Archive for May, 2007

Shopping trip

Usually, when I go shopping I find myself endless repeating the phrase, ‘no, it’s all right, I don’t want a bag… no, I’ve got my own… yes, I’m quite sure, thank you’. Today, the guy who served me in Sainsbury’s didn’t flinch when I got out my massive black cloth bag and even said, approvingly, ‘good for you’. He was also very friendly and polite and asked me all about my exams and my course. It made me very happy, so I mad a point of saying how lovely it was to talk to him. I wish all shop assistants could be like that.

Then, I went to Whittard’s. I noticed they’ve started selling tea in old-fashioned tins. The greenie in me got massively overexcited, and I spent ages wrestling with my conscience over whether to buy those or the cardboard boxes: Well, I could compost or recycle cardboard… if I had a compost heap or if the council would recycle it… Is it more energy effecient to make cardboard or metal packaging? I wonder whether the plastic seal over the tins is bigger than the plastic bag inside the cardboard boxes… I could reuse the tins… But what for?

Does anyone else spend ages deliberating things like this in shops? I always feel ridiculous!!! I blame working in the farm shop – I am physically incapable of buying anything without thinking about where it came from and what’s going to happen to the waste. Anyway, the tea deal was eventually clinched by the fact that they didn’t have Moroccan Mint or Kenyan leaf teas in the tins.

Mmmmm, tea.

M&S still haven’t asked me if I want a bag. Despite all the signs. They also haven’t replied to my email asking about their new ‘Farm Assurance’ scheme for milk. Sounds like an excellent idea, but I can’t find out how it works, or if it applies to the other dairy produce in store. Tut tut.

May 26, 2007 at 9:01 pm Leave a comment

Cause of Global Warming Revealed!

May 25, 2007 at 7:29 am Leave a comment

In praise of tea tree oil

Tea tree oil is fantastic. Not only has gargling with it been good for my sore throat (WHY did I get ill just as finals started??), but it’s also cleared up a long-standing problem! (Touch wood.) I had an accident when I was really small and had stitches in my nose, and recently I’ve been getting a lot of pain and itchiness and occasional bleeding around the scar tissue. (Sorry if that’s too much information.) Anyway, I went to see my GP and got referred to a consultant and she said ‘oh, it’s just an slight inflammation, go home and put Vaseline on it’.

Now, I’ve been putting Vaseline on it for about 9 months, and while it’s quite soothing, it hasn’t actually cleared up the problem. In sheer desperation last week, I used some tea tree oil. It stung rather, but after a few days, my nose feels like a normal person’s nose! Hurrah!

So, petroleum = bad.

Things from trees = good.

Things from trees coming from Australia = less good.

May 24, 2007 at 8:52 pm Leave a comment

One hour no power

Just found out about this initiative through self-sufficientish. Basically, you’re supposed to turn off everything (non-essential) for one hour at midday on July 1st: cars, television, computer, radio etc. It isn’t a power-saving exercise, but more “a symbolic hour in which to switch off from the modern world and look at our everyday lives, to see how we can make some long-term changes that will help our planet”.

Suggestions for things to do with your hour include:

  • Spend some quality time with family and friends.
  • Hold a sponsored event for your favourite environmental group.
  • Take to the roads on your bike, board, blades.
  • Hug a tree (while stocks last).
  • Hug a cynic (there’ll be no shortage of these).
  • Write down your personal green action plan for the coming year.
  • Find a quiet spot and savour the peace.
  • Hold a John and Yoko style love-in.
  • Wear something green.
  • Wear your recycled, home-made One Hour No Power T-shirt in public.
  • Get some friends together, find some musical instruments and make acoustic music.
  • Get a neighbourhood party going.
  • Read a book in the park.
  • Plant a tree or flower.
  • Make a costume and donate it to an aspiring Real Life Superhero.
  • Do some philosophical work on your inner-self.
  • Paint or draw.
  • Play board games.
  • Start a conversation with someone new.
  • Write a letter to someone and mail it.
  • See if you can stretch it to two hours.

