the upcycling cycle

I love social media, to be specific Facebook.  I quite like twitter and Whatsapp is great for group conversations but if I want to waste an hour without noticing then Facebook is the place for me.  I follow news outlets, political parties, craft groups and an upcycling group.

Upcycling- the new shopping.  Don’t buy something new, don’t throw away something old, upcycle it into something totally different.  It  ticks all the boxes for the eco-friendly.  You can create new, useful and beautiful objects from stuff that would otherwise go in o landfill, and at the same time you are not buying new and unnecessary stuff that will probably end up in landfill in a few years time anyway.  Perfect.

Or is it?  There are two types of upcycling projects.  The one where you find something lurking around the house and instead of chucking it out a light bulb goes off in your head and you say “wow this cracked decanter that hasn’t seen a bottle of wine in decades would make a perfect lampstand”.  Using my highly accurate survey methods (i.e. asking around, looking on social media and following a huge range of upcycling blogs etc) about 80% of potential crystal lampshades will remain as cracked decanters; 10% will get part way there and will metamorphose into decanterlamps that are missing vital parts and will never make the full transformation; 5% will be transformed but never switched on and will remain in the workroom/shed and a lucky 5% will shine bright on the table shaming every failed upcycler who comes into the room.

The second type of project is that created by the pro-active seeker upcycler.  This character scours markets, auction houses, freegle, swap and sale groups and second-hand  and charity shops actively looking for potential projects.  No three-legged chair is without potential and nirvana is a pile of pristine, unwanted pallets.  It is also not unheard of to purchase new (“what?!”) items purely in order to turn them into something else.  I will confess to  having fallen into that category.  Why buy something already made, when I can buy the constituent parts and make it myself.  We are not talking saving hundreds or even tens of pounds.  I suspect my rather lovely cake tin stand would have cost as much to purchase ready made as it did for me to make it (but it wouldn’t have wobbled quite as nicely as mine does).

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Returning to my highly tuned research methods I had assumed that these projects would have a higher success rate.  The people who take the the time to seek out the unpolished gem and part with hard earned cash for it are surely not going to let it languish unloved in a shed?  These are people who frequently sell their completed upcycles.  They have a vested financial interest in getting the job done.

Ladies and gentleman, we are all the same.  Whilst there are of course exceptions to every rule (and the standard deviation for my statistics here is probably in the region of +/- 2,500 or thereabouts!) the proactively sought and paid for projects stand just as much chance of making it to that final 5% as granny’s whisky decanter did.

As the build on the Barn and Gin Gan comes nearer to completion we have to move even more stuff out and rehouse it in our now smaller home.   The picture frame that I was going to turn into a gilt mirror, the china kept for mosaic work.  How long have I had them?  Have they magically transformed themselves in my absence?  Reader, they have gone.  Perhaps somebody else would like to house them in the vain hope that they might one day make a mosaic effect mirror?

Repurpose challenge day three and four

Apologies for lack of post yesterday.  I hadn’t chickened out of the challenge, but I did get a call to ask if I was going to be at stitching.  Now faced with a day writing or a day knitting and chatting with friends I went to stitching instead.  This is the current (well one of several) work in progress.  I am a bit of a sucker for shaded yarn and this came from a gorgeous little yarn shop in Constanta in Romania.

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Back to business.  Yesterday’s challenge was to repurpose something from your recycling bin.  I hadn’t thought ahead here as Wednesday in bin day and my recycling bin was completely empty.  So this is a refresher course.  I have searched high and low for my photos and I was sure I had done a blog post on seed trays from cartons but they appear to have disappeared into the ether.  So as I have no seeds on the go at the moment you will have to do without pictures.  But it is very straightforward.

First take your fruit juice carton and lie it on its side with the pouring end towards you and the spout/hole on the right hand side.  Carefully cut out the side that is uppermost.  Bingo a small seed tray that stacks neatly on a greenhouse shelf or window sill and if you don’t need to reuse it, tear it up or shred it and pop it in the compost.

Another gardening repurpose is the plastic milk carton and tah dah!  The Hanging gardens of Brancepeth.

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Today’s challenge is something from the black hole.  My black hole is quite small now.  It is the kitchen basket and in theory is emptied once a week, well give or take!.

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And today I found these inside it.

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  1. Redeemed iTunes card.  This is now in the back of my wallet as my emergency de-icer.  It works very well, I always have it on me.  The last one I used was my co-op membership card but eventually the card disintegrated.  But it doesn’t matter if this one does.
  2. A bamboo skewer.  I have three daughters.  We all have long hair and my hair bobbles/pins etc. migrate into their rooms with startling regularity.  In the summer I prefer to have my hair up but often have to dig around to find who borrowed what.  I have just pinned my hair up with this.  As it is slightly bendy it is easy to weave in and out of the bun to hold it up.
  3. Old dog tag ring.  Now this was hard.  Until I looked up and noticed that my orchid needed some support.

