Eco Tips

Fairly Traded

24th February 2022

This week is the first half of Fairtrade fortnight when the Fairtrade Foundation draws our attention to the their work in protecting and supporting farmers, farm workers and small businesses in developing countries. For products to gain the Fairtrade mark a thorough investigation of trading practices is made, standards attained and goals established. Products with the Fairtrade mark often command a higher price which consumers are willing to pay knowing that the extra supports the wellbeing of those involved in its production and of the environment.  

These principles are clearly ones one would wish to apply in every circumstance. As consumers we can make the effort to find out about workers pay and conditions, the effects of production on the environment, of safe guards and sustainable practices, company practices, shareholder remuneration and the payment of taxes. It is not just in developing companies that one should desire fair trade practices, but here in the UK too. Being better informed we can chose to support those companies which trade fairly. The following groups/ foundations etc offer standards and identifying logos that help inform us as consumers. 

  • Fairtrade is a system of certification that aims to ensure a set of standards are met in the production and supply of a product or ingredient. For farmers and workers, Fairtrade means workers’ rights, safer working conditions and fairer pay. For shoppers it means high quality, ethically produced products. Choosing Fairtrade means standing with farmers for fairness and equality, against some of the biggest challenges the world faces. It means farmers creating change, from investing in climate friendly farming techniques to developing women in leadership. With Fairtrade you change the world a little bit every day. Through simple shopping choices you are showing businesses and governments that you believe in fair and just trade. https://www.fairtrade.org.uk/what-is-fairtrade/ 
  • The Rainforest Alliance is a global leader in sustainability certification. Farms, forest communities, and businesses that participate in our certification program are audited against rigorous sustainability standards based on the triple bottom line: environmental, economic, and social well-being. More than two million farmers follow our agriculture standards in 70 countries around the globe. Our programs focus on coffee, cocoa, tea, bananas, and many other important commodity sectors facing urgent environmental and social challenges.  https://www.rainforest-alliance.org/approach/
  • The Living Wage Foundation is at the heart of the independent movement of businesses and people that campaign for the idea that a hard day’s work deserves a fair day’s pay. They celebrate and recognise the leadership of responsible employers who choose to go further and pay a real Living Wage based on the cost of living, not just the government minimum. They coordinate the announcement of the real Living Wage rates each November, based on the best available evidence about living standards in London and the UK. We also provide advice and support to employers and service providers implementing the independently-calculated Living Wage rates. This includes best practice guides, case studies from leading employers, model procurement frameworks and access to specialist legal and HR advice. They offer accreditation to employers that pay the independently-calculated Living Wage rates to all staff in London and the UK, or those committed to an agreed timetable of implementation, by awarding the Living Wage Employer Mark. https://www.livingwage.org.uk/living-wage-foundation  
  • The Fair Tax Foundation was launched in 2014 and operates as a not-for-profit social enterprise. Our Fair Tax Mark accreditation scheme seeks to encourage and recognise businesses that pay the right amount of corporation tax at the right time and in the right place. We believe companies paying tax responsibly and transparently should be celebrated, and any race to the bottom resisted. Tax contributions are a key part of the positive social and economic impact made by business. The growth of tax havens and unethical corporate tax conduct have become prominent concerns across the world. Aggressive tax avoidance negatively distorts national economies and undermines the ability of responsible business to compete fairly, both domestically and internationally. https://fairtaxmark.net/  
  • Certified B Corporations, or B Corps, are companies verified by B Lab to meet high standards of social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability.B Lab is the non-profit network transforming the global economy to benefit all people, communities and the planet.  It was created in 2006 with the mission to inspire and enable people to use business as a force for good. There are B Labs across the globe (forming the B Global Network) including Australia, East Africa, mainland Europe and North and South America. B Lab UK is a charity that launched in 2015.  As part of this international network, B Lab UK leads economic systems change to support our collective vision of an inclusive, equitable and regenerative economy. Our purpose is to redefine success in business through building a community of engaged businesses, raising awareness of the B Corp Movement and influencing change in the UK economy. Together, we are shifting our global economy from a system that profits few to one that benefits all: advancing a new model that moves from concentrating wealth and power to ensuring equity, from extraction to generation, and from prioritising individualism to embracing interdependence. https://bcorporation.uk/about-b-lab-uk/  
  • The Soil Association is the charity that digs deeper to transform the way we eat, farm and care for our natural world.Why do we do this? Because we want to live in a world which is in balance with nature. In a future with good health and a safe climate. For the last 75 years, we’ve worked with citizens, farmers, policy makers and businesses, supporting them to explore the vital relationship between the health of soil, plants, animals and people. Because the only way to solve the issues we face is to understand that they are all connected – and that food, farming and forestry are a vital part of the solution. Any product sold as ‘organic’ in the UK has to comply with organic regulation requirements written into a set of Standards. The Soil Association acts as a certification body and its symbol is a recognised and trusted international mark of organic certification internationally.  https://www.soilassociation.org/who-we-are/  
  • The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is an international non-profit organisation on a mission to  stop overfishing. For over 20 years, they have been working with fisheries, seafood companies and scientists to help protect the oceans around us, and safeguard seafood supplies. The blue MSC ecolabel is the world’s most recognised label for sustainable seafood. It is found on retail products and in restaurants identifying fish and seafood that has been wild-caught in a sustainable way and is fully traceable. The blue MSC ecolabel is only awarded to well-managed fisheries that meet the MSC’s independently verified standards for sustainable seafood production. https://www.msc.org/ 
  • The Forestry Stewardship Council, the original pioneers of forest certification, has 25 years of experience in sustainable forest management. They use their expertise to promote the responsible management of the world’s forests, bringing together experts from the environmental, economic and social spheres. 12 Irreplaceable Forest Products in Our Daily Lives: paper, toilet paper, books, cardboard, paper packaging, wood, furniture, musical instruments, charcoal, rubber products such as condoms, balls, tires, fruits and berries, and  medicines – A lot of medicines have important ingredients that come from the rainforest. While there are not any FSC-certified medicines (yet!), the standards set by FSC for responsible forest management protect the forests where these ingredients come from, thus ensuring that we will have access to them for future generations. Next time you add them to your shopping bag, make sure they are sourced sustainably by looking for the FSC logo.  https://fsc.org/en  
  • In 2008 The Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil developed a set of environmental and social criteria which companies must comply with in order to produce Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO) in response to the ever-urgent need and growing global concern that commodities are produced without causing harm to the environment or society. Sustainable palm oil is responsive to increasing global food demand, supports affordable food prices, supports poverty reduction, safeguards social interests, communities and workers, and protects the environment. All organisations in the supply chain that use RSPO certified sustainable oil products are audited to prevent overselling and mixing palm oil with conventional (or non-sustainable) oil palm products. https://www.rspo.org/certification

