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Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Happy New Year!

If you've read my blog before, you might know that I love a New Year's Challenge.  In 2013 I did a year of Swishing which changed my attitude to shopping completely. This year I pledged to buy no  new books (except as birthday presents).  I've managed far more trips to the library and got pretty organised about ordering books for collection - a great service that libraries provide.  I've also given away 10 books each month - well - at least up until November.   When I finish this blog post I'm going to select my final 10 books for 2014 and then contemplate whether I can possibly carry this on into 2015.


But even if I do carry on the book challenge, I always like to have a new challenge too.  And next year will be, without doubt, the toughest yet…

A year without single use plastic.

This is not something I've just dreamt up today… oh no.  I, or rather we - the Pitt family - have been contemplating it for a while now.  I think it was around October time that I first suggested the challenge to Mr Pitt.  He was tucking in to a packet of crisps at the time.  "Can't be done!" was the initial reaction.  But then gradually came more and more comments like "We won't be buying anymore of these, then."  Soon after that came Mr Pitt's home-made potato peel crisps.

We've been doing our bit for naked shopping for a while now, so we are well practiced at buying fruit and veg packaging free and in recent months I've discovered options for buying a whole range of goods packaging free.  You can read more about this in previous blog posts.

A fairly typical Pitt shop.


So why are we doing it?
Firstly, we have been a 'Zero-Waste' household for quite a while now.  It is many years since we had a rubbish bin in the house and because of that we always think of our 'rubbish' not as 'rubbish' but as 'resources' and as such we put what ever it is we have finished using into the appropriate place to be reused or recycled.  We don't just 'throw away'.

But, over the years that I've been researching waste management and recycling for my books, and talks as well as my own family life, I've started to look more carefully at what I do and at what businesses and organisations do in terms of waste.

As I see it now, there are two schools of thought about Zero-waste.  There's firstly the 'Zero-waste to land-fill' school of thought and that's what we've managed to achieve for many years now.  But how?  Well, there has for a long time been very little in Oxfordshire that doesn't get collected for recycling.  The local council here even collect quite a lot of 'flyaway plastic' as long as it is clean and bagged up so that it doesn't fly away to pollute the countryside when they are collecting.

But there're still a few things that aren't recyclable - and guess what - these are all mainly plastic or plastic based packaging items.  We have generally tried to avoid such items, but when we have had them, we have disposed of them by using them to light our wood burning stove and wood-fuelled cooker.  Plastic is much better than paper at this task, doesn't stink like firelighters, but I don't know the full extent of the pollution it may be causing in the atmosphere.

The second school of thought is not just Zero-waste to landfill, but Zero waste at all. And that's where I want to be a year from now.  I'm not wanting to demonise plastic completely, but it is responsible for a great deal of pollution on our lovely planet.  Our oceans are full of the stuff and it is high time we did something about it.  So I've taken a good look at what we consume, how we consume it and how we pass it on to its next purpose - whether that  is to be reused, recycled, composted or burnt by us or by the local council at its new energy from waste plant.  My conclusion is that to move from Zero-to landfill (we are 99.99% there) to being Zero Waste, it is the single use plastic that we have to say goodbye to.

Home-made potato crisps

Home-made butternut squash crisps

Dry goods you can buy in your own containers at SESI, Oxford

Weighing out dried mango at SESI

My packaging free dry goods will come from SESI.  It is easy
 to buy and store enough for three months.


Now why do I think it is going to be so hard?

Our lives are so full of plastic.  It is everywhere we turn.  In the last couple of months I've been really taking note about how much stuff we have that came here by means of plastic packaging.  We use plastic all day, every day it seems.  If we wanted to say that from the 1st of January to 31st December 2015 I would use nothing that involved plastic a whole lot of stuff would go to waste - and we don't do WASTE.

So what can we do to achieve our plastic free - zero waste lifestyle?

These are the Pitt family rules for our plastic free 2015:
1. Buy nothing new that has any plastic in it or around it.
2. Collect and weigh all recyclable plastic that arises from purchases already made in order to raise awareness of the plastic in our lives.  We will recycle or keep this plastic for reuse.
3. Collect and weigh all non-recyclable plastic that arises from purchases already made.  We will accumulate this and photograph it and hopefully see it diminish month by month.

A selection of oils and vinegars I can buy in my own containers
I will hopefully be keeping you posted of our progress as we gradually eradicate single use plastic from our lives.  If not then I'll be sharing a moan or two.

Locally made washing up liquid.
  I'll take my own bottles to refill.

