Eco-Exchange Week 8

Meat to Meat Free

In honour of vegetarian week we’d like to delve into the reasons as to why one should consider reducing their meat intake, or stop all together.

“A meat-eater’s diet requires 17 times more land, 14 times more water and 10 times more energy than a vegetarian’s.” (Ref)

Over the last two months of writing these posts we’ve looked at little changes which can together amount to big differences. This week is a little different because this is a big change  for some people but the genefits are huge. We may inspire you to give up  meat with this article or even consider less meat- think “meat free Mondays.” You have the potential to make a huge difference. Here’s why:

“Animal products cause more damage than producing construction minerals such as sand or cement, plastics or metals. Biomass and crops for animals are as damaging as burning fossil fuels” (Ref)

Let’s explore some of the facts together of the various environmental impacts of the meat industry.

Climate Change

The production of meat uses vast amounts of water and creates a lot of greenhouse gases. In fact according to another UN report cattle rearing produces more greenhouse gases than transportation. It produces about 9% of all CO2 produced from human activity but more significantly 65% of all nitrous oxide which has 295 times the global warming potential (GWP) of CO2, and 37% of Methane production with 23 times the GWP of CO2. (source UN.org).

There’s a lot of stats here but I think it is important to know the evidence, not hyperbole that one often encounters on social media. If you really love your meat you may well need a convincing argument to give it up (or cut back) and we’re hoping this is it.

Habitat

Not convinced? Here’s some more facts; livestock use THIRY PERCENT of the Earth’s entire land surface, either for cattle or to grow crops to feed cattle.  Land that was once rainforest, woodland, grasslands i.e. land that was once natural habitat.

Water

Agriculture accounts for 70% of global freshwater consumption. Run off from farm land causes the pouring of nutrient rich  waste into the water system. If you recall from our soap nuts article this leads to eutrophication and therefore loss of rivers, ponds and lakes. The ways in which agriculture negatively affects the water supply and approaches to tackle it can be found in this very deatiled journal paper. One of the conclusions from this paper was that if we are to neutralise the effect of agriculture on the water supply would be to reduce the farm land to just 20% of what it is currently in the UK allowing the rest to undergo re-wilding. How can we feed ourselves with 80% less crops? Eat more energy efficient food. Ok so an 80% reduction is probably not feasible or realistic but a reduction is still wherecwe should be heading.

Fishing

What about eating fish? There is an argument certainly for animal based protein to come from fish rather than land animals; fish are 6 times more efficient at converting feed than cattle and 4 times more efficient than pork. Efficiency means less waste. However fishing is having a huge effect on marine eco-systems. Trawling destroys the sea floor and habitat making it very difficult for fish populations to recover after fishing and over fishing is leaving larger marine life without food. Many people try to be more conscious about the fish they buy thinking about more sustainable breeds. The issue is that human appetite for seafood is growing and this can’t be sustained. The Food and Agriculture Organisation’s Sofia report showed that fishing at biologically sustainable levels dropped from 90% in 1974 to 68.6% in 2013. So if everyone opts for a breed of fish that is more sustainable, it too will become over-fished and the problem continues. I found this speech from the incredible oceanographer Sylvia Earle both informative and certainly inspirational on the issue.

One last stat; 

Going vegan reduces your carbon footprint by, on average, 1.5 tons of carbon dioxide per year!” (Ref)

So why not give it a go? The added bonus for is as a family is that we save over £100 per month on food! Not sure where to start? Well we’re proud to announce that we’ll be sharing some recipe ideas with you on  our new recipe feed as requested by some of our lovely readers! Watch this space.

K

Eco-Exchange Challenge: Week 7

Plastic bottles to reusable bottles

This week we’re going back to the basics of environmentalism. We all know that plastic is bad for the environment from drilling of oil to plastic production to and end product that doesn’t biodegrade for hundreds of years. We all know we need to reduce plastic use, but it is hard. The stuff is everywhere.

In the UK tap water is safe to drink and used 1/3 the quantity of water to produce. Yes you read that right; 1L water requires 1/4L oil and 3L water to produce the bottle and the water inside it. Facts courtesy of Greenpeace.

Before writing this article we really needed to pin down our habits. We didn’t think we used many plastic bottles yet each week there would be a couple in the recycling- here’s what we were doing:

Most of the time we don’t drink bottled water, at home we can easily fill a glass from the tap. We were however, buying water when out and about. When  we go out hiking/cycling we often remember to fill a re-usable bottle before we go, but day to day we wouldn’t always think about it. We found that if we were buying food from the supermarket, we’d  just throw a bottle if water in at the till for the journey home- bad habit. When going to to a cafe we’d often ask for bottled water or juice just because we felt we should pay for a drink when buying food. There’s no rule about asking for a glass of tap water- it’s environmentally more considerate and it’s free! Even when going for a long drive to visit friend we’d stop at the petrol station and fill up with fuel and bottles of water.

