I'm going to start straight off and state that I really don't think there is anything eco about holidaying. But I didn't half need a break!
I once read that you should build a life from which you don't need a holiday - sage advice - but not necessarily something that the majority can do. Whilst I probably feel less inclined than most to depart from normal life (as normal life for me is pretty enjoyable!) it is nice, once in a while, to leave the distractions behind and find a new corner to explore.
Flying is ruled out immediately - not just on account of the environmental impact, but also because there are too many of us to make it feasible! And although a foreign jaunt is appealing, we are lacking in passports and the means to make it happen comfortably. The weather has been so fine this year though, that actually staying on home turf is not a bad option!
The UK has plenty of unchartered territory for us, and with vaguely predictable weather, making an active choice to stay in the country was perfectly viable. The first choice, Mull, however was ruled out last minute due to rain and low temperatures, and instead we picked Norfolk, somewhere we had never ventured.
So what an eye opener today has been!
We are, as is the rest of the UK, in the grips of 'the Beast from the East,' which actually equates to around 8 inches of snow but complete shut down. The schools are closed, and my normal day of salad production was definitely off the cards, so instead we had an enforced day in. What a pity, eh?!
In the true spirit of Hygge, snow days should be specifically designated for all things cosy and all things making: I actually do think this should be The Law. They are a great opportunity to catch up on all those odd little projects that sit in quiet corners looking longingly for some attention, often for years at a time. This is one such project, and yesterday was the perfect excuse for experimental slipper making. And yes, that is a Thing.
Bear with me...
I was lucky enough to get wind of a community litter pick lately, organised by two lovely young people who, keen to begin growing in their area, wanted to start by improving an area of wasteland just next to their local park.
If there's one thing that's a great way to kick off a community project, then it's picking up litter. It's an easy thing to do, anyone can take part, and there's an immediate visual improvement. It's also the perfect means to begin conversations - not so taxing that it's difficult to concentrate and the people contributing generally have at least a few common interests, so no awkward pauses.
I have to admit I am a compost obsessive. I will upend the entire rubbish bin to salvage the piece of orange peel that slipped through the net and, sad but true, I have often been more excited about the possibility of composting packaging than the thought of what's inside a parcel.
I love the thought of turning our waste into something useful. I lift the lid of the compost with the same relish as some people gaze longingly through oven doors at cakes rising inside. Will it work? (It always does). How long will it take? (6-12 months). What little critters are hiding and doing the biz?
Here's our system: we have a little plastic caddy for the kitchen, which I line with something absorbant. Sometimes if I'm lucky I'll have an old paper bag, sometimes it's shredded paper, straw, dried grass... It still gets yicky inside, but it makes it easier to tip out. In the summer, this usually lives outside although sometimes I'll have a designated bag in the freezer instead, which stops any smells or fruit flies. The caddy is next to the regular bin and the recycling, the first one you come to, and raised to dropping-in height. I make it as easy as possible so it's done (there is a permaculture principle in action here, but I'll talk about that some other time).
We compost almost everything. All the veg scraps, brown and unprinted card and paper, cotton wool, the cellulose sponges I use to clean, the bamboo toothbrushes we now use and any food scraps (we don't waste much and it's all veggie, mainly vegan).
The caddy is tipped into one of six dalek bins outside - three in the front garden, three in the back (again to make it easy!) These are numbered 1-3 in each garden and they're filled in succession, ie. once no. 1 is full, we move onto no. 2 etc. Added to the kitchen waste is garden waste - grass clippings, hedge prunings, the leaves that collect on the drive - and sometimes, big bags of shredded paper I salvage from work! Composting people talk a lot about 'greens' and 'browns' and getting the right mix, but I literally throw it all in. If it's looking dry, I might add more kitchen scraps (which have a high moisture content); too wet and I seek out paper and card and twiggy material. It happens naturally, no need for too much science and I think this scares people off starting...
I've emptied one completed bin this week, and it's perfect. Brown, crumbly, no smell, and no evidence of what it was originally! There are few insects - they've long since finished their work. I've added a thin layer, maybe just a centimetre or two, to the top of my small veggie beds. No need to dig it in - the worms will set to work doing that so by April they'll be well nourished and good to plant into again.
If there's one thing I'd urge people to do to tackle waste (it really does change your perspective), to cut their carbon footprint, to improve their gardens, to fascinate and delight their children, then it's home composting. Give it a go!
It's all about the plastic nowadays. For some reason (because it's been on the telly?) the world seems suddenly gripped by the idea that plastic is The Worst Thing Ever. And to be honest, it's not far off. I've been concerned about our excessive use, and disregard for its disposal, for years, so I am enjoying this sudden realisation by the masses. Of course it is terrifying still, but maybe we're turning a corner...
Plastic has its place (medical applications for example) but we should treat it more preciously than gold. Almost all plastic is derived from fossil fuels and so is a finite resource, so we should be mindful that what we take for granted will become hideously expensive and possible extinct within our lifetimes. Surely we should be saving it now 'for best?'
Going plastic free (the current 'eco trend') is really, really hard. Try it! It's almost impossible to avoid. But don't let this put you off; there are simple switches and in the words of the supermarket, "every little helps!"
Here are two easy peasy examples: ketchup and tea. I don't know many family households that avoid the red stuff. I know it's high in sugar, but my kids will eat anything with ketchup - entire cauliflower heads, for example. And for that, I forgive it its sins. But try buying a glass bottle of the stuff! If you find one in the array on the shelves, then I applaud you. And you'll quickly see it's way more expensive than the plastic bottles. But it recycles more easily, and if you're handy then the bottles are perfect for home made relishes and liquers after.
And tea. Almost all tea bags have plastic in them (tweet them and ask them if you want to check). We drink gallons of the stuff and switched to loose leaf some years ago. No fancy equipment needed: a tea pot (cheap in charity shops) and that's it. We use a tablespoon in the pot or a teaspoon in a cup. Pour on boiling water and the leaves sink to the bottom. The dregs are sieved and go into the compost bin, an added bonus. (Incidentally if you're a compost obsessive like me, you'll now know the reason the bags get left behind!)
Next problem: compulsive glass jar collecting!
Treading Lightly is simple living, within your means and the means of the planet, and making a minimal impact on the Earth. Find out more here about Catherine, of Barefoot Solutions, does this from day to day.