Taking the pooch for a 62 mile walk

Last week, Husband, Dog, and I, walked the 62+ miles of St Cuthbert’s way. Spanning the border lands between England and Scotland, the route begins in Melrose and ends on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne.

The trip was meant to be a balloon-birthday present for Husband, but it actually fitted in with an assignment that I had for uni, so I had more than a vested interest too. Which is for the good, really, because it totally wiped out my savings, despite trying to do things on the cheap.

We used an app called YourParkingSpace, and left the car in Galashiels ASDA for the week, paying £12 for six days of parking. We could have parked for free in one of the council car parks at Melrose, according to the St Cuthbert’s Way guide book, but given the length of time we were away, I didn’t want anyone to think the car had been abandoned, and the CCTV at the ASDA was actually really helpful for my peace of mind. I think next time (because of course ‘next time’! Wait until you see the pictures!) I’ll get the train down, but as we had children to deliver to my parents first, it made sense to take the car.

We took our usual water bottles, used our every-day walking shoes*, and carried otherwise abandoned backpacks – one my dad had bought in the 70s and one from Freecycle. We made our own instant porridge (rolled oats, powdered milk, cinamon, sugar, and cranberries), and our own couscous sachets (plain couscous, bouillon powder, spices, dried fruit and cashews) to try and keep breakfast and lunch costs low. That said, it did keep our pack weight high!

We could have actually done the trip for a far lower price if we’d been able to utilise the YHA accommodation, but the dog made this an impossibility. If you can avoid taking your furry walking partner, I would definitely recommend doing so – sad as that is. The dog was an amazing companion to us while walking, but literally doubled the accommodation costs. Also, much of the walk is through livestock enclosures, or grouse-filled moors. We’re lucky that our dog will walk happily on a lead (hooked around the belt of our packs so we could keep our hands free), but if you’ve got a dog that pulls or with a strong prey drive, it’s going to be an exhausting trip.

But on to what we’re here for – pictures!

Breakfast!
A rare picture of me, and a less rare picture of the tired hound…
Half way!
Should have been a perfect picture… alas, my glove got in the way….
Possibly my favourite picture from the trip! 😀 😀 In my defense, the stats are totally skewed because I leave my phone on the nightstand for most of the day, unless I have to go anywhere. And mostly I still use my little Nokia.

So why post about a holiday on a blog that’s primarily environmentalism based? I hadn’t planned to talk about this here when we set off, but after the first few days, I knew I had to.

For me, at least, it feels increasingly as though the UK is slipping backwards in time – through decades of hardship and regressive philosophy. The ‘lazy poor’ myth is rife, despite the fact that so many people living in poverty are actually working. I feel ashamed every time the UK’s prime minister speaks on the world stage. Or any stage. Or at all. It’s easy to forget that our land is more than our leader, our politics, or our failings.

Underneath all that, so often ignored, is the beautiful, forgiving earth. This island – for all of its human failings – is a home to be proud of. I can feel a sense of worth in the hills which challenge me, the crops which nurture me, and the wildlife which amazes me.

From adders, to hares, to newts… we saw them all on our walk. And I saw them through the eyes of the new American friends we made on our travels – with a sense of reverence and wonder. If this nation is to recover from its current toxic political state we’re going to need to find something to believe in, to be proud of. We need to find the great leveller – our literal roots – which can unite us all.

It’s all so very clear, out in the open, that we’re all on the same side. In line with the promise I made myself at the turn of the year, I’m going to do my best to stop arguing my point, but to try and educate. I’m not sure how best to do that yet, but hopefully, I’ll find a way. None of this is going to be easy. We need to improve access to the outdoors for as many people as we can (as discussed by Anita Sethi). To paraphrase Tony Benn – if we can find money to fund lockdown parties, we can find money to provide people with access to nature (and food, and healthcare while we’re at it).

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*Both of us wear hiking boots as standard, though next time I buy, I’ll opt for the size up to make them more comfortable for swollen feet on long walks.