We knew we needed to make some changes. One of the big things that has helped us with this is our Chilly’s bottle. By the way we’re not plugging anything for anyone here this is just the one we bought and like. It’s a steel bottle which is light weight and keeps water cold for up to 24 hours. This means that the water from the tap stays lovely and refreshing and doesn’t develop that plastic flavour bottled water does if it gets a bit warm.


We have got into the habit of filling it before we go anywhere and we have found that we no longer have any plastic bottles in the recycling. Success!

Here’s our five tips for dodging plastic:

  1. Ditch the plastic bottles– treat yourself to a shiny new steel bottle and start saving money and the plane.
  2. In a supermarket there often a choice of loose or bagged veggies- go for the loose and reduce waste.
  3. Keep a knife and fork in your car/handbag. When you buy lunch on the go you won’t need to use plastic disposable ones.
  4. Keep a reusable coffee cup in your car. When buying coffee use your cup instead of the paper ones with plastic lids.
  5. Often forget to take your reusable bags to the supermarket? We pack ours straight back into the boot of the car (trunk for our US readers) after we’ve unpacked the shopping. You always have them for those unplanned visits!

There we have it, short and sweet this week? Do you like us have any bad plastic habits you hadn’t thought about until now? How do you keep your plastic use down? Thaks for stopping by.

K

Eco-Exchange Challenge: Week 6

Cows Milk to Dairy Free Alternatives

Hi, this article is not meant to dissuade you from having dairy and cows’ milk in your diet. It will show how you can cut down and by cutting down how that can positively affect the health of the planet and have a positive side effect on your health too. No dogma, just facts. This is a serious issue so we’re going to be serious for a minute. 

With more and more dairy free, milk alternatives appearing on the shelves in supermarkets it a perfect time to change the habits of a lifetime and make the switch. Dairy free milk like Almond Milk, Rice Milk, Oat Milk, Soya Milk are not only better for the environment, they are better for human health as well.

I really want to avoid bogging down the article with information which can seem like anti-dairy trade propaganda, so it will only contain references to well supported studies and accepted facts about how cows’ milk adversely affects the environment, and what you can do to help that.

First, some facts about me, Rick, and my cow milk consumption.

Fact 1. Until January 2017 I drank cows’ milk, and a lot of it. I easily consumed over a pint each day and used whey protein powder derived from cows milk after long training rides.

Fact 2. The one thing I used to miss and crave the most when abroad on holiday was ‘proper’ milk.

Fact 3. As of 2017 Katey and I no longer drink cows’ milk and are both now totally dairy free. Kitty also enjoys some of the plant based alternatives. This change happened for 3 reasons:

  • After research I believe dairy has nothing at all to offer to maintain or contribute towards optimum health
  • The dairy industry is not good for the planet
  • Compassion. The dairy industry is not a kind industry, you can do your own research if you need to.

Now for some facts about how Cows’ Milk production is adversely affecting the climate.

There are 1.8 million dairy cows in the UK. Most of them give birth to a calf each year and they all have to be fed and the farms need to be maintained using electricity, fuel and vast amounts of water. Dairy farming also means endless battles with slurry and continuous emissions of methane (one of the main greenhouse gases) resulting from cows’ digestion.

When it comes to milk itself, the chain beginning with the milking of the cows, storing and processing their milk and ending with a customer taking the finished product home, eats up large amounts of energy and fuel and is responsible for even more emissions of greenhouse gases.

The total carbon footprint of the UK dairy sector, including emissions from dairy farms, transport, distribution, processing and end use, is estimated to be 15.5 million tonnes of CO₂ per year (Carbon Trust, 2011).

Just for comparison, if you drive to and from work every working day for an average of 40km (25 miles) a day, your car’s yearly emissions of CO₂ will be around 1.35 tonnes.

That’s the equivalent emissions of 11.5million cars driving 25 miles 5 days per week.

Energy and Water Requirements of the dairy industry

Here are a few examples of the energy and water requirements and greenhouse potential of some dairy-related foods (CO2 eq has got methane and nitrous oxide factored in as CO2 equivalents):

Food Energy required (kJ/kg) Emissions (kgCO2eq/kg) Water (l/kg)
Milk 2,670-3,000 1.04-2.8 1,020
Cheese n/a 8.8-26 5,060
Butter 17,800-21,300 n/a 5,553
Beef (including veal from dairy farming) 44,000 16 15,415
Eggs (figures per 20 eggs) 20,000 5.5 3,265

So, it takes on average 1,020 litres of water to produce one litre of milk, in contrast the total of 297 litres of water are used to produce one litre of soya milk (Ercin et al., 2012).

