Eco Tips:

Resources and support groups for green lifestyles.

This is just a selection of possible sources of information and groups you might wish to join.

A  Rocha UK’s Wild Christian scheme is a community of families and individuals exploring the connections between our Christian faith, the natural environment, and how we live.As we journey together, reflecting biblically and acting boldly, we invite you to share your story, ideas and learning so that collectively we can live more joyfully and sustainably with the rest of God’s Creation.

Sign up and each month we’ll send you something to think about and some practical actions that you can take to help you enjoy, nurture and protect nature. You’ll also have the opportunity to share your own stories, if you wish, and to help us generate ideas for future editions.https://arocha.org.uk/wildchristian/ 

Green Christians offers various resources including Nine Ways of living gently in the earth;  using LOAF as a means of eating in an environmentally friendly way; the Seven Rs plus prayer resources etc.

And offers ways to get involved in campaigns about  caring for the environment.

Also  The Way of Life: Many spiritual communities have Rules or Ways of Life involving a set of disciplines to assist believers in living out their faith in a deeper and more structured way.

 The Way of Life is a calling for deeper engagement and shared encouragement. Followers of the Way are called ‘Companions’.

Friends of the Earth offers local groups where you can meet and exchange ideas and take part in action, as well as resources for green your lifestyle: https://friendsoftheearth.uk/take-part/switch-greener-lifestyle

The WWF offers advice on changing lifestyles – including a carbon footprint calculator and app – as well as working to protect and enhance the natural environment. https://www.wwf.org.uk/what-can-i-do

The RSPB, as well as campaigning for and supporting and protecting biodiversity, provides guides about following a greener lifestyle. https://www.rspb.org.uk/get-involved/community-and-advice/green-living/

Eco Tips

Vegan cakes and bakes: these are all easy to make and it is good to be able to provide vegan eats at church events and the like. It is also a good idea to offer plant based milks too.

Chocolate Cake

100g vegan margarine

150g sugar (I use brown)

1 tbsp chia or camelina seeds

25g cocoa

175g flour (I use spelt flour) plus 1 tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda 

50g dates 

Oat milk

Soak seeds in 3 tbsps warm water – they will gain jelly-like texture

Melt the margarine.

Chop the dates and add along with  the sugar, cocoa, raising agents and flour.

Add the seed mix (this is an egg replacement).

Add enough milk to bind to a soft dropping consistency. 

Tip into a tin (approx 300x200mm) lined with baking parchment.

Bake at 170C till  spongey and firm – about 20-25 minutes 

Flapjack

100g vegan margarine

3 tbsps of sugar (I use brown)

2 tbsps of syrup

200g oats or thereabouts  (NB use gluten free oats for a gluten free bake)

Melt the margarine. 

Add the sugar and syrup.

Add the oats – if it still seems very syrupy you can add some more oats.

Tip into a tin (approx 300x200mm) lined with baking parchment.

Bake at 170C till golden brown – about 20minutes . Cut into pieces whilst still hot.

Shortbread

200g vegan butter 

220g flour (I use white)

50g polenta 

50g sugar (I use white)

Rub the butter into the flour.

Add polenta and sugar and mix.

Tip into a tin (approx 300x200mm) lined with baking parchment.

Bake at 160C  till pale gold  – about 20minutes . Cut into pieces whilst still hot.

Rockbuns

75g vegan butter

220g flour (I use spelt flour) plus 1 tsp baking powder 

50g sugar

75g sultanas/ raisins/ currants

1 tbsp chia or camelina seeds

1tsp ground nutmeg

Oat milk 

Soak seeds in 3 tbsps warm water – they will gain jelly-like texture

Rub butter into flour.

Add nutmeg, sugar and dried fruit.

Add seed mix

Add enough milk to create a dry dough.

Place spoonfuls in ‘rocky’ lumps on a greased baking tray. This should make about 8.

Bake at 170C till golden  – about 15- 20minutes .

Eco Tips

Green Money

How we use, spend or save our money, makes a difference.