May 20, 2007 at 12:26 pm Leave a comment

Article on global warming

Absolutely terrifying

Interesting article about the effects of the temperature rising by different amounts. Rather worrying, and a bit heavy on the science (I have a terrible habit of tuning out when anyone starts mentioning science) but makes it clear what exactly climate change will entail, with different scenarios, etc. i.e. Home Counties’ climate being like Marrakech is atm! I can’t deal with the summer in Surrey as it is, and have threatened my parents with going home, if it’s as hot down south as it was last year. Don’t get me wrong, I like the summer, but I like being able to go outside and do things when the weather is nice, rather than have to sit around feeling all floppy.

Hopefully articles like this and the climate map I posted a while back offer a more ‘tangible’ way of thinking about the effects of climate change. ‘It’s going to be like this! Pay attention!’ Makes you wonder why governments and so many people don’t seem to be taking it very seriously, though…

May 19, 2007 at 4:44 pm Leave a comment

Alcohol

This is where greenness and student life come together! I am making rhubarb schnapps. Which means I have an extremely dodgy-looking tupperware full of pink liquid and bits of rhubarb under my bed, which makes a wonderful fizzing sound every time I shake it. It already smells and tastes so good. Can’t wait till it’s ready in 5 weeks!

May 19, 2007 at 3:46 pm Leave a comment

Talking vegetables!

May 15, 2007 at 6:07 pm Leave a comment

Scary climate change map


Europe in 2071, from The Guardian.

And this is how they worked it out.

May 15, 2007 at 9:30 am Leave a comment

Skills for a post oil world…

Well, if the fabric of society broke down tomorrow and we all had to go self-sufficient, in all honesty I probably wouldn’t survive that long, but at least nobody close to me would go short of scarves. This is new project, a skinny scarf, which, if it’s good enough, will go to my best friend for her birthday. I am going to make it incredibly, incredibly long and put tassels on it (if I can work out how).

I stumbled on an old thread on the INEBG forum last night, about what you would do if the worst happened: if bird flu mutated, if we hit peak oil and the international supply chain breaks down, if global warming makes food and water scarce… What will we do? Will we all go feral and start looting shops? Will we turn on each other? Will people retreat to the hills with some cans of baked beans and a gun? People are so dependent in terms of food, water, energy and other general stuff. How many people would know how to grow vegetables if they couldn’t buy them in the supermarkets? How many people can make a fire? How many people can light a fire without matches? How many people could go and kill a rabbit or a pheasant for dinner?

I can:

  • wash clothes by hand, and pretty well at that
  • be extremely frugal with water
  • knit
  • mend a few things (can’t darn though)
  • keep plants alive and healthy
  • some basic herbalism
  • basic first aid
  • cook resourcefully
  • make a fire (though not light it without matches)

So, no, I wouldn’t be able to cope unless I had a supply of soap, wool, probably other fabric, and, if it happened tomorrow, food. Also, wood, for the fire.

I don’t really worry about these things that much. I did read ‘The Great Mortality’ over Easter, a fantastic book about the Black Death by John Kelly, and I realised that the social conditions and changes that allowed the disease to spread so fast back then are very similar to today’s, so I am a bit concerned, on that basis, that if bird flu mutates, well… we’ll be screwed. Then again, I’m not going to start planning my life around it, although I suppose there are those who would have a similar attitude towards my saying that, as I have towards global warming sceptics. I could start hoarding things in cans, but I’d rather develop the skills to be able to manage long-term on my own, or with a small group of people.

I suppose part of my ‘greenness’ is the idea that I would like to be able to look after myself (and any potential children) if the worst happened, and I suppose it is a ‘rejection’ of some of society’s values: I don’t want to work flat out to buy things to make up to myself for all the time I spend working… In some ways, it’s just a different way of perceiving a crisis on the horizon and planning for it.