Eco Tips – Zero Waste 

27th January 2022

“One summer we set ourselves a zero waste challenge – we would try and live

for two weeks without producing any waste – i.e. nothing that goes into the dustbin. Whether it be food stuffs we used in the kitchen, cleaning materials around the house or tubes of toothpaste, the aim was to only use things that do not produce any non-recyclable waste. No bought bread unless the bag it came in could be recycled; no pre-packed fruit and vegetables unless all the packaging – including the film around the recyclable plastic box could be recycled – no mouthwash unless all the packaging including the plastic wrapper around the lid could be recycled.

In preparation we had reviewed how things we bought were packaged and what things usually went into our dustbin. Some things that were not waste free we decided we could do without for a couple of weeks. For things we did want we hunted for alternatives. The latter in itself proved an rewarding experience. 

Tea whether bags or loose, often comes with an inner plastic wrapper. Seeking alternatives sources of tea we came across a tea shop, My Cup of Tea, where without blinking an eyelid, they weighed out the tea and tip it into our tea caddy. A number of coffee roasters are similarly happy to pour their beans into our tin. Each time there is an interesting conversation about waste free living. Where we couldn’t find a waste free alternative, we learnt to make our own. Pasta almost invariably comes in plastic or plastic-lined packaging, so had fun we brushing up our pasta making skills.

Week one and our un-recyclable waste was limited to: the plastic seal from under the milk bottle top, a blister packs from medication, a sticking plaster, the plastic film from a pack of pate, several mars bar wrappers, the plastic seal from an jar of instant coffee, a plastic envelope from a greeting card, and a plastic lined bag for coffee beans.

To achieve this level of zero waste we had had to make compromises on other principles. Whilst supermarkets do sell some loose fruit and vegetables, their organic produce is nearly always is pre-packed in plastic. Whole Food sells loose nuts,  dried fruits, grains and pulses but not from fair trade sources. 

