Counting on …day 180 

12th May 2022

“Make do and mend” reduces the amount we consume, making our lifestyles more sustainable. Repairing a pair of trousers so that they can be worn for a couple more years makes good sense. 

Repairing sheets – 

Darning –

 Counting on ….day 178

10th May 2022

In a world where resources are limited, we need to avoid waste them.  One way is  to ‘make do and mend’. By repairing and maintaining and repurposing things we can prolong their useable lifespan before recycling them. This skilfully repaired dustbin belongs to a neighbour. The less skilfully repaired coffee filter is mine – gaffer tape can mend a lot of things. 

 Counting on day 104

24th  February 2022

Safe guarding scarce resources.

Helium is a naturally occurring gas. It is very light and once released it quickly escapes to the edges of the earth’s  atmosphere. Where helium has become trapped in rock strata it can be Helium extracted for commercial use. It cannot be chemically manufactured and is therefore a limited finite resource.  Helium is is a key component in the operating of MRI scanners. 

It is surely irresponsible to use it to fill party balloons? 

Green Tau issue 35

22nd February 2022

What is a circular economy? 

It is easier to describe its opposite. A non circular economy is that takes, makes and throws away. For example, chop down a tree, make its wood into a sheet of paper and then, after a single use, throw the paper away. Another example would be taking oil out of the ground, making it into a plastic cup  and then, after a single use, throwing it away.

In a circular economy the ‘throw away’ section is discarded. Instead the product is reused or recycled or repurposed so that its value is not lost. In a circular economy the sheet of paper after its initial use, may be reused (writing on the back of it), possible repurposed (used to wrap a parcel) and then recycled. Being recycled the waste paper may become a fresh sheet of (recycled) paper. Going back into the economy that sheet of paper can be recycled 6 or so times before the fibres become too short. At that point the sheet of paper might be recycled as a lower grade material and become a paper bag, a news paper, a cardboard box etc. Ultimately this paper based waste product can be composted and its nutrients returned to the soil. 

In a circular economy the intention is not only to ensure the reuse of waste material (really it is not waste but ‘raw’ material) but also to ensure that there is no waste of energy and water.  Recycling paper uses about 70% less energy and water than making virgin paper and produces about 70% less air pollution. If the paper mill has solar panels, say, it operate with zero loss of energy. If it can clean, reuse and/ or  return its water to the water system, it can operate without loss to the water system.

A circular economy seeks to regenerate natural resources. In the case of paper this would be planting and maintaining woodland to ensure supplies of wood for future generations who wish to make and use paper. Not all resources can be regenerated. Once fossil oil has been extracted from the earth, more cannot be generated. Oil was created 300 million years ago when climatic conditions were particularly suitable for its formation. The formation itself took place over 200 million years during which time climatic conditions were again suitable. Oil is finite resource. 

Is the rate at which we using the earth’s resources sustainable? Bluntly, no! If we compare the amount of resources we use each year against the rate at which those resources can be replaced, then we have not been living within our means since 1970. Each year the Global Footprint Network calculates the resources we use against the capacity of the earth to regenerate its resources and pin points that day in which the two coincide. In 1970 that date was 31st December. Since then this date – Earth Overshoot Day – has rapidly receded global consumption has exceeded the rate of regeneration. In 2021, it fell on July 29. Our current lifestyle is unsustainable. Moving to a circular economy is one way of addressing this problem. 

The development of a circular economy, both globally and locally, is happening. We see it in recycling schemes where plastic bottles are collected, processed and remade into new bottles. We see it with clothing manufacturers where clothes no longer required by the user are returned and either re sold or recycled to create new cloth. There are schemes which reuse and repurpose old furniture. There are even companies that reuse and repurpose unwanted kitchen units. Some projects are small, others large but they are all a step in the right direction. As consumers we need to step up and activity choose to be part of the circular economy.

Further reading:

Counting on …day 95 

15th February 2022

Refilling cars with petrol at a service station is common practice.

What if it was the same with oils for cooking and eating? An olive oil pump? You may find that you can! Refill stores often stock different sorts of oil with which customers refill their bottles. As this grows in popularity, let’s also make a point of asking for organic and fairly traded oils.

Counting on …day 81

31st January 2022

When my clothes wear out – beyond repair – I bag them up and take them, labelled as rags for recycling, to the local charity shop. I then try and buy clothes made from recycled materials to square the circle/ close the loop. This is harder than you would think! 

One company that does take back its own clothes so that they can be both recycled and reused, is Rapanui. (NB the recycling of the old clothes and the manufacture of new ones takes place in India).

“The fashion industry is a linear model where resources are taken and turned into waste. Lowering impact or buying less slows fast fashion down but it doesn’t change the outcome. We are fundamentally different because circular design is applied at every stage. Unlike recycled clothing, which only works to slow down the process, a circular economy is designed for products to be returned and remade again and again. Meaning they will never go to waste. Get your year off to the best start by helping us in sending back your old Rapa products. We make new products from the material we recover, and the cycle itself is renewable. With your help, we can work towards ending waste for good.”

 Counting on …day 80 

30th January 2022

Upcycling is a popular way of extending the life of the clothes we wear. Trousers worn at the knees can become a pair of shorts. Flared trousers can be tapered, or straight trousers can acquire a flair. A plain T shirt can be embroidered with a pattern or a message. Skirts can be shortened – or lengthened  if you add new material below the hem line. Dresses or trousers  can become skirts. Sometimes it may involve downgrading – the pair of jeans that has patches on the knees and patches on the buttock area is likely to become useful gardening gear!  

 Counting on …. Day 78

28th January 2022

Mending and repairing items to extend their life applies to clothes too. Catching up a hem that has come unstitched, sewing a button back on, re stitching a gap/e in a seam, replacing a zip or patching a hole are straight forward repairs. Slightly more tricky but not impossible, you can turn cuffs and collars inside out when they being to wear. 

Practical if not a glamorous repair

There are plenty of web sites that will show you how to make repairs if you are not sure – and give you new ideas too.

See also repairing sheets

And  darning

Counting on … day 51

4th January 2022

Seville oranges that are the key ingredient of marmalade are now in the shops and as they are a seasonal crop, now is the time to buy them and make marmalade. This recipe is adapted from one belonging to my great aunt.

7 Seville oranges

1 sweet orange

2 lemons

3kg sugar with pectin

Cut fruit into quarters and boil until skin is soft. If you have a slow cooker this is ideal – just put the fruit and 5 pints of water into the slow cooker, cover with its lid and leave gently simmering for 4 to 6 hours as necessary. If you are using a large saucepan, cover fruit with 7 pints of water and bring to the boil, uncovered. You will find the 2 pints of additional water will evaporate during the boiling.

Allow fruit to cool, slice the fruit thinly discarding all the pips as you find them. 

Put sliced fruit, the strained water/ juice and sugar into a large pan, bring to the boil whilst stirring (to prevent the sugar from burning). Boil, stirring frequently until setting point is reached. If possible use a jam thermometer. Otherwise test by dripping a small amount onto a cold plate. As it cools the mixture should form jelly like surface that wrinkles when pushed. 

Pour into sterilised jars and seal.