May 29

Top Green Cleaning Ingredients

Baking Soda

Can be used as a substitute for cleaning powders and combined with other ingredients has a multitude of uses. Baking soda is also known as bicarbonate of soda. It is cheap, non toxic and readily available at your local shop.

White Vinegar

Distilled white vinegar is one of the most useful home cleaning ingredients. Vinegar is a weak form of acetic acid produced through the fermentation of sugars and starches. Regular vinegar can be used but white vinegar is odourless and colourless making it more versatile and not leaving an unpleasant smell after use.

Citrus Fruits

Grapefruits and lemons can be used for cleaning. Their uses are similar to vinegar however their fragrance is pleasant making them nice for kitchen and bathroom cleaning.

Old Toothbrush

What do you do with your old toothbrushes? If you just throw them out you could be wasting a useful scrubbing brush! They are very handy to use for bathroom cleaning.

Essential Oils

Essential oils such as tea tree oil, lavender oil and lemongrass oil can bring delightful fragrances to your home made cleaners. Many of them also posses their own cleaning properties for instance they kill bacteria and fungi.

Olive/ Vegetable Oil

Handy as a polish with vinegar or lemon, olive oil is very kind to wood and paint surfaces.

Kosher Salt

Can be used to scour pans and other surfaces.

Fresh Herbs

Great for adding fresh scents

Castile Soap

These are olive oil based soaps so named because they are manufactured in the Castile region of Spain.

 

May 24

6 Unusual Things You Can Clean With Vinegar

Distilled white vinegar is a great natural cleaner. It is non toxic, cheap and readily available. As a cleaner, vinegar is extremely versatile and can be used in the kitchen, the bathroom, even the garden. It can clean tiles, fabrics, metals and much more. Here are 6 things you can clean with vinegar which might not immediately spring to mind.

1. Woodwork

If you need to give some woodwork a good clean try mixing 1 cup ammonia with 1/2 cup vinegar and 1/4 baking soda with 1 gallon warm water. Wipe on with a damp cloth or sponge. This solution is kind to your woodwork and wont dull the surface.

To clean water stains or clean up wood panelling mix 1/4 cup olive oil with 1/2 cup vinegar and 1 cup warm water and wipe on with a cloth.

2. Toilet

How much bleach do you pour down your toilet? Quite a bit if you are like most people. Why not ditch the bleach and use vinegar? :) Pour in a cup of vinegar and leave it overnight to act. Use the toilet brush to scrub the toilet bowl so it sparkles.

3. Paint & Paintbrushes

Remove paint from windows by applying vinegar then using a sharp tool to remove. Cleaning paint brushes with methylated spirits? Try vinegar. Rinse off with warm water.

4. Leather Shoes

To remove odour from shoes pour in a cup of baking soda and a cup of vinegar to each shoe. Let the mixture act for around 15 minutes then rinse out. To clean stains from shoes mix a solution of 1 part vinegar to 1 part water and dab stains with a cloth.

5. Showerhead

Limescale can be removed from your showerhead by putting some vinegar in a plastic bag and covering the showerhead with the bag for a couple of hours. If your showerhead is blocked try soaking it in vinegar overnight.

6. Carpets

A cup of vinegar poured into a bucket of warm water can be used to clean carpets. Carpet stains can be removed with 2 tablespoons of vinegar with 1/4 cup salt or baking powder. Rub into the stain and let dry then vacuum up the next day.

I hope you enjoyed these tips, be sure to check out the rest of the website for further info :)

May 23

5 Green Cleaning Tips

When it comes to cleaning your home most people opt for a cabinet full of chemicals. What most people don’t know is that a few simple natural ingredients can replace the lot saving you money, your health and reducing your environmental impact.

Top Ingredients:

Vinegar: Vinegar is a great natural cleaning agent. It is a weak acetic acid which cleans, killing mold, bacteria and germs. White distilled vinegar is best.

Baking Soda: Non toxic and inexpensive, baking soda is a very useful cleaner.

Lemon Juice: Lemon juice is acidic and smells great.

Tips

1. Unblock Your Plughole Naturally

If your sink or shower is blocked try pouring boiling water down and if this doesn’t work try a plunger. If it really is blocked and you don’t fancy removing the U bend try vinegar and baking soda. Use 3 tablespoons of baking soda and 3/4 cup of white vinegar, leave to act then pour down boiling water to clear.

