel free to comment with ways we can up our gardening game to avoid complete failure!

As ever, please feel free to get in touch below, or on Twitter, with ANY suggestions!

 

 

How to Break Up with Fast Fashion by Lauren Bravo

Back in 2012, I read Lucy Seigle’s ‘To Die For; Is Fashion Wearing Out the World’ and swore off buying new clothes by the time I’d finished the first chapter.

And whilst I absolutely would recommend Seigle’s book – because it’s an excellent, well-written, wonderfully cited, non-fiction tome – I would probably be more likely to recommend Lauren Bravo’s work to people who genuinely love clothes.

The thing is, this book is half environmental activism and half love-letter to style (not fashion – important to note), and by the time I’d finished reading it, I cared about the way I looked in a way I haven’t done since I was at school. Which, I suppose, could be percieved as a negative statement but it really isn’t. I’d given up on having beautiful clothes some time between my first and third year of university – it wasn’t that I didn’t want to look nice… more like I wanted to eat fancy foods more*.

So far from making me feel like I was ‘breaking up’ with anything, reading this book was like being given permission to fall in love with clothes again – a narrative that I feel is often lacking from environmental literature. I found myself examining the garments in my care with a new, appreciative eye and things which I’d been self-consciously saving ‘for best’ have been been rediscovered with great gusto. The passion and enthusiasm for feeling good in what we’re wearing is so infectious, but by focussing on how we can do so without creating waste and misery, Bravo sheds new light on the subject.

For those more concerned with the ‘whys’ of ditching fast fashion, Seigle’s book is probably the one you want to reach for (first, in any case – reach for both eventually). Whilst Bravo does touch on the horrible cost to human life and damage to the environment, it isn’t done in nearly as much depth.

That’s not a bad thing, mind you. The ‘lightness’ and humour of this book is part of it’s charm. A favourite quote is;

An Outfit should at least have 20 percent space for pasta.

Why, yes! Yes it should.

Have you read Bravo’s book? Or Seigle’s? Which did you prefer?

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*To be absolutely crystal clear, when I say, ‘I wanted to eat food more than I wanted to look nice’, I am in no way referring to weight – it is absolutely possible to be heavy and look awesome.

Looking Nice ≠ Thin.

In this case, I am referring to the fact that I had to choose between buying fancy ingredients and maintaining the purchase of new clothes. Buying fancy food won. Because food. Nom.

Stop Staring at Screens by Tanya Goodin

Digital Detox Book | Tanya Goodin | Digital Detox Expert ...

Stop Staring at Screens by Tanya Goodin isn’t technically an environmental book, nor is it what I thought it was when I ordered it from the library, but it still gets an honourary mention.

To be honest, I checked this out with a view to learning why my youngest child is so absolutely smitten by anything with flashing lights. This book definitely doesn’t do that, but it does provide a quick, easy read, and champions getting out into the world so I’ve included it here.

The slim volume is divided into small sections, each advocating a different approach to reducing the amount of time a family spends online, using thier phones. It’s a really pretty book – the photography is glorious – and whilst I don’t feel it’s applicable to me (given that I use a Nokia…) it’s definitely worth a mention for anyone who is looking to replace screen-time with more family connection.

So, how does that factor into the whole ‘environment’ thing that I’m aiming for here? Well, lots of ways. The more we engage with the natural world, the more we come to care about it. The more time we spend on our phones, the more power we use, the more we’re exposed to advertising, the more we feel dissatisfied with what we have, the more we want to use resources that the world can ill-afford. It’s better for our mental health, our physical health and our planetary health to unplug.

Have you read this book? Do you have any tips for reducing the amount of time you spend online? I would love to hear your ideas, here or on Twitter.

A Life Less Throwaway by Tara Button

Whilst I’ve really enjoyed books like Natalie Fee’s ‘How to Save The World for Free’ and Lucy Siegle’s ‘Turning the Tide on Plastic’, I’ve been after something a bit different for a while now. It’s not that these aren’t valuable titles – they absolutely are – but they can be a little… samey if you read a lot about the environment.