  • Protect peat bogs: don’t buy composts that contain peat, instead buy peat-free varieties or make your own.
  • Buy bee friendly (and insect/ butterfly friendly) seeds and flowers to promote local biodiversity.
  • If you have space, buy and plant fruit bushes/ trees and enjoy fresh fruit. 
  • Even if you only have a windowsill buy seeds so that you can grow your own herbs and salads.
  • Use local shops and local suppliers so that your money supports jobs for local people and the local economy.
  • Buy locally produced food so as to reduce supply lines and their associated carbon footprint. Avoid foods bought in by air freight.
  • Buy organic food to prevent more soils and waterways from being polluted by nitrates and pesticides.
  • Buy organic foods to prevent insects, birds and small mammals being poisoned by pesticides.
  • Buy organic foods to prevent wild plants being killed off by herbicides.
  • Buy plant-based foods from sustainable sources in preference to meat and dairy products which have a larger carbon footprint.
  • Avoid products that come with excess packaging – even if it is recyclable, the whole process is unnecessarily using up time and resources!
  • Swop/ buy second hand items to cut back on waste and conserve scarce resources. 
  • Maintain and/ or repair things to make them last longer or find a professional to do this for you. NB Anything electrical should only be mended by a professional; ditto boilers etc. 
  • Buy gas and/or electricity from a green supplier and support the transfer to renewable energy.
  • Buy a cycle and good wet weather clothes and be an active traveller. Fewer cars on the roads reduces CO2 levels and air pollution and creates quieter, less congested neighbourhoods.
  • Where you go by rail rather than air, buy a train ticket. Where you can go by bus rather than drive, buy a bus ticket. Opt for the greenest travel option.
  • Avoid companies that don’t pay a living wage to their employees, who don’t pay their taxes, and offer minimal support for a greener world. Instead spend your money supporting  companies that treat people and the environment with respect.
  • Do buy wonky and misshapen fruit and vegetables and limit what goes to waste.
  • Do buy insulation for your home, thermal linings for your curtains, and low energy light bulbs.
  • Do consider a heat pump over a boiler. The former is more energy efficient and has a much smaller carbon footprint.
  • Don’t buy food you won’t eat, clothes your won’t wear or appliances that just take up space.
  • Don’t buy new when a good second hand option is available. 
  • Don’t use banks/ insurers/ pension fund providers that invest funds in the fossil fuel industries.
  • Do seek out companies that actively invest to support a green economy.
  • Do support wild life funds, re-wilding and habitat conservation projects. 
  • Do enjoy the outdoors and green spaces – often access is free!

Eco Tips

Biodiversity and regenerative practices in the garden 

  • Don’t cut back all plants now autumn is here – especially those like teases and poppies, fennel, sedum and honesty. Their dry stems and heads can be things so beauty as well as being places for small insects to over winter or as seed source for birds. Goldfinches are partial to tease and lavender seeds.
  • Don’t cut back penstemon or hydrangeas as the old stems will protect the plants from potential frost damage. 
  • Don’t cut back autumn fruiting raspberries either:  leave these till the spring when pruning will encourage the growth of new canes for next  autumn. 
  • As roses come to the end of their flowering season, let them form hips which birds may then enjoy.
  • Do prune plants such as grape vines and wisteria. Save the prunings to either create basket-work supports for floppy plants or to supplement dead hedges. (See Count Down Actions 87 and 88).
  • If you haven’t got one, get a compost bin. This could be made using bamboo canes and chicken wire. To keep the compost extra warm, line the sides with flatten out cardboard boxes. You can also use cardboard or a piece of old carpet as a lid. For lots of compost bin ideas see: https://thearchitecturedesigns.com/diy-compost-bin-ideas-for-your-gardening/
  • Do cut back soggy or rotting plant matter and add to your compost bin.
  • Rake up leaves from lawns and either add to your compost bin or create a separate bin just for leaves – these will take a few years to decay but will produce leaf mould which can be used as compost for seeds. https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?PID=478
  • If you are pruning shrubs etc to keep them in shape, use the prunings to create a dead hedge. Larger branches can be used to create a log pile. Both of these will provide places of shelter and safety for wild life such as beetles, insects, frogs/ toads etc. 
  • If you have a bird feeder and/ or bird bath, take time to clean them regularly to guard against bacteria and viruses that might harm birds, and keep them topped up.
  • If you have an existing compost heap, now might be a good time to empty it and use the compost as a mulch around  fruit trees and bushes, roses etc, or to cover areas of bare earth. During the winter worlds and beetles will draw the compost down into the soil improving its structure and fertility. 
  • Avoid over digging the garden: regenerative soil management recommends avoid exposing the soil to the air which release lock away carbon dioxide, and rather that ground cover should be maintained over the soil in the form of planting (even if it is a just an annual crop such as lambs lettuce) or a layer of compost.
  • If you are planning which vegetables to grow next year, consider mixing plants up, with intercropping and companion planting. https://emotionallandscapes.weebly.com/regenerative-agriculture/basic-techniques-of-organic-farming-intercropping-and-companion-planting 
  • You might like to consider growing perennial vegetables.

