What does “being green” mean to you? It is truly a massive topic…..where do you even start? As Kermit the Frog once famously said “it’s not easy being green”. Or perhaps it is, now more than ever before as options and awareness grows? This little ramble will detail some of the things we do both in our own home, and also at Crotchet Barn, to try to be as “green” as possible, and hopefully may give you some ideas too.
Being green means, to me, to be conscious of our environment and make choices and decisions that will hopefully have the least negative impact possible, and perhaps a positive impact, on the environment. So here goes….
I suppose that firstly I should mention the whole being vegan thing!! The most interesting and arresting study I have read was published in 2018 by Joseph Poore and T Nemecek (1). They found that 80% of the world’s farm land is currently used to produce and support livestock, and that if the entire human population adopted a plant based diet, 75% of this land could be freed to be re-wilded. This area totals Australia, China, the EU and US combined!!! They concluded that changing your diet to plant based/ vegan was the single biggest way to reduce your individual impact on plant Earth.
There are also lots of vegan calculators available which aim to give real time data on how being vegan has affected the planet. I used www.thevegancalculator.com to determine that in my 4 years of being vegan, I have saved 6,079,2944L of water, 26,426kg of grain, 4,088sqm of forest, 13,286kg of CO2 and 1,460 animals lives. Staggering and reassuring.
So, a great start, but what else can we do? Our home energy supplier is perhaps an easy place to start. There is only one electricity supplier in the UK which is vegan and that is Ecotricity. They are certified by the Vegan Society and Viva! as being fully vegan. Never thought about it? Me neither, until a few months ago whilst browsing Facebook vegan groups. I found that although our previous energy supplier was using 100% renewable resources, some of this was biomass from animal manure created by the factory farming industry. The manure is burned as biomass or used in anaerobic digestion vats to create bio methane. And it wasn’t just one company – 4 out of the 6 biggest energy suppliers use biomass, and 4 of the leading green energy companies also use it. Biomass creates 1% of the UK’s electricity. This doesn’t sound like much but actually it supplies 60% of homes because most electricity goes to industry and businesses. So last year, we switched to Ecotricity for both our home and for Crotchet Barn. If you’re interested, check out Ecotricity for vegan power, and Bulb, Octopus or Good Energy for other renewable suppliers.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. The mantra! Every Council in the UK offers recycling facilities, and Somerset has weekly curb side collections of paper, cardboard, plastic bottles, tins/ cans and glass. They also collect food waste and garden waste. We recycle all that we can: paper, cardboard, garden and food waste all goes into our own compost bin or wormery in the garden (more on these another time), and the rest goes to the Council. There are full recycling facilities in the Barn for our guests to use. Recycling aluminium into new products uses 95% less energy than generating new aluminium, paper saves 60% and recycling just one glass bottle can save as much energy that can power a 100W light bulb for 4 hrs (2). Recycling is also much cheaper to do than normal waste collection and disposal, up to six times cheaper, whilst creating jobs too.
We try our hardest to minimise the amount of packaging in general that we get, choosing to shop at zero waste refill shops when possible, bulk buying as much as we can and choosing suppliers that use minimal plastic in their packaging. This is super challenging in these days of deliveries and at the moment Somerset Council only recycles plastic bottles and not packets/ containers/ tubs. The Good Club offers deliveries of pantry goods in fully returnable and reusable pots etc, and Riverford only use compostable packaging for their fruit and veg boxes.
Talking of recycling, we buy Who Gives a Crap toilet paper for ourselves and for guests at Crotchet Barn. Apparently, 27,000 trees are cut down EVERY DAY just to make toilet paper! WGAC toilet roll is 100% recycled paper, plastic free and contains no dyes, inks or scents. The company donates 50% of their profits to build toilets and have so far donated £4.5million to create toilets for 2 billion people! They also offer carbon neutral shipping and are B-Corp certified.
Other small changes that can make a big difference, is swapping up your cleaning products. We use Suma Ecoleaf products as they are totally plant based, vegan and cruelty free, contain no parabens, triclosan or phthalates, and come in 100% post consumer recycled packing, which are large 5L or 20L bottles so you can refill rather than use multiple small bottles. Suma seems to have a good ethical code too. Although a vegetarian rather than vegan cooperative, Suma have been going since 1977 and are committed to sourcing and providing healthy, sustainable, non-GMO food and household products, and have so far planted 5,300 trees to off set their carbon emissions from deliveries.
Using fully compostable bin bags and dog poo bags (we get ours from All Green), washable cloth wipes instead of kitchen roll or face wipes/ cotton wool, bamboo toothbrushes and good old fashioned soap rather than fancy body washes are all small changes that can all help reduce our footprint on this planet.
Living in the countryside can cause challenges of its own, namely transport. Whilst we are very lucky to have a bus service to the village, it only runs every 2 hours, stops at 5pm and doesn’t run on a Sunday. So we have to have a car. We’ve recently dropped down from 2 cars to 1, but we upgraded our car to a bigger vehicle (which is less economical in terms of fuel, and therefore carbon emissions than our old, small car).
An average vehicle produces between 6 to 9 tons of CO2 a year. The average person in the EU produces a total of 8.4 tons of CO2 per year, so car ownership is a massive contributing factor to this. This is especially concerning when according to www.epa.gov the maximum amount of carbon an individual should produce each year to stop climate change is only 0.6 tons! Simply getting a car that does more miles to the gallon can make a difference: a car that does 25mpg produces 1.7tons of CO2 less than a car that only does 20mpg. I can’t say this is what we did, but we do try to watch our mileage and limit our journeys or make one journey for multiple purposes.
Being in the country also gives us a lovely big garden. UK gardens cover an area roughly the size of 1/5th of Wales, so actually create a very large green space for wildlife. In fact, gardens can be extremely diverse habitats that offer safe and enticing spaces for fauna and insects. It is estimated that there are up to 8000 different insect species in your garden, although the 2013 State of Nature Report noted that 60% of wild life is in decline. A wild life friendly garden doesn’t have to be wild, overgrown or rough. It is better to have a wide variety of different plants and habitats such as lawns, borders, ponds, veg patches, trees, shrubs and flowers, along with bug hotels, bird boxes and small wild areas. Going back to Kermit “green can be big like a mountain, or important like a river, or tall like a tree”. Although we don’t all have space for a mountain or a river, think about how your garden can meet the ecological needs of different wildlife and check out www.wlgf.org for more information and inspiration.
We have grand plans for our food forest and food growing which are developing and coming to fruition slowly but surely. If everything comes together, our garden will have a range of environments and plants, and I hope one day it will be a sanctuary for wildlife. More on progress with our garden in coming blogs.
Hopefully this has given you some ideas on things that can be done to help us be more green. There’s loads more things, but, hey, we only have so much time to read about them!! As my favourite frog once sung about green: “it’s beautiful and I think it’s what I want to be”. If you have any more ideas or suggestions, please do comment below. I’d love to hear from you.
- Poore J and Nemecek T (2018) Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers. Science 360 (Iss 6392) pp987-992