Global Impact

Winter is coming and we live an old 80’s semi detached house so it’s not that warm unless we crank the heating up, although we aren’t affected by price increases (I was lucky enough to get onto fixed tariffs before each one) it’s not very “green”.  In February we are switching to a green energy company in the UK but in the mean time we’ve made some changes to try and make the house better insulated whilst trying not to spend too much. 

Firstly we were given material so made simple curtains to go around our open plan staircase to encourage heat back into our living room.  They have a hem on 3 sides and a large hem to fit a curtain pole through, the most simple you can get really. 

I purchased material locally to make new curtains as the ones on the living room window were far too thin, so we purchased the new material (I don’t mind, I think I support local trade this way) and basically used the old ones as lining.  I decided I’d like a small colour change so made some cushion covers from the leftovers.  The bottom line is that we have a warmer room, with a colour change (not essential I know) but all for under £60, instead of going out and buying everything new.

Behind radiators I have sheets of cardboard (reused of course) with a mylar blanket glued to it to reflect heat back into the rooms.  I also have cardboard behind sofas on outside walls to further try and insulate a little. 

We have a draught excluder made of the leg of an old pair of jeans stuffed with old clothes at the living room door (it opens onto a porch that isn’t insulated) and we are fitting a curtain over it also. 

I have read that it is better to keep heating on constantly and low than to keep switching it on and off, so I’m conducting a test.  We have had a poorly pet so he needed the heating left on really, so I have done for 2 weeks and taken metre readings.  To look at it, it doesn’t appear a drastic difference from normal (heat set higher and coming on for only 6 hours a day).  I’m waiting on a cost from the energy company and shall report this when I get it.  To be honest if it is the same cost it is worth doing as the house stays at a permanent comfortable temperature.  The reasoning is that it takes large amounts of energy to switch the heating on, which I did not know previously.   So I shall keep you posted on that. 

Our curtains are all closed to keep the heat in, when we are in work it doesn’t make a difference as we are not there and our pets are fish, who have their own light and rats who sleep a lot during the day.  

When I first started this blog I said I was going to try and reduce our waste and have succeeded from 2 to 3 black bags a fortnight (landfill) to 1 a fortnight.  This has been helped by our council now recycling cardboard and paper.  We try not to buy processed food and organic and non processed food tends to come in less packaging naturally.  All tin cans, plastic covers, plastic bottles (those that aren’t kept for making planters), plastic containers, all glass, all cardboard and paper get recycled with us now.  

It hasn’t been difficult to achieve with the kerbside scheme and once checking initially I generally remember what can recycled and what can’t, there’s also reuse as well as recycle so some of our waste will be made into other things.  A lot of cardboard goes for mulching, containers can be used for our pets (who also have all their waste contribute to our compost 🙂 ) 

My advice to anyone wanting to reduce their waste is to encourage councils to have  kerbside scheme, learn what can be recycled and what can’t and try to avoid what can’t.  I already boycott a huge number of companies for being unethical, since then I have changed how I look at my food, the products we purchase and also what goes back out of our door, aware that every black bag will be buried in our earth and left to fester, picked apart by children on foreign soil and contaminate those areas.  It’s not something I am happy about.  

When I have time I shall try and do a week where I’ll show everything that gets opened, used, recycled and disposed of.  

This is a touchy subject and one that has bothered me for years.  I’ve never been comfortable with sanitary products, the disposal of them has minimal options and they are hideously bad for the environment and in a lot of cases, upon researching, bad for us too.  So I elected to find a new product that I could use that would be environmentally friendly and me friendly.

I tried a mooncup first, I know people who use them who say they are great, I found it awkward to put in and I couldn’t remove it in the way they advise to so I found it painful on removal.

So I then tried moonpads, or a version of, and I have to say I’m seriously impressed.  I read a lot of reviews first and what I read was that women would not go back to their own method of monthly sanitary products.  I agree totally.  Admittedly I have been having very light periods only lasting a few days, but I found a starter pack of 4 normal and 2 nighttime pads have suited me fine.  I wash them by hand during the days I have my period then into the washing machine in an old pillow case once a month.  They are clean, they haven’t caused any leaking through, they don’t smell, they aren’t jammed with chemicals and materials that cause skin irritation.  Yes, they are thicker so I tend to wear clothes that do not highlight this fact.  All in all I am very, very pleased.  I accept the £30 price tag as I’ll never need anything else again, they are definitely the way to go for me.   I highly recommend them for those who can’t handle the mooncup or don’t want chemicals near their sensitive bits 🙂

Why say NO to Monsanto?

A Multinational Agricultural and Biotechnology corporation.  The leading producer of Genetically Engineered Seeds and Roundup pesticide (and of the herbicide Glyphosate which is a component of roundup).  Started in 1901 it originally began producing plastics and synthetic fibres.  They are behind the insecticides, DDT, PCBs and agent orange.  They are also responsible for bovine growth hormones.

