Zero Waste Week Day 2

Hi again everyone. We are now into day 2 of the Zero Waste Week, and I am feeling like I have made some real progress today.
For me the easiest way to be zero waste is to just be mindful of everything you are doing. Or at least when you remember to be. Its hard sometimes as we always run on auto pilot, but with practice we can all be more aware of what we are doing in the moment, rather than thinking about the past or future that are both out of our hands.

So today I was volunteering at one of the community gardens I supervise in South Birmingham. I had started a forest garden project so carried on with this.


One of our volunteers took lots of strawberry runner cuttings a few weeks back which were put in pots for the roots to take. I used these to cover the ground surface area. They will take off and give us a terrific covering which will prevent as many weeds growing. Some will still grow but in a design like this it’s usually minimal and actually beneficial to the soils and the eco system  that we are actually trying to design in the first place.

We also put in some rosemary cuttings, chive, comfrey, peppermint, spearmint and sage. All of these were cuttings from plants we already had. No new items were purchased.

The mound at the back was done today too.I’ll cover this in cardboard then a pile of compost on top then I will make a whitecurrant hedge.

Some of the volunteers helped me with this today and it was a great opportunity to get to learn more about them and continue my efforts of spreading seeds when it comes to togetherness, community, sustainable food production and sharing etc.

I told the other staff about zero waste week and the theme being zero food waste…  Again planting seeds. This time to people who already know the importance of not wasting food, but a reminder never goes a miss.

When leaving we shared out some food to volunteers. There was still some food and I took some so that it doesnt get wasted. Another staff member took carrots and I imagined the tops going in the bin so asked if she wanted me to take them and compost.

When I got home I needed a late lunch and some dinner.  As I mentioned yesterday I’m also on a no electric (apart from fridge and wifi) week too. Also I’m just generally being mindful of any waste. So I cooked both meals on one hob at the same time (yes it can be done!). For lunch I had spaghetti with tomatoes and chopped chard, then dinner was lentil soup. They were both amazing 🙂 there was a lot of steam and I almost put the extractor fan on but instead I just opened a window. I was also tempted to use the blender for my soup. Instead I mashed half of it with a potato masher, and then poured in the rest to add some stodge. I also used the starch water from the spaghetti I cooked in the bottom of the three tier steamer foe the soup.
If I had six tiers I wonder how many meals I could make… Hmmm

After lunch I decided to get my school stuff ready. I start back at college tomorrow. Im studying to do enviornmental science. For my notes I made a note folder which consists only of old letters that we dont need, and stuff we haven’t managed to stop coming through the letter box! The card folder was something I already had, but I think when I come into some card in future I can easily make some more of these myself!


I haven’t bought any new stationery at all. I simply dug out stuff from last year. My pencil case was no longer any use so I will now use this purple handkerchief to make one furoshiki (ancient cloth folding technique) style. The calculator is a scientific one made from recycled parts. I need this as I’m an aspiring scientist and we cant use phones in exams!

Finally today I showered under cold water while it heated up. Was pretty cod but scraped through till heat. Usually ill save it and use for plants, but they dont need any water today.

Thanks for reading, I’ll write again tomorrow 🙂

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Zero Waste Week Day 1

So today was Zero Waste Week day 1! You can find out more about the week here

Its the 8th year running now and this weeks theme is food waste.

I set myself two nain chalenge this week. Firstly I decided to use only the food that I have in the house already, or what is growing that might go bad if not used.

The first thing I did was get all my food out on the counter (minus dried herbs and spices). It seemed that this was going to be very easy for me. I had a lot more food in that i thoughts. Since my husband is away this week it would mean only feeding myself.
So today I ate a flapjack for breakfast. For lunch I had a salad and dinner I had chopped veg cous cous with savoy cabbage and boiled potatoes. I left all the skins on my veggies apart from the sweetcorn jacket. I washed the veg in a small bowl of water rather than running water tap to reduce my water waste.

I made dinner using one hob on the gas cooker rather than several. I boiled the potatoes in the bottom and steamed all the veg in top as I have a three tier pan set. I then used the boiled potato water to cook the cous cous.

