EcoKnight

An EcoTravel Miscellany

EcoTips for All

On this page (Click to go to the paragraph):

Carbon Balancing

'Real' Nappies

Mooncups

Home Composting for All!

Ecological Toilets

Free Food: 'Dumpster' Diving

In due course i shall put up info and links on all the old favourites such as economy bulbs and so forth.

Carbon Balancing

Here are two rather good websites that allows you to make donations to offset your personal, family or business carbon emissions:

http://www.carbonbalanced.org/ or: http://www.co2balance.com/

The donations are invested in energy efficiency or forestry projects that absorb or prevent the release of a tonnage of CO2.

'Real' Nappies

Disposable nappies are expensive, and create an astonishing amount of landfill every year. Non-disposible nappies are no longer mere towelling squares fastened with safety pins. Modern real nappies use poppers or velcro and are easy to wash. Many towns even have companies that will take away your dirty nappies for washing and deliver new ones to your door. Local councils are likely to have details about such services. There are hundreds of real nappy companies, so i am listing only a few. Some of these give free trials, so you can see how easy it is to save money and the environment, all at once.

[If you can't quite face the real nappies, but still have good intentions, here's a site that sells biodegradable nappies: http://www.spiritofnature.co.uk/acatalog/biodegradablenappies.html?source=googleadw&camp=Disposable+Nappies&kw=nappies]

The Parents Guide to Real Nappies (with FAQs): http://www.recyclingconsortium.org.uk/community/nappies_info.htm

Some online suppliers (Please remember these are just a few of the many companies who supply reusable nappies):

Ethical Babe supplies not just eco friendly nappies but all the very best Organic, Natural & Fairtrade products for Babies & Children, including organic cotton baby clothes, natural wooden toys, organic & natural toiletries and much more.... : http://www.ethicalbabe.com/

http://www.purenappiness.com

http://www.littlelamb.co.uk/

http://www.babykind.co.uk/

http://www.mumi.co.uk/

http://www.plushpants.co.uk/

http://www.soorganic.com/home.php?cat=193&gclid=CMjX1Pq0wooCFRhPEAod92dVhQ

Mooncups

This one's for the women (in the biological sense). If you are a man or a girl, skip this paragraph. You have been warned.

Mooncups are a cheaper, greener, more convenient alternative to tampons. The mooncup is a 'cup' made of medical grade silicon that you insert instead of a tampon. It catches the menstual fluid (blood) and you simply empty it twice a day. Better yet, these cups have actually been around a long time, although little known, and they have never been associated with the potentially fatal TSS (Toxic Shock Syndrome). The mooncup can be used for the entire period, including at night and for sports and swimming. Since one mooncup will last for years, they are cheaper than tampons. They save the environment, since all those tampons end up in landfill and trees are cut down to make them in the first place. They are healthier in that there are no chemicals on them, and they do not dry out the vaginal passage and remove the body's natural protection. Check out the website:

You can buy online, or from a local supplier such as a large Boots store (find one on the website). They cost 18.99 from the website inclusive of postage and recycled (and discrete) packing. There are two sizes - for women who had had a baby and those who have not. Please note that a mooncup cannot be used with an intact hymen, at least not without significant risk of tearing it (i.e. if you are a virgin, and it is important to you or those around you that you be able to prove that you are a virgin, then you should not use a mooncup).

Home Composting for all!

The tax on rubbish that is currently under consideration is just one more reason to compost. Composting will take care of much of one's organic waste (potato peelings, etc) and also things like newspaper and eggboxes, quite apart from any garden waste. Compost bins are available in some counties subsidised by the government, see the 'Get a low cost compost bin' on the following site: http://www.recyclenow.com/home_composting/index.html

A lot of people will have discounted home composting due to the work they perceive as being involved or simply because they have nowhere to put a compost bin. Neither of these are real obstacles.

Too much work: If you consider composting too much work, especially if you don't do much gardening, then you might want to consider that modern compost bins are well designed to work efficiently on their own. However, there is no getting around the fact that one should not put cooked vegetables,  meat or dairy products in a compost bin, and some people may consider it a lot of work when it will not even take care of all one's waste. These people may want to consider a 'Food Digester' instead. Most of these do not take garden waste, but they will take all organic household waste. There are three sorts, the 'Cone' digester, the Dual food digester/composter and the 'Bokashi' unit.

