No Impact Man- Book Review

No Impact Man

I recently hit upon this little gem; No Impact Man: Saving the planet one family at a time in my local library’s catalogue. It was a great read! It’s along the lines of Super Size Me, in that the author takes everything to extremes but sometimes that really helps to get your point across. But, he does it gradually- as like for most of us, adopting a zero waste lifestyle represented a huge lifestyle shift for him (and his family, who inevitably got taken along for the ride!)

Throughout the book we see him ditching many forms of transport in favour of his bicycle or walking, opting for re-useables instead of disposables, going from takeaways every hour of the day- to learning to cook and actually moving to shopping local at a farmers market. And so much more! He even stops using electricity.

I really warmed to this book, and as much I don’t think all of his personal changes would work for me- it’s so heartening to see someone try. I do think he found it easier because he lived in a big city. At the end of his year (not to spoil it too much for you!) he really wanted to keep many of the changes. It was also lovely to read about the relationships that developed through conversations about why he was making these alternative choices. He and his family also shared some wonderful experience which simply wouldn’t have happened, if they had taken public transport instead of walking, or if they had been at home watching TV instead of spending an evening in their local park.

I don’t want to spoil your read by going into too much detail about the contents here. But the thing that I think this book did best was to highlight the values underlying the choices that we make and to teach us to challenge our assumptions. The part that most hit home for me was about shopping local, from small retailers and producers with good ethics and standards of production. Low food miles are equally as important to becoming zero waste, as no packaging. Also, I think if this family can make these changes- anyone can! It’s important to remember that you don’t have to be as radical as this and that the small, sustainable changes are more likely to last.

There is also a dearth of information available for you to follow-up on, from the index of this well researched book. If you’ve read it (or do following reading this), please share your thoughts!

How to make your washing powder go further

Over the past year, I’ve been trying out various tips to get my washing powder to go further. I’ve just finished a large “65 wash” box of Fairy Non-Bio Powder – 5.2Kg. I would like to try using more environmentally friendly options when I get to the end of my current supply, but I have another small box to go that Fairy gave me for free.

Anyway, I have calculated that I got 208 washes from this box, as I got it on offer for £10, at a cost of just under 5p per wash! I use 70g per wash as I feel this is the minimum amount I can get away with. However, I do need to factor in that I now add 30-50g of Dp Soda Crystals 1kg to every wash. I buy them in 1kg packs for 65p at Home Bargains (cheapest I’ve found)! So (at 50g per wash) I get 20 washes from a bag at a cost of 0.03p per wash- it’s negligible. These have the advantages of softening our hard water, meaning I can use less powder, keep my washing machine running well and helping to remove stains.

(I will add that I am currently using up my supply of fabric softener which I use in 2 of the 4 washes, at a cost of £1.50 per 1.5L and I have probably used 3 bottles in the last year so that’s a cost of £4.50. According to Tesco I would get 42 washes per bottle, at a cost of 0.035p per wash. But I am phasing this out and won’t be buying it anymore, instead switching to using white vinegar which I can buy in bulk for £2.99 for 5 litres. I would add about 50ml per wash. So that’s 100 washes per bottle, at a cost of 0.029 per wash).

So in the last year, I spent a grand total of £21.26 on washing, if I factor in fabric conditioner. This next year, I hope to spend less! I may keep the fabric conditioner bottle and just use a cap full of Golden Swan White Vinegar 5 Litre (Pack of 4), which would mean I’d be using less- to see how that goes.

Aside from this, white vinegar is a more environmentally friendly option, is not full of fake fragrances and other chemical nasties. It also means our clothes will not be at risk of catching fire.

How much does your washing cost you? Can you share any tips?

New Glasses

I recently went to have my eyes tested. At the end of of the test, I received the news that I had a minor change in my vision which I would barely notice the change, if I had new glasses. Despite this, over the years I have noticed how things have changed since my childhood. Glasses have now become a fashion accessory and they try their hardest to sell you new frames. Most recently they tried the “your glasses are 2 years old now” line. As if they are going to fall apart.

When I was a child, you could have your glasses re-glazed as necessary. Though they will do this now, they usually charge more than a new pair. Some places won’t even do it at all “in-case they break”. Isn’t it amusing (tongue in cheek) that they will happily collect our old glasses and send them out to third world countries for re-use? They must be pretty hard-wearing!!!

Not only this, I noticed the plethora of ‘special offers’ designed to tempt you into buying more than one pair. Now I can understand wanting a pair of prescription sunglasses, if you are a full-time glasses wearer like myself. But, why on earth you would need a second pair- I just can’t imagine. I was taught to keep an old pair, just in-case I broke mine somehow. But in all the 30 years I’ve been a glasses wearer- I rarely needed them. They sell them like they sell fashion accessories- marketing it so that you can change your look at will. I’m afraid I’m not and never have been vain enough to match my glasses to my mood!

