Jen, Author at Sustainable(ish)

All Posts by Jen

[023] โ€“ 5(ISH) MINUTE GUIDE โ€“ CREATING NEW SUSTAINABLE HABITS

In this episode of the podcast I've got another 5(ish) minute guide for you - this time with some tips and ideas creating new, more sustainable(ish) habits. It's very easy to have all good intentions, and to WANT to do things differently, but when we're busy and frazzled, those good intentions can all too easily fall by the wayside.  Whether you want to finally remember your reusable coffee cup when you race out of the house for work each morning, or you want to stop impulse shopping fast fashion, or whatever it might be, I've got some tips and ideas to help.

SUSTAINABLE(ISH) TIPS AND IDEAS FOR FOOD

โ€‹DID YOU KNOW?

  • Food production is responsible for a quarter of all global greenhouse gas emmissions
  • More than half of food emissions comes from animal products
  • If food waste were a country it would be the 3rd biggest emitter of greenhouse gases (after the USA and China)
  • Around 50% of food waste in the UK occurs in the home.
  • Not wasting good food and drink would have the same positive environmental impact of taking 1 in 4 cars off UK roads.

We all have to eat. And the food we eat clearly has a massive impact on the planet (and the lives of the people who produce our food).
For this month's checklist I've put together some 'sustainable(ish)' ideas to help reduce the environmental impact of what we're putting on our plates. Feel free to download and share far and wide - lets start some conversations about easy steps to sustainable(ish) living! It's also available here as a pdf if you want to print it and tick things off as you go ๐Ÿ™‚

How many can you tick off already?

Which ones are you going to try out this month (and beyond?)

Do share in the comments!

[022] โ€“ STYLISH SUSTAINABLE LIVING WITH PEBBLE MAGAZINE

Georgina Wilson-Powell is the founder and editor of Pebble - an online magazine and brand for 'stylish, sustainable living' that aims to empower people to make more ethical everyday decisions. In this episode I chat to her about all things sustainable (including finding a more exciting word for 'sustainable'!), hear about the projects that Pebble involved in, and about the personal sustainable(ish) steps that Georgina is taking.
This episode is packed full of ideas and inspiration and Georgina talks very openly and honestly about the challenges she faces, and some of the things that she's changed, which will hopefully inspire you to think about the changes YOU can make too.

[021] โ€“ 5(ISH) MINUTE GUIDE โ€“ OVERCOMING OVERWHELM

Welcome back to the Sustainable(ish) podcast and to Season 2!
This season I've got some cracking guest lined up to inspire us all as well as some bite sized "5(ish) minute guides" where I'll try and to help you out with a sustainable(ish) problem in just 5(ish) minutes (the 'ish' is important here, as I'm discovering I'm not that good at not rambling and therefore keeping to time..!).

For the first episode of this new season, we're tackling overwhelm - I've been hearing a lot from members of my new FB group (this one is aimed at beginners and those just dipping their toes into all things sustainable(ish) ) that they often feel overwhelmed by all the things they feel like they should be doing, and then end up doing none of them. And I totally get that sometimes too - I think we all do.
So here's my 5(ish) minute guide to overcoming overwhelm when it comes to all things sustainable(ish):

BUY LESS AND BUY BETTER IN JANUARY

At the start of a New Year many of us are reeling a little from the excesses of Christmas (perhaps despite our best efforts to tone it down a little or a lot) - our houses and cupboards are full, and our bank accounts might be empty. So it seems like the perfect time to take a step back from consumption and spend some time thinking about the power of our consumer choices to create a better world for ourselves and for others.

Here are some ideas/options/suggestions to get you started. Feel free to download and share far and wide - lets start some conversations about easy steps to sustainable(ish) living! It's also available here as a pdf if you want to print it and tick things off as you go ๐Ÿ™‚

How many can you tick off already?

Which ones are you going to try out this month (and beyond?)

Do share in the comments!

