Monday, 25 April 2011

These are a few of my favourite things

Well this week sure has been interesting. My mission was to start the 100 Thing Challenge, so I have spent the week reflecting on what I have, and writing, re-writing, and re-writing again my list of the top 100 things that I want to live with for the next 6 months. So I've narrowed the list down to my favourite items, those that I love or can't live without.

Now I won't bore you with the details of exactly what did make my list (I'll post the list as a comment for anyone curious!), but what I found most interesting was what didn't quite make the cut. After the first version of the list I left it a few days, and coming back to the list again my perspective had changed already about what was most important - enough to take some things off the list and add others on.

Here are a few items that didn't quite make the cut: 1) a second pair of black work heels 2) my wool slippers 3) a third notebook 4) a third scarf 5) a nice sparkly top.

What these near misses lead my to think about was how I made buying decisions about those items in the first place. If I had 2 notebooks (or 2 scarves) already, did I ever need a third? If I have carpet on the floor did I ever need slippers? If I always wear dresses, would I ever really have needed a sparkly top?

I guess these are the kind of questions that I will need to keep asking myself over the next 6 months if I want to keep my list at 100 items or less. Just writing the items down is half the battle, now I have a very clear picture of what I have and what I need. Even if you don't think you could reduce your stuff down to 100 items, I would absolutely encourage anyone to try out the task of writing down all the items that you have in your bedroom,wardrobe, lounge etc. Then maybe you can reduce your items down five at a time over a few months - your local charity stores will love you for it. I'm going to try getting my parents to do this - they sure are hoarders!

Now that I have my list of items, and my suitcase nearly packed, I'll be jetsetting to my new home town of London next week.

So for this week I'm going to start looking at an area that is very near and dear to my heart - travel. I love to travel, which is the main reason I'm re-locating to Europe. On the flipside I'm very aware that it's a decidely un-eco-friendly pass time. Over the next few months I'd really like to start exploring the most sustainable ways to see the world.

To kick start my green travel adventures, my mission this week is to carbon offset my long haul flight to London.

I've started having a look into carbon offsetting and there is a world of information out there. Hopefully I can distill it down this week and make a decision on the best carbon offset solution for me. If anyone has any recommendations please do let me know!

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Ode to Baking Soda

Is there anything baking soda can't do?

My mission for last week was to do a green spring clean. I was moving house, so it wasn't exactly a fun mission but I did learn more uses for baking soda than I thought possible.

Here are some of the things I used baking soda for last week: to clean my bathroom, to clean the stains off my white canvas shoes, and in with my washing to freshen up the load. I also tried brushing my teeth with it (not sure my dentist would recommend this, but according to 'the internet' it's safe), and I did find they were sparkling white afterwards! Apparently you can even use it instead of shampoo - so that's one for me to try some time I think.

I have a few other spring cleaning and packing tips that I picked up along the way...
1) Use egg cartons as padding. I read this tip on my egg carton actually and it really worked - use old egg cartons to pack small objects in, or to pad items instead of bubble wrap.
2) Google 'electronics recycling' in your area. I found so many old electronics (why did I have 4 old phones?), so I did a search for my local area and found that I could actually mail my old phones to be recycled, how easy. If you happen to be in the UK Oxfam also has a recycling programme which recycles electronics while contributing to their work - double the feel good factor.

Now there's nothing like a frustrating week of packing and moving to remind me of just how much 'stuff' I have. So many of the items that I packed away seemed to be things that I neither needed or loved. I had to ask myself why I bought these things in the first place, and how can I stop the flow of useless things into my household.

Which leads me to my mission for this week, which I think will probably be one of my most difficult but rewarding things I do to 'go green'. This week I'm going to start the 100 Thing Challenge.

The 100 Thing Challenge is basically a challenge to live with 100 items or less. It sounds like very few items, but I guess each person can define their own rules. I've decided that my 100 things will exclude kitchen and bathroom items for example. The real purpose of the challenge for me is to relook at everything I own, to assess and prioritise what I need and love, and to then work very hard not to increase the number of things I possess.