Environmentalists need to be careful…

As energy, food, and petrol costs across the UK rise, it’s natural to want to look at ways in which to save money. Many environmentalists are taking this as an opportunity to talk about energy-saving and anti-food-waste strategies that they’ve employed. And that’s got its place, don’t get me wrong – as someone who wants to reduce waste, I’m all for more information on how to do so.

However… Environmentalists need to be careful not to co-opt poverty narratives.

Firstly, if someone is living below the poverty line and talking about it on social media, don’t start telling them to use a slow cooker and it’ll all be ok. That’s a bit like telling people that if they breath, they’ll keep living. People living on an increasingly-squeezed low income know all – literally all – of the superficial ways to cut energy bills.

Secondly, and more importantly, it’s vital that environmentalists don’t compare their own experiences with those of people living in poverty. You might both be darning socks, or meal planning, but the process of doing these things will be worlds apart. Choosing to make a pair of trainers last, safe in the knowledge that you can replace them if needs be, is worlds apart from trying to repair them in a freezing house, wondering if the power is going to go off as you’re doing it and knowing that whatever alterations you’re making have to work. Yes, the things that environmentalists do will save money – but that isn’t the primary motivation.

So please, if you’re an eco-blogger, don’t start telling poor people that ‘you understand what they’re going through’ because you too have ‘had’ to repair something. You didn’t have to. You chose to. It takes a lot to open up about poverty in a society where so much shame is attached to not having enough, and even historic poverty leaves scars. Someone talking about their experience of growing up without heating in the 1970s has probably impacted the rest of that person’s life – it’s not the same as choosing the turn down the thermostat.

There’s a lot I could say here – about how in-work poverty or being chronically ill impacts how you can shop and what you can cook. If you’re working, for example, there isn’t time to traipse round twenty charity shops in the hopes of finding the right object. If you’re disabled, access is potentially an issue – particularly with unpredictable conditions characterised by sometimes sudden fatigue/brain fog, such as ME and Long Covid. There’s also rural poverty to consider – how people living outwith city centres – where public transport is incredibly limited – don’t necessarily have access to discount supermarkets, second-hand items, or sometimes even cash/post offices for trading unwanted goods. And I haven’t even touched on how woman – particularly mothers – and people of colour are disproportionately impacted.

I write my blog as someone in a position of privilege – at the moment, I can afford to make choices based on ethics and ideals. I started this blog because I felt like more people would make an effort to act in environmentally positive ways if it was also immediately financially rewarding for them – no judgement btw, because that’s absolutely what led me to where I am. But I will say this: If you’re someone living below the poverty line, you are using fewer resources than those of us above it.

If you’d like to learn about the ways that poverty impacts on mental bandwidth, Utopia for Realists by Rutger Bregman has a whole chapter about it. And Working Class Environmentalism by Karen Bell discusses the intersection of environmentalism and poverty in detail. Cash Caraway’s book Skint Estate speaks about poverty in Tory Britain, whilst Louisa Britain is collating an account of people currently living in poverty called One In Five.

If you’d like to help do something to help people in the UK living in poverty, check out The Trussell Trust, Depher, and schemes like The Scottish Book Trust‘s aim to put books in the hands of every child, or support the work of poverty activist Jack Monroe.

Connection

I spoke last time about resolutions as we ease into the new year. I touched on how positive simply resolving to enjoy a TV show had been for me, over the last 12 months.

And don’t get me wrong, I’m going to continue working my way through ‘Murder, She Wrote’, but I’m also going to try and form some connections.

The ongoing poop-show of the pandemic in the UK means that there are still many people I can’t see – getting to/from friends and family in Europe has been close to impossible. I’m also a creature of habit, and my current habit is isolation – this doesn’t help.

