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June 2010

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Perhaps you grow your organic vegetables, and like myself, have great pride in the fact you can prepare a meal without a visit to the super market, you use biodiesel in your car and re use and repair everything you can.

Go green and make some cash
Go green and make some cash

Or on the other hand you may have a passing interest in eco living, sometimes buy ethical cleaning products, and have a window box of herbs, and although you realise it is important to be ethical, you find it too time consuming or expensive to do the eco thing all the time. Either way, the option of producing your own electricity and selling the surplus back to the grid should be considered a realistic option and a fairly easy to implement idea.

Achieving true independence from the national power grid and actually profiting from it maybe as great as a fisherman catching the elusive Moby Dick, or Hansel and Gretel’s escape from the evil candy giving witch. While this is certainly a most green thing to do and will give you full appreciation of electricity as a commodity, what are the cost implications?

Currently to make a financial profit is a long term venture and is dependent upon many things such as the type of generator you get, natural variables such as wind and sun and your electricity usage. Typically a PV electric solar panel may cost £11,000, until April 2010 there is a £2500 grant from the government if you are lucky enough to get one, which brings the cost down to £8500. This should take around 10 years to pay off and start to make a profit; also it will increase the value of your home, is maintenance free and has around a 30-40 year lifespan. This is suggesting that the price of electricity is similar in 10 years as it is now, however, if the price of electricity goes up substantially you may find the installation of a green generator to be fairly lucrative.

Should you want to go ahead with your own electricity supply, you’ll need to decide what source to go for, wind, water, solar etc. Solar seems to be the easiest as you don’t need planning permission (unless you live in a listed building) and it only takes a few days for installation. Also, unlike a wind turbine there is no negative impact on your view. With any of these, you’ll need a converter to sell back to the grid, but with power companies having to supply 10% of their energy via renewable sources they are more than happy to buy it from you, you will have to sell it to the company you buy it from however.

Your own green power, not only a long term investment, but a great way to have clean energy and gain real independence from the power companies, and given the expected increase in power prices you may be wise to look at getting a grant to help with cost before they are gone in April 2010.

Stephanie Zia is the ebook author of ‘Done & Dusted – The Organic Home on A Budget’. Here she shares her top green cleaning tips with Hello Eco Living readers… just in time for World Environment Day, 5th June.

Stephanie Zia C Michael Macintyre low res

1. Anybody who isn’t cleaning their windows and mirrors with a microfibre cloth is insane. Dampen just a small corner of the cloth with a little water, or spray a drop directly onto the surface, wipe and voila! Crystal clear glass in seconds.
2. The best all-round stain remover is washing-up liquid. Use with cold water on protein stains (stains resulting from protein food, earth, body) and apply with hot water to greasy stains. Use sparingly or it’ll need lots of rinsing.
3. To clean and deodorise your dishwasher, place a mug of white vinegar on the bottom shelf and run on a short, glass-cleaning cycle. Brown vinegar is OK but white’s a bit less smelly.
4. Add half a cup of Soda Crystals to your washing machine detergent tray. A coarser, tougher, and cheaper relative of bicarbonate of soda, Soda Crystals soften the water and dissolve grease. They’re a fantastic money saver, you’ll only need half the amount of detergent if you live in a hard water area and the crystals will help keep the pipes in your washing machine clear and free of gunge. Widely available and inexpensive, from the detergent shelves of most supermarkets.
5. To clean that brown limescale build-up from the bases of your bathroom and kitchen taps, make a thick paste of salt & vinegar or lemon juice and scrub with an old toothbrush. For an extra stain-busting boost, use an old brush-head on your electric toothbrush.
6. Hydrogen Peroxide contact lens solution sold for cleaning, disinfecting and storing lenses is an excellent blood stain remover. Use it to treat other spills as well like food and wine stains. Always pour into a separate container before use.
7. Keep a bottle of soda water for emergency spills. The carbonated bubbles sink down and lift the stain with them as they rise. Many stains, even red wine stains, can be completely removed this way if treated quickly enough.
8. Buy a large kitchen flour sprinkler and fill with borax powder to use as an environmentally-friendly toilet cleaner. Repackaging cleaning products is usually a no-no – be sure to place a big, clear label of the contents firmly and irremovably on the outside of the container and store well away from your food cupboard and out of the reach of children.
9. Remove ink stains from tables and other surfaces by soaking a kitchen towel in soured milk, place over stain, weigh down with vase or bowl, leave for 30 minutes. Rub. Repeat if necessary. To sour the milk add a drop of vinegar. If using on absorbent surfaces rinse milk with washing-up liquid and cold water.
10. Use a hairdryer to remove candlewax spills. Point and wipe away with kitchen towel as it melts.  If the wax is on carpet don’t heat too high or the wax will sink. Remove resulting grease stain with a little washing-up liquid.