GOING GREEN IN 2019 โ€“ MAKE A PROMISE FOR THE PLANET

2018 bought with it some big changes - the Blue Planet II effect meant that plastic pollution had a high profile, with lots of people looking for ways to reduce their own plastic use, and pressure being put on the big retailers and manufacturers to make changes too. Fast fashion and all things rubbish got prime TV time as well with brilliant documentaries on the BBC (Fashions Dirty Secrets and The Secret Life of Landfill). Even accounting for the 'echo chamber' of my social media bubble, it feels like things are shifting. Like more and more people are waking up to the disastrous impacts of our throwaway lifestyles and looking for ways that they can live more sustainably. Which is vital, as we also learned in 2018 from the IPCC report that we have just 12 years to take 'unprecedented action' if we are to mitigate the worse effects of climate change.
The scale of this 'unprecedented action' is overwhelming. It needs huge shifts in policy from governments and big business and it seems that at present there isn't the political will or momentum to make this happen. But that doesn't mean that we as individuals and as families can't take action. And it doesn't even have to be 'unprecedented'.

2019 is the year we grab hold of the momentum that is building around action on climate change, and we run with it.
It's the year we step up to take action, and the year we step into our power as individuals to create change and transform the world. All through our own small acts, our daily choices, our conversations.
Let's all make a #promisefortheplanet this year. Big or small. And share it far and wide. Share it on social media. Share with friends and family and work colleagues when they ask you if you're setting any New Year's Resolutions. Share it with your kids and encourage them to make their own.
Let's take action AND spread the word at the same time. Can we reach millions?
Share your promise for the planet using the #promisefortheplanet hashtag on social media and let's see how many people we can reach, and how many promises we can make. Let's transform the world in 2019 (and beyond).

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Switch you energy to a renewable supplier - this ONE act will last all year and is more impactful than either giving up meat or giving up your car.
  • Reduce your meat consumption, especially beef. Eat less and eat better - aim for one entirely meat free day a week. Or pledge to source all your meat from local, organic suppliers, or reduce your meat consumption by a certain percentage.
  • Tackle the 'Big 4' single use plastics - pledge to replace disposable water bottles, coffee cups, plastic bags and straws with re-usable versions.
  •  Go car-free - not entirely (although if you can, that's awesome!) but can you do one day a week? Or more?
  • Shop secondhand - household consumption is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Think before you buy and see if you can find what you need secondhand before looking for new.
  • Get mending - don't just toss your broken things 'away' (there is no 'away'...), see if you can fix them first. You Tube is an amazing resource where you can find videos for the most unlikely of mends. Alternatively, see if you have a Repair Cafe near you where you can take your broken things to be fixed by their team of volunteer menders.
  • Go on a fast fashion fast - how long could you go without buying new clothes? Set yourself a challenge - you could try a year of only secondhand clothes, or if you're feeling brave, a year of no new clothes at all...
  • Reduce your energy and water consumption - check out your bills for this year, and set the household the challenge of reducing them in 2019. 4 minute showers, switching things off standby, switching your lightbulbs to LEDS - all these little things add up!
  • Love your leftovers - if food waste were a country it would be the third biggest CO2 emitter after the USA and China. Pledge to reduce your food waste by meal planning, and getting canny with your leftovers (check out Love Food Hate Waste for lots of great ideas and recipes).
  • Go on a 'rubbish diet' - see how much you can reduce your landfill waste by in 2019. We haven't put our back bin out for about 4 months now, and it really hasn't been that difficult. Simple swaps, one by one, make a big difference.
  •  Write to your MP or policy makers. One of the major reasons MPs don't take action on climate change is that they aren't hearing from their constituents that it's an issue. Make it an issue. Let them know that you care. That you're taking action and you want to know what action they're taking. If you're not sure who your MP is in the UK you can find out here.
  • Have conversations. I get it. No one wants to be 'that person' who people avoid eye contact with for fear of another lecture on all their wrong doings when it comes to the planet. But we do need to have these conversations. Make them positive. Tell people about your wins, offer to help, share what you're doing on social media. 