More personally, I’m not an especially sociable soul. I do tend to to find myself in unhealthy peaks and valleys of interaction, and these cycles still baffle me somewhat. I find balance difficult when it comes to people and find that I either wear myself out hopping from friend to friend for months at a time, or conversely, hiding – actively eschewing contact. The pandemic forced the later on me, and I find myself at a point where I’m hungry to see everyone. But now that I’m aware of how easily I can let myself get carried away, I’m going to approach my desire for connection to other people mindfully.

I’m still discovering what this means, but hopefully I can find the time to discuss it in the coming months.

In addition to a connection with people, I’m looking to connect with the world again. Travel was a huge part of our life before Covid hit – not necessarily international travel (though for obvious reasons, we spent a lot of time in mainland Europe), but even just trips to the coast, or the forest, or the mountains round about us. As our world shrunk, I found myself feeling more and more like I’d been cut loose – that I was disembodied somehow, an untethered balloon.

In response to this, I’ve decided to make the effort to live more seasonally. I already do this in regards to food (not least because it’s the cheapest way to eat), but I want to feel the seasons a little more – to celebrate them.

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During the worst of the pandemic, I got into candles. As with so many things, I inherited some from my inlaws, but lockdown’s less frequent trips to the shops necessitated cupboard space for storing food, so I began to burn through them. To do so, I placed a pretty plate in the middle of my coffee table and over the months which followed, this became something of a little altar to the changes outside – stone eggs in the spring, pinecones and stunted pumpkins in autumn, and sweet-peas in the summer.

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In the picture above, you might be able to see my charity shop bargain – The Country Diary of An Edwardian Lady by Edith Holden. I’ve marked the dates on which she wrote observations in 1906, and aim to read them aloud – here in 2022. That way, I can directly contrast what I’m seeing in the natural world (and build connection there) but I can also connect to the past – to the nature-lovers who came before me.

Finally, I not only aim to connect with the physical, literal land of this country, but also, the nation state. The UK has felt increasingly hostile to my semi-migrant family since the 2016 referendum, and I know that if I want to change that, I need to stop distancing myself. For all that Britain has shown its ugly side for most of this past decade, it’s also shown that the vast majority of people want a positive change. First-past-the-post voting is broken, and I so often take heart from the ‘Proportional Commons‘ Twitter feed. What’s happening right now is far, far from ‘the will of the people’. And if that’s the case, perhaps the world isn’t as bleak as I’d thought and it’s ok for me to go out into it.

To focus on the good things, I’m using the Emma Press book, ‘Second Place Rosette’ . Divided into months, it offers what the introduction calls a ‘grass roots’ look at the country. So far, there have been verses about taking down the Christmas tree, and a comparison of Yorkshire puddings to lighthouses. It’s a glorious way to look again at an island I’d fallen out of love with.

University continues into Semester Two and I find myself on campus more. The young people I met during the first few months were inspiring – so different from my disinterested past-self that it was amazing to think they’re as young as they are. At 18, I was so burnt out from school that university seemed like the final hurdle – the last slog in a long line of exhausting exams – but that weariness doesn’t seem to infect the current batch of students.

Or perhaps that’s just archaeologists. Regardless, I feel that I’ve found myself in good company. I hope – most of all – to connect to the optimism present on my course.

As ever, I will try and update as often as I can, but the quantity of work ahead of me remains to be seen.

With much love and hope for the new year,

Farn

The one thing I wish I’d known sooner…

There is so much advice out there about ways in which to curtail our impact on the planet – leave the car at home, stop buying bottled water, stop eating meat, don’t use plastic products…

Refuse.

Reduce.

But for me, none of that was sustainable.

The human mind is a funny thing. I know that all of the above is factually accurate – that these are all necessary things which I should be doing in order to combat the climate crisis – but when I’m told that I can’t do something, I feel a spark of rebellion.

“I don’t want to stop using my car, thank you very much.”

I suspect I’m not alone.

Doing the right thing became much, much easier when I started to rephrase what was being asked of me. Instead of looking at my life in relation to the environment in terms of deficit, I began looking at it in terms of abundance.

