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Easy green cleaning

5 Feb

Our cleaning products can be full of nasties and can pose a real risk of poisoning if children or pets get into them. It’s no surprise so many households are packed full of harsh chemicals, after decades of “Better Living Through Chemistry”  and advertising telling us we need to have homes that are cleaner than clean or whites that are whiter than white or floors cleaned with antibacterial wipes.  Luckily it’s a very easy step to take to green your cleaning products. What’s even better is that by making your own cleaning products you’ll save a ton of money too.

Making more of my own green cleaning products is one of my eco aims for 2013 so I thought I’d share 3 easy green cleaning solutions that will make your home a cleaner, greener space.

All purpose cleaner:

1 cup water
1 cup distilled white vinegar
2 tbsp of lemon juice
10 drops tea tree oil

Tea tree is a wonderful essential oil with natural antic bacterial and anti fungal properties, so this cleaner is great for everyday use on most surfaces. NB leave out the lemon juice if you have granite counter tops as it can stain them!

Window & Glass cleaner:

Just mix equal parts distilled white vinegar and water in a spray bottle and you’re good to go. Just spray on any glass surfaces and wipe (we use old newspapers for the wiping).

Microwave cleaner:

This is an old trick but works so brilliantly. Put a bowl of warm tap water in the microwave with some lemon slices and cook on high for 1 minute. Then let it sit in the microwave for a few minutes, so the steam stays trapped inside. Then just wipe out the microwave with a damp sponge – easy peasy!

I use spray bottles that I’ve saved from the commercial eco cleaners I was using before switching to homemade. You can also pick up empty spray bottles in places like a dollar store (or pound shop!). I’d love to hear if anyone else has homemade green tips to share, as I’ve become a bit of a white vinegar bore in real life since it’s such a great (and cheap!) alternative to expensive eco cleaners!



Let’s celebrate unspending

17 Nov

All of my American friends and family have been talking up Black Friday – the day after Thanksgiving when shops open crazy early offering mad discounts and people lose their heads in the rush to spend, spend spend. Quite frankly, it sounds pretty hellish.

So this year I’ll be happily celebrating conscious unspending instead. Who needs Black Friday when you can have Buy Nothing Day 2012 instead? Just think of all the lovely unshopping you can do, all the brilliant free things in your life which are so much more fun than frantically shopping just because our economy depends on it…Hug someone you love. Read a book (even better if it’s from a library!). Take a walk and look at the sky. Cloud spotting is good for the soul. Or examine a tree. Especially good if the leaves are off and you can actually see the shape of the branches. Mmmm, I’m looking forward to Friday already!

Putting the “Eco” in “Economical”

21 Jan
We’re living in tough economic times. It’s stressful, managing a household when your income may be dropping or your job precarious. And then you find out you’re having a baby (or another baby) and your financial woes take on a whole new level – how will you afford all the stuff that comes with a baby? And how will you afford maternity leave? Let alone all the expense that goes into raising a child (according to some sources, it costs over two hundred thousand pounds to raise a child to adulthood in the UK today.)
But having a baby doesn’t have to break the bank. With a bit of time and creativity, you can take a frugal (but fun!) approach to having a baby. And by embracing your inner cheapskate you can reward yourself with green brownie points at the same time. It’s about putting the “Eco” in “Economical”.
Cutting back on consumption (reducing) and embracing second-hand or hand-me-downs (reusing) are two of the fundamental tenets of taking a frugal, green approach to raising a baby. And because it’s more economical, it means that when you do have to buy new you can afford to buy quality products that last. So you can either reuse them on a subsequent child or sell them on when you no longer need them.
So I’m going to start a series of easy tips on how to have a green baby just by being frugal. With baby no 2 on the way, it’ll allow me to refresh all the things we learnt with baby no 1. And I’d love to hear any frugal tips you have – what baby stuff did you love? Or hate? What’s your top green tip for parents or parents-to-be?


