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Monthly Archives: August 2013

Upcycling, it’s like recycling really, you take something and either change it or use it as something else.  In our kitchen we have a table that is made of a joist and floorboards that were being thrown out of a renovation.  Our furniture is pretty much all second hand, we have a philosophy that if we are given something, next time we have something we don’t need we likewise give it away.  We use plastic bottles to plant, for our aquariums, to store water, for containing home made products for use.  Anything that can be recycled does to minimise waste.  We often make gifts instead of buying them, I learned how to knit, hubby and I learned how to carve, I’ve dabbled with glass painting and ow digital painting.  With the exception of my laptop, which I consider a valuable tool and I use, to death, literally, we always try to source our items second hand.  I tend to try and take care of what we do have so that the necessity to buy newer isn’t required.  There are times when I give in, I’m only human after all, but if I can get it for free or barter for it I will.  There are so many ways to reuse household items.  I reuse containers where I can, if they are seal-able they work for storage.  Tin cartons can be used for cooking.  This is a tip I learned from someone else, but leftover foil can be scrunched up and used as as a scourer.  Even our food waste is upcycled into compost in our compost bin in the garden, it cost £14 and we’ve had it going for 3 years now.  Unusual or pretty glass jars and bottles can either be glass painted or filled with home made preserves and chutneys, or bath salts etc and given as gifts.  Egg boxes can be used as mulch, or take them to one of the many trust boxes, where you leave your money and pick up a box of eggs, so they can reuse them (or maybe ask first).  Cardboard and newspaper can be used as mulch, just remove any staples or tape.  You don’t need to dig your garden to get rid of weeds, just put cardboard and/or paper over the top, cover it all and keep damp, it will eventually rot, you may need to do a little maintenance but it’s a good way to cover a large area.  Try to make sure it’s weighted down too so it doesn’t blow away, if you want an instant effect, put it down, wet it, put compost over the top.  Plants will break through wet cardboard without any problems and you can even plant on top of it, or through it like a week membrane.  If you have old clothes, take them to or arrange a clothes swap, get something you like for something you don’t anymore.  These are all things I do now and as I think of things I will add them.

OK so this is our plan, as you will see from my previous blogging our attempt at food production was an almost epic fail, however, we have learned from this and have adjusted our plan accordingly.   So here it is.

1.  Look into the purchase or making of solar panels (I have found a site, will find the link).  Use these to power various appliances and the pump for the aquaponics system.  We live in rented accommodation, we can’t make changes to the electrical infrastructure of the property, but we can operate small units designed to run a small number of items, this will reduce the amount of energy we use.

2.  Black out some plastic bottles and store water in them daily, keep them on a windowsill and the temperature increase, no matter how small, will make the boiling of water for cooking less, hence using less energy.

3.  Plant garden with wildflowers and grow on the patio in up planters, like bottle gardens, to try and minimise the bug impact on our vegetable growing.

4.  Clear our neighbours garden and build a large polytunnel, once built install solar aquaponics system.

5.  Plant seeds in the house over winter and use red and blue LED’s to try and keep growth through colder months.

6.  Try to produce less waste, upcycle as much as possible and reduce actual refuse (excluding recycling) from 2 bags a fortnight to 1.

7.  Weather proof the house as much as possible to reduce energy bills during winter.

8.  Save the money we hopefully will be saving by taking these steps and eventually buy some land, build a sustainable property on it and do all this again.  🙂

This last step isn’t for everyone, but others could use any of the above, we will be posting progress on all of these so that anyone can benefit from them if they wish to.  There are many, many ways to become more sustainable and if I’m honest it is easier if you have money, but we plan on spending as little as possible, for this to work for others it needs to suit everyone’s budget and this day and age more and more of us are struggling to survive.  Wherever possible we will make what we need, reuse what we can and if we do need to make purchases we will research them and share that research.  So that’s the plan, I hope to have all this running, with proof of working by next Spring.

This blog will be ongoing as I have so many links to find and post.  Essentially there are a lot of ways we can save energy.  Before the price increases we had joined a plan with a monitor that attached to our electricity supply.  We found that just by turning everything off at night we were saving £1 a day.  We had previously been quite complacent.  Not really aware that leaving something on, even if it’s on standby or a charger that isn’t connected to what it should be charging, drains power.  

The energy saving trust also offers a free connection for showers so they use less water.  We are already on a water meter, which automatically makes you a little more aware of how you use it.  Our tap shower is broken so we have had to have baths, I started ensuring that I didn’t fill it to the extent I normally would, which to be fair probably saves a considerable amount.  We collect water to water plants and also use water from our Aquarium, so we aren’t using tap water or the sewage system.  

Your freezer is more efficient when it is full.  A class appliances use less energy.  I often try to cook using only one method, one pot cooking or ensure if I have several dishes to make that they are cooked alongside eachother.  We only heat our water when it is needed and live without heating for as long as possible. 

We have cardboard with the fire blankets glued to them (The silver ones, you can pick them up for about £2) behind our radiators and behind furniture that backs onto an external wall.  We keep curtains mostly closed in the winter to try to stop heat escaping.  We use draught excluders.  

