Lizz Roe – March
This month’s challenge is that everything I eat and buy should adhere to LOAF principles! This means it should be Local, Organic, Animal friendly and Fair trade! It’s usually only possible to do three out of 4 – mainly because local and fair trade is a hard one to really pin down. Doves farm flour is certified as having been produced without exploited labour so that would count for all 4! It was also suggested that I tried to keep purchases from within Europe – the eurovision version which includes Turkey and Palestine/Israel. (they graciously granted me tea, spices and chocolate as long as they fulfilled the other criteria).
It’s funny – because I think this one will be easier than last month. I know where I can source local and organic food, I know where to get organic fair trade animal friendly shoes and clothes though the clothes aren’t made in the UK, but I’ll have to keep a careful eye on any books I buy – so many are printed in china these days. This month I’m also spending 4 days in Amsterdam for work plus going back and forwards to my dad’s so it might be a bit more of a challenge after all.
I do know quite a number of people who live this way, by LOAF or other totally ethical principles, all the time – and certainly I’ve done it off and on for years. But more recently I’ve got into the habit of making more of a compromise – an ipod, a laptop, a DVD player, the converse boots, non-organic soya milk, bananas – either fair trade or organic, and hardly local. That nice shirt from Debenhams – I’m not as careful as I used to be. Though there are some cheap high street brands I don’t buy. In the past usually when I was harder up I was much more conscientious, politically edgy and conscientious. What happened to my edge? Where did that go?
There have been extended periods when I’ve read ethical consumer avidly – changed my purchasing habits, given up some things and tried to keep track of global brands and the smaller companies that have been swallowed up but who for a while had been the bees knees! There have been years when the clothes I wore came from Bishopston trading, Nomad or Peopletree or from a swop party or from a charity shop. And when I didn’t buy something if I couldn’t find an ethical source. Ok it’s still consumption, but it was ethical.
There has been times when I didn’t wear wool or leather – when I was a stricter vegan. Now I’ve gone back to wearing the two wool cardigans I was given, several pullovers I have knitted from gift wool, and two jumpers also that I was given! Maybe people thought I looked cold! I also bought a pair of leather shoes and a pair of leather boots last year!! The boots because I went through a pair of wellies the previous year and thought I might end up with trench foot!, and because my feet were freezing all the time.
This year the lovely leather boots got me through the snow, the slush and the rain, my feet were warm and they only got wet once. They’re currently stuffed with newspaper to draw out any remaining moisture and to save them for next winter. So I’m back to canvas shoes, boots and plimsolls. my leather shoes are for very best for work etc when the canvas wont do. I used to have proper vegetarian shoes – and at work I have some lovely vegan clogs to change into from the boots – but I got through a pair of the shoes a year and they were too expensive for my budget at the time. When I wear out the current canvas and leather shoes I’ll look again at options.
All of my bags are canvas or nylon, I have a fleece, a gilet, and a third hand coat, plus a lovely patchwork jacket from a friend, which I adore and in which I look a total hippy-chick quaker. When I think about it a lot of my clothes, shoes and accessories are fairtraded, were presents, are animal friendly-ish (sorry about the foot wear), and are mostly from within the UK unless they were fair trade, or were from charity shops.
When I bought my flat two years ago I was able to bring things out of storage and from my dad’s house, empty my office, (it’s full again now with a weaving loom, a rug loom, another frame and lots of wool and fabric I have been given – and piles of books!) and finally put things together as I liked.
Since I left home 20 years ago the house things I’ve bought new have nearly all been ethically sourced, lots of things have come from skips, or from friends or family – the exceptions are the DVD player, the Netbook, the saucepans, the bed, an ipod, an ebook, one plastic bowl, a plastic spatula, the hand blender, the duvet, two towels, some pillowcases and an eiderdown from Cath Kidston, and some of the clothes, DVD’s, CD’s, books and the bedside table (a set of mini steps from Ikea) and a mini chest of drawers also from Ikea. when I write the list like that it surprises me! because it means that the bulk of stuff in my house is pretty loaf!
Just to inspire you here’s what came from friends and family:
the sofa, a kitchen table, a proper dining table and chairs, two bookcases, a rug, a small chair, a chest of drawers, bathroom cabinet, 5 lamps, a small side table, a sort of desk, a very large bookcase which nearly got stuck getting it up the stairs, crockery, cutlery, glassware, the cooker, kettle, toaster, washing machine, a wooden filing cabinet, a cork board, a captain’s chair, all my clocks, and a fridge.
From skips or the kerbside;
3 quite big bookcases, a wooden trunk, a huge luggage trunk, a lovely embossed metal bin from tumi in steel and bound with brass, glass fishing floats, bike basket, storage boxes and a swing top bin (rescued by my mum), two metal lanterns, the wood for a bench and all the kitchen and most of the bedroom shelving, the hammer and a set of screwdrivers and drill bits, the toolbox, a picture frame, a rocking chair with cane seat (perfect and lovely).
From Fairtrade shops
A rug, curtains in the living room, lamp shade (all from one village) duvet covers – bishopston, oxfam trading and traidcraft, storage baskets, chopping board, mixing bowl.
Some things I made or picked up overseas – some rugs, a bedspread, several hangings, cushion covers, wooden fruit bowl, fishing net/basket.
And some things came from Charity Shops
two bookcases, the kitchen bin, the laundry bin, flowerpots, and tiny tiles – which are now behind the cooker – and which I think are mexican.