Instead of saying ‘use the car less’, I began to think of it as an opportunity to walk or cycle more.

Rather than ‘eat less imported food’, I started to tell myself that I should eat more local produce.

You’re probably sick of this picture, but I’m not sick of eating this kind of mushroom! 😀

So to anyone who is just beginning to look at living more sustainably, I would say look for abundance.

  • Plant more edibles – herbs, or even bean sprouts, on the window ledge are enough, though Project Diaries on YouTube have amazing tutorials about how to garden cheaply/for free
  • Cook more – check out Madeleine Olivia on YouTube for seriously easy, quick, and delicious recipes, or Pick Up Limes for something more involved
  • Plan more – the better the meal-plan, the less food waste there is and the less money lost – an all round win
  • Walk or cycle more – it feels better than being stuck in a car, and could potentially save money on travel (or gym membership if you’re so inclined)
  • Read more – it’s a free hobby if you use the library or Project Gutenberg, and it’s a sustainable choice
  • Get more from your possessions – repair them so they last longer. There are so many tutorials online that the world really is your oyster.
  • Take more picnics, have more adventures – if you have your lunch with you, there’s less of a limit to where and how far you can go in a day (and it’s cheaper than buying something while you’re out)
  • Keep more money – I’ve saved so much money by finding joy in cooking new recipes, exploring the countryside, and reading books.
  • Enjoy more time – fewer things means less to manage and more time for yourself
  • Learn new hobbies – a few mending skills can see you on your way to sewing or knitting a whole garment – that’s a whole new creative outlet
  • Enjoy the things you love – by buying what you adore rather than what’s trending, you end up filling your house with things which are truly unique to you. And if you love the things you have, you won’t want to replace them regularly with new equivalents. (I personally have a penchant for 70s melamine camping crockery and old enamel cookware – both in hideous orange and brown combinations – but find your own

My life feels so much fuller since I started looking at things in this way – it feels like I’m living a life of plenty, not of loss – despite the fact that I’m consuming less. I think that we need to start looking at environmentalism in terms of what we gain, rather than through the prism of what we stand to lose.

What advice would you give to someone who was new to sustainability? Or what aspects of low-waste living do you think aren’t spoken about enough/are spoken about in a way that perhaps doesn’t tell the whole story?

With much love.

Farn

The Ugly truth

The other day, I went looking on Pinterest for some inspiration.

I love writing here, I really do, but sometimes I feel a bit like I’m repeating myself – that I’m not providing any new information. At some point in the later half of 2020, I began to grow self-conscious about what I was writing and it led to me slowing down in terms of posts.

I imagined people reading my work, getting bored of hearing about my garden, or the books that I’ve read, or the swaps that I’ve made.

Other people have done it all before and they’ve absolutely done so in a much prettier way.

And that’s when it really struck me – I wasn’t posting things which I thought were useful because they weren’t also pretty.

There’s a very specific…. aesthetic to low-waste/zero-waste living. Bright, minimalist spaces, glinting mason jars, soft brushed linens….

That just isn’t my reality, and I’m sure it’s not the reality for most people trying to reduce their impact on the planet. We all take baggage – literal and figurative – when we leave home. For my part, I took an entire Saab 9-5 full of stuff with me to university all those years ago, along with a severe lack of practical cooking skills which led me to far too many ready-meals.

Over the years, I consumed without thinking, and it was only in 2011 – after reading Lucy Siegal’s To Die For – that I began to consider the impact of the objects in my life.

As a result, there are multiple relics from my personal ‘before times’ in my life. They’re not pretty – they don’t fit with the ‘zero waste aesthetic’, but they do fit with the spirit of the thing, and so I thought I’d share them with you here. Hopefully they can help reassure you that just because you don’t have beautiful stainless steel lunch boxes, that you’re still doing a great job.