The zero waste experiment prompted us to look at the life cycle of daily objects such as toothbrushes which routinely go into landfill. We bought bamboo ones which can be composted. It is made us think about the costs of recyclable waste. Is the single use of a bottle that will then be recycled – taken by lorry to a separating plant and the possibly shipped across to Asia for reprocessing before being made into a new container – really good for the environment? Should we instead look for reusable packaging? A durable bottle filled from the tap instead of a plastic bottle of water from the shop, a washing up liquid bottle that can be refilled, refillable ink cartridges,  a fountain pens…..?”

The above is a reflection of my family’s experiment with zero waste some four years ago. It is interesting to note that some of the things that were going into our refuse bin then, we would now recycle. Blister packs for pills go to the recycling collection point at Superdrug, and the plastic film and wrappers would now go to the soft plastic recycling point at the Coop or Tescos. Only the sticking plaster would still go into the refuse bin. 

 More important has been how the experiment changed the way  shopped. We discovered that with the zero waste experiment, not only did we put less in our refuse bin, but we also put less in our recycling bins too. We had been actively looking for unpackaged goods, and that mindset continues with us today. 

All packaging incurs a cost financially and with respect to the environment, and a further cost when it is either thrown away as refuse or is recycled as new sources of raw material.  Consuming less packaging is almost invariably a good thing!

Tips for swopping to a zero waste lifestyle:-

  • Make a commitment to trying the zero waste approach for a fixed short term period.
  • Plan for the time period in advance: Do a survey of  your refuse bin: what things are you routinely throwing away?
  • What things might you have to do without for your agreed fortnight/ month? 
  • What alternatives could you buy instead?  Check  out local markets and smaller independent shops –  often they are are more flexible in what they expect of customers.
  • Search for local bulk stores – also known as refill stores – where you decant
  • from large dispensers the ingredients you want to buy, filling up your own containers or paper bags etc. The range of items on sale is quite surprising, from powder turmeric to pasta, from olive oil to chick peas, from oats to cocoa nibs, from ground almonds to hair shampoo.
  • Ready made foods often have more packaging to protect them in their finished status: could you buy the raw ingredients with less packaging and make your own? Have a go at making your own biscuits, bread, pastry etc? 
  • Buying in bulk may reduce the proportionate amount of packaging. I bake bread and buy flour in 6kg sacks. A 500ml pot of yogurt has less packaging than 4 individual tubs – or make your own in reusable glass jars.
  • Fruit and vegetable box schemes often use minimal packaging.
  • Change your mind set: if you normally reach for plastic snack bar  to keep you going, get the habit of having a banana or a handful of nuts instead.  If you need a packed lunch, make a sandwich to take or buy a bread roll rather than opting for the plastic-packed ready made sandwich. If you’re going out for an ice-cream look for one that is served fresh in a cornet rather than one that’s pre-packed in plastic. Develop an aversion for crisps and individually packed biscuits. 
  • And if you feel that something you buy is over packaged, send the packaging back to the manufacturer with a query about its necessity. 

These tips focus primarily on food, but the same issues apply to other things too – roles of sticky tape and sticks of glue that come in plastic packaging; paper, cards and note books wrapped in plastic; pants and socks in individual plastic bags etc.

Advocates of zero waste lifestyles are often as keenly focused on following  a plastic free lifestyle too. Friends of the Earth have list of ideas to change to a zero plastic waste lifestyle – https://friendsoftheearth.uk/plastics/living-without-plastic

Eco Tips

Rainwater retention to reduce flooding

There are a number of small ways in which we as householders, and more especially those of us with gardens, can increase the amount of rainwater our domain can retains. This can reduce the risk of flooding in two ways.

  1. By keeping water out of, or by delaying the water entering into, the storm water drains we can help prevent them from overflowing – a common cause of flooding in urban areas. 
  2. By increasing the water absorbency of our grounds, we can delay the time and speed with which rainwater enters  local streams and/ or the water table. This will reduce the pressure on the capacity of local streams and rivers, so reducing the risk of flooding. 

How can we do this?

