Growing my own

“Why try to explain miracles to your kids when you can just have them plant a garden?”
— Robert Brault

When I moved in to my new place last summer I noticed that a small corner of the garden had clearly previously been a little vegetable patch but it had long since been abandoned — a rhubarb plant was the only thing left. Over the next several weeks I set to work restoring it.

Once the back-breaking work of double digging over the patch, riddling the soil, mixing in some compost, perlite and lime was done I’ve not actually had to do all that much thanks to the British weather over the past few months. I’m delighted to say that — despite the cataclysmic weather predictions of the Daily Mail1 — the garlic, broad beans, radish and kale I sowed all survived the winter.

While I’m not going to be able to go self-sufficient, I really like the idea that a proportion of the food that I eat can be ascribed food metres rather than miles. It’s also part of the reason I like baking my own bread; I know exactly what’s gone into what I’m eating.

1 I refuse to provide a link to the Daily Mail.

Vote with your wallet

“Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want to live in.”
— Anna Lappé

A few years ago now I wrote about the three Rs. I’m continuing to try and live as green as possible without going overboard. I gladly left the “big six” energy companies behind and signed up to a 100% renewable supply with Good Energy.

Another company I found and decided to give my business to was Splosh. I’ve tried a refillable approach in the past with Ecover but finding shops that had the facilities to refill their bottles proved annoyingly tricky. The overall process was slow, messy and not very convenient. I also remember bottles of milk on the doorstep when I was growing up. These were washed and refilled instead of being recycled. The same happened with Irn Bru bottles in my student days.

Splosh take a different tack to Ecover, old-fashioned dairies and fizzy orange-coloured Scottish drinks. You buy empty bottles from them and they send you sachets of super-concentrated products in the post that you dilute in these bottles with hot water direct from your tap. Another advantage that they have over other green cleaning products is that their stuff actually works really well.

The concentrated product market has grown in the past several years; cordial drinks and detergents for example. Why transport products that are predominately water when they can be used in smaller quantities or diluted at the consumer end?

I think the original three Rs should be expanded: Reduce, reuse, refill, recharge, repair, rehome and recycle.

What can be achieved

I noticed an article about the Strauss family in the Metro the other day. They have managed to reduce the amount of rubbish they throw away over a 12 month period to a single carrier bag. It seems like they’re quite committed as they were in the news the same time last year for the same reason.

Not everyone has the available land, appropriate facilities or a forward-thinking council to compost their food waste but doing simple things like taking your own bags with you to the shops, reusing things instead of throwing them away or recycling whenever possible should be things that every family can and must do.

What a waste!

Consumers are putting more and more importance on green issues. Companies like Apple, Kenco and Persil have realised that reducing their packaging is a win for everyone. Less packaging obviously leads to fewer truck journeys required for distribution.

One industry to have not cottoned on to this easy way to reduce their environmental impact appears to be the pharmaceutical companies. A picture illustrates the point quite succinctly.

Wasteful pill packaging

How much space is wasted on this blister pack? Somewhere in the region of 70% by my reckoning.

That said, maybe the drug companies have been busy thinking about other things.

Recycle less

Yes, you read that correctly: I said recycle less.

At first glance you’d think that I’d turned my back on my usual green practices but you’d be wrong. When you start thinking about things throughout their lifecycle you start to realise that recycling should be your last resort.

I suggest expanding the basic green three Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recyle) to a full mantra along the lines of:

Initially reduce your consumption and then reduce what you throw away; reuse what you can then – and only then – should you recycle.

Producing recycled paper requires about 60 percent of the energy used to make paper from virgin wood pulp1 – but nevertheless, recycling still requires energy. On average, every family in the UK uses around 330 glass bottles and jars each year2. Recycling one bottle can save enough energy to power your television for 20 minutes but instead, why not try reusing bottles and jars to store homemade jams, pickles, preserves, beers or wines?

1 EPA, 2008
2 British Glass