2. Use Natural Polish

Forget Mr Sheen, natural polishes are just as good or better. Bees wax is probably the best alternative, lemon juice with baby oil is an option and there are many commercially available 100% natural polishes.

3. Clean Tough Bathroom Stains Naturally

I don’t know about you but I find cleaning the bathroom tiles quite a chore! The grout can become full of mildew and even the sealant becomes discoloured. Mix some lemon juice and baking soda on a plate and use a toothbrush to clean the grout. Tiles can be wiped over with lemon juice and if you want to get rid of tough mildew stains leave lemon juice on the area for a while to act.

4. Easily Replace Glass Cleaner

Vinegar and water makes just as good a glass cleaner as those commercially available. Even water will do the trick if there are no tough stains. Simply mix 2 tsps with a gallon of water, dispense into a bottle and away you go! Lemon juice can be substitutes for vinegar if preferred.

5. Clean Stains With Baking Soda

I don’t know if you have seen the Curb Your Enthusiasm episode where Larry uses club soda to clean a wine stain. Unlike a lot of what Larry tries, this actually worked for him, and it can work for you too. If you spill something on your carpet or upholstery, liberally pour on some baking soda and water. The salts in the baking soda act to prevent staining.

I hope you enjoyed these tips, be sure to check out the other articles.

May 23

5 Tips for Cleaning With Lemons

If you want a truly green cleaning solution try cleaning with lemons! Lemons have antiseptic and antibacterial properties and they smell great making them an ideal cleaning agent. They wont harm wood or fabrics either like some store bought cleaning agents.

Here are 5 tips to get you started cleaning with lemons :)

1. Metal Cleaning

Brass, copper and chrome can be cleaned with a half lemon and salt. This doesn’t apply to brass plated items so take care and clean a spot first. Your stainless steel sink can also be cleaned with half a lemon and wiped down

2. Use as a Kitchen Cleaner

With its acidic properties lemon juice attacks grease making it great for use in the kitchen. Straight lemon juice can be used to remove grease, mix 1 part lemon juice/ 1 part water in a bottle as an all purpose kitchen cleaner.

Chopping boards can be disinfected with lemon juice, countertops can be cleaned and even limescale and mildew can be attacked by leaving lemon juice to act on the area for a while. Clean your microwave by adding a lemon slice to a bowl of water and heating for 5 mins. Leave to cool for 5-10 mins then wipe clean :)

3. Use on Clothing

Mildew and rust can be removed from clothing by treating with lemon juice and leaving out in the sun. When whites start to fade add half a cup of lemon juice to your laundry to revive them. You can also try soaking clothes in lemon juice and warm water to brighten them.

4. Mirror/ Glass Cleaner

Vinegar can be used with water as an all purpose cleaner but with its acidic properties and fresh smell lemon can make a great alternative. You could add lemon to your vinegar cleaner to improve the smell too. These cleaners should be suitable for mirrors and glass. Just mix 2tsp lemon juice with 1/2 gallon water.

5. Other Ideas

Soak earrings in lemon juice to disinfect, put a slice of lemon in your fridge to improve odour, use a dilute lemon solution as a hair conditioner, dip a cloth/ sponge in diluted lemon juice and clean dishes, wash hands with lemon juice after handling foods with bad odours.

I hope you enjoyed these tips, lemons are great for cleaning and much cheaper than commercial cleaning products too :)

May 05

5 Composting Tips

1. Prevent slimy compost

Slimy compost may be caused by too little air, too much water or the wrong mix of ingredients. Your compost heap should contain around a 50/50 mix of high nitrogen green materials and carbon rich browns. Too many greens can cause slimy compost. Turn the compost heap regularly to aerate the heap. Failure to turn the heap is the main reason for poor results. Keep the heap covered if possible.

2. Make worm compost if you have a small garden

Worm compost is no substitute for regular compost from a compost heap. However, if you have a very small garden you may not have room for a compost heap and probably don’t have enough organic matter to put on it. Worm compost is produced from a wormery. Worms live in the wormery and waste is regularly added then broken down by the worms and can be used on the garden. Particular species of worms (eg Eisenia foetida, E. andreii andDendrabaena veneta) are used and the wormery should be kept warm to be active.

