Going grey – yikes!!

So this is officially the biggest challenge for me (Jane) to date – I am going to stop dying my hair and let the grey grow through. I know you must be shocked to know that I even dye my hair but I am afraid I have been a slave to the bottle for many years. I had my first grey hair when I was about fifteen and I ended up with a Mallen streak for most of my twenties. For some of this time I was dating a guy who was prematurely grey anyway so it wasn’t a huge issue but when I was 30 and single a kind, young gentleman said he thought I looked 40 because of the grey. Fairly soon after this the dying started and has continued for the past 15 years.

About 2003

In the past year the need to dye has been more frequent as the grey has been showing through quicker than ever. Along with this I noticed how much plastic was being used in my home dye kit and it did make me think twice to see if there was another way. I looked into henna, more organic dying kits and I have finally settled on letting it all show through. I know another couple of brave people who are doing the same and I was challenged by this.

I told my hairdresser that I wanted to cut it short to get the grey through and she was hugely unsupportive!! She actually said that she disagreed 100% with growing out the grey and that I would look like a wizened old lady – mmmmm! Mark and Samuel were slightly more supportive and both of them said they would still love if i looked old…..hmmmm. I have had a wide variety of opinions since getting my hair short to show the grey – mostly surprise.

Mark has bought me a fab book about going grey gracefully and it really highlights how we / I have got into a position where women are sublimally told grey is old. When you look at men of the same age a lot are grey or bald with no pressure to dye. Did you know that the UK hair dying market is worth £83 billion per year with 75% of women dying their hair to some degree.

I am really intrigued about this subject and how it makes me feel to be grey. From a sustainable point of view there is a huge amount of hair dye going into our rivers and masses amount of single use plastic.


I just wish I hadn’t thought of this in the same year we are in the local paper and on the TV!

Our visit to the Energy from Waste (EfW) plant

I had last Friday off work and my friend (also called Jane) suggested we have a spa day – yippee! However we also had the chance to go round the Energy from Waste plant in Devonport so after a little persuasion and the promise of lunch the two Janes went off to meet another Jane (Community engagement officer, EfW). We had lots of questions of our own and some from other people so here is our attempt to share what we learned.

What on earth is that huge building next to the Dockyard in Plymouth?

The building is massive and when we drove up it was amazingly clean and not at all smelly – what a relief! The EfW plant came into operation in 2015 after the South Devon Waste Partnership commissioned the German company (MVV) to build it. The plant is paid for under a Private Finance Initiative (PFI).

What does it do? 

Basically it takes all our brown bin and black bag rubbish from Plymouth and South Devon, burns it and produces enough electricity via turbines to power itself, the Dockyard and the Naval base – anything left over goes to the National grid.

What happens to the recyclable rubbish if it goes into the brown bins / black bags? 

This seems to be a huge problem as half of the waste the EfW plant takes is from Plymouth and because recycling rates are so low in Plymouth (34%) this means that a lot of things are being burnt that could be recycled. We found out about the waste hierachy – shown below: waste-hierarchy1

EfW is the yellow bit and is quite low down the hierarchy in terms of the most effective way to deal with waste.

Why are recycling rates so low? 

There seems to be mass confusion! The whole Council recycling systems are confusing with different areas recycling different things in a variety of ways. For example, South Hams recycle food whereas Plymouth doesn’t. The reason for this difference is due to the different times that the Councils started recycling and the relative value of the items to be recycled. At the moment cardboard is really valuable so local Councils might focus on getting this and making money.

Another reason particularly in Plymouth is the facilities aren’t always there especially if you are a student in rented accommodation. Plymouth City Council have employed recycling officers and recycling rates have come up a little since fortnightly bin collections came into force.

What happens to the ash produced? 

The ash is turned into aggregate for road building and other outdoor areas such as parks. The EfW plant receives about 122 lorries per day and about 5 lorries filled with ash leave the plant. Some countries like Sweden are putting the ash in unused mines. By using the ash for aggregate this displaces the need to quarry – 60,000 tonnes of ash is equivalent to 1 million tonnes of quarrying.

How much waste do you get through? 

The EfW plant receives about 1000 tonnes of rubbish every day – this is equivalent to 1 days worth of rubbish collection in Plymouth. When we watched the rubbish coming in we saw lots of mattresses and heard a lot of glass tipping into the holding area. Below is a photo of the area where all the rubbish is tipped into and the big grab claw comes down to take it out and put in the fire.


What happens to all the fumes?

This bit was a touch technical but here goes!  The combustion of the waste heats water into steam which not only runs the plant but also is then pumped into the Dockyard to power the various systems such as the heating source. The by product of the burning of the waste produces fumes, these pass through huge filter bags covered in active carbon that take out the chemicals and then baking soda is added to neutralise the chemicals.The filter bags are termed as hazardous waste and go into landfill however this makes up only 3% of the waste products that isn’t reused.

What about people living nearby and the fumes and noise? 

There are really strict guidelines about this and the noise outside the plant compared to inside was huge. Apparently the noise produced outside is under 5 decibels and you can really tell the difference – whatever they have done we need it on our house!