First up, my box full of ugly plastic bags…

This is exactly what it looks like. I keep a small box full of plastic food bags. I have diligently washed and dried each of these and here they sit, awaiting use! I employ them in my freezer, or – more pertinently at the moment – when giving my children snacks for school. Pre-covid, I used to bake them little cupcakes and back them in decades-old tupperware, but the fewer things which go to/from school just now the better. And that being the case, having these free bags as ‘disposable’ packaging for home bakes is excellent. Generally speaking, I try to get a few uses of the bags at home before I send them off with my kids, but given that typically these would have been tossed out instantly after unpacking the food within, even one extra use is a huge bonus.

And aside from anything else, I find it bizarre that we’re willing to spend money on a roll of freezer bags, whilst simultaneously throwing perfectly functional plastic bags out…

Next up – my ‘compost bin’…

This is an old yogurt pot from back when I used to buy yogurt regularly (I think I discussed yogurt before and decided that this is one of the ‘basic’ things that should be a real treat).

It sits on the side in the kitchen and gets filled with compostable food scraps. It’s ugly – especially now it’s so sun-faded – but it’s the perfect size to collect things in. It fills up quickly enough that we remember to empty it before it starts stinking.

I also have a load of these tubs which I use to freeze food in too – no need to buy special containers when I could just repurpose something that was free. It’s not as pretty as its custom glass/metal counterpart, but it’s keeping something out of the waste management system and that’s important.

Next up, my packaging supplies…

Yup. That’s where it all lives – in front of my dining room fireplace. We don’t light this fire because we haven’t had the chimney swept in actual years so try not to worry about the safety hazard all that paper near a flame presents.

Here’s a close up…

All that folded brown paper in the basket on the left is ‘padding’ from deliveries we’ve been sent, so I save it for gift wrapping. Either the children draw on it, or we use stamps to decorate it, and we reuse it that way. Also visible are some gift bags and some printed wrapping paper (which I rescued from the skip when we cleared out my inlaws’ house). I literally haven’t bought gift-wrap in years, but as a result, we do have to live around this… sculpture…

None of these things are attractive to look at. You’re not going to find them on Pinterest. But I think it’s important that we talk about the instantly accessible ways in which we can reduce our waste. I hope that this mini-selection of the literal (but useful!) junk that I keep around my house has given you some ideas.

I would love to hear some of the uglier things you manage to keep out of landfill. At some point, I plan to do a post about ‘random things which we’ve found and attached to our walls as art’ but this seems like a good place to start!

Much love.

Farn

The Ukelele, or ‘when we get it wrong’.

For Christmas 2019, I bought my eldest child a ukelele.

Money was tight. It usually is at this time of year for most families, but there are few freelance jobs in December (in our line of work), and the car needs a service and MOT here too – and on this occasion, a new timing belt. So I bought the Aldi ukelele on a whim when I saw it in store – there it was, the exact gift I had been looking for and under budget. It was even in a physical, real-life shop, so no packaging from a postal order to dispose of either.

Feeling rather clever, i stashed it under my bed and went on with the Christmas preparations. It was only on the 22nd when I took the ukelele out to tune it that I realised it was largely unplayable.

Let me be clear – the ukelele as a gift isn’t a problem. Its an ideal first instrument. Tuned to a chord, even strumming open strings sounds great – instant musicality. Its compact and light-weight which makes it easy for small people. You don’t need to read music to play – ukelele ‘tab’ music is accessible and easy. All in all, its a rock-solid way to introduce children to the creativity inherent in music.

The issue with this particular ukelele, is that the g-string couldn’t really be tuned without making it so loose as to be baggy.

So, with two days until the gift was due to be given, I called my brother and had him source a second ukelele online. This one cost £15 more, but the build quality was vastly superior, it came with a strap, case and tuner, and a small yet concise book of chords and tab to get a beginner started.

My eldest was absolutely delighted with the second ukelele, but this left the problem of what to do with the first. Initially, I planned to return it, but then I read this article. In short – most returned gifts are sent to landfill, and I absolutely didn’t want to be responsible for consigning a brand new object to oblivion.

