Saturday, 27 January 2007

Reduce, reuse, recycle.

These words are everywhere these days as it becomes fashionable to show a degree of "greeness". The words are listed in order of the importance that each activity has on the environment but in realilty people are looking at them in reverse order.

Recycling is something that many people now do as a matter of course, separating the newspapers and glass bottles etc from the landfill rubbish and taking excess clothing to charity shops. For a lot of people that is as far as it goes.

Reuse is practised by a smaller number of people. Some shops offer a refil service for products such as washing up liquid so that you can re-use the original container many times but it is not a very widespread practice. Some items may be reused within the home like jam jars but generally once an item is used it is thrown out.

Reduce may be the word that occurs first on the list but it seems to be ignored. Reduce could be practised in many areas, fossil fuel use, clothing purchase, things bought for the house but its a message that just doesn't seem to be getting across. Perhaps it is because "reduce" is not doing something, not buying something,that it doesn't seem so attractive as actually doing something eg recycling. May be it is because reducing seems a bit like doing without and if we are to some extent judged by what we own then having less seems like failure.
While views like these are widespread the chance of reducing our impact on the earth in the near future is small indeed. The real challenge it seems is to try to get across the positive side of reducing, the less you have - the less you have to maintain and the less hours that have to be worked to pay for that maintenance.

If this post seems to be a bit moaning its because I've been shopping today and the sheer volume of unneccesary items seemed depressing.

Wednesday, 24 January 2007

We had snow!

There was snow on the ground when I woke up this morning but there wasn't very much and it only stayed a few hours. I took a few photographs once it got light just to keep a record. I don't imagine we will see snow much in future winters.

Tuesday, 23 January 2007

The Sun has moved round!

No, its alright, I know it hasn't. I realise that its not the sun thats moving. I should probably say something like the angle of the earth facing the sun has changed or something like that.
Anyway the important thing for me is that I get to see more of it. We are surrounded by other houses quite close which means that for a month either side of the shortest day we don't get much sun, maybe just a bit in an upstairs window and nothing in the garden. Today it is a bright sunny day and the sun is shining on my washing. OK so its not the most exciting news but we don't have a tumble drier and I try to get all our washing dried outside as we have condensation just running down the windows anyway and it is much worse if I spread damp washing around the house.
So, simple pleasures, the darkest part of the winter is over, the sun is back and it will be easier to get the washing dry.

Monday, 22 January 2007

Shipping News

Iwas listening to the radio while cooking dinner this evening and heard about the ship MSC Napoli which is beached just a mile from the Devon coast after getting into difficulties in the storms last week. Over 200 large containers have been lost from the ship and some have been washed up on the local beach revealing their contents -BMW motorbikes, barrels of wine and sherry, car parts, toys, nappies , cosmetics and cat food!
It made me think about the amount of stuff that must be transported around the world. This was just one ship and it had 2400 containers on board. There must be hundreds if not thousands of ships moving constantly all over the world. How much longer will we be able to use our precious fossil fuels to move things around the world instead of making them where they are needed? - and how many of them are really needed anyway?

Sunday, 21 January 2007

Climate Change Game

I found this Climate Change Prediction game today. You can pretend to be president and implement the policies of your choice! The challenge is to do the right thing for the environment while remaining popular so that you are not voted out of office.

Wednesday, 17 January 2007

Natural dyed scarf

I have knitted on and off since I was a child of five or six and so have the usual hoard of left over balls of wool. Since I learnt to spin five years ago bags of fleece have been accumulating as well. As part of a simplifying and decluttering process I am aiming to knit mostly from the stash instead of adding to it.
The first stock depleting article is a Mobius Scarf form Simply Knitting magazine (Issue 14 Spring 2006). This used up a small (100g) bag of hand dyed fleece I bought while on holiday in Shetland. The fleece had been dyed using walnut and tagetes and there were three colours a reddish brown, gold and a mid yellow.

I blended the fleece as I carded and spun to give a yarn (2 ply approx. aran weight) with a gradual colour change over the length from brown to yellow.

The Mobius Scarf which is a loop with one twist is knitted on a circular needle in a double loop so you start in the middle of the scarf ( in my case with the brown) and knit on both sides at once. Its not as complicated as I make it sound and a quick search has revealed a lot of free patterns on the web.

It is really warm and cosy and it is good to think that such rich colours came from natural dyes.

Monday, 15 January 2007

A January Salad

Last year I planted a short row of lambs lettuce in the garden. It did well in a shady spot producing salad leaves for a couple of months. I let the plants go to seed and as well as collecting seed for this spring I left the plants to see whether they would self seed. Well they did and I have lambs lettuce everywhere.

With such unseaonably mild weather the plants are growing and this weekend I was able to pick fresh salad from the garden- in mid January. I added a few baby leaves from ruby chard and spinach together with some young dandelion leaves - a mixed salad all grown within a few yards of the back door, very local food.

Saturday, 6 January 2007

Time to Sleep

After the holiday break we are now back to our usual routine.One of the biggest differences between holiday and work (apart obviously from the absence of work and school during the holidays) is the amount of time we sleep.

Our usual weekday routine gives us a maximum sleep time of about seven and a half hours but during the holiday, with no alarm clock, we found that we were sleeping for over nine hours a night. I felt much better for the extra sleep. I felt ready to get up as soon as I woke instead of feeling groggy while making my first essential cup of tea and I lost that sleepy feeling around mid afternoon.

In his book, Sleep Thieves, Stanley Coren explores the idea that a large proportion of the population of the western world is sleep deprived. He traces this back to the development of the electric light bulb. Before that invention sources of light for most people were inefficient and expensive and so people went to bed once it was dark.

He compares a study carried out in his laboratory in which he found that a young adult today sleeps an average of seven and a half hours a night with a similar study carried out in 1910. The date was chosen because it was three years before modern efficient light bulbs were introduced. In 1910 the average sleep time of a young adult was nine hours.

It is amazing that this change has occurred in just under one hundred years - probably most of the change in the last generation as we have 24 hour supermarkets, 24 hour television and of course the internet. In the same way that we seem driven to consume, cluttering our lives with excess stuff, our sleep time is being consumed by all the excess activities available to us.

I wonder, will this change in our lives which has occurred so quickly (far too quick for us to become adapted to it) be reversed as we run out of cheap oil? As the price of heating and lighting increases - how soon before the cost of keeping premises warm and light becomes prohibitively high? Will power cuts mean that some of our electronic toys will not always available and will we use the time to sleep more?

There will be many, many problems when the oil crisis hits but I like to think that there will be some good things as well. I hope that having more time to slow down (because rushing from place to place to consume will become too expensive) will mean that we can fall back to the pace of life our bodies are adapted to and I think that means we might sleep more.

Tuesday, 2 January 2007

New Year Resolution - reduce Food Miles

I took the Christmas decorations down yesterday, the tree is waiting to be taken for recycling and all the tinsel etc is packed away in the loft for another year. The house looked bare a first but it does feel calmer.

Time then to look forward. A list of New Years Resolutions always seems daunting so this year there is just one - to reduce the food miles our food has travelled to reach our plates. We've eaten more or less organic for several years but I'm only just beginning to think about where our food has come from. This year I will try to eat more locally and therefore more seasonally.

I've read Coming Home to Eat by Gary Paul Nabhan in which he describes living on a diet of food produced within a 250 mile radius of his home but have decided at this stage not to set a rigid distance limit. Instead my goal is to buy food that has been produced in the UK - of course living in the south means that food may still have travelled many hundreds of miles but at least its a start. This week I shall concentrate on fruit, vegetables, dairy, meat, flour etc.

I shall be doing my weekly shop tommorrow so I'll see how it goes