That’s the thing about sustainability, it’s just so darn nice to look at. Alternatives to plastic are usually far more beautiful as well as kinder to the pocket and the environment. According to the Greenpeace Energy desk news, the UK government quietly reduced recycling targets for plastics last year- meaning that even more plastic is finding its way in to landfill.
Concern over plastic in our food is highlighted in the BBC’s ‘Trust Me I’m A Doctor ‘ – in the programme scientists drew attention to how plastic leeches into our food and disrupts our endocrine system, or in other words, our hormones. These disruptions can cause cancerous tumors, birth defects, and other developmental disorders. The episode particularly drew attention to the need for pregnant women to be careful about eating food wrapped in plastic.
A great start to reducing plastics at home begins with swapping your single use items for their more beautiful alternatives:
Bamboo toothbrushes ( available from here), baking soda, body lotion ( made by the lovely Clare) and crocheted cotton rounds.
Cloth napkins, tea towels, knitted dishcloths and cotton food covers.
gorgeous bamboo sanitary towels, made in the UK from recycled fabric
Soft, laundered vintage handkerchiefs
Air fresheners and medicine cabinet.
These lovely items enhance our home environment and ensure that no waste is generated. If properly cared for, these items should serve us for many years to come ( and personally they just make me smile every time I use them).
There is something about a day out which begins with a train journey which turns the whole event into something out of an Enid Blyton story, (you can almost taste the potted meat sandwiches and lashings of ginger beer). Travel by locomotive features regularly in the best fiction- Harry Potter’s journey to Hogwarts, evacuation at the beginning of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe and the elegant and exotic scenery in Murder On The Orient Express.
Travelling to Ulverston via Arnside you experience stunning vistas from your seat in the carriage as the train goes over two lengthy viaducts. It gives you the sensation of floating over the sea- the route is truly spectacular.
Ulverston itself was a Georgian marvel, packed full of independent shops and peppered with fantastic architecture.
Travel with a toddler ensures that our progress is slow, regular pauses enable us to savour our surroundings and appreciate the smallest details. He approaches everything with enthusiasm, willingness to learn and a zest for living. He’s an inspiration to us all and a seasoned traveler who, like Poirot himself, insists on regular stops for rest ( a wonderful stop at the converted water tower- Bikestation– a marvellous fusion of bike repair shop and cafe), impeccably punctual mealtimes with only the best local offerings ( today care of the inestimable Poppies cafe). What a privilege to travel with him, CC and my father today!
Where dips the rocky highland
Of Sleuth Wood in the lake,There lies a leafy island
Where flapping herons wake
The drowsy water rats;
There we’ve hid our faery vats,
Full of berrys
And of reddest stolen cherries.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.
It’s been a week of contrasts. Reading the brave words of Tina Rothery as she recounts the days spent fighting energy giant Cuadrilla makes me feel so very sad and proud in equal measure. The brave team of people who are slow walking the trucks in an effort to save our water and air are heroes observed by many in Lancashire; as a mum of a small child, it wouldn’t be safe for us to be there during the week, but we can show our support on Solidarity Saturdays.
As activists we need to continue to thrive, take time for ourselves against the seemingly endless onslaught of bad news. We need to make sure that our families engage with nature and learn those precious lessons that only being outside shows us. After all, it is our love of the natural world that will save us, we only protect and cherish what we know and love. Being outside is so very good for our physical and mental well being and reminds us all of what is at stake.
Time spent nourishing our minds and bodies strengthens us and makes us more effective.
Today we spent time in the woods and baked a nourishing loaf. All my love to the activists in the world today, wherever you are. XXX
Raisin Bran Loaf
In a large bowl mix together;
1 cup sugar
1 cup of sultanas ( or any dried fruit such as dates)
1 cup of bran fibre (all bran)
1 cup of milk ( soya or cows milk work equally well)
Soak for one hour.
Add 1 cup of sr flour and a teaspoon of mixed spice.
Bake in the oven at around 160C for about 1 1/2 hours.
Firstly a confession, I have been getting it wrong, very wrong in fact. Expending energies on taking glass containers to the shop,buying second hand, eating mostly vegetables…..seeing my part in the fight for the planet as one which could be fought within the boundaries of my own home, within my own village. I’ve changed my mind…
These actions in themselves are not wasted, they have sparked an interest in the health of our communities and environment, the health of our families and societies and the health of our natural world. Like many environmentalists before me, my journey began with re-cycling and continues with taking action against the giant corporation which is trying to store gas underneath my village, campaigning vocally on blockades and joining in with demonstrations.
