Live LAGOM Project Update

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It’s been three months since I picked up my sustainable living stash from IKEA (see here for my first post about it). Because I live on my own in a small flat it was a struggle to spend £500 (I didn’t spend it all) – I wanted to pick things that really would be useful. The changes I’ve made have been small but I’ve become a lot more conscious about everyday living. The bulk of the money actually went on soft furnishings to keep my flat warm because with old electric heaters and no double-glazing it did get chilly! I picked a huge soft rug for my living area which made the world of difference, it was really noticeable how cold my feet got elsewhere in the house. I also put up new blackout curtains in the bedroom and blind for the kitchen. The blind was a bit tricky because I had to cut it to length so that it fit snuggly in the window. This involved sawing through the (very thin) metal rod and cutting the blind with a Stanley knife. I have a recommendation for IKEA on this – print squared guidelines on the back of the blind to make it easier to cut straight! It’s a very inexpensive way to improve the look and warmth in the kitchen though so was well worth taking the time to fit it properly.

Me enjoying the view more than DIY

Me enjoying the view more than DIY

My New Year’s Resolutions

My resolutions were 1) zero food waste 2) stop wasting heat 3) achieve 100% recycling 4) save water. I’ve already discussed saving heat so let’s think about food. First, I’ve been popping down to my local weekly ‘Veg shed’ whenever I can. Not only is it supporting local growers but it’s great value for money and means I get things in season and at their best. I’ve been far more careful with portion sizes and had a clear out of the cupboards and freezer so I could keep track of exactly what I had.

On to recycling . . . Now, I don’t think I can say I’ve reached the 100% recycling zone but I’ve certainly been trying. I took the time to visit the city council website to see exactly what could go in my recycling bins (magazines – yes, gift wrap – no) and I’ve been washing out my jars and plastic tubs rather than lazily throwing them in the bin. I found out the council even have a recycling app with all the important info and collection dates. I also had a sort out and visited the City Depot Recycling Park. It was fantastic to see so much going on. I took years’ worth of broken and unusable electronics – old kettle, lamp, laptops, things that can be broken down and disposed of/reused safely.

And finally for my saving water efforts. The main change I’ve made is to reserve baths as a treat and stick to showers. I just felt so guilty sitting in a huge tub of water. I also realized that I often took a bath to warm up when I got home but by taking the steps to keep the flat warmer anyway that wasn’t so necessary.

My plans moving forward are to keep going as I have been and as spring comes start foraging more for food!

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The Health Hazards Lurking in Sanitary Products

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I need to talk about tampons. Not the prettiest subject but that’s probably why we don’t talk about them very much. And why I haven’t thought about them very much.

Sanitary products have been around since the 1930s and women everywhere are forever grateful, but the materials they are made of have barely changed in that time. Conventional products are made of Rayon – the man-made fibre created from cellulose wood pulp (cue the slaying of many trees), non-organic cotton (bad for farmers, waterways and wildlife) and synthetic materials like polypropylene (non-biodegradable). That’s not to mention the widespread use of plastic tampon applicators that take 25 years to biodegrade, littering our seas in the meantime.

So I think it’s safe to say sanitary products are bad for the environment, but that’s not all. Conventional products are also treated with a whole host of nasties. These can include chlorine to increase absorbency and make the products white and chemical fragrance. Rayon and viscose fibres can shed in use, leaving behind dioxins that cling to the vaginal wall. Not something I want in my intimate parts. The World Health Organisation claims that dioxins are highly toxic, interfering with the immune system and hormonal balance. The crazy thing is there is no in-depth scientific research on the impact of using these sanitary products (or is it that surprising really?) but for those of us who like to avoid toxic chemicals wherever possible there are alternatives.

TOTM make organic tampons and sanitary towels, 100% free from pesticides, chemical fertilisers, perfume and bleach. They only use cardboard applicators and their products are 95% biodegradable. Healthier for the planet and the women using them, they offer a subscription service so you can have supplies sent straight to your door (or you can submit one-off orders). A box of 10 regular applicator tampons cost £2.80 – more expensive than cardboard applicator Tampax but about the same as their fanciest pearl compak.

I’m converted.