3. Wee on your compost

The urine in your wee is high in nitrogen. That makes it a good activator for your compost heap, particularly if you have a high content of carbon rich brown materials. Another nitrogen rich activator is Garotta. If your heap contains a lot of nitrogen for example grass cuttings you may need a carbon activator.

4. Use a sieve

Sieving gets rid of any chunky pieces of material before you put it on the garden. Materials that are removed can be put back on the compost heap.

5. Heat kills seeds and diseases

Compost heaps can either be ‘cold’ or ‘hot’. Hot compost heaps compost materials more quickly and also kill seeds and diseases. Some diseases will be killed by the microbial action alone, however heat kills more diseases. If you do a little planning you can increase the chances of having a hot compost heap. Getting the conditions right, adding the right mix of materials and adding sufficient materials at the outset can make it more likely you will get compost that is hot to the touch after a few days. The heap will then cool down and any seeds and diseases will have been killed.

May 02

Mushroom Compost

Also known as mushroom soil, spent mushroom substrate or similar, mushroom compost is the spent growing medium from mushroom farming. Often available cheaply, mushroom compost can be used as soil conditioner or mulch.

Mushroom compost contains straw or manure, Nitrogen additives such as dried blood and chalk is added. It is high in organic matter and many nutrients such as Phosphorous and Potassium. Before use, large pieces of chalk should be removed to avoid build-up in the soil.

Uses

Because of the chalk content mushroom compost makes the soil more alkaline. It should not be overused and should not be used on acid loving species.

  • Mushroom compost makes a great mulch. It will improve the soil structure and make existing nutrients more readily available to plants. It is also weed free. A few inches should be used for mulching.
  • Mushroom compost is a useful soil conditioner, particularly if you have clay soil. It should be spread on the surface then worked in to the soil.
  • Mushroom compost is ideal for the vegetable garden or allotment. Brassicas such as cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower particularly benefit from mushroom compost.
  • It is great for dressing lawns. Ideally the compost should be cured and used with compost tea for this purpose.

Mushroom compost should not be used for pot plants. Avoid using mushroom compost near acid loving species such as rhododendrons and azaleas. It should also not be used on fruits.

Advantages

  • Readily available
  • Inexpensive
  • No weeds
  • Recycled
  • High in organic matter

Disadvantages

  • Chalk needs removing
  • May contain pesticides
  • High in salts

Summary

There are a great many uses for mushroom compost. If you can source some locally from a mushroom farm it could come in very handy as a soil conditioner or mulch. Mushroom compost usually refers to the spent growing medium however sometime unused mushroom compost is available.

 

Apr 30

Peat Harvesting For Compost

Peat has been used in compost for 40-50 years. Its properties make it an ideal growing medium for all types of plants. However, harvesting peat causes extensive damage to peat bogs and releases significant amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere.

The UK government set a target to reduce the use of peat compost to 10% of all compost by 2010. However, in 2013 peat compost still accounts for 50% of all compost used in the UK. With the increased popularity of gardening the actual reduction has only been from 3.3 to 3 million cubic metres per year. The target is now to completely phase out peat in compost by 2020.

Peatland

Peatlands occur where waterlogging prevents plants from breaking down fully. Largely composed of sphagnum moss, peatland accumulates very slowly at a rate of 1mm/ yr. Because peat accumulates so slowly it is classed as a fossil fuel. Peatland occurs all around the world with the oldest peatlands being 360 million years old!

Environmental Issues

Habitat Damage

Peatlands are an important and rare ecosystem providing a habitat for numerous species of animals and plants. Ecologically, peatlands are considered to be as important as rain forests by many naturalists.

Peatlands are a type of wetland but the acidic conditions mean only certain species can thrive here. The RSPB are one of the main vocal opponents to peat harvesting because they are an important habitat for many birds.

Flood Prevention

Peat bogs absorb tons of water, their destruction increases the risk of flooding. The bogs also purify water and the  ditches for extraction interfere with the water table.

Climate Change

Peatlands are huge carbon sinks. The national trust estimates 20 yrs worth of UK emissions are contained in the UK’s peat bogs. Globally, 550 Gt of carbon is contained in peat bogs. The carbon is released as CO2 when the peat is dried out either naturally or when harvested. With rising temperatures peat bog fires have become a huge source of CO2.

