I wanted to note down all the stuff we're doing at home in the hope that I can then see the wood through the trees and see what the next small steps can be, bearing in mind that we don't own the freehold and also, annoyingly, don't have the roof bit, so we're completely stymied from a solar/wind perspective.
(Note: this list is getting vaguely updated. I keep remembering things we do / have set up. W're on 29 now [woohoo!]).
There might be some things here that (particularly British) folk might not be aware of, so take a look:
1. Lambeth don't do wholesale recycling, they only take specific items like bottles etc. They do take all paper and cardboard, and the usual glass stuff - everything except pyrex & wine glasses.
2. The council takes away large items of junk if you email them - so non-mendable washing machines, etc
3.. So Sains has been participating in some sort of govt scheme (that's unusual for Sainsburys, eh? Not) to judge the viability of recycling all the other plastic recyclables - all the pots and lids and so on. Excellent! So when we go to pick James up/pack him off to nursery, bop, in go all the tubs.
4. Secondly, they also recycle plastic bags but wait! They will also take I'd say approx 85% of all the plastic bag packaging from products like frozen peas, cat food tin six-pack wrappers, cucumber wrapping (!)- tons, and tons of plastic packaging can now be sorted out. So, take it down to Sainsburys, perhaps even in a carrier back you don't need, and plonk the whole lot in the plastic bag recycling of normal sized (not 'Local' ones) Sainsburys - yippee! This stuff when added to every day recycling has reduced our bin-filling to an astonishing extent.
(In case this activates the 'comment' function in correspondents suggesting "What? You're buying vegetables with packaging from supermarkets! Argh!" yup. You bet. There's a persuasive argument in fact to suggest that the packaging when used effectively, that surrounds supermarket vegetables increases the shelf life and reduces food waste to a crazy extent, compared to traditional greengrocers (which, let's face it, in Streatham are lovely, miles away and also promote their packaging free vegetables on to a pavement blue with High Road fuel fumes. Hmmm)
5. Composter in the garden for all raw vegetable peelings etc. Now my Uncle Toddy puts all his veggies, cooked and raw on his compost heap, and has been doing so for 40 years +. Anyone got a view on why cooked vegetable leavings shouldn't go on? I'm assuming nutrient deficits?
6. Growing our own herbs. I would grow other stuff but unfortunately we don't have an earth based garden! Do grow Rosemary. Incredibly hardy and can go in everything. And smells delicious.
7. Switching off.
We switch off as many things at the mains as possible to avoid power down cycles sapping a leetle bit of energy out. I recognise that we forget sometimes, but the TV/Video/DVD player always goes off, the monitor and computer where necessary. Sometimes the piano gets forgotten because you can't see if it's on or not. We've got to get better than that.
The New Scientist recently suggested in terms of newer eco-bulb type bulbs - they wear out the more you switch them on and off. So, as a rule of thumb, if you are not planning to come back in to a room for *15 minutes* or more, then switch it off. We've been doing that a lot more recently, and it's a good change.
We have a battery recharging "station" ie: it's become routine for us to recharge batteries. Feels utterly bizarre to us that places still sell normal batteries. Shouldn't they sell off rechargers super cheap to just kill the disposable battery market? Obviously we've got a whole bunch of batteries that were already in products when we bought them that are hanging around in a drawer, waiting for the opportunity to recycle them. The EU directives of the last few years suggest that the manufacturers of batteries should be helping to provide facilities to recycle the buggers, but they don't. I personally think we should stick them in an envelope and send them back to their manufacturers.
9. Sewing things up / making stuff
We mend our clothes! I know, it's shocking. What a disgrace. I should be out, spending my money supporting the beleaguered economy instead of sewing up holes in socks! Well, I do. It saves me money.
Barely needs mentioning really, obviously
11. Buy second hand
Cheaper, and less resources used up. Can't say fairer than that. Books, clothes, toys. videos. Stuff. EBay & Freecycle is your friend! And the Heart Foundation book/Music/video shop. Videos are awesome - you can get hold of a player for tuppence, then the actual videos themselves cost 50p a pop in the charity shop. Hoorah for obsolete technology! We have a pile of Bob the Builder videos which basically cost us nothing.
12. Silver behind the radiators. I tell you what, if you haven't tried this do. It really warms cold rooms up.
13. We use the 'not quite as squeaky clean or clear cut as they'd like you to think' Good Energy for our electricity provision. 100% renewables. Apparently.