Eco Tips

Swooping to a plant based diet 

  • Plant based milks: some have added vitamins, typically A, D, B2, and B12, as well as various minerals like calcium and iron; protein levels are much less than in dairy milk but few western diets are deficient in this; choose milks that are produced from plants grown in Europe as this minimises their carbon footprint; if the milk splits when added to hot drinks, you might want to choose a barista grade milk; you can buy oat milk in glass bottles and reduce packaging – eg from Milk and More.  1 litre of oat milk has a carbon footprint of 0.9kg as opposed to 3kg for dairy milk. Oat milk also uses less water and less land.
  • Plant based substitutes for yogurt, Greek style yogurt, crème fraîche, double and single creams, are also available and can be used for cooking too. 
  • As well as margarine, you can also buy vegan butter. This has a similar taste and texture to butter and is good for baking where the recipe calls for dairy butter.
  • Vegan mascarpone can be made by blending a 300g block of silken tofu with a carton of Oatly whippable custard.
  • Plant based cheeses are varied. Violife feta style cheese has a pleasant taste as does their mature cheddar. The latter can be grilled but tends to shrink as it is bubbles. Nut based cheeses can better mimic the texture of cheese. 
  • Coconut milk adds a pleasant taste to soup and gives a silky creamy texture. Coconut milk also makes for a good rice pudding.
  • Aqua faba – the water in which dried beans have been cooked – has a gelatinous texture and can be used as an egg substitute. It works well for making mayonnaise and meringues. You may sometimes need to add a little xanthan gum for extra stiffness. To replace eggs in baking, use commercially made egg replacement powder (eg from Super Cook), aqua faba or chia seeds mixed with water (1:3 per egg). The chia seeds swell and become glutinous.
  • Tofu can make an acceptable substitute for scrambled eggs but needs suitable flavourings such as pepper, fine herbs etc. 
  • Replace meat protein with a variety of beans, peas, pulses and nuts. You will spoilt for choice: in our cupboard at present we have whole and split yellow peas, ditto green peas, blue peas, Carlin peas, black badger peas, split faba beans, green and orange lentils, cashew nuts, walnuts, almonds, Brazil nuts and pistachios. The beans, peas and pulses are UK grown sourced and sold by Hodmedod’s.            Lentils have a carbon footprint of 0.9 per kg compared with 6.9kg for chicken and 27kg for beef – and needs less land and water.
  • Lentils make a good substitute for mince. Puréed peas or beans make a good sauce to mix with pasta or vegetables. 
  • Combine beans and pulses with grains – eg wheat, rice, corn –  or with grain-based foods such as pasta and bread. The different amino acids from each will combine to give a better overall quality protein intake.
  • Replace meat or fish with tofu (made from soya beans) or sextant (made from wheat protein). These products offer a variety of different textures to meals.
  • Include yeast extract and yeast flakes in your cooking to ensure a good intake of vitamin B. Opt for ones that include B12 which is hard to obtain from plant sources. For iron eat beans and legumes, dark green leafy vegetables, dried fruits, nuts and seeds, and wholegrain cereals and breads. For calcium eat nuts (especially almonds) and seeds (esp. chia), figs, leafy greens, beans and pulses.
  • For vitamin D you may wish to consider a supplement. Sunshine is a good source of vitamin D but even so many people in the UK are deficient.
  • Vegetables and fruit are always important for flavour, texture and nutrition. But not all fruit and vegetables are equal. Out of season strawberries, blue berries, and asparagus for example are not sustainable and are often brought in by air.  Avocados and mangoes, amongst others, consume vast amounts of water as they grow, and such crops divert water from other essential uses. 
  • Eat food that is in season and try out unusual items such as salsify, cardoons, quinces etc.
  • Organically produced produce is preferable to non organic if only because the the excess nitrates from fertilisers runs off the fields and polluted water ways. And insecticides and herbicides are a real threat to biodiversity – including in our own gardens. 
  • Locally produced food is again preferable, reducing air/lorry miles and reducing the length of the supply chain.