My second challenge has been to dramatically reduce my electric use this week. So im not using anything other than the wifi router and the fridge freezer. Im in a good position as I have a power bank for my phone. To reduce the battery consumption on the phone im not listening to music or watching videos.

The apartment needed hoovering today, but I spent time on my hands and knees usong my dustpan and brush! It took longer but was worth it. The dust collected went in my compost.

Because im also trying to reduce my water waste im being more mindful abiut what items I use I in the kitchen as to create the least amount of washing as possible. Remember the dish washer is electric so is a no go, but it generally uses less water than hand washing.

To occupy my time I have been cleaning around the house, thinking of other ways to reduce my waste, reading other peoples tips on facebook zero waste groups, meditating and reading.

“But this item will last me a lifetime”. Why this thinking isn’t good enough.

I have heard from time to time someone say “it may be plastic, but it will last a lifetime” or “but it has a lifetime guarantee”. The danger with this kind of thinking is that there are over 7.4 billion people on Earth. If everyone had that lifelong item, when they die then there’ll be at least 7.4 billion items of plastic without a home. Like a parasite it will then invade our enviornment forever.

Instead of thinking that something might last a lifetime, we need to start thinking that actually it will last FOREVER! Once we can see something we are buying as lasting forever then jt makes it much harder for us to buy it. We know full well that our friends or family probably wont want to take it on afer we pass so it becomes rubbish, which we all know goes “away” and we all know where that is!
Sometimes when we dont have a solution to a problem the best thing is to just go without for a while and ponder over the solution. I have done this many times, and in the end not even bothered to replace the item, or buy something I thought I once needed. Everytime we spend time being extemely critial about what we buy or bring into our homes we are constantly redefining our needs and reshaping our reality.

So next time something breaks or you think you need something on impulse, just pause for a while and every solution you think you find, try to look at the entire lifespan of the item, not just its use for you. 
If you do find yourself having to compromise your standards because there just isnt a solution then it is so important to email the company and tell them what you’re trying to achieve and how their item has forced you to worsen our damage on the enviornment. As consumers the blame is often put onto us, but we must demand that they equally take responsibility. They can only so this if enough of us demand!

Zero Waste – 25 Water Tight Ways to Save Water and Help the Planet

Water ConservationHere’s a list of ways that you can reduce your water waste. It’s important to reduce our water waste. Although 70% of the Earths surface is made of water only 2.5% of that is actually fresh water. On top of that less than 1% is even accessible to be used as drinking water. We already have a real world problem with water and as populations continue to grow we must do all we can to reduce our impact.

If you’re in the UK you may think that we have lots of water as it’s always raining. Actually UK citizens have less available water per person than most other European countries!

Anyway on with the list.

Showering

1. Time your showers to 2 minutes per shower max! Personally when I used to use soap or shampoo I would turn it on to rinse myself quickly, turn it off to scrub soap in and then switch it back on to rinse myself again. This is called Military Showering. Now I have a 1 minute shower.
2. Give up on baths they use far too much water compared to showering. A 2 minute shower will use about 9L of water. A bath uses about 136L.
3. Collect cold water from shower while waiting for it to heat up. This can be as much as 14L of wasted water. Use it to flush your toilet, water your plants or top up a water butt or barrel.
4. Attach a shower head water limiter. I tested mine without then with and I noticed a 66% water saving.

Toilet

Around 1/3 of domestic water waste is due to flushing the toilet. Here’s a few ways you can reduce your waste and save money on your bills.
5. Don’t flush every time.  So long as you are drinking plenty of water then your urine will run clear and you shouldn’t need to flush every time. I used to flush in the morning as it was concentrated and then every couple of times. Now I do the next step.
6. Pee into a large sealable container for compost or growing veggies. Urine is very good for your compost heap or on your vegetable patches. Simply collect the urine in a large container and tip right onto the compost heap. Take some and dilute 2 parts urine to 8 parts water and sprinkle on your vegetable patches or fruits trees/shrubs.
7. Install a Composting Toilet. This is our plan when we aren’t renting. We have a composting toilet at a community garden where I volunteer as supervisor. They seriously don’t smell like people would think. The toilet itself has two separate parts. One of them you urinate in and the other is for number 2 waste. The urine goes into a separate container which can go onto compost when full. The number 2 waste gets sprinkled with sawdust after each use. Once full it gets stored for 2 years and then it is fine for the compost heap.
8. Have an outdoor Tree Loo.  I have started a new project to create a tree loo. this is built up  higher then you have a long deep hole where the waste goes. It has been effectively implemented at another community garden in North Birmingham.
9. Use grey water to flush with.  Collected water from heating up a tap, washing bowl or even washing machine can all be used to flush the toilet with.
10. Add a brick in your cistern tank. This will reduce the amount of water that fills in the cistern.
11. Always use the short flush. I have found even this is too much. I worked that if I press the short flush very gently as to not press it all the way it will flush until I let go… so instead of flushing for about 5-10 seconds I can count to 3 and let go.

