Blog - Sustainable(ish)

[028] BUY LESS, BUY BETTER WITH TARA BUTTON FROM BUY ME ONCE

In today’s episode I'm chatting to Tara Button, the founder and CEO of Buy Me Once, and author of A Life Less Throwaway.
After receiving a Le Crueset saucepan as a gift, Tara set out to look for a website that sold "the Le Crueset of everything" - meaning products that are made to last, and that will be cherished and are capable of being passed on to our kids and grandkids. When she couldn't find one, and the idea just wouldn't leave her alone, Tara founded Buy Me Once, a website selling only products that are built to last. 
After starting out small, the site went viral after a journalist wrote about it, and it's had praise from Ashton Kutcher and Caitlin Moran amongst others, and led to Tara being asked to write a book about her philosophy. A Life Less Throwaway is a brilliant book for anyone struggling to buy less - it dives into some of the ways we're constantly being manipulated by advertisers to buy more, and to upgrade, and is packed with practical advice to help you find your style, and resist that urge to impulse buy. 

I could have chatted to Tara for hours, and there's so many great gems of advice and information in this episode - enjoy.


Some of Tara's Top Tips to Buy Less and Buy Better

  • Make a list of all the things you DON'T need! Do you really need any more cushions? Or kitchen gadgets? Or black t-shirts?
  • Be aware of the adverts that you're seeing. Acknowledge them, and say "No"! 
  • Love your stuff! Buy only stuff that you will love and cherish for a long time. 
  • Work out what you want out of life and what makes you happy (this will invariably be people and experiences, not things). Then make a plan to direct your energy and spending in those directions.
  • Work out your style, and make sure that everything you buy fits with that.

TEN EASY WATER SAVING TIPS

I"m sure you don't need me to tell you that water is a vital resource – not only for us to drink, but to enable us to grow crops and raise livestock. Access to clean, fresh water will become more and more of an issue as the global population continues to rise, and our waterways become ever more polluted. Indeed a warning has been issued by the head of the Enivornment Agency that the UK will run out of water in 25 years, due to population growth and climate change.

The average water consumption per person in the UK is around 140 litres per day. Waterwise, an organisation that campaigns for water efficiency, have created a target of reducing that to 100 litres per day, meaning we all need to save around 40 litres. So how do-able is that? How can we as individuals and families reduce how much water we're using every day?
Here are some easy tips:

BATHING

Baths have always got a bad rap, and the majority of advice is to take showers rather than baths. However, if you have a power shower, take long showers, or have kids you might actually be better off having a bath. Here are some tips for greener baths:

  • Use less water!
  • Bath the kids together - if your kids are still little enough not to worry about it, chuck them in the bath at the same time. If they aren’t keen, see if they can be persuaded to go in one after the other using the same water (maybe with a small top up of hot if you’re feeling kind)
  • If you're really keen, leave the bath water in the bath and use it to flush the loo for the rest of the day (use a bucket to chuck some down the loo)
SHOWERS

With the advent of power showers, these are no longer the clear cut water saving winner. But they still can be:

  • Take shorter showers. The average shower duration is apparently around seven and a half minutes. Taking a four minute (or less) shower will nearly halve your water use.
  • Stand a bucket in the shower to collect the water that would otherwise go the drain when you’re waiting for it to heat up. You can then use this to flush the loo.
  • Use a water saving shower head. We found one that claimed to use 50% less water, and I was sceptical, so we put it to the (very scientific…) test, and it was true! It works brilliantly without any loss of water pressure by aerating the water as it comes out of the shower head. 
TEETH CLEANING

This one is simple - turn off the tap while you brush your teeth. A running tap wastes around 6L per minute, so if you’re good and brush your teeth for the recommended two minutes, you could be sending 12L (or about 24 pints if that’s easier to visualise) straight down the sink.

