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Saturday, 11 November 2017

A Freegle flurry

We recently had some building work done in our house, which involved a room where we stored a whole lot of stuff, some of which was in daily use, such as wellies and trainers, and other things that are used every now and then - like sellotape, string, spare lightbulbs and the like. However, as we found when moving it all out of the room, there were a fair number of things that we haven't used for years.  So I was time to get Freegling!  Freegle have a lovely new site, quick and easy to use.  Here's the link. 

So we said goodbye to the chocolate fountain that has given us some fun times through SD and JD's teenage years, and it was goodbye to a couple of sets of Scaletrix, some "Scene-It" games that we've known all the answers to for many years.  Plus we parted with a huge box of books, some DVDs and lots of art and craft materials.

As for the more obscure items, we had a roll of chicken wire that we are not going to use and that found a good home and we parted with some large builder's supplies sacks that we had some gravel delivered in. They are great for use in the garden, but we accumulated a few more than we need.

That brings me to one of the wonderful things about Freegle: you often get to meet people who have similar interests to you and similar philosophy on life.  You can end up being inspired by other people's intended uses for the things you no longer use any more.

To see what I mean, here is how Louise and Mark made use of our gravel bags, and a few other things that we managed to find for them when they were telling us about their allotment and their plans for it.  They had originally envisaged cutting open the gravel bags to use as matting to suppress the weeds.  However, we had recently put up our fifteen year old tent for the very last time before we decided to retire it - too many leaks, bent poles and a large rip along a seem.  I had been contemplating what further uses I could find for it, and was thinking shopping bags from the upper part, underlay (i.e. weed suppressing) for paths for the ground sheet but being very busy with my new book I realised my projects would be unlikely to happen this year.  Louise and Mark were much more likely to make use and when the time comes, having had the idea, I am sure old tents are being decommissioned on a regular basis, so I could probably find what I need from friends or Freegle, when I need it.

Our old tent is now a weed barrier
It is so great to see your things rehomed and put to good use.

Louise says:

"The gravel bags are going to be used as a sort of raised bed, the idea is they get filled with compost (we will need some stronger posts!) and sink down onto the existing weed covered horrible clay soil.  We will then build up the sides, using more recycled wood (everything on the allotment is from Freegle or Freecycle, or various skips etc. throughout West Oxon).  The top bit of the bag then is cut down the seams, and folds over the wooden sides. The groundsheet/flysheet we have put down to prevent weed growth.

The gravel sacks are now raised beds
"The tent is currently just thrown over a terribly overgrown patch of mint and grass, and currently held down by anything we could find.  It doesn't look terribly attractive, but we get really high winds, so need anything we can get to hold it down.  Once the weeds have gone in the covered areas, we will rotivate (rotivator was found in a barn, and my husband Mark restores old engines so has made it work again) and then do more ground cover to stop the weeds and make raised beds with some decent compost on top.  Hopefully, we will be able to extend the concrete slabbed area for a pot garden - slabs, naturally, came from Freegle, and we will hopefully find some more!

Water butts and drainpipe collected from Freegle

A beautiful shed!

"I have also added a photo of the shed, which was upcycled from one on the allotment that was a wreck - it had blown over in the high winds earlier this year. We repaired it, painted it with some leftover paint from the garden at home, and re-felted the roof (alas, not recycled - we tried but it leaked).  The gutter, drainpipe and water butt are from Freegle.  Oh, and the compost heap is made from bits of wood found anywhere!"

Isn't Freegle a wonderful thing! I was so inspired that I decide to do a donation to Freegle.  It is such a wonderful service, it deserves our support.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Judges go bananas over banana skin curry

 Last weekend I was invited to take part in Low Carbon West Oxford’s ‘Ready, Steady, Cook’ style competition at their ‘Beet the Waste’ 10th anniversary celebrations at Tap Social in Oxford. My fellow competitors were cooking professionals, Christina from Relish and Sandra and Marie from Waste2Taste.
I hadn’t realised that I was supposed to be a team on my own.  I thought I was joining one of the other teams, so I had only brought one frying pan, a chopping board, one knife, some spoons, some spices and a big bunch of herbs I’d picked from my garden.  When I was shown to ‘my station’ and saw the two gas burners I was a little daunted.  What was I going to cook with just me and my one pan?
As three competing teams, we had an hour to select our ingredients from the food surplus at Oxford Food Bank, and then cook up a feast with what we found.  Read more...

