allotment · Ecological concern · Ethical living · nature

Butterfly wings and other things

We made butterfly and moth wings at the weekend! Inspired by Wildlife Explorers, the children’s RSPB magazine, we cut, stuck and painted. I’m particularly proud of Small Boy’s cinnabar moths – a beautiful butterfly-like moth which flies during the day. Look out for its crimson wings in grassy areas. We also made ‘moth cakes’ (our new name for butterfly cakes!) with fair trade sugar and wildlife-friendly flour.

In other news:

Karma Cola – I’ve enjoyed my first fair trade cola drink, Karma Cola, made from the cola nut grown in the Gola Rainforest in Sierra Leone (and available from the vegan cafe near my office) in a beautiful glass bottle.

Woodmansterne have started producing greetings cards without a plastic wrap! I like sending (and receiving!) cards and I’m trying to find a more sustainable way of doing this. I have a plan to make some…

Tearfund are running a ‘rubbish campaign‘ asking Coca-Cola, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Unilever to take responsibility for their plastic waste in poorer countries. You can sign the petition here and discover tips on reducing your own plastic waste here.

Fast fashion has been in the news recently as the government has rejected the recommendations in the Environmental Audit Committee’s Fixing Fashion: Clothing consumption and sustainability report. I’m continuing to buy clothes in charity shops (including some interestingly-patterned – some may say ‘garish’! – pieces) and supplementing with items from ethical companies, such as Howies, People Tree and Rapanui (including one of their new circular economy t-shirts).

In the garden: sparrows, a crow, magpies, pigeons, starlings and blue tits. I saw a goldfinch not too far from home.

At the allotment: carrots, onions, potatoes and courgettes are all growing well. Mr Pilgrim is getting to know our allotment neighbours and we gained some bolted chard to eat and some sweet pepper seedlings to plant. We found lots of ants carrying their eggs on our last visit and Small Boy now wants an ant farm!

What am I reading? The Old Ways by Robert Macfarlane and Prophetic Lament: A Call for Justice in Troubled Times by Soong-Chan Rah

Ecological concern · Ethical living · Social justice

Holiday highs and lows

It’s a long, hot summer. Here are some collected thoughts about living justly in the holidays.

There’s been some holiday highs:

  • Camping – Family Pilgrim enjoyed a week camping in Dorset. I’ve loved our camping trips this year and am already thinking about next year’s. We live more simply (no screen time!) and love being outside. IMG_20180724_090346
  • Beautiful parts of the country – we haven’t travelled very far this holiday but we’ve enjoyed seeing beautiful parts of the English countryside.
  • Butterflies – I am becoming a big fan of butterflies and loved seeing them on the Dorset heath. I have also taken part in Butterfly Conservation’s Big Butterfly Count at home in the garden (with the help of Small Boy). We only saw ‘cabbage’ whites and it was tricky to judge whether they were Large Whites or Small Whites.
  • Crochet water balloons – ‘Bathies’ as Little Miss has named them are small woolen items crocheted to look like a balloon. After seeing the campsite littered with balloon pieces from water balloons, I decided to try crochet water balloons. We had fun yesterday trying to ambush Mr Pilgrim.
  • Swimming in the sea – Swimming in the sea is one of my favourite activities. I learnt to swim in the sea as a child and I always feel refreshed, revived and restored after a dip. Thank you Grand-père for teaching me to swim – and to swim safely – in the sea. I have now discovered that it is a great way to have some peace!

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  • Making ice lollies – we now have an apparatus for making ice lollies which saves money and single-use plastic. I also gain Parent Points with the children – but lose Dentist Points.
  • Eating Mr Whippy ice creams – We ate a lot of ice creams on holiday and I always chose My Whippy ice creams. A tasty way to reduce single-use plastic! Confession: I let the children choose their own ice creams so not only did I buy treats in single-use plastic, they were also from Nestle (I’ve avoided Nestle since I was a teenager because of the Baby Milk Action boycott): Smarties Pop-Ups, Nobbly Bobbly ice cream and Rowntrees Fruit Pastilles lollies. I can’t bring myself to say no when they have set up their heart on a ‘rainbow’ lolly.
  • Suspended coffees – we had lunch in a community cafe in Dorset which operates a suspended coffee scheme. We paid for two extra coffees which will then be available to someone in need another day.
  • Cycling – Mr P and I hired a tandem and enjoyed exploring the Dorset countryside and the coast. IMG_20180727_104131

Holiday lows:

  • Climate change – I’m (mostly) enjoying the weather. It certainly made camping easier and more enjoyable! But I’m aware that the cause of this heat wave is climate change and I’m challenged to once again think about my carbon footprint and how to reduce it. It’s not a big thing but I have stopped listening to the radio all day. It’s a big step for me as it’s a sign I am becoming more comfortable with silence.
  • Holiday hunger – food banks are seeing a greater demand over the summer holidays and many are experiencing low stock and empty shelves. There are two food banks near me and I added a few extra items into the shopping to help re-stock their shelves.

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  • Period poverty – I’ve been wondering about young women experiencing period poverty over the school summer holidays. What do they do if they have been reliant on the Red Box Project in the school? I know that many of the schemes are working with youth organisations who are seeing young people over the summer. Again, I bought a packet of sanitary towels (since I converted to the Mooncup and CSP, I never them buy them for me now) and dropped them off at my nearest collection point.
  • Loneliness – I was delighted to discover that one of the local churches decided to run its usual toddler group (expanded for older children) last week. It can be hard for parents and children when usual activities and groups pause over the summer. A morning spent making junk models and chatting to others can make a big difference to someone’s week.
  • People sleeping rough – I try to avoid buying water in plastic bottles but sometimes it’s the best thing to do. Please consider giving some bottled water to someone sleeping on the streets. This hot weather is very dangerous for people without shade, without sun cream and without access to water.

As the holidays continue, I am going to look for ways to love more and to act justly.

Ecological concern · Ethical living · Social justice

Plastic Oceans, Pelicans and Periods

I’ve finally got round to watching Plastics Oceans – a high quality documentary about the problem of plastics in our seas, rivers and oceans. Small Boy and I have also watched the Pelicans Octonauts episode a few times recently: ‘It’s your favourite one on now, Mummy!’ The same topic but for preschoolers – and their parents. Explore, rescue, protect!

If you are thinking about reducing your plastic use, here are some tips from Greenpeace.

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I’m so proud of my mum who has recently found a milkman and is reverting to the glass bottles I remember from childhood. Sadly, the cat who always loved the cream at the top of the full-fat milk is no more.


Ruth Valerio has written a blog article on periods and different options for environmentally friendly sanitary protection. I’ve been using a Mooncup for a while now and can thoroughly recommend it. Other menstural cups are available and the Earthwise Girls website provides a guide to the various brands. I’ve also changed to reusable cloth pads. A ‘zero waste period’ is less expensive, better for the environment and Mr Pilgrim no longer has to go to the supermarket late at night because I’ve run out of towels or tampons!

I’m also becoming aware of the reality of ‘period poverty’ for many girls and women not only in the developing world but here in the UK:

Hayley Smith from Flow Aid was quoted in the Guardian: ‘Teenagers and young girls are being forced to wrap or stuff toilet paper down their knickers, to prevent them from bleeding all over themselves while at schools. The cost of sanitary products are just too much for some girls and their families, and it’s leading to missing school and it’s putting their health at risk.’

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Find out if your local food bank, homeless shelter, women’s refuge or refugee charity would welcome a donation of tampons or sanitary towels. Understandably, charities in the UK state that reusable items are not the best option for girls and young women at school or women living in insecure accommodation.

The Red Box Project ‘quietly ensures that no young woman misses school because of her period’. You can make a donation to the recently-launched Red Box Project in Stoke Newington here.

community · Ecological concern · Ethical living

Snapshots

This week I attended a photography workshop (a birthday present but it’s taken me some time to organise it!). I’m looking forward to being creative, growing more confident with our camera, and capturing some of Small Boy’s and Little Miss’s childhood.
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Small Boy and I made banana bread this morning using soft and squidgy (fair trade) bananas. I ate a deliciously warm slice topped with homemade Greek yoghurt (our latest addition to the zero waste journey) as my mid-morning snack; don’t judge me – the Small Boy alarm clock woke me at half six and Little Miss was awake for much of the night.

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The pavements and grass verges in our local area are frequently littered with dog poo. Problematic when pushing a pushchair alongside an energetic Small Boy, I’m know I’m not the only mum who is fed up with cleaning wheels and shoes – we live near a primary school and many children and parents use the pavements to walk to and from school.
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Our local borough council has a ‘report it’ function on its website, specifically for this issue. I’ve reported pavement poo three times now (including yesterday) and twice the street cleaning team has been rapidly dispatched to wash the area. I’d rather there wasn’t a poo problem in the first place but I’m pleased I can do something about it! It’s a small way I can love our community.

My bedtime (library) book is by John Lewis-Stempel, an award-winning nature writer. I’m currently reading The Running Hare, his account of trying to farm a field using traditional methods. That might not sound fascinating, but it’s a brilliant, evocative and provocative read. I’m saddened by the demise of many British wild flowers which my parents and grandparents would have grown up with.
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I’m making plans for my 18 countryside activities for 2018; I’ve found a place to go and look for wild badgers, discovered a large hill to climb with Small Boy, and beaches to visit and puffins to spot.

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I’m looking forward to writing about them!

Ethical living

Happy Christmas, Mr P!

Here is a little thank you to my husband, Mr Pilgrim, as a (zero-waste!) Christmas present:

This time last year I had no intention of pursuing a more sustainable lifestyle. To be honest, I thought we did quite well. We recycled, we cycled and we had fair trade wedding rings. Yet, as I read and reflected, I realised how much we could change and should change – for the sake of the world and those who live in it.

Mr Pilgrim has encouraged me every step of the way. Always building me up and offering his support. Not always agreeing with me; sometimes gently questioning and challenging. Yet often helping me stay on track when I was tempted to wander!

He has embraced our vegetable boxes and cooked some amazing meals which have been a pleasure to share with him. He tackled our parsnip glut creatively by making awesome ginger and parsnip soup as well as parsnip crisps. He has researched ethical cycling shorts, made the switch to using cloth nappies for Little Miss and wrapped up my Christmas present in an old map. He has accompanied me to charity shops, bought me fair trade chocolates as a treat and built this brilliant bug hotel with Small Boy.

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He’s even eaten kale and chard.

I returned to work on 1 September and I haven’t bought sandwiches from a shop at all during this time – saving money AND avoiding single use plastic! Every day I have had homemade sandwiches with Mr P’s homemade bread (from the pre-loved bread machine – his idea!). One lunchtime they were hand-delivered still warm to my desk.

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He’s never once laughed at me, dismissed what I’m trying to do as a ‘fad’ or been critical.

Thank you, Mr P, for being my fellow-pilgrim and for championing me, listening to me and encouraging me to be the best version of myself. I love you. Happy Christmas.

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Ecological concern · Ethical living · Social justice

The good, the bad and the ugly

Let’s start with the good:

  • Rice and pasta in cardboard packaging from Tesco – probably one of the easiest ways to avoid single use plastic.
  • Waitrose sell an organic palm oil free chocolate spread which is delicious! Bye bye Nutella! Find out about palm oil here.
  • Wooden toys – I’d been wanting some pre-loved wooden dolls’ house furniture and wooden people for a while to furnish Granny’s old dolls’ house for Little Miss. Eventually, I found some for sale near by through Facebook Marketplace. (Disclaimer: I did then buy some new wooden furniture from John Lewis as the house needed a few more items). Just waiting for Grandpère to redecorate the house now! 

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  • Toy library – I finally joined the local toy library this week. Small Boy and Little Miss are enjoying playing with magnetic building blocks. 
  • Small Boy is loving the new series of Down on the Farm – a fantastic programme for children about nature and the countryside. It also makes a change from Octonauts! 
  • I’ve enjoyed reading Peter Harris’s Kingfisher’s Fire and have ordered Under the Bright Wings secondhand from Better World Books as well as a new copy of Planetwise by Dave Bookless from Wordery. I’ve not bought anything from Amazon since 10 April! 
  • I’ve also purchased a year’s subscription to the Pearly White Club – a new local company selling bamboo toothbrushes. They are also donating toothbrushes to New Hope. 

The bad:

I picked up a whole carrier bag full of rubbish as we walked to church on Sunday. 

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The two bins in our local park have been padlocked because someone had previously threw the metal bin over the fence into a field where there are horses and donkeys. 

I love my local community and it saddens me to see litter on the grass verges and vandalism which could harm animals.


The Ugly:

Strangers on the internet have been mean to me.

I posted a comment on a Marks and Spencer’s Facebook post which was advertising their Paddington Bear merchandise. I wrote that the Paddington films have an amazing message which is at odds with their adverts in UK newspapers which incite hatred towards immigrants (see Stop Funding Hate). 

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I naively wasn’t expecting anyone to read my words let alone comment. None of the negative comments were particularly bad (knowing how some people are trolled on social media) but I’m quite sensitive and I was surprised by some people’s reactions. I’m not used to people behaving like that towards me and I was hurt and angry. Normally, a Facebook notification on my phone is a positive thing as someone has ‘liked’ a photo I’ve shared but on Wednesday I dreaded seeing the red notification symbol and felt sick inside. 

Some of their words are still going round my head. Am I a ‘snowflake’? Do I ‘have a life’? Yet, I don’t regret what I wrote and I’m going to post a letter to Marks and Spencer this weekend outlining my concerns about their advertising.

Ultimately though it’s not about me and what a handful of people think about me. It’s about taking a stand on behalf of people who are currently experiencing injustice. 

 

Ethical living

Wrapping paper, toilet roll and Rocks

Consuming better is definitely easier than consuming less.

This week’s top new buys are:

A collection of old maps (20p each from a charity shop) which I’m intending to use instead of wrapping paper along with biodegradable string rather than sellotape.

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WragWrap This is another – more expensive – wrapping paper substitute but one I hope to use for a long time and that will become a family tradition.

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Who Gives a Crap toilet roll: it’s 100% recycled, has no plastic packaging and they give half of their profits to Water Aid. As they say on their website:

More people in the world have a mobile phone than access to a toilet. Think about that next time you’re texting on the loo.  

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I’ve ordered 48 so Small Boy and Little Miss are currently having a lot of fun building towers (Small Boy) and knocking them over (Little Miss). Little Miss is enjoying putting the rolls back into the big box.

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We may have problems when Small Boy starts phonics at school!

One of my vices is blackcurrant squash. I’ve started buying Rocks which comes in a glass bottle and Squash’d which is super concentrated (therefore less plastic) as part of our zero waste journey.

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I’m certainly enjoying consuming better: consuming less isn’t as fun or interesting. One area in which I have succeeded is reducing my use of shampoo and conditioner. Having washed my hair daily for years, I have now cut down to every other day thereby halving my use of hair products.

I’m already thinking about Christmas and how to celebrate in ways which are in line with seeking to live justly. It’s certainly going to be a challenge.

Charity sector · Ethical living · Social justice

The Millennium Falcon and an Armani dress

A Lego Millennium Falcon, a red Armani dress and a family organiser are all items I’ve bought recently in charity shops.

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Charity shops are a British thing; the first modern-style charity shop was set up by Oxfam in 1948 to raise money for the organisation’s relief work in post-war Greece and is still trading at 17 Broad Street, Oxford (in fact, I’ve been there!). Charity shops in the UK raise £270m each year for charitable causes: my recent purchases have funded:

  • palliative care
  • support for people who are homeless
  • services for people with a learning disability
  • emergency and development work for some of the world’s poorest communities
  • animal welfare
  • support for pregnancy-related challenges, including post-natal depression.

I sought advice from the Journey to Zero Waste UK Facebook group about how to buy clothes in charity shops. The hive’s tips included:

  • shop without Small Boy and Little Miss – ha!
  • go frequently
  • check the material labels
  • try on
  • choose a base colour and then look for items in that colour or that co-ordinate well

I also asked my mum, who is always picking up great items, for her charity shop tips. She asks herself the following questions:

  • Does it appeal to me?
  • Is it a good fit?
  • Is it a good name?
  • Do I need it?
  • Is it under £10? (I have set myself a limit of £5 for clothes)

I’ve had some successes: 

  • An apron for Little Miss (which both Small Boy and I thought would be good for when she is a little bit bigger and able to join in with our baking).
  • Tops from Phrase Eight and John Lewis, and some dresses from Next for work.
  • A kite – every family needs a kite!
  • A Lego Millennium Falcon and Lego race car (Small Boy is getting into Lego and had previously said he wanted a spaceship).
  • Little Red Train books which were on my wishlist for Small Boy.
  • There have been several times when I’ve chosen not to buy something and I’ve not regretted this.

I’ve purchased some new items (bought in goods sold for profit), such as birthday cards and a 2018 family organiser – items I would have bought anyway.

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And some mistakes:

  • A wool cardigan that is too itchy to wear.
  • A £3.25 Armani dress which is too small but I’m optimistically keeping it.
  • A race car – Small Boy said he wanted it and I said yes in a moment of weakness and stress but in reality it’s just a large piece of ugly plastic junk.

What have I learnt?

  • It’s so much easier when I can go on my own. It also means I can buy items for Small Boy which can be given as bribes presents.
  • It’s really hard not being a consumer. I like buying and having new things!
  • If I don’t have time to try something on, then stick with sizes and brands that I know.
  • Most shops take cards (and some even do contactless) but there are still one or two which only take cash.
  • Shopping in charity shops is a lot of fun!

Further reading

http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/knickers-models-own – Caroline Jones wore a different pre-loved outfit (all from Cancer Research shops) for an entire year proving you can be frugal and fashionable.

Ethical living · Social justice

The Random Cafe: inclusion, community and sustainability

Excited to discover this week that a group in Watford are setting up a Real Junk Food Project: a cafe where all the food is unwanted – but edible –  and customers choose how much they want to pay for their meal.

Random Cafe is something really different for our town,  it’s about inclusion, community and sustainability.  We want to create a cool cafe and restaurant, where the food and atmosphere are great, a place where people want to be, where all of the meals just happen to be made from waste ingredients, and served on a pay-as-you-feel-basis.

To support The Random Cafe, please visit their Crowdfunder page, connect with them on Facebook and Twitter and visit one of their pop-up cafes soon.

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