2019 goals: use less single-use plastic

If like me you’ve watched the first two BBC1 programmes on the prevalence of and environmental impact of single-use plastic, you’ll be wondering what more you can do to reduce your own part in this horror.  (If you haven’t already seen the programmes, I’d strongly recommend them – they are powerful but also practical, looking at what action ordinary people can take and hoping for progress not perfection. Here’s a link to help you:  War on Plastic.)

Over the past few years I’ve managed to develop a few new habits to help reduce my own use of single-use plastics (and paper).  I routinely carry around and use the following:

  • Reusable cup for hot drinks
  • Pouch containing cloth napkin, knife fork and spoon set, and ice cream spoon
  • Plastic box – useful for unplanned fresh food purchases, or leftovers when eating out
  • A plastic water bottle 500ml

These days so many places give a discount when you use your own cup that it has probably gone quite a way towards paying for itself in the year that I’ve had it.

I already had the cutlery from when I used to take my packed lunches into work.  I kept the ice cream spoon one time when we were out, and just reuse it whenever needed.  I bought the pouch in a charity shop and washed it.  The napkin is one of a set I made several decades ago.  I bought the plastic box as being just the right size for what I wanted, but could probably have found something similar among what I already had (or in a charity shop).

The water bottle (not shown) was given to me about 10 years ago when we did an overnight train journey from Paris to Munich.  It is very sturdy, and has been used most days in that decade.

I also have a thermos flask for taking hot drinks out with me (on walks, picnics, train journeys).

I’ll write some other time about other changes we’ve made and are making at home to reduce the amount of single use plastic we consume.  The small things detailed here have already enabled us to avoid a lot of unnecessary single use plastic, and will continue to do so for many years to come.  But we’ve still got a long way to go.

The key thing I think is not to allow yourself to be overwhelmed by the size of the challenge.  We just all need to start somewhere.  I’ve found that the more I change, the easier it becomes.  Changes that at first were an effort just become the new normal.

If you want to read more on this subject, I’d really recommend reading Zero Waste Chef’s blog – she is an absolute inspiration, and has all sorts of really practical and easy tips and suggestions.  As she rightly says, what we need is a whole lot of people doing something, not a very few people who are perfect.

Young people’s Climate Emergency demo, Bath

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Sometimes good comes from bad

(An email from a friend reminded me just how long it is since I last posted here.  Oh my goodness.  I know life has been busy (and an added unseasonal and long-lasting cold didn’t help), but the gap wasn’t intended.  I’m glad to be back.  I wrote this last month, then forgot all about it).

It was a real ‘magic jug’ moment.

One night early in May there was quite a bit of damage done around Bath City Farm.  Relatively low level vandalism: nothing life-changing, but still very upsetting for the staff and volunteers who had worked hard to make the place beautiful and life-affirming.

But one thing leads to another.  It just so happened that our manager was doing a local radio interview the next day, and she mentioned in passing what had happened.  People who heard the interview got in touch to offer sympathy and offer help.  Someone suggested that we should put an appeal on our Local Giving page to help pay for improved security on our very open site.  Staff discussed it, and reckoned that £300 would be enough enable them to install additional CCTV cameras in strategic places.  They put up the appeal, and waited to see what happened.

What happened next was that within days the £300 was raised and surpassed.  It quickly became over £4,000, and still the money came.  Alongside the donations, and just as important to us, were the messages of love and support.  Someone baked biscuits and dropped by with them for our staff, to cheer them up.  Businesses and local organisations offered help in kind.  In all the appeal raised around £5,000.  This will be invaluable in helping improve fencing around key areas, and to make other changes to improve security.

What we learnt was that the farm is valued, loved and cherished.  That if we have a real need, we can ask for help and expect to receive it.  That we give what our local community wants, and that we are indeed at the heart of our local community.

It costs us over £850 every single day to run the farm, and we have to somehow raise that amount of money year after year after year, in a financial climate that is becoming tougher and tougher.

How wonderful  to know that when the chips are down, we have such support out there.  Sometimes good can and does come from bad.

The day in 2016 when electioneering temporarily stopped and all the local candidates came together for tea at Bath City Farm, to remember and honour the recently murdered Jo Cox MP.