In short, my haste, lack of research, and desire for a low price had left me with an item I couldn’t use, an overspend, and the responsibility of disposing of a brand new object – one that probably wasn’t constructed using best-practice to begin with.

I wanted to write about this for many reasons – but primarily, I wanted to show that everyone can and does make environmental mistakes. I spend my free time writing about how we can be kinder to the earth,  reading about waste reduction, and trying to use what I have creatively,  yet I fell prey to a tiny price tag during a tricky time of year.

It takes planning to avoid this kind of error, and planning takes time. If you’re working, have children, have other people in your care, or any combination of the above, then time is something of a luxury that most of us don’t have around Christmas. It’s easy to talk about shopping earlier in the year, or about making sure we take the time to do our best, but sometimes that either isn’t possible or one or two items fall through the net.

When this happens, it’s natural to want to berate yourself – to be cross about the avoidable error – but treat yourself the way you would treat a friend. Remind yourself that you were busy, that these things happen and that you’ll try harder next time. Then move on. If we begin attaching guilt and shame to the things we do which are less than ideal then it’s easy to lose the motivation to keep going.

In short – be kind to yourself this holiday season. None of us are perfect.

Preparing for Christmas

Last year, I did a really good job of reducing the waste our household creates over the festive period.

This year, I want to do even more!

To start with, I plan to continue my efforts to #CutTheWrap by using cloth bags for all of my family’s gifts. This will not only cut down on expenditure over the long term (never having to buy gift wrap again!) but it will also save me time – something that’s very presious in the winter months.

I will also continue to champion my low waste advent calendars, and try to gift as many eco-conscious books as I can.

But… what else can we do?

Over the coming weeks, I would like to talk a little bit about expectations, panic buying, and the need for research before gifting anything. I want to discuss whether it’s ever OK to ‘gift’ someone a library book, and what you can do instead of giving gifts.

These are all pretty big topics, so I’ll pause here for the time being and invite you all to ‘watch this space’ for what’s to come.

As ever, if you’ve got any suggestions about ways to make Christmas a less wasteful period of time, I would absolutely love to hear them – either here, or on Twitter.

 

Liebster Blogger Award

A couple of months ago, someone commented on one of my posts, and – as usual – WordPress sent me an email notification. I absolutely love to read comments and if the person leaving them is also a writer, I take the time to go and go and enjoy their work. I’ve found some wonderful blogs this way.

On this particular occasion, the commenter was Msdedeng of Read, Learn, Live. 

I was hooked, as soon as I read the post  ‘I shall paint my nails red’ – “because a bit of colour is a public service.” So true! Recently, I really enjoyed reading ‘First Things First’ and the linguistics student in me gobbled up the word ‘Endiro’. I absolutely love learning about other languages.

The other day, Msdedeng was kind enough to nominate me for a Liebster award.

If you’ve not heard of The Liebster Awards before, the premise is fairly simple – you answer the questions posed by your nominator, decide on your own set of questions, then tag other writers you admire. It’s a wonderful way of discovering new work and learning a little more about who is typing on the other side of the screen.

  1. Where do you get the inspiration to keep writing/blogging?

    I’ve been a writer for as long as I can remember – my parents still have little paper books I made as a child and gifted to them! Prior to having children myself, I thought in fiction – how i would describe a landscape I was standing in, what would happen if a dragon suddenly flew over the forest on the horizon… but after my eldest was born, I was diagnosed with postnatal depression (PND) and the fantasy I used to enjoy so much became too much work. I switched to reading fluffy romances, but I never shook the habit of describing everything I saw. Writing a blog seemed a natural outlet for this, and it’s helped me to keep up my wordy skills. I keep posting here because I’m still learning, and it’s a way to keep track of what I’ve done.

