Holidays, Sustainability and Blackpool Pleasure Beach

When we started our year of living sustainably we had visions of our summer holiday being very environmentally friendly perhaps camping in a yurt and swimming in a nearby river, nutritious meals cooked on an open fire with foraged food from the forest……you get the picture! As with all of life there is compromise so we had to consider the school holiday timings, family dynamics, entertainment and price so we ended up in a caravan on a Haven Holiday site in Blackpool! See our caravan below:

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Jane is from Blackpool originally so it was a good way of catching up with her family and friends as well as having a holiday. We packed a lot into our week like going up Blackpool Tower, the circus and the dungeon. We did make some effort to be sustainable but after the last few months of redundancy and kitchen rennovation our brains were fried. We could only just about plan an hour ahead never mind being prepared enough to take our water bottles, reusuable coffee mug and bags for life when we went out!!

The hardest thing was the rubbish disposal on the Haven site. All of the waste went into one waste bin – pictured below. We asked the site staff about recycling and they said Biffa separate out the waste from each bin and recycle this way. We were quite surprised as our limited knowledge suggests that firstly this would be difficult due to contamination and secondly much more expensive. It was really hard to put our waste in this bin all mixed together – I think we are all now hard wired to separate waste at source so it did seem to go against the grain. wheelie-bin-1100-black-600x600

Also on our holiday we found the most unsustainable tourist attraction ever – Blackpool Pleasure Beach! The children really wanted to go and had a fab day but with our sustainable set of eyes we saw things very differently. There seemed to be no recycling facilities AT ALL (bin pictured), no comprehension of trying to rethink plastic packaging (candy floss in buckets), disposal plastic macs – designed for single use on a wet ride, no facilities to refill water bottles, no evidence of using renewable energy to power the rides and total disregard for environment around the park. We have put some pictures below and we will be writing a letter! We will let you know the outcome 🙂

Despite all of this we had a fab time and thoroughly enjoyed our holiday!

Kitchen

Well it has been a while since our last post. It has bee rather hectic.

Firstly Mark finished work and focused on the kitchen. We looked at what we could do =to be reasonably sustainable during this project, although, having building works to open up the end wall and installing patio doors to buying an entire need kitchen, was not easy. We did however manage to free cycle various items, the kitchen cupboards we have already blogged about. The fridge freezer has gone to a new home and we reused the washing machine and dishwasher or so we thought, more on this is a mo. We have also installed new windows and a new boilers so we will be monitoring our gas usage other the winter to see if our usage will reduce.

The kitchen units arrived and seemed to take up the entire house, the wood is from a sustainable forest. Within 3 hours Mark dropped the largest piece of wood on this toe and spent the next three hours in the minor injury’s unit. Outcome was a broken toe and not being able to wear shoes for a week due to the swelling. Marks first reaction was oh no i won’t be running, Jane’s first reaction was oh no the kitchen.

The kitchen continued with help of Mark’s Dad. Our kitchen came from Howdens and we noticed that everything little or big thing was individually wrapped, this allows for mixing and matching of items, however do 4 screws really need to be in a single use plastic bag. There was a lot of cardboard which was recycle, and each piece of wood was also wrapped in a plastic to protect it, but it was not recyclable.

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he old dishwasher was installed and failed to work, we could not find the fault and the units was integral to the kitchen install, we had a make a rush decision to purchase a new units and have it delivered in 48 hours so not to hold up the kitchen install, this however was probable not a sustainable option as had only a limited choice on what was available in such a short turn around.

We had both paint and wall tiles left however. Mark has used these to redecorate the church toilets to reduce our waste.

With the exception of a few minors points the kitchen is finished and we can now enjoy and relax in the kitchen come breakfast room. As the room now opens up into the garden we have spent much more time sat in the garden relaxing and having out meals. So the next project will be the garden.