A Life Less Throwaway by Tara Button looks at the problem of overconsumption from a different perspective –  by examining how marketers manage to get us to buy things we don’t need. As someone who used to work in the advertising industry, Button sheds light on the tricks that are used and how we can combat them.

Having decided that the ad industry wasn’t for her, Button then went on to create BuyMeOnce – an amazing resource for people looking to buy items which will last. Again, drawing on this expertise, she speaks about the sorts of questions we should be asking manufacturers and retailers when making a purchase, as well as the sorts of questions we should be asking ourselves.

In fact, there are whole sections of exercises for discovering what your ‘true’ tastes might be. Despite the fact that I grew up in charity-shop clothes and hand-me-downs, and have actively been trying not to aquire anything new for the last five years (and trying to reduce my general environmental damage for the last decade), I still found theses really useful – particularly the one concerning interiors.

Visiting friends and family in Denmark has often left me feeling as though I should decorate in a more… Scandinavian fashion. Home-decor there is a lot more homogonous and as a result, there’s a certain sense of visual peace to the country that I feel as though I should try and emulate. The exercisefrom Button’s book definitely helped me to realise that just because it is prevalent, that doesn’t mean I like it. I’m much more ecclectic and chaotic at my core. 😉

Though I did borrow this from my library, it’s a book I will be purchasing in the future. I’m on a deadline to return it, but I’d actually like to take the opportunity to work through all of the exercises slowly and carefully. I think they’ll be a total game-changer in the coming years – especially as my eldest enters their teen years. Being able to know which questions to ask to get my child thinking will be invaluable.

Have you read A Life Less Throwaway? What did you think? Did any of iwhat you learned come as a surprise? I’d love to hear your thoughts, here or on twitter.

How To Save The World For Free by Natalie Fee

How to Save the World for Free by Natalie Fee is exactly what it sounds like – a book full of no/low cost ways in which we can change our lifestyle in order to have a smaller impact on the environment.

The style of prose in the book is accessible and friendly, and the layout is really inviting. There was a lot of really great information – many things I hadn’t thought of before, as well as al the usual about reusable bottles etc.

My main qualm with the book was when the author said the Danes don’t have a word for draught. They do. Two, in fact – træk, and gennemtræk. You don’t need an overpriced degree in Danish Language to find this out, either. You can check on Google Translate… But that said, as my main issue with the book, it’s not a huge deal (though it does make me question the credibility of some parts…)

One of the things I liked most about this book, and which I had the biggest problem with in the XR book, was the citations. Instead of printing all the citations out and increasing the book size/hindering its accessibility, the references are available online. I really think this is a great and very simple compromise. It also means that anyone has access to the reference material, so even if you borrow this as a library book, for example, you can still check facts later and delve further into the topic.

I think, of all the books I’ve read so far, this is my top choice for anyone just starting out in trying to live a more eco-conscious life. It covers the obvious stuff, but also explores the less obvious.

Have you read How To Save The World For Free? What did you think?

RHS Plants from Pips by Holly Farrell

RHS Plants from Pips By Holly Farrell

RHS Plants from Pips by Holly Farrell is a great little book which everyone in this house has greatly enjoyed.

Not technically an ‘eco’ book, but definitely worthy of mention for so many reasons, this little tome is a wealth of information regarding regrowing plants from the seeds in our foods.

My mum originally gifted it to my children with a view to helping them learn where their food comes from, but it’s also a great way to produce food from what is largely considered waste -imagine  homemade compost, growing seeds we would otherwise throw out, planted in recycled containers, all producing delicious things to eat with zero food miles? It doesn’t get much better than that, really. And don’t get me wrong, I’m under no illusions that my growing army of house plants are going to somehow tip the carbon scales back in our favour, but they’re definitely not hurting! Imagine if everyone who ate an apple planted the pips – the world would be a vastly different place…

The instructions in here are clear, concise and accurate. So far, 4/5 of avocado pips we’ve planted have resulted in fledgling trees and we’re all delighted. My youngest is so taken with the idea that he’s even started coming home from nursery with carefully gathered kiwi seeds from his afternoon snack…

There’s not a huge amount more to say about the book – in short, if you can get hold of a copy then do. It’s pretty, it’s accurate, the instructions yield results even when undertaken by two under-tens and an adult with a genetic pre-disposition to destroy plants by looking at them… you can’t really ask for more, can you?