Go to www.totm.com

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Book Chapter Published – Intimacies, Critical Consumption and Diverse Economies

book consumption

Edited by Emma Casey (Senior Lecturer Sociology at Kingston) and Yvette Taylor (Professor at Strathclyde), Intimacies, Critical Consumption and Diverse Economies explores the importance of consumption in shaping the intimacies of everyday life. With contributions from ten academics spanning sociology, anthropology and human geography, this volume develops debates surrounding the emotional and material labour involved in producing domestic and intimate spaces. It builds on previous volumes focused on everyday and gendered consumption including Jackson and Moore’s (1995) The Politics of Domestic Consumption and Casey and Martens’ (2007) Gender and Consumption – both key texts adopted during my PhD.

The edited book came about after a BSA Families and Relationships Study Day in early 2013, convened by the editors. It represented a key point in acknowledging the role of material culture in providing a sociological understanding of everyday life, at a particular point in time following worldwide economic austerity. I presented some findings from my PhD research at the event which led to an invited chapter in the resulting volume. The book was published at the end of 2015 and a launch event held at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow on 29th January 2016. It was the weekend of storm Gertrude which made it rather more eventful!

The volume is in three parts:

Expanding the Field: Conceptualising Intimate Consumption
‘Sticky’ and Shifting Sites of Intimate Consumption
The Intimate Social Life of Commodities

Individual contributions include Julie Seymour’s look at the use of space and practices of display in commercial family homes (i.e. family run pubs and hotels), Sarah Wilson’s account of the significance of material objects in constructing a sense of belonging for young people in care and Rachel Hurdley’s investigation of making home in the workplace.

My own chapter considers the practices appropriated by middle-class mothers in negotiating the perceived risks inherent in consuming second-hand baby clothes, toys and equipment. Here is the full abstract:

Focusing on the mother as consumer as well as carer, this chapter considers mothers’ co-consuming practices related to used/second-hand baby goods purchased at nearly new sales. Citing second-hand consumption as an intimate and risky practice, the material negotiations and risk reduction strategies practiced by middle-class mothers as they engage in consuming second-hand baby items are discussed. Thirty mothers were interviewed, with the narrative of risk focused on two main themes: hygiene and safety. Concerns over hygiene were particularly prevalent when consuming textiles that were seen to harbour traces of the previous other or dirt that may contaminate the ‘pure’ child. Whilst practices of divestment and cleanliness in the home were not necessarily normalised (but were influenced by social factors) the second theme, that of safety, was heavily structured by social conventions and recognised guidelines and offered less scope for subjective mediation.

Waight, E. (2015) ‘Buying for Baby: How middle-class mothers negotiate risk with second-hand goods’ in E. Casey and Taylor, Y. (ed.) Intimacies, Critical Consumption and Diverse Economies, Palgrave Macmillian, London, pp.197-215.

I fully recommend the book for anyone interested in material culture, consumption, everyday life and relationships.

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New Tastier GEOBARs with Myanmar Fairtrade Rice

GEOBAR Fairtrade
GEOBARs have been around for 15 years so it’s likely you’ve happily munched your way through them before. Tasty, wholesome and made with Fairtrade ingredients, they offer triple whammy goodness. Produced by Traidcraft, GEOBAR was the first product made from several Fairtrade ingredients to be certified with the Fairtrade Mark in 1999. To date they have sold over 200 million bars, working in partnership with, and supporting, farmers from Ghana to Guatemala.

To coincide with Fairtrade Fortnight last February, Traidcraft launched a range of new and improved cereal bars using the very first yields of Fairtrade rice from Myanmar. The bars are less sweet than they were before and come in three new flavours; wild apricot, mixed berries and chocolate. Having taste tested them all I can say that mixed berries is my fave. The natural fruit flavours make the wild apricot and mixed berry bars taste much sweeter than the chocolate, which only has a mild cocoa flavour.

GEOBAR Fairtrade snack

Fairtrade honey is a vital ingredient that goes into every Chewy and Crunchy Granola GEOBAR. The honey comes from co-operatives in Chile and Guatemala. In Guatemala the number of beekeepers has risen from 22 to 132 in 15 years, supporting around 660 people. The more GEOBARS sold, the more honey that will be needed, creating more happy farmers and happy bees.