THE LOO
  • Fit a water saving device to your toilet cistern. Toilet flushing accounts for 30% of household water use. You can get devices like a “Hippo”  that you can put into your toilet cistern that will save around 3L of water per flush. Alternatively you can fill a large milk bottle with water and sink that in there. Even if you only flush the loo three or four times a day, that's potentially 10L of water daily with the work of mere moments. 
  • If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down...
    You may have heard this one before - the idea is not to flush the loo each time you just do a wee. We may have gone a little too far with this with the kids, and failed to explain that when they are at someone else’s house it’s not considered polite to leave their wee sitting in someone else’s loo. #parentingfail



OTHER QUICK AND EASY IDEAS
  • Get a water butt if you have access to outside space and a downpipe. Collect the rainwater that falls on your roof and use this to water your garden and plants. If you’re feeling really keen you can also use this water to flush your loo.
  • Keep an old milk bottle or jug near the sink, and when you want hot water, let the tap run into this rather than down the sink. Tip this into your water bottle, use it boil the kettle, or use it to flush your loo (there's a theme here...)
  • If you have a garden, in the summer tip any washing up water on your plants. Avoid things like lettuces though unless you are partial to the taste of soapy water on your salad
  • Run your dishwasher and washing machine in 'eco' mode - this uses less water and electricity, and only put them on when you've got a full load
  • Wash your clothes less often - if they're not visibly dirty an airing might be enough. I'm also a big fan of simply sponging the mud off the kids school trousers to go again the next day...
Do you already do any of these?
Anything new to try?
Let me know and do share if you've got any fabby water saving tips!

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FOUR THINGS YOU CAN DO IF YOU CAN’T/DON’T WANT TO #CLIMATESTRIKE

I'm sat here writing this on the 15th March, a day when hundreds and thousands of young people, in over 100 countries around the world have left their lessons and gone on #climatestrike.
The global climate strike has been inspired by the phenomenal Greta Thunberg, a 16 year old from Sweden who last year started a solo school strike to demand that the Swedish government take action on climate change. Her action has 'gone viral', as has her TEDx talk and video of her addressing the UN climate change conference. Oh, and she's just been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. She is quite simply bloody amazing. 
I am full of admiration and gratitude seeing all these bright, bold young people stand up for their futures and do all that they can to make sure that their voices are heard. But I haven't joined them.
And it's not because I don't agree with them - I echo their frustrations and their calls for action from our politicians. It's just that it all feels a bit too, well, shouty. Whether I'm too polite, or too introverted, or just a bit crap, marching with a placard feels quite a scary and overwhelming thing to me. I've never been on a march in my life. Does that make me a bad citizen? Possibly.
I wish I were a little bit braver. A little bit bolder. That I had a friend who felt the same way so we could go together and hold hands and skulk in the background not really knowing what to do. Maybe next time.

But for now, for those of us with too much inner reserve, who want to show their support but can't or don't want to take to the streets, here are a few suggestions to make your voice heard:

TAKE TO SOCIAL MEDIA

Show your support for the climate strikers on social media.
Share the strikes on your feeds, let people know that they're happening. Say thank you to those that are out there.
Useful hashtags to follow on Twitter include:
#fridaysforfuture
#climatestrike
#schoolstrike4climate
#youthstrike4climate
#climateaction

GET POLITICAL

Get in touch with your MP. 
Write to them, tweet them, rock up to your local MP surgery (although if marching on the streets feels scary, confronting your MP face to face might also feel a bit much). Let them know that climate change scares the pants off you, and that you want them to take action. Ask them what they're doing, and why they aren't doing more. 
In all likelihood you will get a stock response (or no response at all) but we need to let them know that this is an issue that matters. 
If you aren't sure who your local MP is, or how to get in touch with them you can find out here.

And while we're on the subject of politics, when the time comes, VOTE!
Get informed on the policies of the various parties and then vote with your conscience for the party that will give the planet and our kids the best possible chance.

#EVERYACTIVISM

This also sounds a bit radical, but there's a lot less marching and banner carrying and a whole lot more simply saying "No".
Say "no" to fast fashion and single use plastics, and the constant demands that we buy, buy, buy. 
Choose to refuse, to reduce, to reuse. To repair broken things, to resist the urge to upgrade.
Question the status quo. Question yourself and your motivation - did you already want that new dress, or that latest upgrade? Or did someone (an ad company paid a lot of money to get you to buy) tell you you do?

VOTE WITH YOUR PURSE

As consumers we have power. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. 
Each time you spend money, you're sending out a message that this is the kind of world that you want. Buy with that thought in mind. 
Buy less, but buy better. 

Great Thunberg - my absolute hero.

Image from metro.co.uk


Did you march?
Would you march?
Am I the only one who feels like this?
Do let me know, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this one.