The 'Cone': A 'basket' is buried in the ground in a sunny area of the garden with a cone on top. You simply tip all your food waste into this cone and it is 'digested' and passes into the soil. This is a 'food' digester only, so no newspaper or cardboard.

The Dual food digester/composter: This one takes garden waste as well as all household organic waste. It is described as a 'hot composting unit' and it will basically deal with anything organic you can throw in it.

The 'Bokashi' unit: This will deal with all food waste. You have a set of two, you fill one and sprinkle the 'Bokashi' in it and close it and use the other. The 'Bokashi' ferments the waste, and after a couple of weeks the contents can be buried in the ground to become part of the soil. But the burying sounds like a lot of work to me!

Nowhere to put a compost bin: This is probably the key obstacle to composting, and is not satisfactorily solved with food digesters, since even with a 'Bokashi' unit you need somewhere to bury the stuff. The answer is the 'Wormery'.

The 'Wormery': These are also a suitable solution for those who don't like the work involved in composting, since they are very easily managed, and most importantly, very small. A wormery has a bottom compartment with worm 'bedding' which could be seen as the worms' house. Compartments are then placed on top, into which you put your organic waste. There are holes in the bottom of these, so the worms can come up and eat their way through the stuff, turning it into compost. Worms are essentially little compost making machines, after all. They will breed by themselves, so there's not much you need to do for them. Please note - you are unlikely to see much of the worms except when removing the compost, so if the person who is going to be putting the waste in does not like worms, this is not a problem so long as someone else is prepared to to empty the thing!

There are some types of kitchen waste that can only be put in in moderation, such as citrus peel and onions; too much will give your worms an upset stomach. An eye also needs to be kept on the moisture level, but you're going to be looking in every time you tip some waste in, so this is not a big deal. A wormery yields not only compost, but also a concentrated liquid that when diluted makes excellent plant food, and the worms can be your children's pets - pets that will actually earn their keep! Please be aware that you should only use native species of worm in your wormery, some will be thrown out by the compost, and if they are not a native breed they will either cause ecological damage to native ecosystems or you will have to use all your compost in plant pots and never throw it away!

Some wormerys come in self contained units, but you're still going to have to open it up and take out all the compartments now and then so although they look smarter, this seems like more trouble than its worth. You can get the 'Can O Worms' which is a tower of round compartments a bit like a wedding cake, ideal for standing elegantly on your patio. however, it costs at least 66 and due to its legs is not really the most space efficient. The best ones i've seen are the ones made of stacking boxes. they have a tap at the bottom to collect the 'plant food' easily. You fill each box half full, then place the next on top. When you run out of boxes, you simply lift the boxes off and take out the bottom one. You tip the compost on your garden, put it in your plant pots or donate it to a friend who has either (or failing that, the flowerbed of the local park), and put the box back on the top and start again. If you need more capacity, you just buy more boxes. The worm population will expand to fill them. You can get these from 25 to 35 on ebay (http://www.ebay.co.uk) - with worms included.

Oh yes, one more use for them, if you fish, you will have your own permanent supply of bait. So they really are very multi-functional!

You can see all the aforementioned on the site mentioned above: http://www.recyclenow.com/home_composting/index.html

Other wormery stores are: http://www.wigglywigglers.co.uk/ (The makers of the 'Can O Worms')

Buy wormery's and find more info here: http://www.bucketofworms.co.uk/

This site also sells a 'Junior' wormery, for composting on a smaller scale: http://www.greengardener.co.uk/worms.htm

This site does 'Junior' and a smart all in one unit: http://www.originalorganics.co.uk/wormeries.htm

A Wikipedia article about Vermicompost (worm compost): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wormery

There are, as always, plenty more out there...

 

 

Ecological Toilets

If you're interested in preserving water, or simply want a toilet that doesn't need a water supply (outhouse, cabin, motorhome, boat, etc.), you might want to try an ecological toilet. The two main alternatives are Composting Toilets (also known as Compost Toilets or Sawdust Toilets) and Incinerating Toilets. Incinerating Toilets really need to come from a manufacturor and may not be the best choice in any house with children or pets. (Here is a humourous owner's account of one: http://www.wombatnation.com/essays/incinolet.html or to buy one/learn more see: http://www.incinolet.com/) Composting Toilets are the most common sort of waterless toilet.