Eco Tips

Sustaining local biodiversity  

Whilst urban areas are less biodiversity than wild areas, they do offer a

surprising range of different habitats and particularly in relation to parks and gardens, a diverse range of trees and flowering plants. This can be very beneficial for insects and species reliant on them. Whether we have a garden, a balcony or just a window sill, we can add to the biodiversity of where we live.

  • Opt for a selection of plants that ensures that throughout the seasons something is in bloom – this is beneficial for insects, such as bumble bees, that do not hibernate.
  • Avoid using pesticides. By their nature they are poisonous to some creatures and may well be killing off a food supply which something else needs. Without aphids, lady birds can starve. Ditto caterpillars and small birds.
  • Don’t buy or use peat: depleting peat bogs both depletes the biodiversity of another habitat, it also destroys a highly effective carbon store.
  • Again if you have space, why not install a green roof?
  • Plant a tree/ trees or a hedge. These provide a whole range of habitats for different insects, birds and other creatures.
  • If you haven’t got a garden, see if you can give any support for your local park or green space. Some will have programmes for volunteers. 
  • Or consider supporting a wildlife charity such as the Woodland Trust, the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, or your local Wildlife Trust.
  • Visit parks and gardens that support biodiversity and be inspired. Or visit a Rewilding project. 

Eco Tips

Longer living appliances

The longer we are able to use an appliance or piece of equipment, the more we recuse it’s carbon footprint: the carbon footprint of manufacture is spread over a greater number of years, and the  carbon footprint of recycling it is deferred. 

  • Before buying anything new, do some research to discover which make or model is most efficient to use, is durable and easy to repair.
  • Regular cleaning. Dirt and dust can all damage surfaces and wear moving parts. 
  • Keeping your oven and hot plates clean, prevents burnt on food from reducing their heating capacity. Ditto for irons.
  • Remove crumbs from toasters – they can catch fire!
  • Dust the cooling coil of your fridge so that it can operate efficiently. (Working efficiently saves on energy and prevents premature wear of motor). 
  • Regularly defrost freezers and ice compartments to enable them to work efficiently. 
  • Ensure there is a sufficient air space around both fridges and microwaves so excess heat can dissipate easily and enabling them to run efficiently.
  • Remove dust from ports a d keyboards on mobile phones, tablets and computers.
  • Clean screens on mobile phones, tablets etc to maintain their touch sensitivity. Fingers are naturally greasy.
  • Invest in a protective case for your phone or tablet
  • Keep mobile phones, tablets etc up to date with software updates.
  • Remove unused apps as they will be a drain on your battery life.
  • Avoid letting mobiles phones, tablets etc get too hot (don’t leave them in the sun) not too cold.
  • Ideally don’t overcharge your batteries not let them run completely flat. The ideal is between 20% and 90%.
  • Replace the battery in your phone etc rather than buying new.
  • To conserve your battery turn off phones etc when not in use – eg at night time. 
  • Clean seals around the doors of fridges, ovens and washing machines etc.
  • Replace seals when they do wear out.
  • Descale washing machines: the harder your water, the more frequently this will be needed.
  • Avoid over or under loading your washing machine. 
  • Measure out laundry liquid – too much can lead to a build up in the machine 
  • Empty pockets before washing  to ensure small coins etc don’t get into your washing machine where they might cause damage.
  • Clean out the drain filter from your washing machine to prevent damage to the pump and / or flooding.
  • Descale kettles.
  • With LED televisions you can prolong the life of the screen by reducing the background level of lighting  and by limiting the number of hours you watch.
  • Organise an annual maintenance check for your boiler.