The fumes produced each day are less than a diesel car produces when driving around the City – again this is strictly regulated. Jane from EfW said a bonfire display produces more harmful gases than the EfW in a year! I know she works there but she also lives in the street next to the plant so we were inclined to believe her!

What about plastic? 

The EfW plant ends up burning a lot of plastic because we aren’t good at recycling it. If we burn it then it can’t be recycled and used to make new plastic items therefore reducing the demand on the planet for oil and the raw materials.

Finally a huge thank you to Jane Ford from EfW for showing us round – it was eye opening and has totally changed the way I think about waste!

These are a selection of our photos – any unanswered questions please get in touch!



The More of Less

As we are reading about other people living sustainably the concept of minimalisation keeps popping up so we have been investigating more! Also one of my new sustainable buddies, Sarah Rundle, gave me a book called “The More of Less” which is all about minimal living. Basically it is about getting rid of clutter and really thinking about owning less. Part of our modern day culture seems to be about getting and owning the latest things / gadgets / labour saving devices and we are certainly no strangers to being drawn into this.

We are about halfway through the book and it is an easy read with a convincing argument for living with less. Benefits include less cleaning, more contentment with what you have, appreciating joy in what you have and more time. We have just finished the chapter on how to start to live minimally and it suggests going round your house and finding the duplicates of everything.

So here goes……

Three hair straighteners, two hair dryers, five balls, three front door mats (not including the one in use), 4 unused mobile phones plus chargers and headphones, a fondue set that we last used 15 years ago, two tea sets unused, lots of handbags (!), 4 cables with coloured ends (no idea of usage), two cameras, Star Wars DVD duplicates….and this is within the first walk around!

We haven’t even started on Samuel’s room yet – it scares me a bit especially when I see Lego poking from under every cupboard.

We are now in the process of working out how to properly recycle all these things – these are our “go to” places at the moment – Freecycle, Recycling Centre at Chelson Meadow, Borrow Don’t Buy, St. Lukes charity shop and friends (only if they want anything!).

At the moment this process has been really intriguing especially when I donated the tea sets that used to belong to Gran to St. Lukes. I had a moment of reluctance but I just reminded myself that it had sat in box on a wardrobe for 10 years and I hadn’t looked at it once. Surely its better to be used and loved by someone!

Have anyone else gone through this reluctance stage – tips on how to get through it are welcome!

Lessons learned from our hols

We are just back after a week’s holiday up North and in Somerset seeing lots of family and we probably had our worst time in terms of sustainability since we started the year. The holiday started off badly with both me and Mark being very under the weather and feeling sorry for ourselves – Samuel was fit and healthy though! On a positive note Mark bought a new reusable coffee cup at Gloucester services but it went downhill from then on. He decided to present the cup to me in the cardboard wrapping, but when asked for the coffee it was delivered in a single use cup.. dough!!!

We took our veg box to our self catering bungalow but forgot everything else so we ended at the supermarket buying toilet rolls, washing up liquid, supermarket chicken and milk in a plastic bottle – we were very annoyed with ourselves to say the least!

We went to the indoor stake park and forgot any drinks so we bought Samuel a slush puppy, grapes in a plastic cup for £1 and coffee in a disposable cup. I went to a charity shop and in my haze bought a second hand handbag for £25 – it wasn’t a designer brand – it was blooming River Island! We then went on to lose our reusable water bottle in the cinema and Mark crashed the car into a tree.

Anyway we did have a good relaxing break once we got better and know better for next time! Take the bamboo loo rolls!20180401_132514582611272.jpgimg-20180409-wa00001877355181.jpg

Make do and mend

Another part of the sustainability story is making do with what you already have and mending it if possible. I always remember my Gran darning socks and clothes and she always had covers on the sofa to stop the arms and headrests getting worn. Maybe as things are becoming cheaper it is easier to buy new and start again rather than repair. I certainly had this mentality at the start of this journey but the more I read the more my opinion is being altered.

In January one of my favourite necklaces broke – it wasn’t a particularly expensive one but it went with lots of things so it was really handy. I was chatting to one of the school mums on the way to school who had just done a jewellery course and was making recycled jewellery (umberfox.co.uk) out of glass. I gave her two of my necklaces that had broken and hey presto within a week I am back wearing them. Result!





My day of shopping

Since starting our year we have often been asked “What exactly are you buying now?” “What is different?” So this blog is trying to explain where we are up to – we are not totally there yet – wherever there is! Mark keeps complaining the fridge is empty and it is definitely emptier from the unsustainable days but we are not starving for sure!

On Wednesday I had the day off work and started in Plympton at the health food shop where I bought some spices (in a cardboard box), teabags and essential oils to make my laundry smell nice as the Ecoegg cleans well but you don’t always get a fresh smell and people suggest lavender oil to add the smell! I then went next door to Gribbles for my meat box all in paper bags (see previous blog).

Next I went  into the city centre, about 4 miles away, to the ethical superstore for a refill of my washing up liquid (see photo) and some Eco dishwasher tablets. I could have bought more from this shop but it is quite pricey as it is all vegan so I went to Morrisions on the way home after a quick trip to Wilkos for toothpaste.

