Thursday 10 January 2019

Plastic -v- the world...

I mentioned in my last post that one of our "big challenges" for this year was going to be to reduce our consumption of single use plastics still further. We've already made good progress on this - on the rare occasions that we buy a bottle of water (or more often, get given one free when MrEH purchases his newspaper in a location that offers a bottle for free) that bottle will be refilled many times before it finally goes into the recycling, effectively turning it into a reusable bottle. Mostly we use one of our  purpose-bought re-useable bottles - I permanently have one on my desk at work, and we have others for the gym, or for taking on days out. Similarly although not a "buy a coffee on the way to work everyday" people we do use refillable cups on occasions when we know we're likely to buy hot drinks out - I've got a couple of the bamboo keep-cups, and we both have insulated mugs which get used regularly on longer car journeys, often with the back-up of one of our trusty thermos flasks!

Within the home it can often be quite tough to break the old plastic habits - we have made a start here by re-using plastic takeaway containers for freezer storage, not purchasing cling film at all, and using our RSPB magazine wrappers as compost bags for green waste. We also always take our own bags to the shops, and indeed I have invariably got a shopping bag or two neatly folded in my handbag also. It's been bugging me for a while though that each working day we bring lunches from home, and each working day that is 2 plastic food bags, and 2 wire ties, used between us. We re-use the wire ties, in fact they often get used until they literally fall apart, but I bet when they DO end up in landfill they're not great, and as for the bags, well...! So we turned our minds to alternatives, and solutions...

Firstly we started thinking through alternatives that we already had. Things are complicated by the fact that standard sandwich boxes tend not to fit our home made bread well, and that sometimes we have sandwiches and sometimes we have rolls (also home made - so again, non standard sizes). Fruit we just carry loose in our respective bags, so it was just the question of transportation of bread-based food that we were looking into initially. Of course it wasn't that simple as having thought about it we then started seeing all the other places that we use the flimsy food bags we habitually buy, too... Cheese gets wrapped in them, opened packets of crackers get put in them to stop them going stale in the tin, we use them in the freezer for portioned out raw meat, and sometimes for blanched vegetables as well, The last few slices from the loaves of home made bread get put into a bag in the freezer as well. Greaseproof or waxed paper came to mind immediately for at least some of our applications, but they wouldn't really solve the issue of wrapping sandwiches as there would be no way of ensuring they stayed fastened, plus waxed paper doesn't recycle, and greaseproof is the subject of a whole other minefield on the compostable/recyclable/biodegradeable questions (It might be, but then it might not, basically covers it so far as I can find). Foil - no, not really - firstly it tears too easily and secondly it's just creating more waste, albeit recycleable waste. Then we found these:

Beeswax wraps. Available in a variety of sizes, positively recommended for cheese, sandwiches, veggies etc...not cheap, mind, but worth the trade off of NOT putting possibly over 400 plastic bags into landfill every year? Well, that has to be worth a try! Of course they should also work for cheese, random bits of veg, for covering leftovers in the fridge and maybe even for those random ends of loaves in the freezer too? A pack has been ordered and we will report back.

Lovely as it would be, the wraps won't work for everything - so we set our minds to a bigger plan. We'll continue to have some of the flimsy bags available for the time being - things like raw meat are difficult to store well for the freezer - often a portion is too small for the re-useable containers we have, and we don't want to be using electricity essentially freezing empty space. We will buy a supply of sturdier, heavier grade plastic bags for use with dry goods, where they can be re-used. Where we can use plastic tubs that we already have - or those that we get with takeaway foods - we will do so. I'm looking to source re-useable produce bags instead of picking up those annoying flimsy bags for loose produce in the supermarket, too. So far I'm struggling to find many options on those that tell you the individual weight of the bags themselves - as I often buy quite small quantities of loose items this is not an insignificant point! More research needed!


Monday 7 January 2019

Now for 2019...

So time for a new page, a fresh year, and also a good time to make some decisions about what I want to achieve this year. Last year feels like a tough act to follow in some ways - and indeed this year's aims are going to be loosely based on what I set out last year with some additional bits thrown in for good measure. 

