5 year fashion rule?
It’s absolutely clear that we’ve got to shift to quality not quantity. It’s going to be an upheaval for the fashion industry that is built on making you think that last year’s clothes are passé, but next time you’re clothes shopping why not look for something that will last in terms of looks, fabric and construction. If it seems too expensive, try dividing the price by the number of years you think it could last you. Is a 5 year rule too ambitious? Or nowhere near ambitious enough?
Are you hot in the mornings?
As well as throwing on a jumper, turning down the radiator in unused rooms, and tuning your heating timer, it’s worth checking whether you need as much heat in the mornings as you do in the evenings. If you’re more active first thing, or just getting ready to go out, you might find that you can set your morning heating a degree or two cooler than your evenings. It might even help you start your day with a clear, cool head.
Best sustainable fabrics?
Can anyone help on this one? We know that cotton uses vast amounts of water and pesticides in its production, even organic cotton uses lots of water. So can petrochemical fabrics ever be environmentally better? Some artificial fabrics are very long lasting and dry fast saving energy on clothes drying. Anyone know the answer?
As the ultimate low carbon leisure activity and all round aid to good physical and mental health getting into walking is a no brainer. If you like walking on your own or with the dog you’re probably already doing it, but if you need a bit of socialising as an incentive, a quick online search for walking groups in the UK throws up the British Heart Foundation, the nationwide organisation Walking for health, and of course, the Ramblers with groups all over the country. If you search for local walking groups you’ll probably find groups for young people, old people, single people, speed walkers, slow walkers, long distance walkers, dog walkers… anybody really.
Build a green team
Get together a green team, from cleaner to CEO, to start reducing the environmental impact of the workplace and making it a less wasteful, healthier, more productive environment. Don’t be shy, you can’t do it alone, and this is vital stuff. Let’s face it, no-one is going to say, “Oh no. I think we should be more wasteful and less productive and less healthy”. Give it a kick start by meeting after work. The quotes on the Living Greener Home Page are pretty good for motivation!
car free days challenge
For those who like a challenge and a reward… draw up a car-free calendar with tick boxes (or gold stars) for the day of the week. Give yourself a tick/star for each day you leave the car unused. Start by using the car as you always have done and see how many car free days a week you average. Then set a realistic target for the number of car free days you might achieve by replacing car trips with walking, cycling, training or busing. Hit or beat your target and give yourself a prize.
Cold is cool
How often do you turn on the hot tap to wash your hands, start when the water is running cold and finish before the hot water comes through? All that hot water in the pipes on its way to you is just wasted. So why not use the cold tap instead? Your hands will be just as clean and you’ve cut your carbon emissions. Simple.
cut pointless plastic
Here’s a challenge – Collect all your plastic wrapping and bags and plastic bottles for a week and weigh them before you recycle them. Then set yourself a challenge to cut down on that weight each week and let us know how it goes.
Cycle into the sunset
Once you’ve started using the bike more instead of the car you’ll find that you’re getting fitter and that the cycling becomes easier and maybe even a pleasure! We have a good friend who took that route, and now cycling is one of her main social, leisure and holiday activities. And of course, once you start cycling for pleasure, the cycling to get around the place becomes even easier. So if you fancy cycling off into the sunset here’s a link to Cycling UK to help find out about your local cycling groups.
Don’t get stuck in the jam
Sitting in a traffic jam with the engine running, stopping and starting, and getting nowhere fast sends your blood pressure and your fuel consumption (ie carbon emissions) sky high. It’s crazy. So if you can’t walk or cycle or take the bus, tram or train, try to plan your car journeys for times when the roads are quietest (not always easy, I know).
Don’t be a Bigfoot
It’s not complicated… accelerate gently, brake gently, coast when you can. It’s astonishing how much that can improve your car’s fuel consumption. There’s a word for it, hypermiling, that weirdly came from the US NASCAR scene which involves driving stock cars very fast in circles round a track. It’s not a sport known for its eco credentials, but they found that if they cut their fuel consumption when possible they can miss out time-wasting refuelling stops and win races.
Don’t put up with a drip
A dripping tap can waste up to 5,000 litres of water every year. Fixing a dripping tap is usually as simple as replacing a tap washer. The best time to fix a dripping tap is now!