The bars retail at £2 for a box of 5 from Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Tesco, health food shops, Traidcraft stockists and ethical superstore.

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The Growing Market for Green Roofs

If all roofs were green, cities could disappear from a bird’s eye view. Green or living roofs (by which I mean a roof laid to grass or wild flowers) are so more than just a talking point. They have a real purpose; greening city landscapes, providing biodiversity, improving air and water quality and reducing sound transfer. They could also be a way to limit the damage of future floodwaters because green roofs can retain 70-80% of summer rainfall in contrast to traditional drainage systems that are unable to cope with the increasing rain water levels. Green roofs store the rainwater in plants and substrate; releasing the water back into the atmosphere through evapotranspiration. I predict we’ll be seeing more green roofs in the future and not just on commercial buildings and garden sheds, but on residential housing too. I’m therefore happy to present Sky Garden – the UK’s leading independent green roof specialist. In the rest of this post they talk about the exciting project’s they’ve worked on (including the roof of a salad factory and Gloucester services) and the different systems they can offer.

All the vegetation in Sky Garden systems are locally grown and use recycled materials where possible. From the organic material and recycled brick in substrate, to the high density recycled polypropylene in our modular trays.

Green Roof Projects

Kanes Foods
Green roof kanes

One of our most exciting projects in recent times is the 6,000m² wildflower green roof on the construction of a new salad factory local to Sky Garden in rural Worcestershire. The building was designed to minimise the impact to the local environment and blend into the surrounding Cotswold Hills. The wildflower meadow on the curved roof contains specifically pre-grown wildflower blanket with species local to the Cotswolds.

British Horse Society
British Horse Society Courtesy of Kier Group copy

The iconic 2200m² sedum blanket system on the roof of the BHS offices just South of Birmingham was for employees to offer guidance on everything you need to know about riding, horse ownership and working in the industry. The ‘doughnut’ shaped building with an ancient oak tree taking centre stage offered many complexities however has since become one of the iconic sedum roofs in Britain.

Gloucester Services
Gloucester-Shoot-04 copy

The service station on the northbound side of the M5 between J11 and J12 was constructed to be different from typical service stations. The 4,000m² state of the art bio-diverse living roof is designed to disguise the new service station as part of rolling Robinswood Hills. The wildflower seed mix was chosen to match the abundant grasses and wildflowers in the area such as the Self Heal, Yellow Rattle and Birdsfoot Trefoil. The roof helps to support and preserve the pollinating insects as well as the heritage of our native British wild flora habitats.

Green Roof Systems

Sky Garden offers a variety of green roof systems to cater for every need. All the vegetation is grown by our experts at our local Gloucestershire nursery. We currently offer four standard green roof systems.

• Sedum Systems – The traditional green roof system can be either a sedum blanket or sedum plug plant green roof system. Sky Garden’s sedum blanket is a pre-grown mat of mature sedum plants compared to the sedum plug plant system being individual sedum plugs planted across the roof.

• Wildflower Systems – Sky Garden’s wildflower system includes a wildflower blanket that is sown with a seed mix of 38 species of wildflowers and grasses to create a vibrant array of colour on your roof.

• Bio-diverse Systems – Sky Garden’s bio-diverse system, also known as a ‘brown roof’ system, mimics the surrounding environment that has been lost due to development in order to reduce the ecological impact as much as possible. Often left to self-seed, the substrate is contoured to allow for a variety of native species to establish.

• Modular Systems – The modular system is made up of pre-formed cells that easily ‘click’ together to create a complete green roof quickly and without fuss. Each recyclable polypropylene tray has build in water retention and includes a filtration layer, growing substrate and sedum plants.

All green roof systems follow a similar template. A protection fleece layer adds an extra layer of defence to the waterproofing layer. Drainage and water retention layers designed specifically for living roofs. This includes a filter fleece layer to prevent blockages to the drainage of excess water. A substrate layer created from recycled brick with organic material allows for nutrient and moisture retentive growing medium. On top of this would be your vegetation layer, whether it’s a pre-grown blanket, seeded or plug planted.

For more info see www.sky-garden.co.uk

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