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Why buses are great!

January 27, 2010

Some of you might have snorted into your coffee while reading this title, but I thought it would be nice to extol public transport for a change. It seems to get a bit of a kicking in general, but we shouldn’t be too hard on it.

So, why do I think buses are great?

  • The obvious environmental benefits of 35 people piling into a bus rather than taking 35 cars out onto the road. In addition, many buses are being upgraded to run on sustainable fuels. Not many individuals can afford to do that.
  • Sometimes, in cities, they’re faster – how many times have you seen cars stuck in traffic as a bus speeds by in its own little lane? You’ve either been in the car cursing bus lanes or in the bus feeling smug that you took the right choice. Either way, you know what I mean.
  • You get to see the people that live in your area, be it countryside or city. Granted that if it’s the countryside the bus probably isn’t that frequent (downsides mentioned below!) so it’s full of pensioners, but in the city you get to see a whole cross section of society.
  • You can look out of the window! You’re not driving and you’re sat higher than in a car, so look around you. You’re probably taking a longer or more roundabout route too, so check out the new parts of town that you’re passing through.

Sure, I’ve had my fair share of not-so-pleasant bus trips too (and seen the fares go up). From horrible little Scousers spitting bits of chewed-up paper down MacDonald’s straws at the back of other passengers’ heads during my student days in Liverpool, to maniacal bendy-bus drivers in London (and the smelly, creepy dude who decides to sit next to you despite the bus being half empty).

And of course they’re not always ideal if you have to be somewhere urgently; they break down, they get caught in traffic (happens to cars too!) or they just don’t turn up (probably the  most frustrating thing for me).

Plus, in the countryside, you’re lucky if there’s one more regularly than every three years. (Oops, I mean hours, but perhaps my mistake means more, so I’m leaving it!) This is probably the most annoying point; make it easier for people to use public transport and they will.

But on the bright side, think of all the tales they’ve given you – a gift for entertaining friends and sustaining small talk. My most memorable incident was when I lived in London, when I used to get the bus to work at about 7.30am.

I trudged to the top deck, which was pretty empty, and went for the back seat. I sat down and as I looked about me I noticed a huge poo on the floor between the back row and the one in front. Who would do that, or who would let something else do it?!

Needless to say, I promptly moved (why, in case someone thought I did it?) and was hugely entertained to see all the new passengers do the same thing, especially as the bus filled up and they spied the empty seats. One poor bloke sat there for a minute before noticing ‘it’, doing a double take and moving to a new seat.

So, like I said: buses are great! They may not be perfect but at the least they might provide a good talking point…

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The wormery’s arrived

January 22, 2010

I started looking into getting a wormery before Christmas; we have two dogs and I read that the worms would also eat pet poo. I’m not sure this technically counts as a ‘green’ purchase, but at least we now have somewhere to put the kaka rather than in a bin or over the hedge…

The one that cropped up everywhere was the Tumbleweed wormery, but there’s not yet any distributors in Spain. I eventually tracked one down from Original Organics in the UK, which offered the best price for getting it over here. Its customer service was also excellent; speedy and very helpful.

I set the wormery up yesterday in a shaded spot and am looking forward to seeing how it works out (my boyfriend thinks I’m barmy). I checked the new additions this morning and discovered they’d tried to make a break for freedom in the night (who knew worms could climb?). I’m hopeful this is just a settling-in phase!

A ‘bag for life’? Yes, but not in a good way

January 4, 2010

I can’t be the only person who thinks that the whole ‘bag for life’ (of the plastic variety) idea is a bit of a con and simply a marketing gimmick.

Yes, I suppose that anything that encourages people to re-use plastic bags is a good thing. But they’re not for life in shopping terms – one sharp corner and you’ve torn it (both literally and figuratively). And what do you do with it then?

Well, you either recycle it or it ends up in landfill, where it really is around for a lifetime and more. Here, it will photodegrade (not biodegrade), breaking down into smaller and smaller pieces, and damaging the natural environment.

Surely it would be much better to offer cotton bags instead? Germany has banned plastic bags for years, offering shoppers this option in their place. These are stronger and will biodegrade, although there are of course issues surrounding their production.

And I still haven’t forgotten being urged by a particular chain of shops (Boots, I think) to ‘be environmentally friendly – choose a smaller carrier bag’! I don’t know if it still suggests this, but that has stuck in my mind as one of the most ridiculous things I’ve read.

Crafty Christmas!

December 11, 2009

For many years now I’ve made Christmas cards for my closest family. This year, however, I’ve decided to make them for everyone. I’m hoping to avoid wasting so much money on shop-bought cards that I don’t really like, with a bit of plastic packaging left over afterwards that I can’t really do anything with.

Luckily, I don’t send 100s of the things, so I’ve only had to make about 30. They’re no great artwork, but hopefully the recipients will appreciate that they’re personal and some effort’s gone into them.

By mixing these with e-cards (maybe some charity ones) for more modern-minded friends and business contacts, I think I’ve got the ‘salutations’ part of the festive period covered.

I’ve also just spotted this step-by-step guide to making your own ‘Christmas arrangement’ (sounds a bit grand), which I’d have a go at if we were going to be in our house. I love the idea of making my own Christmas decorations (either using fresh foliage or making longer-lasting ones) and mixing them up with locally handmade items.

Yes, plastic trees and tinsel do remind me of childhood Christmases with their unmistakeable smell as you pull them out of the box after another year collecting dust. But the thought of something fresh each year, and which reflects the plants to hand at that time, is also appealing too. Plus, they can go on the compost heap afterwards!