This list could go on and on. There are literally hundreds and hundred of actions, big and small, that we can take each and every day (one of the things I am planning for 2019 is a monthly calendar of suggested actions). What matters is that we make that shift from knowing what we should be doing, from thinking about making change, to taking that all important first step. Picking ONE thing, no matter how small, and taking action.
Are you with me?

What's your #promisefortheplanet?
Let me know in the comments below, and do share on social media with the hashtag and let's see the transformations we can create.


Here's to a world changing 2019.

Jen xx


SETTING SUSTAINABLE GOALS

I love the New Year - all those possibilities and twelve shiny new months waiting for us.
And I'm guessing that if you're a regular reader here, then one of your goals or resolutions or aims for the New Year might well be to 'live more sustainably', which is awesome!
BUT one of the problems with big goals like this, or something like 'losing weight' or 'getting fit' is that they're just too big, too vague. And it can be all too easy to get overwhelmed by all the things we could be doing, or that we feel like we should be doing, and then we end up very quickly feeling demoralised and doing nothing. Which is very much NOT what we want. So here are some tips for setting goals that are not only sustainable in the planetary sense, but that are sustainable in the long-term for you.

GET CLEAR ON YOUR 'WHY'

Any of you who have been on one of my webinars will know that I'm a massive fan of 'why' - it really is key to achieving the things you want out of life, and getting motivated to make sustainable(ish) changes. 

For me, and my big vision of living more sustainably, my โ€˜whyโ€™ boils down to the kids. I want them to grow up and have a safe and habitable planet to live on. The world is changing, and we learned in 2018 that we have just 12 short years to take 'unprecedented action' if we are to mitigate the very worse effects of climate change. Thinking about what future generations might be facing, what the world might look like in 50 years time, makes me feel overwhelmed at times, but it also helps to keep me motivated and helps to inform each of my decisions as I move forwards.
So get clear about your why. What is it for you about living more sustainably/going zero waste/mending your clothes that is important? How does it impact you, your family, the wider world? What are the benefits, for you and for others? Really take some time to think about this, and I would also encourage you to write it down โ€“ then itโ€™s there to refer to when your motivation starts to dip and things start to feel hard (and they will).

GET SPECIFIC

You need to be as specific as you can about what it is you want to achieve. So for example for 'reducing plastic' are you going to try and halve the amount of plastic you're throwing away each week? Are you going to work on the 'Big 4'? Are you going to refuse single use coffee cups? (here are some great re-usable alternatives). 

BREAK IT DOWN

Once you've decided on a 'big goal' or resolution, break it down. 
"Plastic free" or "zero waste" or "being a more conscious consumer" are BIG goals. Break it down into baby steps -eg. tackling one plastic item first. Or swapping out one specific item of unrecyclable rubbish from your bin. Or looking for more sustainable options for your clothes shopping. And then do that. One thing I find helpful is to focus on a different area of sustainable(ish) living each month - so energy, then shopping, then plastic etc etc. 

GET MEASURING

Having some way to measure your progress is really important, otherwise how will you ever know when you are succeeding?! For something like plastic or waste, a brilliant thing to do is to start with a bin audit - simply keep all of your plastic waste (or dive into your bin if you're focussing on all your waste) for a week and make a note of what is in there. Pick one or two items to work on first and identify the first steps you need to take. Then review after a month of so -is there less in there now? โ€‹
So once youโ€™ve thought of your specific goal for the month, spend a few minutes thinking about how you are going to measure it, and what success will look and feel like.

BE REALISTIC

Goals need to be achievable and realistic otherwise they are overwhelming. 
Zero Waste for example is massive. People devote their lives to Zero Waste and it isnโ€™t something that happens overnight, or even in a month. For me, the ultimate goal of Zero Waste still feels a very long way off, and feels un-acheivable and un-realistic for us at the moment. But I could set myself a goal of reducing food packaging waste, and work on that. That feels much less panic inducing and far more achievable. The ideal is to find the balance between something that stretches us out of our comfort zones, but doesnโ€™t induce overwhelm (and therefore inaction!).