Composting Toilets. These can be manufacturer made, in which case they will require little doing to them, and will be almost impossible to tell apart from ye olde flush toilet. Envirolet is one manufacturer that has arrived in Europe: http://www.envirolet-europe.com (Also Ekolet: http://www.ekolet.com/ekolet-eng/index.htm) However, they do currently cost about a 1000. It is possible to make one yourself, although this tends to be the choice of the more die-hard water savers, or those keenest on self-sufficiency. Here are various articles about the different kinds of composting toilet, some with plans for making one:

http://www.jenkinspublishing.com/sawdustoilet.html This site has a great photo gallery showing how smart (or otherwise) owner-built composting toilets can look. Go to it direct here: http://jenkinspublishing.com/photo_albums/toilet_album/index.htm

http://www.lowimpact.org/factsheet_compost_toilets.htm

http://www.greenhouse.gov.au/yourhome/technical/fs27.htm

http://practicalaction.org/practicalanswers/product_info.php?cPath=22&products_id=131

http://oikos.com/library/compostingtoilet/

http://www.compostingtoilet.org/ (The grandiously named Composting Toilet World seems to contain remarkably little information. I think it is sponsored by Envirolet, and they just want you to buy one of theirs!)

http://www.thecei.org.uk/allotments/toilet.htm (A plan for an allotment toilet)

You can also get the following relevent books from Amazon (or elsewhere, of course. However, Amazon is probably cheaper and you'll be making a small, free, donation to this website by using the amazon links):

N.B. There is a new edition of 'The Composting Toilet System Book' coming out in April 2007

 

Free Food - 'Dumpster' Diving

This is one for people truly dedicated to helping the environment, and/or saving lots of money. It began in America, as you can imagine from the title. It basically means, rummaging in rubbish bins for anything useful. Which sounds disgusting, until you consider that a shop's great big rubbish container is unlikely to contain much in the way of rotten potato peelings, and may contain boxes and boxes of food that has just hit its sell-by-date - but is quite alright. Other shops' bins may contain electronic equipment that is only slightly faulty and could be easily fixed by anyone with the knowhow. And so on. Dedicated divers also take on private bins looking for thrown away clothes, and so forth, but one might not want to bother with that unless truly dedicated!

It is certainly, however, ecological (and economical) since it helps minimise waste.

Diving is now flourishing in this country, some people even do it in groups, apparently. Here are two sites that give more information, and more detail about how to go about it. They are both American, but there are some English ones after them:

http://www.allthingsfrugal.com/dumpster.htm

http://members.aol.com/TheDumpsterLady/thedumpsterlady.htm

This is a short video about a student who has been eating free for six months thanks to 'skipping' (a UK term for 'Dumpster' Diving): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H2jQMLz2qIE

This is a sort of home page for 'Dumpster' Diving: http://www.dumpsterdiving.net/

There is an American news program on this page (scroll down to find it) which shows 'normal' people with good jobs 'Dumster' Diving for their food: http://www.larynandjanel.com/blog/a_shout_out_to_eating_garbage_on_dumpster_diving.html

'My Dumpster Diving Adventures' at: http://mydumpsterdive.blogspot.com/

Here is a Wikipedia article which is fairly detailed. Be aware, however, that it does not entirely reflect the new, more acceptible status that Dumpster Diving is acquiring in ecological circles, and does not read as entirely flattering to 'those who practise DD' as it puts it! : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dumpster_diving

 

'Freeganism' is similar to 'Dumpster' Diving, or at least, Freegans use 'Dumpster' Diving. In their own words: 'Freeganism is a total boycott of an economic system where the profit motive has eclipsed ethical considerations and where massively complex systems of productions ensure that all the products we buy will have detrimental impacts most of which we may never even consider. Thus, instead of avoiding the purchase of products from one bad company only to support another, we avoid buying anything to the greatest degree we are able.' The name is a combination of 'Free' and 'Vegan' so yes, they are Vegan. They also advocate squatting. Their ideals are essentially anarchistic (leading to anarchy, which sounds cool, but really isn't a good thing). 