Easy eco resolutions

4 Jan

The new year is a time of making (and breaking!) resolutions. I think that resolutions can be great – taking the time to review your habits or lifestyle and deciding what you’d like to do differently is interesting and productive. But I don’t like how resolutions can set you up for failure. There’s nothing worse that making a long list of resolutions about the “new you” only to then feel terrible when you wake up in February having not changed anything!

Resolutions should be realistic and achievable. Setting realistic goals then gives you the great satisfaction of achieving them. And small steps can take you on a long journey, if you’re prepared to take it slow.
So here are some my top five easy eco resolutions that will help you have a greener 2012:
1. Bin bottled mineral water. Give up buying bottled mineral water. It’s tremendously expensive compared to tap water and eats up oil to package, store and transport. Not to mention that the bottles are usually sent to landfill so hang around the planet far too long. So buy a reusable BPA-free water bottle (we’ve got some lovely ones from One Green Bottle) and go tap. Chill it overnight in the fridge and bring it to work. Flavour it with slices of lemon or lime. And enjoy all the money you’re saving while you avoid the environmental pollution associated with the bottled water industry.
2. Go cold turkey on plastic bags.  This is perhaps a controversial one, as it takes a lot more energy to make a resusable bags (see Wikipedia for more info) so you need to use your bags as much as possible. But I just hate single use plastic bags. I hate the mindset it encourages – use something once and then chuck it. I hate seeing plastic bags blowing in the street or hanging off trees. And I just love my resuable bags. I use envirosax and I’m a huge fan of them. They’re lightweight but super sturdy – I have two that I’ve used for 4 and half years and they’re still going strong – and very easy to stash in handbags/car/work desk drawer/bike bag so you’re never without a resuable bag. If you do end up with plastic bags, try to reuse them when you’re shopping and recycle them via your supermarket.
3. Consume less. Buying less stuff is a great way to help save the planet. Becoming more conscious in what and how you consume will help you to minimise your waste. In our house we’ve resolved to have (at least) two “buy-nothing days” a week. This should be super easy, with just a little bit of planning in terms of bringing lunch to work and having a dinner meal planned, and will hopefully help us (by saving money) while we help the planet.
4. Avoid meat at least one day a week. Food production is a huge component of global green house gas emissions, with livestock being responsible for most of that (see Meat Free Mondays for more info). So the more meat you eat the bigger your carbon footprint will be. Avoiding meat helps to cut your carbon footprint, with added benefits for your health and your wallet.
5.  Turn down the thermostat. Turning down the thermostat on your heating is a really great way to save both money and energy (see the Energy Saving Trust for more info). If it’s not appealing then consider turning it down gradually, so you can adjust to the heat. So reach for a jumper or cardy if you feel a little chilly. Keep throws and blankets handy for when you’re sitting on the couch. And rediscover the joys of warm flannel pjs.
Small changes can add up to big benefits, so I hope this provides some inspiration on how to make 2012 a greener year. And if you have any eco resolutions or tips I’d love to hear them.

Top reasons for using real nappies

23 Nov

While I’ve made it clear that I love washable nappies I thought I’d set out some the reasons for choosing to go real on the nappy front. 

