Steps towards Zero Waste in cosmetics and the day to day

I haven’t written much on the ‘simple life’ stuff  lately, partly because I’ve moved and it’s harder to do in my new home! However what I have been focused on is moving towards zero waste living. I’d previously been doing this, but I’m happy to see it’s now got a name and a bit of a movement – google it and you should find other ideas. However here are some of the steps I’ve taken:

  • while more fresh fruit and veg, deliberately avoiding the kind that is wrapped in plastic, unless it’s in the ‘reduced’ section and about to go out of date.
  • carrying around a travel mug and/or reusable coffee cup, particularly to my new church where they use paper cups, but also when out and about. (Though I’m thinking about giving up coffee tbh)
  • changed shampoo, conditioner and body wash for ‘soap’-like blocks from Lush Cosmetics. There is minimal paper wrapping that is optional, and no plastic.
  • For moisturiser, I’m using up some old almond oil, but I’m going to shift between a mixture of Lush massage bars and their hand/body lotions that come in black plastic tubs that they recycle themselves.
  • carrying reusable bags everywhere.
  • at work when they are putting on events, committing that I’ll do the washing up rather than using disposable plates and cups. Though, the last time I did this, I was running the event and someone washed up before I could get round to it…

One of the problems with modern environmentalism is that it looks for ways to ameliorate the effects of our current practices, such as offering recycling. But much stuff put into recycling bins don’t get recycled. The real solution is to reduce consumption and stop producing so much waste.

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Blog: Tanzania and “How planting trees can tackle poverty”

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Sorry I’m a bit late with this. I took a trip to Tanzania to observe the work of a charity – Plant With Purpose – and see how permaculture ideas, Christian faith and development can be integrated holistically to help people. I’m writing a few articles about it, here’s the first short piece for Christian Today, about how something as simple as a tree can help people as well as improve the environment.

For people on the breadline, the link between the environment and poverty is much clearer and easier to see. A significant root cause of poverty is the state of the land.

The picture is of a beautiful area in this lovely community of Marangu that’s been set aside as a nature reserve, and it’s truly gorgeous. Leaving nature to do its work has also brought them a new water source – good news for rural farmers in a hot country. They were so generous and welcoming – it was an amazing experience.

If you’ve any questions about the work, I’d be really happy to answer them.

Cycling and walking solve a lot of problems

I’ve just given up my car, mainly due to the cost, and the fact I didn’t use the car that much. Most of the journeys I make can be made by bike or public transport. I’d been putting off selling it, as I’ve not been well, and also I do use it for church stuff. But when I worked out how much it costs me each month, I could pay for taxis and occasionally cars easily within the money I save.

There are many problems solved by this approach:

  • I save a lot of cash
  • I do more exercise
  • I’m more connected with my surroundings – I’m enjoying the outside more
  • I don’t have the road rage aggro or parking anxiety
  • I’m no longer expected to give lots of lifts, so I save time

The downside will be in the rainy spells – but I live in a dry part of the country, so it’s easier. Hills are also a problem. But so far, so good.

Ways to reduce waste and plastic

I’m setting myself a personal challenge, to reduce the stuff in my waste bin as much as possible. I’m even trying to find ways of re-using the stuff that can go in the recycling bin. Here are a few ideas I’ve been trying, that haven’t been too difficult. Let me know your ideas…

Replace tissues with hankies

Replace plastic dishwashing brushes/sponges with cotton dishcloths

Replace kitchen towel with cotton dishcloths

Search for food sold in paper bags rather than plastic

Choose loose fruit and veg at the counter, and don’t use plastic bags to put them in (even better, get an organic veg box)

Buy Ecoleaf toilet tissue – you can compost the wrapper

Get milk delivered in old fashioned milk bottles

Use re-usable bags for shopping

Make bricks for your fire with all your scrap paper and junk mail

I found this great blog recently – Trash is for Tossers – try it for some more ideas

Obeying the Bible means living a radical, green life

It was great to see so many people out marching for Climate change around the world last weekend. It’s always good to see a community getting together for a common cause. But will it change anything? I doubt it. Governments already know that a significant minority of their populations are concerned about climate change. What will really change the situation is not going on marches, but changing the way we live.

And, encouragingly for Christians, this way of living is laid out pretty clearly in the Bible. In fact, even if you don’t believe in climate change, if you want to take the Bible seriously, you’ve to live a life that is in agreement with the greenest and most right-on environmental protesters.