Can we do it?  How long will it take to be single-use plastic free?

One month?
Six months?
A whole year?

We'll see.  Bring on the 2015 challenge. Happy New Year!

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

A Swishing Update

Junior daughter went to school today wearing her lovely jacket she swapped on Swishing.co.uk.    That got me in the mood to write about my clothes purchasing habits this year.

In 2013, I set myself the challenge of not buying any new clothes for a year.  In August that year I wrote an update about what it felt like, what I'd bought and what I thought I'd saved. I finished the article declaring that 'eight months in and swishing has become a lifestyle choice I love'.  By the end of the year I had acquired quite a few new clothes - probably more than ever before - but I'd spent less than £100.

Nearly a year later, I've taken a look back at how my Swishing challenge has affected my buying habits longer term.

Firstly, I'd say, I have hardly spent any time in clothes shops.  The 'clothing outlet' I've spent most time in this year is probably The Blue Cross charity shop in my nearest town as they have a habit of putting really nice outfits in their window that lure me in.  I have asked a few times to try on the fab outfit but have been, so far, unsuccessful in finding one that fits.  On one visit, though the dress that got me in there was too big, I did find a nice green t-shirt at the grand sum of £3.50.

Other than that, I've made just three more purchases and I think I made those purchases very much with the thought about how the clothes and the sellers are impacting on the planet.

My first purchase, early in the year, was a 'buy my own' birthday present from my grandmother.  I chose this lovely tunic from Pre:Loved run by Jackie.  Jackie sells a combination of secondhand (pre-loved) and new clothing clothes from her shop in Towcester, but she will also post out items to customers who contact her via her Facebook page.



My second purchase of the year was a pair of bamboo leggings.  The more I learn about sustainable living, the more picky I get about everything I buy.  I have previously bought bamboo clothing because  it is a fast growing crop that has a much lower water footprint than cotton, and it produces a lovely soft fabric.  In researching the ethics of bamboo clothing I found that there's a 'standard' for organic bamboo just like there is for organic cotton, the Global Organic Textile Standard.  So that's what I was looking for - GOT organic bamboo leggings.  In my search, I found these thermal bamboo leggings.  I'm not quite sure what happened about the organic bit, but the leggings are proving to be fab.  Since taking to my bicycle this year as my main mode of transport I am finding that leggings are the most convenient winter clothing for getting about by bike and it is certainly helping that they really are very warm.

My third and final purchase this year is this wonderful jumper hand made by the Woolly Pedlar, Sue Reed, from reclaimed materials.

Sue turns unwanted knitwear into funky clothes, soft furnishings and accessories.  Much of the knitwear Sue uses has been rescued before going to landfill. It may have been ‘ragged’ by charity shops or wholesale textile merchants, because of felting or holes. These can be cut around and used in patchwork designs. Sue also buys top quality second hand jumpers and uses these for the bodices of jumpers and sweatercoats. She makes sure there's no waste from her designs as she passes on any scraps that she doesn't use herself for crafts such a proggy matting, which is a 'time honoured north-east tradition'. Sue chooses to work with wool as it is a totally natural product, totally renewable, biodegradable and has excellent insulation properties.  She says:  "Each new creation is very much a ‘serendipity’ moment, with each design depending on what jumpers I have been able to find. No two items are ever the same."

I find, as we near the end of the year, I've spent around £120 pounds on clothing and I'm confident I'll have lots of wear from these items.  I'm also pleased that two out of my four purchases have have been supporting two wonderful women, who are creating sustainable businesses in the textile industry.  This has also opened my eyes to the fact that I can and will raise my standards in terms of what I buy.  From now on I want to support the hand-made, the ethical, the reclaimed.  That's my way forward in clothing.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

More naked shopping!

This naked shopping is becoming a habit.  After my trip to Whole Foods Market a few weeks ago, I mentioned that I had been hoping to find somewhere to buy pasta other than in a plastic bag.

Rae Strauss, who runs Zero Waste Week, tweeted the question and there followed a wonderful conversation about where you could buy various items without the usual plastic packaging.  From this I learnt about a couple of packaging free shopping options in Oxford...

The first is Farm Fresh Oxford at Jericho Barn.  Farm Fresh Oxford are a hub for local farm produce.  They do deliveries in the local area, so if you are in Oxford, check out their website.  You can also visit  them at Jericho Barn.  They sell fresh tagliatelle which comes in a cardboard box, but I believe you can also use your own containers.  I'm looking forward to trying it out, next time I'm in Oxford on a Friday or Saturday. (They are open Fridays from 3-8pm and Saturdays from 9 to 11.30am).