Writing this, I am reminded that I should keep my gardening tools clean and the wooden handles re- oiled. 

Eco Tips

Stewardship of Things

‘A dog is for life, not just Christmas.’ A message created 40 years ago by the Dogs Trust and still valid today. The Trust encourages people to think carefully before buying a puppy, to thoroughly research the implications of being a dog owner, understanding the needs and demands a dog will make and assessing whether these are compatible with the family’s own lifestyle. And remembering that ability to,love and care for the dog needs to be there for the whole of its life span. 

Each year scientists calculate how much resources are being used globally and the rate at which those resources are being renewed. Are we using more resources than the planet can sustain or less? In 1987 the first recorded Earth Overshoot Day was 23rd October. This year it was 29th July. We are consuming way more resources than the earth can sustain. In such a world we need to give the same consideration when we buy and use things, as we do when we buy a new pet.

  • Only buy what you need and want. Do feel forced into buying something you won’t feel happy with.
  • Consider the life of the thing: will you use it to its full life span? If not, can you see an obvious way in which you could pass it on so that it can continue to be used? Books can readily be passed on to another reader, children’s clothes to another family.
  • Be willing to buy second hand/ pre-loved items.
  • Be willing to rent, borrow or share things. 
  • Research before you buy. Is the item ethically produced? Is it durable? Is it easy to repair? What is its carbon footprint?can it be recycled when its life ends?
  • A well designed item may cost more: can you be a patron of good design and workmanship?
  • An item made with long lasting materials may cost more, but balanced out over its life time, it may be more economic too.
  • Extend the life of what you buy by ensuring you use it properly and keep it well maintained. Eg keep shoes clean and well polished. Regularly clean and service cycles. Don’t over wash woollen goods.
  • Repair things that break. Some things you will be able to repair yourself. Others may need to help of an expert. There is growing trend for repair cafes where even fiddly electronic items can be mended. 
  • Think about the end life of what you are buying. Can you recycle it once its life has come to an end? If not is there something else that is recyclable that you could buy instead?
  • Is what you are buying made for a sustainable or recycled material?
  • Single purpose items may be ideal, but might you get more value from something that serves  a multiple of purposes?
  • Can we repurpose things when their initial use has come to an end?
  • Do all gifts need to be things? Could you gift experiences or services instead? Do we always need to give things to show our love or thanks?

Eco Tips

Energy saving in the home

Reducing our carbon footprint in the home is essentially about reducing the amount of energy we use – whether that is for lighting, cooking a meal or having a wash. Here are some tips.