Kitchen

12. Wash vegetables and fruit in a bowl of water. Do not rinse them under a running tap as this is extremely wasteful.
13. Use above water for watering your plants or flushing the toilet.
14. Reuse boiled vegetable water as stock for another meal. You can either put in glass jars then in the fridge for the next few days or you could freeze them in metal ice cube trays.
15. Use the dishwasher. Taking all factors into account like water, electricity, cleaning product etc its more economical to use a dish washer. You would need to be able to wash every item in the sink within 8 seconds for hand washing to work out better. Make sure that you load it fully before use. With most dishwashers there shouldn’t be a need to pre rinse them under the tap… otherwise, what’s the point?
16. Unfinished drinks of water. Don’t tip in the sink… put them on your plants.

Cleaning

17. Fill a bowl with warm water to clean with.  Try not to use a tap that’s switched on while cleaning. Fill a bowl and rinse your cloth out from that instead. If you’re using natural ingredient cleaners, you can use the left over water for your plants or vegetable patch.
18. Copy above for washing your bicycle/car. Don’t use the hose.  When you use a hose I guarantee you will use double or more water than if you used a bucket of water. When using a bucket you are aware that the more you use, you’ll need to keep running back and forth to the tap so naturally use much less.
19. Shortest Wash Cycle Possible. My washing machine starts from 14 minute washing and goes up to hours worth cycles. There’s even the option to have up to 4 extra rinses! I tried from the shortest 14 minute cycle and worked my way up until I found what worked enough for me. Don’t be fooled by the Eco option. Its really vague. Is it eco on water, electricity or what?
20. Brushing your teeth?  Only turn the tap on after you spit your paste/bicarb or whatever you use into the sink. Don’t leave it running.

At work

21. Volunteer to do the washing up and only do it when the sink is full (unless they have a dishwasher. Control when it goes on…. when it’s full!).
22. Turn the tap off while cleaning hands. There’s no need to have them running while soaping up. Personally I don’t use soap I just use hot water as I can’t be sure where their soap comes from or what chemicals are in them.
23. Turn taps off for others. Thankfully most taps automatically turn off themselves these days, but I have seen it before in public toilets where someone has left them running or leaking. Make sure they are fully turned off before leaving.

Activism
24. Talk to others. Do the research of implications of water waste. Talk to others about it. Tell them about the water saving ideas above or share the link with them.
25. Encourage your children to reduce their water waste at home.  Use sand timers, make competitions and try to make it as fun as possible for them to reduce their water consumption.
26. Write a blog. Write about water waste or do a vlog (video blog). Get the word out there.

There we have it. There’s hundreds more ways of reducing your water waste. I will edit and add as I think of them. What ideas do you have for reducing your water consumption?

The Magic of Volunteering at Your Local Community Gardens.

As I mentioned before I am studying to be an Environmental Scientist at the moment, but I’m on my summer break. I decided to volunteer as much as I can so that  I don’t get bored. I’m the type of person who has to remain active 😉

I already volunteer as a trainee supervisor for my local Eco Centre (Northfield Eco Centre) when I can between classes. I get so much from it. I’d never of thought to volunteer willingly in the past. Especially when I’m not even working!. Why would I give my time for nothing when I have nothing myself? Then when I was working I’d have thought I was too busy to help out anywhere I’m so glad my mind set changed for the better.