The second option for naked shopping is SESI which can be found at the Methodist Chapel in Jeune Street opposite the Penultimate Picture Palace.  SESI are open Monday to Friday from 10am to 4pm and they have an array of dry goods that they buy in bulk and you take along your own containers including bottles for oils and vinegars.

Rina weighing out my couscous
Some of the dry goods available at SESI

I bought wholemeal and white flour both from a local mill, light brown sugar, wholegrain couscous, dried cranberries, dried apricots, dried mango, pistachios and peanuts.  I also bought some Greek olive oil, some cider vinegar and some red wine vinegar in some lovely glass containers my Dad bought me for Christmas.  I had found a beautiful glass decanter style bottle tucked away in a cupboard, so I used that to buy locally produced rape seed oil.


I had forgotten to take my empty washing up liquid container but Rina had a stock of donated bottles, so I bought this locally produced spiced ginger washing up liquid too.  Doesn't that sound just perfect for the Christmas washing up?


What I loved about shopping at SESI apart from the fact that I met some lovely people there, was that everything had a story. The dried mangoes I bought for Junior Daughter were not only Fair-trade but they were from a Women's Copoerative in Burkina Faso, so this, to me, felt doubly important.   I think if I am are going to buy goods shipped from afar, then I want to know that those goods are doing some good.


This was definitely my perfect shopping experience.  It was easy, fun, informative and I got to taste what I was buying.  I recommend it highly, whether it is for reasons of avoiding plastic, buying local, organic and fair-trade or just because you want your food to taste great.  I want all of that, and that's what I got.  When you get all that, you might rightly expect to be paying a lot for it, but that is definitely not the case at SESI.  I spent around £35 pounds which I know is way less than what I would have been able to buy everything for in a supermarket even without going for organic or fair-trade products.

(Okay, here I confess to arriving home with far fewer apricots than I bought, because they were so delicious.  That's the problem when you taste before you buy.  You know how good they are before you get them home.)

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Pumpkin and Sage Risotto

I had a bit of pumpkin left from pumpkin number two from the Pitt Pumpkin Patch, so last night I made pumpkin and sage risotto.  Hubbub asked me to share my recipe for their #pumpkinrescue campaign.Truth be told... it was a bit of a 'throw in whatever needs using up' kind of recipe, but broadly speaking this is what it involved.

Ingredients:
A tablespoon of olive oil
1 red onion
1 clove of garlic
Arborio rice (200g)
About a pint of stock
Cubes of pumpkin (about 600g)
Sage leaves - a large handful
Black pepper
Sea salt
Some leftover bits of chicken (about 200g)
Some leftover gammon (about 300g)
 

Firstly, the stock was made from boiling up the chicken carcass from Sunday's roast dinner along with the vegetable peel from Sunday and some that I'd collected last week, which was mainly onion skin and pumpkin skin.

The olive oil was what was left from a pot of olives I was munching as I cooked - you know I hate to waste anything!  This oil had a few herbs in but any olive oil will do.

Chop the red onion and stir fry it in a little olive oil for a few minutes, then chop and add the garlic for a further couple of minutes.  Add the arborio rice and toss it around in the onion and garlic and oil for about a minute.  Add the stock a bit at a time and let the rice soak up the liquid almost entirely before you add the next lot of stock.  I added initially about 3 ladles of stock.  When I added the second lot of stock which was a further three ladles I added in the pumpkin, chicken and gammon, a generous twist of back pepper and about half the sage leaves.  After the second lot of stock was almost soaked up I tasted it and added a little sea salt. I added the rest of the handful of sage leaves along with the last of the stock.

The Pitt Pumpkin Patch
About Hubbub

"Hubbub is taking a fresh look at things we are passionate about: food, fashion, sport, homes and neighbourhoods. Through festivals, events and playful displays we help people come together to enjoy themselves, learn new things and do good.

One thing we want to do is make the most of food and stop edible food from being thrown away. 18,000 tonnes of pumpkin are thrown away at Halloween each year, that is why we have launched our #pumpkinrescue campaign and are hosting the Oxford Pumpkin Festival.


For more information visit our website www.hubbub.org.uk"




Thursday, 30 October 2014

Shopping Naked

It has been maybe ten years now that the Pitt family have only needed to put their 'general waste' bin out for collection once or twice in a year and even then it hasn't had much in it.  This was the photo of our entire residual waste for 2013.