  • Install water butts. These collect water before it enters either the ground of storm water drains. If, advance of heavy rainfall, the butts are empty, then corresponding volumes of water can be held back from entering the ground or drains. Whilst one single butt may not make difference, a 1000 water butts each with a capacity of 200litres can hold back 200,000 litres – 200 cubic meters – of water. This does require some focus by the householder on rain forecasts. A less precise solution would be to leave the water butt tap half open or it to a leaky hose. Either way it is important that you ensure the empty butt is weighted down to stop it blowing over – either leave some water in the bottom or put in some bricks or out a heavy lid on top.
  • The RHS suggests using rainwater from butts to wash cars and paths in the winter and plants in the summer.
  • Avoid areas of bare earth. Ground that is covered with plants will slow the passage of rainwater into the water table. Rainfall will be interrupted by leaves and rainwater will absorbed by roots and by any mulch covering the ground. 
  • Compacted soil is less able to absorb rainwater – where the ground is regularly trafficked create a path that uses porous materials – eg gravel, bark, stepping stones.
  • Ensure a range of planting so that there are always some plants covering the ground and some plants with leaves.
  • Cover areas of bare earth – eg before planting begins or in the autumn after harvesting  – with a mulch or with a quick growing green crop – otherwise known as green manure – such as alfalfa, clover, mustard.  https://www.rhs.org.uk/soil-composts-mulches/green-manures
  • Avoid hard surfaces if possible. Where a hard surface is needed (as a patio, for car parking etc) you can opt for a porous hard surface such as gravel or paving stones spaced out with gaps for drainage. You could also incorporate a soak-away to catch and collect water that runs off the area. 
  • If you have a pond, keep it filled up with rain water. Run a hosepipe from a water butt so that when it rains the pond benefits from rain gathered over a larger area. 

Eco Tips

Recycling

Paper and card: fold and flatten and place in recycling bin. In the Borough of Richmond, this is the blue box. Cardboard and paper should be clean with plastic tape removed. It should be dry and  free from paint and glue etc – although Richmond’s recycling company says small amounts are not a problem.

Glass: jars and bottles should be rinsed clean before going into the recycling box. In Richmond this is the black box. Lids can be left in place.

Tins: steel and aluminium tin food and drinks can all be recycled. Clean and flatten them (if possible) before placing them in the recycling bin. Again in Richmond this is the black box. You can also recycle aerosol cans. Aluminium foil can also be recycled. Ensure it is clean and squash the foil together to make one lump. This prevents small pieces of foil getting lost.

Batteries and light bulbs: these can usually be recycled at the stores where they are sold. In East Sheen batteries can be recycled at Waitrose, Boots and Robert Dyas and the latter also recycle light bulbs.

Plastics 

Milk cartons and bottles, shampoo and laundry/ cleaning liquid bottles,  ice-cream and margerine tubs, food trays, and yogurt, dessert or cream tubs: these should be cleaned and flattened before being placed in your recycling box. In Richmond this is the black box.  

Plastic bags: these can be recycled at most supermarkets along with other thin plastic wrappings such as from around magazines and toilet rolls, bubble wrap, bread bags and bags for frozen foods.

Scrunchable or soft plastics: these can be recycled at some supermarkets including some Tesco and Sainbury stores and most Co-ops. Local to East Sheen this includes Tesco Metro in Richmond (ask at the customer services desk) the Coop store in Putney and the Coop service station at Roehampton Vale. These plastics include biscuit and sweet wrappers, crisp packets, cling film, plastic bags for salads, pouches from both food and cleaning products, as well as the previously described plastic bags.

Blister packs from medicines etc: these can be recycled at Superdrug – ask at the pharmacy counter.

Polystyrene and plastic foam: these plastics cannot currently be recycled.

Compostable plastic-looking bags: some manufactures pack their newspaper, magazine, dried goods etc in bags made from corn starch or similar. This is not plastic and must not go in with plastics for recycling. It will be clear.y marked as compostable and should go into your garden compost bin or your food recycling bin. Domestic compost heaps don’t reach high temperatures and these bags may take a couple of seasons to break down – be patient!

Compostable cutlery, cups and bowls etc: these may look like plastic, especially the cutlery. They should be marked as compostable and should go into your garden compost bin or your food recycling bin.

Pens: worn out pens including felt tip pens and highlighters are recycled via TerraCycle and can be dropped off at your local Ryman store. 

Postage stamps: you will probably get more of these at this time of year. They are often collected by charities as a means of raising funds. Eg RNIB https://www.rnib.org.uk/donations-and-fundraising/fundraising-your-community/stamps-appeal  and Against Breast Cancer https://www.againstbreastcancer.org.uk/recycling/used-stamps/

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

Swopping 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 seitan (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.