Have you tried planting any seeds from your supermarket vegetables? Did you have any success? I’d love to hear about your results – avocado or otherwise!

 

The best of the books

This year, since starting the Trail of Breadcrumbs blog, my leisure reading has taken an environmental turn – for obvious reasons. 😉

I’ve read some absolutely brilliant books, and as books make superb gifts – especially used ones! – I thought I would do a quick round up of my favourites.

So, in no particular order, here are some great environmental reads – including a few I haven’t yet reviewed on here;

My Zero Waste Kitchen – Dorling Kindersley

What’s it about? – How to reduce food and energy waste in the kitchen.
Who might enjoy it? – Anyone just starting out in their attempts to lessen their environmental impact, or perhaps someone just moving out/starting university – it’s a nice change from the usual ‘cheap eats’ cookbooks, but achieves similar things.

A Bunch Of Pretty Things I Did Not Buy – Sarah Lazarovic

What’s it about? – Our patterns of consumption, particularly when it comes to clothes. The art style makes it feel like a really decadent object so I took great pleasure in reading it.
Who might enjoy it? – I feel like I would have benefitted from this greatly in my late teens/early 20s.

Turning the Tide on Plastic – Lucy Siegle

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What’s it about? – This history and future of our plastic use.
Who might enjoy it? – Anyone, at any stage in the process of trying to reduce their household waste.

Eco Thrifty Living – Zoë Morrison

Eco Thrifty Living - Save Money, Save the Environment and Live the Life You Want!

What’s it about? – Living within a budget, with good environmental practices.
Who might enjoy it? – Those trying to work in environmental changes, whilst living within their means.

To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World – Lucy Seigle

To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World? Paperback by

What’s it about? – The harm that fast fashion is doing to our environment and the people working within the industry.
Who might enjoy it? – Anyone interested in the production of clothes. This is the book which started me on the path to making my own clothing, so it might be the nudge your friendly neighbourhood craftsperson needs to address their own wardrobe.

Zero Waste Home – Bea Johnson

What’s it about? – Setting up a near zero-waste home. But, an actually near zero-waste home. This is your Mason-jar ideal that everyone aspires to.
Who might enjoy it? – Anyone interested in the extremes of waste-free living. It’s an incredibly inspiring work and has kick-started thousands of people into a more eco-friendly lifestyle.

This is Not a Drill – An Extinction Rebellion Handbook

This Is Not A Drill

What’s it about? – I would call this XR’s manifesto – it’s a series of essays relating the effects of climate change, followed by a series of essays regarding what we can do about it.
Who might enjoy it? – It’s a quick read at just under 200 pages, and the essay format makes it easy to read in small chunks. This is perfect for anyone with a busy schedule,  anyone skeptical about XR (as I was, before I read it), or anyone interested in social reform.

12 Small Acts to Save Our World – Emily Beamont

12-small-acts-to-save-our-world | Culturefly

What’s it about? – This is about change on an individual scale – it does exactly what the title promises.
Who might enjoy it? – Again, this is a very quick and accessible read – perfect for anyone who might want to start making a difference, but not have any concrete ideas how they could go about it.

Landfill by Tim Dee

“Landfill” by Tim Dee (Chelsea Green Publishing) | Ecovici

What’s it about? – The waste created by mankind, through the prism of gull watching.
Who might enjoy it? – This is a great book for anyone with a general interest in birds. I’ve found it to be a good ‘in’ for conversations with older family members on the topic of landfill waste.

How bad are Bananas? by Mike Berners-Lee

How Bad Are Bananas?

What’s it about? – This is basically an index of items, each with a detailed account of their carbon footprint. It sounds dull, but it’s actually fascinating.
Who might enjoy it? – This is a great title for anyone with tough decisions to make – i.e. do I drive 20 miles to get local, organic milk in a glass bottle, or do I save the petrol and live with the recyclable supermarket vessel?