My goal is to do the 100 Thing Challenge for 6 months - so until October 31st I will live with 100 items or less. Hopefully by then I would have gone a long way towards breaking the buying cycle, and not want to buy more stuff after that!

Now I have to admit that this challenge will be a tad easier for me than most people as I'm moving overseas in 2 weeks, so I can force myself to take only a few things with me. But moving to London, the shopping mecca, will be a challenge itself. Next week I'll have my list of my 100 top things ready to go (and my suitcase packed hopefully), can't wait to see how it goes!

Monday, 11 April 2011


My mission for last week (going vegetarian) turned out to be both enjoyable and tasty! I tried some great recipes, and have some more on my list to try. My favourite was a thai green curry with tofu and lots of green veges. That was the first time I had ever bought or cooked tofu, but in the yummy sauce it worked out perfectly. I also had plenty of my favourite staple pumpkin and cannellini bean soup - quite delicious.

One difficulty I had was my family Sunday night dinner. My brother was cooking at his place, so I couldn't very well say no to the food he'd prepared for us. I think my ongoing committment will be to not buy meat products myself, but in situations like that I would struggle to be a pure vegetarian.

Which is why I've decided that 'flexitarian' is the way to go for me. According to the source of all wisdom (Wikipedia) flexitarian is defined as someone who avoids, but occasionally eats, meat. I found this great Newsweek article on the pros and cons of being part time vegetarian. Although I think I prefer to be called 'almost full time vegetarian' (part time sounds like a very poor attempt!).

The biggest downside for me of going vegetarian is that I think I may have finally tipped the scales towards being that person who makes embarrasingly complicated orders when they go out for a meal. I'm gluten and lactose intolerant, so the list of things I can't eat is rapidly getting longer than the list of things I can. Here's me ordering brunch "Can I please have a soy flat white, and the eggs benedict without the toast, with the sauce on the side of course, oh and hold the bacon".

On the bright side it's all the more reason to cook at home and save money!

This week I'm moving out of my apartment, so my mission is to do a green spring clean.

I'll be investigating some home made green cleaning products, and ways to reduce the amount of unneeded stuff that I own in the cleanest greenest way possible. I'd love to hear any ideas that you have!

Monday, 4 April 2011

Life without technology...

Well I'm pleased to report that I've accomplished mission numero uno, and that it was easier than I thought. I managed to go 24 hours tech free over the weekend - and I genuinely enjoyed it.

So what did I do instead? Well I was lucky that a large amount of that time was taken up babysitting my tiny wee new born niece which was quite a distraction. I also finished the book I was reading, and spent some time trawling through a new recipe book which was extremely relaxing. I also had a great catch up with some friends I hadn't seen in a while - so it was win win win.

I did have one hiccup though, a case of karma perhaps, or divine intervention. I needed to find out some information from a friend so went to turn my phone on before my 24 hours was up... And my phone died, the buttons just wouldn't work. So I've learnt my lesson, never to try and cheat in a challenge!

Because I enjoyed the challenge so much I'm going to commit to a monthly 24 hour technology 'detox'.

Now this week's challenge is going to be a tough one for me - I've decided to go vegetarian.

I've read a huge amount about how bad beef production is for the environment. In fact according to UN figures meat production might create more greenhouse gases than transport!

The reason this is going to be a tough one for me is that I was extremely anaemic last year, so I started putting lots of red meat back into my diet. I also try to stick to a reasonable high protein diet, so I'm a bit scared about how I'm going to get the balance right. But there are plenty of perfectly healthy vegetarians out there so it must be possible right?

The recipe book I've been trawling through is a fantastic vegetarian cookbook that I picked up the other day, with lots of easy healthy recipes to get me started. In fact the first one is in the oven right now and smells fab - stuffed capsicum (or bell peppers if you're not from my part of the world), filled with yummy goodies like tomato rice and pine nuts. Can't wait to try it!

Call to any vegetarians out there: I'd love to here any great tips or recipes if you have them.