Bye bye wormery – hello petition

The wormery is no longer however I did find one lucky surviving worm who has been rehomed next to the wisteria. We are not beaten though! The reason we had to buy a wormery is that our local council in Plymouth doesn’t collect food waste. Every other council in Devon does so why aren’t we? So we have set up a petition to ask the Council to get on it!

In the recent local elections the Labour party came back into power and as part of their manifesto they promised to trial food waste collections and home composting. Our aim to get the people of Plymouth behind this and see if we can bring in food waste collection by the end of our year of living sustainably. Please consider signing our petition to ask Plymouth City Council

Petition – Recycle food waste in Plymouth

Also our wormery is looking for a new home to anyone who thinks they can succeed where we have failed – you have to commit to sharing success on the blog though! Anyone want a challenge?

The Sustainable Dinner party

Guest blog from Claire Turbutt:

So the reason I’m writing this blog is that I invited Jane and Mark to a dinner party, I hadn’t chosen the theme at the time of the invite and Jane ‘convinced’ me to hold a sustainable dinner party. I didn’t know what I’d let myself in for!

So I’m a fairly environmentally friendly person, when Jane began her journey I was one of the people who completed the Friends of the Earth questionnaire and got 70%, but holding a completely sustainable dinner party stretched my improvisation skills. To begin with I thought about making a meal where I could say what the food miles were for all the ingredients. I started by decided that I would buy everything locally. I created the following menu:

  • Puff Pastry Canapes
  • Salmon and Asparagus baked with herb butter
  • Beer-butt Chicken with Coleslaw, Green Salad and Potato Salad

And then my lovely friends Lesley and Jane offered to make dessert – how could I turn them down? Lesley had some summer fruits in her freezer which she had purchased from Riverford last year. She bought brioche from her local bakery and we served it with local clotted cream (yum!). Jane had some kiwi’s in her veg box that week so she made a kiwi cheesecake. I love it when a plan comes together.

The week before the dinner party I went to the Royal William Yard farmer’s market looking for inspiration (the market happens on the first Sunday of every month) I started talking to the stall holders about how sustainable their food products were.

My first stop was Ash Tree Farm Herbs and Spices stall where I learned that the Fairtrade and organic supply lines within the spices trade are difficult to rely on. For herbs that come from the Mediterranean we can be fairly sure their origin is genuine however for some spices she would not be able to guarantee they were produced using fair payment policies. She could tell me that the cinnamon she had for sale came from a small family farm in India. I used chilli powder, smoked paprika, cinnamon, and fennel seeds from this stall.

My next stop was at the Barbican Botanist’s stall – a local gin box company, after a lovely chat with the owner I decided to buy a local gin that was actually bottled less than a mile from my house.

Then I had a chat with Smeaton’s Smokehouse, this is a family run food smoking business based on the Langage Farm industrial site just outside Plymouth. I asked them about where they got their wood for smoking, they use a sustainable wood supplier based in the UK. Their cheese was also locally produced. Having sampled their Applewood smoked cheddar – which was delicious – I decided to buy both types (Cheddar and Goat’s Cheese).

My final stop was Evergreen Farm stall; they had a free range chicken which the stall holder told me had been born in Cornwall and then moved to their farm in North Devon at three days old. It had then been allowed to roam and grow slowly until it was driven 12 miles down the road to their local abattoir.

On the day of the dinner party I made the journey across town to Harvest Home on Exeter Street – I have to admit I drove rather than cycled – and there I purchased Asparagus, cabbage and carrots. I have a keen gardener friend who had grown some lovely leeks which I nabbed off her.

So all my ingredients were pulled together, and at this point I decided to get ahead of the game and work out the food miles for each food item. However when I went to the almighty internet for help I discovered that food miles had been largely debunked (because the distance something travels is not necessarily the best way to measure its impact on the earth). I looked further and discovered SUSTAIN’s list of 7 things you can do to eat more sustainably. I assessed my work using this list.