Get comfy in your jumper
When we were first able to heat our houses to the point where we could wear shirt sleeves in mid winter it was a sign of growing 20th Century affluence, or in retrospect, decadence. Now that we know the environmental cost of wasted energy we need to rethink. Why not put on your favourite jumper with your heating at its normal level and see how hot you get? Then turn the heating down till you’re comfy in your jumper. You might find you don’t need your home as hot as you thought. Brindley is modelling an upcycled late 20th century M+S chunky knit and is very comfy in his (my) jumper.
get the bike gear
Whether you’re using a bike for work, play or just getting around, the right clothes can make the difference between being dry, safe and happy or giving up. I know it puts up the cost, but a helmet is a must (floppy ears optional) and please do get a bright reflective waterproof jacket or over vest and some decent lights. It’s a bit of a hobby horse of mine, but I just think that people on bikes wearing dark clothes with no lights must have a death wish. You can also get some semi-smart trousers and jackets that are water resistant and look good and will shake off all but the heaviest shower. A friend of mine says, there’s no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing. So let’s get appropriate!
Google a bus
There was time when the challenge of finding the right bus or even the bus stop to get you where you wanted, and then working out the timetable, might have put you off using public transport altogether, but those days are gone thanks to Google maps on your phone. If you haven’t tried it, just put in your destination and it will give you a route to the bus stop, bus numbers, connections, and times… everything you need everywhere in the world. It’s a green gift.
Group your trips
If a lot of your car use is for short journeys on errands, school runs, dog walks and shopping trips, do a bit of planning and group the trips together so that you can cut the to and fro and take the car out once instead of lots of times. Works well with the car-free days challenge.
Have a seasonal Sunday
Why not make your Sunday special with a meal based on fresh, seasonal food. We think this seasonal food calendar from the BBC is brilliant. Not only does it automatically highlight the current time of year to show you what’s in season now, it also has links to seasonal recipes in case you’re short of ideas or want to try something new. And I’ve just come across the excellent Eat the Seasons website, which is full of great info and suggests a new seasonal food each week.
Bookmark them, try them out and let us know what seasonal dishes you’ve tried.
join a choir
Whatever your age or ability, and whether you’re into folk, jazz, gospel, classical, pop or show tunes, there’s a choir out there for you. Singing in a choir ticks all the well-being boxes. It’s sociable, creative, challenging, and great for the breathing, and if you can get there on foot or bike or bus or train it’s low carbon too. If you’ve ever wondered whether you might enjoy it, now’s the time to give it a go.
Keep a bag stash
Along with your re-useable shopping bags take a stash of small reused plastic or paper bags when you go shopping to put loose fruit and veg in. That way you can pick the very best produce and avoid the stuff prepackaged in pointless single-use plastic. Why not tell your shop-keeper how much you appreciate them stocking loose produce, or, if they don’t, talk to them about why prepackaged produce works better for them and whether they have plans to change. Talking about green stuff is always good.
learn a new (carbon-cutting) skill
Going to a class to learn new practical skills combines so many of the things we know contribute to health and happiness; physical and mental activity, challenge and personal growth, and doing something sociable. So why not learn some skills that will also cut your Carbon footprint? Furniture repair techniques, clothes making, fashion up-cycling, vegetarian cookery. Let us know what you’ve tried.
Find Courses UK is worth a browse and links to courses all over the country, or just search for Adult Education near you.
New research from the Institute for the Blindingly Obvious shows that leaving 10 minutes earlier means that you can drive less frantically, more fuel efficiently and arrive relaxed and on time. (For those genetically incapable of leaving early we suggest simply planning to arrive everywhere 10 minutes late…it has the same fuel efficiency benefits.)
Make your bath a treat
One bath can use over 80 litres of water, compared to an efficient, 4 minute shower using under 30 litres. So why not keep clean with showers and make a date for an indulgent soak (solo or shared)? By heating less water, you can save on your energy bills too.
But remember, power showers are the SUVs of the water world. They can use even more water than a bath.
No more parking nightmares
Avoid the hideous hunt for a parking space. I remember with a groan the daily competition for on-street parking when I used to drive to work. Hunting the space could add 20 minutes to the commute and leave me with another 10 minute walk. That was enough to miss the meeting and raise the blood pressure before I’d even arrived. So swapping the car for a greener commute would certainly have some advantages!
Pack it or rack it
Why not get a folding bike or sort out a bike rack for work? We got a second-hand Brompton folding bike recently, and we love it. It packs up really small, is fun to ride, and fits on a train or by a desk if your commute or work travel is over a longer distance. For fixed frame bikes, having a workplace bike rack is a good step towards Cycle Friendly Employer accreditation and encourages more people to cycle. There’s even a growing trend to make space for indoor office bike racks. If you can hang your coat, you can hang your bike… maybe!