Why? Well, anything that is producing carbon and going into the atmosphere, is related to consumption. It’s caused by money, or more to the point, it’s caused by some people having too much money and greed. It’s now the norm for our culture to be going off on foreign holidays via plane, even twice a year, having two cars, changing technology every few months, eating vegetables that were flown from the other side of the world. And what makes all this possible? Having too much cash, and then choosing to spend it on ourselves rather than on helping others. This is a lifestyle that we’re all caught up in in the West, and dealing with it is a lot harder than going on a march. Our societies need root and branch reform, and the Bible is the best place to start. I think this passage is key to the issue:

“Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content.

But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.” 1 Tim 6:6-10

How true this Bible quote is. Greed, and the lust for entertainment, stuff, activity and fashion, has lulled us into this situation, where the world’s resources are scarce and we’re wasting them on consumer goods and leisure rather than investing them into people and the planet. We have a model in Jesus, who was so low-impact that he didn’t even have his own house (Luke 9:58). We’re told to be stewards of the Earth and all the living things in it (Gen 1:28). When we think of Matt 25 we normally remember that those who go to eternal punishment are those who have not helped the sick, the imprisoned and the hungry. But Rev 11:18 also points out that those who destroy the earth will be in this group. So if we’re God’s people, then we’ll be caring for people and caring for the Earth too.

Breaking our addiction to consumption, cars, boys toys and all the trappings of the modern world will take a long time. In the same way as an addiction to crack or alcohol, it takes Jesus to fill the hole that the addiction leaves and repair the damage. This in and of itself will direct our attention from entertainment and buying stuff, towards helping others and loving Creation, in all its beautiful variety. We’ll not be working every hour God gives us, but working fewer hours because we’ll need less money: truly we’ll be serving God and not filthy lucre (Matt 6:24). We’ll have more time for our friends and family, and serving our community, even putting on dinner parties for the lost and broken (Luke 14:13). We’ll be able to give away the money we do have to good causes.

I can hear the mini-me Richard Dawkins of the twitter world howling in outrage at what I’ve just said, thinking of the gas-guzzling SUVs and private jets of certain parts of the Christian community, especially in America. But it’s not our job to shout at them, it’s our job to lead by example. And perhaps we need to get the log out of our own eye, before we can help others get the speck out of theirs (Matt 7:3-5). We need more than shifting to a green tariff, reusing plastic bags and buying recycled paper, to get the almighty, rotten trunk out of our own eyes.

Living a life worthy of that 1 Tim passage, and to be content with just having enough food and clothing to survive, is radically different from our Western culture. But as the ancient monks and nuns discovered, it can leave more space for what’s really good, and what’s really God. After all, it’s His Earth, not ours.

Saving jam jars – what to do with them?

SAMSUNG

I’ve got a huge box of jam jars. Some of them are soaking in hot water at the moment, in preparation for making some lovely bramble and apple jam (some great free food in my area at the moment). I’ve been saving these jars for ages, and wondered if I’d ever get round to using them. I’d been hoping to make apple jam and chutney every year, when my apple trees produce their harvest, and did it for the first time last year. I gave them away as presents at Christmas, and ate my way through them too.

But there have been some other uses for the jam jars.

  • Sprouting seeds in them, a good way of making fresh food when you haven’t been to the shops for a while.
  • Chucking out old oil, rather than putting it down the sink.
  • Using them to hold water when painting.

So all in all, I’m glad I’ve kept these old jars hanging around, rather than putting them out for the recycling van.

Picking brambles: freely available fruit

I notice that fruit on the bramble that’s happily set root in my garden is about to ripen. Free fruit, with absolutely no effort to me. Great. No way is it a weed.

I’ll have lots more too, soon. Near where I live, there is a great big quarry, which has been overrun by brambles. Remarkably last year, two weeks after they started to ripen, there was still an abundance of blackberries to pick. I had seen a few Polish guys having a go, and many of the good berries were out of my reach. But there were still plenty to be had, and they are totally free.

I picked 1kg of brambles in total. I froze about a quarter of these, made another quarter into a smoothie, and have made apple and blackberry jam with the rest. I’ll put up the recipes at some point. This year I’d like to make blackberry cordial, too. The latter two are a great way to reuse jam jars and bottles, part of my quest to have no waste.

You’ve got to watch out for the creepy crawlies, and give the fruit a good wash. I avoided all brambles that were lower than the height of a dog, even if they were particularly plump… for obvious reasons.

It did make my hands go purple, but the dog loved prowling around while I was busy!