  1. Be waste free

I made sure to purchase all the ingredients from local traders to minimise both how far I had to travel to get the food and the packaging that would be on the food as well. I am really lucky there is a food market at the end of my street each month so I was able to walk to the market, buy my food and walk back.

Evergreen who supplied the meat had sealed it in a plastic bag. I took my own shopping bag so didn’t have to use a single use plastic bag. Jane later told me I could have bought from Gribbles in Plymstock and there would have been no plastic involved at all! Next time.

The cheese did come vacuum packed in plastic so that was a bit of waste.

Lesley who made a lovely potato salad from Jersey Royals with local cream and yoghurt avoiding using cling film by covering her dish with a pink shower cap (previously unused) a tip she’d got from the TV. The bread that Dave bought from Jacka’s Bakery came in a paper bag.

  1. Eat less meat and dairy

I considered making an entirely vegan meal but decided that one chicken between 8 people was a reasonable amount of meat (as opposed to a steak each or a chicken breast each). The cheese I bought was from organic cow’s milk produced locally, and was also shared between the eight of us.

  1. Buying local, seasonal and environmentally friendly food

I made a lot of my purchases at my local market; the chicken I purchased was free range organic raised on a farm 49 miles from Plymouth in Ashwater (so officially counts as local!). I bought local cheese from Smeaton’s Smokers who use sustainable wood to smoke local unpasteurised cheeses in a unit on Langage Industrial Park – they use traditional methods which resulted in a really tasty product. I couldn’t resist their Applewood smoked cheddar.

I also bought some local gin from the Barbican Botanist which had come from Salcombe, a mere 15 miles from Plymouth and had actually been bottled within a mile of my house.

The butter, eggs and milk I used in my recipes all came from Riverford who sell local produce, delivered to your door – they have done a lot of work to minimise packaging in their business.

  1. Choosing Fairtrade certified products

I discussed with the herbs and spices trader whether her products were Fairtrade or organic. She was very knowledgeable about the whole issue and told me that she gives talks about fairness in the spice trade. I have fennel seeds and smoked paprika from her which I used in the marinade on the chicken. Talking to her really opened my eyes to the difficulties in choosing sustainable items when supply chains aren’t well documented.

Indian Tonic Water came from Fever Tree who have a modern slavery policy available on their website. Their botanics come from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mexico. They use spring water from Staffordshire. The sugar I used in my marinade was labelled as fair trade.

  1. Choose fish from sustainable sources

I got my salmon from Aldi and before I purchased it I checked that it was sustainable. There is a sustainable fish symbol that producers can add to their packaging. The scheme ensures that fish stocks do not become depleted.

  1. Getting the balance of sugar, salt and fat right

Hopefully the meal I produced was fairly balanced; there was some protein, some carbohydrate, lots of vegetables and a little bit of fat, salt and sugar.

  1. Growing your own

I grew kale this year, along with rocket and sorrel – all of which make tasty additions to the salad I served with the main. The leeks from my friend Stacey’s garden contributed to the starter.

All the guests brought sustainable wine with them and Jane even gave me a bamboo toilet roll and sustainable soap as a hostess present.

What did I learn through this process?

The biggest thing I learnt was that a lot of things I would usually do for a dinner party without thinking are big no-no’s for sustainability. For example herbs and spices which travel thousands of miles and may have been produced using slave labour, cut flowers that use litre upon litre of water to produce, meat that comes packed in plastic which will almost definitely go straight to landfill.

It is also extremely difficult to go completely sustainable immediately because every food product has some kind of impact on the environment; however making a few small changes can make a difference. Forgoing cut flowers that have been air freighted from an exotic location. Buying local produce that has been lovingly reared/produced by local farmers and producers. Supporting local suppliers through buying their products and being interested in the efforts they’ve made to be sustainable.

All the stall holders and suppliers I spoke to were happy to explain how they were being sustainable. I was amazed at how much they had already done and I will definitely be shopping more sustainably in the future.