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[027] THE WORLD’S MOST SUSTAINABLE PET FOOD – WITH TOM NEISH FROM YORA

Welcome back to Sustainable(ish)!
Today I’ve got an interview lined up for you with Tom Neish who is the founder and head honcho of Yora pet food, a new pet food brand that claim to be the world’s most sustainable pet food.
So what makes them so sustainable I hear you ask? 
Well I’m glad you asked. It’s because the food is made from insects!

The message seems to be slowly getting out that we should be reducing the amount of meat that we’re eating in our own diets, but I’d genuinely never really thought much about the amount of meat that our pets are eating. Many of the perium brand pet foods focus their marketing on the fact that their food is made using human grade food, and we’ve bought into the fact that this is a Good Thing. But hang on a minute, shouldn’t we be working on feeding the human grade food to the humans?

The first time I saw Yora I was fasincated (and I have to say slightly freaked out by the thought that it might be  a bag full of dried crickets or the like. It's not. It looks like regular dry dog food) by the concept, and I have to say that I absolutely love it, and the whole ethos behind the company.

Tuen in your ears, and listen in as I get the lowdown and hopefully all your questions answered from Tom.

Enjoy!


THREE EASY IDEAS FOR A PLASTIC-FREE(ISH) RED NOSE DAY

No sooner has World Book Day come and gone, then Red Nose Day is upon us and the kids are being invited to wear red noses into school and donate to Comic Relief.
Comic Relief has raised over £1 billion to help disadvantaged communities here in the UK and abroad since it's inception in 1985 and does a brilliant job. But I have a bugbear. 
The noses. You see, the red nose that is the iconic symbol of Red Nose Day is plastic. And it's not just any old plastic either. Back in the day, when I was little(ish), the red noses were made from quite a hard plastic, which made them hugely uncomfortable to wear, but they were at least pretty durable, and could be recycled with other hard plastics. Now the noses are a soft squishy plastic, they break hugely easily, and come in a box that is wrapped in more plastic. AND they have a  whole range of noses so you can collect them all...

I totally understand that merchandise is a massive part of revenue raising for charities, and I'd love to know what proportion of the revenue raised each year by Comic Relief comes from the noses - I'm assuming it's pretty high. 
But at the end of the day, it's just another single use plastic. Single use plastic that is made from oil, contributing to climate change and plastic pollution. Both of which are huge issues that will affect, and are already affecting, disadvantaged communities in the developing world disproportionately. And these are the very people Comic Relief works so hard to help. There seems to be a lack of joined up thinking.

Now I am in NO way saying don't donate to Comic Relief. But we don't need to buy a piece of over-packaged single use plastic on order to do that (indeed, I think we need to reassess how and why we donate to charities - why do we feel so much more inclined to donate to charity if we get something in return: a red nose, or a t-shirt, or a poppy?) Red noses this year cost £1.25, and after taking into account production costs, the charity gets 65p of that to put to good causes.
Why not chuck a quid (or more) in the collection pot and go for one of these options instead:   

PAINT YOUR NOSE RED

Children at Fourlanesend Community Primary School in Cornwall decided that they wanted to forgo plastic red noses due to their concerns about it's environmental effects, and instead are simply painting their noses red.
If you haven't got any face paint handy, then red lipstick will do the job just as well.

MAKE ONE FROM PAPER

There's a great video here from the Creation Station that shows you how to make your own red nose from a sheet of red paper - super easy! I would fold over a bit of paper tape to avoid the plastic double sided sticky tape 😉

CROCHET ONE

A couple of years ago Comic Relief produced a "Big Comic Relief Crafternoon" magazine with a pattern in it to crochet a red nose. I made two for the boys, and they went down a storm! I'm not sure that I'm allowed to share a pic of the pattern, so I've had a search and found one here if you want to have a go.
Honestly, it's easy, and the sort of thing you can do sat in front of the TV - and once you've made them, they should last for years!

IF ALL ELSE FAILS...

...and you end up with a plastic red nose, they are collecting them for recycling at Sainsbury's stores, so please, please, please don't chuck it in the bin!


Whatever option you go for, don't forget to donate to Comic Relief!

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LENT WITH LESS

Today marks the start of Lent and it's now become quite popular for even those who aren't practising Christians to use this pre-Easter period to abstain from something, whether that's chocolate, or alcohol, or cake. How about this year doing "Lent with Less" and giving up something that will benefit the planet, and not just your waistline. Here are a few suggestions:

FAST FASHION FAST

Could you go on a fast fashion fast? 
Globally we consume 80 BILLION pieces of clothing a year and it’s estimated that more than half of the fast fashion produced is disposed of in under a year.
If you've got a bit of a shopping habit, and routinely splash the cash on new clothes on the High St, could you go cold turkey from now until Easter?
Shop your wardrobe instead, find other things to do in your lunch hour, and unsubscribe from all those tempting offers that land in your in-box every day.