The problem with 'Freeganism' is that although they claim to want to boycott the current economic system, by 'Dumpster' Diving they are living off it all the same. If they succeeded in destroying it, they would destroy their own livelihood. Therefore 'Freeganism' seems to represent an unrealistic idealised expression of dissatisfaction, not a serious system for living. The only true way to achieve their goal of boycotting the economic system would be to purchase an area of land (which would be playing along with the system!) and then cut themselves off by becoming an entirely self sufficient community. But then if they want health care it's only fair that they pay taxes... and so on. You see the problem. Wikipedia outlines a few other objections and Freegan counter arguments-

'Freeganism may be inherently unsustainable because it does not economically support alternatives; it avoids making an explicit statement about food of animal origin; and it presents difficulty in determining the 'freeness' of food (e.g., food taken without permission from a buffet table may be free to the recipient, but it has the potential to create a shortage for others attending the buffet who might later fulfill their food needs by purchasing animal-based food).

Freegans argue that this view represents a fundamental misunderstanding of a key concern of freeganism that freegan consumption does not drive further demand for the purchase of additional products. Some freegans argue that shoplifting is not truly freegan because it runs the risk of encouraging stores to order more products to replace stolen goods, thus driving increased demand. To freegans, it is not enough simply to "get something for free"; the purpose of their actions is not to inject more dollars into the capitalist economy. Proxying payment to someone else by eating buffet food or having someone give a freegan food that was paid for, in the process generating income for exploitative producers, would not be considered freegan.

Many freegans also argue that those who criticise freeganism for not explicitly condemning the consumption of animal products are in denial of the harm to animals involved in the creation of commercially-produced vegan foods. They argue that the primary consideration of consumers should be the impact of their consumption. Buying both vegan and non-vegan products directly subsidizes abusive practices. Recovering products, whether vegan or non-vegan, does not. Many freegans who are willing to consume non-vegan foods would not be willing to consume these foods if doing so would facilitate further exploitation of animals, and they see their consumption of animal products as a reaction to the waste of an overconsumptive society, not as the sort of diet that would be recommended in a non-wasteful society.

Others feel that freeganism is ethically sound, but is too "extreme" to appeal to most people, and may even alienate people by extension from practices like veganism.

Another criticism of freeganism is that it is essentially a frivolous lifestyle choice undertaken by the wealthy, and it is therefore not ethically sound as it effectively removes limited resources, such as free food and empty buildings, from the homeless and other poor people.

Yet another criticism of freeganism is that it does not hold with Kant's Formula of Universal Law; if everyone were to adhere to the freegan lifestyle, essentially "living off" the tailings of Western society rather than being producers and/or consumers, the result would be the disintegration of society. This end result may be the true goal of freeganism.'

For the full Wikipedia article see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freeganism

For a Freegan site, see: http://freegan.info/

 

The 'Food not Bombs' movement is a group of 'Freegan' groups promoting peace and social justice. One of its main methods is to arrange for shops to give them the food they would otherwise throw away, and to supply this food to shelters, and also to serve meals on the streets themselves, and to provide free food at rallies. However, i have not read their 'manifesto' so to speak, and they seem more serious than a mere charity. (As freegans the logic of their ideals is obviously flawed to begin with (see above)). On their website they describe themselves as 'one of the fastest growing revolutionary movements'. They claim that they are 'dedicated to nonviolent social change'. However, it seems that 'A number of Food Not Bombs volunteers have been arrested on terrorism charges but there has never been a conviction'. What is certain is that the ideology of the group is Anarchistic. They are also all vegetarian and vegan, although unlike most Freegans, they claim this is for practical and political reasons. So while they seem to be doing good work in one area, people should (as always) make their own informed judgement about whether, and how far, they should become involved. I hope no one is offended by this remark - quite simply, i would hate to leave a group that does such good work off of the site, but equally, do not feel that i can put it on without noting these few things. Here's their site, anyway: http://www.foodnotbombs.net/menu.html

And a Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food_Not_Bombs

 

N.B. There are more links after most of the Wikipedia articles if you want to know more.