However, if we are to make an impact on the health of the planet and our communities we must act TOGETHER, our belief that the environment can be fixed by personal solutions is a fallacy, only collective action will bring about the titanic changes which are needed to save us from annihilation.
A deliberate, systemic message has pushed the need for solutions onto the individual consumer, thus placing the onus on personal consumption and deliberately hiding the much greater impact of corporations and the consumer economy of growth at any price. In his article ‘Forget Shorter Showers’, Derrick Jensen explains how we have been subjected to a ‘campaign of systematic misdirection’- consumer culture has taught us to substitute personal lifestyle choices for organised resistance’ . Explaining further, he uses the example of water consumption in the USA; as individuals we are encouraged to think that taking shorter showers will fix the world’s water and energy problems, but since only 10% of water use is domestic, this is a deliberate ploy to hide the 90% used by agriculture, the military and industry. In another example he explains that of the waste produced, only 3% is actually domestic- so that even if everybody turned Zero Waste overnight, we would still only be reducing our waste by 3%.
Jensen states that if everyone were to follow every single suggestion cited in ‘An Inconvenient Truth’, it would only account for a 22% fall in carbon emissions. Scientific consensus is that emissions need to fall by at least 75% worldwide if we are to save the world in which we live.
Collective resistance is the only answer, we must get together to force our governments to act now. We must join together with as many others as possible to ensure that we save our planet from the selfish few who would seek to annihilate us for the sake of greed and profit.
I believe the capacity for action lies in all of us. I believe that even amongst those who say that they are looking for a ‘quiet life’ a strengthening voice is crying for the need for change. We feel it to our very core, something is very, very wrong with a society which sits back and watches while our Earth is destroyed for the sake of profit and power. I urge you to make that small change today- join in and fight for what matters most- our families and our environment.
Children with too many toys struggle to focus properly and fail to gain meaningful experiences through play.
Our son turns one next month and we have made a special effort to limit the number of presents he is given this year. We have requested that people do not buy him gifts, asking friends and family to join us for a small celebration instead. Many studies have shown that a child who has far fewer toys experiences more enjoyment from them and will take far better care of their belongings.
Professor Kathy Sylvya of Oxford University writes about the harmful effects on concentration in a study of 3000 three to four year olds, her research showed a link between greater development of perseverance and intellect when children had fewer, well chosen toys and parents who spent time reading, singing and playing with them. Her research shows that giving children too many toys or the ‘wrong’ toys may actually be harming their development. She suggests a ‘distractive element’ in some toys may lead to children to struggle to focus and subsequently play and learn poorly.
Family homes also benefit from far fewer toys. We have a small basket in our living room with some simple wooden blocks, board and fabric books and a puppet. These toys are brought out when we play together with our baby and tidied away in the evening when it is time for bed. The adults in the house gain a restful living space, free of visual distraction and our son learns to take care of his special things. In his bedroom he has a compact shelving unit with some special toys for now and later on as he develops, wooden toy vehicles, a few books, some gorgeous hand made toys and a small selection of music making toys. Like any other family, these toys use used throughout the house and garden during the day, but are carefully returned to their designated place at night. The result is a restful home, pleasant for the whole family.
It isn’t easy to achieve this, reminding well-meaning friends and relatives that you place more value in experiences and time spent is difficult. In our cash rich-time poor society it is so much easier to purchase a gift than to consider something that may add more meaning and value to a child’s life.
Next time you need to express your love why not consider the following ways to enjoy your time together?
A special day out -a picnic in the park,visit to a nature reserve or a trip at the beach?
An hour or two teaching a new skill-Spend some time baking scones, making pizzas or kneading bread together and treat yourselves to a cream tea at the end. Build something together such as a cardboard car or fort, defend it from invading armies and retreat for essential ’emergency’ supplies.
A special experience– a treasure hunt or scavenger hunt in the park or garden, a visit to see a seasonal display such as a bluebell wood or falling leaves in Autumn or exploring a castle or stately home.
A special journey – a trip on a steam railway, a seaside tram or funicular or a bicycle ride.
