I recently returned from a wonderful two weeks in Southern Africa. I entered by and left from Johannesburg and saw snippets of Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Although I thoroughly enjoyed my holiday, it was painful at times to see the levels of plastic waste produced, both on the part of the locals and the tourists. Obviously travel, especially flying, sucks for the environment so I am a complete hypocrite.
I bought one five-litre bottle of water when we went on a one night trip to the Okavango delta, where there wasn’t any running water. Aside from that, I drank tap water from my filter bottle. Of course it would have been nice to have a cool refreshing drink from the fridge every now and then, but it helped me get used to drinking warm water. I bought a WaterWell bottle from Amazon the week before I departed. There were only a couple of times that I drank unfiltered water, but I think having the bottle there was good for my peace of mind. It’s also something I can use again on future trips.
I don’t really consume soft drinks so I wasn’t responsible for much waste in this area. For me, camping and drinking are not compatible so I consumed far less alcohol than I normally would on holiday. I eschewed straws unless I had remembered my metal one (which I almost always managed to leave in my big rucksack). I brought my own plastic tub with me, which was very handy on days when we prepared sandwiches for ourselves.
Before departing for the trip, I fully intended to be flexitarian. But somehow, the first minute I stepped foot in a South African supermarket, I strongly felt that I didn’t want to do that. I wasn’t sure how much awareness there would be of veganism, so I bought myself a survival kit.
Fortunately the guides were pretty understanding about different dietary requirements so I was generally provided with something I could eat each day.
However, the meals hit home that I don’t like eating in mixed company- especially when my meal is an impoverished version of what everyone else is having. This is what perpetuates the myth that vegan food is shit. Meat eaters see me looking miserable munching a salad while they’re cutting into a steak. I overheard one of the omnivores comment, “That’s just sad,” when looking at my vegan coleslaw (aka grated carrot and cabbage). Honestly, it was sad. But if I’d been provided with an alternative, it wouldn’t have been.
I’d noticed feeling unhappy in omnivore company a few times last year, but the holiday really put it into focus. I don’t like being given different food to others. It’s hard, because I end up feeling ungrateful when someone has gone to the effort of catering for me. I’ve managed to organise my life so that I mostly eat at veggie and vegan places and I will continue to phase out visits to establishments that serve meat.
Fortunately avocados were in season, so I was able to supplement the often-meagre vegan options with those, and lots of peanut butter (not together obvs). Otherwise I would have struggled. I felt annoyed at times because I’d paid the same amount of money as the meat-eaters but ended up having to top up my food when they didn’t.
I only broke my vegan vows a couple of times. I had three coffees with cow milk (all horrible- oat milk is vastly superior in my opinion), and one sandwich that I had already started spreading before realising I was using butter rather than margarine. I also had a slice of cake on the first night, and two eggs when there was a miscommunication with a restaurant about what I did/didn’t eat. Not bad considering that there was not a single meal of the trip where animal products were not served.
Being away has been a reminder that I’m pretty lucky to live in a place where it’s easy to be vegan, and you don’t spend your whole life feeling that you’re missing out.
Once again Halloween rolled around and once again it was a week before a party that I started thinking about a costume. I had a little time in central London so wandered around a ‘vintage’ store for some inspiration. I wanted a costume that would work with my teeny weeny Afro. Initially I was thinking Moss from the IT crowd.
As I looked at the dubious vintage items (a bugbear of mine is ‘vintage’ stores that are overpriced and have crappy, samey clothing), I started to feel inspired. I quite wanted to go for an It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia costume but didn’t want to buy a new wig- maybe I’ll go as Ango Goblogian if I stumble across the right secondhand wig another time.
I had just seen the new Joker movie and wondered whether there was mileage in that as a concept. I’ve seen on Instagram (good targeted advertising I guess) that they sell hair wax that’s capable of producing vibrant temporary colour on Afro hair and doesn’t look crispy and awful.
Note: I’ve been meaning to write about the experience of cutting my hair but haven’t got around to it. I definitely surprised myself with how strongly my feelings about my gender were tied up with my long hair. So perhaps it’s unsurprising that I felt much more drawn than usual to dressing as a male character.