This year I want to try and use less again, we are going to put a curtain on our stairs as it is open plan, this way the downstairs shouldn’t get quite as cold and the upstairs quite as warm which will hopefully mean we can keep heating on low.  

Try to re use any wasted food or get a composting bin so at least you are not throwing it away.  

Place black painted bottles of water on windowsills to heat up and use to cook, less energy to boil the water 🙂 

I will post more tips as I try them out.  I am trying to only post information on things we have tried ourselves.  

Ok so we did get this idea of you tube, so feel free to go and see, however I can’t remember which one we watched so can’t give them any credit.  

You will need 1 air pump, with tube,  I picked ours up for £5, we have 2 so that was a cost of £10.  

K1 filter media – usually advertised as koy carp pond media – again we got 1kilo for £5 so that’s a total cost of £15 for the 2 pumps.

Plastic bottles (I mean recycled, as in use what you have.

Get your plastic bottle and either drill, stab or poke holes into the bottom so that the air can be released, you also make an incision large enough for your air pipe to go into, in the neck of the bottle.  You want the pipe to be in half way, so the air is released up through the centre of the bottle from top to bottom (it sits in the tank upside down).  We also poked holes into the side to attach suction cups so it sits in the side of the tank.  So with all your holes made, you take your plastic bottle and you fill it half way with the K1 media.  Attach the pump pipe, get a household sponge (un-used and you are best to sterilize it with boiling water first) cut a hole roughly the size of the bottle, place it on the top (which is the bottom, I know) and you’re good to attach it to the side of the tank and switch it on.  

So just to recap, 2 air pumps, plastic tube, K1 filter media, plastic bottle and household sponge.  

You will notice it’s very pretty in how it moves, a bit snow globe like, it also will get dirty, this is the idea, it filters out harmful bacteria but leaves the good stuff.  

We have also adapted a water pump by putting a cut in half plastic bottle on the end where the water is sucked in and put two household sponges into it, the water still pumps but the sponge sucks up the muck 🙂 

OK, so I’m not too pleased with the Beeb, but I have nothing against Science Club, sometimes I may question how good some things will be but for the most part I see hope, particularly for renewable energy.  The latest episodes touch on some fantastic ideas and encourage new technologies to come forward, for hardware hacking (taking one item and turning it into another) and for everyone to get their thinking caps on.  There are renewable energies out there and if we stopped thinking so nationally and started taking it down to a local level there isn’t any reason why the billions we pile into fossil fuels couldn’t be piled into these new technologies instead.  There is a man in Wales who powers his entire village with a hydro generator on a river that runs through his land, we just need to think outside the box.  Here is a link if anyone wants it.  http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/search?q=science%20club

UPDATE 31/08/13

Nice – DIY Solar Panels – http://www.mysolarshop.co.uk/DIY-Solar-power-panel-i-243.html

OK, so my personal opinion is that we need to move away from agriculture and move towards localised permaculture, it is less labour intensive and believe it or not, agriculture has a detrimental affect on our eco system . I think we should be thinking local on power too, the reason the politicians and big power companies tell you that it’s too expensive to have green energy and green products is 1, they WANT your money and 2. they are doing it on a national scale.  Anyway, I digress, this intrigues me very much as I am very much against GMO, particularly from those well known large companies who are into everything!  So here’s a link, I shall be doing some research into this…

http://www.independent.ie/business/irish/wave-goodbye-to-global-warming-gm-and-pesticides-29525621.html

It’s an old article, but an interesting concept, set up hydropower, sell it back to the companies and use the funds to improve the local ecology.  Spot on my friends.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-north-east-wales-17224801

Now when you look at this one, I’d really like to know why on earth we are pursuing fossil fuels when there are technologies like THIS out there.

http://www.pavegen.com/

UPDATE 10/09/13

Today I am looking into powering appliances at home, so some links showing what I’m researching will follow.

http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/wind-power-for-dummies-cheat-sheet.html

http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/the-essentials-of-planning-your-solar-power-system.html

UPDATE: 15/09/13 – This is a long video but it’s very good, all in one energy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=arbXj9R6ZXw

In order to change how we impact the planet and everyone on it we need to consider how we live.  I’m not saying don’t shop at Supermarkets, sometimes there’s something you want and I doubt that will change, but consider the following when making your purchases.  Take your common apple for example.  You go to the supermarket, either by public transport, your own vehicle and some will walk, those walking create less impact but expend more personal energy.  You buy your apple and you go home.  But that apple is most likely to have grown in another country, often countries that themselves are very poor, some of the companies might not pay taxes there so the benefit isn’t seen by that country either, it is usually air freighted to the UK, sometimes it’s irradiated to make it last longer and there will most likely be a local producer who produces the same apple only it’s too large or too small for the consumer taste, the excess packaging then gets carted off to other poorer areas within other countries where their poor try to make a living from it.  This happens with many products and there is an increase of stores offering local produce, but why not produce it yourselves or seek it out ourselves?  We all create an impact, in everything we do, sometimes without realising it, I hope that by us sharing ideas and knowledge we will all change how we view the world.