Photos to be added…

Friendly flowers

November 17, 2009

It was my lovely gran’s birthday last month and I wanted to send her some flowers, which she gets a lot of pleasure from. I was aware that lots of flowers are produced outside the UK and then transported into the country, and wanted to find a better alternative.

So I did a bit of online research and found the Wiggly Florist at Wiggly Wigglers (so much wiggling). I chose their Wiggly Posy and ordered it for next day delivery (a Saturday). All of the posies they deliver are English-grown flowers, either produced by themselves or by other English growers. It also means the posy is seasonal and variable, which I thought was great.

I’d read other customers’ comments, which were mostly positive, but there were a couple that said the flowers hadn’t lived up to their expectations. So, I was a bit worried but as it turns out I had no need to be. They arrived on the day, my gran loved them (and the unusual variety ‘ that you don’t normally see in a bouquet’) and her photo shows why – they were fantastic.

An eco-friendly, sanitary alternative

November 12, 2009

Okay, I admit I felt a bit embarrassed about writing this post. But then I gave myself a sharp talking to and told me to stop being so daft. I want to tell you about the Mooncup.

Let’s face it, if you’re female, periods are an unavoidable topic at some stage in your life. For many, it’s lots of stages for a significant part of their existence! They’re a fact of life but still there’s a bit of a taboo about the whole thing.

Change is a good thing!

So, the thought of changing from tampons or pads to a more environmentally friendly alternative might be making some of you uncomfortable already (or even talking about this subject). Get a grip!

Things change, technology advances. So why shouldn’t you consider a new idea? After all, at some stage, tampons were the new idea. Look how that took off (and imagine trying to explain those at the time).

A purse- and Earth-friendly alternative

Apparently, ‘on average, one woman will use over 11,000 tampons or pads in their lifetime, which will end up in landfill or in the sea’. Or put another way, that’s ‘4.3 billion disposable sanitary products used every year’ in the UK alone.

That’s a lot of waste and a lot of cash. And think of the resources and energy required to make all of those tampons and pads.  So it’s definitely time for something new.

The Mooncup is basically a silicone cup that calls itself ‘a convenient, safe and eco-friendly alternative’. It’s also economical when you consider that you only need one (whatever your flow), and it ‘lasts for years and years’.

As well as being made in the UK from medical grade silicone by a multi-award winning ethical business, the Mooncup is latex-free and contains no dyes, toxins or bleaches. There are lots more reasons on its website.

And the verdict is…

Okay, you’re asking, if you’re so sure about it, put your money where your mouth is (err, so to speak). Well, I did. I bought one more than a year and a half ago from a local health food shop (but you can also buy them in Boots – see, they’re normal!).

However, I only started using it two months ago. Why? Well, mostly because I’m lazy and just didn’t get round to it. Now I have, I really should’ve tried it sooner.

Yes, you do need to get the hang of it (which doesn’t take long), but it’s much the same as you had to get used to tampons. Plus, I reckon some people might find it a bit ‘icky’.

Take a balanced view!

But just in case you didn’t hear me the first time, get a grip! The environmental and health benefits of the Mooncup far outweigh any oversensitivities the average woman might have about her body.

Even if I haven’t convinced you yet, read the Mooncup website, then go out and buy one (or order it online). Even if it sits in the cupboard for a few months before you get round to trying it, at least you’ve made the first step.

Less (food) is more (money)

November 10, 2009
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A news story from yesterday reported that “more than £12bn worth of food and drink that could have been consumed is thrown out every year by householders [in the UK]” and that the “the potential damage to the environment is huge”.

Think about all that food that’s thrown away – it’s been grown (needing energy and using chemicals), transported from producer to (most likely) supermarket and then to our homes, and then without a thought it’s just chucked in the dustbin, destined for landfill or incineration. Not to mention the financial cost.

Food is one area where we could all make a small change to see a big improvement, in terms of the size of both our wallets and our bins. We’re pretty good at home; we don’t throw much food away (it helps to have a boyfriend with the appetite of a gorilla), but we could do better.

Plan ahead, make a list and stick to it

Our current routine for weekly shopping is for me to provide a shopping list and then Chris to go to the supermarket on his way home from work every Monday.

This works pretty well, but it means that we usually get stuck with the same food every week, because I’m not there and therefore don’t see things that I fancy but aren’t on the list.

This means we’re not sucked in by any promotions, which is great, but our meals aren’t that varied or thought out. So I’ve started taking 30 minutes on Sunday or Monday to sit down, rifle through some recipes and plan our meals for the week. We get variety, a specific shopping list and no waste.

Use a bit of imagination

We hardly ever have any leftovers, but when we do (usually stuff like mashed potato or couscous) I just make something with them (like fishcakes) or eat them as part of another meal the next day.

As for meat, we hardly eat any at home; mostly because it’s too expensive for very poor quality (we don’t know where it’s come from or how it was produced). And I don’t think we need to eat meat every day anyway, but that’s a different post.

Get some helpful tips

Ideally, we’d grow our own fruit and vegetables, and compost any unavoidable waste, but it’s simply not practical at the moment (we live in a rented house, although some tomatoes – or something –  in pots should be possible). But even just reducing our shopping list a bit so that we eat everything that we buy is a start.

Wrap’s Love Food Hate Waste campaign website has lots of useful information, from helpful tips to recipes for leftovers. But really, it’s not rocket science! We should all use our heads a bit more and apply some common sense (which is in bountiful supply and friendly to the environment).