Feeling grey….

Have you ever noticed that when you are on holiday the light is different and it shows up the wrinkles and grey hair more – I have this feeling in triplicate at the moment here in France. My grey hair is really showing through now and I feel sooooo ugly! I am finding I am avoiding my reflection as I look so bad – I kid you not! Rationally I know it is ridiculous but this is the reality of letting the grey grow out – it is really hard.

My lovely friend, Vicki (who we are on holiday with), also a hairdresser, said that most people go through this horrible stage when they are changing their hair and it will get better – I hope she is right because I am desperate to reach for that bottle of dye right now!

My grey hair is really coarse and frizzy and it seems as though I have got a bird’s nest on my head. Vicki says I need to use special leave in conditioner and also suggests using Head and Shoulders to strip the dye out quicker – I will do this when I get back home if I haven’t succumbed!

Sorry to all of you out there who are facing proper real life problems – I apologise for being so moany about a minor problem – off to get a grip of myself now!

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Local heroes

Sustainable wine tasting

Last night we had a fab night wine tasting from a local organic vineyard owner – it was so much fun and really interesting for geeks like us. The owner and his wife, Eric and Petra Sage were so entertaining and the wine was so good too! They have been there for 2 years and their harvest is totally produced without chemicals and they even have a horse and cart to do the mechanical work. They do all the weeding by hand and it takes a month instead of two days on a commercial vineyard – that is dedication. Their yield is about a third of a commercial non organic vineyard but they are totally committed to bringing a better higher quality character to wine making. They were both an inspiration and it was such a treat to see people so immersed in a sustainable life and business – I may have bought a couple of extra bottles to bring home 😊all in the purpose of supporting the local economy of course.

To find out more about Eric Sage – https://www.facebook.com/ericsage.vigneron

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Eric and Petra Sage with their lovely wine!

The fox has been at the chickens

Whilst here on our hols we had a sad message from our egg supplier (Warleigh Barton Farm) saying a fox had eaten some of the chickens and the ones who had survived were in shock and had stopped laying. The farmer was very apologetic and we felt bad for him as this is part of his livelihood. It made us realise how much local farmers can suffer from things outside their control to bring us our produce.

Local producers like the vineyard owner and our egg farmer are real heroes – they are putting our environment ahead of their wealth. We are learning valuable life lessons through this year and this is one of them – lets measure our wealth in a different way – now is not the time to store up treasures on earth at the expense of the next generation.

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Vive la France!

As dedicated sustainability bloggers holidays don’t stop our drive to be more eco friendly….. or so we thought. Being in a foreign country in a caravan we cannot be quite as prepared as at home, then we quite frankly completely forget – well we are after all on holiday – takeaway cups, plastic straws and supermarket bags abound! However all is not lost as the French have made it much easier for us – public recycling bins on every street corner, compostible bags for the fruit and veg in the supermarket, 100% recycled shopping bags “sac vert” and reusable cups on the campsite.

English supermarkets have no excuse however much they wriggle!

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Visit to the beach

Earlier in the week we made a visit to a beach further up the Atlantic coast and it was so beautiful – huge and quiet probably because it was raining! The beach was almost spotless or so we thought until we looked closer at the shells – below is a photo of an oyster shell and a piece of white plastic. The white plastic had barnacles growing on it as it had obviously been there a long time and we then started to notice other bits of rubbish including a pair of sunglasses. It was nowhere near as bad as beaches in Devon but even here small pieces of rubbish are everywhere.

Moon cups – sustainable sanitary wear

Jane has very kindly allowed me to take over her blog for a bit to talk about the wonderful, and much under-discussed topic of periods – or more precisely, sanitary protection . She’s given me a few questions to start me off, so please put aside your squeamishness and your embarrassment for 5 minutes and read on – as an article in The Guardian way back in 2009 said all our squeamishness, it seems, serves the large sanitary protection manufacturers very well and the environment very badly.