Anyway, when I went charity shopping a couple of days later, it was the character of the Joker that appealed to me the most. I spotted a red jacket and went to look at some reference images. What would the odds be that I could find a red suit, green shirt and yellow waistcoat all in my size in five days? Would I become desperate enough to violate my ethics and buy something new?
I visited the secondhand shops near my work and came away feeling a little apprehensive. I made the decision to just buy any item I could find that suited my needs- more on this later. As I returned to my office after lunch, I recalled that nearby Chiswick High Street has a fantastic selection of charity shops. Since I had some containers and could pop into the Source as well, I hopped on my bike and went over that very afternoon.
Chiswick sorted me out beautifully. The first thing I spotted in the Shelter store was a bright red jacket for £15. I tried it on and it fit. I decided not to buy it immediately just in case I came across something better.
The next shop came up trumps with a pair of red trousers- I had to ask the volunteer to take them off a mannequin for me. Not perfect but definitely good enough for my needs, especially since they were £6.50. I bought them straightaway so the lady wouldn’t put them back on the mannequin.
The thing I was most worried about was the waistcoat. I’d hardly seen any waitscoats at all on my search, and is a yellow waistcoat an item anyone would want aside for for costume purposes? But the Barnado’s shop contained a golden floral one. Again I didn’t buy it straightaway. It wasn’t quite perfect and I had a couple more shops to visit.
I wandered down to the shop at the end of the road, where my eye was immediately caught by a green silk shirt. It was more olive than I wanted, but a beautiful silk shirt from Whistles seemed too good an offer to pass up at £20- it’s something that can definitely slip into my work wardrobe when spooky season is over and done.
I quickly walked back up the street to collect the waistcoat and jacket, which was a great match for my new pants. It seemed silly to waste time looking any further. I was irrationally terrified that other shoppers would have snapped my items up, but I needn’t have worried.
The only big misstep I made was with the very first item I bought; another red jacket. For the first time, I investigated a weird junk shop that’s opposite my office. There’s no indication of what it is on the outside, just some rails of clothing. I went in and there are hundreds of poorly sorted items and no lighting. It’s so strange. There were people wandering about using their phones as torches. I wish I knew the story behind it.
I found a red men’s jacket in there and hastily bought it for £15. In the gloom of the shop, it had looked okay if a little big. As soon as I tried it on in a proper changing room, I realised that it wouldn’t do. I looked like a little kid in their dad’s suit. When I bought the second jacket, I donated the first one at the same time. No sense bringing it home to take up space when I have absolutely no use for it. I hope that Shelter will be able to make some money back from it at least.
Overall it felt really serendipitous that I was able to get everything I needed within only a couple of hours. Normally my cardinal rule of secondhand shopping is not to go looking for something specific. But this time, it worked for me. As my friend Cayleigh pointed out, perhaps even the men’s red jacket was part of the magic of that day of shopping. There may be some reason that it needed to find its way to the Shelter store in Chiswick.
In the end I paid £49.50 (not including the stupid second jacket) for my costume, which I know is far from cheap. The silk shirt I know will go into my normal wardrobe. And, in fact, I felt really fabulous in the red suit. I wonder if there’s a viable market for renting a single costume only suitable for a size 10 woman. Actually, two costumes since I still have my Wonder Woman dress from last year. I feel grateful that I am fortunate enough to be able to pay a premium to live according to my principles.
The one thing I bought new was the hair wax for £11. I had to use around 1/3 of the pot to get decent colour on my hair. I quite liked the definition that it gave my curls, though it did make my hair quite hard.
Yes I did go out for dinner dressed as the Joker. And yes my two companions were wearing normal clothes.