    I actually have two blogs – this one, where I try and chronicle the things I’m learning about environmentalism, and The Inquisitive Newt, where I talk about the things I’ve read with the children. As they grow up, though, I write less and less about the books we share together because increasingly, they read alone.

  2. How do you find the time to blog on top of everything else that needs your attention?

    I set aside an hour on a Monday evening – it coincides with #EthicalHour on Twitter so I can do two things at once! – and try to tap out as many posts as possible in that time. I usually don’t even manage one, but as long as I can get the bones of something down, I can flash it out later. I aim to publish two posts a week – Monday and Thursday – but this isn’t set in stone and it’s just to give me a goal in my writing.

  3. What is the first thing you plan to do in the aftermath of COVID-19?

    My husband is Danish and we lost his parents in the last three months of 2018. I didn’t realise how much I would miss visiting Denmark, or the funny little traditions we’d built up in the time since we met there in 2004.

    I hope I can get back there before Brexit takes its inevitable toll and makes travel through Europe harder for me. My family will all be fine to go – they have dual citizenship – but I fear being left behind at the passport desk. On top of that, one of my greatest joys in going to Denmark is taking the dog and letting him run his little sighthound heart out on the beach. I hope that the powers that be see sense and continue the UK’s involvement in the pet-passport scheme.

So, which questions would I choose to ask?

  1. Has the Covid outbreak made you rethink your life in any way?
  2. Do you have any unexpected hobbies?
  3. What’s your favourite book and why?
  4. Ketchup is evil – discuss.

If you’re reading this and have the time, I tag you 🙂 Make sure to let me know if you answer – I would love to read your responses!

 

 

Unexpectedly useful items for low-waste living

Whenever I find myself in a bit of a rut, I tend to find myselflooking online for some ideas about low-waste living. Sometimes I’ll find something new, but often, I keep coming across beginner tips in low-waste living. Which is great – we all have to start somewhere – but I do sometimes feel like after a certain point, we’re sort of just left to get on with things.

And on the one hand, I absolutely appreciate just how much of a difference it can make if you take your own reusable water bottle and coffee cup when you’re out and about, but I find myself wishing that there was more being written about the unexpected things which help with waste reduction.

So, keen to redress that balance, I thought I’d give you a run-down of things that I find really useful when it comes to cutting back…

  1. Funnels – I really, really love my jam funnel. The wide opening makes it ideal for decanting things like pasta and rice, preventing wastage through spillages. Since we started using our local refillery for dried goods, decanting dried goods has become a fairly regular occurance and whilst I could technically manage without this, it does make life significantly easier. The example below came (I think) from Lakeland many, many years ago. It has survived many jam seasons, the dishwasher, two children using it in the bath to slosh water… I highly recommend. The other funnel is equally useful for cordial, homemade schnapps, oils and all things liquid. I use the jam funnel to refil glass yogurt tubs for school lunches – replenishing the containers with chocolate mousse, or homemade jelly. The jam funnel also allows me to buy mayo and other table sauces in glass jars, then decant them into old plastic ‘squeezy’ bottles.

  2. A Bucket – This one might seem a little random, but I honestly don’t know where I’d be without my bucket! I’ve spoken before about trying to save water, but that’s not easy when you factor in how my shower works. You have to turn it on from across the corridor, before running into the bathroom, stripping off and jumping in!  Having a bucket on hand to retain water that would otherwise run down the drain really helps for watering plants – both inside and out. I also use the water to wash the car. Whilst we don’t have a water meter (water is included in council tax in Scotland), I can imagine this being especially useful for those who do.
  3. A teapot & thermal cup – This has halved the amount of tea I use. Not because I drink less tea, but because I waste less. At the moment, I use a little red, enamel pot. It happily fills two cups and uses one teaspoon of loose-leaf tea to do so. When I make tea now, I always pour a second cup into my thermal ‘to go’ mug and come back to it later. This means I don’t have to boil the kettle a second time, use another spoon of tea, or throw out the unused no-longer-hot liquid. Winning all round.