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Kate after finishing the Paris Marathon 

What on earth is a moon / tulip cup? 

A Mooncup or Tulip Cup are brand names for what is gloriously known as a “menstrual cup”. It is, blushes notwithstanding, a small silicone “cup” which you insert into the necessary orifice to catch your menstrual flow.

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Is it better for the environment? 

Yes, it’s a lot better for the environment. It’s made of medical-grade silicone and can be used time and time again. Nothing (other than the obvious) gets flushed into the sewers. There are a few very green people out there that apparently compost the blood so that nothing goes into the sewer system. (You may be relieved to know that doesn’t happen in our house.) There is no packaging, other than a cardboard box.

 It is also a lot better for you financially – it pays for itself in 6-8 months; they’re around the £20 mark so not a cheap outlay but when you add up what you would pay on disposable tampons or whatever it soon adds up. I’ve had mine for a good 10 years and it’s still going strong.

The other thing to note that is not only is it far better for the environment and your finances, it’s better for your body too. Most tampons are made with cotton and or rayon. Cotton we know about and there are a few questions you need to ask about that – is it likely to be “Fairly Traded” – probably not. Is it likely to be organic? Unless you buy organic tampons (and yes they exist and are the lesser of many tampon evils), then no, so it will have been covered with pesticides and unknown chemicals,  all of which you are now putting inside your body.

 Rayon – what is that? I have no idea so I Ecosia-ed – (that does not roll off the tongue like “googled” does it, but hey ho – http://www.Ecosia.org is a very simple switch you can make for the environment – it’s a search engine that plants trees instead of making huge profits – check it out) Rayon is made from cellulose, produced from trees, which require a much longer time (years) to grow before they are big enough for harvesting. The trees are chemically processed to remove everything (bark, lignin, etc.) but the cellulose, and then the remaining cellulose is regenerated into man-made fibers. During the processes copperammonia and caustic soda are used. Is that something you would want to use in a, let’s face it, very delicate environment – both internally and externally?

Does a mooncup work? 

Yes. Not a lot else to say on that – it does the job it’s supposed to do. You have to think about it a lot less than tampons – you don’t have to remember to take spares with you, you have to empty it a lot less than you would change a tampon and you are not at risk of toxic shock syndrome.

Is it comfortable? 

Mostly I don’t know it’s there – although if I’m honest, I don’t find it brilliant for running with, in as much as I can feel it there and I don’t want to know about it once it’s in. Otherwise yes, it’s fine.

 Is it messy? 

A bit in all honesty, but you get used to it.

Where is the best place to get it from? 

You can get it from most chemists – I got mine from Boots years ago and they still sell them. Mooncup has been around as a brand for years but there are loads of new brands appearing. It’s definitely worth having a look online to see which you take a shine to.

 The other thing really worth looking into are cloth sanitary towels. These are something akin to cloth nappies (not in size, shape or design but in concept!) and I suppose we’ve come full circle on this one again, as with the nappies; it always used to be cloth. Current non-cloth sanitary towels contain, according to one source, the equivalent in petro chemicals of 4 plastic bags. They are lined with plastic, and wrapped in plastic. In our spirit of trying to cut down on plastic this is a fairly easy fix. There are some wild and whacky and very cool reusable sanitary towels around.

 So that’s pretty much it from me. Thank you for reading – I know it’s not a comfortable subject but it’s one which affects a lot of us every month so surely must be worth thinking of.

Updates from the Bullard family

Well what a month – redundancy, death of the worms and more grey hair!

Redundancy – We have had a bit of a shock this month as Mark has been made redundant – it was out of the blue and very unexpected so it has taken a bit of adjustment to say the least. Since starting our journey of sustainability in January we have already experienced a quite a lot of changes and we have learnt that actually we don’t need as much as we thought. Both of us (not Samuel) are more finely tuned to mass marketing and think a lot more about decisions about what we are buying or at least try to!