Residual Waste for 2013
Now, it helps, of course, living in West Oxfordshire, where there really isn't very much at all that can't be recycled in your kerbside collection boxes - and they even take flyaway plastics as long as they are bagged up so they don't fly away during the collection process.  I've also actively taken steps to think about my residual waste each year and have tried to avoid buying things that can't be reused, recycled, composted or burnt on my stove - or things that have packaging that can't be recycled, reused etc.  And I've done that for a while now, so zero waste has become a habit.

But, this morning I put out four black boxes each of which was fairly full of recyclables. I'm pretty sure I put out four boxes, if not five, the week before and similar the week before that.  That's a lot of packaging for one family.  I have taken in the recycling from the cricket club annual dinner and we also had a rather large 18th birthday party, but it really has none-the-less got my attention. So I decided that over the next few weeks I'm going to really try hard to reduce the amount of packaging I amass.

We have for a long time bought much of our fruit and vegetables loose and last year I converted a patch of garden to grow salad herbs in order to provide unpackaged salad leaves.  My local butcher will accept my various reusable plastic boxes for when I buy meat.  I've been experimenting with making homemade snacks, particularly to reduce food waste as well as to reduce packaging.  But there are still so many things that come in a plastic bag.

I came across this write-up of Whole Foods Markets supermarket chain on the plasticisrubbish.com blog and it dawned on me that on one of my now very occasional journeys that I still make by car I drive right past the one in Cheltenham.  So today, I went prepared with a reusable shopping bag and my tiny bag of 'Onya Weigh Bags' - which are reusable, washable very lightweight mesh bags and checked out the Cheltenham branch of Whole Foods Market.

The selection of fruit and veg looked very inviting, but I had come to investigate those cupboard store ingredients like dried fruit, cereals, rice and pasta that are rarely found sold loose.

I came away with the following haul:




1. UK sourced jumbo oats at £1.09/kg.  The last box of oats I bought - because it was the only one I could see that was UK sourced with entirely recyclable packaging - is currently £2.70/kg in Sainsbury's.

2. Organic arborio rice £2.99/kg.  The last box I bought was priced at £2.20/kg from Sainsbury's.

3. Brown basmati rice at £2.39/kg.  Sainsbury's brown basmati rice is £1.80/kg

4. Organic raisins £5.99/kg. Sainsbury's organic raisins are £5.00/kg but the raisins I usually buy there are £3.00/kg.

5. Dry roasted peanuts £5.39/kg.  The cheapest dry roasted peanuts in Sainsbury's are £4.40/kg but I wouldn't buy them as the packaging isn't recyclable even in West Oxfordshire.  The ones I'd likely buy were £6.70/kg.

Price wise, it seems you win some you loose some.  If I'd bought around a kilo of each item then given the 30p discount Whole Foods Market gave me for using my own bags then I paid £1.15 more than I'd have paid buying what I'd normally buy at Sainsbury's or 85p less if I'd have chosen organic raisins.  I did a taste test on the raisins I had left at home and the ones I'd just bought and the latter were definitely tastier.  I doubt that's just down to freshness as raisins don't last long in our house.

So price-wise I felt it was ok and quality wise and packaging wise I'd give it top marks.  I love the fact that I would soon know exactly how much I can buy to fill my storage containers for each item and I loved the fact that I was left with no packaging to recycle.  I also cheekily took the opportunity to check out my Onya bags on the scales compared to the paper bags the shop provides and my Onya bags weighed a tiny bit less.  I will be shopping there again next time I pass.

I was only disappointed that there was no bulk buy plastic free pasta.  So it looks like I will have to try and make my own :)





Friday, 24 October 2014

Recycling Polystyrene

Yesterday I was asked this question on Twitter…

Technically the answer is 'Yes' - Polystyrene can be recycled and I learnt when I visited the Resource and Waste Management Show in Birmingham last year that it is recycled in the UK.

The map on this link shows you where in Britain you can find polystyrene recycling points.

But likely the more practicable answer here is NO.  Why?  The problem lies in collecting waste streams for stuff that is not an everyday waste item.  In addition, polystyrene is very light and bulky- it is actually 98% air!  That's the reason it is a good item for packaging, but a bad item for recycling.

In West Oxfordshire we are asked to put polystyrene into our grey rubbish bins - the ones for residual waste.  Would I do that?  NO WAY!

Polystyrene is one of those things I actively avoid whenever I can so I don't get a lot of it.  For instance I won't buy something in a supermarket that is packed in a polystyrene food tray.  I don't understand why a food processing company would choose a material that is so rarely recycled to package something they want us to buy on a regular basis and so I won't give them my business. Plain as that!