On average, cows’ milk has a CO2e emissions score of 1327g per litre. Keep that in mind.

Milk

Milk Alternatives

There are negative arguments surrounding the amount of water required to grow the almonds, rice, soya, oats, and coconuts which make up the most popular milk alternatives. Whilst this is true, and soya milk is the worst offender, per litre of milk it is still less than a litre of cows’ milk, it is around 60% better. Crucially, the CO2 emissions are just not even close to that of the dairy industry.

 

 

CO2e Score for the Alternatives

Rice Milk

1kg of rice on average generating 4kg of CO2e, you are looking at a carbon footprint of around 550g per litre. And if you purchase Rice Dream, then you are supporting a company that has an effective carbon footprint of zero thanks to their carbon offsetting scheme.

Soya Milk

Finding the carbon footprint of soya milk was a simple process because Tesco produce their own brand versions which give the carbon on the label. The CO2e per litre is 400g, that is 70% lower than cow’s milk.

Oat Milk

The oat milk we buy is delicious, it has a natural sweetness which tastes even sweeter when you know it takes 250g CO2e per 1 litre oat drink.

Almond Milk

After much searching I found that Almond milk stands at about 110g CO2e per litre

Coconut Milk

Coconut milk takes only about 100g CO2e per litre. That’s because coconuts get abundant rainfall, and they’re organically grown and harvested with minimal mechanical inputs.

Hemp Milk

Hemp milk is one we have not tried. Hemp is a quite remarkable plant that grows in a great variety of conditions and because it is could rightfully be called a weed, it requires no or almost no herbicide and pesticide. And because the whole hemp plant can be used, the carbon footprint of hemp milk should be very low indeed. Based on everything I have read, hemp milk probably has the lowest environmental impact of any of these options.

How can you reduce your dairy carbon footprint?

OK, all of the above could be a bit heavy, so in a sentence you could reduce your carbon footprint by up to 145kg in a year just by using the greenest of these milk drinks instead of the usual semi-skimmed green top. This is the equivalent of boiling 2081 litres of water in an average electric kettle. Then reduce it further by having less milk in all that tea you’ve just made.

More tips…

Most dairy free milk alternatives do not need to be stored in the fridge until they are opened which means your fridge doesn’t have to work so hard and that means less energy use and more money in your pocket.

Buy milk alternatives when they are on offer at the supermarket and stock up. Again, they don’t need leaving in a fridge. They are currently on offer at Booths Supermarket.

Swap your cappuccino for a flat white as it requires less milk, or even better, stick to an Americano!

Does that butter on your fruit toast really need to be so thick!?

Eat Nice Cream, not Ice Cream, it really is better! Nice Cream Recipes

Transition to Soy yogurt and other alternatives where possible.

Finally…

Don’t worry about things like calcium and protein. No one in the western world will ever be diagnosed protein deficient, you will be reaching and exceeding the Recommended Daily Allowance/Intake with ease just by eating a healthy whole foods diet. And if you are worried about nutrients some milk alternatives are fortified with calcium, vitamin B12, vitamin D etc.

In fact…The Harvard Nurses’ Health Study, which followed more than 75,000 women for 12 years, showed no protective effect of increased milk consumption on fracture risk. In fact, increased intake of calcium from dairy products was associated with a higher fracture risk. An Australian study showed the same results. Additionally, other studies have also found no protective effect of dairy calcium on bone. You can decrease your risk of osteoporosis by reducing sodium and animal protein intake in the diet, increasing intake of fruits and vegetables, exercising, and ensuring adequate calcium intake from plant foods such as leafy green vegetables and beans, as well as calcium-fortified products such as breakfast cereals and juices.

Further Reading with more like the above – Understanding the problems with dairy products.

You can make a difference by making small changes. See how you do! 

Find us on Instagram and Twitter @alfrescofamily

R

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The Lake District: Great Langdale Campsite

A couple of weeks back we went away for a long weekend to celebrate my birthday. We can never predict British weather but it can still get very cold in April so we decided to go glamping i.e. camping in a posh heated shed. We chose the National Trust Great Langdale Campsite for several reasons:

  1. Great facilities
  2. Easy booking online- yes this does matter!
  3. Easy access to walks/rides
  4. A decent play area
  5. A well stocked shop

What we got was so much more. The views from our pod were nothing short of stunning. We felt very lucky to wake to the breath-taking mountains on all sides every morning.