14. Obviously I'm always at pains to point out where we can turn off taps or use less water
15. And I will happily say that we follow the Ken Livingstone example, which is that we don't flush after every wee unless there are visitors. Which over the course of a day for a family of 4 at weekends... that's saving a lot of flushes!
Note to all: it doesn't make your house smell horrible. It takes about a week to get used to the idea. After that, it becomes obvious when you should flush and when you needn't bother.
16. We have 'hippos' in our toilets. Aka water saving devices. you can probably get them from your water company, or just google for them. Insanely easy to install.
17. Buy in bulk / large sizes. We get huuuuuuge paper sack bags of Ecover washing powder that seem to last about a million years, and we also get those big bucket sized 5 litre carriers for washing up liquid and clothes conditioning. I've got this small washing up liquid bottle by the sink that we refill, and we keep an old plastic carton open with washing powder in next to the washing machine (then replenish it obviously from the big sack, that's in the airing cupboard downstairs.
18. Microfibre cloths: Holy crap, have you ever used these things? I know they're not cotton and in theat respect they're problematically unbiodegradable, but we've ot a microfibre floor washing system for the tiles, and just you knowe, a few cloths. Seriously. The floor mopping one I find works better with a little spray of some sort of cleaning fluid on it after making it 'a little bit damp' but it can be used without, with very little elbow grease. The cleaning cloths get grease off around the kitchen that has been building up for months. They're astounding. So, instead of this being an advert for microfibre cloths, I'll restate why they're in this list: almost no water use, almost no detergent use. Got to be good, right?
19. This is veggie stuff really but I only use glycerine / vegetable oil based soap and 'Green People' Rosemary shampoo, which is about as non-chemical as you can get. the kids use 'Allergenics' shampoo and body wash in the bath primarily because of James' skin but it's also all vegetable, no preservatives and so forth.
20. I cycle to work 3 days a week (will be upped to 5 when James goes to the local school nursery)
21. We don't own a car
22. We hire by the hour and are members of Streetcar or ..er... whichever one it is that parks on our street ;)
23. Buy British produced vegetables/fruit wherever possible, and if not then Holland, France and we try not to buy Spanish too much. Yes we do very occasionally buy south american blueberries or whatever, but seriously, so rarely it's not worth mentioning.
(Hey, English strawberries now in the shops, by the way! that'll be that vast new under-canopy place in the west country kicking in).
24. Only organic/freerange British meat produce/eggs etc. We're a bit dodgy with organic because the vegetables cost so much more, but anything from animals, the husbandry issue is way too important. therefore, it's organic milk, butter and eggs, and all the meat produce bought from Chadwicks, the organic butchers in Balham.
25. Sustainable fish. Mostly.
26. Trump card, I'm a vegetarian! Er... cough... a, er... ok. Fish eating vegetarian, so um... officially not actually a vegetarian, ok? OK? Happy now???
27. Own tea mug and tea bags at work - I bring the teabags home to compost them (sounds a bit weirdly over-zealous doesn't it, but given that I just have to plonk them in to my sandwich box, it's not big deal)
28. Make my own sandwiches . Mostly. well, you know. Sometimes I'm too knackered. But I do try!
29. If you use a laptop workstation, or indeed, a laptop, as well as turning off your monitor, make sure you turn off your workstation at the plug in the evening. If you don't, the transformer thing on your lead will continue to suck out energy. In fact, lobby at work for a campaign about it. Everyone's laptops will be costing the company money given that they're probably all plugged in on some form overnight, sucking out vast amounts of energy by the end of the year.
Simple things we haven't done but should do
For most things it's a question of habituating the action:
1. Use run-off water. Showers etc or running a sink, as the water is heating up, if you know you'll have more than you want of cold water then run it into a watering can / bucket. this is particularly true of showers.
2. Get a water butt. I am a nitwit for not having sorted that out yet, what a waste.
3. Use the water that comes out of the dehumidifier
4. Use bathwater to water plants (that one is a high summer job really isn't it - a little bit too hassly for every-day sorting)
Not so simple things we must do:
1. Sort out replacing the rotten old frames front bay window with double glazed version (wood natch, not PVC) and any other non-double glazed windows in the flat
2. Sort out proper blinds for the windows in the front room to retain some heat
3. Work out efficacy of a solar panel on the roof of the extension. Is it worth it? Is it too far away from the bathroom to be any use as a water heater?
I think that's enough to be getting on with...
Right. Next time I do the audit, I'll refer back to this but I won't count any of the 'on' ones again. So we'll see a er, culture of constant change! Or something. See how much we can aspire to/actually get done.