Friday, 29 September 2017

Foraging fortnight

Autumn is a great time for foraging.  I’ve been picking apples, blackberries, pears and plums from my garden and hedgerows.  I’m planning to go blackberrying again and I’m hoping to add in some elderberries too.

We are also lucky to have a vegetable patch which is producing carrots, spring onions, beetroot, courgettes, celery, beans, and spinach at the moment. But it isn’t just the outdoor foraging that I want to invite you to think about. Now is a really great time to go foraging in your fridge and freezer. What better time to cut down on spending than after your summer holiday and before you start thinking about Christmas. Read more...

Friday, 8 September 2017

ZWW 2017 Day 5 - It's #FoodWasteFriday

It's #FoodWasteFriday and what better day to publish my book, Leftover Pie: 101 ways to reduce your food waste, hey? This was the challenge that Rachelle Strauss, founder of Zero Waste Week set me a little over a year ago.  Although I thought I'd finished writing the book a while back, there was still a lot of work to pull it together.  Chatting with Rachelle, I was sharing my concerns about the whole food waste issue.

Last summer we decided to rent out my daughter's house, in the lovely city of Bath, while she was 'back home' with us for the summer.  It was a great experience but it really made us realise that other people don't deal with waste in the same way we do. After one young couple had stayed for three nights, I was sorting out the rubbish they had left behind - wondering how the bin was full to bursting! But it wasn't just recycling that I had to pull out from the rubbish.  I was stunned.  In that bin there was more food wasted, then I would have bought for my family of four for a whole week.

That's how I came to be having the conversation with Rachelle:

"I've got to finish Leftover Pie."
"You have!" she replied. 

I was shocked into action you could say.

A few months later Rachelle decided that the 10th annual Zero Waste Week would cover a different topic each day and that Friday would be dedicated to Food Waste.

"Why not publish your book then?" she suggested.

So there you have it.  Leftover Pie is out in paperback today.

We're renting the house out again this year, but we've made a few changes.  The food waste caddy used to live on the kitchen windowsill. Now it lives right next to the general waste bin.  There's a sticker on the general waste bin, that says, "No Food Waste".  Maybe that sticker needs to be bigger!  We still have to pull out food waste on occasions.

We had a recycling bin in the garage, but we decided to put a recycling container right next to the bin too.  This has helped considerably.  I guess it is that problem of "out of sight, out of mind".

So why is food waste such an important issue?

Here's what I think...

It's not just about saving money, it's not just about respecting our food producers, or our friends and family who are preparing and cooking food for us, it is not even just about people elsewhere going hungry, while we let food go to waste.  It is those things, yes.  Of course it is. But it is bigger than than.  It is about climate change.

As Marcus Gover, CEO of WRAP, said at the All Party Parliamentary Group on Food Waste:

"If we can't fix food waste we can't fix climate change." 

So, as you see, it is important and we all have the power to do our bit and put that right.

ZWW 2017 Day 4 - Time Saving Tips for Thursday

Day four of Zero Waste Week was all about Time Saving Tips

I arranged to visit a wonderful "SuperHome" local to me prior to their open day. They have a display board featuring my book, so I nipped over with some signed copies for them to sell on the day and I was guinea pig for their guided tour around the house. Plenty of top tips there, particularly around energy saving.

SuperHomes Open Day
Sat 9th Sept, 11am-2pm
4 St Denys Close, Stanford, SN7 8NJ

"If you're interested in making your home more efficient and environmentally friendly, you might like to visit a SuperHome. 
Open days let you quiz the owners, so you can discover what worked and get frank feedback on what didn’t. There are open days across the country in September, including one in Stanford in the Vale. The Williams family’s 1950s bungalow is heated using wood pellets, and is free from fossil fuels from heating to transport. When it’s sunny they can cook with a sun oven, concentrating heat using reflection."