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Wonderful views at breakfast time…the mountains aren’t bad either 😉

The pod was certainly much more than a posh shed. It had a lovely quaint feel about it and had plenty of room for our beds and various bit of equipment. It was warm but not too hot and even had lighting. We made it very cosy with lots of blankets and pillows.

The campsite is divided into different areas: pre-booked areas, family areas, a section for yurts and a section in which people can arrive and pitch without booking. The pods were scattered across the site. Our pod was a short walk to the shop and facilities but far enough away that we weren’t disturbed by noise at night. Ideal what you’re camping with children.

The facilities were first rate. There was an area for laundry, dish washing and a shower and toilet block. There were plenty of showers to meet the needs of the site and we didn’t ever need to wait to use them despite the site being pretty busy. The water was heated using a bio-mass boiler i.e. renewable energy. There is also a recycling skip at the far end of the site so that glass, plastic and paper can all be recycled. We like a site with good green credentials!

In addition to the facilities there was a shop onsite which sold freshly baked bre, croissants and bacon butties for those who didn’t wish to cook their own food. It had some tinned food and also ice cream on offer- a popular option for Kitty. In addition they offered waterproof maps of local walks for £2.50.

In the family section of the campsite there was a play area. It was well away from the car park and is a very handy addition to any campsite as it distracts little ones whilst you’re trying to erect your tent/inflate air mattresses etc. For older children (and willing adults) there was a bouldering wall in which you could test our basic rock climbing skills!

We thought the campsite was great and on the first day didn’t need to drive anywhere, which was a good job given it was Earth Day. We were within walking distance to the hike up to the Stickle Tarn and to the Stickle Barn pub. The Stickle Barn pub is the National Trust’s only pub and is different to your standard pub. It feels very inclusive with activities on for children such as leaf printing and outdoor games. There’s even a menu and ‘beer’ for dogs! Even though the sun was shining we still appreciated the warmth from the outdoor fire. The menu had a good variety of vegetarian, vegan and meat dishes. This is something we don’t often find so was an unexpected bonus.

We had a truly fantastic weekend relaxing at the site, hiking and eating at the local pub. On the last day before heading home Rick had the small task of a 70 mile bike ride finishing on the notorious Hard Nott Pass.


Kitty and I had an equally challenging morning on Lake Windermere…

We’d definitely recommend Great Langdale Campsite and the area of Great Langdale to visit. The Lake District is probably my favourite place in the world and I feel very lucky to live nearby. Watch this space for more Lake District adventures! Do you have a favourite walk in the Lakes, or a favourite area to visit? We’re always keen for new adventures so do let us know in the comments below.

K

Eco-Exchange Challenge: Week 5

Cling film to Bees Wrap

Time flies doesn’t it? Week five already in our eco-exchange challenge and we’ve changed our toothbrushes, washing detergent, water supply for the garden and what we do with our food waste. Now we’ve turned our attention to products we use in the kitchen. When fighting climate change we think about the thee R’s;

  1. Recycle

    Where possible recycling paper, cans, plastic and kitchen waste with the help of our compost article. Also think about buying products made from recycled materials or those products which are more easily recycled.

  2. Reduce

    This looks at lessening the amount of products you buy, either by looking at buying things with less packaging or avoiding buying things you probably don’t need all together such as bottled water- tap water is fine in the UK!

  3. Re-use

    This is where our latest eco-exchange comes in. Yes we are already re-using shopping bags, and if you’re not it’s time to change, but we need to be re-using more and more things in life.

In the kitchen we avoid wasting food. If we haven’t used everything then we store it to use in further cooking or, in the case of leftovers, as lunch the next day. By re-using food we reduce waste- two R’s in one!

The problem then comes as to how we store the food. We often wrap an onion in cling film to use the next day or cover a dish with tin foil ready to re-heat for a meal the next day. The film going into the bin and the foil for recycling. There must be a better way right? There is and it’s called bees wrap.

So what is bees wrap?

Bees wrap is a washable, reusable ad compostable alternative to cling film. It consists of organic cotton coated in tree resin, organic jojoba oil and bees wax. It is simply wahsed with cool water and soap between uses and good to go again. It can be used for up to a ear and after that it’s simply cut into strips and tossed on your compost heap. Every ingredient is sustainably sourced and even the packaging is plastic free. Yippee! You can find more information about the sustainability here.

So we ordered a three pack of large wraps and arrived in rather stylish paper packaging.