It was so much fun to dress up in a completely different way to normal. I’ve never worn a trouser-suit before and actually I was living for it. In fact, I don’t think I’ve worn a suit as an adult full stop. I will 100% be looking for any excuse to wear my red suit again. The biggest surprise was probably how hot I was! I suddenly have a new respect for men in three-piece suits on the tube. Continue reading
I put my OddBox subscription on hold when I moved house and I haven’t felt ready to restart deliveries. In the end, I was lured back by a 50% discount code. I followed in the footsteps of my colleague (another vegan OddBoxer- am I a stereotype?) and ordered a large box to maximise value for money. I got all of this for £9.24.
Since I read some posts saying that the sweetcorn would quickly start to use its sweetness, I was keen to use that first. I made a vegan corn chowder and it’s absolutely delicious. I didn’t follow the recipe exactly since I was using the produce I had on hand. I had around 1.2kg of baby potatoes and three large ears of corn. I also used up some spring onions in place of the onion. And used orange carrots. I ended up with five large and filling servings.
I followed the recipe OddBox sent for stock using the corn cobs and husks. I used it in the risotto I made with the butternut squash. I veganised (aka subbed vegan parmesan for dairy) this recipe that I’ve had for years.
With the rest of the veg, I made a big stir fry/noodle type extravaganza. I stir-fried the spring onions, peppers, broccoli, beans and chard. I added various Asian sauces (soy/sweet chilli) and a couple of packets of cubed firm tofu. I also boiled two nests of the wheat noodles I get from the zero waste store and chucked that in. This is the sort of thing I make when I’m lacking in cooking time and want something easy, tasty and plentiful. I ended up with 8 servings that put me in excellent stead for the following week’s meals. I had to stick some in the freezer so I will have to keep my fingers crossed that it freezes well.
I think I flew a little bit too close to the sun with the vegetable stir-fry. Because I had so much veg in the pan, it started to stew. The noodles still taste fine, I just think it would have been better if I hadn’t cooked quite so much in one go.
I also made some porridge using some of the apples and pears. It wasn’t as delicious as normal because I’d run out of ground cinnamon. I did chuck in a cinnamon stick but I don’t think I left it to infuse for long enough to impart much flavour.
Having the large box was kind of a game-changer. The problem with the small box I normally get is that the smaller quantities are not conducive to batch cooking (aka meal prepping). As you may have noticed, I love to batch cook. It means that I can eat almost exclusively home-cooked food while only needing to cook a few times a week. Although I love cooking, time is a very precious commodity for me.
The only slight problem with the large box is that it includes a lot of fruit. While I love fruit, I generally try not to eat more than 2-3 servings a day since it is quite high in sugar. I use OddBox to support their efforts to prevent food waste, so I would be heartbroken if I had to compost any of it. I might try out different boxes over the next few months- trying a vegetable-only box would mean that I am not overloaded with fruit. Or perhaps a medium-sized box would be more manageable (I cooked more than usual this week to ensure that all the produce would get used). In any case, I’m so pleased I tried out the large box using the half-price code. I got so many delicious, fresh meals for a very reasonable price.
Hit me up if you want to give them a try! I can even give you a sweet £5 referral code. Not a sponsored post (I wish), I just think they are great.
It’s been a while since my last LTT post! I’ve still been doing my best to reduce my impact on the planet within the constraints of our incredibly wasteful society. For example, I made what the Vegan Society claims is one of the meals with the lowest carbon footprint (it’s dal with roasted potato and cauliflower).
Something I’ve been wanting to get back into for ages is COMPOSTING. In my previous house-but-one we had communal compost and it was bloomin’ sweet. However, my two most recent rooms have been in a different borough that does not offer food waste collection and there doesn’t seem to be any community compost.
After hearing about the Bokashi method at a friend’s 40th birthday I had hoped to start composting in my previous flat, which had no suitable outdoor space. Unfortunately the kits were totally sold out. I have now moved into a place with a small garden and so I’ve been able to buy a compost bin! Also, typically, Bokashi bins are back in stock.
I wish I had checked the small print on the ‘get composting’ website because it can take up to 28 days for them to deliver your order. I ordered my bin on 20th August and arrived home in the early hours of 8th September to find it waiting on my doorstep.
While I was waiting for the bin, I stored my food waste in the freezer. It seemed like I had loads until I decanted it into the compost bin and it didn’t even cover the bottom.