Some of the things I learnt:

  • I had a vague idea that chest freezers were more energy efficient than upright freezers, but I didn't realise it was by as much as 50%. 
  • I had never thought of the idea of a chest fridge - also 50% more efficient.  
  • I loved their guilt-free fairy lights, using solar energy from a battery system. 
  • I was interested to hear they had set up a local Facebook group for sharing stuff.  I think one of those would be great in my village so I'll be onto that later this month.
  • I was so delighted to hear that their local "Sustainable Wantage" group was collecting crisp packets for a craft workshop - my last fail of Zero Waste Living.  I was brimming with enthusiasm when I said to Mr Pitt, that we needed to save up his crisp packets for them. "I already am," he said.

As for my own top tips, for making Zero Waste easy here are a few ideas.

My recycling centre
I love my little recycling centre for the few things that don't go into the kerbside collection. The biscuit wrappers I save for a friend who has a Teracycle collection point at work.  I'll need to add in crisp packets to my collection now.

I have a reuse centre with these lovely pull out boxes on a shelving unit, for things like envelopes, notebooks, and sewing accessories for mending.

One thing that is wasting time at the moment is my collection of tubs - none of which seem to have the right lids attached, so a sort out of these is needed to get back to an easy life.  I use these all the time for buying meat and cheese from my local butcher, buying dry goods in bulk, freezing extra portions of things like casseroles and curries so I have home-made ready meals in the freezer for days when I have to visit clients or schools. Just a quick sort out and I will no longer be wasting so much time finding a box and lid that go together.  If I end up with lid-less containers I'll relegate them to the tool shed.

That's my top tips for tidy zero waste life.  Onto #FoodWasteFriday.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

ZWW Day 3 - #WorkWithWasteWednesday

I love 'up-cycled' stuff but I'm not good at making things myself.  "Working with Waste Wednesday" was the theme for yesterday's Zero Waste  Week. I am still busy sending out books, booking talks and events and following up all manor of requests prior to my publication day tomorrow. So I decided that rather than even think about trying to find time to make anything myself, I'd contact the people I collect things for and arrange to meet up to hand over my goodies to them, knowing they will transform them into something far more wonderful than I could create.

I collect broken jewellery, buttons, bits of fabric and ribbon for a wonderful lady called Laura Hounam.  I have blogged about her jewellery creations before here. She raises money for Against Breast Cancer charity by selling her jewellery at craft fairs around the county. The charity also collect stamps and old coins, so I give these to Laura too.

Another favourite up-cycling business of mine, also local to me, is Lane End Vintage. Sue of Lane End Vintage sells lovely hand made cards which reuse bits of games, stamps, buttons, maps, books and the like.  As I am local I can even go and stock up with my clear plastic wallet before Sue puts them into their protective wrappers.  If I buy them in wrappers, I give the wrappers back and Sue reuses them.  I also bought several Christmas gifts from Lane End Vintage last year.  I love the postage stamp art kits that she does and so have my nieces and nephews.

Postage stamp art kits by Lane End Vintage

Not so local is the Woolly Pedlar run by Sue Reed. I have two of Sue's creations, which were both sent by post. The quality of her work is beautiful and I love the quirky designs.  Sue says:

"Upcycling means to use waste and transform it into something new, more pleasing and with a new use. It is the process of adding value to preloved items through design. I gather locally sourced recycled wool knitwear for upcycling. There are so many textiles just shipped abroad or thrown into landfill. I am on a mission to recycle waste wool, be it from the second hand clothing sector, or from the few remaining UK factories that manufacture wool knitwear in the UK."

Here's my jumper made by The Woolly Pedlar
I like to support small businesses and so when you get the combination of small businesses and up cycled treasures, it makes me very happy.  Lane Ends Vintage's picture below, sums it up.

