Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Environmental Impact

More and more I am thinking about our carbon footprint and the effect that we, as a household, have on the environment.

I am starting to grow my own food - not much to begin with because I am not that green-fingered - but I have planted some tomato, bean and courgette seeds which are coming on nicely in their pots, and some salad greens which I have sown directly into the garden which are also growing well. And I have some curly kale and spinach to sow in the next month or so.

We have the chickens now and they supply us with the eggs we need and they also help by eating some of the vegetable waste. What they don't eat goes into the compost bin.

I cycle to work and try not to use the car unless I have to. Himself is working close to home at the moment so he is walking rather than taking his petrol-thirsty car.

When I'm shopping I try to buy fruit and vegetables that are, if not locally grown, then at least grown in the UK. This isn't always possible, British grapes for example, are probably rarer than hen's teeth. Although I heard on the radio the other day that our climate is getting more and more suitable for growing grapes for wine production so, who knows, with time, we might get British eating grapes too. But changing eating habits is difficult, and expensive.

Firstly we're used to being able to buy what we want pretty much when we want it, and that's a hard habit to break. But I am slowly getting us to eat more seasonally as well. Also at the back of my mind is the fact that we now live on a much more global scale and if everyone refused to buy products from certain countries, many of them third World, those countries' economies may well suffer.

Secondly, I try to buy organic as much as I can. But the problem I find with that is that the supermarkets over here charge an extortionate premium for anything labelled organic. I can't help but think they are to blame for so many people not being able to buy organic more regularly. Why should it be so much more expensive? It shouldn't be classed as a premium product. Whilst I will pay about £7 for a free-range chicken, I absolutely refuse to pay the same amount for two chicken breasts. So we don't have them. Since having the chickens, I refuse to buy any chicken that isn't free range. Not will I buy any product that contains eggs or chicken unless they come from free-range chickens - I will not support battery farming and its by-products any longer.

I have always bought bottled water. The tap water here is pretty dismal but I read in the paper today that it takes 6 litres of water to produce the plastic to make a 1 litre water bottle. WTF!?? So I bought a water filter this morning. It cost £10 and will probably cost about £5 a month for new filters. Which is much less than I pay for the bottled water I drink.

But we still have a lot of room for improvement in this house. We don't recycle as much as we should. We always used to as the recycling bins were across the road but since moving to the cottage there are no convenient recycling bins. Himself is of the opinion that by the time you've driven to the recycling centre, you've probably negated any good you might do by recycling in the first place. The jury is still out on that one.


  1. Hurrah for fresh eggs :) I guess the chickens settled in ok, given that they're giving you nice eggies.

    My parents grow their own grapes - they live on the edge of the new forest. The grapes are small but definitely edible (and now, about 5 years since planting the vines, they get more grapes that they can give away for about 5 weeks of the year!). They planted two vines along a sunny fence in their garden and encouraged them with some good compost.

  2. Wow! Tat's brilliant Sarah, I always thought you'd need a greenhouse at least! We have a very sunny south-facing wall... I wonder if grapes are worth a try?

  3. I'm jealouse of your fresh eggs. Since I moved it's hard for me to find them. It sounds like you're doing a better job of being environmentally friendly than many people I know. Good for you.

  4. My latest step is that I've given up buying paper towels.

    On a different note, I was in the mood for a good cup of coffee the other day. I stopped at a chain coffee shop (there are no single-owner places in my city). I brought in my stainless steel mug to avoid getting one of the throw-away paper cups. The person at the counter refused to fill my mug. She said they had a rule against it. If I BOUGHT one of their mugs, they would fill it, but not my mug. Well, I went across the street to the OTHER chain, and they filled my cup without a murmur. I wrote a note of complaint to the first chain.

  5. We would love to grow more but only have a very small border. We do manage rhubarb, loganberries, blackberries and a couple of tomato plants. I grow peppers in pots and some herbs- oh and I have 4 blueberry bushes in pots. But we get little return for all the effort!

  6. I admire you....

    I would die if I had to eat what I grew. I have a brown thumb, although I am trying to improve on my plant skills.

    I, too, am trying to become a little more conscious. I have started decreasing the chemicals I use to clean, I am recycling, and I am trying to plant trees. My next vehicle will be a Prius. I have been waiting because I hear the next edition will have much greater mileage. I wish I worked in a place/job where I could cycle, but ...the windblown, sweaty look just won't work.

  7. I think grapes are definitely worth a try. On a sunny wall the vines do grow fast (ridiculously so!) and, although the first year or two the harvest usually isn't so great, if you persevere you do end up with some nice little grapes. I think the vines like being older - my parents grapes are getting bigger each year (and there are more and more of them).
    And the vines look quite pretty.

  8. I think if we all just do the things we can it will make a huge difference.

    I recycle and buy mostly local food, but the cost of the organic stuff kills me. My kids eat like they've never seen food before to start with. I am going to try a veggie garden this year, but know in advance I'll probably kill everything one way or another.

    It's all the little steps adding up.

  9. Well done, those all sounds like good adjustments to make.

    Don't beat yourself up too much over where stuff comes from. The whole carbon-cost can be a bit tricky to calculate. For example, flowers grown in Kenya have a lower carbon footprint, even taking into account airplane travel, then flowers grown in greenhouses in Holland.

  10. Wow really Ann? That is incredible. There must be a website out there somewhere that gives all this sort of information. I must go have a Google!

  11. I'm growing tomatoes, banana peppers, jalepeno peppers,bell peppers and about 5 different herbs in pots this year. If I didn't rent my property I might try to grow an actual garden.

    I do buy mostly organic but I think the only way I can afford to is because I'm single and not trying to feed an entire family.

    I also try to use natural or biodegradable cleaning products in my house.

  12. Organic produce has gotten lot less expensive over here just lately. Organic bananas are yumm! We have made some big changes in our living and our life style too. I'm enjoying the hell out of it all. I really am.

  13. I'm going to be visiting the Saturday farmers market - and investing in food locally (and growing a bit myself, but not much)

  14. We have a local farmer's market that I will begin going to, as I don't really have a space to garden (the dog would tear it all up in no time). I get my eggs from my parents and we have a small plot out at their house, but driving out there takes a lot of gas. My son is referred to as the "recycling Nazi" because even after I've done my composting and recycling, he goes through the trash AGAIN and still manages to find things to recycle. He is adamant about it. As a result, our recycle bins are full and the trash container usually only has ONE bag in it. It's going to be his earth eventually, and I'm so glad he's interested in taking care of it!

  15. This was a great post. It's such an important topic. We're crazy for recycling. I've been doing it since I was a little girl, so it's in my nature. We compost. We buy local. And we're moving away from buying or using anything that is made of plastic that cannot be recycled. The one that kills me is organic food. It is extremely expensive for us and I have a hard time paying the prices. It makes me quite angry that healthy, organic food is a luxury, but hopefully the prices will come into alignment as demand increases (or not!) Grrr.

    Did you know becoming a vegetarian has an enormously positive impact on reducing greenhouse gases? Apparently the energy it takes to raise cattle, refrigerate meat and all the processes in between is huge. We're down to eating very little meat as a result.

    Anyway, every little bit helps. Thanks again for a wonderfully thought provoking post. Human consciousness is rising as we speak. Great job!

  16. AOJ, I'm on catch up. This is all fab. We just got ourselves a composter and we're really trying to do our bit to half our landfill waste. I've just started 'The Rubbish Diet' and will be blogging about it soon. You might be interested in it. http://therubbishdiet.blogspot.com/


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.