We immediately put it to the test with dinner that night. The usual left over half onion, easily wrapped and popped it into the fridge. It was completely fresh the following day for dinner and good to use. Then followed Kitty’s usual half mango. Again still lovely and juicy the next day. The stuff works hurrah!

Another small step towards plastic free living. Hers’s our 5 tips for eco-food storage:

  1. Fridge gazing

    We all like to idly gaze into the fridge to look at what’s on offer but it lets the cold out and the fridge light is on. Some sources suggest it could cost £18-£36 per year in extra energy. So stop it you naughty gazers!

  2. More Re-using

    Instead of recycling or, heaven forbid, binning glass jars, wash them out and use them to store food. Useful for left over soup, diced veg and anything else you can fit in. This helps to reduce your waste but also reduced the need for plastic tupperware.

  3. Buy what you need

    Of course it is convenient to go to the shop and buy food for the week rather than make repeated trips, plus that saves on petrol too. But food is often wasted because we buy so much more than we need each week. We find planning recipies for the week and buying just the ingredients we need saves on a significant amount of watse. Buying without a plan often means some things don’t get used and we don’t like waste…spotting a theme here?

  4. Chill out with chilling

    Not everything needs to go into the fridge. Unopened cartons of juice, eggs, most vegetables, bread, butter if eaten within a timely manner will all happily store in a cupboard. For every extra item in the fridge more energy is required to keep it cool so keep it to a minimum.

  5. Bees wrap

    We can’t very well write an article on the marvelous stuff and not put it in our five tips now can we? Take a look at their website, they’ve got lots of lovely designs which will be out soon.

We hope you find these tips useful and feel inspired to see what changes you can make. Do you have any kitchen energy saving tips you’ve tried? As always please get in touch.

K

Lake District Walk: Stickle Tarn

We’ve just had a wonderful long weekend glamping in Great Langadale and on the Saturday we hiked up the Stickle Tarn. It is a lovely National Trust path which leads to breath-taking views of Langdale and Lake Windermere beyond. You can find more details of the route here. It is a challenging climb in places but with perfect scenery all the way up there’s plenty of opportunity to stop and take it all in.

We were lucky to have perfect weather for the hike – blue skies and sunshine without it being too hot. We set off from our campsite with Kitty on my back and Rick carrying the supplies. The campsite was just ten minutes up the road from where the route starts. The path, which has been repaired in recent years leads up along side a stunning waterfall. We shared it with some of the local Herdwick sheep which entertained Kitty no-end!

It heads onward to a bridge which crosses over the hydro-electric turbine. The National Trust is aiming to reduced the carbon footprint of all of it’s sites by 45% by 2020 and this is part of that goal. Definitely something we support!

At this point, around 30 minutes into the hike, Kitty realises she’s DROPPED HER BABY. Her baby is the affectionate term for her much loved comforter she’s had since she was a baby. Parent fail. Luckily this was a perfect place to stop an throw stones into the water and jump across the stones to the other side of the waterfall whilst daddy went back to rescue the baby. Poor Rick – it was at the very bottom!

Re-united with baby we regrouped and headed up the steepening path. It was starting to get busier which is to be expected on many of the Lake District walks on a sunny day. We saw people from every walk of life climbing, families like ours with little (some very little) ones in carriers, some young families with children aged 7 and up walking themselves, students, adult walking groups and even an elderly couple well into their 80s. That is the beauty of the countryside, it is for all and you can take it at what ever pace you like. Some families and the elderly couple didn’t make it all the way to the tarn but that didn’t matter, the views on the ascent made every step worth it.

It got pretty tough going with Kitty on my back just before the tarn so Rick took over the Kitty-carrying. We were trying to preserve Rick’s energy where possible as he was set to do a 70 mile cycle with 10,000ft of climbing the next day!

Over the top and we made it to the beautiful tarn with a backdrop of Harrison Stickle and Pavey Ark. According to the National Trust these summits combined with the Pike O’Stickle once formed the outer rim of a volcano.

It makes for dramatic scenery and the view fro the little hill adjacent to the tarn speaks for itself.

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We stayed a while at the top eating snacks, feeding ducks and hunting for the Gruffalo, currently Kitty’s favourite thing to do on walks since our Gruffalo Trail. Some walkers opted to head up to Harrison Pike after the tarn but we could tell Kitty was getting tried and no-one wants to risk the wrath of a grumpy toddler half way up a mountain! We took our time coming down, picking up litter which sadly accumulates as we went. There were also several dog poo bags sealed along the walk- not quite sure why anyone would go to the effort of bagging it then not taking it away. We drew the line at picking those up as some had been there long enough to have holes in!