The memories of these special times will last a lifetime and are far more likely to be enjoyable and developmentally beneficial to our children.
Please share your stories and ideas, have you managed to make a birthday extra special ? We would love to hear from you.
Living with fewer possessions brings benefits to both our mental and physical health.
I lived in North America for five years, working as a nanny for a wealthy family. The house in which we lived was several thousand square feet and required many staff to maintain and clean; a housekeeper, cleaners, handyman, deep-clean teams, teams to clean the chandeliers, plant maintenance, pool maintenance, car ‘detailer’, gardeners- a seemingly endless stream of people coming and going from the house. Living there certainly crystallised my ideas on living in large homes, it wasn’t for me.
When my husband and I moved to the UK we lived in a small apartment (furnished with the obligatory van load of Swedish flat-packed furniture). It took mere minutes to clean, a quick sweep with the hoover, a scrub of the bathroom and a light dust took a fraction of our time. It cost us little to maintain and insure and we were able to work on a self employed basis with no fear that we would struggle to meet our living costs. As we stayed longer, our landlady requested a rent rise and, after seeing her drive up in a brand new Audi, we decided that it was time to invest in a home of our own.
We learned a lot of lessons in our first year of home ownership; maintaining a hundred year old house took a lot of money, especially when its former owners had resorted to the cheapest fixtures and fittings. Our aspirations of a beautifully decorated interior were soon drowned in the reality of the expense involved in rewiring old sockets, supporting Victorian chimneys (where former owners had ripped out fireplaces) and generally keeping things in working condition. Home ownership was an expensive and time consuming business.
We learned that decorating took a lot of time and effort and rarely transformed our rooms in the way we had envisioned. As with any older house , one job would inevitably throw up other problems to resolve, plaster falling off stripped walls, floorboards butchered by 100 years worth of plumbing and wiring. Gradually we sold our modern flat-pack furniture on ebay and replaced it with much less expensive second hand furniture which seemed more suitable for our older home.
When our baby boy arrived last year we prepared a new room for him to grow into, changing the large double for a day bed and providing shelves for toys and books. Decorating the room took the form of new cushions and bunting attached to the cornice as well as a few simple toys ready for him to use and enjoy.
Nothing prepares you for life with a baby and just how much time is spent caring for them and interacting with them. Our days became very full and chores such as hoovering, dusting and laundry were tackled at speed. We began to resent chores which seemed to be unnecessarily time consuming such as dusting all of the china on our welsh dresser and moving multiple items to dust and vacuum around them. The house, which had once felt so cosy and homely, now felt like a large obstacle course, full of items which were adding an inordinate amount of time to our daily routine. Added to this, there seemed to be a constant influx of toys and equipment for baby and, despite our best efforts, these seemed to multiply daily.
Around this time I started to read and follow some simple living blogs and podcasts, convinced that there had to be a easier way of life. Gradually we de-cluttered pieces of furniture, clothes, books and ornaments, selling or donating them to charity. I sold more than half of the clothes I owned and got rid of a triple wardrobe. I sold all of the china on our Welsh dresser and gave away the top half of the dresser, leaving only the cupboard at the bottom. As each item left our home, the effect was instant, the atmosphere seemed calmer, the air fresher and my mood lighter. I found time to garden and read again, activities which I had previously had no time for.
Items which we sold or donated helped to give us more money towards our holiday in Wales and numerous trips out with our baby boy. As we carved more and more space for our family in our home we felt better and better about ourselves and our house.
As we gradually got rid of possessions which were no longer adding any value to our lives we felt better and better and found more and more items to pass on, de-cluttering becomes quite addictive. Stuff which had sat idle for years will now hopefully be used by its new owners. Resources which would have been used to produce new versions of what we sold and donated will now not need to be extracted and precious energy will not be needed in their manufacture.Most importantly, we now are firmly determined that no more items will enter our home unless they are absolutely essential.
During our recent holiday in Wales we were determined to pack very lightly, just two outfits each ( we had access to laundry ) and two books and a set of blocks for our baby boy. We loved how freeing it felt and how simple it was to pack and transport our luggage. Packing has now become a challenge which we relish, we are determined to pack only carry-on when we visit Canada this summer and, thanks to friends of ours who have generously offered to loan us baby equipment, I think we will manage it. I certainly look forward to a simpler summer.