On to Top Tips Thursday.  I'm planning on taking a good look at the ZWW Top Tips Thursday Pinterest board.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

ZWW 2017 Day -2 #TrashlessTuesday

For #TrashlessTuesday, I'm continuing my theme of using the boxes from my signed book copies to clear out some space in my understairs cupboard (obviously known as Harry Potter's Bedroom).

I'm a bit concerned that by venturing anywhere near my cupboard I'll be finding waste that could otherwise stay hidden - out of sight out of mind, and all that.  But I have the advantage of living in an area of the UK that really cares about maximising use of resources and minimising waste. I live in Oxfordshire and here we have brilliant kerbside collection services and a very extensive offer at our Recycling centres across the county, which were recently given a reprieve to stay open, in the face of continuing budget cuts.

From delving into my cupboard each time I empty a box of books, I'm realising that there's a lot of packaging materials in there.  Does that happen in all households?  I keep things for reuse and I do go to my cupboard rather than go to the shops any time I send anything anywhere or gift anything.

I really don't need all this packaging.  It would take me years to reuse it and anyway, my stock of gift bags and packaging tends to grow every Christmas because we are usually hosts for the family gatherings and for some reason, no-one seems to want to reclaim their gift bags.  So these are going into a box to be taken to the charity shop on Friday morning.

Box 1 ready for the charity shop
Added to the gift bags, I've found bubble wrap which I know my charity shop can use as they sell quite a bit of crockery and other breakables. In goes the brown paper that I'm finding in my boxes of books too.

As for my plastic bag of trash to be carried round all day, I am following with interest the posts on the Zero Waste Heroes Facebook group and realising that my own zero (well nearly zero) waste is clearly made a lot easier because of where I live. I've seen people add yoghurt pots and flyaway plastic to their #TrashlessTuesday list.  I had both of these today and both go into my kerbside recycling box.

The one thing I ended up with that can't be recycled or reused was this packing tape on the bubble wrap. I pulled off the packing tape carefully to save as much of the bubble wrap for reuse by my local charity shop.  The tape itself will end up in the general waste bin - that always pains me, but the bubble wrap isn't useable in the mess it was in, so this is the sacrifice.
A mess of bubble wrap
Tape (on the left)  removed - that will go in the bin and the untidy edges of the bubble wrap (on the right) will recycle.
It made me think about how I was packing up my books for postage as I was using a lot of sellotape.  The #TrashlessTuesday bag challenge really works does't it?  By making me focus on waste, I realised by folding the very old envelopes (40 years plus, I reckon) a different way, I use less tape and that will maybe make the envelope more likely to be reused by the recipient.  Open your books carefully please, lovely people, and apologies for the excess tape of the books I've already posted.

One of the ways that I have managed to cut down on both my trash and my recycling over the last few years is to take my own containers to the butcher's, my own reusable vegetable bags to the greengrocer's or supermarket and to buy dry goods in bulk, again in my own containers.  Our two daughters will shortly be returning to university, so we had a family outing to the nearest dry goods store with almost every plastic and glass container that we had in the house and we have stocked up on all things like oats, dried fruit, nuts, rice,  and I can't think what else, but lots more.  The only packaging from that entire enormous shop was a large tub that contained peanut butter.  Senior daughter is running a marathon in a couple of weeks and she's getting through a lot of peanut butter.  We decided the tub looked like a useful container and it was probably equivalent to three of the glass jars we've been buying.  So it seemed like a reasonable packaging option.

Once you get into the Zero Waste idea, I think you shop differently. If we can shop packaging free, we do.  Otherwise, I think we always ask ourselves the question: what will happen to the packaging post use? If it can be reused (then recycled) then we'll buy it.

The one exception seems to be shop bought crisps.  My solution is to retrain my brain to not eat them. But that's not something I'm going to ask the rest of the family to do.  However, quite by coincidence no crisp packet was finished on #TrashlessTuesday so it is just the tape in the bin.