It might sound a bit all over the place but it fits together pretty well. One of the best things I did last year was move a huge bookcase behind the head of the bed – It’s one of the few large flat vertical spaces in the flat – perfect for a bookcase! I got the idea from a coffee table design book I spotted on – surprise surprise – a coffee table in a friend’s house. Moving it freed up the wall in the living room – I’m going to get a bookcase built there – which would be really be good for insulation, it’s an end wall – I bet heat gets out through there. I wonder if I should get the window replaced too – I wonder if that’d be very expensive? But when I tried to open it recently I nearly put my thumb through the frame. the green building store will be able to tell me how much it’ll cost to replace with a really efficient triple glazed timber framed window.
This week I started off by checking everything available in the local shops. Heron Foods does organic peas! and there is quite a lot of stuff that is sourced in the UK – and it’s cheap. They have vegan veg grills and fingers too – and sometimes veggie sausages as well. The Co-op has some organic and fairtrade stuff, and a few vegan things, the spar has soya milk and sometimes has a shelf with things sourced locally, the Tesco Metro up the road has almost nothing vegan (apart from fruit and veg), or organic, or specifically local or fair trade – apart from some tea and coffee. The Green Grocers has veg though hardly any of it is organic and the nearby deli which I can pass on the walk to/from work with a little detour has lots of excellent eco, organic, local, animal friendly, and fair trade stuff too, though it’s expensive.
Towards the end of the week I went to London for a meeting – so I took soya milk, and the nice caterers at Friends House provided vegan sarnies and cake, and then the next day I went to Amsterdam for work!
When I was there it was dead easy to eat animal friendly and organic wasn’t impossible. I went to a fairtrade shop for some snacks and the various souvenirs I brought back came from a mixture of places – the ethnographic museum, a fair trade shop, an exhibition at one of the churches on oman which was selling crafts to support a range of projects in oman.
Window – I got some quotes from three companies – timber windows need treating about every three to five years – UPVC don’t but are a nightmare environmentally. This would seem like a no brainer – the eco ones – but I live on the third floor – how easy will it be to get them redone? we have a painter at work I wonder if he’d do it?
Bookcase – I’ve got some quotes from different carpenters. One of the specs was that it had to be built from reclaimed or recyled timber. I think one of them wasn’t sure what I was on about but two of them got the gist very quickly. It turns out that about 10% of energy escapes through uninsulated walls. If I had cavity walls I’d be doing that but I don’t – it’s a converted Victorian house and apparently you can tell by the brick work. if I was someone who used a lot of heating then I’d get the whole flat thermal boarded on the inside – including all the sloping roofs which make up most of my walls. But I don’t use much (one friend once got so chilly she offered to do the washing up so that she’d have warm hands – result! – now to help with this chill factor I have a pile of beautiful blankets and shawls available). Instead I’ve had most vertical external walls lined with shelves which have got books on them! this means they have insulation about 15cm thick! books are also a great carbon capture method too! of course it makes the rooms a bit smaller – but as these walls up under the eaves it would otherwise be dead space.
Back from Amsterdam – and I’ve washed my stuff – I really like the soap nuts I’ve got. I sometimes think that about 10% of my time at home is spent doing laundry and housework. I am just starting to think I might buy a hoover – I spend ages using a eubank (it beats as it sweeps as it cleans!) and a dustpan and brush. Most of my floors are sweepable wood but the bedroom has a good quality wool carpet which is cosy but cream coloured. You can imagine how much effort that is to keep clean looking. I like looking after the place I live in but just sometimes it seems like a lot of effort! I’ve recently read a de-junking book which has encouraged me to think about what energy I put into the flat which I could put else where if I had less stuff to maintain. The main thing that would take energy, if I had one, is an allotment. So maybe I ought to gear up for that. I’ve grown some very nice salads now and have kept the sprouter going.
The other thing is that I’m still going backwards and forwards to Watford – but even there I have found some of the nice eco and health food shops as well as numerous skips and charity shops. I’ve also finally changed all of my dad’s lightbulbs and sorted his recycling bins – he’s a big fan!
I’ve been told that really efficient multi-fuel stove wont make much ash so it could be a possibility after all. I’ve a set of shelves on the landing which I could convert to wood storage and something very efficient would be ok for wood from skips. I’ve wondered about this for a while because there is an old chimney off the living room which has an electric fire in front of it. I had imagined it was impossible because of the wood storage and ash disposal issue. It looks like it might not be after all. This is excellent, I always think it’s good if for each neccessity you have at least two options – single function multiple elements is a good permaculture principle, and having had no heating for 2 weeks back in January I reckon having an alternative to electricity is a good plan.
Over the long weekend a friend and I went flamingo spotting in Cyprus. we found an easy jet hotel and flights to Larnaca and did lots of fantastic walks and museum visits. Even there it was possible to observe all the loaf principles (except perhaps the flying bit – I know).
This week had trips to the hospital with my dad a couple of times plus a trip to the pub for the Monday night pub quiz, the rest of the week was work work work and more work. But I did manage a couple of days with some friends – and got some tiny fairly traded tiles from Persia for my bathroom. (not quite enough so next time I go I must remember to buy three more!) We went to a national trust house too and spent a lovely hour in the winter walk all texture and spikes of green.
What I Learnt
Actually if you continue to pay attention loaf living isn’t so hard! It does mean there are some things you can’t or wont do but that’s ok! No primark cheapies, that’s obvious but if you go for local and animal friendly and don’t worry about organic then you can go for value ranges. Some fair trade foods are a good deal – the Coop is an excellent source of fairtrade staplefoods like tea, chocolate and rice.
It’s all about living on a £1 a day…
See also in this series….