A nice simple, nutritious and delicious breakfast recipe. This makes 4 huge portions if you’re greedy like us or 6-8 normal sized bowl fulls. We make a batch to last a couple of days. It reheats fine in the microwave.
150g porridge oats
40g milled linseed (optional)
1 can coconut milk
350-450mls water depending on preferred consistency
2tsp vanilla essence
2 bananas (optional)
Slick everything into a pan, slice the bananas and put them in too. Cook low on the hob stirring frequently. It’s done after 5 minutes!
Sprinkle brown sugar or maple syrup over the top and add your favourite fruit. We like ours with strawberry compote. This is simple: strawberries with a dash of water simmered on a low heat for a few minutes!
Easy-peasy and scrummy.
Shop bought to home grown
After last week’s stat filled article we’ve decided to keep it short and sweet. With everything that has happened this week we want to share with you something light hearted that you can do together as a family. It’s lovely and sunny out there which is perfect weather for a spot of gardening…
Buying any food from a shop has a carbon footprint from it’s packaging to it’s transport. You can lessen these but shopping for local, seasonal and organic foods but the greenest way to obtain food is with your green fingers!
Not only is it greener but it’s also immensely satisfying too. It’s a great way to teach little ones about where their food comes from and, in Kitty’s case, it’s great fun to “help” with the planting.
We’ve been growing our own beetroot and parsnips for a couple of years but this year we’ve been more adventurous! We’ve got a good selection in our garden of fruits, veggies and herbs. Kitty loves blackberries so we’ve planted a thorn-less bush which she’ll be able to pick at her leisure when the fruits come through.
A neighbour of ours had a tonne of strawberry plants going spare so they’ve gone into half a dozen spare pots we had.
There’s some aubergine seedlings in the porch and some sunflowers along the fence which will give us some tasty seeds to eat as well as the bees some tasty pollen. We use a lot of fresh herbs in our cooking and they are a staple in our garden. Bees and butterflies love them too. In addition we’ve created two veggie patches which have tomatoes, chillies, peas, lettuce, winter squash and potatoes all due in the next few months. Aren’t the leaves from the potatoes just beautiful? We can’t wait to sample the food!
The beauty of growing your own is you really don’t need much space. Cherry tomatoes and strawberries are happy enough in window boxes or hanging baskets. Herbs are content on windowsills (as long as you put them in a bigger pot than the ones you buy them in). You can even put herbs on a living wall as they like free draining soil. We’ve bought a patio cherry tree and pear tree which will happily live in pots or in borders so there’s plenty of options with planting whether you have a large garden, a small patio or just a window box!
I can honestly say as someone who’s been growing food for a few years, it’s much tastier coming straight from the garden and onto your plate. No matter how big or small your space is; have a go!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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)|
|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.
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
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.
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.
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.
After much searching I found that Almond milk stands at about 110g CO2e per litre
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 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.
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.
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
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:
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.
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.
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.
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;
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.
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!
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.
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:
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!
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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!
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?
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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!
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.