When Mark heard the news about losing his job we sat down and went through our money and managed not to panic as much as we might have done a year ago. In some ways it has been liberating as it has allowed Mark to think about what he wants to do rather searching for the next rung on the ladder.

Mark has also done his first presentation about our year so far! He presented to about 30 colleagues at a networking event and apparently it went down well or they may have just being kind. We are open to doing more and we are working out ways to make the waste hierarchy fun entertainment!

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The worms – this may be our biggest fail – we managed to drown the worms! No idea what happened but the wormery was a disaster so we are holding a remembrance service for Wilhema and friends after half term. Loads of flies have taken up residence in the wormery – fairly sure this is a bad thing. 20180522_2004351795021414.jpg

The grey hair continues to show through – I have found a new hairdresser who did a lovely cut and didn’t make me feel bad about the grey – he actually seemed quite excited about the white streak too. He recommended using silver shampoo to get the  grey coming out less yellow – yuk! I am always a bit skeptical about expensive products but it does seem that this is one of those pieces of advice that pops up everywhere so I invested a ridiculous amount of Mark’s redundancy pay into bright purple silver shampoo. I really want to say it didn’t make any difference but I was wrong – it really does work. My hair looks and feels amazing – definitely worth the money. 20180522_2005461562862047.jpg

Sustainable party bags – a simple swap! Recently Samuel was invited to his best friend’s brothers zorbing party which was great and even better as my friend, Cathy cut down on the plastic. She produced party bags in paper bags with no useless plastic trinkets that go to landfill. She also reused party decorations and used reusable cups for the drinks – easy swaps that help save the planet!

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Leo and a sustainable party bag

 

 

 

 

 

Thinking about our waste

After our visit to the Energy from Waste plant and learning about the waste hierarchy we have been thinking about what is out there to help us get better with our waste.

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So here goes…

Reduce 

Since we started our journey we have made a really good start at reducing the amount of plastic we buy – glass milk bottles, veg box and so on. We are definitely not buying as much but Jane is having withdrawal symptoms from not going into her favourite shops this time of year when the sun is shining. We are updating our kitchen at the moment and doing quite a lot ourselves and we have come across Borrow Don’t Buy. It is basically a library of things where you can borrow instead of buying it. It is fairly new to Plymouth Borrow Don’t buy website . Jane went to meet the guys down there and they were great – so passionate about the project and really keen to spread the message. We have become a member and we are getting ready to make our first loan!

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Marcus, Sol and Rob from Borrow Don’t Buy 

Reuse 

As we are trying to reduce the clutter and live minimally we are constantly finding things we just don’t want or have never even used eg. a fondue set from 1988! Most people we know donate to charity shops and we have got to know the people in our local St. Lukes charity shop. They are so willing to accept the items we take along and sometimes we are surprised they want them. Mandy, manager from our local shop says they will take things as the St. Lukes shops are all networked and if something doesn’t sell in a local shop then it goes to the warehouse and goes to another location to be sold. For example, linen doilies are big in Modbury – who knew!! They say they get loads of CDs and DVDs and there are still people want them.

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Mandy and the volunteers at St. Lukes charity shop

Another fab thing we use is Freecycle where members post items they do want anymore and people usually respond and say they would like it, no money is to be exchanged hence Freecycle. We have recently put our kitchen cabinets on there as we are starting to take apart the old kitchen and Ann responded and came to collect them. She is a lovely lady who is doing up her own kitchen at the moment using the same style cabinets we were getting rid of. She was very pleased and came round to collect the cabinets and some doors – results!

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Anne taking our “old” kitchen doors and cabinets

We are always of the look out for more ways to reduce and reuse so please let us know any of your tips!

Update on the worms…….I think my new worms have gone to worm heaven – the wormery flooded and they turned into snakes and have not been seen since – mmmmm 🙁