However, I have found that people will bring things to my house that are packed in polystyrene and occasionally I have had parcels arrive protected by polystyrene or filled with polystyrene pellets.  So what do I do with them?

I turn it into a resource and reuse it.

A timely project for polystyrene right now is for potting up my geraniums to bring them indoors for the winter, which I do every year towards the end of October.  Of course, I save the polystyrene from previous years but each year my geranium collection grows by about half a dozen plants as I take cuttings and separate bits of plant that have naturally rooted during the year.  So I always need a bit more polystyrene or broken crock for the bottom of the plant pots. For this purpose, I keep a bucket in my garage into which any bits of polystyrene or broken cups and plates get stored until I need them.

This is last year's stock about to get used this weekend.




A couple of other projects that have used up my stock of polystyrene lately:

This planter that Mr Pitt made for me out of some recycled wooden planks needed quite a lot of drainage in the bottom.  Polystyrene was ideal for that as it does the job of rocks and pebbles - but without the weight.  It keeps the soil in but allows the water to find ways through and creates a dry zone between the soil and the wooden base of the planter so that the wood doesn't rot.




You may notice that it also used up my collection of bits of oasis from various flower arrangements acquired at weddings, several cricket dinners and a few other events.  I always knew I'd find a use for it eventually!

Secondly, my local community shop that raises lots of money for our village clubs and societies sells quite a few fragile things, so I recently took a bag full of tissue paper and some polystyrene packaging pellets to them, which they said they were always in need of.

If you don't have storage space for your polystyrene in a garage for example then you could maybe put it on Freegle.  I often find things will go same day or within a couple of days.  People use polystyrene sheets as insulation in greenhouses.  It would make a reasonable substitute for oasis for dried flower arrangements too.



Monday, 8 September 2014

Zero Waste Week 2014 - Day 7

Well, with a week of sorting out and de-cluttering my house should be looking lean and green, but that's not really the case!  This has served to highlight that we have way too much stuff in our house, because just like last year, you would barely notice that anything has gone.

Of course, my de-clutter was on nothing like the scale of last year's exercise, but I have still managed to re-home a fair amount.  This year was much easier than my last year's attempt - and that was largely a psychological thing as I felt there were lots of people doing it with me, throughout the Zero Waste Week community and the helpful ideas and the encouragement were a great inspiration.

The most noticeable improvement in the Pitt household is without a doubt the tool shed.  Take a look!

In the sort out we managed to Freegle a few things we no longer need and best of all I found the paint I needed to repaint the wooden supports of the barn, which took up most of yesterday but what a pleasure that was in the sunshine!

I still have a few items from the tool shed awaiting re-homing via Freegle, but I think these will be collected later today and I have a few bags in my hallway awaiting a trip to the charity shop and to various specialist bring banks, such as the one for CDs and video tapes.  These will go over the next few days.

But the crux of my Zero Waste Week pledge was to GET MENDING!


What have I actually repaired? Feeling my report card might say 'must try harder' I thought I'd do a quick check.

I repaired the boxes of a few games and puzzles so they could go to the charity shop. I patched a pair of jeans, which I'm really pleased with so I'll definitely patch my other pair one evening this week.I washed the clothes of some porcelain dolls, so they were smart enough to give to the charity shop, but one lovely lady remained behind with a broken foot.
Just a couple of stitches needed now
I've glued her foot, but while I was doing that the ribbon detached from the shoe, so when it is good and fast I'll have to try to put a couple of stitches in to attach the ribbon again and then I'm going to pop her on Freegle to see if I can find her a new home.

So actually, I'm thinking all in all not too bad.  I said I would mend and mend I did.

I've also found myself inspired to try to go for a few more reusables rather than recyclables or things that would end up in my wood burner.  I found these lovely refillable Christmas crackers which I'll be buying this year and refilling with lovely reusable things such as makeup wipes from Made by Gituce.
Re-fillable Christmas Crackers from Keep This

Another highlight of the week was the various attempts at crisp making.  Yesterday, inspired by this tweet from the Rubbish Diet I made the potato peelings from the Sunday roast into delicious crisps, using up a bit of sunflower oil left in a pan along with some fresh rosemary from the garden.  Yummy. Whilst sharing the crisps with family, it was nice to hear Junior Daughter reporting the crisp making attempts from earlier in the week.  She loved the butternut squash crisps and they have the added advantage of being made with no oil, so a totally fat-free and highly nutritious snack with ZERO packaging.
Butternut squash crisps ready to go in the oven

We managed to save a few for another day!