They began genetically modifying plant cells in the 1980’s and have since become the greatest supplier of GMO produce in the US.

Monsanto produce a number of GMO seeds and products with one being terminator seeds, seeds that will produce plants but sterile seeds, ensuring that purchases MUST be made from Monsanto.  I believe these were the seeds that were sent to Africa to “help” surely helping would have been to send non GMO seeds and allow farmers to collect the seeds at harvest and re use them.

Should a farmer attempt to save seeds (from varieties that will produce seeds) instead of buying them can look forward to a law suit that Monsanto is most likely to win since they patent their seeds.  Some farmers have even been imprisoned.  The problem is, the seeds in question could carry like normal seed does in nature.    Seed cleaning has also been under scrutiny by Monsanto, seeing to it that seeds cannot be cleaned and re used.

Numerous court cases have been brought against Monsanto in relation to health.   Although the law in the US now protects them from such law suits.  Fox news were threatened by Monsanto during 1997 when reporters wanted to do a story on the negative effects of Posilac the bovine growth hormone.  Needless to say the reporters were fired.

In 1996 Monsanto tried to say it’s Roundup brand was non toxic and was advised to cease due to it being misleading.

Glyphosate, Roundups main ingredient is classed as dangerous for the environment and toxic for aquatic organisms.  Monsanto however advertise their products as being biodegradable and were convicted of false advertising in 2007.  In August 2012 they were ordered to pay $250.000 for the same misrepresentation in Brazil from 2004.

Monsanto test their genetically engineered products for 3 months before release, the FDA does not conduct independent testing.  Recently scientists in Europe conducted testing on both the GMO seed and roundup, continuing after the 3 month cut off and found that month 4 is where things start to go wrong.  An increase in mortality rates infertility and tumours in rats.  Recent research completed by the friends of the earth has shown that roundup ingredients have been found in the urine of Europeans despite GMO being relatively new there.  The evidence suggests that roundup is linked to a series of health problems including Parkinsons, Infertility and Cancers (Published in the Scientific Journal Entropy)

Research in Argentina found that from 2000 to 20009 following the expansion of GMO soy and rice crops in the region that the childhood cancer rate tripled.

Agent Orange is a herbicide used by the US in Vietnam and is accountable for over 1 million deaths, deformities and health issues.

Watching documentaries and reading articles has shown me that people link Monsanto to a number of diseases including chiari malformations, many farmers have said they have been put under pressure to use Monsanto seeds and those that have refused have had their entire crops burned due to accusations of Monsanto seed growing there.  People have grown GMO corn and natural corn and found that animals will not eat the GMO corn.  Evolution has provided natures fauna with the ability to know what is good to eat and what is not, the birds say no to Monsanto.

In 2011 Monsanto spent $6.3,000,000 on lobbying the US congress.  In 2013 the Farmer Assurance Provision Act was part of a bill to provide continued funding to the federal government, which the President signed into law.  Protecting Monsanto and their seed even if a judge deems it unapproved.

In conclusion to this I would like to say that firstly 3 months of testing is not sufficient by any standards.  There has been no research conducted by Monsanto on the long term effects of their produce on humans, wildlife or the ecosystem.  In any other industry this would not be acceptable.  I wrote to the UK Health and Food Minister about my concerns over Monsanto in that they have been linked to numerous health defects and their crops have destroyed natural crops and their response was they are not worried about one crop.

I find this irresponsible on the part of our government, we should be concerned about the extinction of any item in our world, be it animal or plant.  The unheard of protection from the US government, the misleading advertising on numerous occasions and the plight of farmers.  When farmers are committing suicide due to the acts of a corporation and no one asks any questions that is surely a warning sign.   I am not against biotech, science holds a multitude of benefits for humanity and the planet, but I do object to poor testing, protection by governments and monopolies.

The majority of the food in the US is controlled by a few companies, Monsanto included, the detrimental effects to health and environment are being reported all over the states.  Campaigning for GMO labelling has been underway for some time.   Sadly on writing to the Embassies of several countries I have been informed that GMO foods are welcomed into most countries subject to legislation and yet these products have not been sufficiently tested.