Once at the bottom we had a well deserved beer for the adults and ice cream for Kitty a the Stickle Barn pub whist sitting around the outdoor fire in the sunshine. A perfect day! Do you hike with children either in carriers or on foot? Have you found any challenges hiking with children? We’d really like to inspire more families to get out there and give it a go and sharing experiences will certainly help with that. Please use the comments box below to share your experiences.

K

Eco-Exchange Challenge: Week 4

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Tap Water to Rain Water

I like big butts and I cannot lie…big waterbutts to harvest all the lovely rain we get in the UK!

Since moving house a little over a year ago we hadn’t done much in way of making our garden and space more eco-friendly. Now we have settled and have specific ideas about what to do with our garden, it’s all systems go. We have created a raised bed which we have planted herbs, potatoes and a blackberry bush into and we are having another large growing area created this month.

We also found a great spot for a waterbutt (Spoiler alert, there are no pretty photos here!). I picked up a 210ltr butt from Aldi for £28.99. The butt is made from recycled materials so that’s an immediate tick and it was fairly simple to set up. Our down pipe coming from the roof gutter is square in shape and the attachment provided was for a round pipe, but I connected it anyway and hoped it would work.

Then it didn’t rain for a week, great for road cycling, not great to test your butt out.

When it did rain it drizzled mostly and that turned into a heavy downpour for about 5 minutes. The following day it rained again. When I checked the butt I was blown away; it was overflowing, I grabbed a 25ltr water canister which was in the garage and filled that directly from the waterbutt tap. Amazing! Almost 250 litres of water harvested over a couple of days of not torrential rain.

All this water will be used to water our indoor plants (ah-ha! they make pretty pictures!) and water our entire garden, wash my road bike, wash the car, fill the birdbath, and use it for drinking water if the zombie apocalypse happens, you could even use it to wash the windows.

FACT NOT FICTION: The average house roof collects enough water every year to fill 450 water-butts. That works out at 94,500 litres of water. For scale an average 4 person household uses approximately 164,000 litres of water per year.

Why save water when there’s plenty coming from the tap I hear you cry… well it’s not quite as simple as that. According to Water Wise  only 3% of the world’s water is fresh water and less than 1/3 of 1% of this is available for human use. Or if 100 litres represents the world’s water, about half a tablespoon of it is fresh water available for our use. The UK has less available water than most other European countries, so we need to be careful with it.

So, there you have it! Do all you can to harvest what the UK weather gives us. Doing so might make you throw the rain a tiny bit of appreciation, lower your water bill during the warm summer months, and give you an appreciation for the importance of water and how privileged we are to have clean water in the UK, and it might make you think twice about wasting water.

R

Earth Day: 10 Acts of Green

This Saturday 22nd April is Earth Day, a day in which we need to take action to fight climate change and appreciate the beauty of our planet. The official Earth Day Newtork set out to help make 1 billion acts of green when it started out. It has been so successful they’re now trying to hit 3 billion! You can find out your ecological  footprint, donate to plant a tree or find out more about climate change here.  We’ve come up with ten acts of green that you can do this Earth day as a family.

You can choose to do one thing or a few on the list to help our lovely planet Earth on its special day. Who knows maybe you will feel inspired to make more changes after realising how easy it is and join us in our Eco-Exchange Challenge.

So here goes our ten acts of green suggestions for Earth Day 2017:

  1. Don’t use the car

    For one day this is possible. Need to go to the shop? Jump on your bike or walk. Maybe catch a bus or train, who knows you might find a nice person to chat to on the way!

  2. Go Vegan

    Meat production has a massive ecological footprint meaning that it has a bigger carbon footprint and uses more water than plant based food. Meat and dairy also use up a vast amount of space compared to plant based food as the further up the food chain you go, the more energy is lost thus more space needed for the equivalent level of nutrition from animals. You might find amazing new recipes and really enjoy what you discover. Perhaps you could have a meat free Monday or plant based Wednesday?

  3. Plant a Tree

    We all know that trees take in CO2 and put out oxygen thus fighting the greenhouse effect. Is there a spot in your garden where you could plant a tree? If this isn’t possible then maybe you could donate to the re-forestation project, more details here.

  4. Skip the shower

    The average person’s shower uses 62 litres of hot water with baths using an average of 80 litres. Imagine the amount of water and heating that could be saved if everyone skipped their shower for just one day. You can still have a wash with a sink full of water (about 2 litres) I promise you won’t come to any harm as a result!