One green habit that I'll be resurrecting is to use Freegle more.  I hadn't used it for a while and it has become a lot easier recently, so now I know how easy it is to use, I'm going to make sure I use it more often and make sure I don't keep things I don't need.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Zero Waste Week 2014 - Day 6

Looks like today's Zero Waste Week email was written specifically for me! (Or are you thinking that too?)

I was feeling very pleased with myself yesterday after cleaning out my fridge and de-cluttering my kitchen.  But that was before I looked behind the curtain. (What else are curtains for but to hide the clutter behind them?)  This is what awaited me this morning on my kitchen table.



I will have to find a home for this lot today but last last night I couldn't be …

Yep… procrastination!!

So, where's it all going to go?

Well, the stamps, foreign coins and beads will go to Against Breast Cancer, so that's easy as I have a permanent box on the go for them.  If you don't know anyone who collects this sort of thing and several charities do, then maybe you could set up a collection point at a local school, playgroup, library or cafĂ©?

There are some safety pins, which have a place in my sewing box, but this makes me think that I actually have so many safety pins I really could part with a few, so I'm going to put a packet of them together for Junior Daughter's ballet school - where they often need them for emergency costume alterations, repairs and keeping the halter-neck catsuits in place when the velcro fails!

There are some odd bits from games, which I will re-house, for now in my box for lost games and puzzle pieces (yes…more procrastination but..).  It might just mean that another game gets completed and so can then find a new home.  There are several metal screws, washers and nails and a picture hook, which will be put in their proper place with the tools in the utility room and a couple more bits of metal and hard plastic to be housed in the appropriate containers in the garage.

I need to do a bit of research on the contents of the hand-warmer as, if I don't know what's in it, I don't know how to dispose of it safely.  TAKE NOTE MANUFACTURERS OF SUCH STUFF!!! IT MAKES ME MAD, MAD, MAD.  I try not to buy anything that I don't know how to dispose of at end of life these days, but I haven't always had that at the forefront of my mind and I also have to deal with things other people bring into the home.  It really should be made illegal not have accurate information about what something is made of, or if it needs to be a closely guarded secret for commercial reasons then it should be the law to provide an address to send it back to for whatever form of reuse or recycling is possible.  Don't you think?

Anyway, I'm procrastinating again!  What I was really going to say was… Wish me luck… I'm going in..and Dad's coming too! 


We may be some time ;)

Friday, 5 September 2014

Zero Waste Week 2014 - Day 5

With today's Zero Waste Week email being all about food waste I just had to zone in on the kitchen today.

A topic that could fill a book - it sure can.  After writing a section on food waste in my book 101 Ways to Live Cleaner and Greener for Free, I felt I wanted to concentrate  my next book on just the subject of food waste as there are so many things we can do to make more of our food.  I'm hard at work on it and I hope it will be finished before the end of the year.   If you have a top tip for reducing food waste that you'd like to share in my book, please do message me in the comments and I'll be in touch.

Needless to say, with researching and writing about reducing food waste I've become pretty nifty at using up every scrap.  I started my book, coincidentally, on the first day of Zero Waste Week 2013 which, as you may know was all about how to reduce our food waste.  I learnt lots from the tips that the Zero Wasters shared that week and I've been gathering tips and trying out recipes ever since.

So, today I had a CORN lunch, having first picked out what is going to go into tonight's bean casserole dinner. There was some tomato and onion pasta sauce and I picked out the cucumber and apple pieces from a bit of last night's salad - the rest is peppers, spring onion, carrot and celery all of which can go into the casserole.  What was left looked like the makings of a couscous lunch - it had been pork filet in a tomato sauce, and it turned into a tasty couscous sauce.

After lunch, before returning to the delights of explaining anaerobic digestion in a fun and exciting way for teenagers, I decided to blitz the kitchen clear out. One thing that has been driving me mad lately is that my collection of plastic pots (two drawers full when none are in use) was a mess of pots and lids but never the right pot with the right lid.  So I emptied out both drawers and sorted the pots and lids putting together the ones that matched.  I put a few margarine and ice cream tubs into the recycling as they didn't have the right lids and a few pot-less lids went in too.  The rest are now neatly stacked in their wicker drawers and harmony is restored at least to that quarter the Pitt kitchen.