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Choose hope

Seen around and about in recent weeks.  In Bristol, Bath and Gloucester (not necessarily in that order).  Enjoy.

♥ ♥ Choose hope ♥♥♥

Posted in Climate change, Community, Do what you can with what you have, Inspirations, Reflections on life (and death), Seeing differently, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

2019 goals: use less water – April update

We received our latest water bill yesterday.  I was interested to see whether or not we had managed to achieve any reduction in how much we used.

Well yes, we have.  Down from 23 cubic metres in the previous 6 month billing period (April to September) to 21 cubic metres this time. Not unprecedented – my data shows that our usage dipped that low back in September 2015, but since then it has generally settled around the 23/24/25 cubic metres mark for 6 months.

The bill also usefully indicates that this latest bill equates to using 110 litres per day, compared to our last bill at 123 litres per day, and the equivalent bill for last year at 119 litres per day.  It still sounds like a staggering amount of water for 2 people to be using every single day.  Just imagine if we had to walk to collect and carry that on a daily basis, instead of turning on a tap.

Our water provider, Wessex Water, say that the national average 2 person household uses 301 litres of water a day.  For a 1 person household that figure drops to 181 litre per day. That is a staggering amount more than our actual daily use, which spurs me on to continue being thoughtful about how we use water, and see much much more we can reduce our use.

There are a couple of things I began doing during this period, and I think the bill shows that they are having an impact.  Including a financial impact: whereas on our previous bill we owed £8.59 (in other words, our direct debit payment was insufficient), this time we are to receive a refund of just over £30, and our direct debit payments will go down by about £2.50 per month.

  • I now use reclaimed or reused water for at least one toilet flush most days.  On most days I wash up some dishes by hand.  It takes a while before the water runs hot in the kitchen.  I collect the ‘wasted water’ and pour it into a bucket.  I also pour much of the washing up water into the bucket once I’ve finished, letting only the last litre or so go down the drain.  That provides plenty of water for a toilet flush.
  • If the weather is very rainy and the garden water butts are full, I draw off another lot of water into the bucket for toilet flushing
  • We don’t flush the toilet every time we use it (“if it’s yellow……”)
  • (You may think this is a bit ‘hard core’ ) When I know I’m going to be out on the allotment that day I may well wee into a (different) bucket and take that with me to add to one of my compost bins – free compost activator, if you like.  Why waste what can be used?

I don’t do any of these things as often as I could – I think the lesson from this 6 month period is that they really are worth doing.  So one resolution for the current period is to do more of the same.

I’ve also noticed that in the course of an average day I wash my hands quite a few times.  Unless I’m just in from a heavy gardening session, the water is rarely very dirty.  I’m going to get a small bowl to place in the wash basin and add that for reuse for toilet flushing.

I have spent a little on achieving this – I bought an old enamel bucket with a lid at a vintage market, which is what I keep the flushing water in.  That has been more than paid for by the cost saving in water, and will continue in use for the foreseeable future.  Likewise the bowl I plan to buy (maybe at the same vintage market).

There’s no point in us wringing our hands about the climate emergency if we’re not prepared to take some very simple measures ourselves.  And if not now, when?

I wonder how low we can go?  If you have other simple suggestions for reducing water use, I’d love to hear them.

Like water itself, our useage graph is (mostly) flowing downhill.  As it should be.

Posted in 2019 goals, Climate change, Do what you can with what you have, Frugal, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Poetry and cities, in March

In these increasingly difficult times, sometimes poetry can bring us hope, or inspire us, or  express how we are feeling.

We can go looking for it, but occasionally it just comes looking for us.

  1. Bristol – on the side of the Arnolfini, I first came across the poet Salena Godden and her inspiring poem ‘Pessimism is for Lightweights’.  Yesterday I happened to switch on the radio for Poetry Please (R4), and who was there with Roger McGough choosing the poems but Salena Godden.  It was a treat to hear her choices, and especially to hear her read one of her own poems and learnt that she has just published a new book of poems, called (what else!) ‘Pessimism is for lightweights’.  Definitely a book I will have to search out., and a poem for our times.