Alternatives

Peat free compost had a bad name when it was first introduced. Gardeners got poor results and turned their backs on it. However, there has been significant developments in peat-free compost over the past few years. A peat free alternative won Which? best buy container compost in 2012. Excellent peat free composts are now available which use garden waste, bark, biochar and wool.

Poor Harvest 2012

The wet summer of 2012 in the UK lead to a poor peat harvest. Harvesting peat requires 4-5 days of dry weather. Peat is loosened then dries out for a few days before it is harvested. Britain’s biggest peat supplier only harvested 1/5 of the regular amount in 2012. That is good news for the peat bogs and the shortage is sure to lead to further innovations in peat-free composts.

Feb 08

Compostable Bags

Compostable bags are made from organic materials and break down like leaves or garden waste in the compost heap. They have become popular in recent years as more people are home composting and with so many Councils collecting organic waste.

Small compostable bags are used in the kitchen for collecting organic waste. That might be peelings to go on the compost heap or food waste for processing with the local Council. Larger bags can be used outdoors to hold garden waste or line wheelie bins.

Types of Compostable Bag

Paper

Paper bags can be used indoors to collect kitchen waste and outdoors to line the wheelie bins and free standing. Compostable paper bags need a high wet strength and for this reason recycled paper is not used in compostable paper bags, only virgin resources.

The wood used to make the bags has a longer fibre length which gives more strength to the bags that would be achieved from recycled paper. A high wet strength is required because of the moisture associated with organic waste.

Corn Starch

Corn starch bags are made from bioplastics. Instead of using petrochemicals, corn starch is used as a source of polymers for the product. In Europe, compostable corn starch bags come with a ‘seed’ logo. The seed logo ensures the bags have passed European Standard EN13432 which means they break down to compost in 3 months under test conditions. Other biodegradable corn starch bags are available so it is important to make sure they have the seed logo.

Corn starch bags can be used to line kitchen caddies and are commonly collected by Councils for processing with organic waste. They are available for dog waste and also as bin bags though they don’t break down in landfill.

Issues

Labeling

Biodegradable, oxo-biodegradeable, hydro-biodegradable, photo-biodegradable, water soluble… There are many labels given to different types of bags to try and big up their green credentials. However, it is only compostable bags with the seed logo that are suitable for home composting and as kitchen caddie liners.

Home Composting

There have been complaints that compostable bags don’t decompose as quickly as other compostables on the home compost heap. That may cause problems so gardeners should give them a try before committing to their use.

Council Collections

Some Councils have experienced problems with people using the wrong bags with their organic waste. Many will collect compostable bags but some won’t to avaiod contamination.

Environmental and Social

If the reason you are using compostable bags is because you want to be kind to the environment there are a few things to think about. The paper bags are used from virgin resources. Though the woodlands may be managed, there is an environmental impact to be considered.

Corn starch bags are made from bioplastics. They degrade much more quickly than conventional plastics, however only under the right conditions. Once in landfill they don’t break down as there is no oxygen available so are no better than conventional plastics.

Corn is the raw material for corn starch. With millions starving in the world there are moral issues about using potential food stuffs to produce plastics.

 

I hope you enjoyed this post, feel free to leave a comment.

Joe

Apr 27

Calling all food that’s being wasted in Manchester!

Fareshare Northwest

Fareshare is an awesome national charity which takes good food which is destined for the bin and instead gives it to those most in need in the community.

I recently got an opportunity to interview the manager of Fareshare Northwest, Sebastian, who took a few minutes out to give me an inside look at the workings of Fareshare Northwest. You can view the video here:

Feeding the Hungry

Fareshare have a group of committed volunteers who work tirelessly to get food to those who need it most in and around Manchester. In these hard times when many are feeling the squeeze due to government cutbacks the food Fareshare distributes offers people a chance to get a warm meal.

The Volunteers

Fareshare also benefits the volunteers who can gain skills, including recognised qualifications, and confidence through their work.

What do you want to see?

I hope to be bringing you more vids from Fareshare. If there is anything you would like to know or see please let me know and I will endeavour to film it when I am down there.

Does your company have any food waste?

If you work for a company who has food going to waste that could be redistributed by Fareshare please give Seb a call, I know he would love to hear from you! (0161 223 8200)

Joe

PS. If you think I am rushing Seb a couple of times don’t worry, I know him :) Also, my camera work is a bit dodgy at some points, I promise it will be better for the next one!!