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So what have you repurposed this week?

 

Love Gillie x

Repurpose challenge day two

Tuesday challenge:  Repurpose something you have made.  I am not short of things I have made.  I am unable to sit down in the evening and not have something to fiddle with.  Mostly I stick to knitting and crochet in the evenings, but handstitching, embroidery, tapestry all have their moments depending on my mood.IMG_2933

I got into free form knitting earlier this year (see here) The wall hanging still has pride of place on our newly painted walls but the cushion cover didn’t make the post redecoration cut.  I still love it but it doesn’t go with the room and I couldn’t bring myself to put it in the charity bag not least because it is an acquired taste and I wasn’t sure it would find somebody who loved it like I did!

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Recently two of our (five) cats have died.  They were old and each had a good life so I am not sad but I did have to get rid of one of the cat beds.  As she came to the end of her life Morley only left it to use the litter tray (which had to be placed by her bed) and to eat.  It was pretty horrid by the time she died and even a boil wash didn’t make it attractive to the three remaining felines.

So Tah Dah!  A new cat bed.  And as everyone, feline and canine has just been dewormed and defleaed I am hoping it stays bright and clean for a while!

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Love Gillie x

Repurpose before you Recycle

Thank you for all the lovely comments both here and on  my FB page.  It is good to hear from so many people who want to ditch plastic and other single use items.  So in the spirit of reusing before recycling I have a challenge for you this week.  A repurpose challenge.

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This morning I lost an old stained bamboo tee-shirt and acquired some dusters.  Very easy.  I cut up the tee-shirt and have a nice new set of lovely soft bamboo dusters.  The tee shirt wasn’t fit for charity but it wasn’t yet ready for composting.  Win win.

So my challenge for you this week, and I’ll try to do it too and let you know how I get on:

Monday:  Repurpose something you used to wear.  It could be clothing, jewellery, a scarf or a hair accessory, anything you used to wear.

Tuesday:  Repurpose something you made.  It could be last night’s leftovers or a three piece suit!  Please do not repurpose your children however irritating they are!

Wednesday: Repurpose something you have put out for recycling.  A plastic bottle, a jar, some envelopes.  Get creative in your recycling bin.

Thursday:  Repurpose something from your black hole.  We all have them, the place where we put things we don’t know what to do with but can’t quite bring ourselves to get rid of.  Some are as big as a garage or outbuilding.  Some are as small as a kitchen drawer.  You know yours, now go release something from it.

Friday:  Repurpose something that is broken.  If you can’t repair it can you turn it into something else

You get the weekend off!

Love Gillie

 

Plastic detox

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I have been following Plastic Free July for several years now and have learned a lot and managed to cut our use of plastic considerably.  However, it’s not just about refusing plastic bags and using glass or stainless steel for food storage.  The real problem is the hidden plastic.  The plastic you can’t see and don’t expect.

When you buy food at the deli counter in the supermarket you may have noticed that some shops (eg. Sainsburys) no longer wrap your ham in a plastic bag but a paper one.  You duly put said bag in the recycling bin.  But is it paper?  No it’s not, it is “mixed  materials not currently recyclable”  The inside will be single use (i.e. non-recyclable plastic).

What about those teabags that you confidently put in the compost? If you buy organic teabags the chances are that they are 100% paper and are safe to put in your compost.  However most teabags contain polypropylene which is not biodegradable.  Which Magazine contacted major teabag producers to ask the polypropylene content of their bags.  These are some of the results:

Twinings: 0% polypropylene YIPPEE
Sainsburys Taste the Difference English Breakfast tea (Fairtrade):  1% Not bad
Morrisons: English Breakfast tea has 10% Could do better
PG Tips tea bags have 20%: YUK!
Yorkshire tea bags have 25%: YIKES!

If you are stuck on bags rather than loose tea then try to use those with the lowest polyproylene content and tear them before adding to the compost.

Most of us know that microbeads are not good.  They are clogging up the oceans and killing wildlife.  There are plenty of alternatives for scrubs.  Homemade using salt/sugar and oil, or scrubs from reputable organic companies such as Dr Organic from Holland and Barratt.  But what about the hidden plastics in cosemetics you didn’t know about?