To find out more fabulous tips from Stephanie, visit blackbirdebooks.com and get your hands on her book.

There’s a new global art project out there using eco friendly Italian designer trainers (sneakers for our lovely readers in the USA!)… want to hear some more? We did too…

ALIVESHOES_BEACH BLOCKS

Aliveshoes is a project demonstrating that fashion, art and an environmentally-friendly consciousness are not mutually exclusive concepts. The shoes come together to make art installations and then when it comes to an end the shoes are up for sale!

The shoes are hand-crafted using untreated and organic natural cotton, leather and cork for the upper part of the shoe and ecologically scented foam rubber and fully biodegradable TPU polyurethane for the sole. The installations are put together as art by artists across the world.

Founder of aliveshoes, Luca Botticelli, said: ‘The concept was born around the idea that every business should be sustainable from an economic prospective, a value prospective and an ecological prospective, whilst at the same time being innovative. We wanted the product itself to offer all these values as well as creating something truly artistically creative. We offer people the chance to own and enjoy art with its unique one-of-a-kind shoes, surpassing the traditional commercial fashion industry and providing something that imbibes our values. We also want to give back and encourage people to share the value.’

To get involved in the project you can visit; aliveshoes.com.

It’s that time of year when everyone is digging out their wellies as a summer of festivals stand before us. You may have managed to bag yourself a ticket to the mighty green Glastonbury, or you may be holding out for a more intimate eco affair. Lucy takes time out to round up the UK’s top eco festivals.

Festivals with ethics
Festivals with ethics

Bestival

When? 9-12 September 2010

Where? Robin Hill County Park, Isle of Wight

Eco credentials? Bestival’s environmental plans are headed by a group called The Green Team. The team is made up from a group of eco minded volunteers who to help keep the festival as planet friendly as possible. Bestival was awarded an ‘Outstanding’ Greener Festival Award in 2009, one of only 13 festivals worldwide to achieve this top level award.  They will also be working with Julie’s Bicycle, an innovative organisation that helps the music industry to reduce its carbon emissions.

Bestival operates a strict no glass policy where all glass must be decantered upon arrival. A plethora of recycling bins is available and plastic bags are discouraged. A car share scheme is planned as well as there being good public transport links to the park.

Latitude

When? 15-18 July 2010

Where? Henham Park, Southwold, Suffolk

Eco credentials:  When at Latitude you’ll live by the ‘LEAVE NO TRACE’ philosophy – take only photos, leave only footprints.

Latitude is an unique festival that combines poetry, theatre, comedy and world class music in beautiful surroundings. When thinking green, Latitude prepares visitors with a section on the website about how campers can arrive eco ready with tips about car sharing, using durable products which can be reused and using the recycling bins provided. The festival site is an eco haven with composting toilets, phosphate free shampoos and a pint cup deposit scheme. A ‘shop local’ scheme is operated with local Adnams ale sold. Sit back and soak up the gorgeous atmosphere at one of the UK’s most unique festivals.

Kendal Calling

When? 30th July – 1st August 2010

Where? Lowther Deer Park, The Lake District

Eco Credentials: An independent, some may say ‘boutique’ festival set in the heart of the Lake District, Kendal Calling is one not to be missed. The natural settings are just the start of this festival – your tent will be pitched in the picturesque backdrop of a beautiful national park. Quoted to be ‘the most fun you can have in the countryside’, Kendal Calling also has top eco credentials.

Being set in a Deer Park, the festival pushes no glass, litter or climbing of trees – respect nature and have fun along the way. The location is lucky enough to be 10minutes from Penrith train station and they also run a ‘big green coach’ from 19 locations to the site for a bargain £15 return! To add a bit more eco flavour, the festival is a mixture of big names such as The Doves and small local bands (who don’t have to travel too far to perform just for you this summer!)