Plan a planty party
Since we’ve got to shift over to eating less meat and more plants, doing it with friends seems a good sociable start. Why not invite/challenge your friends to bring a plant based dish to share? It should be intereesting to hear what people find easy/difficult/surprising/impossible and hopefully you’ll all get some new ideas.
Here are 33 vegetable based dinner party dishes from my go-to BBC Good Food. I’m quite fancying the Vegan Pie, but can’t find find a good source of fresh vegans.
Pump it up
If your tyres are flatter than they should be there’s more of them touching the road surface, so your engine has to work harder against the friction of tyre on tarmac. Check them regularly to make sure they’re at the right pressure for the best fuel consumption. It really does make a difference. Here’s a pressure gauge if you can’t face queuing at the garage air pump. There are loads of similar things available.
Shut that door!
If you close the doors of rooms you don’t use so often you can turn down the radiator thermostats without reducing the temperature of your main rooms. It all saves money and energy. Chains and padlocks may be excessive though.
Slow the flow
Replace your standard 15 litres per minute shower head with a low flow model. This Mira model is 8 litres per min. This Flowpoint one too. This Kiri Satinhead shower head is a very low 5.7 Litres per minute.
Or, if you are particularly attached to your current shower head, you can reduce your shower’s flow rate by adding a shower flow regulator which you can get free through your local water company in many parts of the UK.
In our shower you can just turn down the flow without it running cold, which is Sue’s preference.
start a repair shop
We know that we’ve got to ditch the throw-away culture and that repairing stuff is the answer. Out there there are people who have amazing abilities and experience of fixing things and making them work. But how do we find them? If you know people like that, or you are one, why not organise and publicise a local repair group? It could either be in a physical space which would make it easy for people to bring things along, or an online group that puts people with broken things in touch with menders. Let us know how it goes and share any lessons you learn with others on Living Greener who might want to do the same.
stay under the limit
Speed limits make driving (and walking and cycling) safer, but they also make it greener. Accelerating and braking gently so that you stay at or below the speed limit takes the stress out of driving and cuts fuel consumption.
Take a 4 minute shower
Cut the amount of time you run the water in the shower. You can turn it off while you soap up, or just get focused on the matter in hand. I favour keeping track of time by singing along with Bob Marley’s One Love (3 minutes 42 seconds) which leaves me 18 seconds to rinse. If you prefer it, here’s a waterproof 4 minute shower timer. It’s green (which we like!) but other colours are available
Take the plunge
Walk, bike, bus or train to the local pool and you are heading for some serious low carbon exercise with the added challenge of improving your swimming, or in my case, staying afloat! Can’t get there without a car? Why not arrange a regular car pooling pool session. The swimming.org website is full of info on lessons, clubs, local pools etc.
By turning off the tap while brushing your teeth, washing your hands or shaving, you can save over 5 litres of water every minute. Over a year, that’s a saving of around 4,000 litres.
train travel made easy
In 2001 former British Rail Station Manager, Mark Smith, set up a website as a hobby to help people plan train journeys across Europe. It’s now an award-winning site called the man in seat 61 and it’s a great resource if you’re looking for alternatives to flying. Here’s what the man himself says. ”The site aims to inspire people to do something more rewarding with their travel opportunities than schlepping to an airport, getting on a soulless airliner and missing all the world has to offer. It then sets out to enable people to take train or ferry by giving the confidence and know-how to book their trip themselves, or call the right people to book it for them at affordable prices.”
It’s really worth a look
Try non-dairy milk
I was really anti the idea of non-dairy milks (past traumas with soya milk in tea), but I realised that my breakfast cereal had lots of nuts in it anyway so I thought I’d give it a go with almond milk. Actually I liked it from the outset and now cows’ milk tastes too fatty and heavy. I’ve even been brave with almond milk in tea and in rich teas it seems fine. We’ve also used it in white sauces and they’ve been fine, so this feels like something that could develop.
Tune your heating timer
If you use a heating timer, try starting it half an hour later in the mornings and turning it off half an hour earlier. See if you notice a difference. If not to, try another half hour, or a quarter of an hour. The same in the evenings…. you don’t need it on all the way to bed time because your nicely warmed house will hold its heat for a good while after the heating goes off. If you can shave off 2 hours a day that’s 60 hours a month or roughly 360 hours over a winter. Equivalent to more than a fortnight of constant heating! Why would you heat your house for a fortnight if you don’t need it?
Wash in a vegeta-bowl
Use a bowl for washing vegetables. Washing your veg under running water can use up to 20 litres every minute, so use a bowl when washing and preparing your vegetables, or doing the washing up. You can use the leftover water to water plants or rinse out your cans and glass jars ready for recycling.