The other area of the kitchen that bothered me was the kitchen dumping ground - a wooden trolley.  I had no idea what was there, but the general rule was that if it didn't have a place, that's where it ended up.  But my kitchen, in theory, has a place for everything.  Which could only mean one thing, if it was on the bottom of the trolley, it wasn't needed.

Before :(
Most of what was on the trolley went into either the recycling boxes, or one of two pots in the garage for odd bits of scrap metal and odd bits of hard plastic, neither of which we can put in our recycling boxes.  The scrap metal pot gets emptied occasionally at the local recycling and reuse centre when we are passing or have something else to take there.  The bits of hard plastic just accumulate as nowhere takes hard plastic in this area.  But the pot is an ice cream tub and it isn't yet full, so I'm happy for it to sit there in the garage for now.  I will say though, there has been more than one occasion that the 'hard plastics pot' has been raided for a gizmo - or at least a piece of plastic that can be used to make or fix a gizmo.

A couple of glass jars went into the dish washer and will be added to the slowly building jar collection which we'll use for making jam and chutney in the coming months.

Sadly, my lovely cast iron cook pan that has been broken for many years is awaiting a trip to the WEEE recycling so it can be taken apart to begin a new life.

And here's the result of my whirl wind sort out session…

After :)
How long will it last?  I estimate somewhere between 10 minutes and 10 days, but for now, I'm feeling good about myself and a few resources are on their way to find a new purpose.

There was nothing added to the charity shop bag, so I picked out these from various shelves and cupboards… I've never used them, but maybe someone else will?

Off to the charity shop
Oh yes, here's my attempt at mending my jeans - I'm not quite sure why I decide on pink embroidery thread, but oh well, the main objective of no more bum on show is achieved!





Thursday, 4 September 2014

Zero Waste Week 2014 - Day 4

I loved yesterday's Zero Waste Week email all about textiles.  In 2013 I challenged myself to a year of buying only 2nd hand clothes and I loved it.  I have had a couple of high street items bought for me as presents this year, but I have to say that my clothes shopping habits have been changed permanently.

I have made a couple of visits to charity shops when something has caught my eye in the window but I haven't had any desire to 'go shopping'.  Truth be told, I think I got a little carried away last year with my 2nd hand chic, and probably bought more 'new to me' clothes than I normally would in a year, so I'm still enjoying my relatively new outfits.

But, one thing I have to face up to is the plain fact that my jeans (I have two pairs) are worn out. Both pairs have several holes in them.  I always find it hard to find just the right pair of jeans, so I think that might be a challenge to replace with second hand.  So, inspired by yesterday's Zero Waste Week email, I've decided I'm going to extend the life of my jeans by patching them up with some nice floral fabric.

Jeans in need of attention
I acquired some fabric at Low Carbon Oxford for making bunting. It was an old sheet, I think. So I'm going to cut out some more triangles for the bunting and use the off-cuts to patch my jeans.  I'm not feeling brave enough to get out my little-used sewing machine (used to be Mum's), so I'm planing to hand stick the patches.

As for my big clear out...with yesterday's email being all about textiles, I decided that I'd make today's clear out zone my bedroom.  This Salvation Army bag arrived on the doorstep yesterday, so first thing this morning I decided I'd fill it with a few things in my wardrobe that I hadn't worn in a long time.  It took me less than 5 minutes.
A timely arrival

Ready to go!
As for today's email, I'm one of the lucky ones who can put Tetra Paks in my curb side collection box, so it is very easy to recycle them and I wash and squash - well, swill a bit really, but I like the rhyme of wash and squash!  Before Tetra Paks were recyclable I actually avoided using them.  Now I embrace them and I watch the developments with interest.  Before long they will probably be made from entirely renewable sources.

Inspired by the 'feeling crafty' section of today's email, I thought about my yet to be disposed of incandescent lightbulbs.  I had a vague recollection about seeing ways to upcycle them, so a little Google searching came up with this: http://www.pinterest.com/ariaism/lightbulbs-upcycled-recycled/ There's got to be a project in there for me!

There's good news on the broken smoke alarm - it only needed a new battery.  The saddle and bridle have also been re-homed.  The collection of dolls from Day One is gracing the window of our fantastic community shop - they look like they are about to start baking in a Victorian kitchen. (And I confess I came very close to buying that mixing bowl. I managed to remind myself I have three already).


Lastly, I pulled these smoked glass lampshades out of my attic last year when we attempted a clear out. They are from a 1960s style chandelier, which we took to the WEEE recycling.  But I thought these were a prime candidates for some creative up cycling.  Somehow, though, they managed to get hidden again, but now they are on Freegle and they too are about to be re-homed.