You can go a long way to increase the life of your glasses at home. Firstly, put them in a case to protect them if you’re not wearing them. The number of stories I’ve heard of careless people sitting on their glasses, are astonishing. Especially given the price of them these days! (I think glasses insurance is an absolute nonsense by the way! These days they will ‘insure’ anything to make extra money and just you read their list of exclusions. They often claim now that they won’t fix them, unless you have insurance but in most cases that’s not true, as glasses are subject to the same ‘fit for purpose’ consumer laws as any other goods you buy).

Secondly, buy yourself a mini screwdriver set, so you can tighten up the screws as necessary at home. This helps if your arms become either loose or stiff, or if a lens pops out. You can also take them into store for free adjustments, which is sometimes better as they have a special machine to heat metal glasses to bend them safely. They can also replace the nose pads on metal frames if they get a bit nasty over time. They often turn funny colours due to skin oils reacting with the metal, or the plastic ages and becomes brittle over time.

Thirdly- keep them clean! I just wipe mine with a damp flannel and dry with a soft, fluffy towel. I really should probably just use the lens cloth they give you. But it’s fine- you must never use a tissue as the paper is rough and will scratch the lenses. Again, all these glasses wipes, sprays and other cleaners are such a nonsense and a total waste of money and resources!

So I came home in my terrible, 2 year old glasses that I love and will never know the difference in my sight! Haha. If you’re an adult- there’s no reason why you can’t keep having the same frames re-glazed. This isn’t the case for children because they are still growing and their glasses need to grow with them. They are also more prone to accidents, but try to get them ‘spring-loaded’ frames as they withstand a lot more stress than normal frames.

Any other glasses wearers out there? How do you approach glasses from a Zero Waste perspective? Are metal frames better than plastic, even though they have plastic nose pads? Does anyone know much about the processes used to make glasses, where labour is sourced etc? Are there any ethical companies out there? What about the coatings used to give the lenses different properties- anti-glare, anti-reflection, anti-scratch- how are they made? When I have some time, I will do some more research and get back to you. It’s a whole new Zero Waste minefield!

Clearing out before Christmas

I know that Joshua Becker recommends clearing out before Christmas, so that you have the opportunity to give things away to others who might need them and clear some space for the inevitable gifts that you will receive. (I say inevitable, as we have not managed to eliminate them completely in favour of experiences- despite our best efforts at Christmas Lists! I would hate to offend those family members who want to give them, so we try to put useful things on our list to guide them).

With that in mind, I was spurred on to have a clear out- also prompted by a number of items breaking down. I wasn’t organised enough to take pictures, so it will have to be a list.

  1. Broken telephone (inherited from my grandparents and was no longer functioning properly)
  2. Wallpaper steamer (unfortunately a bad purchase as did not last, as we could still use one). However I have found that a re-fillable spray bottle works as well if not better.
  3. 3 ceramic tiles- found in our garage- hideously 1970s, but maybe cool and retro now?!
  4. 2 Laura Ashley dresses ( I purchased a bundle on eBay for a really good price, kept the ones I liked and donated or sold the rest. I made back twice what I paid, so a good purchase!)
  5. Ironing board hanger (bought it with us from our last house, just incase it might be useful. No it wasn’t- should have left it behind! When will I learn about those ‘just in-case’ items?!
  6. Coat hook rack (taken down from our current house, left by the last owners. We just don’t have enough coats for 2 racks, even with visitors- talk about overkill).
  7. 2 books that my OH had bought in charity shops and finished reading. We send them back and don’t keep them.
  8. 2 DVDs (again we buy second hand and send them back once we’ve watched them).
  9. Retro/ cool 1970s light fitting (or not!)- left by the previous owners, not something we wanted to keep.
  10. Probably some more miscellaneous small items that I’ve now forgotten, that I found on my clean up mission.

I actually sent all of this to the charity shops, incase someone wanted items for re-use, parts or crafting. I have now decided to keep a charity bag on-hand- since unfortunately despite my notice, we still get 2 or 3 a week put through our letterbox. I turn them inside out and use them for any charity- silly, but I don’t want to offend them by bringing another charity’s bag. I put items straight into it which helps with the out of sight, out of mind thing. If I can’t see them item or don’t go to retrieve it, then I don’t need it. Once the bag is full, I can just take it and donate it.