  • Turn off lights when they are not needed.
  • If you have an emersion heater, make sure it is well insulated. 
  • Have a shower rather than a bath. Limit the length of your shower time especially if it is a high pressure shower – a 9 minute pressure shower uses more energy than a bath!
  • Instead of a daily shower, wash with a flannel. We are seldom as dirty as we might think!
  • Dishwashers are meant to be efficient but are not always the most ecological way of washing up. A dishwasher uses 1KWh for a 70-100 minute programme. Heating 2 litres of water to fill a washing up uses 0.2KW.
  • Boil only as much water as you need when making hot drinks.
  • When boiling with a pan on a stove use a lid to keep the heat in (except when cooking pasta as the water will boil over).
  • Limit how many pans you need to cook a meal. Try and reuse a hot plates whilst they are still hot.
  • Turn off the hot plate (if electric) before the cooking time is over so as to make good use of the heat in the hot plate.
  • If you are using the oven, plan to cook several things at once to make full use of the energy you are consuming.
  • Use a microwave for steaming vegetables, stewing fruit, making porridge/ custard etc.
  • Run your washing machine on its coldest setting and choose the shortest programme time.  
  • Only run the washing machine when it is full.
  • Don’t wash clothes until they need it: ie they smell sweaty, have a tide mark or spots. We have grown used to the idea of washing everything all the time!
  • Hang washing outside to dry. Ideally wash things in the morning to allow plenty of drying time, especially in the winter.
  • When it’s raining, hang wet washing inside on a clothes dryer. 
  • Many kitchen appliances are labour saving but doing things by hand is good for arm muscles – and arm muscles can be applied for different  purposes obviating the need for lots of small appliances.
  • Similarly in the garden, manual appliances such as lawn mowers and brooms are good for exercise and fitness.
  • Turn off appliances when not in use as they will still be drawing a small amount of electricity. 
  • If you have solar panels choose to run electrical appliances when the sun is shining. The electricity will power these directly without any loss via the distribution system. 
  • Don’t buy new appliances until you need them. Do some research, which are ecological; which energy efficient; which have a long life; which are easily repaired if they break down? Check out Ethical Consumer’s advice: https://www.ethicalconsumer.org/ 
  • Consider buying second hand.
  • If you will only need an appliance for occasional use, consider borrowing one – eg via  neighbourhood app.

Eco Tips

Keeping Warm in Winter

  1. Wear layers of clothes. Each layer will trap air that is warmed by your body. Every layer is another layer of insulation. 
  2. Wear thermal underwear or alternatively wear extra leggings and T-shirts which will be save  having to buy extra clothes.  
  3. Outside wear a hat, gloves and scarf – and why not do the same inside? Historically people have often worn hats inside – neat bonnets, Tudor caps,  Monmouth caps, smoking hats, head squares and scarves, beanies and berets. 
  4. Cosy socks and slippers are pluses too – make sure your winter shoes and boots are big enough to allow for warm/ thick socks. If you have thins socks, double up and wear two pairs.
  5. Close curtains and pull down blinds at dusk for once  the sun sets, temperatures will drop. Drawing your curtains will keep the warmth in the room. The more layer between you and the outside, the better the insulation. You might have blinds and curtains for example. Alternatively you can get extra thermal linings to hang behind your curtains. 
  6. If overnight your bedroom has remained warm, allow that warmth to permeate the rest of the house before opening the windows to air the room.
  7. If windows are draughty, you can seal the gaps with a proprietary stick on strip.  
  8. If your doors are draughty or if they are not very thermal efficient (maybe with lots of glass) you can hang a curtain to pull across at night time. You can make a sausage shaped door stop  to prevent droughts that come under a door, or if it is an external door you could fix on a draught excluder. 
  9. Take exercise – it will warm you up. If you get cold through sitting still, even running up and down the stairs a few times will help. 
  10. Wrap up well and have a brisk walk. 
  11. Have plenty of hot drinks and at least one hot meal a day. 
  12. Use a hot water bottle in bed – you can also use one if you are sitting down for a while, either under your feet or on your lap. Equally if you are sitting still for a while, have a blanket to put over your knees. Or if you are watching TV you might  wrap yourself in a blanket.
  13. Make a hand warmer – this could be a cotton bag filled with uncooked rice  that you heat for a few seconds in a microwave. You will find plenty of DIY instructions on line. Or you could use a small heat resistant bottle or jar, fill it with hot water and wrap it in a sock. 
  14. Our own body heat will  heat up a room. Plan your day so that you spend most of it in one room rather than heating up several spaces. 
  15. With all these measures, you should be able to turn your thermostat down so reducing your carbon footprint. Similarly use the controls on your heating to limit the number of hours you need the heating on. During the day, especially if the sun is shining, or if you are active, you will not need extra heating.