Isle of Wight festival

When? 11-13 June 2010

Where? Seaclose Park, Newport, Isle of Wight

Eco credentials:  Festival goers are encouraged to cycle to the park. There is a bike scheme with large bike rack facilities and bike hire scheme.

This year IOW is sporting a new fundraising campaign: Let it Bee, an initiative to help bees not become extinct due to their loss of habitat. There will be a fundraiser at the festival where fluffy bees and t-shirts will be sold to help raise awareness of this worthy cause.

IOW continue their eco credentials by using local businesses as much as possible including the construction of the stages, the materials used and the food and drink.

Glastonbury

When? 23-27 June 2010

Where? Worthy Farm, Glastonbury

Eco credentials:  The festival is both green and charitable supporting Greenpeace, WaterAid and Oxfam (Glastonbury is the biggest single regular donor to Greenpeace). Glastonbury is aiming to get 40,000 people to travel by public transport this year which would be nearly one third of the festival goers. Last year a modest 40pc of rubbish was recycled, a figure which is looking to be increased this year. In 2008 the festival recycled 193.98 tonnes of composted organic waste, 400 tonnes of chipped wood, 9.12 tonnes of glass, 54 tonnes of cans and plastic bottles. All the tea, coffee and sugar sold at the festival are fair trade. The downside is that this eco grandad of all festivals sold out a long time ago – so if you have a ticket already in the bag – congratulations. If not, get yourself ready for Glastonbury 2011.

Download

When? 11-13 June 2010

Where? Donington Park, East Midlands

Eco credentials: The rock festival embraces a scheme whereby money is given if cups are returned (wooo!). This initiative significantly decreases the amount of rubbish which is left on site every year. Fully recyclable tents are available to purchase at the festival for those who are super green! Other incentives such as tickets for next year can be gained by handing in tents and recycling. Shuttle buses and the Big Green Coach and Happy Bus encourage festival goers to opt for green transport.

Roll up, roll up, a little birdy called Brita told me that they’re looking for eight people to join the expedition for a once in a lifetime opportunity to travel to Nepal and help a small community.

Nepal Trek

If you’re looking for a rewarding experience spending your holidays volunteering and helping communities abroad then this is the trip for you…

The lovely people at Brita are currently planning an expedition to Nepal in September 2010 where they aim to raise awareness about water issues as well as help a small community in Rampur by building a well and water tank to provide them with a sustainable supply of safe and clean drinking water and sanitation.

As not everyone has the money to fund a trip such as this, the organisation is offering to pay half the cost towards this expedition and will help each individual to fundraise the other half so that they’re ensured a place.

To be in with a chance of joining the expedition all you need to do is visit: www.facebook.com/BRITAexpedition and tell them why you should be accepted to go in either video or written format.

Auntie Evelyn was a good cook, learning her skills from her mother, my grandmother, Frances Elizabeth Miller.  Frances worked as a cook in the grand houses of Northumberland after training at Northern Counties College, quite an achievement in 1911.

cake

I suppose it was her influence that has engendered a love of cooking with all of our family.  As my grandmother lay dying in her bedroom, she was instructing my sister in the art of making cakes.  To this day her cakes are far superior to anything that I have achieved, although I do have some of my own favourite bakes.

My sister and I spent many happy summer’s with my Auntie Evelyn and on one of these occasions she gave us her batch bake sponge cake recipe.  The ingredients are strange but the cakes turn out beautifully and because it makes 4 cakes or two cakes and 12 small cakes it saves time and energy.  Whenever there is a need for cakes for a fair this is the recipe that comes out again and again.

The Recipe

  • 8ozs margarine
  • 13ozs caster sugar
  • 1 lb SR flour
  • 5 eggs
  • 14 dessertspoonfuls of milk
  • 1 tbs of boiling water

Cream the margarine and sugar until light in colour and add the boiling water.  Beat until light and fluffy.  Add eggs slowly and beat well.  Add milk.  Fold in the sieved flour.

Split mixture into 4 x 7” sandwich cakes.  If preferred then use for two cakes and the rest as fairy cakes or cup cakes.

Cook for 15 minutes at Gas Mark 6 or 200C

If you would prefer a chocolate cake then this recipe can be adapted by doing the following:

Reduce the flour by 1 oz, then add 2 ozs of cocoa powder, 2 ozs of chopped almonds, 2 tbs of brandy or rum.