  5. Plant some food

    This could be great fun for the whole family. If you’re short on space you could plant some strawberries into some hanging baskets- plant them now and you’ll have juicy strawberries by the summer. No plastic packaging and no carbon footprint in transportation – even sweeter! Or if like us you fancy yourself a bit of a Monty Don you could set up a whole vegetable patch. So far we’ve planted herbs, potatoes, an olive tree and a blackberry bush. We will be planting more in the coming weeks.

  6. Shop Palm-Oil Free

    Palm oil is bad news for the environment and it appears in many of our foods and cosmetics. According to the World Wildlife Fund it’s production is responsible for the deforestation of 300 football fields of rainforest EVERY HOUR. You can find out more about the stuff here. If you need to go out and buy anything this Earth day have a look at the ingredients list. Palm oil is in many biscuits, chocolate, breads, cosmetics and confectionary. There are alternatives you can buy you just have to take a little time to find them. Once you know what you like t’s easy next time you shop. Even easier you can  look out for the green frog (below). The green frog is the Rainforest Alliance logo and  means that a farm, forest, or tourism enterprise has been audited to meet standards that require environmental, social, and economic sustainability without the destruction of rainforests. eco_certified_rainforest_alliance

  7. Say no to plastic

    For an entire day go plastic free. That means not buying anything which comes in plastic packaging- no pre-packaged food, no plastic bags at the supermarket, no plastic lids on your coffee cup and absolutely no plastic bottles. You can fill reusable bottles with tap water before you leave the house, take a reusable coffee cup to your favourite coffee shop and take your reusable shopping bags out with you just in case. Not only will this help you to realise just how much plastic we’re using, it’ll perhaps help you to choose plastic free alternatives in the future when you see how easy it can be.

  8. Pick up some litter

    Sadly there is litter everywhere, it’s unsightly and it is not good for wildlife. Head out for a walk with your family some gloves and a rubbish bag and pick up some litter. We do this frequently where we live. Below is what we collected after just  minutes at the top of Pendle Hill one evening.IMG_5258

  9. Shop smart

    We are part of a consumerist society where we don’t think twice about buying things we might not necessarily need. With the advent of Amazon Prime it’s all to easy to click on something you may like in that moment and know it is with you the next day. Stop and think do I really need this? Would my life be more difficult without it? If no then don’t buy it. You’ll save yourself some money, save the petrol from the delivery truck and the tonne of packaging that things come in these days. Not only that but you’ll save on landfill that said product may end up in further down the line when you realised you didn’t need it.

  10. Spread the word

    Earth day is incredibly important but not everyone knows about it. Tell your friends and family about the day and why it is important to go green. Think Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, or even (shock horror) speak to people face to face- awareness helps people to think green and therefore be green.

There we have it our ten acts of green. We’ll be doing all ten of these this Earth Day. Which are you tempted to try? Are you doing anything this Earth Day to celebrate planet Earth?

K

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Eco-Exchange Challenge: Week 3

Landfill to Composting

This week we’ve turned our attention to what we are throwing out. We already recycle our paper, plastic, cans and glass thanks to our local council making it pretty easy with separate collections for all of these. What we noticed is that we were throwing out a lot of food waste every week i.e. peelings, skins, teabags, cores. Rick and I eat a vegetarian diet which means  there is a decent amount of vegetable waste produced in our house each week. Kitty is obsessed with mangos currently which has a fair bit of waste when you consider the peel and the stone .The waste goes into our general waste bin which means it’s going into landfill. The average household produces about 100kg of this sort of waste per year.

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An average day’s food waste in our household

We wondered whether this was a problem- food is biodegradable right? It turns out that food waste in landfill is a problem and here’s why; anaerobic degradation. Stay with me I’m not about to go into a Biology lesson but it is relevant. Food such as the peel of fruit, broccoli stalks and carrot tops do degrade well but in landfill sites this occurs through anaerobic degradation. This anaerobic breaking down causes production of landfill gas that is rich in methane and carbon dioxide i.e. greenhouse gases. Anaerobic degradation is also much slower than aerobic degradation meaning the waste is around for longer.

In a well maintained compost heap the breakdown is aerobic. This works faster and more efficiently (less gases) than anaerobic breakdown. To achieve this the air supply must be good so that either the compost heap must be open to the surroundings or, if you’re not keen on the aesthetics of this, a well ventilated container. The waste also need to be turned regularly so that oxygen can get to the bottom as the bacteria breaking down the waste use up the oxygen pretty quickly.

Luckily clever inventors have designed composters with drums inside which you can turn every few days which does the hard work for you. We however, have an old school compost bin. The main reason for this being it was already in the garden when we moved in but we’ve never used it until now! We keep it at the back of the garden in an area left deliberately unkempt for bees and other insects so it fits right in!