If you got the chance to volunteer in your local community gardens it would open so many doors for you to explore. You can do gardening, construction work, craft work, painting and so much more. The greatest thing for us is getting to explore new ways to become ever more zero waste and super duper green!
I live in an apartment at the moment which is rented while saving for our first home. It gives me a chance to really geek out on the many ideas I have that are eco and sustainable. One day I’ll go around both Allens Cross Community Garden and also Masefield Community Garden, (both in Northfield, Birmingham UK) and I will take pictures of all the fabulous eco projects that have already been achieved. The teams have taken scrap lands and re-landscaped them beautifully. We produce loads of different fruits and vegetable every year, we compost, we recuse waste plastics and materials that would have gone into the plastic ‘downcycling‘ bins.

These gardens are perfect for people who want to get out more and for those who aren’t working or who are studying. They can give you real life skills and experiences that may help you into work, but they also give you a purpose, and what better purpose to give people than an opportunity to learn how to become more self sufficient? I just love it!

Another benefit is you get to take some of the food home with you. This is really helpful for us. We aren’t desperately low on money being zero waste and minimalist. I do however prefer to bring this stuff home that’s not travelled far to get to me. Also there’s no packaging beyond what I bring myself and reuse. I’m currently trying to get other volunteers to take more with them too. If we can encourage them to take some home then our zero waste lifestyle can be extended further as they wont need to buy those items from the supermarkets wrapped in plastic packaging! (Ignore the parsnips onions and potato I already had those 😉 ).IMG-20160802-WA0005

I think this autumn I’m going to be on a mission for discount priced seeds that would produce loads more fruit and vegetables over the coming years.  We have ample space. I’m going to be looking into more depth in perennials rather than annuals so that they are easier to maintain and wont need pulling out after the season. Hopefully the other volunteers will start taking more with them then.

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I also started to collect some herbs. I have hung these up in the kitchen and I think that they look so pretty just hanging there! These will be dried broken up and put into glass labelled jars. I have different things we can use as herbs for food and herbals teas. We recently decided not to buy anymore coffee or tea as their production
isn’t very sustainable. Large crop space, little nutrition. Plus the caffeine probably isn’t very good for us either.

 

 

 

 

 

This is also where I bring all my food scraps to be composted in the compost bins. This will help put loads of nutrients into the soils which we can eventually use on the beds. I bring cardboard, which I’m currently using for my forest garden project to put over the grass. This will stop grass and weeds coming through so compost can go on top and I can start with a fresh slate.

I decided that I’m going to bring my toolbox to the community garden. The items in there get used so little. They would be of great use to the volunteers. It is securely locked away there, but at least it can be shared communally. I don’t see why I can’t just borrow the tool/item back as and when I need it. I think this is an important step in my life where we work as a community and share the things that we have. So some item may go missing, but what is the really big deal? It’s just a thing!
These skills are helping me learn every day how one day I can sustain myself off the grid.
Check to see if there is a community garden near you that you could help out at. You’ll have an amazing time and learn so many skills on how to live even more zero waste and minimalist. If you can’t find one then Google how to start one and get roll your sleeves up! Do any of you get involved already in a community project? I’d love to hear about your experience.

Bulk Soap Nuts Mission

So today I decided that it was time to go and get some more soap nuts. I believe the last batch I had was bad because they were terrible. My friend used hos own batch 2 weeks ago with some of my clothes while I stayed at his, and they smelled divine!

There’s a little shop in my city that used to sell them in bulk bins. This was about 2 years ago. I thought it was perfect. I grabbed my own bags and handkerchiefs to wrap stuff in and set out on my bicycle to ride over there.

DSC_0517When I arrived I was saddened to find that they no longer do it because it wasn’t popular. So instead they just have unethical detergent. Then I realised I am going to have to get my thinking cap on!

I was also reluctant to find any pulse bins…. everything was just wrapped in individual packets. This was my last hope to get those. Searching for those types of stores here in Birmingham UK brings up absolutely nothing.  Again I’m going to have to rethink this.

Before leaving I was surprised by this store when they tried to give a shopper a plastic carrier bag for his items! He refused it, quite rightly, thinking they’d have paper bags, and just carried them in his hands. I told them I was surprised that this store still chose to give customers plastic carriers. Especially after the recent law changes in the UK with carrier bags, and the amount of extra media coverage on the devastating effects of bags and plastic on our environment.