I also cleared out a cupboard of old papers, so we have a lot more free storage space now. Last weekend, I traded in a box full of old CDs, DVDs and books that we have finished with to We Buy Books. They had a 15% extra code which was my incentive. We use charity shops and CEX like a library as it’s cheaper to buy them than rent from our local library. After using them, we trade them in or sell them on eBay/ Amazon. This nets us some cash to watch/ read something new and often we get back more than we paid! Win, win.

I’ve been selling a bunch of stuff on eBay- my motto is to try and sell it first, then donate. So packages have been going out several times a week.

I’m also really happy that now it’s December, I can start wrapping and giving gifts I have bought for others which also frees up space around my home.

My decluttering/ Minimalist efforts continue…

The Life- Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

Well, there’s been a bit of buzz about The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying: A simple, effective way to banish clutter forever and it is an Amazon no 1 Best Seller. I have had it lurking on my wish list for a month or two and was thinking of adding it to my Christmas List, when thankfully my local library decided to purchase a copy. I had to wait a week for someone else to finish reading it, but it is now in my possession.

What a load of tosh- for the largest part anyway! I am SO glad I didn’t waste my money purchasing it. I think the woman who wrote it needs some good mental health care, as she is clearly unwell. I recognise that there will also be some cultural differences, but most people do not talk to their belongings! Towards the end of the book, she does address the possible psychological reasons behind her behaviours. The difficulty for her is that although she has some insight, she has not found new coping mechanisms. Instead she chooses to find her worth and companionship in stuff, however much she has managed to pare that down and the organisation of that stuff. She has many, many rituals and routines which sound like obsessions with which she fills her life.

The book waffles on unnecessarily, mostly covering the same ground for 3/4 of it. At the end of the day, I find her approach fairly ridiculous- if I only kept items that sparked joy within my heart when I held them, there would be little of use in my house. We all need items like can openers and potato peelers. We don’t always have the luxury of purchasing the items that ‘spark joy’ because of cost, time or other constraints.

I find her whole approach to be highly immature, it doesn’t sound as though she has ever lived away from her parental home nor held a position of any responsibility. If she had, she would know that you do need to keep important documents, manuals and warranties. She makes several wild assertions that you will never need these things, or be taken to court. But from personal experience, that is naive to say the least! I cannot imagine the inconvenience of having to say traipse down to my local phone shop, to ask how my phone works because I have thrown out the manual or applications CD. The staff would get extremely annoyed with you and nowadays, we are lucky if we even have stores local to us. I have on numerous occasions needed to dig out old paperwork related to insurance policies, banking or housing in order to prove my case for compensation and the like.

Alongside all of this, she encourages you to throw away so much stuff. Not recycle, not offer it to charities for re-use, no just send it all to landfill. I find this quite repulsive and disrespectful to the environment and other people. People who might need the things we no longer have a use for, people who put time, effort and skill into making these items. Again, she does renegotiate on this later on in the book, but only in a passing sentence or two.

She advocates things like not keeping spare buttons because once the buttons fall off- your garment has had its day. I mean, come on- how naive and immature! Granted, a good proportion of our population may agree with her- given the number of items missing a button that I find in charity shops and repair within minutes, to be good as new. I can only think that she is really that stupid or too rich to care.

You may want to read this book purely for its comedy value, as I have never laughed so hard in years. To give you an excerpt:

“Have you ever had the experience where you thought what you were doing was a good thing but later learnt that it hurt someone? At the time, you were totally unconcerned, oblivious to the other person’s feelings. This is somewhat similar to the way many of us treat our socks.”

“I pointed to the balled up socks. ‘Look at them carefully. This should be a time for them to rest. Do you really think they get any rest like that? That’s right. The socks and tights stored in your drawer are essentially on holiday.”

“When in doubt, ask your house and the item being stored what is the best solution.”

I ask you- do these sound like the words of a well woman? Someone who is in their right and rational mind?! She claims that she has developed these rituals from her experience of attending Shinto shrines. However I have not ever come across anthropomorphism in my understanding of the Japanese Shinto religion. Whilst I do think we can all use a bit more gratitude in our lives in order to increase our levels of happiness. I feel that she has taken this to the extreme.

Overall, I am left with the feeling that this book has no sound basis or philosophy behind it. I think that is why it seems so weak, watery and incoherent as a whole. At least if she was a minimalist, then she would have a foundation for not allowing excess items back into her life again. But she acknowledges that some things are bought just for the thrill and that you can learn from making bad purchases. To me, this is just an excuse to cover up wasteful behaviours. I sincerely hope that she uses the proceeds of her book to get herself the care she so clearly needs.

All of this said, I notice that she has published a number of Youtube videos which actually show her methods for folding etc. I am open to trying it with maybe 1 drawer to see if it really is life-changing! Watch this space- I will report back in due course.

Now it’s your turn….have you read this book? What are your thoughts?