SET SOME DEADLINES

A deadline give us something to aim for. And for people like me who tend to procrastinate and put things off, there is nothing like the pressure of a deadline to ensure we get things done! Have a think about what kind of deadlines you want to impose โ€“ some might need to be shorter, some longer. Do you want to buy nothing new for a year (if you do you can read my years worth of blog posts from our own Make Do and Mend Year!)? Do you want to find an alternative to plastic milk bottles by the end of the month? Think about what deadlines would work for you and ideally write them down!

What are your goals for the sustainable(ish) changes
you want to make this year?
Do share below - I'd love to hear them.

PS. If you're looking for some support working out where to get started and how to make the sustainable(ish) changes you want in 2019 I'm opening up some slots for "Sustainable(ish) Power Hours" (or Power Hours for the Planet).
Hook up with me for an hours Skype call and we'll get your Sustainable(ish) 2019 off to a flying start!

THE (FESTIVE) WASTE HIERARCHY

The Waste Hierarchy sounds like the dullest thing imaginable, but I have to confess that I kind of love it.

I've recorded a podcast episode on the subject, but I figured that with Christmas bearing down on us it was worth a reminder and a look at how it can be applied to all things festive!

REFUSE

I guess technically you could refuse to participate in Christmas all together but there's nothing very "ish" about that is there?!
However there are still some things that we can 'refuse' without coming across as the Grinch who wants to steal Christmas:

  • Christmas cards - a billion Christmas cards end up in the bin each year, and lots of people are now choosing to make charity donations instead, or to send e-cards.
  • Presents for grown-ups - 81 million unwanted gifts are received each year, an average of 3 per household. Have 'that conversation' with friends and family and think about whether you could only buy for the kids, and make all go out for a nice meal together instead.
  • Anything new! 
    It's totally possible - we did it when we spent our year buying nothing new (check out this post here for all the nitty gritty). Buy secondhand, make, or gift experiences instead of 'stuff'.
REDUCE

If you can't REFUSE some or any aspects of Christmas entirely, then at the very least try to reduce them:

  • All of points in the REFUSE section can be REDUCED if total refusal would cause family upset!
  • Food waste - around 250,000 tonnes of food is wasted in the UK alone over Christmas. Meal plan, and make sure you include what you're going to with any leftovers.
  • The amount of plastic entering your home - buy loose fruit and veg and use re-usable bags; look for drinks in glass bottles rather than plastic. For other tips for shopping plastic-free at the supermarket, check out this post here.
RE-USE

Christmas has not only become a retail festival, it also seems to have become a celebration of both excess and single use. See how many things you can re-use this year, here are some suggestions:

  • Christmas jumpers - according to research done by the guys at Hubbub we spend around ยฃ220 million on Christmas jumpers each year in the UK and a quarter of those will end up in landfill or are only used once. Wear the same jumper year on year - make it a part of your Christmas traditions.
  • Your office party Christmas outfit - I guarantee you no-one will notice if you wear the same outfit again. And if they do, that they will even care. Make a 'thing' of it and use the opportunity to start a conversation about all that is wrong with fast fashion ๐Ÿ˜‰
  • Christmas cards - cut off the fronts from your favourite cards, and use them as gift tags next year. Alternatively turn them into festive postcards to send instead of needing envelopes.
REHOME

If there's anything you no longer want or need, don't ditch it, re-home it!
Try out these different options for decorations, artificial trees, unwanted gifts and anything else to:

  • eBay - if you've got unwanted gifts you might get lucky selling them on eBay and go a little way towards replenishing your bank account at the same time as saving things from landfill.
  • Freecycle/Freegle
    Pass on anything you don't want anymore to people in your community via your local Freecycle or Freegle group.
  • Charity Shops
    This is a great option, but just be aware that most charity shops will be inundated with donations after Christmas  and resist the temptation of using them to salve your conscience about sending stuff to landfill. Only donate stuff that is clean and in good condition. 
REPAIR

This isn't an obvious one for Christmas time - the most obvious thing I can think of is the fairy lights! Have a go at fixing them before ditching them - you might be pleasantly surprised.