 1. Environment
Each baby who uses disposable nappies is responsible for 300lb of wood, 50lb of petroleum feedstocks and 20lb of chlorine in its first year. This is in addition to adding to the stinking mountain of nappies sent to landfill every day (8 million disposables a day are thrown away in the UK) where they sit for hundreds of years (if not longer, since we don’t know how long they’ll take to break down). These sorts of stats make me feel a little depressed and I just couldn’t be responsible for making such a decision on behalf of my baby. So I decided to skip the bin bags of stinking disposables and invest in 24 washable nappies instead. 
According to the 2008 update to the Environment Agency’s Life Cycle Analysis on nappies, washable nappies can be up to 40% better for the environment than disposables. You can maximise the benefits of choosing real nappies by modifying your behaviour, eg washing your nappies at lower temperatures, only line or air drying, reusing your nappies on a second or subsequent child. Check out Go Real’s site for good advice on how you can make sure you’re getting the best for the environment by using washable nappies. 
There are also environmental benefits to using nappies made from hemp or bamboo, which are less demanding of water/pesticides than cotton. Or, if using cotton, sticking to organic cotton. You can also find nappies made under ethical conditions and made in the UK or Europe, to minimise nappy air miles. 
2. Money 
Real nappies definitely involve a lot more upfront cost than using disposables. But there are significant savings to be made over using disposable nappies (particularly if you choose to buy premium “eco” disposables). 
I estimate that we spent about £300 pounds on nappies/accessories plus £54.15 voucher we got from Haringey council. There’s also the cost of laundering (which I’ve never calculated!). But we chose quite expensive nappies (mostly Bumgenius and Tots Bots birth-to-potty options) on the basis that we can use them until he toilet trains and can also use them on our next baby. 
You may prefer to spread the cost of your nappies by using sized nappies, where you only purchase new sizes once your baby reaches that size. Or use prefolds (or muslins) and wraps, which I think are the cheapest option. 
Many local councils offer incentives to use real nappies (because of the landfill burden caused by disposables) so it’s definitely worth investigating where you can get a voucher or cash back on a purchase. There’s also a thriving second-hand market for real nappies – check out Cloth Nappy Tree.  Buying second hand is very cost effective and has the added environmental benefit of getting even more use out of real nappies. 
We also use washable wipes, which helps cut waste but also helps add to your savings in the long term. 
3. Ease of use
Modern washable nappies are easy to use, look and feel fabulous and are very little extra work. Using something like a Bumgenius or Tots Bots Easyfit honestly feels just like using a disposable, except that you’re not chucking them out afterwards! The modern velcro or popper fasteners that are super easy to use, even with the wriggliest baby. I’d have to recommend poppers over velcro, as after 20 months of use our velcro is looking quite worn. And my son can also open the velcro very easily, which is not always ideal! 
For me, the biggest proof of how easy they are to use is the fact that my mother (a complete and utter real nappy skeptic after raising 6 children in terry cloth nappies and plastic pants and having no fond memories of them at all!) is a convert. She loves how easy they are to use (and how cute they are) and wishes that her older grandchildren had been in them too. We’ve also never had a problem with childcare providers using them and in fact a positive response to real nappies was one of the key things we looked for when checking our childminders and nurseries. 
4. Helping to tune into your baby 
A washable nappy helps you to tune into your baby’s weeing capacity much more easily than a disposable (which always feels dry!). This is particularly reassuring in the early weeks of establishing breastfeeding as you have tangible (and soggy!) evidence of your baby getting enough to drink. It also helps if your little one gets sick, as you can get an indication of impending illness by drier nappies (or impending recovery by wetter nappies). 
There are also reputed benefits in terms of earlier potty training, but since we’re not at that stage ourselves yet I can’t say whether it’ll apply to us! 
Of course you can always choose to try elimination communication and attempt to avoid the environmental impact of nappies entirely. 

Buy Nothing Day: Give your wallet a rest!

17 Nov

Source: Adbusters

Buy Nothing Day is on 27 November and it’s as simple as it sounds – the aim is to not spend any money for 24 hours. It’s a great way to remember that weekends shouldn’t just be all about shopping, especially with Christmas looming and TV groaning with adverts to try and get us to spend, spend, spend.

Buy Nothing Day highlights the environmental and ethical consequences of consumerism. Particularly the fact that those of us in the developed countries – only 20% of the world’s population – are consuming over 80% of our planet’s resources. Anything that tries to get that message out is A Good Thing in my book.

I try to regularly have buy nothing days, though this isn’t so much a choice as the simple fact that I don’t have much time for shopping on my daily home/work/childminder/home loop! But Buy Nothing Day is a day to celebrate conscious unspending. And unspending is fun if you get creative about it.

We’ll be celebrating Thanksgiving, London-style, this Buy Nothing Day (my husband’s American). So we’ll have to be sure that we don’t run out of anything last minute or we’ll be doing without!

Buying less stuff for baby

15 Nov

There’s a great article in today’s Guardian about one London couple who’ve chosen to buy as little as possible for their son. It’s great to see low impact, minimal parenting getting coverage.