supporting nature and the environment

There’s a lot more to getting Greener than carbon footprint and recycling, of course. Some of the things I do, and things I’m working towards, are pretty small-scale in the overall scheme of things but still worthwhile.

Clothing. I have no fashion sense at all, and am not interested in it. A fair number of T-shirts and suchlike date back to the 1990s: I only buy when I need to. Jeans, and shirts if I can find them, are things that I buy second-hand. In general, I prefer natural-fibre clothes because they’re ultimately bio-degradeable: I worry about artificial microfibres from clothes-washing getting into watercourses and ultimately into ocean food-chains. My budget doesn’t currently stretch to silk thermal long-johns for winter, so these are a cotton/polyester mix, though ultimately I’d like to be all natural fibres.

Whites and bedding are washed using Ecover powder, and wherever possible I dry laundry on the outdoor washing line. Sadly, when the weather doesn’t permit this, things have to be tumble-dried. I have a combined washer/dryer as there’s no space to fit separate machines, so it’s a condenser-type dryer (which is rather wasteful of cooling water) rather than a heat-pump one. Drying things on racks indoors is not on – humidity really messes up my dodgy back.

Palm Oil. The sustainable palm oil scheme seems to be pretty much open to abuse, if not actually quite a scam. This is an area I need to improve on – while I’m good about checking for absence of palm oil in some products (such as peanut butter), it’s not something I always think of with other things. And, of course, “vegetable oil” in an ingredients list covers all kinds of sins.

The garden. I have a fairly small garden – about 4 metres x 20 metres, plus a paved bit down the side of the house. I’ve planted a fair number of trees over the seven years I’ve been here – 2 espalier apple, 2 espalier pear, a Glastonbury thorn (haws for the birds), and in pots there are a fig, a loquat and a patio peach. That’s probably about the limit!

I try hard to garden organically, and don’t use herbicides at all. I do use organic-approved Iron phosphate slug pellets, but very sparingly and always under a protective mesh cover. Sawflies on the raspberries, and codling moth on the apples, are things that I’ve yet to find any way of preventing.

I use a heat gun on weeds on the patio and other paved areas, as I find bending to hand-weed very difficult: at a friend’s suggestion, I swapped from a gas flame-thrower to an electric one when the old one broke, as being less environmentally damaging. I’m in the process of converting from nylon line on the strimmer to a biodegradable product – sadly, it needs to be wound onto the spool by hand so I’m waiting for the nylon to finish.

I put in a small pond, which attracts frogs, and there are tadpoles in season. Flowering rush and miniature bullrush provide places for damselflies to emerge and perch.  Behind the pond is a small “wildflower bank” – largely some rather rank grasses, but ox-eye daisies, fleabane, musk mallow, scabious, fox-and-cubs, meadowsweet and occasionally vetches are at home here. I’ve tried to establish teasels, but they never seem to self-sow themselves, so I often end up planting one or two. There are insect-friendly heaps of gently-decaying wood, and un-mown grass edges as cover for frogs and small mammals. Tawny mining bees make their nests in the cracks in the elderly concrete path, and occasionally in the lawn.

I grow a certain amount of veg in 5 one-metre-square beds. Courgettes, kale, chard and leeks are the main successes; carrots are a persistent failure unfortunately. Growbags down the side of the house have tomatoes every year – usually “Black Russian” and a couple of other varieties, hopefully of an at least moderately blight-resistant nature!

There’s a water butt collecting rainwater from the shed roof, but installing a butt supplied from the main house roof is complicated, and would need the services of a plumber and possibly drain person. It’s on the wish-list … where it’s been since I moved in seven years ago.

All very much a work in progress, of course: I think I’ve taken most of the easy wins and going forward will be only incremental improvements.

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