Yet, that isn’t the main reason I do this, whatever ‘this’ is. Even if we weren’t already seeing the effects of climate change, even if we weren’t about to run out of oil and landfill space, I still believe we have a responsibility to use resources sensitively. Also, I enjoy cooking, I enjoy growing things and I enjoy crafts, and I prefer growing vegetables to flowers, and making useful things instead of endless cross stitch bookmarks. It is a commitment to a simpler way of living, better for the earth, individuals and societies. I’m lucky it coincides with my interests. But then, when I was a teenager I used to like eating microwave meals instead of home-made food, I used to buy cheap clothes, until recently I used to shop at supermarkets. It’s only since the summer I’ve been really committed to being ‘green’, and though it wasn’t a radical lifestyle change, it was a change in some ways, and I am happier. Maybe there is some hope for the rest of the world.

Next year, I’m going to put my name down for an allotment and, in the meantime, start growing other things in containers and pots outside our house. I’m also going to take a dressmaking course, and one of my first projects is going to be turning an old pair of jeans into a skirt. I’m going to buy a treadle sewing machine on ebay. I’m going to learn how to make jam and get better at making bread. This seems like a more positive approach to the situation. I believe the crunch will come, maybe soon, some difficult decisions will have to be made and a lot of people won’t like it. But I have faith (maybe naively!!) that when it comes down to it, we will handle the coming crisis sensibly.

I was thinking, when I was knitting recently, how amazing it was, that you could turn a long bit of wool into a jumper, or a tea cosy, or whatever. How, at first, the idea of using animal skins for warmth must have occurred to people, and gradually, wool was spun into fibres, and turned into clothes. Or how we must have gone from eating berries and seeds and raw meat and veg to being as creative and skilled with food as we are now. Humans are incredibly resourceful and cooperative. Modern society has driven a lot of these instincts underground, but look at what we’ve achieved! I feel something big is going to happen within my lifetime, and while science and technology can play a massive role, unless we curb people’s consumerist appetites, the problem will just continue and get worse. I believe that harnessing and using our traditional skills is one of the most useful things we as individuals can do.

Combat climate change – grow tomatoes and knit socks.

It’ll make you happier too.

May 13, 2007 at 1:28 pm Leave a comment

One for the girls…

I now have a Mooncup.

I haven’t used it yet.

I’m rather scared.

It’s huge.

I don’t want to go all hippy and earthy about it, but if you’re interested, this link is helpful and quite reassuring. I bought mine from Body Kind which was cheapest (£14.36, inc p&p) but they are available from lots of websites, and also in Boots.

One major consideration was sterilising them. I’m not convinced the people sharing my kitchen with me would have been very impressed with me boiling it in our communal pans, so I’ve had to buy some sterilising tables, which were very cheap in Superdrug.

Maybe I will turn into one of these women who’s all evangelical about Mooncups. I probably seem it already, but I’m only converted in principle for the next few weeks…

May 12, 2007 at 8:39 pm 1 comment

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The Heritage Crafts Network

Rob Hopkins, Transition Handbook

“Environmentalists have often been guilty of presenting people with a mental image of the world’s least desirable holiday destination – some seedy bed and breakfast near Torquay, with nylon sheets, cold tea and soggy toast – and expecting them to get excited about the prospect of NOT going there. The logic and the psychology are all wrong.”

Barbara Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

"Food is that rare moral arena in which the ethical choice is generally the one more likely to make you groan with pleasure."

Carlo Petrini

"A gastronome who is not also an environmentalist is an idiot. An environmentalist who is not also a gastronome is, well, sad."

Sharon Astyk

"I am, of course, firmly opposed to consumerism and corporatism in all its forms, and I believe that we are deeply confused about material needs and wants. Now let me explain how books and yarn are totally different than the material things that other people want ;-)…."

Raj Patel, at Slow Food Nation

"Biofuels, which is the preposterous policy that we should grow food not to eat it but to set it on fire."