This was my first trip to a large supermarket in about two months and it felt like I had been on holiday to a different country and just come back with a new set of eyes – all I could see was fruit and veg in plastic bags everywhere! I bought some wholegrain flour and some white bread flour for our breadmaking and some tins of tomatoes and beans along with some sauces like sweet chili and salad dressing. I also bought some cheese sauce granules – I know I could make it myself but….

Whilst I was out shopping our fruit, veg and eggs were delivered so at least when Mark came home the fridge was full.

Summary – My day of shopping took about 4 hours, I went to five different shops and drove about 8 miles. I tried hard to get things that were sustainable, local and responsibly packaged. I had some lovely chats in three of the shops and a cup of coffee on the way – all in all I enjoyed it!

Our local butchers has gone back to paper.

A lovely visit to our local butcher today and so pleased as they have gone back to greaseproof paper and paper bags! It is fantastic and shows that it can be done. Both Craig and Maria (pictured) who run Plympton Gribbles are really enthusiastic and although it take a little longer they say all their customers are very happy including me.


Go Gribbles – local meat in paper bags – what could be more sustainable!




Welcome to our new residents – William and friends

Today we welcomed William, Wilhema, Wanda, Woody and friends to our family – we have built them their own wing in an attractive recycled plastic box in a sheltered corner of the garden. Guessed what it is yet? – a wormery!! Yes we bought it new (I know!) but we couldn’t face making our own as we are wormery novices and a little scared of them too. Apparently my friend said that getting all your food waste out of the rubbish is one of the biggest things you can do for your carbon footprint so here goes.

Please note the pink flower I gave them to brighthen up their new home – just off to have a brew with our new residents – yum – wormy tea!

Are you really going to…..

As you may know if you are from Plymouth this blog is being featured in our local newspaper every couple of weeks. The editor has asked us to respond to the questions people are asking us about our journey so here goes…..

Why bother – it is the responsibility of the big companies surely?

This is the biggest question I get asked, mostly with a sceptical smile. My response is quite simple, we all have a responsibility for our children and grandchildren, I explain our original carbon foot print score originally at 95% and that the changes we have made have not been difficult in the most part and simple changes can make a big impact, such as changing from shower gel in a plastic bottle to soap in a cardboard box, or milk in a glass bottle, Jane walking to work instead of the car. The harder challenge is no long haul flights for a holiday aboard, we will see what we can do on this in another blog.

I am also asked about whether all those deliveries to home. I usually answer that all deliveries are local and the more people that use the same service will mean the impact on each individual is reduced, so a home delivery will produce in the region of 1.35kg of carbon, Where as a HGV travelling from a depot in Avonmouth and delivering to a supermarket in Plymouth will produce in the region of 357kg of carbon. If enough of use use the locally sourced products and not using the supermarket even taking one HGV off the road, the carbon saving will be massive.

Are you really not going to supermarkets?

When we started this journey on January 1st 2018 we really thought we could live without going to a supermarket and up to now we haven’t done a big supermarket shop like we used to in the good old days. Previously we went to Sainsburys or Morrsions after work, had our tea (dinner) in the cafe and then spent about £75 on a weekly shop depending on the week of the month ie. how close to payday.

Nowadays we manage to get fruit, veg, milk, eggs and fish delivered and we have done a bulk buy for cat food and toilet rolls on line and had them delivered. We have started to make our own bread in our 2nd hand bread maker and have bought meat once a month in a meat box for £50. This leaves us needing dairy items like cheese, yoghurt, pasta, cereals, flour and chocolate and wine ( both very important). We have got some of this from the Zero Waste shop in Totnes but it doesn’t last very long so we have been going to our small Co-op with fairtrade products near our house – less than a minute way.

So our main aim was to break the habit of the large supermarket shop we used to do which reduces our spend a bit and helps us focus on eating what we have already got to reduce our waste but most importantly ensures we are sourcing our food locally as much as we can therefore reducing our carbon footprint.

You must be saving loads of money?

Sort of. This is one of the areas that interests us most as sustainable living for us isn’t stepping out of normal life and becoming the new “Barbara and Tom” from the Good Life. We want to reduce our consumption – in the West we are consuming three times more than we need in terms of food, goods and natural resources. If we carry on at this rate of consumption there will be nothing left for our grandchildren. By reducing our consumption such as not buying new clothes, new goods and locally sourcing food we are saving money because we are “making do” – we are content with what we have.

We are trying not to get philosophical but it is not to on this subject! So really we are saving a lot of money because we are just not buying new things however we are paying more for the things we do buy like milk and organic veg. We think on balance sustainable living is cheaper but it is a whole mindshift to get there!


Please tell me this tastes better than it looks!

I am not sure if this is a joke – is this brown ball thing actually a vegetable? It looks like a alien’s brain – surely it has got to taste better than it looks – help us with some ideas! Also our oranges have shrunk….I think fruit and veg knowledge is clearly lacking. 20180307_175642361069429.jpg