Here's a taste from Low Carbon Oxford 2014 - you might spot me in one of my workshops and cutting up lovely fabric for bunting!




Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Zero Waste Week 2014 - Day 3

Day Three of the big clear out…

So far, so good. It's onto the landing - another dumping ground.  First stop is an old games chest.  Well, to be honest, until this morning when I lifted the lid for the first time in ages, I'd forgotten it was an old games chest.


I'm not sure how or why we missed this out last year, but it is not going to escape this time!  All the games were complete, but some required a little taping of the box corners.  Then it was swiftly into the charity shop bag.


Next, this lovely puzzle.  It was sitting on top of the toy chest, and has been there for more than a year! The annoying thing was, I didn't know if it was complete or not, and the outside of the box didn't say how many pieces should be there.  The really annoying thing was… I remember 'doing' the puzzle last year to find out if it was complete, but I have no recollection of whether it was all there or not - I'm not making that mistake again!  I've done the puzzle - isn't it lovely :) and I've mended the box and now it is in the charity shop bag, ready to go.  Someone will love it, I'm sure!

Next is this little corner of shame.  Everything from old light bulb to broken (I presume) smoke alarm is hidden behind this curtain.  This might be a challenge.  I don't know of anywhere that recycles old light bulbs, for instance.  The local collection point clearly says 'low energy bulbs only'.  I'll need to do a little research.

I've had a few suggestions for my saddle and bridle…including The Blue Cross, Riding for the Disabled, local riding schools and even up-cycling the saddle into a stool!  I'll need to make a few phone calls at some point today.  I've also listed it on reyooz.com and on freegle, so maybe it will find a new home.

The makings of a cool stool?

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Zero Waste Week 2014 - Day 2

Day Two of my big clear out….

Today it is time to tackle the utility room… ahh! I knew this would be a tough one, so I had a little look before breakfast to get an idea of what I'd be up against.

This room gets treated as a bit of a dumping ground.  Does anyone else have that problem?

We went to a lot of effort last year to tidy it up and sort everything out and we tried to get rid of the stuff we never used. We came to the realisation that Mr Pitt is a bit of an Imelda Marcos, but we persuaded him to part with three bags of shoes and as a result the shelves are are lot more organised.
However, I still found a nice stash of textiles of various sorts, particularly odd socks awaiting attention on top of the washing machine.
 I managed to rescue a few pairs of socks and I've added the rest of the odd socks to the rag bag.

This pile of jackets needed attention too.  How many sets of gardening clothes does one need, after all? I washed the jackets and decided three of them were only fit for the rag bag, but the others are now dried and hung back up ready for chilly days in the garden.  Among these, I found my favourite fleece jacket, which had been abandoned  after getting covered in burdock.  As this week is all about giving things attention, I decided to invest the time picking out the burs from the fabric.  The only solution!

It took me about about 15 minutes, but the jacket is now good as new and back in my wardrobe.

The one thing I'm left with now is this saddle.  It needs a clean (and I'm going to try to bring myself to do that this evening), but once it is cleaned, what can I do with it?  Does anyone have any ideas how to part with an old saddle?  Could be a tall order!



Onto the the daily email all about swapping disposables for reusables.  I have to say, I'm not one who is going to be swapping to reusable toilet roll, lovely as it looks.  I have a septic tank, and just like a compost heap it needs 'brown' and 'green' contributions to keep it healthy.  The 'brown' contribution is, in fact, the toilet roll,  and the 'green' contributions,well that's the … you know!

However, I am going to play swapsies!  Firstly, I'm going for reusable sanitary pads.  I've already given them a try, so today I've ordered everything I need from Made by Gituce.  Previously I burnt our sanitary pads in the wood-burner, so it is not going to reduce my landfill.  But it is far better to reuse than to burn resources and for a little outlay today, I reckon I'll be making savings within a year.

The next thing I'm going to work on is razors, as that's something that does end up in our landfill bin at the end of the year.  I'm still undecided as to what exactly to get. Can anyone suggest an alternative to disposable razors that work well for teenage girls?

Oh yes!  The crisps didn't happen last night after all, but they did happen today, and they are going down very nicely right now!

Junior Daughter was first taster and the conversation went like this:

Me: "So, are they alright?"
JD: "They're lush!"
Me:"Really?"
JD:"Anything home made always tastes better."
Me:"Why is that?"
JD: "I don't know, but I think it must be the little spoonful of love that you added."


Homemade crisps