Personal/Health & Fitness:
- I will aim to keep up a good level of activity, averaging at least 13,000 steps daily across a year.
- Continue with eating well, using the FitBit to log foods some days to keep on track.
- Exercise at least 3 x per week - more is fine. Gym, running, swimming, circuits, HIIT Sessions - all good, also a brisk paced walk of at least a mile/15 minutes counts.

- Stretching - I had one injury last year partly as a result of not doing enough of this so an area to focus on.
- Bullet-ish journal - weekly lists, monthly planners, general to-do's.
- Aim for 500km total distance run in the year - I'm signing up to a virtual challenge for this one!
- Assuming they do the series again run 3 RunthroughUK "Chase the Sun" events
- Sign up and run a full 10k
- Bring running distance up to 10 miles
- Either get back to cycling or get rid of the bike
- Run the Dartmouth Regatta Road race in August - a terrifying 5 mile course with some horrific hills!
- Run/walk up Rueval - my favourite hill in the Hebrides

Home: We need to get back to sorting out the remaining works on the flat this year - from the more major stuff that still needs doing, to simple decluttering:

- Establish whether the electrician we were planning to use still wants the work, and if so get a firm start date from him.
- Find a new plasterer - lovely Geoff has retired!
- Plastering in Hallway and around windows - investigate whether we can do smaller areas ourselves?
- Hallway to be refloored/redecorated
- Decluttering at a low level - focus on seeing items within the house that we don't use
- New coffee table for front room - put measurements for this on the phone so I have them to hand and research and actually buy something.


- Start to look towards replacing Ben's car - either just "at some stage" this year or earlier depending on MOT result.
- Joint savings to continue as they are
- I will keep a good eye on interest rates - if good deals come up we will switch money around to capitalise
- The "extra" savings will pay for a short holiday with friends in the spring - and will probably subsidise the holiday savings a little too as we have a short gap between the 2018 & 2019 Hebrides trips and had moved a previous surplus in that account across to long term savings
- Keep the focus on not frittering, and getting best value from our money


- Continue social stuff as last year
- Learn from the lessons I learned last year on friendships, and people who add value to my life rather than sucking the vibrancy from it.
- Try not to feel hurt or upset when other people behave unpleasantly or unkindly - I can't control their behaviour, I can control my reaction to it. (This one stays - SUCH a good life lesson!) Sometimes my reaction to it may be to simply step away from them as a regular part of my life - this works exceptionally well!
- Be conscious and mindful. Try to stop and think through choices and choose my path accordingly
- Brutal tidy and organise of laptop
- Sort out new power cable & battery for laptop
- sort out problem with desktop
- Keep up the momentum with the Beer Order stuff and don't let the workload pile up
- Another "big" walk - perhaps done in stages 
- Finish the Thames Path walk
- Finish the Jubilee Greenway walk

We have also agreed on some joint things to focus on for the year :
 - avoiding products with non-sustainable Palm Oil
 - Breaking the habit of procrastination (We're BOTH guilty of this!)
 - Working on cutting use of single use plastics even further

That seems like some good stuff to work on through the year, and a nice mix of "quality of life" stuff alongside building for the future. Social stuff will take a different turn this year in any event as there is likely to be less airshows partly due to taking up more responsibility within the National beer festival - the role we have taken on is a big one and there is absolutely NO room for not doing it well, so other distractions will need to take at least a bit of a back seat this year I think. There will also be meetings off the back of that too - which as a flip-side means more time spent with friends from that area of our lives which is great! 

My mantras for this year then:


There WILL still be challenges - and I'll still be looking to see what I can achieve, but the focus this year will be more on maintaining the things I've achieved already within the running/fitness stuff. Last year started forcefully on the exercise front but tailed off later in the year - I found running in the heat of the summer quite challenging and as a result took more of a step back from it than I really wanted to for - this summer will be about finding a way of keeping going - hopefully the Dartmouth Road Race might be a way of keeping the momentum there!  

Feel free to join in for the ride - I'm starting out as I did last year with a challenge to do some form of exercise every day of January and so far, so good on that one. I think Frugal February will not be happening this year but I am intending to keep a focus on spending as I've said - we have more works on the flat to pay out for and lots of social stuff planned and intend to compromise on our longer terms savings as little as possible for those things. 

Has your last week been about planning challenges and goals for the year ahead?