RECYCLE

Note that this is the last resort before 'rot' - if you've paid attention to all the other ideas in this post and the others on this blog, hopefully you won't have too much to recycle.

  • Christmas cards can be recycled in the bins that appear outside the supermarkets in the New Year.
  • Glittery or metallic wrapping paper CAN'T be recycled. Do the 'scrunch test' - scrunch your paper into a ball and it it stays in a ball it can go in the recycling.
  • Batteries - if you've not got round to replacing your regular batteries with rechargeable ones, make sure you recycle them - many supermarkets have recycling points, if not there should be one at your local recycling centre.
ROT

โ€‹Hopefully your waste to landfill should now be pretty minimal, but do remember that 'rot' also includes composting. 

  • If you have a food waste collection, make sure you use it!
    If you don't, consider asking Santa for a hot composter to go in your garden - these can take cooked and uncooked food, as well as meat.
  • If you had a real tree, most councils will run a special kerbside collection of them in the New Year, and will take them away to mulch. If not, then you should be able to take it to your local recycling centre to add to the garden waste.
How many of the '7 R's' will you be doing this Yuletide?
And what have I missed? Comment below with more suggestions to add to each of the categories!

GET YOUR 
โ€‹ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO A

โ€‹ CRAP-FREE CHRISTMAS!

Crap Free Christmas

Grab a copy of my digital e-guide tackling the big issues around Christmas waste in the home:

  • Advent Calendars & Christmas Cards  
  • Food & Nibbles
  • Gifts, Alternatives & Tricky Conversations
  • Festive Family Guilt

Let's take out the plastic and waste from Christmas

  • Grab your copy now!
  • Instant download
  • check
    Stacks of ideas, suggestions and clickable resources

MINCEMEAT CUPCAKES WITH MARZIPAN BUTTERCREAM

I'm a big mince pie fan, especially with a disc of marzipan in the bottom before the mincemeat is dolloped on top (I LOVE marzipan. I could sit and eat a block of it.), but I needed to do some festive baking for someone else and thought that mince pies might be a bit old hat. So I came up with these, and they are a pretty good substitute if you fancy ringing the changes.

This is what you need:

  • 175g butter at room temperature
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 175g self-raising flour 
  • 3 large free range eggs
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • A jar (approx 300g) mincemeat

For the icing:

  • 150g icing sugar
  • 100g marzipan (I use the white marzipan rather than the golden, but the choice is yours)
  • 100g room temperature butter
  • Almond essence to taste (I love the taste, so went with about 1.5tsp)
  • A couple of teaspoons of milk
  • Festive sprinkles (optional)

This is what you do:

  • Pre-heat the oven to 180C
  • Pop 12 cupcake cases into a muffin tin
  • Combine the butter, sugar, flour, eggs and baking powder and mix together until smooth
  • Fold in the mincemeat
  • Portion out between the 12 cupcake cases and bake in the pre-heated oven for 20 minutes until risen (they don't rise massively, I suspect because of the mincemeat) and golden brown
  • Leave to cool

    To make the icing:
  • Chop the butter roughly into cubes into your mixing bowl
  • Grate the marzipan using the large hole grater side on a box grater and add to the bowl
  • Add the almond essence and then whiz these together until light and fluffy
  • Add the icing sugar and whiz again, scraping down the sides if necessary
  • Add a little milk if it's a very stiff mixture and mix again
  • Scoop into a piping bag - use a star shaped nozzle if you want to make 'trees'
  • Add sprinkles according to taste!

Plastic free/zero waste tips:

  • Flour, caster sugar and icing sugar can be found in paper/cardboard easily at the supermarket
  • Some makes of butter wrapper will separate after soaking so you can recycle the foil and paper
  • I ordered baking powder from the Plastic Free Pantry and re-fill the plastic pot I got from the supermarket
  • I use silicone reusable cupcake cases for cakes we will have at home. If I'm gifting them to people, I use these ones here which are compostable and unbleached.
  • I've not found a source of plastic-free sprinkles or marzipan (I know you can make your own) - if anyone knows of any, please do let me know!
  • I bought a roll of 'disposable' piping bags about 6 years ago before I knew any better and have been re-using each one until it falls apart. I'm on my last couple now so will invest in a proper re-usable one.