#SECONDHANDFIRST

Textile charity TRAID have a brilliant #secondhandfirst campaign where they ask people to pledge to source a percentage of their clothes secondhand. How about this for Lent (and ongoing!)?
I'm going to go one step further and ask you if can commit to sourcing ALL of the clothes you need over the next 6 weeks secondhand - are you up for it?

BUY NOTHING NEW

Household consumption is repsonsible for 60% of global greenhouse gas emissions – so these are the things that you and I are buying every single day. One easy way to cut this is to take #secondhandfirst on another step - how about 6 weeks buying nothing new? Could you pledge to source anything you need (or want) secondhand, whether that's clothes, electronics, books, or anything else. My journey into all things sustainable(ish) began when we spent a year buying nothing new (you can read all about it here) and I think that buying secondhand provides a brilliant stop gap in your brain - it gives you the space and time to think about whether you really something, and more often that not, you might decide that you don't!

SINGLE USE PLASTIC PLEDGE

Over the last couple of years there's been more and more people committing to giving up single use plastic for Lent. You don't have to go the whole hog - living entirely without single use plastic is bl**dy hard work and needs a lot of planning and commitment. BUT could you focus on the "Big 4" - coffee cups, water bottles, carrier bags and straws? Or even just pick ONE of them - so if you've got a big takeaway coffee habit, grab yourself a reusable and commit!

DECLUTTERING

Some of the members of my FB group use Lent each year as a nudge to declutter, and rid their homes of one unwanted item every day, meaning that by the end 40+ items have been rehomed. Slow and steady wins the race and prevents decluttering from being overwhelming - if you need some ideas to help you keep your decluttering out of landfill, this post here should help.

OTHER IDEAS
  • Meat free Lent
  • Fairtrade Lent
  • Meal plan for Lent
  • Zero waste(ish) Lent - or see how much you can reduce your rubbish by
  • Car-free Fridays (or any other day of the week) for Lent
  • Do a #2minutelitterpick every day - there's a brilliant account of Instagram where she does a litter pick every single day - you can follow it here.


Just pick ONE thing - six weeks is a great amount of time to really get new habits embedded - so by the time Easter comes around you should have a new routine of remembering your reusable water bottle, or you'll have weaned yourself of the endorphin rush of a fast fashion fix and allowed yourself the space to think about how you can move forwards and consume in a slower, more thoughtful way moving forwards.
Make it a challenge, but make it do-able. And if you 'fail' one day, dust yourself off and start over - in the same way as you would a new diet or a fitness regime. And in that same vein, why not buddy up with someone, to either give each other some moral support, or act as a bit of friendly competition, however your brain works! It's all about challenging our own habits of consumption, one step at a time. And something relatively short and sharp, with a defined beginning and end can be a brilliant way to kick start it.

So how about it?
Will you do Lent with Less?
Let me know in the comments what challenge you're setting yourself,
and what I can do to help!


[026] 5(ISH) MINUTE GUIDE TO…A SUSTAINABLE(ISH) LENT

It's pancake day - hurray! 
Which means it's the start of Lent tomorrow - traditionally 40 days and 40 nights of fasting before Easter to remember Jesus' time in the wilderness.
Now I’ve never really done Lent, but it’s a time of year when some people choose to take on a challenge and give up something they enjoy - whether thats chocolate, or sugar or alcohol, or something else entirely.
But how about this year abstaining from something that will help the planet, rather than simply your waistline? In this episode I share with you a few ideas for things you might want to have a go at giving up this year for Lent:


ECO-FRIENDLY WORLD BOOK DAY COSTUMES

For the last few years I have sat back feeling smug and hugely relieved when our school has neglected to jump onto the "let's all dress up for World Book Day" bandwagon. Until this year. When they gave us 10 days notice that our little darlings could come to school on World Book Day (7th March) dressed up as one of their favourite book characters "if they liked".
Now obviously in reality that means it's obligatory - unless you want to be the parent who looks like they forgot. Or the very mean 'bah humbug' parent.
And I'm not 'bah humbug' - I love the idea of World Book Day, and anything that gets kids excited about books and reading is a Good Thing. I just hate the need to dress up for it. Or more specifically the fact that time poor parents faced with yet another thing to cram into their lives will probably just hit Amazon or the supermarket for a mass produced plastic monstrosity that will be worn once, and then condemned to landfill to sit for centuries to come. 
When you can pick up a costume that looks about a gazillion times better than anything you could cobble together yourself at home, for less than a tenner, why would you go to the hassle of trying to make a papier mâché spaceman's helmet, or forage the woods for sticks to make a bonafide witches broomstick?
Well I'm glad you asked. The costumes that you see online (I'm looking at you Amazon) and in the shops are the very epitome of fast fashion (ok, maybe not strictly 'fashion'). They're designed and made to be almost throwaway - low quality, mass produced, intended to be worn once (or at the very most twice) and then discarded. But just as with all our clothes, the raw materials had to come from somewhere (usually oil as most of these are synthetic fabrics) and have to be made by someone. They aren't magic-ed out of thin air by machines. Real people will have sewn every seam. And then to top it all off they're all treated with chemicals to make them fire-proof.

Soooo... how can you send your little darling to school in a costume that hasn't cost the earth?

REUSE

If you've already got a costume from previous parties or World Book Days, drag it out and use it again. Chances are your kids can't even remember what they went as last time, let alone any of their friends.

BORROW

Ask around friends and family if they have a costume you can borrow.
We have a class FB group, and everyone shared in there what outfits they had, or what they were looking for. There's no need to go and buy an Alice in Wonderland outfit - chances are someone you know already has one.
I saw a post on FB where someone said their school was having a 'costume swap shop' in the run up to World Book Day - this is GENIUS!

RECYCLE/UPCYCLE

Have a quick scout around the charity shops and see what you can find. I once found a fake fur gilet thing that has been an Asterix outfit, and this year is going to be re-utilised for our youngest to be "Hiccup the Horrendous Haddock III" from How to Train your Dragon. You honestly don't need to be an expert at sewing either - very basic hand sewing is all that's required, or failing that getting happy with a glue gun...

GO EASY

Loads of characters have pretty easy costumes that you can rustle up from things you already have at home. Check out this list from ArtVenturers for no-stress (no spend, no landfill) costume ideas.

If you're still short on inspiration, pop into the A Sustainable Life FB group and use the search function to look for the World Book Day thread - loads of brilliant ideas in there, with not a nylon monstrosity in sight!

Ahaaaaa me hearties! This pirate outfit is SO easy and saw us through several parties and dress up days. Old jeans cut off, striped t-shirt the boys already had, red t-shirt from a charity shop chopped into a waistcoat, eye patch from a party bag and a headscarf from a charity shop. Boom.

"Asterix" - Paper mache hat and 'gourd' (hubby did these), and fake fur gilet from the charity shop that's been roped into all kinds of fancy dress!

Are you 'doing' World Book Day?
What are your little people going as?


[025] A BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO GROW YOUR OWN – WITH SARA VENN

Today’s episode is all about Growing Your Own. It’s the stereotypical image of sustainable living isn’t it? The kind of Good Life image of being self sufficient in veg, and the temptation is to go all out right from the start, take on a huge allotment plot, and then before we know it it’s taken over our lives. 
Sara Venn has been on the show before back in Episode 4 where we talked about the power of community gardening and projects like Incredible Edible and she got in touch me a the start of this year to ask if I’d be interested in doing an episode on Grow Your Own Lite, or maybe Grow your Own(ish).

 This episode is for you if you love the idea of growing some of your own fruit and veg this year, but you’re not sure if you’ve got the time or space, or what you should be growing.
And it’s for you if you’ve tried before and failed.

It’s packed full of really practical tips for those ordinary mortals amongst us with busy lives, and families, but who want to work out some ways to incorporate a little but of grow your own activism and  pleasure into your routine.
As ever, if you enjoy this episode, please do share it with your friedsn and family, and on social media and let’s spread the sustainable(ish) word!

Enjoy.

[024] – 5(ISH) MINUTE GUIDE – SUSTAINABLE(ISH) DAYS OUT

It's half-term here in my corner of the UK, so I'm sharing with you some ideas for easy swaps and tips to help make your days out more sustainable(fish). Please do still listen if you're kid free, as most of the tips apply to grown ups too (maybe not the tantrums in the gift shop. Hopefully.)

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