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We’ve carried out some research about maintaining a compost heap so to save you the effort here’s our five tips for a healthy heap:

1. Keep it well ventilated

As covered above we want aerobic fast decomposition of our waste with less greenhouse gases. Aim to turn the heap at least once a week, we do our every couple of times we add some scraps of food. We’ve also poked a few wholes into our old bin to let air in. You can make this even easier with a bin that contains built in rotating drums. There are aerator tools available to make this job easier. You can find out more about this here.

2. Mix up green and Brown Waste

Green waste is that which comes from vegetable peel, garden clippings, grass cuttings etc and provides the nitrogen component of the compost. Brown waste, the dry waste,  provides the carbon component and consists of dry leaves, straw, paper, woodchips and cardboard. We usually put our kitchen roll in, old loo roll tubes, tea bags and leaves from  the garden. The ratio should be at least 50% brown stuff. It is also good for making pockets of air in your heap- important for point 1.

3. Let the Worms at it

Worms do a great job of composting so should definitely be encouraged. We’ve moved a few from the garden into the composter but have also left some holes in the bottom of the container to let them in or out. The Eden Project also sells composting worms that you can add to your pile, you can find this here.

4. Don’t use is as a general waste bin

Certain things will not break down and don’t belong in your wonderful soil making enterprise things such as nappies and plastic, they are not welcome. Also avoid dog waste and cat waste as they bring with them potential pathogens which can contaminate your compost- not great if you want to use it for your veggies. Meat and dairy products are also best avoided as they break down more slowly and tend to attract vermin.

5. Get the moisture levels right

This really encompasses all of the points above. If there’s too much green waste the heap will be too wet and will smell, too much brown and it will dry with no moisture for the all important bacteria and worms to thrive upon. Regular rotation also prevents build up of moisture and bad smells. One source we read suggests the consistency should be of a wrung wet sponge. So add more green (wet) or brown (dry) waste to achieve what you need.

So there you have it, week three of our eco-exchange challenge. Have you found this article helpful? Do you feel inspired to get composting? Please do get in touch! There’s a lot more you can learn about composting so if you’d like to know more we’ve put some links below to some sites we found helpful whilst writing this post.

Royal Horticultural Society

Eden Project- how to make a compost heap

Home Composting Made Easy

 

 

Ribble Valley Walk: Hodder Bridges

 

Last weekend we were incredibly lucky to have beautiful weather, and with a new book full of walks we haven’t yet tried we were champing at the bit to get out and explore. I found this book in Clitheroe Books, a shop in town which sells second hand books. Recycling at its best. It’s written by Paul Hannon and still easy to find online if you can’t find any more in the book shop or in the Oxfam book shop on the high street. We decided to do the Hodder Bridges walk as it was short enough for Kitty to come along without getting bored in her sling and had sections she could join in on.

We started at Higher Hodder Bridge and headed past the houses opposite Hodder Court and through the fields. It takes you so a little bridge and a path along a stream.

We popped out at a road and needed to follow this for about half a mile. It’s the only stretch of road on the walk but does need care with little ones. There’s a grass verge for the most part. We then entered back into open fields. Cue some posing by Rick:

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Casually reviewing the route!

We cut diagonally across a few fields which had amazing views of a hazy Pendle Hill to the left. The photos didn’t do this justice so we left them out and you can go and see for yourself! We eventually dropped down to Lower Hodder Bridge which has views across to Cromwell’s Bridge. If you follow us on Instagram you’ll have seen this. It was built in the 16th Century by the Shireburn family and now has a really organic feel to is as grass and moss have grown over it.

 

We headed up stream to the river bank for a little snack stop, essential with a toddler. Kitty was ready at this stage to come out and explore. It was brilliant, the river banks had little coves which Kitty loved exploring and looking for the fairy king/Gruffalo/monsters and spiders. It was fabulous seeing how nature inspired her. We threw stones in the river and sat listening to the water flow. It was very relaxing. There was a fisherman further upstream also enjoying the beauty.

The walk then took us past the stunning Hodder Place and up into woodland. We reached some lovely wooden steps which took us further into the woods.

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Rick having a little mince up the steps

The smell of wild garlic was almost overwhelming! It had completely covered the ground making it look like we were walking on carpet.

The walk then takes you along a very pretty path over lots of little bridges with the Hodder River to the right. This took us a while as Kitty was insistent she wanted to lead the way and walk over every bridge without any help. She is quite the independent explorer!

This was a really lovely walk with really varied terrain and views. Definitely recommended. Have you taken this path before? Feel inspired to have a go? As always we’d love to hear from you!

K

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