What do you reckon? Will you give these a try?
Let me know!

GET YOUR ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO A

โ€‹ CRAP-FREE CHRISTMAS!

Crap Free Christmas

Grab a copy of my digital e-guide tackling the big issues around Christmas waste in the home:

  • Advent Calendars & Christmas Cards  
  • Food & Nibbles
  • Gifts, Alternatives & Tricky Conversations
  • Festive Family Guilt

Let's take out the plastic and waste from Christmas

  • Grab your copy now!
  • Instant download
  • check
    Stacks of ideas, suggestions and clickable resources

SUSTAINABLE(ISH) OPTIONS FOR NATIVITY COSTUMES

My youngest has just moved into Key Stage 2 and in our school that signals the end of Nativity plays for us. I'm equal parts sad and relieved - it really does feel like the end of an era, but at the same time there's no more late night panics trying to throw together a Nativity costume at the last minute.
I'm proud to say that we managed to get through our Nativity Days without ever having to resort to an Amazon or supermarket special - which are kind of like the fast fashion of the Christmas Story - cheaply made, mass produced synthetic fabrics, and will only be worn a handful of times. However that doesn't mean that I spent October and November glued to a sewing machine - our costumes have I think epitomised all the things a Nativity costume should be: thrown together using stuff we had lying around; evidently homemade; and ultimately probably a little bit crap compared to some of the other shop bought wonders. But for me, that's what it's all about - after all, what's a Nativity without a tea towel head dress?

Here are some easy ideas to help you avoid having to resort to splashing the cash on a mass produced monstrosity made who knows where and for who knows what, that even if doesn't especially damage your bank balance will be damaging the planet.

1. SWAP

We have class Facebook groups, and at Nativity time it's such an easy way to find out who has what outfit lurking at the back of their cupboards, and to all lend to each other.

2. SEARCH FOR SECONDHAND 

- I just did a quick search on eBay for "Nativity Costumes" and after ticking the 'used' box in the search criteria, it still came up with over 400 results - everything from shepherds to stars and camels to Kings.
- Check out your local charity shops - many have dressing up sections, and this time of year will probably be dragging the nativity costumes out of storage to see what they can pass on.
- Put out a WANTED request in your local Freecycle or Freegle group - there's bound to be someone near you who has what you need and is prepared to gift it or loan it to you.

3. RENT

I've just spent a fruitless half hour searching the interweb for nativity costume rental. I was going to say that someone is missing a trick here and that there must be a gap in the market, but I'm guessing that sadly as they are so (relatively) cheap to buy new, it's just not viable to rent them out ๐Ÿ™
Do let me know if you know of any rental places that will hire out nativity costumes, and I can amend this post.

4. MAKE

Making a costume is really not as hard work as it might seem. If you hit lucky and get shepherd, inn keeper, Joseph or King, any version of a pillowcase tunic and a curtain cloak will work a treat ๐Ÿ˜‰
If that's not cutting it, check out this post here from The School Run with 8 No Sew Nativity Costumes.

5. BUY ETHICAL

Whilst searching for rental options for nativity costumes I stumbled across While Shepherds Watched - a UK based company that use Fair-trade cotton to make their costumes. Some are made in India and support local craftspeople, and some have been made in the UK by a Workers' Co-operative.

Do you still 'nativity'?
What's been your favourite homemade outfit? Or what tips have you got for avoiding the fast fashion monstrosities?
Let me know in the comments!

GET YOUR ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO A

โ€‹ CRAP-FREE CHRISTMAS!

Crap Free Christmas

Grab a copy of my digital e-guide tackling the big issues around Christmas waste in the home:

  • Advent Calendars & Christmas Cards  
  • Food & Nibbles
  • Gifts, Alternatives & Tricky Conversations
  • Festive Family Guilt

Let's take out the plastic and waste from Christmas

  • Grab your copy now!
  • Instant download
  • check
    Stacks of ideas, suggestions and clickable resources

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