Feb 25

Manchester as a Low Carbon Economic Area. 3 Experts Give Their Views at LCEA Event

Greater Manchester LCEA event – Feb 2011

I have been meaning to write this post since I went to the event and now I have the presentations through to help me!

I am really excited about the concept of LCEAs (Low Carbon Economic Areas) especially after this event with such knowlegable speakers.

The event was all about how best to encourage people how to adopt energy saving measures in their homes.

Here’s What I Learned:

Pres 1: Greater Manchester – Low Carbon Economic Area

Tim Barwood (Energy Saving Trust)

Manchester’s goal as a LCEA is to be a world leader in low carbon by 2015.

There are 6 areas to work on:

1. Residential retrofit

2. Non- residential retrofit

3. New Developments

4. Heat & Power Distribution

5. Living Laboratory

6. Skills & Employment

Work Package 1. Domestic Retrofit (Topic of the day)

The target for this scheme is to reduce CO2 emissions in the domestic sector in Manchester by 26% by 2015. This is to be accomplished by ‘basic energy efficiency measures’, ‘eco-upgrades’ and giving every home a Smart Meter. In depth behaviour change advice will also be offered across Manchester – this will be critical in the success of the programme.

Work has begun on behaviour change campaigns for basic energy efficiency measures – meet Mr Toast:

On the ‘eco-upgrades’ front Manchester have received £5M for Social Housing Retrofit Projects from the ERDF (Europe) and there was talk of a ‘Green Deal’ where Mancunians could receive £6,500 per household for domestic retrofit.

Pres 2. Effective Behaviour Change

Dr Sabine Pahl (Plymouth University)

People find it hard to grasp the fact that climate change is happening:

Its better to give local scenarios such as local flooding, using vivid images of the likely effects of climate change on people eg. blistering of the skin after intense UV exposure and making the impacts immediate eg. picture of the amount of CO2 produced by a school in 1 year.

Source: Tatebe, Shaw & Sheppard, 2010

Source: Pahl & Bauer, in revision

CO2 global warming demo

http://carbonquilt.org/gallery/images

Did you know? ‘Brown appliances’ eg. Games consoles, TVs etc. use more energy than lighting, refrigeration, cooking and wet appliances!

Adding heat controls and Smart Metres doesn’t automatically reduce energy use.

Making the invisible Visible

‘Making the invisible visible’ has been shown to affect behaviour in some studies.

For example using thermal imaging both outside and inside the home.

Control groups and evaluation are essential to measure success. Set specific target outcomes, identify target groups, evaluate outcomes.

Pres 3. Retrofit and Behaviour Change

Prof. Erik Bichard (Salford University)

There is a high degree of acceptance that Climate Change is a personal responsibility, yet the motivation to reduce energy consumption is weak.

Possible solutions: legislation, grants/ subsidies, education and awareness, incentivisation.

Behaviour change is central to public policy and changing the contect is likely to have success!

Recent studies which found that ‘We are all responsible’ is now the top answer for UK residents when asked what they think about climate change. However the vast majority (75%) can’t see how they can make a difference.

Reasons for inaction include: ‘I won’t if you won’t’ attitude , people feel the UK is only a tiny part of the problem, people think the government should fix it, people think the problem is overstated..

Surveys have shown that on average households would be willing to invest £500 in domestic climate change measures.

Recommendations for behaviour change (flooding): Better and more innovative communication around flooding, make it easier for people to know what to buy and how to obtain and fit flood protection, community champions, celebrity campaign (credible celebrity), let everyone know the state is not going to protect against flooding.

Rewards (Incentives):

Survey results – which low carbon rewards would be best?

1. Vouchers for fruit and veg

2. Free meals at restaurants

3. Entertainment tickets

4. Leisure and health centres

5. Free bus travel

The 3,000 green groups including the 250 Transition town groups are important! Interaction with peers can help overcome objections.

Are the people you are communicating with pioneers, prospectors or settlers?

Summary: Better education, better awareness (of risks), innovative incentives and active and inclusive community groups are key!

Final thoughts:

This was a great seminar. Behaviour change is key.

Do you have any suggestions for how to change peoples behaviour in relation to action on climate change? Please leave a comment.

Thanks for reading!

Joe

PS. I would again like to Credit: Tim Barwood, Dr Sabine Pahl and Prof Erik Bichard, essentially this is a summary of their presentations!

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