Personally I will not buy anything from any company affiliated with Monsanto and I constantly try to raise awareness and get some moral responsibility accepted by officials.  I urge you all to say NO to Monsanto who put profits before people.  To conclude I have a list from Wikipedia, the list of people who have held positions in government, Monsanto and the FDA, EPA and Supreme Court

Mr. Earle H. Harbison, Jr. served with the Central Intelligence Agency for 18 years, rising to the rank of Deputy Director, after which he had a career at Monsanto, rising to the roles of President, Chief Operating Officer, and Director of Monsanto, which he held from 1986 to 1993.[45]

  • Michael A. Friedman, MD, was Senior Vice President of Research and Development, Medical and Public Policy for Pharmacia, and later served as an FDA deputy commissioner.[325][326]
  • Linda J. Fisher was an assistant administrator at the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) before she was a vice president at Monsanto from 1995 to 2000. In 2001, Fisher became the deputy administrator of the EPA.[140]
  • Michael R. Taylor was an assistant to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner before working as an attorney for King & Spalding, a private-sector law firm that represented Monsanto among other clients.[327][328] He later served as deputy commissioner for policy to the FDA on food safety between 1991 and 1994 during which time the FDA approved rBST.[140] He was accused of a conflict of interest, but a federal investigation cleared him. Following his tenure at the FDA, Taylor returned to Monsanto as Vice President for Public Policy.[285][286][287] On July 7, 2009, Taylor entered government as Senior Advisor to the Commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration for the Obama administration.[288][289]
  • United States Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas worked as an attorney for Monsanto in the 1970s. Thomas wrote the majority opinion in the 2001 Supreme Court decision J. E. M. Ag Supply, Inc. v. Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc.[329] which found that “newly developed plant breeds are patentable under the general utility patent laws of the United States.”[140][329][330]
  • Mickey Kantor served on Monsanto’s board after serving in government as a trade representative.[140]
  • William D. Ruckelshaus served as the first head of the Environmental Protection Agency(EPA) in 1970, was subsequently acting Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and then Deputy Attorney General of the United States. From 1983 to 1985, he returned as EPA administrator. After leaving government he joined the Board of Directors of Monsanto; he is currently retired from that board.[331]
  • Between serving for Gerald Ford and George W. Bush, Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was chairman and chief executive officer of G. D. Searle & Company, a pharmaceutical company which produced aspartame apparently while working on an ulcer drug. Monsanto bought the company in 1985, and re-branded aspartame as NutraSweet. Rumsfeld’s stock and options in Searle were $12 million USD at the time of the transaction.[140]

Further reading:

Apart from being an amazing film (if you haven’t seen it I’d recommend it) it’s an amazing ethos.  If we all payed it forward every so often the world would automatically be a better place.  Part of it for us is to try not to throw away an item of use but to offer it to someone, after all it may be a useless spare bed to us but to someone else who doesn’t have one, it’s just a bed!  Today I went onto a local site looking to post that we have a single bed to give away.  I noticed a post from a week ago about a man who had gone through a breakup and needs just about everything so he can have his kids over.  So I contacted him and we’re dropping the bed off to him tomorrow, I’ve also gone through our things (people give us things they don’t want, we keep them, sometimes we give them away) so now I can give him a bed, bedding, hoover, stereo, dinner set and lamp shades.  The thing that has touched me is he is so grateful and astounded that people have been so nice in offering items to him.  He kept offering payment via barter but I told him I’d just want him to do the same if he was in a position to.  We now have a few less bits and pieces required, but more importantly a Dad will have his home started ready for his children to be with him.  That’s all the payment we’ll ever need and thanks really aren’t needed.  

There is a big difference between needing and wanting.  We need very little to survive really, a home, some furnishings, a place to cook and a place to wash.  What we want is often very different from that.  I am not writing this post for people to praise me for being a nice person, I kind of know that (lol) 😉 but I would like to encourage others to think about it before they part with something that can still be used, to someone with nothing, your something could be everything.  


Part of what we want to do is try to test ideas that would enable people with small spaces to grow at least some produce.  One I know that works as I have seen it and can look lovely, we plan to do this next year on trellis we already have, is to use bottle towers.  This is an excellent example with instructions and I can’t take any credit for it, I just searched for it, but when we do it I’ll post images.

Update: 15/09/13 – today my friends little girl collected the seeds from apples we foraged for.  I am going to follow this to try and get some sprouting 🙂

I’ll update this as we go along.

UPDATE: 17/09/13 – I soaked the apple seeds for 24 hours and they are packed up, into the fridge they go for 80 days.

Apple Seeds


I didn’t have any kitchen roll so used cotton pads.  Our first packet of seeds have arrived, Angelica.  We will be growing on windowsills.  I will be posting the instructions when we get the seeds and are ready to plant.  I intend to use litre bottles, I will be cutting them 2/3rds of the way up, the bottoms will be filled with stones to give the plants natural drainage whilst being indoors.  I will then place a circle of cardboard which will eventually mulch but for now will provide a barrier between earth and stones.  Plus it will give a firmer base for packing down the earth.  We would then add compost and plant the seeds, the bottle tops will be used as propagators until we have seedlings.  We have a lot of herbs coming so I’m hoping in a few months we’ll have a window herb garden. 🙂

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.