Plastic Sucks by Dougie Poynter

What’s it about? – This is a brief introduction to the plastic problem, aimed at pre-teens.
Who might enjoy it? – This book is pitched at ages 9-12,  and I’d say that’s pretty accurate. The focus on personalities and interviews might help it appeal to a slightly older audience, however.

This Book is Not Rubbish by Isabel Thomas

What’s it about? – Another pre-teen title about ways to reduce our impact on the world.
Who might enjoy it? – Again, pitched at 9-12, this is a little lighter on text that the previous title so might be better for more… reluctant readers.

Kids Fight Plastic by Martin Dorey

Kids Fight Plastic : How to be a #2minutesuperhero: Martin ...

What’s it about? – This is my favourite of the children’s books listed. It generally does the same as the others, though.
Who might enjoy it? – Pitched at a slightly younger audience, I would say that this is suitable for ages 7+.

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So what have I missed? What should I be reading next year? I’d love for you to set me a reading list! Why not let me know your favourite titles here, or on Twitter?

 

 

 

 

This is Not a Drill – An Extinction Rebellion Handbook

This Is Not A Drill

I would probablly call this book a manifesto for Extinction Rebellion. In short, it’s a series of essays relating the effects of climate change, followed by a series of essays regarding what we can do about it. Rather than pointing out the changes needed on an individual level – like most of the other environmental books I’ve read – this one speaks about system change.

The first point I would like to make about the book is how full of love it is. Whilst it covers some absolutely heartbreaking topics, the underlying feeling is one of hope, of optimism, and a genuine desire to create a world that is powered by arts and education and in which care is valued as it should be.

That said, my favourite quote from the book comes from the essay titled ‘We are not prepared to die’, by Mohamed Nasheed:

Let us not forget what we owe to decent, working people such as coalminers. The tremendous wealth the world enjoys today, the technological progress, the huge increase in living standars is due to the work of these people. We should not blame coalminers, or loggers, or oil-rig workers for causing the climate crisis.

As someone who grew up near the so-called ‘Oil-capital of Europe’ – indeed, as someone who directly benefited from the oil-industry throughout my childhood – I feel like this is a really vital distinction to make. People working in the industry are not the issue – the industry itself is the issue.

But back to the book – it’s a quick read at just under 200 pages and the essay format really lends itself to dipping in and out of. Language-wise, it’s also written in an incredibly accessible style.

My one ‘complaint’ is, however, to do with exactly that – the accessibility. I presume that academic-style citations were excluded to aid ‘readability’, however, as someone who likes to enjoy a factual book and then jump down the rabbit-hole of quoted works, I found the lack of citations… irritating. I know it’s a personal thing – citations do often exclude a lot of people, but for a group intent on telling us to ‘listen to the scientists’, XR are making it very hard to read the scientific papers they’re quoting.

Anyway, as I say, it’s a small complaint, and a personal one, and it definitely shouldn’t put you off reading this book.

Have you read This Is Not A Drill? I would love to hear your thoughts if you have.

 

Eco Thrifty Living – Zoë Morrison

Eco Thrifty Living - Save Money, Save the Environment and Live the Life You Want!

Recently, I downloaded a copy of Zoë Morrison’s book, ‘Eco Thrify Living’, for my Kindle.

I’ve been following Zoë’s blog for a long while now and in addition to all sorts of really interesting articles, her list of package-free shops in the UK is so incredibly useful.

I think one of the things I liked most about this book was the realism of it – contrary to Bea Johnson’s (otherwise wonderful) work, this advocated the slow-change approach and I think for most people, this is the manner of change which will work best.

I also really like the format of it – it’s accessible and easy to read. I devoured the whole thing as I travelled down to see a friend and didn’t leave the book feeling disspirited. It’s so easy to read a book about the environment and feel helpless – too small to make even the slightest difference – but that’s not the case here. I felt empowered to continue playing my part as best I can.

As someone who’s been trying to reduce my impact on the planet for the past decade – at least – some of the information was a little basic, but actually, it was nice having the steps that I’ve taken ‘validated’. That said, there was lots of new information too and in coming posts, I’ll share whether or not the actions I’m implementing on account of the book are working.

Have you read Zoë’s book? What are your favourite environmental reads? Let me know here, or on Twitter.