I’m not sure I’ll be in the house long enough to actually get any compost from the bin, but that’s not the point. The point is to keep food scraps out of landfill, where they won’t break down fully and what little breakdown there is releases harmful methane.
The borough is good at making announcements about the climate crisis (recently ‘declaring a climate emergency’) but bad at doing anything to tackle it. Since I both live and work in the area, I get to see what goes on from two different perspectives. I’ve signed up to a couple of eco-type workshops and they always get cancelled. The borough pays lip service to recycling in office spaces but people do not recycle properly. I have never seen an uncontaminated recycling bin and I am the sort of person who does not mind sorting others’ rubbish within reason. Similarly, walking around my neighbourhood on rubbish collection day is almost unbearable. There are so many bin bags in the street and the recycling bags (which are clear) are almost all contaminated.
I know that I should take action by contacting my local politician (though I still don’t know whether that should be my MP, councillor or both) but I am very prone to becoming paralysed in situations that I perceive as hopeless. I think that there are some fairly straightforward solutions to the problems I observe and it kills me that no one cares enough to do anything.
I’ve been quite a busy bee for a while and not had time to blog. However, one thing I always have time for is responsible adherence to local recycling regulations. Yes, I am one of the cool kids.
I thought I would write a post about how I deal with specialist recycling. Most local authorities provide a kerbside recycling service for certain materials. I try not to look in other people’s bins on collection day since the vast majority of people do not understand (or don’t care) what can and cannot be recycled, and I find it really upsetting.
Aside from what the LA will take away from your house, you can check the Recycle Now website to see what the local authority is able to recycle but not collect. I recently used it to find out where I can get rid of a bag of small electrical items (a router, a load of old wires etc.) that I generated in my house move.
On top of that, some private companies are getting in on the act, since there is money to be made in recycling. The main one I know of is Terracycle, who partner with different brands to recycle specific types of waste.
I have a wastepaper basket in which I keep bags or padded envelopes for each recycling program. Currently I have metal lids, contact lens paraphernalia, crisp packets, plastic bottle tops and miscellaneous packaging. The handy thing about using jiffy bags is that you can make a note of which recycling program it is for and what they take.
I strongly recommend checking the Terracycle website to see what can be recycled near you- you may be surprised. The website isn’t the best to navigate- if you click the link and then scroll past all the options with ‘purchase required’ you can see where you can drop off things like chocolate packaging in your area. I am a very sad person but I quite enjoy recycling. I may not have much control over the climate crisis, but at least I can be responsible for the waste that I personally produce.
Of course recycling should only be used as a last resort after reducing and re-using. But we can also only do our best and sometimes you really fancy a packet of crisps even though you know it comes in horrible packaging.
I just listened to a podcast where they spoke about the tension between the often messy reality of zero waste and the pressure to present a certain aesthetic on social media. This solution for specialist recycling isn’t Instagram-friendly but it is easy and tidy.
My new house has a very small garden so one of the things on my summer to-do list is buying a compost bin. I am so pleased because I hate throwing away food scraps knowing that they are going to sit in landfill for years and years.
As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I had to move house at the beginning of July. Moving is always an opportunity to sort through ones stuff and I am currently minded to own a lot less of it. I wish that I had kept a bit more of an inventory of what I got rid of- mostly clothes and shoes that I no longer wear, books and a lot of odd paraphernalia.
One category that I found quite tough to let go of was gifts. I have received a few things, like a crepe pan from my dad, that are actually quite thoughtful and nice items. However, I just do not need a crepe pan right now. Hopefully it will be purchased by someone who will give it the love it deserves rather than keeping it in a box for years.
I have also had a history (not for a few years now, mind) of buying things for ‘one day,’ which generally means when I eventually buy a house. For example, I have set of four or six heart-shaped teaspoons that I must have bought ten years ago. This illustrates why I try not to buy for one day anymore- my tastes evolve quite quickly. This is especially why I try really hard not to stash yarn or fabric. Heart-shaped teaspoons are just not something I would think are a good idea now. In fact, writing that paragraph has just motivated me to get rid of those bloody spoons.