A research paper published by the UN last year found a worrying level of hidden plastic in a huge range of cosmetic products  (UNEP report ‘Plastic in Cosmetics’, 2015)

“Microbeads and other plastic ingredients are present in products ranging from toothpaste and shower gel to eye shadows and nail polish. Their proportions vary in different products, from less than 1 per cent to more than 90 per cent of the content. In a typical shower gel analyzed in laboratory, there was roughly as much plastic material in the gel itself as in its packaging.”

You can download an app created by Beat the Microbead to check the microplastic content of a product before you purchase and look for the Look for Zero logo below to show that the product is 100% plastic free.

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I mentioned the cardboard take away coffee cups yesterday.  Have you ever tried to pour hot water into a cardboard box!  There has to be something on the inside of the those cups to ensure that you don’t end up with a hot soggy pile of cardboard in your hands as you walk through the park.  Most of the time it’s polyethylene and renders the cups unrecyclable.

Likewise those cardboard juice containers, many tinned foods, some cigarette filters, till receipts, labels on everything from groceries to clothes.  All contain plastic.

When I first started using my own shopping bags and refusing to put loose fruit and veg in a plastic bag but brought my own reused paper bags I got a lot of very funny looks.  Now refusing a plastic bag is second nature.  The way we win the war against plastic is to refuse it.  Not just the plastic you can see, but educate  yourself about that which  you can’t.

Love Gillie x

 

The reusable holiday

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I’m just back from a fabulous three weeks in Romania, which is why the blog has been so quiet (that and some techy issues that seem to have been resolved).  However, I am aware that for many of you, particularly those of you with school age children, the summer holidays have only just started and you are probably packing and sorting ready for a few weeks R&R.

It doesn’t really matter where you are going, whether it’s a fortnight on the beach or hiking in the Alps, there are some things that are not just useful, but essential for a hassle-free holiday.  In our case these tend to revolve around food and drink.  We like lots of picnics, we like to try out the local foods and no holiday is complete without a beach or riverside bbq.

Most of the things required can easily be bought in the disposable picnic area of any supermarket.  But I don’t want disposable, I don’t want plastic.  I want reusuable and sustainable.  So this is what we packed to go to Romania.

Bamboo Cutlery.  One hundred percent biodegradable and compostable when they finally come to the end of their life.  In the meantime, light and easy to use.

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Food wrap.  These are great and double up as plates as well  I make my own using organic cotton and beeswax but there are plenty available online.  Just rinse with hot water.

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Drinking cups.  Well you don’t really want to be swigging the wine out of a bottle!

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Water bottles.  There is only a few things I loathe more than plastic water bottles, not only are they unneccessary for most day to day situations, they contribute to vast amounts of waste and most contain bpa which is directly linked to some cancers.

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Portable fire bowl  and grill.   This is the best thing ever!  We used to buy a disposable  bbq and reuse it all  holiday but this is one stage better and is absolutely brilliant.

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Finally, don’t forget a sharp knife, a corkscrew and/or a bottle opener!  Happy holidays 🙂

Love Gillie

 

reclaim your garden

Excess photo alert: the sun doesn’t often show his face around here!

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Here in the UK the sun has been out for three whole days.  That is little short of a miracle and in true British fashion, the weather is pretty much the number one topic of conversation.  It is wonderful, I am a summer person, I hate wearing lots of clothes and can’t wait to be in flip flops loose tops and cut off trousers and leggings.  It certainly makes deciding what to wear in the morning much easier when you only need to wear two items!

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Yesterday I took the day off, no work whatsoever.  I lay in the hammock all afternoon and read.  At the perfectly appointed time The Boss came out with a large glass of Pinot Gris.  At this point for fear of wasting the Pinot by inadvertently watering the grass with it I moved to the table and continued to read, sip and listen to the birdsong.

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What has made this year in the garden so wonderfully easy is that we decluttered all the outbuildings two years ago.  We no longer have half a deckchair hanging around just in case.  Boxes of garden toys that the girls have grown out of have gone.  In fact yesterday morning the trampoline frame (the pad had long gone) was picked up by a chap who is going to use it to make a polytunnel (Freegle is wonderful for letting things go to new and better homes).  We now use our hammock and deck chairs, I sit out in the courtyard with a cup of tea, we play ping pong in the meadow.

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Dolly enjoying a doze in the sun.

It is so easy to stuff seasonal things away where you can’t see them out of season, but then come summer (or winter and where are the snow chains?) and the effort of digging through all the rubbish is so depressing that it is easy to be tempted by those special offers and just go out and by some new chairs or ping pong bats.

Remember the Hanging Gardens of Brancepeth?  Now look at them.

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It’s lovely out there, take advantage of that, clear out one bit of one garage/outbuilding/shed.  Reclaim your summer.

Love Gillie x