I stopped at another local store on the way home to see what I could find that may be zeroDSC_0520 waste. They had avocados without even stickers on them! Excellent, I had just run out so I picked up two of those. The gentleman passed me my receipt and I stopped in my tracks….FUCK! Waste! I asked if there was a way to stop the machine automatically printing a receipt in future and he said no… so now I can’t go to that store!

I cycled home feeling like I had a lot of things to cover. I have been gradually going minimalist and more zero waste but this is my first week of some serious applied effort to do that. That’s why i set up the blog. To get my ideas down and make myself accountable.

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We live in a set of apartments that are shared and have shared recycling bins. so I took out lots of planting pots, two aluminium beer cans and a wine bottle. These will all be useful for the eco centre where I am supervisor. I can use the cans to make a roof and the bottle as a plant bed wall perhaps.

 

 

I got myself a new bin liner today and I will put my own personal waste in there for the week and then analyse it at the end of the week and share what is in there with you all.
Thanks for reading.

A Bit of an Intro

Do you remember when you first came out? I do. As I’m now approaching my thirties, back then in my teens, my role models were TV presenters, magazine models, and Queer as Folk. So to be accepted within the gay community I had to be young, flashy and fabulous, wear all the top designs and play with all the latest toys. I would go through clothes faster than you could say Armani! One beauty product after another drenched my skin. I took many flights a year, a bus or train to make ot just to the next stop and poured countless amounts of CO2 into our atmosphere without a care in the world. I bought and used everything around me and threw it away when it was still perfectly fine but I was bored of it.

It wasn’t that I didn’t care… It’s just that I didn’t know I had to. I didn’t have the information at the time of how bad my choices were on our environment. I’d happily allowed other influences around me to guide my actions and my life. When I didn’t want something anymore I just threw it ‘away’, without actually thinking where that was. I’m sure we can all relate to that. You do realise that that away place is somewhere else. It was probably better off where it started.

I was living in central London for a while. Accommodation was catered for, I was earning nicely. Eating out everyday and night, alcoholic dinners, cocaine breakfasts. Partying till all hours on the Weekends. I was either 20 or 21 and I eventually felt trapped. I was stuck in this prison that I couldn’t get out of. I caved in and took what little money I had left and went to Florida for three months. I needed someplace quiet to retreat. I stopped drinking, stopped drugs and tried to sort my head out. My head was jammed but that time away started a new journey for me.

 

I fell to the floor and cried my little heart out. Then all of a sudden I stopped and began laughing and smiling and felt really good. At the time I wasn’t aware it was most likely a mixed cycle  but it helped me. I started to grow, I started to read books about how to feel better. Once I got ‘better’ I began researching how I can make the world better, and that is how I eventually got onto zero waste through a series of other small steps.

So now I’m an aspiring environmental scientist. I missed high school exams and have just done those this year. Next I have access to Higher education via science then I’m off to university to study environmental science. It took me years to establish what my purpose was in this world, now that I found it I can’t imagine wanting to do anything else.

Im particularly interested in anthropogenic impacts on our enviornments. Lets face it. We are consuming too much of, well, everything and I believe that you and I have a responsibility to lessen our damage.

It may seem scary at first, but you’ll eventually love living with less. You’ll also have more money stashed away in your pocket and more time on your hands to do the things you love. I have also learned to appreciate being outdoor more often and living in experiences rather than materials. I can gaurantee I will always remember the recent solo minimalist 700 mile bike ride holiday I took around wales… The same can’t be said about many of the material items that have come and gone in my life.

I have a long way to go, but I never give up. When I change or remove something in my life and it doesn’t have the desired effect, I try again. Either in the same way or another way. Some things are harder than others, but as long as you’re trying that’s the main thing.

This mission is about seeing what I can do without. What I do and don’t need. It goes against how our society tells us we should live and I like that. It unleashes the rebel in me, but in a way that improves the planet and my quality of life, actually and yours haha.

I decided that I wanted to share with you my achievements, challenges and anything else I learn along the way. I’m not here to tell you what to do, but I hope you can find something useful you could implement yourself, or even give me tips in the comments.

I’m not sure what shape the blog will take, but I will just keep posting things that come to my attention so I can advice, create awareness and reflect on.

Thanks for joining me.