The beauty of all of these things, is that they tend to be present in most households. Perhaps not the jam-funnel, but the bucket and the teapot are fairly common items. The others are cheap to pick up second hand, and the bucket needn’t be a bucket – it could be an old waste-paper bin, a washing-up bowl, a particularly large saucepan…anything which catches water. You don’t need a teapot either – using a heat-proof jug is perfectly acceptable too.

What are the unexpectedly useful items on your low-waste list? I would love to hear them – either here or on Twitter.

Buy Nothing New – month 1 review

So, what I have a learned so far?

It’s only been a month, and I wasn’t a huge ‘consumer’ before I made this pledge, so I haven’t found the actual not-purchasing as difficult as I might have done, were my buying habits different. That said, books and other things I ordered online before my birthday have been coming through the post in drips, which means I haven’t felt it as acutely as I might.

What I have noticed, however, is a feeling of what can only be described as ‘overwhelm’ at the quantity of things in my house. As I’ve said before – we’re not a family overburdened with stuff. I like to aim for a quantity of items which would fit easily into two transit vans, should we ever need to move again – one for me to drive, and one for Husband. We also have no storage built into the house. As a property that was originally constructed in 1901, there just wasn’t a need for built-in wardrobes…

Even so, I’ve become acutely aware that if anything breaks, I can’t just throw it out and buy a replacement. This means that I’ve been hit with a sense of responsibilty for every single object I own. I feel that I am obligated to repair anything which needs it because I am unable to replace it in the near future.

Really, though, shouldn’t this just be usual?

Shouldn’t we feel a sense of responsibility to care for the items we’re custodians of?

Anyway, in practical terms, how have I done?

I have made purchases this month – though as specified, these are not new items. I’ve bought:

  • A second-hand set of stainless steel sieves. Two days after my birthday, our 25p-just-got-married-Sainsbury’s-Basics plastic sieve snapped in half. We tried to glue it and failed. We then tried to live without it – using a collinder instead – but failed in that too. Rice just poured through the holes. I bought second-hand commercial cookware, though, so these items should – in theory – last a domestic setting a lifetime.
  • Four Woodland Trust Guide Books. These were brand new, so I think I’ve technically broken my promise in the first month, but these aren’t for me so… does that technically count? I was caught off guard when the opportunity to meet my youngest child’s nursery teachers arose. We went foraging with the class one day and I thought it would be a nice ‘Thank You’ gift to hand over something about fungi. Because I’m fickle, I’m OK with this – it supports the Woodland Trust and shares a love of the outdoors.
  • A two-minute egg timer. Bought second-hand on eBay, this is to aid in the daily battle that is brushing teeth. It’s made of wood and glass, and is pre-loved. I think it fits the bill of ‘permitted’ purchases well.
  • Books. In addition to the guide books noted above, I bought the next comic in the series Husband is reading, and a violin music book for myself. In both instances, I bought these items used, though ironically, the violin music cost more second-hand than it did to buy new. That one stung a little, I will admit.

And that’s it! A total of just under £70 including postage.

Has there been anything I specifically wish I could buy, but didn’t?

  • Cotton wadding for the middle of a patchwork quilt. I’ve done the top layer, have the fabric for the bottom layer and just need some kind of filling. I’m sure that if I wait, a solution will present itself, but I’d love to tick another finished craft off my list, so this one’s haunting me a bit. If, by November, I haven’t found a way to complete this without making a purchase, I probably will buy some wadding and use the quilt as a gift.
  • Buy a Stranger a Book via the Big Green Bookshop. Every Wednesday, Simon at the Big Green Bookshop runs the ‘Buy a Stranger a Book‘ event on Twitter. It’s exactly what it sounds like – people can offer to purchase a copy of their favourite work for a stranger. I think I’ll make this an exception to the rule and participate in this going forward, but for June/July, I haven’t done it because I felt like I was breaking my own arbitrary rules.