2. Leiden – earlier this month we went to Delft for a few days, somewhere we seem to have fallen in love with.  One day we visited Leiden, and I was surprised to see many poems painted onto walls.  What a delightful idea. I photographed just a few, to share with you.  (I don’t know what the last one means, nor who it is written by.  Nor I realise now, whether it is even a poem, though it looks like one.  But I particularly loved the way it is has been carefully painted to give the impression of a page and a shadow.  A double work of art.)

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Two shoes, one shoe

Once upon a time I needed to buy myself some new shoes (last autumn, to be precise).  My lymphoedema foot and leg no longer fitted into my existing shoes or boots.  I was advised to stick to sturdy lace-ups, and to adjust them to fit with changes in the swelling.

I decided that if I was going to have to wear that kind of shoe, I’d go for something a bit more funky.  My first ever pair of Doc Martens.  I went to the shop and the very helpful assistant was so patient and kept fetching me larger sizes, as I gradually worked my way up from the size five and half I’d worn for all my adult life up through size six, six and a half, and finally seven until we found the pair that fitted ok on both feet.

I was feeling a bit sorry for myself that I’d had to abandon the boots I’ve loved wearing for years.

The shop was quite quiet, so I noticed when another customer came in with her child.   She was young, good looking, and very chic.

Then when she stood up I noticed that she only had one leg.  Which rather put my self-pity into perspective.

I love my DMs.  Even more with the purple laces I bought for them.  (Little granddaughter loves them too, especially those purple laces).  They are the most comfortable boots I’ve ever worn.  I bought the soft leather version, and they are perfect.  I comfortably walk miles and miles in them.

You can see from the photo that the right lace is done up looser than the left, to accommodate the extra bulk (and the pressure stocking).  But even this is way tighter than when I first bought them last autumn, and as the swelling reduces, I’ve been able to lace the boot tighter still.

I’m optimistic that when I go to buy some new shoes for the summer I may even be able to buy a smaller size.  Whereas the woman with one leg is never going to grow another one.



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Planning backwards

For now at least, some of our weeks have settled down into a more regular pattern, with some anchor activities determining how other things fit in alongside and around them.

In particular, our regular day for visiting our granddaughter (and yes, we are immensely fortunate that for now at least she lives close enough for us to see her every week)  is Tuesday.  We see her after their singing session at the local library.  We start by taking her for a long walk while she has a good nap, then we all have lunch together, then some fun play time, giving her mum a bit of welcome time to catch up on some of her own things.  Yesterday for the first time we took her to the play park – she loved going on the swing and watching the older children.

We take a few things over there with us, including a loaf of bread, to share for lunch and leave for them to finish off.  So it makes perfect sense to have my weekly bread-baking session first thing on Tuesday mornings.

Working back from there, the sourdough starter must be taken out of the fridge first thing Monday morning.  I refresh half for future batches, and set the half I’m using this time to work with a little white flour and some water.  After lunch I add more water and enough additinal flour to give a porridge-like consistency, and let it sit some more.  Before I go to bed I add salt and the rest of the flour, cover it, and let it sit overnight.

First thing on Tuesday morning, before I’m really quite at one with the day, I knead the dough and set it rise in the bread tins.  The oven goes on, and the bread is left to rise again while I have my breakfast (and that all-important coffee).  Once the oven is at temperature and the bread has risen it can go in the oven.

We’re left with either 2 or 3 loaves for us: plenty to take us through till the following week.  Whatever isn’t needed straight away gets frozen.  Sometimes I use one loaf worth of dough to make a baguette or rolls with half, and the other half to make us pizza either Tuesday or Wednesday evening.  When I’m making tomato sauce for something else, I make extra and freeze 3 small pots – each one just right for pizza for two.  So there’s a quick and delicious supper for us one evening (so long as I remember to get the sauce out of the freezer in time…).

I love the way one thing in life flows from another.  Sometimes if you look forward to see what’s coming, then work backwards, it can make life that little bit easier and more pleasant.  It makes all the difference.

Posted in Do what you can with what you have, Family, Food, Reflections on life (and death), Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments