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Friday, 19 November 2010

Greener Living - saving the planet (and some cash)

Through a current work project I've been delving into the depths of eco-living and how you can save energy and money while saving the planet. Since discovering that I am more Green Dreamer than Eco saint, according to the Tesco Greener Living Interactive Quiz, I have taken a step back to look at how my life is impacting our world. I thought I was greener than the average Brit; I recycle pretty much everything, always wash at 30C, limit my purchases - but in taking this test and looking at the Starbucks takeaway capuccino guiltily sitting on my desk - I realise there are a few tweaks I need to make to ensure I am truly an Eco Saint.   

So what do I need to do to become an Eco saint? Granted, as we rent our flat we cannot change the light fittings to take energy saving lightbulbs, double glaze our windows, or install solar panels - but there's a lot I CAN do and I'm going to attempt to change my ways:

Draft Proofing: Living in a building a few hundred years old is very charming, but when winter sets in, the cold, damp air can tempt me to switch on the heating here and there. My mum suggested placing cling film over the windows, which I found rather odd - but apparently it helps. I need to make a few sausage dog draft proofers out of old tights and newspaper, and potentially replace the curtains with a heavier one in the bedroom. Leon often throws off his covers in the night and I always try and cover him back up - so maybe it's now time to invest in a baby grow-bag thing? I just don't like the idea of his movements being restricted at night by being in a 'bag'.
OWL Micro energy Reader

Another big main change is switching off appliances left on standby (I always worry this will mess up the settings on Sky etc. but switching off saves £37 a year according to Energy Saving Trust) and I want to get one of these OWL energy readers to see exactly how much energy each appliance uses. Whether it’s turning off at the plug rather than just using standby or simply turning off a light, the OWL Micro shows you how changing your behaviour can save you money and so help the environment. It is easy to install, easy to read and easy to use. Costs about £25

In the bathroom instead of buying a Hippo,  I'm going to put a brick or two in the Cistern and hope it still flushes. Secondly, Leon's bath uses up so much water and he's only in it for about 10 minutes. Hubby loves having a bath after and tops it up for himself - unless it's been pooped in (baths are very relaxing for babies you know!), but the plug isn't snug and lets a lot of water go. We need to fix that. So, I'd love to get a Babydam (rrp £27.50 but was reduced to £20 during Energy Saving Week- Boo just missed it!) and halve the amount of water used per bath. According to Babydam the average baby bath in a family sized bath is 20litres so this would make it 10litres. "If all parents in the UK used BabyDam for 2 and a half years when bathing their children (based on average of 700,000 births in the UK each year), we could save over six BILLION litres of water across the UK - that’s enough to fill 2,500 Olympic sized swimming pools!"

I feel that I'm rather green In the Kitchen : only heating up as much water as I need in the kettle, cautious with water usage when washing up and using that to wash the floors... I may moan about the council's non-action for picking up Kitchen scraps down my street (as it's a pretty commercial street so don't have recycling boxes either) and as we don't have a garden I can't chuck the scraps on a compost heap. It feels so wrong to throw them away. I missed telling LBRUT in the recent survey - but I will contact the councillor to suggest a communal compost heap for willing residents to contribute to if they have no green space themselves. It may come to contacting  York House Gardens or Orleans House Gallery gardens to see if they could do with some... 

I try to buy most my fruit/veg from the Grocers and now always take a canvas bag with me shopping. I try to plan my meals for the week but need more discipline with this and have started looking for inspiration. is a new initiative from Jen (TheMadHouse) and  Cass (The Diary of a Frugal Family) encouraging meal planning and show us theirs, Tesco do some personalised plans and make it easy to buy ingredients of course, and I found this one from the UK based Resourceful cook really helpful too and you can adapt to how many people it's for, how many nights a week etc. I'm tempted by their Winter warmer selection. Brilliant stuff and I hope to make enough for Leon too as he prefers the food I make for myself than for him... The best site for leftover ideas and help in preventing waste has got to be

I feel proud to have switched from cheapo washing up liquid to Ecover but have bought 3 bottles since and didn't know how to re-fill them. Thanks to reading I know now to find the nearest retailer who do re-fills on the Ecover site (makes sense) and will plan my re-fills in advance to ensure I never run out and thus need to buy another plastic bottle.
On the commute : We don't own a car (as much as hubby would love to!) so I'm a public transport fanatic and know that I  should dig out that Thermos from my parents' kitchen and fill it with hot coffee before leaving for work! No more takeaway coffee cups!

Make do and mend : I've always tried... now I am conscious of mending more things be it toys or handbags. I rescued a tiny evening bag that I love, from ripping apart completely and it feels as good as new! Another particular bag has so many holes in the lining I am constantly searching the bottom for pens, tissues, notes, lipbalm etc. Now I've cleaned it, turned inside out and preparing to reinforce the lining with an old silk shirt I will never wear. Will feel like a new bag after that hopefully! Although I enjoy shopping, I need to go about it like a food shop and go out with items in mind instead of buying aimlessly and then finding out that it doesn't go with anything. Also, I've taken out the knitting needles and am attempting some wrist-warmers for myself and some little legwarmers for Leon!

My last challenge is trying to find a way for hubby not to take plastic carrier bags from Waitrose when he does the shoping. He goes straight from work so doesn't carry much in his pockets. I may need to find those reusable nylon bags and strategically place them on him without noticing...

Maria's Checklist to become an Eco Saint:
  1. Draft Proofing
  2. Switching off appliances at mains - getting an OWL monitor
  3. Bricks in toilet cistern
  4. Buying a BabyDam
  5. Arranging communal compost heap! (Or leaving scraps in someone else's scrap bin)
  6. Meal plans
  7. Re-fill Ecover bottles when needed
  8. Thermos for coffee
  9. Convert hubby into an Eco saint too
  10. any suggestions?
Here are a few of my favourite sites that I've discover along the way: 
For inspiring me to improve my home-making skills
For making it fun to look for eco-friendly designers, products and ideas
For actively doing something with unwanted t-shirts or lost gloves and lots of news
I like their home and Lifestyle section
Pretty images of life in Italy - beautiful


  1. These are some great suggestions! Thanks for all those links =)

  2. Wow, you're super GREEN as well as Super MUMMY! Thanks for all the tips!

  3. Good to see someone else on their journey towards a more ethical way of living.
    The biggest contribution to our carbon footprint is our diet, and the biggest part of that is meat. So the easiest way of cutting your footprint is to have a Meat Free Monday, or to reduce meat and dairy consumption overall, or to go vegetarian, or if you really care, vegan... although you have to work hard to be a vegan and get a balanced diet.

    After that is transport and home energy.
    You could switch your electricity to Good Energy, 100% renewable, and if you want money off your first bill, contact me and I'll give you a code and details of who to contact.

    Anyway, good luck and enjoy the journey.

  4. Wow thanks Compost John - I've tried reducing my meat consumption, but it really is difficult... husband loves his meat. I make vegetarian dishes just because they're yummy but he notices there's no meat. GRrr will have to start using tofu or something!

    Transport is OK - we have no car, take public transport or walk most places and Eurostar to visit in-laws.

    Energy-wise, we're stuck as renting and planning on moving out in a few months. Will know for next time though. Thanks for the help ;)

  5. Wow this was a great list and reassured me that I am doing quite a bit for the enviroment as ticked quite a lot of these. I recycle everything from paper to husbands! (Kidding)

    Obviously we could all do more though and these suggestions were super. I think I might need to join an AA equivalent for shopping though, 'my name is Honest Mummy and I have a shopping addiction'. (*shrugs and cowers in shame*) Be it bags, food, charity finds, one pound shop deals, shopping makes me happy. I just wish I had the bank balance to fund it. Always the addict's problem huh.

  6. This is a useful US website for green parenting / design for kids