I still have two big items that I haven’t managed to sell yet. Since I’m not in a rush to get rid of these items, I will simply move with them and wait until I am able to get the price I believe they are worth.
I took the opportunity to finally unravel two projects that have been hibernating for years. I was trying to knit knee pads out of the rainbow yarn. I think knitting is just not the correct medium for what I was trying to make. I was making a plain cardigan from the purple.
To be honest I’m not crazy about the shade of purple and the whole project bored me, hence the fact that it ground to a screeching halt. I have picked up a few cute sets of buttons on my travels, so I’m planning to re-make the purple yarn into a baby sweater.
A friend mentioned that she was in the market for some free yarn so I collected a big bag to give her. It’s yarn from my stash that I don’t see myself using, so I’m pleased to see it go to a good home. I put some yarn in my first batch of items going to charity and I’m a little concerned that it will end up in the bin. But what’s done is done.
While going through my knitting, I realised that I had a small moth infestation. I believe the source was the Clanger, which I have since binned. That Clanger helped to inspire me to go on this decluttering crusade, so I can’t be too cross. I think that the infestation was confined to one shelf and I have managed to freeze everything that was in the vicinity. Both of my handmade baskets had evidence of moth life. Even though they’ve been in the freezer, I am a bit scared that they may have been permanently sullied.
Actually moving was a bit of a reality check. Even though I managed to get rid of a lot of stuff, I still have an awful lot left. I’ve been lucky that the last two properties I have been in were houses, where my possessions could be spread out. Now that I am confined mostly to one room again, it’s much clearer how much I own.
I think I’m doing relatively well at not buying new things. I try to make all of my purchases thoughtfully, secondhand as far as possible. I am going to try and continue with a process of perpetual re-evaluation of my things, really thinking about what I use, am likely to use in future, and what I enjoy owning.
I have to move house again at the beginning of July and I am finally confronting the fact that I own way too much stuff. I am trying to de-clutter in the most brutal way possible. I am tired of having to move this stuff around with me. I have been trying to follow some broad green principles that I’ve picked up from various Instagrammers during this declutter. I know that the whole ‘sparking joy’ thing has become a bit of a meme, but honestly I think it’s a good baseline for deciding whether something is worthy of space in ones life.
I am dividing the things I no longer need into what can be given away to people I know, sold, given to charity or discarded altogether. This requires me to balance different priorities. I have some things that I have been hanging on to because I don’t want to waste them. For example, I have a bag of old t-shirts that I might one day turn into jersey yarn. I am aware that sending old clothing to charity shops isn’t necessary the green solution we would like it to be; apparently some companies still send a lot of items to landfill, while on a broader level second-hand clothing has damaged the textiles industries in some developing nations. On the other hand, I don’t really want to take a bag of t-shirts (which I have already elected to discard) to my new house.
When selling items, I have to balance whether it will be worth the time and effort required. Selling is better from an environmental perspective because you know that the item is going where it is needed or wanted. However, photographing, listing (and often re-listing) and posting items is very time-consuming. In a lot of cases, I have donated saleable items because I am happy for the charity to take on the burden of selling them.
Some of the declutter has been great fun. I decided to donate (pretty much) all of the books that I have read. I posted some stories on Instagram and asked if anyone would like to take the books off my hands. I had a great response and it feels great to be sharing my books with friends. The rest were donated. I buy the vast majority of my books second-hand so I’m glad to be adding titles that aren’t old Dan Brown novels and copies of Fifty Shades of Grey to the shelves of charity shops in the local area.
One of the more brutal decisions I made (that I’m proud of) was to get rid of my old guide books. I have hung on to many of them for years as souvenirs of my travels, but it’s time to let them go now. I am old-fashioned enough to still like physical guidebooks, but it seems unnecessary to hang on to them as they become increasingly out-of-date.
So far I’ve got rid of a couple of big boxes and several bags of items. I plan to list the items above for sale soon. I also need to decide how and where to sell some larger items, including the stand mixer I won several years ago and my saxophone.